4 June 2011

Symmetry of Dissent

Intellectually, academically, the most exciting thing about Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae is that they establish a level playing field in discussion about the relative merits of any conflicting provisions in the OF and the EF. Perhaps this is one of the things the Holy Father had in mind when he spoke about mutual enrichment. Previously, as enactment after enactment emerged from the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de sacra Liturgia and its successor bodies, it was plausible to hold that these represented the Magisterium of the Church. Here was the Holy See making liturgical enactments by mandate of an Ecumenical Council: what more could anyone want in terms of authoritative teaching about the meaning of the Church's rites? If one dissented, was one not dissenting from the direction in which the Holy Spirit was leading the whole (Roman Rite) Church? Surely, one was dissenting from the mind of the Holy Father, from the Bishop of Rome who, surely had to be the normative authority about the rite of his own Church? Dissent from the old rite had now - surely - become privileged; dissent from the new rite had become inherently dubious, a sign of disloyalty.

At a stroke, SP/UE changed all this. We now had two forms of the Roman Rite "one alongside the other" (qui ad invicem iuxta ponuntur). Thereby we were authoritatively given, in areas where the two rites and their accompanying liturgical cultures happen to be at odds, what I would like to call Symmetry of Dissent. It is now no more 'disloyal' or 'contrary to the mind of the Church' to evaluate critically the OF and its culture than it is to criticise the EF and its culture. Such critical evaluation, it goes without saying, ought to be done - in each case - with a humble recognition of one's own fallibility, and with a charitable instinct not to hurt fellow Christians whose faith in the living Lord is fed from different sources than those which nourish one's own. It is right that those who enthusiastically favour the EF, and who feel a certain triumphalist joy about Pope Benedict's liturgical legislation, should if necessary be reminded of this. However, I do not always sense - least of all in the periodical called the Tablet - an awareness that those, too, whose orientation differs from the OF, have a right to be treated with a similarly charitable exercise of the acceptance of diversity.

It was in the spirit of the Principle of Symmetry of Dissent that I ventured recently to evaluate critically the post-conciliar valde optatum that communion be given from Hosts consecrated at the same Mass. I called it 'dated', because it seemed to me to have all the marks of the (to me, as to Pope Benedict, questionable) liturgical culture of the enclosed circle - the celebrant facing the people; the location of the entire liturgical event as situated in the middle of a closed group. This culture is 'dated'; it is of the 1970s. And there are things about the Mass of S Pius V which I would have to admit are dated: for example, the assumption in its rubrics that Mass normatively does not include a Communion of the People - yes! look at the rubrics! It is not even mentioned in passing as an occasional possibility! Yet I have never witnessed a modern Old Rite Mass in which there were not communicants ... usually an awful lot of them. That lacuna in the rubrics ... and the cultural assumptions it implies ... is dated; and I doubt if anyone would deny it. Have another look at that half-hour video of the Econe Consecrations!


Matthew M said...

I see Pope Benedict carefully moving the Mass of Pope Paul VI closer to the Mass of Pope John XXIII. If only he has time, the OF will become the vernacular of the EF. Had this happened from the beginning, things would not have spun out of control.
Pope Pal VI of sad memory is having much to answer for in Purgatory. I realize that some do not believe he has made it that far but I must give the benefit of a doubt.

Oh yes, Father H., saw your name on the list of those to be ordained to the Catholic Priesthood - MANY YEARS!

Anonymous said...

English is not my mother tongue, so i should be more careful in trying to use idiomata when writing comments, if only not to be derided ... And so, I should like to add to Matthew's hope-giving insight ''I see Pope Benedict carefully moving teh Mass of Pope Paul VI closer to the mass of Pope John XXIII. If only he has time, the OF will become the vernacular of the EF'' - may it go straight unto God's ear! I grew up with the Mass in Latin, and, as much as I love liturgical Latin, I am reluctantly convinced, that there is a necessary place for use of a sacral vernacular in the Roman-Rite. Indeed, if only the Old Mass had been translated - partially or in toto - for use in public worship, rather than constructing a whole new rite, ''things would not have spun out of control''. As for Pope Paul VI ''of sad memory'', though in more desperate moments i might imagine otherwise, i too give him -and more importantly, GOD - the benefit of the doubt. But then, the catholic thing is to believe that most human beings must undergo purification after death - those bearing more responsibility in this life, having to undergo more purification in the next. And - along with John Paul II, whose long pontificate i regret ever happening - i too believe in the very real possibility that most - if not all - of mankind will be eventually reunited in paradise. Including Paul VI and his collaborators in malo.