A valued and learned friend has copied to me a paper in the January 2011 number of Worship, by a North American canonist called Chad Glendinning. Because I believe that (a) it summarises lucidly and usefully the current state of opinion among experts about the subject with which it deals; and that (b) its conclusions completely misunderstand that same subject, I plan ... most unwisely, because I know nothing about Canon Law ... to deal with it in some detail. Needless to say, you are welcome to comment immediately, but this series of pieces is intended to stand as a whole and you might find yourself either making a comment which anticipates my future argument, or writing exactly what I shall rebut in the next piece. No harm, of course ...
The subject concerned is the statement in Summorum Pontificum that the traditional Roman Mass had never been lawfully abrogated. The problem about this is that the praxis of the Roman Curia since the promulgation of the Pauline Missal* appeared to have been based on an assumption of abrogation of the preceding rite. And Cardinal Ratzinger himself had once spoken with regret about that 'abrogation' ... and you can't regret something which has not been done.
Mind you, I have always felt, and have written in this blog about the fact that, there was an oddity about the failure of the Pauline Decree explicitly to abrogate the earlier Missal in view of the very clear abrogation in the corresponding document about the Breviary (and Summorum Pontificum did not claim that the old Breviary "had never been abrogated"). But I propose to accept, for the sake of argument, Gendinning's demonstration that supersession implies abrogation. Nor do I intend to write about the Commission of canonist Cardinals which is said to have delivered, some years ago, an opinion that the Old Missal had never been abrogated - although I would welcome information at this moment on the thread about this matter.
My intention is to examine the earlier teaching of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the post-Conciliar events and to suggest that his judgement as Pope upon the non-abrogation of the Old Missal is a theological statement as important as, and indeed very closely related to, his teaching in his justly celebrated Address to the Roman Curia about a Hermeneutic of Continuity. Unlike Glendinning and the canonists he quotes, I see Papa Ratzinger's pronouncement in this matter as another sign of his very considerable greatness. And as an ecumenical step of very profound significance.
*Glendinning points out the oddity of Paul VI (followed by John Paul II) promulgating a rite which had, at the point of promulgation, not quite been written.