21 February 2014

Ratzinger on Liturgical Law (1)

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.


Gerald said...

Indeed, Father, I believe it effectively is the most significant papal blow against ultramontanism in recent memory.

2 years ago I went to a lecture given by progressivist liturgical scholar James Baldovin, S.J. In his lecture (which was primarily directed against the new translations in the Novus Ordo) he vehemently maintained that Summorum Pontificum was wrong, that the ancient use HAD been abrogated by Paul VI, and that Benedict had made a huge mistake in creating this "fiction" to please a group of reactionary schismatics. In his eyes, the Magisterium of Paul VI overrules that of Benedict XVI? 

But when you consider the Heenan Indult, was it ever definitively abrogated? It is telling that SP was issued Motu Proprio; Benedict apparently didn't see it as revoking anything in Paul's Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum (which, as you say, didn't specifically suppress the ancient use). In a sense, the Motu Proprio was simply a clarification of liturgical law.

Regarding "numquam abrogatum", I think one can reasonably conclude from this statement (and from the context of Joseph Ratzinger's writings) that he considers the Bishop of Rome to lack the authority to abrogate outright the usus antiquior.

jagribbin said...

Dear Fr. H.,

Having studied the issue of custom, as well as 'abrogation',in relation to MR 1962, I conclude that this missal was 'derogated' but not abrogated by Pope Paul VI : others share this view. This means the legality of the missal was altered - another missal was at the same time promulgated by Pope Paul VI- but that it still existed, even in a limited way, is incontrovertible. Pope Benedict's ruling on this matter has canonical effect, and is an official decision, to which all must give due respect. Sum. Pont. has, of course, given MR 1962 a newer legal status in the Church.I have explained matters very simply here.

Rubricarius said...

Chad Glendinning's excellent article demonstrates that the 1962MR was indeed abrograted, in the sense the term abrogation has in liturgical and canon law, by Paul VI's legislation.

The 'Heenan' indult issued to the bishops of England and Wales allowed them to grant permission for the 1967 rite, not 1962.

Mr. Glendinning with his considerable knowledge of both Canon Law and history twentieth century liturgical reform clearly demonstrates how the 1962MR was derogated by the '1965' and 1967 legislation but abrogated by Paul VI's later legislation.

'jagribbin' - Are you suggesting that (simplifying things slightly) a)Inter Oecumenici and Tres abhinc annos had no legal effect on the rite of Mass as it existed in 1963 and that clergy 'in good standing' could continue to use the 1962 rite up until the promulgation of the 1970MR?; and, b) the promulgation of the 1969 Ordo Missae and 1970 plenary missal somehow suppressed the legal force of the '1965' and 1967 legislation yet suddenly gave a new right to use the 1962MR?

Patrick Sheridan said...

Summorum Pontificum is either a huge cock up on the Pope's part (for the reasons put forward in that excellent article, and which I wrote about myself a while ago) or it is yet another example of the Roman Church trying to rewrite history to suit its own purposes. I lean more to this latter view...

Anonymous said...

I agree with James C. This is the most effective blow against ultramontanism. The reason it was not abrogated is made clear in the accompanying letter of His Holiness, where he says,

"What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful."

The older form was not abrogated because it could not be, which means that no one, including the Pope, had the authority to do so. It is interesting that those who are now in the position of advocating papal absolutism are "Liberals" who wish to undermine and destroy Tradition, and who are happy to use the power of the papacy, when it suits them, to do so; and that it is the "conservative" Benedict XVI, who is precisely arguing for the limits of papal authority, in this as in other cases.

Patrick Sheridan said...

If the Pope doesn't have the authority to ''abrogate'' earlier liturgical forms, what right does he have to make new ones? Or for that matter to make some artificial distinctions between ordinary and extraordinary forms, and to issue any kind of legislation on Liturgy? Summorum Pontificum exists precisely because of Ultramontanism, not in opposition to it. For those of us who value truth and the authentic Roman Rite, Summorum Pontificum is an affront.

Gerald said...


SP and its accompanying letter countenances limits on the Supreme Pontiff's authority over the Roman liturgy.

Ultramontanism entails ceding the Pope absolute power over the liturgy. You refuse the Pope any authority over the Roman liturgy at all. Both are errors.

Figulus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Figulus said...

Rubricarius asked Jagribbin a pointed question. This being a blog, I hope he does not consider me too rude if I jump in with my own opinion of what the correct answer is.

I don't know anyone who thinks that Inter Oecumenici and Tres abhinc annos had NO legal effect. But not many people these days would argue that its effect constituted abrogation. Your second question (or the second part of your question) asked whether clergy in good standing could continue to use the 1962 rite. I have heard accounts of those who attended a private mass celebrated by then Cardinal Ratzinger which confirm that he himself at least occasionally celebrated mass in the usus antiquior. I assume he was in good standing when he did so.

Patricie, I think you are on the right track with your comment about "trying to rewrite history". Except for the "history" part.

You see, Summorum Pontificum is not a historical study, and makes no authoritative historical assertions. It is rather a legal document, and it makes a legal statement. Furthermore, the legal statement it makes is ipso facto true. What I mean is, when the supreme judge on earth of the Roman church makes an authoritative statement that the old use was never abrogated, then, by that very statement, it never was, and so it is now impossible to prosecute any cleric of the "crime" of celebrating according to the old use, regardless of when he did it, regardless of whether he had an indult or not.

Summorum Pontificum was an example of the Roman Church trying (and wholy and effectively succeeding, by the way) to rewrite the law to suit its own purposes. Deo gratias.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Didn't JPII develop the Heenan indult on at least two subequent occasions? Is the debate further complicated by those developments?

It's a mystery to me as to why Lefebvre failed to 'ride the Heenan wave' or at least find credible allies like JH from around the major sees of Europe and the USA.

Resistance to the mess was very poorly organised back in 1965. Judging by the modern day LMS it hasn't improved.

Rubricarius said...


This is Fr. Hunwicke's blog not mine so it is of no consequence whether I think you are rude (which I do not!) or otherwise.

No one is suggesting (as far as I am aware) that Inter Oecumenici and Tres abhinc annos were abrogatory. As they refer to the 1960 Codex that would be rather a contradiction but they certainly had the effect of derogation on the 1962 rite. On the other hand the question remains of why, according to the established norms, Paul VI's later Apostolic Constitution was not abrogatory to rites which could not claim the status of immemorial or centennial custom.

Then there is the question of what constitutes Usus antiquior. When Fr. Peter Morgan came to England in 1976 he brought what we might term for convenience the 'pre-Pius XII' liturgy to this land and was welcomed with open arms by twenty or so clergy who, in varying degrees, had been doing something similar. In Jerusalem until, I believe, 1997 the pre-Pius XII Holy Week rites were celebrated.

So, are we to conclude that these indeed had never been abrogated either? Following that assumption was the Traditional Roman Psalter ever abrogated? Unless I am missing something 'James C' and 'Michael LaRue, KM' seem to be suggesting a Pope cannot abrogate liturgical custom and established praxis. On one level I would agree but it is not what Popes actually claim to be able to do.

As to re-writing history it seems to be a very thin line between just making it up as goes along.

justin said...

"...is yet another example of the Roman Church trying to rewrite history to suit its own purposes. I lean more to this latter view..."

And this is bad because??

All the powers of the world - the sciences, the arts, history - are subject and servant to Holy Church, for it is she who possesses the fullness of Truth.

Just as the Church is servant to the liturgy, the liturgy is the servant of the Church.

AllEarthsVanities said...

I am not sure I agree with the trend of the solutions proposed thus far. So I will wade in with my own proposed resolution.

I am surprised that nobody has brought up the distinction between de jure and de facto thus far. (Figulus came closest to it, but not quite.) I see no other way to make Ratzinger's statements consistent - that he both said the usus antiquior was never lawfully abrogated (that's de jure) - and also said he regrets it was abrogated (that's de facto).

Anybody with some Jacobite sympathies should understand this could be the key distinction.

I don't think Benedict XVI ever said that the pope cannot surpress old rites, only that in the case of the Tridentine Mass this was never (de jure) done. Because it is established history that old rites have been abrogated. To take the case of Pius V, we know he did not abrogate certain local uses, such as the Ambrosian. He still claimed and (I think) exercised the power to abrogate others, which were not quite as old. Abrogating old rites is inherently a matter of degree.

Juventutem London said...

If the implication is that

a). The Pope lacks the authority to abrogate a legitimate, traditional and orthodox form of the liturgy

b). The Church is indefectible and is preserved from authoritatively teaching something erroneous in the formal dogmatic sense

Then I wonder if

c). The promulgation of the Novus Ordo is, ignoring pastoral and prudential decisions, also preserved in terms of orthodoxy.

d). it is agreed that the NO is at least orthodox (if "a banal on the spot fabrication" as Cd Ratzinger called it), then can the NO be abrogated? If we work by precedents from Trent I suppose we have about 150 years or so!

Sadie Vacantist said...

In business terms, flooding the 'market' with different rites is an interesting strategy. It might serve to weaken the grip one right enjoys over all the others. Thus requiring intervention at some point in the future.

jagribbin said...


Canon law is rather technical, and it is good sometimes to ‘keep things simple’ so that mere mortals can follow the line of argument with ease (I can make it more complicated if you like).

Concerning question (a), I agree with Figulus. Inter Oecumenici and Tres abhinc annos did not abrogate MR1962. In fact, this is quite clear from, to take one example, the notification from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship dated 14 June 1971 : Iis vero, qui ob provectam aetatem vel infirmitatem graves experiuntur difficultates in novo Ordine Missalis Romani, Lectionarii Missae vel Liturgiae Horarum servando, licet, de consensu sui Ordinarii ac tantummodo in celebratione sine populo facta, Missale Romanum iuxta editionem typicam anni 1962, a decretis annorum 1965 et 1967 accommodatum, vel Breviarium Romanum, quod antea in usum erat, sive ex toto sive ex parte retinere (AAS, vol. 63 (1971), 712-15). And, yes, the effect was one of derogation. And now, evidence from Bugnini. When Annibale Bugnini, the prime mover in the reform of the liturgy after Vatican II, asked the Cardinal Secretary of State, for permission to apply to the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Conciliar Documents for an express ruling that the old missal was abrogated, in 1974, the Secretary of State refused, as it would cast ‘odium on the liturgical tradition’ (Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, 300-1.)

(b) The apostolic constitution Missale Romanum of Pope Paul VI (1969) did not abrogate MR1962, as we can see from the example cited in the answer to question a.

One further remark : you say ‘On the other hand the question remains of why, according to the established norms, Paul VI's later Apostolic Constitution was not abrogatory to rites which could not claim the status of immemorial or centennial custom’. Do you mean that Pope Paul VI’s constitution did not abrogate rites which COULD claim the status of immemorial or centennial custom ? You must also specify what you mean by ‘rites’ and custom. I am convinced that such immemorial customs did NOT exist : in other words, I do not prescribe to the theory that the Roman Rite continued to be governed by the bond of custom after it was codified in 1570 in ‘Quo Primum’ of Pope St. Pius V. Count Neri Capponi’s theory, in this regard, does not hold up to scrutiny, in the very technical law of custom and canon law. Dr. Anselm, O.Praem. (nice to speak with you again Rubricarius)

jagribbin said...

PS. I'm also a 'mere mortal'.

Anonymous said...

As Cardinal Ratzinger, the present Supreme Pontiff wrote often and clearly enough, that the Pope is servant and custodian of the Liturgy, not its absolute lord. The Pope cannot, Ratzinger explains, forbid an ancient, orthodox, liturgical Rite. In his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI , in claiming that older liturgical books and the rites contained therein had never been abrogated or forbidden, was stating, in a way as inoffensive as possible to his predecessor Paul VI, that that Pope had only thought that he had abrogated and forbidden the old Rites, when in reality, the pope did not possess such a right or power to do so. Nor can a Pope excogitate a whole new Liturgy ex niholo, according to Benedict XVI. ANd so, although the statement that Paul VI never forbade the Old Rite sounds untrue to me, yet, i understand that the present Pope by stating this, in reality wishes to prove his point, and return to a former and more authentic understanding of canon law, liturgy and the extent of and limits on papal power, which Paul VI violated, and JP II slavishly continued to violate. Due to poor eyesight, i cannot now go look up all the citations in the books written by Cardinal Ratzinger, but i am sure that many of you here are familiar enough with the present Pontiff's convictions regarding liturgical law and custom, the essence of divine liturgy and the role of the pope herein. Funnily enough, as a traditionalist i am no hyperinfallibilist, and no ultramontanist, much unlike many neoconservatives, and, since Summorum Pontificum, many self-styled progressives!

Anonymous said...

PS. Pope Pius V abolished no traditional orthodox Rites: by ordering that the MIssal of the Curia Romana substitute in the Roman Rite Church all missals which were less than two-hundred years old, he strove thereby to eradicate from catholic altars missals which had been ''newly'' written or corrected and were infected with protestant errors. He was striding against novelty and heresy, not against Tradition! He would surely have found a way to rid the Latin CHurch of the Novus Ordo Missae were he now alive.

Auriel Ragmon said...

All these comments leave me gasping for breath! At least we Orthodox of the East change but slowly!

Yours for John Chrysostom and Basil!

Rdr. James Morgan

Dale said...

It was stated:

"All these comments leave me gasping for breath! At least we Orthodox of the East change but slowly!"

Yes, and no. The history of the Old Believer schism in Russia is perhaps the first example of drastic liturgical change instituted against the best interests of the Church. Although today we may considered the "Reforms" of Patriarch Nikon and his royal lackeys to be minor, they certainly were not thus considered in 17th century Russia.

Rubricarius said...

Dear Fr. Albertus,

What a pleasure to come across you again in a forum. My apologies for taking so long to respond, I was exhausted after the Triduum and occupied with a long overdue article in Low Week.

Well, we can make the situation as complex as we like: after all there was a massive amount of legislation concerning the celebration of the Roman liturgy in the twentieth century –more than the cumulative output of the preceding millenium.

No one is claiming, as far as I am aware, that Inter Oecumenici or Tres abhinc annos abrogated the 1962MR but they certainly derogated its status.

Question: Are you asserting that ‘priests in good standing’ could ignore the provisions of the two decrees (and other legislation) and use the 1962MR after the new order of Mass (and subsequent legislation) was promulgated in 1964/1965 until John Paul II’s indult Quattuor abhinc annos of 1984?

The extract from Mgr. Bugnini’s book is surely referring to the traditional liturgy and not semi-reformed versions from the 1960s. Paul VI’s Apostolic Constitution’s standard formula of abrogation dealt with any former use or custom not having the benefit of centennial or immemorial custom. Rites from within the previous decade clearly were abrogated by its promulagation. In contrast rites of centennial or immemorial custom would have needed specific mention to abrogate them – a classic example of this can be found in the concluding paragraphs of Pius X’s Divino afflatu in regard to the traditional Roman Psalter.

As to your assertion (b) I would maintain, in the good company of Mr. Glendinning, Professor Huels, Paul VI, Cameron-Mowat, Baldovin, Grillo etc, that there is no doubt whatsoever that the 1962MR was abrogated by Paul VI’s legislation.

The custom and ‘rites’ to which I refer are (a) the use of the 1962MR in its entirety; (b) the use of the rite of Mass as modified by the instruction Inter Oecumenici (etc); and, (c) the use of the rite of Mass as modified by the instruction Tres abhinc annos (etc).

To claim that the 1962MR was never abrogated, as SP does without offering any explanation for its assertion, to me at least appears to be either delusional or a deceit. My deepest prayer is a successor to Benedict re-abrogates 1962MR.

Anonymous said...

"The Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church."

Wished it would have been so as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1998, acc. to your quote, Father, and I strongly would have appreciated if Benedict XVI would have made clear officially that any old, orthodox rites could lawfully be used if a congregation wished to do this. As a musician, this would be of greatest value. Currently, you have to go to a protestant church if you want to held a service accoding to elder, superseeded rites. Even singing the Requiem of Mozart within in a service is not licit acc. to Roman liturgical laws, neither in Novus Ordo (as the text is not NO), nor in Vetus Ordo (as application of instrumemts is forbidden for Requiem masses). What a sad situation. And this has much to do with Pius X, who was the first who completely abrogated the entire use of one of the eldest - and unquestionable orthodox - liturgical traditions, the old Psalter. In his words: Itaque, harum auctoritate litterarum ante omnia Psalterii ordinem, qualis in Beviario Romano hodie est, abolemus ejusque usum, inde a Kalendis Januariis anni millesimi nongentesimi decimi tertii, omnino interdicimus.
The Dominicans tried to preserve their Psalter, which was is use since more than 600 years, but it was abolished, and they had to introduce the new Pian psalter.
If we follow Card. Ratzinger, can't we say that this approach of Pius X was "quite alien to the Spirit of the Church?" Moreover, it was the starting point of "commision-arranged liturgy" ("Consilium seu Commissionem")...