Reports indicate that, at the end of last October, an antipodean Cardinal Archbishop [ACA in what follows] ordered his Novus Ordo parishes to omit, on a certain Sunday, the Old Testament Reading and the Epistle and the associated psalmody from the Sunday Mass; to replace the normal proclamation of the Gospel with a reading in the style of the Lectio Divina; and to have that Gospel delivered by a lay person: all of which is contra legem. The ACA justified his order in these words:
"The lectio divina initiative is a way the Archdiocese is responding to the plea of Pope Francis to make the Sacred Scriptures better known and more widely diffused. He has reminded us that we can take creative initiatives in our parishes so that we can become 'living vessels for the transmission of God's Word'".
I am not aware that PF has legislated for what the ACA ordered. I therefore suspect that the ACA is claiming that his own 'initiative' is not precisely what PF has formally mandated, but, as we learned to say in the last century, "in the spirit of" PF. So having lived for half a century under the grim and mendacious "Spirit of the Council", we now, apparently, have got to live with the added encumbrance of the Spirit of PF.
It appears that "creative initiatives" trump Law. I'm rather uncertain how this is a true expression of the words of Sacrosanctum Concilium paragraph 22.
In one contemporary sense, of course, the ACA has a good argument. 'Law' has had a very bad press in this pontificate. It is forced to parade down the lexical catwalk in company with terms like 'rigid' and 'pharisaical' and 'quibbles' and 'clericalism' and 'closed hearts'. All good clean fun and I'm sure PF feels a lot better after getting all that nonsense off his chest. But the truth is that Law functions as a protection against tyranny; a shield against arbitrary rule. Of course bullies know better than the Law; of course tyrants are acting solely in the better interests of their subjects when they themselves break the Law or order that it be disobeyed within their bailiwicks. But if the Law guarantees to Christifideles laici that they are entitled to hear an Old Testament Reading and an Epistle at Novus Ordo Sunday Mass, then the Law is giving the humble occupants of the pews a protection against all and every one of those who know infinitely better than the pewfodder what is good for them, and who are happy to deprive them of their rights and protections.
I doubt whether PF and the ACA and most other prelates are consistent in their antinomianism. I have little doubt that, when it suits them, they are fervent in their enthusiasm for the Law. PF, for example, has not, to my knowledge, suggested to bishops that they need not be rigid or pharisaical about submitting their resignations when they reach the statutory age. There have been examples of bishops, not in the pontifical favour, who have had their resignations accepted with somewhat discourteous rapidity within days of submission. The system currently in place in our poor suffering Latin Church appears to be "I need not obey the Law because I am grand and I know best; but those below me need to submit to it. Indeed, if I tell them to do something contra legem, they even need to submit to that as well".
'Law', in this sense, is simply lawless tyranny, vis sine lege.
Nor do I find attractive the view sometimes put forward that the Roman Pontiff, being the Supreme Lawgiver, is therefore himself above the obligation to obey the Law. Most legal systems do not encourage the idea that legislators are ipso facto themselves exempt from the Law. If one of our Members of Parliament were charged with embezzlement, I doubt if our courts would accept his plea that his status qua legislator exempted him from prosecution. Yet PF invites the cameras of the oikoumene in to film him breaking the Law on Maundy Thursday by washing the feet of those whom the rubrics exclude.
My dear Father, God rest his soul, would have called such conduct 'brazen'. But he did not live to understand the 'Catholic System' as this pontificate presents it. There are times when I wonder if I do. Indeed, whether I even want to understand it.