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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Summorum Pontificum three years on



Today is the third anniversary of the publication of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which established that the older form of the Mass has never been abrogated and that in consequence, no permission is needed to celebrate Mass or the other sacraments in that form. In the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, the Holy Father said:
In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. 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. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.
On Saturday, 7 July 2007, we celebrated the old Mass in my parish and afterwards had a little champagne and cake.

The effect of Summorum Pontificum has been extraordinary in itself. Although there are some dioceses around the world where positive obstruction is attempted, in many cases the reaction from those who oppose the traditional liturgy has been, like the Jansenists after Cum occasione, a "respectful silence". Compared with the legalistic restrictions and opposition that had prevailed before, this is a major step forward.

There are also those who have always maintained the position that I once held, that there is no need for the old Mass if the new Mass is celebrated reverently. There has been something of a change here too. Whereas prior to Summorum Pontificum, a private old rite Mass would probably have been forbidden at many "new movement" events or religious houses, now such a Mass is just seen as part of the normal life of the Church and accepted without fuss.

The "high profile" Masses offered by Cardinals and Bishops have also had their effect in ensuring that the celebration of the traditional Liturgy is seen to be part of the life of the Church. Having assisted at several such celebrations, I can attest also to the great devotion and fervour that they have inspired among the large crowds of the faithful that have attended them.

Of course there have been difficulties and bitter opposition; I have been one of those who has experienced some of that, but overall the picture is very positive and upbeat.

Do go over and add your voice in the Catholic Herald's first ever online debate: Is Summorum Pontificum a failure?. Here is my hastily written contribution:
I would say that SP has been a success. It trumped the reluctance of Bishops to allow the usus antiquior and has encouraged many priests to learn how to say it. I have met dozens of priests who have only begun to say the old Mass since SP and I am sure that there are many more in the pipeline. In terms of negotiations with the SSPX, it has removed an important stumbling block.

I agree too that it has helped priests to say the new Mass more reverently and to understand some elements of that form of the Mass better, with more awareness of our liturgical tradition. For the people of God, it has brought a much needed sense of the sacred, and an opportunity to participate at Mass with greater freedom of choice in the manner of participation. In terms of the spiritual life of the Church, it has been a much needed element of Pope Benedict's reforms.
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