Two years after, that is, the best document produced by the magisterium of the Church since Humani Generis, (or perhaps Humane Vitae)— the great Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum.
This document has already effected a sea-change in the Church, with the Supreme Legislator confirming what traditional Catholics always maintained, and what heterodox liturgical “experts” wanted all to forget– that the Traditional Catholic Mass had not been abrogated. The traditional Mass was still licit, and, what was more, it deserved to be promoted.
Under the new juridical terminology, the Roman Rite has two lawful forms of Holy Mass– the “ordinary” and “extraordinary”. Both are able to be celebrated at the option of the priest, and even for public Masses the pastor of a church can decide which to celebrate.
This document turned the Church’s enemies irrevocably against the Holy Father. But the act of publishing this document guarantees him a hallowed place in history long after he will go to his reward. It may sound dramatic to some, but this one act has done, and will do, more to ensure the survival of the Catholic religion than anything else in the last or next forty years.
It is the vehicle of restoration of liturgy and faith. It is the vehicle for reconciliation of groups, but also the reconciliation, or harmonization, of the Church’s magisterium over time. It is a validation of the noble struggle to keep the timeless Mass alive in the midst of persecution, even and perhaps especially within the Church.
This letter has made it far more difficult for dissenting Bishops to deny the faithful their right to this form of Mass, though many still try. Their time is passing. The ancient Mass attracts young and growing congregations.
Pope Benedict’s act did not please everyone on either side of the liturgical debate. But he deserves great praise for this, and our constant and fervent prayers. The proper celebration of the Mass is the key to the handing down of the faith itself.
From the motu proprio:
“Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, ‘to the praise and glory of His name,’ and ‘to the benefit of all His Holy Church.’
Since time immemorial it has been necessary – as it is also for the future – to maintain the principle according to which ‘each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church’s law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.’
Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the ‘Lex orandi’ (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same ‘Lex orandi,’ and must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church’s ‘Lex credendi’ (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.
It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church.
Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.
Art. 3. Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or “community” celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues.
Art. 4. Celebrations of Mass as mentioned above in art. 2 may – observing all the norms of law – also be attended by faithful who, of their own free will, ask to be admitted.
Art. 5. õ 1 In parishes, where there is a stable group of faithful who adhere to the earlier liturgical tradition, the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962, and ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish…”