I decided to be proactive for once, having read the post at Rorate Caeli that the CDF has sent out surveys to the various Ordinaries asking about the implementation of Summorum Pontificum and the celebration of the traditional Mass in their dioceses. The author at Rorate hints that this could be viewed in an ominous light. Of course it could. But whether it augurs good or evil, I thought I would give a brief position summary that the faithful clergyman or lay Catholic could give when asked to defend their position that they have a right to the Mass despite any “revocation” of Summorum Pontificum that may occur in the future.
This post is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the issue, even if one were possible. I have written about this before on this site and its blogspot predecessor. This is a mere outline.
And we don’t know the future, obviously. But just as before Pope Benedict XVI promulgated Summorum Pontificum in 2007, when a traditional Catholic almost had to have low-key expertise in canon law, moral theology, and liturgical history, so now we can envision a time when we have to take up Mass apologetics all over again.
So, yes, it is certainly possible that the man who has caused the cessation of public Masses all over the world might also hate and wish to suppress the traditional Mass. However that may be, whenever or if ever Bergoglio revokes Summorum Pontificum, remember these lines of defense when defending the right of Catholics to the Mass and the traditional liturgical and sacramental expressions of the Roman Rite:
- Only a pope can revoke or amend a papal apostolic letter given motu proprio. Make sure the guy who attempts it is actually the pope.
- Summorum Pontificum merely acknowedged that the traditional Mass had never been abrogated. It didn’t “allow” the Mass, it just acknowledged the Mass had never been “disallowed”. It also created this awkward juridical framework that labelled the novus ordo and the ancient Mass to be two “forms” of the one Roman Rite. Any mere revocation would actually serve to take away papal acknowledgement that the novus ordo is a form of the Roman Rite, as opposed to a new Rite, which it certainly appears to be in reality. So, in an interesting way, although nobody may believe you, a mere revocation or abrogation of Summorum Pontificum actually strengthens the right to the Traditional Mass as it a) was never abrogated, and b) is the one and only form of the one Roman Rite. Spring this line of thinking on your novus ordo friends (from a socially responsible distance) and watch their heads explode.
- As the traditional Mass, or ancient Mass, or Missal of Pope St. Pius V, or whatever you choose to call it, is a validly promulgated Mass of hundreds of years’ usage, Catholics have the right to it (priests to celebrate it, faithful to assist at it) in canon law based on recourse to immemorial custom. Most Catholics live in code law countries. Even in the United States, with its common law tradition, we now live in a time of mostly-codified federal and state law. Furthermore, the canon law of the Church has been greatly codified for more than a hundred years. Thus, the concept of immemorial custom having the force of law may seem strange. But it is nonetheless true. Lots of the precepts of canon law have been handed down and developed outside of any code. Moreover, the code of canon law, in both the 1917 and 1983 iterations, acknowledges that immemorial custom has the force of law.
- If you wish to do a little googling (sounds creepy, I know) about this, in the reign of Pope John Paul II, the question of whether Pope Paul VI had actually abrogated the traditional Mass was put to a group of Cardinals, who responded that it indeed had never been abrogated. That was the opinion before Summorum Pontificum.
- Finally, and this is deep water in which I will try to swim, there is an argument that the bull Quo Primum of Pope St. Pius V makes it impossible for any succeeding pope to abrogate the traditional (or Tridentine, if you will) Mass that the saintly pope offically promulgated and made normative in his bull. Certainly there is language which forbids it, including: “We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force…”, and “Therefore, no one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Would anyone, however, presume to commit such an act, he should know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”
Regarding the Quo Primum argument, it is not as cut-and-dried as it seems. While I believe in the essence of the argument and its validity, you should be aware that there are those who reasonably disagree. Can one pope really bind a future pope? What would this mean for his supreme legislative power and jurisdiction? Some theorize that a pope may not licitly alter or abrogate Quo Primum, he may validly do so. But one can also reasonably ask, “What actually Catholic pope would presume to do so?”
So, dear Readers, in the end, like in every other way in this crazy and evil time, we need to man up and fight for the faith in the ways that we can, while we can. And let us fight with confidence in Our Lord and His Holy Mother, for theirs is already the victory, and only the fulfillment remains. May we live to see it, and be on their side when it happens!