Rorate Caeli

Evaluating the Meaning of a Movement

Abbé de Cacqueray FSSPX speaks about Summorum Pontificum

Over the past year, conflicting judgments have been issued concerning the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum promulgated in July 2007. In hindsight it is possible to have a clearer picture.

It seems to me that the fundamental point to properly interpret it is to recognize it as the inauguration of a movement on the liturgy and, hence, the Church itself (Lex orandi, lex credendi). Only by evaluating the meaning and scope of this movement can one express a fair and justified judgment.

A movement must have a point of departure. What was the situation of the liturgy in June 2007? The overwhelming, almost total domination of the so-called Mass of Pope Paul VI, and the almost complete elimination of the traditional Mass which was regarded as totally obsolete if not outright prohibited.

Responding to this situation were two very small groups. On the one hand, the "traditionalists" who consistently said that the traditional Mass was not and could not be prohibited and who never accepted the Mass of Paul VI and were severely persecuted by ecclesiastical authorities. On the other hand the "Ecclesia Dei" faction which, by the grace of a few exceptional laws, was permitted under restrictive conditions to celebrate the traditional Mass on the premise of spiritual preference.

The first article of the Motu Proprio is clearly unacceptable: the traditional Mass and the Mass of Paul VI are "two usages of the one Roman rite." But this is only a starting point.

However from this (catastrophic) state of things, the Motu Proprio goes on to pave the way much more widely for the celebration of the traditional Mass than anything that had been done up until then.

“[T]he Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be […] given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage”; “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”; “[E]ach Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962”; “For such celebrations […], the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary” etc.

Further (from the pope's letter): "I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.”

The Motu Proprio opens a door to the traditional liturgy for anyone, and they are many, who have been unlawfully deprived of it for the past forty years.

This of course, does not concern those who have always known that the traditional Mass can not be prohibited, and therefore have attended it with a clear conscience. For this minority, the "traditionalists", to employ the Motu Proprio would be a step backwards: it would admit that the Mass of Paul VI carries "the same dignity" as that of the traditional Mass which they have always denied.

However, those who have known only the Mass of Paul VI and, given the propaganda, have been convinced up until now that the traditional Mass was prohibited or bad; are now afforded access to this Mass through the Motu Proprio and may begin to discover its riches.

This is the essential meaning of the movement launched by the Motu Proprio: A possibility for all baptized who have been deprived of it for decades, to see for the first time the traditional liturgy of the Church and get re-accustomed to it - a gradual but humanly necessary beginning, at least in terms of the liturgical crisis.

The French bishops (in particular) who do everything to block, restrict, and distort the Motu Proprio, were not mistaken.

Therefore let us not ourselves be mistaken.

Abbé Régis de Cacqueray †, Supérieur du District de France

La Porte Latine