Rorate Caeli

The Instruction - I
Non-Roman rites and uses: a small sample of things to come,
the risk of a return to the "indult" mentality

The day before yesterday, in a post long gone, and yesterday, we were (unjustly) accused of being alarmist because we tried to warn our readers that the clarification instruction on the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (henceforth, "the instruction") has been, at least in its latest draft, rewritten in a way that is unexpectedly and unjustifiably restrictive. Unexpectedly, because since the very first reports on the intruction, in August-October 2007, it had always been seen, and presented by several Vatican sources, as an instrument to make the application of Summorum Pontificum wider and to destroy the ridiculous roadblocks placed by several bishops regarding the wide rights recognized by that text. Unjustifiably, because, if anything, what Summorum needs is a firmer assurance of its application, and not increasing difficulties.

"Where are the texts of this instruction draft?", some have asked. "This is all rather vague," others have affirmed. And at least one report has simply denied any such intentions in the intruction. We can only thank those friends who, though discreetly, confirmed by other means what our sources had told us.

The text of the draft may still be altered; the general restrictive intentions, however, cannot be denied. Together with Messa in Latino, we can add the following:
We have learned, up to the present moment, at least two relevant points of the Instruction. Both points should not be seen as minor, since they are indicative of the generally restrictive tone of the text. For several reasons, and because time is necessary to digest unseemly news, only the first point will be discussed in this post.

And that is: in its current draft, the Instruction definitely "clarifies" that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum is applied exclusively to the Roman Rite, in the strictest interpretation of the word. Therefore, not to the non-Roman Latin Rites: the clearly minoritarian or even forgotten Mozarabic, Braga, or Sarum rites. But the rule would apply also to the not few religious who have tried to rediscover their Traditional rites or uses: Dominicans and Carmelites, in particular, but also Carthusians, Norbertines... What is surprising is that the extension of the spirit of the motu proprio to other Western rites and uses had always been assumed, and the official response that it would not apply to religious uses, demanding a proper clarification, had indeed been one of the very causes of the instruction.

This restrictive rule would in particular (and would seem thus planned, considering the complications of the Italian Church) exclude the application of the motu proprio to the Traditional Liturgy of the largest diocese in the Old World, and third with most Catholics in the world: Milan. Excluding the enclaves of Roman Rite, the motu proprio would be void in the Archdiocese and in the Ambrosian zones of the Diocese of Lugano, Switzerland.

For over five million Catholics in that area, and for religious priests dedicated to their rites or uses, the rules to be applied would not be those of Summorum (the Traditional Liturgy as a right of priests and groups of faithful), but only Ecclesia-Dei-like privileges and concessions, granted by the liturgical authorities of the Archdiocese (in the case of Milan) or the Superiors (in the case of the orders).

Why such a restriction? In legal terms, nothing seems to demand it: the text of Summorum is sufficiently ambiguous that it can be interpreted in both ways, even though it makes reference to the Roman Missal, Breviary, and Rite, and restrictive rules are, in general, applied in a limited way (odiosa limitanda, favorabilia amplianda). Moreover, such a rule would openly contradict the official response of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei' (in the case of open application of Summorum to the Ambrosian Rite, cf. here).

This first major point of the instruction has, thus, a clear repressive and punitive intention. Its sense would be extremely dangerous: that the Traditional liturgies of the West, rather than being encouraged (as the letter of the motu proprio makes clear), must be contained, regulated, oppressed. Not a clear declaration of rights, but a bureaucratic web of limited privileges and concessions: this small example seems to set the general new tone regarding the Traditional Liturgy.