Rorate Caeli

Op-Ed:” What Would The Re-dimensioning of Summorum Pontificum mean to the Question of Pontifical Authority?”


by  don Marco Begato

From Aldo Maria Valli's Blog

July 15, 2021


Breaking news from the liturgical world suggests that the publication of a document that would abolish, or at least re-dimension, the scope of the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum is close.  This rumour has given rise to something more than apprehension, most of all in those dioceses ( and therefore - in most Italian dioceses) where the defense of the celebration of the Vetus Ordo is protected only by Summorum Pontificum and certainly not in dialogue with the Shepherds.


Even two princes of the Church, among others, have spoken out in defense of the status quo: Cardinal  Müller and Cardinal Zen.


My comment however today focuses attention on the question of authority.


My thesis is that a move to harm Summorum Pontificum - especially if initiated while Benedict XVI is still alive - would be a cheap shot against the Liturgy, but would most of all be a traumatizing  blow to authority.



The question I put forward is what value could be acknowledged in a document, which in the course of a few decades, could be turned and twisted inside out? I would say very little. But the value of the document in our case speaks also of the value of  its author, and since a Motu proprio is an eminent, autonomous intervention by a Supreme Pontiff, it speaks of the value of pontifical declarations and their relationship with the episcopate (for instance: of the willingness of an episcopate to obey a Motu proprio). An so then, faced with the 'write-down' of a Motu proprio would it not run the risk of removing credibility from the Pope’s interventions as such?  Would it not risk generating the impression that the interventions of a Pontiff are highly dubious, valid at the maximum for a decade or two, worth nothing but to be pulled apart?


In this sense, in my view, touching Summorum Pontificum, would mean touching the credibility of the Papacy itself as well as the hierarchy's authority. And this, mind you, I affirm not to vent a personal, psychological sentiment of betrayed trust, but to indicate a radical and objective state of confusion that the Anti-Summorum ipso facto would attach to the highest offices.

The reasoning is as simple as it is disarming: if the hierarchy are not clear about what they want to do and why, if they are acting to change curial balance or social trends and not according to definitive, stable, theological presuppositions,  why should we obey them? Better still, what should we obey? To ever-changing writings? To the intention leaked by the newspapers? To the declarations of priests on television? To Pope I or Pope II ? To the bishop who follows the letter or the one who follows the spirit?  To trends or convenience?  To the first five years or the second?

I repeat, mine is not a psychological reaction, but a serious interpretative difficulty. I am bound to obey those who certainly reveal the will of God to me, but an ecclesial community that presents itself in a confused way, that changes continually its own instances, that supplies fewer theological explanations, that tends not to respond or evade the doubts raised, that in the millennium of liberty and in the Post-Conciliar  Church finally free from legalism, pushes for an intransigent obedience;  how can such a reality consider itself credible or trustworthy?  What should be believed and followed from it? For how long? With what criteria? How seriously should it be taken? How much, on the other hand, can I interpret and re-read at will?  Who establishes it?


These are indeed open questions, which, as of today I don’t know how  to answer.


When Summorum is castigated, a definitive answer will become even more difficult for me, since giving credibility to the authorities, will be, by definition, a hazard, a roulette, a game. What's more -  one less and less fun and increasingly more hazardous.

 Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana


Source Il ridimensionamento del “Summorum Pontificum” e il problema dell’autorità – Aldo Maria