Commentary on Summorum Pontificum

They say that Pope Benedict XVI gave priests the RIGHT to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) whenever they wished, in contradiction to the authority of their local Bishop. The Roman Pontiff has the authority to grant this privilege; and he has the authority to withdraw it. If it is to be considered a right, it is only the type of right that is granted by papal authority, and can be withdrawn by that same authority.

For we know that the Old Testament disciplines were granted by God almighty and written into infallible Sacred Scripture. Yet Christ, by His authority, dispensed those disciplines. And while a few were continued for a brief time in the early Church, soon after, all were dispensed, as is taught by the Council of Florence. None of the Old Testament disciplines remain in force. Therefore, the New Testament disciplines, also, are changeable and dispensable. No one can say to the Roman Pontiff exercising the authority of Christ that he lacks the ability or authority to take away entirely or restrict to whatever extent, great or small, that Latin Mass.

For the Latin Mass was not celebrated by Christ. The Lord established the Mass, but not in immutable specifics. And the Church has the authority to decide upon the manner of celebration of the Lord’s Supper. She has that authority from Christ; whoever opposes Her authority opposes Christ.

Summorum Pontificum explains the history of the Latin Mass. It was never one exact form written in stone. The Latin Mass changed over time. The so-called Traditional Latin Mass is the 1962 version, approved by Pope Saint John XXIII. But it is hypocritical and sinful for those who prefer the TLM to speak with denigration toward John XXIII and the Council that he initiated. You cannot pick and choose which decisions of the Church you will accept, and which you will reject. Those who use the TLM to separate themselves from the rest of the Church, even as a flag to wave in the face of the Roman Pontiff, showing their rejection of his teachings and his authority, have departed from the purpose and inherent nature of that same Mass. The TLM itself stands as a holy witness against them, against those who reject the teachings of Vatican II, the authority of the Roman Pontiff, and even the holiness of the recent Pope Saints.

There is nothing wrong with the TLM. What is problematic is a subculture which has grown up around that form, and which claims it as its own. Can a liberal or moderate priest, who supports Vatican II and Pope Francis say the Latin Mass? He will be rejected by many of the supporters of that Mass. They associate a far right conservative view with a
Mass that is not inherently conservative or liberal, but is simply a way to worship God.

“In more recent times, the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that the respect and reverence due to divine worship should be renewed and adapted to the needs of our time. In response to this desire, our predecessor Pope Paul VI in 1970 approved for the Latin Church revised and in part renewed liturgical books; translated into various languages throughout the world, these were willingly received by the bishops as well as by priests and the lay faithful. Pope John Paul II approved the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. In this way the Popes sought to ensure that “this liturgical edifice, so to speak … reappears in new splendour in its dignity and harmony.” [4]

The Novus Ordo Mass is the ordinary Rite of the Latin Church; it is not to be rejected by anyone. To reject the Novus Ordo Mass is to reject the authority of the Apostolic See over discipline. It is inherently schismatic when a priest refuses to say that Novus Ordo Mass.

A Bishop in France asked the two FSSP priests in his dioceses to occasionally concelebrate Mass with other priests in the diocese, so that the Bishop’s flock would be one. They refused. They reject the Novus Ordo Mass. They view it as problematic. They refuse to concelebrate. The subculture to which they have granted, seemingly, the papal keys, has decided, as if dogmatically, to reject the Novus Ordo Mass and to reject concelebration. Therefore, they disobeyed their Bishop and were expelled from the diocese. Other priests will now say the Latin Mass there, priests who also accept the NO Mass and who are willing to concelebrate.

Peter holds the keys. And the local Bishop has his authority from Peter and his successors. If Peter says: “concelebrate”, then you concelebrate. Are these persons members of the Catholic Church, or some other church? It would be excellent if every priest, or at least most priests, would know how to celebrate both forms. This would be good for the one Church, to have two forms of the Mass. I agree with the plan of Summorum Pontificum that an ordinary rite and an extraordinary rite is good and useful.

“Art 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (rule of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. The Roman Missal promulgated by Saint Pius V and revised by Blessed John XXIII is nonetheless to be considered an extraordinary expression of the same lex orandi of the Church and duly honoured for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s lex orandi will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi (rule of faith); for they are two usages of the one Roman rite.”

This good plan of Pope Benedict XVI [corrected] did not work out so well, in the present time. The two expressions led to a division in the Church, so much so that many Latin Mass adherents feel they have the right to judge and condemn Pope Francis and his use of the keys over doctrine and discipline. Many Latin Mass clergy have exalted themselves to be judges over Popes and Councils. They think they are more faithful because they are more conservative. But that is not what Jesus taught.

“Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without a congregation, any Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use either the Roman Missal published in 1962 by Blessed Pope John XXIII or the Roman Missal promulgated in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, and may do so on any day, with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such a celebration with either Missal, the priest needs no permission from the Apostolic See or from his own Ordinary.”

This plan led to a group of clergy and people who separated themselves from their local Bishop, who had no control over their celebration of the Mass. It is a good plan, but it was ruined by the sin of pride.

“Art. 5, §1 In parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal. He should ensure that the good of these members of the faithful is harmonized with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the bishop in accordance with Canon 392, avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.”

That is not what happened. The faithful at the NO Mass became separated from the faithful at the TLM, and the latter separated themselves from the Bishop. Since SP took away from the Bishop the ability to regulate the TLM, he lost his governance over that group of the faithful. Discord grew and unity was harmed.

“§2 Celebration according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII can take place on weekdays; on Sundays and feast days, however, such a celebration may also take place.”

That’s an odd phrasing. It sounds like the original wording was one form on weekdays and only the other form on Sundays and feast days, but then it was changed to allow the TLM both times. [Source criticism.]

“Art. 7. If a group of the lay faithful, as mentioned in Art. 5, §1, has not been granted its requests by the parish priest, it should inform the diocesan bishop. The bishop is earnestly requested to satisfy their desire. If he does not wish to provide for such celebration, the matter should be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Art. 8. A bishop who wishes to provide for such requests of the lay faithful, but is prevented by various reasons from doing so, can refer the matter to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which will offer him counsel and assistance.”

Summorum made it difficult for the Bishop to refuse the TLM. The adherents of the Latin Mass could always go over his head to the Ecclesia Dei. Not fun for the Bishop.

Now let’s look at the supposed RIGHT to celebrate the TLM.

“For such a celebration with either Missal, the priest needs no permission from the Apostolic See or from his own Ordinary.”

This is not a right, but a privilege. If it is in any sense a right, it can certainly be changed or withdrawn by the Roman Pontiff. There is no ground on which a priest or the laity can stand to demand the Latin Mass in contradiction to the Roman Pontiff. If the Pope wishes to end the use of the Latin Mass entirely, he has the authority. Peter holds the keys. What he binds on earth is bound even in Heaven. Therefore, there is no right that stands in his face, to deny his authority. You could go up to Heaven and they would tell you that what Pope Francis has restricted on earth is considered bound even there, in Heaven.

Pope Francis has the authority of Christ over the Mass. He can choose to use only the vernacular Mass, and his successor can choose to allow only the Latin Mass. And I will attend whatever form the Pope chooses. I remember when the Latin Mass was the only Mass. That could happen again, at some point in the future. But we must not become attacked to the form of the Mass. The form is a container for the Word of God in Sacred Scripture and the Word of God in the Eucharist. It is a container for the worship of God. Peter holds the keys. Do not become attached to the empty container in which the keys rest.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

PS July was the month in which the East West Schism occurred. There was a great sign in the sky that month, July 1054, a supernova that became the Crab Nebula. Perhaps we will see a schism this month, July 2021. Will there be a sign in the sky?

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2 Responses to Commentary on Summorum Pontificum

  1. erm6 says:

    “This good plan of Pope Saint Paul VI did not work out so well, in the present time.” Did you mean Pope Benedict XVI?

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