The Church has been rocked in recent days by the revelations that Rome is preparing to, at a minimum, roll back Summorum Pontificum. For those of us unaware of the inside baseball, Summorum Pontificum was a document published in 2007 under the reign of Pope Benedict XVI, known as the “Bill of Rights of the Latin Mass” because it acknowledged the legal precedent in the Church many centuries longstanding, that the Mass of Saint Pius V has a permanent place in the spiritual life of Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite.
Sounds confusing? It’s not.
In 1570, Pope Saint Pius V issued a document entitled Quo Primum, wherein he standardized the practice of giving Mass across the Latin Rite for the first time in centuries, and set in stone the Tradition surrounding the Mass going back to before even the year AD 600. He also bound his successors not to amend his Mass unless there was grave reason to do so, and invoked the wrath of Saints Peter and Paul upon anyone who dared to ban, suppress, or persecute the celebrants of the Mass he inherited, and had legally set in stone. That document can be found here.
Here’s the bullseye:
“We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator and all other persons of whatsoever ecclesiastical dignity, be they even Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church or possessed of any other rank or preeminence, and We order them by virtue of holy obedience to sing or to read the Mass according to the rite and manner and norm herein laid down by Us, and henceforward to discontinue and utterly discard all other rubrics and rites of other missals, howsoever ancient, which they have been accustomed to follow, and not to presume in celebrating Mass to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this Missal.
Furthermore, by these presents and by virtue of Our Apostolic authority We give and grant in perpetuity that for the singing or reading of Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal may be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment or censure, and may be freely and lawfully used. Nor shall bishops, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious of whatsoever Order or by whatsoever title designated, be obliged to celebrate Mass otherwise than enjoined by Us. We likewise order and declare that no one whosoever shall be forced or coerced into altering this Missal and that this present Constitution can never be revoked or modified, but shall for ever remain valid and have the force of law, notwithstanding previous constitutions or edicts of provincial or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the usage of the churches aforesaid, established by very long and even immemorial prescription, saving only usage of more than 200 years.”
In the 1960’s a committee of mostly non-Catholics was gathered to disobey the above document and throw out the Roman Catholic liturgy, with disastrous results. As the 20th Century drew on, numerous Priests and Bishops, from France, to Austria, to Brazil, to Italy, decided to keep a hold on their Catholic heritage, and the result is the blossoming Latin Mass movement that Pope Benedict XVI finally conceded legitimacy to after decades of persecution.
What is currently happening in Rome has been described as a backlash, motivated by a fear on the part of many Modernists in the clergy that Catholic seminarians may be regaining their orthodoxy, and that the faithful may be reacquainting themselves with their traditions. Dismissing uncompromising moral standards as “rigidity,” liturgical reverence as “smells and bells,” and large families as people “who breed like rabbits,” there is a loud caucus of opponents in the theological and clerical establishment ready to tighten a clamp around the flowering of Church Tradition.
Lest anyone think this is a gossip piece, this past week a priest in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has announced the closure of his Latin Mass parish after a meeting with his superiors. In Dijon, France, another Latin Mass community was dissolved just days ago.
Should we be afraid? No. Here’s why.
The faithful stand on solid legal, theological, and spiritual ground on this issue, and no politicking or machinations can undo the perpetual rights of the faithful to receive the Sacraments according to the Roman Rite.
The easy part is over. Catholics now need to be ready for anything, and that means keeping our souls clean, and our hearts charitable. On those two counts, here’s some nice introductory material on confession and on tithing for those who are looking to jumpstart their spiritual life or their charitable giving, which is just as much a spiritual act as prayer.
Saint Pius V, hero of the Council of Trent, ora pro nobis!