Report: Summorum Pontificum 2017 - Can Mutual Enrichment “Heal the Rift”?

Source: District of the USA

Procession towards St. Peter's Basilica on the occasion of the Summorum Pontifcum conference.

Supporters of Benedict XVI’s call for “mutual enrichment” featured prominently at the Summorum Pontificorum conference and pilgrimage.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation of Divine Worship, was among the speakers in Rome on September 14-17, 2017, as was Archbishop Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which has charge of groups linked with the Traditional Mass such as Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King.

Archbishop Pozzo stated in his address:

I think it necessary to return to a fundamental aspect of Summorum Pontificum, namely, the desire to heal the rift, not just liturgical, but ecclesiological, between the old and the new….I believe that the old rite, with its patrimony of faith and holiness, can greatly enrich the new; while the new, in its turn, can represent that rightful aspiration for theological and liturgical development in continuity and fidelity to tradition.

What is “Mutual Enrichment”?

The expression “mutual enrichment” famously occurs in Pope Benedict XVI’s words in his Letter to the Bishops of the World to Present the "Motu Proprio" on the Use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the Reforms of 1970, when he stated, “The two forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching.”  In this letter he sought to allay fears that, first, the freeing of the Traditional Mass would call the authority of the Second Vatican Council into question, and secondly, that use of the traditional rite would cause division within the Church.

In this same letter, Benedict XVI provided examples of the mutual enrichment he envisaged: minor adjustments to the old Missal, such as insertions of “…new Saints and some of the new Prefaces…” and greater sacredness, reverence and obedience to rubrics in the celebration of the New Mass: “The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.”

The expression quickly became a catch-phrase, in particular for those who longed for the Old Mass, but who, for various reasons, shrank from open opposition to the Novus Ordo or the Second Vatican Council. It fit in well with Benedict XVI’s notion of “the hermeneutic of continuity,” the idea that the Second Vatican Council and any ambiguities it contains can be interpreted in the light of tradition.

At the London Sacra Liturgia conference in July 2016, Cardinal Robert Sarah made headlines when he called for priests to return, wherever possible, to an ad orientem celebration of the New Mass, something that Benedict XVI had called for in his work The Spirit of the Liturgy. This was met with an outcry from progressive Catholics and the Vatican distanced itself from his remarks. Cardinal Sarah also called for more silence in the New Mass, greater reverence towards the Eucharist (including keeping the fingertips together after the Consecration), and a more generalized use of Latin.  

Cardinal Robert Sarah offers Mass at London's 'Sacra Liturgia' conference, 2016.

Could a New Common Rite “Heal the Rift?”

As Fr. Raymond de Souza wrote in the Catholic Herald in July 2017, “Over the past 10 years, it [mutual enrichment] has been interpreted in EF circles in a mostly unilateral way: the OF ought to adapt the practices of the EF.” Hence many supporters of mutual enrichment were startled to read an article published in French journal La Nef’s July-August 2017 issue, in which Cardinal Sarah, in keeping with Benedict XVI’s vision, called for improvements to the Vetus Ordo as well. He proposed, among other things, a “harmonization of the liturgical calendars” and an eventual “convergence” of lectionaries.

Most shocking to lovers of the Traditional Mass was his suggestion:

it is a priority that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we examine through prayer and study how we can return to a common reformed rite, always with the final goal of reconciliation within the Church…

This suggestion was decried by supporters of the traditional Mass, most publicly by Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, in the Catholic Herald, liturgist Gregory Di Pippo on his blog New Liturgical Movement and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.

Cardinal Burke, in 2011, had already suggested that a common reformed rite would be in keeping with Benedict XVI’s vision. In a November 2011 interview published by Catholic News Agency, he stated:

It seems to me that is what he [Benedict XVI] has in mind is that this mutual enrichment would seem to naturally produce a new form of the Roman rite – the 'reform of the reform,' if we may – all of which I would welcome and look forward to its advent.

At the September 2017 Summorum Pontificum conference held in Rome, Cardinal Sarah denied that he had intended to call for a “hybrid rite” which would please nobody. According to an unofficial transcript of his address published on the blog New Liturgical Movement, he told his audience:

In July I spoke of a possible future reconciliation between the two forms of the Roman rite. Some have interpreted this expression of personal opinion as the announcement of a programme that would end up in the future imposition of a hybrid rite which would bring about a compromise that would leave everybody unhappy and would abolish the usus antiquior by stealth, as it were. This interpretation is absolutely not what I intended.

However, in Archbishop Pozzo’s address at the same event, there was another reference to a possible convergence between rites:

…In the future, there may arise a convergence in a single common form. However, this will be the result of a process of growth within the Church, not a bureaucratic or formal imposition from above.

Do the Two Forms of Mass Express the Same Theology?

Fundamental to the notion of “mutual enrichment” is the idea, formulated by Benedict XVI, that there is no opposition between the Novus and the Vetus Ordo. He says in the Letter to the Bishops of the World which accompanied Summorum Pontificorum, “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture…”

Cardinal Sarah, in his La Nef article, declared:

It would be therefore erroneous to consider that the two liturgical forms are founded on two opposing theologies. The Church has only one truth to teach and to celebrate: Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Crucified!

There is evidence Benedict XVI believed that a focus on the liturgy could draw traditionalists to overlook their doctrinal concerns with the Second Vatican Council. As early as 1999, then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to a theologian critical of his stance on the Traditional Mass, “I am sorry that you did not perceive in my speech the invitation to the “traditionalists” to be open to the Council and to reconcile themselves to it in the hope of overcoming one day the split between the two Missals” (Letter to Fr. Matias Augé, February 18, 1999).

This idea is consistently upheld by those who support Benedict XVI’s liturgical thought. In his address to the 2017 Summorum Pontificum conference, Archbishop Pozzo said:

The motu proprio, therefore, does not aim for liturgical uniformity, but rather for reconciliation within the Church, bringing the two Forms, Ordinary and Extraordinary, to live together beside each other, respecting their specific characteristics….

Progressive Position: Two Masses, Two “Different” Theologies

Voices from both sides of the spectrum have contradicted this thesis, however. More recently, on July 8, 2017, progressive theologian Fr. Matias Augé, professor of liturgy at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’ Anselmo’s comments on Cardinal Sarah’s La Nef article were published on progressive Catholic blog Pray Tell. He believes strongly that the theologies expressed in the Novus and Vetus Ordos are not the same. Fr. Augé writes:

Sarah argues that it is ‘incorrect to hold that the two forms of liturgy express opposing theologies. The Church has a single truth which she teaches and celebrates.’ Again, I must say: two ‘opposing’ theologies, no; but ‘different,’ certainly. ... The post-Tridentine theology of the sacraments is one thing, and the sacramental theology inspired by Vatican II is another.

Taking issue with Cardinal Sarah’s suggestion that the priest’s fingers be kept joined after the Consecration, Fr. Augé says, “This last proposal reflects a Eucharistic theology which is no longer viable.” Anthony Ruff, OSB, who translated Fr. Augé’s remarks from the original Italian, comments:

The Council affirmed the Real Presence, of course. But it never used the term 'transubstantiation' once. Coincidence? Oversight? Irrelevant detail? No. Rather, perfectly emblematic of an entire way of thinking which informs the Council’s documents…

Traditionalist Position: The Ottaviani Intervention

Among traditional literature analysing the theology on which the New Mass is founded and how it differentiates from that which produced the Tridentine Mass, two works of particular note are the Ottaviani Intervention, notable for its concision and clarity, and Michael Davies’ three-part Liturgical Revolution.

In a letter dated September 25, 1969, Cardinal Ottaviani, head of the Holy Office (now the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith), and Cardinal Bacci wrote to Paul VI, presenting the results of a theological study of the New Mass and the new General Instruction.

“The Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent,” the letter states.

The Ottaviani Intervention presents a step-by-step analysis of why this is so, citing firstly a change in the definition of the Mass, formerly the unbloody Sacrifice of the Cross; now “The Lord's Supper,” and “a sacred meeting or assembly of the People of God, met together under the presidency of the priest, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord.”

The document goes on to list other major discrepancies. The ends of the Mass are changed in the New Rite by the removal of distinctions between the human and the Divine sacrifice, and the change in the bread and wine is “spiritual” and not “substantial.” There is a lack of any allusions to the Real Presence and it is implicitly repudiated. The roles of both priest and people are falsified, misrepresenting the nature of the Church and turning the priest into a Protestant minister. The unity of the Church is attacked by the abandonment of Latin, a lack of unity in language likely to translate to a lack of unity in doctrine. To this is added the danger of alienating the liturgically conservative Eastern Orthodox and an abandonment of the protections to the doctrines of the faith enshrined in the Tridentine Mass.

On this last point, the Intervention states:

It was precisely in order to ward off the dangers which in every century threaten the purity of the deposit of faith ('depositum custodi, devitans profanes vocum novitates' (Tim. 6:20) that the Church has had to erect under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost the defenses of her dogmatic definitions and doctrinal pronouncements. These were immediately reflected in her worship, which became the most complete monument of her faith.