Q & A Regarding the Motu Proprio

Summorum Pontificum


What is a motu proprio?

Most documents signed by a pope originate as a function of the ordinary business of the Roman Curia in its role at the service of the pope. A few documents are initiated and promulgated by the pope himself for reasons he considers sufficient. Such a document is issued motu proprio (of his own accord).

Is a motu proprio the highest kind of ecclesiastical document?

No, although a motu proprio represents a particular papal solicitude the highest form of legislating, or teaching, document is the Constitution, which itself could be issued motu proprio.

Is a motu proprio limited in force in any way?

Although any document issued in the pope's name participates in his supreme authority (CIC c.360), canonists consider a motu proprio to have a certain finality to it.


What is the Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962?

This is the Mass as celebrated according to the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII. It was in use at time of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962 to December 8th 1965), and thus prior to that Council's call for a reform of the liturgical books. The Pope refers to this pre-conciliar form of the Mass as the extraordinary form.

Is this the same as the Tridentine Rite?

Tridentine is the adjective for anything connected with the Council of Trent (1548-1570). The term Tridentine Rite is not an accurate term. While the Missal of 1962 corresponds largely with the rite of the Mass promulgated after the Council of Trent by Pope St. Pius V, and therefore it has sometimes been called the Tridentine rite, it nonetheless is not identical. Several Popes over the centuries have made changes to the Tridentine missal. In the decade before the Second Vatican Council, Pope Pius XII modified the ceremonies of Holy Week and Pope John XXIII added St. Joseph to the saints' names mentioned in the Roman Canon.

Further, as Pope Benedict makes clear there is one Roman Rite, with two forms, an ordinary form (according to the Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, last revised in 2002), and an extraordinary form (according to the Missal of 1962). These two forms should peacefully co-exist, as do other occasionally celebrated forms of the Mass in the Western Church, such as the Ambrosian (Milan) or Mozarabic (Toledo, Spain), or, the various forms of the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Churches (e.g. Liturgy of St. Basil, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom etc.).

Is it the same as the Latin Mass?

The expression Latin Mass is popularly applied to the Mass according to the Missal of 1962, since one of its most notable characteristics is that the prayers are entirely in Latin. However, this is true also of the Missale Romanum of the post-conciliar rite, which is typically celebrated in the vernacular languages of the world. All translations are made from the "typical edition" in Latin (currently the third edition, of 2002), and every missal in vernacular translation must also contain the Latin text, since any priest may freely celebrate the ordinary form of the Mass in Latin.

Some, therefore, distinguish Mass according to the 1962 Missal from the current rite by calling it the traditional Latin Mass. While this is preferable to Latin Mass, it still does not establish the exact form of the traditional Latin Mass in question.


When will the norms in Summorum Pontificum take effect?

On 14 September 2007.

Who may celebrate the Mass according to the Missal of 1962?

According to the Apostolic Letter any priest of the Latin Rite may celebrate it in private, or in public according to the norms.

What about religious order priests?

They, too, may celebrate it in private. An institute of consecrated life and a society of apostolic life (both pontifical and diocesan) may also do so publicly for their community Mass, although for this to be habitual or permanent, the approval of the Major Superior, in accordance with the specific laws of the institute or society is needed.

May the faithful participate in private Masses?

Yes, those who freely request it may participate in private Masses of the clergy.

What about public Masses, such as in parishes?

If there is a stable group of people in a parish who want the extraordinary form, the Holy Father says that "the pastor should willingly accept their requests to celebrate the Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962... avoiding discord and favoring the unity of the whole Church."

What if a pastor won't allow it?

This would be a matter for the bishop, who is "strongly requested" to resolve it by the Holy Father. He can seek the help of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and if he cannot resolve it, he should forward the matter to the Commission, which exercises the authority of the Holy See with regard to the norms.

May the older rites be used in the celebration of the other Sacraments?

Yes, pastors may permit the public celebration of these rites at the request of the faithful.

Must priests be schooled in the celebration of this form or just take the missal and offer it?

No, a priest must either know how to celebrate it, as many older priests still do, or become qualified in some way. Neither form of the Roman Mass should be celebrated in a slipshod or haphazard way.

Also, a priest must not be juridical impeded, as would a priest who has been suspended by his bishop for acting independently of the Church in this matter, laicized, or is otherwise canonically irregular.

May parts of the rites according to the Missal of 1962 and the current missal be intermingled?

The rites themselves may not be intermingled, each has its own proper form. However, the Holy Father suggests in his letter to the bishops that the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei "in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior" could study whether recent Mass texts (e.g. the propers of saints like Padre Pio who have been canonized since 1962) may be adapted for use with the Missal of 1962. This is interesting since it suggests the possibility of the continuing and organic development of that missal in line with its nature, as would have occurred if the liturgical reforms of Vatican II had not intervened. In this way this extraordinary form of the Roman Rite would remain both living and true to itself.

What about the former edition of the Liturgy of the Hours or Breviary?

Yes, the clergy may use the former Roman Breviary to fulfill their obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office.


Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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