This is truly a historic occasion, and the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum is an important document for the life of the Church. It is not a perfect document however, that is important to note. Some people really expected a document which would solve all problems. I knew from early on this would not be the case. My interest was mainly in whether or not important things were said, so as to make a starting point. It is my judgment that they have, and we have a strong and well fortified dock from which to begin our voyage into the heart of Catholic Tradition.
The text is blessedly brief and clear, not full of ambiguous mumbo jumbo about the pilgrim people of God this, etc. Though I think it could have ironed out some more, I am greatful for what we did get. This I think is highly important. If there was nothing good here, I would not say so. I would not put false optimism out there. Even the Society of St. Pius X has said that this document is basically good, even though it is only a start. We should be rejoicing, praying for the Pope, and begin building bridges with our local hierarchy to work for the implementation of this document. What I find both sad and ironic is that though I have waited for this document for 7 years, now I have truly very little to say, and have had to muster up the energy all day to write on this, but I feel it is important.
In the first place, Pope Benedict covers the history of the formation of the Roman Rite, and the codification of that rite by St. Pius V. He doesn't try and cover it up and make it look like St. Pius created his own liturgy as the modernists claim, he explains very clearly, in accord with obvious fact that the Tridentine Liturgy is a continuation of that same Roman Liturgy known to the saints. Then he makes mention of the reform efforts of every Pope from Clement VIII to John XXIII in 1961(typical edition 1962), and finally Vatican II and the reform of Paul VI. Noting the question of the Traditional Liturgy and the various indults since that time, Pope Benedict sets the background for the declaration which he makes in 12 articles. Note all translation and emphasis are mine:
A lot is going to be made of ordinary and extraordinary. Some will no doubt claim that since it is an Extraordinary expression, it should only be seen once in a while. Juridically speaking, and in terms of the Latin language, Ordinary and Extraordinary only explain the case in point of fact, not in what they ought to be as they do in English. The Latin identifies these as such because it is a fact that the Novus Ordo remains the normativa, the way the hierarchy normally does things. The Traditional Mass is the form out of the ordinary, but not a rare application. While I was searching for good Latin references on this I found an excellent commentary by Fr. Z which pointed out a usage by St. Jerome which meant excessive.
Art. 1. Missale Romanum a Paulo VI promulgatum ordinaria expressio "Legis orandi" Ecclesiae catholicae ritus latini est. Missale autem Romanum a S. Pio V promulgatum et a B. Ioanne XXIII denuo editum habeatur uti extraordinaria expressio eiusdem "Legis orandi" Ecclesiae et ob venerabilem et antiquum eius usum debito gaudeat honore. Hae duae expressiones "legis orandi" Ecclesiae, minime vero inducent in divisionem "legis credendi" Ecclesiae; sunt enim duo usus unici ritus romani.
Art. 1 The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the Lex orandi of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Yet the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and [promulgated] anew by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same lofty Lex orandi of the Church and she shall rejoice on account of its venerable and ancient usage by which it is dutifully honored. These two expressions of the Church’s Lex orandi truly by no means induce division in the law of belief of the Church; they are two uses of the one Roman Rite.
Proinde Missae Sacrificium, iuxta editionem typicam Missalis Romani a B. Ioanne XXIII anno 1962 promulgatam et numquam abrogatam, uti formam extraordinariam Liturgiae Ecclesiae, celebrare licet. Conditiones vero a documentis antecedentibus "Quattuor abhinc annos" et "Ecclesia Dei" pro usu huius Missalis statutae, substituuntur ut sequitur:I can't help but notice that the phrase "licet celebrare" which is lawful to celebrate was excised from the translation on the Vatican Website. I don't know why. Nevertheless, the phrase "never abrogated" is perhaps the most important participle in a papal document of the last 40 years. What it means is that regardless of what has been said before, intimated before, whatever apparent approval to the position that the Traditional Liturgy was abrogated the Vatican seemed to give by allowing its restriction, it is now beyond question that it is always lawful for any priest to say a Tridentine Mass, not only at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon once a month, but at 9am on Sunday morning, and indeed every day. By saying this Pope Benedict is taking from the hands of the Bishops the ability to prohibit the Traditional Liturgy.
Accordingly, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the typical edition of Bl. John XXIII having been promulgated in the year 1962 and never abrogated, is an extraordinary form of the Church's liturgy, lawful to celebrate. Truly the conditions from the preceding documents "Quattuor abhinc annos" and "Ecclesia Dei" the statutes for the use of this Missal, is substituted as follows:
Now some may say, wait a minute, Pope Benedict explained in his explanatory letter that he wasn't taking anything away. He is not, he is just pointing out that the Bishops never actually had the power to take it away, and it was through confusion and the failure of the Vatican to clearly state the status of the Missal that Bishops for a time had the ability to regulate it.
This is the most important part of the document, even above other considerations. It clearly states without ambiguity, again like St. Pius V, that this Mass is lawful and good.
Art. 2. In Missis sine populo celebratis, quilibet sacerdos catholicus ritus latini, sive saecularis sive religiosus, uti potest aut Missali Romano a beato Papa Ioanne XXIII anno 1962 edito, aut Missali Romano a Summo Pontifice Paulo VI anno 1970 promulgato, et quidem qualibet die, excepto Triduo Sacro. Ad talem celebrationem secundum unum alterumve Missale, sacerdos nulla eget licentia, nec Sedis Apostolicae nec Ordinarii sui.This is a logical consequence of the fact that the Missal is not and never has been abrogated. No permissions from the Bishop, or the Pope. You can't get any more clear than that.
In Masses celebrated without the people, any Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether he be secular [diocesan] or religious, may say either the Roman Missal from Bl. Pope John XXIII from the year 1962 edition or from the supreme Pontiff Paul VI in the year promulgated in 1970 and the same on any day whatsoever, except the Triduum. For such a celebration according to one Missal or the other, the priest needs no license [permission], neither from the Apostolic seat nor from his Ordinary.
On the other hand this Truduum business needs explaining. You see, a priest can not say low Mass privately for In Cena Domini, Parasceve, or Sabatto Sancto. This was true in the old rite, it is true in the Novus Ordo now, and it will continue to be true. The Pope is not revoking some long held privilege. It just means that one or the other shall be used publicly.
Art. 3. Si communitates Institutorum vitae consecratae atque Societatum vitae apostolicae iuris sive pontificii sive dioecesani quae in celebratione conventuali seu "communitatis" in oratoriis propriis celebrationem sanctae Missae iuxta editionem Missalis Romani anno 1962 promulgatam habere cupiunt, id eis licet. Si singula communitas aut totum Institutum vel Societas tales celebrationes saepe vel plerumque vel permanenter perficere vult, res a Superioribus maioribus ad normam iuris et secundum leges et statuta particularia decernatur.This is important, as it necessarily addresses the question of religious orders. They too may have the Traditional Mass. If the superior wishes to allow it frequently, or make the order a Tridentine order, that is also entirely possible. (Norbertines, I hope you are paying attention).
If communities of institutes of consecrated life and also societies of apostolic life, whether of pontifical or diocesan right [law], desire to have the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962 it is lawful for them. If single communities or a whole Institute or Society as such wishes to perform celebrations often or for the most part or permanently, it [the decision] is decided by the major superiors both by the juridical norm and according to the particular laws and statutes of the community.
Art. 4. Ad celebrationes sanctae Missae de quibus supra in art. 2 admitti possunt, servatis de iure servandis, etiam christifideles qui sua sponte id petunt.This clarifies article 2 somewhat. A priest can say this Mass anywhere, and we can attend. It is not as if the MP is saying that priests may only say this Mass privately, they may do so publicly in a Church, or in a private home. Its not like the indult that Bugnini allowed for England in the 70's which said that only an old priest could say the old Mass, and then only privately.
Concerning the celebrations of Holy Mass from above in article 2, even Christ's faithful who ask it of their own accord may be admitted, providing the law is observed.
This is the end of part I. As time frees itself up I will come up with more, and an unofficial translation of the document.