Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ratzinger on liturgical law
Pius V ... decided to introduce the Missale Romanum, the Mass book of the Church of the City of Rome, as indubitably Catholic, in all places where it could not be demonstrated that the liturgy was of at least 200 years’ antiquity. In other cases the liturgy in use could be retained, since its Catholic character could be considered certain. There was therefore no question of forbidding the use of a traditional Missal which had been juridically valid until that time ... It is good here to recall what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow. The orthodox forms of a rite are living realities, born out of the dialect of love between the Church and her Lord. They are expressions of the life of the Church, in which are distilled the faith, the prayer, and the very life of past generations, and which make incarnate in specific forms both the action of God and the response of man. Such rites can die, if those who have used them in a particular era should disappear, or if the life-situation of those same people should change. The authority of the church had the power to define and limit the use of such rites in different historical situations, but she never just purely and simply forbids them!
It seems to me that Cardinal Ratzinger’s concerns are less with Canon Law than with an unwritten law inscribed in the very nature of the Church (the embodiment of authentic tradition), which trumps the law embodied in transient canonical codes and enactments. He is not concerned to join in the scrimmage of canonists as they examine their manuals and gather their precedents in order to discover exactly how a particular decree of Paul VI might or might not be glossed. What he is writing is Theology. His subject is the Spirit-filled life of the Catholic Church.

I can’t help wondering if Papa Ratzinger is subconsciously sketching, with a few strokes of his pencil, what an Orthodox Latin West might look like – and how an Orthodox papacy might function. It is all very well to have ecumenical commissions; but nothing would promote the unity of the two lungs of Christendom more than for Orthodox to be able to look at the actual life of the Roman
Magisterium ... and to feel an uncanny sense that they were to a degree looking into a mirror. Of course, in human terms the odds are that few here in the Latin West will really understand his project; that the liturgical and moral anarchists, the homosexual ideologues and the feminists, will continue their frenzied denigrations of the old Bavarian gentleman; that in a few years he will be dead and his vision forgotten as the vaticanologists feverishly speculate on the ‘policies’ of his successor. But, in my eyes, for as long as it lasts it is exhilarating; Benedict’s Age is a good age in which to be alive, an age of the very truest instauratio catholica. And, just possibly ... who knows ... after all, there is a God ...
From John Hunwicke, who, walking the talk, is now a Roman Catholic.

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