More Catholic stuff

The Vatican Press Office has released some Observations on the use of the Old Roman Liturgy. It’s not clear just who they’re from or what their status is, but some points may be interesting to Tridentine Mass fans. The release suggests, for example, that the faithful recite or sing the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and observes that the old missal says nothing about whether the priest faces the people or not. The latter strikes me as an implicit suggestion that should not be acted on if liturgy is to become something other than self-celebration. Still, Romano Guardini habitually celebrated facing the people, so there may be something to be said for the other side. For what it’s worth, I believe the Pope considers ad orientem (facing liturgical East—normally, away from the people) superior.

A bigger development is the issuance by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the Pope’s specific approval, of a discussion of the meaning of the words “subsistet in” in the documents of Vatican II, which say that the Church of Christ “subsists in” rather than “is” the Catholic Church, and whether those words signal a change from the older position. The answer is that there was no change. The point of the Vatican II wording, it appears, is that while truth becomes a coherent enduring whole only in the Catholic Church, elements of it are of course present in varying degrees elsewhere. Lutheran baptisms are really baptisms, for example.

People complain about the point, but to my mind it’s basic to Christianity, the religion of God incarnate. Truth is unquestionably present to some degree in all sorts of places. That’s not good enough though, and it’s not why God become man. It seems that if man’s situation demanded that God have some sort of concrete determinable presence among us that need would continue. If Christ didn’t found a concrete Church, but is only present in some general sense among those who believe, intend and do the right things, that would mean that his presence in some abstract or conceptual sense is good enough. But if that’s so, why did he bother becoming physically present and getting crucified? The Russian Orthodox, at least, welcomed the statement as a clear statement of the Catholic position of the sort necessary for discussions that mean anything.

And meanwhile, in a final bit of work before going on vacation, the Pope made very significant changes to the final document of the recent conference of Latin American Bishops. The changes were very much in line with his “hermeneutic of continuity.” An expression of regret for attempts to return to “an ecclesiology and a spirituality prior to the Second Vatican Council” became regret for attempts to return to “a kind of ecclesiology opposite to the renewal of the Second Vatican Council.” So “pre-Vatican II” is OK, since it doesn’t mean “anti-Vatican II.” A statement of regret for discrimination against women was also dropped.

Leave a Comment