BY DR ALCUIN REID
CATHOUCS who worship according to the usus antiquior the more ancient use of the Roman rite are understandably reluctant to accept the modernisation of the liturgy or any steps that appear to move in that direction. This may be seen by some as a weakness. Whether it is this or whether it is a healthy distrust of unnecessary change, it is a reality that must be taken into account by the Church's pastors. Pope Benedict's decree last year that the ancient use had "never been abrogated" and that it was freely to be available to all who wished it Iftwere greeted by such group profound joy and reassurance? isias414;cofoun4W pastoral mtlasgroa The announcement last week of the canonically correct clarification obtained by the English bishops from Rome that "priests who celebrate according to the 1962 Roman Missal for the benefit of the faithful ... should also celebrate these Holydays on the prescribed Sundays" is not such a pastoral measure. Yes, one can understand the desire for feasts to be kept by all on the same day. And yes, one can understand the annoyance of some modem liturgists and even bishops by those attached to the usus antiquior who have at times been somewhat smug about retaining the feasts on the original days. However, while these may be concerns, there are others to be taken into account.
The first is that those who worship according to the usus antiquior are most often deeply attached not only to the form of the rite but to the riches of the whole liturgical year. They would usually make the effort to be at Mass on the "extra" days whether it was strictly of obligation or not. By all means let the bishops remove the "weekday" obligation if they think it unduly onerous. But this does not necessitate their insistence on the transfer of the liturgical celebration of the feasts in the older use. For the transfer impoverishes the liturgical "diet" that will now be on offer.
The second is that the liturgical life of the Catholic Church has ays borne witness tel unity in versity, but not uniforrnior.East• and Western Catholic rites ha utterly different calendars. It must be said plainly that there is no overriding liturgical reason that these feasts cannot be celebrated on their original days in the usus antiquior.
Nor is there a pastoral necessity; indeed pastoral considerations suggest the opposite. The Holy Father was clear in his explanation of Summorum Pontificum that one motivation for its promulgation was the promotion of unity within the Church. This measure will without doubt be seen as another obstacle in the path of reaching that unity with those who find themselves in an irregular situation, such as the Society of St Pius X.
The timing of the bishops' announcement is unfortunate: made but a week before Ascension and less than a month before Corpus Christi, what are clergy and faithful who have made plans for Masses on those days to do? It is also a little unclear, for a press release referring to a response to a question put to Rome, but not publishing the question itself or the response given, has no binding canonical status. Nor would it appear that the bishops have formally decreed that this change is to be observed: certainly no decree of the English and Welsh bishops has been published. Such publications are necessary before obedience to the change is required.
While our Fathers in God certainly have the canonical right to decree such a change, perhaps in Otis„instance they might be so kind as not to do so, for the pastoral and reasons mentioned above, among others. St Paul's letter to the Ephesians teaches us that we should, as children, obey our parents (including, by analogy, our spiritual fathers, the bishops), and as faithful Catholics we should do so. However he also adds the admonition: "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
Dr Alcuin Reid is a London-based liturgical scholar. His new edition of Adrian Fortescue's The Early Papacy has recently been published by Ignatius Press. For the full version of this article, visit our website, www.catholicherald .co „uk