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Thursday, July 25, 2013

QUAERIMUS I, II: Audible Congregational Responses in the Tridentine Mass and the Canonical Status of SSPX

Most who have spent a significant amount of time reading the blog of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf likely have some exposure to his series of posts tagged Quaeritur (translated from the third person singular present passive indicative Latin word: "it is being asked"). Well, given that priests are in general rather busy fellows -- what with their administering of the Sacraments, offering of spiritual direction to members of the faithful, and carrying out of other activities generally directed toward saving souls from the forces of evil, etc., etc. -- it makes sense that they don't always have time to answer every Quaeritur that comes their way. (This is not to mention the fact that some of the questions that some of us (and by some of us I mean me) ask can every now and then be a bit academic.) In any case, I can see it being expedient to keep a record of the questions from myself and others that have accumulated over time. I'll tag posts containing such questions as Quaerimus (translated from the first person plural present active indicative Latin word: "we are asking").

Now, the lay faithful have a bit of a responsibility to make a sincere effort to look for answers to such questions that come to mind (Mt 7:7). In this age of the internet, the answers to them may very well be as close as our smartphone. However, among the many challenges one might encounter in seeking answers is the deluge of convoluted, misleading, or even incorrect information that is widely available. How often has one thought of an excellent question whose answer could greatly advance his spiritual and moral life and, after having searched the internet for it, come across only a few lengthy discussions on Catholic forums containing a plethora of people's speculations, opinions, and expressions of uncertainty about the matter?

It is not an exaggeration to say that the internet is an increasingly vast ocean of information in which one could easily find himself lost in the middle of nowhere surrounded by ominous figures. We set out like quasi-Chestertonian wayfarers, as it were, during the dark night in search of those islands of truth which will eventually lead us to our home, with the lamp of reason as a guide. The night sky is filled with the Saintly stars who also offer us some direction, albeit in a way that is mysterious, frequently unclear to us, and often involves some degree of uncertainty. We have also the moon: Mary, Our Mother -- to borrow the famous analogy -- receiving her light from Christ, the Sun, toward whom we look to the East for His rising, but presently see only through the veil of the Sacred Species.


QUAERIMUS I: Audible Congregational Responses in the Tridentine Mass

I recently attended the Tridentine Mass with my father. Not having attended many Tridentine Masses recently, he expressed confusion afterwards due to a discrepancy he observed. When he served Mass as a young boy -- even prior to Vatican II -- the congregation always responded aloud to the prayers when the servers did so, and in some cases, such as the Pater Noster, the congregation even recited the prayers aloud in their entirety. But at this Mass, the congregation was silent nearly the entire time. I noted that this is frequently the case for Low Masses I attend. Perhaps, I suggested, he had always served Solemn Masses? But I thought this unlikely for every daily Mass he'd ever attended as a child. Further, at the Solemn Masses I've attended, the Pater Noster has been chanted aloud only by the priest.

Fr. Z has posted on this topic more than once in Quaeriturs. In July of 2008, he wrote in response to a reader:

There is no hard and fast rule about vocal responses. I think you have to go with the flow.

That said, various Popes before the Council encouraged congregational responses, the so-called "dialogue Mass".
In my travels, I have seen various levels of participation. ... Much will depend on what the priest wants and promotes.

But yes, congregational responses are permitted and, in many cases, a good idea.

Personally, I prefer responses from the congregation and have no problem at all with them saying the parts pertaining to the server, and even prayers like the Gloria and Creed.

— Fr. Z, from QUAERITUR: congregational responses at TLM, 1 July 2008.

More recently, in a response to a similar question from a reader, he has written:

I think people should make the responses. Popes of the 20th century were speaking about “active participation” before the Second Vatican Council.
In a nutshell, before the Council, it was strongly encouraged that people make responses, especially at Solemn and Sung Masses. This applied often to Low Masses as well, the so-called dialogue Mass.
That said, if no one else at the place you are going makes responses – at all – then I don’t recommend making them loudly all by yourself.

— Fr. Z, from QUAERITUR: Should people make responses during the Traditional Latin Mass?, 30 May 2013.

Returning to 2008, we find Fr. Z responding to a reader specifically regarding whether the congregation is permitted to sing the Pater Noster:

But, the bottom line is yes, even before the Council the Holy See said that the congregation could sing the Our Father with the priest during a sung Mass.

— Fr. Z, from QUAERITUR: Can the congregation sing the Our Father at a TLM?, 20 October 2008.

Notice here, though, that Fr. Z is referring specifically to the sung Mass. My father mentioned that, as a young boy, at all the Masses the Pater Noster was recited by the congregation. To remedy this problem, we have a statement from Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., of the Dominican Liturgy Blog, offering clarification in the comment box of Fr. Z's post referenced above:

...It was my understanding that the recitation of the whole Pater by the people applied to dialogue Low Mass...

— Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., from the combox of Fr. Z's QUAERITUR: Can the congregation sing the Our Father at a TLM?, 20 October 2008.

QUAERIMUS II: Canonical Status of SSPX

Some confusion arose following the Mass during my discussion with a woman who was claiming that the excommunication of the SSPX had been invalid. While this may or may not be true, I was somewhat certain that their excommunication had been lifted, while also fairly certain that the fact remains that they are not in full communion with the Church. On these points, it appears that I was correct:

The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.

— Pope Benedict XVI, from Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remission of the Excommunication of the Fourt Bishops Consecrate by Archbishop Lefebvre, 10 March 2009.

See also SSPX Excommunications Lifted.

(Note that I said that it may be true that the original excommunications were invalid only because I don't see in this case how a latae sententiae excommunication -- which, as I understand it, happens automatically without any statement made by a Church authority -- could be remitted in such a way that it was valid only for a period. It seems that such an excommunication would either be valid and remain so or never have been valid to begin with. Perhaps this would not be true if the laws were changed in such a way that the offending act is no longer an offending act, but I don't see how this could be true in this case. At any rate, I digress.)

Now, in trying to verify anything beyond my claim that the SSPX is not in full communion with the Church, I've found that the whole situation gets quite controversial and confusing very quickly. I've heard claims that some of their Sacraments are valid and other such things. These claims may be true. I will say one last thing on this here: as recently as May of this year, we see none other than Fr. Z himself casting doubt on the validity of Sacraments administered by the SSPX:

In a nutshell, the article argues that SSPX priests absolve validly. I do not believe that to be true. SSPX priests do not have faculties to receive sacramental confessions. Period. Faculties are necessary for validity.

— Fr. Z, from Again about validity of absolutions by SSPX priests, 16 March 2013.


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