Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The only expression of the Roman Rite?

A Low Mass celebrated after the 2019
LMS Walking Pilgrimage to Walsingham,
in the Medieval Slipper Chapel.

I have become a contributing Editor of the blog founded by Steve Skojec, 1Peter5, and my first article for them has just published. It begins:


The practical fall-out from Traditionis Custodes will be making itself felt for some time to come. In some places it has already been devastating; in others, it appears it will be minimal. The theological fall-out, however, threatens a profound problem on a different plane. This arises from the claim made in Article 1 of the document, and repeated in the accompanying Letter to Bishops, that “the liturgical books promulgated by Saint Paul VI and Saint John Paul II, in conformity with the decrees of Vatican Council II, are the unique expression of the lex orandi of the Roman Rite.”

The official English translation which I have quoted is actually a poor rendering of the Italian expression, “l’unica espressione”, which means the only expression. The document is claiming that the only Missal which expresses the Roman Rite’s lex orandi, its “law of prayer,” is the reformed Missal.

The Church’s law of prayer, her lex orandi, must correspond to, and indeed determine, her law of belief (lex credendi): that was the claim of Prosper of Aquitaine when he coined the phrase in the 5th century. Prosper was making the point that if you want to know what people believe, then look at how they express themselves in prayer. If they genuflect at the reference to the Incarnation in the Creed, of if they kneel to receive Holy Communion, this tells you something: Arians will refuse to do the first, and Lutherans the second. A Missal is a “law of prayer” in the sense that it sets out a way for people to pray, and we would expect Catholic Missals to give a theologically correct law of prayer and Arian and Lutheran ones to give theologically erroneous ones. What, then, can it mean to say that the Roman Rite has only one law of prayer, and that this is the one expressed in a particular Missal, and not in another, in a document which allows both to be used in the Church?

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