The other week I had a many hours conversation with a priest friend on the famous “Day Off”. These are often over the top, intense exchanges on all things spiritual, philosophical, theological, liturgical, political, ecclesial, the usual solving all the problems of the Church and the world all at once.
This time around it was all about what is commonly held to be the so called abrogation of the TLM, the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as the so called promulgation of the Novus Ordo, the New Ordo of Mass. After all, the full implementation of Traditionis custodes is afoot, though this action of suppression is more likely to be that which is expected to be delivered with a jackboot in some (arch)dioceses.
“Read it aloud,” my priest friend suggested. Every few sentences I would stop and make an exasperated comment about ambiguity, lack of logic, and complain about the strong emphasis on the mere feelings of Paul VI which he categorized as “desire” (see “placet” in the Latin). In fact, the entire document is not about abrogation of the TLM, but the mere desire of Paul VI that the Novus Ordo Missae be received. He said nothing whatsoever about any promulgation. It’s a statement of feelings. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Of particular mention is the last paragraph before the dating and signing. Stare at the logic. It’s not what you might expect:
- “The effective date for what we have prescribed in this Constitution shall be the First Sunday of Advent of this year, 30 November. We decree that these laws and prescriptions be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding [“non obstantibus”], to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and amendment.”
But what is it that he has prescribed? It’s found in the immediately preceding paragraph about Paul VI’s desires of expectations:
- “After what we have presented concerning the new Roman Missal, we wish [that’s a simple desire, not legislation: “placet”] in conclusion to insist on one point in particular and to make it have its effect. When he promulgated the “editio princeps” of the Roman Missal, our predecessor St. Pius V offered it to the people of Christ as the instrument of liturgical unity and the expression of a pure and reverent worship in the Church. Even though, in virtue of the decree of the Second Vatican Council, we have accepted into the new Roman Missal lawful variations and adaptations, our own expectation in no way differs from that of our predecessor. [Paul VI’s wish, desire, expectation…] It is that the faithful will receive [part of any promulgation is any reception, which is up in the air as of his writing and still today] the new Missal as a help toward witnessing and strengthening their unity with one another; that through the new Missal one and the same prayer in a great diversity of languages will ascend, more fragrant than any incense, to our heavenly Father, through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.”
I’m sure there are apoplectic knee-jerk reactions to that (“But we know what he means!”). So, let’s take a closer look at that very official closing paragraph:
- “The effective date for what we have prescribed in this Constitution [his sharing of a wish] shall be the First Sunday of Advent of this year , 30 November. We decree that these laws and prescriptions [actually, just his sharing of a wish] be firm and effective now [how rigid, especially about what he feels about wishes!] and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by our predecessors and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and amendment [note the logic of that usage of “notwithstanding”, “non obstantibus” (see the parsing below)].”
Here’s the deal: This is simply a statement that Paul VI wishes, desires, expects, has feelings about… everyone everywhere and all the time knows of his wishes (his laws and prescriptions merely having their final referents in his wishes), so that while those mere wishes are known, all the apostolic constitutions and ordinances issued by his predecessors and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and amendment, all retain their force. Just because something is not held to stand in the way doesn’t mean that it is abrogated. Yep. Stunning, isn’t it? And just because Paul VI has a desire doesn’t mean anything is promulgated. Yep. Stunning, isn’t it?
Anachronistic to all this is “Feelings” which debuted four years later, but perhaps might have been inspired by Paul VI’s feelings.