Why I Didn’t Sign the Petition

Introductory note: I was invited by Andrea Grillo to sign the petition calling upon the Holy See to revoke the decrees it issued on Wednesday which, as foreseen in  Summorum Pontificum (2007), enhance the pre-Vatican II missal. The problem with these decrees, of course, is that they treat the rite which the Second Vatican Council made obsolete – with its decision that it be superseded by a reformed rite – as if it is still living and developing. Below is the letter I wrote explaining why I did not sign the petition. My decision comes from a growing awareness in recent years, coming from my interactions with students and younger Catholics, of generational dynamics that call for changes in how the “old guard” advances the Second Vatican Council. I hope to lay out some initial thoughts about that later in another longer post. – awr   

Caro Andrea,

After some reflection, I’ve decided not to support this initiative. I say this with the greatest respect for you. I very much support your view of liturgical reform and your accurate view of how the Second Vatican Council is being resisted in disastrous ways.

But it is a question of means. I do not think it is constructive to go into opposition to the Holy See for these decrees, which follow exactly upon the guidelines given in Summorum Pontificum – a document still in force. I see no chance whatsoever that the petition will be successful in getting the decree revoked; it will only widen the credibility gap between the signatories and the Roman officials.

I hope that at some point Church officials at all levels will address the question of whether Summorum Pontificum is in any sense compatible with Sacrosanctum Concilium. It is not. Once this is recognized, it will be necessary to begin the exceedingly difficult work of winding it down and gradually bringing all the faithful around to the ecclesiology and liturgical-sacramental theology of the Second Vatican Council. This will likely take generations. Our shepherds will need a wise and generous spirit, great sensitivity, and patience.

I believe that the best contribution we liturgical scholars can make is to signal to Church  leaders our readiness to assist them in this important work, along with the assurance of our respect for them and our prayers for them. I hope for good collaboration between the hierarchy and liturgical scholars, such as was the case in the years after the Second Vatican Council, so that the People of God can ever more celebrate the liturgy of Pope St. Paul VI in all its depth and beauty.

Un cordiale saluto a te,