Archbishop of Seattle Alex Brunett on the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum


August 10, 2007

Dear Father:

Worship of God "for the praise and glory of his name," as well as ''for the good of all the Church opens us to communion with Christ." These references from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal are specifically cited in the opening of Pope Benedict XVI's recent motu proprio titled Summorum Pontificum. This same liturgical theology also forms the basis of the Holy Father's accompanying letter sent with the motu proprio to me and my brother bishops.

Both the motu proprio and the accompanying letter regard the use of Pope John XXIII's publication of the 1962 Roman Missal. Because of the importance of these documents, I want to write you directly and share with you my own thoughts and reflections.

When I became bishop, I selected the motto, "Bread of Life, Sign of Faith," because it not only reflected my own personal and academic passion for reverent celebration of the sacraments but the deep desire I have to engage in the liturgical renewal of the Church, which has been such an important part of my many years as priest and bishop.

This is why I was heartened to read the manner in which the Holy Father cites the reverence and gratitude of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, for the Church's efforts at liturgical renewal:

"...the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that with due respect and reverence for divine worship it be restored and adapted to the needs of our age."

As the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Article 1 states:

"The Sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitable to the needs of our own time those institutions that are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all people in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of humanity into the household of the Church."

At the same time, the Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi) is a witness to unchanged faith and unbroken tradition regardless of the introduction of new liturgical practices flowing from the renewal of the Second Vatican Council. This is why the motu proprio is so rich in references to the spiritual Fathers of the Church as well as the previous pontiffs who have promulgated various editions of the Roman Missal through Church history.

Because of Pope Benedict XVI's attention to a theology of communio, his motu proprio both builds from prior documents from the Holy See on the liturgical renewal and expresses a pastoral concern toward those who have a continuing attachment to the Tridentine Mass.

The same is true in his apostolic letter to the bishops that accompanies this motu proprio, The Holy Father wants to deepen our Church's communio by providing hospitality not only to those who embrace the liturgical renewal, but to those whose spirituality may need to be nurtured by the prior 1962 Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII.

Liturgical communio is best established, according to the Holy Father, when we see both the 1962 Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII and the Missal of Pope Paul VI as two expressions of the same liturgical tradition published during the time of the Second Vatican Council. As our Holy Father so clearly noted in his motu proprio:
"The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor."

The Holy Father deliberately names the 1962 Roman. Missal published by Pope John XXIII as an "extraordinary" expression and the renewed liturgy we currently experience in our parishes as the "ordinary" expression. These two expressions are not meant to compete with each other, but rather to complement each other.

As Archbishop, I am grateful for the sense of communio we established last year during our extensive consultation and review of the recently promulgated sacramental and liturgical policies here in the Archdiocese of Seattle. I believe this work provides the basis for us to turn our attention and consider ways of working together with this latest motu proprio of the Holy Father. I depend on you and your collaborative efforts to make implementation of this motu proprio a spiritually enriching experience for our local Church.

In receiving this recent motu proprio , I would like to outline for you briefly how we will be working together.

While the provisions of this motu proprio take effect on September 14th of this year, I want to make sure that all proper procedures are in place so as to avoid confusion among the faithful and unnecessary complexity for our parishes already committed to the "ordinary" celebration of Eucharist. This is in keeping with the explicit instruction of the Holy Father regarding the role of the bishop.

"Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio."

Based on my responsibilities as Archbishop and in the spirit of communio, I am requesting you to observe the following points regarding public celebrations of the 1962 Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII:

I wish to close by emphasizing the words of the Second Vatican Council.

"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism" (CLS Art. 14).

As priest celebrants of the liturgy, we must be imbued by its spirit, formed and educated by its precepts, and in deep love with the Church.

"In the reform and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else. For it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors must zealously strive to achieve such participation by means of the necessary instruction. Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless in the first place the pastors themselves, become thoroughly imbued with the Spirit and power of the liturgy, and make themselves its teachers" (CSL Art. 14).

I am deeply grateful to all of you for undertaking the challenge of the Second Vatican Council and its continuing expression in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum as we deepen our sense of communio.

With warmest personal regards and wishes, I remain

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Alex J. Brunett
Archbishop of Seattle