On a recent thread, Professor William Tighe wrote about the great Anglican liturgists Dix, Ratcliff, and Willis. To his list I would add one more name: that of Prebendary Michael Moreton. Moreton is often best known as one of the first to prick the bubble of the versus populum superstition. Indeed, he was that. But of great interest is his attitude to what, essentially, liturgical authority really is. I reprint below, unchanged (but with a short passage irrelevant to my main argument omitted), a piece of mine from 2011 (with its thread). It was the last of a series (tomorrow I will reprint, all together, the first four sections of that series) examining and rejecting the views of a canonist called Chad Gendinning, who had written critically about the assertion, in Summorum pontificum, that the Vetus Ordo had never been lawfully abolished.
RATZINGER AND LITURGICAL LAW (2011)
Chad Glendinning quotes A S Sanchez-Gil as feeling that the Roman Missal, along with other liturgical books, cannot be reduced to a collection of liturgical laws. This is along the right lines, but does not, I feel, go nearly far enough. The great Anglican liturgist, Prebendary Michael Moreton, now striding eruditely through his nineties, sees the Canon Romanus - if I understood him aright in the six years during which we conversed - in a position not unlike that of the Canon of Scripture; a given in the Tradition which it is not for us to treat as disposable. He speaks of the Canon as having auctoritas given to it by tradition, which far surpasses the merely canonical, legalistic, authorisation, which fly-by-night 'Eucharistic Prayers' composed by the Top Experts of one single decade might have. I think it may be a coincidence - because Fr Michael, unlike me, is not a pedantic papalist who tries to keep up to date with the documents which flood out from Roman dikasteries - that his term auctoritas occurs also in John Paul II's instruction Ecclesia Dei. It is a profound term with roots deep in the sense of the Orthodox as well as of Traditionalist Catholics that there are weightier imperatives than Canon Law. I remind you of the startling fact that the Patriarch of Moskow welcomed Summorum pontificum as an ecumenically positive action.
Glendinning informs us that Summorum pontificum, if it is not an "imprecise use of canonical terminology" (really, Chad, who is the Supreme Legislator?), is "a rather overt denunciation of the pope's predecessors and of the praxis curiae". In a funny sort of way, I think this last bit is right. Benedict XVI is superseding the assumptions underlying the enactments of his predecessor Paul VI, and, unobserved by Glendinning, he is doing so on grounds which he had previously, before his election to the See of Peter, explained thoroughly lucidly in the two passages which I copied from his works in the second post of this series. Our Holy Father even restates the views of Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Letter to Bishops which accompanied Summorum pontificum: "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden forbidden". Note Cannot! We are talking about non potests rather than non licets. As for curial enactments, well, I think it has to be pointed out that the pope is not only, as Glendinning concedes, the Supreme Legislator, but, as Vatican I defined, also the Supreme Judge of the Church. If his statements in Summorum pontificum go contrary to what Roman dikasteries have prescribed or implied, this is surely analogous to a court of appeal overriding an earlier judgement by a legislator of inferior jurisdiction. (Or, if it isn't, why not?) J Baldovini, quoted by Glendinning, wrote that "even someone with supreme legislative authority cannot undo historic facts". But Benedict XVI is not misdescribing (or even describing) historical facts, I suggest, but defining what the deepest law of the church is. He bases himself upon a view of history, Theology, and law which is broader than the juridical bases of those previous enactments. That is in fact what makes his declaration so significant; so much more in line with a Catholic - and Orthodox - and Anglo-Catholic - concept of Liturgy.
Of course, in human terms the odds are that few here in the Latin West will really understand his project; that the liturgical and moral anarchists, the homosexual ideologues* and the feminists, will continue their frenzied denigrations of the old Bavarian gentleman; that in a few years he will be dead and his vision forgotten as the vaticanologists feverishly speculate on the 'policies' of his successor. But, in my eyes, for as long as it lasts it is exhilarating; Benedict's Age is a good age in which to be alive, an age of the very truest instauratio catholica. And, just possibly ... who knows ... after all, there is a God ...
A FINAL (2014) COMMENT
Benedict XVI identified (not created) a Principle deeper than mere legislation; a Law even deeper than the law; to the effect that "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too". This is what, in recent posts, I have called auctoritas. He concluded that "it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful". It is worth remembering this in a post-Benedictine era. Subsequent legislators cannot legislate to abolish this datum because, established as it is in immutable historical facts, it is not accessible to the pen of a legislator. Summorum Pontificum, qua legislation, is itself no more immutable than other legislation. But the Principle underlying it is one of those principles which are integral to the life of the Church; unchangeably part of it for ever.
*2014 note: I did not in 2011 write homosexuals, and I did not mean homosexuals. I meant people (of whatever orientation) who promote an ideology of homosexuality. Many are heterosexuals busily demonstrating their withitness. Many people of a homosexual orientation want none of it. Similarly, I did not write 'women'. By writing 'feminists' I pointed to neither gender nor orientation but to ideology. (I shall not enable new comments on this point.)