Q&A: Universae Ecclesiae and the Dominican Order

April 29, 2013

Below is a series of questions and answers regarding the Apostolic Constitution Summorum Pontificum, as further interpreted by the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, and its application to the Dominican Rite.  This is meant to help explain the legal status of the Dominican Rite and its use by the friars of the Province of St. Joseph.  Additional questions may be submitted through to this blog and they will be forwarded to our liturgical commission.  


Q: What is Universae Ecclesiae? A: Universae Ecclesiae is an Instruction issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesiae Dei, on the application of the Apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum.
Q: What is Ecclesiae Dei? A: Ecclesia Dei is a Pontifical Commission originally established by Bl. John Paul II in 1988. It was originally given the task of “collaborating with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church”.
Q: But didn’t the Pope lift these excommunications in 2009? Does Ecclesia Dei still have a role? A: Yes and yes. In the 2007 Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, the Pope expanded the role of the Commission, affirming that “the same Commission, beyond the faculties which it already enjoys, with exercise the authority of the Holy See, supervising the observance and the application of these dispositions.” The same Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father provided that the Commission “would have the form, the tasks and the norms which the Roman Pontiff should wish to grant it.”
Q: What is Summorum Pontificum? A: Summorum Pontificum is an Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio by the Holy Father in 2007. It affirmed the unity of the Roman Rite of the Church, and recognized the Missal originally promulgated by our brother Pope St. Pius V (and subsequently issued by Bl. John XXIII) as the extraordinary form of the one Roman Rite.
Q: What did Summorum Pontificum do? A: Primarily, Summorum Pontificum granted to all priests the right to say the extraordinary form of the Mass in private (Mass celebrated without the people). It also gave stable groups of the lay faithful the right to request Mass said in the extraordinary form, and encouraged pastors and bishops to accept such requests.
Q: Why did the Pope issue Summorum Pontificum? A: The Pope issued Summorum Pontificum for three reasons: (a) to offer to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; (b) effectively to guarantee and ensure the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; and (c) to promote reconciliation at the heart of the Church.
Q: Doesn’t this detract from the authority of the Second Vatican Council by calling into question its liturgical reforms? A: As Pope Benedict XVI indicated in the transmittal letter accompanying Suommorum Pontificum: “This fear is unfounded. In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were ‘two Rites’. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.”


Q: So is Universae Ecclesiae another legislative document like Summorum Pontificum? A: Not quite. Universae Ecclesiae is an “Instruction”, not an Apostolic Letter.
Q: What is an “Instruction”? A: Under the Code of Canon Law, “Instructions clarify the prescripts of laws and elaborate on and determine the methods to be observed in fulfilling them. They are given for the use of those whose duty it is to see that laws are executed and oblige them in the execution of the laws. Those who possess executive power legitimately issue such instructions within the limits of their competence.” (CIC, Can. 34§1)
Q: Does this mean it has no legal effect? A: The Instruction is not itself law, but clarifies and elaborates upon the law established by the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum. It is an authoritative interpretation of the law contained in the Apostolic Letter.
Q: Why did the Ecclesia Dei Commission issue this document? A: When he issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the Pope asked for bishops to send an “account of their experiences” to him in three years. This Instruction is meant to respond to some of the difficulties and concerns raised by the original Apostolic Letter.
Q: So, what does this new Instruction say? A: In an accompanying letter, the Commission briefly summarized the Instruction: After some introductory remarks and historical type (Part I, ch. 1-8), the Instruction first makes explicit the duties of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (Part II, nos. 9-11). Next, in accordance with Summorum Pontificum, it clarifies the rules and regulations (Part III, nn. 12-35), primarily those relating to the jurisdiction of their diocesan bishop (Nos. 13-14). Then, the Instruction discusses the rights and duties of the faithful who make up an coetus fidelium (Nos. 15-19), and how a priest may be considered qualified to celebrate the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite (sacerdos idoneus, nos. 20-23). The instruction also regulates some issues pertaining to liturgy and ecclesiastical discipline (Nos. 24-28), indicating in particular the rules governing the celebration of Confirmation and Holy Orders (Nos. 29-31), the use of Roman Breviary (n. 32), of the liturgical books of the religious orders (No. 34), the Pontifical Romanum and the Rituale Romanum (35) which were in force in 1962, and the celebration of the Sacred Triduum (33).


Q: Is there anything new in the document? A: Yes. The instruction clarifies a number of issues, a few which affect the Dominican Order specifically.
Q: What does the document say that impacts Dominicans? A: The primary impact on the Order is seen in this statement in the Instruction: “Members of Religious Orders are permitted to use their own liturgical books in force in the year 1962” (Sodalibus Ordinum Religiosorum licet uti propriis libris liturgicis anno 1962 vigentibus.)
Q: How does that affect the Dominican Order? A: From its very beginning, the Dominican Order maintained its own liturgical customs, rooted in (but distinct from) the prevailing Roman Rite. In 1962, the Order still had its own Liturgical Books, including the Dominican Missal and Breviary.
Q: Does this mean that now any Dominican priest may say the Dominican Rite? A: In the same way as priests of the Latin Church who desire to say Mass according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII must be qualified (ideoneus) to say Mass in the extraordinary form, Dominican priests who wish to celebrate Mass according to the Dominican Rite must be qualified.
Q: What does it mean to be qualified? A: The Instruction says that any priest not impeded from saying Mass under canon law is considered qualified. He should also have knowledge of the ars celebrandi of the form of the Rite he is celebrating.a
Q: Doesn’t a priest need to know Latin? A: With regards to the Latin language, it is only necessary that a priest be able to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning. (necesse est ut sacerdos celebraturus scientia polleat ad verba recte proferenda eorumque intelligendam significationem).
Q: Does a priest need to prove he is qualified every time he says the Dominican Rite? A: The priest is under the same obligation with regards to the extraordinary form as he is with the ordinary form.  That is, in most places a visiting priest must show that he is not impeded, usually evidence by a celebret or letter of good standing.
Q: What about a priest’s qualification regarding knowledge and execution of the rite, need he provide his qualifiation in these areas before he is permitted to say Mass? A:  With regards to knowledge and execution of the extraordinary form, a priest who presents himself to say Mass in the extraordinary form is presumed to be qualified if he has previously celebrated it. In a similar way, priests who present themselves to say the ordinary form (whether in English or Latin) are presumed qualified with regards to the execution of the rite, and need not evidence their qualification further.
Q: Don’t we need the permission of our local superior or the Provincial? A: “The faculty to celebrate sine populo (or with the participation of only one minister) in the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite is given by the Motu Proprio to all priests, whether secular or religious (cf. Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, art. 2). For such celebrations therefore, priests, by provision of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum,do not require any special permission from their Ordinaries or superiors.”
Q: So what about a public Mass (Missa cum populo)? A: A public Mass would be subject to the same regulations as any other public Mass said in a parish church or priory. Just as the pastor or prior has the right and obligation to oversee public Masses said under his jurisdiction, the same is true with regards to Mass said in the Dominican Rite. Even so, pastors and superiors should not discriminate between the two forms of Mass.
Q: Does this mean that a Priory could decide on its own to use the Dominican Rite regularly as its conventual Mass? A: No. Summorum Pontificum makes clear if a religious community wants to use the extraordinary form “often, habitually or permanently” as its conventual Mass, it must first receive the approval of the Major Superior (i.e., the Prior Provincial).
Q: What would prevent a group of friars from separating themselves from the conventual Mass in the ordinary form so that they could celebrate Mass in the extraordinary form instead? A: Deliberately absenting oneself from the conventual Mass and choir is contrary to the laws and customs of the Order. Our own Constitutions make clear that the brethren are obligated to attend (and priests encouraged to concelebrate) the daily conventual Mass. “All brothers are bound to the celebration of conventual Mass and Liturgy of the Hours in choir. Everyone shall be mindful of this common obligation.” (LCO 63)
Q: What about the other liturgical books of the Order, may a Dominican priest use those, too? A: Yes. The Instruction makes clear that the permission extends to all of the liturgical books of the Order in force as of 1962.
Q: If Dominican priests are permitted to say the Dominican Rite, may they also celebrate Mass according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII? A: Yes. A Dominican priest may celebrate Mass according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, so long as he is qualified to do so.


Q: Didn’t Dominicans already have the right to celebrate Mass in the Dominican Rite? A: In 1968, the Dominican Rite ceased being the normal liturgical celebration of the Order, and the Order began using the Missal of Pope Paul VI (the ordinary form of the Roman Rite).  In 1969, the Order received a Rescript from the Holy See granting permission for friars to continue to celebrate the Dominican Rite as it then existed.
Q: What is a Rescript? A: Accoridng to the current Code of Canon Law (promulgated in 1983), a Rescript is: “an administrative act issued in writing by competent executive authority; of its very nature, a rescript grants a privilege, dispensation, or other favor at someone’s request.” (CIC can. 59 §1.)
Q: Does this mean all friars may also celebrate the Dominican Rite according to the 1965 Missal as well? A: According to the terms of the Rescript, the permission to celebrate Mass was not given universally.  It was given at the discretion of the Prior Provincial or the Master of the Order to those who requested the faculties.
Q: Did this permission extend to the liturgical books of the Order existing as of 1962? A: No.  In 1965, the Order issued a revised Dominican Missal.  The Missal significantly changed the Dominican Rite to be closer to the then existing Roman Rite, especially as envisioned by the Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Sacred Constution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.  The Rescript gave permission for the use of the 1965 Dominican Missal.
Q: Does the Apostolic Constitution Summorum Pontificum abrogate the provisions of the Rescript? A: There is nothing in the terms of Summorum Pontificum or the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae that repeal the permissions given in the 1969 Rescript.  According to the Code of Canon law:  “Rescripts are not revoked by a contrary law unless the law itself provides otherwise.” (CIC can. 73)
Q: Which Missal is meant to be used according to the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae?
A: Those documents indicate that the liturgical books in force as of 1962 are to be used.  In the Roman Rite, this refers specifically to the Missal issued by Bl. John XXIII in 1962.  The Dominican Order did not issue a new Missal in 1962.  Rather, the version of the Missal in force in 1962 was the Missal issued by the Master of the Order, Fr. Martin Stanislaus Gillet, O.P., in 1933 (the Missale Sacri Ordinis Praedicatorum).
Q:  So under Summorum Pontificum the Dominican Rite should be celebrated according to the 1933 Missal? A: Not quite.  In 1955, Pope Pius XII issued a major revision to the celebration of Holy Week in the Roman Rite, a revision that is still seen in the celebration of Holy Week in the ordinary form. Shortly after this change, the Dominian Order revised its own celebration of Holy Week.  Also, in 1960, Bl. John XXIII revised the universal calendar, and greatly simplified the ranking of liturgical days.  The Dominican Order followed suit in 1961.  Certain other smaller changes were also implemented in 1961.  Therefore, according toSummorum Pontificum, the Dominican Rite should be celebrated according to the 1933 Dominican Missal, with the changes implemented by the order through 1962.
Q: So what does all this mean, practically speaking, with rescpect to the two Missals (1933 and 1965)? A: Friars who have received permission to celebrate the Dominican Rite under the 1969 Rescript may continue to do so, using the 1965 Dominican Missal.  No friar may use the 1965 Dominican Missal except with permission from his Prior Provincial or the Master of the Order.  All qualified Dominican Friars may celebrate the Dominican Rite using the 1933 Dominican Missal, as subsequently revised through 1962, no additional permission being necessary.


Q: Are priests required to learn to say Mass in the extraordinary form (either the Missal of Bl. John XXIII or the Dominican Rite)? A: No. But Pope Benedict encouraged all pastors to make Mass in the extraordinary form available to stable groups of the faithful. In addition, one of the Pope’s aims in issuing Summorum Pontificum is that the two forms of the one Roman Rite would influence each other, which would seem to require knowledge of both forms.
Q: Does the Instruction say anything about training in the extraordinary form? A: Yes. In the new Instruction, Ordinaries are strongly requested (enixe rogantur) to offer their clergy the possibility of training in the ars celebrandi of the extraordinary form.
Q: What about seminarians? A: The strong request for training to be offered applies especially (potissimum) to Seminarians, which would include our Dominican clerical Student Brothers.
Q: But this request only applies to Bishops, right? A: No. This strong request is made to all “Ordinaries.” In canon law, “Ordinaries” include “major superiors of clerical religious institutes of pontifical right … who at least possess ordinary executive power.” Priors Provincial in the Dominican Order are “Ordinaries” under the law, and so this request applies to our Province as well.
Q: Shouldn’t we wait for guidance from a Provincial Chapter first? A: Our 2010 Provincial Chapter has addressed this issue. The Chapter stated in an ordination that the Province should provide: “optional education in the celebration of the Dominican Rite of the Mass, for use in private. This is to be done without prejudice to LCO 59, II and CIC can. 902.”
Q: Have other Provinces done any training with the Dominican Rite? A: In the Western Province, a for-credit class in the Dominican Rite is offered to the Dominican Students of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology.
Q: How will such training be provided in the Province of St. Joseph? A: In the past, and with the confirmation of the Prior Provincial, matters dealing with the Dominican Rite have fallen to the Provincial Liturgical Commission. That Commission works to make available training in the ars celebrandi of the Dominican Rite to all friars who may desire such. The first training session occurred on Thursday, June 23, 2011 at St. Gertrude Priory.  It was open to all friars interested in learning more about the Dominican Rite.
Q: Are there any plans to celebrate the Dominican Rite on a regular basis in the Province of St. Joseph? A: Currently the Province of St. Joseph provides optional training for our student friars in the Dominican Rite at the Dominican House of Studies with the celebration of the Dominican Rite Mass once a semester. Other houses throughout the province have celebrated the Dominican Rite on special occasions or feasts. The Priory of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies) also celebrates a monthly Mass in Latin in the ordinary form.
*see also our Dominican Rite tutorial videos

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