About Ignatius Insight
  Who We Are
  Ignatius Press
  Ignatius Press catalogs
  Catholic World Report
  Homiletic & Pastoral Review
  IP Novels site
  IP Religious Ed blog
  IP Critical Editions

"Benedict XVI has dared to do it." | The Preface to The Old Mass and The New: Explaining the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI | Bishop Marc Aillet | Ignatius Insight

Print-friendly version

Benedict XVI has dared to do it. Announced as forthcoming for months, awaited by some with frantic impatience, dreaded by others with some anxiety, the motu proprio was finally published on July 7, 2007, with the title of Summorum Pontificum. It was accompanied by a personal letter from the Pope to the bishops, to explain the reasons for his decision. [1]

The press, whether ill-informed or ill-intentioned, denounced the victory of traditionalist pressure groups, considerably overestimating their influence on the Pope, who is said to be "conservative". It said nothing, on the other hand, about the pressure that may have been brought to bear on him to try to modify his decision: people had even brandished the politico-religious specter of the encouragement that would supposedly be given to the extreme right, since the sociological context of our country was so far beyond the insight of the Roman Curia. [2] In any case, it was the first time in thirty years that some fear for the authority of the bishops where liturgy was concerned [3] and that some objected to the risk of "subjectivism" in the way it was celebrated. And then it was necessary to reassure the directors of the reform, whose goodwill can rightly be acknowledged but who had been sent to work with so little liturgical formation.

The Pope felt quite free to take his time. After "much reflection [and] numerous consultations" and not without having "invoked the Holy Spirit and trusting in the help of God", he made his decision: the old and new Missals are called to coexist in the Church, the first as the extraordinary form, and the second as the ordinary form, of the single Roman rite. People got upset, and certain bishops even gave warm expression to their "perplexity" . Yet after a few weeks the excitement subsided, and everyone agreed to respect a desire for communion that cannot be rejected. In any case, for the moment, no one has been inundated with requests.

For some, the motu proprio is a victory; for others, a non-event. There is no doubt it is in the first place a gesture toward "coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church", made in the direction of some of the faithful who have great difficulty in living their communion in practice. Might not this kind of disciplinary measure, which assuredly has a highly symbolic value, nonetheless have the salutary effect of drawing the attention of both pastors and faithful toward taking more trouble about the dignity and the sacral nature of liturgical celebration? Might not this motu proprio quite simply have the purpose of relaunching the liturgical movement, which, as we certainly have to admit, had become somewhat bogged down in the marshy meanderings of unbridled creativity and arbitrary distortions? That is the view I shall take in these pages.

The fact is that, if the immediate subject of the Summorum Pontificum certainly is "the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970", it clearly has far wider aims in view and constitutes an invitation to take up again the spirit of the liturgy that the liturgical movement had helped to rediscover in so promising a way. My intention here, then, is not to praise the earlier Missal, but rather to attribute full value to the principles of liturgical reform and to highlight the theological and spiritual treasures of the new Missal.

In the first chapter, we will give a succinct analysis of the motu proprio and the letter accompanying it, linking this with the recent recommendations of the Magisterium concerning the dignity of the liturgy. We will show in the second chapter how this motu proprio is calling for a new liturgical movement, to help us out of what it is certainly appropriate to call a crisis for the liturgy. Finally, in the third chapter, we will demonstrate the continuity between the two Missals by studying the concept of active participation unfolded in the Second Vatican Council's constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the sacred liturgy. It goes without saying that our study will be undertaken in the light of a careful reading of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, issued by Benedict XVI just a few months before the motu proprio.


[1] See the appendices at the end of the book.

[2] The oppositions between left and right, "progressives" and "fundamentalists", are part of a past in which the younger generations decidedly no longer recognize themselves as having a place.

[3] Contrary to all expectations, this fear was expressed by circles among whom we had not been used to finding such deference toward episcopal authority.

The Old Mass and The New: Explaining the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI

by Bishop Marc Aillet | Foreword by Bishop Dominique Rey

In July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI released his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, allowing for unprecedented freedom for priests to celebrate the so-called Tridentine Mass, now referred to as the "Extraordinary Form" of the Mass, as opposed to the Mass of Paul VI, or the "Ordinary Form". In this new book by French bishop Marc Aillet, the historical and cultural impetus for the motu proprio as well as the rich tradition of liturgical reform are explored.

As a priest of the Community of Saint Martin, which celebrates the Mass of Paul VI in Latin, Bishop Aillet has been committed to the promotion of liturgical reform that is rooted in tradition for many years. As bishop of the diocese of Bayonne in France, he has been instrumental in reintroducing the Extraordinary Form in his diocese.

A work that is both easy to understand and deeply rich, The Old Mass and the New gives an overview of the history and theology of the liturgy. At the same time, Bishop Aillet beckons us to look ahead to move beyond the crisis in the liturgy to a reconciliation of these two forms of the Latin rite. An excellent introduction for those interested in the theological foundations of the liturgy.

Includes the full text of Summorum Pontificum and Pope Benedict XVI's explanatory letter. Includes an Index.

"This motu proprio is by no means a step backward. The gesture of reconciliation it expresses calls with prophetic voice for a liturgical renewal based on an increased theological and spiritual appreciation of the principles of the liturgical reform of Vatican II." —From the foreword by Bishop Dominique Rey

Marc Marie Max Aillet was born in Benin in 1957 and ordained a priest in 1982 for the diocese of Genoa, Italy. He studied moral theology at the University of Fribourg before being incardinated in the diocese of Fréjus-Tuolon, France, where he served as professor of moral theology for many years as well as serving as a parish priest. In 2008 he was appointed bishop of the diocese of Bayonne in France by Pope Benedict XVI.

Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Excerpts:

Foreword to U.M. Lang's Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Reform of the Liturgy and the Position of the Celebrant at the Altar | Uwe Michael Lang | From Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer (2nd edition)
The Altar and the Direction of Liturgical Prayer | Excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
How Should We Worship? | Preface to The Organic Development of the Liturgy by Alcuin Reid, O.S.B. | by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Learning the Liturgy From the Saints | An Interview with Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P., author of The Mass and the Saints
The Mass of Vatican II | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Walking To Heaven Backward | Interview with Father Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory
Does Christianity Need A Liturgy? | Martin Mosebach | From The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy
Music and Liturgy | Excerpt from The Spirit of the Liturgy | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Rite and Liturgy | Denis Crouan, STD
The Liturgy Lived: The Divinization of Man | Jean Corbon, OP
The Latin Mass: Old Rites and New Rites in Today's World | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D.
Worshipping at the Feet of the Lord: Pope Benedict XVI and the Liturgy | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D.
Reflections On Saying Mass (And Saying It Correctly) | Fr. James V. Schall, S. J.
Liturgy, Catechesis, and Conversion | Barbara Morgan

If you'd like to receive the FREE IgnatiusInsight.com e-letter (about every 1 to 2 weeks), which includes regular updates about IgnatiusInsight.com articles, reviews, excerpts, and author appearances, please click here to sign-up today!


World Wide Web


Place your order toll-free at 1-800-651-1531

Ignatius Press | San Francisco
Web design under direction of Ignatius Press.
Send your comments or web problems to:

Copyright 2018 by Ignatius Press

IgnatiusInsight.com catholic blog books insight scoop weblog ignatius