Role of Church documents?

Our local diocesan newspaper, The Evangelist, recently refused to print an article I wrote to commemorate the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. The editor, who initially encouraged me to expand a letter I had written into a short article, rejected the piece with these remarks:

I appreciate your effort but we’ll have to pass on this. There are too many concerns about some positions, role of church documents etc. Perhaps you’d consider writing again on another topic.

I confess I’m disappointed. I’m well aware that people disagree about this stuff. But, what does “too many concerns about some positions” mean? They seem to think I have misused Church documents, but I don’t know how. I wish he had explained.

One gets the impression that they’re very liberal and open-minded at The Evangelist, so they wouldn’t have rejected it simply because they disagree, right?

Anyway, here’s the letter, and here’s a link to Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is cited several times.

I wonder if anybody can explain what’s wrong. Especially, how have I misunderstood the role of Church documents?


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar

With all due respect, the last section (“unsettling questions”) renders your piece pretty inappropriate for a diocesan newspaper. A letter is one thing, but as an article this wouldn’t really be the right forum to complain, to criticize the Church for ignoring its own decrees, and to vaguely suggest that there’s something wrong with the Mass that people enjoy.

Also, as a piece of writing, it unfortunately relies on the conceit of “it’s interesting to note that …” and “this raises questions …”, which are a common way to insinuate something without actually coming out and saying anything.

Fair enough. I’m not a journalist, so no doubt much to learn about style, etc.

But, what about role of Church documents?

If that’s the entire article, I wouldn’t print it either.

You mention Summorum Pontificum by name, but really don’t explain what it is. Someone not already familiar with the document wouldn’t know about it based on what you’re telling them. In addition to a description of the document, you might want to include some explanation as to why the Pope issued it or why he thought it would be a good idea to have the EF of the Mass more widely available. It would also be good to include a URL in case someone wants to read it.

You mention the Traditional Latin Mass. Again, that means something to people already attending one, but probably doesn’t mean much to others. In addition to explaining what it is, you should answer the first question people would probably ask: why would someone want to attend a Mass in Latin?

You don’t talk about how things have changed in the past three years. Does your diocese now have more Latin Masses? Where are they held? What has been the fruit that has come from them?

What is the point of listing things Vatican II didn’t call for? You start with saying that it didn’t call for the priest to face the people. Well…so what? That’s the way Mass is generally celebrated these days. And it has nothing to do with Summorum Pontificum.

My suggestions for a future article would be: focus on one thing and give it more depth; get away from the insider’s view and make the information accessible to people who aren’t already familiar with the topic; and address the reader’s most basic question of “why should I care about this?”

I would say that if you’re going to tell the bishop and the priest that they are doing Mass all wrong, then just have the courage to come out and say it rather asking all kinds of searching questions.

What are the answers to those questions of yours?

  1. These things should not be done in Mass, therefore, your bishop and most of your priests are violating the Church documents.

  2. There are other documents that speak to the issues that you raise in those questions, but you don’t have the honestly to cite those documents.

Either way, it’s a very shady and sneaky piece, and if it was published in our diocescan newspaper (which it never would be), it would cause an uproar and rightfully so. You have no right to imply that everyone is doing it wrong.

I read the article in question. Despite the criticism from others, the OP makes some valid points. Along with virtually erasing the restrictions on the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there were other reasons why Pope Benedict XVI issued SP.

Please read what his Papal Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, said when posed with questions about SP:

As for the motu proprio cited, considering this with serene attention and without ideological views, together with the letter presenting it addressed by the pope to the bishops of the whole world, a precise, twofold intention emerges. First of all, there is the intention of making it easier to reach “a reconciliation in the bosom of the Church”; and in this sense, as has been said, the motu proprio is a beautiful act of love for the unity of the Church. In the second place – and this fact must not be forgotten – its aim is that of fostering a mutual enrichment between the two forms of the Roman rite: in such a way, for example, that in the celebration according to the missal of Paul VI (the ordinary form of the Roman rite) "will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage.

Maybe this could have been incorporated into the article. The whole point of liberalizing the use of the EF was to help bring more reverence, solemnity and dignity to the OF. Furthermore, the points that the OP is making are not so far away from those that the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made when he was Prefect of the CDF and they are certainly in synch with what former CDWDS officials like Archbishop Malcolm Ranjinth made on numerous occasions.

If the OP wants to publish this article, maybe the individual might want to approach his secular newspaper and have this appear in the publication’s Religion section.

You may very well be right about all that. But, they didn’t say, “Hey, we’re not gonna print your piece because you’re a terrible writer, don’t know how to focus, don’t know how to explain things to other people, etc.”

Although they might think I’m a lousy writer, they said they had “concerns about . . . role of Church documents.”

That may be more to the point. However, I did address the question of how SP bears on changes not specified in SC:

However, by emphasizing tradition, SP reminds us that the Council said more. E.g., “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” (SC § 23) Thus, it is interesting to note that the Council did not say that:…

Thanks, benedictgal. I will think about what you wrote.


*]Stipulate that the piece could be better written. Explain this better, drop that, be more direct, etc. That’s what editors get paid for.
*]If the piece had been published in local diocesan newspaper, it would have caused an uproar. From my point of view, that wouldn’t be an altogether bad thing.
*]Apparently it’s not 100% obvious to others who read the piece what the editor meant by “concerns about … the role of Church documents.” I certainly don’t understand any better at this point.
*]I’m still open to explanations, but it sure seems like those concerns come down to this: Church “liberals” are only interested in one interpretation of Church documents. If we question their conventional wisdom or their received opinion, they will have “concerns” and we will be ignored.
*]More and more lay Catholics will use the internet to read Church documents for themselves. My gut tells me that it’s their “concerns about the role of Church documents” that will matter in the end.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar

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