Today is the 269th anniversary of the promulgation of Annus, qui hunc, which set forth guidelines on ecclesiastical discipline and sacred music. Benedict XIV, concerned about the spiritual welfare of Catholics who would go on pilgrimage in Rome in the Jubilee Year of 1750, as well as the opinion of other visitors during said time, issued the encyclical a year ahead of the celebrations.
The epoch may be remote, but the problems Benedict XIV identifies and attempts to remedy are as fresh as a pulsating newly-caught catfish. With this, we invite everyone to re-read the encyclical towards the end of this post, either in the original Latin or in the full English translation we provided. We opened a series quoting in three parts the words of the encyclical on organ music (here, here, and here). If the length daunts us, then let us offer it as penance this Lent.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. To celebrate this milestone, having a soft spot for namesakes, we find the occasion opportune to release our full English translation of the landmark encyclical on ecclesiastical discipline and church music issued by Benedict XIV on 19 February 1749: Annus, qui hunc. (The repository of documents we have curated is here.) Unlike Saint Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini, whose English and even Latin translations are already available online, the only full translation of Annus, qui hunc we have seen so far is Italian.
The encyclical is rather long and, while its tenor is chronologically situated close to the Jubilee Year of 1750, it surprises us with how current the problems it raises are. For example, when Benedict XIV states that there is no other evidence of a bishop’s bad administration besides his own priests going about in ugly clothing celebrating Mass haphazardly, aren’t we reminded of those vacationing Filipino priests who say Mass in shorts and flipflops? Or, when he condemns music that merely sounds more like an accompaniment to dance and theatre rather than to prayer, aren’t we reminded of those Masses where the sacrilege of dance itself was incorporated in the very heart of the Liturgy?
Cardinal Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini, the future Benedict XIV, was known to be a consummate intellectual, hailed as one of the greatest scholars of Christendom, and his encyclical, published nine years into his papal reign, just shows that. He synthesised his arguments from at least three Ecumenical Councils and seven local Synods, two collections of documents, four Doctors of the Church, five popes, six cardinals (including himself), two archbishops and four bishops, six monks, five canons, seven priests, one deacon, one musicologist, two musicians (who were choirmasters of the Papal Chapel), one scientist, one philologist, and one divine. Religion-wise, Benedict XIV quoted six Jesuits, five Benedictines, three Dominicans, two Cistercians, and two Oratorians. He only went as far as to quote an Anglican divine to drive home his point about the necessity to distinguish between the music that is churchworthy and that which is not, and this he did with a disclaimer that the source was heterodox, and on a section that referenced Saint Augustine.
We will not go as far as to provide a review of this encyclical, however delicious the prospect appears to us, if only to juxtapose it against the recent irreversibile speech, which, incidentally, is also noteworthy for the selectivity of its bibliography. But indulge us with this one whim. See below a rough structural outline of the encyclical:
Upcoming Holy Year
State and upkeep of churches
Time and fulfilment of the obligation to recite the Divine Office
Sobriety of polyphonic and organ music
Authorities who disapprove the use of polyphonic music
Authorities who approve the use of polyphonic music
Authorities who propose a distinction between theatrical and ecclesiastic music
Theatrical vs. Ecclesiastic music
Singing proper to churches
Method and rationale of singing in church
Musical instruments permitted in churches
Instruments tolerated in churches
Sound, as accompaniment to singing, tolerated in churches
Sound, by itself, tolerated in churches
Application of the law
Propriety of priestly attire
One more thing. We might have gotten too carried away with the references. The footnotes that we added are as kilometric as the encyclical itself.
Ut quae prava sunt, corrigantur ; quae infirma, curentur ; quae mala, amoveantur.
After the death of Clement V, with the cardinals divided into factions unable to reach a disagreement, a two-year interregnum followed, stoppered only when Philip, then Count of Poitiers, later King Philip V of France, managed to organise a conclave in Lyons (by locking the cardinals in the Dominican house there in March) in 1316, which elected Jacques Duèze, a compromise candidate, on 7 August, who took the regnal name John XXII. He became the second of seven Avignon Popes.
John XXII is remembered for many notable things. Head on he confronted the controversy over the so-called Franciscan poverty, hinged on the question whether or not Christ and His apostles, in one way or another, owned property. This controversy provided fodder as well to the row he later had with the political powers of the day inimical to papal supremacy: the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor. In recent years, he received renewed interest, in light of this current papacy, due to his heretical views on the Beatific Vision, teachings he retracted on the eve of his death.
Our interest in him now, however, is not in his teachings as a private theologian.
John XXII is arguably the first pope (after Gregory the Great) to have legislated on sacred music. He reigned in an era when music sailed on the high waters of the ars nova, characterised by a hitherto uncharted level of musical expressiveness created by the confluence of advancements in rhythmic notation, the adoption of polyphony in secular music, and the emergence of new musical forms and techniques.
As commonly happens when the sacred communicates with the profane, they exchange paradigms. Ars nova principles little by little invaded sacred music to such a point when the degree of invasion so moved John XXII to pronounce a condemnation. In the ninth year of his reign, he issued the decretal Docta sanctorum on the life and decency of the clergy. As we do not know the exact date of the promulgation of this document, we unofficially begin this week the commemoration of the 693rd anniversary of the decretal. In the section Resources > Church Documents above, we have uploaded the Latin text of the document and our English translation of it.
Earlier this year, this Choir sent a dubium to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei requesting clarification on the status of the so-called Pontifical Sung Mass, which from time to time has been celebrated by bishops and cardinals for communities attached to the Extraordinary Form.
We received the response (dated 14 June 2017) two weeks ago (click on the thumbnail to view). The PCED clarifies that the books to be used for the Extraordinary Form, according to Summorum Pontificum, are those in force in 1962 . As of 1962, a bishop had the option to celebrate either a Pontifical Low Mass  or a Pontifical Solemn Mass . The possibility of celebrating a Sung Mass more sacerdotali was only opened to bishops through Inter Œcumenici, issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, dated 26 September 1964 . Universæ Ecclesiæ, on liturgical discipline, clarifies that “by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962” . The provision of Inter Œcumenici,therefore, is deemed derogated in the Extraordinary Form.
 Art. 1: AAS 99 (2007) p. 779. Cæremoniale Episcoporum, lib. I, cap. xxix. Op. cit., lib. II, cap. viii.  Cap. II, no. 48i: AAS 56 (1964) p. 888.  Cap. III, no. 28: AAS 103 (2011) p. 419.