PCED clarification on transferred feasts

Today is the Ascension of the Lord. What could have been a very joyous feast has become a point of contention for many Filipino Catholics. Why? Because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines decided to transfer the feast to a Sunday, literally destroying a chronology backed by Holy Writ itself! Fortunately, the usus antiquior operates on its own calendar, so this preposterous recklessness, which is not uniquely Filipino, but common to a motley set of episcopal conferences, can only slobber outside the gates of rubrical rectitude.

Ascensione di Cristo | Pietro Perugino | 1498

That said, we have to admit that the reason that the novus ordo loves to quote in its vain attempt to justify its scandalous penchant for transferring feasts also obtains in the vetus ordo. Not all faithful attached to the vetus ordo is able to attend Mass on a weekday, and not all priests ministering to traditional communities is able to say the Mass of All Ages on a weekday. Hence, it is often asked whether it is possible to celebrate feasts that fall on weekdays as an external solemnity on a Sunday. And the answer to this is in the affirmative. A qualified affirmative, that is.

The now-defunct Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei clarified this matter with a formal ruling on 20 October 2008 (head over here for the rescript, and here for the press release). If the local episcopal conference decided to transfer the feast to a Sunday, the feast is only transferred in the usus recentior. The feast remains on its proper day in the usus antiquior. Traditional communities desiring to mark the festivities on a Sunday are permitted, but not required, to celebrate an external solemnity of the same feast on the Sunday to which the local episcopal conference transferred it. This is the qualification of the affirmative response issued by the PCED. The feast is to be externally solemnised on the Sunday of its translation.

One may be dismayed why the PCED countenanced such anomaly, which can come across as acquiescing to the paradigm of the novus ordo, but this formal ruling is, in fact, more favourable to the vetus ordo than the other possibility being contemplated upon at this time. The first clarification Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos (head over here for the cardinal’s confirmation) provided on this matter tended towards total submission of the vetus ordo to the novus ordo calendar, where the transferred feast would command greater import over the traditional date, which would then be reduced to a status akin to that of an external solemnity, with an added insult of being optional. If the good cardinal’s response transcended the vapours of interview and became ink on paper, many traditionalists all over the world today would be required and obliged to celebrate the feast of the Ascension on 21 May, and only a mere external solemnity of the Ascension on 18 May.

Fortunately, the definitive ruling quashed this imminent obscenity. In practical terms, this means that, this Sunday, 21 May, Filipino Catholics can celebrate an external solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. This also means that, on 11 June, which is the Sunday within the octave of Corpus Christi, Filipino Catholics can celebrate an external solemnity of the Corpus Christi. This further means that, on 7 January 2024, and on 5 January 2025, as well as on 4 January 2026, which are the first Sundays after 1 January in each mentioned year, Filipino Catholics can celebrate an external solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. It bears repeating that this faculty permits, but not requires, traditional communities to celebrate the external solemnity of a feast on the Sunday chosen by the local episcopal conference.

This is a reminder that, behind the relative stability the usus antiquior today enjoys, lies a chaos of opportunities both happily seized (the tacit permissions that went into the official traditional ordo, for example) and happily missed (the obligation to follow the novus ordo calendar in reckoning traditional feasts, as mentioned above). Militancy on behalf of the vetus ordo is doomed to tragedy if we helm it as activists who fail, or even refuse, to recognise the nuances. We personally dislike favouring external solemnities to the detriment of their proper feasts, but we must not let our preferences crowd the room that Holy Mother Church built for her children with respect to matters liturgical.

PCED suppressed

The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, otherwise known as the PCED, is now suppressed, with the publication today, 19 January 2019, of the motu proprio Da oltre trent’anni given 17 January 2019. Our translation is given below.

Archbishop Guido Pozzo, hitherto Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, delivering a sermon during a Pontifical Solemn High Mass he celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in February 2011 (image from Orbis Catholicus Secundus).


In the last thirty years, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, on 2 July 1998, has performed with sincere solicitude and praiseworthy attention the duty of working with the Bishops and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, in facilitating the full ecclesial communion of the priests, seminarians, communities, or every religious man or woman, affiliated with the Fraternity founded by Mons. Marcel Lefebvre, who wished to remain united with the Successor of Saint Peter in the Catholic Church, preserving their own spiritual and liturgical traditions [1].

In such way, it was able to exercise its own authority and competency on behalf of the Holy See concerning said societies and associations, until otherwise provided [2].

Subsequently, by virtue of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, on 7 July 2007, the Pontifical Commission extended the authority of the Holy See unto those Institutes and Religious Communities, which adhered to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and assumed the former traditions of religious life, supervising the observance and the application of the established dispositions [3].

Two years later, Our Venerable Predecessor, Benedict XVI, with the motu proprio Ecclesiæ unitatem, on 2 July 2009, reorganised the structure of the Pontifical Commission, in order to make it more adapted to the new situation arising from the remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated without papal mandate. And, furthermore, considering that, after such act of grace, the questions dealt with by the same Pontifical Commission were primarily doctrinal in nature, He more organically associated it with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while retaining its initial goals, but modifying its structure [4].

Now, since the Feria IV (regular Wednesday meeting) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 15 November 2017 drafted a request that the dialogue between the Holy See and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X be conducted directly with the aforementioned Congregation, the questions dealt with are of a doctrinal character, to this request We have given Our approval in the audience with the Prefect on the following 24 (November), and such proposal gained acceptance from the Plenary Session of the same Congregation celebrated from 23 to 26 January 2018, We have reached, after ample reflection, the following Decision:

Considering the conditions, which have moved the Holy Pontiff John Paul II towards the establishment of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, as already changed today;

noting that the Institutes and the Religious Communities that habitually celebrate in the Extraordinary Form, have now found a proper stability in number and life;

realising that the goals and the questions dealt with by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei are of a predominantly doctrinal order;

desiring that such goals be rendered always more evident unto the conscience of the ecclesial community,

with this present Apostolic Letter, given ‘motu proprio’,

We Decree:

1. That the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, established on 2 July 1998, with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, is suppressed.

2. The duties of the Commission in question are entirely assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, within which shall be established a special Section charged with continuing the work of supervision, of promotion, and of protection thus far conducted by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

3. The budget of the Pontifical Commission shall devolve back to the usual account of the aforementioned Congregation.

We Establish, moreover, that the present motu proprio be observed all things to the contrary notwithstanding, even those worthy of special mention, be promulgated by means of its publication in the daily L’Osservatore Romano to be issued on 19 January 2019, entering immediately in full force, and be eventually included in the Official Commentary of the Holy See, the Acta Apostolicæ Sedis.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 January 2019, the sixth of Our Pontificate.


[1] Cf. John Paul Pp. II, Apostolic Letter given motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta (2 July 1988) 6a: AAS 80 (1988) 1495–1498.
[2] Rescript from the Audience of the Holy Father (18 October 1988) 6: AAS 82 (1990) 533–534.
[3] Cf. Benedict Pp. XVI, Apostolic Letter given motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (7 July 2007) 12: AAS 99 (2007) 777–781.
[4] Cf. Benedict Pp. XVI, Apostolic Letter given motu proprio Ecclesiæ unitatem (2 July 2009) 5: AAS 101 (2009) 710–711.

PCED clarification on the Confiteor before Communion within the Mass

Earlier this year, this Choir sent a dubium to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, requesting clarification on the practice of saying the Confiteor before the distribution of Holy Communion during Mass, here onwards referred to as the practice, citing two previous diverging rescripts, one issued on 4 July 2007, and another on 20 November 2010.

The chanting of the Confiteor before Communion in the Pontifical Mass celebrated by Msgr. Wolfgang Haas, archbishop of Vaduz in Lichtenstein, on 8 May 2018, in the parish church of Gestratz, during which he ordained six FSSP seminarians into the diaconate (image from FSSP Wigratzbad).

We now share the response, dated 18 September 2018 (click on the thumbnail to the right to open the file), that we received. The PCED clarifies that, while the practice is foreseen only in specific circumstances in 1962, where it currently exists, it can be continued. The wording of this clarification is the same as the one later used in number 2 of another response dated 14 November 2018.

Let us now examine the salient points of this clarification, and their repercussions. First, what are the instances the practice is foreseen? At the top of the list is the instance occurring in the fourth part of the solemn afternoon Liturgical Action on Good Friday, where the rubrics specifically say that the deacon makes the confession, i. e., says the Confiteor [1]. The other instance happens during the ordination of deacons and subdeacons, each one of which, after the communion of the ordaining bishop, says the Confiteor, reciting it when in absque cantu cases, and chanting it when the ceremony is in cantu [2]. When priests are also ordained, they do not say the Confiteor because they concelebrate with the bishop [3]. By far, these are the two instances wherein the Confiteor before Communion within the Mass is explicitly retained.

Second point: the PCED states the status quo; that is, except in certain cases, the liturgical books of 1962 do not foresee the recitation or chanting of the Confiteor prior to the distribution of Holy Communion within Mass. The effect of this descriptive part of the clarification is the same as the one in a previous clarification we received concerning the so-called Pontifical ‘Sung’ Mass. The difference between the two clarifications is the fact that this one carries a facultative clause: The PCED allows the continuation of the practice in places where the custom exists.

Which brings us to the third point: the interplay between custom vis-à-vis practice, and place. Custom, if we look at canon law, is a practice hallowed by continuous usage of at least thirty years. The Traditional communities in the Philippines, numerous and pocketed may they be, have existed, on the whole, for more than that number of years. And while we cannot yet find any conclusive evidence that the in-Mass pre-Communion Confiteor has been practiced continuously for thirty years, we are yet to discover any record of an entire Traditional community, apart from selected individuals who champion its discontinuation, that cold-turkey abandoned said practice for a substantial amount of time, say, at least one year. Presumption favours the former, and ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.

Absent proof of substantial disruption, the next contention arises from the word place, which is indeterminate enough to be construed as a barangay, a city, or an island. Opponents of the practice will probably exploit this to hinder its spread. Imagine a new community celebrating its first Mass in the Vetus Ordo. Somebody then volunteers to assist the members, but insists on leaving out the in-Mass pre-Communion Confiteor because, technically, the practice does not yet exist in said community. If nothing exists yet, what is there to continue, right?

Our approach to this question hinges on our collective experience. Traditional communities in the Philippines are formed by extraterritorial (no, not extraterrestrial) parishioners, to which defined geographic boundaries do not strictly apply. This urges us to understand place not in terms of a defined civil or canonical unit, but rather as the country in whole. That said, any new community, formed by individuals, who previously frequented Masses that use the practice, can claim inheritance by reason of a common and shared patrimony.

This brings us to final point. What happens then to the previous clarifications urging discontinuation of the practice? First, as this touches on a matter of discipline, Roman attitude to it is expected to develop. A prime example of a similar attitudinal development from the past is the opinion of the Roman Academy of Liturgy arguing favourably for the use of cerulean on the feasts of Our Lady of Lourdes and of the Miraculous Medal [4], an opinion later definitively overturned by a rescript from the Sacred Congregation of Rites [5].

Second, law has both its letter and its spirit. In this clarification, the PCED describes, and not enforces, the prescriptions of the law, a law that exists, not per se, but as a consequence of a rubrical omission. The PCED, instead of annexing a prescriptive clause to eliminate the practice (in order to uphold the proverbial letter of the law), closes its statement with a facultative one. It is not forcing any community to accept the practice; rather, it allows communities that employ said practice to keep it.

[1] Feria VI in Passione et Morte Domini, 31: Missale Romanum (Rome 1962) p. 181.
[2] De ordinatione presbyterorum, 172, par. 1: Pontificale Romanum, vol. I (Rome 1961) p. 55.
[3] Loc. cit., 175: ibid., p. 56.
[4] Roman Academy of Liturgy, Solution to liturgical dubia, at 10, Dubium concerning the extension of some privilege, Note on the response: EL 10 (1896) 498–499.
[5] Sacred Congregation of Rites, Dubium concerning to what extent the apostolic indult for the Spanish Realm to use sacred vestments of the cerulean colour, etc. (15 February 1902): ASS 34 (1901–02) 553–555.

Lent, Benedict XIV, and sacred music

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.

Borrás Abellá - En el coro
En el coro | Vicente Borrás Abellá | 1890

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.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

SP @ 10: Benedict XIV and sacred music

Facistol y órgano
Facistolium and organ in the church of San Agustín in Intramuros

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?

Via Crucis in the Colosseum
The Stations of the Cross erected during the Jubilee Year of 1750 by Saint Leonard of Porto Maurizio, four years before being pulled down by the new Italian government in 1874.

Benedict XIV
Benoît XIV | Pierre Subleyras | 1740

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:

0 Introduction Upcoming Holy Year
1 Objective I State and upkeep of churches
2 Objective II Time and fulfilment of the obligation to recite the Divine Office
3 Objective III Sobriety of polyphonic and organ music
4 III-Auth-A Authorities who disapprove the use of polyphonic music
5 III-Auth-B Authorities who approve the use of polyphonic music
6 III-Auth-C Authorities who propose a distinction between theatrical and ecclesiastic music
7 III-Mus Theatrical vs. Ecclesiastic music
8 III-Mus-A Singing proper to churches
9 III-Mus-B Method and rationale of singing in church
10 III-Mus-C Musical instruments permitted in churches
11 III-Mus-C-1 Instruments tolerated in churches
12 III-Mus-C-2 Sound, as accompaniment to singing, tolerated in churches
13 III-Mus-C-3 Sound, by itself, tolerated in churches
14 Synthesis I Application of the law
15 Synthesis II 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.

Annus qui hunc LTAnnus qui hunc EN

Ut quae prava sunt, corrigantur ; quae infirma, curentur ; quae mala, amoveantur.

John XXII and liturgical chant

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 (2)
Jean XXII | Calixte Serrur | 1839–1840

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.

Docta Sanctorum ENDocta Sanctorum LT

Continue reading “John XXII and liturgical chant”

PCED clarification on Pontifical “Sung” Masses

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.

Mass Schneider I
Pontifical Low Mass celebrated by His Excellency Mons. Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, in the Church of Gesù e Maria in Rome on 22 November 2009 (image from Orbis Catholicus secundus).

PCED-CGSCOX-14.06.2017We 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 [1]. As of 1962, a bishop had the option to celebrate either a Pontifical Low Mass [2] or a Pontifical Solemn Mass [3]. 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 [4]. 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” [5]. The provision of Inter Œcumenici, therefore, is deemed derogated in the Extraordinary Form.

[1] Art. 1: AAS 99 (2007) p. 779.
[2] Cæremoniale Episcoporum, lib. I, cap. xxix.
[3] Op. cit., lib. II, cap. viii.
[4] Cap. II, no. 48i: AAS 56 (1964) p. 888.
[5] Cap. III, no. 28: AAS 103 (2011) p. 419.