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Canonical Remarks on the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum Norbert Lüdecke On 7 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI signed the Motu Proprio Summorum pontificum (henceforth SP) concerning the Roman liturgy in its configuration prior to the reform of 1970, and on that occasion wrote an accompanying letter to the bishops. This for many was the end of a long period of tense anticipation, joyous or worrisome depending on one’s attitude toward the liturgical reforms implemented after Vatican II. “Now the documents are available. This is what matters.” They are to be analyzed according to Church law and ecclesiologically classified.   “Kanonistische Anmerkungen zum Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum ,” in Liturgisches Jahrbuch 58 (2008) 3-34. Translated by Gary N. Deckant and Gunhild von der Bank. Antiphon gratefully acknowledges the joint permission of Prof. Lüdecke and the German Liturgical Institute to make this canonical commentary available in English. A table of abbreviations is provided at the end.   Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Summorum pontificum [henceforth: SP] (7 July 2007), in L’Osservatore Romano 147 (2007) No. 153 (8 July) pp. 1 and 5, and the accompanying explanatory letter to the bishops [henceforth : Letter] (German: VAS 178). [SP in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) 99 (2007) 777-81; Letter in AAS 99 (2007) 795-99; Ed.] For an overview, see A. Gerhards, “Die Sorge der Päpste. Das Motu Proprio Benedikts XVI. zur Wiederzulassung der alten Liturgie,” HerKorr 61 (2007) 398-403.   K. Lehmann, “Erklärung des Vorsitzenden der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum von Papst Benedikt XVI. vom 7. Juli 2007,” at (accessed 4 January 2008). Guidelines on implementation by the Apostolic See were announced by T. Bertone, “Summorum Pontificum: Folgedokument angekündigt,” Die Tagespost 1 (3 January 2008).  For the current scientific liturgical discussion see B. Kranemann, “Mehr Engagement für die erneuerte Liturgie. Anmerkungen zum Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum,” Theologie der Gegenwart 50 (2007) 273-75; A. Grillo, Oltre Pio V. La Riforma liturgica nel conflitto di interpretazioni (Brescia 2007); A. Grillo, “Ende der Liturgiereform? Das Motuproprio Summorum Pontificum,” Stimmen der Zeit 225 (2007) 730-40; A Odenthal, “Gottesdienst wider den Zeitgeist. Die Diskussion um die Reform der Messe geht weiter,” HerKorr 57 (2003) 452-56; and now A. Gerhards, Ein Ritus – zwei Formen. Die Richtlinie Papst Benedikts XVI. zur Liturgie (Freiburg 2008). Antiphon 13.3 (2009): 193-227 194 Norbert Lüdecke I. Legal form For quite a long time, papal laws have been issued in the form of Litterae Apostolicae Motu proprio datae or Motu proprio for short. The omission of an addresseeandthedesignation“onhisowninitiative”characterizethespecial and sovereign commitment with which the Pope writes such a letter. Nothing changes even when some faithful have taken an initiative to solicit for a ruling by way of “pleading.” In particular they may address spiritual needs to pastors (can. 212 §2) and, insofar as these faithful appear to their pastors to be sufficiently knowledgeable, competent and prestigious, may even express their opinion on topics in which the pastors are able to recognize something relevant to the Church’s good (can. 213 §3). It remains the Pope’s primatially independent decision and order (“decernimus” in uppercase for emphasis) whether and to what extent he embraces these concerns. This is doubly underscored. The opening words of the document (“Summorum Pontificum”) in the Incipit by which papal statements are cited and which mostly sets a programmatic signal are a papal title: Summus Pontifex since the eleventh century was supposed to designate the Pope as the highest authority in the Church. At Vatican II the title was used for Christ. For the Pope it retreated far behind the title Romanus Pontifex, except for the nota praevia, where its use is concentrated.10 In 1970 the International Theological Commission had almost unanimously considered the title misleading and recommended that its usage be discontinued.11 The popes did not embrace these concerns. The title remains a current expression of the Roman Pontiff’s concept of himself.12 Furthermore the motu proprio exten-   See I. Wächter, “Motu Proprio,” LKRStKR 2, 825-26, here 826.   See as an example the initiatives and reactions mentioned in H.-L. Barth, “Ist die traditionelle lateinische Messe antisemitisch? Antwort auf ein Papier...


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