Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Roman Rite as a Factor of Civilization in the Western World

This is the full text of the address given by the Rev. Dr. José-Apeles Santolaria de Puey y Cruells (known in Spain as "Padre Apeles") to the General Assembly of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce on November 6, 2011. The author distributed this text (in English) among the delegates and member associations of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce along with a general permission to distribute, publish and translate it. 

The publication of this article is intended solely to illuminate the topic at hand.

The Value of Romanitas in the Traditional movement and the Roman Rite as a factor of Civilization in the Western World

auctore Perillustrissimo ac Reverendissimo Domino

Iosepho-Apelle Santolaria de Puey et Cruells, JCD (ABD), HistL, SMOM

apud Vrbem elata, Nonis A.D. MMXI

In the Nicene–Constantinopolitan Symbol we confess our Faith in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” (“unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam”). Unity, Holiness, Catholicity and Apostolicity are then the four essential marks of the Church founded by Christ. No other church than the Church of Rome can exhibit them; so the Roman Church is the Church proclaimed in the Creed. Does this mean that the character of being Roman is also an essential characteristic of the Church of Christ? Our response must be nuanced: from the point of view of the Revelation, no; from the point of view of Tradition and History, yes.

It is not part of Revelation that the Roman Church must be identified with the Church of the Creed. First of all, the Church of Rome did not exist until the first community with its Bishop was established there. And that took place only around the year 42, when Peter moved there from his first See in Antioch. Many churches in Asia were flourishing before the Roman See was settled. On the other hand we must consider that, due to the extraordinary powers granted by Jesus Christ to the Apostolic College and confirmed by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, every church founded by the Apostles was a kind of Catholic Church “in miniature”, the Twelve extraordinarily having “vita durante” the same powers as Peter, namely: Pontifical Infallibility and Universal Jurisdiction. It is well known that those powers were not inherited by the Successors of the Apostles but only by the Bishops of Rome, as Peter’s successors. In any case, the Church of Rome was junior in time to other churches of Primitive Christianity. And Antioch could claim –at least until the transfer of Saint Peter to Rome– the privilege of the primacy. The Roman Liturgy, in fact, kept until 1962 two feasts of the Chair of Saint Peter: In Rome (the 18th January) and in Antioch (the 22nd February).

[A minor correction: the feast for January 18 was abolished in 1960 - CAP]

Another argument of the not essential link between the Church of the Creed and the Church of Rome is an almost unknown contemporary fact: from 1968, Pope Paul the VI was working on a project for the reform of the Papal election. He prepared it by certain steps such as the motu proprio Ingravescentem ætatem that set the age limit for the exercise of their functions by Cardinals (among them participation in the Conclave). When the draft of the aforesaid reform was ready for its publication, Cardinal Siri revealed and analyzed some of its points in his magazine Renovatio. One of these points was an actual attack of Roman Primacy: according to the new rules, the electors (including non-Cardinals) would designate only the Pope, but not the Bishop of Rome, the two concepts being henceforth separated. The Vicar of Christ could then act from any place on Earth as the Bishop of the Universal Church. Rome certainly would keep an honorary and historical interest, but its bishop would be only one among others. The link between the fullness of powers and the heritage of Saint Peter claimed by the Roman See was going to be broken. Cardinal Siri’s reaction was providential and Pope Paul VI had to shelve his reform of the conclave. He finally issued his Constitution Romano Pontifici eligendo in 1975 and fundamentally adhered to tradition. But the question had been raised: Rome is de facto the Apostolic See, but not de iure.

Nevertheless, in the mind of every Catholic it is inconceivable to think that his Holy Mother Church could be other than the Roman Church. Even during the long stay of the Papacy in Avignon, the Sovereign Pontiff was bishop of Rome and, in the years of the Great Schism, any of the rivals (two and even three Popes at the same time) considered himself as being the bishop of Rome. The question of Orthodoxy is different: the Eastern Churches separated since the schism of Michael Cerularius and linked to the Patriarchal structure of the early centuries, did not deny the primacy of honour of the Roman Church as the Church of Peter, but only her actual power of universal jurisdiction. We could therefore talk about Romanitas as a well established historical mark of the universal Church, of the Church of the Creed, of the Church of Christ.

Why has Rome played and currently plays such a leading role in Christianity to the point that we can talk of Romanitas as a real value without which we cannot understand the Catholic Church in its historical evolution? I think that the key is given by the following words of the Blessed Pope John XXIII, quoted from his Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia of 1962:

«The wisdom of the ancient world, enshrined in Greek and Roman literature, and the truly memorable teaching of ancient peoples, served, surely, to herald the dawn of the Gospel which God's Son, "the judge and teacher of grace and truth, the light and guide of the human race," proclaimed on earth. Such was the view of the Church Fathers and Doctors. In these outstanding literary monuments of antiquity, they recognized man's spiritual preparation for the supernatural riches which Jesus Christ communicated to mankind "to give history its fulfillment." Thus the inauguration of Christianity did not mean the obliteration of man's past achievements. Nothing was lost that was in any way true, just, noble and beautiful».

There is a Philosophy of History that underlies this Papal quotation: Civilization as a progressive movement toward the fullness of possibilities of the human being, and Rome as its final depositary and diffuser thanks to its universal Empire. Human civilization as a concretion of that “Wisdom of the Ancients” that prepared the world to receive the Messiah and His Gospel. And this is the ideal recalled and developed by Dante Alighieri in his treaty on the Monarchy (De monarchia), one of the richest and most beautiful tributes to Romanitas as a perpetual and permanent value of our civilization. Although this book was written in the frame of concrete circumstances (as Ghibelline propaganda in favor of Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg at his descent into Italy) and was even included later in the Index, the arguments about the preeminence of Rome and its vocation of universality have been and are always attractive to all those who defend the Roman character of the Church as a decisive element of her identity.

Dante offers us the sequence of the empires that have ruled the earth with a pretension of preponderance and universality: the Assyrian, the Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Persian and the Macedonian. Rome comes as the last, but as the one that contains and summarizes the preceding ones. Rome assumes the heritage of Greek civilization, the highest degree to which the human spirit has attained, through the Hellenism of Alexander’s Empire. This is the historical fact that the Florentine poet dresses with the robes of the Legend of Aeneas (in this context I have to point out that the sense of the word “legend” has not the connotation of a “fable”, but that of “things that are to be read”, from “legere”: to read). Aeneas, a Trojan prince, who escaped from the ruin and destruction of his city by the Achaeans, is the heir of the Asian tradition. After having got across the Mediterranean in a journey full of vicissitudes, he arrives at the Tyrrhenian coast and founds Lavinium thanks to the hospitality of King Latinus of Latium. Lavinium is the immediate ancestor of Rome, which will be founded by the direct descendants of Aeneas, Romulus and Remus. Rome will conquer Greece and thus, in the end, Troy will have had its revenge over the Achaeans (the ancestors of the Greeks).

Rome is considered then to be the heiress of Aeneas. But the interesting thing is how Dante justifies the universality of Rome's Empire: in fact, Aeneas’s successive marriages to three princesses of the “three parts of the world” indicate his special and unique universal vocation. Creusa represents Asia; Dido represents Africa and Lavinia represents Europe. Rome receives from Aeneas, her father, this legacy. But universality implies that nothing else is to be reached but permanence, and here comes the concept of Roma Aeterna. Once the universal Empire is established by Rome, there will be no other city that could surpass the “Eternal City”.

But at the same time, with the Roman hegemony the times arrive at their fullness and the world is prepared to receive the Revelation of God. Dante wants to demonstrate that God recognizes the legitimacy of the Roman Empire. His arguments come from certain passages of the Gospels. In the first there is the reference to the “universal taxing” decreed by Augustus: “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (Lk II, 1-5). Then Joseph, the heir of David, obeys the Roman authority. God wants His Son to come on Earth in the context of an Imperial decree. Another passage refers to the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Lk III, 1-2). The prelude of the active life of Christ is put in the political context of Roman government. But the decisive quote comes from the Gospel of John: “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (XVIII, 10-11). The power of Pilate, who represented the Roman Empire, came from God. Then it was legitimate.

Dante Alighieri goes further in De Monarchia to defend the power of the Holy Roman Emperor, but what really is interesting for our subject has been said previously: that Rome is the heiress of the Ancient Tradition and has a vocation of universality. Those two elements constitute the value of what we understand as Romanitas, but informed by the spirit of Revelation. The conjunction between the Wisdom of the ancient world and the Gospel produced Christian Civilization, whose promoter is the Roman Church in virtue of his privileged historical position. We cannot imagine that the Gospel could be spread in Samarkand, in the Empire of the Incas or even in a minor provincial city as Lutetia Parisiorum or Hispalis as universally as it was thanks to Rome. Peter made a transcendental step when he moved from Antioch to the capital of the Empire. The Roman Bishops who succeeded him, little by little became the true heirs of the Roman Tradition. Traces of it currently remain in several details: the denomination of the Pope as Romanus Pontifex (an office that was held by the Roman Emperor as the supreme mediator with the divinity); the Sacred College of Cardinals seen as the Senate (Senatus) of the Holy Father, composed by the “patres purpurati” successors of the “patres conscripti”; the name of “Roman Curia” given to the central administration of the universal Church, headed by Cardinals, as it was for the Ancient Curia, the building where the Senators met together to legislate for the whole world...

But the most important legacies from Ancient Rome to Civilization have been the Latin language (sermo latinus) and Law (ius), and it has been precisely the Roman Church that has transmitted them to the Western world. It is ironic that these extremely valuable elements that contributed the most to the formation of our modern culture are precisely the two for which the Church has been criticized in recent times. Those who consider themselves as “progressive” attack the Roman Church for being “elitist” and “legalistic”, but they do not understand: 1) that the Latin language is not an elitist factor of division but a helpful tool for knowledge and for international understanding, with the advantage of conciseness, exactitude and a neutral position (since no nation can monopolize Latin as its own language); 2) that the juridical sense of things inherited from Roman Law and improved by the canonical glossators is the best defense against tyranny and arbitrariness, two of the evils of our age. The Church was able to capture the essence of the Roman idea of Law: the “pietas” or the virtue that makes man conscious of his duties towards the deity, the family, other human beings and nature (a virtue exemplified by Aeneas and Romulus). This “pietas”, re-interpreted by the Church as the Natural Law (the expression of the Divine Intelligence and Will), is as it were the soul of the Law, and is the opposite of the current positivism that has justified most of crimes of the most cruel dictatorships. Even modern constitutionalism owes much to Roman Law through the Canon Law of the Roman Church.

Now I come to the central and most relevant point of my exposition on the value of Romanitas: the Liturgy. Liturgy is the Faith lived: one prays as one believes, or, to use the words of the Latin aphorism, very familiar to everyone, lex orandi, lex credendi. In contrast to the Ancient ritualism, the Catholic Liturgy is not simply a formulary to propitiate God, but is also a plastic expression of concepts and ideas. Not in vain Luther, when attacking the Roman Mass stated: “it is upon the Mass, as upon a rock, that the Papacy rests - with its monasteries, its bishoprics, its colleges, its altars, its ministers, and its doctrines”. The Mass implies a complete Weltanschaaung. We can then understand why the process of Civilization in the Western World coincides with the dissemination of the Roman Rite. Let us consider just three graphic examples of this fact:

The defense of Christianity in the East was sustained by three nations of the Roman Rite: Hungary, Poland and Lithuania, which constituted a natural barrier especially against the pagans and the Turkish danger. The Franciscan Order in particular was very active and implanted its Missal, which was that of the Roman Curia.
The incorporation of the Spanish Kingdoms reconquered from the Arabs into the European mainstream was mainly due to the unification of the Liturgy around the Roman Rite, thanks to the monks of Cluny (with the consequent confinement of the national Mozarabic rite to few chapels). 
The evangelization of the Americas was through the Roman Rite. Let us remark that the New World in practice knew no other Missal than the Missale Romanum of Saint Pius V, diffused by the Councils of Lima and Mexico as an implementation of the Council of Trent. 
It is not by coincidence that the rupture of Christianity into two different ways of life in the Sixteenth-Seventeenth Centuries, brought about by the Reformation, was imposed on the people as a change of rite rather than by a theological approach. And we could say the same regarding the post-conciliar crisis, when the change of minds was preceded by the illegitimate change of rite, far beyond what the Second Vatican Council really established.

For these reasons, the defense of the Roman Rite has been and is the defense of Christianity and the most evident expression of the genuinely Catholic value of Romanitas. All of us, priests and lay people, owe much gratitude to those groups like the International Federation Una Voce –the oldest Catholic organization, as far as I know, engaged in the bonum certamen – that have supported the Holy See, the Apostolic Chair of Peter, by defending and promoting the Traditional Liturgy in communion with the Successor of Peter. Now, after decades of disorientation and lack of understanding (very often on both sides), we can make room to hope, especially since His Holiness the Pope happily reigning promulgated his Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and re-established his Pax liturgica. But let us be aware that this is only a departure point: the path towards the normalization of things is a long one and demands our whole and courageous involvement. And let us keep in mind that memory is important: as in the Ancient Roman Tradition, we should not forget the ephemerides that reinforce our consciousness of things. This coming year 2012 has been already announced as the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council (and will even be celebrated with a Year of Faith). But in the same year we have two other commemorations that particularly touch upon our apostolate: the 50th Anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia on the use of Latin and that of the Missale Romanum of Blessed John XXIII, both of them also issued in 1962. Behold a double extremely interesting challenge for Traditional bodies and especially for the International Federation Una Voce.

Since your organization has been a pioneer in the defense of the value of Romanitas and in view of the above-mentioned ephemerides, I think it would be an excellent idea for Una Voce to be more visible in the Eternal City by maintaining a permanent bureau here in order to facilitate immediate contact with the Holy See and to lead liturgical and cultural events and organize activities that could contribute to the re-evangelization of our Western Civilization, as Pope Benedict, with his deep sense of Romanitas, has encouraged us to do. To close my dissertation I would like to remind you of the memorable words of Christ to Saint Ignatius of Loyola at the little chapel of La Storta: “Ego uobis Romae propitius ero”.

Photo source: Roma Aeterna

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