Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dear Benedict...

Over at The New Liturgical Movement Shawn Tribe is starting a letter writing campaign to the Pope on the subject of the Motu Proprio by which the Rite of Pius V is expected to be freed. He has kindly provided the Pope's address and his email address. This prompted a very sensible question in the comments section. How do you address the Pope in correspondence? As someone who has occasionally been accused (not without some justification) of being a social snob when it comes to etiquette I immediately began searching for the answer. The below rules are the traditional ones for ecclesial correspondence observed by Roman Catholics who have occasion to write the Pontiff. Please note the word "traditional."

Before describing how an address should be written, or how a letter to an ecclesiastical personage should be begun and ended, it may be well to say that the paper must always be white, no other colour being allowed. The size and form of stationery considered appropriate is that known in Italy as palomba; it is used by the Roman Congregations, and is so called because it has the watermark of a dove (It., palomba). In other countries the paper used for protocols or ministerial correspondence may be employed, but it should be handmade, as both stronger and more suitable.

The ink must always be black; coloured inks are forbidden; first, because they are contrary to traditional usage, and next because they are liable to changes, having, for the most part, a basis of aniline or of animal oil; moreover, these inks on being exposed to the light lose colour rapidly and soon make the letter impossible to read.

The letter must be written as our fathers wrote, and not, as business letters are now sometimes written, first on the right hand sheet and then on the left, in inverse order to that of the leaves of a book. This is expressly laid down in an instruction issued by Propaganda when Monsignor Ciasca was secretary, and rests on the necessity of providing for the due order of the archives and for facility of classification.

Lastly, it is better not to write on the back of the sheet, as the ink may soak through the paper and make the document less easy to read; in any case, it is a rule of politeness to facilitate the reading of a letter in every possible way.

Ten years ago the use of a typewriter was not permissible; at the present day it is. Many decrees of the Congregation of Rites are written in this way; the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars allow it in the case of documents addressed to them, and other ecclesiastical courts have followed their example, but letters addressed to the Sovereign Pontiff personally must still be written by hand. If the letter be sealed, red wax must be used, any other colour, or even black, being forbidden; but the use of wafers, made to look like seals of red wax, which are gummed on to the envelope, is now tolerated. Moreover, according to the practice of the ecclesiastical chanceries, the seal used should be smaller in proportion to the dignity of the person addressed. In practice, however, it is not easy to follow this rule, since it is not everyone who possesses seals of different sizes.


The Pope

The Sovereign Pontiff is addressed at the commencement of a letter as "Most Holy Father" (Beatissimo Padre); in the body of the letter as "His Holiness" (Sua or Vostra Santità). It is customary to speak to him always in the third person, and the letter ends with: "Prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, I have the honour to profess myself, with the most profound respect, Your Holiness's most humble servant."

If, instead of a letter, a petition is sent to the Sovereign Pontiff, to be examined by him or by one of the Roman Congregations, it should begin: "Most Holy Father, Prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, the undersigned N., of the diocese of N., has the honour to set forth as follows:" -- and the statement of the request ends with the words: "And may God . . ." (meaning, "May God enrich Your Holiness with His gifts"). If written in Italian the petition ends with the formula, Che della grazia . . ., the beginning of a phrase implying that the favour asked is looked for from the great kindness of the Sovereign Pontiff. After folding the petition lengthways to the paper, the petitioner should write at the top, "To His Holiness, Pope N. . . . ."; in the middle, "for the petitioner" (per l'infrascritto oratore), and at the bottom, to the right, the name of the agent, or the person charged with the transaction of that particular business at the Roman court.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 ed.)


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this

Anonymous said...

On the importance of a Latin Mass. Why is your blog in English? Once you answer that question, maybe you'll see how unimportant the Mass question is. As a convert to the Orthodox faith (I assume) are you as eager to "preserve" Greek, Slavonic, Arabic or any other liturgical language you don't understand? Pick a language to answer that makes sense, and maybe realize that understanding is fairly important to worship...And blogging.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thank you for your comment. A few quick points in response.

1. I have no where endorsed Latin as an exclusive language for liturgy. It is however part of the liturgical tradition of the western church and as such I think it unhealthy to abandon it entirely. This was also the express wish of the fathers of Vat II who stated that Latin was to be preserved. But I am absolutely fine with English in the liturgy. In fact if you will read the comments to the article preceding this one on my blog, you will find the following post from myself to Stephen.

There is nothing wrong (IMO) with having the Rite of Pius V done in English. The often ignored 1965 Missal was essentially a hybrid mix of Latin and English, still using the old rite. Also the Old Catholics use the so called English Missal which is essentially the Tridentine Rite translated into a beautiful High Church English.. In Orthodoxy the Liturgy of St Gregory (Western Rite) is with very minor corrections the Tridentine Rite translated into English. Some WR jurisdictions use an English version of the Sarum Mass. However it must be admitted that the most common WR liturgy here in N. America is the Liturgy of St. Tikhon, a corrected rendering of the 1928 Episcopal BCP.

2. My objection to the Novus Ordo is not that it’s in English. But rather that it’s not an organic development of liturgy so much as a radical innovation. It departs in many respects from the liturgical tradition of the West and its theological implications have had a very poisonous effect on the phronema of the Catholic faithful. In short the current liturgy represents the theology of revolution. Coupled with the suppression of a 1500 yr old liturgical rite (as though it were heretical) it is an expression in its wording of a rupture with the faith of the church preceding 1965. The damage done by this is everywhere evident in the Roman Church today.

3. Finally, the tradition in Orthodoxy has always been towards the celebration of the liturgy in the language of the people. This is common sense to us. But it is also a reflection of the differing ecclesiological approach of Orthodoxy from Rome. The Roman Church is very much a top down structure with ONE church (at least in the west) and over the centuries the various different liturgical uses and rites of western Christianity were slowly subsumed and suppressed in favor of the Rite of Rome (properly the rite of St. Gregory the Great but also called the rite of Pius V or the Tridentine rite.). The use of Latin was emphasized as a source of unity for the Roman Church. But in Orthodoxy each church is independent of the others while bound together by a common faith and sacramental communion. Thus there is no need for a single language to us.


Michael said...

I agree entirely with your points, John, and I'm pleased to find your blog.

The Novus Ordo, while it can indeed be done well, as I have witnessed myself, is essentially too far removed from the western liturgical heritage for it to be able to easily sustain the faith that its predecessors did. The language is neither here nor there (although the current English translation leaves much to be desired).

At my own ERite parish, we have the Liturgy in English, Slavonic and Greek because of the make-up of our parish. In the WRite, I would prefer happy with the Liturgy in English and would have no objection to some of the ordinary to be sung in Latin, as I doubt many regular churchgoers could reasonably claim unfamiliarity with it at least for those parts.

As for the question of why your blog is in English, I'm reminded of the anecdote of a priest who offered the Mass in Latin, only to be approached by the warden afterwards and told, 'I didn't understand a word of that, father', to which he replied, 'I wasn't talking to you'. This highlights the mentality that has resulted from the Novus Ordo as it is frequently executed, and many of the mimic rites based upon it in Anglicanism and elsewhere. The focus is the "gathered community" and not the God it has gathered to worship. So the people must see and hear everything. The priest must face them. The prayers directed to be said quietly must be said aloud. Nothing must happen that the people don't engage in totally otherwise they feel excluded. This is completely the wrong attitude in worship and is a departure from the more layered approach to worship which is the liturgical heritage of both East and West. Long may it be preserved in Orthodoxy!

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I loved that story. Definitely filing it for future reference. Thanks for the laugh...