I have been thinking this afternoon about the nature of bureaucracies, especially in the context of the Church. Certain sections of the traditionalist blogosphere are awash with speculation about the draft of a document for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum. Damian Thompson reported on it this morning, following Rorate Caeli's original piece on the subject. Lawrence at That the bones you have crushed has already begun a letter to the Holy Father, while I note Fr TF is reporting on anything but the story of the day. Interesting that.
So, I'm curious about the real reason for this story hitting the news. I don't think there is any doubt about the existence of the draft. I would also lay money on it being restrictive in the sense reported by Rorate Caeli. So what is this all about?
The instant fear among traditionalists is that this leak - for that's what it is! - fortuitously unveils machinations among curial officials whose opposition to the Extraordinary Form we know well. That is possible. As I said this morning, I'm minded to think that Pope Benedict would never sign a document which would result in the destruction of one of the major planks of his papacy: the reconciliation of the traditionalists. He cannot possibly have come up with the idea! But again, in whose interest is it for this document to be leaked?
On the one hand, one might think that the opponents of restrictions would leak such a document. Not everyone in the curia is an enemy of the Extraordinary Form after all. And it is conceivable that if such individuals got hold of this draft, and saw the way the wind was blowing, they might blow its cover and hope for the subsequent storm to stifle any chances the draft had of getting approval.
On the other hand, it is just possible that this leak has been set up to ensure that some consolation prize is secured for the anti-Extraordinary Rite cause. If the pope does not sign off on these restrictions, then their exposure might push him into approving something weaker but still more restrictive than the current system. After all, it could be suggested to him that if he dismisses completely all restrictions, he will appear to be in the pocket of the traditionalists.
So, we're back to the age old question: cui bono? Who does this benefit? Those who wish there to be no restrictions on the Extraordinary Form, or those who might use impossibly heavy restrictions as a decoy to push through minor restrictions? It's all a question of leverage.
I have no doubt the Extraordinary Form has won the intellectual battle. All its enemies are lost liturgically in a tangle of pedestrian functionalism and somewhat patronising didacticism, not to mention dodgy music. But we must pray: first, for the Holy Father whose hands on the levers of power have looked unsteady since his calamitous remarks to Peter Seewald concerning condoms, and, second, for the curia which could be showing early symptoms of entering a fin de règne recklessness.
Meanwhile, we can always have a laugh.
Start about 58 seconds in: