The idea for a post on the Second Confiteor came to Us today after an enjoyable conversation with Our pastor (the Second Confiteor, by the way, is said by the servers before the people receive Holy Communion). When We brought up the Extraordinary Form and began discussing Our experience attending a Mass of this use two Sundays ago, We learned that Our pastor was quite eager to learn this older form of the Mass. Along with serving as the pastor for Our home parish, he also teaches Latin three days a week at the local Catholic school, which, We imagine, will enable him to learn the older Mass relatively quickly. We also discussed how he had taught himself the server's responses back in the fourth grade and how his experience completely destroys the excuses of those who claim that Latin is simply too difficult to learn. Needless to say, We have high hopes for the introduction of the Extraordinary Form at Our parish.
So what, you may be asking, does any of this have to do with the Second Confiteor? In the course of Our conversation, Our pastor mentioned that he had seen the Solemn High Mass which was broadcast by EWTN on September 14, and he was quite perturbed by the fact that the servers at this Mass said the Second Confiteor, which is not included in the 1962 Missale Romanum (MR). We informed him that We knew of this omission but were under the impression that, while not mandatory, the prayer was still optional. In fact, We said, We were under the impression that the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter still include this prayer in their Masses. We did, however, concede that, superficially, it seems odd to insist on complete and unswerving obedience to the rubrics for priests offering Mass according to the 1970 MR and not to do the same with regards to the Extraordinary Form. Our pastor agreed and was adamant in his belief that the Second Confiteor should not be said. So, although We were still interested in the topic, lest the conversation sour as a result of too much debate, We turned Our attention elsewhere.
Afterwards, this question of the Second Confiteor was still present in Our mind. We had been assured by others that its use was optional (according to some, desirable), and We assumed that this was an accurate understanding of the situation. Our conversation with Our pastor, however, had opened a window of doubt as to the veracity of these claims. Should the servers really continue to say a prayer which is not contained in the MR? Should this proposition be risked at the expense of compromising a correct understanding of rubrical integrity? We were unsure.
So, naturally, where does a pope of the mid-twentieth century turn in such a predicament? Why, to Google, of course! We were happy to see that one of the first results was a post by Fr. Zuhlsdorf on the reissue of Ludovico Trimeloni’s Compendio di Liturgia Pratica.
Exploring this book, Fr. Z writes:
You find, in brackets – meaning that the editor interpolated this part into the text – how to do the Second Confiteor before Holy Communion of the healthy faithful present.
However, there is a footnote (#4 my translation):
" The rubrics of 1962 suppressed the Confiteor before Communion, even if it is still being recited in nearly all the communities that celebrate in the traditional rite. For completeness the rite is indicated here, in anticipation of an official pronouncement of the Holy See. "
Okay… I guess I can live with that, provided we clearly understand that the Second Confiteor, as Siffi correctly indicated, was suppressed in 1962. Thus, because the Holy See gave use of the 1962 edition and not an earlier edition, the Second Confiteor should not be done [Our emphasis]. Still, there is an ongoing tradition of doing it in many places. I am sure that the Holy See will probably say go ahead, big deal.
This is the same technique used by those who wanted Communion in the hand and also girl altar boys, but that is another matter.
For the Solemn Mass, there is no mention at all of the Second Confiteor.
Considering this evidence, Our pastor was absolutely correct that the Second Confiteor was dropped from the 1962 MR, and he was also rubrically correct to assert that the practice should be discontinued. Because Pope Benedict has given permission for the use of the 1962 MR only, this is a logical conclusion for one to reach. We find it interesting that the editor of this book, Pietro Siffi, expects there to be an official response to the question on the part of the Holy See at some future date. Since the time of Fr. Z's post in May, We have not been aware of any such clarification.
In his commentary, Fr. Z does raise an additional point, that "there is an ongoing tradition of doing it in many places." So, in light of this, how should the rubrics be reconciled with traditional customs? This subject may need a post or two all to itself. Also, can people appeal to tradition in places where the Extraordinary Form has been recently re-established? This sort of appeal, at least on the surface, seems rather tenuous to Us.
Now, some may say that this debate is rather trivial. We would argue that this is not the case because it can demonstrate the liturgical attitudes of the people involved. As Fr. Z stated, liturgical progressives have also used arguments from tradition or custom (as wacky as that sounds) to gain approval for what were once abuses (like receiving Holy Communion in the hand). Even the smallest liturgical matters ought not to be taken lightly.
To this end, until a clarification is issued by the Holy See, We conclude that it is best to abide by the rubrics of the 1962 MR and omit the Second Confiteor from the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In places where this tradition has been retained, there will, no doubt, be some resistance to this conclusion, and We are unsure of how to resolve the rubrics v. tradition question in general. We still think, however, that "say the black, do the red" is a rather strong argument.
Pius PP. XII