May Deacons Use the 1962 Blessings?

Following upon recent posts, I have received several comments and emails from deacons, asking if they may use the blessings contained in the 1962 Rituale Romanum.

I have declined to post these comments or answer them privately because it is a topic that I simply have not had much time to research.

I know what the Code of Canon Law says: c. 1169 § 3 A deacon can impart only those blessings expressly permitted by law.

So you can see that the grant given to deacons is already very narrow, even within the newer liturgical books. A deacon would need to go through the present Book of Blessings to see which blessings are expressly indicated as possible for him to impart in it. I don’t have time to do that research. In any case, this post about adding the sign of cross to blessings when using the Book of Blessings is important for all deacons, priests, and bishops to reviewMany still seem unaware of this directive.

To the above canon from the Code of Canon Law, I can add the following norms from the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae on the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, which bring further clarity:

24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they are. All those who wish to celebrate according to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite must know the pertinent rubrics and are obliged to follow them correctly.

27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.

28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.

35. The use of the Pontificale Romanum, the Rituale Romanum, as well as the Caeremoniale Episcoporum in effect in 1962, is permitted, in keeping with n. 28 of this Instruction, and always respecting n. 31 of the same Instruction.

I boldfaced that word “derogates” in no. 28, because I do believe it was the case that subsequent to 1962, there were some developments to the rubrics that did allow some blessings to be done by deacons. So those permission have been walked back. Universae Ecclesiae “reset” some things. I don’t have references to the post-1962 documents ready to hand.

There was, however, legislation prior to 1962 that clarified that deacons could do certain things. Fr. Daniel Gill compiled a helpful post in this regard back in 2014.

All of that said, the general outcome would seem to be that deacons may not impart most of the blessings contained in the 1962 Rituale Romanum. This would include the fact that a deacon may not use the traditional exorcism and blessing of a medal of St. Benedict. As I concluded in that post, however, there are still some gray areas, and it is to be hoped that clarity will eventually be given by the Holy See.

This clarity would hopefully come in the way of newly-issued liturgical books for the rites of 1962, fully updated in accord with present canon law and any additional concessions that the Holy See may wish to make for the sake of order within the contemporary Church. For example, certain numbers of Universae Ecclesiae already pointed toward possible developments, such as in number 25. Moreover, some further clarity could be given to what may or may not be done in the vernacular, specifically. And it would be helpful if new English translations were issued of those sacramentals and elements of sacrament rituals that may be done in the vernacular, since the English translations that come down to us in the reprints of 1962 books are often a bit shaky.

I do not know anyone who works in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, so I have no special insights into any timelines for the above; my sense is that things are more or less in a state of inertia at present with regard to further developments to the 1962 books. Anyone, of course, is always free to write a letter submitting some dubium or another to the Congregation, but experience would suggest that the answers received can also be inconsistent and, except for matters of great import, are often given as “private” answers not having a normative value.

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