Someone wrote to me on the question of whether or not a cleric is free to bless water according to the older form of the Roman Ritual. I wrote this verbose response:
That's a very good question. From what I observe going on these days, I would say yes, but in my own reflection I have to say that I'm not sure.
The appropriate text is SP article 9, which gives pastors permissions to use the older ritual for baptism, marriage, penance, and anointing, gives ordinaries the same permission for confirmation, and gives the ordained general permission to use the older form of the breviary. All of this suggests, and this is how folks seem to be taking it, that the so-called "EF" is not just about the form of Mass, but about the whole of the liturgy. In what sense, and for whom, this 'whole' is to be taken is the question.
On my reading, SP has two purposes. First, it serves to regularize communities (both assemblies of the lay faithful and clerical institutes) attached to the older form of the liturgy. Second, by giving every priest of the Roman rite faculties to offer the older form of Mass if he wants to (and recent follow up teaching from Ecclesia Dei has confirmed that this is all he requires), Benedict hopes for the "mutual enrichment" he calls for in the cover letter. So it would seem to me that within a clerical institute or among a group of lay faithful that habitually prays according to the 1962 MR, baptized their children according to the old ritual, etc., of course they would also bless water in this way. To me, however, the question arises not in this case, but in cases closer to our own: those of us who live and work without apology in the Novus Ordo world. To what degree can we 'mix and match', taking one thing from one ritual and another from the other according to our own tastes or the wishes of the faithful we serve.
According to SP, it's clear that we can 'mix and match' with Mass. We can offer Mass according to the 2002 MR--may our English translation come speedily!--today, and then offer Mass according to the 1962 MR tomorrow. Even more, I think we are all called to learn it at least a little bit, because the Holy Father has given the faithful the right to demand it, at least for their weddings and funerals if not habitually. Talk about lay empowerment!
But what about 'mix and match' with the liturgy apart from Mass, according to the desires of the faithful or according to my own? Because the ritual is so much richer, can I bless holy water in the morning according to the older ritual, but then use the Book of Blessings to bless a new car in the afternoon, because I don't want the person to laugh when I start talking about eunuchs and chariots? If a traddy adopts me as his confessor, can I use the older form of penance with him without bringing it up with my pastor? Though I habitually use the newer Liturgia Horarum or one of its local translations for praying the Divine Office, can I substitute an hour from the older Roman Breviary just because I like it or because it fits better in my book bag? Again, from how I see folks behaving as we enter into this new world of two forms of one rite, I would say yes to all of these. But on the other hand, because it seems to me that the questions of the inter-relationship of these things has not been worked out yet, I'm not sure.
The most striking thing to me about the whole business is how postmodern it is, this suggestion that there can be manifold forms/expressions of a single rite. This, among other things, is why I think it a shallow critique of Benedict to say that he is trying to go backwards.
I also think that part of the problem has to do with publishing. When someone says, "Roman Ritual," folks usually think of the older form, simply because there is no longer any such single object. The ritual is now published in many parts, some of which don't even get translated or locally published, (e.g. rite of major exorcism, the martyrology, etc.) Even some priests are unaware that there is even such a thing as the "Roman Ritual" in modern form, because they have never read the title pages of their ritual books, if they have read them at all.
In the end, it would seem that we enjoy at least the benefit of the doubt, so if you want to bless water with the older ritual, rock on.
I know this is a very long answer to a 'yes or no' question, but it's a quiet Sunday afternoon, it's crappy out, I'm home alone with half of the power out in the house, and you know how I live for this stuff.