14 March 2007

16 reasons for unhappy trads to read Sacramentum Caritatis carefully

Many trads in the Blogosphere have been disappointed in the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation, mainly because it didn't say what they wanted it to say. I'd prefer to see it as the next correction, after the Address to the Roman Curia of 22 December 2005, to the course of the Petrine Barque.

My thesis is that the Holy Father a) wants evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, change; b) is boxing liberal Bishops into a corner they have made for themselves, because this document is a response to what the Synod of Bishops said it wanted him to say; and c) has a deliberate agenda of carrying out what Vatican II said, rather than accepting what has been done "in the spirit of Vatican II".

In this light, try the following extracts from Sacramentum Caritatis:

(Para 3) Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities. (From the footnote: I am referring here to the need for a hermeneutic of continuity also with regard to the correct interpretation of the liturgical development which followed the Second Vatican Council.)

(Para 21) Finally, a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead, can be helpful for a renewed appreciation of the relationship between the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

(Para 23) Priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality.

(Para 35) Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.

(Para 38) The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio. The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness; indeed, for two thousand years this way of celebrating has sustained the faith life of all believers, called to take part in the celebration as the People of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

(Para 39) It is his responsibility to ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking place in his territory. Consequently the Bishop must be "determined that the priests, the deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more deeply the genuine meaning of the rites and liturgical texts, and thereby be led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist". I would ask that every effort be made to ensure that the liturgies which the Bishop celebrates in his Cathedral are carried out with complete respect for the ars celebrandi, so that they can be considered an example for the entire Diocese.

(Para 40) The ars celebrandi should foster a sense of the sacred and the use of outward signs which help to cultivate this sense, such as, for example, the harmony of the rite, the liturgical vestments, the furnishings and the sacred space. The eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms, making available the great riches found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the Order of Readings for Mass. Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case.

(Para 41) Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty. Special respect and care must also be given to the vestments, the furnishings and the sacred vessels, so that by their harmonious and orderly arrangement they will foster awe for the mystery of God, manifest the unity of the faith and strengthen devotion

(Para 42) Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided.

(Para 46) Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. Hence ordained ministers must "prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture". Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided.

(Para 53) The active participation of the laity does not benefit from the confusion arising from an inability to distinguish, within the Church's communion, the different functions proper to each one. There is a particular need for clarity with regard to the specific functions of the priest. He alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests, presides over the entire eucharistic celebration, from the initial greeting to the final blessing. In virtue of his reception of Holy Orders, he represents Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, and, in a specific way, also the Church herself.

(Para 56) We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

(Para 62) Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant.

(Para 64) A mystagogical catechesis must also be concerned with presenting the meaning of the signs contained in the rites. This is particularly important in a highly technological age like our own, which risks losing the ability to appreciate signs and symbols. More than simply conveying information, a mystagogical catechesis should be capable of making the faithful more sensitive to the language of signs and gestures which, together with the word, make up the rite.

(Para 66) During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church's experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy.

(Para 73) For the sake of these important values – while recognizing that Saturday evening, beginning with First Vespers, is already a part of Sunday and a time when the Sunday obligation can be fulfilled – we need to remember that it is Sunday itself that is meant to be kept holy, lest it end up as a day "empty of God.


Moretben said...


A very good selection.

I agree that if one can get over Para 3 (and it's a big "if", at every level)there are some good things, particularly the extended theological theme.

I'm not dismayed by the absence of this or that; in that respect my expectations have neither been exceeded nor disappointed. What I find very difficult to swallow is paragraph 3. I really did think Pope Benedict would spare us the "glories of the Revolution" stuff, considering everything he's written in the past.

As for the "hermeneutic of continuity", I'll say it again: the discontinuity in the historical development of the rite has already been introduced - enforced, in fact, by the Papacy,. We cannot simply theorise that away, or pretend it hasn't happened. Until continuity is reasserted in fact this approach is all but completely meaningless. Its credibility and coherence requires "the motu proprio"; without it, the whole document will have been strangled in the cradle by the preceding sentences of Para 3.

Ttony said...

I agree that the Motu Proprio will have to come very soon so that it can be seen in the context of Sacramentum Caritatis (and, perhaps, vice versa).

There are other straws in the wind, though: the Institute of the Good Shepherd's being set up in part to carry out a serious critical look at Vatican II, for example; Cardinal Arinze's increasingly forthright comments (is it just me or does he seem to spend a lot of time in the UK and the US?); the increased willingness (for whatever reason) of Bishops in the UK to allow Indult Masses.

HH the P is extremely politically astute: he didn't spend more than 20 years in the Curia by not learning how to make the Vatican machine work for him. He is also extremely feline in his approach: don't look for extravagant gestures. My bet is that the next big course correction will come in the autumn or winter, and will be something involving the Congregation for Bishops, whether or not Cardinal Re's position as its Head is called into question or not.

Coraggio, pazienza e perseveranza, amico mio: the Avignon Captivity lasted 68 years; Arianism lasted even longer.

Londiniensis said...

TTony, To your excellent selection I might also have added the admonitions on personal confession (para 21) and on participation not being synonymous with external activity (para 52).

I am not so chary of para 3. I may well be deceiving myself, but I think that para 3 is very subtly worded - for instance, all the positives on the new liturgy are ascribed to the Synod Fathers, and not written in the first person.

Pope Benedict is undoubtedly the right man to get us out of the current mess, but even given the best of health and an iron constitution he will not be around for 68 years. And this makes many impatient with the softly-softly approach, even if it may be the best one.

Az said...

In the long term, the "softly-softly" approach may secure the election of one of his proteges to the Chair of Peter (most likely an Italian, certainly a European), and thus continue the Catholic renaissance.