Many reports about the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum say that it does not change liturgical law.
I am pleased that Father Edward McNamara has written about changes in his Zenit article of 4 May 2004. He is professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.
Material for Sacred Vessels
The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) discussed the material for sacred vessels, including the chalice and paten.
In n. 328 it has "Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal." But in n. 329 it explains that Conferences of Bishops, in Acts approved by the Apostolic See, can allow other materials.
It has "Hoc in casu, praeferantur semper materiae quae facile non frangantur neque corrumpantur." The 2000 Study Translation for this was: "In such cases, preference is always to be given to materials that do not break easily or deteriorate."
Examples allowed were given, "ebony and other hard woods". Examples of what was prohibited were not given.
The 2004 Instruction changes this: "Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily."
Instead of a preference against materials that break easily there is now a clear prohibition of vessels made from glass, earthenware or clay.
Consecration in Chalices
On 22 March 2002 the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments gave approval for "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America". These norms were to be inserted in the U.S.A. translation of the Roman Missal, "All things to the contrary notwithstanding."
These norms included:
"At the Breaking of the Bread
"37. As the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God is begun, the bishop or priest alone, or with the assistance of the deacon, and if necessary of concelebrating priests, breaks the eucharistic bread.
"Other empty chalices and ciboria or patens are then brought to the altar is this is necessary. The deacon or priest places the consecrated bread in several ciboria or patens and, if necessary, pours the Precious Blood into enough additional chalices as are required for the distribution of Holy Communion. If it is not possible to accomplish this distribution in a reasonable time, the celebrant may call upon the assistance of other deacons or concelebrating priests. This action is usually carried out at the altar, so that the sharing of all from the one cup is signified; in the case of large assemblies, it may be done at the side table within the sanctuary (presbyterium)."
The clear intention was to have the wine consecrated in one chalice and then distributed into other chalices.
The 2004 Instruction now prohibits this:
"[106.] However, the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery. Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms."
Clearly this is a change in liturgical law.
But Cardinal George, for example, wrote in his column of 9 May 2004, that Redemptionis Sacramentum "does not contain new legislation but gives guidance on liturgical laws already in effect." This suggests that priests in his dicoese who were distributing the consecrated wine into chalices were breaking liturgical laws. They were not. The laws have changed.
Update on Cardinal George 20 May 2004
On 19 May 2004 it was reported that Cardinal George had written to Cardinal Arinze about this issue on 27 April. Cardinal Arinze's responsed on 6 May with a modification of the US Norms. The publicity, now being given to this, is commendable. Articles are at:
By J.R. Lilburne, 10 May, 2004. Updated 20 May 2004. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.
Update 20 May 2004: