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NCR on Liturgy

Tom Roberts advocates disobeying liturgical laws in the National Catholic Reporter of 29 November 2002. He encourages deceptive behaviour and, I think, insults Italians in the process.

He concludes the article:

"Italians -- important to understand because the new code had come from that environment -- like to have good laws, but having fashioned the law, they then say, "Now we'll make an arrangement. We'll find a way around it."

So, be more Roman than the Romans. Applaud the blizzard of new rules issuing from the Vatican. And make some arrangements."

I agree with his observations about there being many places were the rubrics are not followed. But while I deplore it, he sees it as encouraging:

"I don't mean to suggest that one should simply dismiss anything that comes from Rome, or that liturgy and the rules governing worship should not come under scrutiny or discussion. But the rules governing whether a priest can bless a child in the Communion line or when and to whom a priest can give a kiss of peace or who can or can't clean Communion vessels and about kneeling and standing, as if the faith and the life of the community depended upon them, simply seem irrelevant. They can cause enormous upset and even conflict at the local level if you let them."

How do you avoid people being upset? Make up your own rules? Tell a few lies? Promote ignorance? Such an approach is disastrous for the Catholic Church.

At least Kathleen Kichline's article recognises the importance of the liturgical laws. But she makes a mistake in her reporting:


"Passages from the General Instruction that are the most controversial include: ...

There is even the directive to extraordinary ministers of holy Communion that "the blessing of children or infants should not be encouraged while distributing Communion.""

The sentence is not in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Using google.com it is easy to see that it comes from the educational material of the USCCB (at http://www.nccbuscc.org/liturgy/girm/lit4.htm). I agree with their interpretation. Since there is no instruction to bless during communion, it should not happen. My point is that the National Catholic Reporter condemns Rome for a sentence that it did not make.

John Allen's article concludes:

"Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala., told NCR that while the new general instruction will technically take effect as soon as the Vatican gives it formal approval, it will be up to individual bishops to decide when their dioceses have been sufficiently prepared to implement the changes it requires."

My view is that the Roman Missal took effect when it was published in Latin in March 2002. I see no justification for liturgical laws requiring an approved translation to take effect. Nor, it seems, does Bishop Gregory, with decree on the US adaptations of 25 April 2002:

"... In accord with the approval of these norms and following the confirmation of this action by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on April 17, 2002 (Prot. 1381/01/L), they are hereby published as particular law for all Latin celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy in the dioceses of the United States of America.

This decree is effective immediately. ..."

But Archbishop Lipscomb seems to have gone further: an individual bishop can decide not to implement the changes made, whenever they do become effective. For example, the 2002 Roman Missal has to stand and say: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hand ...". But Archbishop Lipscomb thinks its OK for the bishop to decide when to implement the change (from sitting, to standing).

Why? According to Canon 846: "The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments." This is what everyone should do, regardless of what the bishop thinks about whether the diocese has been sufficiently prepared.

Today in Melbourne Archbishop Hart directed us to "Please sit" for the Kyrie. I think the change from sitting to standing for this was made in 1970. What would Archbishop Lipscombe say? Dispite 32 years he can decide the cathedral congregation is not yet ready for such a change?

I believe Cardinal George has now replaced Archbishop Lipscomb as Chairman of the USCCB Bishops Committee for the Liturgy. Hopefully this will lead to a more effective implementation of the 2002 Roman Missal.

By J.R. Lilburne, 1 December 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

National Catholic Reporter Articles:

Kathleen Kichline "Footnotes that determine history" 15 November

Tom Roberts "Inside NCR" 29 November

John Allen "Liturgy debate ends in wimper not bang" 29 November

Bishop Gregory's US Adaptations decree of 25 April 2002