About John Lilburne


Standing 24 Jan 03

Letter to Archbishop Hart on Standing


Sitting for Choir

(2 February 2003) Today Archbishop Hart directed the congregation to sit for the Kyrie and Gloria at the 11.00 am Mass at the Melbourne Cathedral.

He stood last week and the week before. The week before that the new Dean stood. The week before the out going Dean stood.

So why the difference today? The choir was back.

Archbishop Hart made the connection explicit. From memory he said something along the lines of: "For this and future choral arrangements of the Kyrie and Gloria, please sit."

In previous weeks there has been a cantor leading the Gloria. But with the choir the Archbishop directs a different posture.

I see no justification for a change in posture.

According to the Roman Missal:

"43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the opening song or when the priest enters until the end of the opening prayer or collect;"

The Gloria is near the beginning of Mass, before the Opening Prayer. The point is made particularly clearly in the Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 135:

"During the Gloria all stand."

The posture can be changed. But not by an individual bishop. Not even by a Conference of Bishops. From the 2000 Roman Missal Study Translation:

"390 It is up to the Conferences of Bishops, once their acts have been given the recognito of the Apostolic See, to define for introduction into the Missal itself the adaptations which are indicated in this General Institutio and in the Order of Mass, such as:
- the gestures and posture of the faithful (see nos. 24, 43);"

I doubt that a conference or the Apostolic See would approve: "When a cantor sings, stand for the Gloria; when a choir sings, sit for the Gloria."

The Vatican regularly emphasises Canon 846:

"The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments. Accordingly, no on may on a personal initiative add to or omit or alter anything in those books."

For a bishop there is Canon 392:

"1. Since the Bishop must defend the unity of the universal Church, he is bound to foster the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.

2. He is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the cult of the saints, and the administration of goods."

So why does Archbishop Hart change from standing to sitting with the choir there?

Here is my speculation on a possible factor. He feels a loyalty to the choir, which he was part of as a boy. He wants the choir to be popular and appreciated. He feels that people standing while the choir sings long versions of the Gloria will be unpopular. Following the liturgical books is not seen as important as this.

I disagree. For me the importance of the books and unity is greater. If the versions of the Gloria are judged too long for standing, then they should not be used in the Mass.

If an archbishop feels that using long versions, (that requires sitting) should be used then he could authorise the use of the 1962 Roman Missal for those who want to continue this. But he should not change from what is directed in the current Roman Missal.

By J.R. Lilburne, 2 February 2003. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Melbourne Archdiocese site:

Director of Music and Cathedral Musicians

Cathedral Choir