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Adoremus on bishops

I think Adoremus have made a good contribution in the March 2003 Bulletin.

There is considerable confusion over how ceremonies should be conducted. What is the ultimate authority? People seem to be giving three answers:

1. the liturgical books (with modifications by the Conference of Bishops)

2. the bishop of a diocese

3. the custom or practice of the people

My answer is the liturgical books. I think this is clear from the Code of Canon Law, 846:"The liturgical books, approved by the competent authority, are to be faithfully followed in the celebration of the sacraments." The decrees of promulgation of books like the Roman Missal also highlight this, saying "All things to the contrary notwithstanding."

In theory there seems to be no grounds for dispute. But in practice there are these difficulties:

- there are not yet approved English translations for two important liturgical books: Ceremonial of Bishops (Caeremoniale Episcoporum) of 1984 and Roman Missale (Missale Romanum) of 2002.

- the expense and complexity of the liturgical books

- the 2002 Roman Missal gives its authority to the bishop and to the customs of the people (in some places)

For example, should people kneel after the Lamb of God? Or should they remain standing when the priest says "This is the Lamb of God"?

According to the 2002 Roman Missal, n. 43:

"Where it is the custom that the people remain kneeling from the end of the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the priest says This is the Lamb of God, this is laudably retained."

(This is an unofficial translation I explained at romanrite.com/kneel)

This is followed by:

"For the sake of observing a uniformity in gestures and posture during the same celebration the faithful should obey the directions which the deacon or a lay person or the priest gives during the celebration, according to whatever is indicated in the liturgical books." (2000 Study Translation of USCCB BCL).

Unfortunately this does not give uniformity. It creates confusion about which standard to follow. The custom? The liturgical books? The direction of various people during the ceremony?

If instructions to a computer, in a program, were like this there would be all sorts of error messages from the conflicting instructions.

Perhaps Conferences of Bishops will clarify this with their adaptations. Perhaps there will be clearer translations. Perhaps the liturgical books will be enforced through Church tribunals. Perhaps a papal encyclical will contribute to the resolution of such issues.

The Adoremus Bulletin is encouraging because it means there is a wider recognition of these problems. Hopefully it will contribute to improvements.

An issue discussed by Adoremus is whether a diocese should follow the direction of its bishop, Arthur Tafoya:

"In addition, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal has designated the posture of standing during the Communion Rite. This means that the faithful stand when the reception of the Communion of the Faithful begins and remain standing while all in the assembly receive Communion. When the presider [sic] has returned to his chair after Communion, the faithful may kneel or sit at this time."

According to the adaptation of the US bishops, approved 17 April 2002:

"They should sit during the readings before the gospel and during the responsorial psalm, for the homily and the preparation of the gifts, and, if this seems helpful, they may sit or kneel during the period of religious silence after communion."

The question is when does the "period of religious silence after communion" begin? Adoremus Bulletin argues after an individual recieves communion. Bishop Tafoya believes it is when the presider has returned to his chair.

Clearly its wrong to say there is silence when the Communion hymn is being sung. Hymns are not silent. For people to be standing and singing is to be faithfully following the liturigical books.

What if there is no singing and so the Communion Antiphon is recited? Is it the "period of religious silence after communion" when it is finished? I don't think so. People are still receiving communion.

I think Bishop Tafoya is reasonable in his interpretation, providing a clearer point for when the period of religious silence after communion begins.

I wrote about this on 24 August 2002, quoting from the meeting when the U.S. Bishops voted on this in November 2001. The discussion on this issue concluded:

Archbishop Chaput: See, I agree with you; but I thought this was confusing so I was just asking for a clarification. So the period of silence can begin as soon as you receive, if you want to go back and sit down, or kneel.

Archbishop Lipscomb: You can sit down, or you can kneel or you can stand. That's included previously.

Was the point of the question understood? Archbishop Lipsomb could have said: "Of course the period of silence does not begin while we are singing the communion hymn." But he did not, the point did not seem to be appreciated.

It presents a difficulty. A reasonable understanding from the discussion before voting is that people could kneel as soon as they received communion. But a reasonable understanding of the adaptation voted is that people should not kneel until there is silence, until the communion hymn is finished.

I think the U.S. bishops should reconsider this wording.

In 2001 the bishops were asked to vote on changing the 2000 General Instruction. But the 2002 General Instruction was different. They should be given the opportunity to vote on adaptations for this 2002 General Instruction.

By J.R. Lilburne, 7 March 2003. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

Adoremus Bulletin March 2003

Adoremus article "Unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise"
Are there any limits to a bishop's authority to change liturgical rules?