About John Lilburne



On 28 May 2004 the Vatican published the lineamenta for the 2005 Synod of Bishops. This is planned for 2-29 October 2005 on the theme "The Eucharist, source and culmination of the life and mission of the Church."

There have been reports about this document. John Thavis of Catholic News Service wrote about it on 10 May "Vatican's synod outline takes aim at rules on reception of Communion". John Allen of National Catholic Reporter wrote about it on 21 May.

My Answers to the Questions of 17 June 2004

The lineamenta ends with 20 questions for bishops to respond to. I do not have the information that a bishop has about his diocese. So I have taken a more personal approach to the issues raised.

1. The Eucharist in the Life of the Church: What importance does the celebration of the Eucharist have in the life of your community and that of the individual believer? What is the frequency of participation at Mass on Sundays? On weekdays? On the major feast days of the liturgical year? Could you supply statistics–even approximate–in this regard?

I think attending the 52 Sundays of the year is the practice of a minority of baptised Catholics in Australia. Throughout my life I have attended when it has not conflicted with work commitments. I had six years in the Army Reserve and eight years in the Royal Australian Navy, so there have been many Sundays when I have not participated in Mass.

I attended Mass on almost every weekday while at Corpus Christi College seminary in Melbourne from March 1999 to June 2000. For about six months after that I continued to participate in daily Mass at the cathedral.

On Monday 14 June 2004 I refused to participate in Mass with group doing a course because I was not being allowed to participate properly. I was instituted as lector by Archbishop George Pell on 27 February 2000. I believe I should have proclaimed the first reading (2002 GIRM 99, 101). I deliberate decision was made by those planning the ceremony that I should not, that a girl should. I had been able to organise to read with them on the Friday and Saturday. So I felt this left me with little choice but to make myself absent from the group.

On Sundays at the cathedral I am not permitted to proclaim the readings. Instead readers who have not been instituted do this. I feel required to attend by the Church precept, even though I am not able to participate properly.

But I am now starting to feel guilty about participating in Mass on a day when I am not obliged to, when I am not able to participate properly.

2. Eucharistic Doctrine and Formation: What attempts are being made to transmit the teaching on the Eucharist, whole and entire, to your community and the individual believer? Specifically, how are The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 1322-1419, and the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia De Eucharistia being utilized by priests, deacons, consecrated persons and the laity involved in pastoral work? In what way is the formation of faith in the Eucharist being ensured in initial catechesis? In homilies? In the programs of ongoing formation for priests, permanent deacons, and seminarians? Of consecrated persons? Of the laity?

I do not think there are problems with the doctrine being taught about the Eucharist. I think it is a regular and major part of the work being done by priests, deacons, consecrated persons and the laity involved in pastoral work.

3. The Understanding of the Eucharistic Mystery: What is the prevailing idea on the Eucharist among priests and the faithful of your community: sacrifice?, memorial of the Paschal Mystery?, the precept of Sunday Mass?, fraternal meal?, act of adoration? Other....? Practically speaking, is any one of these ideas prevalent? If so, what is the reason.

To suggest another prevailing idea: social gathering of the community.

I think the precept and sacrifice a major influences in my thinking.

4. The Shadows in the Celebration of the Eucharist: In the Encyclical Letter Ecclesia De Eucharistia (n. 10) the Holy Father mentions “shadows” in the celebration of the Eucharist. What are the negative aspects (abuses, misunderstandings) existing in Eucharistic worship? What elements or actions done in practice can obscure the profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery? What is the cause of such a disorienting situation for the faithful?
To try and list all the negative aspects is difficult.

I think the most frequent abuse is failure to follow 2002 GIRM 275a "A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honour Mass is being celebrated." But this did not even rate a mention in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum.

What is the cause of the problems? An important part is that the rules in the liturgical books are unclear. For example 2002 GIRM n. 43 "they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed." When does this period of sacred silence begin? After an individual receives Communion? After all receive Communion? When the Communion hymn stops and there is silence?

The 1984 Caeremoniale Episcoporum does not include lectors in the list of people to be in the entrance procession (n. 128). The 1975 Roman Missal did. So does the 2002 Roman Missal. But according to the 2002 GIRM 112 for Mass with a bishop the Caeremoniale Episcoporum is to be followed. Is the intention that lectors be in the entrance procession when a priest presides, but not when a bishop does? There seems to be no logical reason for this.

The 2002 GIRM 195 has after the entrance procession: "Then the lector take his own place in the sanctuary with the other ministers."
The Caeremoniale Episcoporum does not direct otherwise, but does not explain how the lector gets there. I rarely see the lector sitting in the sanctuary, whether watching the Midnight Mass at the Vatican on TV or attending churches in Australia.

The 2002 Roman Missal rewrites the Apostle's Creed to begin "Credo in unum Deum" (Order of Mass, n. 19) instead of "Credo in Deum" of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 199. Is the change intentional? Why has this not been clarified? Who has the authority to correct it?

There are difficulties in understanding the instructions in the liturgical books. Instead of providing simple instructions on what is to be done there is a vast amount of doctrinal material mixed in with the instructions. Instead of providing one book, there are many. Instead of having one type of Mass there are different instructions for Mass with one minister, a bishop, and children.

Sometimes instructions are very clear, but not followed. For example "Genuflection in the presence of the blessed sacrament exposed for public adoration is on one knee" (Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 1103). The Latin text in Caeremoniale Episcoporum is "Coram Sacramento publicae adorationi exposito, unico genu flectitur." Instead of following this instruction to have one knee bent, most people bend both, a special "double genuflection".

According to "Liturgical Question Box" by Msgr. Peter Elliott: "In Australia, the bishops decided to retain the double genuflection, and Rome confirmed their decision, so it is still required in that country." (page 65). There is evidence of a decision by the Australian bishops in 1975 that "That the double genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament exposed be retained in Australia". However I have not been able to find evidence of the necessary Vatican approval of this decision. However there is no sign of Vatican disapproval either.

Since the publication of the latest Roman Missal in 2002 there has been considerable confusion about which instructions are current. Bishop Kevin Manning, of Parramatta, is chairman of the Bishops Committee for Liturgy in Australia. According to the diocesan newspaper Catholic Outlook of June 2004 he is a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

He wrote about the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal in the October 2003 Catholic Outlook

"There will be changes, but there will be no changes until the Instruction is formally promulgated and the Bishops of Australia decide on the date for the implementation of the General Instruction throughout Australia."

So about 18 months after these instructions have been published in Latin, this bishop is saying they are not to be implemented. I do not believe there is justification in Canon law or the liturgical books for not following the Vatican's instructions about liturgy. On 31 October 2000, Archbishop Tamburrino, then secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote:

"The Institutio Generalis will have force of law at the moment when the promulgation of the abovementioned edition of the Missale Romanum appears in its third Latin edition along with the promulgating decree, any vacatio legis being specified at that time." (See Newsletter of US BCL November 2000)

The delay and surprise changes of the 2002 GIRM, compared to the 2000 GIRM, did not help this cause. Nothing was done in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum to clarify which liturgical book is current, the 1975 Roman Missal or the 2002 Roman Missal.

Bishop Manning wrote at the end the November 2003 Catholic Outlook: "No longer are people to sit or stand during the Eucharistic Prayer once the new General Instruction comes into force."

The message given is that now it is OK for people to sit during the Eucharistic Prayer. No liturgical book directs this. No decision has been made by the Australian Conference of Bishops for this. It is clearly a liturgical abuse. Yet Bishop Manning seems to allow it on the grounds that there is not yet an approved translation of the 2002 GIRM in Australia.

The liturgical books make it clear that everyone should be standing for the Gloria. Yet Sunday after Sunday, at the 11.00 am Mass at the Melbourne Cathedral, Archbishop Denis Hart sits for it. I remain standing while priests, altar servers and the rest of the congregation sit.

Bishops have enormous power in their diocese. They control budgets and appointments. The most powerful bishop is the pope. I think John Allen identified the problem in his National Catholic Reporter article of 9 August 2002:

"... Anyone who follows the Vatican knows that one of its most protracted internal tensions is between Bishop Piero Marini, responsible for the papal liturgies, and Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, who runs the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The latter makes the rules; the former sets the tone through what happens when the pope himself celebrates. Medina tends toward a traditionalist, by-the-book stance, while Marini is more reform-minded. 

     "The Mexican celebrations, with their unapologetic embrace of elements of native worship, reflected the Marini imprint. But the $64,000 question is, whose side is John Paul II on? He signs Medina’s documents and yet celebrates Marini’s liturgies, so some accuse him of trying to have it both ways. ... "

If John Paul II does not have instituted lectors proclaiming readings at his Masses it makes a mockery of the instructions in the Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 31 "... But in celebrations presided over by the bishop it is fitting that readers formally instituted proclaim the readings ...".

So if bishops are not following the liturgical books it is no surprise that priests, deacons, seminarians and lay people are not following them. The seminarians are given time to study the liturgical books, but learn that the way to ordination is not to accuse those in authority of failing to follow them. The seminary staff learn to that to keep their appointments it is best to do what their bishop does.

5. The Eucharistic Celebration and Liturgical Norms: In an attempt to be personal and avant-garde, do priests manifest any attitudes in their celebration of Mass which are explicitly or implicitly contrary to the liturgical norms established by the Catholic Church (cf. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, Chapter IV; Instruction for Applying the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches)? In your estimation, what are the underlying reasons for such behaviour? What elements or actions during the celebration of Holy Mass, and also in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass, according to their respective norms and dispositions, should receive attention so as to highlight the profound sense of this great Mystery of the faith hidden in the gift of the Eucharist?

What do you mean by "implicitly contrary to the liturgical norms established by the Catholic Church"? From the Australian Oxford Dictionary, "implicit ... implied though not plainly expressed". How can something be contrary to the liturgical norms if they have not been plainly expressed? I have difficulty seeing how a billion people can agree on a liturgical norm that is not explicitly stated in the liturgical books.

Russell Shaw wrote about the problem of "encouraging the idea that there are no unbreakable rules or inviolable truths in regard to liturgy or anything else".

Why has the language changed from "liturgical laws" (of Vatican II and Ceremonial of Bishops, n. 34) to "liturgical norms"? Norms suggest customary behaviour or practices. If people are not following the customary behaviour, perhaps it is because that behaviour is not in accord with the explicit liturgical laws.

Why will one priest in a dicoese break more liturgical laws than another? Perhaps it is failing to understand the laws. Perhaps they are quicker to recognise what their bishop wants. Perhaps it is their personality and development. Perhaps they are less concerned about how God will view violations of their Oath of Fidelity. Perhaps they tend to view things as "my celebration" rather than the "whole Church's celebration".

I believe the role of lay ministers is the most important in the celebration of Holy Mass, and also in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass. When the monstrance is used there should be incense from the thurible. For Mass someone should pour water on the priest's hands. So there should be at least one altar server with the priest. This makes a team, highlighting the need for common rules.

6. The Sacrament of the Eucharist and The Sacrament of Penance: Conversion is necessary to participate fully in partaking of the Eucharist. What is the faithful’s understanding of the relationship between the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist? Holy Mass is also the celebration of salvation from sin and death. For the return of sinners, above all on Sundays, what is provided so that the faithful can celebrate the Sacrament of Penance in time to participate in the Eucharist? Do Christian communities often display a casual approach to receiving Holy Communion or do they unjustifiably refrain from receiving it? What is being done to assist the faithful to discern if they have the proper dispositions to approach this great Sacrament?

I cannot recall ever seeing the Sacrament of Penance scheduled for a Sunday.

I think there is considerable confusion about the Church's position on who should receive Holy Communion.

7. The Sacred Character of the Eucharist: The Eucharist is the mystery of the Real Presence of God-among-us; at the same time, it is an unfathomable mystery. How should its sacred character be acknowledged? How do priests and the faithful manifest this sacred character in their celebration of Holy Mass on Sundays, weekdays, and major feast days and at other liturgical times during the year? What cultural attitudes and practices obscure this sacred character?

I suppose the point being made by the questions about a "sacred character" is that things should be exclusive dedicated to God. Mass is normally celebrated in a church, the parish priest can give permission for a home Mass, it should not be celebrated in a hospital room. But there can be tensions between this expense of things being exclusively used for God and the Church's mission to evangelize the world.

8. Holy Mass and the Celebration of the Word: In parishes awaiting a priest, how widespread is the practice of celebrating the Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of the Eucharist, over which a lay person or Eucharistic minister often presides? What specific formation do those responsible receive? Are the faithful able to understand the difference between such celebrations and Holy Mass? Do they have an adequate knowledge of the distinction between an ordained and non-ordained minister?

The terminology of the question has become incorrect. You mean the practice of an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion "leading" the celebration. (Not "presiding" since according to the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 165 "Nor is it ever appropriate to refer to any member of the lay faithful as “presiding” over the celebration.")

It is rare in the Melbourne archdiocese, but quite common in the Ballarat diocese.

A feature of the liturgical books should immediately enable people to distinguish the beginning of Mass from the beginning of the a Word/Communion service. The Mass begins with the sign of the cross, the Word/Communion service does not. (See Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, n. 26). But in practice this is not always followed. Nevertheless I think the difference is clear enough.

There is little problem in the distinction between and ordained and non-ordained minister. But there is enormous ignorance about the distinction between instituted ministers and other lay ministers. Little is done to educate people about instituted lectors and acolytes, or to encourage them to practice their ministry. In fact I have seen considerable effort to achieve the opposite.

A distinguishing feature for an instituted acolyte is that they are able to cleanse the liturgical vessels. (2002 GIRM 192). To help preserve this distinction other lay ministers should not be permitted to do this.

9. The Eucharist and the Other Sacraments: To what measure and with what criteria are the other sacraments celebrated during Holy Mass? When the sacraments and sacramentals are celebrated during Holy Mass (Matrimony, Funerals, Baptisms, etc.) with non-practising Catholics, non-Catholics and unbelievers present, what steps are taken to avoid a casual attitude or even carelessness towards the Eucharist?

Often non-Catholics are encouraged to join the Communion procession to receive a blessing instead. I do not see this as justified by any of the instructions in the liturgical books.

10. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: Have the faithful in your parishes preserved faith in the Lord’s Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Eucharist? Do they have a clear understanding of the gift of the Lord’s Real Presence? Do situations exist in Eucharistic Liturgies or the Worship of the Eucharist which might lead to a diminished regard for the Real Presence. If so, what might be the reasons?

Yes, generally I think there is a clear understanding of the Real Presence.

Practices leading to a diminished regard include those of slack security and having exposition without people present.

11. Eucharistic Devotion: Does the Worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament have a due place in parish life and communities? What importance do pastors give to adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament? To Perpetual Adoration? To Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament? To personal prayer before the tabernacle? To processions on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ? To Eucharistic devotion in parish missions?

Obviously different pastors will give different emphasis to this adoration.

A valid reason in Australia for not practicing Benediction is that it is rarely done according to the published liturgical book. Divine Praises and double genuflections are not in the liturgical books, but are nearly always practised.

12.Holy Mass and the Liturgical-Devotional Life: Do the faithful understand the difference between Holy Mass and other devotional practices like the Liturgy of the Hours, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals outside of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, processions, etc.? How is the substantial difference shown between Eucharistic celebration and other liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations?

Yes, I think the difference is understood. The morning and evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours is celebrated daily in two of Melbourne's inner city churches.

13. Dignity at Eucharistic Celebrations: Is attention given in your Churches to the liturgical environment for Eucharistic celebrations? What is the artistic-architectural setting in which the Eucharistic liturgy is celebrated both on solemn occasions and on weekdays? Do the surroundings give a clear indication that the Eucharistic banquet is truly a “sacred” banquet (Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 48)? How frequently and for what pastoral reasons is Mass celebrated outside of this place of worship?

I think the liturgical environment receives a high priority. It is quite rare to have a different chapel for weekdays to Sunday. There are Masses for people camping, home Masses and Masses in nursing homes. Some communities are allowed separate places to emphasis their distinction as a community, for example the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

14.The Eucharist and Inculturation: To what measure must attention be given to inculturation in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist so as to avoid a misunderstood creativity which leads to peculiar and strange practices. What criteria are followed in inculturation? In the Latin Church, are the norms proposed in the Instruction De Liturgia Romana et Inculturazione given adequate consideration? What is the experience of the Eastern Churches in the inculturation of the Eucharist?

I am not aware of much work on seeking approval for such changes using this Instruction. I think the focus is on approval for the adaptations by Conferences of Bishops, which is discussed in the 2002 Roman Missal.

15.The Eschatological Aspect of the Eucharist: Is the eschatological aspect of the Eucharist given sufficient emphasis in catechesis, in ongoing formation, in homiletics and in liturgical celebration? In what way is the eschatological tension flowing from the Eucharist present in pastoral life? How does the celebration of Mass manifest “the Communion of Saints,” a foretaste of the eschatological reality?

I think it is given sufficient emphasis.

16.The Eucharist, Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and the Sects: Considering the ideas on the Eucharist held by our separated brothers and sisters in the West and the challenges of other religions and the sects, how is the mystery of the Most Blessed Sacrament preserved and presented in its entirety, so as not to cause confusion or misunderstanding among the faithful, particularly at ecumenical and interreligious meetings?

I am confused by the question. Generally the approach at ecumenical and interreligious gatherings is to have a Liturgy of the Word, not the Eucharist.

17.The Eucharist and Ecclesial “Intercommunion”: “The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be the starting-point for communion” (Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 35). How are the norms of intercommunion applied (cf. The Code of Canon Law, canon 844)? Are the faithful aware of the norm that a Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist in communities which do not have the Sacrament of Orders (cf. Ecclesia De Eucharistia, 46)?

I think this area is considered fairly obscure and does not receive a high priority.

18.The Eucharist and the Moral Life: The Eucharist provides growth in the moral life of the Christian. What do the faithful believe about the necessity of sacramental grace for living according to the Spirit and becoming saints? What do the faithful think about the relation between the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and other aspects of the Christian life: personal sanctification, moral obligations, fraternal charity, the construction of an earthly society, etc.?

The shadows in the celebration of the Eucharist means there are some discouraging moral messages coming from it. If the priest is not following the rules, if the community are not following the rules, why should I follow the rules?

19.The Eucharist and Mission: The Eucharist is also a gift for mission. Are the faithful aware that the Sacrament of the Eucharist leads to the mission they have to fulfill in the world, according to their state in life?

There is no doubt that how Mass is celebrated will have considerable effect on people's enthusiasm for mission and whether the continue to participate in the Eucharist.

20. More on the Eucharist: What other aspects of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, not contained in the preceding questions, should be considered in preparing the Instrumentum laboris which will be discussed during the synodal assembly?

I think the liturgical role of instituted lectors and acolytes in the Eucharist should be highlighted and promoted. The focus could be on questions like "What are seminarians taught about their continued commitment to the ministries of instituted acolyte and lector if they leave the seminary? What is done to encourage instituted lectors and acolytes to be faithful to their ministry? What mechanisms are used for identifying instituted lectors and acolytes when they travel and move between dioceses?"

By J.R. Lilburne, 1 June, 2004. Updated 17 June 2004. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.

Other sites:

Lineamenta at vatican.va

Vatican's publication announcement

John Thavis 10 May 2004

John Allen 21 May