10 May 2015

S Thomas on Concelebration

S Thomas Aquinas, as his custom was, covers pretty well most of the problems of late C20 Christianity ... Ordination of women; Concelebration ... and does so in a neat formulaic way. First, he crisply formulates an erroneous opinion; then disposes of it with Respondeo.

So first he states a propositio sometimes advanced in neo-traditionalist circles: That many priests cannot consecrate one and the same Host. He disposes of this - he was a good Catholic - by pointing to what the Church does. "According to the custom of a number of Churches the newly ordained concelebrate". The problem of rogue concelebrants Jumping The Gun he disposes of in exactly the same way as Pope Innocent III (see previous post) had done: "And it is not true that by this the consecration over the same Host is doubled; since, as Innocent III says, the intention of all must be referred (ferri) to the same instant of Consecration".

Having disposed of that little technical difficulty, he justifies the practice in itself: "Since a priest does not consecrate except in the persona of Christ, and the many are one in Christ, therefore it does not matter whether this Sacrament is consecrated through one or through many".

There is no doubt that the practice of Concelebration has become unseemly since the Council. Those of us who are hermeneutic-of-continuity traditionalists will do well to rethink the way we use Concelebration. But the fashion in some circles of ridiculing all use of Concelebration, and of denying that what the newly ordained do with their Bishop really is true Concelebration, is ill-informed and gives 'traditionalism' a bad name. We must avoid the temptation (as we struggle to set Tradition back upon her pedestal) to make 'Tradition' up ourselves; and to forget that the lady has many things new and old in her treasury.

Innocent III was a Pope, and a learned one, and as Bishop of Rome was entitled authoritatively to interpret the practice of his own Church. And S Thomas Aquinas was no mean Doctor. Not that the story ends with them.

Next, Benedict XIV.


Joshua said...

What, then, of what a present Metropolitan, when still but a priest, and acting as MC at what is now his cathedral, told a concelebrant, whilst pointing to one of many sacred vessels upon the altar: "Intend to consecrate that ciborium"! - ?

Thomas said...

I do find your approach to many things refreshingly balanced and honest. I have often felt that some of what goes under the modern mantle of "traditionalism" is merely reactionary - reacting to real difficulties and scandals it is true, but not objective or helpful for being merely a contrary reaction. Traditionalist too often cherry pick which bits of tradition they want to re-establish and also how far back they feel the rot set in (e.g. that dreadful Gregory the Great started it all by imposing his new-fangled versions of the ancient chants! :-) The way forward is surely to find an authentic development of doctrine (another "dirty word" in some circles) and practice on the solid foundations of what has been handed to us over the ages.

GOR said...

I have never doubted the validity of concelebrations, but I do question their frequency in many places. Nor was I particularly concerned about the timing of the words of Consecration by a plethora of concelebrants. I figured that God, being above time, would sort things out. There is significance in a newly ordained priest concelebrating with his bishop or the diocesan clergy concelebrating with their bishop at the Chrism Mass in Holy Week.

It is less justifiable when it is done routinely. One has the impression of convenience rather than priestly fraternity. Even less appropriate is when EMHCs are employed for the distribution of Holy Communion while the concelebrants sit it out – as happened at the last Eucharistic Congress in Ireland.