16 October 2009

Sacrosanctum Concilium

A reading of the Comciliar Decree on Liturgy reveals that a considerable divergence among bishops is masked by a simple legislative device. Some things are mandated by the Council; other things are permitted if local bishops or hierarchies sanction them. Reread the Decree yourself with this hermeneutic, and spot the phenomenon in paragraph after paragraph.

A second thing to note: those things allowed at the discretion of local bishops and hierarchies soon became, under the pressure of the then dominant elite, the universal practice.

One particular example is concelebration. In the Roman Rite, this was alreadythe custom, since time immemorial, at the Ordination of Presbyters and the Consecration of Bishops. The Council now extended it to the (analogous) Blessing of Abbots; and to the Masses of Maundy Thursday, both the Chrism Mass and the Missa in Coena Domini. It will be recalled that Private Masses are forbidden that day; so this in fact constitutes an extension of the ability of every priest to exercise his priesthood on that day. In addition, the Chrism Mass already contained, not indeed a Concelebration of the Mass, but a Coconsecration of the Chrism. Let me put my cards on the table: I regard this Conciliar provision as not only 'organic', but in itself a desirable development. As Pope Innocent III pointed out eight centuries earlier, it was the immemorial custom of the Cardinal Presbyters of Rome to concelebrate with the Pontiff; and one of the few occasions when under modern circumstances a Bishop expresses his Eucharistic presidency surrounded by his Presbyterium is the Chrism Mass. For the same reason, I applaud the facultas given for Concelebration at Councils, Episcopal Meetings, and Synods.

But with the licence of the Ordinary, Concelebration was also permitted at the main Mass in churches where the needs of the Faithful do not require a celebration on his own by each priest,; and at any sort of Clergy meetings. And consequently, Concelebration became the norm in any and every conceivable situation.

My proposition is that what the Council decided to permit universally is good, wholesome, 'organic', and should be embraced by 'traditionalists'. What was left to the licentia Ordinarii should stay just that: a possibility which can be permitted in special circumstances.

I would like to conclude with a historical fact well worth consideration. Mgr Marcel Lefebvre signed this Decree and did not obstruct its implementation. Like many bishops, he was part of a tacit agreement that what some of what the more 'liberal' bishops desired could be allowed to them, while it would not be imposed on those who were looking for a more cautious reform.

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