The Tabernacle in Post-Conciliar Legislation

We shall consider legislation affecting the tabernacle and the altar separately, dealing with the tabernacle first. The first, and perhaps most authoritative, of the relevant documents is the Instruction on Putting into Effect the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, usually referred to as Inter oecumenici, dated 26 September 1964. The relevant paragraphs are n. 90-99. It has been claimed that these paragraphs were originally intended to form part of the Council's Liturgy Constitution itself. Even if this is correct, the fact is that these paragraphs did not appear in the Constitution and thus come to us only with the authority of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and not with that of the Council itself. From a legal standpoint, this is absolutely indisputable. Well, what does Inter oecumenici have to say about the tabernacle? The answer can be found in n. 95 of the Instruction:

The Blessed Sacrament is to be reserved in a solid, burglar-proof tabernacle in the center of the high altar or of another altar if this is really outstanding and distinguished. Where there is a lawful custom, and in particular cases to be approved by the local ordinary, the blessed Sacrament may be reserved in some other place in the church; but it must be a very special place, having nobility about it, and it must be suitably decorated.

Well, then, what action was Monsignor Vincent Kearney of Christ the King in Kansas City, Missouri, obliged to take concerning his tabernacle in order to conform to this instruction? The answer is clear, he was obliged to leave it upon the high altar. The Instruction contains no command that the tabernacle must be moved; it contains no recommendation that it should be moved; it simply grants a permission that it may be situated in some other place where a lawful custom existed, but no such custom existed in Kansas City, Missouri. What the Instruction does, in fact is to confirm the legislation in Canon Law that, as a general rule, the tabernacle must be situated in the center of the high altar.

Keeping to a chronological sequence, the next relevant document is one that has already been cited, the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei of Pope Paul VI, dated 3 September 1965. This document is, as we have noted, a pontifical act, and also restates the traditional legislation concerning the tabernacle.

The Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium

The Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, Eucharistic mysterium, which was published on 25 May 1967, is a key document in this investigation. It is, once again, an Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. In n. 54 it repeats n. 95 of Inter oecumenici, which has thus been cited. This paragraph makes it clear that, as a general rule, the tabernacle must be sited in the center of the high altar. However, in n. 53 it states that the place where the tabernacle is situated "ought to be suitable for private prayer," and "It is therefore recommended that, as far as possible, the tabernacle be placed in a chapel distance from the middle or central part of the church, above all in those churches were marriages and funerals take place frequently, and in places which are much visited for their artistic or historical treasures". In other words, n. 53 contradicts n. 54!

The suspect nature of this Instruction is made even clearer in n.55, where, in a statement without precedent in any official document of the Catholic Church, it actually suggests the Mass should not be celebrated on an altar with a tabernacle as "it is more in keeping with the nature of the celebration that the eucharistic presence of Christ, which is the fruit of the consecration, and should be seen as such, should not be on the altar from the very beginning of Mass through the reservation of the sacred species in a tabernacle". In other words, a suggestion which Pope Pius XII had condemned in 1956 as lessening esteem for the presence of Christ in the tabernacle, i.e., departing tabernacle and altar, is included in an official Church document just over a decade later.

It might be pertinent here to remember that although the post-conciliar legislation was promulgated by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, it had been drawn up by the Consilium, the committee which had the sinister Father Bugnini as its secretary. Father Bugnini had been dismissed from the Liturgical Preparatory Commission of Vatican II by Pope John XXIII for reasons which were never disclosed. He was reappointed as Secretary to the Consilium by Pope Paul VI in 1964, and eventually became Secretary of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in 1969. He was dismissed by Pope Paul VI under very abrupt and very mysterious circumstances in 1975. Once again, the reasons were never disclosed, but very strong grounds exist for believing that it was because information was given to the Pope proving that Archbishop Bugnini (as he then was), had been enrolled as a member of a Masonic lodge. Archbishop Bugnini denied this emphatically, and it is not a matter upon which I wish to insist as part of the case I am presenting here, but the fact that the principal architect of the liturgical reform was dismissed by two popes for reasons they would not disclose gives us every reason to be uneasy about the reform itself. 9 It is also alarming to reflect that six Protestants played a very active part in the word of the Consilium. It seems impossible to believe that six heretics were asked to advise the one, holy Catholic and apostolic Church on the reform of its liturgy, but nonetheless it is a fact. Archbishop Bugnini denied emphatically that the Observers had played an active role, a denial which was refuted by one of the Observers in his reply to a letter I had written to him asking for clarification on this matter. 10

Returning to the subject of the Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium, what action did it oblige Monsignor Kearney to take concerning the position of the tabernacle? Well, n. 54 is quite explicit: the tabernacle is to be situated in the center of the high altar, which is precisely where Msgr. Kearney's tabernacle was sited. He was therefore in full conformity with the law of the Church which was, in any case, as stated in Canons 1268 and 1269 of the Code of Canon Law. However, the Instruction also contained two recommendations contradicting its own N. 54. In n. 53 it recommended placing the tabernacle in a chapel distinct from the central part of the church, and in n. 55 it recommended that Mass should not be celebrated on an altar where there was a tabernacle. But these were only recommendations and in no way mandatory. It is very significant that this Instruction contains 121 references for its teaching and recommendations, but that no reference whatsoever could be given for either of these recommendations as they are without precedent in the entire history of the Church, and represent a grave breach with Tradition.

9. In his posthumous history of the liturgical reform, Archbishop Bugnini admits that Paul VI believed him to be a Mason, and that this was the reason for his dismissal.
10. The facts concerning the Protestant Observers can be found in Appendix III
of Pope Paul's New Mass.

Emphasis in bold, that of the Web Master.

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