General Instructions and Rubrics
The General Instruction on the Roman Missal
6 April 1969
The next relevant document is the General Instruction on
the Roman Missal, published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 6
April 1969. N. 262 of this Instruction is identical to n. 91 of Inter oecumenici, with one crucial
exception: the words 'praestat ut-----it
is better" have been removed so that it reads:
main altar should be constructed away from the wall so that one can
move round it without difficulty and so that it can be used for a
celebration facing the people.
A reference is given for this recommendation (and note
carefully that it is no more than a recommendation) which is Inter oecumenici, n. 91. However,
as we have already noted, the recommendation in Inter oecumenici, "it is better
that", is far weaker than that in n. 262 of the General Instruction.
Instaurationes, 5 September
The last document which we need to consider is Liturgicae Instaurationes, the
Third Instruction on Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy. N. 10 of this Instruction contains three paragraphs:
In applying the liturgical reform, bishops should give special
attention to the fixed and dignified arrangement of the sacred place,
especially its sanctuary, in accordance with the norms of the General
Instruction on the Roman Missal and the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium.
documents do not contain any mandatory legislation requiring any change
in the sanctuary whatsoever, only recommendations. Eucharisticum Mysterium has already
been discussed and it was noted that it is self-contradictory in places.
b) Temporary arrangements made in recent years should
gradually be given final form. Some of these provisory solutions,
already disapproved of by the Consilium,
are still in use though they are liturgically and artistically
unsatisfactory and render difficult the worthy celebration of Mass.
reference is given to the letter of Cardinal Lercaro published in the
September 1965 issue of Notitiae,
which has already been cited. Paragraph (b) does not recommend making
changes in existing sanctuaries, simply discontinuing temporary
arrangements. As Mass does not need to be celebrated facing the people
no temporary arrangements need ever have been made.
With the help of diocesan committees on the liturgy and sacred art, and
after consultation if necessary with other experts and the civil
authorities, a detailed study should be made of new building projects,
and a review of contemporary arrangements, so that churches may be
given a definitive arrangement which respects any artistic monuments,
adapting them as far as possible to present day needs.
The Rubrics of the Novus Ordo Missae
There is only one possible conclusion to be drawn
from an examination of all the relevant Vatican documents relating to
the subject of Mass facing the people, i.e., there is no mandatory
legislation imposing the practice or requiring that sanctuaries should
be altered to make it possible. This is confirmed by an examination of
the rubrics of the New Mass itself. There is not one rubric providing
for a celebration versus populum, but an examination of the General
Instruction will reveal a number of rubrics instructing the priest to
turn to face the congregation and then to turn back to the altar,
e.g., numbers 107, 115, 116, 122, 198 and 199. If it had been the mind of the Church that
Mass should be celebrated facing the people, this would have been
provided for in the rubrics.
A Bishop Speaks
In view of Bishop Lindsay's claim in the July 1981 Northern Cross that the sanctuary
changes are obligatory, I wrote to another English bishop who is noted
for his knowledge of the liturgy. I asked him whether there is any
mandatory legislation requiring that Mass should be celebrated facing
the people, and expressed my own view that no obligation exists. He
replied: "I would agree with you that there is no mandatory legislation
compelling a priest to celebrate Mass facing the people. Moreover, the
Church is very anxious re
vandalism in its legislation."
The Example of the Oratory
As a final and very pertinent piece of evidence, I would
cite the Brompton Oratory in London. This is probably the most
beautiful Catholic church in Britain. The Oratorian Fathers were first
brought to this country by Cardinal Newman, and have always been
distinguished for their knowledge of and celebration of the liturgy.
The London Oratory celebrated its centenary in April, 1984, and has
just been fully restored and repainted. The Oratorians have implemented
all the mandatory liturgical changes imposed since Vatican I, but have
made no changes in their sanctuary whatsoever as no mandatory changes
have ever been promulgated.
The fact that this pamphlet has needed to be so long, to
be so technical, and at times tedious and repetitive, illustrates the
difficulties experienced by those who wish to uphold the liturgical
traditions of the Roman Rite. I could cite numerous cases of bishops
and priests claiming, like Bishop Lindsay, that there is a legal
obligation to make changes in our sanctuaries. It is easy to make such
a statement, particularly when most Catholics will accept it at face
value and, in any case would not have the resources to refute it. But
to present the truth requires much time, much effort and much space. If
elementary norms of justice were observed in the Church today it would
be those who wished to vandalize our sanctuaries who would be required
to prove that there was a legal requirement for them to do so but,
alas, it is those who oppose the barbarians who are required to prove
their case. What is even more unjust is that when we do prove our case,
those in authority are not even interested and will press ahead with
the changes anyhow. This was the case in Kansas City at the parish of
Christ the King; it was the case in Newcastle upon Tyne, England; it
was the case in 1983 in the beautiful church of St. Mary's in Belfast,
R.J. Dwyer stated correctly: the barbarians have taken over, the
despisers of culture, and we have lost an entire generation in the
process. This final point is of considerable importance. Traditional
Catholics are not opposing an ongoing liturgical renewal which has
brought enormous pastoral benefits. The liturgical renewal has been a
pastoral fiasco, more than a fiasco, a disaster! Seventy two percent of
American Catholics went to Mass before the great "renewal", only forty
percent do so now. But the liturgical barbarians would not really care
if no one went at all. Barbarians are not people who think, they are
not people who care, they're people who smash. They have exchanged
thuribles for sledge hammers and they find the change exhilarating.
Well, they have had their way. They have destroyed a cultural heritage
that was beyond price. It can never be replaced. We were not able to
stop them; but there is one thing that we must never allow them and
that is the satisfaction of claiming that they were acting under
orders. Let Mr. Turnball have the last word. In his protest to Bishop
Lindsay he sums up everything that I have documented in this pamphlet:
"The Catholic authorities are spending a fortune on these changes
because they wish to, not because they have to."
See how the holy city is deserted now,
Sion is empty, Jerusalem has been Desolated.
The place where Thou hast dwelt in
Holiness and glory,
Where our fathers sang Thy praises.
From the Rorate Caeli [Advent]
in bold, that of the Web Master.
| HOLY EUCHARIST