The Catholic Sanctuary
and the Second Vatican Council

 by Michael Davies

New Code of Canon Law and the 
Catechism of the Catholic Church

The New Code of Canon Law [1983] contains no legislation requiring the tabernacle to be demoted from the center of the high altar, even though it does not state specifically that it should be placed there. Canon 938-§2 states:

The tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved should be placed in a part of the church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated and suitable for prayer.
   There is no place in a church that is more prominent and suitable for prayer than the high altar [if it has not been destroyed].    The latest pronouncement concerning the tabernacle can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [1994]. It states that "the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church, and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament." [No. 1379]. In No. 1183 the Catechism quotes the encyclical Mysterium Fidei of Pope Paul VI: "The tabernacle is to be situated 'in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor.' " The Latin original "in nobilissimo loco" is better translated as "the most worthy place"-----which, as Mysterium Fidei states explicitly, is the center of the high altar. The official English text of the encyclical published by the Catholic Truth Society of England and Wales in 1965 translates "in nobilissimo loco" as "the most distinguished position." In view of the fact that the Catechism cites Mysterium Fidei, it is not unreasonable to claim that it recommends the center of the high altar as the most appropriate place for the tabernacle. No. 1183 also states, referring to No. 128 of the Liturgy Constitution of Vatican Council II: "The dignity, placing and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar." The dignity of the tabernacle is best affirmed by placing it in the center of the high altar. 


HOME-------------------------------ROMAN MASS