Liturgists express ‘bewilderment, unease, fear and concern’ over guidelines ordered by Pope to stamp out Eucharistic abuses
THE HOLY SEE has again delayed a long-awaited Vatican document designed to correct liturgical abuses, it emerged this week.
The document, establishing new norms on the Eucharist, has been signed by Pope John Paul II and is expected to be published after Easter.
The Vatican originally wanted to make it public on Holy Thursday — a year to the day the Pope signed Ecclesia de Eucharistia, his landmark encyclical on the Eucharist — but it has been put back in the face of a hostile reaction its contents have generated among Catholic Church figures around the world.
Vatican sources said the document would be probably ready for release toward the end of April.
The document has been unusually controversial and has already been delayed several times before.
Last summer, details were leaked from a draft of the text, which denounced a long string of liturgical errors and called on bishops to correct them.
Among other things, the draft insisted on limiting the role of lay ministers, forbade liturgical dance, warned against use of nonapproved texts, cautioned against pseudo-liturgical rites by and for women, and said distribution of Communion of both kinds is not always a good idea.
The draft also encouraged lay people to report abuses to their bishops and, if necessary, directly to the Vatican.
According to Vatican sources, the draft document was altered after a review by members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which is issuing the text. It was prepared in collaboration with the doctrinal congregation. Almost as much as the content, the tone of the draft document alarmed some liturgists in Rome, including several who work with the Vatican on papal liturgies.
Their misgivings emerged in December at a symposium to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s document on liturgical renewal.
Among those in attendance was the head of the worship congregation, Cardinal Francis Arinze.
At the end of the session, Servite Fr Silvano Maggiani, president of the Association of Professors of Liturgy, read a message expressing the liturgists’ fear that the liturgical reform movement opened by Vatican II was being closed down.
Fr Maggiani said that the association later sent personal letters to Pope John Paul II and other high officials at the Vatican, expressing “bewilderment, unease, fear and concern” at the apparent direction of the liturgical abuse document.
Fr Maggiani, a consultor to the office that prepares papal liturgies, wrote that it was not right to “define as abuse things that are not”.
Any real abuses should be corrected not with a “repressive” spirit but through formation, he said.
He also wrote that it would go against Vatican II to try and return to a “schism ... between lay faithful and ordained ministers”.
Vatican sources said the document has been ready for some time, but was held for several weeks of review at the Secretariat of State.
That has led some to believe that significant changes have been made. “I think some sections have disappeared altogether, and that the document as a whole has been greatly simplified,” said one source.
Whatever the final form, the document takes aim at liturgical abuse, and it was written at the specific request of the Pope.
When he asked for its preparation almost a year ago, the Pope said he wanted it to include “prescriptions of a juridical nature” regarding Church rules for the celebration of Mass and adoration of the Eucharist.
Part of the concern behind the document focuses on the lay role during liturgies. The Vatican does not want lay people giving sermons, pronouncing the Eucharistic prayers, breaking the Eucharistic bread, or distributing Communion unless there is an “urgent” need.
The thinking is that all this diminishes the proper role of the ordained minister. Other areas of liturgical and sacramental concern include: ■ The practice of inviting non-Catholics to share in Communion.
■ Allowing laicized priests to administer sacraments.
■ Substituting non-biblical texts for biblical readings during Mass.
■ Introduction of nonChristian elements in Catholic liturgies, and celebration of Mass in nonChristian places of worship.
■ Allowing non-Catholic ministers to wear Catholic vestments.
■ Adoration of the Eucharist in unworthy settings. ■ Giving first Communion outside of Mass and before first confession.
■ Using corruptible metals, glass or ceramic for the sacred vessels, including the chalice.
■ Breaking of the host at the consecration, instead of immediately prior to Communion.
Critics of the worship congregation’s approach say it is too centered on rules and not focused enough on formation.
One liturgist close to the Vatican said: “Yes, it is wrong to break the host at the consecration — but not because the congregation rules say so. The real reason is because at that moment the Church is not re-enacting the Last Supper. But this is something that needs to be taught and not imposed.”