Disappointment with Sacramentum Caritatis?

If you do a Google blog search of “disappointed” and “Sacramentum Caritatis”, you will score quite a few hits. Many of course were hoping for the Motu Proprio, which now appears as distant as ever. Many others were hoping for something more “directive”.

As an exercise in familiarising myself with the Post-Synodal Exhortation, I decided I would count up and list the number actual directives found in the document. I even thought of listing them all in this blog. But once I reached five pages of notes, with around 180+ specific obligations, directions, recommendations, requests, encouragements and necessities, I decided it was beyond the scale of this lowly medium.

So I decided to limit myself to a few of the more outstanding points:

    • need to understand the overall unity of the historical development of the rite without the introduction of artificial discontinuities (3)
    • the need to rethink the order of Christian initiation for children (20)
    • a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences (21)
    • All priests should dedicate themselves with generosity, commitment and competency to administering the sacrament of Reconciliation (21)
    • the confessionals in our churches should be clearly visible expressions of the importance of this sacrament (21)
    • priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ (23)
    • The beauty and the importance of celibacy, which remains obligatory in the Latin tradition. (24)
    • Parents must have the courage to set before young people the radical decision to follow Christ, showing them how deeply rewarding it is (25)
    • Marriage and motherhood represent essential realities which must never be denigrated. (27)
    • the importance of prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Mass for them, so that, once purified, they can come to the beatific vision of God (33)
    • the need to avoid any antithesis between the art of proper celebration, and the full, active and fruitful participation of all the faithful. (38)
    • Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty (41)
    • The rich patrimony of music and songs of the last 2000 years is a heritage that must not be lost (42)
    • Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. (42)
    • texts, music, execution ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (42)
    • Efforts should also be made to encourage those forms of prayer confirmed by tradition, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer, and vigil celebrations. (45)
    • the homily must be prepared carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture (46)
    • the better-known prayers of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung (62)
    • the importance of the Sunday obligation for all the faithful (73)
    • The importance of the role given to the laity must never obscure the indispensable ministry of priests for the life of the Church (75)
    • assemblies in the absence of a priest must not encourage ecclesiological visions incompatible with the truth of the Gospel and the Church’s tradition (75)
    • Catholic politicians and legislators must feel particularly bound to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature (83)
    • The relationship between the eucharistic mystery and social commitment must be made explicit (89)
    • the obligation to do everything possible to end or at least reduce the scandal of hunger and malnutrition (91)

Furthermore, the Holy Father personally and specifically asks and encourages that:

    • pastors be vigilant with regard to the celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and to limit the practice of general absolution exclusively to the cases permitted (21)
    • very effort be made to ensure that the liturgies which the Bishop celebrates in his Cathedral are carried out with complete respect for the ars celebrandi, so that they can be considered an example for the entire Diocese (39)
    • the liturgy of the word always be carefully prepared and celebrated. (45)
    • ministers preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration (46)
    • everyone, especially ordained ministers and those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist, make every effort to ensure that this simple act of distribution preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament (50)
    • Christians who are not Catholic understand and respect our conviction regarding the relationship between eucharistic and ecclesial communion, which is grounded in the Bible and Tradition (56)
    • future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant (62)
    • all pastors spare no effort in promoting an authentically eucharistic Christian spirituality (94)
    • the lay faithful, and families in particular, to find ever anew in the sacrament of Christ’s love the energy needed to make their lives an authentic sign of the presence of the risen Lord (94)
    • all consecrated men and women show by their eucharistic lives the splendour and the beauty of belonging totally to the Lord (94)
    • the competent curial offices study the possibility of moving the sign of peace to another place, such as before the presentation of the gifts at the altar (fn 150)
    • the competent offices of the Roman Curia publish a Compendium which will assemble texts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prayers, explanations of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Missal and other useful aids for a correct understanding, celebration and adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar (93)
    • parishes and other church groups to set aside times for collective adoration (68)
    • every effort be made to ensure that the liturgical proclamation of the word of God is entrusted to well- prepared readers(45)
    • priests celebrate the Mass daily “even when the faithful are not present” (80)
    • all the faithful to be true promoters of peace and justice (89)

It is staggering to think that there are Catholics out there who would have preferred one single directive–the universal indult for the pre-Vatican II Western Rite–over this abundance of pontifical guidance. Perhaps it is simply that there are so many directives that our eyes glaze over and we glide through the Exhortation without registering what a tremendous agenda we are being exhorted to embrace.

Granted, there is little that is new among all these directives. But that they are spoken clearly by the Bishop of Rome in the present climate is no small thing, and surely will determine the Eucharistic character of the Church far into the future.

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8 Responses to Disappointment with Sacramentum Caritatis?

  1. Tony Bartel says:

    As you know, I am not a fan of a universal indult for the Tridentine Mass. But I am a big fan of what has been advocated. Surely if the Missal of Paul VI is celebrated with care and devotion, showing its continuity with what has gone before, but retaining the much needed reforms it offers, then calls for the Tridentine Mass will die a natural death.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Everything related to the Eucharist should be marked by beauty”

    The Tridentine Mass in its secondary characteristics, which is what is Pope Benedict was speaking about, is beautiful. It is difficult to see how the Novus Ordo, so chopped up that it looks as if a child designed it, could ever be beautiful. “Amazing Grace” is actually appropriate music for the Novus Ordo, while polyphony and Gregorian chant are appropriate for the old Mass.

    Does the old Mass really need to die at all, let alone a natural death? It cannot be said to be evil, because it is the Mass of so many saints who somehow managed to become saints without being exposed to the Novus Ordo liturgy.

  3. Schütz says:

    I agree with Tony and disagree with Anonymous. One of the things the Holy Father stresses in SC is that their is beauty in the noble simplicity of the rite itself. eg. paragraph 40:

    “The simplicity of its gestures and the sobriety of its orderly sequence of signs communicate and inspire more than any contrived and inappropriate additions. Attentiveness and fidelity to the specific structure of the rite express both a recognition of the nature of Eucharist as a gift and, on the part of the minister, a docile openness to receiving this ineffable gift.”

    Certainly the Old Mass is not evil, but it is not the Ordinary Universal Rite of the Catholic Church. For better or for worse, the Rite of Paul VI is what we’ve got.

    But there are, as Benedict points out, discrepencies between the way in which this rite is performed today and what was envisaged by the Second Vatican Council. Although he makes the point specifically in relation to large-scale masses, nevertheless his point holds that it would be “in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council” if “with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, [the liturgy] could be celebrated in Latin.”

    Thus it is perfectly legitimate (and simply requires papal and episcopal encouragement) to celebrate the Novus Ordo mass:

    1) ad orientam
    2) in Latin (as suggested above)
    3) receiving Communion kneeling
    4) with full Gregorian chant

    I am not suggesting that this should be done at all or even most masses, but it could be done at some masses.

    My guess is that if this were the practice, the demand for the Rite of Pius V would disappear overnight.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “My guess is that if this were the practice, the demand for the Rite of Pius V would disappear overnight.”

    That would be a bad guess. Although the things you list would certainly be good, perhaps even too much to hope for, the demand for the Old Rite would most certainly not disappear. This shows a basic misunderstanding of the differences between the Old Mass and NO Mass. The things you list, although making the NO Mass more palatable for some, would only be bandages on the problems present in the new Mass. Suffice it to say that the development of the liturgy should be organic and “natural”, not wholesale butchery as was the case with the NO mass.

  5. Tony Bartel says:

    Anonymous said: “”Amazing Grace” is actually appropriate music for the Novus Ordo, while polyphony and Gregorian chant are appropriate for the old Mass.”

    Actually if you read the relevant documents, it would be hard to ever justify “Amazing Grace” at a mass with the reformed Missal. At the same time, Vatican II said that Gregorian chant has pride fo place in the liturgy, and this has frequently been reaffirmed since the Council. The latest exhortation is not calling for something new.

    Anonymous also said: “Suffice it to say that the development of the liturgy should be organic and “natural”, not wholesale butchery as was the case with the NO mass.”

    Before the Tridentine Mass, the bishop determind the nature of the liturgy in his or her diocese. There were many different usages in various places and many distinct rites which were maintained in communion with Rome. There was no centralised office making decisions about what was or was not permissible.

    In such a situation, it is possible to talk about organic or natural development.

    After the Tridentine Mass was imposed on most of the Western Church, you had a liturgy would could not be changed, except by the decree of a central authority. Now such changes did happen – the addition of propers, the reform of Holy Week under Pius XII. the addition of Saint Joseph to the Canon by John XXIII. But such changes were all imposed by central authority, of necessity, because organic development had already been stifled.

    Whether or not organic development is a good thing or a bad thing, I could not really say. I am simply arguing that the conditions for it no longer exist. Whether we like it or not, any liturgical changes are going to come from the authority of Pope, usually influenced by the advice he receives from various places (such as the Synod of Bishops and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments). That is not organic development.

    I believe that the conditions for organic development still exist in the Eastern Churches, but I think that in the West that possibility is gone. It might be possible to re-establish it, but few on the traditional side of the liturgical argument would be willing to entrust the local bishop with such decision making. If many bishops will not allow a Tridentine Mass, what would they do if they could authorise new texts and forms for themselves.

    As for butchery, I think it would be difficult to argue that the reform of Holy Week by Pius XII was acceptable, while the Missal of Paul VI was not, given that similar principles of reform were involved, If one is acceptable, why not the other. If the 1969 Missal is butchery, then so is a central part of the 1962 Missal.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You are comparing the reform of Holy Week with the creation of the NO Mass. There is no use responding to that….

  7. Schütz says:

    I continue to side with Fr Tony on this argument (good Anglican that he is).

    Bruce left a comment to my post above on celebrating the Novus Ordo mass well, to which Anonymous has responded in this stream. His experience helps me to undertstand that what is being compared generally is the Novus Ordo Mass done badly and the Pian Rite (to give it it’s correct title) done well. Anonymous seems to think it is more than that, but I challenging him to tell me what it is that he thinks makes the Novus Ordo unacceptable–unless he is one of these who thinks that it is an invalid rite, in which case he is no Catholic.

    The Papal liturgies in St Peter’s at Christmas and Easter bear almost no resemblence to what takes place in our local parish, yet it is exactly the same rite that is being followed. Moreover, I would guess that the Paul VI rite done in this fashion is vastly superior and more dignified than anything that local parishes ever experienced pre-Vatican II.

    By the way, I have a confession to make. I am cantoring for mass tomorrow morning and I have chosen “Amazing Grace” as the recessional hymn. Go on, shoot me. But you don’t know what I am working with, and everything is relative. Classical Hymns are verboten in my parish. I almost lost my place on the roster as cantor for using “Soul of My Saviour” a few months back. We have a new priest now who seems a little more open to traditional music (he has reversed the policy of never singing the Lord’s Prayer, for instance), but it is still baby steps before we get anywhere.

    Hey, we might never get anywhere. But I am not turning my back on this lot, because like it or not, they are the Church of God in my locality, and that’s where God wants me to be on Sunday morning. Blame him, not me. If I wanted good music and ritual, I would have stayed a Lutheran Pastor where I could determine (like a mini-pope) what happened on Sunday morning. But the “eucharists” at which I presided were not valid, and as poor as the music and ritual may be at my local parish, it is still the Holy Mass celebrated by a true and valid priest in fellowship with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

    If the angels and saints can hack it, so can I.

  8. Tony Bartel says:

    “I am cantoring for mass tomorrow morning and I have chosen “Amazing Grace” as the recessional hymn.”

    A little but like a certain parish I used to be in where I had to pick “Shine Jesus Shine” as the people loved it. I figured there were worse evils.

    Perhaps a little casuistry will help you out. The Roman Rite does not officially have a recessional hymn. The Mass finishes with the Disimissal. “Mass is finished.” Perhaps you could think of “Amazing Grace” as an extra-liturgical devotion. :-)

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