Could the bishops be the artisans of a liberalization of the traditional Mass?

Source: FSSPX News


These few excerpts from the post-synodal Exhortation show that Benedict XVI does not mean to oppose the bishops by authoritatively imposing directives. Most probably he cannot do this, if we but think that several French and German bishops went to Rome to express their disagreement with a possible liberalization of the Tridentine Mass. This disagreement finds an echo even in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament. Consequently, in this document, the pope is keen on recalling the authority of the bishops in their dioceses, something which would be but normal if the situation of the Church today was normal and there was not a state of necessity… - On this subject, see Bishop’s Fellay sermon for the 30th anniversary of Saint Nicolas about the motu proprio and the state of necessity in the Church. (DICI n° 151)


These reminders of the bishop’s authority in his diocese give an idea of the modalities for the practical application of a motu proprio which would free the use of the Missal of St. Pius V, since it is “the bishop’s responsibility to ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking place in his territory.”


N° 39 The Bishop, celebrant par excellence

39. While it is true that the whole People of God participates in the Eucharistic liturgy, a correct ars celebrandi necessarily entails a specific responsibility on the part of those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders. Bishops, priests, and deacons, each according to his proper rank, must consider the celebration of the liturgy as their principal duty. Above all, this is true of the Diocesan Bishop: as “the chief steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to his care, he is the moderator, promoter, and guardian of the whole of its liturgical life”. This is essential for the life of the particular Church, not only because communion with the Bishop is required for the lawfulness of every celebration within his territory, but also because he himself is the celebrant par excellence within his Diocese. It is his responsibility to ensure unity and harmony in the celebrations taking place in his territory.[2] Consequently the Bishop must be “determined that the priests, the deacons, and the lay Christian faithful grasp ever more deeply the genuine meaning of the rites and liturgical texts, and thereby be led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist.” I would ask that every 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.

 If a certain liberty were granted to the Tridentine Mass, it would concern little groups of faithful. The Exhortation specifies that the celebrations in small groups will have to be “consonant with the overall pastoral activity of the Diocese.”

 N° 63 : Eucharistic celebrations in small groups

63. A very different situation arises when, in the interest of more conscious, active and fruitful participation, pastoral circumstances favor small group celebrations. While acknowledging the formative value of this approach, it must be stated that such celebrations should always be consonant with the overall pastoral activity of the Diocese. These celebrations would actually lose their catechetical value if they were felt to be in competition with, or parallel to, the life of the particular Church. In this regard, the Synod set forth some necessary criteria: small groups must serve to unify the community, not to fragment it;[3] the beneficial results ought to be clearly evident; these groups should encourage the fruitful participation of the entire assembly, and preserve as much as possible the unity of the liturgical life of individual families.

 After the numerous and scandalous abuses observed concerning the location of the tabernacle in churches remodeled “according to modern taste”, we can but rejoice to see recalled somewhat specific rules, yet we deplore that the application of the rules are finally left to the discretion of the bishops.

 N° 69: The location of the tabernacle

69. In considering the importance of Eucharistic reservation and adoration, and reverence for the sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice, the Synod of Bishops also discussed the question of the proper placement of the tabernacle in our churches. The correct positioning of the tabernacle contributes to the recognition of Christ’s real presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore, the place where the Eucharistic species are reserved, marked by a sanctuary lamp, should be readily visible to everyone entering the church. It is therefore necessary to take into account the building’s architecture: in churches which do not have a Blessed Sacrament chapel, and where the high altar with its tabernacle is still in place, it is appropriate to continue to use this structure for the reservation and adoration of the Eucharist, taking care not to place the celebrant’s chair in front of it. In new churches, it is good to position the Blessed Sacrament chapel close to the sanctuary; where this is not possible, it is preferable to locate the tabernacle in the sanctuary, in a sufficiently elevated place, at the center of the apse area, or in another place where it will be equally conspicuous. Attention to these considerations will lend dignity to the tabernacle, which must always be cared for, also from an artistic standpoint. Obviously it is necessary to follow the provisions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in this regard. In any event, final judgment on these matters belongs to the Diocesan Bishop.[4]

[2] Emphasis ours

[3] Id.

[4] Id.