"Redemptionis Sacramentum", a problematic answer to liturgical abuse

Source: FSSPX News


The instruction on the Eucharist, Redemptionis Sacramentum, by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, points out grave and numerous abuses some of which, as Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of this congregation underlined during the press conference for the presentation of the document, on April 23rd, "threaten to render the sacrament invalid; others show a eucharistic lack of faith; others still contribute to sowing confusion among the people of God and tend to destroy the sacred aura of eucharistic celebrations". And to conclude: "these are not abuses to be taken lightly". The report is severe, but just. It agrees with the denunciations made over and over, by priests and faithful attached to Tradition, who can but rejoice at seeing their complaints finally taken into account by a text emanating from a Roman dicastery.

However, during the same press conference, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Msgr. Angelo Amato, insisted firmly that it was not at all a question of a "nostalgic" document which to return to "before" the council, but indeed of a document which "puts into practice the conciliar reform and wants to fight the abuses against the authentic eucharistic doctrine".

So this instruction denounces abuses it considers quite justly as grave facts, but on no account as effects of the liturgical reform introduced by Vatican II. It well identifies the secondary causes of these abuses: "a false conception of freedom" ( n.7 ), generous but misguided "ecumenical initiatives" ( n.8 ), "ignorance" ( n.9 ), but refuses to go back to the first cause for an explanation of this false freedom, this false ecumenism and this true ignorance of traditional eucharistic doctrine. - Because it would mean questioning a council which wanted precisely to promote a greater freedom, to favor an ecumenism hitherto unknown, and to give up a Tradition considered unsuitable for modern times.

An oscillating text

Whence a text which, essentially, oscillates between a reminder of the necessity of discipline and the affirmation of a "ample scope remaining for an opportune freedom of adaptation", a freedom "based on the principle that every celebration must be adapted to the needs of the participants, as well as to their capacity, their interior preparation and their individual genius, according to the possibilities established by liturgical norms" (n.39, see also n.21). In practice, there is good reason to fear that this " freedom according to the norms " will be transformed into "free norms", in the name of creativity and of inculturation.

This point does not escape Msgr. Robert Le Gall, president of the episcopal Commission on the Liturgy of the French Bishops Conference, who declared in his presentation of Redemptionis Sacramentum: "twice, the instruction mentions the ‘freedom, which is foreseen by the norms of the liturgical books, to adapt judiciously the celebration to the sacred building, or to the group of faithful, or to the pastoral circumstances, so that the whole sacred rite is really adapted to the mentality of the persons’ ( n.21 )". And he recalls: "As the Holy Father says in his letter for the 40th anniversary of the (conciliar) Constitution on the liturgy, The liturgical revival realized during these last years showed how much it is possible to develop a legislation which assures the liturgy its identity and its beauty, with spaces of creativity and of adaptation, which make it close to the requirements expressed by the various regions, situations and cultures’ ( n.15 ) ".

An impossible conciliation

And if, rather, the reform of these last years shows that it is impossible to reconcile these liturgical standards with this conciliar spirit of creativity, without seeing immediately appearing from everywhere the numerous abuses denounced in the instruction?

Without the knowledge of Cardinal Arinze, this incompatibility shows itself in the very document, on a particular, very revealing case, that of the Mass servers. The instruction calls back in n. 47 that "out of these children who serve the altar,came, down the centuries, a multitude of sacred Ministers". But, at the same time, it authorizes female altar servers, according to a practice which is becoming more and more widespread. A question arises: how to reconcile the very correct idea of a breeding ground for priestly vocations with the presence, in the sanctuary, of young ladies who cannot, according to the constant teaching of the Church, be admitted to the priesthood?

To conclude, we will be careful not to forget that the Roman document grants to all the faithful the possibility to check for themselves the earnestness and the real efficacy of this reminder of the liturgical norms. It acknowledges indeed that they have the right to indicate to the diocesan authority and to the Holy See the abuses they may be witnessing. Unfortunately, the occasions are not wanting, and we will thus be able to easily judge the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum by its fruits, to wit the determined reaction of the authorities to whom abuses are reported.

Would it not be more efficient to grant to all priests who so desire the freedom to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, as Bishop Bernard Fellay, General Superior of the Society of Saint Pius X has been requesting it? Far from favoring a nostalgic return, the traditional Catholic liturgy – universal in time and space – would make it possible to suppress the abuses of all those who, as Mgr Domenico Sorrentino, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship expresses it, "make of the liturgy a free zone reserved for personal experiences which cannot be justified only by being done in good faith".

• Next week, we will give the translation of an article by Fr de Tanoüarn : "Between abuses and contradictions. For a critical synthesis of the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum", as well as another analysis on the instruction and an article on the 78th World Day of the Mission.