Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pt. 8

Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.

I see this section quoted a lot. Up to the semicolon, at least. The first clause is often used to justify liturgical abuse in the name of pushing back against "rigid uniformity." They conveniently leave out the qualifier about this being related to evangelization. This is not about legitimizing disco liturgy. Please see our previous post here for more on Vatican II and liturgy in the mission field.

Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.

Notice that even in these mission situations, that bit about the substantial unity of the Roman Rite is to be preserved. Too bad none of us know what that means. The more relevant consideration here is that, if the Council was so concerned about preserving the unity of the Roman Rite for the missions, why was there any kind of effort at all to develop a new Mass?

Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.

Again, the national conferences appear. Once more, though, we see that they aren't as powerful as is sometimes claim. Naturally, they are supposed to be subservient to the Holy See. Here, we also see that they are superseded by the norms of the Constitution. In other words, stuff like that preserving Latin business. I really wonder how many priests and bishops are even aware of this these days.

In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:

Ugh. Talk about opening the door. Why even bring up that "radical adaptation" is even possible?

1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.

So some things have to go to the Apostolic See. If anyone knows of some examples of the things the Vatican has approved, I'm curious to see them. The stuff I've looked up has conflicting accounts as to what is Vatican-approved and what was strictly introduced by the local authority. Or what the criteria is for distinguishing radical, useful, necessary, and so forth from what doesn't qualify.

2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.


3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.

If we've learned anything from the Vatican II event, it's that empowering experts is typically a bad idea.

E) Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish

The bishop is to be considered as the high priest of his flock, from whom the life in Christ of his faithful is in some way derived and dependent.

Therefore all should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists in the full active participation of all God's holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers [35].

Admirable statements. And, if I might add, the only footnote for this entire part, which is to the epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

But because it is impossible for the bishop always and everywhere to preside over the whole flock in his Church, he cannot do other than establish lesser groupings of the faithful. Among these the parishes, set up locally under a pastor who takes the place of the bishop, are the most important: for in some manner they represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world.

And therefore the liturgical life of the parish and its relationship to the bishop must be fostered theoretically and practically among the faithful and clergy; efforts also must be made to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Remember all this the next time someone suggests that Vatican II is why lay folk can consecrate the Eucharist or preach homilies or read the Gospel. The parishes are set up below both the bishop and pastor. It goes without saying that community bears no indication of equality in roles.

F) The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action

Zeal for the promotion and restoration of the liturgy is rightly held to be a sign of the providential dispositions of God in our time, as a movement of the Holy Spirit in His Church. It is today a distinguishing mark of the Church's life, indeed of the whole tenor of contemporary religious thought and action.

So that this pastoral-liturgical action may become even more vigorous in the Church, the sacred Council decrees:

It is desirable that the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, set up a liturgical commission, to be assisted by experts in liturgical science, sacred music, art and pastoral practice. So far as possible the commission should be aided by some kind of Institute for Pastoral Liturgy, consisting of persons who are eminent in these matters, and including laymen as circumstances suggest. Under the direction of the above-mentioned territorial ecclesiastical authority the commission is to regulate pastoral-liturgical action throughout the territory, and to promote studies and necessary experiments whenever there is question of adaptations to be proposed to the Apostolic See.

Again with the national conferences and experts. And experiments. But also again, the novelties are to be regulated by Rome.

For the same reason every diocese is to have a commission on the sacred liturgy under the direction of the bishop, for promoting the liturgical apostolate.

Sometimes it may be expedient that several dioceses should form between them one single commission which will be able to promote the liturgy by common consultation.

Besides the commission on the sacred liturgy, every diocese, as far as possible, should have commissions for sacred music and sacred art.

These three commissions must work in closest collaboration; indeed it will often be best to fuse the three of them into one single commission.

If our diocese has any of this stuff, I've never heard of it. Does yours? The thing that bothers me about all this is that the Church seemed to be fine without it. We know from earlier in the Constitution that innovations are prohibited unless "genuinely and certainly" needed. That seems to set a pretty high standard. So why is so much here dedicated to creating machinery that appears aimed at facilitating innovations?

I just don't get it.

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