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Online Edition - October 2006

Vol. XII, No. 7

What is the Effect of the Priest Changing the Words of the Mass? Is There Anything We Can Do?

Question:

Our pastor does not read from the Sacramentary and does not say all the words of the Eucharistic Prayer (omitting the word “Father” and changing “mankind” to “humankind” are just two examples). He does not say all the words of the consecration. He says “Take this all of you and eat” instead of “Take this all of you and eat it”. Does this omission affect the consecration of bread into the Body of Christ?

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The Holy See’s 2004 disciplinary document, Redemptionis Sacramentum, states very emphatically:

59. The reprobated practice by which priests, deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) also says

Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass. [GIRM§ 24]

The GIRM is here quoting the Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22.3:

Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority.

In addition, Redemptionis Sacramentum says:

51. Only those Eucharistic Prayers are to be used which are found in the Roman Missal or are legitimately approved by the Apostolic See, and according to the manner and the terms set forth by it. “It is not to be tolerated that some priests take upon themselves the right to compose their own Eucharistic Prayers” [Pope John Paul II, Vicesimus quintus annus, n. 13] or to change the same texts approved by the Church, or to introduce others composed by private individuals [Instruction Inaestimabile donum, n. 5].

Clearly, no priest is ever permitted to change any text in the Missal, and certainly he may not change the Eucharistic Prayer or the words of consecration.

The priest’s omitting “it” is certainly illicit; though this omission alone would not automatically invalidate the consecration (it might have been an unintentional a slip of the tongue). In any case, it should be called to the priest’s attention so he can be sure to correct the error.

Lay Catholics are not exempt from the responsibility to assure the proper celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, as Redemptionis Sacramentum clearly states, in a section on Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

183.  In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favoritism.

184. Any Catholic, whether priest or deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

To access the complete document: www.adoremus.org/RedemptionisSacramentum. html

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