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Online Edition - Vol. IX, No. 9: December 2003 - January 2004

US Bishops' November Meeting
Documents for Priestless Sundays, Concelebration, Devotions approved

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Among the several documents introduced to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their semi-annual plenary meeting held in Washington, DC, November 10-13, were three documents relating to the Liturgy and worship. Two were the work of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy (BCL), and one was produced by the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine.

Concelebration guidelines and Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest

Cardinal Francis George, chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy, introduced two documents for consideration -- one on concelebrated Masses and one on the rites for Sunday worship when no priest is available.

The first provides guidelines for concelebration that have been revised in light of the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Cardinal George pointed out that "Like the concelebration guidelines approved by this body two years ago, they are not proposed as particular law, but, like the document Built of Living Stones, as a summary of the liturgical law, intended to assist the diocesan bishop in his own regulation of concelebration. That regulation is called for by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal in #202".

The revised concelebration guidelines passed without dissenting votes, and does not require approval by the Holy See.

The second document is a revised ritual for liturgical celebrations on Sunday when a priest is not present, produced by a task force headed by Bishop George Murry, SJ, of the Virgin Islands.

Cardinal George explained its background: "This is based upon the 1988 Directory that comes from the Holy See. The Directory called for Sunday celebrations in the absence of a priest to be well done, should that become pastorally necessary. Our conference responded to the 1988 document from the Holy See in 1989 with Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest, which has been in use in our dioceses since that time.

"However, in 1996 and 1997, the BCL and the FDLC -- the federation of your liturgy directors in the various dioceses -- sponsored a series of national workshops and a consultation on this ritual.

"Two years ago, then, the BCL passed a resolution that called for a task group to be formed to revise this text. And this body's work is in front of you. There is a Leader's Edition in the Green Book. There's the rite itself based upon either Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer or a Liturgy of the Word. In each of the three options Communion is a possibility -- the distribution of Holy Communion under the form of bread. And then there are also the prayers that are given to you. These are open for revision and change and alteration".

Cardinal George said that the Committee intended to fulfill five mandates, dealing with "the Introduction, the prayers, the distinction of ministries, and avoiding any confusion of such celebrations with the celebration of the Holy Mass itself".

As a liturgical book, Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest required approval of 2/3 of the Latin rite bishops and approval of the Holy See.

Cardinal George said that the Committee on the Liturgy considered 266 modifications proposed by the bishops and accepted almost 80% of them.

During the discussion, several bishops stressed the need to make these "priestless" celebrations very distinct so that people would not confuse it with a Mass.

Bishop Anthony Bosco (Greensburg), commented that "the anxiety that has been expressed in the past at the Conference here when this now newly-baptized SCAP [Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest] has been discussed is the concern that the people may not make a clear distinction between a Mass and a 'celebration in the absence of a priest' -- so they wouldn't come home saying, 'Mrs. Garabaldi had a nice Mass today'; that they knew that they weren't at a Mass. I think the terminology here -- you use Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer -- usually I thought that meant as it is in the Breviary, however, I think it shows that there can be modifications".

Bishop Bosco continued: "I notice, for instance, though that the Gloria is mentioned as a hymn of thanksgiving, and also a Creed, which isn't mentioned in the outline of the rite. Both of those, it seems to me, are parts of a Mass.

"I guess its intended to be a tertium quid, a new creation, that really isn't specifically the Divine Office with Communion added. But I wondered if there was any thought that a Gloria and a Creed might further obfuscate for particularly those of us who are easily confused".

Cardinal George responded: "The Profession of Faith at the Sunday celebration was particularly necessary to the Liturgy of the Word, because it's part of the Liturgy of the Word. In other words, if you base the celebration on the Liturgy of the Word the Creed should be part of it.

The Gloria was discussed -- and we can go back to that again, I'll have to check and see -- as a song of thanksgiving. In other words, it would be after Communion if it were used. It wouldn't be in the usual place. But bring that forward, please, and we'll look at it again.

"The idea, however, that people should understand that there is a distinction of roles, which is repeated and emphasized in this, between priest and deacon and the lay leader of prayer. We tried to build that in in a way that is clearer than was the case before. If you still think that it's unclear the rite has been -- You used the word tertium quid, there's some truth to that. The greeting of peace is at the end of Mass, not before the reception of Communion.

"There are a number of changes meant, from the rite itself, to emphasize that this is not a celebration of the Eucharist. So if there are other things that we've missed, please bring them forward".

Before the vote on the document, Cardinal George explained that the Committee had made several modifications to the text, and apologized that some Psalms included in the proposed document had erroneously been taken "from a translation not approved for liturgical use", and that this oversight would be corrected before the document was submitted to the Holy See for recognitio.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki (aux. Chicago) questioned assigning a priest to "say, seven or eight" Masses on a single Sunday in order to serve parishes without priests. Several bishops from dioceses with many rural parishes supported this concern about the shortage of priests.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (Lincoln) mentioned that his diocese had an indult from the Holy See permitting priests to offer several Masses a day: "Priests are allowed four Masses on a Sunday and three on a weekday when pastoral need obtains. And the indult was temporary, and then it was made permanent".

Bishop Raymond Burke (LaCrosse, now Archbishop-elect of St. Louis) raised a question about music: "I don't find Musicam Sacram mentioned anywhere in the document and it certainly has a greater authority than the other two documents that are mentioned, and it is an important one".

Bishop Burke had proposed adding the Holy See's 1968 Instruction, Musicam Sacram as a reference, in addition to the BCL's Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today, which were listed. His amendment was rejected, with the rationale that "Latin titles of documents cited throughout the rite are not used".

Cardinal George said that reference to Musicam Sacram would be added, but titled "On Sacred Music".

Bishop David Foley (Birmingham) underscored the concern of several bishops in observing that providing a ritual for "priestless Sundays" might lead people to relax their effort to recruit vocations: "it gives us all the more reason to intensify our efforts at vocations to the priesthood, and to encourage our priests to celebrate Mass, a number of times if necessary, so that the people may have the Mass rather than these celebrations without a priest".

Cardinal George said he shared the concern, and explained: "First of all, we have the document because the Holy See gave us a document in 1988. And then we came out with our own document shortly thereafter. So this is not a new document. It is not, therefore, designed for a crisis that has suddenly come upon us. It's not a response to that at all. It is a revision of an earlier document, which is judged to be liturgically inadequate, for very good reasons, after the task force did their work, as I explained earlier.

"It would be a mistake to see this in relation to statistics [on the priest shortage] that were given us yesterday. It is a revision of a document we've had for over ten years, revised particularly because of its own liturgical inadequacies. It has been revised to strengthen, as I said, the people's concern for the absence of a priest: by noting in the introduction that we cannot celebrate the Mass today; by including prayers for priestly vocations in the prayers and intercessions of the faithful; and then by reminding people to pray for the day when, in fact, priests will be more available than they are now to this group celebrating in this fashion.

"So those three points have strengthened in the result of earlier discussion. So I would not want this to be interpreted in that fashion in which, Bishop Foley, you mentioned. I'm grateful for the intervention", Cardinal George said.

The bishops approved the new ritual as amended, which will be sent to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for recognitio (approval) before it can be used.

Popular Devotions Document
The bishops approved "Popular Devotional Practices: Basic Questions and Answers" by a vote of 236-6 with two abstentions. Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine, presented the document to the bishops and presided over the brief debate and vote on November 12.

The 21-page document can be regarded as a popular summary of the "Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy" by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, dated December 2001 (released in April 2002).

The statement affirms the place of popular devotions and pious practices in Catholic life, stressing that these must always carefully follow Church teachings, and cannot take precedence over the Liturgy, "the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed", as the Second Vatican Council stated.

"Since the Liturgy is the center of the life of the Church, popular devotions should never be portrayed as equal to the Liturgy, nor can they adequately substitute for the Liturgy", the statement says. "What is crucial is that popular devotions be in harmony with the Liturgy, drawing inspiration from it and ultimately leading back to it".

The statement includes examples of popular devotional practices and discusses the origins of devotions, and their relation to the Bible and the culture. It speaks of the role of the saints in the life of the Church and of the special role of Mary in Catholic devotional practices. It takes note of "pilgrimages, novenas, processions and celebrations in honor of Mary and the other saints, the Rosary, the Angelus, the Stations of the Cross, the veneration of relics and the use of sacramentals". The document also includes an appendix on indulgences.

Music and Liturgy Subcommittee
According to the Information Report for the November meeting, the BCL's Subcommittee on Music and Liturgy has completed initial research and is beginning a first draft of a Directory of Music for Use in the Liturgy, in accordance with Liturgiam authenticam, no. 108: "Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing".

The new Directory would presumably replace the outdated BCL guidelines, Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today, as Built of Living Stones replaced the problematic statement on church architecture, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship.

Members of the Music subcommittee were not listed in the report.

Ad Hoc Committee for the Review of Scripture Translations
This committee, headed by Bishop Arthur Serratelli (aux. Newark), is reviewing three Scripture translations that have been submitted for conference approval:

1) Revised New American Bible Old Testament (to replace the 1970 version);

2) A translation of the New Testament, sponsored by the Catholic Book Publishing Company, the New Catholic Version;

3) Two translations of the Psalter, one of which may be proposed for possible use within the Liturgy in the dioceses of the United States.

All these translations are said to employ "formal equivalence", following the principles of Liturgiam authenticam.

Other members of this committee are Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishops Blase Cupich (Rapid City), Richard Sklba (aux. Milwaukee), and Emil Wcela (aux. Rockville Centre). The secretariat, shared by the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine, is headed by Monsignor John Strynkowski.

Helen Hull Hitchcock is editor of the Adoremus Bulletin.

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