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  Online Edition - Vol. III, No. 8: November 1997
Cardinal Mahony's Letter on the Liturgy

In a major pastoral letter on the liturgy, "Gather Faithfully Together, A Guide for Sunday Mass" (September 4, 1997), Cardinal Roger Mahony encouraged Los Angeles Catholics to "celebrate the diverse experiences, cultures, and charisms that assemble around the one table" of the Mass.

Cardinal Mahony, in encouraging continued renewal of the liturgy since the Second Vatican Council, directed every parish "to start now on a course of catechesis and liturgical practice" he described in the Letter "even at the cost of delaying other important pastoral initiatives".

The Letter promises to have far-reaching effects. The Letter was promoted in an October 10 speech by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA, until recently the chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy. Speaking to pastoral leaders of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Trautman said that the letter will have an effect far beyond Los Angeles. He said, "I think when other bishops read the pastoral letter, they will want to copy it for their own people. He added that the Letter takes "a practical and creative approach" to the reform of the Liturgy.

However, the liturgical innovations and additions advocated by the Letter and justified by "diversity", are likely to increase the liturgical confusion already pervasive in the Church.

A Liturgical Reflection or Liturgical Legislation?

The Letter raises questions concerning its authority and its intended use. On the one hand, the Letter avoids using the term "directives" in describing the content of the Letter. Cardinal Mahony, "as bishop of this Church of Los Angeles" exhorts the Archdiocese "to enter into reflection" with him "on the Eucharist we celebrate each Sunday in our parishes". He warns that "we do not need more mechanical implementation in response to liturgical directives" Rather, the Letter suggests that "we will focus on the liturgy with concrete goals and deadlines for implementation."

On the other hand, after describing several liturgical practices for implementation, the Letter invokes the collaboration of archdiocesan offices in monitoring the implementation program. The Letter "invite[s] the appropriate offices and departments of the Archdiocesan Catholic Center to come together to discern how all can assist with and collaborate in the important, life-giving, parish-transforming work I have outlined in this letter.

Hence, we cannot but conclude that, while the Letter is reluctant to invoke the term "liturgical directives" or "decrees", the document clearly intends to promulgate liturgical legislation ("concrete goals") against which individual parishes can be measured for compliance.

But the authority intended for these liturgical directives is not entirely clear. The Letter requires:

This strongly suggests the directives in the Letter are to be considered mandatory despite insistance that "the goal of this Letter is not the mechanical implementation [of the directives]" (and, later, that "we do not need more mechanical implementation in response to liturgical directives"). It is not clear how a "mechanical implementation" is different from any other kind of implementation.

Detailed Directives

The Letter's liturgical directives are extensive (in excess of 17,000 words), and many details of liturgical etiquette embellish existing liturgical norms. For example:

"Although people go out of their way to greet one another and be gracious, it is never done in such a way that you feel one person is the host and another is the guest. Everyone is at home."

"As the singing continues [at the beginning of the Mass], the presider greets the altar with a kiss."

"Looking at the assembly, the presider then exchanges the greeting. He is careful not to speak in any way that would imply it is his liturgy, or that the people assembled are guests."

"The peace greeting is not long or protracted, but it is anything but perfunctory. People seem to look each other in the eye. They clasp hands firmly or embrace."

"Let the peace be shared with warm embraces and clasping hands, for here every human relationship of blood or friendship fades before the closeness we have as members of Christ's Body."

The Letter also directs the leaders to "need and embrace the community." The instructions on embracing reveal an almost exclusive emphasis on intimacy among the worshippers. This "horizontal" dimension of the celebration of Mass is not balanced by equal attention to the "vertical", or transcendent dimension, which is a serious flaw of the document.

Inconsistencies with existing liturgical norms

Significant alterations to the universal norms governing the Church's liturgy, including the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), would be required if the Letter's directives were mandated. Examples follow:

1. The Letter directs that the "choice of [Eucharistic] Prayer should not be at the sole discretion of the presider, it should reflect the aspirations and needs of this community. It is the entire assembly's prayer."

There is no legitimate precedent for such restriction on the celebrant. It is not to be found in GIRM, which states: "Every authentic celebration of the Eucharist is directed by the bishop, either in person or through the presbyters, who are his helpers" (GIRM 59).

Some liturgists advocate composition of Eucharistic Prayers by a particular "assembly" precisely to reflect its "aspirations and needs." The Letter's statement that "it is the entire assembly's prayer" may easily be interpreted to indicate that if none of the approved Eucharistic Prayers "reflect the aspirations and needs" of a particular "community", the community may devise one that does. The problem is long-standing. In 1980, the Vatican's Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship warned against "the proliferation of unapproved Eucharistic Prayers".

In addition, as a practical matter, "the community" is incapable of choosing anything in the liturgy, even from among approved texts. In practice, this directive can only mean some kind of lay liturgy committee speaking in the name of the community. But to speak in the name of the community is precisely the role of the priest/celebrant. It might be wise to consult members of a trained committee. But the celebrant cannot be mandated to do so without violating the liturgical norms of the universal Church.

2. The Letter directs the assembly "to be gathered round, if possible right around the altar, because what occurs here involves not only the bread and wine, but those standing near" because "we too are consecrated, changed, shared".

The faithful are not "consecrated, or changed, or shared" in anything remotely like the way the bread and wine are. Given the widespread misunderstanding of the Real Presence, why should the Letter add to the confusion by using language whose most obvious meaning violates sound Eucharistic theology?

Furthermore, existing liturgical rules do not support this innovation. An earlier draft of the pastoral letter is revealing on this point. It had directed that "as many as possible" of the "assembly" are to gather around the altar. Advocacy of this liturgical innovation has become commonplace in liturgical journals. The intention is to make the "assembly" in some way "co-celebrants" of the Eucharist, and to blur as much as possible the distinction between the ordained priesthood (and the sacrificial character of the Eucharist) and the "priesthood of the baptized".

The idea that "the assembly" is the focus of the Eucharistic celebration, placing the emphasis too strongly on the "gathered faithful" and "community" rather than on the sacrificial character of the celebration, reflects a one-dimensional eucharistic theology and is an inadequate presentation of Catholic teaching.

3. The Letter directs the people to "raise their hands in prayer for the Our Father and through the acclamation 'For the kingdom' ".

The GIRM does not mention this gesture, although the "orans" posture has been suggested as an option in the "adaptations" for the United States in the proposed revision of the Sacramentary.

The "orans" is the priest's posture during liturgical prayer. Some liturgists have promoted the use of this priestly posture by the laity in order, again, to eradicate as much as possible the distinction between the priest and the faithful. Although the objective of promoting the "orans" posture for the laity during this part of the Mass is sometimes said to be to achieve a greater sense of "community" or "participation", if lay people imitate gestures unique to the priest/celebrant, it symbolically suggests that the Eucharist is a self-validating action of the "assembly", not a re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Christ.

The same reasoning underlies the insistence by some liturgists that people should stand as the priest does during the entire Eucharistic Prayer and other parts of the Mass where people traditionally kneel.

4. In describing the "Communion procession", the Letter suggests,

"Great attention has to be given to the arrangement of ministers and to the flow of the procession around and through the assembly. The songs used at Communion should be ones that all can sing without books in their hands, each parish having perhaps six or seven Communion songs that are able to bear repetition, in word and melody, through the years. This singing of a single Communion song lasts until the procession and all the sharing of Holy Communion end . "

The emphasis, again, is on "the assembly" and on congregational activity. Here, as elsewhere, the Letter shifts the focus of the liturgy from the sacrifice of the Mass to the people participating in it. The Letter says that one should have a feeling of being entirely surrounded by moving people. Singing should be constant. This virtually precludes any personal prayer and preparation for reception of the sacrament--and that is the point. Again, this reflects a strikingly truncated theology of the Eucharist.

No description of such a procession is found in the GIRM, nor does the Letter mention how those who should not or are unable to receive Communion would be affected by the procession.

5. The Letter states that "receiving both the Body and the Blood of Christ is to be the practice of every parish at every Sunday Liturgy" and that "homilists should occasionally make reference to the fullness of the symbol that is now extended to every communicant".

The language in this passage is ambiguous, for it seems to suggest that "receiving" the Eucharist under both species "is to be the practice" of all communicants, rather than simply making both species available to them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reaffirms the teaching of the Council of Trent that "Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite." [ccc 1390].

The Council of Trent [DS 1727] declared:

Itaque sancta ipsa Synodus a Spiritu Sancto, qui Spiritus est sapientiæ et intellectus, Spiritus consilii et pietatis, edocta atque ipsius Ecclesiæ iudicium et consuetudinem secuta, declarat et docet, nullo divino præcepto laicos et clericos non conficientes obligari ad Eucharistiæ sacramentum sub utraque specie sumendum, neque ullo pacto salva fide dubitari posse, quin illis alterius speciei communio ad salutem sufficiat.

[Thus this holy Synod, instructed by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and love, and following the judgment and usage of the Church herself, declares and teaches that laity and priests who are not celebrants are constrained by no divine precept to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species.]

6. The Letter proclaims that "the practice of distributing hosts consecrated at a previous Mass is nowhere envisioned in the Church's liturgy nor in the rubrics. Nor would it be allowed by a right understanding of the Eucharistic Prayer and the assembly." Elsewhere the Letter says that care in planning "helps us avoid taking from the tabernacle hosts consecrated at a previous Mass because we have given thanks over this bread and wine on this altar . "

The Second Vatican Council says only that: "The more perfect form of participation in the Mass whereby the faithful, after the priest's communion, receive the Lord's Body from the same sacrifice, is warmly recommended " (SC, 55, emphasis added).

The Council's decree cited above would require that priests consecrate an ample supply of hosts so that all present may receive Communion. But it is puzzling that the Letter does not specify the appropriate disposition of the unused consecrated elements, considering the strong emphasis placed on not administering Communion from the reserved Sacrament.

Eucharistic Reservation, Language

7. The language the Letter uses to refer to the Body and Blood of Christ in many passages is problematic. On one occasion the Letter calls attention to a paradox, that the "Body of Christ [assembly] receives the Body of Christ [Eucharist]". Generally, however, the Letter calls the consecrated elements simply "hosts" or "bread and wine". The theological implications of this are quite profound.

In this connection, it is not insignificant that the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (fdlc) resolved to examine critically the recent revival of Eucharistic Devotions. The FDLC believes that the increased interest in devotion to the Blessed Sacrament reflects negatively on the celebration of the Eucharist. In the view of some liturgists, reservation itself seems problematic. The 1978 document Environment and Art in Catholic Worship advises that tabernacles should not be placed in the center of the Sanctuary, but in a place apart. For some time now, many liturgists have urged that the tabernacle be physically removed not only from the main altar, but from the Sanctuary altogether, in order that the faithful not become "confused" or "distracted" by it during Mass.

The desire to discourage devotion to the Body and Blood of Christ--even to the point of habitually calling the sacred elements "bread" and "wine" and of excluding the Presence from a central place in churches--is consistent with the desire to focus exclusively on the "communal meal" aspect of the Eucharist, and on "the assembly" rather than on the Lord.

Eucharistic Ministers

8. In describing the distribution of Communion, the Letter directs that "Ministers look each person in the eye and say, without rushing, 'The Body of Christ/ El Cuerpo de Cristo '".

The instruction to "look people in the eye", of course, does not appear in the GIRM or any other official liturgical document. The studied emphasis on personal contact of the "minister" with the communicant, again, is consistent with a view of the Eucharist primarily as an action of the assembled community of believers. The communicant should properly be focusing his attention (and his eyes) on Christ, not on the minister.

(Considering the detail of the Letter's vision of the ideal liturgy, it is somewhat surprising that the role of "extraordinary" eucharistic ministers is not given special attention. They seem to be included in the collective term "ministers", and the extraordinary to collapse into the ordinary.)

Unity or Diversity?

9. The Letter directs that "all of us can, as a first step, sing acclamations and litany refrains in other languages".

While the Letter is very sensitive to a situation where parishioners may be ethnically mixed, with parts of a congregation speaking different languages, the Letter misses an opportunity to encourage an expression of unity in at least occasional use of the universal liturgical language of the Church, Latin. This is hardly surprising. However, the Council expressly said that "care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them." (sc 54).

The Letter overlooks the Council's explicit counsel to give the perennial and distinctive music of Catholic worship, Gregorian Chant, "pride of place" in sung Masses. This at first seems ironic, since "unity" among believers is clearly what the Church desires, and unity both in belief and worship creates authentic religious "community"; but the omission of this part of the Council's intended liturgical reform is entirely consistent with the current emphasis on "diversity" and "multiculturalism" in some liturgical circles, and in this Letter.

"Inclusive Language"

10. Despite the controversy over "inclusive language" and differences that have surfaced between the U.S. hierarchy and the Vatican, the Letter mandates that "horizontal inclusive language, at least to the extent encouraged by the U.S. bishops in their work of revising liturgical books, should be incorporated into all liturgical celebrations of this Archdiocese."

Are the Catholics of Los Angeles being encouraged to change the authorized texts of the Mass and Lectionary without Vatican approval? The "encouragement" of the U.S. bishops to use "inclusive language" in their "work of revising" was not unanimous even among themselves, and none of the proposed revisions have yet received the requisite approval from the Holy See. In fact, translation norms issued by the Vatican in connection with the revision of the American Lectionary clearly preclude "inclusivism" in liturgical language.

Inculturation Inconsistencies

11. After describing in great detail his vision of how Mass should be celebrated by the year 2000, the Cardinal Mahony adds:

"I have not outlined how I want liturgy to look in every parish of our Archdiocese three years from now. Look first for the texture. The details are important because care for details matters greatly in liturgy, but these are the details of Our Lady of the Angels. The details at your parish will differ, but each parish should intend to have this beauty and intensity each Sunday."

Is the cardinal's ideal Mass only a suggestion? Can the "beauty and intensity" he envisions be achieved if the interpretation of the liturgical norms varies radically from one parish (or diocese) to another? Or is this a further manifestation of the sixties idea that "meaningful" liturgies should be tailored to suit an endless variety of group tastes or preferences (so long as it is not traditional "ghetto" Catholic)?

Although the detailed vision of the ideal Mass presented in the Letter seems to advocate many departures from the customary celebration of Mass in the United States, the Letter also warns "against an excessive 'inculturation' that is destroying our liturgy". But the only examples he offers of "excessive" inculturation are:

"some [liturgical] practices and attitudes from North American society that have no place [in the liturgy]: the hurried pace, the tyranny of the clock, the inattention to the arts, the casual tone of a presider, the 'what can I get out of it?' approach of the consumer, the 'entertain me' attitude of a nation of television watchers."

We look in vain for any positive examples of liturgical practices that are traditional in the United States, the English-speaking world or Western Europe. The cultural riches that Catholics are invited to sample in their liturgies seem always to be "hyphenated-American" or from other religions.

12. The Letter seems to find the ideal solution in a celebration of diversity that draws attention to the ethnic mix of the parish. For example, the "vision" of the celebration Cardinal Mahony hopes to see describes "The ordinary and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist this Sunday represent the diversity of the community: women and men, young and old, of different races, backgrounds and circumstances".

Later, however, the Letter seems to contradict this assertion by insisting that the liturgy "should be the one experience in our lives when we will not be sorted out by education level, skin color, intelligence, politics, sexual orientation (sic), wealth or lack of it, or any other human condition."

This comment is an apparent reference to Galatians 3:28, in which St. Paul is emphasizing Christian unity in baptism. But why is "sexual orientation" included in this mix? The phrase itself is a highly-charged political concept and the subject of serious controversy. Inserting it here seems an inappropriate concession to advocates of "sexual diversity".

"Full, Conscious, and Active Participation"

13. The liturgical changes decreed by the Letter are intended to advance the "full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy by all the faithful" as promoted by the Second Vatican Council. But the Letter seems to offer "celebrating diversity" as a sufficient means of achieving this goal.

The Letter expressly cautions against "comfortable homogeneity." Yet understanding more deeply the truth of the Catholic faith is necessary for "full, conscious and active participation" in Catholic worship. That unity of faith subsists precisely in the "new and everlasting Covenant", the one Sacrifice by the one Mediator between God and man, as the cause of man's reconciliation with God and with one another.

"Active participation" in any worship which is not fully and consciously grounded in the essential doctrines of the faith could not be truly Catholic worship.

The Letter emphasizes ethnic and other differences within the assembly of worshippers, but fails to explain that the primary object of the liturgy can, and must, be understood in light of the essentials of the faith and the teachings of the universal Church. As one example, the only doctrinally clear reference to the Real Presence is relegated to a footnote quoting the Council of Trent.

This shows how filtering the liturgy through the narrow lens of multi-cultural diversity marginalizes key concepts which are fundamental to a "full, conscious" understanding of the meaning of the liturgy.

Eucharistic Prayer: Blurred distinction between priest and laity

14. The Letter observes: "the Eucharistic Prayer was a kind of orphan. People said, 'We lift them up to the Lord,' and sang the 'Holy, Holy.' But for years no one could have told you anything about the Eucharistic Prayer except that 'the priest does the consecration.' " As a result of implementing the Letter's directives, the Letter adds: "Now the parishioners can talk about the experience of standing and singing God's praise together."

Although the Letter recognizes that "the central tasks of the presider [are] proclaiming the presidential prayers and the Eucharistic Prayer", ambiguity remains about the role of the people.

Canon Law is unambiguous on this point: "In the celebration of the Eucharist, it is not licit for deacons and lay persons to say prayers, in particular the Eucharistic prayer, or to perform actions which are proper to the celebrating priest" (cic, can. 907).

In this regard, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in "Feast of Faith" observes:

"The unhappy multiplication of eucharistic prayers is symptomatic of a very serious situation, quite apart from the fact that the quality and the theological content of some of these productions are hardly bearable. In the end even variety becomes boring. This is why, here especially, we are in such urgent need of an education toward inwardness."

Mass as Sacrifice Inadequately Presented

15. Another example of the Letter's serious doctrinal deficiencies is the virtual exclusion of the concept of the Mass as sacrifice. References to "sacrifice" appear only three times, and one of these is "Sacrifice of the Mass". But the Letter consistently avoids presenting the Church's teaching on what that sacrifice is. Most troubling is the following example from the Letter's discussion of the Eucharistic Prayer:

"They [Catholic parishioners] can talk about solidarity with one another across all dividing lines. They can talk about sacrifice and the mystery of Christ's passion, death and resurrection that is remembered and realized here in a powerful shaping of their own lives. Above all, they can talk about the way the Holy Spirit is invoked to transform these gifts and themselves. And so they are talking about the presence of Christ in the simple gifts of bread and wine, and in the mystery that is this Church (ccc: 1352-1354)."

Misleading Citations of the Catechism

16. The foregoing paraphrase of the Catechism is misleading. The people are not "talking about" things. This passage of the Catechism describes in detail the Eucharistic Prayer, and what the different parts of the prayer mean and signify. The Letter omits such phrases from the Catechism as:

"The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God." [1352]

"[T]he Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit" [1353]

"[T]he power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all. "[1353 ]

"[T]he Church calls to mind the Passion, resurrection, and glorious return of Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his Son which reconciles us with him." [1354]

"[T]he Church indicates that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth, the living and the dead, and in communion with the pastors of the Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium and his deacons, and all the bishops of the whole world together with their Churches." [1354]

Misleading references to the Catechism is a recurrent problem in the Letter. Two further examples follow:

LETTER: "If the assembly is the basic symbol when the liturgy is celebrated (ccc: 1188)" [page 4]

CCC, 1188 : "In a liturgical celebration, the whole assembly is leitourgos , each member according to his own function. The baptismal priesthood is that of the whole Body of Christ. But some of the faithful are ordained through the sacrament of Holy Orders to represent Christ as head of the Body."

Comment: The CCC does not say, does not even suggest, that "the assembly is the basic symbol when the liturgy is celebrated". It says nothing whatever about symbolism. This entire passage from the Letter (not all quoted here) is self-contradictory.

LETTER: "Liturgical renewal is a matter of passion, of catching some glimpse of the way strong Sunday Liturgy makes strong Catholics, and of how these Catholics make their Sunday Liturgy. (ccc: 1324)" [page 4]

CCC, 1324: "The Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life.' The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."

Comment: The Catechism passage cited as a source for this comment says nothing about "liturgical renewal", nothing about "passion". In fact, the only common words in these two passages are: "is", "of", and "the". This is deceptive, whether or not it is intentional. Such passages do not promote confidence in the Letter.

"Presider" or Priest?

17. If the presentation of the meaning of the Eucharist is deficient in the Letter, it follows that the meaning of the priesthood is similarly inadequate. The priest is almost always simply referred to as "presider". Although this term is not found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council or in the GIRM, it appears 58 times in this Letter.

In the Letter, the "presider's" orders are reduced to his appointment as a mere "representative" of the local bishop: "In our Catholic tradition, the one who is called by the Church to the order of priest is to be in the local parish community as the presence of the bishop."

This is inadequate, at best, and represents a defective, functionalist view of the priesthood. The priest's orders are not simply to represent the bishop -- he represents Christ . His orders are precisely what makes it possible for him to re-present the sacrifice of the Mass in persona Christi .

Use of ambiguous pronouns referring to the "presider" further accentuate this functionalist view of the priesthood. (An example, "To preside, a person must live from the rich ambiguity of symbolic reality." Emphasis added.) Significantly, the Letter never refers to the priest as "celebrant".

This reductionist view of the ordained priesthood, limiting orders to a "presidential function", is endemic among "progressive" liturgists and dissenting theologians. The language of the Letter invites the erroneous understanding that the priest should not be distinguished in any important way from the "assembly", that there is no real difference between the ordained priesthood and the "priesthood of every believer".

The Council's General Norms on Liturgy

18. Catholic people are entitled to authentic Catholic teaching reliably presented, so that they can more fully understand and more consciously engage in active participation in Catholic liturgy. Canon law states that

"The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church, and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church." [Canon 214]

With this in mind, it may be helpful to review the general norms for liturgy established by the Second Vatican Council:

22. (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

(2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops' conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given territories.

(3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

23. In order that sound tradition be retained, and yet the way remain open to legitimate progress, a careful investigation--theological, historical, and pastoral--should always be made into each part of the liturgy which is to be revised. Furthermore the general laws governing the structure and meaning of the liturgy must be studied in conjunction with the experience derived from recent liturgical reforms and from the indults granted to various places.

Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.

As far as possible, notable differences between the rites used in adjacent regions should be avoided.

19. These observations do not intend to be an exhaustive critique of "Gather Faithfully Together". Rather they merely highlight some of the features of the Letter which present very serious doctrinal and pastoral difficulties.

We agree with Cardinal Ratzinger, who argues that the pastoral consequences of liturgical adaptations are long term:

"I am convinced that a superficial or over-hasty adaptation, far from attracting respect for Christianity, would only raise doubts as to its sincerity and the seriousness of its message" ( Feast of Faith , p. 82).

If Cardinal Mahony's directives are implemented -- "mechanically" or otherwise -- the result is not likely to bring deeper understanding of the Church's central act of worship to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, or elsewhere in the United States. In our age of instant communication, what one cardinal mandates will inevitably surface in other dioceses--with or without approval of the local bishop. In fact, this is already taking place.

After years of liturgical abuse, doctrinal confusion and disunity, the greatest need of the Church now is not for still more "flexibility" and innovations, but for liturgical stability -- for an authentic and beautiful celebration of the Mass, firmly grounded in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the observation of existing liturgical norms.

Adoremus: Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy Executive Committee

Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
Helen Hull Hitchcock
Fr. Jerry Pokorsky

See January 1998 article about one response to this Statement

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