Dec 31, 2007

ADOREMUS STATEMENT ON – "GATHER FAITHFULLY TOGETHER" – Cardinal Mahony’s Letter on the Liturgy

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

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

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


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


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

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]

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


" (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"

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


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

"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

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

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

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


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


, 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


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


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."


The Catechism passage cited as a source
for this comment says nothing about "liturgical renewal",
nothing about "passion". In fact, the only common


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


. His orders are precisely what makes
it possible for him to re-present the sacrifice of the Mass

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

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

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


The Editors