Extraordinary Form and Extraordinary Burdens

Thanks for the commentary on the “Universal Tridentine” thread below. Neil nails important issues all of us would do well to keep in mind.

It has long been my contention that either of the two liturgical rites called upon to do the lion’s share of worship in a parish will come off badly in comparison to the other. The so-called extraordinary form rarely does regular duty. Requests for funerals, marriages, baptisms, and the like are dwarfed by what the modern Roman Rite is called upon to perform.

If the situation were reversed, and the 1970 Missal had one “special” slot in a parish’s Sunday Mass schedule, I have no doubt it would flourish with a high degree of ars celebrandi across the board: preaching, music, art, and so on.

To make the comparison even more fair, consider that the standard Sunday or holy day Mass in a parish is designed to be what a High Mass was in the days before Vatican II. If EF advocates wanted a level playing field to compare how the modern Roman Rite is doing, they’d need to get really serious about doing several High Masses per weekend, plus most funerals, weddings, and school Masses.

It would be unfair to dump the legions of practicing Catholics on the EF liturgies and stake out special territory for the 1970 Mass, a once-a-week slot, say. I don’t have any doubt that intentional communities have a certain charisma about them. But what do you suppose would happen to the EF Mass if it had a significant fraction, if not a majority, of indifferent worshippers?

But there was a reason the 1962 Missal was completely reformed. If it were to return in any significant way, I think it would be found more wanting. I just don’t think traditionalists are up to the extraordinary burdens of modern Catholicism. Latin and old ritual will net, as Neil suggests, a small group of advocates. One Mass a month is relatively easy to do. A weekly Sunday High Mass has been a burden in a few places. I’d like to see an EF parish get serious with what your average suburban parish has to provide: ten to twenty-five Masses a week. I seriously doubt they’d be up for it.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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26 Responses to Extraordinary Form and Extraordinary Burdens

  1. Jeff Pinyan says:

    But there was a reason the 1962 Missal was completely reformed.

    That’s a lengthy issue. There are many opinions as to why the 1962 Missal was, as you have said, completely reformed… to the point where Pope Paul VI called it “the new rite of the Mass”, although he also insisted that “The Mass of the new rite is and remains the same Mass we have always had.”

    I’m curious if such language (calling the revised texts the “new rite”, a “liturgical innovation”, and a “change in a venerable tradition that has gone on for centuries”. That language (used by Pope Paul VI) seems to me to distance the post-VII revisions of the missal from the other revisions previously made during the 20th century.

    I’m of the opinion that the 1962 Mass did not need to be completely reformed, and furthermore than the Council did not state — implicitly or explicitly — nor intend for such a whole-scale revision to take place. (But you knew that already about me.)

    If it were to return in any significant way, I think it would be found more wanting.

    The 1962 Mass is wanting! That’s why S.C. calls for its reform. It deserves the restoration of the Prayer of the Faithful and the Pax (when appropriate), and perhaps even the Responsorial Psalm; the homily deserves to be an element of the liturgy itself, not an interlude or interruption.

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought to potential (and organic) revisions to the 1962 Missal that would satisfy the mandates of S.C.

  2. Deacon Eric says:

    Sacrosanctum Concilium did not fall from the skies as a document that then needed to be analyzed to determine its intent. It is not an ancient text with unknown authors. It was written and approved by 3,000 bishops, who then went back to their dioceses and implemented liturgical reform. The intent of the document’s authors is no mystery; we can clearly see their intent by hundreds of thousands of statements they made and by their actions. The authors of SC clearly intended a major overhaul of liturgy (no doubt without unanimity on the details), and we have millions of words by these 3,000 authors in hundreds of thousands of homilies, articles and other documentation available in every place of the world.

    So why do some still maintain that SC is a mysterious document whose actual intent is subject to interpretation? Of the Council Fathers, a small handful (like Spellman and McIntyre) were uncomfortable with the results. Of these, only one refused to go along with the results. I’d say the intent of the document is crystal clear.

  3. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Deacon Eric, the document is ambiguous in some places and does not cover many of the changes that were made to the liturgy. So people like me wonder why, if the liturgy we have today was truly the intent of the bishops who authored and approved that document, why it wasn’t expressed more clearly in the first place, and why the document expressed things like the retention of Latin and Gregorian Chant when such things are scarce to be found. Remember, Pope Paul VI went on to mourn over their apparent necessary absence from the reformed rite in November 1969.

  4. Deacon Eric says:

    Up until a few years ago, hundreds of the authors of SC were still alive and you could ask them directly. Now we have their statements, writings and actions. They clearly supported the reforms implemented by Paul VI. I don’t think that’s ambiguous.

    Latin is being retained. You can skim over the offerings of any of the church music publishers and see dozens of contemporary music that includes Latin. Our parish music director, a very talented contemporary composer, often uses Latin phrases in his work. Latin was not retained in toto, but it was retained. And from the actions of the SC authors, one can see this was their intent.

    Gregorian chant is not often found in parishes, but I would bet it is more common in the United States than it was before the Council. The typical pre-conciliar parish did not use Gregorian Chant. Its adoption was a hard-fought struggle of the Liturgical Movement that only really took root in Solesmes in the 19th Century and was never popular in the United States. Most American parishes had a repertoire of perhaps a dozen or so vernacular songs, “Tantum Ergo” and “O Salutaris Hostia” — maybe a few did “Adeste Fideles” at Christmas. Beyond that, the idea of widespread Gregorian Chant before the Council is a fictitious nostalgia.

  5. Liam says:

    Jeff

    I would caution that Catholics (conservative and liberal, for that matter) from North America appear to tend to see SC as something like a “constitution” in the North American sense – a fundamental legislative enactment from which implementing laws are derived and against which such laws must avoid discrepancy.

    But that’s not how SC functioned or functions in Roman law. Not at all. Roman law has almost become entirely pontifical (papal and episcopal – with some room for episcopal conferences). So, while SC says some things (some to please conservatives, others to please liberals), the governing law is whatever the pope enacts and, to the extent he permits episcopal conferences and ordinaries an area for discretion, whatever they enact within their areas of discretion.

    Thus, Roman liturgical law is mostly positivist in nature – subject only to the requirements of moral and sacramental theology, that law is what the executive-legislator says it is. It’s not constrained by non-dogmatic conciliar pronouncements.

    Which is why both conservative and liberal North American Catholics get frustrated by these things, because what is actually legislated appears to not be fully aligned with what they think ought to be legislated.

  6. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Latin is being retained. … [not] in toto, but it was retained. And from the actions of the SC authors, one can see this was their intent.

    It’s being retained but not employed. If that was the intent of the authors of S.C., I’m furious.

    The typical pre-conciliar parish did not use Gregorian Chant.

    Well, it was certainly the written intent of Popes Pius X, XI, and XII to have it restored to the people. S.C. seems to be continuing that call for participation in the liturgy through chant.

    So, while SC says some things (some to please conservatives, others to please liberals), the governing law is whatever the pope enacts and, to the extent he permits episcopal conferences and ordinaries an area for discretion, whatever they enact within their areas of discretion.

    Then why did we even bother with S.C.? If the Pope could do whatever he pleases with the liturgy (and he can’t) why produce a document purporting what the reform of the liturgy is to entail if the document isn’t binding? Why vote on it?

    And besides, the actual work on the liturgy was consigned to the Consilium; the Pope approved and signed off on their product, but he wasn’t the one making the changes.

    …what is actually legislated appears to not be fully aligned with what they think ought to be legislated.

    Yeah, and because we have priests like this one (who uses the “Roman Law” argument in his defense) saying things like “I do not use the word ‘mystery’ [in 'let us proclaim the mystery of faith'] because I think it is misleading. There is nothing hidden or unknown about our salvation… Nor do I suffer the belief that the words of the Sacramentary have to be reproduced exactly.”

    There’s really no use in reading these Church documents if there’s no guarantee the Church’s leadership plans on following through with them. Honestly, why put in that lip service about Latin and chant and catechesis in S.C. if they didn’t really mean it? Who likes being lied to?

  7. Liam says:

    Jeff

    “And besides, the actual work on the liturgy was consigned to the Consilium; the Pope approved and signed off on their product, but he wasn’t the one making the changes.”

    Well, a Pope always delegates the gut work. Here, the twist was that it was the Consilium rather than a standing curial group, as it were. But even if the curia had done it, it would not have been the Pope doing it himself.

    The problem you and many of us don’t like is precisely that the Roman juridical developments of the past millennia have been directed at removing constraints on pontifical legislation. The “high” concept of executive-legislative pontifical authority – which is what happened when 15th century Conciliarism is seen in any critique of it – entails this. Progressives have been whining about it for a long time – it’s nice to see conservatives join the whine finally.

    You believe that a Pope cannot do whatever he pleases with liturgy. As a descriptive matter of current Roman law, I would only agree that he is subject to doctrinal/dogmatic limitations, but otherwise there is no law standing in his way of doing so and under that current legal mindset a Pope would have no power to bind his successors in that regard even if he wanted to.

    I don’t like it. But that’s where things are now.

  8. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Actually, maybe I can live with it. I mean, if the Pope can do whatever he wants with the liturgy, and S.C. was meant as “guidelines”, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Pope Benedict liberating the 1962 Missal. It’s not a repudiation of Vatican II or turning the clock back or whatever other derogatory label one might apply, it’s simply his right.

    I’m sorry for being so snide and vicious about it, but I’m becoming awfully frustrated. Again, what was the purpose of voting on S.C. if it wasn’t going to hold anyone accountable to it?

  9. Liam says:

    Jeff

    Accountability of bishops is something that passed from the Roman scene many centuries ago.

    And yes you underscore how pontifical prerogative cuts both ways.

    You assume the purpose of voting is to establish accountability. That’s very North American. It’s not very Roman. Romans are quite used to situations like this – it’s a very different sensibility.

  10. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Liam, can you provide a brief explanation then for what the purpose of drafting and voting on of a document like S.C. is? What does it accomplish, in the Roman sense?

  11. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Oh, and does this mean that documents like Redemptionis Sacramentum, although they SOUND like law, are just suggestions (unless they touch directly upon canon law, like in the case of deliberate profanation of the sacred species)? In other words, are the “rights” of Catholics that are enumerated in that document a load of bull?

  12. Liam says:

    Jeff

    Adopting SC was a way of articulating a general consensus about the general direction of liturgical reform. It was not implementing legislation.

    RS is a clarification of implementing legislation.

    Roman law does not work like American law. There’s no fundamental written law that is subject to change only by consensus of the whole body. There is no separation of powers or checks and balances – the pope is supreme executive, legislator and judge. And he has the ability to dispense from compliance, formally and informally. And he may choose to delegate. It’s not lawless (actually, it’s replete with laws), but to an American mind, it seems like it invites depotism and a kind of lawlessless.

    Approaching Roman law with the mindset of American legal culture is an exercise in frustration.

  13. Deacon Eric says:

    I would add to Liam’s comments that Roman law differs from the tradition of English Common Law not only in its exercise, but in its fundamental orientation. Roman law legislates the ideal and then deals with exceptions; it is fluid and rarely is the legislation considered to apply to every possible case. English common law legislates the minimum and requires that everybody adhere to that standard. So to view a Roman document as a mandate that everybody must follow to the letter is a peculiarly American/British Commonwealth way of looking at it.

  14. Jeff Pinyan says:

    So could this lead to a theory that the after-the-fact legalization of things like Communion in the hand and altar girls was simply the bishops “jumping the gun” on the pending liturgical reforms? In other words, they were simply starting the reform locally before it caught on globally?

  15. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Roman law legislates the ideal and then deals with exceptions; it is fluid and rarely is the legislation considered to apply to every possible case. English common law legislates the minimum and requires that everybody adhere to that standard.

    So is there any minimum standard in the Church? Should I bother asking my pastor to speak to the visiting priests about pouring the Precious Blood, or about EMHCs purifying the sacred vessels (some of whom simply dump the Blood down the drain!), or about saying all the words of the Creed?

    It’s really painful to know what the ideal is (having read these documents) and then to see that there’s little or no effort to actually achieve that ideal, and little or no effort to correct abuses that are contrary to that ideal.

    So to view a Roman document as a mandate that everybody must follow to the letter is a peculiarly American/British Commonwealth way of looking at it.

    Sounds like the way a lot of Catholics view anything that Rome says.

  16. Deacon Eric says:

    As I understand it, pretty much all liturgical reform throughout the centuries has been either putting a stamp of approval on something that was already being done someplace or telling folks to stop something they were doing.

  17. Jeff Pinyan says:

    I mistyped when I wrote “Sounds like the way a lot of Catholics view anything that Rome says”. What I meant is that it seems a lot of Catholics view anything Rome as if it were simply an ideal that they needn’t follow. (Kind of the opposite of what I first typed.)

  18. Deacon Eric says:

    Jeff, it is indeed troubling to know the ideal and then see it not implemented. We see this done all the time. For example, the Sacramentary explicitly states that the people are to receive communion from bread consecrated at that Mass, yet communion at many (most?) parishes begins with the dash to the tabernacle.

    In cases such as you describe, the “Roman” way of doing it would not be to say “Hey, that’s against the rules!” but to say “You know, I find the way some of the ministers are cleaning the vessels troubling and disrespectful. Is there a way we can work toward the ideal here by helping them to better understand the procedure?”

  19. Jeff Pinyan says:

    For example, the Sacramentary explicitly states that the people are to receive communion from bread consecrated at that Mass, yet communion at many (most?) parishes begins with the dash to the tabernacle.

    Well, GIRM 85 says it’s “most desirable” (valde optandum est), although not strictly necessary. I do recognize it is the ideal, but it’s a tricky ideal! I’d imagine it’s a bit difficult to consecrate the right number of hosts (unless you’ve got someone counting heads during Mass, or have a reasonable statistical expectation of the size of the congregation… but this doesn’t take into account people present who won’t be receiving): too few and you need to interrupt Communion to retrieve more from the tabernacle, too much and you run the risk of filling the tabernacle with more of the Blessed Sacrament than the parish knows what to do with! It’s not a problem, of course, when there’s a few hosts left over (since the priest can consume them), but if the reserved Blessed Sacrament isn’t in “high demand”, it only seems proper to use it in the context of Mass, doesn’t it?

    And determining the proper amount of wine to consecrate is tricky too… too little and some people might feel gipped or slighted, too much and you run the risk of having a spectacle at the altar as ministers struggle to consume the remainder in a reverent manner.

    This isn’t a problem in the Gregorian Rite because the tabernacle is readily resorted to; and if the Chalice were conceded in that form of Mass, it would probably be via intinction, which wouldn’t require an abundance of wine to be prepared.

    (See, when I start on this train of thought, I wonder why the Bishops didn’t have the same ideas 40 years ago… and if they did, why they weren’t accepted and implemented.)

    “You know, I find the way some of the ministers are cleaning the vessels troubling and disrespectful. Is there a way we can work toward the ideal here by helping them to better understand the procedure?”

    That is an excellent choice of words and I can hear in my head that it has an appropriate tone of voice. I will have to remember that example for the future.

  20. Liam says:

    Jeff

    I would also add that Roman law does not have a place for chronic intentional disobedience. In fact, the idea is alien to the mind of Roman law. Moreover, Roman law does not have a place for dissing the law – that is, saying the law is bad and therefore should not be followed. Worse still would be to claim that noncompliance is itself a new law. The Roman way is to acknowledge and affirm the beauty of the legal ideal, even if one is not complying with it in the moment. Americans find this hypocritical and unfair, while Romans find it humane and the American attitude inhumane.

    Roman law (unlike Anglo-American law has place for (i) innocent/inadvertant noncompliance, (2) periodic noncompliance due to occasional grave or urgent circumstances on the ground, as it were, and (3) periodic noncompliance that is consistent with conflicting norms or previously valid customs of longstanding. And it also permits a pontifical legislator (generally the pope and sometimes also the ordinary) to waive compliance as an occasion invites.

  21. Liam says:

    I should add that the noncompliance of which I speak cannot involve anything that raises questions of sacramental validity – those questions that put Roman law in a position of DEFCON 1 readiness, as it were.

  22. Deacon Eric says:

    Jeff,

    No offense meant, but the reasons you offer for resorting to the tabernacles as a first option are pragmatic reasons, not liturgical reasons. Liturgical sensibility is not pragmatic. And while I often hear priests say they go to the tabernacle because they don’t know how much bread to put out, the fact is that everyone knows about how many people will be attending a typical Sunday Mass. It’s not rocket science to put that many pieces of altar bread out for the offertory procession. What is more important — and this gets to the crux of the Roman ideal we are discussing — is that people not view the elements consecrated at Mass as something for the priest, while the people receive something different from the tabernacle. That is the reason for the ideal. If that means you have to break the hosts for the last 10 people or one of the ministers has to resort to the tabernacle toward the end of the communion rite, then so be it.

    Even in this example, one has to choose one’s fights (don’t like that word as it seems too confrontational, but I’ll go with it for now). I’m not going to confront the pastor on this. But like you, I observed ministers pouring out the water used to cleanse the vessels, and rather than resorting to a legalistic approach, I patiently (and maybe not so patiently in one instance) showed them the proper way to do it. Had I included an explanation, in which I was remiss (and I thank you for causing me to realize this), that would have been the ideal.

    And on the rare occasion where we have consecrated too much wine, it is handled after Mass in the sacristy. We simply ask a few people back to help us consume the remainder if it is too much for the ministers to handle. It’s not a big issue.

    Almost all Church law can be dispensed at the discretion of the pastor for the good of souls. This is what is referred to as “pastoral reasons.” Unfortunately, “pastoral reasons” has come to mean “because that’s what the pastor likes,” or “the pastor thinks that’s easier” or “the pastor thinks it would be nice.” These are clearly not proper reasons for exceptions. Unfortunately, the possibility for such arbitrary leadership goes with the whole Roman law thing. It’s not to bash Roman law, far from it; we would open another can of worms –perhaps decidedly more unpleasant — were the Church run according to the principles of English Common Law.

    I guess the lesson here is that we are imperfect humans, and no human approach can ever fully serve the mystical body, yet we muddle along the best we can.

  23. Jeff Pinyan says:

    And while I often hear priests say they go to the tabernacle because they don’t know how much bread to put out, the fact is that everyone knows about how many people will be attending a typical Sunday Mass.

    Let’s say a priest does know the typical attendance for a particular Mass (like the 8:15 AM at my parish). He still doesn’t know how many will be communicating that day. The implicit equating of “attendance” with “communicating” is dangerous… then again, my pastor says “happy are we who are called to his supper” which also implies that all present (we) are called to receive Communion.

    What is more important — and this gets to the crux of the Roman ideal we are discussing — is that people not view the elements consecrated at Mass as something for the priest, while the people receive something different from the tabernacle.

    But at the same time, people have to know they’re not receiving anything different if they receive a freshly consecrated Host or a reserved Host.

    But like you, I observed ministers pouring out the water used to cleanse the vessels, and rather than resorting to a legalistic approach, I patiently (and maybe not so patiently in one instance) showed them the proper way to do it. Had I included an explanation, in which I was remiss (and I thank you for causing me to realize this), that would have been the ideal.

    I purified the sacred vessels the next day after daily Mass (even though I have no right to do so) because I was terribly concerned for the Blessed Sacrament. I was so scrupulous about this I considered asking about becoming an instituted acolyte, so I could “save the day” as it were. I’d like to think it’s zeal rather than scrupulosity, but some days I’m not sure.

    We simply ask a few people back to help us consume the remainder if it is too much for the ministers to handle.

    No offense, but that sounds like a pragmatic solution. ;) Or rather, I guess as you say below, a “pastoral” solution. But as you also point out, that is a throwaway phrase. Perhaps my pastor thinks it is more prudent to keep the tabernacle “active” (both in the Mass and in the minds of the faithful); I would agree with him.

    There seems to be a sharp contrast in “tabernacle theology” between the two forms of the Mass. We shouldn’t resort to the tabernacle for the Blessed Sacrament during Mass, the tabernacle shouldn’t be ON the altar because it defeats the sign value of Jesus not being sacramentally present on the altar until the moment of Consecration…

    Perhaps that second part would make more sense to me if people were actually catechized about it.

  24. Todd says:

    “… the tabernacle shouldn’t be ON the altar because it defeats the sign value of Jesus not being sacramentally present on the altar until the moment of Consecration…”

    There are a few other reasons why, but it seems to me that it confuses a theology of sacrifice with a theology of storage.

  25. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Todd, I’m not familiar with that explanation. Having never heard an explanation myself, I simply know what the Church said through Eucharisticum Mysterium, n. 6: “Consequently, on the grounds of the sign value, it is more in keeping with the nature of the celebration that, through reservation of the sacrament in the tabernacle, Christ not be present Eucharistically from the beginning on the altar where Mass is celebrated. That presence is the effect of the consecration and should appear as such.”

    (You’ve probably already gone over that document.)

  26. Jeff Pinyan says:

    I know it’s late, and I doubt anyone is still following this thread, but:

    The Consilium’s task was to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium. Where Latin and Gregorian chant are concerned, one could say rightly that they failed to implement the document in that regard. Pope Paul admitted as much in November of 1969.

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