Varietates Legitimae 48: Acceptable/Unacceptable Local Customs

A very interesting section:

48. The constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium envisaged the admission of rites or gestures according to local custom into rituals of Christian initiation, marriage and funerals. (cf Nos. 65, 77, 81. Cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, Praenotanda, 30-31, 79-81, 88-89; Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium, editio typica altera, Praenotanda, 41-44; Ordo Exsequiarum, Praenotanda, 21-22.) This is a stage of inculturation, but there is also the danger that the truth of the Christian rite and the expression of the Christian faith could be easily diminished in the eyes of the faithful. Fidelity to traditional usages must be accompanied by purification and, if necessary, a break with the past. The same applies, for example, to the possibility of Christianizing pagan festivals or holy places, or to the priest using the signs of authority reserved to the heads of civil society or for the veneration of ancestors. In every case it is necessary to avoid any ambiguity. Obviously the Christian liturgy cannot accept magic rites, superstition, spiritism, vengeance or rites with a sexual connotation.

Why single out these rituals? Marriages and funerals obviously predated Christianity. Initiation rituals, too, are well known in countless cultures, but the RCIA, as we read before, permits many additional rituals during various rites.

Note the “break with the past.” Certainly no tolerance for organic development from the pastoral view. (But you all know I have doubts about its absolute necessity.)

And that last list … there are elements of superstition in Christianity: chain letters, and other usually harmless practices associated with Mary and the saints. If the concern is with people misinterpreting, shouldn’t the caution be widened to include the appearance of ambiguity? What do you think?

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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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One Response to Varietates Legitimae 48: Acceptable/Unacceptable Local Customs

  1. Liam says:

    Well, traditionally, Christianity has tried to steer the energy that is drawn to superstition out of liturgy and into devotions. When devotional practices are devalued or ignored, these things will tend to want to drift back into liturgy. (Thus, there are very practical reasons to cultivate rich devotional fare, without worrying that the energy is cannibalizing liturgy.)

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