After an optimistic entry, Paul VI relates some concerns to the world’s bishops and pastors:
9. There are, however, Venerable Brothers, a number of reasons for serious pastoral concern and anxiety in this very matter that we are now discussing, and because of Our consciousness of Our Apostolic office, We cannot remain silent about them.
False and Disturbing Opinions
10. For We can see that some of those who are dealing with this Most Holy Mystery in speech and writing are disseminating opinions on Masses celebrated in private or on the dogma of transubstantiation that are disturbing the minds of the faithful and causing them no small measure of confusion about matters of faith, just as if it were all right for someone to take doctrine that has already been defined by the Church and consign it to oblivion or else interpret it in such a way as to weaken the genuine meaning of the words or the recognized force of the concepts involved.
11. To give an example of what We are talking about, it is not permissible to extol the so-called “community” Mass in such a way as to detract from Masses that are celebrated privately; or to concentrate on the notion of sacramental sign as if the symbolism—which no one will deny is certainly present in the Most Blessed Eucharist—fully expressed and exhausted the manner of Christ’s presence in this Sacrament; or to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation without mentioning what the Council of Trent had to say about the marvelous conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and the whole substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ, as if they involve nothing more than “transignification,” or “transfinalization” as they call it; or, finally, to propose and act upon the opinion that Christ Our Lord is no longer present in the consecrated Hosts that remain after the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass has been completed.
I can’t speak to the theological circles spinning in the 60’s–I wasn’t even a Catholic then. On the issues of “transignification” and “transfinalization,” two things. They don’t seem to be significant in Catholic theology today. From what I’ve read about them, they seemed more of an attempt to apply modern scientific and philosophical principles to something which frankly, is best left unexplained. By that I mean to say that the experience of liturgy is not something that can always be analyzed so as to come to a verifiable truth. Or as the progressive liturgists often say, “Don’t explain the symbol; experience it.”
12. Everyone can see that the spread of these and similar opinions does great harm to belief in and devotion to the Eucharist.
Purpose of the Encyclical
13. And so, with the aim of seeing to it that the hope to which the Council has given rise—that a new wave of Eucharistic devotion will sweep over the Church—not be reduced to nil through the sowing of the seeds of false opinions, We have decided to use Our apostolic authority and speak Our mind to you on this subject, Venerable Brothers.
14. We certainly do not deny that those who are spreading these strange opinions are making a praiseworthy effort to investigate this lofty Mystery and to set forth its inexhaustible riches and to make it more understandable to the (people) of today; rather, We acknowledge this and We approve of it. But We cannot approve the opinions that they set forth, and We have an obligation to warn you about the grave danger that these opinions involve for true faith.
We’ve read Sacrosanctum Concilium, and I don’t recall a strong emphasis on Eucharistic devotion in the document. More generally, the council bishops spoke of achieving a certain cooperation with God’s grace through participation, intelligibility, and a deeper spirituality. That said, I find it striking that the pope would emphasize Eucharistic devotion so. Clearly he thought such devotion was lacking in 1965, otherwise he wouldn’t have stressed it so strongly.
The brief mention of private Masses is curious. The conciliar liturgical reforms were directed at lay participation and understanding. It would be logical that more effort be put into the communal celebration of Mass, and that post-conciliar liturgists would be leaving the Mass without a congregation to itself.