Varietates Legitimae 63-64: Adaptations, Radical and Profound

Today we’ll look at the subsection “Adaptations Envisaged By No. 40 of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy.”

63. Apart from the adaptations provided for in the liturgical books, it may be that “in some places and circumstances an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties.” (SC 40) This is more than the sort of adaptations envisaged by the general instructions and the praenotanda of the liturgical books.
It presupposes that an episcopal conference has exhausted all the possibilities of adaptation offered by the liturgical books; that it has made an evaluation of the adaptations already introduced and maybe revised them before proceeding to more far-reaching adaptations.

The desirability or need for an adaptation of this sort can emerge in one of the areas mentioned above (cf. Nos. 5361) without the others being affected. Moreover, adaptations of this kind do not envisage a transformation of the Roman rite, but are made within the context of the Roman rite.

64. In some places when there are still problems about the participation of the faithful, a bishop or several bishops can set out their difficulties to their colleagues in the episcopal conference and examine with them the desirability of introducing more profound adaptations, if the good of souls truly requires it. (Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, Feb. 22, 1973, No. 84.)

It is the function of episcopal conferences to propose to the Apostolic See the modifications it wishes to adopt following the procedure set out below. (SC 40)
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is ready to receive the proposals of episcopal conferences and examine them, keeping in mind the good of the local churches concerned and the common good of the universal church, and to assist the process of inculturation where it is desirable or necessary. It will do this in accordance with the principles laid down in this instruction (cf. above, Nos. 33-51), and in a spirit of confident collaboration and shared responsibility.


I would have to object to the notion that connects “difficulty” with SC 40’s “radical adaptations.” Plus how this difficulty seems to be handled here. The age-old struggle of uniformity and unity: sure. Note the determining factor here is not the desire of liturgical leaders, but “the good of souls.” And more, a “problem” with … participation. It is good to see that three decades after the council, that the CDWDS has not forgotten one of the major pastoral principles of the council.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Varietates Legitimae 63-64: Adaptations, Radical and Profound

  1. Liam says:

    Maybe one helpful, practical, prism through which to view this is the perspective of hospitality to the Faithful From Away. That is, Catholics who come from elsewhere. If the purpose of an adaptation is obscure so that, with reasonable effort, they are unable to grasp it, or if the adaptation is disorienting to such Catholics, then the merits of the adaptation would appear to highly discountable.

  2. Todd says:

    The good of the few outweighs the good of the many? I suppose if more first worlders traveled to mission lands that might be a consideration, but still a concession for a small minority

    More likely in some circumstances–but perhaps not all–would be pilgrims journeying to far away lands and discovering liturgical and spiritual practices which touch them and sparking a desire to bring it home, something for which there is ample historical precedent. Egeria and the circa 1970 students of St Louis University come to mind.

    I agree this prism is a favored one of the curia, though I’m not always sure whose disorientation might be inspired. As long as the needs of the faithful, the local faithful, and not the desires of the clergy or ecclesiastical professionals are put at the forefront, I’d be inclined to take a more serene approach to serious adaptations.

  3. Liam says:

    Actually, the Faithful From Away outnumber the local community.

    • Jimmy Mac says:

      But not locally, where most of us worship on a regular basis.

      • Liam says:

        My point being that it’s an equivocal measure.

        I hardly take the Curial approach, btw. My perspective is more informed by observations of the dubious marginal returns of solipsistic ritualism, which tend to be ruddered more by the clergy and liturgical ministers than a broad consensus of the local faithful (and by local, I mean something not only including the parish level but at least the diocesan level and preferably something above that – Catholics have never been liturgical congregationalists).

  4. Pingback: CDWDS Decree on Magnum Principium 9-12 | Catholic Sensibility

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