Redemptionis Sacramentum 26-28

Three numbered sections take us through the role of the bishops’ conferences. First, the phenomenon of expert input being shared by bishops:

[26.] The same holds for those commissions of this kind which have been established by the Conference of Bishops in accordance with the will of the Council,[Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 44; Congregation for Bishops, Letter sent to the Presidents of the Conferences of Bishops together with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, 21 June 1999, n. 9: AAS 91 (1999) p. 999] commissions whose members consist of Bishops who are clearly distinguished from their expert helpers. Where the number of members of a Conference of Bishops is not sufficient for the effective establishment of a liturgical commission from among their own number, then a council or group of experts should be named, always under the presidency of a Bishop, which is to fulfill the same role insofar as possible, albeit without the name of “liturgical commission”.

Note than a bishop is always to be assigned the presidency, and a curiosity: don’t call a multinational group a liturgy commission.

Experimentation, four decades later, still seems a sore spot:

[27.] As early as the year 1970, the Apostolic See announced the cessation of all experimentation as regards the celebration of Holy Mass[Cf. Liturgicae Instaurationis 12] and reiterated the same in 1988.[Cf. CDWDS, Declaration on Eucharistic Prayers and liturgical experimentation, 21 March 1988: Notitiae 24 (1988) pp. 234-236] Accordingly, individual Bishops and their Conferences do not have the faculty to permit experimentation with liturgical texts or the other matters that are prescribed in the liturgical books. In order to carry out experimentation of this kind in the future, the permission of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is required. It must be in writing, and it is to be requested by the Conference of Bishops. In fact, it will not be granted without serious reason. As regards projects of inculturation in liturgical matters, the particular norms that have been established are strictly and comprehensively to be observed.[Cf. Varietates Legitimae]

Clearly, the era of approved experimentation (1964-1970) left deep and painful scars for some. My sense, as well as my experience, is that people formed in disciplines other than liturgy, tried things in ritual from the view of a catechist, a pastor, a musician, or some other non-liturgical place. And face it: many of these were not fruitful.

At some point, the Church would do well to consider the boundaries of pastoral and spiritual need. While the CDWDS says here that experimentation was over in 1970, the reality is that experimentation was approved by ICEL, by bishops’ conferences, by individual bishops, and by pastors, and approved lawfully, for many of the rites reformed in the 1980’s, especially pastoral care, RCIA, and funerals.

When looking at ritual options, say, for a believer who committed suicide or for a cremation, a certain degree of refinement really should be in place by the time of implementation.

Should all such explorations go to Rome for approval? My sense is no, that many episcopal conferences possess the skills to conduct explorations before new rituals are promulgated.

[28.] All liturgical norms that a Conference of Bishops will have established for its territory in accordance with the law are to be submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for the recognitio, without which they lack any binding force.[Cf. Code of Canon Law 838 § 3; Inter Oecumenici 31; Liturgiam authenticam 79-80]


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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