The National Catholic Review

Revision of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

The new General Instruction of the Roman Missal, published in Latin and released on July 28 in Washington, D.C., in an English study translation, introduces numerous minor changes in the way Mass is to be celebrated.

It also makes a clear legislative decision on a controversy of recent years by declaring that it is desirable whenever possible for the priest to celebrate Mass facing the people.

The 1975 instruction simply said the altar in every church should be free-standing to allow the ministers to walk around it easily and Mass to be celebrated facing the people. The new instruction repeats those words, but after facing the people it adds, which is desirable whenever possible.

The location of the tabernacle has been another source of ongoing controversy. The new instruction gives equal weight to the options of reserving the Eucharist in a chapel or in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration. If a chapel of reservation is used, it says the chapel should be integrally connected with the church and conspicuous to the faithful. If the tabernacle is in the sanctuary, it should not be on the altar on which Mass is celebrated.

It adds that if the reserved Eucharist is in the sanctuary, the priest, deacon and other ministers genuflect to it when they approach or leave the altar, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.

The instruction clarifies that communicants are never to receive the sacrament from one another, but only from the priest or another eucharistic minister.

Most of the new instruction simply repeats the norms and regulations of the 1975 instruction. In many places where the new instruction is different, the difference is additional language to clarify or spell out more specifically what a rule or statement means.

Some practices previously allowed or not addressed in the 1975 instruction are prohibited by the new instruction.

For example, there is a specific prohibition against carrying the Lectionary in the entrance procession. The new instruction also says how the Book of the Gospels is to be carried during the processionelevated slightly.

The new instruction says that only a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte is to clean the sacred vessels after Communion or after Mass. Lay eucharistic ministers are also barred from assisting the priest in breaking the bread. The new instruction says, This rite is reserved to the priest and the deacon. Lay eucharistic ministers do not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion and always accept from the hands of the priest the vessel from which they distribute Communion.

The old and new texts alike cite noble simplicity, not ostentation, as a basic norm for church furnishings. But the new text is slightly less restrictive in its treatment of the use of sacred images in church.

The old version said of images, There is need both to limit their number and to situate them in such a way that they do not distract the people’s attention from the celebration. There is to be only one image of any one saint.

The new version says that care should be taken that their number is not increased indiscriminately, and that they are situated in such a way that they do not distract the faithful’s attention from the celebration. There is to be only one image of any given saint as a rule.

The new text has an expanded description of the sign of peace. It says that to avoid disrupting the celebration the priest should not leave the sanctuary while exchanging the sign of peace. The new instruction specifically bans the substitution of other hymns for chants found in the Order of the Mass, such as the Gloria or Agnus Deia practice apparently more common in some other countries than in the United States.

The new text reiterates the 1975 rule that all those attending Mass should observe uniformity in standing, kneeling or sitting as a sign of their unity.

But the new text strengthens this rule by preceding it with the statement that greater attention needs to be paid to what is laid down by liturgical law and the traditional practice of the Roman Rite, for the sake of the common spiritual good of the people of God rather than to personal inclination or arbitrary choice.

People should kneel at the consecration, except when prevented by reasons of health, lack of space, the number of people present or some other good reason, the new text says. That phrasing adds reasons of health to the 1975 list of possible exceptions to the rule.

An entirely new chapter at the end of the new instruction warns that efforts at inculturation are not in any way aimed at creating new families of rites, but at responding to the needs of a given culture in such a manner that adaptations introduced in the Missal or coordinated with other liturgical books are not at variance with the distinctive character of the Roman Rite.

It also warns that inculturation requires a necessary amount of time, lest in a hasty and incautious manner the authentic liturgical tradition suffer contamination.

Conference Shows Universality of Aids Pandemic

The changing face of AIDS was visible at the annual National Catholic AIDS Network conference, where nearly one-fifth of the participants are infectedbut all are affectedby the virus. Thirteen years ago, the typical conference attendee was a white male from San Francisco or New York. This year, the workshops, plenary sessions and prayer services were filled with women, African-Americans and Hispanics, and with people who had traveled from Indiana and Ireland, South Carolina and South America. This conference is very Catholic, not just in its religious identity, but catholic in the sense of reflecting the universality of this pandemic. It’s not just a pandemic of certain people, said the Rev. Rodney DeMartini, executive director of the National Catholic AIDS Network.

A.D.L. Head Says Israel Might Favor Vatican Proposal on Jerusalem

The Vatican proposal for a special status for Jerusalem with international guarantees might be seen as interesting by Israelis now that the Camp David summit has broken down, said a prominent Israeli rabbi. Israel has nothing to lose from the proposal, if now we are talking about Jerusalem after Camp David and we need to find a modus vivendi, said Rabbi David Rosen, director of the Anti-Defamation League in Israel. Some idea of a multireligious forum supported within a broader context could be positive for everybody involved and could create an atmosphere where a solution can be found, he said on July 27.

Florida Catholic Students Promote Spirituality, Service

As a freshman, Nick Gillman heard about fellow students at Jesuit High School in Tampa who visited and held a prayer service for the family of another student whose father had slipped into a coma. I liked that they didn’t [log] community service hours, that they didn’t do these things because they were required to, but because it was the right thing to do, and I wanted to be a part of it, he told the Florida Catholic diocesan newspaper. Gillman, 17 and now a senior, is moderator of a unique student society called Agmen Christi, or Battleline of Christ. Founded four years ago, Agmen Christi is a service organization that supports students spiritually and encourages them to go beyond Tampa Jesuit’s required community service projects. Members spend one Sunday a month building camaraderie through fellowship and recreation and another Sunday doing service.

Church Employed Slave Laborers

The German Catholic Church has admitted that it employed slave laborers during the Nazi regime. Following revelations by a television program on July 20 that included interviews with former slave laborers who worked at church institutions, a church spokesman, Rudolph Hammerschmidt, said initial investigations had shown that the church employed slave laborers. He said there would be more investigations and that the bishops would decide at a late-August meeting whether the church should contribute to a slave labor compensation fund recently set up by government and industry.

Orthodox, Catholic Leaders Cite Progress

Meeting for the first time in the Western Hemisphere, the international Catholic-Orthodox dialogue said it made progress but did not reach agreement on the issue of uniatism. At a closing press conference, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Stylianos of Australia, Orthodox co-chairman of the consultation, said uniatisma term for the model of church unity used in the formation of the Eastern Catholic churches in recent centuriesis linked with issues of papal primacy and infallibility, which are second-millennium developments in Catholicism that the Orthodox consider doctrinally unacceptable. The meeting, held from July 9 to 19 at Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., was the eighth plenary session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

Teens Benefit from Religious, Social Justice Programs

A report funded by the Ford Foundation gives high marks to a program directing teens toward service, social justice and spiritual values. The program, E Pluribus Unum, brings together about 60 Protestant, Catholic and Jewish high school graduates for an intense three-week seminar about putting their faith into action. The program’s name comes from the Latin phrase on U.S. coins, which means, Out of the many, one. It is sponsored by the Washington Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, based in Rockville, Md., in cooperation with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the National Council of Churches. The program is funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Ford Foundation and the Righteous Persons Foundation.

Comments

(Rev.) Walter J. Paulits | 1/21/2007 - 6:18pm
I respectfully disagree with a phrase in your report in Signs of the Times about the revision of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (8/12). The words are “numerous minor changes.” I cannot agree that the changes are all minor; pastorally and symbolically some are huge. The prohibition that only a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte may cleanse the vessels is a retreat to a time when laypeople were excluded from the sanctuary and a reversion to the Middle Ages, when the objects that were sacred were not the people but the chalice and ciborium.

But the people are not only sacred; they are the very temple of God and the body of Christ. Why should they be excluded from the comparatively minor duty of making the vessels ready for the next Mass? Besides, these same people would ordinarily be special ministers of the Eucharist; after handling the body and blood of the Lord, the prohibition forbids their touching the vessels that held the Lord. The illogicality is unfortunate and unnecessary. Similarly, the regulation forbidding the priest to leave the sanctuary for the Sign of Peace for the sake of not disturbing the Eucharist is pastorally unsound, because it keeps the celebrant in his hallowed space and separates him from the rest of the congregation. But he is a part of the congregation; and the Sign of Peace is, at least in my experience, a marvelous chance to show his union with the people. There need be no delay in the Eucharist; ministers can be dividing the consecrated hosts into smaller ciboria for distribution, and perhaps a hymn can help to prepare everyone for Communion. Both these regulations indicate a desire to emphasize the mystique of the priest and his separateness and in so doing return to the division of the worshiping community into strata prevalent when rood screens and altar rails highlighted the holiness of the clergy and the unworthiness of the laity. I had hoped we were 50 years past all that.

(Rev.) Walter J. Paulits | 1/21/2007 - 6:18pm
I respectfully disagree with a phrase in your report in Signs of the Times about the revision of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (8/12). The words are “numerous minor changes.” I cannot agree that the changes are all minor; pastorally and symbolically some are huge. The prohibition that only a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte may cleanse the vessels is a retreat to a time when laypeople were excluded from the sanctuary and a reversion to the Middle Ages, when the objects that were sacred were not the people but the chalice and ciborium.

But the people are not only sacred; they are the very temple of God and the body of Christ. Why should they be excluded from the comparatively minor duty of making the vessels ready for the next Mass? Besides, these same people would ordinarily be special ministers of the Eucharist; after handling the body and blood of the Lord, the prohibition forbids their touching the vessels that held the Lord. The illogicality is unfortunate and unnecessary. Similarly, the regulation forbidding the priest to leave the sanctuary for the Sign of Peace for the sake of not disturbing the Eucharist is pastorally unsound, because it keeps the celebrant in his hallowed space and separates him from the rest of the congregation. But he is a part of the congregation; and the Sign of Peace is, at least in my experience, a marvelous chance to show his union with the people. There need be no delay in the Eucharist; ministers can be dividing the consecrated hosts into smaller ciboria for distribution, and perhaps a hymn can help to prepare everyone for Communion. Both these regulations indicate a desire to emphasize the mystique of the priest and his separateness and in so doing return to the division of the worshiping community into strata prevalent when rood screens and altar rails highlighted the holiness of the clergy and the unworthiness of the laity. I had hoped we were 50 years past all that.