It is important to note that, when my wife and I say that we are beating a dead horse, we are referring to the expectation of fulfillment of the requests made in the Petition signed by a third of the families in St. Peter’s. Although the expectations remain, the hope of fulfillment has diminished. So, speaking of the Petition, with the hope of a return to the “status quo ante,” is like beating a dead horse. The dead horse will continue to be beaten and, at the same time, we continue to respect our Pastor and his priesthood and we pray for blessings in his life and his vocation.
In the post Dead Horse #1, I rightfully stated that I have no special qualifications in the study or practice of liturgy. My wife and I have served on the Liturgy Committee of a parish in Hawaii in 1980-1981, but our role was confined to decorating the Church to coincide with the liturgical seasons and organizing some events. I have also assisted in organizing a Confirmation in a military chapel and acting as Master of Ceremony. I have even been in charge of training altar servers. So, we are not unfamiliar with what can go right in the Sanctuary and what can go wrong. (We have seen many things go very wrong.) But we never, ever attempted to counsel a priest on his reading of the Mass.
Thus, it is with great reluctance and trepidation that we have discussed anything to do with liturgy in this blog. Nevertheless, for many reasons we have stated in the past we have offered our opinions. For example, we have noted how our pastor frequently and deliberately changes words in both the Ordinary and Proper of the Mass. Anything that we might say, however, lacks in authority. So, it was a great relief to find that Father John Zuhlsdorf recently wrote on that very topic. Fr. Z has served on the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. The Commission was established by Pope John Paul II’s motu proprio Ecclesia Dei of 2 July 1988. When Fr. Z speaks about liturgy he has experience and has held a position of authority. Here is some of what he had to say in his post ASK FATHER: Can priests change the wording given in the Missal? (All emphasis was Fr. Z’s.)
The 2004 Instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Redemptionis Sacramentum 31 states clearly,
[Priests] ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions. For as St. Ambrose said, ‘It is not in herself…but in us that the Church in injured. Let us take care so that our own failure may not cause injury to the Church.’
There are a few places in the Missal itself where the priest is given an option, such as choosing between different penitential rites.
Nothing in the Missal permits the priest to, on his own authority, alter the texts that are given to him.
Sacrosanctum Concilium 22,3, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, establishes the principle that
“no person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
Fr. Z made also made a statement that was very helpful in illustrating what is happening at St. Peter’s.
Father may not regularly use the word beseech in his day-to-day language, but the Church does in hers.
Let us paraphrase that in the following way:
Father may not regularly use the word “graciously” in his day-to-day language, but the Church does in hers.
We now carry the poor, deceased horse back to the barn – until next time.