I have said again and again on this blog and elsewhere that concelebration, several or many priests saying Mass together, should be safe, legal and rare. In the Latin Church this practice has been aggressively promoted since the Second Vatican Council. It is a legitimate thing to do, when the occasion is right. It should be done rarely, however, and with great care.
That said, His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke – this is the one to whom we can today truly apply the title “His Eminence” and “The Cardinal” – made a statement about concelebration with which I am in complete agreement.
Cardinal Burke cautions against over-use of concelebration
Cork, Ireland, Jul 10, 2012 / 01:42 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Raymond L. Burke believes that the “excessive” use of concelebration – the practice of priests saying Mass collectively – can result in their unique role in the sacred liturgy being obscured. [Mind you, “excessive” anything is too much, right? Too much of a good thing is too much, right? We can all agree on that. But the point His Eminence is making goes beyond this truism.]
“I don’t think there should be an excessive encouragement of concelebration because the norm is for the individual priest to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass,” the head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura told CNA July 9. [THAT’s the point. Priests should say their own Masses.]
“If it is repeated too frequently, it can develop within him a sense of being another one of the participants instead of actually being the priest who is offering the Mass.” [I have seen this. Priests, used to concelebrate, looking around, checking their watches, scratching this and that, attention scattered.]
One of the Catholic Church’s most senior American prelates spoke to CNA moments after addressing an international liturgical conference in the Irish city of Cork. The three-day event, organized by the St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy, explored the issue of “Celebrating the Eucharist: Sacrifice and Communion.”
The former Archbishop of St. Louis worried that, whereas the priest’s action is distinct, he “can seem to be participating in the Mass in the same manner as the congregation” if he concelebrates too often. “That’s the danger I see in excessive concelebration,” he said. [For me, concelebration means… Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday, ordination to the priesthood maybe, perhaps a moment with priest friends in private, etc. That’s about it. Mind you, I usually say the older, traditional Mass, so concelebration is right out. But when I am with other priests in these moments I just described, sure, I’ll occasionally concelebrate.]
The cardinal’s words of caution echo comments made recently by the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares. He told a gathering at Rome’s University of the Holy Cross on March 5 that that the “widening of the faculty to concelebrate needs to be moderated, as we can see when we read the (Second Vatican) Council texts.”
Cardinal Cañizares explained that concelebration “is an extraordinary, solemn and public rite, normally presided over by the bishop or his delegate,” surrounded by his priests and the entire community. But “the daily concelebrations of priests only, which are practiced ‘privately’…do not form part of the Latin liturgical tradition,” he said. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
In a wide-ranging interview, Cardinal Burke also outlined the reasons why a priest should not ad-lib his own words or prayers during Mass, since he “is the servant of the rite” and “not the protagonist – Christ is.” [Say The Black and Do The Red! You will always be right.]
“So it is absolutely wrong for the priest to think, ‘how can I make this more interesting?’ or ‘how can I make this better?’” he said.
He also noted with approval how the 1917 Code of Canon Law – since superseded by a new code promulgated in 1983 – explicitly stated that a priest should “accurately and devoutly observe the rubrics of his liturgical books to beware lest he add other ceremonies or prayers according to his own judgment.”
“What kind of thinking is it on our part for me to think that I can improve on the liturgy that has been handed on in the Church down the centuries? This is absurd,” Cardinal Burke stated.
Similarly, the cardinal commended the 1917 Code for its clear stipulation that a priest in the state of mortal sin should refrain from celebrating Mass “without first availing himself of sacramental confession” or as soon as possible “in the absence of a confessor,” when the Mass is “a case of necessity” and he has “made an act of perfect contrition.”
“Well, simply that canon that was in the 1917 code was eliminated and I think it should be reintroduced, because the idea of worthiness pertains in a preeminent way to the priest who is offering the sacrifice,” he said. [Moreover, in the foreword of the older Missale Romanum there were specified things that the priest might do that were mortal or at least venial sins! That was eliminated in the Novus Ordo.]
Read the rest there.
Fr. Z kudos to The Cardinal. Ad multos annos.