From a reader…
I attended at funeral mass at a parish recently and I found it strange that the funeral pall was not draped over the casket for the mass. The priest wore purple vestments and used the paschal candle, but for some strange reason, the funeral pall was not used. The priest who said the Mass has a reputation to be very traditional in his ways. From being at funeral Masses at this parish in the past, this priest does not use the funeral pall in both the Traditional Requiem Mass and in the Novus Ordo. Is the funeral pall necessary, is this a liturgical abuse?
For the Novus Ordo, The Order of Christian Funerals states:
38. If it is the custom in the local community, a pall may be placed over the coffin when it is received at the church. A reminder of the baptismal garment of the deceased, the pall is a sign of the Christian dignity of the person. The use of the pall also signifies that all are equal in the eyes of God (see James 2:1-9). . . . Only Christian symbols may rest on or be placed near the coffin during the funeral liturgy. Any other symbols, for example, national flags, or flags or insignia of associations, have no place in the funeral liturgy.
132. Any national flags or the flags or insignia of associations to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin at the entrance to the church. They may be replaced after the coffin has been taken from the church.
So, in the Novus Ordo, a pall may be used and it is not, strictly speaking, obligatory. Gosh! It’s an option! An option? In the Novus Ordo? I’m shocked!
That said, I believe there could be particular law in a diocese for the use of the pall. That should be easy to verify where you are. I imagine that particular law in a diocese would pertain to the Novus Ordo and wouldn’t mention the Extraordinary Form at all. The Extraordinary Form is hardly noticed by diocesan liturgy offices, is it.
From what I make out in Reid/O’Connor/Fortescue for the Extraordinary Form the pall may be used but it is not, strictly speaking, obligatory. “A black pall is usually laid over the coffin…” (p. 461) I think that, if one is available, it should be used. On the other hand, Trimeloni says (my translation), “Things to prepare. In the middle of the Church: the CATAFALQUE which consists of a riser painted black or covered with a black drape…. When the body isn’t present, upon the catafalque there is placed a litter, that is, a raised level in the form of a mortuary casket covered with a drape.” Trimeoni also says that it is permitted to place on it coats-of-arms, other insignia, flags, etc. It seems that the older, traditional form of Mass was more flexible than the option-laden Novus Ordo.
So, much depends on local custom.
Is it an abuse not to use a pall in either Form of the Roman Rite? Strictly speaking, I don’t think it is.
However, I believe that in most places these days – certainly in these USA at least – a pall, black in the traditional Requiem and white in the Novus Ordo, is indeed customary. They should be used, lest their absence cause wonder… as it has in this case.
I suspect this will prompt fervent suggestions, additions and corrections from the gallery.