Yesterday I received a PDF of a new “Decree” from the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Dennis Schnurr.
The Archbishop has introduced a new “policy” on ad orientem worship.
There must be in every parish or “cluster” (they say “family”) of parishes at least one public versus populum Mass.
1. When a freestanding altar is present the celebration of Mass – whether versus populum or ad orientem – may take place ONLY on said altar, NOT on the older “high” altar.
2. If the freestanding altar is dedicated, but not fixed (and thus “moveable”), it may NOT be moved from the sanctuary for the purpose of using the older altar.
Here’s the kicker.
The “decree” is based on GIRM 299 and the Responsum of 25 Sept 2000 of the Congregation for Divine Worship about GIRM 299.
I have written often and extensively about GIRM 299, which deals with posture or position of the celebrant and the construction of the altar. GIRM 299, which is authoritatively IN LATIN, was MISTRANSLATED in the USCCB’s documents about liturgy. The MISTRANSLATION gave the impression that versus populum celebration was the most desirable posture for Mass. That is NOT what the Latin says. And if there were any doubt about that a dubium was submitted to the CDW, which in a Responsum debunked that falsehood and went on to explain the Latin to those who were incapable of dealing with the Church’s official language (99% percent of bishops).
The “Decree” of Cincinnati quotes GIRM 299 as being (and this is a FALSE translation):
In regard to the arrangement of the sanctuary, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: ‘The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.” (GIRM 299)
Since the celebration of Mass versus populum (facing the people) is “desirable wherever possible”, this should be the regular practice in churches, oratories, and chapels of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, nearly all of which have a freestanding dedicated altar.’
Again, this is a FALSE translation of GIRM 299.
The writer of this decree, who put it in front of the Archbishop to sign, must have known that this is a FALSE TRANSLATION because he also cited the Responsum that explains the Latin.
So, what is the accurate translation?
I cannot believe that after all these year I have to deal with this incompetence again. For example HERE
GIRM 299 actually says that what is desirable, when possible, is that the altar be separated from the wall, not that Mass be versus populum.
299. Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.
The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out. (Emphases added)
THAT’s what the Latin really says.
On 25 September 2000 the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a clarification (Prot. No. 2036/00/L) regarding 299 in the Latin GIRM. That clarification, Responsum, says:
The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n. 299 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem [facing the apse] is to be excluded. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:
Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation.
The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account. First, the word expedit does not constitute a strict obligation but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum(detached from the wall). It does not require, for example, that existing altars be pulled away from the wall. The phrase ubi possibile sit (where it is possible) refers to, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc.
Expedit refers to a suggestion about the construction of the altar. It is suggested that, where possible (depending on the topography of the sanctuary, etc.) there he an altar that can be used from either side, that can be used for versus populum Masses. It does NOT day that versus populum is preferable. PERIOD.
So, this “Decree” from Cincinnati is based on a FALSE translation. GIRM 299 is forced to say something it does not say. Moreover, whereas the Responsum is cited… giving the writer the benefit of the doubt let’s assume he read it… and whereas the Responsum explains the Latin…. therefore the “Decree” is based on a lie.
It is sad that draconian ideological micromanagement is taking over the Church, a positivism which is, ironically, simultaneously antinomian.
The “Decree” does not place an outright ban on ad orientem worship. However, it does impose, on priests who have more than one Mass – and many priests are alone in parishes – one versus populum Mass. That means that someone has to rearrange everything.
Furthermore, it means that what a pastor has done to move worship ad orientem has been undermined.
The question is raised. QUAERITUR: What there an outbreak of ad orientem worship that provoked complaints? And instead of the Archbishop supporting his priests, he dumped them in favor of the complainers? (That’s usually how things go, which is borne out by studies and interviews which reveal that priests have less and less confidence in their bishops and worse and worse rapport.) Or else… one priest started saying Mass ad orientem and that prompted diocesan-wide decree?
Either way, all the canonists I have consulted with over the years agree that bishops cannot forbid or restrict ad orientem worship, which is assumed to be the case in the rubrics of the LATIN edition of the Missale Romanum.
But bishops do what they want.