As we touched on last week and will be discussed briefly in the analysis contained below, GIRM demonstrates over and over again an essential flaw found in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), the first document of the Second Vatican Council, issued on December 1, 1963. Paragraph 22 of Sacrosanctum Concilium mandated the devolution of liturgical decision making to the levels of national episcopal conferences and diocesan liturgical commissions. Although asserting the right of the Holy See to direct the liturgy, this concession found in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which is justified frequently by liturgical revolutionaries as being demonstrative of the principle of subsidiarity, placed liturgical decision-making in the hands of those who used such buzz words as "inculturation" as vehicles to make of the liturgy their own ideological plaything.
Paragraph 92 of GIRM reads as follows:
"Every authentic celebration of the Eucharist is directed by the Bishop, either in person on through the priests, who are his helpers. Whenever he is present at Mass with a congregation, it is supremely fitting that the Bishop himself celebrate the Eucharist, and associate his priests with himself as concelebrants in the sacred action. This is done not to add external solemnity, but to express in a clearer light the mystery of the Church, which is the Sacrament of unity. Even if the Bishop is not the celebrant of the Eucharist but assigns someone else, it is appropriate that he should direct the liturgy of the word, wearing his pectoral cross, stole and cope over an alb, and that he impart the final blessing after Mass."
Comment and Analysis: Kernels of truth, kernels of obfuscation are present in this paragraph. It is true that a diocesan bishop is the custodian of the Eucharist. It is he who has the responsibility to supervise and to oversee the proper celebration of Holy Mass by all of the priests in his jurisdiction, whether secular or religious. It is he who has the authority to permit or to restrict adoration of the Blessed Sacrament solemnly exposed in a monstrance. And it is he who has the authority to grant or to deny permission for the housing of the reserved Blessed Sacrament in tabernacles in rectories or convents or a retired priest's private chapel. In our liturgical tradition, however, a bishop is merely the enforcing officer, if you will, of a fixed rite.
As noted in my introductory remarks above, bishops now have a major role to play in the actual shaping of "liturgies," both in their own dioceses as well as within the precincts of the national episcopal conferences and language translation commissions (such as the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy of the United States Catholic Conference and the nefarious International Commission for English in the Liturgy, ICEL). Many bishops actually delegate almost all liturgical "planning" to liturgists and church "architects" who are defenders and propagators of the new order of things. Thus, we have seen the phenomenon of bishops, who are indeed the custodians of the Eucharist, defer to alleged experts, who themselves use all manner of intellectually dishonest devices to claim that their innovations are in keeping with the spirit of the "liturgical renewal." The devolution of liturgical decision-making foreseen by Paragraph 22 of Sacrosanctum Concilium has actually resulted in less episcopal control over the Mass than before. Actual control over the celebration of the Mass for the most part is in the hands of the liturgical apparatchiks at the national and local diocesan levels.
As has been well-documented, even the few fix norms which are part of the Novus Ordo are rarely enforced by diocesan bishops. Indeed, priests who specialize in disregarding such norms are rewarded with plum pastoral assignments, promoted to the honorific post of a monsignor, and in some instances made auxiliary bishops (who then are placed "in the pipeline" to become ordinaries in their own right one day). One can say without any degree of reservation or fear of contradiction that bishops were far better supervisors of the Mass before the liturgical revolution began than they have been afterwards. And to the extent that some bishops actually do take their roles of diocesan ordinaries seriously, it is usually to discipline priests who desire to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass or those who will not cooperate with their parish liturgical committees (or pastors) who want to engage in a variety of innovations not explicitly approved by Rome but not explicitly forbidden (such as the gathering of the laity around the altar at the Consecration). Contemporary bishops have not forgotten how to govern the Church. Most of them simply govern the wrong people, punishing the good and rewarding the nefarious.
Yes, there are bishops who are sincerely and utterly confused about matters of doctrine and worship. Many of these men had "rabbis" (or sponsors) who promoted their rise in the clerical ranks. They are not serious students of the Faith and have not studied the true development of the Mass of the Roman Rite. These men, in contradistinction to the Mahonys and Bernardins and Weaklands and Hubbards and Imesches, are simply prone to surrender their episcopal authority, especially to nuns and lay women "liturgists," as part of the process of emasculation of the priesthood which is part and parcel of the Novus Ordo, something that Father James McLucas, the editor of Latin Mass Magazine, has noted at great length in a very penetrating article.
Insofar as the actual rubrics of the celebration of Holy Mass, there is no such thing as the "Liturgy of the Word" in the Traditional Latin Mass. There was no such thing as concelebration. Bishops celebrated Solemn Pontifical Masses. Priests frequently served the bishop as the deacon and subdeacon in such Masses, thereby signifying their total subordination to his episcopal authority. The egalitarianism of the new order of things, however, means diminishing not only of the distinction between ordained priests and the lay faithful, it also means a diminishing of the status of a bishop by elevating the status of those who serve under him, especially during the celebration of Holy Mass.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
Next Friday: Part Forty-four: Alter Christus, not altar personalities!
For past columns of "Christ or Chaos" in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002coc.htm