MARCH 2003
Time of Quadragesima (Lent)
volume 14, no. 8

The Germs of G.I.R.M.

Part Sixty-Four: The Concelebration Circus

    " does concelebration bring out the "unity" of the "whole People of God"? Is it being asserted here that the faithful are virtual concelebrants with the priests who are concelebrating? The blithe acceptance of this novelty can lead one to conclude that the "People of God" have drunk the spiked Kool Aid of the People's Temple outside of Jonestown, Guyana."
Paragraph 199 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

       "Concelebration effectively brings out the unity of the priesthood, of the sacrifice, and of the whole people of God. The rite itself prescribes concelebration at the ordination of a Bishop and of priests, at the blessing of an abbot and at the Mass of Chrism. Concelebration is recommended unless the needs of the faithful require otherwise or suggest otherwise: (a) at the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday; (b) the Mass for councils, meetings of bishops, and synods; (c) the conventual Mass and the principal Mass in churches and oratories; (d) the Mass for any kind of meeting of priests, either secular or religious. Nevertheless, it is permitted for an individual priest to celebrate the Eucharist by himself though not at he same time and in the same church or oratory in which concelebration is being held. However, it is not permitted for a priest to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper, or the Easter Vigil by himself."

Comment and Analysis: As noted earlier, concelebration was part of Catholic tradition at one time. Its reinstitution by Pope Paul VI as a feature of the Novus Ordo has presented a theological question that almost no one wants to address: that is, is a concelebrated Mass one Mass signifying the "unity" of the priesthood or are as many Masses offered as priests who are concelebrating? Again, more irony. Here we see the triumph of the collectivism of Marxism, which denies the individuality of the human soul in favor of the collective identity of the masses. Holy Mass thus becomes a vehicle for the collectivists within the Church to deny the individuality of a man's priesthood, thus stressing a collective consciousness during the celebration of the Mass. The individual exercise of a man's priesthood is thus denigrated as somewhat destructive of the desire to "build community" whereas the collective exercise expressed by the institution of concelebration by Pope Paul VI is meant to be the "fullest" expression of unity within the priesthood and the Church. Thus, side altars and side chapels must go the way of the buffalo. Anything that smacks of individualism is divisive and narcissistic. Any wonder that men are not attracted to the holy priesthood in communities where a man's priesthood is denigrated as part of a collective consciousness? As Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods point out in their great new book, The Great Facade, there is one cardinal who desires to put pressure on the recently regularized Community of Saint John (no relation to the Society of Saint John) in Campos, Brazil, to concelebrate the new Mass. That which is paticular to the new Mass must be forced on those dedicated to the tradition.

   Promiscuous concelebration leads to spectacles unworthy of the dignity of the priest and the solemnity required in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is true at all Papal Masses (World Youth Day, canonization ceremonies, Masses concelebrated during Papal visits, to say nothing of all of the Holy Father's public Masses in the Basilica of Saint Peter and elsewhere in Rome).

   I was present at Saint Peter's in October of 1984 for a closing Mass of a worldwide retreat for priests. Over 5,000 priests were present in Saint Peter's to "concelebrate" with the Holy Father from their pews. Many of these priests stood on their chairs and snapped photographs of the Holy Father as he processed up the main aisle in Saint Peter's. Others were hollering and applauding. Some were apparently "slain in the spirit" and took a nosedive down to the floor as they caught sight of Pope John Paul II. This same phenomenon has taken place all across the world.

   Every priest exercises the priesthood and victimhood of the Chief Priest and Victim of every Mass, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There was one Victim and one Priest who atoned for the sins of mankind by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. There should thus be one priest celebrating every Mass. The Mass is celebrated by an alter Christus, not alter Christi. The fact that newly ordained priests concelebrate Mass with their ordaining bishop in the Traditional Latin Mass's ordination rite is an exception that proves the rule. The fact that the Traditional Rite reserves concelebration to that instance indicates the importance of individual priests celebrating Mass on their own.

   Finally, how does concelebration bring out the "unity" of the "whole People of God"? Is it being asserted here that the faithful are virtual concelebrants with the priests who are concelebrating? The blithe acceptance of this novelty can lead one to conclude that the "People of God" have drunk the spiked Kool Aid of the People's Temple outside of Jonestown, Guyana.

Paragraph 200 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Visiting priests should be welcomed to a concelebrated Eucharist, provided that their priestly standing is assured."

Comment and Analysis: Another one of the ironies associated with concelebration is the fact that this novelty is actually out of vogue with many priests who are concerned about "inclusion." That is, many priests have been browbeaten by feminist nuns and parishioners into eschewing concelebration entirely as it excludes women from "concelebrating" with them. A priest on Long Island told me recently that he was denied permission to concelebrate at the altar in Phoenix, Arizona, because of this very ideological predilection. One can say, obviously, that the feminists are doing the Church a favor here, although for the wrong reasons. Thus, a novelty that undermines the priesthood has resulted in a sense of exclusion on the part of those who hate the Church and want to remake it in their own warped images. Oh, yes, Pope Paul VI accomplished quite a lot by the institution of concelebration.

Paragraph 201 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Where there are a large number of priests, there may be concelebration several times on the same day, where necessity or pastoral reasons suggest it; nevertheless, it should be held at different times or in different locations."

Comment and Analysis: As a priest-teacher at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1981, "Indolence is an enduring trait of many seminarians and priests." Indolence is a fancy word, as you know, for laziness. There are many priests today who concelebrate in a parish or a chapel of a religious community when then could be offering Mass on their own in a mission parish. In a world of an alleged priest shortage that necessitates "priestless" parishes and "priestless" communion services, the mania for concelebration is actually shortchanging the faithful by denying them access to Holy Mass in many places around the world. Many priests who concelebrate, especially on Sundays, go about leisure activities after the concelebrated Mass. Gone is the zeal for souls and the desire to offer Holy Mass to those who are starving for it.

Paragraph 202 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "The right to regulate, in accord with the law, the discipline for concelebration in his diocese, even in churches and oratories of exempt religious, belongs to the Bishop."

Comment and Analysis: A diocesan ordinary is the chief priest of his diocese and is therefore the custodian of everything pertaining to the Mass and the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. If there is to be concelebration, the bishop does indeed by law have the right to regulate it. What is happening, though, in some parts of the world is that bishops are using their episcopal authority to attempt to impose concelebration on the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Community of Saint John in Campos, Brazil, as noted before. This attempted abuse of episcopal authority gives greater urgency to the effort to petition the Holy Father to erect an Apostolic Administration or Personal Prelature to protect the integrity of the Traditional Latin Mass and those priests dedicated to it.

Paragraph 203 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "A concelebration in which the priests of a given diocese concelebrate with their own Bishop should be held in particular honor, especially in stational Masses on the major solemnities of the liturgical year, at the ordination Mass of a new Bishop of the diocese, or of his coadjutor or auxiliary, at the Chrism Mass, at the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, the celebrations of the holy founder of a local Church of Patron of the diocese, on any anniversary of the Bishop, and lastly, on the occasion of a Synod or a pastoral visit. For this same reason concelebration is recommended whenever priests gather together with their Bishop during a retreat or at any other meeting. That sign of the unity of the priesthood and of the Church itself which marks every concelebration stands out even more clearly in the instances mentioned."

Comment and Analysis: Although there is but one priesthood, a bishop possess the fullness of its powers. Thus, rather than place priests in positions of equality with a bishop, as concelebration does, it is more fitting that priests humbly acknowledge their subordination to their superior in authority and power, that is, the bishop. This is what happens in the Traditional Latin Mass. Priests attend Mass celebrated by a bishop, except, as noted earlier, for newly ordained priests at their own Mass of Ordination.Otherwise, however, a priest attending a Mass celebrated by a bishop does not concelebrate. By doing this, you see, priests signify their own dependence upon the bishop, who is not simply the first among equals in a diocese. Concelebration signifies, on the contrary, the spirit of egalitarianism that is of the essence of the Novus Ordo.

Paragraph 204 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "Concelebration more than once on the same day is permitted as follows: (a) One who has celebrated or concelebrated the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday may celebrate or concelebrate the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper; (b) One who has celebrated or concelebrated the Mass of the Easter Vigil may celebrate or concelebrate Mass on Easter Sunday; (c) All priests may celebrate or concelebrate the three Masses of Christmas, provided the Masses are at their proper times of day; (d) on the day of the commemoration of the faithful departed, as long as celebrations occur at different times and regulations which have been established regarding the application of second and third Masses are observed; (e) One who concelebrates with the Bishop or his delegate at a synod or pastoral visitation, or concelebrates on the occasion of a meeting of priests, may celebrate another Mass for the convenience of the people. This holds, in analogous circumstances, for gatherings of religious."

Comment and Analysis: Yadda, yadda, yadda. Some much verbiage for such a feature of a novel Mass. The only thing of real interest in this tedious listing of the rules of concelebration is that the authors of G.I.R.M. cannot use language of tradition to refer to All Souls Day. It must be referred to as "the day of the commemoration of the faithful departed." Well, I guess if you can change the entire structure of the Mass synthetically by a committee and alter radically for the first time in history the liturgical calendar, then what's the big deal about changing the name of major liturgical celebrations, including All Souls Day?

Paragraph 205 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "The structure of a concelebrated Mass, whatever its form, follows the norms commonly observed (see nos. 112-198), except for the points observed or changed and which are laid out in the next section."

Comment and Analysis: The authors of G.I.R.M. are about to launch into a very tedious description of how a concelebrated Mass is to be concelebrated. If you get to create a liturgy out of whole cloth, I guess it's a pretty simple thing to make up the rules for various novelties as you go along, huh? There will be a few comments offered in the forty-five paragraphs that comprise this section. However, some paragraphs require next to no comment as they deal with things so unique to the Roman Rite that the rules devised to deal with them are patently obvious in their ridiculousness.

Paragraph 206 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    No one may ever come to join a concelebration or be admitted to concebrate once Mass has already begun."
Comment and Analysis: "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. I'm overdue, I'm really in a rabbit's stew. . . ." This paragraph is meaningless. I have personally witnessed scores of Masses over the years featuring tardy concelebrants joining a Mass after it has begun. Does anyone really think a priest is doing to be denied his "right" to concelebrate just because he is late (all other ideological factors being equal, obviously)? The very fungibility of the Novus Ordo is such that it leads to disorderliness, of which tardiness is but one small feature.

Paragraph 207 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "In the sanctuary should be prepared: (a) seats and texts for the concelebrating priests; (b) on a side table: a chalice or chalices of adequate size or several chalices."

Comment and Analysis: "Martha, Martha, you are busy about many things. Mary has chosen the better part." How much wasted time is spent "planning" where to seat concelebrants for concelebrated Masses? And the provision for multiple chalices to provide for Communion under both kinds for all of the concelebrants raises another interesting theological question. It is the teaching of the Church that the unbloody sacrifice offered by the priest is completed when he consumes the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord in the chalice. If he leaves some behind, is the sacrifice incomplete until others consume it? If there is but one Mass celebrated (rather than as many Masses as there are concelebrants), is the sacrifice incomplete until each concelebrant has communicated from the chalice? If many Masses are celebrated at one time, is each of the Masses completed when a concelebrant has communicated only a portion of the Most Precious Blood available? These are questions that have not been addressed for the most part even in those rare circumstances of concelebration in the Traditional Latin Mass.

Paragraph 208 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "If a deacon is not present at a concelebrated Mass, his proper functions may be carried out by the other concelebrants. If there are no other ministers present, their parts may be entrusted to suitable faithful; otherwise, such roles are assumed by the other concelebrants."

Comment and Analysis: Notice GIRM's bias here. "Suitable faithful" are to be preferred to priests for the parts of the new Mass reserved principally for "other ministers." Priests may assume such roles only if "suitable faithful," however that term is defined, are not present. Quite a telling commentary about the new Mass and its inventors and apologists.

Paragraph 209 of G.I.R.M. reads as follows:

    "In the sacristy or other suitable place, the concelebrants put on the vestments usual when celebrating Mass individually. The concelebrants, for good reason, may omit the chasuble and simply wear the stole over the alb, when, for example, there are a large number of concelebrants or an insufficient number of vestments; but the presiding celebrant always wears the chasuble."

Comment and Analysis: A circus needs a dressing room for the performers to dress for the show. It is not infrequently the case that priests concelebrating a Mass concelebrated by large numbers of priests vest in auditoria or gynmnasia or a cafeteria. Such venues do not produce a sense of recollection before Mass. As one who has witnessed scenes of total chaos and noise in such venues, I can report that most of the priests who are vesting for a concelebrated Mass in such venues are not praying. Even those who want to be recollect before Mass find that it is impossible to be recollect given the back-slapping and raucous conversation and belly laughing taking place in the venue for vesting. Additionally, permitting priests to wear simply a stole, which is the symbol of priestly ordination, over an alb has resulted in this being the norm in many concelebrated Masses rather than the exception. And it is, once more, a telling commentary about GIRM that there must be a reminder to the principal celebrant about the necessity of wearing a chasuble.

Paragraphs 210-211 of G.I.R.M. read as follows:

    210: "When everything is ready, there is the usual procession through the church to the altar. The concelebrating priests go ahead of the principal celebrant."

    211: "On reaching the altar, the concelebrants and the presiding celebrant make a profound bow, kiss the altar, then go to their designated chairs. When incense is used, the presiding celebrant incenses the cross and the altar, and then goes to the chair."

Comment and Analysis: This is a novelty without parallel in any liturgical rite of the Roman Catholic Church prior to 1969. The celebrant of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass never went to a chair at the beginning of the Sacred Mysteries. Even in a Solemn High Mass, the priest goes to the side to vest for Mass. He does not "preside" from a chair. However, a Mass which stresses the priest as "president of the assembly" or "presider of the liturgy" rather than the sacerdos, the alter Christus, naturally results in the changing of the entire structure of the Mass and the very arrangement of the sanctuary, things which have done a great deal to destroy reverence in the Mass and belief in the Real Presence of Our Lord both in Mass and in the reserved Blessed Sacrament.

Paragraphs 212-213 of G.I.R.M. read as follows:

    212: "During the liturgy of the word, the concelebrants remain at their places, sitting or standing as the presiding celebrant does. When the Bishop presides, a priest, who in the absence of a deacon, proclaims the Gospel, asks for and receives a blessing from the Bishop. Nevertheless, this should not be done in a celebration in which a priest presides." 213: "The homily is usually given by the presiding celebrant, or it may be given by one of the concelebrants."

Comment and Analysis: "Get this right, you priests. You are ornaments during the liturgy of the word. You are to stay in your place as lay people do their thing. Got it? The sanctuary is no longer your reserve." Enough said. Finally, as concelebration is nonexistent in the Mass of tradition, the homily or sermon is given by any priest who has been selected by a pastor or celebrant to preach.

Paragraph 214-215 of G.I.R.M. read as follows:

    214: "The preparation of the gifts (see nos. 139-145) is carried out by the presiding celebrant; the other celebrants remain at their places."

    215: "After the prayer over the gifts has been said by the principal celebrant, the concelebrants come near the altar and stand around it, in such a way that they do not interfere with the actions of the rite, and the people have a clear view of the sacred action. They should not be in the deacon's way when he has to go to the altar in the performance of his ministry. If there are concelebrating priests present, the deacon performs his ministry near the altar whenever it involves the chalice and the Missal. Nevertheless, as much as possible, the deacon stands back from the altar, slightly behind the concelebrants."

Comment and Analysis: I have commented at length on the novelty of the "Preparation of the Gifts," which has replaced the traditional Offertory in the new Mass (the Secret being replaced by the Prayer over the Gifts). What is interesting in these two paragraphs is the fact that a novel practice, concelebration, taking place in the context of the novelty of a free standing altar, requires orchestration that detracts from the reverence and solemnity of the Mass. As I have noted on many other occasions, the Traditional Mass (and every single Eastern Divine Liturgy) has the priest facing the altar. While his priesthood is important in that there would be no sacrifice at a given time in a given place without it, his individual personality is absolutely unimportant. Indeed, it is irrelevant and distracting. He is acting in the person of Christ at the summit of the Mass. We do not need to look at him. The novelty of concelebration multiplies the horror of the congregation facing the priest exponentially. "Do you see Father Jim?" "Hey, look who's standing next to Father Bob!" Spare us, please, spare us, O Lord.

Paragraphs 216-218 of G.I.R.M. read as follows:

    216: "The preface is sung or said by the presiding priest celebrant alone; the Sanctus is sung or recited by all concelebrants with the congregation and the choir."

    217: "After the Sanctus, the priest concelebrants continue the Eucharistic Prayer in the way described. Unless otherwise indicated, only the presiding celebrant makes the gestures."

    218: "The parts said by all the concelebrants together and above all the words of consecration which all are bound to pronounce are to be spoken in such a way that the concelebrants sy them in a very low voice and the presiding celebrant's voice is heard clearly. In this way the people should be able to understand the text without difficulty. It is fitting that the parts which may be recited together by all the concelebrants and which are provided with musical notation in the Missal be sung."

Comment and Analysis: As all of this is absolutely novel in the liturgical history of the Roman Catholic Church, the authors of G.I.R.M. are left to their own revolutionary devices to determine how the central part of the Mass is to be conducted. Again, however, an interesting theological question is raised at this juncture. If concelebration is meant to produce the "unity of the priesthood," then how is it that the "principal celebrant's" voice should be louder than all of the other concelebrants. Is his priesthood somehow more important in the consecration than that of the other priests? This is nothing other than liturgical positivism, an effort to assert that something is so merely because it has been asserted as being so. The assertion that the principal celebrant's voice should be louder than other priests is absurd. It is an attempt to stage manage a theatrical production, not to produce the "unity" the revolutionaries desire to be produced by concelebration.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

For past installments of G.I.R.M. Warfare in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

MARCH 2003
Time of Quadragesima (LENT)
volume 14, no. 8
The Germs of G.I.R.M.

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