Priest shares reflections on New Roman Missal



LEXINGTON — For the day of reflection for priests and deacons of the diocese held last Friday at Corpus Christi Church, Bishop Robert J. Baker invited the man he called “the hottest ticket on the church lecture circuit today.”

Father James Moroney, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass., who is executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Secretariat on the Liturgy, backed up that assertion by saying this is the 16th diocese he has spoken in since Christmas. As general editor of the revised Lectionary for Mass recently approved by the NCCB and the Holy See, he is in demand as a lecturer in liturgy throughout the United States, discussing his role as consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline for the Sacraments.

In his Midlands presentation, Father Moroney explored practical questions of the history, practice, and implementation of the Missale Romanum, the Roman Missal, since the Second Vatican Council, including the processes and roles followed by the Holy See, the USCCB, and individual bishops in receiving the New Roman Missal 2000.

He also gave an overview of the four theological mandates of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Liturgy, which provided the inspiration for liturgical reform.

Father Moroney said that after Vatican II reforms for the Mass were introduced in 1968, 1969 and 1975, before the most recent revision in 2000.

The original manuscript for the New Roman Missal 2000, asked for by Pope John Paul II for the jubilee year, was 5,800 pages. In it, 15 percent of the texts were changed, with less than 1 percent being new material. Most changed was the ninth chapter, addressing the role of the diocesan bishop to regulate the liturgy in his see.

The liturgy director said his office in Washington normally fielded 36 questions a day prior to the 2000 revision. However, the number of current queries has doubled. Over 60 percent of the questions deal with things that had been addressed in the 1975 directory, said Father Moroney, but had been ignored or clarified.

“We live in a contentious society. To use the liturgy as a weapon is not only to miss the boat, it is evil. We need to remember what it is we’re all about,” he emphasized.

The liturgist said that there are only three ways the new missal can now be changed:

1) Acts of inculturation and translation. “It must have precision plus a performative dimension that is both poetic and precise,” said Father Moroney.

2) Adaptations/appendix. The priest cited the color of vestments and altar cloths, liturgical music, posture and gesture. “We speak not just an oral language, but a cultural language,” he said.

3) Liturgical indult. The Vatican consultor listed as an example the Order of Christian Funerals and what to do with cremated remains.

By far the most prominent issue addressed in the new missal deals with the role of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Father Moroney said the 2000 revision speaks to three ancillary duties not addressed in any liturgical document: cleansing of sacred vessels, consumption of the Precious Blood, and distribution of the Precious Blood to ancillary vessels.

Norms for Eucharist under both kinds were totally revised, according to the priest, who added that adaptations and indults will be before all bishops in June at their annual meeting in Atlanta, and could be approved then.

“Liturgy is the work of Christ, the sacrifice offered by the perfect priest and victim. The goal is full, conscious, active participation,” said Father Moroney. “It is not we who gather. Christ gathers us in. Until I die and rise in Christ I cannot live in Christ. A Christ-centered form of liturgy leads people to Christ. It is the source and summit of Christ life. We’re not its choreographer, but its servants.”

Other changes in the New Roman Missal 2000 state that each church must have a single, set and fixed altar. “The altar signifies Christ Jesus, who was is the altar and the victim,” Father Moroney said. In addition, the altar cross must have an image of Christ crucified. “We need to express the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ. People should be able to meditate on the Passion of Christ,” said the liturgist.

Another contentious issue addresses the placement of the tabernacle. “There are no black hats or white hats in this debate,” the cleric from Washington said to laughter from the audience.

New norms state that the tabernacle must be noble, worthy, conspicuous, well decorated, and suited for prayer. There are two options for location; in the sanctuary, but not on the altar, or in another chapel integrally connected to the church.

The decision on the tabernacle site in each diocese has been left to the local ordinary. Bishop Baker, in speaking to the presbyterate, expressed his preference for the tabernacle to be located in the sanctuary for each new church built, while existing churches can maintain the tabernacle’s current placement.

For churches of special historic significance, where tours would be given, such as the cathedral, the bishop would allow the construction of separate chapels for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, in an effort to promote proper respect for the Holy Eucharist.

In summing up his thoughts on the New Roman Missal 2000, Father Moroney told his brother priests, “We have an opportunity to do what we have never done before. This is a theologically graced moment.”

In an open dialogue, the liturgist then answered questions from Palmetto State clergy on issues dealing with cremated remains, holding hands at the Our Father, the theology of concelebration, location of participants at Life Teen Masses, and the maximum size that churches should be built.

Regarding hand holding at the Our Father, the priest said that the action is a natural ritual language which shows solidarity, and that the church generally hasn’t regulated gestures. However, Father Moroney said in recent years his enthusiasm for the practice has waned, as his office has received letters from survivors of sexual abuse detailing their horror at parishioners violating their physical boundaries at a worship service.

As for the size of churches, the liturgist said that there is ongoing debate on the subject and he cited the need for more study. “We have a challenge in church architecture in the United States that we have not every begun to look at.”

The day concluded with the celebration of Mass with the bishop.