Where changes in the sanctuary are concerned, the first mention is found in
the Instruction on the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy (Inter Oecumenici), published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites
on 26 Sept 1964. This document is now generally referred to as the "First
Instruction" as others were to follow. Paragraph 90 of this document reads:
The Instruction claims that this is a quotation from paragraph 124 of the Liturgy Constitution,but it is not. The Liturgy Constitution refers only to building new churches, and makes no reference whatsoever to repairing or adapting existing buildings. It is this one word "adapting", inserted dishonestly into the First Instruction to falsify a quotation from the Liturgy Constitution, which forms the basis of the altar-smashers' mandate.
Having stated falsely that the Council authorized the adaptation of existing
churches, the Instruction goes on in the very next paragraph, no. 91 to
This is the first reference to Mass facing the people, and note well that it is only a suggestion that altars should be constructed away from the wall to make such a celebration possible. It does not actually recommend that Mass should ever be offered facing the people. In countries such as Holland, however, a veritable orgy of altar smashing was already underway, and caused such scandal that in 1965 Cardinal Lercaro, President of the Consilium, found it necessary to write to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences stressing the fact that there was no pastoral necessity for Mass to be celebrated facing the people and expressing regret at the hasty and irreparable destruction of existing altars, violating values which should be respected.
On 25 May 1967, in the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium published
by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, it was stated specifically that: "In
adapting churches, care will be taken not to destroy treasures of sacred art.
(para 24)" I well recollect reading in the newsletter of a parish in south-east
London an account of a Protestant stonemason who had been heartbroken at having
to smash an exquisitely beautiful marble altar in a convent and to replace it
with what he described as "two great hunks of stone". As a true craftsman he
found the task utterly repugnant, particularly as he was sure that there is not
a mason in Britain who could produce such superb work today. The worthy
gentleman would have been even more surprised had been told that this act of
vandalism was intended to promote the renewal of Catholic worship. What sort of
renewal can be implemented only by destroying the holy and the beautiful? To
quote Dr. Duffy once more: "Iconoclasm was the central sacrament of the
© 1997 Michael Davies.
Last modified 27th October, 1997, by David Joyce.