by Michael Davies


There is, in fact, irrefutable proof that, whatever the intentions of the pseudo-liturgists, the mind of the Pope was that the New Mass should not be celebrated facing the people. While most documents that come from the Vatican state that they have been approved by the Pope this does not mean that the Pope has so much glanced through them unless they come into the category of what is known as a "papal act". Papal approval is normally given to acts of the Curia in what is know as "common form",(forma communi). This simply gives the necessary legal status to the curial act in question when such approval is necessary. A decree which has received such approbation still remains the decree of those who enacted it,it is an act of the Holy See rather than a specifically papal act. Without specific proof to the contrary, papal approbation should always be presumed to have been given in forma communi. A document becomes a papal act when it has been personally and meticulously studied or even composed by the Pope himself, and comes to us with the fullness of his authority. This is known as approval in "forma specifica" ("specific form") and is indicated by such formulas as "ex motu proprio" ("of his own volition"), "ex scientia certa" ("with certain knowledge"), "de apostolicae auctoritatis plenitudine" ("with the fullness of his apostolic authority"). The Latin text of the new Mass comes into this latter category. But the General Instruction is not a papal act and if there is an apparent conflict between it and the papally approved text of the Mass it is the latter which must be considered authoritative.

The rubrics of the New Mass approved specifically ("in forma specifica") by Pope Paul VI presume that the priest will be facing the altar in the traditional manner as the norm for its celebration. The rubrics instruct the priest to turn to the congregation at specific moments of the Mass and then to turn back to face the altar, e.g. No 25, 104, 111, 113. These rubrics can also be found in the General Instruction, 107, 115, 116, 122, 198, 199. Where the rubrics governing the actual celebration of Mass are concerned, both in Order of Mass and in the General Instruction, there is not one which envisages a celebration facing the people.

1997 Michael Davies.

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Last modified 27th October, 1997, by David Joyce.