by Michael Davies


Another argument in favour of altar-smashing can be disposed of easily. Article 271 of the General Instruction states that the celebrant's chair should draw attention to his office of presiding over the community and leading its prayer, and hence the place for it is the apex of sanctuary, facing the people. One must state immediately that this is a description of the function of a Protestant minister and not of a Catholic priest whose office is not to preside over the community but to offer Mass in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. But leaving that aside, article 271 states specifically that there are circumstances which might militate against the presidential chair being at the apex of the sanctuary, and therefore it cannot be considered mandatory.

There is thus no mandatory legislation within the Church today requiring that Mass be celebrated facing the people let alone vandalizing sanctuaries. Bishops who imitate the late 16th century Protestant Bishop Ridley in smashing hallowed altars built with the pennies of the poor do so not because they have to but because they want to!

1997 Michael Davies.

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