Little catechism of the Second Vatican Council (Part Six) – Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy

by Fr. Pierre-Marie, O.P.

Dominican in Avrillé


From Le Sel de la terre 93, Summer 2015

(continued,number 6)


The Four Constitutions

III

Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the liturgy


What are the principle errors contained this constitution?

SC does not clearly assert errors, but it opens doors that will be greatly opened after the Council.

For example :

— in §22, it is said that the Apostolic See alone—and, within certain limits, the bishop—can regulate the liturgy.  But in §23, innovations are permitted, if it is useful ;

— in §36, it is clearly affirmed that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites”.  In the following paragraph, one reads, surprisingly: “But since the use of the mother tongue […] frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended.”

Could you give an example of calculated ambiguity?

SC frequently speaks of the “active participation” of the faithful in the liturgy. This expression—which is found roughly twenty times—would be well understood if it favored spiritual participation, because « it is in the cooperation of the power of the sacrament and of human effort, of the seriously Christian life, and of the sincere tendency toward spiritual perfection that the secret of lively faith consists1. »

But, as what followed has shown, in the name of this active participation the liturgy became noisier and noisier, the laity came to take the place of clerics, etc., without any profit for the faithful2.

Are there other errors in SC?

One can collect a certain number of parallels with Protestant doctrine3:

  • the notion of Pascal mystery which stresses our Redemption in the Resurrection of Our Lord and erases the reality of an expiatory sacrifice in the liturgy (§§ 5 and 6);
  • the Presence of Christ in the Mass is practically placed on the same level as His presence in the minister of the liturgical action, in the power of the sacraments, in His word, and in two or three persons united in His name (§7);
  • §34 requests to do a reform of the rites so that they return to the splendor of a noble simplicity and be devoid of “useless repetitions” (this rationalist and anti-liturgical influence will lead to replacing the sacrificial offertory with a simple “presentation of gifts” in the new mass);
  • underlying §37 one finds inculturation and the so-called unity in liturgical plurality, opposed to the true unity of the Church and Roman spirit;
  • §47 uses, for designating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, neither the notion of “repræsentatio” of the Council of Trent, nor that of “renewal” of the later popes (until Pius XII inclusive), but speaks of “perpetuating” the sacrifice and of “memorial”;
  • §55 requests to give, on certain particular occasions, the Eucharist under two species in the manner of Protestants;
  • §81 requires the suppression of somber thoughts on death by using other liturgical colors than black.  This pleases the Protestants who know neither purgatory nor prayer for the deceased.

What judgment should one make of this Constitution?

The tree is judged by its fruits: the very disastrous liturgical reform is the fruit of SC.  In summary, one can say that the liturgy, which was theocentric until Vatican II, became anthropocentric after the Council.  The worship of man took the place of the worship of God.


  1. Pius XII, Lenten pastoral instruction to the priests and preachers of Rome, 17 February 1945, AAS 37 (1945), p. 39.
  2. Saint Pius X was the first, it seems, to have spoken of “the active participation in the sacrosanct mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church” in his Motu proprio Tra le sollicitudine on sacred music (22 November 1903) where he encouraged Gregorian chant: “it is necessary to reestablish Gregorian chant in the use of the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical office, as in ancient times.” This is far from the guitar masses that followed the Council.
  3. See Abbé Franz Schmidberger, « La protestantisation du concil Vatican II », Autorité et réception du concile Vatican II — 4e Symposium de Paris 2005, Vu de haut hors série, Paris, 2006, p. 208-210.