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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 30 Jun 2001

Need some more help, please QUESTION from Christopher October 25, 2000 Dear Sir,
I thank you so much for your previous response concerning the illegal Mass celebrated here on campus. I'm hoping you could help me a bit more.
I explained to various powers-that-be about all the information, including the various references to Notitiae that SPECIFICALLY makes it illegal to have the congregation stand around the altar. The retort was to demonstrate now Notitiae was binding with the force of law. The logic was as follows: by inviting everyone to gather 'round the altar in the sanctuary, there was no room for everyone to kneel, so standing was thusly permitted. Because the only explicit prohibition against gathering everyone into the sanctuary is in the Notitiae, and at the time I couldn't demonstrate with certainty where Notitiae is given the force of law.
Now I've seen Notitiae online in several places, but nothing seems to date past the early 1980's. and it isn't exactly something you can pick up at the local newsstand. Even if I could, I wouldn't know where I can find that it is officially binding.
In some online editions of the GIRM, I've seen a second appendix that contains all those relavent Notitiae citations. But the printed copy doesn't. I'm sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place, given what is going on. Somehow I either need to show that just because it isn't prohibited doesn't mean it's allowed, or that the Notitiae articles are binding.
Can you help at all? I'd rather not bring this out to diocesan level or invoke the St. Joseph Foundation unless necessary. As it is I'm an unpopular person for making such a big deal of things.
I appreciate your help, and will continue to pray for those who strive to reform and educate about the Liturgy.
ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on November 3, 2000 Dear Christopher,
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is the document with the force of law, which governs worship for the entire Church throughout the world. It is found at the beginning of every copy of the Sacramentary, also known as The Roman Missal. It's the book used by the priest at every Mass. Notitiae is published by the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, the same Congregation that published the GIRM. The English title of Notitiae is; Clarifications and Interpretations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).
The reason you haven't seen anything from Notitiae dated past the 1980's is that there hasn't been a new edition of the GIRM published since 1975. Notitiae addresses questions concerning the GIRM and evidently most of the questions pertaining to the GIRM were answered by 1981.
A new GIRM has just been issued and will take the force of law in January. Already questions have been posed to the Sacred Congregation regarding the new GIRM so be prepared for a new flurry of activity. The most recent question answered has to do with the orientation of the priest during the Mass. The new GIRM evidently was less than perfectly clear on this and it resulted in questions being posed to the Sacred Congregation. On September 25, 2000 the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship issued an explanation titled; On the Orientation of the Priest at Mass.
And finally, your detractors' logic is flawed about there not being enough room to kneel when they are gathered around the altar since they are not supposed to be around the altar in the first place.
In Christ,
John Miskell
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