Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XX

Inæstimabile Donum

Instruction from the Sacred Congregation
for the Sacraments and Divine Worship on
Certain Norms Concerning the
Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery1

3 April 1980

This instruction represents an attempt by Pope John Paul II to implement what he had written in Dominicæ Cenæ concerning the need for bishops to curb liturgical abuses. It begins by “nothing with great joy the many positive results of the liturgical reform.” Some of these “positive results” are cited, and they include such “benefits” as “a growth in the community sense of liturgical life, and successful efforts to close the gap between life and worship.” Millions of Catholics throughout the world had closed that gap by ceasing to take part in public worship, but it is unlikely that this is quite what the Instruction intended to convey!

It was, of course, ludicrous to claim any positive benefits for a reform which had resulted in the need for the publication of an instruction intended to curb serious abuses of which, it admitted: "The consequences are – and cannot fail to be – the impairing of the unity of faith and worship in the Church, doctrinal uncertainty, scandal and bewilderment among the People of God, and the near inevitability of violent reactions." When the Sacred Congregation admits to such a state of affairs, and then speaks of positive results, it is rather like informing someone who has lost his sight and hearing as the result of an accident that he should note with great joy the accompanying benefits, such as the fact that he will no longer be disturbed by bright lights and loud noises.

The good intentions of Pope John Paul II in having this Instruction published must be accepted, but alas, it has had little if any effect on those perpetrating the twenty-seven serious abuses which it lists. We must concern ourselves with facts rather than intentions, and the inescapable fact is that the abuses the Instruction is intended to curtail have become more widespread since its publication. Abuse no. 18 in the Instruction is that of female altar servers. When the Instruction was published in Apri1 1980 this aberration was virtually unknown in Great Britain, now it is by no mean unusual. Abuse no.12 concerned the distribution of Communion under both kinds outside the limits prescribed by the Holy See. The Instruction was defied to such an extent in this respect that the Vatican surrendered, just as in case of Communion in the hand, and authorized practice for all Masses in such countries as the United States.

1. Complete text available in Flannery II (see bibliography).


Chapter 19

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