Saturday, April 01, 2006

one pope discards another’s encyclical?

Pius XII:
114. They, therefore, err from the path of truth who do not want to have Masses celebrated unless the faithful communicate; and those are still more in error who, in holding that it is altogether necessary for the faithful to receive holy communion as well as the priest, put forward the captious argument that here there is question not of a sacrifice merely, but of a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union, and consider the general communion of all present as the culminating point of the whole celebration.

John Paul II’s Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1382 The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's body and blood.

So, are P12 and JP2 up there duking it out? Is their purgatory to have to argue with each other what the Mass is? :)


At Monday, April 03, 2006 12:08:00 AM, Blogger Daniel Muller said...

I do not see the disparity. The final "and" of the first pericope is crucial. What Venerable Pius XII was arguing against is what Archbishop Sheen also pointed out: it used to be that only Catholics believed in the Immaculate Conception; now everyone believes that he has been immaculately conceived.

In other words, Catholics do not pass the grape juice and crackers around the pews as Your Bonus for Getting Out of Bed on the First Sunday Morning of the Month.

Holy Mass is essentially a sacrifice and a banquet, and it loses no efficacy or significance whatsoever if not everyone communicates.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 5:37:00 AM, Anonymous Diapason said...

I agree. Pius XII and John Paul II are not in any way contradictory here. J-P2 says that BOTH are constituent parts, and PXII warns against the incorrect assumption that communion, not the sacrifice, is the culmination of holy Mass.

Read it carefully.

Any suggestion that they might be in purgatory arguing about such things is simply in bad taste. Pius XII is a venerable, and John Paul II has a strong cause for sainthood in Rome, with another miracle having just been announced. So be careful with the off-the-cuff remarks.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 11:03:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

DM: Whoa there, Wilbur. The Immaculate Conception is Mary, not Jesus.

Diapason: Fair enough; the suggestion that two men who, by all evidence, were as pious as any would be in purgatory was probably not the best thing to post. (My point, though, was that they might annoy each other with their arguments.)

Both: P12 says that the Mass is not to be considered both sacrifice and supper, but “a sacrifice merely”; this is his reasoning for justifying the legitimacy of Mass celebrated without a congregation.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 1:04:00 PM, Anonymous brandon said...


The "immaculate conception" thing is refering to Mary: Catholics believe that God created Mary free from Original Sin. Servant of God Sheen was pointing out our modern culture's tendancy to think that no one has need of redemption from sin; this shows itself in the short confession lines and general aversion to conversion and penance that ails the Catholic faithful, but more so in the "12 steps to healing yourself" literature... without Original Sin, we should be able to figure it out and work out our own salvation on our own, without any help from any higher power.

As for your original point, where in CCC1382 does it imply that the sacred banquet need be attended by living faithful? I don't see your problem with the union of these two quotations, and I think that pitting one encyclical against another is as futile as attempting to disprove Christianity by pitting Bible verses against one another. The complete context of the encylicals, especially the cultural context out of which they were written, is of key importance. God gave us Popes for a reason. Not to play one against the other, but to help us find Him.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 1:54:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Brandon: My purpose in posting the Pius XII excerpt was its (seeming, to me) condemnation of the idea that the Mass is both supper and sacrifice, then to put that next to today’s Catechism which says the sacrificial and meal aspects are inseparable.

I’m honestly not sure what to make of it. I tried checking the old Catholic Encyclopedia (, and it seems to assert that the Mass is the sacrifice while the Eucharist is the supper - though I could be reading that wrongly, too; the entry is VERY long for “sacrifice of the Mass”.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 3:37:00 PM, Blogger PrayingTwice said...


I would have to agree with Brandon on this one . . . be careful about pulling excerpts out of these documents and assuming one is heretical. I'm sure the writers of the recent catechism were well aware of Pius XII's encyclical and this passage in particular.

Besides, if these two passages were really irreconciliable, the anti-catholics and schismatics would have pointed it out long ago.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 6:06:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


I’m not presuming there’s heresy in either document, but I would like to resolve what I can’t help but see as a contradiction. In other words, I’m doing everything I can to disagree with the above document.

At Monday, April 03, 2006 6:07:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

And since that link didn’t work:

At Monday, April 03, 2006 6:29:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

FYI, it *is* possible for an encyclical to contain error. It’s even possible for a catechism.

There’s definitely a “supper” around here somewhere, because the Feast of Corpus Christi has the famous (to musicians) Vespers antiphon:

O living banquet,
in which Christ is received,
the mind is filled with grace,
the memory of His passion is recalled,
and to us a promise of future glory is given.

Penned by Aquinas.

At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 5:09:00 PM, Anonymous Klaus der Große said...


When two documents appear to disagree, one can attempt to resolve the problem through two general classes of interpretation. The first, which is often called the "hermeneutic of suspicion," presumes that the contradiction is real unless a great body of evidence can be deployed to demonstrate otherwise. The second, which may be called the "hermeneutic of trust," presumes that the contradiction is apparent unless a great body of evidence can be deployed to demonstrate otherwise.

One's choice of hermeneutic depends on several circumstances, among them the source of the documents in question. If one is a Catholic, it behooves one to approach the documents of the Church with the hermeneutic of trust. Why? Our Lord's promises. While he did not promise a smooth ride for the Barque of Peter, he did promise that it would reach its destination safely, and so when two of her pronouncements are not immediately mutually intelligible, we presume that the difficulty is only apparent and seek to make it clear.

I defy you to demonstrate where the statement of the Catechism (which is properly interpreted in light of the antiphon O sacrum convivum, which you quoted above), contradicts Pope Pius. It does not demand that the faithful communicate at every Mass, nor does it presume that the communion of the faithful is the "culminating point of the whole celebration."

As to the question of "a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union": what error is Pius condemning? Surely not the notion that the Mass is, in some way, a supper of brotherly union. Anyone who has read even basic sacramental theology would assent to that, and it is evident in the Scriptures. What Pius is condemning is the mistaken notion that the Mass is somehow incomplete or invalid without the communion of the faithful, a notion which has found expression various places in the Protestant world, and which crept into the thought of some Catholics again in the early 20th Century. I would also note that the Catechism's statement could be understood as referring to the union of the faithful with Christ as much as with each other.

I second PrayingTwice's admonition: be careful about tossing fragments of documents against each other under the hermeneutic of suspicion.

At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 5:39:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


How about just plain “hermeneutics of inquiry”? :) Were I approaching this question with suspicion, I would have no problem agreeing with the SSPX. I’m looking for an explanation of why what Pius wrote re the Mass having a supper aspect doesn’t seem to square with JP2’s Catechism.....with the hope that I can find it.

Read Pius carefully: “those are .. in error who .. put forward the .. argument that here there is question .. of a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union...” (The ellipses have simply made this particular meaning of the phrase clearer; the excised words simply add meaning, but do not change what I have above.)

Pius does indeed uphold the validity of a Mass without a means of the idea that the Mass is a “sacrifice merely”. Other ideas that Pius expresses are that the argument of sacrifice-and-meal is “captious” and that, if the Mass is a supper, the “general communion of all present” would be the “culminiating point of the whole celebration”, not the consecration.

Does anyone know of anything official before V2 that refers to the *Mass* itself as a banquet? (“O sacrum convivium” refers to the Eucharist.)

At Wednesday, April 05, 2006 2:12:00 AM, Anonymous Klaus der Große said...


While I think it is difficult, particularly in matters of textual criticism, to approach one's subject neutrally, it is not utterly impossible; still, it is not sensible to presume that you are doing so given the frame into which you put this post. The title leaves room for doubt, but your image of the two popes as liturgical pugilists certainly suggests the hermeneutic of suspicion. If I have erred, I apologize. (I would note parenthetically that it is not quite accurate to describe the current Catechism as if it were written by John Paul; while he certainly approved and promulgated it, the text has much broader authorship.)

I am surprised that you do not directly engage my analysis of Mediator Dei, and given the portion of the text available in your top post, your additional commentary is understandable. On further investigation, though, I cannot accept it. When I made my initial post, I did not have the full text in front of me; now that I do, I see that by posting paragraph 114 of Mediator Dei in isolation, you removed it from a context (paragraphs 112 and 113) important to understanding its meaning, and which supports the argument I made in my original post regarding the particular error which Pope Pius sought to counter:

112. The august sacrifice of the altar is concluded with communion or the partaking of the divine feast. But, as all know, the integrity of the sacrifice only requires that the priest partake of the heavenly food. Although it is most desirable that the people should also approach the holy table, this is not required for the integrity of the sacrifice.

113. We wish in this matter to repeat the remarks which Our predecessor Benedict XIV makes with regard to the definitions of the Council of Trent: "First We must state that none of the faithful can hold that private Masses, in which the priest alone receives holy communion, are therefore unlawful and do not fulfill the idea of the true, perfect and complete unbloody sacrifice instituted by Christ our Lord. For the faithful know quite well, or at least can easily be taught, that the Council of Trent, supported by the doctrine which the uninterrupted tradition of the Church has preserved, condemned the new and false opinion of Luther as opposed to this tradition." "If anyone shall say that Masses in which the priest only receives communion, are unlawful, and therefore should be abolished, let him be anathema."

Does anyone know of anything official before V2 that refers to the *Mass* itself as a banquet? (“O sacrum convivium” refers to the Eucharist.)

Be careful; you cannot separate the Eucharist from the Mass itself, since the Mass is that locus wherein the Eucharist is confected. Eucharistic worship outside of Mass is made possible by the Mass itself; without a consecrated host one has nothing to adore. Your distinction also does not work verbally. Even in English, the word "banquet" does not just refer to food; it refers to the entire event of a festal meal in the company of other people. The Latin convivium does likewise; Lewis gives "a meal in company, social feast, entertainment, banquet" as definitions. Note also how St. Thomas phrases it: O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur. The use of in + ablative quo indicates that the eating of Christ is contained by the sacred banquet.

I have spent a good deal of time analyzing O sacrum convivium without giving you any other texts. My own library is sadly limited, and I am not as familiar with the writings of the Church Fathers as I ought to be, but I can provide at least one additional source. St. John Chrysostom, in his Third Baptismal Instruction, writes this:

"What, then? Has God only made ready the armor? No! He has also prepared a food which is more powerful than any armor, so that you may not weary in the fight, and that you may dine joyously and then win the advantage over the wicked one. If the devil merely sees you returning from the Master's banquet, he flees faster than any wind, as if he had seen a lion breathing forth flames from his mouth." (Chrystostom, St. John. Baptismal Instructions. Translated by Paul W. Harkins. New York: Paulist Press, 1963, p. 60.)

Without quoting them all (which would become tedious), St. John also refers to the Eucharist as a banquet in his Fourth Instruction (ibid., p. 68, 78), and his Twelfth Instruction (ibid., p. 176).

Finally, I recommend to you the analysis on pp. 50ff of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Feast of Faith, where the Eucharist is understood as the completion and fulfillment of the Jewish toda sacrifices, which were ritual banquets. I know that this text is not postconciliar, but since there is continuity in the Church across the council, that should not be a disqualifying concern.

At Wednesday, April 05, 2006 2:15:00 AM, Anonymous Klaus der Große said...

Correction to the above:

I know that this text is not postconciliar

should instead read

I know that this text is postconciliar

At Wednesday, April 05, 2006 9:50:00 AM, Anonymous Klaus der Große said...

Composing and posting long replies when one has just come in from work and is tired is an excellent way to perpetrate various errors in said posts.

I have a further correction to the above. I wrote:

Without quoting them all (which would become tedious), St. John also refers to the Eucharist as a banquet....

I meant to say that St. John is referring to the Mass, or as he would have called it, the Divine Liturgy of the Eucharist. It must be said, though, that it is not unknown to use the word "Eucharist" interchangeably to refer both to the Most Holy Sacrament itself and to its liturgy; I had this usage in mind when writing my post of 2:12 AM.

At Wednesday, April 05, 2006 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

Herr Klaus,

My title to the post was ironic. It was, as someone observed above, an ill choice. Mea culpa.

We seem both to be ignoring each other’s points; the seeming conflict between the two texts has been the subject of previous posts, and the additional paragraphs you’ve given give more background to Pius’s defense of Mass w/o congregation, but they do not alter the fact that he also defends this practice by reason that the Mass itself is not a communal meal. ISTM that you are ignoring the letter of what Pius wrote in favor of its “spirit”; I still can’t see past the idea that he has asserted, in the words I highlighted, that the Mass is a “sacrifice merely”.

If Pius had wanted only to denounce the errors of no-Mass-unless-the-people-partake, the-people-must-receive, and communion-is-the-highpoint, the paragraph would have denounced exactly those ideas. Why bring up the sacrifice/meal question if it was not also important to the point he was making?

It seems the crux of your argument is that the Eucharist *is* the Mass, and vice-versa. (Unless you know of use of the term “Holy Meal of the Mass” somewhere....) I have some trouble accepting this - aren’t there graces imparted to those for whom the Mass does not consist of eating or drinking - catechumens, or those who attend Mass where communion of the people is not always practiced? I suppose in the former case there is an ipso-facto impediment to the graces of the Mass, and in the latter case the celebrant partakes of the meal on the people’s behalf?

The furthest I’ll go here is that Pius worded his document *very* strangely if he did not mean to say that the Mass is a “sacrifice merely”; it literally (in the English translation, anyway) does say just that.

At Wednesday, April 05, 2006 10:50:00 AM, Anonymous Klaus der Große said...


I still can’t see past the idea that he has asserted, in the words I highlighted, that the Mass is a “sacrifice merely”.

Again, because the assertion has been lifted from its context; it is a misreading to say that Pius is condemning the idea of a meal in every way, shape, or form. It is a shame that we do not have the Latin text of Mediator Dei easily available to us, but, for what it's worth, here's how I parse the English version of paragraph 114 we have:

They, therefore, err from the path of truth who do not want to have Masses celebrated unless the faithful communicate...

A continuation of the thinking of paragraphs 112 and 113. This is a common method of exposition in encyclicals, apostolic letters, etc.; the current pope revisits and reaffirms what his predecessors have written, and then adds his own bit.

...and those are still more in error who, in holding that it is altogether necessary for the faithful to receive holy communion as well as the priest...

So he is directing what he is saying to that specific error.

...put forward the captiious argument that here there is question not of a sacrifice merely, but of a sacrifice and a supper of brotherly union....

According to Merriam-Webster, the word "captious" has the following definitions:

1 : marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections
2 : calculated to confuse, entrap, or entangle in argument

Note that the definitions do not speak to the truth or falsity of the argument; after all, it is entirely possible to confuse or entrap someone with a truth presented incompletely or in a confusing manner.

I understand it thus: while it is true that the Mass has an aspect of a common meal, it is captious to use that aspect as an argument for the unlawfulness of Masses where the faithful do not communicate, since the question of the lawfulness of the Mass is a matter of the sacrifice merely and not of the supper of brotherly union. I think I am right to understand it thus, since there is support for the notion that the Mass does in some way have the aspect of a common meal in other sources, both before and after the Council.

I intend none of this, of course, to prejudice the primacy of sacrifice in the Mass; were it not for the unbloody re-presentation of Our Lord's offering, we could not together share in his Body and Blood.


It seems my attempts at clarification muddied the question a bit themselves. In my posts above I did not mean to argue that the Mass is the Eucharist; that is clearly not the case, pace the (rare) usage I alluded to in my post of 9:50 AM. I did argue, however, that the term "banquet" refers to the Mass as a whole and not just to the reception of the Eucharist.

At Sunday, April 16, 2006 6:58:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Y'all ought to compare Pope Pius IX's writings with V2 and post-V2 stuff. Pius IX wasn't too keen on democracy, for example; post-V2 popes seem to think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The point is that encyclicals don't represent _doctrine_, but _interpretation_ of doctrine and relation of it to the circumstances of the time; they should be taken seriously, but they have to be understood in their historical context. For example, what Pius IX had in mind with "democracy" was the bitterly anti-clerical French model. When he rails against public schools, for example, he has in mind that those schools are teaching children to detest religion and the structures of the Church.

One problem with the SSPX types is that they don't understand how to contextualize. It's just like the protestants who claim to interpret the Bible "literally." (Of course no one does -- do you know any Christians who check at the butcher shop if their purchase came from a strangled animal, or who refuse to eat blood-sausage (see Acts 15:20)?)


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home