Almost a hundred years ago, Pope Saint Pius X warned us about the writing of the Modernists that:
It appears that in those hundred years the Modernists have gotten bold enough to place the heterodox ideas before the orthodox ones. Yet, there are some good things in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, so we ought to acknowledge them by beginning at the end.
The first thought on finishing the encyclical is that it was much more easily readable than most recent encyclicals. There is little or no existentialist jargon (e.g. "the acting person"; "the structures" of this or that; the word "dialogue" appears only once). In fact an underlying motif is Saint Thomas Aquinas' hymn Adoro Te devote -- generally employing Saint Thomas' words as he would have intended them to be used.
Chapter Six (53-58) presents an edifying essay on the relationship of our Blessed Mother with the Eucharist, the Mass, the Priesthood, and the Church. This relationship is a virtually inexhaustible treasure chest for meditation on these great mysteries of our Faith. The Pope's words on Mary compliment his earlier comments on the nature of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice.2
Chapter Five (47-52) very correctly calls attention to the role of the art, music, architecture, and liturgical rubrics in honoring our Eucharistic Lord. "The architectural and mosaic splendours of the Christian East and West are a patrimony belonging to all believers; they contain a hope, and even a pledge, of the desired fullness of communion in faith and in celebration. sacred art must be outstanding for its ability to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the Church's faith and in accordance with the pastoral guidelines appropriately laid down by competent Authority. This holds true both for the figurative arts and for sacred music" (50). Even in non-Western cultures "the Sacred Liturgy expresses and celebrates the one faith professed by all and, being the heritage of the whole Church, cannot be determined by local Churches in isolation from the universal Church" (51). "I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity" (52). Unfortunately, there is no attention paid to the role of the hierarchy -- at all levels -- in undermining its own authority, thereby promoting the violation of artistic heritage and liturgical law that the Pope laments. That a Prince of the Church would build the "yellow armadillo" shaped structure for his cathedral -- the "Taj Mahoney"; the Protestantized liturgy, so banally translated; the outright falsification of the words of Consecration (more below); the organized and networked immorality of the bishops and clergy -- all suggest that no one in authority really cares.
While still overly "ecumenical" by Catholic standards, more liberal Catholics will probably resent the slight tightening up of the conditions under which non-Catholics may receive Holy Communion, Penance, or Extreme Unction -- the Pope tells us what the "properly disposed" of new canon 844 means --"the denial of one or more truthhs of the faith regarding these sacraments and, among these, the truth regarding the need of the ministerial priesthood for their validity, renders the person asking improperly disposed to legitimately receiving them." And Catholics may receive these Sacraments only from ministers with valid Orders -- one of a number of good points that should be unnecessary to make (46, 38). "The Eucharistic mystery cannot be celebrated in any community except by an ordained priest, as the Fourth Lateran Council expressly taught".(29) Parishes without a priest ought to try to obtain one (32). Concelebrations with non-Catholic ministers are not permitted (44) and "it is unthinkable to substitute for Sunday Mass ecumenical celebrations of the word or services of common prayer with Christians from the aforementioned Ecclesial Communities [lacking Holy Orders], or even participation in their own liturgical services." (30) "Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion... I therefore desire to reaffirm that "one must first confess one's sins, when one is aware of mortal sin". (36)
In Chapter Two (21-25) the Holy Father reminds us that the Real Presence endures "as long as the species of bread and wine remain" and that "the faithful should not omit visiting the Blessed Sacrament, which in accordance with liturgical law must be reserved in churches with great reverence in a prominent place" and commends the practice of Eucharistic adoration (25). It would be wonderful if his words bring about the return of a few tabernacles to their rightful places and get Eucharistic Adoration taken off the list of banned devotions here and there.
In better times Chapter One (11-20) would have been unnecessary. But given the present state of the Church, it is good to read the Pope's words referring to the sacrificial nature of the Mass. Yet mingled with the orthodoxy we find the error of universal salvation, for without distinguishing between the redemption of mankind and the salvation of individuals we read: "his sacrifice which would soon be offered on the Cross for the salvation of all" and "– all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity" (11,12). At best the meaning is ambiguous, but certainly dangerous in light of the introductory paragraphs.
And it is the Introduction that contains perhaps the most dangerous parts of the encyclical. Three times the Eucharist is referred to as the "paschal mystery," again an ambiguous and dangerous term.3 To be sure, in the Mass one can find elements of the Resurrection as well as the Incarnation, the Ascension, and maybe even Pentecost, in addition to the events of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. But it is these latter, the renewal of our Lord's sacrifice on the Cross in an unbloody manner, which are the essence of the Mass. In normal use, the term "paschal" refers to Easter and its joys, and not to the suffering of the Cross. Not surprisingly, where this false emphasis is placed on the Mass as Easter we often see the Cross without Christ, or Christ without the Cross -- symbols of the Protestant Reformation and its denial of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
But the greatest affront to Catholic doctrine comes in only the second paragraph -- in an encyclical said to honor the Blessed Eucharist -- we see the Modernist mistranslation of the words of consecration presented as though they were actually the words of our Lord, taken from holy Scripture:
The Latin version of the encyclical lagged the modern European versions by a week or more, and unlike the words of consecration in Pope Paul VI's Novus Ordo Missæ, the Latin text of the encyclical contains the same error as all of the modern European language versions:
The two Gospel accounts (Matthew 26:28; and Mark 14:24) which indicate for whom the Blood of Christ will be shed (beyond the "for you" -- the apostles at the Last Supper -- of Luke and First Corinthians) say it will be shed "for many." No account says "for all," at least not in any Bible this writer has found. Beyond not being found in Sacred Scripture or Tradition, the Catechism of the Council of Trent explains that the words "for all" are not used in the consecration:
The idea that all men will eventually be saved is known as apokatastasis,5 and is condemned by Pope Vigilius (537):6
In typical Modernist fashion, the idea that no man will undergo eternal punishment is both advanced and denied in Crossing the Threshold of Hope!7
But, let us give the benefit of the doubt. Let us suppose that there is no heretical intent here; and that the encyclical writer was oblivious to the heated debate going on now for almost forty years; and, further, that he had no intent to falsify the Scriptures -- let us attribute it to plain old sloppy scholarship -- but an unavoidable question yet remains: How much credence can we then place in the encyclical writer's claim to respect for the Most Blessed Sacrament or to reform the abuses that he mentions in the remaining sixty numbered sections?? How much respect does a priest demonstrate for the Sacrament and the Holy Sacrifice if he cannot get the words of consecration right??
1. Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi,
Dec. 8, 1907, para #18.