Page 7, 17th December 1999

17th December 1999
Page 7
Page 7, 17th December 1999 — The placing of the tabernacle and other queries

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Locations: Leeds


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The placing of the tabernacle and other queries

From Revd. Kevin W A Hale Sir, Having read Fr Barrett's treatment of the issue of location of the tabernacle (Dec 3rd) andMgr Boylan's reaction, I was left wondering if Mgr Boylan had understood the issues raised. Mgr Boylan seems to have a difficulty with the location of the tabernacle in the centre of the sanctuary as if he has not registered the words of Paul VI who said that the taber

nacle is the heart of our churches (Paul VI, Credo of the People of God). Removing the heart from the main body of a person normally has serious consequences and this point Mgr Boylan has failed to address.

Mgr Boylan's letter discusses the placing of the tabernacle by reference to the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) 276 and does not refer to or discuss any of the important documents which Fr Barrett cited in his treatment. As far as GIRM 276 is concerned the structure of most of our parish churches makes it practically impossible to build another chapel for the tabernacle off the main body of the church. Consequently, apart from cathedrals and other churches where such a reality is possible, in general parish churches do situate the tabernacle near the site of the Eucharist action. This is entirely laudable since it shows the continuity rather than the opposition between Eucharistic action and Eucharistic presence. Moreover, the documents cited by Fr Barrett (more up-to-date than the GIRM) show that this is feasible and that it does not contradict the spirit of Vatican II.

He then cites someone who is published on this matter, Mgr Peter Elliott, for his position on the location of the tabernacle. If Mgr Boylan has read Elliott's book, then he would have seen the fuller treatment of the issues raised by Fr Barrett.

In any case, Mgr Boylan's translation of GIRM 276 is misleading. In my translation it states that if this is impossible because of the structure of the church or local custom, it should be kept on an altar or other place in the church that is prominent and properly decorated. GIRM 276 uses the word sacellum (little sanctuary) and not capella (chapel) or oratorio (oratory) when discussing where the Eucharistic elements may not be reserved. But the key thing about this paragraph of the General Instruction is that it makes reference to the 1964 document Inter Oecumenici no. 95 which states: "The Blessed Sacrament is to be reserved in a solid burglarproof tabernacle in the centre of the high altar or on another altar if this is really outstanding and distinguished."

The key criterion for the placing of the tabernacle is prominence. Similarly, the 1980 document Inaestimable Donum states: "The tabernacle in which the Blessed Eucharist is kept can be located on an altar or in a place which is very prominent" (no.24). All these documents need to be seen in the light of the 1983 Code of Canon Law at canon 938 par 2 which states "The tabernacle in which the Blessed Eucharist is reserved should be sited in a distinguished place in a church or oratory, a place which is conspicuous, suitably adorned and conducive to prayer." Canon 938 reflects the mind of Inaestimabile Donum more than that of GIRM 276. Despite this there are situations where a chapel is appropriate (which Fr Barrett points out in his treatment) as indicated in the 1967

document Eucharisticum Mysterium no. 53 and then repeated in 1973 (as in cathedrals etc) but generally these situations are not realised in the local parish church. This is, after all, what Fr Barrett was discussing in his response to a reader's concerns. Parish churches should be free of the misleading dogmatism shown by the episcopal vicar of Leeds who turns an exhortation into an article of faith and then misapplies it to the parish churches of the country. I thought Vatican II spelt greater freedom in the church?

Yours faithfully, KEVIN W A HALE Romford, Essex

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