New Developments in the Theology of Sacrifice

Coming soon: At Pray Tell’s invitation, Fr. Robert Daly, SJ, has agreed to write a response to Pope Benedict’s understanding of sacrifice as found in Eamon Duffy, “Benedict XVI and the Liturgy,” in Uwe Michael Lang, ed., The Genius of the Roman Rite: Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives on Catholic Liturgy (LTP Hillenbrand, 2009). This article from the Spring 2009 issue of Liturgical Ministry is an excellent introduction to Daly’s highly interesting work on this topic and will prepare you for his upcoming piece on Pope Benedict XVI.


  1. Greetings,

    I have read Daly’s book, and the article by Duffy, and also “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: A Search for an Acceptable Notion of Sacrifice” by Michael McGuckian, SJ.

    All three have different notions of sacrifice, however, I don’t think they are mutually exclusive, rather they enrich the topic even more. It does not have to be a only this or only that. However, I do believe we must have a very solid understanding of Mass as sacrifice.


  2. I have to admit to being concerned with both the sources and methods of the article. It strikes me as fundamentally unsound not to start a discussion of sacrifice from the New Testament as a whole and attempting to demonstrate their ultimate unity, presuming there is one. Now many of the insights seem reasonable, but the strict insistence of the hierarchy of sacrificial aspects seems unnecessary. I will grant that ultimately the bringing of human beings into the life of the Trinity is the goal, but that need not completely dismiss other traditional aspects of sacrifice, especially the atonement aspect. I would have expected a both/and explanation rather than an explanation based on exclusivity and hierarchy of priorities. The “how” discussion on left column page 56 seemed especially cursory.

    A more helpful (and more Scripturally sound) discussion of sacrifice can be found in “The essence of the Eucharistic celebration according to the New Testament. Last supper and sacrifice” by Christopher Robert Abeynaike O.Cist., S.S.D. A quick Google search will pop it up. I found his discussion of the Ascension quite helpful, especially the insight, “We therefore have, we might say, a “Day of Expiation” that lasts forever,” which helps to address the crux on p. 56 of the Daly piece, namely the “how” of the relationship between cross and mass.

  3. I have to agree with the above statement.

    What I find most disturbing is the emphasis on self and community, rather than the function of the clergy as integral to the sacrifice of the Mass.

    Though I appreciate the “ecumenical” nature, I think that using the Methodist prayer as a case in point is a rather faulty foundation, as their belief in what holy communion actually “is” is much different than our own. It actually caused me to question EP2– sure, it’s short and sweet, and vague enough to be acceptable by non-Catholics. But if the intent is dupe people under a false-ecumenism, then maybe we shouldn’t use it. If the Methodists (or whoever) are fine with EP2, but not with the Roman Canon, then they aren’t going to be received in to the Church. (I can see it now… “oh, we want to join your church, but don’t make us use the Roman Canon– it’s not acceptable to our personal experience of God.”)

    The sensus fidelium was making my hair stand up as I read the bits about the notion of Trinitarian sacrifice extending beyond the Church, to other religions, with an overemphasis on the personalistic nature. It had smatterings of Luther, IMHO. The reason being, because YES, the Eucharist is an intensely personal experience with God in each individual; but it is also balanced with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, entrusted to the Church. Without the Church, there would be no Eucharist, no sacrifice to speak of or speculate about. To contrast the two is a contradiction of what the Eucharist IS.

    But beyond the article… I wonder: what about “Benedict XVI’s understanding of sacrifice as found in Duffy’s essay” is wrong? Having read the article, I don’t think Duffy is far off base in representing the works of Ratzinger, in union with what the Holy Father has modeled in his liturgies.

    In order to “respond” to it, it implies that there is something incorrect and worth debating over. Nevermind the fact that it’s the Pope we are talking about here (who, granted, could be wrong), but I would be interested in hearing the author’s take on what needs to be responded to, what is so repulsive that it needs to be contradicted.

    1. Chris – I’m glad you appreciate the ecumenical nature of the paper, but I don’t think your way of talking about Methodists is very ecumenical. I prefer to learn from them (and everyone else) rather than emphasizing how different they are from us, and I don’t see any “duping” going on as we all learn from each other and (we hope) grow closer together.

      I don’t think your way of talking about Luther is very ecumenical either (and when did HE every talk about the Sacrifice of the Mass extending into other religions??). Orthodox Catholic theology – think of Justin Martyr and logos spermatikos – speaks of the eternal Word acting in all creation, even outside the Church.

      Regarding your last two paragraphs, do you think could keep your gun in its holster until Daly’s article on Duffy and B16 actually appears?? I’m waiting too – but I betcha it won’t be about contradictions and proving who’s right in sort of debate. Given Fr. Daly’s long and prestigious academic career, I expect it will be a responsible contribution to the “development of doctrine” in a spirit of dialogue and openness to others’ reactions.

  4. Father,

    Fair enough. With regard to the Methodist comment, I meant that their foundations start off by disagreeing with Catholic doctrine, so I find it difficult in seeing how we could get to the same place without compromising the Catholic faith– hence my comparison of EP2 with EP1– one can accept tenants of the faith without accepting the whole thing, yes?

    And the Luther comment was more an implication of the philosophies that underpin the theology of Luther– it leads to a personalistic interpretation, which fits in to his explanation of the sacrifice being more people focused, rather than Christ focused. I don’t think that’s too unfair to say.

    As for my last two paragraphs– please correct me, but I think that “response to…” implies that there is something incorrect, incomplete, or inferior about a position that one takes (I’m thinking specifically of the book “A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins” as a prime example).

    I am intrigued to see the “response”– so I guess we’ll tune in on same bat time, same bat channel to see what the substance of the response is.


    Thanks for your ministry!

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