The post on the interview with Cardinal Burke has garnered something like a bazillion comments, and I don’t want to stop that discussion, but I did want to have a slightly more focused discussion on one of his specific suggestions: restoring/inserting the “prayers at the foot of the altar.”
Fr. Allan made a concrete suggestion as to how this might be done:
Processional Chant consistent with the theme of the readings, Penitential Act at the Foot of the Altar to include the Sign of the Cross, all kneel, ministers bow for the introduction to the Penitential Act which becomes, “I will go unto the altar of God, with its response, and the exclusive use of the Confiteor and absolution. Afterward all stand and the Official Introit is chanted, the altar is kissed (incense if used) and the priest goes to the chair for the Kyrie, Gloria, then the Greeting and Collect (as the EF has the greeting and the Episcopal liturgy).
There are a number of details in this proposal about which questions might be raised: e.g. why the doubling of the entrance chant; would psalm 42 would be included (which seems to be required by the rationale Cardinal Burke gives), would the Confiteor be doubled as in the 1962 Missal, would the versicles after the Confiteor be included, etc. But what interests me is whether prayers that developed in the context of one sort of entrance rite can simply be inserted into what is really a very different sort of entrance rite.
What I mean by this is that the prayers at the foot of the altar developed as the private devotional preparation of the celebrant and ministers, and so they remained at Sung Masses until they were eliminated in the Missal of Paul VI. At Low Mass they were also the private preparation of the priest until the mid-20th century when dialogue Masses began to come into vogue, at which they were (somewhat puzzlingly, given their origin) made part of what the people were to try to say in Latin.
In the Missal of Paul VI one element of those private devotional prayers, a modified Confiteor and Misereatur, was crafted into a very different sort of thing: a communal rite of penitence. This was an innovation in the Roman Rite — one that perhaps developed from the brief experience of the Church with the dialogue Mass and that reflected the general tendency of the new Missal to have priest and people doing things together, rather than having the people do one thing (e.g. singing/listening to the introit), while the priest did another (say devotional prayers). One might argue whether or not such an innovation should have been made, but it was made and now for forty years the Church has celebrated Mass beginning with priest and people joining together in a penitential rite.
So when Cardinal Burke talks about “restoring” the prayers at the foot of the altar, is he talking about requiring once again the particular set of devotions as set out in the 1962 Missal for the priest and ministers during the introit (which would be in fact a restoration), or is he proposing that the public penitential rite currently in place be replaced by the old devotional prayers at the foot of the altar, making them into a new public rite of penitence (which would not be a restoration, but a further innovation)? If the former, would we still want to have a public penitential rite? Why could these prayers not be done in the sacristy before the introit? If the latter, would these prayers also be said aloud at sung Masses? If so, where: before the introit or after? How would this change the shape of the liturgy?
My greatest fear is that in making this proposal, the Cardinal has not even thought of such questions.