Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 44

Vatican website translation:

44. It is desirable that the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, set up a liturgical commission, to be assisted by experts in liturgical science, sacred music, art and pastoral practice. So far as possible the commission should be aided by some kind of Institute for Pastoral Liturgy, consisting of persons who are eminent in these matters, and including laymen as circumstances suggest. Under the direction of the above-mentioned territorial ecclesiastical authority the commission is to regulate pastoral-liturgical action throughout the territory, and to promote studies and necessary experiments whenever there is question of adaptations to be proposed to the Apostolic See.

Latin text:

44. A competenti auctoritate ecclesiastica territoriali, de qua in art. 22 § 2, expedit ut instituatur Commissio liturgica, a viris in scientia liturgica, Musica, Arte sacra ac re pastorali peritis iuvanda. Cui Commissioni, in quantum fieri potest, opem ferat quoddam Institutum Liturgiae Pastoralis, constans sodalibus, non exclusis, si res ita ferat, laicis in hac materia praestantibus. Ipsius Commissionis erit, ductu auctoritatis ecclesiasticae territorialis, de qua supra, et actionem pastoralem liturgicam in sua dicione moderari, et studia atque necessaria experimenta promovere, quoties agatur de aptationibus Apostolicae Sedi proponendis.

Slavishly literal translation:

It is profitable that a liturgical Commission be established by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority (concerning which see art. 22 § 2), to be assisted by men expert in liturgical science, Music, sacred Art and pastoral reality. For which Commission, insofar as it can be done, some type of Institute of Pastoral Liturgy might share the work, consisting of groups of persons, not excluding, if the situation should so bear it, laity expert in this material. It will be [the purview] of this Commission, under the guidance of the territorial ecclesiastical authority (cited above) to oversee pastoral liturgical action in its [area of] authority, and to promote studies and necessary experiments, as often as action is to be taken concerning proposing [liturgical] adaptations to the Apostolic See.

Stemming from the principle established in art. 43, art. 44 states the Council Fathers’ desires for promoting “pastoral liturgical action” at what might be termed a “macro” level, i.e., at the level of a national conference of bishops, or perhaps even at a conference of bishops established for a supra-national region. The article distinguishes between a territorial/national Liturgical Commission, whose primary task seems to be to gather experts in various areas of liturgical theory to advise bishops in overseeing the liturgy, and a territorial/national Institute of Pastoral Liturgy, who assists the Commission in unspecified ways, but which are presumably more practice-oriented. The Commission’s function seems both to disseminate the decisions made by the territorial bishops for the good of worship in the area and to explore the kinds of adaptations to culture foreseen in arts. 37-40.

It may be of interest to the readers of Pray Tell if those who know of the workings of National Liturgical Commissions and National Institutes of Pastoral Liturgy over the last fifty years might share their experience of how these commissions and institutes have functioned, how they have fulfilled the document’s mandate, and what issues they are facing for the future. I would be especially interested in the processes they have developed “to promote studies and necessary experiments” for the on-going renewal of liturgical life.


  1. This section of SC was one of the organizing principles of the Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis University. I believe the same is true of the Notre Dame and Georgetown CFLs. I also think of the Institute for Liturgical Ministry in Dayton, the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, and the National Pastoral Musicians in this category. These organizations have variously grown, held steady, or not held steady since their founding, each with its own particular history.

  2. I’m presuming the “study/experiment” diad is what prompted things like the “Alternative Futures for Worship” series from LitPress. A few times when people have decried experimentation, I’ve point them to #44 of the Constitution. (Yes, yes, I know the whole matter of what constitutes “necessary” experimentation is a part of this.)

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