Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 46

Vatican website translation:
46. Besides the commission on the sacred liturgy, every diocese, as far as possible, should have commissions for sacred music and sacred art.
These three commissions must work in closest collaboration; indeed it will often be best to fuse the three of them into one single commission.

Latin text:

46. Praeter Commissionem de sacra Liturgia, in quavis dioecesi constituantur, quantum fieri potest, etiam Commissiones de Musica sacra et de Arte sacra.
Necessarium est ut hae tres Commissiones consociatis viribus adlaborent; immo non raro congruum erit ut in unam Commissionem coalescant.

Slavishly literal translation:

46. In addition to the Commission on sacred Liturgy, in whatever diocese there may also be constituted, insofar as possible, Commissions on sacred Music and on sacred Art.

It is necessary that these three Commissions should work together with associated men [people]; indeed it will not rarely be appropriate that they should coalesce into one Commission.

The Council Fathers’ directives for promoting “pastoral liturgical action” conclude by calling for the development at diocesan level of commissions on sacred music and sacred art parallel to what they had decreed in art. 45 concerning diocesan commissions of sacred liturgy. They do note, however, that in order to guarantee that the work undertaken be properly coordinated it may be wise to structure these three areas of pastoral liturgical action in a single diocesan commission. They do not indicate the purview of these commissions, presumably trusting that such details are more appropriately dealt with by the local bishop.

Note that there is call for a further level of subsidiarity in promoting pastoral liturgical action by the development of parish or religious community commissions for sacred liturgy, music and/or art. However there is nothing forbidding such developments either. Pray Tell readers may wish to report: 1) on whether their diocesan structures have three commissions or have yoked the three areas into one commission and how effective that has made their work; and 2) what their experience is of parish or religious community liturgy commissions/committees: their membership, activities, formation, and effectiveness.


  1. In Providence, our then very active liturgical commission split into 3; education, music and building/art. The liturgy commission is now just a part time office as is the building commission. The music commission was disbanded about a year ago and has just been re-formulated with our first meeting yet to be scheduled. It is a source of great sadness to me to see the slow demise of the liturgy commission, but I have high hopes for the new – ish music commission!!

  2. Many diocesan budgets, departments and staffs across the country have been slashed and slashed again. Liturgy offices that once had three or four full-time staff persons are being reduced to a voice mail box that is checked once a week by a priest director-in-name-only who runs a couple of departments in addition to being a full-time pastor of a parish.

    A 2009 AP news article cites that from 1950-2009 the Catholic Church in the U.S. has paid out $2.6 billion in abuse-related settlements, and this figure keeps growing.

    Perhaps these phenomena are related?

  3. You bet they’re connected,but don’t expect any prelates to acknowledge that. Rather than address the problem at its root,they will go on closing and consolidating parishes and ministries to fit the number of men willing to accept celibacy as a condition for ordination. Believe me when I tell you, I have never met any priest who entered the seminary because he was pursuing a vocation to celibacy.

  4. I wonder if these various commissions were envisaged as the practical help mentioned in paragraph 18.
    If so I think it might be interesting to see what guidance was issued in the late 1960s and early 1970s prior to matters settling down. Presumably at that time the majority of clergy were those formed without the benefit of the training envisaged in paragraphs 16 and 17.

  5. Peter Haydon : Presumably at that time the majority of clergy were those formed without the benefit of the training envisaged in paragraphs 16 and 17.

    Precisely, Peter. And I wonder how this training has really improved in the ensuing decades.

    1. @Paul F. Ford – comment #5:
      Thank you Paul.
      I gather that the Latin Mass Society runs training courses for the EF Mass which many clergy find helpful for their OF Masses. This suggests to me that they found their seminary training inadequate.
      I think it unfortunate that such training is seen to come from one side only of the liturgical debate. This series on Pray Tell is a start in providing another look at the matter and not starting from the same perspective.

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