e-mail us
Under pressure from bishops, publisher pulls liturgy books


Liturgy Training Publications, a major publisher of books and materials used in Catholic parishes, has canceled sales of two books written by its former director, Gabe Huck. The company, which is owned by the Chicago archdiocese, took the action after Msgr, James Moroney, director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for the Liturgy, urged their removal.

In a letter to the publisher’s present director, John Thomas, Moroney said the books, The Communion Rite at Sunday Mass, first published in 1989, and Sunday Mass Five Years from Now, published in 2001, “contradict liturgical law in regard to the distribution of Holy Communion.”

Cited were just two examples of contradiction. One was a recommendation in Huck’s 1989 book that extraordinary ministers receive Holy Communion after the assembly; the new liturgical norms require ministers to receive before the assembly. A second was Huck’s directive in the same book that ministers come to the altar table after the Amen ending the Eucharistic prayer; this would be too early, according to new norms.

Thomas said through a spokesperson that the decision to pull the books from circulation was his; he had no further comment. Huck, who was fired as director by Cardinal Francis George last summer, said the withdrawal might be related to his past criticism of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy and its secretariat headed by Moroney. After his firing, Huck faulted the secretariat “for playing an active role in the whole series of retro measures aimed at putting an end to the liturgical renewal begun at Vatican II.”

Moroney denied any negative attitudes toward Huck. “There are a large number of problems in the liturgical materials of many publishers,” he told NCR, “and they must be updated in light of the new General Instructions for the Roman Missal.” Some publishers, he said, are already revising their works, though he declined to comment on whether any books other than Huck’s have been removed from circulation. A revision of Huck’s books “might be one way” to solve their contradictions, he added. But the tone of his letter was hardly encouraging. “In short,” he wrote, “the continued distribution of these volumes can only confuse the clergy and faithful alike at a very important catechetical moment.”

Several liturgists expressed surprise at the removal of the books. Sheila Browne, catechumenate coordinator for the Office of Worship in the Rockville Centre, N.Y., diocese, called The Communion Rite at Sunday Mass a “classic in its general understanding and presentation of the rite.” The book, which has sold some 20,000 copies, is a “treasury of marvelous quotes and commentary from St. Augustine to contemporary authors and papal documents” she said, and “should never be sent to dusty basements.”

Huck’s newer book, Sunday Mass Five Years from Now “is especially important,” said Fr. Conrad Kraus, director of the Office of Worship for the diocese of Erie, Pa. “For many years I’ve been looking for something that provides a timely process for giving new life to Sunday liturgy, and this book does that.” He wondered why a simple revision of those few places where the new norms are applicable would not be the proper response. Huck’s books, he said, are “unique” in their clarity.

Eliot Kapitan, director of the Office of Worship for the diocese of Springfield, Ill., said, “It doesn’t make sense to throw out” Huck’s books. “There’s nothing available today that conforms perfectly with the new laws and regulations.” People understand that and will make adjustments accordingly, he said.

Removing these books is a “great disservice,” said Paul Covino, director of liturgy and associate chaplain at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass. “They contain superb commentary and basic principles of liturgy that are still very valid.”

Robert McClory is an NCR special report writer.

National Catholic Reporter, December 13, 2002