New Zealand bishops: No iPad Missal during liturgy

According to CathNews New Zealand, Roman Missal apps for iPad may not be used in the liturgy in New Zealand. The New Zealand Bishops have told their priests that only the official printed copy of the Roman Missal may be used at Mass and at the Church’s other liturgies. The bishops’ statement is here.

Meanwhile, Bosco Peters reports that the book edition is something of a mess. One Catholic priest says, “Negotiating the new text is one thing, negotiating poor formatting is another. If this were a normal book, I’d be tempted to return it.”




13 responses to “New Zealand bishops: No iPad Missal during liturgy”

  1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

    I don’t think there are a huge number of priests using e-readers and tablets for the Mass. But there are a large number using e-readers, tablets, computers, and cell phones for the liturgy, namely the divine office. The principles would seem to be similar.

  2. Patrizio Oh Avatar
    Patrizio Oh

    OK, I’ll ‘fess up, as they say. I have used a tablet device on occasions for the Mass celebrated in private or small group setting when travelling. I did use an electronic version of the new version of the “Exultet” at Easter (and didn’t need any other illumination because of the rear-lit screen).
    I pray the breviary regularly, again, especially when travelling from a smart phone or tablet device. Some apps for the Divine Office are potentially a wonderful aid for the vision impaired or aurally impaired clergy or religious (the text will even read itself like a talking book.)
    Recently with three priests coming from overseas to our community we proposed it would make sense to buy them three cheap tablets and download the apps for the Liturgy of the Hours than to buy procure a three or four volume set of breviaries, if they were even available or affordable.
    Certainly one would hardly consider blessing an i-pad the way one might bless a new liturgical book for use.
    I understand the concern of some, but there was probably a time at the invention of the printing press when some thought it was scandalous to read or chant prayers from something reproduced mechanically, by moveable type, rather than hand-written caligraphy?
    The quill, the printed book, the electronic reader are all media. On numerous occasions I have celebrated mass in different places and found liturgical books in a poor state of repair, scribbled in, badly solied by oily fingers or hardly becoming the reverent celebration of the sacraments. Perhaps we should pay a little bit more attention to how the eye, ears, and lips of the lector have been employed before and after the celebration of the liturgy.

  3. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

    Why couldn’t you bless an iPad/Kindle used for prayer? I’m perfectly serious. The Book of Blessings contains an order for the blessing of technical installations or equipment (see 914 A). I’d just be cautious with any sprinkling…

    1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

      You can bless almost anything, but there are different kinds of blessings. The blessing of technical installations or equipment is an invocative blessing. The blessings of liturgical objects are typically constitutive, setting the things aside for sacred purposes. You then can’t use them for secular purposes. But the convenience of using a tablet computer is at least partly found in it’s multiuse nature.

    2. Jonathan F. Sullivan Avatar

      That blessing is designed for more permanent installations (the introduction mentions central power sources and seismographs). When I asked a priest friend to bless my new laptop, he used the Blessing for Tools or Other Equipment for Work.

  4. Jeanne M arie Miles Avatar
    Jeanne M arie Miles

    “Certainly one would hardly consider blessing an i-pad the way one might bless a new liturgical book for use.”

    Whyever not?? We bless everything else…

  5. Jonathan F. Sullivan Avatar

    I think a compelling case is made vis a vis our incarnational and sacramental theologies that having a permanent, physical book is more fitting for liturgical prayer. The ephemeral nature of digital texts seems to me to grate against the immanent nature of the Word of God.

    Another good argument I’ve seen for avoiding iMissals is that we set aside liturgical books for a sacred purpose; we treat them with respect in acknowledgment of their purpose. For a priest to celebrate the Eucharist from the same device on which he plays Angry Birds is to blend the ordinary with the extraordinary, the sacred with the vulgar (in the classic sense of the term).

    All that having been said, I don’t think anyone would argue that, in a pinch with no other text available, an iPad or similar device would be an acceptable substitute. But I would hate to see it become the norm in a parish.

    1. John Drake Avatar
      John Drake

      Agreed, and Angry Birds is certainly not the worst use that one can imagine for a tablet/smartphone.

  6. Michelle Francl-Donnay Avatar

    I’ll add that much as I like the idea of applying a blessing to an object that will be used for prayer and reading and writing (no Angry Birds on my iPad), I happen to agree with Jonathan and John that I prefer the firmly incarnate nature of my breviary. I have an app, but rarely use it (except to occasionally pray the Office in Latin – go figure!).

    Missals have likely been single-use liturgical objects for a long time, but it’s probably worth remembering that individual breviaries have not. For example, St. Anthony wrote his notes for retreats and conferences in his breviary. The iPad of his day, perhaps?

  7. Patrizio Oh Avatar
    Patrizio Oh

    Hard to be absolutely consistent in these things. The line between secular and sacred use has been blurred for years. The use of vessels and furnishings in worhip that were not originally purpose-designed for liturgy is common enough.
    You might argue that a medium that allows both secular and sacred use is in a sense more ‘incarnational’.
    Ministers too are both sacred yet flawed vessels of the divine.
    If an electronic device was procured exclusively for liturgical use would that ease consciences?
    A related debate is raging in the world of literature and book publication with the move to e-books and digital editions. A sign of the times!

  8. Scott Pluff Avatar
    Scott Pluff

    I suppose the same could be said for loose-leaf lectionaries, though those are very widely used. The idea of a sacred codex is admirable, but perhaps practicality has a legitimate role as well.

  9. Jim McKay Avatar
    Jim McKay

    Liturgy is never well served by transient media like paper. I prefer etched in stone, or at very least animal skins. Paper is just too flimsy to be used for sacred purposes.

  10. Patrizio Oh Avatar
    Patrizio Oh

    Mind you, Moses found that not even stone was indestructible!

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