"Must" vs. "Should"

This was moved into here to avoid sidetracking another thread in the Traditional Catholicism forum.

I see everyone’s point that has commented about this. However, I guess I did not make a complete statement. Must and should are completely interchangeable except in grave circumstances. MarkThompson is correct in what he said about this.

Basically, the issue that occurred with another person on the Parish Liturgy Committee (the DRE) is that we got into an argument over the use of “must” and “should” as used in the GIRM. I say if you should do something, you should do it! However her view was that everything that we “should” do is 100% OPTIONAL all the time! That was the real issue. Also, I have been slowly implementing things at my parish so that we are even doing the things that we “must” do/have. I have yet to be to a Mass where nothing is illict. :frowning:

I look at the difference as more of a degree of positive affirmation.

i.e. “should” means you really should do something

 "must" means you really, really, really, really, really, really, really have to do it

If something liturgical was optional, the GIRM would say it so in so many words or give options

Depending on exact context, they may or may not be interchangeable.

However, Newbies distinction would generally fit and I would offer the following as another distinction: should = if possible, must = absolute requirement.

“Must” means that it absolutely has to be done, no exceptions.

“Should” means that unless there’s a really really really good reason then do it.

this is grammatically correct. for the shoulds usually in a liturgical book you look in the footnotes, appendix or end of the section for options and special cases, the RCIA ritual book is a good example of this.

I apologize because English is my second language but I would assume that must and shall are equivalent while should is a conditional form and so it implies a comparative event to decide the outcome.

It’s great to see such universal agreement on CAF once in a while :thumbsup:.

I would like to add that if you’re ever expecting to attend a Mass that has 0 things illicit then good luck. There are so many complex rules and guides that to have absolutly nothing that is illicit seems like a very lofty, and impossible, goal.
Not everything that is illicit is a horrible abuse (they shouldn’t be done, but there are degrees of abuse). Just wanting to be realistic.

You should take your hand off the hot stove
You must take your hand off the hot stove.

Should means that it is strongly suggested that you do it (especially if it’s written in the GIRM). If it says you must then it is illicit not to.

Not really Muzio Scevola! :D:D:D

Smarty pants, lol.


I’m glad we seem to be in agreement in regards to the fact that if we should do something then we should do it! I guess I just use a different definition of the word interchangeable :slight_smile: lol.

Here is an example that MIGHT be against what you just said in regards to the word “should” and if it is an abuse.

GIRM: 83. The priest breaks the Eucharistic Bread, assisted, if the case calls for it, by the deacon or a concelebrant… The fraction or breaking of bread is begun after the sign of peace and is carried out with proper reverence,** though it should not be unnecessarily prolonged, nor should it be accorded undue importance**. This rite is reserved to the priest and the deacon.

However, Redemptionis Sacramentum states:
[73.] In the celebration of Holy Mass the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread – done only by the Priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a Deacon or of a concelebrant …For this reason the rite must be carried out with great reverence.[154] Even so, it should be brief. The abuse that has prevailed in some places, by which this rite is unnecessarily prolonged and given undue emphasis, with laypersons also helping in contradiction to the norms, should be corrected with all haste.[155]

In the list near the end of the document, this is not listed as a GRAVE abuse, but is clearly is shown to be an abuse. It says that it “should be corrected with all haste.” But seems to basically say (MY interpretation) that the other grave issues need to be corrected first.

What is everyone’s take on this example? Just because the word “should” is used, would you agree that going against it is an abuse?

It is an abuse if it is “unnecessarily prolonged”. Just being prolonged is not automatically an abuse, sometimes but seldom there could be a necessary reason.

Right, but the issue here is the “should” instead of “must.” It sounds like you agree that even though the word “should” is there, it still is an abuse. Correct?

Actually no. Because Redemptionis Sacramentum clarifies that it is a must. So the GIRM says should, but RS clarifies that it is a must.

In this case I would say that must could be substituted (and my example still holds, it is possible, therefore we must).

This would also be correct. It is an abuse (as definitively clarified by RS) that needs to be corrected. However, if for any reason (real or imagined) correcting this abuse would delay or impede correcting one of the abuses classified as grave, then by all means let it slide for now.

You are correct. I think that the problem is with the translators that try to use common linguistic expressions (even if used improperly) to convey a very specific message. However, I also think that the Church does not like the usage of must because she cannot predict all the possible scenarios, or at least she cannot enumerate all the possible scenarios in her documents.

I take it you are pointing to this bit: “For this reason the rite must be carried out with great reverence”

So then are we to follow the document that puts the greater emphasis on things or just the one that is the newest in situations like these?

Well, let’s remember that all of this is just a fun exercise (common sense usually answers questions of abuse/must/should/etc).
However, I would say that the newest would take precedence simply because of the idea of the Mass being organic and always evolving. Therefore anything newer, document-wise, would seem to take presedence. However, where the document comes from is also important.


So when is the next document coming out saying that Mass MUST be said ad orientam and you MUST receive the Holy Eucharist kneeling and on the tounge? When is the document going to come out that brings us back to what Sacrosamctum Consilium actually says? (sorry for the rant)

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