Saturday, July 30, 2016


Let's face it, Donald Trump is a caricature of a character actor on the stage of politics formed by the media giants in our country and the adolescent mentality of those who write scripts for shows and reality programs. It isn't funny in the fantasy of a fake universe but when applied to the world stage where dangers lurk in every corner it is down right frightening and one wonders what will happen if this realty show actor gets elected.

Then we have crooked Hilary where scandal is synonymous with her married last name, a marriage of political partnership for the purpose of politics and power.

But as a seasoned politician, she is a bit more measured in her statements and appears more mature than her rival.

I don't like either candidate. I'm not looking for a religious figure to be our president and I am willing to put up with the less than moral candidate no matter their religious affiliation. But our media driven culture that has turned everything in the news into entertainment of one sort or another has helped to turn American politics into what Donald Trump has made it. I am disgusted by it all and feel helpless that this is the way things will be until the American Empire collapses because of it.

Is it a mortal sin not to vote? Is this serious matter? And if it is serious matter and I know that it is but I plan not to vote nonetheless and follow through on it with full consent of the will, not because I am temporarily insane over the choices, do I commit a mortal sin?

Thursday, July 28, 2016


When the Sky Is Really Falling on Christianity: It’s Time to Repent and Be the Church

By Eric Metaxas | July 27, 2016 | 2:03 PM EDT

When Chicken Little said the sky is falling, we all laughed. Well, maybe it’s time we stopped laughing.

It seems Chicken Little may be on to something.

My friend Rod Dreher is as sane and stable as anyone I know, and he’s saying, in essence, that the sky is falling. I reference his new article in The American Conservative, called “The Coming Christian Collapse.”

He begins by saying that the two-thirds of millennials who were raised religiously unaffiliated still have no denominational identity today. Unlike previous generations, they’re not joining churches as they get older and raise kids.

Second, Rod says, “Millennials, even those who identify as Christians, are shockingly illiterate, both in terms of what the Bible says and more generally regarding what Christianity teaches.” This growing biblical illiteracy has led to a moral decline of our young people into consumerism, drug abuse, sexual liberation, and civic and political disengagement.

Third, Rod says that the working class has largely abandoned the church, and that if the middle class follows suit, as appears likely, the church will be in a world of hurt. He quotes the late Michael Spencer, who warned of a coming evangelical collapse: “We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.”

These are chilling words. We talk a lot on BreakPoint about external threats to our souls, and rightly so. But as Abraham Lincoln once said in another context, “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”

Yet I am hopeful, as every Christian must be. As my colleague John Stonestreet says so often, we are part of the grand story of the universe. And God is the author of that story. Yes, as Peter reminds us, we will have to suffer “various trials.” But why? “So that the authenticity of [our] faith ... may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)”.

This is not new. Back in the ‘30s and ‘40s, German Christians had to take a clear stand or be absorbed or compromised by evil—and some, like Bonhoeffer, chose the cross. Look at our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Now, I’m not ready to say we American Christians may soon have to apostasize or die, but I can’t help but think of the words of the late Cardinal George, who said he would die in his bed, his successor would die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.

So, what do we do? We repent—repent of our sins, the sins of the church, and, yes, the sins of our nation: the sins of pride, racism, sexual libertinism, greed, lust for power, and a callous disregard for human life among them.

Second, we must recommit ourselves to Jesus. We need to seek the mind of Christ, to think and to act as Christians, to know our Bible and to live by it in the power of the Spirit, “making the most of your time, for the days are evil.” We must commit anew to forming a biblical worldview and evaluating everything in our lives in light of it.

We must recommit our time and our treasure to evangelism, missions, and Christ’s command in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit the prisoner. Christian faith is not a nice add-on to our agendas, it’s the very marrow of our lives.

The question is this: Will we love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves?

But don’t be intimidated by the internal and external challenges we face. Remember that God can do very much with very little, and that success doesn’t depend on political or cultural power. While the Church may face trials, the gates of hell will not prevail, and Christ’s victory is assured.

Eric Metaxas is the bestselling author of “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy.” He is the radio host of “The Eric Metaxas Show” and the co-host of “BreakPoint.”

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


From the infamous worldwide web:

Inside humor, the whooosh! will have particular resonance with vocation directors who attended a national workshop in San Francisco back in the late 1980's!

And this  bishop makes canon law not humorous because it can't be but interesting. But I should point out that every marriage licitly undertaken by a Catholic is always presumed to be a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church until the person, after a civil divorce and having undergone a formal annulment procedure, receives the final decree from the diocesan tribunal declaring the said marriage to be null and void. No one even with evidence to the contrary should presume nullity without first having received the final decree!

Monday, July 25, 2016


Yesterday (Sunday) following my two Ordinary Form Masses at Richmond Hill, I drove 20 miles north to downtown Savannah to celebrate the Extraordinary Form High Mass at the Cathedral which celebrates it each Sunday at 1:00 pm.

Fr. Dan Firmin, Vicar General and in residence at the Cathedral, normally celebrates this Mass. He along with the retired former rector of the Cathedral are the only two priests in the entire Savannah deanery who celebrate this Mass, until now since I arrived last month. The retired priest celebrates it rarely now.

One tidbit of interest, at least to me, is that Fr. Firmin was an altar boy for my parish in Augusta when I became pastor there in 1991 after having been at the cathedral for six years. I think he was a 6th grader. Eventually he studied for the priesthood at the NAC in Rome and was ordained in 2004.

I was made pastor at St. Joseph in Macon in 2004 and Fr. Firmin was my first parochial Vicar. Two years later he was sent to Catholic U to study canon law. Eventually he became chancellor and then Vicar General.

Priests, be nice to your altar boys because they could become your vicar general or worse yet your bishop!

The Mass was splendid with a wonderful female schola which sang acapella and flawlessly. Then use a setting of the Mass I was unfamiliar with but quite chant able once one becomes familiar with it. I don't know which one it was.

There must have been 300 there for the Mass. The cathedral seats about 1,000 uncomfortably.

I was impressed with the number of young people and children in attendance.

This was the first time I was the main celebrant and homilist the at the cathedral since I left in 1991.

John Nolan will be happy to know that the cathedral has a wonderful MC who is a lay person for the EF Mass.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


I read Pope Francis' exhortation to contemplative nuns (not monks, btw) and wondered what it was all about and what impact it would have on the practical level. Is it just one more papal document that nuns be they contemplative or not will ignore?

But the Huffiness post has an article about it and they aren't happy with Pope Francis, the nicest pope ever!

What do you make of this article and more importantly of Pope Francis' new rules for contemplative nuns only?????

Pope Francis Tightens The Reins On ‘Listless’ Nuns

For some time now, I’ve been concerned that while Pope Francis was awfully good at improving the tone of the church, he hasn’t done much to actually change things. You know, by issuing Papal edicts.
But on July 22, he did issue an “apostolic constitution,” a binding document with new rules. And to whom is the document addressed? Contemplative nuns!

These are the sisters we generally don’t see. They live in cloistered monasteries, away from daily contact with the world, focused on work and prayer. (We call them monasteries, not convents, because that’s the accurate term when referring to the residences of either nuns or priests who lead contemplative lives.)
You would think that the Pope would not have the time to worry about roughly 40,000 nuns whose main occupation is to pray for the rest of us.

After all, there was the mess at the Vatican bank, including continued questions about the bank’s possible ties to Nazi collaborators, the ongoing problem of pedophilia scandals in the church, and the efforts by conservative clerics to challenge the Pope’s encyclical on marriage and the family.
But no, here’s the institutional church meddling with nuns living in small communities all over the world and not making any trouble, at least as far as I know.

In the document, “Seeking the Face of God“ on women’s contemplative life, the Pope praised these sisters to the sky for their “life of complete self-giving,” noting that their contemplative life “produces a rich harvest of grace and mercy.”

But then the Vatican went into micro-management mode. The Pope focused on twelve areas of contemplative life, including how the nuns recruit, pray and use the Internet, among other things. The Vatican will be issuing more detailed instructions, and monasteries will have to revise their rules to adapt.
I understand the Pope feels these mandates are important. He writes that contemplatives can succumb to the “subtle temptations” of “listlessness, mere routine, lack of enthusiasm and paralyzing lethargy.”

But even if that were true for many sisters, I don’t think that listless cloistered nuns are the church’s biggest problem these days.

The Pope wants to make sure that the sisters pray, every day, the Divine Office, prayers focused on the Psalms and other readings from the Bible that are recited hourly. (And yes, there now is an app for that.)

He wants them to spend more time adoring the Holy Eucharist, which Catholics believe contains the real presence of Christ.

He orders the nuns not to poach new members from other countries, saying it is to be “absolutely avoided.” He requires individual monasteries to form federations with other monasteries in order to collaborate with one another.

The Pope doesn’t want a bunch of elderly nuns continuing on in a monastery unless it has enough younger members, and also “self-sufficiency and a suitably appointed monastery building.” If any of these elements is missing, an “ad hoc commission” may be formed to determine the monastery’s fate. The commission, which will include Vatican representatives and other outsiders, will decide whether to pull the plug and merge with another community, or come up with a revitalization plan. That may make sense, but it could be very traumatic for elderly nuns who likely would find it difficult to change.

Contemplatives in the U.S. have been using social media to preach the Gospel to the world while remaining cloistered, and to help their recruitment efforts. While acknowledging that social media “can prove helpful for formation and communication,” the Pope wants the nuns to exercise “prudent discernment,” so that that social media does not become “occasions for wasting time or escaping from the demands of fraternal life.”

No more tracking your twitter followers, Sisters!

One hopes that the sisters do not have to cut back on social media efforts like those of the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis. They call themselves the “Nunz in the hood” and write thoughtful blogs that are far more informed and topical than many sermons I hear.

Interestingly, these directives to not apply to monks. Changes for the men, a Vatican official said, aren’t even being - uh - contemplated.

Friday, July 22, 2016


My comments first: The essay below must be taken within the overall context of Cardinal Sarah's agenda for the authentic renewal of the liturgy envisioned by Vatican II.

Let's face it, when we had less so-called "active participation" in the Mass that was celebrated before and during Vatican II, we had nearly 90% of Catholics attending Mass. Maybe some were praying other devotions during Mass; maybe some were simply present in body but not mind; but I suspect that most were praying and adoring God many in their own ways. At least they were at Mass and adoration had its primacy.

When actual participation was mutilated by those who hijacked the council and arrogantly implemented their own agenda, the focus was primarily on who did what. If you didn't have your hymn book open and singing, if you weren't doing some liturgical ministry, if you weren't enthusiastically listening to the lector, looking at the priest and  the faces of those about you, you were a second class, pre-Vatican II Catholic. If you preferred the sounds of Latin even though you didn't understand it, if you wanted the Mass celebrated ad orientem and the altar high enough and far away enough to be seen, you were stuck in the mud. Reverence was out the window; relevance and kumbaya casualness replaced it. It was/is banal and boring.

No wonder so many periphery Catholics and those who were well rooted in the Liturgy ceased to practice the Catholic Faith regularly with the minimal expectations of "hearing" Mass on Sunday. When your ways of doing things are insulted, you are insulted. Why remain?

Ad orientem places the emphasis on God, not the community or how the individuals are "actually" participating and/or performing. That is left for those in the pew to decide how they will worship and adore God. This prior to the Council filled our churches with many more periphery Catholics and the more there the merrier!

In most Catholic parishes this Sunday only about 12% to 30% of Catholics will attend Mass. Many will participate as they have been mandated to do so by post-Vatican II liturgists.They should do so as they desire.  But, what if the 70% to 88% of Catholics who don't attend Mass on Sunday decided to return with Rosaries in hand or their own way of participating that breaks the icon of the ideal as set forth by modern liturgists, could we welcome them without insulting them? Are all welcomed or not?

VATICAN CITY —Diane Montagna
July 21, 2016

To coincide with the feast of Mary Magdalene instituted by Pope Francis on June 3, 2016, Cardinal Robert Sarah has written an essay which shall appear in the Friday, July 22 Italian edition of the Vatican newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano.

In his reflection, the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has said Mary Magdalene reminds us of the need to “recover the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the Church and in liturgical celebration,” and he highlights two attitudes of this great female saint which are at the heart of the preface and texts of the Mass: adoration and mission.

Here is an English translation of Cardinal Sarah’s essay.

The first liturgical feast of Saint Mary Magdalene

Witness of Divine Mercy

by Cardinal Robert Sarah

On July 22, by the decision of Pope Francis and in the Year of Mercy, we celebrate St. Mary Magdalene as a liturgical feast. The new preface, entitled De apostolorum apostola (“apostle of the apostles”), following Rabanus Mauro and Saint Thomas Aquinas, presents the beloved saint of the Lord as the testis divinae misericordiae (“witness of divine mercy”), the first messenger who announced the Lord’s Resurrection to the apostles (cf. John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, n. 16). I wish to reflect on two attitudes of the saint which are the heart of the new preface and the texts of the Mass, and which can help all Christians, men and women, to deepen our commitment as followers of Christ: adoration and mission.

The new preface presents the Magdalene, who passionately loved Christ while he was alive, saw him dying on the Cross, sought him as he lay in the tomb, and was the first to adore him newly risen from the dead. The text then highlights that the saint, honored with the mission of being an apostle of the apostles, announces the good news of the living Christ to the apostles who in turn would spread this news to the ends of the earth.

Love is what characterizes the life of Mary Magdalene. Passionate love, as the two possible readings of the Mass recall: “I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves” (Song of Songs 3:1-2), for “the love of Christ possesses us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). A love that leads to seeking the Lord, as the responsorial psalm and the preface of the feast sing: “O God, thou art my God, at dawn I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is” (Psalm 63:2). Therefore, dilexerat viventem e quaesierat in sepulcro iacentem (“she had loved him while he was alive” and “sought him as he lay in the tomb”). Indeed, “she came to the tomb early, while it was still dark” (John 20:1).

It is love which must characterize our lives as Christians, as true friends of Jesus. A love that leads to seek the Lord. This is the only valid program for the Church, as John Paul II reminded us: “The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a program which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This program for all times is our program for the Third Millennium (Novo millenio ineunte, n. 29).

To seek Christ in order to love him, as Mary Magdalene did. Pope Francis’s words help us in this, when he tells us: “How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence! How much good it does us when he once more touches our lives and impels us to share his new life! What then happens is that ‘we speak of what we have seen and heard” (1 Jn 1:3).’” (Evangelii gaudium, n. 264). To seek Christ in order to love him and give him to others. This is the program for the Church and for each of her children.

St. Mary Magdalene seeks the Lord, and when she finds him, she adores him. She is the first to adore the Lord, as the preface sings: quaesierat in sepulcro iacentem, ac prima adoraverat a mortuis resurgentem [she sought him as he lay in the tomb, and was the first to adore him newly risen from the dead].

Adoration takes first place. Mary Magdalene reminds us of the need to recover the primacy of God and the primacy of adoration in the life of the Church and in the liturgical celebration. This was a fundamental goal of the Second Vatican Council and continues to be so now. God must occupy the first place, but this cannot be taken for granted. John Paul II, on the 25th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, recalled: “Nothing of what we do in the Liturgy can appear more important than what in an unseen but real manner Christ accomplishes by the power of his Spirit. A faith alive in charity, adoration, praise of the Father and silent contemplation will always be the prime objective of liturgical and pastoral care.” (Vicesimus Quintus Annus, n. 10).

To adore God, as the Bishop of Rome states, in “every liturgical ceremony”; “what is most important is adoration” and not “the songs and rites,” as beautiful as they are: “The whole community together looks at the altar where the sacrifice is celebrated and adores. But I believe, I say it humbly, that perhaps we Christians have lost somewhat the sense of adoration. Let us consider: we go to the temple, we gather as brethren, and it is good, it is beautiful. But the center is where God is. And we adore God” (November 22, 2013). The pope asks us: “You, I, do we worship the Lord? Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to adore him? What does it mean, then, to adore God? It means learning to be with him, to stop to talk with him, sensing that his presence is the truest, the best, the most important thing of all.” (April 14, 2013).

Half a century after Sacrosanctum Concilium, the pope reminds us of the need to put God first: “To get diverted by many secondary or superfluous things does not help; what helps is to focus on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with his mercy and with his love, and to love our brothers and sisters as he has loved us. An encounter with Christ is also adoration, a little used word: to adore Christ.” (October 14, 2013).

Mary Magdalene is the first witness of this twofold attitude: to adore Christ and to make him known. As the preface goes on to say, following the Gospel of the day: prima adoraverat a mortuis resurgentem, et eam apostolatus officio coram apostolis honoravit ut bonum novae vitae nuntium ad mundi fines perveniret. [She was the first to adore him newly risen from the dead. He honored her with the task of being Apostle to the Apostles, so that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth.] “Go to my brethren and say to them: ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples: ‘I have seen the Lord’: and she told them that he had said these things to her” (John 20:17-18).

Ultimately, we must focus our lives on Christ and his Gospel, on the will of God, stripping ourselves of our plans, to be able to say with St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). As the apostle of the apostles, Mary Magdalene goes out of herself in order to go to Christ with adoration and mission. Along the same lines, Pope Francis states: “This ‘exodus’ from ourselves means setting out on a path of adoration and service. The exodus leads us on a journey of adoring the Lord and of serving him in our brothers and sisters. To adore and to serve: two attitudes that cannot be separated, but must always go hand in hand. To adore the Lord and to serve others, keeping nothing for oneself” (May 8, 2013).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I took this photo when I was on sabbatical in Rome in 2013:

Archbishop Georg Gänswein tells it like it is. I think he might make a great pope one day. Who knows. But what he says about the German bishops and their money hungry ways is true. Germany's hierarchy is truly corrupt or at least those that Archbishop Georg Gänswein accuses. But they get a pass, but don't suggest Mass ad orientem by the beginning of Advent or there will be swift action!

Benedict XVI’s secretary: Popes can’t change doctrine with ‘half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes’

Benedict XVI’s secretary: Popes can’t change doctrine with ‘half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes’

VATICAN CITY, July 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's long-time personal secretary, has given a sweeping interview in which he accuses his fellow German bishops of downplaying Catholic dogma, and insists that popes cannot change the Church's with "half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes."
Gänswein, who also serves as Prefect for the Papal Household for Pope Francis, made his remarks in an interview published Monday in the Ravensburg newspaper Schwäbischen Zeitung.

“Considering the baselines of their theological convictions, there is definitely a continuity” between Benedict and Francis, Gänswein said, according to a Catholic News Agency translation.

“Obviously, I am also aware that occasionally doubt might be cast on this, given the differences in representation and expression” between the two men, he added.

“But when a pope wants to change an aspect of the doctrine, then he has to do so clearly, so as to make it binding,” noted the 59-year-old archbishop, a canon lawyer who formerly worked in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Important magisterial tenets cannot be changed by half sentences or somewhat ambiguous footnotes,” he said, in an apparent reference to the controversy over Amoris Laetitia.

Gänswein conceded that Pope Francis has “a way of speaking that can at times be somewhat imprecise, indeed flippant,” and noted that “statements that can be interpreted in different ways are a risky thing.”

But even if his statements “lead to bizarre interpretations,” Pope Francis is not likely to change, Gänswein said. “Every pope has their own personal style.”

In the interview, he also strongly criticizes the German hierarchy for “effectively excommunicating” Catholics who opt out of the state-mandated church tax while remaining unconcerned that members of their flock question the Church’s dogmas.

The German bishops’ expectation that the “Francis effect” would lead Catholics back to Church “appears to have not transpired.”

In fact, statistics released July 15 show the Catholic Church in Germany in steep decline, with 181,925 Catholics recorded as leaving in 2015, and fewer than 10,000 returning or joining. Despite about 167,000 infants baptized, the church had a net loss, according to Catholic News Service.

Gänswein, the eldest son of a blacksmith from the village of Wald in the Black Forest region, blasted the German bishops for regarding payment of the state Church tax as the basis for membership in the Catholic Church.

When a German registers as a member of a particular church — Catholic, Protestant, Jewish — the government collects the tax, which amounts to about eight percent to nine percent of an individual’s total income tax, or three to four percent of his salary, and distributes this to the religious community.

The Church receives about 70 percent of its income from the Church tax, and with revenues of $6.71 billion in 2013, it has become “one of the wealthiest entities, faith-based or otherwise, in the world,” according to a 2015 analysis by the National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin.

Anyone who wants to opt out of the church tax “must declare his departure from the church to which he belongs, whether Catholic or Protestant, by a public act made before a competent civil authority,” explains Vatican watcher Sandro Magister. Many Germans unregister to avoid the tax but continue to attend Mass and pay private tithes.

Despite the declining number of members, the Catholic Church received an estimated income of 6.64 billion USD in 2015 because of Germany’s robust economy.

Gänswein echoed concerns Pope Benedict has repeatedly voiced when he agreed with interviewer Hendrik Groth that Catholics who opt out of paying the tax are “effectively excommunicated.”

“Yes, that is a serious problem,” the archbishop responded. “How does the Catholic Church in Germany react to someone leaving? By automatic expulsion from the community, in other words, excommunication! That is excessive, quite incomprehensible.”

Added Gänswein: “You can question dogma, no one is concerned about that, no one gets kicked out. Is the non-payment of the Church tax a bigger offense against the faith than violations of the tenets of faith?”

He said the impression that this system creates “is this: As long as the Faith is on the line, that is quite acceptable. However, when money enters the equation, things get serious.”

Gänswein said he doesn’t have “any ambition” to be appointed to a German diocese in the future, and it would be unlikely in any case, given that the diocesan cathedral chapters are instrumental in making episcopal appointments in Germany, and they are not known for having the “highest loyalty toward Rome.”

Moreover, Gänswein said as far as the Catholic Church in Germany is concerned, his past work with the CDF and current position as Pope Benedict’s personal secretary would likely be regarded as “the mark of Cain.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


The following letter from the USCCB is filled with common sense and keeps the door open to the development of ad orientem Masses!

Committee on Divine Worship 
July12, 2016 
Your Eminence / Your Excellency:
As you are no doubt aware, some comments made at a London talk on July 7 by His Eminence Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, quickly became the source of much speculation and debate concerning the proper orientation of the priest celebrant in relation to the assembly during the celebration of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form.
 In the whirlwind of media attention which has followed, there has been no small
amount of confusion as to whether his remarks, in which he encouraged bishops and priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem when feasible beginning on the
first Sunday of Advent of this year, constitute an actual change to the
rubrics of the liturgy.
In a statement released on Monday, July 11, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the outgoing
Director of the Holy See Press Office, has clarified on behalf of the Holy See that no liturgical directives concerning the orientation of the priest in respect to the assembly at Mass were to be
anticipated before Advent of this year.
 As a result, no changes to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
are expected at this time, nor is there a new mandate for the celebrant to
face away from the assembly.
As a final comment, n. 299 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
does show a preference for the celebrant’s facing the people “whenever possible” in the placement and orientation of the altar. That configuration will most likely continue to be the norm at most parishes, as it has been for decades now.

However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has clarified on earlier occasions that this does not prohibit the
celebration of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form ad orientem. In fact, there are rubrics in the Order of Mass which reflect the real possibility that the celebrant might be facing away from the assembly (see for example n. 29 before the Prayer over the Offerings: “Standing in the middle of the altar, facing the people, extending then joining his hands, he says ...”). 

Although permitted, the decision whether or not to preside ad orientem should take into consideration the physical configuration of the altar and sanctuary space, and, most especially, the pastoral welfare of the faith community being served. Such an important decision should always be made with the supervision and guidance of the local bishop. 
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli


Let's face it, the Liturgy of the Church is meant to help Catholics both individually and collectively to "worship and Praise" God the Father, through His Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus worship and praise of God is a work of God not a human endeavor alone.

Flowing from this "work of God" is our Catholic response to follow Christ where we are sent and to practice the "good works" that flow from our Catholic Faith.

There are two ways in the Latin Rite in both forms for the priest to celebrate Mass, either facing the people or priest and laity facing the same direction, often called ad orientem or toward the east, meant to be understood symbolically although a literal eastern orientation is not excluded.

Someone commented on one of my posts where I recommended what Pope Benedict began and Pope Francis continues that the crucifix be placed on the center of the altar facing the priest when he celebrates facing the people. Thus everyone is symbolically facing Calvary or the "east" in this expression of ad orientem. But the comment suggested that the priest seldom if ever looks at the crucifix as though praying to it, but rather looks most of the time at the Roman Missal.

Be that as it may, the more important symbol is that the priest himself is standing before the crucifix whether or not he looks at it. Thus I could be reading a prayer book standing before the crucifix and still praying symbolically eastward. I don't have to look at the crucifix but my body is oriented toward it in prayer.

But I have heard of some bishops forbidding ad orientem Masses in their dioceses. Progressives are somewhat rigid in their approach to this. I know of no bishops, though, who have forbidden Mass facing the congregation although they may prefer and do allow ad orientem. This seems to me to be the correct pastoral approach.

If Mass is allowed by a bishop to be celebrated in his diocese ad orientem, there should be strict guidelines that a priest follows. Parochial vicars and other priests in the parish should follow the directives of their pastor and not create divisiveness in this regard in the parish with various priests yanking the congregation around.

In other words, the bishop should have guidelines about how to catechize a parish about ad orientem before it is implemented and that in communities with only one Catholic Church, at least one Sunday Mass should be Mass facing the congregation but with the crucifix acting as the symbolic eastern prayer direction.

Bishops do not and should not disallow either orientation as both are allowed. As in most things Catholic, it isn't "either/or" but rather, "both/and"!

Sunday, July 17, 2016


The great divide in the Church since Vatican II is over orthodoxy and orthopraxis symbolized by the style in which the Liturgy is celebrated and the piety and spirituality of the Liturgy and of Catholics. Style includes the orientation of the Mass but much, much more. It also refers to how Catholics practice their faith, from spirituality and piety to morality (Faith and Good Works).

Much of the 1970's mentality that has returned to the forefront of the Church today focuses on helping the poor and marginalized with little attention paid to the manner in which the Mass is celebrated and the forms of spirituality and devotion that flow from it or are a part of it.

Helping the the materially poor and marginalized is at the core of human goodness and is not exclusive the Catholicism. Secular (godless) governments are better at it than many of the institutions of the Church. To make helping the poor the core of Catholicism seems to miss the point as it is the core of humanity created in the image and likeness of God regardless of religious persuasion or spiritually.

The right beliefs and practices of Catholics, though, flow from the proper celebration of the Mass and the other formal liturgies of the Church as well as private and public devotions.

If the Mass is too otherworldly and focuses to much on the fluff or rigidity--it becomes like the liberal Anglican tradition that has no basis in orthodoxy as it concerns morality but glories in the liturgy that is cotton candy, sweet to the taste but of no substance. High Anglican Liturgy is more Catholic that the Catholic version of high Liturgy but there is no resemblance in right practice between the two in real life.

What has polarized the Church as symbolized by Cardinal Sarah, hung out to dry, and Cardinal Nichols of London, is Catholic verses Protestant sentiments when it comes to the style of the Mass. It appears that the Holy Father disciplined Cardinal Sarah at the promptings of Cardinal Nichols.

Thus the 1970's is momentarily triumphant over Pope Benedict's quite sober "reform in continuity" not to be confused with the "reform of the reform." Reform of the Church must go back to what Vatican II actually envisioned and not to those after the Council who hijacked it and turned it into something else altogether as symbolized by the wrong reform of the Tridentine Mass as celebrated today in most parishes. By wrong reform I refer to the Order and rubrics of the Mass but also to the banal and creative ways the reformed Mass is celebrated which is even more insidious.

Thus reform is required if one is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and to an ecumenical Council, but for Pope Benedict and his school of thought of which I am a card-carrying member, that reform is in continuity with the Church of the past not in rupture with it. Catholic identity hinges upon it.

Thus the way the priest faces the altar or the congregation is paramount in the proper implementation of what the Council sought to do in continuity with what the Church practiced at the time of and during the Council itself.

Ad orientem is a symbol of "reform in continuity" with the Tridentine Mass and the modest reforms that Sacrosanctum Concilium desired. So we go back to the Tridentine Mass and reform it as Sacrosanctum Concilium actually requested and what you get is Mass celebrated ad orietem with some vernacular for the changing parts of the Mass and noble simplicity which of course is open to wrong interpretations.

But the clamor for the return of the old Mass exclusively to the Church is doomed to failure although living with the two forms even in the same parish is quite desirable, possible and non-divisive if implemented in the correct way.

But why this conservative/liberal polarization?

Because the reformed Mass is celebrated so poorly in most (not all) parishes in the world.

1. sloppy celebrations with no attention to detail, the dress of lay participants and lacking in choreography (artistic implementation)

2. music that has nothing to do with the traditional spirituality or piety of the Mass or of Catholicism's devotional life

3. Lack of attention to the right practice of the Faith out of an abundance of political correctness

But music I think is the greatest culprit that can compromise the Catholic spirituality and piety of Catholics.

In many Catholic parishes Protestant hymns are sung at Mass. Some of these, especially from High Anglicanism and some from the Methodist tradition are quite compatible with Catholic hymns and pious sentiments.

Most evangelical or Baptist hymns are not Catholic in orthodoxy, piety or sentimentality.  Two hymns in particular that symbolize this are Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. I personally like the "soaring sounds" and sentiments of both the lyrics and melody, but these are in no way Catholic. They drip with Protestant (Baptist) sentimentality in their syrupyness. These are symbols of Protestant piety not Catholic piety, Protestant syrupyness not Catholic syrupyness.

Catholics should be as aghast to hearing these at Mass or in a Catholic devotion as a Protestant would be hearing "O Beautiful Mother" or "Ave Maria" or "Tantum Ergo" in their churches.

From the devotional, piety and spiritual point of view there is a distinctive identity in these hymns and one knows where that identity is.

Apart from Protestant music's sentimentality and devotion, other music used in the Mass, like worship and praise as well as contemporary sounds more in tune with Broadway melodies are as insidious to Catholic piety, sentimentality and spirituality not to mention morality.

So, let's get on with Pope Benedict's brilliant analysis of the crisis in the Church. It isn't Vatican II or its documents, but the right implementation of these which should have been and could still be "reform in continuity" not the "reform of the reform!"

Thursday, July 14, 2016


 In the recent past and for the past four years, I have celebrated the Ordinary Form of the Mass at one of four Sunday Masses ad orientem for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At that Mass, the full length of the altar railing is used for kneeling communicants, although a communicant can still receive standing in this line up. 

I have felt that the reverence of this Mass has increased especially the reception of Holy Communion. 

I don't feel that facing the congregation and receiving Holy Communion standing necessarily results in less reverence but a number of factors to include this have contributed to it.

I can't imagine that good Catholics think sloppy, casual and irreverent Masses are the wave of the future and good for the new evangelization. Some might think that irreverence is a new form of reverence but this mentality is delusional. 

Thus I 100% agree with Fr. Dwight Longnecker's commentary on the recent unpleasantness that Robert Cardinal Sarah has experienced and through His Eminence all Catholics who have a desire to reorient the Church in the ways of reverence, wonder and awe in her liturgies.

On Mass facing East or the people, both camps are right


When Cardinal Robert Sarah spoke at a conference on liturgy in London last week, he encouraged the priests to offer Mass praying in the same direction as the people-otherwise termed ad orientem, or “towards the East.”

The internet was soon abuzz, and his advice to a group of traditionalist-minded clergy quickly became a rumor that a new directive was coming from the Vatican that within a few months’ time all priests everywhere would have to “turn their backs to the people.”

After all, Sarah is Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It must be true!

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the UK soon issued a correction of the rumors, as did Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. Ordinary Catholics might well ask what all the fuss is about, and perhaps, “In a world on fire, don’t we have better things to be concerned about?”

“Spirit of Vatican 2” Catholics shook their heads in dismay at the idea that some people want to “turn back the clock” and dismantle all the progress that the priest facing the people represents, while “Reform of the Reform” Catholics indignantly insisted that saying Mass facing the people was never mandated by Vatican II and that ad orientem celebration is still the right and proper posture.

Those who think the priest should face the people emphasize the communal, people-centered aspect of Catholic worship, and see the Mass as “the Last Supper where the people of God gather for the family Thanksgiving meal and look forward to the banquet of heaven.”

Those who think the priest should pray facing the same direction as the people, meanwhile, stress the idea that the priest is re-presenting the once-for-all sacrifice of the Mass with, and on behalf of, the people of God.

So who’s right? Both are.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Mass is, “The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.”

But it also says that the Mass is, “The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church’s offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, ‘sacrifice of praise,’ spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant.”

At the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Holy Spirit led the Catholic Church to open up to new ways of worship while remaining rooted in the timeless traditions and revealed truths of the Catholic faith. The Council Fathers were insistent that humanity was facing new and previously unimagined challenges, and that the Catholic Church had to be flexible enough to adapt to the modern world while not changing the heart of the historic Catholic faith.

When it comes to liturgy, it is increasingly obvious that in a modern, mobile, multi-cultural world, one-size liturgy does not fit all, and neither the radically trendy Catholics nor the radically traditional Catholics can expect to have it all their way.

Instead, the modern Catholic Church quite rightly, and brilliantly, allows diversity in worship styles while only allowing an authorized and approved liturgy. We underestimate how unique and empowering this blend of authority and individual freedom really is.

Somehow, the global Catholic Church has been able to maintain unity while not enforcing uniformity.

The city where I minister is a very interesting example of the diversity of Catholic worship today. That it’s Bible belt South Carolina, where Catholics are in a minority, makes it even more interesting.

We have about twelve Catholic communities. The historic downtown church is an impressive Neo-gothic structure where the “high church” liturgy is celebrated ad orientem accompanied by a top notch choir, well-drilled, all-male altar servers, and dynamic preaching.

Across the river in the historically needy part of town, a popular Franciscan ministers to an ethnically diverse community in a crowded, low-budget building with a gospel choir, dynamic social outreach and a challenging, down-to-earth preaching style.

The two largest suburban parishes couldn’t be more different. At one, the young pastor (who is a former Southern Baptist) offers Mass in a traditionally-styled modern building using the Extraordinary Form, meaning in Latin according to the pre-Vatican II style.

He does so not only every Sunday, but every day. He ministers tirelessly with enthusiasm and energy to a good-sized, highly committed traditionalist community, while also being pastor to the “mainstream” members of his congregation.

Meanwhile on the other side of town, the largest parish in our diocese is centered around a typical, modern fan-shaped building. With thousands of families, the priests in this parish offer the new Mass with contemporary music, lead a super busy parish life with a dynamic congregation, a large Hispanic ministry, and a high level of involvement and initiative.

In addition to these four, there are three other English-speaking parishes, a self-started Hispanic mission, a newly established Vietnamese church, a Maronite parish, and a community of the (Anglican) Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

If you were to attend Mass at any of these churches, you would experience the fullness of the Catholic Mass, but none of the worship styles would be even remotely similar.

This is just one American city.

Now throw in the Eastern Rite churches, and the fact that the Catholic Church is global. Then consider that we celebrate one Mass, but in a multitude of different languages, cultural styles and traditions. When you think about it, the result is astounding, abundant and alive.

Shall we replace this lively and refreshing diversity with legislated liturgical uniformity? I don’t think so.

Instead of fighting the liturgical wars and self-righteously insisting that we are right and others are wrong, we should be thankful that the Catholic Church has enough abundant life within her that such diversity is not only possible, but thriving.

Admittedly, innovation and liturgical diversity is a risk. Are there abuses of the liturgy? Of course. Does personal taste and style sometimes intrude? Yes. Does over-attention to superficial matters sometimes distract? Without a doubt.

Abuses should be corrected by the rightful authority, but we must also admit that people should be met where they are culturally and spiritually and be led where they ought to be.

The diversity in Catholic worship is a risk, but the diversity shows the enthusiasm and love of God which worship empowers. If everything is not always “right and proper,” and if we sometimes make a mess, we should remember that a person who never made a mess never made anything.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Go to minute 11 of EWTN's The World Over and see a most beautiful image above the left shoulder of the host Raymond Arroyo. Just lovely!

 Of course the news story with the most lovely image is dated as it was broadcast last week before the crystal clear clarification yesterday.

But I am perplexed about Robert Cardinal Sarah being so reckless with his words when he suggested that priests and bishops worldwide start celebrating Mass ad orientem by this Advent.

Given the fact that there is such opposition to it, the good Cardinal should have known that there would be push back and all the way to the top. I am sure Pope Francis must have gotten an earful from cardinals and bishops opposed to ad orientem.

A formal decree needed to be issued with a strong catechesis for the reason for it to dispel the myths and the idiotic opinions that so many in the Church have about ad orientem. Cardinal Sarah should have known better.

And as a pastor, when someone who is on my paid staff tells others of something that I had said as though I had decreed it, I get pretty ticked.

I suspect Pope Francis may have been broadsided for it is possible in a casual conversation with the good Cardinal that His Holiness did say we need to study the issue of the "reform of the reform" but I don't think Pope Francis wanted that to be communicated to the world as an outright endorsement of ad orientem this coming Advent.

And thus poor Robert Cardinal Sarah was slapped down in the most public and humiliating way possible.

I can't remember anything similar happening under Popes Benedict or John Paul II with an official who is a prefect for a congregation. I am also suspicious of why Cardinal Sarah himself did not communicate the Holy Father's discussion with him and that the Cardinal didn't issue the clarification which would have helped him to save face.