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. 


Monday, July 11, 2016


When we look to Calvary, symbolically or literally, we are looking east to Jerusalem, to the eternal city come down from heaven.

Thus Pope Benedict's marvelous compromise on celebrating the Mass toward the symbolic east was captured by exactly what he restored to the altars where he celebrated Mass facing the congregation, the crucifix was restored to its central location facing the celebrant. This has become known as the Benedictine altar arrangement.

And yes, Pope Francis has maintained this tradition of our Emeritus Holy Father--no contradiction here.

So rather than yank altars around in a Church today where there is clearly a divisiveness about ad orientem and a desire to squash the form of it with the priest and people facing the same direction, we should once again look to Pope Benedict's compromise which prevents yanking things around but simply places the crucifix dead center as the point of reference for the ad orientem celebration of the Mass.


Some Clarifications on the Celebration of the Mass

Communication of the Holy See Press Office, 11 July 2016

“A clarification is appropriate following media reports circulated after a conference held in London by Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, a few days ago. Cardinal Sarah has always rightly been concerned about the dignity of the celebration of the Mass, in order to adequately express the attitude of respect and adoration of the Eucharistic mystery. Some of his expressions were, however, misinterpreted as if to announce new instructions different from those in effect in current liturgical norms and the words of the Pope regarding the celebration of the Mass facing the people and on the ordinary form of the Mass.”

“Therefore it is good to remember that the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (General Instruction of the Roman Missal), that it contains the relative norms for the celebration of the Eucharistic which remain in full force. # 299 states: “Altare extruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. Altare eum autem occupet locum , ut revera centrum sit ad quod totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur” (That is:” The altar should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. Moreover, the altar should occupy a place where it is truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar should usually be fixed and dedicated.”).”

“For his part, Pope Francis on the occasion of his visit to the Congregation for Divine Worship, had specifically mentioned that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of Mass is that provided for by the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the “extraordinary” form, which was allowed by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the manner he explained in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, must not take the place of the “ordinary”.

“There are not, therefore, any new liturgical directives beginning next Advent as some have wrongly inferred from the words of Cardinal Sarah, and it is best to avoid using the expression “reform of the reform”, referring to the liturgy, as sometimes it has been a source of misunderstanding. This was the agreed view expressed during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship.”

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Seize the Day, a call-in talk show in the morning on the Catholic Channel on XM-Satillite Radio focused the discussion this past Friday on Robert Cardinal Sarah's recommendation (it isn't a mandate yet) on celebrating the Mass toward the liturgical east of our churches, which is the apse of any Catholic church building regardless of the actual geographical direction of the apse.

The opinions of the callers was mixed, some vehemently opposed because they simply are coloring book Catholics who don't understand the symbolism of ad orientem and think it excludes them, poor little souls.  Some endorsed it but again for the wrong reasons saying the Mass should be celebrated toward the tabernacle--what nonsense!

But others, more cogent in their informed rhetoric got it right as a symbol of facing the geographical sunrise, facing the geographical Jerusalem which is ultimately facing the new and heavenly Jerusalem coming down from the sky!

Ad orientem refers to a symbolic geographical position within the building which is symbolically oriented toward Jerusalem. In the Church's case, the New Jerusalem, that heavenly city.

Geographically, but symbolically fulfilled in every Catholic Church (except the major basilicas in Rome, which are oriented geographically east toward the earthly Jerusalem and where the sun rises in the sky, except for St. Paul outside the Walls) ad orientem is an orientation toward the sunrise with its symbolic implications for the Rising of the Son on Easter morn!

Apart from that, it also indicates that the priest and the congregation are oriented together in the same direction for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which eternity touches the finite and Jesus Christ by the will of the Heavenly Father is returned to us in an eternal "Resurrection" upon our altars. He comes again from the east, the heavenly Jerusalem symbolized by the actual Jerusalem on earth.

In addition, the Roman Missal placed on the ad orientem altar is the prayer of the Church, clergy and laity alike, and they are reading from the one book together albeit in a symbolic way. We all see the Roman Missal as it is facing all of us, not just the priest!

But how realistic is it that every priest would implement this wonderful, time honored tradition of the Church interrupted for only 50 years this year by the arrogance of those who did it as some kind of panacea for the "springtime" of the Church that this orientation would bring about but never did and in fact more than likely helped to disintegrate the Church and her liturgy?

So many Catholics actually think that the Mass is a dialogue between the priest and the congregation. What nonsense! They also believe that ad orientem means the priest is turning his back to them and that they aren't important to the Mass--what nonsense, sounds like Adam and Eve all over again!

But the greatest obstacle to Robert Cardinal Sarah's vision for the authentic renewal of the post-Vatican II Mass is that it isn't a mandate. Bishops have to be on board from a mandate on high endorsed by Pope Francis.

So much of the good things that Pope Benedict modeled in his liturgies were proposals not mandates and we see where these have ended up, completely ignored or mocked.

As a new pastor of a parish, I would never begin to implement ad orientem at our three weekend Masses, two on Sunday, one Saturday evening, without my bishop's tacit approval.

That is what is needed! Bishops need to be on board or a debacle will occur!


So many academics in the Church think proving that Adam and Eve didn't exist is some kind of big deal that will impact Catholics as they live their faith and good works lives daily. Does it? No!

To be honest with you, I don't give a flip if Catholics believe in the literal meaning of the Bible or see it as allegory. I don't care if they think the Book of Genesis is to be taken literally or not. I could care less if they tend toward creationism or evolution. I am not a science or history teacher. I will leave it to them to fret over such stuff.

Regardless of which perspective or theory Catholics believe, I hope that they take the religious meaning of the Book of Genesis to heart. That we were created by God, male and female we were created, in His image and likeness and somewhere along the line sin entered humanity and God's people turned from Him to false gods, like themselves and thought salvation was of human origin and in human kings and queens.

God's mercy is abundant as is His judgements. Ultimately a new Covenant in His Son's Blood is the final one and all we have to do is use our free will- a grace in and of itself- to accept this covenant and its laws. God's love is to be accepted as is salvation; it is never imposed.

Given the discussion on another post, this All Souls' Day, 2011 article from Commonweal is timely!

What do Catholics believe about Adam and Eve?

For the past few months, many evangelicals and Baptists and other conservative Christians in the Protestant stream have been debating -- and generally pushing back against -- the science showing that the human race could not literally have descended from two progenitors, Adam and Eve. Christianity Today had a cover story and carefully-worded editorial on the matter over the summer, NPR picked up the story here, and Al Mohler, a leading Southern Baptist apologist, strongly defended the necessity of a literal belief in Adam and Eve (chiefly in order to undergird a belief in original sin, it seems) here and here.I watched this with the dispassionate gaze of the journalist eyeing a story but also a bit of the triumphalism of the Catholic thankful that his church, or rather Church (there's only one "the Church," as Lenny Bruce put it) didn't get mired in such embarrassing literalism.Oops.John Farrell at Forbes noted that:
The Catholic Church indeed of all the Christian churches faces a particular quandary. The Council of Trent is quite explicit on the topic. Catholics are required to believe not only that Adam is the single father of the human race, but that Original Sin is passed on by physical generation from him to the entire human race. Its not something symbolic or allegorical (although it is regarded as ultimately mysterious). The First Vatican Council reiterated the doctrine, as did Pope Pius XII in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis:
"For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own."
Catholic apologists who point to Pope John Paul IIs 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as evidence of the Churchs acceptance of evolution often fail to notice that the late Pope completely passed over the question of monogenism, and indeed never did discuss the problem that genetics poses to the doctrine.
Indeed, evidence against a literal Adam and Eve is pretty conclusive. As Farrell writes:
There are to be sure individual Catholic theologians out there mulling over how to handle the problem. But they are not on the Vaticans radar, and a new encyclical on the issue is not likely to come very soon.This is unfortunate. For while the Vatican maintains its silence on the challenge of genomics, Catholics in general are either encouraged to fall back on the denialism of Evangelical leaders like Albert Mohler, or to keep their mouths shut.
Catholics tend not to keep their mouths shut, and shouldn't, nor should they have to adopt views like Al Mohler's.Catholic News Service had a good story featuring Franciscan Father Michael D. Guinan, professor of Old Testament at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, who said Catholic teaching has developed. [T]he question of biological origins is a scientific one," Father Guinan told CNS, "and, if science shows that there is no evidence of monogenism and there is lots of evidence for polygenism, then a Catholic need have no problem accepting that. Well, Catholic World News had a problem accepting Father Guinan's comments, and titled its report on his "unorthodox" views this way: "Franciscan scholar dismisses teaching of Catechism, Pius XII on Adam and Eve."A Sept. 12, 2011 feature in America magazine also highlighted the divide, as author Brian Pinter noted the prevalence of biblical literalism among Catholics (at least on Genesis) and explained why that should not be.So, as per the title of this lengthy post, what do Catholics believe about Adam and Eve? Is Pius' encyclical just something we pass over in silence? Should it be "corrected"? Need it be?BONUS MATERIAL: Andrew Sullivan had a number of posts on the issues of whether the Fall must be true in the literal sense, or whether a figurative reading would make Christianity fall apart. I'd say not, but atheist Jerry Coyne took that line, and Ross Douthat ably defended.

Friday, July 8, 2016


Ahead of his time, Fr. Allan McDonald, mild mannered southern blogger, celebrates the Ordinary Form of the Mass in an Extraordinary Form way, an act of revolution, some say:

Some say that the "Rockette" style of celebrating Mass facing the congregation has greatly corrupted the spirituality and intent of Catholic prayer as being directed exclusively to God the Father, through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Facing the congregation makes it "appear" that the most solemn prayer of the Church is directed to the Church gathered before the clergy celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in this fashion. Is this way of celebrating Mass to be confined to the dustbin of history--an act of revolution?
 I can't imagine that Cardinal Sarah would request something as dramatic as returning to the traditional posture of the priest at the altar which was recklessly abandoned around 1966 or so without Pope Francis' knowing that he would say this even at a symposium that has now gone viral. Pope Francis must approve of what Cardinal Sarah is recommending!. That posture is call "facing the liturgical east" or ad orientem.

I wonder how many billions of dollars were used to destroy old altars that were works of art and renovate churches to accommodate the Mass with the priest facing the people. It was and is a grave waste of the laity's offerings given in good faith to the Church as an act of charity only to have their contributions destroyed in the name of a weak liturgical ideology foisted on the universal Church by a clique of academic theologians and their clericalism. Keep in mind, that academics be they laity or clergy make priestly clericalism look like child's play.

While not true of all priests, facing the congregation throughout the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has turned some into performers, actors fulfilling and unfulfilled desires to be on stage and act. It is all about them, their looks, talents, piety, facial expressions, ad libs and on and on.

It is great to know that this concern is known in high places in the Vatican and we have a Pope Francis' appointment calling for a revolution in the Church's post-Vatican II liturgy.

Here are some more explicit words from Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship concerning his so-far non official request that all priests of the world begin to celebrate the Mass ad orientem:

I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God.

 This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre.

And so, dear Fathers, I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people.

 Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their back to me” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord!

[This in my opinion is the most important paragraph. I think it is a signal that the bishops of the world will be receiving official word to do what Cardinal Sarah is requesting unofficially at this point in time:]

I would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way, particularly at large celebrations in your dioceses and in your cathedral. Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the centre of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ’s faithful to him as fellow worshippers. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries.