Sunday, November 29, 2009

YIKES: Article in the New York Times, must be true?

The author of this morning's New York Times article is a traditionalist Roman Catholic, so there could be a bias in the facts, but if the facts are true, they are disturbing:

Op-Ed Contributor
Latin Mass Appeal
By KENNETH J. WOLFE
Published: November 28, 2009


WALKING into church 40 years ago on this first Sunday of Advent, many Roman Catholics might have wondered where they were. The priest not only spoke English rather than Latin, but he faced the congregation instead of the tabernacle; laymen took on duties previously reserved for priests; folk music filled the air. The great changes of Vatican II had hit home.

All this was a radical break from the traditional Latin Mass, codified in the 16th century at the Council of Trent. For centuries, that Mass served as a structured sacrifice with directives, called “rubrics,” that were not optional. This is how it is done, said the book. As recently as 1947, Pope Pius XII had issued an encyclical on liturgy that scoffed at modernization; he said that the idea of changes to the traditional Latin Mass “pained” him “grievously.”

Paradoxically, however, it was Pius himself who was largely responsible for the momentous changes of 1969. It was he who appointed the chief architect of the new Mass, Annibale Bugnini, to the Vatican’s liturgical commission in 1948.

Bugnini was born in 1912 and ordained a Vincentian priest in 1936. Though Bugnini had barely a decade of parish work, Pius XII made him secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reform. In the 1950s, Bugnini led a major revision of the liturgies of Holy Week. As a result, on Good Friday of 1955, congregations for the first time joined the priest in reciting the Pater Noster, and the priest faced the congregation for some of the liturgy.

The next pope, John XXIII, named Bugnini secretary to the Preparatory Commission for the Liturgy of Vatican II, in which position he worked with Catholic clergymen and, surprisingly, some Protestant ministers on liturgical reforms. In 1962 he wrote what would eventually become the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the document that gave the form of the new Mass.

Many of Bugnini’s reforms were aimed at appeasing non-Catholics, and changes emulating Protestant services were made, including placing altars to face the people instead of a sacrifice toward the liturgical east. As he put it, “We must strip from our ... Catholic liturgy everything which can be the shadow of a stumbling block for our separated brethren, that is, for the Protestants.” (Paradoxically, the Anglicans who will join the Catholic Church as a result of the current pope’s outreach will use a liturgy that often features the priest facing in the same direction as the congregation.)

How was Bugnini able to make such sweeping changes? In part because none of the popes he served were liturgists. Bugnini changed so many things that John’s successor, Paul VI, sometimes did not know the latest directives. The pope once questioned the vestments set out for him by his staff, saying they were the wrong color, only to be told he had eliminated the week-long celebration of Pentecost and could not wear the corresponding red garments for Mass. The pope’s master of ceremonies then witnessed Paul VI break down in tears.

Bugnini fell from grace in the 1970s. Rumors spread in the Italian press that he was a Freemason, which if true would have merited excommunication. The Vatican never denied the claims, and in 1976 Bugnini, by then an archbishop, was exiled to a ceremonial post in Iran. He died, largely forgotten, in 1982.

But his legacy lived on. Pope John Paul II continued the liberalizations of Mass, allowing females to serve in place of altar boys and to permit unordained men and women to distribute communion in the hands of standing recipients. Even conservative organizations like Opus Dei adopted the liberal liturgical reforms.

But Bugnini may have finally met his match in Benedict XVI, a noted liturgist himself who is no fan of the past 40 years of change. Chanting Latin, wearing antique vestments and distributing communion only on the tongues (rather than into the hands) of kneeling Catholics, Benedict has slowly reversed the innovations of his predecessors. And the Latin Mass is back, at least on a limited basis, in places like Arlington, Va., where one in five parishes offer the old liturgy.

Benedict understands that his younger priests and seminarians — most born after Vatican II — are helping lead a counterrevolution. They value the beauty of the solemn high Mass and its accompanying chant, incense and ceremony. Priests in cassocks and sisters in habits are again common; traditionalist societies like the Institute of Christ the King are expanding.

At the beginning of this decade, Benedict (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) wrote: “The turning of the priest toward the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself.” He was right: 40 years of the new Mass have brought chaos and banality into the most visible and outward sign of the church. Benedict XVI wants a return to order and meaning. So, it seems, does the next generation of Catholics.

Kenneth J. Wolfe writes frequently for traditionalist Roman Catholic publications.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The First Sunday of Advent

I love the season of Advent. It seems to be just the right amount of time. Liturgically, we are preparing to celebrate the First Coming of Christ but we are also anticipating His Second Coming at the Final Judgment. Through the eyes of Jesus' public ministry that led to his passion,death and resurrection, our Risen Lord directs us to be prepared for Him.

We prepare for the celebration of His birth as our Messiah by festive gatherings, giving of gifts as a reminder that Jesus is the greatest Gift God has given us and by intensifying our prayer life and spirituality. Part of this preparation certainly entails repentance and the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We must also be prepared for Christ coming to us in the Sacraments of the Church. Certainly we must be repentant and forgiven if we are to receive the Most Holy Eucharist worthily. It is Christ who comes to us in this and all the Sacraments.

It is also necessary to receive the Sacrament of Penance prior to receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Sacrament of Matrimony and the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In other words, our meeting Christ and receiving Him must be done in a state of grace.

Advent as well as Lent reminds us to be always repentant, because to receive the Lord with a haughty, unrepentant heart will not go well for us especially at our personal judgment.

Updated Abuse Blog

Sickening and Unacceptable: But Why Are We Shocked? Revised
A report on the sexual abuse of minors by Irish clergy and religious has once again revealed some disturbing and disgusting facts concerning the manner in which the Church, the government and law enforcement in Ireland handled those who reported crimes against children and how the offending clerics and religious were handled.

In previous writings I have tried to place the inaction of bishops and superiors into the context of the times and yes the culture of the places where the abuse took place. My father who was of Scottish ancestry but born in Nova Scotia believed firmly that one's dirty laundry should never be aired in the open and the greatest thing to avoid was people finding out about scandalous behavior. He was opposed to the behavior, but having it found out leading to public humiliation was even worse.

I suspect this is a part of the Scottish/Irish culture especially as it concerns things sexual, both normal and abnormal. Scotland and Ireland inherited very Jansenist (puritanical) attitudes concerning sex which is not true of warmer Mediterranean cultures, like my Italian half.

It seems that in Boston, other dioceses in America as well as all of Ireland, at the time known abusers were abusing, keeping the laity who knew about it quiet about it was more important than dismissing abusers and reporting them to the authorities. In Ireland, the authorities if they knew of abuse sent it back to the bishops to deal with, but the bishops didn't for the most part.

Previous to the charter protecting children in this country and previous to the widespread knowledge that sexual abuse of children and teenagers occurs amongst a certain percentage of clergy and religious, what would make a bishop or another person in authority immune to the suffering endured by children and teenagers at the hands of pedophiles and ephebophiles?

That is the question that has not been answered but there are several opinions that I have:

1. These bishops and others didn't think sexual abuse was a big deal or they didn't believe those who made accusation. The disbelief about the abuse seems implausible to me since there were so many accusations made against several priests in Ireland. The only other option is those in authority did not care about the victims and did not see it as their role to care for them. If true, this would add to the shock and disgust.
2. Those in authority were incompetent or impotent to do anything against those who offended. It was a managerial crisis of mega proportions.
3. Protecting the privileged place of the clergy, even abusers, was more important than protecting children. This is shocking and disgusting too and betrays moral bankruptcy.
4. Bishops'common sense went out the window in dealing with offending personnel. Burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me. Bishops cannot shift the blame to psychiatrists who gave them bad information or a lack of awareness about these sins and crimes. They must take complete responsibility. Outward appearances during this horrible time before the Charter in this country makes it look like that the bishop cared more for the priest under his charge than the children/teenagers that were or had the potential to be abused by these same priests.
5. Bishops as well as others may have believed that children and teenagers were complicit in their own abuse, that they wanted the sexual contact and may have liked it. Many Americans believe this about teenagers who have sex with older men or women, especially if it is heterosexual sex, so this is not implausible and may have been the mentality of the bishops that the ones injured by those in authority may have been cooperating with the evil perpetrated.

At any rate, now that the dirty secret about clergy who professed to be celibate but sexually abused children and teenagers is out in the open, perhaps now we can begin to understand the corruption of leadership that allowed this to happen, the cultural attitudes inherent in the Church that had no checks and balances when it comes to critique and evaluation and the inability to remove from the order of bishops and the order of priests those who committed crimes, covered them up and/or were incompetent to act properly.

Let us pray that out of all of this suffering of victims and their families, the loss of faith it has caused and the disgust that so many experience from the details of this abuse, that this will ensure history doesn't repeat itself. It's judgment day but what we are experiencing now in terms of humiliation will seem like a walk in the park at the personal judgment perpetrators and enablers will experience at death and the Church will experience at the final judgment.

But with this said, one of the things that has happened to the Church with all the pseudo euphoria that we've experienced since Vatican II was the decline in understanding what sin is in general and mortal sin in particular. There were even those who wanted to redefine Original Sin to make it less harsh sounding. Those who promote this pseudo theology would also find abhorrent that anyone's disposition to sin would be called "disordered," especially any aspect of their sexuality. We all know the outcry when Pope John Paul or Pope Benedict teach that homosexuality is "disordered."

Yet we are all disordered because of Original Sin and the actual sins this enables us to commit. There are aspects of our personality including our sexuality that are corrupt and disordered as well, whether we are heterosexual or homosexual. When clergy and laity turn a blind eye to our sexual attractions because we do not believe that any part of our sexuality is disordered, then we have the recipe for disaster that has gone off like an atomic bomb in our Church.

The antidote to the disorders of body, soul, mind and sexuality is the grace of God. If we don't think we need that grace we won't call upon God's grace. Sometimes God's grace leads the Church to remove from ministry those who are severely disordered. Sometimes God's grace leads the Church to excommunicate those who are obstinate in their refusal to act like a Catholic (here I'm thinking of politicians who are pro-choice). Is not the sin of abortion and the leading of others to procure abortions as egregious as the sin of sexual abuse of children and teenagers? Why is there not a similar outrage in our Church against bishops who seem to do nothing to Catholics who are pro-choice and publicly so?

But to close with a more positive spin on all of this: "O happy fault, or necessary sin of Adam (and of all of us) that gained for us so great a Savior." Where sin abounds God's grace is more abundant. God will save the Church and even the most despicable sinner amongst us will find God's mercy through repentance and sacramental confession. The penance may be you can't be a priest anymore and you might have to go to prison, but justice demands penance and mercy demands justice.

Gosh! The Actual First Thanksgiving in America was just south of us and not at Plymouth!

I print this from another blog. It's really interesting and I'll have to use it for next Thanksgiving Day's homily!

The actual First Thanksgiving in America
By
Jeff Miller
on November 22, 2006 9:53 AM Comment(s) (7)

The article below (that I post each year) shows that the first Thanksgiving was actually celebrated in St. Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565. This was the first community act of religion in the first permanent European settlement in the land and it also included both Spanish and natives. This article originally appeared in my diocese magazine. I am just sparing you looking through the pdf file for it.

When on September 8, 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his 800 Spanish settlers founded the settlement of St. Augustine in La Florida, the landing party celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving, and, afterward, Menéndez laid out a meal to which he invited as guests the native Seloy tribe who occupied the site.

The celebrant of the Mass was St. Augustine’s first pastor, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and the feast day in the church calendar was that of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What exactly the Seloy natives thought of those strange liturgical proceedings we do not know, except that, in his personal chronicle, Father Lopez wrote that “the Indians imitated all they saw done.”

What was the meal that followed? Again we do not know. But, from our knowledge of what the Spaniards had on board their five ships, we can surmise that it was cocido, a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, laced with garlic seasoning, and accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. If it happened that the Seloy contributed to the meal from their own food stores, fresh or smoked, then the menu could have included as well: turkey,venison, and gopher tortoise; seafood such as mullet, drum, and sea catfish; maize (corn),beans and squash.

What is important historically about that liturgy and meal was stated by me in a 1965 book entitled The Cross in the Sand: “It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent [European] settlement in the land.” The keyword in that sentence was “permanent.” Numerous thanksgivings for a safe voyage and landing had been made before in Florida, by such explorers as Juan Ponce de León, in 1513 and 1521, Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528, Hernando de Soto in 1529, Father Luis Cáncer de Barbastro in 1549, and Tristán de Luna in 1559. Indeed French Calvinists (Huguenots) who came to the St. Johns River with Jean Ribault in 1562 and René de Laudonnière in 1564 similarly offered prayers of thanksgiving for their safe arrivals. But all of those ventures, Catholic and Calvinist, failed to put down permanent roots.

St. Augustine’s ceremonies were important historically in that they took place in what would develop into a permanently occupied European city, North America’s first. They were important culturally as well in that the religious observance was accompanied by a communal meal, to which Spaniards and natives alike were invited. The thanksgiving at St. Augustine, celebrated 56 years before the Puritan-Pilgrim thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts), did not, however, become the origin of a national annual tradition, as Plymouth would. The reason is that, as the maxim holds, it is the victors who write the histories.

During the 18th and 19th centuries British forces won out over those of Spain and France for mastery over the continent. Thus, British observances, such as the annual reenactment of the Pilgrims’ harvest festival in 1621, became a national practice and holiday in the new United States, and over time obliterated knowledge of the prior Spanish experiences in Florida, particularly at St. Augustine. Indeed, as the Pilgrims’ legend grew, people of Anglo-American descent in New England came to believe that Plymouth was the first European settlement in the country and that no other Europeans were here before the arrival of the Mayflower– beliefs that are still widespread in that region.

In recent years, Jamestown, Virginia has enjoyed some success in persuading its Anglo-American cousins in Plymouth that it was founded in 1607, thirteen years before the Pilgrims’ arrival, and that there were regular ship schedules from England to Jamestown before the Mayflower’s voyage of 1620. Furthermore, Berkeley Plantation near Charles City, Virginia, has convincingly demonstrated that it conducted a thanksgiving ceremony on December 4, 1619, nearly two years before the festival at Plymouth. Thought to have been on Berkeley’s menu were oysters, shad, rockfish, and perch. Along the old Spanish borderlands provinces from Florida to California an occasional voice is heard asserting that this site or that was the first permanent Spanish settlement in the United States – a claim often made in Santa Fe, New Mexico which was founded in 1610 – or that it was the place where the first thanksgiving took place. An example of the latter claim appeared last year in the New York Times, which, while recounting the colonizing expedition of Juan de Oñate from Mexico City into what became New Mexico, stated that celebrations of Oñate’s party in 1598 “are considered [the Times did not say by whom] the United States’ first Thanksgiving.”

The historical fact remains that St. Augustine’s thanksgiving not only came earlier; it was the first to take place in a permanent settlement. The Ancient City deserves national notice for that distinction.

Perhaps most of New England is now willing to concede as much, though that was not the case in November 1985, when an Associated Press reporter built a short Thanksgiving Day story around my aforesaid sentence of 20 years before in The Cross in the Sand. When his story appeared in Boston and other papers, New England went into shock. WBZ-TV in Boston interviewed me live by satellite for its 6:00 p.m. regional news
program.

The newsman told me that all of Massachusetts was “freaked out,” and that, as he spoke, “the Selectmen of Plymouth are holding an emergency meeting to contend with this new information that there were Spaniards in Florida before there were Englishmen in Massachusetts.”

I replied, “Fine. And you can tell them for me that, by the time the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, St. Augustine was up for urban renewal.”

The somewhat rattled chairman of the Selectmen was quoted as saying: “I hate to take the wind out of the professor’s sails, but there were no turkeys running around in Florida in the 1500s. But there may be a few loose ones down there now at the University of Florida.” So there! Within a few days of the tempest a reporter from the Boston Globe called to tell me that throughout Massachusetts I had become known as “The Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving.” Well, let’s hope that everyone up north has settled down now. And let’s enjoy all our Thanksgivings whenever and wherever they first began.

Dr. Michael V. Gannon is a Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Florida. He has had a long interest in the early Spanish missions of Florida about which he has written extensively. Two of his books, Rebel Bishop (1964) and The Cross in the Sand (1965) treat of the early history of this state

From the Conservative Blog "Rorate Caeli"

I print this from the conservative blog "Rorate Caeli" While I don't know about the innocence of the prelate that is the topic of this blog, I do agree that much of what is said about Post Vatican II trendiness, opposition to canon law, touchy-feeliness in a great way opened the door to a tremendous amount of abuse in the late 1960's and 1970's not only in Ireland but also in this country. In fact in this country the number of reported cases of abuse is much higher in the late 1960's and early 1970's than at the other times evaluated. The so-called liberation from rules, law and common sense both in the Church and secular society was the opening of Pandora's Box for many cloistered religious and priests who did not have the internal controls necessary to cope with this new found freedom. Only the external controls of the pre-conciliar church kept them from acting out. For the mature Christian, laity or clergy, both internal and external controls are necessary in the areas of human sexuality and in other areas of morality as well.
The following is Rorate Caeli's commentary and opinion. Take it for what it is worth:


It needed to be said
Let's get it straight: Irish child abuse was perpetrated by the trendy, modern post-Vatican II Catholic Church

Gerald Warner (Telegraph Blogs)

... A spin is being put on the shocking revelations in the report on abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin [CLICK HERE FOR FULL DUBLIN REPORT: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB09000504 ] to implicate the “pre-Conciliar” Catholic Church in the wrongdoings of post-Vatican II pederasts. In the process, the name of a good man has been dragged into the cesspit, for political purposes.

The Most Reverend John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin (1940-1972) was a great Catholic prelate. Under his pastoral leadership, the numbers of clergy and religious increased by more than 50 per cent, he created over 60 new parishes and built over 80 new churches and 350 schools. But he was a Vatican II skeptic who implemented reform conservatively, in accordance with what would now be called the “hermeneutic of continuity”. So he is a bogey figure to radicals.

Most unjustly, his name has been dragged into this scandal. The official Commission’s Report states: “During the period under review, there were four Archbishops – Archbishops McQuaid, Ryan, McNamara and Connell.” Not so. The “period under review” is set out in the Commission’s Terms of Reference as “the period 1 January 1975 to 1 May 2004”. Archbishop McQuaid retired in 1972. The Report very misleadingly claims that by 1987 three Archbishops – McQuaid, Ryan and McNamara – had between them complaints against 17 priests.

But only one of them, the anonymous “Father Edmondus”, was suspect during McQuaid’s watch and even the report concedes that, of the 320 complaints relating to those priests, only three dated back to the McQuaid era, presumably against “Father Edmondus” and in a period prior to that covered by the Commission’s Terms of Reference. On the basis of that isolated allegation they attempt to align Archbishop McQuaid with his negligent successors.

Revealingly, the Report says: “As is shown in Chapter 4, canon law appears to have fallen into disuse and disrespect during the mid 20th century.” Yes; and we all know why – the post-Vatican II anarchic denunciations of “legalism”, of “oppressive” sexual morality and Church teaching generally, promoted by the modernists. As regards implementing canon law against abusers, the Report concedes that Archbishop McQuaid “set the processes in motion but did not complete them [difficult to do when you are dead]. Archbishops Ryan and McNamara do not seem to have ever applied the canon law.”

Well, who ever did, in the trendy, let-it-all-hang-out 1970s and 1980s? The image that has sedulously been propagated is of Irish child abuse perpetrated by priests in soutanes and birettas, cowled monks muttering Latin incantations and nuns in starched wimples and mediaeval habits.
On the contrary, the nightmare orgy of relentless mortal sin recorded in this report was committed by modern priests, with a strip of white celluloid in place of a Roman collar – if they deigned to wear clerical dress – devastating their church sanctuaries as badly as they devastated childrem’s lives, abolishing all the devotions such as Benediction, the Rosary, regular confession, devotion to saints, etc that had sustained Irish faith for centuries. One priest admitted to abusing over 100 children. For that he was indulged; but if he had celebrated the Latin Tridentine Mass his feet would not have touched the ground.

The BBC (to turn to light relief) has exploited this scandal in a style that vindicates its claim to have succeeded Pravda as the leading disseminator of disinformation. A radical priest was produced on Radio 4 to testify that an excessively strict code of sexual morality in the Church was to blame: one shudders to think what excesses would have been committed if the code had been more lax.

Was clerical celibacy the problem? prompted a BBC interviewer. Of course it was. We all know that what a priestly abuser of boys (and this is mainly a homosexual scandal – the Report records a ratio of 2.3 boy victims to 1 girl) needs is a wife – ask any of the Anglican vicars who have provided a living to the red-top tabloids for generations.

Let us set the record straight. This filthy abomination was a scandal of the post-Vatican II, open-windows, relevant, touchy-feely (often, it seems, inappropriately so) Catholic Church. So let the ecumaniacs, the liturgical animators, the Easter People take ownership of it and desist from blackening the reputation of a decent prelate and, by implication, of the unchanging Church that sustained Ireland through centuries of oppression.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Facing God or Facing the Laity--I report, You Decide

Does it really matter which way the priest faces when he celebrates Mass? For more than 40 years, priests in most parishes have faced the laity as they celebrate the Mass. We have two generations of Catholics who think this was the way it was all along. In fact the priest facing the same direction as the laity has about 1800 years of tradition, if not longer, both in the Eastern Rite and Western Rite of the Church.

The move, almost universally amongst Latin Rite Catholics, after Vatican II to face the people was a part of the theology that emerged that everything that the priest does at the altar should be heard, seen and understood. Any hint of mystery (which the Mass truly is) was to be eliminated to make the Mass intelligible to the laity.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for the Mass being understood by the laity and I do believe that a good number of faithful Catholics prior to Vatican II understood what the Mass was. But it does seem that the call for "noble simplicity" that was actually carried out by subsequent Vatican documents went beyond noble simplicity to "ignoble" simplicity.

But apart from that, having the priest face the people was a very peculiar novelty even if there was a brief precedence for it in the "home churches" of apostolic times.

What is even more disturbing is that the "spirit" of Vatican II (not Vatican II) de-emphasized the priestly character of the priest as acting in the "person of Christ" at the altar and thus as mediator between God and the laity. In fact, the priest represents both the laity and Jesus the High Priest at the altar. His priestly role of offering sacrifice and mediation is essential to the validity of the Mass which he does in the "Person of Christ" and in the name of the laity which he represents in his person as well.

When the priest joined in the same direction as the laity whom he represents at the altar, it didn't matter who the priest was. His particular gifts, his personality, his looks had no bearing on the celebration whatsoever, save his ability to sing and preach. But even with preaching and singing, the laity understood these as secondary to the sacrifice of Christ which the priest offered.

Now with the priest facing the people, his personality is essential in the minds of many. How he looks, comports himself, even his own pious demeanor all are important for what is perceived to be a "good" liturgy. It all hinges on the priest, not his unique role of representing both the laity and Christ, but how he looks and how he acts. In this mindset, the more personality that the priest shows, the more he improvises and makes the Mass his own, the more successful he is at being a "good" presider.

This post-Vatican II novelty, not really intended by Vatican II or even subsequent liturgical documents has led in many parishes and dioceses to the "cult" of the personality. The priest facing the same direction as those he represents at the altar would correct this egregious development in the Church and return all priests at the altar to a more egalitarian brotherhood.

An English Catholic Priest's Take on Anglican Women Priests by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

By English Priest, Fr. Dwight Longenecker (He expresses much better my attempts to express the same:

Women's Ordination in Context
Here's a quotation from a comment by an Anglican vicar who visits this blog. This is how he perceives the Catholic position: it is as if we are saying to the Anglicans...


You can't be real Christians like us because you believe that women can serve God in the ordained ministry.


The vicar says this honestly. He is expressing his frustration with the Catholic Church's apparent obstinacy on the issue of women's ordination. I understand this and don't mind his frank expression. However, let's look at the statement and try to understand the underlying Anglican attitude.

First of all he thinks Catholics are saying that Anglicans are not 'real Christians.' This is probably the vicar's subjective and emotional response to certain Catholic statements rather than a thought out position based on the whole of Catholic teaching. Do we believe that Anglicans are 'real Christians'? Of course we do. The Catechism states clearly that those who are baptized and have faith in Christ are our brothers and sisters in the faith.

Nevertheless, it is a widespread gut feeling amongst non Catholic Christians that Catholics believe they are second class citizens. This conclusion might be drawn from Ratzinger's document Dominus Jesus in which certain non Catholic ecclesial structures were deemed not to be 'proper' churches. It might also be the continued resentment on the unchanging Vatican position that Anglican orders are 'null and utterly void.' This is understandable, but it should be clear that the Catholic Church is not saying that Anglicans are not Christians. They are. We are re-affirming, however, something which Anglicans themselves would fight for--the simple truth that they are not Catholics. That we understand their not being Catholics to be a deficit for them is natural. We also hold that we are poorer without them, and that all of us are wounded by the brokenness of the Body of Christ.

The second point is more revealing. It is suggested that we consider Anglicans to be second rate Christians (or not real Christians at all) because they have admitted women to the ordained ministry and that this is not of the same order as disbelieving the resurrection. The basic attitude is, 'women's ordination is a side issue. It doesn't really matter that much.'

What is revealed by this attitude is the whole shooting match concerning, not just 'women's ministry' but the nature of the priestly ministry, the sacrifice of the Mass, apostolic succession, the validity of the sacraments, and the nature of authority in the church, the nature of human sexuality and therefore the sacrament of marriage. For the Anglicans these things too must be 'of a second order' because women's ordination touches all these matters, and I'm afraid the vicar has expressed the Anglican view all too well, for the typical Anglican doesn't see how all these things are connected, and more troubling, if he does see how they are connected he doesn't really think these other matters are crucial either.

He does not because, as I have outlined in a recent post, the typical Anglican considers all theological expressions to be provisional. They are metaphorical, not real. If a fellow wishes to consider himself a sacrificing priest that is fine for Anglicans, but no one (not even most Anglo Catholics) would argue that such a view is mandatory. That is why the Anglo Catholic is quite happy to be ordained by the same bishop on the same day in the same rite as an Evangelical Anglican whose theology is virtually Presbyterian. Likewise, if a fellow wants to think that his Eucharist is a 'sacrifice', the Anglican attitude is, 'Well if it works for you, that's jolly nice," The same applies for apostolic succession, and the validity of the sacraments and the question of where authority lies in the church. The typical Anglican attitude is that these are arcane questions which can never really be answered, so you go ahead and take whatever position seems best to you. That's why the mainstream Anglican is so angry with the Anglo Catholics who will not budge and insist that these are important issues.


As Catholics we believe the question of women's ordination is vitally important, not for the utilitarian, sentimental and political reasons which are often brought up by its proponents, but for the theological, historical and organic reasons. In other words, it matters because Truth is unified, and every aspect of truth is connected. Weaken one part and the rest are weakened.

Anglo Catholics who believe the same should become Catholics as soon as possible--either through the Ordinariate when it is set up or by joining the Catholic Church now. The reason they should do so is not because they will be able to maintain their lovely liturgy and not have women priests. It is because they share an underlying philosophical and theological agreement with Catholicism which they do not with Anglicanism. If they do not share this underlying agreement with the Catholic worldview, then they should remain in the Anglican Church and make the suitable compromises (for it is the nature of Anglicanism to compromise) and stop grumbling.
Posted by Fr Longenecker at Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Tabernacle: Just Where Have They Enthroned My Lord Who Alone is the Head of the Church His Body?

The revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal in the year 2000 offers the following instruction for the placement of the tabernacle in churches and oratories:


The Place for the Reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist

314. In accordance with the structure of each church and legitimate local customs, the Most Blessed Sacrament should be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is truly noble, prominent, readily visible, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer.125

The one tabernacle should be immovable, be made of solid and inviolable material that is not transparent, and be locked in such a way that the danger of profanation is prevented to the greatest extent possible.126 Moreover, it is appropriate that, before it is put into liturgical use, it be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual.127

315. It is more in keeping with the meaning of the sign that the tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved not be on an altar on which Mass is celebrated.128

Consequently, it is preferable that the tabernacle be located, according to the judgment of the Diocesan Bishop,

1. Either in the sanctuary, apart from the altar of celebration, in a form and place more appropriate, not excluding on an old altar no longer used for celebration (cf. above, no. 303);
2. Or even in some chapel suitable for the faithful's private adoration and prayer129 and which is organically connected to the church and readily visible to the Christian faithful.

316. In accordance with traditional custom, near the tabernacle a special lamp, fueled by oil or wax, should be kept alight to indicate and honor the presence of Christ.130

317. In no way should all the other things prescribed by law concerning the reservation of the Most Holy Eucharist be forgotten.131

Fr. McDonald's catechesis:

Since the Second Vatican Council, one of the more contentious elements of reform was the placement of the tabernacle. Generally, prior to Vatican II, the tabernacle was on a reredos attached to the altar of sacrifice. It was dead center. When people genuflected prior to entering the pew, they were genuflecting straight ahead to the Jesus Christ present in the tabernacle. He, even in the reserved sacrament, was at the head of the Church as the Head of the Church.

Notwithstanding this custom, though, in many great Cathedrals and churches in Europe and elsewhere, the tabernacle was housed in a separate chapel near the altar. Now when I say chapel, these where the size of most of our parish churches! And in these chapels were altars for the celebration of Mass and the tabernacle was placed again directly in the middle of the chapel either on the altar or directly behind it. There was no mistaking the prominence of the place of reservation for our Eucharistic Lord. Usually these side chapels were used because of the volume of tourists and religious pilgrims visiting the great cathedrals and the distraction to prayer and reverence that this caused.

However, after Vatican II a peculiar theology began to develop that motivated dethroning the tabernacle from its place of prominence in the sanctuary. What was described as the "static" presence of Christ and the "active" presence of Christ became popular amongst liberal liturgical theologians. Now bear with me, this gets complicated, because I know you are asking how can the Risen and Eucharistic Lord be "static?" Yes, it sounds corrupt and yes it sounds disrespectful! But it was well intentioned although very destructive of Eucharistic devotion.

The "static" presence of Christ was His reserved presence. He was just there for us to adore Him, like He was sleeping! His active presence was in the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass and the active receiving Him as Eucharistic Food during the celebration of Mass. These liberal theologians wanted to separate these to "types" of presences during the celebration of Mass as though Jesus is different in both or something else in one and the other. It really is absurd.

Some of these theologians also expressed a desire for the "real absence" of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle before and during the celebration of Mass because the Mass was the means by which Jesus Christ would be made present and received. There shouldn't be the "static" presence of Christ in the tabernacle before and during the celebration of Mass. They didn't want the faithful praying to Christ in the tabernacle during the Mass, especially during the consecration. While this does seem like splitting hairs, there is some validity to the confusion of a devotion and the participating in the sacrament which "confects" the Most Holy Eucharist.

But with that said, I have never heard anyone in the history of the Church who experienced their entire Catholic life with the tabernacle dead center in their church complain that this in any way lessened their Catholic faith, their belief in the Most Holy Eucharist or their appreciation of the Mass as the means by which our Lord comes to us to save us in His one sacrifice and to nourish us in the Most Holy Eucharist. This just didn't and doesn't happen.

However, when the tabernacle was "dethroned" and placed on a side altar or even out of view of the congregation in a separate chapel, devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament and respect for Him in the Reserved Sacrament certainly did take a hit. Many of the faithful who truly did have a profound reverence and respect for the reserved Most Holy Sacrament, were appalled by the tabernacle being moved to a lesser position in the Church or out of the Church altogether.

There is no doubt that we now have two generations of Catholics who do not have the same appreciation or devotion to our Lord reserved in the tabernacle precisely because of the "sign" and "symbol" of dethroning the tabernacle and placing the one who is the Head of our Church, Jesus Christ in a less conspicuous and honorable place.

In addition to this, the placement of the tabernacle on the same par as other "lesser" devotions seems to equate that devotion to our Lord present in the tabernacle is on par with devotion to St. Juan Diego, or any of the other saints who are honored in the Church, that devotion to Christ present in the tabernacle is just one devotion amongst many. My brother and sisters, this just isn't so. Devotion to our Lord reserved in the tabernacle is the preeminent devotion in the Church to which every other devotion flows and takes the second place!

I believe that for the vast majority of our parishioners at St. Joseph Church, the dethroning of the tabernacle to the side chapel lessened their appreciation for Jesus Christ present in the reserved Most Holy Sacrament. From about 1970 to 2006 the tabernacle was in our Lady's Chapel, thus confusing devotion to Christ in the tabernacle with Marian devotions. Then it was place in the Sacred Heart Chapel, which is a depiction of the Risen Christ as the Sacred Heart, but still confuses a popular devotion with the preeminent devotion to the Risen Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

The main old high altar with its beautiful reredos was the place of reservation from 1903 until about 1970. It was designed to show that Jesus Christ, both "static" and "active" if you will, is the Head of the Church both literally, figuratively and liturgically as well as "devotionally." Above the ornate tabernacle which is behind the post Vatican II magnificent free-standing altar, is the depiction of the crucifixion, the one Sacrifice of Christ that sets us free from sin and death and which is renewed in an "unbloodly way" on the altar of sacrifice at every Mass. Below the tabernacle on the former pre-Vatican II attached altar is the sculpture of the Last Supper where Jesus Christ instituted not only the means by which we would memorialize this one Sacrifice in a sacred meal, but He also instituted the ministerial priesthood who would be responsible for acting in the "Person of Christ" during the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is clear that placing the tabernacle above this sculpture and below the crucifixion scene has powerful symbolic meaning and purpose which was totally lost at St. Joseph Church when the tabernacle was "dethroned" to a side chapel in 1970.

So there you have it. Make your own decision about the pastoral advisability of sidelining the tabernacle, removing it from sight altogether or retaining it at the head of the Church. Comments?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Modest Proposal for the Reform of the Reform Mass

This would be in continuity not only with the Missal of 1962 but also with the missal of 1970. We want to promote the "hermeneutic of continuity" even for the 1970 missal! In other words, this is the missal of 1970 but with some rubrics and prayers from the 1962 Mass added. This presumes the revised English Mass recently approved by the bishops.

This proposal also is in continuity with the "ad orientem" style of worship.

After the procession to the altar and at the foot of the altar:

The Sign of the cross
The confiteor (as revised)
The absolution

The priest ascends to the altar praying silently:
Take away from us our iniquities, we entreat you, O Lord, that with pure minds we may worthily enter into the Holy of Holies. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

He kisses the altar and prays silently:
We besceech Thee, O Lord, by the merits of thy Saints, whose relics are here, and of all the Saints, that You will pardon me all my sins. Amen.

The priest goes to the right side of the altar and reads the Introit Antiphon

He returns to the middle of the altar and recites or sings the Kyrie
The Gloria is said or sung at the middle of the altar.

The priest kisses the altar, turn to the people, says the Lord be with you with their response and then goes to the right side of the altar, says let us pray and then prays the collect.

All are seated for the Liturgy of the Word which is done in the current Ordinary Mass fashion and from the three year lectionary. During the singing of the Gospel Acclamation, the missal is transferred as in the Extraordinary Mass from the right side of the altar to the left.

After the homily, the priest goes to the center of the altar and the Creed is said or sung.

The intercessions are introduced by the priest, the deacon or in his absence a lay person prays the petitions. The priest concludes.

After the Intercessions, the altar is prepared, the priest recites the offertory antiphon by first kissing the altar, turning to the people, greeting them, turning back to the altar and saying or singing the antiphon.

Then the preparation prayers are prayed as is done in the Ordinary Mass. After washing his hands, he returns to the middle of the altar, kisses it, turns to the people and prays "Pray brothers and sisters....completing this facing the people and then turning back to the altar to pray the prayers over the gifts.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist would be prayed as is done currently with the Ordinary Mass, but ad orientem. I would recommend the following rubrical clarifications:

For Eucharistic Prayer I or the Roman Canon--pray with all the rubrics of the Extraordinary Mass.

For the other Eucharistic Prayers simply add the double genuflections after the consecrations. Add a genuflection after the Great Amen.

Make explicit rubrics for the use of the pall, genuflecting each time the chalice is covered or uncovered after the Precious Blood has been consecrated.

After the priest's communion, the Communion antiphon should be sung or recited.

At Communion time allow for the option of kneeling for communion or standing, either or, don't get rigid about this.

After Holy Communion, purify the chalice. Place the missal on the right side of the altar. After the purification, the priest kisses the altar, turns to the people greets them, then goes to the missal, says Let us pray and recites or sings the prayer after Holy Communion. He returns to the center of the altar, kisses it, turns to people, greets them, if there is a solemn blessing, asks all to bow their heads, prays the blessing over them and then blesses them and dismisses them. He goes to the foot of the altar and departs as normal.

Reform of the Reform and the Extraordinary Mass and the Extraordinary Church

Around 1966, I was about 13 years old when the first wave of reform for the Mass came to my home parish of St. Joseph Church in Augusta. At the time we thought it was a big deal and so dramatic. I have to tell you I was excited and thrilled about the first changes. There really were only two. First a movable altar was placed in front of the "real" altar so the priest could face the people. Second, the laity's parts of the Mass were allowed to be in English, although all of the priest's parts remained in Latin. Other than these two changes, the Mass was the Mass of the 1962 missal with those rubrics which now became visible to the congregation.

I loved these changes and that it was easier to participate and we were encouraged to do so. I think most people loved these changes, especially my father's generation (if he were living, he'd be 100).

But then, even as a rebellious teenager, I noticed around 1967 that the order of the Mass was being dumbed down. Our pastor said it was being simplified. First it was the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. These were shortened to the "Requiem" form of these prayers. Then the offertory prayers were shortened to what we have now. Then the prayers at the foot of the altar were eliminated and what we now have as the penitential rite was introduced. Then the extra Eucharistic prayers were introduced. Then the rubrics for the priest were totally simplified. Then we got the 1970 missal which dumbed down the Gloria, the Creed and the Lord I am not worthy. Even as a teenager I was puzzled by all of this dumbing down.

By this time it seemed the Vatican and the bishops had given control of the Mass and Church architecture over to liturgists. Even the rubrics of the 1970 Mass to this day state that priest could say a prescribed formula or "words similar" which opened the door for all kinds of improvisations that still haunt us today. And the old adage about the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist began to surface and be quite clear. You can negotiate with a terrorist being the primary difference.

Then the folk music came and all kinds of other types of music, even secular was inflicted upon the 1970 missal. Then we were told it was wrong to kneel for Holy Communion and to receive on the tongue, so we were herded into a soup-kitchen type lines and eating on the run, rather than kneeling at the altar rail even briefly after receiving. We were told that if we liked kneeling better than standing then we were just too stupid to know that standing symbolized be raised up with Christ to receive Holy Communion. Kneeling was subservient and debased us. There were those who wanted to eliminate any mention of our unworthiness at Mass as well.

I really wish that a thorough sociological study could be done that would show what happened to my father's generation of this late 1960's and 1970's period. My father's generation were the ones who were so committed to the Pre-Vatican II Church. 90 percent of them went to Mass every Sunday and they brought their children up in the faith. But by the 1970's with the changes in the Mass, public dissent from official Church teachings, the elimination of the Baltimore Catechism, total chaos and confusion in the Church, my father's generation of children (which is me) lost the faith and discipline of the Church. My generation of children have not done a very good job of handing on the faith to their children. So today we are at 25 % of Catholics who attend Mass regularly and many of those are confused about the Church's teaching and profess to be both Catholic and pro-choice! If the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council could be described as a rock of sure and certain faith and sound discipline, the Church after Vatican II became like a marshmallow quite mushy and with no real nutritional value.

So, if the pope gave me permission to reform the reform this is what I would do:

1. Bring back the Baltimore Catechism in a revised form and teach the basics again to our children and expect them to memorize certain things.
2. Focus on non-liturgical devotions again, especially those that can be done at home.
3. Maintain the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and calendar as Pope Benedict now allows.
4. Reform the Ordinary Mass so that it is the order of the Extraordinary Mass but in the vernacular, maintaining the revised three year lectionary and calendar but with all the revised English Prayers for the collect, prayers over the gifts and prefaces, Eucharistic prayers etc. Maintain the rubrics of the Extraordinary Mass in the Ordinary Mass.
5. Ban any more churches from being built in the round!
6. Bring back communal forms of penance (meatless Fridays year round, ember days, stricter Lenten discipline--maybe make every Wednesday and Friday of Lent days of fast and abstinence, I think everyday of Lent is a bit much for fasting but it got dumbed down too drastically after Vatican II.

What ya think?

Catholics, Jews and Protestants Together in Thanksgiving Prayer: Catholic Priest preaches Homily in Protestant Church! What's the Church coming to?

Last night I preached at Macon's annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. St. Joseph Catholic Church, Mulberry Street United Methodist Church and Temple Beth Israel have been celebrating this service for over 30 years. This year it was at the Methodist Church. Next year it will be at the Jewish Temple and the following year at St. Joseph. One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council is the encouragement to enter into ecumenical dialogue with Protestant denominations as well as interfaith dialogue with Jews and other religions. Macon's interfaith celebration at Thanksgiving brings Catholics, Jews and Protestants together at least once a year in prayer. In doing so we do not sacrifice anything that we believe but we acknowledge that which we hold in common. this is truly the work of the Holy Spirit.

I print my homily below. Since it is a homily meant for oral presentation, I don't have any footnotes to properly acknowledge my sources for stories or quotes.

The Scripture for the Service which I selected: Zephaniah 3:14-15

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Introduction: A young rabbi was facing a serious problem in his new congregation. During the Friday evening Sabbath services, half the congregation stood for the prayers, while the other half remained seated. Each side shouted at the other, insisting that theirs was the true tradition. Nothing the rabbi said or did could resolve the dispute. In desperation, the rabbi went to the synagogue’s founder, now well into his 90s and living in a nursing home. The young rabbi poured out his troubles to the elder rabbi. “So tell me,” the distraught rabbi pleaded, “was it the tradition for the congregation to stand during the prayers?” “No,” answered the old rabbi. “Then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers?” “No,” answered the old rabbi. “Well, what we have is chaos! Half the people stand and shout the other half sit and scream!” Ah,” said the old man, “that was the tradition!”

Topic Statement: Thanks be to God we gather together, Jews, Protestants and Catholics, all people of good will, not to sit and stand shouting at one another about our traditions, but to shout our thanks to God for the many blessings we receive.

1. We should be grateful to God that He calls us to be His very own, to be His people.
a. There is a story told of a woman whose beloved pet had died. She was grief stricken. Her French poodle was more like a child than a dog. She treated him better than she did her husband. She wanted a proper burial for her dog. She went to see a rabbi and asked him to perform the burial. The rabbi said pointedly that burial was sacred and in no way would he defile himself or the burial rites of the synagogue. Next she went to the Methodist minister and asked if he would give a proper burial for her beloved pooch. He said, absolutely not, the Methodist Church takes Christian burial very seriously and would never put a dog on the same level as human being. Finally the grieving woman went to a Catholic priest. By this time she was very stressed out. She stated the rabbi would not bury a dog and the Methodist minister said the same thing. The priest said, well there is no way that I can preside at the funeral of a dog, I simply cannot do that. In exasperation, the woman said, what am I going to do? I was going to make a generous contribution to the congregation that would perform my pet’s funeral. With that the priest said, my dear mam, you didn’t tell me your dog was Catholic! Membership has its privileges!

b. Let’s face it; there are many theological and doctrinal issues that separate us. Jews still await the Messiah, Christians shout back He has come and will come again. Protestants insist on faith alone and Scripture alone. Catholics shout back Tradition too and good works as well. Catholics see the pope as the head of the Church and he’s infallible, Protestants shout back that only the Word of God is infallible. Jews say there God’s chosen people and Christians shout back, we’ve been adopted! There’s a lot of complaining and shouting and excluding. Yet tonight we gather together to shout out our thanks to God for acknowledging us as His Chosen people and for Christians as His adopted children; for the God we worship in common, for the faith that tells us that God is a part of salvation history not separate from it and for the good works that we can offer this community together and not in competition with one another, but in collaboration. There is no need to complain only a wonderful moment to shout out thanks in common. O how I pray we could do it more often.

2. Our ability to shout out our thanks to God is itself a gift from God who is not far off and distant but in our very midst.

a. A Catholic priest, a Methodist minister, and a Jewish rabbi were discussing when life begins. "Life begins," said the priest, "at the moment of fertilization. That is when God instills the spark of life, the soul into the fetus."
"We believe," said the Methodist Minister says, "that life begins at the age of reason, because that is when the baby becomes an individual and is capable of making its own decisions and accepting Christ." "You've both got it wrong," said the rabbi. "Life begins when the children have graduated from college and moved out of the house..." Life, no matter what, can be quite beautiful or it can be very tragic. As people of faith, we rely upon the Lord in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better for worse. Our faith enables us to shout out our thanks to God no matter the circumstances.

b. Martin Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor in the little city of Eisenberg in Saxony during the Thirty Years War. This walled city was the goal of refugees during that time. They came and ate all the food, and then there was starvation. With the starvation came pestilence, until practically the whole population of the city died. Martin Rinkart, the only pastor left in the city, had as many as fifty funerals in one day. One evening after having conducted funerals all day, he sank down exhausted, thinking that he could bear it no longer; but then it was he wrote the words of the famous hymn:
“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices. Who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices. Who, from our mothers’ arms hadth blessed us on our way. With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

c. We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving. Even though the pilgrims and Native Americans could have complained, theirs is a story not of complaining but of thanking. The pilgrims were not in good condition. During the harsh winter, nearly half their number died of exposure or other diseases. They were in a desperate situation. Out of their pain and suffering, help came to them in the form of the Indians who observed their dire circumstances. Two Native Americans, in particular, Squanto and Samoset stayed with the Pilgrims for a few months to teach them how to survive in their new place. They brought deer meat and beaver skins. They taught them how to cultivate corn and other new vegetables and how to build Indian-style houses. He pointed out poisonous plants and showed how other plants could be sued as medicine. He explained how to dig and cook clams, how to get sap form the maple trees, use fish for fertilizer and dozens of other skills needed for their survival. By the time the fall arrived, things were going better for the pilgrims, thanks to the help they had received. They had food; lodging and their health had improved. Born of suffering, they planned to give thanks to God for the blessings they had received with a sumptuous feast. The Pilgrims and Indians had a feast of Thanksgiving that lasted three days. Their uncomplaining heart enabled them to give thanks despite the hardships they had endured. The ability to give thanks is an act of faith in Almighty God and His power to save us.

Conclusion: I’m tempted to say, let us hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Yet that would trivialize the moment. Let us suffice to say that our time together in prayer and thanksgiving is a gift from God, a precious gift. Let us join the prophet Zephaniah shouting for joy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fasten Your Seat Belts Again, The Gates of Hell are Rising up Against Us Yet Again!

The news story below indicates that some will go to any length to discredit the teachings of Jesus Christ as the Church hands them down. The foolishness of the one who is striving to undermine the Church through blackmail is that he simply doesn't get that Catholic teaching has nothing to do with anyone's, clergy or laity, assent or dissent to that teaching in word or deed. It stands above us. We are not above the law of Christ. Also, people both in the pro-choice movement as well as same sex marriage movement don't seem to understand that Jesus always told His Jewish brothers and sisters to listen to their rabbis and religious leaders even if their lives didn't match what they taught. "Listen to them, but don't follow their example." This indicates that the truths of Holy Religion can be taught even by those whose lives are hypocritical. That's quite a statement for the truth! That's why the gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ's Church. I've always said that if I were to fall to the city sidewalk dying of a heart attack and a defrocked, pedophile priest were to come by and see me on the ground, I would more than be willing to let him hear my confession and offer me the Anointing of the Sick and any other aspect of Last Rites. A validly ordained priest, no matter how fallen, how corrupt or how defrocked is a priest forever. Just as you can't unbaptize someone who is validly baptized, you can't un-ordain someone who is validly ordained. You can only remove his permission to function as such. But in an emergency, he would be expected to offer assistance.


CNSNews.com
Former Obama Organizer Threatens to 'Out' Catholic Priests to ‘Encourage’ Them to Repudiate Church's Moral Stand on Homosexuality
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
By Matt Cover, Staff Writer

(CNSNews.com) – A longtime Washington, D.C., liberal Internet activist has founded a Web site that he says will collect accounts of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood--accounts he will use to “encourage” them to change their views on homosexual marriage and other issues.

“Outing” the priests--publicly revealing their homosexuality--is “not off the table,” Phil Attey, founder of the Web site ChurchOuting.com, told CNSNews.com. The site will also collect information on straight priests who have broken their vow of celibacy, using the information to “encourage” those priests to go against their Church’s teachings on homosexuality as well.

“This is a campaign to collect information about closeted gay Catholic priests, as well as heterosexual Catholic priests who secretly engage in romantic or sexual affairs, yet are unwilling to speak out against the church leadership's anti-gay political campaigns,” the Web site says.

Attey, a former Obama campaign organizer and Internet organizing pioneer, said the goal of his site was not to “out” the priests, but to end what he called the “spiritual abuse” inflicted by Catholic priests who teach against homosexual marriage and the homosexual lifestyle.

“The goal of this site is not to out priests,” Attey said. “It’s to end the cycle of spiritual abuse that has gone on for generations within the Catholic Church, demonizing what it is to be gay. Closeted gay priests spiritually abusing young gay kids and giving them the alternative of going into the clergy and into the priesthood.”

Priests who refuse to come out after being confronted may be publicly exposed, according to Attey.

“We’re not taking that option off the table,” he said.

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, strongly condemned the plan.

“There’s a word for this--it’s ‘fascism.’ They’re just out to publicly destroy people,” Donahue told CNSNews.com.

“Are they going to start harassing, intimidating, stalking priests?” Donahue asked. “This is a religious cleansing; this is a witch hunt. This is simply beyond the pale.”

Focusing on Washington Archdiocese

Attey’s campaign is focused on the Washington, D.C., archdiocese, where Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, who has spoken out against the D.C. City Council’s move to recognize gay marriage.

“For the archdiocese and Catholic Charities, two core tenets of our faith are at the heart of our concerns: our understanding of the nature of marriage and our commitment to expressing Christ’s love through service to others,” Wuerl wrote in a Nov. 17 Washington Post op-ed.

“Under the legislative language before the D.C. Council, the archdiocese would be forced to choose between these two principles. The archdiocese has long made clear that all people have equal dignity, regardless of sexual orientation. But marriage is reserved for husband and wife because of its essential connection with the creation of children.”

Wuerl noted that if the D.C. City Council moves to redefine marriage to include homosexuals his church may not be able to continue partnering with the city on other charitable projects, such as feeding the homeless.

“(T)he District requires Catholic Charities to certify its compliance with city laws when applying for contracts and grants. This includes contracts for homeless services, mental health services, foster care and more. Since Catholic Charities cannot comply with city mandates to recognize and promote same-sex marriages, the city would withhold contracts and licenses,” Wuerl explained.

According to Attey, homosexual and non-celibate heterosexual priests who support these and other positions of the Washington archdiocese are “hypocrites,” whom his Web site would work to bring out of the “closet.”

“The dream of this site is to collect enough stories about enough priests so that we can go to them and say ‘Listen, this Web site has collected enough stories about enough of you in the archdiocese to where the archbishop can’t seek retribution against you or retaliate against you if you all come out at once. And if you do that there aren’t going to be any stories floated about you (to media outlets.)’ ”

After that, where a homosexual or non-celibate priest stands on gay issues is up to him, Attey explained, saying he doesn’t care so long as “everyone knows the priest is gay.”

“Where they stand on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues after that is totally fine with me. If they want to be an openly-gay priest standing up as an openly-gay person standing up in front of their parish supporting whatever ideology the Catholic Church wants them to support, that’s fine.”

Attey said he will use “rigorous scrutiny” in investigating any tip he receives about a potentially gay priest, pointing out that people who wish to leave tips on his web site cannot remain anonymous and must be able to provide the names of other witnesses that can corroborate the stories.

“No report is allowed to be anonymous, they have to give us their names (and) their e-mail address at least. We send them an e-mail, if it all seems credible, and we ask them if we can speak with them about it. At which point I ask them to write it out in the form of a narrative and sign it.

“I’m specifically looking for situational or logistical information around their story: where it took place, any other individuals involved, dates, and times, so that we can start looking into (it.) After we’ve verified it through two or three different sources then I think it’s fair to say that it’s a credible story.

“No name would ever be released unless it goes through that rigorous scrutiny,” he said.

Attey said that he will use the accounts to “encourage” gay and non-celibate priests to come out publicly and turn against the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.

“We’re going to encourage them to change,” Attey explained. “This is a much bigger issue within the Catholic Church--rectifying the hypocrisy of their stands on LGBT people, not just civil equality.”

Priests who might face public exposure, he said, would be either high profile priests or more junior clergy who were outspoken proponents of the Church’s teachings on gay issues.

Attey said that high profile priests would receive a visit first, to let them know that they were going to be exposed whether they cooperated or not.

“We’d go to him first and we’d explain to him that we’re about to do this and then we’d probably do it whether he was willing to come out on his own or not.”

Priests who strongly support the Church’s teaching may also be exposed, depending on how outspoken they are.

“It also depends upon how heavy handed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is and a particular bishop or archbishop is on making them follow through on the agenda of the USCCB.

“If that priest is allowing his Church to disseminate the pastoral letter condemning homosexuality again and or using their collection plate to fund anti-gay initiatives well that’s another marker--I’m not taking it off (the table.) We’re going to analyze what’s going on within that parish and the behavior of that particular priest to decide whether or not at the end if they’re not willing to come out on their own we’re going to need to intervene.”

Donahue thinks the tactic is so heinous that even some homosexual leaders probably oppose it.

“It’s borderline blackmail, at the very least, if not rank blackmail as one could maintain,” Donahue said. “Even if one disagrees with the archbishop in Washington in terms of what he’s doing, these kinds of tactics are obviously so incredibly monstrous and odious that it would seem to beg a response from gay leaders.”

Outlaw Abortion and may the punishment fit the crime!

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence was on Chris Matthews' "Hardball" last night. Matthews a practicing Catholic who says he personally agrees with the Church's pro-life position, but is pro-choice for others really shows the morally flawed and intellectually corrupt mentality of the pro-choice movement in this country which has attracted such a vast following even amongst Catholics.

Matthews wanted to know from the bishop what laws Representative Robert Kennedy should enact in congress since the bishop was telling the representative that he could not be pro-choice. The bishop rightfully said that was not his area of expertise, but thought the punishment should fit the crime.

What Matthews was pushing the bishop to say is what kind of punishment should a woman receive for having an abortion if the Church had its way and abortion was outlawed. I wonder if Matthews would ask the bishop what type of punishment one should receive for speeding, for possessing marijuana, being a john for a prostitute, being a prostitute, beating your child, robing a bank, killing a dog, killing a whale, littering the highway, jay walking, driving drunk, driving with no license, vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter. The list could go infinitely.

The point I'm making is that Catholic bishops should rightly condemn Catholic politicians who are pro-choice and yes place sanctions against them. They should even encourage Catholic politicians to enact laws to outlaw abortion. But Catholic bishops don't write the laws and what punishment should be given for breaking the law. That's not within the jurisdiction of the bishop.

My own opinion is that abortion should be illegal. If you break the law there should be some form of punishment that takes into account the situation. What that is, I'm not going to legislate, it could be a fine, it could be community service, it could be prison time. It all depends on the number of times the law was broken,age of the person, etc.

The harshest penalty should be for the provider, the abortionist. What that should be I can't legislate, but prison time sounds fair. We treat the one who possesses marijuana different from the dealer. But laws vary from state to state.

It's not too much to ask Chris Matthews and others of his ilk to be logical and fair. But when it comes to abortion, common sense, logic and sound moral judgments go out the window for the pro-choice camp.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Dangerous and Disobedient Precedent

Today at either our 7:45 AM Mass or 9:30 AM Mass someone placed small note card size fliers in our pews and on our information tables encouraging parishioners and others not to give to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The last time I checked, St. Joseph Church was still a part of the Diocese of Savannah and still acknowledged the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI to be the head of the Church The last time I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church we as a Catholic parish still operated other a hierarchical order.

This means that no one has a right to place any type of literature in our Church without seeking first the permission of the pastor, namely the author of this blog. In other words, St. Joseph Church is not a schismatic Catholic community based upon congregationalist principles or worse yet gnostic principles of taking the organization and discipline of the Church into their own hands. What if other groups who are are clearly dissident or gnostic and opposed to Catholic discipline decide to leave their leaflets?

Let me read for you what one so-called Catholic wrote on the back of the "No Thank You" leaflets left in our pews:

"I support CCHD. We need more initiatives like these that represent a loving, accepting and respectful approach truly in keeping with Jesus' teaching and model. I support a woman's right to choose. I support same sex marriage. I support contraception. I am a Catholic." I won't sign her name, but she did sign it with maiden and married name! This truly is grave matter for the confessional, but I suspect that she doesn't agree with going to Confession either.

Could you imagine this so-called "Catholic" taking matters into her own hands and leaving this misguided immorality in the form of fliers in our pews?

First of all, let me make this point, although CCHD has made some mistakes in funding different organizations, let it be crystal clear that CCHD does not support what is suggested in the flier and the woman's response I just wrote.

It is seriously sinful for a Catholic to show disrespect to the rightful pastor of the Church in choosing to place these in the pews without his permission. If one does not want to support the church or any second collection,that is a private matter between the person and God.

To the woman who wrote the note. Your beliefs are mortally sinful and indicate a direction in your life that is horribly misguided and away from the truth of Christ and His Church and thus leading to hell. All I can pray is that God's grace will bring repentance to you and that you will embrace the truth of Jesus Christ as contained in Scripture, Tradition and the living teaching authority of the Church, the Magisteriuum. When you said you were "Catholic" you needed to add the adjectives, mortally sinful Catholic. Confessions are heard each Saturday from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM or anytime by appointment.

The Catholic Church condemned in the second century the heresy of Gnosticism. Gnostics believe they have special information and direction about moral and spiritual truths that only they have and not anyone else in the institutional Church.They claim an infallibility about their position that would make the pope blush. This of course is lunacy. As Catholics we don't make it up as we go and we don't acquiesce to secular humanistic drivel.

So to these two persons, the one who left the leaflets in the pews and the one who wrote me a note on the back of one, repent!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

From my Archives, May, 2004--On Vocations to the Priesthood

Musings of a former Vocation Director by Father Allan J. McDonald

I was Vocation Director for our diocese from 1986 until 1997. In 1993 Father Brett Brannen became my assistant. He succeeded me in 1997 and brought vocation recruitment to a new and energetic level. He has stepped down now and his assistant Father Tim McKeown is taking over. He leaves with quite a legacy. In the last month five new transitional deacons have been ordained and four new priests. The diocese owes Fr. Brannen a debt of gratitude for his zeal and energy in priestly recruitment.

Father Brannen once again succeeds me, but now as pastor of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in downtown Augusta where I have been since June of 1991. I become the new pastor of Saint Joseph in Macon, July 1st succeeding the retiring Father John Cuddy who has been pastor at St. Joseph for 30 years.

With the recent ordinations which included two men from my parish, Deacon Mark Van Alstine and Father Daniel Firmin, I have become somewhat nostalgic as I reflect on 13 years of being a pastor at Most Holy Trinity and 11 years as vocation director. Oddly enough, Father Daniel Firmin who was one of my altar boys at Most Holy Trinity will now become my parochial vicar at St. Joseph Church!

While I don’t want to take credit for Fr. Brannen’s vocation, I am proud to say that I did screen him when he decided to return to our diocese to study for the priesthood back in the late 1980’s. At the same time in the late 1980’s when I was associate pastor at the Cathedral as well as vocation director, I was trying to recruit to our diocese who has now become our new Vocation Director Father Tim McKeown. His journey of discernment made me as vocation director extremely impatient! He too was a member of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity and when I became pastor there in 1991, he finally made his decision to study for the priesthood for our diocese. He began at Steubenville and I was able to get Bishop Lessard to send him to the North American College in Rome. I was thrilled to get him to Rome!

The Church of the Most Holy Trinity has also had a remarkable track record in providing priestly vocations not only to our diocese but to religious orders. Since the 1980’s parishioners Fathers Daniel Munn, Mark Ross and Steve Harrington were all ordained. Since the 1990’s parishioners, Fathers Tim McKeown, Richard Hart, Ronald Schmidt (Jesuit), John Markham and Dan Firmin have been ordained priests. In addition to them, parishioners Jonathan Bingham is studying for the Dominicans, and Aaron Pidel for the Jesuits. Deacon Mark Van Alstine is studying at St. Vincent’s in Latrobe and Aaron Killips at the North American in Rome, both for our diocese.

St. Mary on the Hill, St. Teresa and St. Joseph parishes, all in Augusta have also provided vocations for the priesthood. There indeed is something in the Holy Water here in Augusta!

An added twist to the number of vocations coming from Augusta is the number coming from the Alleluia Community in Augusta. The Alleluia Community was formed in the early 1970’s as an “alternate society” and a Charismatic Covenant Community. Their members are a microcosm of the American Church having come from various parts of our country to be a part of this covenant community. At its beginning many members will say that they formed this religious community out of disillusionment with society in general and the destabilizing internal and external forces afflicting the church in the 1960’s and 70’s. Many were of the “hippie generation” seeking to found a religious commune but in keeping with the “hippie’s” anti-institutional agenda.

The community members have matured over the years and have mellowed in their anti-institutional attitudes. Sometimes these manifested themselves in certain anti-clericalism. In fact some members had horrible experiences of the Church in transition and some knew first hand of the priestly scandals that have only recently come to light to the rest of the Church.

However, by the 1990’s many Alleluia Community members had strengthened their ties to the institutional church and rediscovered their Catholic identity and spirituality. Father Tim McKeown was the first to be ordained a priest from this community. Fathers Richard Hart and Dan Firmin followed. Deacon Mark Van Alstine is also from the Alleluia Community as is Aaron Pidell, Johnny Johnson and Aaron Killips. Another community member Paul Alger is studying for the Legionaries of Christ. That is an amazing 8 candidates for the priesthood from a religious community who have members in all the Augusta parishes.

My own relationship with the Alleluia Community in my time here at Most Holy Trinity has been one of great encouragement but also of severe challenge at times especially when I felt that some of their customs were not in keeping with Catholic discipline. Apart from that, though, I admired what the community leaders were able to accomplish. In this new century, they had formed a religious community that in many aspects resembled the “Catholic Ghetto’s” of immigrant Catholics of pre-Vatican II times that provided an abundance of priestly and religious vocations in the 1940’s and 50’s.

These Catholic Ghettos of a previous era centered their lives on the Church, strict Mass attendance and the discipline of Catholic devotions at home and at church. They formed a Catholic culture and community of support. Their prayer and discipline led to huge numbers of vocations.

In a twist on this phenomena of pre-Vatican II Catholic Ghetto’s, the Alleluia Community while predominantly Catholic is also ecumenical. They have formed a Christian “Ghetto” in the positive sense that has produced a community of people who know and love each other and support each other in their Christian pilgrimage. Because of their faith and the community that supports their faith, we are now seeing the harvest of workers for the Lord’s vineyard coming from them and encouraging others who are not a part of their community to consider a religious vocation as well. While different from the immigrant Catholic Ghetto’s of pre-Vatican II times, there are some similarities that have contributed to a new wave of vocation recruitment.

During the time that I was actively recruiting Father Tim McKeown to our diocese, especially after I arrived in Augusta, I knew deep down that if we could get Fr. McKeown into the seminary, if he had a good experience in the seminary and if he was ordained a priest that many others who knew him and admired him from his time in the Alleluia Community as a teacher in their school, would indeed follow him into a priestly vocation.

I do believe that Fr. McKeown’s time at the North American Seminary in Rome and his subsequent ordination to the priesthood had a profound positive effect upon the Alleluia Community in melting away any residual anti-clericalism that might have existed there. While some there may disagree with me on this point, I think many would say that Fr. McKeown’s example of priesthood has inspired many community members’ children to consider the priesthood. We’ll only know in the after-life if my theory is correct.

So, I believe that the best source for vocations comes from strong religious communities that form strong Catholic families, who are committed to communitarian values, personal and communal prayer and devotions as well as strict Mass attendance. Many of the Alleluia Community members are also members of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity where a strong tradition of solemn, reverent experiences of the celebration of the Mass has been in existence since the 1970’s when two other downtown Augusta parishes merged into Most Holy Trinity. All Catholic parishes should strive to foster communities of faith and reverence that assist each other in their pilgrimage of faith, hope and love.

Finally, no one should ever under estimate the power that priests themselves have in the recruitment of a new generation of priestly vocations. Each priest is the “vocation director” for his parish. Through example and personal invitation young people will be inspired to consider a priestly or religious vocation. Augusta is an example of this.

Campaign for Human Development Collection, please support it

Minneapolis, Minn., Nov 21, 2009 / 04:50 am (CNA).- Responding to concerns about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Archbishop John Nienstedt and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput have said the CCHD still does “much good,” despite several “disturbing” incidents and “mistakes” in which the campaign funded groups that worked against Catholic teachings.

In his Nov. 19 column Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis called attention to the collection for the CCHD on the weekend of Nov. 21-22.

He said the Campaign aims to “break the cycle of poverty” for 40 million people in the U.S. by funding local “self-help, anti-poverty” organizations. Many of these are not under the auspices of the Church, but agree to follow guidelines which prevent them from violating Catholic teachings, the archbishop explained.

He then noted recent controversies in which the CCHD had to stop funding for three projects that violated those guidelines. He said CCHD funding was “immediately cut off” when violations were made known.

As an example, he referred to an immigrant workers’ rights group that began advocating against California’s Proposition 8 and for same-sex “marriage.” Such a position, Archbishop Nienstedt said, “obviously has nothing to do with the rights of immigrants.”

In November the CCHD issued a document “For the Record – The Truth about CCHD Funding” to respond to various charges and criticisms.

In that document, the CCHD said it “fully upholds” Church teaching on the sanctity of life.

The American Life League, which is critical of the CCHD, claimed that the campaign did not address the allegation that grantees are “closely associated with pro-abortion organizations.”

“It is well and good that it affirms the sanctity of human life… but the fact remains that Catholic funds have been used and are still used to support such organizations,” the ALL’s Michael Hichborn wrote.

He said in addition to the CCHD grantees profiled by ALL, CCHD grants should be denied to every organization that has received funding from pro-abortion organizations, has been promoted by Planned Parenthood, or has been involved with “Marxist socialism.”

The CCHD’s response to concerns that all grant money is “fungible,” Hichborn said, was “inadequate and inaccurate.” If one project of an organization is well funded, he said, money in the organization’s general fund is freed up for other projects.

If an unworthy organization is running a good project, Hichborn argued, a Catholic cannot donate to that project because it “lends credibility” to the organization, causes scandal to the laity, and frees up the organization’s general fund for other “evil projects.”

The CCHD reported that the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), which was accused of promoting same-sex “marriage” and actively supporting contraception and the morning-after pill, was cleared by a review conducted by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and also had the support of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Hichborn charged that this was an “absolute indictment” of the archdioceses’ “complicity in supporting immoral organizations.”

He also claimed that the CCHD addressed “the exact same allegations” 12 years ago using similar fact sheets. These “striking similarities,” Hichborn said, show that these problems have persisted for some time.

Archbishop Nienstedt’s letter defended the CCHD. Though reports about some grantees’ actions are “disturbing,” he said, “one has to realize that they are four out of over 250 projects that are funded by CCHD every year.”

“I am aware that some groups have widely advertised such flaws in the CCHD system, hoping to torpedo the whole operation. This, it seems to me, is the classic ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water.’ There are imperfections, yes, but there is also so much good that is being done through this collection.”

He pointed to Bishop of Biloxi, Mississippi Roger Morin, who gave public reassurances about the CCHD grant approval process at the U.S. bishops’ fall assembly in Baltimore.

“In light of those assurances, I have no hesitation in contributing to this collection and I encourage your generous participation as well,” Archbishop Nienstedt continued.

Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput also commented on the CCHD controversy in an interview with Mike Sullivan of the group Catholics United for the Faith. He said that people should be “prudent” and shouldn’t jump to “rash conclusions.” He said that he believed that some CCHD staff has made mistakes, but he said some blogs had been “excessive in their judgment.”

“People shouldn’t believe everything they read or be upset with the kind of intensity that I’ve seen, because I think that intensity leads to blindness.”


He said that people could contribute to the CCHD collection without worrying that they are supporting causes that conflict with Church teaching.

“If people don’t like the decisions of the Campaign staff and their allocations, one of the ways they can show their displeasure is by withholding funds from their diocesan collections,” the archbishop added.

“We bishops serve ourselves and the collection well if we are honest about mistakes, try not to make them again, and move on appropriately.”

Confession without repentance is just bragging

In about two hours I'll be hearing confessions. What we do each Saturday from 3:00 PM until 4:00 PM is rather unique and really befuddles our Protestant brothers and sisters. Just imagine, people lining up to tell the priest their sins and it won't be broadcast on Oprah or Jerry Springer. It seems that the vast majority of people in our American culture prefer the public confession of sin, not through contrite repentance, but rather as bragging rights in this new form of exhibitionism.

Yet, in the dark secret chamber of the confessional (actually ours is bright and cheerful)people confess their sins for only God to hear through the person of the priest who represents Jesus Christ the High Priest and one Mediator between God and man. I suspect if we had a reality television show and just had the camera and microphone set-up in the confessional, we'd get a lot more people going if they could have their 2 minutes of fame on TV. I take that back, Catholics would never do that and certainly priests wouldn't allow it, although the money made could add to the building fund.

Confession is good for the soul. Repentance is necessary and a firm purpose of amendment. Yet I know that many people struggle with habitual sins and I urge them to come to confession as frequently as possible and not delay to the day that they believe they have conquered that sin, because you know what, we can't conquer that sin or any sin apart from God and His loving embrace in the Sacrament of Penance.

I hope to see you in confession and if you don't want to be seen, then go behind the screen. No one wants to humiliate you and put you on TV like they do on Jerry Springer and Oprah.

The Catholic Priesthood--from Zenit.org

The Priesthood and the Mass
Theologian Notes the Priest's Privileged Role
By Father Mauro Gagliardi

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI proclaimed, as everyone knows, the Year for Priests (June 2009-June 2010), on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the "dies natalis" of the holy Curé d'Ars. The purpose is "to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world"[1].

St. John Mary Vianney, besides concretely representing a supreme model of the priesthood, always proclaimed with clarity and incomparable emphasis the dignity of the priesthood and the centrality of the ordained ministry in the heart of the Church. Drawing from his teachings, the Holy Father re-proposed these words of the saint: "O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die. […] God obeys him: He utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host."

And again: "Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… After God, the priest is everything! […] Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is."[2]

As we see, St. John Mary points to the greatness of the priest with the privileged reference to the power that he exercises in the sacraments in the name of the Person of Christ. Benedict XVI brought this light, citing still other words of the Curé d'Ars, which refer in particular to the office of celebrating the Holy Eucharist. The Pope writes that the saint "was convinced that the fervor of a priest's life depended entirely upon the Mass: 'The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!'"[3].

The Year for Priests proposes for our reflection the figure of the priest and, in a special way, his dignity of ordained minister who celebrates the sacraments, for the benefit of the whole Church, in the Person of Christ, high and eternal priest.[4]

In this Year for Priests, which will be celebrated between 2009 and 2010, there are nevertheless also other recurrences that merit attention because they are intimately connected with the Eucharistic nature of the priestly dignity. In 1969, Pope Paul VI proclaimed, with the apostolic constitution "Missale Romanum," the new missal prepared after the Second Vatican Council. In the present year, 2009, then, we celebrate 40 years since this promulgation.

Next year, 2010, we will celebrate two other anniversaries that are also directly linked to the celebration of the Eucharist. The first is the 40th anniversary (1970-2010) of the promulgation of the definitive "editio typica" (first) of the "Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani." The second is the 440th anniversary of the promulgation of the missal that we currently call "Vetus Ordo" or "Usus antiquor," promulgated by St. Pius V with the apostolic constitution "Quo primum" of July 14, 1570. This constitution is recalled, together with Pius V's missal, from the very first words of Paul VI's above-mentioned apostolic constitution "Missale Romanum."[5]

The two missals, also united in the celebrations of the respective anniversaries, are two forms of the one "lex orandi" (law of prayer) of the Church of the Latin Rite. Benedict XVI has expressed himself in this manner, teaching that, in relation to the missal of Paul VI, "the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Blessed John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same 'lex orandi,' and must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s 'lex orandi' will in no any way lead to a division in the Church's 'lex credendi' (law of belief). They are, in fact, two usages of the one Roman rite. It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church."[6]

The possibility of a serene and harmonious coexistence of the two forms of the one Roman Rite also has been indirectly affirmed by the presence of both "Ordines Missae" (of Bl. John XXIII and Paul VI) within the very recent "Compendium Eucharisticum," published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.[7]

The concurrence of these different anniversaries has likewise determined the theme that the Spirit of the Liturgy column proposes to explore this year: The Priest in the Eucharistic Celebration.

Through these periodic articles by expert theologians, liturgists and canonists, we will try to present the role and the task of the priest in the various parts of the Mass in a clear and accessible way, with respect to both missals. The hope is that these articles will help priests take advantage of the opportunity for reflection and conversion offered by the Year for Priests and move them to a care that is always more attentive to the "ars celebrandi" (art of celebrating).

We hope, moreover, that the contributions will also help the other readers -- men and women religious, seminarians, faithful lay people -- to reconsider with greater attention, and venerate with profound religious respect, the grandeur of the Eucharistic mystery and the dignity of the sacerdotal office, and rediscover their centrality in the life and mission of the Church.

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Notes

[1] Benedict XVI, "Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests," June 16, 2009.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

[4] Priests "exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass by which acting in the person of Christ ["in persona Christi"] and proclaiming his mystery they unite the prayers of the faithful with the sacrifice of their Head and renew and apply in the sacrifice of the Mass until the coming of the Lord the only sacrifice of the New Testament namely that of Christ offering Himself once for all a spotless Victim to the Father." Vatican Council II, "Lumen Gentium," No. 28: AAS 57 (1965), p. 34. Cf. also "Presbyterorum Ordinis," Nos. 2; 12; 13.

[5] Cf. Paul VI, "Missale Romanum," April 3, 1969: AAS 61 (1969), p. 217.
[6] Benedict XVI, "Summorum Pontificum," July 07, 2007, art. 1.

[7] Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, "Compendium Eucharisticum," LEV, Vatican City, 2009. The preparation of this text was entrusted to the dicastery directly by the Holy Father, who mentioned it in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," Feb. 22, 2007, No. 93.

* * *

Father Mauro Gagliardi is a consultor of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.