Monday, March 2, 2015

IF SOMETHING LOOKS MORE REVERENT IS IT? USING THE FULL LENGHT OF THE ALTAR RAILING TO DISTRIBUTE HOLY COMMUNION AT AN ORDINARY FORM MASS!

Kneeling for Holy Communion at St. Joseph's newly blessed and restored altar railing on the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus at our Extraordinary Form Sunday High Mass, January 4, 2015!


At St. Joseph Church in Macon, we are able to offer the Extraordinary Form Mass only once a month on Sunday and at a special time of 2:00 PM. We only have about 40 parishioners who would like this on a regular basis. Others attend this Mass, some from as far away as Augusta, Columbus and Atlanta.

We offer the EF as a low Mass each Tuesday at 5 PM. Anywhere from 15 to 25 attend it.

Because we can't offer it every Sunday, I've tried to make one of our five Sunday Ordinary Form Masses more traditional looking, more EF looking. I chose the 12:10 PM Sunday Mass for this purpose. It remains a vernacular OF Mass, although during Lent we chant the Kyrie in Greek and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin at all our Masses. The congregation now knows these by heart!

Our 12:10 PM Mass is no different than our other Sunday Masses in terms of music and who does what.

But this is the main difference and we've done this now going on four years! No one parishioner has complained to me in all that time for this major change (although one visitor castigated me on Sunday about three years ago).

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated ad orientem. Every other part of the Mass is as our normal Sunday Masses are, to include the Introductory and Concluding rites at the chair and the Liturgy of the Word by lectors as is normal for the Ordinary Form.  The attendance at this Mass has increased and there are many young people of college age there too!

Yesterday, March 1st, I added a new twist and as an experiment. I asked the parishioners to use the altar railing, its full length, for the reception of Holy Communion. We allow those who wish to kneel for Holy Communion at all our other Masses to do so, but they come up single file to receive Holy Communion from four host stations. The majority stand, but a significant number kneel. This presents no problems in logistics with the Communion Ministers standing behind the altar railing. One can easily receive standing and in the hand from a minister standing behind the railing. It is as though the railing isn't even there. But it is there for those who wish to kneel comfortably.

The norm in the GIRM for the OF Mass for the reception of Holy Communion is to stand to receive, Kneeling is the exception but the choice is the communicant's not the minster's!The same is true of receiving in the hand or on the tongue.

So on Sunday (yesterday) I indicated that people at the 12:10 PM Mass only should line up at the full length of the altar railing. If people chose to kneel they could or if they wished to remain standing they could. It was their choice!

Instead of having four ministers of Holy Communion, we only had two, myself and the deacon, each of us taking half of the railing. I took the half on the Gospel side of the Church, starting at the center gate. The deacon took the half on the Epistle side of the Church starting at the far wall. We traveled with an altar server down the railing to the end and they returned to the center to begin the process over again, rather than going back and forth, left and right distributing the Host.

I was shocked that most knelt to receive Holy Communion, only a handful stood. There were no logistical problems in standing next to a kneeling person.

However, on my half of the railing, the majority received on the hand as they knelt! But it looked so much more reverent than when they do so on the "hit and run!" The majority placed their elbows on the top of the altar railing and made the throne with their hands, thus elevating their hands to the height of their mouths. It made it very easy to place the Host on the palm of their hands. Then they communicated and did so in an unrushed manner as I continued to the next person; I was the moving one, not them. Then they could remain briefly to contemplate so great a gift before returning to the pew!

The other unexpected thing is that it took less time for two of us to distribute Holy Communion to a full church to those at the altar railing. In other words when people come up to four Eucharistic minister single file, it takes much longer to distribute Holy Communion compared to two ministers who move to each communicate at the altar railing! I kid you not!

I had parishioners tell me afterward that they did not feel rushed and it felt so much more reverent receiving at the railing's full length rather than going single file to receive in a "hit and run" manner--hit and run for them.

It did look more reverent and the law of prayer being the law of belief tied into the visual aspect of reverence being highlighted by Holy Communion at the full length of the railing reinforced this orthodox belief!

The other aspect of the ministers of Holy Communion being the ones to move to each communicant is that it is truly a Communion Procession in the broadest sense! The laity process to the altar railing and our Lord processes to each communicant! Thus this shows in the most powerful symbolic, liturgical way that not only do we come to Christ, but Christ comes to us. We meet as we process to each other but with Christ as the initiator of this movement of this true liturgical procession. The Lord is not static but He Himself processes to the communicant who has processed to HIM!

I contend that the reverence demanded in the Mass does NOTmean we have to ditch the OF Mass and have the EF Mass exclusively. Latin is not the answer and not even ad orientem, although it helps; what is needed is returing to the traditional Latin Rite way of distributing Holy Communion at the altar railing which should be restored! This alone will recover the look of reverence so needed in the law of prayer as well as the actual reverence due our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

This alone will lead to a tremendous renewal of the liturgy and orthodox belief about the real presence of the Lord in the Catholic Church.

58 comments:

quicumquevult said...

Your experience, particularly it being much faster with the altar rail, confirms what I've suspected for a very long time. Liberals have the argument that Communion at the NO would take way too long without EMHCs, but it was many of those same liberals who took away the altar rails that make distribution so swift!

Seeker said...

This is Great News!

John Nolan said...

It's what they call a no-brainer. But it's important to be consistent and use the rail for all Masses. As you say if some awkward so-and-sos who don't know the difference between a local norm and a universal mandate choose to stand, then let them. Most will do what everyone else does, and kneel. Visitors to churches with rails do so, even if they are used to standing in their own parishes.

A brief lecture from the pulpit on the historical and liturgical reasons for receiving kneeling and on the tongue might be opportune.

What needs to be avoided at all costs is allowing a lay EMHC in street clothes to move along the rail with the Body of Christ, accompanied by a server in choir dress. It looks wrong, and is wrong. Restrict the EMs to offering the Chalice and station them at the head of the side aisles. Those who have received the Host kneeling can, if they wish, move to the side and receive from the Chalice standing.

This is the practice at the principal Sunday Mass at the Oxford Oratory, although the ministers of the Chalice are, needless to say, priests in choir dress with stole.

Most receive on the tongue although (it being an OF Mass) a few receive in the hand, in which case the server holds the communion plate under their hands.

quicumquevult said...

John Nolan's comment brings up an interesting objection I've realized that I have regarding Communion by drinking from the Chalice. So often, the one administering the Precious Blood does so "off to the side," but why should that be the case? Is not the Good Lord equally present under the species of wine as He is under the species of bread? It seems to me that if you're going to have Holy Communion under both species, either do so via intinction, so that the Host and Chalice are given together with equal reverence and prominence, or (this would take longer) have the priest first distribute the Host, then the Precious Blood afterwards.

But if there is a definitive reason for the Chalice being "to the side" when given, I'd really love to know.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Consistency would seem to dictate that, if the Precious Blood is offered, it should be offered by minsters of communion, ordinary or extraordinary, who move up and down the rail as the minster who offers the host.

To offer one species to those kneeling and another to those standing/walking is inconsistent.

Robert Kumpel said...

Quicumquevult thank you. The Church has ALWAYS taught that the Body and Blood of Christ are BOTH present in the Host. This begs the question: Why do we need Holy Communion under both species when both are already present in the Host? All that happens is that more people handle chalices, more people drink from them and every exchange offers one more opportunity for an accident. Why? Why is this necessary? If the length of Communion time is such a concern, why prolong it by offering both species? And as you observed earlier--why remove the rails when receiving it kneeling at the rail is so much more swift and efficient? The only obstacle are the norms of the USCCB, which one day, God willing, will be more flexible.

Anonymous said...

There has been much talk and criticism hereabout of hippie, VII priests who wing it and ad lib and just make things up as they go along. Sounds a whole lot like that's what's going on here....

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I surely am of the 1960's hippie geneation but I am confused about how allowing the various valid options of the GIRM of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Missal is winging it. Could you explain?

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a traditional kind of person. When I go to Mass I'd rather not have surprises....standing, kneeling, wine off in the corner,...at the rail lining up here...no there....priest facing me...no, the other way....English...oops, no Latin...

JBS said...

You're a very liberal pastor, Father MacDonald. You give your sheep freedom of choice: kneeling or standing, English or Latin, OF or EF, Modern music or Gregorian Chant, etc. In an oppressively conservative age in the Church, you'r arms are open wide in a gesture of freedom and liberation.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I have been saying this all along! YES! I am a 1970's liberal but no body believes me! 👼

rcg said...

The perception that Communion went more quickly is true and proven, interestingly, by Server Theory. I expect the stiff neck folks will eventually come to see kneeling and reception on the tongue as having no impact on their personal status.

Anonymous said...

Oops...Father fell off of the top of the fence and landed on the left. Don't worry though...he'll climb back up on the fence and tomorrow he's likely to fall off and land on the right side....

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

Indeed, consistency would certainly appear to dictate what you are suggesting, which is in fact in the Prayer Book rubric for Anglican communion. However, this supposes that communion is incomplete unless taken in both species, whereas for us the Chalice is an 'optional extra' - even when it is offered one is neither obliged nor expected to take it, and to decline it shows no disrespect. To do so when kneeling at the rail would create practical difficulties.

Also, the priest with the ciborium could not move faster than the minister with the chalice, and to communicate from the Chalice takes at least four times as long, since the communicant effectively self-communicates and the rim has to be wiped. So immediately one advantage of kneeling Communion is nullified.



Anonymous said...

John Nolan. yadda, yadda, yadda...

Joe Potillor said...

Kneeling + intinction, everyone wins :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the speed of Communion is a major concern for many....Let's get Communion done...Mass done, and get the heck out of here....

WSquared said...

Way to go, Fr. McDonald!

Keep up the good work. :)

John Nolan said...

Anonymous, why don't you 'get the heck out of here?' This is a discussion site for intelligent people, whereas you haven't even got the brains to be a competent troll.

BTW, if you haven't already done so, look up Ecclesiastes 7:7.

Anonymous said...

Father, would it be possible to have a weekly Sunday EF Mass and see if more attend than the 40 regulars? For something to grow it is consistency that is needed. Just as you were surprised by the number of people who knelt for communion you could be surprised at the number of people who would go to the EF of the Mass if it was offered weekly. I believe that under summorum pontificum all that is required is a stable group who request the Mass and a generous heart, and it seems to me you have that already ...

Jan

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

We have five OF Masses each weekend, 4 on Sunday and one on Saturday. Normally a parish our size has two priests only but for now Iwe have three.

All our OF Masses are well attended and reverent. There would be a rebellion if I made one of these an EF Mass not because it is EF but because it is all LATIN. The same would happen with an all Latin OF Mass.

In addition it is only because of necessity that a priest has a dispensation to say more than one Mass on any given day. Three is the limit. We don't have a dispensation for four Masses. That is what would happen if a priest was sick or away on Sunday. I could end up saying 5 Masses on Sunday plus the Saturday vigil if I had a 2 pm EF Mass each Sunday.

John Nolan said...

Fr AJM

The Oxford Oratory also has five Masses including the Saturday anticipated. The evening ones are English OF. The 8 a.m. is a Low EF. The 9.30 a.m. 'parish' Mass is sung in English with a 'music group'. The 11 a.m. is Solemn Latin OF, ad orientem, with professional choir. In other words, everyone is catered for.

There are, of course, enough priests to maintain this schedule, and Macon, for all its undoubted attractions is hardly Oxford, but the idea of Catholics rising in rebellion if one Mass out of five is in the official liturgical language of the Church is shocking. Would they boycott the other four Masses and decamp to Holy Spirit where they can be assured that no word of this ancient and sacred language will assail their sensitive ears?

Dog-in-the-manger hardly does it justice. These people need paternal correction and possibly psychiatric help.

JBS said...

John Nolan,

I suggest not reading "Anonymous" comments, at least until the quality improves.

Anonymous said...

I'm a "different" anonymous and appreciate commentary from anyone out there on this topic (not related to Mass, altar rails, etc.)---here at the Georgia Capitol, we start our daily legislative session with the "chaplain of the day" (who in the House has been Baptist 6 days in a row), and today we got a reminder that we ought to accept Jesus "as Lord and Savior." (In other words, "born again."( But from a Catholic perspective, isn't "born again" a reference to baptism and/or confirmation? Seems like fundamentalists minimize the importance of baptism,

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anonymous Capitol - When asked, "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?" or when invited to do so personally, I always respond, "Jesus has accepted me, despite my sins, and that is far more important than anything I might do."

Gene said...

Another favorite fundamentalist question is "When (or where) were you saved?" I always respond, "At Calvary."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a re-presentation of Calvary in an unbloody way, we Catholics can say we were saved at Mass too!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father McDonald! You give me hope. Please share this with all of your priest friends! The people of this diocese need more priests like you - we're starving!

Henry said...

I recall a reception dinner where the very fundamentalist mother of the Baptist bride asked the officiating Catholic priest if he loved Jesus as his personal Savior. "With all my heart and soul, Madam, with all my heart and soul!" Apparently somewhat taken back, she had no further questions.

Henry said...

Robert, apparently no one has given a direct answer to your

Question: "Why do we need Holy Communion under both species when both are already present in the Host?"

Answer: In order to necessitate the regular use of EMHC's (preferably, and in the typical parish, mostly women).

This answer is not a quip. I'm convinced that it's precisely the reason why the liturgical establishment pushed so hard for the wide use of EMHC's. And that the GIRM verbiage about "a fuller sign" is just a rationalization in support of the original and

Anonymous said...

Your answer "at Calvary" might be a satisfactory protestant answer, Pastor. It's an "incomplete" (at best) Catholic answer.

Do some reading.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...


Yes, Christ is fully present in both the consecrated host and the consecrated wine. But that isn’t the issue at all.

CCC 1146 “Signs of the human world. In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God.”

Humans need signs/symbols to perceive realities that are beyond understanding. A person of faith has some sense of the reality represented by the sign. The more one is attuned to the will of God, the more one is able to participate in the mystery, made possible by Divine grace, that is contained in the sign.

CCC 1148 “Inasmuch as they are creatures, these perceptible realities can become means of expressing the action of God who sanctifies men, and the action of men who offer worship to God. The same is true of signs and symbols taken from the social life of man: washing and anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup can express the sanctifying presence of God and man's gratitude toward his Creator.”

The more complete the sign, the better the communication of the reality contained in the sign. Hence, sharing the Precious Blood is a better, more powerful, more complete sign of our participation in the redeeming acts, the redeeming mystery of Jesus Christ. “Take and eat, Take and drink” is reflected more fully in the action of taking and eating the host, the Body of Christ, and taking and drinking from the cup, the Blood of Christ. If the sign is more complete, the opportunity to be taken up into the mystery that is contained and communicated by the sign is, I think, to be desired.

This isn’t a rationalization. It is an understanding of 1) the need we have for signs and 2) the way in which signs communicate to us Divine realities.

Gene said...

Anonymous, you are wrong again. I really do not have time to teach you theology, but here is a hint. Christ's sacrifice at Calvary is the necessary condition for salvation…period. The Church, which could never have been established without Christ, may be seen as the efficient cause of salvation, if you will. Theology is about logical priorities and philosophical (theological) first principles. So, yes, we were all saved at Calvary. The Church was established by Christ to get the Word out. Protestantism's incompleteness has to do with their refusal to recognize the truth of the Catholic Church's teachings on Christology and the Eucharist. The Catholic Church is presently attempting to go backwards and achieve incompleteness through the OF and certain pastoral practices which are becoming more widespread.

Anonymous said...

Next -table etiquette

"Elbows off the table (and Altar Rail)"

in due time

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - You speak about the necessity of the Church, yet you reject essential aspects of the Church's teaching. You say you will follow the pope "only out of curiosity." You denigrate the Church's teaching on social justice by calling the bishops " communists." You reject the Church teaching on the dignity of human life by asserting that it us morally correct to slaughter innocents in war.

Stop presenting yourself as a defender of the Faith when you are a serial denier thereof.

George said...


I had read somewhere that there were some who were converted just by seeing St Bernadette make the Sign of the Cross. This was due to the presence of the Divine grace, both within and around her, and not of any action on her part in and of itself. The action of crossing herself, the "outward sign" did have an effect on others and this was due to her holiness. If only we had this effect whenever we made the Sign of the Cross. As water flowing from the temple in Ezekial so it is that grace can flow out from us and have an effect on others according to the operation of the Divine Will.

The Sacraments instituted by Christ are not mere signs however. Divinely instituted, the Sacraments of the Church bring grace into the soul. Since we are material creatures, God uses form and matter to convey grace to us. Water, as we know, is used to cleanse the body and so the pouring of water at Baptism signifies outwardly and externally what it produces internally, which is the washing away of sin and the introduction of grace into the soul. We experience externally what is actualized internally. Unlike Baptism, in the reception of the Eucharist, the effect is dependent on the disposition of the recipient. It does not impart grace to one who is in a state of Mortal sin.

CCC 1148
"The same is true of signs and symbols taken from the social life of man: washing and anointing, breaking bread and sharing the cup can express the sanctifying presence of God and man's gratitude toward his Creator.”

Sharing the cup and anointing are part of the everyday life of man? The above statement could cause some confusion I would think.

Bee said...

The first time I attended a Mass where the communicants were receiving at the altar rail, I almost RAN to kneel down and receive on the tongue. Why? I don't know exactly, but I found the posture allowed me to express my true belief in the majesty and deference due to the Lord Jesus Christ, who I believe is truly present in the Eucharist.
Back in the day when we were instructed everyone must receive the Eucharist standing and in the hand, I obeyed willingly, but I always felt the posture was not really worthy of so great a Lord.
Now I attend a parish where receiving kneeling and on the tongue is the norm, although opportunity exists for receiving standing and in the hand. So Father, it also occurs to me that many would prefer kneeling at the altar rail to receive, and reverence for the Eucharist will increase because of it.

Daniel said...

Father Kavanaugh, the dirty little secret of this blog is that conservative Catholics spend more time at that famous "cafeteria" than the people they love to attack.
You will not find them losing any sleep about church teachings on the death penalty, poverty, racism, the environment, war and peace, workers' rights, social justice and the innate dignity of all people.
You also will not hear these issues discussed in the pulpit at most American Catholic churches. Certainly not in the South.
For example, I never once heard a priest note that both John Paul II and Benedict spoke out against our war in Iraq or their criticism of economic inequality. Probably not important enough.
(I believe Pope Francis gets this -- even though he is a true conservative himself -- and enjoys tweaking the hypocrites. And that is why he is mocked so mercilessly in these quarters.)
So when we discuss why people drift away from the church, it's obviously due to architecture or English v. Latin or which direction the priest is facing, or other arcane matters. Never suggest that's due to real issues in people's lives.
Oh, and I don't know what I'm talking about. That's this blog's other dirty little secret.

Daniel said...

That being said, the new altar rail does look lovely and reverent and I look forward to taking communion there -- on the tongue.

Cletus Ordo said...

"conservative Catholics spend more time at that famous 'cafeteria' than the people they love to attack.
You will not find them losing any sleep about church teachings on the death penalty, poverty, racism, the environment, war and peace, workers' rights, social justice and the innate dignity of all people."

I'm not sure I could agree with this statement. I do think it is better to attack ideas rather than people who promote bad ideas, and perhaps I have been guilty of doing so, but to say that we have no concerns about such things is painting with a pretty broad brush. First, there is a great deal of confusion about what the Church teaches about the death penalty. For instance, the Catechism says:

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

Now some Catholics have grabbed that and taken it to mean an outright prohibition against the death penalty when it is not.

And poverty? To hear our bishops speak, you would think it was incumbent upon all Catholics to blindly approve every social program that the Democratic party ever suggested, yet some of these same bishops denounce any penalty for pro-abortion politicians because it might make the Church look "partisan". Such contradictions only breed confusion.

Racism--puh-leeze! You can't be serious. We even have special parishes that exclusively cater to the liturgical sensibilities of the African-American community! Aside from operating from the invalid assumption that all white people are racists, what Church teaching should we be losing sleep over on this long-since-beaten-to-death subject?

War and peace? We have clear teachings about what constitutes a just war, but you can bet your last dollar that no matter WHAT reason our nation goes to war for, it will be condemned by the USCCB--again, the same folks who are so lukewarm about defending the unborn because they might look "partisan".

Workers' rights? What are we supposed to do about such things? Some people would be ecstatic just to find a job! Innate dignity of all people? What nice, lofty language. And certainly something to aspire to. But what does that have to do with this blog, that focuses primarily on liturgy anyway? How about the innate dignity of the liturgy, which has been under constant attack since 1969?

If you are really convinced that we don't care about such things, then wallow in your self-righteousness. If you are convinced that we are wasting our time here in our discussions, then don't waste any more of yours and find some like-minded people who will affirm your views. I apologize that we have not made you feel welcome and do not appear to care about all these other things. But please don't presume to know the minds of those who post here.

Anonymous said...

Well, I see there has been a lot of discussion about communion in both species and altar rails. Let me add some perspective from an (Eastern) Orthodox perspective:

(1) From "The Orthodox Church, 455 Questions and Answers" (Stanley Harakas, 1988). Question about administration of communion (pages 84-86): "It is clear from numerous historic sources, that the earliest way that Christians received Holy Communion...was the reception of the Blood of our Lord by drinking directly from the chalice, and receiving the Body of our Lord in the hand, just as priests receive Holy Communion today during the Divine Liturgy...the Church has used various methods for administering Holy Communion over the centuries, in both the East and the West...The major theological difference between East and West on this issue has...been...the denial of both elements to the laity, as practiced in the past by the Roman Catholic Church."

(2) From "The Orthodox Church" (Timothy Ware, late 1970s, page 294): In the Orthodox Church the laity as well as the clergy always receive communion 'under both kinds'. Communion is given to the laity in a spoon...it is received standing."

Now, from the (Catholic) St. Joseph Annotated Catechism (Rev. Anthony Schraner, 1981): On page 203---(question regarding reception of communion in the hand): "Around the time of Vatican Council 2..the various liturgical restorations which preceded it and followed the Constitution on the Liturgy created the desire in scattered sections of the Church for a return to the practice of the early Christian centuries in which the Eucharistic bread was placed in the hands of the faithful..."

Accordingly, there is nothing "liberal" about receiving communion in both species or in the hand---on the contrary, such activities actually follow the very ancient church tradition. As for altar rails, "during many centuries, Christians never knelt as Mass. For one long period of the church's history, it was forbidden to kneel as Mass on Sundays and during the Easter season. Standing was obligatory." (From "Standing and Kneeling at Mass, by Fr. John Dietzen, Catholic News Service--article which appeared in April 1997 in none other than Savannah's diocesan paper, The Southern Cross.")

My point, if drawn out, is that there can be varying preferences for reception of communion (whether in hand or tongue, whether standing or kneeling). I have nothing against altar rails (though they are hard to find in the Atlanta Archdiocese---the Cathedral still has one but it is just decorative---communion still received standing up there), but I don't think they are essential for a church sanctuary--and certainly the Eastern Orthodox would not think they are (essential) either---historically, a lot of their churches in Europe did not have pews---you just stood the entire service (if you could). AT my parish in Atlanta, to facilitate communion, there are several "stations", one literally in front of the altar---like right in front, not down the steps.

Boils down to "small" t tradition versus "Big T" Tradition.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Cletus - Lots to comment on there. For the sake of brevity, however, did you ever consider that the social programs the bishops support may be legitimate expressions of Catholic teaching?

Daniel said...

Cletus, so in a nutshell, your response to my complaint that you don't care about these church teaching is... you don't care.

Thank you very much. (And I would never presume to know people's minds; I can only judge based on what they write here).

Next time you're in "the cafeteria," try the Ayn Rand Special. I think you'd like it.

George said...

Daniel, the USCCB as a body and Catholic bishops around the country have spoken out for years on the death penalty, poverty, racism, the environment, war and peace, workers' rights, social justice and the innate dignity of all people. I found out something interesting on the death penalty by doing a little research. Twelve states since Roe vs Wade discontinued the use of capital punishment. Two of them have since reinstated it. The ten states that no longer have the death penalty have some of the highest abortion rates in the country. States such as Massachusetts, New York and Illinois. By the way, these states also have the largest Catholic populations among all the states.
The decision to go to war or take military action is a prudential action on the part of the President. Mr Obama in concert with Britain and France took military action against Libya. The wrongness or rightness of that can be debated. His authorizing and signing off on funding Planned Parenthood with tax revenues cannot be debated in light of Catholic teaching. His efforts to force religious groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for something that goes against Church teaching cannot be debated from the perspective of what we as Catholics hold to be true and binding. As for economic inequality,has our current President done much to improve that? That is debatable. I'm willing to be persuaded by those who say he has however.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Daniel, cafeteria catholics are to be found amongst pseudo-conservatives or neo-traditionalists and some of them comment here. Often it is more of a protestant schismatic tone that is taken or for at least one commenter, a convert of mine, who has left the fullness of the true Church for the schismatic Orthodox Church--which I pray one day will be reconciled to Rome. But the Orthodox are so entrenched in their hatred for the fullness of the true Church and the authority of the Bishop of Rome, I doubt it will happen any time soon.

But apart from the Protestant or schismatic mentality some bring to the comments here, there can is a diversity of authentic Catholic thought on the issues of the death penalty, poverty, racism, the environment, war and peace, workers' rights, social justice and the innate dignity of all people. Sometimes they issues can become politically charged with ideologies not of the Church on both the left and right of things. I will not closed the door to human sinfulness on the left or right of things in this regard either.

Sometimes, though, those who are more progressive push an agenda, such as war and peace, the environment and the like in a way to make others feel guilty like the Church as traditionally done with things people actually have some control over, such as human sexuality, abortion, artificial contraception and the like.

With the grace of God I can change my behavior in these areas but I find it difficult to be held accountable for the environment, unless I am the polluter or for issues of war and peace and just what is the best way to care for the poor and end poverty (which will never end, btw).

Progressives love to promote an agenda that most rank and file Catholics cannot and will not ever have any real control over.

Anonymous said...

Fr McDonald, with regards to the celebration of a weekly Mass in the Extraordinary Form, I can understand your problem but it does seem unjust that one of the five Masses cannot be substituted for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass because parishioners would still have a choice of four Masses in English. Another alternative could be to invite one of the traditional orders to offer the Mass.

As you know, under Summorum Pontificum numbers are not the prerequisite. A stable group requesting the Mass is all tht is required, and an OF Mass can indeed be substituted with an EF Mass. The fact that there are five Masses now offered in English would suggest that, in justice, that should happen. Many problems in the Church, it seems to me, are because lay people are dictating what can happen in their parish whereas once it was father who was in charge; parishioners need to learn to share and consider others in charity.

Jan

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

But Jan, but Jan, our least attended Sunday Mass still have anywhere from 250 to 300 attending. For me to make it the weekly EF Mass, we will only get 40 to 60. That isn't fair to those who from time in eternity have attended that OF Mass.

Anonymous said...

Father, up here in Atlanta, our archbishop and the Greek Orthodox one gather twice a year for an ecumenical gathering. So fairly good relations between the two here---probably more so than with the liberal Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta!

Exactly how would the Orthodox be reconciled with us? What are the terms in your view? Is it basically, "surrender"? What concessions would each side make?

Back in 1997, the ecumenical patriarch gave a speech at Georgetown (University) at which he noted the two churches (in his view) were growing farther apart). He said basically, we do not confess the same faith. Too often, Catholics assume there are virtually no differences between the two faiths---just a political dispute, more or less. In that view, if the Orthodox acknowledge the supremacy of the pope, and the pope agrees to some minor concessions (maybe for instance, allow Orthodox portion to pick their bishops and have pope confirm), then viola, we have reunion. But the two churches have very different views on the papacy, the filioque, the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, indulgences. And on some moral issues too. They are closer to Rome than the Anglicans, for sure, but "close" is not the same as "identical."

Lets fact it, after 50 years of dialogue with them, if reunion were simple, it would have happened. But there are real theological differences that cannot be swept away, or easily overcome---if overcome at all.





Jdj said...

Yes, Anon @12:32, absolutely true. It is amazing to me that the Eastern Catholics stay united, as their differences with Rome are much the same. They do name their own bishops with a rubber stamp from Rome; they choose to co-exist trying to ignore the hurdles (although many in the Eastern laity are quite vocal about their issues with Rome!).
But we Catholic Christians do have much bigger fish to fry. We have to unite to preserve Christianity from extinction in various parts of the world. We cannot afford to be divided.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anonymous 12:32 - I just read Patriarch Bartholomew's 21 October 1997 address at Georgetown University.

In the opening of his talk, the Patriarch states: "Our heart is opposed to the specter of an everlasting separation. Our heart requires that we seek again our common foundations, and the original starting point that we share. So that, retrospectively we can discover the point and the reasons for our divergence that led to separate courses, and be able, by lifting blame, to proceed thereafter on the same road leading to the same common goal."

That portion indicates to me that, in his view, there is a desire among the Orthodox for Orthodox-Catholic union. His talk was not aimed at saying how this might be achieved. Rather, he went on to speak of one significant difference: "The manner in which we exist has become ontologically different."

Although he does note that Catholics and Orthodox approach faith and grace in different ways, I'm not sure that your understanding, that we "do not confess the same faith," is accurate.

Anonymous said...

Father K. according to one book I read (The Truth: What Every Roman Catholic Needs to Know About the Orthodox Church), there was a lot of criticism about the patriarch's speech, including from the late Lutheran turned Catholic Richard John Neuhaus. Catholics sometimes regard him (the ecumenical patriarch) as Orthodox "pope", but he is not. He is more like the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury. The highest source of authority in the Orthodox Church is an ecumenical council, not any one bishop or archbishop.

Pope John Paul 2nd had hoped for Catholic-Orthodox reunion by the year 2000. That speech seemed to throw cold water on the idea.

But they don't confess the same faith...one faith says the pope is infallible and supreme, the other says the church is to be governed in a conciliar form, with no one person being infallible or supreme. One faith says the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the father and the son", and the other says the holy spirit proceeds only from the father. One faith acknowledges the Immaculate Conception, purgatory and indulgences, the other does not. Each Church believes it holds the fullness of the "one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church", and that the other is either schismatic or heretical. One faith says marriage cannot be dissolved, the other allows for divorce and up to 3 marriages.

The differences between the two faiths are not just customs or "small T" traditions, like whether the altar is at the front or the back, whether priests can marry or not, or how many Eucharistic liturgies a priest can celebrate on Sundays. There are real differences in doctrine. Why would they confess the same exact faith and yet be separate entities? As Timothy Ware, author of the late 1970s book The Orthodox Church, wrote that reunion between Rome and the Orthodox would be an extraordinary difficult act to achieve, an assessment seemingly pretty accurate a generation after he wrote it.

George said...

Anonymous, what you say is so true.

"But there are real theological differences that cannot be swept away, or easily overcome---if overcome at all."

After reading up on Eastern Orthodox theology, I found some things that I could not accept and which to me were not consonant with what I as a Catholic believe to be true.
There is always hope.

Jdj said...

Well, Fr. MJK, I humbly ask that you contact Dr. James Cutsinger, PhD Harvard, Professor of Theology and Religious Thought, USC. He will be happy to fill you in on this topic. It is his professional as well as personal life focus...Blessings!

Flavius Hesychius said...

A word of caution in re His All-Holiness's words—it may be his intention to seek Orthodox-Catholic unity, but he does not speak for all Orthodox Christians. He doesn't have that kind of authority.

It'd be the same as asking Patriarch Cyril of Moscow—which, of course, no one does because he's not so amiable when it comes to giving lip service to pseudo-ecumenism.

This aside, there is a strange thread running within many of the comments here that seem to be under the impression that we (the Orthodox) accept the legitimacy of Rome's claims to authority, but simply refuse to submit to it.

This is completely false. We do not accept Rome's claims to supremacy as legitimate.

It seems that many of the commenters here believe the Orthodox are like teenagers refusing to obey their parents; however, a more apt comparison would be if the American government claimed the right to dictate Canadian legislation—a Canadian citizen living in Canada would have no obligation to heed whatever nonsense came out of Washington.

Simply put—there can be absolutely no re-union whilst Rome insists we submit to an authority we do not accept as existing.

Finally, Fr. McDonald, you can't be serious in saying 'But the Orthodox are so entrenched in their hatred for the fullness of the true Church and the authority of the Bishop of Rome, I doubt it will happen any time soon.'.

1. It is impossible to hate something that doesn't exist.

2. The Church teaches she has the 'fullness of the true Church', not the Catholic Church. Once again, it is impossible to hate something that doesn't exist.

George said...


Flavius:
"a more apt comparison would be if the American government claimed the right to dictate Canadian legislation—a Canadian citizen living in Canada would have no obligation to heed whatever nonsense came out of Washington."

Well, they would if the countries became unified.
One of the problems I see with the Orthodox Church is that there is no single unifying figure of authority to resolve differences of opinion on matters of ecumenism or dogma.

Flavius Hesychius said...

A minor correction to Anonymous @552, if I may:

In Orthodoxy, priests are not allowed to marry. Married men are allowed to become priests. Men who wish to marry and accept a vocation to the priesthood must marry prior to ordination as a deacon.

Otherwise, they are to remain celibate. As a result, most unmarried men who enter the priesthood are also tonsured as monastics.

Anonymous said...

Fr McDonald, I know you and all priests face difficulties with parishioners trying to introduce a weekly Latin EF Mass but, way before the OF was ever thought of, Macon Catholics attended Mass in Latin - today's EF of the Mass. That Mass was taken away from thousands and thousands of them, and no consideration was given to Catholics at that time - you had to like it or lump it. Now, when they have been given - thanks to the generosity of Emeritus Pope Benedict - the opportunity to attend the EF Latin Mass it seems they are not to be considered again. Why? A smaller group admittedly but, surely, with five Masses in the vernacular, and all the other Masses in the vernacular available in other parishes nearby, it does seem uncharitable to me that one EF Latin Mass is not made available for them as Pope Benedict expressly asked for. I think even a trial period of a year to see if the Mass grows is at least warranted. However, I don't envy your position, and I can understand your reluctance, but I think if explained carefully to parishioners, that a change should be considered out of charity then I think many would accept the change. Catholics can be amazingly charitable I have found. I am sure Macon Catholics have good hearts. After all, they accepted the altar rails with good and generous hearts it seems!

Jan

Anonymous said...

Flavius I think gets to the point, and what I have mentioned from previous blogs here in Atlanta---the two faiths simply have strongly, divergent, irreconcilable views on many issues. Flavius is quite correct in asserting the Orthodox belief is that they are the one, original Church. A number of Orthodox books and publications make that very point. Two examples:

(1) From THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, 455 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (Stanley Harakas). Question 146, page 111, about praying for "the unity of the faith": Response: "The fact is, from the Orthodox Christian perspective...the unity of the Church already exists in the 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church', that is, the Orthodox Church. 'Ecumenical Unity' will take place when the various churches...return to the teachings and practices of the Church before it was divided into so many groups and sects."

(2) From THE ORTHODOX CHURCH (Timothy Ware), page 315 on 'The Orthodox Church and the Reunion of Christians.' "The Orthodox Church, in all humility, believes itself to be the 'one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church' of which the Creed speaks; such is the fundamental conviction which guides Orthodox in their relations with other Christians. There are divisions among Christians, but the Church itself is not divided nor can it ever be."

But there is one liturgical matter on which Orthodox and many conservative Catholics agree---the altar should be at the back ("Ad orientem". I've never seem an Orthodox Church where the Eucharist is celebrated facing the people. In fact, in one Orthodox publication I read, it was claimed the idea of the altar facing the people originated with Martin Luther...I can see where people believe the current arrangement in Catholic churches (free-standing altars) puts too much focus on the priest and away from the sacrificial nature of the Mass.