Sunday, October 30, 2011


The greatest torn in my side since becoming a priest is what type of music to sing at Mass. I'm a bit more liberal about it, just as long as it is good and done well. Some people like Gregorian Chant and other forms of Latin music and they like it when it is translated into English. Others like hymns of a traditional nature many of which come from the great heritage of Protestant hymnody. Some love contemporary music, worship and praise music and sacred words set to secular tunes.

What's a pastor to do? Put it to a vote for each Mass that is celebrated in a parish? Do we need that kind of consultation and implementation?

Special Announcement: VATICAN II HYMNAL from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.


Bishop Edward Slattery is the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma

From Bishop Edward Slattery's interview with the National Catholic Register, published on October 28, 2011: Bishop Slattery on Prayer, the Mass and New Vocations.

You’ve made public statements about problems with the liturgy. What changes would you like to see?

I would like to see the liturgy become what Vatican II intended it to be. That’s not something that can happen overnight. The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn’t have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church. Changes, like turning the altar around, were too sudden and too radical. There is nothing in the Vatican II documents that justifies such changes. We’ve always had Mass facing the people as well as Mass ad orientem [“to the east,” with priest and people facing the same direction]. However, Mass ad orientem was the norm. These changes did not come from Vatican II.

Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular, primarily so that the people could understand the Scriptures.

You yourself have begun celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Yes, in our cathedral and a few parishes where the priests ask me to. Most of the time, I say Mass facing the people when I travel around the diocese or when I have a large number of priests concelebrating, because it works better that way.

A few priests have followed my example and celebrate ad orientem as well. I have not requested they change. I prefer to lead by example and let the priests think about it, pray about it, study it, and then look at their churches and see if it’s feasible to do.

And it’s positive when people are thinking about and talking about the liturgy.

When people make the liturgy part of their conversation, it is a good thing. As priests and laypeople discuss the liturgy, they’ll see how important it is and how it is a work of God and not our own.

But we must approach the liturgy on bended knee with tremendous humility, recognizing that it doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to God. It is a gift. We worship God not by creating our own liturgies, but by receiving the liturgy as it comes to us from the Church. The liturgy should be formed and shaped by the Church itself to help people pray better. And we all pray better when we are disposed to receive what God has offered, rather than creating something of our own.

My Comments about leading by example: I'm not entirely comfortable with it. This is what Pope Benedict has been doing in terms of the Benedictine Altar arrangement and on occasion, but very rare occasions, celebrating Mass ad orientem, such as in the Pauline Chapel at the Vatican or the Sistine Chapel. The Pauline Chapel Altar allows for Mass facing the people while the Sistine Chapel main altar does not, although in the past a free standing portable altar was placed in front of it.

Bishop Slattery says in the last sentence above: "The liturgy should be formed and shaped by the Church itself to help people pray better. And we all pray better when we are disposed to receive what God has offered, rather than creating something of our own." But isn't that exactly what he is doing when he models something but does not mandate it or make it the norm.

I feel the same way about what Pope Benedict does. He's modeling things, but not making anything the norm. Are both these bishops, one the Pope of course, "...creating something of our own"?

If the bishop modeling for his priests how liturgy should be celebrated is the norm to be applauded, then what if you have a bishop who likes what he was taught about liturgy in the 1970's and how he experienced it back then? Nostalgia can go many ways you know. Should we throw caution to the wind to allow that to happen?

Those who are tradition-oriented will applaud Bishop Slattery for modeling what he likes and allowing his priests to do it if they request it.

But that then opens the door to priests modeling things other bishops do that might not be so much to their liking. Some bishops have very long introductory statements prior to the penitential act. In fact they ask people to sit for it. Is that something that should be modeled (it is also done at major papal Masses on the road).

Some bishops improvise the words of the liturgy. It remains to be seen if they will do so with the corrected English translation. But if they do, do we applaud them for doing it and modeling it for priests as an option?

I say, "say the black and do the red." If that needs to be reformed or expanded, then put it into writing so that bishops and priests do not act in idiosyncratic ways--there's way to much of that out there.

Would you want your bishop modeling this for your priests?

Saturday, October 29, 2011


He climbs rock walls with the greatest of ease!

And he makes it to the top pushing the button to make the victory alarm sound and draw all the attention to himself. I thought ad orientem was suppose to stop that!

He jousts parents of our children and loses!

Of course our superhero parochial Vicar, the Rev. Father Dawid Kwiatkowski was just clowning around at our school's fall festival on Friday. He was suppose to be in the dunking booth but it didn't arrive!


Cafeteria Catholicism and their understanding of the Mass:

I can remember the late 1950's and early 1960's Catholicism. My father was firmly rooted in it having been born into a very strong Catholic family and Catholic farming culture in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The foundation of the Church in the USA of that time was:

1. Holy Obedience to the faith and morals of the Church and to her Magisterium in this regard.

2. Fear of God and an ever greater fear of damnation

3. Love of God and neighbor, obligations to God and neighbor and to one's promises and vows made before God and neighbor

4. Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation

5. Penance especially on Fridays

7. Marian devotions, the Holy Rosary, other devotions and veneration of the saints

8. Praying the faithful departed, visiting them frequently at the cemetery and burying the dead with a Christian burial.

9. Strong catechesis in the Baltimore Catechism and a desire to memorize as much of it as possible as the foundation of a future adult faith

10. Strictness in Catholic schools, at Church and a disciplined Catholic life in the world striving to avoid scandal at all costs

Of course there was much more than just these ten things.

The Spirit of Vatican II appealed to Catholic teenagers and those in their 20's and 30's who had developed serious "authority" issues with the more dogmatic and "black and white" approach to authority that existed not only in the Church but within Catholic families, fathers in particular who had to have a strong Catholic identity in terms of fatherhood and as head of the family and thus the disciplinarian.

To those who did not like being told what to do, how to think and how to behave, the spirit of Vatican II liberated them from:

1. Holy Obedience to the faith and morals of the Church and to her Magisterium in this regard.

2. Fear of God and an ever greater fear of damnation

3. Love of God and neighbor, obligations to God and neighbor and to one's promises and vows made before God and neighbor

4. Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation

5. Penance especially on Fridays

7. Marian devotions, the Holy Rosary, other devotions and veneration of the saints

8. Praying the faithful departed, visiting them frequently at the cemetery and burying the dead with a Christian burial.

9. Strong catechesis in the Baltimore Catechism and a desire to memorize as much of it as possible as the foundation of a future adult faith

10. Strictness in Catholic schools, at Church and a disciplined Catholic life in the world striving to avoid scandal at all costs

Just think of Humanae Vitae and the "straw man" it became to encourage Catholics to reject the papacy's authority and thus the authority of the Magisterium. Think of those who took leadership roles in promoting the theology of dissent that Humanae Vitae provoked: Rev. Charles Curran, the Berrigan Brothers, Rev. Hans Kung, Rev. Richard McBrien and a whole hosts of lesser want to be's.

This led to cafeteria Catholicism, where even orthodox Catholics wondered if all they had believed prior to Vatican II was false, not just areas concerning Church disciple and the manner in which the sacraments were celebrated, but also basic non-negotiable teachings of the Church such as transubstantiation, the resurrection, virgin birth, Immaculate Conception and the Church's moral teachings on everything pertain to sex, adultery, fornication and sex with minors, just to name a few.

If you start questioning everything about your faith (and dissenting theologians, priests and nuns, especially those in Catholic High Schools and colleges dogmatically taught Catholic young and older people of that period to do so) then is it any wonder that the most staunch of Catholics and Catholic families prior to the Second Vatican Council succumbed to the most dogmatic drivel of the late 1960's. Is it any wonder they left the practice of the faith for Cafeteria Catholicism and now do not even attend Mass or care to refer to themselves as Catholics? To those of my generation and slightly older 55 and above and to "our" children and then their children, we've lost almost three generation of Catholics to this insipid way of thinking and the great legacy of Catholicism's true meaning.

From about 90% of Catholics attending Mass on Sunday prior to the disruption of the spirit of Vatican II in the early 1960's, today we have about 19% to 25% of Catholics actually attend Mass every Sunday. Of those there is a great variety of attitudes toward the Faith, Morals and Discipline of the Church and her hierarchy.

Of those who do not attend Mass, their personal conscience is so malformed by dissent and apathy that it has made them practical agnostics. This is the fruit of the spirit of Vatican II. Don't eat of it, it is poison and death dealing.

Today, dissenting theologians, other clergy and some religious are still trying to get rank and file Catholics to hate authority and what many now are calling "monarchical Catholicism" . Some of the straw men they are using in addition to Humanae Vitae are the corrected English translation of the Mass, the authority of the Church that "bullied" it into being, women priests, married priests, gay marriage, pro-choice acceptance and on and on it goes. But thank goodness for real Catholic blogs that promote the truth. We don't have to follow the monarchy of dissenting theologians and the drivel they spew. We don't have to be caught up in perpetual adolescence as it regards legitimate authority! We don't have to succumb to the secular forces of government and society that has so afflicted and diminished the Truths of God in Protestant denominations.


Cardinal Francis George

Conscience rights” and their defense in civil law are currently the cause of many protests against proposed government rules on “reproductive services” and health insurance that would drive Catholic hospitals out of health care and Catholic universities out of education. Already the outreach of Catholic Charities in this and other states has been curtailed by a change in the marriage laws. In all these instances, those protesting government intrusions on conscience appeal to long-established American civil law: The state has no right to coerce conscience, whether personal or institutional, nor to define what a religious ministry should look like. What is at stake in this public conversation? What is at stake, first of all, is religious freedom. We used to believe that freedom of religion was constitutionally protected and that the civil law would prevent anti- Catholic or anti-religious groups from attacking the church’s institutions. Now some of these groups are using civil law to destroy these very institutions. For some homosexual activists, for pro-abortion zealots and for others who resent the church’s teachings, it’s payback time for the church’s recognizing their actions as objectively sinful. For others, including some Catholic groups, it’s a case of recognizing a shift in the popular culture and deciding to change their personal beliefs to conform to what is socially acceptable.

What is also at stake is personal freedom to act publicly on the basis of one’s religious faith. Freedom of speech and self-expression is still well protected, but individuals who want to act on their specifically religious convictions are now without the legal protections in place even a few years ago. What history teaches clearly, however, is that when the dominant culture and its laws eliminate religious freedom, the state becomes sacred. No appeal to God or to a morality based on religious faith is allowed to break into the closed circle of civil legalism. The state’s coercive power is not limited to keeping external order; it invades the internal realm of one’s relation to God. The state becomes a church.

For those in the church, of course, personal conscience is governed by what the church teaches has been revealed by God and its consequences in moral activity and political life. That’s why the institutional distinction between church and state is built into Catholic beliefs. The distinction in modern times has been violated not by the church but by the state in totalitarian societies and now, for the first time, here. The church everywhere teaches in Christ’s name and mediates his will for Catholic believers. Unlike the state, which has no divine origin, the church is mother and teacher. Her voice is internal.

What happens when a person who was baptized Catholic no longer hears the church’s voice and claims a right in conscience to “dissent” from the church’s teaching? It depends, of course, on how close to divine revelation a particular teaching lies. To deny the resurrection of Christ or his real presence in the Blessed Sacrament obviously places one outside of the community of Catholic faith. To disagree not just in practice but in principle with moral or doctrinal teachings that happen to be unpopular or personally unacceptable also weakens or even destroys one’s claim to be Catholic. Accepting a revealed truth that is taught definitively by the church is not primarily a question of conscience but of faith. To reject a revealed truth means that one’s conscience is not enlightened by faith; one is not a believer.

Conscience, in short, is first of all about truth and how truth governs action. In the church, a person’s conscience governs his or her personal action, but a Catholic conscience is to be formed by the Catholic faith, which is not a personal creation but a gift from God that enables a believer to live as a disciple of Jesus. A conscientious decision is not based on asserting one’s own subjectivity, as if conscience were the right of self-will and the self were sovereign in religious matters; rather, a conscientious decision is one made in obedience to the truth revealed by the Creator in the natural moral law and by Christ through his church. Christ did not die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we could believe whatever we like and do whatever we please. A conscience that is genuinely an echo of God’s will for us leaves us filled with happiness, joy and peace. Those in bad conscience display a restlessness and shame that haunts their lives.

Conscience and the rights and duties of conscience demand a lot of reflection. These few paragraphs are written only to make the distinction between conscience in civil law, which abstracts from religious faith but should protect it, and conscience in the community of faith that is the church. The state cannot teach religious truth; the church must do so because Christ, her head, claims to be the truth. People of faith rejoice in that claim and follow Christ conscientiously, surrendering their lives to him in his body, the church.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Archbishop of Chicago

Friday, October 28, 2011


Some would say the Catholic Church's greatest problem is with its top down monarchical model of authority (although that isn't always the case, there is a great deal of subsidiarity too). Usually those who complain most about the Church are elitist academics who don't have a lot more to do other than complain about authority usually revolving around unresolved authority issues from childhood. In this person's worldview everything is dysfunctional and everything must be made perfect. It is a form of control. With these people, their mantra is "the Catholic Church would be perfect if only_________! (You fill in the blank depending on your theological and political ideology!) The following article is rather excellent and right on the money!

Why the Crazy Caution on this Missal?
Written by Jeffrey A. Tucker

I was looking around youtube and found a nine-part epic on the new translation of the Missal. It turned out to be a round-table discussion with some top players in a diocesan office. The moderator would ask one broad question and then the microphone would be passed from person to person, and you know how this groupthink works. They all pretty much said what the last person said. There were dozens of questions, and I could detect no substance at all. I lasted about eight minutes and had to bail for fear of passing out from boredom. I didn't even look at the other seven parts

Why are these films being made? The tedium of this Missal rollout is on the verge of making me crazy. There are gazillion pamphlets, films, commissions, meetings, speakers, monographs. The USCCB hasn't gone door-to-door yet but maybe that is next. Nor can I tell that average Catholics care in the slightest about this new Missal. I was drafted to give two talks at a parish recently and I spoke to an audience of two and three. I tried to be as lively as possible in talking about the changes in the people’s parts, but this is rather difficult since a total of like seven words are changing.

To be sure, the Missal is actually a landmark but the changes are within the deeper structure: the music in the Missal (if it is used), the priest’s parts, the elimination of bad options that were never really in the Latin edition, the depreciation of regrettable options, and more. It will have a gigantic effect over time but this will not be obvious on the first-time hearing. For most people, the First Sunday of Advent will be just another Sunday.

So how can we account for the frenzied educational campaign that seems to mask some grave but hidden fear? The answer was given to me by an older man who came to a seminar I was giving. So few were there that we had time to talk about his life as a Catholic. He told me a story that I’ve heard a hundred times but I still listen in astonishment. It concerned that fateful year of 1969. He was in a small parish that was relatively unaffected by anything that had happened at or after Vatican II. The Mass was the Mass. The priest said it, the schola sang it, and the Catholic Church was the great refuge from all the nonsense going on in the world.

Then one day a package arrived. It was a book with the new Mass. It was mandatory. Starting now.

He was probably 40 years old. The structure that he had grown up with and had lived his whole life was suddenly gone. The prayers of the foot of the altar were gone. The beloved Latin language was gone. The schola had no idea what to sing. All the old liturgical books, beautiful and beloved, were suddenly useless.

This man tried his best to adapt to the new. His friends all drifted away, but he stuck it out. He saw the vestments change. The focal point of the entire sanctuary shifted from the high altar to a new table that was moved closer so that the people could somehow identify with what was going on. The choir melted. A guitar group took its place, and they sang pop songs.

And the priest became Mr. Personality and seemed to never stop talking to everyone and right at everyone from the first “good morning” to the last “go and serve others.” The Catholic ritual that had been defined by its precision and careful adherence to form, for longer than a thousand years, and which had shaped countless generations, had clearly been displaced by something like looked and felt strangely improvisatory.

It is interesting to talk to faithful Catholics of a certain age about this, people who were settled in life with children and with good careers and communities during the time when this upheaval took place. They speak about it only with a painful sense, still not sure if they were actually betrayed or if there was some wisdom in all this that they were missing. It is a bit like extracting war stories from veterans. They don’t talk easily.

We know what happened in the United States and Europe. The story is in the data. Where as many as 80% of Catholis went to Mass, now only 17% or so do. Religious orders collapsed. Schools collapsed. The priesthood was gutted. Moral life changed. Everything changed. The surprise is not that people drifted away but that a few stuck around. I’m always curious about these survivors and their perspective on the world. What they experienced can only be described as a shattering of a world they once knew and believed would last forever.

So after I finished my presentation, the old man in front of me summarized his view: “As I understand what you are saying, this Missal takes us back before all this stuff happened. If so, I think I’m going to like this change better than the last one.”

Of course that’s not really what I was saying, and this Missal does not take us back to the preconciliar rite. But it does capture some of the solemnity and seriousness that was so carelessly disregarded, so there was some truth in what he said.

The narrative that I provided above is still capable of inciting vast argument in the Catholic world. People protest that the loss of people was due to demographic and not ritual shifts, that the seeming meltdown would have been worse without the new Mass, and that, in any case, the old had to go away because it was stern, dark, dreary, confining, insular, and incompatible with the needs of modern people, and you can filled in the rest because we’ve all heard it a thousand times.

And yet, I would suggest that the extreme caution with which this current reform is taking place suggests a confirmation that the narrative is not only true; it is the conventional one. What that upheaval did was produce a Catholic people who are incredibly resistant to change and conservative beyond what they should be. Every change for the last fifty years has come at the expense of stable piety, solid doctrine, and reliable solemnity. Why would anyone want more of that? Why would they risk change at all? The Bishops, of all people, know this and hence the caution.

It is going to take another generation before Catholics start truly trusting again. Bugnini has left his mark on the world, and it one that makes progress incredibly difficult and popularly terrifying. We were supposed to be ushered into a new age of hyper flexibility and we all ended up becoming as implacably resistant to the new as any stick in the mud of centuries gone by.

And yet we must embrace, we must risk, change insofar as that change leads us to recapture what we’ve lost. Embracing the truths that were lost along the way is the only really means for helping us truly believe again.


Progressive Catholics like to say that the Mass today engenders active participation. By this they mean that the congregation actively speaks and sings the parts of the Mass that are theirs, like hymns, responses, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Lamb of God. Singing also the Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons or equivalent hymns.

In pre-Vatican II time, depending on the country in which one lived, Catholics for the most part participated only internally or attended simply to hear Mass. Others distracted themselves by the beauty of their church, praying the rosary or something else.

I was taught in the first and second grades how to use the "St. Joseph Missal" which was somewhat complex for a child but we knew how to use it. Active participation was being encouraged in that regard in the late 1950's and early 60's at least in the Dioceses of Savannah and Atlanta.

However, interior participation and proper focus was also encouraged. God forbid that you would look behind you when your eyes should always be on the altar.

How many people today think nothing of getting up during the Eucharistic Prayer to go to the bathroom or take a child to one?

But worse yet, how many Catholics absent themselves from Mass altogether?

In the 1950's in this country upwards to 90% of all Catholics attended Mass every Sunday no matter what type of "participation" they expressed while in the confines of the church building for that hour or so.

Today in many places in the USA only 25 to 30% of Catholics and in some places even lower, attend Mass on any given Sunday and those attending may be participating externally, but their internal disposition is something else altogether different.

In the 1950's only 1/3 of the congregation might have gone to receive Holy Communion, but presumably in a state of grace having been to Confession.

Today nearly the entire church goes to Holy Communion but one wonders about the effect of grace since no where near that number goes to confession regularly.

Father Z at his blog writes about this: "If they [progressive Catholics] are worried about greater active participation and sign value of the Eucharist and how meaningful it all is to them, I recommend to them, priests and lay people alike, that they reflect also on the frequency of their use of the Sacrament of Penance before receiving Communion in any manner. If they are not in the state of grace when they receive, they receive no graces from the Sacrament and they actually commit the mortal (sin) of sacrilege. Reception of Communion should be about grace, not about their personal views – set against those of the Church’s laws – about their right to have “the wine” or “the cup”."

Now if 90% of all Catholics are at Mass no matter how they actually express their participation in the so-called "God-awful pre-Vatican II Church with its secretive, top down authoritarianism" of the 1950's and today only 25% are at Mass who participating externally very well, but more than likely haven't been to confession in years and receive Holy Communion regardless of the state of grace their souls may be experiencing at any given time, it seems to me that the participation both from the point of view of physical presence (or real presence of the laity) as well as their disposition sacramentally when receiving Holy Communion was much better in the 1950's than today.

I think we had more and better participation in the 1950's. What do you think?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Assisi III: Papal address

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Distinguished Heads and Representatives of Churches, Ecclesial Communities and World Religions,
Dear Friends,

Twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace. What has happened in the meantime? What is the state of play with regard to peace today? At that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which traced the border between two worlds right through the heart of the city. In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. Suddenly the vast arsenals that stood behind the wall were no longer significant. They had lost their terror. The peoples’ will to freedom was stronger than the arsenals of violence. The question as to the causes of this dramatic change is complex and cannot be answered with simple formulae. But in addition to economic and political factors, the deepest reason for the event is a spiritual one: behind material might there were no longer any spiritual convictions. The will to freedom was ultimately stronger than the fear of violence, which now lacked any spiritual veneer. For this victory of freedom, which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks. What is more, this was not merely, nor even primarily, about the freedom to believe, although it did include this. To that extent we may in some way link all this to our prayer for peace.

But what happened next? Unfortunately, we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterized the situation ever since.
Even if there is no threat of a great war hanging over us at present, nevertheless the world is unfortunately full of discord. It is not only that sporadic wars are continually being fought – violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world. Freedom is a great good. But the world of freedom has proved to be largely directionless, and not a few have misinterpreted freedom as somehow including freedom for violence. Discord has taken on new and frightening guises, and the struggle for freedom must engage us all in a new way.

Let us try to identify the new faces of violence and discord more closely. It seems to me that, in broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail. Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings, who are cruelly killed or wounded in the process. In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty. Everything that had been commonly recognized and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled. We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty that considers itself entitled to discard the rules of morality for the sake of the intended "good". In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence.

The post-Enlightenment critique of religion has repeatedly maintained that religion is a cause of violence and in this way it has fuelled hostility towards religions. The fact that, in the case we are considering here, religion really does motivate violence should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons. In a way that is more subtle but no less cruel, we also see religion as the cause of violence when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. The religious delegates who were assembled in Assisi in 1986 wanted to say, and we now repeat it emphatically and firmly: this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction. In response, an objection is raised: how do you know what the true nature of religion is? Does your assertion not derive from the fact that your religion has become a spent force? Others in their turn will object: is there such a thing as a common nature of religion that finds expression in all religions and is therefore applicable to them all? We must ask ourselves these questions, if we wish to argue realistically and credibly against religiously motivated violence. Herein lies a fundamental task for interreligious dialogue – an exercise which is to receive renewed emphasis through this meeting. As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put "suffering-with" (compassion) and "loving-with" in place of force. His name is "God of love and peace" (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.

If one basic type of violence today is religiously motivated and thus confronts religions with the question as to their true nature and obliges all of us to undergo purification, a second complex type of violence is motivated in precisely the opposite way: as a result of God’s absence, his denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it. The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.

Yet I do not intend to speak further here about state-imposed atheism, but rather about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous. The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. There are the powerful who trade in drugs and then the many who are seduced and destroyed by them, physically and spiritually. Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum.

The absence of God leads to the decline of man and of humanity. But where is God? Do we know him, and can we show him anew to humanity, in order to build true peace? Let us first briefly summarize our considerations thus far. I said that there is a way of understanding and using religion so that it becomes a source of violence, while the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context I referred to the need for dialogue and I spoke of the constant need for purification of lived religion. On the other hand I said that the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.
In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: "There is no God". They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace". They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible. Therefore I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force. Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be "pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace".


Press here to read "Dominus Jesus" as it is of import to this post below.

The following is an extract from a letter written by Pope Benedict XVI on March 4, 2011 to Lutheran pastor Peter Beyerhaus, a longtime friend who had told him about his fears over the new convocation of the day of Assisi:

"I understand very well," the pope writes, "your concern about participating in the encounter of Assisi. But this commemoration would have been celebrated in any case, and, in the end, it seemed to me the best thing to go there personally, in order to try to determine the overall direction. Nonetheless, I will do everything I can to make a syncretistic or relativistic interpretation of the event impossible, and to make it clear that I will always believe and confess what I had called the Church's attention to with 'Dominus Iesus'."

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, who said:

"There are a number of dangers that such an encounter could bring in terms of the mass media communication of the event, of which – as it is clear – the pontiff is well aware. The means of mass media communication will say, even with the images alone, that all religions have come together to ask God for peace. A poorly formed Christian could draw from this the gravely mistaken conclusion that one religion is as good as another, and that Jesus Christ is one of the many mediators of salvation."

Plain fact, the Catholic Church believes that she is the true Church and the true religion. Fact also is that since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has seen Protestant denominations while not in full communion as a part of the Catholic Church (and thus the true Church) through the Sacrament of Baptism validly celebrated and beliefs that are in continuity with the Church's Scripture and Tradition. Foundational to that would be belief in the Most Holy Trinity and in Jesus Christ as the one Mediator between God and Man and the sole Savior of the world.

Other religions cannot be the true faith, but can share in the truths of God, but do not have the fullness of truth. Obviously the closest to the Catholic Church of the non-Christian religions is Judaism. As Pope John Paul II asserts they are our "elder brothers," and the foundation of the Catholic Church for the Old and New Covenants are linked and the Jews are God's chosen people whereas Catholics and Christians are adopted in Christ.

However, even prior to Vatican II, the Church acknowledged that if through no fault of one's own or the fault of the Church in not living the Faith properly or evangelizing energetically, that one was not a Catholic, one could still go to heaven/be saved, but only through the saving Life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Real Presence of Christ communicated through the ministry of Word and Sacrament of the Church.

Syncretism within Judaism was deplored by God and God felt that it polluted the true religion of Judaism when the Jews borrowed from the Pagan religions of their time. The golden calf comes to mind and the wrath of God this brought about.

Syncretism creeps into the lives of Catholics in many areas today too. How many read and believe in horoscopes? In Central and South American African religions are mixed with Catholicism.

Are there other examples of syncretism as it concerns Catholicism that pollutes our religion?

True too is the genius of the Catholic Church to take from the cultures where she is "incarnated" and to make Christian if these do not conflict with the Church's mission or belief.

The dates for Christmas, Easter and All Saints comes to mind. The Church took the prevailing festivals of the Pagan World, The Winter Solstice, the Pagan Rituals of new life in the Spring, the rites of the Druids as it concerns death in the Fall and baptized these and gave a completely new and Christian meaning to them.

I think it would be difficult to do that for horoscopes, soothsaying and palm reading. Some religious orders have dabbled in the religions of the earth such as Wicca and have brought their ecological concerns to the Catholic faith and some of their devotions. However, it makes the Christians who do it look silly as it is more blending Catholicism with Wiccan customs thus polluting Wicca and Catholicism together!

Care for the good earth though could certainly be seen as a Christian virtue but not the deification of the good earth or the egalitarianism of all creation, for example animals and humans on an equal footing.

Wiccan and Christian symbols co-mingled:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Holy Obedience tied into charity and not ripping apart:

In the comments on my post below on the Mass as prayer, sacrifice, meal..., Ave Verum wrote:

Excellent post, Father, and excellent, respectful comments as well (sometimes the comments here are so disrespectful that I wonder if we are still Christian, let alone Catholic!) --thank you.

I think I would want to echo those sentiments as we post. There is no need to attack anyone and critiquing comments can be done in a very positive way and there is no need to crucify anyone whom you cannot convince to come to your way of thinking. Last Sunday's Gospel about the two Greatest Commandment, complete love of God and loving neighbor as oneself, should guide any and everything we do even in commenting. There is no need to be vitriolic as I believe this does go against the virtue of charity and thus is a sin and it appears to me to go against the two greatest commandments.

But let's talk about holy obedience in religion, Catholicism in particular. When we obey the Church in the areas of faith, morals and canon law as well as diocesan regulations approved by the local bishop, we build up the unity of the diocese and of the Church.

That doesn't mean that we like all the rules of canon law or diocesan regulations. These are open to modification and change if this doesn't interfere with divine law which cannot be changed. We might want even a more democratic approach to decision making in the Church on her various levels, international, national, diocesan and parish. Can that happen? I think so, but there are many opinions worldwide as to how that can happen.

But suffice it to say, as a parish I have a great deal of authority to implement various things that are prescribed or regulated worldwide, nationwide or diocesan wide. Not everyone will like everything, like standing for Holy Communion, receiving from the chalice, Communion in the hand, the new translation, the EF Mass at a regular Sunday Mass, style of music so and so forth.

But when legitimate decisions are made whether one likes the process or not or the outcome or not, one should abide. And when things are decided that allow for caveats here and there, like receiving on the tongue or kneeling if that is one's personal preference for Holy Communion, the EF Mass, then I say what the heck as long as no one is tripped or in any way damaged by what is allowed by way of personal preference.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


From WikiAnswers:

Question: Can you get herpes drinking after someone?


There are two types of Herpes oral and genital. If someone has oral herpes and you drink directly after them then yes it is possible to contract the Herpes virus this way.

My Comments: Some people think my concern about sharing the common chalice at Mass is overblown because you can get more germs from touching things as this story below illustrates. However, most of us I presume were taught as children to wash our hands frequently and not place our hands or fingers near our mouth. Am I correct?

Now when it comes to the common chalice that 20 or so people have had to their mouth, not only would I not touch it; I certainly wouldn't bring my fingers to my mouth after doing so. How much more should we avoid bringing a chalice that many people have used to our mouths? Just wondering?

Gas pump handles top study of filthy surfaces
By Alina Selyukh in Washington | Reuters

(Reuters) - Just when you thought filling up your car could not hurt any more, researchers may have found another reason to avoid touching the gas pump: germs.

Gas pump handles turned out to be the filthiest surface that Americans encounter on the way to work, according to a study released on Tuesday by Kimberly-Clark Professional, a unit of personal hygiene giant Kimberly-Clark Corp.

A team of hygienists swabbed hundreds of surfaces around six U.S. cities to see what everyday objects are breeding grounds for the worst bacteria and viruses.

The top offenders, following gas pumps, were handles on public mailboxes, escalator rails and ATM buttons.

Closely following on the filthiest list were parking meters and kiosks, crosswalk buttons and buttons on vending machines in shopping malls.

"It comes down to the fact that nobody cleans the things that you're going to touch on a daily basis," said Dr. Kelly Arehart, program leader of Kimberly-Clark's Healthy Workplace Project.

Testers analyzed swabs of the surfaces for levels of adenosine triphosphate, which signals the presence of animal, vegetable, bacteria, yeast or mold cells, and the high levels found suggest they can be transmitting illness, researchers said.

Swabs were taken in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia.

Arehart's colleague Brad Reynolds said germs from people's hands can transfer seven times before leaving the skin. People should wash their hands as soon as they get to work, he said.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Washington; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Monday, October 24, 2011


William V. D'Antonio, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, led this fifth survey, as he has all the others. His colleagues this year were Mary Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, and Michele Dillon, professor of sociology and chair of the department at the University of New Hampshire.

Some significant points:

Foundational theological convictions and the sacraments remain at the core of belief for most Catholics.

For 73 percent of Catholics, belief in the Resurrection is very important while teachings about Mary as the mother of God are very important to 64 percent.

Sixty-three percent say that sacraments such as the Eucharist are very important.

Sixty-seven percent rate "helping the poor" as very important, ranking it nearly as essential to their beliefs as the Resurrection.

Mass attendance rates remain fairly steady but vary across generations. The attendance rate of the youngest generation of Catholics, known as Millennials, or those coming of age in the 21st century, is lowest of all generations surveyed. But even most Hispanics, whose attendance rate is higher than non-Hispanics, agree that weekly Mass attendance isn't necessary to be considered a good Catholic.

The generation known as the "pre-Vatican II" generation is disappearing. At the same time, the Millenial generation of Catholics is filling the ranks. One of the distinctive characteristics of Millennials is that 45 percent are currently of Hispanic background and that number is expected to grow over the next two decades.


There is much ferment on how the Mass should be celebrated. Suffice it to say that we'll have two forms of the one Roman Rite for some time. But it seems to me that understanding the OF Mass by using the EF Mass as the basis to do so will go a long way in helping everyone to understand that the two Masses do not diverge in theology or dogma although these do in how these are celebrated.

First the Mass is prayer to God, regardless of the orientation of the priest, although the ad orientem stance makes it clear that the priest representing the laity whom he joins in facing the altar are praying to God and not one another . There is no need to see the face of the priest as he prays although this has been the case for some odd reason since the reforms of the EF Mass in the middle 1960's. Facing the people makes it look to the uncatechized and the non-believer that the priest is speaking or praying to the congregation. Of course that would be idolatry, the priest representing the laity prayers to God through Jesus Christ and by the Power of the Holy Spirit. He does not pray to God through the people. I think that would be heretical!

The Liturgy of the Word as celebrated in the OF is superior in my mind to the EF's, but that's my opinion. I don't see that changing in any way whatsoever. I find it odd that one would face away from the Congregation to read the Scriptures; It is read to the People.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist is the sacrificial aspect of the celebration of the Mass. It's focus is the priest in prayer reminding God of what His son accomplished on Good Friday for our salvation but using Holy Thursday as the paradigm to remember that one Sacrifice which God brings forward during the Eucharistic prayer for our salvation in the present. In other words, by the grace of God that one Sacrifice is re-presented on the altar in an unbloody way for God's people in the present. When some priests consecrate the Eucharist, when facing the congregation he gestures toward them as though the congregation is the 12 apostles at the Last Supper. That is heretical since the 12 apostles are the only ones at the Last Supper and they are the first priests. The Eucharistic prayer is a stylized prayer recalling how the priests of the Church would memorialize the Sacrifice of the Cross and reminding God that this is how Jesus did it for the apostles to do!

On Holy Thursday, Christ ordains the apostles as priests (bishops) to be the priests of the new covenant with all the allusions to the Jewish priests in the temple with one major difference, Jesus washes their feet (the High Priest par-excellence that the ordained priest only shares) showing that the new Covenant priest must be willing to minister to the needs of others regardless of ritual purity. In other words he is to get his hands dirty ministering to the outcast, unclean, sinner and sick and dying. The inherited cultic priesthood of the Old Testament would not include that. The New Covenant Priests does not inherit his priesthood, it is a calling and commissioning!

The Rite of Holy Communion after the Eucharistic prayer is properly the "meal" aspect of the Mass. If the Eucharistic Prayer correlates only to the function of the ordained priest established by Christ on Holy Thursday and the need for the ordained priest to complete the Sacrifice by eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ, the Rite of Holy Communion correlates to the Feeding of the multitudes prior to Holy Thursday, the feeding of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus through the Breaking of the Bread and John's Gospel on the Bread of Life Discourse which was written for a Christian community already receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in their Sunday Eucharist (as it was written between 90 AD to 150 AD).

I have no problem with the laity receiving both Forms of the Body and Blood of Christ from the Host or from the Chalice as it is the oldest tradition of the Church maintained by the Orthodox for 2000 years (and Eastern Rite of the Church for the same period of time). I prefer intinction for hygiene reasons and also to reduce the need for the number of Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. That's my opinion, feel free to disagree!

The Rite of Dismissal is our commission to go forth to where we live our lives and evangelize the world with our words and good deeds!

One solution for the OF Mass in terms of Ad Orientem is to keep the Introductory Rite at the Chair as well as the Concluding Rite. Have the Liturgy of the Eucharist celebrated Ad Orientem. However after the Through Him.. and Great Amen, the priest goes to the other side of the altar facing the people for the Our Father, Lamb of God, breaking of the Bread, the Ecce Agnus Dei and Communion of priest and people since this is the "meal" portion of the Mass, not the Eucharistic Prayer!


Don't miss what the bishop says about "Gather us In" and "All Are Welcome" to focus on God and conversion to Him not to one another!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This is our annual Scripture Seminar. This year it is Jeff Cavins with us. He's a great teacher!


For secular folks and progressive Catholics, sin is horrifying only if it is also a secular crime. The moral and legal outrage against the abuse of children and teenagers by anyone but especially Catholic clergy is justified. Who would disagree with that?

While this may not be the case today, it certainly was a short time back, like only twenty or more years ago where families who experienced a family member like a brother, an uncle, a father or mother who abused one of their children were reluctant to air their dirty laundry publicly. Often times others in denial looked the other way, didn't think it was as bad as it actually was or made other accommodations to keep the family together, or there was divorce. Usually law enforcement was not called. Who in the family wanted good old dad or mom, the eccentric uncle, the immature brother arrested and thrown into jail? Who wanted the public humiliation of being written up in the newspaper or reported on television news and the disruption of family life due to a jail sentence?

What Catholic parent wanted their child to testify against a priest and wound that child more than already wounded? Many Catholic parents of children who were abused were happy for quiet settlements and the transfer of the priest away from their parish. Bishops were only too happy to accommodate and keep things quiet to avoid scandal. At that time, what Catholic bishop wanted to report his spiritual son to the authorities no matter how guilty that son was?

To say that bishops and other priests responded like the families I describe would be an understatement. Usually part of denial is trying to give the one who acts suspiciously the benefit of the doubt and to try to do everything to avoid scandal including minimizing the sin and crime that could lead to the scandal arrest, public scrutiny, trial and jail. This happened all too frequently in the past; perhaps it still happens today in the Church and in the family. Who but God knows? We're only human after all.

The other part of the scandal has to do with forgiveness and healing. The God given gifts of grace leading to faith, hope and love enable the Church to believe that both are possible. Secular society and even Catholics formed more in secular thought not Catholic teaching find forgiveness and healing absurd and scandalous. But the Church dogmatically teaches that the sinner can be forgiven and the victims of sin, no matter what kind of sin, can, must forgive and be healed. The goal of the Church through the grace of God and His Son's death and resurrection is to work for forgiveness and reconciliation even here on earth for this is a sign of heaven, where anyone who is redeemed and in the presence of Christ is not only reconciled with God and His Church but also with every single person in the world who may have harmed or victimized them or others. Even if someone is in hell deserving of eternal punishment, those in heaven will love them. Of course the ones in hell cannot for eternity forgive; they wallow in the desperation of victimization and hatred toward those who harmed them. They eternally hate God who created their victimizers. They cannot forgive; they don't want to; they reject forgiveness and in doing so reject God.

The sad case involving a priest in Kansas City who had pornographic images of children on his computer and Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri (successor of Bishop Kevin Boland's brother, Bishop Raymond Boland)who failed to report him to the authorities for five months after discovering the images on the priest's computer is another part of this sordid scandal. Bishop Finn is the first American bishop to be charged with a misdemeanor crime involving the sex abuse scandal for failing to report the priest to the authorities immediately. Pundits for victims and sex abuse victims themselves are gleeful about his public humiliation and the possibility of a year in jail for this misdemeanor crime.

The rush to judgment by progressive Catholics, the secular media and those who want blood, not forgiveness, is truly astounding. Perhaps they were schooled in the coloring book catechetics of the 1960's and '70's and missed the scandal of the Cross (since the Mass for them is only a happy, clappy, McDonald's meal affair)and the use of the sacrament of penance is as obsolete as is mortal sin and repentance leading to penance and reconciliation. Who knows? But read on from the Catholic League:


October 21, 2011

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the controversy over Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn:

The Catholic League will have a lot to say about Bishop Finn and his accusers over the next few weeks. For now, we want to make it clear that we stand by him without reservation. Why? Not because he is a bishop, but because nothing he did deserves the kind of mad reaction against him that is emanating from many quarters. In a short time, we will lay out the details of our support for him. But for now, keep in mind the following:

Many strange photos (crotch-focused) of young girls, fully clothed, were found on the laptop of a priest last December; one showed a girl naked. Though Bishop Finn never saw it, he was told of it. The result? The picture was described to a police officer the next day, and an attorney for the Diocese was shown the photo. It was determined that the photo, while disturbing, did not constitute child pornography. The priest learns that they’re on to him; he attempts suicide; he almost dies; he recovers; he is sent for treatment; he is not considered to be a pedophile, but is said to be suffering from depression; he is then placed in a spot away from children; he is subjected to restrictions. After violating the restrictions, the cops are called; more damaging photos are then found.

This account is quite different from what is being bandied about in the media. To take one example, there is an editorial in today’s New York Times saying that Bishop Finn “knew of the photos last December but did not turn them over to the police until May.” This makes it sound as if Finn knew about hundreds of photos of child pornography and he did nothing about it. In fact, there was one photo, that was not sexual in nature, that was found. Moreover, a police officer and an attorney were notified immediately. Later, after the priest proved to be recalcitrant, the police were contacted.

As I said, we will have a lot more to say about this issue. Stay tuned.

Contact our director of communications about Donohue’s remarks:
Jeff Field
Phone: 212-371-3191

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Mrs. Thalia Eden, the wife of our permanent deacon Tom Eden seems to be giving the newly ordained Bishop of Savannah, Gregory Hartmayer a "to do" list and he better do it. How else would you interpret this photo taken at the reception after the ordination in Lafayette Park? I'm in a state of shock and amusement that the bishop is writing down the "to do list!"

Deacon Eden looking on in amusement too!

Of course, Mrs. Eden was only asking the new bishop to sign her program and chit chat about niceties. No badgering or "honey do lists" going on; but the pictures are great conversation pieces aren't they!


My comments first: The article below which I copy from "Rorate Caeli" has many valid points, but many points left to speculation that I would not endorse.

I will admit from my time in the seminary in the 1970's there was a theological interpretation of Vatican II in general and the document on the liturgy in particular which diminished the sacramental character of the ordained priest. Taken to its extreme, these theologians envisioned a church of the future where anyone who had certain skills could be chosen from the local community to be the "president" of the Eucharistic celebration. The emphasis on meal and re-enacting the Last Supper rather than re-presenting in an "unbloody" way the One Sacrifice of Calvary was quite overstated. In other words, the Mass was portrayed as a kind of McDonald's Happy Meal for the gathered congregation to celebrate the fact that they were Easter People.

But keep in mind that the 1969 Roman Missal was somewhat revised in the early 1970's to bring it back to a theology more in continuity with Trent's theology of the Eucharist and its dogmatic teachings.

In terms of the form of the two Masses, there is continuity. How the revised Mass is celebrated in many parishes is the problem especially when it obscures the unique role of the ordained bishop or priest.

Much of this comes from an over-reaction to "clericalism." Clericalism flows from a theology that the priest himself is a privileged character who should have benefits that most laity don't. That is wrong. However, to see the role of the Priest called by God to be one as a sacramental sign of the Lord who is the "President," "Victim" and "Sacrificial Lamb" of the Church points to the grandeur of Christ,the Risen Lord, not the grandeur of the priest, bishop or even the Pope, the Vicar of Christ.

The Revised Order of the Mass when celebrated as it is mandated and I would go so far as to say if celebrated Ad Orientem would truly be in continuity with the Mass of Trent, its dogmatic theology and its understanding of the Priesthood of Christ which the bishop and priest are configured to in a powerful Sacramental way. The Reform of the reform tries to emphasize what preceded the Council without in any way compromising Trent but also showing that organic development is possible, the vernacular is possible and the active participation of the laity is possible all the while still emphasizing internal and contemplative participation as the foundation of spirituality for every Catholic lay or ordained.

Copied from Rorate Caeli website:The Roman Rite: Old and New
Catholicism, Protestantism, and the theology of the New Roman Rite
In this presentation of Don Pietro Leone's "The Roman Rite: Old and New", the author goes to the heart of the matter: if the Traditional Rite has always represented and transmitted (in the very sense of the word Tradition) what Catholics believe and is both the source and the summit of Eucharistic Dogma, as defined forever in Trent, what are exactly the source and character of a New Rite transformed in almost all its characteristics?

Catholicism and Protestantism

We proceed to set forth and compare the theology of the Mass of the Old and the New Roman Rite, first as contained in official Church documents, then as contained in the rites themselves.

A. In Official Church Documents

1. The Old Rite

Catholic Dogma on the Blessed Eucharist is set forth definitively in the Council of Trent. The Council declares: “And so this Council teaches the true and genuine doctrine about this venerable and divine sacrament of the Eucharist… The Council forbids all the faithful of Christ henceforth to believe, teach, or preach anything about the most Holy Eucharist that is different from what is explained and defined in the present decree.” (Session 21, Introduction).
If we ask ourselves how this theology corresponds to the theology of the Old Rite, we must reply that it is identical, since the principal reason for the definition of Eucharistic dogma as for the reform of the Roman rite was to provide “a bastion of the true Faith against Protestant heresies”: a bastion at once dogmatic and liturgical (MD p. 8). In the same vein the Critical Study of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci (September 1969) speaks of “the Catholic theology of the Holy Mass as it was formulated in Session 22 of the Council of Trent, which, by fixing definitively the “Canons” of the rite, erected an insurmountable barrier against any heresy which might attack the integrity of the mystery.” The identity of the theology of the Old Rite with the dogmas of the Council of Trent is, in fact, a particularly eminent instance of the principle “Lex orandi, lex credendi”[1].

In order briefly to expound the theology of the Mass as expressed in the Old Rite, we shall proceed to quote three principal eucharistic declarations of the Council of Trent:

“If anyone were to say that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice were not offered to God, or that what is offered were anything other than Christ to be consumed by us, Anathema Sit.” (Session 22, can. I)[2]
“One and the Same is the victim, and He Who now offers the sacrifice in virtue of the priestly ministry, is the Same Who offered Himself then on the Cross, only the mode of offering being different.” (Session 22, ch. 2)[3]
… the sacrifice by which that bloody one (sacrifice) which was to be made once on the Cross was to be made present, and its memory was to remain till the end of time, and its salutary power for the remission of sins which are daily committed by us was to be applied.” (Session 22 ch.1)[4]

In conclusion then, the Mass is a Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of Christ, because Christ is the victim and priest in the Mass as He is at Calvary. The relation between the Sacrifice of Calvary and the Sacrifice of the Mass is that the Sacrifice of Calvary is made present, recalled, and its fruit applied in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

In the next section we shall describe in detail the sacrificial character of the Old Rite, turning now to the theology of the New Rite, as expressed in official Church documents.

2. The New Rite

We shall briefly consider two such documents: Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963) and Missale Romanum (1969), the first and the last of the series of documents that govern the New Rite. In the words of Michael Davies (p. 22): “The most important passages in Sacrosanctum Concilium were the ‘time-bombs’. These were apparently harmless phrases which could be used as a mandate for a revolution after the Council.” Amongst these phrases[5] are those referring to the promotion of union of all Christians (Art. 1); to Christ being present in different ways in the Mass (Art. 7); the priesthood of the faithful (Art. 14); the presidency of the priest over the assembly - coetui praeest - (Art. 33); the greater use of the Holy Scriptures - abundantior, varior, et aptior lectio sacrae Scripturae - (Art. 35); the wider use of the vernacular (Art. 36); and inculturation (Art. 37, Art. 40-41).
So much then for the implicit intentions of at least a number of the Council Fathers. As far as the explicit intentions of the Fathers in general is concerned, it must be said that the reform of the liturgy greatly exceeded them (“elle va bien au delà” in the words of Fr. Gélineau, op.cit. MD p. 82).
Now the document which expresses most clearly the theology of the Novus Ordo is the Instructio Generalis to the Missale Romanum. This was a General Instruction accompanying the new Roman Missal and presenting the Eucharistic doctrine which it expresses.[6] “It can be described as a mandate for undermining Catholic teaching, but with an orthodox phrase thrown in here or there” (MD p. 282). We shall limit ourselves to quoting only one of its articles, the controversial Article 7.
“The Lord’s Supper, or Mass, is the sacred assembly or meeting of the People of God, met together with a priest presiding, to celebrate the memorial of the Lord. For this reason, the promise of Christ is particularly true of a local congregation of the church: where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”
Article 7 may be criticized both in regard to what it expresses and in regard to what it suppresses.
In regard to what it expresses, its theology, anticipated obliquely in the SC, is entirely compatible with Protestant theories of the Mass: Cranmer described his 1549 rite as “the Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Masse” (MD p. 285), where the essence of the Lord’s Supper is considered to be the coming together of the people; the “priest” is viewed as simply a president devoid of sacramental or sacrificial power; and where Christ is present only spiritually in the assembly and not in His Real Presence.[7]
As to what Article 7 suppresses, we remark that neither here nor anywhere else in the Instruction is it asserted that the Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary, a propitiatory sacrifice, offered by an ordained priest in the Person of Christ independently of the presence of the congregation. The Critical Study states with respect to Article 7 that the deliberate omission of every one of the dogmatic values essential to the Mass “amounts, at least in practice, to their denial.”
The Protestant character of the 1969 version of the Instruction caused wide-spread indignation within the Catholic Church, leading to a revision published the following year. In this revision, certain Protestant teachings were eliminated such as the teaching that the Last Supper (rather than the Sacrifice of the Cross) is made present at the Mass (Article 48); while other Protestant teachings are qualified by their juxtaposition to Catholic teachings. In the revised Article 7, for example, [8] we read in the first sentence Missa seu Cena dominica: the Mass or the Lord’s Supper; and in the second sentence memoriale Domini seu sacrificium eucharisticum: the Memorial of the Lord, or the sacrifice of the Eucharist. Here Catholic terms are equated illicitly with other terms ‘which have been invested with a Protestant and anti-Catholic signification’ (MD p. 290). A further example is the assertion that the priest presides over the people and “act[s] in the person of Christ”.
While the first version is overtly Protestant in character, the second is a masterpiece of equivocation. There is no precise and unambiguous theological terminology (as required by Mysterium Fidei of Pope Paul VI) such as the use of the word ‘Transsubstantiation’,[9] so that everything may be understood in accordance with Protestant eucharistic heresy.
But whatever may be said of the virtues of the 1970 revision, its importance can only ever be minimal, for the overtly Protestant 1969 version is, as we have said, that which expressed the theology of the Novus Ordo Missae, which was itself never revised. In the classic French critique of the New Rite “La Nouvelle Messe” Prof. Salleron writes (p. 191): “Il ne faut pas oublier que c’est la rédaction primitive qui servait d’introduction au nouvel ordo missae, lequel n’a pas été modifié : We should not forget that it is the original edition which served as the introduction to the Novus Ordo Missae, which was not modified.”

[1] law of believing, law of praying

[2] “Si quis dixerit in Missa non offerri Deo verum et proprium sacrificium, aut quod offerri non sit aliud quam nobis Christum ad manducandum, A.S.”

[3]“Una eademque hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotium ministerio, qui seipsum tunc in cruce obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa.”

[4]“… sacrificium quo cruentum illud semel in cruce peragendum repraesentaretur eiusque memoria in finem usque saecula permaneret atque illius salutaris virtus in remissionem eorum quae a nobis quotidie committuntur peccatorum applicaretur”.

[5] see ‘In the Murky Waters of Vatican II’ TAN 1999 by Atila Sinke Guimaraes.

[6] We note Mgr. Bugnini’s comments on the “liturgia del popolo di Dio,…sempre più delle “celebrazioni”,… una assemblea riunita per ascoltare e rispondere alla parola di Dio, partecipare al sacramento, fare memoria del Signore Gesù, rendere grazie a Dio Padre : liturgy of the People of God, which have more and more the character of celebrations, an assembly come together to listen and to respond to the Word of God, participate in the Sacrament, to commemorate the Lord Jesus, and give thanks to God the Father.” (La Riforma Liturgica I.4. p.53-4). We note also that Pope Paul VI asked him to have the Instruction approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which, greatly to the Pope’s chagrin, he did not.

[7] Since many faithful to-day seem to view the Mass as a “commemorative meal” or “feast” in line with this Protestant theory, we consider it useful briefly to examine this view: first in relation to the element of the meal or feast, then in relation to the element of commemoration.
Now one of the names by which the Catholic Church calls the Mass is “Supper”, because it was “instituted during the salutary mystery of the Last Supper” as the Catechism of Trent explains (in the section on the names of the Mass at the beginning of the treatment of the Blesed Eucharist), but it is not essentially a supper but a sacrifice, as we have shown above.
In consequence of the definitions of Trent, the Mass may only be described as a supper if the sacrifice is identical with a supper. This in fact could accord with a problematical, minority theological opinion espoused for example by St. Robert Bellarmine, who argues that the Holy Communion of the celebrant constitutes the destruction of the Divine Victim.
But clearly we are not justifed to present as Catholic doctrine a minority view, and a minority view which is problematic at that; and much less are we justified in defining it in the very same terms as were used by the Protestant heresiarchs.
The common opinion of the theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas, is rather that the sacrifice consists in the Consecration alone (Summa III 82.10). As for the Holy Communion, St Thomas argues that is a participation in the effect of the sacrifice (Summa III 83.1). We may therefore conclude that the Holy Communion is an integral, rather than an essential, part of the Mass. This also corresponds to the statement in Mediator Dei (562) that “ad…sacrificii integritatem habendam requiritur solummodo, ut sacerdos caelesti pabulo reficiatur: for the integrity of the sacrifice it is only necessary that the priest is restored by the heavenly food.”
We cannot define the Mass as a “supper” or a “meal” then; much less can we describe it as a “feast”, for a feast requires the participation of a number of people, whereas the Mass can be validly offered without the Communion, or even the presence, of the congregation or even the Mass-server. We note that the Protestants’ feast theory corresponds to their heretical rejection of the private Mass (cf. the Council of Trent S.22 ch.6, can. 8).
In regard to the commemorative element of the Mass, the fact that it commemorates the Last Supper clearly has no bearing on its essence; and the Council of Trent declares that the Mass both commemorates and renders present the Sacrifice of Calvary (S.22 cap.1): “…Sacrificium, quo cruentum illud semel in cruce peragendum repraesentaretur, eiusque memoria in finem usque saeculi permaneret…”, but anathematizes any-one who should say that it is a mere commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross (S.22 can.3): “… Si quis dixerit Missae Sacrificium… nudam commemorationem sacrificiii in cruce peracti…Anathema sit”.

[8] where incidentally there is still no mention of transsubstantiation (cf. Iota Unum s.272, p.602).

[9] cf. Iota Unum s.272, p.602