Sunday, May 25, 2008

Liturgical Abuses

Opposition to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum
Pope Benedict XVI's approach to dealing with the crisis in the Church hinges upon liturgical renewal. He has written "I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today largely derives from the disintegration of the liturgy." (Milestones) As Vatican II said, the liturgy is the "summit and source" of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium, no. 11): even in purely natural terms, it is the almost only way in which most Catholic come into contact with the Church. If it fails to convey the faith, or a proper attitude of prayer, or reverence towards holy things, it will lead to lapsation. The repeated pleas of Paul VI and John-Paul II against liturgical abuses (see below) have been ignored, and Pope Benedict is approaching the matter in a different way: by reference to a longer view of Catholic liturgy, to include the liturgy before the reforms of Paul VI, he is trying to establish a 'hermeneutic of continuity' which exposes the shallowness of the arguments in favour of irreverent treatment of the Blessed Sacrament and so on. This policy requires the 'Traditional', 1962 Missal to come back into widespread use, enabling Catholics to see a type of Catholic liturgy unaffected by today's crisis. The bishops of England and Wales, however, seem in varying degrees not to want to cooperate with this project. It is obvious that if the Church becomes ungovernable in such matters, it will never escape its current difficulties. See the Motu Proprio here (pdf from Rorate Caeli).

Church-sharing with Protestants: in the link Bishop Noble of Shrewsbury is criticised for closing a parish church in order to initiate a sharing arrangement by the Congregation for Clergy. Such a thing could only be contemplated in the most dire circumstances, which clearly do not apply in the UK. There is neither a shortage of church buildings nor a shortage of money to maintain them: sharing a building does nothing, of course, to deal with the problem of the shortage of priests. Sharing a church building with non-Catholics raises insuperable practical problems: either it is a consecrated church, in which case non-Catholic services should not routinely be held in it, or it is not a consecrated church, in which case the Mass should not routinely be said in it; either the Blessed Sacrament will be hidden away, or it will be subject to the disrespect of unbelievers; the whole project is an invitation to religious indifferentism.

Bishop McMahon on clerical celibacy and women priests: of all the bishops of England and Wales, McMahon seems most prone to blurt out things he shouldn't to the press. He denies it afterwards, but it is a strange spectacle indeed.

Liturgical abuses:

Two major attempts to restrain liturgical abuses by Pope John-Paul II are the documentsRedemptoris Sacramentum (2004) and On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests (1997). These left enforcement to local bishops, and the bishops took no notice at all: you will find the most blatant abuses in every Cathedral in the UK. Examples would be the routine use of Extraordinary Minsters of Holy Communion; the celebrant leaving the sanctuary to exchange the kiss of peace; the ignoring of rubrics (when to genuflect etc.) and the insertion of ex tempore formulas in place of the prescribed text. In the context of a gradually growing sense of liturgical propriety which is being fostered by Pope Benedict XVI, it is worthwhile to oppose the most serious abuses at a local level.

Redemptionis Sacramentum tells us that
[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.
See Fr Zuhlsdorf's guide to complaining.

General Absolution
This is extremely serious, as the validity of the sacrament is at issue: when a priest gives a 'general absolution' to a group of faithful, without individual confession of sins, the absolution isINVALID unless the faithful consciously intend to go to individual confession as soon as possible (making the procedure pointless, in normal circumstances). General absolution is intended to cater for soldiers going into battle who do not have time for individual confession and may not live long enough to go later. It is an extremely serious matter for a priest to mislead the faithful about this.

Disrespect for the Precious Blood
It is by the pouring out of Christ's blood on the cross that our sins are forgiven . Devotion to the Precious Blood is therefore of great importance, and it is forbidden for priests to consecrate it in jugs and pour it from one receptacle to another: it would be much better not to offer the faithful communion under both kinds when numbers of communicants are large.

The washing of women's feet on Maundy Thursday 
Part of an on-going campaign to bring women into the liturgy in a completely inappropriate way, the ultimate goal of which is the ordination of women to the priesthood. Since this is never going to happen (see John-Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1994), the campaign is pointless as well as damaging to the symbolic coherence of the ceremonies.

Removal of Holy Water from Churches during Lent
A misguided practice depriving the faithful of an important and popular sacramental.

A blatant violation of the law of the Church. Bishop Drainey of Middlesbrough has tried to browbeat communicants who prefer to kneel; nevertheless, they have to right to do so.

This has been criticised by Pope Benedict: it is completely contrary to the spirit of the liturgy.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen