Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Hooray for Wuerl, the Apostle of Freedom

Warning this post may contain irony
Just thinking of Cardinal Wuerl and the law, I say, "Hooray, for Wuerl, the Apostle of Freedom". All that legalism, we need a knife to cut through it. It is important not to listen to legalists like Ed Peters who criticises the Eminent Cardinal

I am a great fan of English in the liturgy, I don't mind all that Latin stuff: Orbis Factor, di Angelis, masses with numbers but I say, 'English music for English people'. Sunday morning we had Byrd for 4 Voices and very nicely sung it was, despite someone fainting in the gallery, we really do have the nicest music for miles around but we rarely have Sheparde, Tallis Tye, Tallis, Byrd and Phillips or any of those English Golden Age composers. I am no fanatic, I wouldn't mind going foreign and having Victoria's Requiem on Remembrance Sunday. The dreadful truth is that those monsters described by their colleague Louis Bouyer swept away the great tradition of Catholic music by demanding the 'Eucharistic Prayer' be said aloud, waiting for five or six minutes of Sanctus to finish before beginning the Canon become an unnecessary burden for the people. O for those pre-microphone days when only those only those standing around (circum - stantes) needed to hear! and the rest could get on an pray to a polyphonic Sanctus before the Consecration and its matching Benedictus afterwards. Do hearing the words of the Eucharistic Prayer actually help people to pray the Mass more intensely? I doubt it.

Now if I were in Cdl Wuerl's diocese, freed from the terrible burden of the law, or even in Archbishop Cupich's, able to follow the lights of my own conscience, I could do what is absolutely illicit in the Ordinary Form but perfectly licit in the Extraordinary Form and rather than wait for the Sanctus and Benedictus to be sung before beginning the Canon of the Mass I could just get on and say it quitely, trusting the faithful, either to multi-task or to choose between following the liturgical action, or pray, or just bask in glorious music. Choice, under these circumstances seem to be the mature option. The Sanctus would finish just in time for the epiclesis and the Benedictus could be sung after the consecration and leave a short space for quiet prayer before the Per ipsum, it would fit terribly well, and His Eminence and His Excellency (in England it would be His Grace) would be absolutely delighted. While we are about it I could also introduce the old offertory prayers, , I always say new ones quietly, as we are supposed to but no-one would be offended and HE would praise me for not being bound by rigid legalism. I could even move the penitential rite to a little service before Mass actually began, if the lights of conscience actually led me to do so.

Being free from legalism and following one's own conscience seem very tempting to me. The trouble is I suppose other 'unbound' priests might similarly make up their own rubrics and say Mass whilst skateboarding. Some might simply decide not to send the diocese any money at all, or to opt out of various diocesan initiatives, maybe refuse to move when asked, or set up satellite churches in neighbours territory. I am sure no priest would stoop to simony arranging   They might also get in friendly bishops to ordain their parishioners, or even their friends, even their girlfriends, or worst. The problems is there always those priests who don't like their bishop and for fun will choose to do everything possible to annoy him.

But Cardinal Wuerl would respect my non-legalism, especially when I tell him the Gospel has set me free, and Archbishop Cupich will accept my conscientious decision. Other less enlightened bishops of course might not respect my personal freedom and give space to my conscience and rather than walk with me might send in his mafia storm troopers to break a leg or an arm. especially when my parish stopped sending in money to the diocese. What if I was in Cardinal Marx' diocese and denounced his nine million euro Roman palace or his even more expensive diocesan HQ, or his interests in the porn business.

The dreadful problem is when there is no law then one has to keep a close eye on the prince, when he smiles and when he frowns. On who are his friends and who he regards as his enemies. On who is in favour and who is not. Then one listens not so much to conscience of the words of the Gospel but to gossip and who is closest to to the Prince. Who has his ear and who enjoys his favour. Then we will live by rumour, then we will fear for we know that it is only by the whim of the Prince that we live or that we die.


Anonymous said...

Your main point about law is well taken, Father. And your satire on the absurdity and hypocrisy of the Wuerl doctrine (lots of 'freedom' to be modernist/secularist, but don't you dare be conservative or orthodox!). However, when you ask "Do(es) hearing the words of the Eucharistic Prayer actually help people to pray the Mass more intensely?", I must say, Yes it does. The priest's words pray in me and through me and keep me focussed on the mystery unfolding. Reading the words from a book while the priest mutters them is a purely private and cerebral exercise. That's something I can do anywhere and at any time. Doing it at Mass doesn't seem to make any distinction between personal meditation and liturgical prayer. You speak of the choir singing during the Eucharistic Prayer, which can be wonderful but that is only in sung masses, which is rare, and I suspect it always was. I intend no blasphemy, but I'm afraid I find Low Mass in the extraordinary form akin to being at a Quaker meeting. It requires a massive and constant act of solitary faith to believe that anything is happening at all. Maybe that is a salutary thing to do, but it doesn't feel very Catholic and sacramental.I don't agree with everything that has happened with the de-sacralization of so much of the liturgy, but I do think there was a need for reform.

Liam Ronan said...

He's definitely not a 'jot and tittle' kind of guy.

He seems convinced that since he recognizes there is now no King in Israel 'every man may do what is right in his own eyes'. (Judges)

Highland Cathedral said...

"His Eminence and His Excellency". Fortunately in these halcyon days of post-legalism, neither cleric would wish to use either of these titles. Both are so …. err, legalistic.

Long-Skirts said...

Thomas said:

"I intend no blasphemy, but I'm afraid I find Low Mass in the extraordinary form akin to being at a Quaker meeting."


November’s freeze
Warmth melts the chill
At Mass alone
On Calvary's hill.

Where from its heights
Fierce sleety rains
Beat down upon
Stained-window panes.

At the Mass of all times
The Faith's never frozen
"Many are called...
But few are chosen."

Thomas Beyer said...

You're describing the American Episcopal Church from which us US Ordinariate folks have fled. Having little real, enforceable law, traditional congregations who wanted to bend the rules in favor of Catholicism that found themselves under the jurisdiction of a friendly bishop could blissfully ignore the chaos of the wider church and all those who chose to bend the rules the other direction. All the while never realizing that the root problem was not one of attitudes, but the lack of an effective authority and the prevalence of renegade congregations and clergy more than willing to flout what little law there was--congregations and clergy just like themselves, never mind whether they were renegades on behalf of the truth or not.

As difficult as it was, we willingly chose the "legalism" of Rome because, even with everything unsavory that goes along with it, an institution with real authority (abused, confusing, sensational, scandalous, and all-around messy as it can be) is still preferable to the self-worshipping chaos from which we emerged.

I wonder if part of the gift the Ordinariates have to give to the Church is an appreciation for the papacy, not as absolute monarch, the character of whose tyrannies shift as often as popes come and go, but as the conservative guarantor of a visible, legal unity.

Jacobi said...

I am not a lawyer, but Canon Law, is necessary. It expresses and clarifies Church Teaching.

With a problem, a broken down car for in stance or a controversy in the Church it is often good to start with what is not possible. With the car you cannot get where you want in this vehicle. With the current controversy on divorce, re-marriage and Holy Communion, you cannot receive Holy Communion.

With the car, there are alternatives, walk, bus, train? With divorces/adultery the solution is to renounce this situation, and live as, “brother and sister” (not my phrase)

Now walking may be difficult and buses my be infrequent. Tough!

Living as B/S is not easy but then we all have crosses to bear and no cross is light to carry, otherwise it would not be a Cross.

As a wiser man than me, also not a lawyer said,

“So I saw in my Dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his burden loosed from off his Shoulders, and fell from off his back”

Pelerin said...

Thomas' comment about the benefit of hearing the Priest pray the Canon of the Mass in English I found interesting although I don't actually agree with him! I agree with Fr Ray who doubts whether hearing the words in English makes prayer more intense. When it is in the vernacular I find my mind wandering far more than when attending the EF where concentration has to be far more intense and where as a result prayer comes far more easily. In the EF everything appears to flow effortlessly and you lose all sense of time whereas in the NO time drags as it is in sections and there are 'gaps' as we wait for someone to come up and read and that is when I lack concentration especially if the accoustics of the church are not good.

Blog comments often compare the silent Canon of the EF with the vernacular NO out loud but I wonder why I have never seen any mention of the 'half-way house' which prepared us for the present Novus Ordo. This was when the Consecration was still in Latin but said very slowly and distinctly out loud by the Celebrant. I seem to remember finding the transition from silent Latin to audible Latin a relatively easy transition and a particularly wonderful moment - far more so than when it went from audible Latin to audible English round about 1970 I think? This latter was the greatest shock in the changes we endured at that time. Everyone knew what 'Hic est enim Corpus meum' meant - there really was no need to translate it. We were not stupid. After all had we not all followed the Mass previously in our Missals?

The Saint Bede Studio said...

Thomas wrote :

<< The priest's words pray in me and through me and keep me focussed on the mystery unfolding. Reading the words from a book while the priest mutters them is a purely private and cerebral exercise. >>

I think, Thomas, you forgot to add to your assertion "in my view" or "in my opinion".

It most assuredly differs, however, from what has been manifest in Tradition, the writings of various Popes of the twentieth century, the Fathers East and West and many Saints.

Stephen Turton said...

There perhaps is a little conflating of canon law on the form of the mass, and canon law preventing admission to the Eucharist of those in 'non-canonical' relationship situations. The latter is is surely a moral issue flowing from Christ's and St.Paul's teaching, unlike FE v. NO which isn't exactly.

Though I take the point that problems with both areas could flow from the devolution of authority away from Rome.

Hoser said...

I wish we had characters that warrant having a movie made like "A Man For All Seasons." I cringe to think that our movie on religious freedom will include Obama's victory over Christ at the US Supreme Court instead.

Tony V said...

Freeing ourselves from liturgical legalism would free us to:
1. Omit the Bidding Prayers (except those specified for Good Friday)
2. Mention those saints (twice!) in the Confiteor
3. Nine-fold Kyrie
4. Begin the 'Eucharistic Prayer' while the choir sings the Sanctus, omitting the Memorial Acclamation.
5. Omit the kingdom/power/glory.
6. Read the Last Gospel before leaving the altar.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

I grew up with the Old Mass in Dublin (born 1943). I remember packed churches on the weekdays of Lent, with young and old going to the 7am Mass before school and work. many used missals to follow the Mass, though many did not. My experience was different to that of Thomas. One phenomenon I remember vividly was the 'communal cough' after the second Elevation. It was a far more powerful expression of the Mystery of Faith than the perfunctory 'Christ has died, etc' that we had with the previous English Sacramentary – and that particular formula wasn't even in the original Latin.

The 'halfway house' Mass mentioned by Pelerin was introduced in 1965 and was still being used when I was ordained in December 1967. The basic difference from the Old Mass was that the readings were in the vernacular but the Roman Canon was still as it had always been, in Latin. The priest had the option of praying it silently or audibly. However, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin decreed that it be prayed silently 'for the sake of uniformity'. An Italian priest-friend of mine who belongs to a congregation whose mission is to the Deaf, never signs the words of Consecration because he believes that the priests 'silence' there draws the congregation of profoundly deaf people into a deeper sense of the Mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Of late I have felt drawn more to the old, silent Low Mass, even though I haven't had the opportunity to learn how to celebrate it and have received no requests here in the Philippines to do so, rather than to the High Mass. Two reasons for my preference for the Low Mass may be that when I was a child my father used to take me to churches of the religious orders such as the Capuchins or Dominicans on days such as Easter Monday and Whit Monday when there would be High Mass. I used to find these very long and yet I am grateful to my father because I could see that the High Mass meant so much to him as it did to so many others. The churches were always packed for High Mass. The second reason I'm not particularly drawn to the High Mass goes back to my seminary days. We had High Mass every Sunday some time after breakfast. We didn't receive Holy Communion because we had attended Low Mass before breakfast. I was usually the organist but dreaded occasions when I was asked to be one of the servers in the sanctuary. My classmates insisted that I take my turn! But I do have a strong sense of pageantry, if that is the right word.

The stark reality in Ireland, especially in Dublin, is that our churches are largely empty or only half-full, and with very few young people, on Sundays in these days of 'active participation'. I have seen very little discussion about this. It seems to be accepted as 'part of the times we're in'.

Your post, Fr Blake, wasn't specifically about the Mass, though it has drawn many comments about that, but rather about the place of Canon Law in the life of the Church. The 2009 Murphy Report –commissioned by the Irish Government - into the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin in a long section on Canon Law makes this statement (4.90): [http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2009_11_26_Murphy_Report/04_The_Role_of_Canon_Law.pdf] ]:

‘The power to remove priests from ministry is available only from canon law. The penal process of canon law was for a period of years set aside in favour of a purely “pastoral‟ approach which was, in the Commission’s view, wholly ineffective as a means of controlling clerical child sexual abuse. The abuse of children in Dublin was a scandal. The failure of the Archdiocesan authorities to penalise the perpetrators is also a scandal.’

Note the results of a ‘pastoral approach’ in this particular situation.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to have distracted the post from its main point. I actually take it for granted that comments I make on a blog are merely my own opinion and view. (Unlike some, I don't believe my every utterance is infallible :-)) I recognise and respect the fact that others have a different experience. Although I'm not sure what point "Long Skirts" is making with the last line of their poem: "Many are called, few are chosen". Is it saying that the Mass is only for "the few", or that I am outside the kingdom if I don't 'get it'? Actually I do get it on the level of faith. I believe that the Holy Sacrifice is offered in any valid liturgical form (including the Eastern Rites which are so full of rich and engaging symbolism). It's just that so called "low mass", bar the elevations of course, seems to leave the believer wholly relying on inner resources and strategies to be present. I am willing and able to do that, thanks be to God, but the great act of Redemption offered through the mystery of signs on earth as it is in heaven surely warrants more than that? The stillness and silence of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (which I love and am going to later today) feels like it has more to draw the eye and heart purely on the level of external sacramentals (of course I know the Mass itself is the greater action, although very closely related). I am aware that I'm out of step with many who frequent these blogs, and the deficiency may well be mine. I do not like all the accretions and bustle that has been imposed on the Novus Ordo, but I am probably fairly representative of many ordinary Catholics these days who would find the extraordinary form at its most minimalist harder to embrace. Whereas the pageantry and beauty of the fuller celebration would do much to draw people to love of the Church's tradition.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Paedophile priests and others interested in abusing adolescents will be delighted that Canon Law is about to be binned.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr Coyle,

I enjoyed reading and was edified by your comment.

I am trying to understand "communal cough". What was this? I imagine something like the release of so many coughs stifled during the consecration; perhaps amplified by he way that coughing is catching, as school boys and concert goers know well. Is that what you mean?

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