Levada: A Straight Arrow
I am the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton, Calif., and I have been a faithful reader of the NOR for many years.
I have known Archbishop Levada for many years, since we were ordained together in the same ceremony in 1983. He eventually went to San Francisco and I to Stockton.
In the U.S. we allow abortion and divorce and remarriage. Abortion is murder and remarriage is often adultery. Archbishop Levada has always stood up for the teachings of the Church. He is a straight arrow. The Pope knew what he was doing when he chose Archbishop Levada to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Most Rev. Donald W. Montrose
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
I want to thank JoAnn Muetterties (letter, Nov. 2005) for her Church history lesson in response to those who are trying to justify the current state of the liturgy in the Roman rite. I would like to add two things to her points, particularly in response to “Annunymouse” (letter, Sept. 2005) and Peter W. Stein (letter, Nov. 2005).
The tradition of the priest or bishop facing East toward the altar (and not, as it is often described, “with his back toward the people”) was instituted as a sign of anticipation of our Lord’s Second Coming (the sun, the source of physical light, which rises in the East, is a symbol of Jesus, the true Light of the World, who will come again to judge us).
Pope Benedict XVI, in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, defends this tradition, saying, “A common turning to the East during the Eucharistic Prayer remains essential. This is not a case of accidentals, but of essentials. Looking at the priest has no importance. What matters is looking together at the Lord. It is not now a question of dialogue, but of common worship, of setting off toward the One who is to come. What corresponds with the reality of what is happening is not the closed circle, but the common movement forward expressed in a common direction for prayer” (italics added).
In short, the new Pope thinks that the Mass the “old-fashioned way” is more communal than the modern method of offering Mass. The liturgical innovators must think that he has a lot of nerve to say such a thing!
University of South Carolina
In the Latin Mass, Catholics Were & Are "Mentally Present"
Peter W. Stein’s letter, “Mentally Present” (Nov. 2005), repeats the stale arguments we have been hearing for forty years. He states that at the Last Supper, “Christ was facing His 12 Apostles,” like the priest in the new Mass faces the people. My understanding is that Jewish custom seated all the diners at such meals on the same side of the table, leaving the other side clear for the approach and assistance of servants. Christ and the Apostles faced the same way at the Supper, just as the priest and the people at a Tridentine Latin Mass face the same way.
As to the use of Aramaic, I am convinced that Christ spoke Latin at the Last Supper, as He spoke Latin to the various Romans with whom He had dealings.
But the worst lie still being told by those who hate the Latin Mass is the one (in Stein’s phrasing) about the people needing “to see what the priest is doing and understand what he is saying.” The lie is in the implication that until the new vernacular Mass was invented, no Catholic knew what was going on at Mass. Is Stein not aware that Missals in the bad old days had the entire Mass in English, alongside the Latin? That we downtrodden and ignorant Catholics in the 1950s and earlier didn’t know what the priest was doing is nothing but a canard. The first thing we learned, in Catholic schools or in “Sunday school,” was what the Mass was, what the priest was doing, and why.
James F. Csank
The Rockford Institute
Seven Hills, Ohio
Instituting both the Holy Eucharist and the sacred priesthood at the Last Supper, Christ was not “facing His 12 Apostles,” implying that the First Mass was “facing the people.” Cardinal Ratzinger best explained this mistaken notion in The Spirit of the Liturgy, by quoting Louis Bouyer, “In no meal of the early Christian era, did the president of the banqueting assembly ever face the other participants. They were all sitting, or reclining, on the convex side of a C-shaped table…the shape of a horseshoe. The other side was always left for serving…. The communal character of a meal was emphasized by…the fact that all the participants were on the same side of the table.” The future Pope goes on to state how the word “meal” cannot adequately describe the Mass. It is a sacrifice, the sacrifice, in essence.
Of course, our Lord spoke His hometown language at the Last Supper. He was not participating in Temple or synagogue worship. If He were, He would be speaking Hebrew, as usual, in public worship.
Fr. Gary Carr
About the controversy over which language (Latin or the vernacular) serves the people of God better during Mass: My mind tells me Peter W. Stein’s arguments are more logical, but in practice I benefit more spiritually from the Latin Mass. Here is why.
Masses said in the vernacular allow for much more distraction. I lip sync the words while my mind travels constantly. Even if I fight against it, ultimately I lose. I don’t need a missalette, for I know all the responses by heart.
When I attend a Tridentine Latin Mass, I take my old Missal with me, reading the prayers page by page along with the priest. I come away from the Latin Mass more spiritually uplifted. I am more present mentally, not just physically, during the Latin Mass.
On another matter regarding the vernacular Mass: Having priests or lay ministers distribute Communion from the back of the church should never be permitted. It would astonish you to watch the large numbers of communicants who upon receiving the Eucharist walk right out the door chewing the Host as they leave. It really is a sacrilegious act that should be stopped.
It has been nearly 40 years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, yet Catholics continue to trot out the same ridiculous reasons for the ostensible destruction of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. During the turbulent decade of the Sixties, a steady stream of propaganda spewed forth from both the pulpit and the news media, convincing unthinking Catholics to think like the progressives. It was identical to the relentless push by our non-Catholic media and our Catholic liberals today to convince the Church to ordain women.
Forty years ago, the progress of the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath were on the lips of every media pundit. We were told that the Church needed to update herself, that modern man was smarter than his ancestors, that we didn’t need a patronizing Church pushing us around, that Latin was outmoded, that Gregorian chant was a bore compared to the Beatles, that the priest needed to turn around and look at us the way ministers did in Protestant churches.
Peter W. Stein and others who swallowed the propaganda ought to peek in at an Orthodox Jewish service. They will notice that the rabbi does not face the people like a Protestant minister. Rather, he stands with his back to the people and, together, they face God and pray as one. In the Tridentine Latin Mass, the priest does not turn his back on the people, but stands in front of us to lead us in prayer. At the new Mass, the priest turns his back to our Lord in the Tabernacle and puts on a show for us. At the Tridentine Mass, not only does the priest stand at the altar, but so does the entire congregation!
I was born in 1955 and, as a child, could easily follow the Old Mass in my Missal. At a very young age, I had much of the Mass memorized in Latin, including the entire Gloria, and I knew what the prayers meant. The rubrics, those red instructions in the Missal, kept me informed of every action the priest was performing. I participated very closely in the Mass and was there both physically and mentally. I would argue that the progressives assume that modern man is too stupid to understand a second language, can’t worship without his hand being held (sometimes literally) through every step of the process, and is totally incapable of appreciating high art. It would seem the modern Church is the patronizing Church.
A Republic, Not an Empire
In Imprimis, the Hillsdale College publication, George Will rightly and eloquently celebrated the civil energy of Americans but vainly sought to do the same for America’s moral energy. He tried to justify President Bush’s preventive war in Iraq to make the world safe for democracy. He took little, if any, notice of democracy’s spiritual heedlessness.
U.S. democracy has murdered 46 million babies! That is not moral energy. It is moral insanity. Our democracy promotes pornography and, judicially, fosters sodomy! In his ill-considered passion of patriotism, Will amazingly overlooked these glaring facts. However much the world needs America’s civil energy, the last thing it needs is the gross immorality which pluralism is powerless to correct and indeed causes. If America is to survive its accelerating degeneracy, pluralism must be shown to be the relativist absurdity that it is.
Neither the pluralist ancient Roman republic nor the pluralist neopagan merchant republics of Italy survived their moral degeneracy. Will’s hope that America will be an exception is clearly vain. Without a swift end to pluralism, the same pattern of history will inevitably be repeated.
When there is no moral authority to enforce the principle of subsidiarity, which keeps economics local, nothing prevents the gradual loss of economic liberty. In the free economic competition of republic, the most able competitors win. Our republic has become a plutocracy and, as we see, plutocracy aspires to force an empire. World unity cannot be forced. When it comes, it will be voluntary.
Daniel M. Canavan
Saint Albans, Maine
Stick With the Republican Party
I read with a sense of déjà vu the letters about Catholics joining a third party to show their disgust for the Republican Party. This type of palaver comes up periodically and I have heard it numerous times in my life as an elected official in the Republican Party.
Let me offer some history to those who pursue such a bankrupt strategy. First of all, we have a two-party system in the USA. Historically, in this country, good ideas by third parties are co-opted by one of the two major parties, witness the Populist Party in the 19th century. The abolitionists were absorbed by the new Republican Party in 1854, along with some of the members of the dying Whig Party, creating the Party of Lincoln with electoral success in electing him President in 1860, which saved America from breakup into two separate countries, one based on slavery.
So let us look at those people who have made the switch to another party, say the Rich Short Texan Party (RSTP). They feel better for sure, but what happens come election day? They saunter into the election polling place for the primary. For simplicity, say there are 210 voters in the primary of the GOP. Let us say 100 are proabortion and the other 110 are right-to-life. In a primary between two candidates of each perspective, the right-to-life candidate should win.
But wait! Our purists, rather than try to make a difference in the only party receptive to their beliefs, have bolted the party for the RSTP. Say 20 of them do this. Now, the GOP candidate will be proabortion, leaving these pure hearts voting in the general election the choice of a proabortion Republican or a proabortion Democrat. What an accomplishment! By refusing to work to reform the Republican Party, or at the very least to participate in its primary elections, they now are left with no viable choices on election day.
If they had simply become involved in the GOP, they would have had a candidate they could vote for and they would help ensure the GOP stays true to its right-to-life platform by fighting the proabortionists, currently a large minority in the Party. With this third-party effort, the GOP proabortionists would soon become the majority, and those in the RSTP could go to meetings and feel really good about their purity while the nation goes to Hell in a handbasket.
One may hate the Republican Party because President Bush is a warmonger, fine. But do not blame the Party for his actions. As for me, I will be among the activists in the Republican Party who will bring it to the greatness expected of it by its founding fathers who abhorred the social evil of the time, slavery, and will now be the vehicle to rid the country of the stain of abortion, the present-day societal evil.
Senator Jeffrey J. Hill
The New Totalitarianism
Your critique of Michael O’Brien was unfair (New Oxford Note, “Hysteria Central,” Oct.). He may exaggerate the current power of a new totalitarianism, which includes such ideas as postmodernism, political correctness, and multiculturalism. When compared to the deadly totalitarian regimes of the last century, these new attempts at social control seem more of a nuisance than an acute danger. But there is still cause for concern. Whereas early totalitarian regimes imprisoned, tortured, and killed, the new totalitarians are subtler, as they control human appetite, language, and other cultural symbols.
One of the problems you identify is definition. Most political scientists would not call these attempts at social control “totalitarian” in the formal sense. They still identify totalitarianism with older and deadlier forms of control. Also, most professional academics would not define them as totalitarian because they are generally supportive of them! Most importantly, because political “scientists” focus on formal institutions, they usually miss, or are uninterested in, political phenomena at the informal level. As such, it is often men of letters, such as O’Brien, who are best suited to analyze these phenomena as they impact individual human lives — the very focus of their craft.
Catholic writers such as G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Evelyn Waugh all touched on this new form of control (as did non-Christians such as Aldous Huxley, among others). The Catholic novelist George Bernanos was particularly concerned that this new totalitarianism would not be identified as such, because it did not require brutal methods. And Pope Benedict correctly identifies a “dictatorship of relativism” that has systematically destroyed Christian morality by creating a new moral code and language.
But you are correct in stating that O’Brien, and all Catholics for that matter, should not react to this new attempt at social engineering with fear or hysteria. Rather, this phenomena must be examined critically and exposed for what it is — an attempt to reorder society in ways that enslave people and counter the spiritual freedom defined by the Catholic Church. Therefore, it is much more than a byproduct of an imperfect democracy. Like all forms of totalitarianism, it is an outright assault on Christian civilization.
Tobias J. Lanz
Columbia, South Carolina
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
You speak of the “new totalitarians” controlling “human appetite, language, and other cultural symbols.” But it’s hard to imagine what government and economy does not do that. That’s exactly what democratic capitalism does — for example, consumerism is a “human appetite” and advertising is a “language,” and modern capitalism could not exist without them; and democracy controls our “cultural symbols.” If you want to call democratic capitalism a “new totalitarianism,” you can, but it’s truly bizarre.
It’s hard to imagine what a “dictatorship of relativism” could be. There can be a dictatorship of absolutism. There can be an anarchy of relativism, a democracy of relativism, a liberty of relativism, perhaps even an aristocracy of relativism. But a “dictatorship of relativism” almost sounds oxymoronic. The only recent “dictatorship of relativism” we can imagine is this: A bishop (an absolute ruler of his diocese) who covers up homosexuality and pedophilia among his priests, moving them around and giving hush money to their victims.
The destruction of Christian morality in the West is not the result of any “dictatorship of relativism.” It is the result of “a democracy and a liberty of relativism,” for it has not been imposed by any dictator. Democratic peoples support moral relativism or acquiesce to it.
You speak of “spiritual freedom defined by the Catholic Church.” The Catechism (#1733) says: “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’ [referencing Rom. 6:17].” We Catholics have a special vocabulary for freedom. But that’s not what freedom is in America; freedom, as defined by the dictionary, means the exercise of free will, of choice, of doing what is right or what is wrong. Countless Americans are perfectly happy to be slaves of sin, and consider it not an “abuse” of freedom but the fulfillment of freedom.
We Catholics speak of “spiritual” or “true” or “authentic” freedom. If you want to impose our Catholic morality on the American people — and it’s worth considering — you will have a “dictatorship of absolutism,” because most American people would regard this as a violation of their freedom.
Follow the Money
Regarding your Editorial, “Your Voice of Orthodox Catholicism, Without Any Strings Attached” (Sept.): The information you provided about Deal Hudson of Crisis and Richard John Neuhaus of First Things hit home. Their situation of chasing after the bigwig neoconservative foundations is clear. And Fr. Neuhaus says he gets a “princely salary.” My husband always says, “Follow the money.”
Those neocon Catholics are not traditional Catholics anyway.
Sidestepping the Issue?
At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in June, the bishops opted to spend up to $1 million for a “study of the causes and context” of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Is such a study really necessary? Or is it being done to sidestep the lack of governance on the part of too many bishops? What about spending that money for a general housecleaning, maybe starting in the seminaries? Or would disciplinary action there result in public repercussions that the bishops would rather not face?
God has blessed us with a good shepherd in Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, but he is only one of 193. While the flock has been likened to sheep, God has given each of us a free will, and He does not expect us to be silent sheep when we are aware of wrongdoing.
The bishops need to forget the media and do their jobs. Were this being done, then correct Catholic doctrine would be taught in our schools, colleges, and seminaries, and the leaders and teachers themselves would live lives of holiness. We fervently pray for that day when the Church — with God’s help — will be revitalized.
Marjorie K. White
Sun City West, Arizona
In your New Oxford Note, “The Same Old Yada-Yada” (Oct.), you noted that “If you love God, you will keep His commandments, and God will love you; if you don’t keep His commandments, God does not love you.” You then proceed to demonstrate this with quotes from Scripture. This was all very interesting.
You quote Scripture, “The Most High himself hates sinners…” (Sir. 12:6). Does this mean that God hates all of us? Aren’t we all sinners? I know that I am a sinner. Aren’t the editors of the NOR sinners as well?
Truthfully, Bishop Steib is misleading homosexuals if he teaches them that they can behave any way they want, and God will not judge them. I think that this was the point the editors were trying to make. You might have stated in addition that even though many people will eventually go to Hell because of their own choices in life, God does not want any to perish, but would like all to repent and be saved.
Bishop Steib ought to warn active homosexuals that there will be a Judgment, and that if they don’t repent they will be in jeopardy of going to Hell. To warn them is to love them, but we must make certain that we warn them without condemning them ourselves.
We should remember that God loves us, and wants us all to be saved, but there is one condition — He will not deny Himself. Sin is still sin. Jesus will therefore judge us all — with some going to Heaven and some going to Hell. But we men on earth should focus our attention on repenting, and try to convince others to do the same. That is why we should all go to the Feast of Divine Mercy, confess our sins to the priest, and encourage others to do the same.
Macomb Township, Michigan
In “The Same Old Yada-Yada,” you quote Bishop Steib as saying that “God’s love is unconditional.” You call this a “lie,” and you quote many biblical passages to support your contention. Your chosen passages purport to show that God hates sinners.
The exegesis to properly understand your passages would require a voluminous composition; however, two New Testament excerpts make your case untenable.
(1) God’s immutable love is illustrated by the parable of the prodigal son: The father greets his wayward son with a warm embrace and feasting, not recriminations, acrimony, conditions, or wish for his groveling (Lk. 15:11-32).
(2) “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn. 3:17). The price of which was torture and death by crucifixion. God does not hate the unrepentant sinner.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
To Matthew Ciaravino: Yes, it goes without saying that we are all sinners. But if you repent, God loves you. And let us not forget the distinction between venial sins and mortal sins. As we said in our New Oxford Note: “Homosexual acts are mortal sins, and if they’re not repented of, you’re likely to go to Hell for ever and ever.”
To Tom Cunningham: As for the prodigal son, you forget the important part: “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son'” (Lk. 15:21). The prodigal son repented. Then his father said: “‘For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'” (Lk. 15:24). This parallels what Jesus said in the same chapter of Luke: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (15:7).
As for John 3:17, you again leave out the important parts, the surrounding verses: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life…. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned…” (Jn. 3:16,18).
We gave you some verses showing that God hates unrepentant sinners. If God loves unrepentant sinners and nonetheless sends them to Hell for ever and ever, that’s a sick kind of love.
A Wholesale Abrogation By Men of Their Leadership Role
The piece on feminism by the kid from Rhode Island (Jeffrey R. Jackson, Nov.) reflects a depth of insight that I certainly did not possess at twenty-something. I would hope, however, that readers of this article do not infer that men are not ultimately culpable for the current mess. A man (a Catholic at that) invented the Pill. Men sold abortion to women. Men demand “free love.” Men profit from abortion.
The real problem is the wholesale abrogation on the part of men of their leadership role. On this count, guys such as Steve Wood are doing work of inestimable value. The Catholic Church needs to get back on it. Notable are the writings of John Paul II on the family; there is a conspicuous absence of the man as the head of the family. Most Catholic men don’t know how to behave like men, because for four decades now, the Church has failed to teach (indeed even apologized for) Ephesians 5.
After reading “It’s Always the Man’s Fault” by Jeffrey R. Jackson, I must wholeheartedly concur with his erudite observations concerning gender roles in our popular culture. The complementarity of men and women and their respective gender roles should be enthusiastically accepted as a blessed gift of Almighty God. The innately sensitive, nurturing role of a woman as wife and mother has been thoroughly confused, obfuscated, and denounced by contriving this artificial sense of competition between men and women in the workforce and the family. Consequently, as Jackson so aptly describes, increasing numbers of men are unwittingly becoming “feminized” by trying to adopt a woman’s role in the family. Meanwhile, many women within the Church and society in general are seeking to dominate men. This gender role “swap” has not only created great confusion and hostility in our Church and the culture in general; it has also contributed to disorder and dissatisfaction within the family unit. Man’s role as husband and father is to provide protection, guidance, strength, and discipline. If we obediently and gratefully submitted to Almighty God’s authority rather than the ambiguous tenets of anti-Christian radical feminism, families in America and throughout the world would be more united and fulfilled.
Thanks so much for always providing such thought-provoking articles with a perpetually refreshing and always unabashedly, triumphantly Catholic perspective.
Dr. Anne Marie McDonnell
N. Providence, Rhode Island
A Great Commander in Chief
Regarding your New Oxford Note, “What Does the Pope Know About World Affairs?” (Nov.): I think the drinking water in Berkeley is tainted. Keep your peacenik nuttiness to yourself. Stick to doctrine and theology.
What does the opinion of a Pope on the verge of death have to do with the decisions of an American President? I would say none. In fact, what does the opinion of a newly elected Pontiff have to do with the fact that America, at the behest of a great Commander in Chief, decides to stop a mad-dog tyrant?
So what if this war is about blood for oil? The men and women that are killed are volunteers. If one were to cut off Mideast oil from the rest of the world, it would be more than catastrophic, it would be a major disaster for the West.
Julius Caesar said it correctly: “Anyone who is afraid to fight for his country is already a slave”!
Carolina Shores, North Carolina
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
It looks like the drinking water in Carolina Shores is tainted, for the absolute majority of the American people now believe the war on Iraq was wrong. A case in point: Congressman John Murtha from a working-class district in Pennsylvania — who is a hawk and voted for the War, who served in Vietnam as a Marine officer and received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, who is on the House Appropriations Subcommittee that supervises military spending and is a pal of the military brass, and who visits wounded soldiers every week — has called for an immediate pullout of U.S. troops. It is thought that Murtha reflects much of the thinking of the military brass (but that can’t be confirmed, for the military brass must tread softly). Murtha said: “The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It’s a flawed policy wrapped in illusion…. I like guys who’ve never been there to criticize us who’ve been there…. I like guys who got five deferments and have never been there [referring to Vice President Dick Cheney, a key architect of the Iraq War who never served in the military] and send people to war…. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America….” We dare you to say publicly to Lt. Col. Murtha: “Keep your peacenik nuttiness to yourself.” A lady congressman called Murtha a “coward.” She has since had to apologize to him.
We are sticking to doctrine and theology. Just War Doctrine is doctrine. The highest authorities in the Catholic Church said the war on Iraq was unjust.
Our volunteer soldiers were told the war was about weapons of mass destruction. There were none. No one said it was about oil.
So the oil under the sands in the Middle East belong to us, not them? By that logic, the gold in Fort Knox belongs to them, not us.
Julius Caesar was a pagan, and you’d rather follow Caesar than two popes.
You quote Caesar: “Anyone who is afraid to fight for his country is already a slave.” So you must be a great admirer of the insurgents in Iraq. They’re not afraid to fight for their country, and they don’t want to be slaves in a country occupied by U.S. troops.
The NOR Is Crashing
Some of your writers criticize how the U.S. conducted some of its actions in World War II. I assure you that the actions taken were necessary to win the War. The enemy was vicious, showing no consideration toward civilians. So tell your World War II critics to shut up.
Today’s critics agonize over the loss of 2,000 American soldiers in Iraq, but our soldiers fought valiantly and accomplished great things. Some express agreement with the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq War. I still believe he is infallible in matters of faith and morals, but not in world politics.
If the NOR continues on its present track, I will soon cancel my subscription.
Joseph A. Karp Sr.
Morro Bay, California
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Our World War II enemies murdered civilians and that was bad. But when the Allies murdered civilians in Dresden, Münster, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and elsewhere, that was good. That is precisely moral relativism.
As for the war on Iraq, war is precisely about morals. But that wouldn’t impress a moral relativist like you.
I Was There
You’re singing my song with “What Does the Pope Know About World Affairs?” (New Oxford Note, Nov.). But you left something out: The kernel of truth, the heart of the matter.
I was there. As a U.S. Embassy staff member in Iran, as a UN staffer in Saudi Arabia, and in corporate work in Algeria, I know why the Arabs and Muslims hate America. For more than two generations, American planes, tanks, bombs, and bullets have been killing Arabs and Muslims. This is accompanied by the silence of the American people.
Grey-haired men were children when they lost their parents and other family members and friends to American guns. They see their grandchildren under those same guns, which have seldom been silent since all the wars were lost, and the land acquisitions began.
A Caterpillar tractor demolishes an old woman’s home, the family heirlooms and snapshots in the dust, and the old poor woman is now homeless. Why? Because her grandson tossed the sharpest stone he could find, and chipped the paint on an American tank. We’ve seen many of those pictures of wanton destruction, and turned the newspaper page. No wonder they hate us.
If it weren’t for our war materiel, both sides might now have reached rapprochement. A part of the world dominated by my country these several decades, when we could have been more evenhanded.
We asked for 9/11. I have many unpublished letters to editors claiming that the Arabs and Muslims will one day retaliate.
Notice that I left out the name of the place. It is Israel.
Footsore in Los Angeles
John Crinnion is quite right in his letter (Oct.) to suggest that standing after Communion is a key component of the ongoing de-mystification of liturgy promoted by liberal bishops. Crinnion’s concern that the Mass is becoming a “Sunday community social meeting” comes dangerously close to stating the ideal these bishops seek. In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for example, standing after Communion has been promulgated as a restatement of the strictly communal (social?) nature of the Mass, and a physical symbol of a community “risen” in Christ.
It’s all well and good that the Archdiocese seeks theological support for the standing posture by invoking the Orthodox tradition. Orthodox faithful stand throughout the Great Liturgy in readiness to “walk into Paradise.” But transposing this idea to the Roman Mass fails to take into account that the Orthodox, with their love of visual beauty and the spiritual exaltation of their chants, have not otherwise stripped the Eucharistic celebration of its mystical resonance. What standing after Communion really gives the L.A. bishops is a strategy to quash the very thing that Crinnion craves upon returning to the pew: “a time we should reflect on the importance of having received the Blessed Sacrament and spend special time with the Lord.”
St. John’s Seminary in Los Angeles has for years systematically attempted to expunge what one among their top leadership described to this writer as “cookie worship.” The epithet is meant to denigrate the idea of Real Presence in the Eucharistic species and the concept of the Mass as sacrifice. It’s not some silly Host, some cookie, that marks our spiritual center; we’re here to celebrate community.
Cookie worship feeds the practice of Eucharistic Adoration. A few years ago, when the Seminary dropped Eucharistic Adoration from its four-week summer spirituality program, the protest of the seminarians went unheeded. Three of the young men went directly to L.A.’s Roger Cardinal Mahony, who urged the Seminary to reinstitute the Eucharistic Adoration as an “option.” Meantime, the three seminarians were subjected to examination by the Seminary to determine their continued fitness for the priesthood.
Sacramental theologians of St. John’s Seminary are convinced that liturgy is contaminated by any form of “private devotion.” The genius of the Mass historically is that it has been both private and communal, providing a spirituality that enfolds God, self, and others.
Ignored is the question of what precisely is supposed to make kneeling less communal than standing. A Jesuit friend of mine (a self-admitted “liberal”) who resides in a diocese that is still permitted to kneel after Communion puts it this way: “When I kneel during Mass, how can I forget that I kneel before God in the company of others, united with the many in the risen Body of Christ? Standing is more communal? Who says?”
My friend puzzles too over some of the practical dilemmas created by the standing policy. In L.A., depending on the size of the congregation, standing can drag on for 20 to 30 minutes, from the Lord’s Prayer straight through to the final dismissal, since L.A. also refuses to kneel after the Agnus Dei and the priest often eliminates the Silence after Communion in the interest of time. One thing is achieved for sure: Private experience of the Real Presence is out the window. On the other hand, if shifting from foot to foot and looking about listlessly satisfies the requirements for communal worship, then L.A.’s the Place.
It became alarmingly clear to Francis Cardinal George, new Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, that L.A. had staged a coup. He observed the spectacle of L.A. churchgoers shambling through ungainly Communion lines beginning with the back pews and moving forward (a system devised to keep the front pews on their feet as long as possible), after which everybody just sort of stood around, communally loitering like folks at a bus stop, until Mass stumbled to an end, thanks be to God. Here were congregants upright and ready to walk, not into Paradise, but into the parking lot. What dismayed Cardinal George even more was that the dismal situation in L.A. seemed to be spreading to many liberal dioceses around the country, confirming L.A.’s reputation as the spawning-ground of questionable trends.
In May 2003, with grave concern for the direction in which the American Church was going, Cardinal George submitted a dubium to Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation that authored the original General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM). In his formal question, Cardinal George asked if indeed it was the explicit intention of the third edition of the Missale Romanum to forbid the practice of kneeling after individual reception of Communion. Cardinal Arinze in his responsum a month later declared that indeed it was not, and that “posture should not be regulated so rigidly as to forbid individual communicants from kneeling or sitting when returning from having received Holy Communion.”
This was good news, for the most part. Because the local bishops still retained control over the liturgy, the news wasn’t so good for dioceses such as L.A., where the bully pulpit would continue to have success stamping out “cookie worship” not by explicitly forbidding kneeling after Communion but, more subtly, by pressuring the flock into seeing it as theologically unhip. As for those dioceses where kneeling has not been stigmatized or abolished, Cardinal Arinze’s responsum provides hope. As a concrete, authoritative text, it serves as a counterweight to the rubbery language of the GIRM, Article 43.
What this means is that it’s up to us, the NOR community, and our spiritual kin, to evangelize (or re-evangelize) at all levels of the parish and diocese, so that our bishops will not capitulate to just another L.A. fad. Dioceses that have adopted L.A.’s secularizing agenda are fast losing their historic identity and spiritual focus, to say nothing of their vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Los Angeles, California
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