Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Triumph of the (Cultic) Will

A humble request to you, my gentle snowflakes: If I ever get involved in a liturgical discussion which gets so heated that it turns into a public fracas, shoot me. Because it would mean that I have no life.

In that vein, Clayton in Mahonyville is getting all whipped up because a friend of his got into a post-messam catfight with a priest about the proper use of the corporal. It wasn't just catty, it was mejor catty, and who the bigger cat was is anyone's guess. I guess these two decided to re-enact that memorable early evening in the PCL for the benefit of those of us who didn't get to see it.

Again, if I ever descended into something of this kind, shoot me. Because it would mean that I have no life.

So Clayton -- who "doesn't want to engage in detraction" -- lets his friend's accounts stand unchallenged without asking the priests involved for their take. Some balance that is.

You know, I once -- twice, actually -- got enflamed at people for "violating" liturgical law and custom. The only difference from this situation? I was 12 years old at the time and my sole resource was EWTN. As I got older, I realized that: 1. EWTN is insane, 2. it wasn't the end of the world and 3. regardless of age, liturgy police are petulant children.

Ah, the benefits of hindsight....



Blogger Matthew Lickona said...

Um, 1 and 3 are just name-calling, which isn't exactly adult argument. And 2 is pretty broad - wouldn't you agree that it depended on the violation? Wouldn't you agree that liturgy matters, and that "liturgical law and custom" gives shape to liturgy?

9/8/05 17:30  
Blogger John Bianco said...

While EWTN may at times be too close to many neo-cons in both in Catholic and political terms, I would hardly say EWTN is insane. What I do find disgraceful is how clergy in the last 40 years have so often disrespected rubrics that led to many abuses becoming instituional.

I myself deal with these things by quietly going to a parish that is far from my local parish that has no abuses and choose to financially support them.

9/8/05 18:35  
Blogger Disgusted in DC said...

EWTN's online liturgical judgment isn't so bad. It's its other online experts that tend towards the ultra obscurantist.

9/8/05 19:02  
Blogger CDE said...

Hi Rocco,

Am I supposed to insinuate that I ought to be shot?

I admit that it would have been a good idea to contact Fr. Albert about his side of the story. I don't know why it didn't occur to me. Anyway, I just found his e-mail address and sent him a note apologizing for the oversight and giving him a chance to present his point of view on my site.

Speaking of balance, why did you decide it was okay to question my good will before inquiring or sending me a personal e-mail?

9/8/05 19:40  
Blogger Jeff said...


Isn't the answer obvious? Because Rocco enjoys unprovoked character assassination and vicious diatribes against people who rub him the wrong way. I guess it has something to do with journalism or something...

Caritas non conturbat eum.

Of course, it's okay to take liturgical abuse seriously. Liturgy is serious for people like Rocco when somebody gets denied their chance at liturgical dance. When it suddenly becomes a question of how the Blessed Sacrament is treated, anyone who gets upset is acting like a spoiled twelve year old.

Well, I invite anyone who likes to compare Rocco's post with your humble and mild-mannered response and see who's acting like a twelve year old.

The answer to any concern about liturgical abuse or violations of liturgical norms? Shut up; get a life. Grown ups aren't concerned. Message clear?


9/8/05 20:40  
Blogger Jeff said...

Yes, I forgot.

Children with no lives worry about dignity in the liturgy and proper reverence for the Sacrament.

Fulfilled grown-ups worry about "getting a bake on."


9/8/05 20:46  
Blogger IL Rettore said...

There is often thin ice between piety and pathology and neocons who are obsessively scrupulous about the arcanae of liturgical "issues" of this nature are falling through all the time!

9/8/05 22:06  
Blogger Papabile said...

With respect to EWTN:

1.) Over the years I have witnessed many liturgical violations on that network. For instance: the Deacon kissing the base of the chalice before handing it to the Priest, the Deacon elevating the chasulble at the elavations, genuflections that have been explicitly suppressed, laying the host on the corporal (like in the onld Rite), the Kiss of Peace being echanged incorrectly whereby the Deacon imposes his arms as the priests should in the Roman custom, the Priest elevating the host and chalice and turning to the people with it elevated and then back to the altar, and the priest maintining the closure of the canonical digits until the ablutions (which are no longer in the rubrics).

Why do I mention these? I for one, would say that I would appreciate a Mass much closer to what EWTN provides than the crap I often see passed off as liturgy.

2.)However, EWTN ignores many of the rubrics it wants, and imposes older customs which have been explicitly suppressed. In many instances, these were suppressed by dusia published in Notitae and Acta Apostolica Sedis years ago.

3.) More explicitly, many of the conservatives often carp about how evil the Bishop of Birmingham was because he suppressed the ad oreintam Mass at Our Lad of the Angels. You want to really know the reason why this happened? It's because Mother Angelica told the Bishop how he should offer Mass when he dedicated their new chapel. She told him the he really shouldn't face the people, as it was not as reverent.

Additionally, she told the Bishop that he should impose the Gregorian Ashes during the dedication of the chapel, in clear volation of the rubrics.

Most of this has not been made public before, but it's a fact. When the Bishop went to the CDW and asked if he could restrict their ability to broadcast the Mass ad orientam, the CDW said yes, because they wanted to recognize his right as chief legislator of the liturgy in his diocese. They were also completely annoyed with the way in which EWTN told Foley he was wrong with the way he wanted to dedicate the chapel.

I don't think EWTN is insane, but it's certainly sure of itself. It may think itself ultramontane, but ignores much of what has been legitimately promulgated by Rome in re: liturgy.

Now are they worse than the general state of liturgy in the US? No. However, more is expected of those who know what is really taught.

9/8/05 23:23  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

Rocco, me lad: you have now made the big time. The wolves have sharpened their knives and are after your throat.

You must be doing something right! Keep it up and buy a Doberman for protection.

10/8/05 01:29  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

You know what I never "got" about EWTN?

What's the sense of having GRILLES, SHUTTERS, and CURTAINS,

and then setting up a live television camera inside to "catch all the cloistered action" ?

Isn't that - if not a TECHNICAL violation of Enclosure, at least a TECHNOLOGICAL violation?

I guess I belong to the old school that thinks Poor Clares should be seen and not heard . . . or rather, not even seen.

And when they built the new place: custom-made refectory tables, vaulted ceilings, specially crafted floor tiles, wood-stoves imported from England . . . all seemed a bit too much, again, for Poor Clares.

Liturgically, what used to annoy me was the deacon with the Southern accent announcing the Gospel as "secundum Ma-THAY-um!" I emailed and told them not to pronounce the "H" - but that's a common occurence at Latin Masses: lots of times the priests who are the most enthusiastic for it can't get through the Latin.

And I know it's to honor the Blessed Virgin, and I know its done in Europe, but I just can't get past all those men with scraggly beards whose middle name is Mary.

10/8/05 03:21  
Blogger Vonshui said...


Gyrovagus: Brilliant.

10/8/05 03:37  
Blogger Banshee said...

And I hate to point this out, but there are a good many countries with their own way of pronouncing Church Latin. The Italian way is not the only way, as Pope Benedict tends to demonstrate. There are certain countries where the "th" has traditionally been pronounced, and folks in Alabama are allowed to speak that way if they like. Personally, I think we should all go back to Classical Latin pronunciation, because it's much prettier. But nobody asked me to stick my nose into that particular business.

Furthermore, while I agree that the rubrics should be followed by everybody but that certain rubrics are a bit trivial... Well, living as a community, as we are told we are supposed to be doing, does in fact mean that the little old ladies are reading the newspaper and sending in grammar and spelling corrections to the editor. That was part of why the small town newspaper editor was darned careful about said grammar, much less fact-checking.

Do you really think the folks at the Council were totally unaware that this would happen? No! Most of us didn't grow up in actual neighborhoods, but they did! They knew exactly what they were putting themselves in for!

So if the Church encourages mindfulness and lay participation, the Church is setting up the priests to be observed more closely and to receive more comments. And not just from the progressive wing or the lay liturgist, either. They should take this as a gift, however uncomfortable, and work towards honoring Christ more and more. And if that attention isn't fair, then the priest can always write a comment in the bulletin or hold a class on the GIRM.

This ain't rocket science, either; it's the same thing our company's senior staff does whenever they need to do rumor or busybody control. If people feel their comments are being heard, valued, and addressed -- even if the answer is "No" -- they "feel ownership" in the company, and they don't spend all their time bitching instead of working. (Though our shares help, too.)

Now, granted, we can't give out stock shares in the parish. But the priest can in fact communicate with the people and teach them. That's part of his job.

Sorta like, oh, I don't know... visibly showing respect for the Real Presence of his God and King? Which would, by the way, not only be a teaching aid as well as an end in itself, but create trust in the parishioners that any small violation of the rubrics is done mistakenly. Which would probably keep complaints in that quarter to a minimum, or at least allow the priest to face them with a clean conscience.

It might also be nice to pray together with complainants for God's help addressing the problem. In our parish, the pastor makes all the parish committees come to Vespers before their meetings. This reduces wrangling, because everyone is ashamed to fight right after spending time with God. (And we're not at all a trad parish, as it happens.)

10/8/05 06:57  
Blogger Sam Martini said...

Well - everyone has a right to their opinion, I'm sure there are many things which might be done better, and you all may know much more than I what's appropriate, but all the high-minded commentary about whats wrong with EWTN passes by a simple fact. The network provides a chance both on TV and online and radio - in many cases the only chance - for Catholic homebound, elderly, people in faraway places and those just wanting to learn a bit about the Catholic Mass to view and in a sense participate and stay commected. I totally support correctness in liturgy, but this network provides a real service for many to whom it means something - they are able - even with all the "imperfections" to glean a sense of grace and worshipfulness from the service. And even if presented by apparently sincere and well-menaing guys whose middle name is Mary by choice - a little charity might be in order folks - this may not be your cup of tea but it is all some people have got. The church has survived 2000 years in spite of the rest of us and we know that pride/arrogance is big in the lists of sins- cynical remarks like "EWTN is insane" seem out of order to me.

10/8/05 07:08  
Blogger Jeff said...

Far be it from me to suggest that "conservatives" always have to have it right about rubrics or that they can't get too caught up in them.

But when some obviously serious Catholic comes to you, a priest, with a worry about how the Blessed Sacrament is being treated, why not take him seriously? Why not gently explain what you are doing and why you think it right?

If you don't think you are breaking the rules, why not explain why and invite him in a spirit of comity to inquire about it to the proper authorities if there is a dispute?

Why not assure him that you, too, love the Blessed Sacrament, maybe propose Benediction next weekend ask him to join you. Take him into the Church and spend ten minutes praying with him before Our Lord? Then perhaps a speech about the dangers of excessive rubricism would be better received.

Not everyone who has a concern about the liturgy is being trivial or uncharitable. The people BREAKING the rules never use the triviality of the changes they are making as reasons to restrain themselves. Only as reasons to attack those who question them.

I had a long discussion with Quintero at L.A. Catholic in which I defended Cardinal Mahoney and questioned his liturgical criticisms.


I know perfectly well that "conservatives" can be ignorant and too quick to judge. But the CONCERN with liturgical sloppiness and a spirit of individualism and lack of reverence is not wicked or contemptible in principle, it is rather a good thing. Our Pope very much shares that concern.

A little more civility and respect for people like Clayton and his friend who ask questions respectfully and criticize with trepidation is what is in order. As Rocco himself pointed out on this very blog, Clayton is a gentle and good soul and the unprovoked sneering and savaging is what I find highly objectionable.

Rocco initiated an attack. To repel that attack is hardly "wolfish."


10/8/05 07:25  
Blogger Jeff said...


Your comments about EWTN masses are fascinating. What I wonder, though, is whether the diocesan authorities ever attempted to EXPLAIN to Mother Angelica that SHE was violating rubrics in an attempt to make the Mass more reverent. Wouldn't that have been the first step to take for a bishop?

Listen, plenty of people on the "left" and the "right" violate rubrics out of sloppiness or ignorance. Then the become accustomed to their way of doing things and get irritated if they are questioned. This applies to Clayton's friend's priest and perhaps to the EWTN folks, as well. Charity requires that we take this into account when calling people to account, especially when we are laypeople calling priests to account in an area of THEIR expertise.

But surely a bishop should first try the ol' "pastoral" approach first? Explain the rubrics carefully, if there is a dispute, submit a dubitum (if that is the correct term in this context) to CDW, and wait for an answer. Only when the abuse is certain, obstinate, and continual do you have to adopt the "high-handed" approach.

I myself ask out of genuine ignorance and interest: Is a gesture that is not prescribed always proscribed? Is a kiss or a genuflection always forbidden if it is not expressly called for in the rubrics? (For example, the inclination of the head at the mention of Mary during the Mass is not in the rubrics, but the Pope seems to do this.) Where it is so proscribed, what is the textual basis or canonical principle of interpretation that makes it so?

Is the removal of the requirement for some gesture from the text of the Mass the same as an explicit "suppression", as you put it? Or does suppression require some further revision of rules, such as, "The genuflections made at x point are no longer to be made"?

I am quite happy to live with whatever the answer is and I think Mother Angelica should be, too!


10/8/05 08:07  
Blogger Tom said...

For example, the inclination of the head at the mention of Mary during the Mass is not in the rubrics, but the Pope seems to do this.

The inclination of the head at the mention of Mary during the Mass is in the rubrics.

"A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated." GIRM 275 a.

Okay, so I can quote the GIRM on this. So I have a hobby.

10/8/05 09:32  
Blogger Papabile said...


let me be clear about my previous post.

1.) A former liturgical custom/rubric that has not been explicitly re-stated by the Pauline Rite Missal is formally suppressed. Notitae pubclished a dubia in the 70's that was very clear about this. I believe it was republished in the Act too.

2.) Yes, Mother Angelica and her Priests had been formally warned bout this by the Bishop. In fact, he explained it all to her. I have the seen the correspondence. For instance, I believe in the case of kissing the Chalice/Paten, they were warned several times. In fact, this was extraordinary. I know that the custom of kissing one of these was formally suppressed in 1921. I forget which though. In any case, both occurred in the past.

One of the funny things is that many presume that the pastoral approach was never tried, etc. in the case of politicians, Mother Angelicat et alii. In almost all of these public cases, the pastoral approach has been tried numerous times in private.

The Bishop of Birmingham did not adopt the high-handed approach. There was correspondence and conversations spanning a 2 year period between him, Mother Angelica and the CDW. In fact, when he finally did submit a dubia to the CDW, the response was fairly quick and that settled the issue.

10/8/05 09:48  
Blogger Jeff said...


Thanks! I had thought it a pious custom, but I was wrong. I'm glad to know better.


Thank you, too! I only assumed that the bishop hadn't tried to let Mother Angelica and her priests know about their violations because I thought your story implied it. I'm glad to know he did try.

I must say, I am flummoxed by her behavior. I can understand a "Traditionalist" sticking to the Tridentine Mass against all ecclesiastical warnings, though I don't agree with him. But I assume if you follow the new Missal, it's because you think you have to abide by the rules, right? So what possible basis could she have had for refusing to do so? Does her side of the correspondence give any indication?

I wish I could get the cite from Notitiae, not because I don't believe you, but because others may not believe ME without a source.

Here's another puzzle for me. I always understood that the issuance of the new Missal automatically meant that the superseded version was illicit. Thus Lefebvre and others who continued to use it were in violations of liturgical norms. Furthermore, the Indults to the Bishops of England and Wales and then JPII's indult to the bishops of the world seemed to imply that permission was needed to use the old books.

But then I heard no less an exalted personage than Cardinal Ratzinger himself say in an interview that the Old Mass had never been forbidden. And after Michael Davies' death, Ratzinger praised him fulsomely, called him an always faithful son of the Church, sympathized with him for having been deeply wounded by the Church, and recommended his books on the liturgy. Bizarre. What do you think?


10/8/05 10:27  
Blogger Jimmy Mac said...

" ... but I just can't get past all of those men with scraggly beards whose middle name is Mary."

Well, I know LOTS of men in San Francisco who are called "Mary", some with and some without beards.

Ain't no big thing .. in the gay community. Hmmmmmmmm.

10/8/05 13:15  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

Recently found little known liturgical document (translation by the Vox Clara Commission: "In your heart, you know they're right."):



To the Poor Clare OnLine Religious Goods Emporium and Broadcasting Center, Ironsides, Alabama

In virtue of faculties granted to this dicastery by His Holiness, Kiril I, of blessed memory, we decree:

A slight bow of the beard is to be made at the name of "Mary" when this occurs in the name of other bearded Friars (except during the last three days of Holy Week and on the feast of the Portiuncula).

Anything to the contrary can go get a life.

Jorge Card. Medina-Pinochet
Cardinal Bishop in the Title of Ss. Prosciutto e Melone

+ Sottovoce Bacciamiculda

10/8/05 14:13  
Blogger Papabile said...

For those who asked for the Notitiae cite:

Notitiae 14 (1978) 301-302, no. 2

"...It must not be forgotten that the Missal of Pope Paul VI has, since 1970, supplanted the one called improperly "the Missal of Saint Pius V," and completely so, in both texts and rubrics. When the rubrics of the Missal of Paul VI say nothing or say little on particulars in some places, it is not to be inferred that the former rite should be observed. Therefore, the multiple and complex gestures for incensation as prescribed in the former Missal are not to be resumed."

BTW.... notice that the word supplanted was used, not abrogated, and that's for a very explicit reason.

10/8/05 14:32  
Blogger CDE said...

Fr. Albert must have received my e-mail informing him about the story published on my blog.

On August 16, he sent a note to John expressing his sadness that John's version of the conversation had been published on the Internet.

But I have heard nothing from Fr. Albert myself.

19/8/05 07:59  

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