fredag 1 september 2017

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

Please pray for the repose of the soul of
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor
Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton for 23 years
Became Archbishop of Westminster in 2000
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

söndag 20 augusti 2017

The Journey East #5

Catholic Mass obligations
With the Tridentine Masses suspended for the holidays, I could not face the Novus Ordo vernacular Masses with Lutheran hymns which were all that was on offer in the Catholic church locally. I would come out feeling irritated and unsatisfied, if not outright angry at the liturgical vandalism verging on abuse.

The question that arises is this. Catholics have an obligation to go to Mass every Sunday. I have not missed going to Mass every Sunday, but the Masses I have attended have been Orthodox liturgies. Is this a sin that needs to be confessed? Can it even be confessed? Can a priest give absolution? If, at some point in the future I am received into the Orthodox church, what is the situation then?

The following reply came to my response on Fr Blake's blog
Physiocrat, I generally find that when somebody asks if something is a sin which needs to be confessed, they already know the answer - yes.

Our Lord did not invite us to pick up our crosses and follow Him only when the going was easy and edifying. We have to carry on carrying on even when we are wading knee-high in filth. Sometimes that might mean enduring banal, puke-making Masses like the rest of us have to endure on a more-or-less regular basis. You never know, God might give you the opportunity to bring a suffering Novusordo-ite to the knowledge and delight of the traditional Mass.

My response was
You might be correct about the sin in the interim period - that was why I asked, but the real question that arises is that "banal, puke-making Masses like the rest of us have to endure on a more-or-less regular basis" are unworthy as worship and spiritually damaging. Their universality also calls into question the claims of the Catholic church itself to be the one true church founded by Jesus Christ himself. How can we be sure that we are not in a schismatic and heretical church founded in 1054?

I am not sure there is any spiritual merit in putting up with atrocious liturgy. There is a failure here which stems from the top of the hierarchy and passes all the way down. We, the faithful are entitled to a worthy liturgy for our spiritual well being. If the shepherds do not feed the sheep, what should the sheep do?

Then there is the use of the vernacular. Latin is both a sign of Catholicity and a means of maintaining it. Having abandoned the universal language, can the Catholic church claim to be a universal church? This is not a theoretical thing - my own parish is divided into Swedes, Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Spaniards, Slovenians, Slovakians, Croatians, English speakers - all Latin Rite Catholics - who hardly ever get to meet. There is not much universality in a church where the priest struggles to celebrate Mass in a language in which he is not proficient.

The problem originates in the monarchical claims of the Bishop of Rome. If the Papacy had held to the Orthodox view as first among equals, these liturgical changes could never have happened. Once one starts looking at the Orthodox position, other subtle but important points emerge, such as the Filioque clause, both in its substance and the manner in which it was adopted, Transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, Original Sin, the use of statues, the design of churches, even the Sign of the Cross.

The Roman changes are all subtly damaging in different ways. The Catholic view of Transubstantiation seems to be that it is necessary only for the words of consecration to be pronounced by a validly ordained priest, whereas the Orthodox seem to take the far more sensible position that Christ becomes really present within the overall action which includes the building in which the liturgy is held, the music, and the Liturgy in its entirety. If the latter view was held, nobody would even have considered messing with the liturgy.

Orthodoxy is not a light and easy option to be followed because of the beauty of the liturgy, where, incidentally, standing is obligatory for most of the time, usually between 1 1/2 and two hours. It is a tough choice. During the fast periods only vegan food is permitted. There are not only the Advent and Lent fasts; there are also the four week fast before the Feast of St Peter and St Paul and a two week fast before the Feast of the Dormition (Assumption). In addition, with a couple of exceptions in the year, Wednesday and Friday in the non-fasting periods are vegan days.

The Orthodox Eucharistic fast begins at midnight and nothing, not even water, may be taken before receiving not just the sacrament but also applies to the antidoron.

If you just want some nice music, there are easier ways of getting it than by going to an Orthodox liturgy. You could stay in bed on a Sunday morning, have a leisurely breakfast and listen to whatever you want in comfort.

Fr Blake's original piece referred to the small numbers attending the EF Mass. It is a tiny minority within the church. The real picture is of a majority accepting the NO Mass but within that group an impending catastrophic decline, for which the 1960s liturgical reforms must bear an important responsibility.

The Journey East #4

A great blessing
The choir in our local Serbian church is now back in full force. They sing in the Russian tradition, in the same style as this broadcast. How fortunate can one be to have such a thing almost on one's doorstep?

fredag 18 augusti 2017

The Journey East #3

The local situation
The Catholic church in my part of the world is apparently in quite good shape. However, the liturgy is resolutely Lutheran in style and content. Far from the influence of Rome, it has become so thoroughly Lutheranised that Catholic services are almost indistinguishable from those of Svenska Kyrkan; any traditional Catholic music which happens to make its way into a Catholic Mass does so through a smörgåsbord approach to liturgy which draws primarily on Lutheran and English Anglican and Nonconformist sources. Sometimes, the result is hilarious, as when Britain’s favourite funeral hymn, “Abide with me”, was used a couple of years ago at an ordination!

I do not agree with the view of some Catholic traditionalists, that the Novus Ordo Mass is not valid. My objection is to the way it is almost invariably celebrated, which contravenes the guidelines in Sacrosanctum Concilium and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to the point of abuse. Thus, in practice, if I am not to end up getting angry and in no condition to receive communion, I have to find a Mass in the Extraordinary Form. At my local parish it is squeezed in on a Saturday evening between a Spanish Mass and a Polish one, squeezed being the operative word when the Spanish one runs over time and the Poles are wandering in during the distribution of communion, so that one has to climb over them to get back to ones place. It is also celebrated on Sundays at a religous house out of town at 12 noon, not a convenient time for a lot of people, and at a cost of 82kr, about €8.5, for the return journey.

But it is not celebrated consistently or reliably. There are only the two priests who are willing to say it; the others are firmly opposed. So it stops when the priests are on holiday or sick, and in practice that means much of the summer.

In that situation it is tempting to look to the east for a consistently worthy form of worship. With the large influx of Christians from Orthodox countries, we are spoilt for choice.

onsdag 16 augusti 2017

The Journey East #2

The state of the Catholic Church
A few years ago I visited Riga, the capital of Latvia. At 9.30 in the evening, a crowd of young people came streaming out of a Catholic church in the city centre. This speaks of a church in a healthy condition. It is exceptional for Europe. In most of Western Europe, it is in accelerating decline. The picture is better in Poland but there too, it is not what it was, as secularisation takes hold. In France and Germany, and in formerly solid Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy, the Catholic church has seen near-collapse.

It is the same story in the English speaking world: Britain, the USA, Australia; the Irish Republic, formerly a bastion of Catholicism, have experienced a precipitous decline in Mass attendance and vocations to the priesthood.

In other former Catholic strongholds around the world, including South America and the Philippines, the loss has been to the evangelicals, supported from the US with vast financial resources behind them.

The Swedish exception?
There are, indeed, few countries in the world where the Catholic Church is in a healthy condition. Latvia, mentioned above, is one. Sweden is perhaps another. It was boosted by immigration and a stream of converts from the Lutheran State Church. However, even here, things are not looking as bright as they did a decade ago. The immigrant groups keep apart from each other. When parishes have Masses in half-a-dozen different languages, there is less opportunity for social gathering across the national divides. The children of the immigrants have tended to drift away. Given the extent of migration and travel, the switch from Latin to vernacular liturgy could not have happened at a worse time, for Latin was both a sign of the church's Catholicity and a means for maintaining that Catholicity.

Had the Swedish Cardinal and his advisers understood this, they would have acted vigorously to promote the universal use of Latin, and the once universally known music that goes with the Latin, in the Catholic church in Sweden. In particular, the Tridentine Mass is peculiarly suited to this situation, as the priest recites the Mass silently while the congregation follow printed texts which can be in any language as required. After all, a look at the Catholic church elsewhere shows that that tiny minority of parishes and congregations which have held to, or revived, the use of Latin and Gregorian chant have been an exception to the general trend of decline, so this could only have been beneficial in the long run.

In the meantime, at the Rome HQ...

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor Bishop of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton for 23 years ...