28 April 2013

DIY Mass And Liturgical Abuse In The Old Rite

In a discussion with The Thirsty Gargoyle this morning on Twitter, I said that it would be hard to imagine a priest saying Mass in Latin messing about with the rubrics.  I was thinking as I wrote about NO Mass, but he typed back: "Now, no, but there's plenty of anecdotal data of DIY Latin Masses back in the day".  He makes a very interesting point, for there was, of course, liturgical abuse by priests celebrating the Mass before the post-VII changes.

I am going to post an extract from O'Connell's "Celebration of Mass", in fact, an extract from the section on defective ways in which Mass can be celebrated: not the sections on Mass said too slowly or too quickly, or on what constitutes valid matter, or what happens if a wasp falls into the Chalice after the Consecration and dies, or what happens if a priest dies half way through Mass, but what Fr O'Connell calls "Arbitrary Changes in the Rite of Mass".

The big, big, difference between now and then, of course, is that the general expectation was that there was only one right way to say any particular Mass, and that, once it was decided which (licitly sayable) Mass was to be said, nothing was left to the priest: there was one way to say Mass properly.  Today, the priest has more options: dramatic options like "Which Eucharistic Prayer shall I say at this Mass?" which the pre-1967 priest could not have dreamed of; and therefore potentially has more ways of accidentally or deliberately going wrong.  But he still has rubrics: the rubrics may not be as prescriptive with regard to every detail as before, but the importance of sticking to the rubrics should be, it seems to me, to be as obviously necessary today as yesterday.

With that caveat: that today's rubrics are less prescriptive than yesterday's: look at Fr O'Connell's view on the gravity of intentionally messing about with the rubrics and ask yourself whether it is the same in both forms.  If you don't think it is, ask yourself whether or not that is because what the priest is doing at the altar has changed or not.

I should say in fairness that this musing has little to do with what The Thirsty Gargoyle and I were discussing earlier, and that I have taken the discussion off in a different direction all by myself - blame a quiet motorway on a late Sunday morning - but this might contribute to an understanding of why there is such a gulf between those who like (or who can take or leave) clown Masses, and those for whom they are an abomination.

Arbitrary Changes in the Rite of Mass

Despite a custom to the contrary - which is expressly reprobated in the code of canon Law - the celebrant of Mass is “to observe accurately and devoutly the rubrics” of the Missal, “and take care not to add other ceremonies or prayers by his own authority.”  Arbitrarily to change in, any way - by addition, omission, or transposition - the rite of the Mass is unlawful. So strict is the interpretation of this law that S.R.C. refused to allow the celebrant of Mass, for the purpose of gaining a rich indulgence, to pronounce, even in a low tone, the words "My Lord and my God" while looking on the sacred Host at the Elevation, and cited canon 818 to justify this refusal.

Whether the mutilation of the rite of Mass .would be a grave sin, or a venial one, or no sin at all (for a sufficient cause) is discussed by the moral theologians. Their reply is that this will depend on: (a) the motive for changing - is it because of contempt for the rubrics, culpable ignorance of them, gross indifference and carelessness, or from mere human frailty, like inculpable forgetfulness, or inattention, or from "devotion" of a wrong kind? (b) The nature and extent of the change - is it one that seriously concerns the reverence owed the Blessed Eucharist, does it occur in an important part of the Mass (important in itself, or because of some extrinsic reason, such as the mystical meaning of the part), is the addition, or omission, serious because of its length? It is regarded as grave to make even a comparatively small change in the Canon of the Mass, because of its intimate connection with the Sacrifice; and it is more serious to have omissions in the ordinary parts of the Mass, the parts that occur in every, or almost every Mass, than in extraordinary parts which occur sometimes only. Thus the omission of all the Prayers of Preparation at the foot of the altar, of the Gospel, of several of the offertory prayers, would be regarded as a notable omission; to omit the purification of the paten (unless there were no visible particles on it) or chalice, would be a grave want of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament; to omit the addition of water to the wine in the chalice, or the fraction of the Sacred Host, or the commingling of the two Sacred Species, would be
a serious omission because of the mystical meaning of these rites. But to omit the Gloria, or Creed, or prayers of commemoration, or the Last Gospel would not, ordinarily, be regarded as a grave omission.

Additions to the Rite

 Arbitrarily to add prayers or ceremonies, with the intention of introducing a new rite, or to a notable extent (especially prayers not found in the Missal), would be a grave violation of liturgical law. To add the Gloria (on days when it should be omitted), or Collects not allowed by the rubrics, or ejaculatory prayers would not, ordinarily, be grave. In general, private (vocal) prayers may not be introduced into the rite of Mass, except where the rubrics provide for it, e.g., at each Memento after the reception of the Sacred Host.

Remedying Omissions in the Rite

The directions of De Defectibus do not, generally speaking, encourage the repairing of nonessential omissions.  If the celebrant should omit anything belonging to the validity, or the integrity (e.g. the Offertory), of the rite of Mass, he must, of course, repair the omission.  If an omission be trivial, it need not be supplied, and may not be, if it is not noticed at once.  If an omission be notable (though not concerned with the validity or integrity of the Sacrifice) and can be easily be made good – because, e.g., it is noticed almost at once – and without causing scandal, it should be.  Thus, if the celebrant omitted, in error, the Gloria, or a commemoration, or the Creed, he must not interrupt the Mass to repair the omission, but he may, indeed should, repair it, if he adverts to it almost immediately.

25 April 2013

We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

Charles Crawford, a former British Ambassador in the Balkans and in Poland, is a witty and engaging writer, who has important things to say about Eastern European states and their transition.  He is also very, very, sound on speechwriting, and on communication in general.  He has written something about how pundits frame issues here, which I thought important enough to recommend recently as an introduction to why (in my view) we are being completely and utterly trounced on Life issues in the UK media.  Millions of Frenchmen march against same sex marriage, while in this country, the subject is so settled that there is barely a debate.

Charles Crawford explains how a subject can be framed, a narrative created, so that discussion can be shut off right from the start.  We are probably all aware of its happening: gay marriage, euthanasia; we are on the back foot before the discussion even begins to take place.

How sad to see that the organisation set up to combat this distortion, by putting Catholic Voices onto the front foot in combating media manipulation, has managed to be exactly as distortive in addressing an issue internal to the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

An Agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales came up with a remarkable figure recently: it said that in the 1930s, on average, only 6 secular priests were ordained each year for England and Wales, and that therefore, the current figure, while down somewhat from the high figures of the 1990s, the JPII years, were nevertheless much up on the 1930s .  This 1930s figure instinctively felt odd to several of us: "odd" in the sense of "surely palpably untrue" and we raised our concern, tentatively, via various social media, not least because it had been taken up by Catholic Voices, with a comment that hinted that the decline from the JPII days, was still nothing compared to the illusory good old days of bulging seminaries which trads like to talk about.

In case the hint wasn't clear, an egregious (though not a Catholic Voice) commentator spelled it out: 'Ordinations in E&W "higher than the 1950s, which some look back to nostalgically as an era of vigorous Catholicism"'.

To the credit of the Agency which originally posted the figures, it took them down when it was pointed out to them that in fact the figures for the period 1930-1940 were that 1539 secular and 794 regular priests were ordained.  Catholic Voices didn't: apparently, the only person who could do the correction was away.  And then an addition was made to its web page: you can still see the figures, but there is now a comment (so whoever was away is now back) to the effect that as queries about the reliability of the statistics have been raised, the Agency originally posting them is now making enquiries about their validity.

This is a classic example of the sort of treatment we get outside the Church, but it's a bit much when we get it inside as well.  Whatever the validity of arguments about post hoc ergo propter hoc, the fact remains that there were many more ordinations to the priesthood before Vatican II then there have been afterwards.  I would engage with some of the arguments about the reasons for the earlier quantity with some distaste, but I would engage.  I would engage with arguments about post-Vatican II selection of candidates being based on safer psychological criteria than previously with a mixture of anger and disdain, but I would engage.  But I will not engage with an argument based on figures that even their originator withdrew a week ago.

It is ironic that those of us who want to ensure that we are not manipulated by the World have to look over our left shoulders as well.  There is a piece of news - that vocations are on the rise again - that could have been a good news story, but it has been twisted into an ideological stance about the past that has made the purveyor of the message the centre of the story: was this the purpose?

Unfortunately, I don't think that this is an isolated problem: the "Gay Masses" in Soho became a pastoral encounter, and anybody attacking them was making baseless accusations and was enjoined to hold their tongue.  In spite of what Pope Benedict said, clear dissent from Church teaching became legitimate expression of the theologian's freedom to explore.  In so many cases since (this is my blog!) 1980, clever people have framed the dialogue within the Church in England and Wales so that as their premises have been left unchallenged, their aims have been reached.

"It is pastorally insensitive to force children who aren't Catholic to sit through the preparation of those who are to make their First Communion" is a premise which leads to no preparation for the Sacraments in Catholic Primary Schools. 

"We are short of priests, but long on lay people willing to give of their abilities to help the Church" is a premise which leads to hordes of welcomers, readers, Offertory-Gifts-Bringers-Uppers, and "Eucharistic Ministers".

Those of us on this side of the divide have been tilting at windmills: those on that side haven't been aiming at (for example) the form of the Liturgy, even if liturgical argument is what we have been putting forward; they have been aiming at the clericalisation of the Laity (or at least some laity, and that "some" mainly female).

I have a disinclination for conspiracy theories, and this isn't one.  I think the people running the Church in England and Wales since 1980 have had a clear idea of exactly what they want it to be, and aren't really hiding it.  I think they have been clever enough simultaneously to speak against the empowerment of non-magic-circle Catholics (whether in orders or not) by the Internet while using the Internet to corral activist Catholics into as controlled an environment as the pre-Internet Church, all the time using top end techniques to spin and control discussion so that it is always based on their terms.

The Bishops of England and Wales had this year's Low Week meeting in Rome.  They had a retreat this year (do they when they meet at Eccleston Square?) and got to meet the Pope.  Archbishop Nichols said:

"There’s a fresh spring about the Church at the moment and I think that’s from the Pope’s eloquence in gesture and his words when he preaches and at his audiences … I think what is most remarkable in the UK is that everybody seems to have been touched by his eloquence, by his gentleness and by the humility of Pope Francis."

And so inured are we by now, that not a single one of us commented on what he was actually saying.

09 April 2013

Mrs Thatcher - A Point I Haven't Noticed Elsewhere

It was Mike Cliffson (a frequent commenter on this blog)'s mother who told me in 1983 how pleased she was that for the second election in a row there was a clear ideological choice to be made: Thatcher versus Foot; capitalism versus socialism.

It's easy to argue that we should avoid extremes, but in fact, in a parliamentary democracy, the extremes are left to take care of themselves and parties attempt to appeal to the centre.

Appeals to the centre from a defined ideological position, though, whether left or right, are so much more refreshing than people eschewing ideology altogether.  Foot versus Thatcher: you can work out for yourself where you want to be along the (long) line which separates them.  Cameron/Clegg versus Milliband (or Milliband/Clegg): where is the line? Who is drawing it?

Politics actually matters.  And I'd rather people remembered the ideologically opposed days of Thatcher and Foot than pretended that consensus was a goal to be fought for.  I'd rather hear Ken Livingstone explain why he thought Thatcher was wrong, than hear Ed Balls tell us what a towering figure she was.

But I can't help feeling that people in their thirties celebrating her death with parties have lost the plot: not just of politics, but of humanity.

01 April 2013

Having To Explain The Pope, Again ...

So he's a Jesuit, a Jesuit from an earlier era.  He isn't allowed to take up positions of authority in the Church without the permission of the Pope.  He isn't allowed to assume the trappings of temporal power.  But the Cardinals have just elected him Pope.  Whom can he ask?  What should he do?

Fortuitously, wonderfully, the first Jesuit Pope is elected to succeed the first Pope to have renounced his office in 600 years, so there is somebody to ask.  There is also a General of the Jesuit Order to consult.  There are ways of being Pope without adopting all of the traditional temporal trappings: fortuitously that's just what his predessor did, making the focus of his office that of the See of Rome, with the Petrine Ministry as an extra dimension to that role.  There are small things which will mark this Pontificate out (at least until the next Jesuit Pope is elected) like not wearing red capes, or red shoes, or using "PP" as a postnominal.  he is not Monarch of the Vatican City State.

But apart from that: we have a Bishop of Rome who is comfortable in Italian and Latin and does not think that saying "Happy Easter!" in sixty languages (badly) is part of his liturgical office.  He isn't a liturgiologist - but his predecessor was and left things in reasonable shape. 

The Mandatum rite on Holy Thursday will have to be sorted out by next year, but otherwise, you can only say things are going badly if you have an agenda which begins "I know how a Pope should do his poping" or "Back to the 1950s!" or some such.

Almost a year into Benedict XVI's Pontificate, and there were stories of him dressing in a simple black cassock, coat and beret (and black shoes) and sneaking back to the flat he had occupied when a curial Cardinal for ... who knew why? I think we can guess.

Of the modern Popes, Pius XII was trained for the job, John XXIII and Paul VI were led - dominated - by their staffs, John Paul I had no time to do anything but smile, John Paul II shaped the Papcy around his particular gifts: Benedict XVI and Francis are the two Popes who show that being a Pope is something Popes have to learn, if they are not to be puppets of the Vatican staff.  Again: how wonderful that Pope Benedict left Pope Francis Archbishop Gaenswein to give him the space in which to learn.

Much Catholic commentary is unedifying at present: much presents the Pope as a symbol of disunity in order to advance factional positions.  Keep away from anything which suggests that Pope Francis is already a failure, a disaster, a horror: all that tells you is something about the writer.

Pope Francis will make mistakes as he learns, just as Pope Benedict did.  Praying for him might be more useful to him and to the Church as a whole than criticising him.