July 12-13, 2000
volume 11, no. 120

CATHOLIC PewPOINT for Wednesday-Thursday, July 12-13, 2000

The timing is right to right the wrongs!

    Several factors that have taken place or are taking place point to the fact Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is right. The Prefect for the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Holy Father's right-hand man in matters of faith and morals has strongly stated that the time has come for priests to return to facing east with the people and become a priest-celebrant again rather than a "presider." He has also called for a return of the Tabernacle - the most intimate of chambers that houses the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, soul and divinity - back where it belongs: front and center in all sanctuaries. He has also strongly advocated a return to the Latin as a way of unifying the universal Church and returning reverence and a sense of conformity with the rubrics of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is not necessary for the faithful to have to learn Latin all over again. We doubt seriously that the Church will ever return totally to the all-Latin traditional Mass approved at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. But we don't doubt that Cardinal Ratzinger's ideas are catching on with the United States bishops who will make these issues an important part of the docket in their fall meetings in Washington D.C. There is already a strong undertow pushing for getting the tabernacles out of the "closets." which pass as chapels, and return them to their proper place in the sanctuary. After all, that is where God belongs in His Own house! They also are leaning toward moving the Kiss of Peace from after the Lord's Prayer during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, to a more proper place in the Mass - either at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word before the readings and before we are given absolution of venial sins or, at the very least, before the Offertory or Presentation of Gifts in accordance with Our Lord's words in Matthew 5: 23, "Therefore, if thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there remeberest that thy brother has anything against thee, leave thy gift before the altar and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." That makes perfect sense and much more appropriate than the custom we presently observe. We say that because since Vatican II the Kiss of Peace has become more of a social outlet where we forget Who is on the altar and for a few moments turn our backs on Jesus.

    Another reason it is time to think seriously of returning to our liturgical roots is the landmark talks presently underway in Emmitsburg, Maryland this week. Gathering at St. Mary's College and Seminary sixty miles outside of Baltimore are Cardinal Edward Isdris Cassidy, President for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and chief ecumenical officer for the Vatican and Archbishop Sylianos who is representing the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate. These meetings have a down-under connection since both principals are from Australia. The talks however have a definite American flavor to them for they are being held in the United States, graciously hosted by Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore. He himself is a respected worldwide trendsetter in the field of interfaith dialogue. Also attending is the dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New York Archbishop Stylianos, who expresses optimism that unity could come sooner than most expect, "It could happen rather quickly in one respect, but when I say rather quickly, we're still talking against the background of a thousand years. Yet, this is like a breakthrough." Cardinal Keeler places the emphasis on prayer in realistically sizing up the problems, "I'm sure that everyone comes into this meeting with some strong feelings, and therefore, we need lots of prayers."

    It is no coincidence that these talks are taking place less than thirty miles from Camp David where this week Palestinian President Yassir Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak will meet for Peace Talks in the mideast with the situation fragile at the best. Moderating these talks will be none other than Bill Clinton. Many are doubtful he'll be able to pull off what Jimmy Carter accomplished. The man they really need is Pope John Paul II for he has proven time and time again his tremendous diplomacy in bringing peace to all. Look at his track record and trust-factor, then look at Clinton's. Enough said. But the Holy Father is on a well-deserved twelve-day summer vacation in the Italian Alps. However, you can better believe he is spending much time in prayerful hope for the success of the talks taking place in the state named after Our Lady. He realizes the importance of both conferences and also the fact that the one in Emmitsburg is a major step toward peace between two of the largest Churches in the world. The Roman Catholic Church boasts one billion strong, while the Orthodox Church claims 228 million worldwide. Besides Pope John Paul the Great, one of the strongest proponents for reconciliation is Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, who may be the only one who can sway the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexyei II to budge from his stubborn stance that has been an obstacle to reconciliation in the former Soviet Union and preventing the Holy Father from officially accepting an invitation to travel to Moscow in another first.

    There are many wounds and prejudices that run deep and both sides need to give in order that we may all be one as the Pope has pleaded for many times, most recently on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul this year on June 29th when he passionately pronounced. "Unity Now!" In studying the history of the schism, we can see that most of the problems stemmed from political divisions, not religious. In fact, the only real doctrinal issue back then was the Filioque controversy in which the Orthodox Church stubbornly refused to accept that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Orthodox believing in the Triune Divinity today, that is no longer an issue. The Patriarch Michael Cerularius and Pope Saint Leo IX are gone; nearly a full millennium has passed. We need to re-evaluate our similarities rather than stressing our differences. What is at stake today is the question of property and papal supremacy. The former refers to church property confiscated after the Bolshevik revolution when the Catholic Church in Russia was suppressed and the state religion, other than atheism was the Russian Orthodox Church. Putin has made it clear that must change. How much clout he has will be the test of his regime. The papal supremacy issue is a stickier wicket believe it or not. While His Holiness has expressed a willingness to consider an equality with the Orthodox Patriarch, history has shown we cannot have two Popes at the same time. One must be in charge and, according to the Son of God, (cf. Matthew 16: 15-19) that one person must be the successor of Peter who, other than a short exile in Avilon, for 1,967 years has always been the Sovereign Pontiff of Rome. One thing that cannot be questioned is the infallibility of the Pope in all matters regarding faith and morals. This is where the Orthodox Church must compromise on. Yet that would not prohibit the Bishop of Rome from sharing equality in many other things such as liturgy, and matters that do not pertain to faith and morals. Anything regarding those, then the Pope must remain supreme. God deigned it so.

    This problem of confusion worldwide is universal and the Catholic Church must take part of the blame for extracting Latin from the Liturgy. Consider at the most recent Encuentro 2000 conference in Los Angeles this past weekend there were participants with cultural ties to 150 countries. Naturally with that much variety there are not only going to be problems in language, but in liturgical customs for ever since the vernacular was introduced in 1965, liturgical commissions in every culture allowed customs that hitherto had not been included. Now they are prominent in every liturgy and one wonders are we still the "universal Church" when there seems to be so little in common. While many at the conference called for celebrating their diversity, that is a cry too often heard by liberals who don't want to conform or who want to introduce elements that alter the meaning of the Sacrifice at the altar. Consider that before the sixties, people from all these cultures and countries were just as fervent in their Faith. They still spoke different languages and their customs were as diverse as their native tongues, but when they gathered for Holy Mass there was one universal language they all understood: Latin. We're not saying they could translate each word or phrase, but they were familiar with it and knew its meaning. When one traveled anywhere in the world, one thing always remained constant. Whether you were in Tulsa or Tokyo, Berlin or Borneo, Paris or Peru, Hong Kong or Helsinki, Detroit or Da Nang, Ukraine or Uraguay, New Zealand or Zanzibar you could always be assured that when you attended Mass there would be that common association with the language that united the universal Church. Today we no longer have that and often times one may get the feeling they're in a different sect just from the customs and language utilized in each culture. The chairman of Encuentro 2000 Bishop Gavino Zavala remarked that "People need to begin to share who they are and to see what their differences are and the similarities, as well." That is going to be very difficult if we do not have a common communication tool - language. Like the tower of Babel, other tongues are foreign to most. It makes one appreciate all the more the mastery of 36 languages by the Holy Father. Not many expert linguists know that many!

    The theme of Encuentro 2000 was "Many Faces in God's House" and that is a plus, for God created all men and women differently, yet all similar in His image and likeness. God chose to diversify man, an extension of the twelve tribes that has branched out one-hundred-fold. Yet, through the power of the Holy Spirit the Apostles were able to understand many languages according to their mission and also through the Advocate and Giver of Life Peter and his disciples were inspired to establish Latin as the universal language throughout the universal Church. It was good enough for nineteen hundred and thirty-two years, why should it have been discarded in 1965? The answer is it wasn't, but again the "spirit of Vatican II" prevailed because the bishops did not properly carry out the true reforms as intended by the Council Fathers. There can be many reasons for this failure, but the fact remains that they threw the baby out with the bathwater. It is important to include the vernacular, especially in the Liturgy of the Word for better comprehension by each culture, but in the Liturgy of the Eucharist much was retained in Latin as evidenced by the official document that the faithful become familiar with the Latin text in accordance with Article 36 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy as presented and approved at the Second Vatican Council. These prayers included the celebrant saying "Introibo ad altare Dei" which means "I will go to the Altar of God" wherein the faithful would answer Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam, which translates to "To God Who gives joy to my youth." Vatican II then shortened the prayers at the foot of the altar, going straight to Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini" - "Our help is in the name of the Lord" to which we respond "Qui fecit caelum et terram"; in English: "Who made Heaven and earth." Then the priest proceeded immediately to the Confiteor. Today, this perfect contrition prayer is seldom said. What has happened is that the exception became the rule. The Council Fathers decreed that when a liturgical action immediately precedes the Mass, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar are omitted and the Mass begins with the Entrance Hymn. This liturgical action was meant to refer to Benediction or a Baptism, etc. but again, this liturgy approved by Vatican II, went the way of the dinosaur.

    To go through the entire liturgy of the Mass and how it was changed with little official documentation would not take just another column but a whole series and we will definitely treat it in future issues, but suffice it to say the Mass today and the way it is said, while still valid, is not what the Council Fathers had in mind. Over the years many things were "grandfathered" in until in many parishes it hardly resembles what the sacrifice of the Mass represents. The question must be asked why wasn't something done sooner? We believe we have the answer to that perplexion. Consider that until now, there were still too many liberal bishops and even cardinals who would put up roadblocks to any return to the old New Mass. However, thanks to the many appointments over the past few decades, especially in the nineties, Pope John Paul II has in place finally a majority of conservative, committed prelates who hopefully will close the chapter on abuses and alterations by bringing the pendulum back to the center. We must keep in mind that whether we have ultra-conservative factions such as the Pius X Society and die-hard Tridentarians or the Call To Action and We Are Church ultra-liberal radicals, one can leave the Church by either the right or left door. We don't want anyone to leave. Yet, it is necessary for all to enter through the center door and that is the aim of the bishops united behind the Bishop of Rome which comprise the Magisterium of the Church. Recent documents from the Holy See solidify this from the document on homosexuality from Rome, not the bishops' nebulous one; from last week's document clarifying restrictions for divorced Catholics who have disregarded Church teaching; and from the papal bull Ex corde ecclesiae which curtails liberal theologians from preaching anathema.

    Throughout the centuries there have been changes in the Church both cultural and liturgical, but until the Second Vatican Council, both aspects still blended with the universal Church. Now it's time to revisit the definition of what the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church truly is. We welcome our Orthodox brethren to unite with us and we welcome other sects to re-examine why they left in the first place and whether it was really worth it in the long run. There already has been progress between the Lutheran Church and Rome and the possibility exists that one day our Lutheran brethren, as well as our Anglican and Episcopalian brothers and sisters, will be reunited with the true Church. After all Martin Luther and Henry VIII are long gone and forgotten. Like the prodigal son, Christ and His Church will welcome all back with great joy and celebration. The Holy Father has been tilling and fertilizing the fields of ecumenism and loyalty, but until now he has been careful to weed out the global garden for fear of throwing the good out with the bad. In separating the wheat from the chaff, he has taken Our Lord's words in Matthew 13: 30 to heart, "Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the reapers: Gather up the weeds first and bid them in bundles to burn; but gather the wheat into My barn."

    Harvest time is near, the Holy Father has patiently and faithfully tended to the garden and knows where the weeds are lodged. Like Christ's command, we have to be patient along with His Vicar on earth in calling for change too quickly. The Pope has a definite method to his slow and deliberate process of cultivating and we need to have faith in him as the master gardener. There are others in the world who would desire to be his equal in gardening souls as the Orthodox Church has expressed, and the Lutherans' question of infallibility, but they have little to stand on for their soil is not as solid as Rome's chiefly because their agricultural styles are different. Just as we have cultural differences and language obstacles, so also we have philosophical differences that will take time to cultivate and smooth over. We can't think of a better man to wield his winnowing fan then the wise Karol Wojtyla from Krakow. Like watching a flower bloom, or a tree grow, it takes time but whether we see it or not, much progress has already been made, many weeds disgarded and more cleaned up on the threshing floor of reform. The Holy Father realizes intuitively through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the timing is right to right the wrongs!

Michael Cain, editor

For past editorials for the last two years, click on CATHOLIC PewPOINT Archives

July 12-13, 2000
volume 11, no. 120

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