May 1, 2001
volume 12, no. 121

The Germs of GIRM

Part Fifteen: The disorder of the New Order

    The mindset of the bishops and priests has become that they can't possibly police all the abuses done, and by that rationale, give the green light for every kind of abuse to take place with only the worst ones being highlighted and given a mild reprimand because of outrage from the faithful. If you don't cultivate the garden regularly, the weeds will grow out of control.

Paragraph 22 of GIRM reads as follows:

    "The celebration of the Eucharist in a particular Church, however, is of the greatest importance. For the diocesan Bishop is the chief steward of the mysteries of God in the particular church entrusted to his care; he is the moderator, promoter and guardian of its entire liturgical life. The mystery of the Church is manifested in the celebrations which take place under his presidency and in particular in his celebration of the Eucharist with the participation of his presbyterate, deacons and the people. For this reason, these solemn celebrations of Mass ought to be an example for the entire diocese. Therefore, the Bishop must be resolved that priests, deacons and lay faithful always grasp interiorly a genuine sense of the liturgical texts and rites, and thereby are led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist. Towards this same end, the Bishop must be attentive that the dignity of celebrations of this kind be increased, in the promotion of which the beauty of sacred place, music and art should contribute as much as possible."

Comment and Analysis:

    Yes, a Bishop is the Chief Shepherd of souls within the boundaries of a particular diocese. What if the Bishop is an unbeliever? What if the Bishop believes that he has the authority to use all of the loopholes and exceptions and invitations to adapt the liturgy found in GIRM? What if he wants to de-Europeanize the liturgy," as the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony, desires to do?

    It was not the case in the Traditional Latin Mass that a bishop had any decision about the "adaptations" to be made in the celebration of Holy Mass. Indeed, bishops in the sixteenth century received the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Pius V with joy as it contributed to the universality and permanency of the Faith itself. Liturgical norms were enforced rigorously in most instances.

    Now, however, the local bishop is charged with the task of enforcing the goal of "active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist," which can mean almost anything a local bishop desires. Furthermore, those bishops are exhibiting the same sort of aversion to exercise of their kingly office of governance as the Holy Father himself will do nothing when egregious liturgical abuses are committed, frequently right under their very noses.

    To wit, I attended an Easter Vigil Mass at Saint Mary's Cathedral in Fargo, North Dakota, on Saturday evening, March 25, 1989. The rector of the Cathedral, who has since been reassigned by Bishop James S. Sullivan, was Father Al Bitz, a real liberal who had an unbelievably Modernist liturgical agenda. Father Bitz approved of Saint Mary's choir invocation of the names of Martin Luther King, Jr, Oscar Romero, Jean Donovan (and the other three nuns killed in El Salvador in December of 1980), and other non-canonized figures in the Litany of Saints that evening.

    I was outraged, and nearly resigned from my position as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Fargo the following Monday. Bishop Sullivan did nothing to apologize publicly for those invocations, although it should be noted that the priest who replaced Father Bitz (who had his liturgical committee review the homilies prepared by a "conservative" priest in the parish) as rector did correct matters some years later. Bishop Sullivan told me at the time that he would be little more than a "traffic cop" if he corrected every liturgical abuse in the diocese (abuses he inherited as a result of the lack of governance of his predecessor, the Most Reverend Justin Driscoll, who, though orthodox, was blind to the liberties taken by his priests with the celebration of Holy Mass).

    I responded by saying that there would be chaos in the streets with traffic cops and traffic signals, and that since the only contact that most Catholics had with the Church was at Mass on Sundays that it behooved him to supervise liturgical norms. His Excellency was not pleased with me for speaking in such a manner.

    In retrospect, I can see that I missed the point entirely at the time. The Mass should not have to depend upon anyone, including a bishop or a priest, for its beauty or efficacy. The Mass of our fathers was itself an act of worship to the Father through the Son in Spirit and in Truth which was - and remains - transcendently beautiful and glorious. The beauty and the efficacy of the Mass should not have to depend on a bishop or a priest but on its own inherent order, which is a reflection of the order found within the Divine Godhead Itself, something that is lacking in the Novus Ordo of its very nature.

Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.

Tomorrow: Part Sixteen: Sunday morning at the Improv

For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives

May 1, 2001
volume 12, no. 121
CHRIST or chaos
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