Showing posts with label ad orientem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ad orientem. Show all posts

Sunday, July 17, 2016

GIRM Warfare: Roma locuta est, et nemo exaudiet

If you read Cardinal Sarah’s address, it’s pretty clear he had no intention of issuing directives. While I might quibble here or there on a point, it’s a reasonable article on restoring the sense of sacred. Near the end of the address, he mentioned ad orientem (facing the East, or at least the apse), but as a fraternal request. That’s not the problem. The problem was Catholics misinterpreted what the cardinal had to say. Doing the same thing they do with Pope Francis’ press conferences, people took his words out of context and saw this as the first step of overturning the Ordinary Form of the Mass. 

To prevent this from getting out of hand, the Vatican released a communique saying that this was not a prelude to a change of rubrics and the Church was not going to mandate ad orientem over ad populum (facing the people). They have the right and responsibility to make things clear. In the past, this would have solved it. As the old saying goes (a paraphrase of St. Augustine), Roma locuta est, causa finita est.

But nowadays, it seems we could say “Roma locuta est, et nemo exaudiet.” (Rome has spoken, and no one will hear). Instead of hearing and learning from what the Church teaches, some Catholics are making ad orientem an issue of fidelity. Those Catholics who support this position get cheered as champions of orthodoxy. The Pope and bishops who say there will be no changes get accused of cowardice or irreverence. If the Vatican will not say what they want to hear, they will not accept her authority on the matter.

As a result, people argue about the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and the translation of §299. In English, this section reads:

299. The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the center toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns.[116] The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.

The dispute is over the phrase, “that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.” Some Catholics argue that this is a mistranslation of the Latin and the proper sense of the term is, “which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out."

The problem is, regardless of how many Latin experts there are out there arguing over what expedit means, we have to ask how the magisterium understands the term. Does the Church understand it in the sense of the English translation? Or does she understand it in the sense of what the critics mean? The Fr. Lombardi press release (found HERE with the original Italian and the English translation) shows that the Vatican views the preferred translation as “desirable.” [†]

I’m not going to make myself an arbiter of who has a better command of Latin. My point is we have to understand whose interpretation carries weight. That interpretation comes from the magisterium, not the individual priest or layman.

It is important to note two things:  

  1. That Fr. Lombardi’s communique does not mandate ad populum. Nor does it forbid ad orientem. It merely makes clear the Church position on the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Mass, the fact that there will not be any new requirements, and people should not use the term “reform of the reform” to avoid confusion. 
  2. The GIRM itself does not mention facing the east or facing the apse anywhere. Sometimes it speaks of facing the faithful. Sometimes it speaks of facing the altar. One can reason that ad orientem is not forbidden because it doesn’t say what side of the altar the priest must be on when facing the altar. 

Personally, I think the USCCB has described the situation wisely:

 However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has clarified on earlier occasions that this does not prohibit the celebration of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form ad orientem. In fact, there are rubrics in the Order of Mass which reflect the real possibility that the celebrant might be facing away from the assembly (see for example n. 29 before the Prayer over the Offerings: “Standing in the middle of the altar, facing the people, extending then joining his hands, he says ...”). Although permitted, the decision whether or not to preside ad orientem should take into consideration the physical configuration of the altar and sanctuary space, and, most especially, the pastoral welfare of the faith community being served. Such an important decision should always be made with the supervision and guidance of the local bishop.

This insight allows parishes to address the needs of the faithful, but also insists on the Church acting in communion and not as individuals.

As for us, we must not rebel against the lawful authority of the Church to bind and loose as she sees fit. Yes, the Code of Canon Law 212 §3 allows us to make known reverently our opinions on this matter. But we need to regain the sense of respect and obedience towards our shepherds when we do so. I have no complaint against people who prefer ad orientem and practice it with the blessing of the Church. But the “my way or the highway” from some ad orientem supporters towards the bishops has to stop.



[†] I don’t speak Italian, but, for whatever it’s worth, running the Italian translation of the Latin through Google Translate seems to indicate “desirable” is the intended meaning in the press release. I’m not going to use Google Translate as an authoritative source against a skilled translator, of course. I’m just pointing out what I saw.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Quick Quips: Getting Things Wrong

Quick Quips

Once more, here is a series of thoughts too small to rate a blog post on their own, combined into a general theme of people getting things wrong. 

Drama Queens in the Church

There is a phenomenon in the Church where some people look at whatever incident comes along, assumes the worst and says this is the most serious crisis in the history of the Church. Usually they say this  about the modern Western materialism and secularism on one hand, and members of the Church publicly saying things which are stupid and sometimes even sinful. I see this, and I want to say, “More serious than Arianism, or Nestorianism? More serious than when heretics used monks as brawlers to attack orthodox Catholics? More serious than heretical rulers trying to impose themselves over the authority of the Church? More serious than those times when the Freemasons, Nazis and Communists tried to suppress Christianity in different countries?"

I’m not denying these times are harmful for souls and we have to oppose the harmful movements. I’m just saying that we should stop being drama queens, thinking our times are the worst times, as if we could do nothing about it. Faithful Catholics have stood up against the evils of every age. Now it’s our turn to step up and face the challenge.

Ad Disorientum

I have no objection to Cardinal Sarah’s recommendations that the priests say the Mass ad orientem (facing the [liturgical] east). if my pastor follows his recommendation, I’ll support him and explain the reasons why. If the Church mandates it, I’ll give my assent. I won’t let my personal preferences stand in the way of the legitimate authority of the Church in a matter of discipline. The Church had the right to make the change to ad populum (facing the people) and she can change it back again to emphasize different aspects of the faith or stop an error. It’s like the Church allowing or withholding the chalice for the laity.

But I do object to how some combox warriors are portraying it. This is not going to solve all our problems. People are people who get bad ideas. The Church could go back to the 1962 Missal and some idiot would try to turn it into a “clown mass” despite the rubrics. Nor will people “just get used to it.” Remember, some people who grew up with ad orientem bitched for 40 years about the change. We’re supposed to think people who grew up with ad populum won’t react the same way?

They Don’t Just Get the Pope Wrong

People pitched a fit when Archbishop Chaput published guidelines for applying Amoris Lætitia. They’re outraged that the bishop said that to receive the Eucharist we cannot be guilty of a grave sin, and people who remarried when their first marriage was valid need to live as brother and sister if they want to receive. His words are:

Every Catholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. In some cases, the subjective responsibility of the person for a past action may be diminished. But the person must still repent and renounce the sin, with a firm purpose of amendment.

With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist. 

Archbishop Chaput isn’t saying anything new. This has always been the position of the Church and, despite claims from the combox warriors, this doesn’t contradict Amoris Lætitia.

For Mercy’s Sake!

People get mercy wrong. When the Pope speaks of mercy, he’s not advocating moral laxity in the Church. Mercy is (according to the glossary in the Catechism), “The loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to one who offends.” But the Pope links mercy to repentance. If we want God to show us mercy, we must repent and turn away from wrongdoing. Bishop Robert Barron describes Pope Francis’ approach this way:

[M]any receive the message of divine mercy as tantamount to a denial of the reality of sin, as though sin no longer mattered. But just the contrary is the case. To speak of mercy is to be intensely aware of sin and its peculiar form of destructiveness. Or, to shift to one of the pope’s favorite metaphors, it is to be acutely conscious that one is wounded so severely that one requires not minor treatment but the emergency and radical attention provided in a hospital on the edge of a battlefield. Recall that when Francis was asked in a famous interview to describe himself, he responded, “a sinner.” Then he added, “who has been looked upon by the face of mercy.” That’s getting the relationship right.

Barron, Robert (2016-03-31). Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism (Kindle Locations 617-622). Word on Fire. Kindle Edition.

When we seek mercy, we seek the healing from the field hospital. When we show mercy, we’re taking a role in assisting the Divine Physician. But either way, we recognize a terrible wound exists that needs treatment. The Pope’s not saying “reclassify that wound as being a natural condition.” We should stop thinking he is.


We need to avoid confusing our thoughts and feelings on a subject with what the Church teaches or with what the Pope says. People get things wrong and, from those mistakes, create scenarios of disaster where there are none. But these disasters are in our own minds. That’s not to say everything is fine and dandy in the Church. Things never were in the Church (See Acts 6:1 for example). But we need to keep things in context to avoid driving ourselves to despair, believing the Church has fallen into ruin. That paralyzes us. We don’t work with the Pope and Church in bringing people to Our Lord. Instead we brawl on the deck of the Barque of Peter over which way we think the ship should be going...

…and that’s the attitude present in every serious crisis in the Church.