15 July 2016

Nichols versus Sarah (1)

Versus Orientem or Versus Populum? An important point which I don't think anyone has emphasised, in all the wordage concerning the attack of Vincent Cardinal Nichols upon the Address of Cardinal Sarah, is this:

 Both of these Eminent gentlemen are totally agreed that this is a subject that really matters.

Cardinal Sarah makes this abundantly clear in his text. And he must have thought carefully before speaking in a way which he must have known would create a violent reaction. His act was not legislative. But it was a considered action on the part of the official appointed by the Roman Pontiff himself to have charge of the Roman Rite. It was an act of some considerable personal bravery. (For that reason, it seems to me that clergy should themselves have the courage not to let Robert Sarah down.) And the fact that he mentioned the First Sunday in Advent means that this is not some flaccid and timorous vague aspiration to which we might one day get round in the decade after next. He has called on us to do something concrete on a specific day quite soon.

And Cardinal Nichols is equally convinced that this really matters. He instantly emailed all his clergy. Cardinals do not go on to the public record as rubbishing what a brother cardinal has just said, unless they are feeling quite ... er ... excited. And the facts in the public domain strongly suggest that someone instantly got in touch with Papa Bergoglio, who in turn summoned Cardinal Sarah. And the usual machinery started to work in the Vatican Press Office in order ... as we say in Anglo-English ... to hang Sarah out to dry. Fr Lombardi and ... more especially ... the sinister Fr Rosica manifestly warmed to their unwholesome task. Nichols would not have set all that in motion over some little detail which no sensible person could possibly consider to matter. 

Sarah and Nichols are both 100% right: this does matter. It goes to the heart of the question of what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass really is. It touches upon that whole raft of practical changes ("Reordering") which were not in any way whatsoever mandated by the Council but which were put into effect by those who subsequently got their hands on to the levers of power. It bears powerfully upon the crucial question of whether the mighty task of the redintegratio of Catholic worship, set in motion by Papa Ratzinger, will continue under Papa Bergoglio's successor.

Even further than that, it encapsulates the fundamental question raised by Benedict XVI, of whether we should see Vatican II in terms of reform within a hermeneutic of continuity, or whether the structural ruptures inflicted on the Church in the 1970s, with such catastrophic effects within the Church over the following four decades, are now to be set in dry, cold, inflexible stone.

We have reached a turning point at which every priest knows that if he heeds Cardinal Sarah's exhortation, he makes it easier for his brother priests also to do the same; and that that if he opts for a quiet life, it will be that bit easier for the Tablet and ACTA to pick off his bolder brother clergy by clamouring for their episcopal persecution. There is no reason why a start cannot be made, after catechesis, by introducing versus Orientem 'provisionally' on alternate Sundays, or even just on the first Sunday of each month. Advent, when priest and people go forward together to meet the Lord who Comes to us, is indeed a highly suitable occasion.

In the Veni Sancte Spiritus we ask God the Holy Spirit to water what is parched, to heal what is wounded, to bend what is rigid, to warm what is cold, to govern that which strays from the way.

But to do these things, the Holy Spirit needs willing human cooperators. The Body of Christ operates on Grace, not on Magic.


Savonarola said...

Was Cardinal Nichols really making an "attack" on his brother cardinal or merely expressing a disagreement? If brethren in Christ cannot disagree without turning it into attack we might as well give up being the Church as we are not much good at it. I often disagree with your lively blog, Father H., but I do not want to attack you and regard you as a fellow member of the Church, as I hope you do me.
I do suspect, however, that traditionalists find it much more difficult to live with those who disagree and think that everyone ought to think like them. And of course if you believe that there is certain and unassailable truth on all matters concerning God you really have to think like that.
One small point: I wonder if Cardinal Sarah ever considered what the mind of the people of the Church is. My strong impression is that very few Catholics today, even including elderly ones who can remember the days of the old Mass, want to go back to eastward-facing. Does their mind count for anything?

Unknown said...

It is interesting that Cardinal Sarah gets "hung out to dry" for making a recommendation totally within the parameters of the
Novus Ordo while several decades ago, Bungnini managed to destroy the Roman Rite in a few short years with impunity!

"Our father below" is hard at work!!

Melinda said...

Ad orientem is such a gift to the laity. Every priest who removes his own personality from center stage makes it easier for us to pray. I especially love it when the vestments have a cross across the back.

John said...

There are more than a few churches - at least in this area - where ad orientem is physically impossible. The predella has been built out to eliminate the front steps and the table altar built out to the very end of it. If standing facing liturgical east at one of these, the taller amongst the clergy might possibly be about chest high to the top of the altar.

This could, indeed, be remedied with a little judicious construction. With the permission of all the appropriate diocesan offices, of course. And I wish them the best of luck with that.

Tony V said...

To be fair, I'm a member of ACTA, and a strong proponent of true dialogue and discussion in the church. And I never miss the opportunity to opine that Vatican II was an utter failure, and that Paul VI had no authority to presume to change the liturgy (the 'work of the people'). Am I a minority within ACTA? Undoubtedly. But I'm happy to continue to point out the shortcomings of Vatican II and Vatican I to that (paradoxically) Ultramontane conventicle.

Long-Skirts said...

Savonarola said:

"Does their mind count for anything?"

It's souls that are so precious! That's why Christ died for us!!


You can do the hokey-pokey,
You can turn yourself around,
You can say, “All’s okie-dokey
I was lost but now am found.”

You can Tango at the Masses
With your LGBT group,
You can even bring your doggies
And your scooper for their poop.

You know they’re doing wrong
And they’re preaching what’s not true,
But you’re their captured audience
Just sitting in their pew.

Yes, you are an audience,
A group, not separate souls,
The crowd who roars for these men
In narcissistic roles.

While down-a-road there are young men,
Real Roman Catholic Priests,
They have no ticket box office
Like smelly greasepaint beasts.

The Producer sent a Director,
Who rehearsed them dusk to dawn…
Say Mass without strife, daily lay down their life,
For they know that “The show must go on!!”

John Nolan said...

John, in the churches you mention the altars contravene GIRM 299 since one cannot walk round them easily.

mark wauck said...

@ john Nolan.

Good point. The purpose of the detached altar seems to be to facilitate certain aspects of the liturgy, such as the incensing. In addition, it appears to my inexpert view that the intent of this change of layout is to more closely approximate the layout of the Temple in Jerusalem, with its free standing altar--and our tabernacle analogous to the Holy of Holies. Of course, all that also included separate spaces for the laos and the priests who do their work. From this standpoint the notion of facing the people during the sacrificial rites is quite absurd. As are many other aspects of the "reforms," such as removing the tabernacle, altar rails, etc.

There's lots more to be said in light of the revelation of Christ, as commented on in various NT writings, and I'll gladly stand corrected if I'm off base.

Long-Skirts said...

mark wauck said:

"such as removing the tabernacle, altar rails, etc."


Man won't kneel --
Daily to pray
But lift his hands
To applaud and play.

Man won't kneel --
Examine acts dead
But perform for himself
For himself bow his head.

Man won't kneel --
Emotes bad behavior
No matter reviews
The director's his savior.

Man won't kneel --
He's the star, can't fail...
So the prop-man struck
The Communion rail.

Athelstane said...

Hello Savonarola:

"My strong impression is that very few Catholics today, even including elderly ones who can remember the days of the old Mass, want to go back to eastward-facing."

If we're going to ask that question, we should find it hard to avoid a related question: How many Catholics in 1965 were agitating to abandon the age-old celebration of Mass ad orientem? Were they ever consulted?

Savonarola said...

Athelstane, you ask, "How many Catholics in 1965 were agitating to abandon the age-old celebration of Mass ad orientem?" consulted?" Who knows? But what does seem clear is that they mostly welcomed the change when it happened, as they did the change from Latin to English, and do not want to go back now. Does that matter?
I have no idea what Long-Skirts' answer to my question might be. So I ask again, does it matter what the people of the Church think about these questions?

Alan Matthews said...

On the matter of the requirement for the altar to be freestanding, I seem to think that this was expected in the early Church where the apsidal arrangement of churches was the norm. Or am I mistaken in that assumption? In any case, it's worth remembering that the high altars in both the Birmingham and London Oratories are free standing. And it is the case in many ancient Catholic churches and cathedrals.

I also have a recollection from my days in the Church of England as a student at S. Stephen's House in the early 1980s. We final year students were doing our Mass practice and I was the chosen vessel to demonstrate how to cense an altar for an eastward-facing Mass. Having memorised the wonderful arrows diagram in the English Missal on the censing of an altar, I went through the motions in a cassock and an (unlit) thurible, only to receive a friendly smack around the head from Fr Thomas, the Principal.

He then explained to the rest of the students that my genuflexions were superfluous and that I had introduced extra incensations. As an insufferable know-all, I then replied that Fortescue enjoined the genuflexions when there was a tabernacle on the altar, as there was in the parish I was going to. The extra incensations were being offered to the reliquaries on the altar, again a feature of the parish I was going to.

Father Thomas then explained further that the pattern of incensation of the altar was a kind of truncation as a result of the celebrant no loner being able to walk around the altar as in ancient times. I wasn't really sure of his reasoning until I saw Bishop Graham Leonard pontificating at S. Alban's Church, Holborn. He incensed the free standing altar walking all around it, even though the Mass was celebrated ad orientem.

This was the only time I saw this practice so I would welcome any experts' comments.