I don’t want to pick on the writer. That is not my purpose.
But more than one person sent me this article with some questions. In The Message Online, for SW Indiana, which is the internet presence of the Diocese of Evansville, there was an article which left my senders confused. They thought a couple things were …. not quite right.
I think our Church’s publications should be clear and close to Catholic teaching.
So, let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.
The Christian Journey
Rituals: What we do, why we do it and what it teaches us
Whenever the Church gives us a new ritual for a Sacrament, which is not often, it contains an underlying “blueprint” (“paradigm shift”), that is, an understanding of ourselves as Church in a particular time. [hmmm… at a first reading this doesn’t sound right to me. The Church’s rites for Sacraments do not intend to convey a different effect or a deepening understanding of those effects. Perhaps they will stress some elements more than others. But "paradigm shift" strikes me as not correct. Also, "blueprint" suggests that the rites are starting points upon which we build thereafter.] Celebrating the Church’s new sacramental rituals has the power to convert the way we think about ourselves as Catholics and how we are to live. [Yes, true. There is a reciprocal relationship between how we pray and what we believe. That is why we must always see our rites in continuity with the way those rites have always been celebrated, not in rupture.] Therein lies our resistance, of which we are usually not aware. “Externals” upset us (e.g. no longer using Latin or Gregorian chant [though the Church says that these ought to be used!] ). However, what is unconsciously disturbing us is the underlying new way of being Church that the sacraments present us. ["new way of being Church"? When you see people use "Church" without some article like "the", alarms bells should ring. And "new way"? You mean we have made a break with an "old way"? Let’s see where he goes with this.] A few examples may shed light on this phenomenon.
When the deacon or lector carries a beautifully adorned Gospel Book in the opening procession of Mass, this proclaims that God’s Word is central to our lives.[Huh? You mean having Scripture for half of Mass and most of the Office wasn’t enough?] Gone are the pre-Vatican II days when we were told we did not commit a “mortal sin” if we missed the Scripture readings at Sunday Mass as long as we arrived by the Offertory (not the “Preparation of the Gifts”). [I am getting mixed messages. Is he saying that that we do commit a mortal sin if we are not present for the Liturgy of the Word? I think he is trying to deemphasize "mortal sin", but I am not sure.] Today hearing God’s Word proclaimed is just as vital and relevant for Catholics as for other Christians, who emphasized the Scriptures almost exclusively while we stressed the Sacraments. [Except, of course, when we celebrated Mass or read the Office.]
Another example of a “paradigm shift” in the Church is the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sufficient priests are available during a communal Penance Service to provide time for individual confessions. However, if the proper circumstances are present, general absolution may be given. [Indeed. But those circumstances are pretty clear: it is NOT to be a scheduled event, but rather an emergency in which it is impossible for auricular confession of those present.] (Both are legitimate sacramental rituals.) [But where is his explanation of the limitations on "general absolution"?!] Our communal Penance Services help us understand how our sins are usually not directly against God, but against people. [Ummm…. "our sins are usually not directed against God…". I don’t think so. Our sins are always offenses to God. I think he is trying to emphasize that we often sin imediately against other people, but this statement is simply wrong.] Therefore, we gather communally asking forgiveness of God and each other. Our Penance Services catechize us that sin is never a “private” matter, but has public ramifications — our actions affect the Church. [Ok.] They help us realize that instead of judging others for their failings, we — as a forgiven people — are to pray for one another and to be instruments of God’s forgiveness (just as we seek forgiveness). [This is a little fuzzy… it is right, of course, but fuzzy… even buzzy… with buzz words… but let’s go on.]
Jesus, who is the Primary Sacrament of God’s Presence in the world, attempted to bring about a shift in thinking [there it is again] among the Jewish people; but many leaders could not accept him. How could the awesome, fear-inspiring God, who appeared to Moses in thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai, appear in the compassionate person of Jesus, “the carpenter’s son?” [Who will come again as the terrible Judge and unmake the world in fire… bu I digress…] After being with his closest friends, Jesus still had to tell Thomas, “Thomas, whoever sees me, sees the Father; the Father and I are one!” Jesus, as God’s eternal Son, in human flesh required a conversion in the way people thought about God. In Jesus, God’s love had drawn close to us. Understanding this by coming into contact with Jesus would lead to a change in attitude and behavior. If God’s eternal Son became a human person, [Actually, this is heresy: Jesus is NOT a "human person". He is a Divine Person, with two natures, divine and human.] then all humanity receives “immortal value” (Christmas Preface). Therefore, the risen Jesus did not say to Saul, “Saul, why are you persecuting my people?” No, Jesus said, “Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Jesus’ incarnation gives us a new vision of God’s presence in the human person and our need to respect each person.
It is crucial to grasp how celebrating the Church’s sacraments in faith can lead us to conversion because each sacrament’s foundation is this underlying new blueprint (“paradigm shift). The RCIA as “Christian initiation” truly provides us with Vatican II’s most fundamental new blueprint (“paradigm shift”) that is “prophecy of the highest order or massive institutional suicide” [?] from which we all naturally either retreat out of fear for conversion and change or take a “lower road” making the RCIA into a “program.” [Huh? Can anyone explain what that last part meant?]
This strikes me as having been written through a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.
Problems, friends, problems. I think, I hope, the problems spring from lack of clear writing, rather than lack of Catholic belief, but this piece – for me – conveys some confused ideas.