Anscar Chupungco, wrong about relics

From our friends at Rorate, more information about just how wrong liturgist Anscar Chupungco, OSB really is.  My emphases.

Veneration of relics is “a sad chapter in the history of the liturgy”

From Anscar Chupungco’s What, Then, is Liturgy?: Musings and Memoir, Claretian Publications, Quezon City 2010, pp. 51-52:

The veneration of the bodies or relics of saints is a sad chapter in the history of the liturgy. In the Middle Ages dealers made a big business out of the sale of bones purportedly of saints but later discovered, thanks to modern technology, to be of animals. Unsuspecting devotees brought them and built magnificent chapels to house richly Italicadorned reliquaries. When I was a student in Europe it was one of my diversions to look for some of the most amusing kinds of relics: a feather of St. Michael the Archangel, a piece of cloth stained with the milk of the Blessed Virgin, one of the prepuces of the Child Jesus, and believe it or not, a bottle containing the darkness of Egypt! The great reformer Martin Luther, appalled by aberrations committed on relics, fiercely took issue with the Catholic Church. Indeed, who would not be scandalized by reports that when priests were compelled to celebrate only one Mass a day to stifle the abuses surrounding Mass stipends, some had the temerity to simulate the Mass and raise the relic of a saint at the supposed moment of consecration? I can still hear my mentor Adrian Nocent’s dismissive remark when he listened to stories of relics, private apparitions, and saccharine devotions: “It’s another religion!”

Abstracting from the deviations of the past and from the odd practice of displaying dismembered parts of the bodies of saints for public veneration, it is important to keep in mind that the liturgy gives special honor to the human body, whether it is of a great saint or a departed ordinary Christian…

Adrian Nocent OSB was one of the leading lights of the liturgical reform of the 1960′s.

First, the abuse of something doesn’t obliterate the things proper use.  Just because there were excesses or abuses in some period, that doesn’t mean that relics cannot be venerated properly.

Also, the writer undermines his own argument.  He states that we give special honor to the human body… um …. exactly.

Finally, the writer seems to ignore that people have venerated the bodies of dead heros for a lot longer than Christianity has been around.  People know in their bones that their bones are important, even when we are not at the moment actually using them. The followers of John the Baptist obtained John’s body.  The Lord’s Body, taken down from the Cross, was treated with tenderness. The earliest Christians treated the bodies of their dead, especially martyrs, with reverence.   They built their altars over or close to the graves of their great holy brothers and sisters.  Relics inspired not only excesses or abuses – which I would remind the writer came from being sinful, the desire to cheat or deceive – but also deep and lasting piety that lead to emulation of the holiness of our forebears.

But it may be that Chupungco, in his desire to affirm the present, the ephemeral in local cultures, has no interest in that which ties us to the past.  Relics certainly tie us to the past.  Relics are countercultural.  That is not what someone totally dedicated to liturgical “inculturation” would want at work.

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26 Responses to Anscar Chupungco, wrong about relics

  1. Scott W. says:

    First, the abuse of something doesn’t obliterate the things proper use. Just because there were excesses or abuses in some period, that doesn’t mean that relics cannot be venerated properly.

    Or as someone (Chesterton?) put it: A counterfeit $20 bill does not disprove the existence of real money.
    I’d also add that I would like to see just how much this was abused or excessive. For instance, I’ve heard way too many Catholics concede that indulgences were abused, but have not really seen any primary source establishment of significant abuse. I bring this up because Christopher Haigh blew the lid off the commonly held belief that there was alot of English anti-clericalism. To wit: we need to start questioning the canned history we have received.

  2. THREEHEARTS says:

    When I found the altar of the parish church I attended had no relics. I found them thrown down on the floor in the cleaning cupboard. The parish priest dismissed my question out of hand. The poor seventies priests how much they will answer for. The Vicar General of the time told me the need for the relics on the Altar is not in canon law and therefore is optional. Canon law is often, more often than not, a method whereby the often contumacious puffery of the priesthood defends itself, like the synagogue of the hebrews. They write the rules and we obey them, even when they change our golden and noble traditions. Poor, poor seventies priests who will soon have nowhere to hide.

  3. MLivingston says:

    His comments are simply protestant. Reading the history of the “Reformation” in England, you read these exact same words. Why are there no new heresies, only old ones dusted off and reused?

  4. Fr. Basil says:

    I was not aware that there was any time that relics were venerated as part of the liturgy AT ALL, except possibly at the consecration of an altar or antimension. (There is the reference to them in one of the first prayers of the EF, yes.)

    Would not any public veneration of them be an extra-liturgical pious devotional act?

  5. andycoan says:

    I wish folks like Chupungco would just go ahead and call themselves in name what they are in fact: Protestants.

  6. Animadversor says:

    What I see here—I think—is a haughty contempt for the piety of the “ordinary” Christian: “It’s another religion!” he quotes with evident agreement. I suspect that if I read more of Father Chupungco (which I think I won’t do—his English is, at points, gratingly unidiomatic, and such profit as perhaps might be gained from reading him does not outweigh the pain inflicted on my sensibilities, both religious and literary), one would probably find this apparent hauteur cloaked in an ostensible solicitousness for those same Christians for whose devotions he seems to have such contempt.

  7. gio says:

    I am from the Philippines. It seems that it is Fr. Chupungco who is of a different religion. What he is saying is not Catholic at all!

  8. sejoga says:

    I just posted on this over at Rorate. I said that I find it pretty ironic that the very people who can be so clear-sighted about the liturgical abuses of the past are the ones who actually perpetrate the abuses of the present.

    I don’t know about this Anscar Chupungco fellow, but I wonder if he’s ever written a piece discrediting the use of puppets at mass. Flipping puppets acting as “concelebrants” is something that I’m sure has much less liturgical and devotional value to our faith than venerating relics, and is a bigger problem facing the present church. It’s amazing how people who are desperately worried about liturgical abuses that haven’t been problems for centuries rarely also worry about the liturgical abuses of today.

    Why, you might almost think they were more worried about traditional expressions of devotion than contemporary liturgical abuses!

  9. Hieronymus says:

    It is very telling to read the words of the liturgical revolutionaries. What are the odds that this man, Bugnini, Weakland, McManus, et al, put together a thoroughly orthodox liturgical system “if only it is said correctly”? Answer: ZERO.

    As I have pointed out here before, the N.O.M. is the liturgical equivalent of Mahoney’s monstrosity of a cathedral: it was validly consecrated as a cathedral of the Catholic Church, but its spirit and inspiration are far from Catholic. The solution is not prettier banners and a better choir, but dynamite.

  10. Joe in Canada says:

    this is anti-ecumenical. Every Orthodox Holy Table has a relic of St Stephen in it, every antimension has a relic in it, and people flock to venerate the bodies of holy men and women. I am surprised that such a child of the Second Vatican Council would reject Orthodoxy this way. Let alone his proper Catholicism.

  11. Mariana says:

    The great reformer Martin Luther? Come off it!

  12. terryprest says:

    I think that Chupungco is a bit behind the times.

    There seems to be a re=assessment of relics and the part they played in the Middle Ages and now. For instance there is going to be a major exhibition in The British Museum entitled “Treasures of Heaven” about medieval relics. See http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/future_exhibitions/treasures_of_heaven.aspx

    The destruction of saints` shrines during the Reformation and after in Britain now appears to be recognised as an act of cultural barbarism.

    I think the exhibition is presently in the USA and some people may see it there before it hits the UK

  13. terryprest says:

    A similar reaction to Chupungco`s happened in the United Kingdom before the appearance of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. There was much scoffing by the litterati about medieval superstition before the relics arrived. However the fact that about 250,000 people turned out, waited in the rain and queued up to see the relics defied all expectations. A different attitude seemed to prevail after the successful visit of the relics.

  14. The Cobbler says:

    “First, the abuse of something doesn’t obliterate the things proper use. Just because there were excesses or abuses in some period, that doesn’t mean that relics cannot be venerated properly.

    “Also, the writer undermines his own argument. He states that we give special honor to the human body… um …. exactly.”
    ~Fr. Z

    That, folks, is all you really must know.

    Although weak English (which the translation that’s actually a translation supposedly has, but I haven’t noticed it really having — unless Melville and Paine and Shakespeare all had bad English too) is funny. And so is the fact that people still fret over sale of indulgences as if there were no theology behind nonsimoniacal indulgences and over abuse of relics even though they agree with the main principle behind them, when there are real problems facing us today, including the problem of people neglecting good understanding of indulgences and relics.

    Speaking of which, why is the solution to bad understanding or lack of understanding always to throw out the thing rather than to teach more about it? And why is the response to hypocrites who preach the law, but neither uphold it nor help others uphold it, to throw out the law rather than tell them to practice what they preach and help others to practice it properly?

  15. Recently there were two relics (St. John Vianney & St. John Bosco) visited our Archdiocese (Vancouver, Canada). Many people venerated the relics of these two saints in different churches.

    I just wrote an article (in English and Chinese) on the veneration of relics for next week (Oct. 18 issue) B.C. Catholics newspaper. Here is an on-line copy of the article:

    http://fatheranthonyho.blogspot.com/2010/10/pax-sinica-article-20101018-veneration.html

    My experience with relics is that it’s really help young people to learn and to honor the saints. The young people in my parish love to see relics and they love to receive blessing with relics.

  16. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Let’s get out our Lewis and Short and see what “Nocent” means. Ah yes, here we are: noceo, nocere, to do harm. So Nocent would mean “They do harm”. They being he, and his disciples. How very appropriate.

  17. Animadversor says:

    I suppose that if you join the Reverend Mr. Leroy’s Church of What’s Happening Now that you will soon find yourself in the Church of What Was Happening Yesterday.
    I hope that I am being unjust.

  18. Gregory: GMTA. When I crafted the top entry I was soooo tempted to use the old “nomen omen” line.

  19. Re: Treasures of Heaven —

    Yes, the exhibition starts tomorrow (Oct 17) at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It looks amazing.

  20. Random Friar says:

    If Fr. Chupungco wishes to get rid of relics, I’d be glad to take them, and any nice vestments he may have, off his hands.

    I can’t imagine what he’d say about the St. Anthony chapel.
    http://www.saintanthonyschapel.org/

  21. alipius says:

    “When I was a student in Europe it was one of my diversions to look for some of the most amusing kinds of relics: a feather of St. Michael the Archangel, a piece of cloth stained with the milk of the Blessed Virgin, one of the prepuces of the Child Jesus, and believe it or not, a bottle containing the darkness of Egypt!”

    That just sounds like someone who is so full of his own smugness that he can’t see he is turning into a protestant.

  22. irishgirl says:

    Kind of ironic, seeing this on the day that six new Saints were canonized.
    This guy’s a protestant….please, St. Benedict, give this errant ‘son’ of yours a slap alongside the head!

  23. Fr. Basil says:

    \\ Every Orthodox Holy Table has a relic of St Stephen in it, every antimension has a relic in it, and people flock to venerate the bodies of holy men and women.\\

    Not quite true. While in the Byzantine tradition, permanent altars have relics of saints, ideally martyrs, enshrined in the center pillar, they are not always that of St. Stephen. Your own parish, however, may be so fortunate as to have his relic deposited therein.

    The antimension may have any saint. Frequently St. Herman’s relics are found in antimensia of OCA churches.

    And yes, it is part of Orthodox piety to venerate the relics of saints.

  24. It is the ‘theology’ of Anscar Chupungco that is a sad chapter in the history of the Church.

  25. DHippolito says:

    This guy’s a protestant….

    …he can’t see he is turning into a protestant.

    I wish folks like Chupungco would just go ahead and call themselves in name what they are in fact: Protestants.

    Better Protestant than Muslim, people….

  26. Animadversor says:

    Having been rather severe about Father Chupungco above, perhaps I ought to bring this to everyone’s attention.