A reader sent me a link to a blog I had never seen, Priest’s Secretary for an especially irritating entry. The entry wasn’t irritating because the blog itself is loony. Rather, the story recounted in the entry was loony, and did I mention irritating? The blog was just reporting it. As a matter of fact, Priest’s Secretary boiled it down from another blog, Cleansing Fire.
I thought this sort of …. codswallop was fading out. I guess it hangs on among the liberal dinosaurs.
It dredges up memories of the pure heresy we were fed at my US seminary many years ago.
Did I mention this was irritating?
Here it is:
Blogger looks at growing complacency in priest shortage
From CleansingFire.com- Charlotte Bruney, who has been serving as the lay pastoral administrator of St. Vincent De Paul in Churchville for nearly 12 years, comments in her most recent column about the departure of Fr. Cosgrove from weekday Mass assistance [“assistance”…?!? Right! Father, er um… sorry… “Just call me Bob!” only helps a little at “liturgy”.] at her parish. In this piece, Ms. Bruney appears all too comfortable without a regular priest to offer weekday Masses. Sadly, this is a problem I see becoming more widespread each day in this diocese [Rochester, NY].
Perhaps my concern will be better appreciated if one recalls what Ms. Bruney wrote in her brief article [this explains a few things…] printed in Bishop Matthew Clark’s lay ministry apologetic, Forward in Hope:
“an eighty-year-old gentleman who was a regular at daily liturgy pulled me aside one morning and announced: “We’ve been talking and we’ve agreed that we don’t want you working so hard to get us a priest for weekdays. We’ve decided that you should say Mass for us!” Stunned, I laughed aloud and then realized that he was perfectly serious. I asked him if he wanted to have me excommunicated; he replied, “We’ll just pull down the shades. No one will have to know but us!“”
Equally problematic is the following passage, also from Ms. Bruney’s piece in Forward in Hope:
“This small, but faithful, community gathers every weekday morning for either Mass or a Scripture and Communion service (at this point, it matters not which it is)”
I think it does matter. And it would matter a great deal to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith if someone was simulating Mass there.
We hear language about lay people “assisting” at Mass. That is not what priests do. Priests don’t assist.
Bad theology trickles down form the sanctuary and pulpit into the pews. It is subtly but inexorably conveyed with vocabulary, attitude, tone of voice and outright statements. Change the words of how we pray, for example, and you will change what people believe.
There was some dreadful theology about priesthood and lay people and ecclesial roles from influential authors such as the late Fr. Eduard Schillebeeckx which we still need to clean up today.
Lay people cannot simply be “called forth” from a community to “preside” at Mass (let’s say “Mass”, not “liturgy”).
The sharing in the priesthood of Christ which the baptized have is not the same as the priesthood the ordained priest has. They are different qualitatively. A thousand million billion lay people could say the words of consecration over bread and wine and, at the end of the day, bread and wine would be on the altar. A priest, without a lay person in sigh, would consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ. Priest’s don’t “assist” at Mass. And I am not entirely sure that “assist” is the best word to describe the participation of lay people. That word implies something that is, in a sense, impossible, unless perhaps we are talking about their “active participation” properly understood.
Pay attention to the words people use and the subtle clues they give. What do you hear these days?
Ministry? Minister applied to nearly everyone?
Participate at Mass/liturgy? Assist? Attend? Hear Mass?