Ineffable irony and the USCCB

A priest WDTPRSer helped me to a chuckle today:

Dear Fr. Z,

First, thank you for your blog.  I’ve been following it faithfully for about 2 years and I always find something interesting and informative.  You are providing a great service to the church! [Thanks!]

I have a few parishioners with whom I meet once a month to talk about the liturgical reform and Benedict’s Papacy.  Our fundamental question is whether the Mass we have today is the Mass intended by the Council Fathers.  To keep it from descending to opinions, we are limiting our study primarily to magisterial documents.  It is informative for them and edifying for me to see an interest in the Church and her liturgy.

This past week we decided to consider the USCCB  Norms for distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds:

As a point of observation it is [NB] written by the American bishops  [!] and received the recognitio in 2002. 

When I reread the document is preparation for our meeting I about swallowed my teeth when I read paragraph 4, especially considering the failed vote to approve the most recent "Grey Book" based on some "high falutin’" word choices. 

Here is the first sentence:

4. The eyes of faith enable the believer to recognize the ineffable depths of the mystery that is the Holy Eucharist.

Do you notice the irony?  I simply had to stop and let out a good laugh.

Me too… but I can’t quite put words to it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. John6:54 says:

    Obviously the norms weren’t meant for Joe & Mary Catholic to read.

  2. MSusa says:

    oh the irony…..
    Someone needs to pass it on to all the Bishops.

  3. Aelric says:

    I think only Homer Simpson has the appropriate & condign expression for this instance: DOH!

    Just coincidentally, I ran across the word “gibbet” whilst reading Preston & Child’s Riptide. The prose in this work of popular fiction is not exactly up to the standards of Jane Austen or Patrick O’Brian, yet “gibbet” seems apropos to Riptide’s target audience.

  4. TJM says:

    Who wants to send this to Bishop Trautman’s email? What fun! Tom

  5. caleb1x says:

    There’s no irony. Bishops and priests are the audience for documents of a bishops’ conference. John and Mary Catholic may be too stupid and too lazy to read, but they do attend the liturgy, at least sometimes. This ignorant couple was not wrought from the same mold as the priestly caste. Indeed, I can barely understand myself whenever I have to use “language”.

  6. Laura says:

    Can we really afford to “dumb down” the liturgy? Are we not, in fact “dumbing down” the theology to the point that people are being misled what it means to BE CATHOLIC?

    I’m so disappointed in this.

  7. Marcin says:

    As a Joe Catholic I made an effort to read the norms and at the top of a webpage I found that:

    On June 9, 2006 in an audience with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI this indult was not extended. The Conference of Bishops was informed of this by a letter from Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, dated October 12, 2006 (Prot, n. 468/05/L).

    Which exactly indult has not been extended – to distribute under Both Kinds? That would be, well, too good to believe. Although I would rather supressed Unecessary Ministers that Communion under Both Kinds.

  8. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Marcin – for EMHCs (other than instituted Acolytes) to purify the sacred vessels (or, “wash the dishes”, as some might call it). Not that the repealing of this indult has caused many parishes or dioceses to change their practices, of course!

    Communion under both kinds is not an indult (although it is far more widely spread today than the Counciliar and post-Conciliar documents intended it to be).

  9. Jeff Pinyan says:

    The USCCB web site has 27 uses of the word “ineffable”, including an appearance in the Catechism and the NAB!

  10. Monica says:

    Remember, we’re only lay people; we’re the same people who can’t grasp concepts like Gregorian Chant or big words like effable. We can only understand music if it’s on a piano or a guitar. We’re not elite like some of the USCCB Bishops who stay in fancy hotels while permitting tabernacles to be hidden from the faithful. That is why some of them try to make us feel better by allowing us lay people to perform priestly functions at Mass because they realize just how deficient we are as lay people. We’re only acceptable in their eyes when we act like priests by performing some of the priestly functions at Mass.

  11. Coletta says:

    “to contemplate, praise and adore in a special way this ineffable Sacrament … the incomparable treasure which Christ has entrusted to his Church.” (Mane Nobiscum Domine 29)

    It has crossed my mind on occasion that those who seem to hope to undermine the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence also seem to focus on changing the words the Church uses to express our faith in the Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the sacrificial nature of the Mass. If that is the case,they are working against God Himself.

    Please forgive my lack of charity and understanding but this cannot be purely coincidental.They are not working to clarify language or liturgy. They are actively working to do and teach other than Catholic doctrine. Both in word and action.

    We have seen this in translations of the Bible. We have seen this in changes made in the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ which were not done with good intentions to say the least.

  12. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Coletta – I see the word used in ten Magisterial documents from the past century or so:

    Christifideles Laici, n. 31
    Dominicae Cenae, n. 8
    Ecclesia de Eucharistia, nn. 50-51
    Indulgentarium Doctrina, n. 2
    Mane Nobiscum Domine, n. 29
    Mysterium Fidei, n. 1
    Mystici Corporis Christi, nn. 12, 19, 54, 80
    Sacra Tridentina, n. 1
    Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 40
    Solemni Hac Liturgia (The Credo of the People of God), n. 9

    Perhaps I should ask the USCCB where I can find simpler translations of these documents!

  13. Coletta says:

    Jeff, thanks for that list. I will use it :)

    I believe those working to that end are trying to convince the other Bishops and Priests that
    we cannot understand the words, don’t like Chant, will be upset if the Pries faces away from the people… the list goes on as you know.

    I really don’t think it is that they beleive those things. They have an agenda. It is the same one that has wreaked havoc in the Church these past years and they are not giving up a long as they are in positions to continue. They see there time is running out.

    They may have even stepped up their efforts since they have seen the writing on the wall of our beloved Pope Benedict XVI. If I may say, they may have been weighed in the balance and found lacking.

    We really need to pray for ourselves and for them. Adoration.

  14. Coletta says:

    THECEL: thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting. Daniel 5:27 is what I meant to refer to. Also, please forgive the typos. This topic is a sore one for me.
    That group meeting in the Parish to read documents on the liturgy sounds wonderful!

  15. Jeff Pinyan says:

    Oh, not to shill or hijack Fr. Z’s good blog here, but if anyone is interested in participating (by reading OR contributing!) in an online study of Sacrosanctum Concilium (just as the Holy Father invited us at the end of the Eucharistic Congress), I’m leading one on the Catholic Answers Forum. You need to be a registered forum member and a Book Club member to contribute, but anyone can just read along.

    I have two intentions: to grow in understanding and faith in the Eucharist, and also to look carefully at what the Council really said (versus what the Consilium really accomplished). I hope to bring the group to the point of that same question the correspondent to Fr. Z has: “is the Mass we have today the Mass intended by the Council Fathers?”

  16. Domenico says:

    Ineffable, adj.
    1. Defying expression or description. Es. “ineffable ecstasy”
    2. Too sacred to be uttered. Es: “the ineffable name of the Deity”

    Syn.: unspeakable
    Sim.: In-(or un)-expressible, sacred
    From WordWeb, Online Dictionary and Thesaurus,

    Where is the problem?

  17. pseudomodo says:

    When the Bishops meet again I propose that the inhabitants of the city remove the roof of the building thay are in and then put them on a strict bread and water diet until they “GET IT”!!

  18. An American Mother says:

    I do not understand this.

    John and Mary almost always have a dictionary somewhere in the house, even if it’s only a Webster’s Collegiate.

    Besides, my 80-something neighbor — born in rural Georgia, never finished high school, belongs to a little evangelical congregation — has NO problem reading and understanding the King James Version (and arguing it over with me ad infinitum).

    Are the bishops saying that John and Mary are too stupid to rise to the intellectual level of an elderly sheet metal worker with a minimal formal education?

    And, besides, that’s what the homily is for!!!

  19. athanasius says:

    Trying to get this image in the comment box, if anyone knows the right html to put that in here, I\’d be much obliged! :D


  20. You don’t expect the bishops to actually read all the stuff they vote on do you?

    Reminds me of a story I heard about a US bishop in a Catholic bookstore, when he walked by some new booklet that was on sale which was a document by the USCCB, and he commented “I don’t remember voting on this.”

  21. TNCath says:

    The word “ineffable” is one of the vocabulary words I have been giving my ninth grade students for nearly 20 years. Do the bishops think that “John and Mary Catholic” aren’t smarter than a ninth grader?

  22. Paul Murnane says:

    Interesting that you can find “ineffable” in Webster’s, but you can’t find “kumbaya.” :)

  23. Mitchell says:

    Why, WHy, Why, isn’t this stuff taken out of the Bishop’s hands?…It should come from Rome. Period. By Rome allowing the rejection of the proposal in the first place the feet dragging will go on and on. And the people who suffer are the faithful. Don’t the Bishops get it? We faithful, want more, we are tired, why do they resist our wishes and the wishes of Rome in such clearly Vatican matters…It really leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth when you refer to Bishops nowadays..That needs to change for the whole good of the Church and they just do not realize how much they damage their own reputations by continuously challenging Rome. No wonder their faithful have such little regard for them and their fruitless attempt to command obedience and respect..They set the example and are so often seen as a joke….

  24. Louis E. says:

    Might the appointments made to the hierarchy between the original vote and the November revote make an effable difference in the outcome?

    Bishop LeVoir is the newest so far,but Knoxville and Charleston have been vacant for some time,and who among those listed at is likely to have voted against the ICEL draft and might be gone by November?(And if auxiliaries can vote,where might any be added?)

  25. Astorg says:

    “The eyes of faith”? Really? Not a very Catholic vision, surely.

  26. Jeff Pinyan says:

    “Ineffable” is also found in the New American Bible, 2 Cor. 12:4:

    [3] And I know that this person (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) [4] was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable things, which no one may utter.

    It’s got this footnote: “Ineffable things: i.e., privileged knowledge, which it was not possible or permitted to divulge.”

  27. Sam Schmitt says:

    Yes, Jeff –

    And the NAB is the translation approved by the US bishops for use in the mass (in fact the passage you quote is read on Saturday of the 11th week of Ordinary Time – Year I).

    Maybe they should revise the translation of the lectionary – or just choose a different one?

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