I recently heard on TV a media wonk challenge a racial double-standard in sentencing guidelines for cocaine and for crack. Cocaine is used more by white people but the sentencing guidelines are less harsh than those for crack, used more by black people. I don’t know enough about this issue to assess it, but a good question is raised.
This was on in the background while I was looking at some newly released diocesan guidelines for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, by which Pope Benedict emancipated Catholics who desire Holy Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum.
For a long while we, blessedly, hadn’t seen dioceses impose additional "norms" on the Supreme Pontiff’s provisions. This week we have seen a couple more instances. One was pretty good and the other dreadful, even insulting to the Pope. Interesting timing, give the lifting of the excommunications of the bishops of the SSPX.
As I reviewed these very different documents I had the odd sense that there was buried in them both something not unlike the possible racial bias of those sentencing guidelines.
Since ’07, when Summorum Pontificum came out, diocesan norms imposed on the Supreme Pontiff’s provisions will at times include something like "this Mass must not be celebrated for people who deny the validity of the Novus Ordo".
Well… okay. Bishops want to keep the knuckle-headed stuff out of the mix.
But this is nothing other than a policing of thoughts. Their very ideas must be assessed before a Mass may be celebrated in a legitimate Catholic Rite.
In contrast, there is far less urgency to police people’s thoughts on issues of grave importance for how we live and die as Catholics. I should say their thoughts and their actions.
We don’t know how grave a sin it may be for a Catholic to think the Novus Ordo is invalid and then act so as to avoid going to Novus Ordo Masses. Go ahead and argue that it’s bad to say it’s invalid. Can you go to Hell for it? I wonder.
It is, however, a sin for a Catholic to think persistently, even after instruction, that the Church is wrong about abortion and then act in such a way as to defy or undermine the Church’s teaching.
We wonder if you risk Hell for the former. We know you can go to Hell for the later.
Pastors of souls must above all else protect the immortal souls of their flock. What could possibly override that concern?
In the case of those who don’t like the Novus Ordo, or maybe have other crass ideas or behaviors, some bishops and priests would seek to bar such folks from having Holy Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum. Perhaps they should even be barred from the Church.
But obstinate public dissenters who concretely act in defiance of the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life are treated quite differently.
Pro-abortion politicians attend Masses all the time. They receive Communion all the time. Their thoughts and actions are known to all. They create scandal and confusion. They are at risk of eternal Hell and threaten to take others with them.
But great oversight must be exercised in the matter of Summorum Pontificum. Priests must be assessed. The very thoughts of the faithful have to be judged before they can have a legitimate liturgy of Holy Church. The older form of Mass is such a grave matter that additional guidelines must be imposed.
The judgment and sentence given to the one group by our shepherds is often quite different from that which they impose on the other.