Monthly Archives: June 2006

If you’ve completed one Copernican Revolution before breakfast, why not round it off with Breakfast at Milliways?

While we’re at it (as they say over at First Things)…

I have always had my doubts about the Jesuits at the Vatican Observatory. Not their science, mind you, which I am not qualified to judge, but their theology (which, IMHO, I am so qualified—so are most of you, dear Readers, for that matter). They are always trucked out by the media whenever there is some point to score against the silly old folks who believe Intelligent Design (the Holy Father included?) And I often find myself wondering afterwards how these priests can turn from their telescopes to their altars and celebrate Holy Mass. That must require the equivalent of a Copernican Revolution at least once a day!

Well, it seems that I am not alone in my misgivings. Stephen Barr, a member of the editorial board of First Things magazine and an interlocutor with the hardened Intelligent Design enthusiast, Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna, has come out with this:

“On the one hand, Coyne [Fr George Coyne, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory] says that science is “completely neutral with respect to philosophical or theological implications that may be drawn from its conclusions.” On the other hand, he says, “If we take the results of modern science seriously, then what science tells us of God must be very different from God as seen by the medieval philosophers and theologians.” One cannot have it both ways. What Coyne means by “medieval” conceptions are the doctrines of God’s omniscience and what theology calls God’s “immediate providence” over all events in the universe. These are clearly de fide teachings of the Catholic Church, and someone who has the word Vatican in his job title, even if he has no magisterial authority, should be more careful.”

Ah yes, well that’s just the point, isn’t it? What claim to fame would these priests without a pastorate have if it were not for the fact that they had “Vatican” in their title? Would the media be so interested in Fr Coyne’s ideas if he were director of the plain old “Jesuit Observatory in Texas”?


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The Anglican Fallout and Luther’s Precognitions

The developments in the Anglican Communion are fascinating to behold—if that’s the word for it. Read here Archbishop Rowan William’s address, and here you can read Stephen Bates’ column in The Tablet.

I must admit to being rather astonished at the calmness with which our local Anglican brethren and sistern are taking this. There is something of an assumption of inevitability about it all—even to the extent that they believe that the Catholic Church will eventually come to see things in the same light as the Anglicans do (ie. that in the end, whether you are talking about ordaining gays or women, or even if you are talking about treating HIV/AIDS and condoms, it is all a simple matter of justice and equality for everyone).

You sometimes hear people saying “Everyone is grappling with these issues—including the Catholics”. Yes, that is true. The ordination of women may not be such a hot topic within the Catholic Church these days (certainly there are a lot of people outside the Catholic Church who seem to want the Catholic Church to change its unchanging tradition in this regard), but the issues of whether or not gay men can be ordained, or whether priests should be married, or about conscience, and contraception etc. etc. are indeed hot topics of conversation. The difference is that we are not “grappling” in the dark. The fact that the Catholic Church, alone of all the Christian communions, has a living teaching magisterium makes all the difference. We have clear parameters within which these discussions are taking place. Not everyone accepts those parameters, but the parameters as such are not going away.

And when I say that, I am not saying that they are not going away soon. I am saying that they are not going away ever.

There is a remarkably prophetic, and insightful, and indeed true, passage in the Lutheran Confessions. Martin Luther wrote, in the Smalcald Articles of 1537 (Article IV. para. 7-9):

“Suppose that the pope would renounce the claim that he is the head of the church by divine right or by God’s command; suppose that it were necessary to have a head, to whom all others should adhere, in order that the unity of Christendom might better be preserved against the attacks of sects and heresies; and suppose that such a head would then be elected by men and it remained in their power and choice to change or depose this head. … If, I say, the pope and the see of Rome were to concede and accept this (which is impossible), …Christendom would not be helped in any way. There would be even more sects than before because, inasmuch as subjection to such a head would depend on the good pleasure of men rather than on a divine command, he would very easily and quickly be despised and would ultimately be without any adherents at all… What a complicated and confused state of affairs that would be!”

To all this, one can only say, “Amen, Brother Martin”. But he goes on to give a description of what history may call “the Anglican Experiment”:

“Consequently, the church cannot be better governed and maintained than by having all of us live under one head, Christ, and by having all the bishops equal in office (however they may differ in gifts) and diligently joined together in unity of doctrine, faith, sacraments, prayer, works of love, etc.”

Ah yes, if only. However, like all else in this universe, the communion of bishops tends also to be subject to the laws of entropy (tending to the state of greatest disorder). One cannot but regard it as a sign of the greatest divine beneficence that our Lord Jesus Christ did in fact institute, precisely by divine right, a “ministry of communion” (as the Petrine Office has come to be called) to maintain the unity of the bishops.

I have strayed somewhat from the outset, but I think you get the drift.

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Where can I find the Missale Romanum Editio Typica Tertia on the net?

Today I received this query from a Lutheran clergy mate:

Hi there David – I always enjoy reading your blogs. Quick question about the new mass translation: where can I get the Latin text of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia on online? For the life of me, I haven’t been able to find one. I can find GIRMs galore, and also Tridentine Ordos, but not the current Latin of the Novus Ordo. Am I blind or just plain Protestant?

Here is my answer:

No, the problem is with our assumption that we would find it on the net. It isn’t there, and neither is the editio secunda. For that matter, even the current English translations are a devil to find, let alone the new translations (which no one is supposed to have seen yet, but its not much different—in style at least—from the Lutheran 1972 Service with Communion in the old black book; personally I wish they had stayed a little closer to the BCP translations of Cranmar, which is what the Service with Communion was).

The text of the mass is a very carefully guarded one. It is thought of as being secured between two thick red covers, rather than something malleable which could be cut and pasted into worship booklets (called “missalettes” by Catholics) or onto overheads. The actual printed thing is a real beauty to behold, and more so because it has the music of the Gregorian chant printed with the text. The music is regarded as integral to the text, not an appendage. This is one difference between the editio secunda (which had the music in the back) and the tertia.

How long will this mentality last? I don’t know. I expect that since the English translations will be copyrighted by ICEL they will not be officially made available on the internet. But in this day and age, someone will do it. For that matter, before long, maybe an unofficial latin text may emerge on the net.

I expect that plans for our new music and hymnody resource which will replace the out-of-print/out-of-date Catholic Worship Book are also more likely to appear on a website than between two covers (partly because of cost, partly because of a desire to reach as many people as possible—like “we” Lutherans did with “our” Worship Resources when I was editor of them back pre-2000).

We will have to watch how this pans out. It seems that there will be a clash of two cultures: one strictly print and the other multi-media. Let the games begin!

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Now available: English Translation of Schönborn’s 5th Creation Catechesis

Sing praise and thanksgiving! (to quote the great hymn writer, Paul Gerhardt)

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn’s “Fifth Catechesis” on Creation has finally been translated into English. He is up to catechesis eight in the German original, but the translator has finally heeded my pleas and got moving again. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait to long for the rest…

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A great loss to the Ecumenical Movement

In the midst of joy, we are in grief at the death of an outstanding worker in the vineyard of ecumenism, Fr Peter Cross. Fr Cross died on Saturday night at 9:50pm. He is a great loss to the Ecumenical Movement around the world, particularly in Anglican Catholic relationships as a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and most recently in the preparation of the joint statement “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ” . Rest in Peace, Peter.

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“Farewell, your Lordship”, and “Hullo, your Grace”!

My congratulations to the new Archbishop-elect of Canberra and Goulburn, the Most Rev. Dr. Mark Coleridge. As they say in the business, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke! While we can truly say that Canberra’s gain is Melbourne’s loss, we also believe that in farewelling Bishop Mark as a bishop for the Catholic Church in Melbourne, we welcome him as an Archbishop for the Catholic Church in Australia.

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Well that’s gone and done it—a woman primate for the Episcopal Church in the USA…

Yes, within weeks of the “pull-no-punches” address of Cardinal Kasper to the House of Bishops of the Church of England warning of the ecumenical fallout should the C of E decide to ordain women as bishops, the Episcopal Church in the USA (the US province of the Anglican Communion) has gone and elected a female bishop as their next “presiding bishop” (ie. “primate”). The next meeting at Lambeth Palace will be interesting!

If you haven’t read Kasper’s address, now is the time to do it. If you are one of those “hopefuls” who thinks the Catholic Church will ever admit women to the sacrament of Holy Orders, this speech is a bucket of cold water in the face. It’s not that the Cardinal is being uncharitable to our Anglican brothers and sisters—far from it. He doesn’t point to the pontifications of the Catholic Church on the matter of the ministry bishops, but to the agreed statements that already exist between the Catholic and Anglican Churches and to the Anglican’s own documents, such as the Windsor Report. He insists that Rome will never pull the plug on dialogue. It’s just that if the Church of England goes ahead with the plan to ordain women bishops, any future hope of “full, visible unity” (which continues to be the rather quaint approach to ecumenism that we Romanists take) is simply shot out of the water.

Now is perhaps the time to say to any ecclesial communion out there who has only just come to the point of thinking that the ordination of women might be a pretty nifty idea to take a deep breath and ask “Is the sinking of the Ecumenical Movement worth an ordination?” (Lutherans in Australia: Are you paying attention?). Non-episcopal churches which have not yet gone down the road of ordaining women to the presbytery have not irrevocably cut themselves off from future rapprochement with Rome for the clear reason that the orders of male ministers are always open to validation. The orders of female ministers and bishops are not.

Remember too that Rome ain’t going there, and neither is the Orthodox Church (not in a blue fit—you have to have rocks in your head to think otherwise). In fact, although the Church of England may have “favoured dialogue partner” status in the West, this doesn’t even begin to compare with the favoured position that the Orthodox have in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

So it seems as if it has come down to a clear decision. On the one hand, you can ordain women to holy orders and proclaim yourself to be 100% the heirs of the Protestant Reformation. On the other hand, you can say: I’m with the oikumene! I’m for the unity of the Church! And proceed accordingly…

It is interesting to note the Tablet editorial on Cardinal Kasper’s address, which draws connections between female bishops and actively/openly homosexual bishops. The interesting point is that although the latter is a divisive moral scandal, the ordination of an homosexual bishop would not per se annul the apostolic succession. Presuming that the bishop in question was validly ordained as a bishop, any priests he ordained or bishops he co-ordained would be validly ordained on the ancient principle (worked out during the Donatist controversy) that the personal wickedness of the priest does not invalidate the sacrament. The ordination of a female bishop, on the other hand, would represent a decisive break in the succession (presuming those who ordained her were themselves validly ordained), since she is not a valid recipient of the sacrament. She could not, therefore, validly confer orders on anyone else.

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Yahoo! The New Mass translations are through!

For once I can truly go “Yahoo!” at reading a Yahoo! News report. Following the acceptance of the new mass translations by the bishops conferences of Australia and England and Wales, the US Catholic Bishops Conference has also passed the new translations, with a vote of 173-29. One would like to think that it is now “all over”, but one remembers the bit about “bar the shouting”. One expects that there will be some of this. Nevertheless, for many Catholics around the world who have prayed for this day, it is a day of rejoicing.

Mind you, Bishop Trautman, who previously expressed very negative feelings toward the new translation, has begun well by taking a positive slant toward the texts. According to this report, he acknowledges that “our priests are overburdened now and stretched thin” but added that ” this is important for the worship life of the Church. These texts are presenting a new richness that we haven’t seen in the past so that will have to be the driving force.”

Just how close the texts accepted by the USCBC are to the ones that have been proposed remains to be seen. Adaptations have obviously been worked in to get it through. For instance, the Yahoo report says that “a proposal to change the words of the Nicene Creed from “one in being” to “consubstantial,” which is closer to the Latin, failed.”

So we wait to see where we go from here. I hope that it will not be too many years before we see the new missal in Australia. My greatest hope is that, in partnership with the introduction of the new texts, we are able to reintroduce the tradition of singing the mass. The new translation will have the effect of killing off the current settings of the mass in use. Given that freelance composers do not yet have the text of the new version (although it could fairly be guessed at and has been widely leaked in earlier editions) there is an opportunity here for the official liturgy committees of the bishops conferences to translate the traditional Gregorian chant of the mass and to publish and teach it together with the new translations.

[Reader: That is a high expectation.
Schütz: One is allowed to have hopes—even high ones.
Reader: Just remember Murphy’s Law: ‘Always expect the worst and you will never be disappointed.]

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On the accountability of Bishps

I have been having an interesting discussion with Peregrinus in the comments section of my last blog. I suggest you pop in there and have a look, if you haven’t already. Click on the “comments” at the bottom of the blog.

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Demanding Accountability as a Road to Healing Catholic Divisions?

Some weeks ago, I read an speech by Fr Timothy Radcliffe (who used to be the head of the Dominicans) called “Overcoming Discord in the Church”, which he gave originally the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

The intention is honourable. Fr Radcliffe wishes to find a way forward in the current impasse of deep polarisation and division between the “left” and the “right” in the Catholic Church. Try as one might, one cannot escape the use of these labels (or some equivalent) today. Fr Radcliffe suggests the alternatives of “Kingdom Catholics” (ie. the Left) and “Communion Catholics” (ie. the Right).

[Believe it or not, I was once asked soon after my conversion, by a Lutheran pastor, which Catholic Church I had joined! He sincerely believed that there actually were two Catholic Churches and that the “split” had become official!]

Radcliffe’s speech is a good read, but it seems that the only ones who are welcoming it are the Left (sorry, the “Kingdom Catholics”), who are desperate to regain the high ground of authentic Catholicity and suspect that they may be failing in this achievement that once must have seemed so attainable. For example, you can find copies of this speech on the websites of “Voice of the Faithful” and “National Catholic Reporter”, and op ed pieces about it in “On-line Catholics” and in “The Tidings” by Richard McBrien.

But what a funny thing it is to read the “Writers Desk” column in the June 2 National Catholic Reporter [which for some reason has disappeared from their website to be replaced by the April 2 column—I wonder why? Nevertheless you can find it here on another site], in which editor Tom Roberts defends himself against the charge of exacerbating the very divisions Radcliffe had sought to heal.

And as examples of the failure of the Catholic Right (sorry, the Communion Catholics) he holds up two NCR articles:

  1. an article on the Church in Philadelphia “Shining light on a cover-up” which “detailed the hierarchical clerical culture in which the sex abuse scandal flourished in that archdiocese” and
  2. A series of stories about Bishop Finn in Kansas City.

You may recall a few blogs ago that I posted what was happening in Kansas City from the Catholic Culture site. I had one reader say she wanted to begin plans to emigrate straight away! Whether you view what is happening in Kansas City as a good or a bad thing is an excellent illustration of the divisions currently existing in the Church.

As for the Philadelphia article, I don’t think trying to pin the sexual abuse case on “Communion Catholics” is very charitable. It is perhaps the spikiest of the jibes shot from the pens of the “Kingdom Catholics”.

Roberts quotes Radcliffe in a private conversation as saying that what is needed to heal the divisions is a “balance between intellectual generosity, imaginative sympathy and the demand for accountability”.

Roberts seems to interpret the demand for “accountability” as being a reference to the accountability of bishops to their “constituency”. It would perhaps be more helpful and healing if we were all to realise that both bishops and faithful, both Communion and Kingdom Catholics must finally give account to God alone.


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