Monthly Archives: December 2007

Someone in Rome got a Round Tuit for Christmas…


Everyone needs a round Tuit. They are useful for getting things done (nb. square ones are useless). Everything gets done once you get a round Tuit.

Seems like someone in the CDF has gotten one for Christmas. They have finally gotten around to putting the full text of the Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization on their website. Ta. This makes it so much easier. In the mean time, a big thank you to the Bishops Conference of England and Wales for their help while we were waiting.

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Bow, bow to the GIRM-Oz

Where’s John L. Allen Jnr when you need him, eh? While the Yanks got a blow by blow account on the net of the goings on at the USCBC meeting in October complete with interviews, background discussion and general gossip, we had to wait for a rather less than inspiring three page roundup of the November 2007 Plenary Meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, completely sans any interesting commentary.

For instance, I would have liked to have been in the press gallery when “that petition” was tabled. I know that at least one Australian bishop had threatened to walk out if that happened. I wonder if he did? And if anyone else joined him in this protest? Alas, until we get something akin to a press gallery at the plenaries, we will never know such juicy details.

But in any case, the report does have some interesting details.

For eg., at Pentecost, the new GIRM (General Instruction on the Roman Missal)–Australian version–will come into force. We are told that this will result in a mere two changes for the Australian layman (and woman etc):

The first change relates to posture. At present when the priest invites the people to pray at the Preparation of the Gifts the congregation remains seated until…the Prayer over the Gifts.

From Pentecost Sunday next year the congregation will be asked to STAND when the priest invites the congregation to pray, “Pray brethren…”.

The second change relates to a Gesture. The Australian edition of the GIRM says: “When approaching to receive Holy Communion, the faithful bow in reverence of the Mystery that they are to receive” (GIRM 160).

The communicant might [might?? Do you mean there is a choice on how we interpret this instruction?] bow just before receiving Holy Communion or perhaps while the person in front of them is receiving Holy Communion. Such a bow can be done simply, without disrupting the flow of the Communion Procession which is a most important ritual act in the celebration of the Mass.

The first change is uncontroversial, but I can see an absolute mine-field of problems involved in the second “change”. That “might” in the commentary says it all. Exactly how “might” one observe the bow and how might one not?

For instance, the US version of GIRM has at this point the following:

When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister.

From the comment above, it appears that the Australian bishops envisage something more in line with a “profound bow”, ie. stopping still, and bending at the waist toward the Eucharist. A mere “bow of the head” could not be expected to “disrupt the flow of the Communion procession.”

I can just see Elizabeth Harrington having a field day with this one. What about those who “might” decide to genuflect to the sacrament? Is this forbidden? or is it a licit interpretation of how one “might” observe the instruction to “bow”? Or what if one actually “might” want to kneel to receive communion. Will they be chastised for “disrupting the flow of the Communion procession”?

The US version of GIRM actually includes a note to the effect that:

The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

Hmm. While on the one hand, this protects the right of the kneelers to receive communion, it actually seems to deny them the right to kneel. I don’t know what Papa Benny would think of this. A little too reminiscent of the “Black Rubric”, me thinks. And I don’t know if I would like to be on the receiving end of that “pastoral catechesis” solution. Seems like a job for Elizabeth…

Nevertheless, the Australian version of this paragraph is perhaps even a little more worrying, as it goes to the bother of including the “pastoral catechesis” in the GIRM-Oz itself:

In Australia standing is the most common posture for receiving Holy Communion. The customary manner of reception is recommended to be followed by all, [and here comes the “pastoral catechesis”:] so that Communion may truly be a sign of unity among those who share in the same table of the Lord. When approaching to receive Holy Communion, the faithful bow in reverence of the Mystery that they are to receive.

One could point out that communion is “a sign of unity among those who share in the same table of the Lord” precisely because they ARE all sharing in the same table of the Lord, and NOT because they all do the same thing in the communion line like a bunch of robots. That little addition has the fingerprints of Dr Erlich and co. all over it. Nevertheless, it is to be noted that standing is simply acknowledged as “the most common posture” for reception and that the GIRM simply recommends this be followed by all. Well, we are happy with that. Let it be a recommendation, and not a law for the Liturgy Police to get their knickers in a knot over (sometimes I wonder who the real ritualists are in this arguement).

But why all this hoo-hah? The simple thing is to take a look at the original Latin of the GIRM which should clear the whole matter up. Paragraph 160 carries the simple instruction:

Fideles communicant genuflexi vel stantes, prout Conferentia Episcoporum statuerit. Cum autem stantes communicant, commendatur ut debitam reverentiam, ab iisdem normis statuendam, ante susceptionem Sacramenti faciant.

I make that to mean that the Holy See approves either standing or kneeling to receive communion, according to the statutes determined by the Bishops Conference, but if communion is received standing a “debitum reverentiam” (a “reverance which is due to the sacrament by right”) is made before the reception according to the same norms.

Note that no “debitum reverentiam” is required of those who receive communion kneeling–for the simply reason that kneeling to receive is precisely such an act of reverance. So in fact, the “bow” that is required in the new Australian norms should be interpreted as something that is required of those who receive the Eucharist standing (since without such an act of reverence, standing would be an unacceptable posture for reception of communion). Precisely because their action IS a “debitum reverentiam”, those whose practice it is to make a a genuflection before reception or to receive the Eucharist kneeling should not be regarded as failing to observe the instruction of the GIRM-Oz.

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Good News to all (Australian) Men (and Women): ABC to televise Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of Midnight Mass on Christmas Day

The Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference announced in a Media Release on Monday that

Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of Midnight Mass will once again be beamed into homes, hospitals and nursing homes across Australia via an ABC telecast this Christmas Day.

The Mass, from St Peter’s Basilica, will air at 11am (eastern summer time) on ABC Television.

The Holy Father will preside at the Mass which will, as usual, feature the participation of children from around the world.

The ABC’s telecast will feature English-language commentary.

Hurrah! (Note to self: Go to early Mass on Christmas day or set the DVD-recorder!)

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Ethics and law in a democracy: Cardinal Ruini proposes a solution

In the combox of a recent entry, Perigrinus pointed out the natural tension for a Catholic in a democratic society between “community consensus” and “objective moral law” as the foundation for determining what is lawful.

Cardinal Ruini recently made the following proposal to the priests of the diocese of Rome addressing this dilema which, I think, is in fact the way to go:

I would like to advance a proposal that may sound rather obvious, but has the merit of overcoming, on the practical level, the stalemate generated by the opposition between the supporters and opponents of the relativistic approach in the matter of public ethics, without obliging either side to withdraw from acting according to its convictions.

This proposal is for the reliance, in these areas as well, on the free exchange of ideas, respecting the democratic results of this even when we cannot agree with them.

In essence, this is fortunately what happens already in a democratic country like Italy, but it would be good for all of us to become more keenly aware of this, in order to defuse the atmosphere of confrontation that is likely to endure for a fairly long time, continually fostered by new issues.

The proponents of relativism will continue to think that in certain cases the ‘rights of liberty’ have been violated, while the proponents of an approach linked to the nature of man will continue to maintain that in other cases the rights founded upon nature, which therefore take precedence over any human decision, have been violated, but there will be no reason to accuse each other of anti-democratic extremism.

So, is it a truce then?

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Sandro Magister grasps the Doctrinal Note on Evangelisation by the short and curlies…

Sandro Magister of www.chiesa has a much better grasp of the recent Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelisation than Martin Teulan.

He accurately identifies the four main reasons for the CDF to issue the statement:

Above all, there is the idea that every religion is a way of salvation as valid as all the rest.

Then there is the conviction that proposing Christian truth to others is an attack on their freedom.

Then there is a conception of the Kingdom of God that is not identified in the person of Jesus Christ, but in “a generic reality that overarches all the religious experiences or traditions, toward which these should incline as toward a universal and indistinct communion of all those who seek God.”

Then again there is the idea that “the pretense of having received as a gift the fullness of God’s Revelation conceals an attitude of intolerance and a threat to peace.”

Magister recognises (as any reader must) that part of the document addresses the situation of the Church in Orthodox Russia, and another part addresses the situation in Muslim countries.

(Incidentally, no-one has yet commented upon the absense of any mention of evangelisation to the Jews, given the controversy stirred up several years ago by a USCBC committee which declared that the Church did not have a mandate to evangelise the Jews. While diplomatically not mentioning the Jews by name, it is quite clear that both Jews and Gentiles are included in the document’s insistence that the Gospel be preached to ALL people).

But it seems that many out there have a vested interest in downplaying the radical call to faithfulness in the new Note as much as possible. I blogged on Martin Teulan’s statement below, but I have also found the Gerald O’Collins article in the Tablet to which he referred.

O’Collins, like Teulan but unlike Magister, fails to see that this latest “Note” is fully in line with the previous “notes”, “Dominus Iesus” and “Responses on the Doctrine of the Church”. O’Collins titled his article “Softly, Softly”–a clear indication that he too wishes to pull the teeth from this document. How about this rather snide aside:

While honouring the non-negotiable claims of truth (how could the CDF do otherwise?)…

O’Collins also inverts the emphasis of the Note by commenting upon its emphasis on imporance the witness of life, but completely ignoring the even more strident emphasis upon witness of Word:

St Francis of Assisi…is remembered as saying to his followers: “Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words.” The CDF follows suit: “The witness of holiness is necessary, if the light of truth is to reach all human beings” (n. 11).

Indeed, but the Note also quotes Pope Paul VI who said that even the most exemplary witness of holiness will be useless if it is not accompanied with the clear and forthright proclamation of Christ.

At every turn, O’Collins, like Teulan, tries to soften the harsh words that the CDF has to say about the failure of Catholics to fulfill our duty of evangelisation. Try this paragraph on for size:

Secondly, this theme of sharing the benefits of Christian faith is repeatedly specified as a sharing in fullness. Those who have not yet heard and accepted the Gospel already enjoy some grasp of truth and some means of salvation. What they have not yet received is “the fullness of the gift of truth” and the “fullness of [the means of] salvation” (n. 10).

Do you see how subtley the emphasis is changed? O’Collins would like to divert our attention away from the fact that the Note emphasises that Christ has gifted his Church alone with the truth of the Gospel, towards that favourite old assertion of the last forty years that there is already truth and salvation in the lives of the people Christ wants us to evangelise. Note especially the sneaky way that he puts in “the means of” into the above quote. Do you think that changes its meaning? I do.

[As an aside, I also discovered this note from Mgr Keith Barltrop of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales which gives this most bizarre interpretation of the Note’s teaching on the Kingdom of God:

Any sense that the Kingdom of God is somehow above or beyond particular religious traditions must be resisted.

Que? “Particular religious traditions”? The Note insists that the Kingdom of God is linked to one and only one “particular religious tradition”, namely the Catholic Church!]

Finally, one must take issue with the way O’Collins takes issue with the July document, “Responses on the Doctrine of the Church”. His objection is that the word “fully” (as in “the Church of Christ exists fully only in the Catholic Church”) was omitted in that document. Do you see where he is going? Salvation is available through other religions. Salvation is available through other Churches. They only need the Catholic Church if they want the “fullness” of the means of salvation. But they can get along fine enough as they are without us interfering. In other words, he has not heard what the CDF is saying at all.

It takes some nerve to reduce the roar of the Holy Inquisition to the soft squeak of a mouse.

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Theological dialogue with Muslims impossible?

It is an odd thing which has caused some consternation in the circles in which I move. High ranking European Church officials, from whom other things have been expected, have been declaring that “theological dialogue” with Muslims is “impossible”.

To name just three:

1) Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican diplomat and new president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:

The newspaper, La Croix, asked the cardinal if theological dialogue was possible with members of other religions.

“With some religions, yes,” he said. “But with Islam, no, not at this time. Muslims do not accept the possibility of discussing the Quran, because it is written, they say, as dictated by God.

“With such a strict interpretation, it is difficult to discuss the content of faith,” he said in the interview published Oct. 18. (from CNS)

2) Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, outgoing Father General of the Jesuits:

On the strictly religious and theological level, is dialogue with Islam possible?

I’m afraid that at a theological and dogmatic level, dialogue with Islam is impossible. Often in Beirut, Muslims would ask me: ‘How is it possible that an educated person, a professor, believes in three gods?’ Obviously, they were referring to the Christian dogma of the Trinity. That’s an example of the difficulties of dialogue. Some who are favorable to theological dialogue with Muslims forget that at a certain point, you have to choose. For Muslims, it’s very clear: God is one. They chant it five times every day. (John L. Allen Jnr. NCR)

Not to be outdone, there is, of course, the Grandaddy of them all, Pope Benedict XVI (he said this some time ago and reported second hand by Fr Fessio on a radio program):

HH: And what did the pope say?

JF: Well, the thesis that was proposed by Father Troll was that Islam can enter into the modern world if the Koran is reinterpreted by taking the specific legislation, and going back to the principles, and then adapting it to our times, especially with the dignity that we ascribe to women, which has come through Christianity, of course. And immediately, the Holy Father, in his beautiful calm but clear way, said well, there’s a fundamental problem with that, because he said in the Islamic tradition God has given his word to Mohammed, but it’s an eternal word. It’s not Mohammed’s word…

Now what is going on here? Because I have dialogue almost every day with Muslims on matters of theology.

I think that two things are happening.

First, the Europeans, when they say “theological dialogue” mean something like the dialogue we have with our separated Christian brethren and sistern; that is, dialogue aimed at achieving dogmatic consensus. Of course, that sort of dialogue with Muslims is impossible, and we should say so at the outset, or we will be disappointed. We are not going to convince Muslims that God is Triune. If we do, by definition, they will not be Muslim any longer.

Secondly, by “theological”, it seems that these men mean “about specific dogmas”. But theology is wider than that. It is asking the “God question” of all aspects of experience. Everything we could find to talk about with our Muslim friends has a theological aspect, in so far as everything could be examined from the point of view of what this tells us about God.

But really to limit “theological dialogue” in either of these ways (or both) leads to a superficial understanding of both dialogue and of theology. In fact, as I have just said, it is possible to reflect together on the different ways in which we approach theologically the issues of our religion, world and daily life. I have always found such reflection immensely positive. For instance, recently at a JCMA planning committee meeting, we fell into a discussion of “holiness” in Jewish, Muslim and Christian theology. This was very enlightening, as we realised that holiness is not a concept that has a large place in Muslim theology, and certainly is not something that God communicates to human beings or to the world.

Please note: This was real dialogue. It was theological dialogue. It did not produce consensus, but then we didn’t expect it too. We just expected to learn from one another about our theological perspectives. And to that extent it was a roaring success.

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Joshua’s blog

Just to let you all know that Joshua, a regular visitor to this blog who likes to live life “on the edge” (he is a native of Tasmania and is currently living in Western Australia–you get what I mean), has his own blog, called Psallite Sapienter.

There is a rather amusing entry giving information on the Canons Regular of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (O.Dorm.). Their particular charism seems particularly appealing, especially late at night…

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