Inquiry on the Canonical Status of Parish "Liturgy Committees"
by Erven E. Park
September 14, 2003
FROM: Erven E. Park
There is something quite important I want to run by you and your response reminded me of it. I have been researching this off and on and am about ready to do a report on it. This has to do with parish "Liturgy Committees," so-called. You find that these "Liturgy Committee" groupings vary considerably from parish to parish. In some, no one is sure if they even have one. In others they have become fiefdoms that literally dictate everything from the decor to the comportment of persons at their Masses. In such as the latter, it is most likely found that the priest in charge has willingly relinquished his responsibilities and has consigned decision making to these "Committees," some of which interpret the procedures and decor in a manner at variance with legitimate Church instruction.
Moreover, it is found that scarcely no two "Committees" are organized in any uniform manner. In my research on this I am unable to find anyplace whereby Rome or the USCCB has specified the requirement of the existence of such entities at the parish level, let alone having organizational specifications, by-laws or anything else factually legitimizing their existence. Vatican II did make specification for parish "Pastoral Councils" but no such thing as parish "Liturgy Committees." Vatican II did specify that each diocese have a (1 each) central diocesan Liturgy Office dedicated to the liturgy but their purpose is to coordinate with the parish clergy, not parish lay run "Liturgy Committees." Is there something I have missed here? This is a very important issue and needs to be publicly addressed.
To all in Christ through Mary,
Erven Park is a widowed father of eight children, one of whom is a Benedictine priest / monk serving and teaching at an Abbey / Seminary in Canada. Mr. Park is a Catholic writer and investigative journalist. He is a past publisher of the Catholic Truth and Catholic Intersect journals and provided documentation and testimony before the official Vatican Commission that investigated the ministry of ABP Raymond Hunthausen. Mr. Park currently contributes articles to publications in the U.S. and Europe.
September 14, 2003
FROM: Colin B. Donovan, STL
Pax. My regards to everyone in Seattle, and B.C.
You've described the canonical situation quite accurately. Circumstances permitting, the Bishop is to have a pastoral council for the diocese (c.511), and "if he judges it opportune" one in each parish, with a consultative vote only (c.546). In the liturgy Vatican II called for territorial (e.g. USA) and diocesan liturgical commissions, and if useful regional ones (several dioceses together) to assist the bishops (SC 44; c.451).
So, parish liturgy commissions/committees are not a recognized canonical entity. However, I would not judge that a pastor could not establish one, just as he could establish an altar society or other groups to assist him in pastoral care. However, he alone has authority in the parish. The vote or advice of the parish council, or any parish commission organized for any matter, could never be more than consultative.
The main problems with parish liturgical commissions as I see it, are 1) liturgical expertise, and canonical competence. They simply don't have the latter, and only in rare cases will they have members with the former. The pastor abdicates his responsibility if he does not make their consultative role very clear to them and narrowly defined, and assume himself the role of liturgist in his parish.
Colin Donovan is Vice President for Theology at EWTN. A layman, he has the Licentiate in Sacred Theology, with a specialization in moral theology, from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, where he wrote on the Donation of the Spouses in Marriage. He earned the BTh from the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, BC, Canada and the BA in Biological Science from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Prior to coming to EWTN in 1995, he taught Theology at Aquinas College in Nashville.
Findings, Analysis and Commentary
Parish liturgy committees, then, are not a recognized canonical Catholic Church entity, such as parish Pastoral Councils which do have canonical Church sanction. They are not required and have no juridical sanction beyond that of giving assistance to the priest who chooses to set up and employ the services of such groups. One sees such a grouping, properly oriented, as mirroring the very worthy activities of the Altar Societies, still utilized in some parishes, which perform so admirably in parishes, and have for decades. The priest designate, however, remains as the lawful head of all liturgical practice in those parishes designated to him. Moreover, the priest/pastor designate may not lawfully relegate his governing authority and responsibility to others on issues and practice, which pertain specifically to the canonical instructions (General Instruction of the Roman Missal - GIRM) put forth governing the Holy Mass.
Inasmuch as a parish "liturgy committee," so-called, is purely a service (volunteer) organization with no juridical standing, serving at the pleasure of the priest designate, one must raise question when they become entangled in parish liturgical innovations that are not fully consonant with the official rubrics of the Mass.
There is no question that the majority of people giving of their time on these Liturgy Committees/Commissions (LC's) are conscientious and wish to be of beneficial service. It is just as clear, however, that there has been imparted to the LC membership from offices above in this archdiocese, a blurring not only of their responsibilities, but that of the priorities that are preeminent in the Mass. Unfortunately, the empirical record demonstrates that this has come about not so much from incompetence as from design.
It shall have to be further acknowledged that any pastor having responsibility for more than one parish will be dependent upon LC involvement (in that the Mass has been deconstructed from a sacrament of worship to that of a community activity entailing multiple laity and their "ministering," so-called). With the directing of this "action" (now considered a holy term) necessary, the "producers" (laity) themselves have the tendency, motivated for practical reasons, to take over the production, as it were. The over-scheduled pastor, of course, finds it uncomfortable to restrain these encroachments that are initiated, if indeed he does not welcome them outright. You couple that scenario with a LC leadership that is ill-informed and not dedicated to observing the official rubrics specified by the Church, along with ambiguous instruction coming from the Chancery Liturgy Office, and you end up with the varying liturgical deviations and aberrations that we now find in our parishes locally. Indeed, how many visiting priests have voiced their annoyance at being confronted by varying innovations adopted at our local parishes?
All of these differing elements serve to paint a picture of ubiquitous disorganization at the Chancery level. The question being: deriving from what? The Liturgy Office alludes to mixed messages from above but proceeds with policy in direct conflict with specific instruction from that same hierarchical source. Moreover there seems to be no resolution to this aberrant condition in that there have been ongoing tensions on liturgical abuse going on for years in the Archdiocese of Seattle. The Catholic Church has one General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM); governing the proper means of conducting the Mass. Why do we in the Seattle Archdiocese endure this ongoing disorder then?
We get dueling messages. Statements such as: "The current norms...bear witness to the Church's continuous and unbroken tradition," and then we are handed bulletin inserts at church, containing factual fabrications, informing us that the old "unbroken tradition" (Mass) was harmful.1 We are lectured that we are now engaged in "renewal" and then bear witness to demolition. This is not figurative talk; this is what has been factually going on and it is well documented.
Many are being misled and the loyal and suffering Catholic faithful and their families deserve better. Indeed, the angelic Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas; possibly the Church's most learned Saint, very emphatically informs us that no greater tragedy or chastisement can befall any man than that of loosing his Catholic faith whether it be by his own will or by another's guile. There is only one consequence of such a state - eternal suffering! What we are speaking of here, then, is of paramount importance.
Loss of faith brought on by erroneous Services? Absolutely! There is an unerring teaching of the Church that proclaims: "Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi" (Abbreviated form: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi) - let the rule for prayer determine the rule of belief. What this teaches then is: what you pray, and how you pray (the actions and environment accompanying it), are going to dictate what you will believe. If the prayer you recite contains or infers error, you will over time assimilate that error and it will become your belief even though it was never your intent to embrace error. The error is implanted without your willing it, and if this was a premeditated tactic detrimentally affecting your Faith, it is an evil of despicable dimensions.
I can give specific example of this corrupting of Faith having been inflicted upon not just the laity but of certain priests and seminarians I have personally queried in our own parishes. Moreover, I am not pointing to overly scrupulous or petty minutiae but rather to essential doctrine forming the Faith of all of us.
Inasmuch as we are discussing the Mass we celebrate, and which in our day is the Novus Ordo Missae instituted by Pope Paul VI, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: the new Mass is unquestionably valid. If it were not, I would never attend any of its services. However, the Novus Ordo Mass does depart from the construct of the Mass of Tradition (1560 years) in fundamental emphasis. The American theologian Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ explains as much quite candidly in an interview granted recently, in which he stated that the emphasis of the new Mass became a celebration of community instead of the worship of God.2
Now to the subject of one "specific example" in the Mass we referred to earlier. Any Catholic who makes the least effort to keep informed on the Faith is aware of the scandal that emerged when a Gallup Poll established (1989) that a full 70% of the Catholic faithful no longer believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This disbelief was never taught in any way formally, so how did it come about? It came about by repeated ritual (prayer and action) that in and of itself served to formulate and enhance this disbelief. As an aside to this, the U.S. Bishops expressed, at least for public consumption, their collective concern and puzzlement as to how this could have come about when in fact by the oaths of their office, they themselves are first held accountable before God for this travesty of lost belief in their faithful.
Here is but one illustration of how we have been misdirected. Put the following question to yourself and others of your family and Catholic friends: at Mass, and immediately following the consecration of the bread and the wine, the priest celebrant instructs the faithful: "Let us proclaim the mystery of faith." The Dictionary informs us that to "proclaim" is to "declare" or to "announce." Your missal lists four options (Christ has died, Christ is risen...etc.) and you will be led in reciting one of those four. Now for the vital question (as it relates to this moment in the Mass): what is the "mystery of faith?" Give it some thought ... what is your answer? If you chose any of the four responses, as would seem somewhat logical by the manner in which you were directed to them, you would be in error. None of those responses have anything to do with the "mystery of faith" as it relates to that point in the Mass.
The divine mystery of infinite worth (mystery of faith) had just occurred there on the altar when the priest confected the bread and wine bringing forth the Real Presence and Person of Christ in the form of the Eucharistic species. You then have the reality of God just being made present on the altar and you are directed to "proclaim" what? Do those proclamations draw your attention to the real miracle that has just occurred, or do they detract from it?
This "Memorial Acclamation" was an entirely new innovation inserted in the Novus Ordo Mass. The Traditional Mass has the "mystery of faith" incorporated right in the words of the consecration so that there is no mistaking its paramount worth. It reads:
"For this is the Chalice of My Blood of the new and eternal covenant, the mystery of faith, which shall be shed for you and for many unto the forgiveness of sins."
We would briefly note here that the Traditional missal calls for the ringing of bells 3 times each for both the consecrations of the bread and the wine in order to call attention to all the faithful that the pinnacle of the Mass was then taking place. The bringing forth of Christ in His Divine Person on the altar!
It is not our purpose here to get into protracted discussion on the variances existing in the Traditional or new Mass. Background, however, serves well to attaining a more coherent assimilation of the bigger view. As to understanding, for many, a picture presented is much more illuminating than that of words. As such, you might visualize the Traditional Mass as being a narrow but very sturdy bridge providing safe passage over a deep and deadly abyss of suffering and death. The new Mass is that same bridge ... with the guardrails removed, thus requiring greater personal vigilance and prudence.
Most importantly we know that the crisis now existing in the Catholic Church, Christ has allowed to happen, and there is a purpose and an end to which it is all advancing. It is also important to note that none of us have a claim to inculpable ignorance, as to the reasons for these events in that Scripture, the Church and, in most recent years, the beseeching and insistent warnings coming directly from our most beloved Holy Mother Mary in her many Church authenticated appearances that have been documented around the earth. Her consistent warning is no longer applying to happenings in the future; it is to the happenings now existing, to wit: apostasy ... even in the high offices of the Church.
Now apostasy does not come to being from nowhere. It is the fruit of evil human intellects. It cannot march without its soldiers, and it cannot become an army until is has legions of them. As is true of many armies, most of the soldiers were not drawn to the ranks to crusade but primarily to satisfy personal desires and appetites. The appetite of the apostate is the world and its gratifications.
There should be no "beating around the bush" on this. Good and conscientious Catholics must be fully aware that they have an apostate force arrayed against them within the Church - those who are wholly committed to the conversion of the Church from God to man. Moreover, be fully aware that those same insurgents will be found in the highest offices of the Church. You need not take my word for it, but I strongly propose that you do not reject the modern day pronouncements of our Holy Mother whose warnings I am merely repeating.
Knowing these truths then, what do we look for? This war is the more insidious in that the apostate does not do battle in the light, but by stealth. Apostasy being a fruit of the "father of lies," we know that the apostate is not going to announce his intent. He will lie and obfuscate. What must be done is to direct our focus to the goal he must attain to accomplish his objective. To transform your Faith, he must transform your belief!
Lex orandi, lex credendi: "the law of prayer will dictate the law of belief." There you have it. Prayer/ritual establishes your belief. Altered prayer/ritual will alter your belief just as sure as the sun comes up. This can only be brought about, of course, by means of the prayer/ritual that the faithful are mandated to participate in, and what is that? You've got it ... none other than the Mass! The Mass, then, is the locus of the battle, but what is the beating heart of the Mass? The Eucharist ... the Real Presence of Christ! Extinguish a person's conviction and belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and you ipso facto have created a Protestant. He/she is no longer Catholic in belief.
As is warned of by St. Thomas Aquinas, this is a tragedy of the first magnitude because this denial results in the departure of Christ and His graces from that soul and all others so affected. A denial that can have eternal consequences. "...but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before my Father in heaven." (Mat. 10:33)
You may ask, "How are people drawn to this state of indifference? We don't hear anyone preaching against the Real Presence?" It is accomplished through prayer/ritual by representing the Real Presence as symbolic rather than objective truth. By one example, you observe this tactic being employed whenever you hear the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist being presented as in equivalence with such as His presence in the priest, the assembly and Scripture. This is to reduce the Creator (First Cause) to that of His created (secondary causes). This is a falsehood that is commonly presented in our parishes.
From Worship to Action
So the Mass, now commonly referred to as the liturgy,3 is the primary activity of the Church, which serves to direct the faithful in their faith/belief. Whoever controls the prayer/ritual of the Mass exercises great influence in what shall be believed. The Church (Rome) is fully aware of this, and that is why lay-administered parish Liturgy Committees/Commissions, so-called, are denied any form of juridical status. That office is reserved to the priest designate exclusively.
The insurgents (often referred to as liturgists) are just as aware of the necessity of being capable of directing Mass prayer/ritual in order to mold belief. And just what molding is required to accomplish their ends? It is no less than redirecting focus from God to man.
Before progressing from this point it needs to be repeated and wholly understood that this insurgency in the Church goes far above and beyond the local scene of which you and I are witness. That is obvious, or it would never have progressed as far as it has in the years since Vatican II. But, as it was with the great and devastating heresy of Arianism in the Church's past, it is up to the true Catholic faithful to resist and defeat it in the trenches. The venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, speaking of our very days and the crisis even then (1972) rising in the Church, proclaimed the following:
"Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It's up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious." 4
The Archdiocese of Seattle - History and Our Bishops
Today's crisis in the Church, as history has well recorded, came forth from the contentious seedbed that turned out to be the darkened patrimony of Vatican II. The freshly ordained Bishop, Raymond Hunthausen, was one of the younger bishops to attend that Council. The doctrinal contentions that surfaced at the Council emerged primarily from the younger theological "periti" (experts) who accompanied certain progressive Bishops. The predominating philosophy/ideology of these periti was decidedly that of Modernism,5 which runs counter to Catholic doctrine while at the same time insisting that its tenants are the only hope for the future of the Church.
Being an Academic by training, Bishop Hunthausen apparently was greatly taken up by these periti and emerged from the Council as a convinced and committed Modernist (see footnote # 5) himself. He was not the only one by any means, however. There were many others and their numbers came to dominate the hierarchy of the US Bishops Conferences (USCCB & NCCB). One can indulge in alluding to influences, but most often it is that which is closest to the person's personal appetite and desires that gets the preference in choice.
Upon his assignment to Seattle in 1975, Archbishop Hunthausen lost no time in coalescing progressives in the governing offices of the archdiocese. As was borne out and made public by the Vatican investigation of his ministry, Hunthausen held in question or opposed much of the Church's teaching on certain moral issues. Hunthausen was cited for serious violations6 regarding advocacy and policy in representing the Church on these subjects. Along with those citations there is a parallel reality existing, which informs that dishonesty is an inevitable appendage of any who are professing to being steadfast to the Church's Creed but in fact have set out by deeds to overthrow it. Unless willingly confessed and fully repented of, such policies of duplicity will be assured as ongoing and throughout.
Although Hunthausen gave the public appearance of docility accepting the findings of the Vatican investigation faulting his ministry, he never ceased working behind the scenes in spurring on a vocal cadre in diocesan employment in their public protests alleging the totally unjust persecution being inflicted upon Hunthausen's ministry by the investigation.
Hunthausen never repented of the findings of his violations. History reveals that just the opposite happened. For example, Art. 5, Sec. d. of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to Hunthausen reads:
"Vigorous efforts must be made to engender in priests, religious and laity, a correct appreciation of the sacramental structure of the Church, especially as it provides for sacred ministry in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. An effective seminary program needs to be established which inculcate in candidates for the priesthood an understanding of the sacraments as the Lord's gifts to His Church."
What did Hunthausen do? He had already shut down and closed the notable archdiocesan seminary. Hunthausen visualized a congregational church and that was the goal he set to achieve. The same year he received this instruction from Ratzinger (1985), he put in place the opposite of what was instructed and entered into a contractual agreement between Seattle University and the Archdiocese, establishing a diploma mill to provide laity to serve in parish ministry for the Archdiocese of Seattle. This was named the Institute for Theological Studies (ITS), and it is still in business to this day. The line-up of the faculty for ITS, lay and clerical, has from the beginning been a "rogues gallery" of dissenters, radical feminists, New Age groupies, Eastern mystics and Native Spiritualists. This is not mere ranting - I have their names, pedigrees and teachings well documented and on file.
As to the liturgy, Cardinal Ratzinger's letter of reprimand to Hunthausen had this to say in Art. 10:
"...practices which are not in accord with the Roman Sacramentary and the related directives of the Holy See should be eliminated. The appointment of a carefully trained priest to aid in the supervision of sacramental and liturgical discipline is indicated here as well."
Archbishop Hunthausen's answer to this Vatican instruction requiring a "carefully trained priest" affording liturgical guidance was to place this position in the hands of one Fr. Jan Larson. A priest who was, and is to this day, notorious for his public misrepresentations, mendacity and false teaching on the Mass. The archdiocesan Liturgy commission (now called the "Liturgy Office"), subject only to the Bishop, was staffed and trained with ideologists of the identical strip of Larson and his ilk. Again, these charges against Larson are not mere opinion. The proof is in Larson's own words and writing, which have been amply documented or taped.
Archbishop Hunthausen at the same time initiated screening policies and programs that discouraged or denied the ordination of good orthodox men to the priesthood. By example, one of the persons charged with the screening of priest candidates was the notorious Sr. Fran Ferder, who to this very day is a scandal to the Church in her public advocacy of the homosexual disorder, both in its inclinations and practice. Much of the priest shortage in this diocese can be attributed directly to the acts of Hunthausen himself. Hunthausen's appointment as Director of the Office of Seminarians was one Fr. David Jaeger, a Hunthausen favorite, who would be among those accused of child molestation. Because of his deceitful positioning and obstinate disobedience, Archbishop Hunthausen was given early retirement in 1991 (five years before his retirement age).
The retiring of Hunthausen, however, brought about no changes in offices or practice under the leadership of Archbishop Thomas Murphy, who was of like mind to Hunthausen. The same dissenting players and their commitment to insurgency still populate the archdiocesan "Liturgy Office" today under Archbishop Brunett. Ms. Carolyn Lassek, the long-standing figurehead at the "Liturgy Office," is a clone of Fr. Jan Larson both in deed and teaching.
The Home Front
The brief history above is necessary in coming to an understanding of what we have had in place in the Chancery and which confronts us now. The "Liturgy Office," figuratively speaking, keeps a double set of books, as it were. For public consumption they profess fidelity to Rome; by commitment and deed, they strive to overthrow that fidelity.
This dishonest duplicity is why pastors and laity cannot get straight answers from the "Liturgy Office" on many issues. The Office will plant seeds of disobedience clandestinely amongst leadership sharing their heretical ideology and then stonewall or profess confusion if confronted with a demand for official Church authentication for the offensive act that has been initiated. This has happened time and again.
I can give specific example and witness to this chicanery in a deplorable abuse and offense to Christ that was unlawfully put in practice at my own parish, St. Francis Mission in Toledo. It was later found to be that other parishes had this disgrace introduced at about the same time. The then pastor of St. Francis, Fr. Paul Botenhagen, OFM, arbitrarily mandated that all the faithful stand during the Canon and Consecration of the Mass. This in direct defiance of the official Church Sacramentary, the same Sacramentary present on all the altars at Mass, which specifies that the faithful be kneeling in adoration during this period of holiness. This was a blatant and arrogant assault against the reverence and worship called for in the bringing forth of the Real Person of Christ in the Eucharist. There were those disturbed by this, including myself, who sought explanation of authorization from the Chancery. This was met with assurances that they would look into it and correct any abuse. No action came from the Chancery and, in the meantime, the serious abuse continued on defiantly and unabated.
It so happened, some weeks later that a so-called "workshop" was scheduled to be presented by the Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission at St. Francis parish. It was titled "Liturgical Renewal," to be composed of three 2 hour presentations given in a 3 week span. The three presenters were official members of the Liturgy Commission and as such were representing the teaching of the Bishop himself.
I was determined to be present, and fully tape, every session. I also decided that if we were confronted with heterodoxy during the sessions, I would not challenge it until the series was over. I did not want to hinder the presentations or inhibit their objectives in any way. I had personally experienced (on too many occasions before) that if one did not have irrefutable documentation, (e.g., writings, tapes, unbiased witnesses, etc.), the modernist/revisionist party[s] when confronted on error will simply deny that they did or said what you are challenging them on. Lying comes as easy as the next breath, which really should not come as a surprise; if one is out to unseat truth, he must employ untruth as his course of action.
The first presenter was no less than Fr. Jan Larson himself. The other presenters were Mr. Dennis Lucey and Mrs. Joyce Schum. As it turned out, all of the presenters pursued exactly the same theme. This essentially consisted in lecturing on how the pre-Vatican II Church had grown into decadence in worship and the excessive empowerment of Rome in Church governance. Vatican II corrected all of that and returned the power to the people, etc. etc.! All of the talks in substance constituted an assault on the pre-Counciliar Church without exception.
Returning to the issue of the abuse of standing during the Canon of the Mass as specified by the pastor, Fr. Paul Botenhagen, recall that the Chancery had given the assurance that they would look into the matter, acknowledging that it was not authorized. At Fr. Larson's presentation, a parishioner of St. Francis, Mr. Tom Sachs, inquired of Fr. Larson at to the Church's discipline regarding posture during the Eucharistic Prayer. Mr. Sachs said "that a visiting priest had informed them that the U.S. Bishops had established the Norm of kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer." Fr. Larson's answer to Mr. Sachs was:
"Our bishops ... we might say why didn't our bishops address posture when they had a chance in 1969? My hunch was that they were so concerned about debate about communion in the hand or women doing readings ... they were so busy with those things. They said we don't want to get into postures now."
That response of Fr. Larson's was an out and out fabrication (lie) and he was fully aware of it. The U.S. Bishops had in 1969 specified kneeling as the norm during the Eucharistic Prayer (Canon) and that very specific instruction is included in the Sacramentary that is used at Mass in every U.S. Catholic Church to this day.
This incident also served to point out the deceitfulness that had been adopted and employed as policy by the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission. They would acknowledge and affirm Church teachings to any outside inquiry but would assault those same teachings to captive groups of the faithful who were unaware of the truth. Such activity and policy of an official office of the Bishop comes under the classification of what is known as apostasy.8 The same form of apostasy in the hierarchy that was forewarned of occurring in our days by Holy Mother Mary in her Church authenticated appearances at La Salette and Fatima.
There is an obstacle that all of us confront when encountering the "newspeak" of the modernist.
"In his masterwork, Iota Unum, Romano Amerio employs the term circiterism to describe the peculiar way of speaking about things that have arisen in the Church since the Council. From the Latin adverb circerter (which means about, or more or less), the term denotes language which almost means something, which approximates meaning, but on close examination is found to be meaningless."
Presentations given by the functionaries of Modernism are difficult to pin down concisely because they are invariably rambling and unstructured. I for some time had pondered this anomaly because it appeared these individuals, and their mannerisms, all came out of the same oven. Pope St Pius X provides the answer in his above cited Encyclical against the Modernist's:
"It is one of the cleverest devices of the Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement, in a scattered and disjointed manner, so as to make it appear as if their minds were in doubt or hesitation, whereas in reality they are quite fixed and steadfast." 9
Otherwise the seeming disjointed discourse of the modernist is in fact a studied tactic. It is purposeful obfuscation. It permits them to remain embedded, for if you challenge what he says, you are merely informed that you misunderstood. What this reveals to any rational person then, is that their words (as applied to Doctrine) mean absolutely nothing! Unfortunately that observation is correct. It is their deeds, not their words that tell the true story of their objectives and where they lead.
Employing the "newspeak" of our neo-churchmen and their followers, when querying them as to why they are going a new way, and the Church teaches the Traditional path, you will likely be told something to the effect that "they are honoring older tradition and by that fact we are all going in the same direction"
They will insist that nothing has changed but your eyes, ears and reality inform you the "emperor has no clothes." Welcome to the world of George Orwell. What really sets one to unease is to witness all those who have become so benumbed by changes and contradictions as to throw up their hands, close their minds and just go along with the manic "emperor."
The real issues before us right now relating to the Mass are not all that complicated. What it boils down to is just what is being prioritized in our Masses today, God or man? First we need to touch base with our Catholic fundamentals regarding the Mass (Liturgy). This is especially true in this day where there is so much confusion on first things and which is far too commonplace to be passed off as accidental. Be aware that Vatican II did not usher in a new faith, which would require a change of focus regarding the Mass and its essentials.
The Mass has as its absolute focal point the Eucharist, which is "The Real Presence" of Christ. The Eucharist is the greatest Sacrament of the seven Sacraments instituted by Christ Himself. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the font of Graces, which are absolutely essential to our spiritual/eternal well being. Our essential priority in attending Mass along with the worship and adoration of God is the attainment of those Graces, which Christ provides us by means of His Presence in the Eucharist. Each of us is individually dispensed Graces by Christ in direct proportion to the extent of our individual merit when we are in His Presence. We are not worthy of these favors of Christ; they are His gratuitous gift.
Now contrast that orthodox explanation of the Eucharist with that of the following public statement from a spokesman for the Liturgy Office, to wit:
"The Eucharist, after all, is not primarily a sacred object but an action of the community and of each individual that discloses a relationship - the relationship between us and the risen Christ." 10 (emphasis added)
That statement by Fr. Jan Larson is not only heretical but also blasphemous!
It stands to logic and reason that it is only those who do not have legitimate belief in the Real Presence that would attempt to detract from the divine presence by placing emphasis elsewhere. Christ's presence in ourselves, in the Bible and in the priest celebrant are modes of His presence in "secondary causes;" they are not Sacraments and they do not impart Grace! Only God is "first cause" and He is there totally and wholly in the Eucharist. There is your only source of Grace in the Mass, and obviously that is where all focus should be. The above facts regarding the Mass held true before Vatican II, they hold just as true today!
Nevertheless, and which is pointed out above, just addressing the words of the "liturgists" is going to produce nothing. I therefore determined to attend and record our "Liturgy Committee" meetings and see firsthand what the focus and priorities of these deliberations were directed toward. After all, it was made obvious to everyone in the parish that the "Liturgy Committee" programmed the Mass activity of our parish. The priest does a lot of observing during our Masses.
Moreover, as was stated earlier, in the absence of an onsite pastor, today's sanctuary productions with all of its performers (ministers?) almost require a personnel director and training staff. I am not being acerbic here. Stop and think for a moment. The Holy Mass of Tradition performed at our very little parish of St. Francis (136 households) on a typical Sunday in the past (serving many more people by the way) would have on average three persons serving in the sanctuary - a priest, and possibly two altar boys assisting. A typical Sunday Mass today at St. Francis will require the presence and activities of seventeen11 persons in the sanctuary alone. Seventeen equals 12% of the average congregation (143) that shows up for Mass. If the deacon should happen to show up, the number performing in the sanctuary will be equal to 7.5 % of the total number of registered members (239) of St. Francis Parish. That is quite a mark of progress for little St. Francis. Whereas we used to have a congregation made up of sinners, we are now blessed with an assembly of the "royal priesthood." Now, we even may stand in Christ's presence!
At the Liturgy Committee meetings I attended, I was very cordially received and respectfully treated. I want to thank Fr. Tuan and all concerned for those courtesies. As was mentioned earlier, I have not the slightest doubt that most all of the participants have the very best intentions and motives behind their efforts and contributions. I know that some looked askance at my tape recorder and note taking, as would be entirely natural, but I would assure them the intent was never to intimidate or seek for wrongdoing, but rather as backup to any writing I might put my hand to.
There was, however, one question that I was seeking the clarification on - a question that as it pertains to the Mass, is all-important. That question being: "Where is the planning and activity of the Mass being directed; to God or to man?" We know that the Counciliar instruction: "...full and active participation by all the people" has been grossly exaggerated in its application by liturgists, but had it in fact become an end in itself. Activity automatically draws attention, and the more the activity, the more the focus is drawn to it. That's a given.
The Mass being what it is, meaning a Holy event where Jesus Christ Himself in His Divine Person is present is indescribable in its worth. St. John Vianney (the Curé of Ars), the patron Saint of parish priest's had this to say of the Mass: "If we really knew the value of the Mass, we would die of joy." The fact of Christ's presence, it would seem, would occupy all the thoughts and actions of those preparing for and welcoming His coming. Putting it in proper perspective, what would the "Liturgy Committee" be doing in preparation if Pope John Paul II was due to appear at St. Francis next Sunday. And yet, what is the Pope in stature to that of his Creator?
That picture is admittedly rather graphic but it must be acknowledged that it does not depart one iota from the gravity and truth of the matter.
Contrast the above with the reality that in my full year of attending "Liturgy Committee" meetings, the subject of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist at Mass was never once brought up. Christ was taken for granted and indifference (a deadly state) to His Presence in the Eucharist was all too pervasive.
Also of vital importance; how is the very Catholicity of the Mass being treated? Is the primacy of the ordained being maintained or is this consecrated leadership being emasculated in favor of the secular (Protestant) model? At the March 19, 2003 meeting of the joint Liturgy Committees of St. Francis and Sacred Heart, the subject of liturgy responsibilities came up and Fr. Tuan stated: "that he as a priest (pastor) today has no control over the running of the Mass." Observation would seem to support this in that the priest at Mass seems as much spectator as participant, a minister amongst ministers. Fr. Tuan put this statement forth in a manner depicting the fact that this was diocesan policy, not just his particular opinion. I have absolutely no reason to doubt that he was totally sincere in this understanding. Fr. Tuan has expressed his desires to me of being a good priest and I certainly accept his word. By his statement, however, what Fr. Tuan was really describing to the committee was the formulation utilized by a Congregational (Protestant) church. Power rests with the people. That is not Catholic, but it definitely is the objective sought by certain liturgists.
There is just no disputing the fact that the membership active in formulating liturgical activities has become secularized in their priorities and efforts. This secularization, in most cases we would pray, did not come about by means of studied intent as an objective to be attained. Rather it is the consequence of the environment now enveloping them that has drawn them to this state. It gives more proof to the Latin axiom "lex orandi, lex credendi" - your prayer/ritual will come to determine what you believe.
The gradual, step-by-step desacralizing of the Mass has unerringly led to the secularization of today. Those steps being: converting the altar to a table, the priest turning his back to God to commune with the people, Communion in the hand (denounced by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta), initiation of standing for Communion, opening the sanctuary to the pedestrian, elimination of altar rails, to name just a few; capped by the latest travesty of being told to stand up to God who is being elevated by the priest before the faithful while proclaiming "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you..."
Desacralizing the Mass is to displace God and wherever God is displaced, man will be inserted. When man's presence predominates by means of his activity, the mind subconsciously centers on that attraction. Man becomes the focus. Continued exposure to this environment eventually produces a non-believer. The proof of this is borne out by the steady and persistent decline of the vital statistics of the Church.12 It is an insidious process born of evil, but it is the responsibilities of each of us to be educated in their Faith so as to be able to discern and reject that evil. That is what our Confirmation was all about. We must resist the enemy within, as well as without!
The Church is now in a period of testing, and yes, chastisement. One can presume that the countenance of God the Father would not be pleasant to look upon with the rejection that has been allotted to His crucified Son in His own Church. How many do we have in our parishes today that truly believe and revere the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Only God knows this, but we are witness to those who obviously do believe, as evidenced by their presence at the Eucharistic Expositions and Adoration hours mercifully made available at our parishes. God forgive us, their numbers show to being a precious few. "...at the present time there is a remnant left, selected out of grace." Romans 11: 5
Most beloved Holy Mary, pray for us!
1 Bulletin insert provided by the chancery Liturgy Office entitled Liturgy is Prayer of the Community. Handed out to the faithful after Mass at St. Francis parish during October 2003.
2 TV interview granted to Raymond Arroyo of EWTN at U.S. Bishops Fall Conference in Washington D.C., Nov. 7, 2003
3 Liturgy properly speaking addresses the prayer/ritual (rubrics) associated with all the Sacraments of the Church.
4 Archbishop Fulton Sheen in a talk given to the Knights of Columbus Convention, June, 1972
5 Modernism, a heresy thoroughly condemned by Pope St. Pius X who called it "the synthesis of all heresies." Although complex in philosophy, Modernism essentially insists that the Church in order to survive has to make concession to the thought and mores of the modern world (hence Modernism). The style of church visualized by the Modernist is essentially Congregationalist with its orientation to the people rather than the divinity. For a full explanation of the heresy of Modernism see the Pope St. Pius X Encyclicals: Lamentabili Sane, July 3, 1907 and Pascendi Dominici Gregis, September 8, 1907.
6 See the Ratzinger letter of reprimand issued to ABP Hunthausen (Sept. 30, 1985) listing his violations of office that cover such subject matter as: divorce and remarriage, dissention against the Magisterium, General Absolution, homosexuality, women's ordination, sterilizations, abuses allowed in the liturgy, teaching on sexual ethics, false application of conscience on morals-etc.
7 The Bishop of Seattle at that time was Thomas J. Murphy - RIP
8 Dictionary: abandonment of a previous faith : DEFECTION
9 Pascendi Dominici Gregis, No. 4
10 Fr. Jan Larson, The Catholic Northwest Progress, May 17, 2001
11 Priest = 1, choir = 5, servers = 3, readers/cantors = 3, extraordinary ministers = 5. Total = 17
12 Cf. Index of Leading Catholic Indicators, Kenneth C. Jones, Oriens Publishing Co., St. Louis, Missouri