Friday, August 17, 2012

Reactions to the Three Hour Fast paper

I see the 'Spirit Daily' has picked up on the FIUV position paper I posted on Rorate Caeli the other day, linking not directly to the RC post but to a favourable post about it over at Australia Incognita. This in turn has been picked up by Fr Ray Blake.

This is how blogs work but it is slightly frustrating in that the discussion in their comms boxes is not about the FIUV paper, which has been very carefully researched and expressed, but about the simple idea of 'the three hour fast'. Clearly many if not all of the people opposed to its restoration don't know how it actually worked. Which is not surprising in itself, but the paper makes it easy to find out. Just read the thing, all these papers are limited to 1,600 words. There's even an appendix on rules for the 'infirm', which mean that no argument about it making frequent communion impractical will stand up.

There is a lot of support for the idea of restoring the three-hour fast. The sense that things are moving in this direction is supported by a very interesting article in last weekend's Catholic Herald which Fr Z has made available, by Michael Jennings provocatively titled 'The Church should make life harder for Catholics'.

The opposition to it takes predictable forms. I am particularly amused by the comments on Australia Incognita, where a number of people are very taken by the idea that 'life is hard enough already'. Life in the 21st Century is so much harder than it was for previous generations, who had the benefit of no cars, no plumbing, no antibiotics... Really? I thought the Ozzies prided themselves on being tough. How can a fast for three hours be considered a burden? Particularly, if it is actually a burden, meaning you are 'infirm', it doesn't bind. Even in its full rigour it is just three hours, the final one of which you are in Mass, and during the first two of which you can have your precious cup of coffee, if it is so important.

The parallel with the Friday fasting rule is an interesting one. As various people have pointed out, the rule wasn't relaxed, it was simply changed so you could do something else instead. In other words, it was made easier, which is to say it was made confusing and difficult, so confusing and difficult that no one kept it. Yes it will take time for the restored law of abstinence to embed itself in Catholic life once more in England and Wales, but the time is there to use, and why not use it in a positive way, rather than spend it wringing our hands in despair?

The law on respect for Communion is still there, but the way this respect is incarnated, made real in a physical sense, is the fast, which has been reduced to a mere one hour. It has been made so easy that it is confusing and difficult, a meaningless rigmarole which people constantly forget, because normally there is no need to remember it. Don't believe me? Believe Simon Platt, in a comment on RC:

Exempli gratia: on the day of my eldest son's First Communion, we walked to church with another family whose grandmother took a bag of sweets and offered them to the First Communicants.

I've also heard of chocolates being handed out at Mass - yup, before Communion. Why not? Is there some kind of rule about fasting? Did you say 'fasting'? What is that anyway? Stuff and nonsense!

Is it 'legalism' to use the law to promote the good of souls? Er, no, actually that is what the law is FOR. It is legalism to use the law to impose meaningless obligations which exist only to salve the conscience of the legislator. That, it seems to me, is the only function of the one-hour fast: it is a way for various people in positions of authority to say, particularly to traditionalists, 'Oh no, we haven't abolished the Eucharistic fast, which was a well-established rule in the time of Tertullion (d. 225), we just made it a bit easier'. I'm sorry, that won't wash.

Holy Communion at the SCT Summer School
Many of the more liberal commentators are clearly opposed to the idea of having rules at all. Didn't Jesus abolish rules? No, he got rid of some easy ones, like not being able to eat shrimps, and imposed some much harder ones, like not being able to divorce. "Surely what is important is marital love, which can't be imposed by diktat; if there is no love, then a marriage held together just by the law isn't worth saving." We've all heard that argument, and yet Jesus did impose His diktat.

The law against divorce gives legal, and thus social, recognition to sacredness of marriage. This does increase marital love, because a society which reveres marriage is one which fosters marital love, where marital love is itself taken seriously and not ridiculed. To say 'we must foster love, not impose a ban on divorce' ignores the function of the law and the direction of causality. It is the same with the argument that respect for the Blessed Sacrament must precede the re-imposition of a proper fast. If the law of the Church doesn't respect the Blessed Sacrament, how can you expect the ordinary Catholic to do so?


  1. How can you defend a church discipline which was around for less than a decade, and which was itself a hideous innovation? Surely to defend and promote a Eucharistic fast from Midnight would be more expedient? This would, incidentally, also ensure a simultaneous defence of a sung Eucharistic liturgy before the Noontide of the Day - again, in line with the Tradition of the Church. Defence of a three hour fast just plays into the hands of my own theory, based on the writings of men like Michael Davies (who propounded the nonsense that everything was fine before the wicked Council, and everything that came after was evil), that Traditionalists are either ill-informed about the Tradition to which they run to defend, or if they do know, they aren't interested in Tradition itself but an illusion constructed of sentimentalism and Ultramontanism, with a veneer of Tradition (one part Latin, one part ''big six''), an illusion Benedict XVI finds useful when he seeks to make an obvious abuse seem less abusive by celebrating Mass facing the people, and placing a brass crucifix in the middle.

    I'm sorry if you find the tone of this comment distasteful, but that's just how I see it.

  2. Hullo Patricius, you're back.

    Before I address your question here's a question for you.

    What is the point of my giving our reasons for the position we adopt in the paper, when those reasons are already explained in the paper, and in various blog posts I've written, and you've ignored them? Won't you just ignore them again?

    Now, if you had addressed those reasons, tried to show how they were wrong, then of course I would engage with you. But I see you are just being lazy. You don't want a reasoned discussion, you just want to parade your entirely predictable position, which knowing even a fraction of your internet output I could have written for you.

    If you want to be taken seriously, you have to take what you are opposing seriously.