Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Catholic Times doesn't get it...

Over one of Mgr Basil Loftus' appalling articles, the Catholic Times this weekend prints a vast photograph (showing, interestingly, a church apparently bereft of menfolk), with the following caption:

'A eucharistic minister distributes Communion during Mass - Last August, as Catholics prepared to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI said all Church members need to make a renewed effort to ensure laypeople are aware of their responsibility for the Church and are allowed to exercise it.' (sic)

I've written a letter to the Editor about the accompanying Loftus article, which is the usual confection of half-truths designed to lead readers to a conclusion at right-angles to the law and teaching of the Church. We'll see if they print it.

But the caption, I assume, is the responsibility of the editors. In a one-man show like the Catholic Times, editor Kevin Flaherty must have seen and approved it, if not had personal responsibility for its grammar. What on earth was he thinking?

What is a 'eucharistic minister'? Flaherty cannot fail to be aware that this term is a grossly misleading expression, with no basis in the documents of the Church. The minister of the Eucharist is the priest. End of story. If you want to know about 'Extraordinary' Ministers (of Holy Communion: EMHC), then we come into the realm of exceptional circumstances.

Thus Redemptionis Sacramentum (151):

Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.

Now isn't this weird? Loftus is doing the old schtick of suggesting that the Traditional Mass is only intended for a tiny minority of eccentrics who grew up before the Council. (Er, like him.) So the 'extraordinary' bit of 'Extraordinary Form' is a bit of boon for him, at least superficially. But then Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion really are 'extraordinary', in the sense of exceptional, and the Catholic Times fails to see the irony in trying to finesse this away.

The passage from Redemptionis Sacramentum makes it, literally, incredible that EMHCs would be an example of what Pope Benedict, of all people, has in mind when he talks of the laity with a responsibility for the Church. It would be a strange example indeed, since they only perform their function exceptionally. But above all their being allowed is NOT for the sake of their own 'fuller participation', a point which can never be made too often. When they are allowed, it is not to help them feel smug about how close to the clergy they've become, but to save an emergency situation.

And what's this about being 'allowed' to exercise this responsibility? Is that a jibe aimed at the poor fools who want to celebrations of the Ordinary Form to follow some semblance of liturgical law, and try to put some limit on the unnecessary use of EMHCs? So the Holy Father is taken to be condemning those who follow, and want others to follow, the law of the Church?

Well, what exactly does the Holy Father think about liturgical abuses? This about sums it up. many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.  I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.

Another passage from Redeptionis Sacramentum is also worth quoting:

For abuses “contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament”. Thus, they also hinder the faithful from “re-living in a certain way the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus: ‘and their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’”.
Holy Communion at the SCT Family Retreat: see sidebar, it's coming up again!
Now I don't have time to write to the papers every time liturgical abuses in the Ordinary Form are defended: there just aren't enough hours in the day. Where are those 'conservative Catholics' when you need them?


  1. Where are those 'conservative Catholics'?

    Well, wherever we are, we're probably too sensible to read the guff that is printed in the Catholic Times... (I mean, Mgr. Loftus as a regular columnist!!! Even my cat ripped up his article!)

  2. Personally, I gave up reading the Catholic Times (and switched to the Catholic Herald) when I couldn’t stand any more of him.

    On the subject of EHMCs I have invariably found them well intentioned people, who perhaps take themselves a bit too seriously. They are as much victims of the wave of Relativism that has swept through the Church in the past forty years as the rest of us.

    Incidentally, I never use the term EMHC – nor, in the text, does Redemptionis Sacramentum. I think emHC is more appropriate since the terms Bishop, Priest and Deacon are offices in the Church and emHCs do not have that status. A trifling point perhaps, but conferring undeserved status, influences opinion.

    Perhaps lay distributors of Holy Communion, ldHCs, would be an even better description.

    They are, as you point out, only to be used in exceptional circumstances. The routine use of an emHC at a weekday Mass with, say, twelve people present, is an abuse of the Sacrament, as, I suspect, is their use at a routine Sunday Mass of, say, 150 people. We mostly have all day in front of us after all?

    In the quite exceptional circumstance, where emHCs are routinely required, then there is surely a duty on the parish priest to encourage the vocation of Deacon, or at least find a formally instituted Acolyte?

    If this is not done then the parish priest is, objectively speaking, guilty of an abuse.

  3. I sit on the border between two parishes. Nominally I am in one parish of a more liberal persuasion. I attend Mass across the boundary where the EF is celebrated each week.

    I attended Mass on Holy Thursday last year and was shocked at the number of Extraordinary Ministers who stood to reaffirm there vows. There were between 50 and 60 of them! At this Church you can attend Mass during the week and find 3 Extraordinary Ministers in action - for a congregation of maybe 10-15 people.

    Is it really necessary to distribute communion under both kinds? With 10-15 in the congregation is waiting for a single priest to distribute going to cause intolerable delay?