The Church in our time – authority

The multifarious changes in the Catholic Church from Vatican II to the present can be understood through different approaches. Pope Benedict famously chose the opposing hermeneutics of discontinuity and reform. This was fertile and enlightening. But a new and substantial book, The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity (OUP), suggests its own eponymous paradigm. I am not going to review the book here, beyond thoroughly recommending it to those who are prepared to study the issues with the gravity they deserve. But I will return to its essays from time to time.

First, I must declare an interest. My own Authority and Obedience in the Catholic Church, published by T & T Clark in 2002, indicates my commitment to this theme and, although my book carries neither the weight nor scope of the present volume, its fundamental analysis coincides. Expressed in one sentence, authority in the Church no longer commands automatic obedience; it must now be earned. Understood in the right way, this is potentially beneficial.

Authority does not mean simple power to command. Its etymology is auctor, or author: one who originates or who gives complete form. Its force comes not arbitrarily but from entitlement. St Matthew tells us that the crowd were astounded at Jesus’s teaching for “he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes”. In other contexts we are all familiar with this. We find that we can recognise authority in others. We see a depth, an entitlement, a wisdom, a knowledge, a bearing – indeed, a whole range of indicators which lead us to listen and accept.

In a secular context we are wary because we know that some non-verbal indicators of authority can be manipulated, so our provisional judgment may need to be confirmed over a period of time. But we are as well suited to recognising, and so trusting, authority as we are to recognising the goodness of the Natural Law.

The essential point is that authority is a dynamic between the authoritative person, or system, and the acceptance of that authority by the “subject”. Of course Jesus’ entitlement to authority is based on his mission from the Father. But he still had to communicate it to the crowd. There are always two sides.

In this sense of the word, the authority of the Magisterium is in decline. There is no doubt that in a swathe of moral areas, and indeed in some doctrinal areas, the Church as a body no longer accepts that the Magisterium will have the last word. The doubters include the majority of the parish clergy. On the face of it the bishops stand firm but since, as I understand it, they are selected for their orthodoxy on current issues, the value of their collective witness as a mark of the Church’s true teaching has been neutered.

It is not for me to give a verdict on these disputed areas, but I ask whether this is a body which has recognised the need to behave as a true authority does, or to recognise the need to listen and to teach as a true authority must.

Naturally it will be argued that several passages in Scripture evidence the authority which Christ gave to his Church. I will review these on another occasion. At this point I need to do no more than suggest that they do not always carry the interpretation which is commonly given to them. But I have suggested that the loss of the medieval model of traditional authority can lead to real benefits. Here I can do no more than adumbrate the main features of modern successful management practice (I can supply a reading list for anyone who requires it).

A secular business is not a democracy; within the law, the directors have governing power. They will be crystal clear about the non-negotiable principles of the mission statement and the core values. The security of these (usually very few) fundamentals allow them to be liberal in other respects.

The managing director does not have a kitchen cabinet. In a large organisation he will need a support office, but this is never allowed to interfere with the channels of authority, which lead directly to senior management.

Staff are regarded not as servants but as effective contributors to the business. The principles of free communication – upwards, downwards and laterally – are a characteristic of the business. In addition, there are formal routes through which staff can communicate to a receptive senior management. Members of the business, no matter how junior, see themselves as taking personal responsibility for the success of the enterprise.

A cardinal principle of management is subsidiarity, that is, a policy of allowing initiatives and decisions to be taken at the lowest practicable level. The managing director, knowing how easily subsidiarity can be subverted, regards its preservation as one of his high priorities.

You may say, and rightly too, that barring some changes in technical vocabulary this is just how the Church would describe itself. Yes, indeed. And if the shocks of this time are sufficient to turn this theoretical picture into reality, the benefits will be enormous. There is in fact no conflict between good management practice and the traditions of the Church. The hermeneutics of continuity will be fully preserved. But the Church will command far more authority in the genuine rather than the medieval form. And that authority will propose demanding lessons which the world may want to hear.

The links below will give you more background.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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143 Responses to The Church in our time – authority

  1. claret says:

    We return again to what appears to be Quentin’s favourite subject however his current analysis of the situation in respect of authority is , sadly, no more than an exercise in wishful thinking.
    We could make a long list of the changes since Vatican 2 but there is one immovable object and much as it grieves me to write it, that object is the parish priest as one who continues to weald unbridled power and is not subject to any authority but his own, wth the sole proviso that he does not fall foul of the criminal law.

  2. mike Horsnall says:

    The Anglicans have tried turning Priests and Bishops into a managerial class, it has failed miserably.

  3. st.joseph says:

    I think there are too many areas in this discussion to find a significant truth in what Authority means when speaking about the Magisterium. We are not speaking about individual ‘bullying priests’ or ‘lay people’ for that matter!!
    Looking at the surveys-reminded me of the NPC in 1980 whereby the laity were asked their opinions which were then sent to the Bishops-then sent to Rome.
    Implying that the Shepherds are to be led by the people-not the people by the Shepherds!
    There will allways be different opinions in the Church-thats human nature,where there are those who wish to change Gods Law to suit their conscience.
    We have to understand the difference between Gods Law and man made rules here-that is why The Lord gave us a conscience to mature in our faith and to understand the difference.We do reach stages in our lifetime where our understanding comes with time and experience.
    Jesus came to set us free. A question we could ask ourselves is ‘free from whom -or what’?!

    • Vincent says:

      St.joseph, i don’t think you need to worry just yet about the people leading the shepherds. i saw no sign of the Magisterium back in the ’80s taking the slightest notice of the NPC’s report. While the NPC itself was sincere, it turned out to be a “pretend” consultation. it’s the sort of thing which brings consultation into disrepute.

      In fact, the Blessed Henry Newman taught quite clearly that the laity were an important witness to the belief of the Church. And he gave examples of when the laity took issue with the Magisterium and proved that they were the faithful witness and that it was the bishops who were slipping into heresy. (On consulting the faithful in matters of doctrine).

      • st.joseph says:

        Thank you Vincent.
        I think sometimes the bishops dont understand the difference only unfortunately they seem to have the power and control, depending on their opinions and what they believe is best for the Church.
        Are they building for to-day- or for Eternity?

  4. claret says:

    One of the things I have to remind myself of is that i write on here as though the UK was the only Catholic country in the world when in fact it is little more than a dot on the ‘Catholic Map!’
    However what little experience I have of the Catholic Church in other countries tends to be similar to the set up here but that may not be the universal picture.
    However from what we see and pratice here the Church gives all the impressions to a non-catholic of being a very disciplined organisation with a rigid stucture that demands unquestioning obedience to a central authority.
    Those of us in the lower levels of this strata know it to be the very opposite of this.

  5. st.joseph says:

    This discussion may be about the misuse of authority which I feel strongly about ,but however a good read is- http://www.scotthahnontheauthority of the papacy.
    Dr Scott Hahn has been an inspiration to me on his books and tapes over the years.
    A convert.

  6. st.joseph says:

    Regarding the site above I think it is better if one types in, scotthahnonthepapacy -then it can be found.

  7. John Nolan says:

    Not having come across this compendium and wishing to find out more about its editors and contributors, I looked up Fergus Kerr’s review in the Tablet ( I hasten to say that this is not an organ I hold in much esteem, along with its American counterpart the NCR, to which Quentin supplies links – are you putting all your cards on the table, Quentin? Only asking). According to Kerr, all the essays are from those on the liberal-progressive wing of the (mainly North American) Church, and one of the editors, Francis Oakley, is a medievalist with his own take on the conciliarist movement of the first half of the fifteenth century. In the North American context, which indeed has implications for Europe as well, it is undeniable that there are mass-going Catholics who would dissent from a wide swathe of Church teachings as set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which most of them have probably never opened.

    This should not come as a surprise. Mgr Andrew Wadsworth of ICEL remarked in Birmingham only last week that what is experienced in the average parish liturgy does not really reflect what the church believes as set out in the CCC; in other words there is a disjunct between the lex orandi and lex credendi. The bishops (do I hear ‘subsidiarity’ anyone?) have not exactly done their job in seeing that the faith is taught properly, so we have two generations of very poorly-catechised Catholics. If the politicians and the media keep telling them that (say) abortion is all right, why should they believe otherwise?

    As for the assertion that the majority of the parish clergy (I assume that means in the UK) are notably more heterodox than the bishops, I would like to see more evidence. If, as Claret maintains, they wield unbridled power, are they using it to subvert the Magisterium, and if so, how?

    • st.joseph says:

      John what compendium are you saying ?I have tried to find out -and Fergus Kerrs comments in the Tablet-also Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, and cant find anything can you enlighten me. Thank you.

  8. Quentin says:

    John Nolan, thank you for this. I recommend the book to “to those who are prepared to study the issues with the gravity they deserve.”. You are just such a one. I think it would be useful to everyone if you indicated what you want to challenge or question in my piece. We can all identify people as standing on this side or that side of the Tiber but let’s not swap people, let’s swap evidence and arguments.

    My evidence for heterodoxy in the parish clergy is to be found in “The Naked Parish Priest” Louden and Francis (Continuum 2003). If you don’t know this survey of parish clergy in England and Wales (as far as I know the best evidence we have available) I think you may be surprised. With regard to bishops, I qualified my statement with “on the face of it” bishops stand firm… Whether or not their public orthodoxy is sincere I do not know.

    • John Nolan says:

      Claret, correct me if I am wrong, but I was always under the impression that the bishop had the power to move (or remove) diocesan clergy as he saw fit. If employment law applied, a priest who was moved from a well-off middle-class parish to a poor inner-city one could sue his bishop. In the Church of England it is more of an employer/employee situation; indeed, the appointment to some benefices is still in lay hands. In general, the interference of Statute Law in areas which properly fall under Canon Law is unlikely to be helpful.

  9. claret says:

    The status of the PP in relation to employment law is not like that in the secular world. Therefore the normal disciplines, procedures and the ability to dismiss ( sack,) a disobedient priest/ member of clergy do not exist.
    So if a priest cannot be sacked, or even disciplined, there is no mechanism for any kind of sanction that is binding.
    So PP’s are allowed a free hand because there is nothing much to stop them.
    That might change with a recent case before the High Court which ruled on Thursday last that the relevant Catholic Diocese ( and hence the Church itself, ) is vicariously liable for the actions of its priest / clergy. I assume this will be appealed but as things now stand a claimant for abuse
    ( or any other issue,) can sue the Catholic Church, as it is vicariously liable.
    This alters the status of the Priest dramatically and will , at least in the UK, call for a different relationship between priest and Bishop than exists now.
    It might also work for the benefit of the Church in wider sense because the relationhip of Priest and Bishop will have to be regularised along the lines of employer and employee. Something sadly lacking at present.
    This should make the PP unable by law to be a : ‘Pope in his own parish.’
    Intersting times.

  10. Quentin says:

    Claret, in your first response to this post you stressed the “unbridled power” of the PP as an obstacle to authority reform. I wonder whether this view was based on your experience of a particular parish. But one swallow… I happen to live in an excellent (Jesuit) parish which is a good model of true authority in action. The priests are much loved, the parish council is active, and much of the work done in the parish is organised and led by the laity.

    So are there other, and many, parishes which fit your description? I would be happy to do a CH article on this, but I do need evidence. That is, instances of relevant behaviour or organisational infelicities and a description of the parish (not its identification) but its milieu, its size, general education level etc.

    People might in some cases prefer to email me directly. I think that you can trust me to use my discretion with any details.

    No, I wouldn’t describe my approach to authority reform as “wishful thinking”. “Wishful acting” is how I see it. And although we have so much further to go we mustn’t forget the substantial progress which has been made. Uncensored correspondence pages in the CH and other Catholic newspapers, as a small but significant example, are now taken for granted. It was once unthinkable until the CH introduced them under my father’s editorship. And, Claret, as you would expect, the CH’s radical views (i.e. the sort of views which the Church was to adopt at the Council) led to some parishes and dioceses refusing to have the paper available at the church door (the main method of distribution in those days).

  11. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, I will take some convincing that making Church government conform more closely to the way multi-nationals are run (News International?) would be an improvement, and the Church’s ‘mission statement’ is infinitely more far reaching and audacious than anything Rupert Murdoch could dream up.

    I will try to get hold of the 2003 clergy survey. I expect I shall be shocked, but not surpised. Along with two generations of poor catechesis we have had over the same period poor seminary formation. The number of priests incapable of following (or unwilling to follow) even the attenuated rubrics of the Novus Ordo is disturbing. The one thing they can’t delegate, they are incompetent at. In any other walk of life they would be out of a job.

    I certainly don’t dismiss out of hand arguments from the liberal-progressive wing, any more than I accept everything that emanates from the ‘traditionalist’ spectrum. But it’s hard not to see criticisms of ‘the Magisterium’ and ‘the Vatican’ as scarcely-veiled attacks on the papacy, and there appears to be a vociferous faction in North America and Europe which would like to see a ‘Catholic’ church independent of Rome and effectively run by like-minded lay people.

    • Rahner says:

      “The number of priests incapable of following (or unwilling to follow) even the attenuated rubrics of the Novus Ordo is disturbing.” Oh, please! The Church is in crisis – the idea that the observance of liturgical rubrics should be a major concern is laughable. And if the Magisterium relies on an inadequate theology – as it often does – in its teaching then it is not surprising that it provokes criticism and dissent.

      • John Candido says:

        Reading Rahner’s reply has given me a fillip for my Sunday afternoon. It was also an occassion of merry laughter as well! Vote 1 Rahner.

      • John Nolan says:

        Rahner, since the liturgy is “the source and summit of our Christian Life” (Benedict XVI) its proper celebration is of the utmost importance. Furthermore, according to the Pope, the current crisis is due in large measure to “the disintegration of the liturgy” so I suggest you direct your scorn at him. He’ll probably appreciate some theology lessons from you as well.

      • st.joseph says:

        ‘Rahner’ Now I thought that people dissented because of a lack of Faith’!
        It shows how misguided you seem to be about the Holy Catholic Church founded by Christ on His Apostles! It seems to me any excuse will do!
        Is that all it take a scandal for people to lose their faith.There are more good people doing the Lords work-than those out to destroy it.
        There has been scandals all through the centuries, and no doubt will continue as long as Satan is out to destroy the Church. And I will say ‘to take others with him’!!!

  12. Quentin says:

    John, I wouldn’t like to see the Church run like News International either – any more than I would like to see it being run by the Renaissance popes. It is not just getting the right structure which works, but virtuously using the right structure. For some time I was md of one our largest unit trust companies. (I am talking billions not millions.)It was very successful, but I can assure you that it was run with justice, honesty and genuine customer care. The only time I had problems with the board was when they attempted to chide me for removing an expense to customers which analysis proved unjustified. But they gave way when I said I would not be party to anything I could not defend in public.

    As it happens, in my book which I mentioned, I imagined a management consultant analysing the Church as a business might be analysed. And rewardingly it hits all the right (modern management) points. But then, sadly, he has to report that the Church in most areas fails to live up to its principles.

    Perhaps the most outstanding is the principle of subsidiarity (Catechism 1883) which Pius XII told us applied to the Church as much as any other large society (address to new cardinals,1946). It has flagrantly been breached in modern times. On the large scale bishops have in effect been treated as the agents of the Pope rather than descendants of the Apostles in their own right, and, latterly, by the seizure of the translation of the liturgy by a Vatican congregation, in defiance of the Vatican Council. And Claret’s parish priest example is an instance at a lower level.

    I suspect that you and I, perhaps with different emphases, accept that there are no simplistic left and right answers. There has to be a balance, sometimes shifting with circumstances, between essential values. Just like real life, when you think about it.

  13. claret says:

    I have read your ‘invitation’ to give evidence of the things I speak of and will get back to you when I have worked out for myself how best to evidentially respond.
    In the meantime I do accept that there are beacons of good pratice in certian parishes but the point is that these beacons only exist if the PP allows it , nurtures it and encourages it. He is under no obligation to do any of these things and therefore they only exist with his ‘good grace’ which in many cases is not present and additionally is actively not allowed.
    Parish Councils are not mandatory and at my current age of 65 years and having been involved in many catholic parishes I have never experienced a single one that has a Parish Council. Even the manadatory Financial Parish Councils have their membership decided upon by the PP who can easily manipulate it so that any scrutiny of how parish finances are dispensed can be overidden by him.
    This is partly because , as I posted above, the relationship between Priest and Bishop is not one of employer and employee.
    This , thankfully , looks as though it will have to change in the UK by reason of the recent High Court decision.

    • st.joseph says:

      Claret I was Chairman of a Parish Council before the 1980 NCP, then in conscience left.
      Abortion was debatable, the contraceptive pill was debatable, women priests-well the Pope said it was not open for discussion- gay marriage etc.There are subjects open for discussion and that was fine, but the thread I felt was to get the laity instructed in these matters and I was only interested in more important issues-like the faith, so I suppose I was a wrong person for the Chair! It was considered that the above subjects were the Vat11 issues and that they were more important-they were considered to be the faith.
      That parish priest died-then another priest who was fine.
      The after that we had a homosexual priest -and first night he stopped our Rosary circle offering up the 1st decade to the Religious Order that had left, and then the rest is a nightmare.I could write a book about bullying priests ‘plural’ But I am too kind!!!!!
      Maybe I will!!! I would not be sued as I have a filing cabinet full of documents.But no good raping up the past as things are better now.

  14. Horace says:

    I am thoroughly confused!

    1) Quentin states “Authority does not mean simple power to command. Its etymology is auctor, or author: one who originates or who gives complete form. Its force comes not arbitrarily but from entitlement.” and backs this up with a quotation from Matthew 7:29 “.. he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes ..”.
    The Vulgate however renders this passage as “. . erat enim docens eos sicut potestatem habens non sicut scribae . .”
    and indeed many English versions use the word “power”, presumably following the Vulgate.
    So we are saying “Power (authority) does not mean simple power to command, its force comes not arbitrarily but from entitlement.” I am still not clear what this means.

    2) “Staff are regarded . . ” :-
    a) Cannot a “servant” be an “effective contributor”? (Our popes would seem to think so; e.g. “Servus servorum Dei”.)
    b) “Members [ should take] personal responsibility for the success of the enterprise”. I would interpolate this as:- . . the success of their parts of the enterprise. This surely is what ‘subsidiarity’ means.
    I was lucky to work in the NHS in the early years; I never had a formal contract (just a handshake with the Hospital Manager – who, incidentally, reported to the Medical Committee, not the other way round !); however as a young resident I was “on duty” 24 hours a day 7days a week (with an occasional Saturday afternoon to Sunday evening holiday) and later as a Consultant was similarly almost permanently “on call”.
    This, to me, is the ideal of how a ‘service’ (perhaps not a ‘business’) should be run.

    3) Apropos “the Church will command far more authority in the genuine rather than the medieval form”.
    When I was a child we had the ‘penny Catechism’ which was simple enough for the average child to learn without difficulty (“Who made you?” – “God made me”. “Why did God Make you?” – “To know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him in the next.” – this is from memory – there are 300 or so such question/answer pairs in all) is this perhaps medieval?.
    The catechism today has 2865 paragraphs! Is it any wonder that, as John Nolan says “there are mass-going Catholics who would dissent from a wide swathe of Church teachings as set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which most of them have probably never opened”!

    4) Claret’s PP could at least be transferred to another parish – if it is true that no other sanction is available. Perhaps this may explain some of the instances of Episcopal cover-up that we hear so much about.

    • Quentin says:

      Authority. Prior to the Latin of the Vulgate we have the Greek: exousian – presumably the actual word used by the original writer. Its meaning is either power or authority. A Google search for definition brings up power, authority, weight (with a sense of moral authority). In the context we are talking about Jesus’ right or empowerment to teach, as recognised by his hearers – while the Scribes just prattled on.

      Here’s a story about people taking responsibility. I once visited a large life insurance company to talk to their top brass about their philosophy of business. While I was waiting in reception I asked the commissionaire how he saw the business. He actually gave me a better picture of the business than his chairman. That’s responsibility taken at every level. The enthusiasm of the “lowly” commissionaire taught me more about the quality of the company than any simple description could do. If you phone a business and they say: “Can’t help you, not my department,” you know you are on to a loser. If they take some trouble to ensure that you speak to the person who can help, you’re on to a winner.

      I like the new Catechism but the Penny Catechism was instilled into me, as it was into Horace. And I still think of its simple and clear answers first.

  15. st.joseph says:

    The priest I mention above was’nt moved-just the laity!! three quarters of them!

  16. mike Horsnall says:

    Interestingly enough we were talking about this at Oscott today. The view put forward was that the Bishop-priest relationship is definitively not of the managerial model. The example given was more of a familial nature. It cannot be right that -as in the Anglican church- there is is a move towards a ‘trades union’ type organisation among clergy..something is amiss. There is something about the managerial model which undermines the church-I don’t know and cannot articulate what it is but imagine if a family were to be run on an employer /employee model! . I think Horace is edging towards it when he describes the almost collegiate/servant hood model he encountered at work.

    • Quentin says:

      Mike, I wish I had been a fly on the wall while you were chatting with your Oscott friends. I may be wrong but it sounds to me that you know little of modern management.

      Of course I can’t describe it here, but it is possible to pick out a central principle which may set your mind at rest.

      There are two fundamental approaches, known as X and Y. X theory assumes that people are only motivated by reward and punishment. So the business has to have a wide range of enforceable rules. Routines for everything must be laid down, and employees are not allowed to use their discretion.

      Y theory believes that, properly led, the vast majority of people are trustworthy and use initiative well. Within the basic values and methods of operation, the more initiative given the better the performance.

      Study after study has shown that Y theory organisations tend to be substantially more successful. The employees have a high level of fulfillment and the business managers have the benefit of all the talents of their people.

      But Y theory does not just apply to commercial businesses, it applies to schools and hospitals etc. The lack of good modern business management is the main reason why our public services are appallingly wasteful.

      By its own claim to subsidiarity, it also applies to the Church. it’s just that the Church as a whole (there are marvelous exceptions of course) doesn’t put it into action.

      Were i in a position to wave a magic wand, I would have leadership as a major subject in the seminary and I would introduce it as in-service training for the ordained — right up to and including the bishops. Once this group had been led successfully through this training you would see real changes in the operation and mission of the Church. Thus Claret’s pessimism about change (his first contribution) would be removed.

      [Incidentally, although my point is general, the child abuse scandal could never have happened if the clergy had been trained in modern understanding of leadership. Not that it is so modern. One top management consultant I know (he used to advise the Government directly) began his lectures slapping a New Testament on the table and declaring that the Gospel gives us all we need to know about good modern management.]

  17. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, when you write about “the seizure of the translation of the liturgy by a Vatican congregation in defiance of the Second Vatican Council” I’m not sure what you mean. The translation which is to be introduced in full at the end of this month is, like the previous one, the work of ICEL, which represents the bishops’ conferences of the English-speaking world, and like the previous one required the ‘recognitio’ of the Holy See before it could be implemented. There were a lot of minor changes between 2008 and 2010, affecting mostly the Propers, and aguably these changes have not been for the better; but a comparison of the 2010 texts of the Collects, Prayers over the Offerings and Postcommunions with the Latin originals show that the form and meaning of the prayers are more or less faithfully rendered (in contrast to the 1973 texts, which gave us truncated paraphrases which in most cases were theologically impoverished – perhaps deliberately so, but that’s another story). Those who refer disparagingly to the ‘Vox Clara-Pell-Moroney Missal’ don’t usually have much time for the 2008 version, either.

    There is nothing in Sacrosanctum Concilium to suggest that vernacular versions of the Missal prayers should be anything other than translations of the Latin. However, by 1969, when ‘Comme le prevoit’ appeared, translation, even ‘dynamic euivalence’ paraphrasis, was being put forward as merely an interim stage in a process whose ultimate goal was for different language groups to create their own Mass texts. The implications of this seem to have been too much even for Paul VI who not long afterwards wound up Bugnini’s Consilium (actually he merged it with the SCR to create the present CDW). By the time ICEL’s 1998 Sacramentary appeared, the CDW was already drawing up new guidelines for liturgical translation, which appeared as Liturgicam Authenticam in 2001. The reasons given by the CDW for refusing the ‘recognitio’ also contain a point-by-point critique of the translation then in use, and it’s a fairly devastating one.

    • Quentin says:

      The Congregation of Divine Worship published a massive instruction on how the liturgy should be translated into local languages (Liturgicam Authenticam, 2001). The document, all 33 articles and 86 footnotes, provided in great detail exactly how it should be done. This was after the ICEL had been working for many years within the norms for translation of the liturgy set out by the Holy See in 1969. While not on the face of it attempting to remove the jurisdiction of bishop’s conferences over translations of the liturgy the instruction was in effect setting out the norms which would have to be followed if the necessary acceptance of them was to be obtained. Following considerable controversy the Pope, in an address to the Congregation for Divine Worship, gave the instruction his personal endorsement. I do not want to get into a liturgical argument (I am no liturgist) but the instruction seems to be a good example of negating proper subsidiarity without appearing to do so.

      Of course I am far from alone in my view – many see it as a classic case of Vatican arrogation. I see that Tablet readers are beginning to have fun looking out the real howlers in the new translation. I don’t care much – it’s nobbly and awkward, and prefers latinate pretension to beautiful English prose. But incompetence has a way of appearing in Vatican business.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, if you think that ICEL 1973 is ‘beautiful English prose’ you are of course entitled to your opinion, but what is more important is that it effectively conveys the meaning of the text. It quite clearly does not. In the ninth century Charlemagne was at pains to obtain the Roman books for use in his domains. I remember my professor of medieval history, the late Hilary Seaton Offler, mentioning this in a lecture c.1969 at Durham University. He said “And this has prevailed – I almost said till the present day – until very recently”. He was not a Catholic.
        And if sniggering Tablet readers have their way, neither will I be.

  18. mike Horsnall says:

    I’m in middle management of the college I help run, we operate the Y model. As to where I sit along your scale of ignorance – only you can tell. I do however talk to many individuals about their role in the workplace since it is part of my remit in trying to ascertain the root cause of the pain often either in their bottoms or in their neck.. victims of the X model I presume.

    From my own observations, limited and partial though they are Quentin it seems that X and Y models are in practice interchangable dependent on conditions, personality clashes and power relationships… so I am not much set at rest by your discourse admirable though it may be-human relationships are not so simple.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Your belief that child abuse could have been stopped by modern management principles seems to me absurd. Is workplace bullying so easily stopped do you think and ,if so why is it epidemic? Why is it do you think that I see burnt out mid level executives both male and female staggering in under loads that would kill horses and begging for a quick fix to their repetitive strains so as not to face the axe. In your ideal world perhaps but not in the average office or factory.

      • Quentin says:


        You make two contributions:

        1 In theory X & Y are not interchangeable because they depend on a constant set of management values. They do however vary according to precise circumstances. For instance, Y theory applied to the military in action will clearly require different applications to the backwaters of civilian life. However the ready self sacrifice, one man for another – or leader for his men, which we have seen in Afghanistan, is Y theory in spades. But the military know that good leadership is key.

        Of course I can’t know whether your place of work tends to X or Y. But I would know in less than half an hour in the works canteen. What I do see however is a large number of enterprises which are convinced that they are Y (it’s fashionable, in’t it?) But in fact are X.

        Of course the two are not invariably discrete. Expressing a whole philosophy of leadership and management in one or two sentences requires a modicum of simplification.

        2 You can describe my views as absurd, if you wish. But consider this. In a Y organisation, an outstanding feature is communication. In most cases of abuse, knowledge or at least strong suspicion is spread widely, but no one dares speak or even discuss. An essential requirement in a cover up is that people should keep silent through fear. Another feature of the Y organisation is the internal acceptance of core values – core values in the Church’s case include millstones around the neck of those who abuse children. And always to protect the weak against the strong. First, last and always.

        You are right to mention workplace stress. Right now that is primarily an outcome of the environment not of management approach. But a Y organisation will go to great lengths to keep employees or devise alternative ideas which help. This is because Y values are not a manoeuvre to squeeze profit out of people, they are genuine attitudes of respect and value to others.

  19. Rahner says:

    “Furthermore, according to the Pope, the current crisis is due in large measure to “the disintegration of the liturgy”
    The liturgy should always be conducted with care and reverence.Nothing in my previous remarks suggested otherwise. But the current crisis in the Church has not been caused by bad liturgy but by social and cultural changes over which the Church has little influence. The strict traditional liturgy used in the 19 Cen and the first half of the last century did not prevent the emergence of modernism or the Nouvelle Theologie etc did it?……(not that there is much wrong with modernism or the Nouvelle Theologie.)

  20. mike Horsnall says:

    Sorry about the ‘absurd’ bit regarding your thoughts on preventative measures for Child abuse; ‘hopeful’ would have been better.

    The discussion I was referring to was in the context of ‘Safeguarding within the Catholic Church’ and the speaker was Chief Safeguarding Officer. On the point of what would have prevented what then certainly better clarity of oversight would have helped but this is hindsight and speaking from an understanding not then available. You are probably aware of a case emerging now in the South concerning a Safeguarding Officer found with obscene images etc. The person concerned had been a Social Worker for most of his adult life and a church worker. As the former he will have been subject to a whole variety of rigorous checks and investigations under a variety of management structures-yet still he managed to evade detection.

    From collating the issues it appears that the vast majority of abuse cases arose in the 1960’s and 70’s at a time of change for the Catholic Church and well before the introduction of compulsory psychological screening etc Thankfully the whole thing seems to be on the wane.

  21. Quentin says:

    John, I made no comment on the quality or the accuracy of the version which preceded our recent new arrival. I have my views but they are not relevant. My concern is the failure to use subsidiarity. I would not stake my life on the idea that Tablet readers (or any others for that matter) are entirely free of schadenfreude in their identification of mistakes. But if they are correct, and that is accepted, then I have to say that it would take slightly more than a Tablet snigger to sever me from the Church.

    I hesitate to spend time on discussing the sequence of events and responsibilities in this matter — which was only one illustration of a point. It is all in the public domain, and people to whom it is important will make up their own minds.

    • John Nolan says:

      Quentin, I agree, and that is why it is important to have discussion on these matters. There are many forums devoted to things liturgical, but the idea of this particular blog is not to rehash the familiar left/right arguments but to examine issues more broadly related to faith and reason. In my opinion it succeeds in this, and I must admit that reading the comments of those I might otherwise dismiss out of hand I have had occasion to pause and reflect. Keep up the good work.

      • Quentin says:

        Thank you for this, John. I agree – my exposure to a broader point of view from blog contributors leads me continually to question my comfortable assumptions. And so I learn.

  22. John Nolan says:

    Regarding subsidiarity; a lot of it depends on the quality of the bishops. There is no ‘medieval’ model for church governance; after all the Church and churchmen played a considerable role in secular government. Popes like Gregory VII and his immediate predecessors in the 11th century were great reformers and almost single-handedly rescued the Church from what must have appeared terminal decline, but there are examples of medieval popes who were weak and allowed themselves to be dictated to by secular rulers. With the rise of bureaucratically efficient nation states in the early modern era the papacy lost a lot of its clout but the social provision which present-day states take upon themselves was still the preserve of the Church; you only have to look at France pre- and post-Revolution to understand this.

  23. mike Horsnall says:

    “Another feature of the Y organisation is the internal acceptance of core values – core values in the Church’s case include millstones around the neck of those who abuse children.”

    This is the point in a way. The mores you speak of are, as you say, New Testament principles. As you probably also know, in recent years there has been a huge overlap from American Church theory and the business community. New Frontiers International, Vineyard fellowship and Willow Creek church being examples of the cross fertilisation of business theory and church practice. A friend of mine who pastored a Vineyard church went on to make a successful living as a business consultant.
    So what your thesis boils down to is that our lives and ways of formalising relationships should be christocentric and there are ways of going about this. But I’m sure this christocentric thinking must have dawned on someone in the Vatican by now……..? So then the whole issue is a little more complex I would think than renaming New Testament values?

    • Quentin says:

      The question: why isn’t the Church more Christian?, is an interesting one. More and more nowadays I find Catholics in effect saying: “I am a Christian because of the Church; I remain a Christian in spite of the Church.” I feel a column coming on….

  24. mike Horsnall says:

    Yes if you like to put it that way. For myself I am a christian because the spirit of God seems to have touched my life and brought the living of that life into the community of the church…either that or I am simply nuts. I cannot personally hear the word ‘church’ without it meaning in some way ‘me’ This is why I find so much banging on about ‘The Church’ on this site rather strange- because people often don’t seem to make the link between “Church” and themselves -or understand that the statement: “I am a christian in spite of the church” is completely and utterly raving barmy.
    I think that were a Martian to send down a probe and attach cookies to this site only- then they would definitely gain the view of ‘the church’ as some alien organisation that sort of floated around above Rome and had very few friends. I can’t answer this strangeness in any way other than to assume it is an artefact arising from our instinct towards self righteousness so clearly I have much to learn …. Another way of approaching your next article might be with the question : “Why is it we cannot recognise the Church as truly that which it is”? However I do look forward to your column on this subject as it might throw a little light upon my evident darkness.

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Mike. I hope that if I look at aspects of the Church, I look from inside.

      Cardinal Newman, as is well known, regarded the general and shared faith of the laity not as a desirable but an essential adjunct to the teaching of the Magisterium, but as an integral part of the Church’s expression of her tradition and belief. “…because the body of the faithful is one of the witnesses to the fact of the tradition of revealed doctrine, and because their consensus through Christendom is the voice of the Infallible Church.” He notes that the tradition of the Church was handed down to the whole community and that without denying the authority of the Magisterium all the available channels should be treated with respect. In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) the duty and not merely the right of the laity to make known their opinion on matters concerned with the good of the Church is affirmed.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Yes, that is it and well expressed as ever. No point in trying to duck out of it or say:
        “I am a leg in spite of the trunk ankle or foot”
        We really are the body of Christ in actuality, all the woes of the church are our individual woes and all its joys equally so.

  25. st.joseph says:

    On the NCR web ‘Who has final say’ I read an article by ‘ Joan Chittister-where she writes a story that she says she tells quite often. About a little girl of 4yrs who was presumably quite bright for her age, asked her mother at the dinner table one day. ‘Mama why dont we have any girl priests at our church?’. Her mother replied. ‘Because the Church doesn’t allow it’
    If the child was that bright-her mother ought to have been a little brighter and given her the real reason!
    Reading on further after Joan Chittisters article some of the comments and one by a, 83yr old Franciscan Priest who says ‘He wonders why we dont follow the letter to the Hebrews and acknowledge that Jesus Himself is the only ‘Priest’ we need. Neither men nor women ought to be ordained ‘Priests’but if anyone should extend and preserve the function of the Bishop it ought to be the functioning of the worshipping community itself and within that community various people, men or women single or married , have the capacity and can be delegated and trained to provide all the services we associate today with the ‘Priesthood’.

    I wondered when reading that just how many priests have thought that .
    Since Vat2 and the reference to the People of God I have felt that it has been easily misinterpreted as the laity been equal in administering and running the Church in mattesr of Faith and Morals.And replacing the Heirarchy in a democratic system including the laity.
    The People of God does go back to the Hebrews when God said ‘You are my people and I am your God’ and that is to mean as I see it equal to love in a loving family-we are a family in the Church and all equal in Gods eyes but superior in office.
    I respect the Office but not always the holder if it is being misused or abused.So we are entitled to have a say as the laity.
    A couple of years ago a petition was being used for the various aspects of church teaching in my Diocese under the heading of ‘Seeking the face of Christ’ , for the Bishops Conference,one being Womens Ordination, so be it even though it wasn’t meant to be open for discussion.
    It was placed in a with a lot of other requests and became unnoticeable when being signed.
    Surprisingly how many signed it without reading it fully, even a few priests and when it was pointed out to them said they hadn’nt read it properly either. It was through all this that I was involved in the work of bringing Fertility Awareness and Abortion into the limelight-but surprisingly again no response.
    So it seems to me that ‘where is the democratic system when it comes from the voice of some catholics’.I wont call them traditionalists as I dont believe in that as I dont consider myself one of those who ever they are!

  26. John Nolan says:

    St.joseph, a better answer would have been: “Because the Church doesn’t have the authority to allow it” but that would probably be beyond the comprehension of a four-year-old. It appears to be beyond the comprehension of people a lot older. It is an amusing paradox that the proponents of womens’ ordination are usually the very same people who claim the Pope has too much power, and yet in this particular would arrogate to him power that neither he nor any of his predecessors have ever possessed or have ever claimed to possess.

    • st.joseph says:

      Then John the question that she would have asked is Why? Then the mother would have had to give the real reason.I believe we can search beyond power to reach the Truth.

  27. Gerry says:

    Those of us whose minds are not of a philosophical or legal bent find this discussion very interesting but quite a bit above our heads, at least I do. When it dawned on me in the 1960’s and 1970’s that theologians could make huge mistakes – the Greek philosophy ones believing that artificial contraception was a grave sin and the liberation theology ones believing that capitalism was the principle cause of poverty – I was consoled to find from the gospels that God does in fact hide important things from the wise and learned, and that theologians, even two thousand years ago, were wont to put heavy burdens on the shoulders of the poor, and I always keep these quotes – from Mt11.25 and 23.4 – in mind when trying to understand theologians.
    (The quote is “on men’s shoulders”, but as the wealthy can usually shift the burden it amounts to “the shoulders of the poor”)

    In recent decades, these two theologies have done terrible damage to the poor, more than nullifying all the good done by heroic and saintly Catholics working with the poor. Nevertheless, sensible people tell me there is much good in theology, so, on the whole, I find it best to remember Mr Churchill’s approach to scientists and apply it to theologians: they should be on tap and not on top. Perhaps this will be the final outcome of all this complex argument. I hope so.

  28. st.joseph says:

    Gerry through the scientific knowledge of a womans fertility, has taken the heavy burdens from peoples shoulders.I dont believe that God would find those guilty through ignorance.
    He would I believe maybe now that we can space our families the way the God made us in the beginning, (and I dont speak for God) but women have had heavy burdens over the years-but their children and childrens children are here, maybe some of my ancestors, who I would maybe not be here if contraception had been used. I dont believe that large familes were planned -but wanted and loved. In most cases.Education is the answer not contraception.
    I am not making an argument here, but just an opinion!
    Maybe poverty will be lifted from the shoulders of the poor when man does what the Lord seeks of him. Money wasted through misuse could feed the poor!
    But Jesus did say that there will always be poor people in the world .I take that to mean as long as there are greedy people.But as Christians we do our best.And I suppose not only Christians.

    • st.joseph says:

      I would really like to know ‘from anyone ‘what it is they do because the Church tells them to do it.
      Perhaps Rahner would tell me as he seems to have objection with the teachings of the Church!

  29. mike Horsnall says:

    St Joseph,

    Thats a really interesting question. I assume you mean :

    What is it that we do because we think the church requires it of us and which we would not otherwise do?

    For myself I guess the answer would be along these lines:
    Confession- I go every couple of months or so at the moment. Its not part of my own faith background but I do value the practice greatly. Knowing that penitence is a requirement helps me go regularly-otherwise I would let it slip.
    Weekly Mass- I try to go at least a couple of times a week if I can anyway. Knowing the Church view on attendance helps me make more effort and prioritise my time.
    Adoration of the sacrament: I am fortunate enough to have my own key so I can go down to the church and pray before the sacrament most days. Knowing the church view on the theology of real presence is a great spur to praying in church.
    Keeping the commandments: I make far greater attempts to keep the commandments because I know that they matter and in many ways form the bedrock of that which the church calls life in the spirit (see catechism!)
    I think its important to note though that all of the above I am striving to do anyway though often thwarted by my lack of willpower when it comes to the life of holiness. So I find the exhortation of the church rather akin to the cheers of spectators for the long distance runner pounding out his race. So most of my obedience is voluntary I guess. If you ask me what I Don’t do because the church prohibits it then the list would indeed be longer and reflect a far greater struggle !!

  30. st.joseph says:

    Thank you Mike.
    Your comment reminded me of the Gospel reading for last Sunday. Matthew 25:14-30.
    You do more than what is asked of you-you do it for the Lord.
    Then these things are not a burden!

  31. mike Horsnall says:

    A few more things spring to mind:
    We support several children overseas and recently, were it not for Church teaching then i would have been tempted to cut back their sponsorship. Certainly if I did not take seriously the principles of forgiveness encoded in the Lords prayer then I would be far less bothered about offending people and would be a lot less popular than I currently am at work. Here’s an interesting thing:
    About 2-3 years ago I also decided to make a conscious attempt to’ see Jesus in others’ -something that had never hitherto made much sense to me. I also started trying to adopt the sense often found in morning prayer-of bringing joy not sorrow to others., I decided to begin this project at work where I run the teaching clinic for training osteopaths. Two weeks ago one of the students said to me quite out of the blue that everyone had noticed , over the past two years, that I had changed from being normally on the strict and grumpy side with occasional flashes of niceness-to quite the reverse . Now apparently I am seen as kind, helpful and very approachable..most of the time that is..! I would have made none of these changes unless I believed that it matters to God. The instilling of all this is a function of the church in her capacity to transmit teaching wisdom and power for change-it represents to me the coming of Gods kingdom into our lives and is as pure a form of evangelism as you are liable to encounter.

  32. st.joseph says:

    Mike that shines out your faith and the love of The Lord and our neighbour-the 1st Commandment-Gods Law .Confession also I think of the 10 Lepers where Jesus said ‘Go show yourself to the Priest- He could have given them absolution there and then but it demonstrates the healing power of the priest .
    Scripture teaches all things and the Church takes its teaching from it with Tradition and the Magisterium.
    Many blame the Church for their burdens=you show the beauty of our faith and it is beautiful,something to be kept precious, like the man that found the great Pearl .And once we have found it we ought never to let it go! He is here and deserves our Worship-through the Church.
    And do it with love.

  33. claret says:

    When Quentin asked on a previous blog for any ‘sayings’ that had meant something to us personally I quoted ,: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.’ (I think I may have ommitted the word ‘good’ in my initial reply.)
    This has some resonance with what Mike is saying above in that we are judged by what we see and what others see in us.
    Better to try hard to be pleasant and helpful and if this is rebuffed , then so be it. To start by being unpleasant and unhelpful prohibits a change of attitude for the better being taken seriously.
    So if people know that you profess to be Christian then some evidence of that is expected of you from the start and not further down the line.

  34. John Nolan says:

    Mike, you have said in earlier posts that you are studying for the diaconate (kudos to you; we need permanent deacons and also instituted acolytes, although the bishops are not likely to run with the latter as it would mean mean that armies of female EMs would be made redundant) but a disturbing element is the idea of ‘psychological testing’ for candidates being mandatory, and I assume this applies a fortiori to candidates for the priesthood.

    During the Second World War the Royal Navy (unlike the other two services) appliied similar techniques in regard to its officer selection. As a result, many able young men were refused commissions and it is arguable that by 1945 The RN was in a weaker position compared to the Americans than were the Army and the RAF.

    St John Vianney would not have been denied ordination nowadays simply on account of his poor Latin, but would not have been allowed to remain at his post because of his ‘confrontational’ attitude. “We want to feel good about ourselves, but our priest is always banging on about sin and repentence.” What are your views on this?

  35. mike Horsnall says:

    John Nolan,

    Hello John. The psychological screening is the same for deacons as for priests I think. It is a 3 day event involving several interviews with a specially trained priests, a psychologist and a Religious. There are also several batteries of computer aptitude tests. The report concluded that I was neurotic as stink though probably harmless… I already knew that since anyone who spends years as a church worker in China and even enjoys street preaching in the Midlands is bound to be a bit batty I guess. The good part is that the Diocese didnt mind and seemed keen to take me anyway!
    This I hope is a partial answer to your question. It seems to me that the selection process has been beefed up in an attempt to weed out the seriously unstable. I don’t guess its that great but I do think the assessing panel did their best both at St Lukes in Manchester where I went and on the Diocese selection team. I was visited several times by assorted clergy and deacons in the run up to the panel ans though very congenial the men had their eyes open. But the psychological testing seems to me only part of the discernment process….overall I trusted both panels though I was at first pretty miffed when I read the psychologists report!!
    I was quite relaxed about the whole thing because I do feel ‘deacon shaped’ if that makes any
    sense and the very interesting thing is that the whole theology and understnding of what exactly deacons are for is still being hammered out at Oscott. Personally I don’t see the chief role as a liturgical addition but am far more interested in evangelism and pastorality-chaplaincy etc.

    I didnt quite understand the reference to John Vianney and the quote you used so couldn’t quite catch your drift. But having just worked my way through The Monks of Tibhrine I would definitely agree that God calls some very strange character types indeed and its hard to imagine the liberal urbane intellectual being prepared to lay down his life in some gritty way. Certainly in the Church of England I would say also that calibre has slipped badly as a result of choosing ‘safe hands’ instead of fierce lovers. I say this with no disrespect intended its just that I was on Diocesan Synod for several years and couldnt help but notice.
    Finally I don’t see diaconate as a ‘kudos’ thing although I’m beginning to understand that others might. One of the lovely things about turning up at Oscott this September was to be met by several mirrors of myself-a bunch of blokes vaguely perplexed as to why we had all ended up in the same room together!!

  36. John Nolan says:

    Mike, there is no doubt that an aspiration to the ordained ministry is of a different order than how I see my own role. In a sense I reached the high point in 1959 when at the age of eight I served Mass for the first time, a considerable responsibility in those days. I now regard it as my vocation to do whatever is in my power to help resacralize the liturgy by means of teaching and fostering the Chant. In my own parish a schola member is also on the road to the diaconate; I said I hoped his formation would include the liturgical aspects such as singing the Gospel (the ICEL website gives plenty of help in this) and the greatest moment for a deacon, the proclamation of the Exsultet. The new English version is impressive; the Latin of course is much better and given the significance and antiquity of this chant there is a good case for retaining the official language here.

    Please don’t assume that an ordained ministry is primarily ‘pastoral’. This is the role that we, the laity, should be performing. Like it or not, your role is cultic.

    • Quentin says:

      John , You touch a nerve here. The last time I considered a vocation was, as an altar server, at the age of 10. Further thought indicated to me that what I really wanted was to run the show. So I gave up the idea. My failure to proceed was a great gain to the Church.

      • John Nolan says:

        Quentin, I remember disliking the ‘dialogue’ Mass – how dare the congregation usurp my role, and do it badly, stumbling through the Confiteor at a snail’s pace when I’d got it honed to a fine art ! And they were reding the responses from a card!

        I think it’s human nature to want to run things, and this applies to business, the professions, the military and the Church.

      • Quentin says:

        Well, that’s a consolation. But then I suspect that you have other redeeming qualities. At 11 I was a religious prig — quite clearly holier than all my contemporaries at school (who, if not damned would spend aeons in Purgatory). Then at 11 years and six months I regained my sanity and was restored to my usual mucky self.

  37. mike Horsnall says:

    Yes John that is very true even though I had to look up the word ‘cultic’ So far for me that role has been of a more private adoration but I do take your point.Your appreciation of the interior significance of liturgy is more finely worked and passionate than my own.
    One of the joys of converting has been, for me, meeting so many eccentrics! Over twenty five years I have travelled through the wings of the Church and found there, by and large, real faith squeezed into a box. Since becoming a catholic I have found a kind of inner freedom which comes from allowing the heart to have its true sway- within what might be termed the guidelines of formation. I’ve spent time with excellent spiritual directors who have directed my life and my reading while my personal commitment to the Ignatian way has been productive of a stronger inner life. I guess I am myself strongly mystically inclined which means that my life is lived with some urgency towards God with only a recently developed attention to form. You might not choose me as a figure for a whole variety of reasons-yet as you say thus is the role and here we are.
    A great consolation, then, to have encountered kindred spirits in several priests, catechists and deacons along the way and for it to become clear that the great call of Christ to discipleship is a fairly counter intuitive thing –which perhaps explains the fact that many of the saints were so extreme in their lives. If you read spiritual classics you will read of a powerful language of a love that is a) not particularly temperate and b) quite unashamed…. I am working my way through
    Bernard of Clairvaux and his Advice to a Pope at the moment by way of example.
    On the other hand we have the rising expectations of laity that their priest will be a good bloke, sensitive, kind conversational etc and the idea that these priests will be experts in every conceivable minutiae of causuistry as applied to complex questions of liturgy and the present day. Yet priests can be outwardly insensitive strongwilled types with eccentric thoughts and habits, clearly preoccupied with something other than us. I think that for some it takes that kind of personality to be able to cope with the life a priest has to endure and still stand his ground before the altar in any meaningful way. We should not be too surprised then if our clergy are not always what we expect or that sadly a few are led badly astray. Did you find this in the military I wonder?

    • John Nolan says:

      Mike, if you look up the Wikipedia entry for Alphonse de Lamartine it quotes him on the Catholic priest; over-romanticized, perhaps, but a lot for anyone to live up to! As for the military, at one time the proportion of Catholics among army officers was higher than in society as a whole, and this might still be the case. But in all walks of life a dull conformity now rules, and eccentricity is frowned upon – just look at the machine politicians in the House of Commons. When I was at school few of the masters had had any teacher training, and some of the most inspiring ones were eccentrics who would not have lasted five minutes in the profession today.

      I know of a PP (now retired) whose Masses I did my best to avoid – he ignored most of the rubrics and instituted his own liturgical innovations which were in fact abuses – but was affable and took his pastoral responsibilities seriously. He was, I think, a good man and a good priest in every respect but one (albeit a vital one). I think that the Church allows for a little eccentricity at parish level, and some younger clergy are noticeably more orthodox, taking their cue from the Holy Father. Some liberals refer to them as ‘Benny’s storm troopers’ which they should take as a compliment were it not for the explicit Nazi slur.

      Returning to the military, there is a British army chaplain who offers Mass in Afghanistan in the EF; apparently the squaddies prefer it because it is ordered, objective and soldierly, in contrast to the OF which they are likely to experience at home which is disorderly, subjective, touchy-feely and feminized.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        I know this sounds a little naive for a catholic but I want to clarify something. When you posted a couple of days ago about the diaconate having a cultic role it set me thinking.Presumably you see the liturgy as being perhaps a vital part in the way God has asked us to communicate with him and that God, as in Leviticus or Deuteronomy, asks us to communicate with him in certain ways using certain models and a specific (cultic) manner? Presumably the rationale for this is biblical precedent and the Magisterium?

        Strange though it may seem I’ve never really viewed the liturgy in this way before so am just trying to get my head round the implications of your thread.

  38. st.joseph says:

    I remember about 40 years ago a male parishioners said to be ‘that he could see me as the first women priest.
    I didn’t know whether to be offended or not.
    He said he could see me on the Altar with Albs on!!
    Considering I never even as a child had any desire even though my brothers were-to serve on the Altar.
    Maybe I was a little ‘bossy I dont think I look masculine.

    • st.joseph says:

      What made me remember that John,Sir name was Nolan. Strange how ones memory kicks in with similar events!

      • st.joseph says:

        John Nolan, your comment on the 16th 4.37. Why would you think that the armies of female Exraordionary Ministers would be made redundant.
        The way I see it (just because I didn’t want to) I dont see the reason why females can not be a part of the Ministry of Diaconate.
        I am not a femenist but realise that there are women-who are single whose parents have died who dont wish to become a Nun-would be able to serve The Lord in His Church,it would be a wonderful asset towards a Parish.
        Married women have their own vocation. I dont have a problem with the title ‘Priestess’ of the laity.
        I know plenty of female Sacristans who do wonderful work in the Church,and if they went on to be a Deaconess, I would have no problem with that.The only problem I would find is that they would be c0nfused with the Ordained Priesthood.
        I know a male Deacon is Ordained but he does not celebrate Holy Mass or hear Confessions or Confirm while most priests dont either or give the Sacrament of the sick.
        I dont know why a male Deacon has Holy Orders, perhaps you can tell me? Or Mike.

  39. John Nolan says:


    I know a lady who has a very high-powered and well-paid job at international level, and was aware that when competing for it she was in a male-dominated field and might well have been disadvantaged on account of her sex. I attended Mass with her (in Rome) which was very decently done (Italian and Latin, Gregorian Chant) but she came out frowning, because a woman had read the bidding prayers. “It wouldn’t happen in my Church”, she said. She is a Ukrainian Catholic (Byzantine rite, but in full communion with Rome).

  40. st.joseph says:

    Thank you John. Where I worship-in a weekday if we wish we can make petition , it is a Monastery so maybe different in a parish Church. Obviously not on a Sunday,the Sisters do that.
    How do you feel about women deacons?
    Women play a big part in this life-we give birth.
    I believe a better understanding of the role of females-not Ordained priests but there is a need for the women who dont wish to become a nun.!
    The women who came out frowning-well what can one say about that!
    I would have been inclined to ask her if she puts her name on the church cleaning rota!!

  41. John Nolan says:


    In answer to your earlier question, the diaconate is not simply a ministry, it is one of the major orders. When Paul VI abolished the subdiaconate and the minor orders he established the lay ministries of lector and acolyte, which are reserved to men. However Canon Law allows women to substitute for these ministries in certain circumstances. For example women or girls may serve at the altar, at least in the OF, but it is made clear that a parish priest is under no obligation to accept them in this role. The situation is somewhat complicated in that congregations that still use the older books (eg the FSSP) still retain the subdiaconate as one of the major orders.

    An instituted acolyte is ex officio an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and moreover is, in the OF, allowed to purify the sacred vessels, which EMHC in general are not. An advantage is that he is already in the sanctuary and properly vested. As for deaconesses, it is argued that they existed in the early Church, although whether as deacons per se rather than deacons’ wives is unclear. The Church’s tradition (both eastern and western) does not support the concept, and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was later held to apply also to the diaconate.

    Probably the greatest violation of Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) is in the way EHMC are deployed in a quasi-liturgical role. To have women in the sanctuary is not part of the tradition of east or west and is best regarded as a post-V2 aberration which will be corrected in due course.

    • Quentin says:

      I should be surprised if women were to be excluded from the sanctuary at some time in the future. Their prohibition (except for cleaners who, being servants, were not thought to count) seems to have been the result of the Church’s view that women are somehow unclean, and indeed need purification after childbirth.

      But scarcely surprising given that a meditation studied by English seminarians in the later 17th century read:

      “For the manner of thy begetting is so foule that the name, nay the lightest thought of it, defileth the purest minde, so that our B. Sauiour refused none of our miseries but onely that; and the matter so horrid, so foule, that all other dung is pleasant and greatfull in respect of it; nay we dare not in discourse giue it a name, for our owne shame and others offence…”

      A well known textbook of moral theology carried, up to 1923, the description of intercourse as res in se foeda, a thing filthy in itself (see Two in One Flesh, Messenger).

      And of course Eve was responsible for starting it all by tempting Adam.

      Quentin de la Bedoyere 10 Edge Hill London SW19 4LP +44(0)2089467166

      • st.joseph says:

        Quentin, Of course she was!!!
        As if God didn’t give Adam the Grace not to succumb to temptation.
        I always thought that to be Churched after childbirth was a discrimination against women,and glad that it stopped.
        Maybe that is why women are not allowed on the Sanctuary -they might ‘lower the tone’ or tempt the males. How ridiculous is that!

      • John Nolan says:

        There is a lot of truth in what you say, and the early Fathers of the church have a lot to answer for; presumably having had to eschew sexual intercourse in order to embrace their monastic status, they then felt that they had to denigrate it. However, to break with a tradition of getting on for two millennia in the last fifty years has serious implications, not least for our relations with our Eastern brethren. And the right to exclude women from the sanctuary remains – I know of one very famous and well-attended church in London that does so.

  42. st.joseph says:

    John to my mind there is tradition and tradition.As I said in an earlier comment I would rather receive Holy Communion from the priest-the Chalice I dont mind.
    I would rather see a holy woman on the Altar than an unholy man!

  43. mike Horsnall says:

    St Joseph…
    Just showing off here because, as it happens, my module study at the moment is about the diaconate!
    There were women deacons -who often ran monasteries-up until the 10th Century. Apparently they never had the same liturgical duties though and no one seems to know what the word ‘deacon’ as applied to women really meant. The problem with reviving the Diaconate for women would seem to be that it ocould not be a sacramental role and thus would have no purpose since the purpose would essentially be that of a lay person anyway.
    Male deacons are in holy orders because of the sacramental nature of their office which is of ministry and service not of priesthood. The bishop lays hands on the deacon at ordination so that the sacrament of grace be given to strengthen them. CCC1570 deals with this.

  44. st.joseph says:

    Mike thank you.
    What liturgical duties do male Deacons do that a female cant do.
    I know the male reads the Gospel-but a female is quite able to do that.And probably preach as well as a Male-maybe better sometimes.
    The male Deacon can conduct a Marriage Ceremony-they dont Sacrament it-the couple do that themselves.
    If a female can give Birth I dont see any reason why she can-not Baptize.
    We can Baptize in danger of death, I know that we have to be Baptized again if the baby recovers.
    Mike I am not disputing this, but I cant see the logic behind it.
    I am not arguing a case for women priests!
    There were no females at the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist,
    But Our Blessed Mother was there at the foot of the Cross I believe that there is no reason that a woman can not be at the foot of the Altar.But then I am not the Holy Father-but can have an

  45. st.joseph says:

    Just putting another log on the fire!!
    I would rather have a single female Deaconess than a married male who uses contraception.

  46. mike Horsnall says:

    St Joseph,
    Be careful about building that bonfire to0 high young girl, the inquisition might turn up and put you on it!!!!

    I stand to be corrected here-and no doubt will immediately be so… but according to my notes the Diaconate, though debated, is deemed sacramental in nature and so, though it is most definitively not an ordination to priesthood is nonetheless of the same kind because in the sacramental action is conferres the grace, the love, of Jesus Christ. Of course this grace is present and active outside the sacrament but the sacrament of ordination is a particular manifestation of God and a making present of grace at acertain moment and for a certain purpose…this tends to place the diaconate as male for the same reason that priests are male-Jesus and his disciples were men.
    Shall I duck now or will it take some time for the flying plates to arrive ??

    • st.joseph says:

      St Joan of Arc was burned on a stake!!!!!
      I can think of a few males that may burn in Hell!!!
      No disrespect to you Mike.!
      Thanks for the compliment ‘young girl’I may be young at heart but hopefully mature in Spirit, and can think- even if I am sometimes shot down in flames!

      • st.joseph says:

        P.S. If what you say Mike is realistic- why are Deacons married. Jesus wasn’t.
        I would need a better argument than that to convince me.

  47. st.joseph says:

    Oh and another thing. when a man marries he becomes one flesh with his wife, so therefore she must be part of the ministry too.
    So why cant single females be Deaconess’s?

  48. mike Horsnall says:

    I don’t think there are any strong arguments to say that Jesus couldnt marry-he just chose not to -probably saving an awful lot of confusion in the process. Your single female example taken from the one flesh argument seems a bit flaky though St Joseph…Not that I’m defending just explaining. I once helped run a sort of underground church in China with a friend of mine Wendy who would support me in most of our decisions and refused to let anyone call her a leader, yet were it not for Wendy I would have been completely inadequate for the task.

  49. st.joseph says:

    Of course Jesus wasn’t meant to marry.
    His mission was to Sacrifice His Life here on earth.
    I dont feel it necessary to call a Deacon ‘Father’ or that he should necessarily wear a clerical collar.

    Can a Deacon get married?
    There is one High Priest -Jesus the High Priest of Melchizedek of old And those that Celebrate the Sacrifice of Holy Mass.
    Holy Matrimony is a Holy Order, be it not the Ordained Priesthood, but neverthless the one that God made in the beginning- We must not forget that when we think about Marriage of same sex relatioships
    There is one thing Mike that one can not take away from them-that is there thoughts.!

  50. John Nolan says:


    I can read the Gospel, and indeed I am quite capable of singing it in both Latin and English (although not Greek, sadly – I had the opportunity of learning it at school, and to my everlasting regret did not take advantage of it.) But I am not qualified to do this at Mass, or to preach, because I am not ordained to do so. I shall probably sing the Exsultet next Easter, since the OF allows a cantor to do this, and I have been told that there is nothing to prevent me from acting as a ‘straw’ subdeacon at a Solemn Mass in the EF, resplendent in alb, tunicle and maniple. But I fear this might go to my head. It would be lovely to chant the Epistle, though!

    PS ‘Churching’ of women is a laudable custom, and does not need to carry the implications of Old Testament ‘purification’ which Our Lady quite happily submitted to, and which we celebrate on 2 February.

  51. st.joseph says:

    John I think the 2nd February is the Presentation of The Lord in the Temple.
    Nothing to do with purification.As I remember. the old Law does not apply to the Christian love of the new . And that is how I see it. Bigotry is what is holding the Church back.I dont consider all change to be Modernism . Remember our Lady was present at Pentecost.
    Single woman do have a part to play in the Liturgy’

    As to your comment above,if we want to keep closer to the Orthodox Churches.
    Why are priests not allowed to marry.Or married men to become priests.
    The way I see it if we are to allow married men on the Sanctuary- women ought to be allowed too.
    Then it wouldn,t be a sexist thing which I feel it is.If thats the case only an ordained celibate priest ought to be there during Holy Mass.
    As you are so concerned about the amount of E.M. I think it is only females you are against.
    Would you mind an excess of male EM?

    • John Nolan says:


      Come on. You and I are old enough to know that Candlemas is the Feast of the Purification of the BVM. It has from very early times also been associated with the Presentation. Married men can indeed be ordained in the Latin Church, which in some ways goes further than the Orthodox; the late Graham Leonard was made a monsignor, whereas a married Eastern priest cannot be promoted.

      As to EMs, most of those (male or female) cluttering up the sanctuary are in fact surplus to requirement and are being employed in contravention of RS. A man or boy in the sanctuary is traditionally substituting fof a cleric which he theoretically can become. A woman or girl quite emphatically can not.

      • st.joseph says:

        Graham Leonard was a convert.
        He came into the Church because of his objection to women priests.
        I heard a radio interview with him one morning and he said if he walked into a room and a catholic priest was there he would feel the same way about him as women priests.
        I wrote to him at the time and told him the situation of Catholic Priests and his ordination!
        He did later become a Catholic.
        So he didn’t respect the Catholic Priesthood before hand.
        The Catholic Church has the only valid Ordination and Bishops.
        BTW what was our Blessed Mother Purified from!!!

  52. Iona says:

    John (November 18th) – a famous and well-attended London church that excludes women from the sanctuary? Even the cleaners and the flower arrangers?

    • John Nolan says:

      Iona, I was referring to what happens during the liturgy. Come to think of it, the sacristans are all male as well.

      • Quentin says:

        John, come and meet the sacristan at my church. I can assure you that when I blow her a kiss of peace across the pews it is not a man I am sending my blessings to.

  53. John Nolan says:

    Mike Horsnall,

    I’ve just picked up on your comment from yesterday concerning the liturgy. In my lifetime a strange heresy has emerged in this regard, a reductionist view of liturgy as something ‘we’ create to express our sense of a ‘worshipping community’. There is a famous song ‘Gather Us In’ by a certain Marty Haugen which I gather is widely used as an Introit in the USA and elsewhere. It contains numerous references to ‘we’ and ‘us’, and no mention at all of God the Father, Son or Holy Ghost. The idea of liturgy as a gift from God through his Church, so well expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger in his book ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ is almost entirely absent from most parish celebrations. In the Eastern Church the Mass is called, significantly, the Divine Liturgy; attributed to St John Chrysostom, you can translate it, but cannot play ducks and drakes with it.

    When Cranmer replaced the Mass with the Book of Common Prayer he deliberately made it reflect a new theology. There is evidence that without the accession of Mary I he would have moved towards a more strict Genevan worship based on the Bible and extempore prayer. Certainly the so-called Puritans hated the Prayer Book as the work of man (the Catholc Mass was, needless to say, the work of the Devil).

    Earlier this year the E&W bishops issued a pastoral letter on the liturgy. On the surface it was about the new translation, but it went much further, endorsing (for the first time I can remember) the true meaning of the liturgy. It all comes back to the old adage; lex orandi, lex credendi. I don’t doubt that you will hear in the course of your formation people peddling the 1960s and 1970s nostrums. Just remember they’re not the future. They weren’t even the past. Merely a blip.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      Thanks for the above. Sifting this I get the impression that you see Liturgy in rather the same context as say the instructions for building the temple, or the moral life except that the liturgy is if you like the instructions for uplifting the spirit to God in a manner that pleases God and gives us insight into His nature….as such it is non negotiable. If you could give me a simple, non technical, 9 year old, catechesis type paragraph or two on the essence of ‘The Spirit of the liturgy’ that would be enormously helpful for just in case I can’t get hold of the book. Its simply to check my own understanding against what I think you are saying- when I try to get something clear I do need it spelt out!
      As to 60’s/70’s and blips, thats all way over my head John I’m just pursuing the answer to the basic question of how you yourself understand liturgy. I do of course understand Lex orandi Lex credendi-in other words that liturgy gives us the structure of our belief.

      • John Nolan says:

        The liturgy is, according to the Pope, the “source and summit” of our Christian life. I will confess that what has most tried my faith over the past forty years has been the expectation that I be required to participate in kindergarten activities that I knew in my heart of hearts had little to do with liturgy as properly understood, were unhistorical and culturally impoverished. I tried embracing humility, but it didn’t work. This is nothing to do with OF versus EF, although I prefer the latter on balance, as do most influential liturgists today. It has everything to do with objectivity over subjectivity. If the liturgy is “the greatest thing this side of heaven” , then an out-of-tune folk group and Father O’Bubblegum strutting his informal stuff the other side of what resembles a coffee table rather than a Christian altar renders the prospect of paradise less than alluring. It is not my ‘understanding of the liturgy’; this is the sort of subjectivity I abhor. And before you say “well, the people like it”, the number that actually endure it represents a minority of the Catholic population, and “the people” also watch X-Factor. They deserve better.

  54. st.joseph says:

    John I do understand how you feel about the Liturgy.
    But just to make it clear, Our Blessed Lady is close to Her Son on the Altar.
    There has to be a femenine outlook in the Church as mothers-even though all woman are not biological mothers,we do represent Motherhood, I think that is why Jesus called Mary Woman on the Cross, a mother to priests. Not just bearing boys!
    He also made it quite clear at the house of Mary and Martha, that Mary had chosen the better life, sitting at His feet.
    Not just cleaning and cooking,like Martha, if they are not married, that is a different vocation There is a Ministry for women who dont want to go into a Convent.
    I dont believe that most women really want to Celebrate the Eucharist (not that they could). some education is needed here also some love and consideration to the frustration some women feel when they believe there is no place for them in the ministry of the Church, or call it what we like .

  55. st.joseph says:

    John, an elderly lady who died a couple of month ago, a Spinster, was a Sacrastan fo nigh on 40 years, a wonderful lady and she received a Bene Mente medal from the Vatican, for her service to the Church. Organising the May Processions, and the Corpus Christi Processions, washing the linen-organising the flowers and keeping the Church clean also the brass for a blind priest with the help of others.Etc Etc Etc.
    If you think she should not have been allowed to be on the Altar to serve the Church I think you are very wrong to believe that. I am sure Jesus would not have thought that!

    • John Nolan says:


      Some parishes in the US have actually retrained their erstwhile female servers as sacristans. Why should this be seen as a lesser role? If I serve at the altar or sing as part of a schola cantorum within the sanctuary I wear choir dress (cassock and cotta). This indicates that I am substituting for a cleric. But technically there is no impediment to my being a deacon or a priest. A woman can never be such, and therefore should not assume clerical dress or be in the sanctuary. This was accepted until very recently (in both our lifetimes.)

      • st.joseph says:

        John do we sometimes forget that The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass-is now since Calvary a unbloody Sacrifice.
        The Mass is also a triumphant Victory over Satan and worthy of Jubilant praise.
        Not only a Solemn Celebration – there is room for all.
        I dont mean the extremes of Happy Clappy- ‘but then we dont have go there-‘I honestly do not believe that the Lord is unhappy with a Joyous Celebrations or youth Mass’s long as it is not abused.
        Some of the Holy Fathers Mass’s in foreign countries are a wonderful sight of jubilation.
        We must open our minds and hearts to God, not only in quiet meditation.
        God knows our inner minds and soul.
        We ought to lift up our minds and hearts to God.
        I love a happy Mass and to see families happy and enjoying it in open friendship with each
        I remember a little girl many years ago about 4 from a big family who always liked to sit behind my daughte r who was about 14 at the time, this little girl would take my daughters shoes
        off. One Sunday she wasn’t there, she had fallen off a swing in the park next to Church and died.The sadness we felt at Mass when she was not there -but we felt her pres ence


  56. st.joseph says:

    John I love my Church, I love my faith, I would actually die for it, but however I am just begining to realise why I didn’t marry a Catholic in 1962
    And do you know what – I watch the X Factor!
    But my children and grand children dont, but thank God none of them have lapsed, regardless of the Novo Ordo -Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    • John Nolan says:


      If none of your children or grandchildren has lapsed this is highly unusual and a great tribute to their upbringing. You are no doubt too modest to admit it, but I suspect your influence and example have a lot to do with it. Most people learn the Faith of our Fathers at their mother’s knee.

  57. mike Horsnall says:

    Thanks John,
    Don’t panic I understand precisely. Awhile ago I went to a Free church service with my daughter who was then finding her way in things. They had the cafe style and the powerpoint etc. At the end the pastor, realising I was catholic, asked me what I thought. Isaid to him that to be perfectly frank compared to what happened down at the front in our services it was all a bit tame!! I was referring of course to eucharist. Its rather like there is a wedding celebration where the bride and groom either don’t show or don’t actually make their vows! I only ask your views on what liturgy actually is because these are questions I ask in my own thoughts quite honestly. Having no ‘tradition’ as such and coming from an atheistic family background I have to make my own way you see and I cannot just take a statement and adhere to it without weighing things in my heart.

  58. mike Horsnall says:

    Yet there must be as St Joseph indicates some tone, flexibility and resonance differences in the Mass depending on culture, interpretation and calendar. My church for example is very ‘high’ which I enjoy yet the mass at Loyola Hall where I go on retreat is very ‘low’ indeed and very simple. If the sabbath was made for man then liturgy too should not exhaust him. A matte of boundaries I guess. I don’t much like informality these days either even though I did spend 10 years in the charismatic house church. But I do agree with St Joseph regarding joyous celebration.

  59. John Nolan says:

    But the point I’m making is that the liturgy, whether in the Latin Church, the Eastern Churches or in some of the old Churches that still have Mass in Aramaic, does not have, nor ever has had its legitimacy or validity as being derived from the congregation who participate in it. I can pop corks and have a party with like-minded Catholics and regard it as a celebration. But it’s not liturgy. The common post-V2 interpretation is little short of heretical and is being addressed at the proper levels; my worry about you is that without a firm grounding you are likely to be assailed by those whose views are outdated but still sadly prevalent.

    • Rahner says:

      Different liturgies express different theological viewpoints and no liturgy can be regarded as the exhaustive or final expression of the faith. But I wonder if the historical Jesus would feel more at home in the EF liturgy of a Brompton Oratory – with its Platonised theology – or at a more informal family mass liturgy you find in many parishes?

      • John Nolan says:

        Rahner, you can wonder as much as you like, but has it ever occurred to you that a liturgical expression that was only invented in the 1960s, that has nothing in common with traditional practice, East and West, and whose only historical precedent is the substitute ‘liturgies’ of the post-Reformation protestant assemblies is at least open to question? And the “what would Jesus have thought?” argument, applied once by Tony Blair when he was told by Basil Hume that as a protestant he could not take Communion in a Catholic church, is a pathetic cop-out.

  60. mike Horsnall says:

    Yes, I can see you have that worry, which in itself is a kindness I appreciate. I shoudn’t worry to much though since, being of a ceratin temperament, I tend to plough my own furrow in life as a whole. I seem to be fairly impervious to that which I cannot reconcile through prayer and contemplation. As I have said before I tend to see the views of others-yours included- as expressions of a persons character rather than having any overall validity simply through their utterance.
    Having said that I am finding this exchange enormously helpful. Recently I have begun to go about the altar of God and am slowly beginning to percieve this ‘objective holiness’ of which you speak. I have always been attracted to the Pentateuch and know it quite well which means the sense of liturgy as divinely given is alive in me though in need of a bit of refoccussing and dusting off-also I am able to read ,think, and draw my own conclusions. I was drawn into the Catholic Church in the first place by the sense of holiness encountered at the Jesuit litugy of Loyola Hall-that sense of purity.
    There is a caveat to your view John. I have shared eucharist huddled in secret with Chinese Christians who risked censure and punishmnent merely by their gathering. Often their sense of liturgy was rudimentary and sometimes even odd but I do not believe their offering was unnaceptable to God on account of its, perhaps in your eyes, tarnished form. I would guess that you have encountered this sort of thing yourself along the way-I take it as a check on excessive compunction which, in any case, I wholeheartedly detest simply on account of my temperament.
    So I do hope to be informed and perhaps won over a little by your convictions regarding liturgy which are clearly based both in passionate commitment and learning. As to the 60’s and 70’s Most of my reading on spiritual matters long predates them, at the moment I am in 1130AD with Bernard of Clairvaux!

  61. mike Horsnall says:

    The common post-V2 interpretation is little short of heretical and is being addressed at the proper levels;
    What do you understand this statement to mean…perhaps you could just unpack it a tiny little more for me.?

  62. John Nolan says:


    In concentration camps Catholic priests have celebrated the Eucharist with no liturgical books and without even the proper elements; this was in extremis, and I am sure the sacrifice was acceptable in the sight of God. When priests in Elizabethan England celebrated Mass clandestinely their hosts made sure that the correct vestments and vessels were available. The post-V2 ‘heresy’ to which I refer has also been identified by Pope Benedict XVI, namely the idea of the community in effect celebrating itself. No-one who has been around in the last 40-odd years will have escaped this.

    • Rahner says:

      What is a ‘heresy’ as opposed to a heresy?

    • st.joseph says:

      John what do you mean by ‘community in effect celebrating itself’?
      There are enough Masses in Latin now so if people found it so popular why are they not packing the Church I would not think that where I go to Holy Mass the Priest would believe that he was bordering on heresey. Or theMass he celebrated was invalid.
      What do think is wrong with the Youth Mass which is packed -thousands actually.
      Also Holy Mass on EWTN daily!What do you think God would feel about that.If you can seemingly read his mind.
      I would think he would have more important things on his mind- like the Gospel to-day for instance.

      • John Nolan says:


        The quotation about the community celebrating itself is in fact from Benedict XVI. In his excellent book “The Spirit of the Liturgy” he identiifies the things that have gone wrong since V2. The whole idea of a “Youth Mass” is simply absurd; the first one I experienced was in 1968 when I was a “youth” and I wasn’t impressed even then. The Mass I encountered as a child gave joy to my youth “ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam”. The idea that the sacred liturgy, a gift of God through His Church, needs to be tailored to a particular audience is without parallel in the history of the Church, dates only from the 1960s and is bordering on heresy. The EWTN Mass is quite decently done, although I can’t understand why they only drop into Latin at the Pater Noster.

        I put heresy in inverted commas because it has not been formally declared as such. However, Martin Mosebach’s book on the present liturgical crisis is entitled “The Heresy of Formlessness”.

  63. Rahner says:

    “that has nothing in common with traditional practice”,
    It was once the traditional practice to burn heretics…..and to claim that the unbaptised could not be saved etc etc. I suppose our abandonment of these teachings and practices is also a pathetic cop-out.

  64. Rahner says:

    “has it ever occurred to you that a liturgical expression that was only invented in the 1960s, that has nothing in common with traditional practice, East and West, and whose only historical precedent is the substitute ‘liturgies’ of the post-Reformation protestant assemblies is at least open to question?
    John, In what sense open to question? Are you suggesting that the OF is invalid?

  65. John Nolan says:

    Keep your hair on, Rahner! Traditional liturgical practice, nothing to do with the former practice of burning heretics, which was part of secular jurisdiction anyway. The OF is both valid and licit, although the way it is commonly celebrated (perhaps ‘performed’ is a better word) is certainly open to question, and has indeed been questioned by more eminent authorities than you or me.

  66. Rahner says:

    “former practice of burning heretics, which was part of secular jurisdiction anyway” , Oh, I forgot that point, so I guess it was OK after all…..

    • John Nolan says:

      I didn’t imply that it was OK but if you were before the tribunal of the Holy Inquisition I might be tempted to pop down to the local garden centre and purchase some firewood.

  67. mike Horsnall says:

    So John,
    How do I get to read about this post V2 heresy you talk of? In other words if you could simply flesh the topic out a bit with a reference or a quote or a link-all I’m asking you to do is to supply a little detail such as :
    The post v2 heresy is ……..
    It is discussed by…………
    You can read about it in……..

    You know the sort of thing I’m sure. Because this seems to be a hornets nest sort of issue it may come as some surprise to realise that others may be genuinely completely oblivious to this huge subject! I know you get impatient with wordiness etc but it would help to spare one or two more.

    PS I do take the point about concentration camps etc As to the community celebrating itself well that kind of theology is old hat in charismatic/baptist circles, everyone gets fed up with it after awhile because of its introspection and lack of power.

  68. mike Horsnall says:

    Forget it Ive got the detail from above posts which you were writing at the same time as my post. I’ve ordered the book.

  69. st.joseph says:

    Jonh thank you for your reply.
    I think we may have a difference of opinion here neverthless we can agree to disagree.
    Those who have been broiught up in the new rite should respect and appreciate the beauty of the Tridentine rite. At the same time those who have been nourished in the Tridentine rite should respect some of the insights of the new rite as sacramentalising our whole life.

    The bread and wine that are offered by the people at the Offertory of the Mass represent truly the offering of their whole life to God. Bread does not grow on trees and wine does not simply flow from the grapes. They demand human work and sacrifice. ‘The bread which earth has given and human hands have made’ represents the work that has gone into the making of the bread, not only the work of the farmer and the miller, but the work of industry, of mans labour in the office, in the factory, or in the surgery. The crushed wheat which become flour represents sacrifice, the sacrifice of the sick who are not able to go to Mass, the sacrifice of the persecuted Church,all the things through the action of the priest becomes the bread of life. Similarly the wine brings to mind mans labour,produce of the earth and joy of mans life,the wine that rejoices becomes our spiritual drink.
    the heart of man. The Offertory in other words represents the offering of mans whole ife to God, his joys and sufferings. His cross and his ideals united to the sacrifice of Calvary and the death of the Lord lead to the joy of Easter morning and the risen Christ.
    Indeed one could say that without human work and sacrifice there would be no bread and no wine and the priest would be unable to celebrate Mass.
    Moreover the new cycle of readings enhances ones knowledge of the Scriptures. For instance, the story of the prodigal son, one of the most moving parables in the Gospels, was never read in the Sunday readings of the old rite.
    In summary, the Offertory prayers in the new rite emphasized that the whole of mans life is sacramentalised and become the outer sign of Gods presence in the world.
    St Paul reminded the Corinthians that ther should be unity amongst them.
    To reiterate what as been said before, the one reality and event expressed by each rite is much more beautiful and profound than any words could express.
    The Mass is more important than the rite.
    For as often as you should eat this bread and drink of the chalice you shall show the death of the Lord until He comes again’ (Cor.11,26)

    This was a homily given many years ago by a priest and I found it so beautiful that I kept it.
    You will find John that Saint Aelred of Rivaux had something to say about the rite 800 years ago.
    to long to print here.
    To me the Mass is more important than the Tassels and Phylacteries-which Jesus spoke of worn by the scribes and pharisees.
    I apologise to all for this comment being so long!

  70. st.joseph says:

    I would just like to say that this is only a part of the lecture I should have called it instead of a homily. Who was a very orthodox blind priest who ran a yearly summer school at Nympsfield Glos who by the way quite a few of the boys went to Oxford and are now Ordained Priests in the Westminster Diocese and I believe it is one of the reasons that my children and grandchildren are not lapsed because they ‘understand the Novus Ordo Mass.’My children didn’t need to go to a catholic school they received a good homily every Sunday from a Missionary of St Francis De Sales parish when they were young.!

  71. mike Horsnall says:

    St Joseph,

    “To reiterate what as been said before, the one reality and event expressed by each rite is much more beautiful and profound than any words could express.
    The Mass is more important than the rite.
    For as often as you should eat this bread and drink of the chalice you shall show the death of the Lord until He comes again’ (Cor.11,26)”

    Thanks for this, it does express so well the conviction of my own heart.

    • st.joseph says:

      Mike thank you
      And thank you for your understanding and maturity on my thoughts on the Diaconate and marriage and dress.
      I have to express my thoughts at times.
      I appreciate when others do the same.
      That is as far as we can take things-obedience is a virtue.

      A little poem I have just remembered.
      Patience is a virtue, have it if you can, often in a women, seldom in a man.!
      We have to have a sense of humour too Mike which I know you have.
      I like winding up the chauvenists!!!! And femenists!!!

  72. John Nolan says:


    Shouldn’t that be “seldom in a woman, and never in a man”?!

    Thanks for posting that rather beautiful reflection on the meaning of the Offertory. The practice of the faithful bringing the offerings to the altar is of course a very old one, and I believe it continued in the Gallican church for some time after the Council of Trent. None of us can really understand the Mass (it is a sacred mystery) and it needs to be constantly borne in mind that liturgy is not about giving the people what they want, or what they think they want, or what we think they want, but is about giving God what is his due.

  73. st.joseph says:

    Thank you John, I was just being a little kind to the opposite sex-and keeping both on the level!!
    But I do consider the fact that a female carries a baby for nine months and I wonder if a man would be so patient. Just a thought.
    I agree with you 100% what you say about worship . Holy Mass is the highest form of Worship.
    But not the only one.
    I remember when my children were small and how they could join in at Sundays at Mass,and sometimes my son misbehaved so badly I left him at home with my husband, and took him to Mass on Thursday evening-when Mass was the only one in the week-before there was a resident priest. He was under school age then. We have to make allowances and I was greatly pleased when Mass was celebrated in English and I could see what the priest was doing and see Jesus in the Host on the Altar.
    I remember when I was small and sitting behind big people and not being able to see what the priest

    was doing and getting told off by my mother for fidigiting.
    You will remember the days when Mass was over in under a half hour .

    I know some of my friends are most intolorent to children crying in Mass at the Tridentine.
    I always say to them ‘go in the week day as well but they are so miserable .
    I tell them that Jesus welcomed little children
    You have to admit John that there are not many Mass’s that are not celebrated with reverence.
    But I think it is the Latin that you like more than the English .
    There has to be some movement in our Church or else it will be stagnant.Keep both I say!

    • John Nolan says:

      25-30 minutes is about right for a weekday Mass in either the OF or the EF, when there are not many communicants and no homily. Unless it is a solemnity there will be no Gloria or Creed, and you could comfortably sing the whole of the OF in this time, in either Latin or English. The EF Low Mass can easily be said, without rushing it, in half an hour (except for Ember Days). There is no virtue in dragging things out just for the sake of it. St Phlip Neri, it is true, used to go into an ecstatic trance while saying Mass, and the server could leave the sanctuary for two hours and still be back in time to resume his duties. But I doubt if any congregation had the patience of this particular saint!

  74. st.joseph says:

    John, where I worshipped at Nympsfield for 20 years we always sang the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin.
    And where I go now to a Monastery it varies at times.
    Terce is sung before Holy Mass and the Psalms are sung every day, Mid day prayers are sung and Vespers sung every late afternoon.I dont attend Evening Prayer, but I expect that is sung too.The church is open all day.
    So we have always had a good deal of Latin.
    Benediction is sung in my Parish Church, of course it would be.
    I am happy with all that. and always sung in a choir since the age of nine.
    I also hear a wonderful homily every day.
    I have no complaints and think myself very fortunate Thank God.

    • John Nolan says:

      You are indeed fortunate to have both the Mass and the Office. The situation in most parishes is very different, which is why ICEL wants the missal chants which go with the corrected translation adopted as a basic standard throughout the English-speaking world. There is a chance that we might at last get what the Liturgical Movement and the Second Vatican Council actually wanted. In September I was present when ++Bernard Longley celebrated a Solemn Mass entirely in English, using simple but effective and prayerful chants for the Ordinary and the Propers, without the need for a trained schola cantorum. It was very impressive.

  75. mike Horsnall says:

    Does that place us in the same diocese then?

    • John Nolan says:

      No, for the last year I have been in Northampton diocese, and previous to that Nottingham. But the recently established John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music is at the Birmingham Oratory ( and the Archbishop was present at the inaugural meeting. He is a fine musician himself, as was of course Bl. John Henry.

  76. st.joseph says:

    John ,why do you think that married Anglicans can be Ordained and catholic married men cant?

    • st.joseph says:

      P.S Dont give me the answer ‘Because it is not allowed, by the Church!

      • st.joseph says:

        John I thought there might be a Theological answer to that, obviousley there isn’t.
        Another thing I often wonder about,and that is- if the Anglican Marriage is not in the eyes of the Catholic Church surely they will have to be married again in the Catholic Church.
        These are not trick questions John I am just curious to find the answers and thought you might be able to anwer them, or maybe someone else can, or direct me to a site where I can find out.
        I am not questioning the Church, only why they allow it.
        Perhaps Quentin will know!

      • John Nolan says:

        Celibacy is the disciplinary norm in the Latin Church, but in particular circumstances it may be relaxed, as in the case of former Anglican married priests. A married Anglican layman who converts is on exactly the same footing as his married Catholic counterpart. The idea of ordaining married ‘viri probati’ is often floated as an answer to the shortage of priests, and may well happen in the future; such men would already have a good standard of education, be able to support themselves, and their function would be to offer Mass and administer the sacraments, without having to take on the administrative burden of running a parish.

  77. John Nolan says:

    Someone who is married before he becomes a Catholic (in another denomination, or even in a register office) is still married in the eyes of the Church. If a Catholic is divorced and his wife marries someone else, he would not be committing adultery if he were to have sexual relations with her, since in the eyes of the Church she remains his wife. Matrimony, which involves both civil and canon law, is a complicated business! In the latter part of Paul VI’s reign an annulment was as easily obtained in the USA as a ‘quickie’ civil divorce. Then along came JP II who tightened up the rules.

  78. st.joseph says:

    Thank you John.
    I have mentioned this before as my 18 year old grandson said to me when he was 16 he want to be a priest-those were words, so I said for him to pray about it.
    He then said maybe would want to get married (he was serious).
    So I told to become an Anglican , get married and have children, then come come back to the Church- as Our Lady lets people in through the back. I was joking at that point, but he was serious and said to me ‘I would not give up my faith. I then sad to him to become a Deacon, and he replied that he wanted to say Mass.
    If that had have been a child -I put that down to just thoughts,but he was 16 and quite sensible boy.

    I have been thinking about the Anglicans and just wondering .
    I would not want him to do something that he would regret-and leave like so many priests did to get married.

    • st.joseph says:

      P. S. It went before I could finish and correct spelling!
      I wonder how many married men think the same, and it might be welcomed by many.
      Maybe when they retire and their families have grown so there would be no expense on the Church.
      Wives would be happy too as they could help in all sorts of ways and then maybe their sons would be come priests as they would be involved in the Church
      I think that there are many vocations lost because they are not involded or think about it until their faith matures then they are already married.. These are just thoughts John-, but than you for the information.

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