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August/September 2004

Redemptionis Sacramentum

~ DOA - RIP ~

MICHAEL McGRADE

"The United States has bishops, let them interpret ..."

Cardinal Arinze

Despite the ominous sub-title above and in order to forestall facile charges of ‘negativity’ (the last refuge of neo-conservatives in denial!) let me say from the outset that I did welcome "Sacrament of Redemption," the comprehensive Vatican instruction on liturgical abuse issued last March.

Scuppering all the great expectations which preceded its release, it is true that Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS] finally delivered little more than a summary consolidation of earlier directives aimed at reining in a rampant post-conciliar liturgy - Liturgicae instaurationes (1970), Sacramentale Communione (1970) and Inaestimabile donum (1980), among others.

Yet although gutted of anything radical in the way of liturgical reform - as Modernist curial officials had their wicked way during its lengthy preparation - the restating of correct Novus Ordo practice and discipline in many areas is to be lauded. Notwithstanding the sad reality and deeper issues treated herein, protection of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist is always paramount. For the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the faith of those who attend and suffer it (which includes, too often for his liking, the present writer) we need not be enamoured of the ill-fated New Rite to be solicitous for its precise and reverent celebration.

To this end, readers will find a helpful summary of RS at pages 18-22 of this edition. Prepared by a dutiful parish priest, it should be read bearing in mind the Instruction’s final urgent call for the laity to: a) fulfil their "serious duty" to protect the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist "from any and every irreverence or distortion" and; b) send their complaints of liturgical abuse direct "to the Apostolic See" as necessary, "on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff."

With all that sincerely said and done, it is my solemn duty, as balloon-burster-in-chief, to inform all excited neo-cons that Redemptionis Sacramentum will prove about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.

There are two prime reasons.

Problematic Prelates

The first can be ascertained from the structure of the document itself, which begins and ends with the bishops.

Like matching bookends designed to secure the material in between from falling into disarray, Redemptionis Sacramentum [RS] starts out with a consideration of the pivotal role of the episcopal office in God’s hierarchy, and finishes up with a plea to bishops to have a long hard look at themselves, their dioceses and their efforts to stamp out liturgical sacrilege.

Flanked by such corrupt and flimsy supports, the 186 paragraphs of RS effectively collapsed before the ink was dry on the papal signature: the execution of its many admirable correctives and exhortations depending, as ever, on the very men whose ongoing contempt for Church law and liturgy prompted the Vatican Instruction in the first place!

Australian Archbishop Francis Carroll embodies this Judas syndrome.

Barely a month after the release of RS, which insists on "the Christian people’s right to have the Eucharist celebrated for them on Sunday" [#162] - and despite the Holy Father also having beseeched the Australian bishops during their March Ad Limina visit to restore emphasis on the obligation to attend Sunday Mass - Archbishop Carroll called upon his Canberra clergy to cancel their Sunday Masses on the weekend of 15-16 May. Why? So they could attend his Diocesan Synod – a feminist free-for-all which recommended the establishment of a commission for women and the creation of a register of "competent and qualified women who could give reflections in church services," among other weighty irrelevancies. In lieu of Mass, the Archbishop proposed a Communion Service specially formulated for the occasion by his liturgical bureaucracy.

This sort of casual contempt for the Holy Sacrifice, the Holy Father and the Holy See is reflected in Australian Sunday Mass attendance - 15 per cent, and plummeting. But Archbishop Carroll’s two-fingered riposte is hardly surprising. A renowned Modernist who oversaw the Protestantisation of the Wagga diocese before repeating the exercise in Canberra, he recently cast doubt on the Pope’s clearly infallible ruling against the ordination of women, stating: "It is a very strongly defined position at the moment and I am not going to speculate on the future"
[The Canberra Times, 17/5/04].

The self-defeating response of neo-con shepherds like Cardinal George Pell, however, is just as predictable. This episcopal paper tiger, for one, will pass Redemptionis Sacramentum to his Modernist Director of Liturgy, Sister Carmel Pilcher.

A snappy dressing "let’s do Eucharist" archetype, Sr. Pilcher instructs the hapless souls who attend her workshops that "we’ve never had a perfect Eucharist" and won’t have one until we enjoy the Beatific Vision [Diocesan Conference, "Through Desert to the Water of Life," 22/2/03]. This heresy is rooted in her erroneous view that liturgy is "very much the work of an assembly, a community" [Catholic Weekly, 12/5/02], and thus the Mass is lessened by inadequacies of individuals in the congregation. In contrast, the Catechism teaches that the Mass is the one and only "perfect sacrifice" [2100] and that "Liturgy is an ‘action’ of the whole Christ (Christus totus)" [1136], not the sum of its human parts.

Thus, Cardinal Pell entrusts the Vatican Instruction to a nun whose heretical notions of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are precisely those which fuel the abuses denounced in the same document! For good measure, waving away repeated protests from concerned laity, the Cardinal has renewed Sr Pilcher’s contract with the archdiocese.

Meanwhile, in England, Bishop Hollis issued a letter to his priests on 14 May, dismissing RS as irrelevant to the Portsmouth diocese where the liturgy is "celebrated with great care and devotion." "We have nothing to fear from the latest instruction from the Congregation, … we do not have much with which to reproach ourselves," he reassured one and all.

This recalls Archbishop Nichols’ bare faced lie some years back, when, as spokesman for the hierarchy, he told the media that the liturgical abuses documented in the Vatican’s 1997 Instruction on collaboration between the ordained and non-ordained were not applicable to England. In fact, as he well knew, they were, and are, rife up and down the country. Ditto for Portsmouth, a bastion of Modernism and liturgical anarchy: the sort of diocese specifically targeted by Rome.

As a measure of the episcopal disdain we are dealing with here, in his ad clerum Bishop Hollis pointedly praised the work of his "lay Eucharistic Ministers", in open defiance of RS #151 which emphatically prohibits the use of this designation and any variations thereof: "the name ‘minister of the Eucharist’ belongs properly to the priest alone."

Portsmouth’s Head of Department for Liturgical Formation, Paul Inwood, then followed his boss’s lead with a piece in the June issue of Portsmouth People which emphatically played down the importance and legal status of the Instruction, while regurgitating the Big Lie that "many of the ‘abuses’ listed have in fact never been seen in this country"!

Mr Inwood neutralises the Instruction with all the arrogance and slippery verbiage expected of the Orwellian Modernist "expert" who knows what’s best for you: "… it should by now be obvious that the Congregation’s Instruction … needs interpretation by those skilled in telling us what the technical language means, who it is intended for, what the context is, and which of its provisions actually apply. ... To sum up," wrote Commandant Inwood, "the sensible thing to do is not to try to interpret Redemptionis Sacramentum rigidly and in the abstract."

Further north, responding to a complaint about a Protestant minister giving a sermon at Sunday Mass, Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool stated: "… there are occasions when a minister of another church may give the sermon at the celebration of Mass." Subsequently informed that, according to RS [#65-66]: "This practice is reprobated [for non-ordained faithful, including seminarians, theology students and "pastoral assistants"]…nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or assocation [to preach at Mass]", His Grace simply rationalised his error and justified his disobedience by appealing to what he called "unique ecumenical terrain."

For its part, the May edition of Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s Westminster Record paid selective lip service to the Instruction, while emphasising its retention of "all the major developments in the liturgy that were introduced in the wake of Vatican II", such as altar girls. "Likewise, the text does not veto dancing, clapping or the use of guitars during Mass," adds the report appreciatively.

Elsewhere, in a Letter of 30 April, the duplicitous New Zealand bishops feigned solidarity with RS, before decrying those "people who look mainly to the regulations themselves – fearing abuses, watching out for them, expecting to see them…, they are focusing mainly on correctness… The purpose of this Instruction, namely, the elimination of abuses," they concluded, "will be achieved less through preoccupation with regulations and concern for correctness (often accompanied by campaigns and accusations), than by good catechesis on the meaning of the liturgy and each of its parts."

This holier than thou reproach from arguably the most Protestantised and treacherous episcopate in the West: overseers of a moribund local Church which they have long abandoned to ravening wolves, liturgical and otherwise. Yet not content with ignoring perennial petitions from their flock to stem the impious flood of liturgical abuse, pleas totally vindicated by the publication of RS, the Kiwi hirelings now use that very Instruction as a vehicle to lambaste and mock these souls for faithfully "fearing abuses, watching out for them" and, thanks to episcopal neglect, "expecting to see them." The perversity of "diabolically disoriented" prelates is, indeed, a bottomless pit.

And so, as Redemptionis Sacramentum disappears beneath the piles of social justice declarations, vacuous Pastorals, corrosive ‘renewal’ programmes, parish closure/cluster policy initiatives, lay empowerment White Papers, corporate mission charters and glossy synodal brochures – as one more Vatican document sinks without trace under all this godless bureaucratic blather, the universal statement of episcopal intent is crystal clear: ‘liturgical business as usual.’

"Let them interpret…"

Moreover, Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, himself ensured this episcopal negation of his own Instruction.

At the launch of RS on 23 April, in response to a query about the document’s reaffirmation that a Catholic in grave sin must go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion and how it might apply to stridently pro-abortion presidential candidate John Kerry, His Eminence confidently declared: "The Church exists in the United States. There are bishops there, let them interpret it."

This open invitation is music to the ears of hirelings like England’s Bishop Kieran Conry. The embodiment of Modernist episcopal disdain for the Holy Sacrifice, he recently dismissed a concern raised about priestless parishes, seeing them as the work of the Holy Spirit providing greater opportunities for the laity. Reminded that the laity cannot say Mass, he replied: "Well we have had too many Masses in the past. Priests are not Mass-machines. They have many other things to do."

Let them interpret?

Though clearly intended in the sense of orthodox interpretation according to the mind and law of the Church, in those three words Cardinal Arinze inadvertently summed up the abdication of Vatican governance which underlies the very Novus Ordo catastrophe he is trying to redress. It as good as affirmed ongoing, licentious ‘interpretations’ by the likes of Conry: liberal and lukewarm prelates elevated by the Holy Father and collegially empowered to neutralise Roman directives with impunity - safe in the knowledge that non-compliance means, at worst, a slap across the wrist with a spear of wet asparagus.

Let them interpret? We can count on it.

Subjective tension

Which brings us to the second principal reason that RS was neutered on release: the Novus Ordo per se.

After all, what is the New Mass if not a self-defeating exercise in subjective ecumenical détente: a garbled liturgical pastiche in which interpretation is everything.

Redemptionis Sacramentum simply mirrors this tendency inherent in the Rite it seeks to reform. Despite firm and unyielding appearances, every other paragraph exudes ‘subjective tension’, as the various factions in the Roman curia slug it out, tit for tat, before finally cancelling out any hope of genuine reform.

Ninety per cent of RS #47, for instance, lauds and promotes altar boys, only for the Modernists to insert a final nullifying nod to "girls and women" also being "admitted to this service of the altar." The curial neo-cons get their way in #92, indicating that receiving Communion on the tongue is "always" permitted while warning against the dangers of Communion in the hand which, it confirms, is not a right but a privilege permitted only when approved by both the bishops’ conference and the Holy See. Yet this clarification is hollow, since Communion in the hand is almost everywhere the norm!

And so it goes: current Novus Ordo travesties reinforced in one breath only to be contradicted or called into question in the next.

Again, we are told in #13: "The Liturgy, among its different moments and signs, cannot neglect that of silence." Yet, rather than reintroducing the secret prayers of the priest or banning the likes of guitars and youth jamborees to facilitate this goal, the continued balkanization of parish life is immediately encouraged, each Pastor being urged to customise his Masses: "… giving due attention to the different categories of people: children, youth, adults, the elderly and the disabled. All must feel welcome in our assemblies, so as to be able to breathe the atmosphere of the first believing community." Multiple voices clamouring for their own ‘needs’ sounds more like a recipe for liturgical Babel than parish unity in silence.

And speaking of the noise, agitation and fragmentation that typifies parish liturgies, the most illustrative example of the futility of trying to stabilise the New Rite is RS #39, which deals with the old "active participation" chestnut. The greater part of this section is filled with red-rag-to-Modernist-bull passages like this:

"[A]mple flexibility is given for appropriate creativity aimed at allowing each celebration to be adapted to the needs of the participants, to their comprehension, their interior preparation and their gifts, according to the established liturgical norms. In the songs, the melodies, the choice of prayers and readings, the giving of the homily, the preparation of the prayer of the faithful, the occasional explanatory remarks, and the decoration of the Church building according to the various seasons, there is ample possibility for introducing into each celebration a certain variety …"

A belated final sentence then seeks to offset too much "variety" with this limp rider: "Still, it should be remembered that the power of the liturgical celebrations does not consist in frequently altering the rites, but in probing more deeply the word of God and the mystery being celebrated." Emphasis given in a few ensuing paragraphs to the importance of ‘interior participation’ also seems a bit pointless given the "ample flexibility" and "appropriate creativity" options already lauded.

Of a piece with all this endless fudging is the glaring failure of RS to proscribe once and for all "creative" innovations like so-called ‘liturgical dance.’ Yet, as we have seen, it is also perfectly in keeping with the character of it’s curial overseer.

Problematic Prince

While lamenting last year that dance in the liturgy "is spreading like wildfire in all the continents," Cardinal Arinze has actually left the door slightly ajar in this regard. Certainly, the Cardinal is highly critical of ‘liturgical dance,’ telling its proponents to use the parish hall instead of the house of God for such profane activities. Yet, in true Novus Ordo spirit, he qualifies his opposition.

"There is a difference between those who come in procession at Offertory," he told the US Apostolate for Family Consecration in July 2003. "They bring their gifts, with joy. There is a movement of the body right and left. They bring their gifts to God. That is good, really. And some of the choir, they sing. They have a little bit of movement. Nobody is going to condemn that. And when you are going out again, a little movement, it’s all right."

Effectively, however, conceding ground to such swaying movements is a green light for dancing motions during processions. I once sat through an Offertory procession in a German parish church conducted by a group of gyrating African ladies who took more than 5 minutes to boogie down the very short nave, much to the horror of the elderly Germans in the pews. It was excruciating: the sort of black comedy (s’cuse pun) which easily escalates to dance elsewhere in the Mass.

It seems that the contents of a Vatican Instruction cannot be divorced from its overseer, and Cardinal Arinze is nothing if not a product of his time: a charming, smiling Novus Ordo prelate with an endless capacity to fudge, especially in the ecumenical arena.

In his book Church in Dialogue, for instance, His Eminence claims, among other spurious things, that "Divination carries with it talismans and many [African] rites … which are intended to promote life." And he welcomes the fact that Africans today are "reactivating this dynamic vision of the universe" [p. 52].

Such positive spin about African animist/voodoo practices is absurd and dangerous. And it echoes the Holy Father’s own fond memory of having prayed with animists at the Lake Togo sanctuary on 8 August 1985 [L’Osservatore Romano, 26/8/85, p. 9].

In response, I simply refer readers to the sobering testimony of exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth in the March CO. ‘Life promoting’ is not a description of voodoo and animism you will find there!

Born into a Nigerian tribal faith, Cardinal Arinze converted to Catholicism at age 9. He served as a priest, bishop and archbishop in his home country before being called to the Vatican in the mid-1980s. "He has travelled the world since then," stated a March 1999 report on an interreligious assembly the Cardinal attended in Dallas, "meeting everyone from Anglicans to Zoroastrians, winning friends if not necessarily converts." Indeed.

Asked by the news director of a Dallas radio station during the assembly: "So you can still get to heaven without accepting Jesus?" Cardinal Arinze answered: "Expressly, yes."

He went on during a group discussion: "Even in the Catholic Church we do not hold that we have the clear idea on every point ... When people meet in interreligious dialogue, the end isn’t to convince the other person to cross over to my religion .... [they] should be open to conversion in another sense - conversion to God, in the sense of openness to God: that is, the action of God in us. After all, religion is not what we achieve in our Catholic Belief: it is merely what God works in us if only we will allow him."

Understandably flabbergasted by this novel exposition, a representative of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization exclaimed: "I’m amazed. I’m amazed."

To which the laughing Cardinal replied: "You thought I was a fundamentalist."

No, Eminence. Like the Brahma Kumaris rep, we all thought you were a Catholic!

Irreformable Rite

Cardinal Arinze thus embodies the subjective nub of the problem faced by his own document and all Vatican liturgical Instructions: endless private interpretation. A contrived problem unique to the New Rite, it is simply not an issue with the Traditional Mass.

A dozen years ago I wrote a book about the destruction of a beautiful parish church and the faith of its people. To this day I doubt that even the exemplary Catholics who fought the Modernist clergy who perpetrated that heinous crime fully realise that it could never have happened under the Traditional Mass. This God-given protective instrument par excellence would have been an insuperable barrier to the physical, doctrinal, moral and devotional damage wrought by the Modernist clergy. While largely saving the priests from themselves and thus the parishioners from the priests, it would have protected both the Faith and the church architecture.

In comparison, attending the New Mass is like sitting in a room opposite a pit bull terrier on a lead: the level of anxiety of those in the room is entirely dependent on the goodwill of the handler. In other words, the sort of Mass one encounters depends on the relative orthodoxy of the priest, his personality and ego: how he "interprets" the Mass. Yet if it is the priest who protects the New Mass, it is a combination of the tamper-proof Latin language, fixed readings and precise movements and gestures of the Old Mass which protect the priest from himself, and so guard the God-centred worship and integrity of the Faith expressed in its formulations and prayers, ancient and sublime.

This is all to say that despite the best efforts of RS - and even if Cardinal Arinze were St. Pius V - the Novus Ordo is irreformable of itself. Thirty-five anarchical years of ever burgeoning options and interpretations have only confirmed what many have long protested: that endless cutting-and-pasting in the form of Vatican instructions, amendments and revisions - like the new English translation of the 1974 Missal which is finally rectifying some infamous mistranslations - can never extinguish the Masonic and Protestant spirit breathed into the bones of the Novus Ordo by Archbishop Bugnini and Pope Paul respectively.

Always evolving and mutating in opposition to the fixed and solemn principles of Catholic worship, it is precisely this alien "spirit" which has produced the catastrophic fruits noted by Dr. Geoffrey Hull in The Banished Heart:

"The millions of Latin Catholics who have quietly given up the practice of their faith since the Second Vatican Council, have done so in the context of the official liturgical reform, emblematic of a novel religion of ‘options’ with a God of modern devising, who makes few demands and refuses to condemn."

Pernicious Pedigree

The history of the Novus Ordo is the key to the calamity.

We are talking about a Rite of Mass literally cobbled together by a committee under the direction of a Freemason, Msgr Bugnini, whose stated preference for secularism inspired his Modernist liturgical project (in defiance of the traditional intentions of the Council Fathers) the prototype of which was rejected out of hand by a special convocation of bishops in 1967, before resurfacing in 1969 to be approved by Pope Paul, who carelessly signed off a heretical definition of the Mass in the General Instruction of the New Missal (which also made no mention of transubstantiation, sacrifice or the Real Presence) and thus had to be recalled, corrected and reissued.

Not forgetting this damning recollection by Paul VI’s close friend and confidant, Jean Guitton, who confirmed that:

"… the intention of Pope Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy… there was with Pope Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or at least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist mass…" [CO, October 1994].

That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is the pernicious pedigree of the New Rite in a nutshell.

The final liturgical outcome of such a sinister process is surely not something in which an informed and honest Catholic layman can have any confidence, let alone any well-grounded hope that it might eventually be tamed and Catholicised.

He may dutifully attend the New Rite and hope for the best - pray that the liturgical beast is not let loose by an egotistical handler; that his faith is not too diminished by regular exposure to its corrosive spirit. But even the best presentation of such a contrived liturgical product can never win his heart and soul, devotion and love, like the genuine article honed by living tradition over centuries and consecrated with the blood of martyrs.

Yes, as always, we must utilise this latest Instruction as best we can to help protect the New Mass from itself – from the casual disobedience, sacrilege and blasphemy that has come to define it almost universally.

Yet against the noxious roots of the protestantised liturgy it sought to reform and the fatal subjectivism exuded by its own authors and enactors, Redemptionis Sacramentum never stood a chance.

Truly, it was dead on arrival.

Requiescat in pace.