Liturgy & Priesthood

Tears welled up in my eyes — again — at Mass last Sunday. It was not always so. As a former Baptist I used to think the Catholic Mass was a sacrilege and an abomination. How could anyone worship a piece of bread? Really!

However, last Sunday I was overcome with emotion while sitting in an older Catholic church in a relatively poor area of town during a “normal” Sunday Mass. Why? Let me explain.
Dad reading
(Picture: Me on the right with the best dad in the world and brother David after going to Joy Road Baptist Church)

But first I have to take a step back in time to my delightful childhood.

The door of our Baptist church opened and the early arrivers stepped in with well-worn Bibles under their arms and colorful ties snugged up tight around the neck. Children with cute bow ties and frilly dresses were herded in and dropped off at Sunday School. Women adjusted their hats and smiled at all their friends.

It was always the same — enter the church with chattering friendliness accompanied by the organ or piano to set the mood. Everyone takes their place in the padded pews. The pastor steps up to the front and welcomes everyone, especially any visitors. They are asked to fill out the “Visitor Card” in the pews in front of them.

Then we all stand as he opens in a solemn and often wordy prayer.  A number is called out and we all grabbed our hymnal and proved we were real Christians by belting out the song, not just the first verse, but verses 1, 2 and 5.

For the rest of the story, click here.

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A question on Mass-start times that warrants attention

by Dr. Edward Peters

Recalling, in the wake of a some recent discussions of Mass obligations, that I had promised some time ago to set out some materials for use in reasoning through another Mass attendance question, I offer some of that now.

This question concerns, What is the earliest a Mass on the ‘evening of the preceding day’ (c. 1248 § 1) can start and still satisfy one’s Sunday or holy day Mass attendance obligation? This question is not another aspect of the ‘two-for-one’ Mass idea or what texts and readings need to be used for Mass to satisfy an attendance obligation. It is simply, What is earliest Mass may start on the day previous to an attendance-obligation day and still count toward one’s obligation for that next day?

Now, it is very common, at least in English-speaking North America, to answer that question with “Four PM”, meaning that, only a Mass beginning after 4 PM on the day preceding that for which one is obligated to attend satisfies one’s Mass attendance obligation. The reason for this near ‘universal’ response is “Dr. John Huels says so.” And indeed he does: “‘Evening’ should be understood as anytime from 4:00 pm onward. The legislator uses the word ‘evening’ (vesper) not ‘afternoon’ (post meridiem); in keeping with the proper meaning of the word (cf. c. 17) an afternoon Mass before 4:00 pm is not an evening Mass and does not satisfy the [attendance] obligation.” CLSA New Comm (2001) 1445.

When Huels talks liturgy, people listen. And they should. But what qualifies as a ‘universal’ response in canon law goes considerably beyond what English-speaking North America might hold (even if it is held for very good reasons). Consider these overseas canonical commentaries, three of which hold for a noon start-time and one of which holds for a 2:00 pm start time (my emphasis in each).

From Spain: [A]s far as the [understanding of the previous] day is concerned [c. 1248 § 1] expands the schedule to twelve on the eve of the feast day.” Exegetical Comm III/2 (2004): 1901.

From Great Britain and Ireland: What is the ‘evening of the previous day’? Despite the view of some commentators that this [phrase] should be interpreted beginning only at 1400 hours (2 pm) on that day, it is the firm view of this commentary that the evening of the previous day begins at midday (12 noon) on that day itself. GB&I Comm (1985) 702.

From Spain: En cuanto a la expressión ‘el día anterior por la tarde’, oficialmente se aclaró: ‘Expresamente se utiliza una fórmula general para evitar casuismos y ansiedades. Con todo certeza se cumple el precepto mediante la participación en cualquier Misa del sábado por la tarde’. Código edición comentada (1985) 594.

From Italy: La celebrazione, però, della domenica e delle solennità inizia dai vespri del giorno precedente … ossia, secondo una fondata interpretazione, ab hora secunda post meridiem.  Chiappetta II (2011): 522.

Plainly, these scholarly authorities hold for a start-time much earlier than is argued for by Huels. But, even if these overseas authors are not correct (and Huels has some good arguments besides Canon 17 on his side, though, frankly, so do the others), they constitute, I think, a large enough school of thought to allow for doubt of law considerations to enter this discussion in support Catholics who hold any Mass attended beginning at 12:00 noon of the day previous as satisfying their next-day attendance obligation.

Bottom line, this very practical question question (unlike the two mentioned above, over which there is no serious dispute among experts) needs to be investigated more fully, and settled authoritatively.

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Heretic for Desiring Women’s Ordination?

by Steve Ray on October 31, 2014

Since, you asked, Walter, no, you are not a heretic, but…

by Dr. Edward Peters

Walter Sandell. … “I wonder if I’m a heretic for believing in, and supporting, the ordination of women. I would be a hypocrite if I kept silent about this issue …”

I don’t know (and it doesn’t matter) who
“Walter Sandell” is, but his pointed-yet-polite question (posted in a combox following Mary Ann Walsh’s recent unfocused essay in America) deserves a pointed-yet-polite (and of course, accurate) answer, so here it is: No, Walter, you are not a heretic for “believing in, and supporting, the ordination of women” but you do seem opposed to the teaching of the Church. That’s bad, to be sure, but it’s a different kind of bad.

In order to be a “heretic” one must, among other things, obstinately deny or doubt “some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” (c. 751). Such truths are understood as being “contained in the word of God”, and as “divinely revealed”, and as pertaining “to the one deposit of faith” (c. 750 § 1). The point to grasp, though, is that heresy and the consequences of heresy (chiefly excommunication per c. 1364) arise only in the context of matters proposed for belief.

But the Church’s refusal to extend priestly ordination to women is not, at least not according to the flagship document dealing with this question, John Paul II ap. lit. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994), proposed as requiring that Catholics accord belief (credenda) to the assertion that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”, but rather, as requiring that Catholics definitively hold (tenenda) that the Church has no such authority. The difference is important.

That the Church can impose for definitive adherence by the faithful some assertions that do not demand belief does not imply that some truths are “less true” than others, but rather, that some truths, though not revealed by God, are nevertheless so important for the support of revealed truths that they, too, must be able to be known and proclaimed with certainty. This notion of a “hierarchy of truths” is reflected in Canon 750—a norm that is just the tip of a magisterial iceberg—but, fascinating as exploring that might be, to answer Walter’s specific question about whether he is a heretic, one need only realize that the assertion in Ordinatio does not require belief and so its rejection cannot be “heresy”.

That said, though Walter would ‘walk’ on a heresy charge, he seems to reject a proposition that is “to be held definitively” and therefore he seems “opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.” Thus, assuming satisfaction of some other canonical elements of the crime, Walter seems at risk of committing a delict punishable under Canon 1371, 1° not with excommunication, I grant, but still by a “just penalty”. Even in age in which one cannot imagine ecclesiastical authority taking action against him for having published his opposition to Church teaching in this area, Walter should reconsider his opposition to that teaching, and, at the very least, refrain from proclaiming it publicly.

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Vatican: Avoid Excesses at Sign of Peace during Mass

August 1, 2014

Catholic World News - August 01, 2014 The Vatican said that some widespread practices—such as lengthy interludes in which the priest leaves the altar and/or the faithful leave their pews; the introduction of a “song of peace;” and the exchange of congratulations or condolences on special occasions—are inappropriate during the Eucharistic liturgy. These practices, the Vatican’s [...]

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Should Priests Wear their Collars?

June 14, 2014

Msgr. Dolan always wears his clerical collar. In fact, when he was interviewed by CBC Television’s Evan Solomon last year during the height of "The Da Vinci Code" movie controversy, he showed his empty closet, bare except for a few black shirts and slacks off the sparely furnished bedroom bed at his residence in Montreal. [...]

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Mega-church Mania: One Mom’s Observations (she’s a good writer) and Observations from the Early Church

June 2, 2014

Mr. Ray, My eldest daughter invited me to my grandson’s ‘dedication’ at her new place of worship.  Worship? Sorry. Her new place of…..well, the giant Olympic-sized structure that, after being directed in by police/traffic officers, upon entering, reminded me of a mall.  Oh and by the way, I didn’t witness any worship. My 1st thoughts were…”Wow! [...]

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Mass with 2 Protestants and 1 Crucifix

May 8, 2014

A while ago we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar.  I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same – ”CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS [...]

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What Does God See When He Opens His Eyes?

March 8, 2014

Recently we went to Mass with two Protestants.  As we walked in the door — there it was, as big as life — a CRUCIFIX with the Body of Our Lord hanging over the altar. I knew what the Protestants were thinking — I used to think the same – ”CATHOLICS ARE WRONG, JESUS IS NO LONGER [...]

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Mass with the Local Christians in Jerusalem

January 26, 2014

Wonder what it is like to join the local Christians for Sunday morning Mass in the Holy Land? Well, now you will know. As is our pleasurable habit, Janet and I arrive a little ahead of our pilgrimage group to make sure everything is set and ready for their arrival.  Today we joined the local [...]

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Humbling Message for Me from a New Priest

September 20, 2013

Dear Steve, Just a note to thank you for your apostolate and message boards. I first saw you at the very first Fullness of Truth Conference in Houston Texas, with Alex Jones, Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, ect. This conference was the crossroads where I had to face the Truth that Holy Mother Church was who, [...]

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Mysterious Priest Performs Miracle at Site of Mercedes Crash

August 8, 2013

by Rajah Maples, Posted: 08.06.2013 at 11:15 PM, Updated: 08.07.2013 at 4:30 PM CENTER, MO. – Rescue workers want to thank a higher power for coming to the rescue early Sunday morning. Emergency crews spent an hour and a half trying to extricate a 19-year-old Quincy woman trapped in her in crushed car on Missouri [...]

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Why Can’t Catholics Celebrate Mass where the First Mass was Celebrated – in the Upper Room?

July 18, 2013

Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin dismisses reports that Israel is planning to hand over control of the Tomb of King David to the Vatican. By Shimon Cohen, First Publish: 7/18/2013, 5:15 AM  See Steve Ray’s comments at the end of the article Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) on Wednesday dismissed recent reports that Israel is planning [...]

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Canon Lawyer Ed Peters Comments on Vatican Press Offices Unfortunate Comments about Disregard for Liturgical Law with Foot-washing

April 1, 2013

UPDATE 4/6/13 Ed Peters Responds to a critic Ed Peters Discusses Disregard for Liturgical Law in Washing Women’s Feet and Unhelpful Response from the Vatican Press Office. http://wp.me/p25nov-AP The background to this controversy is the antinomianism that prevails today. The Church is passing through a period in which the relationship between ecclesiastical law and the [...]

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Annual Lenten Foot-fight: Women’s Feet Washed on Holy Thursday

March 26, 2013

The Annual Lenten Foot-fight by Dr. Edward Peters “The annual Lenten foot-fight is almost upon us. Again. “May I suggest that discussion of this matter begin with what canon and liturgical law actually say (and don’t say) about the Mandatum rite, and that serious attention be given, if not this year then next, to eliminating [...]

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Primer on the Mass

March 25, 2013

A while ago I sat with a Protestant friend who came to Mass with me. To help him understand what was going on I wrote this short Primer on the Mass for him in advance. The Mass can be very confusing, even intimidating I wanted to make sure he understood how the Mass was tied [...]

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If Only Our Eyes Could See

March 24, 2013

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see what the angels see. We are so limited in the mortal bodies.

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