Remember Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin?  He told his diocese that communion under both kinds would be limited to “the Chrism Mass, the Feast of Corpus Christi, … the bride and groom at a Nuptial Mass, and [to] those so allergic to wheat that they cannot tolerate even low-gluten hosts.”

Now he has written a column in his diocesan newspaper on beauty and truth in the liturgy.

Like many essays of a similar stripe, this one starts out positive but turns to the negative.   After a quick swipe at Lady Gaga – and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to bring her work into the liturgy – the column zooms in on the Marty Haugen song, “All Are Welcome.”  You can find its lyrics online, but the bit that the bishop finds offensive is the chorus:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

He says to us that this cannot possibly be “appropriate-for-liturgical-use” because the chorus is not true and hence not beautiful.

And why is it untrue?  In Bishop Morlino’s words, because “People who have little interest in doing God’s Will don’t fit at the liturgy.”  Very well, then, let us bring back the ostiarii, in case someone who has little interest in doing God’s will turns up in the narthex.  Have these visitors committed sexual impurity?  Have they even thought about doing so?  Out with them.  Has this man called his neighbor “fool”?  There’s the exit door.   Has this woman been greedy, loving money more than she loves her neighbor?   Sorry, not welcome here.

Eventually, the saintly Bishop and a few of his true followers – a very few – can celebrate Mass on their own, perhaps rewriting Haugen’s words:

Few are welcome, few are welcome,
Few are welcome in this place.

But it’s not only unworthy humans whom Bishop Morlino wants to exclude.  He continues:  “… certainly, by their own choosing, the poor souls who suffer in Hell for all eternity are not welcome. Those are simple, but true facts.”

No false facts here!  Apparently the threat of an errant lost soul weighs heavily on the Bishop, because a commenter reported that he had repeated this theme in a recent speech.   Until I read his article I had supposed that Hell was a sufficiently stout prison to keep any soul from escaping.  But perhaps CS Lewis was right in his speculation about a refrigerium (see his The Great Divorce).  We could post signs at church doors: “No sinners!  No lost souls!”  That would keep the riff-raff away.

A chilling Jansenism is creeping over the Church. It seems to begin with people who celebrate “for you and for many” in the new, bungled translation; goes on with bishops who want to exclude erring politicians from Communion while turning a blind eye to us sinners in the pews; and continues with nonsense like Bishop Morlino’s essay.

If anyone manages to sneak out of Hell and turns up in my parish church, I shall welcome them warmly.  And although my weekly musical diet at Mass is Byrd and Mozart, Palestrina and Buxtehude, the next time I am given an opportunity to sing “All Are Welcome” I will do so with vigor and conviction.

Jonathan Day is a consultant and writer; he is also the chairman of the parish council of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception (Farm Street) in central London.

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