The new Mass: where Rome goes wrong?

“Clayboy” – Anglican priest Doug Chaplin from Worchestershire, UK, diocesan worship adviser – examines the upcoming Roman Catholic translation of the Mass:
The New Mass: where Rome goes wrong?”


  1. “The church is not either local or catholic, it can only be truly either by being truly both.”

    This may get at the heart of the issue like nothing else has. Is the church supposed to be Roman or catholic, and is it really possible for it to be both? If it’s Roman, then all the dioceses outside Rome really are branch offices of the franchise HQ. A Roman church in middle America is something foreign. A local church (in the canonical sense) in middle America that is in communion with the local church of Rome, through the communion of their bishops – now that would be closer to the ecclesiological tradition shared by all of Christianity. It would also obviate much of the discouraging drama we’ve been undergoing. Sure, there would be more variety, but what is so bad about that, if it gives authentic expression to the Mystery we celebrate in our mysteries?

    1. “A Roman church in middle America is something foreign”. Is that true of the Byzantines and Maronites too. I don’t think you appreciate the importance of our liturgical rite. The Roman Catholic tradition has been in America for five centuries.

    1. It depends… The real question is, if you aren’t actually from Rome, can you be authentically Roman, and so ‘remain “Roman”‘ in any meaningful sense? If not, and you’re yet striving to be Roman, thus to be inauthentic, are you then capable of being authentically Catholic, which, it would seem, calls for a degree of at least striving toward the goal of authenticity. It seems to me much more likely that a church could be authentically Indianapolitan (for example) Catholic, and thus more easily remain (as the Indianapolitan Catholic Church) in authentic communion with the Catholic Church of Rome (still the Ecumenical Primatial See, in this imagining), partially because this would fully express a communion between two genuinely local and genuinely Catholic churches. Or perhaps there would be a communion of various Catholic Churches in the US in a Holy Synod of Bishops, the which would be in communion with a Roman Holy Synod of Bishops via the communion of the US Primate (perhaps the ‘Patriarch of Baltimore’) and the Bishop/Patriarch/Pope of Rome.

      I’m really just pointing out a departure from the ancient and pre-Carolingian medieval church tradition, namely the Catholic Church being structured as a communion of catholic churchES, no more Roman than Constantinopolitan or Alexandrian or Antiochian. This departure from our shared tradition seems to be at the root of the current animus over the very thing that constitutes each local church, and thus makes possible the communion of churches – the celebration of the Eucharist.

    2. But we are Latin, members of the Latin Church just as Maronites in the USA and Canada (or Europe) are Maronite. By the way, Maronites are also “Roman” Catholics.

      How much of this discomfort with Rome is really grounded in a search for some kind of disciplinary and even doctrinal autonomy? No thanks.

      1. Doctrinal autonomy would be extremely problematic, I agree, and I don’t think that any bishop should claim it, or listen to others who claim it for him. Merely disciplinary autonomy would be consistent with the common tradition of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, and would include, among other things, the translation and even composition of liturgical texts, which would, of course, have to meet with standards of orthodoxy (in both of its meantings – praise and thought).

  2. As Rita and others have consistently stated over and over again, this project is about ecclesiology. We are first CATHOLIC – then, that unity of faith is expressed in various cultures, nations and by various languages.

    Unity is not defined as uniformity – yes, all experts see the wisdom in some shared liturgical structures (GIRM); shared commons, shared liturgical hymns/history.

    But, we do a disservice to Vatican II, to liturgical experience over the centuries, and to our own ecclesiology when we restrict our concept of church and limit and define it by “Roman”, “latin”, etc. We need to learn from the eastern half of our church; we need to learn from various sanctioned rites, etc. They are as catholic as we and yet do not revolve around the secondary terms of “Roman” or “latin”.

    Would suggest that you have turned ecclesiology on its head by starting with Roman or Latin and then moving on to catholic and church.

    1. These sanctioned (Eastern) rites that you describe Bill do maintain their liturgical discipline among their members throughout the world including the same translation. The Maronites just went through this with their Qurbono. For us Latins, it is often what is Roman about us that keeps us Catholic, IMHO.

      1. Jack – sorry but you are comparing apples to oranges. There are a number of “very old” rites granted papal approval that do have issues with its translations, vernaculars, and “original” language….e.g.Greek Orthodox use Byzantine Greek texts but Slavonic vernacular for the Russian Orthodox followed by modern Russian. Think that other rites have run into the same issues.

        In addition, it appears going forward that Rome will likely only grant these types of examples – from 1988, The Roman Rite for the Dioceses of Zaire. In this way, we arrive at both/and – encultration within the structure of the Roman Liturgy.

        The ongoing tension is how to interpret and implement the phrase – “substantial unity of the Roman Rite” while allowing for cultural adaptations which even LA recognizes.

      2. Perhaps, Jack, but keep in mind that the Eastern Rites only have to seek the approbation of their respective Synods for their translations. They are not subjected to scrutiny and unnecessary alteration by the CDWDS, nor required to seek confirmation from the Holy See.

  3. Bill: “We need to learn from the eastern half of our church; we need to learn from various sanctioned rites, etc. ”

    Well, our Roman rite has two forms, and one of them has countless variations. How many do you want?

      1. Three, actually — St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, and St. James. Plus the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. And the Offices, which have a higher public profile than they do in most Latin Rite churches.

        And then, each of these liturgies exists with variations in each of the Byzantine Rite churches — Albanian and Italo-Albanian, Macedonian, Greek and Melkite, and the various Slavic national churches.

  4. Two forms – recent development that has significant negative impact on our ecclesiology. One rite with various national, cultural, linguistic expressions – not much different that what happened for centuries. Pecklers in his new book states that the Roman or Latin Rite as many define it really only existed for roughly 250 years – it was substantially changed over time and the usual belief that there was one, unified liturgical form, expression never really existed.

    JN – you missed my point. Agree that these Eastern rites maintian their liturgical discipline – and we can learn from them. You focus on their sameness – I focus on other attributes and what they speak to the current Roman Rite.

    Would not agree that “what is Roman about us keeps us Catholic” for any number of reasons:
    – historically the church has been through a shift/transition from Jerusalem and Jewish-Christian faith to a Gentile-Christian and Rome based Church; who is to say that will not change some time in the future (read J. Allen’s Future Church and his trends)
    – some of the documents of VII especially focused on our shared catholic faith which expresses truths that go way beyond the concept of “Roman”
    – what do our dogmas on faith say about the church – do we confess the Roman Catholic Church or one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church?
    – as you look at scripture – does it speak to a “Roman” Catholic Church?
    – if you define Roman as consisting of the notion of apostolic succession; papal primacy; etc.; we would probably agree to disagree. Historically, we are both/and – notion of papal primacy that exists within the context that each bishop, council, etc. exercises the fullness of power/authority in union with the pope – not a top down, hierarchical understanding and also not each bishop doing his own thing
    – would suggest that since Trent and especially since Vatican I, we have seen an overcentralization of Roman papal authority.

  5. and unfortunately one would have to add “and even more especially since Vatican II” — the church is more centralized in 2010 than it has ever been.

    1. Mr. O’Leary,

      Sadly, your last is so true. A serious disadvantage of the improvements in communications during the last couple of centuries. Is Vatican II the right marker, though? How about the late 1970s?

    1. OK. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention then; my question was an honest, not snarky, one. Thank you.

  6. With reference to papal primacy, two models of it, western and eastern, have existed side by side since time immemorial. To look for a time when the Roman model of papal authority came first, only to be rejected by a “disobedient” eastern church, is to search for something that never was.

  7. I think papal primacy reaches its insane zenith with the utterances of Gregory VII and Boniface VIII. Vatican I defined it rigorously — the Pope has direct jurisdiction over every Roman Catholic, he is an absolute monarch, but only in the spiritual realm. I propose that in a reunited Christian Church the Pope could remain the primate of Roman Catholics and merely the primus inter pares among all Christian leaders.

    1. From what I’ve learned of papal history, the assumption of power by the bishop of Rome had a very great deal more to do with temporal wealth and power than anything spiritual. The case for absolute monarchy is really very poor.

      Martin Luther wasn’t entirely wrong.

    2. Therein lies the problem: no other church sees its chief leader as having direct authority over its members. If he would be primus inter pares among us all, as Bishop of Rome, he must be primus inter pares among the bishops of his own church first.

    3. Like so many other useful ideas about organizational structure, this one has inflated itself so as to grossly exceed its usefulness. I’d have no trouble with the primus inter pares if the emphasis weren’t so heavily on ‘primus’ and pretty much not at all on ‘inter pares’. Just for a superficial starter, it’s a long way from the humility one might reasonably expect from the ‘servant of the servants of God’.

  8. The notion of “primus inter pares” has been strongly advocated for all large organizations by Robert Greenleaf in his book Servant Leadership. Greenleaf called himself a student of organization, and until he retired in 1964 from AT&T (the largest corporation at that time) held positions which he himself had created.

    Greenleaf was very much against hierarchical management in which everyone reports to one person. He was for group management; indeed management by two groups: a Board of Trustees which would provide the mission and vision, and a management group which would take care of operations.

    Although Geenleaf’s book has been very influential with organizations that wish to empower their employees and serve their customers, very few have formally tried to make “primus inter pares” work at either the Board or management level. John Carver, a consultant, has tried very much to implement Greenleaf’s ideas of what a Board should be, e.g. separating board and management, trying to make each equally powerful but different in function.

    As someone who has been a member of several senior management groups, my experience is that they work well only when the everyone (including the CEO) behaves as a group of equals who value each others skills, divide up the work, and spend very little time in meetings. Otherwise senior management meetings are mostly about people trying to do other people’s jobs, and they lead to poor management. When senior management gets it together as a community, it is a beautiful and spiritual experience, really a grace.

  9. The classical notion of primus inter pares, applied to the papcy, would seem to be that the Bishop/Patriarch of Rome would be primarily concerned with the Diocese of Rome, and primatially concerned with facilitating the communication / communion of bishops within his patriarcharchal synod (which wouldn’t need to go anywhere beyond Italy, I think), and then with convening the other patriarchs for gatherings, or all bishops for councils, in a ‘chairman of the board’ sort of way. This way, the “Ecumencial Patriarch of Rome” would exercise a ministry of ‘strengthening the brethren,’ but would not be ‘over’ any other bishop. This would be a touch messier, but, to my mind, more authentic, and would allow for a more egalitarian, free and therefore genuine communion among bishops.

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