“I’ll report you to the Pope”

True story. Someplace “out East” (as we say in the Midwest). Second Sunday of Advent. Pastor began Mass by reporting that he received an angry letter from a parishioner. Seems the priest had changed all the words of the Mass last Sunday, even the consecration. “If you don’t stop this immediately, I’ll report you to the Pope.”


  1. Enjoyed your talk last night in Columbus, Father! You could have really brought down the house with this story!

  2. Ha! When I first saw ‘East’, I thought it was somewhere in Russia. Then I realized it could be anywhere on the Eastern seaboard.
    Are there still many people interested in what the Pope has to say?

  3. Pshaw…. we easterners are in no way more improvisational liturgically than midwesterners. We just do it more boldly. (WHich Saint was it who said, “Sin boldly!”)

    1. JS –
      The ‘saint’ who said ‘sin boldly’ was no saint.
      He was none other than Martin Luther.
      I don’t recommend following his advice.

      1. Don’t let the Lutheran Padre Dave Poedel who posts on this site hear you 🙂
        Maybe we should listen to some of their (his) advice…. many Lutherans behave more Christian than some temple police Catholics that I know. “You shall know they are Mine by the fruit of their labor”.

      2. I don’t think Marty was actually telling us to go and sin. Just like— who was it who said: “Love God, then do what you will” wasn’t saying after professing love for God was a ticket to letting helll break loose.

        I think –I hope– what Maritn meant was don;t be like that guy who buried his talents instead of taking the risk of investing them for a greater return. We can be so overcome be an (unhealthy) sin of sin that we are paralyzed from doing anything good. Hence, I think Martin was telling us: take the risk. If you mean good, take the risk.

      3. It was Augustine of Hippo – ama et quod vis fac. Augustine’s
        naming of his son, Adeodatus caused a wise old teacher to comment: “That’s rather a shifting of responsibilities, don’t you think!”

  4. Yes, Claire, there are still people interested in what the Pope has to say, even some non-Roman Catholics! John, the “saint” you are referring to is Martin Luther.

  5. Reminds me of a question posed to one of my choir members shortly before Advent. After a year’s worth of bulletin articles, verbal announcements, parish-wide presentations, small group presentations, and teaching the new sung mass parts before every mass throughout the fall (and yes, that was all done by me personally), a parishioner asked one of my choir members, “Why is Anne making up words to all the songs?” (sigh)

  6. Hmmmm……. I wonder what would happen if everyone who didn’t like the new translation sent an angry letter to the Pope denouncing their pastor for changing the words!

  7. Well, I think ML meant precisely what he said, and that it came from his views on grace and atonement which, shall we say, differ somewhat from Catholic belief.
    And, I have no particular animus against the unfortunate man: I was choirmaster and organist at a fine Lutheran church for many years, continue to remember the pastor as far more Christian than many priests I know, and deeply respect them and their particular devoutedness. Still, they have no need of a pope… Luther is their pope throughout history.

  8. I wlil be disapointed if you don’t use this tomorrow in Detroit. Having read it the night before will make it no less hilarious.

    1. EL –
      An ‘unfortunate man’ because he was an incredibly tortured person who allowed his demons and his own pride to lead a large number of folk into heresies and forsaking unity with the Catholic Church; an endeavour which, as even the great Schiller wrote in his account of the thirty years’ war, would have gotten nowhere but for the self-serving connivance of a large portion of the German nobility.
      Nor do I write as an ultra-montane zealot: if the Church’s house had been in order the challenge from self-appointed deliverers such as Luther (not to mention Henry VIII.) would have had no appeal. As it was, these challenges were but the final straws from centuries of problems the Church could not bring itself effectively to confront and solve. I count The Church as almost equally culpable.

  9. Martin Luther’s use of the phrase “sin boldly” comes from a letter he wrote to Philip Melanchthon on August 1, 1521:

    “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.”

    [I, too, am a Lutheran pastor.]

    Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 48: Luther’s works, vol. 48 : Letters I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (281–282). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

  10. I thought that since 1999 the Roman Church has agreed that it has no fundamental disagreement with Luther about the interpretation of the doctrine of Justification (a Pauline doctrine by the way, not as some seem to imagine a Lutheran invention).

  11. Why should Luther not be regarded as a saint? Of course one can clock up his faults, but it would be easy to find the same or worse in many of the canonized saints.

    1. JO’L –
      Regard Luther a saint? Have you read his diatribes to the nobles during the Peasants’ War of 1524-1526, boldly exhorting them to the murder and slaughter of the peasants? (Not that these peasants were saints, either; but they, too, had just grievances, and ML played to his benefactors.)

      1. I won’t speak to the question of whether Martin Luther is a saint. I will note, however, that any number of the saints in our calendar did similar things. St. Bernard supported the crusades, to name one example.

  12. I’m a eucharistic minister in my parish and I find myself getting frustrated with a few ninnies who insist on making me place the host on their tongue. God gave them hands; use them! I know I should”t have but I couldn’t stop myself; last Sunday when one communicant came up and stuck out his tongue, I looked right at him and stuck out my tongue right back at him. To make a long story short, he complained to my pastor after mass and my priest reprimmanded me for sticking my tongue out at one of those holier than thou tongue twits. Am I the only one? Or does anyone else get tired of all the theatrical piety?

      1. Ms Lowenthal, troll or not, has opined here before. Her latest contribution, egregious though it be, is congruent with her level of populist outrage.

        Barbara Lowenthal on December 10, 2011 – 9:03 am

        Luckily for me, the Richmond, Virginia Diocese doesn’t concern itself with following all of the dictates from Rome. My Virginia Beach parish enjoys creativity in the liturgy. For example, we still sing “Prince of peace” and “Bread of Life” during the fracture(Agnus Dei). We don’t have to follow everything in the Roman Missal. I’m still purifying the vessels for my priest. I know for a fact that this is the practice at almost every parish in Va. Beach. Moral of this testimony: Just ignore the parts of the Roman Missal that you don’t like and do the parts that you can tolerate. We Celebrate! We Believe!


        Hang in there! We can overvome this ridiculous liturgical crackdown from the Rome. Let’s just keep praying that the next pope is a Vatican 2 pope. As an English speaking Catholic, I refuse to kneel at any part of the mass. When priests are required to kneel, then I’ll kneel. I knelt enough as a youngster and refuse to go there a again. We need to assert our baptismal rights at the table and stop walking on liturgical eggshells! WE are Church, NOT Rome! WE celebrate! WE believe!

    1. Actually, it’s nice that the church gives people the option of choosing whether to receive communion on the tongue or in their hand, rather than dictating that it is one way and one way only.

  13. Barbara… Consider your ministry, and who you are holding in your hands to share. Consider the person of Christ present in you and in the person with whom you are sharing the very presence of Christ. Consider the ramifications of what you did to the dignity of the eucharist, the dignity of the other person, your own dignity, and the dignity of Christ. Your frustration and anger must never become motivation for denying dignity to another person or the person of Christ.

  14. You stuck out you tongue in response to another person’s reverence for what is holy??? And you call him or her a ninny and a ‘tongue twit’??? And you say that you are an eucharistic minister???!!! This is astonishing arrogance and impropriety… and! just plain meanness! You are obviously in the wrong ministry.

  15. Many people aren’t aware Communion on the tongue is the universal liturgical law, and Communion on the hand is an indult (a special permission) specific to the United States. At my parish, on the UW Madison campus, most people receive Our Lord on the tongue.

    Barbara, I said some prayers for you. It is quite serious if an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is not respectful of those who receive on the tongue. If someone is not comfortable with distributing the Body of Christ on a communicant’s tongue then they shouldn’t be serving in that capacity.

    1. I’m sure it’s more than a special permission to the US. Receiving in the hand is the norm in Ireland and from my experience, in Germany.
      Receiving on the tongue is unhygienic.
      My intuition is that Barbara’s post is a set-up. Who is she trying to antagonise?

      1. Barbara, what a barbaric thought! You must be chuckling at how seriously some here are taking your parody. 🙂

      2. There are a few countries with an indult for Communion in the hand, however it is perfectly true that everywhere it exists, it is by indult, or disobedience. In some places (and in Eastern Christianity) of course the norm is Communion by intinction which is always received by mouth.

        Communion on the tongue prevents a lot of profanation. Its almost shocking intimacy calls to mind a kiss, or Jesus giving Judas the dipped morsel. When Communion is distributed by he priest, in the person of Christ, that aspect really comes through, that Jesus Himself gives Himself to us in love.

        I don’t think it’s as much a hygiene problem as Communion of the Precious Blood by the faithful. But neither is a serious issue.

    2. I received Communion in the hand in Monterosso and Florence Italy, and Stockholm, Sweden. Others in the congregation also received in the hand and the priest giving the Communion certainly had no problem with it.

      1. I have received Communion in the hand many times in Rome, in both parish and devotional churches. This use is sanctioned by the Italian bishops’ conference, and has been for some years.

      2. Only a few countries? I’ve received Communion in the hand in Canada, Austria, France, England, Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy. The only place I observed Communion not offered in the hand was Rome in 1985 and John says now they do give it that way throughout the conference.

        Just for the record, for the giving of Communion to make us recall Jesus dipping into the same dish with his betrayer is WAY out of court. What is our identity as the baptized? Christ’s betrayer? What a twisted spirituality would be betokened by such a comparison! If the image summoned up for people by this way of giving Communion is Judas just before he betrays Christ to his death, that’s a new reason to NOT take Communion on the tongue!

    1. Was he referring to people who appear to have too much piety or those who some view as not having enough piety, or both?

      1. How can you have too much piety? As long as it is real piety it shouldn’t be a problem.

        I am pretty sure that the Vatican said receiving on the tongue is the preferred way. Honestly, I have doubts that once the bread is turned into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ that germs would be able to live in it. We are talking of receiving a piece of God, not just a mere man. But it’s not really a problem anywhere I go to church.

      2. Too much piety can be a problem, as history shows, if it over-emphasizes secondary things and introduces a distortion. To name one example, scrupulosity is a well-known theme down the ages in confessors’ manuals.

        I appreciate your reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, but I’m pretty sure that orthodox Catholic theology would not make such a claim about germs. The symbol, what our tradition gradually began to call the “accidents,” remains very much in the natural realm with all the scientific qualities of nature, and it is precisely as such that it conveys grace, reveals God, truly makes present Christ’s body. It retains all the natural qualities of bread, such as containing germs.

        Lurking behind this is an important issue on the relationship between God and humanity, between grace and nature, between grace and sacramental symbols. Grace does not destroy nature, it perfects it; the divine nature of Jesus does not swallow up the human nature, it exists in true union with true distinction; liturgy does not “undo” the natural world, it makes use of the natural world as part of God’s blessed creation.


        Fr. Anthony

  16. Great story, Father!

    Barbara – I’m not sure whether your post was some kind of joke or provocation. If it is, then it’s worked! If you are serious though, then I think you need to seriously question your own readiness to carry out what is (in more ways than one) an ‘extraordinary’ ministry. Wow – I’m gobsmacked (and also ever-so-slightly amazed that you would so openly admit to doing something so inappopriate, irreverent and also very juvenile in such as situation).

  17. Barbara L. may I offer you some unsolicited advice based on many years service as an EM and trainer of ministers? There will always be individuals in our communities whose approach to the Lord’s table will digress from what we may consider the norm–whether through highly demonstrative expressions of piety, or through a demeanor so blase they seem like they are stuck in a long line at Starbuck’s. As ministers, you and I need to look past personal quirks and remember that our job is to serve God’s people–even the irritating ones. I have found it helpful to consciously remind myself as each person approaches that he or she is the beloved child of God. I try to silently address each one as ‘beloved of God” before audibly saying “The Body of Christ.” It helps, really. Sometimes it even helps make the parking lot less of an occasion of sin! I do hope you learn from this experience. Accept correction–and forgiveness, and grow to be an excellent minister.

  18. Anthony Ruff, OSB :
    I won’t speak to the question of whether Martin Luther is a saint. I will note, however, that any number of the saints in our calendar did similar things. St. Bernard supported the crusades, to name one example.awr

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.

    AWR –
    How interesting, Fr, that you contributed the example of St Bernard! Even as I wrote the above about ML I was thinking of the similarity to Bernard’s diatribes against the infidels. If we heard such ranting today, we would think the person responsible somewhat daft. I have wondered often how he and others like him were thought to be exemplarily holy. Nor do such examples by their example commend ML for sainthood.
    As for the crusades, as we revisit them these days in a more sober and critical light, we should not forget that they were, in fact, preceded by other crusades which turned the entire middle east and north Africa overnight from Christian to Muslim lands – by the sword.

    1. OK, that “overnight” is equivocal. The population at large was *not* forcibly converted from Christianity overnight by any stretch of the imagination. In general the process of conversion was gradual – think a couple of centuries before Christianity among the people at large became a small minority. In fact, it was not in the interest of the Arab rulers for Christians to convert, because Christians (and Jews) produced extra tax revenue that converts did not.

      And, btw, the same inertia-revenue dynamic applied in the reverse direction in, for example, Iberia during the Reconquista.

      The overnight meme, popular as it is with filmakers, novelists and narrative historians relying too heavily on juicy episodes, is rather rickety.

  19. Goodness! Are you a Muslim apologist? I didn’t say that the populace were ‘converted’, but that the lands were turned overnight from Christian to Muslim – by the sword. Your urgent protestations about the economic motivations of Muslim ‘benevolence’ are accurate, while not being indicators of Muslim saintliness. Muslim kindness to conquered peoples is, I think, pretty much an overwrought contention, whilst their cruelty was on a par with the rest of humankind’s at that point in history.
    I think it somewhat disingenuous that one finds books nowadays about how the (Christian) crusades were a cruel experience for the Muslim inhabitants (undoubtedly they were!); but there are no books detailing the barbarities and enslavements inflicted upon the subjects of Muslim ‘crusades’. And, as is obvious from history, it wasn’t too long before those beneficiaries of intitial Muslim tolerance found it more beneficial to renounce their Christian faith.
    And, as we see yet today in Muslim lands delivered from tyrants, persecution and/or discrimination against Christians are among the priorities of new regimes whose populaces were a few months ago carrying on about equality and universal human rights.

    1. MJO

      No, I am no apologist (however, this has been within my areas of study*). I pointed out an equivocal assertion. Which you clarified. But you impute to me an assertion of benevolence and kindness that I did not at all make. I merely pointed to base self-interest as belying the popular notion.

      * I think that people riding the Crusades-were-just horse are prone to projecting the Timurid campaigns back several centuries in history in terms of the kinds of imagery they rely on for rhetorical effect. (The Fatimids in the early 11th century were no picnic, but the scale pales in comparison.) The Mongol invasions and then the reaction, and the Timurid era a century and half later, were the big paradigm shift. And Christianity (and, in particular, the Syrian church and the Chaldean church of the East) really it took it on the chin then, in no small part because enough Christian communities benefitting in certain ways from the Mongol invasions. At the end of the first millennium, the Church of the East (neither Roman nor Greek) was about a quarter of Christianity. By the time the Timurids were done, the Church of the East was nearly extinct. This was *after* the Western Crusades, of course. And this is when the sudden body blow to Christianity was felt. It was not in the West, but the East.

  20. I think that it is good for a parishioner (who, nevertheless, might be suffering from dimentia/feeblemindedness) to have such faith in our good Pope! Very good that one can feel such security and faith in Pope BXVI. 🙂

  21. Ms Lowenthal

    WE are church,Not the pope !!?….We do what we want to Do!!..This sounds like ranting children, not rational adults. All I hear is me me me me me me me, where’s that in Vatican II? Sounds like a lot of pride not virtue. It’s that kind of ranting that gives Vatican II bad rap. Just saying that my generation, the 70’s and 80’s, have suffered and grown tired-AD NAUSIUM !!! of listening to all the moaning and groaning from the 60’s. I hear a lot of condemnation, not forgiveness…so what is it that you so “proudly believe”

  22. Thank you, Paul Boman. I agree and will remember your helpful words. Some of the other commenters over reacted to my post. I shared this recent incident to underscore what is going on all over. The same people who forced this GRIM transalation are the same people trying to take us back to the days of pray, pay and obey.

      1. They should be free to receive on the tongue if that is their wish, as long as those who wish to receive communion on the hand can do that also.

        If they were to withdraw either the option of communion on the tongue or communion in the hand, then they’d be alienating an entire group of people by their action.

    1. And forcing everyone to receive communion in the hand isn’t a form of “pray, pay, and obey?”

      Pay, pray, and obey never went away after Vatican II – the only difference is now you don’t like what you have to obey.

      1. Whether people have to obey is debatable, as we’ve clearly seen here over the past several months.

  23. Barbara, I don’t know if you were joking or serious about the tongue twits, but I cringe at the angry way some responded to you. If I understand correctly, communion on the tongue was a later construct, those of the early church received it in the hand, and Vatican II resourcement made receiving in the hand acceptable again.

    1. If Ms Lowenthal did what she said she did, stick out her tongue at someone who wanted to receive Communion in the traditional way,if I were her pastor, I’d suspend her on the spot. Talk about irreverent and disrespectful self-indulgent arrogance. Where does she get off doing that? No excuse at all. She has a serious problem with narcissism and self-control. Any anger she got she deserved.

  24. LOL!

    Actually the parishoner should report the priest to the BISHOP, since the Bishop is in charge of the dioceses and not the Pope.

  25. Just wanted to comment that Lutherans don’t regard Martin Luther as a Saint, in the classical sense of that word. He, like the rest of us, was “simul justus et peccator.” Lutherans have publicly repudiated his writings on the Jews, and his writings, except those found in the Book of Concord, have no “canonical” status with us. Some on this blog, as elsewhere, seem to want to forget the more recent Roman Catholic writings and reappraisal of Martin Luther (including the present pope) in favor of the older diatribes against him which were in favor prior to the council.

    Meanwhile, a bit of anecdotal evidence. One of our 90+ year
    olds, approached me last Wednesday to ask what was going on in the Roman Catholic Church, because her Catholic friends were “all upset” that the Mass was being changed. She reminded me that “until the ’70’s Lutherans said “And with thy spirit,” until we changed to be more in line with the Catholics. Well, we’re still using “And also with you,” not to mention “Christ has died…etc.” Many of us are still working hard to present a well-prepared liturgy for our folks on Sunday morning.

  26. Pastor M –
    Lutherans, indeed, do not, nor never have, regarded Luther as a saint (canonical or otherwise). What puzzles me is that many Catholics seem to think that he should be. (Of course, I have known more than a few Lutherans who do all-but-venerate him.)

    1. From a Catholic viewpoint, what’s the likelihood of considering as a saint a monk who broke his vows and married a nun and then set about breaking the Church apart?

      1. “Some on this blog, as elsewhere, seem to want to forget the more recent Roman Catholic writings and reappraisal of Martin Luther (including the present pope) in favor of the older diatribes against him which were in favor prior to the council.”

      2. Inaccurate information here:
        Luther did not “set about breaking the Church apart” as if it were his goal. There is consensus that he did not intend or wish for a break, though his actions ended up contributing to it. According to Catholic teaching at Vatican II, there was fault on all sides, including on the side of the Catholic Church in the break. Note, therefore, that some of the Catholic figures who contributed to the break have since been canonized.
        I think that Catholics, however strongly they hold to their beliefs, should strive to own up to the fault of our Church, and own up to the good things done by the Protestant reformers, as a part of healing of memory, of being more charitable (and accurate) about our fellow Christians, and of working to heal the divisions and reunite the churches.

      3. Some day Martin Luther may possibly be viewed as a man brave enough to risk his life to stand up to a corrupt hierarchy. He may be viewed as having inspired others to reform the Roman Catholic Church in the 21st Century. I’m not saying that this is likely, I’m merely saying that this is possible.

        As to Martin Luther “breaking the Church apart”; how much of that was Martin Luther and how much of that was from people in power throwing him out rather than listening? After all, he was right about some of the things he had to say!

      4. I don’t believe that Martin Luther intended to break up the church, I believe his intention was to improve it by bringing critiques of certain practices into the open. It was the church’s reaction, as well as the political realities of the day that led to the split, and to the loss of the church’s authority in his eyes, as well as in the eyes of many throughout Europe.

        Similarly, saying that Henry VIII split with the church simply because he wanted to get married again, isn’t exactly true. Again, politics and the desires of others, as well as the corruption within the church all contributed.

  27. MP –
    Do they really? Well perhaps some do. But what I sense is a growing openness to considering not only ML, but other of the Protestant ‘reformers’ as saints or venerables. Without going into what would unavoidably become a diatribe I will simply observe that it seems unfitting to think of those who rent the body of Christ and erected their own doctrines and sacramental theology in the place of the Church’s as men and women whose lives were examples of holiness befitting sanctification. Is this really what Paul VI. and the Council had in mind??

    Having said that, I do think it an injustice of history that the man Tyndale (to take but one example), who gave us the masterful Tyndale Bible which was seminal to the incomparable KJV, met the fate he did. Ditto, many others. The Church was not, in my opinion guided by the Holy Ghost in its dealing with men such as him.

    We in the XXI. century are in a position to see clearly the time-bound thinking and action on both sides that erupted into the ‘Reformation’, which left in its wake a number of personality-driven sects on the one hand, and, I would propose, a rather calcified and warped Catholic Church on the other, viz., the Trindentine solution. Few on either side of that cataclysmic struggle emerge spotless or as an ensample of truly Christian life.

    1. A “saint” is simply someone who is in heaven, nothing more, nothing less. The Church does not “make” saints but simply recognizes some of them as extraordinary examples for the faithful to venerate and imitate. Many (most) of us will never be “canonized” (added to the list or canon) because, despite our salvation (glorification, the term the Christian East uses), we were not extraordinary examples of anything but God’s unfailing mercy to those who acted in good faith and conscience, whose lives were oriented towards love of others rather than self, and, in the end, cried out for the divine mercy. The Church has never declared Dr. Luther to be either in heaven or hell. So stands the Church’s word. But God’s word has yet to be known on the matter, and so we meanwhile take what we can from any life of faith and conscience, see the bigger picture, and “work out our own salvation in fear and trembling”, leaving old angry diatribes and judgments where they belong: in the dustbin of historical self-righteousness. Yes, this is indeed what the Servant of God Paul VI and the Council had in mind. May the divine mercy attend us all.

  28. “From a Catholic viewpoint, what’s the likelihood of considering as a saint a monk who broke his vows and married a nun and then set about breaking the Church apart?”

    Luther was a friar who did marry the nun – unlike a good number of the clergy who preferred to live in concubinage with their women or gentlemen friends.

    I suspect that he was more like Eagleton (sp?), one rock in a landslide vis a vis the destruction of the church.

  29. Re: JP’s comment (#53): I suppose I wasn’t sufficiently clear in my response to Barbara, but receiving the Body of Christ on the tongue in locales where Communion in the hand is permitted is absolutely the right and option of the one receiving. In either case, the EM’s job is to render attentive and reverent service.

  30. Historical note: The Frankish armies under Charles Martel stopped the expansion of the Moors into Europe at the Battle of Tours in the year 732, almost four centuries before the First Crusade.

  31. Anthony Ruff, OSB :
    According to Catholic teaching at Vatican II, there was fault on all sides, including on the side of the Catholic Church in the break. Note, therefore, that some of the Catholic figures who contributed to the break have since been canonized.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that such “teaching at Vatican II” will be right up there among the things which, come the full restoration of the Lefebvrists, according to the principles of “Lefebvrist patrimony” become optional.

  32. re: Anthony Ruff, OSB on January 15, 2012 – 10:52 am

    Thank you Fr. Ruff for these points. The transition in Europe from feudalism to nationalism required the religious catalyst of Reformation. One might say that the EU and the euro represent catalysts of a post-Christian European cultural and political transformation not unlike the 16th century Reformation. Now, Europe struggles to be Christian, regardless of tradition. Socioeconomic politics is not on the PTB agenda, however.

    re: Chris Grady on January 16, 2012 – 4:00 am

    I would not be so quick to paint a sharp dichotomy between “Vatican II” and “Lefebvrist restoration”. Indeed, some Lefebvrist views, particularly with regard to interreligious dialogue and the right of religious expression, directly counter not only today’s Rome but also the aspirations of pluralist secular societies. The postconciliar popes have demonstrated that the Catholic faith can prosper even in societies where a market of competing post-religious ideologies have sometimes edged out Christianity. The SSPX is the cancer which destroys Catholicism’s co-existence within pluralism and secularism.

    A continued evaluation of Trent and before in light of Vatican II illuminates denial and the injustices of the past. The SSPX withers in the light of this examination. I must trust that Pope Benedict understands that Tridentine culture and liturgy today must never escape the purification of examination.

    1. I’ve read over parts of the SSPX web site, and I thank God every day for Vatican II. SSPX is the cliff we were headed for.

      1. re: Brigid Rauch on January 16, 2012 – 12:11 pm

        I wouldn’t necessarily say that the SSPX is what the Church would be today without Vatican II. I don’t know if that could be upheld even in a hypothetical and contra-factual universe. The SSPX reminds me of a grotesque, carnival-like caricature mask of the worst prejudices and acts of violence of Tridentine-era Catholicism. The Tridentine liturgy is merely a stage for the SSPX’s exaggerated farce.

        This is why the documents of the Council serve as reflectors to highlight the distortion of the SSPX mask. The Council is also a reflector onto the consciences of those, like myself, who are attracted to the EF.

        Peel back the SSPX mask, and you will find a movement which is unwilling to live in the gray-areas of interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, pluralism, and new models of ecclesiology. The SSPX’s absolute unwillingness to “live Tridentine” alongside the postconciliar liturgy is merely a gambit to avoid significant and life-altering questions of belief, faith, and charity.

      2. The SSPX came about in reaction to Vatican II – it’s not where the Church was headed in the 1960s. The 1950s had seen a loosening up of rules and a reform of liturgy (shorter fasts, removal of words and phrases that could be seen as anti-Semitic, calendar simplifications, more stress on congregational participation, less strictness about mixed marriages, more vernacular in the various rites, etc). One can claim these changes weren’t radical enough, but it’s hard to say how much change would have occurred between the 1950s and today had there been no council.

        Groups like the SSPX don’t inhabit a parallel world where one can see what the Church would be like had Vatican II never happened because they would not exist without Vatican II. I sometimes wonder if the reaction to Vatican II will actually result in a more conservative Church that we would have otherwise gotten had change been more gradual.

        I recall reading speculations here that Humane Vitae ignored the recommendation of the world’s bishops because the Pope wanted to reign in control after the Council. Would there have been a perception that control had been lost had Vatican II not happened?

  33. Really, Chris, you should know better. Vatican II made no infallible statements and hurled no anathemas. It can therefore be ignored, or not, in whole or in parts, just as you please.

    This theological method is known as the dictatorship of continuity — or perhaps it’s the hermeneutic of relativism. Something along those lines.

    I would write more, but the doors of the cafeteria have opened wide.

  34. Anthony Ruff, OSB :
    Inaccurate information here:Luther did not “set about breaking the Church apart” as if it were his goal. There is consensus that he did not intend or wish for a break, though his actions ended up contributing to it. According to Catholic teaching at Vatican II, there was fault on all sides, including on the side of the Catholic Church in the break. Note, therefore, that some of the Catholic figures who contributed to the break have since been canonized.I think that Catholics, however strongly they hold to their beliefs, should strive to own up to the fault of our Church, and own up to the good things done by the Protestant reformers, as a part of healing of memory, of being more charitable (and accurate) about our fellow Christians, and of working to heal the divisions and reunite the churches.awr

    Only comments with a full name will be approved.
    It is fair, I think, to say with Fr Ruff, that Luther did not intend to bring about schism in the Western Church. It is a matter of record that his devout wish was to reform it. When the lines were drawn, though, and he found himself at the head of a rather impressive party of magnates and lesser followers, then distinctive and novel doctrines did begin to find their way into his by now full fledged movement. Sacramental theologians can enunciate this far better than I, but it no secret that Luther’s doctrine of true presence in the Blessed Sacrament was quite a novelty in comparison to the beliefs of the Church – not to mention his repudiation of sacrifice and the ex opere operato effects of all the sacraments. No! He did not mean to break with the Church, but all that changed when had behind him a movement… (continued)

    1. My comment was not about intention, but about action. Regardless of his original intent, when the results of his actions became clear,viz the breaking apart of the Church, Luther continued unabated, pious and polite ecumenical revisionism notwithstanding. Gene Robinson probably did not intend to accelerate the breaking apart of the Anglican Communion by accepting episcopal ordination, but when that resulted, neither did he stand down either.

      1. “Gene Robinson probably did not intend to accelerate the breaking apart of the Anglican Communion by accepting episcopal ordination, but when that resulted, neither did he stand down either.”

        Gene Robinson has a convincing precedent. The tension between doing what is right and losing numbers is not always best resolved by the same course of action.

        When John’s Jesus had spoken about the necessity of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood, many of his followers had difficulty with his teaching and many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. (John 6.52-71.)

      2. One of the things that puzzles me (re M Burke’s reply) is that people who seem to find the reunion of the churches a great and compelling value often seem tolerant or supportive of certain people who break them up.

    2. re: M. Jackson Osborn on January 19, 2012 – 1:50 am

      I will not contest the political circumstances of Luther’s movement. However, your criticism of the Lutheran doctrine of sacramental union is quite polemic. Please offer your critique of the following.

      I am convinced that Luther’s understanding of the Real Presence attempted to describe the Eucharistic Christ without recourse to scholastic and especially Aristotelian-Aquinan metaphysical mechanics. Luther’s teaching that the Verba makes present the Body and Blood of Christ through faith and trust, while also preserving the material elements, is not a manifest deviation from the Aristotelian-Aquinan model solemnly defined at Trent. The teachings are certainly different, but closer than one might think.

      Catholicism teaches that the accident of the Eucharist is still physical and tangible matter, even if perception of the accidental obscures the substantial (sensuum defectui). Luther’s teaching that the Eucharist is truly Christ and truly bread and wine at the same time (“in, with, and under”) differs fromsubstantial/accidental language only so far as Luther elevated the bread and wine to a equality with Christ’s substantial nature. The Verba says that Jesus took bread and took wine, and proclaimed that the elements were his body and blood. Luther could go no further, as to do so would bend the “ear” of Scripture to the demands of the scholasticism he distrusted.

      Yes, Lutheran sacramental union is part of Luther’s greater rejection of the offertory and canon as works righteousness. However, this rejection does not mean that any similarities between the Catholic dogma of the Eucharist and the Lutheran sacramental union must be condemned in order to blackline Lutheranism as heresy or even evil.

      1. Jordan,

        I think you are correct that Luther affirmed the real objective presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But I also think his position in philosophically and theologically incoherent.

        If one understand how Aristotle uses the term “substance,” something simply can’t be two substances at the same time. Perhaps Luther is inventing a new way of using the term “substance,” but if so he set a pretty large philosophical task for himself, which he never even tried to complete.

        It is theologically incoherent because it tries to interpret “sacramental union” along the lines of the union of humanity and divinity in the Incarnation. But the analogy fails because in the Incarnation we have the union of an uncreated nature and a created nature, while in the Eucharist, as Luther understands it, we have the union of two created natures: bread and wine, on the oner hand, and the humanity of Christ, on the other. It is not at all clear that two created natures can be joined in that way, since they are two different species within the common genus “creatures.”

        Luther was correct in what he wanted to affirm, but it seems to me that in terms of philosophical matters he was really out of his depth.

      2. re: Fritz Bauerschmidt on January 19, 2012 – 7:08 am

        Thank you Deacon Fritz. You are quite right that my understanding of Aristotle is not right. From what I have read, Luther tried to avoid Aristotelian language entirely. I shoudn’t have attributed any philosophical language to him.

        I must read and learn more. I agree with you that the sacramental union could be interpreted as an misinterpretation of “the union of humanity and divinity in the Incarnation”, as you write. I suspect, but cannot comment, that Luther’s understanding of the Eucharist indeed grows from the trunk of the western Christian heritage of Eucharistic theology. I doubt that one could effectively argue Mr Osborn‘s position that Luther’s eucharistic theology is novel or disconnected from the development of Christianity to that date.

        As an aside: I do have an attraction for simul justus et peccator for many reasons. I am convinced of the Catholic teaching on justification, but I have always wondered if there is any way to translate Lutheran teaching into the Catholic theology of concupiscence. That might well be a squaring of a circle.

      3. I am probably more out of my depth than Luther, but it seems to me that his proposal is less incoherent than transubstantiation. That the host still “seems” to still be bread reminds me of docetism flipped upside down. And how can a substance change without accidents changing? How would one know if it had changed? Does God obliterate the bread, or build on its nature?

        The theological incoherence you see in Luther might be solved by identifying the Resurrected Body of Christ as part of a new creation, and so able to join with a creature of the old creation. Besides, we have plenty of examples of creatures uniting, eg water and wine, or oil and skin, or eating transforming food into ourselves.

        I prefer transubstantiation. I just have my doubts about philosophical or theological incoherence being a useful guide here. Buth theories are riddled with problems, not just consubstantiation.

      4. Jim, all (I think) of the sacraments have the same sort of flaw you describe: How can a substance change without accidents changing? How would one know if it had changed? Does God obliterate the bread, or build on its nature?

        How can you tell if a person is baptized?
        How can you tell if a person is confirmed?
        How can you tell if a person is married?
        How can you tell if a person has had his/her sins forgiven?
        How can you tell if a person has been ordained?
        How can you tell if a person has received the anointing of the sick?

        There are physical changes that (may) accompany these sacraments, but they can all be faked. I can splash water, smear oil, wear a ring, wear a grin, wear particular vestments, etc. I can create a paper trail. But sacraments are outward signs of inward graces, exterior marks of interior changes.

        That the substance of the bread and wine should change and the accidents remain the same is certainly not natural, but that doesn’t mean it must be unnatural; it could be supernatural.

        As for obliteration or building (changing need not mean obliterating):

        Aquinas discards the idea that Christ “replaces” the bread (which either leaves or is annihilated), as difficult to reconcile with the words on institution. He favours eucharistic “conversion”—the bread “becomes” his body, the wine his blood. Scotus and his followers continued to work with replacement language, but Trent clearly favours “change.” (Michael O’Connor, 31 May 2010)

      5. Jeffrey,

        Only in the Eucharist does one substance change into another. The other sacraments modify the substances involved. That those changes are not seen is not relevant to unseen substantial change.

        Substance is the unchanging part of something, what is constant through all changes. Saying a substance changes is incoherent, a break in our thinking at least as great as any incoherence in consubstantiation. I think transubstantiation was meant that way, as something that befuddles classical thinking.

        So I do not think theological or philosophical incoherence is a strong argument against any proposed alternatives to transubstantiation. The standard should be not ‘is it incoherent?’ but ‘is it more incoherent than transubstantiation?’ it is a tough to be as incoherent as “what does not change changes, while the changeable does not change.”

  35. of devoted followers who were all to happy now to have a ‘German’ church, and potentates who were thrilled to have a ‘German’ church. No, Luther did not set out to break up the Church. He lit the match … and got caught up in the fire rather than to soberly assess that he had gone to far.
    And, someone mentioned Henry VIII. He did, in fact break with Rome precisely from marital problems and dynastic fixations. Again, this was an all-but-disguised incipient nationalism which served his purposes. After raping the Church of her lands and making himself Supreme Head of the Church in England, he really didn’t change much. When he died he bequeathed his soul to our Lady of Walsingham, and ever considered himself a good Catholic. (It is interesting to note that when Mary became queen, large numbers of the Catholic nobility and others who had profited from confiscated Church land were not too keen on the idea that Catholic Mary might restore their ill-gotten gains to the Church.) Henry’s thought was that he could maintain the Catholic Faith without communion with Peter. Caesaro-papism was, after all nothing new in the church, and continued to flourish rather a long time in the Eastern Churches. Henry’s plan might have had a better outcome but for the rabid Lutherans and Calvinists who infected the Universities and managed to infect the whole kingdom under the weak-but-avid-Protestant Edward VI.

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