Friday, January 2, 2009

An earlier post

I wrote an entry about our family's visit to a parish in Grand Rapids, and my reaction to what went on there. I received a comment from a VERY upset older gentleman, who has been a parishioner his entire life. I have deleted my post, as it seems to have caused scandal for him, and that is never my intent. If his feelings have been hurt, I apologize.

However, regardless of one's lifelong affiliation with a parish, or their sentimental attachment to their "parish community", there is no excuse for the words of the consecration of the Sacred Host to be ad-libbed. I am speaking specifically of the "Hoc est enim corpus meum" : THIS IS MY BODY , and the consecration of the Precious Blood, likewise. I am not a canon lawyer, I am a 15 year old kid. But I know when the consecration is not happening because the priest is making up the words of consecration. This renders the Mass invalid.

IF the priest was reading one of the Eucharistic Prayers approved by canon law, word for word, then we were wrong and the Mass was valid. IF the priest read some of the words of institution and added or deleted others, it is possible that this rendered it illicit (which is written to be a grave sin...) but does not invalidate the essential form.

I hope that we all misheard the words spoken by the priest during the consecration. If not, there is a serious problem at that parish. Either way, I wasn't going to take a chance of partaking in a potentially invalid Holy Communion.

I wrote the article to point out how a "horizontal" approach to liturgy can lead to grave theological errors and possibly even violations of canon law. It is CHRIST we should be focusing on, not our "community", not our "parish family".

I have removed my previous post, not because I think anything in it was wrong, but because it has caused pain to someone. I believe that more good can be done by pointing out the issues mentioned in a general way, and I will not use names of parishes in the future if criticizing them.

I don't spend my time ripping on other parishes. But, this is the problem with what has happened to Catholicism today. You should be able to go ANY Catholic church ANYWHERE and have it be the same. (Or at least know that it will be licit and valid). This "designer" mentality about the church has removed the focus from God to ourselves.

I am glad to know that others are reading this blog than my little circle of high school friends. I would recommend to all that read this that they also check out some very good other blogs, including Father Z's wdtprs.com/blog.

God Bless!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have had some persons alert me to your comments about St. Alphonsus Christmas Masses in Grand Rapids. I did not see the post that you deleted, and I was present at all the Masses but one. I heard nothing changed in the words of consecration. You would do well to make an appointment with Fr. Denis Ryan, pastor, if you have concerns. I am sure he would welcome you. I also hope you feel you may return for the celebration of the Eucharist at St. Alphonsus. If you are searching for the Tridintine rite celebration, however, you will not find it. God bless you and your family. Fr. Ed Vella, CSsR, assoc. pastor.

Dad said...

I was going to comment, but looks like some other people already did... Looks like there are people reading this after all, Nathan.

Fr. Vella: it was not a Christmas Mass we attended, it was during the feast of the Holy Family (although that still is in the Christmas octave, isn't it?) :-)

Our prayers are with you, your fellow associates and pastor, and with all the faithful at St. Alphonsus.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog!!!
Don't forget that the original words of consecration were said in ancient Aramaic. Aramaic was a very simple language. They didn't even have words for all of the colors. For instance, a green robe would be said something like.
"A robe that is like the grass in the pasture" (just a rough example)
The words of consecration were then translated into Greek which is more sophisticated, and then into Latin, and then into the vernacular.
Sometimes liberties had to be taken because Aramaic could not express some concepts accurately. For the instance, in the Lords Prayer the sentence, in Aramaic, "Give us this day our daily bread" would take almost an entire paragraph to express correctly . So obviously the original translator had to just do the best he could.
Who knows?
I think the Lord understands our intentions.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan,
First, I would like to thank God for your very fine example in loving Our Lord. He has given you a great gift of faith which I pray that you will protect with the wisdom, tradition, doctrine and law of the Church.
It is wrong to invoke God's knowledge of our intentions in order to excuse ad libbing the consecration. It is proverbial that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We know in all walks of life there is a proper way and an improper way of doing things in order to effect success. A poorly engineered bridge falls down, etc. The Church has especially maintained the protection of her sacraments by explicitly defining the matter and the form of each. The consequences are too grave to society and stretch far beyond the individual sacrament. The Church has also had to defend herself constantly from those who would seek to destroy her. Thus the marks of the Mystical Body of Christ must be: One (unified), Holy, Catholic (universal) and Apostolic. If we allow sloppiness and disregard for His Church then we will be making up our own rules instead of abiding by His.
Talking to the priest would be fine but so, too, would talking to the bishop and letting him know that one of his priests is flouting Church law by making up his own consecration. This is not a matter of emotion and feeling.
God bless,
jw

angel said...

Something I've always admired about our older brothers, the Jews, is how they welcome study and questioning (example, the boy Jesus in the temple).
I think our church has gotten a little too dogmatic and even pushy over the centuries.
I don't think Jesus added "And you gotta say it just like this" to the words of consecration. We did that ourselves. Jesus came and showed a simple way and we have complicated it into incomprehension. There is probably no one on earth who knows every law in canon law, every rubric etc. I doubt if the apostles would have been able to comprehend it all, as it is now. Maybe someday we can get back our roots and discuss and question things like our older brothers, and if the shoe fits us, wear it.
The 12 step programs have a great little saying that we could learn from KISS (keep it simple stupid)
Nice blog, Nate!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, Angel, either we believe that the words of the consecration are a sacred action that turn bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of God-- or we don't. If we DO believe this, we cannot accept that any intended action will accomplish the same result. Otherwise any time anyone wants the True Presence of Christ, they can just "wish it" and it will appear. I would like my pizza to become Christ, so there it is. You mentioned KISS, what can be simpler than "say the black, do the red"? By the way, it isn't the vast information regarding my faith that blows my mind, and it wasn't in Jesus' time on earth. It was statements like, "I am the bread of life" and "This is my body".

Also, when you hypothesize about what you "think" Christ intended, you should first reflect on what we know He said. "Do this in remembrance of me". Not do this (or something else you find suitable) in remembrance of me.

Lastly, Christ did not say, "take and understand", he said "take and eat". It is important that we question, and the doctors of the Church have done so for millenia. However, do not confuse questioning with ignoring the Tradition of the Holy Mother Church, and instead inserting our own dogma.

Nate, the readers need some catechesis on a few terms: Tradition, Dogma, and Canon Law. Perhaps that will serve to clear up some confusion.

angel said...

Well, your pizza thing wouldn't work unless you are a priest anyway. "Anyone" couldn't do it.

But if intention has nothing to do with it, and it's just the words, then what if one accidently uttered the words in sleep or while ill or semi-conscious? If intention is nothing and the words are everything, then it sounds like hocus pocus (pun intended)

If the words are everything then it makes me wonder again about the original words being in Aramaic, then translated to Greek, then translated to Latin, then translated to English or whatever.
Hopefully the original translater did it right or we're in big trouble.
Shouldn't the original Aramaic words be used instead of all of the variations over the centuries?

Don't get me wrong I'm not trying to be sacrilegious I'm just enjoying the argument.

Thanks for hosting this site, Nate

Anonymous said...

How Do We Know A Sacrament Is Vaild? (by Fr. Peter Joseph)

The sacraments play a crucial role in Christian life, conferring that most precious gift of divine grace, restoring it if it has been lost, or increasing it where the soul seeks further sanctification. To the conscientious Catholic, nothing is more upsetting than to receive a sacrament invalidly, or to have a doubt whether the grace was given or not.

A sacrament can be rendered invalid by various causes: from some defect or other in the matter, form, minister, or recipient.

The matter employed could be useless. One could not baptise with fruit juice or any other liquid than water. Or the form or formula could be defective. Thus, if one says, "I baptise you in the name of the Holy Family," then no Baptism has taken place; it is invalid, and it would have to be repeated properly. Or there might be some defect in the minister, the person performing the rite.

Minister of the sacrament
A layman posing as a priest, for example, even if he says the correct words, is incapable of absolving anyone. Or it could be that the recipient is unable to receive the sacrament for some reason, e.g., an unrepentant sinner at confession, or an unbaptised person wanting Anointing of the Sick; in which cases the rite would have no effect.

Here, I would like to focus, in particular, on the minister of the sacrament, since there is some confusion on this question, and some points are not well known.

By the minister, I mean the one who performs the sacramental rite: lay person, or cleric.

The first qualification of the minister is that he be qualified for his office. For all the sacraments except Baptism and Marriage, he must be in Holy Orders. Baptism may be administered in necessity by a layman; Marriage is conferred by the Christian man and woman upon each other. All the other sacraments require a priest or bishop to be genuine or valid.

Outwardly, the minister must employ the proper form of words (or words of the same meaning), perform the prescribed action and use the prescribed substance (e.g., water for Baptism; oil for Anointing of the Sick).

Inwardly, the minister must intend to do what the Church does, or to do as Catholics or Christians do. If the minister is duly qualified, and if the other conditions are fulfilled, the sacrament is validly, or truly, conferred. The Council of Trent defined, "If anyone says that when they confect and confer the sacraments there is not required in ministers at least the intention of doing what the Church does, anathema sit [may he be anathema]" (DS 1611).

This "intention" of the minister needs some explanation.

Intention is defined as, "the act of the will, by which one decides to do something" - in the present case, the deliberate will to confer a sacrament. We distinguish intention from attention, which is an act of the intellect, "the application of the mind to what one is doing here and now."

For the validity of a sacrament, attention is not required because it is not always possible to avoid distractions completely. We also distinguish intention from knowledge. One can have intention without clear knowledge of what is going on. For the validity of a sacrament, it is sufficient to have an implicit and indistinct intention "to do what the Church does".

I have heard people ask, in cases of abuses: "How can those Masses be valid? The celebrant openly denies the Real Presence. Doesn't he have to intend what the Church believes?" The answer lies in the meaning of the crucial phrase in Trent: "to do what the Church does" (facere quod facit Ecclesia). The true meaning of this formula must be understood from history, from theologians who used it and from the ancient practice of the Church. The formula, which, was first used in the 13th century, was eventually adopted by magisterial documents and finally canonised by Trent.

"To do what the Church does": note it says to do what the Church does, but not what the Church intends or believes. For validity, the minister does not have to intend what the Church intends, or believe what the Church believes, just intend to do what the Church does.

The Church intends and believes a whole range of things when baptising someone: remission of sin, conferral of grace, membership of the Church, eternal salvation, baptismal character, etc. But the baptiser need not be aware of any of these. It is enough if he wants to baptise, as the Church does.

Fundamentalists
It is not required for the minister to intend to confer grace by means of the rite; nor does he even have to believe that this rite contains the power to cause grace. Fundamentalists today generally believe Baptism is a mere outward ceremony, causing absolutely no change in the soul. But if they give Baptism properly, i.e., washing with water and pronouncing the Trinitarian formula, then Baptism truly takes place. If the recipients want to become Catholics later on, the Catholic Church will receive them but not re-baptise them; they are validly baptised already.

For a sacrament to be valid, therefore, it is not necessary for the minister to have either faith or sanctity. That faith is not necessary for the validity of Baptism is a dogma defined by the Council of Trent: "If anyone says that Baptism, even given by heretics, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing that which the Church does, is not true Baptism, anathema sit" (DS 1617). The Church teaches likewise that Baptism given by a Jew or pagan is valid (DS 646, 1315, 2536). What applies to the minister of Baptism regarding faith applies equally to the other sacraments.

That the state of grace is not required in the minister of the sacrament is also defined by Trent: "If anyone says that a minister who is in mortal sin, though he observe all the essentials which pertain to the confecting or conferring of the sacrament, does not confect or confer the sacrament, anathema sit." (DS 1612; cf. 1315, 1262, 793). So, according to Trent, Mass offered by a priest in sin is a valid sacrifice. The Donatists of the 4th-5th centuries rejected as invalid sacraments conferred by a public sinner. The Waldensians (12th century), Wycliff (14th century) and the Anabaptists (16th century) repeated the same error.

This helps us to understand the meaning of the phrase, adopted by the Council of Trent: the sacraments work ex opere operato "by virtue of the rite performed." It is not by virtue of the minister's holiness or belief. Baptism given by heretics or unbelievers is valid because the condition of their soul does not affect the validity of their act. The reason is that the virtue of what they do comes, not from them, but from Christ. Christ is the principal minister of all the sacraments: i.e., He works through the voice and hands of the earthly minister. St Augustine says that whether it be Peter or Paul or Judas who administers Baptism, it is equally Christ who baptises (Tract on St John, 5, 18).

Essentials
This teaching on the minimum intention required is taught by Aquinas. He says, "Just as the validity of a sacrament does not require that the minister have charity, and even sinners can confer sacraments, as stated above, so neither is it necessary that he have faith, and even an unbeliever can confer a true sacrament, provided that the sacrament's other essentials be present. Notwithstanding his unbelief, the minister can intend to do what the Church does, even if he esteems it as nothing. And such an intention suffices for a sacrament, because, as said above, the minister of a sacrament acts in the person of the whole Church by whose faith any defect in the minister's faith is made good." (Summa, III, 64, 9 c., ad 1).

Even a priest who has lost faith in the Real Presence offers Mass validly. Such a doctrine is a consolation to the laity who can, therefore, have perfect confidence in the rites of the Church without needing to know the personal state of the minister. It would be impossible to ascertain the personal belief of every priest, every time he administers a sacrament. It is enough to know if he uses the necessary matter and form, and performs the rite. Christ acts through him to perform the rest.

Father Joseph is vice-rector at Vianney College seminary, Wagga Wagga, and lectures in Dogma.

Anonymous said...

Liturgical Laws - Why They Matter
Colin B. Donovan, STL

[Colin Donovan is Vice President for Theology at EWTN. A layman, he has the Licentiate in Sacred Theology, with a specialization in moral theology, from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, where he wrote on the Donation of the Spouses in Marriage. He earned the BTh from the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, BC, Canada and the BA in Biological Science from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. Prior to coming to EWTN in 1995, he taught Theology at Aquinas College in Nashville.]


The purpose of law is to give a stable structure to a society, in this case the highest act of the ecclesiastical society of the Church, the Mass. Liturgical laws are not arbitrary constructions but are intended to protect important truths and realities of the faith according to the principle lex orandi lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing). For this reason the authority in the Church which has the charism of protecting the faith is uniquely responsible for safeguarding the integrity of the Mass and other sacraments. On this matter the Second Vatican Council said in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.


The Code of Canon Law legislates this principle in c838, which establishes,

Canon 838
1. The supervision (moderatio) of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, in accord with the law, the diocesan bishop.
2. It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the entire Church (universa ecclesia), to publish (edere) the liturgical books, to review their translations into the vernacular languages and to see that liturgical ordinances
are faithfully observed everywhere.
3. It pertains to the conferences of bishops to prepare translations of the liturgical books into the vernacular languages, with the appropriate adaptations within the limits defined in the liturgical books themselves, and to publish (edere) them with the prior review by the Holy See.
4. It pertains to the diocesan bishop in the church entrusted to him, within the limits of his competence, to issue liturgical norms by which all are bound.

When the liturgical law is observed no one has any legitimate reason to complain. Justice, order and peace, as St. Augustine noted, are interrelated. When the justice of obedience to ecclesiastical law is not rendered and thus the proper Order of the Mass is violated, there can be no real unity in the parish and thus no peace. As a result, the Catholic unity of communion with the bishop and with and through the bishop with Peter is disturbed. Hierarchical Communion is one of the three marks of unity to be found in the Church, the others being unity of faith and unity in the discipline of the Sacraments. Liturgical disobedience uniquely disturbs all three! This is not surprising since the Eucharist is the principal source and sign of the unity of the Church. By its very nature, it MUST be either a sign of unity or a sign of disunity.

Of course, many other evils enter in by liturgical disobedience, including the serious injustice of depriving the faithful of licit, and in some cases valid, sacraments, something to which as Catholics they have a right.
Canon 214 The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church, and to follow their own form of spiritual life consonant with the teaching of the Church.

When these evils occur they have the right, and even the responsibility, to make their voices heard.

Canon 212
1. The Christian faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound by Christian obedience to follow what the sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or determine as leaders of the Church.
2. The Christian faithful are free to make known their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires to the pastors of the Church.
3. In accord with the knowledge, competence and preeminence which they possess, they have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration of the common good and dignity of persons.

angel said...

I guess that settles that!

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