Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Matthew 10: 34-36.
In my peregrinations amongst the Novus Ordo parishes of this once Christian Country I have, fortunately, never ever been confronted with a homily (or other kind of sermon) delivered at mass by a layman. I imagine it must have happened somewhere in the past, but in my optimism I think in this country at least it must have been isolated episodes; promoted or tolerated by priests who were certainly at odd with Catholicism; possibly with a mistress on the side, or homosexuals, or pedophiles.
I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to read that in this XXI Century, and after two papacies (JP II and Benedict XVI) with some effort to restore some sanity (some and some are the operative words here), this ridiculous practice was going on in the Diocese of Rochester, in the United States (we have a Rochester here too, of historical and Dickensian memory, which I think gave its name to all the other ones). Both the text and the comments are very rich of insights.
What was more surprising? That the abuses had gone on for 40 years? That the old bishop tolerated the practice for 25 years? That the old bishop tolerated the other farce of mass absolution? That the new bishop was installed in January and needed six months to act, and said he looked at it on a case to case basis as if to say he was really, really careful not to hurt anyone? That the same man felt the need to point out his action was prompted by complaints of parishioners; without which he would, it is implied, have done perfectly nothing? That the new bishop has now released “guidelines” to explain that water is wet?
Well, everything was surprising, and again nothing was. We live in a world in which a bishop must tread extremely carefully to end horrible liturgical abuses, and feels he can only do so without any fear of an earthquake if he “listens”, “examines on a case by case basis”, and issues “guidelines”. A world in which we must be grateful for every bishop who, with a very subdued voice, tries to explain to his priests and parishioners that if they really pay attention and read carefully, they will discover they might do it somewhat better.
Predictably, this little act of cleaning of a small part of what must be, in that particular diocese, a sea of excrements reaches the press, and they punctually echo the “feelings” of some old hag who goes on record with saying that not seeing a female playing priest from the pulpit “challenges her faith”; which, whatever faith it may be, certainly isn’t Christianity.
When I read such horror stories I begin to think that even the most horrible revolutionaries here in England must feel orthodox because hey, they do not have “lay preachers” at Mass.
I wonder how not only the bishop, but at least two Popes (JP II and Benedict XVI) could go to sleep at night knowing such abuses were taking place, as it seems impossible to me that a diocese near New York could go on many years with such abuses without the news reaching the highest echelons in Rome. Notice I mention here only the former Popes, as I have no doubt the present one really doesn’t give a fig for anything but himself.
I also wonder how many souls got lost, or how many of them left the Church or stopped attending, due to the obscene circus with which they were confronted at Mass.
We need bishops who not only act, but act by saying things as they are rather than dancing on the eggshells of political correctness. Bishop Matano should have at the very least condemned the practice as a liturgical abuse, rather than pretending these are good intentioned people who must have missed something whilst reading the instruction manual.As it is, he has – for the moment – put a remedy on this from a position of weakness, and this attitude will limit his ability to act further (imagine what a cesspool such a diocese must be) as it encourages disobedience. I can’t see such exercises as helping much in the long term. It will end up to centimetres work, when we need metres.
We will never go anywhere if even the most obvious measures are made in a spirit of appeasement and fear of turmoil. We will never go anywhere as long as things aren;t called with their proper names: liturgical abuse, disobedience, enmity with Catholicism.
Let Catholicism divide the people. It’s there for that.