National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
July 28, 2006


Unproclaimable and more

The majority of bishops are calling for “the mainstream liturgical community in the United States” to be the cheerleader and catalyst for implementing the new Order of the Mass (NCR, June 30). I am both chagrined and confused by such a request. Most of the bishops have never requested the comments of the mainstream liturgical community on the final draft voted on this past June, let alone sought input from clergy and laity alike who would proclaim, respond, and listen to the new texts. Thankfully, the bishop of my diocese did make such a request, inviting comments from the laity and the ordained, from those with degrees in liturgical studies to others without formal training in liturgy. The overwhelming majority found that the texts were unproclaimable, unremarkable, and by-and-large unredeemable.

I hope the 173 bishops who approved the new Order will personally go out and teach their priests, religious and faithful its merits as well as how to implement it on the local level. Since most bishops wanted to “go it alone” in approving the text, perhaps they should do the same in explaining to their parishioners how the prayers and responses will help the faithful to worship better as well as better understand the theology they intend to convey. Furthermore, many of those bishops will be at a loss when seeking help to implement these changes since offices of worship have been eliminated in a host of dioceses. I will assist Bishop Robert Lynch in implementing this new text, though I will be at a loss when it comes to explaining why this text is better.

If a certain sector of the church can petition to “celebrate” the Mass of Pius V because of its intimate connection to the sustenance of their faith life, perhaps our generation can make a similar request to use the Mass of Paul VI on a regular basis. This is the Mass I cut my teeth on, was ordained in, and have used in serving the church for the past 22 years.

St. Petersburg, Fla.

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In response to your editorial “The jarring history of the liturgy wars” (NCR, June 30), the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II liturgical changes was in 2004. Has anyone reflected on the success or failure of the efforts to modernize the church? We, the church, gave up our traditions in order to increase vocations, encourage people to stay in the church, and, in short, to be more relevant. We got nothing in return. The same problems of declining membership and vocations are still with us. What is the use of inclusive language in our prayers if people don’t want to be included? Our church can be inclusive and relevant. Vatican II was a sincere try. Now it’s time to learn from it and move on.

West Chester, Pa.

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In your editorial about the “liturgy wars” the author noted: “But the recitation of the history is significant in demonstrating that at the highest levels of the community there were those who had little regard for precedent, competence, the work of others and established process. It is an attitude that has seeped down into lower levels of church governance, where too often power is the only credential necessary for mandating jarring and extreme changes to the life and practice of the community.” One may easily say the same about those who changed the liturgy that the Catholic church has celebrated, virtually unchanged, since the third century. As a convert to Catholicism after Vatican II, and a recent discoverer of the beautiful liturgy of the Tridentine Mass, my belief is that the Catholic church lost a great deal when our ancient prayers were changed. Although the intentions may have been good, for the life of me I have not been able to understand why they did so. With great joy I welcome the move back to our traditional liturgy and pray for the day when the liturgy will be restored to its original wholeness, reverence, prayerfulness and beauty.

Sacramento, Calif.

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Your editorial was gently and necessarily critical of how the liturgy has been pushed backward in the last dozen years. Thank you for speaking in such reasonable words about a very disturbing subject to those of us who do “know” liturgy.

Menomonee Falls, Wis.

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The language changes in the liturgy may not seem so significant in themselves, but the tactics used to stifle debate about language speak volumes about the patriarchs who hold the church by the throat. The prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship says it succinctly when he says it is “not acceptable” to use concerns about acceptance of the translations among the faithful as a basis to reject them. In other words, “The hell with the faithful.” Yet Bishop Donald Trautman, who knows how the process was hijacked and is an expert who believes that the changes do more harm than good, votes for them and says: “For the good of our people, we have to make this work.” Really? Wouldn’t it be interesting if even one of our bishops were to say something like: “The arrogance and contempt shown by those in authority have given us a travesty and, for the good of our people, I will not enforce this in my diocese.” Would he suffer consequences? Would he lose his job? Would he be denounced by the chief priests and pharisees? There is some precedent for a challenge to religious authority. I suppose it’s not fair to seek a degree of courage from others that I myself have not shown, and I’ve never faced reprisal by those who could cut off my income. But then I never signed on to be a bishop of the church either.

Wilmette, Ill.

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For years our American bishops have quibbled over the language of the liturgy and have come up with a wanting and whispering response. “I” believe versus “we” believe, etc. Where instead is the thundering moral leadership we need from them to combat the war-making and the many injustices in church and society today? Why not a complete change in the language of the liturgy that limps. For example, since God loves unconditionally despite our failings, might we not say, “Jesus, I am worthy to receive you, help me become more like you.” Our educated Catholic people must wonder about the total ineptitude of such trivial pronouncements. Controlling people prefer people who are willing to be controlled. An “I” instead of a “we.” Does it really matter at all?

Lansing, Mich.

Sharing the same rights

“Capital flight fuels illegal immigration” (NCR, May 26) addresses the issue of the demon in our society’s closet that we pretend doesn’t exist. Why can’t citizens of other nations follow the path of their money (and resources) as is the case of Mexico and virtually every other Third World nation? If we speak of a free trade agreement such as we have with Mexico (NAFTA), why can’t that agreement offer people the same rights as we offer to their capital and commodities? The Free Trade Agreement between the different states here allows such free movement, because it frees all three parts of our society. Why can’t our less fortunate neighbors share the same rights as U.S. citizens? It would seem logical to say that we cannot continue to steal from our less fortunate neighbors and not expect some kind of backlash. That is the demon that we are hiding in the closet. The dramatic increase in immigration is simply a gentle reminder that our brothers and sisters in less fortunate nations also have needs; and terrorism, closer to home, may follow if we continue to abuse these less fortunate brothers and sisters. If we refuse to act out of love of God and neighbor, let’s at least do it out of fear of a backlash that can only grow more intense.

San Antonio

Women’s ministries valued

I am disappointed that you chose to use a largely negative article from Religion News Service (NCR, June 30) on the recent election of the Katharine Jefferts-Schori as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal church rather than seek out an article from Episcopal News Service, whose reporting is far more balanced. As a deputy who was at the general convention and who voted to consent to the election of Bishop Jefferts-Schori, let me assure you that the number of people, men and women alike, who are overjoyed about her election far outnumber the naysayers. The vote to consent was overwhelming in favor of her election. A Central American Anglican bishop, with tears of joy in his eyes, said to me after the vote, “This is a great day for the Anglican communion for it shows women everywhere that the church values their ministry.” Amen.

Northfield, Vt.

Defending reputation

In response to “The shock fades in Lincoln” (NCR, June 16): Having attended the Nebraska State Conference in Lincoln, I appreciated your article regarding Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz. On the Sunday of the conference the Lincoln Journal Star had an article about Call to Action’s peaceful demonstration in front of the church. The only negative comments were quotes from Bishop Bruskewitz. He called Call to Action “an anti-Catholic sect composed mainly of aging fallen-away Catholics who oppose church teachings on a variety of issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, abandonment of marriage and religious vows and so on. … CTA members reject the Second Vatican Council and previous church councils.” Bishop Bruskewitz continues, “Although some of them claim to still be Catholics, nobody except a few media types see them as such.” My husband and I wrote a letter to the Lincoln paper attacking some of the bishop’s false statements but our letter was not printed. We feel offended that the paper would publish these statements from the bishop but would not allow us to defend our Call to Action reputation.

Estero, Fla.

Ellen McNally is president of Call to Action in southwest Florida.

Christianity a dynamic organism

In response to “Catholics who turn to Islam” (NCR, June 30), have you ever wondered why people seem to find it necessary to justify changes in their lives by denigrating what they have left? What Christianity, or even Catholicism, is today is what each person is willing and able to make it. If Christianity is perceived as having gone secular then it is because mainline Christians have chosen to live that way instead of counterculturally as Jesus Christ preached and modeled. There are many Catholics today who feel the desire for a more spiritual outlook in their everyday life as mother, husband, single professional, and so on and are seeking it through small Christian communities, spiritual direction, meditation and the like, while remaining faithful to the tradition in which they were grounded. Other lay men and women are feeding their desire by associating themselves with religious institutes whose spirit, charism and prayer style are appealing and can be lived out in their daily lives. What I find courageous about all of these laypeople, who may or may not become affiliated with the official church as members of secular institutes, associates and/or oblates of religious communities, is the sign-value that they offer to all of us by staying and working for a changed vision of who Christians/Catholics are in the workplace, the family, the marketplace. I hope some day we will finally understand that Christianity is a living, breathing, dynamic organism with stronger and weaker members who give it an identity, a public face.


Transformed by the poor

After reading the letters about the essay on Appalachian ministry (NCR, June 30), I feel the need to add my two cents. As a high school and college campus minister for the past 11 years, I have been involved with many volunteer service opportunities, trips and retreats, throughout the United States and Central America, and I must echo that “it is not a simple task to help the poor.” Looking back over my ministry, I remember my own self-righteousness and indignation about the apparent lack of gratitude and initiative among the poor that I was going out of my way to help. But I also now see how that self-righteousness was born of my selfishness, my need to be noticed and praised for fixing lives and making them more like me. It was service without connection, and to be honest, without compassion. Over the years, I have been transformed by the people that I was trying to fix and change, for they have taught me that I cannot fix or change anyone but myself. My hope, and my encouragement to my students, has become simply to learn from “the poor” as we stand or sit or walk side-by-side for a few hours or a few days, to seek only to be changed, so that we might live differently, and, in that small seemingly imperceptible way, change the world. I would encourage Barbara Buehler to take her students back to that eastern Kentucky town, and to ask the people there why the young people were not helping and why they did not take care of the repairs they had made. If the students can learn to have those conversations and hear the answers to those questions with compassion, they may find a whole new way of life waiting on the other side. I know that I and many of my students have made that journey, and our lives have never been the same.

Carbondale, Ill.

The gifts we have

Huge thanks to Fr. Walter Burghardt for his sensitive and profound article, “Courage: absence of fear or grace under pressure” (NCR, July 14). His reminder to live each day, for that is the only day we really have at any given time, is particularly apt. I also have an eye problem, one which could change rapidly “in the blink of an eye” in one of my eyes. The other eye has been low vision since my premature birth. How I understand Fr. Burghardt’s pain at the thought of no longer being able to read or physically see the beauty of the world and the people in it. That fear can grab you like an enormous wave and pull you under in nothing flat unless you find a way to rise above it.

So I thank Fr. Burghardt for reminding us of the gifts we still do have, if only we look. Living each day, holding the larger world in mind and prayer is good advice.

Blacksburg, Va.

Women who are the Gospel

Listen to the modern day prophets! They walk among us! I was struck by the tiny article tucked away on Page 4 (NCR, June 16), about Rosa Murillo, 89, who collects aluminum cans and gives the proceeds to the local parish priest for charities, and the full column, Page 6, on the death of Sr. Jeannette Normandin, 78, who founded Ruah for women with AIDS, and other great ministries that comforted the alienated. Both of these selfless women are the Gospel in their own God-given way in the world. How inspiring! It certainly taught me that whether you walk gently or thunderously in the footsteps of Christ, compassion, justice and mercy happens, and the love of God for all and through all is a message of hope to humanity in these chaotic times.

Mesa, Ariz.

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National Catholic Reporter, July 28, 2006