tisdag 6 mars 2012

Cardinal's outburst on gay marriage

My view on gay marriage is that the idea is a nonsense because marriage is something that can happen only between a man and a woman. If people want to set up a household together, that is another matter and nothing to do with the state. The rationale for civil partnerships relates primarily to property rights - ownership, inheritance and taxation. These affect any two people who are living together - siblings, for instance. The solution to the problems and anomalies caused by bad or unjust legislation is to deal with the legislation. It did not require a re-categorisation of certain household arrangements so as to put them on the same footing as those of a married couple.

Which brings me to the Cardinal's outburst. He is right to object to the re-definition of marriage by an act of legislation. But marriage is about families, children and the creation of a stable and nurturing environment. A few weeks ago, Fr Blake of St Mary Magdalen's, Brighton, published on his blog a film called Harmony at Parsonage Farm. Made in the 1970s, it is a documentary about a very large Catholic family living in modest comfort in a huge old house, where the household income was supplemented by produce from the smallholding that was attached to the property. This was perhaps the ideal of the Catholic family, as Chesterton and his ilk portrayed it.

One would have to be a millionaire to live like that today - who could afford it?

It is about economics - in the true sense of the word, which is formed from the Greek words for household and measurement. Government should be, but is not, about providing the conditions in which households can flourish. It should not be, but is, about firms that deign to provide people with "jobs", and and about banks that lend them the money to pay for what they produce, since they do not pay enough to enable them to purchase the fruits of their own labour.

And on top of that, to make up for the deficiencies of this system, governments have to engage in a systematic robbery to provide their populations, at vast expense, with the welfare that would be largely unnecessary if the system was just in the first place. If the Cardinal wants to defend marriage, surely this should be the first target for his attacks?

Economic justice is a precondition if the institution of marriage is to function effectively so that the family can flourish. This appears to be the position set out in Caritas in Veritate, the present Pope's contribution to Catholic Social Teaching.

I would suggest that if the hierarchy were to take this as their starting point they would earn respect instead of the ridicule they are drawing on themselves.

måndag 5 mars 2012

Which way should the priest face?

Extraordinary form mass - the epiclesis

Over the past couple of years, all possible variants of the Mass were tried at St Mary Magdalens's, Brighton, including vernacular mass with the priest facing east.

The general conclusion that from the congregation's point of view it was actually less "elitist" for the priest to be facing the same way as everyone else. It wasn't a question of the priest turning his back, but rather, the priest leading a procession or pilgrimage towards the Lord.

From the priest's point, it was less distracting. Furthermore, the priest was in the habit of scowling at the congregation when he got distracted, which was even more off-putting all round.

The orientation of the priest towards the liturgical restores the clarity of the architectural arrangement whereby there is a sequence of spaces and objects from nave, to sanctuary to altar, tabernacle and cross. This removes the spatial ambiguity that arises when the priest is standing between the altar and the cross. It also emphasises the theological point that the mass is primarily the Sacrifice of Calvary and not a re-enactment of the Last Supper.

It was felt that having the priest facing east was of more value than saying mass in the vernacular, especially after the new English translation came into use. The main advantages of Latin were that it restored access to the musical tradition and should, in the long run, help to reunite a parish cut up by language into national groups.

The orientation of the priest is discussed in this book by Fr Michael Lang.
Turning towards the Lord

söndag 4 mars 2012

Latin Mass should be the norm

The "Ordinary Form" (OF) of the Mass, normally celebrated in the vernacular, has been around for the past forty years. Following the declaration a couple of years ago that the 1962 version of the Tridentine Mass had never been abrogated, its use is becoming increasingly widespread under the title Extraordinary Form (EF).

When the OF Mass is celebrated in Latin and the priest is facing the same way as the congregation, there is little to distinguish it from the EF, the most noticeable difference being the extended period whilst the priest is reciting the Canon of the Mass (consecration prayers) aloud, which in the EF form are recited silently, whilst the choir, if present, is singing the Sanctus and Benedictus. Thus the OF Mass tends to take about ten minutes longer than the EF.

But when the vernacular is used, the potential for things to go wrong is considerable. If, as often happens, the priest is celebrating the Mass in another language, he is liable to be struggling at times. A further difficulty arises with the lay readers, whose clarity of enunciation often leaves much to be desired even when they are reading in their own language. There are yet more difficulties for those in the congregation who are abroad and trying to follow the Mass in foreign languages. And in these days of increasing foreign travel and migration between countries, the problem gets steadily worse.

One tendency is to hold vernacular Masses for members of national groups, but this divides parishes when the Catholic church is supposed to be universal and uniting.

It seems to me that there is a need for a determined move to get rid of the OF Mass except for use in special circumstances, primarily for schools and as an aid to catechesis and preparation for the EF which should become the norm. People could then follow the texts in their books, in whatever language they choose. The simpified lectionary in the EF is also advantageous as it does not take such a large book to fit in all the readings.

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