Michael Commane: The Association AGM

If you are a ‘paid-up’ member of a church does it ever cross your mind how appointments are made within the organisation? It’s probably true to say that the majority of people who read this newspaper belong to one of the major Christian churches in Ireland. And I presume that the majority of people who read this column are Catholics.
So have you any idea how your parish priest is appointed? Have you any idea how your bishop is appointed?
Do you think you should have a say?
Do you feel you play an active and meaningful role in the church?
Or should all that sort of ‘stuff’ be left to the priests and bishops?
Have you ever sat back and asked yourself what the word church means?
These are some of the questions the new Association of Catholic Priests is asking among its members. The ACP held its first AGM two weeks ago in Dublin’s Green Isle Hotel. Among those who spoke to the group was Monsignor Helmut Schüller, former vicar general of the diocese of Vienna, who is the leader of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative. The Austrian priests are asking their bishops for a far more open and transparent church, where people and priests speak openly and honestly with one another. They are asking for a church which concentrates less on fear and more on trust in the Spirit and Word of God.
The Austrian priests have taken their case to Rome and at present there is a type of stand-off between them and the Holy See. The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, the Dominican Christoph Schönborn, has been critical of the group. But latest reports indicate that he is willing to sit down and talk to them.
The new ACP in Ireland has been set up in the context or background of all that has happened in the area of clerical child sex abuse. Priests have felt isolated and let down by church leadership. But there is also an underlying belief among many priests that church leadership is aloof from people and priests and indeed, after all the turmoil and talk, there is still a ‘clerical elite’ that rules from on high, far removed from the tone and spirit of what the Second Vatican Council intended.
Those of you who attend Mass will be aware that a new Missal is being introduced. On the first Sunday in Advent it will be fully in use in all dioceses in the country. The ACP at their AGM pointed out that the new Missal has been introduced with little or no consultation. They argue that a small conservative group within the Vatican has forced this new translation on us. There certainly are many strange aspects to the new Missal. The Opening Prayer is now called the ‘Collect’ – a word that was used before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council; a word that has no meaning for large numbers of people who attend Mass. So why use such a word? Many of the prayers have unwieldy sentences that are difficult to understand. And then there is the issue of exclusive language. Although the new Missal is supposed to be a considerable improvement on earlier translations as regards inclusive language, it is more than disappointing to find some changes, eg, “for us men and our salvation” in the new version of the Nicene Creed.
Every baptised person is a member of the church and each one of us has a role to play in the church community. The mission of the church is to make God present in the world and surely that can only be done in the style and the language of the time. Different groupings within the church might complain and fear that the church might be hijacked. But there is also always the worry that the church could so easily be hijacked by its own clerical class.
As Christians we believe that the Spirit of God works in our church. Don’t ever forget, the Spirit works in and through all of us. And we owe our loyalty to that Spirit of truth.

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  1. it is more than disappointing to find some changes, eg, “for us men and our salvation” in the new version of the Nicene Creed.
    — The old icel translation has ”For us men…” as well. That is not a change therefore.
    I wonder if this comment will be rejected like the other recent comments I made? Most viewers might not know about selective comment approval, but I do, and so does God.

  2. For years I have never said “for us MEN and for our salvation” but have always paused after “us” and continued with the others from “and for . . . ” So I just continue that omission.
    The break has the useful effect of reminding me to be grateful that “us” specifically means ‘me’ as well! I suppose that the ‘translators’ of the new version had to have some general noun after ‘us’ since the creed starts with “I (not We) believe.” (But of course this isn’t the only inconsistency in the new version).
    I write as a woman, but there is no reason why the gentlemen and boys of the parish should not also decline to use this hiatus.

  3. Sean (Derry) says:

    Simmary, should the mass therefore become a ‘pick & mix’ of what each individual or priest fancies? You don’t say ‘for us men’, (just like some priests I know). The facility to attend a ‘proper’ mass has become a bit of a post code lottery, with so many priests doing their own thing. Can someone out there please tell me where this authority to make ‘personal’ changes to the mass comes from? To my knowledge this is not permissible, as stated in the GIRM, “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority.”
    I also agree with Martin and others regarding the moderation of comments posted here. Seems that if you are not in the ‘kick the pope’ camp, your chances of posting comments are greatly limited.

  4. Sean, peace be with you! That quote from the GIRM is lifted straight out of Vatican II, so those who claim to be for Vatican II ought to comply with its directives.

  5. I read the obituary of Fr Dean Brackley SJ.
    Then I read Sean and Martin’s posts. Can you guys eat your breakfast in the morning without instructions and permission from Canon Law?
    Enough said.

  6. Martin, you are the most frequent commentator here — priests are just too browbeaten to comment. Right wing Catholics who pounce on the very reasonable criticisms that are being made of the new liturgy (criticisms even from conservative bishops) and characterize it as schismatic, dissident, etc. etc., are really of no help to Irish priests or to the people of God.

  7. Gerard Flynn says:

    Apropos the new ‘translation’:
    “The language is demeaning to the People of God insofar as it re-instates a rigid separation between God and the people. It is archaic, inflated, pompous, offensively hierarchical, and officious: in short, the language and thought are clerical in the worst sense of the word. The proposed translation sounds regressive and servile as though we were slaves terrified of being slaughtered. Yet precisely because we are God’s beloved children, our liturgical address should surely express our healthy intimacy and complete acceptance in God’s love rather than indicate a pervasive sense of anxious self-abasement and cringing desire to placate a wrathful, all-powerful God.”
    “Problem of Separation and Alienation” Dr. Dennis L. O’Connor of Arlington, VA:

  8. Here’s a blast from the past that might cool our debates about what is right or wrong in liturgical formulae. I remember as a theology student admiring the relatively liberal view about liturgical formulae expressed by Hippolytus of Rome, in his classic work The Apostolic Tradition written about the year 220 AD. The learned priest offers his own suggestion about how the Eucharist should be prayed, then adds:
    Let the bishop give thanks in the manner described above. It is not, however, necessary for him to use the form of words set out there, as though he had to make the effort to say them by heart in his thanksgiving to God. (Episcopus autem gratias agat secundurn quod praediximus. Nullo modo necessarium est ut proferat eadem verba quae praediximus, quasi studens ex memoria gratias agens deo).
    But let each pray according to his abilities. If a man can make a becoming and worthy prayer, it is well. (sed secundum suam potestatem unusquisque oret. Si quidem aliquis habet potestatem orandi cum sufficientia et oratione solemni, bonum est). But if he prays in a different way, and yet with moderation, you must not prevent him, provided that the prayer is correct and conforms to orthodoxy. (Si autem aliquis, dum orat, profert orationem in mensura, ne impediatis eum. Tantum oret quod sanum est in orthodoxia).

  9. Fr Joseph, I am neither right nor left, just a simple Catholic who wishes to be at the warm heart of the Church, guided by the Holy Father and the bishops in communion with him. I reject your name-calling which is a little offensive, but I’ve been called worse. Anyhow, it’ll all be better in heaven, when everything shall be in Latin. We needn’t worry about English. =p

  10. Sean, I’ve pondered your challenge and rebuke and tried to see these matters from your perspective. It seems to me that in your scenario I should either kow-tow or quit. But instead I choose to stay and to pray as I can, and not as I can’t.
    Unfortunately the new version, (I cannot call that flatulant language a translation into English), is often expressed in a way that I cannot genuinely pray.

  11. Sean McDonagh says:

    To Pat Rogers. Thanks for your very appropriate and important blast from the past.
    For too long priests and Christian communities celebrating the Eucharist have been pushed into a linguistic and cultural straight jacket. People of my age remember priests stammering over the words of consecration and being assailed by scruples because they might have made one slight mistake. I certainly do not wish to return to that kind of deadening ritual.
    In fact, I believe that Eucharistic prayers ought to have their roots deeply planted in the community where the Eucharist is being celebrated. The Eucharistic prayers should be different, for example when they are proclaimed in a tropical environment or an Arctic one. I believe Hippolytus would support this position in the very diverse worlds in which the Eucharist is now celebrated. In my years ministring among the T’boli people in the island of Mindanao we regularly wrote Eucharistic prayers which were appropriate for that culture. For example, the concise nature of Latin is lauded in Liturgican Authenticam. In the T’boli culture if a celebrant didn’t have at least four qualifiers to talk about God, many of the congregation might think he didn’ believe in God. Rome did want our bishop to have us send a copy of our liturgical texts to Rome to get the ‘recognito,’ but since no one in Rome either spoke or understood T’boli we didn’t that was a runner.
    If we want people to hear the Gospel of Jesus we had better try to preach it in words and symbols which people will readily understand. And that also hold for liturgical celebrations. If they do not touch the hearts, minds and imagination of our people, especially our young, they will continue to walk away.
    It is worth remembering that less than 200 people out of 55,000 took Latin as a subject in the Leaving Certificate in the Republic of Ireland this year. Any yet, after 1,600 years of Christian history and culture we in Ireland are being subjected to a bad English translation of mediocre Latin. I think there is a huge element of the Rip Van Winkle syndrome in the attempt to revive Latin.
    As someone who studied lingusistics and taught it a the Mindanao State University in the Philippines for many years, I would argue that the relationship between Liturgiam Authenticam (the guiding document for the ‘new’ translation) stands in the same relationship to modern linguistics as the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian astronomy does to Copernican astronomy. In fact, the Ptolemaic astronomy is more compelling. No one ever looks to the west to see the sun rise!

  12. Sean (Derry) says:

    Simmary, I’m am very happy that you still remain within the church and I am sure, by the fact that you take time to respond on this forum, that you are serious about your faith.
    There is however, as we know, only ‘one’ true faith and that is the Catholic faith, in which we are subject to the successor of Christ, Pope Benedict XVI.
    Despite what Fr. Sean may choose to believe, through his own personal interpretation, we as Catholics must recognise the authority of the pope. Neither you, I nor Fr Sean have any right to change The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to suit our owm preferences (I’m still waiting for an answer to my question above to show where any authority to change wording or the rubrics does exist). As regards to Fr. Sean’s remarks, I am not aware of any Canon Law instruction relating to how I eat my breakfast but I am aware of instruction from VCI, The First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ:, regarding the authority of the Holy Father:
    To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our lord Jesus Christ to tend, rule and govern the universal Church.
    2. For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood.
    3. Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the Church which he once received.
    4. For this reason it has always been necessary for every Church–that is to say the faithful throughout the world–to be in agreement with the Roman Church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body.
    5. Therefore, if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy: let him be anathema.
    9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.

  13. “The Church itself is being engulfed and shaken by this tidal wave of change, for however much men may be committed to the Church, they are deeply affected by the climate of the world. They run the risk of becoming confused, bewildered and alarmed, and this is a state of affairs which strikes at the very roots of the Church. It drives many people to adopt the most outlandish views. They imagine that the Church should abdicate its proper role, and adopt an entirely new and unprecedented mode of existence. Modernism might be cited as an example. This is an error which is still making its appearance under various new guises, wholly inconsistent with any genuine religious expression. It is surely an attempt on the part of secular philosophies and secular trends to vitiate the true teaching and discipline of the Church of Christ.” Pope Paul VI in Ecclesiam Suam

  14. Mary Burke says:

    Sean (Derry) and Martin, there would be rather more transparency in your contributions if you gave your full name. In that way people would be able to come to a judgement more quickly about the material you post here.

  15. Mary, I am not prepared to give my name here for one simple reason: I desire a future, and that future might involve working in the Church. I understand that the Church in Ireland is still largely controlled by liberals and Modernists, the ‘professional Catholics’ as Pope BXVI calls them. And no, I am not talking about the bishops. God will judge them, not me. If you think I am going to throw away a possible future in the Church (‘the worker deserves his wages’), then you are mistaken. Also, even if I did give my ‘real name’, it would carry no value or meaning for you, or anyone else. David Smith. There, I just made that up. Albert Finn. Do you see what I mean? Let’s just stick with ‘Martin’, shall we? For all I know, Mary Burke could be made up too, as could the rather unusual ‘Simmary’. That’s the way of the web.

  16. Martin… God will judge everyone. The “them” you talk about, me, everyone who posts here, everyone in the world… Even you.
    I live in hope that He will be merciful to all of us sinners.

  17. Sean (Derry) says:

    Mary Burke,
    If giving my full name helped in any way I would gladly give it along with my full address, telephone number and email address. However it may be more helpful to tell you that I am a lay person, married with two young children. I do not have any hidden agenda and seek only to have Catholic priests faithfully preach true doctrine on faith and morals as set down by the Catholic Church and not individual priests personal interpertation of the same. I simply ask that a priest celebrate the Holy Mass according to approved Church liturgy and rubrics, without personal experimentation. If any priest can show me where he gets approval to make ‘any’ change (even the omission of the word ‘men’ from the creed) I would be delighted to hear.
    If you should have any questions about the sources of anything I post I will be happy to refer you to them.
    Anyway, enough about me, what about your stance Mary?

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