Thursday, June 01, 2006

Straight up, no chaser... and no bull!

Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times

The fan mail keeps rolling in, so I must be doing something right. The following came at a result of some spirited discourse, following my post entitled "Flectamus":

"DOH! Reading can be such a good habit. I think I might take it up. Thanks for clearing that up so quickly, and for not rubbing my nose in it."

Okay, I give up, my response was a little over the top. That is indeed regrettable, and I take this opportunity to apologize. Because you're right, sir, it's fair to remind ourselves about the importance of obedience, and the assurance it provides that all hell doesn't break loose. But...

First, I would share with my readers a little story about what obedience is NOT.

A young priest was called into his bishop's office. It seems he was preaching on a topic of some controversy, the continuation of which would have been the source of embarrassment by the prelate, who used this occasion to direct the priest to stop. Very well, the priest said, give me order in writing and I will cease immediately. Not willing to go on the record with this directive for reasons of his own, the bishop refused. Very well then, the priest replied, I assume I may continue to preach on the matter in question. He then begged his superior's pardon, and left.

When an authority gives an order, he takes responsibility for the consequences of that order. It is true in military law (lest senior officers go around "pulling rank" on other officers' subordinates at will), and it is true in the natural law, as well as in natural justice. More to our point, it applies in canon law. Conversely, when a superior is not empowered to give a particular order, and yet persists in doing so, or when he cannot otherwise take responsibility for the outcome even of a legitimate order, his subjects cannot be held accountable for his loss of credibility over the long haul. Such an authority has done this to himself. That is what is happening in Orange County. It is happening elsewhere in the Church.

Many of the faithful continue to take it lying down, so they excuse or explain away the misdeeds of their spiritual fathers, even in the face of public scandal. Then there are those who fall just a little higher on the food chain, who by the gift of discernment that comes with Divine Grace, have learned to recognize a wolf in sheep's clothing when they see one. The great heresies of our history have always been started by a priest, and the great reforms have always arisen from among the laity. There is more to the latter than anarchy; it is the result of the pursuit of virtue, and the frustration that arises from the lack of proper shepherding in the course of such pursual. For all the pretense towards maintaining order, these prelates have succeeded in the institutionalization of chaos.

And after awhile, when your intelligence, your piety, your deepest-held beliefs, are continually insulted by those whose lives are obstensibly pledged to the protection of the same... well, some people decide they've taken all the $#!† they can endure. That is what is happening in Orange County. It is what you will see happen elsewhere -- sooner, rather than later.

By the way, some of you may wonder what happened to the young priest I told you about. His name was Giuseppe Sarto. Most of us know him better as Pope Saint Pius X.

Not a bad resumé for such an upstart, don't you think?

Or don't you?


Dad29 said...

Authority is transitive; its force is significantly diminished when an intermediate authority (a Bishop, e.g.) disobeys Rome.

The Bishop's authority is automatically damaged. And at some point in time, the "respect" due the Bishop becomes hollow, at best.

That's something that Rembert Weakland never understood...

bullschuck said...

I heartily agree with your statements. Do you feel that the Bishop of Orange has disobeyed Rome in this instance?

David L Alexander said...

"Do you feel that the Bishop of Orange has disobeyed Rome in this instance?"

(Well, I'm no Jimmy Akin, but I'll give it a shot.)

No, not in this particular case. But I do believe he has in others, and I also believe he may be abusing his authority in this case.

In an earlier case, he attempted to refuse Communion to a woman who knelt for it, to the point of verbal abuse. Even though the adopted universal gesture for the USA is standing, kneeling is not prohibited, inasmuch as it is protected by customary law and universal norms, and a recent clarification from the appropriate dicastery in Rome (of which His Immenseness would have been aware) has essentially pointed this out.

In the matter of standing versus kneeling in preparation for Communion (that is, following the Agnus Dei), the local Ordinary was within his rights to direct his subjects to stand, but this does not make the universal norm of kneeling objectionable, let alone gravely sinful (and there are witnesses going on record that this charge was publicly made).

There are two overriding principals here, both to be found in the general norms of canon law. One is that a lower authority cannot restrict that which a higher authority allows. The other is that custom is the best interpreter of law. On top of that, we have the words of the Apostle of Common Sense himself, G K Chesterton, who pointed out that having a right to do something does not always make you right when you do it. Rights, by definition, have corresponding responsibilities, lest those rights be abused, or interfere with the rights of others. I believe (based on the best information I can find, which includes obtained correspondence in addition to the LA Times article) that, in upsetting the legitimate pious aspirations of the faithful of the parish in question, without a serious reason, the Bishop of Orange County has impeded his own ability to be trusted as a reliable shepherd.

In summation, the Holy See is not known to have a specific directive against being a schmuck. That goes to a Higher Court.

bullschuck said...

I think you can say that he's stretching his role to say that folks who don't kneel are committing mortal sin. But I hope we all agree that it is his right to direct them to stand and that as faithful people we should and obey him out of respect for the office that he holds. But if you can't find a reason to obey him for the office he holds, think about who gave him that office and if you respect him.

And please, keep all variations of my last name to yourself. Schmuck being one of the kinder ones...

David L Alexander said...

"And please, keep all variations of my last name to yourself..."

Oh, shucks, what was I thinking?

Anonymous said...

When the consequence of the bishop's order amounts to less reverence for God rather than more, don't we have the right to disobey it?

What if the bishop decided that we should wave our arms around in the air during the Agnus Dei? Would anyone be required to comply? Suppose he wanted us to turn to our neighbor and speak the words of the Agnus Dei? Before you say that these are silly scenerios, give a thought to some of the other silly things that have happened during Mass over the course of the last 40 years.

In my parish that ignores the bishop's order to stand for the Agnus Dei and throughout communion, the bishop's recent order that we bow before receiving communion is largely obeyed, and doing so has made uniform a variety of practices that were in place prior to this order, such as genuflecting, making the sign of the cross prior to receiving, and kneeling to receive.

When the order promotes respect and piety, the laity obeys mostly. When the order subtracts from piety and respect the laity goes right on doing what they have always done.

Anonymous said...

It is a lie when truth is not put in the correct context.
St.Pius X must have good reason to not stop. And I don't thing he broke any Cannon Law (IF HE DID HE MUST HAVE CHANGED THAT LAW WHEN HE BECAME POPE, LOL :)) Yet seriously, the bishop must have asked him not to tell the truth or something similar.(around the area of inappropriateness on behalf of the bishop!)

Anonymous said...

The problem lies in who is right and who is wrong.

I know !

God is always right!

bullschuck said...

Carrie, I don't think I see the issue the same as you do. Is there really any question as to the right of the Bishop to choose if his flock is to kneel or stand during the Agnus Dei? He didn't take this right, the Magisterium specifically and explicitly gave it to him. I hope that you can see the distinction between the Bishop choosing to exercise a right vs. a Bishop inserting the Liturgical Break Dance moves that you mention. As I said before, this isn't just about defying a Bishop's specific choice, it's about defying the Magisterium's decision to offer him the choice. If standing during the Agnus Dei is so subtractive to piety and respect, then why does the GIRM specifically mention standing as a Bishop's perogative? And if you have problems with the GIRM, go talk to Cardinal Arinze, not to your Bishop.

Stephen Heiner said...


Aren't you in Arlington, one of the "conservative Novus Ordo" dioceses?

Even though I haven't attended the Novus Ordo with any regularity for 5 years, it would at least be a consolation to have a real ordinary, not like my clown bishop out here.

David L Alexander said...


My answer to that would require a separate post.

The short explanation is, yes, I live in Arlington. I wouldn't describe it so much as "conservative" as I would a bit tightly wound. The truth is, we have some of the same nonsense that exists elsewhere, and a leadership that's just as willing to wink at it (although they're really good at pretending they're not the type). On the other hand, we have a lot of really great priests, especially the younger ones. Bishop Loverde is a decent fellow, hardly a "clown," although there are times I think he could use a little... well, encouragement, yeah, that's it.

We've had the Mass in Latin in several parishes for many years, albeit using the reformed missal (the classical form being allowed in two places only recently). We recently were permitted female altar servers, although I don't expect the innovation to become very common for a long time, if at all.

Just when I think things could be a lot better, I get to travel to another part of the country, and am grateful to be where I am.

There, that was almost its own post. Any questions?

Stephen Heiner said...


I don't recognize the ability of the local bishop to arbitrarily change liturgical norms, hence I cannot totally agree with your post, but I do like your perspective on this matter.

As far as your reply to my earlier comment, I find it interesting. Arlington is always touted as "the model" but I must admit I very rarely visit the Novus Ordo blogs, so I don't know much. Thanks for the info.

David L Alexander said...

Stephen, thou hast writ:

"I don't recognize the ability of the local bishop to arbitrarily change liturgical norms..."

Granted, but it would appear, in this singular case, that the Holy See does.

In past centuries, the local ordinary would have had broad discretion in such matters, extending even to official liturgical texts used at Holy Mass. The resulting excess was brought into line in the liturgical reforms of Trent. In this era of easy mobility, I find such local variation to be cause for confusion among the faithful, and a pretext for unnecessary tinkering with the sacred liturgy (to put it mildly). I believe the Holy Father, as well as Cardinal Arinze, are of the same mind -- as would be, I daresay, Mr Chesterton. Let us pray that our princes are endowed with the testicular fortitude needed to curtail this confusion.

As to Arlington, while diocesan culture remains relatively stable, it hasn't been touted as a "model" of much of anything lately. Our abundance of vocations during the 80s and 90s has been offset by the emerging success of bishops in smaller sees throughout the USA (particularly when measured per capita), a rapidly growing population in Northern Virginia, not to mention the removal of an obviously successful vocations director by the current bishop early in the latter's tenure.

Perhaps this is one "Novus Ordo blog" you can learn to live with. MWBH loves Catholic tradition, and stands with Peter. Soooo.... stay tuned, and stay in touch.