Wednesday, 19 November 2014
A Diocesan Pastoral Letter, and a Deanery Reorganisation of Masses
Last weekend we read out a Diocesan pastoral letter at all Masses and distributed leaflets outlining future plans for the development of the Diocese. The leaflet makes interesting and indeed, amusing reading in that it speaks of a diocese “founded on an immensely rich Christian heritage that has thrived and flourished over hundreds of years despite the many difficulties it has faced”. Directly beneath these words are two graphs showing the decline in Diocesan priests (from 360 in 1972 to 150 in 2013) and of Mass attendance (from 100,000 in 1980 to 40,000 in 2014).
If the Diocese flourished so well during the Viking Invasions and Reformation Persecutions but has dwindled in the last fifty years, we need to ask “what have we been doing that precipitated this?”. After all, we came through the Viking raids and Reformation in flourishing manner; why have we not overcome the person-centred, subjectivist, relativist ideologies of the1960’s? Probably because the person-centred, subjectivist, relativist ideologies tap into our concupiscence; we are all too keen on self-satisfaction and aggrandisement.
We are given slogans such as ‘a vibrant Church’ but this is obviously untrue: the only thing that has shown itself full to be full of energy is the progression of disintegration. This is not unique to our Diocese and Catholic leaders throughout the Western world need to wake up to the reality of the situation. Some have in fact woken up and are attempting to address the bad liturgy, bad catechises and failure to promote the priesthood that has gone on since the 1960’s, but these are rare men and too often dismissed and isolated by their confrères.
To point to increased lay involvement in diocesan structures, in liturgy and in pastoral care is not to indicate a flourishing Church, but to indicate a Church wherein the folk have been removed from their vocation as the leaven in the world to make up for the falling number of priests. This fall actually resulted from priests handing over so many of their tasks to their people in the mistaken idea that Vatican II’s call to ‘lay mission’ meant ‘lay ministry’, that they diminished the role of the priest (and gave the laity the impression that their vocation as the leaven in society -to which they are called by Christ- was of lesser value than then the cultic and governing role of the priest). Unless we re-affirm the role of the priest and promote the God-given call of the laity as the leaven in society, we will see no flourishing except that of increasing disintegration.
Deanery Reorganisation of Masses...
Linked to the fall in the number of priests active in the Diocese, our Deanery recently worked out a plan wherein every one of our 10 parishes will have one Sunday Mass, since all Masses will be celebrated at a time which allows these Masses to continue should the Deanery only have 3 priests active over a particular weekend (or indeed, long term). The following is proposed for printing in our parish bulletin this coming weekend:
From the First Sunday in Advent (next Sunday) every parish in the Deanery will go to one Mass per parish. This ensures that even if only three priests are active, every parish can retain its Sunday Mass. For some to lose their favourite Mass time is annoying, but we should fit our lives around Mass, not fit Mass around our lives.
Our parish is blest in that, since we alone provide the Old Form of Mass, we will retain two Masses each weekend. I know many would prefer a New Form of Mass on a Sunday morning and would move the Traditional Mass, but we cannot demand that others are pushed out and marginalised to suit us. Further, none of us can claim the right to say that the Form of Mass that was good enough for the saints for 1500 years; good enough for the martyrs to die for, and good enough for our parents, is beneath us. Such haughtiness is not good, especially when it is directed towards the belittling of what the Church regarded as her greatest treasure -and which still has FULL EQUALITY IN CHURCH LAW with the New Form of Mass -and indeed, it has a certain priority in terms of Custom (on which some church laws are based). Let us rejoice that we have options other folk in the deanery do not.
Attitudes hostile to the TLM are not limited to this parish; it seems it is quite widespread, and to arise from a detestation for and fear of the past (a past wherein the Church flourished). Is it not time to regain our humility before God, and our gratefulness that we have any Mass –and priests- at all?