March 2012

It sounds like a very positive shot in the arm for Cincinnati’s spiritual health, especially for laypeople and priests. If it worked for St. Philip Neri and St. John Henry Newman, that’s a pretty good recommendation!

Anybody reading this ever had personal experience with attending an Oratory?

Are they going to be working out of Old St. Mary’s permanently, or just for the near future?

The Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati announces a welcome development:

“The Catholic Telegraph does not publish letters to the editor. The reason is fundamental to the nature of our publication. The Telegraph is not a mass medium. The content of the print version and its companion website are official communications of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
As such, we have a duty to ensure that content complies with and supports the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Publishing opinions about the Catholic faith or conjecture could be misleading to readers and could undermine the credibility of the archdiocese as a credible representative of the teachings of the church.”

Call it Faithful Citizenship Cincinnati-style.  From the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Guidelines for Church Involvement in Political Issues regarding a Christian’s concern for the “overly simplistic single issue” of life:

7. A Christian’s social concern should extend to the entire spectrum of social issues.While some concerns may be weightier than others, citizens should nevertheless be encouraged to inform themselves of a candidate’s stand on all issues before making a final judgment. It would be a disservice to encourage citizens to take an overly simplistic “single issue” approach.

 Can anyone say, “seamless garment?”

Fifth grade students at St. Nicholas Academy (Cincinnati, Ohio) pantomimed the Stations of the Cross for a prayer service in the church for the entire school. Students learned the story of the passion by reenacting the scenes read by narrators.
The Passion and Death of Jesus came alive for the actors as well as the congregation.

Is this really an appropriate way to teach children the story of Our Lord’s passion?  It was held in a “church” and was considered a “prayer service” so this seems to me to be liturgical.  Would this be an example of liturgical abuse?

The following was found in the March 2012 Archdiocese of Cincinnati Clergy Communications  in regards to women having their feet washed during the Mandatum (rite of washing of feet) that occurs on Holy Thursday:


In recent years, several phone calls have been made to the Worship Office regarding “who” may have their feet washed at the Holy Thursday Liturgy. The Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy wrote a statement in the February, 1987 edition of the BCL Newsletter, and restated it once again in 1998, responding to the question of “who” may have their feet washed at the Holy Thursday liturgy. The following response was given by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy:
Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the “Teacher and Lord” who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become
customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service. (BCL, Vol. XXIII, Feb., 1987)
It goes on to say:
While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (viri selecti), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love. (BCL, Vol. XXIII, Feb., 1987)

In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, it has been the custom of priests to wash the feet of a representative group of parishioners: men, women, children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, etc.

Note the cited US Bishops’ statement refers to this liturgical abuse as a mere “variation”; and why the mention of persons with disabilities, the elderly, the children?  No one who is arguing for the liturgical rubrics to be properly followed is arguing that men with disabilities, or elderly men or even boys couldn’t be included.  I think this may be an attempt to demonize those who see the practice of women foot washing as problematic, as being against the inclusion of the handicap, etc.  Never mind the fact that the Bishops’ statement which is cited has no authority in the matter.  Never mind the fact that the 2002 Roman Missal specifically mentions only men (viri selecti).   Not even His Excellency, Archbishop Schnurr, has the authority to allow this.  Only the Holy See can over ride the Roman Missal, and they’ve never done so regarding this matter nor have they granted any bishops’ conference (to my knowledge) such an approval to do so.   In fact this is what the Holy See has said regarding the matter in 1988’s Paschalis Sallemnitatis:

51. The washing of the feet of chosen men which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.[58] This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.

It appears as if the archdiocese is on auto-pilot regarding this policy, as it is pretty much more of the same excuses that have been peddled for years in these parts.  Why this is allowed to continue to go on, is beyond me.

I’ve made no bones about my dislike for the bureacratic, secretive, and political nature of the +Schnurr episcopate. Our shepherd is clearly a man who likes to do things “behind the scenes” and off-camera. That said, his priestly appointments have been generally praiseworthy, and his latest elevation is nothing short of stellar. Fr. Martin Fox, a friend to this site and, more importantly, a friend to tradition-minded liturgy, will soon by the archdiocesan Director of Priestly Formation, and he describes his new assignment in a recent post on his blog. Bully for him and the priests who will benefit from his care.

My responsibilities will be to organize a host of programs and activities aimed at the ongoing spiritual and intellectual formation of our priests: retreats, days of recollection, continuing education, and the meetings the Archbishop calls with his priests each year, and every five years.

Priests are expected to make a retreat every year, and to take several days of continuing education each year as well. I will be responsible for assisting priests in doing so, providing opportunities and–to the extent I can–give encouragement to take advantage of these opportunities.

Every ten years, priests are welcome to take a sabbatical–which is meant to be a time of additional learning, as well as spiritual recharging. Again, promoting and providing for sabbaticals will be my responsibility.

This position also assists in organizing training and continuing education programs for parish administrators and lay employees; and because so many of these activities overlap with many disciplines, the Director of Priestly Formation collaborates with the Worship Office, the office for youth, the school offices, the business offices–in other words, all the offices of the Archdiocese. After all, these are all areas where ongoing formation is helpful and valuable.

It’s appropriate to say that this is a position for which I did apply. But before I applied, and before I told anyone I was considering it, I did have several priests contact me to ask if I would consider it. I’m honored by that–but even more grateful to see that as a confirmation that it will be a role where I can do good for my fellow priests, and thereby for the Archdiocese.

I will be reporting directly to Bishop Joseph Binzer.

Last weekend, Ken Overberg, S.J., one of the resident heretics (a word I don’t use loosely) at Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel flatly denied the doctrine of the Atonement for about the umpteenth time from the lectern:

Lent is an especially difficult time for those who try to believe in a nonviolent God. Scriptures and prayers, songs and sermons praise suffering and the cross. They speak of a wondrous love that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadfulcurse. God sends Jesus to suffer and die for our sins.

The Law of Retribution and the ancient religion of “violence saves” seem to have trumped Jesus’ teaching about a God of compassion and healing, of life and love. So throughout Lent we hear of ransom and sacrifice, expiation and atonement. Jesus did indeed die a violent death of crucifixion. That was an historical event. But the interpretation of the event is an act of theology and faith.

And there are different interpretations in our Christian tradition.

We do not have to believe in a violent and abusive God who sends Jesus to suffer for us. No, God so loved the world that God gave the only Son––not to die but to live, to be the light to show us the way: the way of forgiveness and compassion, the way trust and nonviolence, the way of intimacy and loving service. Jesus reveals God’s desire and gift for the full flourishing of humanity, in other words, eternal life. As some Scriptures and some great theologians (e.g., Duns Scotus, Edward Schillebeeckx, Catherine LaCugna) through the centuries teach, Jesus is not an afterthought to original sin, Jesus is not sent to make up for sin. Jesus is God’s first thought of sharing life and love in a definitive and unique way. As the opening of John’s gospel proclaims: “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God…. All things came to be through him….” (John1:1–3)

Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, John does not speak of ransom and atonement. Jesus’ being lifted up is part of his hour of glorification, an epiphany. Yes, Jesus dies by crucifixion, but by human decree not by divine decree. God did not want Jesus’ suffering and does not want ours.

It is so hard for us to accept this and to let go of a god of retribution. Perhaps this is so because this is what we have been taught and still hear and sing and say. Or perhaps it is because we subtly realize that to let go of a violent god also means we can no longer justify our own violence.

This Lent, will you risk giving up the god of ransom and atonement and embrace the God of compassion and nonviolence––that is, the God of Jesus?

And also for the umpteenth time, here is the pertinent section in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which teaches the direct opposite:

118. Why was the death of Jesus part of God’s plan?


To reconcile to himself all who were destined to die because of sin God took the loving initiative of sending his Son that he might give himself up for sinners. Proclaimed in the Old Testament, especially as the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, the death of Jesus came about “in accordance with the Scriptures”.

Any day now the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s fearless shepherd will challenge XU’s Jesuits to repent and be faithful to the Gospel.

Just you wait and see.

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