Five wounds inflicted on Christ’s Mystical Body through our liturgy

Here’s one view, expressed by Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, and quoted by Fr. Z.

1. Mass versus populum [facing the people].
2. Communion in the hand.
3. The Novus Ordo Offertory prayers.
4. Disappearance of Latin in the Ordinary Form.
5. Liturgical services of lector and acolyte by women and ministers in lay clothing.

Bishop S. and Fr. Z. would prefer:

1. Mass with the priest’s back to the people
2. Communion on the tongue only.
3. Offertory prayers “oriented to the mystery of the sacrifice of the Cross”
4. Use of Latin during the Ordinary Form (the non-Latin Mass)
5. No female altar servers or readers; liturgical vestments for the laymen who take those roles.

My Comments:

Jesus did not establish the Mass in immutable specifics. He gave His Church both teaching authority and temporal authority; He gave His Church authority over both doctrine and discipline. But disciplines, including the specifics in the form of the Mass, are changeable and dispensable.

The fact that a discipline persists for over a thousand years does not convert that discipline into a dogma. The fact that a discipline was wisely chosen to begin with does not make the discipline unchangeable. The proof of this is found in the disciplines of the Old Testament, which were established by the word of God given to Moses and the Israelites. God chose the Old Testament disciplines, and yet they were dispensed by Christ.

1. When Jesus celebrated the first Mass, did He have His back to the people? Not likely. This element in the form of the Mass is not essential to our worship of God. There are reasons to recommend either element, facing the people or facing away. Facing away from the people give the priest the same position as the people, they are all facing in the same direction, facing God so to speak. The priest as a member of the people is emphasized. Facing toward the people emphasizes the priest as representing Christ. We the people are facing Jesus, and He is facing us.

The idea that when the priest faces the people, it is equivalent to a wound of Christ is an absurd exaggeration. Even if one thinks that it would be better to face away from the people, it is an element of discipline, not a heresy or a grave sin.

2. Communion on the tongue is the current norm, but Communion in the hand is permitted. Even if there are reasons to recommend one discipline over the other, discipline is not dogma. It is not a grave sin or a heresy to receive in the hand.

For myself, I prefer to receive in the hand from an extraordinary minister of holy Communion. It is absurd to say that a layperson cannot touch Communion with the hand, but a layperson can do so when dispensing Communion.

3. Offertory prayers “oriented to the mystery of the sacrifice of the Cross” may be an advantage over more diverse prayers, but the Church has the authority to change the prayers. There is nothing about the Mass that absolutely requires this particular element. It does seem better to me, but I also do not think that this point is such a grave disorder as to be comparable to a wound of Christ on the Cross.

4. So let me see if I understand this, Latin must be used during the non-Latin Mass, or it is like a wound on Christ? This takes the ‘discipline is dogma’ error to new depths. As someone who has translated the entire Bible from Latin into English, I would be happy to see some Latin prayers during the Mass. But I realize that the vast majority of Catholics do not know Latin. And so I think that the Church has not erred in omitting Latin from the current form of the Mass.

Bishop Schneider cites past Councils of the Church, including Vatican II, in supporting his position on the elements of the form of the Mass. But when an Ecumenical Council decides a matter of discipline, it remains changeable by the temporal authority of the Church. The infallible teachings of an Ecumenical Council are unchangeable, but discipline is always changeable — as proven by the fact that the disciplines of the Old Testament, given by God, were all dispensed.

5. The participation of the laity in the Mass is a reflection of our participation in the work of the Church to sanctify the world. The apostolate of the laity is a teaching of the Church, and so a discipline that reflects that teaching is fitting. Therefore, laypersons as lectors need not wear vestments. Altar servers should generally wear vestments, but if there is some just reason (e.g. if they are unavailable), it is not a wound of Christ.

As for women participating as lectors, altar servers, and emhCs, I understand Scripture to teach that God gives different roles to men and to women in the family, the Church, and society. As a result, having women in these roles is contrary to a teaching, and not a matter of mere discipline.

My version of Five wounds inflicted on Christ’s Mystical Body through our liturgy:

1. priests and deacons who do not believe what the Church teaches
2. laypersons at Mass who do not believe what the Church teaches
3. priests and deacons who do not practice what the Church teaches
4. laypersons at Mass who do not practice what the Church teaches
5. Unworthy reception of Communion

Very many persons at Mass all over the world do not believe what the Church teaches. Very many are in a state of material heresy. Perhaps a large percentage are in a state of formal heresy, and yet they are attending Mass and receiving Communion despite being automatically excommunicated for formal heresy. Many priests and deacons, and many persons with leadership roles at Mass and in the parish, also reject some Church teachings, or badly misunderstand them. Some are in a state of formal heresy, and yet continue to have these leadership roles.

Many Catholics commit objective mortal sins, without repentance and on a continuing basis, and yet they attend Mass and receive Communion. They use contraception. They support legalized abortion. They support same-sex marriage. They adopt whatever the prevailing views are in sinful secular society, in direct contradiction to the definitive teachings of the Church.

These are the things that wound Christ during the liturgy of the Mass. Minor details of form are not anywhere near as weighty as grave sin and abject heresy. The idea that fixing these elements of the form of the Mass will make everything right (“save the liturgy, save the world”) is abject Pharisaism. It is the replacement of dogma with discipline, of faith and morals with legalism, of the interior meaning with the exterior form.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Which do you think is correct? —

Believe and practice the Faith, save the world.

Make minor improvements to the form of the liturgy, save the world.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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2 Responses to Five wounds inflicted on Christ’s Mystical Body through our liturgy

  1. Carlo stebbings says:

    I like your version better.

  2. Daniel says:

    I agree with you in most of what you say. Especially regarding believing and living the faith. There is nothing more important than that, as Christ Himself admonished to “believe” and “sin no more”. However, the formal part of the religion (including rites, vestment, etc.) is also important: respect for them and especially for the Holy Eucharist must necessarily flow from it. It is almost like the discussion of “sola fide” vs. “faith and works”: Is it faith that saves or is it your works? It is neither: Jesus saves, but you need to have both inasmuch as it is feasible to you. In the same way, you don’t need to say this or that prayer, and you don’t need to wear this or that vestment in order to be “saved”, but you need to believe and live your faith, and that necessarily will take you to grasp every opportunity to show respect for our Lord and to carry out the rituals from the heart, not in a pure outwardly manner. That is why the ordinary form of receiving Holy Communion is kneeling and in the tongue; that is why receiving it in the hand is merely a concession; and that is why laypeople who distribute communion are called “extraordinary” ministers: laypeople should not touch Holy Communion unless it is by necessity. Let’s not take it for granted, and let’s not forget that it is Jesus Christ Himself in the flesh. Quoting from Cardinal Arinze: “If you know it is God you’re receiving, why don’t you kneel? Why don’t you crawl?” I am not a theologian (my knowledge of theology is basic at best), but I love our Lord with all of my puny might, so if I err is out of ignorance; I would still say this out of love for God: I would suspect that even if you are a priest, if you’re not celebrating Mass, it would be best to receive Jesus Christ kneeling and in the tongue. Form in itself is useless without belief and living the faith, but form becomes important if it is firmly grounded on faith, charity and hope.

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