Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bishop Tom Burns of the Diocese of Menevia does not get it!

Mass to Celebrate the Closure of the Year of the Priest

HOMILY: In most walks of life, we need back-up: e.g. reaching agreement in a family about some proposal; winning support at work for a new idea; welcoming a helpful word or a shoulder to lean on at a time of crisis; in sport, as in cricket: backing-up at the wicket to prevent an overthrow; and, of course, in the world of computers, making a back-up copy of files gives new meaning to the phrase Jesus saves! In the Church too, the sacraments back-up the living-out of our Christian calling. Indeed, the Eucharist is not just a back-up to something else; it is the very means of receiving the Lord fully into our lives. It is the major part of a priest's ministry, in which he brings the Lord to others. It is the summit of our prayer and worship as priests.

The Ministerial Priesthood functions amid today's frenetic reality. What we are doing today can seem to some a bit out of touch with reality. To some, the Priesthood appears to be a bit remote from the physical and moral difficulties of ordinary lives. Yet, as priests, we are to step into a new space, the space of the Transcendent, of Otherness. For, we are signed by a special character and - conformed to Christ the Priest. We need to see beyond the Priesthood, and delve more deeply into it, because it is our call to Priesthood that has to change people's lives. The transcendent demand needs ratification, so that the Priesthood is recognized as that group of men, anointed by Christ to stand in that daunting space, to gather the rest of God's people around that space, and to underwrite the presence of that holy space as near and accessible to each one of us. This 'other' space will provide a bridge between this world and the next, between what we are and what we shall be. So, by our ordination, we are anointed, to be Christ-like, to bring others to that goal of human history and that focal point to which the desires of humanity aim: Christ himself. We are called to a ministry of preaching and healing, to make people whole again, ready and willing to meet the Lord when he calls, to be there when others need us most. This requires us to develop our inner well-being; our generosity; our selflessness; our desire to give and encourage forgiveness in others by our word and example, and most of all by our generosity of service. We are called to have the strength and courage to contradict the ways of the world.

And to do all this, we cannot do it alone. There is another aspect of priesthood that complements the ordained priesthood. It is the priesthood of the laity. It is the priesthood conferred on all who are baptised. Yet, there is only one priesthood of Christ, within which there is a diversity of kind and function. It is the role of the ministerial priesthood to bring to its full exercise - and to its full expression - the priesthood of the entire body of Christ, in which all share in different degrees. And to remember, every ordained priest comes from among the laity in the first place.

It is difficult to convey what it means to say, for the first time, the words of consecration at Mass, and to realise that it is the first person singular - I - that we are using. It is my voice, my hands, my mind, that are engaged in this tremendous act which is central to the Eucharist, in which Christ is made present through my person. How could anyone in the priesthood ever have abused that anointing deliberately and-repeatedly, not just in a single, one-off moment of immaturity or indiscretion immediately regretted, but by knowing and planning habitually, without remorse or regret, what they were doing?

It's ironic that the Year of the Ordained Priest began as the Year of the Abused Victim. During this past year we have made no excuses; for there are none to make. The lapses and the offences of the few, who make up no more than a half of one percent of all clergy, have sadly damaged also the many. It's been a year when society has called into question the integrity of politicians and their expenses, financiers and their bonuses, and not least of all priests and their assaults on the innocent and vulnerable. All these groups have been guilty of betraying trust. All have been convinced of their own self-righteousness, almost their entitlement to do these things, their conviction that they were doing no wrong.

For priests who offended, I'm not sure that their abuses grew out of the rule of celibacy; abuse happens within otherwise good families too. I'm more convinced that it grew out of the clericalism of the past. That clericalism risks raising its head today among those who again are looking for identity in status, not service. They want to be treated differently. There are those who set high standards of morality for lay people, while they blatantly violate those same standards themselves. There are those who go to extremes to express the Mass in a particular way, whether it is in the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form, in a so-called VAT II rite or Tridentine Rile, through the "People's Mass" or the . "Priest's Mass". Some want to put the priest on a pedestal, whilst the people are consigned to be privileged spectators outside the rails. Flamboyant modes of liturgical vestments and rubrical gestures abound. Women are denied all ministries at Mass: doing the Readings, the serving, the Bidding Prayers, and taking Communion to the Sick. To many in our Church and beyond, this comes across as triumphalism and male domination. This clericalism conceals the fact that the Church as an institution has often acted in collusion with what I can only regard as structural sinfulness. It has paid dearly for it and is untrue to its humble Founder, Jesus Christ.

This underlying culture of clericalism has to end and never happen again. In addition, where there have been victims of it, they merit our individual and collective expression of sorrow, without reservation, plus our promise of listening and healing, and our assurance of Support, These are openly given. Accompanying all this is a deeper truth without which life would be just too hard to live. It is the truth that there is a deeper power at work below the surface of our human failings and our uncertainties. The strength of the priesthood, exercised by some 99% of the clergy, lies in the daily sacrifice of self in the service of the Lord, in making him known, in a Church that all of us love and that does so much, good. We can only glimpse a horizon beyond which so little is known this side of eternity. Here, earthy symphonies will always remain unfinished. And we want a priest to ease us out of this world, who anoints and forgives us, to speed us on our journey into the next.

Together, whether you are ministerial priest or baptised priest, you are all called to be a dynamic force in the Church. You, the ordained, have to realise the power for good that you have and thus exercise your God-given gifts. None of you can measure the good that you do. Most of it is hidden. It is rarely publicised, and because of its personal and confidential nature it cannot be shouted from the roof-tops. It is known to the individual who has benefited. It is known to the Lord himself. Whereas everything else can be taken away from you, even your reason can diminish or disappear, no-one can take away your priesthood. You are a priest forever. Cherish that. You, the laity, and us, the ordained, have been given a dynamic force to be Christ and to make Christ present in this world, today and for as long as we are alive. Sometimes we need to pray as Pope John XXIII did one night he knelt by his bedside, tired and frustrated at the end of a long day. He said: "It's your Church, Lord. Get on with it!"   AMEN.

Bishop Tom acknowledges the helpful advice and comments which he obtained as a result of consulting certain individuals and resources in the preparation of this homily, which was given in St. Joseph's Cathedral, Swansea, on the occasion of the Closure Mass for the Year of the Priest' 21st  June 2010.


Webmaster Gareth said...

imho to describe the Mass in those terms "flamboyant...gestures" does great damage to the unity of the Church, especially after the Holy Father has done so much to bring those with a deep love of the "EF" Mass back into the heart of the Church.

Anonymous said...

With such bishops it is really no surprise that the Church in England and Wales has difficulties.

The man utterly ignores the fact that vast part of the abuses happened through homosexual priests who were, again in their vast majority, ordained after Vatican II.

He is utterly blind to the real causes of the problem, but ready to attribute it to imaginary clauses fitting to his political agenda.

What a shame.


Unknown said...

Or, as John XXIII said on his death bed, "Stop the council! Stop the council!"

ChrisG said...

Where did you get that from Eoin??

Please tell!

ChrisG said...

Found it!

When, during the rebellious first session of the Council, he [Pope John XXIII] realized that the papacy had lost control of the process, he attempted, as Cardinal John Heenan of Westminster later revealed, to organize a group of bishops to try to force it to an end. Before the second session opened he had died. --Anne Muggeridge, The Desolate City (revised & expanded ed./1990), p. 72; letter from Fr. Joseph W. Oppitz, C.S.s.R. in "America" magazine of April 15, 1972

He used to say at the end: "This is no longer my council." After the first session he knew that the antiforce had taken over.... And from then on he knew the Council was going down. Physically, then, the carcinoma was eating away at his vitals, and he was already over eighty. And he simply physically didn't have the strength. --Fr. Malachi B. Martin, "The Storm Breaks," 1995.

Stop the Council; stop the Council. --Pope John XXIII, on his deathbed, quoted in Kevin Haney, "The Stormy History of General Councils," The Latin Mass, Spring 1995, attributed to Jean Guitton (ob. March 21, 1999), the only Catholic layman to serve as a peritus at Vatican II. Also reported by Michael Davies in Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre.

Pope John XXIII expected the Council to end in three months, just like the Italian Synod that preceded it, which issued, at the Pope's direction, very traditional decrees, such as the full retention of Latin. The pope said: "We will come together for three months with all the Bishops of the entire world. We will begin on October 13 [1962]. Then everything
will be over with between December 8 and January 25. Everybody will go home, and the Council will be over and done with." Little did he predict how wrong he would be!

Cardinal Heenan, the Cardinal Primate of England, who knew Pope John well, wrote in his work entitled "Crown of Thorns" in 1974: "The bishops were under the impression that the liturgy had been fully discussed [at the Second Vatican Council]. In retrospect it is clear that they were given the opportunity of discussing only general principles. Subsequent changes were more radical than those intended by Pope John and the bishops who passed the decree on the liturgy. His sermon at the end of the first session shows that Pope John did not suspect what was being planned by the liturgical experts." The Cardinal Primate had already written in 1968: "Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and Pope John would have wept over Rome if he had foreseen what would be done in the name of his Council."

ChrisG said...

Unknown said...

Interesting comments. While I personally believe clericalism has been a problem for many centuries, it doesn't explain the moral issues that face the chuch both within and without. For the bishop to use this instance to intimate that traditionalism is the problem is rather disingenuous. He wants to say it, but simply stops at the inuendo. By the way, "inuendo" is NOT the Italian word for "suppository."

As for the Pope John XXIII, it is clear that the council took a decidedly different direction than he originally intended. When I was studying at Econe, Archbishop Lefebvre spoke frequently of the "hijacking" of the council. This fact is even understood quite well by those who did the hijacking. They knew what they were doing.

What could have been an excellent homily on the priesthood became a veiled attack at traditionalism - of both the Novus Ordo and EF variety.