Trouble at (Vatican) mill?

**After reading this, do go to the UPDATE here, where there is a little more news**

One cannot help but wonder if the gales of change sweeping through Vatican corridors are causing some unforeseen damage in their progress (unforeseen by me at least). Some things seem to have been blown out of curial in-trays.

Over a year ago I asked Archbishop Coleridge about the progress of the touted new English lectionary, and he was gracious enough to answer in some detail. A few months back I wrote to him again in his new diocese to ask about any progress. So far there has been no answer. To be fair, I have not emailed him again since I am loath to be pestering him. But it coincides with a deafening silence around the traps about the lectionary and its progress. Which raises the question: is there still any progress?

This is not an unreasonable question if you keep in mind some other possible casualties of the gales of change.

A Vatican document, planned for a July release, concerning concelebration at Mass has not eventuated. And word is that it is unlikely to appear at all. It would have given some authoritative interpretation for a practice introduced after the Council and for which the Church was ill-prepared, and some guidelines to ensure its effective and consistent use in the Church’s liturgy. I must admit, though I do concelebrate, there are times when I would be grateful for stronger rubrical guidance for concelebration. Too often in various places it seems an occasion for a priest to don an alb and stole, and then doze quietly for the rest of the Mass, though hopefully waking in time for the Eucharistic Prayer. Does this form of concelebration really equate to celebrating with the principal celebrant, or is it little more than a muted reinforcement of clerical identity? Some magisterial guidance would have been very welcome.

Another document being prepared for release this summer was a manual for priests on how to say Mass being prepared also by the Congregation for Divine Worship. It seems to have been intended as a separate document to the concelebration one. Yet regarding this one too there is silence as summer slips away (nothing much happens in the Vatican in the furnace-like conditions of Rome in August). Has it bitten the dust? One Roman contact had no idea, having heard nothing about it for some time.

Perhaps the reform of the reform is over. Or maybe the Vatican has learned to plug leaks during the preparation of documents. Let’s pray it’s the latter.

Pax.

Of Guns and Priests

A busy Christmas and New Year, new tasks taken on including redesigning the abbey’s website (a work still in progress but light is at the end of the tunnel), and a speechless-making horror at the gun debate currently recently re-ignited in the States have kept me from here. Mea culpa. If the forecast levels of snow actually come to pass here tomorrow, there may be more time than I had bargained for.

In fact, I did touch on the topic shortly after Sandy Hook. Still, the gun debate is a live (as in grenade) topic in Catholic circles as much as secular ones. While there is always need to beware of simplistic arguments in any direction, it is hard to see how difficult it is for so many Americans, not least conservative Catholic ones, to see the need for gun control. Dubious arguments about other countries with gun controls and higher rates of death by firearm do nothing to allay the disquiet. No serious advocate of gun control would argue that there is more to the issue than merely restricting access to firearms. Culture plays a significant role in a nation’s level of crime. Brazil is not open to direct and unconditional comparison with the USA. It has levels of urban poverty, as well as police and political corruption, that are in a league beyond that of America.

Likewise, to follow another line of argument, until recently the Swiss had an almost full armed population, which arose form the population at large forming a standing reserve militia to be activated in case of invasion. Firearm homicides there were stunningly low. So, the argument goes, the issue cannot be guns. Well, the Swiss did not go toting them around like trophies or fashion accessories. There were not rapid-fire assault rifles. They were locked up and never removed from their housing except for their regular maintenance. They were in case of foreign invasion and nothing else. The American gun lobbyists’ rhetoric is aimed at their own government, not foreign invaders. While the Swiss have a stable democracy which they trust, Americans have nothing like the same trust in their democratic government. Their mistrust leads them to carry guns. The logical conclusion if that way of proceeding does not bear thinking of… or maybe it does, now more than ever.

Another argument recently reissued by the lobbyists is self-defence: we need guns to protect ourselves from criminals (and others?). Given all the mass shootings in the USA, how is it that none of these have been prevented by gun-toting citizens? And who needs a military assault rifle to protect their families? For pity’s sake… If a man has a knife, he might kill one or two people before he is overpowered. If Adam Lanza had gone to Sandy Hook Elementary School with a knife, he would not have been able to kill 28 people. Instead he accessed the arsenal in his mother’s home and armed himself with a Bushmaster rapid-fire rifle, among other weapons. Most knives are designed to cut food or other objects; all guns are designed to kill. Is that not obvious?

America has many problems, as do all nations, but one almost unique to them is the sin of idolatry of the gun. Because the right to bear arms is in their constitution, they will and must exercise that right. Guns are a symbol of their freedom. Little matter that the constitution was written more than two centuries ago, and the authors also wanted to be able to raise a militia in case the redcoats returned. In other words, the second amendment seems very much to have been a product of its time, a time long past. It is particularly disturbing to see priests loudly opposing gun control, posting pictures of all sorts of weaponry that again raises the question of the American idolization of guns.

Priests check the firearms of Marines who will be sent to Basilan province in southern Philippines during the 110th founding anniversary of the Philippine Navy in Manila

It’s not America… but similar scenes there are highly likely.

One fact stands out clearly, the overwhelming majority of fatal mass shootings have occurred in the USA, where a large majority of citizens can buy and use an assault rifle. School shootings seem to be a particular speciality in the States.

SchoolShootingsThis map shows school shootings throughout the world since 1996, and can be accessed in full interactive detail here. I, for one, am happy to be living in a country with gun controls. It is hard to see how Catholics can be pro-life and also pro-guns. Maybe I am slow…

On a happier note, there is news that the Vatican will issue a new manual for priests, on how to say Mass properly. Alleluia! At last we have a single resource that all priests can refer to in order to guarantee that Mass is celebrated according to the mind of the Church rather than the individual priest’s. I wonder at the adequacy in some places of the preparation for celebrating Mass and the sacraments. This manual will help to remedy any inadequacies, it is to be hoped. Publication is due this summer. You can read more over here.