Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Catholic Herald on the Holy Days issue

From this week`s Catholic Herald:
Bishops insist on uniformity for Masses on Holy Days
By Mark Greaves
2 May 2008

Traditionalists expressed their dismay this week after it emerged that Epiphany, the Ascension of the Lord and Corpus Christi must be celebrated on Sunday in both forms of the Mass.
The three Holy Days of Obligation were moved to Sunday two years ago but some Catholics still observe them on Thursday by attending Mass in the extraordinary form.
However, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales announced that the day of obligation must remain the same whichever form of Mass is celebrated.
The decision to announce the news in a brief statement on the liturgy department website without any consultation has provoked anger among some Catholics.
The statement says that the bishops' conference submitted a dubium (a query) to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei but does not include the text of the question or of the response.
Mgr Andrew Summersgill, general secretary of the bishops' conference, said the bishops had wanted to clear up doubt about which calendar should be followed - a question originally raised by a publisher of the 1962 Missal.
He quoted the response from Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the head of Ecclesia Dei, who said the decision to move the Holy Days applied to "all of the faithful".
He said: "Since these Holy Days [Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi] are to be observed by all of the faithful, priests who celebrate according to the 1962 Roman Missal for the benefit of the faithful 'attached to the Latin liturgical tradition' should also celebrate these Holy Days on the prescribed Sundays.
"Some Catholics, however, have seen the move as an attempt to crack down on traditionalists and make them conform to the rest of the English and Welsh Church.
They argue that forcing traditional Masses to conform to the new calendar may push alienated Catholics towards schismatic groups such as the Society of St Pius X (SSPX).
One message on a traditionalist website said: "I will be going to the SSPX on Holy Days despite the fact that I believe they are in schism and would rather have nothing to do with them."
Fr Michael Brown, parish priest at St Mary of the Rosary at Forest Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said the decision would make "a lot of people unhappy", especially since there did not seem to be any consultation with groups such as the Latin Mass Society (LMS) and Una Voce. Until now the LMS has been advertising Masses on the feast days of Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi, and these have been well attended by Catholics annoyed at the decision to abandon the weekday obligations.
It is still possible for the LMS to schedule votive Masses on the Thursday but all Catholics are obliged to observe the feast day again on the Sunday.
An official from Ecclesia Dei said the faithful had no choice but to accept their bishops' decision since there could never be "two standards" for the two forms of the Roman rite.
He said: "Once the bishops ask for Holy Days to be celebrated on certain days and these are agreed with the Holy See, I as a priest may not agree with it, but once it's done I must accept it. What a traditionalist is basically saying is: 'Others want to celebrate these Holy Days on these particular days, and I'm saying I can't do that.' Well, I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way, it would mean there were two standards. They're obliged to keep to the Holy Days that have been agreed upon."
He said there was "no problem" with celebrating the feast day during the week, but added: "The obligation has been moved and so they should celebrate them on [Sunday] like the rest of the Church. It's simply a matter of logic."
Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi were dropped as weekday obligations in July 2006 because of "diminishing observance".
Critics said the obligations had been abandoned without any attempt to consult lay Catholics but the bishops' conference insisted that there had been an "extensive process of consultation over many years".
John Medlin, chairman of the LMS, said: "The Latin Mass Society is studying the situation and for the moment has no further comment to make."
Apart from Sundays, which are Holy Days of Obligation for all Catholics, the Church in England and Wales has seven other days when Mass attendance is compulsory, one more than America, Ireland and even staunchly Catholic Poland.
Some countries, such as Australia, Canada and the Netherlands, have only two. Vatican City observes all 10 Holy Days.
Any change to the Holy Days of Obligation is not supposed to alter the Church's liturgical calendar. Feast days remain the same but, in the case of Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi, the obligation to attend Mass is moved to the following Sunday.


ben whitworth said...

Poor bishops. They haven't really thought this through at all, have they? I can't even see how the Ecclesia Dei response will help the publisher of the Missal, as it doesn't deal with some basic practical questions, e.g. is a Mass of the Ascension on the Thursday actually prohibited (the barrack-room canonists in the blogosphere have various views)? What happens to the rogation days?

It's also a bit odd that the bishops' press release talks about a 'request for information', but it's clear from Cardinal Castrillon's reply that what they sent him was the statement of an opinion - not quite the same thing.

And announcing the ruling before Ascension Day, but after the LMS had started advertising Ascension Day Masses - and without consulting the LMS - is just sheer bad manners.

Michael said...

Father,I live in Scotland where Ascension Day is still on a Thursday and a Holiday of Obligation. On Sunday, I shall be in England, am I exempted from hearing mass on Sunday or should I go along celebrate Ascension Day for the second time?

Fr Michael Brown said...

I`m afriad you are still bound by the obligationto hear Mass on Sunday so it will be the Ascension again for you. At SS Peter and Paul`s on Sunday night, with the EF, we are having the Mass for the Sunday after Ascension becuse the music was all arrnged before this all came up. however we`ve not had an official communication about it all.

ben whitworth said...

If I can answer my own question above, it seems to me increasingly clear that the 'least worst solution' (to use the horrible but current phrase) is to celebrate the Mass & office of the Ascension (or Corpus Christi, or Epiphany) on the proper day, but then to transfer the external solemnity to the Sunday, i.e. to celebrate up to two public Masses of the Ascension (&c.) on the Sunday. I can see no other solution that satisfies (a) the rubrics of the 1962 Missal and (b) the demands of the bishops' conference and the Ecclesia Dei commission.

You know your canon law, Father. Does my interpretation make sense to you?

Fr Michael Brown said...

Ben I agree with your analysis. According to Dr Reid it is not possible to celebrate a votive Mass of the Ascension. The answer from the Eccesia Dei member who spoke to the Catholic Herald gives the hope that the feast can be celebrated on the proper day and then for it to be repeated on the Sunday. However I think we need further, authoritatve clarification. I wonder if the long awaited document from ED on the Motu Proprio will address this?

ben whitworth said...

Let's hope the document clears up a lot of things.

In the mean time, I'm moving to Scotland!

aelianus said...

Is it really clear from the quoted words of the Commission (as opposed to the English Bishops' interpretation of them) that it is the feast and not just the obligation that has been transfered?

Fr Michael Brown said...

It is somewhat unclear despite the appeal to logic by the ED official. He does say the feast can still, somehow, be celebrated during the week and I take it to mean it should be celebrated agin on the Sunday. If it were just a case of moving the obligation then there is already an obligation to go to Mass on the Sunday so it wuldbe easier to say the obligation or the feast was rmoved but this hasn`t been said. Oh I don`t know. I hope we`ll get further clarification.

Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking, I can't see why the Masses of these Solemnities shouldn't be celebrated on thursdays. The only thing that would have to be done is - instead of celebrating the Mass in the morning (as usual on a Sunday), when most people would be working, to celebrate the Mass, or even two, in the evening(say, first one at 6 and the other one at 7:30 or even 8PM). The majority of us do not work evenings, and those who do could attend a Vigil Mass the day before, couldn't they?

Meddling with the Missal is never a good idea... It starts with that - what will it end with?