He’s telling me to get my hands on a copy of this week’s New Yorker, which is not online. Sez he: I just read Peter Boyer’s piece on Benedict in the New Yorker. You really should get it. Excellent snapshot of orthodox Catholicism in America, with lotsa sympathy for the likes of Chaput and Burke. The conservatives, for once, come off in the press has sound and sane, and the liberals (McBrien and Curran) sound like cranky flakes.
Btw…I must hasten to point out that where I am to the right of center, Thom is moderately left of center, but even he is getting tired of the McBrien’s and the Curran’s and the press’ adulation of them based on…well, based on nothing more than the fact that they are so frequently dissenters. Because I’d wager that most – not all but most – newsfolk who talk to McBrien have no idea about anything re Catholicism, and are simply eager to talk to the ‘liberal’ voice.)
So, I will have to go get a New Yorker, if I can find one here in the reddish suburbs.
Thom also pointed me to this somewhat interesting article from the LA Times, about the idea that Altars in Catholic Churches may once again be flipped back to their original positions.
Some Catholics considerably younger than my grandmother never have reconciled themselves to what may seem to non-Catholics like a trivial dispute over furniture arrangement or, at best, a sort of Christian feng shui. But the debate over the placement of the priest at Mass is a variation on debates in many faiths between traditionalists and innovators, between those who emphasize the this-worldly nature of religion and those who are content to see dimly, looking to another world.
Where does the new pope fall along this divide? In his 1999 book “The Spirit of the Liturgy,” the future pope ruefully recalls how Mass “versus populum” (toward the people) established itself after Vatican II even though Pope John XXIII’s reform council hadn’t directly decreed the change. The new arrangement, then-Cardinal Ratzinger sarcastically observes, was thought to be “compatible with the meaning of the Christian liturgy, with the requirement of active participation.”
Yet, Ratzinger goes on, the preference for the priest facing the people at Mass was based on an exception — the way Mass was celebrated at the pope’s own Basilica of St. Peter. The altar there is at the west end of the sanctuary, although, traditionally, Catholic churches were suppose to place the altar against the east wall so priest and people faced east (and, metaphorically, God) when they faced the altar.
I got no problem with turning the altar and the priests back around. Funnily enough, Thom and I were just saying the other day (and remember, he is LEFT of center) that we’re tired of so much focus being on the priests, who seem to feel, since they are facing us, that they have to PERFORM. Just say the prayers, give us the Mass, without the drama, Fathers, and we’ll be very happy.
The priest used to face the altar because during a sacrifice, that’s what one does. Having the priests back to the assembly kept the focus on the sacrifice itself, not him, as he led us to a moment. It wasn’t broke. It didn’t have to be ‘fixed.’ This article, in between some stupid and gratuitious swipes here and there, actually does a good job of explaining how and why the altar flipping happened, even though it was NOT recommended by Vatican Council II.
Meanwhile, Reuters tells us that Pope Benedict XVI is busy building bridges…he has reached out to French Protestants, pleasing them.
Pope Benedict extended an olive branch to some of his harshest critics at the weekend, sending a cordial message to a French Protestant church and saying he wanted to work toward the unity of all Christians.
The message to a synod of the Reformed Church of France in the southern city of Aix-en-Province was the first papal note ever sent to the French church’s annual assembly and met with surprise and approval, according to local media reports.
The Protestant Federation of France — of which the Reformed Church is the largest member — stood out among the well-wishers after Benedict’s election on April 19 by bluntly expressing its concern about him and demanding “a sign of ecumenical openness.”
It recalled he had dismissed Protestant denominations as “not proper churches” in an official statement in 2000 when he was Vatican doctrinal overseer Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
The Vatican message to the synod said the German-born Pope “cordially salutes all participants of the Reformed Church of France and assures them of his prayers.”
Since becoming Pope, Benedict has made frequent statements supporting inter-religious cooperation, a shift of emphasis from his earlier drive to assert a superiority of Catholicism.
“This is an important signal,” Pastor Marcel Manoel, head of France’s largest Protestant church, told Europe 1 radio. “Being German, he understands Protestant churches well.”
An OLIVE branch, eh? Inneresting! Well, as long as everyone is happy, that’s what I always say!