What Will be the Consequences of the Synod?
Nov 24, 2005
Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship spoke today to Inside the Vatican about the recent Synod of the Eucharist and related issues. In the final question, he addresses the reasons pro-choice politicians should not present themselves to receive communion (November 12, 2005).
Inside the Vatican: What do you think were the positive results of the Synod?
CARDINAL FRANCIS ARINZE: Many. Strengthening our faith in the Holy Eucharist.
No new doctrine, but freshness of expression of our Eucharistic faith. Encouragement in the celebration in the sense of good attention; a celebration which shows faith.
The Synod thanked priests for their ministry and also deacons and others who assist at the celebration of Mass, and underlined the importance of Eucharistic adoration outside Mass which has its fruits in the Mass itself because the Mass is the supreme act of adoration.But the sacrament does not finish after Mass. Christ is in the tabernacle to be brought to the sick, to receive our visits of adoration, praise, love, supplication. The Synod Fathers did not only talk about adoration, they did adoration every day. Christ exposed in the monstrance in the chapel near the Synod Hall, one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon. Then on October 17 a Holy Hour of Adoration in St Peter’s Basilica, with the Pope leading us himself. That was more eloquent than words.
The Synod also stressed the importance of good preparation for the Holy Eucharist; to receive communion. Therefore confession of sins, for those who are in mortal sin and in any case encouraging the sacrament of Penance as a way of growing in fidelity to Christ. And also that not everybody is fit to receive Holy Communion, so those who are not fit should not receive.
All along I feel the Synod struck very positive notes.
ITV: Reading the reports of the Synod, the prevailing attitude seems to be that despite a few shadows, by and large, the effects of the liturgical reform have been positive.
However in the Western world, increasing numbers of Catholics have a more Protestant concept of the Eucharist, seeing it mainly as a symbol. Is there recognition that this is a problem?
ARINZE: There is a recognition that this is a problem. The Synod Fathers recognize that many Catholics don't have correct faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. This was mentioned in one of the propositions as well.
It was recognized so much that many of the Synod Fathers suggested that there be themes suggested for homilies on Sundays.
Seeing that for many Catholics the Sunday homily is about the only religious instruction they get in a week, (many persons won't go to catechism classes, doctrinal instruction, discussion, etc.) the Synod Fathers suggested that the four major areas of Catholic faith should be covered by the homily in a three year cycle. The four main parts are as in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
First part, what we believe. Second part, how we worship, ie sacraments. Third part, what we live, life in Christ, so the moral law, the ten commandments, the Christian live lived, and the fourth part, prayer.
So that although the homily should be on the Scripture readings and the other liturgical texts, some way has to be found to cover the whole area of Catholic faith in a period of three years because many Catholics are really ignorant of fundamental matters. That is a fact; nobody could deny it.
It is also a fact that the liturgical renewal after Vatican II has brought many things positive; for instance, more attention to Holy Scripture, more attention to the people's participation in the liturgical celebration, the people's understanding of what it is; although understanding is not everything, but it is one element. The vernacular, if the translations are good, can help in this direction. And also, sharing of roles in the liturgy, ie when the deacon is reading the Gospel, proclaiming it, we listen.
So, Vatican II brought many good things but everything has not been positive and the Synod recognized that there have been shadows. There has been a bit of neglect of the Holy Eucharist outside Mass. A lot of ignorance. A lot of temptations to showmanship for the priest who celebrates facing the people. If he is not very disciplined he will soon become a performer. He may not realize it, but he will be projecting himself rather than projecting Christ. Indeed it is very demanding, the altar facing the people. Then even those who read, the First & Second Reading can engage in little tactics that make them draw attention to themselves and distract the people.
Not to talk of abuses, clear cut abuses where people are going against the books in the liturgy, doing things that the liturgy says should not be done. Then wrong ideas on creativity, believing that after Vatican II the important thing is to make something new.
A scenario where a parish team every week decides how they will have Mass next Sunday, as if the liturgy were something that we put together and not something that we receive. That wrong idea that the important thing is something new every week, which is not true. The people want to adore God. After all, our national anthem is the same, and we sing it every time. We are not tired because we love our country. Our Father, Hail Mary, although we say them many times, they don't get old.
So there are problems. However some of the problems were not caused by Vatican II, but they were caused by children of the Church after Vatican II. Some of them talking of Vatican II push in their own agenda. We have to watch that. People pushing their own agenda justifying it as the "spirit of Vatican II".
Moro ever, the review of the various rites was done by human beings, not by angels. So two good scholars can disagree whether this particular rite was retouched in the best possible way or not. A good scholar can say, "I think it could have been retouched in this way, rather than that." That is allowable as an opinion, but not to celebrate it that way.
There are also problems caused by the world of today, and Vatican II is not to be blamed for that. Let us say for example that many marriages are breaking down, it wasn't Vatican II that caused them. It is just that sexuality got far too much attention in many cultures. There are some things today that people will write about which they would not have written about 60 years ago in the area of sexuality. There is much more hedonism, there is much more instant communication of errors, there is much more imposition of cultural patterns by means of television and all the derivatives and the world has become more and more one in these last 40 years with instant communication. So there are many elements which contribute to what happens.
ITV: Following on from that, Pope Benedict has written extensively about the problems in the modern liturgy. In the light of both your concerns, are we likely to see tougher action to stop these abuses and errors, outlined in Redemptionis Sacramentum?
ARINZE: Many people would want it, Obviously, there are some major areas the Holy Father decides. But there are areas which are already clear in the liturgical books where all you need is to consult a bishop or a priest. He knows what to do.
So, if only people would be more faithful to what has been laid down not by people who just like to make laws for other people, but what follows from what we believe. Lex orandi, Lex credendi. It is our faith that directs our prayer life, and if we genuflect in front of the tabernacle it is because we believe that Jesus is there, and is God.
If at Mass, we are self-controlled, we are disciplined, we don't talk in the Church and don't converse as if we were in a football stadium, it is because of what we believe. Therefore, the most important area is faith and fidelity to that faith, and a faithful reading of the original texts, and their faithful translations, so that people celebrate knowing that the liturgy is the public prayer of the Church.
It is not the property of one individual, therefore one individual does not tinker with it, but makes effort to celebrate it as Holy Mother Church wants. When that happens, the people are happy, they feel nourished. Their faith grows, their faith is strengthened. They go home happy and willing to come back next Sunday.
But when that does not happen, you make quite a problem for those who come to Mass. If the people can say: "Our parish priest who said Mass last Sunday did funny things that are not according to any liturgical book that we know", that is rather serious.
ITV: In Sacrosanctum Concilium (Vatican II's Decree on the Liturgy), it indicated at Mass, pride of place must be given to Gregorian chant. But the reality is that few Catholics under the age of 50 would ever have heard a Te Deum sung in their parish church. Liturgical music today is largely guitars and tambourines, etc. Is this an appropriate form of musical expression for divine worship?
ARINZE: For music in the liturgy, we should start by saying that Gregorian music is the Church's precious heritage. It should stay. It should not be banished. If therefore in a particular diocese or country, no one hears Gregorian music anymore, then somebody has made a mistake somewhere.
But, the Church is not saying that everything should be Gregorian music. There is room for music which respects that language, that culture, that people. There is room for that too, and the present books say that is a matter for the Bishops Conference, because it generally goes beyond the boundaries of one diocese.
The ideal thing is that the bishops would have a Liturgical Music Commission which looks at the wording and the music of the hymns. And when the commission is satisfied, judgment is brought to the bishops for approval, in the name of the rest of the conference.
But not individuals just composing anything and singing it in church. This is not right at all. No matter how talented the individual is. That brings us to the question of the instrument to be used. The local church should be conscious that church worship is not really the same as what we sing in a bar, or what we sing in a convention for youth. Therefore it should influence the type of instrument used, the type of music used.
I will not now pronounce and say never guitar. That would be rather severe. But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, the visit of a special group, etc.
The judgment would be left to the bishops of the area. It is wiser that way. Also, because there are other instruments in many countries which are not used in Italy or in Ireland, for instance.
But music should nourish faith, burst from our faith and should lead back to the faith. It should be a prayer. Entertainment is quite another matter. We have the parish hall for that, and the theater. People don't come to Mass in order to be entertained. They come to Mass to adore God, to thank him, to ask pardon for sins, and to ask for other things that they need. Those are the reasons for Mass. When they want entertainment, they know where to go. Parish hall, theater, presuming that their entertainment is acceptable from a moral theological point of view.
ITV: Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli in an article in Il Giornale of the 22 October was quoted as saying that your Congregation for Divine Worship had given a reserved opinion to the Holy Father against the Church granting a universal indult for the Tridentine Mass. Is this true, and if so, what would be the reasons against this?
ARINZE: To begin with, it is not within the competence of this Congregation to handle requests for the Mass of the Tridentine rite. The Holy Father has set up a special commission known as the Ecclesia Dei commission and it looks into that for groups that want it.
It is the Ecclesia Dei commission that examines that, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos is the President of that Commission. If there are any suggestions along those lines, he would bring them to the Holy Father.
Priests and bishops have to ask themselves when some of our Catholics are asking for the Tridentine Mass, could it be that we should examine how we celebrate Mass? Could it be that they have seen many abuses? And they are sick and tired, and therefore they say, "Look, we have had enough of this. Let’s go back to how it was 50 years ago." Could it be?
Unfortunately, what some don't know is that even when there was the Tridentine Mass there were abuses. Many Catholics did not know, because they did not know Latin! So when the priest garbled the words, they were not aware of this.
ITV: Recently, an issue that has been given a lot of attention are the moral obligations of Catholics during election times. Is it a duty of them to vote for pro-life politicians, and should those Catholic pro-choice politicians be given communion?
ARINZE: You are asking me if a politician says, "I vote for abortion, and I will continue to ask for abortion." Then you ask should he be given holy communion. So, you are really saying, this politician says, "I vote for the killing of unborn children." Because we call things by their names. And he calls that pro-choice.
Suppose somebody voted for the killing of all the members of the House of Representatives, "for all of you being killed. I call that pro-choice. Moreover, I am going to receive Holy Communion next Sunday." Then you ask me, should he be given communion. My reply, "Do you really need a cardinal from the Vatican to answer that question?" Can a child having made his First Communion not answer that question? Is it really so complicated? The child will give the correct answer immediately, unless he is conditioned by political correctness. It is a pity, cardinals have to be asked such questions.
If a person has a way of life which is against the major Commandments, and makes a boast of it, then the person is in a state which is publicly sinful. It is he who has disqualified himself, not the priest or the bishop. He should not go to communion, until his life should be in line with the Gospel.