April AD 2008
Our Lady of the Rosary
ON THIS PAGE:
Raising the Chasuble at the Elevation?
Saturday Evening Mass?
New Deadly Sins?
RAISING THE CHASUBLE?
attend a traditional Mass in South Carolina. At the elevation the altar boys raise the chasuble about as high
as they can. It looks bizarre to me, and the celebrant seems quite
oblivious. I thought the rubric was meant to keep the priest from catching
the chasuble when he genuflected. What is actually supposed to happen here?
rubric says “as the celebrant elevates the Host (after genuflecting) the
minister (server at low Mass, deacon at solemn Mass) with his left hand raises
the rear fringe of the chasuble so that it does not impede the celebrant in
raising his arms; which he does as well at the elevation of the chalice....”
The intent of the rubric is completely practical if the vestments are heavy—as
they often were in the centuries before modern fabrics. Not too many years
ago “cloth of gold” or “cloth of silver” meant a “fabric woven wholly
or partially of threads of gold,” not the modern stuff made with metallic
looking plastic threads.
Embroidery threads were more coarse than their modern equivalents. And a
Pope or bishop might have additional vestments beyond those of the simple priest
In any event, the rubric is intended to assist the priest,
and not to make a display of the vestments underneath the chasuble. Unless
the vestments are truly cumbersome, the server should be content with a symbolic
inch or two.
For the most part, the priest will have no way of knowing
how far the chasuble was raised—he is otherwise concerned, with the most
sacred moments of the Mass. This is one reason why it is good to have some
other knowledgeable person beside the priest to instruct and supervise the altar
SATURDAY EVENING MASS?
Question: What do you say about Saturday evening
Masses? I have seen them scheduled as early as 4 PM! Is there a
hint of Old Law custom at work here?
the 1950s any form of evening Mass was unusual. The 1917 Code of Canon Law
allowed the celebration of Mass to begin only from an hour before dawn until an
hour after noon; the only canonical exception being the Midnight Mass of
Obviously the Last Supper took place in the evening, a practice followed in the
early Church. The Acts of the Apostles describes a Sunday Mass lasting at
least until midnight.
(One of the participants fell asleep and fell out a third floor window—perhaps
a good reason for Mass at an earlier hour!) Paul’s admonition to the
Corinthians about the factions caused by the contrast in the food eaten by the
rich and by the poor—“Have you not houses for your eating and
drinking”—may have prompted an earlier time for Mass.
Tertullian wrote (c. 206) “We take also, in congregations before
daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the
Saint Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258) wrote: “we celebrate the resurrection
of the Lord in the morning.”
About AD 400, Saint Augustine described the fast
before Holy Communion: “it pleased the Holy Spirit to appoint, for the
honor of so great a sacrament, that the body of the Lord should take the
precedence of all other food entering the mouth of a Christian; and it is for
this reason that the custom referred to is universally observed.”
Consequently Mass is celebrated at an early hour.
According to the traditional Roman Missal, before the 50s,
the Vigils of Easter and Pentecost began after the hour of None—canonically
about 3 PM, but often earlier in practice. It wasn’t until the 50s
that the Easter Vigil, with its beautiful references to night and darkness
dissipated by fire and the light of the paschal candle, was moved so that Mass
might start “around midnight.” But Easter and Christmas were unusual
events. Hopefully, their special nature inspired a spiritual awe in those
The idea of an
early evening vigil Mass, satisfying one’s obligation to attend Mass on all
Sundays and feast days is a modern innovation. Yet, even this is based on
the Church’s custom of beginning such days with “First Vespers” at sundown
on the preceding day. There may be a touch of the “Old Law” in this,
the Jewish day began with sundown—however the canonical observance of Sundays
and feasts doesn’t end until midnight, making such days about thirty hours
long. 4 PM does sound a bit early for a Mass that is to follow the
hour of Vespers which begins at sundown.
Perhaps the most
important question to be asked is whether or not this innovation (and others
like it) serve the good of souls. The early twentieth century was the
culmination of a period of significant missionary activity that went back a few
centuries. Even with modern communications and transportation, the Church
looked for ways to make the efforts of the missionaries more fruitful.
Perhaps we should allow Mass to be adapted to the cultures of Africa and Asia,
so different from Rome and the West? And what can we do in places where
the same priest must offer Mass in several communities served by only by river
boat? What about the Sacraments for people who must go weeks or even
months without seeing a priest?
One can see a
certain logic in allowing the priest to offer Mass after First Vespers on
Saturday, so he can catch the river boat to the next settlement. He might
even be allowed to give general absolution on those occasions when the boat will
visit and leave very quickly. One might even admit the possibility of
having the village catechist—a trusted and well educated layman or religious
brother—reserve Holy Communion for the sick who might otherwise die without
It, and perform Baptisms and canonical marriages for those unable to wait for
the priest’s semi-annual visit. But the operative idea in all of these
possibilities is that they might be justified only if they truly served the good
One cannot equate
the needs of people living in large modern Western cities with those of the
people living along our hypothetical African river. One simply cannot
claim that people growing up in Paris, Buenos Aires, New York, or (a fortiori)
Rome have any reason to be alien to the culture of the Roman Rite! The
catechist is rarely or never required to do the sacramental work of the ordained
clergy. The fellow who wants to sleep late or play golf on Sunday morning
has nothing like the spiritual need of the people along the river. The
idea of a “get it over Mass” is an abomination which ought not be
Yes, there are
people who must work on Sundays. There number would be considerably
smaller if Christians refrained from elective commerce on Sundays—there are
six other days on which one can shop, go to the library, or take in a movie.
Traditionally, there is a 5:45 AM Mass, and in modern times, one at 7:00 PM—and,
yes, you can come in your work uniform.
radically wrong when the obituaries can praise someone for being a “staunch
Catholic who went to Mass every Saturday.”
Question: Did the Church really come up with seven
new deadly sins? Are the old ones still in force?
interview with The Most Reverend Gianfranco Girotti, of the Sacred Penitentiary,
published in L’Osservatore Romano on
Sunday, 9 March AD 2008 has been interpreted by the media as a radical
change in what the Church considers sinful. This was more of a media
misinterpretation than the work of the Church. Some writers have suggested
that the traditional list of deadly sins: Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger,
Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth has been replaced
with Genetic Modification, Experiments on Humans, Polluting the
Environment, Causing Social Injustice, Causing Poverty, Becoming Obscenely
Wealthy, and Taking Drugs. (Some lists include Abortion and Pedophilia.)
media are, of course, wrong for a number of reasons. The seven
“deadly” or “capital” sins, while sins in themselves, are traditionally
identified as “sources of sin.” That is to say that they lead one to a
variety of other sins. Sloth or laziness, for example might lead me to
miss Mass on Sunday, to skip work on weekdays, and to avoid doing necessary
chores during my free time, thus leading to a spiritually and physically
negative life for me and my family. These “sources of sin” are
attitudes which direct me to sin in any number of ways. Bishop Girotti,
interviewed by L’Osservatore Romano is the number two man in the
Penitentiary, a tribunal of the Roman Curia. As such he is in no position
to make doctrinal policy for the Catholic Church. And even if he were, the
Vatican is powerless to alter the deadly sins because they are inherent
deficiencies in human nature. The “sins” on the new lists compiled by the
media—and some of them may not be sins at all—are far more specific than
those which are “sources of sin.” Indeed, the “sins” on the new
lists might each be caused by one or the other of the “sources of sin.”
A man might, for instance “cause social injustice” because is excessively
proud, or because he is covetous, or because of his lust, or because is
gluttonous. To be fair, Bishop Girotti's written remarks contain nothing
which suggest that he intended to replace the old “capital sins" with new
ones. He might have done better, though, to recognize that modern
technology has given us new ways in which to commit old sins.
us take a look at a few of the Bishop's statements in the L’Osservatore
In your opinion, what are
the “new sins”?
There are various areas today in which we
adopt sinful behavior as with individual and social rights. This is especially
so in the field of bioethics where we cannot deny the existence of violations of
fundamental rights of human nature – this occurs by way of experiments and
genetic modifications whose results we cannot easily predict or control. Another
area which indeed pertains to the social spectrum is that of drug use which
weakens our minds and reduces our intelligence. As a result many young people
are left out of Church circles. Here’s another one: social and economic
inequality in the sense that the rich always seem to get richer and the poor
poorer. This [phenomenon] feeds off an unsustainable form of social injustice
and is related to environmental issues –which currently have much relevant
the Bishop is correct in distinguishing “experiments and genetic modifications
whose results we cannot easily predict or control” from those which we can.
Creating a Frankenstein or a Frankenstein food would harm a great number of
people, and it would be morally reprehensible to omit proper safeguards in
scientific research. But all scientific progress has some element of risk.
To condemn that risk as always being sinful would be to condemn mankind to live
as animals with no fire, no shelter, and little but scraggly vegetables to eat.
abuse is a terrible thing. But it is not the only way in which modern
people “weaken our minds and reduce our intelligence.” Marxist
education, network news and sports, escape literature, and counter-cultural
media also “weaken our minds and reduce our intelligence.” So does
most of what passes for “theology” in the Novus Ordo. The
misuse of drugs and alcohol is more apparent—a pity, really, that you can't
tell the Modernismts by looking at their pupils or by observing a stagger.
And Modernism is certainly a significant reason why “many young [and
adults] people are left out of Church circles.”
officials and churchmen rarely understand the relationship between wealth and
poverty, and a directed economy. The former issue laws, and the latter
issue encyclicals. But regulations and statements about what ought to be
do not produce wealth for the poor. They may make a corrupt rich man
richer if he knows how to work the system with attorneys and lobbyists, but they
add nothing to the stock of goods available to the poor or to the rich.
The politicians' $75.00 minimum wage and the churchmen's “family wage” are
likely to raise the unemployment level of the poor and produce less for
everyone. The cliché that “the rich always seem to get richer and the
poor poorer” is something of an illusion. The rich become richer because
they fund industry and innovation—the poor also become richer because
production makes things available to them on a scale and in a variety never
known before—everyone becomes poorer when the “authorities” of Church or
state think they can better manage the process better with their bureaucracies,
or choose to “transfer" society's wealth to fighting senseless wars,
wreckovating beautiful churches and building ugly ones where not needed, and
paying out huge sums to the victims of clerical abuse. None of which were
mentioned in the L’Osservatore Romano interview.
Does the attention to sin
come from a sensibility to the needs of modern society or from a reference point
of a past time?
The reference is always the violation of the covenant
with God and with brothers and the social consequences of sin. If yesterday sin
had a rather individualistic dimension today it has a value a resonance beyond
the individual above all social because of the great phenomenon of
globalization. In effect the attention to sin presents itself more urgently
today than yesterday because its consequences are wider and more destructive.
concept of corporate sin is far more Marxist than Catholic. An individual
may sin against God, or against his neighbors, perhaps even against all of the
people throughout the world. Several individuals may join together to sin
in the same ways. But on Judgment Day they will be judged as individuals.
Nothing in the Gospels speaks about averaging out the rewards of Heaven or the
pains of Hell based on the collective merits or demerits of society.
The idea that salvation is “for all” or at least “for all who think happy
thoughts” is at the center of universal irresponsibility. The
“organization of society on the international level” or the armed
“international authority with competence and power to settle the differences
of nations” is an interesting Orwellian fiction; frightening in theory
but Satanic if achieved in fact.
The immoral agenda of the United Nations is bold enough now while they are
unarmed and collect no taxes; it will only get bolder if they ever are and
Which questions are drawing your attention?
There are those
offenses of which or their gravity the Holy See reserves absolution: the
absolution of being complicit in sin against the Sixth Commandment (canon 1378);
the sacrilegious profanation o the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist (canon
1367); the direct violation o the sacramental seal (canon 1388 1); the
dispensation of irregularity ad recipiendos Ordines contacted to procure
an abortion (canon 1041 4); the dispensation of irregularity ad exercendos
Ordines (canon 1044 1).
of these are the sins of priests or those wanting to become priests. While
it is understandable that the officials at the Sacred Penitentiary have few of
the routine sins of the faithful referred to them, the list of clerical sins
enumerated by Bishop Girotti is not encouraging. If we translate it to
English from the pontifical Esperanto, the Bishop is saying that in recent years
his attention has been drawn to: priests hearing the confessions of their
boyfriends and girlfriends and forgiving them of their mutual sins of
fornication and sodomy; priests who intentionally do something
sacrilegious to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament; priests who hear
Confessions and inform others as to what they heard from pennitents in the
confessional; men who want to become priests after having arranged for a
woman to murder her child; and priests and others in Holy Orders who want
to exercise those Orders even though they were ordained in violation of Church
though, that the crimes that have made all the headlines, cost all that money,
and so scandalized the faithful are not on the list! (1395 §2)
Pope John Paul's iteration of the Code is a bit more easy to rationalize
than the old Code, and no longer requires a penitent to denounce a
confessor who solicits him (Cf n.c. 1387 and o.c. 2368 §2), but
one would expect such crimes to be on the “hot” list of the Sacred