Tuesday, 20 May 2008

On communion in the hand, kneeling, altar girls and other novus ordoisms

The cancellation of a TLM at Cardiff Cathedral (http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/05/tlm-dust-up-with-the-lms-and-cathedral-chapter-of-cardiff/) over the weekend over the insistence of the Dean of the Cathdral that a female altar server be present in the sanctuary highlights one of the biggest fears of traditionalists, namely that they will be forced to accept the very novus ordo practices they most dislike and disapprove of.

Altar servers

In Cardiff the bust up was over a female altar server. It is hard to see why anyone would insist on such a thing, given any priest has the right not to use women as servers.

The exclusion of women from service in the sanctuary, whether as lectors, extraordinary ministers or servers has two strong rationales: long custom and tradition; and the fact that women in these roles has served to undermine priestly vocations, and helped foster the 'women priest' movement (have a read, for example , of neo-conservative Russell Shaw's numerous writings on this subject).

Part of the problem is that, based on some of the comments on the various blogs, many traditionalists don't know where to draw the line. Let me suggest a basic principle: except in very special circumstances (such as making religious profession) women should not be in the sanctuary during Mass.

That, and nothing more, is the traditional view.

Women have long said (or sung) the responses in the Mass from the pews - in convents, in dialogue masses, in sung masses from the choir, or in the absence of a server. Women normally step in only when there is no sensible alternative.

But women (whether lay or nuns) have never, until recently, been permitted to serve at the altar (claimed counter-examples such as nuns reading the Gospel in Matins forget that they do so from within their enclosure).

So what is the solution? The English Latin Mass Society have rightly made a stand on this issue, arguing from the force of custom and the desire not to scandalise their congregation.

In the longer term, though, the only real way to defend the TLM against visitors who want to receive in the hand, stand to receive, or pressure to permit female altar servers, is not just to put up the barricades, but to work to change practice in the Ordinary Form.

Kneeling to receive

There are a range of other issues of a similar ilk that TLMers have long feared would be used to undermine the rights obtained as a result of Summorum Pontificum.

In reality it is probably the standing/kneeling issue that could provide the stream of test cases. Kneeling is important to both forms of the Mass - as the normal way to receive at TLMs (except for those unable for health reasons to kneel), and for those who wish to show their reverence for the Blessed Sacrament at Ordinary Form masses.

The latest Fidelity Magazine has a large feature on 'The Right to Kneel' , and the new GIRM instruction that appears to imply that all are to stand in order to receive.

The wording of the Instruction seems to imply that the right to receive kneeling in the Ordinary Form, which has been firmly upheld by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, has been abolished. This is not, Mr Hugh Henry points out, the case.

In fact he provides a full page leaflet, replete with recent quotations from the SCDW and instructions on who to complain to in cases of violation of one's rights, for general use.

Fortunately, Archbishop Coleridge's recent pastoral letter on the liturgy lends some aid to this cause. The Archbishop appears to have broken ranks with his fellow bishops by making it clear in his instruction that the right to kneel to receive does exist and should be respected.

Traditionalists are part of the wider Church

Summorum Pontificum is a wonderful document that acknowledges that traditionalists are a legitimate and even valuable part of the wider Church. It is becoming increasingly clear though, that in the post SP world, those attached to the TLM can no longer hope to stand in splendid isolation from the mainstream, wringing their hands in horror at the abuses. Rather, we must start paying attention to what is happening in the wider Church with a view to doing what we can to help restore good practice. This is clearly the Pope's objective, and the prerequisite to the transformation of the culture of the society in which we live.

Perhaps traditionalists should consider attending as a group an ordinary form mass or two, and putting the right to kneel to the test?

At worst, they then have an issue to raise with their bishop (or if necessary to pursue further) - and they have ample ammunition for their cause.

At best, the principle will be clearly established, and others might be encouraged to follow their example.

Aux armes!

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