Playing Fast & Loose with the Liturgy

From THE CATHOLIC THING

by Fr. Gerald E. Murray – TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2022

On March 12, Pope Francis went to the Jesuit Church of the Gesú in Rome for a Mass on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the canonizations of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. The pope preached at the Mass and concelebrated. He had earlier been scheduled to be the principal celebrant, but Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, for some reason, was the principal celebrant instead.

Liturgical theology and law do not countenance that a bishop, let alone the diocesan bishop in his own diocese, concelebrate Mass with a priest as the principal celebrant (apart from a grave necessity, such as infirmity). This flows from the nature of the episcopal office: the bishop is the high priest in his diocese. He offers the sacrifice of the Mass for his people, while his priests, co-workers who serve the local Church under his authority, concelebrate with him.

The Mass began with the usual entrance procession. Pope Francis was already seated in a chair near the altar. He wore no liturgical vestments, and thus gave no indication that he was either concelebrating or presiding. He preached without wearing the liturgical garments (mozetta, rochet, and stole) that are prescribed to be worn when the preacher is not the one celebrating the Mass.

He concelebrated, extending his hand and saying the words of consecration, without wearing Mass vestments (alb, stole, and chasuble). This practice is strictly forbidden. In its 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, the Congregation for Divine Worship stated: “The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments.”

Is the pope subject to liturgical law? Yes. Can he dispense himself from liturgical laws? Yes, but canon 90 states that there must be “a just and reasonable cause” for a dispensation. Did Pope Francis canonically dispense himself from the requirement to wear liturgical vestments when preaching at and concelebrating Mass? He may have, but the Holy See has given no indication that he in fact did so.

Was there a just and reasonable cause for the pope not to wear the prescribed liturgical vestments? It is very difficult, if not impossible, to assert that such a cause existed in this case.

We are confronted here with a reality that Catholics are all too familiar with in the life of the Church during the past half-century and more – the flagrant flouting of liturgical laws for no apparent reason beyond the preference of the priest celebrant.

Is this an important matter? For some, undoubtedly, such liturgical abuses are insignificant and do not merit any comment. Some will say that the pope can do whatever he wants, and we should not be upset over this or that choice of his: “He must have a good reason, and it is impertinent to question his judgment, because, after all, he is the pope.”

But it is precisely because he is the pope that we should be concerned about his decision to disregard the rules governing the celebration of Mass. The pope is the supreme authority in the Church and as such is called upon to uphold the Church’s laws, lest he scandalize the faithful by giving a bad example. The scandal would consist in giving the impression that, following the example of the pope, any priest is perfectly free to do whatever he wants when it comes to following liturgical law.

It’s no secret that many Catholics have flocked to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass because they are tired of the widespread liturgical abuses they encounter in the celebration of the New Mass. Pope Francis himself is aware of this.

He brought up this problem in his July 16, 2021 letter to the bishops of the world accompanying Traditionis Custodes, his motu proprio restricting the celebration of the Old Mass: “I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that ‘in many places the prescriptions of the new Missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.’”

He counseled the bishops: “I ask you to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses.”

Pope Francis’ own words serve as a rebuke of his decision to concelebrate Mass without liturgical vestments. The sacred character of our acts of worship is fostered and protected when priests and bishops willingly and carefully follow the requirements of liturgical law. The Christian faithful have the right to participate in liturgical prayer without being compelled to experience “unbearable distortions” of good liturgical order. That right depends upon the willingness of priests and bishops to obey what is set down in liturgical law.

There is no clerical privilege that allows priests and bishops to rewrite the rules to suit their own tastes. Yet that is precisely what some priests and bishops will sadly take away from this regrettable instance of papal liturgical abuse.

The worship of God is the sacred duty of the Church’s pastors. The form of that worship is given to them by the Church. It is their responsibility to see to it that every act of liturgical worship is carried out in loving fidelity to what is set forth by the Church in her liturgical laws. Disobedience teaches the wrongful lesson that Church law is unimportant.

This is a recipe for more chaos in the life of the Church. It needs to stop.

A traditional chronology of events preceding the Second Coming

The following is taken from the book, Trial, Tribulation and Triumph, by Desmond A. Birch, and draws only on Scripture, the saints and the early Church Fathers for its conclusions. In other words, the author doesn’t rely on any contemporary ‘private revelations’ in his book.

Many of you would have come across – or have been sent links by avid grandmothers with lots of time and little discernment – alternate timelines from modern day ‘prophets.’ (This might sound a bit harsh, but really, ladies! You are the matriarchs of your families and need to set a better example. You can’t believe everything you find on the ‘net, you know!) As far as these hypothetical timelines coincide with traditional ones, they can be cautiously accepted. But if they don’t line up with traditional concepts, then they should be rejected.

Note than when the book was written in 1996, the ‘Minor Chastisement’ was seen by the author as a conditional event of the future. Now, 26 years later, there is little doubt that we are on the threshold of that chastisement, and there is practically no doubt that it can be avoided.

A Hypothetical Chronological Table of events prophesied to preceed the Parousia

…they come from various sources. Some are official teachings of the Church, things which one must absolutely believe as a Catholic. Others are those which are part of the traditional teaching of the Church – but which are not absolutely binding in Faith. Next come those which comprise the majority opinion of the Fathers, Doctors and theologians of the Church, but about which there are some Fathers who disagree. Finally there are items which come strictly from private Catholic prophecy from Church-approved sources.

  1. Those which are binding in Faith as presented in bold, italicized print.
  2. Those which are part of the traditional teachings of the Church – but which are not absolutely binding in faith are presented in bold print.
  3. Those about which there is a heavy preponderance of teaching among the Fathers and Doctors are presented in simple italicized print.
  4. Those which present private prophecy from Church-approved sources are presented in plain type.

The Minor Chastisement

At some time in the future, the corrupt faithless age we live in now will come to an end either through repentance (immediately followed by an age of peace) – or there will be a chastisement.

  • …the Latin Church will be terribly afflicted by heresy and schism. This is prophesied to be primarily caused by a false intellectualism, which intellectualism presents itself in the form of ‘senseless questions and elaborate arguments’ attacking the traditional teachings of the Church.
  • The chastising elements will come in two forms (a) Man-made and (b) Heaven sent.
  • Civil wars break out in France and Italy at almost the same time.
  • This will spread to general wars, and famine and pestilence (the usual by-products of war)
  • Earthquakes, tidal waves, floods and all other sorts of ‘natural’ disasters will occur.
  • Somewhere in all of those, an army composed of Russian troops invades Western Europe just when everyone thinks this impossible.
  • England will suffer a terrible civil war which starts after the French and Italians have gone into theirs.
  • The Pope will flee Rome in the company of several other cardinals and go into hiding, be found, and cruelly murdered.
  • A man who will subsequently by known as a great saint will ultimately be elected pope near the end of the Chastisement. He will be heavily responsible for the French acceptance of a king to be their military and civil leader.
  • The Great King will lead his forces (against terrible odds) and finally defeat these Russian and Prussian forces.
  • Somewhere near the end of the Chastisement, God sends the Three Days Darkness.
  • the Three Days Darkness probably occur sometime after the final and total victory over the Russians and Moslems.

The Age of Peace

  • According to the prophecies, through a historically unique series of events there will be a complete restoration of Christian Culture in the West.
  • The Great King will be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the reigning Pope.
  • The Great King will establish peace and justice in divil matters on almost a worldwide basis. The former disciplines of the Church are fully restored and order is re-established.
  • The Pope calls an Ecumenical Council which will be viewed as the greatest in the history of the Church. the world is spiritually and materially prosperous as never before and many Jews, Mohammedans, heathens and heretics will enter the Church.
  • Extended prosperity causes people to begin to grow lax in the practice of their Faith.
  • Wars and bad economic times break out again after some period of time during which the faithful fall into laxity.
  • Ten kings divide up the boundaries of a Roman Empire which had been established.

The Major Chastisement – the Tribulation of Antichrist

  • The Gospel must be preached in the whole world (Matt. 24, 14; Mark 13, 10), even though many will not accept its message (Luke 18, 8)
  • Before Christ’s Second Coming there will be a great apostasy or religious defection (Matt 24, 10-12; Luke 18, 8; Thess 2, 3; 2 Tim 3, 1-9) and the Antichrist will appear (2 Thess 2, 3-12; 1 John 2, 18, 22; 2 John 7)
  • The last (Roman) Empire, which has been divided up into ten ‘kingdoms’ is dismantled by a great (and evil) military and political leader. Three of the ten kingdoms will not go along with this. they are crushed. See – Rev 13, Dan 7, 8. [See also St Jerome’s commentary on Book of Daniel that Antichrist will kill the three kings that ‘do not bow to him.’]
  • The ‘False Prophet’ arrives – the Precursor of the Antichrist. He will ‘ape’ the role that St John the Baptist played in preparing the people for the arrival of the Messiah.
  • All of this prepares the way for the coming of the Antichrist. He begins his rise to power at about the age of 30. After he seizes total power he begins his three and one half year bestial persecution of the Church.
  • During this time, the two witnesses (Enoch and Elias) who have never died but have been maintained in Paradise return to the presence of men to preach to the people against Antichrist. Elias preaches primarily to the Jews and Enoch primarily to the Gentiles. It is the arrival of these two witnesses which foreshadows the foretold conversion of the Jews to Christianity.
  • Antichrist finally kills them by his own hand in Jerusalem and their bodies lie in the street by his command for 3 1/2 days, at the end of which a voice from heaven is heard by everyone present which commands the two witnesses to arise, and to the surprise and stark terror of the onlookers, they do.
  • The Jews as a nation will convert after the full number of the Gentiles enter the Church (Rom 11)
  • Antichrist, stung again by this latest heavenly miracle, tries to restore his prestige with the Jews by simulating Christ’s ascension from Mt Olivet, and St Michael casts him down screaming to his death. (St Thomas Aquinas and other Doctors teach this.)

The Four Last Things

  • After the death of Antichrist, a short period of time of unknown duration is given to the remaining inhabitants of the earth to repent and accept Our Lord and the message of His Gospel.
  • There will be a physical transformation of the universe (Matt 24:29; Mark 13: 24; Luke 21:25) and the world will be purified by fire in the first general conflagration (1 Pet 3: 5-7; 1 Cor 3:13) Then only will the Son of Man appear in heaven (Matt 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 13:27)
  • Then comes the end of the world and the Four Last Things: Death, the Last Judgement, Heaven, Hell.

In brief:

  • MINOR CHASTISEMENT: natural disasters; Russia invades Western Europe; civil wars in Britain, Italy and France; a holy Pope; a Great Monarch; 3 Days Darkness.
  • ERA OF PEACE: a new Holy Roman Empire with Emperor; restoration of Christian culture (Social reign of Christ); an Ecumenical Council
  • MAJOR CHASTISEMENT: Gospel preached to the whole world; Great Apostasy; False Prophet; Antichrist; unprecedented persecution; Enoch and Elias; death of Antichrist
  • FINAL JUDGEMENT: Second Coming; transformation of the universe.