Thursday, 20 December 2012

Is Brentwood the diocese Rome has forgotten?

It is now well over a year since the process of appointing a successor to Bishop Thomas began; and it is now pretty much a year since the suggested names from the Diocesan College of Consultors were forwarded to the Nuncio. Bishop Thomas has celebrated his Farewell Mass, with its subsequent pastoral letter.

A conversation earlier this week reminded me of what I feel to be the priority of a new Episcopal appointment. I think the new Bishop needs, before all else, to be able to unite the priests of the Diocese, and this in a very ordinary way.

This week's conversation described a situation where a new parish priest had arrived, as it happens a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Shall we say that "changes" have followed, and there are some difficulties as a result. The "changes" are leading to a Liturgy that is probably a more faithful celebration than previously, though I cannot really judge on the details as these did not form a part of a very general conversation. I was reminded of a situation now a good number of years ago where the arrival of a new parish priest led - with stunning speed - to "changes" in an opposite direction, towards a less faithful form of celebration of the Liturgy.

Even if one remains neutral as to which of these "changes" should be encouraged and which discouraged, the fact that the arrival of a new parish priest can lead to these kinds of situations indicates a radical division among the priests of the Diocese, a division that has significant consequence for the life of faith of the laity. [To be fair to Brentwood Diocese, this situation in all likelihood exists in other Dioceses too.]

A fundamental sign of the unity of the priests of a Diocese is that they should celebrate the Liturgy of the Church in the same way. A result of that unity is that the lay faithful also have a common experience of the Liturgy, be it across different parishes or when a new priest arrives in a parish. Working to promote this seems to me the priority for a new Bishop. It is a task in which the juridical aspect is only an aspect; there is an underlying work for the promotion of communion which cannot be reduced to just its juridical aspect (a danger of a traditionalist inclination) but will include that aspect alongside others.

Pope Benedict expressed it like this, in his letter accompanying the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (my two distinct emphases added):
The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.
Brentwood Diocese does enjoy celebrations, small in number, of Mass according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and according to the Syro-Malabar Rite. The principles of reverent celebration and harmony with Liturgical directives apply to all of these celebrations and represent a principle of unity across all Liturgical forms. But for the vast, vast majority of the faithful of the Diocese it is the Roman Rite celebrated according to its Ordinary Form that will unite them with their priests and this is why reverent celebration in accordance with the rubrics of the Ordinary Form is so important.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If this is very recent, then it is probably my new parish priest (but that is just a guess).

I think it is not that changes have happened, nor the way he wants to celebrate Mass (we have the Norbertine priests nearby and they attract large numbers of people to their Masses), but rather the way changes have been put across.

We will put up with most things, really, as long as we feel the priest has good intentions.

But it's early days.