You know, we have a lot going on right now. People are scared. People are hoarding food and needs. There are few to no sacraments to be had. Public Mass is gone. We desperately need spiritual help. But this bishop? He’s chosen to do this instead. Granted, he did this way back at the end of February, but he had it published this week in the diocesan paper because, well, his preferences (and they are preferences) are oh so important right now.
BOISE, Idaho, April 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― An Idaho bishop has prohibited priests in his diocese from saying the Mass facing toward the tabernacle (ad orientem) and from using communion rails for Catholics who prefer to kneel to receive the Eucharist. In addition, the bishop wants to be informed of every traditional Latin Mass that takes place in his diocese.
Bishop Peter Christensen, 67, of the Diocese of Boise, issued a memo to the priests of his diocese to enforce his liturgical preferences on February 28. It was subsequently published in the Idaho Catholic Register in late March.
In the memo, Christensen underscored that priests are not to “imply a particular superiority or greater holiness of approach amongst the valid forms of worship in the Roman Catholic Church” before aiming at priests’ worship ad orientem.
That’s fine. I think he’s wrong, but I can see the reasoning behind the idea of stopping the “I’m more Catholic than you.” Squabbling like that sometimes happens, but then he goes on to do just that! I could have given him a pass for trying to prevent something I don’t really think happens all that much but not now.
“Priests in the Diocese of Boise will face the people when presiding at the Ordinary Form of the Mass,” he instructed and cited 1970’s General Instruction to the Roman Missal, saying that Paragraph 299 “makes it plain that the universal Church envisions the priest presiding at Mass facing the people.”
OK, this will be addressed later on in this article but I’m going to ask the bishop – makes it plain to whom? Not to Pope Benedict, not to Pope Francis, not to Cardinal Sarah, nor to bishops and priests throughout the world. Bishop Christensen might want to remember that his preferences don’t make fact.
“This is unambivalent, and I am instructing priests in the diocese to preside facing the people at every celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass,” Christensen wrote.
It’s so clear cut that the head of the Congregation for Divine Liturgy invited all priests to celebrate ad orientem? I’m reasonably sure the bishop knows about that, so I’m not sure how he justifies that statement.
However, author Dr. Peter Kwasniewski told LifeSIteNews that the bishop is “factually wrong” about what GIRM Paragraph 299 says about facing the people.
“And he should know better as this has been discussed extensively,” the scholar added.
I agree. He should know because it’s sorta done to death.
But Bishop Christensen also believes that the priest celebrating Mass facing the people has contributed to their “sanctification.”
“There are priests who prefer ad orientem,” he acknowledged.
“I am convinced that they mean well and find it a devout way to pray. But the overwhelming experience worldwide after Vatican II is that the priest faces the people for the Mass and that this has contributed to the sanctification of the people.”
Wait! What??? I have noooooo idea what he means by this. Does he know that Mass attendance and belief in the Real Presence have plummeted while birth control among people in the pews has gone up? I grew up after Vatican II. I went to 12 years of Catholic school. I can count on one hand the kids I grew up with who fulfill their Sunday obligation and believe in the Real Presence. ONE HAND! Yup, they go from time to time when the “spirit” moves them. I can’t blame them, though. They went to the same schools and churches I did. They’re certainly not hearing about Truth at too many of the churches, and they’re not “sanctified” simply because a priests faces them during the Mass. “They’re sanctified because the priest faces them!” Poof. Really??? I mean, did he even read this? Did it not sound at all a little lame?
Christensen rejected “attempts to justify” priests facing the east with their people, saying it was “clearly in the mind of the Council that the priest should face the people.”
Except it’s not. Honestly, let’s just think about this and the words of the Mass. It doesn’t even make sense. I went into this in detail here: https://omm.foeduscatholic.com/lets-talk-ad-orientem/ And what does he say to the liturgical scholars who disagree with this, including Cardinal Sarah who’s kind of the expert?
This statement was contradicted by expert Gregory Di Pippo, editor of The New Liturgical Movement online magazine, who pointed out that the Council Fathers had no explicit plans to radically transform the Mass.
“Dietrich von Hildebrand once joked that in the case of Vatican II, it is the spirit that killeth, and the letter that giveth life.” Di Pippo told LifeSiteNews from Rome.
“Bishop Christensen is entirely wrong to say ‘It was clearly the mind of the Council that the priest should face the people,’” he continued.
In short, READ THE DOCUMENTS.
“The Council’s declaration on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, mentions ‘the people’ more than 40 times, and not once does it suggest in any way that the altars should be turned around, or that celebrant of the Mass should be looking at them while addressing God.”
Oops. There’s an inconvenient truth.
Boise’s Ordinary also took aim at the practise of receiving Holy Communion while kneeling. While acknowledging that the faithful have the right to receive the Eucharist in this way and may not be refused Communion because they kneel, he ordered that they not be assisted in doing so.”
“While it is the right of the faithful to kneel to receive, nor may any communicant be denied Communion based on posture, given that the established norm in this country is standing, I am instructing that priests do not use furniture or such items as prie dieus or communion rails, as these may seem to undermine the norm or to imply a preference for kneeling to receive,” he wrote.
So, let’s remember where we started:
In the memo, Christensen underscored that priests are not to “imply a particular superiority or greater holiness of approach amongst the valid forms of worship in the Roman Catholic Church”
So, let me get this straight, one cannot “imply a particular superiority or greater holiness of approach amongst the valid forms of worship,” BUT it’s totally fine to say that the priests and laity who are exercising valid ways of facing and receiving are undermining the norms? Come on.
Peter Kwasniewski told LifeSiteNews that “it is always a bad sign for a bishop to want to discourage the faithful from kneeling before their Lord and God.”
In an article he prepared for the Remnant newspaper, Kwasniewski stated that the ban on prie dieus is “vindictive.”
“It amounts to saying: ‘You knuckleheads can get down on your knees if you really want to—but not if you’re elderly. Tough luck for you cronies. No help from the church,’” he wrote.
That’s EXACTLY how this looks. Honestly, who is hurt by the person who prefers to kneel? Nobody. I’ve never been able to figure this out. My Ordinary Form Mass employs the kneeling rail. Nobody looks at those who don’t kneel and judges them. Some can’t kneel, some don’t prefer it and simply stand. And you know what? Most of us are focused on Christ in the Eucharist. I don’t even notice unless they’re right next to me and, you know what? I DON’T CARE! So why discourage a lawful practice? Does the bishop somehow think that God’s upset with those who kneel? Maybe the bishop might want to be happy that people still come to his churches. And the priests he’s quashing right now? They’re probably the ones with the biggest attendance. Is it jealousy? Is it because the bishop doesn’t want to hear people complain when people don’t do exactly what they want? I mean, what can possibly be the reason for this?
“Isn’t it surprising, too, just how rigidly some bishops want to exclude kneeling before the SON OF GOD? ‘Hey you—cut it out—no kneeling around here to the Word made flesh! We don’t do that anymore. It’s okay for the three kings and medieval peasants and what not, but not in this democratic age. Besides, the USCCB has spoken, and it has more authority than a millennium of Catholic practice’.”
It is kind of an obsession. Must. Stop. Kneeling. Kneeling bad.
Christensen’s focus on traditional elements was not confined to the Mass of Paul VI, however. In his memo he also indicated that he wants to be informed “as a matter of courtesy” when the Mass of John XXIII, otherwise known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, or the Traditional Latin Mass, is celebrated in his diocese.
OK, I’m not going to quibble over this. He has the right to know about what’s going on in his diocese. Still, it’s kind of weird statement. Does he feel like his priests are hiding something from him?
While acknowledging that Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum pontificum freed priests from the obligation of seeking episcopal permission to celebrate the ancient rite, Christensen wrote “I request that you report the practise to me, along with frequency and attendance.” He explained that this was for “accurate record-keeping” as the Holy See demands such information during ad limina visits.
File that under “I didn’t know.” Again, not quibbling with that, but what happens if the numbers are low? Or what if attendance is booming? Is he going to tell them to stop?
Kwasniewski found the bishop’s tone here “sinister.”
“It’s almost like he’s asking for a confession of mortal sins in kind and number,” he wrote.
It’s probably because he lumped a bunch of traditional practices (and I am using a little “T” since they don’t all apply simply to the Extraordinary Form) into one set of norms. I will say this, if you look at the original here, https://www.catholicidaho.org/72, he does point out some actual liturgical abuses. Sadly, mentioning the actual abuses seemed like an afterthought. He certainly didn’t spill the ink on those real abuses that he could. How about the holding hands during the Our Father or the orans posture reserved for the priest? Maybe he was aiming at what his priests? Who knows? I’m not in that diocese, but I’d be shocked and amazed if they didn’t have a few more actual abuses. Might be nice if he chastised and told people “No!” for those instead of for valid liturgical preferences.
“And as for his barb that the TLM should not be anything other than extraordinary in its occurrence—one wonders when he will issue the next memo stating that extraordinary ministers should also be of rare occurrence, since the priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist. It’ll be a long time before that buskin drops.”
OK, the bishop didn’t quite phrase it that way (see link above to his statement in Idaho Catholic), but I can see why they get that impression.
Christensen cited “confusion” among Catholics as his reason for vetoing the traditional elements.
“In order to reduce the confusion among the faithful and the increasing disinformation regarding liturgical matters in the Diocese, and to promote harmony and unity that is strengthened in our Eucharistic celebrations, I am promulgating this Instruction,” he wrote.
Oh, I’m sooooooo confused and I’m soooo worried about harmony. Not. And, really, disinformation? Mmmmm, I think he’s the one who provided that.
Subsequently the bishop suspended all public masses in his diocese as a response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Christensen’s approach is contrary to that of the Prefect for the Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah, who in 2016 asked priests to pray with their people towards the east, which represents Christ’s return.
In an interview earlier that year, Sarah, now 74, said that one way to return God to the center of divine worship would be for priests and people “to turn together in the same direction.”
“To convert is to turn towards God. I am profoundly convinced that our bodies must participate in this conversion,” the cardinal said.
“The best way is certainly to celebrate — priests and faithful — turned together in the same direction: toward the Lord who comes. It isn’t, as one hears sometimes, to celebrate with the back turned toward the faithful or facing them. That isn’t the problem. It’s to turn together toward the apse, which symbolizes the East, where the cross of the risen Lord is enthroned,” he continued.
“By this manner of celebrating, we experience, even in our bodies, the primacy of God and of adoration. We understand that the liturgy is first our participation at the perfect sacrifice of the cross. I have personally had this experience: In celebrating thus, with the priest at its head, the assembly is almost physically drawn up by the mystery of the cross at the moment of the elevation.”
Maybe Bishop Christensen should tell this guy what Vatican II is all about because, quite clearly, he’s wrong! Seriously, might I remind the bishop that this really confused man is the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments?!?!
How do people think they can get away with this in the age of the internet? Does he think people in his diocese have never heard Cardinal Sarah or Pope Benedict’s take on this? Does he think people don’t know that even Pope Francis does Mass ad orientem, all while there’s a free standing altar nearby, all in the Sistine Chapel? Does he want to tell Pope Francis what confusion he’s causing by doing that?
Sarah also asked the faithful to kneel to receive Holy Communion.
Oooh! And don’t forget Communion on the tongue. Kind of surprised that Bishop Christensen didn’t go there too.
The “Complicit Clergy” website has offered a means to Catholics to voice their disapproval of Christensen’s prohibitions here.
You might want to drop the bishop a line.
Bishop Peter Christensen
1501 S Federal Way Ste 400
Boise, Idaho 83705