19 September 2007

Reaction from Santa Sabina

. . .(ahem). . .not just the Roman Dominicans were surprised. . .and appalled and offended and scandalized. . .I mean, come on! We've come to expect this sort of nonsense from Jesuits! ;-)

Rome Dominicans surprised at Dutch proposal for priestless Masses

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The general curia of the Dominicans expressed surprise over a booklet published by its order in the Netherlands recommending that laypeople be allowed to celebrate Mass when no ordained priests are available. In a written statement released by the Vatican Sept. 18, the Dominicans' Rome-based leaders said that, while they "laud the concern of our brothers" over the shortage of priests, they did not believe "the solutions that they have proposed are beneficial to the church nor in harmony with its tradition." The statement, dated Sept. 4, acknowledged the Dutch Dominicans' concerns about the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the difficulty in offering the faithful in the Netherlands a wider celebration of the Eucharist. But while the statement said Dominican leaders shared those same concerns it said they did "not believe that the method they (Dutch Dominicans) have used in disseminating" a booklet to all 1,300 parishes in the Netherlands was an appropriate way to discuss the issue.

I've search in vain for the text of the statement from Santa Sabina. I'm curious about who signed it.


  1. This doesn't seem to be very strongly worded. Do we think that the Master General or one of his representatives chided the Dutch Dominicans in private?

  2. Doug,

    Not strongly worded...yup. This is why I want to see a copy of the statement itself and see who signed it, if anyone. No doubt there were "inquiries behind the scene" about this, but this sort of response is not all that strange for us. OP's aren't prone to denouncing one another publicly. We prefer more subtle means. To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised to see anything out of Santa Sabina at all! Not that I think nothing would be said...I'm just surprised to see something, anything done publicly. Not really our style.

    Fr. Philip

  3. How weird...

    You'd think that the members of a clerical order would really have some idea about this sort of thing...

  4. Faith8:40 AM

    The following is the gist of the pamphlet, translated by Mr. Martin Badenhorst, OP.

    Here is my summary of the document's arguments. May I emphasise "summary of
    the document"? Since I have simply tried to translate and summarize.

    History of the Document:

    A study of the current situation of the Netherlands church was proposed to
    the provincial chapter by way of a petition. The situation is the greater
    number of lay lead services of worship with communion. The chapter accepted
    the petition and appointed a commission to produce a response to the
    situation, so as to promote discussion.

    The Situation:

    An increasing number of lay lead services, utilizing Hosts previously
    consecrated, or fetched from elsewhere.

    This practice has given rise, in people's experience to an alternative
    ecclesiology, where the lay ministers are selected and approved by a local
    process. An ecclesiology from below has emerged, with congregations taking
    greater ownership and laity become, theologically, more aware.

    The practice as approved by the Bishops already challenges notions of
    clericalism as the homily is necessarily delivered by a lay person. Because
    of the lay involvement in selecting suitable ministers and preparing for the
    liturgy in the absence of a priest, their experience of such liturgies is
    as, and sometimes more, profound than their experience of Mass when a
    priest, and often an imported foreign priest, presides on occasion with no
    further connection to the community.

    Abuses with the unworthy transport of Hosts, or the "topping up of ciboria"
    with altar breads have been noted. This also has the danger of giving rise
    to magical thought with regard to the Eucharist.

    Though there are prescribed prayers for the services, issues by the Bishops'
    Conference, there is also a great leeway allowed leading to the crafting of
    prayers reflecting local realities and sometimes containing the institution

    Theological Points

    The church is Eucharistic and to live without the celebration of the
    Eucharist is to live without the fullness of the church.

    The hierarchical model is challenged by these practices allowed by the
    hierarchy. It is difficult for bishops to take authority in the monarchical
    model of hierarchy when they have already nurtured an alternative, "from
    below" ecclesiology. This is the dichotomy created by priestless services on

    Imposing priests on congregations simply to supply Eucharist is challenged,
    as the congregations have grown used to the notion of partnership.

    Clericalism and the monarchical episcopate is a later development. The early
    church appeared to have alternative models to the hierarchy which emerged.

    A particular reading of the leadership of household communities as given in
    Acts and some of the Pauline letters appears to hint at female leadership at
    the early Eucharist, which has remerged as women ministers lead Sunday

    What has emerged is from the shortage of priests is a return to older more
    participatory models which appear, to the commission, closer to the
    ecclesiology of the pilgrim people articulated by Vatican II.

    It appears that as leadership of worship is no longer simply the domain of
    only clerics, so that this fact could even extend to Eucharistic worship,
    with the entire congregation voicing the institution narrative, as it is the
    prayer of the whole church which brings about sacrament.

    The pyramid model of church is a reality, though it emerges to preserve and
    propagate the faith in a different social and world situation, as the
    context changes does not the structure have to change as well?

    Ways Forward

    Here I translate, giving the original first:

    Bij kentering van het dominante mens- en wereldbeeld, bij
    maatschappelijk-economische verschuivingen en een nieuwe sociaal-culturele
    gevoeligheid kan de historisch gegroeide kerkorde in feite dát gaan
    tegenspreken en verhinderen wat zij in vroegere tijden juist veilig heeft
    willen stellen: de opbouw van een christelijke gemeenschap. Het is de vraag
    of en in hoeverre vormen en voorschriften die destijds begrijpelijk en
    zinnig en dus reëel waren, in onze tijd nóg zinvol en reëel, wellicht
    contra-productief zijn.
    Wij denken hierbij met name aan de kerkelijke wet die enkel celibataire
    mannen toelaat tot het ambt van voorganger en de wet die vrouwen van het
    ambt van voorganger uitsluit. Historisch staan een verouderde antropologie
    en een antieke opvatting van de seksualiteit aan de oorsprong van deze
    wetten. Het zijn kerkelijke, dus menselijke en geen goddelijke wetten.

    When the dominant paradigm of humanity and the world changes, with social
    and economic changes and a new social and cultural intuition, it may be that
    the current, historically conditioned, church structure actually negates
    what it achieved in earlier times, that is the building up of the Christian
    community. The question is whether and to what extent forms and rules which
    were previously reasonable and sensible and thus normative are still so in
    our time and to what extent they are counter-productive. Here we
    specifically call to mind the law requiring a male, celibate, to lead
    prayers in the community and the law excluding women from this leadership
    role. Historically there is a dated anthropology and antiquated model of
    sexuality which lies at the root of these laws. They are ecclesiastical,
    thus human, and not divine laws.

    Het huidige priestertekort is beslist onnodig en in die zin irreëel. In veel
    parochies zijn momenteel mannen en vrouwen hartverwarmend en inspirerend
    actief als eigentijdse gangmakers en bezielers, evangelische
    identificatie-figuren. Veel gemeenteleden zouden hen vol vertrouwen en graag
    inordenen als hun gemeenteleiders en als hun voorgangers in hun liturgische
    vieringen. Wij denken hierbij allereerst aan de officieel aangestelde
    pastorale werksters en werkers, maar ook aan de vele vrijwilligers. Deze
    vrouwen en
    mannen staan in het hart van hun overzichtelijke gemeenschappen. Dat geldt
    voor hen veelal meer dan voor de gewijde priesters. Die zijn aangesteld om –
    vaak in meerdere parochies – voor te gaan in sacramentele vieringen, vooral
    de eucharistie. Onontkoombaar worden zij zo tot hun eigen ontmoediging en
    frustratie steeds meer “vreemden” voor de kerkgangers.

    The current shortage of priests is, strictly speaking, unnecessary and
    unreal. Many parishes already have men and women who are heart-warmingly and
    inspiringly active as contemporary pathfinders and inspirers, evangelical
    exemplaries. Many parishes would, with full confidence, have them ordained
    as their pastoral leaders and as leaders in liturgical celebrations. We
    specifically call to mind those already, officially appointed, pastoral
    assistants(men and women) as well as many volunteers. These men and women
    are central to the congregations having oversight over them. This is more
    true of them than for ordained priests. Such priests are being appointed
    only - more often in more than one parish - to lead the celebration of the
    sacraments especially the Eucharist. Inevitable frustration and
    discouragement follow their remaining relative strangers to the church

    Thanks to my community brother, Martin. +Faith

  5. Maybe the Dominicans are tired of seeing the Jebbies get all the headlines...

  6. Faith9:30 PM

    This is what the Tablet says:

    There is some truth in that pamphlet. In my neck of the woods, NE, it is all too common to have Communion Services led by Lay Leaders. Previously Consecrated Hosts are used. I can see where this may lead us, in the light of the Dutch Dominican proposals.
    Interesting speculations, too bad the pamphlet was distributed the way it was. It confused the people and then the media fueled the flames.

  7. I have railed against the "Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest" since I first the thing seven years ago. It might as well be titled, "A Sure Fire Means of Killing Vocations and Guaranteeing That Your Parish Becomes Protestant Within a Year."

    The pamphlet isn't anything new or even interesting. This sort of "we need a priestless church b/c hierarchy is evil blahblahblah..." has been around since the first Gnostic cult in the first century pretended to ordain some doped-up prophetess in Crete and claim she was the Virgin Mary incarnated. I really can't emphasize enough how exactly unoriginal these proposals are. We have had this sort of "protestantizing" element in the church from the beginning...from the very beginning. Just read Paul's letters to the Corinthians. My Dutch brothers trot out the favorite justification for "women priests, ad nau"--the early church did X and Y, therefore, we ought to do X and Y. Please note that this argument is only used when the liberals approve of X and Y. They would never argue, for e.g., that we should return to the early church's practice of public confession and the severe penances that were applied. Nor would they argue that we separate the sexes at liturgy, following the example of our Jewish ancestors. The historical argument is very selectively wielded. The "we need to be up to date" argument is also quite old-fashioned and selectively used. The same people who argue that the liturgy is infinitely adaptable to cultural situations are the first to slap close the missal when the culture seems to be taking a turn they don't approve of. IOW, as long as the culture is liberal, then the church ought to be following the culture. As soon as the culture takes on a more traditional tone, well, now anyone who suggests that the liturgy needs to be adapted is divisive. Go figure.

    Fr. Philip, OP