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The Mass and the Dominicans in Holland

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 12, 2007

The Augustinians and the Dominicans in The Netherlands have publicly gone off the rails. For some time, do-it-yourself liturgies have been performed each Sunday at the Augustinian Church in Nijmegen, where Protestant and Catholic laity jointly celebrate “mass” without the benefit of a priest. Now the Dominican order has officially distributed a booklet advocating a similar approach throughout the Church as a whole.

In early September, with the approval of their provincials, the Dominicans in Holland distributed a booklet entitled “The Church and the Ministry” to all 1,300 Catholic parishes in that country. The booklet maintains that, in the absence of a priest, the laity can select someone from among them to preside over the liturgy, and that the words of consecration may be pronounced by either this representative or all the faithful together in order to confect the Eucharist. The booklet argues that this sort of sacramentality “from below” is what Vatican II called for when it placed an emphasis on the People of God.

It is very doubtful, of course, that the authors of the booklet believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, any more than they believe that a priest ordained in the apostolic succession is necessary to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood. Still, the proposal in the booklet will further confuse the faithful, who have already been confused enough by the replacement of Masses with communion services, not only in Holland but around the world.

Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a communion service when no priest is available. In some places this is done very properly, with the omission of the Eucharistic Prayer and an emphasis on the fact that the hosts have been previously consecrated by a priest. Nonetheless, the external similarity of the full-fledged communion service to the Mass can breed confusion wherever false leadership desires to blur the necessary distinctions. The Dominicans in Holland have now raised this confusion to new heights by arguing, in effect, that anyone who represents the faith of the community may consecrate the sacred species.

But there is more than mere confusion here: The Dominicans have formally crossed the line of Catholic dogma. It is perhaps ironic that the booklet was distributed just two weeks before Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum was to take effect. In the letter accompanying his motu proprio, Benedict had stated that one reason people have felt a need for the Missal of John XXIII was “above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.”

We are still waiting for something more than the very muted criticism of the booklet offered by the leaders of the Dominican Order in Rome, who kindly suggested that the authors’ concern about the shortage of priests was laudable, but it “must be responded to in careful theological and pastoral reflection.” I would say that any Dominican who has completed his formation without being able to exercise the minimal “careful theological and pastoral reflection” required for a proper understanding of the Mass ought not to have a bright future in the Order.

Alas, we live in enlightened times, and so the Dutch Dominicans plan a reprint. But as the weather grows colder, and considering the high price of oil, may we not piously hope for a bonfire? What's that? No, no, of course not. Just for the books.

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