The Truth of Love Cannot be Silenced-- but your bishop may try

By Leila Marie Lawler (articles ) | Jun 06, 2006

Everyone knows that kneeling at Mass isn’t a simple issue. Pro-kneelers bring a huge burden of bitterness and pain and sorrow to a liturgy that they find emptied of all meaning other than what they can infuse it with--on their knees, and with teeth firmly gritted.

Anti-kneelers sense that if they can keep traditional Catholics on their feet, they will have won the battle against the interior spiritual life and for the communitarian view of Church that they espouse, if you can take espouse in an unfecund, neutered sort of way.

If that seems harshly unbalanced as a summary of positions, so be it. Maybe two decades ago Phil and I had dinner at the home of a pastor, now a veteran of the “flatlander,” or horizontal, or modern party of political agitation in the Archdiocese of Boston. There a liturgist (invited to help persuade the retrograde Lawlers that things were A-OK at the parish) commented to us that he is “deeply suspicious” – deeply suspicious -- of people who pray alone.

Yes, there are wheels within wheels, and everyone knows it. The traditionalists (a term that by now means not necessarily aficionados of the Tridentine Mass, but possibly those who merely clings to some shred of the past – a snippet of chant, a moment of adoration) say they just want to kneel, but what they mean is that they want a whole world of things restored to them: things both liturgical and doctrinal.

They also know they aren’t anywhere near about to get any of it, but they feel that they have to draw the line because… well, Lord, to whom shall they go?

The liberals (a term that doesn’t begin to cover the zeal for destruction that these people harbor) take spiteful glee in having built it into their theology that missing a Mass here or there couldn’t matter less, and also that God isn’t exactly there, present, the way you think He is.

They know their enemies, the conservative Catholics, wouldn’t dare simply to stay away from a Mass the rubrics of which they don’t like. Thus the conservatives are their captives, literally, at least for the time of Mass, forced to endure whatever indignities, insults, and atrocities the others feel like committing.

No doubt it's true that the wretched kneelers of St. Mary’s by the Sea Parish in Orange, California are longtime “thought criminals” in the eyes of their progressive neighbors. But their plight could be ours, whoever we may be and in whatever diocese we may find ourselves, which is why I revisit the episode here.

Their pastor of souls Father Tran, apparently hitting on the idea that he could speak to these intransigents in their own language, seeking to commit upon them the rhetorical equivalent of jujitsu, used their own petard to try to hoist them out:

…by intentionally setting their own norms [kneeling, i.e.], disregarding the permission from the local Bishop or despising the authority of the local Bishop, and the National Conference of one’s country. That is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin, separating oneself from the Church.

Now clearly this priest doesn’t really know what “mortal sin” is – which is not to say that I doubt he would apply it to his parishioners if he did, but just that even he would see that kneeling doesn’t make the cut for the murder-rape-thieving-from-widows Div.1 team. Neither does his bishop.

Father Joe Fenton, spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, said the diocese supports Tran's view that disobeying the anti-kneeling edict is a mortal sin. "That's Father Tran's interpretation, and he's the pastor," he said. "We stand behind Father Tran."

To interject: Just the other day Pope Benedict urged: Diocesan bishops must care for their people with "a ministry of watchful love that calls for total dedication, complete commitment of energy and, if necessary, the sacrifice of life."

Show of hands: So far, does Bishop Tod Brown seem like this kind of bishop? Maybe you can’t tell yet.

OK, how about this: A couple of days after the article appeared in the LA Times making Father Tran seem like a particularly dim-witted practitioner of his art (can you imagine a chef saying “I will poison anyone who comes into my restaurant without my permission”?), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange website posted a “ retraction” of the mortal sin gag.

The headline says, “KNEELING OR STANDING ARE NOT ‘MORTAL SINS’: Father Martin Tran’s Retraction.” But if you read the statement, he says no such thing and retracts nothing.

Here is what he says, in its apparent entirety, according to the story on the web site: “Father Tran regrets any concern or hurt caused by the misuse of the term “mortal sin” in this context.”

That’s more of a lame squirm; a squirm that doesn’t even make sense. The next line provides the kicker: “The Diocese concurs with Father Tran’s retraction.”

The diocese is very accommodating, I must say. The pastor says that behavior X is a mortal sin, and the diocese supports him; he says (or implies) that X is not a mortal sin, and the diocese supports that stand, too. Father Tran, it seems, can say whatever the hell he wants, and the diocese, that smilingly distracted entity, will agree.

“The bishop, Pope Benedict remarked, "represents the image of Christ, who nourishes us with his Flesh and Blood." As head of the diocese the bishop has a duty to "dispense the food of truth" to his people.”

Bishop Brown, standing behind his green curtain, or rather his spokesmen, frantically pulling levers, grabs the one that changes the topic:

The bulletin article by Father Tran was never about “kneeling” or “standing” during Mass, it was about respect for the liturgical practices of the Church as approved by the Pope.

Or, back to the moral jujitsu: “they” understand obedience; let’s give them a dose of that stuff. The smackdown is dealt.

"The truth of love cannot be silenced," the Holy Father said, and each bishop should "proclaim it without fear or reticence."

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Show 21 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2006 11:27 AM ET USA

    Well, you have all cleared up this issue for me. It is not about sin, standing or kneeling, it is about obedience. We are in Dorothy's position of needing a Wizard to get us home to a loving family. Lightning and thunder and papal condemnation hang over our heads as the Wizard of Orange pulls his levers and claims "I did not say it. The Pope said it." And the veil is torn aside, revealing a an issue that should be a non-issue. Get over it . There are more pressing issues to deal with.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 08, 2006 11:50 AM ET USA

    Mortal sin? I thought Vatican II did away with that. St. Pius X, ora pro nobis!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 08, 2006 5:19 AM ET USA

    This is about what to do with all those pesky orthodox. The prev. pastor was generous and brought many triddies back to a holy NO ;The new priest wants them out of HIS church. The big protest was just a reprint of an Homil. and Pastoral Rev. article. The attitude of the parishioners is a last stand against being thrown out of their homes. They are not disrepectful of the Mass, the Magisterium, just not accepting of unauthorized and disrespectful demands to their canonical rights to worship.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 07, 2006 3:00 PM ET USA

    I am in exactly the same position as Bobalouie. I weep at every Mass and wonder if I sin by my silence. Receiving Jesus in Holy Commuion is a major consolation, only it makes me weep even more. We must seek to join our sufferings to His. When the time is right, He will remove this sourage from His Church.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 07, 2006 10:43 AM ET USA

    Rebellion against those who are obviously wolves in sheep's clothing is virtue, not vice. I can deal with "progressives." I just treat them nicely like I would any of my other Protestant neighbors. It is much more difficult to accept the kind of fake charity and obedience that "conservatives" require of us. These people, who have good instincts, just can't get their principles correctly ordered. They subsequently become enablers-par-excellence for progressive heretics.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Jun. 07, 2006 9:10 AM ET USA

    “That is clearly rebellion...” If it is “rebellion” to stand against the apostate liberals, then so be it. I’ll take my chances that the late British lawyer John Bradshaw (1602–1659) got it right when he said, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Or, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the ecclesial world as storms in the physical.... It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of the faith.”

  • Posted by: - Jun. 07, 2006 8:45 AM ET USA

    Snowbird is right. Where is the respect for lawful authority? Certainly not at St Marys. Card. Arinze via his dubiuim made it clear that the faithful can & may kneel so Bishop Brown & Fr Tran must comply with that order vice making up their own rules. They are the ones lacking in charity. Blind obedience to a bishop is reckless & foolish especially when it contradicts higher lawful authority. Leaving for another parish is not an option. They should continue to fight.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 07, 2006 6:24 AM ET USA

    Investigate the whole story BEFORE you condemn the pastor or the bishop. Loving Christians do not parade with placards against their legitimate pastor or bishop's pulpit instruction outside of Mass on Sun morns. The people were ASKED to conform to the rubrics of Mass as per Vat II. They refused REPEATEDLY and told their pastor and their bishop where to go! This is Christian love? Where is respect and obedience to lawful authority? These are people who DID NOT grow up with the Tridentine Mass.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 07, 2006 1:10 AM ET USA

    The Bishop doesn't feed the flock because he's too busy sheering the sheep. Jesus was very clear and very forceful with these people: "You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?" No ambiguity THERE.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 11:54 PM ET USA

    Kneeling during the Canon is a traditional position. Of course,tradition has no place in liberal catholicism.What was legitimate and acceptable for hundreds of years can suddenly be cavalierly dismissed and replaced at the whim of a bishop.The laity it seems is more attached to the form of worship in liturgy than some clerics.Politicians beware the ballot box;bishops the collection plate, especially if desiring a new cathedral. Be a pastoral healer not a person to drive people away.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 11:52 PM ET USA

    The only person you can change is yourself. Faced with such a priest and such a bishop, a faithful Catholic should PRAY, fast and do penance for them, and if NOTkneeling is not an option, then disobeying one's priest (boneheaded as he might be) is also not an option. A priest stands in persona Christi, after all. The solution: switch to a more accomodating church. If the extra distance of less convenient mass schedule is a burden -GOOD! Offer it up along with those other penances and prayers.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 11:29 PM ET USA

    Sorry, I meant Leila!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 11:28 PM ET USA

    No, Uncle Di, the real smackdown came months before this stupidity ever hit the media. It came when Cardinal Arinze told Cardinal George and all of us in response to a dubium (Prot.n. 855/03/L) that the norms do "not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free." Who is really being disobedient to the Vatican now? A thief in shepherd's garb, and his pointy hatted boss. Both of them need to crawl into a cave and weep over their sins.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 11:26 PM ET USA

    No, Uncle Di, the real smackdown came months before this stupidity ever hit the media. It came when Cardinal Arinze told Cardinal George and all of us in response to a dubium (Prot.n. 855/03/L) that the norms do "not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free." Who is really being disobedient to the Vatican now? A thief in shepherd's garb, and his pointy hatted boss. Both of them need to crawl into a cave and weep over their sins.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 11:16 PM ET USA

    The Holy Writ is most explicit concerning the ultimate fate of those who lack charity, as well as their ultimate destinations. Christian love dictates that we must pray for Bp Brown and Fr Tran, that they may realise the error of their ways and truly minister to all of the faithful in Orange, not simply their favourites. And I pray for the Holy Father, that he may eventually take these liberal pseudo-Catholics in hand and, eshewing his famous consensus, lovingly read them the riot act.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 10:38 PM ET USA

    Let's contrast this with the very explicit apology that appeared in the recent Bridgeport diocese case. Accusing reverent parishioners of mortal sin leads to a sham apology, but if you expose the gay pastor's embezzlement, get ready to grovel.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 9:32 PM ET USA

    Yes, what we see here is a splendid example of the New Paradigm for apology. The Liberal who has managed to get himself limned in unwelcome limelight expresses regret not for what he did, but for the primitive bad feelings the knuckledraggers experience and obviously don't understand since they come from their own stupidity. And the Pope is invoked. But not named. They really don't like him much either.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Jun. 06, 2006 8:01 PM ET USA

    Does anyone think about or even consider anymore the Bible verse that states, "every knee shall bend, etc?" Don't they think it applies to Jesus in the Eucharist?

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 7:41 PM ET USA

    Leila, I almost cried reading this because it so ACCURATELY describes what I feel at Mass. I love my pastor even though his liturgical formation was obviously poor, (he certainly doesn't think so). I tried the fraternal correction thing with previous pastor and ended up on the "outs" for the duration of his stay. I learned well and will never do that again. So I suffer in silence, knowing the good God hears me, even if no one else knows what I'm talking about. Most love what is done at Mass.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 06, 2006 7:38 PM ET USA

    History is full of mortal combat carried out in the name of religion. It is sad to see Catholics treating each other this way. Each side needs to step back and view the situation with charitable eyes. In particular, the bishop as leader of the diocese needs to take a forceful stand protecting the right of Catholics to express themselves in traditional ways, such as kneeling. Why can't the bishop accept the fact that people express themselves in different manners? Live and let live.

  • Posted by: Quadratus - Jun. 06, 2006 7:10 PM ET USA

    Makes one just give up and go to SSPX; no ambiguities there.