Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic World News

South African bishop rips Tridentine Mass, conservative youth, papal leadership

July 08, 2010

In a June address that was published on July 7, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg offered strong criticism of the extraordinary form of the Mass and of what he characterizes as the “restorationist” vision of Venerable John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Commenting on the April Solemn High Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Bishop Dowling-- who is renowned for his support of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS-- said that “this Tridentine liturgy was an elaborate ritual manifestation of ecclesiastical rank, not a Mass in conformity with the fundamental Vatican II mandate for full, active participation by the faithful.” He added:

The Southern Cross about three or four weeks ago published a picture of Bishop Slattery with his “cappa magna” – in colour, nogal! For me, such a display of what amounts to triumphalism in a Church torn apart by the sexual abuse scandal, is most unfortunate. What happened there bore the marks of a medieval royal court, not the humble, servant leadership modelled by Jesus. But it seems to me that this is also a symbol of what has been happening in the Church especially since Pope John Paul II became the Bishop of Rome and up till today -- and that is “restorationism”, the carefully planned dismantling of the theology, ecclesiology, pastoral vision, indeed the “opening of the windows” of Vatican II – in order to “restore” a previous, or more controllable model of Church through an increasingly centralised power structure; a structure which now controls everything in the life of the Church through a network of Vatican Congregations led by Cardinals who ensure strict compliance with what is deemed by them to be “orthodox”. Those who do not comply face censure and punishment, e.g. theologians who are forbidden to teach in Catholic faculties …

Instead, a series of decrees, pronouncements and decisions which have been given various “labels” stating, for example, that they must be firmly held to with “internal assent” by the Catholic faithful, but in reality are simply the theological or pastoral interpretations or opinions of those who have power at the centre of the Church. They have not been solemnly defined as belonging to the “deposit of the faith” to be believed and followed, therefore, by all Catholics, as with other solemnly proclaimed dogmas. For example, the issues of celibacy for the priesthood and the ordination of women, withdrawn even from the realm of discussion. Therefore, such pronouncements are open to scrutiny – to discern whether they are in accord, for example, with the fundamental theological vision of Vatican II, or whether there is indeed a case to be made for a different interpretation or opinion.

Having denied that Catholic teaching on women’s ordination is part of the deposit of faith, Bishop Dowling continued:

It has to be recognised that for a significant number of young Catholics, adult Catholics, priests and religious around the world, the ‘restorationist’ model of Church which has been implemented over the past 30-40 years is sought after and valued; it meets a need in them; it gives them a feeling of belonging to something with very clear parameters and guidelines for living, thus giving them a sense of security and clarity about what is truth and what is morally right or wrong, because there is a clear and strong authority structure which decides definitively on all such questions, and which they trust absolutely as being of divine origin.

The rise of conservative groups and organizations in the Church over the past 40 years and more, which attract significant numbers of adherents, has led to a phenomenon which I find difficult to deal with, viz. an inward looking Church, fearful of if not antagonistic towards a secularist world with its concomitant danger of relativism especially in terms of truth and morality – frequently referred to by Pope Benedict XVI; a Church which gives an impression of “retreating behind the wagons”, and relying on a strong central authority to ensure unity through uniformity in belief and praxis in the face of such dangers. The fear is that without such supervision and control, and that if any freedom in decision-making is allowed, even in less important matters, this will open the door to division and a breakdown in the unity of the Church.


For all current news, visit our News home page.

Further information:
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 12 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Jul. 11, 2010 12:08 AM ET USA

    Bishop Slattery's wonderful homily about the redemptive value of Christ's suffering achieved through obedience to the Father's will, and of our participation in the fruits of that redemption through faith, a faith that expresses itself by obedience to Christ, an obedience that entails suffering out of love for his Mystical Body, the Church, is what's at stake. It is this call to humble submission of our intellect and will that Bishop Dowling objects to not to Bishop Slattery's "cappa magna."

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Jul. 09, 2010 9:25 AM ET USA

    I met the future Bishop Dowling the late 80s when I was a Redemptorist seminarian in the Midwest. He was making a visit to the USA in his role as a consultor (advisor) to the Superior General. His South African nationality fit the anti-apartheid pro-social justice debate raging at the time and gave him a certain moral authority in the CSsRs. I wasn't all that impressed with his liberalism which is why I am not a CSsR today. Turns out my hunch was correct. His breed is dying out.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jul. 08, 2010 8:55 PM ET USA

    Bp Dowling is an advocate of his own version of "restorationism" the one of the 1965-1978 era. What exactly were the admirable fruit of that era? Connecting the "cappa magna" with the bishops toleration of sexual predator priests is quite an achievement, but besides such bumper sticker campaigns as condoms, the ordination of women, the ankle biting Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict, etc. what are the big ideas that Bp Dowling has presented to the Catholic world? I can't find any.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2010 7:40 PM ET USA

    1: The cappa magna is not a liturgical vestment. 2: When the liturgical climate in the Church tended towards reductionist simplification, prelates were naturally loathe to don the c.m. But now that the venerable ancient Roman rite is back under a new name, we can expect to see greater use of the c.m. Though no longer obligatory,“it can be used only outside of Rome, in circumstances of very special solemnity" (1969 Instr. on Dress, etc., § 12), as Bp. Slattery did at the IC Shrine.

  • Posted by: ebierer1724 - Jul. 08, 2010 4:10 PM ET USA

    Try to understand at least a little bit of what Bishop Dowling is trying to say. I don't agree with everything he said, but I do agree that there is now a strong movement towards liturgical, doctrinal, and cultural ethnocentrism on the part of some Church "conservatives" (fundamentalist Catholics, in my mind) that is trying to essentially European-ize the Church all over again. We can be orthodox without fundamentalism, We can be Unified without complete uniformity! St. Peter, pray for us!

  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2010 3:52 PM ET USA

    So, what will happen to him? NOTHING. OK, MAYBE they'll get around to him when he's due to retire. (Hope I'm wrong, but if the past is any indication...) It's not like human souls are at stake here, or anything really serious. "All" he is doing is repudiating the Catholic faith as a bishop--and thus in the name of the Church!

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Jul. 08, 2010 1:07 PM ET USA

    As much as he's wrong about other things, Dowling is right about the cappa magna - it's useless and pointless. It doesn't matter whether there's sex abuse in the Church, that kind of display is the pomp the Scriptures rail against. I'm not suggesting wearing holey or cheap liturgical garb, but a cappa magna is out of place -- and always has been.

  • Posted by: Alcuin - Jul. 08, 2010 11:35 AM ET USA

    Bishop Dowling is right that young Catholics want "clarity about what is truth and what is morally right or wrong," but wrong about the security part. All young people want to learn what is true; bad information gets you hurt or killed. This is true both physically and spiritually. The Church that wrote the Baltimore Catechism knew lots of true things. It did not teach them when I was Catechized in the '80s/90s. Young people are seeking the way, and the truth, and the life; not security.

  • Posted by: Hal - Jul. 08, 2010 10:09 AM ET USA

    So, exactly why did he choose Catholicism? I'm sure Archbishop Tutu would help him feel at home.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2010 9:16 AM ET USA

    What keeps Bishop Dowling in the Church when he is obviously so unhappy with her sense and reverence of the sacred and her faithfulness to her teachings established by Our Lord in Peter and his successors? Maybe pure lethargy of soul?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 08, 2010 8:23 AM ET USA

    And now for the bad news: he's only 66.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Jul. 08, 2010 8:04 AM ET USA

    Three comments: 1. "...a structure which now controls everything in the life of the Church…" Except, apparently, for its Bishops. 2. "For example, the issues of celibacy for the priesthood and the ordination of women..." What a shock that he'd disagree with those teachings! 3. "...thus giving them a sense of security and clarity about what is truth and what is morally right or wrong.." Yeah, that's the last thing we'd want anyone to have: clarity!