Monday, December 12, 2011

Dishing It Out

Fr John conducts his first (and only) General Absolution service

My attention was drawn,  a couple of days ago, to a post on Fr Z's blog - from an Irish person who was enduring the disobedience of their parish priest.  Here's the piece, but in summary, their parish priest is refusing to implement the new translation of the Missal and is now using what is an abrogated text.  This PP is also revving up to impart General Absolution on all and sundry in preparation for Christmas.

As always, Fr Z gives good advice, I would also like to direct you to FrB's blog for another good response. 

I was talking about the situation with a priest friend of mine and we both agreed that such actions on the part of a priest are utterly selfish and disrespectful towards their parishioners.  As members of the Universal Church, of the Body of Christ, these parishioners have the right to participate in the full life of the Church, and that includes the full liturgical life of the Church.  Their pastors have no right to break the Communion which exists, and in refusing to use the official liturgical texts of the Universal Church, these priests are undermining that Communion. 

The fact that some parishioners may be as rebellious and disobedient as their pastors is no excuse: pastors must seek to deepen Communion, not encourage a breach.  In reality these priests are engaged in something more serious than refusing to acknowledge a new translation of the liturgy, they are breaking the solemn oaths of their ordination and leading people into schism. Is that too harsh?  Well, if you see the fruits of the actions of these disobedient priests, the ghettos of rebellion and anger their parishes have become, we see how serious such situations can become.

My priest friend was wondering what these priests are now engaged in?  Given that they refuse to use the now official English language texts of the Mass, but use an abrogated translation, is it the case that their Masses are now valid but illicit?

As for the General Absolution: FrB has very good points to make, but one in particular stands out: regular General Absolution is invalid. And of course people go home, never to darken the doors of a confessional again, genuinely believing that the General Absolution Father dished out was valid, that their sins are forgiven, and they didn't even have to think of what their sins were.   But General Absolution is being given in Ireland, particular in quasi-penitenial services.  It seems this is an issue the new Nuncio will have to deal with, and perhaps a senior cleric may need to be called to Rome again to be reminded again that the problem must be dealt with.

I remember I was asked a few months ago if I would give General Absolution.  I was encouraging my parishioners to go to confession regularly, and someone said to me that it would better that I gave General Absolution because people do not like individual confession anymore - they don't like revealing such intimate details about their lives.   At least if I gave General Absolution then people's sins would be forgiven and, after all, isn't that the most important thing? 

I explained that the forgiveness of sins, and all the sacraments, were not magic; that the actual confession of their sins was important. I then told the person that if they wanted me to give them General Absolution, I would have to lock them all in the Church and set it alight so, in danger of being burned to death, the General Absolution would then be valid. However, I said, if anyone happened to survive, they would still be obliged to confess their mortal sins as soon as possible.  I do not think I will be asked for General Absolution again!

Interestingly, today in the Diocese of Meath we celebrate the feast of our Patron Saint, St Finnian of Clonard.  Known as the "Tutor of the Saints of Ireland", he founded the monastery and school city of Clonard, famous throughout Ireland and Europe as a place of learning and holiness.  Many Irish Saints studied at Clonard and were formed in holiness by St Finnian, among then St Colmcille (Columba), patron of Ireland, and St Brendan.   According to tradition he was ordained Bishop of Clonard, one of the ancient dioceses which now form the present Diocese of Meath.

Finnian was a faithful Irish priest, not content with getting by, or doing the minimum, but seeking to live as virtuous a life as possible, and to teach others to do the same.  In being called the "Tutor of the Saints of Ireland", it was not a honour to praise his academic skills, but more radically, his holiness which was pedalogical and evangelical in nature.  In this, Finnian is a potent example of all priests; that we must be teachers in holiness, not merely in words, but first of all by example.  We must also be faithful to Mother Church, as was Finnian.  I think St Finnian would be a good patron of the reform the Church in Ireland now needs: after all, the best reformers are teachers in holiness.


  1. I seem to recall from a previous post that your parish has three churches - which of them, Father, do you plan to burn first?

    I'm not sure that the absolution would be valid if the priest himself created the situation of danger of death. If that were the case then the priest could create a situation where general confession would be required by simply refusing to hear personal confession. In such a scenario - presuming other priests weren't readily available - then it would be the only option available for people.

    As for the new translation - I'm getting sick of diehards in the congregation(mostly middle aged) - not only refusing to use the new texts but insisting on using the old ones. It's tedious.

    Which text do people find most difficult to get right? Apart from the obvious "and with your spirit" which still catches us all out from time to time, I think lots of people, priests included, are stilling adding "by the power of the Holy Spirit" was incarnate.

  2. It's mad. There's not only the most obvious disobedience such as is illustrated by that Irish priest who refuses to use the new translation, but there's also 'little' disobediences. In my parish up north, one of our priests insists on not saying the intro verse to the Our Father (...and so we dare to say...) and he also changes bits to make them gender neutral. The priests have also, it seems to me, stopped saying the Confiteor (which I really like but I think they don't because it highlights our sinfulness and need to repent?)It's REALLY tedious. I am wondering if I need to man up and take him aside and ask him what's what?

    Any advice on that Father?