Fr. McBrien attempted to come to his defense. After that I'm not quite sure what Fr. McBrien was thinking, as he ended his article with quite the statement. The following is an excerpt from the NCR article:
"However, as time went on, eucharistic devotions, including adoration, drifted further and further away from their liturgical grounding in the Mass itself.
Notwithstanding Pope Benedict XVI's personal endorsement of eucharistic adoration and the sporadic restoration of the practice in the archdiocese of Boston and elsewhere, it is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.
Now that most Catholics are literate and even well-educated, the Mass is in the language of the people (i.e, the vernacular), and its rituals are relatively easy to understand and follow, there is little or no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions. The Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.
Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward." (Not too many people remembered the rest of his commentary after reading this sentence.)
When I read this last sentence, I thought "Oh, my. This zinger needs more explanation, because as it stands, it's going to cause quite the stir." It has. There are references to this article all over the blogosphere and the article itself has generated an enormous number of comments, virtually all of which call Fr. McBrien to task, and quite a number of them not too gently.
One comment pretty much summed up my own view:
Dear Fr. O'Brien, While I appreciate your columns very much, I disagree with your final sentence in this piece, as would contemplatives everywhere. The Real Presence in the Mass does "provide all" that is needed, but the Mystery is inexhaustible and some in the Body of Christ feel compelled to extend worship beyond the actual time of the Eucharistic celebration. To say that there is "no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions" seems similar to debunking intimate friendship, being in love, the time "wasted" by lovers for whom simply communing is a value in itself. Moreover, we will never know till we get to the other side, how much blessing has come to the world in those hours of communion before the Blessed Sacrament that some are called -- even today -- to offer. "Taste and see how good the Lord is..."
Personally I wish the terminology surrounding this practice would be modified from Eucharistic Adoration, to Eucharistic Contemplation. Not because I'm some sort of intellectual elitist, but because most people who practice this form of devotion will find themselves spending more time contemplating things, mentally talking things over, and relaxing in the environment, than actively adoring Jesus. These are the very things we do with our own flesh and blood friends, lovers, and family. That I believe is the point. If Jesus is present as flesh and blood, incarnate as we are, then the relationship should be a relationship, and not an exercise in adoration.
Jesus Himself said that adoration was reserved for His Father. His role in the Trinity is that of friend and teacher. The mystery of the Eucharist is in this timeless presence of friendship, compassion, mercy and love, and the connection this represents along the whole history of the Church. To me it's an incredible notion that I experience the same invitation from the same Jesus that Catholics have had for millenia. That is unity. Unity doesn't mean that my particular relationship has to be expressed the same way as a sainted predecessor experienced their relationship. After all, none of my friends relate to me in the exact same way. (It might be a lot easier on me if they did, but it would get boring in the long run.)
I suspect Fr. McBrien was alluding to some of the trappings that have traditionally been associated with Eucharistic Adoration or Benediction. The kind of trappings that emphasize an up there, out there, and vertical conceptualization of Jesus. The strain of Christology that is centered on raising Jesus above and beyond us mere mortals and tends to define Him by His job--savior of a fallen mankind--rather than His personhood--human like us in all things save sin. As fully human, like all of us, He needs personal relationships to fulfill his humanness, and the best are loving relationships.
The other thing humans need are symbols and signs. It's how our brains work, especially our right hemisphere. While I can pray and meditate in my own home and connect with His presence, I am also personally aware of the fact that my other relationships aren't based on everyone always coming to my house. I too go to their house. It's an act of honoring them and respecting them.
Symbolically, the physical Church is a sign of Jesus's own home. It has a certain feel and presence that says here I am, this is My home. Although I'm also aware of the fact that this is in part an enculturated experience, I also know that doesn't negate the reality of the feeling or detract from it's meaning. Churches, like Native Holy sights, have a different energy and create a distinct visceral feeling that certainly distinguishes them from say, McDonald's. They should, the character of these places has been laid down by the specific human intent to relate with the transcendent. I have zero problem with people desiring to meet with Jesus in His own home. The sad thing is so many of them are locked up like Fort Knox.
In any event, Fr. McBrien's column has certainly stirred up discussion about this devotion. As with any number of other Catholic issues, one's understanding is based on one's Christology. That seems to be an area of misunderstanding and hard feelings which has a very long tradition with in the Church. In that respect, Fr. McBrien is in good Catholic company, no matter his opinion on the backwardness of Eucharistic Adoration.