Friday, September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict Teaches One Thing And Bishop Olmstead Does His Own Thing

No more of this kind of thing in Phoenix--except for official special occasions.  Kind of like cake and ice cream special kinds of occasions I guess.

While Pope Benedict was in Germany advising the government leaders and politicians in  Bundestag on how not to abuse power, his handpicked bishop for Phoenix, AZ was abusing his power.  The funny thing about this is when I was reading Benedict's speech I kept substituting the word bishop for politician.  Other than that little trick of my mind, I did find Pope Benedict's speech very well articulated and definitely challenging, but in a good way.  But then on the hand, we have Archbishop Olmstead, who has exercised his personal authority to decree that Communion will no longer be given under both species.  I suspect this signals more changes are coming in the distribution of communion for Phoenix Catholics.  Olmstead is lucky he isn't a politician, because his political success would be short lived.  Unfortunately for the Catholics of Phoenix, all the cautions Benedict gives to German politicians don't apply to Benedict's own self serving bishops.  The following is from

 .......The change in practice by the Phoenix Diocese stirred an immediate controversy among priests, deacons and laypeople. Wine will be limited to only special occasions.

"The majority of priests were stunned and aghast at the announcement, and I hear some are planning to meet to see how best to respond," said the Rev. James Turner, pastor of St. Thomas More in Glendale. "While the bishop has the authority to make this policy change, there is no scriptural, theological or sacramental rationale that makes any sense." (No, but DSM IV probably has a rationale that makes sense.)

But the Rev. John Ehrich, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix, said the liturgical law of the church provides for only specific circumstances under which both forms of Communion may be distributed.
"Bishop Olmsted is merely expecting the priests to follow the teaching of the church in this matter," he said, adding that he imposed restrictions at his parish four years ago.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not aware of another U.S. diocese enacting such a restriction, although she noted that local bishops have the authority to do so.
The Rev. Al Schifano, a top church official in the Diocese of Tucson, said that Bishop Gerald Kicanas encourages Communion using both bread and wine and that the diocese will not change that under the new Mass translations.

The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., called the move a step backward.
 "It's sad to see," he said, because the move separates the church further ecumenically from others and gives up "the gains we've made in the last half-century in our understanding of liturgy and sacraments."

Catholic members of the community were as divided as the priests.

"I would think these church leaders would be more concerned about the droves of people leaving the Catholic Church as well as the worsening shortage of priests," said Dennis Kavanaugh, an attorney who attends Resurrection parish in Tempe. "These issues are much more substantial to the long-term health of the church rather than reinstating medieval rituals and directives."

Judi Wilson of Blessed Sacrament parish in Scottsdale said she will miss taking Communion wine, but she noted that the church teaches that Christ is fully available in bread or wine.
"It wouldn't make any difference," she said. "I will look forward to those times we can take the wine."

According to the diocese, the change was announced at a recent meeting of diocesan priests with Olmsted. A diocese statement said new rules will be drafted and a time frame determined in the next few months.
Some priests said the date initially was supposed to coincide with the new Mass translation, which is set to debut Nov. 27. But negative reaction from some priests may have persuaded the bishop to hold off.
Olmsted declined a request for an interview. The diocese issued a statement and a question-and-answer sheet to explain the move.

New norms, or guidelines, that came out this year, the statement said, expanded the offering of Communion under the form of wine for most of the world, "but in the Diocese of Phoenix, the new norms call for the practice of less frequent distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds than the faithful may have been accustomed."

The option of offering both bread and wine for Communion has been in place since 1975. Catholics never have been obligated to take both and, until 1975, the practice had been forbidden since the mid-1500s. The church teaches that Christ and the full blessings of Communion are present in either form.

According to the diocesan statement, the United States is one of only a few countries where offering wine became common at Masses, often distributed with the help of non-ordained parishioners.

The Rev. John Muir, a priest at the Newman Center in Tempe who is part of the diocese Office for Worship, said the change actually is a return to general practice of the church worldwide.
The use of consecrated wine for Communion "is a beautiful gift," he said, "to be given the right way, at the right time, with the right sacramental power." (That is of course, the whole issue.)

He added, "Nothing in reality is being taken away. Catholics believe they receive the Precious Blood (the consecrated wine) under the species of bread."

It does appear that Bishop Olmstead is bound and determined to get lay people away from his sacred altar.  First those altar girls, and now those lay people who distribute wine at communion.  "Nothing in reality is being taken away", says Fr John Muir.  Whose reality is that Fr. Muir?  Your reality with your 'right sacramental power', or the lay reality where real lay people are being reduced to passive mumblers in their pews ala the Golden era of 1950?
I will hardly be surprised when the next change coming out of Phoenix is a ban on Communion in the hand.  Can't be having unconsecrated lay hands touching any part of Jesus.  Certainly not lay Eucharistic Ministers and most certainly not run of the mill lay Catholics who probably aren't worthy of reception anyway.  Not in Olmstead's world.  Not in Fr Muir's view of reality.  Bring on the Communion rails which will certainly serve to remind lay folks they do not have the 'right sacramental power'.

The funny thing is,  lay Catholics are beginning to grasp the fact they do have the 'right sacramental power'.  What's more than that, they are beginning to realize the only reason they've been kept from exercising that power is because they have acquiesced in their own dis empowerment.  They didn't have enough education to question what they were being told---or not being told.  That's no longer the case.

I just think it's incredibly ironic that as Pope Benedict warns politicians about relying exclusively on scientific positivism in defining secular governments, Olmstead is asking his flock to rely on it's exact opposite, religious revelation, to justify imposing his own view of reality on the Catholics of Phoenix.  It's no wonder Catholics suffer from cognitive dissonance. It's tough trying to integrate totally different definitions of reality.  It's enough to make a person decide to go their own way, as most of our youth have opted to do.  Eventually all the churches in the West are going to have to start looking at why they are so quickly becoming irrelevant.  I suspect we will find the answers have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus and every thing to do with failures of our current cast of professional religious. Exactly like the failures of our current cast of professional politicians.


  1. It is enough to make me wonder what would happen if I made my very own Eucharistic Meal. I used to have a very reverent attitude toward Mass, even when I wasn't always attending. But seeing the hierarchy acting as if Communion was a favor only they can confer and if they want to arbitrary about conferring then so be it... It certainly doesn't speak well to the reverence in which they hold the Eucharistic Meal.

    BTW: What meal has food but no drink? Answer: A very poor one, and therefor not something I would see as coming from God.

  2. Oh boy, Bishop Olmstead will a bundle of $$ by not serving it at the Mass and only on "special" occasions he deems are "special."

    I believe his decision has everything to do with money and nothing to do with being a pastor.

    And Jesus, when he broke bread with his disciples, of which the laity are, I'm pretty sure he did not have them kneeling or not handing it to them. He sure as all heck did not have them stick their tongue out like a baby and get fed that way.

    word verif: mersi but didn't go thru so now it is this: upaling

  3. .... he'll "save a bundle of $$"

    sorry about that....

  4. T'Pel, I have to keep reminding myself that Olmstead type clerics don't see the Eucharist as a meal. They primarily see it as a divine sacrifice with themselves as a sacred ritual priesthood.

    The irony is they revere the Sacrifice but that reverence isn't extended to the people they ostensibly offer the Sacrifice for. That's why we are not done with the abuse crisis as long as this form of clerical understanding is in ascendance.

  5. It reminds me of a saying : "we once had wooden chalices and golden priests, then we had wooden priests and golden chalices-
    now maybe it should be modified to "we are lucky to have a priest at all and the golden chalices are there for ornamental purposes.
    It's a disgrace.

  6. Dirty grubby hands. Sinful.

    I find this sentence fragment somewhat ambiguous: "but in the Diocese of Phoenix, the new norms call for the practice of less frequent distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds than the faithful may have been accustomed."

    Maybe they mean there should be less frequent distribution of Communion.

    As an aside, can you imagine what medieval Catholic mouths would have looked like? How laden with awful smelling bacteria, festering gums and rotten teeth. That's the best way to receive the Lord? Pre germ-theory, pre-hygiene. The body odor would have been awful. The effete priestly class had to develop censers to keep the stink away. Altar rails were just the first line of physical defense from the unwashed. The rood screen, some constructed of stone, gave the clergy true separation from the people of God. No wonder Olmsted wants to return to pre 1500 practices. He thinks the laity stinks.

    And that bell you hear? Does it signal to the mob that a miracle has happened on the unseen altar somewhere beyond the chancel screen? Otherwise the laity wouldn't know because the words, holy words, are spoken in an unknown dead language. Maybe the less understood the ceremony the better because it conveys a more impressive of image of Church majesty.

    Well, we the dirty, unwashed, unworthy were exactly whom Jesus had in mind. Even though we know we are unworthy. Unworthy to even touch the hem of his garment. Yet he gave us his all.

    First miracle: Water into wine.

    Feeding the multitude: Loaves and fishes.

    Sacrificial meals are meals. Did he not say to take this and do it in memory of me? Eat and drink.


  7. The Roman church tries to control its parishioners again. They want to keep the laity away from the ordained. By maintaining exclusive control of the sacraments, they ensure that the ordained will perpetuate their class. Honestly this sounds uncharitable and not what Jesus would do. They will achieve their goal. The question for the laity is "Do we want to continue to be part of this?"

  8. p2p, That's quite a picture you draw about the medieval church. I suspect it's very accurate. Only back in those days, the filthy flock could only receive communion on Easter Sunday. St Thomas More wrote a number of essays on how much that bothered him. He apparently served as an accolyte most of his adult life so he could get inside the altar rail and closer to the action. He couldn't partake of the meal, but he did get to ring the bells.

    That's a capital T tradition we can do without, but given enough time Olmstead could get around to it.

  9. Colleen, you are right about the Church practice of communion once per year for laity. This is nothing new, just another skirmish in a centuries old battle.

    Sometime in the not too distant future I hope to walk or bicycle the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The cathedral contains Botafumeiro, one of the largest censers in the world weighing in at 80 kilograms. (176 pounds) It takes half a dozen men to swing that crowd cleansing smoker. I know the smoke represents prayer. Catholics used to smoke in church until Pope Urban 7 banned it.

    How I wish I had mentioned plague in my earlier comment. I think a stronger case is made when we think that Jesus cured the social outcasts like lepers by touching them, not retreating behind a curtain of lace as some clergy are inclined to do.


  10. Annnd now we return to our previous discussion and hope for a new Catholic, non-Roman church. Where Do I sign up for the Austrian version?

  11. This article serves to show that time has come for small groups of friends and family to share their own communion meals at their own tables. If people believe in Christ and believe what really happened at the last supper, it is time for them to recognize their own Priesthood of Baptism use this meal as a ticket to group spirituality. I suspect that some do not really feel themselves worthy to concelebrate this sacrament with friends and relatives but feel it is time to begin this tradition again and let the Bishops do their own thing. I am in three groups that have done this for over 15 years. We even have some priests who join us. As for sundays, I sometimes try to find a very interesting church to attend such as All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena or the Methodist-Episcopal church in Watts. Also the various Old Catholic groups are sometimes worthwhile as well as University services. One thing I am sure of it is not the time to follow Benedict or any other authoritarian. The last time I went to a mass celebrated by Cardinal Mahoney, I got a stomach ache and had to leave during his chit chat time.


    The last time I was in Italy, it was truly hard to get very close to some of the people in Church. My wife commented that it smelled like several of them had not bathed in months. But ah, the perfume from the altar in St. Peters. Could this have been purchased from a door to door salesman? Nope not in Rome, they would need to purchase these aromatic wonders in special shops made for clergy. Wonder who gets to go and sample them before purchase? The same with the lace, wonder who gets to go and look at it before paying $10,000 for a Sunday set! Such luck to be a trusted member of the buying department of the Vatican. The envy of any blond red-blooded Valley Girl! (hope tongue in cheek comments are not taken seriously by thinking women) dennis

  12. Interesting quote: "Nothing in reality is being taken away. Catholics believe they receive the Precious Blood (the consecrated wine) under the species of bread."

    Hmmm: "nothing is being taken away" "nothing in reality is being taken away" What's next? That's going to be defined as "reality"? That's going to be taken away but NOT REALLY? It's a new stretch of faith! A new TEST of faith.

    Gosh, it's reasoning like this that was used against victims!

    "Wine" stands for the Kingdom. The "new wine" of the New Covenant. And it's "disappearing" (restricted) but not in "reality" you see. Something's being redefined here - and it does not have the smell of the Gospel.

    Mary to Jesus: "They have no wine." (She didn't say: "No problem. Let them eat tiny wafers.")

  13. Colleen, doesn't Bishop Olmsted's career thus far have an interesting trajectory?

    After he implicitly removed the title Catholic from Sr. McBride for coming to an informed decision of conscience differing from his own, he explicitly removed the title Catholic from the hospital at which she worked.

    Now he's taking Jesus away from folks in another form.

    It seems to be all about removing Jesus from people hungry to encounter Jesus, as he claims that only he and his kind own Jesus.

    If it weren't so shockingly anti-gospel, it would be sad.

  14. Mary to Jesus: "They have no wine." (She didn't say: "No problem. Let them eat tiny wafers.")

    This is just a great comment.

    For me the wine has always been the more important of the two species, at least symbolically, directly because of Cana and the fact Jesus separated the blessing of the wine at the Last Supper. "When Supper was ended, He took the cup".

    Since I think one of the major goals of Christian Spirituality is to bring Spirit into Matter, adding water to wine is a major symbolic act in my own kind of personal ritual. That's probably why I find this move so frustrating.

  15. Bill, yesterday when I was reading through Benedict's speech to the Bundestag I was struck with his statement that secularism creates a kind of bunker without windows---and then I came across this story on Olmstead.

    Can anyone say projection?

  16. "The irony is they revere the Sacrifice but that reverence isn't extended to the people they ostensibly offer the Sacrifice for. That's why we are not done with the abuse crisis as long as this form of clerical understanding is in ascendance."

    Er, what? How are they neglecting their flock exactly?

  17. Invictus, nice to see you back. As to your question, check out the statistics of priestless parishes globally, and specifically the ratio of priests to laity in South America.

    What Olmstead has been doing in Phoenix is specifically creating a diocese in his own image, without consultation with any other than his like minded priests--especially one John Erlich.

    In my opinion Olmstead is as much a Cafeteria Catholic as I am. The major difference being people are left free to debate with me or blow me off, but are stuck with him.

    See Bill Lyndy's comment.

  18. Some chutzpah from Abp. Dolan:

    "WASHINGTON (CNA/EWTN News)—Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, urged President Obama and his administration to end their attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the religious freedom of those who support it."

    ## IOW the Abp. wants people to have the religious freedom to follow Catholic ethics, even if they are not Catholic, and don't want to touch anything Catholic with a ten-foot pole. This is nothing but the freedom for one religion to make itself obnoxious to everyone else. The USA is not a Catholic State, it is not ruled by the Pope, and it never will be. If he wants to revive Know-Nothingism, Abp. Dolan is going the right way about it :(

    In a plural society such as the US is, the CC can't always have what the bishops want it to have; other people have their values and convictions too, and it's high time that he and the hierarchy realised that. The only "attack" is coming from him and his kind; they badly need to shut up, until they have recovered some of the moral authority they have so foolishly destroyed. It's typical of cowards and bullies like them to call resistance to their attacks on others by the name of attacks on religious liberty. If they had any shame, they would resign.

  19. The Eucharist ought always to be under *both kinds*, unless there very weighty reasons indeed why that cannot be done. Jesus provided it under both kinds - that should be an end to all debate on the matter.

  20. Colkoch,

    You'd said:

    "The irony is they revere the Sacrifice but that reverence isn't extended to the people they ostensibly offer the Sacrifice for."

    Your response to my query was that the failing is the imperfect number of priests for the laity, but this isn't a failure of the priests to serve their flock, but a failure (not value-laden, I stress!) of young Catholics to discern a vocation to the priesthood.

    The difficulty in vocational discernment seems to be a very complex matter, and consensus seems to be that a lot of it is to do with the wider culture.

  21. "failure to discern a vocation"????

    NO. Failure to bless and ordain the vocations discerned. By women. By married men. By homosexuals.

    Jesus weeps.

  22. The episcopacy is a pretty good gig for petty tyrants. Olmstead has found his niche. Enough bishops like him, and we'll end up with a hierarchical church without the People of God...which would probably suit narrow-minded clerics like Olmstead just fine.

  23. There are not enough of those ostensible vocations to bring numbers up to where they should be, though.
    The solution therefore cannot be found in watering down the requirements, but in dedicating ourselves afresh to discerning our true vocations and helping others to do the same.

  24. I like your observation about substituting "bishops" for "politicians" in the Bundestag address. I did much the same thing- but I was thinking bigger, like "popes".

    That aside, I agree with you that there is a lot of sanity in that address, and in some of his others that did not get reported. Taken together, they represent an impressive statement of the priorities for the Catholic church - and they do not include an obsession with sexuality, or automatic obedience to the Church authorities - or limiting communion.

    I'm still sifting through and digesting the full texts, but my initial impression is that some of his biggest concerns are that we should be paying more attention to discernment of the will of God and example of Christ (agreed), attentive to the real world problems of poverty and injustice, and recognize the value of diversity.

    There are even some suggestions that he is recognizing the need to apply his recommendations for the politicians to the Church - but on that, perhaps I am seeing more than is in the texts.

    I'll be posting on this after I've examined the words more closely -possibly tomorrow.

  25. Invictus, I disagree. I think if the Church opened up the priesthood there would be a far better and efficient ratio of priests to laity, but like Benedict, I don't think that will solve the real problem, which is the utter lack of connection most of Western society has with organized religion of any sort. This disconnection is not about the actual teachings of Jesus, which are found in virtually all spiritual systems. It's about the teachings of the organized institutional religions. Those teachings are seen to be irrelevant or counter productive to actually living the teachings Jesus taught.

    Or to put it differently, a life based on religious teachings is very often not the least bit spiritual. It may be really pious, but it is not truly spiritual.

  26. The Anglican Communion (largely) has women and male and female practising homosexuals included in their consecrated ministry, and if you were right one would expect Anglicanism to possess a 'far better and more efficient ratio' of laity to clergy, however this is starkly far from the truth.

    Vocations are a problem for them just as it needs improvement for us, and given their example watering down the requirements would do nothing to improve the situation. Indeed, protestantising our clergy would erode the unique catholicity of the Church.

    (I wouldn't be so judgemental as to call mainstream Catholic practice "not truly spiritual".)

  27. Invictus, I don't think your statistics about the Anglican Church are correct in context of the Episcopal Church in the US.

    As to being judgmental about truly spiritual or not, I am basing this on my own experience in working practical mystical healing with other people. When working in groups, which is all I do, it is not very effective when we have fundamental religious types of any persuasion. This kind of thinking and belief seems to preclude these individuals from working effectively with the group, and it causes issues which makes things very difficult. I've found when I do these kinds of healing ceremonies that you really have to look for the common beliefs, not those that separate. Very frequently I think of the story where the Apostles are whining to Jesus about non followers casting demons out in Jesus's name and He tells the Apostles, if they are not against us, they are with us. We need wayyyyy more of that kind of thinking, not just in Catholicism, but through out the spiritual world.

  28. "According to the diocesan statement, the United States is one of only a few countries where offering wine became common at Masses, often distributed with the help of non-ordained parishioners."

    It's like that here in New Zealand...We have both the Bread and the Wine, and non-ordained Eucharistic ministers hand it out, alongside the priest.

  29. Mercredi, I wonder if that's not true of most of the Anglo world. Olmstead said one of his reasons for this change was to foster solidarity with the parts of the global church that can't afford wine. My own take on that is that it's really more about putting the brakes on the Anglo churches to bring them more in line with the Vatican I method of doing church. That method most certainly elevates the ordained over the non ordained, but not just in religious issues, also in most other spheres of human life.

    If you look at the sort of war against liberation theology in the South, it doesn't seem to me it was about the theology as much as it was about the misuse of priestly authority to support left leaning political ideas. No theologian or cleric who supported autocratic or fascist leaning sympathies was disciplined or silenced.

    Reinforcing clerical authority is a double edged sword. Rome has there for had to blunt the left edge of the sword in it's campaign to strengthen the over all sword. Unfortunately one can only do that so long before the sword is so out of balance it snaps.

  30. Olmsted can only set the Phoenix Diocese back by 50 years before he "moves on". I feel lucky it is only 50 years, if it was solely up to Olmsted I am sure he would have things moved back to the 1300's, then we would be set back 700 years. The best thing that can be said about Olmsted is that he is a "sad little man, that is going to make the 'laity' (Insert Olmsted's definition of 'laity' here - laity = lesser people) play by his rules or he is going to take his "ball" away and the 'laity' can NOT play." Again, "Sad, sad little man" get over yourself.

  31. @Invictus_88

    "Watering Down"? Please attempt to comment without being insulting. You say a woman would diminish, dilute, or somehow otherwise weaken the priesthood. Seriously, go talk to your mother, sister or some other woman you know. Get some counseling.

    In Canada Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion assist in the distribution of Communion under both species. They also bring the Eucharist to those who are sick or shut-in.


  32. Colkoch,
    Well the CofE ordains women and homosexuals, and still has a vocations problem. Pointing to the US Episcopalian Church/es doesn't undermine the fact that relaxing the current standards has not helped the CofE to avoid a shortfall of priests.
    (Also, looks like the Episcopalians are suffering too. Apparently there is no tidal wave of female/genderqueer/lgbt to keep their seminaries running either: )
    You say that welcoming priestesses and sodomitical clergy into the Church would lead to "a far better and [more] efficient ratio of priests to laity". From every angle, that is clearly not true.

    Watering down in terms of relaxing the standards. It's not really about women per se, it's about the ethical conduct of potential clergy (in this case re: homosexuality).
    These same rules apply to all male and female religious as well, after all, and relaxing those rules isn't something even remotely likely to boost vocations in those areas either.

  33. Invictus, do not use terminology like 'sodomite' and 'priestesses' on this blog. They are demeaning and are intended to be so.

    I prefer my statistics on the Episcopal Church to come from official Episcopal sites:

    "The issue that initiated the group's formation, the shortage of Gen-X clergy, drew many to a computer-assisted presentation by the Church Pension Fund's director of analytical research, Dr. Matthew Price. There's no comparison, he said, between the Episcopal Church's current clergy supply, with a ratio of one priest to every 583 parishioners, and that of the Roman Catholic church, with a ratio of one priest to every 1,654. And a quarter of Roman Catholic clergy are over 70 years old, Price added."

  34. Apologies, then. My intention was terminological clarity, to emphasise that I've no ideological opposition to same-sex attracted men taking Holy Orders and no axe to grind on the subject.

    The Catholic Church has more than a billion members, and a serious cohort of male and female professed religious to serve the Church; it's like comparing apples to oranges.

  35. I would buy what you are saying except that science is teaching us that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. I follow the Anglican Church very closely because I think it can teach Eurocentric Catholicism a great deal....and let's face facts, the third world Church is being purposefully left out of the Vatican, and the Vatican determines official Catholic trends; those trends benefit Western economic interests and ideology. Jesus taught something totally different.

  36. Anglicanism can and does teach the Church a lot. It is a stark example of the dangers inherent in bending timeless principles to the vagaries of public opinion.