Monday, August 20, 2007

Versus Populum Versus Ad Orientem: A Change of Direction at EWTN TV Masses

Here is a comment I posted at The New Liturgical Movement website today. The discussion was about how EWTN will be televising the extraordinary form of the Mass on Sept. 14. The discussion had brought up the prohibition that former Bishop David Foley had made against televised ad orientem Masses.

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I chanced upon a highly odd example of authorial self-indulgence on this topic, while I was using the amazon.com "Inside this Book" feature to browse definitions of Latin phrases in the book _Consecrated Phrases_, by Jesuit James Bretzke. Modern moral theologian and in this book Latin dictionary writer, Fr. Bretzke, defines "ad orientem" as "Expression used primarily in a recent liturgical dispute . . .." [How weird is that definition, just for starters?]

Fr. Bretzke wrote, "Certain 'traditionalists' allied with Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network, based in the diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, claimed that the only 'true' tradition in the Church was for both the presider and the people alike to face toward the east in celebrating the Eucharist."

The way Father Bretzke spins it in his "definition," Bishop Foley won a judgement against the EWTN "traditionalists" from the Congregation for Divine Worship. The Congregation "rejected the traditionalists' claims . . . The Congregatipn's Prefect, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez wrote that it is 'incorrect and indeed quite unacceptable' that anyone should claim that to celebrate toward the apse is the more orthodox choice for the presider."

Fr. Bretzke ommitted the fact that the Congregation also said in the same letter that it was incorrect to prohibit the use of the ad orientem posture or for anyone to claim that ad populum was the more orthodox choice.

And he also neglected to mention that EWTN was not trying to prohibit the Mass being said "ad populum," but only trying to celebrate it "ad orientem" -- which was never disallowed.

The way Arroyo's bio of Mother Angelica tells the story, the EWTN friars started using Latin because Mother Angelica was alarmed at the inclusive language that was being inserted into the English translations of the Mass. She set her nuns to studying the Vatican II documents and found that Latin and saying the Mass ad orientem had never been forbidden. So she changed the way the Masses were being said.

Arroyo's story gave me the impression that Bishop Foley lost face -- he had forbidden ad orientem Masses completely, but he had to withdraw that prohibition after the Vatican firmly made it clear that he was not allowed to do that. So he did what was in his power, with a Vatican representative's permission (if not approval) and prohibited the ad orientem Masses on TV.

After the prohibition (or as some say is more true to the case, discouragement) of televised ad orientem Masses, beautiful reverent ad orientem Novus Ordo Masses in Latin continued to be said routinely at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. I've been there for a few.

While the prohibition has been in effect, Mother delayed her plans to start televising Masses at the Shrine, which are still said ad orientem.

In the little chapel near the EWTN studios in Birmingham, the friars began to say Masses again facing the people when the Mass was being televised, because their bishop said they had to.

Now that the ad orientem Masses will be allowed on television under the new bishop, expect to see the televised Masses coming from the Shrine.

EWTN friars and nuns must be rejoicing. Probably the prayers of the nuns (Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration) in front of the Blessed Sacrament had a lot to do with the good changes that are coming down.

BTW, I loved reading that a Tridentine Mass in Burlington VT filled the cathedral. Deo gratias, vere!
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