Subtracting Opportunities of Grace

The Chant Cafe this week has featured two longish essays by an apologist for the restriction of Communion from the Cup. This initiative is burdened by many problems: theological, pastoral, and spiritual. It has two things going for it. A whole involved theological line of reasoning has developed around it. Plus: it is an administrative reality–bishops and clergy are certainly permitted to do this. The question: is it wise or prudent or logical? I think not.

Poor decisions like this are easily identifiable by their fruit. What do I see? People outside of Arizona cheerful and sad about an initiative they won’t experience. The political identification of this restriction with traditional 50’s Catholicism, and by association on Jeffrey’s site, with chant. Pom-poms and protests: another modern Catholic combination.

One telling factor is that the Phoenix administration seems satisfied that major liturgical surgery will be sufficient to address what they see as a problem.

Commenter Ben Dunlap:

(C)an you articulate in more detail why you see this as a restriction of opportunities for grace — as opposed to a concrete remedy for a particular situation in Phoenix that the bishop there has discerned to be in need of a remedy?

Theologians focus on their cherished reasons–a self-justifying rationalization of historical drift and poor sacramental practice. But the restriction is both a perceived fact and (if you will) an artistic reality.

It goes deeper than more is better. It involves a connection with the Scriptures and Jesus’ command to take, eat, and drink. The Lord’s preaching on the Eucharist is fairly explicit. The biblical witness, as is the early tradition of the Church, would seem to be in conflict with the recent past.

Do Catholics live the witness of the Gospel in all matters fully, or do we perform the minimum requirements to keep our membership card in good standing?

Catholics today, especially if their catechetical formation is in such bad shape, are going to need more than theological exercises to crack the barrier. They will need a deeper view of the generosity of the Lord. God sent his Son who achieved human salvation through the Paschal Mystery. Our response is a measly hour on Sunday–40 minutes if we choose the “quiet mass” before Sunday morning golf.

I don’t believe in the automatic efficacy of programs, but the least I would expect from Bishop Olmsted is a pastoral letter on the Eucharist, a plan for adult faith formation, and the internal rigor to invest himself in the pastoral care of his people. Otherwise, this just looks like another agenda item on the to-do list of the branch manager:

  • - Sunday: Confirmation in the desert boonies
  • - Monday: Restrict God’s generosity
  • - Tuesday: Write a pro-life letter
  • - Wednesday: Raise money from the local muckety-mucks for a new episcopal mansion

Just another day’s work.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Hermeneutic of Subtraction, Liturgy, spirituality, The Blogosphere. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Subtracting Opportunities of Grace

  1. Tony says:

    Brick by brick.

    From what I hear, the 1975 indult has expired. A request to renew was issued and was rejected. Soon one more opportunity for Eucharistic abuse will be gone.

    This will help eliminate the “requirement” for the parade of Emhcs that need to serve the cup. Cups with remnants of the precious blood won’t sit on side tables until sacristans partaking of fellowship after mass decide to take them and pour them down the sink.

    People will now be able to concentrate on *who* they are receiving rather than what they are receiving. The sense of outrage when their “wine” is taken away will validate a fine reason for removing it.

  2. Ben Dunlap says:

    Thanks for the reply, Todd. Maybe we can keep the conversation going here as time permits. I do wonder if you’re being a little unfair to Bishop Olmsted. I noticed recently that he did a seven-part series on the liturgy earlier this year in the Phoenix diocesan paper; scroll down to “2011 columns”: http://www.catholicsun.org/bishopolmsted.html

    I’m thinking I’ll go and read those before I say any more on this topic.

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