Let’s pick up from yesterday’s underscoring of the importance of the catechumenate in the larger picture of catechetical ministry.
79. In transmitting faith and new life, the Church acts as a mother for (hu)mankind who begets children conceived by the power of the Spirit and born of God. (Cf. Lumen Gentium 64) Precisely “because she is a mother, she is also the educator of our faith”;* she is at the same time mother and teacher. Through catechesis she feeds her children with her own faith and incorporates them as members into the ecclesial family. As a good mother she gives them the Gospel in all its authenticity and purity as apposite food, culturally enriched and a response to the deepest aspirations of the human heart.
* CCC 169. The relation between the maternity of the Church and her educative function is expressed very well by St Gregory the Great: “Having been made fruitful by conceiving her children thanks to the ministry of preaching, causes them to grow in her womb by her teaching. Moralia XIX, c. 12, 9; PL 76, 108).
The feminine imagery is interesting given the gender roles within the Church through history, and especially today. Today, women provide the bulk of ecclesial catechesis, and nearly none of its preaching.
We covered the US bishops on the homily in great detail in this series a few years ago. Here’s the two-section legislation from the GIRM, starting with the definition of the homily:
65. The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended,[cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 52, canon law 767§1] for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.[cf Inter Oecumenici 54]
66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the Priest Celebrant himself or be entrusted by him to a concelebrating Priest, or from time to time and, if appropriate, to the Deacon, but never to a lay person.* In particular cases and for a just cause, the Homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.
This paragraph is new to the 2000 edition. The starred note refers not only to the appropriate canons on lay preaching, but also to a more strict interpretation of those canons:
*Cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 767 §1; Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, response to dubium regarding can. 767 §1: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 79 (1987), p. 1249; Interdicasterial Instruction on certain questions regarding the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of Priests, Ecclesiae de mysterio, August 15, 1997, art. 3: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 89 (1997), p. 864.
Canons 766-767 give a fairly broad warrant for letting the local bishop determine the need for lay preaching. That leeway was pretty much closed in 1997.
On Sundays and Holydays of Obligation there is to be a Homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending, and it may not be omitted without a grave reason. On other days it is recommended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and Easter Time, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers.[cf. Inter Oecumenici 53]
It is appropriate for a brief period of silence to be observed after the Homily.
The last sentence above was also a 2000 edition.
I have a positive regard for silence as a virtue of the liturgy and the spiritual life. Silence has a shadow outside of those disciplines.
My wife texted me from the public library the other day. Check the Kansas City Star online, she advised. The three-part series begins here and ended yesterday. I don’t think my wife knew Msgr Tom O’Brien, but I did. I was aware of the rough details of this situation:
(T)he diocese said it had received a complaint in September 1983 accusing O’Brien of sexual misconduct with a different teenage boy and that O’Brien denied any wrongdoing when confronted. O’Brien was removed from his assignment as pastor of Nativity of Mary parish the following month, the diocese said, and sent for psychological evaluation and treatment in New Mexico and Washington, D.C.
After treatment, O’Brien was allowed to serve as a part-time hospital chaplain until 2002, when then-Bishop Raymond J. Boland restricted him from presenting himself as a priest.
During those years as a hospital chaplain, he was in residence at the parish I served from 2002 until 2008. The pastor told me that single credible complaint was the only one against him. When the firestorm of 2002 hit, that old complaint resurfaced, somehow. Parents at the parish complained bitterly about Msgr O’Brien hearing the confessions of children and presiding at the occasional school Mass. My new boss conceded he had “lost all credibility” with parishioners for giving a friend a rectory to live in and a limited pastoral role in the parish.
It really is no wonder that my friends and former parishioners are fuming over Bishop Finn, questioning what other secrets are being kept. Msgr O’Brien quickly disappeared from the rectory in 2002. He would visit frequently, and I know he had friends in the parish. But his profile was almost zero by the start of that first school year.
Enough internet commentators are focusing on the horrors of sexual abuse and the institutional cover-up. David Gibson has a devastating post up at dotCommonweal about Bishop Finn. Readers here know of my own concerns about the Ratigan case. Until the big news on him broke earlier this year, my daughter still considered him her favorite priest. His picture was quickly removed from the family’s “favorite priest” section on the fridge. The young miss overheard my wife and I talking about Bishop Finn the other week. “Haven’t they fired him yet?” my daughter asked. Good question.
I wonder about her faith. Are the changes I see more the typical adolescent rebellion/boredom/testing boundaries? In the back of my mind, I do wonder if something happened. The young miss is usually talkative about a lot of things. Very little though about NCYC, which her mother had hoped would spark a new sense of faith.
My daughter came to Mass with me Sunday night this past weekend. I was playing, so we didn’t sit together. In fact, I didn’t see her at all till after liturgy. She mentioned that she went to the balcony and only came down for Communion. She went back after receiving the Eucharist. “I like it up there,” she reported. At least she’s in the door. For the moment.
One mother quoted in the Star, whose son committed suicide back in the 80′s, and who has recently met with another of the altar servers who was abused:
I needed support. I thought, ‘I’ll go to Harrisonville. It’ll be quiet time for me.’ But I could not make myself go in the parking lot of that church.
Do bishops have a clear sense of the antigospel they perpetrate on the world by their silence? And yet, victims have also remained silent. In my own house there is silence. Is there a time to push for people to speak out? I appreciate the bravery of victims who come forward. I know there are others who have never spoken out. They have gotten the message:
If you ever tell, you’ll be kicked out of the Catholic Church, your parents will disown you, and you’ll die and go to hell.
… or something similar.
If a victim tells, he or she should be reassured to no end they will never be kicked out. The only unforgivable sin, it seems, is ordaining a woman or attending such a liturgy. The only people who will be mad will be the hyperorthodox defenders of the faith. But no worries: there will be somebody to get mad at tomorrow, if not later tonight. And while it’s true everybody dies, bad shepherds are the ones who have the millstone around their necks.
Bishop Finn may be lawyered up on the diocesan dime, but does he realize the peril of his situation?
Meanwhile, the rest of us struggle to find meaning in the silence.