Address by Brendan Hoban in Portlaoise: June 2nd
Association of Catholic Priests Portlaoise, June 2, 2011. B Hoban
The question I want to look at now is:
where do we go from here?
Seán has presented our progress to date on this issue.
The question now, for the Association, is where do we go from here?
I want to mark out the ground, as it were, to offer a series of possibilities
in terms of what strategies we might adopt now.
I think we have to realistically accept that there’s nothing we can do now
to postpone the introduction of the new texts.
While we can hold our position in terms of the perspective we’ve offered,
while we were right to open up this debate, the argument is now over in terms of whether
it will be introduced this year and I suspect that a sizeable percentage of our members believe it will.
So we have to be realistic, I think, in our response.
Everyone expects that the texts will be introduced; and everyone, I suspect, realises that there are going to be significant problems in introducing them.
So the focus needs to change from WHY? and WHAT? to HOW?
From WHAT the changes are;
and WHY they are being introduced
to HOW are we going to manage the obvious problems coming down the line.
For the sake of clarity, let me distinguish between 3 sets of problems:
Problems for the people
Problems for priests and
Problems for bishops.
First problems with the response of our people
(i) How as priests do we deal with the anger of our people?
anger that with so much to fix,
we should insist on repairing what isn’t broken;
anger that, once again, they haven’t been consulted;
and a mixture of anger and embarrassment that
we insist on shooting ourselves in the foot at every opportunity.
(ii) How are we to deal with the continuation of exclusive language?
it’s a problem for women but it’s also a problem for men.
Women who are hanging on to their membership of the Catholic Church
by their finger-tips will feel outraged and disrespected by the return to exclusive language.
What are we expected to say to parents whose children are finding it harder and harder to maintain any kind of connection to the Catholic Church and who will feel that they have been gratuitously insulted by the continued use of exclusive language?
(iii) How do we deal with the confusion of our parishioners as they struggle with inserts into texts they are familiar with for the last 50 years?
(More than 30 years ago the response before the Preface in the present Mass We lift them up to the Lord replaced We have raised them up to the Lord but the people haven’t taken to it yet. If after 10 years using the old response was so natural and that after 30 years our congregations generally still don’t use the new old, how long will it take congregations to use And with your spirit instead of And also with you?
(iv) How do we deal with the ridicule of those who have opted out and who will feel that they are now confirmed in their wisdom? And how do we respond to a hostile media who will take us apart once again, if they can summon the interest?
Specific difficulties for priests
(i) If a priest feels that it is impossible (or at least impossible for him) to read intelligently and
communicatively an opening prayer of 90 words, and that if he attempts it those listening will not comprehend what he’s saying, what strategies can he adopt in those circumstances?
(ii) If a priest feels that, for pastoral or personal reasons, he cannot use exclusive language, is he entitled to ignore the sexist language of the new Missal?
(iii) If a priest feels that he cannot in conscience say ‘for you and for many’ instead of ‘for you and for all’ in the consecration of the Mass, is he entitled to retain the older formula? Is there not a sense in which such a priest is obliged, in conscience, to retain the older formula?
(iv) If a priest, after reflection and prayer, comes to the decision that he cannot in conscience use the new Missal is he permitted/encouraged to use the old Missal or is he effectively confronted with a choice between (a) saying either the Latin Mass (Extraordinary Rite) or the new Mass or (b) not saying Mass at all.
(v) How will we, as priests, cope with the increased demoralisation of priests that this process, in its provenance and in its implementation, will necessarily produce?
Difficulties for bishops
(i) What can be done to avoid the growing rift between bishops and priests that the introduction of these new texts will exacerbate?
What can we do to heal the growing division between bishops and clergy who feel let down again by their bishops and who feel that the promises made in the wake of the sexual abuses scandals in terms of process and procedure have been shown to be hollow?
(ii) What can we do to repair the growing division with Rome who, despite our service as priests, refuse to consult us in matters in which we have a special competence and who seem to have no sense of the problems we face in implementing policies that can damage our Church?
(1) If there is a derogation for saying the old Latin Mass for which there is minimal demand, should there be an informal derogation for using the present Mass?
(2) Should we call on the Irish bishops to accept that some priests will have particular difficulty with the texts and need to be given the freedom in conscience to opt out?
(3) In terms of strategy would we be better to keep our heads down rather than be seen to invite reprimands or worse?
(4) Do we need to say publicly that not allowing any leeway – unless there are clear and transparent derogations – will help to drive another wedge between bishops and their priests?
(5) If the changes are found to be unworkable, if congregations (as some priests fear) are reduced to silence, if the changes are not ‘received’ by the Irish Church, what is Plan B?
I think that while we do not compromise or moderate our assessment of the proposed changes, we need to be strategic and prudent in our response.
I think we need to recognise that many priests will go their own way in terms of what if anything is implemented but we need as well to be astute in facilitating that course.
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