THE CANON LAW system of the Church is a pretty ramshackle affair, cobbled together by the last Pope Benedict. It is at present being extensively revised, It is a massive operation. But one of the new canons, largely suggested by the English, will provide that every human effort to reconcile a man should be made before he falls under any of the penal legislation of the Church.
Rome has clearly done this with Archbishop Lefebvre, and now there is excommunication in the air.
The present legislation is a little muddled. A person can automatically excommunicate himself for such matters as breaking the seal of the Confessional or soliciting in the Confessional or laying hands on the Sovereign Pontiff,
Otherwise a bishop at least has to pronounce in a very formal way, ferendae senserraae.
remember that the Archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated some young white ladies for not letting a black one join them in teaching Sunday school. I think they became Baptists and lived sadly ever after.
Then there was Fr Feeley, a Jesuit, who when I was in the United States lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He got the sack for teaching that, literally, "outside the Church there is no salvation," and this was long before the Council.
He used to make rather wild speeches on Boston Common and had a number of devoted followers. 1 believe he died reconciled.
Then there was the brilliant Jesuit, Fr Tyrrell. He was excommunicated for Modernism and died unreconciled. He is buried at Storrington.
I am told that that formidable Archbishop of Southwark, Peter Amigo, made a fearful fuss, which was odd, since he allowed the most solemn funeral for the Lord Mayor of Cork who starved himself to death in Brixton jail.
There are three graduated penalties that the Church at present uses to express its aversion for certain behaviours, and of course you have to believe in them fully for them to be effective.
You can be suspended A divinis which has been done to Archbishop Lefebvre. You can be put under an interdict which seems to be not much different from the final excommunication which casts you out of the community of the faithful. Once these were used for political ends. Once the IRA were all excommunicated, and that included De Valera. It never seemed somehow to take. Too many sympathetic priests? Thomas a Becket was notably quick on the draw when it came to excommunication. One of the counts against one excommunicant was that he had cut
off the tails of the Archbishop's asses.
People who are excommunicated are not cut off from the love or mercy of God, and excommunicated priests may administer the sacraments in an emergency.
Originally some excommunicants were "tolerated". This meant that Christians might deal with them socially and they were allowed to enter churches for sermons. Under the new rules, they are to be entirely avoided and a priest finding one in his church would have to ask him to leave.
This is the relevant canon for promulgating an anathema! "The bishop vested in his pontificals assisted by 12 priests in surplices, all holding lighted candles, he being seated at the faldstool, pronounces the formula. They all throw their lighted candles on the ground."
I think the "bell, book and candle" bit came from "I he Ingoldsby Legends."
Liturgy on the Grand Bahama
I HAVE been shown a brisk and very coherent letter from a Benedictine who has a parish in Freeport, on the Grand Bahama Dom Brendan Forsyth, I have never been there, but their church sounds marvellously organised.
He has tackled the vernacular liturgy as if it were 6 new sort of problem which of course it is. He has our High Masses of a Sunday. There is singing and serving and incense and curried lights at all of them
No tine is allowed to read until he has practised in front of the parish priest. Then he is enjoined to read very, very slowly because he is
proclaiming the Word of God, and if people miss it, there may not be another time.
Lectors are also encouraged to look up frequently in order to keep the attention of the congregation, He does not think many children are capable of being lectors and they need at least six months of training anyway.
He, too, has faced the problem of the "Sign of Peace". In his church, the sign is given by the priest to the lectors and by the lectors to the ushers. The ushers go down to the pews and place their folded hands over the folded hands of the first person in each pew. And so people pass it on saying: "The peace of the Lord be always with you," There are no guitars, but there must be an awful lot of organisation. Everyone who arrives at the church gets greeted. But I Loins ne is on to something basic the idea of involving people as a group, none of them thinking any of the others is a stranger.
The old Mass could be a very private affair and the priest could say it badly and no one knew except God, scholars and himself. Now it has to be seen and understood.
The idea of an elaborate parish organisation and ritual is really part of this same thing. Everyone, or almost everyone, must have some role to play. It all sounds great fun as well as being effective. But I suspect that his parishioners are rather different from our lot.
If I came to the end of a new and placed my folded hands over those of Mrs S she would think I had flipped, and if the priest asked me to stand and read in front of him to test me, I would; and if I looked up all the time while 1 was reading I'd lose the place and if I started greeting strangers in the porch, I would be stared at.
But what platoons of servers, ushers, lectors and choir people he must haves And how on earth do they all get to the right Mass? Fr Forsyth issues cyclostyled notes for visiting priests. Another one is of suggestions to lectors and commentators and a whole lot of others.
At the end of the Mass all the ushers and lectors go in procession to the church door. And there everyone, I suppose, greets everyone again. I know he is right, but it makes me feel insufferably English. There is no cure for this disease.
Some random apologies
I HAD a number of kindly letters about the public nonappearance of Cardinal Hume at the jubilee service in St Paul's.
My mild protest against what appeared to have been someone's
act of will that he should not appear on the box or play anything but a speetatorial and almost concealed role in the Cathedral certainly had occurred to others, not all of whom were as mild about it was I was, Several, however, pointed out that I named the Dean of St Pauli as Edward Carpenter Suite unforgivable, for he is of course the Dean of that royal peculiar, Westminster Abbey. And he is a most civilised and sincerely ecumenical man, IL was he who invited the Benedictines to sing Vespers in the Abbey after the ordination at Archbishop Hume, I also saw a rather pained but very civil letter in the Catholic Herald protesting against my flippant treatment of the new Saint, John Neumann. Like the saint, the writer was a Redemptorist.
I am afraid he had a perfectly valid point and I apologise for letting the guard on my usually impeccable good taste slip. it is the polite letters that are the hardest to ignore. They also strike the deepest.
Tall order for a curate
THE FOLLOWING advertisement appeared in 1725 in The Reading Mercury: "A curate wanted who would have easy duties and a stipend of £50 per annum besides perquisites.
"Must be zealously affected to the present Government and never forsake his principles; regular in his morals; sober, grave in his dress and deportment, choice in his company; and exemplary in his conversation.
"He must be of superior abilities, studious and careful in his employment of time, a lover of fiddling but no dancer."
I stole this from our local Anglican deanery magazine. It also had a story about Queen Elizabeth Tudor.
In 1564, a Lenten sermon was preached by the Dean of St Paul's, Alexander Erroll, which the Queen attended. He used words that seemed to slight the crucifix, at which the Queen cried out: "To your text, Mr Dean, Leave that, we have heard enough of that." At which the dean was so put out that he could not continue.
The Queen indeed kept some of her old prejudices. She never could abide the wives of bishops. Indeed, to this day no provision is made for them in the tables of precedent, The Archbishop of Canterbury comes first after a Royal Duke. Alas, Mrs Coggan comes nowhere.
Getting ready to depart
THE Euthanasia Educational Council has been meeting in Los Angeles. The delegates were faced with a constant reminder of the topic of the conference death. Standing on end against a pillar in the Pacific Ballroom, where the conference met, was a coffin.
There was, however, no body in the coffin. It was fitted up with bookshelves and decorated with potted plants. On top of it all were bottles of Californian wine. I confess the symbolism escapes me.
This coffin was exhibited by the St Francis Burial Society of Washington, DC. They will sell you a ready-to-use coffin for $185. If you buy a coffin assembly kit and do it yourself it costs considerably less. It is better to do this in advance.
The coffin on display was the "traditional," or country coffin. It was an unpainted pine box fitted with stout rope handles. You could also buy a plain oblong model, assembled, for $160, which includes the cost of delivery. It could be used as a linen chest or a coffee table until the buyer is ready to go. This Burial Society provides "professional and practical information, advice and personal experiences regarding death and dying." I should explain that the council is very against the idea of euthanasia.
Metamorphosis of Brentwood
THE CLERGY REVIEW had a fascinating account of the adaptation of Brentwood Cathedral, written by John Newton.
The diocese is somewhat inchoate, and really needs a visible centre. It was created in 1917 out of Westminster, and lies, engulfed by the Great Wen, a conurbation.
They took a small country parish church for their cathedral. This had been built in 1871. It was of that stiff and plain Gothic-Revival sort that begins to look better and better to us today. And this was a very handsome and rather expensive example. The place suited the old liturgy, and it was loved.
After Vatican II, with a new liturgy of participation, they reconsidered their cathedral. It was small: it seated only 230. To lengthen it would be to turn it into a tunnel. •
But they had a great deal of unusually sincere consultation and most people wanted to keep at least elements of the old church. So they found an infinitely simple solution. They took out the north side of the church and the pillars and arches of the north aisle and built their extension at right angles to the old church.
Now the aisle of the old church is a spacious yet intimate sanctary, fit for a bishop. It is backed by the old arches of the south aisle.
They built their new nave in a modern style with the pews at angles to improve the view of the altar. This holds 450, and is used for the parish services. The cathedral is now as wide as the church was long.
At the end of this new, broad nave they built a hall which is cut off from the cathedral by sliding doors. This can be used for social affairs, or the doors can be slid back and, presto, the cathedral then holds 800. There is a kitchen, and there are loos.
There is also a big porch and a covered entrance and a pleasant precinct in front of it all. It cost £107,733. But most important of all is the effect it has.
While building was going on, the parish moved to an Ursuline convent for Sunday Masses. There was a drop in attendance. When the new building was in use the numbers rose, and now more go to Mass there than used to worship in the old church.
The trendier priests deplore the church building. For social, aesthetic and missionary reasons they are dangerously wrong.