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Online Edition - Vol. V, No. 5: July / August 1999

In the News

Young Catholics "Retro-revolt"

In a June 7 story entitled "Back to the Latin Mass", TIME magazine reported on the increase in the number of Tridentine Masses. The article, by Tim Padgett, said that "The generation that not long ago pushed Gregorian chant into the Top 40 may now plant it back into the Mass".

The TIME article quoted Catholics too young to remember either Vatican II or the guitar Masses of the sixties, but yearning for transcendence. It quoted the Reverend Michael Baxter, a theology professor at Notre Dame, as saying that post-Vatican-II culture "seems rather weak and unclear to the MTV generation".

Unlike the celebration of the "Novus Ordo" Mass in Latin, the "Tridentine" rite (according to a 1962 ritual), permitted under certain conditions since the 1988 publication by the Vatican of Ecclesia Dei afflictu, requires the special approval of the local bishop.

The number of approved "Traditional" Masses celebrated weekly, said Time, has jumped from 6 in 1990 to 131 today, and are attended by 150,000 Catholics every week. There are about 60 million Catholics in the United States.

Re-conquering Sacred Space

The University of Notre Dame School of Architecture is sponsoring a conference called "Re-conquering Sacred Space: Designing Churches for the New Renaissance" to be held in Rome, October 9th through the 16th. Presenters will include Professors Duncan Stroik and Thomas Gordon Smith of the School of Architecture. (Both have contributed articles to AB.)

An exhibit of new church designs will be held in conjunction with the conference, and a catalog of the exhibition will be published. For information, contact Dr. Stroik, University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, 110 Bond Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556.

New Co-ed Choir School

A new choir school at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City was featured in an article by James E. Frazier in the March 1999 issue of American Organist. The school was established by Monsignor M. Francis Mannion, rector of the cathedral and founder of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, and Gregory Glenn, the cathedral's liturgy and music director.

The new school provides a broad curriculum, not merely choral training. The choir's repertoire "has leaned toward Renaissance polyphony", and includes several Gregorian Masses, writes Mr. Frazier, a founding member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and director of music at Trinity Episcopal Church in Excelsior, Minnesota..

Mr. Frazier emphasizes that girls are admitted to the school. He says that "until the Second Vatican Council, choirs were considered to be quasi-clerical bodies to which girls and women were not (officially) admitted because they were ineligible for holy orders." The Council, he says, "declared the choir to be a lay organization", so "because of the choir's newly declared lay status, the presence of girls in the choir does not imply a clerical future for them".

Mr. Frazier does not document this puzzling assertion. No such "declaration" is to be found in the Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium). Choirs in women's religious communities had always been women ("choir nuns"); and women and girls commonly sang in choirs in Catholic churches long before the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps the author confuses "choir" as an organized group of singers, with monastic "choir monks" always clerics who sang the Divine Office and the Mass (usually within the "choir" of a gothic church, located between the altar and the nave where laity worshipped).

In a footnote to this paragraph (n.2) Mr. Frazier makes this interesting statement:

"We may well hope that the license for women to serve as eucharistic ministers [sic] at Mass and to preside at Sunday worship in the absence of a priest, no less than the permission for women and girls to sing in choirs, may all together in time help to prove the suitability of women for holy orders in the Roman Catholic Church and to prepare congregations for their acceptance".

Vatican letter to bishops' conferences

A "circular letter" signed by four Vatican offices in May further clarified Pope John Paul II's motu proprio on the role of bishops' conferences, Apostolos Suos, released last year.

The letter, signed by Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, distinguished between doctrinal declarations of a national conference, which require unanimous vote of bishops (or at least 2/3 of the eligible members plus approval of the Holy See), and "general decrees". Statements of bishops' conferences that must be submitted for Vatican approval include "those doctrinal declarations that the bishops, meeting in Conference, consider to be new questions being addressed, so that the message of Christ will illuminatethe consciences of men to give solutions to new problems which emerge with social changes".

The circular letter also "recommends avoiding bureaucracy in the offices of the conference", and urges "a reduction in the number of documentsto avoid excessive proliferation of documents, and those difficulties, experienced in many places, in ascertaining the degree of authority with which such documents are invested".

Last year the US bishops discussed this issue after a controversial committe statement, "Always Our Children", was released just before the bishops' November meeting.

Other items addressed by the letter include the role of retired or resigned bishops in a conference, who may not be president or vice-president of a conference. Retired bishops have only a "consultative" vote. Non-bishops may not vote, although they may "address some sessions"; all episcopal commissions must have only bishops as members (other consultative committees may be formed of non-bishops, but cannot be called episcopal).

The letter asked conferences to revise their statutes where necessary. Other curial offices involved in the letter are the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Evangelization of Peoples, for Oriental Churches, and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

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