Monday, December 01, 2008

The Cardinal Schonborn Controversy

As you are all aware, Cardinal Schönborn has been taking a lot of heat recently for his celebration of a scandalous "Youth Mass" in Vienna. In case you have not seen the video (or if you want to be shocked all over again), here it is for your viewing pleasure:

The Cardinal sure does look like he is enjoying himself! Unfortunately for him, the affair was captured on video and made its way to the Net, where it prompted a justifiable outcry from traditional and conservative Catholics, who thought that this "conservative" Cardinal and editor of the Catechism was a friend to Catholic tradition. After a few days, the staff of the Cardinal posted this reply to those who criticized his participation in the event:

"Some people have taken serious offense in the Holy Mass for young people which was celebrated by the Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schönborn on the 16th of November in Wolfsthal, a village close to the Austrian-Slovakian border.

In contrast to the presumption, due to the in many ways amateurish und unrealistic recorded broadcasting by Gloria TV, it must be clearly stated that in this celebration in no way any kind of liturgical specifications have been violated.

The Eucharistic bread was unleavened and its shape strictly followed the shape which has been used in the Middle East since the 1st century. The “flat cake” is similar to that form used in Mossul in these days – this is the metropolis located at river Tigris where Christians still testify the truth of Jesus with their own blood.

Werner Pirkner, the spiritual councillor for the Holy Mass in Wolfsthal, and Stephan Bazalka, coordinator of the Catholic Youth, paid highest attention to the fact that when breaking the bread no tiny little piece of bread ever touched the floor.

Those who have dared, tempted by a fragmentary news coverage, to bring forward accusations against the archbishop of Vienna, may contemplate, repent and ask God for his forgiveness. Let us pray all together for the Holy Church!”

What I wanted to comment on was the tone of the response letter and point out how it is problematic and indicative of a wider mentality in the Church that ought to be addressed. If we look at that video above, we see many problems relating to the decorum of the Mass: the music, the lighting, the bizarre setting (you can see from the video that this is obviously a Church or basilica of some kind: are all the innovations in the setting just to make it more "relevant?"), the weird vestments, the novel ceremony of writing prayers on a card and attaching them to balloons to be set free during Mass, the presence of what appears to be wooden bowls used to hold the hosts (not precious metal) and finally, the questionable bread used for the Eucharist. My point here is that there was not just one thing wrong with this picture, but many. Any one of these abuses listed above could be the subject of an entire post.

However, the Cardinal, in response to the outcry against him, addressed only the last subject: that of the bread used in the Sacrament. He says that it is unleavened and perfectly in accord with the Church's disciplinary standards, and then tells us all who criticized him to repent for daring to question his judgment! As if the question of the bread were the only thing wrong with this picture! No mention of the balloons, the music, everything else (probably because there is obviously no defense for those items).

This reponse is indicative of what has been identified before as a conservative Catholic mindset that liturgical rubrics and decorum do not really matter so long as there is a valid Eucharist and the Real Presence can be affirmed. "Why do you complain so much about the music? Just be happy that you're receiving Jesus!" This is essentially what the Cardinal's response is: it was a valid sacrament, so therefore nobody can say anything. Nothing else matters.

By the way, did you notice the Cardinal's explanation for the bread? The statement said: The Eucharistic bread was unleavened and its shape strictly followed the shape which has been used in the Middle East since the 1st century. The “flat cake” is similar to that form used in Mossul in these days – this is the metropolis located at river Tigris. Okay, that may be the case. Fine and good. But you can't deny that the bread looks like leavened bread, can you? Can the Cardinal really be so upset at Catholics not realizing that this bread was unleavened when it clearly looks to be leavened? How dare you didn't realize that the bread is actually a Middle Eastern flat cake used in Mosul! I mean, c'mon! How many Catholics would see that and say, "Oh, of course! That's a flat cake from the Mosul-region of Iraq!" Please.

Long story short: (1) Even assuming the bread was unleavened, the Cardinal should still apologize for everything else that went on at that Mass (2) Catholics (especially mainstream conservatives) should realize that you can have quite a bit of wiggle-room with the liturgy and still maintain the facade of legitimacy under the canard of "it's still a valid Sacrament" (3) We should all pray for Cardinal Schönborn and realize that not everybody who is labelled a "conservative" may necessarily be a friend to Catholic Tradition.


Anonymous said...

First, an ongoing dialogue...

and the discussion at WDTPRS

Viator Catholicus said...

"Amateurish and unrealistic" video? How can anyone defend that mass and yet use those words to attack the video!!!

The Mosul argument is bizarre, especially since we are not members of the Chaldean Rite. And yet, that Mass was barely the Roman Rite.

And how about the line "no tiny piece of BREAD ever touched the floor. Is the Body of our Lord now just a piece of bread???

Even if I charitably interpret this materially heretical statement, and agree that perhaps there were no fragments at the fraction, what about at the distribution. It is clear at 2:06ff that some communicants are nibbling as if snacking on the Blessed Sacrament!!!

Finally, it's amazing how the cardinal's staff acts so quickly with condemnation against Catholics who are offended by abuses. But, do they call on Catholics who commit abuses to "contemplate, repent, and ask God for his forgiveness?"

Editor said...

Hmm. . . I only received the Lord in my mouth NOT my hand.