From Damian Thompson – April 19, 2010
“Correctly orientated worship, believes Pope Benedict, is a sine qua non for the operation of the redeeming love of Christ in the world. That is why his request that priests should say Mass facing a crucifix on the altar is so important to him; he would prefer that the celebrant faced eastwards, in the same direction as the congregation, but at least the central crucifix helps ensure that the consecration is not directed at the people, which would make it more like a Protestant shared meal than a sacrifice.
But Catholics should ask themselves: when did they last visit an ordinary parish church and see a priest observing the Pope’s wishes? Just as the correct orientation of the altar matters enormously to Benedict XVI, so the disregard of this reform tells us a lot about the fundamental disconnection between the Pontiff and his priests.
This disconnection is made possible by the immense power of the bishop and the diocese in the Church – a power that also made possible the sheltering of so many clerical sex abusers not just from the police but also from the Vatican. Much of this power is derived from Scripture: the diocese has been the fundamental unit of the Church since its institution. A crucial problem is that the Vatican – a tiny organisation, really, about the size of a middle-sized American corporation – has neglected its historic role of aligning Catholic bishops with their Pontiff. Benedict XVI wants to reform the Church; but how can he do so when the dicasteries (major departments) are run by cardinals and archbishops of widely differing degrees of loyalty and mental alertness?…”
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