My attention has been drawn to a letter written by Rev. Deacon Marc Andre' Camilleri, published on February 28.
I read his letter with all the attention it merits. Ironically, I was both amused and amazed.
I was amused because the letter speaks more about its author than about my pastoral commentary which introduced the Malta Sunday Mass Attendance Census 2005.
I was amazed because Fr Camilleri is reaching the end of his degree course in theology and I could hardly find any theological argument in his missive.
This was also a disappointment, since I am aware of the effort of most of my colleagues, who are doing their best to teach theology and resisting turning their lectures into glorified Catechism lessons.
Not that I do not accept the Catechism, but its teachings alone do not constitute theology. The problem with Fr Camilleri - and with those of a similar mindset - is that he ignored the serious pastoral problems which I tried to tackle in my commentary.
The reason people are leaving the Church are not the "so-called" aberrations in the liturgy that followed Vatican II, but what Cardinal Ratzinger, on Good Friday 2005, referred to as the "filth [that] there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to Him!
How much pride, how much self-complacency!"
Fr Camilleri praised Mgr Guido Marini, the present Papal Master of Ceremonies, without letting readers know these words were uttered by a certain Father Gagliardi, a member of the staff of the same Mgr Marini. (see Zenit, January 8, 2010).
May I suggest he reads the book by Archbishop Piero Marini (the former Master of Ceremonies to His Holiness), Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975 (2007).
He will learn that "with the change of the Consilium into a Congregation in 1969 and the transformation of the Congregation for Divine Worship to a subsection of another Congregation in 1975 (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments), the distinctive style of the Consilium was gradually absorbed into the more traditional style proper to the Roman Curia.
This was probably one of the first signs of a tendency to return to a pre-conciliar mindset that has for years now characterised the Curia's approach.
As more and more time passes since the Second Vatican Council, an event charged with such hope and desire for renewal, its distinctive contributions seem to be increasingly questioned."
Fr Camilleri does not seem perturbed by the fact that 49 per cent are not attending Sunday Mass.
Or perhaps he believes these can be brought back by the widening of clerical phylacteries and lengthening of tassels, a style definitely not promoted by Jesus (Matthew 23: 5).
He seems to be unaware of the Lord's pastoral injunction to leave the 51 per cent and go out in search of those who have left, or have never been in.
In line with people of ultra-conservative mindset, he takes critique to be an accusation. Ironically, he quotes Pope Benedict to make his point; ironically, I can use the same quote in support of my argument: "We need to outride this way of thinking. I'm evidently for Vatican II, which has given us a lot of beautiful things. But declaring that it is impossible, and to judge unacceptable all the reflection on what we can elicit from the Church's history, for me is sectarianism which I don't accept any more".
It is his lack of knowledge of the Church's history, history of theology and human thought that is Fr Camilleri's achilles' heel.
I am really sad he has really proved one of the points made in my commentary - that we are faced with a number of clerics who seem to be more interested in custom than tradition; in one's attire more than in the way one lives; in building and decorating the Temple of our Jerusalems rather than in nurturting the Body of Christ.
What our Church needs is not the reform of a reform, but constant reform on the lines started by Vatican II and perhaps, as Cardinal Martini and others have suggested, by means of a Vatican III.
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