Friday, September 18, 2009

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE OLD: Heresy Continues Unabated in Kenai

KENAI, AK -- Arius and Constantine. Luther and Prince Philip of Hesse. And now, Bergkamp and Menting.

Like these heretics and the authorities who endorsed them, Fr. Roger Bergkamp, OMI and Parish Administrator Margaret Menting are but the latest pair to teach and promulgate heresy at Our Lady of the Angels parish in Kenai, Alaska.

During a recent session for the "Generations of Faith" catechism curriculum at OLA, Fr. Roger denied multiple Church teachings on the Sacraments, notably the necessity of baptism for salvation. When a parishioner objected that these teachings were matters of doctrine, not personal opinion, Fr. Roger simply dismissed him and later told another parishioner that "I teach the Christian religion and I will not be bound by teaching only the Catholic faith." Upon being called a Catholic priest, Fr. Roger denied this title, saying, "No, I am a Christian."

Following up on the objections of these parishioners to Fr. Roger's behavior, Ms. Menting, in her role as Parish Administrator and head of the "Generations of Faith" catechism, circulated an email suggesting that such parishioners should "put away the Catechism and Canon Law for awhile. The catechims and the Doctrine are man made by the men of our church." [sic]. Ms. Menting then went on to propose "the Bible which does not change" as an alternative to Catechism and Canon Law. In doing so, Ms. Menting follows in the footsteps of the former administrators of OLA, Sr. Joyce Ross and Sr. Joan Barina, whose teachings and policies contrary to Canon Law are well-documented on these pages.


This blog will attempt to deal with each heretical teaching by comparing it with the Catholic teaching it contradicts; however, it is important to note that there is a common thread of Protestantism in said teachings. Fr. Roger denies the role of the Church and its priests in dispensing the sacraments and Ms. Menting denies the role of the Church as the authoritative interpreter and teacher of Sacred Scripture. Both of these denials are themselves doctrines that can be taught at any Protestant church in Kenai -- they are manifestly not authentic Catholic doctrines, and as such should not be taught at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church.

It should also be noted that Fr. Roger, by virtue of his priestly ordination, is especially entrusted with a responsibility to teach the authentic doctrines of the Catholic Church to the parishioners of OLA in accord with the Second Vatican Council: "Let [priests], as fathers in Christ, take care of the faithful whom they have begotten by baptism and their teaching." (Lumen Gentium, 28)


1. "Jesus sharing in experience in my life is a sacrament."

2. "A person in the woods who wants to receive Jesus has, in that act of wanting, received Jesus, and that is a sacrament."

3. "Intentional communion (desiring Jesus) is a sacrament."

4. "If we are sorry for our sins, in that moment of being sorry they are forgiven, and that is a sacrament."

5. "Baptism is unnecessary for salvation."


Fr. Roger -- "Jesus sharing in experience in my life is a sacrament."

Catholic Church -- This thesis is subtler than it first appears. First, we should define what a sacrament IS.

In straightforward terms, sacraments are "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us...they bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions." (CCC 1131)

A sacrament, then, is the means by which Christ, who is "the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11:25) comes to His people, and it is efficacious - that is, a sacrament contains within itself, independent of our worthiness, that grace which is the life of Christ. In this sense, it would be true to say "Jesus shares His life in my experience of a sacrament", or even "Jesus, in a sacrament, shares in experience in my life."

However, Fr. Roger said neither of these things. In fact, he said that "Jesus sharing in an experience in my life" -- which would be the sum total of all experiences ever, since Jesus is God and by His Divine Nature shares in all experiences of everyone's lives (cf. John 1:3, Col 1:16-17) -- "is a sacrament." This of course leads to the absurd proposition that everything, so long as it is has been experienced by someone, is a sacrament.

To be fair to Fr. Roger, he probably meant "Insofar as I willingly invite him, Jesus sharing in an experience in my life is a sacrament." Although less absurd, this is probably even more heretical in its finiteness. Man holds no power over God, by will or no. Nor can man dictate the efficaciousness of God's grace. The efficaciousness of the sacraments is not attributed to man, but to God; or, more articulately, to God-made-man, the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, in His earthly life, established the sacraments as "'the masterworks of God' in the new and everlasting covenant." (CCC 1116) Inextricably bound to the Church, which is the Body of Christ, the sacraments are only available through the same Church, by the means of dispensation which Christ prescribed: the ministerial priesthood. This is, of course, what the catechism teaches:

"The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church." (CCC 1120)

While the priest says the words of consecration, it is the power of God acting through him (in persona Christi) that makes the bread into the Body of Christ. Likewise for the other sacraments -- the efficacy of a sacrament, which is part of its very nature, is the grace and power of God acting through His Church, which is His Body. No person may confect efficacy independent of the Church. The grace of God may act independently if and when a person invites Christ into their lives; however, this is not a sacrament.

Therefore, "Jesus sharing in an experience in my life" is not, in and of itself, a sacrament.

To be continued. Please pray for Fr. Roger Bergkamp, OMI, Margaret Menting, and Our Lady of the Angels parish.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

CALM DOWN: No Truth to Rumors that Pope is Evil Emperor

A recent encyclical released by Pope Benedict XVI -- coupled with some well-circulated, highly Photoshopped images of the Roman Pontiff -- has caused many in his American flock to fear that he is, in fact, the Evil Emperor Palpatine from George Lucas' Star Wars movies.

Besides the arresting resemblance between the Pope and British actor Ian McDiarmid, who plays the Emperor, the Pope's call for a global authority with "real teeth" in Caritas in Veritate has caused more than one conservative Catholic to grab his lightsaber and fire up the Millennium Falcon.  Here is the pertinent text from the Vatican website:

In the face of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need, even in the midst of a global recession, for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth. [¶ 67, emphasis in original]

However, before seeking refuge on Tatooine from the incipient Galactic Empire -- replete with Darth Obama as Benedict's right hand man -- the prudent and politically conservative Catholic might be inclined to read the entirety of the document, wherein the Pope teaches:

A particular manifestation of charity and a guiding criterion for fraternal cooperation between believers and non-believers is undoubtedly the principle of subsidiarity...[it] is particularly well-suited to managing globalization and directing it towards authentic human development.  In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together. [¶ 57, emphasis in original]

And if that's not enough to get you out of the X-Wing and back on the moisture farm, you might check out the former Cardinal Ratzinger's "severe critique" of the U.N.'s proposal for a New World Order from way back in 2000.

As far as other Catholic reactions go, George Weigel's article has criticized this and other points in the encyclical, and his general summation of the document is that it is partly Benedictine, and partly a concession to the wayward Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.  There are less scathing views from none other than Fr. Joseph Fessio and George Neumayr (among others), which you can peruse here at Catholic World Report.

Finally, it would be advisable for all Catholics with an intellectual bent to read the primer (Rerum Novarum - 1891, Quadregisimo Anno - 1931, Centesimus Annus - 1991) before passing judgment on this latest text.

There is room for a faithful Catholic to object in good conscience to particular policies which the Pope may suggest -- and Benedict says as much when he admits that the Church "does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim 'to interfere in any way in the politics of States'" -- but one should be advised of the Lumen Gentium text:

The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church.  [¶ 37] 

And yes, claiming that the Pope has joined "the Dark Side" finds its theological equivalent in "the gates of hell have prevailed".  This blog, for one, is loathe to make any sort of despairing claim of that ilk.

God bless Pope Benedict and our Holy Mother Church!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Today Pope Benedict XVI released his Letter to Priests, in honor of the upcoming priestly year, and on the occasion of the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests.

As Our Lady of the Angels parish moves forward, one would do well to meditate upon this portion of the Holy Father's letter:

Here the teaching and example of St. John Mary Vianney can serve as a significant point of reference for us all. The Cure of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: "A good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy". He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: "O, how great is the priest! ... If he realised what he is, he would die. ... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host". Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the Sacraments, he would say:

"Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is". 

These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor, might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the Sacrament of the Priesthood. He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: "Were we to fully realise what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love. ... Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth. ... What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods. ... Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshipping the beasts there. ... The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you".

These are not the words of a mere "traditionalist" blogger -- they are the words of a saint, quoted by the Vicar of Christ.  Let us take them to heart, in humility and in gratitude for the inestimable gift of the priesthood in our lives.

For a great commentary on the letter, check our Fr. Z's blog here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


And so we approach the end of the Pauline year, which Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated to celebrate the 2000th birthday of the consummate Apostle.  With its conclusion, however, comes a new beginning - The Year of the Priest, beginning this Friday, June 19, on the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As the Universal Church comes to a crossroads, so too does its little Pizza-Hutted microcosm in Kenai, Alaska - Our Lady of the Angels Parish.  Here, too, begins a Year of the Priest for the first time in over 20 years, as former parish administrator Sr. Joyce Ross and her attaché Sr. Joan Barina are currently en route to the eastern seaboard from whence they came over 30 years ago.  Their management of the parish - lauded by some, condemned by others - should neither be underestimated nor forgotten.  But it is done.

What now?

There are many issues to be addressed.  In no particular order, this blog will attempt to identify and comment on them.


While Canon Law makes concessions for an in solidum ministry "when circumstances require it" (Can. 517), the circumstantial reason given for the 'Pastoral Team' was the OMI vocation to "live in community" with fellow OMI brethren.  This is not one of the four OMI charisms, and in any case was certainly not one of the conditions demanded of the very first Catholic priest in Alaska, Fr. Jean Séguin, OMI.

Also, given their beloved and somewhat solitary predecessor Fr. Tero, neither does it seem likely that Fr. Tony, Fr. Andy, and Fr. Joe were viewed by Peninsula Catholics as possible predators in need of constant self-surveillance . 

The most likely reason for the Pastoral Team method was the presence of Sr. Joyce at Our Lady of the Angels parish, Marlys Verba at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Soldotna, and Sr. Carol at St. John the Baptist in Homer.  Because these women had become entrenched in their authoritarian roles in the absence of a constant priestly presence (and at the expense of a beleaguered Fr. Tero, one might add), and because removing them from said roles would be a possibly painful transition, and could plausibly alienate some parishioners, it no doubt seemed prudent to Frs. Tony, Andy, and Joe to allow them to continue to dictate parish policy and serve as the de facto administrators of the Peninsula parishes.

However, with the departure of Sr. Joyce, the dynamic changes significantly.  Not only was Sr. Joyce the most audacious and knowledgeable at navigating the liminal area between bending and breaking the rules of liturgy, orthodoxy, and hierarchy, but she had the benefit of spending an entire generation at one parish.  Thirty years of attending and assisting at baptisms, first communions and confessions, marriages, and funerals will win hearts simply by virtue of consistency.  As evidenced by comments on this blog, even those who opposed Sr. Joyce's usurpation of priestly duties will miss seeing her friendly and familiar face.  And those same opponents would probably begrudgingly admit that, of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Sr. Joyce had a particular capacity for understanding and counsel -- such things solidified her claim as "pastor" on more than one parishioner's heart.  It remains to be seen whether or not Sr. Joyce's influence will outlast her manifest presence among such hearts.

Our concern is mainly with the priests.  Now that Sr. Joyce is gone, so too is their greatest hindrance in assuming full pastoral responsibilities in each parish.  Let us remember that the Church's law defines a parish as a "certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor" (Can. 515).  And to become a pastor, "one must be in the sacred order of the presbyterate", i.e. priesthood.  (Can. 521).  Therefore, priests are the norm for each parish - not Pastoral Teams, not nuns, and certainly not laywomen in albs.

Over the past year and a half, the priests have expressed their desire to get to know their parishioners better; Fr. Tony said as much to a national audience at

One of the more important tasks is to make sure parishioners get to know their priests, Father Dummer said.  Familiarity is important when a priest is called upon to anoint the sick, visit the homebound, and perform baptism and funeral services, he added.

"We decided that it is most important for them to get to know us, so they feel comfortable," Father Dummer said.  "It's hard on people when they don't know us."

Most parishioners at Our Lady of the Angels no doubt agree with Fr. Tony.  Most, however, would also say that these have become empty words in the wake of the Pastoral Team method.  This reader's comment from an April 9th post sums things up:  

Our three priests, although always attempting to be effective as priests, are not familiar to us. Fr. Tony is more familiar than Fr. Joe and Fr. Andy. But there is little more than chit chat that takes place between us. Numerous parishioners have commented that they wanted to get to know the priests better, spend time with them, but when asked to get together, there is never time. At Church after Mass, there is the usual greetings and smiles, then the running away to meetings. (No peaceful time to just be a pastor to us.)

It is the opinion of this blog that the Pastoral Team approach should be seen for what it is: a failure.  The People of God on the Peninsula need more than a part-time priest in their parishes; they need the full, sacramental, pastoral presence outlined by Church law.  It is also the opinion of this blog that Peninsula Catholics should make known both their desire and their need for a full pastoral presence, both to the OMIs on the Peninsula and the Archbishop.

Lastly, the Vatican has announced a plenary indulgence in conjunction with the Year of Priests.  Here are the necessary details:

The means to obtain the Plenary Indulgence are as follows:

(A) All truly penitent priests who, on any day, devotedly pray Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to public adoration or in the tabernacle, and ... offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, will be granted Plenary Indulgence, which they can also apply to their deceased confreres, if in accordance with current norms they take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. Priests are furthermore granted Partial Indulgence, also applicable to deceased confreres, every time they devotedly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and to carry out the duties entrusted to them.

(B) All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart, are granted Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. This may be done on the opening and closing days of the Year of Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful.

The elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles".

Partial Indulgence is offered to all faithful each time they pray five Our Father, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri, or any other duly approved prayer "in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life". 

Please consider offering the graces attributed to the indulgence for our priests.

Monday, June 15, 2009

WHY WE KNEEL: Reason and Emotion

Hat-tip to Steve Ray's blog, which highlights an entire site devoted to Eucharistic miracles.

However, the miracle below, which took place in Chirattakonam, India in 2001, should remind us why bowing, genuflecting, and latria -- worship reserved for God alone -- are not only important but necessary when we encounter the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Rev. Fr. Johnson Karnoor, pastor of the church where the Eucharistic miracle took place, recounts in his deposition: “On April 28, 2001, in the parish church of St. Mary of Chirattakonam,  we began the Novena to St. Jude Thaddeus as we did every year. At 8:49am, I exposed the Most Holy Sacrament in the monstrance for public adoration. After a few moments I saw what appeared to be three dots in the Holy Eucharist. I then stopped praying 

and began to look at the monstrance, also inviting the faithful to admire the three dots. I then asked the faithful to remain in prayer and reposed the monstrance in the tabernacle. On April 30th, I celebrated the Holy Mass and on the following day I left for Trivandrum. On Saturday morning, the 5th of May 2001, I opened the church for the usual liturgical celebrations. I vested for Mass and went to open the tabernacle to see what had happened to the Eucharist in the monstrance. I immediately noted in the Host, a figure, to the likeness of a human face. I was deeply moved and asked the faithful to kneel and begin praying. I thought I alone could see the face so I asked the altar server what he noticed in the monstrance. He answered: ‘I see the figure of a man.’ I noticed that the rest of the faithful were looking intently at the monstrance.

“We began Adoration and as the minutes went by, the image became more and more clear. I did not have the courage to say anything and I began to cry. During Adoration, we have the practice of reading a passage from Holy Scriptures. The reading ofthe day was the one from Chapter 20 in the Gospel of John, which narrates the story of when Jesus appeared to St. Thomas and asked him to look at the wounds. I was only able to say a few words in my homily, and, having to leave for the nearby parish of Kokkodu to celebrate Mass, I immediately summoned a photographer to take pictures of the Holy Eucharist with the human face on it. After two hours all the photos were developed; with the passing of the time the face in every photo became more and more clear.”  

It is salient to note the Eucharistic martyrdom of the apostle St. Thomas in India, which Warren Carroll memorably recounts in his book The Founding of Christendom:

One day in A.D. 72 Thomas was praying in a cave on a hill called the Little Mount.  Brahmins from the temple of Kali attacked him.  One pierced his heart with a lance -- just as Christ's heart had been pierced [Jn 19:34], one of the wounds Thomas had demanded to touch before he would believe in the Resurrection [Jn 20:26-29].

For more on the Chirattakonam miracle, you can go to

And because this blog loves the Pope, here's Benedict XVI on the importance of kneeling and genuflecting:

...the spiritual and bodily meanings of proskynein [kneeling] are really inseparable.  The bodily gesture itself is the bearer of the spiritual meaning, which is precisely that of worship.  Without the worship, the bodily gesture would be meaningless, while the spiritual act must of its very nature, because of the psychosomatic unity of man, express itself in the bodily gesture.  The two aspects are united in the one word, because in a very profound way they belong together.  When kneeling becomes merely external, a merely physical act, it becomes meaningless.  On the other hand, when someone tries to take worship back into the purely spiritual realm and refuses to give it embodied form, the act of worship evaporates, for what is purely spiritual is inappropriate to the nature of man.  Worship is one of those fundamental acts that affect the whole man.  That is why bending the knee before the presence of the living God is something we cannot abandon.

-- The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 190-191

Please pray that Our Lady of the Angels parish may imitate her brethren in India by instituting regular Eucharistic adoration and devotion.

Friday, June 12, 2009

SUBSTANCE OF THE MATTER: Solemnity of Corpus Christi

What is the Eucharist?  Why is it important?  How should we worship vis-a-vis the liturgy?

Rather than answer these questions myself, I'll just let the Pontiff pontificate.  After all, it's his job.

.- While celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi yesterday in front of the basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Benedict encouraged the faithful to nourish themselves with love of Christ in the Eucharist and warned of secularization within the Church.

In his homily, the Holy Father explained that though we are inadequate due to sin, we need to nourish ourselves “from the love the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic Sacrament.”  Noting yesterday's feast, he said, “this evening we renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Such faith must not be taken for granted!”

The Pope went on to warn of the risk “of insidious secularization, even inside the Church” which “could translate into a formal but empty Eucharistic worship, in celebrations lacking that involvement of the heart which finds expression in veneration and respect for the liturgy.”

"There is always a strong temptation to reduce prayer to superficial and hurried moments, allowing ourselves to be overcome by earthly activities and concerns," he cautioned.

However, reminded Benedict XVI, we must remember that in the Eucharist, “heaven comes down to earth, God's tomorrow descends into the present moment and time is, as it were, embraced by divine eternity."

During the Eucharistic procession which traditionally follows the Mass, he prayed, "we will ask the Lord in the name of the entire city: Stay with us, Jesus, make us a gift of Yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life. Free this world from the poison of evil, from the violence and hatred that pollute people's consciences, purify it with the power of Your merciful love."

Following Mass, the Pope participated in the Eucharistic procession that traveled along Rome’s Via Merulana to the basilica of St. Mary Major.  While the Holy Father knelt in prayer in a covered vehicle before the monstrance, thousands prayed and sang along the route.

More at Catholic News Agency, Zenit, and the Vatican (in Italian).

Viva il Papa!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE: Bad Teaching Leads to Unfulfilled Obligations

KENAI, AK - For the second consecutive weekend, Sr. Joyce Ross, RSM conducted a paraliturgical communion service in place of a Mass at a Catholic Church on the Peninsula, this time at Our Lady of the Angels parish on Saturday, May 30th, and Sunday, May 31st.

According to the church bulletin, the previous weekend saw Sr. Joyce "preside at Eucharistic Service" at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in nearby Soldotna.  Fr. Tony Dummer, OMI and Fr. Andy Sensenig, OMI both made personal remarks that Sr. Joyce's presence was necessary because of the absence of Fr. Joe Dowling, OMI, a fact which the bulletin neglects to mention.

While neither conducting nor attending a paraliturgical communion service is proscribed by Canon Law, a communion service does not fulfill the Church's mandate that the faithful should  attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation as stated in canon 1247:

Cn. 1247 - On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Canon 1248 does suggests that, in the absence of a priest, the faithful may participate in a paraliturgical service, viz.

Cn. 1248 §2 - If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop...

However - and this is the crux of the argument - this "liturgy of the word" or "Eucharistic Service" are not "options" for fulfilling the Sunday obligation; rather, the obligation is void when it becomes impossible to fulfill.  So the first question one should ask himself when a priest is absent is not "Is it permissible for me to attend this Eucharistic Service at my church?", but "Is it possible for me to attend Mass elsewhere?"  This is, in fact, what the Congregation of Divine Worship stated in 1988:

¶18 - Whenever and wherever Mass cannot be celebrated on Sunday, the first thing to be ascertained is whether the faithful can go to a church in a place nearby to participate there in the eucharistic mystery.

Further on, this same letter warns of the abuse currently taught ex operatio in Kenai and Soldotna:

¶21 - It is imperative that the faithful be taught to see the substitutional character of these celebrations, which should not be regarded as the optimal solution to new difficulties nor as a surrender to mere convenience.

¶22 - Any confusion between this kind of assembly and a eucharistic celebration must be carefully avoided.

Now, in the past some have claimed that when Mass is celebrated in Kenai and not Soldotna, or vice versa, that the extra miles make fulfillment of the Sunday Mass obligation impossible.  However,  the distance between Our Lady of the Angels parish in Kenai and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Soldotna is just over 12 miles one way - a long distance to walk, but a relatively short distance to drive by Alaskan standards.  Below are examples of longer and shorter commutes made by Catholics in the Archdiocese of Anchorage:

South Anchorage to Downtown Anchorage = 9 miles
Sterling to Soldotna = 11 miles
Sutton to Palmer = 13 miles
Eagle River to Downtown Anchorage = 15 miles
Anchor Point to Homer = 15 miles
Moose Pass to Seward = 28 miles
Wasilla/Palmer to Downtown Anchorage = 42 miles

As the table makes explicitly clear, many members of the Archdiocese travel about or more than 12 miles one way on a daily basis.  Thus, to ask these same members to travel an extra 12 miles once a week in order to fulfill their Sunday obligation by participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not only possible, but entirely reasonable.

VERDICT: The People of God on the Kenai Peninsula continue to be malformed regarding the fulfillment of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass as proclaimed by Holy Mother Church in her Canon Law and Congregation for Divine Worship.  In accord with the Second Vatican Council, which exhorted all bishops to promote and safeguard "the unity of the faith and the discipline common to the whole Church", it is the opinion of this blog that Archbishop Schwietz must correct and teach that unity and discipline which Our Lady of the Angels and Our Lady of Perpetual Help currently lack.

Please pray for Archbishop Schwietz, Sr. Joyce, and Frs. Tony, Andy, and Joe.

Monday, May 18, 2009


“Come Israel, thou jade of blue and gold,

Now laud the common calf of reason’s fire.

The mind transcends, so scorns the caster’s mold,

Enlightenment supplants cold Sinai’s sire.


“Behold thy priest, betrayer of the rood:

Inverts he Calvary with a turgid jest,

And Pilate in the bowels of Dante’s wood

Doth flap expansive wings to say ‘Quid est’?


“When priest and Pilate bind thy hands and feet,

When smiles and words and laws call evil good,

Then shalt thou bleat, and bleat, and bleat, and bleat,

And cackle I while thou art drowned of blood.”


So saith the snake; but goes he fore the fall

Our Lady’s heart will triumph over all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY: Not the "Spirit of Vatican II"

From Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Spirit of the Liturgy, published in 2000:

In the Old Testament there is a series of very impressive testimonies to the truth that the liturgy is not a matter of "what you please".  Nowhere is this more dramatically evident than in the narrative of the golden calf (strictly speaking, "bull calf").  The cult conducted by the high priest Aaron is not meant to serve any of the false gods of the heathen.  The apostasy is far more subtle.  There is no obvious turning away from God to the false gods.  Outwardly, the people remain completely attached to the same God.  They want to glorify the God who led Israel out of Egypt and believe that they may very properly represent his mysterious power in the image of a bull calf.  Everything seems to be in order.  Presumably even the ritual is in complete conformity with the rubrics.  And yet it is a falling away from the worship of God to idolatry.

This apostasy, which outwardly is scarcely perceptible, has two causes.  First, there is a violation of the prohibition of images.  the people cannot cope with the invisible, remote, and mysterious God.  they want to bring him down into their own world, into what they can see and understand.  Worship is no longer going up to God, but drawing God down into one's own world.  He must be there when he is needed, and he must be the kind of God that is needed.  Man is using God, and in reality, even if it is not outwardly discernible, he is placing himself above God.

This gives us a clue to the second point.  The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult.  When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back.  Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation.  Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking, and making merry.  The dance around the golden calf is an image of this self-seeking worship.  It is a kind of banal self-gratification.

The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship.  Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one's own resources.  Then liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around.  Or still worse it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise.  All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness.  There is no experience of the liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.

Why is this important?

As long as the liturgy continues to be abused on the Peninsula, so too will this "apostasy in sacral disguise" continue.  If one thinks these words too strong, remember Pope Paul VI's words regarding the misapplication of Vatican II:

For a more obvious "apostasy in disguise", check out the 2008 Palm Sunday Mass at St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis, via Fr. Z's blog.

Please pray for Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and St. Joan of Arc parishes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

RATZINGER REPORT: Like Fine Wine, Aged thus Augmented

Between stale draughts of homemade liturgical innovation, 'tis good to sip some salient words on the liturgy from the erstwhile Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI:

The liturgy is not a show, a spectacle, requiring brilliant producers and talented actors.  The life of the liturgy does not consist in 'pleasant' surprises and attractive 'ideas' but in solemn repetitions.  It cannot be an expression of what is current and transitory, for it expresses the mystery of the Holy.

Many people have felt and said that liturgy must be 'made' by the whole community if it is really to belong to them.  Such an attitude has led to the 'success' of the liturgy being measured by its effect at the level of spectacle and entertainment.  It is to lose sight of what is distinctive to the liturgy, which does not come from what we do but from the fact that something is taking place here that all of us together cannot 'make'.  In the liturgy there is a power, an energy at work which not even the Church as a whole can generate: what it manifests is the Wholly Other, coming to us through the community (which is hence not sovereign but servant, purely instrumental).

Liturgy, for the Catholic, is his common homeland, the source of his identity.  And another reason why it must be something 'given' and 'constant' is that, by means of the ritual, it manifests the holiness of God.  The revolt against what has been described as 'the old rubricist rigidity', which was accused of stifling 'creativity', has in fact made the liturgy into a do-it-yourself patchwork and trivialized it, adapting it to our mediocrity.

-- The Ratzinger Report, p. 126, Ignatius Press, 1985.

Please pray for Pope Benedict and the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.