This post will first contain an interesting fact It will then be followed by some tired old hand wringing.
First the interesting fact. This comes by way of Andrew Hamilton who is a consulting editor for Eureka Street. He also teaches at the United Faculty of Theology in Melbourne. Mr. Hamilton notes:
The reflection may be sharpened by the fact that three out of the four priests ordained for the Sydney Archdiocese celebrated their first Mass in Latin. Given the place of the first Mass as a symbolic statement of how a priest views his ministry, this majority choice is of some significance. The concerted choice of Latin suggests that many young priests share a distinctive vision of the Church, of priesthood and of pastoral priorities that older priests would not share.
That is interesting, no? Mr. Hamilton spends the rest of his article openly worrying about the potential division this might cause in the church.
Images and symbols tend to be taken for granted until the reality they represent is put under pressure. It seems inevitable that the unity of priests under the local bishop will be put under pressure if there are substantial divisions between them about the desirable form of worship, the pastoral needs of their people, their ways of relating to Catholics and the broader society, and about what it means in practice to be a priest. When they gathered around their bishop they would be facing in opposite directions, just as they might do when celebrating the Eucharist.
In fairness, Mr. Hamilton makes some good points in the article and maintains a reasonable tone throughout. I mention this because my criticism is not really directed at him. However we have seen various degrees of hand-wringing over the outlook of young priests for other quarters that have not been so reasonable. I must ask, however, where was this worry over division and disunity thirty or forty years ago? Where was this worry when centuries of tradition and any regard for doctrine or rubrics was thrown away? Where was this worry when our churches were wrecked and millions upon millions of devastated parishioners had no place to go? Mr. Hamilton asks:
Will congregations be subjected to the conflicting styles and preferences of priests who succeed one another? Will there be a settlement by which individual congregations are reserved to Latinophile or Anglophile priests? Will Catholics be encouraged to shop around to find priests and congregations that offer congenial brands of Catholic life and worship?
Well what do you think has been going on for the last thirty plus years? The only difference now is who needs to do the shopping. Why are they so worried now? Where was the worry about Church or Priest shopping these past decades.
With that said, I agree that this is a concern. A Catholic should not have to worry about whether Fr. Bob is one of those orthodox priests who take the Church’s Teaching, Tradition and traditions seriously. They should know and expect that he does. We should expect that all our priests are men of good character and devoted to the Church and Her teaching. When that happens, there will be no more worry about disunity.
In the meantime I will sit back take comfort in the fact that 3 of 4 priests ordained in Sydney said their first mass in Latin wit absolutely no hand wringing. Cogito sumere potum alterum.