Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bishop Forester on Concelebration

9. Extract from letters to two Parish Priests on the subject of concelebration. Both letters are dated Tuesday, January 18th,1977.

I am vaguely surprised that you should feel so strongly in favour of concelebration because I happen to hate it myself. After all, we concelebrate with Jesus. To have Tom, Dick and Harry concelebrating as well does not add to the intimacy of the Divine Co-Celebrant. It may not detract but can certainly distract from that intimacy. You obviously feel otherwise since you talk of the sense of comradeship in Christ which you feel at concelebrations. Mind you, comradeship in Christ is not the same as comradeship with Christ.

However, to come to your specific question: Yes. The Immemorial Rite and my hybrid are not intended for concelebration and are in fact unsuitable since they are silent. Concelebrants should consequently use the New Ordo plus, of course, the Offertory prayers from the Tridentine missal. Such, at least, is my present view.

I am grateful to you for bring up this matter as I should probably never have thought of it myself. Moreover, I am so prejudiced against concelebration that I doubt my ability to give a fair ruling on it. Your letter has the merit of reminding me that others think otherwise. In view of all which, I shall submit the whole question to the Chapter when it meets on Thursday. I shall ask it to make a careful study of concelebration under every aspect and submit to me its recommendations in due course. This may take six months or more, so, in the meantime, please follow my recommendation above: New Ordo plus old Offertory. I shall hand your letter to the Provost but perhaps you would care to write to him directly.

You may well ask why I should be so anti-concelebration. I have already given you the fundamental reason: we are co-celebrant with Jesus and a thousand human co-celebrants still only make one Mass. To put it very mildly, the multiplication of human co-celebrants makes it appear as though the efficacy of Mass was dependent on the presence and intention of priests rather than on the presence and will of Christ. For two priests to concelebrate one Mass is not the same as for them to celebrate two Masses.

But I have other reasons as well—notably the abuses to which concelebration is prone. You remember the requiem for poor Father Roy Burns last June? Unfortunately I was unable to be present; had I been I should have stopped the whole proceedings. Perhaps you were one the co-concelebrants? Fortunately I do not know. However, the last straw occurred in July. Admittedly I was in France but we need not imagine that such things do not happen here.

I was staying with a priest friend in the South of France. We did not concelebrate: I said Mass first, then he. Incidentally, we used the Immemorial Rite. On the second day my friend was reading the Gospel when a couple of scruffy individuals plonked themselves down in the pews. Having finished the Gospel, my friend turned to them and asked if they wished to receive Holy Communion—in order to consecrate the small hosts as, of course, there was no reservation in the church. They did. When Mass was over they followed us into the sacristy. One of them said to my friend: “Mon Dieu! That was difficult; we have both forgotten the old Mass—but we probably got the words of the consecration close enough.” I was horrified. “So you are both priests,” I asked, “and you concelebrated that Mass?” “Yes.” “And did you take a stipend for it?” “Of course. Pourquoi pas?”

“Am I being fussy? Certainly there was no great sense of comradeship in Christ at such a concelebration. But even at the best of times, surely it is monstrous for every priest to take a stipend for one and the same Mass? Please send your comments to the Provost.

Bryan Houghton, Mitre and Crook