Jen Gerson, National Post Staff | Dec 13, 2012 9:08 PM ET
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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary is warning its congregants away from a new church it believes is wrongly identifying itself as Catholic.
The St. Pius X Society — Catholic traditionalists who broke from the mainstream during the church reforms of the late ’60s — has purchased a Catholic church in the city’s Southwest.
The group, which believes in holding Latin Mass according to older liturgical rites, is renovating the building and plans to open it after a blessing ceremony to be held on Dec. 27.
This seems to have raised the ire of Calgary’s conservative bishop, Fred Henry. In September, he distributed a newsletter warning parishioners away from the city’s newest place of worship, which has been renamed St. Dennis Church.
“St. Dennis is not a Catholic church and the fact that they are identifying themselves as a Catholic church is problematic and confusing for many people,” he wrote.
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The letter went on to explain the history of the St. Pius X Society, which has included several excommunications, or expulsions from the mother church.
“The [society] has gotten more strident over time, harboring sedevacantists [a sect that denies the authority of recent Popes] and others with positions more extreme than [the society’s founder] would have tolerated,” Bishop Henry wrote.
Father Jurgen Wegner, the district superior of the St. Pius X Society in Canada, said he was surprised to see the letter, but hopes to build bridges with the bishop.
“I was a little bit surprised to see this clarification without having been contacted before by the bishop. It’s a fact that St. Pius X is a congregation with 40 years of existence.”
Jen Gerson/National PostThe recently acquired St. Dennis Church in Calgary.
During the ’60s, the church held the Second Vatican Council, which attempted to create ecclesiastical and liturgical reforms more in line with the modern era. Changes were made to certain rituals and, most notably, Mass was permitted to be held in the vernacular, rather than in Latin. These alterations proved to be controversial in some corners, giving rise to a Catholic traditionalist movement, including the St. Pius X Society.
Fr. Wegner said the modern approach to Mass is far too liberal and places too much emphasis on the individual, rather than on the importance of man serving God.
One of the changes, for example, is that the priest now faces his congregants. According to older rites, the priest should be facing the altar, his focus on worship.
“In the liturgy, if you put man in the centre, the most important thing is man. If you put God aside, that makes a big difference,” he said.
Attendance in Catholic masses has steadily declined since the ’60s, a fact Fr. Wegner attributes to the church wavering on dogma in the face of a modern onslaught. By comparison, the St. Pius X congregation is growing, he said.
‘St. Dennis is not a Catholic church and the fact that they are identifying themselves as a Catholic church is problematic’
Fr. Wegner said he doesn’t dispute any of Bishop Henry’s stances on social issues, of course.
“We’re happy he takes traditional Catholic stances, but he’s not the only bishop in the world and we can see everywhere those who would not take the same stands as the Bishop of Calgary,” he said.
“Ask, for example, for people the right of contraception, the right of abortion. That’s not the official Catholic doctrine and stand. But there are members of the Catholic church, and even in the hierarchy, who would claim these rates based on the Second Vatican Council.”
Fr. Wegner said the St. Pius X Society has about 600 adherents in Calgary; it purchased the other church because their congregation is growing and required more space. St. Dennis should be able to seat 700 people when it opens after Christmas. The church also runs a private school with 91 pupils. The growth of the church, he said, proves that some Catholics long for a more traditional approach to spirituality.
Nonetheless, Fr. Wegner said he met with Bishop Henry on a recent trip to Calgary. The meeting was amiable. The priest even invited the bishop to attend St. Dennis’ blessing ceremony.
There has been no word as to whether he will attend, but his letter appeared adamant: “Roman Catholics of the Diocese of Calgary should not attend St. Dennis Church, nor receive sacraments from any priest who is a member of the Society of Saint Pius X unless in dire emergency or danger of death,” the bishop wrote.
A traditional Catholic Mass, approved by the Diocese, is available at St. Anthony’s Parish.
Bishop Henry declined to comment on the matter.
Implementation Directives FOR THE DIOCESE OFCALGARY
ACCORDING TO THE GENERAL INSTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, 2011
The purpose of this document is to call attention to certain paragraphs in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal(GIRM) 2011 that require a change of practice for some if notall of our parishes. It also presents the decisions that I have made as Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary on certain aspects of the same.
GIRM #117 The altar is to be covered with at least one white cloth. In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration ... Likewise, on the altar or close to it, there is to be a cross adorned with a figure of Christ crucified. The candles and the cross with the figure of Christ crucified may also be carried in the procession at the Entrance. On the altar itself may be placed a Book of the Gospels distinct from the book of other readings, unless it [the Book of the Gospels] is carried in the Entrance Procession.
DIRECTIVE The general practice in the Diocese of Calgary is to place the cross and candles next to the altar rather than on the altar. If placed on the altar, the cross and candles should be positioned so as to avoid creating a barrier between the priest and the people. [KWTC: Contrary to the preferred arrangement of Pope Benedict XVI]
#162 In the distribution of Communion the Priest may be assisted by other Priests who happen to be present. If such Priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the Priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, that is, duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been duly deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion. These ministers should not approach the altar before the Priest has received Communion, and then they are always to receive from the hands of the Priest Celebrant the vessel containing the species of the most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.
#43 Where it is the practice for the people to remain kneeling after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the Priest says Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God), itis laudable for this practice to be retained.
DIRECTIVE In the Diocese of Calgary we will continue the practice of standing during the acclamation This is the Lamb of God.
#86 While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the "communitarian"character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.
DIRECTIVE The common posture of standing continues during the Communion procession and singing of the Communion song. This practice teaches us that Communion is a corporate action in which we together are drawn into the Eucharistic mystery and the life of the Trinity. Singing together helps us realize our communion together in the Risen Lord. [KWTC: In the Diocese of Calgary (and a few others in Canada) after receiving Holy Communion and returning to your pew, you are not supposed to kneel in prayer. You are supposed to remain standing and sing the Communion "song" (properly called the "chant")]
#192 Likewise, after the distribution of Communion is complete, a duly instituted acolyte helps the Priest or Deacon to purify and arrange the sacred vessels. In the absence of a Deacon, a duly instituted acolyte carries the sacred vessels to the credence table and there purifies them, wipes them and arranges them as usual.
DIRECTIVE In the Diocese of Calgary, a priest, deacon, instituted acolyte, or formally installed extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may purify the vessels. The principle here is that if you can do the greater, then you can do the lesser.