Florida Bishop Holds Blessed Sacrament Hostage

When the two women arrived at Our Lady of the Angels chapel on Friday morning to keep their vigil with Jesus exposed for adoration, He wasn't there. Where the monstrance once had stood, there was a bare altar. "What has happened?" said one of the women, obviously puzzled. "I have been coming here to pray every Friday for years"

Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament had been held daily at the small Franciscan chapel of St. Patrick's parish in Tampa, Florida, for over a decade. However, new liturgical guidelines promulgated by Bishop Robert N. Lynch, Ordinary of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, on the first Friday of September 2000, had significantly changed Our Lady of the Angels' devotional routine.

Although the guidelines were issued by Bishop Lynch in a letter to his priests on June 12, the target date for parishes to bring their current Eucharistic devotional practices in line with the new orders was September 1, the date the Eucharistic Lord was removed from Our Lady of the Angels. When the people heard the news, they were stunned.

The immediate reaction to the restrictive nature of the guidelines is one of surprise because it goes against an ever growing, world wide movement that sees perpetual Eucharistic adoration on the rise. Pope John Paul II, who began daily Eucharistic exposition in St. Peter's in Rome, has repeatedly called for the practice to be instituted in parishes wherever possible. So persistent is he that he's known as the "defender and apostle of Eucharistic adoration." He refers to the devotion as a precious element of Catholic heritage, "in full accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council." Therefore it's no wonder both priests and people were shocked by the guidelines and remain in a state of confusion over them.

The Guidelines.

The guidelines themselves are self-serving and intellectually dishonest. Selective quotations from Church documents are arranged to create a tone that implies Exposition/Adoration is misunderstood, is harmful to the communitarian worship of the Church, does not conform to the "new" theology and should be strictly limited. The message that emerges is Eucharistic exposition is not "the mind of the Church." One area of the document that is particularly onerous is the attempt to render the Real Presence of Christ less distinctive. The guidelines twice speak of the Second Vatican Council as recovering the "early Church's understanding of the multiple presence's of Christ in the liturgy."

The overall thrust of the "theology for the third millennium" is designed to convince people that Christ's presence in the Consecrated host is no different from His fourfold presence in His word, prayer, i.e., "where two or three are gathered in my name," the sacraments, i.e., Mass, and the priest.

This dilution of the sacrament directly contradicts constant Church teaching. After affirming the fourfold presence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states "...But 'He is present...most especially in the Eucharistic species." (# 1373) Eucharistiae Sacramentum,, promulgated by the Holy See 21 June, 1973, declares Christ is present in the Eucharistic species "in a manner altogether unique, God and man, whole and entire, substantially and continuously."

If there is no difference between Christ's presence in people gathered for prayer (which the modernist refer to as the gathered assembly), at Sunday Mass and the Consecrated host, Exposition becomes idolatry. In order to teach a concept of equality among equals, Christ's Real Presence exposed in the monstrance for adoration would need to be severely curtailed.

Acknowledging that exposition "allows a parish community the opportunity to meditate more deeply on the mystery of the Eucharist," Bishop Lynch recommends an "annual" event maybe celebrated on a parish's anniversary.

The intimidation factor...

Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (hereafter abbreviated as HCWEOM) is a frequently quoted document referenced in the guidelines, the full reading of which does not in any way reflect the restrictive nature of the bishops' mandate. His guidelines claim "the clear intention of these documents is that exposition...is not perpetual." HCWEOM does not say that.

Similarly the guidelines state "the directives for exposition are explicit," and names a number of requirements such as music, scripture, preaching, prayer and "liturgical ministers (at least a musician and a leader)." While the rules governing exposition are explicit, they contain nothing that is not already done or that is not easily accomplished. Furthermore, there is no mention of needing "liturgical ministers and leaders." In fact HCWEOM makes it clear the devotion is easily handled by priest and people, even going so far as to include a Model Service in the appendix of the 1976 referenced book.

Instead, HCWEOM states "lay men and women such as those in an association devoted to Eucharistic adoration upon appointment by the local Ordinary, "may publicly expose and later repose the Holy Eucharist for the adoration of the faithful." Were the faithful even aware that they could form such associations? Do they know the Pontifical Council for the Laity has granted persons the right to establish such groups specifically for the purpose of perpetual Eucharistic exposition/adoration in accord with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and Canon Law #304, 1-2. In regard to the perpetuity of exposition, the International Association for Perpetual Exposition says the practice of such associations to continuos, perpetual exposition (365 days a year), is not limited to such but states "a small parish may be only able to maintain (exposition) two or three days a week. This is to be considered preferable to any other arrangement." Bishop Lynch acknowledges that people are advocating perpetual exposition. However, not only does he fail to inform his people of their rights of association, but he dishonestly claims "the general understanding of the Church is that this type of exposition is not to be the normal and continuous pattern in the parish."

If there appears to be one saving grace in the entire document it is that Bishop Lynch has said parishes may seek to have the guidelines rescinded, but only under certain conditions, conditions remarkable for their peculiar inattention to Church teaching.

Looking for answers.

The laity in St. Petersburg, in Tampa and the surrounding environs are looking for answers to explain this extraordinary action on the part of their bishop. No one can ever remember a bishop disallowing regular worship of Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the exposed host.

Some of the faithful are attributing this turn of events to their recent diocesan Liturgical workshop, Gather On Sunday, Liturgical Life for the New Millennium. (1/20/00). The keynote speaker was Los Angeles' Cardinal Roger Mahony, who presented his vision of liturgy for the coming millennium. Those Catholics who have studied Cardianl Mahony's 1997 pastoral letter, Gather Faithfully Together, find in it a remarkable resemblance to Bishop Lynch's document. The conditions that must be fulfilled before regular Eucharistic exposition is returned to St. Petersburg's parishes are nearly identical to those mandated for Sunday worship in Cardinal Mahony's diocese.

Mahony: "...such was the need to assemble the Church and make the Eucharist." GFT, p., 20.

Lynch: "...a parish's first priority is well-planned and well-celebrated Masses."

Mahony: "...in fact they (the people) are turning toward each other, becoming conscious of each other's presence." GFT, P. 40.

Lynch: "...are they (the people) as respectful and reverent towards Christ's presence in the gathered Body...as...to...Christ in the Sacrament?"

Mahony: "...parishes are strongly urged to use bread for the Eucharist that more closely resembles bread. Recipes ...are available." GFT. P. 196.

Lynch: "Does the eucharistic bread look like bread?"

Mahony: "Our more careful planning helps us avoid taking from the tabernacle hosts consecrated at a previous Mass because we have given thanks over this bread and wine on this altar." GFT, p. 139. Lynch: "Does the parish carefully prepare enough communion for the gathered assembly instead of routinely going to the tabernacle?"

Careful observance should be given to the last two entries. Students of GFT will note the heavy emphasis in Cardinal Mahony's pastoral on the community giving thanks, almost exclusive of offering sacrifice, and his references to consecrated hosts as this "bread," and "wine" on this altar, which Bishop Lynch's guidelines parrot.

With all the cathedrals and churches which have been robbed of tabernacle, crucifix and Catholic character, the laity have every reason to be jittery. If there is nothing to reserve and no exposition of the Eucharistic Christ, what need is there for tabernacles? The rubrics demand a tabernacle in all churches, but rubrics are being routinely discarded in both Cardinal Mahony's and Bishop Lynch's documents.

In addition to the Mahony/Lynch look-a-likes, Bishop Lynch also demands, in return for the Lord, the people "reflect on their practices during the communion rite and their commitment of time and money to social services." Basically, what is happening is Bishop Lynch is holding the Blessed Sacrament hostage. He is rendering Christ exposed inaccessible to the people's worship until they practice a form of the Mass that is theologically unsound and dangerously flawed. He has no authority to make such demands upon the faithful.

A bishop who attempts to withhold the Eucharist from the people until they conform to his ideas about the Church, has abdicated his apostolic role as Father, shepherd and teacher, and gives scandal to the Church. "For all the bishops have the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of the faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church." Lumen Gentium, no. 23. Long ago, the late Bishop Fulton Sheen prophetically warned, "the laity will have to save the Church." That day has come for the St. Petersburg Diocese. Roman Catholics throughout America should join in prayers for a propitious outcome of this crisis.

[Oct/Nov 2000 edition of The Catholic Advocate P.M.B. 346, 9378 Arlington Expw., Jacksonville, Fl 32225.]

More Troubles for St. Petersburg

In addition to the new guidelines, the St. Petersburg diocese may be in for even rougher days ahead. Fr. Richard Vosko, a Liturgical Design consultant, has been a recent visitor in the diocese. Fr. Vosko, a priest from the Albany diocese, is known as the "wreckovator" for having removed all traces of Catholicity from any number of cathedrals and parish churches in the nation. Not only is he a consultant on Cardinal Mahony's multi-million dollar plus, new Cathedral, dubbed the "Rog Mahal," but he has been hired by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the remodeling of their historic cathedral.

Accompanying Bishop Lynch's guidelines are orders "for building or remodeling worship spaces," titled Building a House for Every Age. The order will employ the use of Environment and Art in Catholic Worship. EACW, the US. Bishop's 1978 Committee paper, which lacks official Vatican approval, has been wielded as a weapon against the Faith for over two decades.

EACW has turned sanctuaries into buildings resembling airplane hangars or barns in an effort to direct the people's attention to the community rather than the majestic and awe inspiring worship of God. Bishop Lynch's architectural guidelines go "into effect immediately."

Why the big rush? Could it be because the NCCB is preparing to vote on a replacement document to EACW, Domus Dei (House of God), at their November meeting? One final item: Archbishop Rembert Weakland, OSB, of Milwaukee, WI, will be the keynote speaker at the diocesan 2001 Liturgy conference, March 7th. His topic? Liturgy as Art: The Art of Celebration for the Third Millennium.

One diocesan priest is already prepared. Fr. Thomas L. Madden, pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes, Dunedin, FL, in his August 27th bulletin writes "in the place of the tabernacle (in the Oratory), I will be placing a piece of liturgical art that will be conductive to prayer and reflection." It appears the people of the St. Petersburg diocese will have much to reflect upon in the coming days.

[Oct/Nov 2000 edition of The Catholic Advocate P.M.B. 346, 9378 Arlington Expw., Jacksonville, Fl 32225.]