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1005 K Tue 30 Jul 2002

Here is part of the homily by Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day on 28 July, as reported by the Vatican Information Service:

"If you love Jesus, love the Church! Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good!"

It has been widely reported, including on the front page of The Age.

Someone defined "immoral" as anything that you feel bad about after. It make some sense to me. If people believed something was the wrong thing to do, why would they do it? They wish to do good, whatever they understand "good" to be. Afterwards people examine their conscience and perhaps see that what they did was not good.

Its difficult to know what priests and religous are wishing. What can be observed is their actions, particularly their public actions in the liturgy. The liturgical books provide statements on how things should be done. Here are a few that I see as being widely disregarded:

"A bow of the head is made when the three diviine Persons are named, at the name of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is celebrated." (2000 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) 275a, similar instructions were in 1975 GIRM 234).

"Genuflection in the presence of the blessed sacrament exposed for public adoration is on one knee." (1984 Ceremonial of Bishps, 1103).

At the start of Mass the reader "takes his place in the sanctuary with the other ministers." (1975 GIRM 149, similarly in 2000 GIRM 195).

Not everyone failing to follow the liturgical books with do so with a bad conscience. Many would not know what the books say. But it is particularly difficult to believe that priests can be ignorant of them. They have years to learn about liturgy before their ordination.

Lots of Catholic magazines are writing about a book "Goodbye, Good Men" by Michael Rose. I have not read it. A review in AD2000 by John Webster (August, page 12) describes the central thesis as being that the priest shortage is artificial and contrived and that it is symptomatic of wider theological and liturgical problems in the Church.

It stands to reason that problems in liturgy will relate to problems in the priesthood. Say a seminarian learns that the book says the reader is to sit in the sanctuary with the priest. If this is widely ignored, what does he do? If the book is correct, a lot of people are doing the wrong thing. What does his conscience tell him? Will he follow the book or the people? The book will not decide if he is to be ordained, people will.

In the next part of the homily the VIS reports:

"You are young, the Pope is old and a bit tired," he said, as he was interrupted by participants who were exclaiming: "It's not true, the Pope is young." John Paul II then responded, improvising: "To be 82 or 83 is not the same as 22 or 23." Returning to his homily, he emphasized: "But he still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of young."

Posted by J.R. Lilburne, 30 July 2002.

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The Pope's homily of 28 July, reported by Vatican Information Service