Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tantum Ergo Sacramentum


While doing my dissertation research, I made the acquaintance of an elderly laicized priest. I got in touch with him because, though not a professional scholar or musicologist, he had published an important piece of scholarship in the 1990s in a semi-obscure journal -- the only work on its subject written in English. I can't emphasize enough how invaluable his research was to my own, and I cited him copiously -- almost reverently -- in my dissertation, and sent him a copy when I was done.

He has put me on some sort of email list now, and forwards items about the usual sorts of things that appear to preoccupy elderly laicized priests -- the ordination of women and whatnot -- so I usually delete them without reading. Today, though, the subject line of his email caught my interest: "Real Presence and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration." I have a great love for the practice of adoration, so I read the email, only to find that it was the text of a recent article by Fr. Richard McBrien, well-known professor of theology at Notre Dame, in the National Catholic Reporter. McBrien's article purports to analyze the revival of interest in Eucharistic adoration, and in so doing he descends from the theologically sound -- explaining that during the Canon of the Mass, the bread and wine, though they retain the properties of bread and wine, are changed sacramentally into the body and blood of Christ -- to the insulting -- scoffing at traditional beliefs and pious practices surrounding the Blessed Sacrament. Even so, I found his concluding sentence -- "Eucharistic adoration, perpetual or not, is a doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward, not forward" -- shocking, and in fact felt almost physically ill when I read it. This sort of thing makes me wonder if the Traditionalists aren't right when they hint darkly that the priests and bishops are actively seeking to destroy the Catholic Church from within.

The irony is that the musicological work my contact did in the 1990s was on Father Hermann Cohen, a.k.a. Père Augustin-Marie du Très Saint Sacrement, who initiated the practice of perpetual adoration at Sacré Coeur in Paris.

9 comments:

Tertium Quid said...

McBrien can be counted upon to give the news media and the book reviewers reason to hope that Catholics really don't believe anything we have held to be true.

Pentimento said...

I've read him before and found him offensive, but this was almost self-parody.

Amy said...

ND disappoints again.

Maclin said...

Coming into the Church in the late '70s/early '80s required a certain setting of the jaw and gritting of the teeth if one was aware of the dominance of the McBrien school in the official and semi-official life of the Church. Things are much better now.

As for this piece by McB, I'm not even going to bother to read it. He might as well recommend that I adopt Unitarianism as that I disdain the devotion that has helped keep my faith alive.

Pentimento said...

The article is offensive, but quite banal for all of that. No need to read it.

The fact that anyone would come into a church dominated by McBrienism is a clear sign God calls souls to the truth and that He is the author of faith.

I agree with you about adoration.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I'm not going to read the article, either. There have been other pieces that have made me feel physically ill--not to mention emotionally distressed--to the point that I knew I wouldn't be able to address the errors in them without sounding like the proverbial "crazy lady." These are usually written by atheists or anti-Catholics of every stripe; I don't need one from a Catholic priest.

I shall remember Fr. McBrien the next time I go to Adoration.

Pentimento said...

Good idea, Enbrethiliel. I'm going to pray for him too.

Emily J. said...

McBrien, the old reactionary, is probably reacting to the resurgence of Adoration at Notre Dame. I've noticed in their recent fundraising material heavy rhetoric emphasizing their Catholic character, as if trying to convince those who have questioned it lately.

Brenda from Flatbush said...

I have detested McBrien for decades as an arrogant second-rater, but this is truly sickening. Eucharistic Adoration has been a floodgate of grace into my life. But by its very nature it requires a surrender and submission of the will and heart and intellect. The sort of thing Screwtape found obscene, revolting, and dangerous...the sort of thing he made sure his more intellectual patients held in bemused contempt.