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Are All Churches the Same?

Notes from the Pastor [77]

(Please note this is an archival post that is decades old.  Msgr. Awalt passed away a number of years ago.)

Recently in speaking to theologians through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Father (Pope John Paul II), underscored the unique role of Christ and the Church in human salvation.  Given this age’s emphasis upon diversity, relativism and ecumenism, an old error may be creeping into our thinking that religious profession does not really make any difference  as we all worship the same God.  The Unitarians deny the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Others deny the divinity of Christ.  How can it make no difference?  Our supreme teacher, Pope John Paul II, said that Christ’s Church is the universal sacrament of salvation.  In saying this, he was only emphasizing what Vatican II taught, that the fullness of revelation is found in the Catholic Church.  Christ’s unique role in salvation is the Church’s own uniqueness.  “The Church is the sole means of salvation because it is Christ’s body, by means of which (Christ) himself works salvation throughout history.” Those in the Church have the fullness of salvific means.  The Second Vatican Council’s document on ecumenism explicitly spoke of unity “which we believe subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose.

Does this mean as Catholics we are better than others?  That is for God to judge according to the grace He gives. Does it mean we are more correct than others?  Yes.  Does this mean we have to conscientiously look for the one true Church?  Yes.  Does the phrase “as long as you are happy” become an excuse for not following the teachings of Christ as prescribed by the Catholic Church?  Of course not!

Let us be grateful to God for the undeserved grace we have been given to be faithful members of our Church.  Let us pray that others may find the light of truth and work towards unity in the Church.

Msgr. William J. Awalt

2 Responses

  1. Dear Father: With all due respect you are probably too young to have witnessed the Latin Rights of the Roman Church. Pope Benedict’s edict probably fell on deaf ears as you local ordinary ignored it as most bishops did. I do not understand why the pope is no longer listened to. I do know Vatican II gave local bishops more authority leading me to question why we even need a pope, except for symbolic reasons.

    So I assume you, Father, are not very familiar with the historic and orthodox Mass and make no attempt to offer it to your parish per the pope’s request; this was also supported by Pope John Paul II.

    Let me be clear, I do not doubt the validity of the Novus Ordo as I have attended it several times out of necessity, since my traditional church is a distance away. I believe the priest has the power to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Savior – a bloodless sacrifice as you stated; and Transubstantiation, a term no longer in the lexicon of the New Church that I have noticed. I believe most Novus Ordo Catholics do not know what it means and I have seen statistics that state many Catholics as well as some clergy, do not fully believe in this mystery.

    The last Novus Ordo church I attended was 8 December, a holyday of obligation. I had to ask someone where the tabernacle was; also there was no sanctuary lamp. The service was completely foreign to me. Midnight Mass on Christmas at this same church was actually at 10PM Christmas Eve and the church was so crowded that I had to attend in another room with a TV screen. A local nun, when asked, assured me it was valid because “they do it in the Vatican.” I have my doubts. A local popular Catholic passed away. Her funeral was quite large and everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic, was offered the sacred species. Where did this come from? Before Vatican II, I was in French speaking Quebec Canada and, with my faithful Missal, I attended the same Latin Mass down from the ages. I felt right at home. The four marks of the Church are One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. I question the “One” since the council. I also believe now when the Pope issues encyclicals, if the local bishops do not agree, they are ignored. Pope Benedict asked all priests to learn the extraordinary form of Mass and offer it to their congregations. What happened?

    FATHER JOE:

    I not only remember the traditional Latin Mass but a number of my priest friends, some younger than me, regularly offer it. Your criticism of me is misplaced and Cardinal Wuerl was very generous in allowing priests and communities that desired it to have access or faculties for it. My friend Msgr. Pope, for whom I wrote a letter of recommendation to enter the seminary many years ago (mid-1980’s) regularly offers it at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian. It has been offered (going back to the pontificate of Pope John Paul II) at St. Mary, Mother of God. Masses are offered for the Georgetown Community and at both St. Francis de Sales and St. Vincent de Paul in DC. The Archdiocese of Washington is DC and five Maryland counties. Just ten minutes away from me it is offered at St. Mary of the Assumption in Upper Marlboro, MD. It is offered at St. Francis de Sales in Benedict, MD. Also, it is celebrated at Old St. John the Evangelist Church in Silver Spring (I was down that way last night) and at St. Mary’s in Hagerstown.

    Despite your assertion, your presumption is disrespectful both toward me and to the Church. Indeed, your dismissal of the Pope as unnecessary would be rightfully regarded as heretical. The truth be said, not everyone feels an attraction to the traditional liturgy although I am personally sympathetic toward it. Many traditionalists could not understand why throngs of people did not abandon the reformed liturgies for the older ritual. Indeed, I find that older Catholics who remember it have a preference for the vernacular. The Latin Masses are largely attended by young Catholics (in their twenties and thirties). I am now officially a member of the senior citizen crowd. I made inquiry about having the Latin Mass in my parish and parishioners were resoundingly opposed. It did not matter to me because the Mass is the Mass.

    Your judgments about the Church today are misleading and seriously flawed. There has been no disavowal of the Eucharist as bread substantially changed into the risen Christ— the real presence of the body and blood of Christ. Despite your assertion, “transubstantiation” remains the doctrine of the faith. There is a substantial change but the accidentals or appearances remain the same. I know of no active priests who deny this mystery. Remarks to the contrary demonstrate both your ignorance and your bias. Pope Benedict XVI invited priests to offer the so called “extraordinary form” but he did command it. Indeed, while he rightfully applauded the beauty of the old Latin High Mass, he (himself) is a critic of how the low Mass was and is often conducted. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized: “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s true faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.” He insisted that one cannot claim true fidelity and fail to recognize the “value and holiness” of the ritual in the new liturgical books.

  2. No, the churches since Vatican II are not the same. They vary like Protestant churches, some plain and unadorned, others “high churches.”

    Before the council, all RC Churches were truly universal. A Mass somewhere in Africa was the same as in NYC, familiar and understood by all who attended— the only exceptions being the reading of the epistle, gospel and the sermon in the vernacular. I know what I am speaking of because I have witnessed these differences first hand. When you go into a new Catholic church today, you never know what the liturgy and the manner of saying Mass will be. To me, I am a stranger. This is a sad situation since the good sisters who taught me long before the council, promised the Mass would remain the same throughout time. I was also assured this in the seminary I attended. The Tridentine Mass is, indeed, “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.” It was comforting to know Pope Benedict realized this and encouraged all priests to learn and say this ancient rite. This will never happen under Pope Francis as he vilifies traditionalists.

    FATHER JOE: Many of us prefer the reformed liturgy but, just as Pope Benedict taught, would support the freedom of priests and laity to patronize the traditional Mass. The accidentals do indeed vary quite a bit; however, the mystery of Christ’s presence and saving oblation remains substantially the same. The Mass is an unbloody re-presentation of Calvary. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus Christ. I cannot say what Pope Francis will or will not allow. Nevertheless, he is the Pope and it is my hope that he will respect the aspirations and needs of God’s people. The so-called Tridentine Mass will always be a jewel in the treasury of the Church’s deposit.

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