Following on from my article on Legal and Moral – a Vital Distinction, another phenomenon came to my mind as I was writing a comment to Fr Gray’s article The Language of Canaan. It is a widespread way of thinking among many of our Catholic brethren, both in and out of communion with Rome.
It took me while to begin to analyse the reasons behind some of the odd views of some people. I came across this question on a traditional Catholic blog.
Can a priest wear a chasuble and other vestments for a traditional Latin Mass that were previously used in an Anglican Catholic Church for their services? I am not sure if it is permitted to use such vestments.
I would be tempted to answer in a cynical fashion and allude to the medieval Inquisition and exorcisms of objects as somehow inhabited by evil spirits. As it stands, its represents the opinion of a number of Catholic lay people and occasionally even of priests and seminarians, who should know better. In philsophical terms, like the confusion between law and morality, it is a failure to distinguish between law and ontology. It is the essence of the heresy of Donatism, saying amongst other things that illegal Sacraments (or Sacraments conferred outside the canonical limits of the Church) are invalid. It is also the basis of Feeneyism, that rigorous idea according to which we would have to conclude that the only souls inhabiting Heaven are those who were in their earthly life formally and canonically members of the Roman Catholic Church, and that the analogical notions of Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood are invalid. That erroneous opinion was condemned by the Holy Office in 1949.
In the question above, we have the notion of vestments that have somehow been profaned or abused by “heretical worship” and unfit for Catholic use. The answer to this question is situated at a disciplinary level. Whenever liturgical materials (vestments, chalices, etc.) are sold and bought, even from “kosher” Catholic sources, it is usual to bless them for liturgical use as if they were new or never used. It is said that a chalice and paten are consecrated by simply using them for Mass, though there is a special rite in the Pontifical involving anointing the chalice and paten with the Holy Chrism. Using an item that has not been blessed is not sacrilege, though it is better to use the blessings of the Church whenever possible.
A priest in a concentration camp would have had no scruple saying Mass with any object capable of containing liquid, some wine bribed out of the guards, a piece of ordinary bread, and no altar or vestments. Mass in such circumstances is not only not wrong, but an act of heroism. On the other hand, if we have the required objects and vestments, it would be wrong not to use them. The Sacrament and the Mass would still be valid, but sinful through a despising attitude in regards to what the Church requires in disciplinary terms.
The title of this article means "wrong in one thing, wrong in everything". Anglo Catholics are often stigmatised as “false Catholics” by Catholic folk, not only because they are not “in the Church", but because they might believe or do some things at variance with usual Catholic belief and practice. There was the old story about the storming of the Cathar stronghold of Montsegur in the middle ages. The question was put to the Inquisition about how one could distinguish between orthodox Catholics and heretics. The answer was Burn them all and God will know his own. In other words, all the people in the castle were “infected”.
Another fallacy we often find is guilt by association. This is the reflection of someone for whom the entire Church is discredited through a minority of iniquitous priests who abuse children. The Nazis used this ploy to condemn all the categories of people they wanted to exterminate.
I ask both Catholics welcoming us into the formal and canonical communion of the Church and our own to reflect very carefully before saying regrettable things or asking regrettable questions, which can cause very intensely hurt feelings and hamper the unity process (the Church is one ontologically, but divided in her human members) between Anglican Catholics and Latin Rite Catholics. We all have much to learn and many prejudices to undo.
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