An Internet surfer looking for information on Catholic liturgy will find muddy waters when arriving at the Austrian Diocese of Linz´ official website. This surfer will find a "Liturgical Marketplace" with questionable contents which are now causing great concern among loyal Catholics. The "marketplace" is supervised by Father Arno Jungreithmair and laypeople Erwin Haslinger, Maria Haslinger and Johann Stockhammer, one of its goals being "the exchange of liturgical impulses"."These impulses should support and encourage those engaged in liturgical activities and give them suggestions for their work. These impulses are meant to be relatively new - they haven´t been taken from published documents".
A special cause for concern can be found in the category "Models for Women´s Sermons". In a "Sermon Help Notes" (issue 33/2004) lay Pastoral Assistant Alexandra Freinthaler writes: "God is mankind´s good shepherdess, her wisdom is larger than this world´s, nobody can take from her those whom she has adopted in love. God and me, we are one, in our love, in our devotion to love every person in this world. We are fire and flame for mankind, we follow and protect them on all their ways - be they straight or not". In the "Final Prayer" Ms Freinthaler writes: "May the Holy Spirit (using here an artificial German word denoting the feminine form for Spirit - "Heilige Geistin", the translator), the one that wakes you up in the morning with a kiss and stands by you, through all your ups and downs, bless you"
The divine Ruakh...
Lay Pastoral Assistant Claudia Zethofer opened First Sunday of Lent´s Mass
in 2002 with this "Prayer": "We begin this service in the name of the divine
Power who created all Beauty in this world. In the name of Jesus Christ who
opened our eyes to the love that is in us and around us. In the name of the
Holy Spirit - of the divine Ruakh. She unites us and keeps us together."
Another project irritates many Catholics. A newly edited "Women´s Lectionary" with alternative Bible readings, which has been tested in 20 parishes for a period of 3 years, was presented during an official study day sponsored by the Diocese.
Gender-inclusive language and liturgical vestments
The pages with the "Women´s Sermons Notes" are managed by a committee called "Liturgical Reform from Women´s Perspective". This group is composed by members of the Diocesan Women´s Commission and offers workshops with titles such as "On Sisters, Female Disciples & The Like". Their goal is achieving "a gender-inclusive language in Liturgy" and "granting woman an appropriate place in the services (according to their role, including liturgical vestments)".
Ultimate goal: Equality of rights for women in Church
Behind these liturgical experiments is the official diocesan Women´s Commission and its stated goal of "making again women visible in Church ". Such projects bring this goal´s accomplishment nearer by reaching a factual equality of "rights" for women in the Church. The Commission´s Website states: "This institutional basis means a special challenge for the Church Hierarchy and the Women´s Commission because it expresses the wish for structural changes and ultimately the factual equality of men and women in the Church".
The website goes further: "We should not make the mistake of taking some positive changes, such as the creation of a Women´s Commission and the existence of an official Woman´s Representative in the Diocese, as a sign that structural injustices relating to gender issues have been solved". As examples of this "injustice" the site mentions the exclusion of women from the offices of Deacon and Priest and the fact that conclusions taken from Feminist Theology are classified as irrelevant.
The Vatican: Sermons are a prerogative of Priests and Deacons"
The Instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum", issued by the Vatican in Spring
2004 has clear words for these liturgical experiments. A sermon made by a
layperson is not accepted: "As was already noted above, the homily on
account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the Priest or Deacon
during Mass" (161)
The new Instruction may be read as a "Mirror of Conscience", says the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, in a statement dated from April 2004. It poses some "critical questions to all baptized people in the Church, specially to priests and bishops. Yes, even bishops should ask themselves if they haven´t forgotten to do their "homework" and looked away (from liturgical abuses, the translator)".
Believers have the right of a proper Church-approved Liturgy
Cardinal Schönborn, who is also Austrian Bishop´s Conference President,
stressed that believers have the right "of a proper liturgy celebrated
according to the Church norms and not to services based on subjective
feelings". The instruction has a legal character, says Cardinal Schönborn,
and this character can be felt in the language it uses. "You read often
about "abuses that must be stopped".
Reliable sources informed KATH.NET that the Congregation for Liturgy and the Sacraments in Rome could well take a closer look at the liturgical abuses in the Diocese of Linz. Protest letters and queries on this subject have already been sent to Rome, and it will probably also be discussed at the Austrian Bishops Conference´s next meeing. KATH.NET has asked several Austrian Bishops for their opinion on this matter and will keep you informed.
Translation by Jose Martins
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Foto: (c) KATH.NET-Archiv; Liturgical abuse in a Parish of Wels (St. Franziskus)
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