Serve The Lord With Joy

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

‘No fear’ among Spanish bishops over upcoming meeting with Pope Francis about seminaries

null / Credit: Cathopic

ACI Prensa Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 18:30 pm (CNA).

The spokesman for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference said that “there is no fear” among the bishops regarding their upcoming meeting with Pope Francis.

Christian school sues Vermont after ban from sports league over transgender policy

Mid Vermont Christian School is suing the state over a ban from athletic competitions due to the school's transgender policy. / Credit: Mid Vermont Christian School

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

A Christian school based in Vermont filed a lawsuit against state officials after the school was banned from participating in the state’s sports leagues and a tuition program because of its policies related to transgender athletes.

The lawsuit, filed by Mid Vermont Christian School, a K–12 school in the town of Quechee, argues that the ban is a violation of the school’s First Amendment rights. It asks the court to readmit the school into the sports league and allow the school to participate in the tuition program.

Mid Vermont Christian School was banned from participating in the sports league earlier this year after its girls basketball team refused to participate in a playoff game against Long Trail School because the team’s roster included a biological male who identifies as a girl. Mid Vermont Christian chose to forfeit the game due to concerns about fairness and safety.

“The biological male on Long Trail’s team is taller than any girl on Mid Vermont Christian’s team,” the lawsuit states. “Available video of the biological male playing basketball, which showed the athlete repeatedly blocking girls’ shots, throwing elbows, and knocking girls down further underscored Mid Vermont Christian’s concerns.”

In response, the Vermont Principals’ Association expelled Mid Vermont Christian from sports participation, claiming that the school’s decision to forfeit the game violates the VPA’s policies related to gender identity, which bans “discrimination based on a student’s actual or perceived sex and gender.”

“Mid Vermont Christian school is ineligible to participate in VPA activities going forward,” the expulsion letter read.

Vermont’s Agency of Education subsequently refused to recognize Mid Vermont Christian School as an approved independent school, which prevented the school from participating in the state’s Town Tuitioning Program. The lawsuit argues that the school meets all requirements to access the program except for its refusal to adhere to the state’s nondiscrimination policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which the school says violates its religious beliefs.

“Vermont has an infamous record of discriminating against religious schools and families, whether it be withholding generally available public funding or denying them membership in the state’s sports league because they hold religious beliefs that differ from the state’s preferred views,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Ryan Tucker, who is representing the school in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

“The state’s unlawful exclusion of Mid Vermont Christian from participating in the tuition program and athletic association is the latest example of state officials trampling on constitutionally protected rights,” added Tucker, who serves as the director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “And egregiously, Vermont continues its blatant discrimination against religious schools despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Carson v. Makin that the government cannot exclude families from public benefits just because they choose religious education for their children.”

The lawsuit argues that the state agencies’ actions violate the First Amendment on several grounds, which include the school’s freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. It also claims that the actions constitute unconstitutional retaliation and violate the 14th Amendment’s implied right of parents to control the upbringing of their children, based on prior Supreme Court precedent.

Two families whose children are enrolled in the school also joined the lawsuit, claiming that they and their children have been negatively impacted by the state’s actions, which they say violate the Constitution.

“The students who choose to attend Mid Vermont Christian are currently losing out on valuable tuition reimbursement and being excluded from playing competitive sports and participating in academic competitions … whom we represent in this case,” ADF legal counsel Jake Reed said in a statement. “Vermont, through its education agency and sports association, has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination by requiring a Christian school and its students to surrender their religious beliefs and practices in order to receive public funds and compete in sports.”

Neither the Agency of Education nor the Vermont Principals’ Association responded to a request for comment from CNA.

Jewish, Muslim groups call for religious liberty protections in Catholic school lawsuit

The Hall of Justice building in downtown Lansing is home to the Supreme Court of Michigan. / Credit: Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

A Jewish group and an Islamic advocacy team have weighed in on a Catholic school’s challenge of a Michigan anti-discrimination law, calling for religious liberty protections to be upheld by the appeals court hearing the case.

In July 2022 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity were protected categories under a 1976 Michigan anti-discrimination statute, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish and its school, Sacred Heart Academy, in Grand Rapids, filed a lawsuit last December arguing that the new interpretation of the law would require schools to impose strict policies and practices enforcing non-Catholic views of sexual orientation and gender identity. They also argued the law would ban catechesis about marriage and the sexes and force the school and parish to hire staff who “lead lives in direct opposition to the Catholic faith.”

A district court tossed out the lawsuit earlier this year, stating the school lacked standing to bring the challenge. The attorney general’s office has not yet issued any legal warnings or brought any complaints to the school under the court’s reinterpretation of state law. 

The parish and school filed an appealarguing that it was entitled to “pre-enforcement standing” even if the state had not yet moved to enforce the new interpretation.

Last week, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — a religious freedom legal advocacy group representing the Catholic plaintiffs in the case — revealed that a Jewish group and Muslim advocacy team had filed a brief urging the appeals court to preserve key protections for religious groups regardless of how it otherwise rules in the suit.

The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, with the Religious Freedom Institute’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, filed the brief “in support of neither party,” with the groups stating that they “take no position on which party should prevail in this specific appeal.” 

Rather, the groups said, they wrote “to address one question and one alone: whether the First Amendment protects religious groups’ authority and autonomy to decide which roles and responsibilities should be limited to coreligionists.”

The petitioners sought to “aid the court’s understanding of the coreligionist exemption and to explain the deleterious effect that a limitation or revocation of that right would have on religious groups in general and on minority religious groups in particular.”

The “exemption” in question, the filing said, “[defers] to religious organizations’ own determination of which roles and responsibilities are so tied to the group’s religious mission that they may be filled only by fellow believers.” 

It is a “well-established” principle, they wrote, one that has “been consistently recognized by all three branches of the federal government.”

The brief argued that “regardless of which party prevails in this appeal,” the court should “make clear … the importance of the coreligionist exemption and its protection of the right of religious groups to make religiously-informed decisions” in directing their own institutions.

In a news release, ADF senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy John Bursch said Michigan “is forcing Sacred Heart to make an unconstitutional and unconscionable choice between teaching and practicing the Catholic faith or closing their doors forever.”

“We and the groups that have filed briefs in support of our clients are urging the 6th Circuit to allow their lawsuit to continue so they can take steps toward serving their community without fear of government punishment,” Bursch said.

ADF noted that the Grand Rapids parish was founded more than a century ago by Polish immigrants. 

UPDATE: Indiana Catholic women’s college now accepting men who identify as women

Le Mans Hall at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. / Credit: Stand Still Photo/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Nov 27, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).

Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana — historically a school for undergraduate women — will now be accepting men who identify as women.

The school’s president confirmed the change to students and faculty in an email last week. The college also updated its nondiscrimination policy in June and referenced the new policy there.

The nondiscrimination policy, which was approved by its board of trustees, says that Saint Mary’s “considers admission for undergraduate applicants whose sex is female or who consistently live and identify as women.”

There are 32 individuals listed on the school’s board of trustees, along with one trustee emeritus. The list includes six religious sisters of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the order that founded the college in the 1840s. Additionally, two priests, one Jesuit and one Congregation of Holy Cross father, also serve on the board.

The policy says that graduate programs are “open to all” and that the school’s admission policies “are informed by Title IV of the Education Amendments of 1972, which allows for single sex admission policies in institutions that have historically served women.”

The school’s mission is to “empower women, through education, at all stages in life,” the school says. “Essential to this mission is fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus experience.”

In a Nov. 21 email, the college’s president, Katie Conboy, said to students and faculty that the school is “by no means the first Catholic women’s college to adopt a policy with this scope,” the Washington Examiner reported.

She added that admitting men who identify as women “encompasses our commitment to operate as a Catholic women’s college.”

The school is still determining the “practices that will follow from the policy,” the email reportedly said.

Conboy put together a “President’s Task Force for Gender Identity and Expression” earlier this year that will be making recommendations for housing policies, the school’s student paper, The Observer, reported last week.

In a statement on Monday, Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades said he had learned of the policy change last week and that he found it "disappointing that I, as bishop of the diocese in which Saint Mary’s College is located, was not included or consulted on a matter of important Catholic teaching."

"To call itself a 'women’s college' and to admit male students who 'consistently live and identify as women' suggests that the college affirms an ideology of gender that separates sex from gender and claims that sexual identity is based on the subjective experience of the individual," Rhoades said. "This ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching."

"The desire of Saint Mary’s College to show hospitality to people who identify as transgender is not the problem," the bishop said in the statement. "The problem is a Catholic woman’s college embracing a definition of woman that is not Catholic."

The prelate urged the school to "correct its admissions policy in fidelity to the Catholic identity and mission it is charged to protect."

When news broke last week of the policy change, meanwhile, the school received backlash online.

“Just found out my alma mater [Saint Mary’s], an all-women’s Catholic college, will be accepting BIOLOGICAL MEN starting next fall,” one online post on X said. “This decision is blasphemous & a complete rejection of the Church and its teachings on gender and sexuality.”

“[Catholics] we have an issue here!! Don’t allow your child to go to this school!! [Saint Mary’s] Shame on YOU!” another post said.

“My Alma Mater. I’m disgusted,” another post said.

Patrick Reilly, the president of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to promoting faithful Catholic education, told CNA Monday that Saint Mary’s College “needs to reverse course” on its policy. 

“Catholics, and most especially Catholic educators, need to have the courage to speak the truth about gender and even to suffer for it,” he said. 

“The consequences of false gender identity and bodily mutilation are dire, and we need our bishops and laity to firmly oppose institutions embracing gender ideology, especially schools and colleges that claim to be Catholic,” he continued.

“Saint Mary’s needs to reverse course for the very same reason that presumably led to its misguided policy: compassion for confused students. Embracing false gender identities does students great harm, and a school or college that does so is no less confused and perhaps deliberately false about its Catholic identity.”

Reilly also said that the college is being “disingenuous” in its citing of federal law, “which has strong exemptions for religious education and is subject to the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.”

“It is almost as if Saint Mary’s wants to publicly acknowledge it is not in fact religious, or at least it has no intention of upholding and teaching Catholic doctrine. Perhaps the college should be forthright in saying so to its bishop and Catholic families,” he said.

In a statement to CNA on Monday, Lisa Knox, a spokeswoman for the college, said that “in today’s environment, we needed to clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive.”

“When the college’s board of trustees approved an update to the school’s policy in June, it included a shift in our language about who we will consider for admission as well as about how we will support employees across the continuum of gender expression,” she said.

Knox said that the timing of the decision was “driven by changes” to the College Board’s Common Application, which is an online form that prospective college students can fill out to apply to many different institutions.

Some of those changes in the application include the ability for students to choose “F, M, or X” for one’s legal sex, Knox said. 

She added that the change has “created challenges” for single-sex colleges “that are trying to be inclusive while maintaining their status as women’s or men’s institutions.”

Knox said that the board of trustees “reflected carefully” on its role as a Catholic institution and “what it means to be an inclusive educator of women in society today,” adding that it sought guidance from other female-only Catholic colleges “that had already updated their own policies.”

“We are not on the leading edge for a change of this type,” she said.

Knox said that the board of trustees and college leadership foresaw disagreement that would come from some parents, alumnae, and current students, adding that “many have reached out to express their concerns and others who support the more-inclusive policy have written and called to let the college know.”

“Our leadership will always go back to our founding mission, to respond to the needs of the times. In today’s environment, we needed to clarify our nondiscrimination policy to be more inclusive,” she said.

Saint Mary’s College isn’t the only single-sex Catholic college that has announced it will be accepting individuals of the opposite sex. 

The all-female College of Saint Benedict and the all-male Saint John’s University in Minnesota say on their joint website that they “support every student’s right to self-identification” and are dedicated to “creating spaces that allow women, men, and those who do not identify within the binary,” including “transgender, nonbinary, gender-fluid, and gender-nonconforming individuals.”

The College of Saint Benedict will accept applications from males or females who “consistently live and identify as female, transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary.”

Saint John’s University, meanwhile, will accept applications from males or females who “consistently live and identify as male, transgender, gender fluid, or nonbinary.”

In March, Pope Francis called gender ideology “one of the most dangerous ideological colonizations.”

“Why is it dangerous? Because it blurs differences and the value of men and women,” he added.

“All humanity is the tension of differences. It is to grow through the tension of differences. The question of gender is diluting the differences and making the world the same, all dull, all alike, and that is contrary to the human vocation,” he said.

This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 with a statement from Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades.

Giorgia Meloni condemns vandalism of pro-life center in Rome

Demonstrators threw smoke bombs, smashed windows, and spray-painted pro-abortion graffiti on the Pro Vita & Famiglia association’s main office in Rome on Nov. 25, 2023, despite the presence of Italian police at the protest. / Credit: Courtesy of Pro Vita & Famiglia

Rome Newsroom, Nov 27, 2023 / 12:49 pm (CNA).

The Italian prime minister has condemned the vandalism of a pro-life organization’s headquarters in Rome perpetrated during a protest.

Papal aide relays Pope Francis’ remarks at Sunday Angelus while pope recovers from flu

Pope Francis and Mons. Paolo Braida during the Sunday Angelus address, Nov. 26 / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 26, 2023 / 07:21 am (CNA).

During this week’s Sunday Angelus, marking the end of the liturgical year and the observance of the solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis spoke not from the window of the Apostolic Palace but via livestream from the chapel of his residence Casa Santa Marta. 

On Saturday morning the Holy See Press Office announced that the Holy Father had canceled all of his appointments due to a “mild” flu. He was later admitted to Gemelli Isola Hospital in Rome to undergo precautionary testing, including a CT scan, to test for “pulmonary complications,” which “gave a negative result,” a Holy See press release said. 

During the live transmission on Sunday, the Holy Father lamented that he was too sick to read the Angelus himself. 

“Today I can’t look out the window because I have this lung inflammation problem,” the pope said. 

Reading the address was Monsignor Paolo Braida, a close collaborator of the pope who opened with a reflection on the final judgment of man seen in today’s Gospel. 

The “final judgment,” Braida noted, “will be based on charity,” and it is charity that sits at the heart of the solemnity of Christ the King, which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 with his encyclical Quas Primas

The address focused on those seated next to Jesus enthroned. It is by looking at them that we can outline the different criteria for those who are with a king, highlighting the difference between a spiritual and worldly logic.

For Jesus, “the blessed,” or the “friends” gathered around him, are not the rich and famous, not the people of a high court, as one would expect of a royal entourage, but rather “they are those who have served the weakest people. This is because the Son of Man is a completely different king, who calls the poor ‘brethren,’ who identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the outsiders, the sick, the imprisoned.” 

In this way Jesus introduces a radically different notion of kingship that does not correspond to worldly logic and associations. Instead, these individuals surrounding Jesus “are those who respond to these forms of poverty with love, with service: not by turning away, but by giving food and drink, clothing, sheltering, visiting; in a word, by being close to those in need.”

In this way, the court of Jesus “the King” who “calls himself the Son of Man” is composed of the community of believers who operate from “compassion, mercy, tenderness.” 

During the address, Braida mentioned the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, or the Great Ukrainian Famine, the manmade famine that starved millions of Ukrainian people under Soviet rule from 1932–1933. 

“That lacerating wound, instead of healing, is made even more painful by the atrocities of the war that continues to make those dear people suffer. For all the peoples torn apart by conflicts, we continue to pray tirelessly, because prayer is the force of peace that breaks the spiral of hatred, breaks the cycle of revenge, and opens unexpected paths of reconciliation.” 

Braida also noted that a short-term truce had been reached between Israel and Hamas in the war between the two, which saw some of the hostages freed. 

“Let’s pray that everyone will be freed as soon as possible — let’s think of their families! — that more humanitarian aid enters Gaza and that we insist on dialogue: It is the only way, the only way to have peace. Those who don’t want to dialogue, don’t want peace.”

In a prisoner exchange, which was the result of a joint brokerage by Qatar and Egypt, 39 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel and Hamas released 13 Israelis, the New York Times reported. 

“Our world is threatened by another great danger, the climate one, which puts life on earth at risk, especially future generations. And this is contrary to the plan of God, who created everything for life,” the appeal continued. 

Braida reiterated that Pope Francis would be attending the U.N. COP28 climate conference as previously announced, which will be held in Dubai. The Holy Father is expected to be present at the conference for three days, from Friday, Dec. 1, to Sunday, Dec. 3. 

Catholics can receive a plenary indulgence by praying before a Nativity scene 

null / Alexander Hoffmann / Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Nov 25, 2023 / 08:00 am (CNA).

This year, Catholics will be able to receive a plenary indulgence from Dec. 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to Feb. 2, 2024, the feast of the Presentation in the Temple of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by praying before a Nativity scene in a Franciscan church.

Earlier this year, on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the faithful gathered at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, to honor the beloved Italian saint and celebrate the 800th anniversary of the approval of the Rule of St. Francis (1223) and the creation of the Nativity scene in Greccio.

As part of the celebration of this Franciscan Centenary, the Conference of the Franciscan Family asked Pope Francis for the approval of this plenary indulgence.

The conference wrote: “In order to promote the spiritual renewal of the faithful and increase the life of grace, we ask that the faithful receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions from 8 December 2023, the solemnity of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to 2 February 2024, feast of the Presentation in the Temple of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by visiting the churches run by Franciscan families throughout the world and stopping in prayer in front of the Nativity scenes set up there.”

The Apostolic Penitentiary welcomed the request, allowing the faithful to receive this indulgence under the usual conditions.

Those who are sick or unable to participate physically can obtain the indulgence by offering their sufferings up to the Lord or by “carrying out practices of piety.”

What is a plenary indulgence?

A plenary indulgence is a grace granted by the Catholic Church through the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary, and all the saints to remove the temporal punishment due to sin. The indulgence cleanses a person of all temporal punishment due to sin. However, it must always be accompanied by a full detachment from sin. 

Conditions to receive a plenary indulgence in all cases:

  1. Detachment from all sin, even venial.

  2. Sacramental confession, holy Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the pope. Sacramental confession and receiving the Eucharist can happen up to about 20 days before or after the act performed to receive a plenary indulgence. 

It is appropriate that Communion and the prayer take place on the same day that the work is completed. One sacramental confession is sufficient for several plenary indulgences. However for each plenary indulgence one wishes to receive, a separate reception of the Eucharist and a separate prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father are required.

Christ the King: Pope Pius XI’s hope for ‘lasting peace among the nations’

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 21, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Nov 25, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Every year on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Catholic Church observes the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — also known as the feast of Christ the King — a relatively recent addition to the Church’s liturgical calendar, instituted just under a century ago by Pope Pius XI. 

In his 1925 encyclical Quas Primas, Pius XI argued that the “manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives” and that “as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations.” 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops notes on its website that, around the time of Pius XI’s encyclical, “in Mexico, Russia, and some parts of Europe, militantly secularistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful but civilization itself.”

Indeed, just several years before Quas Primas, the Bolsheviks in Russia had executed the October Revolution, which touched off a series of events that would ultimately lead to the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922. The Soviet government would establish itself as an explicitly secular state and implement severe restrictions on religious freedom and aggressive persecution of religious believers in the coming decades.

Amid those upheavals and turbulent regime changes, Pope Pius XI in his encyclical argued that “men must look for the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ.”

To that end, Pius XI announced “the insertion into the Sacred Liturgy of a special feast of the kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” which he hoped would be “attended with much fruit and produce beneficial results in the future.”

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Cathedral of Asti, in northern Italy, for the solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Cathedral of Asti, in northern Italy, for the solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Jesus, Pope Pius XI said, had long been accorded the title of “King” due to “the metaphorical title of ‘King,’ because of the high degree of perfection whereby he excels all creatures” but also in “the strict and proper sense too.” 

Pius went on: “For it is only as man that he may be said to have received from the Father ‘power and glory and a kingdom,’ since the Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created.”

That Christ’s blessings may be spread as abundantly as possible, “it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood,” Pius XI wrote; to that end, “nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the kingship of Christ.”

“If we ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as king,” the pope wrote, “we shall minister to the need of the present day and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society.”

The pope established the feast as falling on the last Sunday of the month of October. In his 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis, Pope Paul VI approved the new Roman Universal Calendar, creating the norms by which the final Sunday in Ordinary Time is celebrated as the yearly observance of the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is the final Sunday of the liturgical year, the last Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent.

In a 2021 homily, Bishop Robert Barron said the feast “sums up what the Christian life is all about.”

“All the other celebrations of the year,” Barron said, are “... leading you toward that conclusion, that Christ must be king.” 

“If we say anything but that,” he said, “we are basically horsing around with Christianity and not living it seriously.”

In a homily on the solemnity in 2021, Pope Francis said that Jesus became man “without duplicity, in order to proclaim by his life that his kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the world.”

“His is the kingdom of love,” the Holy Father said, describing Christ as the king “of the kingdom of those who give their lives for the salvation of others.”

In his 1925 encyclical, meanwhile, Pius XI wrote that if the truths of Christ “are presented to the faithful for their consideration, they will prove a powerful incentive to perfection.”

The pontiff expressed his hope that “having lived our lives in accordance with the laws of God’s kingdom, we may receive full measure of good fruit, and counted by Christ good and faithful servants, we may be rendered partakers of eternal bliss and glory with him in his heavenly kingdom.”

Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore permanently restores use of high altar

The high altar at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore, Maryland. Nov. 2023. / Credit: Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Baltimore

CNA Staff, Nov 24, 2023 / 09:04 am (CNA).

The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore finished construction of a platform that will allow priests to celebrate the Mass facing the people, “versus populum,” while using the high altar originally constructed in the 1950s. 

“It would be a wonderful thing if the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen were to be mentioned in the same breath as the other great cathedrals of this country and of the world,” Father Justin Gough, an associate pastor at the cathedral, said during a talk about the theology behind the decision earlier this month. “From an artistic and a theological perspective, there is no reason it shouldn’t be.”

The cathedral was constructed from 1954 through 1959 without knowledge of the liturgical changes that would be set following the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s. For this reason, the high altar was designed to be used with the priest facing toward the altar, “ad orientem,” which was the normal liturgical structure prior to the council. 

Because the liturgical norms shifted to having most priests face the congregation, the cathedral set up a table altar to use for Mass, which was placed in front of the high altar. The high altar had mostly gone unused for about 60 years until Sunday, Nov. 12, when the cathedral completed a platform behind the high altar, which allows the priest to use it while celebrating Mass facing the people. 

“It was amazing to see how the sanctuary really opens up,” Gough told CNA, adding that the congregation’s feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive,” with only a few people critical of the decision.

The platform, which is built with wood, is a “semi-permanent solution,” according to Gough, but the cathedral may consider replacing the wooden platform with a marble platform at a later date. In the meantime, he said the wooden structure and the use of the high altar is “not going anywhere.” 

Gough said there was some consideration of restoring use of the high altar in the 1980s, but that the plan never went through. This changed during the COVID-19 pandemic when Archbishop William Lori began celebrating a livestreamed Mass at the cathedral on a regular basis. Gough said this led to conversations “about the significance of the building and about the architecture” and the consideration of restoring the high altar. 

As a trial run, the cathedral rented a temporary structure to set up behind the high altar so that the altar could be used during the ordination of eight priests in June. The archbishop said in a letter in August that the experience was “joyous and awe-inspiring” and met with “overwhelmingly enthusiastic and positive” feedback, leading to the decision to make the structure permanent.

Gough, in his early November talk, said the restoration allows the cathedral to reflect the intent of the architects who designed it by making the altar the primary point of focus in the church. 

“The principal altar is physically the source and the summit of the entire edifice, as everything in the cathedral points toward it and from it derives its meaning and power,” Gough said. “It is placed in a clear and visible spot, set apart from everything else so that there can be nothing to distract attention away from it, and highly elevated to ensure some line of sight for more than a thousand people gathered together to worship.”

Gough added that he believes the construction of the cathedral coinciding with the Second Vatican Council was not “by accident,” arguing that using the high altar versus populum perfectly reflects Pope Benedict XVI’s “hermeneutic of reform” interpretation of the Second Vatican Council: that the council was not a rupture but instead a “renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.”

“Points of contact between the pre- and post-conciliar Church are necessary to ensure our life in the Church is not standing one-footed on either leg: neither stuck stubbornly in the past nor plowing aimlessly ahead in defiance of our tradition,” Gough added. “I’m suggesting the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is just that: a monument of faith standing at the most decisive crossroads of the 20th century as a synthesis of old and new.”

Dublin archbishop responds to stabbing of 3 children that sparked violent riots

Flames rise from the car and a bus, set alight at the junction of Bachelors Walk and the O'Connell Bridge, in Dublin on Nov. 23, 2023, as people took to the streets following the stabbings earlier in the day. / Credit: Peter Murphy/AFP via Getty Images

Rome Newsroom, Nov 24, 2023 / 06:40 am (CNA).

Archbishop Dermot Farrell has asked people to join him in praying for the injured, which includes a 5-year-old girl who sustained serious injuries.