Monday, July 28, 2003

A NYTimes article about a priest-parish conflict in the Newark diocese

The article is confusing - it sketches out what Perricone is doing, but then says that at the one Mass the reporter attended, he didn't....But, forging on:

The Rev. John A. Perricone, an erudite Roman Catholic priest who uses Latin phrases and refers to T. S. Eliot in conversation, is known nationally as leading proponent of the centuries-old Latin Mass, which was banished in favor of a more accessible service by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's.This month, Father Perricone was called from his academic post as a professor of philosophy at St. Francis College in Brooklyn and assigned here as administrator of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a working-class parish not far from Newark.

So far, the match has not gone well.

A group of parishioners is enraged that in their view, the priest is imposing on them aspects of the traditional Latin Mass, called the Tridentine Mass after the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Today, nearly three-dozen parishioners — some carrying signs denouncing the priest ("Get Rid of John Perricone Now," read one) — picketed Our Lady of Mount Carmel before and after the 10:30 a.m. service, which drew nearly 200 people. The Archdiocese of Newark, seeking to quiet the gathering storm, sent its spokesman, James Goodness, to speak to reporters, who had been alerted to the protest by Father Perricone's opponents.

.....In an interview after the service, Father Perricone, who founded Christifideles, a group dedicated to promoting sanctity among Catholics through the Latin Mass, and who in 1996 arranged the first post-Vatican II Tridentine Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, acknowledged that in a perfect world he would like to say the Latin Mass regularly at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. "But that's not the plan," he said.

He added that he was well within modern boundaries in using the Latin phrase "corpus Christi" instead of "body of Christ" when delivering the eucharist, despite parishioners' complaints.

"I guess if the people want to be captious, they will alight on anything," he said, adding that the complaints would have no effect on him. "I'm perfectly in conformity with the teachings of the church and the archbishop," he said, adding that the traditional Latin Mass is particularly popular among younger people engaged in a "cultural repudiation" of the excesses of the 1960's. "There's a sense of a right order in it," he said.

Father Perricone, 53, also denounced the criticism of his celebration of the Mass as either "lies" or the carping of some parishioners who simply do not like the fact that they have a new priest. "I can't imagine an instance where I showed insensitivity to anyone," he said.

He also said that it pained him to have to defend himself in a way that seemed self-serving and that he was much happier talking about the beauty of the Latin Mass, the "sense of awe" it produces and its liturgical and symbolic richness. "Granted, most of the people don't understand Latin," he said, "yet they understand its evocation of the transcendent."

The protesters, though, faulted the priest for using too many elements from the old-style Mass. They said that he faced the altar instead of the congregation when he prepared communion, did not allow communicants to drink from the chalice; did not speak out loud for the consecration of the host; and did not allow lay ministers to deliver communion. Little of that was in evidence today, but parishioners said that was because reporters were present.

Emerging from the ivory tower and the fortress of the EWTN studios can be mighty tough, can't it?