The legal battle waged by clerics and laypeople against the ban on publicly celebrating Mass for health reasons has revealed deep doctrinal differences within the Church. Here is an overview that comes via a press review.
In Le Figaro of November 22, 2020, Jean-Marie Guénois noted, “from the simple layman at the highest level of the Church come divergences on the sacred character of the Mass.” He described “practices worthy of the catacombs” which aroused “the ire of Archbishop Aupetit”:
“As in the parables, Christian churches also have their little doors. One enters there, neither seen nor known. “I saw an old lady this week, very old, looking left and right as if being stalked. She entered with her mask through the small door of the church to attend Mass. She received communion with great devotion. One could tell she was living this moment with intensity. It was edifying.”
“This account by a leader of a large Catholic association who prefers to remain anonymous so as not to incriminate the priest who opened his church, despite the ban, to a few faithful for his weekly masses, shows—according to some points of views—an act of disobedience or resistance.”
“These practices worthy of the catacombs have aroused the ire of Mgr. Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, who criticized these ‘disobedient’ priests on Radio Notre-Dame for ‘doing their little business in their corner.’ Many priests and young Catholics did not appreciate such an episcopal charge.”
Part of the Church Doubts Faith in the Real Presence
And the religious columnist takes the analysis further: “There exists a deeper division in the Church. It is not tactical, but theological. It concerns faith in the Eucharist, namely the consecrated host given during communion.
“A bishop very familiar with internal debates within the episcopate, when it is a question for the Catholic Church to go or not to plead for the return of public Mass at the Council of State, or to made a decision about the street demonstrations, said he was “painfully” astonished to note “a theologically divergent Eucharistic Catholic faith” even among the bishops.
“A state of affairs which reflects a debate that is taboo in the Catholic Church: a number of theologians, priests, bishops, and certain cardinals have espoused the theses of Protestantism which consider the Eucharistic presence of Christ as ‘symbolic’ and not ‘real.’ And thus, not absolutely ‘sacred,’ to the point of fighting for it.”
At the end of the article, the French Vaticanist climbs higher: “The big surprise, in this register, came from Rome this week. And from a future cardinal - [He became one on November 29. Editor's note] - chosen by Pope Francis to lead the important Synod of Bishops. In mid-November, he addressed those who complained of not being able to access Mass “of spiritual illiteracy” in the internationally known Jesuit review, La Civiltà Cattolica.
He asked the Church to take advantage of this crisis to break with pastoral work aimed at “leading to the sacrament,” to go “through the sacraments, to the Christian life.” A cardinal very close to the Pope, relativizing the importance of the Mass… These remarks shocked many bishops, but not all. Part of the Catholic Church doubts the Eucharistic faith, which is, however, one of its founding principles.”
This high prelate is the recently-made Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, former President of the Bishops’ Conference of Malta, who in 2017 distinguished himself in the defense of Amoris Lætitia authorizing communion for divorced and ‘remarried’ persons on a case-by-case basis.”
On November 24, in an interview with Gabrielle Cluzel on the Boulevard Voltaire website, Bishop Athanasius Schneider recognized the validity of Jean-Marie Guénois’ assertion regarding the doubt of a part of the Church on the subject of the real presence in the Eucharist: “I think this remark is correct.”
“The ban on public worship, and the incomprehensibly timid reaction by many bishops, exposes the truly deep wound of the current crisis in the Church. This wound is the “Eucharistic wound.”
“In reference to the question of Jesus in the Gospel: ‘Whom do men say that the Son of man is?’ (Mt 16:13), every Catholic, every priest, and every bishop must now ask himself: “What and who do you think the Eucharist is?”
“We must take the example of our brothers and sisters from the time of persecution in the early centuries, and proclaim loud and clear: ‘Without the Holy Eucharist, without the Holy Mass on Sunday, we cannot live!’ (sine Dominico non possumus).”
On the other hand, on November 26, at the microphone of Radio Notre-Dame, Mgr. Michel Aupetit treated the article by Jean-Marie Guénois as “lousy,” neither “honest,” nor “serious,” even adding: “It reminds me of the serpent in the Bible who instills suspicion to divide us.”