This photograph has generated a very lively discussion over at The Curt Jester.
What is clear from all the discussion is that a lot of people, priests and laity alike, are unclear about what has been made manifestly clear in the document, Redemptionis Sacramentum.
The issues raised, namely, glass "chalices" and the pouring of the Precious Blood (not to mention still other problems that the photograph suggests) are neither trivial nor inconsequential.
According to Redemptionis Sacramentum, paragraph 173, these specific abuses are objectively "grave." A "grave" abuse is anything that "puts at risk the validity and dignity of the Most Holy Eucharist."
In the case at hand, I do not see evidence of anything that would call into question the validity of the Mass, but certainly the "pouring" of the Precious Blood from vessels that resemble Kool aid pitchers into oversized wine goblets is demeaning of the dignity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
The language of Redemptionis Sacramentum is unambiguous.
Paragraph 117 states that the use of "common vessels" is "reprobated." This means, with all due respect, dear Cardinal Mahony, the Kool Aid pitchers and wine goblets have to go. This is the universal law of the Church which allows for no exceptions, not even for you, Your Eminence. Moreover, this same paragraph explicitly proscribes the use of vessels made of "glass" or of any vessel that appears to be a "mere container."
Paragraph 106 states that "flagons" (a word that has never before appeared in any official liturgical document, if I am not mistaken) are never to be used to contain the Precious Blood. Now that flagons are explicitly proscribed, the liturgical anarchists, at least in L.A., use the word "carafe" instead. You may call them what you like, but you may not use them for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Paragraph 106 also states that "pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery." At Mahony's cathedral, even after the promulgation of Redemptionis Sacramentum, the Precious Blood is routinely poured from the various flagons into a large number of wine glasses. In the very few Masses that I have attended there, a deacon, assisted by a nun and a host of other non-ordained people, mostly women, perform this task even when, as I have seen for myself, there is an ample number of concelebrating priests present. This, of course, is yet another liturgical abuse, but I digress.
I have found that sometimes even good Catholics are not in the least bothered by liturgical abuses. They say, "So what's the big deal? Flagon or no flagon, glass chalice or gold chalice, who cares? What's important is that we worship God." I must admit that I am personally weary of this constant battling over the Sacred Liturgy, but I could not disagree more with those who maintain that these "details" are not that big a deal. They are a big deal. We are talking about the worship of God Himself. We are talking about the greatest gift that God has given us, the Holy Mass. We are talking about the handling of the very Body and Blood of the Lord. What could be a bigger deal? What could be more important than this?
No, these matters are by no means trivial or unimportant. On the contrary, they speak to the very core of our faith.
Cardinal Mahony ought to prayerfully re-read Redemptionis Sacramentum, but especially paragraph 11. That paragraph begins with the sentence:
"The Mystery of the Eucharist 'is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured'".
When a priest, bishop or even a cardinal does "his own thing," liturgically speaking, instead of what the Church clearly mandates, he is guilty of another and perhaps even worse kind of "clergy abuse" that causes scandal and can lead to a weakening or even a loss of faith on the part of the lay faithful.Paragraph 11 states:
"In the end, [those who disregard the Church's liturgical norms] introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God. The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ's faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of "secularization" as well."