Friday, 4 February 2011

Do We Need a Second Counter Reformation?

No, no, no! Where Protestant ideas end: yuch.
One of my favourite books about the Reformation, possibly after Cobbett's History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, is Rev B. J. Kidd DD's The Counter-Reformation 1550-1600.

I would say to any decent (or half-decent) Catholic: it's a book you simply must read! Originally published by the SPCK in 1933, it tells the story of Saints called to defend the Catholic Faith across Europe, in the shadow of the Protestant Revolution against the Catholic Church.

The Protestants had already won over vast tracts of Germany, Bavaria, Hungary, Poland... much of Europe was under threat (even France and Italy!) Only Spain seemed to stand firm in the Faith, and it was that nation which gave the world the Jesuits, a Holy Order that won back so much of Europe for the Catholic Faith -- a role which Protestants and Freemasons have still not forgiven the many Saints and Martyrs of that Order for (hence all the ridiculous Jesuit conspiracies).

One aspect of the Counter Reformation was, of course, the Council of Trent. That heroic Council of the Church which codified (not invented!) the Mass of Centuries, to stop abuses (sound familiar?) and gave us the Tridentine Mass which was the Mass for another 400+ years until the experiments of the 70s, which have seen Churches half-empty out... but I digress.

The Council of Trent saw so many Holy Souls gather to defend Holy Mother Church from many abuses that had given fuel to the Protestants who (as with all false creeds) use justifiable qualms to push through their despicable aims, in their case undermining Tradition, ripping apart the Sacraments, and trying to make 'everyman a priest' (talk I heard recently from a Catholic priest) which I consider totally against what Christ established His Church for. We have a Holy Priesthood (even if some sadly fall short of what is expected) in order to enable us to receive the Sacraments.

I am a Catholic. I may be a Saint (I don't think I am, but the possibility is there for us all). But I am not a priest. I am a Catholic. I am a father and a husband. I have my vocation in life.

And this, in a kind of circuitous route (how atypical of me) brings me back to this wonderful book.

You see, at the Council of Trent, some Catholic laity and priests turned up with an agenda. Some were powerful men of the world (especially from the 'German' sphere of influence) and they wanted the Catholic Church to move partway towards the Protestant stance on certain things, as a way to 'heal the rift' and bring the two sides back together.

Would this have worked? Give them an inch and they'll want a yard? There is no doubt the Council overturned many abuses and that in and of itself should have pleased any genuine souls who were irked with the Church. Let's face it, genuine Catholics can take umbrage with some Church policies, especially if they are seen to harm the Church, turn souls away, make the Church look grasping or underhand. We only have to look at the recent paedophile scandal in the Church. If the Church had reacted correctly, nipped it in the bud, acted in the best interests of souls (priestly and laity), routed out homosexuals in the priesthood and much else besides - it would have spared the Church another scandal, and more injuries.

Yet the Council of Trent reacted to the Protestant Revolution not only by ending genuine abuses which gave genuine grievances, it acted to solidify the Traditional Latin-Rite Mass, it sent the Jesuits, Dominicans and others to fight back for the Faith in the heartlands of the "enemy" -- we know that full well with Saint Martyrs created right in here in Wales.

I remember seeing a plaque at the bottom end of Crwys Road, where Cathays and Roath meet in Cardiff, showing the spot where our beloved Saints Philip Evans and John Lloyd were martyred. To quote the Real Cardiff site about the spot:

Here, in a plot known as 'the Cut Throats', more or less where the Road has its junction with Albany, stood the town gibbet. Nearby were plots called Cae Budr (the defiled field), Plwcca Halog (the unhallowed plot), and Pwll Halog (the unhallowed pool). Today they've got side streets built across them and are happily called Strathnairn, Glenroy and Keppoch. 

So we have, today, the examples of so many Holy Saints and Martyrs from this time on which to call for help and intercession on, in these worried times.They came to Welsh soil to win souls back for Christ and His Church through the Sacraments.

One of the aspects of the Council of Trent, as I said earlier, was the attempt of some to get Protestant "demands" from the Church. One of these was Communion in both kinds for the laity. As usual with these demands, there was the Protestant propaganda that hitherto the priests had been keeping something to themselves, and (especially with the idea that "we are all priests") then why should we all not partake in Communion under both kinds?

This always stuck in my mind on reading the book, because in more and more Catholic parishes today, we are seeing Communion in both kinds to the laity, and it is something, I have to say, I feel deeply uncomfortable about.

Now I am not a theologian, not even a lukewarm one, so I do not know all the theological reasons for this, but common sense tells me that Communion in both kinds is open to so much abuse. We all know of accidents with Communion in the form of the wafer: dropped and spilled hosts etc. How much more worrying would it be to witness drops and spills of the Chalice?

The other aspect of Communion in both kinds is that it gives the impression - especially to the young, immature, gullible and foolish - that the Communion host is not the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in its entirety. That is, it gives/promotes the false idea that we have to receive the Body ("wafer") and Blood ("wine") together in order to have 'full communion' - i.e. that the Host in and of itself is somehow "not enough," and I think this comes back to the Protestant idea of "we are all priests" and therefore we all have the 'right' to Communion in both kinds, otherwise we are somehow 'cheated.'

My last bug-bear about Communion in both kinds is that it has given rise to what I personally consider one of the worst abuses of the post-Vatican 2 age (whether V2 instigated it is another matter). That is the appearance of the 'Eucharistic Minister.' Some non-priest given the green light to administer Communion to the laity. In many circles these have earned themselves the nomenclature Eucharistic Monsters for various reasons (and abuses).

For me personally the idea of someone who is not a priest administering Communion is an absolute sacrilege. And I mean that literally.

I do not like the idea - as I've outlined above - of the laity receiving Communion in both kinds, even at the hands of priests, but the idea that non-consecrated hands should administer Communion is just a non-starter. It seems such an abuse of the Holy Sacrament that I still find it difficult to believe that it is allowed and the idea of witnessing it fills me with dread and despair.

If Mother Teresa considered Communion in the hand the worst thing in the world, because it offends God for the Sacrament to be in unconsecrated hands, how much more might we say Eucharistic Ministers might do the same?

The Council of Trent did much to shore up the Catholic Faith, to reinvigorate a Faith which had been under attack for decades, with all the scandals (real and invented) used to attack the Church, with its enemies seeming to have the upper hand, with calls from within and without the Church for liberalisation in the Mass and the distribution of Communion... for some years we must have looked (from a worldly view) to be on the way out.

Does anyone else see the similarities with today?


  1. Great post Gareth. Many thanks, I am a Cobbett fan also.
    And all of this from a grieving man :-)

  2. yes... I wrote much of it last night whilst the rugby was on. There didn't seem much else to do at the time! blub blub.

    Now we'll have weeks of Brian Moore blethering on about how great the English time is. Arggghhhh! What kind of purgatorial sentence is this? ;-)

  3. team - i meant team. it's just it'll last for a time (it'll feel like an age).

  4. First a very interesting post, as a former Anglican I should like to say that I have never seen an accident with the chalice of wine in more than 30 years of communions.Please don't confuse what you are used to ,with what is or may be right, after all Jesus gave bread and wine and said take eat/drink not, just you have the one and share only the other.If ,as I was you have always had both administered at an altar rail while you knelt by the Vicar to walk up and stand in line as most Catholic services do is a bit odd at first!But knowing it was at last a REAL Mass made my heart sing!
    I genuflect and receive on the tongue, and if wine is also consecrated for the congregation I genuflect before I sip.It is for me even more profound.
    and as for the Rugby well you have to let us win sometimes!

  5. But, as I have publicly said before, Our Lord distributed Communion in the form of bread and wine to the Bishops of the Church.

    I stand by my assertion that its spreads the error of the Host not being the entire Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; and that it was a demand of the Protestants in the 16th Century.

    In many churches it also used as an excuse to bring in 'Eucharistic Ministers' and I have even more misgivings about that.

    I have no doubt that Communion in both kinds must be a moving experience, but for me it should be restricted to the religious, and I am wary of any errors and occasions of sacrilege that may arise.

  6. The argument often used about receiving under both kinds is that it is a better 'sign'. But they seem to forget that it is NOT a better reality; we receive the entire Christ under both signs. Personally I find it hard enough to recollect myself just receiving under one kind, but I will receive under both if, and only if, a priest offers the chalice. This is the only way that 'both kinds' can be said to be a better sign as it is the PRIEST who stands there 'in persona Christi', not old Mrs Whatsit from round the corner.