Monday, March 12, 2012

Will Fr. Liam Cary's Ordination Be Different?

I’ve been to precious few priestly ordinations in my almost-10 years as a Catholic, and the few I attended left much to be desired, liturgically speaking.

I’ve never been to an episcopal ordination. 

Now, with the election of a new bishop for the Diocese of Baker, I am musing about the ordination and installation of Fr. Liam Cary. The first thing that came to mind was the location of the ordination.

Ordination...or basketball game?
The Diocese of Baker is a little different from most dioceses, in that the Cathedral and the Chancery are not in the same city. Heck, they’re not even in the same county! The beautiful 104-year-old Cathedral church, St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, is in Baker City, but in 1985, the Chancery was moved to Bend – a five-hour drive away.

Twelve years ago, Monsignor Robert F. Vasa was ordained to the order of bishop at the architecturally stunning (not) Deschutes County Fairgrounds Expo Center just southeast of Redmond. I think it was held in the same building as the 2003 Centennial Mass – the Hooker Creek Event Center, where they normally hold rodeos.

Bishop Vasa always celebrated Christmas and Easter (and the Chrism Mass) at the Cathedral (Bishop Connolly was another story, I'm told); and up until 2010, all of the diaconate and priestly ordinations of the diocese took place there as well. In 2010, however, when Fr. Joseph Levine was ordained to the priesthood, that ordination took place at the new church in Bend. I think that may have started a (downward) trend.

Although no one has ever asked my opinion about that, I am more than willing to offer it: ordinations should be held at the Cathedral! Well, yes, it’s true I live only 12 miles from the Cathedral, so travel isn’t an issue for me, but still…let’s think about our Catholic identity and our Catholic traditions! The pictures I’ve seen of the church in Bend are reminiscent of an Aztec handball court. I haven’t been there in person.'s better than the basketball arena.
Well, thinking about the ordination location made me start thinking about all the nitty-gritty details that are involved – you know, things like rubrics and requirements and regulations. I like that stuff. It keeps us honest. It helps us to maintain our Catholic identity. It helps us to celebrate the Mass worthily.

Too bad so few people pay any attention to it.

It seems that the planners of Bishop Vasa’s ordination and installation were a little loose with the liturgical rubrics. In the commemorative booklet of the event, I noticed that for “Worship Preparation” there was a “Native American Blessing Dance”. I shudder to think…! I wasn’t at the event – I wasn’t even Catholic then! But an eyewitness who remembers it well tells me there were indeed some disconcerting elements, such as:

…the New Age, pseudo-Native American pagan rituals (e.g., the wafting of the Sacred Smoldering Sagebrush to the Four Directions, the half-hour ceremony at the beginning of the Mass – after the entrance procession, while all were standing in place; and the Sacred Rite of the Commingling of the Waters...from each and EVERY river in the Diocese)…

Sure enough…The commemorative booklet tells us that, in the procession, representative groups from the deaneries of the Diocese of Baker and the Diocese of Lincoln carried in containers of water

...from the various streams, lakes, and rivers of Central and Eastern Oregon and Nebraska. Now these waters will be mingled. Archbishop Vlazny will bless this new water… After the ordination ceremony this blessed water will be divided and some given to each parish in the diocese for use in the Easter water.

Suspecting that this was not something actually included in the rubrics for the rite of ordination of a bishop, I dug out my trusty copy of The Ceremonial of Bishops to see what I could learn about this whole election-ordination-installation process. I discovered some interesting things.

The first thing the CoB says about the election of a bishop is this:

1129 When the local Church is first informed that the canonical provision has been made, the administrator of the diocese announces a liturgical service of thanksgiving and prayer for the bishop-elect to be celebrated on a convenient date in the cathedral church.

I think I missed that announcement…maybe it’s coming soon…? (crickets chirping).

And the CoB does agree with me – even if the authors did not ask my opinion – that

1135 It is most fitting that the bishop-elect’s ordination take place in his cathedral church…

Of course, that wording is widely interpreted as “but he doesn’t really have to”.

The Roman Pontifical has it this way (emphasis added):

21 The Bishop who is placed as head of a particular diocese should be ordained in the cathedral church...

That’s the USCCB's official English translation of the line which in the Latin editio typica is much stronger: "Episcopus, qui tamquam caput cuidam dioecesi praeficitur, in ecclesia cathedrali ordinetur." Or am I wrong? I’m not a Latin scholar…

Moving on…

The CoB says that if the bishop-elect is ordained in his own cathedral church, he takes possession of the diocese by virtue of the rite of ordination. But if he is ordained elsewhere, he takes possession through the rite of reception.

When a priest is appointed by the Holy Father to become the bishop of a diocese, he must first be ordained to the order of bishop, and then formally, ceremonially "installed" in his cathedra. As I understand it, the first act – ordination – empowers him to act as a bishop; the second empowers him to act as the bishop of the particular diocese. The ceremonial form of the latter requires that he be led (usually by the principal "consecrator") to his cathedra, and then seated in it.

My eyewitness tells me:

In the case of Bishop Vasa's "installation", what we ended up with was a grotesque bastardization of the rite of installation. Since they didn't want to trek all the way across the diocese to the cathedral (which, duh, is where the cathedra is formally, canonically located, and which by that very fact raises that church to the rank and dignity of the one and only cathedral church of the diocese) for the ceremony, they simply threw the portable cathedra in the back of someone's pickup and schlepped it over to the fairgrounds in Redmond. At the end of the Mass of episcopal ordination, the newly ordained Bishop Vasa was led by Archbishop Vlazny (his principal consecrator) to his dislocated cathedra (with no cathedral in sight) sitting on the platform over the likely spot where, a few days before, cattle had been defecating, and plopped him down on it. And that, my friends, constituted the bishop’s formal "installation" as the Fifth Bishop of Baker. And I expect they'll do the same for the Sixth Bishop of Baker.

Oh. My. Goodness. And the scariest part is that it’s quite likely that the same type of “planning” will probably go into the upcoming ordination as went into the past one. As parish secretary at the Cathedral, I was involved in the planning for a couple of ordinations. It wasn’t a pretty picture. There were struggles over the music, always with the refrain, “Well, what does the candidate want?”

Let’s get a few things straight regarding the music and "what the candidate wants".

An ordination is not a "gig" where the guest of honor – even if he is being ordained bishop – presents the band with a list of his favorite hits. The music is determined by the text of the propers, which the Church does not leave to the arbitrary whim of the priest, the bishop, or even the ordaining bishop: they are codified in the liturgical books – in the case of an episcopal ordination, the Pontificale Romanum. The only "choice" here is whether to sing the given text according to the normative plainchant setting, in sacred polyphony, or some other approved style.

If, for the upcoming ordination, a liturgy committee is thrown together from amongst the liturgical “leaders” in this diocese, we’re in trouble.  I have seen very little evidence in this entire diocese of any true knowledge or appreciation of liturgical rubrics, or even a desire to procure such knowledge. You should have heard the furor a few years back when Bishop Vasa promulgated his pastoral letter, “Servant of the Sacred Liturgy”, which simply reiterated what the GIRM already said. There were widespread complaints about how we wouldn’t be able to continue in the liturgical abuses to which we had become accustomed!

There’s a history here, folks; Bishop Vasa’s ordination sounds like it was a circus. If we don’t want history to repeat itself, let’s pray that Fr. Cary appoints his own Master of Ceremonies and liturgy committee from outside the Diocese of Baker. And let us pray these planners are aware of the liturgical norms and rubrics, and have a sense of the dignity and solemnity of such an occasion.


Now, let’s revisit the Cathedral issue one more time. In yet another place in the CoB, in the Sacraments section, we find once again that:

563 The ordination of a bishop most appropriately takes place in his cathedral church

St. Francis de Sales Cathedral: a fitting place for an ordination. 
Oh, but this is so impractical!

Yes, yes, yes, I know: there will be hundreds of people who want to attend, and there just wouldn’t be room for all of them at the Cathedral. (Say that with a little whine in your voice.)
So what?! How about this: just tell people that they can attend the ordination of our new bishop ONLY IF they attend Mass every Sunday, they have been to confession in the last year, and they are in agreement with all the statements in Bishop Vasa’s Affirmation of Faith.

That ought to serve as adequate crowd control. 

Better yet, what if the Cathedral had been restored to this?!
- not only architecturally, but spiritually: look at all those clerics and religious!

(Go here for a photo essay of the history of the wreck-o-vations and renovations of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, assembled by Fr. Julian Cassar, rector of the Cathedral.)

It is my hope and prayer that Fr. Liam Cary desires and will insist upon a dignified, reverent, and solemn liturgy for his episcopal ordination and installation.

But even if he does not, it is still the right of the faithful to have such a liturgy. 

For more on the Diocese of Baker, see Bishops, Cathedrals, and the Diocese of Baker.

Related posts:

Thoughts on the Ordination of a Bishop

For related posts, click on the “Bishop Liam Cary Posts” tab at the top of the page.


Please be courteous and concise.