Monday, 24 October 2011

Priest Resistance to Change - Natural

I see that Fr. Russell Pollitt is on the “New English Translation of the Mass” bandwagon again. Fr. Pollitt says in his article that, “I began to reflect on this whole saga again and it strikes me that the implementation does not mean that we should suddenly become uncritical of what we have been given.

I cannot help but believe that Fr. Pollitt just doesn’t like change and that he is simply going through the common behavioural stages that people go through when faced with change. The stages are typically described as: shock, denial, anger, passive acceptance, exploration and challenge. Everyone progresses through these stages at a different pace. Some very quickly and they therefore cope better with change. For others progress is slow and therefore change is far more of a challenge. There is absolutely nothing, in Fr. Pollitt’s article, that leads me to believe that this is anything more than a typical behavioural reaction to change.

In his article, for example, Fr. Pollitt states, “I took some time to page through the new book and read some of the Collects (what was previously called “Opening Prayer” has been renamed “Collect”).” What may I ask is the big issue with the term Collect? The term more accurately describes the very purpose of that prayer. This prayer should never have been called the Opening Prayer in the first place because it is not said in order to open the Mass. The introductory rites as a whole, opens the Mass. The celebrant says this prayer, at the conclusion of the introductory rites of the Mass, with the very specific intention of gathering (collecting) all the intentions of the people into one unified petition. I cannot think of a better term, except perhaps “Common Intention”.

The entire article by Fr. Pollitt shows nothing more than his personal sentiment on the subject of the new missal and contains nothing substantial to give cause to such resistance. By the way, neither do any other articles that I have read resisting or objecting to the new missal. The resistance to change is nothing more than normal personal reactions to change. There is absolutely nothing in the new missal that is unsound and which gives cause for such resistance to the change.

Fr. Pollitt states, “Like many other priests with unanswered questions and unacknowledged frustrations, I must now implement the new translation. We have been told unequivocally that we must implement this and we shall obey.” He also says, “Long may the debate continue, and long may priests be willing to be open-minded in their evaluation of the real pastoral value of the revised translation.

These words of Fr. Pollitt clearly demonstrate a “passive acceptance” of the change. You will recall, from the behavioural stages that I mentioned above, that this is typically stage four of the behavioural reaction. I hope that Fr. Pollitt will soon come to happily accept and enjoy “Implementing the New English Translation of the Mass.”

I would like to end by questioning why it is that The Southern Cross seems so determined to continue stoking this fire? Especially when the editor, Gunther Simmermacher, said recently in an article about the new missal that, “The Southern Cross has committed itself to assist in that catechesis through a series of seven articles which will be published in October and November, expanding on the content on the subject that will appear in parish newsletters (in particular through the Catholic Link).[1]

How does publishing this article by Fr. Pollitt, so close to the launch of the new missal in November 2011, “Let the new missal bring harmony”, which happens to be the title of Mr. Simmermacher’s article? Publishing Fr. Pollitt’s article only serves to again stir up emotions on this subject. Therefore contradicting the alleged commitment by The Southern Cross to assist in catechesis on the missal during October and November 2011.

I cannot help but wonder whether Mr. Simmermacher is using his position, as the editor of this newspaper, to drive a personal agenda on this subject of the new missal. Mr. Simmermacher is quoted in another Catholic Newspaper as stating that in Cape Town the translation met with fierce resistance and that, “all but two priests signed a document saying they didn’t like the changes, but they went ahead and implemented them.[2]

I have written to the National Catholic Reporter on several occasions, including last week again, asking them to validate the accuracy of this statement by Mr. Simmermacher. I have asked them to make available a copy of this document to which he refers or put me in contact with an independent third party who can verify this alleged document. Especially since a South African priest, from Cape Town, responded to the article and stated that Mr. Simmermacher’s statement was false. I have to date had no response to my request, which only serves to increase my suspicions of the hidden agenda possibility. I remain hopeful that my suspicions will shortly be proved wrong.

We can only pray that this matter of the New Missal will soon be a thing of the past and that we can begin to focus on far more critical challenges that the Church faces.

You may also like to read my post “Were South African Catholics Deliberately Setup” on the subject of the New Missal.


  1. At times like now, I feel great frustration towards our Clergy and people who are in positions to influence our faith. They have such a huge responsibility to assist us with formation. When Fr. Pollitt makes comments as he did in his article, I feel that he is trying to divide the faithful, and disturb those that are in need of guidance with his belligerent disregard for our Church. He has a duty to Rome to fulfil his calling. This type of behaviour is embarrassing to me and in my opinion, childish!

    Please Fr. Pollitt, you are committing a grave error by misguiding you flock. I have always thought that becoming a priest is a calling, and embracing that calling includes accepting the dictates from Rome. Perhaps you need quite contemplation for the road forward? Priesthood is not a job!

  2. Good article. I find it absolutely astounding and shocking that priests cannot obey direct orders from their Bishops and from Rome. The "spirit of Vatican II" crowd seem to be obsessed with some form of collegiality - where everything is open for discussion and debate concerning doctrinal and liturgical matters.

    Furthermore, I find the criticism of the new translation quite ironic when the defence of the criticism is "pastoral care" or some other loaded liberal phrase. The precise reason for the new translation is pastoral care. The precise reason for the change is because Rome is starting to realise that the faithful need substance; that the faithful are demanding an authentic Catholic faith; and that the liturgy is the centre of the traditional, faithful Catholic life.

    I don't know of a single diocese in South Africa that has implemented and welcome Summorum Pontificum and the follow up Universae Ecclesiae. When time comes for Rome to be harsh about this (as they need to be!) what opposition then? In the forgotten land of Southern Africa will the Bishops decide to do as they please? Will the priests even care? South African Catholicism is in a bad state - most Catholics aren't even aware of their true identity as Catholics.

  3. I should add a note that the "National Catholic Reporter" is also known by many Catholics as the "Fish wrap". This is not a term of endearment! Rather it expresses what many Catholics believe this newspaper should be used for as opposed to reading material.

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