Below is an account of a recent visit to the Catholic chaplaincy at Glasgow University, Turnbull Hall.
A fully fledged parish and one of the more apparently vibrant centres of Catholicism in the diocese, (Turnbull Hall) is often alleged to be a haven of doctrinal orthodoxy. On the foyer’s large notice board there were a number of posters and adverts, typical parish stuff. I decided to put up an innocuous flyer recalling the Blessed Virgin’s request at Fatima to pray the daily Rosary, and a small but potentially more incendiary flyer which concisely outlined John Paul II’s judgement on receiving Communion in the hand and the use of lay ‘extraordinary ministers’. Specifically, that “It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another” (Inaestimabile Donum). My motive was that the more informed these impressionable students become, the more likely they are to ask questions about their pastors’ permissiveness towards liturgical abuses.
A short time later I returned and upon inspecting the notice board I saw the Fatima flyer. To my astonishment the flyer quoting John Paul II quote had been removed and the vacant space was accompanied with a new notice stating that only articles authorised by the secretary or parish priest were allowed from now on. Fair enough. And no surprised, because like many of its sister parishes, Turnbull enlists lay persons to minister the Chalice (although unlike neighbour churches not the Sacred Host).
Did I have reason to be astonished? After all, these practices are the near exclusive norm in Scotland, so wasn’t I setting myself up for having it removed? Well perhaps, but consider how a sizeable troop of self proclaimed ‘conservatives’ have been infected with the Weigel-esque hyper-reverence for all things John Paul II, not least at Turnbull Hall, where the sickly cult for the late pontiff has taken a feverish hold. Indeed, it acts as the de facto diocesan shrine: the chapel houses a thoroughly adorned plinth on which rests a statue of the Polish Pope, posing heroically upon a lovingly appliquéd doily showing his coat of arms. In front, are stands for flowers and a candle rack on which burn not less than a few votive offerings, almost perpetually. This affection for the new Beatus is not contrived, it looks strikingly genuine, which makes this all a more unsettling sight.
So there seems to be a contradiction. Traditional minded Catholics are used to having the writings of John Paul thrown at them by Neo-Catholics wanting to undermine our position, and to support theirs, whether it be Wojtyla’s novel ecclesiology or his hearty openness towards the false religions of the world. However, they discreetly put aside the pronouncements of this very same Pontiff when they are in accord to what others have been saying for decades, namely that Communion in the hand and the use of lay ministers is a grievous practice, what would have been considered sacrilege only two generations ago.
To claim all the young parishioners of Turnbull are happy clappy, Medjugorje obsessed World Youth Day types is inaccurate. In the past, a small number of curious young patrons have asked for the Traditional Rite of Mass, perhaps fed up with the guitar liturgies which are commonplace there. They have been left disappointed. And since the offer to communicate irregularly continues, they will inevitably conform with the general trend, and their supernatural faith is left vulnerable to decay. What is this but an example of resisting the known Truth?