Battling the Cultural Wars in Our Parish

CHAPTER 22 – Battling the Cultural Wars II: in Parish Life

Parish life in Hawkes Bay reflected similar Revolutionary changes as in the classroom. Over these years it became increasingly uncomfortable to attend Mass. At first in the early 1980s we became parishioners of St Peter Chanel, a diocesan parish, a close-knit conservative community led by Fr McRae and Fr Casey, tireless priests who just bore the weight of all the changes with quiet humility and strength. But it was at Mass that the revolution made its mark: the forced pseudo-community rituals, the forced pseudo-liturgical music imitating what was thought to be fashion of the time, the forced pseudo-multicultural mixtures of European-Tongan-Maori bits and pieces, the loudness, the incessant talk …

Liturgical Committee Shootdown

The organist and myself with a keen choir made an effort to reintroduce the standard hymns at the main Mass of the day. We soon got the shift and were replaced by the guitar group playing Evangelical pop and country-style songs. Many of the elderly attended the Vigil Mass at 5.30pm on Saturdays, so as to avoid the ugliness of the above. So, we provided this Mass with the kind of music which they found more comfortable. It did not take many months for the Liturgy Committee to shoot this effort down as well. Later, in the 1990s, Rosalind was able to play the organ at this Vigil Mass but again this opportunity was closed down. All music at any Mass must now fit with the tastes of the priests and the activists on the committee, regardless of the “cultural” tastes of the past. Multiculturalism only works one way.

The Reluctant Whistleblower

Things got worse. A new parish priest arrived. One who was a full-blooded modernist, unlike previous parish priests, who humbly obeyed the trends without fully taking them to heart. The new priest wanted to re-educate us all. Every Sunday sermon threw doubt on central Catholic doctrines. His celebration of Mass centred on himself. However, by then, I had become far more knowledgeable about where I and the Faith stood. And, by then, Catholic internet sites had blossomed giving me ammunition. Enough is enough.

I wrote a missive to our local bishop, Bishop Peter Cullinane, the source of much liturgical modernism in New Zealand, but I had to take that first step. His reply confirmed that he would do nothing but his liturgical and theological treatise enabled me to take the next step: Rome. My next missives were to Cardinal Williams of New Zealand, and to the Vatican: to Cardinal Arinze, head of the liturgy, and to Cardinal Ratzinger, head of doctrine. Within two months, the new priest was appointed elsewhere, but replaced by an equally keen modernist priest! The exercise was pointless. Soon, word got out that I was a disloyal whistleblower, and to the mindset of the average Catholic, priests were to be obeyed and unchallenged.

Soon Aubynne and I were so uncomfortable at the Parish Masses in Napier and Hastings that we finished up attending the chapel Sunday Mass with Fr Cleary, RIP, at the old people’s home at “Little Sisters” as it was fondly known – a Mass that was gentle, quiet, and sensitive to the aged. And there we were with a few others, alienated by the Church, our Parish priests, our Parish friends.

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