Mass via Internet

Priests of the Solsona diocese in Catalonia, many of whom “cover” as many as twelve parishes, are considering it.

Here’s the story.

I liked the reference to “social cohesiveness.” But does that mean they gather before the screen…?



  1. Is physical presence now so unimportant? Not in any canonical or legal sense but in a human sense, where people personally encounter each other, interact on a human not technical level. Society, and parents especially, while seeing great value in social media and the internet also caution that taken in excessive amounts stunt growth in social skills and interaction, the recognition of the “personhood” of the other.
    The internet can greatly assist pastoral ministry but it cannot replace the pastoral minister’s (or laity’s) “being with”, touch, and yes, even smell. (Thank you, Francis.) To mechanize what is intended for the deepest recesses of the human heart would be a great tragedy.

  2. It appears to me to be a form of clericalism, that one must have a “professional” Mass or prayer service.

    What on earth did people do when a priest wasn’t present? I can understand the internet being used in part to form church leaders, with the understanding that regular visits enhance the training of a community of ministers. Otherwise, since one door is closed, what about the “innovation” of viri probati?

    What’s to stop a wild card with internet savvy, like a Fr Z, from jumping into the fray and gathering an online church with its own agenda?

    1. Todd Flowerday : What on earth did people do when a priest wasn’t present? IBR>

      Following the experience of St Augustine, maybe they became more, um, more insistent in their demands that suitable men accept the call to a priestly vocation.

      And while I would not support such levels of coercion, I do find such early Christian’s understanding of the importance of priests an important correction to over broad claims of clericalism.

      It is equally poor form for us to under play the role of priest as it is for us to over play it.

      1. @Scott Smith – comment #7:
        We all know that no parish community is responsible for maintaining its leadership through vocations. Every diocese pools its clergy, and if a 200-family parish ordains one guy every ten years, it’s never going to be staffed in the same way that a 2000-family suburban parish will that generates zero.

        In my home diocese, one such small parish did indeed do that. They were absorbed into a larger unit and their buildings sold. The latter parish has its first seminarian in about 25-30 years, and until recently had two priests on staff.

        “Such levels of coercion” have no cause and effect. That’s why they don’t exist.

        Sure, Skype is an improvement over television. But it’s a cheap alternative to authentic discernment.

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #10:


        You have lost me! I was just making a slightly silly reference to the fact that St Augustine was forcibly ordained. I don’t actually think we should be doing that now.

        If I had any point is was something like 1) We actual do need priests, and 2) the solution to a lack of priests is more priests.

      3. @Scott Smith – comment #14:
        Hi Scott.

        Agreement on #1. But I think the piece we’re missing on #2 is not more priests (in the sense of warm bodies ordained by a bishop in communion with Rome) but a better sense of Baptism and discernment in the Holy Spirit. The solution to a lack of priests is a more fruitful presence of disciples among the baptized.

      4. @Todd Flowerday – comment #15:

        I would respectfully disagree, and instead suggest they are independent variables.

        For the faithful, as a whole, to more fully live out their baptismal vocation would be a good (indeed wonderful) thing.

        However it would be a good thing regardless of if we have a sufficient number of priests or not, and we still need a sufficient number of priests whether or not Christians live out their baptismal vocation.

        There might however be a fruitful discussion on the question of what is a “suitable” number of priests, and what non-core tasks might be better handled by the laity or people in some form of minor order. I would have to think more about that before putting forward a view.

    2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #3:
      What’s to stop a wild card with internet savvy, like a Fr Z, from jumping into the fray and gathering an online church with its own agenda?

      Todd, Hasn’t Father Z pretty much accomplished this now? Can cardinal Burke be far behind?

      The wonderful thing about youtube, just drop a terrible liturgy or homilist and you move on. With an increasing number of abadoned churches, congregants attending liturgy through Iphones and laptops. Boring liturgies and speakers probably won’t have a chance. Holy Communion received via hologram.

  3. I never thought much of the 30 minute recorded TV Masses fitted into early morning local station programming. That seemed all too much like the mechanical pre-Vatican II low Masses.

    Nor am I a fan of Papal Masses with their big TV screen projections. These at least allow a little social activity among their participants especially before and after. But they seem too much like rock star concerts which except for the social activity might be better seen and heard from the comfort of one’s home.

    However the internet today has very advanced capabilities far superior to both recorded TV and the Papal Masses. Many large parishes have the capability not only of allowing us to participate in their services by seeing and hearing what is going on, but also allowing us to be recognized and even seen and heard during the Mass.

    John Allen has long argued that the arrival of the baby boomers into old age will be a bonanza for the church. Not only are there more of them but many (e.g. Andrew Greeley) have argued that we become more religious post age 60. And the evidence in regard to baby boomers, e.g. extensive Gallup poll daily tracking data, is beginning to confirm this.

    When I was on pastoral council of a large parish with a vibrant grade school, I argued (with little success) that we ought to become as invested in being the “retirement center” of the future as we now are being a youth center with our educational and sacrament preparation.

    The reality of “retirement” is that it is often a far distance from one’s family. And the “kids” upon whom one depends are usually still working, or even caring for their children’s children. The large pool of people available to help care for impaired people in their 70’s and 80’s are healthy retired people in their 60’s and 70”s (i.e. a half generation removed). The social networks that parishes should be fostering are people in the 60’s and 70’s caring for slightly older and more impaired people.

    In regard to Mass it would be possible for support members from the parish to join people in their homes for the Internet Mass and have a homebound minister bring the Eucharist at the end of Mass and then everybody could have brunch together (or supper because I suspect Saturday and Sunday evening Masses will become popular). Display screens at the Mass could show who is participating at home.

    P.S. I am not in favor of solving the “priest crisis” in this manner. A married priesthood, and a lay-led Liturgy of the Hours are better solutions for the clericalism problem.

    And yes we need to let house churches re-emerge. Families are far better at transmitting the faith than are parishes, again the data is there. Assisting the homebound Masses could be part of the service activities of the youth of the parish just as leaf raking has become. Such intergeneration activity would be far superior to the current fad of getting everybody to parish educational activities so they can “formed” by pastoral staff.

  4. Google translation of the original Catalan:

    The group of priests from the Diocese of Solsona constituted under the Forum Ondara have developed a proposal to make Sunday Mass in all parishes , even the smallest . The proposal consists in Ondara Forum smaller parishes of the Diocese of Solsona can follow the ceremony via the Internet through a videoconference. Fermin said Manteca , told ACN that many priests are responsible for a dozen parishes , which causes ” many small towns can not have Mass every Sunday .” ” The church should be at the service of the poor and the poverty population and, therefore , we have to find creative solutions ,” he said .

    Thus , we propose that Sunday – the day on which the rectors should cover most Masses , parishioners of the smaller parishes may follow the liturgy from the church of their town via the Internet . Manteca noted that another solution could be to shift the neighbors but the largest municipality believes that ” it is very important to keep the warmth of a community , however small , because this gives social cohesion .” In addition, the priest Forum Ondara said many parishioners are elderly and have trouble getting around .

    The priest believes that new technologies can facilitate the life of the church and pointed out other options such as using instant messaging from mobile phones or social networks like Facebook to inform parishioners if there is any change in the mass schedule or to convene .

  5. Masses said by one priest and beamed into what used to be three or more old parishes will only exacerbate the priest shortage. Yes, there might be Mass in some sense, but the lone priest saying it would have his other work tripled or more by the huge numbers of Confessions and counseling sessions needed plus the tripling or more of the other demands of such a monster parish.

    When I was a child my parish must have been about eight city blocks by eight city blocks. We had a pastor and and assistant pastor. This meant that they had plenty time to talk to individuals who needed to talk to a priest, and not just about the most serious religious problems. The younger priests even had dinner often with parishioners. You might call it a sort of evangelization, one which is impossible today.

    That Rome is being obstinate about ordaining married men shows an appalling lack of understanding of the needs of the laity and the priests on the ground.

  6. Todd —

    I agree with you totally about not underplaying the role of the priests. Yes, deacons can do a lot, but, face it, they are not full-time professionals. They rack up experience only half as fast as full-time priests do, and experience counts a very, very great deal in being an effective priest. Yes, deacons bring some background priests don’t have, but it’s still half-time to whole-time service.

  7. Give me a leisurely part time deacon over a hurried priest any day.

    Years ago when my mother was in the hospital when the nurse came and asked her if she wanted to go to communion, mom always asked whether it was the priest or the deacon. The deacon talked with you and prayed with you before communion, the priest did not.

    Recently when I was in the hospital, a priest came whom I had not met but whom I knew had been recruited out of retirement as hospital chaplain. He asked me if I wanted the sacrament of the sick. I told him I received the sacrament regularly at anointing Masses in the parish but since this was a new condition, he could anoint me. Without acknowledging my rubrical savvy, he smiled and said “thank you, THEY want us to provide services” Who was the THEY? the hospital? the diocese? the local parishes? all of the above?

    Before I could ask he had launched into his ritual. As I listened I began to recognize this was the rite of absolution for confession, and quickly reminded myself of the old rite in the back of my childhood English Breviary of the quickie absolution, full plenary indulgence and anointing at time of death. You don’t even have to confess any sins, and it can be given as long as the priest thinks you have any chance of still being alive! It was the straight pass to heaven, skip purgatory!

    He was quickly gone, I guess to chalk up confession, plenary indulgence, and anointing on his list of services. I began to wonder would he be back later or tomorrow for communion, and what would I do? I decided I would ask him to pray one of the hours of the Divine Office with me before communion. Fortunately I was discharged the next morning and did not get to find out whether the Divine Office was among the list of services he could provide and if he was willing to be inefficient!

  8. Here’s Gabe Huck in splendid, fulminating form 25 years ago in Pastoral Music, June-July 1998. I wonder what he would say today.

    Are we Catholics so lacking in ideas for putting ourselves on television that we need to broadcast Masses? Are we afraid to say, “You can’t watch the Mass on TV because it perpetrates an ‘audience’ notion of liturgy,” because then we’d have to come through on Sunday with a non-audience liturgy? Is our belief so weak in the affirmation that liturgy is something done, not watched; something done by an assembly, not an individual; done with flesh and blood and muscle and bone and all the organs and faculties at our command?

    The ho-hum attitude so common towards televised Masses betrays our true belief. All these years after Vatican II, we don’t really believe that you’ve got to be there, we only believe that he, the ordained presider, has to be there. Look at the broadcast Masses themselves, especially, I’m afraid, at the ones presented on EWTN: We don’t really believe that this deed is something holy, a praising and remembering and offering and communing, done by the living, breathing body of Christ, the church. We believe, instead, that it is inspirational entertainment; it is just piety, and piety can be photographed and held up to inspire other piety. In the words of Archbishop Foley, it is “spiritual enrichment” and “edification.”

    Well, the Mass isn’t recordable piety or any of these other things. The irony of this struggle is that those who proclaim most loudly the sacredness of the Mass, who shout their everlasting faith in the real presence, who most want an assembly down on its knees whenever sacred words are said, are the very ones most frequently willing to put the whole thing on a flat screen where the most visible form of participation is passing the basket.

    We thirst for liturgy, for the regular gathering to do those deeds which shape our life in the body of Christ, but in our thirst we settle for something less. Instead of celebrating a baptism or a wedding, we ruin our efforts at worship by trying to record it on film and tape. Instead of living, we settle for a picture of living, even though the effort to record the event chokes out of it whatever life there might have been.

    If, by chance, you were to wander into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the Archdiocese of New York, what would you see? A long gothic building, of course, focused on a distant sanctuary. But you might also notice the large television monitors hanging from every pillar, provided so that during major celebrations everyone can see what’s happening up there, in that distant sanctuary. The people who have provided this service have pretty much guaranteed that nothing will, in fact, be happening, because they have turned the doers of the liturgy into the viewers of a ceremony. Those television monitors are a denial of the statement that opens the General Instruction of the Roman Missal: “The celebration of the Mass is the action of Christ and the people of God hierarchically assembled” (#1); they also stand against the statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1144) that is is “the whole assembly that is leitourgos.” (1)

    [Footnote 1: This statement is not an anomaly in the Catechism. See also #1140: “It is the whole community, the Body of Christ united with its Head, that celebrates.”]

    It isn’t ideal to be far away from the ambo or the table at Mass, of course, but it’s all right when the assembly is large. When, however, you televise the lector at the ambo or the priest at the table to those at a distance (but, as at St. Patrick’s, still in the same room!), what does this practice say about the whole enterprise of doing liturgy? Among other things, it says: Who needs you? It says: Welcome to the audience. We’ll try to make your visit to St. Patrick’s as pleasant as possible. Those monitors hanging on the pillars of that cathedral are perhaps the ugliest ever done to a house of the church . . . and that’s saying a lot! The shape and size of the ego behind this decision boggles the mind.

    In the end, of course, it isn’t so much wrong to do all these television deeds as it is stupid. Television certainly has its uses for the church. I’m old enough to remember Camera Three and other Sunday morning shows. But whether the event is “papal” or “episcopal”, whether it is telecast live or recorded, (2) whether it is a worthy liturgy or a travesty that is broadcast, every time we do this thing we take the liturgical mandate of Vatican II less and less seriously. Every time we do this, we proclaim by this action that you―your body, your soul―don’t really have to be there.

    [Footnote 2: Have you ever wondered, when a Mass is recorded for later broadcast, what liturgical laws are being violated? When the little group gathers in the studio during the Third Week of Lent to record the Masses that will be broadcast on Palm Sunday and Easter, what’s happening to the liturgical season, to the requirements for choosing readings and prayers, and so on? Is it Mass or is it Memorex?]

  9. Families sometimes are a mixed bag: the good, the bad and the ugly. And yet they’re “ours”– we don’t abandon the “bad” or the “ugly”. Remember Robert Frost? “Home is that place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Other families might suport us in ways our own family cannot or will not, yet we still go home… and we hope.. and we try .
    In some ways I haven’t really yet clearly defined for myself, a parish is like that “family” and “home”. Places other than our own parish may have better music or better preachers or friendlier parishioners but they may not be “home”. So we stick it out in our own parish and hope… and try. We try to be for others the kind of person/Catholic/parishioner we hope others could be for us. We try to renew our own parish be renewing our own attitudes, expectations. The old “Bloom where you are planted” scenario. Of course, this plan of action is not for “beginners”. It takes some level of maturity and strength to try to pull it off. But in the years to come, isn’t this commitment and missionary spirit’ what it will take to preserve our parishes and help them all grow?
    Instead of looking beyond our own ‘home’ and ‘backyard’, why not work to better what we have? Maybe not always possible. But many times it is.

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