Organic Abuse?

There are two phrases that one sees bandied about that I rather dislike and rarely, if ever, use.

One is “liturgical abuse.” It boggles my mind that this phrase came into common use in the post-2002 Church, as if people were completely tone-deaf to the connotations of the word “abuse” in the context of the Catholic Church. To some at least, it is a term that conveys the impression that the speaker sees glass chalices and extraordinary ministers of holy communion (who are not instituted acolytes) purifying the vessels as somehow roughly equivalent to the rape of children.

The other is “organic development.” Here the difficulty is not so much the connotation of the term as its conceptual coherence. It seems that organic development is a lot like pornography: no one can define it, but they know it when they see it. The operative principle, however, seems to be that changes in the course of history that I favor are “organic,” while those I do not favor are “fabricated liturgy.”

What is particularly interesting to me, and revelatory of some of the difficulties with these phrases, is how one might distinguish “liturgical abuse” from “organic development.” Certainly for at least as long as there has been codified liturgical law every “organic development” has begun life as a “liturgical abuse.” Except in cases of “fabricated liturgy,” such as the Consilium’s reform of the Ordo Missae after Vatican II, all liturgical change involves someone breaking a rubric at some point. When this rubric-breaking becomes widespread — presto! change-o! — you have “organic development.”

One of the arguments one sometimes hears against such things as communion in the hand or female altar servers is that they began as “liturgical abuses” that were later approved by the Church. But isn’t that how it always goes? Didn’t some priest one day decide that he’d just recite John’s prologue at the altar, rather than on the way back to the sacristy? Didn’t an impatient priest, who perhaps had a cow to milk or sick folks to visit, one day decide to plunge ahead with reciting the canon in a low voice, without waiting for the choir to finish the Sanctus? Why are such things “organic developments” to be lauded rather than simply very old “liturgical abuses” to be decried?

Two current examples come to my mind of practices that might be described as either “liturgical abuse” or “organic development.”

1) In my parish, and a number of others I have attended, we sing the Easter dismissal with its double alleluia for the whole 50 days of Easter, not just for the octave as the rubric directs. This seems to fit with a number of other features of the current liturgy, such as the burning of the Easter candle for the entire Easter season, and not just until Ascension. Is this a liturgical abuse that should be stamped out, or an organic development that should be allowed — or even encouraged — to grow?

2) At some parishes, and some episcopal liturgies — and even, if my memory serves me well, at a Papal Mass I attended — the “alleluia” is sung after the Gospel as well as before it. This serves the practical purpose of covering the movement of the deacon from the ambo back to his place, and at an episcopal or papal liturgy it gives the celebrant time to kiss the Gospel book and bless the people with it. While some (not me) might argue that the Pope as the supreme legislator can do whatever the hell he wants at Mass, would they say the same for the bishop of Outer Slabovia or the pastor of St. Botolph’s by the Bay? Is this a liturgical abuse that should be stamped out, or an organic development that should be allowed — or even encouraged — to grow?

Perhaps we need to develop a new category: “organic abuse,” or maybe “abusive development.” These would be at least as useful as the phrases that are tossed around today.


  1. Seeking clarification on your first sentence – are you saying the phrase “liturgical abuse” was not commonly used prior to 2002? Or that in light of the sexual abuse crisis erupting in 2002 it should no longer be used? I find numerous pre-2002 articles on the web using the term “liturgical abuse”.

    1. John,

      I believe it is a technical term in liturgical law and not a recent innovation. My own impression is that it has cropped up more frequently in recent years, but I have not done any thorough study of the matter. My main point was that one reason I don’t particularly like the phrase is because of its connotations post-2002.

      1. I can well remember liturgists in the 1950s considering
        anything added to the Roman rite,those terrible “Frankishh accretions” after the year 800 a “liturgical abuse”.
        I consider the train of a cappa magna worn by several prominent cardinals which appears longer than the one the Duchess of Cambridge wore at her wedding to be a far greater abuse.

        Our poor late Jesuit pastor would enlarge upon EP IV by
        borrowing heavily from the Liturgy of St. James. He never gave a thought about it and neither did we. It was a very solid liturgical enhancement and magnified the beauty of this prayer ten fold. Anything, but an abuse.

  2. One is “liturgical abuse.” It boggles my mind that this phrase came into common use in the post-2002 Church, as if people were completely tone-deaf to the connotations of the word “abuse” in the context of the Catholic Church.

    Perhaps that would boggle the mind. But it didn’t come into common use then. One of the places it was put forward in people’s minds was Jimmy Akin’s 1998 book Mass Confusion.

    See also the December 1995 article “How to Address A Liturgical Abuse” by Lou Bruno in Vol. 1 No. 2 of the Adoremus Bulletin. Or the 1990 Catholic Answer Book from Our Sunday Visitor Press. And this 1982 book. And of course the term itself is centuries old, these are just instances of popularization.

    1. Samuel,

      Thanks for the pre-2002 sources for the popularization of the term.

      As I said, I didn’t mean to imply that the term originates post-2002. Perhaps it’s simply the advent of Catholic blogdom around the time of the sex abuse crisis that has given me the impression that the term became more frequently used in that period. My main point was simply that one reason I don’t use it is the connotations of the term “abuse” post-2002. Certainly, given those connotations, we could use a phrase like “violations of liturgical law.”

      1. Fritz
        In Inaestimabile Donum of April 1980 there are references to abuses from the foreword on. The last sentence in paragraph 1 is: “It would be a serious abuse to replace the word of God with the word of man, no matter who the author may be.”
        I bet that we can find earlier references to abuse.
        You may well be right that the availability of blogging as a means of communication has raised discussion of the matter.

      2. Deacon – if you really want to go back in history; Vincent dePaul’s writings use the term abuse when directing his parish missions in France – mostly rural areas with uneducated clergy. At issue – it was 40 years post Trent but many French bishops had delayed or refused to implement the council’s reforms. Part of Vincent’s mission was to re-educate local clergy specifically in the liturgy and sacraments.

  3. “the operative principle, however, seems to be that changes in the course of history that I favor are “organic,” while those I do not favor are “fabricated liturgy.””

    This crux of your article says it all in a nutshell It’s the principle around which much or our wrangling orbits, it seems to me.

  4. How about when answering any question about the liturgy we preface every response with this reminder about an addition, a deletion or change to anything in the liturgy (be it papal, cathedral, parochial, or other) by anyone in the liturgy?

    “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest [Ed. Latin sacerdos = bishop or presbyter], may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.” Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, General Norms, A. 22.3

    CCC 1124 The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles – whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition.

    CCC 1125 For this reason no sacramental rite may be modified or manipulated at the will of the minister or the community. Even the supreme authority in the Church may not change the liturgy arbitrarily, but only in the obedience of faith and with religious respect for the mystery of the liturgy.

    1. All of which flies in the face of the development of all western and eastern liturgies. The bishop from the outset was the arbiter of what can be added, removed, or changed in the liturgy. Rome has taken this responsibility upon itself at the local bishop’s expense and now pays the price for having done so: universal dismissal and disparagement of virtually anything CDW decides.
      This isn’t about to change either irrespective of any forthcoming liturgical revisions now rumored for sometime this month.

  5. sufficient to the day the evil of it — lovely, now I am getting the hang of elevated language — I mean, of language elevated I the hang now getting am.

  6. The two examples you cite sound good to me. Do you somehow have to get away with doing them for 200 years? Is it good to publicize them as you have done? Will that increase their usage and thereby increase the chances that they will become accepted practice at some time? Or will it simply alert the temple police?

  7. In my parish, and a number of others I have attended, we sing the Easter dismissal with its double alleluia for the whole 50 days of Easter, not just for the octave as the rubric directs. This seems to fit with a number of other features of the current liturgy, such as the burning of the easter candle for the entire Easter season, and not just until Ascension.

    Since this Alleluia distinguishes the Octave from the Season (which is what the candle marks) this destroys the most noticable feature of the Octave of Easter for the Sunday only worshipper. That the candle is now lit through Pentecost and not just the Ascension is not a good argument, since in the 1962 Missal (and prior Missals), the Alleluia was just said during the Octave (and, in fact, not on Dominica in Albis) and not the entire Season, even reckoning the Season as going up to Ascension. Extending the Season has little to do with extending the Octave. Saying the Alleluia on Low Sunday is already a rationalization of the practice of when to say the Alleluia at the dismissal.

    1. Samuel,

      I’m not sure I entirely understand your point. I wasn’t trying to claim that the alleluias in the 62 missal were tied to the Easter season. I was trying to say that the reformed calendar on the whole focuses more on the 50 days than on things like octaves or the 40-day period between Easter and Ascension, and thus it would seem natural to many to keep the alleluia’s for that whole period (not unlike the way that the antiphons and repsonsories in the Office have alleluia added during the 50 days).

      1. The point is that there are certain Alleluias that are associated with the Octave (like the one at the dismissal) and others that are associated with the Easter season (like the ones in the antiphons of the office). Your most recent comment seems to confirm that the second category has been extended past Ascension to the whole 50 days, as has having the Paschal Candle lit for the whole 50 days.

        But the Alleluia at the dismissal is not a paralel case with the office (and presumably Mass proper) antiphons and the Paschal Candle, because it’s specifically associated with the octave and this association is not a new thing. The Alleluia at the dismissal didn’t last beyond the Octave in the 1962 Missal and it doesn’t now. The oddity of the Alleluia not being said on Low Sunday has been fixed (“rationalized”) already in the new missal so this is clearly not an oversight, but a definite application of “progressive solemnity”. The Octave is (even in the reformed rite) more solemn than the Season.

        To extend the Alleluia like this at the dismissal, it’s comporable to singing the Easter Sequence and the Creed at every ferial Mass through Pentecost.

  8. Also, as I find myself saying over and over again, this is not a new difficulty. There’s lots of discussion of the questions surrounding the establishment of contra legem customs in the liturgical and canonical authors.

  9. Deacon – Mr. Howard has completely missed the point of your post. Notice his knee jerk “organic development” or is it “liturgical abuse” by constantly referencing everything back to the 1962 Missal. Organic development would posit that this Missal is no longer used in the church’s liturgy – liturgical abuse would allow for this and would find some type of technical way to bless this.

    Your post is excellent and you capture the heart of the “mess”; “complexity”; or whatever name you want to give it.

    It appears to me that over the last 30 years we have had a very small group with “official” backing perpetuate liturgical abuse that they have renamed organic development (excuse me – hermeneutic of reform or continuity or whatever).

    My only comment is that organic development (per my many liturgy teachers) is more than just “can’t define but know it when I see it routine”. It seemed that SC and VII wanted to simplify ritual of its accumulated non-essential rituals & recapture/emphasize scripture and early church understandings and yet, as you say well, we just love to modify, revise, add, etc. to our hearts content – some of this can be labelled as culturization but where do you draw the line? What happens when a small group (e.g. Neo-Cats) decide that their liturgical ritual makes sense and is not abuse?

    Just a multitude of thoughts generated by your post and it seems to only create more complexity. And yet, if VII did nothing else, it tried to reform liturgy and free it from accoutrements that no longer had meaning. At the same time it encouraged adaptation to culture, languages, etc. Who decides if that is abuse or organic development?

    1. There are several different points in his post. One of which is this: “[Singing Alleluia at the dismissal] seems to fit with a number of other features of the current liturgy, such as the burning of the easter candle for the entire Easter season, and not just until Ascension.”

      I’m not missing the point at all. I’m explaining why it doesn’t fit with other features of the reformed liturgy, referencing the history of the Roman Rite and the history that led to what we have now.

      How do you propose to understand the liturgy without reference to the history of its development?

      Who decides if that is abuse or organic development?

      The Church’s authorities and those to whom they have delegated their power. There are very careful descriptions in the reformed rites of what adaptations are within the power of the national authorities, individual Bishops, and particular celebrants.

      It appears to me that over the last 30 years we have had a very small group with “official” backing perpetuate liturgical abuse that they have renamed organic development (excuse me – hermeneutic of reform or continuity or whatever).

      Huh? “Organic development” and the “hermenutic of continuity” are largely different things. Perhaps if you gave a specific example of an “abuse” perpetuated by reference to “organic development”? (Which doesn’t make much sense since if it’s being perpetuated [same as before] then it’s not a development [different than before].)

  10. Fritz is absolutely right. This is the Church’s common modus operandi — practice supersedes edict, and edict eventually catches up with practice.

    It happened with Communion in the hand and female altar servers, as Fritz points out. It also happened with Communion under both kinds and lay Ministers of Communion. (Interesting that so much has centred on the distribution of Communion.) It also happened with some gestures and some words (“in these or similar words”) in the main rites.

    The fun thing is to predict which practices will eventually be enshrined in the rulebooks. Fritz has started us off with post-Gospel acclamations (and I think there is a good theological reason for this as well as the practical ones he adduces) and the use of the Paschal Candle and double Alleluia for the whole of the Easter Season. Both of these have been widespread for many years.

    I’d like to begin the list with these possibilities, some of which may be thought more “abusive” than others, but all of which currently happen:

    (1) Ministers of Communion receiving at the end of the distribution, not at the beginning of it.
    (2) More controversially, and perhaps further down the line, the presiding priest receiving last of all.
    (3) Rites of Gathering in which, following the implications of paragraph 44 of Music in Catholic Worship (1972), only an opening song and an opening prayer are used, all else being omitted.
    (4) Simplification/elimination of the prayers following the presentation of the gifts.
    (5) Receiving Communion on Good Friday being made optional or discontinued altogether (and cf. Kenneth Stevenson, Jerusalem Revisited, p. 66ff).
    (6) An Easter Vigil where the fire is blessed, readings are read by firelight, and the service of light is associated with the Resurrection Gospel, the Gloria being omitted altogether (and cf. Stevenson, p. 89).
    (7) The Penitential Rite at Mass moved so as to follow the Liturgy of the Word (as on Ash Wednesday, for example).

    1. (ctd)
      (8) The Sign of Peace moved to before the presentation of the gifts, preferably following a Penitential Rite which has also moved there.
      (9) Use of semi-leavened bread (e.g. pitta bread) instead of unleavened bread.
      (10) Use of totally gluten-free altar breads as well as low-gluten.
      (11) Anyone who wishes having their feet washed and washing others’ feet on Holy Thursday evening.
      (12) Deacons remaining standing throughout the Eucharistic Prayer.
      (13) Deacons extending hands to the assembly at the greeting “The Lord be with you” instead of keeping their hands joined.
      (14) Priests (!) extending hands to the assembly at the greeting “The Lord be with you” instead of keeping their hands joined.

      No space here to give historical/theological/anthropological justifications for any of these, and I am sure that the list can be extended a lot further! But let’s end with something that started off as an abuse but has now become an integral part of the spirituality of many:

      (15) The Unity Candle as an optional acceptable symbol at weddings!

      1. Paul,

        It’s a testimony to just how conservative I am that I would oppose almost all the possible developments you suggest. But I certainly wouldn’t oppose them on the basis of their being “inorganic.”

      2. Fritz

        Well, I would count myself as a progressive, and even I would strongly resist a number of them, but likewise not because they were “inorganic” but for other reasons (most commonly, a number of them strike me as “half-baked” and not well thought-through – that’s the single most common problem with “creative” adaptation at all levels, bottom-up and top-down).

      3. I might add that I have had a hand (though not mine alone) in eliminating 1, 2, 9 and 13 from our parish practice (in the case of 9, baking soda was being used in making the bread, since people thought “leaven” only meant yeast; we still make our own bread, but use strictly wheat flour and water).

        We only do #8 at the Easter Vigil (I’m not sure why), but I would consider it just because the sign of peace is a bit chaotic at our place and I almost feel as if attention paid to our Lord’s sacramental body is being placed in competition with that paid to his ecclesial body.

        We still do #13, because I’d feel silly kneeling when no one else was.

        We also do #11, which I would be loath to give up, since I think it captures so much better what Jesus commands in the Gospel than does the “re-enactment approach” of having the priest wash the feet of 12 people. In fact, if told by the bishop to stop, I’d prefer to omit the mandatum entirely.

      4. Deacon Fritz, I think you meant #12, not #13, since there’s no kneeling in #13? Don’t the members of your congregation (and your altar servers) kneel?

      5. (11) Anyone who wishes having their feet washed and washing others’ feet on Holy Thursday evening.

        This is done by a local parish. The practice is an improvement over having the priest wash the feet as an historical reenactment in persona Christi, which has led in some places to having only the feet of men washed and in others to having only the feet of priests washed, rather than as an invitation to all Christians to wash the feet of one another in imitation of Christ.

        On the other hand, it is one of those practices which might need some experimentation and refinement.

        There was not much of a rationale given for why any particular person might participate. It would probably be rather chaotic if everyone did it. What happens if most people do, but some do not? Would there be social pressure to do this?

        While I would not have my feet washed by a priest because of the implicit clericalism (he gets to be humble for one night because he really is more like Christ than the rest of us), I would take part in either role if I were asked to among a representative group doing (as a sign) what implicitly the whole community should be doing in various ways in daily life.

      6. You’re right, I meant 12.

        Don’t the members of your congregation (and your altar servers) kneel?

        I hate to upset anybody, but no, they don’t. I suppose I have a slight preference that they would, since I’m more or less a follow-the-rules kind of guy, but it’s not my call and it’s not the sword on which I’m willing to impale myself.

    2. (2) More controversially, and perhaps further down the line, the presiding priest receiving last of all.

      Recognizing the legitimate role of custom in the life of the Church (of which organic development in the liturgy is a case), involves recognizing the proper role of the authority of the Church in reining in customs of which it does not approve. This one has been specifically forbidden by Redemptionis Sacramentum:

      “[97.] A Priest must communicate at the altar at the moment laid down by the Missal each time he celebrates Holy Mass, and the concelebrants must communicate before they proceed with the distribution of Holy Communion. The Priest celebrant or a concelebrant is never to wait until the people’s Communion is concluded before receiving Communion himself.”

      1. My dear boy, we all know what RS says. The whole point of this thread is not what current legislation may or may not say, but what it may say in the future, when edict catches up with liturgical theology (in this case).

        And to cite RS is to invite ridicule. You are aware, I assume, of the sordid history of this document?

      2. Paul, actually, the context of this thread was the discussion of organic development in the liturgy, which is another way of saying the development of liturgical custom, sometimes praeter legem and sometimes contra legem that has subsequently been written into liturgical law. Current legislation is a part of this, especially current legislation that reins in contra legem customs that have cropped up here and there as R.S. does. That is because this kind of current legislation at least resets the clock on a contra legem custom (the consent of the legislator can no longer be assumed). Certain kinds of current legislation, when a custom is reprobated as many are in R.S. prevent a custom from being established as an organic development contra legem.

        You are aware, I assume, of the sordid history of this document?

        You are aware, I assume, that the document is authoritative? Certainly, as a diocesan official you have followed it?

    3. I’ve seen the Gloria used or the Litany of the Saints as the
      processional psalm in a number of parishes. The “Gathering Rites” I’ve observed outside of Lent sometimes involve a short office of Lauds consisting of just psalms 148-150, or singing the Hallel (psalms 113-118). All of this linked to the Asperges and a rite of blessing incense with incensantion of the font, followed by chanting a gospel of the Resurrection. The possibilities for revision seem endless.

  11. I just came across a text in St John Chrysostom’s baptismal catecheses which show clearly that Christians then took communion in the hand. Making an “abuse” of this development is typical of the control-freaks who are wreaking havoc just now. The problem with our liturgies is NOT abuses, or clown masses, but lack of vitality and creativity. The abuse-hunters want us all to freeze in the posture of 1962 as if nothing had happened since then. Words like “inculturation” and “creative liturgy” are anathema to them. Sadly, it is they who have the ear of the Vatican, which seems manned with depressives and negative thinkers.

    1. Joe, you’ll also find a quote in the sermons of Leo the Great that has been harnessed to argue that Christians received in the mouth as early as the fifth century. In context, it clearly means no such thing — only that one eats with the mouth (and not, for example, the eye or the ear). But when you’re engaged in proof-texting, you’ll grab at anything.

      1. Chrysostom refers to both hand and mouth, saying that the hand that touches the body of Christ should not strike, and the tongue stained with the blood (sic!) should not curse.

  12. As to glass chalices and patens: The Cloisters Museum in New York has a set of chalice and paten in glass from the 14th century on display in their treasury room. And the Archdiocese of Sens and the Diocese of Senlis in France have in their treasuries whole cabinets full of lead-crystal chalices and patens on display from the 17th to the 19th centuries. So they are by no means ‘novelties’ despite the present opinion of some.

  13. What basis is there for favoring “creative liturgy”?

    I do not recall SC promoting creativity, rather opposing anyone adding or subtracting anything.

    I find Paul’s suggestions very interesting, and I would love to work on a theoretical new order of Mass and rubrics which would apply them and many other things. I would like to see a few dozen parishes with well-trained liturgist-pastors across the country given a couple of years to test such a new creation.

    I do understand that, de facto, “practice supersedes edict, and edict eventually catches up with practice.” I just wish there were mechanisms to make legitimate the development of how we do the same basic things.

    OTOH, for three decades I have been fighting to get everyone to study and operate within the GIRM, and no one seems interested, be they left or right.

  14. Thanks, Paul and Phillip and Tom.

    Mr. Howard – my point was a basic methodological (or it may be theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological) process.

    You start by citing and implementing only what the canon law or proper authorities state. I start with liturgical principles that have been articulated and implemented by various national conferences – these differ by nation, conferences, and even dioceses. You cite Vatican directives that apply to all or as Paul says: edict follows.

    Paul has articulated well that VII and subsequent dicasteries and policies built on VII principles…only after the fact did there arise “laws” governing some of this liturgical expressions e.g. GIRM. My experience is that these laws at times badly reflect both original principles and current practice; GIRM changes frequently. (Tom – understand what you are saying; sometimes the best you can do is to teach folks how to read the black and do the red but, geez, that makes for mediocrity; puts edict above liturgical sense; and diminishes understanding ritual and liturgy. GIRM, all too often, replaces good litugy with slavish law)

    Finally, as Dean/Deacon said well, you start with the actual lex ordandi, lex credendi – not with GIRM or canon law.

    Side note – Deacon, agree and am surprised at how “conservative” you are. My experience of a number of Paul’s examples lead to best practice liturgies.

  15. Agree but my point is that both sides do that. Global rules are often after the fact; not based upon history of the liturgy but the “whim” of someone in a dicastery who has favor at that time (think Liturgican Authenticam).

    You cite one of Paul’s examples – when the presider takes communion and a papal document from Arinze (doubt that JPII had much input on this in 2004). Does Arinze indicate any liturgical history for his ruling or is it just an edict?

    The same document also reiterities that hosts must be from that liturgy not a tabernacle – geez, and how many parishes/priests ignore this? Use of the communion plate – please? we have had the more recent change so that EMs can no longer purify the vessels – based on whose interpretation of liturgical history?

    It gets back to the Deacon’s post – seems that the interpretation from authority wins the day; they set the rules; they re-interpret current practice; and then make edicts.

    Think about the document you cite – was this approved by conferences of bishops; has Arinze any real experience with liturgies in large US parishes; did bishops weigh in on this document? Did expert liturgists?

    Would say that Arinze made frequent public pronouncements that were more abusive than organic in nature – wonder why he is no longer in that role?

    1. The same document also reiterities that hosts must be from that liturgy not a tabernacle – geez, and how many parishes/priests ignore this?
      Two of my favorite practices I see continuing in many parishes to this day and are pet peeves of B16 are the use of a cross, rather than a crucifix at the altar, and
      having the crucifix off to the side, rather than front and

  16. Excellent discussion. A few years back there was a lively discussion over at NLM blog about the practice of showering the assembly with rose petals from a vent in the ceiling on Pentecost Sunday, a visual suggestion of the descent of tongues of fire in the upper room. St. John Cantius in Chicago had added this practice, citing precedent from the Roman Pantheon. A reader commented that if some suburban parish had introduced this same practice at their guitar Mass, NLM readers would condemn it as liturgical innovation and abuse. Double standard?

  17. I like the word “organic.”

    To me it means that we begin with keeping what is good and what works. We build upon that, one step at a time, by adding things that are consistent with what we already have.

    At the end of a year doing this, people would agree both that the liturgy has changed and is better but that it is also still very much the same liturgy as last year. Hopefully after ten years they would say that it is very much better than it was ten years ago, but would still say that much that was good ten years ago is still being maintained today.

    Let me take music as an example, e.g. the four hymns (Entrance, Preparation, Communion, Recession).

    Begin by identifying everything that presently is being used that is both good (the people like it) and it works (they can and do sing it). Use only those materials as a starting point.

    Add new music to the collection only very slowly, at the rate of only one hymn per month. That means a total of only 12 new hymns per year, but it does mean 120 new hymns per decade. If originally the parish had 52 X 4 or 208 hymns to cover all the slots, it would mean replacing a little over half of them.

    Familiarity does lead to liking, and can lead to learning the songs. So when one picks a new hymn for Advent, it means the people should hear the choir sing it before they do, practice it at least once before singing, and sing it several times. In other words, the people should actually learn not just be exposed to 12 new songs per year.

    This model does not mean that we cannot introduce something (e.g. chant) to a parish that has no chant. It just means that one has to do it very slowly (over a ten year period) in relationship to what already exists, at the rate of only one new chant a month out of a possible 4 x 4 =16 slots. It does mean that one could have 120 chants after a decade, enought to satisfy the most avid of chant lovers.

  18. Tom said I find Paul’s suggestions very interesting, and I would love to work on a theoretical new order of Mass and rubrics which would apply them and many other things. I would like to see a few dozen parishes with well-trained liturgist-pastors across the country given a couple of years to test such a new creation.

    Some posting here may not be aware that bishops have the power to designate individual parishes as places of special experiment to try out liturgical modifications which may in the fullness of time become the subject of particular law. This has certainly happened during the last 40 years and may well happen again in the future. I seem to remember a certain pastor in Seattle suggesting this in the recent past….

  19. Great post, Fritz. It reminds me of Newman’s lovely comment on an infallible authority in the Apologia, part 7. His point, as I understand it, is that a final authority enables rather than restricts a process of development. In this view, the process of liturgical innovation in the field and restraint from the centre is a productive one. It enables the development of liturgical practice, just as it enables the development of doctrine.

    Here is the passage:


    The energy of the human intellect “does from opposition grow”; it thrives and is joyous, with a tough elastic strength, under the terrible blows of the divinely-fashioned weapon, and is never so much itself as when it has lately been overthrown …

    It is necessary for the very life of religion, viewed in its large operations and its history, that the warfare should be incessantly carried on. Every exercise of Infallibility is brought out into act by an intense and varied operation of the Reason, from within and without and provokes again a re-action of Reason against it; as in a civil polity the State exists and endures by means of the rivalry and collision, the encroachments and defeats of its constituent parts, so in like manner Catholic Christendom is no simple exhibition of religious absolutism, but presents a continuous picture of Authority and Private Judgment alternately advancing and retreating as the ebb and flow of the tide;—it is a vast assemblage of human beings with wilful intellects and wild passions, brought together into one by the beauty and the majesty of a Superhuman Power … for the melting, refining, and moulding, by an incessant noisy process, of the raw material of human nature, so excellent, so dangerous, so capable of divine purposes.

  20. [1] Still no answer to my wondering about any official encouragement of creativity in the liturgy

    [2] I can not recall any bishop authorizing any parishes as places of experiment since the 1970s.

    [2] What does anyone else think is the total capacity of the average parishioner [not music lovers or musicians] for liking and knowing hymns? I think FCAP may be pushed if there are as many as fifty OT hymns. That is one reason to advocate teaching three to five psalm tones in a parish and using the textual variety of the Psalter, besides the fact that Psalms are what SC and the GIRM propose.

    [3] I do not think the vast majority of US parishioners have the hunger for musical variety which their musicians have. I do not think the vast majority of US parishioners have the hunger for liturgical innovation which their liturgical planners have. I also thing that excessive variety works against the regularity of ritual which is fundamental to liturgy.

    [4] I note that almost all the changes are about adding music or other things to liturgies. How do we go about weeding out anachronisms and accretions added earlier?
    Before we open some parishes for experimentation, we need to open some discussions as to judging essentials versus accretions. This might be the basis to answering the question as to what is organic and what is idiosyncratic to a person or a culture or an era.

    [5] In the present it is possible to conflate illicit with abusive, but that is entirely different from contrasting organic with abusive. EP2 may be fabricated but it is an attempt to return to organic development from historic sources rather than remodeling the Roman Canon yet again.

    [6] I return to my claim that much of the problem with constant innovation in practices and music comes from publishers trying to fill copy space or sell music and craft people trying to sell ever more objects of their creation.

    1. Tom – you are in STL – creativity is not allowed; just look at your prior bishops.

      One example from my life – one of your bishops at the prepartion of gifts stopped the liturgy and demanded that the church’s expensive, artist created, hand made crystal cups (not glass) be replaced immediately. Had to open the safe and pull out every old, in some cases rusty “gold-plated or fake gold” chalices; some had not been in use for years. The move was rude at best.

      See Phillip’s comments above….a casual review of history and the documents might focus on the fact that crystal, hand made, from the earth, natural product, etc. has more history than some recent bishops’ knee jerk edict that only “gold” chalices could be used.

      (2) – People want, need, and know/remember music. We have specific music for seasons, feasts, specific celebrations that are part of the parish history and ritual. This includes the proper use of psalms w/cantor refrains; proper use of Taize type music; blending spanish, latin, french, english;
      (3) Most frequent complaint I hear is about the dearth of musical variety; the lack of musical preparation; the re-focus on the choir in exclusion to the community; and the request for better music (not just organ). My comments were not directed to music at all;
      (4) suggest that people welcome change, innovation that is explained, introduced well, and integrated into their ritual history and respects their community roots

      Deacon – thanks for adding using Paul’s numbers. Parish history and feedback was that ministers/presiders receiving last was a powerful statement about the eucharist, servanthood, and ministry going forth. Never kneeled during the eucharistic prayer (find the GIRM direction to kneel upto the acclamation to be confusing and sending mixed signals); whatever you do with the mandatum – to wash only males or only priests (embarrased by Vatican this Holy Thursday) diminshes, if not, betrays what this ritual means. Hard to do…

  21. Liturgical law in the Lutheran Tradition is not unknown, but laws can be written to guard against innovation, or simply to suggest and guide. As I’ve followed the great discussion on this thread I wanted to share the particular “law” on when and how the presiding minister
    communes according to “The Use of the Means of Grace,” our statement on sacramental practices:

    ” It is appropriate within the Lutheran tradition that the presiding minister commune himself/herself or receive the Sacrament from an assistant .This reception may be before or after the congregation communes .” Simple, no?

    1. My theater mentor thought a set change of more than 20 seconds allowed too much time for audience minds to wander away from the flow and tempo of a show.

      Get your stop watches out at Mass and time how long it is between when the community is invited to eat and when the first member of the assembly is served. While the clock runs, look around the congregation at the faces and body language.

      This is particularly bad liturgy when the communion song does not start immediately after the invitation to communion as specified in GIRM.

      Just because the rubric calls for the priest to communicate himself immediately does not mean that all ministers get served before the congregation. It often reminds me of the political rubber chicken dinners where the waiters are standing with trays to serve while waiting for some long winded minister to give the invocation; except its worse, because it is as if the waiters then sat down to eat before serving the guests.

      The litany of the Lamb of God can be extended as long as needed. I see no rule that would prohibit having all the communion ministers in position after the fraction and ready to serve as soon as the invitation is finished.

      The priest need not be the central and most visible communion minister, he could even be one of the multiple ministers of the cup. Very un-traditional, but legal, I think, and sensitive to both the flow of the service and the sub-text of ministering to the community rather than being the focus of the service.

  22. Here’s some abuses that don’t appear on lists compiled by lovers of authentic liturgy:
    1) using those small hosts that can’t be broken so that some of it can be distributed to the faithful. The same ones the priest carefully holds together as if it hadn’t bee broken.
    2) making no attempt to see to it that the faithful are fed with the “loaves” they presented earlier in the mass. A neighboring parish seems always to have thousands of consecrated hosts on hand–just in case there’s a catastrophe of some kind.
    3) the practice of strictly limiting the offering of the cup to the faithful–it costs too much or it poses the risk of spilling or it takes too long and, worst of all, the Vatican doesn’t like it.
    4) failing to carefully select and train Readers who can proclaim God’s word in an expressive manner that gives rise to burning hearts.
    5) priests who sound like they are just reading texts rather than praying them…or who pray in rapid fashion so as not hold the folks too long…or who rush all the parts of the mass together rather than employ periods of reverential silence.
    6) masses scheduled so closely together that priests have to rush through the mass.
    7) priests who affect a liturgical persona as if “in persona Christi” requires concealing his natural manner of speaking and praying.

    I’ll bet some of you could add to the list.

    1. “lovers of authentic liturgy” which is who exactly? People you disagree with? Perhaps this isn’t meant sarcastically? It’s wrong either way.

      No. 2 is in R.S. No. 6 is found in liturgical and moral theology manuals (e.g. O’Connell’s “The Celebration of Mass”.) Many of the others on the list are debatable as abuses. For instance, the idea that the readings should be read “expressive[ly]” is not at all universally accepted.

    2. 6) masses scheduled so closely together that priests have to rush through the mass.

      I am familiar with that one. In my parish cluster in France there are 3 priests (plus one retired one) for 28 churches. On Sunday morning our priest says one Mass somewhere else in the early morning, then jumps into his car and rushes over to our parish for the 11am Mass, where he usually arrives barely in time.

      I’m not sure that “liturgical abuse” is quite the right name for it.

      However it is clear that, because he does not have the time to prepare, he takes the liturgy as it comes. If the lay people of the parish have prepared candles, linen, music etc, great. If not, never mind, he makes do. If there is an altar boy or altar girl to help him, wonderful, else he manages on his own. He is long past caring about the gender of the altar servers.

      It is not perfect, but we do what we can.

  23. Mr. Howard = again, that is the whole point – who decides. Your examples-

    – proclaiming the readings (any expert in liturgy would advocate for this)….

    You say “not at all universally accepted” – by whom? It doesn’t really apply to those who live in an alternative universe and speak LTM, EF, or some unknown future merging of the EF/OF.

    if you start with trying to find some type of “law”/”edict” who knows what you will come up with. Curia/bishops can be notoriously bad at liturgy and ritual; yet, they make the rules. That is why starting with a rule is upside down (per Paul’s excellent explanation)

    – no, most of his list are abuses (depending upon whose ox is being gored ….again, the whole point). RS -see both Paul and my points; like Liturgicam Authenticam, an embarrassment for liturgists and the church.

    1. proclaiming the readings (any expert in liturgy would advocate for this)….

      You say “not at all universally accepted” – by whom?

      I said that proclaiming the readings expressively was not universally accepted. For instance, if you chant the readings (which is the ideal) according to the traditional tones (which is an option) it’s not really going to be expressive, but it’s also not an abuse.

  24. SH has indeed missed the point of what I asked which was for things which ought to be considered abuses aside from what is illicit. I am trying to find his and other’s opinions of what is in tune with the Mass and what is not, if one were to offer logical rather than legal opinions.

    I would be particularly interested in what those who like the EF consider to be organic developments, legal or not, and what they consider to be distractions or imperfections in the EF.

    1. EF “organic developments” that I like include:

      — Epistle and gospel in the vernacular from the altar. Allowed by Summorum Pontificum. In my opinion, this should be done at every Low Mass and Missa Cantata. I wish that a publishing house would print a Sunday missal with the Latin propers and pointed English lections for the Mass of the Catechumens (the EF version of the ‘book for the chair’). A full1962 Missal could be used for the Mass of the Faithful.

      — I have seen Quebecois EF celebrants read the epistle in French from a lectern. For longer Gospels the priest might read the Gospel in French from the pulpit without singing the Latin first. Fine with me.

      — Congregational singing of the Pater Noster. Permitted, and should be done more often.

      — An organic development I would like to see in the EF: permission for a congregation to sing the ordinary of the Mass in the vernacular while the priest silently recites the Latin to himself. The priest could merely intone “Gloria in excelsis deo …”, and continue in quiet recitation while the congregation sings “Glory be to God on high …” Sort of like the Deutsche Singmesse but updated. Something tells me that’s pushing the envelope for many EF devotees. I’d like to see it anyway.

    2. I think the use of vernacular is a good “organic” development, and could be used at the EF to some extent (like the scripture readings and other propers). I have mixed feelings about using it for the audible portions of the Mass ordinary, and sometimes think a “graduated solemnity” approach should be taken where the Low Mass would be allowed completely in the vernacular, while only the propers would be allowed in vernacular for sung Masses. However, I wouldn’t gripe at an English High Mass using the EF. Another nice change would be allowing communion from the chalice as an option. Those are the two things (vernacular and communion from the chalice) I find myself missing when I haven’t been to an OF for a while.

      Another thing about the EF that I know some people would like to see reformed is the practice of having the priest repeat everything the choir sings. Maybe make the Last Gospel optional.

      I also like Fr Allan’s idea of allowing the EF ordinary for use with the OF’s propers and calendar (basically making it yet another option amongst the OF’s many options, like how the Episcopalians have a “Rite I” built right into their reformed BCP) since that would help establish continuity between Masses at parishes that utilize both forms of Mass. Priests wouldn’t have to prepare two different sermons/homilies, and the feast days would all be the same. I’ve missed Epiphany and Christ the King because I attended a mix of OF and EF Masses.

  25. Tom said The priest need not be the central and most visible communion minister, he could even be one of the multiple ministers of the cup. Very un-traditional, but legal, I think

    Indeed he often should be one of the ministers of the cup, but seldom is.

    GIRM 284a:

    When Communion is distributed under both kinds, the chalice is usually administered by a deacon or, when no deacon is present, by a priest…

  26. I think it is hard sometimes to tell the difference between fads and true organic development as one first experiences it. Paul Inwood’s wish list above made me think that he attended the same liturgy classes I had in the 1970’s. All of those were suggested back then. If we are to go retro, I think I’ll take 1962 retro over 1970’s retro! But therein lies the rub, so much of suggested liturgical reform immediately following Vatican II was of the trendy type that didn’t survive the test of only a couple of years. However, altar girls, Communion in the hand and Communion under both forms at all Masses, not just small group or special occasions seems to have become an organic development although these started out somewhat “illicitly.” I don’t think I necessarily would call these abuses though.

    1. Fr. Allan:

      The issues are the issues are the issues. I don’t like it when you label something as “so 1970s.” The only issue is whether it’s a good suggestion – whether it comes from 1958 or 1968 or 1978, and whether the source is reactionary or radical or progressive. Labeling is dismissive.


      1. Fr. Anthony,
        The point of what I wrote, which you seem to have dismissed is that altar girls, Communion in the hand, and Communion under both kinds at all Masses (in many places) did become an organic development although these started out “illicitly” or as an “abuse,” whereas the suggestions of Paul Inwood while tried, failed; these did not become “organically accepted.”

      2. No, Fr. Allen, I didn’t dismiss any such thing. Rather, I didn’t address it. That’s entirely different.

        I addressed only one thing: whether things are bad because they come from the 70s, or whether they’re bad for substantive reasons.

        You’re changing the subject. What you’re saying on this other subject strikes me as true, in fact. But it’s not what I addressed and it’s irrelevant to my comment.

        To repeat: my point, the only point in my comment, is that we should look at the substance of an issue, and not dismiss it with a label such as “from the 70s.”


      3. Fr. Anthony, Allen is fine as is MacDonald, but if you are commenting on what I originally wrote, I am at a loss that you would not focus on the positive of what I wrote, but write that I wrote in that post that something is “so 70’s and thus bad.” Go look at it again, nowhere do I write that. I just say that Paul, tongue in cheek, must have had the same liturgy classes that I had because in fact this is what we were being taught, along with other things. Some of those things survived the test of time but others only for a couple of years or less. Yes, I stand by my original critique of your critique of my comments and say you are being dismissive too of what I wrote by imputing something to it that I didn’t write in that original post. And as far as Chris goes, he can call me whatever he likes, I dismissed him long ago! 🙂

      4. Allan,

        It’s not my wish list. I was merely listing the first things off the top of my head which are currently happening (40 years after the 1970s, you notice, so you can hardly maintain that they have “failed”) and which might in the fullness of time become acceptable.

        I was very careful not to indicate what I thought about any of them, nor give any rationale for them, though I could of course do both

      5. Paul, many of those things were more common place at one time but not so much so today at least here in the USA and I haven’t read anything recently about it as a form of liturgical renewal, but had to laugh when I read what you wrote as we really thought this was where things would go not realizing that the “reform of the reform” would bring a new perspective to things. And yes, in the early 1980’s I certainly experimented with what I was taught and another reason why I smiled at seeing it written down anew!

  27. !! LOL.
    Sorry about that, Allan.
    I’m pretty sure you’re not Presbyterian and never collaborated with Fred McManus.

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