Mistakes or “liturgical abuses”?

How do we know when the liturgy is … well, wrong?

Some use the language of “liturgical abuse” to describe this sense of something gone awry at worship. Is this a valid term? What would constitute such an “abuse”? (Pray Tell‘s Fritz Bauerschmidt has commented about the problematic aspects of this term.)

Obviously, rites and rubrics exist for a very good reason — to help us maintain the dignity of liturgy. How do we maintain that dignity without falling into a strict legalism that nitpicks and demeans the efforts of well-intentioned people?

Fr. Joseph Krupp of the Diocese of Lansing addresses this topic in the January issue of FAITH magazine when he responds to a question about reporting “liturgical abuse.”  He advises that the term is problematic and shouldn’t be used — most priests, he says, are particularly sensitive to the charge of “abusing” the Mass and would find the term a “conversation stopper, not the beginning of a dialogue.” He goes on:

…one of the great challenges to being a priest right now is that the Catholic world seems to have an overabundance of experts on liturgy.  A priest who does little but write articles and give interviews about the failings of other priests is not an expert – I often think of the quote from President Roosevelt about how there are people who “do” and people who criticize the doers.  When the people to whom we go for information on the Mass and on being Catholic are people more intent on evaluating others than actually getting out and serving God’s people in real and tangible ways, then we need to turn them off in every sense of the word.  As Catholics, we need to be better than that.

Should it be our job to be on guard constantly for “abuses”?  Fr. Joe continues:

I think it is important to ask ourselves if our need to monitor liturgy and make sure it’s perfect is sometimes a need on our part to control.  There are some folks who simply can’t sit at Mass without evaluating it and making sure it is in accordance with their interpretation of the law.

What do you think?


  1. For starters, bring back the De defectibus section of the Missal, adjusting it with reference to Redemptionis Sacramentum for the ordinary form of the Mass. I’m not of the opinion that detailed instructions and obedience to those instructions constitute “legalism”, properly understood.

    If a priest knows and does what he is supposed to do in the celebration of Mass, the people do not need to be on their guard against “abuses” – some of which are actual abuses in the terms of RS, many of which would come under the older term “defects”.

    1. IF A PRIEST KNOWS AND DOES WHAT HE IS SUPPOSED TO DO — In the seminary I was taught, in the spirit of Vatican II, that the priest gathers together the prayers of the people, breaks the Word and the Eucharistic Bread with them, and that this demands human and spiritual qualities, not mere zombie conformism.

      1. “In the spirit of Vatican II” – that would be the problem. Rather see it done according to what Vatican II actually says.

      2. Fr O’Leary, you exaggerate and distort my words.

        I do not endorse “zombie conformism” in expecting the Mass to be said and done according to the Missal and its General Instruction. To imply that I do is a total misreading of my position, which is merely that a large part of what the priest is supposed to do at Mass is governed by the rubrics and rules. Any tendency towards antinomianism in this regard ought, in my view, to be avoided at all costs.

        I thought that this was a reasonably uncontroversial position to hold: basically, say the black, and do the red, while making informed and legitimate choices about the ars celebrandi. (And preferably preach a good, orthodox homily, as well!)

        Oh, and the phrase “spirit of Vatican II”, by and large, means wildly different things to those of your generation and those of mine.

      3. “Oh, and the phrase “spirit of Vatican II”, by and large, means wildly different things to those of your generation and those of mine.”

        Amen and amen!

      4. I’ve never understood why some interpret “say the black, do the red” to imply “zombie conformism” or cold, dull, Masses that lack a human touch.

        Those who promote “say the black…” certainly don’t want those things – they seem to care a great deal about music, architecture, preaching, etc.

  2. A conversation stopper indeed! And it is not helpful, no matter how noble their intentions may be, for priests who blog about such things, to continue to do so. I have heard commentary from some parishioners at church who, believe they truly know “what the prayer really says,” from reading such blogs. And are happy to inform the pastor what was done wrong!

    Not helpful, not unifying and not particularly Catholic, if you ask me.

  3. A priest who does little but write articles and give interviews about the failings of other priests is not an expert

    And who would that be? I can’t think of anyone that fits that description.

    1. “A priest who does little but write articles and give interviews about the failings of other priests is not an expert.”

      I’ve been following a priest who fits that mold for a long time and have even had a spaghetti dinner with him. I don’t believe that he ever reveals the names of priests that he criticizes. Some Bishops, however, are fair game.

      1. By not revealing the names of those he criticizes, he tars all priests with the same brush. No one knows who he is talking about. That kind of thing, repeated over time, is insidious and and ultimately destructive. He should have the courage to name names, so that those who are not the object of his vitriol are relieved and those who are the object may respond to his allegations (if not sue for libel!). But that is not the way of such critics. Sniping cowardly from a corner is more their style.

      2. Paul, it was only a few weeks ago that Rita recommended the following practice:

        It is bad practice for commenters to identify the source of bad examples, generally, when holding blog discussions.

        Praise by name, if you wish to identify best practices, but when bringing critique, it’s rude to name. It’s the issue that’s being discussed, and this is an example, not a person being brought to the bar of justice.

  4. I’ve met very few Catholics with a problem with legalism who live in a place with a culture where people try to obey the law. I’ve met many Catholics with a problem with legalism who live in places where the law is blatantly ignored.

    1. But the “General” is supposed to mean generically, not in particular? That is, a general rule adaptable to local circumstances?

  5. The terms “Father Fluff” and “Sr. Polyester Pantsuit” have no place in a discussion among Christians.

    1. Brigid, you mean you find these fictional names offensive and in the same offensive category as, say, JibJab movies with the faces of actual bishops superimposed on female bodies; or, say, the reference to a bishop’s cigar preference in the context of Monica Lewinsky?

      1. For the life of me, I have no idea what that is about. I can only say that mockery is uncharitable and tends to shed more heat than light. I try to avoid it, but won’t claim I’ve always been successful.

  6. In general, I don’t evaluate the particular ars celebranda of the liturgy in the moment, unless it’s screaming at me. Moreover, when I evaluate it, I much prefer to look over the arc of time: I think movies are more illuminating than photos, as it were. So I am extremely unlikely to play gotcha on the ground in the moment.

    That said, when it comes to *discussions* of liturgy – something that is very different – I feel much less discretion in poking at the veritable palisade of rationalizations one often finds for chronic liturgical creativity. Indeed, such discussions are pretty safe place to illuminate and investigate potential rationalizations.

  7. It would seem to me that people would make changes (a/k/a “liturgical abuses”) not simply because they think of themselves as above the law but because they find the law inadequate or wrong. I think the ultimate liturgical abuse comes about when rules and instructions are issued from behind closed doors with no consideration of what others could bring to the conversation.
    We need to learn how to get along with each other without running to tattle!

  8. There is something ironic here. Some push for a return to the good old days of rubricism, legalism and clericalism ruling the liturgy, rejecting any modern influences on liturgy or ecclesiology–while making a glaring exception to embrace the modern notion of lay persons publically criticizing priests and bishops. If one is going to embrace the old ways, why not be consistent? Perhaps you, as a mere lay person, have no right to criticize how Father says his Mass or Bishop runs his Diocese. Keep your head down and pray/pay/obey in silence.

    1. “Here” is flush with irony. Some push for a rejection of the old ways, rejecting anything that smacks of pre-Vatican II and clericalism and calling for the empowerment of a highly educated, well-informed, tech-savvy laity – while making a glaring exception in the case of those members of the laity who use their education, gained knowledge and technical ability against an issue supported by those pushing for a rejection of the old ways, rejecting anything that smacks of pre-Vatican II and clericalism.

  9. My experience has been that it took me about ten years (TEN YEARS!) to recover from the intense self-consciousness I learned in my seminary about participating in worship, and inwardly giving the priest or deacon (or bishop) marks for presiding, singing, intercessions and recollection (and, yes, I realise that it’s especially sad kneeling wondering whether the priest is fully focussed on the worship: physician, heal thyself). A contributing problem is that priests have too few opportunities to participate in worship which they do not themselves lead.

    What freed me from this legalism? In part it was attending worship in a local Russian Orthodox community, where I did not understand anything, and so just went with the whole liturgy; in part, it was learning to value the prayerfulness which the whole community brings to Mass. Even if the priest is all over the place, I find that I hardly notice any more, as the prayerfulness of the whole people of God feeds me.

    Fr Peter Bradley
    Sheffield, England

  10. What is interesting is the number of canards one can have in one paragraph.

    I seriously doubt anyone wants to return to the “good old days” wholecloth. The seeds of the destruction came from certain veins that existed back then. Obviously something had to change, but that doesn’t mean there needed to be a revolution.

    “Isms” like those are descriptions of stereotypes often created after the Council about the “bad old days” before the Council to refer to situations that still largely exist, albeit in altered forms. The De Defectibus and the edicts of the Sacred Cong. of Rites could be seen as rigid or bringing about order and dignity to the celebration of the Sacraments. I guess it depends on how you want to see it.

    That laymen see that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark does not mean they need to embrace the opposite view of innovation.

    As to the topic on hand, I personally have seen no reason to assume the mantle of Liturgical Police. If I want good liturgy, I know where to go and where to avoid. However, I recognize that not everyone is as fortunate to have the opportunities I have. People do have a right to proper liturgy, and should and do have recourse to higher authorities.

    That said, before causing a big stink about things, they should be mindful of the difference between screwing up and screwing around. We are all human and make mistakes, so we do not want to presume malicious intent. However, regardless of intent, some issues (such as those that touch on validity) are of the utmost importance and should be brought up and/or reported.

    1. “That laymen see that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark….”

      What’s your purpose in specifying the sex of who sees what?

  11. Brigid, you mean you find these fictional names offensive and in the same offensive category as, say, JibJab movies with the faces of actual bishops superimposed on female bodies; or, say, the reference to a bishop’s cigar preference in the context of Monica Lewinsky?

    Yes, I find those examples you cite as also improper to a discussion among Christians. The implication that anyone who disagrees with you would approve of such is painting with a broad brush, to say the least.

    1. Brigid, thank you for your answer. I asked because you were very quick to label my fictional names as offensive, but I have not seen you post the same about the examples cited.

  12. The following quote from RS pretty much encourages us to take the gloves off. That’s one of the reasons I find that document so repugnant.

    6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

    [183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

    [184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.[290] It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

    1. Who would think that an example of the Roman authorities “empowering” the laity would be seen as “repugnant” on this blog…

      1. “Roman authorities” are not in a position to “empower” anyone. People rightly claim that power for themselves. They don’t need others, much less a dysfunctional organisation of unelected officials for that to happen.

      2. The “empowering of the laity” as you call it consists of enlisting them as spies to report anyone who makes a change. This is different from engaging the laity in a discussion as to what is acceptable and reverent liturgy.

        As a side note, the assumption of the document you quote seems to be that any and every change is done in a spirit of irreverence. People can and have come up with liturgical variations that look silly to others, but I would hesitate to accuse them of being irreverent.

      3. Spies? Do they sneak into the parish in disguise? Do they asassinate pastors they don’t like? Do they steal secret information? Just like consular officials who report on conditions in the countries where they are posted (not espionage!), parishoners who report on the conditions in their parishes are not spies.

      4. I would think that the elimination of such abuses should be of concern to ALL Catholics, no? I don’t quite understand why anyone would object to such a thing, unless of course they actually support the idea of liturgical abuse, which would be absurd. I think there may be a fear about what some individuals see as abuse, and what is actually abuse, and thus the concern that their particular interpretation or interpolations of the liturgy might be construed as such. Is that the issue?

    2. But

      If we are protecting the Eucharist from “irreverence and distortion” shouldn’t we stop being irreverent? How reverent is it to approach the liturgy with an attitude of “I know best”?

      1. And if one sees irreverence and distortion, how reverent is it to ignore and accept such behavior?

  13. “I think it is important to ask ourselves if our need to monitor liturgy and make sure it’s perfect is sometimes a need on our part to control.”

    Can it run both ways, though? Is the altering of the liturgy sometimes an exercise of control on the part of the priest celebrant or the liturgical committee?

    Redemptionis Sacramentum empowers the laity (insofar as they are informed about the liturgy) to seek correction of or lodge complaints about aberrations in the celebration of the liturgy. I think the problem is not with that empowering, but with the lack of liturgical formation and preparation received by the laity, as well as the unfavorable methods by which some of the laity seek to resolve what they consider to be “liturgical abuses”. As Fr. Joseph points out, there is a big difference between a question and an accusation!

  14. Like great music and fine art, most people know a “liturgical abuse” when they see it. Strict definitions and rubrics are helpful for those who wish to nitpick…from either end of the spectrum as it were! If it doesn’t seem to be an abuse, it probably isn’t … on the other hand, when it clearly seems to be, no pile of citations from this or that document can make it otherwise.

  15. Spies? Do they sneak into the parish in disguise? Do they asassinate pastors they don’t like? Do they steal secret information?

    I hesitated to use the loaded term “spies”, but I think it is appropriate to describe people who watch others looking for errors to report. While you refer to international spies, recall that there are also spies in the jail house and school yard!

    “Do they sneak into the parish in disguise?” Do they present themselves as being there to pray when they are in fact collecting evidence?

    “do they assassinate pastors they don’t like?” That’s a question to be addressed to the many priests who found themselves changing parishes abruptly after complaints went to the Chancery!

  16. Gerard,

    Since the Church is hierarchical, yes, they do for some things. On the other hand, you rightly point out (at least I think you are getting at this) that they have a certain “power” and responsibility from being Catholic to be on the watch for the right celebration of liturgy, orthodox teaching, etc. etc.


    As Samuel properly pointed out, they are hardly spies if they are merely reporting on the public goings-on at Mass.

    Secondly, even Sacrosanctum Concilium says that no one, even priests or bishops can change the liturgy on their own authority. Reverence and liturgical orthopraxis are something that is part of the traditio and is something objective. It has long been the case that part of this reverence is celebrating the Mass and Office as it is given in the appropriate books for the appropriate rites. Changing things is being disrespectful to those liturgies, even if done with “good intentions”. You hand on what you have received, not screw around with it because you think it can be “improved” or localized. This is profoundly irreverent as it makes the liturgy a vehicle for the latest pastoral or theological whims, even if the person in question doesn’t have that as their express intention and thus maybe isn’t fully culpable of it.

    1. What you are promoting is a culture of denunciation – like the last twenty years of Stalin’s régime. It is as far from the ethics of the Gospel as it is possible to be.

      It is reliably reported from Rome that the John Paul generation of priests and religious who sold their soul and nailed their colours to the sacral, conservative, and traditionalist mast are discovering the emptiness of their choice and are now returning to the quest for human development and personal integration. There is a small minority who are living double lives of big collars and Tridentine liturgical trappings by day and reckless promiscuity as only Rome can offer it, and that would lead the profligacy of the court of Messalina in the shade, by night.

      1. Interesting that the same behavior happened to priests who “sold their soul and nailed their colours to the” irreverent, liberal, and progressive mast.

      2. To compare the attempt to put order and dignity back into Roman liturgical life to the Stalinist regime in the USSR is an insult to those people who actually suffered and died in the Gulags.

        No, Rome is finally trying to painfully small steps to reign in the crazy that exploded in the ’60s and now people are whining like spoiled children because play time is over.

        It is not to much to ask that the Rome Rite (or any rite for that matter) to be celebrated according to the rubrics for that rite and in accordance with the nature of exactly what is being celebrated. Of course, this goes both ways. Even as much as I dislike the NO, it is the “Ordinary Form” by law and it is disconcerting when priests insert things that are not allowed by the (rather loose) rubrics in even the traditionalist bent.

        We should be transformed by the liturgy, not transform it to try to be “pastoral” or “democratic”.

      3. Andrew,

        Do you think people should behave democratically, expressing their opinions on how liturgy is celebrated?
        Do you think priests should be pastoral and listen to the complaints about the liturgy?
        Yes to both seems to be the only way to accomplish what you promote.

  17. There seem to be two forms of “abuse”; 1. the priest goes “off-script” and 2. a layperson does something a lay person isn’t supposed to do.

    It would seem if the priest goes “off-script”, reasonable feedback from his parishioners should be sufficient to resolve the problem. Many times, the priest himself can figure out that something that looked good on paper isn’t really working out. Of course, before complaining to a priest about going “off-script”, one would do well to ask exactly what the irritating factor is. Sometimes the “off-script” remark is the one that causes us to examine our conscience.

    If it is a case of a layperson doing something a lay person “isn’t supposed to do”, we might sometimes ask whether what is being preserved is reverence for the Mass or an exaggerated hierarchy. For example, lay people aren’t supposed to give a homily, but I’ve known many who could give excellent homilies and I know many fine priests who view giving the homily as the low point of their week!

  18. I think we do tend to use the word “abuse” way too much and for too many things. A true liturgical abuse is something that is done
    by the priest that causes the Mass to be invalid. I would hope the entire parish would storm the chancery and make known their concern in this regard.
    Illicit practices while an annoyance are just that, illicit, and technically not an abuse; but certainly the laity have a right to bring these annoyances to the priest doing what appears to be illicit and if there is really a great deal of angst in the community and by a great number of people they should inform the priest they are informing the bishop. Transparency helps in this regard.
    For example I think it would be “illicit” and pastorally stupid for a priest to reinstall an altar railing and make people kneel for Holy Communion when we all know what the norm in this country is for the Ordinary Form of the Mass. In a sense this is an abuse but it certainly doesn’t make the Mass invalid. But I could certainly understand parishioners letting the bishop know what’s happening.

    1. “A true liturgical abuse is something that is done by the priest that causes the Mass to be invalid.” Who says so?

      “Illicit practices while an annoyance are just that, illicit, and technically not an abuse;” Who says so?

      The days when a pontificating priest resolved an issue simply by opining are gone.

      1. “The days when a pontificating priest resolved an issue simply by opining are gone”
        Exactly. Now, when the laity are subjected to irregularities in Mass, for example, a clown or Halloween Mass, we no longer have to accept the “pontificating’ priest’s justification.

      2. Christopher Francis on February 17, 2012 – 7:21 am

        The “Clown Mass” and “Halloween Mass” are egregrious examples of liturgical abuse. If a non-Catholic were to listen only to a number of traditionalist Catholics, he or she would be forgiven for thinking that most OF Masses either had a guest star appearance from Binky the Clown or cheap party costumes. I’ve heard my fair share of 25 minute, mumbled over, hastily celebrated EF low Masses. That’s also just as much of a serious “liturgical abuse”.

        Let’s not throw around stereotypes. Let’s stick to the mundane. If a priest paraphrases praeceptis salutaribus moniti … in English, it’s not worth getting worked up. This is especially true if the paraphrase is about the same length as the original prayer and follows the official English translation more or less. In my book, liturgical corrections should be saved for invalid consecrations, invalid matter, or another serious defect in the Mass. A priest ad-libbing a few words here and there isn’t a reason to grab for papal documents and canon law.

        I don’t think it’s “pontificating” to ask for a valid Mass. I do think it’s not worth the fight to correct small deviations, especially if doing so will cause a division in the church. Ultimately, one might have to leave a church if he or she can’t agree with a priest’s practices but also can’t divide the community in good conscience.

      3. Jordan, I agree with you on your points. Liturgical abuse today is not as common as it was in the 1970’s but it certainly occurs in some places today but these are the exception. But for many of us the 1970’s does seem like yesterday and we should forget history lest we repeat it when it comes to abuse, real abuse.
        The only time that I actually left a Mass as a priest when
        I was visiting a parish on Sunday occurred not because
        of any abuse but the manner in which the organist and
        song leaders and choir were carrying out their tasks
        and in a flamboyant, showmanship sort of fashion. Even the song leader at the beginning of Mass named the “stars” of
        the show down to the last “technician.” The music
        while grand in quality and certainly nice in a concert
        setting was so over the top, flamboyant and with the actual technicians sitting off the the side with control panels an dquite visible to the assembly, I just couldn’t take it anymore and left the Mass so distracted and disgusted was I. But I never
        reported it to anyone since there were many other options for Mass in that city.

      4. There are also practices which damage the integrity of the liturgy or of a specific part of the liturgy.

        For example, an offertory procession (AKA presentation of the gifts) that disassociates the offerings of bread and wine from the other offerings made by the congregation. This could be done by bringing up the bread and wine first and proceeding with their preparation while the collection is taking place.

      5. Jeffrey I’m not sure about that as the monetary or material goods
        offerings or gifts while not placed on or near the
        altar were traditionally brought to the altar in ancient
        times. What I despised in the 70’s and 80’s was the
        money being place on the altar in its basket (somewhat common in my diocese) or in front of the altar on the floor which
        was most common–today most simply place the basket near the credence table. I think, though, there is a connection
        between the altar gifts that the laity present and their other sacrificial gifts for the ministry/operation of the
        Church and should be presented at the same time. I
        receive the offertory first (remember in liturgical
        processions the hierarchical rank is reversed) and the wine next and I keep the plate of hosts which I bring to the
        altar directly, although I suspect the deacon if present should do that.

      6. Fr. Allen, I was describing the problem (the bread and wine being brought up first, and the collection happening during the preparation of the bread and wine at the altar), not a resolution to the problem. So what you describe (receiving all of them together) is what should be done, but not what is being done in the scenario I describe.

      7. I apologize, I misread your “disassociate” and thus was
        led to write an “illicit” critique that could have been
        interpreted as an “abuse” of you and your comment, not
        that I am ever in this blog a recipient of such abuse
        and /or illicit comments. 🙂

  19. I will return to my cave of exile after this short observation.
    I find it ironic, if not amusingly puzzling, that this post and combox posturing is in such close proximity to another post and considerable postulation about how to accomodate the individual needs of a particular lapsed member of the faithful who desires some sort of ritually public moment to recognize said personal reconciliation with the Church within the most liturgically articulated calendar period of the entire year.
    Succinct and back to the cell.

    1. It would be helpful to argue your point on the merits or demerits of the proposal in terms other than the subjective track you have chosen and in a tone different from the sardonic one you have adopted.

  20. Sometimes I think that we would be better with only one Mass in Latin or in English (or whatever the common language is). But then I realize that the divisions would still be there, and I am happy for what is available. It is too bad that there has to be such division about liturgy in the Church.

  21. Reading this thread, I have been constantly reminded of SC 11: “Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration;” which I have as a result been re-reading with a slightly different lens.

    I have also been reminded of salus animarum suprema lex rather than, as seems often to be the case, minutiae celebrandi suprema lex.

  22. Note: the ability to edit one’s own posts has disappeared on this thread also, and they’re once again posting in the wrong chronological order. My post timed at 2:06am on February 17, written after Christopher Francis’s post, has appeared sandwiched between Bill Kish and Brigid Rauch, who both posted yesterday, February 16. Who knows where this new post will appear?

    1. Brigid’s 3:15 pm post seems to refer to something no longer present here, so I am guessing it was a response to a post deemed offensive by the moderator. The post was removed, and the responses to it got pushed to the end of the line when their natural place was lost.

  23. Paul,

    SC 11 is speaking against a minimalism that says as long as its valid its fine. In Pre-VII days that would be the pastor who bangs out a 20 min. Low Mass as the principle Sunday Mass even when he has the resources to do more. The proper sense of the liturgy is to present it in its fullness (Solemn High) if possible. SC 11 doesn’t give free reign to ignoring the rubrics. This is, in an analogical sense, a way in which our liturgical righteousness must be even greater than the “pharisees”. The legalist “pharisee” is really a minimalist. However, to be more liturgically “righteous” entails following the rubrics just as well as them but going far beyond the mere validity the “pharisee” is shooting for.

    Also, salus animarum… is such a misused phrase around here. You do not have the salvation of souls in mind if you do not present the fullness of the Catholic Faith in all its splendor and glory, including liturgically. No, if you give them what the zeitgeist wants even if they “like” it, you are robbing them and do not have their salvation in mind.

    1. The model of divine revelation from which you are working is also deficient. While faith is a constant, belief changes. Indeed it must change, since belief, including belief in relation to sacramental and liturgical subjects, is an expression at any given time of the best the church can do to express intellectually how it understands the consequences of divine revelation.

      Belief must keep pace with the developments in the human and natural sciences. Beliefs are themselves dependent on cultural contexts including all the riches (theological and philosophical) of those contexts. Belief must be intelligible to the women and men of each successive age and each geographical location.

      Of course, that is not to say that belief has to change in order to accommodate every passing cultural whim or fad. That is where discernment comes in. But, in sum, the different starting points between this way of looking at things and that being put forward by you is that this approach has the advantage of looking at cultural in a positive light, while your approach is inimical to human culture, as if the Spirit of God had not been operative since creation.

  24. It occurred to me that I have been witness to two “abuses”, but my definition may be different than most.

    The first: a parish had a tradition of long, careful liturgies during the Easter Tridium that lasted maybe two hours for Holy Thursday and 31/2 to 4 hours for the vigil itself. Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but everyone knew what to expect. The new pastor unilaterally changed the services. The choir had been practicing hymns since Christmas, and he handed out new hymn sheets 10 minutes before Mass on Holy Thursday. He began Mass giving a solo performance of a rather odd hymn. The Easter Vigil was worse. He began promptly at 4:30PM and jumped back and forth through the liturgy and proudly finished in time to dump us back on the street at 5:45, blinking in the sunlight.
    Now, I could fill a page with his specific departures from the rubrics, but for me the abuse wasn’t so much that he turned the Tridium into a one-man show but that no one knew what he had planned. I felt like Easter had been stolen from me. Maybe most people preferred the shorter services. All I know is that I attended them at a neighboring parish the following year.
    The second “abuse” was from another priest who routinely changed some of the words of the Mass and introduced various special rites at whim. I must confess, it wasn’t the “abuses” that irritated me so much as the man himself. He treated many people very poorly, and I disliked him because of that. That’s my failing.
    He sprang a special rite on us one Sunday meant to honor married couples. He praised the married couples and condemned the divorced harshly. Women I knew who came to Mass to find comfort and strength felt as if they’d been dipped in acid and struggled to hold themselves together. I did object to that abuse, but I did it by standing up and speaking out at that moment; I had to stop the bullying.

  25. Rather than describe abuses in general let me offer a specific example.
    I like to follow the text of the prayers if for no other reason than to keep my mind focused on the prayer rather than allowing it to drift. So when the words said by the priest are altered this is an immediate distraction. The particular case is Eucharistic prayer IV. “You formed man in your own likeness /image..” We all know that the word “man” is not intended her in a gender specific way. If a priest tries to alter the word here the subsequent sentences become a minefield for the grammar.
    So when a priest does try to alter the text I am drawn to that alteration as one’s eye is drawn to a stain on our clothing.
    I suspect that clergy who are used to making variations on the text are so used to doing so that they do not appreciate how it can grate for some, at least, of the congregation.
    I mention this as it is not an intention to police the liturgy that causes me to notice the matter.

  26. I do not participate in personal criticism of individual priests who depart from the norms and rubrics, and never in the past forty years of seeing almost everything have I ever complained to a priest about something he’d done.

    But I do have occasion all too often to wonder privately whether there’s a form of clericalism more arrogant than that of the narcissistic priest who imposes his personal whims on the laity by departing from either the red or the black as found in the approved liturgical books of the Church. Thereby showing contempt for those who by their baptism into the priesthood of the faithful have a right to proper liturgical worship of God. Or whether in any past era such arrogant and narcissistic clericalism has been as common as it is now.

    1. No, as a general concept that doesn’t qualify for the superlative you are wondering about. If you think it does, then you’ve got a lot of livin’ to do. Clerics who scream, demean or even punch penitents (I’ve experienced the first two and know a few who’ve experienced the last). Clerics who refuse communion in the hand to a layperson in the OF (where the indult abides) by a stern admonition “Only these [his] fingers are consecrated” and then send her off without communion (happened to my dearest friend in NJ). Clerics who abuse people under their charge and stonewall in defence of others who have done so (I think I heard that happened somewhere, sometime, or I might be mistaken). I could go on, but shouldn’t have to. I am sure others could give you oceans of testimony along these lines.

      In other words, resist the temptation to reach for the superlative.

      1. Mr. Saur, I don’t think either of the instances of clericalism you mentioned is anywhere as common as that I mentioned, so perhaps I can stick with my little superlative.

      2. Henry

        So you are switching from most arrogant to most common as your little superlative….

      3. I thought I’d managed to combine at least two different superlatives. But, seriously, not every sin committed by a cleric is an example of clericalism. For instance, refusing either communion by hand or communion on the tongue strikes more as simple boorishness, and the clerical sexual abuse you mention is both criminal and grievously sinful, but seems to me a heinous disorder different than clericalism (as I’d define it). But wanton liturgical abuse–wherein the priest proclaims himself the sole master of public liturgy, and the rights of the worshiping laity out there be damned–is indeed the most arrogant form of clericalism that I can name.

  27. Jim,

    “Democratically”? No, because not everyone’s opinion holds the same weight as not everyone knows an equal amount about liturgy.

    Priests should listen, and use the situation as an opportunity to either instruct the ignorant or learn as the case may be.

    I guess if one wants to make a political analogy, what I would promote would be more of a just monarchical system, since the Church is, after all, hierarchical. There is nothing to “vote” on, what is right in liturgy is objective (for the most part) so it is merely a matter of the liturgists (which are the clerics) to know what they are supposed to be doing and the laity need either learn from them or correct them when they stray or get lazy if the laity, indeed, have a proper sense of liturgy.
    Yes to both seems to be the only way to accomplish what you promote.

    1. “so it is merely a matter of the liturgists (which are the clerics) to know what they are supposed to be doing”

      Bad grammar. Worse theology.

    2. If you want a just monarchy, you are in no position to complain about the monarch’s liturgical abuses. If he chose to do them, they are not abuses.

      If you think people should have a voice in liturgy, you are pushing for democracy.
      If you want the priest to listen to your ideas about liturgy, you are asking him to be pastoral.

      I don’t know how you reconcile your contradictory opinions. Your appeal to “a proper sense of liturgy” sounds too arrogant to even consider.

      1. Its an “analogy”, that is why I said if we wanted to go on with political analogies…Either way, following in that *analogy* a monarchy is subject to laws-God’s if no one else’s. The monarch knows he ultimately answers to a higher power and that he is the guarantor of the tradition of the state and the protector of the people. Thus, it is never in his best interest to buck that system and introduce tyranny into it. At least not in the long run.

        People who know should have a voice, it should not be up to a vote among everyone and anyone. Therefore, it is not democratic. I never said anything against being “pastoral”, at least properly understood.

        As to the proper sense of liturgy being arrogant, oh well. Of course, that is not my intention, but the folks who brought about the revolution probably didn’t think they were arrogant either. I supposed the level of arrogance is dependent upon which side one falls on.

    3. re: Andrew Czarnick on February 18, 2012 – 12:26 pm

      Andrew: I guess if one wants to make a political analogy, what I would promote would be more of a just monarchical system, since the Church is, after all, hierarchical.

      Perhaps you might wish to be a bit more specific about “monarchy” vis a vis current papal practices.

      True collegiality, or proper devolution of liturgical authority to all bishops according to their full role as successors to the apostles, has yet to be fully realized. However, this does not necessarily indicate that the papacy is a monarchy. There have been tentative steps towards collegiality. Pope Paul VI’s resignation of the tiara in 1964 was more than a token gesture. The end of the tiara signified a renunciation of temporal power and (ideally) the notion of feudal power. Certain feudal remnants remain in common ecclesiastical titles, such as “monsignor”, but the days of papal toe-kissing are thankfully gone. Pope Benedict will offer to shake hands.

      Andrew, I sense that you are stuck between an attraction to the bygone (and hopefully never to return) feudal trappings of past pontificates and the realization that collegiality might result in local or national liturgical changes that are not in keeping with your liturgical idealism. Many have an “ideal view” of the liturgy. However, as seen with the current translation, a lack of collegiality raises grave questions about who is the gatekeeper of liturgy. Grave questions cannot be solved through a vague appeal to a monarchical Church.

      1. Current papal practice is entirely irrelevant to the original subject as I said political *analogy*.

        The old “feudal” practices give (gave) Catholicism a certain whimsy and “fun” if you will. When Paul VI chucked the tiara, “streamlined” clerical attire and liturgy and so forth, the effect was akin to taking a baroque church and taking out all the fancy things, replacing them with wood paneling, Ikea furniture and beige paint.

        However, since you brought it up, considering how the episcopate is today, I really do hope Rome squashes this “collegiality”. At one time, it would have been better if Rome hadn’t taken a more centralizing role in making liturgy into a single standardized product. However, those days are long gone. Bishops and episcopal conferences these days would not turn out anything along the line of the old Sarum or Ambrosian Rites, who knows what horrid things they would make up. So yes, let’s stick with Roman centralism.

  28. Some abuses experienced by me (possibly which would be cheered by some liberals):

    1. Jesuit priest mocking articles of the faith – describing the dogma of the Assumption as a “Medieval myth” on the feast itself, from the ambo. Okay, not so much a liturgical abuse as just typical of what went on then in our parish.

    2. At a parish mission evening service, having a kind of disembodied consecration and communion (apart from the liturgy) – sung very beautifully in Aramaic I think – as a kind of “show”.

    3. At a retreat, having Mass said on a corporal on a dirty carpet (no altar or table used), with made up liturgy, priest just wearing stole over T-shirt and shorts, while we squatted around the “altar”.

    4. Little plays performed by children before each reading at the “family Mass”.

  29. There were posts above that addressed the procession with gifts, arguing for the people’s monetary offerings to be included with the presentation of the bread and wine. I am astonished that anyone would think there is any other way to do that. I have often been scandalized, however, in visiting other churches to find the routine taking up of two collections which takes so long that the procession with the gifts begins before those collections are included. Also, I find a heresy lurking in the notion that the monetary gifts are somehow unworthy of being placed on the floor beneath the altar. No one can confuse the action on the altar with a basket of offerings lying beneath it. It means, for one thing, that the gifts are secure because they are in full sight. It also means that what we give from our all is also a worthy gift that has the power to alter our lives.

    I know what the GIRM says. The GIRM in this case is clearly mistaken in directing the monetary gifts away from the altar. The authors appear to presume a confusion that doesn’t exist.

    1. Excellent points but you will get into trouble with our local liturgist, Fr. Allan, on your points. Sure that he will reference Southern Orders or a missal from pre-1965 to set us straight.

    2. Jack: I find a heresy lurking in the notion that the monetary gifts are somehow unworthy of being placed on the floor beneath the altar.

      Then name that heresy, because I sure don’t know what you’re referring to..

      The GIRM in this case is clearly mistaken in directing the monetary gifts away from the altar.

      Had you read the GIRM properly, perhaps you would not think as you do. Money and other gifts (whatever they may be: food for the poor, etc.) are put away from the altar, the bread and wine are put on the altar (cf. GIRM 73, 140).

      Why? Well, GIRM 73 gives the answer: “At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts which will become Christ’s Body and Blood are brought to the altar.” (my emphasis) Other gifts such as money are brought with the bread and wine, but only the bread and wine are kept at the altar, because it is only bread and wine that can be transubstantiated by the priest into Our Lord and Saviour in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Confusion is not really the issue, focus is.

      Similar to what I have said previously in this thread: if we followed the GIRM and the rubrics of the Missal, rather than claiming that one’s personal opinion is to be followed, I think fewer people would worry about liturgical abuses or defects. Say the black, do the red, make informed and legitimate choices about the ars celebrandi!

      1. Mr Hazell, those who have opted to be received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church from other Christian Churches may be disappointed to find that our liturgical rubrics are as fallible and as in need of constant revision, and as open to criticism as the best rubrics of the Churches of the Reformation. Please lighten up a little and don’t try to inflict a rubricism on the rest of us, cradle Catholics and others that is actually not Catholic at all.

      2. (sigh)

        How many times do I have to insist that following the rules and obeying the authorites is not rubricism, “zombie conformism”, legalism, or any other pejorative adjective one can think of? Is Hebrews 13:17 not Catholic? Is the General Instruction not supposed to be general? Is not the red text red for a reason? Does the office of bishop mean nothing?

        If one thinks that things are in need of “reform”, then fine: make a half-decent case, petition the relevant authorities, pray and fast, then submit to what they decide. In the meantime, one ought still to obey the rules and rubrics laid down by one’s leaders, whether one likes it or not. And, with reference to this particular thing, those rules say that other gifts apart from the bread and wine are put away from the altar; moreover, they say this for what is, in my opinion, a good reason.

      3. “one ought still to obey the rules and rubrics laid down by one’s leaders, whether one likes it or not.”

        The moral bankruptcy of this position was determined absolutely at Nuremberg.

        Insist all you like and sigh as often as you can. The issue has nothing to do with how frequently or otherwise you choose so to insist, and everything to do with the fact that other people take a different view.

      4. And here was I thinking that we were talking about Christian obedience in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church… But I suppose the conversation could have changed to the topic of Nazi Germany without me realising… (?!?)

        In all seriousness, to infer that my perfectly reasonable position is akin in any way to Nazism is quite offensive.

  30. Matthew, your post implies that I don’t know the difference between the gifts of bread and wine and the people’s monetary offerings. I don’t think it would be possible to be a priest for 40 years and not be aware of that. Do you enjoy being condescending? The heresy is probably a form of gnosticism which asserted that only spirit is good, matter is evil.
    We have made great strides over the past decades to promote a proper understanding of stewardship which includes the value of sacrificial giving. Why would we want or need to shunt the sacrificial gifts off to the side someplace? How does it possibly pose a problem of any kind to place them in a basket beneath the altar? I guess you think that once the GIRM is set in print it enjoys a certain infallibility or inerrancy? I hope you don’t really believe that.

    1. The heresy is probably a form of gnosticism which asserted that only spirit is good, matter is evil.

      Yet the gifts kept at the altar, bread and wine, are also matter, no? How then can GIRM 73 be in any way gnostic?

      How does it possibly pose a problem of any kind to place them in a basket beneath the altar?

      Because the focus on the Eucharistic Sacrifice is thereby distorted. Yes, all the gifts are important, hence why they are brought up all together, but through the Offertory prayer, we zoom in, as it were, upon the bread and wine on the altar, and the mystery about to be accomplished by those particular gifts. Having other gifts near the altar thus impedes our active participation, our ability to focus on “the mystery of faith”, the Eucharist.

      I guess you think that once the GIRM is set in print it enjoys a certain infallibility or inerrancy? I hope you don’t really believe that.

      That’s a rather lazy caricature of my position. The GIRM is obviously not infallible or inerrant, yet it is authoritative and should be followed. My bishop is not infallible or inerrant either, but he has been placed by God in spiritual authority over me, and if he and other bishops promulgate the GIRM and the Missal, I ought to be obediently in charity following the text, rules and rubrics therein. They are the ones who will have to give an account to God (Heb. 13:17).

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