Against Liturgy Shaming

Have you heard of “SLAP” or “Survivors of Liturgical Abuse in Parishes”? William Bornhoft is a young Catholic in St. Paul, MN, and over at Aleteia he explains,

the group exists in part to curate the names of renegade parishes and liturgical horror stories. The posts are often accompanied with photographic evidence, usually something shocking or cringe-worthy.

Bornhoft’s point, though, is that on-line shaming isn’t the proper Christian way to deal with lapses in taste. There’s plenty to cringe at in Catholic liturgy, he rightly says – but our response to it should take the high road. He writes:

Catholics must avoid using the brute force of the Internet to “expose” liturgical problems and shame the offending parishes. It is both uncharitable and impractical —uncharitable because we often wrongly assume the worst rather than the best intentions of the parish (“they’re heretics”; “this isn’t allowed in the Church”; “they must not care for God or the Eucharist”) without knowing anything about it. It is impractical because viral shaming campaigns are not a realistic method of reform or correction in the Catholic Church. Shaming people does not encourage them to listen…

Good for you,William.





  1. How do you sheme or take a picture of a poor homily? The same with a mediocre liturgy that looks like something out of 1955? How do you shame if the parish never does baptisms during a week-end liturgy – skips the RCIA steps during Lent – etc. Guess you could tape music e.g. poor choices or an organist who just can’t ever hit all the correct notes?
    For those who post online – who makes the judgment and based upon what criteria?

  2. Consequentialism (and its distant cousin, cherry picking) is easily rationalized and kept in our blindspot.

  3. I joined that group to be a fly on the wall. I must admit it is disheartening to see how most topics devolve into ad hominem insults toward the clergy in the pictures or accusations of heresy.

  4. I’m not a liturgist nor want to be. This seems much ado about nothing. Liturgy has developed over the centuries and will continue. The self-appointed “liturgy gestapo’ who go to churches to spy and report on them should be soundly chastised. They have no right to impose their standards on others. What some traditionalists call liturgy I refer to as boring. Over sixty years I’ve slept walked through a number of them rotely standing, kneeling, and sitting at the appropriate time.

    In the late 1970s I attended a week night Charismatic mass and prayer service at the invitation of a friend. That was very different. So different I felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to return. However, my friend persisted and I decided to give it a fair chance. As I slowly acclimated to the Mass and prayer service, and got to know some of the people it began to feel more natural. There was a Welcoming spirit not found at my very large inner city staid parish. After a period of time I began to look forward more to the Charismatic Mass than the parish Sunday Mass.

    On another occasion I volunteered in a poor inner city Haitian parish. Again, their masses were VERY different. Besides being in the minority as a white I didn’t speak the language. I spoke some French and was able to get buy but, language wasn’t a barrier. The people, once again, were very welcoming and as I got to know them it gave greater meaning to what was happening at their Mass. The Church meant something to them. It was a center point of their social lives, a coming together.

    In both instances the liturgies were well done. The Charismatic Mass occasionally had liturgical dance tastefully, artistically done. (Recall the Psalms are often liturgical prayers/songs accompanied by dancers and instruments.) At the Haitian Mass the entire community was dancing – including little children.

    Liturgy, worship is not one size fits all. While the Eucharist is essential, it should not detract from Worship which I define as the total Church experience including ritual…

  5. When a complaint that is loaded with shaming comes toward me such as “I’m not sure all the words were said right in this prayer you did…” I will usually ask, “are we in the same Church? If we aren’t then let’s not waste each other’s time. If we are, then let us listen to each other.”

    There are questions that shame and there are questions that clarify. My lived experience is that we are living in an age when “gotcha” is the norm for intelligent discourse and liturgy and liturgical practice is no exception. I echo awr’s comments…”good for you.”

  6. I have to say the hover board priest was shamed and the bishop called him on it. Father needed some “time off” and maybe he can use this time away to study the Missal and documents….just sayin

    1. @Peter Kwasniewski:
      That “perfect response” equates those who complain about liturgical abuse to those who complain about church based sexual abuse. I have no idea how to properly respond. Self-righteous nonsense is about as nice as I can get. I appreciate his concern and hear his frustration, but it’s still a tantrum that says “no one else knows how to do it right” and plays an unearned victim card.

  7. Peter – your LMS article link equates to a Trump tantrum. Sounds like an alternate universe filled with conspiracy theories and playing the victim card endlessly.
    Note – sexual abuse scandal – it happened becase of some very brave, careful, and diligent investigative reporters (not the media in general and definitely not equivalent to folks posting on the internet, Facebook, etc. any old complaint (made up or otherwise). To even suggest the equivalency makes one wonder if you understand the impact of the abuse scandal on the church?

  8. In terms of liturgy (the original topic/focus of this thread), what the liturgy is going through is no different – or not much different – than what it has gone through for centuries. Thanks to the internet, the reporting is more thorough. Sloppiness, lapses in “taste” (as decided by the arbiters in power), and good-hearted but wrong-headed practices have been with us always. I’m pretty sure somebody had a critique to offer at the post-Emmaus liturgy committee meeting.

  9. Shaming, to me, goes against basic tenets of both leadership principles and Christian charity. We praise in public and admonish in private. Having said that, I have to imagine there are many elements where people from varying perspectives can find common ground. Among those, I’d hope we can agree on the ill effects of the following practices:

    1) Willfully improvising or adlibbing sections of the Ordinary or the Propers.
    2) Blatantly ignoring the rubrics where they are clearly written.
    3) Hurrying through the liturgy.
    4) Mumbling responses / lyrics.
    4) Leaving Mass immediately after communion when not on official church business like setting the parish hall up for fellowship following Mass.

    1. @Shaughn Casey:
      Your list seems fine to me, especially given the qualifying adverbs you’ve provided on #1 and #2. Surely willful and blatant disregard for the prayers (and other words) and actions of the liturgy are not to be praised.

  10. Sorry, Mr. Casey – #2 unfortunately smacks of the *say the black; do the red* – not exactly what SC called for
    #3 – and add, eliminating all *silence* in the liturgy
    #4 – no mention of a primary complaint for those who have foreign priests and who are unable to speak english intelligibly
    your second #4 – really, that is one of your complaints?

    Suggest that any *list* immediately raises issues and concerns

    1. @Bill deHaas:

      Hi Bill,

      Whoops. You spotted a typo. I’d edit it if I could. 🙂

      #2 – Who was talking about SC, and why is that the primary document that matters to you? The GIRM says over and over again phrases like “in accordance with the rubrics,” “where it is indicated in the rubrics,” and so on. Rubrics matter, and the general sense of the GIRM is that they should be followed, not blithely ignored based on a priest’s idiosyncratic preferences.

      #3 – Full agreement. I like silence. We are too often made uncomfortable by it, and we should not be. “Be still, and know that I am God.”

      #4 – I wasn’t trying to be exhaustive; your complaint is a valid one, but I wasn’t really being Anglo-centric here, either.

      #4 again (whoops): Yes, absolutely. A bishop I once knew facetiously referred to this behavior as the Judas walk — people sneaking out before the meal is over. Really consider the theological and cultural implications of that decision. It usually smacks of box checking or wanting to beat the Baptists to lunch.

  11. Mr. Casey – GIRM – really, they come and go; are merely low level directives. Why mention SC? Because it lays out the foundational principles for liturgical decisions including local liturgical decisions. Too often, folks use the GIRM exactly as the STBDTR mantra – it defeats good liturgy.
    #4 – sorry, harping on early exits, and other things only antagonizes folks; alienates them; blames them; treats them as less than adult, etc. Those types of manuevers always back fire. all for education but not lectures. during a community liturgy.

    1. @Bill deHaas:

      Hi Bill,

      I suspect we disagree a bit on what constitutes good liturgy. So, let’s agree to disagree there, especially when there is much we do agree on.

      Re – 4# again – This characterization assumes, of course, that because I think it’s a problem, my solution is to attack it directly. It’s not. I’ve found that good teaching on what the Mass is solves the issue 99.9% of the time. When people discover how a Mass connects us to the Catholic faith across time and space, and how it is a sacrifice, not only of Christ’s across eternity, but of the congregation, their alms, their oblations, their souls and bodies, their praise and thanksgiving, how the liturgy isn’t just the Church doing something for them, but them doing something as an offering to God, they typically (in my experience, anyway) lose whatever impulse it was that spurred them bug out early. They also often start singing more loudly, saying responses more clearly, and engaging more actively. I hope we can agree that those are good outcomes, even if the person still creeps out during ablutions.

    2. @Bill deHaas:

      GIRM – really, they come and go; are merely low level directives. Why mention SC? Because it lays out the foundational principles for liturgical decisions including local liturgical decisions. Too often, folks use the GIRM exactly as the STBDTR mantra – it defeats good liturgy.

      Really? They come and go? Folks (mis)use the GIRM?
      Your former statement indicates dismissiveness (pardon pun) only eclipsed by snark. Care to restate? And it takes no small amount of hubris as well to castigate those who pay legitimate interest in the canons of the GIRM by a careful reading of, let’s say, the multiple options of processional music in the Mass, not to mention other Proper aspects (Gregorian alleluia/gradual/tract) that are all licit. And you make no mention whatsoever of how the GIRM has legitimized the use of alius cantus aptus for five decades, a practice which is likely 99% universal now. Do you call that veracity in discourse?
      Wouldn’t your case be better served by calling the CSL the constitution, and the GIRM its bill of rights?

  12. I am in favor of “liturgy shaming” for one reason – though I wouldn’t call it that.

    I would simply call it transparancy. The liturgy is a latriac act of public worship.

    No one should have any problem with ANY liturgy being publicized.

    Unless, of course, one has a problem in principle with any pictures or video being taken at Mass.

    I would also be happy, and open to, ending the practice of ANY photos or video at Mass.

  13. Sorry, Charles – GIRM has a tendency to rule out inculturation; it has an impact on national episcopal conferences making their own liturgical decisions, etc.
    The editors and writers exhibit their own biases and what to emphasize and what not to emphasize e.g. directory for masses with children gets short shift.
    From Paul Turner with multiple analyzers:

    Note: one writer focuses on the reality that the GIRM tends to make a significant split between the ordained and the people of God (versus SC principles)

    Okay, Charles, was thinking of the rite and then that verious popes may publish a GIRM – thus, it changes more frequently.

    Here is another way of looking at the GIRM (if it is understood and implemented along the lines of STBDTR) – from Baldovin:


    “This leads to a larger issue: Is there a legitimate variety of liturgical styles? The answer is, quite simply, yes. The presider’s style of introducing the liturgy may well differ in an African-American, an “Anglo” and a Latino assembly, since these varied groups may well need different approaches in order to gather in praise and be prepared to listen to the word of God. At the same time we need to be wary of a simplistic equation of formality with a cold manner or stiffness. It seems to me that the best presiders combine respect for the assembly and ritual formality with great warmth and engagement—what I like to call “high-church-with-a-heart.”

    Finally, no, the GIRM, IMO, is no Bill of Rights – GIRM, IMO, is more like the interpretations, context, and changing understandings that implement and express the CSL.

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