Pray Tell has posted before on liturgical shaming – see the good comments of William Bornhoft on why it is inappropriate.
Now David Gibson has taken up the story for RNS: “‘Liturgy shaming’ is a growing internet phenomenon. But is it a vice or a virtue?”
On the one side is William Bornhoft:
When we feel the urge to make a nasty comment or post a scandalous photo of liturgical abuse online, we should ask ourselves whether it’s love of the Church that is guiding our hearts, or a sense of entitled judgement.
But there is the other side. As Gibson writes,
[F]or many old-school Catholics, the liturgical innovations unleashed by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s are to blame for every measurable decline and perceived ill in Catholicism since that time.
Moreover, since the Mass is the center of Catholic worship and the Eucharist is the holy core of that celebration, anything that appears to diminish the sobriety or seriousness of the liturgy is tantamount to sacrilege and therefore merits strong action.
And this attitude is exemplified by Joseph Shaw of the Latin Mass Society:
[L]iturgy shaming works by pressuring church authorities to take action so the perpetrators “will never again gloat over their implied heresy or their liturgical abuses.”
I think liturgical shaming is bad – really, really bad. In fact, I think we Catholics, perhaps more than any other major religious tradition, need to do a lot of repentance for our online behavior. When Catholic talk about liturgy – or any other religious question – we are famous for our hateful nastiness.
If I were a seeker looking for a church to join and got all my knowledge from internet, I’d see the Facebook and blog discussions carried out by Catholics… and run as far as possible in the opposite direction. If religion makes me like that, why would I want to have anything to do with it? If that’s how they treat one another, why would I want to be a part of them??
This is about reverence – the very term used by the conservative shamers as they attack the ‘abuses’ they perceive in the liturgy. We Catholics need to have more reverence – not just for the ritual and its proper execution, but for one another. We need to have a stronger sense that we are the Mystical Body of Christ. Before any Catholic posts an online comment to another Catholic, he or she should have a strong sense of sharing in the same Bread of Life as the other person, being bound together by the same liturgy and the same sacraments.
“See how they love one another” – wouldn’t it be nice if people said that about Catholics online? What if we Catholic were known for our liturgical spirituality, for our strong sense of being connected to one another by our rites? What if others thought that our rites must be pretty powerful, since they have such a noticeable effect on our treatment of one another online?
I’m certainly not soft on liturgical silliness – I’m very much a by-the-book celebrant. But the liturgy (and the teachings of Our Lord in the Gospels!) tells me not to take the externals of the rite too seriously. I strive not to worry much about what other people are doing wrong. When the most egregious liturgical stupidity comes across my screen, I think to myself that it probably doesn’t anger or offend Jesus, and nor should it me. Perhaps he’s a bit saddened, but surely in a very loving way. I don’t need to be put out on his behalf. Nobody appointed me his guardian or protector.
I don’t buy the argument that online protests are necessary because the bishops are lax and have to be bullied into doing their job of policing the rites. This is self-aggrandizement. If I have to report a liturgical abuse to the bishop (I’ve never done so in my life), I would do so and then leave it at that. He’s the bishop, not I. Whether he acts or not is his decision, and after doing my part I should let go of it. I should strive to be at peace in a church where I’m celebrating the rites as I think best, but others are doing other crazy things that are mostly none of my business. This is the spiritual virtue of detachment.
So, what do you say? Here’s to more reverence. Let’s all be the online Body of Christ.