So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Witness to a crime. Liturgical abuse and the indifferent majority.

It is difficult, if not untenable without first verifying something of the herd's (congregation's) general take on the state of the ranch (parish, the Sacred Liturgy), to conclude that others are indifferent to the liturgical abuses that routinely occur in Sunday Masses. Barring an on-the-spot survey of one's pew neighbours when Father Do-my-own-thing runs amok, e.g., he invents text prohibited by the liturgical norms or excises problematic text (i.e., text that is problematic to a liberal-progressive, for example), one's own frustration over a priest's apparent unwillingness to celebrate according to the rubrics can easily obscure perception and skew opinion. Or,... one could very well be entirely accurate in one's perception and justified in one's righteous indignation.

Acedia. When the Mass is celebrated with little sense of decorum and dignity, what conclusion can one draw from the apparent lack of indignation from Mass-goers other than the obvious observation that most Catholics simply do not care what happens at Mass as long as they get their wafer or a snooze in or, clinging to a tenuous hope that by bringing the ankle biters along, some sense of morality might rub off on the kids, thus making mom's and dad's job easier?

Responsible and caring citizens. If liturgical abuse is offensive to God, and we are witnesses to an offence, surely we have a responsibility to report it to the appropriate authority, do we not? God is certainly aware of any abuses. Do we take our awareness of a crime to God and ask for wisdom in dealing with such a crime? Do we craft a letter and send it to the bishop?

Right conduct. We should, of course, first approach the pastor in a timely manner and request an appointment that does not impose on what is surely his busy schedule. One might start by asking an obvious question: 'Father, by what authority are you making changes to the prescribed text of the Mass?' The question leaves little wiggle room. If the priest, contra Sacrosanctum Concilium section 22:3, attempts to appropriate authority to himself while denying the binding authority of the liturgical norms, one might try allowing silence to further articulate your objection to any absurd assertion in reply which amounts to 'I'm the priest; I can do what I want and I don't answer to you.' During that outward silence, one might do well by praying interiorly to the Holy Spirit for wisdom as to how to respond further. The obvious response would be to restate the question: 'Father [N], by what authority are you... making changes to the prescribed text of the Mass... allowing a layman to give the homily... ?' Another response might be to leave your pastor in silence and pray for him.

Exit stage right. If the abusive celebration of the Mass becomes a serious stumbling block, consider moving to another parish. Keep up the prayers and speak with a priest who celebrates the Mass with decorum and respect for the integrity of the Mass in order to benefit from his counsel.

Surely the Mass should be celebrated according to the liturgical norms meant to protect the Mass from abuse and souls from spiritual harm, should it not? Why then do so many priests inject egotism and rebellion into the conversation?
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.—Proverbs 18:2
Fortitude. If anyone makes you feel as if your concerns are stupid or unwarranted, and provided your concerns are founded on solid thinking and not mere personal preference, take heart and do not hesitate to remind your detractors that when it comes to the Holy Eucharist—which is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC1324)—no effort should be spared when defending the Mass from abuse and protecting the people from spiritual harm. The Mass, after all, is the Sacred Liturgy. Sacred means something set apart, not something taken apart by crude inventions or interruptions that obscure the holy face and voice of Jesus. Protect the Mass from habitual careless behaviour!

When reporting abuse, do not engage in a witch hunt. Do not attack the dignity of the priest in order to defend the dignity of the Mass. Merely convey the facts of a perceived abuse. Pray before you construct and send your letter of concern. Seek the intercession of the angels. Do not flood the bishop's office with a flurry of cantankerous letters. Send one letter of concern, state your well-founded reasons, express how the abuse negatively affects your faith, and leave it at that.

Respect for the Office of Bishop. Whatever you do, do not get preachy with a bishop, or any priest for that matter. Oh, and do not expect a reply. Bishops are very busy men. If you get a response, fine. You may want to then thank the bishop for his consideration of the matter that you brought his attention. If the situation causing you real concern repeats itself or get's worse, then send a follow up letter. If you're sending two or three letters a month, stop!


  1. Of course, any letter to the bishop, no matter how respectfully worded, will still get you labelled as "Temple Police" by certain people.

  2. Good advice. Though I'm closer and closer to hightailing it altogether from St A's in favour of either our Latin Mass or Anglican Use parishes, despite the disruption this would cause to our family and our parish commitments. Although our pastor is excellent and at least somewhat sympathetic to my concerns, it's almost at the point where I sin against charity at our "music minister" at every Mass. I know things are far worse almost everywhere else in our diocese, but (as I commented on 1P5 a couple of weeks ago) I find the combination of a reverent Novus Ordo celebration with awful, gender-neutralized, sappy, self-celebratory muzak to be almost unbearable. The breaking point may have been three weekends this past July in which we sang Dan Schutte's "Sing O Sing" as the recessional "hymn", featuring the lyrics

    Father of the field and forest, Mother of the snow and rain
    Praise to you O God, mighty Lord of all

    Most people happily sing along to whatever's in the song sheets, but I have refused to sing any of Dan Schutte's treacly junk for some time now. After the third week running, I wrote a respectful letter to our pastor, pointing out the jarring juxtaposition between his orthodox homily on the Real Presence and the heterodox lyrics of the Schutte ditty, and he replied with "There is much truth in what you say." (I expect he knows better than to give me any ammunition.) The following week, we sang something more appropriate, but even if my complaint had an effect, it would merely be a Band-Aid on a gushing wound, and this woman will continue to inflict her Spirit of Vatican II baby-boomer junkfood music on the parish until she retires, probably a decade or more from now.

    I have spoken to friends about this, and it is astonishingly difficult to get across even to devout, orthodox Catholics who are far more advanced in the Faith than I. People have become accustomed to thinking of the music as a kind of an optional bolt-on addition to the Mass (perhaps like a hideous aftermarket spoiler on a Rolls Royce), and they just go with the flow.

    On the matter of letters to bishops: I wrote two letters, several months apart, to our former bishop about the abysmal state of religious education and the absence of a res catholica at our Catholic high school. He replied with warmth and sympathy to the first, and a sharp slap-down to the second (probably my fault), but it was one of the precipitating events that led to me moving my children into the public system, on balance one of the better decisions I have made. I have considered writing brief, no-reply-required letters to our current bishop, things like Your Excellency, please be aware that it causes me great anguish to watch you sauntering past the altar and tabernacle with no acknowledgement during your homilies, but I have mostly decided it is simply better to avoid his Masses altogether, when possible.

  3. Dear Athelstane and Murray, thank you for your candid comments.

    Athelstane—you assessment is likely to be entirely accurate.

    Murray—I cannot sympathize with you more. I share, completely, your observations and objections. I, too, refuse to sing heterodox songs because they are faith destroying. I tend to read the Proper texts to myself and attempt to memorize them and ruminate on them for the duration of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion "hymns".

    The Anglican Use Mass and the TLM (EF) offer refuges from the horse schutte we are all too frequently forced to endure.

    I cannot stand to witness anyone ignoring the altar and, especially, the Lord in the tabernacle. So, I, too, avoid certain liturgies. I have too much respect for our bishop to repeatedly witness certain liturgical indiscretions. I understand why he does what he does. As I have written elsewhere, there are reasonable grounds justifying disagreement with his and any priests' ambulations during the homily.

    And—regarding the matter of the Catholic high school. I have spoken with others who have complained bitterly (rightly so) about its lack of Catholic character. Those parents have provided a "balance" to the limp witness of certain teachers at said school by working very hard to inoculate their kids against weak example. They have provided a lot of supplementary witness—by offering to their children videos, books, chats and vacations to shrines—to counter the bland culture of the school.

    Our current bishop, who was severely assailed by certain, but not all, Catholic high school teachers in his former diocese would, I am almost certain, appreciate a thoughtful letter conveying your experiences. The bishop endured media assaults and was berated by traitorous teachers and parents who wanted to impose anti-Catholic policies in his diocese and schools. The bishop stood firm for the Faith. If anyone would be amenable to your concerns, he surely would be.

    Keep in mind the recent post concerning the convert K.G. who managed to survive that high school by clinging to the counsel of one faithful teacher. K.G., you will recall, is now with the FSSP.

    I will pray for you and your family.


"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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