Friday, November 10, 2006

Confessions of a Catholic Blogger: Imprudent Posting of Liturgical Abuses

I've learned a lot since I've started blogging and I've been debating about starting a series of posts to accumulate those lesson's learned so that I may revisit them periodically, and perhaps lead a few others to contemplate them. This is my first "Confession" in a series that will be ongoing as long as there are lessons learned. I know some of you will disagree with my decision here, and that's fine. I can't follow anyone else's conscience, I have to follow my own.

This post was previously about a Halloween Mass and had an embedded video and photos of liturgical abuses. I am overwriting it, and modifying the date & time stamp to put it up top with this in it's place. It comes after much reflection in adoration today at the 40 Hours Devotion. This was prompted after two people were kind enough to express their disappointment with seeing such things on this blog. I owe them my thanks and would invite readers to please email me (see profile) with any such concerns in the future. This is a learning process for me. I can't guarantee I will agree with everyone who has a problem with my content - particularly on issues where there are varying opinions all the way up the heirarchy, such as Medjugorje. But, I can guarantee that I will pray and reflect on it, then make corrections where my conscience tells me it is necessary.

One might ask, "But, how will it ever stop if we do not put a spot light on it and spread it all over the internet?" My answer is simple: Those who made the video need to use the process the Church has asked us to use to report liturgical abuse. What is the process? It can be found in Redemptionis Sacramentum (Section VIII-6; Paragraph 184)

[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.
Hence, it is actually best if the originators of the video were to seal it and send it to the diocesan bishop, then spend some time in adoration and prayer that the will of God be done - and, in God's timeframe, not ours. God knows all, far more than we do, so we must trust the process his Church provides. If there is low confidence in the bishop, nothing prevents a courtesy copy of the video from being sent to the Apostolic See (Cardinal Arinze at the CDW) at the same time.

We ought not be going out looking for abuses (or looking for abuses to post), but it's another matter if it occurs in our own parish and it happens to get on tape. From there, those who have such material have to discern the appropriate course of action just as we Catholic bloggers will have to discern whether to advocate some alternate, unofficial process by promoting those photos and videos on our blogs. For my part, I am publicly encouraging the official process be used.

With that, I would like to apologize to anyone who was offended with the content that was here previously and again, express my gratitude to those who in Christian charity gave me some things to ponder.

If we really want to do something about liturgical abuses we need to spend some time in prayer - in particular - the Rosary, and in adoration. The web has limits, but prayer has no boundaries. Help one priest through prayer, and you help all with whom the priest has contact. Prayer has the added benefit of gracing us with patience and charity, without which we are nothing more than clanging cymbals.

Mea Culpa!


Anonymous said...

On the other hand, if these abuses are not discussed in the Catholic blogosphere, how will we know about them? And how will effective action be taken if only a few are aware of the abuses? So long as discussion is done in a charitable manner, I think it is a good thing.

Diane said...

The answer lies within Redemptionis Sacramentum, followed by trust in the Holy Spirit, that if we all follow the process established by the Church, God's will be done. Most especially, if we follow up with considerable prayer for those involved in the process, and those involved in the offenses.

Faith is something which we give to God in the absence of understanding or in the absence of having control over something. Once someone mails the vatican or sends a video they have taken, it's true - we must endure "not knowing" if anything will happen at all. The Vatican, in true Christian charity, will work privately to resolve such issues.

A fair time to wait for any bishop to respond is 2-3 months. If no response is received, then it is perfectly fair to bundle the same info sent to the bishop and provide it to Cardinal Arinze.

Cardinal Arinze himself said when he was in Detroit that the Vatican should never be the first place we report liturgical abuse. Rather, we should work first with the Bishop no matter how much we think he won't listen. What if we were to ask Cardinal Arinze how he feels about Catholics using the internet to report liturgical abuses? Does this not air our dirty laundry before thousands who may be considering the Catholic faith, and may now be turned off by what they see?

How many parishes truly have such a Mass as was seen in the video? A very small number in my humble opinion. While I don't like the way many Masses are conducted, there are a good number of priests doing what they were taught in their seminaries (bad training). The first 43 years of my life, I accepted many things in the liturgy that today bother me. I did not know any better because I had not experienced the real deal until I began attending the solemn and reserved liturgies at Grotto. I saw what it did for me spiritually and realized, this is how the liturgy should be. It also matches much of what has been written by Pope Benedict and others about the liturgy so my spiritual changes were simply a validation of what a good liturgy can do - to me personally.

We need to follow the examples of people like Pope Benedict. I could never picture him advocating airing our dirty laundry on the internet, as opposed to handling it privately through proper channels. In fact, I think Pope Benedict and Cardinal Arinze, while be disappointed with what they would see in such a video, would also be disappointed that we did not choose to handle it privately.

God does not need public protests of anything in order to move the Church. He most certainly does not require us to get word to the Vatican about liturgical abuses by plastering it all over the web.

Like the lottery - if God intends us to win it, we truly only need a single ticket. If God intends for a liturgical abuse to be corrected, it will take only one letter or video from a parishioner to the Vatican, made in humble charity and sincerity, not anger and vitriol.

That's just my 2 cents. People will disagree and that's ok. Each has to go according to his conscience. Mine is telling me not to participate in public airing of abuses.

Diane said...

I wanted to add that last night as I fell asleep reflecting on this matter, one other thought came to mind.

The sin of detraction is little understood by many. I did not understand it very well at all until I had Fr. Perrone's catechism class last year. I know it wasn't taught in my butterfly and me catechism from the 70's.

From the CCC:

2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another's faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

Detraction means that if I come to know that my neighbor to my left is having an affair with someone at work, I commit sin (venial or mortal depending on understanding at the time) if I tell my neighbor to my right. The other neighbor has no need for this knowledge, even if it may be true.

On the other hand, a child who tells a teacher about another child who is endangering himself or others does not sin because he has just reason to talk about the situation.

My challenge to people here would be to consider how we may involve ourselves in detraction in publishing "the sins of others" on the internet. It is perfectly just to notify the Vatican. But do we have just cause to notify everyone in the world in a public manner of the sins of a particular priest or parish?

Newscasts and newspapers are often full of detraction. Perhaps this is one reason why many, who grow spiritually, often find they can no longer read or watch "news".

By all means - let the dialogue flow on this one as I am still learning myself. I simply want to put it out there for others to consider along with me.

I believe we may very well be engaging in detraction in some cases. Only each soul can search his own conscience for the answer. For my part, I have discussed it with a priest who himself was disappointed to see I had participated in the Halloween Mass post. I consider myself very blessed that he would muster the courage to say how he felt. I was defensive at first, but adoration has a way of softening a pride-filled heart, turning it from stone to softened flesh. While he did not bring up the possibility of detraction, I will be raising the question in confession since it came to me last night. I can't act on doubtful conscience regardless so the fact that the question is in my mind that detraction could be involved means all the more I cannot participate in such things.

My prayers are with all who read this post and comments as they discern this issue personally.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog faithfully. I truly love the inspired and uplifting content. I like to be able to see what's going on in my home town, and internationally. But I don't think we need to dwell on the abuses as much as rejoice in all of the good things that you have written about. I am not advocating putting our heads in the sand, but I am suggesting keeping our eyes firmly on Our Lord in trust and love. Thanks for the time you put into this blog, and thanks for updating that last post! :-)

Jonathan said...

I am a recent convert from the Church of England (cf ECUSA), where I was a priest. There, I worked hard and tirelessly to make sure I provided 'good liturgy', and to emphasise the sacramental nature of my ministry and the services at which I officiated. I do mean hard - it was a constant struggle to assert the Catholicity of the Church of England, and to draw people in to the graces of God's sacramental action, especially given the large number of fellow clergy and laity who would thoroughly disagree with my theological and ecclesiological take on all that sort of thing.
Now, I am - I pray - a faithful Catholic, attending daily mass, praying the Rosary (although not necessarily daily), going to Confession, and all those other things that you could put down to convert's zeal. And yet my greatest joy is the Mass. No matter where I go, no matter what the abuses (which I tend to notice even when I don't want to, having studied liturgy extensively, including a spell at the Deutches Liturgisches Institut, Germany), no matter all the things that might distract: it is still the Mass, and Christ is truly and really present in His Most Holy Sacrament, and it has nothing to do with what I think or do; he, who is the great I am, just is.
As a Catholic, I don't have to fight. Nothing can get in the way of this most precious gift, given freely to me on the Cross and altar. I went to the Brompton Oratory the other month with a friend (still an Anglican Vicar, but only just...), and he thought it was wonderful, and everything he wished the Church of England's liturgy could be - and I counted seven abuses. The thing is, I didn't care: it was the Mass.
Now, for fear you will think me sentimental, rest assured that I will occasionally enquire of a priest as to why he does a particular thing, or reassure a priest that he doesn't need to try quite so hard, or even suggest that I find a particular nuance a touch distracting. I tend to find that priests like having somebody take a positive, caring approach to such criticism. I also feel that they are encouraged by knowing there are people in the congregation who support them, understand their difficulties, and want to help them to be the men God calls them to be.
Nevertheless, I remain profoundly thankful for the gift of the Mass. In Fatima, the Rosary in Portugese was unintelligible; the Mass in Portugese was clearly the Mass. Wherever I go, it is the Mass, for which, to God, be all thanksgiving, honour and praise.

Diane said...

A wonderful testimony - Welcome home!

This is one thing I try to stress to people: Even though I attend one of the finest examples of the Mass of Vatican II that can be found today (at Assumption Grotto), we must always do our best to respect a valid liturgy, even through the illicit matters that crop up. It's easy to get angry, but many times some priests are doing only what they were taught to do in liturgies, and it has been supported by bishops trained just the same.

I know all too well how I participated not long ago in a folk group at another parish with guitar and mandolin, up near the front where we were all the focus of attention. When I think back to all of my attitudes, my thoughts, my actions up there near the Sanctuary, I am mortified. Yet, I did not learn what I have through discussions or through anyone instructing me at Grotto. It came through prayer and time spent in adoration.

No one had to explain to me that this was backwards. It just happened after I sat in a pew at Assumption Grotto and my soul was uplifted with Gregorian Chant - chanter unseen. I then understood why the priests at Grotto are so serene throughout the Mass. Some might say they look "down". My take on it the first couple of times I experienced it, was that they were deep in prayer and where they were, that's where I should be. The priest sets the tone as to whether it is going to be a celebration as in "party", or whether it will be treated as the Sacrifice that it truly is. He sets the tone as to whether the Mass is about us or whether it is about Him. Our reverence is affected by the reverence displayed by the priest.

Many priests who make the Mass like a business meeting have been trained this way by "experts". Some grew up knowing only this manner of celebrating the Mass. Hence, it is not their fault. Some will go to their grave defending their actions which do not comply with the GIRM. Some have had no good examples, so how can they know? But, as more young people get exposed to the deeply spiritual side of the Mass - the contemplative dimension - those showboat methods will all but disappear with time. I see much promise in some of the younger priests in that they are very reserved. In other words, they get it.

We must pray for our priests, that the Holy Spirit will enlighten them in ways that no human can teach, with regards to the Liturgy.

It all starts with the Mass. Only when we get this, can we embark on an authentic spiritual path.