Sunday, August 7, 2011

A bishop talks about encountering liturgical abuse while vacationing

An auxiliary bishop from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is a blogger. He decided to share an experience that may seem all too famliar - liturgical abuse. For some, it is not what they encounter on vacation, but what is happening at their own parish. The bishop was intending to go to Confession, as well, but decided against it.  He writes:

I do know one thing. I certainly wasn't going to ask him to hear my Confession. If he changed the words of the Institution Narrative, there's no telling what he might do with the words of Absolution...

On the one hand, it's sad to read.  On the other  hand, Catholics all across America experience this kind of thing every Sunday and they don't think the bishops see it.  The Mass doesn't belong to the priest, nor to the community.  It belongs to the Church and she is the one who decides how it is best celebrated.    

I"ve been to some parishes here in the Archdiocese of Detroit where it seems it would be fruitful to review Redemptionis Sacramentum (On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist).  It was written in the 90's to curb experimentation with the liturgy which ran amok.  I think some priests have become accustomed to doing things a certain way, and may have lost sight of what was in that document.   I've seen concelebrants without a chasuble, glass pitchers, the gloria omitted, along with some other things, and children taking up canned goods for Offertory (it's nice, but it's not what the Offertory is about - the food collection could happen in the vestibules each week). 

One priest from another country - a very devout man, who was learning the Latin Rite, was doing everything perfectly in the beginning.  He was reading the black and doing the red.  He went on the other side of town to help a friend for a month while that pastor was on vacation, and he came back committing all kinds of illicit acts.  I did not hold it against him, nor was I upset with him because he didn't know any better.   Among the things he "learned" on the other side of town, was to fracture the unconsecrated host upon saying, "...He blessed the bread and broke it...".   I won't discuss the other things he was doing.  I later provided him to with a copy of RS and just encouraged him to read it since he was new to the rite, without saying anything else.  Perhaps he did, or didn't read it.  I just know that when I went back once or twice a month, these things were gradually being sanitized out.  I suspect the pastor, who does not do those things, saw him as well, and may have spoken to him. He does a pretty stand up job now, from the few times I've seen him.

It's always important to approach such things with a certain amount of tact - you cannot judge the motive behind why a priest does these things.  Consider that some middle-aged priests, who in the 90's may have been young associates, may not have been given much exposure to RS when it first came out. We can't think in terms of how accessible information is today and apply it to the early 90's or prior.  Today, with the web, we all know what is happening - sometimes before the thing even happens.  That's why I think bishops ought to ask their priests to read from RS a little each day and make sure they are in harmony with it.  Some will blow it off, and some will work to make things right.  With the right kind of encouragement from a bishop, those who may not be as aware as we think they should be, could respond humbly.   You also don't want to make a laundry list of each and every problem.  Tackle the biggest problem first and talk to the priest about it - privately and nicely.  See how he responds.  If he's not receptive to correcting the problem, then write to the bishop.  They can't address what they don't know. 

My experience with younger priests is that they do know about RS.  Sometimes, the problem they run into is resistance at the parish level with the pastor.  This can be sticky for them and they have to choose their battles wisely.  We need these young men to become pastors, so they can follow the mind of the Church on liturgical matters.  I'm of the opinion that unless there is something which makes the Mass invalid, it is best to lay low and not make a fuss.  Pick one issue and make a suggestion.  If that goes well and the pastor is open,  try another suggestion after some time passes.  With such a shortage of priests, it won't take long for a new priest to become a pastor.  But, if he doesn't choose his battles wisely, he could be labeled in ways that will only delay getting that parish.  Of course, you never compromise on serious moral issues or on a matter that results in an invalid Mass.  Those things must be dealt with.

Fr. Z has some observations about the bishop's post and comments flowing.

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