Liturgical abuse crackdown by the Pope

Liturgical abuse crackdown by the Pope

Sandro Magister writes that Pope Benedict has begun a crackdown on liturgical abuse. Ironically, he’s started with a conservative group, the NeoCatechumenal Way. I don’t know too much about the group, although they are apparently very successful and very excited, based on my encounters with the groups at World Youth Days. They also have lots of vocations.

Unfortunately, it appears that they engage in some … unique … liturgical practices that in the past they defended by saying that they had verbal permission from Pope John Paul. Now Magister prints a confidential letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship to the Way with “the Holy Father’s decisions” admonishing them to stop certain practices.

So who’s next? Life Teen has already had some practices stopped by Phoenix Bishop Olmsted. Will there be more? I suspect that part of the reason the Way has been addressed is because it is a unified group that professes magisterial obedience to the Holy Father and it will be easier to get them to comply.

More heterodox liturgical abuses, such as those that are widespread in the Church in the US, will be harder to rein in because most of those doing the abusing are not all that keen on magisterial obedience to begin with and because there is not an authority telling to all to do it one, wrong way. Still it tells me that Pope Benedict is not turning a blind eye to the problem of liturgical abuse.

The problem began to be addressed under John Paul with Redemptionis Sacramentum and Liturgiam Authenticam, and now it is being implemented.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, our archbishop wrote a series of letters in the Catholic paper ( on liturgical abuse.  But all he really needs to do is send a list to his pastors on what should and should not be done, publish the list and invite the laity to write to him or a designated ombudsman with specific problems, such as glass chalices or hand-holding.

  • I wish His Holiness would add that any bishop who speaks in a manner questioning such edicts could be interpreted as calling their filial loyalty to the Apostolic See into question.

    I know, I know, but a boy can dream, can’t he?

  • To be clear on the bit about LIFE TEEN…when the GIRM came out, LT approached Rome about faithfully applying it in the context of the LT liturgies. When Cardinal Arinze wrote back, LIFE TEEN immidiately communicated the required changes to all parishes that use the model.

    I just point that out because you make it sound that Bishop Olmsted cracked down on LIFE TEEN when he took over, when I believe the questions on the GIRM were posed before he took over. Either way, it wasn’t a crackdown as much as it was an honest inquiry and immidiately faithful reply.

  • I presume that Benedict is trying to introduce a uniformity that will end not only unusual practices (such as those of the Neo-Catechumenate) but real and harmful abuses.

    I am not disturbed by the practices of the Neo-Catechumenate; I am disturbed by the numerous priests who wish to focus attention on themselves by doing the most bizarre thing they can think of: dribbling basketballs down the aisle into a basket onto the altar (Lake Placid, New York) or wearing clown wigs during the homily (Naples, Florida). What is worse, much of the laity loves such antics, and bishops think that popularity is the best gauge of a priest’s success. How can Benedict deal with this situation? His new episcopal appointments do not create confidence that there will be any change. He will issue documents, and appoint bishops who have announced they intend to ignore the documents.

  • My parish got around the Life Teen changes (still allowing kids at the altar at Consecration, etc.) by saying it is not really a LT Mass, but a youth Mass.  To our pastor, the GIRM is just a set of recommendations.

  • Lee, if promoting Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don to Secretary of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the man who said the crisis in the Church is one of liturgy, that he agrees 200% with the SSPX on that point, is not a change in episcopal appointments, then I really don’t know what is.

  • Whiteboy,

    The GIRM didn’t just come out. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal has been in effect since the Novus Ordo was promulgated back in the 1960s. What we’ve had has been successive orders over the years to get people to comply.

  • Remember the priest in Norfolk, Virginia who once rode a motorcycle down the aisle on Palm Sunday? I want that kind of thing to be stamped out. But the Life Teen and Neo-Catechumenate practices need to be curtailed as well.

  • I would suppose to most of those who read this, that liturgical abuse is in the eye of the beholder.

    30 years ago, Holy Communion in the hand was considered an abuse.  20 years ago, altar girls were considered an abuse.  Even though the Vatican attempted to surpress these abuses, repeated practice of them led to the ratification by the Vatican of these abuses.  “you keep doing them and pretty soon the Vatican will go along.

    How many people realize that when Father says “good morning everyone” that this constitutes and “abuse”?

  • The kind of liturgical abuse we’re talking about here is NOT in the eye of the beholder.  It is the violation of the GIRM, before the GIRM of 1975, now the new one.  And it should not happen.

    Fr. Whatshisname needs to keep his morning salutations to himself until the mass is over.  We don’t go down there to visit.  For that we go to a coffee shop. 

    Is that clear enough for you?

  • I agree with Brian.  There was a time when abuses became so widespread that they were allowed by Rome and then became the norm.  In my parish, 1% receives on the tongue and I can hardly get a boy to serve at the altar.

    But I think things are going to be different now.  I don’t think Pope Benedict is going to allow abuses to become norms.  I also think, and hope, that some of the old norms will be abolished.  They have hurt the Latin Rite more than it has helped the Latin Rite.

  • Cardinal Arinze’s letter confirms some of the liturgical practices of the “Neocatechumenal Mass” and has enough loopholes to allow continuing the others:

    “At least one Sunday per month, the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way must participate in the Holy Mass of the parish community.” [Thus, on the other three or four Sundays they can have the usual Saturday night fare.]

    “As for any admonitions issued before the readings, these must be brief.”

    “It is permitted to have a brief instruction that helps explain better the liturgy that is being celebrated, and even … a few testimonies [i.e., “resonances” after the readings?] …

    “The possibility of ‘dialogue’ during the homily (cf. Directorium de Missis cum Pueris, no. 48) can be used …” [Thus, a concession originally granted only for children’s liturgies (that is, only for preadolescents) is now extended to an adult liturgy.]

    “On the exchange of peace, permission is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to continue using the indult already granted …” [i.e., before the Offertory rather than after the Breaking of the Host]

    “On the manner of receiving Holy Communion, a period of transition (not exceeding two years) is granted to the Neocatechumenal Way to pass from the widespread manner of receiving Holy Communion in its communities (seated, with a cloth-covered table placed at the center of the church instead of the dedicated altar in the sanctuary) to the normal way …” [When the Vatican refused to allow the use of the “inclusive-language” New Revised Standard Version of the Bible for the Lectionary, they granted a “temporary” exemption to the Canadian Catholic bishops, who had already published a NRSV edition, until that stock was exhausted. After 13 years they are still selling it from “existing” stock.]

  • Father Ethan, if you want altar boys, why not say “we will only use altar boys and they will wear the traditional clothes” and be clear that this is to “promote vocations” and not “sexist” as girls “can still be readers or Communion ministers.”

  • Communion in hand and girl altar boys are still abuses and always will be.

    Pope John Paul II’s Decree Dominicae Coenae:
    “To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained.”

    It is quite natural that the boys flee when the girl altar boys show up. What 11 y.o. boy wants to get bossed around by a 13 y.o. girl? Is it any wonder that vocations have dried up?  Altar servers have been described as a garden for vocations … with girl altar boys it is a dead end.

  • Father Ethan:

    Before you “do” anything, you might remind anyone with an opinion about altar service, that it is not a “right,” but a privilege. At least it was “back in the day.” That females may serve at the altar is not an “abuse,” but an indulgence to the norm (the norm being males-only), exercised at the discretion of the local bishop, and in particular situations, the parish priest.

    If you cannot even tell people the reality of a situation (and it’s usually parents who are the problem, more than the kids, at least in my experience), then yours must be an oppressive assignment indeed, and I pray for your eventual liberation. All in good time…

  • I think David makes a good point about explaining things. 20 yrs ago I wanted to be an altar server, but although it was tolerated in the diocese our pastor was an old-school guy from the Old World and wouldn’t hear of it, end of story. This made me very unhappy, because I didn’t see why I couldn’t do it if boys who were not particularly good Catholics could serve. But if anyone – Father, my parents, CCD teacher, anyone – had been able to explain to me why I ought not be a server, I know I would have been quite happy with the explanation and seen the difference. (Of course, they have female altar servers at my old parish nowadays, and not very many male servers . . .)