My Bishop's Response to Liturgical Abuse

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Crusader

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Some time ago I sent a letter to my pastor asking about liturgical irregularities and abuses at my parish. The letter contained absolutely no commentary. It contained several descriptions (in unemotional, clinical language) of what is taking place, and corresponding quotes from the GIRM about what is supposed to be taking place during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

After receiving an insufficient 30 second reponse from my pastor over the phone, where he suggested our bishop has approved the irregularities and abuses, I decided to forward the letter to the chancellor of our diocese. When I did not receive a response after 3 months, I sent it to the bishop. Here is the response I received (names changed of course):

*"Mr. John Smith
Anywhere, USA

Dear Mr. Smith:

I have received your voluminous correspondace regarding the liturgy at St. John Smith’s Parish. You seem to have a great deal of time to study the details of the liturgical rules and I admire your thoroughness.

I would suggest, however that our presence at the celebration of the Eucharist must first be a prayerful surrender to the mystery of Christ renewing the gift of salvation in our midst. Everything else is secondary. As you are aware, the Diocesan Bishop is the first steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to him and in the moderator, promoter and guardian of her whole liturgical life. (RS #19)

I believe that I can carry out that duty by working with the priests and people of our Diocese. I do, however, thank you for your (name removed by moderator)ut.

Sincerely yours in Christ;

Most Reverend John Smith
Bishop of Anywhere

CC: Father John Smith, Pastor, St. John Smith’s Parish"*

Am I wrong to be a bit upset with the nonresponsive tone of my bishop’s response? He’s wrong if he is suggesting that my primary focus at the Mass is not to worship Jesus Christ and to be present at the re-presentation of His ultimate sacrifice. It certainly is, and celebrating the Mass per the Church’s direction helps me in my worship.

In reality it appears rather than answer my questions, he chose instead to create an artificial “issue” to deflect attention away from my questions. Why would he do that?

Second, his tone seems awfully petulant. I would have expected a far more professional and pastoral response.

In the end it does seem that he agrees with my pastor – that anything is fair game so long as he “approves” it. One wonders why the bishops seek indults from the Holy See in some cases, if after all, it’s all their call anyway.

My pastor is being replaced in 3 months, and my bishop is retiring in less than 18 months, but the irregularities and abuses still bother me.
 
Well, his tone doesn’t strike me as petulant, but rather as condescending and perhaps a shade arrogant; but that’s besides the point. 🙂

You are quite right to be upset with the abuses. Every Catholic has the right to attend Mass without being subjected to liturgical lunacy inflicted by liberal pastors.

As I see it, at this point you can do one of three things:
  • You can forward your correspondence to Rome, and wait to see what takes place; but those wheels grind very slowly, and your bishop and pastor will probably be replaced before you hear anything from the Holy See.
  • You can sit tight and wait it out, and hope that things will improve with your next bishop;
  • Or you can change parishes.
Not much joy there, but that’s about all you can do, I think.
 
Since your pastor is being replaced in 3 months, the Bishop might be fully aware of the problems, and just doesn’t want to talk about it with parishoners.🙂
 
Sounds to me like he is saying:
  1. You should be focusing on prayerfull worship at Mass, and not focussed on whether this rubric or that is being properly followed.
  2. It’s my job to oversee liturgy and I don’t need a layman to tell me how to do my job.
As far as 1 goes, he has a point. And it’s good to take it to heart. After all, depending on where you live, you may have a devil of a time finding a Mass that is properly celebrated with no irregularities or abuses at all. It may be best for you, spiritually, to fosuc upon the reality that is Christ in the Eucharist, which is still valid despite the illicitness of parts of the Mass.

Though my counter point would be that too many abuses piled one on the other can be a horrible distraction to someone who is trying to do just that – to “prayerfully surrender to the mystery of Christ.” Can’t very well do that with clowns and bongo drums.

And depending on the exact nature of the abuses, if the Mass is rendered invalid, there is no Christ there to prayerfully surrender to!

As far as number 2 goes, a bishop can’t be in every parish every Sunday, and so depends upon the faithful to inform him when such abuses are taking place. Sounds to me like you did your job as a faithful Roman Catholic and should not be made to feel like you did something wrong by reporting such abuses.

Pax Christi,
Matt
 
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Crusader:
Some time ago I sent a letter to my pastor asking about liturgical irregularities and abuses at my parish. The letter contained absolutely no commentary. It contained several descriptions (in unemotional, clinical language) of what is taking place, and corresponding quotes from the GIRM about what is supposed to be taking place during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

After receiving an insufficient 30 second reponse from my pastor over the phone, where he suggested our bishop has approved the irregularities and abuses, I decided to forward the letter to the chancellor of our diocese. When I did not receive a response after 3 months, I sent it to the bishop…

Am I wrong to be a bit upset with the nonresponsive tone of my bishop’s response? He’s wrong if he is suggesting that my primary focus at the Mass is not to worship Jesus Christ and to be present at the re-presentation of His ultimate sacrifice. It certainly is, and celebrating the Mass per the Church’s direction helps me in my worship.

In reality it appears rather than answer my questions, he chose instead to create an artificial “issue” to deflect attention away from my questions. Why would he do that?
Crusader, your plight is bothersome, and your dismay is completely understandable. Each answer that I consider to your final question is tossed because it is not charitable; I wonder what I’m not considering.

Have you read REDEMPTIONIS SACRAMENTUM?183. In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.
  1. 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… 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.
    My intention is to prepare a letter to my bishop (who is John Smith!) about liturgical abuses at my parish as well. Your experience could help me if you would share your thoughts as to whether or not there’s anything you “would’ve done differently”.
I will keep in my prayers the faithful who are being hurt by the ignorance (deliberate, or otherwise) of abuse, as well as the abusers.

Never forget the power of prayer, and Trust in Him.
Peace. CR
 
This is just a guess, but when your bishop writes something so basic as:
I would suggest, however that our presence at the celebration of the Eucharist must first be a prayerful surrender to the mystery of Christ renewing the gift of salvation in our midst. Everything else is secondary.
it suggests to me that your letter did not contain anything that indicated to him that you were cognizant of this. Did your letter make it clear that you’ve spent as much time studying Sacrosanctum Concilium and Ecclesia de Eucharistia as you have spent poring over the details in the GIRM and Redemptionis Sacramentum?
 
Forward copies of your correspondence with your pastor and your bishop, and their responses, to Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Card. Arinze is second to the Holy Father in matters of liturgical abuse.

And send copies to your pastor and your bishop of your letter to Card. Arinze. :mad:

Card. Arinze’s address:

Sua Eminenza il Cardinale Francis Arinze
Palazzo delle Congregazioni
Piazza Pio XII, 10
00193 Roma, Italia

Justin
 
The bishops right, or wrong are in a tight spot. He can try and get the priest to change his ways or he can remove the priest. With the shortage of priests neither is likely to happen.

-Ted
 
How did the bishop get “voluminous” when you said you sent one letter? a letter?
I have been known in my lifetime to write some verrrry long letters and just wonder if that was the implication - that the one letter was very long and detailed, with all the necessary attachments highlighting specifics from Church documents.
 
If you really want to annoy him, send him a copy of Ecclesia Dei. 👍
 
Pere i Pau:
If you really want to annoy him, send him a copy of Ecclesia Dei. 👍
Why would the Apostolic Letter condemning Archbishop Lefebvre’s schismatic act of disobedience in violating canon 1382 annoy Crusader’s bishop?
 
It is a response like the Bishop’s and abuses like the ones your pastor is guilty of, that cause confusion and dissention amongst Roman Catholics. Then we wonder why Catholics don’t know their own faith! When priests are out there telling their faithful ones that certain abuses are acceptable, then we don’t really have a “Roman Catholic” Church anymore, it becomes American Catholic, God help us all.
Let’s pray…
In His Light and Love,
Michele Tamurian :eek:
 
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Catholic2003:
Why would the Apostolic Letter condemning Archbishop Lefebvre’s schismatic act of disobedience in violating canon 1382 annoy Crusader’s bishop?
It isn’t just about that. It is used in addition to a request for an indult to the Latin Mass. Many Bishops dislike the concept of the Latin Mass in their Diocese, and get annoyed with these petitions. I thought it would be funny, obviously not. And no, before you ask, I am not an SSPXer.
 
Two things come to mind. First he (and you) implicitly suggested that I am not focused on the sacrifice of Jesus at the Mass. That’s simply untrue and that’s extremely bad pastoral form. All he was doing was deflecting my critique of what is taking place.

Second it makes no difference to me if “you may have a devil of a time finding a Mass that is properly celebrated with no irregularities or abuses at all.” That’s simply a non-issue, a non-excuse. In time there will be abuse-free Masses at my parish.
 
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Tabitha773:
How did the bishop get “voluminous” when you said you sent one letter? a letter?
I have been known in my lifetime to write some verrrry long letters and just wonder if that was the implication - that the one letter was very long and detailed, with all the necessary attachments highlighting specifics from Church documents.
The “package” I sent him included the original three page analysis plus cover letter, the cover letter to the diocesan chancellor, and the cover letter to his excellency. So, six pages total.
 
Defensor Fidei:
The bishops right, or wrong are in a tight spot. He can try and get the priest to change his ways or he can remove the priest. With the shortage of priests neither is likely to happen.

-Ted
The biggest factor is not the pastor, but the bishop. Thankfully both will be gone soon enough.

My prayers are with Pope JPII these days. I pray that he will be pope when our next bishop is appointed.
 
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Catholic2003:
This is just a guess, but when your bishop writes something so basic as:

it suggests to me that your letter did not contain anything that indicated to him that you were cognizant of this. Did your letter make it clear that you’ve spent as much time studying Sacrosanctum Concilium and Ecclesia de Eucharistia as you have spent poring over the details in the GIRM and Redemptionis Sacramentum?
The sacrifice of Jesus is the focus of the Mass. That’s axiomatic. All he did was create a red herring in order to deflect attention away from the liturgical abuses.
 
Turris Fortis:
Sounds to me like he is saying:
  1. You should be focusing on prayerfull worship at Mass, and not focussed on whether this rubric or that is being properly followed.
  2. It’s my job to oversee liturgy and I don’t need a layman to tell me how to do my job.
As far as 1 goes, he has a point. And it’s good to take it to heart. After all, depending on where you live, you may have a devil of a time finding a Mass that is properly celebrated with no irregularities or abuses at all. It may be best for you, spiritually, to fosuc upon the reality that is Christ in the Eucharist, which is still valid despite the illicitness of parts of the Mass.

Though my counter point would be that too many abuses piled one on the other can be a horrible distraction to someone who is trying to do just that – to “prayerfully surrender to the mystery of Christ.” Can’t very well do that with clowns and bongo drums.

And depending on the exact nature of the abuses, if the Mass is rendered invalid, there is no Christ there to prayerfully surrender to!

As far as number 2 goes, a bishop can’t be in every parish every Sunday, and so depends upon the faithful to inform him when such abuses are taking place. Sounds to me like you did your job as a faithful Roman Catholic and should not be made to feel like you did something wrong by reporting such abuses.

Pax Christi,
Matt
1.) Nothing in my letter suggested my focus was elsewhere during the Mass. Just a manufactured red herring to divert attention away from the problems.

2.) Nonsense. He obviously needs all the help he can get, and it’s our responsibility to speak up when we are cognizant of liturgical abuse.
 
As a stay at home mommy, you would think that this would be beyond me, but through circumstance I have had to become a one- woman letter-writing campaign for the abuses in our parish.

I have struggled to ask for the grace to not allow the people dancing around to make me angry at Mass, but rather to gain detatchment, and offer this wretchedness back to Jesus through is Sacred Heart in reparation for such offenses that happen during His Holy Sacrifice.

Then I address the issue verbally with my pastor- and when I am laughed at or ridiculed- (why anyone would think only priests or deacons can say the Gospel is such hogwash, isn’t it???), then I write my little letter. After a time, if nothing is done then my letter will go on to the Apostolic Nuncio. I try really hard to discern between those things which are things that are not my preference and things that truly are illicit…

As lay persons we are obligated to keep our clergy accountable-- there’s a rather recent scandal we might want to keep in mind if any of our clergy tell us we have no business trying to correct abuse…

As a side note— it was very, very likely that the Bishop did not read, nor respond to your letter- but rather one of his secretaries, and the Bishop merely signed off on it…

My prayers are with you on this long, lonely road. I pray that you will not lose fervor!!
 
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