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The sad case of the free-lance liturgist

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 06, 2012

If you’re looking for another reason to welcome the new English translation of the Roman Missal, consider this: Father William Rowe will no longer be ad-libbing his way through the Mass.

Father Rowe—who resigned rather than acceding to his bishop’s instructions that he use the new translation—considers himself too creative to be bound by the language of the Missal. He has shown a tendency to “change the words that are written in the book to match what I was talking about, or what a song is about.” In other words, when Father Rowe was the celebrant, the prayers reflected whatever was on his mind at the moment, not the mind of the Church. He didn't just preach about his own thoughts; he twisted the very shape of the Eucharistic liturgy to fit his own frame of mind.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline says that Father Rowe lost his “job.” Actually priestly ministry is not a “job.” But if you do look at this story as a labor dispute, it’s not the shocker that the newspaper coverage suggests. An “employee” refused to perform his assigned duties. Is it a surprise that he lost his job?

In this case, Father Rowe didn’t exactly “lose” his job; he walked away from it.

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike the ordinary employee who loses his job because he refuses to fulfill his assigned role, Father Rowe will continue receiving his salary from the Belleville diocese.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Feb. 06, 2012 8:10 PM ET USA

    They don't make 'em like they used to. Or do they. I hear good things about this younger generation of priests. It's back to the future so to speak. And it starts with humility demonstrated by selfless service animated with Christ's love. The "i" in priest is crucified on the day of ordination and must be replaced with an unquenchable thirst for the salvation of souls in the service of Holy Mother Church. Pray for good and holy priests; they are nothing short of miraculous.