"As Perfect Sacrifices go, Father, that was pretty bad."

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 16, 2006

A couple weeks ago I linked to Fr. Vincent Capuano, S.J.'s excellent article on liturgical abuse in religious communities, which appeared in the Adoremus Bulletin. Capuano's analysis is principally focused on the liturgical celebrant, on the complex mixture of motives in response to which the celebrant chooses to walk away from the ritual given us by the Church.

Yet Capuano also touches on the predicament of the man-in-the-pew, and on re-reading his essay I was struck by the image of two-tiered worship that so many Catholics must offer:

Not all members of religious communities like the heterocultic liturgies to which we are subjected. As a priest, if I don't find a community Mass agreeable, I can always say a private Mass. While not optimal, this is still better than an intentionally illicit or invalid Mass.

Contrary to the teaching of liturgists with the standard-issue Brown Belt in church history, the Eucharist comes with No Assembly Required, as Pope John Paul II reaffirmed ("priests should be encouraged to celebrate Mass every day, even in the absence of a congregation, since it is an act of Christ and the Church"). The Mass is meant to be a communal action, of course, but if Father So-and-So happens to be the only Catholic in the vicinity interested in the Catholic shtick, the "local faith community" he belongs to is a community of one. Back to Capuano:

This, however, creates other problems. A religious often has to decide if he wants to worship in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or in communion with local religious community members with whom he lives and works. I often follow the practice of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who out of devotion celebrated a daily private Mass and later assisted in the conventual Mass; I say a private Mass that I am sure will be licit and valid out of devotion, and later assist at the community Mass, which may or may not be licit or valid.

Aquinas, surely, didn't have to make the suggested compromise -- that of assisting at a heterocultic service in order to signal one's general benevolence toward the fraternity. One always feels slightly soiled after being present at an illicit Mass, since it implies non-resistance to a centrifugal, anti-ecclesial ethos, and to that extent mimics a minor apostasy from Catholicism. What results from splitting one's worship into a kosher vertical liturgy to please God and a polluted horizontal liturgy to please one's companions is a kind of fragmentation: "I'm in a communion of faith with these folks, and in a communion of bonhomie with those." Yet Capuano acknowledges that even this far from satisfactory compromise is unavailable to the laity:

The non-ordained don't have the option of celebrating a private Mass and many students and nuns suffer community Masses that are heterocultic. Many religious accept liturgical abuse in a manner similar to how a wife will often accept spousal abuse -- from a false sense of charity and tolerance. It is not that the perpetrator of abuse is completely evil, he often possesses many virtues and admirable qualities. The victim of liturgical abuse, like the victim of spousal abuse, wants to be forgiving, wants to practice tolerance, wants to be charitable. The abuser takes advantage of such desires and sentiments and continues to abuse.

Good points. Just as the co-dependent frau often "projects" an idealized image onto the husband who blackens her eyes, so also many of the faithful ignore the actual liturgy they're obliged to attend -- the liturgy enacted in front of their eyes -- while spiritually feeding on a memorized mental videotape of the Mass as it was meant to be celebrated. This is an instance of the larger lay effort of pretending one's pastors are Catholic, that Skylstad means the same thing as Ratzinger by "affective maturity," etc. And, just as important, to object to mistreatment reveals the victim's defect of charity and the victim's lack of tolerance. "Isn't our marriage about more than laws and rights?" whines the husband whose wife asks the cops to intervene. "Doesn't God care about more important things than rubrics?" complains the priest whose parishioners appeal to the chancery. It's amazing how often it works: the wife feels guilty since she's the one causing the split; the faithful feel guilty since they're the ones being divisive.

So we muddle through, conscious that somehow there's a sanctum sacrificium, immaculata hostia being offered up there on the altar, and striving to swallow our exasperation at the amateur variety show that presents itself to our senses, lest, in the narthex, theology get the upper hand of docility: "As Perfect Sacrifices go, Father, that was pretty bad."

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 20, 2006 1:54 PM ET USA

    What we need is a blog dedicated to exposing Jesuit liturgical abuse, and all other-Jesuit-heresy-abominations-etc. Honestly they are the best at it. I used to TRY to defend them but i don't anymore. I can only imagine St. Ignatius Loyala and St. Francis Xavier bowed down before the throne of God praying for their wayward order. I bet St. Joseph does the same for the He/She-radical-tree-hugging Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet. God help us, Mary pray for us.

  • Posted by: Bernadette - Feb. 18, 2006 5:20 PM ET USA

    East Indian, if the words of institution (i.e. what the celebrant says at the Consecration) are correct, it is a "valid" Mass, but as illustrated, it is most definitely "illicit." Valid but Illicit. (Aside) Why is it that most of the illicit Masses seem to be celebrated by the more elderly priests, those who were in seminary prior to Vatican II, who learned Latin and celebrated the Mass of Pius V (Tridentine) at least 10 years before the Novus Ordo? They swallowed the bait, hook, line, and

  • Posted by: Duns Scotus - Feb. 18, 2006 3:51 PM ET USA

    Following up on my previous comment, valid matter for Eucharistic bread is bread made of wheat flour and natural water only. In the Latin Rite, leavened bread is illicit, but still valid, matter. It looks, however, that the bread used here was made with more that wheat flour, natural water, and a leavening agent. It looks as though milk, oil, butter, or eggs, in large amounts, were used to make the dough, rendering the bread invalid matter.

  • Posted by: Duns Scotus - Feb. 18, 2006 3:38 PM ET USA

    The Mass is certainly illicit, and the priest who "celebrated" it is in grave peril. Was it, however, valid or not, i.e. did transubstantiation take place? I'll assume the priest met the bare requirement of (implicitly) intending to use his orders to act according to the Church's mind, even if his personal understanding of Her mind is very flawed. The liquid in the glass looks like it could be wine. I have serious doubts, however, that the bread used was valid matter.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 17, 2006 11:48 PM ET USA

    I have to hope the picture was staged satire of sorts from a really bad Indy Film, as it was nightmarish of the worst order! The article was excellent but concentrated on Religious Orders (and differences thereof) while the whole world has bent sails that prevent the Holy Spirit from guiding us to God through the Pope & Church. It is a widespread problem, with only one solution: God.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 17, 2006 10:54 AM ET USA

    "In the Secret Archives of the Vatican is the still open file for the canonization of Mary Queen of Scots.".... Probably a load of whooee, but the link is on the web for your viewing entertainment....http://home.earthlink.net/~zzz12/facts.html

  • Posted by: - Feb. 17, 2006 9:40 AM ET USA

    Are any of your readers able to tell me whether there is a society promoting the cannonization of Mary Queen of Scots. She died an example of Steadfastness in the Faith, indeed in her whole life she never renounced her Faith, if she almost certainly would have kept her Crown and Head. Leah.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 17, 2006 5:03 AM ET USA

    normnuke; the only thing to feel giulty about is that you are not in the Church anymore fighting for Orthodoxy! Reconcile, come back, join your voice to ours from within where perhaps together we can put an end to this era of litugical ridiculousness!

  • Posted by: Sir William - Feb. 16, 2006 9:41 PM ET USA

    Funny, huh? Priests and bishops went through great lengths in the 70's to strip our churches of ornament, statues and grandeur; they took away the 'bells and smells' and wanted us to sing "Michael row the boat ashore" and "Gather us in" in place of Gregorian chant. And because this dumbed-down liturgy bores the snot out of most of us, more & more bizarre things are invented to entertain us & keep the collections coming. When will they just go back to grandeur? It works every time its tried

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 9:18 PM ET USA

    Thank you fatimabeliever; I had completely forgotten that prayer. It sure fits our present situation in the Church.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 4:50 PM ET USA

    Fatima is right. The Angel of Fatima's prayer is more for our times than theirs. Fr. C writes: "the wife feels guilty since she's the one causing the split; the faithful feel guilty since they're the ones being divisive." I am one Catholic who is in favor of the wife's brother beating the stool out of her abusive husband and the faithful walking out of their parishes until the sacrileges stop. Abortion is murder. And sacrilege is evil.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Feb. 16, 2006 4:15 PM ET USA

    What about the prayer the Angel of Fatima taught the children : "Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore you profundly and I offer You the Most Presious Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all tabernacles of the earth, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He himself is offended. And by the infinte merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinner. WOULD PEOPLE CARE!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 2:51 PM ET USA

    Indian Catholic, no the Mass in the picture would be Illicit. Even if the two elements are Bread and Wine. Looking at the basket, wrong bread, the bread must be from wheaten flour and it is unleavened, because the bread Our Lord used was unleavened.It is round in shape.The picture shows the neligence of any reverence of the real presence, glass for the blood, basket for the body, both cheep at that.The altar is a disaster.Why would any priest, even pretend, that this was a "Real Sacrifice"?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 2:29 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, thanks for yet more great commentary. I wanted to mention that I added some thoughts in this regard about our local situation at Cornell University here.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 1:23 PM ET USA

    This item should be read in conjunction with the story about the (still mysterious) ruminations taking place in regard to the initiative to the SSPX which is apparently in the works. I feel a little guilty to remind those present that we naughty traddies don't have to put up with Mass celebrated on an "altar" with a serape--a serape!--for an altar cloth. I didn't notice any Aztecs in the congregation.

  • Posted by: Indian Catholic - Feb. 16, 2006 12:25 PM ET USA

    Quick question that occurred to me when I saw the picture - assuming the liquid in the glass is, indeed, red wine and the celebrating priest said the right words with the intention to do as the Church does(??) - would this be a valid sacrament? Would it be licit? Anyone?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 12:24 PM ET USA

    Pseudodionysius - a brilliant idea. Better put it in English, though; I doubt the crowd we'd be trying to reach remember -- or ever learned -- any Latin. Diogenes, I thought I was the only person who found myself, unintentionally, adding commentary to the words of the liturgy out loud in my head. I felt guilty when I did so, but at the same time thought that the honor of Christ deserved no less.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 11:46 AM ET USA

    Did you notice the number of people in that crowd with writing on the front of the T-Shirt? Gives me a nasty idea -- printing up T-Shirts with instructions from Rome in Latin on the front of the T-Shirt - either Sacrosanctum Concilium or disciplinary documents from the Papal Office. Neat, huh? The presider leaves the sanctuary to shake your hand in the front row, and your T-Shirt reminds him he shouldn't do that. Perhaps the relevant numbers from the Code of Canon Law. thanks Di!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 8:41 AM ET USA

    When you're facing the sun you can’t see your shadow; when you're walking away from the sun you see your shadow, and it looks unnaturally big. Maybe if everyone was facing the same way, everyone would be celebrating the same way. Take the performance out of it...let’s all turn toward the rising sun.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 16, 2006 8:16 AM ET USA

    KA-CHING! My subscription to cwnews.com has paid for itself yet another time! Keep the hits coming, King Di!

  • Posted by: Clorox - Feb. 16, 2006 8:04 AM ET USA

    In response to complaints over liturgical abuse, priests often say, "There are so many serious problems in the world and you're concerned about liturgical abuse?" Good point. The Mass isn't as important as, say, the bishop's annual capital campaign.