Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
Online Edition -
December 2005-January 2006
Vol. XI, No. 9
Results of the Adoremus survey on liturgical abuses (AB June 2005) revealed that 1) liturgical abuses persist, and are geographically widespread in the parishes in the United States; 2) there are relatively few problems, and only about 15% report no corrections of liturgical abuses since the appearance nearly a year ago of Redemptionis Sacramentum, the disciplinary document issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Redemptionis Sacramentum (The Sacrament of Redemption) On Certain Matters to be Observed or to be Avoided Regarding the Most Holy Eucharist dated March 25, 2004, responded to Pope John Paul II’s final encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, and was specifically approved by the pope.
In Ecclesia de Eucharistia, the pope deplored the “Eucharistic practices contrary to the discipline by which the Church expresses her faith. How can we not express profound grief at all this?” He also expressed hope that his encyclical would “effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice”.
Redemptionis Sacramentum (RS) was unusual among Church documents in that it emphasized that every Catholic -- lay or clergy -- is responsible for the faithful celebration of the Mass, including overcoming abuses:
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 favoritism.
184. 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.
More than 1300 people responded to the sixteen items on the survey enclosed in the June 2005 issue of Adoremus Bulletin -- representing about 8.7% of our regular members. Responses came from 168 dioceses in the United States, two in Canada (Victoria, Toronto) and one from Australia (Broken Bay).
Nearly 40% reported that their parish was in accord with the norms of RS at the time it appeared (though some had changed parishes because of problems), and 22% said that existing problems had been corrected after the document appeared. Another 24% reported that some, but not all, of the liturgical abuses in their parish had been corrected. Only 15% reported that no changes had been made to correct abuses.
The survey revealed some good news. Concerning Communion bread, only 1.4% reported illicit or invalid matter; and about the same percentage said “other substances” were distributed during Mass. But 72 of the respondents (5.5%) have been denied Communion “without a serious reason” (RS §91), usually for kneeling; and even though only 36 (2.8%) respondents have actually been denied Communion on the tongue, several noted in written comments that the Communion minister indicated disapproval.
Concerning use of unauthorized Eucharistic Prayers (RS §51, 52), a majority of priests use Eucharistic Prayers I-IV (69%), but almost 25% of the responses say that changed or added words remain a problem. A majority (58%) reported that Communion in both species is offered at all Sunday and weekday Masses, and another 23% on Sundays only. This practice almost always employs extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at nearly every Mass. (Only 2.4% reported that extraordinary ministers serve “only for large congregations”, and 5.5% responded “rarely or never”.) Overwhelmingly, the Precious Blood is offered directly from the chalice; only 6.8% reported that Communion by intinction is offered as an alternative.
While 73% of parishes use only precious metal for Communion vessels, in accordance with the norm (RS §106, 117), 27% report the continued use of glass or ceramic.
Concerning the responsibility for abuses (RS §183, 184), one-third said they are aware of abuses, but have not reported them, and about 42% said they are not aware of any abuses in their parish.
One unexpected finding is that some have transferred their membership to a parish where the liturgy is celebrated reverently and correctly, though this was not a survey question and this information came from written comments on the survey.
Excerpts from these comments appear below, identified only by diocese, in order to give a sense of the geographical distribution of respondents.
Comments on Redemptionis Sacramentum Survey
There is one thing I like about Vatican II: the English Mass. But the abuses are all over the place. I belong to Mission San Jose staffed by the Franciscans of the St. Louis province. Name the abuses, we have had them. Sand during Lent in holy water fonts. Throwing large nails (spikes) into a # 2 wash tub during adoration of the cross on Good Friday. The processional cross for Mass has no corpus. During concelebrated Mass with five or six priests plus deacons, extraordinary ministers are used, and priests sit in chairs. (the EMs are only women). Music is mostly banal. One of our priests refuses to use the name “Father” in the Mass prayers; he says “gracious God”. Another priest shouts “Jesus has died for us” during the Consecration. Holy Trinity help us!
Our rural cluster of parishes has been blessed with an exceptionally reverent, respectful priest who loves Mother Church and is faithful to the Holy Father.
We have not been denied the option of receiving on the tongue, but have received much huffing from several extraordinary ministers.
I am afraid to report liturgical abuses to the abuser, because in the past when I have done so, my comments have been either rejected outright, or I have been made to feel inferior because I am “lay”, and do not understand what modern theologians are teaching.
Our pastor breaks the host over the paten during the words of consecration -- always. He holds (elevates) both halves over the paten.
Our pastor … moved the tabernacle to a side altar (in this Year of the Eucharist). Because we have adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, he calls us “tabernacle worshippers” and “cookie worshippers”…
My biggest concern is the “standing syndrome”, where everybody stands until all have returned to their pews after receiving Communion. I have attended Mass in parishes around the country that don’t stand in this manner, so I know it is not a universal mandate. It is distracting, intrusive, and quite unpopular.
There are terrible abuses in my parish, which describes itself as a “Jesuit parish”. The Canadian Lectionary is used; The pastor regularly changes Gospel references to the Holy Spirit to feminine pronouns; women staff members regularly preach homilies; at group penance services, lay staff are used as “lay listeners”; the pastor receives Communion from an extraordinary minister at the end of Communion distribution.
It has become routine in our parish to have a lay person (anyone) assist with distribution of Holy Communion, regardless of the number of people present.
This diocese is blessed to have Bishop Michael Sheridan. A letter from the bishop was read at all the Masses listing what changes the document required, and they were implemented very soon afterward in my parish.
In my previous parish the priest was not saying the Gloria at Sunday Masses; he changed the words in the Eucharistic prayer, and used the Protestant form of the Our Father (omitting his prayer). He said that he had never learned, while in the seminary, that the Gloria was required. After receiving my written complaint (cc’d to the bishop) he corrected the [use of the] Gloria and the Lord’s Prayer.
Part of the problem [with receiving on the tongue from extraordinary ministers] I see in many parishes is the lack of instruction on a good method for placing the Host on the tongue.… Based on my experience with surprised and befuddled extraordinary ministers, I wonder if there is any mention at all during their instruction of the way to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue.
I have observed the power of prayer with respect to the liturgy. Several years ago, my parish was assigned an associate pastor whose fast and loose attitude toward liturgy was worrisome. When he came to the new parish, I told him about my worry -- and began to pray for him. In the past five years, he has become an inspiring priest. I believe that under the wise direction of a skilled pastor, this man has led our parish to be a model of reverent Catholic worship.
The problem with so many of our Masses is not outright abuse, but just a general spirit of irreverence and tackiness.
Priests have for years given too much of their own responsibility to laypersons who are ignorant of liturgical norms or don’t care, and invent their own “rites” and “adaptations”….
The parish we are closest to has many liturgical abuses. The parish we attend is 45 minutes away, but the reverence of the priest makes it worth every minute of the drive, even with the higher gas prices.
We just switched parishes because of abuses. We now drive 40 miles each way to go to a beautifully and reverently celebrated Mass in the Orlando area.
In the past a few people tried to report problems, but we were labeled troublemakers. Since our present pastor came, the problems have been corrected.… It took a good priest to make the corrections….
Our parish in Front Royal is remarkably blessed in having a highly orthodox congregation and highly orthodox priests. We have nearly perpetual Eucharistic adoration; we have had a Corpus Christi procession down Main Street for five or six years. The youth choir specializes in polyphony and Gregorian chant. Deo Gratias!
Kansas City-St. Joseph
I have seen no abuses in my parish, which is why I go there. But I see them in other parishes.
We do not have a priest, but a “lay presider” and nuns that are parish administrators. I and others have called, written and personally visited the bishop, and talked to other priests about the abuses in our parish. We are not listened to, and are looked upon as fanatic, too Catholic, “conservative”.
Victoria (British Columbia)
Abuses creep in where priests and laity choose to ignore, or are ignorant of, the norms.…There is also a problem of “they do it like this at Saint X’s, why don’t we do it here?” I find most laity and priests are not interested in studying the norms and practicing them. We are blessed to have a parish priest who is well formed.
I have spoken to pastors regarding liturgical abuses, and I’m left with the impression that they can do what they want -- it’s their parish. Also, they use the excuse that the abuse in question is a matter of their interpretation of the norm.
First Communion classes are instructed to receive in the hand.
I have not been refused Communion on the tongue, but I know the RCIA instructor told the class that “since Vatican II you should not receive on the tongue”.
My parish is very orthodox. People flee to it from all over the diocese….
It is difficult for me to imagine that [priests] know the harm they are doing to the unity of the Church [by ignoring Redemptionis Sacramentum].…
The tactic here is to ignore Redemptionis Sacramentum, and when there are abuses to say, “well, our cardinal does it, so it must be the norm”. Others say there is a period of “implementation” -- which translates to “courteous disobedience”. The problems are deep, and with the promulgated law, there needs to be a means of enforcement.
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