10 Most Common Liturgical Abuses

I would like to call readers’ attention to an article right here on Catholic.com The title is “The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses and Why They’re Wrong.” By Kevin Orlin Johnson. It appeared originally in the January 1999 issue of the magazine “This Rock” published by Catholic Answers–the same Catholic Answers that sponsors these forums (and a thanks go out to them for their good work, by the way!)

It’s a very good read, and I highly recommend the article.

Here’s the link
catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9901fea1.asp

1 Like

It’s a good article. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the10 years since this article was written. Methinks that perhaps CAF needs to write an update to include RS and the other pertinent documents.

Thanks. Great article. I disagree with 8 and 9.

  1. I don’t see how holding hands is, strictly speaking, illicit. This seems a practice that is neither prescribed nor proscribed, so it is “apart” from the law. It may be beneficial or not. Personally, I don’t like it and don’t practice it even when I attend Mass with a community that practices it. But, it’s neither required nor proscribed by liturgical law (at least in the United States, where I am) so I fail to see how it could really be considered “illicit.”

  2. Again, I don’t see where universal or particular (in this case, for the dioceses in the United States) prohibit dance, so I fail to see how or why such a practice could a priori be considered illicit. I am well aware that liturgical dance was often a part of liturgies celebrated by Pope John Paul II, so obviously the idea in and of itself is not illicit. Personally, I am not a big fan, but again my personal preference is not indicative of the universal Church’s experience or practice.

Still, really good article, thanks again.

Since there remains a moratorium on point #8, I don’t think that we can comment on this. It is suffice to say that both the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy and Redemptionis Sacramentum note that we do not have the right to insert things into the Mass on our own authority.

Second, there is no Tradition of dance in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the West. Just because it happened during liturgies celebrated by Pope John Paul II that does not make it legitimate, as Francis Cardinal Arinze, the prefect emeritus for the CDWDS noted:

There has never been a document from our Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments saying that dance is approved in the Mass.

The question of dance is difficult and delicate. However, it is good to know that the tradition of the Latin Church has not known the dance. It is something that people are introducing in the last ten years – or twenty years. It was not always so. Now it is spreading like wildfire, one can say, in all the continents – some more than others. In my own continent, Africa, it is spreading. In Asia, it is spreading.

Now, some priests and lay people think that Mass is never complete without dance. The difficulty is this: we come to Mass primarily to adore God – what we call the vertical dimension. We do not come to Mass to entertain one another. That’s not the purpose of Mass. The parish hall is for that.

So all those that want to entertain us – after Mass, let us go to the parish hall and then you can dance. And then we clap. But when we come to Mass we don’t come to clap. We don’t come to watch people, to admire people. We want to adore God, to thank Him, to ask Him pardon for our sins, and to ask Him for what we need.

Don’t misunderstand me, because when I said this at one place somebody said to me: “you are an African bishop. You Africans are always dancing. Why do you say we don’t dance?”

A moment – we Africans are not always dancing! [laughter]

Moreover, there is a difference between those who come in procession at Offertory; they bring their gifts, with joy. There is a movement of the body right and left. They bring their gifts to God. That is good, really. And some of the choir, they sing. They have a little bit of movement. Nobody is going to condemn that. And when you are going out again, a little movement, it’s all right.

But when you introduce wholesale, say, a ballerina, then I want to ask you what is it all about. What exactly are you arranging? When the people finish dancing in the Mass and then when the dance group finishes and people clap – don’t you see what it means? It means we have enjoyed it. We come for enjoyment. Repeat. So, there is something wrong. Whenever the people clap – there is something wrong – immediately. When they clap – a dance is done and they clap.

It is possible that there could be a dance that is so exquisite that it raises people’s minds to God, and they are praying and adoring God and when the dance is finished they are still wrapped up in prayer. But is that the type of dance you have seen? You see. It is not easy.

Most dances that are staged during Mass should have been done in the parish hall. And some of them are not even suitable for the parish hall.

I saw in one place – I will not tell you where – where they staged a dance during Mass, and that dance was offensive. It broke the rules of moral theology and modesty. Those who arranged it – they should have had their heads washed with a bucket of holy water! [laughter]

Why make the people of God suffer so much? Haven’t we enough problems already? Only Sunday, one hour, they come to adore God. And you bring a dance! Are you so poor you have nothing else to bring us? Shame on you! That’s how I feel about it.

Somebody can say, “but the pope visited this county and the people danced”. A moment: Did the pope arrange it? Poor Holy Father – he comes, the people arranged. He does not know what they arranged. And somebody introduces something funny – is the pope responsible for that? Does that mean it is now approved? Did they put in on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go.

Thus, dancing is not justified.

One of the parishes I was considering, St Francis Xavier in NYC, apparently has liturgical dancers. I don’t even want to know how that works.

Since dance is not directed by the rubrics or prayers of the Liturgy, then it follows there’s no such thing as liturgical dance or liturgical dancers.

Pretty good article, but I have a couple problems:

*5. Dictating posture.

There are parishes where the ushers will ask you to stand when you’re kneeling. Many churches are being built now without kneelers to discourage you from kneeling at all. This violates the law and does no honor to Christ nor to the martyrs who died rather than compromise the outward signs of their faith.

But if the celebrant and his ushers can’t mandate your posture, the law can, and it does. Everybody at Mass is supposed to be uniform in standing, sitting, and kneeling (GIRM 20), and there are universal rules about it. In this country you are still required to kneel during the Consecration, from after the end of the Sanctus until the Great Amen, even if there aren’t any kneelers (GIRM 21; Appendix to the General Instruction 21). You are required to bow or kneel at the words “by the power of the Holy Spirit” in the Creed (GIRM 98). You are required to genuflect whenever you pass the Eucharist, whether it’s in the tabernacle or publicly exposed except when in procession (GIRM 233; CB 71). And contrary to what you might see these days, the Eucharist’s tabernacle can’t be tucked out of the way. It should be “placed in a part of the church that is prominent, conspicuous, beautifully decorated, and suitable for prayer” (CIC 938).

After Communion, though, you’re free to stand, sit, or kneel as you choose. *

OK, so what if your parish does not have kneelers and the chairs are too close together to physically kneel? Do you “do no honor to Christ” by not kneeling? In order to accommodate the number of parishioners that we have in our parish, we couldn’t fit in kneelers.

I agree that they should be available, but it isn’t always physically possible to kneel when one should.

*7. Ignoring rules for reception of the Eucharist.

The official statement of the rules for reception has recently been rewritten by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and unfortunately it’s pretty vague. But it still says clearly that “in order to be properly disposed to receive communion, participants . . . normally should have fasted for one hour,” abstaining from food and drink except water or medicine. *

Not following a “should” is not an abuse. Not following a “must” is.

Otherwise, enlightening to hear about other things that I’ve never seen done in a mass that are verboten.

Not following a “should” is not an abuse. Not following a “must” is.
Canon Law says: “Whoever is to receive the blessed Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from all food and drink, with the sole exception of water and medicine.” (Can. 919 §1) There are special exceptions to this rule, but they don’t apply to one-day-a-week Catholics who eat right before they leave (late) for Mass.

Not following a “should” is not an abuse. Not following a “must” is.

Otherwise, enlightening to hear about other things that I’ve never seen done in a mass that are verboten.

The reason the word “should” is used instead of “must” is because there are some who are exempt from the fasting requirement because of health. A diabetic who has to keep a certain schedule, or someone who is required to take some food or drink with medication, for example, can still receive Communion even without a 1-hour fast. The 1-hour fast is indeed a “must” unless something legitimate prevents it. But to say that the word “should” means that the fast is an option is not in harmony with what the Church requires.

1 Like

The ushers trying to get a kneeling person to stand is just rude!

But if I am understanding the article the “abuse” happens when a Church is built or furnished in such a way as to discourage kneeling or make it nearly impossible. It isn’t your fault. It’s the fault of the knuckleheads who designed the church that way - or in your case, decided that squeezing more chairs in was a priority.

That’s very clear then, not like using “should”.

I disagree. It would be very easy to use “must” and state the possible exemptions. Surely those who draft such documents would consider the connotatons of “should” vs. “must”.

So which is it, or is it stated differently in canon law and elsewhere?

BTW, I’m not arguing against the practice, just questioning the wording.

We’ve both explained the wording. A person must abstain from food and drink for 1 hour before receiving Communion. Water and medicine is the exception. If food itself is a type of medicine, or otherwise necessary for the individual then that person is exempt.

I’m not saying that the bishops don’t understand what they’re saying. I am simply trying to explain it to you.

1 Like

The USCCB (and its predecessor, the NCCB) is not really known for having strongly-worded or well-worded documents. Their documents also do not have the force of law unless approved by Rome. The document in question says:
In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.
This document must (not just “should”!) be interpreted in light of ACTUAL universal law. Regarding the fast, Canon 919 must be read, which I showed already. The document also says “normally should”, meaning that fasting for an hour is the norm. This norm has certain exceptions, detailed in Canon Law. Canon Law says that a person who is receiving “is to” fast. That’s equivalent to “must”.

And as for the word “should”…
aux.v., Past tense of shall. (As in “thou shall not commit adultery”)

  1. Used to express obligation or duty: You should send her a note.
  2. Used to express probability or expectation: They should arrive at noon.
  3. Used to express conditionality or contingency: If she should fall, then so would I.
  4. Used to moderate the directness or bluntness of a statement: I should think he would like to go.
    Tell God that “not following a [not] should” is not an abuse! :wink:

The wording might be ambiguous (which seems to be the status quo for the past few decades), but we have other more authoritative and less ambiguous documents with which to interpret it.

This is why they are such common abuses. :stuck_out_tongue:

God bless.

Nonsense. If my opinion was all that mattered there would be a list of 8 not 10.

Replacing or omitting the homily.
*Does this include video annual appeals from the bishop
*Does this include doing a short homily then having a nun/brother speak about their mission

Dictating posture
*I’m assuming if mass is done in an auditorium setting for a school, etc, then these rules are to be followed as possible?

Holding hands during the Our Father.
*Does this mean your church should drop it? I think it would be a bigger fuss to change now.


When my family 1st moved here we went one day to a different nearby church than we usually do. Lets just say we didn’t receive communion. :bigyikes: I know for one they changed most every prayer. They also used crouton-like-chunks-of-bread for communion and the priest broke a giant loaf. A neighbor was there and the mom, not catholic, said that the mass reminded her so much of her protestant church (don’t remember denomination) and that is why she liked it so much. :tsktsk: There was also some problem with the material the priest used or something…I’m not sure what…for the Eucharist. They ended the mass with something along the lines of: the mass lives one go in peace and… so…it was …uh…unique :popcorn:to say the least. My grandpa had a talk with the priest afterward…:knight2: hehehe

I also found a book at St. Patrick’s Guild for priest on how to reform your mass. It had suggestions that broke every single rule from the list including multiple on liturgical dancers :banghead:

crazy world :wink:

God Bless Him!

I understand it. What I’m saying is that “must” is much more clear than “should”.

That’s my point. The wording of “must” is not ambiguous. The wording of such documents needs to be crystal clear, and as you said, that’s not always the case.

Furthermore, doncha think it’s a bit legalistic if we need to read other documents to interpret this document?

I’m smiling right now because I’ve heard this exact argument in the military but between ‘shall’ and ‘will’: “shall” leaves no doubt but ‘will’ is not as strong. That just means that someone is willing to use a word to justify doing what he/she wants to do regardless of what the rules say. To me whether it says “You shall”, “You will” or “You must” it means “DO IT!” or “Do it THIS way” so, I do. Anything less is like dealing with a teenage son who thinks “No” is an acceptable response to “Would you empty the dishwasher please?” :smiley:

OK. So now I think I understand what you’re saying. Apparently I misunderstood your posts to indicate that you thought the 1-hour fast was optional bases upon the use of the word “should.”

If I understand you correctly, are you saying that the fast is required, but the wording of the document is ambiguous because it leads the reader to believe that it’s optional when in fact it’s only optional in unusual circumstances which won’t apply to the vast majority of readers?

Am I on track now?

1 Like
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.