Can a priest alter the Communion Rite?

Today I went to Mass at the church where my son attends Catholic school. However, I belong to another parish and don’t normally attend this church. Anyway, during the Communion Rite the priest made the following changes:

protect us from “needless” anxiety (needless replacing all)

Look not on our “fears”, but on the faith…(fears replacing sins)

I was quite surprised by this. I am quite certain the priest is not allowed to take these liberties with any part of the Sacred Litugy. Am I wrong about this?? I am planning on politely addressing this with the priest but I’d like to make sure I am correct before doing so. Thanks in advance with any assisstance you can provide.

No. He cannot. Please note what Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[11.] The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured”.27 On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free rein to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved,28 and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal,29 but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. In the end, they introduce elements of distortion and disharmony into the very celebration of the Eucharist, which is oriented in its own lofty way and by its very nature to signifying and wondrously bringing about the communion of divine life and the unity of the People of God.30 The result is uncertainty in matters of doctrine, perplexity and scandal on the part of the People of God, and, almost as a necessary consequence, vigorous opposition, all of which greatly confuse and sadden many of Christ’s faithful in this age of ours when Christian life is often particularly difficult on account of the inroads of “secularization” as well.31

…[59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.

I hope this helps.

Thank you benedictgal. That helps a great deal!!

Benedictgal, helpful as ever, is right… It is quite amazing how often some priest will make these very slight changes to the Holy Mass - small but significant. Some are so reluctant to say anything that might make the people a bit uncomfortable. Imagine, I think almost every Pope since the 1950’s has stated that the greatest sin today is the loss of the sense of sin; yet given that some priests can’t bring themselves to mention the word “sin”, is it any wonder that some have lost that concept?

Of course the list goes on - we can’t use the word “sacrifice”, it is a “meal”; there is no altar, just a table…not to mention the long ramblings that many priest undertake at the “Ecce Agnus Dei”.

In a cathedral that I worked at last year, the Archbishop himself could not say “save us from final damnation”. He says “save us from final condemnation”! I suppose “Damnation” conjures up images of hell - now we couldn’t have that, could we. Give me a break:mad: I mean, is it really that hard for some of our priests to say the black and do the red, as the saying goes?

Since you do not normally attend this parish, assume the Priest merely stumbled over the words, or misread them.

Complain in writing to the bishop, citing the date, time, and place of the Mass.

Unless and until the bishops come to realize the faithful want a right and proper celebration of the Liturgy, they don’t always enforce it.

Further, unless he’s made aware of these alterations, he might not be aware this priest is making heteropraxic alterations in the mass.

Your post reminds me of a situation I once had in my parish. I was a cantor, and we had a priest who liked to say, “needless anxiety” at every Mass. It drove me bananas, and we argued about it all the time. One day, at a funeral, he asked me to sing something that was really terrible and I didn’t want to do. I made a deal with him - I would sing the awful song if he would stop saying “needless anxiety.” I sang the bad song, and he never said “needless” again at a Mass where I was the cantor. He probably kept on saying it the other times, but you do what you can do! :slight_smile:

And don’t write to the bishop over two words said in a place that’s not even your parish. You’ll lose your credibility and already be labeled a whiner and a nutcase when the time comes to bring up a more serious issue. Make the charitable assumption that the priest made a one-time mistake, even if it’s a stretch to do so.


Making changes like this are not permitted, for many reasons. Perhaps the simplest explanation is this: the Church has chosen these specific words, many of which are centuries old! When you purposefully change these words, you give the impression that your private judgment about the prayers of the Mass is superior to the Church’s.

Another reason is that when you change the words, you might inadvertently introduce heresy into the prayers of the Mass!

Thanks to everybody for the good replies. I wrote to the parish office this morning and have requested an e-mail address where I can reach the priest directly. I’m going to tell him what I heard and that I believe they were probably a “slip of the tounge” but I just want to offer him the chance to confirm that. If he offers another explanation, as I believe he likely will, then I’ll alert him to the passages from Redemptionis Sacramentum that benedictgal directed me too and we’ll go from there. I’ve already decided, however, if this can’t be resolved with the priest I am taking it to the Archbishop.

Here’s the thing. The school kids were also present at this liturgy. I’m paying over $6000 per year for my child to have a Catholic education. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to expect the rubrics of the Liturgy will be followed when my child is present at Mass there(although they always should be followed, of course). I’ll keep you updated on what happens. Thanks again.


One night a few years ago at Saturday Vigil, our entire Mass was changed when we had a visiting priest from another country who did a traditional Mass from that country. It was almost completely different. All the same elements where there, but everything was done differently. For example, we said the Lord’s Prayer at the very beginning of Mass, before anything else. There was also a few things added that I never saw before. I don’t remember if the Communion Rite was different or not.

A Priest can change nothing unless it says so in the rubrics.
no adding, no subtracting, no ad-libing.

Actually, the form of the Mass does not change from country to country. There is a universal General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Granted, a particual country’s national episcopal conference can ask for a certain adaptation relevent to posture, but, it cannot make such a change to the Mass to render the Holy Sacrifice totally unrecognizable.

The Pater Noster is part of the Communion Rite in the Roman Missal. The priest cannot alter any form of the Mass on his own authority.

You are correct when you say that the translation can still be different. In Singapore the “Our Father” is different from the US translation and the first time it caught me off guard. I think that it is a little bit closer to the Latin (e.g debts vs. trespasses). However, you are correct when you say that it would be really suspicious if the whole celebration were to appear quite different.

Well, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Holy Mass to be celebrated according to the book and the prescribed rubrics. The Catholic faithful (regardless of how much one is paying for a Catholic education) are 100% entitled to have the sacred liturgy celebrated in the manner set forth by the Church. You are right, though, to establish whether or not what the priest said was merely a slip of the tongue - however, if it is the norm for him to do such ad lib-ing, that is quite a different matter.

\I wrote to the parish office this morning and have requested an e-mail address where I can reach the priest directly. I’m going to tell him what I heard and that I believe they were probably a “slip of the tounge” but I just want to offer him the chance to confirm that. If he offers another explanation, as I believe he likely will, then I’ll alert him to the passages from Redemptionis Sacramentum that benedictgal directed me too and we’ll go from there. I’ve already decided, however, if this can’t be resolved with the priest I am taking it to the Archbishop\

I’m sure the priest will appreciate receiving fan mail from a self-appointed liturgical policeman.

I would not be so condescending. What the celebrant did was wrong. He cannot edit the wording of the official texts of the Mass at his own will. This is an abuse, especially if it is done during a Mass for the school children. Such activity only breeds confusion.

I have to agree with you on this. Someone, that until a day ago was not even sure if this were a violation of the rubrics, now is going to quote a passage from an alleged document retrieved from interned and use it to lecture a priest. It would be interesting to hear the Bishop asking “Where did you get the info?” and the answer is “A person whose nickname on the forum is Benedictgal told me that there is this passage in a document”. :confused:

You are completely correct about this one. However, there are ways to approach it and they are not only dictated by a bureaucratic iter.

When the document is (1) on the Vatican website (and it is), (2) one the priest should have received a copy of via his bishop, (3) an explicit instruction of the Pope to all priests and bishops on the mass, and (4) carries an obligation to clerics under pain of grave sin (as do all such instructions)…

In any case, the bishop still should be notified of any significant errors by a priest. A deacon of my acquaintance was stripped of faculties for preaching heresy. It was two laypersons complaining to the Bishop which resulted in the inquiry… and the inquiry resulting in the suspension of faculties and retirement of the Deacon.

Bishops often do not have frequent contact with their priests.

As for the document in question, Benedictgal has provided the title, and a quick trip to will find it in authoritative form from the Vatican on the Vatican Web Site.

Well, the document, of course, comes from the Vatican itself - issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments - and available from the Vatican website HERE. There is no confusion. Again, assuming that what the priest in question said was not merely a slip of the tongue, an abuse is an abuse whether one discovered it yesterday, last week or last year.

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