Is normalized liturgical abuse a sin?

If a priest makes changes to the Mass a regular occurance, is it a sin? And if so, are those who are aware of it an accessory?

Depends on what you mean by “changes”. There are different Eucharistic prayers, for instance, that can be “changed”; such is not a “liturgical abuse”. Changing the words of consecration, OTOH, is not permitted.

Sinful? Not for the laity as an “accessory”. The laity have no control over the mass. It would be prudent to ask the priest about such “changes”, though.

The priest does have options for choosing between the various Eucharistic Prayers and prefaces (depending on the liturgical season). He also has the option of choosing from one of three different penitential rites. There are also a couple of sections in the Roman Missal that carry the option of using “these or similar words”.

However, most of the Roman Missal does not carry this provision of using “these or similar words.” He cannot, for example, change the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Confiteor, the Gloria, the Creed and the Offertory. He also cannot make edits to the Gospel nor can he add things to the Mass that are not found within the Roman Missal or any specific sacramental rite (Baptism, Marriage) that are found in the approved liturgical books.

Thank you for your reply Benedictgal (great name by the way).

I’m thinking about changes such as someone other than the priest giving the homily, glass chalice, people coming out of the congregation to gather around the altar, etc.

Redemptionis Sacramentum addressed some of the issues.

Regarding the homily:

64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself,142 “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.143 In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate”.144

[65.] It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the Eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1.145 This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.

[66.] The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants”; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.146

Regarding glassware:

Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate.207

Regarding the faithful gathering around the altar, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that this is not to be done.

When Redemptionis Sacramentum came out, our pastor and many other pastors made changes. But the changes were to stop the things that you mentioned above. In our parish the EMHC no longer gather around the altar. However, if I am not mistaken, that is still permissable as long as they do not approach the altar until after the priest has received Communion.

Thank you so much for your replies. I’m learning so much lately from the Internet. I now know that these changes are no allowed, my question is are they sins? The Church gives us documents like RS and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. If we disobey and refuse to follow Church instruction is that breaking the First Commandment?

I’m sure BG will correct me if I’m wrong, but if a priest is knowingly departing from the text of the Mass or disobeying the rubrics, that would be a sin on his part.

However, the priest may have the false understanding that he possesses the ‘power’ to change things despite the rubrics. Or he may have the false understanding that if his ‘conscience’ tells him, he can ‘disobey’ without sin. Or his bishops may support his disobedience, in which case he is actually being obedient to the bishop though not to the rubrics. These may ‘mitigate’ culpability to some degree since the priest may not believe that he is either truly disobedient, or that what he is doing is sinful in itself. (It is, of course, still sinful in itself anyway.)

Objectively it is grave matter. Subjectively for particular cases God and the Ordinary of priest are the judges.

Don’t forget to factor in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In one case, as indicated in Redemptionis Sacramentum, some judgement also falls to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Is there really anything that can really stop him though from doing this? I would say that most of the people sitting in the pew would actually know what is right or what is wrong anyway unless they know these documents. And if ever you know the “rules” or documents, I don’t think there’s much a lay person can really do besides ask questions kindly to the priest of why things were done in a certain way. I sometimes question if mass would be done with more reverence if the bishop was there sitting in the pew. Chances are it would be. It should be done with reverence everyday as if the bishop was actually sitting in the pew not just lay people.

The OP’s question has been raised on different occassions by other members on these threads. I recall one poster who wondered if it would be a “sacriledge” if he/she as an EMHC were to follow the directions of the pastor in saying “God bless you” to non-Communicants. I would be interested in how the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments would respond to these sincere concerns that people have about following the directions of their pastors.

Actually, that is why documents like Redemptionis Sacramentum are readily available online, to educate both the clergy and the fatihful. Bear in mind, too, that it does not stop with simply asking the priest why he is doing what he is doing. If the answer he gives runs contrary to the authoritative documents of the Church, then, the faithful have recourse to the bishop. If the bishop upholds the ilicit practice or does not give a response, then, the faithful have recourse to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The CDWDS does indeed stand ready to help the faithful. Thus, with all due respect, it would be a mistake to think that not much can be done.

From a priest’s point of view though, the laity will probably get dismissed though don’t you think? Is it really their place to tell any priest how he outta be running his mass by listing rules etc, even if it’s done in a nice question format to him? Honestly can we say that priest even know or read these documents themselves? I know alot of people are more and more concerned with whats valid and what isn’t valid but I’m sure some priests don’t like the laity reading them rules. I always wanted to know though if priests, even retired priest who still say the mass have to update themselves on these things or if their bishops require them to know the things that change in the mass.

Even if the priest dismisses the laity, they still have the right to lodge a formal complaint if something seriously wrong is happening.

According to Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[12.] On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church.32

RS further states that:

  1. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters
    [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.290 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.

Thus, if we something seriously wrong, we should step up to the plate.

What are the chances though in all reality that the Bishop would even do anything about it? Can bishops even be approached anymore by lay people to ask any questions or to even say hi? I’m sure the bishops are really busy with other things then hearing people complain about how they didn’t like the way the priest said the mass etc which is probably why these things go on. Has anyone out there actually written their bishop about some kind of abuse going on and noticed a change? I’d like to read stories of success on this.

My dad wrote a letter to the bishop, certified return receipt requested, to inform him about a grave abuse. The bishop never responded. My father then wrote to the CDWDS and he got a response within three weeks; ironically, his response from the Congregation came the day of the Chrism Mass. We went back and forth with the Congregation by mail and by telephone until the issue was resolved.

The bishop is the chief liturgical steward of his diocese. The liturgy is the most important part of his ministry. Thus, it falls to him to correct the abuses that happen in his diocese. It is part and parcel of his duty. If he fails to do this, then, the CDWDS will (and does) intervene.

Why would any priest want to change the Mass anyway? If he is comfortable disobeying the Church in public, what could be going on in private?

Keep in mind: RS also obligates the faithful to report abuses to the bishop. ¶183-184.

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