Liturgical abuse at a church I was visiting.

So me and my youth group were visiting a Catholic church for Adoration, Confession, and the anticipated Mass on Saturday. There was a library of books in the Adoration chapel, and the books content made me assume the church was very orthodox and traditional. But what happened next when I went to Mass was really, REALLY unnerving.

So, there was this other group (I think they’re called SPREAD, or something like that) that was visiting as well. The Mass started off as usual with the opening hymn, the penitential rite, etc., and then the readings came. As the first reader went up, some other people came up into the sanctuary. As the reader began reading, I saw those people begin to make movements with their hands. I assumed there were deaf people there during the Mass, but I saw that this wasn’t American Sign Language they were doing; it was more like an interpretive dance. One of the people in my youth group nudged me on the arm and expressed the same level of awkwardness I had. It was beginning to be an eyesore to me, so I just looked down at the missal I was holding as the reading was read.

When the psalm came, more people from that group went in front of the sanctuary, stood in a circle and held hands. They raised up their hands at certain points during the psalm and went back to their seats. They SKIPPED the Epistle and went straight to the Alleluia. The priest read the Gospel, and things started becoming a bit normal once more until the offertory.

During the Offertory, not only were the bread and wine being brought up, but the SPREAD people also brought up the corporal up to the sanctuary (I think they brought some other things, but I had my head down most of the time as they did this, because I was feeling really uneasy). Afterwards, the Mass went on as usual.

I was hoping for a decent and valid Mass for my 19th birthday celebrations that day. I’ve actually gone to that church occasionally in the past few years, but this is the first time I’ve seen something like this at the church.

Oh, and I do have a question: How would one have to approach a parish if there is blatant liturgical abuse in that church?

You are under no obligation to approach/address it, if it was liturgical abuse.
If you are trying to decide if this is the parish you want to join, then you may want to do some digging/asking questions regarding what happened.
It could be an opportunity for you to unite your sufferings with our Lord, even on your birthday.

BUT, if this is a parish you frequent, and you feel called to do more, pursue the matter, I would do it with charity and prudence.
In the very least ask the priest who the people were and what they were doing. That would be the first step.

I agree with Hopey on this but would add this one point: professional liturgists and clergy generally hate it when ordinary sit-in-the-pew laity have any criticisms whatsoever on their liturgy, be it the music, the either heretical or utterly banal homilies, the clowns, the light shows, the dancers, or whatever. The more abusive the liturgy, the more pride they will feel at all of their innovations.

As an ordinary, sit-in-the-pew lay person, you will not be taken seriously…after all, what makes your opinion any less valid than one of theirs…and, well, they’ve been “trained” and are therefore “experts.” You’re just a schmuck who is a trouble maker (emulating their reaction, not my personal opinion).

So, to counter that, you need to do your research. You should attempt to do your research with official Church issuances to show where each one of these liturgical abuses is, in fact, proscribed. A good resource, in addition to the commonly known and accessible documents on the liturgy is responsesNotitiae, where many of the questions you ask have been answered authoritatively.

You should make your criticisms to the pastor known in writing and should write charitably. Keep a copy of your letter. If the pastor ignores you or rebuffs you, you should then write your bishop (attaching a copy of your letter and any response that you may have been given by the pastor). If your bishop ignores you, makes light of your criticism, or rebuffs you for daring to criticize, the next action is to write the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (again, attaching correspondence with your pastor, your bishop, and any responses you may have received). Particularly with your bishop, you may wish to attach some evidence (such as a video recording showing the abuse…which you could upload to YouTube and then just link to in your letter…)

Father Z has some really good tips for writing to your bishop and to CDWDS. I would suggest following his recommendations.

Of course, if you’re just visiting that parish and are not a parishioner, you may not want to bother.

Following Mark’s advice, if you do find out what it was, contact the priest and move up the line of command, don’t be surprised if you receive little to no response. We are in a time of reformation of the liturgy. Some have been allowed even by their Bishops to pursue these things.
What I do is pray about it.
Determine the severity of it (was the abuse to the level that question of consecration occurred).
Contact the right people (parish then diocese)

Most of the time, it is a annoyance and I unite my sufferings with Christ. I do not, or try, not to let it disturb my peace.

Here is another resource to help in determining abuses and what should and must be reported:

When I reported one that was occurring at my parish, fractionating of Host during the time of Eucharistic prayer that states “he broke the bread”, I was brushed off by the diocese even tho I sent a copy of the Instruction to them.
BUT something must have occurred because the priest did stop doing that. Sometimes when a correction is made you will not be notified but it should stop.

Not absolutely certain, as I wasn’t there, however…

If you are talking about SPRED, the SPRED program is religious education for folks (not just children) with special needs, including autism spectrum, Down’s Syndrome and the like. Its goal is to prepare these folks to receive the sacraments and participate in Mass to whatever extent this is possible.

Keep in mind too that various disabilities are not obvious.

Perhaps it is a liturgical abuse. Perhaps it is communicating to people in a way they can understand.

Wow. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea there were such ministries for people with special needs. I was just reading their work (links bellow) and it is just marvellous. May God grant them with many graces and I hope they can reach for other countries with this program. :thumbsup:!welcome/c55t

The mass was probably valid, just perhaps, illicit. The is a huge difference!

All that is needed for a valid Mass is for:

  1. A validly ordained priest

  2. With the intention to do as the Church does

  3. To say “this is my body”

  4. Over wheat bread

  5. To say “this is my blood”

  6. Over grape wine.

If those elements are present, then that is all that is needed.

There is a sticky about complaining about a liturgy.

I looked up SPRED. It stands for Special Religious Development. If this was the group that was involved, it may be totally legitimate. What you saw might have been something that the bishop approves of to minister to those with special needs. I guess it can’t hurt to ask. If nothing else, it might be a good lesson on practicing the art of always assuming the best in every situation.

It is also possible that you may have been attending a regular daily Mass on Saturday (one reading, psalm, alelluia, gospel) instead of a Sunday Vigil Mass (2 readings, psalm, alleluia, gospel). The times of the two can be very confusing. I know of a parish that has its regular Saturday Daily Mass at 3 p.m. and their Sunday Vigil at 4:30 p.m.

It confuses non-parishioners. However, they have a steady medium-sized group of people who want a Daily Mass on Saturday out of devotion to the BVM and there isn’t a priest available until 3 p.m.

However, in our diocese, 4:30 is super-early for an Anticipated Sunday Mass. Most parishes have theirs at 5ish p.m…

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