Question about possible liturgical abuses

Two people I know, a friend, and an aquaintance, recently went to Masses at other parishes. According to both of them, they witnessed liturgical abuses. This has fired me up, and I feel like trying to do something to help put a stop to the possible abuses.

I have a plan, but I need to make sure I’m not committing any sin before I put it in to action. I’m pretty sure that both of these parishes have Saturday evening Masses. My plan is to go to one of them on one Saturday, and the other on the next Saturday, taking a hand held audio recorder with me. If the claims I’ve heard are true, the recorder should catch the abuses. My plan is to keep my mouth shut, to listen, and to record. If abuses are found, I then plan on burning the recordings to CD and sending them to our archbishop.

Is this ok, or am I just being overzealous again?

From reading lots of posts about irregularities in the Liturgy, a few procedural things have become clear.

  1. The first stop is always with the Pastor. In charity, Christian love and respect, raise the issues that you witness. It is possible that people, in our imperfect humanity, made a mistake or two.

  2. Instead of accusing the parish of liturgical abuses and bringing a CD with you with the audio, begin by asking a question or two about the practice you’re concerned about. Perhaps the misunderstanding of the norms is yours, or there is some good, and acceptable reason, for what you’ve seen. It’s tough to offer a thought here since your OP didn’t offer specifics.

  3. If, and only if, the Pastor chooses to ignore your request for a meeting, should you contact your Ordinary. Subsidiarity requires that problems be worked out at the most local level possible.

  4. Pray. I’m sure if we all look hard enough, we could find something at every Mass we could call an abuse. If we focus on those things instead of worship, I think we’re missing the forest through the trees.

The abusers abuse the liturgy, because they believe that they and not the hierarchy above them is in control of the liturgy. Those who are going to other parishes from their own to record and report abuses, believe that they are appointed judges over that parishes.

The Church is not people’s Church. No one but the Apostolic see can change the liturgy, and no one but the local Ordinary and under his supervision the local pastor is in control over what is allowed and what is not.

If you suppose thet you see problem in your own parish, you have to:

  • talk to your pastor

  • if this does not help report it to the bishop.

Above that you may pray or go to attend masses to an other parish (with full communion with the diocese and the hierarchy).The vigilantism, to go to other churches in order to be able to report abuses is the same abuse than to change the liturgy: to pretend that you have power over the church. You do not have such power.

what you are not going is following the lay witness protocol suggested by CUF, which is referenced in the stickies on this thread. that begins always with simply asking the pastor about the practice in question. You are quite correct in witnessing what goes on yourself rather than relying on reports. Has the bishop commissioned you to visit other parishes for this purpose? Do you find that your participation in the Mass is enhanced when you approach the experience in this mode?

To put it bluntly, this is called spying, and I doubt any Bishop would appreciate your efforts without any authority to do so and without following any protocol for reporting abuses. Have you set yourself up as a one-man liturgical police force? This is not how things are supposed to be done in the Church. It is sneaky and underhanded. We are always to act in the Light.

Would you not consider that going to Mass merely to record and report supposed liturgical abuses rather sacrilegious? Mass is a sacred thing. People worship God in the Mass, and the Sacrifice of Christ is made present to us. Whether one sees some abuses or not, Christ is made present to us there in the Eucharist. It is holy. Christ is present. How dare one use it to further an agenda, no matter how “worthy” one thinks it is? That in itself is an abuse of the Liturgy, and a major one at that, worse than some of the abuses people perceive.

You know, the Scribes and Pharisees used to do this sort of thing while Jesus was on earth. In their religious zeal they would plant themselves in the crowd and spy on Jesus and ask questions to try to trip Him up so they could bring evidence against Him. The Gospels do not speak highly of this behavior.

I suggest you mind your own business as to parishes other than your own, and if you find abuses in your own parish, follow the protocols, which are designed to approach the subject with Christian charity and on Biblical principles and within the authority structure of the Church.

While the CUF is a good organization, following their protocol is not a mandate. Redemptionis Sacramentum, the authoritative document of the Church on handling matters of liturgical abuse, gives the steps:


[169.] Whenever an abuse is committed in the celebration of the sacred Liturgy, it is to be seen as a real falsification of Catholic Liturgy. Saint Thomas wrote, “the vice of falsehood is perpetrated by anyone who offers worship to God on behalf of the Church in a manner contrary to that which is established by the Church with divine authority, and to which the Church is accustomed”.278

[170.] In order that a remedy may be applied to such abuses, “there is a pressing need for the biblical and liturgical formation of the people of God, both pastors and faithful”,279 so that the Church’s faith and discipline concerning the sacred Liturgy may be accurately presented and understood. Where abuses persist, however, proceedings should be undertaken for safeguarding the spiritual patrimony and rights of the Church in accordance with the law, employing all legitimate means.

…4. The Diocesan Bishop
[176.] The diocesan Bishop, “since he is the principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, is to strive constantly so that Christ’s faithful entrusted to his care may grow in grace through the celebration of the sacraments, and that they may know and live the Paschal Mystery”.285 It is his responsibility, “within the limits of his competence, to issue norms on liturgical matters by which all are bound”.286

[177.] “Since he must safeguard the unity of the universal Church, the Bishop is bound to promote the discipline common to the entire Church and therefore to insist upon the observance of all ecclesiastical laws. He is to be watchful lest abuses encroach upon ecclesiastical discipline, especially as regards the ministry of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the veneration of the Saints”.287

[178.] Hence whenever a local Ordinary or the Ordinary of a religious Institute or of a Society of apostolic life receives at least a plausible notice of a delict or abuse concerning the Most Holy Eucharist, let him carefully investigate, either personally or by means of another worthy cleric, concerning the facts and the circumstances as well as the imputability.

[179.] Delicts against the faith as well as graviora delicta committed in the celebration of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments are to be referred without delay to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which “examines [them] and, if necessary, proceeds to the declaration or imposition of canonical sanctions according to the norm of common or proper law”.288

[180.] Otherwise the Ordinary should proceed according the norms of the sacred canons, imposing canonical penalties if necessary, and bearing in mind in particular that which is laid down by canon 1326. If the matter is serious, let him inform the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

  1. The Apostolic See
    [181.] Whenever the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments receives at least a plausible notice of a delict or an abuse concerning the Most Holy Eucharist, it informs the Ordinary so that he may investigate the matter. When the matter turns out to be serious, the Ordinary should send to the same Dicastery as quickly as possible a copy of the acts of the inquiry that has been undertaken, and where necessary, the penalty imposed.

[182.] In more difficult cases the Ordinary, for the sake of the good of the universal Church in the care for which he too has a part by virtue of his sacred Ordination, should not fail to handle the matter, having previously taken advice from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. For its part, this Congregation, on the strength of the faculties given to it by the Roman Pontiff, according to the nature of the case, will assist the Ordinary, granting him the necessary dispensations289 or giving him instructions or prescriptions, which he is to follow diligently.

**6. 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.**

It seems to me that RS removes the pastor as the first point of contact and, instead, places the local Ordinary in that aspect.

It seems to me that whenever the topic of abuse comes up, someone always makes the one trying to rectify the situation (or at least, verify it) out to be a pharisee. We need to understand why Jesus was not to keen on the pharisees. First of all, what the pharisees did was not within the context of the sacrificial cultic worship of Ancient Israel. What bothered Jesus about the Pharisees was that they were trying to impose priestly acts and practices on the people.

Insofar as liturgical practices were concerned, Jesus defended them. After all, these were dictated by no less than His own Father and these practices pointed towards the perfect sacrifice that Jesus, Himself, would fulfill on the cross. Jesus, in fact, took matters into his own hands and threw out the money changers and the vendors from the Temple because they were profaning the sacred space of prayer reserved for the Gentiles.

In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power

Redemptoris Sacramentus does not moves a layman, especially from outside of the parish in, as judge. Laymen have no power in the Church. The Church is hierarchy, not democracy.


Also, the Pharrisees believed that meticulous adherence to every little detail was the way to ensure the coming of the Messiah. That is what we would call superstition. It wasn’t the adherance to the law that Jesus criticized, it was losing their faith among the details. We also know from the Gospels that Jesus adhered to the Jewish laws.

And it seems to me that this could be true, if and only if, one has discussed the alleged issue with the priest/pastor in question and has received no satisfaction. While I do not doubt that abuses happen, I think that many people ***think ***they see abuses when they see things they don’t like or don’t understand.

While it is important for the laity to be informed, IMHO it is not our job to be “liturgy police” reporting every little thing to the Bishop, without first getting all the facts from the person who is in charge.

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

How would all of you like to be treated when you make a mistake at work? Personally, I would want someone to say something to me so I could right the situation myself. If that didn’t work, by all means go to my boss.

No one likes for another person to go over their head. Please don’t give me “this is the Holy Mass, it’s a bigger deal than your job” line. I realize it’s different, but the same common courtesy applies.

If, speaking with the priest doesn’t imrpove the situation, go right ahead to the bishop.



However, part of the problem is that we tend to treat the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as our own personal property to do with as we wish. This is never a good thing to do.

Second, this is not about setting the laity in judgment, as RS charges all of us to do everything, within our power, to safeguard the integrity of the Mass. Documents like RS would never have been needed if everyone would have just done the red and said the black.

Sadly, this is not always the case. Furthermore, there are many instances (and I have been through them) where the pastor does not want to hear it. There are also times (and I have also been through them) when the bishop does not want to deal with it. Then, you go to Rome.

That’s why I said to go to the bishop if the priest didn’t respond. Personally, I don’t think it’s for any of us to decide beforehand that it will fall on deaf ears. Go to the pastor, in charity and confidence, then move forward if needed.

As I said, do something, but immediately going over the pastor’s head and beyond is not the right way to handle the situation.

I wrote from my own experience. That is why I put that disclaimer in parenthesis. Nonetheless, RS does remove the pastor as the first point of contact and places the responsibility on the bishop.

It just seems to me that folks tend to adopt some sort of laissez faire attitude towards the Mass and liturgical abuse. However, this is not a good attitude to take. Bad liturgies, as both Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Canizares Lloera have indicated, wind up leading to a loss of faith. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is too valuable to be left up to personal whims.

On the bolded point, I think we can all agree.

Since RS says it, by golly it MUST be done that way.

I wouldn’t do it that way. It seems cowardly to me. It much easier to write a letter to the bishop than to stand in front of one’s pastor to discuss concerns (for some, not all, obviously).

We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this point. I’ve discussed liturgical abuses at my parish with the pastor. He handled them. Problem solved. There’s no need to involve an already insanely busy archbishop with a matter than can be handled at the parish level.

Nonetheless, I’ve stated my opinion on this matter. I don’t think I need to discuss it anymore.

A person that sets out to deliberately attempt to harm a pastor, without giving that person any chance to either explain what they are doing or to try to change what they are doing is displaying a significant amount of anger and contempt.

You have no idea if those “abuses” have actually happened or not. You don’t even know if what happened was in fact an abuse.Yet you desire to appoint yourself an “avenging angel” and to set out to destroy this parish with your “incriminating” evidence.

This shows neither Christian Charity, not any understanding of Christianity at all. You should go to the parishes involved, see if in fact what is happening is an “abuse” or not, and if it is, discuss this with the priest involved and/or the pastor of the parish.

Keep in mind the injunction that you should “Judge not, lest you be judged”. If you go about judging pastors and others, attempting to get them into trouble, you WILL be labeled as something that you will not enjoy.

It is a pharasitical approach whether you agree or not, Benedictgal. The Scribes and Pharisees spied on Jesus for the purpose of catching him in anything they considered violating their interpretation of the Law, and then turning Him into the authorities so they could put Him to death. It is in the Scriptures. I know who the Pharisees were and what Jesus objected to, but I also know what they did to try to achieve their ends–their approach. And the Gospel writers did not treat that approach too kindly.

I don’t like real liturgical abuse any more than anyone else, but it is one thing to approach your pastor in your parish about them in a charitable manner, and go up the chain of command from there, and another thing to go to a parish you don’t belong to armed with a recording device with the express purpose of “catching” the priest or anyone else committing an abuse with the purpose of reporting it to the authorities. Especially when your only source of information is from people who claim to have witnessed abuse, but you have not yet seen it firsthand. This is what the OP intends to do. He has stated it clearly. It is exactly the same sort of thing Pharisees did when they tried to trap Jesus. It is underhanded and sneaky, and based on hearsay. It is not the way a Catholic should approach the matter. And it shows a profound disrespect for the priest and the people of that parish.

Furthermore, to attend a Mass for that purpose rather than to worship the Lord, which is what the OP has stated is his primary motive (you can read it for yourself, he never stated he was going to Mass to worship) is a massive abuse of the Liturgy itself. It is disrespectful of the Holy Sacrifice, it is disrespectful of God. We do not go to Mass to spy on the priest and the parishioners. We go to Mass to worship God, period. We do not use the Liturgy as a means to further our own agenda. Even if went to Mass also to worship, he would have a secondary motive, and that would be just as wrong.

It is a Catholic moral principle that we do not use wrong means to achieve a good end. What the poster is considering is exactly that and it violates our moral code. Read his post carefully and then tell us this is an acceptable and moral method to address the problem, especially when he has not yet even witnessed any alleged abuses and is going on hearsay. We do not violate our moral code even if we think it is for a good purpose.

We don’t need to be setting any bad examples or precedents here, even when it involves our Liturgy. We need to act properly and with integrity and true charity. That is how we truly achieve reform–not by spying on each other. I stand by what I wrote.

And I stand by what I wrote. The example of the pharisees does not apply here because what they did had nothing to do with liturgy. Furthermore, the OP is being sincere in his zest to see if what was reported to him was in fact, an abuse.

Jesus’ actions in the Temple called to mind the psalm passage that reads “zeal for your house consumes me.” Those who defend the integrity of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass do so because they love Christ and his Church.

If there is abuse going on, then, it is a moral wrong. It is not about being pharisaical, as the Pharisees did not concern themselves with liturgy.

99 times out of 100, if someone calls the bishop’s office about an issue at a parish the response is going to be, “did you talk with the pastor?” Issues that can be solved at a local level should be solved there. Only when that fails will the bishop’s office get involved.

There’s no need to involve an already insanely busy archbishop with a matter than can be handled at the parish level.

Well, the arch/bishop isn’t going to be personally involved unless there’s a huge issue at stake. 99 times out of 100 if the bishop’s office needs to be involved it falls to his administrative assistant(s) to deal with.

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