The sacrafice of the Mass and Liturgical abuse



My question today is, is liturgical abuse very common in Catholic Churches now and days? If so then how come? I had a discussion with a Catholic who has mentioned that it is very common. I’m not sure how true this is. What are your thoughts?

God bless


In my experience, liturgical abuses have been on a sharp decline. They seemed to arise from the perfect storm of post-Vatican-2 confusion meets the American hippie movement. At one time, traditional Catholics distrusted young priests, because they might be hippie-infused wackos. Now it’s the older priests who are eyed with suspicion, because they might be those young wackos all grown up. The younger priests I have known (the John Paul the Great generation) have all been exemplary.

The source of liturgical abuses these days, sadly, seems to be in parishes where Nuns are influential (I was educated (as a protestant) for several years by the Sisters of Mercy, any of whom would be shocked by this situation).

The Vatican Office of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CCD - the Office that our present Pope was formerly prefect of) found “serious doctrinal problems,” and charged US nuns with promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” The report absolutely excoriated the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose leadership represents about 80% of the 57,000 women Religious in the United States. The Archbishop of Seattle (my neighboring Bishop) was appointed by the Holy See to bring these nuns back into compliance with basic Catholic norms. Please pray for Bishop Sartain - he needs your prayers.

Many of these “radical” nuns have also sought to radicalize the liturgy (I left my local Parish when the (elderly) priest permitted such a nun to preach a Sunday homily).

The office of “liturgist” is often filled by women Religious. I would estimate that the instances of liturgical abuse are significantly higher when a “radical” nun exerts strong influence in this area.


Please define “liturgical abuse”.

This is a term that is thrown about quite freely on this forum.

There are legitimate options at certain points in our liturgy, that certain individuals do not prefer or personally like, but these are not abuses.

For example, the Penitential Rite offers various options. Just because I do not like the legitimate option the celebrant chose does not justify the usual CAF advice of “contact the Bishop!”


I don’t think there’s much confusion here about the term. I have never seen it referred to here as a disagreement over which Communion Rite is used (provided the Rite is proscribed for the occasion - you can’t use a Children’s Rite for a typical Parish Mass).

The term “abuse” usually refers to one of two clearly-defined offenses:

*]A failure to “say the black and do the red” - ie, not following the clear wording (black text) and instructions (red text) in the Roman Missal. An obvious example would be when the Rite is reworded with “vertically-inclusive” language (which denies the masculine pronoun to God), such as “for our sake and all God’s (not “His”) Holy Church.” A lesser form of abuse is found in “horizontally inclusive” language, which seeks to reword portions of the Roman Missal to avoid perceived sexist language. One example would be a Parish where most do not say the word “men” in the phrase, “for us [men], and for our salvation.” There is a slight pause, and I am pretty sure that on some occasions, I have been the only person in attendance who interjected the word “men” in this pause.
*]Permitting something which is absolutely forbidden by Canon Law, such as a layperson (such as a nun or monk) preaching a homily (without a limited dispensation from the Bishop, as might be granted to seminarians), or the practice of self-communion by the laity (which would include laypeople dipping (intinction) the Host in the Chalice). I have observed both abuses in my own Diocese.

There are some other practices which are sometimes characterized as abusive but it’s hard to make a case for such a strong term. The one that comes to mind the most is the practice of holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. I have no idea where that came from. I became Catholic while living in the Southeast. I now live in the Northwest, but I visited this region on business before I came to live here, and I had never seen this before. It was really a shock, because this particular Parish that I visited joined hands across the aisle (I have only ever seen this in this particular Parish). I was seated next to the aisle, and I had no idea what was going on, so the person beside me *actually *shoved me into the aisle to join hands with the person across from me. For a moment, I thought I was being ejected from the church! People grabbed my hands, and I thought I was being restrained! I was shoved and grabbed!

Is this liturgical abuse? Probably to the extent I experienced it - nobody should be shoved and grabbed. But this is not usually the norm. In some Parishes, it seems everyone holds hands. In others, it’s about half-and-half. In others, almost nobody does. But for the most part, everyone respects the other’s choice. The rubrics do not specify what the laity is supposed to be doing at this time, so nobody can say that holding hands (or not) is improper (the rubrics do, however, stipulate that the priest is to hold his hands in the orans position (hands outstretched), which precludes holding hands with anybody (hands clasped), so it would be a liturgical abuse for the priest (and only the priest) to hold hands with anyone at this time).


I appreciate your response as you clearly defined your terms.

Unfortunately, I must be looking at other threads on this forum that you do, for I seen several examples of people writing something similar to "today at Mass I saw Father.... (fill in the blank)". Granted, many of these questions are asked in a honest way in order for people to learn more.

However, some of the responses are not always helpful and there are individuals whose "knee-jerk" reaction to anything is to contact the Bishop!

Again, this is my experience from reading these threads.

I agree, with you, that in most parishes what you define "liturgical abuse" is on a decline or may have never really existed at the level some have thought it existed. One of the drawbacks of our instant contact through social media is that one Youtube video can become irroneous evidence that EVERYWHERE Catholics are committing abuse.


Technically, if a priest sneezed during the Mass, that would be liturgucal abuse because it’s not in the GIRM. At least, that is the attitude of some on this board.

We have a priest who kisses the chalice just before the sign of the peace. It’s not in the GIRM to the best of my knowledge. I certainly have not seen any priest anywhere do that before. I’m not going to complain about it, but it does seem odd that adding a pious practice could be considered liturgical abuse by some people.


Actually, adding a pious practice can, indeed, be a liturgical abuse by the Church (not just by “some people”). The documents clearly state that no one, even a priest, can insert something into the Mass, or omit something, or change anything. So, adding a pious practice is not legitimate. No matter how holy and reverent a priest is, he should celebrate the Mass exactly as laid down by the Church and not change anything. The priest could, of course, silently pray without making any gestures - that would be fine.


[quote="Joan_M, post:7, topic:304036"]
Actually, adding a pious practice can, indeed, be a liturgical abuse by the Church (not just by "some people"). The documents clearly state that no one, even a priest, can insert something into the Mass, or omit something, or change anything.


Indeed. What is SO hard about saying the black and doing the red? Why do some priests feel compelled to add their own flair to the Mass? Why can't they just do what is expected of them, as they promised to do when they were ordained?

Then each of the ordained comes again before the bishop, kneels and places his folded hands between the hands of the bishop. If the bishop is the Ordinary of the ordained he says to him:

Do you promise me and my successors reverence and obedience?

The priest replies: I promise.

Priests should obey their Bishop's instruction regarding the celebration of Mass. Why do some priests find this simple directive so difficult to obey?


To the OP, no liturgical abuse is not “very common”. Even in what may be said to the the height of “the spirit…” days, true liturgical abuse was not “very common” in that it happened in more parishes then where it didn’t.

As others have said, there are legitimate options that not everyone likes, but that aren’t abusive. In particular things like music choices and odd vestments should not be considered abuse. Poor choices, in many cases yes. But the fact that Father is wearing what appears to be a tablecloth with a hole for his head and his stole on the outside, is not at all the same thing as using sandwich bread for the Eucharist. Just as using glass or clay chalices is not the same as using juice instead of wine. Thankfully I have seen neither hideously ugly vestments nor glass chalices in many years.

One choice that used to drive me crazy was using options from the Liturgy for Children at a normal Sunday Mass. Annoying, distracting, but not completely abusive in that a generous reading of the instructions easily turns the 10am Mass into a “family Mass”. Mass at a different time at the same parish used the regular choices and so it was all explained through “pastoral need”.

Currently, I think some folks are too eager to jump on the ‘liturgical abuse’ bandwagon. One YouTube video can cause days worth of angst and indignation here at CAF - even after it has been shown that the video is years old, not actually a Mass, or not in the USA and so based on local customs that we aren’t familiar with.

While I would never say that we shouldn’t care at all about things happening in other places, I think our best course of action is to keep our heads down, pray vervently, and encourage our own priests to be reverant and orthodox. If we each did this in our own parishes, the “refrom of the reform” would spread even faster than it already is.



Actions intentionally done in the context of the Mass that are in direct conflict with the Instructions of the Mass as promulgated by Rome.


To a certain extent,

but there still remains a few.

The most common that I see are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion approaching the altar BEFORE the priest has consumed Holy Communion.

The others that I commonly see are abuses of omission , such as the failure to bow at the appropriate times during Creed, or to strike one’s breast during Form A of the Penitential rite. In most cases, this cannot truly be called an abuse, as the faithful have often not been instructed in the matter, but the failure of the priest to do such is another matter.


Let’s define liturgical abuse first!

Is an old priest, semi-retired and back to help an overcrowded parish, forgetting about a single change in the wording of the mass under the new translation an abuse? I think not… I think it’s more of a liturgical “error” than anything else.

Is an old music minister who is unable to figure out that new-fangled internet thing working in a backwater parish with a similarly old priest, who then substitutes tropes for the Agnes Dei because the last time they heard it was accepted by the USCCB committing liturgical ABUSE? Eh, I’d still say no.

That said, there are a lot of points that people, even priests, are confused about on the mass. SHOULD they know better? Sure. But many of them DON’T know better. But this isn’t a new situation either… this is something that’s been going on since the beginning of the church! The difference is that this is the age of the internet… where many saavy internet-goers have access to resources that are VAST regarding information about the mass and the rubrics. I would dare to say that some people on CAF are more educated about the rubrics of the mass (just what is allowed, what can be substituted, etc) than many of the priests or music ministers out there!

So I would argue that minor errors, misunderstandings, or mistakes have ALWAYS been present throughout the ages… just that as people have become aware of the rubrics our AWARENESS of those mistakes is rising. Are there some priests out there who are blatantly disobeying rubrics and abusing the liturgy? Sure, but I don’t think they’re any more common today than before… and I would even argue that with the new generation of internet saavy priests today, the numbers of liturgical errors are on the actual decline.


[quote="DavidFilmer, post:8, topic:304036"]
Indeed. What is SO hard about saying the black and doing the red? Why do some priests feel compelled to add their own flair to the Mass? Why can't they just do what is expected of them, as they promised to do when they were ordained?

Priests should obey their Bishop's instruction regarding the celebration of Mass. Why do some priests find this simple directive so difficult to obey?



I agree. A priest is a consecrated minister of God. He is due the utmost reverence, even if he is bad outwardly. We cannot imagine the truly immense power a priest has: to truly forgive sins in the name of Almighty God, and to consecrate ordinary bread and wine into the most holy and sacred Body and Blood of the immortal, all-holy, omnipotent and omnibenevolent Son of God, to name two of the Sacraments we most frequently come into contact with. That being said, I too know the frustrations of liturgical abuse, not subjective ones but objective ones. Other forums as I have seen have said we shouldn't go to Mass looking for abuses like a policeman. They are right; but if you read Redemptionis Sacramentum, it says we have the responsibility and the right to raise the issue with the pastor in a spirit of charity, since every faithful has the right to the correct form of the Mass (cf. #58 and #184). I don't think we should have the attitude too much of "well, it's the priest's responsibility so I'll just leave it at that". Priests are human and they too need to be reminded. There are all kinds of complex issues at play here involving history, psychology and the devil. But to point out error can be an act of charity if it is done with charitable intent and rightly (cf. Ezekiel 3:19, James 5:20), only we as laity should take into account the immense inherent dignity of the priest. I have not always done this and the results are not pretty, that's why I'm saying this now. I think for priests who regularly commit abuses like it were nothing it's an enormously sensitive issue.

[quote="Actaeon, post:12, topic:304036"]
... and I would even argue that with the new generation of internet saavy priests today, the numbers of liturgical errors are on the actual decline.


I would humbly but honestly beg to differ. I think liturgical abuses are rampant in North America and it is very serious. The Church is in a real crisis. What's worse is that most of the time they are only "minor" abuses and so to point them out would almost mark oneself as an intolerant Pharisee. While unity and love and fellowship are very important, I wonder what must be done. I don't want to cause schism, never. I guess the fundamental issue is that underlying all of this is a deep-seeded spirit of rebellion, so even begging local bishops to force clergy to cease liturgical abuses would not heal the broken hearts of rebellion and disobedience from which these stem. What's needed is a change of heart, and so we as laity need to pray and offer sacrifice and lead holy lives, all so that love can truly grow in our hearts and motivate all our actions... but I don't know how that translates to action re: abuses, other than prayer. But let not "I will pray for that person" become an excuse not to do anything! If someone is drowning, and you are on the shore, and you are able to swim, do you simply kneel and pray for the person?

Proper liturgy is not just a question of "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" so we can win spiritual brownie points with God. Liturgy is divine (the Orthodox Church call the Mass "Divine Liturgy") and properly carried out, really points people to God and directs our hearts and minds to him. With the liberalism of our modern culture comes the idea that we should do things our own way; but our ways are not God's ways. If the Church says it is a grave abuse to break the Host at the moment of Consecration rather than at the Agnus Dei, she has a very good reason to say so (cf. op. cit. #58); or if to use Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion just because "we should allow the laity more part in the sacred roles, priests are not special, that's an old-fashioned way of thinking" or just to speed things up by a few minutes, constitutes a completely insufficient reason to do so (cf. ibid., #157 and #158), she does not say this to impede people's freedoms or be Pharisaic.

It is not wrong to sincerely warn someone that what they are doing is a sin (cf., but we should be very sensitive to the other person when doing so and be careful ourselves not to fall into the same sin (cf. Galatians 6:1).


I liked your very reasonable response. The problem here is that “abuse” as used on these boards can mean anything from the use of leavened bread (in the Latin Rite) and the deliberate changing of words in the Eucharistic Prayer, to wearing the stole outside the chasuble. Do-it-yourself Eucharistic Prayers (even if the words of institution remain intact) are obviously concerning; I can’t get worked-up over a mis-worn stole.


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