Friday, May 4, 2012


We have a very odd situation in the Catholic Church in the USA today.

1. It is permissible to have Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion for both Mass and for the sick and home-bound.

2. It is permissible to have altar girls and make no distinction between them and the boys as to how they serve

3. Under strict criteria it is permissible to have the Extraordinary Form of the Mass

4. It is permissible to celebrate Mass facing the congregation, but it is also permissible to face in the same direction as the congregation

5. It is permissible to have a pastoral council, stewardship council, various committees and mandated to have a Finance Council for the laity to have a advisory voice in the parish and also for the pastor to inform them of his plans and bounce his ideas off of them and seek how best to implement his ideas

So what happens in a parish, where one pastor or priest allows what is permissible in terms of EMHC's, Altar Girls, the EF Mass and Ad Orientem and another pastor comes in and doesn't like these things at all and eliminates them altogether? Well, we see what happens in countless parishes the most recent one in Wisconsin. It is a disaster!

Or what happens when a poor old pastor like me gets a parochial vicar who refuses to have altar girls, EMHC's at his Mass and only celebrates Ad Orientem and decides to make his Masses on EF Masses? I have a stroke and my parishioners do too.

So, let me be as clear as possible. Let's follow the law and close loopholes.

1. If the Church wants to reassert the ministerial priesthood and eliminate the confusion of the Ordained Priesthood to that of the baptismal priesthood then do it and make us follow it, but don't make things yes and yes. Stop EMHC's and Altar Girls You can't please everyone.

2. If kneeling is allowed as well as standing for Holy Communion, then make it clear that kneelers and altar railings should be introduced for those who wish to kneel.

3. If ad orientem is to be allowed, make clear what are the circumstances for it and then follow the law, but don't let priests yank people around willy nilly.

But my advice to priests is:

1. Be transparent

2. Be consultative

3. Listen to the voices of your lay leaders and keep them informed

4. Explain why you are going ahead with some plan if your leaders don't think it is a good idea

5. Make sure the parish at large knows what you are doing, that a good case is made for doing it and that one listens to those who dissent

6. As for finances, make sure that everyone knows what these are, what the collection is, what the budget is and that one follows good practices, especially the priest

Transparency is the way to go!


ytc said...

It took us forty years to do all this bullcrap. It's going to take at least the same amount of time and twice the effort to reverse it.

John Nolan said...

In the old days any reasonably-sized parish in England would have a Parish Priest and a curate. Between them they would cover the Mass schedules and visit sick parishioners. Now you have one-priest parishes and if there happens to be a hospital in his catchment area he will be on call day and night.

The main function of the priest is cultic - he can do what no-one else can - and his pastoral imperative is "cure of souls". In previous centuries the parish community took on the responsibilities which are now deemed 'pastoral'.

The use of EMHC in a liturgical role, widespread as it may be on both sides of the pond, is a clear liturgical abuse (cf Redemptionis Sacramentum 2004). Altar girls are a 1990s phenomenon and any celebrating priest is perfectly within his rights not to have them.

Were I a priest I would celebrate ad orientem as a matter of course. The criteria for the use of the EF are not that strict since SP but I would be aware that the OF is precisely that and would celebrate it reverently, in Latin and in English (the new translation helps!) I would not tolerate bad music, however. It's perhaps just as well I'm not a priest!

In 1960, when I was an eight-year-old altar boy, the PP had a visiting priest from one of the old Eastern churches in communion with Rome. He celebrated one of the Sunday Masses. He was introduced as follows: "This isn't the Latin Mass we are familiar with, but it's still the same Mass. It goes back even further and the language is not greatly different from that used by Our Lord". The congregation was not in the least put out or perplexed, although as his server I didn't have a clue what to do. I remember he had an afro-style haircut and wore a strange all-enveloping gold vestment.

It's high time priests as well as bishops stopped pandering to opinionated (although often ignorant) vociferous middle-class laity who run parishes and insist on things being done their way. Over the years they have driven countless otherwise faithful people away.

Bill Meyer said...

ytc, I pray you are wrong. But I know that in my own parish, EMHCs believe they are entitled to serve.

I offer, as in my post on another thread, that if we are to have EMHCs (excepting the case of the infirm) then there should b a metric, like 200 people for each server, whether priest, deacon, or EMHC. At least this keeps the herd size down.

Also, should the EMHCs not receive as would any other? In my parish, they enter behind the altar to receive.

William Meyer said...

3. Listen to the voices of your lay leaders and keep them informed

There are those who believe that listening means agreeing. Part of the re-education process is to help them understand that although they have been heard, in some cases, their position was not accepted. This presents another opportunity for catechesis.

Henry said...

Bill, you're quite generous in your condition for when to have EMHCs. Cardinal Arinze, asked after a talk in Louisville several years ago, when having an EMHC would be justified, said "For instance, if there are 1000 communicants and the priest is 80 years old and has arthritis".

The opposite extreme occurred at a Saturday morning Mass when because of extreme weather, there were only 3 of us in the congregation. One served as the EHMC for the Mass. I received only the Host (on the tongue) from the celebrant. The other fellow received both the Host (on the hand) from the celebrant, and the Chalice from the EMHC.

Such is the rich diversity of our rite.

Seriously, I think it's blatant abuse (under Redemptoris Sacramentum and all else holy) when the use of EMNCs is so regularized--and thus NOT extraordinary--that you see a schedule of EMHC's in the parish bulletin or web site.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

A mature priest who respects his parishioners even when they disagree with him should be ready and willing to put forward a cogent reasons for his decisions. And yes, listening the laity can help a priest to see what catechesis is needed. Some parishes think that everything should be put up to a vote and that the priest simply endorses majority rule--that ain't the Catholic Church, not in theology, doctrine, dogma or, by the way, canon law.

William Meyer said...

Henry, I may have been too generous, but the existing rubric contains no metric, and having one is better than none.

I would prefer no EMHCs be used, but establishing a metric, and then adjusting that metric over time might be a way of weening people away from it. I'm not sure I would want to see a ban, for the simple reason that there would be turmoil in some parishes. I would like to think that introducing a limiting metric would be cause for catechesis, and possibly a less fractious transition.

Anonymous said...

We' ve seen quite enough change for a while thank you. Please give us time to get the new English version and new Mass settings down before something else new is thrown at us. At every Mass I've been to recently at home or away people are still using the cards provided that have the new responses. They seem to get "and with your spirit" right, but are very tentative on most of the other responses. At first I wished our bishop had not required all parishes to use the same Mass setting at first, but now I am glad. It helps.

As a Catholic woman I hope that opportunities to serve as EMHC, lector, and altar server remain available. Do we really want to make young women who are graduating from college in greater numbers than men today feel marginalized in their own church? Let the female CPA chair that finance committee!

Joseph Johnson said...

In a Diocese like ours (Savannah) where many parishes are small, rural, and many people do not (because of geographical isolation) have the luxury of being able to choose another nearby parish which better suits their liturgical preferences and sensibilities, the problem of each pastor having too many liturgical options for his parish is even more acute. You can't please everybody!

In addition to the questions about whether there will be EMHC's and altar girls in a given parish, there is the question about the availability of the EF. Presently, the nearest EF to where I live in the southeastern part of the Diocese is Savannah, which is about 100 miles away. The EF is even less of an option for those who live in, say, Valdosta or Thomasville.

While a "conservative" or "traditionalist" option, such as the EF has been a rarity, the "liberal" or "progressive" options have been (to appropriate words from another papal document) "widely and generously applied" rather than rare, as with the EF. To my knowledge, altar girls, as an example, have been in some parts of our Diocese for over thirty years--they are not just "a 90's thing." EMHC's were probably introduced back about the same time and have been in place in some very small mission parishes (ones with a non-resident priest who comes just to say Mass and which may have well less than 100 people at a Sunday Mass)for a very long time.

It seems that the EMHC's were never a necessity in those small parishes (if based on typical attendance). No, if anything, it appears that they may have been introduced simply to the let the folks "out in the sticks" know that they exist so they wouldn't be shocked when they visited a larger parish in a city and saw them for the first time (a kind of "liberal" liturgical "catechesis" promoting the "progressive" view of things). I've always felt the same way about the use of Latin in the OF. It needs to be used with some regularity in the smaller parishes for the same reason--just to let people be familiar with it and not be shocked when they attend Mass in a much larger, and possibly international, venue.

It's just too bad that so many average Catholics in the pew don't know that these "progressive" options are not "the norm" but are merely currently allowed options, just like the EF.

If people are going to "raise hell" about the denial of those "progressive" options in the OF (as they have apparently done in the Platteville WI parish) then, perhaps, the solution is wider availability of the EF. At least in the EF the priest is bound (or freed, depending on how you look at it) by the 1962 books and rubrics and removes himself from these controversies (at least with his parishioners of a "traditionalist" bent) if he offers that Mass as an alternative.