Saturday, May 25, 2019


Bishop Lessard use to rail against Catholic parishes that were too congregational. I used to agree with him, but in fact, my deepest instincts says that it is the best way to go.

We criticize Protestant Congregationalism but isn’t that unecumenical? Yes, in a word.

The only thing that is probably bad about congregationalism is competition, that is competing for
members by stealing from others or trying to convince people to join your congregation because your congregation offers a better product. This kind of congregationalism is consumerism and should be condemned.

But when congregationalism means that a parish is trying to do its very best to know, love and serve Jesus Christ but its various ministries, the focus shifts from the politics of the larger Church, which at our current time is on steroids and way too much attention payed to it rather than where most Catholics are actually touched, in their parishes!

While I have sympathy for recovering many of our lost traditions in the Church, what I don’t want to recover parishioners being treated like children but rather is helping Catholic laity find ownership in their parish/congregation and a sense of responsibility to make the parish the best it can be. First, with proper worship that is reverent, vertical and gives glory to God. The horizontal comes afterward with community building events and the various ministries of the Church, to the sick, home bound, poor and the education, religious or secular of both children and adults.

The laity must be equipped to do ministry first in their domestic Church, their own family and in the larger Church and not just for their own family, their own congregation but outreach beyond their boarders.

The expansion of liturgical ministries should be no threat as these are symbolic of the nature of the Church in everyday life.

While we might enjoy or be distressed by the diocese or the Vatican, most Catholics are untouched by what happens there. They are fed or starved in their local parish. Let’s feed not starve and lets focus on serving Christ and not bickering about Church politics or other events we have no control to change. 


Dan said...

Look at the issues in Germany with each priest and bishop deciding their own rules for communion... both sides claiming they are aligned with Francis' teachings.

The Catholic Church claim of unity is going away.

Anonymous said...

Father, I understand your point, and very much agree.
So glad you’ve changed your tune about this, as we can remember you railing against “Congregationalism” years ago when parishioners here in a local parish had huge issues with a certain priest, his policies and politics. The Bishop at the time apparently was less than no help. I heard that you got pulled into the fray (blindsided?) at some point, from a distance. I wasn’t in that parish TBTG—my church required my attention.
That parish suffered greatly, but has survived and finally thrived, albeit with smaller numbers. The priest involved in the turmoil had the good sense to request transfer, and is (happily?) ensconced elsewhere. The Bishop retired. All resolved peacefully with Gods Grace.

Congregationalism can be difficult, but can also be a productive mechanism to work together through difficult times as a body of Christ, a congregation. And, indeed, Congregationalism may be the salvation of our Holy Mother Church in “the present crisis”.

rcg said...

The Church, well within living memory, had various cultural and local expressions of the same faith. You and I, FrAJM, lived in communities where there was usually one or two Catholic parishes for one or several counties. But here in Dayton, for example, where there are still neighborhood parishes populated by the descendants of German, Italian, Irish, and French immigrants whose buildings are artifacts of the many expressions of the same Faith and Creed. In fact it was those pluralities that were suppressed with the faux egalitarianism of the spirit of Vatican II.

John Nolan said...


Why do you not want to recover 'helping Catholic laity find ownership in their parish/congregation'?

Also, can you explain what 'expansion of liturgical ministries' means? More readers on an already full rota? More supernumerary altar servers of both sexes? More EMHC whose employment in most parishes actually represents an abuse? More people in the choir/music group? More 'animators', whatever that term implies? More ushers and greeters to embarrass those who have just dropped by for Mass?

In the Anglican Church a survey showed that while parish congregations continued to decline, attendance at Cathedral services was actually increasing. Why? Because people could worship without anyone bothering them.

I belong to no particular parish, and don't want to. It's truly liberating.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John that was a misprint now repaired. Most if not all Ordinary Form parishes in addition to altar servers have lector’s and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who visit homebond weekly for Holy Communion. Of course there are greeters and ushers cantors and readers.

John Nolan said...


Yes, I get that and it's not much different over here. I have never been happy with EMHC and their introduction scandalized many people. However, the bishops saw it as giving the laity (especially lay women) an enhanced role and pushed it strongly. They are still referred to in many places as 'Eucharistic Ministers' and at Westminster Cathedral I have witnessed two of them at a sparsely attended weekday Mass where the Chalice was not offered and where most communicants queued up to receive from the priest, rendering them redundant.

Similarly, lay people bringing Communion to the sick and housebound is not a good practice since they cannot hear confessions or grant absolution. But then, in most people's eyes there is no longer any connexion between the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.

As a member of a chant schola I sometimes wear choir dress and sing in the sanctuary for Mass or Vespers. Like the servers, I substituting for a cleric 'ex temporanea deputatione'.
But it is pompous nonsense to suggest that I am engaged in a a 'liturgical ministry'. Even singing the chant proper to the liturgy is simply performing a liturgical role, and it should be remembered that everyone in the congregation, bar none, is also performing a liturgical role.

Singling out laypeople for some sort of enhanced status implied by the word 'ministry' is a Novus Ordo conceit and in my view a lamentable one. There are two ministries to which laymen can be formally instituted, those of Lector and Acolyte; you're unlikely to encounter either in the average parish.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Congregationalism" generally refers to self-governance, not to having people be active in and responsible for their own parish.

Catholicism rejects parish self-governance. Each parish is to follow practices and policies that are established by legitimate authority. A congregation cannot refuse to contribute to national collections for, say, the support of the Church in Latin America, cannot adjust the liturgical cycle to meets its own wants and desires, cannot establish its own pay scale for priests and deacons, and cannot establish significant building or renovation programs without the approval of the local ordinary.

All are called to ministry by their Baptism. "As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life." Some exercise that ministry through singing, through home visitation of the sick, through teaching religious education classes, and through overseeing the maintenance of parish buildings.

John Nolan said...


Any member of any congregation is entitled to refuse to contribute to any collection if he is so inclined. If your parish has a way of exacting forced contributions then perhaps you could explain how you do it. Thumbscrews?

Thirty years ago the parish of the London Oratory withheld its contribution to the Archdiocese after a dispute with the latter's education service.

I agree that as baptized Christians we are called upon to minister to the needs of others. However, I was specifically referring to so-called liturgical ministries. If someone joins in the singing of the Credo while the person next to him does not, does it then follow that the former is performing a liturgical ministry whereas the latter is not?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John, note that I said, in plain English that even you should be able to understand, "A congregation cannot refuse..." Individuals are free to do what they wish, but they are obliged to support the work of the Church. Mandated collections cannot simply be ignored.

Note, also, that I specifically did not limit my comments to liturgical ministries since, as any good Catholic knows, ministries are not limited to the inside of the Church building.

John Nolan said...


It is you who need to express yourself more clearly. What you actually said was 'a congregation cannot refuse to contribute'. Significantly, when you quoted yourself you omitted the key word 'contribute'. You are well known on this blog for selective and misleading quotation, but applying this dubious principle to your own words is dishonesty of a more brazen kind.

If you meant 'a parish cannot refuse to hold a collection which has been mandated by the local ordinary' then why didn't you say so in the first place? Next month there is a mandated collection for 'Peter's Pence'. I shall not be contributing this year, as I do not want any of my money used to encourage illegal immigration, or to pay the electricity bill for illegal squatters.

Your last sentence is a corker. Making a general comment, as any good politician knows, can be used as a smokescreen to cover the fact that he has no intention of addressing a specific issue.

Marc said...

Another reason to go to the SSPX: our second collections are not for the diocesan and Roman causes. They are for the local affiliated Franciscan sisters, the parish school, the parish theater, and parish maintenance. Sometimes they’re for the SSPX seminary or the fund to train Novus Ordo priests how to be Catholic priests.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

'a congregation cannot refuse to contribute' is what I said. The idea that I have chosen to hide the full quote when it is plainly visible to the 8 people who read this blog regularly is laughable.

This is about the congregation, the parish, not the individual congregants. A congregation cannot refuse to participate in mandated collections.

While you chose, understandably, to limit your comments about ministry to liturgical matters, I chose to comment on the bigger picture. The specific issue, as I see it, is that Fr. McDonald's comments about the expansion of ministries was not limited to those who serve the community during the liturgy, but also beyond.

Anonymous said...

Another good reason to avoid SSPX parishes like the plague: they suffer from the very Protestant congregationalism that Catholic parishes know they must avoid.

Marc said...

The SSPX congregation doesn’t choose the collections so the comparison to Protestant congregationalism is inapposite.

Anonymous said...

"Another reason to go to the SSPX: our second collections are not for the diocesan and Roman causes."

Yeah, they do. The pastor, one presumes, makes the choice not to contribute to diocesan and "Roman" causes.

That's what Protestant congregations do - they make their own choices about how to spend their money.

Marc said...

Pastor =/= Congregation

Even still, I’d gladly take congregationalism over contributing to “integral human development” and population control.

John Nolan said...


The more you try to extricate yourself from the logical consequences of your poor choice of words, the more you tie yourself up in knots. In mandating a collection, a bishop is not asking for a subvention by the parish from existing funds; he is inviting individual congregants to contribute, out of their own pockets, a sum over and above that which they would normally give to the parish. All the pastor needs to do is give them the opportunity to do so. It is unlikely that there will be no take-up, and just as unlikely that everyone will wish to contribute.

Your argument falls down since it is based on two fallacies - firstly, that the words parish and congregation are exactly coterminous; and secondly, that holding a collection is the same as contributing to one. I think you realize that the second point is a nonsense, so you introduce a new term - to 'participate' in a collection. This is not quite the same as holding a collection, since to actively take part would imply standing at the back of the church rattling a tin at the departing congregation.

One could, of course, simply leave a box at the back of the church for the (purely voluntary) donations.

Father McDonald does indeed talk about ministry in general, but if you take the trouble to read my first comment you will see that my query related to 'expansion of liturgical ministries'. It is this question that you have signally failed to address. I don't expect you to agree with me, since you are a dyed-in-the-wool 'spirit of Vatican II' man, with all that that implies.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John, my comments, if you will read them, related to liturgical ministry and to ministries of other kinds. As much as you would like to do so, you do not get to control the conversations here.

I have addressed what I wished to address. It does not meet your expectations. Your expectations plus £4.90 will get you a short ride on the London underground.

John Nolan said...


That's hardly an answer. I certainly do control any exchange I have with you, and have done so for at least six years. I expect nothing from you - I simply derive a certain amount of innocent pleasure in refuting your manifest absurdities. And no-one who regularly uses the Tube would dream of paying £4.90 for a single ticket.

I suggest you resume your 'Anonymous' hat and carry on trolling. It's your natural level.