On a mailing list I follow, tempers got hot this week over discussions of liturgical abuses.
Some people were appalled about erroneous practices; some people, who don’t see those abuses locally, wondered what the fuss was about.
So I urged everybody to be more understanding:
Dear fellow list-members,
Please try to keep some perspective about liturgical faults that happen in various churches.
First, it’s reasonable to feel offended by abuses that happen now, and abuses that we witness personally. On the other hand, let’s not give undue importance to one-time aberrations that are not widespread and are not repeated. Let’s not be outraged for years over some abuse that we saw on the Internet. Constant outrage is not good for our spiritual life.
Second, let’s acknowledge that right now there is good news: there is a strong movement underway among priests, bishops, and laity to recover reverence and beauty in the celebration of Mass. The writings of Pope Benedict are contributing to this.
You can follow this development through websites like
Third, the clergy are changing, but correcting problems takes time. The 1960s generation of ultra-liberal priests that introduced many abuses is going to retirement; they are passing from the scene, and younger priests are not interested in keeping their erroneous attitudes or erroneous practices.
Many people have learned wrong practices, and in some parishes, they are so habitual that correcting the problems is going to require some patience. Sad to say, it’s going to take decades to turn attitudes around.
This week the press reported about the Archbishop of Ottawa who is trying to get people all over his diocese to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. In some parishes up there, people hadn’t been kneeling at all:
This movement for reform is a good thing, but the press is happy to report complaints from people who don’t like it.
(Be aware that the rules for kneeling are not the same in every country, so don’t be surprised if the Archbishop’s rules are not the same as the American rules.)
Bishops and priests who want to make the celebration of Mass more correct and more reverent often have to choose their battles carefully, letting some smaller failings go on, while trying to educate the people about what the Church wants.
So if some minor deviation happens, don’t jump to conclusions about the priest or the parish. Be merciful.
Fourth, keep in mind that your local experience in your diocese — whether your experience is good or not so good — can’t be projected out to the whole country or the whole world. Other readers who have different experiences from yours are not crazy: conditions really are not the same everywhere.
Thanks for thinking about these things. Thanks for being merciful.