Tuesday 10 April 2012

No Popery here please, we're British.

Well, I'm in ranting mode!

Over Holy Week I've heard of a parish where a habitless nun "presided" at the Good Friday Liturgy - changing the Intercessions to something not in the Missal.

I was told of a parish where "to save time" people received Holy Communion at the same time as they came forward to venerate the Cross.

One parish where a service with General Absolution took place at the same time the Chrism Mass was happening in the Cathedral - even though this was a Wednesday evening, rather than Holy Thursday (and no, this was not in some vast diocese where transport is a difficulty). The poor people were no doubt ignorant of the fact that their "absolution" was invalid because the necessary conditions for it to take place were absent.

In many places I heard once again of women having their feet washed on Holy Thursday - in complete contravention of the rubrics of the Missal. A further aberration (this one new to me) where the priest washed not feet but hands! Shades of Pontius Pilate - not very appropriate, speaking symbolically.

I know of another parish where it is no longer possible to receive Holy Communion from the priest, as he always sits down while extraordinary ministers give out Holy Communion.

I wonder if ordinary Catholics realise that when a loved one dies they may now be faced with the funeral service being led not by a priest, not even by a permanent deacon but by an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion? I'm not aware that training for extraordinary ministers now extends to preparing them for this role but it is certainly happening. As I understand it, extraordinary ministers are meant to be commissioned for their own parish only and to be used only where there is true necessity and their commission is only to last for a set period of time. In many parishes the same people have been acting as "extraordinary" ministers for 25 years and some now think of this ministry as theirs by right, rather than being a form of service only triggered in cases of true (extraordinary) necessity. I myself experienced just such an attitude in trying to limit the number of times extraordinary ministers were used, being told in one instance that this is what they were "ordained" to do. This is before mentioning the many "Eucharistic Services" that take place in so many parishes on weekdays, which are forbidden. Eucharistic services in the absence of a priest are envisaged for Sundays only and then only with the direct permission of the bishop, which must be sought for each one. They cannot become a regular and normal feature of a parish's liturgical life.

In many parishes the service offered by extraordinary ministers is now seen as a way of running the parish. A Parish Council is there only as an advisory body to the parish priest and yet I hear of places where they now believe that they can determine who the parish priest should be and whether he suits them (the minority on the parish council and those who act as extraordinary ministers, of course, not the vast majority of ordinary practising Catholics). Not that individual extraordinary ministers do not in many cases do very good work in taking communion to the housebound but they are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, not lay-leaders of the community.

The truth is that we have a whole group of what now amounts de facto to a clerical sub-set. This is not the laity acting as leaven in the world but a clericalised sub-group of parishioners who believe they control the parish as though we were Congregationalists and not Catholics (with no offense to my Congregationalist friends - and yes, I do have them!) Did the Second Vatican Council call for a new sub-set of clergy to be created or did it call for laity to work in the parish and particularly out in the world where the "official" Church does not penetrate in home, factory, office and school? Members of Opus Dei will recognise in their founders call to sanctify their ordinary work the true message of Vatican II. Those carrying out the work of such, supposedly "old-fashioned" groups as the SVP, the Legion of Mary, Young Christian Workers might also recognise the same message in the work they do. You know, all those once thriving groups from the bad old days when the laity had no involvement in the work of the Church.

The rules about who does what do exist but no-one in this country seems very interested in following the guidelines of the Church - in liturgy, canon law or doctrine. We seem to suffer from the disease of believing that Rome's writ does not apply here. Perhaps they agree with Mr Ian Paisley and demand "No Popery here!" For those who really believe that, King Henry VIII has provided a natural home that such people should feel very happy in - the Church of England. I'm sure they would welcome new members.


Genty said...

Yes, Father, it is now seen as a layperson's right to be "ordained" and will be taken to the limits by pushy parishioners overwhelming solo priests. This could never have happened in the days when vocations produced two or three priests per parish.
The sense of entitlement, it seems to me, has been encouraged by the bishops and will not lightly be given up.
I have noticed over the years that, whenever I attend a NO Mass at a church I haven't visited for a while, the same few people of a certain age are readers, collectors, bringers of gifts and EMHCs. They like to be styled "ministers". And the congregations keep falling.
Not long ago I went to Sunday Mass where the liturgy was flexible to say the least. At the end a middle-aged woman went up to the lectern (modern church) and proclaimed in high dudgeon how shocking it was that once upon a time only priests were allowed to touch the Host. I guess she was drumming up support for more "ministers" but I didn't hang around to find out.
So, so sad.

Jacobi said...


You rightly raise the problem of EMHCs or as I prefer to call them, lay distributers of Holy Communion since they are in no sense "ministers" of the Church.

They are overwhelmingly people of good intent but their continued and routine use is a growing abuse in the Church.

The real problem, however, and you have touched on it, is the willingness of parish priests to concede to them, and other busybodies such as self-appointed permanent parish councillors, authority which they do not have

Priests ought to realse that it is they who are in charge of a parish and have the God-given responsibility for the spritual well being of parishioners.

The strength of the busybodies is but a reflection of the abandonment of responsibhilities by the parish priest, not to mention the bishop of course!

Anarchy Rules, OK. said...

I have never received Holy Communion from a lay person and never will. I stopped attending Mass on Ash Wednesday when lay people started administering the ashes. I stopped attending Mass on Corpus Christi and Maundy Thursday when they became showcases for the EMHCs. In my parish it was like the march of the Siamese children as they all walked forward on to the sanctuary to renew their vows.
On checking this week's parish bulletin I see there are 20 'services' listed from Monday to Friday. Nine of these are daily Masses, two are Requiems,and 9 are listed as 'celebration of the Word and Holy Communion'.
Why is it when laypeople have the title 'extraordinary', they are many in number, but when a Mass is described as such it is a rarity?

Jacobi said...

Anarchy Rules OK,

I take it you have written to your parish priest and copied the letter to your bishop??

Tom said...

Because of these abuses, my wife and I only attend the Extraordinary Form of Mass on Sundays and Holydays. It usually involves a lot of travelling.

Until we get bishops confident enough in their theology and authority to stop the rot, these abuses will continue. Brave priests do their best, but without episcopal backing it is very hard for them.

I know that it is impolitic to do so, but I begin to wonder if we should name and shame the parishes where the worst of these abuses occur. I realise that it would be inapproriate (or maybe unwise for fear of retribution) for priests to do so, but lay people can surely do so and help turn the ship around.

Kinga Grzeczynska said...


It is a fair point that you make in your comments. However, think about this:

Twenty years ago we had PPs with Curates. All seemed well. The sick in hospitals, homes and at home were visited by the PP or by the Curate and received Holy Communion and the Sacraments.

Holy Communion was distributed by the Celebrant and the other Priest who was waiting in the wings.

Now - we have a Priesthood who is mostly over the age of 45 upto 92.

Curates are dreams of the past. The sick and housebound only see the PP when they request Confession or the Sacrament of the Sick.

Many PPs have two or three parishes to govern. Bleeps for hospitals, bleeps to HMS Prisons. Schools to visit. Confessions to hear.

Meetings associated with the Curia must be attended by Deans or Sub -Deans - almost always held in Liverpool.

All of this takes time and there is still only 24 hours in one day.

There will be four Ordinations to the Sacred Priesthood in Summer of this year. That is it!

Where Mass cannot be celebrated by a Priest because of all these other commitments, then it is inevitable that you will see Liturgy of The Word, more and more.

With all the extra work of the Reordering of the Sacraments and the great age of many of the Priests - you cannot expect that the precious Priests whom we have can do any more than they are already doing.

My statement applies to those Priests who really do work hard and not to the few that avoid work - by making themselves look busy but actually doing very little but having a multitude of holidays.

As for the laity. We try and help the PP, each bringing the mix skills that we have gained in life's experiences.

Those people who think that they are indespensible - well there are cementaries full of people who thought they were.

As for lay people conducting funerals - well who thought of that one??? - Just a minute two names spring to mind in Liverpool.

Absolutely ludicrous.

No further comment.

Kinga Grzeczynska

Fr Simon Henry said...

Dear Kinga,
My point about extraordinary ministers and in particular "Eucharistic Services" is that they must abide by the existing rules govening these things.

Jacobi said...


you raise valid points which underline the great value of the priests we have.

Consequently if a proper-minded and orthodox priest wants to run his parish according to good mainstream Catholic practise, and this attracts flak from the busybodies, and possibly his bishop, he could always offer to move over to FSSP?

Personally, I think it's time we grasped the nettle and closed parishes to a level to meet the supply of priests.

In fairness to priests, who carry the responsibility for parishioners, we should not ask them to look after two or even three parishes. One is more than enough.

As for the argument that this will deny Mass to people, well that is going to happen sooner or later.

Personally I can drive to at least eight parishes within half an hour and walk to four, maybe six, no, I'm boasting, and there are many in that position.

No further comment!

GOR said...

Now Father, tell us how you really feel... Just kidding!

You are so right. However, the problem I see is with many bishops. Even if a PP wants to enforce orthodoxy, rubrical correctness and eliminate much of the abuses that have crept into parochial matters, in many cases he cannot count on the backing of his bishop. That is the real nub of the problem.

We have had some instances of this here in the US - San Antonio and Philadelphia, to mention but two.

Then there is the case of the Austrian PP who refused to seat an openly homosexual man living in a 'committed homosexual relationship' on the Parish Council. He was over-ruled by Cdl. Schonborn and has now resigned from the parish.

It is a sad state of affairs when a parish priest cannot count on the 'Father of the Diocese' to support orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

Sixupman said...

I wonder how all this came about? Hmm!