Sunday, May 24, 2009

What's wrong with missionary priests?

Today marks the third consecutive time that a parish I have attended had a guest missionary priest come in who was a liturgical progressive and of questionable orthodoxy. The first time, several years ago, we had a priest who just introduced himself as "Lou," ad libbed the entire Eucharistic liturgy and changed the prayers for the Pope, saying "We pray for the Bishop of Rome, Benedict," instead of "We pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict." But that wasn't so bad as the next guy we got a year and a half later - different parish, but similar situation: the priest preached all about how he helps the poor in Africa build things and fix things but never once mentioned witnessing to them or trying to bring them the faith. And again, this one ad libbed the whole Eucharistic liturgy and changed a bunch of stuff around.

But what I saw today takes the cake. I knew we were in trouble when he introduced himself simply as "Patrick," omitting the word "Father." Then "Patrick" opened his homily by saying that he had suddenly realized what Christ meant by "do this in memory of Me." His idea was that "do this" meant that "we ourselves, the community, have to become the bread that is broken." He then warned us, "Don't any of you dare come up to take communion; you need to be communion." This prompted a question from my daughter about why the priest just told us not to take communion, to which I could only say that he was "confused."

So, after telling us that the Eucharist was all about us, he gave a little spiel for his organization, then said he wanted to close with a song (!) and proceeded up to the choir loft to play piano and sing a tune from Les Miserables. I banged my head on the pew, eyes tightly closed, sweat running down my head, deep in prayer, trying to block out the horror, and asking God, "Why? Why?"

Well, it gets better. He came down and did the Eucharistic prayer, mostly ad libbed, and completely omitted the prayers for the pope. Where the pope should have been prayed for, he said, "Make us grow in unity together with all the poor and sufferng throughout the world," and neglected to mention the Holy Father or the local Ordinary.

At the orate frates he said, "pray that our sacrifice may be acceptable" (gesturing to the gifts), then repeated himself again, "this sacrifice may be acceptable," this time gesturing to the people! He also called God "Creator" instead of "Father."

By this time I was having a very difficult time staying focused on the Mass, which is a terrible by-product of liturgical abuse, by the way. I usually receive on the tongue and kneeling, just as a matter of due reverence towards our Lord. But today I was determined to do so as a statement and I was thoroughly looking forward to kneeling in front of this priest and putting my tongue out. But then came the coup de grace: just before distribution, he announced that he had an inherited "shaking disease" and that anyone who presented themself for communion to him had to receive in the hand! This put me in the position of receiving in the hand from a priest or on the tongue from a male Extraordinary Minister! An unjust dilemma! What would you do?

I decided to receive kneeling from the EMHC, and interestingly enough, so did most of the congregation. The EMHC's line was about three times longer than the priest's line. I received from the EMHC, kneeling and on the tongue, but bitter that my communion time was marred by having to make decisions like whether to receive from an EMHC the proper way or from a priest in an improper way. I'm going to write a letter to the organization (Cross International Catholic Outreach) complaining about what happened; I did this last time and got a pretty good response, saying that the priest in question would be "talked to" about it. Who knows.

It was not all a loss, however, for it was a real teaching moment. One father of eight later told me that he explained to his children, "Here you have a prime example of what has been wrong in the Church for the past forty years." Then he followed that up with a horrific thought: "Can you imagine what your mind would be like if you went to a parish where this was preached for forty years?"

I have several insights here:

First, this sort of liturgical progressivism seems to be endemic among missionary priests, at least in my personal experience of the past four years. I have three explanations for this: for one thing, the secularist-"Spirit of Vatican II" emphasis for the past forty years has been on the human community and service to each other. Thus, I think the most progressive of the progressives probably feel a natural inclination towards missionary work, which they see not in terms of converting the heathen but in terms of "sharing gifts" and that type of nonsense. Second, I think that even if missionary priests do not have this emphasis at the outset, once they spend ten or twenty years in Africa among the poor, I think it makes them more disposed towards interpretations of the Gospel that have an excessive emphasis on serving the poor and on service-oriented ideas of Christianity. Finally, I think their relative isolation in these remote regions for so long leads them to implicitly regard the liturgical minimalism that they must deal with in having Mass in 6 x 6 mud huts as the norm, thus regarding over time anything further as non-essential and therefore dispensible at a whim.

Also, though not related directly to the issue of missionary priests per se, is the notion of the priest saying everybody needed to receive in the hand because he had a problem with his hands shaking. This may have been the case (although he seemed to have well enough control over them while he played piano during the homily). But this has made me reflect on what I can only terms the "Swine Flu Method" of suppressing communion on the tongue.

The Swine Flu Method is just this: although the liturgical documents clearly state that no priest may forbid anyone from receiving on the tongue, some priests are minimizing this decree by implying that it only applies to forbidding persons for liturgical or theological reasons from receiving on the tongue. So, if a priest forbids you from receiving on the tongue because he does not approve of it, well that is wrong. But if he forbids you because he has a shaking disease, or because there is a flu going around, or because there is a werewolf on the loose with a propensity for biting priest's fingers, well in these cases it is acceptable to deny communion on the tongue. The possibilities are limited only by the creative priest's ability to imagine a million different pressing non-liturgical reasons why communion on the tongue is a bad idea.

Finally, on a pragmatic level, for the sake of the poor and the sick whom these priests help, it would behoove them to tighten up their act. Do you think this priest got a lot of donations from our parish after pretty much denying transubstantiation and forbidding reception on the tongue? The priest's behavior today only damaged his ability to raise funds (the whole reason he was there) and did nothing to aid it. The work these priests (ought to) do is so important, and the last thing the poor need is a social-justice Gospel preached to them, and the last thing we need here is a bunch of liturgical progressivism thrown in our face just before the priest asks for money.

In conclusion, I'm going to give you this link to the homepage of the priest who was at our Church'll notice he's quite an important guy who has written on liturgy and done television broadcasts and books...he also seems to be a pal of Rembert Weakland. If you hear that this guy is coming to your diocese, you can go the other way.

By the way, this is the site that hosts this priest's bio, a site called "Vatican" Have a look around - it's pretty amusing, particularly their link about "doing theology in the spirit of Vatican II" and the section where they list a bunch of papal documents from the 18th century and say they are "at variance" with Vatican II. I don't see how it is logical to say something prior can be "at variance" with something later - usually we say things the other way around; nobody says "John F Kennedy's foreign policy was at variance with President Reagan's," but the statement does make sense if Kennedy and Reagan's places are switched. It just goes to show you that these radical "spirit of Vatican II" people really do think that nothing that came before Vatican II has any merit and that Vatican II is the most important thing to happen to the Church since the day of Pentecost.

Well, this is the type of stuff us Catholics stuck in Novus Ordo Land have to deal with. I pray that the fruits of Summorum Pontificum will spill over into the NO and lead to a more reverent celebration of the Ordinary Form - the sooner the better!


Bryan Cross said...

Thanks very much for writing this. I hope you send it to your bishop. We need to continue to get the word out about liturgical abuse.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Anonymous said...

What a terrible experience. This man's website is extremely egotistical and his bio is an eye-opener.

Teaching at Notre Dame at the invite of Richard McBrien says a lot.

The references written by priests are disconcerting. Luckily, I don't think our Bishop would allow this priest and his "feelingful" message in our diocese!

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

Hey, this is the second time I've heard this depressing story today.

About his "shaking disease"... did it manifest itself during the Mass? Such as when he held up the Host and Chalice during the Eucharistic Prayer?

Regarding that web site, some of it is really horrendous. They pit pre-Vatican II statements against the documents themselves (often as if the culprit was Pope Pius IX alone) instead of attempting (as hard as it may be at times...) to reconcile the pre-Vatican II statements with those from Vatican II. I'm a bit surprised to see they don't list any RECENT documents as "opposed" to Vatican II.

The web site does not seem to be kept up to date. The series on ("Catholics United for the Faith)" is incomplete: only one part is done, and it's seven years old... and it's exceptionally vindictive and mean-spirited. Look at a sampling of the problems the author finds that she says indicates "claim[s] to be faithful to Catholic teachings and practice but do[es] not in fact follow some of the most essential Catholic principles as enunciated by Vatican II":

* "CUF’s misuse of Scripture and CUF’s misuse of the Catechism." This claim is not supported by evidence.

* "First, CUF has appropriated [proselytizing] techniques used by organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ." This claim is not supported by evidence.

* "Second, for virtually every teaching, CUF uses a Sola Scriptura explanation." This claim is not supported by evidence, and I thought CUF "misused" the Catechism as well!

* Concerned about the presence of former Protestants on the CUF staff, and very interested to know exactly WHICH Protestant backgrounds they had.

* "Protestants do not need evangelization in the sense that evangelization is about spreading the Gospel ... which [they] already have." Except that if Protestants had the Gospel in its entirety and understood it properly (that's the catechesis portion which the author admits Protestants need), they'd BE Catholic. They don't have the WHOLE Gospel!

* "Evangelical Protestant mind manipulation." No evidence.

* "Scott Hahn ... specifically states that he and other converts do not give up the Protestantism of their evangelical past in their conversion to Catholicism." No quote given.

* "This is the CUF magazine. Basically, the issues of this magazine reviewed thus far are party line with no gross errors. This magazine is traditional Catholicism." Is that a compliment or not? I can't tell!

* Harping on typos, some of which are regrettable ("canon" and "deuterocanonical"), some of which are harmless ("the use of THEY when referring to a single book"), but again, no evidence (context) provided!

Well, I've hogged your blog long enough. Endure, Boniface. I hear there's a crown of glory waiting...

Anonymous said...

My condolences on the bad Mass.

I would like to point out, however, that the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is a missionary order. Indeed, the only missionary priest I know is the local Extraordinary Form priest from the Institute. So it's not missionary priests per se, so much as those you have met.

Clare Mulligan said...

I have emailed your blog entry to "Patrick," along with a rather frank email message.

I think that the problems you describe with missionary priests could, possibly, be attributable to the type of people-oriented temperament (sanguine?) prevalent among missionaries. This temperament does not concern itself too much with proper order.

In this case, however, I think it has more to do with arrested adolescence. I perceive attention-seeking and self-promotion. It's so ironic that the man who talks about the importance of the people is making himself the center of attention, the star of the show. Les Miserables???!!! What the heck?!

A friend of mine last year told me about his pastor, who insisted on "practicing" various secular songs on the organ from the choir loft, singing of course, right up until a few minutes before Mass. My friend complained to the bishop. It was actually quite a struggle to put a halt to these little concerts. But I think we're looking at the same phenomenon.

I do not agree, however, that a concern for others entails bad liturgy. It is just the opposite. And good liturgy entails service to others. Do not fall into the trap of separating them, please.

Unknown said...

Hi Boniface,
I would be curious to know if anyone attempted to receive on the tongue from the shaky priest. As a previous person commented, if he was so shaky, how did he manage to hold up the cup during consecration without it spilling?

Give us a follow up please, after you speak to your pastor - I would like to know how the process works - how do the missions get selected for support, who checks up on them before they come to the church? Since you work for the parish, did you have a heads-up about him coming?

And lastly, it was the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption - why have a visiting priest on such an important day?????

Boniface said...


The shaking did not manifest itself during the elevation or any other time...I looked and saw a very minute movement while he was holding the paten, but it was barely noticeable. If a priest is so shaky he can't give on the tongue, he shouldn't have faculties to celebrate Mass then...on the other hand, if he is steady enough to elevate the chalice AND play the piano, then he shouldn't invoke this disease to withold communion on the tongue...


Could you please forward me what you sent to him? I'm curious as to what you mean by "frank."


We only had a heads up that a missionary priest was coming. In our diocese, we are mandated to host a missionary priest twice per year. The diocese selects what organization will come, and then the organization selects which priest. We have no say in it. Our pastor was on vacation, I think...and I'm sure you meant the Ascension, not the Assumption. :)

Unknown said...

ooh, yes - sorry I DID indeed mean the Feast of the Ascension. I need more coffee :)

Mr S said...

I have it from a very reliable source that the retired priest in question does in fact have a serious "shaking" problem". At some point he needs to address the problem that is his, not the "problem" of a reverent communicant.

However, that shaking could occur if he were placing the host in the palm or on the tongue. I would not be upset if I was bumped or smacked with Christ during the reception of communion.

Additionally, the priest in question did have a very good voice... but then perhaps the vibrato was not learned...
but came with the shake.

As for his "do this...." problem, I have chosen to write to him and copy my pastor on what my understanding is of this command. I used a good portion of Adoration time to reflect on this, and on what I felt I needed to say.

It is quite a big difference in what he was "teaching" and what the Church has held for 2000 years. I doubt he can sing his way out of the heresy I heard.


Viator Catholicus said...

I'm glad you wrote to his sponsoring organization. Please, consider also sending a CC the pastor who invited him, your ordinary, perhaps the superior of his order, and the Congregation for Clergy. It's very sad. I bet this priest started out with a generous spirit of self-sacrifice to bring the Faith to foreign lands, but somewhere in his formation was taught and convinced that "the Church doesn't do that anymore."

Mara Joy said...

heh. How did I guess you were going to blog about this... (I also plan on doing so...when I get around to it. And I had a lot more clear thoughts right after it happened...let's see if I can pull them out of the recesses of my mind...)

Mr S said...

Put it to music, Mara.... and belt it out.

How appropriate his song was from Les Mis, and he succeeded in making many in the pews the miserable ones.


The Postmodernist said...

One of the many reasons why even as a Charismatic myself upholding traditional Catholicism will never attend illicit Novus Ordo Masses like you described, saved there was no other Mass left to attend too. Even my mom who is a hardcore Charismatic Catholic (being a coordinator of one of the biggest Charismatic groups in the Philippines) quickly realizes the value of the Traditional Latin Mass, and traditional Catholic demeanor and piety from traditional Catholic priests like the SSPX and ICRSS; and the danger of the Novus Ordo and how dangerous the 'Spectre of Vatican II' is(well this for me is precious since it's not everyday you hear this from a staunch Charismatic).