From a reader:
How should I approach my pastor about liturgical abuses he has been committing?
The recurring abuse has been his changing the Offertorium to “Lord, accept this bread and wine. It comes from the earth, and it comes from our hands. May they become for us both the bread of life and the cup of your salvation.”
If your priest is doing that, then he is committing a serious liturgical abuse.
First, you do have the right to do something about it.
In a 2004 document of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments called Redemptionis Sacramentum, you rights and your duties are spelled out.
6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters
[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.
[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity. [BE CLEAR! A person has the right always to write to Rome directly as the first step. Normally, however, it is best to work your way up the chain.]
Priests may not on their own authority simply change the rites of the Church has given them. They are not to change the order of actions. They are not to change the texts.
What you describe shows that the priest has collapsed a two-fold offertory, in two stages, which is theologically significant, into one action. He thus changes the texts. And he changes them in a way which introduces concepts which are not in the approved English texts. That is grave.
Redemptionis Sacramentum also says:
[59.] The reprobated practice by which Priests, Deacons or the faithful here and there alter or vary at will the texts of the Sacred Liturgy that they are charged to pronounce, must cease. For in doing thus, they render the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy unstable, and not infrequently distort the authentic meaning of the Liturgy.
“Reprobate” means to abolish something in a quite severe way so as to make it impossible to appeal to custom even after future violations of law over a long time (as was the case with altar girls, etc. etc.).
Approaching a priest about a liturgical abuse is tricky. Most priests, even sound sensible loyal priests, don’t take it well. You must be very calm and not get in his face. Just lay down the facts and then leave it be. If that doesn’t result in any positive change, then get the bishop involved. If that doesn’t produce a change, then write to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. They will take an interest, I assure you.
But they only take an interest on the basis of something concrete to work with, printed matter, video, etc, proof that this is an ongoing problem and not just an isolated incident, proof that the bishop or pastor have not corrected the situation in a reasonable amount of time. A “reasonable” amount of time on my planet is about a day, given the invention of the telephone… but that’s my planet. On planet Earth, these things take longer.
I wouldn’t get all revved up about a word here or there or a very small thing, but this sounds rather more serious.
If you have a face to face meeting with the pastor, then go home and immediately write down exactly, without opinions, what happened. Use that as the basis of a letter to the priest himself about what happened. In other words… make a record of the conversation so that there is one. Keep copies of your letter and his response.
You should carefully review this page with TIPS for writing to ecclesiastical authorities.
You are not being a “busy body” by doing this provided that:
- this is your parish and you are registered and active
- you are accurate in what you describe (many people think priests are doing things wrong, but they themselves are wrong)
- you are gracious about it
At every stage, keep copies. Keep in mind that this might take a while.
If other people get involved, they should also be careful not to be jerks.