QUAERITUR: Pastor changes the offertory. What do I do?

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.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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31 Responses to QUAERITUR: Pastor changes the offertory. What do I do?

  1. catholicmidwest says:

    Document, complain, get ignored and marginalized. Then write the bishop and get ignored and marginalized. And then ignore the abuses the best I can. This is how it works in my neck of the woods.

  2. Joshua08 says:

    Is he an old Dominican or something of that sort? In the old Dominican rite (Carmelite, Carthusian, Lyonese, Sarum, etc) the offertory was of the bread and wine together and I have been told that older priests, when the NO came out, sometimes continued that.

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    Does anyone know of a manipulated text that is deeper and more meaningful than the original? Or are they all manipulated in the downward direction?

  4. Jack Orlando says:

    Take it first to the priest. Were I a bishop, I’d ask, “Have talked to Father about this yet?” If the answer is “no”, then “Talk to him first, and if you’re not satisfied, then call me.”

  5. Magpie says:

    A priest in my parish omits, every time, the invitatory to the Our Father (e.g. Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior gave us. – or one of the alternatives). I find it most annoying. I don’t know why he does it. Should I do something or is that a minor issue to ignore? Anyone got any opinions on that?

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    Charles,

    *Down* in every case, unless you believe that:
    a) the mass is composed only of a collection of “reflections” that are optionally recommended, rather than something that transcends itself, or
    b) that some nobody in some no-place can come up with something better than the church has, or
    c) that words don’t matter.

    And in fact, I’ve personally seen a lot of mass abuses and they are, to an item, ridiculous exercises in self-absorption. Every single on of them. Most of them are so stupid, they’d be laughable, if they weren’t so serious. The real problem with mass abuses is that during a mass abuse, the priest takes it upon himself to proclaim implicitly that the mass is his own personal property with which he can do anything he likes, and that the laypeople in attendance are hostage to his whims.

  7. FrCharles says:

    At one point in my religious life I was taught to do this. To make it sound cool, they called it ‘telescoping.’ Sad.

  8. samgr says:

    Was at a funeral mass the other week celebrated by the recently retired diocesan bishop. He did nothing as bad as conflate the offertory prayer, but did add and subtract enough to set my teeth on edge. I hope his successor does better, at least liturgically.

  9. Random Friar says:

    If it’s serious enough, I would suggest writing the bishop and cc:ing the pastor/priest. Show concern for the “innovation” and respect for the Sacrament and the clergy. If it were the bishop himself, then cc:Rome. Those are my 2 cents, anyway.

    And, isn’t it curious? I was always taught Vatican II came about to rid the Mass of “needless accretions,” while so many feel inclined to add their own, citing the Spirit of Vatican II.

  10. TJerome says:

    Like a prophet of old, threaten him with destruction!!!

    [Did that help this discussion? I think not. o{]>:¬( ]

  11. robtbrown says:

    Magpie says:

    A priest in my parish omits, every time, the invitatory to the Our Father (e.g. Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior gave us. – or one of the alternatives). I find it most annoying. I don’t know why he does it.

    He does that for the same reason the others make similar changes: They have been taught that the mass is a meal, and, just like any other meal, the celebrant is supposed to adopt an informal, conversional style.

  12. Sandy says:

    Deliver us O Lord, from liturgical abuse and lack of reverence!!!

  13. Matins says:

    I’d suggest the following for talking about it with the priest “Father, I’m working to recieve more from the Mass. I’ve been trying to follow word for word, and I can’t seem to do this. I have it in writing here, can you go over it with me? I don’t want to miss anything, and I don’t want to mis-understand.”.
    This lets you go over things word for word. It also allows the priest to say somethign like “Bishop X has us say “CCCCCC” here. Or “These days we don’t say CCCCCC”
    Try to make it a time of pastoral teaching.

  14. Maxiemom says:

    It’s interesting to read the comments. I had an issue with the pastor of my parish. I e-mailed him requesting to speak to him, left messages asking to speak to him and he ignored both. I then addressed my concerns in writing to the Bishop who, in turn, also ignored my letter. A letter from my husband to the pastor and copied to the bishop was also ignored.

    Lesson learned – give up being active in my parish. At first I thought I would change parishes and then accepted that eventually the pastor will be transferred and, if I’m still in the area, I’ll become active in the parish again.

  15. TJerome says:

    Father Z, sorry about my failed sense of humor. I actually once wrote a letter to the pastor about a particular assistant pastor who made things up as he went along, ran off the altar frequently, perambulating around the Church, waiving his arms, screaming nonsense. I made the arguments that he was depriving the people of the Mass they were entitled to and that it was not about him, it was the Church’s prayer. The initial response I received was positive, that the priest would be talked to, but nothing changed in terms of his “ars celebrandi,” but a year later he was transferred to another unsuspecting parish. I have to say, I believe this is more of a generational problem. I find that priests age 55 plus are the big culprits (this one was in his late 50s) . I almost never see a priest in his 20s or 30s taking liberties with the prayers and rubrics. Best, Tom

  16. Magpie says:

    Thanks robtbrown for your reply.

    I wonder if I should say something or write a letter to him.

  17. benedictgal says:

    This morning at Mass, I was shocked and befuddled. Rather than proclaim the first reading from the Lectionary, the lector took it from the Jerusalem Bible, at my parochial vicar’s insistance. The text was different and he asked her to read past the cut-off point from the prescribed reading. I was very disappointed because he does not abuse the liturgy.

    After Mass, I told him that I needed to make an appointment with him to discuss something. Some time later, he called me and pretty much backed me into a corner asking me what the real problem was. I finally blurted out “YOU”. Then, I qualified by saying that it was not so much him, per se, but, rather, what he did. He was really upset with me and accused me of being rigid. He said that he was using an approved Bible. I told him that it was not approved for liturgical use. Granted, we both do not like the RNAB version of the Lectinoary, that still does not give us the right to change things at will. I told him that if he wanted to preach about the first reading and how it ties to the Gospel, he could have re-read the JB version (which also mentions Yahweh, which is a against Liturgiam Authenticam) during his homily to make his point. We ended up in a screaming match and he accused me of being unhealthy.

    Mind you, this is my best friend yelling at me. I hung up and cried my eyes out. I felt betrayed, almost like Julius Caesar.

    Was I wrong to question him about what he did? I am feeling awful and rather hurt. I told him that this was why I would have rather waited until Monday to discuss this matter with him. But, he insisted.

  18. @Benedictgal, I don’t think you were wrong to question, I hope that the RNAB will be changed by the time my ordination comes, God willing. The English translation is a distraction because I know the Latin says something different. 99% of the time

  19. benedictgal says:

    Thank you, Joe of St. Therese. I just felt like a failure. I certainly was not expecting to get lambasted by my friend. He accused me of being rigid. He also said that I would have opted to have had Mary stoned and would have urged St. Joseph to have publicly exposed her. That really hurt. It pretty much broke my heart. Then, he made fun of my blog and told me that I was sick and he also accused me of going to Mass only to find abuse. I feel like crying again.

  20. Dorcas says:

    @benedict gal, it’s too bad you could not have firmly halted the conversation before it got to screaming. It doesn’t sound like this situation was not one that needed to be screamed about, even if it was not proper. It might have been enough for the priest to be called on this kind of thing…made aware that someone had taken note of his deviation. You don’t have to verbally, in-the-moment ‘win’ an argument in order to have an effect for the better. Especially since you said this priest does not abuse the liturgy…questioning the reading is probably as far as you should have gone in this case, unless it had been a regular problem.

    Anyone who makes it their mission to go to bat for authentic and uncompromised liturgy needs to firmly discipline themselves mentally, emotionally and spiritually in order to handle situations that get volatile…because they surely will sometimes, especially if when questioning the actions of people in authority.

    Sorry to hear about your trouble, in any case. :(

  21. chonak says:

    For benedictgal: FWIW, the (original) Jerusalem Bible and the RSV were formerly approved for liturgical use in the US. That ought to mitigate things a bit.

    I had a case too: a retired priest who reads out a joke each week during (yes, during) the post-Communion meditation time. No response from the pastor, no correction from the bishop. I go elsewhere now.

  22. TJerome says:

    chonak, I guess the retired priest should be working the circuit in the Catskills rather than celebrating Mass in a parish. I certainly don’t mind a priest injecting humor, when appropriate, into his homily, but to tell a joke during the Post-Communion time seems very strange.

  23. BenedictXVIFan says:

    The abuses that particularly irritate me are those that attempt to blur the distinction between the priest and the people. For instance: on Holy Thursday, being invited to say the words of consecration with the celebrant. And the very next day, having the congregation assigned to read the part of Christ in the Good Friday Passion reading. This is particularly alarming to me coming from a pastor, who on the first night of parental preparation for First Holy Communion stated he did not see why the bishops see same-sex marriage as a threat to traditional marriage (i.e., he believes male & female are interchangeable).

  24. Mom2301 says:

    I have also tried to speak to our parish priest about a few things he does that I have never seen another priest do. I couched it in terms of “Father, could you explain to me why you do this?” His response was to call me “devisive” and he never answered my question further. I usually agree that going straight to the source is the best way to solve an issue, but I think no matter how nice you try to be about it the Priest knows you are in disagreement with him and often that is not taken well! Good luck!

  25. Thank you for your advise Father Zuhlsdorf! I will let you know what happens!

  26. benedictgal says:

    I called my friend last night. We were both calm and he told me that he does appreciate what I do and he said that I have a lot to contribute to the Church. He was not angry at me. I think that things had happened on both sides that kind of came to a head, and the issue with the readings was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I do feel a little better. My friend is a very good priest, in fact, he is the best priest in our diocese. I enjoy going to his Masses and hearing him preach because I know that he really does say the black and to the red. Yesterday was an anamoly. He is one of the very few who does not play around with the Mass.

  27. Fr.Estabrook says:

    this one should go in the “best of Quaeritur” book!

  28. Fr.Estabrook: That is high praise. Thank you. And thanks for commenting.

  29. Banjo pickin girl says:

    My very conservative NO parish had a new parochial vicar (a late vocation with a “bull in a china shop” personality) who insisted on changing the “This is the Lamb of God” part of the Mass every single time. Fearful that we were embarking on the slippery slope to Kumbayah Land, I made an appointment to talk to him about it and he said he is “an individual” and has the right to change the words of the Mass as he sees fit. This was the only liturgical abuse except for the usual silliness of scanning the room with your eyes during the “this is my Body” part and some other things (joking around too much in the homily). Anyway, he’s permanently mad at me and the other people who privately complained about it say they were never bothered it was just me. I so love being the scapegoat! (NOT) It all amazes me because these guys are members of an Order with a reputation (at least around here) of being strict.

    So I have learned to shut up and “offer it up.” But as I asked another priest, how do we know what the borderline is between “offer it up” and “this is really bad and it’s insulting to God?”

  30. moconnor says:

    Benedictgal, I’m so glad to hear this. Having worked with so many priests as a church musician, I’ve learned that they are as different as all people are. Some are patient, others quick to take offense. Besides, you never know who talked to a priest just before you do. His reaction may have little to do with your concern. I’m glad that two fine Christians were able to get back to serving God’s people!

  31. benedictgal says:

    moconner, thank you. My friend and I have known each other for over 15 years. Sometimes, we both fly off the handle, but, he is a genuinely fine priest. Our diocese and our parish are blessed to have him. Like I said, this was just an anamoly and even he admitted it.