From a reader:
We were very recently assigned a new priest, and he has only finished his second week at our church. He wanted to make some changes that would put us more in line with the new liturgical movement.
These changes included offering all Masses ad orientem (including and especially the Novus Ordo Masses), and changing our Mass schedule and format to include one EF Low Mass and one EF High Mass each week. This schedule would have allowed us to have an equal number of Novus Ordo and EF Masses on a regular basis.
There are a number of parishioners who have been pleased and delighted in these changes. However (as it usually is) a small but loud minority of our parish called our Bishop and complained. Within a matter of days, our Bishop called a meeting with our new priest and told him (as the Bishop claimed to have received “a number” of complaints) that he was to not make any changes in the Mass schedule or format, and that he was not to offer Mass ad orientem. He also told our priest that he would be watching his every move and that he didn’t want to hear any more complaints about him – not so much as a blip.
I am confused, Fr. Z. I thought the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae released in May addressed the issue of the reforms our new priest has attempted to make. Why would our Bishop choose not to honor this???
I, and those at our parish who support the intentions of the Holy Father, are deeply disappointed in the Bishop’s reaction. There are plenty of people who wish to complain to the Bishop as a result, but there is concern that in doing so, it may look as if the new priest alone influenced their actions.
Take a few things into consideration. First, although it is good for a priest to take the bull by the horns and start getting things done where they need to be done, starting these initiatives within only two weeks of being there may have been a little less than politically wise. Consider that some people react negatively to any change at all. And with liberals, multiply that by one-hundred fold if any of the changes involve a return to continuity or the name “Benedict”. A little of preparation and catechesis might have been a good idea.
Part of this also involves micro-managing things which need no micro-managing. If find it interesting that bishops are often happy to jump into parish situations when the priest is doing something along the lines the Holy Father is indicating, but when it comes to correcting clear liturgical abuses or strange preaching they are nowhere to be found. When the priest is implementing Summorum Pontificum or using the Missale Romanum correctly, some bishops put on their “chief liturgists of the diocese” hat, but when in other places there are wanton liturgical abuses which upset the faithful, the bishop recedes into light inaccessible.
At this juncture, perhaps it would be a good plan for you and others who support the pastor to write letters to the pastor… to the pastor… clearly stating both your support of him in prayer and also explaining to him your legitimate aspirations for your liturgical worship. Many people should – in writing – request Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Many people should write asking for the Novus Ordo Mass ad orientem. They might express in a kind way all the things they hope for and their pledges of support to make it happen if any material things are required. Let them – many of them – ask for catechesis and preaching on liturgical matters.
This will give the pastor a sense that these things are worth working for and also give him a thick folder of letters of support for those things. If the pastor is afraid of an abusive bishop coming after him because he is getting whiny letters from a handful of cranky aging liberals, the pastor will at least have the consolation that many do support him, and that this is a battle worth fighting down the line, if not at this moment.
Don’t lash out at the other parishioners or at the bishop in writing or words around the parish. Instead, include them and their guardian angels in your prayers. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts and move them from their entrenched errors.