The Tablet equates striking the breast during the Confiteor with child abuse.

At The Tablet aka The Bitter Pill, there is a piece by one Melanie Lately, a guest contributor, which deserves our attention – and not because of its excellence.

Commentators in the combox over there have dealt with the obvious problems, so I won’t dwell on them.

I don’t intend to go over every possible misstep, for it is one of the dumbest things I have read for a long time.  I’ll touch a few things that I didn’t see covered elsewhere and then do some ranting of my own at the end.

As you read, consider that liberals intend now to vilify what they don’t like by linking it to clerical sexual abuse of children.  It doesn’t matter what it is that they don’t like, if they don’t like it, it must have something to do with child abuse.  So, you sometimes have to look beyond the facile – though sometimes admittedly agile – introduction of their new blunt instrument, for their real points.

My emphases and comments.

New Missal translation – rated 18
Posted by Melanie Lately, guest contributor , 1 July 2011, 9:00

At Mass we have cards in the pews so we can follow the revised translation of the Mass. The options for different parts are there. This week our parish priest used the homily to speak about it. When he read out the words of the Confiteor, with the changes in bold, he was greeted with gales of laughter and even he had to smile.

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
[All strike their breast]
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;

No-one today in their right mind – unless perhaps they have just murdered someone – is going to harp on about “my fault, my fault, my own most grievous fault” while beating their breast, especially if they are reflecting on ordinary everyday thoughts or words that most Mass-goers might be expected to have. The picture the words give of breast-beating illiterate peasants with cloth caps and mud-clotted boots is like something out of Monty Python.  [What it actually reflects is belief in the reality of sin.  Keep in mind that liberals don't believe in personal sins.  They believe only in structural sin.]

Among consenting adults [Notice that she wants to sexualize this.] at Mass it matters little. But it is completely different when it comes to the children. As an educator with children in Catholic schools I wonder if Vox Clara group who came up with this translation have thought about the educational side[The writer implies, apparently, that children don't sin. I beg to differ.  And neither Vox Clara nor ICEL, had to concern themselves about the "educational side", whatever that means.  They were concerned with "sacred tradition" and the actual meaning of the words of the prayer.]

[Now she gets to her real point.] Imagine what would happen if the Government of Britain or the US, Canada or Australia were to bring something like this into state schools with little or no public consultation, and have children learn such words by heart and repeat them over and over for 12 years – there would be a public outcry. [The writer's fundamental problem here is a lack of recognition of a difference between a state school and a Catholic school, at least one not paid for by the state.] And yet the equivalent of this is being foisted on Catholic children in English-speaking lands. Surely if Catholic children are cajoled by teachers at the behest of the Catholic hierarchy to beat their breasts on regular solemn occasions [I think she means Mass.] and pronounce themselves inwardly filthy, [Good grief.  Is that what the Confiteor says?  Perhaps she has a better grasp of Lutheran anthropology than Catholic] we should be shown the psychological impact study they carried out. Or did they not do one?  [This is simply loony.  Perhaps we should have a psychological impact study on Christianity?  After all, some people think that Christianity is in itself bad for people.  The writer may be one of them, as a matter of fact.  Think about the psychological impact of being told about a God who tells a father to kill his kid on a rock with a knife and burn his body.  That same God, in the guise of a "Father", then purposely sends His Son to tortured until He dies.  Maybe the writer's New South Wales, paying for the Catholic school the writer accepts a check from should do a psychological impact study on that.  After all, publicly funded Catholic schools have to be held to account for what is taught, right?  Imagine the state wanting in this day and age exalt say... virginity.]

With all the to-do about child abuse in the Catholic Church, [Do you suppose there is any child abuse in other state schools in NEw South Wales?] you would have thought that it would have led to some consciousness-raising among priests and bishops and someone in Vox Clara or among their apologists might have asked, “Do you think the solemn formal repetition of words like this for 12 years is good for the children? Might this not be seen as a form of psychological child abuse?” [What was she smoking?] Certainly, in our publically [sic] funded Catholic schools it could be seen this way.  [Then perhaps they shouldn't be publicly funded, so that actual Catholic doctrine can be taught in these schools]

[And now we arrive at what The Tablet really wants to push...] Priestly prestige and power are on the wane in countries where there are good levels of sanitation, education, food, water, and long life expectancy, [The implication is that having a hierarchy in the Church is a throw back to primitive times.  Remember her Monty Python tour de force at the top?] and the changes of the liturgy are about retrieving this lost prestige and power. [For liberals, liturgy is about who has power, who is at the center of attention.  For Catholics. however, liturgy is about worship of the transcendent God, our mysterious origin, goal and salvation.] But it is a very underhand way of going about it. The real grievous sin, if we are to speak this language, [She doesn't like the concept of "sin".] is in fact this underhand [again?] manipulation of the Catholic people, with total disregard for their children[Total disregard for children would be an avoidance of instruction about sin and denial of the proper liturgy of the Church.]

Melanie Lately is a lay Catholic [How could she be anything else but a lay person?] based in New South Wales with children in Catholic schools.

This is what The Tablet thinks is worthy commentary.  But remember: it is less about the translation than the problem of accepting the Church’s teaching about sin.

Reflect on the suggestion that the liturgical beating of one’s breast is tantamount to child abuse.  I wonder what she thinks of showing children a piece of wood with a man nailed to it.

Since the writer doesn’t care about two millennia of Christian tradition, consider that Jews traditionally beat their breasts at the confession of having sinned.  Observant Jews strike their breast over their hearts to remind themselves of the fact of their transgressions.  They have done this for a long time.  By her reasoning, the Jews who passed on the traditional of teaching children to beat their breasts or think about sin and penitence are child abusers.  And they aren’t even members of the oppressive and backward Catholic hierarchy!

But back to Christian tradition, which Catholics do care about.  St. Augustine says that when the words “forgive us our sins/trespasses” were pronounced, the congregation struck their breasts so hard that it made a great noise in the Church.

Hmmm… now that I think of it, didn’t the Lord teach a prayer about sinning?  He even repeats the baaad idea of sin, or trespasses.  It is important for us to repeat and to ritualize what is important.  The three-fold repetition – aside from the fact that its in the Latin original - has a “psychological impact”, which needs no study.  The repetition helps us to hear it.  The striking of the breasts makes us own it.  And that is what she doesn’t like, because, for liberals, sin is structural and not personal.

We Catholics don’t go to Mass – sorry… “solemn formal occasions” because we are okay just the way we are.  We go because we are not okay.  A recognition of who we are and who we are not is a necessary starting point for authentic Christian worship.

The future Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Spirit of the Liturgy (p. 207):

“We point not at someone else but at ourselves as the guilty party, [which] remains a meaningful gesture of prayer. … When we say mea culpa (through my fault), we turn, so to speak, to ourselves, to our own front door, and thus we are able rightly to ask forgiveness of God, the saints, and the people gathered around us, whom we have wronged.”

To conclude, I will repeat what I offered at the top, in case you missed it.

Liberals intend now to vilify what they don’t like by linking it to clerical sexual abuse of children.  It doesn’t matter what it is that they don’t like, if they don’t like it, it must have something to do with child abuse.  So, you sometimes have to look beyond the facile – though sometimes admittedly agile – introduction of their new blunt instrument, for their real points.


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91 Responses to The Tablet equates striking the breast during the Confiteor with child abuse.

  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    Melanie Lately has been intellectually outperformed by the students at St. Theresa Catholic School.

  2. MichaelJ says:

    Not wanting to go down a rabbit hole, but is there a good explanation of the gesture of striking one’s breast? I had always considered it a purely penetential gesture, but have noticed that many use it when reciting the Hail, Holy Queen, specifically when saying “O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.”
    I don’t object to the practice, but am curious.

  3. But remember: it is less about the translation than the problem of accepting the Church’s teaching about sin.

    In following the leading ultra-liberal blog devoted principally to opposition to the accurate new translation, I’ve seen that their concern (even panic) is not with the mere language of the words but with the faithful doctrine they convey. On reader said she thought all this medieval stuff had been thrown out with the Latin after Vatican II, but now they’re to use the new translation to sneak it back in through the back door.

  4. RichR says:

    Child abuse occurred in the 80′s when I was given cr*p catechesis and not taught what sin really was. I stayed away from Confession for a decade because I hadn’t murdered anyone. Had it not been for a special grace from God to realize my need for repentance and salvation, I never would have gone back to Confession, and would have just sat in my spiritual rot.

    Satan loves columns like Mrs. Lately’s.

  5. unsilenced says:

    I don’t get what her issue is. In spanish we always had a better translation and we have ALWAYS striken (hmmm… spelling? help!!… have stroken?) our chests when saying that part… I think it is great because it reminds you that you have committed those sins, and you take personal responsability for them. I’ve been doing it since I was a little 4 year old (that I can recall doing it) and never though about being hit. Maybe is the choice of “strike” it does sound like you are hitting yourself. Maybe it is lost in my translation. It is more of a soft touch…

  6. Scott W. says:

    You know progressives are really circling the drain when the babble like this.

  7. pelerin says:

    When the Novus Ordo was introduced I am sure that in the leaflets given out at the time it retained the striking of the breast at the confiteor. The difference was that it was reduced to one whereas originally there were three – at the first and second mea culpa and at the mea maxima culpa. As the vernacular became more familiar the leaflets were ditched and seemingly many people stopped ‘doing the red.’

    I find the article utterly ridiculous and unfortunately know at least two people who read the Tablet regularly.

  8. Struck, unsilenced.

  9. robtbrown says:

    Fr Z: [What it actually reflects is belief in the reality of sin. Keep in mind that liberals don't believe in personal sins. They believe only in structural sin.]

    They have reduced sins to two: Racism and cigarette smoking.

  10. cblanch says:

    RichR: Amen!

  11. unsilenced says:

    @acricketchirps Thanks! that’s why I prefer latin… a lot easier than English… haha

  12. kab63 says:

    In what manner was the parish priest reading out the Confiteor that led to “gales of laughter”? Unless Melanie is exaggerating the reaction… I don’t see anything funny. Is the parish full of giggly adults who are embarrassed to hear the word “breast”? Mysterious.

    Beating the breast is one of my few memories of Mass from little childhood. I always found the gesture moving and dramatic, stressing the power of the words, and I am so grateful that the Bishops have returned this beautiful act to the Mass.

  13. robtbrown – Melanie also allows for murder to be considered a serious sin.

  14. contrarian says:

    Yeah, I guess I didn’t quite understand the ‘gales of laughter’ point either. What did they find funny? I’m not asking that rhetorically. I really don’t get what they found funny.

  15. Schiavona says:

    I don’t get what her issue is. In spanish we always had a better translation and we have ALWAYS striken (hmmm… spelling? help!!… have stroken?) our chests when saying that part…

    In Croatian, too, even at the happy-clappiest liturgies. The “gales of laughter” at this give me the chills.

  16. Leonius says:

    Well this article is good in one regard, it reveals the problem with modern man loud and clear.

    First problem

    “No-one today in their right mind – unless perhaps they have just murdered someone – is going to harp on about “my fault, my fault, my own most grievous fault” while beating their breast”

    Indeed because today people in “their right mind” or more accurately people who believe in the current teachings of secular society do not have properly formed consciences and so are in denial about the petty little evils man does to man every day without even thinking about it.

    Second problem

    “The picture the words give of breast-beating illiterate peasants with cloth caps and mud-clotted boots is like something out of Monty Python.”

    Contempt for the Catholics of past generations and contempt for the poor and uneducated.

    The writer is afraid that this will make her look silly in front of others because she thinks it is silly, what she doesn’t realise is that part of the benefit of the confiteor is that it teaches humility, something most of us could do with a lot more of, through her comments she acknowledges this indirectly, and she fears it.

    She refuses to be humbled and would rather mock the Church and distance herself from its practices than risk personal mockery.

  17. shane says:

    What a nasty article. Shows how desperate the Tablet has become.

  18. benedetta says:

    So, sin is dead. Unless according to the Tablet you are a murderer (which I guess truth be told is all that some see the sacrament of confession itself as good for). Still our complicity with utilization of the slaughter of innocents in the womb would nicely dovetail with this prayer.

    As for children, over time they learn to say all of the prayers and gestures of the Mass and apply it to their own selves as a lifelong work. They make the appropriate gesture before the reading of the Gospel and they will make this gesture and learn the prayer as they grow and as they go. The bigger worry is about the kids who are taught and told that they need not worry about confession, sin, or praying the Mass, at all in terms of their well being. And that ain’t no monty python.

  19. Centristian says:

    Liberal mocks tradition. Shock. And ignorantly, to boot. Double shock.

    “No-one today in their right mind,” she says (with as much regard for grammar as for ancient liturgical customs). Nobody, today, “in his right mind” feels remorse and responsibility for sin, contemplating and lamenting his own culpability? Really? Only the insane, then, consider their own fault with respect to offenses? Fool.

    As to the practice of beating one’s breast at the “mea culpas”, however, it is my understanding that if one is actually making a fist and audibly thumping his chest, one isn’t doing it correctly, in terms of liturgical rubrics. It was always my understanding that a fist was not to be made, at all, and that no actual “beating” of the breast was to occur. Instead, the open palm is to be used, the tips of the fingers, only, touching the breast, lightly (inaudibly).

    Perhaps if she weren’t such a Melanie-come-Lately to traditional liturgical gestures, she would know that and thereby have a harder time interpreting the gesture as abusive.

  20. Leonius says:

    “Yeah, I guess I didn’t quite understand the ‘gales of laughter’ point either. What did they find funny? I’m not asking that rhetorically. I really don’t get what they found funny.”

    They find the idea that they could possibly be guilty of grievous sin laughable, because they are such perfect people, after all they never murdered anyone you know.

  21. LisaP. says:

    I always appreciate the clarity these kinds of commentaries bring, but part of me always wonders if they are for real. It’s got a “1984″ fake news feeling to it, as if there is some special troop of writers in a basement full of cubicles with a look from the movie “Brazil” typing out stuff wild enough to distract us from their plot to take over the world/replace the Pope with a pod copy/ build a secret bunker and hide all the important people in it before the meteors begin to hit/ etc. It has a “look — over there!” sort of vibe to it? I mean, I can see one woman feeling this way and not realizing how absurd her thinking is. But the paper thought she’d appeal to a number of people, right? Or maybe they just thought she’d make enough people mad. No news is good news. . .

  22. Malateste says:

    This editorial, however misguided, actually illustrates fairly well one unintended consequence of the ICEL’s new translation practices. If you’re going to embrace the notion of using language for rhetorical effect– rather than merely trying to convey meaning as transparently as possible– then you really have to be aware that the same words may not have the same effects on everyone. That’s dangerous, because it means (as in this case) that the emotions people hear, unpredictably, around your words can lead to their stubbornly mistaking the sense of the words themselves.

    I’m sure many good, educated, thoughtful Catholics have no problem connecting the repetition of “my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault” with the rational, reasonable concern that we all ought to have for the offenses we’ve committed against God and each other, and that should lead into repentance and asking for grace, etc., etc. But this essay shows that there’s a substantial contingent out there (possibly lukewarm, possibly not overly well-catechized) who hear the repetition and think, “mindless, zombie-like,” see the chest-blows and think, “violent, abusive, offputting,” hear the word “grievous” and think “huh, not even sure what it means, but in any case, sounds antiquated and medieval and hard to own.” Her randomly mentioning “inward filthiness,” to which Father objects so strongly, should be a telltale sign that this language is evoking some weird visceral associations with ideas of unhealthy self-loathing, self-flagellation (in the psychotic Hollywood characterization), etc., that have little or nothing to do with the actual doctrinal content of the passage.

    Thing is, those reactions and associations on the emotional level are no more or less legitimate than the emotional reactions of lots of traditionalists who instinctively think, “Ooh, fancy, reverent,” or “Cadence sounds unfamiliar, must be special and holy,” or “Latinate and Shakespeare-y, lovely!” By embracing the latter category of reaction, the ICEL has kind of inevitably saddled itself with the obligation to acknowledge and deal with the former, instead of merely dismissing it. In any case, the obligation on the parts of both sets of people should be not to rest contentedly in the sound or emotional associations of the words, but to try to think through them and own them on the level of logos, as well.

    The new translation actually represents a pretty awesome opportunity for catechesis (and I do hope they catechize the heck out of it!), but in any case, it does no good to ignore the fact that people do naturally have some of these associations, and that they may need to be helped to think around their emotional reactions to the language itself.

  23. teomatteo says:

    She wrote: “Might this not be seen as a form of psychological child abuse?”
    She really should not belittle true abuse of children. Her definition here of abuse is so thin that it really insults those children who live in households that are abusive.
    And, “he [the priest] was greeted with gales of laughter…” Along the author’s exaggerated thinking might this laughter be bullying? Was the congregation being ‘abusive’ to him?

  24. shane says:

    Oddly this same piece is on the ACP site — amd also listed as a guest contribution (I wonder did they lift it from the Tablet?): http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2011/07/a-reaction-to-the-new-texts-in-new-south-wales/

  25. John Nolan says:

    Complete unadulterated drivel. I suppose she was paid for writing this as a guest contributor. How anyone with a modicum of intelligence, let alone the knowledge of a pre-V2 eight-year-old Confirmation candidate, can take this seriously is beyond comprehension.

  26. Pachomius says:

    “Not wanting to go down a rabbit hole, but is there a good explanation of the gesture of striking one’s breast?”
    I think it’s just a very old expression of mourning. Of course, originally it would have been rather more violent than our ritualised and solemnised version. I think it goes with tearing your hair and clothes (see Mt 26:65, and probably other passages too.)

  27. Centristian says:

    “Yeah, I guess I didn’t quite understand the ‘gales of laughter’ point either. What did they find funny? I’m not asking that rhetorically. I really don’t get what they found funny.”

    I’m guessing that some present may have been older Catholics who remember the older form of the confiteor and who were bemused to learn that the old, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault,” (accompanied by the penitential gesture of the striking of the breast), so long vanished from the liturgy, is actually making a comeback, as it were. Younger Catholics who do not remember it might also be bemused, at first, so foreign is the wording and the gesture to what they’ve become used.

    Ms. Lately has interpreted the “gales of laughter” as mockery, in this particular setting, and it might seem to a traditionally-minded reader that it’s a matter of a bunch of “liberals” laughing scornfully at tradition. It might have been. I wasn’t there. But it also might not have been as sinister as that. The rest of the congregation may not have shared Ms. Lately’s scornful attitude, at all. It might have just taken older and younger Catholics, alike, off guard and they might have simply elicited a spontaneous bemusement, as I say, over it all. That doesn’t mean they were all mocking it, or that they won’t eventually warm to it once they become used to it. But I can see where the return of this “blast from the past” could legitimately amuse a worshipper, at first.

  28. digdigby says:

    “Do not be afraid to bend yourself down before God especially and also to the angels and saints our intercessors and patrons and be simply pious.  Man was made to be pious.  This is the essence of religion, without which we are empty shells: to give due reverence to God.”
    -Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

  29. Samthe44 says:

    I still do not get how she came up with this idea.

  30. irishgirl says:

    I was reading this while here at the library with my laptop, and my reaction was, ‘SAY WHAT?’
    You’re so right, Father Z-TABULA DELENDA EST! BINGO!
    This woman is ridiculous! Sounds more like the Pharisee in the parable!

  31. DFWShook says:

    I’m somewhat confused by her complaints about children striking the breast during the Confiteor in the NO. According to Order of the Mass © 2010, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. from the US Bishops’ website, striking the breast should already be done during the Confiteor. (http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal/order-of-mass.pdf)

  32. amenamen says:

    The gesture of striking the breast is an ancient one, mentioned in Scripture:

    Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”

  33. Charles E Flynn says:

    @Henry Edwards,

    I have been trying to think of a good title for what you have described as the “leading ultra-liberal blog devoted principally to opposition to the accurate new translation”. How about “What We Wish the Prayer Really Said”, with wwwtprs coffee cups and other merchandise for sale?

  34. flyfree432 says:

    [What was she smoking?]

    When a priest has to ask this you know something has gone terribly wrong. Hopefully the “Tablet” is writing themselves into obscurity.

  35. But when I sin, it is “my fault”. Who else’s fault would it be? “Corporate America’s fault”? “Obama’s fault”? “My horoscope’s fault”? “Society’s fault”? Or am I supposed to stand around blaming the monster under the bed?

    Criminently, it’s not like modern life is overly full of reality checks. Yes, dang it, it’s my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault. Leave me at least the dignity of being a sinning human, and don’t try to treat me like an innocently animal, oppressed bio-robot.

  36. Gabrielle says:

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
    Has she been taking the right tablets…?
    Of course not, she’s on the Tabula Sinistra, which as we know- DELENDA EST!
    Given the current state of the british media, I am also led to wonder how much Melanie might have been rewarded for her “contribution”.

  37. Frank H says:

    I wonder what she thinks about such gestures as bowing the head at Jesus’ name, and bowing profoundly during the Creed? Or, good heavens, genuflecting before entering the pew?!

  38. Centristian says:

    “I wonder what she thinks about such gestures as bowing the head at Jesus’ name, and bowing profoundly during the Creed? Or, good heavens, genuflecting before entering the pew?!”

    Or about such gestures as a bishop striking a confirmand on the cheek.

  39. pfreddys says:

    Fr. Z this was so downright stupid, I don’t think it was worthy of your attention let alone commentary.

  40. Pachomius says:

    DFWShook: I’m afraid there is a world outside the United States, sad as it may seem. OK, being serious: The Tablet is a British publication, and over here almost no-one strikes their breast during the Confiteor. I’m always very aware that my own doing it is fairly unusual, but I’ve done it enough that even if I wanted to stop I’d forget to.

    FrankH: Indeed, and just consider the psychological damage done by that slap given to newborn children!

  41. Brad says:

    Re RichR’s comment and the incredulity of our sins in general, if someone has a Magnificat reader handy, I think it was this past Thursday, there is a mention of something along the lines of “if you knew how bad and many your sins were, you would not have the courage to go on [without intervening graces]“.

    Mrs. Lately is totally deluded by the satan and she echoes his spine-chilling derisive laughter, literally. The souls who agree with her are not aware of their sins. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “[even] the venial ones were what destroyed me”.

  42. amenamen says:

    Gales of laughter?

    I wonder about this. It sounds so bizarre and abnormal. It does not ring true. Perhaps there is something missing from the story as the author tells it. Even if some people do not like the translation, I cannot see how it could possibly produce “gales” of laughter.

    Possibly there were only a few people, maybe only Melanie herself, who burst out in “gales” of uncontrolled laughter during the homily, to the annoyance of the otherwise silent congregation. Perhaps the other people in the pews were as puzzled as I am as to what she could be laughing about.

    Or possibly, the priest did something to provoke the laughter: his tone of voice, his facial expressions, his manner of striking his breast? Perhaps the priest himself made some mocking reference to Monty Python?

    It is interesting that the Confiteor would cause her to think of Monty Python rather than the tax collector in the Gospel of Saint Luke. The very idea of sin or repentance seems so distant and so repugnant to her that it invites mockery and derision. Admission of personal fault is only for “breast-beating illiterate peasants with cloth caps and mud-clotted boots.”

  43. brent says:

    Whoa…luckily for my wife and I, we had a good catechist when we were coming into the Church who taught us to strike the breast. We will continue to do so.

    amenamen,

    Regarding Luke 18, what’s at stake?

    “I tell you that this man (the one striking his breast), rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14)

  44. Mariana says:

    “breast-beating illiterate peasants with cloth caps and mud-clotted boots”

    I have never seen an illiterate peasant with his cloth cap on during the Confiteor.

    But, what utter rubbish!

  45. robtbrown says:

    Pachomius,

    Striking the breast is also not common in the US.

  46. pelerin says: When the Novus Ordo was introduced I am sure that in the leaflets given out at the time it retained the striking of the breast at the confiteor.

    When I was a kid — say, 7-8 years after the Novus Ordo was introduced — I remember that the missalettes contained an instruction to strike your breast. I also remember noticing that nobody did that. These days (at least where I live) the Confiteor is usually omitted altogether.

  47. MissOH says:

    When I was in the process of swimming the Tiber in the mid 1980′s I would notice some people, usually older men, striking their breast during the “penitential rite” . Once I was introduced to the text of the Novus Ordo in Latin, I understood why. Among other things, the writer of the article has no idea that Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa were never taken from the Confiteor. She also seems not to understand that raising up children to have a real understanding of sin and their need for continual conversion is a blessing and a benefit to them.

  48. Schiavona says:

    Centristian:

    It might have just taken older and younger Catholics, alike, off guard and they might have simply elicited a spontaneous bemusement, as I say, over it all. That doesn’t mean they were all mocking it, or that they won’t eventually warm to it once they become used to it.

    Thank you for this, it helps me bridge the cultural divide. The author of the article is obviously clueless, but it was too much to imagine an entire congregation sharing her attitude. She may not be aware that there are millions (mostly non-anglophone) who are “not in their right mind” according to her definition. The real tragedy here is that she may never have seen the gesture in her entire life and had no point of reference for it other than Monty Python.

  49. Cazienza says:

    As a kid growing up in the UK with the Novus Ordo, I remember the Misalettes having an instruction (not in red – I suppose black and red ink would have cost too much?): All strike their breast at the words, “..that I have sinned through my own fault.”

    No-one in my parish did so, that I could see. But then no-one bowed during the Creed either.

    It wasn’t until I saw a monk striking his breast during the Confiteor at Mass that I decided to start doing it myself.

  50. Athelstan says:

    No-one today in their right mind – unless perhaps they have just murdered someone – is going to harp on about “my fault, my fault, my own most grievous fault” while beating their breast, especially if they are reflecting on ordinary everyday thoughts or words that most Mass-goers might be expected to have.

    And yet close on a hundred generations of Catholics did just that – until the revolution of the 1960′s, which apparently transformed the Melanie Latelys of the Church into a bunch of cynical self-satisfied solipsists. The fact that much of her parish laughed at the new (more accurate) translation of the Confiteor says far more about them than the translation, and what it says is not pretty.

    I’m afraid you’re right, Fr. Z: This is one of the dumbest things I have read in a long, long time. Which is no mean feat.

  51. Sid says:

    I suppose Little Miss Melanie thinks The Bible is child abuse: Luke 18:13.

  52. Sid says:

    Sexual child abuse is the Reign of Terror that the Sexual Revolution brought about. And the biggest Sexual Revolutionaries were Liberals. Not that they willed child abuse, but they forgot Burke’s dictum: before we let people do as they like, we ought first to ask what they like to do.

  53. Sid says:

    Frankly, Miss Melanie’s article is so stupid that I’m left to wonder, If this is the best that Liberals can do, are we then on the verge of an Anti-Liberal triumph?

  54. Genna says:

    This is the English version I learned as a child:
    I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to you, brethren: that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints, and you, brethren, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
    Oh, the horror, oh, the abuse, telling all those people and publicly that I’d sinned and it was all my fault, my most grievous fault. And I still can’t get out of the habit of striking my breast three times, even at the NO. How’s that for psychological brainwashing.
    Obviously, I need counselling. I mean, it’s worse than going to Confession, which nobody sane does these days.

  55. bourgja says:

    Actually, the same form of reasoning is being applied to the Jewish tradition as well. Consider the recent proposal by the City of San Francisco to ban circumcision as a form of child mutilation!

  56. sirlouis says:

    In answer to a few comments: Our bishop (a good one) had a team that puts on a road show about the new translation conduct two or three conferences in our diocese to introduce lay Catholic “leaders” (I’m on the Diocesan Pastoral Council) to the translation in detail. One of the team mentioned that the symbolism of striking the breast is that one does it with the closed fist in imitation of a stone, that what one is doing symbolically is inflicting on oneself the punishment of stoning. It is a sign of acknowledging the awful gravity of offending God and being willing to accept the penalty deserved for so offending, even while asking that God in his mercy will not require that penalty. I have not researched this point so I really don’t know if that speaker was correct. But the idea makes sense to me, and I confess that striking the breast with just the ends of the fingers conveys no symbolism to me. Granted, striking the breast audibly might be something like proclaiming how righteous one is, and so be an instance of spiritual pride.

  57. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    “a…nd have children learn such words by heart and repeat them over and over for 12 years – there would be a public outcry.”

    “I pledge Allegiance, to the Flag…”

  58. jarthurcrank says:

    Sheesh! With her logic, we would prohibit The Children (won’t someone pleeeaase think of them?) from memorizing their “times tables” or the Gettysburg Address or the Highwayman or the I Have a Dream Speech. I can’t believe the Tablet printed such risible rubbish.

  59. Ezra says:

    How could she be anything else but a lay person?

    I don’t really understand this remark, Father.

  60. AM says:

    Since you don’t even have to say the Confiteor in the N.O. anway, what’s all the fuss about? At my parish we says it maybe once every six weeks at most.

  61. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Ezra, all Catholic women are lay people by definition and can’t be anything else.

  62. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I say we all troop over to her parish in our muddy boots and show her how it is done, messing up the floor too, which is probably very very clean, the expression whited sepulchres coming to mind. Oh, I’m sorry, I am in a bad mood. I will go soak my head now.

  63. digdigby says:

    Genna-
    That’s the version I learned from watching Gone With The Wind where Scarlett in midst of the family prayers says what she’s thinking aloud “I never told Ashley I loved him!”

  64. Stephen D says:

    I haven’t read all the posts so apologies if someone has pointed this out but pre VatII we used to beat our breasts 3 times on the words, ‘through my fault…’. I did so from my earliest years until I was a teenager. Melanie might be interested to know that I came through the experience totally unscathed and look forward to repeating this sign of repentance.

  65. boko fittleworth says:

    Melanie Lately? Sounds like a Bond girl.

  66. Dr. Eric says:

    So as to not commit a sin, I am refraining from commenting on this article. But I will state:

    Tabula delinda est.

  67. Bill Foley says:

    from Bill Foley

    It seems obvious that Melanie Lately has not read the lives of the great saints of the Catholic Church. They all had a profound realization of their nothingsness, sinfulness, and complete lack of worthiness before God when they reached the state of mystical marriage with the All-Holy Triune God.

  68. Joan A. says:

    Somehow I suspect “gales of laughter” might be what’s called “journalistic license” on the writer’s part, probably approximating to 3 giggles.

    Also, I doubt the congregation were laughing at the MEANING of the words, which anyone with sensitivity would find only too beautiful to say as a penance. Rather I imagine there was some unexpected amusement and surprise at the sudden moment of recognition of, “HEY! This is the way we did it in the old days! Here we are again. Oh my gosh!”

  69. Joan A. says:

    jarthurcrank – I hate to be the one to tell you, but children no longer memorize times tables, the Gettysburg Address or the Highwayman. Nor do they memorize the I Have a Dream Speech but they do have to listen to it being read.

  70. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    OK, this is just one of those moments where I just went “What the ….” This is just asinine.

  71. Random Friar says:

    The only striking I did with my hand upon reading this was a facepalm.

  72. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Brilliant, Random Friar.

    As for me, so long as the Tablet continues to find an even more obtuse class of idiot, I will continue to drag out this old chestnut:

    [W]hat you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  73. amenamen says:

    Random Friar
    The body language of the “facepalm” is clear and unmistakable.
    In the ordinary use, the face gently droops into one palm, fingers open. Two palms are used on more solemn occasions. When reading such an article as this one, the extraordinary use of the facepalm should be executed with the right palm, opened flat, and struck quickly upon the forehead. Three times.

  74. I came across the article on the website of the (Irish) Association of Catholic Priests but didn’t know it was from The Tablet. [http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2011/07/a-reaction-to-the-new-texts-in-new-south-wales/ . The ACP represents about ten percent of Irish priests. Here is the comment I posted there:

    "Barbie, I suggest you look up Matthew 8:8. [Barbie didn't understand 'under my roof' - or 'hosts' in the Sanctus].

    “I think too that most people know that the Gettysburg Address is not the house where Lincoln lived. [And Lincoln didn't use 'street language' in his speech.] Most people know the difference between a match in Croke Park, a match you use to light a candle and a match between a man and woman planning to marry. Context. [In Ireland we usually say 'match' rather than 'game'.]

    “When my father brought me to Mass in Latin when I was a kid I was formed by his faith and that of the other worshipping adults in the crowded church. I didn’t feel alienated but part of a living community of faith.

    “I didn’t feel abused by ‘through my fault, etc.’ I know many children here in the Philippines who have been abused and Melanie Lately’s suggestion that the Confiteor is abuse trivialises what they and many others have been through. And not all children are sinless. Recently a 13-year-old boy in Belfast was charged with raping a 5-year-old boy. A letter from France in today’s [July 6] Irish Times tells of a 14-year-old boy there punching a 13-year-old girl to death last week with his bare hands. I know these are extreme cases but I don’t recall myself or any of my contemporaries as being angels when we were children. but we knew what was right and wrong.

    “Our liturgy is meant to be the highest expression of faith of an adult community into which children grow, not that of a community of children. The language we use in addressing God should reflect that.

    “Here is a different response from Australia to the introduction of the new English translation there: http://cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=26893 .”

    Yesterday, the feast of St Maria Goretti, I celebrated Mass in a home for girls where most have been abused. They know what abuse is, unlike Melanie Lately. And they sometimes remind me that it’s time to hear their confessions again.

  75. JimP says:

    It appears that for many contributors and readers of the Bitter Pill , and the Fishwrap, any action or statement by a cleric that goes against the author’s personal judgement provokes a reference to the sexual abuse of children, never mind that it is a non sequitur.
    At least the pastor of Ms. Lately’s parish apparently sometimes uses the Confiteor. In the year that I have been in my current parish (Diocese of Orange), I have never heard the Confiteor in Mass. Instead, form C of the penitential rite is, I think, always used. After all, that doesn’t really require me to consider that I am a sinner; the “contrite of heart” are probably those other people who have done bad things, not me. We certainly don’t want to confess that we have sinned exceedingly in though, word and deed, or identify ourselves as “miserable offenders” or “acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness”. Unless, of course, as even Ms. Lately acknowledges, we have murdered someone in deed. We probably should get a pass for murder in thought or word. After all, it probably wasn’t really our fault.
    I think that many of the contributors to (and readers of) these rags want all clerics to become “modernists” as explained in this clip from Yes, Prime Minister. Then we could return to the time of the Judges, when every one did that which seemed right to himself.

  76. JimP says:

    Sorry, the link doesn’t work. I wanted to link to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBtDIVfhh8k&feature=related

  77. Warmiaczka says:

    In Poland beating of one’s breast is also practised during “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi…”, (not a tiniest gale of laughter, I’m sure I would have noticed). I suppose many western countries also dropped that?
    I don’t understand why the new translation(and bringing back some of good old customs), which is supposed to be more faithful to original latin text is being criticized by so many. My guess is that it’s the result of wrong thinking that human is equal to God, so there is no need to kneel, acknowledge that we are not perfect, or show reverence. “It’s people who matter, not God, so let’s arrange everything to make people feel good”. All other explainations are just made-up excuses – sometimes as dumb as in the text commented above. If people come to the Mass and, seeing the word “breast”, immediately think of sex, something is really wrong with their minds.
    Somehow Fulton Sheen’s words came to my mind: ” now everyone believes he is the immaculately conceived”.
    Random Friar and amenamen – well said.

  78. pelerin says:

    Regarding Genna’s memory of the Confiteor in the first English translation, surely ‘and to you brethren’ would have been said by the Priest? I remember that for us layfolk we said ‘and to you Father’. The new very much shortened Confiteor must have come in about 1975. I remember being in hospital for several weeks towards the end of that year and the visiting Priest kindly suggested I use the ‘old’ version before receiving Communion as I had not had the time to get used to the new version. I don’t remember ever being told why it was shortened.

  79. Peter in Canberra says:

    Australia is mission land, sadly.

  80. This article just made me feel profoundly sad and somewhat embarrassed for the author. And for her parish: “When he read out the words of the Confiteor, with the changes in bold, he was greeted with gales of laughter and even he had to smile.”

  81. Warmiaczka, it is not uncommon to beat one’s chest also at the Agnus Dei in some areas at least.

  82. Joan A, thanks for that interpretation of the gales of laughter. I hope that it’s true and that it wasn’t a laughter of derision or ridicule. And/or ‘journalistic license’.

  83. andrewnhan says:

    English is one of those translations that have gone away from striking the breast. I’ve seen Spanish and Vietnamese masses include this. Can’t wait ’til the new English translation broadens the use instead of the lame duck translation minimizing the use.

  84. robtbrown says:

    The Lately comments confirm what I have thought for some time: Scratch the veneer away from a liberal, and you’ll see a poor soul battling against his own scrupulosity.

  85. AnAmericanMother says:

    Joan A,
    Given that “Melanie Lately” appears nowhere else in a “whois” search (other than multiple posts of this article, mostly expressing disbelief, derision, or fear for the state of the church in NZ), the low standards that pass for journalism these days, and that I find it highly unlikely that a church full even of the most hardened and doctrinaire liturgical “liberals” would break out into “gales of laughter” at the Confiteor, it’s my conclusion that everything about this article is “journalistic license,” including the author’s name. It sounds too much like “Holly Golightly”.

  86. Corinne says:

    I don’t know about the 3 strikes being a form of abuse or the triple fault acclamation being laughable but I can see it as being a source of narcissim in ones own self-serving melodrama. “Oh look how bad I am. I’m not worthy!. Oh poor me.” Sin after all does mean, “missing the mark”, repentance means “a change of mind.” That’s it. No need to dramatize. Just hit the mark and change your mind.

  87. notadesperatehousewife says:

    At at Chesterton Academy book sale, I picked up a book on “The Ordinary of the Mass”, printed in 1906. It gives beautiful accounts on where, in scripture, things said during the mass originated from. Since reading it, the “Mea Culpa” is now my favorite prayer. It is derived from (I believe) the book of Luke. Following Christ dying on the cross, his disciples were so grief stricken, they began to beat their chests, while sobbing. Before, I always say people of the Bible as these strong, heroic patriarchs. Now when I say the Mea Culpa, I picture a group of everyday people (not much different than ourselves) who so loved their most high Priest and friend, Jesus, they, as humans, broke down in mourning. So breathtaking!

  88. eulogos says:

    I don’t believe it is the striking the breast which she considers to be “child abuse” but the damage to their “self esteem.” The usual approach now is “You can’t love others unless you love yourself.” Dick and Jane “need to make better choices.” But you can’t tell them they are bad boys and girls. And almost every sermon one hears in certain places is about how God loves us even though we are “imperfect people” We have faults. We make mistakes. But don’t call us sinners.
    I can well imagine that an audience raised that way would laugh in embarrassment at hearing the real words of the confiteor.
    I hope saying them will eventually penetrate the understanding and the will.
    Susan Peterson

  89. jaykay says:

    One needs a strong stomach to visit that publication. In the “letters extra” part of the blog I found the following, by a priest:

    “As a parish priest in my sixty-fourth year of priesthood I am deeply concerned about the new translation of that very adult prayer, the Confiteor. The children who come to my church are not people who have “greatly sinned”, through their most grievous fault”. To tell them they have, would be to led young lambs not into “pastures green” but into the sad swamps of “Catholic guilt”.

    Fr Brian Coogan MHM, Isle of Wight”

    I can think of a few sad swamps where Fr. Coogan himself is currently wandering – one of them being ignorance of basic teaching which a person of his age should have imbibed “back in the day”. Perhaps another sad swamp is arrogance – the parallel magisterium mentality. And I wonder how children nowadays are different to those of us who, up to the end of 1969, recited “… that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and in deed, through my fault, through my own fault, through my own most grievous fault”. Is it that modern kids have attained angelic purity? Ummm… don’t think so.

  90. JP Borberg says:

    The article at the Pill seems to have been removed. At least, the link here now directs to a blank page.

  91. AnAmericanMother says:

    And an on-site search of the author’s name returns zero results.

    Tabula delenda est – one article at a time.