A bishop witnesses priest’s strange Mass and doubts about going to him for confession. Subtitle: You are not alone.

Here is something that should put some heart into readers who are feeling down about continued liberal and dissenting dominance in many places.

Here is something from a blog of a Catholic bishop, His Excellency Most. Rev. Christopher Coyne, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  He was just consecrated bishop this year.

Here are a few excerpts, but there is a lot of great material over there.  We come into the story while the bishop is having a bit of a vacation….  My emphases and comments.

Why I Didn’t Go to Confession Today.

This morning I attended Mass rather than concelebrated Mass.  Earlier in the week I was unable to find a Saturday morning Mass anywhere in the area so I was pretty much going to have to miss Mass today.  But late last night on the internet I found a church abut a half an hour away that had an 8:00 AM Mass.  This was doubly good for me because I wanted to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation if the priest had time after Mass since it and been a few weeks since my last confession.  But it was a little late to make any arrangement for concelebration.

I left around 7:15 AM and got there in plenty of time to spend some time preparing for Mass and, hopefully, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When Mass began, the priest, a guy about my age, came out and said, “Hello,” and then proceeded with the Mass. The only problem was he had forgotten the Sign of the Cross. Well, maybe he was just a little distracted. I think we did the penetential rite but I’m not sure. There was no “Gloria” so I was beginning to think we weren’t going to be celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration since it hadn’t been mentioned yet but eventually we got there when he “prayed” a spontaneous opening prayer that did mention the Transfiguration.  [I am sure this worthy fellow while a simply priest knew about these happenings.  It is good, perhaps, to see them with episcopal eyes, too.]

Things kind of went downhill from there.  I’ll spare you the details. [...]

As “Mass” progressed I was both disappointed and annoyed.  I wasn’t angry.  I learned the trick long ago of moving into emotional “cruise control” when this stuff starts to happen.  [...]  [That would be a good tool to develop.]

[Here is an important bit... and I am sure you have sympathy.] I do know one thing.  I certainly wasn’t going to ask him to hear my Confession.  If he changed the words of the Institution Narrative, there’s no telling what he might do with the words of Absolution. I suppose I  could have asked him before we began the sacrament if he would be so kind as to use the Church’s rite and not his own but then that opens a whole can of worms. So I didn’t go to Confession. I’ll try and make an appointment with a priest and go Monday.  But isn’t it a shame that I couldn’t go to Confession?

Every time people ask my why some in the Church have a desire for the “extraordinary rite,” the traditional Latin Mass, I guess I can give them at least one good reason.  Masses like this.  When one attends the Mass according to the Tridentine Rite, you know what you are going to get. There is no one being ‘creative,’ no one making up their own prayers or rite, and no question of validity.  I am a child of Vatican II.  From the time I was old enough to understand what was happening at Mass, it has been the Mass of Pope Paul VI.  I have been formed in it.  I have studied it.  I love it.  Outof it, I have been ordained a deacon, a priest, and a bishop to celebrate it for the people of God.  I have no desire to celebrate the Tridentine Rite but any time I hear people criticize those who want the “traditional” Mass, I am more inclined to understand why they want this form of the Mass.  Perhaps if each priest were committed to the correct celebration of the present Mass of Paul VI – the Church’s rites and not the rite of Fr. X – then maybe there would be less clamor for the “traditional” rite.  Just a thought.   [While there are differences in the two forms which are themselves a basis for preferences, aside from the ars celebrandi, he has a good point.  No?]

First, WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Coyne for writing about this.  For writing at all!  Good for him!

Second, how many times have I talked about how priests who screw around with rites of sacraments, especially the form of sacraments, sew sow doubts in people’s minds and leave them unsettled, if not downright fearful.    If this sort of thing can happen in the mind of a bishop, how much more understandable is it that it would happen among the faithful when a priest fools around with the words of baptism or consecration during Mass?

Priests and bishops should … you all know the chorus….

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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69 Responses to A bishop witnesses priest’s strange Mass and doubts about going to him for confession. Subtitle: You are not alone.

  1. Central Valley says:

    I read this yesterday on the bishops blog and commented. Here in Kalifornia I have witnessed such abuses in Fresno, Lost Angeles and San Bernardino. The bishop clearly now sees the frustration of the layman in the pew. He sees the rejection of direct orders from Rome. The question is why don’t the bishops take corrective action???

    [I want to add a note of caution, and not directed just to you. Remember that a) this is a brand-spakin'-new bishop and he is an b) auxiliary bishop. That means that he has spent most of his days as a priest so far and other than the fancy suit he can wear, he has in some respects less authority than a pastor of a parish, unless his Ordinary of the place gives him a role such as Vicar General. Also, there is an old priestly cultural reticence - at least among solid priests of a certain old school - which makes them cautious about telling another priest how to say Mass. Abuses are one thing, but we are careful when addressing them. So... the bottom line is, cut the guy a little slack... at least for now.]

  2. Gregory DiPippo says:

    “Perhaps if each priest were committed to the correct celebration of the present Mass of Paul VI – the Church’s rites and not the rite of Fr. X – then maybe there would be less clamor for the “traditional” rite.”

    The present Mass of Paul VI grants the priest, to a degree without precedent in the history of the Church, an enormous amount of space in which to LICITLY improvise and make the liturgy into “the rite of Fr. X”. Am I just being a jerk if I suggest that such permission to free-style parts of the liturgy makes free-styling the rest of it more or less inevitable? [No. I think you are on track. But I would not say "inevitable", since I know priests who don't.] Given that free-styling is now so much a part of the Catholic Church’s liturgical life, maybe the traditional rite affords us the best opportunity to discover WHY free-styling hasn’t work out quite so well as the creators of the present Missal of Paul VI imagined it would.

  3. jbas says:

    The most recent John Jay report the US bishops commissioned suggested some sort of regular evaluation of priest performance. I’m not sure exactly what they meant, and they probably weren’t thinking of liturgical matters at all, but maybe it would be good for someone appointed by the bishop to attend a Mass offered by each of his priests on an unannounced, annual basis. Although, speaking as a priest, I would not be excited about that!

  4. TNCath says:

    Thank you, Bishop Coyne, and thank you Fr. Z. for this post.

    Bishop Coyne is seeing what many (most?) of us experience on pretty much a regular basis.

  5. smad0142 says:

    One thing seems really odd out of all of this. Why would he ever have to miss Mass, considering he is a Bishop and everything? I understand that in certain places and at certain times, like during Communist regimes or in extremely impoverished areas, there might not always be everything necessary to say Mass. But I don’t see how any Bishop in America would ever have that problem. [A bishops is not Superman.]

  6. Geoffrey says:

    “Perhaps if each priest were committed to the correct celebration of the present Mass of Paul VI – the Church’s rites and not the rite of Fr. X – then maybe there would be less clamor for the ‘traditional’ rite. Just a thought.”

    Add some Latin, incense, and chant and I would be a very “happy camper”! Now, how do we make that happen?

  7. Glen M says:

    The Lord is sending us a new generation of bishops who will make the necessary corrections. We laity need to support our clergy while insisting we all follow the instruction of God’s Church. The liturgy is not anyone’s personal toy or experiment. Those who tinker with the Mass may also be taking liberties with other laws.

  8. “I have no desire to celebrate the Tridentine Rite…”

    This comment detracts from the otherwise good commentary offered by Bishop Coyne, and it doesn’t sit well with me in the least.

    I’m not naive, I know he’s not the only priest who feels this way, but keep it to yourself for crying out loud. I think it’s bad form (and very poor judgment) for any priest, but especially a bishop, to say such a thing publicly.

    As for the sentiment itself? I have difficulty believing that any priest who feels this way has been properly formed in the liturgy. I’m a layman, so maybe I just don’t get it, but it seems to me that any priest who respects and honors the ancient rite as much as he (and any Catholic) should, would necessarily desire to celebrate it. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this, Fr. Z.

    This doesn’t speak well for

  9. RichR says:

    I also don’t understand how a bishop would have to run around looking for a Mass. Can’t he just offer Mass?

    @Louie: some priests and bishops do not feel any vacuum in their spiritual lives that calls out to offer the EF Mass. The work involved in learning the rubrics, Latin, and so on…may be more work than they may think it is worth. While they may respect it from the outside, they feel quite at home in the OF. So, I can completely understand his point.

    If an FSSP priest publicly stated that he had no desire to offer the OF Mass, would you be equally scandalized?

  10. UncleBlobb says:

    jbas: I have for years fantasized about having that job! And this sounds like a job for the (in loud echo voice) the Temple Police!!!

  11. Former Altar Boy says:

    I got the impression that this the bishop was attending Mass outside his own diocese, but I have often wondered why bishops — who are the shepherds of all the priests in their see — don’t drop by, incognito, and observe an entire Sunday Mass by every priest in their care. Do they assume that ordination (how many years ago?) automatically means the priest is saying the Mass correctly? Do they assume the sermon (gag, homily) is in sync with the teaching of the Church? As the priests’ spiritual father, does he offer correction where necessary? Sadly, I’m not optimistic. And one final thought, what are bishops doing on Sunday that’s more important?

  12. pm125 says:

    This comment is to address the value of sharing experiences. The subtitle says it.
    Also, I love the way he described his approach – “moving into emotional cruise control”.
    With all that we find frustrating or wrong in life, it’s a good way to stay rational and productive. Anger confounds things and wastes energy. Thank you for a phrase to describe a state of being that others, or even ourselves, might misinterpret as uncaring or cold.

  13. If an FSSP priest publicly stated that he had no desire to offer the OF Mass, would you be equally scandalized?

    Hi Rich,

    A fair question, you ask. Right or wrong, no, I would not. Setting aside as best I can any personal bias, a lack of desire for celebrating the OF (as a sentiment) is compatible with the FSSP’s charism – the celebration of the traditional rite. To go a little further, it also strikes me as compatible with good liturgical formation.

    That said, I don’t think it would serve any good purpose for an FSSP priest to make a public statement to that effect; i.e. this too would strike me as poor judgment.

  14. Kerry says:

    My wife and I went not to our usual church, but another here in St. Paul, MN. While the interior was stunning, the Assumption painting in the dome beautiful, the Credo was omitted. Whiskey, Tango,….

  15. amenamen says:

    This sounds like an article written by a devout layman, rather than by a bishop.

    I am not really sure why a bishop would not be able to say Mass at any time he wants. Did he go on a trip without making plans to say Mass? Did he not take vestments or a Mass kit with him?

    It might be slightly bad manners for a bishop to show up at a parish unannounced. But he did show up, and he says he was in the church for about fifteen minutes before Mass started. Why not go to the sacristy and explain his situation to the priest? I would think that most priests would quickly and happily let the bishop concelebrate, or more likely, allow the bishop to be the main celebrant. For the people who attend Mass on a Saturday morning, this would have been an unexpected and welcome surprise, to have a visiting bishop say Mass for them.

    Also, it seems that the bishop must have been dressed in non-clerical garb, sitting in the pews like a layman. This seems peculiar for many reasons.

    The bishop, even outside of his own diocese, is still a bishop. Would he not have the right and the duty to speak to the priest (and to the local bishop) about the improper celebration of the Mass?

  16. St. Rafael says:

    I am a child of Vatican II

    That is the most chilling statement that sends a shiver up my spine. I was born in the 80′s. My generation wants nothing to do with Vatican II. I am definitely not a child of Vatican II. We basically ignore Vatican II. We were born and have lived through the crisis and apostasy that resulted after Vatican II with errors coming from the ambiguous documents. Vatican II was the opportunity used for the triumph of Modernism.

    The prelates of that generation have an emotional attachment that is blinding to the point of disturbing. Sr. Lucia called it diabolical disorientation. I want to see the children of Vatican II exorcised.

  17. I am sorry the bishop has no desire to celebrate the Mass of tradition. I receive more insights about the Faith from one Mass in the Extraordinary Form than I got out of 12 years of Catholic school. How much more of an impact it must have on priests who learn it and offer it.

    But I hope that his view of the nut stuff prevalent out there solidifies his resolve to correct the same in his own diocese.

  18. Gail F says:

    amenamen: I don’t see what is the matter with a bishop going to mass and not concelebrating or taking over someone else’s mass. There is no canon law that says a bishop must celebrate mass publicly everywhere he goes — and aren’t bishops, outside their own dioceses, subject to the same rules as other priests? Priests can’t just celebrate mass publicly any time they want, they need permission from their bishop or the local bishop. And there is no reason he can’t wear street clothes while on vacation.

    Frankly, I’m glad he got a chance to see what the rest of us deal with! I know several priests who do this when they travel and they learn a lot by seeing things from the pews. Good for Bishop Coyne!

  19. antanas says:

    Fr Z:
    I really don’t understand what the bishop says about “Ecclesia supplet”.

    ” There is a theological practice of the Church called “Ecclesia supplet” (“the Church provides”) where if a priest inadvertently forgets some of the words of the ritual form or changes them, the “Church” recognizes the good faith of those gathered and their right to valid celebration of the sacraments and provides sacramental validity in the case of a human error or priestly malpractice. This is done for the sake of the people of God and not as an excuse for the sloppy or ‘creative’ celebration of the priest or bishop. Even though the priest went way over the the line in terms of his ‘creativity’ this morning, I think the intention of those us who came to Mass was to celebrate the Eucharist as the Church intends and so it was”.

    The “intention of those who came to Mass”? What is he talking about?

  20. Charivari Rob says:

    Former Altar Boy – “I got the impression that this the bishop was attending Mass outside his own diocese”

    I got the same impression.

    “I have often wondered why bishops — who are the shepherds of all the priests in their see — don’t drop by, incognito, and observe an entire Sunday Mass by every priest in their care.”

    Because it’s not very possible.

    For one thing, I think most priests would recognize their bishop (even in civvies). Besides, word of such a program would quickly leak out. It would generate ill will. So, too, might the “temple police secret observer division”.

    For another – (I had this discussion more than once during the height of abuse crisis revelations and reconfiguration around here…) – When you stop to think about it, in a diocese of any size, with all the things to occupy a bishop’s attention (all the groups, parishes, schools, reports, funds, confirmations, etc…) and the finite time available to him – there are precious few to which he can afford to devote more than an hour a year.

    I think being a good example, being visible, accessible, and present is a good approach. I do like the general approach Bishop Smith took when he was first assigned to Trenton several years ago. If I recall correctly, in addition to publicizing his public events schedule (nothing unusual there), he made a point of making the rounds of his parishes over the first two or three years – visiting each for a day or two, saying Mass, keeping “office hours” there.

  21. Will D. says:

    I was born in the 1970′s and I am a “child of Vatican II,” like Bp. Coyne. I am entirely of his mind when he discusses the EF. I understand why people want it and why priests feel called to celebrate it. I’ve studied Latin since high school, so the language poses no particular barrier to me. But a sensible, orthodox, OF Mass is all I desire to attend, and one day, God willing, perhaps to celebrate. It is a crying shame that so many priests (and choir directors, “liturgists,’ etc.) feel the need to put their own stamp on the Mass rather than to stay within the rubrics and let the Mass speak for itself.

  22. DavidJ says:

    Kerry,
    was there a renewal of Baptismal promises? I believe that can be done in place of the Credo in some circumstances.

    DavidJ

  23. Will D. says:

    Oh, and as for Bp. Coyne not celebrating Mass: since he stated his desire to go to Confession, perhaps his conscience wouldn’t allow him to celebrate the Mass. Whether he desired to celebrate the Mass or not, and the reasons therefore, are certainly none of our business.

  24. Alice says:

    “I was born in the 80?s. My generation wants nothing to do with Vatican II.”

    Speak for yourself, St. Rafael.

  25. jlmorrell says:

    St. Rafael,

    I was born in the 1980′s and share your sentiments exactly. I cannot think of one serious and committed Catholic I know around my age that pays much attention to Vatican II. I will grant that there are relatively few young committed Catholics these days, but such is the state of the Church.

    I long for the day when Vatican II is seen for what it was – a valid ecumenical council that dealt with mainly pastoral issues and promulgated ambiguous documents that were used by modernists to hijack the Church.

    The aging hippies can have the altar girls, EMHC’s, communion in the hand, blue jean priests, “On Eagles Wings” and the ad lib masses.

    As for us young Catholics, give us the Traditional Latin Mass, give us the ancient Catholic faith. That’s all the few of us that are left really want.

  26. The Tridentine Mass actually aided to my conversion to Catholicism. When I do attend a OF Mass I still find all the licit options troubling. For instance why do we need so many options which are left to the priest’s (or worse yet liturgical committee) personal preference and have nothing to do with a particular feast day, etc? Even when I regularly attended an OF the same priest (who was orthodox) used different options which required different response from the congregation all the time. It is sort of like Russian Roulette- you never knew what was coming next at certain points in the Mass. I really don’t see the point of all the different options.

    Not genuflecting during the Credo except for Easter also seems odd since we do it all the time in the EF . Why only on Easter in the OF? I can’t think of any good reason historical or theological. At least not any that are remotely Catholic (Latin spirituality). The recitation of the Kyrie Eleison only twice is very odd to say the least also. The translation of the Confiteor is atrocious. From my personal experience the OF is a mutilated form of the EF which was poorly translated into English by someone who had the reading comprehension level of a 5 year old and never fully recovered from the trauma of politically correct summer camp education. No intent to disparage summer camps here.

    From what I hear the new translation will fix a bit of that thankfully. At least the language will more fully express the love of God than some one who thought the Mass and liturgy should mirror Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. I never understood why such banal unevocative language was so consistently used to express something so celestial and transcendant as the majesty and love of God. I still think the word gibbet should have made it and wish that a number of bishops didn’t think we are too stupid to learn it or understand it. The older missals had better unofficial translations. Anyways….

    And no more Protestant music during Mass! Its not like we have a scarcity of good or suitable music in our own tradition that we need to borrow something from another which split from us centuries ago and has highly divergent doctrinal concepts which are frequently integral in the lyrics. Yes Amazing Grace sounds wonderful but is horrible theology and has no place in a Catholic setting.

    Rant aside yes I agree with the good bishop that defintly his points do have a certain validity though I do wonder how familiar he actually is with the EF.

  27. kat says:

    I too am confused about the statement of “missing Mass” that day, said by a bishop, although Will D’s comment makes good sense too.
    As far as a priest not being permitted to publicly say a Mass without permission, well maybe that’s the case, I don’t know the rules. But…is it not permitted to say private Masses anymore? Our priests say the TLM, and I always find it a special treat when we’ve got daily Mass going on at the main altar, and one or two Masses going on privately at the side altars (with a server, of course)!

    And while I also know priests are not required to celebrate Mass every day, I also remember a school student asking her priest- teacher that question, and his response of: “No, priests are not required to say Mass every day, but who would not WANT to??”

    Priests are ordained specifically to celebrate Mass, give the Sacraments, and sanctify souls. All the other jobs that go with it are secondary.

  28. kat says:

    Oh yea, I did want to say that it is refreshing to see a bishop write this; I hope he takes the experience and something positive comes from it wherever he can make a difference.

  29. Joan M says:

    One reason that I believe so many priests “get away with” improvising in the Mass, and continue to do so, is that the only way the Bishop will know who does what is if it is reported to him. If the Bishop tries to visit a parish incognito, unless he resorts to disguising his appearance, he is very likely to be recognized by the priest and numerous congregants. If he appoints someone to be “a secret shopper” on his behalf, well, that will eventually become known, too.

    As I see it, the only way to change the abuses imposed on us by some priests is to become a part of the Temple Police! This takes courage, and, even if you are successful in achieving a change for the better with one abuse, the stress involved can make you cowardly with regard to continuing.

    When I spoke with a priest (in an inquiring manner) as to one of the EMHC’s being permitted to self-communicate from the chalice his immediate reaction was “Oh! A detail.” That silenced me immediately, since it was obvious that his view of the details was totally opposite to mine. Of course, later I thought of a couple of things I could have used to respond to him. Oh, well. the practice finally ended long after I had sent a letter to the Bishop about the practice and never received even an acknowledgement for the letter.

    We just have to suffer with the Lord in this, offering up our sufferings in petition for more and more faithful priests.

  30. David2 says:

    I was born in the 1970s and converted from protestantism in the 1990′s.

    I find it difficult to understand the attachment that so many oldies feel for Vatican II, and, whilst it’s a valid Ecumentical Council of the Church, I struggle to name any positive fruits that it has borne.

    I can respect the documents of Vatican II as the product of a valid Ecumenical Council, but really, why this extraordinary emotional attachment to this Council? What good did it do? Name the positive fruits. Puppet Masses, pants suits for nuns, koran-kissing and liturgical dancers?

    Where I live, the vast majority of committed young Catholics attend the Extraordinary Form.

  31. dcs says:

    I agree with antanas above that His Excellency seems to be mistaken about “ecclesia supplet.” The Church does not supply validity where validity is lacking; if the priest accidentally or deliberately mangles the Words of Institution beyond recognition, then the Sacrament is not valid, at least not in the Latin Rite. “Ecclesia supplet” means that the Church supplies jurisdiction (e.g., for the Sacrament of Penance) in certain circumstances where it is lacking.

    I am sure that Bp. Coyne’s intentions are good — he probably wants to avoid a crisis of conscience among his flock.

  32. dcs says:

    If an FSSP priest publicly stated that he had no desire to offer the OF Mass, would you be equally scandalized?

    No, because part of the FSSP’s mission is to form and sanctify priests in the traditional liturgy of the Roman Rite. In addition, a priest who has no desire to celebrate the NOM isn’t rejecting 1500 years of liturgical tradition.

  33. Scott W. says:

    If an FSSP priest publicly stated that he had no desire to offer the OF Mass, would you be equally scandalized?

    No, because part of the FSSP’s mission is to form and sanctify priests in the traditional liturgy of the Roman Rite. In addition, a priest who has no desire to celebrate the NOM isn’t rejecting 1500 years of liturgical tradition.

    I think what Rich was getting at is: VII bishop says he has no desire to celebrate EF = a few poignant objections from the more traditional quarters, but otherwise crickets chirping. However, FSSP priest saying he has no desire to celebrate the NO = NCR wetting itself in a hissy fit, portending immediate collapse of the Church if the EF becomes more widespread and gee, with that evil new translation on the way, where are the more broad-minded Catholics suppose to go?

  34. josephx23 says:

    Not so, St. Rafael, not so. I was born in the 80′s, but I’m not interested in a hermeneutic of rupture whether it comes from a self-appointed magisterium on the left or on the right.

  35. SuzyQ says:

    I’m glad the good bishop had the opportunity to encounter first hand some of the ‘goofiness’ that some folks have to put up with on a regular basis.
    I was at a parish festival yesterday for dinner. While I was there, a band of probably 10 young people (ages 10-18) was playing a set of songs. They were really good, btw. Anyway, they played a reggae version of Psalm 119. They did a good job with it and I really enjoyed it. But it was what happened after that sent chills down my spine. The pastor thanked the kids and told them what a good job they did. He went on to say that these kids are the future of music in the church (drums and electric guitar and all). He promised they’d be in the choir loft and he’d be sure they played that song for the bishop the next time he comes. Umm. Yeah. That arrangement of the song is great for a parish picnic or a praise and worship type gathering. But. Not. During. Mass. And it almost seemed like the pastor was planning to do this to annoy the bishop. The bishop of this diocese celebrates the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, set up an Extraordinary Form Mass Community at the Cathedral and has made sure the Extraordinary Form is available in all areas of the diocese. In other words, goofiness in the Mass isn’t going to excite him.
    I went to Bishop Coyne’s blog and read his whole post. It sounds like he spoke with the priest after Mass though he didn’t detail the conversation. I would hope that if the priest from yesterday does have the reggae version of the psalm played and sung when the bishop next visits that the bishop will say something to him. I doubt it would do much good, knowing the priest, but I still hope the bishop would say it anyway. If the priest is willing to do something he knows will annoy the bishop, then a bit of fraternal correction is likely to fall on deaf ears. The bishop seems to be trying clean up the mess in his diocese but it’s a slow process. I’m sad to see this sort of thing still going on but using the bull in a china shop approach isn’t always the best solution either. The mess didn’t happen overnight and it certainly isn’t gonna get fixed overnight either.

  36. Stephen D says:

    Even Macdonalds have ways to ensure that every customer gets the authentic product. Why cannot the Church of God (whose mission is somewhat more important) ensure that priests offer the sacraments in an authentic fashion. I was a teenager when the NO Mass was introduced and everything seems to have gone downhill since then. At the very least you knew that the Real Presence was being fully acknowledged and celebrated in the EF Mass, the current lack of emphasis has resulted in a loss of belief by most Catholics (80% per a recent survey) and presumably many priests. The Church is clearly in a dreadful state and something dramatic has to be done to get us ‘back on track’. We could start by telling the clergy to renew their vow of obedience to their Bishop and the Bishops to the Pope and remind them that this is not a formality and that their souls hang on the sincerity of such a renewal. Invite, no beg, those who cannot renew their vow in good conscience, to leave the priesthood. Once done, hold everyone strictly to account and laicise those who fail to do as promised especially the bishops.

  37. Too bad the Bishop didn’t dawn his episcopal attire (assuming he is in his own diocese) and do so so during Communion and then wait until the Ite Missa Est, to go to the altar and to address the people as to how the Mass is really supposed to be celebrated. Embarrassing for the priest, yes. Bet the word would get around the diocese and the other guys would shape up! Of course, there are some dinosaur clergy out there who wouldn’t be phased a bit.

  38. This piece reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of the family who was born in the late 50′s and now has kids starting to date. She lamented that there just aren’t “any good guys” out there for her daughters and that most young men are “weirdos”. She couldn’t, however, make the connection between disordered culture and disordered individuals in our culture. She just wondered “why”….

    Most of these crackpots also consider themselves “children of Vatican 2″, whatever that means…

    My most pressing question to Bishop Coyne would be, “if you were in sever doubt of the validity of the sacraments being celebrated by this priest… shouldn’t there be something done about that both in this individual case and in the larger cultural sense…?”

  39. Midwest St. Michael says:

    @ Joan M

    *“Oh! A detail.” That silenced me immediately, since it was obvious that his view of the details was totally opposite to mine.*

    Here’s something for you to put in your back pocket, Joan:

    “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)

    MSM

  40. Gail F says:

    All the people wondering why this happened should check out Rev. Know It All’s blog. He is doing a long series on reading the Bible now but check the archives and you’ll find a very funny (but at times sobering) series about the “hootenanny mass” and how we got it. After Vatican II it was the fashion in seminaries to teach men to be “creative” with the mass. Having read this series, it occurred to me that some of the priests who so exasperate me are probably much more traditional than they were trained to be. I imagine that in their minds they are just “tweaking” things a bit, and have kept their favorite little bits from the wild days. I don’t think that will end until bishops make it very clear they are not to do so, ever, and/or they retire. Many, many priests were trained to do exactly what people here lament — not just in the seminaries, but in workshops and retreats and seminars for years and years. What do you expect them to do?

  41. jaykay says:

    I certainly get the impression that Bp. Coyne, who has after all only been consecrated this year, will be taking steps to improve matters in his own area of responsibility! His blogsite describes him as a former Professor of Sacred Liturgy and I did like this bit: “… if he would be so kind as to use the Church’s rite and not his own”.

    However, I thought the following a bit ambiguous:

    “Perhaps if each priest were committed to the correct celebration of the present Mass of Paul VI – the Church’s rites and not the rite of Fr. X – then maybe there would be less clamor for the “traditional” rite.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I got the impression from the above that “less clamor” for the TLM could almost be seen as a desirable thing? Isn’t it the intention of HH that the two rites will complement each other? Anyway, many years to Bp. Coyne. He seems to be about 50ish, so his best years are ahead of him! [And probably his most challenging. Imagine what it must be like to be a bishop in these times. It has never been easy, but I think our age has a deadly peril lurking within.]

  42. Tom Esteban says:

    Interesting and in some sense good and hopeful. But questions arise (which have been echoed in most comments so far).
    Why, when the Bishop knows about what is going on, does he not do anything? He seems to question the validity of the Sacraments, cares enough to make a post about it (and inject the post with humour) and yet there is no mention of something to the effect of “Well, boy did I come at the right time because things are going to change around here!”.

    I am less inclined to give the Bishop kudos in that regard. He seems to have encountered what many of us in the pews encounter on a weekly basis and yet have no power to do anything about. If he thinks he’s angry, try sit through such a Mass once a week every year. In fact, try sit through a Mass which has many abuses which are hard to ignore and come out smiling and with jokes as the Bishop seems to. This situation calls for righteous indignation and solving the problems; not merely observing and lamenting that perhaps you should confess elsewhere and not go to the same Mass again.

    The Bishop asks, “Isn’t it a shame that I couldn’t go to confession?”.

    My response, “Isn’t it a shame that you did nothing about this?”.

    [First, that doesn't seem to be the case, since the bishop did speak with the priest. Second, you don't know as much about the circumstances as the bishop/writer did. Don't judge him too quickly.]

  43. “sew doubts in people’s minds and leave them unsettled”.
    As a fan of embroidery, I enjoy the stiching metaphor.
    But really: “SOW doubts”, O.K.? Farmer analogy.

    [I always enjoy these little notes from volunteer editors who comment on my digitorum lapsus rather than the substance of the post! o{];¬) ]

  44. AnAmericanMother says:

    Seems to me that Bp. Coyne is being wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. Especially as a relatively new bishop, that’s a good idea.
    The idea is to shepherd these probably well-intentioned priests, not crush them utterly.

  45. AnAmericanMother says:

    Tom,
    The bishop was on vacation and not in his diocese.
    He did approach the priest in what appears to be a very gentle and charitable manner.
    I don’t see what else he could do, much beyond that would be “poachin’”.

  46. Tom Esteban says:

    AnAmericanMother,

    Only His Excellency knows what he said to the priest. But consider that the Bishop even hestitated in calling the Mass valid, and, after calling into question the validity of the sacrament of confession, he seemed to have gone on his merry way to make a blog post about it. I’m not sure what I would have done in his shoes, and I respect that he has a hard job and office. But we can, and should respect more. Confession is vital to the Church. The Bishop was right there! Nevermind that it’s not his diocese. He could’ve just said a few things there and there and be done with it, and told the Priest that he’d inform the local Bishop of what went on too. But perhaps he did do that. I guess I just find the blog post astonishing in that he fails to mention that he did anything about it besides have a few words with the priest. There was more ax-grinding about the EF than about the questionable validity of the Mass or sacrament of confession. It just seems bizarre that a Bishop – a Bishop – made an almost happy-go-lucky post about not going to confession because he questioned the validity of it.

    I’m positive there is more to the story and that the Bishop did more than I could know. But his post, for me, is not exactly hopeful. He seems to recognize the problem only to glance over the solution – at least in his blogpost, which we are discussing.

  47. His blogsite describes him as a former Professor of Sacred Liturgy…

    Interesting, jaykay.

    Every time people ask my why some in the Church have a desire for the “extraordinary rite,” the traditional Latin Mass, I guess I can give them at least one good reason. Masses like this. – Bishop Coyne

    Not to nit pik, but isn’t reasonable for us to expect a Professor of Sacred Liturgy, and bishop no less, to have a whole lot more to say than this?

    Up to this point, Bishop Coyne is arguably not so much culpable for the present liturgical crisis as he is a product of it, but now that he is a bishop I think he has an increased responsibility to be part of the solution going forward.

    If we consider Summorum Pontificam and the instruction Universae Ecclesiae, it’s clear that the Holy See desires for all to embrace the truth that the traditional rite continues to occupy a profoundly important place in the life of the Church TODAY and will in the foreseeable future as well.

    By virtue of his episcopal consecration, Bishop Coyne, (and indeed every bishop, it seems to me) has an obligation to be of one mind with the Holy See on this critically important note. I don’t think its unreasonable to believe that this means not just learning the traditional rite, but embracing, venerating and honoring it fully, and that would include, of course, celebrating it.

    Bishops who cannot, will not or have no desire to so embrace the traditional rite can hardly be said to be in step with the Holy See on what is the single most important issue that we face in the Church today; namely, the state of the sacred liturgy. This is why Bishop Coyne’s comment is so unsettling.

    I know we won’t get there overnight, but the days of seminary Professors of Sacred Liturgy and bishops who have no desire to celebrate the traditional Mass (not to mention those who have no compunction at saying so publicly) cannot pass quickly enough.

    [I am with you that all Latin Church bishops really should be open to the the whole Roman Rite and not just the brand new and still relatively untested half. On the other hand, priests and bishops are entitled to their preferences. Some people like spaghetti and some don't... mirabile scriptu. However, this feller is a new bishop. I suggest prayers and encouragement rather than an asperity. I am not saying that you, Mr. V, are doing that. Other readers here will see these my red interjections.]

  48. Mom2301 says:

    I need the “emotional cruise control”. When these things start up in a mass, I get my dander up and I can’t concentrate. I sit or stand, seething rather than being prayerful at all. It ends up making me sad and discouraged and makes mass more of a chore than a gift. If anyone knows this “cruise control” trick for getting the good out of a mass with a lot of bad, please share it with me! I need it every week!

  49. Nope. I’m not heartened at all by this. If anything it demonstrates how off the rails things are. A priest proceeds with all manner of liturgical abuses, and the bishop present doesn’t mention doing anything about it, but seems to accept it criticism, but resignation, nonetheless. When the bishops are powerless over the Fr. Xs of the Church, that speaks volumes as to how far down the road of wacky the modern Church has gone.

    [What you might not understand is that every bishop is not the boss of every priest. This isn't like the military in all respects. Even in the Marines not every officer is the CO of every Marine. The point is, that a bishop can and should correct fraternally. If he is not the priest's ordinary bishop, or the bishop of the place, then the bishop must also exercise a measure of reserve and not just throw his weight around. That is why Bp. Coyne said he spoke with the priest privately. I think that was correct. Brick by brick, friend. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good in these difficult times.]

  50. Tom Esteban says:

    Mom2301,

    The cruise control should be switched off, not on. There is no trick. What should help, and that helps me, is that Christ is truly present. He is there; as well as all the Angels and Saints who surround us and rejoice in the Mass being celebrated of offered to the Father. Keep focused on Christ, ignore the abuses (while at Mass, that is) and keep prayerful and alert. Offer up your suffering, pray for the priest, pray to his gaurdian angel, and thank the Lord you are a Catholic who is able to receive the gift of the Eucharist.

  51. jfm says:

    I thought that while a bishop is sovereign in his diocese, he does not have carte blanche in other dioceses. Thus, an introduction and presentation of credentials (if he is not known) would be considered appropriate if he wished to celebrate or concelebrate Mass. Having said that, I would assume that much deference and welcome would be given to a visiting successor of the apostles.

  52. Mom2301 says:

    @ Tom Esteban
    Thank you! I really needed to be reminded of where to concentrate my thoughts. This post is very timely for me as I have been struggling mightly with the lack of reverent masses anywhere within reasonable driving distance. I was about to give up, as in not go to mass anymore. However, with 3 children I feel I must expose them to mass and teach them their faith. I will take your advice and focus on what is present in the mass that I may not see with my eyes or hear with my ears! God bless.

  53. Katherine says:

    At any given daily Mass in my town, one is likely to encounter one or more retired priests, dressed as lay people, sitting with the congregation and participating in the Mass as lay people. Even when fewer than 20 people are present at Mass, EMHCs will be deployed, but the priest-in-lay-clothing will not assist at Communion. This bothered me on a visceral level, so several years ago I did the research and found that this practice is not acceptable. It was in a church document and I can’t remember where–Fr. Z, could you please address this?

    If so, wouldn’t it be improper for a bishop to assist at Mass as a lay person?

    Thanks for all you do.

  54. Mr. Verrechio,

    If I had a GOLD STAR AWARD to give here, you’d get it for this statement (edited slightly):

    If we consider Summorum Pontificam and the instruction Universae Ecclesiae, it’s clear that the Holy See desires for all to embrace the truth that the traditional rite continues to occupy a profoundly important place in the life of the Church TODAY and will in the foreseeable future as well.

    By virtue of his episcopal consecration, every bishop ( it seems to me) has an obligation to be of one mind with the Holy See on this critically important note. I don’t think its unreasonable to believe that this means not just learning the traditional rite, but embracing, venerating and honoring it fully, and that would include, of course, celebrating it.

    Bishops who cannot, will not or have no desire to so embrace the traditional rite can hardly be said to be in step with the Holy See on what is the single most important issue that we face in the Church today; namely, the state of the sacred liturgy.

    If bishops of the Church deserve most of the blame for the disintegration of liturgy during the past forty years, then surely every consecrated apostle and sworn guardian of faith ought to energetically and enthusiastically promote both forms of the Roman rite in every way he can. Taking the initiative–acting rather than reacting–to make both conveniently available and encouraging everyone in his diocese to attend whichever best fits him or her. Doing whatever he can as bishop to make both forms of the Roman rite as attractive as possible, especially to those many Catholics who presently attend neither. What would be a better way for a bishop to promote the “new evangelization”?

  55. paladin says:

    Will D. wrote:

    Oh, and as for Bp. Coyne not celebrating Mass: since he stated his desire to go to Confession, perhaps his conscience wouldn’t allow him to celebrate the Mass.

    Hm. Possible, but I’m not sure how that would square with the bishop’s following comment:

    So I didn’t go to Confession. I’ll try and make an appointment with a priest and go Monday. But isn’t it a shame that I couldn’t go to Confession?

    If His Excellency were (hypothetically) not in a state of grace, it would be rather bizarre for him to wait until Monday to go to Confession, especially since he’d presumably be obliged to offer Mass on Sunday…

    Whether he desired to celebrate the Mass or not, and the reasons therefore, are certainly none of our business.

    That’s so! I do think, however, that it’s understandable for some of us to be puzzled at the seeming incongruity, here; it’d be a bit like hearing someone say, “Ah, but it’s Tuesday, so I cannot receive Holy Communion!” One could pardon some quizzical looks and requests for clarification, I think. :)

  56. amenamen says:

    Always read the fine print

    I had not looked at the bishop’s unedited article on his website until now. The ellipsis in the summary above contains an important clarification to the story:

    “Nevertheless, I didn’t let it go. What I did or did not do, I will leave between me and the priest. I hope it was helpful.”

    Good. That is helpful. I hope this good bishop never does “let it go.”

  57. Marv says:

    This may be more of a parable than a true story.

    Despite the fact this blog post says he has no desire to say the Extraordinary Form of the Mass Bishop Coyne will be doing so on September 25 at Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis as part of Confirmations.

    [Thanks for that! IT may be that he is just going to do the confirmations and be present for Mass. But I hope they have a HUGE Pontifical Mass for him, if he is willing. Re-Kudos to Bp. Coyne.]

  58. dcs says:

    If His Excellency were (hypothetically) not in a state of grace, it would be rather bizarre for him to wait until Monday to go to Confession, especially since he’d presumably be obliged to offer Mass on Sunday…

    There is no such obligation. He is obligated to assist at Mass but not to offer it.

  59. dad29 says:

    Thank GOD!!

    Someone with authority actually called out the priest!

    How many times have we, the bugs-on-the-floor, wished…..prayed…..begged for the self-restraint necessary to NOT march to the sacristy after Mass and ….umnnnhhhhh….say what we thought!

    ‘S wunnerful, Excellency! Thanks to you, too!!

  60. Martial Artist says:

    @Gail F,

    You wrote:

    Many, many priests were trained to do exactly what people here lament — not just in the seminaries, but in workshops and retreats and seminars for years and years. What do you expect them to do?

    I am not a priest, but I am a retired Naval Officer (think of me as you would of the centurion who went to our Lord to ask Him for the healing of his servant). It is from that perspective that I address your question.

    I would expect from the priest precisely what I would expect from myself, were I in an analogous, or identical, position. Namely, I would expect the priest at some point (or points) early in his life as an ordained priest to have questions occur to him as to which liturgical components permit options and which don’t. Particularly in this day and age, with so many documents online, were I a priest I would attempt to look up the relevant Church law with respect to any question of what is allowed. Not being a canonist is not an excuse. I was a Naval officer, not a lawyer, either military or civilian, yet I knew that I was expected to conform my words and actions to law (civilian and naval) and formal guidance (published instructions and manuals). When in doubt, one reads the relevant guidance. If one is unclear about the latitude permitted by a specific law or instruction, one contacts one’s superior for clarification before proceeding.

    It really is that simple. I would suspect that every Diocese has a canon lawyer, should that level of interpretation be required to make understandable the specifics of any particular canon or instruction. What is called for is respect for the position one occupies and a determination to do that which is licit and valid. Nothing less than that is required of anyone who wants to hear one’s commander say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

    Is that too much to expect? Of anyone (clerical or lay)?

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  61. StellaMaris says:

    I read His Excellency’s Blog. I was really saddened and angered. For over 30 years the Tridentine Mass was wrongly suppressed. Young men went into the seminaries, became deacons and priests, and never learned or understood anything about the Mass that had been given to us over the ages. The Mass that so many saints were martyred for. Now these young men are bishops and they have no “desire” for it. How can this be? I came to Catholicism from Protestantism when I married my husband. He was lapsed. I converted in 1994. 6 years later, I was ready to leave because I honestly did not see one bit of difference in the United Methodist Church of my youth and the Catholic Church I attended. I stayed away for awhile and returned, reluctantly. When I discovered the Tridentine Mass, of which I had never heard, I was so surprised that it had been done away with. Our bishop, who is also in his 50s, does not have much “use” for the Tridentine Mass either. As such, he is not friendly towards those who request it. Since our family was truly facing a loss of faith, we ultimately made the reluctant decision to assist at Mass at SSPX. We truly felt that attending SSPX was a far better choice than losing our faith and our children losing their faith as well. The Catholic Church is in such a sad state. It pains me greatly. As my 2 year old daughter says when she is trying to control herself at Mass, “Jesus is crying in His Heart.”

    [I think many people out there will sympathize with your experience. But do remember, we are all in this together. You play your part in the revitalization of our Catholic identity.]

  62. yatzer says:

    Bishop Coyne is the Vicar General, and I am puzzled about the comments about the EF since I thought I saw where he was actually going to celebrate in that form some time this Fall.

  63. Marv says:

    Father you may very well be correct. The notice in the bulleting merely states he will “confer the Sacrament of Confirmation” and not that he will be the celebrant of the Mass. But that is more than most bishops do now a days.

  64. Rosevean says:

    It really bothers me that so many commenters on this blog seem to think that the OF is inherently bad. This is an Order of the Mass that the Church has given us, and that some priests abuse this Mass is sad, but does not make the thing itself bad. You may not like it, but then, I don’t like mangoes. That doesn’t mean they are poisonous.

  65. paladin says:

    dcs wrote:

    [Paladin]
    If His Excellency were (hypothetically) not in a state of grace, it would be rather bizarre for him to wait until Monday to go to Confession, especially since he’d presumably be obliged to offer Mass on Sunday…

    [dsc]
    There is no such obligation. He is obligated to assist at Mass but not to offer it.

    All right (and thanks for the corrected info); I was going off some half-remembered idea that the Bishop was required to offer Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation for the members of his diocese…

    I’d still suggest that it sounds rather odd for him to seem so casual about waiting until Monday; if I were in a state of mortal sin, I’d certainly try to find a priest on Sunday, at very least. Perhaps he was planning to travel extensively on Sunday, or some such thing. At any rate: I’m trusting that he had a good reason; but I do think the questions about a priest, much less a bishop, “missing Mass” are understandable, eh?

  66. I were in a state of mortal sin, I’d certainly try to find a priest on Sunday

    Why wait till Sunday? As if Sunday had anything to do with it. Since neither a Catholic’s obligation to assist at Mass not his actual attendance at Mass is contingent on his being in a state of grace. But the real question is . . . . Why the outrageous and unseemly speculation about this good bishop’s state? Shame!

    I know numerous Catholics who go to confession every week or two, and would certainly be reluctant to deprive themselves of the spiritual grace confession provides, for more than the “few weeks” the bishop mentions. (The lines for confession before and after each of our TLMs are quite long.) Despite the likelihood that these particular folks never, ever commit a mortal sin. I recall reading that John Paul II went to confession every day, though surely for reasons other than consideration of mortal sin.

  67. Marv says:

    Aren’t you folks and being way tooo nit picky, and reading too many things into this story that aren’t there.

    First, unlike me, some people go to Confession every couple of weeks whether they are in a state of mortal sin or not. It is not because they are overly scrupulous but because of the grace the sacrament affords even when confessing venial sins.

    Secondly, like many of the “personal stories” I hear from the pulpit every Sunday, I don’t believe or worry about whether all of these stories actually happened or happened exactly as related. I think many times priests (as we all do) may fabricate or elaborate on stories in order to make a point or to make the lesson more relevant to the congregation. I mean do you folks sit there and fret about the fine points of the Gospels, e.g., about the house built on sand . . . “how could someone do something so stupid” . . . “could he not see what he was building on” . . . “how could he even have built the house to completion prior to it collapsing.” Some times a story is just a story. . . take the learning point . . . appreciate the lesson relayed if it was a good one . . . and move on.

  68. benedetta says:

    I think the key point in all of this is not which Mass is superior (and I have become convinced that we ought to as Catholics be prepared to pray the forms offered by our Church and that both should be offered with reverence) or what a Bishop should do but, that observing liturgical abuse in the Mass in a very real and pastoral sense interferes with the trusting process with which one approaches the sacrament of confession. As bad as it may get with irreverent or changed Masses, the problems are not at all contained or limited to the duration of that particular Mass itself. I think there is a real discouraging interplay between with irreverent or liturgical abuse laden Masses in the NO and the sacrament of confession. I think that the two sacraments are inherently connected, in good and hopeful ways, and this has become difficult to discover, discern, and experience.

  69. Cathy says:

    I’m with Father Z., say the black, do the red, simple and faithful and you don’t have to worry about a priest employing ingenuity and changing the words of the Mass to fit an agenda. This past Sunday we had a visiting priest as our priests and deacons are on retreat. In the opening prayer, he called upon us to thank God for being “our parent” and instead of “happy are those who are called to His Supper”, “happy are those who are called to this table”. Am I being scrupulous or judgmental for noticing and worrying about these changes. Are they a little deal or a big deal? I have yet to attend a Tridentine Mass, but I wonder, would I notice if the words were changed just a little? If a priest, for some reason, has a difficulty in proclaiming God as Father and Jesus Christ as Son, must he be compelled to changing the words of the Mass to avoid his difficulty, or should he be compelled to provide for the people, through the Church, the continuity of the Mass handed on to him by the Church?