ASK FATHER: Was it right to leave a “Mass” with a string of serious abuses?

From a reader…


Thank you for your Priesthood!

I have a question about the validity of a Mass. My mother was in town for Mother’s Day and we went to Mass on Sunday (Novus Ordo). I am far from a “radical traditionalist”.

I prefer the old rite and am a member of an FSSP parish, however, I often attend daily Mass and receive the Sacraments in the Novus Ordo.

That said, I have a question regarding the validity of a Mass, or when it is illicit and/or invalid.

We attended a Mass on Sunday where the Priest began the Mass speaking to the congregation and saying that he wanted do to something different.. and not to tell Father (the Pastor of the Parish).

He skipped all of the introductory Rites. No reverencing of the alter, no Sign of the Cross, no Penitential Act. No Gloria. No Collect.

Instead, Father invited some family of his up and introduced them. A grand niece and her husband, a Navy Seal, and their two children, one an infant who he had just baptized several days prior. He then invited them into the sanctuary. He then proceeded to take the newborn into his arms and sit to read the Gospel. He told all to remain seated during his reading of the Gospel. This was the start of the Mass.

Afterwards, he had the first reading read by a lector. No responsorial psalm, no Gospel Acclamation.

We stood up and left at this point, to find another Mass. I have great respect for young families and anyone who serves/has served in the military. However, in Church, I worship God and God alone.

Question is: was the Mass valid? or illicit? Did we do the right thing in leaving?

Wow.  That was weird.  In my opinion, you didn’t do anything wrong by leaving early from … whatever that was.  It was at least a travesty.

Whatever that … mess was, it was illicit.

First, I would let the pastor of that parish know what happened and that you left.  The coward even told people not to say anything?  Say something.

Next, you didn’t mention anything about the two-fold consecration.   I suspect you left before that.  So, I can’t say anything about validity.

That priest needs a serious talking to.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Healingrose1202 says:

    Wow. Such disrespect for the Mass. I wonder how many other people were unsettled by what happened. Too many probably don’t even realize how wrong what he did was. I’ve left for much less. I would DEFINITELY speak up. As a priest, he has a holy obligation as a leader. Shame on him. …Are you sure you were at a Catholic Church?

  2. Father K says:

    I have a hunch that this priest is in the last stages of deciding to quit the priesthood. If you notice everything he did was ‘all about him.’ This is the stage when priests are in serious trouble. Please pray for him, and yes speak to the pastor, he may be able to help him through the crisis he is going through.

  3. I’ve rarely lost my patience to the point at which I have had to leave, but if something like what was described here happened to me, I probably would have left too. I would not have had the stomach to hang around for the consecration to determine if it were valid. Even if this were a “last chance” Mass, I might well have left anyway and just taken it up in confession. In my experience, things often go downhill after the Gospel, and in this case, any further down and we’d be in… er… well, a really bad place.

  4. TWF says:

    I am not a “rad trad” either. I normally attend (reverent) Novus Ordo masses. I have never seen abuses to the degree as described in this post, but when I have encountered serious abuses my tolerance for them is about zero. I remember some years ago I showed up for a Sunday mass at a local parish. A visiting Dominican priest was presiding. As the choir began to sing, he processed in wearing only his habit – no proper vestments at all. I got up and slipped out…I knew remaining for the mass looking up at “naked” Father would be a near occasion of sin for me…to not give into pure, blinding, blood pumping rage. Thankfully I was able to make another mass elsewhere.

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    The only time I ever attended a Mass where the priest did conduct things very differently indeed, he certainly did not technically disrupt the proper order of things, and he stressed very seriously before commencing the Mass that he was making certain shifts once and once only for pastoral and teaching reasons, and he ensured that the Mass proper was conducted rigorously according to the Missal and that changes there are utterly impossible — de facto, he used some entirely cosmetic one-time changes in attitude but not substance to give a lesson on the inviolability of the substance of the Mass as well as to help instruct the congregation on the very meaning of the Real Presence in Eucharist as well as to give instruction on the meaning and the purpose of the Order of Mass itself as well as on the meaning and purpose of Eucharistic Congregation.

    It was perhaps superficially as odd as what your Quaesitor describes, but certainly not either substantially nor intrinsically, because the correct Order of Mass was adhered to and because the Liturgy of the Eucharist was given in strict proper formal observation.

    On a personal note, it was also prior to my Baptism, so that questions of validity or licity were not technically my affair at the time.

    But I too would also leave the Congregation if a priest disobeyed the Order of Mass so drastically as your reader describes.

  6. Benedict Joseph says:

    Sometimes it might be best to include names, parishes, diocese. What is described here is nothing less than hideous. With a concern for charity we continue to enable abuse. Accountability is the only impediment against this sort of outrage.

  7. Ellen says:

    I have never left a Mass, although I have been tempted to. I did leave a Good Friday service once. The priest sat in the front pew and all the rest of it was mimed, complete with lighting effects and mood music by some of the congregation. I made it through the Passion, but left at the prayers. It was horrible.

  8. Gerard Plourde says:

    The situation described is certainly odd. While I don’t possess the knowledge and expertise to be able to determine if the omissions and alterations rise to the level of making the celebration of the Mass invalid, I share the opinion of the other commenters here who posit that the priest in question is most likely experiencing a crisis in his vocation. He (like all who are called to serve Our Lord) needs our prayers.

  9. Sonshine135 says:

    That is just creepy. It is one thing for Father to introduce you to his family, but he needs to save it for donuts in the hall after Mass.

  10. APX says:

    At which point is the Mass, no longer a Mass? One can very illicitly consecrate the Bread and Wine outside of Mass.

  11. John_Ed says:

    Worst I’ve seen often include drummers, folk singers and recently I noticed the music director replacing the Psalm responses with his own choice of words.

  12. gretta says:

    Good thing to leave. Better for the blood pressure, and for your own spiritual health. I think Fr. K is right – that is a priest in serious trouble. Keep him in your prayers. He’s also deluded to think that that sort of behavior is not going to be reported to his pastor. And he obviously knew better since he actually told the congregation not to say anything. That’s really strange.

    What about sending a nice note (not an angry note, but a concerned note) to the pastor saying that the priest’s behavior in saying Mass was so strange that you are concerned about him…and list what you saw him do before you left. You could also CC the Vicar for Clergy in your diocese. If the priest is having trouble, you might be doing everyone a favor by letting those responsible for him know. And again, keep that priest in your prayers.

  13. davidscottpringle says:

    It would be nice to know parish and diocese to contact the pastor and the bishop is see what the ordinary is doing to prevent any further abuse.

  14. Father K says:

    No, that is the wrong approach entirely. It isn’t our business to interfere in that way. Those at the coalface must deal with this. We must support all concerned especially the priest with our prayers. ‘Further abuse” is simply not the issue here. Much harm can be done by a gung ho attitude…no-one is helped by doing that.

  15. pannw says:

    This seems like a good place to ask if anyone has recommendations and/or warnings about where to attend Mass in Boston. I always dread traveling over a Sunday, because you never know what you’re going to have to deal with. Such a shame…it wasn’t always that way, or so I hear. Anyway, my family will be traveling to Boston this summer and will need a licit (at the very least!) Mass to attend. Anyone?

  16. iamlucky13 says:

    Radical traditionalist or not, the circus described is offensive. I’m sure even my wife would have left, and she’s struggled significantly with the extraordinary form the few times we’ve attended.

    During the parade of family members through the sanctuary, I’d have simply prayed for the strength and patience to overlook it. I’ve seen similar elsewhere. I’d have resolved to remember never to come back to that parish if the priest read the Gospel sitting, with his focus on a child on his lap instead of on the meaning of the good news he is proclaiming, but dealt with it.

    But skipping all the introductory rites? Once I realized the priest wasn’t just doing something unusual before Mass, I’d have left immediately to give myself as much time as possible to find a Mass I could attend in its entirety, so as to leave no doubt that I had fulfilled my obligation.

    I probably wouldn’t be very subtle about leaving either. I wouldn’t be deliberately disruptive, but with no indication that Mass had actually begun, I see no reason to contribute to the confusion on the matter by acting like the liturgy was being celebrated, rather than avoided.

  17. Fr. John says:

    I experienced a similar situation.

    I’m an Orthodox priest, but a cousin of my wife’s was a Catholic nun who just passed away recently at the age of 100, after 80 years as a nun. She was, to put it gently, of the more progressive sort of Catholic nun.

    My wife and I went to her funeral mass at her convent and I was horrified. The funeral was an odd mixture of Catholicism, New Age stuff, pop psychology, and perhaps Hinduism. I know that it definitely couldn’t have been licit and perhaps not valid.

    The priest had almost no role in the Mass. He got up just to say the words of institution, which he said over dinner roles and a bottle of wine that some people brought up. He then sat back down in a pew and the nuns (who were all wearing flowery pants suits) distributed to all the people present, and it was very clear that everyone, Catholic or not, could receive, and the Gifts (as we call them — I’m not sure what you call them) were treated very casually. People just came up and a nun would hold out a dinner role and people would tear off a piece.

    That was the oddness with the actual Eucharistic part of the service. Other parts of the service included nuns dancing around the casket holding bowls of incense, nuns talking about how my wife’s cousin had reached “new levels of consciousness” through her work, and many other weird things. There was no invocation beginning the service and the people gave the final blessing by coming up and rubbing the casket.

    Obviously, I’m not Catholic, but what I saw was deeply troubling to me. I thought of contacting the local Catholic bishop but I figured that he must be aware of what goes on in a monastery in his own diocese and must be okay with it if this sort of thing is going on and that, as a non-Catholic, it isn’t my business.

    Did I do the right thing or should I have contacted the local bishop?

  18. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    pannw: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton, on the outskirts of Boston (, and St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in the Back Bay ( The former has Masses in both the OF and EF; the latter in the OF only.

  19. rtrainque says:

    pannw: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton (25 min from Boston) is the only one I can personally vouch for. They host Juventutem and I’ve also been there for Sunday Mass once. Solemn High Mass followed what appeared to be a very well done N.O. (we were there for the TLM, but when I say it follows, it’s practically immediate; just enough time to roll the table altar out of the way and light the candles on the high altar)

  20. HeatherPA says:

    We had the opposite kind of thing happen at our Mass last Sunday.

    Our young priest was delivering an excellent homily on the Church teaching on homosexuality and transgenderism, while warning the congregation about the new persecution of those who stand up for Christ, and people walked out during the Homily. Sigh.

  21. laurel says:

    NEWS FLASH there are two – at least two – very, very different faiths calling themselves Roman Catholic. Head.Out.Of.Sand

  22. Charivari Rob says:

    Where in Boston (or area) will you be? That’s the first question. Then…
    Driving or not?
    Any really strong preferences in form, language, music, ethnic flavor?

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  24. pannw says:

    Thanks for the information on Masses, Fr. Kocik, and rtrainque.

    Charivari Rob, I’m not sure where we will be, but I know we are going to Little Italy??? and to Fenway. It will be my first time there and the husband is doing the travel plan. My own parish is a very reverent and faithful NO parish, so I’m really only looking for a place that will not have abuses, really bad music and hand holding ideally. I prefer ad orientem, the organ, and a communion rail. I”m pretty sure that probably puts me in line for an EF Mass in most places. I don’t think my NO parish is at all typical. I do wish it was.

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