REVISITED: Moral Injury, traditional Catholics and burnt out priests

Sometimes I go back to look at what I posted on this day of the year in the past.

This is from last year, 2020.  It was an interesting question at the time because COVID 1984 Theater was ramping up.   It is still going on in many ways.

A follow up is due.

Two cents: I think quite a fewer priests found, during COVID THEATER, an uplift through learning how to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass.  That, however, also has its downside: one begins to realize how much one’s been cheated out of one’s patrimony.

___

Originally Published on: Jun 9, 2020 

From a reader…

I am a physician and have had the opportunity to work with several burnt out priests over the years. I am concerned about the emotional well being of priests during the current situation because of a stressor being called moral injury.

This injury comes from a situation when a person can not take an action that he feels to be morally right, or is forced to do something morally wrong, by the order of a superior. I am concerned that priests are experiencing this as there bishops have prohibited the sacraments.

I am keeping this in prayer but I am hoping by alerting you to this condition it might be get into some hands who are in a position to work with priests with moral injury to at least recognize this reality.

This is very interesting.  I am grateful for the information and tip about “moral injury”. Since I received this, I’ve done some reading and thinking about moral injury.  For example, good starting point summary of main points HERE

Consider this:

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF MORAL INJURY?
Moral injury can lead to serious distress, depression, and suicidality. Moral injury can take the life of those suffering from it, both metaphorically and literally. Moral injury debilitates people, preventing them from living full and healthy lives.

The effects of moral injury go beyond the individual and can destroy one’s capacity to trust others, impinging on the family system and the larger community. Moral injury must be brought forward into the community for a shared process of healing.

In the context of a soul, with respect to the diversity of beliefs and religious perspectives held by those involved with moral injury, consider this:

Moral injury is damage done to the soul of the individual. War is one (but not the only) thing that can cause this damage. Abuse, rape, and violence may cause similar types of damage. “Soul repair” and “soul wound” are terms already in use by researchers and institutions in the United States who are exploring moral injury and pathways to recovery.

One writer defines moral injury as resulting from a betrayal of what is morally right by someone who holds legitimate authority and in a high stakes situation.

For example, priests who really believe in the cura animarum, and who are ordered, bullied, threatened by authority above them to go against what they believe is right and good for themselves and their people.   Application: being virtually forbidden to provide the sacraments to the faithful during the COVID-1984 lockdown.

I am no psychologist.  On the other hand, I didn’t fall off the turnip cart yesterday, either.

While moral injury is usually a phenomenon among warfighters in military service or veterans, it is not exclusive to them, either.  The Mayo Clinic has tracked this among physicians and found that one-third suffer from moral injury, which is sometimes taken for being burned out.

While it is highly tricky to apply a “diagnosis” to a group, much less, an individual, doesn’t think explain, in part, some aspects of more traditional Catholics?

In many cases tradition-inclined priests have been treated savagely by their bishops and other priests.  Traditional Catholic have been too.  They have been for years, even for decades, prevented by authority (usually through bullying) from doing what their consciences tell them is the right thing to do.  They are forced, year in and year out, to do what they think is, if not outright wrong, at least inferior to what could be done with a little leeway and compassion.   They are in a perpetual bind, caught between the desire to be a good member of the presbyterate and one with the bishop, while knowing that they can’t stand your “rightful aspirations”, as John Paul II called them.

Then there is the case of the priest who spends a lot of time and effort to build up something in his parish, only to be moved and see everything he built wrecked in a fortnight by some lib who succeeds him.   The lay faithful bear the brunt of the abuse and the priest who got moved is forced to watch, helplessly, from afar.

Take the example of a young priest who is, legitimately, desirous of having his whole patrimony as a Catholic priest, including tradition.   The ultra-lib pastor to whom he is assigned as an assistant will have none of it and ridicules, threatens and abuses his assistant as a result.  So the younger priest is daily forced to shove down his better instincts.

Take the example of the lay faithful who, if they want to receive Communion, have for decades been forced to receive on the hand rather than on the tongue, listen to truly horrid music, endure tragically bad homilies and all manner of liturgical abuse.  They know they are bound to go to Mass to fulfill their obligations, they truly want to worship God well, and they dread getting up every Sunday.   Otherwise, they feel guilt for going over to the SSPX “St. Joseph Terror of Demons” Chapel rather than their territorial “Sing A New Faith Community Into Being Faith Community” where Fr. “Just call me Bruce!” Hugalot perpetrates a regular catastrophe.

It takes a toll.    Warfighters sometimes will manifest moral injury after being in combat situations for only a short time.   A lot of traditional Catholics have been enduring the injury resulting from moral conflict – being forced to betray what you know is right – for unrelenting decades without an end in sight.

I don’t want to press this point beyond proposing that there could be an element of moral injury among those who have held “legitimate” aspirations regarding Tradition.  I want to avoid generalization as well.

It’s food for thought.

It seems to me that “moral injury” can, in fact, describe the plight of some priests who are thought of or think of themselves as “burnt out”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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22 Comments

  1. michele421 says:

    I’m an old cradle Catholic so I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen exactly what you described, Father, and I’ve seen the opposite – the priest and people join together to build great ministries with lovely music and great homilies, only to have it destroyed in a day by a new conservative priest. Tragically, that’s the nature of this Church. It would heal, and prevent, a lot of moral injury if bishops could get to know their parishes and perhaps even consult with them when appointing a new priest. But it would curtail some of their power, so I don’t expect it to ever happen.

  2. jaykay says:

    Michele: what is your experience, or definition, of a ” conservative” priest? Or indeed, “lovely” music? And what is “the nature of this church”? Your claims are very large, but some definition would help us to appreciate your point.

  3. michele421 says:

    I apologize for being so vague. As I said, I’ve seen this sort of thing happen a lot, but my chief inspiration, if you want to call it that, happened a number of years ago in my archdiocese. This particular church was quite progressive. A number of people were involved in ministry both at Mass and in the community at large. The music, although contemporary, was well-chosen and very well done. The Mass was reverent and well-attended. The homilies were well above average. But the pastor’s term ran out and the bishop replaced him with one of the most traditionalist priests in the archdiocese. He made a number of changes but the most hurtful one was disbanding the music ministry because, as far as he was concerned, chant was the only valid form of church music.

    To put it very mildly, this went over badly with the parishioners. They went to the Archbishop to request that the priest be transferred, but he wouldn’t listen. Seeing no other alternative, they launched a campaign of non-cooperation with the new pastor. He finally requested a transfer but the damage had been done. Many left. It was a terribly bitter experience for all. The church recovered, but it took a very long time.

  4. Amateur Scholastic says:

    I wholeheartedly recommend the article A Jesuit Tragedy, posted by John Lamont on Rorate back in 2018.

    It distinguishes between the patristic/Thomist understanding of obedience on the one hand, and the modern/nominalist understanding on the other. (The latter has been very influential from Trent down to the present day.) The latter is far more extreme and dangerous, since it involves handing over one’s internal will to another. The former involves external obedience in accordance with the Rule of the particular order, and in accordance with Reason/the Good. IIRC, St Thomas explicitly says that the will, the soul, is left untouched by the command of another creature.

    The Ignatian view of obedience (the article argues) leads to the kind of tyrannical bullying described in this article, because it doesn’t distinguish between a legitimate and an illegitimate command, and, being nominalist, it fails to take account of the finality of Law.

    I think it’s possibly the best article I’ve ever read, anywhere on the Internet, on the present calamity.

    [For the link. And it is HERE]

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    When we are discussing moral injury, there is a real need to distinguish between perceived moral injury and real moral injury. This is important lest it becomes a trojan horse for moral relativism.

    If one perceives something to be morally right, and it is not actually morally right, and one is forced not to do it or to act against it, one has not actually been morally injured, though they might have a certain perception akin. It is a misinformed perception, often stemming from a malformed conscience. Preventing a malformed conscience from acting according to what it thinks is moral when it is in fact evil, does not actually injure the soul but prevents the soul from receiving the actual injury from the evil action (namely becoming recalcitrant in the sin).

    As an example, if there happened to be a progressive parish (not michele421’s parish) that was engaging in same-sex union blessings and receives a new priest who puts the kibosh on such practices and actively seeks to teach the Catholic Faith, those parishioners who can no longer receive such blessings, and have to “endure” proper catechesis are not being morally injured. HOWEVER, if the parishioners would band together and try to force, either directly, or through pressure from the bishop/chancery, the ouster of the priest, that is to cancel him for acting morally, they would be the ones engaging in attempts at moral injury of the priest.

  6. bigtex says:

    I believe it was St. Ignatius of Loyola who said: “What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines.”
    This kind of obedience I think was the result of the Protestant revolt, and may have had it’s place at the time, but it is not the proper understanding of obedience. Thanks for the link.

  7. Amateur Scholastic says:

    Thanks for the Gold Star, Fr Z.

    Dr Lamont also wrote a more detailed version of the same article called The Catholic Church and the Rule of Law. This article has a section that discusses the effect on the laity of the new understanding of obedience — basically, it became infantilized (speaking generally, obviously). This article also has a bit more philosophical meat for those who like that kind of thing: basically, Scotus’s understanding of the will as being radically indifferent (rather than necessarily following the intellect’s conception of the Good, as St Thomas Teaches) is the primary philosophical cause of tyrannical authority, and also paradoxically of nihilistic anarchy.

  8. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    Michele421:

    Several points:

    1) Your claims are highly subjective. “Well chosen and very well done” for instance.

    2) They imply that the pastor, who had spent years in seminary studying the tradition of the Church, can’t change whatever kind of “popular” music a group of parishioners think is “well done” and that the tradition is irrelevant. Similarly the documents of the Church which very clearly indicate chant is to be given pride of place. (This doesn’t mean use them once or twice a year on special occasions).

    3) The musicians are not engaged in “ministry.” Perhaps apostolates. That is a technical (and much abused) term in the Catholic sphere, borrowed from Protestantism.

    4) Homilies being “above average” is again highly subjective. One man’s “above average” is another man’s terrible.

    5) Generally, your comments betray an underlying congregationalist understanding of the liturgy and a lack of understanding that is the pastor’s task to ensure that the liturgy is safeguarded.

    6) I am not sure what “progressive” means. Making progress toward what, exactly? Perhaps it means uninterested in faithfulness to the tradition of the Church.

    7) Crossroads mega-Churches with pop music are “well attended” too. I’m not sure if that is a meaningful criterion.

    8) Do you know the inner situation with the music ministry? Perhaps they refused to follow the direction of the pastor, in which case he is certainly within his rights to disband them.

    When complaints about “conservative” pastors arise (that’s actually a political term), there is often another side to the story.

  9. michele421 says:

    Cincinnati Priest 2, although this memory is unpleasant and I yearn for the warmth of my lurking cave I’ll address this again.

    1) I know it’s subjective. It’s an anecdote, not meant to be an objective, reasoned argument.

    2) I wasn’t trying to address his competence or expertise. The priest made a number of changes. The music wasn’t the only problem, just the most contentious one. The priest had a perfect right to do what he did, just as bishops have a right to put roadblocks in the way of the TLM. His unpastoral decisions hurt the parishioners, just as liberal bishops can hurt traditionalist priests and parishioners. This is the point I was trying to make, that it goes both ways.

    3) I realize that. I called it a ministry because that is what this church called it and I couldn’t think of a better term for it. I wasn’t trying to be precise.

    4) Quite right. I mentioned the homilies and the music simply to explain that this was a functional, successful parish.

    5) I plead guilty to being a congregationalist, but that’s beside the point. And I do understand the pastor’s task. The teaching in this parish was quite orthodox and no one ever implied that the liturgy was in any danger. It was a “style of worship” situation.

    6) I used “progressive” as an alternative to “liberal”. This was long before Pope Benedict and tradition wasn’t the hot button issue it is now. People gravitated to this church because they preferred the less traditional style.

    7) True.

    8) Yes I did. As I understand it he gave them no direction except to disband. He overhauled the entire Mass. A major part of the difficulty was that no one was prepared and it came as a shock.

    I didn’t mean it as a political term. I should have said “Traditionalist”. Of course there’s another side. I was acquainted with this priest. He was a very good man, and quite as much a victim as anyone else. It was a bad situation that should have been avoided.

  10. Lurker 59 says:

    @michele421

    Bishops don’t have a right to put roadblocks in the way of priests offering TLM. That type of action is precisely the morally injurious action that is being discussed here. A priest has a moral obligation to offer the Mass and a Roman Rite priest has a moral right to say TLM as part of fulfilling his moral obligation. Things and people who roadblock his right and obligation here are morally injurious to him.

    Bishops (and the laity) have moral obligations to help a priest fulfill his obligation to say the Mass and to protect his right to his rites.

  11. michele421 says:

    Lurker 59, when I said bishops have a right to put roadblocks in the way of the TLM, I didn’t have in mind the rights of priests specifically, although the bishop does have rights here as well. I never meant to imply that the bishop could forbid the priest to offer the TLM. Obviously he can’t. But he can allow only one public Mass at a remote place and inconvenient time and then say no one wants it. He can harass the priest in various ways and generally make his life miserable. This is what I had in mind.

    [It’s not that they have the right to do those things. They have the power. The rest is called “bullying”.]

  12. Ann Malley says:

    @Michelle421:

    Thank you for speaking up and relating what you’ve observed and experienced.

    @Cincinatti Priest 2: The very nature of there being 2 sides to every story is rather the point Michelle seemed to be making here.

    Sadly, a great many who have ‘spent years’ at seminary fail to see is that parishioners have spent years in the pews being treated like rubber bands… and subsequently blamed/tutted for the ‘Protestant’ influences that were pressed upon them using the same logic of a priest who had ‘spent years’ at seminary.

    But rubber bands do wear out. Tug them too far to the right and then yank them to the left and so forth while scolding and/or deriding and you’ll get a useless rubber band, good for nothing, and with zero ability to perform outside limping into the trash. (Or questioning the very ‘authority’ that has been treating them like so many chess pieces.)

    The human mind has its breaking point and none of us have switches.

    The ‘Moral Injury’ of being in the pews seems to me like a broken home wherein Mom and Dad are polar opposites and yet the children are commanded, and obliged under pain of mortal sin, to honor and obey both. Try growing up that way.

    In the end, some children can’t afford to care anymore about the best intentions of the warring factions but need peace, or at least some peace of mind in which to contemplate God.

  13. vp says:

    Cardinal Sarah wrote:
    “In this book (Le soir approche et déjà le jour baisse), I wanted to encourage priests. I wanted to tell them: love your priesthood! Be proud to be crucified with Christ! Do not be afraid of the hatred of the world! ”

    Cardinal Sarah has just published a book At the Service of Truth which should boost the moral of our priests and serve as a good examination of conscience.

    Here I translated it from the Forum Catholique posted by Abbé Frédéric Roseau (FSSP) : https://www.leforumcatholique.org/message.php?num=919728
    Some excerpts:

    Zealous, generous, virile: what Cardinal Sarah wants to say to priests.

    “What must a priest have to be a true man of God?
    The question is not insignificant, because we are living in times of profound crisis of the priesthood, caught between the risk of functionalism and the temptations of the world.”
    Sarah denounces the “Protestant spirituality that has penetrated many priests” and the “emotionalism” that many need to “feel something,” which leads them to distort and appropriate the liturgy. “This is a sentimental drift, while on the contrary, holiness is not a state of mind, but an objective fact” because “the liturgy is that: to give back to God the primacy and to adore him on our knees. An anthropocentric liturgy would be a decentralized liturgy, the task of divine worship is to reproduce on earth the heavenly liturgy of the angels and saints.

    He then reminds us that a priest must have “manliness.” “Manly psychology,” he says, citing the example of St. Joseph, “consists in taking charge of a family and providing for it.

    The priest “must be a father to his faithful, never a friend. Excessive familiarity of the priest with the faithful is always harmful,” and in addition to defending his children, the faithful, he must also defend his spouse, the Church, “from the attacks she receives,” he adds, warning priests invited to talk shows who “are useful puppets in the hands of those who run show business.”

    More here: https://www.cureprayergroup.org/blog/

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  15. TonyO says:

    I want to add a couple of points to what was said above: First, thanks Fr. Z for reminding us of an important element of the spiritual field of battle on which we struggle. Those who have care of others, (e.g. parents of children) need to know it’s possible that the person they are caring for may be struggling with an injury.

    I suggest that the degree of harm that may have an impact on the innocent sufferer is, probably, on a continuum, and therefore there are probably lesser harms that don’t amount to a kind of “injury” that needs special attention – beyond, perhaps, a simple apology and then to forget it. And then greater harms that clearly DO need ongoing attention / healing. Spiritual injury can result in (or exacerbate, or be the proximate instigator to an underlying disposition) to depression and other illnesses.

    Secondly, both Fr. Z’s comments and that of others highlight the fact that changing pastors every 7 years is damaging to parish life and should be stopped. It should never have gotten a foothold. Pastors are our “spiritual fathers”, and we don’t change out our father every 7 years. There can be legitimate reasons to change out pastors, but “he has been there 7 years” isn’t even ON THE LIST, much less a sufficient reason by itself. (This also applies to moving bishops around, but even more so: bishops generally SHOULD NOT be moved from a diocese, except to be made the archbishop of the metropolitan see to which he had already been attached as a suffragan bishop. The craziness with which the Vatican moves bishops all over the place is so mind-bogglingly opposed to all good that nobody should imagine there is a good reason for it.)

    Thirdly: while michele above has a valid point that sometimes it is a conservative priest who mucks up an otherwise happy parish liturgical situation, the probabilities strongly indicate that this happens far, far fewer times than the opposite: (1) there are far more liberal priests than conservative ones, for 98% of the seminaries have been liberal for 5 decades and more. (2) In order for conservative seminarians to even get through to ordination, they had to learn to duck and keep their conservative leanings under cover, and they would recognize the continued need after ordination; (3) there is absolutely nothing in conservative principles, ideas, or standards that says that if a priest finds the liturgical practices of his new parish “too liberal”, he MUST change them immediately and CANNOT make it a 7-year (or longer) project. And, indeed, in charity this long-range process is probably what he normally should EXPECT to do. In most situations where a priest finds a practice that is substandard, he should plan on a whole program in which he (a) educates, and then (b) gradually lifts up, their sensibilities and capacities so that over years’ time, bit by bit, they finally grasp what is better than what they had before about the liturgy he wants them to have: more and proper Latin, more elevated music, better ceremonial, altar boys (only), ad orientum, etc.

    Fourthly, it is probably about 10 times as common for pastors to turn down, out of hand and without any valid reason, proposals from the faithful on IMPROVING the liturgy, as overt actions by pastors to directly WORSEN the liturgy in their parish. Now, nobody should think a pastor saying “no” to a new proposal constitutes spiritual injury all on its own. And often enough, a pastor does have a fair or plausible reason even when he doesn’t give one. So, many, many proposals by the faithful that are rejected ought not to be classed as spiritual injury. But … then there’s the other stuff: the pastors who reject proposals because they DON’T LIKE the person who presented them; or the pastors who are lazy and don’t WANT to have to do some work; or the pastors who feel attacked by the mere fact someone proposes making a change; and the pastors who demean and belittle any and all conservative, or orthodox, or faithful ideas merely because they are not “new” and shiny and unusual. When a person observes pastors making these kinds of rejections, they might suffer spiritual injury, especially if it happens over and over (which, after all, is exactly why we have gotten here).

  16. Chrisc says:

    This bullying is done all the time, and in fact, is foundational to groups like RC. It is endemic in much of the modern institutional church, unfortunately. Even faithful places use the moral suasion to overwork/ underpay their staff. It seems many of those, both powerful and not, are simply accidental-ly Catholic. Their understanding of manipulation and deception rooted in the lies of ‘right to truth’ and mental reservation would be utterly inimical to the thought of the ancient Church. They are essentially protestant thinkers who happen to reside and now often rule the church.

    But just to be clear this happens on all sides liberal/conservative or orthodox/heterodox or even many traditionalists as well as progressives. Look at how many neo- conservative papal sycophants have tried to argue that Francis is saying perfectly traditional things. Ultramontanism was an awful response to Gallicanism, just as synodality is an awful response. It’s all power, no truth. Its who gets to wield it, not who gets to be a martyr for Him.

  17. Alex says:

    Thank you for re-posting this Fr. Z. I needed it last year and I needed it again this year. You provide a lot of us a respite from the “moral injury” we have been chosen to endure as Catholics in these times.

    Thanks also to you, Amateur Scholastic, for that Rorate link. It’s had me rethinking the causes of the current crisis all evening. I’m going to dig in to The Catholic Church and the Rule of Law later tonight. I’ll 2nd the recommendation of these Dr. Lamont articles, especially to anyone studying the 1988 dilemma (faced by priests of the SSPX / FSSP) in preparation for the worst case scenario regarding the Summorum Pontificum rumors.

  18. ncstevem says:

    The scenario Michelle describes in her post above happened at the parish I attended in Charlotte before moving to TN last year.

    The parish church was never built and Mass was celebrated in the basement constructed 60 years ago for the church. It was one of the many ‘progressive’ parishes in the diocese until a new bishop was installed in 2005. He assigned a convert priest to run the parish in 2010 who quickly put the kabosh on the plans to build a church in the round. He fired the architectural firm which had completed the blueprints and had a beautiful traditional church built instead.

    Apparently, early on in his tenure a group of aging parishioners banded together and complained to him about the changes he was instituting (i.e. more traditional Mass celebration, eliminating altar tom-boys, preaching the truths of the Faith etc.) . His reply was this is the way it’s going to be and if they didn’t like it they’d need to find another parish. Many of them left to go to the Jesuit run quasi-Catholic parish down the road.

    10 years later this priest has a thriving parish with several weekly TLMs with numerous young families. The attendance at the one Sunday TLM almost equals the two Sunday NO Masses even though it’s at the least convenient time. His sermons and speaking style are the best I ever heard from any priest.

    The bishop who was installed in 2005 totally transformed the diocese. He inherited a small circle of more traditional younger priests and the ranks of like-minded priests quickly grew in the diocese. Several years ago I read an article in the local newspaper in which several of the older priests complained about the fact that the younger priests in the diocese were much more traditional and that they thought the diocese would be happy to retire old guard.

    My elderly Catholic neighbor at the time once asked why I didn’t attend the neighborhood parish and I replied that I only needed to look at the outside of the building to know that I didn’t want to enter it – especially for Mass. On a subsequent conversation after he became aware that I was assisting at the TLM, he stated that if it were up to him he’d abolish the TLM. I smiled and asked him how many of his four daughters who attended 12 years of ‘Catholic’ school in the diocese in the late 1960’s & through the 1970’s still practiced the Catholic Faith. His silence answered my question and I continued that he wasted his money because his children were never taught Catholicism. I think this was the last conversation we ever had even though I lived there another 10 years.

  19. Discipula says:

    I’ve witnessed drastic and abrupt change from pastors of both persuasions (old fashioned ways are best, and new things are best mentalities), and the type of damage done by those changes often look exactly the same in this life. Some people shrug and take drastic changes in stride, but others take it hard. The imposition of the new Mass didn’t phase my aunts any at all, but they shattered my grandmother and mother. My aunts drifted away from any and all faith. My grandparents (and parents) flirted with leaving whenever their endurance was taxed overmuch and even stopped attending Mass briefly. My parents found a TLM parish and have been faithful ever since. Both my grandparents returned to the Church before their death. My aunts and their families might never return, my siblings might not either (each for their own reason). There’s something to be said for those who take abrupt changes hard. It could very well be that their reaction is actually the better one in the long run.

    In my personal opinion the damage done by traditional leaning priests stings more – and I say this as someone who hasn’t really suffered much from Fr. By the Book; but my brother has in a way that has completely undermined his ability to trust priests of any kind, or even step foot in a church. He’s come back a time or twice only to get hurt again, and I suspect has run out of trust for good. What can anyone do when the moral injury has gotten so bad that it has completely undermined the ability to trust (or even believe in some cases). What answer is there to, “If God wasn’t a monster Himself He wouldn’t tolerate this level of evil from His priests.”

  20. The Astronomer says:

    Thank you for re-posting this father. As a former warfighter for a subgroup of a foreign-oriented three letter organization in Washington, I know moral injury very well. There are many ex-warfighters I know of that have been ground down by moral injury and then they attempt to seek solace in their faith. 97% of the time, the Catholic ones end up in Father Hug-a-Lot’s parish with the altar girls, sermons opening with a bad joke, and the frustrated opera singer yearning with outstretch arms for us to join her belting out “On Eagles Wings.” One friend in particular took his own life after a year back from Iraq, giving in to mushy moralistic nihilism fed to him at his NO parish.

    Moral injury, for Catholics, is crucifixion by white martyrdom. I had been told to my face a few years ago by a Fr. Jimmy Martin-style ‘presider’, when I wanted to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, “Stick out your hands or you don’t get the cookie… DON’T BE A TROUBLEMAKER.’ “Cookie?!?!?

    I just went back to my pew and said the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Attending the NO liturgy is a moral wound inducing experience here in Joe Tobin-land. Now, we are entering summer, and to “relate-to-the-young-people,” there is no modesty or decorum. Young women in really scanty tops and short-shorts flaunting it all. The theater-in-the-round liturgy becomes an potential occasion of sin. Then you end up staring at the floor, praying to Our Lord that you want to console Him for the scourging of immodesty/disrespect. Then I think “Am I enabling by my presence another spiritual scourging of the Lord???”

    MORAL INJURY INDEED. MARANATHA!!!

  21. Cincinnati Priest 2 says:

    Interesting comments on pastor transitions and their effect on the lay faithful from many post-ers. This will be an increasingly important question as in many dioceses (including mine) there is a large wave of impending priest retirement followed by a significant number of newly ordained priests who are very different liturgically.

    While not exceptionless, for the most part, liturgically loose priests will be replaced by liturgically more careful and reverent priests, so the issue is bound to become a frequent parish dynamic.

    While it’s not necessarily prudent or the most pastorally effective strategy to change abruptly, at the end of the day this is a question of style: some leaders try to “rip the bandaid off right away” so the positive change has more time to take root; others to peel the bandaid off slowly to avoid consternation. Good arguments can be made for both approaches, but the insinuation here that a pastor is a bad pastor if he takes the former approach is problematic. Also the sneering comments made above that pastors are looking down on their people because they have spent time in formation at seminary. The disrespect for the priesthood seems implicit here. Many of the faithful generally respect doctors because they study hard in medical school, but seem to have no respect for the academic work that priests must do to know, understand and implement the liturgy.

    There is a principle that one should always assume the most charitable motive possible unless there is evidence to the contrary. When changing the liturgy (if done according to the rubrics) the charitable motive is that the priest does not want to denigrate the liturgy, even for a little while. Some posters here seem to assume the uncharitable motive, that they are simply seeking to exert their authority arbitrarily or in a bullying fashion.

    I find troubling the comment that it is essentially equivalent to the faithful whether a pastor restores liturgical guidelines by the book to ignoring those guidelines. That implies that mere change is bad, rather than acknowledging that some changes are good (restoring the sacredness of the liturgy and the tradition) and that others are bad (inventing the liturgy or creating it by popular suggestion or “vote” of the faithful).

    The reality is that, when celebrated properly, according to the rubrics, there is very little in the liturgy that is variable, or can be decided by suggestions of the people. Hence the troubling comment that priests are being clerical if they “ignore” the faithful’s suggestions.

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