Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Lay-led communion service displaces Sunday Mass: why lay-led communion services should be banned!

I've been alerted by a reader to a particularly outrageous abuse of the use of lay-led communion services in the Ballarat diocese. 

Apparently, next Sunday parishioners of St Michael and John's Parish, Horsham, are being urged to abandon their Sunday morning Mass (with a priest) in favour of attending what seems to be a communion service (without a priest) at a Church in Dimboola as an 'Outreach Celebration' organised by a (lay-led) 'Pastoral Care Group'.

Shouldn't it be the reverse, with a  special effort being made by Dimboola parishioners to get to somewhere there actually is a real Mass on?!

Sacrifice vs sacrament: why communion services are no substitute for the Mass

Communion services have been permitted, even encouraged across Australia for communities unable to have a regular Mass.  But they are always, it seems to me, very problematic.

Communion services serve to undermine the importance of the sacrifice of the Mass, as the Ballarat case exactly illustrates.

We are not required to receive communion each week. 

But we are required to attend Mass if at all possible. 

Why is that?

It is because at the Mass, the priest draws together all of our own sacrifices and prayers, and together with his own, offers them up through and with Christ's sacrifice, for the good of those present, any particular purposes of the mass, for our priests and bishops, the dead and for the whole world. 

By participating in the Mass we are doing something immediately, not just for ourselves, but for others.

And that is why it can never be acceptable to decide not to go to Mass but to go to a communion service instead.

So let's just hope that all those Horsham parishioners are going to go to the Vigil Mass on Saturday night before heading off on Sunday to Dimboola (yeah right!).

A source of grace or damnation?

But there are other reasons to worry about lay-led communion services.

First, they put an excessive emphasis on the reception of the sacrament. 

Reception of holy communion can of course be a source of union with Christ, grace, and forgiveness of venial sins for the individual, and more.  Eventually that will help others around us as well.

But only if we are in a state of grace, and if we have the proper dispositions.  

In the absence of a priest available for confession, the neglect of this sacrament by most Catholics today, and widespread lack of belief in the Real Presence, just how likely is this to be occurring? 

I suspect it is far more likely that most participants in such services are in fact bringing judgment on themselves (1 Cor 11) rather than grace to themselves and others.

A celebration of self and congregationalism: the Canberra-Goulburn Diocesan Assembly as a case in point

The biggest problem with these services though, is that in my observation, they tend to become narcissistic celebrations of self run by a clericalized liberal clique pushing the congregationalist (protestant view that priests are unnecessary) heresy.

At the recent Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese Assembly for example, the issue of communion services in the absence of a priest came up in the small group I participated in, raised by an older lady from the country. 

Her concern was that when they had been introduced in her area, a number of families had ended up dropping out from the Church. 

At first, she said, those who didn't like the idea of communion services had taken to driving long distances to whichever town in the area had a scheduled Mass.  

Eventually though, the effort involved had proved too much, and they had just dropped out of the Church altogether. 

Accordingly, she was worried about proposals to extend the use of such services.

But the reaction in the discussion group to her concerns was sad.  One person (an older male from the city) fairly aggressively attempted to squash any discussion of the downside of such services, and instead wanted to talk about how we didn't need priests at all anyway, and argued that communion services were clearly a step in the right direction.  

Another man tried to badger the woman into saying that the numbers involved were small (but can we afford to lose any souls?!). 

And when I suggested that the Archbishop's proposals to rationalise the number of Masses in Canberra could allow some priests to be freed up to be based in the country and reduce the need for such services, I was greeted with bemusement.  Nor did my suggestion that communities celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours instead gain any traction (not surprising really - even if any of them knew what it was, I doubt they had ever actually had a chance to actually attend Vespers or any other of the hours)!

In the end, the person writing down the record of our discussion and reporting back to the wider group, as far as I could tell (hard to read upside down), simply omitted to mention the issue in his notes or summary of the discussion at all. 

Unsurprisingly, in the wider group report backs, another person lauded the value of such services in forming "community" .  Well maybe.  But the community being formed, in my view, is not a catholic one.

Are there alternatives?

So what should be done in the absence of a priest?

The first point is clearly that if such services are in place (and a rethink really is needed on this) such services should never be used without good, ongoing catechesis of all involved.

They also need to be supervised so far as possible by (orthodox) priests, as well as their bishops.  How could the parish priest concerned by allowing the Dimboola event to be promoted in the parish bulletin for example? 

One creative suggestion from the Canberra-Goulburn Assembly was to have livestreaming of the Mass in Churches without a priest from the regional centre that had one each week instead. 

It doesn't completely solve the problem of course, since people still aren't actually participating in the Mass.  But it does mean that the community can have a 'missa sicca' (dry mass), a very traditional devotion, rather than an entirely fabricated liturgy, actually said by a priest instead of promoting lay-led alternatives.

Another alternative though, would surely be to encourage local communities to say some of the Liturgy of the Hours (perhaps the Office of Readings) on Sundays when no priest was available.  That way they would be participating in genuine liturgy that is closely linked to the Mass, and that really involves all of those present. 

It would require training and catechesis of course.  But so too, clearly, do the alternatives.

And if people found themselves missing the Mass and reception of the Eucharist that might not be an altogether bad thing.

Perhaps they could be encouraged to channel this longing into holding Adoration in their otherwise empty Churches, making them genuine centres of prayer to attract new parishioners rather than empty palaces. 

Perhaps they could pray for vocations, and encourage young men in their communities to consider priestly vocations - instead of trying to become pseudo-priests themselves.

Perhaps they could be encouraged to carpool or hire a bus and head together for some place there is a Mass on a regular basis.

Perhaps they could encourage special events to be held in their church - in consultation with the nominal parish priest, invite priests from a religious order or secular institute to run a mission for them, or organise pilgrimages that come with their own priests to visit their often very attractive churches to see what real church architecture should look like?

There are better alternatives....


GOR said...

Yes, this all smacks of the ‘priesthood of the laity’ again! It appears that some bishops are only too willing to have ‘lay-led’ parishes rather than working to promote more priestly vocations – and it is not confined to Australia.

While distances can be a problem for the sick, the very young and the elderly I think we have all become soft and too easily excuse ourselves from making the extra effort to attend Mass. I think back to the Penal Times in Ireland and England when priests were really in short supply – not to mention in fear of their lives – yet people walked miles over dirt roads and fields to attend Mass in a field, a barn or a cave.

Yet today with better roads and more means of transportation, people too readily excuse themselves because of ‘distance’. Of course there are plenty of others who have a church and a priest down the block and won’t even make the minimal effort to attend Mass.

I am not keen on ‘Communion Services’ either – even when presided over by a permanent deacon, which happens in a parish near me on assorted weekdays. The parish has a pastor. Why he can’t offer Mass each weekday for his parishioners, I don’t understand.

As to meeting to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, while commendable, it might be a stretch for most people. Why not meet, say the Rosary and spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament…? It’s what our forefathers would have done – at least as regards the Rosary. But it would have been at home, with the family. Something else we have lost to a great extent.

ka said...

This stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between us as a priestly people and ordained priests with consecrated hands who act in persona Christi. In other words, the modernist clericalisation of the laity and laicising of the ordained clergy. If one appreciates the fundamental difference then proposals such as this cannot even arise.

R J said...

It seems to me that the crucial question is that of how major, or how minor, the priest shortage in Australia actually is. If we had an antipodean equivalent to Kenneth C. Jones's American Index of Catholic Indicators, the matter could be definitively settled one way or the other. But compiling such an index for the local market would presuppose a level of sustained candour and competence unknown at the diocesan level in this country. So Australian Catholics are forced to adopt one of two possible explanations:

(a) The priesthood shortage is a fraud, on a par with phrenology, Eurocommunism, Freudianism, the Millennium Bug, and other modern Ponzi schemes for imposing upon the gullible.

(b) The priesthood shortage is not at all a fraud, but is real.

Now (a) and (b) cannot both be true - given the principle of non-contradiction which used to be taught in proper catechetics (i.e. the opposite of modern RCIA tripe). And I cannot see how (a) and (b) can both be false.

Well, then: if (a) is true, then we can broadly stop worrying; the local hierarchy can continue doing what it has been doing for years, namely, importing seminarians and priests from what might charitably be called non-First-World countries; and eventually the lay "leavening the lump" effect from such importations will ensure that the Australian Church's Euro-degenerate element (embodied in its extreme form by Catholica's resident ocker heretics) simply dies out, sooner rather than later.

I myself happen to believe that (b) is true; that the priesthood shortage in Australia is genuine, grave, incurable without miraculous intervention; and that this shortage would never have happened but for the activities of extremely unscrupulous sodomites with power of veto (particularly in Melbourne) over clerical candidates. These trouble-makers' US equivalents are described at length in Michael Rose's book Goodbye, Good Men.

Note that it was never necessary for such sodomites to labour towards a clerical milieu which was, in and of itself, entirely sodomitic. Desirable though this milieu would have been, it was ultimately as impractical as were former Communist dreams of making the whole of Australian administration Communist. Rather, the crucial aim consisted of ensuring that no effective opposition to revolution - whether political in the Communists' case, or sexual in the sodomites' case - could be permitted to survive.

In that task, Organised Sodom has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams. The Bolts and the Devines and the Akermans and the rest of our so-called "conservatives", including today's official "right to life" lobby (which can always be neutered, above all in Victoria, by governmental threats of cutting off State Aid), dare not take on the homosexual lobby, for fear of being called "homophobic". Accusations of "fascist" served the same purpose when Communists wanted to destroy the reputations of their enemies. To this day, accusations of "antisemite" serve the same purpose when Australian and American Zionists wish to engage in similar defamation.

Accordingly we had better get used to a real priest shortage, very much, in fact, as the Japanese lay Catholics through centuries of persecution managed to do. For years on end those heroic faithful had to cope without the ministrations of a priest (though they could of course administer their own baptisms). Did this absence of priestly ministrations tempt them to Protestant-style nonsense à la Horsham? It did not.

Matthias said...

I was received into the Church in early October at the Latin mass Church here in Melbourne. I count it as my spiritual home but it is difficult to get to on weekends so i attend locally-St Phillips North Blackburn which holds an EF Saturday mornings too. My first Sunday I went to my local Catholic church-not St Phils-and was struck by how lay led the Mass was. This included a lay person placing the Host, at the end of the Distribution of the Sacrament,into the Tabernacle!!

R J said...

In Britain's New Statesman magazine on 28 April 1967, Paul Johnson wrote: "The Roman Catholic Church has finally turned Protestant."

Note that (a) Johnson meant this, not as an expression of nauseated horror, but as a compliment; (b) he said this more than a year before Humanae Vitae; (b) he was then an unabashed atheist and cheerleader for erotic revolution. (Later, as confirmed by The Independent on 2 November 1998, Johnson found abundant scope for his adulterous degeneracy - including protracted spanking - while remaining a soi-disant Catholic.)

If I was ever unfortunate enough to encounter the sort of sacrilege which Matthias describes, I would run, rather than walk, out of what could well be an invalid Mass anyway. Then I would publicise the sacrilege via all the social media to which I have access.

I would not waste my time complaining to the Australian hierarchy, let alone to the magazines under the Australian hierarchy's auspices. (Just to give an example of what we can expect from such magazines: the new issue of Melbourne's Kairos includes a slobbering tribute to Brazil's long-time commie-symp Helder Camara.) But where Australian Catholicism is worse than useless, overseas Catholicism - at least its social-media-reading contingent - can do good.

Kate said...

I'm pretty sure what Mathias describes is not really outright sacrilege RJ - while certainly less than desirable, the modern rubrics do permit laypeople to both receive in the hand, assist with the distribution of the host, and approach the tabernacle.

R J said...

Well, maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the lay-led business which Matthias described didn't constitute actual sacrilege or automatic evidence of invalidity. (I'm told that it's actually quite difficult to make a Mass invalid, though I wouldn't put that achievement past our more liturgically inventive episcopal types.) Still, I would hate to be at a Mass where it happened. No danger of that at Caulfield, thank goodness.