Monday, September 04, 2006

Survey says... ?

In the summer of 2005, the Adoremus Society conducted a survey to gauge the extent to which the liturgical norms of the disciplinary document Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) are observed. More than 1300 people representing 168 U.S. dioceses responded to the survey, the results of which were published in the December 2005–January 2006 issue of Adoremus Bulletin. Editor Helen Hull Hitchcock stated therein (pg. 10):

Nearly 40% reported that their parish was in accord with the norms of RS at the time it appeared (though some had changed parishes because of problems), and 22% said that existing problems had been corrected after the document appeared. Another 24% reported that some, but not all, of the liturgical abuses in their parish had been corrected. Only 15% reported that no changes had been made to correct abuses.

That’s good news for those whose perspective inclines them to see a glass as half-full where others see it as half-empty. It means that 62% of the respondents regularly attend Mass in parishes where no liturgical abuses exist. No abuses, mind you. No priestly improvising in the rite of Mass; no playing architectural hide-and-seek with the tabernacle; no homilies by the non-ordained; no glass chalices; no illicit use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion...

Maybe it’s just my personality (I am aptly named Thomas), or maybe it’s the cynicism to which middle age entitles me, but I am inclined to doubt that the majority of parishes -- cathedral parishes included -- are liturgically "perfect." (Remember: I'm talking about adherence to liturgical norms. Style and taste are another matter.) Having been a hospital chaplain without parochial duties for just over two years, I routinely celebrate weekday and weekend Masses at half a dozen area parishes. While none of these parishes is known for heterodox preaching or liturgical lunacy, still, only one is what I would call abuse-free, if by "abuse" is meant those lamentably common practices expressly forbidden by Church law. As for the others, one or more of the following infractions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and/or Redemptionis Sacramentum are still common:

  • The unnecessary use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (for a particularly egregious example, weekday Masses with fewer than thirty people in attendance);
  • Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion approaching the altar during the Agnus Dei instead of after the priest’s Communion;
  • Altar servers seated immediately beside the celebrant as if they were sacred ministers;
  • Bowing rather than genuflecting upon arriving and exiting the sanctuary, even when the tabernacle is located in the sanctuary and the celebrant is not physically impeded from genuflecting (I learned of this error in one parish upon being told after Mass that I “threw off” the servers by genuflecting, since the pastor -- no cripple, he -- "always bows");
  • The puzzling refusal on the part of many priests to wear an amice even when their “street clothes” are visible at the neck, or a cincture even when their alb is loose-fitting;
  • Finally, lest we forget Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), Paul VI’s Iubilate Deo (1974), John Paul II’s Dominicæ Cenæ (1980) and the Code of Canon Law (1983), nary a word of Latin (Yes, I deem that an abuse; these documents leave no doubt that Latin is to be used routinely, even while allowing for the vernacular).

The only correction called for by Redemptionis Sacramentum that I have seen implemented pretty much throughout my diocese (Fall River, Mass.) concerns Communion under both kinds. The instruction calls for an end to the practice of pouring the Precious Blood from a flagon into several chalices during the Communion Rite (RS, no. 106). Instead, when Communion is to be administered under both species, all chalices should be brought to the altar and filled with wine after the gifts have been received (cf. GIRM, nos. 142 & 178); alternatively, the chalices may be filled before Mass and kept on a side table until the gifts are brought to the altar (cf. GIRM, no. 75).

It's not that I have anything against the Adoremus Society. I am, in fact, a supporting member. However, I would like to know, by means of your comments to this post, whether your own observations corroborate the Adoremus survey.

If you are kind enough to take the time to post a comment, please be sure that the “abuse” you report is indeed a liturgical abuse/error as opposed to a legitimate practice or style not to your liking. If you’re unsure, I suggest you visit,, or Be sure, too, that the infraction you report is routinely committed, rather than an infrequent and honest mistake. And if you are among those blessed with a “liturgically correct” parish (62% of Catholics, if the Adoremus survey fairly represents the U.S. Catholic liturgical scene), why not give your parish some well-deserved recognition? In doing so, you'll also be letting others in your area know where they can worship according to the mind of the Church. Finally, please be very brief, as I anticipate a lot of responses.

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