Against Slut, er, Liturgy Shaming

by Bernard Brandt

In the course of my going up and down through the Internet, and to and fro in it, I have found on occasion some items that have occasioned comment on my part. My most recent finding has been from the webpage, Alethea, and this recent article in it by a William Bornhoft, entitled, Against Liturgy Shaming.  

This worthy gentleman has ventured the opinion that it is wrong for those of us who are dismayed by the current liturgical and theological crisis in the Roman Catholic Church to express our opinion of it on the Internet. The thesis question of his piece may best be summed up in the article’s lede: “Is endangering your soul by promoting ridicule and viral hate campaigns really the best way to push liturgical reform?”

Now, this is a very reasonable question, and it would be well worth while to consider what a proper Catholic response might be to that question. It is a pity that most allegedly ‘Catholic’ responses, including the above one by Mr. Bornhoft, appear to be a trotting out of their own opinions, and then appending the term ‘Catholic’ to those opinions.

May I suggest instead that a true Catholic response would be to take the question, to apply the findings of Sacred Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church, and to take its measure against those three standards. So let’s get started, then, and just see what we shall see.

One useful beginning to that process would be to ask the same question asked by our separated brethren, the Evangelical Protestants: “What Would Jesus Do?” Of course, as one Catholic wag has remarked: “In asking ‘What Would Jesus Do?’, the legitimate options include shouting at the top of His voice, turning over tables, and whipping people out of the Temple.”

I do not think it proof texting to note that on the one occasion that Our Lord actually did whip people out of the Temple, He was addressing a liturgical abuse, which is plain by His words: “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” Nor do I think it a stretch that in Our Lord’s parable of the Kingdom of Heaven, which He compared to a Wedding Feast, He reserved the worst punishment to one who showed up in the wrong garment.

Now, the Church, both East and West, has long held that the Divine Liturgy, and the Holy Mass, are both types of the Kingdom of Heaven, of that Wedding Feast described in Matthew 22, and of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb at the end of the Revelation of St. John. And the Fathers of the Church of East and West are united in saying that those who come unprepared to that Wedding Feast, or who serve it unworthily, are subject to the same punishment as that described by our Lord.

I will note in addition that the Lord God, as He has spoken through the prophets, is not above slut shaming.  This can be seen in the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and particularly Jeremiah, when the prophets condemned the people of Israel who foresook the worship of the Temple and instead worshiped idols. In short, the prophets uniformly condemned the people of Israel as a woman who had played the whore.

But let us turn our attention from Sacred Scripture to Holy Tradition. It has been a commonplace in that Tradition that Our Blessed Lady, Theotokos and Aeiparthenos, is both quick to aid, and not at all reluctant to speak Her mind. I will offer but one paragraph of a text attributed to our Blessed Lady, which was given by Our Lady of LaSalette after the year 1851, permitted by Her to be revealed in 1858, and finally revealed in 1879:

“The priests, ministers of my Son, the priests, by their wicked lives, by their irreverence and their impiety in the celebration of the holy mysteries, by their love of money, their love of honors and pleasures, and the priests have become cesspools of impurity. Yes, the priests are asking vengeance, and vengeance is hanging over their heads. Woe to the priests and to those dedicated to God who by their unfaithfulness and their wicked lives are crucifying my Son again! The sins of those dedicated to God cry out towards Heaven and call for vengeance, and now vengeance is at their door, for there is no one left to beg mercy and forgiveness for the people. There are no more generous souls; there is no one left worthy of offering a stainless sacrifice to the Eternal for the sake of the world.”

There is much more there, and that message is such a thing of horror and terror that I can not yet write of it. But, for those who would say that this is but a private revelation, it is one approved by at least two popes: Pius XI, before this final revelation of our Lady, and John Paul II, in the year 2000, long after that revelation was made.

The point that I make is that if this is an approved message of Our Lady, then it shows a willingness on Her part to shame priests and religious who are not true to their calling. So much for Mr. Bornhoft’s words to the contrary.

As to the Magisterium, the documents of the Second Vatican Council are replete with statements like the following: no one, not even a priest, is permitted to change the words of the Divine Liturgy; that the music proper to the liturgy is Gregorian Chant, sacred polyphony, and finally, the music of the people; that Gregorian chant is to be given ‘pride of place’ in all liturgical gatherings.

And modern Canon law is clear that Christ’s faithful ‘have the right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church’ (Canon 214). We also have ‘the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.’ (Canon 212, § 3)

So, to the extent that Mr. Bornhoft is saying that we should not complain when our pastors are mis-serving the Divine Liturgy, or to shame our pastors when they are acting shamefully, then no, he does not appear to be speaking in accord with either Scripture, Holy Tradition, or the Magisterium of the Church.

On the other hand, I am in entire agreement with Mr. Bornhoft that, in our Lord’s words, we are called to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We are called to correct our brothers in Christ in a spirit of gentleness, lest we fall into the same sin ourselves. We are called to go, alone and privately to one who offends, and seek to resolve the problem ourselves first. It is only when the other will not listen, to one or to several people, that we should take things up to a larger audience. One starts by addressing the problem with the bishop of an offending priest or church. If that is unsuccessful, one goes on to bring it to the attention of Rome. And finally, if no one else will listen, we are to bring the matter to the attention of our brother and sister Christians.

In that spirit then, I will post this clip, which was made apparently by a Russian Orthodox, who was scandalized by the flagrant liturgical abuse of the second largest Roman Catholic cathedral basilica in the world, which was posted in that clip (thanks, Daniel Muller, for the correction). The offending section begins at 5’40” into the clip. I cannot do anything to change what has been done. I know none of the people there. I have no ability to speak to any of the people there, or to have them hear me. Rome knows, apparently, and will do nothing to stop the abuse. Sometimes, the only thing one can do is to speak truth, and to shame the devil.

 

 

 

Advertisements