Ecclesial Consumerism, Redux

Apr 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Carl Trueman is encouraged by reports that a huge number of people have left the Catholic Church. When I saw this, I assumed that the data to which he refers shows that these Catholics had all come to embrace the Protestant doctrine of justification, which is supposed to be the sine qua non of the true Church. But this is not stated in the poll data. The article to which Trueman links reports that, according to a recent poll, half of these Catholics become religiously unaffiliated, while half become Protestant. As for the Protestant half, whether they go mainline or evangelical, the article states:

The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.

In other words, the Catholic church has failed to deliver what people consider fundamental products of religion: spiritual sustenance and a good worship service. And before conservatives blame the new liturgy, only 11 percent of those leaving complained that Catholicism had drifted too far from traditional practices such as the Latin Mass.

In other words, these former Catholics are ecclesial consumerists.

A subset of these Catholics-turned-Protestant become evangelicals. For these, disagreement with Catholic teaching and a desire for a more “literal” approach to the Bible ranked third and fourth behind style of worship and “spiritual needs” as reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. An underlying assumption that is apparently shared by these former Catholics, the Catholic who wrote the article, and those who are encouraged by this phenomenon, is that corporate Christian worship is primarily about me, my felt needs, my music preferences, my opinions.

By way of counter-acting the departures, the author recommended that: “Programs and liturgies that cater to their needs must take precedence over the complaints of fuddy-duddies and rubrical purists.” Millions of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, would agree. The author’s advice, for all intents and purposes, is that Catholic parishes need to become more like Protestant communities: made to order. But there are already thousands of Protestant denominations and hundreds of thousands of independent churches serving up tailor-made doctrine and worship. And if you can’t find one you like (or with which you agree), then you can just start your own church or denomination. This is the Protestant Way. If you are an ecclesial consumerist, why would you settle for an imperfect Catholic knock-off, cumbered with church hierarchy based upon Apostolic Succession, of the original ecclesial Burger King?

For my part, I am encouraged by the fact that the Catholic Church has traditionally perceived no dichotomy between God-centered worship and meeting the needs of her members, which is why the Sacrifice of the Mass has always been and remains the heart of Catholic liturgy. What could possibly fulfill a person’s spiritual needs more than the Eucharist? By the same token, because Jesus Christ is really and objectively present in the Eucharist, this sacrifice is the most perfect form of worship that we can offer up to God. The Church is not insensitive to the fact that many of her children have walked away from the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Catholics are making a concerted effort to encourage these precious brothers and sisters to come home. This appeal is not based on felt needs or personal perferences, but upon the idea that the Catholic Church is one family, with one faith and sacramental life, enduring for two millennia, centered upon and founded by Christ.

Leave a comment »

  1. So, there all these intellectual converts to Rome since at least Newman on who were well catechized and can give thoughtful reasons for becoming Catholic. Knox, Kreeft, Beckwith, Budziszewski, Hahn, Howard, Shea etc., etc.

    I don’t mean to be demeaning or to make an invalid argument from authority, but does anyone know of a Protestant convert from the Church who converted for theological reasons as a well catechized Catholic? I really would like to read such a person. I think it would help me to understand the Protestant position. But Mike Gendron’s (the closest I’ve found to fitting that profile) poorly reasoned vitriol isn’t doing it for me.

  2. “By way of counter-acting the departures, the author recommends that: “Programs and liturgies that cater to their needs must take precedence over the complaints of fuddy-duddies and rubrical purists.” Millions of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, think this way, and it must be admitted that such a mindset is not very compatible with Catholicism.”

    I’m confused by these 2 sentences. Which side are you taking on your quote? That rubrical purists need to relax?

  3. I have no idea how to embed a video in a comment but the same Church did this (I hope this works):

    Bulls On Parade from Elevation Worship on Vimeo.

    I actually like Rage Against the Machine, but this is nuts.

  4. Hey Ben,

    Good catch. I just went back and changed that bit in order to make my point clearer.

  5. It’s worth noting that people who refuse to go to a church with modern music and a touchy-feely atmosphere can be just as guilty of consumerism as those who chose a more popular expression of worship. Choosing a church based on personal preference is the earmark of ecclesial consumerism. Excellent taste doesn’t safeguard from this pitfall.

  6. Sarah,

    I completely agree. For example, say there is a Catholic parish and a Lutheran assembly in your neighborhood. Now suppose that the Lutheran church (Missouri Synod, of course) is beautiful (maybe neo-Gothic) and the liturgy all that one could desire (aesthetically), whereas the Catholic church is built like a bowl and full of polyester banners and bass guitars. Where should one go? The loud ugly church, of course.

    However, it is not the case that beauty is unrelated to worship, nor is beauty a purely subjective phenomenon. Taste is subjective, but since it corresponds to an objective good, it is possible to educate taste, or aesthetic sensibility, so to perceive and enjoy what is truly, objectively beautiful. And what is truly beautiful is surely more fitting for divine worship than what is ugly. Some of us need a lot more education than others (I am a complete dunce when it comes to music), and there can be many different expressions of the beautiful. The great thing is to become educated and to grow to enjoy beautiful forms of worship. The modern tragedy is to settle for flabby liturgical egalitarianism, indifferent to everything but what I happen to like at the moment.

    (Of course, for Catholics, our guide is not merely educated taste, but traditional form, which is developed organically in the Church over time.)

  7. So anyone who ever leaves one church for another for any reason based on personal preference is now guilty of the mysterious crime of “consumerism”? The term has become unnecessarily charged. Prove that it’s wrong to desire a different type of music or style of preaching. I can guarantee that if my priest allowed puppet masses and preached about saving the planet every Sunday, I’d bolt too. I would want to consume something spiritually better. And that’s exactly what these people are (hopefully) doing. Admittedly, they’re moving in the wrong direction, but let’s not level a charge of “CONSUMERISM” at them. More likely, they’re victims of poor catechetical instruction. Or maybe their only knowledge of Catholicism is from the RCIA program; heaven knows if we stopped studying after RCIA, we’d all leave for something else.

  8. Andrew,

    Nice article. I actually was the lead guitarist for one of the largest mega-churches in the country (in the mid-west). I remember being able to manipulate the worship with just a few well timed or popular rifts. I had a guy come up to me one night and tell me how “awesome” worship was. I knew it was just because I had played a few country rifts in the middle of a Delirious song. It helped he was wearing boots.

    I think there is absolutely nothing in our culture that would make one “buy” Catholicism. Those that do, because they think it’s a flashy car, leave the Church. There’s nothing about an old wooden pew, a Pope, no contraception, up-and-down-up-and-down, believing in transubstantiation that fits into a modern, egalitarian, free sex, scientistic, stadium seating culture. It was by God’s grace that I finally escaped the ecclesial rat-race and found the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

    –Deacon Bryan #3: Really sad. First, the emo-speaker cabinet didn’t really give me what I was looking for. Don’t do that to RAM or Tom Morello–soft cover. Second, everyone looked too “upper middle class, no REALLY I have a past, don’t these clothes make me look raw” feel. I went to a church like that for a few months on my way to Catholicism except for it had couches, candles, and communion on demand!–wine or juice whichever you were comfortable with! I guess you would call that liturgical consumerism?–

  9. Sure, the Pope’s the successor of St. Peter and all, but can he shred? Case-closed.

  10. Andrew,
    Reading it again – it wasn’t all that unclear. I am just dense sometimes. I was confused because I thought “the author” you were referring to in the first sentence I quoted was referring to yourself. That’s how I got confused because it didn’t fit in with the rest of what you said. Sorry for the confusion. It’s a good article.

  11. Thanks for the blog post. I found the actual article when Beggars All blog site talked about the exact same thing yesterday. It a survey that was taken in 2009.

    When I read the actual survey, I felt the main people who are leaving are the ones that are very liberal in their views, as well as, went by their own private interpretation and did not interpret Scripture base on the whole deposit of the faith.

    Very good article

  12. Andrew,

    This is a fascinating phenomenon. Thanks for this post and the call for greater liturgical fidelity. I think you are right to make that call since worship ought not to change simply because of man-centered considerations. I am surprised that Truman was encouraged since he would disapprove of man-centered worship and has criticized Evangelicalism for its emptiness. Why does he find it encouraging that people he might consider Christian are moving from a form of worship he considers erroneous if not idolatrous to forms of worship that are man-pleasing? Some of the more strict regulative principle of worship Presbyterian readers might sympathize with your fundamental point here. RPW Presbyterians, however, might not sympathize with your point that non-Catholic groups simply cannot offer the communion with Christ in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, the application of the cleansing and life-giving grace of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The solution is not merely increased knowledge of Holy Scripture or the encouragement of intentional discipleship. Integral to true spiritual life is participation in the holy worship of the Triune God who has revealed himself to man. On this last note, I wonder what you think about the Catherine of Siena Institute. I do not see liturgical counter-reform and “intentional discipleship” as necessarily competing means for spiritual renewal in the Church.

    I have some of my own complementary reactions to add. First, I could not find anything in the article that said whether this exodus of Catholics from the Church was on-going. Does anyone else know? Does the Pew study describe something that is over or something that continues to accurately describe the osmosis of members to sects on the basis of worship preferences? Relatedly, is this a problem specific to Catholicism or does this indicate a general problem in American society, namely, the consumeristic impulse (as you argue)? Since there is no comparison at the article with other Christian groups, it is hard to say. Are the children of Evangelicals leaving Evangelicalism at similar rates? I seem to recall another article on the Pew study that posited a broad trend not exclusive to the Catholic Church on changes in religious re-affiliation.

    Second, I wonder if there is some truth to the lack of “spiritual needs” being met in the Church. I think you are absolutely correct on the one hand to see this reason for leaving as a spiritual-sounding code word for consumerism, a baptism of a fundamentally sinful and uncultured desire for that which entertains me. (We are all familiar with this desire because we are all Americans.) Yet I wonder if the low numbers of priests in some dioceses and the absence of small group ministries leaves some Catholics with a lack of personal connection to the Church. In other words, the more good priests the better the care of more souls. Many people are attracted to small group ministries in Protestantism as well as the warm atmosphere, which might also explain the rise of some of the New Ecclesial Movements within the Church. I believe the Holy Father himself attends Communion and Liberation meetings in Rome. Perhaps others have some thoughts about this. The mitigation of the spiritual effects of low number of priests might come about through small groups like that. While not a good excuse for leaving the Church–indeed, it may ring hollow when the books are opened at the Judgment–the “spiritual needs” issue may not be about only consumerism, but the desire to belong. This desire is ultimately about belonging to a people and homeland, but is a desire brought short of fulfillment outside of the Church.

    Third, I think the emphasis on how the Church reads the Bible in the article, though coming after the consumption of music/worship which you note, might be read back into the “ex-Catholics'” move into Evangelicalism. It is easy to tell one’s history in categories that were adopted later but which did not apply at the time one made crucial decisions. I wonder how many of these people met some nice Evangelicals, had a religious experience, perhaps even read the Bible for the first time, and then came to believe what they were being told both by misinformed Protestants and liberal Catholic nuns: that the Catholic Church does not believe the Bible or something like that. I really doubt those polled really know the official position of the Church well. I doubt they have well-reasoned hermeneutical positions. They just read a book of the Bible straight through for the first time and wondered why no one helped them to do that earlier in their life.

    Now I do not think that increased Bible study is the answer to spiritual growth for every person. Something I am continually amazed at in the Church is the ability of the Faith to bring the poor, the illiterate, and over-worked single parents into an encounter with our risen Lord. (BTW, have a fruitful Holy Triduum! It has been a hard Lent in some ways and the tension is building through the readings at Mass. How hard to walk the Lord’s Passion with him, having come to know him as the righteous Son and to know that his sufferings were for our sins! Yet the joy of Easter follows close behind after the silent rumblings of new life on Holy Saturday.) Not everyone can read or read well, both throughout the world and in America. My wife is sponsoring a candidate this weekend for whom Bible study is not an option right now and may not be for a long time. It is simply not true when Fr. Reese said in the article that one cannot be an adult Christian without reading the Bible. How many of the saints could not read? Instead, they knew the Scriptures in other ways, e.g., attending to the readings at Mass, through images in churches, shrines, and homes, or through popular devotions which focus on the mysteries of redemption (e.g., the rosary). Despite not studying the Bible, in the sense in which we think of that, they loved the Lord Jesus and sacrificed their lives for him and with him. Bible studies are good and every parish I have been to, both in St. Louis and here in Virginia, offer them. I still read through books like I was trained to do as a Protestant (though reading and commenting on entire books is also the method of the Church Fathers and the Scholastics). Yet let’s not say that this will help everyone when some may only be able to say their daily prayers, make it to daily Mass, and confess their sins once a month. Furthermore, reading the Bible is not easy and Catholics know that outside of the Tradition it is easy to go astray. Finally, Fr. Reese does not commend the sacrament of penance for spiritual growth from what I remember from the article, though I concede that this requires some knowledge of Revelation to know what is the good and blessed life which God requires of us and which Christ teaches us how to live from the heart.

    Fifth, if the exodus is on-going, I agree in part with Fr. Reese about priests showing preference for the formation of teenagers. Think of the fruit of St. John Bosco or St. Francis de Sales. Both had a love for children and for their education. The additional factor is the involvement of parents in daily catechesis, both in formal instruction and in modeling to their children how to live the faith (prayers, forgiveness within the family, undertaking spiritual and corporal works of mercy as a family, etc.).

    Tonight is the celebration of the institution of the Eucharist and the beginning of the Paschal Lamb’s being given up for us. Let us all soberly consider the mystery of our redemption tonight and throughout the weekend. Much love and encouragement to those who enter into full communion at the Easter Vigil!


  13. Chris,

    You asked (#7):

    So anyone who ever leaves one church for another for any reason based on personal preference is now guilty of the mysterious crime of “consumerism”?

    An ecclesial consumerist is someone who chooses a church based upon a list of criteria exclusive of the item: “Is this the Church that Christ founded?”

    In a local Catholic church (i.e. a diocese), there are obviously many parishes. In this modern age of asphalt and high-speed motor cars, the geographical boundaries of a parish have all but disappeared (there are seven Catholic parishes each within a 15 minute drive of my residence). So it may be that one can rightly choose between these parishes based upon informed personal preference and other prudential considerations. Still, I guess that most Catholic pastors would tell you not to spend your life hopping around from parish to parish.

    But it would be another thing altogether to choose between a Catholic and a non-Catholic parish in the same area, based upon personal preferences and other prudential considerations.

  14. Barrett,

    I don’t know what is the time-frame for these figures. The thought occured to me also that this is not only a problem for the Catholic Church.

    I agree that many Catholics might be attracted to the more personal and often Bible-study oriented structure of evangelical groups. For me, going the other way, the big, impersonal Catholic parish was a formidable obstacle. I was sure that I would sorely miss the small group Bible studies. Thanks be to God, the Cathedral church in Charlotte featured Catholic Scripture Study courses. Week after week, I sat around a table with 20-25 wonderful Catholic men and women, and really dug into the word of God–with coffee and donuts (after Mass) and Bibles wide open. In fact, this Fall might be a good time to sign up for another course. My point is (for all our readers), the opportunities are there, even if you have to make them yourself (CSS was founded by a laywoman, a convert from Protestantism).

    Barrett, I agree that this kind of thing (the relatively intimate, small group activity, whether more studious or social) is not for everyone, at least not at every time in life. Catholicism nourishes the soul in quiet, mysterious but substantial ways, the efficacy of which cannot be measured, through the sacraments and sacramentals of the Church. Bible studies are wonderful, but the Mass is essential.

    In the post, I chose to bring my focus in line with that of the poll and Fr. Reese. As I hope was made clear, the data and subsequent analysis overwhelmingly indicated that consumerism was the driving force behind the departures.

    As to Trueman’s preferred brand of religion, I am remined of the bit at the beginning of Catholic Matters, in the which the late Fr. Neuhaus mentioned the decline of denominationalism in American religious life. Used to be, a Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopalian, etc. could tell you why his denomination was right, and the others wrong. I think that some Reformed folks are trying to recover a sort of confessional exclusivity. The problem is, they cannot do so credibly, as a teaching authority for the Church that Christ founded, because none of these groups is rooted in Christian history and sacramental authority. As has been pointed out on this site, confessionalism suffices for club membership, not for inclusion in the Body of Christ. And because there are multiple Protestant confessional communities, each teaching different doctrine in their confessions, this form of religion is also reducible to ecclesial consumerism.

  15. Sam, I don’t know of many Protestants that meet your description (although there are several Catholic Priests which became Protestant Preachers who somehow didn’t seem to know their faith, e.g. ).

    I guess the closest example I can find is several Catholics which converted to Orthodox (they’re easy to find via Google) or went into schism (e.g. SSPX). One group left because of the changes in Vatican II which resulted in such atrocities such as clown masses and an liberal stripping of the alters. The theological issue seems to be, if something as essential as the liturgy has been so damaged, then maybe authority doesn’t rest with the Catholic Church, and they look for the closest Church they can find that has the same core faith and does not have this damage. Another group seem more to look at the Orthodox polemics and come to the conclusion that the early Church was a Pentarchy with Rome having primacy of honor for no reason other than it was the biggest and had the most martyrs, i.e. it’s not a doctrine. Since the Pope is a central doctrine of Catholicism, if he is not essential to the Church then the Orthodox are right and Catholics are wrong.

    Both these have answers, but they’re not easy answers. I’m sure many of the converts here likely had to deal with the Orthodox versus Rome decision, and they can attest to this.

  16. For what it’s worth, I feel for you guys when it comes to this kind of thing. Though we are a part of opposing traditions, I think we both feel the sting that’s left behind when our people succumb to the allure of ecclesial consumerism. I posted about this article last night:

  17. There is an article today in the Catholic Culture News that states Pope Benedict asks are the people of the Western Church tired and have they lost interest in the faith? The answer is undoubtedly yes and it’s because for the most part the shepherds have allowed the flock to wander away, persuaded by flash and glitter of other fields. They do not teach the “faith”. They teach attendance if they teach anything at all. The shepherd can go though all the motions of the liturgy he wants, if the sheep don’t understand, they wont stay. The Church needs teachers who believe what they teach and preachers who believe what they preach. Look around you, do you see the tiredness?

    It is a sad thing to say but most Catholics are only going through the motions and do not understand their own faith. Now I am not saying all are like that, obviously not but for every parish that has it good there are 10 that don’t. It is a sickness that has been spreading for many years. I have been in parishes where the priest will ask a question of the congregation on a Sunday and everyone is looking at each other like, “what is he talking about”.

    I thank each and everyone of you for the excellent work that is done here. For the most part both sides of the debates are well done and interesting to follow. Sometimes it’s a little over my head but it has become a part of my daily reading. Keep it up all of you. Lovin’ it.

  18. Andrew:

    Very good article. I linked your article in a thread in a religion forum at another blog where this was being discussed by Catholics and Protestants, etc.

    The article by Fr. Reese however notes that none of those who left ever stated they went to Protestantism because they embraced Mainline Protestantism’s Doctrine of Justification, which tends to be Arminian in some cases {Methodist and Anglicans to some degree] or Luthers view or the Calvinist predestination/ penal substitution system of Justification. Thus, your articles describtion called eccesial consumerism says it all and does so accurately:

    As I noted in in other blogs, all of those who left are defacto “theological liberals” in that they have elevated their own personal tastes to dogma and doctrine. The 81% statistic is striking in that they like a worship service that is more creative or fits their personal tastes. In other words, it is all about them!!

    Pope Benedict in his great work “Spirit of the Liturgy [pp. 159-170]” lays out why this whole notion of worshiping as I see fit is actually heretical. Orthodoxy, as he notes actually has its roots in meaning the right way to glorify God, i.e. worship Him. Thus, I think I can extend the Pope’s views and accurately state that the Liturgy of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are ultimately right worship of God. Every other type of worshp therefore is less than “orthodox worship”.

    The Pope notes [p. 160] that we glorify God, by praying the Liturgy and living in communion with Christ’s paschal mystery, by participating in his Eucharistia [Thanksgiving to the Father] in which Incarnation leads to Resurrection.

    The Pope notes that Liturgical Rite means the practical arrangements made by the community in time and space for the basic type of worship received from God in faith. So what are Rites and where do they come from, the Pope notes [p. 160] that Canon 6 of the Council of Nicea is a good starting point in that it notes “Three Primatial Sees”, Rome, Alexandria and Antioch and then shortly after Nicea in 325, Constantinople emerges as major center of Liturgical life as well.

    All of the major Rites grew organically and had some uniformity over time. However, recently, as the Pope Notes, Rite has experienced dissolution and is now replaced by “CREATIVITY” of the community.

    Before going into the “CREATIVITY” issue, the Pope makes several major points. First, it is important that the individual Rites have relation to the places “Christianity originated and the place the Apostles preached” [and it ain’t in America folks]: they are anchored in the time and place of the event of divine revelation. Thus, the Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events from the “choice made by God”, who wanted to speak to us and become man in a particular time and place. Second, the Church can’t forsake her roots, she recognizes the true utterances of God in the context of history in time and place to where God ties us, and thus we are all tied together. Thus, Rites are not just products of inculturation, they are forms of Apostolic tradition.

    Second, the Pope points out [pp.162-163]the Rites are not fenced off from each other but enrich each other [Rome and Byzantine had liturgical exchanges in the 1st millennium]. However, as the Pope notes, they elude the control of any individual, local community or regional Church. Unspontaneity is of their essence. In these Rites, the Pope notes, I discover that something is approaching me here that I did not create myself, which ultimately derives from Divine Revelation. As the Pope continues, he beautifully notes that this is the reason the Christian East calls the Liturgy the “Divine Liturgy” which expresses thereby Liturgies independence from human control

    As the Pope continues, he points out that even the Pope can’t change the Liturgy by himself he is bound to the Tradition of Faith and that also means the Liturgy. So, Rite as he now more fully defines [p. 166] is the expression that has become form, of eccesiality and of the Church’s identity as a historically transcendent of liturgical prayer and action. Thus, Rite makes concrete Liturgy’s bond with that living subject, which is the Church, who then is characterized by adherence to the form of faith that has developed from Apostolic Tradition The Pope notes that legitimate development can occur but Rite “precludes spontaneous improvisation”.

    The Pope then refers to Luther and notes that despite his “radicalization and reversion to Scripture alone”, Luther did not contest the ancient Creeds [which are fixed symbola of the faith expressed in Liturgy] and thus left Protestantism and inner tension that became the fundamental problem of Protestantism. With the move a more rigid sola scriptura and the influence of the various radicalization of the critical methods of scripture study, sola scriptura can’t provide a foundation for the Church and a commonality of faith. Scripture is Scripture only when it lives within the living subject which is the Church.

    The Pope then notes in very strong words, that is why it is absurd that a not insignificant number of people today are trying to reconstruct the Liturgy afresh on the basis of sola scriptura. In these reconstructions, they identify Scripture with the prevailing exegetical opinions thus confusing faith with opinion. Liturgy manufactured this way is based on human words and opinions. It is a house built on sand and remains totally empty, however much human artistry adorns it [i.e. popular music/rock music, charismatic preaching style, auditorium style worship space with modern technology, and plasma tvs, these etc.]

    Only respect for the Liturgies fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us that we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as gift. This means that “CREATIVITY” cannot be an authentic category for matters Liturgical. In any case, this is a word that developed within a Marxist world view. Creativity means that in a universe that in itself is meaningless and came into existence through blind evolution, man can creatively fashion and a new and better world

    Thus the life of Liturgy does not come from what dawns upon the minds of individuals and planning groups. On the contrary, it is God’s descent upon our world, the source of real liberation. The more priests and the faithful humbly surrender themselves to the descent of God, the more “new” the Liturgy will constantly be and the truer and personal it becomes. Yes, the Liturgy becomes personal; true and new not through “tomfoolery and banal experiments with words”, but through the courageous entry into the great reality that through Rite is always ahead of

    In closing, Pope Benedict documented this issue years ago and the fact that 81% of the folks who went Protestant went because the worship fits their personal tastes and creativity, or it is more modern and trendy etc, is basically heresy, as I know of no other way to put it. It is all about them and how they “feel” as Andrew’s article correctly pointed out.

    Regards to all

  19. “If you go to a Mass in one place and then go to Mass in another, you will not find the same Mass. This means that it is not the Mass of the Catholic Church, which people have a right to, but it is just the Mass of this parish or that priest,” he [Cardinal Burke] said. (liturgical shenanigans)

    Read the rest of the article, “here”.

  20. I read the Trueman reference material and, with a bit of rumination, thought that this is the opposite of EWTN’s Journey Home, except for the understanding of the belief being left behind.

    When I taught parents who wanted their children baptized (aka baptismal prep), it was very common to find people with the remnants of an eighth-grade catechesis of dubious quality (with remnants and dubious being the operative words), many of whom did not darken the vestibule of a Church, except possibly for Easter and Christmas, a wedding or a funeral. I learned this during the small group discussions because I wanted to figure out how to address them individually to urge them to live up to the promise they would be making to raise the child as a Catholic.

    It being considered a pastoral function, the laity involved in the baptismal prep program were put in the position of gathering the closing information. (How a pastoral function ended up being handled by the laity is its own question.) Being a bit bolder than my peers, I would press for the truth, and then address it. It was not uncommon for me to ask individuals privately if they did not find a dichotomy in promising to raise the child as a Catholic if they themselves had little to no idea of what the Church teaches, or worse, were not practicing themselves.

    In the event of a couple not practicing, I would always recommend to the parish that baptism be withheld until the parish could verify the minimum requirement of the parents being at the Sunday Mass, often as noted by support of the parish using the envelope. (NOTE: The sacraments cannot be denied, but they can be postponed until someone shows an adequate readiness by practice, as in coming to Mass weekly.) The parish response to my suggestion was sometimes yes, sometimes no. I was told that the bishop wanted a “good” reason if baptism was being withheld. It was a pastoral decision. A fine irony, that.

    Relatedly, a lot of the practicing Catholics were scandalized by the failure of the Church to address the giving of baptism to the child of parents who were not practicing, and who therefore could scarcely be accused of raising the child as a Catholic. They questioned the judgment of the Diocese and the Parish in such a situation.

    I now attend a parish where the congregation, with a single person exception, manages to clap for virtually any layperson who speaks at the end of the Mass, and always claps for the choir or the cantor at the end of Mass. A most momentous Occurrence has happened which should really justify an exuberant celebration,but the parish is clapping for the singing. I wonder how in the economy of salvation a change might be brought about to end this bad habit.

    For a while we were driving the 3o minutes to a Latin Rite Parish in the Archdiocese. That parish had a notable and powerful piety associated with it and that piety was felt as I entered the vestibule. The people were there to pray. The priests were there to celebrate Mass. Even the preaching was generally very good. Confession was offered until about five minutes prior to the beginning of the Mass. There were a lot of young families, some with large numbers of children (a very Catholic practice it would seem). The distance was the hindrance.

    One might hope and pray that the piety expressed at the Latin Rite parish would be recognized and received in the English-speaking parish so that Catholics would once again have a generally singular Rite easily recognized by anyone from anywhere who walks into Mass. May God be pleased to bring us to that point once again.

    It is the Triduum leading to Easter.

    Happy Easter.


  21. Ditto #16.

    Hope you all have a blessed weekend.–JA

  22. Thank you. I had this exact conversation about consumer religion yesterday. I responded pretty much that Jesus is in the Church. How can you leave? You saved my Easter. AnneG in NC

  23. That is a sad article and not true for me. After studying Catholic apologetics, and going to Franciscan University, the clear gospel was kept from me. Please don’t tell me I left because I wanted better music or didn’t understand the Eucharist, the Mass, or Papal encyclicals. I left because I didn’t hear the WORD. Sure, they SAID the word at mass, but nothing was every explained, line by line and verse by verse.
    The Jewish-ness of my faith was stripped out by Constantine and the RCC. There is NO WAY I will ever “submit my full will and intellect to the Roman Pontiff” which is dogma by the way, ever again. There is no way I will keep a statue in my home or kiss a relic ever again.
    Really, I have been set free. Many of you will say the opposite and that’s ok. I understand. Not too long ago I was like a member of the Vatican police. But the Lord had other plans. Please don’t paint all ex-Catholics of lazy intellects that leave because they wanted to hear a cool rock band. That’s the furthest thing from the truth.

  24. Listen to ex-priest Richard Bennett. you will then understand many of my own reasons for leaving Catholicism:

  25. Hey Sue,

    Thanks for the comments and the link to Berean Beacon.

    No one likes to be misrepresented, especially on such important matters. However, the poll to which I refer does not *tell* anyone what are their reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. The poll *asks* people what are their reasons for leaving the Catholic Church / joining their current religion / becoming unaffiliated. Obviously, not everyone has the same reasons, but part of the purpose of a poll is to discern trends.

    Even though you indicate that you are not interested in returning to the Catholic Church, perhaps you would check out the Catholics Come Home website. Among other things, this site will help communicate the fact that Catholics love you very much.

    (All, I will be away from my computer until early next morning, at which time I will approve / respond to any further comments.)

  26. Sue,
    I was Catholic charismatic, then stepped out for almost 20 years into Evangelical and mostly charismatic world (AG, Vineyard, IHOP-KC, missions in Eastern Europe and Arabian Peninsula, church planting) and I am back to the CC, since Easter 2010. We are at Franciscan Uni. I am interested in arguments and/or experiences for your ‘way out’ of the CC, if you care to share:


  27. Sue,

    Every now and then I really am baffled by the variety of experiences we each have in our journeys with Christ as Protestants or Catholics. It doesn’t make sense to me how, for example, you can say that you had such a terrible experience at Franciscan (I’m assuming you mean in Steubenville, but please correct me if that’s wrong), when I have very close friends whose experiences at the same school were spiritually uplifting, edifying and positive in nearly every way. On the other hand, you claim to have found freedom and the “true Gospel” as a Protestant, whereas my experience as a Protestant was one in which I was not at all free; rather the freedom of my conscience was constantly under assault from any number of competing self-styled authority figures who told me simultaneously that I was free, but that I needed to accept their theological system, and that if I, in my freedom, disagreed, I was in spiritual danger.

    I don’t say this to question the authenticity of your feelings. I really am just baffled. To give another example, one closer to home, my in-laws are ex-Catholics. They seem to think that leaving the Catholic Church was the best thing that happened to them. At least some of them don’t think they even were true Christians until they left the Catholic Church. On the other hand, my wife and I both truly feel like joining the Catholic Church was the best thing to ever happen to us in our lives as Christians. We are closer to Christ than we ever have been. Of course the “Word,” as we hear it preached now, is not the same as it was when we were Protestants, but wouldn’t that only be a problem if we accepted Protestant assumptions about what the proper representation of the Christian faith is?

    Anyway, my questions to you at this juncture are: where do we go from here? In your opinion, what weight should your experiences at Franciscan and in the Church generally have with us here? How can we respond to this issue without a) throwing out the importance of doctrine altogether, which is what many evangelicals today do to afford a broader notion of invisible unity, or b) assuming that one of us is simply stupid or not a Christian (a charge we Catholics do see leveled against us from time to time). How can you and I, faced with the these diametrically opposed opinions and experiences reported by ourselves and others, maintain charity and fidelity to truth? What recourse do we have when we’ve both read the bible, had different experiences in Catholic and Protestant environments, and come to conclusions as strongly opposite as the one you present about your time in the Catholic Church and at Franciscan? Is it your opinion that sincere Catholics are true, though perhaps misguided, Christians? I would be genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts on these points.

  28. Hey everyone,

    You know there is another possible reason here for someone leaving for another type of worship service other than that they are heretics. I was considering our sunday school program. It seems to me that if you took the two year olds, who are playing with bright colorful blocks and gnawing on chewy toys and put them in with the 12 year olds, they wouldn’t have a clue what to do. 12 year olds obviously regard the blocks as intensely boring….most of the time.

    I think our worship is similar. I tend to think about the Catholic Liturgy as a worship program for someone who is very mature spiritually, who is meditating on the Mystery of Christ throughout the week, who is immersed in prayer and reading the Bible and who comes to Mass ready to step through the door of the liturgy directly into the presence of the Throne room of Heaven.

    This describes a very small percentage of the population. A shiny worship band and a cowboy who can’t distinguish between the ripples in his soul and the moving of the Holy Spirit are going to be just as confused in a Mass as a two year old in the twelve year old’s class……BUT THE TWO YEAR OLD STILL NEEDS SOMETHING ON THEIR LEVEL. It does not move the ball down the field to ridicule the two year olds because they are not mature enough to “get it” or, even worse, to just label them heretics and walk away. Invest a decade or so discipling the two year olds so they finally can “get it”.

    Yes its frustrating, but unfortunately one point is glaringly obvious to all involved, the Catholic Church has done a miserable job of discipling its own. And this leads to swarms of spiritual two year olds (or younger) looking for colorful blocks……

    A friend of mine has pointed out a strange phenomenon…Many very spiritually mature Protestants converting to Catholicism while many very spirtitually immature Catholics move the other way. The good thing for you guys is that if we keep losing our leadership, eventually you guys will have a decisive advantage…..a reversal of the 1500’s.

  29. @ Sue

    Being a graduate from FUS with a MA in Theology (2009) I am very curious as to if you are meaning FUS or a different Franciscan University. I ask this because I don’t know how someone can come away from FUS and not see how very Jewish the Catholic Faith is. If anything I think someone would have the opposite reaction — leaving Catholicism because it is too Jewish and having been attracted towards Protestant Dispensationalism. I cannot think of one course at FUS that I had that did not have a focus on the Jewishness of the Catholic Faith.

    What type of Catholic apologetics were you involved in as well?

    I do want to correct a mistaken view that you have. In the Divine Liturgy it is not appropriate at all to preach the homily in such a way that one explains everything “line by line and verse by verse”. The Liturgy is not an lecture or a oratory given by the priest — it is a prayer where the priest, speaking in the person of Christ, prays for the members of the Church and the whole world and, in Christ, through the Spirit, directed towards the Father carries out the divine work of God that brings about our salvation and our communion with Him. The whole thing is a prayer, a prayer in which the static words of sacred scripture become truly active and affective through the various actions of the Liturgy which ultimately culminates in the eschatological nuptial banquet of the Lamb. But again, let me stress, the Liturgy is not the appropriate place to be doing a line by line verse by verse analysis of scripture. You don’t go to an opera to have the singers explain the finer points of music, you go to experience the music. You don’t go to Mass to hear the finer points of the meaning of scripture, you go to experience and participate in the very thing that scripture points us towards; eschatological communion with God.

    I want to suggest a book, written by a Jew. THE FOOTPRINTS OF GOD: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought. The book was very influential on Dr. Hahn’s own thought . You will find it useful in your own journey.

  30. This is not a strictly Catholic issue.

    In the UK many of the folks who founded the ‘New Churches’ came from CofE backgrounds. I know folks who spent years in sacramental solid parishes at the height of ARCIC when full unity looked like a real possibility, yet never felt they had heard the ‘Gospel’ preached, experienced the ‘Spirit’ or been part of a ‘Miracle’ as Anglicans. Perhaps these some of these wandering Catholics felt the same?

    Traditional Anglican and Catholic priests have shared with me their concerns that many of their flocks follow the choir more than the Sacrament based on attendance when they are not singing. Some have shared that they have seen a real change in response to the sacraments and Catholic devotion in the last 20 years.

    Perhaps in terms of catechises and discipleship we shouldn’t be changing where we end up but where we start from.

    And when they come back the parable of the prodigal comes to mind – No grumpy brothers!

  31. Jeremiah @ #28,

    tend to think about the Catholic Liturgy as a worship program for someone who is very mature spiritually, who is meditating on the Mystery of Christ throughout the week, who is immersed in prayer and reading the Bible and who comes to Mass ready to step through the door of the liturgy directly into the presence of the Throne room of Heaven. This describes a very small percentage of the population. It does not move the ball down the field to ridicule the two year olds because they are not mature enough to “get it”…

    You know what’s interesting, I’ve noticed just the opposite since coming into the Church. The Mass is actually very pedagogical–repetitive and rhetorical–thereby making it easy to understand. There is a narrative logic to it. My kids are learning so much in the Mass. Albeit, we are constantly trying to help our kids understand (but that is our job!) Further, the history of the Church, ironically of the saints under the old Latin Mass, is one where it doesn’t take a great spiritual juggernaut to draw from its riches. If one pays attention for even a minute, you will learn something. Nevertheless, the point of the Mass isn’t you or I. It is worshipping God. That is a categorical difference between the Mass and the first video in this thread. In the Mass, it is not what we get out of it but rather what we bring to it that counts. Ultimately, I think the problems in the Church are cultural–they don’t get the Mass and leave for the local “show” down the street because they ultimately think about religion in consumeristic categories. Think about it: you can come to the CC for Easter and listen to a bunch of readings, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, pray, pray, pray, and then ‘have’ to believe that bread and wine become Christ’s body and blod OR you can “do” Easter in 3D, in stadium style seating with the smell of fresh Starbucks coffee and toffee cookies in the air. Everything is better in 3D, right?

    the Catholic Church has done a miserable job of discipling its own.

    In the US, so so True. To be fair, we have gone through some unprecedented changes the last 50 years, and our prayers are getting ready to change will be the beginning of a new discipleship. Again, to be fair, there are a lot of parishes who are doing a good job. However, to your point and other comments we need to do A LOT better job catechizing. You want to help? : )

    A friend of mine has pointed out a strange phenomenon…Many very spiritually mature Protestants converting to Catholicism while many very spirtitually immature Catholics move the other way. The good thing for you guys is that if we keep losing our leadership, eventually you guys will have a decisive advantage…..a reversal of the 1500′s.

    I think this reminds me of the Pope’s recent homily. There are empty seats at the table, many times because Catholics have left the table, but the invitation is out to all. May we all hear the call, and be One as the Father is One with His Son at the Eucharistic table of the Lord.

  32. “Many very spiritually mature Protestants converting to Catholicism while many very spirtitually immature Catholics move the other way.”

    Yes, they are getting our wounded soldiers, we are getting their tested generals. :-)



    And as to repeat the same thing, for it is true: Catholics are sacramentalized, but not evangelized and not well catechized. They are leaving, bc they long for ‘God explained and felt’, not for ‘God complicated and distant.’

    The best read on how this whole thing works is done by P. Kreeft, “Ecumenism without compromise” (audio and transcript):
    Excerpt: “And God has allowed this because God is a good father. And a good father would rather see his children go away from home and live, than stay home and die.Of course things are not that simple, of course motives for leaving the Church and joining the sects are many and mixed and some are simply bad, but still I think the main force that’s driving these events is in the realm of the spirit is the Spirit. When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith. They may have left the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and that is the fullest presence of Christ in this world, but they did not know the Person who is present there, and whose body they ate with their bodies, but not with their souls.
    When these starving sheep leave home to find the manna of Christ in the sects, they are learning the lesson one that should have learned as Catholics but didn’t. And that lesson one is the only possible foundation for lesson two and three and four. That is, the fullness of the faith that the Catholic Church has, the building, rests on one foundation. As Catholics, these people may have gotten the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they didn’t get the real presence of Christ in their hearts and in their lives. They got the upper stories of the Catholic skyscrapers, but not the foundation. Not the faith and the hope and the love relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, in order to become good Catholics, they must first become good Protestants. “

  33. I have a problem with this: “When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith”, in the Kreeft’s statement, though I understand his point, but as a struggling aspirant convert, going through a hard time, trying to excuse myself for not being able to convert, I see this rationale as a way of escape, and so does not help at all those who consider conversion

  34. Dear Leonard,

    I don’t know whether you’ll find this helpful, but your comment brought to mind a passage from Msgr. Knox’s The Belief of Catholics:

    And it should be added that this plea of “good faith” is one which may be urged on behalf of the Protestant, but it is not one which he can urge on his own behalf. A man can say, “You are in good faith,” “He is in good faith,” but not “I am in good faith”—that is to beg the question (p. 201).

    Which means that Kreeft’s observations, which, crucially, are made from the standpoint of one within the Church who believes the Church’s claims, do not and cannot provide an escape hatch for those seeking the fullness of the Gospel. There is no loophole for spiritual and intellectual honesty. Have a blessed Bright Thursday.

  35. Hey Leonard,

    That bit from Kreeft, as you know, is an epigrammatic analysis of why some good-hearted, Christ-seeking Catholics become Evangelical Protestants. He is describing what they do not know, because they were never sufficiently taught by their pastors and religious educators at the parish level. Still, the richness of the Catholic faith can be found by those who seek it, in the liturgy and the profuse and profound teachings of the doctors and saints of the Church, as well as the official teachings of the Magisterium.

    However, some Catholics have been so systematically beguiled by liturgical pastiche and mis-taught by modernist priests and parish educators as to make it difficult to perceive what is right in front of them, or to seek out the time-honored Tradition, that is, Sacred Scripture as lived and interpreted by the Church that Christ founded. (It is also important to remember that the ease of access to the written treasures via the Internet is a very recent phenomenon. Much of the damage in the Catholic Church was done decades before people had magisterial documents and libraries of the Fathers at their fingertips.)

    If, however, you do know the truth about the identity of the Church that Christ founded, and the nature of the sacraments of this Church, and the testimony of the Fathers, and the official teachings of the magisterium, then no imperfections or failings in that Church, such as Kreeft describes, will be sufficient to excuse you from being received into full communion with her. You will have come far enough in the knowledge of the fullness of Holy Tradition that any and every form of Protestantism will be, for you, a mess of pottage received in lieu of your baptismal birthright.

    Believe me, I know what it is to look for “a way of escape” from the Church that Christ founded. There is a point at which anthing will do for an excuse. Aesthetic sensibilites (which come into play for some high-church protestants), the free play of the Protestant “yes, but … ” of fallible creeds, even the predeliction for 45 minute lectures on the text of Sacred Scripture (be sure you find a man whose exegetical prowess surpasses your own, or this will be a short-lived satisfaction), can all serve to turn one aside from the one question about the Catholic Church that matters most: Is this the Church that Christ founded, or is it something else?


  36. Thanks a lot T Ciatoris and Andrew. Very good and helpful points. I realise so clearly that the Kreeft’s statement does have nothing to do but is just what I am going through, trying to get hold of everything which comes along the way.

  37. “Many very spiritually mature Protestants converting to Catholicism while many very spirtitually immature Catholics move the other way.”

    Wow. This is so untrue it’s not even funny. Listen. I was “spritually mature” Catholic, Franciscan University student: Adoration adorer, rosary pray-er, at times had spiritual direction from priests, in prayer groups, devoted to Mary, read apologetics and papal encyclicals. I KNEW my RELIGION.
    I love God through the religion. Like a maze to get to Him. I was properly catechized.
    Now I just have Him.
    I have total aversion for : statues, relics, images, icons in which before embraced. I don’t NEED that stuff. I have Him without the Maze and following a man (pope).

    Leonard said:
    He is describing what they do not know, because they were never sufficiently taught by their pastors and religious educators at the parish level.
    This is ABSOLUTELY not true in my case. . Had classes wth Scott Hahn and other theology profs well known.

  38. they don’t get the Mass and leave for the local “show” down the street because they ultimately think about religion in consumeristic categories. Think about it: you can come to the CC for Easter and listen to a bunch of readings, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, kneel, stand, pray, pray, pray, and then ‘have’ to believe that bread and wine become Christ’s body and blod OR you can “do” Easter in 3D, in stadium style seating with the smell of fresh Starbucks coffee and toffee cookies in the air. Everything is better in 3D, right?

    This comment is so offensive to believers, I don’t even know what to say. To think believers leave the RCC to get coffee and cookies is disgusting and insulting. You are SO SO WRONG. This comment has potential of hurting many people. I am hurt by this comment, because there is NO WAY I left for cookies and coffee, and all of the ex-Catholics I know, left after studying, reading, praying about their decision. They didn’t leave for the world, they left for Christ.

  39. If the majority of people on this site believe ex-Catholics left for the “show” down the street I am wasting my time on this site. This is not a site about debating in love. I’m out of here.

  40. At Nathan:

    Yes I attended Franciscan University of Steubenville.

    The majority of Messianic Jews are not Catholic.

  41. Hey Sue,

    Here is some of the the poll data, as referenced at the beginning of this post:

    The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith.

    And here is my last comment to you, about what that data implies and does not imply:

    No one likes to be misrepresented, especially on such important matters. However, the poll to which I refer does not *tell* anyone what are their reasons for leaving the Catholic Church. The poll *asks* people what are their reasons for leaving the Catholic Church / joining their current religion / becoming unaffiliated. Obviously, not everyone has the same reasons, but part of the purpose of a poll is to discern trends.

    I think that you are mistaking comments about these general trends for comments about your own experience. “Ecclesial consumerism” is a widespread problem. You say that you have not been caught up in this problem, on the level of worship-as-entertainment, and I believe you.

    However, there is another, less obvious, way of becoming an eccleisial consumerist: Draw up a list of doctrines or practices that you expect a church to deliver, and then shop around for a church that best fulfills your criteria. The big and obvious difference between this form of consumerism and the entertainment-based forms is that the doctrinal consumerist primarily has (what he believe to be) *truth* as his lodestar. And who can argue with that?

    No one (that is, no one in his right mind) will set his mind on anything other than the truth. But that brings us to one of the sticking points between Protestants and Catholics. Catholics believe that the Church that Christ founded, which is both a mystical communion of believers and a visibly ordered society (with pastors and teachers), is the Christ-ordained teacher of Christian truth. Therefore, the Church’s interpretation of Scripture functions as the criterion by which my own interpretive opinions are measured–not vice versa.

    It seems to me that the Protestant approach is, at its core, entirely different. And maybe that is the difference that it would be well to discuss in this thead, since the rubric of ecclesial-*entertainment*-consumer obviously does not apply to you.

  42. Thanks, Andrew.

  43. Sue,

    No problem.


    I will be away until late, so please be patient if your comments remain on hold. I saw several comments from earlier, but since they were making the same basic point, I decided to refrain from making that point over and over through posting all of them. Nothing personal; after all, the repetitive effect was not due to any one individual comment!

  44. Sue and friends,

    I went to Texas A&M, and St. Mary’s student center there has been lauded as an ideal example of the New Evangelization in the Church. And I found my faith at A&M and even became Catholic. My experience with it was wonderful.

    But my friend’s sister went to A&M as well, got involved with some ministries and such at St. Mary’s, but then left A&M for another school. Her Catholic faith was not much improved, and while others grew tremendously, she did not. Now, she didn’t leave Catholicism, but she also didn’t get stronger in her faith.

    Lots of people have a great experience at Franciscan and grow in their Catholic faith. Others like Sue leave Catholicism in spite of Franciscan (or some other good Catholic school). People are different. They have different experiences and make different decisions regarding them. It sounds like Sue became convinced that the Catholic Church was not what she claims to be. That Protestantism is closer to the fullness of the truth. Fair enough, I would say that’s where we can then begin a discussion, as many of the articles on this site tackle the big issues.

    Incidentally, Sue, I watched one of the videos on the Berean Beacon (the one about John Paul II), and I plan to make a video response to it. God bless!

  45. Dear Sue,

    My comment wasn’t directed at you or your friends. It was directed at those described in the research referenced in this article. The trend is not Catholic specific but is a common phenomena in all “older style” churches in the modern West. That’s why many conservative churches like Anglican, Southern Baptists, Methodists, traditional Pentecostal, etc. are having a hard time competing with the non-denom mega-show down the street. I in no way meant to imply that was your reason or everyone’s reason. However, there is a reason why traditional church membership has been dwindling while *alternative* services are becoming more popular.

    I hope that helps.

    Peace to you on your journey,


  46. Thanks Devin and Brent.
    Devin, I didn’t leave Catholicism BECAUSE of my experience at FUS. I remained Catholic after I graduated for 10 years. However, the parish i attended was horrendous in helping me. I was very sick. Couldn’t walk. I tried to get my child in my parish’s pre-school. I begged them to meet me at the top of the stairs so they could walk my young child down the steps. They refused to help me. Three times i attempted to get my child in that school begging for them to help me. They also said I had to pay more money for tuition because I couldn’t get to the school and volunteer. The fact I was horribly ill did not matter. They said too bad, you have to pay more then.
    I then went t a non-denominational school who bent over backwards to help me in every way possible. That’s where my child attended school. These people had the love of Christ and I remain friends with the parents I met there today many years later.
    This was not a isolated event. When I was in desperate need in a crisis, Catholic friends for the most part bailed (except one person who remains my best friend)..these were all devout orthodox Catholics. I could not understand it. Then non-Catholic Christians completely helped me in my time of need being Christ to me when I needed them. Christianity instead of religion. There is a difference.

  47. Sue,

    I was so grieved to hear about your horrible experiences in the parishes you attended. My wife and I were blessed with some great parishes where people have flooded us with care; especially during the difficult time of welcoming a new little one into the family. We currently have a great small group where we pray for each other, and many of the mothers get together for play dates where they pray the Scriptures using the Divine Office. We’ve experienced this in both places we’ve lived.

    Please understand that you are important to the Catholic Church, to Christ, and to other Catholics. It is a shame, a SCANDAL, the way you were treated. You deserved to be helped in your time of need.

    You are in many of our prayers, I’m sure.

  48. Sue.

    Some of the most helpful friends I have are Mormons…but I am not Mormon.

    I don’t say that to belittle your experience. I have been snubbed by Protestants and Catholics alike. I have also known tremendous people – helpful people and loving people – both Catholic and Protestant alike. However, we do not identify the marks of the Church by which set of people we believe are the most helpful in our time of need. If that were the case, I would be Mormon.


  49. Sean. I didn’t leave because of nice people.None of the Catholics I know that left, left to be with nice people.
    That would be ridiculous. But when you are year after year at a parish with zero help when you need it, people look elsewhere. My own mother is a eucharistic minister of care. She was recently hospitalized. Not ONE person from her minister of care group contacted her. NOT ONE. She is a widow!! She was in tears for weeks. She ministered with this group for 2 years bringing communion to nursing homes. All of a sudden she didn’t show up for weeks on end and no one cared enough to check in on her or see if she wanted communion even after they knew she was ill.
    Don’t tell me it is not important. Either you have the fruits of the Spirit or you don’t. The body of Christ is supposed to reach out to it’s members and care about other. There are no excuses.

  50. Sue,

    I will take you at your word that what you say is accurate. That being said, it appears that your experience is rather unique. At my parish and others that I coordinate with, one of the most significant priorities is care for the sick and those in need. We have schedules set up because there are so many who are in need of comfort and it is not unusual for us to hold fundraisers for those who are experiencing difficulty, engage in job training skills and establishing contacts for those who need work, or arrange for travel arrangements for those who need a ride to Mass. If we look to the people involved in a variety of religious groups we, to be fair, will find good and not so good in all. Sean is right in saying what he said.

  51. I do think that people probably leave the Catholic church and start attending activities at non-Catholic places because of how friendly and welcoming the people are. In beginning college years, I was a bit torn. I went to a center of activities that had strong orthodox Catholic activities, good preaching, holy priests, and all was good- but there wasn’t a real emphasis on activities that increased fellowship among the people attending. My freshman year, I became familiar with a lot of people from Campus Crusade and they were really friendly, inviting me to dinners, bible study groups, and lots of opportunities for fellowship. I had a roommate who considered himself Catholic but didn’t attend Mass. He told me that he was attracted to Campus Crusade because of the fellowship and community. So, based off my small amount of experience, I’d say that protestant communities are usually better at finding ways to increase fellowship.

    Of course, whether a certain community is good at increasing fellowship, is a separate question from whether it’s theology is correct, or whether it is the One Church established by Christ. So, I applaud and admire what evangelical communities do to increase fellowship. I think that we can learn a lot from them.

    If all your guys’ experience is different, then maybe I just have an unusual experience. And that’s entirely possible, since I’ve not talked to much people about this.


  52. Fascinating discussion across the blog sphere.

    I deal with my own fair share of converts. To those from Roman Catholicism I make it clear that I hold to the majority of the Roman Catechism, may well know their Catholic Priest, explain the current state of Anglican / Roman Catholic ecumenical relations and outline how I understand the CofE to be part of the Apostolic family. To be honest I would always be cautious with members of Sacramental Apostolic communions, Eastern or Western. In a British context the most common reason is the CofE’s parish system

    I am interested in the whole area of conversion. Despite growing up with a real Methodist faith I had a Reformed Evangelical Charismatic conversion in my teens. Then in my mid twenties I had a sacramental conversion. Both were at times of of emotional stress and difficulty and were pre-empted by an experience of pastoral care. My sacramental conversion was less emotionally charged than my evangelical conversion – far closer to the sense of vocation I felt when I offered my life to God at 13. Since then I have had a number of significant emotional and ecstatic religious experiences, through the ‘Toronto’ blessing until most recently a strong sense of the Pope’s Petrine ministry during his recent visit to the UK. However all of these ‘experiences’ have to be held up to reason, scripture and the Apostolic tradition.

    Derren Brown is a UK magician and hypnotist who uses psychological techniques to ‘read minds’ and recreate spiritualist phenomena. In a show called ‘Messiah’ he posed in the US as someone who could convert Atheists to Theism with a touch. People had religious experiences and fell over. More recently he trained someone else as a Faith Healer and had the same success.

    Many people who I encounter who have left sacramental Christianity do so because of such experiences. I suspect that many who leave Catholicism in the US have had an emotional experience of faith during ‘contemporary worship’ that they never had during the Mass. I have no problem with emotional and ecstatic experiences as long as they are seen as human responses to God rather than labelled as ‘The Spirit’ without any serious reflection.

    Ironically many converts to sacramental faith do experience the Eucharist intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps those who leave sacramental churches never felt they had permission to experience worship in such a way and so are led astray by the first presentation of faith in those terms.

    Unfortunately the labelling of emotional and ecstatic experience as ‘The Spirit’ is only the tip of the iceberg in terms doctrinal error from a Catholic, Orthodox , Lutheran, Wesleyan or Reformed viewpoint. The idea that Jesus operated as an ‘anointed’ Human, minimizing His divinity is remarkably common in Charismatic circles. As are remarkable claims to authority by Pastors and Apostles that make Catholic Episcopal authority look mild in comparison. Despite many of these congregations appearing theologically ‘Conservative’ they are swaying from Christian Orthodoxy on far more important issues. I do not think there is much to celebrate for Creedal Christians of any flavour if this is where some Catholics are heading.

    Catholic clergy friends who have worked or visited overseas have shared with me how outside the West their is a more emotional engagement with the faith, hopefully combined with devotion, study and spirituality. I do not believe the answer is to ape contemporary worship, although I have no particular issue with any form of music in worship – from a British perspective organs are a recent innovation and my personal preference would be Palestrina and forms of chant. The Catholic faith is rich with mystical and experiential aspects grounded in the Apostolic tradition, rather than winds of doctrine. I suspect that some Sacramental Christians need to be reminded of this.

  53. Hey Eddie,

    Thanks for the comments. Regarding the Catholic faith, your second sentence indicates both the amount of agreement and the world of difference between some Catholic-minded Anglicans and the Catholic Church.

    In the span of a few days, we have seen a Royal Wedding (one of the two valid sacraments retained by Anglicans, according to the Catholic Church) and the beatification of a Catholic Pope. High times, for both Protestants and Catholics, with all the world a-watching. May many more follow, on the path to full communion.


  54. I want to back Sue up here a bit as her story is not at all unique in my experience.

    First off – I am Catholic, received into full communion by the Church on Easter 2000.

    Prior to that, I was raised in a hodge podge of Protestant denominations. I spent my college years in a fraternity of 60+ men who publicly identified Christ as their savior. It was something of an intense experience. Among my brothers were a handful of Catholics. More than those Catholics were Catholics who were fallen away. Since that time, I have met many other wayward Catholics and/or Christians from families who have fallen away.

    What Sue is relating in her falling away from the Church is not unique. Nor is it unique in light of the article in this discussion. Sue, I do believe, is rather exceptional in her understanding of Catholic teaching – but the narrative leading up to her parting ways with the Catholic Church strikes me as very similar to those others I know.

    People are not fed. But it’s worse than that. People are flat out starved and robbed. Look at Sue’s story. Give her the benefit of the doubt. She was robbed – who in good conscience could subject their family to such emotional callousness (if not tyranny)?

    My home parish is accused of being overly protestant. We’re a bit short on the decor, sing African spirituals and CCM songs more than Gregorian chant and hymns. But the community is enormous and alive and connected – to each other, to the parish, to the Mass, to Christ.

    Now, some people visit our parish to never return. Many of our hispanic visitors wonder if we’re Catholic at all until they see the Mass. And on the flip-side, some people claim they would not be Catholic if it were not for our parish.

    As for me – I became Catholic because of the Eucharist, to be at the table wherever it is celebrated. Belonging to the Church of the West seemed most fitting, and I do my best to ignore ecclesiastically based bickering.

    But there is a problem in the Church, in my opinion, with regard to the pastoral nature of the parish and the liturgy.

    Liturgy does reflect the parish’s life. It is a reflection of the deepness and manner of their adoration for Christ. When a priest is a strict traditionalist, it has a tendency to ostracize the public, active participation of the whole laity. We call it “being strictly business” – the Priest has a job to do, and he’s not going to let anything or anyone get in the way of it. But people don’t want to be a business case nor a boardroom Mass. This is their religion, an intimate piece of their spiritual life, and they want to be personally connected to and involved in it. Accuse them of selfishness, but I think this is the kind of selfishness we want – both to form and instill. Make them feel connected as part of the Mass. Make them feel connected to one another as part of the Mass. Make them feel connected to the whole liturgy. And above all make them feel connected to and growing in Christ. Staunch liturgical traditionalism, conservatism, and/or minimalism is not the way here. Charity tends to be in short supply when people hold back – and that’s what is happening in many parishes in our country.

    I’m not sure that people who leave the Church for brighter, shinier communities can be wholly blamed. It is the Church, after all, that is responsible in large part for the formation of those people, as well as to continually make a compelling case that *She* /is/ the city on the hill. When people receive more insight, more help, and more satisfaction elsewhere – you can’t blame people for not believing Her. It’s the Church’s case to be continually making. And in many cases of wayward Catholics, they come from parishes and dioceses where participation in that effort simply was underdeveloped, assuming it existed at all.

    Certainly, many wayward Catholics hold some culpability in their action. And while we may want to reserve calling these people “victims of the Church”, one thing is certain – the Church is no victim here.

  55. Spencer,

    Thanks for the comments. For my part, I agree that Sue deserves our sympathy and support, as does anyone who has suffered at the hands of anyone else named “brothers and sisters” in Christ. May we all love one another.

    Regarding the liturgy, your choice of words is interesting. “Staunch liturgical traditionalism” and “bright, shiny communities.” Sounds like the Marines versus the B-52s.

    I think that, if we could sift through some of your language, and get to the root of our mutual concern, i.e., people leaving the Church, that we would find substantial common ground. However, some of what you write, on its surface, suggests the very outlook that I was alluding to in the post, under the rubric of “ecclesial consumerism.” I want to touch on a few points at which our respective outlooks seem to diverge:

    1. You mentioned the “pastoral nature” of parish and liturgy. I am not sure what that means. “Pastoral,” in my vocabularly, pertains first and foremost to our pastors, that is, the bishops and the priests who assist them. The pastor does in fact “have a job to do,” and he must not let anyone get in his way. In this case, the job is to feed and protect the sheep; and letting someone get in the way is tantamount to allowing thieves and wolves to rob and destroy the flock. These thieves and wolves are the ones who, in the name of Christ, attempt to lead the flock away from the green pastures and still waters of Holy Tradition, into the man-made wastelands of novelty and mere human opinion. Holy Tradition is that which our predecessors in the one Faith knew and loved. To paraphrase Chesterton, such a thing should not be forgotten, nor deemed unlovely, merely due to the accident that those who received, held and handed it on have died. Pope Gregory the Great is still a real person. So is Basil the Great. And John Henry Newman. And St. Nick. Because they are saints, that is, particularly beloved of God, we should love them too, by learning to love what they loved, when they were in our shoes.

    2. You said that liturgy reflects the parish’s life. That is a partial truth. More fundamentally, the liturgy of the Catholic Church reflects Heaven itself, and (ideally) shapes the parish’s life. Authentic liturgy is not a group of people gathering together to look in a mirror. The degree to which a parish shapes the liturgy in its own image, is the degree to which a parish has lost its way. People will be connected to a worldly liturgy to the degree that and for as long as they are connected to the fashions of the world; that is, superficially and for a short season. This goes back to love. In marriage, we do not promise to love so long as you are top-forty material. Love is for life. The saints are alive, in Christ. They have left us a legacy of love. The least we can do is take it up, and make it our own.

    3. You suggested that (I will paraphrase) people who want to feel connected in the manner of connection facilitated by forms of worship that move them towards more extroverted “participation” (self-display) are motivated by the “kind of selfishness that we want.” Well, I agree that it is a sort of selfishness to demand forms of worship that inculcate the easy lesson of shallow emotion purchased at the slight cost of ephemeral pleasure, made to order. Of course people want that. Build it and they will come–guaranteed. This is what television and top-twenty radio and bacon cheeseburgers and American football and Tom Petty concerts and Beer are for. I enjoy all of these things, maybe in a kind of selfish way. And then I go to Mass. I do not go to Mass to prolong the experience of Friday night (that is what Saturdays are for), but to be lifted up to the experience of Heaven, to be drawn into the presence of the Lamb of God, standing as though it had been slain, and so to be connected to God, and to my brothers and sisters–in Him. This is the very antithesis of selfishness. I admit, it is difficult. Part of me, sometimes the greater part, just wants to settle for Friday night, for the world. But to settle for the world is, in the long run, to choose Hell. Mass is the time, not exclusively but especially, to keep company with Heaven. This is why the Mass is at its core traditional; cf., the stuff I wrote above about loving the saints–even the “dead” ones.

    4. You also said, referring to the rites that people participate in, that “this is their religion.” That is also a partial truth. Catholicism is the religion that comes to us from the Heavenly Father, in the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son, through the Holy Spirit. It is only our religion in so far as we receive it and are conformed to it.

    Cardinal Ratzinger, among others, has already expressed most of what I am trying to get at, better than I ever could get at it, in The Spirit of the Liturgy and Called to Communion. These books are works of love, by a man who is now, under Christ, pastor of the Catholic Church.


  56. Tom,

    I live in a very heavily RCC part of the world and my particular protestant church sees a lot of RCC fallout. We aren’t getting them because we have a good show, that’s for dang sure. We get them for many of the types of stories Sue gave.

    Sorry guys, you can have the best Orthordoxy in the world, but if the Orthopraxy is off you’re gonna go stand with the goats on judgement day….a thought that haunts me weekly.

    Stay focused on “the least of these” I suspect if we all did that we would wind up healing the Bride of Christ pretty quick.

  57. 1. Pastoral nature – the manner in which the flock is tended and grown. While this is the primary responsibility of the bishops and priests, it is a responsibility that falls to everyone. Too often, you see a large parish that has few active parishioners and far fewer ministries. This is typically because the pastor is not encouraging the parishioners in a way that would engage them. While it is ideal to think we can encourage people on the mere principle that they are Catholic, more often than not, this will not work. It’s guilt, and guilt – like fear – are poor long-term motivators as they are emotional drains. You have to include a sense of belonging, of community, of active (vs passive) participation, of social life.

    2. Where I will disagree with you is in this: the Mass tends to get a recurring face-lift throughout the ages – in its art, its music, its fashions, etc. The reason I bother saying that at all is because that is typically what’s at issue in discussions like this. Liturgy has been dressed, in every age, to incorporate the styles and fashions of the times as economy allowed. The structure is mostly the same, but the trappings change quite a bit. Granted, the more you strip away at those things not directly related to structure, the more Mass begins to look the same. But I don’t think anyone says those things are wrong – but then you’re in the realm of subjective taste. There seems to me to be all too often a conflation between liturgical invention (those things that fall outside of structure) and liturgical freedom (those things that can dress up structure).

    I very much enjoy the liturgy of the Mass in its structure and in its movements of prayer. I just know there’s a lot of (what I believe is unneeded) consternation when we enter into the topic of style.

    “You suggested that (I will paraphrase) people who want to feel connected in the manner of connection facilitated by forms of worship that move them towards more extroverted ‘participation’ (self-display) are motivated by the ‘kind of selfishness that we want.'”

    Hrm – no. That smacks too much of my charismatic roots, and my problem there is the publicizing of what I will charitably assume is a private revelation. If it’s private, then it’s private. If were not meant to be private, then I would assume it would be more communally experienced. As I’m invariably the guy standing on the outside looking in, I get kinda shifty about what’s going on. All the same, I’m not one to poo on it, either. If it’s important to that person, then I think charity allows them some room. How much room is debatable and really is a pastoral matter – but I think it’s good for a parish to put up with some crazy (literally and figuratively).

    My real point, rather, was when that which ought to be a religious experience offers no fulfillment in any objective sense outside of a theoretical good, it’s not difficult to understand why someone would opt for a religious experience that does offer some fulfillment whilst also fulfilling the same theoretical good. We’d be agreed that “outside of the Catholic Church” is not providing the same theoretical good – but maybe the difference in what they are getting earns for them a perceived net gain – I have a hard time faulting them for that.

    I don’t think the Church needs to be in the business of trying to stay in utter fashion with the latest mega-church trend – but I do think it should be concerning to the Church that people are not finding fulfillment in the Mass. Because invariably, people should. Maybe it’s a failing in the catechizing by the parishes. Maybe it’s that the parish could be a little more modern in its use of music (or, you know, actually hire someone that has a drop of musical talent) and increasing participation of the laity and increasing parish ministries and involvement etc etc etc.

    Mass at many parishes is a far too private and quiet affair. A joyful noise shouldn’t be left to the organ (*groan* more bad organ). A sharing of peace shouldn’t stop at an anonymous handshake. A joining in prayer shouldn’t be left to the widows praying the rosary in the back of the Sanctuary during Mass. It’s like standing in a room full of strangers who are content to be strangers though they be, presumably, dearest brothers and sisters.

    I’m not saying that it’s as bad as all that everywhere I go outside my parish – far from it – but the problem is that we know it is all the same too uncommon. Any one of us can probably find one parish (if not more) like that within our immediately neighboring parishes. And I never see any good in them – except, perhaps, that they are considered by all to be “liturgically proper.” Outside of that, they have no life or identity, and that’s a major problem – the kind that leads to this discussion. And that problem typically stems, in my experience, from a pastor who’s all business and not at all pastoral.

    If it’s going to do people any good, they need to own it as their religion. I’m not disagreeing with you in the particulars there, only in terms of “how do we do better?” I think you earn more participation and buy-in when people are invited to participate instead of to just get in line. Of course, that does get messy as you have to continually deal with people who do think they know better (and don’t think the irony’s lost on me), but that struggle is just a sign of growth, not necessarily a sign of a problem.

  58. Spencer,

    Thanks for the response.

    In Bryan’s original post, ecclesial consumerism was described as a function of Protestant ecclesiology, which almost invariably (a few marginal denominations and sects aside) includes the notion that the one Church that Christ founded subsists in more than one visible ecclesial organization. Thus, the individual chooses which visible church to join (or remain in) based upon which church most conforms to his own interpretation of Scripture, liturgical taste and / or social and spiritual needs (small group activities, etc.).

    The poll data to which I referred in this post indicates that ecclesial consumerism is a major factor in decisions to leave the Catholic Church. In response to the departures, it would be easy for Catholics to adopt a consumerist mentality themselves, so to keep or win back the consumers. This move is made all the more plausible by the fact that some Catholic activists, often unofficial but elite, have for decades been in the habit of unilaterally injecting the liturgy with idiosyncratic elements designed to suit their own ideological agenda. Since that agenda is fundamentally modernizing, it is perfectly adaptable to ecclesial consumerism, which trends towards the lowest common denominator. The result of that sort of thing can still be seen in many of our parishes: generic banality, irreverence, self-display, lukewarm humanism, forgetfulness and sheer ignorance of the Apostolic Faith. Thank God, things are changing for the better, but we have a long road back to the future.

    Ecclesial consumerism is, in this sense, a trap into which both individual Catholics and individual parishes can fall. This phenomenon is like a trap, or a pit, rather than a step (towards spiritual unity with God and one another), because it is motivated by the assumption that divine worship is primarily about the worshiping community, and a product of the worshiping community. The individual demands something that suits his taste, and the church crafts a product that satisfies the generic taste of the most people. This is misguided at best, idolatrous at worst.

    The truth is that divine worship is primarily about the Holy Trinity. The Heavenly Father demands something suitable to his majesty, and he provides what is demanded, by sending his Son, and the Holy Spirit makes that provision ever present in the visible Church, by means of the liturgy. That the essence of the liturgy cannot be destroyed by any action of the Church is as certain as the fact that the Church herself cannot be destroyed. The fundamental criterion for those aspects of divine worship that can, per the judgment of the Church, be changed is not what will be most appealing to the taste of the most people, but what is most fitting to the majesty of God, particularly in the solemn and central action, the Mass, by which acceptable worship is offered up by the Church.

    Correspondingly, the Church’s > the diocese’s > the parish’s basic criterion for ordering the liturgy is not what will keep the most people in the Nave. The Church’s concern for the people, if she is to really build them up in love, is what will most enable them to worship the Holy Trinity, in the most fitting manner. To adopt another ultimate goal for the liturgy would be to change the substance of the Catholic faith, which would be the worst possible calamity for every individual Christian.

    Now back to some of the particular aspects of our discussion:

    1. Engaging people on the principle that we are Catholic is precisely the most joyful and open and up-building way to engage Catholics. Good grief, what do you think Catholicism is? We need to remember, so that we can imagine, so that we can live in the fullest possible way in this world. People who do not know the past, which for us is the living tradition of the dead, are enslaved by the present, which is, in itself, meaningless.

    2. The fact that the liturgy changes (cf., Methodist scholar James White’s chronicle of the significant changes in the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, c. 1560–1960) is is not a point of disagreement, since this fact is completely consistent with what I wrote in my first reply. Taste is subjective, as you say, but it also has an objective dimension, since it corresponds to something external to the subject. Those things can be, objectively, more or less beautiful. Thus, it is possible to educate taste. God is beautiful, and we should seek to acknowledge this, and inculcate this, by the way in which we worship God.

    3. You indicate that I missed your point, but you seem to think that my comments had something to do with charismatic experience in the liturgy, re private revelation. But my comments had nothing to do with such phenomena; rather, they were directed towards the very sentiments that you go on to reaffirm. The Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion are not “theoretical goods.” You seem to have things precisely backwards. The Mass is the objective good, the individual’s sense of fulfillment is, as such, a purely subjective affair. A person can very well feel fulfilled by things that are not really good, with the result that they are actually harmed, in some cases deeply wounded. Think of a drug addict. A parish must not get into the business of providing people with their “fix.”

    Your last two paragraphs in section three consist of biased anecdotes shaped by mere personal opinions (e.g., “too private and quiet affair”), as informed by the liturgical narcissism that you outlined in the preceding paragraphs.

    Of course, a parish does many things that flow from its liturgical life, and lead back into it. We gather for Bible studies, community service, social outings, meals (in homes and in the parish hall, especially on feast days), meetings, etc. All of this is perfectly compatible with authentic participation in beautiful and reverent liturgy done for the glory of God.

    4. A parish has freedom in those things that have been left to its discretion, as directed by the pastor, by the diocesan bishop, who has freedom under the universal Church, which can and has issued directives that are binding upon all the faithful. This is part of the beauty of Catholicism. Ultimately, even the changeable aspects of the liturgy are not a matter of personal discretion and taste, but a matter of the Church regulating her life. Every Catholic, whether patriarch, bishop, priest, or layperson, is obliged to submit to the directions of the Church, even when we do not agree, even when we think that another path would be better. Liturgical abuse is, by definition, any action of a local church or parish that is out of accord with the directions of the universal Church. (There are of course doctrinal and disciplinary forms of dissent, as well as liturgical.) Within this obedience, there is authentic liturgical freedom, to act in truth, goodness and beauty for the glory of God. If and when we so act, as a community, the faithful are built up in love, the end of which is eternal salvation.

    * * * * *

    [I want to add, in fairness, that some efforts to recover and express the beauty of the liturgy can be marked by a sort of unfriendly legalism, a sub-Catholic, even inhuman, mindset masquerading as uber-Catholicism. This might be the result of taking traditional forms of worship, or orthodox doctrine, as primarily a reaction away from something else, rather than as an expression, in their own right, of the true, the good and the beautiful.]

  59. “it is motivated by the assumption that divine worship is primarily about the worshiping community, and a product of the worshiping community. … This is misguided at best, idolatrous at worst.”

    I don’t think this is necessarily true. I think it could just as well be that a parish or individual knows to worship God, understands the structure by which he is to worship, and the expression of that ordered worship to take on characteristics of who he is. This is very similar to my understanding of our canon – that the Scriptures are not the inscribed word of God but rather the authors faithful interpretation of what was revealed to him by God (thus bearing the author’s own [faithful] flair, if you will).

    It’s very easy to read what you’re saying and assume that you believe there is a divinely inscribed order to the Mass. Nothing revealed from God short of the 10 commandments and Christ Himself are so explicit in our tradition, though. Rather, it relies on people being who they are and sorting it out the best they can – knowing from whence they came and where to they are going. In this regard Chesterton’s democracy of the dead has meaning to me – to realize who people are/were and their motives for doing as they did. For as much as Chesterton wants to honor the dead – as they are not really dead – I don’t think he at the same time wants to blindly enshrine their every last thought and action.

    “[1]Correspondingly, the Church’s > the diocese’s > the parish’s basic criterion for ordering the liturgy must not be what will keep the most people in the nave. [2]The Church’s concern for the people, if she is to really build them up in love, must be what will most enable them to worship the Holy Trinity, in the most fitting manner. [3]To adopt another ultimate goal for the liturgy would be to change the substance of the Catholic faith, which would be the worst possible calamity for every individual Christian.”

    As you have ordered this argument, I agree. But I suspect you would have a problem if [1] were not an ultimate goal but is rather a concern that allowed a level of freedom in letting local parish and diocese minister/evangelize to their community’s cultural backgrounds and education. And even if you were to agree with me in that, I suspect we would still have disagreements in what constituted valid exercise of freedom and what does not.

    1. You and I come at this a little differently, not being cradle Catholic. We are Catholic, and we get very excited about it because we have an understanding of how and why it is we ended up in this Church. A lot of Catholics don’t. It’s just cultural identity – and that’s what I was speaking to because that’s how many of them are addressed and involved. I do think the best way to do that is to make Mass a more social affair than what it is.

    At this point, I suspect that I could be charged as missing the point, so I’ll give something of what I suspect will be a weak rationale: If our worship is to be, among other things, a sort of mirroring of the Trinity, then how we are in Mass in relating to one another should reflect the continually outpouring and self-giving nature of the Persons of the Trinity. A bunch of cold individuals barely acknowledging the others doesn’t really speak to me as glorifying God or why He placed us on this rock together. Something more extroverted is in order than the stark introversion that is all to common.

    2. I think appreciation for various tastes can be taught. But there’s really nothing that will every make me go nuts for the pipe organ. I’ve been a musician all my life. I’ve heard some tremendous organ performances. But … please, no. Not if there’s a (for me) better alternative out there. Gregorian Chant’s pretty cool. It also gets old extraordinarily fast. And, though it offends my grandmother to no end, I cannot stand the old hymns. Besides, no offense to the dead, but why should their work dominate our day and age. I’m not say forget them, I’m just saying that’s not all there is and we’re wrong for not looking to define/express ourselves some just as they did for themselves.

    3. “they were directed towards the very sentiments that you go on to reaffirm. The Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion are not ‘theoretical goods.'”

    I didn’t affirm this. But I’m saying that you cannot say that the Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion are actual goods as they are not objectively measurable. Our faith informs us that they are actual. But outside of our faith, they are theoretical.

    “The Mass is the objective good, the individual’s sense of fulfillment is, as such, a purely subjective affair. A person can very well feel fulfilled by things that are not really good, with the result that they are actually harmed, in some cases deeply wounded. Think of a drug addict. A parish must not get into the business of providing people with their ‘fix.'”

    I agree – BUT too often what happens is that the pastoral nature of Mass and parish life become desiccated because the pastoral staff and liturgists are trying to create such a pure and heavenly and “ancient” experience that they forget that many of the people they are ministering to are broken people who are just not in a place in themselves to appreciate that. Instead of being drawn into the Mystery, they feel very much apart and unwelcomed. Instead of feeling inspired and invited, they feel rejected and alienated.

    It’s not that I don’t get what you’re after. But I feel like a bad samaritan knowing that people like Sue are suffering for the sake of other people’s righteousness. Give me a lesser liturgy if that means that the injured in the pew can be ministered as an activity of the parish in the worship of God.

    As far as my 2 paragraphs in my section 3 above that you skirted – you won’t concede you know of parishes that fit that bill in your area? It was more an invitation to ask you – do you not also see it?

    It would seem to me, though, that there’s little consensus between the Bishops about what is permissible and what is not. Personally, I kinda like that. I know some others don’t, and you’re right in your addendum there – that’s about exactly how they all come across. I can appreciate the concerns of those who feel that there is a distinct lack of unity in the Mass across regions, but I also think that there are a lot of other concerns that are ignored to the detriment of the Church in such single-mindedness. Hopefully that’s kinda coming out. It’s not that I don’t value what it is you’re saying – I’m just not sold it’s quite so black and white.

  60. Spencer,

    Thanks again for the comments. You wrote:

    This is very similar to my understanding of our canon – that the Scriptures are not the inscribed word of God but rather the authors faithful interpretation of what was revealed to him by God (thus bearing the author’s own [faithful] flair, if you will).

    I can appreciate the analogy, but your characterization of Sacred Scripture does not comport well with the teaching of the Catholic Church, expressed, for example, in CCC 105 (quoting Dei Verbum):

    God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”

    You went on to write:

    It’s very easy to read what you’re saying and assume that you believe there is a divinely inscribed order to the Mass. Nothing revealed from God short of the 10 commandments and Christ Himself are so explicit in our tradition, though.

    This is a very strange claim. Many things have been made explicit in our tradition, over time. The Mass itself was instituted by Christ, as attested several places in Sacred Scripture. The order of the Mass, beyond what is set down by Christ’s example, is attested by Holy Tradition.

    Parts of this order are essential, and cannot be changed. Other parts can be changed, but only by the universal Church herself, or by the authority of a local church, acting with at least the implict permission of the highest authority in the Church competent to judge in such matters (i.e., the Holy See).

    So that this authority structure, and the order prescribed thereby, does not remain abstract, here is something tangible to go by:

    Decree of Promulgation

    The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium,11). After many years of preparation, the third typical edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal was approved in English translation on March 17, 2003. This document provides the framework of our celebration of the Sacred Mysteries and guides us that we may celebrate the Holy Sacrifice in unity and peace. On March 25, 2004 the Holy See issued a further instruction on the Eucharist entitled, Redemptionis Sacramentum (the Sacrament of Redemption) to provide greater clarity to certain matters regarding the Most Holy Eucharist and “to preserve this mystery of faith with reverence, care, devotion and love.”

    It is with this in mind that I have the joy of promulgating the following liturgical norms for the Diocese of Charlotte. They are outlined here for the benefit of all the Christian faithful of our Diocese and are to be considered normative for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy on Holy Thursday, March 24, 2005, the beginning of the Triduum of Easter.

    Given at the Chancery of the Diocese of Charlotte, March 3, 2005.

    The Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, J.C.D.

    Bishop of Charlotte

    What follows are the Bishop’s liturgical norms, which are in turn subject to and shaped by the norms promulgated by the Holy See. (The Liturgical Norms for the Diocese of Charlotte are available in pdf. format here. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal can be read here. Redemptionis Sacramentum is available here.)

    You spoke of potential disagreements over what constitutes a valid execise of [liturgical] freedom. So long as the elements freely adopted by a parish in its celebration of the Eucharist are consistent with both the norms of the universal Church for a given Rite, and the further implementation of those norms by the local ordinary (assuming this is consistent with the former), then this exercise of freedom is valid, even if it is not to my personal taste.

    Mass is not not a “social affair” any more than it is a merely cultural product. As I wrote earlier, a parish has every opportunity for social affairs and celebration of culture apart from turning the Mass into a pop music performance, replete with chuckles and howdies at the altar. How do I spell it? P-a-r-i-s-h H-a-l-l.

    You spend a lot of time detailing your personal tastes, and running down members of parishes where matters are not to your taste. Undoubtedly, that is a gratifying thing to do. But it is not the same thing as learning how to worship God in spirit and truth, as guided by Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

    I belong to a small eastern Catholic mission, but have ample opportunity to visit several Roman Rite parishes. For the most part, thanks to the pastoral care and direction of our bishop, I do not see much outright liturgical abuse at any of them. There are nice people and mean people at each parish, although my experience is that rudeness and intolerance are more common among the “progressive” or contemporary parishes.

    We can both agree that everyone ought to be nice. I hope we agree that Catholics should not dissent from their Church, either in doctrine or discipline. Sadly, dissent is still to be found (and not only in the Roman Rite), but its not like the Church has a mind-control machine or anything. People are free. Let’s use our freedom to build one another up in love, in obedience to Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church, which is the fullness of him who fills all in all.

    As for differences in taste, yeah, that’s how it is. For Catholics, ours is to forebear one another. With so many Catholics, that is no small task. At the very least, we can refrain from elevating our personal tastes to the status of liturgical norms. Thankfully, within the Catholic Church, there are many Rites, and various forms of the different Rites, and legitimate variations within each form of a Rite. We are free to participate in any and all of them.



  61. Gents,

    Your dialogue prompted a post on my blog here, “Mass 201: It’s Not about You and It’s Really that Simple”. Which was also a follow up to Mass 101: It’s Jesus and It’s Really that Simple. Both are relevant to this thread.



  62. Hey guys,

    Incidentally, bringing out the shiny toys to attract the masses has been around at least since the 400’s when both Socrates and Sozomen recorded that the Orthodox in Constantinople were using Silver Crosses (donated by the empress!) in their night processionals to attact larger crowds than the Arians. This, of course, provoked rioting….

  63. Jeremiah,

    Except that a silver cross is not a toy. It is the symbol of our redemption. One could say that Vladimir, the first Catholic ruler of Rus’, was an ecclesial consumerist, in his manner of choosing the Byzantine Rite over both the Germanic Western Rite and Islam:

    On the morrow, the emperor sent a message to the patriarch to inform him that a Russian delegation had arrived to examine the Greek faith, and directed him to prepare the church and the clergy, and to array himself in his sacerdotal robes, so that the Russians might behold the glory of the God of the Greeks. When the patriarch received these commands, he bade the clergy assemble, and they performed the customary rites. They burned incense, and the choirs sang hymns. The emperor accompanied the Russians to the church, and placed them in a wide space, calling their attention to the beauty of the edifice, the chanting, and the offices of the archpriest and the ministry of the deacons, while he explained to them the worship of his God. The Russians were astonished, and in their wonder praised the Greek ceremonial. Then the Emperors Basil and Constantine invited the envoys to their presence, and said, “Go hence to your native country,” and thus dismissed them with valuable presents and great honour. Thus they returned to their own country, and the prince called together his vassals and the elders. Vladimir then announced the return of the envoys who had been sent out, and suggested that their report be heard. He thus commanded them to speak out before his vassals. The envoys reported: “When we journeyed among the Bulgars, we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a mosque, while they stand ungirt. The Bulgarian bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them, but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good. Then we went among the Germans, and saw them performing many ceremonies in their temples; but we beheld no glory there. Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty. Every man, after tasting something sweet, is afterward unwilling to accept that which is bitter, and therefore we cannot dwell longer here.” Then the vassals spoke and said, “If the Greek faith were evil, it would not have been adopted by your grandmother Olga, who was wiser than all other men.” Vladimir then inquired where they should all accept baptism, and they replied that the decision rested with him.

    (from the Russian Primary Chronicle)

    I am glad for the testimony of Olga, and that the Muslim worship was not any more pleasing to the Prince!

  64. Jeremiah-
    It might be also be worth noting the fact that Christianity did not exist during the life of Socrates due to the fact that Socrates died some centuries prior to Christ’s birth. Is there some other Socrates to whom you were referring?

  65. Jeremiah,

    Were silver crosses easier to see in the moonlight?

  66. Andrew,

    You are right, a silver Cross is not a toy, but neither is singing inconsequential to Worship…. The CCC states that “…he who sings prays twice…” What I don’t understand, as an outsider, is why, if that is what is taught, the singing that I have observed in the liturgy is largely so terrible. I also don’t understand why, when it is pointed out in research, that the poor quality of the singing used in the Liturgy, as compared to that used in protestant services, is a major factor in defections, the response on this website is to throw up a You tube clip to a “strawman” of a worship service (Does anyone seriously think those clowns on the guitar is representative of a protestant service?) and then declaim that anyone who goes after that stuff is a heretic. Come on.

    The real conversation should be that if the overwhelming direction of the scripture is to worship through music, and this is backed up by the Magistereum, then why isn’t it done with excellence in the liturgy and why is the overwhelming testimony (at least in my geographic region, an apparently according to the Pew research elsewhere as well) not that (as the Russian’s stated) in the RCC is “…where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” but the testimony is instead “its dead”

    I am a Protestant, however, I believe strongly that “a rising tide lifts all ships” and frankly it doesn’t do any of us any good when any of us look unattractive to the outside. It is my heart’s desire that should outsider’s come into any of our Church’s the testimony would be that “…we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.”

    Unfortunately I’ve been in plenty of services (protestant and catholic) where you definitely weren’t confused about being in heaven or on earth. Lets fix THAT problem.

  67. Jeremiah,

    I’m thinking the *bling* of a Holy Cross to coax the people to orthodoxy against the Arian heresy is a bit different than the *bling* we are all referring to in this article which leads people into heresy. Or to put it another way, the methods by which men–brick by brick–ascend by man made traditions to God only to be greeted by themselves at the summit. I’ve been a part of every possible human invention to ascend the mountain of God, I’ve even been an instrument for that journey, and it is a hapless path whereby the promise of Christ “to fill” His people becomes ever more obscured. Yet, as Andrew has evidenced, the path of God, laid out in the Holy Liturgy, allows us to enter into a foreshadowing of the heavenly rest; a rest whereby God descends upon us in His eternal Incarnational Way, and we are no longer like the men and women of Babel to come up with our own straw and mud and drink. Rather He only asks us to bring gifts of bread and wine, and then we are made new , as St. Cyril of Jerusalem taught in reference to the Holy Eucharist, “from glory to gory”.

    Peace to you on your journey,


  68. Jeremiah,

    Your newest comment had not passed through the veil before I wrote my last comment. There is some really bad music being used in the liturgy. However, and ironically enough, my wife just had the pleasure of going to a service in honor of her sister’s baby dedication. The church was contemporary but not in the gooberish kind of way like in the video. She left happy that our parish music was so bad so that our children would not be deceived thinking that good production = God’s presence. Nevertheless, I think the problem isn’t so much in production in the CC but as in selection.

    The defection problem is a lack of understanding what is happening in the Mass. It is not about me feeling anything, being inspired, etc. That’s modern, ego-centric, non-sense. That’s children stamping their feet because they don’t get their own way. Also, though, in the case of the CC it’s pastors failing even themselves to comprehend and communicate the majesty of the Divine Liturgy.

    Notice that singing is called praying twice, where prayer’s trajectory is to God. My wife and I were just discussing about how it is precisely what you put into the Mass that you do not “get out” of the Mass. Every effort we make to enter into the mystery is an act of service/work/worship to God. In return we do not get the fruits of our efforts, chord progressions, productions, et al. but rather what is truly gift; namely the Body and Blood of Christ. That’s good news for poor, clumsy beggars like me.

    God bless,


  69. Jeremiah,

    My claim is not that people who choose where to go to church based upon their own tastes are heretics. My claim is that they are “ecclesial consumerists.” I think that ecclesial consumerism is the reason that music, in so many Protestant churches, is so incongruous with the nature of Christian worship. The video was meant to illustrate the point. I did not speak of music that is badly done. The rock music in the video is, so far as I can tell, well-executed. As for the same phenomenon, though admittedly not to the same extent, in the Catholic Church, I think that the same culprit is at work, perhaps in imitation of, or response to, the “democratizing,” lowest common denominator tendencies of many Protestant services.

    All things being equal, Gregorian Chant is the music most appropriate for the Roman Rite, though this is far from evident in most of our parishes. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, you will find that the entire liturgy is sung, and is quite beautiful. Of course, there are some mainline Protestant denominations, particularly Anglican, that have a tradition of beautiful hymns and liturgical music. Sadly, this tradition, where it is preserved at all, is often preserved in the context of a liberal theology.

    Some Protestants and Catholics do share a common concern about ecclesial consumerism (see comment #16). However, since we cannot fully agree on what Christian worship is, our principles for what worship ought to look like and sound like are going to be somewhat different, even antagonistic. Remember, your lot destroyed much that is beautiful, and desecrated much that is sacred, in the name of “reform.” Still, those who confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that worshiping in spirit and truth is not exclusive of attention to beauty should be able to find some common ground in these matters, such that a Catholic and a Protestant may have more in common, as regards ecclesial consumerism, than do two Catholics. (See my conversation with Spencer, in comments #54–59, for an illustration of two different perspectives on Catholic worship.)

  70. Herbert,

    Jeremiah was referring to Socrates of Constantinople.

  71. Here’s where I jump off the discussion. I’ve started to reply a number of times, but every time I stop short, feeling uncertain I’ve said what needs to be said.

    The bone of contention is where the person considers himself in the order of worship. And there seems to be two camps in this consideration: the camp of not-at-all (or, at the least, way down low) and the camp of everyone else (wherein there is understandably a broad spectrum of smaller camps that don’t entirely sit comfortably with each other). As we say in computer science, there are 3 numbers: 0, 1, and n

    It would seem to me there’s an invisible line that gets crossed that prompts the camp of not-at-all to begin to attempt to reign in the camp of everyone else. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that the primary character is a kind of enshrinement of “the way things use to be.”

    Now, I know this isn’t a blog of sedevacanists or SSPX-ers or what-have-you. And the discussion hasn’t quite fallen into latin mass cheerleading or similarly seemingly historical enshrinement / idolatry. I know that I’m judged in the wrong, but I don’t quite see that you’ve made a sufficiently affirmative argument for your case either (and, if I had the time, I would think it would be a fine exercise for me to even try to do for my side).

    I know I’m charged with essentially self-centered worship. That is, I’m concerned about how I or others feel above the concern of the worship of God. I kindly disagree and feel I’m misunderstood. My contention is that it’s all connected, and it’s not a bad thing for a person to evaluate the extent to which they find themselves enabled and encouraged to worship and to consider the fruits of their efforts. It’s not that worshiping God is second – it’s a foregone conclusion that’s what (ought) to be going on here. So I don’t feel the need to make that a regular point – it should be understood given the nature of the conversation. But ought the worship of God be a silent affair – in our hearts, from our lips, in our lives? And ought a person consider the good of their exercise?

    It pleases me that there are people who can hold to the traditional, reserved fashions of celebrating Mass and feel utterly fulfilled and/or hold in the firmness of their faith that they are being fulfilled despite any other thing may or may not feel. But in my experience, many people yearn for something more engaging and fulfilling – on a wide spectrum of matters – and when they see it, they bite. I don’t know that this can be called a glamour of evil. Certainly, I see the possibility – just like see the similar possibility in the triumphantalism of hard core traditionalists. Instead, I think it’s people reaching out for some of the change and growth and fulfillment that is the promise of faith. That isn’t to say there isn’t suffering, too – any parent who sits with a child through Mass long enough can tell you that ;-) (oh, or just attend a children’s Mass ;-) … but those are good for the kids)

    I don’t know that there’s a balm for the camp of not-at-all. It’d be nice to think the two camps can get along. But given the regularity that I see these discussions crop up and their voraciousness, I don’t know. Really, it makes me kinda sad. It makes me stay up way too long thinking about whether I’m in the right or the wrong. I’ll lean on grace and take what comes my way. It wouldn’t be an end of things for me if my parish was stood on its head. But it would be very sad and disheartening.

  72. Spencer,

    What you take as a forgone conclusion, I take to be central to this discussion.

    Regarding the subjective experience of worship, and what an analysis of that might tell us about the objective structure of worship, it might be good to consider the experimental approach that C. S. Lewis took to literary criticism. Instead of first asking the question, “What are good books?”, Lewis asks, “What are good readers?” For Lewis, a good book is the kind of book that good readers prefer to read. Analogously, we can ask the question “What is a good worshiper?” and conclude to good liturgy as that which good worshipers prefer.

    And that brings us back to your forgone conclusion, and my main point, which is, stated in the manner suggested above, that good worshipers are focused upon the Holy Trinity, as made available to us by the Passion of Jesus Christ. Good liturgy is the kind of liturgy that such worshipers prefer. Bad liturgy is the kind of liturgy preferred by bad worshipers, as described, for example, by Cardinal Ratzinger:

    The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult. When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back. Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking, and making merry. The dance around the golden calf is an image of this self-seeking worship. It is a kind of banal self-gratification. The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship. Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources. The liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around. Or worse still it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise. All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness. There is no experience of that liberation which always takes place when man encounters the living God.

    (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 23.)

    As you can tell from the end of this quote, the consideration of the experience of the individual is not dis-allowed by the thesis of God-centered worship. A part of the purpose of God-centered liturgy is to enable the individual to transcend his own, and his culture’s, limitations and in a concrete way to encounter and participate in the life of God. Which is exactly what a good worshiper seeks to do. The good worshiper “places himself” at the throne of God. And this is where the Tradition comes in. Tradition is not simply “the way things used to be.” Tradition is the life of the Church, enduring and growing in an unbroken manner through time and space, which comes from Christ and leads to heaven, now in a mystery, one day in the full light of vision. The effort to approach God, in worship, apart from the liturgical Tradition of the Church that Christ founded, is destined to cultivate bad worship, on some level, whether through the loss of the Mysteries (Sacraments), as in Protestantism, or in a debased celebration of the liturgy, as in some Catholic parishes. The difference, of course, is that in a valid Mass, no matter how banal in some respects, the essence of Christian worship is maintained, while even a beautiful and otherwise thoroughly traditional Protestant service lacks that objective reality.

    There can be no doubt that many Protestants are, subjectively, good worshipers, while many Catholics are not. The former need to return to, and are on some level tending towards, the objective reality of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. The latter need to subjectively appropriate, by faith and charity, that which is already their own, as members of the Catholic Church. Good liturgy will draw good worshipers, while bad liturgy may discourage the same from finding their heart’s desire in the Eucharist.

  73. Andrew said:

    “Of course, there are some mainline Protestant denominations, particularly Anglican, that have a tradition of beautiful hymns and liturgical music. Sadly, this tradition, where it is preserved at all, is often preserved in the context of a liberal theology.”

    Ouch! I may be a heretic but I am not a liberal! Although perhaps I sit on the fence on too many important issues.

    ‘Anglo-Catholicism’ in the UK grew off the back of ritualism and ‘bling’. In many poor parishes the movement brought light, colour and mystery as well as real help to communities blighted by poverty. Sacramental Socialism (hard to translate in a US context) meant God’s Holy gifts for God’s Holy People, of which the liturgy and ultimately the sacrament is part (invalid as it may be in the eyes of Rome).

    But the movement has faded, and now contemporary worship packs the doors of many congregations.

    Yet even the simplest of said liturgies can convey the deep mysteries of heavenly worship if those mysteries are truly embraced by those present. I have no idea how Catholic Priests preach but in the poor disjointed ‘sister’ of the CofE I learned to ‘remind them of the Gospel’ (in case the people were not listening) ‘bring out the context and teaching’ (depending on pastoral context) and then ‘invite response through the sacrament – an encounter with Jesus’. I fear that if I joined the Catholic Church via the Ordinariate I would find my insistence on preaching the real presence at every mass would not be well received by some!

    I have all sorts of questions about the Catholic Church – but the Catholic faith has a truly authentic Altar Call.

  74. Andrew,

    First of all, my opinion on how someone should decide what Church they belong to is entirely antithetical to eccleisial consumerism, so my comments are not in disagreement with the idea that someone should not be deciding where they go to Church based on what “suits their taste” I happen to believe that GOD is building His Church and He places each of us where He sees fit. I didn’t get to choose my natural family, and honestly (I know I’m a rare bird on this one) I didn’t get to choose my spiritual one either. In GOD’s economy I think that is “normal”.

    I do apologize (as much as I can) for the sacrileges which “my lot” performed in profaning what was sacred. That argument does happen to be a double edged sword and I would argue strenuously that condemning people to death for reading the Bible is an equal sacrelege. Whatever pain there is in history, today is not that day. I love my Catholic brothers with all my heart and am not interested in going back there. But healing those wounds is going to take both sides honestly assessing what the data says needs fixed and looking inward to make those changes and not blaming the otherside.

    If we (protestants) really believe Sola Scriptura and the plain reading of the scripture is “this is my body….” well, we just gotta admit we were wrong and adjust.

    On the other hand, if 150 psalms + most of Paul’s writings put a heavy emphasis both on singing and my emotional state during worship….well, if the boot fits wear it.

    GOD is about Covenantal Partnerships. It is about Both Him AND Me. Worship is about ascribing Worth to HIM. But to ascribe Worth to someone (“….oh magnfy The Lord…..”) is about describing why they are of value. If the method I am using to do that does not actually communicate that in way that is convincing (either to myself or any one else) am I successful? So what if I have partaken of Jesus Actual Body and Blood? If I look like I just swallowed a fishbone sideways did it honor HIM? Do I enjoy His presence more than a movie? Lets be honest. Do I? Do I enjoy His Presence more than this Blog? Where do we really stand on this? Before we decry “emotionalism” lets not forget either that Heb 4 says the only way to divide Soul and Spirit is the Word of GOD. If we don’t have the Word of GOD in us we can’t tell the difference. And if we can’t tell the difference the answer isn’t to avoid situations where the Spirit is moving and we are confused about Soul and Spirit, the answer is to get more into the Word.

    Honestly, the last Mass I was at was a funeral. It was terribly boring and the Priest looked like a factory worker doing his job. But when he lifted up the cup, the Presence of GOD dropped on that place. By all appearances no one else noticed, or if they did they were keeping the secret. As a Protestant, I think the gift of GOD’s Presence is something to be celebrated, noisily, not kept secret. I think David agreed, at least in a bunch of the psalms (BTW in In the context of a funeral Mass, I wasn’t rude or noisy) I understand if my Catholic Brothers don’t agree, but it seems a matter of taste not dogma

  75. I find that the only thing I have any control over at the liturgy is me. If I come to Mass looking for our Lord, I usually manage to find Him or be found by Him. If I do not come looking for Him, He may find me anyway.

    The better the liturgy, the easier and better I can respond. The worse, the more difficult that response is. I believe that a singular Mass, without respect to the language spoken, would be preferable to the plethora of local variations of the Mass now extant.

    I don’t sing some of the songs simply because I don’t believe that they correctly interpret the voice of the Church. I might be described as wooden in those situations. The older hymns seem the best to me personally. Better worship. Often catechetical (teaching). The mind of Christ seems better expressed in those older hymns.

    I have attempted to address this kind of consideration, both in the practice and in the music, and learned the truth of the phrase, “hell has no fury like a liturgical coordinator put to the question.”

    So I have read the Sunday Mass well before arriving, I look forward to the readings and, please God, a good sermon. Sometimes my hopes and prayers are well met.

    I would note that I am writing this because I have found some of the boundaries of my state in life.


  76. I’m going to borrow your readers/worshiper analogy.

    I assume you would assert that there are no readers/worshipers – good or otherwise – who are more effective under a genre/fashion?

    As for my brother, he’s not a very good reader. Hates it in fact. But if striking an interest is possible – he becomes voracious – and his interest can be kept for a long time. And good is achieved. He has particular genres in which he tends to succeed much more in comparison to others.

    Now, I’ll concede that these fits of reading do not help him towards the ideal goal of an all around good reader, but he is better in many respects, reading among them, because of it.

    And I know people who are similar to my brother but in worship. People aren’t the same. You have to meet them where they are. I understand your idealism, but leave room until we’re in heaven so that we can minister here and now. I love my brother – I want to keep him reading as best I can. I love my brothers and sisters, and I want them to cling to their faith as best they can.

    It is very much like dealing with children. But I don’t think that’s beneath the ministry of the Church. One size fits all is like asking a grade schooler to read Dickens. You’re almost certain to make that child hate reading before he has even started. Certainly for my brother. On this point, I’m a broken record.

    If we are to distinguish the liturgy – the structure of the Mass – apart from the fashions used as parts of the Mass, then I think we are okay.

  77. Andrew,

    I wrote and posted the previous post apparently while you were writing #72. I agree very much with the comments in your last two paragraphs although another point which I have pondered is the ability of many of the monastics to cultivate such a close intense worship of GOD without the benefit of very much of a corporate worship service at all….obviously the admonition to not abandon the habit of meeting together bears witness against this being the norm, still…

  78. Jeremiah #74,

    So what if I have partaken of Jesus Actual Body and Blood? If I look like I just swallowed a fishbone sideways did it honor HIM? Do I enjoy His presence more than a movie? Lets be honest. Do I? Do I enjoy His Presence more than this Blog? Where do we really stand on this? Before we decry “emotionalism” lets not forget either that Heb 4 says the only way to divide Soul and Spirit is the Word of GOD. If we don’t have the Word of GOD in us we can’t tell the difference.

    The first sentence is unintelligible to me. It is like saying, “so what that I have enjoyed conjugal love with my wife”. Did I enjoy it as much as the football game? A hamburger? This blog? While my interior motives are important, what the analogy bares witness to is two problems. One, the acts do not have the same objective reality. If I “enjoy” a hamburger more than my marital union the problem isn’t the mood, setting, or performance (blah) but because I’m a fool or at least a superficial jerk. In the Holy Eucharist we receive what God has ordained to give us of His very life. If I don’t “get” anything out of that I’m a spiritual fool or at least spiritually superficial. In marital love (another sacrament) we receive grace for our salvation and a means by which God can bring into existence what was not before. Either way, like Christ when he was on earth, without faith you are liable to take for what is God in flesh as a mere carpenter, prophet, or meal pal. We too can miss the boat.

    Two, I think this sensationalizes the sacraments. They are the “ordinary” means of grace. The difference between hollywood conjugality and real conjugality is precisely in the adjective “real”. The “performance” of two “stars” is quite different than two who have loved each other through sorrow, pain and joy bearing a sign upon their finger of fidelity. Emotions are good only in so much that they reflect an interior reality, a reality that is a reflection not of itself but of an exterior reality. In the Holy Eucharist, we respond to the Word getting inside of us. We revel in His inestimable mercy given to us as pure gift.

    Ironically, it was that “burning” that preceded Christ giving himself in the Eucharist in Luke 24 and it is in the Eucharist that our eyes are opened, that we are filled, that we are made whole. It is spiritual maturity to recognize good food (and in this case Christ made it really easy for us), and it is also the sign of a good shepherd to lead his flock past the junk food isle. Which I think is to Donald Todd’s comment @ 75. His comment also lends itself to understanding what I “do” in the worship of God (which is to my #68).

    Peace to you on your journey

  79. Spencer,

    The warp and woof of my comments is this: Let your goal be the Holy Trinity. Thus, you will be, subjectively no less, ever and always lifted up beyond human understanding, and know by faith the mercy and peace and glory of God. Adopt some other end, and you will find something perhaps understandable, palpable, but an idol.

    The golden calf struck an interest in Israel. Aaron met them where they were at. But for the mediation of Moses, God would have destroyed them all as bad worshipers. (Exodus 32) Good reading is a matter of natural aptitude and developed proficiency. Bad readers are not necessarily deprived of any moral or spiritual goodness. Bad worshipers are so deprived, whether through their own fault, or the faults of another (or both). Good worship is a supernatural activity made possible by God’s grace, for all the baptized. No one is to be excluded from good worship because we think that they are a little slow, and might prefer a golden calf. The Mass is a mystery, and its lessons can be learned by everyone, from the smallest baby (e.g. infant communion in the Eastern churches) to the brightest philosopher, only by humbly approaching the Throne of God, and receiving what surpasses our understanding. The effort to turn the Mass into a classroom misses the mystery entirely, and substitutes the artificial pedagogy of the present for the organically-developing life of tradition. Just as life is not a lesson, but a natural participation in God, the liturgy is not a lesson, but a supernatural participation in God, as made available to us by the Passion of Jesus Christ. The Mass is not explanation, but propitiation, adoration, and communion. Catholic and Orthodox Christians, many of whom were illiterate, have understood this perfectly well for almost two thousand years, and we can understand it today, if only our pastors will lead us in the peaceful, beautiful and sanctifying path of Holy Tradition.


    I did not reference those destructive acts as a simple reminder of what you guys once did wrong, way back when. Rather, my purpose was to indicate that Reformed Christianity suffers, especially in its modes of worship, (whether early Puritan or pop contemporary) in its roots and its enduring fruits, from the heresy of iconoclasm.

    Almost all monastic life is communal, sacramental and liturgical to the highest degree. The desert Fathers and other hermits (living in relative seclusion) did have brothers who would bring the Mysteries to them, so that they maintained a sacramental connection to the Church. In the Catholic Church, hermits are under the direction of a monastic superior or diocesan bishop.

  80. Pope Benedict XVI affirms the primacy of Gregorian Chant in worship here. Thought this was relevant to some of the discussion and wanted to share. Also see Ecclesia Dei, and pay attention to 6 and 7 in relationship to liturgy pre and post Vatican II.

    All be blessed!

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting