Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's Mass by any other name: stealth priestesses?

There is a very interesting piece from the Irish Independent entitled "It's Mass by any other name as women lead faithful in prayer". It and the comments following it seem to show a very serious problem in Irish Catholicism. It is about a Sunday lay led Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion. Today too, the Archbishop of Liverpool commissioned some lay people to conduct funeral services in the absence of a priest.

Increasingly in the Europe we are going to be faced with not having enough priests to celebrate Mass on Sundays. There are it strikes me several possibilities.

  1. What happened in this particular parish, a deacon or lay led Liturgy of the Word with the distribution of Holy Communion. 
  2. Some other liturgical action takes place such as the singing of the Divine Office. and people "fast" from the Eucharist because their community does not have a priest. Or some other liturgical action takes place such as the singing of the Divine Office. and Holy Communion is distributed.
  3. Nothing happens in a particular church and people are expected, if they can, to travel to the nearest Church where there is Mass
The problem is well illustrated by this story, the deacon or lay led Liturgy of the Word celebrations with the distribution of Holy Communion are mistaken for something "as good as Mass" by both journalists and ordinary lay people. This underlines the serious implications of the loss of an understanding of a sacrificial understanding of the Mass, and consequently the priest as being no more than the compere or community leader, indeed someone whose place can be taken by a deacon or lay-person with little or no loss.
The form and structure of such lay led services, which mirror the Mass in everything but the Eucharistic Prayer, only seem to add to the confusion.
The use of women as leaders of such services circumvents the debate we should have, and which most Protestant communities have had, as to whether the Catholic and Apostolic faith actually allows for the oversight, the episkope, of lay women. It is not something which has ever happened in either the East or West, it is something new, we seem to be making a huge theological leap without much thought or debate.
Well, maybe that is not quite correct, I am sure that many liberal theologians have thought this through quite seriously and see it as indeed a way of introducing female priests through the back door.


Mulier Fortis said...

Not much "stealth" about it - the woman appears to be wearing a green stole!

Fr Ray Blake said...

Mac the picture is what could be, not what is, ...I hope!

Amfortas said...

I've never understood why the bishops or Rome permitted Liturgies of the Word with Holy Communion. Perhaps it's an unfortunate consequence of encouraging frequent reception. Pius X has a lot to answer for! May he forgive me for saying so! The rot set in when the connection between Confirmations and First Holy Communion was sundered.

Ttony said...

Father, "they" are trying to get as much as possible in place before the new Bishops are chosen.

John Nolan said...

I remember these being introduced in the 1980's (I was teaching in a Catholic school at the time). They were called 'Eucharistic Services' and I made my objection to them clear on two grounds - firstly, the Eucharistic service of the Catholic Church is the Mass, and secondly the reception of Holy Communion outside Mass was discouraged after Vatican II. (Where is Bugnini when you need him?)

If for any reason there is no Mass on a particular weekday, it is an ideal opportunity for the people to recite the Office together, and if it is led by a woman I would not object (despite being an unreconstructed traditionalist) particularly if she can chant.

Omphalomancer said...

Unil recently Services of the Word and Holy Communion occurred frequently in the Parish of members of the Shrewsbury Diocesan Liturgy Commission. The commissioner in question would rather that than those priests from The Institute of Christ the King. "Eucharistic Ministers" in self effacing modesty dropped the Extraordinary part of their title and conduct their services, reading the Gospel and sharing their thoughts after the Gospel before proceeding to distribute Holy Communion and afterwards blessing the congregation. How is this different to what a Deacon would do for them and surely if a woman can do this then a woman can be ordained or even why bother to ordain anyone anyway because the Church is about the people not the Building or institutions! We are after all all one body where we all choose how best to be everything to everyone just like a real body!

Supertradmum said...

Any liturgical action which does not involved a priest undermines the centrality of the priesthood, the idea of the alter Christus, and apostolic succession. The sacramental life of the Church is being eroded by well-meaning but misguided prelates who only see the Church as some sort of service station passing out grace like petrol.

The entire hierarchical and patriarchal structure, instituted by Christ is seriously threatened by lay ministers of any sort taking over liturgical positions.

This is simply not the role of the laity and the clericalization of the laity leads to a protestant re-definition of liturgical practices and function.

Once the priest is absent, there should be no substitutres. The laity can suffer for the selfishness of parents not encouraging their boys to consider the priesthood and the fact that contraception has led to small families. Years ago, when families were normally 8-12 children, moms and dads were generous in giving their children to the Church as priests and nuns.

Now, the scarcity of children has created the lack of vocations.

We only have ourselves to blame and any attempt to make a lay person into a pseudo-clerical creates confusion among the different roles.

The Irish Church is not merely weak but protestantized.

JARay said...

I changed my browser and when I tried to post my comment the new one did not seem to post it at all.
All I said was that as one who has conducted a number of these Liturgies of the Word, I have always begun by reminding the congregation that this is NOT Mass and I have never ever given a blessing but I always used:-
"May the Lord bless us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life."

A Catholic Comes Home said...

This is happenning now,and on a Sunday in two churches close to me.Hopefully it will be a one off.But Liturgy of the word and Holy communion services are quite common here during the week.

Omphalomancer said...

Please forgive me if I have keftvthe erroneous impression that I approve of the practises described; I was overcome by a surfeit of sarcasm.
We live in an age that relies heavily on visual imagery perhaps more so than ever; it is striking that as liturgists fulminate against the words of the new translation they fail to notice the effect that poor liturgy has on the faithful. There has been a steady erosion of the priest in my lifetime. Take away the rails to the sanctuary but put the priest behind an altar, not so that hebis with us but more as a salesman at his counter. The mass becomes a confrontation. Women traipse onto the sanctuary to mumble the readings; they elqd the prayers of the faithful as we ask God to support the marginalised and vulnerable like a Social Care wish list; they carry the chalice in the offertory procession after they have carried it from the safe to the offertory table; they chat as they come to the altar to be Eucharistic Ministers and then bless the children too young to receive and then after communion they clear the altar and retire back to sacristy where they can be heard chatting again as they wash up!
Am I drawn to this? It was bad enough to have priests behaving like old women without having the real thing as well!

gemoftheocean said...

Amfortas -- I expect if the priest doesn't show up for whatever reason, and there is no other church nearby with Mass your solution is to Just*go*home.

A prayer service in substitute for a Mass is never preferable, but sometimes it may be the only option. A priest may have a parish out in the boonies, and he suddenly falls ill for example. Liturgy of the Word with Holy Communion, led by a deacon or lay person is preferable to *nothing.*

Yeah, if we have trouble with pedo priests or bishops who should know better getting caught drunk driving -- yeah, it's all them wimmin in the church -- that's it. It's the wimmin who are the cause of the sorry state the church is in today in too many places.

Interesting when one blows up the picture (which wasn't used, as far as I can tell in the Irish times article) it is labeled paarsegnung klein apparently a little Valentine's day blessing -- so in other words, this wasn't a communion service at all -- which should be obvious anyway as there are obviously no ciboriums in evidence given hands in the air - as for the green around the woman's neck, wouldn't assume anything from the picture -- it never seems to occur to anyone that the woman may be wearing a green shirt or other garment underneath? How do we even know this is a Catholic place and not a Lutheran one?

And in a Communion service, there is NO BLESSING like this. It's not in the rubrics for one thing.

I think Father is being deliberately provocative.

gemoftheocean said...

"Once the priest is absent, there should be no substitutres. The laity can suffer for the selfishness of parents not encouraging their boys to consider the priesthood and the fact that contraception has led to small families. Years ago, when families were normally 8-12 children, moms and dads were generous in giving their children to the Church as priests and nuns."

What an extremely nasty attitude, and if I may say it is not exactly overflowing with Christian charity. Your baby is born prematurely and the priest is not around? Let it die without emergency baptism, people will only be 'confused' if you usurp this role. Not a priest for 50 miles around? Let the laity go without Communion, even if it could otherwise be distributed. You didn't personally crank out 8-12 children? SUFFER.

Do you get up into people's faces demanding why their family has 0-1-2 children? Please let me know what parish you belong to, so I can watch the fireworks when some one goes off on you because they've had numerous miscarriages or fertility problems...because it's NONE of your business.

I feel sorry for the Irish people, for sure ... but frankly, the HIERARCHY had a great deal to do with the downfall of the Church in that country. Who covered up for the pedos? Who swept everything under the rug?

Have you never heard the phrase 'you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?' If I were not a Catholic, and saw this particular comment of yours, there is nothing in it that would lead me to the door of a Catholic church.

Mike Cliffson said...

As I understand it, communion services have always existed, tho unlike what seems to be reported here.
Being Judgemental, it looks rather like the cases where extraordinary circumstances allowed for "on the books" are used as a stepping stone to...
As A sinister eminence grise behind President Obama says "never let a good crisis go to waste"
The very short liturgy you get when homebound or in hospital, with a stoled priest, or an extraordinary minister, without whom many sick would never receive in Europe these days.
A good thirtyodd years ago or more I met a youngish, very orthodox, Priest from a Brazilian diocese in the middle of nowhere, sent tempoarily back to Europe because his mother was dying. I asked him about soething then fashionable, "comunidades de base".His explanation was totally practical.
His parish was not overly gigantic , perhaps a few English counties, but the roads were dirt tracks.The diocese bought him a new volkswagen every year,it wore out sooner.He bust a gut saying mass over evry weekend in four reltively close centres of population: sat eve, Sunday day break, midday, and evening. He wouldn't be back in the same area for five weeks.If he didn't arrive at approximately the right time the congration would set off in the direction he came from to dig out the vehicle.
The Other four sundays , they had the shortish service on the books,
and an extraordinary minister, difficult to find someone literate, distributed communion.
They organized thier own communion classes and so on.
Perhaps Im mistaken, but even with a shortage of priests I don't think Ireland is in the same case road-and otherwise as backwoods Brazil.

Amfortas said...

gemoftheocean, I'm not saying we should never have these services. My concern is that they've become routine. They often take place when father is on his day off. I'm with John Nolan here. On these occasions people can recite the Office together or perhaps the Rosary. We cheapen Holy Communion by insisting that it takes place even though there are valid non-eucharistic options. I'm not thinking of Sunday celebrations or holy days of obligation.

Genty said...

I think we have to get away from the idea that receiving Holy Communion weekly is an automatic right. It never has been. In the not-so-distant past to receive HC without first going to Confession was unthinkable. Now it's a free pass for everyone. I keep hearing priests tell their parishioners that no-one should feel themselves unworthy to receive. But that's precisely what we should be feeling.
If a priest isn't available, abstention will not bring the house down. It may even make us ponder more deeply on the solemnity of the Sacrament.
There may be a shortage of priests, or they may be distributed around a diocese badly. But here's the thing. The majority of people in developed countries own a vehicle. They manage to drive miles to get to the hypermarket so should be able to get to a Mass on a Sunday, giving lifts to neighbours in need of transport as an act of charity. Our forbears who walked many miles in severe weather and through difficult terrain to hear Mass, thus keeping the faith alive, would regard our 21st century flabbiness with astonishment.
The idea of the laity conducting funerals should leave Catholics with a sense of abhorrence. This is nothing more than the abdication of a solemn responsibility forced on priests by an archbishop declining in age and in spiritual understanding of the priestly calling. What next; an ersatz form of Extreme Unction administered by Mr. or Mrs. EM?

RCSawston said...

I live and worship in a catholic community that has liturgy of the word and holy communion up to 3 times a week. This happens because we have no full time priest following the amalgamation of our parish with a neighbouring parish. This eucharistic service is led by an eucharistic minister who may be a man or a woman. The service contains no element of preaching. We pray for those who are sick in our community and also for those who have died. The service also includes periods of silence for private prayer and contemplation. No one is under any illusion that this service is a mass and I am sure all those who attend would prefer it if were able to have a mass instead. No one imagines that these eucharistic services have anything to do with "stealth priestesses" and indeed I regard it as rather insulting that any should suggest that it is.Our eucharistic service would not be necessary if the church had faced up to the reality of the shortage of priests. I have recently returned from a holiday in rural France. In the village where we stayed there was mass once every four months! That is the future we may face if the church does not face up to the challenge of the shortage of priests.

Peter Lawson

Jacobi said...


The best of the three possibilities you suggest is that people travel to the nearest parish. Most of us have cars these days or have access to a lift. Where I live, one can reach eight parishes within half an hour, so there’s no excuse.

The recent Catholic preoccupation with receiving Communion at every Mass reflects the degree to which the Modernist Reformers in the Church have succeeded in presenting the Mass as a Protestant communion service.
We are after all required to receive only once a year and that at Easter or thereabouts. Yes, I know St Pius X called for more frequent Communion, but he would be horrified at what is happening in the Church today.

The bishops should grasp the nettle and reduce the number of parishes to match the number of priests – and the decreasing number of practising Catholics.

Women quasi-priests are simply not part of any solution!

John Nolan said...

1378I visited the website of a parish (Clifton Diocese) and they were still talking about Eucharistic Services and Eucharistic Ministers. Come to think of it the cathedral of the diocese within whose boundaries I reside (Northampton) still uses the latter term. Either these people have never read Redemptionis Sacramentum, or they have read it and feel themselves at liberty to ignore it.

One of the aims of the 20th century Liturgical Movement was to encourage the laity to pray the Office, which is liturgical prayer, rather than assist at non-liturgical 'devotions' although some of these, such as the common recitation of the Rosary, or Stations of the Cross, are commendable in themselves. It's even easier now that you can use the vernacular.

RichardT said...

I'm not surprised that there is a "loss of an understanding of a sacrificial understanding of the Mass" - it's never taught or preached.

I went to Catholic schools until I was 18 (late 1970s & 80s), had religious education classes every week, First Communion and Confirmation preparation - and I don't think I ever heard of the Mass as a Sacrifice.

Despite having been to Mass almost every Sunday for 40 years, at various churches and in several dioceses, I have never heard a sermon about the Mass as a Sacrifice.

If it was mentioned, it must have been in such a low-key way that it didn't sink in. The concept of the Real Presence was strongly drummed into me, but not the Sacrifice of the Mass.

The first I heard of the Mass as a Sacrifice was a Protestant criticising me for believing in it. I thought "do we?" and went to read up on it.

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