The Impoverishment of Liturgical Culture

On his flight back from the Holy Land recently, Pope Francis made it clear to the journalists he was addressing that he dislikes the discussion, and press coverage, of the prospects for the forthcoming synod on the family being focused mainly on the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried. What he wanted instead, he is supposed to have said, was a “holistic” (ghastly word, the use of which here can I hope be blamed on the translator of his remarks), a “holistic” and “global” reflection on the family itself.

The trouble is, however, that precisely what focused everyone’s attention on this controversial matter were the remarks with which Cardinal Walter Kasper introduced the consistory last February, remarks which Pope Francis said he thought theologically “profound,” and about which he made all kinds of other obliging remarks, an intervention which made it sound as though the Pope must have been agreeing with Kasper’s well-known support for Communion for the remarried.

Kasper’s remarks, of course, have triggered massive and high-powered opposition from a good number of the Church’s theological heavyweights, led by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Cardinal Prefect of the CDF (whose views on the matter had been supported on an earlier occasion by Pope Francis).

It seems to me that one major problem facing the divorced and remarried is the fact that the automatic reception of Holy Communion, at absolutely every single Mass one attends has become such a normal and ingrained part of post-conciliar Catholic life that if one doesn’t receive Holy Communion, it makes one feel abnormal—like a Protestant guest, not a full part of the Eucharistic community—even though on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation, the obligation on the faithful is not to receive Holy Communion, but to be present at the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, or as it used to be described, to hear Mass.

The fact that for most of the Church’s history frequent reception was not the normal practice may bear a little reflection. To begin with, it is surely the case that automatic reception of Holy Communion is in itself undesirable: it was supposed to be part of the heightened sense of “participation” in the celebration that post-conciliar liturgists went on about: what it has actually led to in practice is a huge loss of reverence for the sacraments in general (the growth of automatic reception was mirrored at every stage by a corresponding decline in recourse to sacramental confession), and in a loss of reverence for the sacrament of the altar in particular.

The Council of Trent did not prescribe any particular frequency for the reception of Holy Communion. Then it was established that Communion should be received at least once a year. Only in the twentieth century, with the teaching of Pius X, were the faithful encouraged to receive Holy Communion frequently, even daily. But there were conditions. The faithful should not receive Holy Communion out of habit. Above all they must be sure they were free from grave sin and had the intention of sinning no more. And the faithful prayed, in the words of the prayer for grace in the Old Mass, “Perceptio Corporis tui, Domine Jesu Christe, quod ego indignus sumere præsumo, non mihi proveniat in judicium et condemnationem: sed pro tua pietate prosit mihi ad tutamentum mentis et corporis, et ad medelam percipiendam” (Let not the partaking of Thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, though unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgment and condemnation; but through Thy mercy may it be unto me a safeguard and a healing remedy both of soul and body), words which echo St Paul, “Let each one recognize the body of the Lord and not eat and drink his condemnation by receiving it unworthily” (1 Cor. 11:27-29).

So one did not in Pius X’s time think of anything like today’s general invitation to receive Holy Communion, especially since the rules for Eucharistic fasting were much more restrictive than they are today. In many cases, indeed, communion was distributed only during the first Sunday morning Mass.

That is not all. There has also been a general impoverishment, even suppression, of the popular forms of piety which nourished the people’s reverence for the liturgy, especially Eucharistic adoration and the widespread recitation of the rosary. There has been a general liturgical impoverishment of ecclesial life. So what else, if the remarried cannot receive the sacrament, is there left in the Church for them to be part of? You can at least see why they might ask the question.

I am not, I discover, by any means alone in wondering whether this general liturgical impoverishment is relevant to this particular controversial question. Mgr Martin Grichting, vicar general of the diocese of Chur, in Switzerland, has responded to the current controversy by asking, indeed, precisely whether, “The upcoming synod, and in particular the question of the divorced who have ‘remarried’ in a civil ceremony, could be an opportunity for new reflection on the conditions that make sacramental communion fruitful and on the frequency of receiving this sacrament.”

“Today,” he goes on, “sacramental communion is seen as an obligatory part of the rite of the Mass, like making the sign of the cross with holy water or the exchange of the sign of peace”:

So what is needed for those “remarried” in a civil ceremony—but not only them—is a change of mentality. If the conditions mentioned by Pope Pius X for approaching sacramental communion were still applied in pastoral practice, the question concerning sacramental communion for those ‘remarried’ in a civil ceremony would be situated in a broader context more favourable to them. These faithful would no longer be the only black sheep discriminated against, since of course there is not only the sixth commandment but also the rest of the ten….

Without a doubt, the Eucharist is ‘the fount and apex of the whole Christian life’ (Lumen Gentium, 11). But the thinning out of the forms that prepare for and lead to this apex accentuates the difficult situation of those who, for whatever reason, are unable to approach this fount of Christian life because the personal conditions of their lives do not permit them to do so.

These reflections demonstrate that the debate over the ‘remarried’ faithful cannot lead to any useful result if it continues to be restricted to the question of whether or not they may receive communion.

The renewal of the Church’s liturgical culture was one of the great works in progress of the pontificate of Pope Benedict. It has not thus far been one of Pope Francis’s priorities: perhaps it would be good if the recovery of this priority were to become one of the themes of the forthcoming Synod.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared July 3, 2014 in Catholic Herald of London and is reprinted with permission.

Dr. William Oddie


Dr. William Oddie is a leading English Catholic writer and broadcaster. He edited The Catholic Herald from 1998 to 2004 and is the author of The Roman Option and Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy.

  • Excellent article Dr. Odie. A friend of mine has, for years, made this same case, yet not with the erudition and clarity that you have made it above. Hopefully, this topic will be discussed at the Synod, and a renewed emphasis on preparation for receiving Communion on Sunday will be one of the good fruits of the Synod.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    “Today, sacramental communion is seen as an obligatory part of the rite of the Mass, like making the sign of the cross with holy water or the exchange of the sign of peace” Huh??? How did the “sign of peace” become an “obligatory” part of the Mass? There is such confusion in the Novus Ordo! I’ll never understand it. I only wish I could avoid it totally.

    • somnipod

      This may be sinful, but I totally avoid the novus ordo, driving hours for early masses.
      The only time I assist at the NO now is when I’m on vacation. (The is a Catholic church in Durango Colorado that literally first feel as much)

      • Makalu

        I know this church since I climb a lot in CO. Silverton, Telluride, Ouray are no different. Its all the same emotional touchy feely non-intellectual, non-contemplative drivel that has been shoved down our throats for the last 50 yrs by those internal Protestants who never left the Church. Those are the clergy who threw out the Oath of Obedience of PiusX after Vat II since they then had to agree with his two letters opposing Modernism etc.

        • Romulus

          I had two very bad liturgical experiences in Telluride. You don’t have enough time to listen to all the ways. I sent a letter to the Bishop of Pueblo. No response.

      • Erika Allen

        I have the good fortune to be able to attend St. Isadore’s in Denver. That’s why I’m not very willing to move to a more interesting part of the state. I understand your frustration.

      • DE-173

        “This may be sinful, but I totally avoid the novus ordo”

        How so. You have an obligation to attend Mass on Sunday. If you are doing that, where’s the sin.

      • jacobi

        Not in the slightest bit sinful. Shows you have a good Catholic grasp of what the Redeeming Sacrifice of the Catholic Mass is all about.
        With regards to the early start, you could always offer it up for your sins, someting the N.O. devotees can’t do any more since they seem to have given up sin?

  • johnalbertson

    So far, the “Francis Effect” on the Church has had results similar to the “Enola Gay Effect” on Hiroshima.

  • somnipod

    No wonder saint Pauls statement on worthy reception was stripped from the novus ordo lectionary?

    • Florian

      I didn’t know that..

      • somnipod

        You’re not alone. Many, if not all, of the “controversial” agreements were stripped. Especially reference to hell, sexual sins, unworthy reception, and other statements deemed “uncollegial or too Catholic”. And the churchs history of praying for conversion of Jews and heretics.. oh, I mean “separated brethren” was also changed.
        Yet an other reason to get to the TLM. You get the whole faith that centuries of saints received and participated in

  • Jimi Burden

    Brilliant and interesting read. I didn’t know that receiving daily communion was of such a recent vintage.

    I was in an irregular marriage for a long time and suffered greatly because of it, b/c it seemed to me, and still does, that going to mass without receiving communion is kind of a waste of time. I think many feel the same.

    The Church has said in no uncertain terms that communion is the source and summit of Christian life. Perhaps she overplayed her hand? I often wonder about the millions of Catholics throughout the centuries who didn’t have access to communion for various reasons. They apparently lead holy lives even without this “source” of “Christian life”.

    • ColdStanding

      It most certainly is not a waste of time to assist at the H. S. of the Mass without receiving communion. You are in the sacramental presence of our Lord and Savior who is offering prayers to His Heavenly Father on your behalf. The prayers you make in secret must surely be more pleasing to our Heavenly Father when made in the same time as those of His Only Begotten Son. Additionally, you are fulfilling your duty to publicly proclaim your accent to the faith, which strengthens you in the supernatural virtue of religion.

      There are many other things of inestimable value. For example, you could be petitioning for the judgement the devil has won against you on account of your sins to be lifted, as you are in the court of Our Lord and Our Lady is there to plead on your behalf to release to you the graces that will enable you to be freed from bondage to sin. When you are freed, you can, in good conscience, receive the remedy of the altar.

      Mass is where it is at. It is where you should be at.

      • Kalpurrnia

        Agreed with ColdStanding. It is not a waste of time, but also an opportunity to worship Christ and to participate in the sacrifice, as well as a chance to pray for the salvation of other souls.

    • david

      Would it have been a “waste of time” too be at the foot of the cross on Calvary? That is what the Mass is; the re-presentation of the crucifixion of Our Lord in an un-bloody manner. Many graces flow from that cross without there being any ‘communion’.

    • Sam Schmitt

      The Church has never said that “communion” (meaning the reception of Holy Communion) is the “source and summit of Christian life” though it does say this about the Eucharist.

      • fredx2

        That’s an interesting distinction. So merely being present at the Eucharist is powerful. You don’t have to take communion for it to be “effective”

        • Micha Elyi

          Only those worthy (and didn’t you pray, “Lord, I am not worthy…” during Mass?) or thieves “take”. The rest of us who are properly disposed, receive communion.

          Words mean things.

    • Jimi Burden

      After reading the responses to my honest comment, I see why many leave the church. What a bunch of sanctimonious BS. Regurgitating basic theology in flowery language with lots of “Holy”s and capital letters will not endear me or other readers to attend mass. My comment was an honest feeling I’ve had at times and I know I’m not alone. So get off your high horses and learn some humility.

      • ColdStanding

        Employing capital letters in addressing God with a modicum of respect makes people leave the Church? Basic theology taught me that it was unrepentant sin that makes people leave the Church. Maybe you’d better look for some better theology books. One’s that don’t encourage you to obsess over your feelings are usually on the right track.

        Praise be to God, our Lord and Saviour Most High, Jesus Christ. Amen.

        • Jimi Burden

          No, people like you make others leave the church.

          • ColdStanding

            More than once persons lacking guts and conviction to leave (not the Church, mind you) have come to me and manufactured a dust-up so they can blame someone else rather than own their actions. If you are looking for a shove out the door, I’m always ready to lend a hand.

  • franthie

    I often feel that those Catholics who ‘sit it out’ during Communion have a finer conscience than the multitude, myself included, who go tripping down the aisle every Sunday, many without having been to Confession in donkeys’ years. Wasn’t there a dire warning against ‘eating and drinking unworthily’?

    I feel uneasy over Dr William Oddie’s suggestion that there could be more Exposition of the Eucharist, which, I fear, might go the same unintended way as frequent Communion, leading to a diminished reverence. Here in a parish near London we have recently had a great promotion of 24-hourly Exposition as part of a Charismatic-style general programme and there is now the proposal to have this permanently.

    We always prayed with solemnity to Christ in the tabernacle. Benediction was a short service most Catholics loved, and the hymns O Salutaris, Tantum Ergo, and others we remember with a feeling of loss and regret. We also had Exposition from time to time,

    But I wholeheartedly agree with Dr Oddie’s sentiment throughout his article, and may I just add that I am convinced the practice of handshaking during Mass is an unholy, inappropriate shambles and should be abolished.

    • Florian

      July 9th…at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury, CT. there is 24/7 exposition/adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confession before every Mass…the Basilica on Sunday is full and during weekly Masses this huge Basilica is half full…the Basilica is in downtown Waterbury, a poor to middle class area…families come, young people come…there is great reverence … and those signing up for adoration are many…and from this perpetual adoration many graces flow and many souls are saved…

      • franthie

        I’d like to think you’re right that ‘many graces flow and many souls are saved’ from this perpetual adoration. Is it a Charismatic church?

        • Florian

          I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘charismatic’ Church…it is a Roman Catholic Church…

          • franthie

            It sounds like an exceptionally healthy and vigorous church. A lot of effort and sacrifice must have gone into this in many ways.

        • newguy40

          I just wanted to mention that I frequent a local men’s religious groups shrine. They keep the shrine open sun up to sun down. The tabernacle is prominently placed in the sanctuary. They also have confession everyday before daily Mass. This shrine and the Fathers have been a great source of grace for me and my family. Never discount or doubt how the Real Presence can provide a source of grace and mercy.

          • franthie

            No Catholic could ever doubt this. But remember that the real presence was always there in the tabernacles and, in many churches, people would call in during the day to pray in the special company of the Real Presence. Now, in my local church, the Host and monstrance have been removed to a room where Exposition is almost perpetual. I see that as an odd development. Exposition used to be an awesome occasion — that’s what I’m afraid might be lost with ongoing Exposition increasing in our churches.

    • Timothy

      Here in Tampa we have a 24HR Expostion from Thur to Sat. In the end it turns out to be the same group of about 15 of us who watch over the LORD. That is probabley what will end up in your parish as well.

      • franthie

        An experience that I feel will be repeated in the parish here. I believe a minimum number of three persons has to be present during Exposition?

  • Doug

    St. Thomas Aquinas says differently.

    • Blake Helgoth

      “Hence, Augustine after saying, “Receive daily, that it may profit thee daily,” adds: “So live, as to deserve to receive it daily.” But because many persons are lacking in this devotion, on account of the many drawbacks both spiritual and corporal from which they suffer, it is not expedient for all to approach this sacrament every day; but they should do so as often as they find themselves properly disposed.”
      The problem is not with frequent reception but the lack of frequent prayer! How few know how to spend 30 -60 minutes in prayer with Our Lord, His Mother and all the saints. Would that the liturgical police crowd would instead spend their efforts teaching others to enter into deep prayer.

      • Billy Bean

        I have agreed with many of the comments here, but I think I agree most ardently with yours. Thank you for such a deeply Christian and wise perspective.

  • Florian

    July 9th: I hope that there will be a thorough discussion about what is needed in order to approach the altar in order to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Those who have been divorced and have remarried must be deeply hurt by the fact that they are prohibited from receiving the Eucharist while the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo and other prominent Catholics who not only accept but vigorously promote the mass slaughter of babies in the womb are permitted to receive the Eucharist and are considered Catholics in good standing with the Church. These ‘Catholic’ politicians may say they don’t want to impose their beliefs on others but…they are not passively not imposing they are actively and aggressively aiding and abetting these murders of innocent babies and Pelosi receives huge sums of money from Planned Parenthood for her support of these killings. If Pelosi and other Catholics like her can receive the Eucharist then no one – no one should be prohibited!

  • BillinJax

    Several of the comments here reveal a knowledgeable sincerity and devout respect for the Eucharist and the need to make oneself “worthy” of its reception. This discussion is of great value for that purpose as far as the laity is concerned especially in view of the fact that so many of our esteemed politicians who profess to be faithful Catholics engage in and support all manner of policies and practices which are in direct opposition to Church teaching. So if we are to be worthy we need to examine our conscience and search ours souls for the slightest acts of commission or omission against God’s commandments before approaching what use to be our beloved communion rail for the bead of life it is only fair to ask if it isn’t also important that the celebrant be bound in conscience to deny its reception to those known to be unworthy by their public display of heresy. In other words, does the one “offering” the sacrament have any obligation to show his sincerity and respect also by refusing to feed the wolves in sheep clothing? In today’s moralistic confusion within our society getting this end of it right first will go a long way in leading the Church’s crusade toward worthiness.

  • kentgeordie

    The ‘kiss of peace’ goes back to the earliest days of Christian liturgy. As with so much of the Novus Ordo, it’s a matter of how it is done. If clergy gave us a firmer lead, the abuses described below could be avoided.

    • fredx2

      It sounds as if the kiss of peace was only exchanged among the clergy ever since Trent. So for the last 500 years, no distracting kissing in the crowd. Trent may have gotten rid of it during the mass because they realized it was a distraction?

  • somnipod

    My 1962 HAND missal has a big section on unworthy reception and why we should never receive the Eucharist out of “habit” of just because I’m at mass.

    Maybe those cards in the pews of many novus ordo churches should have a similar statement (as supposed to the genetic “properly disposed and in communion” statement there now?

  • Christ transcends our petty concerns about “left” versus “right”, liberal versus conservative. This is how I see Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, in our fallen world:

    Picture our Lord Jesus as a young boy playing with a ball under the loving gaze of His Immaculate Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Imagine that His little ball is lost–it has fallen into a place of incredible darkness and void. As it falls, Jesus’ cherished ball breaks up into billions of particles of light, some dim, and others bright. They spread out to fill the universe, and seem impossible to save. But Mary, smiling, extends her arms wide and slowly curves them around the sparse constellations formed by the sparks. Not surprisingly, as she draws them in to herself, only a few are gathered, so she patiently and lovingly repeats the motion until she has gathered together all that she can for her Son.

    Mary is the Church. The opening-motion of her arms is the liberal or the “left”; the closing-motion of her arms is the conservative or the “right”; and the goal, the center, is Christ. Until we are all safely gathered in, Mary’s precious arms need to make both motions.

    Saints Peter, Paul, and Mary, pray for us.

    • JP

      “Christ transcends our petty concerns about “left” versus “right”, liberal versus conservative.”

      How about Orthodox versus Heterodox? These “petty concerns” did not seem so petty in the First Century. Saint Paul, as a matter of fact, warned his flock not to take the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily, lest they bring double condemnation on themselves. And Christ warned his people emphatically about leading his “children” astray – it would be better if those people tied a millstone around their necks and jumped into the deeper lake.

      You sentimentality reduces both Christ and His Mother into nothing by Hallmark Moments. You moral equivalence of Orthodox and Heterodox Catholics either is intended to confuse Catholics or to mislead them.

      We have not petty concerns.

      • Guest

        Amen x 100

      • JP, I don’t know you–we have only ever interacted on this forum via comments–so I find it disturbing how hastily you have judged me.

        In the past you have said that:

        • I defend sodomy. (I don’t.)
        • I take offence with intercourse. (I don’t.)
        • I am gay. (I’m not.)
        • I am just playing a game. (I’m not.)
        • I am trolling. (I’m not.)

        Each and every time you falsely accused me I immediately denied the charges and begged for correction so that I might better follow Christ and His Church; today is no different.

        Today you say that:

        • I am sentimental. (I’m not.)
        • I reduce Christ and His Mother into nothing but Hallmark Moments. (I don’t.)
        • I give Orthodox- and Heterodox-Catholics a moral equivalence. (I don’t.)
        • I intend to confuse or mislead Catholics. (I don’t.)

        Some of these are serious charges; I plead not guilty to all of them.

        If you “have not petty concerns” then thank God–but take great care lest you fall.

        In any case, do you believe as I do–that Christ transcends our petty concerns about “left” versus “right”, liberal versus conservative–or not? And if not, why not? Please explain.

        The rancour and pride of many Catholics on this forum never ceases to horrify me. If I said something wrong, correct me, “but if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” (John 18:23)

        I am Catholic: therefore I am aware of, promote, defend, and submit to the Church’s teachings, including those concerning worthy reception. Did I say anything to suggest otherwise? If you have evidence to support such an outrageous claim, please bring it forward and I will recant immediately.

        Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear will readily conclude that our Church is experiencing a dramatic impoverishment of liturgical culture. And while it and the connected issues such as those discussed in Dr. Oddie’s article are legitimate concerns demanding prayerful thought, words, and deeds, we Catholics know with unflinching faith that the Church will never change any infallible doctrine–ever.

        We know that Christ has already defeated Satan at Calvary. The trick now is to love God and neighbour, and to avoid pride and presumption. That is my point now and always on this forum. Satan, although nailed to the Christ’s Cross, would divide us with his flailing tail–and “left” versus “right” is a great way to wound unity. Irrational hatred is another.

        Every century has its hateful wolves in sheeps’ clothing and its heretics–the first century was no different. We read in the Gospels of men who try to trick Christ with all kinds of clever questions carefully designed to force His hand one way or the other.

        We will do well to remember that the greatest man born of woman was too far right for some, and some considered Jesus too far left:

        John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:33-34)

        These accusers were doubtless full of love: they loved their most important seats in the synagogues; they loved their respectful greetings in the marketplaces; they loved their man-made traditions; and they loved their cherished politico-religious ideologies. And they killed Christ.

        God help us all.

        • guest

          I read a post where you described your turning away from a life of evil to become a Catholic. I thought, “Hallelujah.” And what does scripture say about how God feels about one repentant sinner?
          Yet, sadly, you won’t get much of a welcome here…and you haven’t…because Crisis Magazine dwellers belong to an intellectual society where being right is more important than anything else, including your re-birth in Christ. You have tried to illustrate something that myopic people just don’t want to see, and that is this: as much as it is important to have an intellectual understanding of Catholicism, there must be an equal commitment to loving people we don’t want to love. And, BOTH sides currently at war with the other, refuse to budge and embrace the both/and nature of Christ and his Church. That is what you are trying to say, and that is why you won’t be accepted here. It is very difficult for some, and I had this problem as well, to love the guy next to you in the pew when you would rather judge him, all the while looking to worship God, but failing to see God in others. It is paradoxical, but that’s exactly what I refused to do. I wanted to be a good Catholic, but didn’t really want to be a loving Christian.

          I find the most spiritually developed people are working through serious problems, learning what true humility entails, and in the process surrender their will to God’s will.

          I don’t see much of that here; that’s not to say the caustic but brilliant posters don’t do great works of charity in private. They just don’t show it here.

          Not being intellectually qualified to live here, I think it is time I say good bye. God Bless you for finding Christ and choosing to become a Catholic.

          • Dear Guest: Yes, we’re all in the same boat. We all struggle with our ugly concupiscence. In any case, thank you for understanding my (simple) Catholic position as few ever have–whether online or in my “real” life.

            It is painful, but we shouldn’t be discouraged. I love you, friend, and will pray for you and yours daily. Please do the same for me and mine.

            God help us all.

            • guest

              Amen X Three +
              Good bye.

          • Guest

            Love must be based in truth. The problem is as a culture we are stuck in 1975. We mistakenly think love means sentimentality and indulgence.

            • Guest: You say “…we mistakenly think love means sentimentality and indulgence.”

              For many this may well be the case, yes. But we Catholics freely adhere to the definition of love given to us by Christ and His Church:

              To love is to will the good of another. All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. (CCC 1766)

              God help us all.

            • Thomas

              Love is, indeed, based in truth. What makes you think that some of us must reduce it to merely being sentimentality or indulgence? I think some of you here use the term, “straw man” for that sort of thing. Further, such an accusation is really a way of side-stepping a thorough self-examination. Am I humble or not? My father was an armchair theologian. I thought he would have known much more about theology if he sought God first instead of theology.

              I stick by my original assertion that those of us who cling to being right, or who constantly harp on the rubrics of ritual, really don’t want to face the fact that they find it difficult to love.

              That is from the mouth of a person who freely admits the flaw. I loved to think I was among the elect because of my orthodoxy, but my heart was dead. We won’t win a single battle without an offense and a defense. Jesus gave it to us in the form of a Church that teaches truth; but he also said we must humbly serve others in love. In short, if the Church has two lungs, one being doctrine and the other being mercy, I conclude that there are many here who haven’t met the other lung, and who are brilliant thinkers and scholars. Sadly, their comments belie blackened and un-Christian hearts.

        • JP

          Please state in concise terms bereft of dripping sentiment, gooey prose, and juvenile theology. Yes, Mary least us to Christ; and Christ leads us to repentance from our Sins. And to repent is to acknowledge Sin. Sin can be theft, idolatry, sodomy, adultery, robbing a man of his just wages; murder, infanticide, as well as heresy, etc… Heterodoxy comes in many forms. One of the most insidious forms is the sweet words of relativism and tolerance. In today’s advance form, Heterodoxy covers itself fully behind tolerance. It is a poison that refuses to make itself known and seen. And it reduces the Church to nothing than a secular version of Heaven on Earth; there is no Sin; there is no need for repentance. (Ergo, no need for Christ; at least, not the Christ of the Gospels). And those that say otherwise are not following Christ. That is what people like you post here. Christ is nothing more than an extension of the Welfare worker handing out entitlements. You remind me of the Last Man, which was so hauntingly prophesied more than 100 years ago:

          ” Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and those blasphemers died along with him. Now to blaspheme against the earth is the greatest sin, and to rank love for the Unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!
          …Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth. But that soul was itself lean, monstrous, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of this soul! So my brothers, tell me: What does your body say about your soul? Is not your soul poverty and filth and
          wretched contentment?”

          Without God, The Last Man has found Happiness, and it is contemptible.

          • JP: I plead not guilty to your latest absurd charges.

            There are not one hundred people like JP in the United States who would hate David Ross, but there are millions who hate what they would wrongly perceive David Ross to be. (cf. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen)

            God help us all.

    • johnalbertson

      This commentary is obviously well-intentioned, but I regret to say, it is the rhetorical equivalent of the most sentimentally kitsch religious art of the nineteenth century. Little Jesus playing with his cherished ball: very sweet – sweet enough to cause spiritual diabetes. I think it was this kind of unreal piety that led to the over-reaction of the Post-Vatican II period. It is also the sort of cloying pietism that drives manly men out of the church.

      • Guest: Thanks for the comment. If I have said anything that contradicts Christ or His Church, I’ll recant immediately. Meanwhile, let’s take a calm look at the wholesome poem that inspired my vision:

        OUT OF BOUNDS by Father John B. Tabb

        A LITTLE Boy, of heavenly birth,
        But far from home to-day,
        Comes down to find His ball, the Earth,
        That Sin has cast away.
        O comrades, let us one and all
        Join in to get Him back His ball.

        This Catholic (“unreal”?) poem was written for children of all ages (see Matthew 18:3) at the very end of that “sentimentally kitsch” 19th century.

        The author, Father Tabb, a Catholic priest, was a blockade runner for the Confederacy during the Civil War, and spent eight months in a Union prison camp–is that manly enough for you?

        God help us all.

        • johnalbertson

          He may have been a brave solider, albeit fighting for slavery, but he was an atrocious poet.

          • johnalbertson: “If a person is an atrocious poet and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?” (cf. Pope Francis)

            • johnalbertson

              I am not judging the poet, but I am judging the poetry. I know who I am to judge. I am a professional literary critic. That is my job. If there is
              no difference between Milton at his best and Wordsworth at his worst- never mind
              the author of poetic doggerel which you like – then there is no
              cultural standard at all. Pope Francis – whom you quote out of context – was not speaking about
              literature when he spoke about judgment, nor was he condoning sodomy. Moreover as Vicar of Christ
              with the Keys of the Kingdom, he is heir to the Petrine commission which
              is to open or close the gates of Heaven itself. He has a lot of judges
              full time in his own Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. To
              deny higher and lower standards of taste, not to mention judging right
              from wrong, is to reduce truth to opinion, and to be victim of what Pope
              Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism.” Kitsch is kitsch.

              • Guest

                Amen x 100

              • What follows is a lighthearted caricature of how my innocent Catholic comments get mired in filth on this Catholic forum:

                I admire Father Tabb because he knew, loved, and served God.
                –But his poetry is kitsch.
                His poetry may well be kitsch, but it inspired holy thoughts in me.
                –I am an expert in literature, and I can promise you that his poetry is sappy and gooey.
                I want us to stop backbiting and infighting so that we may know, love, and serve God the way Father Tabb did.
                –You are a heretic and a relativist and a homosexual.

                I am well aware that few here will be amused by my spoof. And rest assured, johnalbertson, I am inserting this silly caricature here, not because you are the worst offender against Christian charity I have encountered on this forum (far from it) but merely because yours happen to be the comment that inspired me. The wind blows where it wills.

                God help us all.

      • DE-173

        “Spiritual Diabetes” – love that.

    • Kalpurrnia

      Matthew 5:32

    • MIKE

      When it comes to the Faith – there is no right or left – only Faithful Catholics, and Catholic heretics and/or Catholic Schismatics.
      CCC 2089 – for Church definitions of ‘heresy’ and ‘schism’.

      “ The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved … and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium.” – Pope John Paul II (CCC page 5)

      “….the CATECHISM has raised throughout the world, even among non-Christians, and confirms its purpose of being presented as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life.” – Pope John Paul II (CCC pg xiv)

      “….. let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments.” – Pope Francis, May 15, 2013.

    • JRDF

      “”—The opening-motion of her arms is the liberal or the “left”; the
      closing-motion of her arms is the conservative or the “right”; and the
      goal, the center, is Christ. Until we are all safely gathered in, Mary’s
      precious arms need to make both motions.—-“”

      I disagree with your analogy, if for no other reason than it contradicts your very thesis of “unity”. Your analogy demonstrates a (maybe subconscious) rigid embrace of the combative stereotyping, you seem to superficially reject.

      It seems to me your analogy is just another recitation of liberal dictum that: “liberals are the “open” and compassionate, while conservatives “close” their doors to the needy.

      Why can’t the conservative be the open / welcoming character of the
      church? Or more precisely why is openness / welcoming just a prerogative
      of the left / liberal? Or even more precisely why can’t conservative & liberal be both welcoming and securing?

      • JRDF: Thanks for your reply. Of course, you are free to characterize any and all politico-religious ideologies as you please. As for me, I have no dog in those ugly fights; I am neither left nor right.

        The point I am struggling to make is this: Love unites, and hatred divides.

        Christ and His Church love perfectly, and so unite perfectly.

        In order to reconcile this paradoxical dogmatic fact with the messy and often ugly reality we witness everyday we need poetry and analogy–God’s plan is not unreasonable, but it is beyond our ability to reason.

        As we strive to fight the good fight within our fallen culture of death, with all of its “left” and “right” nonsense, we need to remember that God can bring good out of both good and evil (CCC 311)–whether it be the good of the left, the evil of the right, the evil of the left, or the good of the right.

        In other words, Christ and His Church are always cooperating perfectly with us, but are we cooperating with Christ and His Church?

        God help us all.

        • ForChristAlone

          Did Christ ever say he hated anything?

          • Yes, and even if he didn’t explicitly say so, we know he hates perfectly, just as he loves perfectly.

            The question I am posing on this forum is this: is the proud and hateful rancor in this forum of Christ or anti-Christ? We need to test the spirits, because not every spirit which moves us is of God.

            God help us all.

            • ColdStanding

              Curious: Do you have your hair in a top knot in your picture or is that some shadow with the background curtain?

              • ColdStanding: My hair is in a top-knot. I rarely wear it down anymore.

                • ColdStanding

                  A simple yes would have sufficed! Ha! Thanks for the photo. Great fun.

                  • I know that people like to put a face to the name, and people love to know how to neatly categorize their fellow man, so I included a colorful photo for ya.

                    We should all post candid photos of ourselves–we all need to let our hair down once in a while, I think.

                    Thanks for asking. God bless.

        • JRDF

          –“Christ and His Church love perfectly, and so unite perfectly.”– No, His Church was/ is left to men, who are not perfect and so it is the responsibility of the laity to call out the custodians of Jesus’ church when they make “it a den of thieves”. Matthew 21:13.

          And at what point is God saying, “enough poetry & analogy, it is time for action.” or “stop being luke-warm” or “enough appeasement, I have told you what evil is but you refuse to stand up firmly for me.”

          The most courageous love is to admonish those who are sinful, then it is their free-will to choose and God’s right to judge.

          I do respect your point of view, but many are sick and tired of the “kumbaya”, “can’t we all just get along?” non-sense that suckered us into this culture of death. In short, we don’t trust anyone that uses the language of liberalism, we have been burned too many times. See post-Vatican II — aka “The Sacred Guitar and Tambourine Project.”

          Are you a Neville Chamberlain, who one, (admittedly in hind-sight), can argue, has the blood of millions on his hands? — A little know fact is that prior to going into Czechoslovakia, Hitler was at his lowest approval with the German public, who were adamant about not going into Czech, and the military had a plan in place to take Hitler out if he ordered them into Czech. Then came along Chamberlain who essentially saved Hitler and sacrificed Czech for war. Why? Because Chamberlain refused to call evil … evil, just as many refuse to call those that promote the culture of death … evil.

          In a more language based argument, not being God, humans need words (labels) to define objects, ideas, etc. And currently, the words “right” & “conservative” define those that defend God’s right to be … God. While the words “left” & “liberals” define those that defend their right to be god. So maybe you have deemed yourself to be above us mere mortals that need language / labels to understand objects, concepts, ideas, etc. Sounds a bit self-righteous to me.

          If you are trying to make a statement by proudly posting your “Political Compass”, you have, it says:
          “David Ross is luke-warm.”
          Luke 11:14-23; 1 Kings 18:21; Rev 3:16

          Again, I am not trying to pick a fight, but many wonder: When will David Ross call evil-evil, when will he stand up for God rather than excuse evil? Is David Ross driven by the pride of being “luke-warm” (as his proud posting of his “Political Compass” suggests) or by passion for God’s truth? …. just wondering.

          • JRDF: Thanks for caring enough to actually ask me to go deeper. I agree with most of what you said in your latest reply.

            I am not interested in defending myself (my humble plea when I meet God will commence with “Christ…” not with “I…”) but I do pray–and ask you to pray–that I not be lukewarm.

            My left-wing friends (the overwhelming majority here in Montreal) see me as dogmatic, scalding, feverish, obsessed, rigid, condemning, homophobic, intolerant, hateful, absolutist, fascist, bigoted, and deluded by a false religion.

            My right-wing aquaintances (online) see me as heretical, homosexual, limp, weak, lukewarm, relativist, fascist, overly-tollerant, and deluded by a false religion.

            I have met a few faithful Catholics (usually priests and religious) who love and accept me and acknowledge the orthodoxy of my Catholic faith. Such Christian charity is a rare and precious gift, and I thank God.

            Most of my free time is spend reading the Saints. They love me too.

            God help us all.

  • profling

    Right. The Pope should take care of the Church and leave the ‘world” alone. Get out of politics.

  • fredx2

    With all due respect, I think its unfair to blame Pope Francis for the things the media does with his statements. They twist them. When haven’t they? They twisted Benedict, they twisted JP II, so don’t blame the focus on divorced and remarried on Francis asking Kasper to speak. That was a good move, since it laid out to all the possibilities. Now that people have seen the best case for it, and Kasper’s case seems to be increasingly rejected except for the dissidents, things are settling down again, and the dissidents have had their say. Now they can’t complain anymore. They always whine that they only want to discuss things, so there, we have discussed it, and their side has been rejected. Fini.
    Now, it would be more helpful if the orthodox Catholic press made sure that people knew the synod was about all family issues, rather than run down a media rabbit hole arguing about divorced and remarried.
    Counter the media, don’t play their game.

  • jacobum

    Excellent article. Without reverence the mystical and mysterious is removed which elicits lack of respect and impoverishment. Hard to respect and have reverence for what one doesn’t believe. Reportedly close to 70% of “Catholics” no longer believe in the “Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist”. This is supported by the fact that a priest in a confessional has replaced the Maytag repairman as the loneliest man in the world. Although confessional lines are non existent everyone at Mass still goes to communion. Sin is no more and belief has been replaced by social habit. Sacrilege has replaced sacramental. Another “fruit” of V2 and it’s man centered liturgy one might say.

  • Thomas J. Hennigan

    As I read Evangelii Gaudium I was watching out for some reference to the Eucharist in relation to evangelization, but found none. Surely the aim of evangelization in this life is a worthy and devout participation in the Eucharist which anticipates the great heavenly banquet we all hope to share in in heaven. I recall Soctt Hahn’s very interesting study of the Apocalypsis and its relation to the Eucharist.
    Other liturgical celebrations such as Vespers celebrated solemnly as used to he the tradition in other times, also blessings in accordance with the Book of Blessings, as well as Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction should be made more avialable to the fiathful. I do notice that especially in recent years since Pope Benedict gave importance to it parishes are having holy hours on Thursday evenings and that is a good thing. There are also parishes which celebrate Morning Prayer and/or Vespers, which is positive. also.

    Having insisted over several years on having only men’s feet washed in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, I felt disappointed that Pope Francis did not follow the rubric which indicates this norm in the Missal when he celebrated it on Holy Thursday of Last Year.

    • ForChristAlone

      As the proverbial question asks: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      If one examines how the Apostles evangelised in Acts, you will see their preaching covered the following points:

      1. The Age of Fulfilment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets.
      2. This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      3. By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel.
      4. The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
      5. The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
      6. An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

      In the early Church, her sacramental doctrine was reserved for the faithful.

  • MIKE

    ” and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
    Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
    Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. ”
    1 Cor 24-27

  • Tony

    My 1956 Saint Joseph Missal, from which I pray every day, explains every part of the Mass, step by step, and, during the consecration, the headings are these, for the various sections of the canon:

    (When he elevates the Sacred Host, look at It and say, My Lord and My God!)
    (The Priest adores the Precious Blood: you do likewise.)
    Later comes the prayer for a worthy communion: “Let not the partaking of Thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, though unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgment and condemnation; but through Thy goodness, may it become a safeguard and an effective remedy, both of soul and body. Who livest and reignest, etc.

    Long overdue for more respect to be paid to what Tolkien called “the only real thing in this world…”

  • kcthomas

    Divorce and remarriage cannot be equated with any other breach of Commandments.I would like to know howthis offence can be absolved.The important point to be discussed is whether there is any wayto regularise this disobedience namely accepting another spouse while the other is alive. No way ! So why harping on receiving of Communion ?

  • Harry Martin

    The cafeteria Catholicism practiced by many of the Traditionalist view seem to have great difficulty allowing the Church, a Pope, anyone to function beyond a Council of Trent paradigm. It is as if the Church did not function until Trent, and virtually stopped functioning at Vatican II. As for the matter of exploring the divorced receiving communion I have to ask: did our most holy Lord and Savior, truly Present in the Eucharist, deny the sinful to receive Him, to come to Him. In His discourse in St, John 6 did He establish a list of those who are NOT to consume His sacred Body & Blood? Are we all not in urgent need for the Bread of Life? What if we were to be as fervent our prayers for His healing mercy as we were in judging those deemed so inferior.

    • Guest

      Is this logical?

  • Dave W

    I wonder how much “selective” confusion exists with the un-annulled/remarried taking communion and their interpretation of the “penitential act” that is introduced during the liturgy?? Maybe they feel this has made them worthy to receive the Eucharist, taking the place of reconciliation?

  • Steve

    “The Council of Trent did not prescribe any particular frequency for the reception of Holy Communion. Then it was established that Communion should be received at least once a year.”

    Actually it was Lateran IV in 1215, Canon 21: Everyone who has attained the age of reason is bound to confess his sins at least once a year to his own parish pastor with his permission to another, and to receive the Eucharist at least at Easter…

  • mariacristi

    It is not so in Latin America. We do not receive Holy Communion “en masse” as it is usual in the United States. And we do not fill “abnormal” if we do not receive Our Lord. I think what has been lost is the sense of sin and faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the consecrated host.

  • pdxcatholic

    I think this issue is also indicative of our modern culture’s insistence on “rights” for just about everything–including the “right” to receive communion, no matter how unworthily.

  • profling

    “Even the desire for the Eucharist causes grace”–St. Thomas