As Francis Continues to Neglect the Liturgy in Favor of All That Care for the Poor Crap….

As Francis Continues to Neglect the Liturgy in Favor of All That Care for the Poor Crap…. October 11, 2013

…let’s cast our minds back to what a really good Pope had to say:

“Love for the poor and the divine liturgy go hand in hand, love for the poor is liturgy” (Pope Benedict XVI, 1 October 2008).

Man. The difference between these two is like night and day. Polar opposites. No wonder the MSM and the Reactionaries pit them against each other! It’s like two different Churches, dude!

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  • vox borealis

    But of course there *is* a difference, Mark. Come on. Benedict’s liturgical style was more “elevated” (if you will), that is obvious. But he argued in word and deed that elevated liturgy goes hand-in-hand with love for the poor. He was responding to a hermeneutic—strong for 50 years—that juxtaposed, contrasted and set in opposition such things as high liturgy and beauty against “pastoral” business (care for the poor, etc.). That was the context.

    By contrast, Francis has it seems consciously eschewed many outward signs of pomp—including his adoption of a much more subdued liturgical style—explicitly to emphasize care for the poor etc. In so doing, he is basically adopting, or appears to be adopting, the very hermeneutic that Benedict was responding against.

    I know you’re trying hard, Mark, but I think you maybe could not have picked a worse example to prove the point you are trying to.

    • chezami

      I don’t say there’s no difference. It’s obvious the Francis isn’t going to be laying stress on the liturgical issues that absolutely and totally obsess the Traditionalist subculture. That’s why so many freaked about about him. But guess what? That’s not proof he’s a heretic or a menace to the Church. It’s just proof that Traditionalists have to get used to him. My point is that other aspects of what Benedict had to say have been largely ignored by conservatives who have assumed that since he was a convenient flag to wave for the kulturkampf over liturgy, he shared their libertarian/conservative politics and economics. He didn’t. Nor does Francis. And so conservatives are taking it upon themselves to protect the Church from him in their massive hubris.

      • vox borealis

        he shared their libertarian/conservative politics and economics.

        Well OK, if that’s your point, though don’t you have to demonstrate that the “obsessed Traditional subculture” are also economically libertarian/conservative? I mean, wow, you pick a quote that clearly serves to *contrast* Benedict and francis, to demonstrate how *close* they really are to each other, as a way to obliquely set in opposition those popes with a “subculture’s” assumed (yet not certainly verified) *political* leanings, which are themselves not the subject of the quote used for the initial comparison.

        What a weird train of argument.

      • Stu

        Actually, if you came to my TRADITIONALIST parish their politics and economics resemble your viewpoints. Generally, TRADITIONALISTS like to refer to Encyclicals and not party platforms.

        Or dd you mean to talk about “reactionaries”? Or “conservatives”? Or whatever tribe is not you?

        Really, what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to change hearts and minds or just express rage?

      • Alexander

        Straw man alert: “That’s not proof he’s a heretic or a menace to the Church.”
        Few are arguing either proposition, but many of the genuinely faithful are expressing some reasonable, heartfelt concerns about the Holy Father’s strategy or style.
        Mark — please do not lump together anyone who has expressed any concerns or questions about the Pope’s comments or approach. Even while there are many out there with positive but balanced views of the Pope, you’re starting to become a Johnny-one-note who seems to allow no questioning or commentary about the Pope that is less than fully adulatory. Have you really not had even one question or concern about anything the Pope has said or how he has said it?

        • chezami

          No. I really have not had any “concerns”. I think the hubris of the conservative phalanx of critics and helicopter moms kvetching and worrying about him and trying to protect the Faith from him is silly. I’m not expecting adulation. I’m looking for some sign that he is being listened to rather than merely reacted to.

          • Alexander

            This blog is often becoming just namecalling (the latest: “the conservative phalanx of critics and helicopter moms”). Even when people approach an issue with good faith and willingness to engage meaningfully and reasonably, the reaction by Mark is often just scorn. It deeply bothers me because Mark otherwise has so much good to offer.

            • chezami

              Sorry, but I think the instantaneous reaction against Francis and the growing tendency of conservatives to talk as though he is the problem and they are the solution is silly. The massive lack of discernment shown by conservative Catholics over the last decade and their habitual tendency to regard themselves as the gold standard of true Catholic faith is reaching a ridiculous climax as so many in that community now direct their hubris at the pope himself. So much of the “concern” is not spoken in a spirit of inquiry but in a spirit of certitude: he is obviously wrong and they are trying to figure out how to a) minimize the harm he is allegedly doing and b) get him back on track. The assumption is still that he is the problem and they are the answer. Hubris.

              • Alexander

                I’m sorry, Mark, but there are so many generalizations here that I don’t know who you’re talking about. Are there some people who fit your description? Sure. Does it apply to “conservative Catholics” generally? I really don’t think so. I think I’m a conservative Catholic. I think Jimmy Akin is a conservative Catholic. I think Jeffrey Mirus is a conservative Catholic. But your comments don’t apply to any of us.

                You could make all of the points you want to make without any of the generalizations about undefined types of bad Catholics.
                Thank you for all you have done to advance the faith, but I think I’m going to have to take a break from your blog for awhile. I will be listening, in the meantime, to Pope Francis — trying to learn earnestly from him but also engaging in good faith, reasonable discussion with other Catholics about whether his particular strategy, comments, and approach are likely to be successful in the long-term buidling of the Church and of God’s Kingdom on earth.

              • Stu

                So in response to that perceived problem, you choose to
                respond in kind? Again, what is the goal?

                The overall crux of your message has merit. Indeed, people (not just so-called reactionaries or whatever tribe you want to insert) have been quick to judge the words of our Pope to the point of making some silly conclusions. So what else is new under the sun?

                But even with that, is it even remotely possible that some of the criticism may have some merit? Can such a thing be fathomed without calling anyone who may bring a concern a “Francis hater” or some other nonsense?

                I think so.

                And yes, entertaining that possibility may require that the conversation be a bit more nuanced and thus making the current “us vs them” style unneeded, but it is what it is.

                So what again are we trying to achieve? Is this a Spiritual Work of Mercy?

                • Chesire11

                  The pope is certainly not above criticism, but the character of so much of the criticism directed against THIS pope has been more reactionary, and alarmist than considered, and have drawn broad conclusions from a very small sampling of very particular comments. It appears to me, at least, to be largely hysterical response based upon what SOME Traditionalist fear COULD happen, rather than a rational prediction based upon what we know so far or what is likely to happen.

                  • Stu

                    And much of the criticism hasn’t been like that. But instead people focus on the extremes, drawing broad conclusions from very small sampling of very particular comments.

                    Let’s keep the vehicle in the middle of the road instead of driving by braille as we careen from one curb to the other in an attempt to cover ground.

                    • Chesire11

                      I disagree, from what I have seen, most of the criticism has been overwrought. In any case, if you want to steer down the middle of the road, you do have to slap away the hands that are trying to grab the wheel to steer us into the ditch on either side.

                      (BTW, what is it with metaphorical “ditches” at the sides of roads? I mean, it doesn’t sound to me like a very bright place to dig a ditch. Has anyone ever actually seen one? I can’t recall ever seeing one, yet people warn us against the dangers of them as though every road was surrounded by some sort of moat. But I digress…it must be the cold medicine…)

                    • Stu

                      Most of what you have “seen.” Perhaps. Certainly that is all that is highlighted on this blog. Every day it’s “look what those crazy guys, who don’t get Francis like we do, said now.” At times, the only thing missing from Mark’s presentation is a video camera, some catchy music and a twirling pencil.

                      And the ditches on the side of the road were for drainage. I can take you down a road or two still like that.

                    • Chesire11

                      That’s why I was very careful to specify that I am judging only by what I have seen.

                    • Stu

                      Noted and appreciated.

                    • Sally Wilkins

                      Chesire, out here in the country, there are in fact ditches along both sides of the road. Presumably in the days before subsurface drainage structures, they were much more common. . . .(We now return you to your regularly scheduled argument).

                    • For some of us in suburbia, ditches vs sidewalks and sewers is a dividing line between rural and suburban zones. If you see a ditch, it’s not really suburbia.

                • Mariana Baca

                  I have yet to see criticism that has merit. Is it possible some criticism I have not seen has merit? Let me parse that:
                  1. Criticism on his faith/perceived heresy:
                  – no, I don’t think this criticism is *likely* to have merit. He was a faithful cardinal loved by the College of Cardinals, by his flock, and disliked by his liberal political establishment. The idea that he is preaching obvious enough heresy that the average blog reader getting second or third hand information can spot it a mile away is not reasonable.
                  2. Criticism on his liturgical style:
                  – He is the pope, and he has the final authority on matters of liturgical discretion. Also, as a priest for many years, who has presided mass in several rites and in a Latin American country seen as fairly conservative style-wise, I don’t think it is reasonable that he will shatter any important liturgical norms, flowers or beach balls on altars not withstanding.
                  3. Criticism about his portrayal to the world:
                  – Benedict’s perception to the media and the world was disatrous — both form deliberate failures as well as from the media hating him. I think the media liking Francis is a breath of fresh air, and I don’t see the Vatican being especially more incompetent these days. But the world will survive even with that. Maybe some criticisms of the Vatican PR machine are on ocassion warranted, but here we should be talking about actual scandal not “preposition translated incorrectly”.

                  • There is an Orwellian distortion of language that was attempted, with some success, in the 20th century in service of global, atheistic communism. There is a pretty important need to undo that and we all play our part in that fight. Francis’ presentation of certain concepts wanders onto that minefield. His interventions sometimes have the feel that he’s doing it accidentally and not in a helpful way. Specifically, the concept of the despoilation of the poor in a document he has highly recommended and (I believe) had a strong influence in writing, the apariceda document ( ) is introducing an important, and justified criticism of capitalism as it is lived out in Latin America in a way that makes the criticism more useful to the communists than to capitalists who have separately criticized the very same behavior.

                    That was not well done. When the Church is throwing out tools, they should be of less use to her outright enemies than to winnable neutrals.

                    • Mariana Baca

                      That said, context is also important — there are socialist/communist leaning rules in Latin America, too, i.e. the current president of Argentina, and she is also at odds with Francis’ style as a cardinal. So I take the view that if he is at odds with both sides of the spectrum, he falls in the middle.

                      ETA: basically, in general, having lived in two Latin American countries and spent a good amount of time in Argentina — the Church as an establishment is not on the side of the communist/socialists that run for office there, and the socialists/communists that run for office don’t side with the Church. The Church is perceived as a conservative element (with the political spectrum and issues paralleling Europe more than the US).

                    • I think I’ve demonstrated criticism that has merit, which is all I was trying to do. I’m a layman. I don’t have the necessary arrogance to create a complete alternate system even if it were warranted.

                      Regarding your commentary on spectrum, beware of simplistic enlightenment tools coming out of France. The political map of positions is more complicated than that, which is something that the Church usually holds, and which Francis is entirely in accord with. There is no such thing as a linear political spectrum as there is a linear spectrum of electromagnetic waves. Creating one is necessarily a distorting exercise, like a map projection.

                  • Stu

                    Well, there is criticism that his speaking style is too loose and allows people to make whatever conclusion they want as to what it means. There was criticism of his remarks that came across as somewhat mocking to people who took the time to send him a spiritual bouquet of rosaries. One can certainly criticize the Holy Thursday choice WRT foot washing, not that he doesn’t have the authority to change such things, but rather that his method in doing it was suboptimal.

                    Yes, plenty of such observations can be made and they don’t in any way impugn on his orthodoxy. However, instead of talking about them in a cool-headed manner, they are often met with such things like “you are a Francis hater…effing bed wetting reactionary…you don’t understand Francis, etc.

                    Yes, the World and more importantly the Church will survive. That I have faith in. So much so that i’m not afraid to recognize when even the Holy Father has a human misstep (or two).

            • vox borealis

              This blog is often becoming just namecalling

              Like proselytizing, it’s only bad if the other guy does it.

      • All of us have different roles to play. People whose primary focus is service to the poor should not look down their noses at those whose primary focus is the silly little liturgy; nor should they consider themselves above caring about such trivialities. And vice versa.

        • Stu

          Whole “Body of Christ” thing comes to mind.

        • Chesire11

          Precisely, but there is a strong inclination of SOME Traditionalists to look down on the rest of the Church, and sneer at them as a bunch of addle-witted hippies. The Church needs to be broad AND deep.

          • And there is a strong inclination of SOME non-Traditionalists to be addle-witted hippies.

            At some point we need to move beyond arguments over which faction’s lunatic fringe is worse.

            • Chesire11

              I agree, but I think it is important to refute BOTH fringes, AND reassert the indispensability of the reasonable people of both inclinations to the fullness of the the Church. It is no more responsible to ignore the loud, self righteous bleating of the fringe of the Traditionalists, than it would be to ignore the loud, self-righteous preening of Gary Wills and company.

          • I never understood the accusation. What justifies us excluding “addle-witted hippies” as a Church? Even if the accusation is true, that’s not an excuse for exclusion.

            • Chesire11

              That’s why I am cautious about labeling people in the Church. We are all in need of salvation, and we all have something valuable to contribute. We are ALL the Body of Christ, and labels tend to divide what should be one in charity.

  • Stu

    Indeed. And the poor deserve beautiful, elevated and reverent liturgy as much as anyone else.

  • contrarian

    Love for the poor is liturgy?

    I’m no fancy-pants theologian, but…

    If the point here is to show that Benedict also said some head-scratching things, then I completely agree that the two are peas in a pod.

    As for the the special love that some have for Benedict, it comes down to 7/7/07.

    • chezami

      In other words, lot of Trads listened to Benedict when he made them feel good and blow him off when they don’t want to be bothered to listen. The cafeteria is wide open for those paladin of truly true Catholicism who judge the rest of the Church by natural right. Hubris.

      • contrarian

        In other words, lots of ‘trads’ were grateful when the emeritus pope restored a modicum of justice to the world. Diocesan priests were stopped by post-conciliar despotic bishops from celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, prior to Benedict’s decree.

        Chris Rock once said that since we don’t have segregation laws anymore, we can say that the world is more just, but we might better say that the world is less crazy.

        When Benedict gave priests the ability to say the old mass, things in the Church became a bit less crazy.

        But as these quotes from Benedict and Francis make clear: things are still plenty crazy.

        Trads are docile to the ordinary magisterium; they are not meat robots, programmed to give assent to any silly or murky idea coming from the Chair of Peter. It’s pretty simple, really.

        And anyway, I’m not ‘blowing off’ any *one*; I’m blowing off an *idea* that’s out of line with the content of the faith, and calling murkiness as murky. Trads are docile to something that, thanks be to God, transcends the occasional silliness of a pontiff or four.

        • This is a first for me, a traditionalist approving of Chris Rock. That’s not bad. It shows a depth that the anti-traditionalist caricature doesn’t permit traditionalists to have.

    • capaxdei

      It makes more sense in context:

      Or, perhaps, it merely pushes back the tradition of head-scratchers to St. Paul.

      If you still have questions, add the following to your list: What’s that business with the collection baskets doing at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

      And why does the Church teach that one of the fruits of receiving the Eucharist is love for the poor (see CCC 1397)?

  • Whitt


    Stop. I had hoped the Voris debate would soften this name-calling and straw man creation tendency of yours, but I guess not. This is terrible. The post is bad and your comments in this thread are unconscionable.

    Here’s a small part of what’s at stake:

    A young diocesan priest, inspired by Pope Benedict, to take a more reverent approach to liturgy. He doesn’t ad lib, he is sober, he sees beauty as an expression of love for God, and one accessible to all, including the poor. He takes rich liturgical tradition of the Church seriously and sees that for hundreds of years, it is this tradition that nourished, inspired and sustained the saints, most of whom poured out their lives for, you know, the poor.

    This young priest ministers in a parish where the pastor is tolerant, but not happy about his proclivities, and the pastor is far more popular with the congregation because he glad-hands and ad-libs and tells jokes.

    The young priest has very little support in what he does and his approach – which is the age-old approach of the Church, mind you – but he *did* have Benedict XVI’s words and actions.

    Now that’s gone – completely – read Magister today – and this young priest is at the mercy of ill-catechized powerful parishioners and a pastor who hated Benedict all along and has no recourse to the bishop, who is busy with lawyers and benefactors all day long (because that is really what bishops do all day – no joke).

    That young priest and those who connect more deeply to Christ through that liturgical tradition do not deserve to be called names and slammed in boxes the way you do.

    Have you ever read Ratzinger on liturgy? Have you read the Spirit of the LIturgy?

    His basic argument is that everyone deserves the entire, complete teaching of the Church, and that includes the fullest, most complete experience of Catholic liturgy. It is a missionary, evangelizing activity to invited people to be embraced by Christ within the liturgy as the Church offers it. The poor benefit from beauty, the poor, like the rest of us, deserve to experience what the Church directs for liturgy, rather than what a particular priest or other liturgical minister decides to throw at them that day. (Besides, most artists are “the poor” and benefit from a church that values them!)

    The concern is that Francis, by some of his actions, does not share that vision, and will leave us, once again, at the mercy of priests and liturgical ministers who like to make stuff up instead of digging deeply into the solid liturgical tradition of the Church, which is not just about “reverence,” or aesthetics, but about re-presenting the Catholic Faith within the liturgy.

  • catholicchristian

    The definition of “liturgy” is “the work of the Church.” It doesn’t only mean the Mass or the Divine Liturgy, but the building of the Kingdom first within our own souls, and then in the world.

  • ivan_the_mad

    My pastor gave a talk a while back, and he spoke about active participation in Mass. He spoke to three points which I will note here because I think they are very relevant to this quote of BXVI:
    1. Reception – this is the first part of participation, which is as simple as listening and as glorious as Communion.
    2. The role of memory (Greek anamnesis) – The ability to represent something, or to make ourselves present to something, e.g. the eternity of the cross.
    3. Response – (demanded by love) the liturgy demands a full participation in life, which is a mission or ministry.

    Now I think this makes the quote from BXVI very understandable, that we make ourselves present to Christ’s mission and live the liturgy in our love for the poor. Francis of course has spoken to this a great deal. The story of the papacy is certainly one of continuity and development. This evidences for me yet again the protection of the Holy Spirit. It makes it easy to meditate on the third of the Glorious Mysteries and its spiritual fruit 😉

    • Stu

      Mine is not a comment about either Pope but rather in response to what you have shared.

      Seems to me what you have described is the Great Commission. Mass is where we love “the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind” and then go forth to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” And because of this, I have never been able
      to understand why some people wish to erect a false dichotomy between celebrating the Mass in an uplifting, elevated, reverent, and glorious manner that follows the rubrics as given by Holy Mother Church and helping the poor among us.

      I think they go hand-in-hand. We can “wash and annoint” the feet of Christ with the finest of “perfumes” while also providing for the poor among us. They complement each other.

      Saint Jean Vianney pray for us.

  • anna lisa

    I’ve just read this entire thread. (Got through it, more like) I’m flummoxed. for the first time in 26 years, I don’t have a small baby. This allows me the time to read a little more, and hopefully glean a few good words which inspire me to behave in a more Christian manner. Frankly, the words of Pope Francis have really given me so much more food for thought (a twinge of guilt for my extra time?) on how I should be looking out for the poor, over and above cooking, cleaning and Mom-ing. This morning at mass it took the form as a kind of plea: “show me how God!” To go round and round about sacred and devout liturgy, when it was wonderfully sacred and devout this morning leaves me scratching my head and asking myself: “*Who* are these people, and *what* on earth is their ( OCD?) problem? *Why* on earth do they think that they are the *solution* to what ails our Church?? ( They remind me of Sheldon, who is a fanatic over the “rules”, on “The Big Bang Theory”)…sheesh.

    • Stu

      Some Catholics actually believe that unless we get Mass “correct”, then we won’t be able to get all of the other things done such as aiding the poor. Sure, people can and do take things an extreme but often there is a kernel of truth to that focus even if a bit too strong.

      You have recourse to a reverent Mass. Thank God for that. I can assure you that there are others who don’t have such a blessing and for them it can be painful to watch and frustrating in the belief that we are “suboptimizing” given the viewpoint I expressed above.

      Maybe trying to understand that would be better than simply dismissing them as suffering from a mental disorder (OCD).

      • anna lisa

        But Stu, there are people who actually have the job of making sure the liturgy is correct. that’s *their* job. It’s not mine, that’s for sure.

        I come from a long line of worry warts. Having a lot of children would be enough to put a control freak into overload insanity. It has actually *forced* me to “let go and let God.” That might sound like post Vat II bunk to you, but it allows for the peace to prioritize what I really need to do.

        BTW, my Father is semi retired and freaks out about all of this stuff all of the time. I tell him that it’s a *luxury* to have the time to freak out to begin with…To what end?

        • Stu

          And sometimes they don’t do “their” job correctly which is why the Vatican have given us instructions like Redemptionis Sacramentum as well as procedures for rectifying abuses.

          The Church has stated that we have a right to have the Mass said properly. Sometimes that means speaking up or even making suggestions. Do people go overboard? Of course but that doesn’t mean taking action on such things is inherently wrong. I’ve had priests thank me for making recommendation or pointing out abuses. Yes, even God sometimes uses us to affect positive change.

          • anna lisa

            Our pastor ad-libs a bit, but not at the most crucial moments. It’s slightly annoying but not seriously prayer-altering. He just turned 70, and went to seminary in Berkeley, so I’m pretty sure he can’t be bullied out of these infractions. I prefer to be his friend, invite him out for a bite and needle him with a smile for being a Jesuit. I have profited from his sound spiritual life. My Father sends him letters quoting canon law, but he’s pretty set in his habits. I have to hand it to him–he has such a congenial and generous soul, that even my father can’t alienate him . I chuckle when I hear my father’s friends calling to complain about him (they are such *gossips*!), and my father ends up defending him in a round-the-bout way. –So he gets a C- for his non earth-shattering liturgical abuse, and an A for having the kind of soul that attracts others to God. It seems to me this generation of ad-libbers is dying out anyhow. If you could see the brand new Jesuit that was at our parish for a year, it would move you to tears. He is so reverent, and so clearly in adoration. The other young Jesuit is extremely orthodox as well, saying all of the words perfectly, and with obvious devotion. It gives me a lot of hope. Plus, if I start focusing on what annoys me, it makes me bad at my job. (haha, just ask my kids.)

            • Stu

              I had a priest like that. I love him immensely still. But still, he had no right to tinker with the Mass or disregard the rubrics. I just kept “killing him with kindness”, supported him the best I could and ultimately he came around and started doing things IAW the GIRM. He even made an announcement at Mass telling everyone that he had been wrong in not taking such matters seriously and that together we were going to fix it. He further said that in our obedience in praying the Mass properly the graces would follow. It was a great example of humility on his part and one that I should emulate.

              So often it’s more about tact but even a tactless person can be correct.

              • anna lisa

                Stu, we’re going to invite him out more. I thoroughly believe in the apostolate of *friendship*.

                Yes, a tactless person can be correct ….”and if I know the language of angels, but have not love..”…

                They can also do a lot of damage.

                Going back to Pope Francis–I honestly think he’s a brilliant chess player. I don’t think he is compromising on a single thing. Sometimes you just can’t lay it on them in a single dose. God bless him. He’s going after those stray sheep with the cunning of a serpent and the kindness of a lamb.

                I have eight kids between 4 and 26. I Reeeeeallly get it. They are growing up in the age of the internet, and I just have to curb my enthusiasm at times. It’s that old vinegar/honey thing. I have learned how to bite my tongue and wait for perfect moment because the truth is to precious to use as a cudgel.

                • anna lisa

                  too precious.

                  I’m a lousy editor.