Weaponizing Piety

Weaponizing Piety March 14, 2019

There’s an old gag among Catholics about the ‘Judas Shuffle’. Judas, it is frequently noted, was the first Catholic to leave Mass early. It’s a funny gag and it has a real point: Mass is not supposed to be approached with a Minimum Daily Adult Requirement mentality where we slip in late, get the sacramental card punched for the week, and bug out early. If we are doing that, we are not cultivating a relationship with Jesus. We are simply living a primitive and superstitious legal relationship with a Bronze Age sky god we are trying mollify and cheat at the same time.

But that is not the only way we can pervert our piety. Far worse than the Judas Shuffle is the Liturgy Gestapo Star Chamber. We can also spend our time fretting about what other people are up to when they leave early and waste our time passing judgment on total strangers about whom we know nothing instead of attending to the worship of God.

Recently, for instance, the National Catholic Register ran a perfectly reasonable ChurchPOP article on their Facebook page about why we should not leave Mass early. I agree with the principle of the article completely. If you don’t have a good reason to leave Mass, then stay till the end and get the full benefit of the worship as well as giving God the fullness of yourself, your time, and your attention. That’s the whole point.

It was, as such articles are supposed to be, an occasion for the faithful to reflect on our own lives and to make whatever adjustments are necessary in order to be better disciples. That is the point–the only legitimate point–of such exhortations.

But very soon, the Liturgy Gestapo Star Chamber set to work to consider, not their own flawless selves, but the supposed sins of others and to gossip about who (certainly not themselves) were to blame, lousy priests, Vatican II, or inferior Novus Ordo vermin:

remind u of someone?

Trust me, the ubiquitous felt and guitar-playing in Novus Ordo churches do FAR more to disturb my prayers than people leaving early.

The shepherds have become sheep. They are afraid to admonish the sinner

I hate when people do that!!!

So disrespectful. Sad

Good job at last you noticed it… There are some stupid people left after receiving communion, but believe me this people when they are watching movies and the movie is already finished they are still sitting and waiting for nothing…

So disrespectful to our Lord!!

You won’t see that At the Latin mass. The exit songs are sung completely and no one leaves until the hymn is completed. Many stay and pray for a few mins. In the Novus Ordo, people almost step on the heels of the priest on their way out.

How can people leave mass before the representative of Christ on earth hasn’t yet left? It’s an insult and disrespectful.

Yes! It is Disrespectful to our Lord

I always thought that they leave early to beat the parking lot traffic. Disrespectful!

And some people, seems especially those in AA, wonder how I can survive without believing in a God of their understanding. You all lookin’ to be smited?!

Stay home if you can’t stay for the entire mass!

168 hours in a week…God demands 1… are not leaving early to do something very important at all

So glad to see some crackdown on this.

Tolerating spiritual mediocrity started on Dec8, 1965. This article is a little late.

Yes, because having to be first out of the parking lot demonstrates true compassion, goodness and works of a true shepherd….smh. I always pray for those who do this.

I agree I have also seen people come in during homely and just as concentration is going on or just ending and parishioners are receiving and they receive and a few minutes later leave and they figure they have been to mass I guess. No we come on time and leave when mass is over


But there’s a football game on! Gotta have priorities.

And, of course, there were a dozen or so comparisons of total strangers to Judas Iscariot.

Or we could stop spying on strangers at Mass having medical or family emergencies or work schedules that demand early departure and quit judging them for things we know nothing about. We could just mind our own business. How about that?

Every person who responds to “Don’t leave Mass early” by ringing the changes, not on, “Gosh! I should try to do better” but on “Look at those awful people over there leaving Mass early! How terrible they are!” is helping to contribute to the sufferings of Jesus, not the reform of the Church. Mind your own business. All you are doing is finding a new way to ignore Jesus when he says, ‘Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.’ (Mt 6:1).

Here’s reality, sin requires not just matter (doing a bad thing, such as leaving Mass early), but sufficient knowledge and sufficient freedom. If you don’t know you should not leave Mass early or you have no freedom to stay because of schedule issues, you do nothing wrong. And unless you know for certain that all three of these ingredients of sin are present, you do evil to sit in judgment of the total stranger leaving Mass early.

When challenged, the Star Chamber offered a variety of ugly replies to defend itself. But the one that really stuck out was this:

Sorry mediocrity is rampant and blatant. We have a 400 lb 6′ 5″ person who comes to mass in a dirty tee shirt, gym shorts and Uggs, sometime bath slippers. Spare me.

One reader responded to this haughty Pharisee from the depths of his own pains of rejection by the Star Chamber:

There have been times where I’ve been hanging on to my mass attendance by a thread. My weekly prayer was an exhausted “I’m still here, God.” But I’d have to sneak in the back and sneak out the side afterward. I did not have a “legitimate” excuse (in the eyes of the Super Catholics), and maybe it lasted for years.

It had nothing to do with avoiding God- desire for God was all that was keeping me there through the pain. But it had much to do with avoiding the Pharisaical judgments expressed here.

Praise God that you have not thus far not managed to drive him away, and may God continue to console him in his pain as he struggles to attend mass despite you.

The Pharisee eager to drive out the (homeless? poor? mentally ill?) 400 lb. stranger in his quest for a purer, more bourgeois Mass knows nothing of the actual circumstances of this person. They use their rules, not to compare their own life and obedience to the gospel, but as a weapon to destroy somebody else. And it is only by the grace of God that poor man in whose face they spit is able to hang on to the Mass at all.

Meanwhile, here is the actual gospel:

My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name by which you are called? (Jas 2:1–7).

This Lent, let’s focus on gratitude that people come to Mass at all in our tragic mess of a Church, not on driving them away when they do in some misguided quest for Perfect Aesthetics.

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