Friday, December 21, 2012

Unanswered Letters

I guess I’m a little slow, but finally, after lo, these many years, I have figured out why priests and bishops so often fail to answer my letters.

I’ve written plenty of letters about liturgical problems – especially blatant abuses that ignore clear instruction and direction from various Church documents. I have received precious few responses, and those I did receive ranged from petulant whining to vague dismissal. Why?

It’s not that my letters were rude rants with no solid ground for complaint. I have always endeavored (and succeeded, for the most part, I think) in being respectful, and laying out my objections in a reasonable and logical fashion, citing Church documents to show that I’m not arguing for my own opinion, but for what is clearly the mind of the Church.

So why the silence from the powers-that-be?

Well…duh! If they were to respond, and if they had an ounce of intellectual honesty, their letters would have to say something along these lines:

Dear Dr. Boyd[1]:

You are correct in your reading of Documents X, Y, and Z. The liturgical anomalies you have noted and brought to our attention are indeed problematic, and should be corrected.

However, we choose simply to ignore the abuse, because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Even if the Church says otherwise, we want to continue doing it our way.

Thank you for your concern. Now please sit down and shut up.

Bishop Benign and Fr. Flapdoodle

Well! What self-respecting prelate or priest would want to admit that in writing!

Besides, even if they did respond, and even if they did make the correction in liturgical practice, there would be 99 people to my 1 complaining about the change in “how we’ve always done it”.

And if there’s one thing bishops and priests seem to be obsessed with, it’s numbers – as in, “We can’t possibly provide the extraordinary form of the Mass, because there are just not enough people interested.” (Of course, the plummeting numbers of Catholics attending Sunday Mass every Sunday isn't discussed...) And then there’s the overgeneralization – when any hint of orthodoxy is implemented, that “ so many people have complained”. (I have figured out that when the number of people asking for the EF Mass is, say, 3, that is considered “too few”; but when people are complaining about correcting a liturgical abuse that they are attached to, the number “3” is considered “so many”.)

The underlying fear, of course, is that “They will stop giving their money.”

Ha! The pastors of the parishes I’ve been affiliated didn’t even know how much money my husband and I were giving in the weekly collection; even if they had known, I somehow doubt they would have chased us down as we walked out the door, begging us to come back with our $$$ and promising to do whatever we wanted.

And the whole numbers game is so contrary to the examples we see in Scripture! There was Abraham, for instance, arguing with God (Genesis 18:23-32) about the imminent destruction of Sodom: “Will you save the city for the sake of 50 righteous people? Yes? Okay, how about for 40? Yes? Then how about for 20? For 10?” God did not ever say, “No, sorry, there just aren’t enough of you.”

And of course a glaring example from the Gospels is the Good Shepherd pursuing the one lost sheep while leaving the 99 to their own devices for a time. The Good Shepherd did not say, “Well…if there were more than just a handful straying away, I’d go after them, but since it’s only one…”

In actual fact, it is the 99 who are lost when liturgical abuses distort the theology of the Mass and undermine the faith of the souls attending. The “one” is on the right track, but many of those who have a correct understanding of the liturgy and the desire to see the worship of God carried out correctly and reverently are becoming lost in the sense that they are losing faith in their “shepherds” because those shepherds are turning out to be wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

It’s pretty clear to me at this point that letters aren’t going to accomplish much in my diocese. I think it’s time for a different tactic. I think it’s time to create a local group that sponsors talks about the faith in a secular setting (a room at the local library). Let the faithful of the parish attend if they like, but seek to convert others to Catholicism – bring in a whole new crop of Catholics that has a foundation in the critical moral issues of our time, as well as an appreciation of Tradition and the meaning of the Mass.

That’s where I’m heading in the new year.

Perhaps I’ll start with a pro-life presentation to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v Wade, entitled, “Where Do We Go from Here? Abortion, Contraception, and Catholic Moral Teaching”. Would anyone come? Frankly, it’s doubtful in this community. But it’s worth a try.

[1] By the way, I’ve yet to have a bishop address me as “Dr. Boyd”; I thank you readers who have addressed me as such out of respect for the tons of bucks and the years of toil I spent to earn that darn degree. I’m not at all attached to being called “Dr.”, as I have made clear to those of you who used that title, but it’s always nice to be acknowledged in that way.


  1. Dear Dr. Jay,
    God Bless you abundantly for all you do for the Holy Catholic Church and this web page/blog!
    I don't even know how I was able to find you..I am thinking the Holy Ghost had something to do with all this.
    Sounds like you have a GREAT plan for the New Year ...
    We all need to be educated on the TRUTH and the complete TRUTH.
    Give it to me straight Father Nice...because when you truly have the TRUTH and live the TRUTH , you are FREE indeed.
    I think of all those wasted years when I was a slave to evil and wrong doing and grave sin but today I profess GOD ALONE !

  2. I think lots of people would come -maybe not at first, but eventually as you build a following.

    From my observation, there are many people who know there is something wrong or hate the "music", hand holding, and running around during the "peace", but don't know what to do or just shrug and say, "What can I do?"

    What we did was leave the parish of "feel-good" social justice, and (really) bad music. Simple.

  3. What bothers me about Priests and Bishops who fail to respond to input, much less who "return to sender" correspondance without even looking at the content, is that is just one more instance of them failing to obey Church teaching. Canon Law makes it very clear that lay faithful not only have the right but OBLIGATION to report liturgical abuses or provide input on other matters related to the common good of the Church. Guess they care about as much for that requirement as they do about obeying the Holy Father's instruction.

    For those who read this you might get a chuckle out of the fact that the most recent "return to sender" was a Christmas Card sent with sincerity.

  4. Well, I'll keep you all posted as it develops, and I hope you'll all keep this endeavor in your prayers!

  5. Well, I think it is a great idea and will start small, but with time will grow. Who knows what fruits will arise? Great beginning for a new year. Now could you move Baker closer to Bend? I'd like to attend. Kathy

  6. Kathy, they have a "Saturday Night Live Catholic Style" or something like that in Redmond once a month. A lot of people attend, and I've heard they have some pretty orthodox teaching.

  7. Hello, I am writing a book entitled "Prescription for Peace" and I am wondering if you would know where I could get permission to use the picture of the Good shepherd reaching for the sheep. I would like to use it on one of the pages of my book. Thank you so much. Judith Payne BScN, B.A. Psychology

  8. Judith, I don't really know where you would get permission to use that photo in a book. I just "steal" things off the internet for the blog; I don't really know the protocol for that. But for publishing in a book you'd have to find out who has the rights I guess. And that I don't know, as that picture is readily available any where you look. Maybe it's even in the public domain...?


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