Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Boiling Frogs, CAVE People, and Liturgical Abuse

I know there are many who think I’m unjustly and uncharitably critical of liturgical offenses in our diocese. And I admit I am not always able to maintain a charitable attitude! But the reason for my ardor, my zealous defense of the rubrics, my insistence on following the “rules and regs” is this: it’s important.

An old folk warning suggests that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will quickly jump out; however, if the frog is placed in cool water which is then gradually heated, it will be lulled into a sleepy daze and remain there until it is boiled alive.

And that’s what has happened to us with liturgical abuse. The more abuse that’s tolerated, the less people will object. And when some of us do object, we are met with blank stares and comments like “Do you think God really cares about that?” Yes. I do.

When the bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu says he plans to say Mass in a water park, that ought to raise eyebrows – not to mention a storm of protest. For heaven’s sake, the bishop, of all people, should know better! And the fact that he doesn’t tells the faithful that Mass at the water park is just fine.

In the same way, when the pastor of a parish allows a concert to be held in the parish church, under circumstances that are clearly outside canonical norms, that’s a problem, too. The pastor ought to know better. In the case I wrote about yesterday, the issue has been brought up before, apparently. One former member of that parish wrote:

We were estranged from St. Francis of Assisi 30 years ago, when [the music director] put on just such a concert, in the sanctuary in front of the altar; and we and others protested. We were called "intolerant," "mean-spirited", and all the other epithets progressives like to hurl at anyone who tries to rain on their parade. We moved to [another parish] for Sunday Mass, which was then as bearable as any church in the area – if one could stand the coma the kindly but inarticulate pastor's sermons induced.

Out of the boiling pot and into a simmering one…

Another parishioner also reacted to yesterday’s post, noting that:

We gave the building committee, the pastor and priests, and several parishioners copies of the Code of Canon Law regarding concerts in the Nave. We were promised it wouldn't happen.

Want fries with that?
Guess what we have right next door to the Church? We have a very large gym with acoustic panels on the walls, with hundreds and hundreds of chairs. So why have a concert in the Church? The only possible answer is to be sacrilegious, to tell God who is really in charge…

We have seen Beatles music, and an altered version of the Our Father; we've had to put up with drums; and we’ve been confronted with breasts, bellies, and butts showing from our choir…

… I think I'll go to this concert, with a hoagie and Big Gulp in hand, wearing a tank top and daisy dukes and flip flops and not pay the cover charge. While I 'm dressed for all occasions, I think I'll take in a wedding and a funeral; no judgment.

Now, I thought that was quite humorous! And another parishioner added that, given the general impression generated by the Aztec handball courtArmadillonew St. Francis church, maybe a concert isn’t all that inappropriate. Except for the very important facts that the church is consecrated, the Eucharist is confected on that altar, and it is the place where the parish faithful gather to worship God.

And the point of the humorous harangue of the above parishioner really is not funny at all.  The point is that there are people who recognize when abuse is happening, who recognize a lack of reverence for Our Lord in the Eucharist, who recognize that there really is appropriate and inappropriate dress for Mass, and who recognize that wolves in sheep’s clothing are running their parishes.

Being in the minority, though, they are squelched by the name-calling and ridicule of the liberal element that runs most parishes. Case in point: “Living Your Faith” and “Engaged Parishes” programs, which serve as a training ground for the heterodox in how to squelch the orthodox. I wrote about these programs almost a year ago. Allow me to repeat some of my points. First, consider this little blurb in our Diocesan Chronicle (Nov. 7, 2010 edition):

Seen any CAVE people lately? Those who attended this year’s Clergy Assembly will now be on the lookout for them. Why? Because it is the CAVE people who contribute to so many of our parishes being dragged down to the brink of failure. So who are these CAVE people? CAVE people are those members of our parish who Complain About Virtually Everything! You know who they are. Whenever you try to do anything in your parish they are the ones who make it clear to anyone who will listen that it will never work. The problem is that too many listen to them. What we need is more of those who do not spend all their time complaining, but are spending more of their time growing in holiness, to have a greater influence in our parishes. These people we will refer to as being “engaged” in their parish.
“CAVE people”, eh? I think I’m considered one of those. I have pushed a couple of parish priests – and even a bishop or two – to conform to the mind of the Church, especially with regard to liturgical issues. I have tried my best to always be respectful, to back up my request with documentation from Church sources, and to keep the issue between me and the priest. And I make an effort to compliment priests when they do things well, and to acknowledge the tough job they have. Still, here are the responses I’ve received: “This is the way we’ve always done it”; “Other parishes do it, so it’s okay”; “Why do you have to be so ‘by-the-book’?”; “You’re right; but sometimes there are more important things than being right.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that CAVE people are simply the ones who won’t go along with the crowd. In every parish there seems to be a core group of people with loud voices and lots of “political” power in the parish; if we were talking about junior high, we’d say they formed a clique. “Why can’t we all just get along?” they ask. But what they really mean is, “Like it or lump it. This is how it’s gonna be.” And if you complain about that, you are a CAVE person. It amounts to sanctioned name-calling and stereotyping.

The ones whose blood boils at the first tepid signs of liturgical abuse try to sound the alarm, but the frogs in the water have already been lulled into submission. And so the average parishioner who just wants to show up for Sunday Mass and sing a few well-loved ditties is sitting in water that gets closer and closer to the boiling point, not even realizing the danger.

For related posts, click on the "TLM and Liturgy" tab above.


  1. Catechist Kevin says:

    You'll like this CAVE person, Sr. Jay. Though, he got "the business" from his beloved wife! LOL

    Speaking of following the “rules and regs”:

    Fr. John Hardon told a story about getting a ranting phone call from an irate bishop over something Fr. Hardon had taught a group of people in the bishop's diocese.

    Exasperated the bishop said, "Fr. Hardon, all you are concerned about is following the rules."

    To that Fr. Hardon replied: "Your excellency, I don't know what you think you just said to me, but that is the geratest compliment anyone has ever given me."

    This bishop hung up on him.


  2. Catechist Kevin said:

    Sorry "Dr." Jay - not "Sr."... my bad!


  3. Great story, CK! (And no sweat on the Sr. vs. Dr.)I'll check out the link.

  4. And my most favorite comment from our pastor, 'We used to do it that way but don't have to anymore.'. Where does it say that!!!

  5. TK...LOL! But hey, isn't that what Vaddican Too was all about - making the Church all modern and up-t0-date?! (NOT!)

  6. Born to late should be your motto!


Please be courteous and concise.