Up against the Wall

THE LITURGICAL WARS HEAT UP

I’m tired of being nice about it, tired of being politically correct when this issue comes up. So I’ll be blunt. Someone just left my parish to join one that has an altar on wheels, and I’m angry about it.

Let me explain. On most days, the altar in my ex-parishioner’s new house of worship stands exactly where one would expect it to in a Catholic church—for the last forty or so years, anyway, ever since the Second Vatican Council called for celebrating Mass versus populum. But on Sunday mornings at 10:15, the same altar is rolled against the wall, so that Mass can be celebrated as it was in the good old days. And that’s just the beginning of the show. I’m guessing you’ve seen this movie. It’s in black and white, the characters are dressed up in fiddleback chasubles, and they use a dead language to mask a basic inability to connect vibrant gospel living with twenty-first-century American life.

My gripe is not about Latin. That language is a rich part of our tradition, and its use makes sense, especially when congregations include different cultures and tongues. My gripe is that those who consider themselves Catholic “conservatives” or “traditionalists” are often promoting more than just a type of prayer. Often it is a whole agenda, one favoring dictation over discussion, uniformity over diversity, a narrow gate over an open door, and rules, rules, rules. After my parishioner jumped ship, I checked out the Web site of his new parish and found plenty of...

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About the Author

Fr. Nonomen (a pseudonym) is the pastor of a suburban parish. He has been a priest for more than twenty years.