Is Your Mass Valid? Liturgical Abuse

Is Your Mass Valid?
Liturgical Abuse
By Bruce Sabalaskey
Copyright 2001. All Rights Reserved.

1. Introduction

In this era of neo-pagan Modernism, experimentation with the rubrics (i.e. rules) of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass have resulted in many abuses. In addition to priestly experimentation, even some Archbishops and Cardinals promulgate pastoral letters directing parish priests to implement liturgical changes at odds with the official Church rubrics. Some of these abuses are so serious that they actually invalidate the Mass, which then greatly deprives the soul of Grace and the sacrificial benefit of Eucharistic Jesus. Such loss of Grace for both the faithful laity and priest may result in loss of the Catholic Faith and further descent of this world into pagan darkness. Strong words to be sure, so read The Power of the Mass article to appreciate how important the Mass truly is as evidenced from Church teachings and many great saints. Simply put, without the Mass all would be lost - literally. This article will explain the common liturgical abuses today and which of those invalidate the Mass. 

Various Church documents are referenced (all are online here):

  1. General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)[1] (post Vatican II Novus Ordo Mass)
  2. Query and Reply Official Interpretations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal[2]
  3. Code of Canon Law [3]
  4. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium)[4] (Vatican II)
  5. Instruction on the Orderly Carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy (Liturgicae Instaurationes)[5] (Vatican II)
  6. On the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist (Dominicae Cenae)[6] (clarifications after Vatican II)
  7. Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum)[6] (clarifications after Vatican II)
  8. Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest (Ecclesiae de Mysterio)[8] (clarifications after Vatican II)
  9. Mystery of Faith (Mysterium Fidei)[9].
  10. The Preparation And Celebration Of The Easter Feasts (Paschales Solemnitatis)[10]
  11. On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist (Redemptionis Sacramentum)[13]

2. What is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? 

Firstly, Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a term rarely heard today. Why use that term? Before Modernism greatly influenced the Church, that was the term understood for hundreds of years by every Catholic. This title explains fully what the Mass really is - the very same Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross made present to us today in time. Absolutely nothing on earth could possibly be even remotely more important. Once you understand this, then the importance of a proper Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will become clearer. Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium explains in detail: 

#2: For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, "the work of our redemption is accomplished," and it is through the liturgy, especially, that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.

#7. To accomplish so great a work Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross, " but especially in the eucharistic species. by his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church.  Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised "where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them" (Mt. 18:20). 

Christ, indeed, always associates the Church with himself in this great work in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. the Church is his beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through him offers worship to the eternal Father. 

The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. It involves the presentation of man's sanctification under the guise of signs perceptible by the senses and its accomplishment in ways appropriate to each of these signs. In it full public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and his members. 

From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree

#8. In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until he our life shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church further explains:

#1330  "The memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection. The Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church's offering. The terms holy sacrifice of the Mass, 'sacrifice of praise,' spiritual sacrifice, pure and holy sacrifice are also used, since it completes and surpasses all the sacrifices of the Old Covenant."

#1366 "The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit: 

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper 'on the night when he was betrayed,' [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit."

#1367 "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: 'The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.' 'In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.'"

#1368 "The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering."

Canon Law reconfirms the truth:

Canon 897: "The most venerable sacrament is the blessed Eucharist, in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered and received, and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord, in which the Sacrifice of the cross is forever perpetuated, is the summit and the source of all worship and Christian life. By means of it the unity of God's people is signified and brought about, and the building up of the body of Christ is perfected. The other sacraments and all the apostolic works of Christ are bound up with, and directed to, the blessed Eucharist."

Clearly then, the Mass is not a "meal." - it is a Sacrifice. This is dogma.

3. Levels of Abuse - Invalid and Illicit 

Before getting into the specific abuses, it is important to understand the rules for celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These rules are officially called rubrics. These rubrics are contained in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)[1], and many clarifications have been made in other documents such as Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum).

The most serious type of abuse makes the Mass "invalid." For a Mass to be invalid, the Consecration of the Eucharist does not occur. Going to an invalid Mass is like not attending Mass at all since Jesus is not physically present via the miracle of transubstantiation[9]. The issue of fulfilling the Sunday obligation under such a circumstance will be dealt with later in this article.

The lesser abuse is called "illicit." These type of abuses are less serious and do not cause the failure of the Consecration of the Eucharist. There are a wide variety of these types of abuses which detract from the holiness and reverence in the Mass. However, an illicit Mass can still be a valid (as opposed to invalid) Mass.

In general, experimentation is gravely wrong, as stated in Vatican II's Instruction on the Orderly Carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy (Liturgicae Instaurationes):

"The effectiveness of liturgy does not lie in experimenting with rites and altering them over and over, nor in a continuous reductionism, but solely in entering more deeply into the word of God and the mystery being celebrated. It is the presence of these two that authenticates the Church's rites, not what some priest decides, indulging his own preferences."

"Keep in mind, then, that the private recasting of ritual introduced by an individual priest insults the dignity of the believer and lays the way open to individual and idiosyncratic forms in celebrations that are in fact the property of the whole Church."

Abuses of any kind causes scandal, meaning that such practices are obstructions to a person's way to increased Faith (see Matthew 18:6-9). As Inaestimabile Donum says, "The use of unauthorized texts means a loss of the necessary connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi" (translation: people believe as they pray).

4. Serious Abuses - Those which Invalidate the Mass

The serious abuses which invalidate the Mass are all those which inhibit transubstantiation, that is fail to bring about Jesus' True Presence in the Eucharist. The Church has very specifically defined what must - and must not - occur so that transubstantiation will result. There are four conditions required for a valid Consecration resulting in the miracle of transubstantiation. All of these conditions must be present for a valid Consecration. This is dogma. Therefore, anyone who denies these requirements is liable to heresy.

4.1 Condition One - Validly Ordained Male Priest

Only a validly ordained male priest can confect the Eucharistic (i.e. enable transubstantiation). 

Canon 530 "The functions especially entrusted to the parish priest are as follows: ... 7 the more solemn celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and holydays of obligation."

Canon 834 1 "The Church carries out its office of sanctifying in a special way in the sacred liturgy, which is an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy, by the use of signs perceptible to the senses, our sanctification is symbolized and, in a manner appropriate to each sign, is brought about. Through the liturgy a complete public worship is offered to God by the head and members of the mystical body of Christ."  2 "This worship takes place when it is offered in the name of the Church, by persons lawfully deputed and through actions approved by ecclesiastical authority."

Canon 900 1 "The only minister who, in the person of Christ, can bring into being the sacrament of the Eucharist, is a validly ordained priest."

Lumen Gentium #28 (Vatican II) "... However, it is in the eucharistic cult or in the eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they [priests] exercise in a supreme degree their sacred functions; there, acting in the person of Christ and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the votive offerings of the faithful to the sacrifice of Christ their head, and in the sacrifice of the Mass they make present again and apply, until the coming of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26), the unique sacrifice of the New Testament, that namely of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father (cf. Heb. 9:11-28). ..."

Liturgicae Instaurationes  #4. "The eucharistic prayer more than any other part of the Mass is, by reason of his office, the prayer of the priest alone. [GIRM no 10] Recitation of any part by a lesser minister the assembly, or any individual is forbidden. Such a course conflicts with the hierarchic character of the liturgy in which all are to do all but only those parts belonging to them. [Sacrosanctum Concilium art. 28] The priest alone, therefore, is to recite the entire eucharistic prayer."

This means that any deacons (permanent deacons included) or laity cannot do so, nor can any woman regardless of her claim of being ordained. A validly ordained male priest acts literally "in the person of Christ" and it his ordination which gives him the power to confect the Eucharist. Even Angels cannot confect the Eucharist! (The hot-button topic of so-called "women priests" will be dealt with later in another article.) Similarly, Notitiae (17 [1981] 186) reaffirms that the priest may never invite the congregation to stand around the altar and hold hands during the consecration (i.e. other non-priests at the Altar during the Eucharistic prayer with the intent to "co-consecrate" with the priest will also invalidate the consecration). Several priests con-celebrating is, of course, permitted since they have the priestly powers from their ordination.

4.2 Condition Two - Intent of the Priest

The priest must have the intent of doing what the Church does, that being the intent to make Jesus physically present via the miracle of transubstantiation at the consecration. The Council of Trent - a dogmatic council in response to the Protestant heresy - declared against the Protestant view which denies the necessity of the intention of the minister. St. Thomas Aquinas also covers this requirement in Summa Theologica (Third Part, Question 64, Articles 8, 9, 10).

Council of Trent, Seventh Session, March 3, 1547; Canon 11: " If anyone says that in ministers, when they effect and
confer the sacraments, there is not required at least the intention of doing what the Church does, [Eugene IV in the decr. cited.] let him be anathema.

4.3 Condition Three - Matter

Note that this article deals with only the Western Latin Rite Church. There are different rules for Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, such as Byzantine Catholic. For the Western Latin Rite Catholic Church, valid matter consists of wheat unleavened bread and grape wine.

Canon 924 1 The most holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist must be celebrated in bread, and in wine to which a small quantity of water is to be added.  2 The bread must be wheaten only, and recently made, so that there is no danger of corruption.  3 The wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine, and not corrupt.

Canon 926 In the Eucharistic celebration, in accordance with the ancient tradition of the Latin Church, the priest is to use unleavened bread wherever he celebrates Mass.

GIRM 282. According to the tradition of the entire Church, the bread must be made from wheat; according to the tradition of the Latin Church, it must be unleavened.

GIRM 283. The nature of the sign demands that the material for the eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food. Accordingly, even though unleavened and baked in the traditional shape, the eucharistic bread should be made in such a way that in a Mass with a congregation the priest is able actually to break the host into parts and distribute them to at least some of the faithful. (When, however, the number of communicants is large or other pastoral needs require it, small hosts are in no way ruled out.) The action of the breaking of the bread, the simple term for the Eucharist in apostolic times, will more clearly bring out the force and meaning of the sign of the unity of all in the one bread and of their charity, since the one bread is being distributed among the members of one family.

GIRM 284. The wine for the Eucharist must be from the fruit of the vine (see Lk 22:18), natural, and pure, that is not mixed with any foreign substance.

GIRM 285. Care must be taken to ensure that the elements are kept in good condition: that the wine does not turn to vinegar or the bread spoil or become too hard to be broken easily.

Any other matter of Altar breads, especially forms becoming more popular with dissenters such as cakes or cookies, invalidates transubstantiation. St. Thomas Aquinas also covers this requirement in Summa Theologica (Third Part, Question 74, Articles 1 through 8). There are rare exceptions where Bishops may grant individual priests with allergies or alcohol problems the right to use low-gluten altar breads or mustem (a specific form of grape juice with fermentation suspended). It is gravely sinful for a priest to celebrate Mass knowing the matter is invalid.

4.3 Condition Four - Form

Christ took the bread and the cup and gave thanks; he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: "Take and eat, this is my body." Giving the cup, he said: "Take and drink, this is the cup of my blood. Do this in memory of me." Accordingly, the Church has planned the celebration of the eucharistic liturgy around the parts corresponding to these words and actions of Christ. The key phrases which confect the Eucharist are "This is My Body" and "This is ... My Blood," which when said by a priest with the proper intention and matter (explained above), truly show the priest acts in the Person of Christ. Other parts of the Eucharistic prayer are, according to St. Ambrose (also quoted in Summa Theologica), essentially preparatory; "by all the other words spoken, praise is rendered to God, prayer is put up for the people, for kings, for others, but when the time comes for perfecting the Sacrament, the priest no longer uses his own words but the words of Christ." St. Thomas Aquinas also explains this requirement in great detail in Summa Theologica (Third Part, Question 78, Articles 1 through 6). Changing the words of the preparatory parts of the Eucharistic prayer is illicit and gravely sinful for the priest, but would not invalidate the Eucharist as long as "This is My Body" and "This is ... My Blood" are said.

5. Problematic Abuses - Those which are Illicit

There are many more illicit abuses being practiced throughout the diocese of the world. Only some of the most common ones are listed here. Note that there is no attempt to prioritize the abuses as to most to least common or any such ranking. The abuse and the related Church teaching on the proper practice are presented.

5.1 Changing the Prescribed Texts of the Mass; Ad Libbing; Inclusive Language 

All the texts of the Mass - prayers, responses, Epistles, Gospel - must be according to the norms approved by the Church. Under no circumstances can anything be changed outside of the rules laid down by the Church. This is clearly stated, even in Vatican II! The modernist usage of inclusive language is getting more widespread.

Sacrosanctum Concilium #22: (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. (2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops' conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given territories. (3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

Canon 928 The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out either in the Latin language or in another language, provided the liturgical texts have been lawfully approved.

Inaestimabile Donum #5. "Only the Eucharistic Prayers included in the Roman Missal or those that the Apostolic See has by law admitted, in the manner and within the limits laid down by the Holy See, are to be used. To modify the Eucharistic Prayers approved by the Church or to adopt others privately composed is a most serious abuse."

Be aware that it is possible to invalidate the Mass if the key words of the Eucharistic prayer are not properly performed as previously described. ("This is My Body" and "This is ... My Blood")

5.2  Holding Hands during the Our Father

Holding hands during the Our Father has become commonplace, but it is an illicit addition to the Liturgy. Clarifications and Interpretations of the GIRM ["Notitiae" Vol. XI (1975) p. 226] explains:

". . .holding hands is a sign of intimacy and not reconciliation, and as such disrupts the flow of the Sacramental signs in the Mass which leads to the Sacramental sign of intimacy with Christ and our neighbor, Holy Communion." 

112. QUERY 2: In some places there is a current practice whereby those taking part in the Mass replace the giving of the sign of peace at the deacon's invitation by holding hands during the singing of the Lord's Prayer. Is this acceptable?

REPLY: The prolonged holding of hands is of itself a sign of communion rather than of peace. Further, it is a liturgical gesture introduced spontaneously but on personal initiative; it is not in the rubrics. Nor is there any clear explanation of why the sign of peace at the invitation: "Let us offer each other the sign of peace" should be supplanted in order to bring a different gesture with less meaning into another part of the Mass: the sign of peace is filled with meaning, graciousness, and Christian inspiration. Any substitution for it must be repudiated.

5.3 Performing Liturgical Dance 

Dance is not allowed whatsoever. The document Dance In The Liturgy contains a full explanation. To summarize:

"[In western culture] dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure."

"For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations."

The Bishops have expressly prohibited any and all forms of dancing in the Liturgy.


"FROM THESE DIRECTIVES, from the NATIONAL CONFERENCE of CATHOLIC BISHOPS, all dancing, (ballet, children's gesture as dancing, the clown liturgy) are not permitted to be 'introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever.'"

5.4 Omitting the Penitential Rite

The Penitential Rite is when the priest washes his hands after the offering of bread and wine before the Eucharistic prayer. This may not be omitted. The Query and Reply Official Interpretations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides the answer:

52. QUERY: May the rite of washing the hands be omitted from the celebration of Mass?

REPLY: In no way. 1. Both the GIRM (nos. 52, 106, 222) and the Order of Mass (with a congregation, no. 24; without a congregation, no. 18) show the "Lavabo" to be one of the prescribed rites in the preparation of the gifts. A rite of major importance is clearly not at issue, but it is not to be dropped since its meaning is: "an expression of the (priest's) desire to be cleansed within" (GIRM no. 52). In the course of the Consilium's work on the Order of Mass, there were a number of debates on the value and the place to be assigned to the "Lavabo," e.g., on whether it should be a rite in silence or with an accompanying text; there was, however, unanimity that it must be retained. Even though there has been no practical reason for the act of hand-washing since the beginning of the Middle Ages, its symbolism is obvious and understood by all (see SC art. 34). The rite is a usage in all liturgies of the West. 2. The Constitution on the Liturgy (SC art. 37-40) envisions ritual adaptations to be suggested by the conferences of bishops and submitted to the Holy See. Such adaptations must be based on serious reasons, for example, the specific culture and viewpoint of a people, contrary and unchangeable usages, the practical impossibility of adapting some new rite that is foreign to the genius of a people, and so on. 3. Apart from the envisioned exemptions from rubrics and differing translations of texts (see Consilium, Instr. 25 Jan. 1969), the Order of Mass is presented as a single unit whose general structure and individual components must be exactly respected. Arbitrary selectiveness on the part of an individual or a community would soon result in the ruin of a patiently and thoughtfully constructed work: Not 6 (1970) 38-39, no. 27.

5.5 Replacing or Omitting the Homily on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation

A homily is required on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Weekday Masses are not under this obligation, but it is suggested that one be given. Vatican II states so quite clearly, and this is repeated in the GIRM. The homily should be given by the priest, Bishop or deacon and cannot be a talk given by a minister of another faith (i.e. false ecumenism).

Sacrosanctum Concilium #52: "By means of the homily the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year. The homily, therefore, is to be highly esteemed as part of the liturgy itself. In fact at those Masses which are celebrated on Sundays and holidays of obligation, with the people assisting, it should not be omitted ..."

GIRM #13: "... Nevertheless, Vatican Council II also ordered the observance of certain directives, prescribed by the Council of Trent but not obeyed everywhere. Among these are the obligatory homily on Sundays and holydays ..."

Canon 767 1 "The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of Christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text."

2 "At all Masses on Sundays and holydays of obligation, celebrated with a congregation, there is to be a homily and, except for a grave reason, this may not be omitted."

3 "It is strongly recommended that, if a sufficient number of people are present, there be a homily at weekday Masses also, especially during Advent and Lent, or on a feast day or an occasion of grief."

5.6 Homily given by a Lay Person or Nun

When a homily is given, it may never be preached by a lay man, lay woman, or non-ordained religious, such as a nun. Only ordained men may given the homily.

The Code of Canon Law states:

Canon 767 1 The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of Christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text.

From the latest 2003 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM):

66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person.[65] In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.

[Reference 65.] Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 767 ' 1; Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, response to dubium regarding can. 767 1: AAS 79 (1987), p. 1249; Interdicasterial Instruction on certain questions regarding the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of priests, Ecclesiae de mysterio, 15 August 1997 , art. 3: AAS 89 (1997), p. 864.

5.7 Prohibiting Reception of Communion on the Tongue, or Kneeling, or Genuflecting 

Today many reports are heard whereby people are refused Holy Communion because they kneel or receive on the tongue. Those who do so are denying the rights of those who choose to receive in such a manner.

Inaestimabile Donum #11: "With regard to the manner of going to Communion, the faithful can receive it either kneeling or standing, in accordance with the norms laid down by the episcopal conference: 'When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration. When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament.' [Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction "Eucharisticum Mysterium," no. 34. Cf. "Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani," nos. 244 c, 246 b, 247 b.]"

Canon 912 "Any baptized person who is not forbidden by law may and must be admitted to holy communion."

With the release of the USA Bishops decree stating that the norm for reception of Holy Communion was standing, some have again been denied Holy Communion because of kneeling. The Vatican has formally denounced such behavior and reiterated the right to kneel to receive Our Good Lord. See the several Vatican rulings here. The summary is:

Notitiae: July 1, 2002: "The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints [about kneeling] that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful..."

5.8 Self-Communication of Anyone but the Priest 

Self-communicating means to give oneself the Eucharistic Jesus from the Paten or Ciborium, or from the Chalice for the Precious Blood. Only the priest may administer himself Holy Communion. All others are to receive from him.

Inaestimabile Donum #9: "Eucharistic Communion. Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for this purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another."

5.9 Armies of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist; "Eucharistic Ministers"

The term "Eucharistic Minister" is actually not a valid definition within the Church. The official term is extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Commonly practiced today is the excessive use of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist when there is no need.

Inaestimabile Donum #10. "The faithful, whether religious or lay, who are authorized as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist can distribute Communion only when there is no priest, deacon or acolyte, when the priest is impeded by illness or advanced age, or when the number of the faithful going to Communion is so large as to make the celebration of Mass excessively long. [Cf. Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction "Immensae caritatis," no. 1.] Accordingly, a reprehensible attitude is shown by those priests who, though present at the celebration, refrain from distributing Communion and leave this task to the laity."

5.10 Not Wearing the Sacred Vestments 

The Sacred vestments, which highlight the "in the Person of Christ" role of the priest, must be worn for celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Canon 929 In celebrating and administering the Eucharist, priests and deacons are to wear the sacred vestments prescribed by the rubrics.

Liturgicae Instaurationes  #8c: "The vestment common to ministers of every rank is the alb. The abuse is here repudiated of celebrating or even concelebrating Mass with stole only over the monastic cowl or over ordinary clerical garb, to say nothing of street clothes. Equally forbidden is the wearing of the stole alone over street clothes when carrying out other ritual acts, for example, the laying on of hands at ordinations, administering other sacraments, giving blessings."

GIRM #81: "In the sacristy the vestments for the priest and ministers are to be prepared according to the various forms of celebration: (a) for the priest: alb, stole, and chasuble; ..."

5.11 Not Kneeling during the Consecration 

Commonly found in parishes where hand-holding during the Our Father is prevalent, the disrespect for Jesus truly present is made manifest by refusing to kneel to God. Kneeling is required after the end of the "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God" prayer until after the Great Amen of the Eucharistic prayer. Notice that there is no specific provision to avoid kneeling if there are no kneelers in a modernist Church building.

GIRM  #21: "For the sake of uniformity in movement and posture, the people should follow the directions given during the celebration by the deacon, the priest, or another minister. Unless other provision is made, at every Mass the people should stand from the beginning of the entrance song or when the priest enters until the end of the opening prayer or collect; for the singing of the Alleluia before the gospel; while the gospel is proclaimed; during the profession of faith and the general intercessions; from the prayer over the gifts to the end of the Mass, except at the places indicated later in this paragraph. They should sit during the readings before the gospel and during the responsorial psalm, for the homily and the presentation of the gifts, and, if this seems helpful, during the period of silence after communion. They should kneel at the consecration unless prevented by the lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason."

GIRM USA Appendix #21: "At its meeting in November, 1969, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops voted that in general, the directives of the "Roman Missal" concerning the posture of the congregation at Mass should be left unchanged, but that no. 21 of the "General Instruction" should be adapted so that the people kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic prayer, that is, before the Lord's Prayer."

5.12 Concelebrating Mass with Ministers of Other Faiths 

In the name of "ecumenism," some dissenters have been celebrating Mass with other faiths. This is strictly disallowed.

Canon 908 Catholic priests are forbidden to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the catholic Church.

5.13 Offering Holy Communion to those of Other Faiths 

Also in the name of "ecumenism," some priests invite those of other faiths to receive Holy Communion. This is strictly disallowed except for a few cases with Eastern Christian Churches (see Vatican II Decree On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite Orientalium Ecclesiarum).

Canon 908 Catholic priests are forbidden to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the catholic Church.

Canon 844 1 "Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic members of Christ's faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic ministers, except as provided in 2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 2. (note: the latter covers Baptism)"

2 "Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ's faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid. (note: Protestant ministers do not pass this test)"

3 "Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the eastern Churches not in full communion with the catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other Churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern Churches so far as the sacraments are concerned. (note: Protestant faiths do not pass this test)"

4 "If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed. (note: this covers the case where a Protestant converts on his deathbed)"

5 "In respect of the cases dealt with in 2, 3 and 4, the diocesan Bishop or the Episcopal Conference is not to issue general norms except after consultation with the competent authority, at least at the local level, of the non-Catholic Church or community concerned."

5.14 Priest and Laity Mixing Roles

The mixing of roles between priests and laity has degraded so far that a specific document was promulgated to address this issue. It is titled Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest (Ecclesiae de Mysterio). Vatican II has always clearly defined the role of priest and laity.

Sacrosanctum Concilium #28. "In liturgical celebrations each person, minister, or layman who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy."

Canon 907 In the celebration of the Eucharist, deacons and lay persons are not permitted to say the prayers, especially the eucharistic prayer, nor to perform the actions which are proper to the celebrating priest.

5.15 Closing the Holy Water Fonts during some Seasons 

Although the Holy Water font is not directly related to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, another modernization introduced is to empty the Font during some seasons like Lent or Advent. There is absolutely no rule or recommendation within the Church to do so. Holy Water is a Sacramental and is useful 365 days per year, 24 hours a day.

CCC #1668 "Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man. In accordance with bishops' pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture, and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time. They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism)."

5.16 During Lent, Washing the Feet of Women or Children as part of Holy Thursday Liturgy 

During Lent on Holy Thursday, there is an optional Liturgical Rite whereby the priest washes the feet of men as Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper where the Eucharist was instituted. When this ceremony is done, only men may have their feet washed, never women or children.

The Sacramentary, which is the book that provides the instructions for the liturgy for each day, specifically states that men are to represent the Apostles during the ritual:

"Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily. ... The general  intercessions follow the washing of feet, or, if this does not take place, they follow the homily."

"The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers, he pours water over each one's feet and dries them."

In 1988 the Congregation for Divine Worship reaffirmed that only men's feet are supposed to be washed in the document The Preparation And Celebration Of The Easter Feasts (Paschales Solemnitatis)[10]:

#51: "The washing of the feet of chosen men [vir] which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came 'not to be served, but to serve' (Matt. 20:28). This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained."

6. Sunday Obligation

The Sunday obligation for participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is fulfilled whenever the Mass is valid - that is "not invalid," regardless of any illicit practices which detract from the reverence of the Mass. Canon law explains this below. If you know for sure that your parish's Mass is invalid, go find another Mass to attend.

Canon 1247 "On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to assist at Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, or the due relaxation of mind and body."

Canon 1248 1 "The obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a catholic rite either on a holyday itself or on the evening of the previous day."

2 "If it is impossible to assist at a eucharistic celebration, either because no sacred minister is available or for some other grave reason, the faithful are strongly recommended to take part in a liturgy of the Word, if there be such in the parish church or some other sacred place, which is celebrated in accordance with the provisions laid down by the diocesan Bishop; or to spend an appropriate time in prayer, whether personally or as a family or, as occasion presents, in a group of families."

7. What to do about Liturgical Abuses?

What can be done about liturgical abuses? First, know your rights. Inaestimabile Donum and Canon Law state:

"The faithful have a right to a true Liturgy, which means the Liturgy desired and laid down by the Church, which has in fact indicated where adaptations may be made as called for by pastoral requirements in different places or by different groups of people. Undue experimentation, changes and creativity bewilder the faithful. The use of unauthorized texts means a loss of the necessary connection between the lex orandi and the lex credendi. The Second Vatican Council's admonition in this regard must be remembered: "No person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority." [Sacrosanctum Concilium] And Paul VI of venerable memory stated that: "Anyone who takes advantage of the reform to indulge in arbitrary experiments is wasting energy and offending the ecclesial sense."[Paul VI, address of August 22, 1973: "L'Osservatore Romano," August 23, 1973.]

Canon 528 2: "The parish priest is to take care that the blessed Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful. He is to strive to ensure that the faithful are nourished by the devout celebration of the sacraments, and in particular that they frequently approach the sacraments of the blessed Eucharist and penance. He is to strive to lead them to prayer, including prayer in their families, and to take a live and active part in the sacred liturgy. Under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, the parish priest must direct this liturgy in his own parish, and he is bound to be on guard against abuses."

Charitably approach your priest and, with the documents in hand from this site, explain that you require the Church's Liturgical rubrics be followed. If personal contact is difficult, try writing a letter and again include the referenced Church documents. If, after several attempts, the priest does not return to the Church's rubrics, report the priest to his Bishop. Should that fail, then find another properly celebrated Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to attend. Drive to the next diocese if you must. Isn't your worship of God worth it? If you must contact the Vatican to deal with liturgical abuse, then write to:

Cardinal Francis Arinze
Prefect - Congregation for Divine Worship
Piazza Pio XII, 10
Vatican City (Europe) 00120

8. Conclusion

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest activity and prayer that one can participate in on this side of Heaven. Guard your rights to a proper celebration of the Liturgy and give God the love and reverence that He deserves.


General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).
Query and Reply Official Interpretations of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal
Code of Canon Law (1983)
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium)
Instruction on the Orderly Carrying out of the Constitution on the Liturgy (Liturgicae Instaurationes)
On the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist (Dominicae Cenae)
Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum)
Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest (Ecclesiae de Mysterio)
Mystery of Faith (Mysterium Fidei), Encyclical on the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The Preparation And Celebration Of The Easter Feasts (Paschales Solemnitatis).
"Invalid Masses," article by James Akin in the May 1999 issue of This Rock magazine, pages 39-40.
"The Ten Most Common Liturgical Abuses," article by Kevin Orlin Johnson in the January 1999 issue of This Rock magazine, pages 14-19.
On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist (Redemptionis Sacramentum)

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