I was reading Father Z’s blog today when I was ensnared by the plight of one of his somewhat regular commenters. This is the post. Reading the original question, I assumed the asker was an older reader who is a bit overenthusiastic about one of the most tempting ways to solve the problem of a priest who simply won’t say Mass properly: drop books on his head until it’s the right way again. In this case, it was Redemptionis Sacramentum, which was a wonderfully promising Church document which essentially said, “No, really, you can’t do this. And this. And this other thing too; that’s really messed up.” It really is a tempting solution, because of course a priest will instantly change his ways once he realizes that he’s making baby Jesus cry. Wouldn’t anybody? Nope, because priests who don’t care about the rules in the first place won’t care when the rules are placed in front of them again. Why should they? For decades, the only people who got punished were traditionalists who flouted Rome. The progressives who flouted Rome got promotions, tenure, and lucrative dioceses. Oh yeah, they got “letters,” too. More words to ignore. Who cares? They knew the Vatican might bark at the moon, but would never, never bite them.
Then I read the comments.
“The sad thing is, I (the reader concerned) am considering leaving my parish. There are a few priests. It’s like a lottery. One priest is OK-ish but I usually never ‘get him’. The others are not. I leave Mass angry and upset. Why’s it so hard to just say the black and do the red? How about giving such a priest one of Fr. Z’s mugs?
The really upsetting thing is that this is affecting my progress in holiness. I’m not making any. The abuses are so widespread and intolerable, it is just such a joke. And this is Ireland I’m talking about, btw.
What gets me Father Z is this: we can read your blog, we all know what’s wrong and what needs to be done, but on the ground, outside the blogosphere, it’s like we all just have to pretend it’s still 1970. So much of what you’ve posted on your blog applies to my parish. Well, we don’t have puppets.”
He is just a kid from Ireland. Just a kid, a teenager, wanting to do something to know that he isn’t helpless in the face of abuse. You know how the world, and the Church, is obsessed with youth, their vitality, their energy, their creativity, their ability to effect change, move mountains, alter the course of civilization? This kid wants to do that. He wants to start with his own parish, his own priest, to help change the Masses at which he assists so that they may be worship suitable and pleasing to God, according to the laws of His Church. AND HE FEELS LIKE HE CAN’T DO THAT. All that power and vitality and energy of youth is being squashed, squandered, and might even result in it being snuffed. Kids stuck in parishes where he is, and where I used to be, are being spiritually stunted, and when they try to do something about it, they are faced with the harsh reality that there’s nothing they can do. Well, there are things they can do – write to the pastor, write to the bishops, write to Rome – but if that all comes to naught, then the frustration is unrelieved.