Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Fr. Marcoux Responds to Complaints About Liturgical Abuse

February 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

A Rochester priest who has a history of creativity when it comes to the liturgy and administration of the Sacraments, Fr. Joseph Marcoux, recently received a complaint from a parishioner about irregular liturgical practices at St. Catherine of Siena church in Ithaca. Instead of correcting these abuses with humility and obedience to the norms of Mother Church, Father took it upon himself to defend the parish’s liturgical aberrations in his bulletin column using the same tired progressive excuse that those who oppose their liturgical creativity are having trouble ‘adjusting to change.’

Here is his column with commentary (in red) and emphasis:

“Recently I received an article from a parishioner who was troubled with some of the practices in our liturgical celebrations; e.g. clapping in appreciation of the gifts offered by a minister(s) [Inappropriate glorification of man in a worship whose purpose is to glorify God], the volume level of camaraderie before and after our celebrations [I assume he means distracting, loud conversations before and after Mass], or how we offer each other the sign of God’s peace [Not sure what this is about. Perhaps people are crossing the aisles and the Kiss of Peace lasts for five minutes a la Our Lady of Perpetual Help/St. Michael]. I suppose if you asked a hundred different Catholics their opinions on these few things, I’m betting you would get at least a hundred different responses [Thankfully the Church is not a democracy].

Don’t you think that it is sometimes difficult to adjust to change? Especially when something new (or new to you) is introduced into our liturgical celebrations. Change and transition can be a trying time to some but not to all — some people love change. I think it’s helpful to realize that not everyone experiences change the same way, what may be displeasing to you may be quite pleasing to someone else. I’m positive that the liturgy does not belong to just one person but rather is communal property, i.e. the Church’s [That would mean that one priest does not enjoy the right to vandalize the liturgy in order to suit his own desires]. I’m also a firm believer in embracing our entire tradition not just my narrow experience of it [Where is the evidence of this? Would Father embrace the Traditional Latin Mass were parishioners to request that it be offered at his parish?]. If I were to say that my limited 45-year experience of church is the ONLY way that we should experience church, then I would be literally abandoning thousands of years of tradition [But isn’t that what you’re doing when you decide to introduce your own innovations into the liturgy?].

One way to alleviate anxiety concerning our communal celebration of the Eucharist is to ground oneself in History. There is nothing static about our communal celebration [The fact that the liturgy has been changed by the Church over the years does not grant any one priest the right to introduce his own changes]. The liturgy is a living, breathing, dynamic entity! Historically speaking, our communal celebrations were never intended to be private prayer time! We do not celebrate the Eucharist the way the early Christians did — nor should we. We do not celebrate the way that medieval Christians celebrated and future Christians will not celebrate the way we do today [One can only hope]! So our way of celebrating the Sacred Mysteries is exactly that — our way and bound to our time. We should be very cautious about limiting the definition of Liturgy to our own personal experience of it [Practice what you preach, Father. Just because the liturgy was celebrated haphazardly and improvised in the late 60s through early 80s does not mean that it should be altered in the same manner today, especially after the Vatican has said that innovations to the Mass are to cease!].

Another way which I believe helps people to find their way through change is to be empowered through knowledge [Sounds to me that the lay person who brought you documentation about proper liturgy has sought out knowledge]. For example, if you know the reason why something is changing or is perceived as a change or an addition, it could help you to adjust [Conform] to the change or addition, although it may not make it any easier.

My point is not to say that I’m right and therefore you’re wrong [Oh, but it is] but rather that the way we celebrate our Liturgy today is simply the way that we celebrate. The contemporary [1960s-1980s] understanding of our communal celebration of the Eucharist is that it IS a celebration [And frankly, this false understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is amply reflected in the liturgical creativity and desacrilization introduced by many Rochester priests]. It is not a celebration of ourselves [Then why applaud for the lay minister during Mass?] but a celebration of God in ourselves and that is a good thing to celebrate… isn’t it?”

For the record, Fr. Marcoux signed the “What if we just said wait” petition, a online petition whose purpose was to oppose the upcoming changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal. Talk about hypocrisy.

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20 Responses to “Fr. Marcoux Responds to Complaints About Liturgical Abuse”

  1. Louis E. says:

    1)How would he react to an appeal from a coetus citing Summorum Pontificum?
    2)Is he any relation to Rembert Weakland’s lover Paul Marcoux?

  2. Ben Anderson says:

    I love the “resistant to change” claim. The CF community has many converts from protestantism. I wonder where we fit in the “resistance to change” category considering our whole worlds were turned upside down.

  3. Monk says:

    His arrogance is astounding.

  4. Matt says:

    Ho-hum, another heterodox priest thinks he’s the pope and the parish council has the same weight as an ecumenical council.

    Something strange, yet nothing new.

  5. Eliza10 says:

    This letter is a PERFECT example of the DOR’s “pastoral care” for anyone who questions their liturgical or pastoral impositions. Surely, our entire DOR leadership has been systematically and deeply indoctrinated to answer to any suggestion contrary to their agenda with a blueprint of this exact approach!

    I learned pretty quick when I converted that everywhere you go in the DOR you get this brand of arrogance. In person, you’ll get hit with the distinct “you don’t matter” attitude. In a letter, one can hide one’s instant disdain – and instead, craft this suffocatingly patronizing drivel.

    Yes, its always the SAME line at the DOR, so they HAVE been taught it, under the guidance and leadership of Bishop Matthew Clark. It goes like this, as you can so plainly see in example of Father Marcoux:

    “You have a problem with our liturgy? Oh, it must be your anxiety problem. Or your lack of knowledge and understanding of Church history (and, by the way, I have a degree in that! And you don’t!) Oh, yes, and your inability to accept change. Oh, I’m so sorry – those personality flaws must be so hard for you! I understand. I feel for you.”

    Truly, the DOR leadership reminds me more of Protestant cults and sects, and of Mormonism, because, like in these groups, their ideology, received by systematic indoctrination, is deeply ingrained into their personal identity – to the point where it is too threatening to the self to objectively consider any flaws in their often foolish beliefs.

    Really, I think I am onto something with this “personal identity” thing. Because once I went to a Cathedral Mass – I don’t remember which; it may have been a Chrism Mass. All the crowd of DOR priests processed in, in flowing white gowns, with the Bishop. I was struck by the overridingly unified countenance on faces, one that startled me in that it was nearly right – but slightly off to the point of being jarringly wrong. Because it was a really strong “so happy to be here” look. Nothing wrong with that – except that it also said: “because I am so excited to be part of this great group of guys!”

    Honestly, this is what the look said. And I was a brand new Catholic, pretty unfamiliar with the DOR modus operandi. My thought was, “Oh, thats nice. They’re happy” and at the same time, it was done of those “Something is wrong but I don’t what” moments that was an everyday part of joining the Catholic Church in the DOR.

    It was an impression that has stuck with me in the years since. Because of what the look did NOT say: “I am humbled and awed to be chosen for this work. God help me.”

    Humility. As a new convert, it was one of the first things that struck me about Catholics as I got to know them here in the DOR. Holy and pious, or uncatechized and only haltingly faithful – there was a common thread among this diverse group of people called Catholic that I just never saw among Protestants (who shine in other virtues). The virtue of humilty. It kept showing up like a startling breath of very fresh air. Somehow, this holy virtue shown out from Catholics everywhere, consistently, in some measure.

    But only glaring exception was in DOR leadership. Unless you asked the faithful where to find holy priests – and the Catholic faithful in every church could tell you where to find a holy priest. And in this priest you would always find not only holiness, but shining wisdom and humility in great measure. In contrast to these and to Catholic lay, DOR leadership was embarrassingly arrogant. And very much lacking in humility. Such as you see in this correspondence from Fr. Marcoux.

  6. Eliza10 says:

    “What’s really problematic is that he’s only 45. We have 25 years of this crap to go.”

    Not at all. In 515 days a new Bishop can set things right. Just as this bishop has been able to impose huge changes on us in short order, a holy bishop can do much good, setting us in the right direction, quickly! We know that misuse of power is devastating, but we need to remember that proper use of power for the good is impressive.

  7. Eliza10 says:

    Oh my gosh. I just followed links her on this article. Fr. Marcoux does the butt-baptizing?! That is so creepy! I would never let this man touch my baby!

  8. Bro AJK says:

    “Don’t you think that it is sometimes difficult to adjust to change?” Ummm, why did he use this phrase? Perhaps this is Freudian? Perhaps he is having difficulty adjusting to changes?

  9. Abe says:

    The lack of reverence due Him in these services is infinitelly criminal. The abomination of desolation is here in the sanctuary.

  10. Bernie says:

    I hope Father will exemplify his worship of ‘willingness to change’ when we eventually dump this nonsense and get back to Liturgical practices actually based on our tradition and history. How interesting that Father resists the change to a more accurate English translation of the Roman missal. Too bad bulletins don’t have a “letter to the editor” column.

  11. annonymouse says:

    Um guys, you provide a valuable service in keeping vigil over our oft heterodox diocese, but you’re wrong in contradicting Father Marcoux’s comment about the liturgy being a “celebration.” Sacrosanctum Concilium 6 and 7 both refer to the “Celebration” of the Sacred Mysteries. You may choose to ignore what the Fathers of the Church wrote at the Council, but a conservative Catholic, one faithful to the Magisterium, MUST embrace those documents and not dispute them.

    I’m not sure Father Marcoux is all that far away from what the Council Fathers had in mind when they wrote: “Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 11).

  12. Obey says:

    Yes, fully aware of what the are doing.

  13. Dr. K says:

    Annonymouse, this passage does not appear to contradict the liturgical laws which are in place. It just says that there is more to the Mass than laws alone. The laws still exist and are to be followed and appreciated. The passage appears to be warning against the priest and people plowing through the liturgy without engaging one’s heart and soul in that worship. For example, a priest reading the prayers but not truly praying them.

  14. Nerina says:

    it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 11).

    Let’s see. Am I “enriched by its effects” when liturgical dancers, clad in a leotard, go prancing by in the processional? Am I “engaged in the rite” when a children’s choir is singing a song which only they know the words to while also using instruments like rainsticks and kazoos? Am I “fully aware of what I am doing” when the priest alters the prayers, replaces words for inclusiveness or interjects editorial comments? The answer to each question is a resounding “no.” I am usually confused, distracted, annoyed or jarred from my participation (both inward and outward) in the Mass. I think Dr. K’s take on the instruction in Sacrosanctum Concilium is correct.

    I also think Father Marcoux is guilty of co-opting the word “celebration” to justify any variety of innovations, alterations and experimentations all in the misguided attempt to “engage” people. The problem is, there is no one to engage because they aren’t coming to Mass. Why would they? The Mass is deformed each time an individual takes it upon him or herself to reinvent it according to their subjective interpretations of Church documents.

    Our priest always says before the start of Mass, “I’m glad you’re here. I hope you enjoy Mass.” Hmm…It is nice that he welcomes us, but to say “enjoy Mass” seems somehow wrong. Mass, as we all know well, does several things. We re-present the Sacrifice of Calvary (so I can’t really imagine “enjoying” that aspect of the Mass) and we remember the Last Supper. Again, the disciples were certainly aware that something unique and transformative was taking place so “enjoy” doesn’t quite fit here. Of course we anticipate the celebration of the wedding feast in Heaven and we do join our voices with the choirs of angels and Saints and here I can almost see “enjoyment” but I think joy more accurately captures the mood.

    Ironically Fr. Marcoux says:

    I’m positive that the liturgy does not belong to just one person but rather is communal property, i.e. the Church’s

    That’s right, Father. It belongs to the Church present throughout the ages(not just to the Church of the last 40 years) and even in Heaven. We join our voices with the Church Triumphant in offering our glory and praise to God. How can we possibly dismiss the wisdom and liturgical practices of the ages? Are we so confident that we know better- that one person (whether a priest or liturgy director) knows better? As Eliza points out, where is the humility?

    The instruction to “enjoy” trivializes the Mass and fails to appreciate the many facets of the liturgy as do so many of the irregularities commonly present at many of our Masses in our diocese. I think my priest and Fr. Marcoux are certainly well-intentioned in trying to make the Mass more accessible and maybe they believe focusing on enjoyment or “celebration” accomplishes this goal. I argue, from observation, that all it really does is dilute the power, reverence and mystery of the Mass. Just watch people receive the Eucharist and ask if they externally present an understanding of Who they are consuming.

  15. annonymouse says:

    Dr. K, I generally agree with most of what you have to say, but in your edits to Father Marcoux’s letter, you state that the idea of Mass as “celebration” is a “false understanding of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” That is simply erroneous, and contradicts what the Vatican Fathers wrote and intend. The Council clearly teaches us that Mass to be a celebration, one that brings together and unites the People of God as Christ’s Church, nourished and ready to go forth to serve the world. The notion that Mass was to be a time of private devotion went by the wayside fifty years ago, but many seem not to have paid attention.

    Think of how the Church could change the world if we were to focus less on petty liturgical abuse (i.e. clapping, dancing) and more on what Christ is calling us to – humble service to mankind.

  16. Dr. K says:

    Celebration in the party sense (hand-clapping, socializing before and after Mass in the church proper, and the focus on entertainment) is my concern. That would be to misinterpret what “celebrating the Mass” is all about.

  17. Bernie says:

    Dr. K is right. “Celebration” of the Mass means to publicly enact the ritual of the Mass (or any sacrament or solemn ceremony) with all appropriate ritual. It does not refer to atmosphere, as in a joyful or festive atmosphere. It’s one of those terms that is consistently misinterpreted by liberals. “Spirit led” is also popularly invoked to justify all kinds of crazy heterodox or innovative practices when, in fact, it actually means the action or belief is orthodox or traditional.

  18. Dr. K says:

    “Spirit led” is also popularly invoked to justify all kinds of crazy heterodox or innovative practices when, in fact, it actually means the action or belief is orthodox or traditional.

    Another problem with calling your community “Spirit led” is that it suggests others may not be.

  19. Eliza10 says:

    Dr. K wrote:

    “Another problem with calling your community “Spirit led” is that it suggests others may not be.”

    Exactly! Their conviction on that one is glaringly obvious. Its all part of the arrogance package you get with DOR leadership. And they are completely unaware that we can all see this arrogance. Catholics in the pew see it and shrug because its business-as-usual in the DOR – after all these years, its all they know, and anyway they are so accustomed to it, as its what you see in the world – its everywhere.

    Its older faithful Catholics that have a hard time with it – they have seen better days at the DOR, and its transfers from out-of-town, and reverts, or converts like me who are used to seeing some Christian virtue in leadership and are shocked by what we have in the DOR (so we come to Cleansing Fire!).

    In the Evangelical community they have some power to kick out the leaders they don’t like – and frequently its those who don’t have Christian virtues. The people see that lacking and they get restless and unhappy, and they can do something about it. And they can do it very quickly! The unfavorable don’t hang out 30 months, let alone 30 years! I’m not saying its all roses in Evangelical churches; I am just saying a leader cannot impose an ideology on a church, and they cannot effect changes in line with that ideology if they can’t get the people to buy it. That is another one of the VAST differences between them and the DOR, which has the power to impose and effect massive changes that are in complete opposition to what the people want – and they can even make the people pay for it! Its SO immoral. It embarrasses me! How can any Evangelicals want to become Catholic in the DOR?? How can I ask them to?? Most people see what is, not what-is-supposed-to-be!

    But when “Springtime” comes and holy priests are allowed to come out of the woodwork, and the borderline ones are allowed to blossom, the people will respond quickly to the fresh, amazing novelty of holiness and humility in DOR leadership. What blessings will come when there will be here, in the DOR, true pastoral care, infused with actual Christian charity!

    This said, I want to add that true pastoral care can be found here; you have to seek it out from the beleaguered holy priests who have been marginalized by the DOR [I believe that in the Rochester Diocese we have our own version of “Goodbye, Good Men”]. I think we have some living Saints as priests here in the DOR; they have been martyrs for the faith. But I think the experience of trying to be Catholic priests faithful to the Magisterium in the DOR has increased in them not only wisdom but the holy virtues. So one can truly find good pastoral care here, from a holy priest, if one is seeking it.

  20. Eliza10 says:

    Omigosh, I just saw “Mime Homily Today” on the Cleansing Fire sign. Too funny!

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