Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Coming up from the Whine Cellar

March 10th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Whoops! Did we just slip into a time warp?  Not at all.  It is just voices of the past coming up from the Whine Cellar.

The March 10, 2016 issue of the National Catholic Reporter has an article entitled: Lay preachers in Rochester diocese want to be at the pulpit again,   by Peter Feuerherd.  Soon after the headline, it becomes clear that the generic “lay” actually means “women.”  Back to the gender agenda.

So let’s try to be clear, shall we, ladies?

  1. You got away with disobeying Canon Law for about 30 years, and now you want to use that disobedience as an argument to keep doing it (It is NOT ‘custom;’ that takes 100 years to validate.) You are criticizing the bishop who, himself, has acted obediently to Canon Law, and stands between you and your adding more sins of disobedience to your soul.  Perhaps, someday, you will be grateful for that intervention.  In the meantime you should recognize who gave you those permissions to “preach” and led you into such an untenable situation.
  2. Canon Law is not some dry set of “rules.” Rather, it is there for protection of all the Faithful.  The rules against lay preaching (by men or women) isn’t about insulting you, but to protect us from you!  Among the pro-preach names in the NCR article we see one who supported naming a Notre Dame HS soccer field after an acknowledged lesbian, one with ties to Fortunate Families which has not been reluctant to criticize Church and Pope to promote its own LGBT programs, one who supports the Women’s Ordination Conference, plus a priest commenter with a long list of bad judgment affiliations (search for “Spilly” on the Cleansing Fire website .)  Yes, the Faithful do need to be protected, from you and your agenda.
  3. Speaking for myself, and for many women whom I know, we do not want to hear from you behind the pulpit at Mass — at all.  You don’t have the charisms of the ordained, no matter how much you try to wage the battle on a ‘skills’ level.  We don’t want to hear preaching from people who can’t even be obedient to the law of the church or supportive of their own bishop.  There are plenty of opportunities for street corner evangelization which you could pursue; not the families at Sunday Mass.  They are required under Church Law to attend Sunday Mass, not to listen to you.  You are not required to preach.  Or even allowed to preach at Mass.
  4. The Rochester Diocese is ‘loaded’ with deacons, compared to other dioceses. Their numbers imply that they could easily handle any real preaching needs, and it makes sense to have them do so where necessary.  There is no need for your services. There never was.  We don’t need to hear “a woman’s perspective” in preaching.  We need to hear God’s perspective.
  5. Get over it. Stop whining. Begin figuring out how to make a real contribution. It is unbecoming, annoying, and degrades both women and respect for the priesthood.  Your ‘getting your way’ with preaching can’t possibly lead to more priestly vocations.  It is not about YOU; it is about serving Christ.  Come up from the Whine Cellar.

On the other hand:

It is only fair to make one comment in support of some of the women affected by this situation.  You were encouraged from very high levels to pursue as much as you could pursue for as long as you could pursue it, in education and in employment.  The high-level agenda was clearly to brute force the access for women to the priesthood, to get those in the pews used to seeing women in the Sanctuary.  Laying down such a path strongly opposed what was taught by Pope St. John Paul II and by Pope Benedict XVI.  IMO, if you could really see, with clarity, you would see that you were used.  Badly.  Now, so many years later, the training you took with career intentions is nearly worthless.  (That is not to say that anybody who wants to learn for their own edification shouldn’t be able to do so. But urging people to invest time and money in education for a career that is not possible is dead-end wrong.)  You may have given up jobs to pursue a church path that could never have come to fruition. IMO, it is just plain wrong to lead people to invest in training for what they are not allowed to fulfill, to build up false hopes, and to allow them to become increasingly narrow in specialization and so increasingly unmarketable.  It would have been far better to have directed those skills into teaching, and to the catechetical needs of the next generation. IMO, you are not angry with the right person.



Caution: when you find the words that laity can preach in Church, note that is true, but not during Mass.  For example, if a retreat were being held in the church, a lay person could recount a personal testimony during that retreat, even from the ambo/pulpit. Some confusion has been caused by that wording. 


31 Responses to “Coming up from the Whine Cellar”

  1. snowshoes says:

    Excellent post, Diane. I fully concur with your orthodox position. Preaching at Mass is restricted to the bishop, priest or deacon. Always was, always will be. Your gentle advice to the aggrieved as to their true grievance, and to whom their grievance should be directed is inspired. And just to say, 99% of all Catholics agree with the official Church teaching on this matter. We HATE when a non-ordained man gets up and tries (and fails) to preach at Mass. It is a travesty and an utter waste of time at best. Thank God Bishop Matano has resolutely and lovingly insisted on obedience to Christ in this matter. Ad multos annos, your Excellency!

  2. annonymouse says:

    At the risk of this going to your head, Diane, let me tell you that yours is a brilliant post. Every point is spot on, from “we have a RIGHT not to hear your preaching” to “you’ve been used.” This is the age-old sin of pride rearing its ugly head, nothing more, on the part of these women, yes, but as you point out, more so on the part of our bishop emeritus. If the preacher can’t submit to the teaching of Holy Mother Church, if the preacher can’t first of all recognize one’s own refusal to seek after holiness, then one is unfit to preach, even if lay preaching were allowed.

  3. Ben Anderson says:

    I concur – very well said, Diane!

  4. BigE says:

    Just to bring some balance to this discussion:

    Pt 1 – the disobeying of Canon Law obviously depends on one’s interpretation of that law. And given the interpretation by the two prior Bishops – no one “got away” with anything.

    Pt 2 – a “red herring” argument since many bishops, priests and/or deacons could fall into the category you have outlined (and based on the criticisms I’ve seen on this site – many have from your point of view)

    Pt 3 – another largely irrelevent point since there probably are just as many women (if not more) that like getting a female perspective from the pulpit. And given the overall current poor state of catholic preaching – the “charism” for preaching does not appear to be ordination based.

    Pt 4 – I think the issue was always more about diversity than need; having the ability to hear the female perspective from the pulpit (pt 3). Not sure why you think deacons, many of who work full time and have families – could so easily pick up the homiletic needs of a parish. So I don’t believe your statement is a blanket statement that holds true for every parish.

    Pt 5 – If a homily isn’t a “real contribution” – why all the fuss about women preaching? And this implication that every women who preaches wants to become a priest just isn’t true. It may be for some, but not for all. It’s the conflating of two seperate issues (lay preaching and women’s ordination) – especially given that some of those former “lay” preachers who can no longer preach are men.

  5. Ben Anderson says:

    BigE, glad you’re still around!

    #1 – This isn’t a matter of differing interpretations. This is a matter of willfully choosing to ignore Canon Law. Seriously, how can you interpret this in a way that allows the laity to preach the homily?

    Can. 767 §1. Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent;

    even Dave Andreatta of the D&C said so.

    #2 – Diane didn’t say restricting homilies to clergy guarantees good homilies.

    #3 – There are lay people on both sides (those who respect Canon Law and those who don’t). While the Church isn’t a democracy and the %s really don’t matter, it’s good to know that there are laity who respect Canon Law and expect it to be followed. This isn’t a matter of the laity vs the clergy as it’s sometimes presented in the press. It’s a matter of laity and clergy who don’t respect their own Catholic traditions and rules vs laity and clergy who do respect their own traditions and rules.

    It might be worthwhile to read St. Catherine’s “Treatise on Obedience”. Here is but one excerpt (this is the Father speaking):

    When He returned to Me, rising to Heaven from the conversation of men at the Ascension, He left you this sweet key of obedience; for as you know He left His vicar, the Christ, on earth, whom you are all obliged to obey until death, and whoever is outside His obedience is in a state of damnation, as I have already told you in another place.

    It is the merciful thing to apply the spiritual works of mercy here by helping those who are disobedient to repent and turn to God.

  6. BigE says:

    Hey Ben…good to talk to you again!
    To your points:
    1) Because technically the lay preachers were NOT giving a homily. The priest gave the homily and the lay person offered a reflection in conjunction with that homily. All within the broad confines of Canon Law (obviously when liberally interpreted). So yes, it is a matter of interpretation.
    2) My point here had nothing to do with how good homilies are. Diane seemed to imply that lay preachers were somehow less orthodox than bishops/priests/deacons and that banning them from the pulpit protected the faithful. My point was that from her (this sites) perspective there are many bishops/priests/deacons not considered orthodox and so the “protection” issue is a red herring not relevant to whether a preacher is ordained or not.
    3) Rules change, and should change, as the community changes and the needs of the community change. Respecting rules and getting stuck in rules long past their expiration date are two different issues.

  7. Ben Anderson says:

    #1. That explanation doesn’t pass the Duck Test. In addition, the article which brought about this blog post calls them homilies. Calling them “not homilies” is simply a disingenuous way of getting around this part of the law. For the sake of argument, though, let’s pretend these aren’t homilies. It still violates Church law – here’s just one example:

    They ought not to detract from the profound meaning of their own ministry by corrupting the liturgical celebration either through alteration or omission, or through arbitrary additions.

    #2 Sure, there are clergy who are unorthodox. Banning lay homilies doesn’t guarantee an orthodox homily. It’s just one factor. But allowing them builds on a foundation of disobedience. How can someone teach others when they themselves are being disobedient in the very act of teaching? It’s kind of like this. There are many factors to consider when determining if a particular young woman might make a good wife. Obviously, she must be a woman and single. This doesn’t guarantee that she’ll be a good wife, but it is a fundamental requirement.

    #3 Of course rules change, but who has God put in authority to make those changes? When a police officer pulls me over for speeding do you think it’d be a good defense to tell him, “I decided not to follow that rule because it’s long past it’s expiration date.”

  8. BigE says:

    1) That’s how loopholes work: whether it’s tax law or church law.
    2) Depends on what you’re trying to teach people. If you’re just trying to teach them how to follow rules and/or be orthodox then you’re right. But if you’re going for something better and deeper that may not always be true. Rosa Parks didn’t try to teach people how to follow the rules. She tried to teach about the inherent dignity of all people and she had to break a few rules to do it.
    3) Who’s in charge? The Holy Spirit.

  9. snowshoes says:

    One note: it was the previous bishop who banned lay preaching in the diocese of Rochester. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Preaching at the Divine Liturgy is, was, and always will be reserved to the ordained episcopos, presbyter, or deacon. It is what the Holy Spirit says through Christ’s Church.

  10. Bruce says:

    BigE said, “3) Who’s in charge? The Holy Spirit.”

    Well, Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. His Vicar, is Pope Francis. For the DOR, the visible head of the particular Church is the bishop. The Holy Spirit protects Christ’s Church from falling into heresy and dissolving. He speaks with Christ, and Christ speaks through His Mystical Body, the Church. When the Church speaks, Christ speaks. In regard to laity preaching homilies, the Church is clear. “No.”

  11. Ben Anderson says:

    1) from wiktionary:

    loophole: A method of escape, especially an ambiguity or exception in a rule that can be exploited in order to avoid its effect.

    There is no ambiguity or exception. Either it’s a homily (which isn’t allowed for lay person to do) or it’s not (which isn’t allowed because it’s an unlawful addition to the Mass). Sorry, loophole doesn’t apply here.

    2) again – you’re presenting a false dichotomy. Either you 1) merely follow the rules and nothing else or 2) you don’t follow the rules because you’re about more than the rules. The solution is to both follow the rules and to be concerned about more than just the rules. Rosa Parks disobeyed an unjust law. Our Church’s laws are not unjust. The idea of disobeying a unjust civil law isn’t something that was invented by Rosa Parks. Sorry – that analogy doesn’t work.

    3) ok… but for those of us who can’t claim a direct broadcast from the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ has set up a visible, tangible organization called the Catholic Church… and it has order. If you go w/ the “I follow the Holy Spirit” route, how are you not renouncing Catholicism in general? pretty much what Bruce said.

  12. BigE says:

    1) If there are no loopholes or exceptions – why didn’t (doesn’t) the Church take action against Bishops who allow lay preaching?
    2) Strawman. No one who makes the laws EVER thinks they are unjust. No one who believes in those laws will EVER think they’re unjust. And simply saying a law is just doesn’t make it so. Laws eventually come to be recognized as unjust (or just) through dialogue and action. So we’ll just have to trust in the Holy Spirit.
    3) Just to be clear. I’m not against order and I’m not against the Church. I’m for dialogue whenever an issue should be explored. I never quite understand why people want to take this kind of dialogue and turn it into something it’s not (someone is against the church or against the faith). Because we as Catholics are against abortion which is legal in our country – does that make us against the United States and anti-American?

  13. Bruce says:

    BigE said, “does that make us anti-American…”

    Yes, to a certain extent. But in the political sphere, there is room for disagreement. The Church is not merely a political institution. She is the Body of Christ, and when she speaks, Christ is speaking through her. If you reject her laws, you reject Christ. That is far more grave than rejecting the laws of a very-recent constitutional republic. If you have given your assent to the Church, it is far more encompassing than the pledge of allegiance. The very thought that you are questioning and, it seems, rejecting laws of the Church would make it appear that you have not assented to Christ and His Church. And that is your right. You have free will. But to suggest that one can claim Catholicity and reject certain teachings and laws is a false proposition. It isn’t possible, and it represents a misunderstanding of what the Church is. She has spoken on this issue, and her members abide. If she changes on this, which she can because it is Canon Law, then her members will abide. There is no middle ground there, to which I say, “Amen.”

    Mind you, I mean no ill will toward you, but am merely dialoguing with you. ultimately, you have to make your own choices. God bless!

  14. raymondfrice says:

    According to “America” magazine, L’ Osservatore Romano, the sometimes voice of the Vatican, has begun printing essays from a variety of individuals who wish and argue to allow women to preach during Mass. One of the nuns writing an essay is a faculty member/ PHD at one of the pontifical universities in Rome where she teaches priests and seminarians .
    I wonder if these actions will lead to a relaxation of the rule prohibiting anyone but a priest, deacon, or bishop from preaching at Mass??

  15. Ben Anderson says:

    #1 – that’s a completely different issue altogether and I’m not going to continue on to that fork in the road.

    #2 – whatever your argument is that lay people should be allowed to give homilies – it can’t be based on an unjust law. If that’s an unjust law, then so is a male-only priesthood and so is just about all of Canon Law. And it certainly isn’t comparable to racial discrimination.

    #3 – so write a letter to Rome… stop publicly ridiculing your own bishop for doing his job.

  16. raymondfrice says:

    “whatever your argument is that lay people should be allowed to give homilies – it can’t be based on an unjust law. If that’s an unjust law, then so is a male-only priesthood and so is just about all of Canon Law. And it certainly isn’t comparable to racial discrimination.”

    Now you are getting the point!! Have you ever been a woman and been excluded because of your unacceptable genitalia????

  17. Ben Anderson says:

    Nope – I’ve never been a woman. Once again, though, I’d suggest sending those complaints a little bit higher than the Bishop of Rochester. Those who are upset about being a woman (and all that that entails) will want to send their complaints directly to the man upstairs.

    I do, however, have experience reasoning with children. I’ve found the activity to be quite beneficial because it helps me distinguish between those times when reasoning abilities are being used to genuinely discover truth and those time when they’re being used to simply get what they want. It seems to me that this conversation has taken on the form of the latter. When this point is reached in the conversation, it usually makes sense just to shut it down.

  18. annonymouse says:

    BigE, no, no, no. There is no “loophole” here. Bishop Clark was simply flouting canon law by allowing non-ordained to speak after a 30-second “homily.”

    The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in its instructional document Redemptionis Sacramentum, specifically names “pastoral assistants” and those who assume that function, as well as any other lay person, as those prohibited from preaching the homily:

    The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants” ; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association. (RS 66)

  19. raymondfrice says:

    I cannot understand why competent laymen are prohibited from the liturgical pulpit by Canon law?? Why is it reserved only to the clergy??

  20. snowshoes says:

    Excellent question! A brilliant man is revealed by the depth and clarity of the questions he asks.

    My homely shot at an answer is that it is the father’s place.

    Into whose arms does a toddler take his first steps?
    Who reads to a little boy at night, even if he doesn’t read very well?
    Who teaches a little boy to ride a bike, or throw a baseball, even though he might not be the greatest sportsman?
    Who has the first dance at his daughter’s wedding reception, even though he’s not Fred Astair?
    Et cetera.

    It is our father’s place. Could another man do any one of those things better? Maybe, but it’s not his place.

  21. raymondfrice says:

    I have heard laymen preach during Mass in the past and have been very edified by their messages. I listened to one African Priest every week for 7 years and could never understand what he was saying. Better to have a competent “foster” father-layman than an incompetent father-priest???

    PS: preaching may be a charism of the priesthood but it is also a hard to acquire skill.

  22. BigE says:


    I think the whole “no lay preaching” is a leftover from those times when the ordained were usually the most educated (both theoligically and otherwise): so not allowing laity to preach would’ve made a lot of sense.

    That obviously is not the case today as there are plenty of lay people with advanced theoligical degrees.

  23. annonymouse says:

    Advanced theological degrees, fine. But lacking the grace of ordination. Surely you aren’t discounting the grace conferred to the ordained, to stand and speak “in persona Christi,” are you? Perhaps you would next advocate that the ordained might be permitted to confect the Eucharistic Sacrifice?

  24. BigE says:

    Deacons are allowed to preach and I do not believe theologically they stand and/or speak “In persona Christi” (other than for their ordained mission of service). So your point is a non sequitur.

  25. annonymouse says:

    Not so, E, not so! You much too easily discount the grace, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the ontological change imparted to the ordinand upon conferral of Holy Orders (including deaconal Orders).

    The homily is a moment of conversation between God (in Christ), speaking through his bishop, priest or deacon, and His people. As Pope Francis writes: “It is worthy remembering that ‘the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are continually restated.’ The homily has special importance due to its eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dialogue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion. The homily takes up once more the dialogue which the Lord has already established with his people.” (Evangelii Gaudium 137)

    And then there’s this from the USCCB’s recent instruction, “Preaching the Mystery of Faith, the Sunday Homily”: “The homilist should rely on the presence of the Risen Lord within him as he preaches, a presence guaranteed by the outpouring of the Spirit that he received in ordination.”

    Indeed, as a part of the Rite of Ordination, the Bishop hands the newly-ordained Deacon the Book of the Gospels, exhorting him to “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Do you think this is only referring to the proclamation of the Gospel? It’s part of the Rite that the Deacon is imparted the grace to teach that which he has just proclaimed.

    Now, are you still certain that, theologically, Holy Orders aren’t necessary to preach the homily at Mass?

  26. annonymouse says:

    Oh, and if my research is correct, deacons are not ordained only for a “mission of service.” I’ve learned that deacons are ordained for a three-fold mission – word, sacrament and charity. The munis of “word” surely includes the office of preaching, does it not?

  27. BigE says:

    So what’s the bottom line here annonymouse?
    Are you saying that being ordained and being ontilogically changed automatically makes someone a “better” preacher than someone who hasn’t been ordained but was instead ontilogically changed at their Baptism?

  28. Bruce says:

    Annonymouse is correct. The deacon stands in personae Christi servis (as Christ the Servant, while priest and bishop stand in personae Christi capits – as Christ the Head). But Holy Orders is one Sacrament, albeit with three levels. Preaching the Word belongs to those in Holy Orders. And, BigE, ontological change occurs when a man receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders as well.

    But ordination neither guarantees holiness or competence. In the case of the former, we have plenty of evidence of rotten bishops, priests, deacons, and even popes throughout the history of the Church. The first pope, St. Peter, even denied that he knew Our Lord. In the case of the latter, there are some ordained men who are legendary orators and preachers, and many more who are miserable at it. I don’t think it is a surprise that, given the numbers, there are likely far more excellent preachers among the laity than the ordained. But competence or lack thereof is not why a bishop, priest, or deacon preaches. They do so because of what they are – standing in the Person of Christ within the Mass. This does not prevent a lay person from giving a reflection following Mass or outside of Mass, but because Christ set up His Church in this manner, the tasks within the Mass, including preaching the Word, are reserved to those whom He has chosen as His ambassadors and representatives. Again, this is the Church.

  29. raymondfrice says:

    “but because Christ set up His Church in this manner”.


  30. raymondfrice says:


    “Perhaps you would next advocate that the ordained might be permitted to confect the Eucharistic Sacrifice?”

    Don’t they already do this as ordained priests ?

  31. annonymouse says:

    Good catch, Raymond. I meant, of course, “non-ordained!”

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