Monday, October 9, 2017
Abuse and abuse. . .
Reading regularly a popular Roman Catholic blog, I read all the time the complaints of lay attentive to the liturgy and of priests who violate the canons in their practice. Once, for example, a writer4 complained that the deacon did not add water to the several chalices being used in the distribution but only the priest's chalice. The blogger described this as an abuse, even a serious abuse but not one that would make the wine invalid material for the Sacrament. The same fellow described the use of a glass chalice as an abuse. He also warned of the abuse of priests who deviate from the words of the mass or the rubrical canons regarding that mass. On another occasion, he indicated that anger over liturgical abuse can be justified but it was important not to wallow in that anger.
Abuse is defined as the improper use of something or unjust or corrupt practice or a cruel or violent treatment of something or someone. So, with the leeway within the definition we might describe with the same word someone who fails to add water to additional chalices but does so to the priest's chalice AND the person who abuses altar boys or slaps around women or yells at lay people. I think you can see the problem. Abuse becomes everything or nothing at all. It is not the word's fault but the way we use that word.
An abuse ought to be serious enough that it causes the faithful to be concerned about the validity or efficacy of the means of grace. Some practices are not good or right or salutary but they do not affect either the actual validity of the Sacrament nor do they raise questions in the minds and hearts of the people receiving it. I fear that we are bantering about a word in such a way that the most egregious violations or propriety and form are in essence minimized while the small and less consequential violations are raised to a level of seriousness/offense they should not possess.
So while it is not best practice to have non-ordained assist the ordained in the distribution of the Sacrament it is clearly not an abuse that raises questions about the efficacy of that Sacrament when one deviates from the elements the Lord used or alters or omits the Verba Christi from the consecration of those elements. All I am saying is that we need to take case with how we use terms. If we use them wrongly, they make every little thing an abuse or nothing, no matter how serious, an abuse. We just need to watch how it is we speak of such things. Addressing them wrongly does not at all help the case with the more serious examples or problems while it can make liturgical folks out to be ridgid, unbending, and uncaring folks. Having non-ordained assist in the distribution is less abusive, for example, than tinkering with the elements in the Lord's Supper and using apple juice in place of wine.
How we address things is clearly important as well as the things themselves. We run the risk of minimizing serious things and of straining at gnats over the small things.