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My priest has been making unauthorized additions and changes to the Sacramentary during Mass. Some things are small and subtle (for example, saying “unnecessary” anxiety in the embolism to the Lord’s Prayer, or saying “friends” instead of disciples in the Eucharistic prayers), and other things are more serious, such as making up his own Penitential Rite and Dismissal. When I told him about this, he looked really angry and said that God is a loving God who doesn’t send us to hell if we don’t do every little thing “right.” The next day he gave a homily attacking people who were judgmental, calling them proud and arrogant. What do you make of this? Was I wrong?

Outline of the Answer
• Pride and Arrogance
• Psychological Faults
• Warning, not Judgment

Well, it’s true, God won’t condemn that priest just for saying the “wrong” words. God is a loving God, and He doesn’t send anyone to hell for any reason. But that’s not the whole story. The full truth is that there is a hell, and that many of us send themselves to hell by their own unrepentant sins.

Pride and Arrogance

That priest, therefore, is guilty of his own pride and arrogance—the very pride and arrogance that leads him into disobedience and causes him to disregard the rubrics. For what else is it but pride that causes someone to set his own will against the will of the Church?


Whenever we perform a liturgical action, our virtue is not in the details of the action itself but in our willing to be good servants who do only what they are supposed to do (see Luke 17:7–10). Following the rubrics with precision is an act of loving service to God; to ignore the rubrics, or, even worse, to disobey them, is an act of pride by which we serve our own will, not God’s will. It doesn’t matter what we think about the rubrics; all that matters is that we surrender ourselves to carrying them out with loving precision. Carelessness walks the same path as disobedience, a path that takes you right into the service of the devil and his motto: “Do what thou wilt.”


Sadly, that priest is blind to his own psychology. He thinks he is serving God, but unconsciously he is really serving the devil. He thinks he loves God, but unconsciously he really hates Him. The anger you saw in him only proves the point.


If you call a man a liar and he really isn’t a liar, he will just look at you with a puzzled expression and say, “What are you talking about?” But if he really is a liar, he will glare at you and say, “Take that back—or else!” 


In other words, it’s human psychology to attack others for reminding us of our own faults.[1]

Psychological Faults

Therefore, consider the psychological faults that this priest may be pushing away when he disregards the rubrics. 


Is he so angry that his parents constantly threatened him with hell for being a “bad boy” that he finds it repugnant to be reminded of his grievous sins? Thus he words the Penitential Rite to create the belief that sin doesn’t exist, that our personal failures are nothing more than social mistakes,[2] and that everyone will go to heaven.


Does he so resent the hypocritical authority held over him by his parents that he detests the idea that Christ instituted an awesome divine mystery? Thus he reduces the divine hierarchy to mutual friendship.

Is he so aware of the lack of confidence and anxiety that he felt as a child, and so aware that he is still anxious because he really does not trust God completely, that he needs to believe that some anxiety is “necessary” in life and that real trust in God is not only impossible but foolish? 

Is he so afraid of his inability to follow Christ’s commands that he tries to reduce the profound obligations of a Christian life to easy acts of social friendship? Thus, rather than having the spiritual confidence to dismiss the people with a command,[3] he invites [4] them to be friends.

Consequently, when that priest disregards the rubrics and pushes away the truth of his own faults, he attacks God with sins of pride and arrogance—and those sins, unless repented, will condemn him before God on the day of his judgment.

Warning, not Judgment

Note, however, that your warning others of their faults is not an attack; nor is it judgmental. In fact, as is made clear in the book of Ezekiel, God expects us to warn others of their sins, and He will hold us accountable if we fail in this responsibility.

Furthermore, when someone spurns your warning, it will break your heart, but at least you will be in good company: you will be on the Cross with Christ Himself.


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1. Although this is natural behavior—that is, the result of our fallen nature—Christ calls us to overcome our natural behavior with humble surrender to divine service. Accepting correction gracefully and peacefully is a fundamental aspect of Christian life. Sadly, as is evidenced by their behavior (rather than what they say), all too many priests and deacons in the Church today are afraid to live a Christian life.

2. For example, ignoring the three approved options for the Penitential Rite and making up something of one’s own, such as, “For the times we have been inconsiderate of others, Lord have mercy . . . ” Following this logic, why not say, “For the times we have forgotten to take out the garbage, Lord have mercy . . . ”?

3. “Ite missa est!” is a command. So are the approved English equivalents: “Go in the peace of Christ.” or “The Mass is ended, go in peace.” or “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

4. As in saying, “Let us go . . . ” instead of “Go . . .”


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