This Sunday when I went to Mass there was a guest priest, someone I’d never seen before. As soon as I head him speak, I knew there was going to be trouble. While everyone as saying the Gloria, this is what the priest said:
Glory to God in the highest
And peace to
God’s people on earth.
“Oh, great,” I thought. “We’re already off to a bad start.”
Things went downhill from there.
Not only did Fr. Gender Edit tamper with the Gloria, he also was seemingly unaware of the existence of the subjunctive mood in English. Thus whenever the text called for him to say, “The Lord be with you,” he would instead say, “The Lord is with you.”
This is wrong for so many reasons. While it is true that the Lord is always with us in one sense—actually, in several senses—it is also true that the Lord is not with us in other senses and that there are senses in which he is sometimes with us and sometimes not. For example, he’s not always with us the way he is in the Eucharist. Christ’s Real Presence disappears once the appearances of bread and wine cease.
There are also senses in which the Lord can choose to be with us or choose not to be—for example, he is certainly with us in a particular way when we are doing his will but not when we are sinning.
Priests who chuck the subjunctive “The Lord be with you” in favor of the indicative “The Lord is with you” are presumably wanting to assure the flock of God’s presence, but what they’re actually doing is falsifying the liturgy, not just by tampering with the approved text but also by speaking presumptuously on behalf of God. It is precisely those senses in which God can choose to be with us (or not) that the Church intends in this greeting. That’s why the Church uses the subjunctive mood here—which is used in this case to express a wish or desire. By offering this greeting, the priest is asking God to bless us. He’s praying for us in the greeting.
By using the indicative mood—which is used to express actual states of affairs—the priest is not praying for us but announcing a result, which means either that he is speaking of one of those senses in which God is always with us (changing and flattening the meaning of the greeting) or he is presuming upon God’s free choice. Either way, it’s bad.
It’s also bad because we are supposed (for the next year and a bit) to respond by saying, “And also with you.” (Come Advent 2011, though, it’ll be the more literal, “And with your spirit.”)
This means that the priest is not only altering the meaning of what he’s saying, he’s also forcing a shift in meaning on what we say. The meaning of our response is conditioned by his greeting, and so to say, “And also with you” would mean “And the Lord is also with you.”
In other words, he’s forcing upon us his own modification of meaning and expecting us to make it our own via the reply.
A friend of mine pointedly refuses to give the response when a priest does this, and frankly, I do too. I just keep my mouth shut. The priest may have the power to deform the liturgy at this point, but that doesn’t mean I have to vocally affirm him in doing so.
Fr. Gender Edit’s defiant refusals to say what the Missal says for him to say, though, were peccadillos compared to what he did in the homily.
You may recall that the Gospel for the day was Luke 13:22-30, wherein our Lord is asked the question of whether those who are saved will be few and he replies,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”
So. . . . Salutary warning about the possibility of damnation, right? Not in Fr. Gender Edit’s hands! He got up and completely un-preached this passage. He started by talking about how the question raises Jesus’ “nightmare scenario” (Fr. Edit’s words)—the idea that even one soul might not be saved, and which he came to earth in order to prevent. The question thus revealed the anxiety of the one who asked it, but Jesus reassured him.
No comment whatsoever on the “many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” or “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!” Following Ludwig Wittgenstein, that which he could not speak of, Fr. Gender Edit passed over in silence.
Which raises the question: Why did he feel the need to subvert the Gospel reading of the day in this way? It wasn’t just a question of soft-peddling its message. It was completely reversing what the text was emphasizing.
So not only did Fr. Edit feel free to tamper with the prayers of the Mass, he also felt free to counter the text of sacred Scripture.
I hate to say it, but when a priest does this—especially with the possibility of damnation—one can’t help but wonder if there is a psychological dynamic of bad conscience at work. One can’t help but wondering if he has some moral fault—perhaps one of the various kinds of priestly moral faults that have so often appeared in the press in recent years—that makes it unendurable for him to acknowledge the possibility of damnation.
However that may be, it’s just a sad situation.
And it was made sadder when, as the Communion hymn, they did “I Am the Bread of Life”—a modern composition that has been systematically stripped of any and all gender references, despite the fact that it is based on John 6, where such references are used.
I tell you, the better you know Scripture, the more awful that song is, because it just grates on the nerves hearing the word of God systematically neutered, one line after another, in the service of a socio-political agenda. (And that’s even if you can get past singing line after line in the voice of Jesus.)
This song—especially its gender edited version—is another which I just keep my mouth shut for.
I’m sure that, as a visiting priest, Fr. Gender Edit had nothing to do with the selection of that song, but it was ironic and depressing that they picked for that particular Mass.
What I wonder, though, is what Fr. Gender Edit and his ilk will do come Advent 2011, when the new translation of the Roman Missal will go into effect (it has now been announced).
Over the last decade plus, the Holy See has been using a step-by-step approach to improve the quality of the liturgy, and it has been bearing fruit. Things aren’t as bad now as they were fifteen years ago. Not hardly.
But the new translation of the Mass will be a particularly big step, and I wonder what dissidents like Fr. Gender Edit will do when it gets here.
What are your thoughts?