The Protestantization of the Church

A few weeks ago, at the end of Mass, our pastor made some announcements, among which was that on November 1, there would be a children’s mass at 8:15, and also a 5:00 Mass at a neighboring church, St. Catherine’s. No mention was made that this was the feast of All Saints, or that it was a Holy Day of Obligation.

On the feast, at 5:00, a group of about thirty of us, mostly oldsters, gathered outside St. Catherine’s for Mass. We waited until 5:15. Nothing. Some made calls on their cell phone. The upshot was that for some reason the priest was not going to show up. So we began to drift away. A deacon who was present joked that we’re all going to go to hell, because of the priest’s negligence.

But we’re talking here about a parish (St. Sebastian’s) with 4,136 families as of 2010, only thirty of whom came for the Holy Day.

Does anyone attend Mass anymore on Holy Days? From what I hear, my diocese (Milwaukee) is more liberal than others. Our pastor mentioned in one of his homilies before the last presidential election that he was a member of Voice of the Faithful and Call to Action – which gave us a clue about his political and theological leanings. But there were no parishioners from St. Catherine’s among us on Tuesday. I haven’t investigated other parishes, but my impression is that attendance at Holy Days has trickled to almost nothing.

I was taught, like most Catholics in the 1940s and 1950s, that holy days of obligation were a serious matter. Some would say that was simply the product of a strict Irish pastor and pre-Vatican II nuns in the elementary school. But Pope John Paul II in his 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies domini reiterated what I and others had been taught:  “The present Code of Canon Law [states that] ‘on Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to attend Mass.’ This legislation has normally been understood as entailing a grave obligation.”

The pope referred to section 2180 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, however, which some might find worded a bit ambiguously. It states, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.” But then, it continues in the following section, “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”

        All Saints Day by Wasilly Kandinsky, 1911

The possible ambiguity stems from the fact that section 2181 seems to be talking primarily about the Sunday Eucharist, which is categorized as a “day of obligation” like the Holy Days. “For this reason. . .” seems to refer to the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, not Holy Days. Some rewording might be in order.

But who would presume that the lackluster attendance at Holy Day celebrations is due to people noticing this possible ambiguity in the Catechism? Something deeper is taking place here.

My thoughts go back to the 1950s. Catholics presented a stark contrast to Protestants then. Catholics attended church on Sundays and Holy Days, and believed they committed mortal sin if they missed Mass for no grave reason on those days. They abstained from meat on Fridays, fasted from midnight before Communion, and these were considered serious laws – breach of them was matter for Confession (now, the “Sacrament of Reconciliation”). Nuns and priests were also identifiable on the street.

Then, in the 1960s, changes began to take place. No Friday abstinence (although some voluntary substitutions were recommended). Only one hour fasting before Communion. Nuns and priests in secular garb. Hardly any mention of sins from the pulpit, except sins of racism, sexism, homophobia, and non-inclusiveness. Certainly (in my experience), no mention of contraception or abortion as sins. Not many long lines for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And everybody comes up for Communion, row by row.

All this is well known. But gradually, it has become clear that something like a “Protestant reformation” has taken place within the Church, and our ecumenical attempts to get Protestants back into the unity of the Church seem in a way to be rather superfluous. We have rid ourselves of many of the things that had differentiated Catholics from Protestants. Catholic and Lutheran theologians after extensive dialogue have come to an official agreement and a Joint Declaration regarding “justification by faith,” the doctrine which for Luther was the cause of deep division between Catholics and Protestants.

Catholics certainly measure up to what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity,” like many Protestants. But what else would be required for bona fide union? Ah, yes:  Apostolic succession. The papacy. The Real Presence. 

Some efforts have been made in recent years to restore elements of Catholic identity. Some groups of nuns – the ones with the “different kind of ‘vocation crisis’” (too many applicants) – have enthusiastically embraced the wearing of the traditional habits of their order. In a growing number of dioceses the Latin Mass has become readily available. Most recently the new English translation of the liturgy beginning this Advent is an attempt to recapture linguistically the reverential atmosphere of the pre-Novus-Ordo Mass.

But to a great extent “the genie [of Catholic identity] is out of the bottle.” And the negligence regarding Holy Days of Obligation is a significant symptom of the problem. If the bishops of the United States do not want non-observance of Holy Days to be a “grave sin,” they have the power of dispensation and should utilize it.

Otherwise, our thousands of parishioners going to Communion next Sunday should get some additional catechizing – in addition to the regular instructions on “social justice.”


Howard Kainz

Howard Kainz

Howard Kainz, Emeritus Professor at Marquette University, is the author of twenty-five books on German philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and religion, and over a hundred articles in scholarly journals, print magazines, online magazines, and op-eds. He was a recipient of an NEH fellowship for 1977-8, and Fulbright fellowships in Germany for 1980-1 and 1987-8. His website is at Marquette University.

  • Patrick

    The results of “opening the windows of the Church” have been mixed. On the plus side, I do not think there is any reason to insist on using any one particular language (especially one in which none of the Bible is written), nor on Greco-Roman or Gothic architecture, particularly in East Asia and Africa. Vatican II, it seems to me, was supposed to de-emphasize things such as the Latin language and European aesthetics that are historical custom, and not a matter of faith or morals, in order to allow the Church to prosper in the wake of Europe’s 20th c. self-destruction and in non-European civilizations. (Especially those in East Asia that already have a highly advanced cultural, ethical, and aesthetic sensibility.) In that respect, it has been fruitful: the Church has grown 70% in S. Korea in the past decade. If Koreans were forced to have Masses in Latin, and to build churches only in Greco-Roman “Classical” style, I doubt that would have happened, as it would (rightly, in my opinion) have been seen as Western cultural imperialism. Christ, if he belonged to any ethnic tribe, was a Jew, not a European.

    Unfortunately, not everyone seems able to distinguish between local, tribal ethnic customs and indisputable Catholic dogma. Give them an inch and they take a mile, it seems. I imagine that the reasoning behind, for example, relaxing the fasting requirement was that it had become a mechanical, purely formal, operation. There were people (particularly those of Irish and Italian descent) who viewed going to Confession and Mass as akin to settling one’s accounts at the bank. It didn’t matter how many people you murdered the week prior, as long as you made Confession, it was all gravy. There was absolutely no interior struggle, and I think that’s something we no longer have post-Vatican II. It does appear that we have now reached the opposite extreme, elevating the interior to an idol, and the pendulum has changed direction. It is time for a more rigorous attention to ritual purity, yes, but let’s not get nostalgic for the past.

  • Bangwell Putt

    The situation described by Professor Kainz has as its deep root a loss of love for the Church and her sacraments as the “genesis of mission” through the power of the Holy Spirit. The sacraments strengthen us for service and the giving of self in obedience to God. They are the indispensable first step on the path of humble, rightly understood service which follows “a path of obedience and love”. Worship first; service follows.

  • Manfred

    Thank you for sharing your epiphany, Prof. Kainz. The Novus Ordo church was never intended to be Catholic. The rupture with two thousand years of Sacred Tradition was intentional with a generic “Christianity” as its goal. It succeeded. I have a Korean couple (he-doctor, she-nurse) who converted from Methodism to the Novus Ordo in the U.S. When I congratulated them, they could not explain why they had bothered-the liturgies and the homilies all seemed the same. Pope Benedict is criticized for “going back” to the pre-Novus Ordo religion. He has to. As Prof Kainz points out above, there is nothing left.

  • William Z

    While some like to believe that America isn’t a Christian country anymore, the reality is America is nominally Protestant historically, and American Catholics have acquired poor religious thinking and habits that way.

  • David W

    During my adult life as a Catholic, in many different parishes, I have never seen an instance where a Holy Day of Obligation was neglected. None of these parishes were of the Extraordinary form of the Mass. So I think it is Hasty Generalization to claim that the neglect the author experienced is widespread, and a post hoc fallacy to claim the Ordinary Form of the Mass causes this neglect.

    It is disappointing to see certain advocates for the Extraordinary Form misrepresent the intent of the Holy Father in reforming the Mass. The Holy Father is not making “an attempt to recapture linguistically the reverential atmosphere of the pre-Novus-Ordo Mass” as the author put it. He is making the Ordinary Form of the Mass in English match the Latin form of that Mass as it should have been done in the first place. Remember the problem is with the English version of the Ordinary Form.

    As to the author’s comments on Canon 2181, it seems clear to me that it says Holy Days are just as binding in obligation as Sundays are.

    Ultimately I believe the problems the Church faces with dissent is not the “Protestantization” of the Church, but the fact that the dissent of the 1960s arose from the worldwide rejection of authority, secular and religious — a rejection that Popes Paul VI, Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have strove to correct.

  • Dave

    A terrible polemic has ensued since the now superannuated silliness of the sixties and seventies in which it has been widely assumed that before the Council, the practice of the Faith was dark and grim. One need only look at the videos of Bishop Fulton Sheen, as one example, to see how untrue that polemic is, or consider the rate at which the Church expanded both institutionally and numerically, measured by number of vocations, number of parishes, number of educational, health care, and social service institutions, etc. The Church offered then a much more tangible alternative to the consumerist mentality that even then was gaining foothold, especially in the aftermath of the Second World War.

    Sure there were problems in the pre-Conciliar Church: the resolution of our problems is, may I suggest, man’s vocation, as that effort requires the use of our God-given reason, enlightened by divine revelation, to meet the challenges that confront us. What was visible then and what is less visible now is the joy of the Faith; and we who hold to the traditional and orthodox practice of the Faith have allowed ourselves to become bamboozled by the widespread negligence of the clergy to teach effectively even its rudiments and by the abandonment of those markers that once characterized the Catholic faithful: abstinence on Fridays, Confession on Saturdays, the Eucharistic fast from midnight on Saturday, abstention from Communion when one judges oneself unworthy to receive, as examples that Prof. Kaintz has cited in his article.

    Nothing stops the Catholic faithful from living those practices. And nothing stops the Catholic faithful from proclaiming, with the monks, nuns, and religious who wholeheartedly and joyfully embrace the traditional practices, with all the self-abnegation, austerity, and discipline that they entail, that the Catholic Faith is the surest path to joy and the fullest possible measure of fulfillment in this life.

    My call here, as I have written before, is that we laity take our place in the New Evangelization. To do this, and with all respect to Professor Kaintz, we have to shake off our pessimism and sorrow at the state of affairs we have inherited, live the Faith with its traditional austerities and then, when people ask us what is our secret, be ready to answer for the hope that is within us.

    This is a monumental task, to be sure. I am fortunate to live in a diocese — Arlington, VA — where many people do embrace the Faith in its austerities — and we are fortunate that the Diocese is growing, the clergy are strong, and the faithful are happy. So the task is somewhat easier here: somewhat, because we live in the metropolitan area of Washington, DC, where the attacks against the Church grow in size, number, and openness.

    But that leads me to my second motive for hope (the first being that as we embrace and transmit the Faith by living its austerities, we grow in hope): the Church grows in number and shines in the darkness no more than when she is being persecuted.

    So I want to conclude by urging that we not give in to the temptation to sadness and despair. The Ancient Enemy uses sadness and despair as motives to decrease our hope, our joy, and our confidence that however weak our own correspondence may be, God never abandons us as long as we are seeking insofar as we can to grow daily in our correspondence to his graces. We should laugh at him — that wounds his colossal pride, for he wants nothing so much as to be taken very, very seriously, and it diminishes his effective power. We are about to enter the most amazing Advent any of us have lived since the Novus Ordo was instituted, as we are about to live the reforms that render the translations accurately, instead of more or less (for more or less is always less).

    And I conclude with the Apostle’s exhortation, “rejoice, for the Lord is at hand.”

    There is plenty left — all the resources are available through the web — and more is coming. The Lord never forsakes those who seek him with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

    Peace to all who read these lines.

  • Jim Thunder

    Row after row go up to Communion: I am opposed to a one-hour fast because it is so short that it offers no “cover” for those who are in mortal sin and would not go to Communion. With a 3-hour fast, or a fast from midnight, if someone did not go up to Communion, it could be that the person was in mortal sin — or had broken his fast. // As to holydays, I agree with George Weigel that there should be more, not fewer, holydays, and his suggestion that the Feast of the North American Martyrs be a new one. // In whatever city I’m in for Ash Wednesday, the downtown churches are packed for Mass. It is a holy day without the designation, and perhaps better that it isn’t designated. // I am opposed to standing, rather than kneeling, for the Confiteor, Kyrie and Agnus Dei. Our posture of standing does not reflect sorrow, suffering, disobedience, but independence and pride.

  • Gary Loverich

    To simplify: I think this is part of the problem. Pre-V2 we were taught that only good Catholics might make it to heaven. Post V2 we were taught that Protestants could make it to heaven also. Along with this, some of the rules Catholics followed were relaxed, implying that they were un-necessary requirements. A God of infinite love, surely would not condemn us for a few missed holy days of obligation,especially since so many other greater sins occurred in our lifetime. If protestants could make it into heaven by believing what they wanted instead of what the Church wanted, why couldn’t Catholics even if the transgressions were “relatively” few? Hence our now relaxed Catholic practices. I still don’t understand the Churches teaching on non-catholics getting to heaven, but I do understand the Church as the authentic Christian truth and try to follow its teachings rather than my own understanding. The law of entropy applied to societies (and our Church) suggests that unless rules are constantly upheld and explained by active authority they eventually degrade to relaxed rules or no rules at all until the next rule making authority takes over. Is there a bright spot; Yes, the Holy Spirit guides us.

  • Tony Esolen

    One of the joys of my boyhood was the observation of the Holy Days. Not only did we get a day off from school, while the pitiable kids in the public schools were languishing indoors, but we got to celebrate something special — it felt, to me, like a scattering of parties across the dusty year. But the bishops themselves helped to ruin our sense of the calendar by dispensing us from the observation of the Holy Day if it should happen to fall on a Saturday or a Monday, or by transferring the Mass to Sunday. They tacitly accepted the premise of the secular world, that a work day was an unfortunate necessity, and that we all looked forward to the Great Weekend.

    I could wish for a three-hour fast before Communion. That would, practically, imply a morning fast on Sunday, but it would make it possible for somebody to eat breakfast and then go to a Mass at noon or later. The hour fast degenerates into a directive not to be eating cookies during the homily.

  • Howard Kainz

    @David W: I wouldn’t say that “the Pope is trying to recapture the reverential atmosphere.” This is just a comment on the possible effect of the new translation, and perhaps the intention of the translators.

  • Maggie K

    Mr. Kainz, I appreciate you! I’ve just read you in the latest NOR (New Oxford review), and I , also being from Milwaukee and currently living here, couldn’t help but wonder if the members of the Theology Dept at Marquette are anywhere near as solid as is this one member of the Philosophy Dept! We do have a long way to go yet here in this Archdiocese in particular.

  • Randall Smith

    I don’t want to comment on this situation as representing a whole slew of problems in the Church — it may or may not — but I do want to echo the author’s complaint about this past All Soul’s. Everyone I knew had trouble figuring out whether it was being considered a Holy Day of Obligation this year or not — a problem brought on, in part, by the “dispensing” of Holy Days when they fall too close to a Sunday. I also had trouble finding an All Souls mass. Several churches that listed mass times for “Holy Days of Obligation” on their web sites were not open. When I found one that was, the number of attendees was, well, painfully small.

    What’s the deal? Did the local ordinaries get so busy with endless meetings that they forgot about the liturgical year? Do we need to send them a memo that Advent is coming? You’d think they’d have these things programmed into their “smart” phones: a little alarm that sounds the Sunday before a weekly Holy Day and blinks: Holy Day, Remind People to Go! Then when they press the “Stop” button, it should automatically go to a second screen that reads: “Keep first things first.” And beneath that, there should be another valuable little admonition, this one from the Benedictine Rule, that reads: “Let nothing be preferred to the work of God.”

  • Manfred

    Great comments!!! Let us focus on one subject: Contraception.
    About a dozen years ago I asked Abp Stafford, then of Denver, “Is contraception still a mortal sin?” After a long pause in which he stared (glared?) at me, he finally answered “Objectively, yes.” Do you readers have any idea how central the subject of contraception was to being Catholic? It was the Protestants and non-believers who contracepted, while we Catholics were forbidden to contracept under the pain of suffering in Hell for eternity due to the mortal sinfulnees OF JUST ONE ACT. (BTW, my wife and I brought seven children into the world.) Now, if someone suggests that the Church was wrong on this subject which is so critical to every married Catholic’s life for the fecund years, then, quite frankly, the Church could be wrong about everything and we are all wasting our time! Was the tacit solution to this dilemma? universal salvation! Pro multis in the Consecration of the Precious Blood would be translated, not as “for many” as the original stated, but rather, FOR ALL. Nice and tidy. Of course, the “new” (old) translation is now FOR MANY as any first year Latin student will aver it always should have been. We have been deliberately defrauded of our birthright since 1970 with the Protestant mass (sic). “If the blind lead the blind, shall they both not fall into the pit?” The pit of course is Hell.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Randall Smith: I think you meant “All Saints.” “All Souls,” Nov. 2, is not a holy day. Yes, it seems to me that many bishops are simply resigned to the status quo in their diocese — namely, that the vast majority of Catholics consider holy days “above and beyond the call of duty.”

  • Other Joe

    One of the problems of the pre-Vatican II church was a steady drift towards legalism. There were actual discussions about how many ounces of meat eaten on a Friday would be a mortal as opposed to a venial sin. Legalism smothers reason. If a half an ounce was the difference between purgatory and hell, what about a quarter of an ounce? Jesus constantly rebuked legalism. He said that the law flowed from love of God and neighbor. Legalism is easier in all respects than love and fallen man often looks for the easy path. The outward signs are important part of the Catholic tradition and culture, but when outward signs are used as a yardstick for salvation great mischief ensues. In the ’60s there was an inversion. It seemed like a great change, but it was really just legalism reborn. Those who put abstract social good before actual persons (the Catholic who supports abortion in the name of social justice is just one dramatic example) are legalistic. It’s an old problem. We are losing a sense of right and wrong while becoming bitter over esthetic considerations – form over meaning. In the beginning was the Word. Form should follow meaning to support and express it. Form for its own sake is legalism.

  • John Abel

    Prof. Kainz – THANK YOU. This is a very insightful article. The last time I wrote a comment to TCT was to congratulate you on your excellent first article, some time ago. You’ve done it again and I hope you continue to contribute.

  • Fr Tran

    Mr. Kainz,

    Have you attended a Traditional Latin Mass at a Traditional Parish lately?
    I beg you to try. It may stir up your hope once again.

    Best regards,

    Fr Tran
    Portland, OR

  • James

    Prof. Kainz, I fully agree with your assertion that the American Church has become much more lax since Vatican II, but I ask everyone to keep up their hope, and for good reason: the All Saint’s mass celebrated at the parish I attend was literally packed, standing room only, with college students (myself included) comprising an enormous amount of the faithful therein. I am of the opinion that we are in the middle of a counter-reformation, where young people are adamantly Catholic and are joining with the great Catholic theologians and thinkers throughout the centuries. As Chesterton noted, the Church has undergone a series of “deaths,” but, like Her Master, does not die but rises again. Chesterton noted the rise of Islam, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformation as examples of these; the heterodoxy that has come in the last few decades is another. We can give glory to God, though, that the Rock of the Church will be like Our Lord and continue, sustaining us and bringing us closer to God.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Fr. Tran: I’ve served Latin Masses, and taught Latin, so I don’t need much convincing. But it’s a challenge, because of distance and family obligations.

  • Graham Combs

    Some months ago in the Michigan Catholic letters page I responded to a column by Effie Caldarola regarding the British Church’s return to meatless Fridays. I defended it in part as a necessary habit of faith. After all, despite the Church’s exhortations to “creative spirituality,” British Catholics had apparently replaced fish and chips with nothing. Surely a Holy Day of Obligation is one of those indispensible habits.

    Only last week I ran into a fellow parishoner who admitted at one point that she was attracted to the Episcopal Church (in which I had grown up). Women priests, divorce etc seemed to be the attractions. I mentioned a recent article on CNA reporting that ECUSA had lost another 200,000 members in the past decade. More importantly, I told her about a church bulletin from my boyhood parish that I also recently came across. The church now published the bulletin once a month with a single-page insert every Sunday. Virtually all new members were transfers from other Episcopal parishes. Also noted in the bulletin: Births:0; baptisms: 0; marriages:0. I suspect far more Episcopalians are become Catholics than Catholics become Episcopalians.

    If the Church thinks that further “protestantization” is an answer then I wonder what questions she has been asking. That catch phrase from the first decade of this century should be given a rest. “It’s all good;” no, not really.

    Personal confession: I used to find the Kiss of Peace much to similar to what Southern Baptists practiced in my mother’s church in the 1950s and 1960s. Another instance of the protestantization of the Church. Recently I read Patrick Leigh Fermor’s book on his stay at the St. Wandrille Abbey in France in the early 1950s — A TIME TO KEEP SILENCE. His description from the mass: “the kiss of peace passed like a whispered messenger down the stalls” among the monks in the 17th century chapter house. So I stand corrected as should apparently Catholic Daily Telegraph blogger Damien Thompson.

  • Thomas C. Coleman, Jr.

    Unless I’ve missed something here, no one has addrssed the question of the probable origins of these very improbable developments. Everyone seems to speak as if the profoudn changes in Catholic life and believe that hve been caried out under the obvious ruse of “The Spirit of Vatican II” happedn innocently and natrually the way an apple falls from a tree. We have the denigrattion of the Sacraments, most glarinly the Eucharist and Penance, but surely also Mtraimony by both contraception and the disrespect aimed at motherhood. The priesthood is treated as an elected office with term lmits that should open to all. all of these developments conform to the plans that we know sinister forces were going to enact becuase some of the evil doers rempented who told the world what there methods and objectives were. Could be with the sinister of designs that so few CAtholics even know who to say the Rosary. People graduate from CAtholic high schools thinking that the Two Great commandments are Remeber to recycle and don’t laugh at Ethnic Jokes. If we arer too afraid to proclaim that it is Satan working through human agency that promotes amnesia about Fatima then we are guioly of mortal cowardice.

  • Howard Kainz

    @Thomas C. Coleman: I touched on some of the issues you mention in my Oct. 8 column, “The Spirit of Vatican II.”

  • Marius

    “But to a great extent “the genie [of Catholic identity] is out of the bottle.”
    I think the opposite is the case – the “genius of Christianity”, as Chateaubriand would have it, is now IN the bottle, firmly corked up and put away on a remote shelf. But the bottle is slowly developing cracks…

  • Geo

    Between the problems described by Prof. Kainz and the hand-waving, the sickeningly inane praise and worship music, the speaking in tongues and the “baptism in the spirit” nonsense that is infecting the Church, it is hard to be optimistic about the future of Catholicism.

  • francis

    Change is coming, and it’s orthodoxy on the horizon. The young priests aren’t impressed with old school liberal claptrap. The Church never changed, people just thought it did. Don’t fret; springtime is in the forecast.

  • laura

    We who recall that Holy Days are not only an obligation but, please Lord, an opportunity to give thanks and be in intimate communion with Our Blessed Lord and Savior, should be polite, direct and firm with our Pastors! We who recall need to TEACH our fellow parishoners and PRAY for our priests. Believe me, your Priest will be uplifted by such an effort! In Christ- Laura

  • Howard Kainz

    @marius: I think you misunderstand my metaphor. In Arabian stories, when the magic genie gets out of the bottle, a lot of mischief can take place. Ive made a memo to myself to think twice about using metaphors.

  • Eric Brooks

    It shouldn’t be that surprising, considering 6 protestant ministers were invited to help write the new mass.

  • James Hughes

    What a great article! The same reasoning applies to us in Scotland. Here more effort goes into condemning our ownership of Trident missiles than in the insistence on catholic doctrine .In the seventies I used to call this behaviour being ‘Trendy” and I only recently discovered that a former pope called it ‘Modernism’. Last year All saints day fell on a monday and accordingly the hierarchy moved the feast to Sunday because it would be too much for the poor catholic souls to be coerced into going to mass two days running. Where did this lot get their education? In scotland people used to have to walk for three hours or so to attend mass, and that through rain,sleet and snow given our usually poor weather . Such was the depth of faith that the people did it. people and particularly the catholic church thrives in adversity. You only have to look at the strength of faith in the church in times of persecution,including eastern europe during the cold war and the reign of the nazis. Now we have become soft and yet we are still under attack for expounding the tenets of our faith – words like ‘hate crime ‘ or thought crime abound and people are actually being persecuted for speaking out against so-called gay marriage. I want a church where the hierarchy are real and brave leaders of their church because the old ‘pay , pray and obey’ days are over and no-one is going to follow the current crowd. The old adage ‘Lions led by donkeys ‘ seems to be the order of the day,for now.However Christ said ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (the church). Thank you god for Benedict XIV. AMDG.

  • TeaPot562

    In a number of dioceses in the USA, Holy Days of Obligation drop the “Obligation” part (and the additional masses!) if the Holy Day occurs on Saturday or Monday. The justification (rationalization if you prefer) is that we have too few priests in the diocese to preside – they are all worn out from presiding at 3 (or in some cases more) masses on Sunday. A cure for this problem would be more prayer and more fervent prayer for priestly vocations.

  • jay Everett

    If you want to see how much the Holy Days of Obligation have dropped off come to Georgia. In a parish of 700 families about 27 people will be there on Dec. 8th to celebrate the Immaculate Conception. Over 50% of our parish are Latinos who do not attend mass on this date. They are too busy trying to make “Our Lady of Guadalupe” into a holy day.

  • Tom T

    Thank you Professor Kainz for pointing this out. It needs to be said. We were warned of all this. St. Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi Domeninci Gregis defined progressivism as modernism and called it heresy. He devised an oath that priests and religious were required to take and it is my understanding that the oath was discontinued along with many other conservative practices by Pope Paul VI. As one commentator pointed out, he did invite six prostentant ministers to help with the new Mass. Much of the Post Conciliar Documents were ambiguous and open for, in my view, and yes I did read them, interpretation which seemed to sadly
    have happened. Much of this modernism that we were warned about, has seemed to drift to the left. Liberal interpretations of directives that come from Rome are excercised quite often by the USCCB. Just one example of that is the recent flap over Holy Communion under both forms. Communion under both forms was allowed as an experiment that expired in 2005. The bishops requested an extension via Cardinal Arinze of The Congregatio Culto Divino Disciplina Sacramentorum who rpresented the matter to the Holy Father in an audience granted on 9 June 2006 and recieved a response in the negative. Despite that, the USCCB Chairman of the Commitee on the Liturgy recalled the conciliar mandate for more frequent reception of Holy Communion under both forms as a fuller sign of the Eucharistic Banquet. Bottom line, the question was left to diocesan bishops who were then instructed to allow the discretion of the pastors of their respective parish to decide. So in other words, no from the Vatican; the Holy Father himself, dosen`t necessarily mean no. Of course this is only one example of the liberal spin that has overtaken the Church from the unchecked growth of secularistic progressivism. Pax.

  • Alan

    It doesn’t require “Protestantization” to drop the obligation of some Holy Days. The number of Holy Days of Obligation is a local matter under control of the bishop. Most (not all) of the Unites States observes six such days per year, which on the scale of things is on the rather aggressive side. In Canada and Australia, only two are observed. Are Canadian Catholics more Protestant than U.S. Catholics? It bothers me that the “universal” church has such random rules that vary by rite or location. Someone might well ask, “Why would I go to hell for behaving in Phoenix exactly the same way as a heaven-bound person from Winnipeg? The 49th parallel divides morality?”

    Also, just because there was a small gathering at St. Catherine’s, that doesn’t mean that those were the only people of 4,136 families from St. Sebastian’s who wanted to observe the obligation. Some might have attended different Masses. That’s not to say they all do; I recognized that even most of the regular Sunday attendees do not observe Holy Days. So why don’t they?

    When the notion of a Holy Day originated, in countries with an established Church, a Holy Day was indeed a holiday. A day of rest: no work, no school. Attending Mass was accommodated, and expected by society. In our secular society, most people don’t have the day off work or school, like they do on Sunday. I try to attend on Holy Days by manipulating my scheduling. But most churches around my area do not add extra Masses for the Holy Day, offering only the regular daily 8am or noon, which do not work for me. If they add a 4 or 5pm Mass, that’s hardly any better. It becomes an almost frantic online treasure hunt to find a local church with a Mass when I can attend.

    That’s not to say that people shouldn’t put in the effort. But regardless of the activity, from attending Mass to attending school, from shopping to volunteering, from playing to working, the more difficult a task is to accomplish, the fewer people will (or can) do it. In a nutshell, it was just plain easier in the past to attend Mass on a Holy Day.

  • Tom T

    I believe the question of Holy day obligations is just one example used here to demonstrate a problem with the leadership of the Church which you have effectively described
    isolated and pointed out correctly, and that is, the decentralization, if you will, of authority with regard to norms to be followed not only with regard to liturgy but even the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass, as seen and experienced by many in abuses in various locations not only in Canada but in the United States. It was stated by Cardinal Koch, the Vatican`s top ecumenist,that Pope Benedict XVI thinks the post-Vatican II liturgical changes have brought “many positive fruits” but also problems, including a focus on purely practical matters and a neglect of the paschal mystery in the Eucharistic celebration. One thing that might be important to point out here is, the fact that, in previous times duties and obligations were not so much in the interest and convenience of the Faithful, but were meant, never the less, to be observed. The reversal of the mindeset of the Faithful demanding what should be observed and not, is in my view a product of decentralization of authority prompted by modernistic secularization of society that is evident most everywhere paricularly in Austria, Australia, Great Britan and other places as well, which is one of the many reasons the Holy Father had to issue a letter (Universae Ecclesia) to support and clarify Summorum Pontificum, which I don`t believe he should have had to do. Part of the breakdown in this country, aside from the reasons I mentioned, is the mixed messages that seem to come from the USCCB again, the lack of uniformity of directives that leave many questions open and at the discretion of the local pastor. There are many examples I could demonstrate here to support my point but they are all part of the larger problem of which the Holy day of obligation celebration is just one an example of. Pax.

  • Albert P

    We are witnessing our Catholic Church plagued with Modernism within the heirarchy of our Church trickling down to the Faithful, the worst of all heresies. The Oath Against Modernism taken by every ordained priest pre Vatican II, was rescinded during the time of Vatican II. These times have been forewarned by reliable Popes; St Pius X and Leo XIII 100 years ago. Study their encyclicals. Attend the Trindentine Mass where you will find a deeper sense of the Sacred and a probable call back to Tradition. Is an apostasy occuring? If so, as a result the Conciliar Church will become irrelvant. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Catholic Church even if but 300 will be holding faithfully to the Sacred Traditions of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  • Dylan

    At our parish in Oshkosh, Holy Day attendance is great.

    Also, as a MU alum, its great to see the Philosophy Dept still has profs like Dr. Kainz – faithful and wise!

  • fxkelli

    Given the deep sense of devotion and spiritualism I’ve seen at some evangelical services, I find it hard to believe that God would find these people or their style of worship offensive to Him.

  • Rob Newland

    I take great offense in the author’s use of Protestantism of the Catholic Church, as implying that the Catholic Church has become colloquially “watered down” in its religious acumen. For the most part, Protestants in general have a more advid and ardent understanding of the bible in sharp contrast to Catholics in America. When you compare most Protestants to catholic parishioners, 9 out of 10 times the Protestant will be better versed in the bible than any Catholic I have met.

    Secondly, Catholics place too much religious ceremonial aspects to their religious life than the purity of what the bible teaches us. True Protestants, that is, truly spiritual ones, rely solely on the words and teachings of the bible and less if not any at all, the ritual aspects of church dogma. That is why there was a schism to begin with.

    I am not excoriating the Catholic Church but I would like to make some contrast in this forum as to the offense of Protestants. It is not nice, I will guess, when some of you Catholics will read what I am stating here, will be offended. Don’t throw stones or judge others. Isn’t that somewhere in the bible!!!! So let’s get our facts straight.

    Protestants are just as religious as Catholics. In reality, Protestants are more sagacious in God’s word. We read the bible in our church services except for a few of the traditional protestant churches.

    A lot of what is discussed here is no where to be found in God’s teaching. What are you guys so concerned with, with regards to how the Pope changes words to a reading or passage!!! The pope and the writers within the Catholic Church should just stick to the words taught in the bible as pure to it as it can be. And keep to the meaning of what God is saying through the good news.

  • Jordan

    Interesting article, I have to agree with Rob here, and thank you for that statement (Rob). It actually makes me happy to see a revival of faith in younger Catholics today, who do not make the Vatican their saviour, but who make Christ the first in their hearts. The Church for them is secondary to that love for Christ. When Christ becomes first in our hearts, we do not do acts of charity out of obligation, but out of love. And if that is the case, then yes there is a stronger bond between Protestants and Catholics. Christ did not come to establish disunity, but to create a bond of unity in all those who love and submit to Him. I do not think there will ever be a reconciliation between the Protestants and Catholics, but I do believe there will be a day when Christ ushers in all those who know Him, all those who serve Him, and those who have toiled to produce fruits in His name. That is the day when all of God’s people will worship His name alone. I myself am a Protestant, but that is second to who I truly am- Christian.

    On Sundays, we often recite this statement in our church

    I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

    I may disagree with Catholic doctrine, but when it comes to Christ as my saviour, then yes I agree with you. And by doing so I participate in the communion of the saints.

  • Meri Lee Testa

    About Holy Days of Obligation. I have to agree with the Cath from Georgia. I am from Georgia and I will agree with him, that out of a parish of about 800 folks, maybe 20 or so, if that attend the minor holy days. We attend Mass in Winder, Georgia. I think personally, the church makes too big of a deal about whether their flocks attend holy days. I did when I went to Catholic grade school back in the day, but must admit, the last one I attended as an adult, was All Saints, the day after Halloween.