A frequent visitor to this blog sent me an email with the following observation, lament and question:

Growing up, I was taught never to question the authority of the Church.   Now that I am 31 years old, I have begun researching certain practices I’ve seen since I was a child.   These include WOMEN lectors, WOMEN alter servers, and WOMEN Extraordinary Ministers.


All these practices seem to have one thing in common: they seem to have been allowed “only in cases of genuine necessity.”But one would never know this by their widespread use.   I feel … used and abused.  It is difficult for me to understand how such rampant abuses could thrive.
They are obeying neither the SPIRIT nor the LETTER of the law when they allow these practices without just cause: or am I wrong?
I know that he is not a misogynist.  He is happily married with a professional wife and two children.  So what is his problem?
Simply put, his problem is the same problem all faithful Catholics are having this first quarter of the Twenty-first Century:  trying to find a comfort level in a rapidly changing world.  It seems that everything ‘is up for grabs’ to use a slang expression.  And when I write “everything” I mean EVERYTHING!
The changes may have begun before the Second World War but I believe that that War changed everything for western civilization.  With millions and millions of people dying in genocide and as war casualties I suspect that it was inevitable that people consciously, or unconsciously, began to question the core beliefs of western civilization.  So ‘intellectuals’ influenced by the philosophical writings of the existential philosophers began to challenge the basic assumptions that underlay much of the social fabric of western societies.
In the United States the sexual revolution began.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Alfred C. Kinsey published two surveys of modern sexual behaviour. In 1948 Alfred C. Kinsey and his co-workers, responding to a request by female students at Indiana University for more information on human sexual behavior, published the book Sexual behaviour in the Human Male. They followed this five years later with Sexual behaviour in the Human Female. These books began a revolution in social awareness of, and public attention given to, human sexuality.

It is said that at the time, public morality severely restricted open discussion of sexuality as a human characteristic, and specific sexual practices, especially sexual behaviours that did not lead to procreation. Kinsey’s books contained studies about controversial topics such as the frequency of homosexuality, and the sexuality of minors aged two weeks to fourteen years. Scientists working for Kinsey reported data which led to the conclusion that people are capable of sexual stimulation from birth. Furthermore, Kinsey’s method of researching sexuality differs significantly from today’s methods. Kinsey would watch his research subjects engage in sexual intercourse, sometimes engaging with his subjects as well. He would also encourage his research team to do the same, and encouraged them to engage in intercourse with him, too.

These books laid the groundwork for Masters and Johnson‘s life work. A study called Human Sexual Response in 1966 revealed the nature and scope of the sexual practices of young Americans.

– Wikipedia


The civil rights movement brought radical changes in society as the evil of racism was confronted and began to be conquered .Cohabitation began to be acceptable by society.  No fault divorce drastically lowered the percentage of Americans who were married.                                                                                          Dr. Rock’s pill began to wreak havoc on sexual responsibiity for both married and unmarried individuals.                                                                                    Abortion-on-demand became legal in New York and soon spread across the Nation until it was legitimized by Roe v Wade.                                                               The Vietnam War produced a generation of hippies, yippies, yappies, you name it, who chose to live by their own rules.                                                        Hollywood and television abandoned the Hayes Code and began to produce more and more sexually explicit entertainment.   The LGBT activists have succeeded in making homosexual acts respectable and same-sex ‘marriage’ legal.


The common theme running through all of the phenomena I have just listed is a contempt for existing rules or law.

The paradox is that while on the one hand many people were crying “There ought to be a law” to render activity they deemed unacceptable, on the other hand many people were crying “Get rid of old-fashioned, outmoded laws and ways of thinking!”  Amazingly that very expression was written into the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Califano v Goldfarb by Justice William Brennan who earlier had voted with the majority in the Roe v Wade decision

Califano v. Goldfarb, 430 U.S. 199 (1977), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that the different treatment of men and women mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 402(f)(1)(D) constituted invidious discrimination against female wage earners by affording them less protection for their surviving spouses than is provided to male employees, and therefore violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Wikipedia).  In his plurality decision Justice Brennan wrote: “This Court will not hesitate to strike down any law based on old-fashioned or obsolete thinking.”

As it has turned out, just about any thinking that that had its origin before the Second World War is now considered by many, e.g. Justice Anthony Kennedy of “sweet mystery of life” fame (Lawrence v Texas, 2003), to be old-fashioned and obsolete.

As I have pointed out in may posts on this Blog in the past, in the Catholic Church the most obvious example of the lack of respect for law is to be found in the way in which bishops seem to have decided that all Canon Law is old-fashioned and obsolete.  The obvious example of this is the almost non-existent application of the canonical penalties under Canon 915 denying Holy Communion to flagrant violators of Church discipline.

If that is the case with Canon Law it should be obvious that Liturgical Law carries even less weight in the thinking of may prelates and priests in the Church.

The bottom line is that my correspondent who is upset about about violations of a particular liturgical law should put in perspective and recognize that such violations are now the new norm.

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I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas