View all Ask a Priest |
“Ask a Priest: Hasn’t the Church Sold Out by Easing Its Rules?”
Q: If Church authorities over the years makes changes that lighten restrictions just to keep people in the Church, they are sellouts. For example, changing no meat on Friday to only no meat on Friday during Lent, and even allowing fish on days of fasting because fasting is too hard for people. And they changed the standard Mass out of Latin so that people will attend more – that is selling out, if it was originally supposed to be in Latin. These actions prove that the Church is a sellout for members. If the Church bends to the times, then God’s original rules were not good enough, and if God is infallible, he is not real if his rules need to be changed. So, my question is, if the Church makes changes just to keep members as opposed to keeping members through faith alone, how can one argue that the religion is not fake because they are moving the goalposts to keep members? – J.S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It might be good to re-examine some of your presuppositions.
The changing of the rules regarding meat on Fridays wasn’t intended to make things easier but to give people more flexibility on what they could sacrifice. Friday remains a penitential day. If getting rid of the particular rule on meat didn’t work out, that is a different issue. The Church could certainly change the rule again.
As for the Latin Mass: Latin remains a viable language for the Mass. Some priests use Latin in their private Masses, and some parishes offer the Novus Ordo in Latin. One shouldn’t assume that Latin is the timeless standard, however. Many of the earliest Masses were probably in Aramaic or Greek.
The move toward the vernacular was to help people engage with the Mass more, which many do. The drop in Mass attendance since the 1960s is a complex phenomenon and can’t be tied to just the language used in the liturgy. Mass attendance was dropping in Europe, for instance, in a big way since the French Revolution — and that at a time when the Mass was in Latin.
As to the general notion that the Church waters down rule to keep the faithful, it is good to remember that the Church holds the line of all kinds of unpopular positions.
It still opposes contraception, divorce and remarriage, abortion, homosexual activity and a whole range of things that the world accepts. Catholicism remains committed to the truth as revealed by Christ. Which is anything but popular nowadays.
Jesus, by the way, gave the Church the power to “bind and loose” (see Matthew 18:18) its disciplinary rules, but not its dogmas. Dogmas are unchanging.
The heart of our faith is always our relationship with Jesus. Concern for the Church should always impel us to go deeper in our prayer life and friendship with Christ.
Keep learning more with Ask a Priest
Got a question? Need an answer?
Today’s secular world throws curve balls at us all the time. AskACatholicPriest is a Q&A feature that anyone can use. Just type your question HERE and you will get a personal response back from one of our priests at RCSpirituality. You can ask about anything – liturgy, prayer, moral questions, current events… Our goal is simply to provide a trustworthy forum for dependable Catholic guidance and information. So go ahead and ask your question…