St. Cecilia Church Criticism of New Missal: “Looming like a Root Canal”

The pace of news coming out from around the Boston Archdiocese is such that BCI is struggling to keep up. 
On a local parish level, Msgr Garrity at St. Catherine in Norwood has given us plenty of material to write about in the future, but Fr. John Unni at St. Cecilia still wins for most headline news this year.  As if the $20M renovation at St. Cecilia in Boston was not bad enough, followed by the scandal and national PR nightmare created by Fr. Unni, Terry Donilon, and the archdiocese this past summer over plans by Unni to celebrate a Gay Pride Mass, now, in the parish bulletin, he has published a critique of The New Roman Missal. The critique is entitled, “Missal Defense, Learning to Live with Change.”
The Boston Archdiocese website says the following about the New Roman Missal:
With the implementation of the new Roman Missal, every Priest Celebrant is being challenged to pray with language that is not familiar and which will require preparation and reflection.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document Sing to the Lord states:  “No other factor affects the Liturgy as much as the attitude, style, and bearing of the priest celebrant.” 
How does Fr. Unni, who, coincidentally, happens to be a golfing buddy of Chancellor Jim McDonough, react to the statement that no other factor affects the Liturgy as much as the attitude of the priest celebrant?  With a column in his bulletin written by an anonymous priest who said the introduction of the New Roman Missal is looming like “a date with a root canal.”  
We first saw word of this at The Tenth Crusade. If you go to page 16 of the most recent parish bulletin at St. Cecilia you will find a piece written by “Fr. Nonomen,” a  parish priest who writes for Commonweal pseudonymously in order to protect the privacy of his parishioners. 
Now, BCI is in no position to criticize someone else for writing under a pseudonym; however, that said, we would hardly expect a priest to publish a BCI column in their bulletin. In this case, it is the opinion of BCI that for Fr. Unni to publish any column by any author–especially an anonyous one–in his bulletin critical of the New Roman Missal is bordering on sacreligious.
Here are a few excerpts from the piece (click on the graphic below to zoom):
First Sunday of Advent is looming like a date with a root canal…the new missal is intended to steer us back toward a more traditional liturgy. Those who welcome such a move look forward, as one commentator put it, to “a new sense of dignity and decorum,” promoted through “reforms such as an altar orientation toward the East, kneeling for Communion, and better and more dignified
vestments and furnishings.” 
As a priest who does not welcome these changes, I’m under pressure. No, I’m not having trouble choosing which laminated in-pew response card to install. I am wondering, for instance, how to reconcile a parish staff grumpy about the changes with a largely unsuspecting parish populace. Or what to do when attempting to explain this Trojan horse of a translation and the pointed agenda it may be hosting. In short, how does one make a sale when it’s tough to believe in the product?…
So, how to proceed? Do I and other likeminded priests simply refuse to comply?”
The column is bizarre.  Seems spectacularly unhelpful in the opinion of BCI.  The music director at St. Cecilia even collaborated with the Boston Archdiocese to record musical parts for the new Mass settings for use by parish musicians across the archdiocese. Does the music director embrace the new missal while the pastor does not?
If Fr. Unni disagrees–publicly so–with the New Roman Missal, it is troubling that Cardinal O’Malley, his priest secretary Fr. Jonathan Gaspar (Co-Director of Worship and Spiritual Life for the Archdiocese), and Unni’s bishop, Robert Hennessey, are all doing nothing to bring Unni in line with the program . Does Fr. Unni realize he is leading his parishioners astray by publishing this? Does no one in the archdiocesan leadership realize there is a wee bit of a problem in this beautiful Back Bay church?  
A reader wrote via email a few days ago, “Putting this type of article in a parish bulletin is unprofessional, provocative, and inflammatory. How can lay Catholics be expected to be open to these changes when their priest is poisoning the well?”
BCI agrees with what this reader wrote. We hope and pray that the leadership of the Boston Archdiocese will take steps to lead this pastor and the parishioners at St. Cecilia to a place where they enthusiastically embrace Church teachings and the New Roman Missal.  What do you think?

27 Responses to St. Cecilia Church Criticism of New Missal: “Looming like a Root Canal”

  1. Mark Frances says:

    Another wonderful breath of fresh air. Birds of a feather flock together. As someone who has walked on the floor of Rome’s Colliseum, I continue to be very surprised that you have not become entertainment for the amusement of Berlusconi. This is not idle. Eventually, you will have midnight visitors. You have stumbled on to something major. Semper Fi. ,

  2. BobofNewtn says:

    Unlike the situation with Father Cuenin, the Pastor Emeritus at Our Lady’s in Newton, Father Unni’s is dramatically different. Father Unni has the support of the leaders in the RCAB, Boston’s political and social elite, and the opinion channels that shape what people read, see and hear in the City of Boston. Maybe the collective energies of this group might be better expended by frontal assaults against the offices of Ms. O’Neill. Just a thought.

  3. bostonmwm says:

    In the midst of all the issues the Church is facing the new translation is, at this time, like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  4. fsksBarbara says:

    I am no policy expert, however, I recall reading a statement from the Vatican within the past year that stated they would rather be a
    “smaller, purer” organization.

    The heartbreaking aspect of this situation
    is that these priests (socially liberal) probably love the church,
    and, this behavior is rooted in wanting to feel validated by a church they
    were born in to and love. They are not recognizing the people and forces out there exploiting them and their (liberal perspectives) to destroy Christianity and the church.

    I believe where the church loses its footing in the public relations arena
    is by allowing the “sex talk” to be limited to homosexuality. By doing this, the church allows itself to be fractured, and, in doing so unfairly limits the focus to a portion of individuals. If the church “bundled”
    the talking points on sex (you know kind of like Comcast and Verizon,
    you are stuck with more channels than you want to pay for) they
    may come out ahead. In other words, re-clarify sexual expectations
    for single, heterosexual members as well.

    Besides, why should heterosexual, unmarried people leaving bars and engaging in high risk behavior hold their heads any higher on a Sunday morning?

    • John says:

      “Besides, why should heterosexual, unmarried people leaving bars and engaging in high risk behavior hold their heads any higher on a Sunday morning?”

      Agree!!!!! You make a great point.

      • Barbara says:

        Thank you, John.

        The difficult job, though, would be for the priest who has
        to face these people, reminding them of these inconvenient details, increase mass attendance
        and keep a parish running.

        The good priests do not get to hide out in a building going to
        “meetings” all day……..all for a $200,000 (plus benefits)

  5. The one thing I would agree with this priest; we don’t need a “new” missal; just use the Pre-Vatican II Missal.

  6. John A. Cronin says:

    I hope that our letters to Rome concerning the leadership of this
    Archdiocese were read and a fast response is made….not the long drawn out pondering that is usually the route to solving a problem is taken.
    Ora pro nobis…….

    • BobofNewtn says:

      Hi John – I agree with your hope (that the letters are read) and your observation (that a response not be long and drawn out). I would like to see some stats:

      1. How many letters were sent;
      2. Of those that were sent, how many were signed and contained an address; and
      3. Of those referred to in two (2) above, how many got responses.

      I did not send a letter but had I done so and included my name and address, I doubt that I would have received a response. Just an observation.

      • BobofNewtn, Hundreds of letters have been sent, but BCI is not in a position to maintain stats like you’ve asked for. Even separate from a petition campaign like this, we are not aware of lay individuals receiving personal responses to letters written to the Papal Nuncio or one of the Prefects of the various Vatican congregations. Whatever response is going to happen from the letters sent is likely to occur first in behind the scenes discussions, and it may not manifest itself publicly for a while. That is just the way things work.

      • John A. Cronin says:

        I do not have any numbers to give you. I wrote on this site when asked to sign the petition, signed my name and added a comment.
        I write with a little knowledge of the slow workings of Rome. Sometimes responses come years later. The frutstration building among the laity wold be better served by keeping our Church (really founded by Jesus and guided by Him and it is His church), in prayer.
        We continueally pray because it is all we can do to correct these faults.

  7. Carolyn says:

    The “new” translation is word for word (nearly as I can tell) exactly what the missals in French and Spanish have said since 1973. So why grouse? My guess is that for parishes where the language of the missal has been sanded down to omit words like, “sin,” “mercy,” “spirit,” etc., seeing even narrower language that is truer to the original will seem like singing off key. Some people scour every text, liturgical and otherwise, for what they deem non-inclusive language.

    For a minute, though, I would ask those who do not wish to use the “new” translation to see this as becoming more universal — back in the day when everyone prayed the Mass in Latin, the prayers were the same from Japan to Angola. Universal in the truest sense of the word! Once the vernacular languages were implemented, that all changed. So at least now, we’ll be closer to the universal by using the same words as everyone else.

    OK, so “consubstantial” doesn’t just roll off the tongue. Neither does “eco-conscious,” but we got used to that didn’t we?

    Park the gripes and come on inside the Church where sounding as much as possible like all the other language versions of the Mass makes us more inclusive, not less so.

    And if people aren’t prepared for the change, there’s no excuse (at least if they are regular Mass goers) because literally hundreds of priests and parish staffs have attended the workshops on the “new” missal, and taken great ramp-up programs back to their parishes. My own parish started practicing reading the revised Creed and Gloria before Mass during the summer, so that it would be the new “normal” by December. I thought that was a great move by the pastor and staff.

  8. Sadly, I’m convinced that the big objection to the “new” missal on the part of some priests is the fear of curbing their ability to ad lib.

    Connecting the dots? The priests I’ve heard grouse about the “new” missal are the ones who make up their own prayers during the Mass. There’s a ton of examples, but what stands out to me is the bending over backwards efforts to avoid, at all costs, the use of the word “clergy” in the Eucharistic prayers.

    That said: I read the article twice and still couldn’t make much sense of it. I mean, I get the notion that the priest wasn’t looking forward to Advent (there’s a sad fact right there) but his conclusion left me hanging.

  9. JRBreton says:

    Unfortunately, Fr. Unni, while outstanding, is hardly alone. The Cardinal is simply not doing his first job, namely regulating liturgical practice in his diocese. He needs to return his priests to their professional status as obedient servers of the holy mysteries. Too many are acting like immature prima donnas.

  10. Freddie says:

    So Father John may not implement the changes. What will happen to him? As usual: NOTHING!

    • Anna says:


      I beg your pardon but I believe you are mistaken about what Cardinal O’Malley does when one of his cronies does something defiant and scandalous. The Cardinal rewards the priest with a post on his blog or publicity stunt about how fantastic the priest is or networks around the country and/or Rome to see if they can tee up some kind of ‘award’.

      Pretty much the same thing they did for the pedophile priests. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  11. Jack O'Malley says:

    While it is probably well known on this blog that I am no booster of the fabricated liturgy that is the novus ordo irrespective of its vulgar translation, I will say that at least the divine dragomans have got the Words of Institution linguistically and theologically correct: pro multis is rendered for many. If the lex orandi implies the lex credendi (not for the last 50 years, at any rate), then the heresy of apocatastasis is on the verge of de facto anathema.

    And kudos to them as well for and with your spirit. Though, despite the purported cretinous intellectual level of the boorish laity assumed by the august and sublime lords of the curia, and with thy spirit would have been better. If it’s good enough for the Our Father and the Hail, Mary, why not for the mass? The Philistines triumph even here.

    This new translation will perturb those unquiet demons possessing the liberal left including evidently presbyter Unni who seek to steer the barque of Peter upon the shoals of moral and credal perdition with their own un-Catholic agendas. Rowan the Druid and Kate Schori the paederast enabler will welcome them.

    • Michael says:

      I am sure there is a lot of good information within Jack’s Comment, but if anyone has one, I am going to need an O’Malley to English dictionary. Thanks in advance.

  12. Liam says:

    I am curious what is sacrilegious about that column. The pseudonymous author merely admits he doesn’t welcome the changes in translation. But the rest of the column is devoted to an exercise in perspective shifting that allows him to lead people through the period of change. Not to resist it. He explicitly states he is not a priest who will not comply. It’s not the the translation as a translation is a matter of religious faith; it can be critiqued, and it’s not fixed forever – it just can’t be stonewalled, and the author does not propose stonewalling or anything close to it. For Fr Unni to publish a column that appeared in Commonweal of this sort is nothing that’s going to get him in particular trouble. I don’t think even the Pope himself would cavil at much of what was written, though I realize some who are more Catholic than the Pope would.

    I know someone who attends that parish, and he has said they’ve been transitioning to the new translation since September, and more thoroughly than my parish (St Paul’s in Cambridge) and other parishes in the Boston area I’ve been to. That’s a better indicator of where Fr Unni stands than what is alleged to be the case with this bulletin. And anyone who tries to raise a stink over his head on this point is not going to look good in Roman eyes once that context is revealed.

    • BobofNewtn says:

      I agree completely with your assessment Liam. Thank you for coming to the fore and pointing it out!

      Given the issues present in our Church, I think an innane column is the least of our worries. How about, instead,devoting our energies to finding out why 83% of all RCAB Catholics will be at brunch and roaming the malls instead of attending Church? The battle for a return to the Church is lost because we raise concerns about columns instead of a rapidly declining attendance rate at Mass, no clergy, no Nuns, poor Catholic schools, etc. I believe that St. Cecilia’s will have plenty of congregants this afternoon and tomorrow and, although some on here decry the fact that some in that Church are gay and open. Folks: that may be true but they are none the less Catholic than are the 17% attending elsewhere. Let us also remember that the 17% is a consistently declining number and that the reverse is true about the 83%!

      • BCI fails to understand what constructive purpose is or was served by St. Cecilia publishing that column. If you want to get parishioners on-board with the new Roman Missal, even amidst an education effort about the changes, why publish a column by a priest lamenting the changes and characterizing them as analgous to a root canal?

        As for declining Mass attendance, the battle to get the 83% of RCAB Catholics who do not attend Mass to return to the Church, and declining numbers of priests and religious, BCI agrees they are very important issues, but they are so enormous that they go well beyond the scope of what BCI can practically tackle.

        Mass attendance has been declining since Vatican II. To his credit, Cardinal O’Malley has just written and published a pastoral letter on Sunday Mass attendance. BCI will comment on that in a separate post, but unfortunately, the failed attempt at humor in the first paragraph of the letter turned us off from what otherwise had the potential to be an excellent message to Catholics. Catholics Come Home is working on this issue. The Diocese of Trenton is conducting a survey to ask fallen-away Catholics why they have left the Church.

        Think tanks and publications have been conducting their own surveys and studies on this issue for years.

        BCI fails to understand how a blog publishing concerns about the column in the St. Cecilia bulletin somehow causes the battle for the hearts and souls of fallen-away Catholics to be lost.

        This blog has described how the funds available for faith formation and evangelization, including ministry to youth and young adults, college campus ministry, prison ministry, and other apostolates have been cut, while funding for administration and finance has increased. One would hope that increased resources dedicated to evangelization would help bring more fallen away Catholics back to the faith, but those have been kept flat or reduced instead of increased.

        As for declining priests, having happy motivated priests right here at home would be a good place to start, as those priests serve as a role model for boys and young men considering a vocation to the priesthood. We have suggested to Cardinal O’Malley that he spend less time traveling outside of the diocese and blogging about those travels and more time with Boston priests to ensure their needs are addressed. Instead of spending a million dollars each year on excessive six-figure salaries, put that towards funding the clergy retirement fund.

        BCI is trying to help the Catholic Church in Boston avoid the many instances when she appears to veer off the tracks, and instead keep on the straight and narrow path. The Boston Pilot exists to help tout the good things happening, and BCI will try to share those as we have done already. But there is a great tendency for this Archdiocese to veer off the tracks–sometimes apparently in violation of canon law, civil law, or moral law–and there are few venues that expose that. Thus, like it or not, you will see us continue to do what we have been doing.

  13. bitsnbytes says:

    I’m not that concerned about a little bit of grousing from outmoded 60s priests. They probably won’t keep it up, and a few of them will eventually admit that the new version has good qualities.

  14. Barbara says:

    After this subject (next week or two) can you explain the
    policy on Cristmas presents for priests.

    In other words, if we buy our priests Christmas presents
    to the people from Braintree make them share?
    Please have someone who knows the official details provide
    accurate, informative information.

    I do not understand why the priests cannot keep the money from the basket on Christmas and invest on their own. Or can they?

  15. Barbara says:

    Sorry for typo’s….need to slow down.


    “Do the people from Braintree make them share?”
    Share with administrative staff I mean.

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