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Accidental or Intentional?

A couple Sundays ago in Mass I made a mistake. I missed a genuflection at one point (likely a leftover from my years of saying the “simplified” Novus Ordo). I fixed it by quickly doing what I realized I had failed to do (as the rubrics require a priest to do!). Many people probably did not even notice (my server did, but he was too gracious to say anything afterwards).

The rubrics for the Mass acknowledge that these types of mistakes occur, but it treats them as an accident and not an intentional action. When a priest misses something or gets something out of order, it is not a small issue. He is supposed to restore what was amiss as soon as possible (even if it is embarrassing to do so).

If, however, a priest intentionally skips or rearranges things in the Mass, that is not a “mistake” and does not come under this rule of “fix it as soon as you can” but, rather, under the rule of “repent as soon as you can”. It is not a “mistake” to refuse to say the Creed in Sunday Mass, or to refuse to wear a stole in the confessional. These are conscious choices to go against what the Church has commanded and it cannot be taken as just “the way he does it”. If a priest is unwilling to obey the rules in the Mass or the confessional, then there is no telling what other places he is breaking the rules (especially when it comes to issues of basic morality—and you know what I mean!).

All priests make mistakes; accidents happen. Do not shame a priest for a mistake. If he refuses to fix it, question him about it. If he still refuses to resolve the problem, speak to the Bishop. If nothing is done by the Bishop, you may need to find another place to attend Mass (for the sake of your soul). Accidents can be fixed and redone. “Intentionals” can be repented of (and they must be repented of). Pray for priests. We fail as well, and we need your help and encouragement to do our calling rightly.


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