Want a Truly Catholic Vote? Bring Back the Altar Rails!

Allow me to digress from explicitly political commentary for a moment and speak about something more deeply Catholic, and how the two intertwine.

I’ve been attending the Traditional Latin Mass (a.k.a. “the Extraordinary Form”) for most of the last decade. I’ve written about this elsewhere, and won’t clog up this space with my reasons. (That’s what Google is for.)

Lately, though, I’ve found myself attending the Novus Ordo (a.k.a. “the Ordinary Form”) more often on Sunday, primarily because of timing. It’s hard to find a TLM anywhere nearby earlier than 12:30PM. That’s a day killer, and it’s not a small-child-compatible time.

I’m blessed, living in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, with a number of solid parishes with good priests. I’m not a fan of the new Mass, but if you’re going to go to one, this is one of the better places you can do it. And there has been a trend here of late to build new parishes in one of several neo-classical styles. We have several impressive examples in recent times.

Going to these new, beautiful parishes, hearing the new translation of the Mass, I can’t help but be struck by the feeling that we are getting so close to meaningful reform. We’re inching toward classical orthodoxy, and peeling back some of the accumulated layers of non-organic reform that Pope Benedict has been critical of.

Which is why it’s jarring, among other things, to receive communion standing. After years at the TLM, this is something I take for granted. In the ancient rite, we receive Our Lord kneeling, and on the tongue. This is appropriate. This is the tradition of the Roman Rite. It shows a reverence befitting of a Divine Sacrament.

So when I go up to communion at a parish of the new rite, I still receive kneeling. I try to do this surreptitiously and not too awkwardly. I don’t want to cause a scene, and I certainly don’t want to draw attention to myself. I simply want to do things the right way. The way my conscience and my heart tells me is most pleasing to Him, and demonstrates the proper relationship between man and God.

But oh, how I wish they would just bring back the altar rails! And so I was gratified this morning when I came across this clip from Cardinal Burke, talking about the preference of the Holy Father, and in fact, the Church herself:

I truly believe that this simple change would be a big step in the right direction. It could make such a profound difference in the life of the faithful, a difference that would help people remember what they believe in. The faithful in this country are in perilous danger of being not so faithful at all. And you’re kidding yourself if you think that doesn’t affect our politics.

It’s why the Catholic Vote is so divided. Why so many Catholics think that forming their consciences is a matter of feeling, not of intellect, will, and assent to the divine law. And if we believe in the truth of, “Lex orandi, lex credendi,” (the law of prayer is the law of belief) then how we pray influences what we believe in, and consequently, how we act as citizens.

Christ’s social Kingship is one of the most neglected aspects of American Catholic political discourse. In his encyclical on the topic, Quas Primas, Pope Pius XI wrote:

We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power. In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord. We were led in the meantime to indulge the hope of a brighter future at the sight of a more widespread and keener interest evinced in Christ and his Church, the one Source of Salvation, a sign that men who had formerly spurned the rule of our Redeemer and had exiled themselves from his kingdom were preparing, and even hastening, to return to the duty of obedience.

Christ’s rule over the social order is real and proper. He is not a president or a prime minister; He is a King. And before Kings, one doesn’t merely shake hands or salute. One kneels. Paying proper obeisance to God is just one essential component to rightly ordering ourselves in relation to the world, and all of creation. Doing this is an essential foundational step toward establishing a just and secure social order.

As Catholics, we need to restore this sense in our spiritual lives and in our political lives. Love Him, love His Church, obey His teachings, and the rest will follow.



  • Tyme

    What about the applause in the church for the music, for birthdays, for anniversaries etc. etc. And how about all the chatting in the church, mostly by the leadership including the priests? The Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our Faith. It is Jesus, truly present in the tabernacles and we act like we are at the theater.
    Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

    By the way, I am listening to your Town Hall with Glenn Beck. He is a fallen away Catholic, how ironic. Also, I realize that Mitt Romney is the lesser of two evils, but he is not pro-life. He still believes in abortion under certain circumstances

    • Jan

      That’s true, but you must understand that the LDS faith does not have the same beliefs as the Catholic faith regarding life. Abortion is a private matter between a woman and her bishop. I don’t, however, believe Romney would ever have allowed a born-alive aborted child to be denied life-saving care.

      Your first paragraph is right on.

    • abadilla

      Yes, Romney believes in abortion in case of rape and incest and we must pray for his conversion to become “totally” pro-life.

    • steve365

      “source and summit of our faith”???? says who? can Catholics just make pronouncements and they become legit? as long as they sound pseudo-religious? by the way, as hard as this may sound, there are greater issues than whether or not one is pro-life. like is one submitted to the word and authority of God. I saw a group of anti-abortion protesters from a local catholic church holding up gruesome pictures of dead children and I was glad they were doing that but I couldn’t help thinking ‘i wonder if they are giving the same passion to expelling child raping priests from their parishes’. i mean,you cant help but wonder if they are cleaning their own house.

  • paddyofurniture

    What next? Shall we bring back Latin to restore piety? Shall women be compelled to wear the mantilla to impose a sense of reverence? You know what matters in our Mass–in the ordinary or extraordinary form? The Word of God we hear and the Eucharist we receive! Communion rails and the Tridentine Mass won’t bring people back to Christ. Neither will guitar masses and modernism. All these debates do is divide the universal church.

    • Jason

      You’re living in the past and are ignoring what has happened in the last 50 years since people with your modernist outlook started destroying the Church.

      Dress with dignity, put on your mantilla, and get on your knees. Enough already with loudmouth liberals.

      • paddyofurniture

        How Christian of you! First, you should note that in my initial post I specifically called out the modernist movement. I’m just trying to voice a humble warning. Protestantism has been riddled with these sorts of divisive issues for centuries with disastrous consequences. The Roman Catholic Church’s catholicity is its greatest strength. I just worry that debates such as the one we’re having here weaken our unity and detract from our mission.

    • abadilla

      “All these debates do is divide the universal church.” No, what these debates do is a dialogue that help us all understand better our Church.

  • Jo

    I wholeheartedly agree. I left the Church for a few short years in the late 70’s, early 80’s and when I returned, I found a completely foreign experience that I have been struggling with ever since. Praise God, that at least the proper translation is now used, which was my third concern. My first was and remains the lack of understanding and reverence for the Eucharist. Having studied the documents of the Second Vatican Council, I realized that the problem was not in the spirit of the council, rather the problem came when the rogue bishops and priests who are hell-bent on destroying the Church (yes, folks, satan is alive and thriving in our watered-down Catholic Churches) left the council, went back to their parishes and did what they have been waiting years to do…..they used the guise of teaching the new council’s decisions to insist that everyone receive the Body of Christ in their hands, to prevent us from kneeling, and to remove the statues of the saints who have guided us by their examples of living and constant intercession on our behalf. What was left is a Sunday social gathering in which the focus in on “community” and not “Christ.” I am an administrative assistant for two parishes, and I have done all I can to get the truth out. This election season has saddened me such that I can barely speak with most of the parishioners as at least 80% are staunch democrats who love our current president. I have decided it is more beneficial to remain the the presence of Christ in the tabernacle and plead for his mercy than to try and talk sense into such liberal thinkers. Please pray unceasingly……………………we need GOD back in our country, CHRIST back into our Churches, and the HOLY SPIRIT to guide us and convict those who claim to be Catholic to live our faith. Blessings and thanks for reading!!

    • steve365

      “I have decided it is more beneficial to remain the the presence of Christ in the tabernacle and plead for his mercy than to try and talk sense into such liberal thinkers.” …….This is the best comment Ive read on any of these threads. I must admit ,though, that Ive read the bible through 3 of 4 times and continue to do so on a daily basis and I never see 99% of the issues mentioned that are discussed here and on other catholic threads. “bring back the altar rails”???? really? that’s an important issue?? “Masses”? in Latin???? Bizarre. Eucharist? You seem like genuine people but I think your church made all these things up. There is a verse that , when I read it, it reminds me of the catholic church. Jesus said ” you are in error because you esteem the traditions of men more than the word of God.” Mark 7:8 . And that explains why the catholic vote went to Clinton & it went to Obama. most catholics dont know and dont obey His word

  • Gary

    This is a really, REALLY important problem.

  • Braden

    I get your point, but I feel the Church should devote its energy much more from aesthetics towards issues social justice in its communities. I just have a hard time thinking that Christ would be more concerned with altar rails than feeding the hungry. Just my two cents.

    • Jan

      Like She already doesn’t????? Listen, if there isn’t a return to holiness and reverence, you will see social upheaval like never in our lifetimes. Too much harm has been done to the country and the Church under the guise of “social justice.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004383331143 Marina DeLuca

        Jan, you’re spot on! Poor Braden, the Vatican II bishops have spiritually blinded him. Hopefully Braden will learn that when the blind bishops lead the blind Catholics, both will fall in the pit.

        • Joe

          So wait…some bishops are wrong but some are right? If the magestrium says it, doesn’t that make it okay? The Vatican II reforms were sponsored by the Vatican. Don’t you think you’ll have EVEN LESS people in the pews if you go back to pre-Vatican II mass? In Latin?

          • irishsmile

            The Vatican has spoken! The Vatican, under two popes, has issued motu proprios instructing the bishops to make the TLM readily available to Catholics who desire it. Some bishops do and some just don’t. It amazes me when I run into Catholics who are of the erronious opinion that Vatican II abolished the TLM. I would recommend that these folks actually read the documents: Jeffers is a good version.
            As the mother of a good priest I, in fact, have always loved the TLM . I suspect that there would be more good priests if families were given the opportunity to introduce their children to the spirituality of the TLM.

          • abadilla

            “Don’t you think you’ll have EVEN LESS people in the pews if you go back to pre-Vatican II mass? In Latin?” I go to a Novus Ordo Mass here in Los Angeles and it is done the way the Council wanted it done, with some parts in Latin, reverence and many parts in English including the new Eucharistic prayers I so enjoy.
            No, I believe the churches were packed when the Mass was in Latin and if today many people reject the Mass in Latin, is because many people think there must have been something wrong with it since it practically disappeared from the Church for more than forty years.

  • Jan

    I like this – the problem though is that there are simply too many priests who will fight tooth and nail against it. I know many people in my parish who like to receive while kneeling, yet my pastor says if it was up to everyone would receive while standing and IN THE HAND. I doubt we are unique in that respect.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003586781928 Magdalene Prodigal

      One of our local parishes puts out a kneeler for daily Mass and almost all communicants prefer it.

      • abadilla

        I came from Costa Rica in 1965 and we had communion rails in all churches and we still do. Costa Ricans would have revolted if Church officials had bothered to take images out of the churches or communion rails.



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