Vietnamese bishops warn against liturgical abuse

Concern over increase in practices of superstition, the black arts and soothsaying
Vietnamese bishops warn against liturgical abuse

Thousands of Divine Mercy devotees attend a Mass at Tin Mung Mission Station in Ho Chi Minh City on March 17. Vietnamese bishops have warned about the abuse of liturgical celebrations. (Photo by Mary Nguyen/ reporter, Ho Chi Minh City
June 14, 2019
Bishops in Vietnam are giving liturgical instructions to fight the spread of superstition, wrong beliefs and abuse of liturgical celebrations.

They say Catholics are active in attending liturgical ceremonies and making devotion to the Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy, Mother Mary and saints. They also show filial affection to their ancestors by praying for the dead, looking after tombs and holding death anniversaries.

However, bishops warn that there is an increase in practices of superstition, the black arts and soothsaying, the spread of negative thoughts such as Messages from Heaven, and abuse of Divine Mercy celebration and charism of healing among Catholics.

“In reality, liturgical discipline is not respected properly in some places,” the bishops wrote in a document on faith life published on June 12. The document was signed by Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, and Bishop John Do Van Ngan, head of the Episcopal Commission on Doctrine of the Faith.

The document warns that misused forms of popular piety cause anxiety to the faithful and disorder in faith communities.

Bishops urge Catholics to avoid superstitious and fortune-telling practices and abusing the faithful’s simple beliefs for self-interest. Catholics should not use or diffuse documents contrary to Christian faith.

They ask people not to attach too much importance to popular piety practices and belittle liturgical celebrations. Liturgy is the source and peak of pious acts, so popular piety must be in agreement with liturgy, come from liturgy and get the faithful close to God.

Church leaders ask people to respect church discipline and local church leaders’ regulations on liturgy and popular pious deeds. Prayers used publicly must have a church permit.

Noting that healing prayer meetings take place in some places, the bishops say faith healing does not exclude medical methods to restore patients’ health.

They allow Catholics to freely pray for healing but demand that healing prayer meetings held in churches be presided by ordained ministers.

They ban healing rites from being held in Masses and liturgical ceremonies. Forms of false witnesses, pretense, wild excitement and emotional arousal are also excluded. Healing services that are aired online need episcopal permission.

The bishops say church authorities must be informed about cases where healing happens to attendees.

They call on people to receive, think about and share those instructions with one another so that “our pious acts really show our hunger for God, bring peace to our souls, maintain unity within the Church and become evangelization instruments.”

In April, Bishop Joseph Do Manh Hung, apostolic administrator of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, reminded Father Joseph Tran Dinh Long not to allow people to bear witness to their healing thanks to Divine Mercy by the pulpit during Masses at Tin Mung Mission Station. Father Long daily celebrates Divine Mercy services which draw thousands of people regardless of their faith.

Bishop Hung also banned Father Long from putting his hands on patients’ heads to heal their illnesses because that could cause misunderstanding about healing among Divine Mercy devotees.

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