The Sex Scandal, and the Deeper Issue in the Church

Here we go again! The sex abuse crisis in the Church is, once again, all over the news, and various priests and bishops are, once again, offering commentary and expressing sadness, shock, shame, while calling for changes and remedies within the Church. It’s like 2002 all over again. But the real problem will continue to be ignored or overlooked. The real problem in the Church isn’t sexual misconduct. That’s just a manifestation of the problem. If the real problem isn’t addressed, then the manifestationS (plural) will never really go away. That real problem that no one is talking about is that the blood of the Church is diseased by bad theology, a lack/loss of spirituality, an openness to secularism, an over-eagerness to please and to appease, and a resistance to humility and submission to Jesus Christ.

Until the Church returns to God completely (Theologically, spiritually, morally), the Church will continue to bring pain and suffering to the faithful and to itself; whether that pain is personal, spiritual, psychological, or physical and emotional. So as far as I’m concerned all this talk about “change and renewal” is just lip service. What needs to be changed is the attitude of the collective Church, and what needs to be renewed is the heart and mind and soul of the Church, which has become corrupt not by scandalous behavior (which is the fruit) but by secular and atheistic attitudes (the root). Our troubles aren’t just about pedophilia or actively gay, predatory priests. Our troubles are far broader than that. Sexual misconduct and abuse, especially of children, is the most destructive and harmful manifestation, but some in the clergy are harmful in other ways.

Not every priest is a pedophile. Some are just liars and traitors to the truth. Not every priest flirts with seminarians. Some just court heresy. Not every priest acts in the interests of his secret sex life. Some simply act in the interests of their secularized agendas. Not every priest takes license to act out his vices. Some just give that license to the souls in their care—either by word, or by omission. Not every priest is a King Herod. Some are just Judas Iscariot. And others are the other 10 apostles who, though faithful, still fled and hid while Our Lord hung on the cross, and Our Lady wept at his feet. Our Lord’s mystical Body is beaten, bloody, and crucified anew in our time. Our Lady weeps again for the body of Christ.

It should be said that while one apostle betrayed Jesus, and 10 fled and hid while Our Lord was crucified, there was still one apostle who stood at the foot of the cross by Our Lady’s side—St. John. The Church today still has her Saint Johns. There are priests who are pious, saintly, brave, and devoted to Jesus, to the Church, to the Gospel, to truth, and to goodness. They should be the rule, but I feel they are the exception. We need more priests like them. Priests who enact the truth rather than theorize about it. Priests who are very spiritual, not just intellectual. Priests who contemplate the great mysteries rather than intellectualize them. Priests who are formed by the faith rather than by the philosophies and attitudes of the secular world. Priests who understand mercy from the perspective of the creator and not from the self-centered point of view of His creatures.

Change, renew, repeat. We heard all of this back in 2002. While our children are safer, the disease in the Church hasn’t gone anywhere. Because no one is tending to the sickness, we’re just tending to the lesions generated by it. Until the Church, or more correctly those in the church collectively, returns to God, to truth, to spirituality, and abandons secularized “Catholicism”, nothing will change, and nothing will be renewed. The mystical body will continue to rot from the inside out; and that rot will show itself not just in sexual misconduct, but in general moral disfigurement and confusion.

Ave Maria, Virgo fidelis!

Who Do You Say that I Am?

Who do people say that the Church is? A Church of scandal? A Church of soft spoken spiritualists? Half hearted moralists? Do people see who the Church truly is as they observe how “she” acts?

In the 16th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus poses a question to the apostles, “Who do the people say the Son of Man is?”. The apostles replied that some believed Jesus was John the Baptist come back from the dead, while others believed he was Elijah or Jeremiah.  Jesus then asks, “Who do you say that I am?” to which Peter replies “You are the Christ. The Son of the living God”

Way to go, Peter!

The people got it wrong. Peter got it right.  Peter correctly identified who Jesus truly was because God had enlightened his reason, but also because Peter knew, and observed the fullness of Jesus’ being—how he spoke, how he lived, his actions, his miracles.  Peter’s observations of Jesus informed his understanding of Jesus.  The people, on the other hand, were confused by false expectations which caused them to see Jesus through a flawed prism, thus distorting “who” he was, in their minds. Still, what they observed informed their understanding of Jesus, albeit through a flawed prism, which is why their conclusion was incorrect.

The point is, what “the people” observe forms their understanding.  So with that in mind, what can we say about the Church? What do people observe when they look at the Catholic Church? Who do they say that she is? 

I would offer that when we listen to what is said of the Church we get an idea of who they say that the Church is.  What is it that people talk about, when talking about the Church? What has their attention?

Scandal

As I write this blog, what seems to have the attention of the masses is the recent revelation of scandal in the Church in Pennsylvania, and the scandals of Cardinal McCarrick. That tidal wave of pain and bad publicity regarding sexual abuse by priests has been going on for almost 20 years, but these new scandals have created fresh wounds to the mystical body, which still has yet to heal from the bombshells of 2002 when the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church really became public.

So when people look at the Church and see scandal on top of scandal, who do they say the Church is?  A boy’s club of child molesters? An institution of people who are psychologically and emotionally so damaged and disfigured by dogma and doctrine, and made to uptight by “rules, rules, rules!” that the faith turns us into monsters, or causes us to secretly live out the most wicked vices whenever we can get away with it?

Criticism

In the mid 1900s the Church still had tremendous moral authority for most people, Catholic or not.  But as we approached the new millennium many in and out of the Church had lost their regard for the Church’s moral voice. They didn’t stop believing that the Church’s moral voice was authoritative, they simply stopped caring about it; in the same way that teenagers and young adults continue to believe in the authority of their parents, even as they disobey or ignore them.  And so even though many had stopped respecting the moral voice of the Church, they were still forceful with their critiques of the Church’s moral teachings even into the 1990s. Why?  Because, the answer to “who do the people say that I am?” was still “The only credible, authoritative moral voice on earth”. Though people were losing their personal respect for that voice, they continued to recognize its authority, they just didn’t honor it.  And because they recognized the Church’s authority on moral teachings, they were less than gentle, meek, and silent when criticizing the Church. They recognized the force of the Church (its credibility and authority) and, logically, they responded with a force of their own.  If they didn’t recognize the Church’s authority, there would be no forceful response or reaction to the Church’s teachings, they’d just laugh-it-off every time the Church, through her agents, said anything challenging or substantial. Yep…they’d laugh it off.  See where I’m going with this?

Laughing it off

I’m starting to see a new pattern.  While at least the Church’s teaching on abortion still ignites a godless crowd into a fiery frenzy, most people don’t get too worked up over the Church’s moral voice anymore. Not only do people not take the Church’s moral authority seriously anymore, they don’t even take the Church itself seriously anymore.  If ever the Church (through her agents) says something challenging or of substance, it’s usually laughed off, as if spoken by someone who is known to be insane and irrational.  No one gives it a second thought.  Why?  Because we have, at least in significant part, informed their understanding of who we are.

As with Peter’s confession of Jesus, the observation of scandal in the Church, and criticisms of the Church’s teaching, the answer to “Who do the people say that I am” is based on what the people observe, and how correctly they understand it.  What the people observed in Jesus, and what Peter observe in Jesus informed their respective ideas of who Jesus was. What the people observed in the Church’s scandals partly informs their ideas of who, or what the Church (or the faith) really is, too. In the past what people observed from the Church, with regard to her moral voice—during a time when the Church was more bold and fearless in her speech—informed what they thought of the Church.  What informs the people today? What behavior do they observe?  It is nothing less than this: The Church seems to have gone silent, says little or nothing of pertinent or poignant substance, has adopted secularized rhetoric, and is fearful of speaking truth. What’s more, the demeanor and character of many of her clergy seems to show that they do not take themselves, or the faith seriously anymore.  Given all of this, the answer today to “Who do the people say that I am” seems to be “Nobody!”  Nobody special. Nobody important. Nobody at all.  The “church” acts silly, sounds silly, behaves ridiculously and says ridiculous things.  The “church” doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and so neither do those who observe the church.

Like Jesus’ contemporaries, it’s possible to observe behavior and actions, and arrive at an erroneous conclusion as to the identity of the person executing those actions or displaying that behavior.  Does the Church take itself seriously? It surely does. But is that actually what’s on clear display? In my opinion, no. At least not commonly.  Do the clergy take the Church’s teachings seriously? Most of them do. But, again, is that what’s on clear display? Whether at mass, during talks and seminars, or in online videos, most of the priests and bishops I listen to seem to dance around Church teaching, stopping short of contradicting it, yet undermining it or practically hiding it.

We’re showing the people fearfulness, we’re showing them shame, we’re showing them a deficient understanding or low regard for our own teachings, and we’re sounding crazy. That’s what informs their understanding. The consequence is that we attract converts, but retain very few of them. We have many Catholics who stop coming to mass, or, while living as practical-pagans, decide to drop by on the occasional Sunday or holy day.  We attract many to communion (whether Catholic or not, whether in a state of grace or not) but none to confession.  We titillate more than we inspire.  We confirm in error (even if by omission)  more than we admonish, or inform, and orient to holiness.

I know it’s not all bad news.  There are great priests, bishops, and laypeople in the Church. There are tremendous conversion or reversion stories, and amazing examples of true saintliness both in the clergy and the laity.  But let’s not fool ourselves. The world has a very different reaction to a Church of saints than it has to the Church of today.  A Church of saints attracts many, and infuriates many more, because there is almost no lukewarmness in a world that finds a Church of saints alive within it.  The Church of today however attracts few, in the way of persons, and attracts much in the way of laughter and disregard.  We have to clean up our act, we have to take ourselves and the faith seriously.  Be merciful and be just. Be charitable and be brave. Be in the world but not of the world. Talk like the saints, not like politicians. Behave, in every way, like we are the apples of God’s eyes, rather than like the worms in the apples that have fallen and rotted on the ground.

The world is in great need of the Church. And the Church needs to be exactly who she is, and exactly all that she is, if the world is to have any hope of finding even it’s own humanity again, to say nothing about finding God again.

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis!

Church Revises Teaching on the Death Penalty (sort of)

As reported by CNA today, The Church is revising what the Catechism says about the Catholic Church’s teaching on the death penalty.  Whereas the current version of paragraph 2267 of the Catechism states “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.“, the revision will state this instead: “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person…”

What does this mean, exactly, and is this actually a change in Catholic teaching?

The new paragraph doesn’t actually change Church teaching, it changes the application of how we understand what the Church has always taught.  The Church has always taught that human life is sacred, is dignified, that the human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Because of those characteristics, human life should always be defended, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.  That’s why the Church has always, ALWAYS been opposed to the death penalty (and it’s why the Church is opposed to abortion).

But in the past the Church has given consideration to the possibility that in rare, extreme cases, the only way to protect the innocent might be to execute an aggressor.  That doesn’t mean that the Church regarded the life of an aggressor as less than dignified, but that some aggressors can be so dangerous to the innocent that the only way to preserve the common good might…in extreme cases be execution. The Church has never taught that ‘the death penalty is wrong, UNLESS…”  It has always taught that the death penally is wrong, period.  However the Church has traditionally been reticent to exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only way of defending human life. This should not be interpreted as the Church teaching that executing some people might be justified.  That would be an exception that disproves and invalidates the teaching.  I can rewrap this in a way that makes it more relatable and easier to understand.

Is murder wrong? Yes.  What if someone breaks into your home and is about to kill your family? Let’s go through the logic and escalation of how you might/should engage the perpetrator in the interests of protecting your family.  Could you protect your family by tackling the aggressor?  Maybe. But what if he’s crazed, and bigger and stronger than you are? You might have to do something more extreme in order to protect your family.  Could you hit him with a blunt object? Maybe. What if that isn’t sufficient?  Could you shoot him in a way that is non-lethal, for example in a leg?  You could. But what if he’s so intent on killing your family, and in such a state of rage that shooting him in his leg doesn’t stop him? Might you have to shoot to kill in order to protect your family?  Maybe.  But then are you culpable for committing murder in an extreme case like that?  No. Not by legal standards, or by the Church’s standards.  Does that mean the Church teaches that killing some people is ok? No. Killing ANY person is wrong. But Catholic moral teaching holds that sometimes, depending on the situation and circumstances (such as what I offered above) a person may not be culpable for the grave sin of killing in the protection of his own life, or the lives of others.

So bringing it back to the death penalty, the Church has left open the possibility that in extreme cases there may be recourse to the death penalty if this is the only way of defending human life. That isn’t teaching that “the death penalty is ok”. It’s teaching that the death penalty is wrong, just as killing another human being is wrong, but that there may be extreme cases where taking the life of the aggressor may be the only way to protect others—just as killing an intruder may be, in extreme cases, the only way to protect your family.  It isn’t supposed to be an option, it’s supposed to be an absolute last resort when all else fails.

But today there are no extreme cases where the death penalty is reasonable or permissible.  This isn’t the 1700s.  We can incarcerate the guilty, and our prisons are secure enough that the guilty can be permanently separated from the public in order to guard the common good.   That’s one reason for the Church’s revision of the Catechism’s paragraph 2267.  But I think another part of the Church’s reasoning is especially beautiful and shouldn’t be overlooked. “…more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

How beautiful is that?  Even a murderer should be given the time and chance to be able to repent.  It may happen a month after he’s put in prison. It may happen a year later. It may happen decades later.  It may never happen at all.  But his salvation and soul are in jeopardy, and once his soul is lost (at the time of his death), that loss is permanent. Shouldn’t the Church be teaching that every soul, no matter what the person has done, should be given every opportunity, during every moment of his/her earthly life to repent?  Jesus would give them every opportunity to repent.  No sin is above God’s mercy, if we ask for it. And we all have to have that chance to ask for it, even if it takes decades to bring ourselves to ask for it.  God’s mercy is great, and is ever calling out to us.  And it’s good and right for the Church to teach that, and to preach it in a way that sets that foundation of truth in the minds and hearts of man.

 

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis.

When Catholic Talk is Cheap

Talk is cheap. Only actions have high value.  That is universally true because talk doesn’t directly make change.  Actions do. Talk

I’m increasingly confused and frustrated by the Church’s modern rhetoric. Too often it seems to be an extension of the secular mind, rather than of Catholic thought.  The secular world—particularly today—focuses on flavor-of-the-month issues. Who and what determines the popularity of those issues, and the urgency with which they must be addressed usually boils down to public opinion, which is shaped by media talking points, and formed in propaganda pouring from the mouths of politicians.  In other words, these “issues” come largely from fantasy, or from a fantastic spin on actual facts, rendering the issue itself false.

Which is why I’m so surprised that some in the Catholic Church—those who should be functioning on a higher, and more astute level, intellectually and spiritually—are playing along.  It’s not a bad thing that the Church (or some in the Church) are talking about cultural and societal issues, bringing Catholic ideas to the table. The real trouble is that they are bringing bringing those ideas to the table the way a grownup brings real sugar and milk to a child’s tea party of empty, tiny plastic cups, along with real butter for the make-believe scones.  Bringing something real to a make-believe tea party may be fun to do, but you cannot dress imaginary scones with real butter, you cannot dress imaginary tea with sugar and milk, and you cannot address issues that are equally imaginary.  Yet that’s what we’re seeing more of. 

It’s cheap talk: Talk that amounts to nothing, because it’s addressing a nothing.  It sounds good, but sounding good is the only good that comes of it.  Catholic cheap-talk is the worst, by far, because it sounds authoritative and risks fooling more people than does the cheap talk of the secular world.

Two of the many issues that are triggering Catholic cheap talk are racism, and immigration.  These may sound like real issues, but from the perspective of reality they are not.

Racism

A recent article on CNA reported on a pastoral note written by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron. In it the Archbishop has a lot of great, true, important things to say about the Gospel, the transformative power of repentance, about human dignity stemming from the image of God in every human being.  All of that stuff was beautiful, and powerfully articulated.  But the crux of the pastoral note, “Agents for the New Creation”, was the evils and sin of racism..of all things!  Of all the things we need to hear churchmen addressing (gender theory, the assault on human sexual identity, the dangers and errors of the gay lobby, the modern Catholic’s loss of reverence for the Eucharist or faith in the real presence, the dangers of allowing politics to define our purpose or the evils of letting our families become secular think tanks rather than domestic Church’s…) racism is, in my view, very low on the list.

I don’t believe racism exists in the way that people often talk about it today.  As long as humans exist, racism will exist, somewhere, but it isn’t the widespread evil that it was in the past.  The way we talk about racism today, you’d think slavery were still legal, or that Jim Crow laws were still in effect.  In reality widespread, systemic discrimination against minorities does not exist anymore. You can work, you can own a home, you can become president, simply by being capable, qualified, and dedicated to working hard. The color of one’s skin doesn’t change that, one’s choices in life does.   I’m not saying that racism doesn’t exist in some individual people; I know that it does.  There are some people who are especially broken and they discriminate against others based on their race/ethnicity/skin color.  But that’s some people, not most people.  They do not compose the whole of the modern human order, they compose the exceptional fringe.  Most people don’t care about your skin color, they care about the content and quality of your character.

Racism, culturally speaking, was more of an issue into the 50s and 60s.  In 2018 cultural discrimination and racism sits in our collective roads-past. It’s in the rear view mirror, not the passenger seat.  Yet there are political points to be won, social currency to be gained, and credibility to be earned (however fraudulently) by resurrecting this monster, animating it like a lifeless puppet, and telling the world “This is REAL!”  I’d expect that silliness from the secular world, but not from Catholics, let alone priests or bishops.  

Immigration; Trump “Muslim Ban”

Then there’s the issue of immigration. Specifically in this case, the so-called “Trump Muslim Ban”, which was upheld by the Supreme Court just yesterday.  The court confirmed that the President of the United States has constitutional authority to restrict inbound travel from foreign countries if the President deems it necessary for national security.  President Trump has not banned muslims from entering the United States, but has imposed a temporary travel ban from some muslim-majority countries.  The ban does not include all countries with a muslim majority, and it does not list every country with a majority muslim population. It also doesn’t include some countries with a greater muslim majority than the countries on the ban list.

This is not a ban on muslims, and it is not a ban against muslim nations. It’s a very calculated and deliberate measure to tighten our domestic security.  And yet here’s what the Church in the United States has to say:

“The travel ban targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country’s core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith,”  and  “We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling because it failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” and “The Catholic Church takes a strong stand against religious discrimination, and we will continue to advocate for the rights of people of all faiths”

Do you see the pattern here?  You keep hearing “religious discrimination….religious discrimination…religious discrimination”.  So what is this boogyman’s name? It’s Mr. Religious Discrimination. But has the bishop proved religious discrimination?  No. He just just wants everyone to to grant, as he apparently grants, that this travel ban is religious discrimination, and so his entire objection, talking point after talking point, is based on that single false premise.  If the premise is false, the entire objection is false. Cheap talk!

So, again, the Church is bringing something real to an imaginary issue.  A real criticism of an issue that doesn’t exist; firing real bullets at a boogyman of the secular world’s overactive imagination.  And here’s why that’s so foolish:

  1. The President is exercising a constitutionally enumerated power of the executive branch.
  2. This is not a ban on muslims, but on citizens of some muslim-majority nations. Some! Not all, not most, but some muslim-majority nations. In fact two of the countries on the list—Venezuela and North Korea—aren’t muslim-majority nations at all!
  3. Our country’s “core principal of neutrality when it comes to people of faith” does not override our country’s natural right to exist in peace and security.  But that aside, the travel ban, as I said above, is not singling out muslims. It’s not about religion, it’s about domestic security.  If it were about muslims there would be a lot more countries on the “ban list” than just the 7 that are on the list now (only two of which are muslim countries). But if we’re being frank…refer to Item 4 below….
  4. There is a real and true threat in the world.  Extremists want very much to conduct terrorist attacks in the United States. Some of them are Americans, most are not. Most of them are muslims, and very few are not! Most muslims are peaceful, but there are more violent muslims than there are violent practicing Christians. Far more! Those are the facts. So this is a real threat, and whether we agree with the strategy or not, the President is acting reasonably by restricting entry into our country from nations that were identified by the Obama Administration as being hotbeds of Islamic extremism and hostility toward the United States

For anyone in the Church to adopt the same tired, grossly obtuse rhetoric and reasoning of the secular left—or even of some on the secular right—is embarrassing and sad.  I wonder how many of these priests/bishops lock their rectory doors at night, or lock their parishes during the day for security reasons, forbidding entry not only to Catholics who simply want to go in and pray, but also to strangers whose intentions are not known, and may be nefarious.

Consequences of Catholic Cheap-Talk

The referendum in Ireland to repeal the 8th Amendment to Ireland’s constitution protecting the unborn is a evidence of the consequences of the Church’s reticence to talk about real issues and preference to talk about fake ones.  Not long before that, the people of Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage—again, showing what happens when the Church is wasting its time talking about what doesn’t matter, and is too quiet about things that do matter.  This isn’t exclusively a problem in Ireland, though what we have seen in Ireland provides the clearest manifestation of the dangers, and the destruction that stem from what I call “cheap talk”.  The failure to talk truth, and to address real issues result in inaction, or disordered actions amongst the faithful, and their secular counterparts. Our modern day cheap talk in the Church is focused on nothingness—on non-issues of little or no substance. Our talk is not focussed on real issues that are doing real damage to persons, to families, and to society.

Meanwhile the secular heroes are calling infant baptism an abuse of human rights, are forcing religious orders to pay for contraception, and are attempting to force Catholic schools to teach error, are threatening to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.  The Church keeps talking about nothing while the secular world continues to mount attacks against truth, against the Gospel, against Christ, and against the Church itself.

Talk is cheap when it isn’t followed by actions.  But no talk is cheaper than Catholic cheap-talk which says something about a nothing, and does nothing about a something.

Save the Church! Start With Yourself.

The Church is always in need of rebuilding and renewal.  The Apostles were scattered at Gethsemane; only John, and the Holy Virgin were present at the cross.  So many disciples abandoned Jesus when the Word was too difficult for them to accept on that day that Our Lord said “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Quarrels have divided the Church since the time of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, which itself was divided by schism.  This spirit of division, of a lack of humility, and of misplaced allegiances has continued to sicken and weaken the Church throughout our history, one heresy at a time.  And throughout all of these periods, between today, going back to Gethsemane, the Church has always been in need of renewal and rebuilding.

Today is no different.  Many churches have become meeting halls or community gatherings rather than a holy place where the highest worship of God takes place.  Many priests and bishops have distorted the word of God, have silenced the moral voice of the Church by failing to teach and preach the truth in its name. Some have given themselves to scandal; some, to fear.  Some in the laity engage in politics before holiness, in gossip before the Gospel, in factions before discipleship.   Many talk about a crisis in the Church but do they know what the crisis in the Church really is?

We see a Church that has lost its edge and seems to have forgotten its own identity.  In these times many of us pray for a renewal of the Church, or a rebuilding of the Church.  But renewal only happens when the Church is poised and ready for it.  To wish for it is not enough. Often to pray for it is not enough, since we ourselves—individually or collectively—can often stand in the way of the very things we ask God for.  For there to be a renewal of the Church, we must live the renewal we pray for.  The Church is a body composed of many parts. Each of us is one of those parts.  For the Church to be renewed by God, its individual parts must be renewed by God.  That is a very hard thing.

When you pray for a renewal in the Church, or for a rebuilding of the Church, ask yourself, “Am I brave enough to accept what Im praying for? To be the change that I pray for?  Am I strong enough to encounter the Holy Spirit, whose power created the universe, incarnated the Word of God in the Virgin Mary, established the Church?  Am I strong enough, and humble enough to encounter that same power within myself now?

The Holy Spirit will renew the ailing Church. Not with a flash of magic, but with conversion.  Not in an instant but through trial and by fire.  The path is not tranquil or easy.  Are you ready to follow that path? Are you ready to take onto yourself the renewal of the Church that you pray for?

Jesus Falls

If Jesus in this picture is the Church, are we actually the Romans and Jews who taunt him and contribute to the cause of his fall? In the grand scheme of things, how do you think God sees it?

Recently I was reading a meditation on the third fall of Jesus by, then, Cardinal Ratzinger. In it he outlines some things that contribute to Our Lord’s pain on the way of the Cross.  I think it offers us many true and pertinent guidelines for our own renewal and the renewal of the Church

“How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!”

Do we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion worthily? No one is perfect, but do we at least approach the sacrament in a state of grace, with humility, with grateful hearts? Have we lost touch with how awesome a gift the Eucharist is?  Are we reverent in church, at mass, or in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament? Do we approach Communion with reverence and awe, or has it simply become routine—the next task we have to tend to on our Sunday?  Are we chatty before mass when we should be maintaining a state of reverent silence, at least within reason, and moved to prayer before the Lord who is in the Tabernacle in front of us?

“How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!”

Whether a priest or a layperson, do you belong entirely to Christ?  Is every decision you make for yourself, your parish and/or your family rooted first in Jesus?  When you or I look at ourselves in the mirror, can we honestly say “I belong entirely to Christ”?

How much “filth” do we bring to the Church whose renewal we pray for?  Do we bring nastiness, corrupt hearts, unforgiving hearts, an indifference to sin?  Are we a part of the destructive forces of the world when we should be apart from them?

“…and How much pride, how much self-complacency! What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!”

Pride. It’s deadly!  Are you ready to grow in humility? Are you ready to prune the tree of your own humanity? To cut from it those prideful branches that bear the fruits of malevolence, corruption and pain?  That will likely be the hardest part of one’s conversion to greater holiness. Ask the Blessed Mother to help you. She will help you, and with a mother’s patience and gentleness.  When you have a prideful moment either in action, or in your heart or mind, pray to her in that moment. Say “Holy Mother, teach me humility”, and follow it with a Hail Mary.

The Holy Spirit will renew the Church, but that renewal will start with us.  When we are poised and ready to be renewed—and we all need renewal—then so will the Church be.  Pray for the Church, and let us all live the renewal we pray for.

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis!

Traditionalism – Catholic Civil War Part 2

Yesterday I talked about how a modern Catholic “civil war” is leaving us, and all mankind, weak, confused, and vulnerable to the assault of the ancient enemy on mankind.  This Catholic civil war is being fought between three main camps within the Church; Political Catholics, Traditionalists, and Modernist.  I talked about political Catholicism in that post. Now I’ll talk about Traditionalism.   In the next day or two I’ll go over Modernism and start to wrap up this series of posts on the subject.

Labels, Titles, Terminology

Some readers will doubtless be thinking “But I’m a traditional Catholic. What’s wrong with that?”.  The answer is “Nothing”…or “Everything”. It depends on what kind of Catholic the person labeling themselves as “traditional” really is.

It can be a little confusing, so I think it’d be helpful to go through some terminology, so that what I’m trying to say in this post is conveyed clearly to you, the reader.

Traditional Catholic

Since all Catholics, and the institution of the Church itself are bound by Sacred Tradition, the term “traditional Catholic” has always sounded redundant and silly to me, and therefor an unnecessary title.  We don’t have to say “wet water” or “hot fire” and we don’t have to say “traditional Catholic”.

But following the great and tragic harm that many secularized Catholics have done to the Church, wielding an errant understanding of Vatican II as their chief weapon, many Catholics have found it necessary to distinguish themselves from their left-leaning, “spirit of Vatican II” brethren.  So by calling themselves “traditional Catholics”, what they’re really saying is “I’m a normal Catholic, not a liberal one”.   This post is not intended to address that. Because, as I said, those types of “traditional Catholics” are just CATHOLIC.

Traditionalist Catholic

TraditionalIST Catholics are characteristically different from others who call themselves “a traditional Catholic”.  Those calling themselves “traditional Catholics” were traditionally just orthodox, faithful Catholics. They were normal Catholics. That’s it. But nowadays the term has evolved and includes a wider, more divergent class of Catholics, all using the same title, but not engendering the same theological attitudes.  Some “traditional Catholics” are much more conservative than others, and that’s not a good thing.

So when I talk about traditional Catholics here, I’m not addressing the “normal” or orthodox ones who call themselves “traditional Catholics”, I’m rather addressing the more extreme of the traditional crowd, which I’ll call Traditionalists.

Traditionalism

Traditionalists today are no longer just orthodox or faithful Catholics. The term today includes a more extreme persona. Today traditionalists largely favor the Latin mass (for good or bad reasons), believing it to be substantially superior, and more efficacious than the Novus Ordo (the “new” mass). They take issue with the Second Vatican Council itself, not just with the implementation of its documents. They adopt an erroneous, purist point of view, calling everything “heretical” or “Modernist” if it doesn’t agree with their often incorrect or off-base understanding of the faith, or the Church or her history.   They correctly acknowledge that the Church is bound to Sacred Tradition, but they also believe that Sacred Tradition precludes the Church from growing and developing through time.

The Church—including her people—is supposed to grow and develop through time, but not change with time.  Yes, there’s a difference. Our practices sometimes grow, our understanding of theology grows, and our theology develops. A development isn’t a departure from a foundation (that would be modernism), it’s an expansion from, and guided by a foundation. That, my brothers and sisters is Catholicism.  Not “traditionalism”, just Catholicism.   Anything less than that is modernism, and anything more than that is malignant traditionalism.

Good Intention, Bad Destination

Many have gone over to the “traditional” side out of reasonable and understandable frustration with some objectively problematic practices and habits in the Church today.  They’re tired of masses not being celebrated well, or reverently, or even illicitly in some cases. They’re tired of bad theology being presented as actual Catholicism.  They’re tired of what has become an environment in much of the Church that fails to take itself seriously in a secular world that needs the Church to take itself seriously now more than ever.  Their reaction to all of this has been to become more and more traditional in their practice of the faith. That’s not altogether a bad thing. It’s not bad to become more prayerful or to have a more regimented prayer life, to receive communion kneeling down, and/or on the tongue, to learn more about the saints or about the Church fathers, read the bible, to study the Church’s teachings, or councils or papal documents. But, again, to me that isn’t a Catholic being “traditional”, it’s just a Catholic being Catholic.  And it’s a good thing. But becoming ‘more traditional’ becomes a problem when it locks a Catholic in the past. They begin to view everything not through the prism of the Church throughout history, but rather from a fabricated point of view of the Church in the past. That’s a very different thing, and it’s a very dangerous thing.

Traditionalism is part of the Catholic civil war, because it creates division, and a combative atmosphere.  The combat is between Traditionalists and every other Catholic (orthodox and modernists alike), and between Traditionalists and the Church.  Neither holiness nor piety flourish in this fog of war. Only division, fear, confusion flourish. Which is exactly what the devil wants.

Traditionalism is dangerous.  It assaults unity, confuses the faithful, perverts the faith, and disorients and sours the lifeblood of the Church. Every manifestation of Traditionalism, therefor, bears, by its nature, a characteristic of evil, antithetical to the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  And that should be your first and only needed clue as to its true origin.

Being a so-called “traditional” Catholic—that is to say a normal, orthodox, faithful Catholic—is a good thing. But when our obedience to Sacred Tradition becomes merely a cult of customs (customs and Sacred Tradition are not the same thing), the Catholic heart is made to stop beating, to stop living; the body of the Church is forced to stop growing. Catholics themselves become more old-school Catholics, but they do not grow. They become more regimented, but not more faithful. They become more devout, but not more holy.  They become more saint-like, but not more saintly. More purist, but not more pious.

Stick to what the Church teaches.  The Church never teaches error. She never has, and she never will.  Trust and believe in the Church, which is, has always been, and will always be guided by the Holy Spirit.  Be patient with the bumps in the road, because the Church is driving over many of them right now. There is the occasional bad/silly mass. There is the occasional foolish/wrong thing spoken by some priests or bishops. There is a spirit of fear and political correctness.  The list goes on. There are bumps in the road. But the road is sure, and the Church’s direction is true.  Despite the bumps in the road the Church continues to drive forward toward a glorious destination, and is being driven by the Holy Spirit.  Don’t let your Catholicity be defined or shaped by the bumps in the road. Remember our history, and remember the goal.  The Church will get there.  You won’t be there with her if you’re not along for the ride now. Be brave. Be Catholic. Stay Catholic.

In a later post I’ll talk about Modernism, why it’s so bad, and ways in which Modernism and traditionalism are eerily similar, and how they play off of each other to achieve the devil’s main goal—to hamstring the Church by hamstringing Catholics.

Ave Maria, virgo fidelis