Over at The Week, my friend (and very occasional contributor to 1P5) Michael Dougherty offers one of the best explanations I’ve seen about what we’re facing and why we’re facing it. But first, he swings for the fences:
In the next three weeks, I fully expect the leadership of my own One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church to fall into apostasy, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family that begins today in Rome. This is the outcome Pope Francis has shaped over the entirety of his pontificate, and particularly with his recent appointments. An event like this —heresy promulgated by the Pope and his bishops — is believed by most Catholics to be impossible. But they should be prepared for it anyway. This is not an ordinary religious conference, but one to be dreaded.
My prediction is that, after much fixing and machinations by its leaders, the Synod on the Family will declare that the Holy Spirit led them to a new understanding of the truth. The Synod’s leaders will adopt the position that those living in second marriages, irrespective of the status of their first marriage, should be admitted to Holy Communion. This is commonly called the “Kasper proposal” after its author, the German Cardinal Walter Kasper. The Synod will likely leave the details of a “penitential period of reflection” for these souls up to local bishops and parish priests The leading bishops will assure critics that in fact no doctrine has been changed, only a discipline — even if these will make no sense when considered together.
But make no mistake, the Synod will make the sacrilege of the Eucharist St. Paul warns against an official policy of the Roman Catholic Church. And in the process the Synod will encourage the breakup of more marriages.
Whether or not you agree with his conclusions, the fact remains that this dark thought lurks in the minds of many who are watching the Synod. Not knowing how God will allow this and being unsure of the way it will happen does very little to assuage the fears that it will happen. And while Dougherty begins with an uppercut that leaves you reeling, it’s vital to regain your focus and keep slogging. The rest of his analysis is indispensable:
The truth, if the prelates can shoulder it, is that the loss of Catholic faith we are witnessing in the Synod process should have been expected. At the Second Vatican Council and afterward, the church itself contributed to the worst spasm of iconoclasm in the history of Christendom. The past had to be destroyed. The council called for the revision of all the laws that governed the material objects of Catholic worship, from altars to images to tabernacles to baptistries. Shortly afterward the entire Mass — the central act of Catholic worship — was re-written according to shoddy, ideologically motivated scholarship.
Theologians like Karl Rahner substituted new theologies for the Mass that specifically suppressed any understanding of it as a propitiatory sacrifice. Across the world, altars and altar rails were smashed, statues and confessionals thrown in the dump. Thomas Cranmer, a leader of the English Reformation, must have laughed from his grave.
A novice student of religious studies can recognize what happened. If all the physical and verbal aspects of worship are changed, and the very rationale of the act is changed, then you are not reforming a people’s religion, you are substituting a new one in the old one’s place.
This act of substitution is in the language of Rahner’s writing on the Mass, where the priest becomes a mere “presider” — or worse, a “president” — and the church becomes an “assembly.” And so, quite naturally, most Masses in most modern churches have exactly the wan atmosphere of a high school assembly. The church now puts sanctimony in the place of sanctity, therapeutic self-acceptance in the place of holiness, “participation” in the place of devotion, and love of man where once was the love of God. Ultimately, man is substituted for God himself.
The “New Mass” of the Second Vatican Council, in a halting and incomplete way, expresses a completely new theology, one that is nearly the opposite of Catholicism. Instead of Christ dying on the cross to redeem sinners, he dies on the cross because man’s dignity demands that he does so. The recognition of this supreme dignity of man at the Mass is not a sacrifice, but a memorial gathering. And this gathering foreshadows the as-yet-unrealized unity of all men, not the heavenly feast. Thus after the moment of consecration, instead of allowing Catholics a moment to contemplate the mystery of the incarnation and the sacrifice of Calvary, they stand up and nervously shake hands. Because it is not just a new religion, but a banal one.
Kasper’s own writing evinces an entirely untraditional concept of God himself. God does not make the world in which we inhabit. Instead, reality is historically constructed by man and for man. Man discovers the “truth” by opening himself up to an experience of transcendence, and does so progressively throughout history, drawing ever forward to his ultimate historical realization. For all of his fondness for Hegel, Kasper’s theology amounts to a spiritualized Whig view of history. Naturally he concludes that the dogmas of the church must change, since “dogma never settles a theological issue once and for all.”
Some opponents of the Kasper proposal think they are facing a merely incoherent plan to change the discipline of the church. They think that it is a category error, that Kasper and his allies have confused things that are judged in prudence (like whether lay Catholics ought to abstain from meat on Friday) with those that are a logical consequence of unchangeable doctrine and the words of scripture (like the rule that those in mortal sin must abstain from Holy Communion). But it is not a question of discipline. For Kasper and for his confreres, the proposal is an attempt to realize the new religion more fully, the religion that is haltingly expressed not just in the imposition of a “New Mass” after the Second Vatican Council, but also in rite of the New Mass itself — the religion that ceaselessly evolves to accommodate (Western) man’s desires. (emphasis added)
This is the crux of it all. This is why so-called “traditionalist” writers focus so obsessively on liturgy. This is why we repeat the phrase, “Save the liturgy, save the world.” This is why then-Cardinal Ratzinger so famously lamented:
“I am convinced that the ecclesial crisis in which we find ourselves today depends in great part upon the collapse of the liturgy, which at times is actually being conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: as though in the liturgy it did not matter any more whether God exists and whether He speaks to us and listens to us.
“But if in the liturgy the communion of faith no longer appears, nor the universal unity of the Church and of her history, nor the mystery of the living Christ, where is it that the Church still appears in her spiritual substance?,” he asked.
Too often, Ratzinger lamented, “the community is only celebrating itself without its being worthwhile to do so.”
This is why Bishop Athanasius Schneider made it crystal clear last year that the heart of the crisis we face at the Synod has everything to do with how we worship:
I think this issue of the reception of Holy Communion by the remarried will blow up and show the real crisis in the Church. The real crisis of the Church is anthropocentrism, forgetting the Christocentrism. Indeed, this is the deepest evil, when man or the clergy are putting themselves in the centre when they are celebrating liturgy and when they are changing the revealed truth of God, e.g. concerning the Sixth Commandment and human sexuality.
‘The crisis reveals itself also in the manner in which the Eucharistic Lord is treated. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church. When the heart is weak, the whole body is weak. So when the practice around the Eucharist is weak, then the heart and the life of the Church is weak. And when people have no more supernatural vision of God in the Eucharist then they will start the worship of man, and then also doctrine will change to the desire of man.
‘This crisis is when we place ourselves, including the priests, at the centre and when God is put in the corner and this is happening also materially. The Blessed Sacrament is sometimes in a cupboard away from the centre and the chair of the priest is in the centre. We have already been in this situation for 40 or 50 years and there is the real danger that God and his Commandments and laws will be put on the side and the human natural desiring in the centre. There is causal connection between the Eucharistic and the doctrinal crisis.
‘Our first duty as human beings is to adore God, not us, but Him. Unfortunately, the liturgical practice of the last 40 years has been very anthropocentric.
‘Participating in liturgy is firstly not about doing things but praying and worshipping, to love God with all your soul. This is true participation, to be united with God in your soul. Exterior participation is not essential.
‘The crisis is really this: we have not put Christ or God at the centre. And Christ is God incarnated. Our problem today is that we put away the incarnation. We have eclipsed it. If God remains in my mind only as an idea, this is Gnostic. In other religions e.g. Jews, Muslims, God is not incarnated. For them, God is in the book, but He is not concrete. Only in Christianity, and really in the Catholic Church, is the incarnation fully realised and this has to be stressed therefore also in every point of the liturgy. God is here and really present. So every detail has meaning.
‘We are living in an un-Christian society, in a new paganism. The temptation today for the clergy is to adapt to the new world to the new paganism, to be collaborationists. We are in a similar situation to the first centuries, when the majority of the society was pagan, and Christianity was discriminated against.’
The differences between the Novus Ordo and the Vetus Ordo are not simply matters of taste; there are fundamental theological and anthropological distinctions between the two forms of the Roman rite. The former is manifestly an anthropocentric endeavor, in its ecumenical aims, in its stripped-down prayers, in its orientation, and in its room for improvisation. Martin Mosebach lamented that while the Mass of Paul VI can be celebrated reverently, it is merely an option. To celebrate the older missal irreverently, one must make an effort to do so – breaking rubrics, rushing hurriedly through the prayers, failing to implement the beauty of sacred music or a properly adorned altar, etc. But the prayers of that liturgy themselves stand as a bulwark against true irreverence. There is no room within the ancient rubrics for a priest to go off on an ad-hoc soliloquy, and the prescription of where he is to stand and what he is to do and the direction he is supposed to face diminishes the possibility of him dominating the sanctuary by his presence. He is forced, whether he likes it or not, to decrease, so that Christ may increase. As one traditional priest of my acquaintance put it, “I am a slave of the liturgy. The Church tells me where to stand, where to place my hands, when to genuflect, when to kiss the altar…I dissappear, and it is Christ’s priesthood working through me.”
My gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for Summorum Pontificum is real, but I worry that the Hegelian dialectic he established between the venerable Mass of the Ages and the “banal, on the spot product” that is the newer form (his words, not mine) is like “dialoguing” with the Devil. How can we find a compromise between what is sacred and what is profane? Meeting in the middle is, nonetheless, a diminution. We recognize this in the marriage debate, recognizing the absurdity of a “third way” between adultery and marital fidelity, so why are we so blind when it comes to the central act of worship that so deeply informs our approach to the entirety of our Faith?
Christ has been kicked out of the sanctuary in the post-conciliar liturgy to make room for us — often literally, depending upon the architecture of your parish — so why do we expect to find Him given a central place in the sacred union of spouses? We have taught our people that God is a means to our ends, and now we find ourselves confused that this perversion is reaching its logical terminus?
The facts we have to face about the enormous conflict between pre and post-conciliar sacramental and theological milieus are as stunning as the conclusions we’re all having to grapple with about what is happening at the Synod. They seem unthinkable, but it’s time to think it: Catholicism before the Second Vatican Council and Catholicism after are so manifestly different that they very nearly represent two different religions. This is a matter not just of externals, which are of course crucially important, but of beliefs, which take their cue from signs and symbols.
If we change the discipline around marriage in such a way as to give the impression that it is dissoluble, or at least annullable at will, so when we change the discipline of the sacraments we gave the impression that everything we once believed was not so important after all. The disaster that has followed makes clear the success of the latter program, and it is this very sea change in belief that has paved the way for our present moment. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi isn’t just a fun thing to say in Latin. It’s the blueprint for the entire infernal machine.
I don’t know to what degree Dougherty’s prediction will come true; it is clear that we are seeing apostolic apostasy writ large, and that the apostates have been given an unfair advantage by Christ’s own Vicar. I believe in the Church and in her indefectibility; I believe in Christ’s promise that she will not fall. But our understanding of what Our Lord means and the reality of how it will come to pass are often far different. I think often of the apostles, dumbfounded that Jesus actually died and was laid in the tomb. This had long been a stumbling-block for them, and He had only allowed those who had seen Him transfigured to be with Him in His moments of deepest agony, so certain was he of the scandal it would cause to the others. Even in keeping the faith on that first Holy Saturday, they must have been tempted with the worst doubts and fears. Was anything they believed in true? Was it all just a hoax that had come to a horrible end? Poor Thomas couldn’t believe that his Lord was back from the dead until he personally probed the wounds.
We can’t know how God’s plans will unfold, but we must have confidence that they will come to pass in exactly the way He desires. In the mean time, as we re-evaluate the trust we’ve placed in those who hold the highest places of leadership in the Church, we would do well to re-examine the meager fare that they have offered us for the last 50 years. It has not sustained the faith. We are here, in this moment of crisis, not by accident, but by design.
I hope you’ll pray with me for the restoration of the Church and her sacred liturgy according to God’s will and not our own. That may very well mean that things must get worse before they get better. If so, then let us not be sad: the beast must fully reveal itself before it can be put down.
Dougherty asks in his conclusion if these men fear God. The answer is: “Obviously not yet, but soon.”
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
I think the liturgies of OF and EF can be met in “in the middle” in some way by preserving the best of both. I see it happening now in the Dominican Rite and sung Latin OF masses ad orientem. So, I am more hopeful.
I’ll also put in (another) plug for the Anglican Ordinariate Mass: I assisted at their Mass again yesterday, and it is intrinsically beautiful and reverent. I expect this is what some (sadly, not all) Council Fathers had in mind when they allowed Mass in the vernacular.
I’ll second that point. The Ordinariate Missal does seem to show – especially if one uses the most traditional options, which many Ordinariate communities do – how reverent, traditional liturgy can be done in the vernacular.
I think this is where discussion of the vernacular takes us off course. The Ordinariate Missal has a lot more in common with the 1962 Missal than the Missal of Paul VI. The language it’s offered in is the least important part of the equation.
Indeed: while the abandonment of Latin was quite unfortunate (and not called for by Vatican II), it was in many respects one of the LEAST significant changes made to the Roman Rite Mass.
The Ordinariate Missal *does* borrow certain things from the N.O., like its lectionary (albeit in a much better translation) and much of its calendar; but on the whole it is closer to the Traditional Roman Rite, with even a taste or two of Sarum (albeit not enough for my taste, alas).
The 1962 missal is John XXIII’s missal. It’s a Vatican II missal, that’s why they let people use it.
Also, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has been in the vernacular for a very long time. Again, the content of the liturgy is paramount.
Yes, I agree. Sorry for derailing the topic onto the vernacular; my main point was to highlight the beauty and dignity of the Ordinariate Mass. In the 7+ years since I first started attending Catholic Masses, I have been to reverently celebrated Novus Ordos, but none has come close to the standard Ordinariate Mass in its tiny little church in our diocese.
If by “best of both” you mean “everything from the EF and nothing from the OF”, I agree with you. There is nothing within the OF that is better than the OF. The only good parts of the OF are already in the EF (Kyrie, Gloria, etc.)
A traditional Dominican priest I spoke to the other day wishes the ancient prefaces re-introduced to the NO could also be added to the TLM. He’s a liturgist (in a good way!).
I suppose the question here would be which unique features of the OF would be considered salutory to introduce into the EF.
Inasmuch as there may have been some prelates of good will and scholarly bent involved in the crafting of the novus ordo, there may well be something of value in it that could inform the vetus ordo. In that regard, I was struck recently by Dom Prosper Gueranger’s comment in The Holy Mass (describing the vetus ordo) that:
The only defense of the novus ordo I ever thought remotely persuasive was the emphasis on additional biblical readings that tie together the prophecies of the old testament and their fulfillment in the new. Perhaps re-introducing an additional old testament reading to the EF Roman missal wouldn’t be a bad thing?
There’s so much more scripture in the old mass and the old divine office than the new, it’s not funny. Sure, they added another reading to the NO, but they stripped away lots of scripture from the propers of the mass, and re-wrote huge swaths of it. They also completely removed two psalms from the psalter, because they had violent imagery. The drafters of the NO are ashamed of Christ and his scripture!
1 Corinthians 11:27 is a good case in point here.
I completely agree with what you have written. I merely thought it interesting that as eminent a liturgical scholar as Dom Prosper Gueranger mourned the excision of the Lesson from the Roman Rite. One can still admire the accuracy of even a broken clock, twice a day.
The elephant in the living room – lurking right over there between the brocade settee and the mahogany curio – is the Enlightenment. For the better part of 500 years, the Church sat clinking the chinaware to cover the sound of the massive droppings as they landed upon the Fereghan: *Plop!* German Idealism, *Plop!* Materialistic Reductionism, *Plop!* Darwinian Evolution. I love the liturgy as much as the next man, but perhaps it’s time we start asking in earnest why – besides the general malaise of diabolical disorientation – the Modernists abandoned the Catholic Faith in the first place.
OK. You first.
(Kidding.) Nah, you’re dead-on: it was the Enlightenment, and it needs to be rolled back in its entirety. Or extirpated root and branch, salt the earth, that kind of thing.
My principles are only those that, before the French Revolution, every well-born person considered sane and normal.
– Julius Evola
I’m the furthest thing from an expert you can imagine, but if I had to guess I’d say Modernism (together with its cousin Americanism) is essentially a movement to enshrine the principles of the Enlightenment within the Church. Both Modernism and the Enlightenment are fundamentally anthropocentric, featuring an (entirely unjustified) faith in man’s ability to use naked reason to construct a more just society. They are scientistic, possessed of a naive fideism about the ability of scientific inquiry to inform us about the nature of man and of the universe. Unmoored from tradition and custom, they are also neophilic, forever apt to be beguiled by the newest shiny thing that comes along. And so we get the Higher Critical movement, which rules out supernatural phenomena from the start and naturally arrives at the conclusion that the whole thing is a fabrication: Well, since we know that dead men can’t come back to life, … And so on.
But as to your final question, I have no idea. The Mystery of Iniquity.
Thanks for the thoughtful response, Murray. My own response, as sophomoric as it is, grew too long to be posted here. If you’re interested, you can read it here: http://bit.ly/1GupR6g
The proposal that decadent clergy is “the fruit of our worship” is fallacious and ignorant, especially ignorant with regards to history.
Do you realize how many decadent clergymen there were while the TLM was prevalent?????
Applying your argument to the large number of decadent clergymen throughout history, you all basically are suggesting that Judas the Iscariot wouldn’t have betrayed Jesus if Jesus would have spoke Latin and if Jesus would have allowed two dudes to pull up his clothing when He said the words of consecration, all while facing the liturgical east.
You all are just as guilty of fluffiness as the charismatics who think that God “is a hurricane” and they are “a tree, bending beneath his waves of mercy.” You all like the feel-goodness of Latin during Mass, but you have no idea what the words mean. “But Latin is so ace thetic ally pleasing!” Right. The Crucifixion was aesthetically pleasing, eh?
Come on, man, grow some intelligence.
Are you directing that at me?
Fluffiness? Good gracious, we are making an effort to engage intellectually with a major problem, when an anonymous guy comes swooping in from nowhere, dispensing ad hominems and absurdities with wild abandon, and we are the fluffy ones?
As to the question of decadent clergy, there are different kinds of decadence, some more scandalous and disgusting than others. The purely material and carnal decadence of a Medici or Borgia cleric is wicked, but it doesn’t purport to excuse itself by corrupting the entire theological framework and revealed truths of our religion. Spiritual decadence, which is fostered by the anthropocentric and effeminate Novus Ordo, is more dangerous by orders of magnitude, because it does seek to excuse itself in that way.
How many were there? You ask the question as if the answer was within it. It is not. And, as Jessica says, material and carnal wickedness is a lot less dangerous than spiritual wickedness. The desire to destroy the teachings of Christ Himself costs souls. Countless souls. The Liturgy, when celebrated with awe and reverence, can and does save souls often the souls of the very priests who celebrate it. The innate holiness of the Latin Mass when celebrated in this way is obvious to all who behold it. Unless they’re determined not to see it.
That is a point that I have tried to make several times before to those who live by the “Save the liturgy, save the world.” mantra. Every Council Father at Vatican II knew only the Traditional Mass – they had grown up with it as children, it was the only Mass which they were trained to offer prior to ordination, and it was the only Mass any of them had ever offered after ordination (with the possible occasional exception of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom).
If having the right liturgy were the answer to our prayers, Vatican II would never have happened. It is only one of the solutions, but possibly not the most important solution. If the TLM couldn’t stop Vatican II happening, why could it stop any other robber synods happening?
Let us acknowledge that the prodigal son was a different person between the time he left and the time he returned to the same home. To be explicit, saying the TLM now does not have the same meaning as saying the TLM before Vatican II.
It’s important to acknowledge, as Dr. Joseph Shaw has this week, that the Revolution of the 1960’s was an elite led revolution, not a popular one. Remaking the liturgy, then, was a project about cementing the revolution with the Church’s “working classes” – the lower clergy, but above all the laity. This allowed the Modernist Revolution to succeed with the laity where, say, the Arian Movement failed.
So no, traditional liturgies cannot always prevent a defection of elites. That will always be a danger. But it has done a pretty good job of anchoring the faith of the flock.
No, it absolutely has not. What did 99.5% of the flock do when the liturgy was changed? Their faith was so anchored that they either stopped practicing their faith or they just rolled over and went along with it “Coz Father said its a good thing so it must be good.”
Their faith was in the institution and the clergy – not Our Lord. So when the clergy collectively betrayed Our Lord, the “faith”ful had neither the nouse nor the will to resist. (Apart from a few brave souls to whom we are all deeply indebted.)
Obviously the liturgy is a very important part of restoring the faith, but unless Catholics get serious about the Word of God (unadulterated by modernist scriptural exegesis), the Tradition we have received from the Apostles, Fathers and perennial Magisterium, the Church will remain as vulnerable to attack as it was in the 1960’s irrespective of what happens with the liturgy.
Catholics need to have such a strong relationship with Our Lord Himself that they will remain faithful to Him, irrespective of what their priests, bishops or Popes do.
Sometimes I do wonder if that has been Francis’ Jesuitical game-plan all along: trying to get people to put their faith in Christ by downplaying the importance of the institution and the hierarchy.
What did 99.5% of the flock do when the liturgy was changed? Their faith was so anchored that they either stopped practicing their faith or they just rolled over and went along with it “Coz Father said its a good thing so it must be good.”
Well, it’s a hierarchical church. And Catholics were naturally deferential to the hierarchy. And suddenly, after 1965 or so, the hierarchy in most places right down to the pastor was went from saying that 2+2=4 to 2+2=5. What was left to a pewsitter to do? Assume that he Church knows what it is talking about, disbelieve it and complain, disbelieve and quietly grumble, or simply abandon it? The days of angry Catholic mobs throwing heretical bishops out of their cathedrals (and their cities) came and went a long, long time ago, I’m afraid.
No question that a significant amount of lay participation before then was “cultural Catholicism.” No question also that a certain dangerous passivity (and ultramontanism!) had crept into lay spirituality. People took too much for granted. But I think you’re asking a lot of the laity in those days, too. They really had nowhere to turn.
Sometimes I do wonder if that has been Francis’ Jesuitical game-plan all along: trying to get people to put their faith in Christ by downplaying the importance of the institution and the hierarchy.
If you work too hard to set the hierarchy in opposition to Christ, what you inevitably end up with are ex-Catholics – at the very least, schismatic. As it is, it is a tough balancing act now for most traditionalists, even those who attend only authorized Masses.
The sun she’s white
Man-moon a fella’ frail
In the caves of the
We await the scale
To be tipped towards
Spilling vinegar or wine
Vinegar and gall
Or wine sanguine
We await his voice
‘Neath eternal Rome –
To declare Truth not
In deep catacomb
Keep all aboard
As our Captain Peter –
Upon this Rock
Don’t let us teeter
Crash all the seas
Through wind and hail
Steer the synod
From poisonous tail
The sun she’s white
Man-moon a frail fella’ –
But Truth stays the
Towards Maria Stella!
Merci Marcel! The priesthood lives!
“We are here, in this moment of crisis, not by accident, but by design.” Exactly. I hope more people come to realize this. Excellent piece, Steve.
Yes and nothing, nothing happens unless it is willed by God, or allowed by Him. This must be tattooed onto our hearts. God is allowing the minds, the intellects, the wills, the hands, and tongues, and eyes and ears, the feet, the psychological gall – of those who want a new religion to function day by day.
Do they breathe by themselves? Do their hearts beat by themselves. This ‘allowing’ by God does as deep as very life. So what’s the point? For His own inscrutable reasons this trial is getting worse and worse. Somehow if we keep the Faith we will be saved. That’s about as ‘bottom line’ as it gets.
Obviously not–not a trace of fear of God.. Reminds one of Lucifer and his pride. How arrogant they are, and like Lucifer—they WILL not serve God.!
the desolating sacrilege, spoken about in various books of Scripture….look for it
Dougherty has some good things to say, but if he truly believes that what exists after Vatican II is a new church, and be remains a Catholic, then he is a living a lie and I should pay no heed to what he says.
If he has left the Church, then I should also pay no heed to what he says.
Effectively, it is a new Church. The two look resemble one another barely at all. And if one did not believe in the doctrine of indefectibility, it would be unreasonable to conclude that the old Catholic Church had evolved into something entirely new and different. The evidence is plain to see.
We do believe in indefectibility, however, so we’re left trying to square the circle. This is what gives rise to Pope Benedict’s much-vaunted (but mostly non-existent in fact) “hermeneutic of continuity.”
It’s the perfect storm: ill-equipped Catholics left with weak (or wrong) direction or none at all; almost two generations of zero-effect-catechesis in Catholic schools, CCD programs or in sermons in Church; and a bizarre new ‘clerical’ twist with priests, bishops, cardinals (and the pope???) endorsing the ‘value’ of homosexuality among Catholics and encouraging them ‘in mercy'(????) to receive Holy Communion sacrilegiously and in mortal sin. Wow. Stranger than fiction indeed. Satan doesn’t need a Halloween costume — no one recognizes him on their doorstep anymore.
We do believe in indefectibility. But perhaps instead of uselessly trying to square the circle, we might look at it from another perspective; that is, if the church seems clouded in darkness, that it is our eyes that bear the fault. If we can’t see the continuity, it may be because we’re not looking at it the right way.
And black is white and up is down, too.
Right. But see, I don’t think I’m such a perfect Catholic that if something in the Church bothers me I immediately think that the fault must lie with the Church. In fact, I also don’t think any particular group of lay Catholics, no matter how holy and well meaning, think there’s something wrong with the Church they must be right. If the Holy Spirit guides His Church, preserving her from error, then that has to me my starting point.
“I don’t think I’m such a perfect Catholic that if something in the Church bothers me I immediately think that the fault must lie with the Church.”
That’s an absurd accusation. There is a great deal wrong with the Church at the present moment, and the only standard by which the faithful may judge that is not their own idea of what the Church should be, but the many centuries of teaching that the Church herself provided.
In the 20th century, the Church was infiltrated by those who sought to remake it in their own image of what Catholicism should be, not what it is. They’re wrong. They always have been. And more to the point, we were warned that they were coming, successively throughout the 20th centruy, by teachings like Pope Pius X’s Pascendi Domenici Gregis and Pius XI’s Mortalium Animos and Pius XII’s Mediator Dei.
We know what the Church is and what she believes because these things have been made explicit. Those deviations from what has been established through her authority are the ones that must be explained, not the other way around.
Well, I really don’t think it’s that absurd to accuse myself of imperfection, but thanks for the vote of confidence!
I’m really not sure how to answer you, since I’m really not seeing a church “infiltrated” or even changed in any material way in the last, oh, couple thousand years. The encyclicals don’t read to me as prophecy as they seem to do for you, but perhaps it’s been longer ago that I read and studied them.
Around me I see a renaissance of Catholic tradition, and I rejoice. Sure the Church is made of humans, so there’s always plenty of work to do, but Herself, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, the Church continues to show the world Christ.
So I’m asking with true sincerity; what are these ‘changes’ that need to be ‘explained’? How do they affect the faithful and why should I worry? And what action should the lay faithful take?
Well, at no point does Dougherty actually say, expressly, that it is a “new Church.” He does speak of the substitution of a new theology or a new religion, as manifested in aspects of the reformed liturgy, and in the writings of key theologians such as Rahner and Kasper. But these do not amount to a dogmatic overturning of Church teaching, as I read it, but that the lived reality has changed, and that certain figures are advocating, and have been advocating, for that change. It is the change between de facto and de jure, perhaps, to use a legal analogy.
“If all the physical and verbal aspects of worship are changed, and the very rationale of the act is changed, then you are not reforming a people’s religion, you are substituting a new one in the old one’s place.”
This is what he is asserting has happened. That in fact every important aspect of what it means to be Catholic has changed, and he seems to be using the word religion to signify Church. But maybe I’m just not seeing a subtlety that in fact exists.
To look at what Catholicism actually looked like in nearly all places – the typical parish, seminary, or school – in the West up until 1960 or so, and then to look at what actually prevails today in many – not all, but many – of the same places today, in 2015 . . . is it really so unreasonable to compare the two and suggest that what appears to be manifested is near enough to different religions – or different creeds, at any rate (let us grant that both might qualify as “Christian” at some basic level)? You could start with the normative celebration of Mass then versus now, and go on from there.
This does not mean that this new lived reality occurs everywhere, let alone that the doctrine has changed; there have been no decretals or dogmatic canons to revoke anything that appears in Denzinger – even if, alas, almost nothing predating 1962 is typically cited in documents of the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium, or those of bishops’ conferences.
Perhaps I’m just coming at this from a different perspective. I was in conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness some years ago. I asked whether, if St. Paul were to attend one of their services, and then a Catholic Mass, which he would recognize as the church established by Christ?
Reader Yesterday, I’ve discovered some primary source material that might help clarify the issue for you.
This was a great piece! Thank you, much needed! I feel like the rift between me & my “VII Catholic” or “Neo Catholic” friends & anyone who is such are becoming more & more predominant & I am being isolated (But I have been treated as any trad that it is “my” problem, not theirs. I mean, reckon we can be reactionary or some just go extreme, but then we are all treated like we’re the problem sadly). Online people I don’t know are vicious, my friends won’t say it to my face, but the vibe & way they treat me is there (though one used the crazy “rad trad” & “tin foil hat” terms to me). Not to mention they avoid the TLM & anything too pre-VII like the plague or act all “that’s nice, you’re preferred form of worship.” Though, I know I in bad moments have acted the same way to them, I try always not to though. They’re sincere though & earnest Catholics. It depresses me to think of the separation between us, since they’re my friends & I love them. But I have always felt like an outsider & now only increasing. I however can’t bring myself to tolerant the NO mass any longer (cradle traditional Catholic here), especially finding out more how it came to be. I have tried to for years, but I can’t ignore the differences anymore. I just can’t bring myself to try to see the pre-VII & post-VII Catholicism as the same & a continuation. It really bothers me, especially when I’m treated like I’m “crazy,” or “protestant” somehow (which the protestant argument really makes no sense but whatever). When I did try to like the NO & all the stuff that came with the post-VII Catholic Faith as well, I felt like I was in a different home, confused, depressed, & empty because something is missing (It feels protestant. Awkward throwback. lol). I always tumbled into just being a “bad Catholic” & ignoring it all if it wasn’t traditional Catholicism. I now understand what those who lived through the “VII fallout” feel like reflecting on it more & hearing from those who were there (I would love to hear more of their stories). Sadly though, it all still bothers me that I am “crazy” & fills me with doubt. For awhile I’m super confident, next doubt central. It’s a rollercoaster. lol As you all are feeling I know! Had to rant. lol
Lilian, I’ve watched Michael Voris’s pieces on the SSPS as ‘schismatic” and have been watching an SSPX video series from its site. It is so clear to me now that,when I tried to return to the Faith in 1978, by going to Sunday Mass, I recognized nothing there and said to myself, “There is nothing for me here anymore.”
This article reads like a confirmation of all that SSPX has maintained from the beginning. In essence: Archbishop Lefebvre found that the VII church was no longer faithful, and that the liturgy was at the center of the corruption … and the restoration … of the Catholic Church. SSPX remained faithful to Tradition. Their continued operation is justified by the “state of necessity” in the Church.
Episode 12 of the series explains that there exists a “state of necessity” that is “neither ordinary or regular”, a situation engendered by a grave danger to the Faith effected by the combination of the new Catechisms, liberal sermons, the perspectives of media (particularly the “Catholic press”), the ecumenical spirit (causing “religious indifferentism” — that all religions are valid), and the new liturgy and new Mass.
These factors have caused a “shift in foundational principles” and place the faithful between (the rock of) heresy — the “New” church — and (the hard place of) alleged schism; “objective truth” v. “apparent obedience.”
“Extraordinary situatuions imply extraordinary duties for all,” with particularly heavy responsibility falling on the priests and bishops to “resist and denounce novelties,” “defend and protect the faithful.” “preach sound Catholic doctrine,” and “provide properly administered sacraments.” This may be accomplished by “extraordinary means”
In the video, SSPX cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “Neccessity has no law,” and Jesus to the priests: “which of you should have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him, out on the Sabbath day?” (Lk 14:5).
After reading this article, I have to say that it is not much different from what SSPX has been saying for 45 years.
MY QUESTION: We have to wait for the ongoing synod to run its course but, do we wait for this to “shake out” in the Catholic Church as she is now, or do we follow the SSPX way hoping for the day that the true faith is restored? I wonder who is to guide us?
This is an excellent article, especially by tying together a whole range of issues facing the church. Since the article points to the influence of several theologians, and other theologians are certainly influencing the current Synod, I want to say that I am continually puzzled by the influence of academic theologians, in the following sense. I do not understand why we put so much weight on theologians’ arguments about faith and practice, simply on the strength of the theologians’ academic record or the reasoning of his or her argument. (The latter point in particular is unfortunately influenced by the argument’s congruence with our own prior opinions.)
Why do we not give more weight on the spiritual records of our theologians? Shouldn’t we primarily give weight on theologians who have demonstrated exemplary lives of holiness? That is, should we not pay attention to those who have “walked the walk” and also can “talk the talk?” I feel that giving weight to academic theologians is a bit like listening to professors of education who do not actually teach, or law professors who do not actually practice law. They contribute to academic debates, but, as they and their work becomes divorced from practice, their work when applied becomes generally ineffective or even detrimental toward meeting goals, in this case holiness, academic performance, or the skills to work as a lawyer.
Note, I am not arguing that academic theologians have nothing to contribute to religion. However, I am pointing to the need for experience to inform theological argument. Being an academic theologian obviously does not imply any degree of personal spiritual development. How can someone inform us on a novel way to ascend into a deeper union with Christ if they themselves have not made the ascent? Do Zen Buddhist monks turn to the “Journal of Buddhist Studies” to learn how to order their Zen group practice, or to learn how to coach students into deeper practice? Probably not. They trust those who have shown and then demonstrated how to achieve the highest stages of Zen practice.
“Do they fear God”? I fear they may not even believe in Him!
The leadership of the One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church fell into apostasy before, at, during, and after Vatican II.
And, so, isn’t that “leadership in apostasy” still there?
Excellent analysis Steve.
Again and again we hear “THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL YOU FAITHLESS TRAD!” shouted as proof that the Church’s doctrine will never be undone by either senseless discipline or solemn declaration.
But if this is your position, as Steve makes clear, you had better take time to consider just how far the devil may advance and yet still be said to have “not prevailed”.
Put yourself in the place of the apostles. Despite having been prepared by Our Lord for His Passion, when the ugly trial actually came and went, to a man they found themselves convinced that evil had triumphed and the Christ had failed.
Were they all just faithless trads, or had their false expectations set them up for the the fall?
If the Church, like Our Lord, must indeed to undergo a passion of her own, we need to get it into our heads and hearts that the gates of hell may well prevail far beyond what we’ve ever dared to imagine. St. Peter provides and excellent example. While he tells Our Lord certainly enough, “Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee”, when the moment of crisis actually arrives he regrettably goes and does just the opposite.
And the reason for that is simple enough. Although he spoke of death and humiliation, he clearly never imagined just how awful it would be. Perhaps he dreamed of a hero’s death with many admiring sympathizers cheering him on. Or perhaps, like so many of us, he simply thought,
“Yeah, but that will never REALLY happen. God would never REALLY allow His Christ to fail.”
And therein lies the problem. In Peter’s mind death and humiliation were equivalent to
God failing to keep His word. Thus, when it actually occurred his only recourse was to abandon the Faith.
I fear there are many of us in that same dilemma today. Without ever really considering how far the gates of hell may advance and yet “not prevail”, we have made up our minds that there are certain things which which simply cannot occur. Certain things which, if they did occur, must
necessarily amount to God failing to keep His word.
That is a dangerous trap. As frightening as it may be, the unfolding of the Church’s passion is likely to leave us at least as bewildered as the apostles on bloody side of Calvary. If there are boundaries in our minds that we have come to equate with the gates of hell prevailing against the Church, we might do well to rethink them.
It’s going to get ugly. In terms of the material and spiritual realities of the Church, what do you suppose her passion will look like? What will be the cause of her scourging? The stripping of her garments? How will she be nailed to the cross, and who will mock her? In what manner will 11 of her 12 shepherds abandon her? What historical circumstances will have transpired when she breathes her last, and her dead, drained, and lifeless corpse is removed from the instrument of her execution? What will that instrument be, and what will we say when we find ourselves alone, without the sacraments, and all that remains of the Church lies in a cold cavern sealed in stone? What then? If we have told ourselves that such things can only mean the gates of hell have prevailed, we are setting ourselves up for some serious weeping and gnashing of teeth.
My question exactly, but put framed so much better. “Lord, where would we to go?”
Perhaps it is not ‘hell’ that will do the prevailing. The cares of this world are just as much of a threat to the Church as hell. And the Church seems eager to accommodate them.
“…the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19)
The cares of the world take us to hell if we put them before God.
These are precisely the subject of my ponderings and conversations with my husband, as of the last two years.
I’m holding onto the image I read about somewhere — exactly where I don’t remember now — of one little old lady, hidden away in a cave, praying the rosary on her fingers. Whatever else happens, as long as someone, somewhere, still has the Faith, hell will not have prevailed.
whatisupwiththesynod.com is where you saw it.
You’re right. Thank you!
No problem. Xx
The gates of hell aren’t going anywhere. The Church is promised to batter them down. It’s up to us, if we are members of His Church, to pick up our battering rams and swing away. We are part of the attacking army, the Church. We know the outcome; it’s up to us to do our own parts.
From the article
Thanks Steve for publicizing Michael Dougherty’s article which was superb. I sent it to friends and family yesterday.
As Michael implies, In a very real sense most Catholics have become Protestants. The Catholic liturgy is Protestant in many ways. Catholic doctrine is often understood through a Protestant lens. Catholic moral behavior is nearly 100% Protestant. In other words, the mission of Vatican II has been accomplished.
What is needed is a reformation of the Catholic Church–a Council of Trent II. But what is really needed right here and now is lots of prayer and penance. on our part especially in view of the goings on at the Synod.
May God have mercy and come to deal with the disobedient servants who have taken over his Vineyard.
“Martin Mosebach lamented that while the Mass of Paul VI can be celebrated reverently, it is merely an option.”
Perhaps some do not see the continuity between the Church before and after the Second Vatican Council, because the continuity is not encouraging.
One advantage of making “reverence” optional is that it uncovers those whose “reverence” before was merely a matter of form and not substance, when the form was more comprehensive.
Those who exercise the option of reverence and the option of the correct understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass as part of the full consciousness demanded by the liturgy must now do so by actual participation in the current worship. Form can no longer pass for authenticity. Children must be taught by their parents and by the few who practice the authentic and unchanging faith. Sadly, this does not usually mean the “teachers” on offer in the local parish (even in the Rectory.)
The Second Vatican Council was an act of the Holy Spirit. It has likely saved the world
from nuclear destruction (thus far). It faced the world changing issues of instantaneous communication, to which the previous practices of the Church were unsuited.
The hermeneutics of continuity must be taken up, discerned, and lived, if we are to be the scribes instructed in the kingdom of heaven. (This means that much that has been inauthentically done since the Council must be rejected, true, but on balance this is closer to the will of Christ than tending to the outside of various dirty cups – at least now the cups are dirty on the outside and can be recognized.)
Nice post. I wonder what you mean when you say the SVC “…likely saved the world from nuclear destruction.”
Which is why I don’t have much hope for those Catholics — who have the best intentions — who believe that the XF can “improve” the OF over time.
It took centuries to build the TLM. It is the most sublime form of worship along with the Divine Liturgy of the East.
We don’t have centuries to rebuild what is already sitting mothballed in storage. Looking to rebuild the great treasure when it sits already abandoned in the attic…