Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Church has been very sick; She is not yet healed

The Church has been very ill in the last few decades. We expected growth after Vatican II, but honesty compels us to admit that we have experienced a veritable atrophy. The evidence is all around us: a fall in the number of those attending Mass; a fall in the number of vocations to priesthood and religious life; a fall in the number of Baptisms and a fall in the number of Marriages. It is nonsense to claim that all this shrinkage; all this atrophy, is healthy. It is true that there has been growth, but it is growth in doctrinal dissent and liturgical frivolities, with atrophy of the Church by massive lapsation and loss of faith the result.

What is the underlying cause of this atrophy? Concupiscence; the orientation toward sin (the turning from God to self). Isn’t this orientation toward self what we see in the reformed liturgy, which uses worship as a way to affirm the people? Isn’t it the same orientation toward self that we see in pastoral care by our use of person-centred psychology with its attendant relativism, from which springs toleration of all kinds of sexual proclivities and an acquiescence to the impermanence of marriage?

In regard to liturgy, we thought great things were being achieved by increasing the amount of scripture read at Mass; by bringing the laity into ecclesial ministries, and by giving way to cultural adaptation. Each of these has proved damaging. Bringing in more scripture only swamped us with it, so that many folk leaving Mass cannot tell you what the readings were about; increasing lay ecclesial ministries only brought about a loss of focus on the authentic vocation of the laity as the leaven in the world, while cultural adaptation only engendered a liturgy attuned to man and his changing way of life. Frivolities such as dancing, mimes, the wearing of clown hats and skits of all kinds (which have their place in non-liturgical youth ministry) unquestionably turned the focus of the liturgy from God to man by celebrants and communities designing worship to affirm the folk and grab their attention (isn’t “making the liturgy relevant to the people” the aim of many a celebrant?)  Nowhere is this mind-set more evident than in youth ministry; schools and youth teams having had thousands of youngsters pass through their hands who yet remain disengaged from the Eucharist and the active Catholic life. Sadly, it seems the Novus Ordo necessitates additions and deletions in its concrete forms in that it has been stripped of so much ritual and theology that it is only a shell of the majestic and ancient liturgy which the Church guarded as her greatest treasure for over a millennium.

As for doctrinal orthodoxy, this disintegrated under the influence of person-centred ‘pastoral care’ which sought (seeks) the accommodation of worldly, personal life-style choices (contraception, cohabitation, serial marriage, homosexual activities etc). It is also a pastoral care that has abused the word ‘love’, allowing Christian agape to be jettisoned in favour of storge (familial affection) and philia (affectionate friendship) which open the door to eros (erotic acts being seen as acceptable if there is philia and/or storge between the engaging parties). Unfortunately ‘pastoral care’ as we have had it for the past fifty years is nothing less than an accommodation of the world, which inherently contains an abandonment of the Gospel and a corresponding loss in sanctifying grace.

Authentic, Christ-centred pastoral care is to hold fast to agape; it is “to do the truth with charity” (Eph.4v15). We urgently need to learn how to present the truth in ways which demonstrate understanding of why a person has made the choices they have made while we proclaim the Truth in tones and attitudes that are inoffensive yet clear and certain. Sadly, during my time in seminary the great “discovery” in pastoral care was “grey areas”. To paraphrase what we were told: “Yes the Church teaches this or that, but it cannot be applied in all situations” -which means that in some situations God’s truth has to be adapted (or give way altogether) so that we may give non-judgmental, unconditional positive-regard to the person, their needs, and their ability to respond to the Truth.  


If the sickness of the Church is to be overcome we need to take the medicine; we need to [a] teach without compromise according to the Catechism; [b] encourage trust in God in those who try to live according to the Catechism yet fail, while directing them toward the good, and [c] ensure that liturgy is God-focused, removing frivolities such as dancing, skits, ad-libs and innovations. Will we see this medicine being taken? An increasing number of Bishops and priests around the world appear to be convinced of its necessity; too many others seem afraid of offending the world or of wounding those Catholics who have been misled into following the world. Others may simply lack the humility needed to admit the errors of the past. All of them, being men of sincere heart, need our prayers: the sound shepherds and the misled men. These prayers and sacrifices are going to be essential to ensure the success of the Synod on the Family.

13 comments:

  1. From Jacobi

    Father,

    The post Vatican II church, some 50 years on, is in a grave condition. Secularist concepts have soaked into Catholic thinking, both of the laity and increasingly, of the clergy. The campaign for the divorced and remarried to be admitted to Holy Communion is the obvious example, but if that demand is conceded, it will be followed by another, then another. The concept of sin has effectively evaporated, as is indicated by the empty confessionals.

    The changes in the liturgy have been a failure and are a major factor in producing this collapse. The Catholic Church is following the various Protestant bodies down the road to Relativism. Sadly, the Hierarchy still seem to be largely in a state of denial. Full of brave words but they never turn to see the mess behind them.

    Benedict XVI said we must expect a smaller Church for a while. I am beginning to think it will be smaller than anyone so far has expected.

    Your solution is correct. Preach the Catechism, the Ten Commandments, from the pulpit – but don’t be surprised if your flock complain to your bishop – or just walk away

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jacobi.
      Actually, people have been walking away from the Church and the Gospel for decades now, and it must be said that the shepherds have failed to keep the flock united in the unchanging truths and worship of God, person-centred theory and people-pleasing liturgy being the order of the day. As with all of us, I shall have to answer to God for not being without sin, but not for having (knowingly) preached error or celebrated worship with the primary focus on making the people feel good about themselves per se, but good about God and their redemption.
      God bless

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  2. God bless for the real word again Father. the Mass needs to return to the Real. I get a numbing sense that for too many priests mass is simply a text-book psychodrama with very little psyche or drama - as if it's a free Sunday morning life coaching session, oh and with breakfast. the is no worship at all. we gather, we chatter, meet and greet and pass the peace and the latest bacterial nasty, yawn through, 'me me me, here I am lord, look at me me me', songs, do the sidewalk shuffle to the priest while the extraordinary old lady stands there waiting for some one to validate her belief that consecrated hands aren't everything. overheads, obligatory comic-stand-up from the priest, little girls fussung about the step with the table on it.

    A Bishop will drink champagne or a rich single malt with relish - these are the privilages of grown-ups; but concent to reverence, the sacred tongue, solemnity, beauty, a sanctuary, at Holy Mass where we meet Our Lord at Golgotha, well, for bishops, nothing's too childish, nothing's too cheap. so it seems.


    pray for the Traditionalist Apostolate.

    God bless and keep you in His mercy and Our Lady intercede for you and yours.

    Yours in Christ
    S

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, viterbo,
      Indeed, Mass has become a chatty-gathering, people-affirming exercise in most places. There is little of the General Instruction's note that it is an act of propitiation and satisfaction for sin.
      Honestly, those who have lost sight of the Mass as a making up to God for sin and see it as an affirmation of the people, have lost the Faith.
      God bless.

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  3. I think a good step in the right direction that the Pope can implement without delay would be to restore Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling. This would bring much happiness to a lot of us.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Brandsma.
      Restoration of the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling is essential, I think, and I would add ad-orientem worship: facing the folk cannot help but make Mass a dialogue between priest and people rather a praise and petitioning of God by weak and sinful man.
      God bless you and yours.

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    3. Amen. Formalised bodily irreverence has been a major cause of the irreverence, nay, contempt, of the mind and soul on the part of most.

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    4. Thanks, and Amen!
      Bodily irreverence cannot help but impact upon (and gives witness to) a certain irreverence for what is holy.
      God Bless.

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  4. The indult for communion in the hand being rescinded, not going to happen so get over it! Move on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, Mark.
      In fact. in a number of places individual Bishops have already rescinded it, and as the trend develops, Rome will follow.
      God bless.

      Delete
  5. Father ,

    I suspect you are right. The corrections will not come from on high, but from the foot soldiers, or what is left of them, both priests and and laity, in "Continuity".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jacobi.
      Lets pray the number of foot soldiers who realise what is needed grow in number.
      God Bless.

      Delete

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