Thursday, 2 October 2014
A Challenge To 'Modernising' Catholics
As I tried to say in my previous posting, I am not and have never been a ‘holy’ priest (I readily admit my need to be more prayerful, humble, patient, self-sacrificing and industrious). There have been times of poor witness in my priesthood; times when my clerical collar was ditched, my conversation poorly guarded and my challenge of souls in immoral situations not as robust as it ought to have been (N.B. robust does not mean harsh, it means clear, as well as gentle). But I try to be prayerful and patient, humble, industrious and instructive. And I do hold to The Faith that was handed on and seek to transmit it to others –though it doesn’t always go down well even within the Church. Why? Because we are awash with a tendency to diminish Truth for the sake of not hurting people’s feelings or appearing oppressive. Within this sea of ‘pastoral sensitivity’ there are islands of orthodoxy and compassionate orthopraxy, but these islands are isolated, and often the subject of derision and even oppression (“No, you cannot have a Traditional Mass”; “no you cannot defer baptising the baby of a cohabiting couple until they are married”; “no you cannot require youngsters to be regular Mass attendees before they have First Holy Communion or Confirmation”).
I want then, to speak of two kinds of Catholics: Catholics of Tradition (Traditional Catholics) and Catholics of Aggiornamento (Modernising Catholics). Both groups are, I believe, well intentioned and sincere. Traditional Catholics however, labour under an oppressive prejudice from ‘modernising’ Catholics who seem to think the Church only became a ‘good’ Church at Vatican II and that all that went before must be suppressed in order for the ‘good, Pastoral Church’ to flourish. We find such Modernising Catholics at all levels of the Church. For such Modernising Catholics all that matters is being ‘nice’, and ‘non-judgemental’. They are ‘nice’ (pleasant; unchallenging, tender-hearted) in the hope that by their human encounter with others ‘a spark’ may be ignited; they are ‘non-judgemental’ so as to avoid oppressing people (or for fear of offending the political and social establishment?). The opposite to ‘The Church of Nice’ is not the ‘Church of Offence’; it is a Church of Truth, clearly yet respectfully declared.
I wonder where such Modernising Catholics get their nonsense. Being ‘nice’ with people does not hand on the Faith: the Faith is a Revelation of Truth, not an emotional encounter. The favourite adage of the Modernising Catholic (that “faith is caught, not taught”) harbours a significant error, since Our Lord sent us to teach all nations, not ‘be nice with all nations’: “He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk16v16). One believes a statement, and experiences an emotion. Teaching Truth in a cordial manner is not excluded, of course. In fact I recommend it. But hoping people will ‘come to faith’ or ‘have a spark ignited’ because we are nice is near nonsense; being nice with people establishes human communion, not communion with God who is Truth.
Further, ‘not judging’ is dangerous when it conveys to people the idea that they can be saved by ignoring the Divine Law as summed up for us in the Ten Commandments. Today, the third and sixth Commandments (Keep holy the Sabbath; Thou shalt not commit adultery) are simply ignored by the world -and minimised by the Modernising Catholic. It’s interesting to note that while Modernising Catholics are unwilling to say adultery is wrong in all its forms (cohabitation, infidelity in marriage, civil marriages after divorce, homosexual acts) and will only designate those who fail to keep the Sabbath Holy as ‘resting Catholics’ instead of lapsed Catholics, and they prefer to speak of serious sin rather than mortal sin (which expresses death of the soul). They don’t make excuses for offences against the seventh commandment (from which springs the social obligation not to defraud the labourer of his wages). Could this not be seen as indicating that their priorities are corporal rather than spiritual; their goals earthly rather than heavenly? No wonder the Traditional Catholic is anathema to the Moderniser.
The hypocrisy of Modernising Catholics is disturbing. They claim to be inclusive yet they have no hesitation in being rather brutal with Traditional Catholics (note the way the FFI are being treated by the ‘pastoral’ Church). Yet Traditional Catholics simply want to worship in the Traditional Catholic way, and hand on the Catholic Faith as it was received. Truly, whether the Modernising Catholic is a Pope, Bishop or Priest; a Deacon, Religious or layman, it is hypocritical to wax lyrically about being ‘pastoral’, non-judgemental and ‘inclusive’ while marginalising or oppressing your fellow Catholics who simply want to continue doing all the Church has ever done and saying what she has always said.
In these days of Ecumenism, Modernising Catholics rightly insist that we treat our separated brethren with respect. As such, it is unacceptable that the same Catholics disparage, reject or sideline the SSPX (and Traditional Catholics who have full union with the Holy See). As Robert De Piante said, "We believe what you once believed. We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now". I venture to add: if you say you were wrong before, you have admitted you are unreliable: how can anyone trust you now? How can you even trust yourselves?
So come on, you Catholics of the ‘Pastoral Church of nice and non-judgememtalism’; liberate your fellow Catholics from the derision and unjust oppression you heap upon them. I repeat something I have been saying for the last 25 years: Follow the word of God in scripture as uttered via the voice of Gamaliel: “If this [Traditional] plan is of God, you will not only be unable to overthrow it, but you may find you are fighting against God." (Acts 5v39). If Modernising Catholics truly think Traditional Catholics are wrong, they must demonstrate the courage of their conviction: they must give Traditional Catholics full and complete freedom to worship and teach as they will; they must humble themselves before God and allow the Holy Ghost to show which style of Church pleases Him most, permitting Him to bring increase where He will and to withdraw from where He will (I cannot help but note here the dearth of vocations and the precipitous fall in Mass attendance in the ‘Pastoral Church of Nice’). Are you a ‘Modernising Catholic’ convinced of the modernising aggiornamento; afraid to give Tradition full and complete freedom? Then you instinctively know what the Holy Ghost is saying and where He is leading, and are fighting against Him. Beware...