Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting to the core of it

One of the comments in the post on the Mass in the Extraordinary Form strikes a very important note for our parish:

How impressive that a divided parish can be united in a spiritual experience so deep in tradition, so fully Catholic and so focused on the Eucharistic sacrifice. One can only pray that our leadership is attentive to this response.

The words 'fully Catholic' leapt out. This, I believe, is at the core of the division in our parish, and indeed in our diocese. What has been happening for many years is the creeping, systematic dismantling of a fully Catholic faith. This is not a battle over the Ordinary Form of the mass or the Extraordinary Form. Both are needed. It is not a battle over tradition or progress. Tradition and true progress can flourish side by side.

The battle is over whether we will have a Catholic faith or something else. It is an existential battle and it is a battle to the death.

I know those are strong words, but if we do not face up to what has been happening and take determined action to preserve an authentic Catholic faith, we will very soon have some kind of lukewarm religion that is unable to withstand the world's intrusion. It is already very late, but God willing not too late.

Please read this address given by Cardinal Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia. Titled 'Authentic Catholicism vs Cafeteria Catholicism', Cardinal Pell was speaking in Ireland, a country deep in the throes of spiritual chaos. He details some of what has been happening elsewhere around the world. He could be talking about our very own diocese and parish (I have highlighted some of his comments in red):

Two things are probably at work here in the same way as in Australia; within all the Christian communities and, certainly the Catholic Church, there is a fundamental tension between the people on one side — who we might call Gospel Christians — who give priority to the New Testament, to Christ and to the Word of God and, what you might call liberal or radical Christians, who give the priority to the contemporary understandings. That tension runs right through all the Christian communities. The second and the more important tension which is present in Australia is the tension between a small and growing secular minority, who are well placed in the media and universities, and the Judeo-Christian majority.

He goes on to say:

In Australia, as elsewhere, we have to struggle with the conviction that we are part of the Universal Church, led by the Pope, and that means something in everyday life. For example, we had one bishop in Toowoomba who had to be removed after over ten years of dialogue with the Holy See. It was a tragedy and didn’t need to happen but he wouldn’t back down or give any ground and so they were forced to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ So we have to battle against this insipient anti-Roman sentiment. Cardinal George of Chicago has a thesis that in many places the Catholic Church in the USA, in its style, is becoming Protestant — a church of individual judgement, with less concern for the Pope, the hierarchy and Catholic teaching — and there is no doubt that very senior elements in the Democratic Party are working to separate the hierarchy from many of the people in the United States. I am sure that this is happening in other parts of the world also, with some politicians preferring the establishment of what they call ‘national churches’. Of course this has to be resisted.

Later, Cardinal Pell talks about how to go about turning things around. One vital solution is Catholic Education. Cardinal Pell again:

The second thing I did was to reform religious education, which is of course fundamental to the future, and I was absolutely determined that I would change it no matter what. I called a friend of mine home from Rome, made him the Vicar for Education, and we commenced the immense task of writing a comprehensive Christ-centred Catholic text on faith and morals for the whole thirteen years of school education. This programme is now mandated in the schools. By and large it is working and it is welcomed by the teachers because many of them were not taught the faith themselves and so they welcomed a text-book which is full of content and can give them the answers. The education programme in schools has to be Christ-centred and it has to be totally Catholic. It is remarkable the number of people in Australia who think of the sacraments in a Protestant way; they think only of two, of Baptism and the Eucharist. In fact we are a Church of seven sacraments and one of the most wonderful sacraments is the sacrament of Penance, where there has been a massive drop-off. There is no reason for this, and if a decent preparation programme is in place then the young people will attend and welcome it.

And then the Cardinal speaks on vocations:

The other thing that is essential for the future is to make it absolutely clear that you need priests. There can be no Church without priests and this means you must have a seminary where young people will be prepared to go, and this means you must have an orthodox seminary. It means that you must have a seminary that is not sexually corrupt. Of course, we have experienced sexual corruption in the Australian seminaries. I can tell you of one poor lad who knew me from a previous place. He was a teacher who went on to become a priest. When it was announced that I had been appointed Rector of the Seminary I am told he ran weeping from the presbytery. He was a priest for only a few years when he left to live with his male partner after telling his poor mother that his partner was a Catholic. So I am talking from that sort of experience; the young people today are products of the culture in which we live and so we have to be vigilant. In the seminary they have to be taught to pray; prayer life and spirituality have to be the priority. I should add that when I am entering a diocese I have never thrown all the staff in the diocesan offices but when I became archbishop in Melbourne I instructed that in the Seminary there had to be Mass everyday; they were to have Benediction, Adoration and be able to pray the Rosary together — most people expect this to be a normal part of seminary life. However when I put this to the Seminary staff they said they wouldn’t accept it and en bloc offered to resign — so I accepted their resignations and it was one of the best things that had ever happened in the diocese. In other words when you start making changes you can expect resistance. I am sure that the reform of the Seminary was the most important thing I did when I was in Melbourne, even more so than the religious education. Melbourne is now regularly turning out good orthodox priests and of course when you get good young men going through then they attract others.

Then the Cardinal speaks of the leadership role of the priest:

One final thing to highlight is that we have to maintain the morale and the leadership role of the priest. We had a case in South Brisbane where this poor fellow wasn’t sure whether Christ existed and so there was no talk in his sermons on the Divinity of Christ, of the Virgin Birth etc. And he took his concept of divinity from the Hindu scriptures; eventually he went out with his congregation, including many of the leadership team of the Catholic education office! There was also a women’s religious centre connected with a Catholic women’s group and one woman went along and asked, ‘Where is the crucifix?’ She was told there wasn’t one because they did not want to be divisive but she did notice a witch’s broom hanging in the office! So we have to preserve the leadership role of the priest. They should never be reduced to being just chaplains to the parish and they should never have to seek the permission of the Parish Council to carry out their priestly duties. Good pastors will work in a communal way with their people but, in the Catholic tradition, the priests are the leaders; not in a dictatorial way, but, nonetheless, they are the leaders.

There are so many important points in this article that one hardly knows where to begin. But you can see that progress can be made where there is the will to fight for what is right.

At the beginning of his talk Cardinal Pell exhorts the Irish Catholics to fight:

The Irish that I grew up with were fighters: they were people who had convictions and went and battled for them. Has the spirit of Dr. Daniel Mannix — one of the greatest exports of Cork — has his spirit vanished forever from this land? Are you going to sit on your tails and let 1000 years of tradition and faith just slip away? People are saying to me the same things they were saying to me back in 1998; we need this, we need that, nobody is doing anything — well, if nobody else is doing anything then you have to get it started yourself and if help comes, as it might or might not, at least you’re doing things. I realise that your presence here tonight is evidence of your desire and determination to do something BUT things are slipping and, from what I hear, you know you are slipping; so if others won’t act then do something yourselves.

We must act. When bulletin articles are published applauding heresy, when Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are called "Communion ministers" (see the August 14 bulletin for that one), when churches are sold and torn down, when liturgical abuses become legion, then Catholics must act, must speak up and out. If you don't do it, no one will. The Catholic faith will fade from our parish and be replaced. And that would be a tremendous tragedy.


  1. excellent, Gretchen! Thanks for this.

  2. You're welcome, Ben. I gain inspiration from you all at CF.