Saturday, September 24, 2011


The Holy Father sums up in a nutshell the problem with the Catholic Church today and its crisis of faith: "We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective."

My comment: The renewal of the Liturgy over the past 40 years has borne much fruit but also considerable disruption. The hermeneutic of discontinuity promoted by so many progressives has led to an appreciation of all that is new and exciting merely because it is different that what was experienced prior to the council. But has faith been strengthened, family life made stronger, love for neighbor more evident and the witness of Catholics in politics, employment and recreation more powerful? Are we more preoccupied with the "remodeling" of the liturgy and not with the Source of Liturgy, God and His Son, the Christ, sacrificed for our salvation and Risen and Glorified for our strengthening? Have we tried to appeal to Protestants with a liturgy that appeases them all the while losing scores of Catholics due to a loss of Catholic identity and a false egalitarianism as it concerns the various Christian communions?

From Whispers in the Loggia and Rocco Palma:

Saturday, September 24, 2011
B16: "The Church's Real Crisis is a Crisis of Faith"

As his latest homeland trek passed its halfway point, earlier today the Pope addressed the Central Committee of the German church -- the influential all-lay council whose voice helps guide one of global Catholicism's best-organized and wealthiest national churches.

While other episcopates have similar national lay groups, the German committee's prominence is arguably without peer anywhere else, perhaps as a reflection of the Protestant influence on much of the country's Catholic life (Bavaria notwithstanding).

Much like his Thursday homily at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, Benedict's speech to the Zentralkomitee was underpinned by the widespread tide over recent years in the German-speaking Catholicism: the combination of a significant increase in defections from the church's official membership rolls (a figure which, in Germany alone, spiked by half from 2009 to 2010), and above all, frequent calls for structural changes to the church's life and organization.

On the latter front, the latest developments from Austria have sounded significant alarm-bells in Rome as one-tenth of the country's priests -- backed by a majority in opinion polls -- have signed on to a "Declaration of Disobedience" that would see the group flout church discipline on distributing the Eucharist to Protestants and civilly-remarried Catholics, on top of calling for the ordination of women and married men to the priesthood. Notably, the head of the Austrian movement is a former vicar-general to the country's senior prelate, Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who recently warned of "serious conflict" if the group sought to move forward on its proposals.

Especially given that subtext, Der DeutschePapst's talk packed a punch... here, its core:

Dear friends, for some years now, development aid has included what are known as “exposure programmes”. Leaders from the fields of politics, economics and religion live among the poor in Africa, Asia, or Latin America for a certain period and share the day-to-day reality of their lives. They are exposed to the circumstances in which these people live, in order to see the world through their eyes and hence to learn how to practise solidarity.

Let us imagine that an exposure programme of this kind were to take place here in Germany. Experts from a far country would arrive to spend a week with an average German family. They would find much to admire here, for example the prosperity, the order and the efficiency. But looking on with unprejudiced eyes, they would also see plenty of poverty: poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.

We live at a time that is broadly characterized by a subliminal relativism that penetrates every area of life. Sometimes this relativism becomes aggressive, when it opposes those who claim to know where the truth or meaning of life is to be found.

And we observe that this relativism exerts more and more influence on human relationships and on society. This is reflected, among other things, in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people’s lives and in an exaggerated individualism. Many no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others. Even the altruistic commitment to the common good, in the social and cultural sphere or on behalf of the needy, is in decline. Others are now quite incapable of committing themselves unreservedly to a single partner. People can hardly find the courage now to promise to be faithful for a whole lifetime; the courage to make a decision and say: now I belong entirely to you, or to take a firm stand for fidelity and truthfulness and sincerely to seek a solution to their problems.

Dear friends, in the exposure programme, analysis is followed by common reflection. This evaluation must take into account the whole of the human person, and this includes – not just implicitly but quite clearly – the person’s relationship to the Creator.

We see that in our affluent western world much is lacking. Many people lack experience of God’s goodness. They no longer find any point of contact with the mainstream churches and their traditional structures. But why is this? I think this is a question on which we must reflect very seriously. Addressing it is the principal task of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. But naturally it is something that concerns us all. Allow me to refer here to an aspect of Germany’s particular situation. The Church in Germany is superbly organized. But behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in a living God? We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective.

Let us return to the people who lack experience of God’s goodness. They need places where they can give voice to their inner longing. Here we are called to seek new paths of evangelization. Small communities could be one such path, where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God. There we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society. They come to see more and more clearly that everyone stands in need of this nourishment of love, this concrete friendship with others and with the Lord. Of continuing importance is the link with the vital life-source that is the Eucharist, since cut off from Christ we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord always point out to us how together we can be lights in the world and can show our fellow men the path to the source at which they can quench their profound thirst for life.

PHOTO: Getty


Anonymous said...

Fr. McD . . . You say that the renewal of the liturgy since VII has borne much fruit . . . may I ask you to specify? I really haven't seen any. I think I would also choose a word other than renewal.

Frajm said...

I think a significant number of people have become more engaged in parish life and ministry. The vernacular liturgy does enable people to participate better externally, although the internal participation is as important and certainly is accomplished in the Latin Liturgy when one follows an English translation. While I love the EF Mass, it only appeals to a small minority of Catholics now because Catholics are accustomed to participating externally as we do with the English. The corrected English translation will bear much fruit as it keeps the Latin ethos in elegance/formality of language and the spirituality of the original Latin even in the reformed Mass. The added Scriptures is very important. While I like the one year cycle of the EF Mass, the daily Mass EF reading cycle is abysmal. And then there is only a one year cycle. Our current lectionary for Sunday and daily Mass is far superior to the EF lectionary.
I like that the laity can do the readings. That is a wonderful ministry. I think the reformed Mass is more intelligible to people and certain in ecumenical circumstances such as weddings and funerals.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McD,

With respect, I'm not sure I can agree with your assessment. I think that the most clear-cut/defensible of the things you list is laity doing the readings, although I personally don't see that as a big deal. As to greater participation in extra-liturgical parish life/ministry, I don't think that that is directly related to the change in the liturgy, although it accompanied it chronologically.

Your observation about the difference between internal and external participation is important. What does the decline in reverence say about that? To me, this decline suggests either a great misunderstanding of the nature of the Mass, or a decline in internal participation, or both--and this despite, or perhaps even because of, the liturgical changes. (I suppose this might be due to the irreverent implementation of the NO Mass and that if that implementation had been done correctly we wouldn't have this problem, but I guess we'll never know.) If external participation comes at such a cost, I don't think it's worth it, especially since the translation we're now phasing out contains so many things that distort the correct understanding of the Mass and have formed the ideas of people for 40 years now (thus these ideas will be very hard to correct).

Your thoughts on the above?

Frajm said...

I would not classify the external participation as the culprit at all. I think the biggest culprits are iconoclasm of our spirituality, art, devotional system and down right awful post-Vatican II music, casualness of the 1960's and 70's.
I really believe that the OF Mass could be just as reverent as the EF and in English with all the accourtrements that our Catholic liturgy allows in the OF. That means well trained, dressed and rehearsed altar servers, boys or girls, lectors, choirs/cantors and reverence avoiding at all cost the cult of the personality either of the priest or the congregation or anyone carrying out a particular ministry. I don't see the OF Mass changing much more than what has already occurred and it will be the primary Mass for decades to come. What needs to change is the culture of how it is celebrated by priests and congregations. That will happen slowly, but clear leadership is needed from Rome and the bishops in union with the Holy Father.

Anonymous said...

Today you mentioned to visit the Greek Orthodox Church for their Greek Festival. I don't think I have ever heard you speak of another church's activities unless we were directly involved. Do you think supporting such endeavors could help in grassroots efforts toward the ultimate hope of reunion? Is this the sort of ecumenical spirit that Vatican II was trying to accomplish?

Frajm said...

I'd say attending their Greek Festival promotes good will between the two Churches and certainly the Greek Orthodox are closest to us in terms of belief and our sacramental system of worship.

Father Shelton said...

I generally avoid the Rumors in the Portico blog, as I like to call it, because it is mostly gossip. But this is a fine piece with a strongly Catholic sense.
As for post-conciliar liturgical life in the West, surely the vernacular Liturgy of the Word and restoration of the Bidding Prayers of the Faithful has born sufficient fruits. I'm unconvinced about everything else.
As one who celebrates the EF daily, I am always puzzled by criticisms of its norms for the weekday scripture readings. But even granting the criticism, 99% of Catholics, even practicing Catholics, never hear either set.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that many Catholics are not aware of Pre-VII or EF mass procedures. For those that are aware they are energized. The others have some trpedations and may suspect a return to the bad old days. These are of two types, the simply ignorant and those vested in obscucation.

I agree with Fram concerning the additional readings and have served as a lector. I am not interested in promoting myself but found that many of the lay readers were having trouble communicating the meaning so thought to volunteer. I have found the same problem in the cantors who, though earnest, are almost all naturally untalented although in fairness the hymns of this era as with many of the seasonal decorations, have reminded me of the art that festoons the front of my refrigerator. It is this dreadful failure of dignity that has made the rejuvenation, as small as it is, appealing. It will be the task of the laity with the guidance of the clergy to find external expressions of faith, beautiful banjo music for example, that is best displayed after mass in the parish hall during social fellowship.

I am pretty sure Greek pastries are an indulgence.


Templar said...

Frajm said: "I don't see the OF Mass changing much more than what has already occurred and it will be the primary Mass for decades to come."

I fervently hope you are mistaken Father, but can see how you would be of that mind, based no doubt on your own Masses at St. Joseph, but your Parish is an exception I hope you understand. The vast majority (easily 80-90%) of Parish Masses across America are so far removed from what you practice as to be almost unrecognizable. The changes in the text of the Liturgy should be viewed as only the first step of many necessary ones, failure to do so will continue the hemorrage of the Faithful and lead ultimately to the destruction of the Post-Councilar Church. One way, or another, The Church must return to it's Traditional Practices because only those practices have proven themselves capable of resisting the Temporal World.

pinanv525 said...

Pardon me, but Templar is so damned right it ain't funny!