Two lay Catholics who epitomize the nature of the divided Catholic Church today, one who is faithful to Holy Mother Church and the other one who isn't; one who takes seriously Vatican II and the other one who perverts its meaning, especially Lumen Gentium's call to the laity to bring the truths of the Church to where they live, work and play as well as to politics and other institutions of society. Guess which one is faithful and which one is an infidel?
We know that it will not be the progressive wing of the Church which hates her authority, derides the bishops and wants to neuter the role of the Bishop of Rome. In fact this segment of Holy Church are collaborators with her enemies much like Judas in Jesus' historical public ministry, when by the way, he was in the process of founding His Church. They are the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Katherine Sebelius and many, many members of the Democrat party who say they are Catholic but are more loyal to the god of their politics rather than the true God and sell the true God out for 30 pieces of silver. Republican and independent Catholics can do the same thing but today not on the same level as fanatical democrats.
The ones who are equipped for today's spiritual battle are traditional Catholics who love Holy Mother Church, love the Magisterium and are faithful to Sacred Scripture and Tradition (not some perverted, progressive interpretation of these)as well as Natural Law, Divine Law and Canon Law, not to mention the rubrics of the various liturgies of the Church. These are not fundamentalist Catholics as though there could be such a thing, but Catholic who believe, love and embrace the fundamentals of Holy Mother Church.
Those in the Church who are unabashed and unapologetic Catholics and not of the cafeteria or "lite" type, will be the ones who will be willing to be martyrs for the faith--as it has always been and always will be. Progressive liberals in the Church are just too wishy washy and all over the place to be faithful as Catholics in difficult cultural times, rather than go underground and be faithful, they become collaborators with the enemy.
But how did we get to such a divided state as a Church when Vatican II authentically interpreted and fundamentally embraced should have prepared us to meet head-on the crisis we are now experiencing with godless secularism even in the United States of America with a president who wants to impose upon the Church by government mandate what her mission and identity should be (sounds like England under King Henry the VIII, doesn't it)?
Here are my thoughts as an eye witness to Church history since the late 1950's (or when I can actually remember things):
In pre-Vatican II times (1950's) there was a quiet, but brewing anger amongst lay Catholics who were getting better educated and resented the "authoritarianism" they experienced in Catholic parishes and schools and resented being treated as children when it came to obedience . Discipline was strong, but it was also sadistic at times and this is a fact. Keep in mind, my parent's generation (my mother is 92 and my father would be 102) usually did not even finish high school let alone college. So they were quite willing usually to acquiesce to Church authority, to Father and Sister. In 1976 when I graduated from college, I was the first in my family to do so.
But pre-Vatican II Catholics were not always helpless little sheep! When my first grade teacher, a nun who should not have been teaching first grade due to her mental health, pinched me on the arm leaving a mark and doing so in front of the class when as I stood before her trying to answer a question from a lesson and did not know the answer,my father upon seeing the mark on my arm went directly to the authority of the parish and school to have the sister reprimanded. I don't know what that conversation was about and my father never told me, but the next day that sister apologized to me privately and gave me a gift, a plastic framed image of Our lady of Perpetual Help. That apology and that gift have meant more to me over the course of my life than any pinch annoyed me.
Quite frankly, there was horrible paternalism and triumphalism mixed with clericalism that made many Catholics angry at the Church which in their minds didn't really include them but was in fact Father and Sister only, the institutional aspects of the Church. In this regard, Vatican II was a breath of fresh air for educated laity where they were asked to become more adult-like with the clergy and religious and to see themselves as much a part of the Church as the hierarchy and lower clergy and the religious. The laity had an important role, and that role was in the world and evangelizing it. The term laity was elevated to priestliness but not so much by usurping the unique role of the priest in worship or the life of the institutional Church but in the world, at home, at work, in politics, etc. At Mass, they were asked to do what the laity always had done, but altar boys represented, to be active and participative during Mass outwardly and inwardly.
But what went wrong was that we made the laity so involved in the life of the institutional Church that family life sometimes became secondary to them and issues of power and control on the parish and diocesan levels become more of an issue for them rather than empowerment as laity which is their proper role in the world and Church. The role of the laity after Vatican II and because of a corrupt interpretation of Vatican II made the role of the laity more churchy than worldly oriented and worldly oriented is the laity's true calling.
Unfortunately Vatican II occurred in the midst of a cultural world wide revolution toward authority, toward sex and toward drugs. We had the hippie movement and the drop out movement and the peaceniks and Watergate and police being called pigs and a general hatred for law and order. The Church tried to combat the more anarchist of attitudes by promoting peace and love and letting people be themselves. This may well have saved the Church of that period. Flexibility was the key word. This applied to authority and the Mass and its renewal which unfortunately gave entirely too much authority to liturgical theologians and made amateurs in the Church into self-made gnostic theologians encouraged to be creative in planning the Mass and executing it, making it banal and common place rather than sublime and other-worldly, that is pointing to the Kingdom of God which is not here--many lost sight of that profound truth thinking the Kingdom of God is here already and completely so, we just have to make it happen by our own means and ingenuity. The Missal of 1973 soon experienced such experimentation that it became the victim of this creativity. But I suspect it would have happened also with the 1962 missal had it been the official missal at the time--we'll only know that for sure in heaven though!
At the same time though, the Church was seen as a powerful and respected force in the world in the area of social justice as it concerned the dignity of people. Catholics, laity and clergy marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Catholics began to integrate Catholic schools and parishes and to speak against the sin of racism and segregation. Here the Democrat party (and most Catholics at that time were Democrats, but of a Democrat party that unfortunately no longer exists, hijacked by radical leftists)was more in tune with official Church teaching than Republicans were.
But while many clergy and laity were embracing with new zeal the so-called "social Gospel" they were abandoning the Gospel of natural law and Divine law as it concerned issues of sexuality and marriage. This is highlighted by the abysmal dissent of so many Catholics from Humanae Vitae. These Catholics loved the Church's social teaching because it was a feel good teaching for them but they hated the Church's teaching on natural law because it touched them personally and made them feel guilty and went against the principles of secularism at the time. These liberal Catholics in other words became schizophrenics when it came to the moral teachings of the Church. We see this even more today with the acceptance of fornication and adultery amongst heterosexual Catholics as well as with its acceptance amongst homosexual Catholics who hate natural law and the Church's insistence upon it and that marriage is a sacrament and as such is for only one man and one woman and for a lifetime. Sex is the most intimate aspect of who we are and the one area that can be so "screwed up" that anything the Church teaches about it is perceived as way to personal becasue the Church's teaching touches us on such a personal level and sometimes makes us feel guilty rather than good about ourselves. For progressive Catholics guilt is the worst kind of mortal sin foisted upon them by Holy Mother Church and her teachings on natural law!
And then there is the Mass and its so-called "renewal." I'm not saying that major mistakes weren't made in the implementation of Pope Paul's revision of the Mass and that the Holy Father could have been more forceful, but what happened in 1968 with Humanae Vitae--because of the sexual revolution, scientific development of the pill, etc, there was outright rebellion against the pope's authority--the hierarchy did not act as dictators from Communist Russia or Germany, but allowed for dissent to keep dissenters in.
It is not just the revised Mass that caused a certain generation that is my age and older (like Pelosi, Biden and Sebelious) to be like they are, but authority issues, worshiping now false gods of secularism and their children not having been catechized properly--that's our failure.
It's not the "renewal" of the Mass entirely, but other issues that have brought us to the state of the divided Church we have today where there are zealous Catholics who are usually traditionalist and tepid Catholics who are zealous only about their own narcissistic needs and have serious authority issues that linger from the 1960's. There is a new clericalism that also infects the laity since so many lay Catholics have been clericalized that expresses itself in the Liturgy itself.
Priests ad lib during Mass and impose their own words into the fixed parts of the English Mass thinking these are superior to what is given them by the official Church and thus treat the laity as an audience that they can manipulate for their own personal preferences and whims. And then there are laity who do the same thing and refuse to do what the Church asks them during the liturgy--this is clericalism pure and simple.
I had one priest tell me that he thought his parishioners were so dumb that they wouldn't know or couldn't learn the definition of the word "compunction" and so he changed it to a simpler term when this word was used in the Collect of the Mass recently. That's clericalism and elitism pure and simple, no doubt about it. He also thinks the words "we pray" are used too often in our revised prayers so he eliminates them altogether--this sort of shocking clericalism born of narcissism is quite prevalent today amongst many priests but not limited to them. It is even worse that the clericalism of previous generations. But clericalism, no matter what type, disrespects the laity and other clerics. Father Z is correct in calling bishops and priests "to do the red and say the black!" It is very simple really but this takes humility on the part of the priest of course a humility lacking in so many today!
But in terms of the on-going reform of the "renewal" of the Mass, what should occur? Well, I am not clairvoyant nor do I have any inside track to that reform but I have opinions which many others share, including those in high places in the Church and non other than the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. So this is what I believe and my opinion only will help strengthen Catholic, young Catholics in particular, to be warriors for the Church as she confronts and perhaps dies for her mission and identity in a secularized,godless culture and government:
1. stricter guidelines concerning art, architecture and the orientation of the sanctuary, as well as for music. These already exist and for music it goes back to the 1800's that sacred words set to secular melodies or styles of melodies are not in keeping with the nature of the sacred music for the liturgy--this applied to orchestral settings of the Mass which were for entertainment purposes but often sung at Mass especially in Europe.Today this would have different implications, but Broadway sounding sacred music or music that sounds like bar music fits this norm that says it shouldn't be brought into the Mass. Sacred Words set to music that sounds like rock music or any other trendy medium should not be allowed during Mass--outside of Mass in devotional or entertainment venues, great, we need more of that!
2. The Benedictine altar arrangement or ad orientem, either one or both (I think there needs to be flexibility here) and mandating some Latin, such as for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei and Pater Noster and the Greek Kyrie for the Mass
3. Better catechesis and a Catechism like the Baltimore Catechism for elementary, middle and high school and only one used nationwide
4. Communion kneeling and by intinction, thus lessening the need of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who should only be installed acolytes.
5. On going recovery of a strong popular devotional life in the private and communal lives of Catholics and making clear that devotion and cultural influences belong outside of the Mass, not during the Mass--but cultural differences of Catholic devotional life should be embraced and celebrated by all cultures in the Church, but not during the Mass or in only a limited way
6 Recovery of adult respect for obedience to the Church and her Magisterium in the areas of faith, morals, Sacred Scripture and Tradition, for natural and divine law as well as canon law
7. Love for the Church, a conviction about the nature of the true Church and a love for priests and priestliness. In a desire to avoid "triumphalism and clericalism" we threw the baby out with the bath water--we need a sense of pride about our Church and about the unique character of the ordained as a sacramental, visual sign of Jesus Christ, High Priest and Bridegroom and make no apologies about either truths.
8. Pope Benedict's call and agenda to interpret Vatican II within continuity with all previous Councils of the Church and everything that was good that preceded Vatican II, what he calls "reform within continuity" is the key to the authentic renewal of the Church!
But we must also recognize the need for community that we should not swing the pendulum so far back to the vertical that we forget the horizontal--not everyone is an introvert in the Church and many need community and a friendly experience at Mass and in their parish. Priests and laity need not be robotic and rigid during Mass but friendly and hospitable in a quiet and respectful way--more opportunities for fellowship should be available outside of the nave of the Church before and after Mass and at other times during the week, like Wednesday night suppers.