Sunday, March 11, 2012
IS THE IDENTITY OF THE CATHOLIC PRIEST, ESPECIALLY AT MASS, IMPORTANT FOR AN INCREASE IN VOCATIONS?
But apart from the "pill" we have to contend with a loss of Catholic identity (which using the pill is an example) that was spurred on first by a loss of priestly and religious identity in the late 1960's (around 1968 to be exact) and well into the 70's.
I won't focus on religious life, but women religious orders are all but dead except for a couple of shining lights.
The Catholic culture that the Tridentine period of the Church created (from the Council of Trent through Vatican II, so around 1965)was very monolithic. It centered on Sunday Mass and religious obligation. Sunday Mass was rather non-participative but highly spiritual for the laity. But participation was experienced in a robust way in popular devotions outside of Mass, in particular Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament and novenas, many of which were culturally based and quite exuberant. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the cult of the saints was extremely important. There were also clear delineations between morality and immorality and the shame that immorality brought to the family. (The dark side to this shame is that it was kept in the dark and abuse of various kinds festered. We've only become too well aware of this darkness since the abuse scandal came to light).
All of the above collapsed almost overnight in the late 1960's and through a misguided wrong interpretation of Vatican II. What could have been a zenith for the Catholic Church especially in America, became a nightmare of confusion, loss of identity and a new distorted Catholic identity, a mere shadow of a former strong Catholic identity that was the yeast of a strong Catholic Church built around strong Catholic parishes.
Everything Catholic including our physical church buildings and our Catholic identity both as laity and clergy was gutted and what was replaced was vapid, empty, sterile and confused. The Church that had been a rock of sure and certain faith became a marshmallow of happy, bouncy, sweet, puffy nothings. Guilt about sexual issues was thrown out with the sexual revoltuion and the guilt transferred to social issues and Catholics not doing enough to help the poor, work for peace, march in protest of this that or the other.
The renewal of the Mass could have been revolutionary if it had only been a translation of Latin into the vernacular maintaining some Latin, a revision of the lectionary and the elimination of some "useless repetition." But the so called "renewal" went way beyond that in the minds of Liturgical Theologians which made what should have been change within continuity of the 1962 Mass a major rupture. The Mass became unrecognizable from its predecessor and completely different from parish to parish thus dividing parishes in terms of how the Mass was celebrated.
Noble simplicity that was asked for by the Council was more than likely directed toward Pontifical Solemn High Mass which were very complicated, not most parishes simple High Mass on Sunday and certainly not toward the Low Mass.
Once Catholic cohesiveness was fragmented, Catholic lay identity weakened, and priestly identity was transformed into some kind of community builder and social worker. Soon there wasn't much left to what had fueled vocations for centuries after the Council of Trent.
Very quickly in the late '60's and '70's there was an intentional move to down play the unique role of the Catholic priest in the Church by emphasizing a new ecclesiology where the priest was simply an "animator" of the laity and their role in the Church. There was a move to clericalize the laity and laicize the clergy, very, very odd to say the least.
In an attempt to make the Church on the institutional level more participative for the laity, laity took on roles in the institutional church that once were reserved only for priests and religious (women religious in particular). In this context the "vocation crisis" was seen as an act of the Holy Spirit and therefore good since the laity would then have to take on roles that only priests and religious had done previously. In this incredible mindset, fewer priests and religious was seen as "willed by God!" Yes, the sin of presumption that bordered on blasphemy of the Holy Spirit infiltrated many in the Church who thought God willed Vatican II in order to destroy the pre-Vatican II experience of Church and what Church was in those dark days.
But Vatican II actually wanted Catholic laity to take a strong Catholic identity, especially the Church's spiritual and moral identity to the secular world where they lived and worked, especially into the realm of politics and other public venues. This aspect of Vatican II was totally ignored over a more "churchified" approach to the laity in terms of institutional roles in the Church.
Then priests mingling in the world and living like lay people began to love the world and wanted to be like lay people. So they left the priesthood in droves, married and became lay people once again. We cannot underestimate the damage this did to the psyche of Catholic laity watching this mass exodus in the 1960's and 70's. Priests were perceived as very unhappy and beguiled and who in the world would encourage their son to join such a vocation?
Then because of many factors and the "pill" being one of those major factors, Catholic marriages too began to crumple and divorce and remarriage became quite commonplace. This will have a deleterious effect on the identity of Catholics and the promotion of vocations.
Later posts will focus on "theologians'" desires for the Mass and the theology of the laity and clergy as a further way to erode strong Catholic identity for both the clergy and laity.