Wednesday, May 23, 2012
LIBERAL CATHOLICISM, REST IN PEACE?
Crisis Magazine has a piece on "Liberal Catholicism: Rest in Peace" which you can read by pressing this sentence.
I come from a conservative Catholic family, but I was schooled in post-Vatican II theology and radically liberal Catholicism in the seminary from 1976 to 1980. As a 14 year old I loved every single change that began in our parish including most of all the Mass in the vernacular and facing the people. In fact prior to the Second Vatican Council I use to ask my father why the priest doesn't face the people and what the heck is he doing up there. My father's answer was that he thought it might be good to put mirrors up there so we could see! And then he told me that in churches in Italy, the priest did face the people. I think he was speaking of the Basilicas in Rome.
But I can still remember the palpable excitement I felt that first Sunday the priest faced the congregation and we had cards in the pew with all the new English responses we could use. This had to be around 1965 or 66. I also remember some of our friends in the parish who thought this whole endeavor was ill-advised and did not know what to make of it. I thought they were crazy!
The first time I began to have reservations about the "new and improved" liturgy was around 1967 when a Franciscan sister and two other cohorts helped us to experience folk music at Mass. They said this is the wave of the future! They sat to the left of the altar within the altar railing, all three of them on bar stools and all three of them with guitars and we suffered through it. I thought to myself, "what the heck is this?" At the same time too, the reform of the Mass was coming in drips and drabs and to me, even as a teenager, it all seem like degeneration rather that regeneration, disintegration, not renewal although it kept being called renewal. The priests kept saying that this is the "simplification" of the Mass to make it more intelligible. And then the revised English in 1969/70 clearly was less sacred and more banal than the original English first used in 1965.
Around the same time in the late '60's and well into the 1970's I began to think to myself if I hear the words the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II one more time in a homily I will stand up and say, "Give me Jesus, darn it!" Vatican II's name was mentioned more than our Lord's Holy Name and quite frankly was preached more than our Lord. How did this idolatry come about? I still wonder that to this day. How did Vatican II become the God of the Church in the 1960's. The people written about in the linked article above are the greatest idolators of this false God. And let's name it: ecclesiology, ecumenism, interfaith relations and liturgics. While authoritative, none of these lesser Vatican II teachings are "infallibly binding!" "The Second Vatican Council’s declarations on non-Christian religions and religious freedom do not contain “binding doctrinal content,” Cardinal Walter Brandmuller said at a press conference on May 21."
Then 1968 came and there was the Humanae Vitae debacle and strident division in the Church about Catholic sexual morality as the sexual revolution took hold and all the anti-authority issues of rigidly formed lay Catholics, who produced even more rigid Catholic vocations to the priesthood and religious life experienced liberation from the rigidity of the pre-Vatican II Church and lived as though Pandora's Box was the ultimate result of Vatican II. The most ultra conservative priests and sisters became the most ultra liberal priests and sisters dissenters. What a flip flop! For these religious, this was their adolescence. What was sad was that these religious were in the 30's, 40's 50's and beyond. It was not a pretty scene and from our 20/20 hindsight in 2012 we know that this adolescent acting out was more than just against rigid authority and emancipation from the pre-Vatican II rigidity. We've paid heavily for it in the loss of Catholic identity and moral leadership. The sexual acting out led to many priests and sisters marrying if they had normal heterosexual desires and others acting on perverted desires abusing their unsuspecting victims. All of it though was Pandora's Box opened in the Church and the culture at large, Catholic or not.
I'm not sure liberal Catholicism is quite dead and I won't sing a dirge quite yet and when the funeral is announced I might have a Mass of the Resurrection with "And the Father Will Dance" as the Song of Farewell. But that generation is surely fading away and dying off as the article I link above indicates.
What has replaced Catholic liberalism is Catholic secularism and the dis-connect between one's private faith and one's public life. Our Catholic politicians are the prime example of it but they are not alone.
There is clearly a strong move within the media, the political realm and academia (and Catholic academia) to make the Church, whatever Church, Catholic or not, conform to the secular agenda especially as it regards human sexuality and reproductive rights and marriage. Even the highest liturgy of the Anglican Church which makes even most Catholic high church liturgies in the Ordinary Form look like John Calvin's Church services can embrace the most liberal of politics and radical feminism and still have all the bells and smells. It is faux Catholicism at it worst.
But many Catholics, especially younger ones, are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of secularism and if they have any interest in religion it is for community and relief from the stresses and anxieties of life. They use it like a recreational drug to medicate and placate their depression.