Monday, April 29, 2013



The end all and be all of the 1970's mentality for the laity, women in particular:

I know nothing of the Benedictine priest who died recently and God bless his soul. But I did know Fr. Paul Philibert who I had for theology classes at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore in the 1970's. Just to be clear, I liked him very much as a person and he was an excellent teacher. He had a great personality but was a bit eccentric, but aren't we all.

So my comments after this little bit of what he wrote recently as a review of the book "A Virtuous Church" isn't about the deceased, for I do not know him and I offer a prayer for the happy repose of his soul. I simply want to comment on Fr. Philibert's 1970's perspective of which Pope Francis is moving the Church beyond, although Pope Francis as a Jesuit would be very familiar with the 1970's mentality for better and of course for worse and what he would see as the "clericalization" of the laity.

In the forthcoming May issue of Worship Fr. Paul Philibert OP has a review of the recently released book A Virtuous Church: Catholic Theology, Eithics, and Liturgy for the 21st Century. Philibert begins:

“A Virtuous Church,” [Benedictine Father] Kevin Seasoltz [who very recently died] analyzes the forces that have enabled the restorationist reaction to Vatican II. Drawing on the social sciences, biblical studies, the Catholic tradition of moral theology, and contemporary ecclesiology and liturgiology, he underlines how poorly founded and inept is the present option of the Church’s leadership for authoritarianism, centralization, and clericalism. With the Roman Catholic Church more centralized than ever before in its history, bishops have become vicars of the pope rather than vicars of the apostles, women feel intensely marginalized, and the laity have not been able to achieve fully the role proposed for them by the Second Vatican Council.

The review concludes:

The author writes that many people today “wonder whether the Lord Jesus, as master of the Church, has gone on a very long journey and left the Church as an orphan in [the] charge of rascals” (195). The deepest cultural challenges and opportunities for the Kingdom of God have been systematically ignored in order to buttress the Roman option for a classicist theology and for juridical approaches to ministry that mask the universal call to holiness and the universal responsibility for the Church’s apostolic life. The virtue of this book is that the author explains calmly and clearly what that means and how it happened. As a carefully documented work of theological synthesis, it will be not only enriching but also important for theologians and pastors, catechists and ecclesial ministers. We are in debt to the author for a potent prod to assess what we see happening in the Church and to address it, each of us within the sphere of our capacities.

MY COMMENTS: Fr. Philibert writes, "Women feel marginalized in the Church?" Why? Because they can't be a bishop, a priest or a deacon? Is that the end all and be all of the Church? Yes, for the liberals of yesteryear, that is the essence of the Church, clericalism, whether it is the clericalism of the ordained, even if they be women, or the clericalism of the laity, which I use to call "laityism." It is all about the churchy things the laity do, whether they are in positions of control or not. Whether they are lectors, or altar servers, deacons or priests or bishops and that is the essence of the apostolic ministry to them. To Fr. Philibert it is about laity preaching from the pulpit of the Church, being the president of the parish council, being in roles of authority in the parish, the chancery and the curia. It is about all the things priests do in their clerical lives.

And I know that Fr. Philibert, very much in line with his 1970's theology, would like to see the laicization of the clergy, so they begin to act as laity, married with children and preoccupied by all the things of the laity that takes them away from the "churchy" things that this minority of men in the Church have traditionally taken care of so that the laity could be free to do the real work of the laity of being a leaven in their family, their work and their play, bringing the Gospel and the Catholic way of life to the secular world.

But for Pope Francis, who will be more collegial than his last two predecessors, this is all nonsense. He does not want the laity clericalized. He wants them to find their "ministry" which I would think would be more aptly called, "apostolate" in their lay state. So mothers and fathers have a more profound apostolate in the Church forming their children in the ways of faith, not as domestic administrators, but as mothers and fathers who nurture their children with love and show for the love of Holy Mother Church. I would suspect that the most important "ministry" that women have in the Church is precisely being mothers and wives if they are married, that that would be their primary and most important ministry. Wives show forth the nature of the Church as the bride of Christ. Together with the head of the family, the husband, they form the Church in miniature, caring for the family, and their children who could be considered the poorest of the poor, clothing them, teaching them, sheltering them and feeding them. This is what the Church universal is called to do as well on the institutional level and where the laity work primarily to promote the cause of Christ to the poor in their midst, whether the laity contribute to the needs of the poor, work directly with them, assist the government to take care of the poor in the political sense. The laity, the Catholic laity, are to bring Catholic sensibilities to all they do, political and otherwise!

Father Philibert characterizes the struggle in the Church as a class struggle between the clergy and the laity that is epitomized in the liturgy of the Church with its 1970's mentality and flair. He would certainly have had disdain for Pope Francis' recent priestly ordination Mass where only men did the primary roles of the liturgy, bishops, priests, deacons and installed readers on their way to priesthood, who read the lessons and installed acolytes who functioned during the Mass. The only laity functioning in the Mass were the man and woman who brought the offerings to the pope and the laity in the choirs.

For Fr. Philibert, that recent liturgy of Pope Francis' is an insult to the laity and to Vatican II, so misunderstood by the 1970's generation still stuck in 1970. But for Pope Franics the laity who formed their boys in the ways of faith that led to their answering God's call to be priests is the most profound ministry that any parents could have, way above being pope, bishop or priest. Of course for Fr. Philibert, that doesn't count as it isn't mimicking the ordained life in churchy, liturgical things or in seizing clerical power in the liturgy, the parish, the diocese or the Vatican. How sad!

Compare what Fr. Philibert writes in his 1970's dying theology, and thank God for that--that it is dying, breathing its last breathes, because it smells like a polluted swamp, to the fresh air of Pope Francis. In fact, the 1970's generation, still stuck there, can't smell the bad swamp breath that they exhale with every word they write and speak:

"The reform that’s needed is “neither to clericalize nor ask to be clericalized. The layperson is a layperson. He has to live as a layperson… to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself…. [He] is to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And like all of us, the layperson is called to carry his daily cross—the cross of the layperson, not of the priest.”

MY FINAL COMMENT: Fr.Paul Philibert and others of his ilk of the 1970's musty, polluted swamp air era, despise Pope Benedict and his papacy and prior to that as Cardinal Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Philibert fails to realize that the Holy Spirit was at and is at the core of every papacy no matter how good or how bad that papacy is and God will use every papacy for the advancement of the true nature of the Church as we walk forward in faith toward the Second Coming of Christ. Pope Francis' papacy would be quite different if it had merely followed Pope Paul VI's and not the previous three popes.

What Fr. Philibert and others of his 1970's mentality fail to recognize about Pope Francis building upon Pope Benedict, is that his vision of the Church isn't about continuing the liturgical wars or the ecclesiology wars or the lay ministry wars, it is about living our Catholic faith and the holiness of both the laity and the clergy, that from the Holy Mass and their popular devotions at church and home, leads them to trust in God's mercy (Penance), to go into their homes and workplaces and recreational places with the Good News, knowing that the Devil wants to thwart them, make them "churchy" and "worldly" and rob them of the love of Christ, His mercy and His true homeland for them, heaven.

It's time to move on from the ideologues of the 1970's, Fr. Paul Philibert and the one he reviews, and follow the new Pope into the new frontier Pope Francis sets before us! His papacy as Bishop of Rome will entail what Vatican II actually sought to do, reform the Church, meaning, renew the laity and clergy and show forth the simplicity of the Gospel and how to live it in the world, not so much in the institution of the Church that prior to Vatican II had become self-absorbed and clothed in too much trappings that made her appear to be aloof and apart from the world the majority of Catholics lived in, worked in and played in, a rupture between the secular and the sacred.

For the laity, the pre-Vatican II trappings of the clerical life, that of clerical power distributed to the laity, in the liturgy as lectors, Communion ministers, lay ecclesial ministers, leaders of prayer, parish council presidents, heads of departments in the chancery and in the Vatican's curia need to be revisited and stripped to the more essential roles of the laity in the secular life of the world.

It is easier to say one is a good Catholic depending upon their churchy role whether they are clergy or laity. It is much more difficult to say one is a good Catholic apart from the churchy, institutional things clergy and laity do, such as being a holy person and a good Catholic everywhere else after Mass and when one goes home, to work and to play!


Gene said...

If women are margarinized, it is because schools don't teach Home Ec anymore and women have forgotten how to be neat and tidy in the kitchen. Women can avoid being margarinized by wearing aprons, making sure that they do not handle the margarine with their fingers, and by not placing excess amounts of margarine on the spoon. Also, they should not plop the margarine into the pan or the mix so that it splatters.
Women should also remember that margarine at room temperature is soft and will easily slide off the knife or batter spoon, creating unnecessary messes.
There is really no reason for women to be margarinized if they follow these few simple guidelines.This will allow them to avoid wasting time with unnecessary clean-up so that they can give their time to vacuuming, laundry, and sewing.

ytc said...

I've never understood the idea that reading Scripture at Mass is essentially the role of laypeople. Pretty sure the Easterners don't do it, nor do the Orthodox, and we didn't until recently.

That's one of the only changes in the Roman Rite that I truly can't see any reason for. Since when has the proclamation of Scripture of Mass been an essentially lay role? It never has been. It seems some made-up clericalizing bone that's thrown to lay Latins, very patronizing.

Even with EMs, when used correctly, they are only used rarely and in exceptional circumstances. That's understandable, although the use of them is often abused, but that's a separate consideration altogether.

Art Fleming said...

"Class Struggle"

The credibility of the "experts" who write this stuff speaks for itself when they characterize the Church's problems in Marxist terms or in any terms that suggest the biggest problem is one group feeling marginalized or looking for more power.

Gene said...

Well, we had 8 EM's Sunday and I guess the Bishop told Fr. to knock off intinction because now the cup is back and the bottleneck in front of the Church has returned...*sigh*

Libris Angelorum said...

An Anglican friend of mine made an apt observation of the ordination of women in the Episcopal church. She said, "Have you noticed that most of these women are middle-aged and making a strange mid-life change from high-powered careers to the clergy? If you ask me it is all about power, albeit in a different realm."

Quite frankly, we could use more women like the prophetess Anna who never departed from the temple, but spent her life in fasting and prayer. With humility and meekness, prayer wields the greatest power in the kingdom of God. How can one feel marginalized when she petitions the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

Blessed are the meek ... .

John Nolan said...

Gene, surely margarine is very Novus Ordo? Traditionalists use butter, and Ultramontanes olive oil.

WSquared said...

Or, Gene, women can simply choose for Christ anywhere and everywhere they are, at home, and in whatever professions they have, if the latter is the case. All of that goes beyond "churchiness," as I think we all agree. So for similar reasons, I look askance at claims of "marginalization of women," especially in view of the last three Popes' Christocentric view and exhortation of Church as Communion with Jesus Christ. Without the latter, we aren't truly Church, no matter which way we cut it.

I think I do know what you're trying to say, though. Or at least I'll try to take a stab at it.

I'm trying to finish a graduate degree, and I've taught students at the college level. But I'm also darned good at cooking and cleaning, and handy with a needle and thread. I learned the cooking part myself, but my home-maker mom taught me the cleaning and needlework. A couple of months ago, I'd been thinking about what Pope Benedict, my mom, and one of my dissertation advisers all share: I think it's a certain profundity that comes from a joyous, childlike curiosity and humility. I see this also in the mother of another friend, who has a nursing degree and works as a school nurse, just as I don't see it in many other women for all their jobs and education.

Wherever one is as a woman, be it as a full-time homemaker, someone who works full time, or someone who works part time, and any other combination, one will be a disaster every which way if one is narcissistic, entitled, and thinks that everything is All About Me.

Just publishing something would be an achievement for me, it doesn't then make it "beneath" me to, say, scrub the floor under the altar-- something that I wish I had volunteered for when I lived next door to my parish before I got married. And I think the reason in retrospect is this: as St. Paul said, if I have this, that, or the other thing, and have achieved this or that, or am as clever as all that, but do not have love, I have nothing.

Likewise, I've been ruminating through thought and prayer recently about being a wife and mother, and balancing the graduate work I do with the supposedly more "mundane" stuff like cooking and cleaning, as well as the fact that there are times when I just, well, don't wanna do it.

But what seems to be growing is the realization that taking time away from my studies and doing those things for the Lord is a way in which He can inject love into my life, especially when I feel like closing in on myself and essentially hoarding my time to myself. It's an ongoing exercise to learn to trust the experience of the days where, with the Lord's help, I've had a very productive time trying to write my dissertation or conference papers, or whatever. And I still manage to get my cleaning done, and cook dinner. There's also the matter of expectations of one's self and everyone else and learning to err on the side of charity, mercy, and generosity.

WSquared said...

I think I share what seems to be your critique of a particular attitude. I would extend that critique to a certain cognitive disconnect: namely, for a woman to show how brilliant she is in the professions, how far she's advanced, and how many letters she can now put after her names, how she can do whatever a man can do...

...and yet she somehow has no ability to, say, make sure that the thread she's using to mend something actually matches whatever it is she's mending, and to make sure that their stitches are neat and tidy so that they do not unravel. Worse, I've seen and experienced condescension to those who do have skills in these "lesser" areas that they themselves have "no time" for.

And it comes down to what work remains supposedly "unsung" or "unnoticed" regarding certain kinds of people. But that reminds me of that part in A Man for All Seasons, where Richard Rich laments the idea of being a teacher, asking Thomas More "who would notice?" More answers, "your students and God; not a bad audience."

Nothing wrong with professional achievement, but there's everything wrong with worshiping it, and worshiping certain kinds of perks. So it's a matter of right order and perspective. And the thing about the "mundane" stuff is that it isn't rocket science or being the "good little wifey"; it's basic logic on many different levels.

It is also an exercise in material reality and natural order, and an exercise in knowing that objective reality exists: there are good reasons why things work in this way, and not others: a certain kind of fabric will not drape in a way contrary to its nature any more than taking out a load-bearing wall won't prevent your house from having very real problems, even if you think it'll "look nice." As Fr. James Schall, SJ would put it: it concerns the truth about What Is, which is to a very real degree about working with what you've got.

There's a reason why actual hands-on technique and the time taken to acquire it matters. These small, but very concrete, things do add up. And they also teach us humility and patience regarding a larger, transcendent reality that is not All About Me And What I Want Right This Ruddy Minute.

A lot of this is behind the Montessori Method, and all of it is definitely part of the way in which mothers (and fathers) are the Church in the world without having to be priests or "do churchy things." It's about loving God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Gene said...

WSquared, You most definitely get it. Thanks.

WSquared said...

"And I know that Fr. Philibert, very much in line with his 1970's theology, would like to see the laicization of the clergy, so they begin to act as laity, married with children and preoccupied by all the things of the laity."

You know what? Ugh. One thing the Catholic Church is not about, as Pope Francis has stressed, is some sort of "churchy respectability." And when Pope Francis said that priests should "smell like their flock," I was not under any impression that he meant that the priest should form himself in the image of the laity. So thank you, Pope Francis, for pointing out that the cross of the layman is not the cross of the priest, and vice versa. I think this is another example of Pope Francis trying to get back to fundamentals from That 70s Church that has mostly focused on peripherals.

You know, I wonder if the mentality of That 70s Church is why blather about how "Father having a wife and family" will solve all of the Church's problems truly is irritating.

In a related example, there seems to be too much emphasis on Father needing "experience" in order for laypeople to feel comfortable coming to him for marital advice. There seems to be way too much emphasis on priests who can "relate to ME," and not enough about how we all are to relate to Jesus.

Gene said...

Saying that Priests cannot give marriage counseling because they have never been married is like telling your cardiologist he cannot treat your heart attack because he has never had one. Sheesh!

rcg said...

Fr. Is any priest who does not become a bishop a failure in his career? Was he marginalized by his political foes?

WSquared said...

BTW: isn't it also true-- by the same logic-- that if celibate priests supposedly "can't advise married couples about marriage (and love)," because they don't have a wife and children, then those who have never lived a celibate life should likewise shut up about how celibacy is "bad," "wrong," and "unloving"?

If divorce/marriage statistics, anecdotal evidence about dating and sex, and popular culture are any indication, a large chunk of our society makes a train wreck of dating, sex, weddings, marriage, and even child-rearing, both in terms of the expectations of one's self and other people, and the actual results.

Hey, at least for those priests who are faithful to their vocation (i.e. the lion's share of them), Father actually knows what it's like to be in a long-term, committed relationship. Most men and women who think that there's nothing wrong with "fooling around" are afraid of commitment. Furthermore, most priests know that sex can make babies, which means that they actually know what it's ultimately even for.

The thing is, we only ever truly come to love others, anyway, through, with, and in Jesus Christ. Funny how, when our culture likes to throw "God is Love" or "love thy neighbor" at us, it tends to forget the stuff that comes before and after "love one another," be it "love one another, as I have loved you," or "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Whether or not we are in Communion with God will determine how broadly and deeply we understand love, which will most assuredly determine how we "do unto others." Our culture gets all of this precisely backwards.

Why does the Catholic Church need to take advice on love, sex, and marriage from those who are largely awful at it, and from a culture that has essentially failed miserably at all of the above? Why does she need love advice from a largely decrepit and incoherent consumer culture when, if I'm paraphrasing Pope Francis correctly, the Church can not only go right to the source, but is right at the source?