Saturday, June 22, 2013
IS VATICAN II RESPONSIBLE FOR A "SELF-REFERENTIAL (NARCISISTIC) CHURCH" AND BEING SELF-ABSORBED?
As a person who has a very good memory of my childhood and religious experiences both in the pre-Vatican II Church and post Vatican II Church, I am beginning to wonder if Vatican II is the cause of most of the problems that Pope Francis wants to clean up, not by going back to 1950's Catholicism prior to the Council except in one way.
And that way is to tell Catholics to be content with the Church that is given to them and to stop trying to rearrange the furniture as and renovate the Church and church we have done for the past 50 years.
What have we been doing for the past 50 years as Catholics. Let me list some of it:
1. We've griped and complained about the way the Church was prior to Vatican II.
2. We've griped and complained about the changes in the Church after Vatican II.
3. We made change a hallmark of Catholicism thinking we can refashion the church, make it new and improved like product lines continually do and tell us in their advertizing.
4. We've focused on externals, the language of the Mass, the music of the Mass, the readings of the Mass, the style of vestments of the Mass, the style of renovating the churches for the Mass and we've caused much upheaval and unnecessarily so in all of this for parish communities driving some of the staunches Catholics away from the Church.
5. We've reinvented the way we teach Catholics and in the process dumbed everything down to the point that Catholics don't know what to believe and think personal gnosticism and personal opinions about faith and morals is on par with what the Magisterium teaches.
The list could go on and on. Yet are we giving our Catholics a mission as Catholic laity? No, not in general, but the renewal groups of the Church have been doing this for some time, especially in Europe, but also in the USA. Intentional Catholics coming together to truly be Catholic and to live their lives of faith in the world. Most of this renewal groups are conservative, accept the teaching of the Church, don't push for changes in Church teachings at all and accept the Magisterium.
I know of no liberal or progressive groups that are doing what Pope Francis and Pope Benedict want us to do which is to move away from the horizontal, navel gazing Church continually trying to make things new and improved in the superficial sense and to get back to authentic Catholic living, concerned for the poor, living simply and loving God and neighbor as Jesus taught. What liberal or progressive groups are producing vocations? None that I know of and the liberal and progressive religious orders and dioceses are producing no vocations either. It is a recipe for the death of Catholicism leaving only a faithful remnant and certainly this isn't the desire of the Church or the Lord, our Head.
While there were many warts in pre-Vatican II Catholicism, this is what we didn't and did have back then:
This is what we did have:
1. Parishes that were geographical and the majority of the Catholics in the boundaries of each parish actually went to Mass and supported the Church.
2. Large families that went to Mass each Sunday, supported Catholic education as a means to make strong the Catholic faith of children and hand it on to them.
3. Vocations galore for the priesthood and religious life and the willingness to sacrifice for a severe life in these pre-Vatican II experiences of the priesthood and religious life.
4. Mass was Mass and there were only three kinds and all in the same language: Low, High and Solemn High (although most Catholics rarely attended a Solemn High Mass, more went to the High Mass, the majority to the Low Mass (no music or simply four devotional hymns inserted into it).
5. Popular Devotions both public and private thrived
6. Lay Catholic became religious and operated all kinds of outreach to the communities not only through schools, but hospitals, agencies for the poor, nursing homes and the like
7. Religious were not see as Martians but laity who made a higher permanent commitment to full time Church work
This is what we didn't have:
1. Liturgical wars with competing visions of what the liturgy should be
2. Constant renovations of churches for liturgical purposes
3. divisions among Catholics in terms of traditional or progressive (you were either good Catholic or a bad Catholic and everyone knew what that meant
4. The Mass was celebrated by the book and most people did not experience liturgical abuse or the personality of the priest foisted upon them in a liturgical setting
How can we become what Pope Francis would like to see us become and that is "a Church that would be capable of taking to the high seas, one no longer corralled within its own fences''. Herein lies the program brand of the new pontificate, along with the Franciscan ideal of ''a Church that is poor and for the poor'': it could not be otherwise for the first Jesuit pope in history. And if Pope Francis will be able to steer Peter's boat down this route, freeing it from all the excess baggage and resistances then we will be a pre-Vatican II Church in a post Vatican II way."
So what the pope is advocating and what I advocate is Evangelical Catholicism, with the home and the Christian family the nucleus of the Church, meaning that it is in the home where Catholicism is lived and breathed, that we form strong Catholics.
Then once a week or even daily, every Catholic goes to Mass. If they wish to participate verbally or musically fine. If not fine. Just be strong Catholics. Be at Church every Sunday, weak or strong Catholics. Don't making the so-called active participation at Mass the litmus test of being a good or bad Catholic!
Make sure that the Mass is celebrated by the book. Let's limit the style of music at Mass and really give a go at making Gregorian Chant and its offspring the music of the Mass. Don't leave it up to liturgists and musicians to plan the Mass and the Music. Make them sing the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphons and limit the number settings of style of music we have for the parts of the Mass or maybe mandate Latin for those parts.
What this would do is to take away from liturgists and musicians the authority to plan the musical composition of the Mass according to their tastes and agenda and return the Mass to the agenda and taste of the Church.
So, we won't get as a processional hymn "We are One in the Spirit" or "Gather Us In" or a variety of other vapid hymns with an ideological agenda or preachy message, but we'll get the Psalm that is prescribed for the Entrance Chant.
Removing authority from those who have taken it and pontificate about it will go a long way to making the Church into what Pope Francis desires.
Don't misinterpret what I am saying. I'm not saying that we shouldn't be ecumenical and in dialogue with other religions and with those of no religion. I'm in favor of the Church's teaching since Vatican II on ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and religious liberty. I am in favor of what Vatican II asked for the liturgy and the Missal we have. We don't need to keep reinventing the Church. Now is the time to settle down with what is given us in the Post Vatican II Church and stop making it less or more what we want it to be and more what God and the Magisterium want it to be.
The following is what many believe Pope Francis means by coming out of a self-referential and narcissistic Church:
The Church needs to overcome a tendency within the Church to be self-referential or narcissistic. The Church, the pope said, needed to “come out of herself”, moving not just to the geographical but to the “existential” peripheries (the troubled material, moral and spiritual edges on which people live their lives), in order to evangelize effectively. When she fails to do this, the Church becomes self-referential, which is a kind of sickness. This leads her into a very serious spiritual evil, which the great theologian Cardinal Henri de Lubac called the worst evil that can befall the Church, namely “spiritual worldliness”.
The pope is talking about a certain attitude among the Church’s members—narcissistic, self-referential, worldly in their very spirituality—which makes the Church as an institution extremely ill.
A Partial List of Examples of Spiritual Narcissism
This critique of a certain malaise in the Church can refer only to one thing: When we start defining the Church according to how we ourselves are, we are committing this sin of narcissism; we are being self-referential. And in this sense, we are making the Church self-referential in all of her operations, which must be carried out through her members.
Let us consider some practical applications of the Pope’s thesis.
-- When theologians and academicians redefine faith and morals according to their own desires (chiefly, in our day, through the cancer of Modernism), they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When laymen use the Church for their spiritual comfort while rejecting whatever Catholic teachings they do not like, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When people at any level in the Church decide they are not called to express the way, the truth and the life of Christ to others because it is outside their personal comfort zone, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When affluent Catholics constantly find excuses, including legal and political excuses, for not stretching themselves to serve the poor, including immigrants, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When those with strong feelings about certain traditions and the liturgy claim that they alone are the bearers of the true light of Christ, dividing themselves from others and from obedience to ecclesiastical authority, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When cardinals and bishops refuse to speak truth to power, preferring to enjoy life with “people who matter”, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When Catholics invest their emotions and their sense of mission in unapproved apparitions or other similar phenomena, as if these hold the key to everything, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When priests alter the liturgy to suit their tastes or fail to teach the fullness of Catholic doctrine, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- When religious communities depart from their founding charisms and pursue essentially secular goals with a spiritual veneer, they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
-- Whenever anyone defines right and wrong in terms of chronology (“Come on, it’s 2013! Don’t be so medieval!”), he or she is being narcissistic and self-referential, and making the Church sick.
-- And when Catholics fail to seek constant enlightenment from both the Church and the Holy Spirit in prayer, preferring to go on spiritually without making any real effort to lay bare their own spiritual weaknesses—preferring the comfort of an apparently serene but half-hearted and surely one-sided Christianity—then they are being narcissistic and self-referential, and they are making the Church sick.
This is what Cardinal Bergoglio was explaining to his brothers just before they elected him pope. He may have used some academic language to refer to the problem. Indeed, Pope Benedict had done the same, calling it “self-secularization”. But it really is not so difficult to understand. When we make the Church into what we see in the mirror, instead of stretching ourselves to the “existential peripheries”, we plunge the Church into spiritual worldliness. We make the Church sick.