Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NO NEED TO LAMENT THE SMALL STUFF: HOW POPE FRANCIS IS REVITALIZING THE CHURCH IN A PRE-VATICAN II WAY!

For more images of what a restored looking post-Vatican II Church will look like in the future, click here!
Yes, to some it appears that Pope Francis with his populist approach to the papacy is dumbing-down the post-Vatican II Church even more than it was prior to Popes John Paul II and Benedict. The liturgy doesn't seem to be a priority for Pope Francis and he eschews what many thought Pope Benedict was trying to do, a sort of pre-Vatican II restoration of pomp and circumstance especially as it concerns the monarchical look of the Church and papacy, a sort of triumphalism.

And certainly Pope Francis in his populist way eschews clarity. He is not the theologian or philosopher that Pope Benedict and Saint Pope John Paul II are/were. He presents himself almost like a simple country priest in the image of Saint John Vianney.

But what are the pre-Vatican II restorations of Pope Francis (most of which are populist) that will have a long term beneficial effect on the Church as we continue to walk forward, as this populist pope phrases it?

Here is what I see and I am sure the populace can see it too. And by presenting himself as a 1970's caricature, even progressive theologians are smiling or at least in denial about this:

Pope Francis weakness as a pope, which many would say is a strength because it has rehabilitated the Church in the eyes of many, is his off-the-cuff remarks. He talks too much and oddly enough talking too much is the very thing he complains about the most in others (projection). His off-the-cuff spontaneous gestures are confusing and I understand how this angers those who prefer clarity from the See of Peter. I am looking at the broad picture and how God brings good out of less than perfect people and situations.

But the area where Pope Francis is strengthening the foundation of the Church, which was the area that was very strong in the pre-Vatican II Church is the following. This will have long-term positive consequences and hopefully fruition for the liturgy in the future:

1. He is very clear that the Church is to be understood in the feminine. She is Holy Mother and Bride of Christ. These terms were anathema for post-Vatican II theologians and some bishops. The previous translation of the Mass into English expunged such imagery. Why? Because it is too traditional and has ramifications for the Sacraments of Holy Matrimony and Priesthood. Making the Church neuter leads to the opening of making Matrimony and Priesthood gender neutral. Thus the anthropology of the Church as Female, Mother and Bride and Jesus as male, Father and Groom has very important orthodox consequences.

2. He is emphasizing popular devotions, once the bedrock of the pre-Vatican II Church and while non-obligatory, would pack churches during the week and on Sunday night. I'm thinking of Marian devotions, novenas of all kinds, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross and the Holy Rosary and their communal celebration but also private celebrations especially by family groupings at home. Popular devotions disappeared very quickly after Vatican II because theologians denigrated these as superstitious, non-biblical and no longer needed as the Mass was in the vernacular and they felt people attended devotions because these were generally in the vernacular prior to Vatican II.

3. He emphasizes the Communion of Saints and the devil, once bedrocks of Catholic preaching prior to Vatican II that all but disappear afterwards.

4. He strongly emphasizes indulgences which I doubt most Catholics formed in the post-Vatican II era know anything about. Of course these are linked closely to popular devotions.

5. His style of celebrating the OF Mass even if on a card table looking altar in the chapel of his place of residence in the Vatican Motel Six is very austere and by the book. He celebrates the Mass while facing the people in a very ad orientem way. He elevates the Host and Chalice for a lengthy period of devotion. This was anathema by theologians after the council which felt it made the elevations too important and the Eucharist as an object of devotion rather than consumption. I had seminary professors who made no elevations whatsoever and did not genuflect either (who were perfectly physically capable of doing so).

6. He has made as a center piece of his papacy the restoration of the Sacrament of Confession. He even uses the term that 1970's theologians denigrated, confession, not penance or reconciliation. He is not turning to general absolution whatsoever as theologians wanted in the 1970's, thus denigrating the popular term of confession and insisting on the names Reconciliation or Penance as these eschew auricular confession!

Keep in mind too that the vibrancy of the pre-Vatican II Church, which Pope Francis recently emphasized to the Germans comparing it to the Church in Germany now on life-support, was its populist approach. She acted as a dragnet and made sure that the majority of Catholics were at Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation and that they went to Confession and Holy Communion at least once a year, preferable during the Easter Season. Perhaps the majority of these Catholics were cultural Catholics, but at least the Church got them to church each and every Sunday. The post-Vatican II Church has failed miserably in this regard and turned the Church into an elite minority in the vast sea of Catholics.

Pope Francis emphasis on mercy is precisely to get back those who have absented themselves from the Mass and Confession. Catholicism now garners a minority of Catholics to Mass and confession from her own ranks. This was not true prior to Vatican II when the Church was truly vibrant.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis is revitalizing the Church?!

Is this the same Pope Francis who:

- is trying to officially teach that unrepentant adulterers can receive Communion and can go to confession without mentioning their adultery
- has remained silent when Ireland abandoned the Faith and embraced the Devil
- gleefully received a filthy Communist crucifix
- gladly meets with unrepentant sodomites who HATE the Church yet ignores the pleas of 1 million faithful Catholic souls who beg him to uphold the Church's teaching
- the same pope who will not genuflect at the consecration but gets down on his knees on the floor, committing liturgical abuse and committing scandal, to wash the feet of pagans
- publicly humiliated Cardinal Burke because he upheld the Faith
- daily rants against faithful Catholics in homilies, interviews, synods etc.....he does it EVERY day

And the list goes on. Is this the man you are talking about Father? I just want to be clear.

Anonymous said...

This is all fine and dandy, but if we are bringing Catholics back to the Church as Pope Francis seems to be doing, what exactly are we bringing them back to? It the vast majority of case they will be returning to the ho-hum parishes they had previously left, banal liturgies, bad homilies, no devotional activities, etc.

If Francis wants the Chirch to be taken seriously, then he needs to demand the restoration of the traditional liturgy in the OF. If we can't even get our worship right, how exactly are we expected to get anything else right?? There's a reason why the TLM communities are growing so quick, especially in France where the OF will be all but extinct in 20 years.

I know you don't believe that the TLM will make a grand scale comeback, an opinion which I don't share, but how exactly long do you think it will take to "reform" the OF, and by that point will anyone even be in the pews to care?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To A at 7:30 AM: You are not pope and you have no control over any of this and your nitpicking isn't helpful whatsoever. I hope you don't do this to your spouse, if married, your children, if you have any, or your friends. It is not a recipe for Christian charity whatsoever. Take the plank out of your own eye first and respect the pontiff and if you can't keep you mouth closed. That's a pre-Vatican II as I can get as a priest!

Marc said...

Anonymous, let me translate Fr. McDonald's comment for you: pray, pay, and obey. Only the pope is allowed to have an opinion about the church. As a mere layman, you are not even remotely qualified to have an opinion. So just shut up and do what the priests tell you to do. And don't forget to leave some money in the collection. Lay people should be seen and not heard (unless it's the sound of money hitting the collection plate).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

And just what is wrong with a devotional life rooted in charity and holy obedience?

Marc said...

Nothing -- but you are suggesting blind adherence to a mere person that would require one to disregard one's reason and reality. According to you, if one notices something that appears to be amiss, one should suppress that feeling since such a person is, by definition, not qualified to take notice of such things. In essence, you are suggesting that Catholicism is a cult where everyone owes blind adherence to the whims of the pope. That is neither charity nor holy obedience.

TJM said...

I remember these days and mourn their passing. The Church on a per capita basis did FAR more good than it does today: took care of more orphans, the sick, taught more children, etc., etc. Now we lack the human resources to perform all of those acts of charity and goodness, because so many "progressives" pushed a worldly agenda that decimated Holy Mother the Church,

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Obedience to authority is a part of the 4th Commandment and extends beyond the pope. But in the areas of Faith, Morals and Canon Law yes holy obedience to the Pope and Magisterium is required, not optional for Catholics. Holy obedience excludes the so called blind obedience of which you rightfully express disdain.

Marc said...

Precisely. The flaw in what you're saying has to do with the error of papal positivism. There is an obedience owed that is higher than the obedience owed to the pope. When there appears to be a conflict between those two objects of obedience, one must choose carefully to which object greater obedience is owed.

In this particular instance, you are chiding Anonymous for having chosen incorrectly. On the contrary, it would appear that Anonymous believes that his or her obedience to God is greater than the obedience to the pope so that it is necessary to publicly refute certain things that the pope has said and done as part of the obedience owed to God.

The issue of obedience to the magisterium, especially when the current head of the magisterium appears to be in error in many ways, is an interesting and complicated topic. That is why I am suggesting that your reducing Anonymous's concerns and prescribing that he or she should shut up due to a lack of qualification or ecclesiological office is absurd.

You are right to say that priests telling the laity to shut up and trust the popes, bishops, and priests was a pre-Vatican II characteristic of the Church. Two things have happened to change that -- first, Vatican II demonstrated that clerics cannot be trusted, and second, Vatican II and the new Code of Canon Law enshrined in the laity the obligation to confront the clerics when they appear to be erring.

George said...

Marc
Our obligation as Catholics is to give honor and adoration to God, and to conform to His Holy Will and desire for us, by obeying His laws, availing ourselves of His Holy Sacraments, practicing the Cardinal virtues along with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and praying and giving alms. What priest, bishop, or Pope can prevent Anonymous or any other Catholic from doing these things? As Catholics,we are called to have a holy respect toward the priestly office which is of a different order than those offices in the secular realm. If there is something amiss in the actions or words of someone in the clerical realm, then prayer and almsgiving is called for,since those are the things that can do the most good. But there is no blind obedience required. A strong faith and trust in God certainly helps. No Catholic is obligated to do anything or obey any request (even if it comes from the Pope) which violates any of the laws of God, or is contrary to the instructions and proscriptions contained in the magisterial teachings of his Holy Church, which themselves derive from God.

Gene said...

This is all talk about symptoms instead of the disease, which is unbelief. No one is addressing that. The Pope's image and behavior do nothing to indicate that he is in the least bit concerned about it.