Sunday, November 27, 2016
IS THE RETURN TOTHE 1970'S THE HOLY SPIRIT'S WAY OF FINALLY MOVING US FORWARD TO PUT THAT HORRIBLE ERA TO REST? TIME WILL TELL
I found it academically challenging and satisfying. Not all did, though. In 1976 we began with a class of about 60 men. Very quickly though, most of those men were too conservative (read rigid) to endure the path my seminary had chosen, a path that denigrated the pre-Vatican II Church, denigrated the older Mass, denigrated chant, denigrated devotions, like Adoration and Benediction as well as the Holy Rosary and cult of the saints, denigrated moral rigidity and the doctors of the law. Canon Law was held in disrepute. So my the end of the first year, the authorities got rid of about half of our class or rigids keeping us more flexible and gullible ones around or at least those of us who knew how to play by the rules of the institution. By 1980 only about 20 were left in my class and today I think there are only about 9 of us in active ministry, some dead, some suspended and some defrocked.
But more challenging for the legally rigid was the hermeneutic used to study Scripture, called the historical critical method that reached back to the liberal Protestants of the last part of the 19th Century which tried to strip Scripture of anything that actually did not happen in the life of the historical Jesus. It was a method of studying Scripture that denigrated the high Christology of Jesus (read divinity) and exalted a low Christology (read humanity) and a low Church.
The liturgy was stripped to its barest essentials and sometimes the essentials were gone. Vestments were very plain without ornamentation, simply color. The thinking was that the chasuble was the symbol and you don't place additional symbols on the primary symbol.
And of course we had to get back to the early Church's way of celebrating Mass prior to coming out of the catacombs and home churches. Thus anything flashy for vestments and liturgical hardware (read chalices) had to be abolished. Earthenware was the style of the day because it was so early Church!
There was even a ceremony of stripping the old high altar of the main chapel a few years prior to my arrival. The six ornate candlesticks and tabernacle along with the frilly altar clothes were removed as on Holy Thursday night and then creatively placed in a wheelbarrow and carted out of the chapel. A wooden box altar was placed in front of the old high altar, unadorned except for s simple cloth and one candle and one candle by the ambo. Nice, no?
That is just some of what I experienced in the 1970's when I was in my early 20's. Back then I was as open as a child and thought like a child because of that I thought those who were teaching me like a child had an inside track about the future of the Church which I didn't have nor did the pope and bishops of that time had. I wasn't taught about Gnosticism.
Now that I am an adult, I don't think like a child anymore and I no longer see the 1970's as some sort of panacea for the Church. I can smell a Gnostic a mile away.
But unfortunately, those my age and much older, not all but a goodly number, still see the 1970's as some sort of panacea and most powerful working of the Holy Spirit. In fact you will still hear some of those same people today declaring that what is happening in the Church today, is yet another sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working as though He didn't work under other periods of the Church, the most recent being that of Pope Benedict XVI. Such arrogance no? And yes, such Gnosticism.
But as I have written before, I think (and this is my most humble opinion of course, I am not a Gnostic although I am reportedly clairvoyant) that we are in the final battle of the 1970's mentality exhibited in the highest reaches of the hierarchy today. It is their last gasp and it is a battle between two groups of basically the same age, one represented by Pope Francis and his minions and the other by Pope Benedict and his cohorts.
The unprecedented (at least publicly) open challenge to Pope Francis in a public way by four high ranking Cardinals ("doctors of the law who promote small minded rules" to quote Pope Francis) and many others too timid to go public, are demanding that Pope Francis clarify his moral teachings which are quite ambiguous in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, is a sign of this final battle. In what could have been a very powerful exhortation is completely derailed by the Holy Father himself by a single footnote in Chapter 8! This footnote has the potential to collapse the entire moral teachings of the Church like a computer virus or malicious worm. It could bring an end to the Church's understanding of natural law and thus make us like all other liberal protestant denominations which are in total chaos and completely irrelevant to the secular world today as they have turned Christ and their church into a Jesus of the culture, a sort of spongy marshmallow.
Let me say that the two aging factions duking it out in the public arena may not have a clear winner. But what is certain is that rank and file clergy and laity are the losers if the 1970's wins the battle. My personal faith tells me (and this could be Gnostic) that God won't allow His Holy Church to be so maligned. I suspect God is on the side of orthodoxy, not heterodoxy as well as orthopraxis and not heteropraxis.
And thus the current battle may lead to a brilliant clarification and not a few anathemas. Be patient and wait and see what the Lord can do!