Thursday, July 20, 2017


As a child of the 1970's seminary, I have to tell you that the ethos of our preparation for the priesthood, especially as it concerns preaching, was to be prophetic, meaning that we were to afflict the comfortable (the rich) and comfort the afflicted, i.e., the poor.

This meant that we were to be prophets challenging the rich in our parish, calling them out for being members of country clubs that did not admit the poor and challenge their labor practices.

I wonder, if all of this, along with poor liturgical practices, has contributed to the decline in active membership of the Catholic Church, in some places, like New York and New England having only 12% of Catholics actually attending Mass on Sunday?

Progressives in the Church shifted the manner in which they would lay guilt trips on Catholics from sex to not being caring enough toward those on the margins of society, the poor and dispossessed.

In the Jansenistic good old 1950's it was sex that most Catholic were the most ashame of and heard the most sermons on. In the 1970's it was being mean and unchristian to the poor. We could never do enough and money spent on bricks and mortar and educating well to do children of rich parents were the ultimate mortal sins.

As you know, the 1970's have returned with a vengeance under the current papal magisterium.

How many of the 12% of Catholics who actually bother to attend Mass in New England will dismiss the Church as so many did in the 1970's? Time will tell.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Calling people to conversion - whatever the nature of the sin - ought not be considered sending people on guilt trips, unless the homilist fails to mention acknowledgement of sin and the offer of redemption.

Whatever the nature of the sin - and keep in mind that the love of money is the root of all evil - the homilist has a duty to preach the message of the Sacred Scriptures. And those Scriptures regularly call us to conversion.

If people stop attending because they don't want to hear the call to conversion, well, this reaction is not new nor should it be shocking. It was true in the time of Jesus. "When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." and, "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things."

The art of preaching is to break through the crusty top layer of indifference or turpitude or greed without doing irreparable damage to the subsoil. And in that Good Soil the word can be planted and grow to produce a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold....

ByzRC said...

Agree with Father Kavanaugh. Themes as well as eras come and go however, foundationally, the call to conversion is unchanged. If people don't want to hear this call, their foundation is likely weak as Father describes.

Regarding poor liturgical practice, as much as I appreciate the liturgy/good liturgy, I don't worship the liturgy. Given this, should the approach to liturgy not be the ideal but the sacrament is validly celebrated and the message sound, I can deal with it without having to like it.

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh makes some excellent points; my guess is that he is a good homilist himself. I have come across good and holy priests who do not have the art of preaching, and would not shun their Masses on that account. Neither would I go out of my way to attend a Mass simply because the homilist is good.

Preaching is perhaps best done outside of Mass, as was long the custom; often it was done outdoors and attracted large audiences. This survived into the 20th century in the form of the Sunday afternoon 'Rosary, sermon and Benediction.'

A sermon allows the preacher more time to develop his argument. A homily during Mass must not be too long, as it essentially interrupts the liturgical action - the claim in the GIRM that it is part of the liturgy is questionable on a number of counts.

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, I rarely agree with you and suspect your orthodoxy, however, that is the best post you have made on this blog and I agree with you entirely.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Underlying your post, Allan, is the mistaken notion that "the 70's" or "the Spirit of Vatican Two" or "progressives" must bear responsibility for, among other things, a steep decline in mass attendance.

This is an exercise in scapegoating, and it is misguided. It is an attempt to justify the belief that all we have to do to return to the "glory days" of the pre-Vatican Two era is kneel for communion, mandate ad orientem worship, wear maniples, or buy every bishop a cappa magna.

This understanding of the cause(s) of our current struggles is simplistic. As I have written here many times, we have been through massive extra-ecclesial cultural shifts since the time of the Enlightenment and since the Industrial Revolution. These changes have impacted not only the attitudes and practices of Catholics, but of almost everyone who lives in a part of the world where these epochal transitions have held sway.

If the causes of the changes were from within the Church, the effects would be limited to the Church. But these changes have impacted almost every aspect of our "Western" society, from family structure internet advertising.

Making cosmetic changes to the celebration of the mass isn't going to bring about a return to the Good Ol Days of Catholicism when seminaries were full and father drove a new Chrysler every other year.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Who in the name of God would buy a Chrysler ever other year?

Gene said...

My family had a properly Presbyterian Chevrolet.

John Nolan said...

Back in the 1960s when I was still a schoolboy, our Parish Priest drove a black Morris 1000 (it was postwar Britain's answer to the VW Beetle and was in production for nearly 30 years). The licence plate was RTL 21.

Some keen-eyed parishioners noticed that RTL 21 seemed to be a newer, although identical model. Father had indeed updated his car and had gone to the trouble to switch the licence plate from the old car to the new, which in those days was unusual.

Be that as it may, he left the parish in a good financial state. He had been ordained just before the war and coincidentally my mother had known him in those days, albeit in another parish. When Vatican II burst on the scene, he told her that it was on the cards that priests would be allowed to marry (there was a lot of false optimism in those days!)

My mother replied: 'Don't get your hopes up. You won't get a dolly-bird; all you can expect is some old boiler'.

I served Mass for him many times although I found the liturgical changes of the 1960s made my role increasingly redundant, and I stopped serving in 1968, aged 17.

At that time the bishop suddenly moved him to a run-down parish at the other end of the diocese. He had no curate, felt increasingly lonely, and took to the bottle. I met him a few times after his retirement, and attended his Funeral Mass.

What is the point of this anecdote? Just this. We owe a lot to our priests. They deserve our reverence (for what they are as a result of sacerdotal ordination), our respect and our understanding. I hate to see individual priests vilified on the internet (sorry, Gene).

I won't forget Father Larry Connell, an unremarkable diocesan priest, but a priest nonetheless and a decent man.

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, I do not disagree with your observation that socio-cultural changes are what has led to the decline in Church attendance, the encroachment of the secular into theology, etc. Your observations are, of course, accurate and shared by sociologists and observers of culture everywhere. But, my disillusionment is based upon the fact that the Church, rather than maintaining a Liturgy and a pastoral theology that might offer some resistance or counter to the secular onslaught, chose to lead the way down the modernist path.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Secularism has damaged Church attendance and affiliation but giving into this energy is not the answer. Islam is booming for being counter cultural and we could be also but without Isalam's fundamentalism and violence. All we need to do is to be true to our Pre Vatican II roots and not imitate the failed liberal Protestantism model which I fear Pope Francis embraces as a pope mired in the 1970's.

rcg said...

We had a big Chrysler. Replaced a big Buick. eventually had a Ford station wagon. Kids could ride in back. Had to be careful going down the mountain or everyone would slide forward and smash the kid in front. Same issue in the back of the pickup.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - Your disillusionment is based on one thing. That thing is, the Church isn't made up of a bunch of people who think and act like you. And that REALLY fries your grits.

Allan, where do you get the idea that "Islam is booming for being counter cultural"?

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

As a mere historian, I would question your broad-brush approach. The 18th century 'Enlightenment' certainly engendered scepticism in certain intellectual quarters, but at the same time there was a genuine religious revival at grass-roots level. Read the history of pre-Revolutionary France.

The so-called Industrial Revolution in the 19th century was accompanied by a religious revival. Read the history of Victorian England.

None of these explains the dramatic collapse of Catholicism, the pillar of European civilization and its outreach to other continents in a mere half century.

In 1960 Mass attendance in Flanders was 95 per cent. Now it is 5 per cent. You cannot blame this on the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution. You need to look at more recent trends and not exclude anything, personal prejudice notwithstanding.

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, You really miss the boat about me. I do not want a Church full of people who think and act like me. I want a Church that is true to the doctrine she professes and that bears witness, through preaching and pastoral care, to all the diverse personalities and attitudes. If I wanted a bunch of people who think and act like me, I'd have to find a USMC base somewhere or maybe a cowboy bar with Trump memorabilia all over the walls and women in Confederate flag bikinis or tank tops. Hopefully, a few would be conversant in literature and philosophy. If not, we could talk about guns and martial arts.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Father Kavanaugh, as far as the Church being made up of a bunch of people "who think and act" like Gene - wouldn't they be some of the ones most in need of being in the pews every Sunday?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anonymous - You have a point there.....

No, Gene, I don't think I'm wrong. You have savaged the Church's doctrine, you have rejected obedience to the Pope, you have lambasted bishops, you have exhibited racism, etc.

And when anyone has the temerity to point out and correct your errors, you have announced that they are enemies of the Faith, apostates, heterodox.

You thought the Church was one thing when you joined, but have been sorely disappointed in discovering that your image was thoroughly off base.

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, you have shaped me in your mind to fit your own stereotype. But, you are the one who refused to answer the simple question as to whether you believed in the bodily resurrection of Christ and the Real presence. You said the question was a trap. So, who is savaging Church doctrine....really?

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

Gene has never, as far as I am aware, contradicted Church doctrine, let alone'savaged' it. You would need to provide evidence to support this assertion.

His background in Calvinism gives him insights into that particular theology which I have found illuminating. Most Catholics, myself included, know little of this, imagining that Calvinism is just an extreme form of protestantism.

What's wrong with lambasting bishops? All the English bishops, with the exception of St John Fisher, followed Henry VIII into schism. As for obedience to the Pope, what has the Pope ordered that Gene has refused to obey? Criticism of the Pope (or any pope) is entirely legitimate. I have little confidence in Pope Francis, but as far as I am aware he has issued no doctrinal statement which commands obedience - in fact he doesn't seem to see his role as 'confirming the brethren', in contrast to all his predecessors.

As for 'racism', that is an epithet which does not depend on any objective definition. In fact it is so vaguely defined that in the present insane climate an Irishman telling an Irish joke can be called a 'racist' - against his own race! What a farce.

Of course Gene does not need me to stand up for him, but anyone who indulges in ad hominem argument (itself entirely legitimate and often well-merited) needs to be sure of his ground.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - I have simply recounted what you have said. No shaping needed.

You can add to that your use of n----r when referring to President Obama, a racist epithet you defended by saying your "intelligent friends" all agreed with you. Yes, you are miffed that there are so many of us in the Church who don't share your views.

I have repeatedly said that I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches and believes to be revealed by God.

Gene said...

Kavanaugh, LOL! I did not use the "n" word because Fr. would never have posted it. I think I mentioned that Obammy's behavior was stereotyped by many of my friends and acquaintances (many of whom are quite well-educated) in that fashion. In fact, Obammy had people using the "n" word who had never before used it...even my yankee in-laws, who are Democrats! I'm not sure what that says, but I find it fascinating.

John Nolan said...

It was a feature of racial prejudice that even someone who by descent was only one-eighth black could not be regarded as white. Obama is of mixed race (white mother, Kenyan father) so to refer to him as 'black' actually harks back, no doubt unconsciously, to that reprehensible attitude. Without prejudice, he could just as logically be referred to as 'white'.

Because it's not an issue of race, since I had an Irish father and an English mother I can, and do, refer to myself as either.

Gene said...

John, Irish and English are not races.

John Nolan said...


Exactly. That was my point. But the definition of 'racism' has been stretched to such a degree that it has become quite literally meaningless. A 'racist' remark has been officially defined as 'a remark which the person to whom it is addressed, or any other person, regards as racist.'

Q. What do you call an African with ginger hair?
A. Duracell.

An innocent joke? Not likely. It is doubly 'racist' since it is held to insult both black people and people with red hair.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Gene - you referred TWICE to President Obama as the "HNIC" in the White House.

That's "Head N----r in Chief."

Only after Allan was informed of its meaning did he take it down.

When challenged about this racist remark, you defended yourself by saying all your "intelligent friends" agreed with you.

Gene said...

I got it. "Racist" is the moist powerful word in the language." It is like "open sesame"... if you are black,it will get you in college if you have poor SAT scores, it will get you jobs for which you are not qualified, loans you cannot and will not repay, it will get you elected to congress even if you think Guam might tip over or that we landed men on Mars or that George Washington led troops in the Civil War, it will get you acting roles in movies and TV, and it allows you to act out with no consequences other than white people feeling guilty about saying or doing anything about it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"I got it. "Racist" is the moist powerful word in the language." It is like "open sesame"... if you are black,it will get you in college if you have poor SAT scores, it will get you jobs for which you are not qualified, loans you cannot and will not repay, it will get you elected to congress even if you think Guam might tip over or that we landed men on Mars or that George Washington led troops in the Civil War, it will get you acting roles in movies and TV, and it allows you to act out with no consequences other than white people feeling guilty about saying or doing anything about it."

That's quite a diversionary tactic, Gene. Or, maybe, it's an attempt to justify your racism. "Some Black people have been "given" things they don't deserve, therefore, I am justified in referring to the President as a n----r."

No, you don't "got it," but God isn't finished with you yet. This weekend's Gospel may be instructive: "24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

And if we're going to look at one side of the question, we should look at the other.

How many blacks were denied entry into college because they were black and despite having exceptionally high SAT scores? And how many blacks were denied jobs for which they were very qualified, simply because they were not white? And how many were victims of "Red Lining" by banks who, despite a person's ability to repay a loan, were denied that loan simply because they lived in a predominantly non-white neighborhood? And how many whites were and are allowed to "act out" with no consequences simply because they are white and/or wealthy?

Yes, the effort to redress past wrongs is painful and mistakes have been and will be made. But the effort is both laudable and necessary.

John Nolan said...

Gene and Fr Kananaugh

'Racist','sexist' (a word originally coined by the Daily Telegraph as a joke), and all the other '-ists' and '-isms' need to be taken magno cum grano salis.

Similarly, words ending in '-phobia' need to be treated with suspicion. A phobia is an irrational fear. 'Homophobia' would mean 'an irrational fear of the same' which is of course meaningless.

I may on moral grounds disapprove of homosexual practices; that does not mean that I have an irrational fear that homosexuals may try to seduce me in a public lavatory.

It's about time we all grew up, used language intelligently and accurately, and stopped castigating others for views which we huffily disapprove of as an example of 'virtue signalling' - one of the pests of the age.

Anonymous said...

Sexist - 1965, from sex (n.) on model of racist, coined by Pauline M. Leet, director of special programs at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S., in a speech which was circulated in mimeograph among feminists. Popularized by use in print in Caroline Bird's introduction to "Born Female" (1968).

John Nolan said...

I would rather the term 'sexist' had indeed been a Daily Telegraph joke. The fact that it was coined by American feminists in the 1960s rules out any jocular associations, since that particular tribe was not renowned for its sense of humour.

'How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?'
'One! What's funny about that!'

Such provenance is an excellent reason for shunning the word altogether. In any case, like 'racist', it is now just a catch-all epithet which usually indicates that the user has abandoned any attempt at rational argument and merely wishes to close down debate.

Anonymous said...

As long as racism has existed, and certainly as long as the word "racism" has existed, there have been racists.

racist (n.)
1932 (as an adjective from 1938), from race (n.2) + -ist. Racism is in continual use from 1936 (from French racisme, 1935), originally in the context of Nazi theories. These words replaced earlier racialism (1871) and racialist (1917), both often used early 20c. in a British or South African context. There are isolated uses of racism from c. 1900.

In the U.S., race hatred, race prejudice had been used, and, especially in 19c. political contexts, negrophobia. Anglo-Saxonism as "belief in the superiority of the English race" had been used (disparagingly) from 1860. Anti-Negro (adj.) is attested in British and American English from 1819.

Using slurs based on race such as wetback, dago, kike, n----r, and the like are examples of racist behavior.

John Nolan said...

I would define as a racist anyone who, for whatever reason, decides to make race an issue.

Gene said...

One of my favorite lines from the novel, "Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)," is when Chief White Halfoat is complaining to Yossarian about his tribe being kicked off reservations every time oil was discovered there. He says to Yossarian, "Yossarian, racism is a terrible thing. It is a shame to treat a fine upstanding Indian like a n....r, a kike, a wop, or a spic."

This is typical of liberals, who will decry "racism" while themselves being classist, elitist, sexist, and exclusivist in a dozen ways.

John Nolan said...

Gene, what is the distinction between a 'wop' and a 'spic'? I thought both referred to Italians.

Twenty years ago, during interminable discussions and public enquiries as to the building of a nuclear power station in Suffolk, England, the French minister for Energy was interviewed by the BBC. He contrasted the situation with that in France:

'If we want to build a power station, we build a power station. If you want to drain a swamp, you don't consult the frogs.'

He knew well what he was saying, and that it would raise a laugh with his English audience. He was not disappointed.

John Bull said...

Rude Brittania: "The British are normally associated with being at the forefront of politeness and good manners, but a survey has found quite the opposite. The people of the UK are getting ruder. The study used hidden cameras in restaurants, hotel and airports and found a nation of unhelpful, surly and downright rude people."

John Nolan said...

John Bull

The reserved and polite 'Britisher' is largely an American construct based on the perceived demeanour of a certain class of Englishman.

Historically the English as a whole were seen by their European neighbours as boorish, drunken and prone to violence. They were, and still are, possessed of a robust xenophobia, which should not be confused with 'racism' (however one chooses to define it).

Americans, who address strangers as Sir or Ma'am, are actually seen to embody a positively old-fashioned courtesy.

The perils and privations of two world wars engendered a stoicism which transcended traditional class distinctions. It is also described as 'bloody-mindedness'. In the last twenty years this has been replaced by a heart-on-sleeve emotionalism which verges on hysteria, revels in victimhood, rushes to take offence (usually on behalf of some 'minority' group), insists on ridiculous euphemisms which do violence to the language, and shamelessly parades in public feelings that should decently be kept private.

Add to this a vapid culture of 'celebrity' and you have a thoroughly nauseating cocktail. I would prefer a blunt (even rude) Yorkshireman who 'calls a spade a spade'.

Gene said...

John Nolan, A wop is an Italian, also known as guineas, dagos, and goombahs. Spic generally refers to anyone of the Hispanic persuasion, although dago is sometimes also used.
My wife's family is largely Italian...mine is largely Irish. Her Italian uncle was visiting once and my Irish cousin, after a few beers, said to him,"Jim, did you know that, according to National Geographic, time passes faster in Italy than anywhere else on earth?" Jim said, 'You're kidding?" My cousin replied, "Nope. It is true. Every time you look out the window, you see another Dago."