Friday, September 19, 2014


High Anxiety about the 1970's (and yes I had trousers like these back then!)

Dr. Robert Moynihan of the Moynihan Report crystallizes the anxiety of those who hold to tradition when it comes to sexuality. And it goes beyond the Catholic Church. Yes, anxiety abounds in and outside the Church and the fear that the 1970's indeed is like ISIS and trying to pull the Church backwards to the Dark Ages of the 1970's and its confusion the apex of its liberalism leading to the sex abuse scandal where priests actually thought there was a third way concerning celibacy an ideology of that period promoted by the periphery of the Jesuits. And the pastoral mercy of bishops who kept reassigning these abusive priests after coddling them and counseling them was based upon a pastoral ideology of mercy that has undermined the Church in this new century. It was a classic example of the ideology of mercy more concerned with the criminals than with the victims.

This is what Dr. Moynihan wrote yesterday:

All eyes are on Pope Francis.

People around the world are watching what he is saying and doing and trying to understand what it means.

A friend called today from Switzerland: "What do you make of this alleged 'irritation' of the Pope over the new book defending traditional Catholic teaching on marriage?" he asked. "And his allegedly asking Cardinal Mueller not promote the book? What's going on?"

Another friend emailed from New York. He had just spoken with an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who is well-known in the pro-life movement. "I have been talking to a mutual friend — Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who spoke at the March for Life for several decades. He is a strong supporter of the Catholic Church's stand against abortion, and for traditional man-woman marriage, etc. He is a spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of more than 800 Orthodox Rabbis. He feels that if the Church waffles or retreats on abortion or homosexuality or marriage at the upcoming Synod, this will have an adverse effect on Orthodox Judaism and other strong family religions. He is very concerned about the upcoming Synod."

And another friend wrote, in response to my email of yesterday: "Excellent run down on the issue and cardinals involved. Prelates encouraging or advocating change are gradually ruining the authentic true Catholic Faith. The Roman Catholic Church is not supposed to be a 'feel good' Church, waxing and waning to current social issues. It is tragic, that the once prestigious Roman Catholic Church, is now dysfunctional, divided, depleted, contentious and infiltrated."

And another reader wrote: "Many thanks — was hoping for more clarification on this issue! Will watch this space. Any comment on Cardinal Burke's new job?" (Note: There have been unconfirmed reports that Pope Francis has decided to move the American Cardinal Raymond Burke from his post in the Roman Curia, as head of the Apostolic Signatura, to a post outside the Curia, as head of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta: see the report on this by Sandro Magister, the Italian Vaticanist, at link)

So many Catholics, and some Orthodox Jewish rabbis, in many countries around the world, are watching Pope Francis, and wondering what he is doing, and what he will do next...

But then Dr. Moynihan  wrote this about Pope Francis:

Understanding Francis

Pope Francis, I think, is attempting to make a slight adjustment in the Church's pastoral focus.

Not to change Church doctrine, but to review and reform how the Church deals with, and cares for, fallen human beings.

This attempt is rooted in both personal experience, and in theological conviction.

Francis is persuaded there is a need to reach out to suffering, wounded, disoriented sinners in part because of a personal experience.

He had a personal, life-changing experience, a mystical experience, of God's forgiveness of his sin.

It came after he went to confession, at the age of 16, in a church in Buenos Aires.

He has even told us the date: on September 21, 1953 — the Feast of St. Matthew (for this reason, Francis is fascinated by the painting of Caravaggio called The Calling of St. Matthew in the Church of St. Louis of the French near Piazza Navona in Rome; in past years, he often would go there when visiting Rome).

This is how the Vatican put it in a biographical sketch published at the time of the Pope's election last year: "Following a confession, he felt his heart touched and sensed the descent of the mercy of God, who with a look of tender love, called him to the religious life, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola."

In these few, spare words, we are told of an experience which transformed the life of young Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

He felt his heart "touched" and he "sensed" the "descent of the mercy of God."

He felt, "in a very special way," the "loving presence of God in his life."

This experience is part of the reason the Francis wishes to deal with human frailty and sin, not through a restatement of why the sinner is in sin, or in a recitation of the Church's judgment that the sinner's choices and actions are sinful, but with mercy, with forgiveness, and so, with an opening out to new life.

There are also theological convictions at the base of Francis' vision for the pastoral care of Christians -- and for all human beings.

Francis is persuaded that the Church is a Mother, that the Church nourishes and protects and supports her children.

He is persuaded that the Lord Jesus, Founder of the Church, still present in the Church, in the Eucharist, in His Word, in his ministers and disciples, and in the love of the members of the Christian community for one another, wishes — as He did when He walked on this earth — to pardon sinners, to forgive them and heal them, not to condemn them and cast them out.

Francis believes in the "personal encounter" -- with persons, with a "Mother"... a "Father"... a "Brother" who walks beside us, with us.

And he regards a certain type of "moralism," which can seem to set laws and precepts and anathemas above such a "walking with," as something to be avoided, a possible trap for believers.

He doesn't want to "change the rules" about what is good and evil. Rather, he wishes to forgive those who transgress those rules, and repent, and seek forgiveness.

And he senses that he must privilege this attitude, and this action, or he may lose many souls, who will, sadly, perhaps in despair, turn aside from the way of the Christian faith, unless the Church reaches out to them with arms to embrace and forgive.

And precisely today, Francis spoke about this very personal vision of human life, human morality, and human sin, in his morning homily at Mass in the chapel at his residence, the Domus Santa Marta.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis said that it is precisely in one's sins where one meets Jesus. (Here is a link to a Rome Reports video of parts of the homily: Link)

The Pope said that in recognizing our sins, we are able to experience Christ's loving forgiveness.

He said: "This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done, is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word 'Go in peace, your faith has saved you!"

The Pope concluded his homily saying that those who feel themselves sinners open their hearts in confession and experience the mercy of God.

Vatican Radio provided these further excerpts:

"He (Christ) only says the word salvation -- 'Your faith has saved you' -- to the woman, who is a sinner.

"And he says it because she was able to weep for her sins, to confess her sins, to say 'I am a sinner', and admit it to herself.

"He doesn’t say the same to those people, who were not bad people: they simply did not believe themselves to be sinners.

"Other people were sinners: the tax collectors, prostitutes... These were the sinners. Jesus says this word -- 'You are saved, you are safe' -- only to those who open their hearts and acknowledge that they are sinners.

"Salvation only enters our hearts when we open them to the truth of our sins.”

"This is why the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, His forgiveness, to His Word 'Go in peace, your faith has saved you!', because you were brave, you were brave enough to open your heart to the only One who can save you.”

One can see clearly in these words the influence of the Pope's personal experience of September 21, 1953, which continues to shape his understanding of how he should deal, as Pope, with the issue of moral evil and sin, and with the reality of God's loving mercy which can forgive such sin.


Joseph Johnson said...

Fr. McDonald,
I was between the ages of 9 and 18 in the years 1970-79. I REFUSED to wear those ridiculous bell-bottomed trousers and ultra wide ties in those days! I can remember looking for hand-me-down straight legged cuffed trousers from the 1950's and 1960's as well as getting my dad's and granddaddy's old narrower ties to have something to wear to church, etc. We even used to have a store here in town that used to have a few "new-old-stock" narrow lapel three button suits in stock and that's where I used to get a suit when I needed one.

Thank God that sartorial sanity was returning by the time I finished high school in the 1979 with the return of the "preppie" (traditional "Ivy League" styled clothes which have a 1950's look) look which continued to be popular during my college years in the 1980's! I still wear this style even today, as it is timeless for the 20th century and later.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

JJ, I worked for Davison's Department store, even then owned by Macy's so I had to be stylish and trendy and was I ever! Worked there from 1972-76 until I went into the seminary.

JusadBellum said...

I guess what many are asking is.... whereas Karol Wojtiya practiced in Poland what he later preached as Pope.... has Pope Francis practical experience as Archbishop in Argentina of practicing this soft touch mercy that downplays doctrinal definitions and focuses on God's mercy and love... to the effect that on balance more souls turned to God than rejected him?

Was the Church in his time there booming with vocations, booming with active laity, restoration of marriages etc.?

Not that I've heard. In fact it was like many big city archdioceses, struggling on all fronts.

So between a nice sounding theological theory about what a softer approach "ought" to do and the reality on the ground of what actually comes from such a tactic.... what data have we to go on?

Don't we all remember the brilliant theologians who claimed that artificial contraception would strengthen marriage, reduce adultery, etc.? They were all heralded as super-geniuses and super-duper experts. But the actual results were precisely as the 'mean-spirited hardliner conservatives' predicted based entirely on basic, 101 anthropology from Aristotle's De Natura that any 1st year philosophy study should have read: the mentality of 'sterile sex' would lead not to strong marriages but an explosion in extra-marital intercourse. People always tend to seek the easy and pleasurable approach.

So too we're told that if we downplay the rules (put in place to protect the innocent) and highlight God's love and mercy (but how is it mercy if we don't know the rules to begin with?) that people will internalize this and become merciful themselves. In reality, if you don't know what you've done wrong, you won't feel gratitude for God's love, you'll take it for granted.

Anonymous said...

JJ....not sure what the point of your treatise on 1970's men's fashions is. Is it that you believe that dressing like a dweeb somehow made you a little better or more saintly than a groovy, happening dude like Fr. McD?

Cameron said...

Joseph Johnson another traddie dresser!

MR said...

Vatican sources denied that the Pope is upset about the Cardinals' book:

Also, Fr. Fessio's comments on Card Kasper are priceless

Joseph Johnson said...

No, my intent was not to insinuate that I was better than Fr. McDonald. I had a lot of friends and family who also wore that stuff back then. He brought it up and I can't help myself! I'm sorry . . .

It's just that I felt (and still feel) SO strongly that 1970's clothes were aberrant and in bad taste that I just can't hold back commenting on them (and how I resisted them at the time) whenever the subject is brought up. There is, as you know, such a thing as thinking for yourself and resisting what the fashion industry and what the larger culture tries to impose on us (in small matters like fashion and in more conseqential matters) As to the less consequential matter of clothes, most of my ideas don't come from the larger current culture but, rather, from looking at old black and white movies and documentaries and old photographs and then going out and seeking the same or similar items (that I admire) which are still available today.

As to looking like a dweeb, do you think JFK or Cary Grant (during his motion picture career) or Jimmy Stewart dressed like dweebs? My point is that there IS a standard of good taste and style in men's clothes that had congealed or matured by the mid-20th century. Maybe I'm a dweeb in your eyes because I wrote these comments but I don't plan to look like one!

Beyond that, I suppose, subconsciously, I tend to lump the bad taste of 1970's clothes with things that I don't like or consider to be in bad taste that first appeared in the Church and its catechesis and liturgy in 1970's and, regrettably, in too many cases is still with us. It's too bad that the True Church which has the Fullness of the Christian Faith has, all too often, allowed itself to be packaged and presented to the world in 1970's externals. When the Church still wants to look and act like the Church of the 1970's that IS still a stumbling block for me!

Gene said...

The 70's were an abominable decade in every way.
BTW, clothes may not make the man, but they certainly reveal him.