Saturday, November 22, 2014


(A disclaimer: in the early 1970's when I worked at Macy's, I wore pants, shirt and shoes like these although not in these ghastly colors. I had good taste. My hair was long but not this long. In other words this is not I!)

To say that the polarization in the Church has gone on steroids since the election of Pope Francis would be an understatement. For the most part this polarization has affected more the intelligentsia of the Church and her nerds not so much rank and file Catholics who have real lives to live in the real world.

German Father Karl-Heinz Menke, recently appointed to the International Theological Committee said the following as reported by Praytell:

One must admit that the Church is polarized... There is tension between those who wish to adapt to modernity and those who have more conservative tendencies. It is found in the bishops’ conference(s). This internecine battle has made its way right into the Vatican. 

 (My comment: the theological polarization at the Vatican, while perhaps always there, is more pronounced than ever under Pope Francis.)

Then the German theologian goes on to say the obvious:

 I have the impression that there are only a few divorced and remarried people in our communities who wish to live a church life. And those who want this have found a path for themselves. I have never heard of a pastor who turns someone away at the communion rail.

 (My comment: For the most part, I think this is true and thus I wonder why Pope Francis through his mouthpiece Cardinal Kasper has focused so much attention on this subject which only applies to a very, very small percentage of Catholics. And for the most part divorced and remarried Catholics are going to Holy Communion and many parishes have them as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion with Bishops' Pastoral Centers in a "don't ask; don't tell mode." I think most pastors today treat adult Catholics as adults and if they make decisions against moral law then they will have to face the music themselves before God. Interesting though, he uses the term communion rail.)

Then the German theologian continues with a ludicrous recommendation that will only continue the progressive slide of the Catholic Church into annihilation similar to all liberal Protestant denominations especially the Anglican/Episcopal Church :
I’ll name another topic for you: we keep acting as if we’re still a church of the whole population. At Confirmation, for example, the bishop receives the promises of the youth that they will be models of faith. But certainly 90 percent of them have utterly no intention of keeping this promise – one sees that they do not observe the law to go to church on Sundays. The official teaching and reality have spun free of each other.
 (My comment: To the above accurate evaluation, I must ask why Fr. Menke makes no observation on those Catholic communities that experience the opposite, where 90% are faithful or at least strive to be faithful, such as those in traditionalist communities, those in the various movements, especially those in Europe and the charismatic movements here in the USA. It appears that only the truly traditional and faithful (orthodox, true teachings) are truly following what the Church teaches, the progressive or heterodox (false teachings) merely see the Church as a non-governmental organization (NGO) and could care less about personal morality and doctrine as it concerns 99% of the Church's teachings. They embrace the 1% dealing with the poor.)

Menke hopes that the International Theological Commission will take up such issues. Speaking of topics such as sexual ethics he remarked,
Long term, it can’t continue that we teach something that is ignored by 90% and more of the grass-roots.

It’s not an “either/or.” It is just as false to adapt to the zeitgeist as it is to work toward a ghetto Catholicism in which those remaining think of themselves as the elite believers. A healthy middle way would be important.

The church must reflect upon how much agreement with the ideal to demand from the individual believer in order be considered a full member, or perhaps some sort of partial member. Whoever cannot, or cannot yet fully identify with the confession of faith of the local bishop and the pope, is to be considered precisely as such. Those who disagree should not separate themselves. Any further hierarchicalization would be disastrous.
 My final comments: The true disaster for the Church is the recovery of the 1970's progressive mentality that Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict fought so hard to overcome. To see this mentality return like reoccurring infection is hard to fathom for this 1970's trained priest. And that the solutions of the progressives (heterodox) of that 1970's period that caused a catastrophic decline in the Catholic Church are being put forward to create an even more serious situation today. 

The smoke of Satan has returned and a good pre-Vatican II major exorcism needs to be accomplished on the Church universal at this period. 

As for those who don't agree with the Church's teachings and live moral lives that contradict natural law and the moral teachings of the Church, they should indeed come to Church but they shouldn't be receiving Holy Communion. These are the partial members of the Church, those in a state of unrepentant mortal sin. Only they can return to being full members and thus receiving Holy Communion by repentance and confession and penance. We've had this solution now for about 2000 years. 

I wonder if this theologian is one the "intellectuals" of the Church that Pope Francis so marginalizes in his talks as causing such discord in the Church?


Rood Screen said...

Why do non-believing Catholics (the majority of Western Catholics) bring themselves for weddings, their children for baptisms, and their loved ones for Catholic funerals? If we go to their homes, reminding them to go to confession and Mass, they find it offensive. But then they come to us unashamedly wanting ceremonies they don't even believe in, to be celebrated in churches they don't help maintain.

Pater Ignotus said...

JBS - I think it is unfair to characterize the majority of Western Catholics as "non-believing." You don't know what they believe or don't believe; rather, you assume that, because they may be irregular in attending church they don't believe in Christ and His Church.

The times they do come - Baptisms, weddings, funerals - are signs that belief is there, even if it does not constitute what it ought to be.

These are the times when we can invite their regular participation, not chastise them for their absences. These are the, forgive me, "teachable moments," when we have an opportunity to fan into flame the faith they have. These are the times when Catholics have an opportunity to re-evangelize.

Anonymous said...

Shoot, JBS, when they come for a wedding or a funeral just turn them away. Tell them that your church is for good have no time for non-believing sinners. That's what Jesus would do.

Rood Screen said...

Pater Ignotus,

Ask the ones you meet what they believe. That's what I do. Do they believe salvation is won only by Christ, and offered only via His Church, which He intends to be headed by the pope and bishops?


Why would we turn them away? That is most certainly not what Jesus would do.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks PF and that generation knows that this is their last gasp before they go to meet their eternal reward, or punishment, is probably a better word. And they are doing everything in their power to get it done. But in the end we know that God will triumph and Kasper, Francis, Bernadine, and their ilk will be just another bad chapter in the 2,000 year history of our Church. I'm in my mid 20's and I pray I see the day when that happens. For me, the biological solution cannot come soon enough

Anonymous said...

Howdy FrAjm

I wanted to get your opinion on if you think that we are living in the time period that the Virgin Mary was talking about at Fatima, Akita, Good Success. And are they set in stone, or can they be mitigated by our prayer? I had an interesting conversation with a fellow Catholic my age (20's), and she is convinced that we are living in the final days, as 2017 approaches (100th anniversary of Fatima). I would like to get your opinion on this. I wonder if there are a lot of people who read/comment on your blog think this?

Pater Ignotus said...

JBS - I don't think a theology quiz is the appropriate way to invite non-practicing Catholics back.

And, if they answer "Yes, most certainly!" to all your questions, does that mean they'll be in the pews every week thereafter, dropping their "maintenance" check in the basket?

Anonymous - We have been living in the end times since Christ's death and resurrection. Since he preached on the earth, the Reign of God has been in our midst.

The 100th anniversary of Fatima is no more significant than the anniversaries of apparitions at La Vang, Guadalupe, Paris, La Salette, Lourdes, or Knock.

Rood Screen said...

Pater Ignotus,

I agree with you that they should not receive a quiz, but I do think it is important to engage them in a dialogue about faith. When a fallen-away Catholic requests a sacrament of Christ from His Church, it seems like a perfect opportunity to engage in a dialogue on the meaning of Christ, His Church and His sacraments.

Rood Screen said...


I agree with Pater Ignotus about the apparitions. The Deposit of Faith was complete the day the last Apostle died, so we need not look for new revelations.

John Nolan said...

Of course there is no middle way between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Human nature being what it is, strict sexual continence outside marriage has probably never been practised by a majority of Catholics, although they would have recognized the legitimacy of the Church's moral teaching and seen it as an ideal worth striving for.

In one respect the liberals are right. Humanae Vitae 1968 was a turning point. Although Paul VI was simply reiterating Catholic teaching, many practising Catholic married couples chose to ignore clear, unequivocal and recent Papal teaching. This was unprecedented and did a lot to undermine the Church's authority.

Anonymous said...

''Human nature being what it is, strict sexual continence outside marriage has probably never been practised by a majority of Catholics,''

I suspect you're wrong about this. But admittedly, before The Pill sexual morality was reinforced less by fear of sin, than by fear of earthly consequences.

But, whereas people always have sinned and always will, the deeper difference between pre- and post-Vat II morality, is that Catholics then knew their sinful behavior was wrong, whereas now many insist that it's not wrong.

Pater Ignotus said...

JBS - " Do they believe salvation is won only by Christ, and offered only via His Church, which He intends to be headed by the pope and bishops?" is not a dialogue about faith - it is something of an ecclesiastical litmus test.

Rather than expect answers to catechism questions, I'd suggest asking, "What can I do to help you start coming back to church?" or "Is there something that we do here that makes it hard for you to come back to church?" or "Could we meet for lunch? I'd like to hear what it was that led you to stop coming to church."

Engaging in a dialogue about the "meaning of Christ, His Church, and His sacraments" is too abstract and doesn't, I suggest, come close to touching on the reason(s) a person is not practicing the Faith.

John Nolan said...

"Is there something that we do here that makes it hard for you to come back to church?"

"Well, there's the music for a start. The guitars, keyboards and show-off soloists belting out sentimental and repetitive pop-inspired music, and the awful modern 'hymns' which quite frankly are too embarrassing to sing."

"I see. Anything else?"

"Well, since you come to mention it, Father, the white pottery vessels on the altar look like they were bought in IKEA for a couple of quid."

"As a matter of fact they were; I got a good discount on them, which is just as well, since they are easily chipped or broken. I don't think Jesus used a silver-gilt chalice at the Last Supper. I bet he went to the first-century equivalent of IKEA. Any more complaints?"

"Well, the last time I went to Sunday Mass you started off by talking about the weather and last night's football results. And although I was trying to follow the Mass in my missal you kept changing the words to suit yourself. Even in the Eucharistic Prayer, which I'm sure isn't allowed. And all the time you were eye-balling the congregation. To be perfectly frank, your 'ars celebrandi' leaves a lot to be desired."

" 'Ars celebrandi'? That's Latin, isn't it? I know what you are - one of those who want to return to Latin and Gregorian Chant which Vatican II quite rightly got rid of ..."

"But The Council ordered that Latin and Gregorian Chant be retained."

"Haven't you heard of the 'spirit of the Council'? Let me tell you, the people of God don't want or need Latin or Chant. Leave that to the monks. We are a vibrant worshipping community and we want vibrant modern music that makes us feel good about ourselves. You're an elitist who wants to impose his personal taste on everyone else. People like you are divisive - you probably admire schismatics like Lefebvre. I'll remind you that I'm in very good standing with the bishop!"

DISCLAIMER: The above interchange takes place in an English context and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Purely Coincidental said...

John - And, in my experience, your minimally clever little dialogue bears little resemblance to an actual parish setting.

Oh, except for the part where you speak of someone's standing with his bishop. (Got Faculties?)

George said...

JBS ;Pater Ignotus:

Good points by all here. When people show up for weddings and funerals it might not be a bad idea to have pamplets available for the taking which would include answers to why Catholics believe what we do, along with responses to issues brought up by those that have left the Church. You might also post a notice or sign with the message:"Fallen away from the Church because of a bad experience? Don't like the Catholic Church? If you would like to talk about this please call me at the rectory" and then list your phone number. You might also engage people who have certain skills wit a notice such as "Can you sing? Have you any musical background or experience? Please join our choir on Sunday". Who knows? You may even engage some non-Catholics who are at the funeral or wedding.

John Nolan said...

Ignotus, I've seen everything from cheap ceramic chalices to ad-libbing to awful music in many a parish setting, although the worst abuses seem to be on the wane.

Perhaps you should get out more. You remind me of former Prime Minister James Callaghan who returned from abroad during the winter of 1978/9 to find most of the public sector workers on strike, garbage piling up in the streets and corpses going unburied and who issued the immortal words: 'Crisis? What crisis?'

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald:

I intend no disrespect when I ask this question, but I have to ask because what you have written confuses me: How is 99% of the Church’s teaching concerned with “personal morality and doctrine” and 1% with “the poor”? Even assuming that we should be assigning percentages (a questionable assumption arguably), these figures seem a little extreme (although perhaps you are just making a point through a hyperbolic pendulum swing to the other extreme). Moreover, isn’t “personal morality and doctrine” and “the poor” a false dichotomy, unless you are using those terms in a specialized and restricted sense?

Does this week's Sunday Mass Gospel reading provide some guidance about all this?

By the way, I can’t help but note the irony in referring to the poor as the 1%. =)

Please correct me if I am missing something in your post.

Athelstane said...

"The church must reflect upon how much agreement with the ideal to demand from the individual believer in order be considered a full member, or perhaps some sort of partial member."

As far as many German bishops are concerned, there's only requirement necessary: pay your Church tax. Otherwise, you're de facto excommunicated. It doesn't seem to matter what you believe.

The Church is clearly in grave shape across most of Western Europe. In the Low Countries, it's nearly dead. In France, it's not far behind. In Germany, it's mainly the Church Tax that sustains it in its murky existence as a semi-public social works organization. Unfortunately, most prelates have no ability or inclination to be anything other than Managers of Decline. Or, in many cases, Managers of Collapse. And they'll keep telling you that it's a "new springtime."

Anonymous said...

John's default setting still intact...smug superiority...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I'm using Jesus' and the Jews tradition of hyperbole to make a point, like cutting off your hand, plucking out your eye and hating your father and mother, not to mention in-laws. :)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In terms of the end times, it is safe to assume that once Jesus was incarnated of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, the "end times" were/are ushered in.

However, we as Catholics should not fall into the trap of fundamentalist Protestants who constantly seek signs in terms of the Lord's imminent return. This is not healthy and certainly not Catholic or Biblical.

Suffice it to say, we know not the day or the hour when this will occur, only God the Father does.

However, our main concern should not be the Second Coming, but our own death and personal judgement. That could happen at any moment!

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald:

Yes, I wondered if perhaps that is what you were doing, but I am glad you clarified the point to avoid potential confusion among some readers, including myself.

Rood Screen said...


I do wish you would "discuss ideas and leave the personalities out of it".

John Nolan said...

I think we need some way of referring to Anonymous @ 9:33. Henry's likening of him to a court jester or 'fool' is fair enough, but the 'fools' of those days were not foolish; on the contrary they were the comedians of their day and kings would often heed their advice.

Nor is he an internet troll in the strict sense; trolls tend to be more subtle whereas he is merely presumptuous and ignorant. Anyone who knows more than he does (and this must include most of humanity) is 'smug'.

Has anyone any ideas as to a suitable moniker for him, since he refuses to identify himself?

Jdj said...

Well, we have an Ignotus", why not an "Ignorus"? Or is that too close to vitriolic and disrespectful...

John Nolan said...


'Ignotus' can mean 'ignorant', but assuming that you meant to type 'ignarus', that's a good call. I quite like 'Frater Insipiens' or 'Frater Ridiculus'.

Anonymous said... an effort to discuss ideas and keep personalities out of it, we're trying to think up a sufficiently derogatory name to call Anon. Sounds reasonable to me.

He's definitely not one of us, he's less a Catholic than we are.

How about tagging him "Juden"?

Gene said...

No, no…we do not want to insult the Jewish race with whom God is not finished and who still hold a strong place in His heart…no, no…let's call him Obama Anonymous or Anonymous the Leper.

Jdj said...

OK, Anon 5:21, mea culpa. You are right, of course. I just do get so tired of that particular Anon's out-of-synch attacking Fr. McDonald, who graciously hosts us here...but I am culpable for name-calling and I am sorry.

Gene said...

Jdj, quit apologizing. Sometimes name-calling is appropriate and, besides, it is fun.

John Nolan said...

It's difficult to discuss ideas with someone who a) doesn't have any worth discussing and b) indulges in name-calling himself.

Even ridicule is wasted on someone who makes a fool of himself without assistance from anyone else.