Sunday, November 27, 2016


As I have written before, I loved the very liberal/radical seminary I attended in Baltimore, Maryland from August of 1976 to early December of 1979. I am a child of the 1970's Church of what's happening now.

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!


Rood Screen said...

Father McDonald,

Thank you for sharing this very personal reflection. There's a thrill in novelty, especially when it truly seems to be an innovation, so I can understand many of the misguided occurrences of that time. I, too, witnessed vocations lost to the spirit of the age, but I trusted the staff as best I could.

Had things simply continued down those lines, I don't think we would see the upheavals taking place within the Church today. We would basically be Lutherans with a pope! But JPII came along and told us not to be afraid of speaking the truth about faith and morals. Then, BXVI taught us devotion to the Roman liturgical tradition, encouraging its preservation alongside its reform. Those of us who trusted these two popes now feel confused at best, betrayed at worst. This will pass, but at what cost?

Anonymous said...

"We would basically be Lutherans with a pope"....isn't that exactly what the Church has sunk to in the last 50 years.

Well I take that back with some exceptions. I must say for the most part Lutherans have reverent and dignified liturgies, our Catholic liturgies are a joke and a scandal. That being said we are basically another Protestant church. We have a pope who clearly doesn't't believe in the Catholic Faith. Didn't he say go make a "mess" and have dialogue, but when his own cardinals dare to ask him some questions he has a hizzy tizz and refuses to answer. AL isn't a result of two synods. The Kasper proposal was REJECTED by the synods, the pope put it in. It is his own decision. He needs to answer for it. Francis believes that because he sits on the throne of Peter that he can just make up anything he wants. How Protestant it that! Why would any priest, bishop or Cardinal remain silent in the face of what that man is doing. You do realize your souls are at risk by remaining silent.

Gene said...

It really has gotten to the point where, among the major protestant denominations and the Catholic Church, you may as well flip a coin as to where to attend. It is becoming a matter of aesthetics and social preference, as none of them give a hoot about doctrine or belief anymore and the sermons/homilies are equally devoid of meaningful theological content or actual Gospel preaching. I don't know, see who has the best food or the prettiest women, maybe some allow open carry or dogs in church. To quote Vince McClain in Bye Bye Miss American Pie..."the three men I admire the most, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, just caught the last train to the coast..."

Anonymous said...

With respect to you, I disagree with your characterization of what is happening as two aging factions duking it out. What's happening is a battle between Truth and falsehood for control of the institutional Church. The reason the challenge in question is unprecedented is because Bergoglio is teaching (if you can call it that), talking, and behaving in a way that is unprecedented for pope, at least in recent times (read: since the Renaissance). His attack against the cardinals sounds very much like Hillary's attack against Comey. Both sanctimoniously vilify their critics; but both seem to overlook the fact that if they'd kept their noses clean to begin with, there wouldn't have been any criticism from their respective detractors since there would be nothing to criticize.

Further, describing Bergoglio's statements as "quite ambiguous" is too charitable, if technically accurate. In the context of a) the Liberation Theology that's rampant in Argentina, b) the modernism in the wake of VII of which Bergoglio is so clearly a part, c) Bergoglio's incessant (and mean-spirited) public derision of anything traditionally Catholic and anyone drawn to such things, d) his private letter to the Argentinian bishops avowing support for an at-least-arguably heretical interpretation of AL (a position he had previously refused to take publicly when asked), and e) his subsequent refusal to publicly take a clearly orthodox position when pressed by the cardinals but rather to throw a hissy fit, all provide overwhelming circumstantial evidence that he's a modernist heretic who refuses to admit it.

Jose Marti once wrote "[T]o achieve certain objectives, they must be kept under cover; to proclaim them for what they are would raise such difficulties that the objectives could not be attained." That has been the Marxist/modernist infiltrators tactic all along--to undercut and compromise and cut the guts out of the Faith while claiming all the while to be soundly in the Catholic position. Now at last they have one of their number on the Chair of Peter. And when he's about to get publicly backed into a corner, he responds in that angry and intolerant way that's so typical of fascist academics (yes, Marxists can be fascists--I've seen it many times). This man needs to be deposed (if his claim to the Chair of Peter is even legitimate).

Rood Screen said...

I, for one, have no agenda here. I just want to know what to believe and how to behave. If Jesus has changed His mind about divorce, if He wishes to extend His blessings to homosexual couples, if He is pleased with the existence of Protestant sects, if He views Islam saving souls just as effectively as His Church, if He has no problem with improvised liturgies, and if He is fine with contradictory papacies, then I'm fine with all that, too. I certainly do not wish to impose my own will on His doctrine. But, I do need to know, with reasonable certainty, if all of this is now true.