Sunday, September 11, 2005

My shot at Arthur Jones . . .

If we braced ourselves and logged on to NCReporter's website in the last couple of days, we heard from Arthur Jones, one of the crusty "progressives" who's got the church figured out (and surprisingly, it's not what any of the saints of the last millennium thought it was) up the street at the NC Reporter mansion. Lots of folks had something to say about his little piece, including Amy Welborn, of course. I can't be left out (yes, this is entirely too long, but I just can't stop trolling):

. . . The intellectual underpinnings of Vatican II (1962-65) had a strong economic component. This was the first council of Leo XIII’s Catholic social justice teaching church, one that sided with the workers and the poor as Europe’s Industrial Revolution crested. It was a council of bishops who had lived through two world wars and -- in Europe -- 20 years of economic depression between. They knew the poor firsthand. The increasing First World affluence was obvious, but those bishops knew the rest of the world was only barely entering into, economically, what the United States and Europe were emerging from. The poor needed a church attuned to them. A church that was Jesus’ yoke, actively easing the poor’s burdens. The Vatican II bishops said amen to that.

OK, what's fashionable to call "social justice" now with its secular, coercive statist trappings was once simply Christian charity and hospitality. Compare it to the condition of church and state in England prior to the reformation (See Cobbett's Reformation in England and Ireland). Rather silly of anyone to act like the Church's grasp of Christian charity started in Leonine times. Before Vatican II, every Catholic schoolkid at one time had to memorize the seven corporal works of mercy, and legions of clergy and religious (and laity) were performing them. Now, I'll bet most don't even hear that there's a list of such things (but they will be able to parrot the phrase "social justice" because they've seen it on a felt banner somewhere).

And "the church against state-as-state" after the Council??? Nonsense. The demands the NCReporter crowd make of the state—health care, secular entitlements, etc., are "church-surrendering-to-state." The preconciliar Church took a strong stand against the state. If the NCReporter crowd were really courageous, they'd be demanding that the secular state get out of these areas so the Church could assume the proper role it once held in society (this reminds me of a Chesterton quote I want to find).

The new pontificate? Karol Wojtyla widened the growing post-Vatican II internal Roman Catholic divide. It was obvious he would. In England as a young man, I’d gone to church with the families of √©migr√© Polish intellectuals who had fled Hitler in the 1930s. They were locked in their moment. John Paul II responded to type. Resignedly, for I knew that Catholic mindset, when Wojtyla was elected I wrote in NCR that he would be tough on priests who wanted to leave and on married couples who wanted to divorce. I had other items on my list, but because he was a new man on the throne and might grow in office, I didn’t run them. Uncharacteristic prudence on my part.

Mind you, JP2 did widen the post-conciliar divide, but not the way Jonesy thinks. He widened it by appointing and promoting too many weak or (in some cases, evil) men who failed to govern strongly and failed to make sure that the "spirit of Vatican II" was a true spirit, based on the actual documents of Vatican II interpreted (in the many unfortunate instances of ambiguity) within the tradition of the church. He widened the gap by letting the Bernardin crowd (and the analogous crowds in Europe—we'll call them the Daneels crowd) and other parts of the world have the run of the Church while the reasonably grounded folks with a sense of history and the traditional faith refused to be moved—or at least refused to move so quickly--and those whose faith was less mature (or as Jones might put it, more mature) were led to believe that faith was just a feeling--not just any feeling, but the feelings they were having at the moment.

I was editor when Pope John Paul II made his first U.S. visit. With all bases covered, I told one photographer -- he was Jewish, I believe -- where he’d be in the best position to get the up-close facial I needed of the pope.The photog called in when he’d developed his shots. “I got it, Arthur!” he shouted into the phone. “I got it. I had to go to Communion five times, but I got it.”

That such a profanation of the Eucharistic Lord is an amusing anecdote to our author is hardly surprising. I suppose that if a Catholic newspaper wants to use a Jewish reporter or photographer, it wouldn't hire one who takes the rules of his own faith seriously. That's not a requirement for Catholic reporters. Wouldn't it be a terrible blasphemy to a devout Jew to present himself to eat a piece of bread that we Catholics were worshipping as God?

John Paul II realized that the U.S. Catholic church -- more specifically the renewed women’s congregations, the engaged laity with highly networked women backed by many priests and some bishops -- was the only entity in the world loyal enough to the council, energetic and imaginative enough, educated and organized enough, wealthy and capable enough to challenge his pontificate’s intention to undermine Vatican II reforms and reimpose a top-down rule.

Certainly, American hubris to think that we were worthy of being considered a threat to Rome. Indeed! A bunch of empty-headed laity watching Jerry Springer and a few gray-headed nuns in polyester blazers (who have been preoccupied in the last two decades by the daunting task of selling off all those hospitals, empty convents, and unstaffable schools because somehow young women aren't willing to make a lifetime commitment to political activism, pagan goddess worship, and capital-P Progress as they were willing to take the habit, pray the office, and assume a life of performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy (instead of just lobbying someone else for them). Americans could never be regarded as a threat, and neither should the "renewed" women's congregations the vast majority of whose members have gone from running retirement homes to lobbying for them (or more often occupying them). None of this, however, reflects on those institutes which haven't "kicked the habit" and are still laboring in the vinyard instead of lobbying at the court.

The Wojtyla-Ratzinger response to a mobilized U.S. Catholicism was fierce. Oust or demoralize the conciliar Catholics, in America and elsewhere. Appoint U.S. bishops more Roman than American. So by the 1990s we had the Wojtyla-Ratzinger duo piously dictating a revisionist Vatican II to a body of near-traumatized bishops reduced to a papal claque and demoralized senior bishops.

Umm, I don't think my bishop, Finn, is traumatized (although he should be when he reflects on the garbage being published in his own diocese by a paper that uses "Catholic" in its title. I don't think Chaput is traumatized. Nor Sheridan, nor Vasa, nor Burke, nor Doran, nor Olmstead (well, maybe Olmstead when he's went from a healthy see in Wichita to the Phoenix mess). Demoralized senior bishops? Well, that WOULD suit me. It's high time the elder members of the USCCB be a little demoralized.

The new model is a reclericalized church with little faith in the faithful, none of that sensus fidelium nonsense. Make the educated feel unwanted and unwelcome by reimposing pietistic nonsense and childish attention to ritualized minutiae (the birdie-bobbing heads at Communion?) and bingo! it’s the 19th century of blessed memory again. As a Wojtyla-Ratzinger Eurocentric and Euro-eccentric strategy, it’s successful; as a model of church, it’s pitiful.

Ok, Mr. Jones. Let's put together a 10 question, multiple choice quiz. If you're still in Kansas City, we can do this locally. I'll take it around to those awful rigid clericalized parishes—conservative novus ordo parishes and the Latin Mass communities and maybe into the netherworld of the SSPX chapel and maybe some of the smaller parishes that have "suffered" under new, stubbornly orthodox priests formed in the "Wojtyla-Ratzinger" mould, and you can take it to several notoriously progressive and open minded parishes. We'll find out just how they compare as far as education and mature understanding of the faith. I'll bet the birdie-bobbing heads can better articulate their faith than the people cueing up in the "breadline" at the "with-it" parishes.

And birdie bobbing heads? What about active participation in the Mass? Isn't head-bobbing active participation? Granted it's not as active as genuflecting or kneeling at communion. It looks silly, I admit—not like kneeling. But, I guess that's not your point. I take it that your point is we shouldn't just want Jesus (here a little head-bob, as I ape a rigid, power-hungry sexist young priest of the W-R regime who tips his biretta). Jesus (head-bob) isn't as important as feeding the poor is he? Jesus (head-bob) doesn't want any reverence to him until everyone in the country is well fed and has a "living wage" job and free health care and a free apartment (and a free conscience and free condoms), does he? My Douay Rheims has Matthew 26:1-13 and Mark 14:1-8, which seems to answer the question for me, anyways. Maybe that incident is told differently in your Ecumenical New Living Ungendered Text?

The Wojtyla-Ratzinger continuum doesn’t play only to empty pews. Hundreds of millions of heaven-bound Catholics just want Jesus. They stand in line and question nothing. As is their right. Others, more pugnacious, Catholics steadfastly loyal and questioning, rooted in their eucharistic communities and New Testament realities, remain to demand better from the institution. People of large heart and devotion still confidently demur from much the Vatican would impose. The New Yorker lately quoted one of the sillier little U.S. bishops saying such folks are Mass-going non-Catholics. Hey-ho! There are very few bishops in this country who can cast the first stone about anything. (Fear not, folks, it’s the memoirists, not the bishops’ obituary writers, who get the final word.)

And I'll let those "sillier little bishops" cast whatever stones they need to if they're smashing progressivist idols with them.

Numbers-wise, the U.S. church will initially comfortably crash-land on the backs of three generations of Vietnamese, Filipino and Latino immigrants, particularly the latter. Unless the immigrants’ descendants and the currently activist volunteers can bolster the center and hold the U.S. church to its mission to the poor, Catholicism risks being one more lockstep sect comforting the comfortable by operating their charity basket for them.

No, no, the Church will crash land on the backs of the large, fruitful traditional Catholic families who are not homeschooling the next generation of priests and religious (out of the reach of the new Catholic education establishment), and from whom even more large and faithful Catholic families will come. To the extent the new immigrants fit that profile, they will participate in the rebuilding. To the extent they don't, they'll contracept and worry themselves into oblivion like so many NCReporter readers are doing today.

The U.S. church’s current vibrant center is those young Catholics who flesh out the Gospel and deepen their appreciation of the Jesus who began with the poor by serving the poor and continuing to demand systemic change. They and their involved and demanding parents and grandparents, and the supportive nuns and priests, they’re the candles -- soon to be relegated to backwaters in this new Dark Ages.

Or else the vibrant center those young Catholics who are being raised in large, traditional families, who learn to share, to obey, to love, and to serve in the home, and who have been spared (through homeschooling or the occasional independent school that pops up), the poison that has seeped into the establishment Catholic schools.

Indeed the center cannot hold as a force for social good and betterment under the Wojtyla-Ratzinger continuum.

Let's hope the "center" doesn't hold. The middle ground, accommodationist, Americanist approach has failed here in the states and throughout the world, as Jones' beloved Pope Leo feared it would. There's no permanence, no stability in defining yourself between two points, for even if one is fixed, the other is moving God-knows-where. The Centrist is obliged always to move exactly halfway in the new direction. That's why good Catholics shouldn't call themselves "Conservatives" or "Centrists." Conservatism (sorry, Russell Kirk, you've lost control of the definition) and centrism still defines itself in in reference to the Zeitgeist, and the Zeitgeist is always moving, so the conservative or the centrist myst move along with in.

Catholicism in the public square? We’re into the era of the museum-ization of Catholicism. Tot up how much has been spent rehabbing a dozen or so U.S. Catholic cathedrals and shrines in the past decade and you’d be astonished: from the $25 million for Baltimore’s basilica to nearly $200 million for Los Angeles’ Spanish box. Public Catholicism is U.S. Catholicism as a tour bus destination.

Good point. I'd like have saved most of those Cathedrals from the shagging they just took, and I'd like to have seen that money spent elsewhere myself—or at least held onto until we return to an era of good taste and respect for our history and traditions. Think how many heterodox theology professors we could have pensioned off and put to pasture with that money !!!

Once, the Roman Catholic church was almost the universal signal for the progress of the peoples. The church in Brazil, through its Gospel-focused energy, could have shown the universal church how to live with the poor. The church in the United States could have become the universal church’s test case for dealing with the frontier of most developed nations; materialism and affluence, relativism and capitalism, rapid technological change, bioethical frontiers and declining social mores. The church in Asia has in its fiber the understanding of the interreligious cooperative spirit. The church in Africa could remind solemn, ponderous liturgists, who think Jesus spoke Latin, that Mass is about joy and Eucharist and thanksgiving and jubilant celebration in words people can understand.

Um, I think those stodgy folks now know that Jesus spoke Aramaic (and probably better Aramaic that Jim Caviesel (sp?) does). The most ponderous of them would probably trade the atmosphere and reverence of the patriarchal (Coptic) African church for the nonsensical atmosphere we endure these days at St. Backslapper's.

The Catholic institution today is so disoriented it can’t even repeat the best lessons of its own evangelizing past. The Irish missionaries like Columba and Drostan knew 1,500 years ago what to do. They looked for what was solid in the pagan stock and grafted Christianity on to it. (Think “inculturation.”)

Well, . . . . . . I made it further than Todd of Catholisensibility, but now I can't go on . . . .

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