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Faith & Reason Vs. Mush

Discouraged by Cardinal Cupich’s relativistic “new paradigm” speech? [1] Read Archbishop Charles Chaput’s muscular defense of Pope John Paul II’s 1998 encylical Fides et Ratio, [2] which is, obviously, about the connection between faith and truth. Excerpts:

Finally, without vigorous philosophy, theology and the very life of the Church risk slipping into emotivism. In the name of being pastoral, the Church threatens to become merely indulgent, malleable, affective, and practical; in effect, anti-intellectual. This is exactly the wrong moment for that kind of mistake.

We live in a time when Christian truth is increasingly misunderstood, disdained, or simply unknown, even among baptized Catholics. Michael Polanyi would have recognized our culture’s contradictions, and its emerging shape. It’s a mix of “fierce moral scepticism [paradoxically] fired by moral indignation. Its structure is exactly the same as that of the moral inversion underlying modern totalitarianism”—a contempt for traditional morality, fused with and fueled by ferocious moralizing for social change. Rational consistency is irrelevant. Passion becomes its own justification.

At a more immediate level, the pastor of a local church must meet his people in their hearts and real lives, but also in their minds. We’re beings made for the truth. Thus a clear, appealing presentation of the faith plays a vital role in forming Christians. As a bishop, I sometimes hear from parishioners that one of their concerns with some priests has to do with the content of the homilies they hear each week. They’re happy with calls for kindness or generosity, but they also hunger for homilies that present the substance of the faith, its mysteries and doctrines, in ways that are accessible and attractive. That kind of homily isn’t easy to do. But it’s impossible to do if we don’t have a credible theology, one informed by the strong philosophical traditions of learning that are at the heart of the Church and her patrimony.


Writing in the wake of Vatican II, the Italian Catholic philosopher Augusto Del Noce made three simple observations. First, our era is a “peculiar combination of the greatest perfection of means with the greatest confusion about goals.” Second, in the face of modern atheism—often less a hatred of God than a technology-driven indifference to him—“for a large part of today’s religious thought, the quest for aggiornamento simply means surrendering to the adversary.” And third, much of what styles itself as Christian progressivism, no matter how good its intentions, serves as the instrument of that surrender.

For Del Noce, the Church’s mission in every era is to bring the world into line with eternal principles while respecting the good in those things which are new. Much of progressive thought does the “exact inverse, since [it seeks] to bring Catholicism into line with the modern world.” By stressing action over contemplation and politics over metaphysics, progressivism reduces the supernatural core of Christian faith to a system of social ethics—a kind of baptized, humanitarian chaplaincy to a world that doesn’t need or want it. The result is obvious. The proof, for Del Noce, would be the hollowed-out national churches that now mark much of northern Europe.

A truly great Catholic intellect, in contrast, speaks from the heart of the Church because he or she is both a rigorous thinker and deeply attuned to the Word made flesh, wisdom incarnate. The confusion that dogged the Catholic world in the years immediately after Vatican II emerged in part from the absence of that kind of rigorous intellect fused with a deep and sincere faith. John Paul did much to heal the confusion. But it has never entirely disappeared, and it’s alive in our own day with new force. This is why the substance of Fides et Ratio is so important—not just for scholars, but also for everyday Christians who turn to the Church for guidance and a path to eternal life.

Read the whole thing. [2] And read it in conjunction with the Cupich address [1]. There is a titanic intellectual and spiritual struggle going on in the Catholic Church today. Whether or not you are a Catholic, and especially if you live in the West, this matters. A lot.

48 Comments (Open | Close)

48 Comments To "Faith & Reason Vs. Mush"

#1 Comment By charles cosimano On February 12, 2018 @ 2:46 am

Actually, if we live in the west, the internal messes of the Catholic Church don’t mean a lot and have not for hundreds of years, not since the Pope was locked out of the Westphalia negotiations in 1648.

The brawl is entertaining but in the end it does not matter which side wins. Either way, the Catholic Church will be pretty much ignored. After all, can you think of any non-Catholic, at any level of society, who would refrain from an action because the Catholic Church does not approve? Hell, Rod, even the Catholics don’t care any more.

There is nothing more irrelevant to contemporary life than the teaching of the Catholic Church. It is not whom is speaking. It is whom is listening and if no one is inclined to listen it does not matter very much what is being said.

#2 Comment By Eric Mader On February 12, 2018 @ 3:51 am

Great piece. Chaput’s allusion to Polanyi’s insight on the perverse moralizing fury of modern totalitarian movements is especially apt. And chilling. That we are now facing a building tsunami of just this sort of emotivist moral rigor (an oxymoron if ever there was one)–to what extent is it 1) a direct product of the Marxist/Frankfurt-School origins of dominant discourses in our lost academies vs. 2) a built-in outcome of liberalism?

This latter is an important question, because answering it also, in my mind at least, goes a long way toward answering whether or not liberalism is doomed. Can our liberal academies be partly retaken (via a collapse of cultural Marxism) or is the game already over?

And of course aside from academic or political calculations (what kind of academies/politics can orthodox Christians now afford to support) the whole question of where the battle for the faith will lead, as seen here in Cupich vs. Chaput, remains open. This battle needs to be engaged however, imho, even if schism is risked. If the Church is given over to these “progressives”, the faith will dissipate into a kind ambient gas little different from MTV. A vaguely Christian-colored club.

#3 Comment By John On February 12, 2018 @ 6:09 am

Mr. Cosimano

You could not be more wrong about the “Pope”…. not this Pope of course. Recall John Paul II, with God’s help no doubt, was instrumental in turning Gorbache’s desperate attempt to save the Soviet empire into a complete collapse of the an evil empire. Chaput’s speech, while he is not Pope, is worthy of a Jesus warrior. Give a little credit!

#4 Comment By Furor On February 12, 2018 @ 7:07 am

To me medieval scholasticism is what faith is and the best philosophy ever created. Philosophical systems created after scholasticism by des Cartes, idealism and what not, were only vain people seeking for originality

#5 Comment By Cecil New On February 12, 2018 @ 7:45 am

Rod, wasn’t sure how to pass this along except in a comment. Found a couple of good reads for you. The first from World News compares Martin Luther King and Ta-Nehisi Coates, subtitled “How Ta-Nehisi Coates is tearing down what Martin Luther King Jr. built up”.

The second shows glowing optimism about the world today, in the large. Lots of data points included. From Wall Street Journal: [3]


#6 Comment By Cecil New On February 12, 2018 @ 7:46 am

Oops, forgot the link to the World article:

#7 Comment By Thomas Aquinas On February 12, 2018 @ 8:25 am

Sheesh! Reading Chaput and then Cupich was like moving from Shakespeare to Oprah.

#8 Comment By Rob G On February 12, 2018 @ 8:42 am

“This latter is an important question, because answering it also, in my mind at least, goes a long way toward answering whether or not liberalism is doomed.”

I mentioned this on another thread the other day, but one of the most illuminating things I’ve ever read on this question is something I came across just in the past week: in Jewish philosopher Berel Lang’s book Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide, the essay titled “Genocide and Kant’s Enlightenment.” For people interested in liberalism and “tolerance” it’s a must-read, imo.

#9 Comment By connecticut farmer On February 12, 2018 @ 8:44 am

@Charles Cosimano

The “Pope” may have been locked out, not so his Cologne papal nuncio, who was one of the delegates at the negotiations. In any event, the religious aspects of the war were irrelevant by that time anyway, with the Thirty Years War having long since morphed into a full-blown political conflict. And when the dust cleared the winner was neither Catholicism or Protestantism but–Bourbon France.

#10 Comment By RealAlan On February 12, 2018 @ 8:49 am

Whether or not you are a Catholic, and especially if you live in the West, this matters. A lot.

I believe that this is very true for other Christians. The only thing that keeps Evangelicals, say, from being pushed around even more than they are now by Sexual Revolution SJWs is the size of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s too big to push around too much because my sense is that even Catholics do not accept church teching in these matters, even cultural Catholics, don’t like to see the church pushed around by the government.

#11 Comment By jz On February 12, 2018 @ 8:59 am

To be honest, I struggle not to despair of the situation. Amoris Laetitia threatened to bring moral relativism directly into the heart of the Church. Predictably, those inclined to such nonsense have vigorously pursued this course by following the natural path from the Apostolic Exhortation. Moral relativism will prove a nasty disease to stamp out once it takes root.

My biggest reason for hope is the intellectual understanding that the Church has faced biggest struggles in the past. This too shall pass…although not in my lifetime.

#12 Comment By Bernie On February 12, 2018 @ 9:07 am

@ Charles C., who says “…if no one is inclined to listen it does not matter very much what is being said.” Charles, you’re so profoundly wrong.

There is only one North Star, but few ever notice it or even know of its existence; however, its reality and its purpose to us matters. Objective truth matters and its flame needs to be kept alive. The number of people who see it will flucuate wildly throughout time, but it remains constant. Its reality and importance are not ultimately measured by how many grasp it in any given year or decade.

Belief that each person’s truth IS the truth is relativism. There is no North Star in the land of relativism; each person is his own star. This makes for a confusing war zone of battling ideas. It’s not the home of saints, but more of agnostic, heterodox believers who are not deeply convinced of much. No thanks.

#13 Comment By TR On February 12, 2018 @ 9:13 am

Actually, Cosimano is right. The Pope was locked out of Westphalia and 150 years later Popes were still complaining about it, often in language that resembled one of the Donald’s tweets.

If Catholics are entitled to have their minds nourished by the Church, then Catholics must be free to point out that the church’s teaching on birth control, divorce versus annulment, and several other issues are sheer mush.

#14 Comment By ROB On February 12, 2018 @ 10:18 am

Charles Cosimano – You think that Polish guy had nothing to do with the end of the Soviets? If nobody cared since the Thirty Years War why the brouhaha about PiusXII and the Nazis? I’m taking the short money on the Church.

#15 Comment By Zawje On February 12, 2018 @ 10:47 am

“As a bishop, I sometimes hear from parishioners that one of their concerns with some priests has to do with the content of the homilies they hear each week. They’re happy with calls for kindness or generosity, but they also hunger for homilies that present the substance of the faith, its mysteries and doctrines, in ways that are accessible and attractive.”

Amen to that!

#16 Comment By Jeff Woodward On February 12, 2018 @ 10:50 am

For the first time since the 1920s, the archbishop of Philadelphia has not been made a cardinal by the Pope. Care to guess why?

#17 Comment By sjb On February 12, 2018 @ 10:58 am

RD: “There is a titanic intellectual and spiritual struggle going on in the Catholic Church today. Whether or not you are a Catholic, and especially if you live in the West, this matters. A lot.”

You are right, RD. I am not Roman Catholic, but I follow their news fairly closely. There are so many tentacles of this beast at work within the RC, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. This morning, Paul Kengor, a defender of Pope Francis, penned an article with his serious concerns about the Pope and his proposed plans for the Chinese church (see below). It’s horrifying to see the same Marxist beast at work in our culture also at work in the RC.

Pope Francis and the Cardinal Mindszenty Treatment in China – Crisis Magazine

One person not surprised is George Neumayr, former editor of Catholic World Report, who tells me: “I wrote about the pope’s capitulation to the Chinese communists in my book, The Political Pope. The most recent developments were telegraphed by the pope years ago.” As to Sorondo, Neumayr adds: “I also wrote about the bishop…. He has been a Vatican gateway for the Soros crowd and very much reflects the pope’s thinking. He is the one who set up the Bernie Sanders invite to the Vatican and made a point of telling everyone that Sanders was the only presidential candidate invited…. His academy is overflowing with socialists and communists.”

Neumayr has long been highly critical of Francis, but he might stand vindicated in this China-Sorondo fiasco.

Bishop Sorondo’s appraisal of China isn’t merely wrong but dangerous, and its painful emanating from a Church that for two centuries has issued trenchant admonitions about the errors and evils of socialism and communism. Sorondo’s views might be too far left for a junior faculty position at the Department of Social Sciences at Cal-Berkeley let alone heading the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Pope Francis ought to consider replacing Sorondo before replacing the two Chinese bishops who truly lived Chinese communism.

#18 Comment By Anastasios On February 12, 2018 @ 12:11 pm

“Whether or not you are a Catholic, and especially if you live in the West, this matters. A lot.”

I am going to have to agree, in a sense, with Charles Cosimano. In terms of our situation in the United States, and I suspect throughout the Western world, it isn’t all that important. As he very rightly points out, it perhaps matters to a very small group of intellectual traditionalist Catholics, the Ross Douthats of the world. It matters to a somewhat larger group of traditionalist Christians, taking in the Rod Drehers and Frederica Mathews-Greens and maybe the Russell Moores. But to most people it’s just not important. Even most Catholics aren’t interested in what the church has to say about, for instance, communion for the divorced and remarried. Not many more would seriously consider the church’s opinions in their own approach to homosexuality. The atmosphere of their own families and communities is much more important with regard to those questions. In that the church of whatever flavor is important, it is the local parish or congregation that exists as a part of a much greater web of relationships.

I will agree that the Catholic Church is a major cultural and social force in the United States and the Western World. In that sense, what it says and what policies in follows have impact. But that impact is very much at a second and third remove, through the actions and attitudes of people who have been influenced by their local church’s or church institutions. The church’s and institutions themselves? We are long past the point where their doctrines and policies and formal stances have power or even felt consequence to the majority of the population. And in that they do have felt consequence, those consequences and their results tend to work against the church’s goals and preferences as often as for them.

#19 Comment By Hound of Ulster On February 12, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

Or it’s the end product of the Western desire to put everything, including God, unto easy to understand, but deeply limited, intellectual category.

Don’t blame Cardinal Cupich, blame Anselm of Canterbury.

#20 Comment By Sims On February 12, 2018 @ 1:03 pm

A quick comment on the relevance of Catholic teaching for Charles Cosimano:

1. The modern teaching on human rights, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was heavily influenced by the Church’s teaching on natural law, as interpreted by Jacques Maritain.

2. The European Union was established by devout and serious Catholic statesmen who were steeped in Thomism.

3. The diplomatic struggle against global Communism was received decisive aid by the Catholic Church.

4. The entire apparatus of international law today would not exist without Catholic thinking, both medieval and contemporary.

I had these on the top of my head – there are many more examples of why the Catholic Church matters for the modern world. So, yes, everyone in the West should pay attention.

#21 Comment By MikeS On February 12, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

“They’re happy with calls for kindness or generosity, but they also hunger for homilies that present the substance of the faith, its mysteries and doctrines, in ways that are accessible and attractive.”

This resonates with me as a member of a mainline protestant church. Sermons are all basically variations on “be nice to others, trust God, everything’s fine”. There is very little in this call for benevolence that can’t be found at your local Starbucks or corporation, other than the God part, but is the mere mentioning of ‘God’ enough to make people interested in joining (with the attendant time and financial commitment)? Membership statistics answer, ‘no’. I wonder if the MLP churches are any longer even capable of preaching intellectually engaging doctrinal sermons, having jettisoned so much traditional beliefs.

#22 Comment By antonia On February 12, 2018 @ 3:03 pm

Rod, have you read Strangers in a Strange Land, by Archbishop Chaput? You should, as he covers some of the same things that you do in Benedict Option.

BTW, on another thread, I’m glad your Dante book will be available in non-Kindle. I don’t have one, and intend never to have one, in protest of Amazon’s choice to do its e-publishing in a format incompatible with all other e-reader devices (contrary to the practice of every other e-publisher.)

#23 Comment By Jefferson Smith On February 12, 2018 @ 3:38 pm

“Rational consistency” is a good thing, but I think that ship has pretty much sailed as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. Its official position, as developed over the past 50+ years, is one of relativism toward its own most basic claims.

When the Pontifical Commission on Relations with the Jews, in December 2015, formally renounced any mission effort to convert Jews, The New Yorker [6]:

Last week’s renunciation may seem like a routine religious matter, of little interest outside the circle of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, but a basic principle of pluralism — other people have the right to be other people — is being affirmed. The absolute claims to religious superiority that have long been part of Catholic identity are being mitigated, if not dismantled.

The theological magnanimity implied by the Vatican pronouncement raises serious problems for the Catholic faith, which continues to put Christ at the center of all salvation. But that faith is clearly undergoing a change, as dogma gives way to experience. Because the theological contradictions reside in, as the pronouncement puts it, “an unfathomable divine mystery,” the Church can live with them, for now. And the new openness shown in this instance may expand.

Naturally, The New Yorker was cheering this on. “New openness” and “dogma giving way to experience” are other terms for radically relativizing — suspending judgment about — the claims at the heart of Christianity. Judaism directly confronts and rejects these claims, so to accept it as an entirely legitimate alternative religion, whose adhrerents are simply approaching God in their own way, is in effect to put an asterisk next to every major theological claim that the Christian church makes: that God is Triune, that Jesus was divine, that he died and rose from the dead for the salvation of the world, that no one comes to the Father but by him, etc. Basically the whole creed. The Church’s position now is: it’s important to believe these things, unless you’re of that group that chooses not to. In that case you can believe they’re all false.

Although the aforementioned Pontifical Commission statement appeared under Francis, this is a development of long standing and one that, from what I can tell, Pope St. John Paul II basically encouraged rather than tried to reverse. It’s probably an inescapable adjustment that has to be made to the modern world with its ineradicable plurality of faiths. But it’s hard for me to see how it doesn’t fundamentally hobble the Church’s ability to stand against “postmodern” and other sorts of relativism and skepticism. How do you square it with Fides et Ratio? Serious question.

#24 Comment By David Nash On February 12, 2018 @ 3:53 pm

Of course, one’s degree of concern is determined by whether one thinks the Catholic church is:
A) only a nice human institution which has done a lot toward civilizing the European barbarians,
B) divinely ordained and guided by the Holy Spirit to work in the world for the salvation of souls.

If you think (A), by all means panic.
If you think (B), keep calm and pray on.

Personally, I’m going with (B)for the win, Alex.

#25 Comment By Andrew On February 12, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

The real question for the Church going forward is I think what will happen upon the death of Pope Francis. Will the College of Cardinals have been changed enough with new membership that they successfully block the ascension of another traditional Pope, ala John Paul II and Benedict XVI? Especially one of a younger age? If so, and another malleable, muddle-headed Jesuit (or liberal “reformer” of another order; it makes little difference) like Francis emerges, will it cause real pressure on the institutional integrity of the Church towards a real schism? If John XXIII was the last “liberal” Pope before Francis, the word simply did not mean the same thing in theological terms as it does or can mean now, as it’s impossible to imagine John XXIII entertaining the idea of homosexual matrimony, or even divorce and marital dissolution most likely. Cultural politics of the West’s modern sexual revolution is in real danger of swallowing the Church which is something that only came to light with Pope Francis. Such a thing would be encouraged and applauded by all the secular media forces of the West. I think traditional Cardinals ought to be prepared and know in their hearts just how far they will go to prevent this from happening long before the passing of Pope Francis, which at less than 81 years, two months old, could still be many years away.

#26 Comment By augustinus On February 12, 2018 @ 4:58 pm

On the matter of Cupich.

As ANY student of the fifth and sixth centuries knows, Cupich’s contention that there is a moral crisis in the situation of the family today is only true, and only possibly so, if we compare the situations of today’s “modern family” with that of that family in the western Catholic world of, say, the 1950’s, the Leave it to Beaver Era. (a highly romanticized portrait of the family, even for that limited time period). Promiscuity, including adultery, homosexual relations, child sexual abuse, alcoholism, separation between spouses, spousal abuse, abortion, contraception, are not new phenomena in family life or church history. Just re-read John Rist’s chapter about first century AD sexual and marital life and its challenges to Christianity in *Remaining in the Truth of Christ*, which came out before the first fixed synod on the family. Christ’s teachings, echoed by St. Paul, make far more sense and are far more radical and uncompromising than the average person thinks when we get a glimpse at what first century Palestinians and Greeks were up to at the time. The same is true in the fifth and sixth centuries. Cardinal Cupich has no idea of this history of the “Famiglia Cristiana” and therefore he wrongly assumes that the challenges that the Church faces today in prophetically inviting Catholics to follow Christ are new and never before encountered, and THEREFORE require a “paradigm shift” in the presentation of Catholic teaching. Rist, in particular, shows what St. Paul was up against in Greece in terms of “family life”. And St Augustine would have a few anecdotes to share if he had been listened to at the Synods on the Family.

#27 Comment By dominic1955 On February 12, 2018 @ 7:04 pm

I might sound like a broken record, but Cupich should never have gotten a red hat, should never have been made a metropolitan archbishop, or a bishop, or even a seminary rector. Pope Francis spoke about smelling like the sheep, Cupich and his ilk are the careerist politicians who Francis supposedly doesn’t like but they flatter his strong man Peronist tendencies.

The Church would be much better off without men like Cardinal Cupich and Marx being shot callers.

#28 Comment By Mary Russell On February 12, 2018 @ 8:02 pm

Whenever an author uses the word “holistic” (as Cupich does several times) I run for cover. It’s such a vague word which when used in a medical context, is usually meant to be a dog whistle for people who want to be understood in a certain way, without coming out and saying it. I imagine it’s kind of the same thing in theological/philosophical discourse.

#29 Comment By Kawi On February 12, 2018 @ 8:03 pm

Eric Mader above poses an excellent question: are we witnessing the influence of the Frankfurt School or the working out of the inner logic of liberalism?

#30 Comment By Jessica M On February 12, 2018 @ 9:36 pm

I am in RCIA classes now due in no small part to the evangelization efforts of Bishop Robert Barron, who often collaborates with and seems to admire Chaput. The Catholic Church has such a rich, deep intellectual tradition that I was for the most part unaware of until a year or so ago. I think there are a lot of smart people out there who think that being religious means abandoning their intellect, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some Christian intellectuals like William Lane Craig, Tim Keller, and Bishop Barron have been putting out really sharp apologetics for the faith, and I think that can do so much good for awakening faith in non-believers and deepening the average Christian’s ability to engage with moral questions.

#31 Comment By Mac61 On February 12, 2018 @ 9:53 pm

The state of marriage in the Western world and among U.S. Catholics is in complete disarray. I don’t agree with the unilateral manner (no dialogue here) in which Francis has sown confusion. It is worth noting, however, that many of the irregular cases are not upper middle class men leaving their wives in midlife. In my diocese, young women, most often Hispanic but now more and more young women across the board, are mothers to one, two, three children, often of different fathers. They are married to father 2. Father 1 took off. I have students every day who are 18-20 years old and have three or more kids. Their youth was crazy. They were involved with men who have lost all responsibility to themselves and the world. Now the women want to a part of the church. The kindergarten CCD classes are filled with cases like these. Francis was reckless to open up this discussion as he did. HIs suggestion is to make the Catholic Church into a collection of individual franchises. But I see the annulment tribunal process as too legalistic and cumbersome to deal with the realities on the ground. Can there be a simpler annulment process? Does the tribunal have to look the way it does? I am engaged to be married for the first time to a woman who has never been married. That’s great for me. But what about the others? Is the Church teaching the young people in our parishes about the reality of marriage? Has the teaching Church absolutely done right by our youth? Is there absolutely nothing that can be done for the 20-year-old mother of two who wants to receive the Eucharist and make things right? Yes, it’s a discussion of intellectual and doctrinal rigor. But never forget it’s also a discussion about the pastoral care of people who love God. Having said that, I think Francis has made a mess. Quite an astounding mess.

#32 Comment By stephen cooper On February 12, 2018 @ 10:39 pm

Mr Cosimano, many of my Catholic friends will have, absent the advent of an Apocalypse, hundreds of descendants before the youngest baby alive today has his or her 150th birthday. Even I may have a few dozen, or more! Not to mention – you might not know this – but every Catholic Christian believes that every single person on the face of the earth has a guardian angel who knows more about, and believes more fervently, the truths of the Christian faith than even the best of our saints!

Poor Blaise Cupich does not have a chance, in the long run, to make the changes he pretends he wants to make. I get it that he feels he is being helpful and kind. And we cannot judge the hearts of others! Still, on those subjects where he and, say, even an ordinary decent Christian like John Paul II disagree, it is hard to see how even Blaise Cupich can really think , in his heart of hearts, that John Paul II is wrong and he is right.

#33 Comment By CatherineNY On February 13, 2018 @ 10:07 am

When Archbishop Chaput had the opportunity to object publicly to the fact that leading abortion advocate Michael Bloomberg was the graduation speaker at Villanova, the most famous Catholic university in his own archdiocese, he didn’t say a word. So much for standing up for Christian truth.

#34 Comment By Jon On February 13, 2018 @ 1:21 pm

Notes from the Undergound Observer:

“Watch out for the other side!” He warned. “They are out to get us, to bestialize society, to bring in a new era of heathenism.”

The other side proclaimed in an united voice, “Watch out for the orthodox. They want to impose their narrow doctrine upon us all!”

Father Job alerted us, “When I was a young priest the traditions, rituals, and preachment made me feel close to the Divine. Alas, it went away and instead I felt emptiness in all of these doings. Soon thereafter, I became wary and weary of wearing the collar deeming myself as an imposter who was pretending to be of the faithful. A little later I sleepwalked through my own homilies looking on all of the spectacle of the mass as one giant hoax.”

Father Job continued his exhortation, “But now I understand that the call of the Divine is independent of all of this. And I see my calling as a celebration in that one still but silent voice that is nevertheless heard. All of the ministry has become this rejoicing, this doxological prayer of thanks and of wonder and of awe. After being saturated with religiosity and its ensuing boredom, I became awed by holiness, by its munificence, by the glory of heaven that in His grace has bestowed on such a weak soul as I an hint of that splendor.”

Back in the North on a wind blasted Spring day, our minister gave his weekly sermon. We gathered in expectation for his words of wisdom and were not disappointed.

“Here is our church. Yeah, not inside the stone walls yonder surrounded by stain glass, and the pews and the altar.” He pointed overhead at the trees that towered above. “The church is right here in the open. We stand before His handiwork and worship not the manufactured grotto over there from mankind’s hands. It is here that we find our altar, our pews, our building for it is primordial made before Adam walked upon the earth.”

He paused eyeing the congregations and resumed. “But to find Him one must open one’s heart. And then in nature find Him and hold on to his robes with a steadfast resolve!” At that he ended his sermon and we broke out in song.

The old man exhorted us, “We are a quarrelsome lot. Indeed! We are. And we forget again and again in our disputations and our feuds the Guelphs and the Ghibelines each sparing over the same land and over the same congregants. ‘Who will redeem our civilization?’ Each one cries. But all have forgotten who we really are made in the image of the Divine mind.”

#35 Comment By William Tighe On February 14, 2018 @ 7:37 am

Jon wrote:

“Notes from the Undergound Observer: …” (etc.)

It’s nice to see that one can write a latter-day pastiche in the style of JJ Rousseau’s meandering and sentimental religiose bloviations, but perhaps the author might provide some indication of their purpose or point, since they seem to lack any.

#36 Comment By Carl Kuss, L.C. On February 14, 2018 @ 7:46 am

I disagree. What Cardinal Cupich tells us about conscience is in the line of Cardinal Newman, Vatican II and John Paul II. He highlights the role of conscience, and it should be highlighted. He tells us that conscience is the voice of God, and it is the voice of God. He tells us that this conception of conscience is Evangelical, and it is Evangelical. Pope John Paul II showed himself to be in this same line in different ways: 1. By his profound respect for the religious nature of man, also as shown in the world’s great religious traditions. 2. By his insistence on the principle of religious liberty not only as a means of promoting selfish interests but as something arising from Christian-anthropological foundations, i.e. from the conscience of man, considered as the voice of God resounding in his interior. This is not liberalism, this is Christianity. 3. By his belief in the principles of ecumenism as outlined by Vatican II. Vatican II showed us how the fragments of broken Christianity can contain treasures. Cardinal Cupich, following Pope Francis, and really in the same line as John Paul II, shows us that the fragments of broken families in a Field Hospital World can contain treasures, that mercy should be practiced, that mercy will gather those fragments into a living unity and that mercy offers an alternative to those Manichean scorched earth methodologies that lurk, perhaps, behind the fine phrases of the Benedict Option. By accenting mercy Catholic morality is not made less robust.

[NFR: It must be pretty to think so. — RD]

#37 Comment By Anne On February 14, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

“If the Church is given over to these ‘progressives,’ the faith will dissipate into a kind of ambient gas little different from MTV.”

And if the Church is given over to the hardline “orthodox,” the faith will atrophy into a fragile antique that has to be protected from life around it, little different from the situation many see it in today.

The universal Church, if it’s to save the world and not just a “holy remnant” of traditionalists, has to respect and value all types of Christ followers. And like it or not, most humans fit loosely under two general categories or orientations, conservative or liberal, those who gravitate to preserving the past and who prefer rules and structure and those who welcome the future and prefer spirit over law. The Church has canonized saints from both orientations. When those of one orientation go off the skids, there should be enough of the other to pull them back to the straight and narrow, as it were. But that’s never going to be fun to watch, much less experience.

The traditional churches naturally lean more in the conservative direction to begin with, which means liberals, or “progressives,” have a somewhat harder row to hoe. Vatican II performed a sort of major correction in the midst of a long period of stagnation that threatened to sideline the Catholic church forever in the backwaters of its own past. But the correction incited a period of instability, which precipitated a conservative crackdown that’s left the two sides at loggerheads today.

The thing is Christianity would never have come as far as it has through so many periods of human history and over all continents and cultures of the world without a dynamic element that kept reflecting on the world as it was at any and every moment and seeking to incorporate what had been learned into what it was given in the beginning. If Christians had rested on the first Jerusalem community, there’d have been no Pauline outreach to the gentiles, which is what catapulted the early Jesus movement into the world beyond. And if no one had taken what had already been changed and reflected on it some more in order to incorporated the wisdom of the Greeks and Romans, we wouldn’t have the “traditional” concepts that, in turn, became the body of doctrine Aquinas and others reflected on and honed yet again in the “glorious” 13th century many Catholic traditionalists seem intent on returning to today.

All of that is just to say Christianity would not be what it is today if it had always set itself against the world, “the culture” and change itself. But that IS what traditionalists do when there aren’t progressives around to envision what all those things have to offer, and progressives always need traditionalists to anchor them and keep them from getting hopelessly off course. Neither side can do what needs to be done on its own, and nobody’s going to get doctrine and practice absolutely right, or make the truth wholly known with no cause to question until kingdom come…literally.

#38 Comment By JonF On February 14, 2018 @ 1:06 pm

There are very valid prudential reasons why clergy need to avoid even the appearance of seeking to meddle from on high with secular political matters. Even back in the 15th century that was bad idea, and today it’s a really terrible one. Give Archbishop Chaput his due for being a man of prudence.

#39 Comment By Ron Chandonia On February 14, 2018 @ 4:54 pm

Great stuff in this discussion! Mac61 is exactly right about the situation on the ground–and the recklessness of Francis’s response to it. I’ve done a screenshot of Thomas Aquinas’s ” . . . from Shakespeare to Oprah” comment to post on FB. And at the suggestion of Augustinus, I’ve ordered “Remaining in the Truth of Christ.” (As for Fr. Kuss, I’ve learned again that the Legionaries never change their stripes.)

#40 Comment By Brendan from Oz On February 14, 2018 @ 7:09 pm

Re the ongoing misinterpretation of Vatican II, from [7]:

“Cardinal Heenan’s reference to “liturgical experts” is crucial if we are to understand the reason for the orgy of destruction in our sanctuaries which followed the Council. Those who exercised the greatest influence during Vatican II were not the Council Fathers, the three thousand bishops and heads of religious orders who had come to Rome from all over the world, but the expert advisers they brought with them, referred to in Latin as the periti. Bishop Lucey of Cork and Ross stated explicitly that the periti were the people with power. [Catholic Standard (Dublin), October 17, 1973.]

“Cardinal Heenan warned that when the Council was over the periti were planning to use the Council documents in a manner which the Council Fathers had not envisaged. The documents were to be interpreted and implemented by commissions to be established after the Council. Cardinal Heenan warned against the danger of the periti taking control of these commissions, thus gaining the power to interpret the Council to the world. “God forbid that this should happen!” he cried—–but happen it did. [Ralph Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber (1967; rpt. Rockford, Illinois: TAN, 1985), p. 210.]

“Article 128 of the Liturgy Constitution provides a typical example. It reads:

“The canons and ecclesiastical statutes which govern the provision of external things which pertain to sacred worship should be revised as soon as possible, together with the liturgical books, as laid down in Article 25. These laws refer especially to the worthy and well-planned construction of sacred buildings, the shape and construction of altars, the nobility, placing, and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle, the suitability and dignity of the Baptistry, the proper ordering of sacred images, and the scheme of decoration and embellishment. Laws which seem less suited to the reformed liturgy should be amended or abolished. Those which are helpful are to be retained, or introduced if lacking.

“Looked at with the benefit of hindsight this passage provides an open-ended mandate for drastic change. Read the passage carefully; all its objectives are admirable, and what possible reason could bishops who “did not suspect what was being planned by the liturgical experts” have had for objecting to it? Every Catholic must wish to see worthy and well planned sacred buildings. The bishops could not possibly have foreseen an epidemic of churches which resemble badly designed airport car parks. This is particularly the case in view of the safeguards which are listed in part 4.

“The commission established to implement the Liturgy Constitution was known as the Consilium, and it took the extraordinary step of asking six Protestants—–six heretics—–to advise them in drawing up their plans to reform the liturgy of the Mass, which has been the principal object of Protestant hatred since the time of Martin Luther. These Protestants played a very active part in all the discussions on the reform of the liturgy, as one of them confirmed in a letter to me. [Michael Davies, Pope Paul’s New Mass (Angelus Press, 2918 Tracy Ave., Kansas City, Missouri 64109, 1980), Appendix III.]

“The fact that the Liturgy Constitution did not mandate any changes in the sanctuary did not in the least daunt the pseudo-liturgists once the Council was over and the bishops had returned to their dioceses. A seemingly endless series of documents was generated, and is still being generated, by the vast liturgical bureaucracy that has proliferated since the Council.”

So much claimed as “Vatican II” never was.

#41 Comment By CatherineNY On February 14, 2018 @ 7:42 pm

@JonF, how on earth would it be “meddling with secular political matters” for a Roman Catholic archbishop to object to the fact that a Roman Catholic university in his own archdiocese was featuring a notorious funder and promoter of abortion at its graduation? Besides, we are talking about Archbishop Chaput, who 1) Objected to Notre Dame inviting a sitting President of the U.S. to speak: [8] and 2) Urged Notre Dame to invite President Trump to speak: [9]. But that wasn’t in his own back yard. Prudential reasons don’t seem to be a factor.

#42 Comment By at the soundcheck On February 14, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

I’m with Anne, Ash Wednesday, 12:51pm. Thanks, Anne, that was great!

#43 Comment By CatherineNY On February 15, 2018 @ 8:05 am

My reply to @JonF seems to have vanished, so I’ll post again. If it appears twice, my apologies. @JonF, how could it possibly be “meddling with secular political matters” for a Roman Catholic archbishop to rebuke the most famous Roman Catholic university in his own archdiocese for featuring a notorious abortion funder and supporter as its graduation speaker? Besides, Archbishop Chaput has hardly shown himself to be a “man of prudence” where such meddling is concerned. This is the Archbishop who first condemned Notre Dame for inviting a sitting president to speak at its commencement: [8]; and then condemned them for honoring a sitting vice president: [10]; and finally, urged them to honor President Trump with an honorary degree: [11]. And oh, this was after the archbishop had previously condemned both Trump and Clinton during the election: ‘”One candidate, in the view of a lot of people, is a belligerent demagogue with an impulse-control problem. And the other, also in the view of a lot of people, is a criminal liar, uniquely rich in stale ideas and bad priorities,” Chaput said.’ [12]. Please tell me again how the archbishop “prudently” avoids meddling in secular politics. He does it all the time when there is a national stage. In his own backyard, where he actually has the principal responsibility for dealing with such matters, and might be able to move the needle, not so much.

#44 Comment By David J White On February 15, 2018 @ 9:10 pm

There is nothing more irrelevant to contemporary life than the teaching of the Catholic Church. It is not whom is speaking. It is whom is listening and if no one is inclined to listen it does not matter very much what is being said.

Oh, I don’t, Charles; evidently knowing the correct use of who vs. whom is even more irrelevant.

#45 Comment By Carl Kuss, L.C. On February 16, 2018 @ 5:28 am

RD: That mercy is the medicine the world needs is no mere “pretty” thought. Christ applied mercy to the Field Hospital World by dying for us on the cross, which is not some merely pretty theological dream, but the center of our faith, and the radical challenge to our self-satisfaction. The Just One, dying for sinners (all of us). The Manicheans do not like contemplating this truth, because it goes against their vaunted Church of the Pure. The mercy of God is the Gospel, and conscience is rooted in the Divine Truth of the Gospel, which men in their pride reject. “He came unto his own and his own received Him not.”

#46 Comment By CatherineNY On February 17, 2018 @ 11:13 am

Just posting a test, because two prior comments I posted here seem to have disappeared. I don’t want to write them again in case they suddenly re-emerge. I’m still not a robot.

#47 Comment By JonF On February 20, 2018 @ 12:19 pm

I misread your earlier comment as calling for ecclesial censure of Mayor Bloomberg.
I do however think it legit for a Catholic university to invite speakers even though they may disagree with the Church on this or that particular matter. If lock step agreement on all points were the criterion then of course neither Protestant nor Jewish speakers could ever be invited. Is that a result you would support (if so, that’s OK, but you should make that explicit).

#48 Comment By CatherineNY On February 22, 2018 @ 2:56 pm

@JonF, Villanova didn’t just invite Mayor Bloomberg to speak, they made him the graduation speaker. They lauded him, and gave him an honorary degree. Archbishop Chaput went nuts when Notre Dame invited Obama and Biden because of their positions on abortion. In his own archdiocese…crickets. And Bloomberg, thanks to his media empire and wealth, is a very, very public figure and influential factor. There are plenty of people who have called for him to run for president. Why did Villanova do this? My guess is: $$$$$$, or the hope thereof. This wasn’t just an oversight on Chaput’s part. It was a deliberate decision to stay quiet. Why should Notre Dame listen to him, when the leading Catholic university in his own archdiocese gets off scot free for heaping honors and favorable publicity for one of the most active and successful advocates of abortion in the country?