Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A prophet is without honor in his own land

Prophetic. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
When you say you want to return to the Tradition of the Church or to promote the traditional liturgy to get out of the present terrible crisis in Christian practice, in order that souls can find once again the heart of prayer; when you work for the diffusion of perennial Christian Doctrine against the present immoral decline, you will always find many inside the Church who fight you fiercely in the name of “the prophetic church”: “Stop dreaming about the past – they tell us - you are pathetic, the Church must look to the future, must envisage the future and must be prophetic!

But what is this prophetic church? What is this prophetic church made of?

Now regarding this prophetic church, you normally hear that it is a church projected entirely into an indefinite future, where everything that was certain in the past may be changed. A church which, while embracing all of man’s expectations, is reprogrammed into a gigantic effort to welcome everything and everyone, condemning no-one – except, of course, the notorious “traditionalists”!
Only God knows how many acts of cowardice were born from the fear of not appearing progressive enough.
They tell you: before, the Church condemned – now She welcomes. Before, She taught from “on high”, now She accompanies man along with great humility in his ‘search’. Before, She was concerned that everyone be baptized and receive the grace of the sacraments, now She recognizes that God acts also outside of the sacraments. Before, She wanted all men to return to the fold, now She realizes that salvation also exists outside Christianity.

This prophetic Church is made up of prophetic priests and surrounded by a prophetic laity: all of whom are occupied on the latest front line of social-work, concerned about the poor, while also being fixtures of radical and fashionable circles. Obviously, since the rich and the snobs like this prophetic Church quite a lot. That is to say, those who are weary of their wealth and are concerned that the Church be concerned with the poor.
The Church brought in many more converts and exerted much more hard and soft power over the culture back when she hurled thunderous anathemas from on high, and told Protestants and heathens that outside the Catholic Church there was no salvation. When the Church opted for the poor, the poor opted for the Pentecostals.
True prophets, the ones in the Bible, spoke in the name of God to the people, the kings and priests, reminding them, at times fiercely, of the consequences of sin. In the prophets there is always an accusation of sin, an admonishment to penance and a return to God; you have abandoned God, for this a chastisement has fallen upon you; return to God and He will liberate you.

Have you ever heard this admonishment from the so-called prophetic church? No. This church lives on in the revolutionary schema: it accuses the Church of the past of being myopic and old-fashioned, so that it may program a new church which will finally respond to the needs of men. We have arrived at unadulterated heresy! It is even a dim-witted heresy because it has been picked up from the radical and fashionable circles!
 Prophets were generally unpopular men. They called out kings, priests, and rich men as sinners. They told the people of Israel that if they did not repent, God's wrath would be kindled and he'd destroy them.

And the author touches on something I've long found deeply irritating: spiting the Church to save the Council. Anyone with eyes in his head can see that the Catholic Church was decimated shortly after the close of Vatican II and has been on a steady decline ever since then. Correlation by itself does not prove causation, but it's a pretty big clue. What we usually hear at this point is, "Well you have to understand the Church had a lot of problems before Vatican II. None of the lay people had a clue what was going on. They were just going through the motions. Religion was just a set of empty rules. The Church had a ghetto mentality. There's never been a golden age of the Church. If it weren't for Vatican II, the collapse would have been even worse."

To use a technical theological term our Catholic vice president learned in school, what a load of malarkey. What were these vague and mysterious "problems" that so plagued the pre-Vatican II Church? How did Vatican II solve them, if at all? There's a peculiar reluctance to discuss the quantifiable measures by which we often judge the success of the Church. Before Vatican II the Church was doing splendidly in terms of Mass attendance, vocations, lay organization, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, clerical and religious discipline, and apologetics. All of the problems of the post-Vatican II Church are verifiable matters of public record. All of the supposed problems of the pre-Vatican II Church are unverifiable speculations about the internal states of peoples' souls. Christ himself said that actions are how we know if someone loves God: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

I laugh aloud at the notion that back then Catholics just mindlessly repeated rote questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism but now they think for themselves. Is that really so much worse than Catholics mindlessly repeating what the world tells them? Wouldn't it be better if they were dogmatically certain about the truths in the Baltimore Catechism, instead of dogmatically certain about liberalism? These days many baptized Catholics are so ignorant about the Catholic faith that they don't even rise to the level of being wrong about it. Are we supposed to be happy about the death of Catholic culture, and the concomitant loss of so many souls to apostasy, heresy, and immorality? A siege mentality is appropriate when you are, in fact, under siege.

I understand the reluctance of many Catholics to admit that Vatican II was an unmitigated disaster. But I won't sit still and be quiet when they attempt to salvage the Council by trashing the previous nineteen centuries of Catholic life. We don't need to read Vatican II  through a "hermeneutic of continuity" so much as we do through a "hermeneutic of forgetfulness."

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