|Can we answer 'yes' now?|
At a local Church that I sometimes attend Mass in is a rather good bookshelf with books that people can borrow. I borrowed a few books, one entitled, 'What to Do When the Man you Love is an Alcoholic', because I know a few, another called 'Fatima: The Great Sign' which seems to be an excellent introduction and overview of the Fatima message, a book about interesting Christian initiatives started in community centres and finally this little nugget pictured above.
'Has Change Shattered Our Faith?' is a worthy historical document examining the 'great leap forward' undergone by the Catholic Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, especially during the hazy if 'optimistic' 1970s. It is worth juxtaposing this little book with Fatima: The Great Sign because while the message of Our Lady of Fatima holds up spiritual realities to the Church in anticipation that the Church's hierarchy and clergy would forget them or desire to erase them (the reality of Hell, Pugatory, Heaven, the need for penance, reparation and conversion of life, the Real Presence, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, etc), this little book was trying to deal with the implications of a tumultuous time in the Church's history with platitudes and obfuscations.
Calming the Fears in the Storm
So what of this little book, 'Has Change Shattered Our Faith?'. Well, it sets itself in the time it was published, 1976. It is an extraordinary 'damage limitation exercise' that seeks to calm fears over the dramatic changes that the Church witnessed in Her liturgy, catechesis and culture. Even the title is pretty contradictory. 'Things are looking up!' is the cry, even though the book itself acknowledges that the faith of many had been 'shattered' by the upheavals of the 1970s. It's as if the authors of the little articles included in the book are saying, 'Calm down, calm down, everything is okay!' to parishioners as they leave the Church in droves because they cannot stand the imposition of the new liturgy, or embrace a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll instead because the Church has committed suicide.
well documented by the LMS, among others in terms of baptisms, weddings and ordinations and the rest.
The first essay is entitled, 'Our Faith: Has Change Shattered It?' by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. He begins...
'I keep breaking my resolution not to give reasons for changes in the Church. I should have learned by now that the problem is not an intellectual one, to be solved by "explaining." It is a matter of feelings: fear, anger, frustration, insecurity, disappointment, a sense of being betrayed. "The Church" was once something you could be sure of. It gave you definite answers, yes and no, black and white. No matter how people changed, the Church didn't change.
Now, one man said to me, they've made it into a night club (trumpets at Mass). Priests and nuns leave and get married, laymen distribute Communion, St Christopher gets dropped, you don't have to abstain from meat on Friday, Jonah wasn't in the whale and hardly anybody goes to Confession anymore. You never have Benediction, and the rosary is "out". They've moved the Tabernacle to God knows where and the statues have disappeared from many churches.
Not priests, but parish councils and liturgy committees run the parishes. There aren't enough nuns left to teach Catholic schools. You never hear anything about hell anymore, and so on and so forth.'
|Imprimatur: The then Archbishop Joseph F. Bernadin|
Firstly, he says that explaining the changes to people does not work and that he can only tell people 'his own feelings' on it. Secondly, he compares his time with that of the time when he was ordained a priest, when a 'good solid system' was in operation - pope, bishop, pastor, superiors, catechism, Sunday observance, no meat on Friday, parish societies, clear directions to clear goals. There was no thought of making any great changes'. Thirdly, he puts the changes in the context of the second world war, television, the atomic bomb, the election of Blessed Pope John XXIII and picking up a copy of Hans Kung's 'The Council, Reform and Reunion' (as if these major events and Hans Kung are intrinsically linked).
He then, however, goes on to describe 'the split'. The 'split' is interesting because he says:
'Here, already people parted company. There just seem to be two kinds of people: those who are - to use a good work and a bad word - adaptable and/or itchy for change, which they feel can be progressive, healthy, besides being exciting; and on the other hand those who are - to use a good word and a bad word - dependable and/or set in their ways.'
People 'parted company' in the Mystical Body of Christ. He assesses the liberal and the conservative in pretty neutral tones, being charitable to each. Of traditional Catholics he says...
'They are not alarmists; they just don't want good things spoiled, stolen, destroyed.'
Let us recall that this unofficial 'split' which is rarely acknowledged in our times didn't just affect the laity but priests, bishops, nuns, friars, monks and cardinals. What we see today with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is the resounding, recurring echo of that 'split'. In other words, the 'traditional Catholic' is a creation of the Second Vatican Council or, at least, a creation of the 'spirit' in which it was executed. It is easy for us today to forget this. Prior to this dramatic epoch in the Church's history, there were 'Catholics'. The 'traditional Catholic' did not exist as a concept. It remains, to this day, a concept over which there is still tenacious debate.
There then begun a battle over what it meant to be a Catholic. The innovations went to the very soul of Catholicism. How could it not affect or 'shatter' Catholic souls or the faith of these souls? These were a group of people who simply refused to believe that the 'progressive' movement known for visibly hacking the Altar from the gradine of the Church on a global scale was wise or even the logical fruit of Vatican II. The radical movement 'forward' (a rallying cry of many a communist) left people behind because the raptured architects and rupturous builders of it forgot that as much as God calls us to go forward does He call us to turn back to Him. That is what repentance is. It means to return, to turn around, to the Lord, not to turn to the future, not to turn to ourselves, not to turn to one another, but Ad Deum.
So back to 'the split'. Foley says...
'I think what happened was this. The leaders of the Church - priests, brothers, nuns - divided into two groups without realising it. One group became very interested in reading all that the theologians and Bible schoilars had to say about the Church today, religion today. They went to meetings, conventions lectures etc. They had a great time discussing the beautiful (to them) developments. And as ideas developed, they got them gradually. Over a period of 10 -15 years, they had absorbed many new ideas. If they - or again, let me stay with my experience - if I, for instance were to compare my awareness, outlook, ideas in 1970 with those I had in 1960 without any experience of the years between I would have been very surprised at myself.
On the other hand, other traditional leaders in the Church - priests, brothers and nuns - had an instinctive feeling that something was wrong, dangerous, about the new emphases. Some were so busy they had no time for reading and study. In any case, for many reasons, they did not have the same experiences as those described above. And so, rightly or wrongly, they were, say in 1970, as far away from some of their fellow priests, brothers and nuns as I was from my 1960 self. Many of the laity divided in the same way. But it seems that the majority not accustomed to different opinions in the Church were, and simply are, confused, scandalised and unhappy.'
In other words, not only were some so moved by their 'experiences' that they began to see the Church's leap forward as progress, but priests ordained before the Second Vatican Council who disagreed with the changes were divided from those who saw within its implementation an improvement on the Church of yesteryear. Not only this, but priests ordained before the Council, by 1976 saw themselves, their ministry and the Catholic Faith they adhered to in a radically different way seemingly divorced from that which they had hitherto known. Yet...yet, the answer that this was due to the different 'experiences' of priests is flawed because of the simple fact that those who wept over the changes imposed on the Catholic Church (and who faithfully stayed) lived in the same time, experienced the time and the culture, but simply held onto that which their generation had held as sacred! The author continues...
'For a while it seemed that the breath of fresh air in the Church was being enthusiastically inhaled by one and all. Popular speakers, the Catholic press in general exuded euphoria, glowed with euphoria. But apparently the explanation didn't take with lots of people. Some of them came to adult [re-]education classes (most did not) and were seldom convinced of the wisdom of the "new" approach. People's native caution, the whole emotional atmosphere in which they were raised, the obvious mistakes that were made in some cases, made people feel that "they" were tampering with the foundations and there was danger that the whole building would fall down.'
Addressing the concerns
At this point, you can't help wondering whether Fr Leonard is either in denial of the reality the Church faced and still faces, or whether he believes in the way the Council was implemented, or whether he is just being loyal and obedient to those who implemented it. You can almost hear him crying on the inside...
'Recently, I have had some experiences that have helped me appreciate how the "old" Church feels. Just as some of my old friends are appalled by guitar Masses, bouncy music and "togetherness" at Mass, so I am scared out of the ball park by the exuberance and expressiveness of the new "charismatics". I know they are holy, Spirit-filled people. I know they are bringing in thousands of people, especially younger ones, to a new experience of Christ (I should say Jesus). But their emotional expressiveness appals my cold Irish-German temperament, their zeal to get me "in" turns me off, and their rhetoric irritates me. I finally know how my cousin Eileen feels about A Mighty Fortress is Our God ("Damned Protestant hymns!" she mutters, charging out of church).
So I have some sense of how traditional Catholics feel, even though I would probably be considered a fuzzy liberal by some of my Franciscan confreres (and an outdated square by others).
So, was faith destroyed by the changes?
'People with a strong faith - whether they buy the new approach or not - seem to be able to handle the confusion. Faith for them is simply a giving on oneself to God [...] Words and rituals may change, but my faith stands beyond these things.'
'Faith is inside. It is caught, not taught. It is lived, not memorized. It is a divine spark, not a human creation. It can no more be destroyed from without than the God whose presence it reveals. Now if faith is this inner indestructible reality, external problems, confusion and change should be relatively easy to handle.'
Okay, so what about those people whose faith cannot withstand the Catholic Church issuing a category five hurricane on its members? Unfortunately, Fr Leonard doesn't answer that question. In other words, a 'good' Christian, a faithful disciple accepts the changes with a face of flint and goes along with it, even if he or she can't stand it. The 'good' Christian doesn't leave. Fine, but what happens to all those men and women without the personal faith of St Monica and for whom the Church was a Rock, entirely dependable and unchanging in Her character? What of those who get the general impression the Church doesn't stand for what it stood for, no longer exists for what it existed for and has had its true mission, as well as its most missionary and constant signpost - the Mass of Ages - relegated to a dusty archive somewhere in the walls of the Vatican? No answer. On top of this we now know that if you really want to destroy Faith, you can do so by allowing the infiltration of the Church by pederasts who abuse the Church's children and destroy not just the faith of those children, but the faith of many others by covering the whole thing up.
Is it not the case that by the time that this book was promulgated, having received an Imprimatur from the then Archbishop, later Cardinal Joseph F. Bernardin, that the damage had already been done and that those who remained faithful to the Church out of love were 'strong' enough to cope with seeing and hearing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass being turned around and often turned into a Eucharistic circus while priests ad-libbed the Mass in the vernacular and stopped talking about sin, salvation, heaven, hell, purgatory and all the things mentioned by Our Lady at Fatima?
In a way St Monica is a good illustration of the loving mother who patiently waits for her own prodigal son, St Augustine, to return to the true Faith, entangled as he was, in so many sins, heresies and dominated by so many passions contrary to it. Ironically, that is how the Church stands today. Our Lady, meanwhile, truly is the Mother of the Church who implores her children to come home, to repent, to love her Divine Son.
At Fatima her advice was clear: 'Pray, do penance, make sacrifices for sinners', 'wear the Scapular' and the Miraculous Medal, live the Faith, pray the Little Office, convert sinners, 'pray the rosary', work for the salvation of souls, go to Confession regularly, receive the Blessed Sacrament for what it truly is, the Body and Blood of the Lord, stop offending God, do good and avoid evil, for He is already too much offended. These are all part and parcel of the message of Fatima. This is Catholicism.
The advice of Fr Leonard writing in 1976 is to 'remember the mixed-up Church is still Jesus's visible body', 'go for the genuine people', look for sound teaching and buy a copy of the Vatican II documents, 'don't leave your parish church' and 'don't let your faith be overcome by bitterness'.
It is never too late to turn back...to the Lord
It took so many prayers and tears of a loving mother for Augustine to accept that he was in the wrong, that he was just a man, that beside God there are no other gods, that He alone could save him and turn him into the man who would one day say, at the end of every homily, 'Let us turn to the Lord'. After the 1960s, the Catholic Church turned its back on well over 1500 years of Her holy traditions, with fatal consequences for Her life, mission and the souls in Her care. Many priests, many friars, some Cardinals and some Bishops have realised that folly of leaving the sacred behind in purusing a horizontal vision of the Church that so often ultimately leads to the denial or a misrepresentation of all that the Magisterium of the Church still holds to be true concerning Salvation.
Has change shattered our faith? That is really not the right question. A more apt question is this: What kind of a father, or guardian, would risk shattering the faith of his children? In answering that question, you will know whether the dramatic upheavals and changes executed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council documented within this post were from God, the Eternal Father, or not. Because Pope Benedict XVI declared the Mass of Ages to be 'never formally abrogated' Priests, Bishops and Cardinals, as 'Fathers in God' to the flocks entrusted to them, should surely ask that question, rather than just going 'forward' blindly, heedless of the appeals of the Mother of God made at Fatima for purity of Faith, and, having asked that question, should surely act accordingly. To priests, to Cardinals, to Bishops: It is never too late. It is never too late, to turn back - not back in time, but out of time, out of space, turn back, back Ad Deum, to God who gives joy, once more, to your youth.