|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is a worthy historical document examining the 'great leap forward'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.
While the message of Fatima remains
a beacon of hope for the Church in what continues to be an age of
apostasy and unbelief, the message of the 'Hopeful Look at the Church
Today' continues to be wearing thin. It is, infact, as if Fatima remains
an open rebuke to a Church's attempt to turn its back on its tradition
as Our Lady appears and more or less says, "Wait! Hell still exists!"
The very first secret
Our Lady gives the children is the
horrifying vision of souls falling into Hell. Meanwhile, the facts on
the ground of the fallout of the 'cultural revolution' in the Catholic
Church have been 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...
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.
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.
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|
familiar, Catholics of 2013? Gently, and with all the pastoral warmth
he can muster, Foley tries to ease the fears, anxieties and tensions of
the remaining Catholics who haven't apostasised by 1976.
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.'
'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.'
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
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...
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.
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.'
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
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
'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...
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, was faith destroyed by the changes?
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).
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?
Words of Advice
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'.
What strikingly different messages and words of advice these are. Compare the words of the Churchman and the words of the Mother of our Saviour. I am convinced that the enduring power of the vision of Fatima lays not just in the simplicity of Our Lady's words, told as they were to simple shepherd children, but the strikingly supernatural and miraculous nature of the Fatima event. In an age in which even in the highest ranks of the Catholic Church, the supernatural, Divine and vertical is downplayed and the earthly, human and horizontal is emphasised, Fatima endures in the hearts of many Catholics, as does Lourdes and other sites of Marian devotion and pilgrimage. It is no wonder that sites like Medugorje and Garabandal attract so many pilgrims despite a lack of official Church approval. Could it be because at a time when the Church has stopped talking of Divine things, things that speak to the soul of our need for salvation, that there remains within modern man and woman a thirst for the supernatural, for clarity, for doctrine, for timeless truth that they struggle to find within the parish Churches?
The question that remains for those from the 1970s to the present day who tried so hard to assuage the fears, anxieties and confusion of those who, regardless of whether the Church believes their faith was 'shattered', either left the Church or neglected to teach it to their children, who went on to become men and women without faith, is this: When will you accept, like St Augustine of Hippo, that it is never too late
for the Church to turn around 180 degrees, for its hierarchy, its bishops, cardinals, priests and even the pope, to reject that which damages faith, which causes confusion, especially in the liturgy in which Catholics gather to worship and praise God? For, as we know from the Friars of the Immaculate, those who embrace what those who came before us embraced are no longer met with soothing words, but suspicion, derision and the abuse of the ecclesiastical law in the process of their forceful restriction.
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.