Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . American Catholicism should be preparing for 2020 when a large increase in the Catholic population, mostly Hispanic, will present Church leaders with the challenge to open rather than close new churches and schools. Instead of preparing for the future, bishops and priests now in key administrative and pastoral positions, led by Pope Benedict XVI, are dressing the set of Catholic life with props from the past in an effort to take the church back to 1920.

That era of simplistically captioned silent movies is now re-created through the awkwardly translated liturgical readings soon to be expensively imposed on what these self-styled "reformers" hope to be passive and silent parishioners. Americans are not, however, alone in experiencing this phenomenon. In May the bishops of England and Wales restored meatless Fridays year round for Catholics. In the same month a nun held up a silver reliquary carrying the blood of the newly beatified Pope John Paul II, to applause by a large crowd in St. Peter's Square. Besides alerting Pope Benedict to beware of doctors holding syringes, this reveals the Transylvanian caste of some of the clerics now decorating the set of Catholicism throughout the world.

As demanding and sometimes as narcissistic as great actors, these set-dresser clerics are tantrum ready if they pick up any symbol or practice of Vatican II in their sight lines. While the makers of "The Untouchables" knew that they had emptied a warehouse of dusty props to create a temporary illusion of Prohibition era Chicago, these "New Men," as they sometimes style themselves, believe that placing pre-Vatican II artifacts everywhere in contemporary Catholicism actually restores the high times of the hierarchical Church.

Clericalism redux energizes this spreading movement to reinstate that Neverland age of Catholicism when priests controlled the church, lay people knew their place, the Mass was in Latin, God was in His heaven and all was right with the world.

All they need are church parking lots filled with Twenties era Pierce-Arrows and Model T's to match the retro-fitted customs, such as recruiting people to keep vigil with a supposedly lonely Jesus in overnight adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

The examined life is not, however, the focus of set-decorators who promote an unexamined return to Flapper-era Faith. Nothing better symbolizes these efforts than their fussy revival of that liturgical species once thought extinct, the Solemn High Mass that keeps lay people well away from the altar as, by deploying a deacon and sub-deacon to assist the priest celebrant, reinforces the concept of the hierarchically layered priesthood and church. In short, the church before, as one set-decorator said in my hearing, the "morally evil" Vatican II occurred.

Through this movement, clericalism, whose exclusive country club culture has finally been identified as one of the breeding grounds and hiding places for priest sex abusers, has vaulted back onto center stage or, better, the center sanctuary of ecclesiastical life. These new zealots assault Vatican II's formal collegial theology of the church as a People and Catholicism's informal sense of itself as a big family. . . .

– Eugene Kennedy
"Set Decorator Catholicism: Clericalism Thrives
in a New Phase of the Sex Abuse Crisis"
National Catholic Reporter
June 30, 2011

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