Sunday, October 2, 2005

Are Renegade Priests Ruining American Catholicism?

During the 1960s-70s both Catholicism and Protestantism were swept up in America's counter-cultural revolution. Mainstream Protestant denominations fell like dominoes to the agenda of the New Left. In some of these denominations, new liturgical rites were pushed on the faithful, along with a redefinition of "morality." In some cases, a whole new definition of theology was introduced as well. God the Father was given a more "feminine" role, whereby some theologians suggested he should be addressed as "Mother" at least as often as "Father." As a result many mainstream Protestants fled their traditional denominations to find refuge in more conservative denominations (such as Baptist and Pentecostal) and nondenominational churches.

Catholicism was also inundated with the New Left's agenda. In this case however, the recent Second Vatican Council provided a cover for those who would want to push new "innovations." American Catholicism saw all kinds of changes under the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II." This phrase should be a dead giveaway that something is wrong. The "Spirit of Vatican II?" What does that mean? Wouldn't the "Spirit of Vatican II" also be the letter of Vatican II? I mean, isn't that the nature of an ecumenical council? The documents produced by these councils are supposed to be divinely guided by the Holy Spirit of God. Thus, the letter of Vatican II literally IS the "Spirit of Vatican II." To say that more changes are being made in the "Spirit of Vatican II," which were not specifically directed by the letter of Vatican II, is to say that the Holy Spirit forgot something. To me, this sounds a little fishy. Why would the Holy Spirit "forget" to do everything he intended to do at the Second Vatican Council? Or could it be that something else is going on here?

Make no mistake abut it. Liberal Relativists (i.e. "Liberals") have an agenda to push, and one way they do it is through deception. As a former Protestant, I am all too familiar with the tactics of Liberal innovators. I've seen them used in one denomination after another, and I've seen their results. One after another, Protestant denominations continue to cave in to the pressure of these people. The results are always the same. Churches begin to question traditional morality, then they propose "alternative" interpretations of morality, and then finally they embrace those "alternatives" interpretations. Once the deception takes hold, Liberals turn to their next tactic that solidifies their takeover -- intimidation. All the while, traditional conservatives within these denominations bolt like rabbits. This only serves to finalize the victory of Liberals in their takeover of mainstream Protestantism.

When this happened in American Catholicism, the Liberal tactics were the same. The only thing they didn't count on was the pope. You see, unlike most Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church in America DOES NOT have the final say on changes and innovations. American bishops must answer to the pope, and the papacy is an institution that has confounded Liberals for nearly five centuries now. So while American Catholics have been subjected to the agenda of Liberals in the American Church, the pope sat in Rome gently reminding us that changes to Catholicism in Vatican II were not nearly as drastic as many in the West had made them out to be.

Just how far has American Catholicism slipped away from the ideals put forward in Vatican II? Well, let's just look at some facts about what Vatican II actually said, and didn't say...

  • First and foremost, Vatican II changed no single doctrine in the Catholic Church. Believe it or not, the teachings of the Church are exactly the same today as they were before Vatican II. If you've been told otherwise, you're a victim of the Liberal agenda, perpetrated by the invocation of the bogus "Spirit of Vatican II."
  • Second, Vatican II never abolished the original Latin (Tridentine) mass. Unfortunately, Rome discouraged it for many years, and now many American bishops have all but made it illegal in the USA, but in spite of that it still remains the "mass of the ages."
  • Third, Vatican II never mandated that the new mass (Novus Ordo) be exclusively celebrated in local languages. In fact, the language of the Second Vatican Council makes it clear that the new mass was intended to be primarily celebrated in Latin. The use of local vernaculars was to be in addition to, not in replace of, Latin.
  • Fourth, Vatican II never mandated that the priest say mass facing the congregation. It's not wrong to do that, but Vatican II never mandated it either.
  • Fifth, Vatican II never mandated that local churches destroy their old alters and railings. It only allowed for these things to be changed if the local congregation approved.
  • Sixth, Vatican II never elevated the laity to the same level as the priesthood within the Church. It simply reaffirmed the Biblical fact that the laity are "priests" of the Gospel in their relation to the secular world.
  • Seventh, nothing in Vatican II suggests that the laity are to mimic the priests in their gestures during mass. Nothing in Vatican II mandates the holding of hands during the "Our Father." Nothing in Vatican II suggests that traditional Gregorian chant is to be abandoned.
  • Eighth, Catholics are still supposed to go to confession just as often as they used to. The only difference being the emphasis is to be on the need for forgiveness, rather than the guilt of sin.
  • Ninth, Catholics are still supposed to abstain on all Fridays of the year. The only difference being that the local bishop (rather than the pope) determines what they are to abstain from. Fridays during Lent are still days of abstinence from meat, just as they always have been.
  • Tenth, personal conscience is not, and never has been, the sole arbitrator of personal morality. The Church does not teach that morality is relevant based on conscience. What it teaches is that a well formed conscience is grounded in traditional Catholic morality, and that such a well formed conscience can help people make good moral choices in areas the Church hasn't already addressed.
  • Eleventh, Vatican II never even remotely indicated the notion that women could be ordained to the clergy.
  • Twelfth, Vatican II upholds the traditional disciplines of the priesthood, and never gave any indication that sexual deviants (like homosexuals, pedophiles and womanizers) should be ordained "if they promise to remain celibate."
So all that being said; what should American Catholicism look like today if it were following the directives of Vatican II to the letter? Well, in many ways it wouldn't look a whole lot different from American Catholicism before Vatican II. The new mass (Novus Ordo) would normally be celebrated in Latin, with an occasional English (or Spanish) mass provided here and there. Even the English version of the Novus Order would follow more closely to the literal Latin without paraphrases. The old Latin mass (Tridentine) would be regularly celebrated in at least one parish in every diocese. Catholic children would receive catechism in much the same way as they did fifty years ago. Some priests would celebrate mass facing the congregation, while others would celebrate facing the same direction as the congregation. Modern churches may look modern, but they would incorporate much of the same basic design patterns as older churches did. For instance, the crucifix and tabernacle would always be in the front of the sanctuary, never to the side. There would be a greater sense of reverence during the liturgy of the mass, and the congregation would not mimic the gestures of the priest, or hold hands during the "Our Father." While newer forms of worship music would most certainly be used, there would still be a remnant of Gregorian chant as the underlying base for all liturgical music. Most American Catholics would still go to confession either weekly, bi-weekly or at least monthly. Lay Catholics would not be so confused by today's moral issues, and be more educated in the moral teachings of the Church. Self-loathing Catholics like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry would have been formally excommunicated long ago. Openly gay men would not be ordained as priests, and some 80% of alleged sexual abuse within the Church would have never happened.

So how far has American Catholicism slipped away from the letter of Vatican II? You be the judge of that. What inspired this little rant of mine was a story I read about some renegade priests trying to usurp the authority of the Church on social morality, thus pushing their own Liberal agenda on the unsuspecting lay Catholics of their own congregation...

Priest pulled after refusing to support anti-gay marriage push {read the story here}

Multiply this kind of problem by a thousand and you can begin to see why so many lay Catholics in America are confused about the role of the Church in their lives...

Poll finds divides between Vatican, US Catholics {read the story here}

Thankfully, the Catholic Church is not a democracy, and never will be. As Pope Benedict XVI cleans up the American Catholic Church, American Catholics will be faced with some tough decisions. Either they can choose to be more Catholic, and actually apply the teachings of the Church to their opinions and choices, or they can embrace the Liberal "innovations" of American Neo-Catholicism and find themselves outside the Church in a few years. If they choose the latter, than rest assured they will still have a church. The Episcopal Church will be more than willing to adopt them as their own. They'll find a home in Episcopalianism that embraces all the liturgical trappings of Catholicism, without so much concern about personal morality and liturgical orthopraxy. They can find comfort in the blessings of their female priestesses and invocations to God as "Mother" in addition to "Father." They will no longer need to worry about a pope in Rome who tells them the difference between right and wrong. They can rely on pop culture for that now. Think of the Episcopal Church as sort of "Catholic Lite." You know, like Bud Lite or Miller Lite. Just as these are examples of beer without all the calories, Episcopalianism is sort of like Catholicism without all the guilt. American Neo-Catholics will be happier there eventually, and sooner or later, you can bet they will go.

But for those who choose the former, deciding to actually BE Catholic by applying Catholicism to their opinions and choices, they will be able to take comfort in the fact that the Vatican agrees with them. They will be sheltered by the pope himself. American Liberals and renegade priests are fighting a battle they cannot win, because when it's all over, Rome rules the Catholic Church in America, not just the local bishops. They can petition all they want, and try as they may, but American Liberals will not gain any ground with the pope. The papacy is a complete mystery to them, and they don't know why. Perhaps it's because their refusal to accept the Catholic faith has itself led them to this exercise in complete futility. They've forgotten (or they don't believe) what Jesus said of Peter and his successors: "upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."