Thursday, February 11, 2016

What has happened to the womb of the Church?

What are the signs of the times? I was looking at the Holy Father speaking at the end of the Year for Consecrated life, his words were a little depressing, see for yourself. He had departed from the text prepared for him and decided to speak impromptu, and like many of his impromptu speeches it gives a sense of being deeply depressed  and more than a little depressing- see for yourself.

One of my parishioners went to another parish on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the priest who was standing in for the Parish Priest allegedly began his sermon with, "Since V2 of course, we no longer believe that baptism is necessary for salvation...."

Well, of course we have always believed that: the Holy Innocence, the Good Thief, the idea of the Baptism of Desire. It is the novelty of a priest standing in a pulpit and denying an imperative of the Lord that is new, Christ himself said to the Apostles, 'Go and baptise' and 'Unless a man is born of water and the Holy Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God'. It would blasphemous to place any restriction on God's mercy but the scriptures are clear Baptism and the Eucharist and membership of the Church are according to the Lord necessities. I can see nowhere the Fathers of Vatican II denied that.
Yes, the Council might well have made the notion of 'Church' a little more fuzzy, in the sense that the Council Fathers anxious that elements of the Church should not be separated from the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church are able to say that such things as baptism or the scriptures or even the knowledge of the name of the Jesus unites us in some way to the Church which 'subsists' in the Catholic Church. The vast majority of the Fathers were jealous that those things proper to the Church should not be separated from it.

The problem is that the very notion of 'the Church' and of Christianity can be reduced to ghostly anonymity. This is the Ratzingerian discomfort with Rhaner's idea of the 'anonymous Christian'. The Catholic, and to a great extent the Orthodox, notion of Christianity is pretty hard edged; like pregnancy, either one is one isn't. Either the Eucharist is the Body of Christ or it is simply bread, either God became Man and dwelt among us or he dis not. The Ratzingerians taking the patristic path of bringing clarity, even if it is a 'both and' theology, the Rhannerian (and at the more extreme end Kung) following the 19th century German philosophers delighting in ambiguity and uncertainty, ultimately in the the theology of Doubt, which more than occasionally rears its head in the Pope's off the cuff remarks. The truth is, at least in its effects, that doubtful and anonymous Christianity in the world of creates doubtful and anonymous Christianity in the Church. It is not unusual for people to ask, 'what is a priest for?' or 'what is religious for? perhaps increasingly and rather frighteningly, 'what is a Christian for?' Doubt and uncertainty, Christianity without any knowledge or understanding of Christianity is mark of Christianity in the recent past, like parasitic liberal it simply cannot survive, it is dying and within a generation or two will be completely dead. The attempts of old men to revive it are simply a death rattle.

The problem is that anonymous Christianity, like the theology of doubt is so uninspiring. If one reads 'the signs of the times' we seem to be leaving that period of doubt and anonymity behind. At the time of Vatican II it was possible to be both a Christian and a non-Christian, Graham Greene's novels deal beautifully with this ambiguity, the drunk faithless priest, the devout adulterer, and so forth, but we have moved on, these are images from fifty years ago.

The blood of Christians in the Middle East announces clearly that either you are willing to die for Christ or you are not a Christian at all. In Rome a few weeks ago, with the studied ignoring of the old men of the Vatican. huge crowds who came onto the streets to defend Traditional (Christian) Marriage, they of course mirrored what had happened in France last year. Today in the West increasingly one is either a Christian or else one has barely heard of Christ or his teaching. These, along with mass immigration, are the signs of the times, we ignore them at our peril.

What has changed is that 'ethnic' or 'cultural' Christianity is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Maybe it still exists in Argentina and South America but elsewhere in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America, it is being expunged by violence or government diktat or the various lobbies that oppose it, sometimes replacing it with something quite Satanic. At the peripheries of the Church there is no longer a gentle slope strewn with Christian values and people at least friendly to Christianity and willing to embrace a Christian ethos even if they reject Christ himself but now that is a sheer rocky drop into something which is increasingly anti-Christian and rejecting of Christianity.

As far as vocations are concerned, certainly where religious life is concerned, there is great need for renewal, the models of fifty years, where women religious and to some extent men left off the habit and any regular life to live as leaven in the community, seems to have failed and needs replacing urgently. Such communities though they often did good work, rarely inspired anyone to join them and often the work they started has been taken over by lay people at best but more often by people intent on a secularist agenda.

The Gospels give two models: the idea of leaven lost in the lump or the city on a hill or the lamp on a lamp-stand. I visited the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Gosport recently. they are perhaps typical of many young religious communities. They had just been joined by a priest Fr George who is probably well over 60 but the other 6 members of the community were all under 40. If we look at other religious communities that are thriving, both of men or women they are all very much committed to a deep and unambiguous spiritual life. They might well be gentle but they are tough and single minded.

The more traditionally minded might well say that the Traditional Mass and Liturgy is key, that might well be so in Europe but in many instances non-traditional congregations like the Franciscans of the Renewal or the various Dominican nuns and brothers are experiencing notable growth. What seems crucial as are our beloved Holy Father's final words remind us prayer. Where religious communities pray and therefore make Christ their centre there is growth, where they choose something else, even if it has the flavour of Christianity it dies.
Either we are for him or against him... a Kingdom divided cannot stand... no-one can serve two masters....

22 comments:

Paul Hellyer said...

The Pope and bishops The top managers of our Church go merrily on changing , improving, acommodating , altering our liturgy, our beliefs etc. But us, the people at the periphery, just don't follow or want to follow them. We don't want communion for adulterers. We don't want going soft on homosexuality. We don't want to respect Luther etc. . The letter and the spirit of Vatican II is slowly suffocating the beautiful Church of our youth. Is it any wonder there are very few vocations. Except of course the SSPX and similar traditional orders.

Delia said...

The Holy Father needs to get out more: http://www.stceciliasabbey.org.uk
Flourishing!

umblepie said...


I find it very sad to hear the Holy Father speaking publicly in this way. As you rightly say, he sounds depressed and what he says seems very negative and rather depressing. Whatever our feelings, and in response to Our Lady's request at Fatima, I believe we must pray constantly for the Pope, Christ's Vicar on earth. May Our Blessed Lady guide and protect him.

Robert said...

Ok lets analyze this. He is depressed because he hears 4 or 5 seminarians. Right. Look at these facts. (France 12 seminarians) http://www.dici.org/en/news/france-12-seminarians-took-the-cassock/
(Germany 9 seminarians) http://www.dici.org/en/news/germany-9-seminarians-took-the-cassock/
I know the SSPX!! blah blah
But they are attracting young men. NOT the Novus Ordo church of Pope Francis!!!

FSSP!!
In October the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter celebrated the admission of eleven new tonsurandi as members of the Fraternity.
http://fssp.com/press/2015/10/bishop-bruskewitz-administers-tonsure-to-11-seminarians/

Wake UP ROME!!. Your experiment has failed!!!. You want seminarians GO BACK TO TRADITION!!!.
These young men are proof of what the new generation of Roman Catholic men want. They don't want Novus Ordoism!!
Are you BLIND!! Pope Francis are you Blind!! Give it up!! If you want to be depressed than resign!!! If your change your post VII ways!!.

Palincor IG said...

I agree, I remember our priest from back in the 80's saying in the sermon I remember it verbatim 'my dear people, prayer is very powerful, and if there were enough praying Christians then all the needs of the church would be satisfied'. I've kept that as the touchstone of Christian life.

JARay said...

The commnt which you make about some priest or another saying "Since Vat II we don't believe in baptism any more" was probably his attempt to wake the congregation up. I remember hearing "Well, I'll be glad when it's all over" as the begining of a sermon at Christmas. This was indeed an attempt to wake the congregation up! I don't think he succeeded and maybe the same can be said about the congregation which heard the words you report.
Certainly there has been a massive failure in Religious Education in most of our Catholic schools. The teachers don't know the Catholic religion and far too much flannel and waffle takes the place of genuine religious teaching. It's all to do with feelings and nothing to do with knowledge.
Of course Pope Francis wants to create a mess. He said so himself and he has done his best in this regard.
Modernism is rampant from the top, down. The meeting between the Pope and Archbishop Kirill is all to do with finding those bits we can all agree on and nothing to do with the truth of the Gospel.

Catechist Kev said...

A related article to this fine entry, Fr. Blake:

http://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2016/2/8/doctrinal-questions-chicago-catholics-have-fewer-marriages-babies-and-well-priests

Catechist Kev

Athelstane said...

"He is depressed because he hears 4 or 5 seminarians."

And the snarkier minded bishop - and I know we do not have any of those - might be tempted to reply to the Holy Father with the observation that the number of annual ordinations in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires during the fifteen years of his leadership there dropped from around 50 to 12. (See John Allen, "Who Francis may be based on who Bergoglio was," National Catholic Reporter, Apr. 5, 2013.)

Gregkanga said...

Due to dysfunctional episcopal and priestly fatherhood in so many parts of the Church in the West her womb has become sterile!

JARay said...

Amidst all the doom and gloom expressed above, I think that I should tell you all that I have received an invitation from the Rector of our Redemptoris Mater Seminary inviting me to the ordination of Five yes, FIVE seminarians who will be ordained here in Western Australia by our Archbishop, Timothy Costelloe at the Cathedral on Friday 4th March at 7-00pm and I am invited to join in the supper which will follow.

JARay said...

Perhaps I should add that here in Western Australia we have two Seminaries. We have the Archdiocesan Seminary of St Charles and the Redemptoris Mater Seminary of the Neo-Catechumenates. Both Seminaries have a really good number of Seminarians so the outlook is really good here.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Was that all that he had to say? Did he suggest any other solution than prayer? And what does he mean by prayer? Laborare est orare; is the converse true Orare est laborare?
Yes he looked and sounded depressed and with reason but what are the causes of the lack of vocations?

I suggest:

1. Small Catholic families - there are plenty of sterile wombs - literally. And what have the clergy done about that? I remember Archbishop Roberts of Bombay criticising the Church's teaching on artificial contraception - like many Jesuits doing the work of the devil. And why have we had a Synod on the Family when most hierarchies have done nothing to impletement Familiaris Consortio after 30 years?

2. The Good Lord has perhaps looked at what many seminaries have been producing and said to himself "I had better hold back on all this for the moment". So less divine inspiration to become priests.

In a further sermon Pope Francis talks about the religious:

This wonder calls for constant renewal, the Roman Pontiff stressed, reminding consecrated persons that the charisms of their founders are not meant to be “sealed in a bottle” as though they were museum pieces.

I wonder what he meant by this. I heard an excellent talk by a sister at Wonersh saying that the mistake of so many religious orders after Vatican II was not to go back to their founding charisms but instead tried to adapt to the modern world i.e. they should open the bottle of which Pope Francis speaks. However I fear that he may have meant the contrary - for ever changing.

3. So many priests and religious have ceased to teach the Catholic Faith. The Church is not heard:

But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

.
(written after the first night of his marriage!!!)

The result is that Parliament has taken over the role of the Church and we now have a secular religion moralising about everything under the Sun just like the Pharisees. An intolerant religion based on law with no place for faith, grace or mercy; a theocracy not much different from that of Iran. Perhaps ISIS will sort it out all out for us in the long run.

David O'Neill said...

What troubles me most is that here in our diocese in NE England we have 'Forward in Hope' closely following 'Forward in Faith'. What we really need is for someone to stand up and accept responsibility for the state of the Church. Those bishops & priests who blindly followed the diktats of the misread Vatican 2 &, more sadly, continue to follow like blind men, must now acknowledge that the errors of the misreading of V2 with its telling the laity to take charge have created the apocraphilic times in the Church.
It is no good the Pope wringing his hands & sounding defeated; he must return the Church to obedience without the laity insisting that they know best. Let us get back to an obedient, sacerdotal Church!!

Jacobi said...

Baptism is necessary, and that includes Baptism of Desire and of Blood. CCC,1250, 1260, 12812.

That is not traditional Catholicism, just orthodox Catholicism.

Simon Reilly said...

The controversy surrounding the word passage: "This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church" that appears in Lumen gentium, is even more perplexing when one discovers that the word "subsists" has a clear and unambiguous meaning, exactly the opposite to what people have taken it to mean; and what is more, any student of philosophy would have known its meaning. Dr. Hilaire Morris O.S.M tells us the meaning of the word "subsistence" in his book "Philosophy for Beginners": "SUBISTENCE. Ultimate terminus of an individual nature by which this becomes an incommunicable suppositum [i.e person or self existing individual thing]." Therefore, when Lumen gentium states the above, it means that the term "Mystical Body of Christ" is uniquely and exclusively identified with the term "Catholic Church".

Victor said...

Those bishops with full seminaries tend to be sacked by the same Pope that decries the empty seminaries. Well, what do you make of this?

Anita Moore said...

JARay said: The commnt which you make about some priest or another saying "Since Vat II we don't believe in baptism any more" was probably his attempt to wake the congregation up...

This may be too rosy an assessment. There are in fact many priests who do not have the Catholic faith. I will go so far as to say I believe that in our time, the priests and bishops who do not have the Catholic faith are in the majority.

It occurs to me that this idea of the "anonymous Christian" is nothing more than a permutation of Luther's "invisible church" of true believers. St. Thomas More devoted a lot of pages in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies -- which ought to be required reading -- to dismantling that notion.

spiritual heart said...

I certainly do not want to slag the Pope, but you said it gives you a sense of depression to read his impromptu speeches. He reminds me so much of my manic depressive/bi polar relatives.

Gregkanga said...

I agree with you Anita, the most effective evangelizers in the history of the Church will show you that these men, and woman, were people of faith, who were themselves profoundly evangelized. They proclaimed from the rooftops what was first lived in intimacy with the Lord. They practiced living in the Lord's presence daily. The sacramental crisis in the Church has been screaming out for leadership for along time now, and guess what the Synod on the Family focused on? In orthodox dioceses this isn't a problem, because families are evangelized first before the sacraments are conferred, preparation for sacraments are about formation rather than information, especially with regards to Baptism. Most orthodox priests are true fruitful priestly spiritual fathers.

John Vasc said...

It reminds me of one of the Sufi parable-fables of Nasreddin Hodja.
His working donkey gets thinner and thinner, and finally keels over and expires.
'How terrible that my donkey has died,' says the Hodja. 'Oh why did it have to happen now - just when I was getting him used to doing without any food at all!'

John Fisher said...

The Pope seems unable to look in the mirror. Let's not forget haw he treated the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate! Let's not forget how he carried on in the balcony after he was elected pope. Let's not forget who his backers were...some of the most repulsive Churchmen like Mahoney, McCarrick, Daneels, and lets not forget the creatures he brought with him from Argentina and whom he has promoted. Let's not forget those time when back in the 1970's and 1980's when seminarians were thrown out of my local seminary for saying the rosary. The video clip you include is hardly inspiring. Sister "I got to show my hairdo". Sister "I want to dress in monks clothes". We are all confronted daily by Sister "I want to dress like a lesbian", Father "I want to look like a member of Queen".
The fault line is 1965 1970 and nothing that existed before must be done again! Really... only a reconnection with what was good from the past will save us.

Robert said...

Here is a great article Father. Won't be depressed over this.
http://eponymousflower.blogspot.com/2016/02/from-empty-seminaries-to-full.html