Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gerald Warner is wrong, but...

 Yesterday, Gerald Warner created a bit of a stir by provacatively claiming that sexual abuse was a post Vatican II problem.

How could clergy transgress so gravely against the doctrines of the Church? What doctrines? These offences took place in the wake of Vatican II, when doctrines were being thrown out like so much lumber. These offenders were the children of Paul VI and “aggiornamento”. Once you have debauched the Mystical Body of Christ, defiling altar boys comes easily.
The “neglected” sacraments and devotional practices that the Pope says could have prevented this did not just wither on the vine: they were actively discouraged by bishops and priests. In the period when this abuse was rampant, there was just one mortal sin in the Catholic Church: daring to celebrate or attend the Latin Tridentine Mass. A priest raping altar boys would be moved to another parish; as for a priest who had the temerity to celebrate the Old Mass – his feet would not touch the ground.

In order for him to uphold his thesis he would have to prove that sexual abuse either didn't happen before the VII or was much, much rarer. I don't think that is possible to prove. Indeed many of the cases now coming to light in Germany and Austria are cases where the alleged clerical perpetrator is now dead, some of them happened in the 1950s, before the Council and many of the abusers were trained and ordained before Council.

The Pope has linked this "filth" to a loss of faith, secular commentators have linked it to celibacy, Warner links it to "trendy bishops". All three are right.

The Pope of course is the most right. I watched a video recently in which an Irish priest famed for his work amongst street children said of conversion, "we've moved beyond all that". I suspect he meant: we are concerned with making a better world but without personal Salvation.

It is not VII, it is the loss of the centrality of Christ in the Church that is the heart of the problem. I think that it would be provable that the crisis is the fruit of Modernism, a direct result of the dethroning of God, a violation of the first commandment. Modernism saps belief in the power of Grace. It destroys any understanding of the Church's mission. It transforms holy dynamic celibacy into self-serving bachelorhood. It robs the priesthood and religious life of any transcendent meaning and can so often reduce it to empty loneliness.

The great exeunt from the Church after the Humanae Vitae was a crisis greater than this present one, seems not to have been a crisis over the restatement of the traditional doctrines of the Christian faith but a dam break of pre-Concilliar liberal Modernist thought.

Warner is wrong to lay this crisis at the door of VII but I suspect he is not wrong to lay it the door of "the spirit of VII". Certainly the "rupture" with the past brought about an undermining of the spirituality of the Church, cutting many off from the roots that not only gave nourishment but also support.

Warner blames post-Concilliar liturgy as being an important constituent part of the crisis, which is worth considering. One of the things that has been going through my mind recently, is the Pope's expression, "the closed circle" describing "ad populum" celebration of the Mass. If that is the constant presentation of the image of the Church in its public worship, it is easy to juxtapose this image with cover-up. The "closed circle" tends to be self serving and self interested, it tends to look to itself and be self-preserving and self congratulatory. If the priest, when he prays is constantly looking to the congregation, is he not likely to be concerned with the congregation's validation.


Anonymous said...

"Warner is wrong to lay this crisis at the door of VII but I suspect he is not wrong to lay it the door of "the spirit of VII". "

Yes, I agree completely with your analysis Father.

Dominic Mary said...

Thank you for highlighting the crux, Father : it's all ultimately down to Modernism; and I think that your point about it being the spirit of VII, not VII itself, that is the culprit is a succinct manifestation of that greater truth.

santoeusebio said...

I think the problem with Mr Warner's blog is failure to distinguish between two scandals:

1. Sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

2. Inappropriate action in respect of such abuse by ecclesiastical supperiors.

Surely sexual abuse by a tiny minority of the clergy has always been a problem. I have no reason to think it has got worse. From memory there was often the case of somebody importuning in a public lavatory - prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults. There were other types of case but generally such behaviour was regarded as fairly trivial and if it got before the Magistrates they would be happy with a promise of treatment.

The second scandal of cover-up I do believe increased since about the time of Vatican II or perhaps just before when attitudes in the Church did change and gradually things were tolerated that a previous generation would not have tolerated. The Church has certainly gone soft.

By the way I find references to V1 and V2 very confusing. I remember them as terrifying objects that arrived from the direction of Germany!

Volpius Leonius said...

VII was the fruit of a tree planted before the 60's, indeed the changes that took place in the Church can already be found been implemented in some places before the council.

The world had already infiltrated the Church prior to the council, the council was merely the coup d'etat carried out by the insurgents once they felt they were in a position to seize control.

Jane said...

So do I Father. Thank you.

Fr. Stephen Brown said...

Fr. Ray – many thanks for these insights! I have a vague memory of Archbishop Sheen observing that the Church is at her weakest when she abandons the Cross of Christ, and the most powerful when she is closest to it and embraces it. If, as you rightly say, the loss of the centrality of Christ is at the heart of the problem, then it means that for many Christians, the sharing in His Cross is no longer central to their lives – for you cannot separate Christ from His Cross. There is also something very right in what you say about the effects of priest and people looking towards each other at Mass, instead of together towards the sign of our Redemption and our only hope – the Cross.

Fr Mark said...

Father Ray
I think that this is not only wrong but very dangerous.

Wrong: because there plenty of evidence that abuse was happening before the Council, and that from time immemorial the response of those in authority has been at best to discipline the priest internally and hush the matter up exteriorly. Moreover, there have been cases of abuse within the traditional priestly groups in recent years, both those in good standing with Rome and those not. I am sorry to mention this, but it is necessary to keep it in mind because of my secdond point; viz:

Attributing abuse to the trendy post VatII Church is dangerous because it encourages parents who frequent the traditionalisrt clergy to relax due vigilance. Priestly abusers have often taken advantage of an exagerated deference to priests which has led to their enjoying an absolute trust which they have then betrayed. Parents often closed their eyes in an astonishingly naive way to behaviour (sleepovers at presbyteries etc.) which should have caused suspicion.

Clericalism, by which I mean the abuse of priestly power, manipulating consciences to the ends of personal gain and satisfaction, was taken by abusing priests to the point of crime, and it still is. One of the problems of the way Vat II has been implemented is that the muddy bathwater of clericalism has easily survived the ejection of the baby of Catholic doctrine and piety - in this respect the Council has been implemented insifficiently and not exageratedly. The solution is not a return to the pre-conciliar status quo of unchallenged clerical power. I think this point cannot be made strongly enough. Warner's article is evidence of a disingenuous and, I repeat, dangerous part pris.

umblepie said...

Good post Father. Thanks.

Michael Petek said...

Broadly right, Father - Romans chapters 1 and 2 warn of the sexual confusion and perversion which happen when Man chooses not to serve God.

Daphne McLeod's essay Will Your Grandchildren Be Catholic? is perhaps the best diagnosis of the problem I have yet read.

Was the Council to blame? No.

Then who was?

Daphne identifies the problem as the overthrow of sound Catholic education at the hands of Father Hofinger SJ at first instance, through such institutions as the now-defunct Corpus Christi College.

There, Catholic schoolteachers, hitherto firm in their faith, were told by priests and nuns to discard it in favour of a syllabus of faithlessness.

That was a generation which had sternly been taught not to criticise a priest or a bishop.

Trouble was, that too many of the laity took it too far and set aside their own responsibility to read the italicised part of the Penny Cathechism's treatment of the Fourth Commandment:

A. We are commanded by the fourth Commandment to honor, love, and obey our parents [and our bishops, pastors, magistrates, teachers, and other lawful superiors] in all that is not sin.

jangojingo said...

Perhaps the "filth" was there prior to V11, as you say Father, we cannot be sure. I think the Internet (post V11 technology) makes transparent those things that were secret before the rise of the Internet. Secrets are now much harder to keep. Without the presence of the Internet I am sure the Catholic bishops, who for decades had refused to deal with this "filth", would have continued in their ways of shifting "filth" to other parishes.

Unknown said...

I am afraid to say, father, that if you look at the statistics from America (by far the worst place for sexual abuse by clergy) there is, indeed, an increase in sexual abuse during the 50's BUT that increase was nothing compared with what came after. The late 60's, 70's and early 80's are the periods into which the vast majority of cases fall. Coincidence? I think not.

Jack said...

\\Indeed many of the cases now coming to light in Germany and Austria are cases where the alleged clerical perpetrator is now dead, some of them happened in the 1950s, before the Council and many of the abusers were trained and ordained before Council. \\

Father, you have said here EXACTLY what I inuitively felt.

The John Jay report confirms your evaluation.

There is an entire genre of fiction: "I was a teenaged Catholic before Vatican 2". A common theme in such stories and novels is the guilt about sex instilled in the characters.

Then when in the early 80's, hints of clerical pedophilia were being wafted on TV talk shows, I was puzzled. Something here clearly did NOT compute.

mwidunn said...

One of the THINNEST documents of Vatican II is the one on the "Reform of Priestly Life."

'Nuff said.

Jacobi said...

After Vat 11, Secularism, widespread in society, also affected some within the Church. Sexual abuse has doubtless always occurred, but given the spirit of revolution and licence, some individuals within the Church and there number was small in comparison with other churches and organisations, seized their chance and rejected moral constraint, producing the disaster we have today. The abuse problem is now seen to be predominantly homosexual in character and therefore has nothing to do with conventional celibacy.

Similar licence was shown in others fields producing the doctrinal relativism and liturgical confusion and banality we have today.

The bishops must carry much of the responsibility since they failed in their duty to understand and control the chaos.

The Pope in his recent letter repeatedly refers to the neglect of Sacramental and Devotional practices – and to the failure of the bishops and superiors to discipline under the provisions of canon law.

Asshole said...

I too immediately recognized the timetable problem in Warner's piece, however, VCII is still central, not as the cause, but as a sister symptom of the problem. VCII didn't just happen. It had its causes. Priest sex abuse/cover up (and the inability of the Church to effectively deal with the problem), didn't just happen, either. It too had its causes as well.

Both had the same causes, and those causes have their historical roots much earlier in the century: just about the time that folks like Beauduin, Guardini, Michal, and Botte came on the scene.

Sharon said...

The truths in Warner's article are undermined by his over the top language e.g. 95% of bishops should be sacked. How did he arrive at this figure? He seems to assume that if only hadn't left the Latin Mass then everything would have been alright.

The Canadian bishops have deplored the attack on the pope by Christopher Hitchens - his article was the worst I have ever read criticising any leading figure.

In After Asceticism the authors said:

Because the purpose of religion has changed, this ancient understanding
of the ascetical tradition has faded in the Catholic Church. Fasting and
abstinence —until recently, core features of ascetical discipline —are not
specifi cally mentioned in the apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis
(1992) or in the encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (1967); these are the most
important statements on the formation of Roman Catholic seminarians and
priests since Vatican Council II. References to ascetical discipline in popular
books on priestly formation and religious life are rare and mention of fasting
as a way of life is virtually non-existent. The lifestyles of many diocesan and
religious priests—not to mention whatever dietary discipline remains—appear
indistinguishable from the laity that they serve.

Sadie Vacantist said...

Even Archbishop Martin in Dublin admitted that the Church dealt with these problems more effectively BEFORE Vatican II not that the problems didn´t occur.

The issue here is how the bishops dealt with these issues? From what I saw in Boston it was a total shambles.

Vatican II was meant to improve the pastoral approach to these issues when in reality it made them worse.

Warner has a point.

I also predict there are more problems in store with the new movements which have gained prominence since the Council.

mikesview said...

Father, What do Bishops actually DO? (The English and Welsh ones, that is)

Adulio said...

The solution is not a return to the pre-conciliar status quo of unchallenged clerical power.

Fr. Mark - we have a new case of clericalism after Vatican II. It just happens to be clericalism of bishops doing whatever they want in dioceses and acting like popes. That is post-Vatican II collegiality for you.

Adulio said...

It is not VII, it is the loss of the centrality of Christ in the Church that is the heart of the problem.

Have you read Gaudium et Spes then? If there ever was a document that exalted man...

Wasn't it Pope Benedict who said as Cardinal Ratzinger that Lumen Gentium had bits of semi-pelagianism?

Fr Ray Blake said...

I don't allow anonymous comments but I had this one:

I don't know what happened with VII as I barely remember it. However I am a survivor of many years of abuse (not sexual) by my parents.
My sister tried to get help once in Confession. She told the priest what we were going through. He told her "Don't be silly. You have good parents. They come to Mass every week!"
Needless to say she aint Catholic now!
I am a revert.
I know that many abuse victims and survivors faced the attitude thrown at my sister.
Something was going on - what was it?

I hope I have never said that to anyone, unfortunately I can understand the naivety of priests in the past, the same with social workers, teachers and police.

From my own experience as a penitent when I was younger, I think priests often fail to understand the gravity of what is being said to them

Mike Cliffson said...

Dear father
Iwas born in 1950.
I ve left comments around the web on something that does not seriously trouble me day to day
(Prime necessary awreness : As a great sinner myself there's a sort of collary of the communion of saints where my own sin ripples out in one way and lack of saintliness means I leave other ciculating sin free to keep bouncing about rather than getting stuck on mycross and going under, all in Christ, I may be expessing that badly, or mistaken pls correct paternally if so;
historical ways Satan deluded our generation perhaps secondary 4 me and easily dilatente temptation)
nonetheless ,
the reaction to humanea vitae can hardly be very related to, nor cuased by, vatican II, it was too close.

I really do wonder about that.

That " the changes" were already not helping many of the faithful remain steadfast is plausible. That they caused the wobbliness, no.
Your addition to warner seems to me very discerning of you:
From " the great exeunt ......to ..
the Spirit of Vatican two."
Yes, latent modernism explains a lot.
Even so, I just can't square my memory of the church in England in the 50s and sixties to the rejection by so many laity of humane vitae.
I may be wrong but I feel there was obviously some thing more very widespreadly wrong.

shane said...

Gerald Warner has another article on the abuse scandals in today’s Scotland on Sunday:


The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...