Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Poorer Church, a non-Pelagian Church, a re-Orientated Church

The Pope talks about a poorer Church, so did his predecessor. It is very simplistic and I am of that generation that would see a poorer Church in terms of "The Shoes of the Fisherman" but that is a bit superficial, probably adolescent and actually in terms of the Roman Church would merely mean the Pope transferring a mass of 'treasures' and buildings from its care to the care of the Italian State, according to the Lateran treaty most of what the Church cares for actually belongs to "humanity".

A poorer Church could mean bishops and other clergy driving older cars, going to a cheaper tailor, drinking beer rather than wine, having a more working class rather than middle class lifestyle. I can't imagine that will convince anyone. Although I must say I am shocked to hear bishops talking about trips to Sandringham for the weekend or about dinner parties with the great and the good, the powerful and the political, I am not sure whether that in itself constitutes a 'rich' Church. I suppose actually it shows an orientation towards wealth and power rather than a healthy disdain for such things. I was certainly shocked by the appearance that the Catholic Education Service under Oona Stannard seemed to be enthral to the Labour Government and various other Catholic organisations involvement with government departments. Some of the discomfort I feel comes from my own inverted snobbery but more it comes from a sense that there is something wrong with the Church so orientated.

Rather than discreet chats in the corridors of power with Minister and Civil Servants I would be much happier if our Bishops looked more to the struggling Catholic masses and St Laurence-like called them to demonstrate in the courtyards of the powerful, whilst at the same seeing a responsibility to teach those masses clearly the Catholic faith, but maybe their Lordships understand that the Church orientated to towards such masses is likely to prove disappointing. There is nothing worst than marching towards the barricades and finding no-one is following.

Father Simon Henry has an interesting post in which he points out, as we of a particular stripe tend to point out, the wholesale failure of much that has taken place over the the last few decades of motivating 'the once Catholic masses'. He is right, everything seems to be going down the pan. I was talking to school governor who just appointed a new head teacher, of the five applicants, they appointed the only one who was practising and they were not entirely happy with her but the panel thought that if they re-advertised they might get no practising Catholic applicants. We are getting to a stage where we will soon have to admit that we do not simply have a vocations crisis with priestly vocations, but with every other area of Catholic life has a shortage of vocations. An impoverished Church, rather than a poorer one is actually what we are going to get, like it or not, but perhaps a poorer Church though is actually about our acknowledgement of our poverty and weakness and that left to ourselves, without God, we are doomed!

Reading through Fr Simon's catalogue it seems as if what he is suggesting is that a great deal of what is wrong stems from an almost Pelagian attitude that has been part of our catechesis and our celebration of the sacraments for the last fifty years. In brief, our catechesis, like our sacramental celebrations have been person centred rather than God centred. We have emphasised human skill, human ingenuity, the human nature of worship, the human-centredness of catechesis and avoiding anything to do with God. Ratzinger spoke of the 'closed circle' not just of contemporary worship but of contemporary Church life, similarly of "the community celebrating itself", of "self reverentialisam". We can see much of that in modern funeral liturgies, 'A Mass to celebrate the Life of ...." "A Memorial Mass for ...." and indeed the life of an individual is celebrated and the 'Eternal Memorial established by Christ for the Redemption of the Living and the Dead' is merely architectural background, with or without Christ, the dead will attain his or her reward, there is nothing more Pelagian than that. Ratzinger's answer was 're-orientation'. It is the dependency on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ which is lacking.

When Ratzinger spoke of 're-orientation' it was certainly about liturgical re-orientation but that was only a symbol. From the late 1950s he had spoken about a 'smaller, poorer Church', for him a poor Church was one which placed God at the centre, that hungered for and begged from God. When we speak about 'poverty' in the Church what we are actually speaking about is a Church that recognises its poverty and powerlessness but more importantly its absolute dependence upon God. It knows that without God it is merely a gang of thieves and brigands destined for damnation.

The problems with the Vatican Bank, the 'Gay Lobby', the 'Masonic Lobby' isn't merely deviant naughtiness on the part of a few sinful individuals but a metaphysical dysfunction that can only be remedied by a radical metanoia, a re-orientation of the Church as whole, a literal turning towards Christ in every aspect of its life. With a 'closed circle' or a "the community celebrating itself" a move as Pope Francis says 'to the peripheries' is a movement outside of that circle or that community to that which is beyond, in such circles or communities it is God himself who is at 'the peripheries'.

A poorer Church therefore is one that recognises its need for re-orientation because centred on itself it is heading to ruin. For Benedict the symbolic re-orientation of worship was of absolute significance because it was about the Church looking beyond itself towards God as true believers rather than looking inwards to itself as a congregation of self sufficient Pelagians.

Yes, I am saying the post-Concilliar Church is essentially Pelagian.


Long-Skirts said...


Vocations lost
Schools are closed
Liturgical dancers
Staged and posed.

Churches demolished
None catechized
But that Society of Priests
Must all be despised.

Their vocations are growing
They've schools for the souls
They're ruining our plans
Our new church, our goals

And on top of it all
They love Church and Pope
After all of our years
To tear down, destroy hope.

But like Nagasaki that
Fateful day --
We've dropped the A-bomb
Of our sins to obey,

Yet still from Church ashes
They rise like that bell
From Urakami Cathedral
The whole Faith they still tell

And that bell rings daily
And that bell of the "old" Mass
For all Catholic children
Every day in school class.

Their Churches are growing
There's much catechizing
That there's absolute Truth is

Their new Seminary
In the States, it does rise
And bells, more bells
Each one did baptize!

But St. Pius X Priests
Don't follow, we advise…
These new "hidden Christians"
We’ll psychologically martyrize!

George said...

You're right with your assessment, Father.

The spirit of Pelagianism is part and parcel of the attitude that I can pick and chose whom I support with charity, choosing only the fittest and more deserving candidates, even if my standards of fitness exclude generally all the poor people. Not only is this a mightily convenient way of keeping my purse strings closed, but it also means that I do not need grace and forgiveness promised in Gospels for those who conduct acts of corporeal charity. The Gospel is replete with messages telling us to be perfect. Yet if we cannot be perfect, then be loving, kind, forgiving, and charitable. God offers us such an easy way. How amazingly generous. "Forgive, He asks of us, and He will Forgive." Forgive your brother a farthing debt, and I will forgive you the greatest of sums.

Indeed, Charity covers a multitude of sin, so St. Peter tells us.

Those resistant to charity are material Pelagians.

If one recognizes his own rotting sinfulness, as all the saints do, he must be inspired to give without counting the cost. Charity covers a multitude of sins. Only the self-sufficient have time to sit in judgment of the poor. The rest of us poor spiritual slobs need to give without counting the cost, lest we end up in the next world the miserable beggar and the poor the rich man. (Luke 16:19-31)

johnf said...

You are right , Father. Yet this present Hoy Father has now twice accused traditionalists of being pelagians, whereas the boot is on the other foot.

A case of a very dirty pot calling a shiny kettle black.

Also in regard to the Ricca affair, he talked about sins of youth. Ricca today must be about 60, so he would have been in his late 40's at let when he was caught cavorting with rent boys and Swiss army officers in Uruguay.
Not quite a sin of youth is it?
An admirable trait of our beloved Benedict was that when he realised that he had made an error ( eg Regensberg address, and lifting the exccummunication of the SSPX without knowing about Williamsons antisemetic views) , he immediately apologised and asked forgiveness, though it did not come very easily from some Archbishops, notable Kelly of Liverpool, who wrote an excoriating sermon criticising the Pope.
Somehow I can't see Pope Francis apologising for anything. He is too humble to do so

Nicolas Bellord said...

Am I correct in thinking that Pelagianism is the belief that I do not need the grace of God in order to stop sinning?

gemoftheocean said...

Ah, Father. You are so English regards the so-called "class system." I think you fret too much re: some clerics hob-nobbing with "the great and the good."

You seem to forget that the money has to come from SOMEWHERE for social services the church provides - you seem to forget the reality of where those generous checks come from! You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. Willie Horton, [a famous US bank robber] once was asked "why do you rob banks" and he said "because that's where the MONEY is." For the really big projects it never hurts to have some people who can write that 10 thousand pound check!

I never thought very much about the late Bishop Maher of San Diego. But one thing fabulous that he DID do was put a wheeler-dealer type priest from New York, Father Joe Carrol[sp?] in charge in the 80s in revamping and vastly expanding the services of the local St. Vincent de Paul society. The bishop asked the priest's panel "who's the biggest hustler out there?" And everyone agreed it was Fr. Joe. Through the effort of Father Carroll he was a prime mover and shaker of shaking a tremendous amount of money to build what was and is considered one of the finest such projects in the US. People from all over the world regularly came to see it. He got a comprehensive center built, low cost housing built, medical professionals who donate services so that the poor could be better served, drug counseling services, all manner of things. And a BIG part of that was cajoling people with money to donate money and/or services. I suspect rather similar glad handing goes on with your bishops and other "powers that be." There is no reason to automatically sneer at "the rich." Many of them are good, decent people.

I don't know about you, but I have NEVER, EVER, not even ONCE gotten a job from a poor person. They provide JOBS.

I know from long association with my former parish in San Diego, that on the QT many of the wealthy parishioners gave to the pastor's "slush fund" of emergency money when someone in the parish was in need. And the recipient never knew that "so and so" was the real donor of monies. We had quite a nice parish in Old Town in San Diego. It is economically very diverse. We had "rich people" on the top of the hill in the "old money" section of town, while quite a few others came from nearby areas that weren't well off at all. ALL the groups mixed socially. At an annual fund raiser, for instance a prominent San Diego judge was ALWAYS known to everyone in the parish as "Bill." He liked it that way and would have none of "Judge so and so" -- not in the parish. I know we had at least one multimillionaire too that did a lot of "quiet work" and the upper crust "ladies who lunched" joined in to do a lot of good unsung deeds (along with the other ladies who were not so well off.) You wouldn't know about their good works unless you were actively engaged in some of these efforts yourself. It was considered "not kosher" to mention "do you know Father needed emergency funding for X and was able to raise it right away because parishioner Y donated?"

Anyway, Fr. Joe changed a run-of-the mill St. Vincent de Paul operation into a stellar model -- all because he was a fabulous glad hander of not only "regular people" but also the movers and shakers. EVERYONE in town, no matter what faith or no faith loves him. Here is a small sample of what he accomplished.

In 1982 when Father Joe 1st took over, the St. Vincent De Paul center was a soup kitchen and thrift store. He recently retired and the fund raising now is about 40 million dollars a year. Earlier this year Father received an extremely rare "Citizen Service before Self" award which was a national award presented to only 3 people nationwide.

Unknown said...

On May 25th 1976 Archbishop Lefebvre
preached in the Basilica of Maxentius a sermon entitled "The One True Religion" in which he puts Our Lord Jesus Christ at the centre of the mass,the sacrements,the faith and each individuals life.It is as relevant today as it was then and is the antidote to the problems highlighted by yourself and Father Simon Henry.The sermon is too long to publish here but it is in Apologia Marcel Lefebvre by Michael Davies.

Ttony said...

John the Lutheran posted this here a couple of days ago.

"The problem with modern eucharistic piety is that in expressing a sense of the presence of Christ in the community, it constantly teeters into Pelagianism, a comfortable sense of the simple continuum between human and divine community. The painful and contradictory reality of our unity in Christ despite our class and racial antagonisms, our divergent interests, our fears and mutual suspicions, the sheer brokenness of human society, is buried under a cosier sense of the niceness of all being together."

It's from Eamon Duffy's "Faith of our Fathers" around the point where he asks you to look at the body language of people going back to their places after Communion and ask yourself if they really believe that what they are consuming is the Son of God.

Scott Woltze said...


The reason the last two popes have accused some traditionalists of tending to pelagianism is exactly because they think they are shiny kettles (thanks to following tradition) while the rest are black. And so you are vindicating their analysis. If traditionalists are more faithful Catholics, then what credit is that to them? They should be. After all, they have been given the great grace of traditional devotions, liturgy and practices. We are all poor sinners, and the unchecked venial sins of a traditional Catholic may smell worse that the grave sins of an 80s-era lapsed Catholic.

Supertradmum said...

Catholics have made socialism into a god instead of God, which plays into the pelagian heresy. One no longer has to give alms or befriend the poor.

Our Church in America lost its edge when it stopped being an immigrant Church, a sign of contradiction in the world, and became middle class America going to Mass on Sunday with middle class ideals and snobbery.

I quit going to coffee mornings in my parish in England when ALL the conversations were on holidays abroad and re-decorating the house. Complaints about weather in Ibiza drove me away to a corner, where a small Nigerian family was having coffee. We talked about GOD. Again, the class system is not an evil in itself, contrary to the Marxists, but the thinking of the classes may be.

Anil Wang said...

I think the main focus of the poorer church is a recognition of two things:

(1) If we do not recognize that all is grace and we approach God, in our worship and our lives, with a sense of entitlement, and demand to be catered to, we're spoiled brats, not children of God. Poverty of spirit is essential to all we do.

(2) If we don't fast, go to confession, perform the works of mercy, and just do the minimal required to be in good standing and live our lives like everyone else....if we don't suffer martyrdom (white or red) for our faith daily, we're comfortably lukewarm and Jesus will vomit us out.

It most certainly does not mean:
(1) Divesting of all donated culture and preserved texts that actually cost money to keep maintaining. If the Vatican does not maintain the treasury of humanity, they will end up in private collections...inaccessible to the poor.

(2) Stripping of the churches....This is the Judas solution (John 12:5) which was rejected by Jesus. And would actually rob the poor since in many poor communities, a beautiful Church is the closest thing to wealth that they will ever have.

(3) Having a siege mentality, and believe that we're a remnant in an apostate Church, so we must preserve the faith for the chosen few and not "waste effort" evangelizing to the great unwashed, the poor, and broken hearted since we're too poor in motivation to help anyone else but ourselves.

WRT Pelagianism, I think this is overstressed. Yes, there are people who wear a brown scapular and regularly receive a plenary indulgence, and go to "the right churches", and believe they've got it made, and everyone else can go to Hell. But far more often today, the problem is "everyone goes to heaven except Hitler and Stalin" so we don't need to do anything or change in any way since "God is Love" and "God understands"....And if we do fall short, "there's always purgatory". IMO, this is Pelagianism to a much higher degree. Poverty of spirit is the only thing that prevents us from falling on one side of the ditch or the other.

parepidemos said...

johnf @7:32 Your sarcastic closing comment regarding Pope Francis is shameful, Sir. Shameful.

John Nolan said...

In 'The Shoes of the Fisherman' was the tiara used the one given to Paul VI by the people of Milan which he sold off with indecent haste? At the time it was likened to a space capsule. And did I spot Horace Rumpole as one of the Cardinal Deacons?

Hughie said...

I appreciate the gist of what you say, Fr, but sometimes politicking is required. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League across the pond commented on one such effort yesterday: "SB 131 (would suspend the statute of limitations for one year in cases where someone claims he was molested when he was a minor in a private institution, that is a Catholic Church institution, but NOT in the public schools, where most abuse has taken, and still takes, place)never got out of committee today. While the bill can still be voted on during this legislative session, time is running out. The fact that it stalled today is encouraging.

This bill has more to do with punishing the Catholic Church for offenses alleged to have been committed decades ago than it does with protecting minors today. The bill is also an affront to fairness on another level: it gives the biggest offenders of all—those who work in the public schools—a pass.

The Catholic League salutes the California bishops, ably led by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, and the California Catholic Conference."

But he then pays tribute to those in the pew who took the lead from their bishops: "We also commend all those Catholic League members in California who let their voices be heard; we were happy to lead them. It goes to show that if our side is to win, we must raise our voices."

But finishes on a cautionary note: " No one can hear those who speak softly."

johnf said...

Scott Woltze - how dare you presume to see into my soul!

I know my sins, and never have I thought myself better than anyone else. In fact there are many people in my parish whose spirituality and goodness put me to shame. If I get to the EF Mass, which is becoming less and less likely as my health deteriorates, it is to get spiritual refreshment.

parapidemos, the shamefulness is to allow to remain in post a Monsignor whose whose well documented behaviour 13 years ago is quite sordid. If this man had any integrity he would have resigned and saved the Holy Father the trouble.
The Holy Father made a quip about not seeing anyone with the word 'gay' on his ID. But I do hope he is asking the questions as to how Mgr Ricca's CV was wiped clean and who did it. If this is not prima facie evidence that the Gay Lobby is active in the Vatican, I don't know what is.

Dom said...

I think quite a lot of churches are very middle-class. There is a certain comfortable atmosphere- they have even decorated the inside of churches with a certain middle-class retro Ikea style. Lots of wall-to wall fitted carpet and light wood. very little decoration, except for a few rather 'naïve-modern' banners/ slightly abstract representation of Our Lady. the music and sentiments are the same- it's all very comfortable and it bores people to death unless you are one of the inner core of organisers/ extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. These people are deeply hostile to anything which challenges their view of the Church or what it stands for.

Thanks, that is my rant for the day.

Jacobi said...

There are some buzz-words doing the rounds at present. Misunderstanding is inevitable.

One such is “Pelagian”, another being of course “mess”. A good dictionary or perhaps, the Catholic Encyclopaedia, or maybe even Wiki should be consulted first. But above all it would be better if they simply were not used. What is needed in today is clarity, not confusion.

All dictionaries agree that Pelagius denied Original Sin, asserted that Man was a not fallen creature, but could attain Salvation by his own efforts and without Divine Grace. Implicitly, if not possibly explicitly, he denied the Divinity of Christ and saw Christ as a holy man giving only good example.

Recently, Brazilian youth were advised to go out and make a mess. That means they are to make things even more dirty and untidy, or maybe, further bungle things up. I assume they were not being exhorted to create living quarters for the military.

To accuse traditional orthodox Catholics of Pelagianism is just,.... well, what is the word,... wrong.

May I say Father that your use of the word is absolutely correct. The liberal/Modernist mindset that has beset the Church so deeply in the post-Vatican II period, the belief that we do not need Grace and Catholic orthodoxy and can work it out for ourselves is certainly and classically, Pelagian.

•In fairness to Pelagius, I believe he denied that he actually preached “Pelagianism”.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I suspect when the BofR uses Pelagian with reference to new 'Traditional' orders he is referring to such groups as the Legionaries of Christ or other Spanish influenced groups who tend to stress obedience to 'the Rule' or the founders will.
I think he has more experience of them and the problems they created in BA than say the FSSP or FFl.
His problem is the use of the word 'Traditional'.

John said...

@Dom - I agree. To expand a little on your comments, the music presented "at" the Mass, frequently tritely devotional and massively Pelagian, has contributed so much to the degradation of the Liturgy and thus to the degradation of the hearts and minds of the faithful who have become what they sing (or attempt to sing).

We desperately require a return to the music "of" the Mass. Bishops and priests must be much better formed in a proper liturgical aesthetic, i.e., a throughly Catholic aesthetic philosophy and practice, so they can impart to their congregations the true nature and orientation of sacred music.

Meanwhile, informed laity must continue to engage our peers by shaping conversations, fostering liturgies that offer only the music "of" the Mass and hosting conferences that promote authentic liturgical music, for starters, in order to reshape the liturgical culture of the Church.

Hermit Crab said...

Father, you say:

1. A poorer Church is one that recognises its need for re-orientation because centred on itself it is heading to ruin.

2. For Benedict the symbolic re-orientation of worship was of absolute significance because it was about the Church looking beyond itself towards God.

3. The post-Concilliar Church is essentially Pelagian.

Brave words, and inspired !

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