RODRIGUEZ:John Allen sits down for an interview with Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras. You may recall that Rodriguez made some intemperate remarks at the height of the clerical sexual abuse scandal last year in which he compared the American press coverage to the Roman persecution of the church and even suggested that the press was biased against the Church because of its support for the Palestinians.
When they sat down, Rodriguez was clearly reluctant to reopen the issue. But when offered the chance to recant his comments, he declined: "I don’t repent,” he said. “Maybe I was a little strong, but sometimes it’s necessary to shake things up.” Allen offers the following analysis of Rodriguez' position:
In its most provocative form, Rodriguez’s challenge is this: In a world of massive poverty, racism, and environmental degradation, in which drug trafficking is choking off democracy in Latin America and HIV/AIDS menaces a generation of Africans, in which 1.2 billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water, in which the combined annual income of 12,000 laborers at a Nike factory in Indonesia is less than one American basketball player is paid for wearing their shoes, does the sexual abuse of minors by perhaps 2 percent of Catholic priests really merit saturation coverage? In a world dominated by the profit motive and the pleasure principle, is the Catholic church really public enemy number one?
On the scale of the world’s problems that the American media might address, with all of its awesome capacity to focus public attention, where does the sex abuse crisis really rate?
I think Rodriguez' points are well taken and certainly the press coverage of the scandal is not above criticism. But I think comparing the Boston Globe to Diocletian was probably over the top.
Allen also has some good stuff on the Vatican's finances, the role of lay movements in the Church, the status of canonical trials for priests accused of sexual abuse, etc.
In some ways, life at the level of parish and church-community has never been more finely-tuned, more biblically literate, or more healthy liturgically than it is today. We have wonderful programs for nearly everything, a clergy that's well-trained, and a laity that's participating more and more in the ministry of the church. For the most part, at the level of parish-life at least, we're doing a lot of things right.
But we're less apt at something else. Today, it seems, we know what to do with someone who walks through our church doors, but we don't know how to get anyone who is not already going to church to enter those doors. We are better at maintaining church life than at initiating it.
This goes to a question that Amy Welborn posed last week, which is the question of belief in contemporary culture. There are a lot of people out there who live reasonably happy and content lives without ever crossing the threshold of a Church. They are generally not "bad" people. Many volunteer their time for others, recycle their garbage, vote regularly, etc. They just don't see the point of what we Christians believe and what we do. How do we speak to such people?
GIRM IN BRIEF: Saint Anthony Messenger's Catholic Update for July focuses on the new General Instruction on the Roman Missal. A good summary for those of us who don't have time to read the whole thing. I must say that standing for all of communion is going to be a bit tricky for those of us managing small children, but so be it.
The disappearance of the divine countenance makes man fall into desolation, in fact, into death itself, as the Lord is the source of life. Precisely in this sort of extreme limit flowers trust in God, who does not abandon. The man of prayer multiplies his invocations and supports them with declarations of trust in the Lord. "For in you I trust ... for to you I lift up my soul ... I have fled to you for refuge ... for you are my God." He asked that he be delivered from his enemies (see verses 8-12) and freed from anguish (see verse 11) but he also makes a repeated request, which manifests a profound spiritual aspiration: "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God" (verse 10a; see verses 8b, 10b). We must make our own this admirable request. We must understand that our greatest good is the union of our will with the will of the heavenly Father, because only in this way can we receive all his love, which brings salvation and the fullness of life. If it is not accompanied by a strong desire of docility to God, our trust in him is not authentic.
I really needed to read something like this right now. Thanks.
LABELS:Amy Welborn, as is her wont, has posted some provocative topics for conversation over at In Between Naps. The first is as follows:
Reclaiming "Catholic" without qualifiers. Before Vatican II, the only subgenres of Catholics, it seems were lapsed ones and ethnic ones. Since then, no one is satisfied to be just Catholic and no one believes the person next to them in the figurative pew is a real Catholic. Why? How did this happen? What can we do about it?
I share Amy’s concern about this, as readers of my FAQ can attest. Fr. Jim Tucker had an interesting observation that this is a problem that seems to be particularly concentrated among English-speaking Catholics in the United States. He has not observed it in Europe nor among Hispanic Catholics in the United States.
I suspect that Fr. Jim is on to something here. In parts of Europe (particularly Southern Europe) and Latin America, one’s relationship to the Church is arguably shaped more by specific practices (e.g. participation in the sacraments, celebration of certain feast days, devotion to the saints and Our Lady, etc.) than it is by the explicit affirmation of a specific set of beliefs. To put it another way, “faith” is defined as much by what one does as by what one believes in an intellectual sense.
In the United States, our religious culture is strongly influenced by Protestant forms of Christianity, which usually stress the importance of a personal act of belief. “Works” (the sacraments, devotions, etc.) are irrelevant if the specific intellectual content of belief cannot be affirmed. We are saved by what we personally believe, not by what we do, and not because of our membership in a community of belief.
I wonder how much this kind of cultural background has crept into the consciousness of American Catholics. Early on in the history of this blog, I posted some thoughts on the difficulties I had with the teaching that priestly ordination must be reserved to men. A number of letter writers (these were the days before comments) suggested quite seriously that I should leave the Church and join a different Christian denomination.
Now in one sense, this seems very logical. The Catholic Church believes x, y, and z if I cannot affirm z, then I should find a denomination that only requires me to believe x and y. But if you really hold to what the Church teaches about baptism (i.e. that it confers an indelible character and incorporates a person into the Mystical Body of Christ, etc.) then the suggestion becomes bizarre. One should no more suggest that a person who has difficulties with certain teachings of the Church find a new denomination than one would suggest to a man having difficulties with his marriage that he find a new wife! Even the Church’s most serious penalty, excommunication, is not a denial of the person’s baptism. Its aim is to help the believer understand the seriousness of the breach that has emerged between the believer and his community so that he might repent and return to full communion. As we know, it is a penalty that is rarely employed.
So I suspect that the anxiety of at least some American Catholics that the people sitting next to them aren’t “real” Catholics has its roots in a cultural mindset that we’ve taken over, almost without realizing it, from American Protestantism. Explicitly professed loyalty to “the Magisterium” or to “the Faith that does Justice,” becomes almost the cognitive equivalent of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior. We wonder whether the people sitting in the pews next to us are “really saved.”
It’s easy to say that we should just stop doing this. But I think it’s harder than that. It’s harder because in an increasingly secular society, corporate belief may not be enough. Karl Rahner once said that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not be. In our culture, at least, people really do need to be able to articulate to themselves and others what they believe and why it’s important. I think that it’s no accident that among Catholic laypeople some of more vociferous boundary police are converts from Protestantism. It’s easy for cradle Catholics to get bent out of shape about this, but I think the past experience of those individuals—particularly those who have come from Mainline denominations—has made them sensitive to the perils of not being clear about what the boundaries of your community are.
In the end, I think we have to understand that arguments about both the cognitive and practical aspects of Christian faith have been with us since the beginning. We need to find ways of having these arguments without tearing our parishes and the wider Church apart. Sticking labels on ourselves or on others usually a means of cutting off the discussion. It suggests that I don’t really have to listen to what someone else is saying because, after all, they are an EWTN-watching reactionary/a National Catholic Reporter reading dissident.
My own view is that, theological musings about the mystical Body of Christ aside, we really do need each other. Without the “liberals,” I suspect we’d harden into some kind of sect, huddled in the Upper Room and fearful of the world outside. Without the “conservatives” I fear we’d lose our connections to the Tradition as we tried so hard to be “welcoming and inclusive” that we became indifferent to the content of our faith and the difficult demands of Christian discipleship. Sometimes you get the impression that there are people in both camps that see themselves locked in a titanic struggle for the soul of the Church. All I can say is God forbid either side should ever “win.”
NO WAY BACK:Fr. John Hughes, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, comments on Elena Curti's Tablet article from last week on the Tridentine Mass. Hughes offers a vigorous (and to my mind, on target) critique of efforts to revive the old rite. He also offers, I think, a judicious assessment of what is really needed:
The solution to the lack of reverence in worship of which many complain today (with justice) is not to be found in nostalgia for a past which most of those afflicted with this nostalgia cannot remember – and which the dwindling number of those with actual experience of the old rite remember very selectively, or not at all. The German parish priest whose assistant I was in the late Sixties commented one day on his experience of the then recently abandoned old Mass: “The Latin went in here” (pointing to his head), “but not here” (indicating his heart). His assessment was generous. A 75-year-old Jesuit university professor recently conceded: “Few of us ever really understood the prayers we were reciting.”
Urgently needed today is truly reverent, prayerful celebration of the rite used daily by the Pope, and by Catholics of the Latin rite throughout the world. We need also to repair the devastation wrought by the musical iconoclasm of recent decades. And we need doctrinally sound preaching, inspired and permeated by the Bible, which joyfully and enthusiastically proclaims the good news of the Gospel: that God loves sinners. These are the elements of what I learned, half a century ago, constitutes “the beauty of holiness, and the holiness of beauty”.