Letters to the Editor: March 2022
Education Alone Is Not Enough
Much more needs to be said on the topic of Monica Migliorino Miller’s article “The Eucharistic Theology of Pro-Abortion Catholics” (Oct.). Since its publication, the U.S. bishops have issued a document, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church” (Nov. 17, 2021) and are planning a three-year eucharistic revival campaign set to begin on the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 22, 2022). As part of the campaign, there are plans to develop new teaching materials, provide training for diocesan and parish leaders, launch a dedicated revival website, and deploy 50 priests to travel the country to preach about the Eucharist.
I have to ask: Does anyone, besides the bishops, truly believe any of this will make a significant difference in the life of the Church as long as prominent, self-professing Catholic public figures such as Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Tim Kaine continue to be allowed to receive the Eucharist? I ask this in light of statements made by the bishops and what is stated in the document.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says the purpose of the document is “to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings, to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our Creator and the life he wants for us.” As things stand, Biden et al. can receive the Eucharist while supporting and promoting abortion, same-sex marriage, transgender ideology, and critical race theory. At the same time, I can receive the Eucharist while being utterly opposed to these same things. Can both of these stances equally reflect the life our Creator wants for us? The common denominator here is reception of the Eucharist, so obviously its reception alone is doing little to nothing to “transform lives.” Do the bishops not see this?
So much more is needed if the bishops truly want to stem the tide of decline in belief in the Eucharist as the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As I see it, denying the Eucharist to obstinate and prideful Catholic public figures is the first step that needs to be taken. Education alone will not suffice because there are plenty of Catholics who know what the Church teaches about the real presence but still do not believe it, and there are likely many who do believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist yet side with Biden et al. on these moral teachings. A call to repentance and conversion is needed, along with denying the Eucharist to prominent public figures who fail to convert; otherwise, Archbishop Aquila’s words will be shown to have been sound and fury while signifying nothing.
The document itself says that Catholics in a state of mortal sin should not receive the Eucharist until they have gone to confession and received absolution. The document does this without naming names or having bishops take decisive action regarding offending public figures. Saying that Catholics in a state of mortal sin — and if supporting and facilitating abortion is not a mortal sin, then I don’t know what is — should not present themselves for reception of the Eucharist until they have sincerely met the necessary prerequisites as established by the Church reminds me of when I was constantly late for dinner during the summer of my 11th year. My parents repeatedly told me to be home on time and would scold me when I was late. They even bought me a watch. However, I still got to eat my dinner, and I continued to be late. It wasn’t until they took the step of denying me dinner so I went to bed hungry that my behavior finally changed. I was never late for dinner again, and it had nothing to do with the scoldings or the watch.
Adopting this approach would show that the Church believes what she teaches, which could affect the belief of Catholics in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If the bishops do not take this stand, I’m afraid this document and the eucharistic revival campaign will be just another example of rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Multiple letters to the editor (Dec.) strongly support Monica Migliorino Miller’s contention that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, that reception of Communion while in a state of unrepentant mortal sin is a sacrilege, and that priests and bishops are to deny, per canon 915, the scandalous reception of the Eucharist by manifest public sinners. Abortion is the intentional murder of innocent human beings, and the Democratic Party’s official platform supports abortion, including funding abortionists (whom Pope Francis has called “hired killers”) with tax money.
The 30-page document on the Eucharist that the U.S. bishops released this past November does not speak of abortion or politicians who support it. Most people do not read 30-page documents on religious beliefs. They read headlines. And headlines in the secular and religious press read like this one from the Los Angeles Times: “U.S. Catholic Bishops Approve Document on Communion, Avoid Direct Rebuff of Biden” (Nov. 17).
This is an important issue, and the bishops have succeeded in avoiding it.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
A Necessary Corollary
Jason M. Morgan’s review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology (Dec.) hits the mark, destroying the fallacy that socialist solutions are the key to curing wealth inequality.
However, I have a bone to pick with Morgan’s jarring and unfounded swipe at Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, who, he says, obtained their billions unethically. Bezos and Zuckerberg — the founders of Amazon and Facebook, respectively — obtained their billions by having key insights into market inefficiencies and unmet needs, taking entrepreneurial risks, and working day and night for years within the framework of the U.S. intellectual property system and market structures to build businesses that revolutionized how we shop and interact. They did not start and grow these businesses through lobbying; these businesses have grown because consumers value what they offer.
Of course, once Bezos’s and Zuckerberg’s businesses became mammoth, they started courting politicians, and, likewise, politicians started courting them. But that is no different from any other big business in America, where people have the right to petition and seek to influence the government. Tax and intellectual property laws in the United States reward innovators and thus contribute to wealth inequality.
It seems Morgan is uncomfortable with this necessary corollary of our market-based economy and democratic form of government. Though a bottoms-up cultural reform that leads to more individuals living life with greater respect and care for their neighbors is the surest long-term solution to inequality, government policy is an undeniable driver and will necessarily be the focus of continuing debate as changes in tax policy and incentives can be a component of a solution to inequality.
It’s unfortunate that Morgan did not explore how the government can debate and modify these policies without sliding into socialism.
JASON M. MORGAN REPLIES:
Michael Reilly makes an important distinction. In my review, I singled out Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos as examples of billionaires who made their money unethically, with the help of government boosterism brought about by lobbying and other forms of legalized grift. But the truth is just as Mr. Reilly points out: The lobbying and other untoward influence came later, long after Facebook and Amazon had been established as forces to be reckoned with in the business world. I am grateful to Reilly for calling me to task on my imprecision.
Now I want to make a second distinction, between one kind of company and another.
On one hand, there is Amazon. Here, I agree with Reilly completely, at least insofar as he points out that its founder worked hard to recognize and then fill a market need. My understanding of Bezos’s business plan is that he saw books — the first thing Amazon retailed online — as the stepping-stone to an Internet commerce revolution. Business vision like that is rare, and I acknowledge that Bezos saw opportunities others did not. We can have the Sleepless in Seattle-style debate about whether Amazon’s domination has been a good thing for everyone, but that Bezos’s entrepreneurship has benefited many cannot be denied.
On the other hand, there is Facebook. I’ve tracked Facebook back to when it was just a network for college kids, but I cannot find the common good in the endeavor. From its first iteration, it seems Facebook was exploitative at best. At worst, predatory. Facebook traffics not in things, as Amazon does at what is still the core level of its business (although Amazon is a very different animal now than back when dial-up was all the rage), but in human beings. Facebook is an ongoing, unauthorized experiment using billions of human subjects, and it essentially converts people into data, which it then sells at a premium and also feeds back into itself in order to manipulate and further monetize people.
Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2019) is mainly about Google, but many of Zuboff’s arguments apply mutatis mutandis to Facebook. At no stage in Facebook’s corporate history has the company made money ethically.
As for the intermingling of government and capital, I can think of nothing more damning of democracy than how cheaply it is sold. Consider that, in the government grift exchange, Amazon’s money spends just as good as Facebook’s. If this is a “necessary corollary of our market-based economy and democratic form of government,” then I will continue to caucus with the libertarians until democracy can come up with something better.
I enjoy reading David Mills’s observations in his Last Things columns, but I have been repeatedly struck by how he doesn’t appear to understand conservatives or libertarians. His hit on Rand Paul (Dec.) is a typical example.
First, Mills misquotes Sen. Paul, who didn’t say, “It’s not Republicans’ fault, it’s not Democrats’ fault.” He, in fact, said the opposite. Per the Bowling Green Daily News (Apr. 16, 2016), he said it was both parties’ fault. Then he went on to make a joke. He said it was our grandparents’ fault for having too many damn kids (to laughter), and then he went on to discuss how there are not enough people to keep Social Security, Medicare, and other programs solvent. He noted that at one time there were 16 workers for every retiree, and now there are only three workers per retiree. His comment about our grandparents makes no sense in context unless it was a joke.
I don’t know how Mills can characterize Sen. Paul as a lousy “libertarian poster boy for the culture of death” considering his public pro-life positions. I beg Mills to do additional research in the future. Bearing false witness is serious stuff.
Silver Spring, Maryland
DAVID MILLS REPLIES:
It isn’t clear from the Bowling Green Daily News story that Rand Paul was joking, even though people laughed. He mentions the declining number of children but says nothing about encouraging people to have bigger families. The only answers he offers are his usual libertarian ones.
I’m glad the senator opposes legal abortion, but that by itself makes him anti-abortion, not pro-life. Which is something, even if in practice, that’s mostly symbolic. His hard libertarianism rules and keeps him from considering any policy that might reduce the demand for abortion or make it easier for families to have the number of children their grandparents had.
Reconstructing Biblical Authorship
I agree with Frederick W. Marks that the reliability of the Gospels comes from the testimony of eyewitnesses and from those who were in extremely close touch with them (“The Gospels of Peter & Mary,” Dec.). This was proved by Richard Bauckham’s magisterial text, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (2006 [2nd edition reviewed by Anne Barbeau Gardiner in the April 2021 NOR — Ed.]).
I would suggest, however, that the story of the writing of the Gospel of Mark is more complex than Mr. Marks lays out. Key to a correct dating of the Gospels is the work done by several biblical scholars, for example, William R. Farmer, who proves that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke preceded the Gospel of Mark, which was supposed by some (and still is, by many) to have been the first Gospel, written in the A.D. 40s (The Gospel of Jesus: The Pastoral Relevance of the Synoptic Problem, 1994). In a similar vein, two scholars, Bernard Orchard and Harold Riley, present a convincing account of how all three synoptic Gospels were written well before A.D. 70 (The Order of the Synoptics: Why Three Synoptic Gospels? 1987). In particular, they explain that, though almost all of the Gospel of Mark is identical either to passages in Matthew or passages in Luke, there seems to have been a zigzag copying from one or the other, with some material omitted.
Orchard and Riley’s reconstruction is based in part on the most ancient text to discuss the order of the Gospels, namely, one by Eusebius, who quoted Clement of Alexandria as stating that “the Gospel of Mark came after the two gospels with genealogies,” and that it resulted from public discussion or lectures given by Peter himself to a Roman audience, which “contained a number of ‘Caesar’s knights.’” Orchard and Riley present a detailed, hypothetical, chapter-and-verse reconstruction of a series of lectures given by Peter in which Mark hands him scrolls of Matthew and Luke alternately, from which Peter reads, then hands back, and then resumes reading from the other scroll, without going back to cover material he bypasses. Among the other points they make is that Clement of Alexandria added that “the audience begged Mark to write down what Peter had said, and that Mark, after some persuasion, yielded to their request.” Also, “Clement of Alexandria makes it clear that Mark was able to come by a verbatim report of what Peter had said (a tradition confirmed by Papias) since Mark was able to supply the text on request.”
One more point: I have found no evidence in any believable ancient writing that, as Marks claims, Mary “came from a prosperous, well-connected family that made its home in Jerusalem” (italics added). What I do find believable are the detailed visions of the lives of Mary and Jesus that Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, a stigmatic nun who lived in Germany, had in the 1800s. She saw Mary as the child of Joachim and Anne, a prosperous couple of Essene faith who lived in Nazareth, where Joachim raised cattle. Sr. Emmerich saw Mary as entering the Temple to live as a serving maiden when she was three, leaving only for her marriage to Joseph when she was 14.
FREDERICK W. MARKS REPLIES:
Thanks, Mr. Baruch, for your questions.
The Protoevangelium of James, which appeared in the mid-100s and was highly revered by the early Christian Church, has Mary coming from a prosperous Jerusalem family that consecrated her to the Lord and placed her education in the hands of the Temple authorities. Portions of the Protoevangelium of James that pertain to Mary were published by Henri Daniel-Rops in The Book of Mary (1960). For the dating of the Protoevangelium, see Giuseppe Ricciotti’s The Life of Christ (1947).
The work of Bernard Orchard and Harold Riley, interesting as it may be, isn’t incompatible with what I wrote about the probability of Peter’s influence on Mark, his secretary and the man he called his “son.” Even if portions of Mark appear to be based on Matthew, I stand by my suggestion.
Regarding the work of William Farmer, I don’t believe it offers conclusive proof that the Gospel of Luke predates that of Mark. I prefer to go with the writings of men like Irenaeus, Papias, and Hermas. The apologist Irenaeus of Lyons (c. A.D. 125-203), who studied under Polycarp (himself a student of John), affirms what the Church has always taught. In addition, Bishop Papias of Hierapolis, the first prominent post-apostolic Church historian, writing around A.D. 140, affirms Mark’s authorship of the second Gospel, and he is quoted by Eusebius.
Almost 30 years before Papias, Hermas, in a work titled The Shepherd, identifies Luke as the author of the third Gospel. Finally, the Anti-Marcionite Prologues to the Gospels (c. A.D. 150-200), once again, confirms the order of composition exactly as tradition has it: first Matthew, then Mark, and then Luke.
Barring conclusive evidence to the contrary, this seems to me to be enough.
Thank you for printing my letter (Dec.) concerning Pieter Vree’s column “Traditionis Custodes: Taking a Bulldozer to an Anthill” (Oct.). I feel that Vree’s reply was both inaccurate and unfair. Vree says he didn’t call traditional Catholics “evil.” While true, he did call them “disdainful,” “divisive,” and “disrespectful.”
We had the extraordinary form in my local parish for a while, and it was successful and growing, with over one hundred worshipers. Then the priest was transferred to Mexico, and an elderly priest from a nearby town was called in to take over. He eventually lost interest and simply stopped coming without saying anything to anyone. Most of the worshipers switched to the ordinary form. I can assure you there was no attitude of disdain, divisiveness, or disrespect from those who simply wished to worship in the manner their ancestors did for hundreds of years.
Vree asks what “defect” I perceive in the ordinary form that makes it “not quite right.” Let’s look at two prayers at the offering of the bread, one from the extraordinary form and one from the ordinary form to see what they teach about what the Mass is and what it does.
- Receive, O Father, almighty and eternal God, this spotless host which I, your unworthy servant, offer to you, my living and true God, for my own countless sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all present here, as well as for all faithful Christians both living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of reaching salvation in eternal life. Amen.
- Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you, fruit of the earth and work of human hands. It will become for us the bread of life.
The first prayer, from the extraordinary form, calls the offering a “host,” which comes from the Latin hostia, for victim or sacrifice, and stresses that the offering is made for “sins, offenses, and negligences.” In other words, this prayer teaches us that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice for sins, both those of the priest and all faithful Christians. It also teaches us that the fruits of this holy sacrifice reach even beyond the grave to those souls still in Purgatory.
The second prayer, from the ordinary form, calls the offering “bread” (which at that point it is) but makes no mention of this act of worship being a propitiatory sacrifice. In fact, this prayer teaches us nothing about what the Mass is and what it does. It comes very close to the Anglican view of worship as simply a spiritual exercise with no physical ramifications. This is why I said in my letter that Martin Luther would have no problem with the ordinary form.
I could cite numerous other examples contrasting the prayers of the old and new Masses. That said, I do not question the validity of the new Mass, nor do I question the authority of the Church to institute it. That the new Mass has a defective teaching element in no way invalidates its essential function, namely, offering to Almighty God a sacrifice for sin for both the living and the dead.
I do, however, believe the Church made a serious mistake when she tried to supplant the old Mass with the new, but this lack of good prudential judgment by those in authority does not constitute a break in the indefectibility of the Church.
As to how I can “adhere to the TLM” when I have no reasonable access to it, let’s just say that deep in my heart and soul I adhere to the Church of all time, her rites and ceremonies, her teaching and authority. I pray daily that the Holy Ghost will inspire our leaders to come to their senses and give us back our liturgical birthright.
Having followed the controversy surrounding Pope Francis’s Traditionis Custodes and the responses to it, including Pieter Vree’s column (Oct.) and the letters to the editor written in response (Dec.), I am bold to suggest that it is time to remove some fuzz around the word traditionalist.
The term has at least three distinct meanings. The first is to be a Lefebvrite, one who follows the opinions of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his followers in the Society of St. Pius X. A traditionalist in this sense is one who denies the validity of the Second Vatican Council and insists on the invalidity of the Novus Ordo Mass. Let’s call such a person a Type I traditionalist.
By contrast, if Jimmy and Sally are fond of old things — things that are settled and unchangeable, practices that bear the mark of antiquity — then they too are traditionalists, but not necessarily Lefebvrites. These folks can be called Type II traditionalists.
The third type is one who believes that the content of his faith is inextricably tied to the notion of Sacred Tradition, which, for Catholics, is foundational to the whole structure of our religion. Tradition has its fullest meaning here. It is greater than the “tradition of altar rails”; it is greater than the rejection of Vatican II. A person who anchors his preferences and opinions on the understanding that there is such a thing as Sacred Tradition can be called a Type III traditionalist.
Admittedly, this tripartite breakdown is a simplification. You might be able to identify numerous other varieties of traditionalists. But for the purposes of this letter, let’s stick with these three.
What can be said about the three types? First, that a Catholic must necessarily be a Type III traditionalist. He may also be a Type II traditionalist, or he may not. But it seems evident that a Catholic may not be a Type I traditionalist. The Church has made this clear, though perhaps not clear enough. A Type I traditionalist is probably a Type II as well, but not necessarily. He may think of himself as a Type III traditionalist, though it would be difficult to support such a claim.
So, when we see Pope Francis and others railing against “traditionalists,” and we see others rising up to defend traditionalists, we must ask ourselves, “What are they talking about?” One type of tradition is worth dying for; one is nice but, in the long run, optional; and Lefebvre’s traditionalism is a highway that leads away from Christ’s Church.
Deacon Greg Sampson
I read with some incredulity Pieter Vree’s reply to my letter (Dec.). He writes, “The topic at hand, which none of my correspondents addressed…is the way traditionalists have allowed the radical factor among them to undermine Summorum Pontificum and its hoped-for ‘traditionalist renewal’ by fostering disunity through, among other means, stoking rejection of Vatican II and maligning the most recent occupants of the Petrine office.” I did indeed address that allegation in my letter, writing, “Regarding idolatry of tradition and uncharitable TLM communities…. they are particularly present in sedevacantist and SSPX circles.” Vree’s fundamental mistake is to treat the traditionalist movement as monolithic, failing to distinguish between traditionalist elements outside the Church and TLM communities within the Church.
Vree twists the clear meaning of my words into the worst conceivable interpretation, saying I accuse those “not similarly enthralled [of the TLM] of being complacent in their faith, close-minded and prejudicial, or fearful. Elsewhere,” Vree says, I accuse them of “being arrogant (or stupid)” for their “lack of understanding of the traditional liturgy.” For this, Vree charges me with “elitism.” What I said was that (assuming the TLM is accessible) every serious Novus Ordo Catholic who is interested in deepening his faith life should give the TLM a try. What, exactly, is elitist or objectionable about this statement? If one gives it an honest and serious try only to find it does not nourish one’s faith life, then one should remain in the Novus Ordo Mass. It is the unwillingness to try that is problematic and evidence of a closed or negligent mind.
What experience does Vree have of TLM communities within the Church? Has he ever attempted to attend the TLM in a sustained and serious way, frequenting a traditional parish so as to acquire some direct experience of what he is talking about?
Apparently, Vree prefers to remain with a form of the Mass that has a long-established track record of unmitigated decline and liturgical abuse against a form of the Mass that has a track record of steady growth and liturgical fidelity. The traditionalist renewal in the Church is real, however much Vree might belittle it.
For the most part, I found Joseph Panico’s letter (Dec.) reasonable. However, it has serious defects, such as his attribution of a defective motive and goal to those of the “clerical hierarchy,” including Pope Francis, who do not agree with him.
Mr. Panico’s major error is the fallacy, so often repeated by dissidents, that their opinion is the correct way, and that the path followed by the hierarchy and the major part of the Church, which is Christ’s body present in the world, is destroying the Church and the faith.
One detail concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that I see as Mr. Panico’s worst and most glaring error is his statement that “the greater depth and beauty” of the TLM “motivated” him to “study its underlying theology.”
Panico appears to have studied the “underlying theology” of the details of the TLM, rather than the far more important theology of the Sacrifice of the Mass. I do not and cannot believe that anyone who understands God’s awesome gift in the Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass could ever say, as Panico said, “I have found [the TLM] to be a deeper worship experience that nourishes one’s faith far more effectively than the NO [Novus Ordo] Mass.”
This is putting the trivial before the here-and-now re-present-ing of Christ’s one redeeming sacrifice on the Cross. Not a separate re-present-ing, but rather the extension by Christ of His one offering to the present time and place when a priest, commissioned by Christ, says the words of consecration.
I strongly recommend Scott Hahn’s study The Eucharist in Scripture (2019) to those interested in understanding the theology of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
James J. Harris
San Diego, California
So Pieter Vree writes a column about intolerant rad trads in which his main source is an article from WherePeterIs.com, a left-wing Catholic website most of us NOR readers never heard of. I then go to the website he directed us to and read the article he quoted, and his only retort to me is, Aha! you’re a liar; you DO spend time reading left-wing Catholic websites like WherePeterIs.com (letters, Dec.). Wow!
I don’t mind disagreement and being challenged, but when someone calls me a liar as Mr. Vree did, that is the end of the exchanges for me. Please cancel my subscription.
Castle Rock, Colorado
PIETER VREE REPLIES:
Bad on me — I guess — for pointing out Francisco Alberti’s inconsistencies. If, as he says, all he did was “read the article I quoted,” then how could he possibly know the editorial thrust of the venue in which the article appeared? In this letter, he calls it the “main source” of my column. Yet, in his December letter, he wrote that my main source “comes from right-wing websites.” So, which is it?
Neither. My main source was Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis’s motu proprio.
Further, how could Mr. Alberti determine that TheCatholicThing.org, the only other website I mentioned in my column, is “right-wing” unless he, you know, has actually read it? Yet Alberti claimed he doesn’t “waste” his time “reading radical websites of the Left or the Right.”
Joseph Panico asks: What is “elitist or objectionable” about saying that “every serious Novus Ordo Catholic who is interested in deepening his faith life should give the TLM a try”?
Nothing. But that’s not what Panico wrote in his December letter, which he now wishes to qualify. He wrote that if you are “unwilling” to attend “six consecutive” Sunday TLMs, then “you do not care enough [about your faith life] to try, your ideological prejudices are encasing your soul in a closed mind, or fear of the unknown is holding you back.”
Translation: If you’re not willing to do what Panico did once upon a time, then you’re careless, prejudiced, or fearful. That is precisely the attitude of disdain on display in too many TLM communities: We took the right path; the rest of the Church is on the road to destruction. Sounds like elitism to me.
In his December letter, Panico offered no concession to those who are content to worship as the overwhelming majority of the Church worships, according to the NO, or to those who try the TLM and prefer the NO. Only now does he tell us that if you like the NO, you may remain in the NO. How magnanimous of him!
Panico wonders what “experience” I have of TLM communities within the Church. I have attended the TLM in a “sustained and serious way” twice in my life, once at a parish that also offered the NO in English and the NO in Latin, a true rarity. I found attitudes of disdain (for NO attendees) disrespect (for the post-Vatican II popes), and division (regarding the validity of Vatican II) evident at both, to varying degrees, as well as distrust (of curious visitors).
This type of dissent — and yes, rejection of Vatican II and the Church of our times is a type of dissent — is, as Panico stated, “particularly present” in “sedevacantist and SSPX circles.” But it is not limited to those circles. Anyway, sedevacantists and SSPXers weren’t part of the original discussion and are beside the point of this discussion. What I wrote about “the topic at hand” had to do with the “radical factor” among traditionalists within the Church.
In my experience, such dissent often commingled with the sincere piety of those who simply prefer to worship according to the venerable Latin Mass, and it was sometimes shared by them.
I recognize that others have had different experiences. As I wrote, not all TLM communities are plagued by these “attitudes and tendencies” — it seems my interlocutors missed that part of my column — but Francis and the bishops think enough are so plagued that Summorum Pontificum should be rescinded.
When people rhapsodize about the uniform piety and good manners on display their traditionalist communities, I take pause. If the story of the Church over the past century has taught us anything, it’s that we must be careful not to mistake the outward appearance of piety (polite silence, nice clothes) for purity of heart. Remember what Christ said about “whited sepulchres”?
Panico states that I prefer to “remain with a form of the Mass that has a long-established track record of unmitigated decline and liturgical abuse.” He, as with most of my interlocutors, seems to have missed the part of my column in which I stated that the TLM is “of immense value to the Church” and “one of the great treasures of Catholicism,” and that Francis has not given “sufficient reason to abandon the project of reviving and expanding the celebration of the TLM.”
If it were up to me, the TLM would be celebrated at least weekly at every single parish in the world, and liturgical Latin would be required for seminarians. The TLM should be a readily available option, as Spanish and Vietnamese Masses are in some areas. That, I thought, was the promise of Summorum Pontificum.
Sadly, that promise hasn’t come to fruition, and the traditionalist renewal Panico says is “real” has been limited to a few small, insular communities, too many of which coddle dissent and “uncharitable” attitudes. And now, because of this and Francis’s imperiousness, the project Pope Benedict XVI launched in 2007 of making the TLM as widely available as possible is in jeopardy of being shut down entirely.
What’s a Faithful Catholic to Do?
I thank the NOR for being a rare voice of reason in a troubled world. I first subscribed nearly 25 years ago, and I am happy to resubscribe at present. I am writing in the hope that someone might offer guidance on how an orthodox Catholic can practice his faith in the Church today. Questionable teachings have become so prevalent that questions must be asked. A trend has been going on for years, but COVID-19 has acted as a powerful accelerant over these past two years.
My mother was born and raised in Knock, Ireland. She often reminded us that our forefathers starved by the roadside eating grass, refusing to abandon their faith. It is especially shocking that in a few generations, Ireland and Ireland’s diaspora have swapped Catholicism for whatever the TV, Internet, and government are feeding them. More bewildering is how the Church seems to be complacent about or, worse, complicit in the loss of souls.
I attend Mass at my own parish and at neighboring parishes. Most Masses in the archdiocese in which I live are stripped of beauty and are decidedly dull. Worse yet, many or most priests avoid parts of the Gospel that do not comport with their sociopolitical views, which lean Left. On the first Sunday of Advent, our celebrant spoke of climate change and refugees, and there was an announcement about World HIV/AIDS Day. No reference was made to these salient words from Luke: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:36). I look at my children and wonder how they can be expected to remain constant in a bland and watery faith. My wife and I do what we can in that regard.
Catholics should not be left alone to do what they can. The Church has largely abdicated her responsibility to pass the faith on to this next generation. There is no exhortation to attend Mass. There is no mention of praying the Rosary. The Sacrament of Confession is unmentioned (and un-offered). There is no substantive teaching of the lives of the saints. Catechesis is spoken of, but where is it? Certainly, there are rare voices in the Church that do speak up, but Catholics need to scour the Internet to hear those sidelined voices.
My oldest child started secondary school this year. He is attending a Catholic school that is far away because we would not consider a state-run school: the state’s values are not our values, and impressionable kids are getting a lot of so-called values pushed on them in school. As it turns out, our son’s Catholic school has bought into UK Feminista’s “Resources for Teachers.” UK Feminista is a leftist organization headed by an outspoken proponent of abortion who is not a Catholic. Among the odd things the school tells my son are these: man up is a sexist term; blue and pink are not necessarily boy or girl colors; it is okay for boys to play with dolls; girls should play football; etc. Whatever one’s subjective views on these things, it is baffling that they are a priority at a Catholic school. There has been a decades-long assault on masculinity, femininity, and chastity. Instead of defending traditional virtues, our son’s Catholic school has joined that assault, and the hierarchy tacitly approves through silence and inaction.
COVID-19 brought much into the light. The Church has always rightly preached against worshiping the false god Mammon. But is it a better thing instead to fear the new god COVID? The COVID religion has myriad rituals: constant ablutions with hand sanitizer, observant masking attire (and plastic visors for the especially pious), prohibitions on communal worship, separation from loved ones, social isolation, reverence for COVID scripture called “the science,” reverence for questionable medicines, and slavish obeisance to the bureaucracy and its alleged experts.
I was at Mass recently at which the ushers wore white kitchen aprons in addition to their masks. The Church has inelegantly embraced all-things COVID. Has anyone heard their parish priest promote Catholic orthodoxy with even half the zeal the Church has for COVID orthodoxy? I grant that my words sound like hyperbole, but the evidence is right before our eyes: Much of the Church has replaced worship of the triune God with devotion to this COVID god.
This generation and the next are being taught that materialistic self-fulfillment is the purpose of life. The Church has abandoned the field in this battle. The Church is largely mute on morality and lifestyle, unless they can be woven into a leftist sociopolitical view.
Where can troubled Catholic parents turn during these decadent times? Right now, we are shielding our family from this onslaught with scant help from the Church or nominally Catholic schools. When our children do not hear truths from priests, teachers, and the hierarchy, then parents are left alone to pass on truths. Naturally, children wonder why only their parents believe these things, especially when they appear to contradict Church teaching.
My sense is that we are on our own, that the Catholic hierarchy, schools, universities, and charities all prioritize something other than Catholicism and some things antithetical to Catholicism. What are believers to do? It is a question that needs answering.
Dorridge, West Midlands
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