22 March 2011


"I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extent, due to the disintegration of the liturgy."

--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977)


Anonymous said...

I think the disintegration of the liturgy is itself only a symptom of the larger problem: lay involvement. Once lay people were invited to take on more significant roles in the church, everything that was safely hidden behind the impenetrable wall of clericalism, was finally revealed. And we all see what that's led to. The institutional church is structured to thrive only when its secrets remain hidden.

Anonymous said...

Uhm, seriously?
Here are some other options out there:
1. Irrelevance to the world today, i.e. the incorporation of conflicting cultural beliefs into general 'Catholic beliefs,' e.g. that in the West, Catholicism wholeheartedly embraces capitalism, while in the East, Catholicism wholeheartedly embraces socialism.

2. Inability for priests to make any sort of real connection between the Liturgy and our deep Catholic faith with realities of day-to-day living. (The number one reason why Catholics are flocking en masse to non-denominational churches.)

3. The abuse scandal, and the unfortunate way the Church handled this in the early stages.

4. The church's embracing of society's status quo and wealthy instead of focusing on the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, and the type of people that Jesus himself ALWAYS chose to befriend.

5. Clericalism, and the sense that priests are not men from among men but allegedly superior than others, and the reality that ... they're actually human. (E.g. Heard a Monsignor's mind-numbingly boring homily that went into great detail about how small a mustard seed is, and what it will grow into being, to a church full of doctors, lawyers and other white-collar professionals, who already knew this by 2nd grade.) Congregations are far more educated and brilliant than they were even 50 years ago - and need to be treated as intelligent and independently thinking adults, not little toddlers with their tabula rasas!

6. Divisive movements within the church that have simplistic solutions to complex cultural trends, like presuming a return to the Latin Mass of the Middle Ages will suddenly fill churches and bring substance and meaning to people struggling to find the purpose of life in today's culture.

thetimman said...

I enjoyed reading these two comments. They evidence the type of thinking that has prevailed nearly universally for the last 45 years, and the empty pews and open rebellion in the ranks give evidence to the bankruptcy of the position.

With respect, the criticism of the "old" Mass as being insufficient to cure the problems strikes me as a bit premature, given that the new Mass has resulted in the disintegration of the sense of sacred and has brought about outright disbelief in the Real Presence among the majority of self-identified Catholics. Clericalism? I ask you the same question-- are you really serious? I hope you don't mean to insinuate that the dramatic fall in the number of priestly vocations has sparked a renewal of fatih. Like it or not, if you are indeed Catholic, you must have ordained priests to receive most of the sacraments.

If you think the sacraments aren't important, then there is another issue entirely.

Look at the way the Ordinary Form is ordinarily celebrated, and how priests are treated in the ordinary parish, and ask yourself if you would ever make the sacrifices they make to be one.

long pants said...

I think the "crisis" in the church is only a crisis for those who are dependent on the church remaining static. I think what we're experiencing is more akin to growing pains. We're maturing. Becoming more of what Christ has in mind for us.

Anonymous said...

In-fighting among Catholics can also have a devastating effect. Not sure why you seem to hold a bipolarish "either/or" mentality here, versus a "both/and" one that is truer to the term "catholic," which means universal.

Strong faith can be found in the traditional church where our transcendental God is adored and revered. There is also strong faith found in the Novus Ordo where God's presence is found in community, "where two or more are gathered in His Name."

A grade school nun said it best. You can't have a cross built just on the vertical pole (strictly man to God) nor a cross built only with a vertical pole (man to man.) For our faith to be alive, we have to have both beams of the cross, which is the center of our Christian faith.

It is really unbecoming to see you using one of the beams to do battle with the other, right there in front of our Crucified Lord. Sad - just sad.

Athelstane said...

1. Thanks once again to "Long Pants" for contributing his weekly dose of recycled Teilhard de Chardin. I look forward to hearing his description of what the Church's inevitable Omega Point looks like - and whether there will be any Catholics left to witness it (no doubt they'll all be Anonymous Catholics).

2. Anonymous 9:11 is the response that really interests me, however, since it's the only one that provides a fleshed out liberal Catholic response. And what that fleshes out to be is a Christianity reduced almost entirely to the material, to the immanent. In this view, if the Church is not "relevant," if it is not radically egalitarian, it is not being true to itself. Virtually all of Church history is to be regarded as something of a serious embarrassment, an occasion for deep apology.

One would think that this approach had been given every possible effort in much of the West, and parts of Latin America besides. Yet in those areas where such reforms were tried most aggressively - and you can see this most vividly in religious orders - the Church seems well on the way to extinction. Orders virtually extinct, resort to sacraments plummeted, numbers dried up. Even in Latin America, where entire dioceses and communities adopted liberation theology wholesale, where, as one scholar has acidly noted, "The Church opted for the poor, and the poor opted for the Pentocostals." And it wasn't because Leonardo Boff got censured.

I second all of Timman's excellent points about the deeply problematic way in which the liturgy was reformed, but I think even he would be the first to say that the traditionalist critique of what has gone wrong with the Church since 1965 does not end with the mass. The mass is both symptom and cause of all else that has gone wrong; and in its lived reality, too often it embodies a very different theology - and anthropology - than that which characterized the Church for the rest of its (pre-1965) history. In ecclesiology, catechetics, moral theology, art and architecture, even Christology, the problems are visible to see. They predated the new mass, but they also have been accelerated by it (or the deformed way in which it is generally celebrated, at any rate).

Anonymous said...

Athelstane, jeesh, you missed the point (#2).
Our Catholic faith is a BOTH/AND spirituality, not an either/or.

Yes, pre-Vatican II focused too much on the transcendent God, and post-Vatican II focused too much on the immanent God. There are heresies when either side excludes the other.

The richness of our Catholic faith, and the Crux of it, is that God is both transcendent and immanent, that Jesus was both God and man, that God is both distant and present. There is absolutely nothing "liberal" or "conservative" about stating these truths of our faith.

There are many reasons why Pentecostals have been so successful in Latin America. While the Catholics there have stressed community and "God among us who suffers," Pentecostals have in effect said that 'all that matters is your personal relationship with God,' as if we need to compete with each other to get to heaven. One of the saddest legacies from this is the devil-sent desire to judge others for the way they do, or don't, practice their Christian faith. (This blog site is a good example of that.)

We all can agree that the abrupt changes after Vatican II were far too fast - it should have been instituted over decades, not months, with serious education showing the beauty of both forms, and the wisdom from the 1900+ years of church wisdom. The damage to people of solid faith remains with us today for the failure to implement changes slowly, methodically, and with years of explanation and conversation.

Sadly, the pendulum keeps swinging wildly from one side to the other - all I'm suggesting is that we as Catholics need to find balance. Our faith relies on a crucified Christ, both God and man. And there is beauty in all forms of worship - God actually is present in both, despite what some seem to insinuate.

thetimman said...


"One of the saddest legacies from this is the devil-sent desire to judge others for the way they do, or don't, practice their Christian faith. (This blog site is a good example of that.)"

Posted without a trace of irony, no doubt.