21 August 2014


This post at Rorate Caeli caused me to reflect on the fate of the formerly Catholic parish of Holy Innocents, where my eldest daughter was baptized. That place, with the phrase "The House of God and the Gate of Heaven" emblazoned above the door, was closed many years ago.

Another victim of the terrible loss of faith caused by having nothing to do with the Second Vatican Council and the decline in Mass attendance resulting from destroying the Mass changing demographics.

And yet, the building and school are not abandoned. There is a Protestant group of some kind using it. The place now goes by the name, "The Journey". I always picture a group of rain-soaked survivors led by Pastor Viggo Mortenson struggling to get to the post-apocalyptic ocean while eluding cannibals.

Catholics aren't using the Church, you see.

I had heard from sources long ago that the SSPX tried to purchase it (before settling on its current church) but was turned down. To which I have to ask: Really? In favor of The Journey? I mean, even if you as a diocese wouldn't like to sell it to the SSPX because you think they are "schismatic", or "irregular", or whatever other term appeals to you, why in the world would you sell it to an openly heretical group? It makes no sense. Regardless of the canonical situation of the Society, if it controlled that building, the Catholic Mass would be offered there. Our Lord would reside in that tabernacle.

How about having the courage of one's convictions? If the SSPX is unfit to buy it, then act like you really believe that: instead of selling to a non-Catholic group which by definition is further from true and pleasing worship of God than a Catholic, or even a schismatic, one (if you believe your catechism, that is), tear the buildings down and eat the cost.

Of course, finances being what they are, that is not possible. No diocese can afford to turn its nose up at buyers of properties it can no longer keep open. At least not every buyer. Just some, I guess.

A few years back there was a campaign in the Archdiocese to make a pilgrimage to the church of one's baptism. A nice idea, but of course my daughter was unable to make that Journey.

You'll pardon me for saying this, but the fate of Holy Innocents, like situations describe at the post linked above, is a scandal.



JBazChicago said...

That's nothing!
Here in Chicago, under Joe "Seamless Garment" Bernardin, the archdiocese decided to move the college seminary to the Loyola University campus.

They put Niles College (Seminary) property up for sale. Opus Dei wanted to purchase the property for the asking price (several million dollars).

The archdiocese REFUSED to sell the property to Opus Dei and instead, sold it to a secular venture at HALF THE PRICE.

As a "booby prize" they gave Opus Dei the parish church of St. Mary of the Angels, which was run down and ready to close, a behemoth of a facility. It was moments from the wrecking ball.

What happened?
St. Mary of the Angels is now thriving, the interior has been completely restored, gold - leaf reapplied a new chapel below, the dome restored.

Jane Chantal said...

This is a subject one seldom sees addressed, so thank you for that. Seems to me that the phenomenon described vividly illustrates the transformation of Catholic identity post V2 into a sort of quasi-Protestantism. Our leadership has been engaging in a sort of Stealth Protestantism - assenting, via eloquent silence, to contraception, fornication, abortion, sodomy...in effect, frog-marching our poor ravaged Church through town as a caricature of the most extreme liberal Protestantism. No wonder those who practice silence on these matters would have fewer problems turning a Catholic church over to Protestants, than to Catholics who insist on being authentic.

I often wonder what Protestants make of this sad phenomenon. I suppose that some regard it as a vindication, a demonstration of God's favor upon Protestantism; others, I suspect, secretly feel sad for the Catholic Church in these times even though they cannot bring themselves to defend her.

Miles S. M. said...

I know several members and leaders of the "Journey" who attend services at the Holy Innocents site. According to them, a large portion of their membership comes from lapsed Catholics who are now "saved".

Unfortunately this creates a viscous circle of confusion and prejudice towards the Catholic Church. The former Catholics, who never knew their faith because they had never been taught it, become leaders and members in their new church. They have "converted" and for the first time in their lives start to become passionate about their faith and Christ. Yet at the same time, these former Catholics become the authority for all things Catholic to the other members.

Thus, anti-Catholicism, myth, and other fictional taboo is perpetuated by these former Catholics, who in all honesty, and probably not fully their fault, were never really Catholic in the first place (in the sense of knowledge and faith - in baptism they of course were, and are still, Catholic.)

The problem then is that when a faithful Catholic, who does know the faith, tries to share that knowledge with the members of the Journey, they have a hundred other voices who can, and do, tell them that "no, that's not what the Catholic Church teaches. I know cause I was Catholic." The faithful Catholic then looks like a liar or a fool. At the very least it makes Catholicism seem so confusing and inaccessible as to be irrelevant, thus reinforcing the protestant's view that Catholicism can't be the true Church/Bride of Christ.

It is very sad. And the fact is, the very people who forbade the SSPX from buying Holy Innocents are the same people who failed all of those lapsed Catholics who now go to the Journey.

I've been in there once since it has become the Journey. Where the tabernacle and the alter once stood is now a stage for the band and the preacher. From what I remember, all vestiges of Catholicism has been removed from the inside of the church.

Lord have mercy. Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

P.S. One bittersweet note: according to my source, the Journey had wanted to remove the statue of Christ the King that is perched on the upper front of the church, but figured that it would just be a little too difficult/costly to remove that much stone from so high up , and thus, He remains: Lord and King.

Cathy D said...

We have a branch of the Journey out by us, in a former Protestant church. Their logo always reminds me of the movie Joe Vs. the Volcano.

St. Corbinian's Bear said...

Protestants, Catholics, we're all on a... now that you mention it, Journey! Welcome to Father Mario's Church of the Holy Polyhedron, where each luminous face loves God in its own way! Why, the Church wouldn't want to obstruct the growth of the Journey, would it?

Anonymous said...

Much to be pondered here:

1) First, one has to note that Holy Innocents closed in 2005 and was purchased by the Journey Fellowship in 2006… during the episcopate of then-Archbishop Burke. (I do recall, after the SSPX secured its current location at St. Mary’s Assumption, a chapel member there mentioning what a difficult time the SSPX had in finding a property.)
2) I again have to take issue with the idea that, if only the Novus Ordo Mass had not come about, that the Church would have avoided decline. The Church has seen numerous mass (no pun intended) defections throughout history, including when the Latin Mass was the only rite (the most notable being the Protestant Reformation). Priests here and in New Orleans during the settlement period complained that local French settlers were lax in practicing their faith, even though today’s Extraordinary Rite was that day’s Ordinary Rite. I would submit, admittedly as nothing more than a top-of-my-head hypothesis, that the current wave is a product of the cultural tsunami of the Sixties, facilitated by Church complacency in teaching the “whys” of the Faith during its American heyday of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the general rejection of authority in the West spurred by Vietnam and various colonial wars. I would argue that softening of church doctrine, rather than change of rite, has more profound effect on church participation; the reason so many mainline Protestant denominations are in freefall is because, by telling people various moral precepts that affect their day-to-day lives and future are not really that important after all, people rapidly start concluding that God surely, then, is not hung up on taking attendance at a particular building on Sunday mornings. If the rite were the main cause of disaffection, then the SSPX would have formed much earlier and would have been much larger.
3) We often seem a tad dismissive of churches like The Journey, but we ought to ask at least once what we can learn from them. A comment above made a very pertinent observation that could be rendered as a question: What does the Journey do that causes people to be “for the first time passionate about their faith and Christ”, especially when Christ is only a few dozen feet away in a Catholic Church? I would first suggest that, when so many former Catholics say “Mass did not feed me”, what they are really saying is “Mass did not give me an emotional response”. Now, worship should not be about emotional response (i.e. the Mass does not need to be entertainment), but (a) the homily is the one place in the Mass where speaking to emotion can be appropriate – a well-delivered, frank homily can make all the difference in keeping parishioners, and (b) we need to think about ways we can engage people in their faith on an emotional level outside of Mass. Further, the Journey, as a small “denomination”, has an outsize number of outreach ministries that engage people in the surrounding community – think of how many of the unchurched poor are meeting Journey members, and what impact that no doubt has.

If the Church is to be restored, it needs both more reverence and more outreach.

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

Karen said...

Mr. Kirchoff,

Interesting comments. Several points to think about.

However, the Mass is the thing.

"Softening of church doctrine, rather than change of rite, has more profound effect on church participation" I must disagree with. The softening equals the change of rite. If the rite had stayed, the doctrine would have hardened up again.

The Mass is the source and summit. It is the cure for everything that is wrong in the world. If we had kept the old rite, we would not be where we are today. There would still be problems (original sin will always pull us), but we would be in a much better place.

And we wouldn't be searching for Churches to buy!

Thank you Timman for the link. It was so uplifting and heartening.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

Anonymous said...

It is ALL about catechesis, or the lack of it. How many Catholics would leave the Church if they believed with all their souls that Christ is TRULY PRESENT in the Holy Eucharist, ONLY to be found in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (whether they get an emotional charge from attending Mass or not)?

They leave because they have not been taught and therefore, do not believe.


Anonymous said...

Dear Karen,
While I do not necessarily disagree with you, I wonder how we then explain the rise of Protestantism, the Great Schism, Jansenism, and a host of other difficulties the Church has faced despite possessing the ancient traditions of the past. If the Mass is the one-all solution, why did these doctrinal problems arise? Why were they not healed? Also, your claims do not do justice to the situation in the ancient Eastern Rites, which have not undergone a "Vatican II"-esque modification (and have only in recent years began to tinker with their liturgy) and yet are also suffering loss of vocations, etc. Is the Novus Ordo somehow responsible for this as well? The more I consider the matter, the more I believe Bryan has the sounder approach.


thetimman said...

JJR, I don't think any of the problems you mention (in the Latin church, as my lack of knowledge of the Eastern prevents me from responding) compares in scope or seriousness to what we face today. Indeed, there is a reason many compare these days to the Arian heresy days. The Mass doesn't guarantee a lack of 'problems', it is a bulwark of defense against them.

Protestants in some places broke away because of the Mass, and the dogmas it embodies so well. They knew that with which they disagreed. Catholics knew that which they defended and adhered to. Do you think that 80% of those dwindling number of Catholics still attending the novus ordo know and adhere to the dogmas and other teachings which we must hold de fide tenenda?

The evils of Jansenism are real, then and now. But forgive me if I take it as a microscopic issue compared to the bleeding hemorrhage of the destruction of the liturgy, which continues to aid and abet the destruction of catechesis.

thetimman said...

Also, I know it is foolish on my part to debate with someone forgot more history- including church history- than I will ever know. And yes, no doubt I tend to oversimplify the issue. But I know you know that.

The point of the new Mass doing great damage to the faith of Catholics is to my mind simply unassailable. It leaves three approaches only: 1) let it destroy the faith; 2) try to make it better somehow in order to halt or reverse the damage; or, 3) restore the ancient Mass that was handed down and hallowed for more than 1500 years and build up again. Pax.

Anonymous said...

I think the more important consideration that no one is really addressing here, and probably more inline with the original post, is the fact that those in diocesan leadership who have the authority of selling Church property off to heretics should really be held accountable for their actions on two counts, first, in that it actively promotes confusion among the faithful and dilutes the integrity of the Faith and second, they themselves have created a serious scandal and break with denying their Catholic brethren a building in which to offer Mass and have Christ present. Regardless of what your personal opinions are regarding the Society of Saint Pius X, Mass celebrated at their chapels are indeed valid. The Society’s chief charism is preserving Sacred Priesthood a chief catalyst for the preservation of Catholic Tradition, part of which is the preservation of the Liturgy. Those Catholic diocesan leaders, including present bishops upon which all final decisions rest, are culpable when they opt not to sell to those who are willing to purchase and preserve the true and complete Faith.

So it really is beside the point whether or not we think that The Journey or any other non-Catholic sect has the best feel-good approach to ‘worship’ or our perceptions of whether or not the Church is somehow lacking ‘emotion-driven outreach’.

Personally, I have seen the same dangers beset once Catholics, now former and anti-Catholics, at what was once Life Christian Center. I would love to hear from any former evangelical who has followed the true Roman road into the Church weigh in on this.


Athelstane said...

1. While I'm a native St. Louisian, I confess I wasn't familiar with Holy Innocents...but then my familiarity with South St. Louis was never very strong. My initial assumption was that the church had been sold off by Archbishop May (or perhaps Rigali), which admittedly would make Timman and his eldest daughter older than I thought. So imagine my surprise when I learned that it was sold off under Archbp. Burke's tenure (albeit very early on in it). Yes, bad things can happen under good bishops, especially if they don't work to replace personnel quickly. But I would be curious to know what his Eminence's role in the sale of this venerable church to these strange evangelicals actually was.

2. I agree with Timman: I can stomach not selling to the SSPX (who do remain in an irregular situation) *if* you also refuse to sell to non-Catholic groups whose theological distance from the Church remains even greater. Better to sell to a furniture store chain that plans to bulldoze the whole lot.

3. I think both Bryan Kirchoff and Karen are correct about the Mass. On the one hand, Bryan does well to note that the rot had set in well before the Council - if you read the early chapters of Mattei's history of the Council, you can get an extensive rundown of just how modernism was bubbling up in the seminaries and theology departments even going back to Pius XI's reign, far beyond the likes of Teilhard de Chardin; and in the figure of Cardinal Bea, they reached up into the very inner circles of the pontiff. And these impulses ran to the very Mass each of these priests celebrated every day. As Mattei notes, one Italian prelate at the Council was struck by the almost universal disdain in which the Roman Rite was held by "foreign" Council Fathers and periti (i.e., not Italians), while the Italians themselves could not be stirred to defend it. In light of that, the liturgical revolution that followed hardly surprises.

Yet our erstwhile Modernists of the 60's also realized the truth of the old dictim "Lex credendi, lex orandi." They knew that their revolution would fare far better if the very means by which Catholic worshiped could be made to deemphasize, either in text* or at least actual praxis, the teachings of the Church. In this respect, the promulgation and implementation of the modern Roman Rite, i.e., the Ordinary Form, was both an effect and a force multiplier of the Modernist Revolution. Its arrival did not launch the revolution, but it did greatly accelerate it.

* A text which does indeed greatly depart in many ways from the traditional rite, in a radically new lectionary, new calendar, almost all new collects, a new offertory...the list goes on and on. So much for the ROTR claims that a "traditional" celebration of the N.O. is what is needed and what should have been done, or at least differs little from the TLM. That said, having once been a regular attendee at a completely Latin N.O. with all the traddy bells and whistles, I also confess that we would not be in nearly so bad shape if such celebrations were normative. The problem is, they've always been as rare as hen's teeth, and one can't help but feel that is a feature, not a bug.