On Sunday we heard resound from Notre Dame well-crafted speeches well-delivered.
They were designed to shift the present controversies from the basis of reason to that of emotion and they succeeded.
The backdrop was perfect.
Controversy insured high reportage. Thousands of cheering young fans, products of the education they just received, blithely drank up their obviously deserved praise. Gray-haired veteran liberals whose skills were honed by a real education and decades of progressivist trench warfare provided the spear-carriers of a more authentic ecclesiastical establishment, a Church establishment as it truly ought to be if we lived in a more just world. A few pathetic court-jesters shouted incoherently during the President’s speech. They provided the students with some entertainment and gave the Doctoratus in Chief his chance to reveal his patient benevolence by means of a prepared one liner.
Who needs The Tudors? This was like watching Henry suborn the English Church away from the interference of Rome.
Neither President, Jenkins nor Obama, needed to say much of substance. And they didn’t. All they had to do to vindicate the inevitable rightness of their agendas was to sound reasonable.
Fr. Jenkins, throbbing with emotion after these weeks of persecution, cuddled the students and their adorers, inviting them into his sufferings.
President Obama, wise realist, offered astonishing insight. For example, you surely noted his stunning admission that the two sides in the abortion debate – wait for it – have irreconcilable differences!
In the final analysis we heard various expressions of "can’t we all just get along" even as we were being told to "shut up".
A great goal has been held up for us. Gaze with wonder upon the new calf. Our new goal is dialogue. Common ground is our promised land. There we will find healing from divisions and lots more talk. Endless dialogue and then more dialogue. Our side might not be able to say very much, but that is neither here nor there. It’s the goal of dialogue which is important.
But this dialogue must not be allowed to become mean-spirited. Forefend! We must not "demonize" – a favorite new word – anyone with their past records or the Church’s clear principles about the sanctity of human life.
In an era when emotion trumps reason, facts are just plain mean.
The progressivist side knows they will not win by arguments. They win by projecting the image of deep-caring, of brow-furrowed nuance, of struggling with those hard decisions.
Remember: If you will have first "struggled" you are thereafter justified in anything you chose.
So, Sunday was pretty black for Catholics who are waking up to a clearer Catholic identity in continuity with our Tradition. It was a great day for adherents of Catholic-lite, especially in the many long-subverted institutions of higher learning. They are sure to be revitalized.
It is hard to imagine, they will surely assume, that Ex corde Ecclesiae will ever be implemented now.
Frankly, I agree.
After all, who would implement it?
Unless we see, soon, some concrete gesture on the part of either the local bishop where Notre Dame is (and other bishops where there are other universities) or the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome, then a battle will have been lost and won in this ever more closely joined culture war over the Church’s role in the modern world.
Among the reactions I gathered from the smart people I talk with about pivotal events – and we witnessed something pivotal on Sunday – I heard grim assessments and forecasts.
One person said, "America has a new pope".
Therefore, after pondering this for a day, my response is finally to return to a basic premise of this blog.
More than ever, we must have what the Church really says, what Holy Church really has to offer.
We are not getting the fullness of the Church’s teachings from Notre Dame or other, now lesser, water carriers of the secularist agenda. We are not getting it from very many of our leaders in the Church.
I urge all priests and bishops who read this blog with any slight quaver of resonance or benevolence, to consider this with care:
If you sense that something quite serious and important is going on right now, for the love of God rethink your approach to how you foster Holy Church’s proper public worship.
Do all in your power and through your influence to foster a worship of God which conforms not to worldly goals – as praiseworthy as they may be in a world still dominated by its dire prince – but rather to the real point of religion: an encounter with mystery.
Our worship must become more and more focused on the one who is Other. Seek what is truly above in your rites and raise people to encounter mystery.
You will be challenged and reviled, blocked and attacked as you do. You will be worn down and afraid under the weight of resistance.
But I think that to save the world we must save the liturgy.
Sunday reaffirmed this for me.
They can’t compete with the fullness of Catholic liturgy and sound preaching.
Reforming the liturgy along the lines Pope Benedict has proposed may be the most loving and effective option we have in these ever hotter times.
People will have to keep working very much in the sphere of the secular. Of course! Our inward Catholic Christian identity must find outward expression and bring concrete fruits.
But I think the real work now – where we will make some effective headway – must be done at the level of our public worship.
In the present circumstances, we are not going to argue most people out of danger or error. But together we can draw them in and along and back through worship.
So long as we remain doctrinally faithful and active in works of mercy both spiritual and especially temporal, if we get our public worship together we will have a strong bastion against error.
Holy Catholic worship will be an attractive force for conversion.
We need to foster worship which stuns, which leaves the newcomer, long-time practicing Catholic, above all the fallen-away simply thunder stuck. Worship must at some point leave people speechless in awe. We need language and music and gesture which in its beauty floods the mind with light even while it swells the heart to bursting.
The more people encounter mystery through liturgy, the more hollow will clang the false or incomplete messages of those who have strayed from the good path, either to the left or to the right.
Our goal must be that which is good and beautiful because it is true, that which reflects what is of God, not man’s image merely. Give us mystery, not fabrications smacking of the world, fallen and transitory.
Fathers, and you Reverend Bishops, if anything of alarm has sounded in your hearts and minds of late, rethink your approach to our worship. Examine your approach with an eye on the signs of the times. Take a new approach.
The approach we have had least last few decades isn’t getting it done. Really … it isn’t
Going neither left nor right along the road toward the Lord, even as He comes to us, take the flock now deeper, now higher on that path, but always to encounter the mystery which distinguishes truly Catholic liturgy… and therefore true Catholics.
Lines are being drawn, sides taken, choices made.
More than ever we need what Christ, the true Actor of our liturgy, desires to offer us through Holy Church’s worship.