Preface: I urge priests and bishops reading this to at the very least skip to the last part if you think you don’t have time to read the whole.
George Weigel has a piece in First Things which merits a reading.
I teased out a few salient points for you atention. I will add something at the end. My emphases and comments.
The realization among serious Catholics that this is not 2002 and that things have changed dramatically since 2002, has led to a far more confident effort to fight back against misrepresentations such as those the Times perpetrated on March 25. There is a danger here: to recognize that this is not 2002 cannot blind us to the fact that there are wounds that remain to be healed, reforms of priestly formation that remain to be completed, ["Amen!" to that!] bishops whose failures remain to be recognized and dealt with, new norms for the selection of bishops to be implemented, [?] and accounts rendered as to why the Vatican, prior to Ratzinger’s taking control of the issue of clerical sexual abuse in the late 1990s, was sometimes sluggish in its response to scandalous behavior by priests and deficient leadership by bishops. …
Nailing down that counter-narrative would be considerably aided if, in the coming weeks, a comprehensive and documented narrative of the case of a predatory Munich priest which was mishandled during Ratzinger’s tenure as archbishop there—the revelation of which was the European ground zero for the latest set of explosions—would be published. It would also be helpful if the Holy See would provide a user-friendly explanation of how abusive priests are laicized, and how this process has been streamlined and accelerated, again under Ratzinger’s leadership. …
In the face of all this, [UK readers take note…] the bishops of Britain must recognize that scandal-mongering has now metastasized into a full-scale assault on Catholicism itself, and ought to devote the next four months to the most vigorous defense of the truth of Catholic faith. …
Yet if 2010 is not to become 2002 redivivus, the Holy See must make unmistakably clear that it is serious about dealing with malfeasant bishops: [Do I hear an "Amen!"?] that, in addition to swift action against abusive priests, the Church is prepared to take swift and decisive action against episcopal misgovernance. …
Cynicism and irony are powerful corrosives in ecclesiastical life. [Read closely…] Yet they cannot withstand the power of radical conversion, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism. [More on this below.] In North America, in Great Britain and Ireland, in Germany and Austria and the Netherlands, indeed all over the world Church, these are the most effective counters to the current wave of Church-bashing and Catholic-baiting.
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to connect the wave of attacks on the Church and misrepresentation to the attempt to divide and subborn Catholics – through the crack of weak-identity liberal Catholics – undertaken by the present White House administration and its willing enablers, such as the administration of the University of Notre Dame. I think the larger view of seemingly isolated incidents suggests that there is a connection.
As a result, and picking up on what Mr. Weigel wrote at the end – about the power of joyful evangelism – I will add here below with a few edits part of my Liturgico-Political Manifesto I wrote after the the Debacle at Notre Shame.
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.
The present round of attacks on the Church, which suggest a deeper agenda, confirm this.
Secularist and secularizing forces 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 mightier argument 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.