During my time in Manhattan this trip I have visited quite a few Catholic churches. I have been amazed at how badly some of them have been mutilated, and stupidly so. Some are still being mutilated according to tired old ideas that are now, in the minds of the younger clergy for sure, cliché and monstrous. The outgoing regime with their tired ideas are still doing damage even as their theological wheelchairs are already turned in the direction of the door.
On Inside Catholic there is an article reproduced from the November 1995 issue of Crisis Magazine.
Read the whole piece for some context and some reflections on death and awareness of mortality. At the end, however, the writer offered some pretty harsh comments about the fruits of the post-Conciliar reform.
Having come from a parish where the all chaos and foolery was over the decades avoided, because of the guidance of well-informed pastors who thought with the mind of the Church, and being a convert, I was spared the full force of the idiocy that went on far and wide. But I have certainly been around the pike a few times and seen what she was talking about.
Take a look … with my emphases and comments.
The writer is speaking of time spent in a church before the Blessed Sacrament.
He Came Down from Heaven: A Consolation [In the Incarnation, and at every Sacrifice of the Mass.]
Alice Thomas Ellis
There was a silent peace with a hidden promise of unimaginable joy to which all the objects of devotion attested: the altar, the statues, the crucifix, all the appurtenances of faith belonged to no one and to everyone. Still and worthy of trust, they were there yesterday and now and would be there tomorrow. Inanimate yet living testimony to a vital certainty. It is rare now to find such a church. Stripped and barren, while the people themselves are encouraged to buy more and more to support the market economy and cram their houses with trivia, the churches are denuded in the name of progress.
It is impossible to understand without laying bare the motives of those who wrought such destruction. The result is terrible in the terms of disillusion and loss, and those who say they wished only to affirm life and community have robbed us of consolation, giving death a greater power than is his due. The here and now is what concerns us they say, forgetting that life is short and but a preparation.
The new and re-ordered churches are symbolic only of a denied but underlying despair, a loss of faith to the sad conviction that death is the end. [The fruit of the modernist error: immanentism.] The noisy ceremonies that now fill these churches, the guitars, the clapping, swaying, and showy raptures are a mere extension of the drug culture, a whistling in the wind, a neurotic insistence that happiness is attainable immediately and does not need to be waited for or earned. The notion that suffering can bring forth good, that deprivation can nourish the soul is unacceptable. [I believe this is what I was driving at in that sermon I gave for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on 14 Sept 2007 at Fr. Finigan's parish. We remove the Cross at our peril. We must keep the Cross at the focus point so that we can deal with what St. Augustine called "our daily winter", fear of death. It is there, in what the Cross reveals, that we encounter mystery both alluring and fearsome, and we are readied for what lies outside ourselves and the passage of the grave.] Suggest that the saints lived their lives in the promise and not the fulfillment of joy and you will not be heard. The Protestant cult of the "born again" with its ecstatic overtones has laid hold of a Church that still claims to lay all store on baptism. We are at the mercy of doctrinal error, often imposed from above, with little recourse to authority which is often too pusillanimous to argue with the trend. The wolves are in the fold.
Now that the churches are no longer peaceful but full of people determined to convey to you their loving care, their innate virtuousness, with handshakes and smiles, the bereft are best off in solitude, listening for the still, small voice. [The still small voice which the prophet eventually heard. I often use the image of Moses, posted by God at the cleft in the rock.] The country graveyard is perhaps now the place nearest to God on earth, for that too is neutral ground where death has had his way, is satisfied and thus of no more significance and no threat. Freedom lies in looking on the face of death and knowing that there is no true battle here, that he does not need to be fought and defeated, for he is only God’s instrument and God lives.
We remove the Cross and worship redolent of His Sacrifice at our peril.