Parsing an article in a diocesan paper: some problems

I don’t want to pick on the writer.  That is not my purpose. 

But more than one person sent me this article with some questions.  In The Message Online, for SW Indiana, which is the internet presence of the Diocese of Evansville, there was an article which left my senders confused.  They thought a couple things were …. not quite right.

I think our Church’s publications should be clear and close to Catholic teaching.

So, let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.

The Christian Journey

Rituals: What we do, why we do it and what it teaches us

Whenever the Church gives us a new ritual for a Sacrament, which is not often, it contains an underlying “blueprint” (“paradigm shift”), that is, an understanding of ourselves as Church in a particular time. [hmmm… at a first reading this doesn’t sound right to me.  The Church’s rites for Sacraments do not intend to convey a different effect or a deepening understanding of those effects.  Perhaps they will stress some elements more than others.  But "paradigm shift" strikes me as not correct.  Also, "blueprint" suggests that the rites are starting points upon which we build thereafter.] Celebrating the Church’s new sacramental rituals has the power to convert the way we think about ourselves as Catholics and how we are to live. [Yes, true.  There is a reciprocal relationship between how we pray and what we believe.  That is why we must always see our rites in continuity with the way those rites have always been celebrated, not in rupture.]  Therein lies our resistance, of which we are usually not aware. “Externals” upset us (e.g. no longer using Latin or Gregorian chant [though the Church says that these ought to be used!] ). However, what is unconsciously disturbing us is the underlying new way of being Church that the sacraments present us. ["new way of being Church"?  When you see people use "Church" without some article like "the", alarms bells should ring.  And "new way"?  You mean we have made a break with an "old way"?  Let’s see where he goes with this.]  A few examples may shed light on this phenomenon.

When the deacon or lector carries a beautifully adorned Gospel Book in the opening procession of Mass, this proclaims that God’s Word is central to our lives.[Huh?  You mean having Scripture for half of Mass and most of the Office wasn’t enough?]  Gone are the pre-Vatican II days when we were told we did not commit a “mortal sin” if we missed the Scripture readings at Sunday Mass as long as we arrived by the Offertory (not the “Preparation of the Gifts”). [I am getting mixed messages. Is he saying that that we do commit a mortal sin if we are not present for the Liturgy of the Word?  I think he is trying to deemphasize "mortal sin", but I am not sure.] Today hearing God’s Word proclaimed is just as vital and relevant for Catholics as for other Christians, who emphasized the Scriptures almost exclusively while we stressed the Sacraments.  [Except, of course, when we celebrated Mass or read the Office.]

Another example of a “paradigm shift” in the Church is the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sufficient priests are available during a communal Penance Service to provide time for individual confessions. However, if the proper circumstances are present, general absolution may be given. [Indeed.  But those circumstances are pretty clear: it is NOT to be a scheduled event, but rather an emergency in which it is impossible for auricular confession of those present.] (Both are legitimate sacramental rituals.) [But where is his explanation of the limitations on "general absolution"?!] Our communal Penance Services help us understand how our sins are usually not directly against God, but against people. [Ummm…. "our sins are usually not directed against God…".  I don’t think so.  Our sins are always offenses to God.  I think he is trying to emphasize that we often sin imediately against other people, but this statement is simply wrong.]  Therefore, we gather communally asking forgiveness of God and each other. Our Penance Services catechize us that sin is never a “private” matter, but has public ramifications — our actions affect the Church. [Ok.] They help us realize that instead of judging others for their failings, we — as a forgiven people — are to pray for one another and to be instruments of God’s forgiveness (just as we seek forgiveness).  [This is a little fuzzy… it is right, of course, but fuzzy… even buzzy… with buzz words… but let’s go on.]

Jesus, who is the Primary Sacrament of God’s Presence in the world, attempted to bring about a shift in thinking [there it is again] among the Jewish people; but many leaders could not accept him. How could the awesome, fear-inspiring God, who appeared to Moses in thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai, appear in the compassionate person of Jesus, “the carpenter’s son?” [Who will come again as the terrible Judge and unmake the world in fire… bu I digress…]  After being with his closest friends, Jesus still had to tell Thomas, “Thomas, whoever sees me, sees the Father; the Father and I are one!” Jesus, as God’s eternal Son, in human flesh required a conversion in the way people thought about God. In Jesus, God’s love had drawn close to us. Understanding this by coming into contact with Jesus would lead to a change in attitude and behavior. If God’s eternal Son became a human person, [Actually, this is heresy: Jesus is NOT a "human person".  He is a Divine Person, with two natures, divine and human.] then all humanity receives “immortal value” (Christmas Preface). Therefore, the risen Jesus did not say to Saul, “Saul, why are you persecuting my people?” No, Jesus said, “Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Jesus’ incarnation gives us a new vision of God’s presence in the human person and our need to respect each person.

It is crucial to grasp how celebrating the Church’s sacraments in faith can lead us to conversion because each sacrament’s foundation is this underlying new blueprint (“paradigm shift). The RCIA as “Christian initiation” truly provides us with Vatican II’s most fundamental new blueprint (“paradigm shift”) that is “prophecy of the highest order or massive institutional suicide[?] from which we all naturally either retreat out of fear for conversion and change or take a “lower road” making the RCIA into a “program.” [Huh?  Can anyone explain what that last part meant?]


This strikes me as having been written through a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.

Problems, friends, problems.  I think, I hope, the problems spring from lack of clear writing, rather than lack of Catholic belief, but this piece – for me – conveys some confused ideas.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. boredoftheworld says:

    Jesus, who is the Primary Sacrament of God’s Presence in the world

    I had to stare at this line for a minute… what does it mean?

  2. Jim says:

    I smell just a hint of Arianism, too.

  3. chironomo says:

    If I were in this Diocese, I would be writing a letter to the Bishop asking for a review of the authors employment as an official of the Diocese. This article is a travesty [Maybe leave out the hyperbole?]

  4. David D. says:

    I suppose if this had been well written or even understandable I would have been angry. Just as well.

  5. What in the world is this person thinking? Material cooperation in Arianism by this guy I hope.

  6. DoB says:

    FR Z.
    Regarding the last part
    When we were at school we were taught that the purpose of the institutional Church was to become extinct. I wonder whether the same mindset is manifested here.

  7. Eric says:

    Can you clarify one thing – in your comment about judgement that you added do you mean that God will return one day as a terrible judge? [Of course! He will return as the Just Judge. Let us live in such a way that we need not be too fearful.]

  8. DavidJ says:

    Did the paper’s editors have the day off? How did this get written AND edited and approved for publication?

  9. Nathan says:

    This article just hit something that I can’t help getting on my high horse over: the complete misuse of the concept of “paradigm shift.”

    Webster’s 9th Collegiate Dictionary gives the relevant definition of paradigm as “Example, pattern, esp. an outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype.” A change of paradigm does not mean (as is so popular in pop philosophy and business motivational speech) a change in Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)–it is a shift of the basic assumptions behind a concept and even what is considered to be truth about something. [Interesting.]

  10. Christabel says:

    I don’t understand what the writer means. Why the obsession with “paradigm shift”? It sounds like management consultancy on a very bad day. [I think he is using the term loosely, without precision.]

  11. Kathy says:

    1. This column sounds so much like many that appear in our parish bulletin. I have heard similar statements in many homilies, to the point that (I am sad to say) I think I almost understand what this writer might have meant.
    2. While reading, I found myself repeatedly remembering how a priest and a deacon end the Mass at our parish: “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord THROUGH ONE ANOTHER.” Why??
    3. Is the writer quoting from a document? I don’t understand the presence of so many quotation marks throughout.

  12. Fr Arsenius says:

    A good example of “marshmallow theology”.

    In the final paragraph of this week’s column, Fr. Sauer (the author) was evidently alluding to something he wrote in the previous week’s column:
    It’s there that he launches on his apparent fixation with “blueprint”, “paradigm shift”, “being Church”, “being birthed”. Where’s my bottle of Maalox?

    There too he tries to marshall the example of St. Tarcisius to justify the current plague of “lay eucharistic ministers” (evidently not having read Redemptionis Sacramentum). The good father is apparently oblivious to the fact that Tarcisius was not a layman, but a member of the clergy (an ordained acolyte); and that his assignment to carry the Holy Mysteries to those in prison was an emergency measure, not something done with anywhere the frequency of today’s “ongoing pattern of abuse” in employing armies of so-called “lay eucharistic ministers”.

    Finally, Fr. Sauer concludes with this amazing observation:

    [W]hen a Catholic speaks about celebrating Mass in the “traditional” way, the revised Mass of Vatican II is the most ancient form. [Okay… clearly this fellow has bought the progressivist “party line” along with the hook and sinker. The canard at work here is that V2 returned the Mass and other rites to the “pristine” form. Silly.]

    You don’t say?

  13. FT says:

    If God’s eternal Son became a human person…

    Not so much heresy as a poor attempt at political correctness. For ‘human person’ read ‘man’ as in “..was born of the Virgin Mary and became man”

    Besides being very, very badly written, what is the point of this article? I suspect, if clearly and precisely written, it would be fairly orthodox, but still, why?

  14. Gideon Ertner says:

    Oh, come on, Father, you are joking? Of course this man lacks Catholic belief in any true sense. Speaking about a “paradigm shift” in connection with the “new Sacraments” and Vatican II clearly spells out his belief that the pre-conciliar Church never understood what Jesus’ radical message (the first “paradigm shift”) was all about. Claiming that we “almost never” sin against God betrays an almost complete lack of the sense of sin. Praising the communal character of the Sacrament of Penance likewise. Speaking about “God’s presence in every human person” in the context here smacks of Pantheism. And “massive institutional suicide” can hardly mean anything besides that institutions, especially religious ones, are meaningless and should make way for a deeper, ‘spiritual’ reality.

    I have no idea what he means regarding the RCIA. But yes, he is very confused.

  15. Fr. Steve says:

    If this person wants to bring back public penance I’m up for that. Let’s start with the grave sin of heresy “If God’s eternal Son became a human person.” I say we put this person outside the Church during Mass and make him or her fast on bread and water for 20 years before he or she recieves public absolution.

  16. Steve says:

    Father wrote,

    “I think, I hope, the problems spring from lack of clear writing, rather than lack of Catholic belief, but this piece – for me – conveys some confused ideas.”

    I vote the latter.

  17. chironomo says:

    “A new underlying way of being Church” (heavens!) isn’t a paradigm shift unless the entire concept of what the Church is and what the entire set of axioms about the truth of the Church has changed.”


    No, the author is not mistaken. This is exactly what they mean. To this author, Vatican II changed the nature of truth within the Church. This is what validates the rejection of all previous “truths” and “traditions”… this is what is meant by a “new way of being church”. Note that the concept of sin is reduced to hurting others rather than violating divine law and offending God. Wouldn’t you call this a “paradigm shift”? The point of this article is to explain sacraments in the context of a new vision of the church.

  18. David says:

    “Paradigm shift” = “hermeneutic of rupture.” Period.

  19. Mary in CO says:

    >> “prophecy of the highest order or massive institutional suicide”

    Fr. Z, that comment about RCIA makes no sense to me at all. Appears that Fr. Sauer made an unattributed quote — but in another article on the same web site he again includes this quote and cites “theologian Ralph Keifer”. Wasn’t Keifer a liturgist?

  20. Timbot says:

    Personally any body who uses language like “understanding of ourselves as church” is probably a material heretic. Indeed, I am of the opinion that any native English speaker who uses “church” without the “the” in a univocative statement should be laete sententiae excommunicated.

  21. “New underlying way of being church” must mean Jesus didn’t get it right the first time. Which would take away the whole point of having a Church, since, if Jesus could make a mistake, He couldn’t be God.

    (To the extent “being church” has any meaning.)

  22. Nathan says:

    Chironomo: You have a point. I’d ascribe that to the thinkers, though. I got the impression from the article that pop philosophy and business motivational consultancy were the basis of the writer’s logic. You know, “Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Successories Poster.”

    In Christ,

  23. Mila says:

    Human person indeed! But I agree with FT. This is politically-correct speak to avoid using the word MAN, which must be avoided at all costs! “Man” cannot be used to encompass the human race anymore because women (poor dimwits that we are) will “feel excluded”. And that is one of the evils of our age. Change the language and the whole meaning changes. No matter; people who think like this much rather change the meaning than “give offense”. To me the whole article smacks of heresy.

  24. Timbot says:

    Being Catholic is just one giant penance, and a near occasion for sins of wrath.

  25. Nathan says:

    Chironomo, in fairness you should also know that since I work for the governent, I also tend to operate by the axiom “Ninety percent of what is ascribed to malice and forethought is actually the result of incompetence and inertia.”

    In Christ,

  26. Paul Stokell says:

    I’d be curious where this particular priest got his formation. (shudder)

    Bishop Gettlefinger might have a word or two to say about such stuff, albeit as a “teaching moment” and not as a chance to run a brother priest out on a rail.

    Ninety percent of what is ascribed to malice and forethought is actually the result of incompetence and inertia.

    [That’s about right.]

  27. ssoldie says:

    Chaos and confusion. Confusion and chaos, Forty five years and still going strong. Thanks Fr.Z, I love your red,keep it up, it sure helps.

  28. Duarte Valério says:

    The writer does not know his Bible. «Whoever sees me, sees the Father.» Jesus addressed these words to St. Philip, not to St. Thomas (John 14, 8). «The Father and I are one.» Jesus addressed these words to the crowd in Solomon’s porch, not to St. Thomas (John 10, 30).

  29. Folks: Comment by all means, but let’s edit out some of the flames before posting.

  30. Ron says:

    To me using “paradigm shift” so often only reinforces his viewpoint of the hermeneutic of rupture. What shifted? What paradigm was changed? Is it just that God became man or is it that Vatican II changed the Sacramental “blueprints”? That phrase “paradigm shift” is frightening to me. I’d rather stand on ground that is not shifting.

    And that last section about institutional suicide, or whatever it was, I still don’t get. I read it again and remain confused.

    Pax Christi tecum.

  31. Andy says:


    Unfortunately, Bishop Gettlefinger is of the same theological school as the author, [Ummm…. we don’t know that.]

  32. Magdalene says:

    I was sad to read that this article was written by a priest. I try to chalk it up to bad formation like that of the 70s. And all that about communal penance to forgive each other and all that…how many times does the Holy See have to say these things are NOT to be allowed yet dissention continues with impunity.

    I visited a church in Evansville last summer. No tabernacle in the ‘worship space’. Had to go down a little hallway where the wood box was and, of course, no person there with Our Lord. But when it is all about ‘community’ and the Mass is all about the assembly, then the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is not deemed important.

    I am sorry for this priest but sorrier for his flock. Hopefully he is near retirement age?

  33. Indiana Bob says:

    As a resident of this diocese and a person who no longer receives the Message (except when they send it free) this is the type of article -and thinking- that is common.

    Sometimes when I first started relearning my faith, I just put my head down during mass and prayed, otherwise I would be demoralized.
    Things are changing for the better but not all the writers of the Message are aware of it.

    Jesus is in control, we need to trust and pray.

  34. LCB says:

    I thought, as a well educated person who reads a great deal, surely I was simply misreading Reverend Father.

    When I read the article this morning, I had not yet had 2 cups of coffee, and I said, “I shall reread this after lunch, and I shall better understand it then.” I have eaten my lunch, drank my coffee, and still have no idea what this man is saying. I will try again after dinner, and if I still can not understand this man’s words, then I will admit defeat.

    His comments are simply mystifying, and not in the Mister Eckhart way.

    This is a good thing for me. I suspect that if I understand him at all, I would be uncharitable in the extreme.

  35. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Fr Z is correct not to pick on this writer. It sounds like they have simply been trained in the Faith in the post-VII amorphous cloud of confusion. Nothing said clearly, nothing clearly explained. So many of us have been brought up in this way. Thankfully, Pope Benedict is slowly showing us, through his pre-papacy writings and now in his actions, the clear Truth of faith.

    The article is all the more confusing for failing, IMHO, to make a point, argument, thesis, etc. I don’t really see where it was trying to go.

  36. Aelric says:

    Standard seminary fare from the 80’s.

  37. TJM says:

    I don’t even understand what the author is trying to say. That’s probably just as well as I can see from some of the previous comments. Tom

  38. Josh says:

    Ironically, Fr. Z, I think when this author is discussing mortal sin in relation to arriving at Mass late, his intention is indeed to suggest that it is a mortal sin. Why? In order to suggest that hearing Scripture is just as important a sacrament as the Eucharist itself (charitable interpretation), or perhaps, to suggest that both Scripture and Eucharist are just metaphors for closeness with God, albeit important ones, and it is therefore a sin to overemphasize one over the other (more realistic interpretation).

  39. Sal says:

    You suppose Roger Haight wrote this?

  40. This is typical “spirit of Vatican II” stuff. A *nice* letter to the editor could mention the heresy (that Jesus is a human person) and ask the author to clarify the other points. Perhaps it is carelessness, perhaps it is a spirit of Vatican II marketing piece, e.g. deliberate. Ask for clarification to find out. The paradigm shift is definitely the “let’s do it all differently now” concept, where the previous way is considered outdated and deficient compared to the new way.

  41. He sounds like all the other protestants I talk religion with.

  42. Midwest St. Michael says:

    I was one of those who sent this to Fr. Z.

    Unfortunately this is typical Fr. Sauer who is an associate at St. Joseph parish, Jasper, In. Just last weekend, at the very end of his homily, Fr. Sauer “threw in” something about “wymyn’s ordination” and how it will happen – but probabaly not in his lifetime.

    He was schooled in the late 60’s/early 70’s at St. Meinrad, then at seminary in Innsbruck, Austria.

    There are more issues going on – I just ask those of you reading this to please pray for him, for those who he may lead astray, and please pray that the bishop of Evansville will cancel all of his future writings to The Message.

  43. Houghton G. says:

    Professional teachers of writing will tell us that fuzzy writing almost always arises primarily from fuzzy thinking.

    I fear that that is the case here.

  44. Perhaps the author’s real problem is that he is uncomfortable with the paradigm shift involved in the reintroduction of the traditional liturgy. Dear author, as you say, shifts are hard to adjust to–you will just have to make a greater effort to adjust to the realities of the church of Benedict XVI and its future …

  45. Mitch Smith says:

    I met bishop Gettlefinger, when he was Fr. Gettelfinger, in H.S. . he was very much the sort of priest who would say something like this himself. Perhaps he’s changed.

  46. Luigi says:

    [This is a little fuzzy… it is right, of course, but fuzzy… even buzzy… with buzz words… but let’s go on.]


    Fr. Jim has what it takes to be a CNS columnists. I detect a rising star.

    Question: what is this about Jesus being the “Primary Sacrament of God’s presence in the world?” I’ve heard this manner of speaking before, and it bothers me. Yes, Jesus is the fullness of Divine Revelation, but is He really a “sacrament?”

    What is a sacrament?

    A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.

    A little Baltimore Catechism never hurt.

    Jesus is not simply the “visible sign of the invisible God” as I recently read somewhere else the “Jesus is sacrament” phrase was used and explained. To call Jesus a “sign” or a “sacrament” seems to undermine the Divine nature fully present. Jesus IS the presence of God, not simply a sign. IMO

  47. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Augustine, I made just such a comment recently to a colleague of mine. He was lamenting how awful it was that people (like myself and a mutual friend about whom he was talking) have such a difficult time adjusting to the realities of the post-Vatican II Church. “Why are we so anxious to turn the clock back to 1957?” Quoth he.

    I responded, “It’s not that we’re anxious to turn the clock back to 1957, we’re just anxious to turn the clock forward. Perhaps it’s not we who are uncomfortable adjusting to current realities, but you who are uncomfortable with the direction in which the Spirit is guiding the Church.”

    He went away, sad.

  48. Daniel Latinus says:

    You know, it strikes me as funny that after the post VII rites have been in use for thirty years, we are still getting articles that sound like they were written in the period when those rites were first introduced. Is this article a reprint of an article written in the 1970s?

  49. sir john says:

    Hopefully after Indiana gets new bishops appointed in the next few years the hermeneutic of discontinuity will cease! Having labored at the diocesan level in Indiana I can honestly say that I am not suprised at this article. Don’t try to make sense of this kind of thinking… sin makes you stupid and when your deep in it, then well…

  50. Josiah Ross. says:

    I don’t get it. This is more like rambling, there’s no really thought pattern.
    Will people learn that leaving out definite articles makes them look stupid and not smart?

  51. Thomas says:

    This article strikes me as a less in-your-face example of the Dictatorship of Relativism Cardinal Ratzinger preached before the conclave. The author isn’t stridently heretical, but he is so hazy and imprecise that his meaning could be anything – a half-brother to Modernism.

    He seems to be leading the reader to problematic conclusions without taking the step himself. I can’t help but think he’s coming from a hermeneutic of discontinuity.

  52. Allena says:

    Marshmellow theology, I like that!

    I went through RCIA in Indiana, and I have to say it’s a very touchy feelie kind of place, everybody is happy and good-no guilt allowed kind of place. It seemed all about not stepping on toes, or making anyone feel bad about themselves.

    An example, the RCIA sister (yes a sister!) told us that birth control was an issue of personal conscious and that we should just do what seemed best for our family. She said the Bishop told them to say that, but I don’t know if that is true.

    It was kind of like each person defines his own truth…

    I think most people are good, and I think this sort of “feelings” approach is easy to follow. SO people have/do, and now hopefully we’ll get things back on track so that all Catholics can be more in tune with our faith and theology in a more real, concrete way.

  53. Paula says:

    I reside in this diocese, and there is a lot of this sort of thinking.
    I’ve heard the “women’s ordination is inevitable” line from laypeople
    and deacons alike. There are a lot of good people in my parish, but I
    often get the sense that mainstream Catholicism in America and orthodox
    Catholic belief don’t have a lot in common.

  54. Andrew Neel says:

    As a resident of the diocese of Evansville, I was disturbed by this but not surprised. I went through RCIA in this city and was taught blatant heresies, some directly from the priest (Christ did not establish the Church, confessing “straight to God” is ok if you’re not comfortable with formal Penance, etc.) I attended a few masses at the Cathedral in the hopes that the seat of the Bishop would be a little more orthodox. I was wrong. I won’t go into details, but Fr. Z’s skepticism of the comment that “Bishop Gettlefinger is of the same theological school as the author” is ill founded if you’ve had any experience with the Bishop. He certainly hasn’t done anything good for Evansville; the diocese is a wasteland with heresies being taught from the pulpit weekly. So for anyone with any background in Evansville, this is in no way surprising.

  55. Ed Colbert says:

    Regarding the sentence “When the deacon or lector carries a beautifully adorned Gospel Book in the opening procession of Mass, this proclaims that God’s Word is central to our lives”, note that “Word” is capitalized. As such, it should refer to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity – rather than to scripture as implied here.

    As we enter Lent, the difference is brought out clearly. Satan quoted scripture to Jesus in the desert.

  56. Nerina says:

    I am certainly glad to hear that others found this confusing.

    Like the people from Evansville, our diocese is full of this type of thinking and teaching. The Director of Liturgy/Head of Adult Faith Formation at my church doesn’t believe that Christ founded the Catholic church and our priest will readily say that “going straight to God is fine” (though in fairness, he will follow-up and say that one-on-one confession is like opening a garage door and letting in a huge amount of light whereas “going straight to God” is like poking holes in the wall and only letting in a little light at a time – I like that visual). I’d say 90% of the staff think artificial birth control is a-okay and personal conscience, no matter how it is formed, trumps all.

  57. Mark says:

    The only “paradigm shift” going on here is the post Vatican II stale ideology of Catholic Liturgical Socialism. Communal confession for the Catholic proletariat, really! The whole thing sounds like one of those tiresome Powerpoint presentations full of the latest techno geek/psychobabble speak. At least the author spared us the usual list of catchy acronyms.

    No right thinking member of our Church should allow himself to be “paradigmed” away from the fullness of our two thousand year old Tradition. We have a right to our Patrimony, and no diocesan troll can take that away from us. This type of gather blather deserves the boot.

  58. LCB says:

    I waited until after dinner and during my evening bourbon…

    And I still can’t figure out what this guy is trying to say.

  59. Nicholas says:

    The phrase “paradigm shift” was actually coined by (or at least given its modern currency) by philosopher Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” The book has been extremely influential in the philosophy of science, as has the the concept itself of a paradigm shift. The phrase, however, has bled over into the general academic consciousness, and in various diluted and inaccurate senses has entered popular culture. I highly recommend the book.

  60. Tom says:

    Brothers and Sisters –

    I am 53, born in 1955. At the age of 10 years, I was reading the entire initial English translation of Lumen Gentium printed in The Chicago Tribune newspaper. Perhaps I was religiously precocious, but I was so excited reading the text! I understood little, but what I could discern excited me tremendously. To me, Lumen Gentium wasn’t giving a new theology; nor was it providing a new “blueprint” or “paradigm shift” for ‘being Church.’ To my 10 year old mind, I was excited that the Roman Catholic Church was trying to communicate/’evangelize’ Jesus’ message to people of the modern world. To me, ‘modern’ was the effort to give the eternal message of God to people in their own languages. Yes, I knew the original text was composed in Latin. However, the opportunity to read the text and [begin] to comprehend THE CHURCH in a language that I could grasp meant everything to me. And it still does!

    I am old enough to remember having to memorize the questions and answers of the Baltimore Catechism [yes in 1965!] so that I could be a good Soldier of Christ, and demonstrate that to the Bishop (should he call on me to respond with a declaration of Faith).

    I have been formed by the culture of the ’60s’ & ’70s’: the Viet Nam war, ‘Hippies”, the drug culture, the transcendential meditation movement, a public High School education, and growing-up with the Jesuits in the ’70s’ and ’80s’.

    All this to say that I understand Father’s language in the above cited op-ed piece. I was trained in it, struggled in the classroom with this New Theology, guitar masses, home- made bread for the Eucharist [I even remember one occasion at Mass when the priest was “celebrating the Fraction Rite”, that the Lamb of God accompanied the priest trying to “break the bread” and witnessing it SHATTER into 10s of pieces around the room], OR use of the old Pita substitutes.

    WHAT FOLLOWS IS NOT DIRECTED TO (NOR INTENDED FOR) THE PRIEST WHO WROTE THE COLUMN. What I wish to highlight regarding this sloppy and wayward language is the consumate thought of Descartes’ philosophy: “I think, therefore I am.” The is the philosophy of individualism. The individual became the Subject. “It’s all about ME/US. God is the OBJECT to whom we pray.

    When an ordained minister, catechist, or religion teacher attempts to present the Catholic Faith from this philosophical vantage point we end up being formed in ‘Communal Individualism’. The homiletic and catechetical message is that I attend/WE gather to be formed as a community of individuals. Individuals who are weekly exhorted to go out and be kind to family members, and being more than civil to our neighbor. Even possibly joining a parish commission or social outreach.

    An example of such a philosophical approach could be seen in the interpretation of Jesus’ summary of the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…And a second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [RSV: MT 22:37-39]” The entire Law and Prophets depend on these two commandments.

    Jesus links the two together. That is to say that love of neighbor as yourself can only come from knowing and loving God completely. . .that is, seeing myself/my neighbor as of equal worth in the plan of God. One could not possibly LOVE the neighbor without focusing on the Love of God. Jesus is not promoting social work. We choose to engage in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy from the personal realization of GOD’s love for me – discerned through prayer with God.

    Cartesisan philosophy is not evident in the Vatican II documents. It is not in [the Latin] texts of the Missal of Paul VI. It is not to be found in any of the books of the revised Roman Rituale [well, I have to rescind this when I look at the current Book of Blessings.] Nor is it to be found in subsequent official ecclesiastical documents.

    All the official Rituals make clear that it is the Church – founded on the Faith of Peter – that calls and leads GOD’s people into the New Covenant. It is the Church that calls people to the Faith. It is the Church that “elects”/chooses adults formed in the Faith to Christian Initiation. It is the Church [mediated through the parents] that admits the infant into the life and grace of the Holy Trinity. It is the Church that forgives. It is the Church that invokes healing of the sick. It is the Church that invokes blessings. It is the Church that buries the dead. And the Church provides and celebrates these actions of Christ with proper ritual expression.

    Any ordained minister, catechist, or religion teacher that attempts to “update” the rituals or the proclamation of the Faith “in these or similar words” is vulnerable [due to the widespread cultural acceptance of Cartesian philosophy] to confuse the true Subject and Objects.

    The Holy Trinity is the Subject of prayer and theology. It is GOD who lovingly looks upon the Objects of His Creation.

    BOTH the Tridentine Rite and the “Rite of Paul VI” emphasize this: the ‘Extraordinary” IS the “Ordinary”. One reality. One Roman Rite. Two expressions of One Truth.

    Even the various liturgical rites of Particular Churches – Byzantine, East and West Syrian, Armenian; and local usage of the Roman rite – Braga, Hispano-Mozarabic, Milan, Cistercian, Norbertine, Carmelite, Dominican – all celebrate the same Truth in cultural adaptation.

    Perhaps, the ‘favor’ toward use of the vernacular CAN counter the individual-centered philosophy. The vernacular is a great blessing in forming the Christian Community when WE SAY THE BLACK; DO THE RED. It is “THE BLACK” that keeps GOD as SUBJECT.

    For the recor, I share these thoughts with you as a Faith-filled Catholic ‘radio dispatcher’.


  61. Peggy says:

    This is nothing. To keep your head from exploding do NOT read the weekly columns by one Fr. Roger Karban of the Belleville IL diocese. He routinely denies Jesus’ divinity and the authority of the Church; he mocks those Catholics who might actually trust the Church’s authority and follow the catechism and so on. He’s a “friend” of CTA and regarded in those circles as a scripture scholar though he has no degree to his name in that regard. Many have begged Bp. Braxton to discontinue these columns in the diocesan and find a more orthodox presentation to print. Alas, Bp. Braxton already is under fire by the progressives who want to run the diocese themselves as they did under prior bishops.

  62. “Today hearing God’s Word proclaimed is just as vital and relevant for Catholics as for other Christians, who emphasized the Scriptures almost exclusively while we stressed the Sacraments. [Except, of course, when we celebrated Mass or read the Office.]”

    Indeed! Having been raised an evangelical/charismatic Protestant (a Bible thumper in the Bible belt), I was amazed that there is more Scripture reading in one mass than in a year’s worth of services in most of these Bible-loving churches. And that the Scripture reading for the week should be the source of the homily (sermon) rather than some half-baked, preconceived notion the pastor felt the “Spirit” was moving him to share was the icing on the cake.

    Being Catholic is awesome. I just wish more Catholics knew it.

  63. Phil Steinacker says:

    comment by Mr. Ambrose Little, O.P.: \”And that the Scripture reading for the week should be the source of the homily (sermon) rather than some half-baked, preconceived notion the pastor felt the “Spirit” was moving him to share was the icing on the cake.\”

    Unfortunately, this focus on Scripture – as much as I honestly appreciate and have learned much from the majority of such Scripture-focused homilies I have heard – has occurred at the expense of catechesis. As a result we have a situation now where there\’s hardly any difference between what many Catholics believe about the tenets of their own faith and that promulgated by nearby Protestant \”churches.\”

    You have undoubtedly heard of one particularly infamous finding by Pew’s most recent research into beliefs of Catholics that only 30% of Catholics who attend Sunday Mass actually believe they are receiving the actual Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Jesus Christ at the Eucharist.

    I’m sorry, but hearing the Word of God is NOT the equivalent to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion. There is probably more than one reason for the presence of this ignorance/confusion, but the failure of priests to teach the Faith as well as the inappropriate equation of the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist have played the leading roles in this disintegration in the faith of Catholics.

    I disagree with you, Mr. Ambrose – I’ll take my chances on “some half-baked, preconceived notion the pastor felt the \’Spirit\’ was moving him to share…” Odds are a good pastor will have taken the measures necessary to have unearthed specific knowledge about the appalling lack of correct understanding of the Faith by his flock so that such “preconceived notion” might be specifically targeted to that correction so desperately needed – and for so long ignored by the exclusive homiletic focus on Scripture.

    I say we need to let pastors be shepherds of their flock – able to determine what that flock needs and to provide it.

  64. Barb says:

    My family moved to evansville 7 months ago. I must say that my choices of churchs
    to attend have almost all been awful. I settled on St. Benedicts because at LEAST
    our Divine Lord’s tabernacle was visible and the cathedral doesn’t have that “in
    the round” feel. I must teach my daughter the faith and if anyone (even a priest or bishop)
    were to speak such heretical drivel to her, I would come down on them like a ton
    of bricks.

    Fiat Voluntas Tua

  65. I well remember those days when the Church said that one HAD to be present by the Offertory to fulfill your Sunday obligation. Thus, the Liturgy of the Word (not called that in those days) took second place to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In such an atmosphere, you can see that scripture was not considered as important for Catholics. The use of scripture in the prayers of the Mass were not that emphasized in my childhood.

    After Vatican II, we were taught that God was also present in the Word; and thus WORD and EUCHARIST together constituted the Sunday obligation.

  66. RBrown says:

    A demographic note: All 5 bishops of Indiana are past 70, two past 75, and one almost 74.

    That is not to say that they are past the age of competence, but rather that they are of the generation whose formation and early years of the priesthood (between 1960 and 1970) was intended to train men to carry out orders.

    That generation was first taught that Latin was the language of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, then a few years later that the vernacular was the language of the Eucharistic Meal. The Counter Reformation Church with its By the Numbers emphasis on individual sanctity was replaced by the Post Vat II Church with its emphasis on Ecumenism. An Ecumeniacal approach developed that ignored or suppressed anything liturgical, doctrinal, or sartorial (cassocks and religious habits) that manifested differences with Protestantism.

    Many of those who questioned the wisdom of the New Church were persecuted. Some left. Those who fell in line, mindlessly drinking the Kool-Aid (or pretending to drink it), were promoted–some to the Episcopacy.

  67. Kevin V. says:

    I think perhaps this article represents a common theme I see in liberal religion. You’ll miss it if you don’t know their assumption.
    Their assumption is the metaphysical reality is unimportant or unknowable, what is important is the individual’s belief. It’s a psychological religion for them. E.g if I believe in the divinity of Christ, that belief has meaning for me, whether or not there was a person named Jesus Christ who was both God and man is irrelevant to the question as far as they are concerned.
    All this writer’s talk about “paradigm shifts” betrays this assumption I think. The reality of the mass, the real presence, the reception of the sacraments, &c is totally irrelevant to him except insofar as the individual BELIEVES it and uses that belief to change their lives (or some such rubbish).
    It’s actually very Pelagian, because there is no acknowledgment of actual grace. It’s all about what we do for ourselves, either individual or “in community”.

  68. Jeff Pinyan says:

    An example of Fr. Karban’s writing:

    That’s why today’s Gospel is so important. It not only provides us with the meaning of Mary’s unique pregnancy, it also helps us understand some of our own uniqueness. (Since those who have provided us with our current American lectionary have mistranslated some key words, I suggest you pull out your New American Bible and read today’s pericope from there.)
    From the beginning to the end of the passage, Luke emphasizes what God has done for Mary. Gabriel’s initial greeting “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” flies in the face of popular religion. It shouldn’t surprise us guilt-filled faithful that Mary’s “troubled” by this address of favor.
    The angel quickly follows with the details of the virgin’s pregnancy, always stressing what God and the Holy Spirit will be doing for her in the process. Mary’s expected only to acknowledge and accept what the angel proclaims, as she finally does with the statement: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Since throughout his Gospel Luke makes Mary the “type” of the church, what he says about her, he also says about us. In other words, he wants us to acknowledge God and the Spirit working through us in order to bring Jesus into the world.
    Today of all days, it would behoove us eucharistic presiders to change the liturgical greeting “The Lord be with you!” into the powerful biblical statement “The Lord is with you!” Those who refuse to do so really can’t be serious about the Gospel they’ve just proclaimed.

    So he’s opposed to “full of grace” (calling it a mistranslation) and equates each individual Catholic with Mary and, consequently, “the Church”.

  69. RBrown says:

    That’s why today’s Gospel is so important. It not only provides us with the meaning of Mary’s unique pregnancy, it also helps us understand some of our own uniqueness. (Since those who have provided us with our current American lectionary have mistranslated some key words, I suggest you pull out your New American Bible and read today’s pericope from there.)

    From the beginning to the end of the passage, Luke emphasizes what God has done for Mary. Gabriel’s initial greeting “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” flies in the face of popular religion. It shouldn’t surprise us guilt-filled faithful that Mary’s “troubled” by this address of favor.

    Actually, the correct translation is “HIGHLY favored one”. And the root of the Greek (keCARITOmenh) is almost always translated as gratia (grace), e.g., John 1:14.

    Today of all days, it would behoove us eucharistic presiders to change the liturgical greeting “The Lord be with you!” into the powerful biblical statement “The Lord is with you!” Those who refuse to do so really can’t be serious about the Gospel they’ve just proclaimed.

    Ironic that someone who presents himself as a scholar doesn’t understand the subjunctive mood.

  70. RJM says:

    The writer’s thinking is terribly convoluted, but I think that in the last paragraph he was trying to contrast “conversion” with “institutionalism,” as if personal conversion and the proper maintenance of an institution were somehow at odds withe each other.

  71. Midwest St. Michael says:

    To Barb who just moved to Evansville:

    Try Holy Spirit with Fr. Claude Burns (have your teens go to his Dead Theologians Society) – or Holy Trinity downtown. HT has EF of the Mass once a month I believe.

    Peace to you,

  72. Dear Mr. Steinacker,

    I think you imply some dichotomy between the tenets of the Catholic Faith and Scripture. There can be no such thing; they both flow from the same source of Revelation.

    I also think we’re coming at this from completely different angles, but…

    Pastors reflecting on the Scriptures for that Sunday can often take advantage of great opportunities, such as when the Gospel reading is from John 6, to reinforce the Catholic doctrine like the Real Presence. And I’ve heard them do it.

    Of course, I’ve also heard a certain Jesuit priest in Tampa, FL take the reading about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and say the “miracle” was that Jesus’ example caused the folks there to share with each other (i.e., Jesus didn’t actually perform a miracle). So there’s no guarantee–we still need the Magisterium and Tradition to inform our interpretation of Scripture, but at least the homilies are based on the rhythm of the Church’s calendar and not the random preferences of the priest (or the football game yesterday).

    In any case, to imply that basing homilies on the Scripture readings for the week is responsible for the poor catechesis is just off. There are so many other factors in play.

    I think you don’t understand where my comment from. I attended Protestant services all my life growing up, hearing conflicting teaching from week to week sometimes because different preachers were supposedly being led by the same “Spirit.” They’d each get the idea for what they wanted to say and then go dig up Scripture to support what they wanted to say. IOW, they were using Scripture as a rhetorical tool instead of letting Scripture (and of course no Apostolic Tradition) guide them.

    The Catholic approach is much better. Even if it doesn’t guarantee good homilies, it gets them closer to the mark.

  73. Joseph says:

    This article reminds me very much of what I have read about Fr. Karl Rahner’s sacramental theology. One of Rahner’s convictions was that the Sacraments could not be understood by “modern man” as what they had been taught, namely, a sensible sign which effects the reality it signifies; for this is a miracle. Therefore, Rahner postulated that a Sacrament is a symbol of something that is already true about all of us. Thus, in the case of Confession, a person who has committed sins is forgiven and absolved before and after sinning, before and after Confession. The penitent is in a kind of an “a priori state of absolution” at all times. The ritual of confession and absolution is only of psycho-social value. That is to say, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an outward cultural manifestation of a reality which is already effected. It merely reminds us of this fact.

  74. RBrown says:

    If I might offer an addendum to my above remarks. Although “highly” is not literally contained in the Greek kecaritomenh, it is usually added due to the word chosen as a salutation (Caire).

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