Most of us have have struggled at one point or another, often to the the point where a little trickle of blood emerges from the corner of our mouths, to bite our tongues during sermons. Listening to at best pabulum and at worst outright heresy is the lot of many Catholics. Some Catholics know what they are hearing. Many haven’t a clue. It’s hard to have a clue, to be sure. I think, however, not having a clue must be harder in a way.
At Crisis (getting better and better) find a “Letter to a Priest” in which the writer, William Luse, describes some of the occasions when he has tried to engage priests over what he has seen and heard in churches. I suspect that some of you will resonate with his tales.
I’ll give a bit of his opening, which explains his over-arching angst these days. His anecdotes begin down the line a bit. My emphases and comments:
Letter to a Priest
“The synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulas but the free availability of God’s love and forgiveness.” ? Pope Francis
I do want to love this pope,[Catholics love their Popes… if they are Catholic. We don’t have to like them and everything they do, but we have to love them.] the sure desire of any Catholic heart. But this rhetorical tic—to which he resorts so frequently that he must think it a profound path to genuine insight rather than a substitute for it—of setting at odds the spirit and the letter of doctrine is not making it easy. Every powerful gesture he makes, like visiting the Little Sisters of the Poor, or embracing a disabled child, must stand beside a cloud of utterances either impervious to interpretation, or so clearly censorious as to be unmistakable in their intent. The [unavoidable]implication of the latter sort is that, if you are among those who insist that true doctrine must be defended before all else, then you cannot be among those who “uphold its spirit.” You don’t live the doctrine, but relish laying it down. You don’t really care about those “difficult cases and wounded families,” or, to unmask the rhetoric, your devotion to doctrine has maimed your capacity to love. [Which is, of course, rubbish of the highest – lowest- grade. You can only love properly in the context of the Truth.]
How can you know the spirit of a thing without knowing first the thing itself? Upon reading the pope’s words, I thought I saw a ghost rising from its grave, the specter of that vague entity once called the Spirit of Vatican II. In reality, it has never received a proper burial and probably never will. It was, of course, the complete fabrication of renegades hoping to corrupt doctrine through an abrogation of discipline. This cannot be what Francis wishes, but there his words are, a voice of encouragement to the Catholic left who will gladly, with renewed vigor, destroy a discipline to devour a doctrine. Must we now look forward to fighting again the battles of the past? [To ask the question is to answer it.] I don’t know if I’d have the energy, but during the previous two pontificates, at least we knew we had the pope at our backs. This pope has compelled me to recollection. [Thus he describes the overall environment. He will move into particulars he has personally experienced that are reflections of this larger picture.]
Like most of you, I try to follow St. Peter’s advice and always be ready with a reason for what I believe, though I’d rather not have to ready myself against fellow Catholics, especially priests, let alone a pope. I (like most of you?) would much rather just sit in the pew and trust that the guys in the robes will say and do the right thing. Having to enter a Catholic church with my error-radar raised high, probing the air for evidence of an enemy incursion, is distracting, but over the years I think many of us have developed the habit, some willingly, others with reluctance.[Some today, after all these years, some who might not know what they don’t know, are now itching to hear problems even when they aren’t there, that’s how bruised they are. They have experienced such blatant abuses and absurdities, that they imagine them to be the rule rather than the exception. Trust can be low.]I hope I’m among the latter. I get the sense that some who would argue for the Tradition have enjoyed the confrontations of the last forty or fifty years (what Monsignor Kelly called The Battle for the American Church) a little too much. I haven’t. I knew before I joined up that the Church to which I was converting could be as fractious in its own way as our political culture was in another, but that doesn’t mean I liked it. I didn’t take the oath in order to find a good argument. I took it because of Christ’s wish that we all be one, and I saw the only hope for that oneness in this particular gathering of souls. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
I was raised to hold the Episcopalian priests of my childhood in high esteem. To me they were practically perfect. I knew they were men, but instinctively considered them something more, as though touched by heaven in a way the rest of us aren’t. With Saint Paul, I tried to put away childish things when I became a man. Priests are people too, we hear. [Thus, it is rumored.] It’s a fact, unpleasant though it may be. Becoming a man has not made it much easier to accept. They are just human, (and in the light, or darkness, of the 2002 revelations some have seemed less than that), but we don’t want them to be “just human.” We want them to be more. Some are. I have known a couple, and so, probably, have you. But you’ve also known the other kind, the one who feeds the disunity, who sets your teeth on edge, who makes you want to go parish shopping. You’re not sure how to deal with such a one. Should you confront him? Most of the time you don’t. You keep your mouth shut, offer it up to God, cling to the truth in spite of him. You vent to your family and like-minded friends. [And comboxes.]
Erosion by Emphasis [This is good.]
Usually it’s not a matter of outright heresy, but of what we might call erosion by emphasis, his preferring, for example, the unifying significance of that communal meal known as the Eucharist to its previous incarnation as the body and blood of him who died in agony on a cross and whose blood spilled to the ground for our sins, of which we are unworthy but partake at his gracious command. This latter sacrificial and redemptive understanding is not so much overtly displaced as made to recede into the background where it need not trouble us unduly, or interfere with the “celebration.” [This is especially the penchant of those suffering these days from Immanetism Lite™. They don’t deny the transcendent. They simply never think about it. If pushed, they’ll admit that God is transcendent, but it doesn’t mean much to them.] Or perhaps he engages in what some consider an understandable, socially necessary, and rather mild form of disobedience, such that, while Rome commands that neither the letter of the liturgy nor of the Bible quoted therein be fooled with, he sets about with a flailing scythe, severing every masculine pronoun from its Scriptural root and stalk, not so much feminizing the Mass as neutering it utterly, as though Christ were neither a man nor born of a woman, or, if he was, it’s not important.
Like most people, I usually keep my mouth shut. Usually. On the other hand, it’s hard to let the subterfuge pass unchallenged Sunday after Sunday, month after month, year after year. To do so seems an abdication of duty. I have confronted a few priests, as politely as possible, and hated every second of it.
Read the rest there.
Folks, be hesitant to confront a priest.