At the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald, there is an analysis piece by a writer for First Things, Matthew Schmitz. He writes about the angst libs are experiencing, as they cope with the ticking clock: Pope Francis isn’t moving fast enough to realize the iconoclastic agenda and their time is running out. The younger generation doesn’t want their progressive fairyland of discontinuity.
Here’s a sample:
Liberal Catholicism’s unexpected crisis
[L[iberal Catholics whose initial enthusiasm is now curdling into concern, even alarm. Three years after his election, The Tablet has decided that Pope Francis’s reform programme is “rapidly becoming overdue”. Robert Mickens, the veteran Vatican correspondent, writes in the National Catholic Reporter that “many reform-minded Catholics have again become quite worried about the future direction of their Church”. [Micken’s had a spittle-flecked nutty about Card. Sarah the other day at the National Sodomotic Reporter. Of course what set him off were the Cardinal’s comments about the evil of the demonic gender distortion agenda and homosexuality that is so ripe these days.]
Vito Mancuso, a former priest and protégé of the liberal Italian lion Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, shares their fears. “Two diametrically opposed forces are intensifying within the Catholic Church,” he warns us in a recent interview in La Repubblica. Opposed to the innovators like himself are those who “want to return to the ‘sound tradition,’ something especially prevalent among young priests”. [They know that everything they worked for for so long is about to be dismantled. And the nastier they get, in their sclerotic positions of power, they more joyously young priests will demolish their Babel towers.]
Mancuso believes that if Francis does not act more decisively, and soon, he risks being no more than “a shooting star”. After his death or retirement, the College of Cardinals could elect a pope who would end the flexible pastoral approach and begin making straightforward affirmations and condemnations. They particularly fear the election of Cardinal Robert Sarah, a man who does not seem much interested in flattering the sensibilities of educated Westerners. He appears in their nightmares with the name Pius XIII.
The first problem is demographic. There are not enough highly committed young liberal Catholics to replace the older generation. Last September, the posh Town and Country Club in St Paul, Minnesota, hosted to a conference with the title “Can Francis change the Church’s approach to sexuality?” Barbara Frey, a human rights lawyer, and Massimo Faggioli, an advocate for the theological education of newspaper columnists, addressed a crowd of 125 attendees. Notwithstanding the spicy topic, the National Catholic Reporter noted that crowd members were “mostly in their 60s, 70s and 80s”.
Though many self-identified Catholics count as liberals, broad trends away from religious attachment and observance have left fewer than ever willing to spend time and energy trying to change the Church. Phyllis Zagano, a professor at Hofstra University and advocate for women deacons, worries that “older Church professionals who adjusted to vernacular liturgies and who incorporate mercy into their understandings of justice are retiring daily” only to be replaced by young conservatives.
Read the whole thing there.
Meanwhile, Fr. Hunwicke, at Mutual Enrichment, comments on why bishops are so frenzied about The Sarah Appeal™.
So those bishops around the world who resent liturgical renewal are getting ever nastier, and turning the screws on their unfortunate clergy … especially the younger ones (you’d think they might be glad to have one or two younger clergy as they shut down their priestless churches by the dozen).
Why? I think they had their minds formed in an age when liturgical texts and habits preceding the 1970s were viewed by some with a deeply and viscerally personal detestation. There are some around who are still motivated by the same obsessive aversions.
Sad, really, that some bishops had (have?) so little confidence in the good sense of their clergy.
Why such silly tantrums? A wise priest trained in psychiatry has diagnosed the problem thus: They associate the Extraordinary Form with what they think of as a repressive and sin-obsessed form of Catholicism from which they were glad to be set free.
In other words, their liturgical passions are still tangled up in their adolescent struggles with their now aged hormones.
To which I should add some points. I’ve made some of these points before.
First, do not forget that liberals are so smug and humorless because they perceive themselves as morally superior to us mere mortals. This feeds into their small-minded nastiness.
Next, it is sometimes hard to remember when reading liberal crowing about their latest Pyrrhic victory, that younger committed Catholics, certainly seminarians, younger priests and goodly number of bishops, don’t give a tinker’s dam about anything the Fishwrap (aka National Sodomitic Reporter) says. They don’t share the narrow vision of a still widespread – but rapidly weakening – discontinuity and rupture. Young people have nothing invested in that agenda. The few that do are exceptions to the rule. The seminarians I know, if they see the Fishwrap at all, just shake their heads. Perhaps they smile a little. The indifference this new generation of priests has concerning the liberal catholic agenda will inevitably have a huge knock-on effect in the parishes they will lead and the classrooms they will teach in. That terrifies the aging catholic Left.
Moreover, just Fr. Hunwicke has his perspective on liberals in Ol’ Blighty, there is a perspective to be had about liberals in these USA. On this side of the Pond, self-absorbed Promethean Neopelagian aging-hippie liberals still interpret everything within the Church through the lens they formed during the anti-authoritarian civil-rights and anti-war protest movements. When we (The Forces of Light) try to uphold hierarchy and authority or rubrics or the older form of Mass or obedience to the Magisterium or decorum in liturgy and sacred music (or in the clerical life) an involuntary subconscious switch clicks in their heads. They take your faithful Catholic position of continuity to be an attack themselves and on Vatican II, on … niceness… on bunnies … on the poor… on the Democrat Party…. Vatican II cannot, in their minds, be separated from the protest movements they have idolized until they are actually paradigmatic, iconic, even mythic.
The myth is now itself dying, and they don’t like it one little bit.
The moderation queue is ON.
Pray for the conversion of unfaithful Liberals. They are very worried that a return to pre-60s morals will have them judged and hanged post-mortem. If fact, they should be worried more about the judgment of God who condemned deceivers with millstones and deep water.
And may God convert me from all my faults I have yet to discover and confess.
To me, it seems the deepening, hostile divide between Catholic liberals and conservatives reflects the political scene of Democrats and Republicans in the US. Distrust, disrespect, a strange sort of entitlement to hate the other side… We have made the “others” our enemies. In the name of God. We are simply embroiling ourselves in another holy war of sorts. So, in the Church the pendulum has swung back and forth and back– and will continue to do so with future generations and popes. The roller coaster ride is intriguing and quite dramatic at times! Micah 6:8 is a perfect path in these stormy times.
Fr. Z said:
“And the nastier they get, in their sclerotic positions of power, they more joyously young priests will demolish their Babel towers.]”
“Render your gender
Give it to me
Even in Rome
Even in Rome
Forked-tongue they speak
Where flesh is strong
And spirit’s weak.
Where flesh is strong
And smothers the soul
Becomes the great goal.
As to his or her bearings
New mass of confusion
Sends up the red herrings.
New mass of confusion
Lets sin have a voice
Where gender benders
Build Tower of choice.
Where gender benders
Hate anything female
Hate anything female
God placed between Satan
And the Virgin Marie.
God placed between Satan
Pious priests stand strong
Ad Orientem ~
To HIM you belong!!
The whole uproar over Cardinal Sarah demonstrated their rigidity in their “flexibility.” Of course any rational person can see how rigid the dogma of this new secular left. Yet, this appeasement will be their undoing. They have done such a great job of telling people that all they need is mercy and to love their neighbor and not so much the Cross, they driven people out of the churches and scratch their heads wondering why young rigid Catholics are left. They are doing their best to ensure that a Cardinal Sarah or Cardinal Napier won’t be the next pope. Again one has to look at the smear campaign following Cardinal Sarah’s remarks a few weeks ago. If they can’t paint as someone unsympathetic to the poor they will paint him as coming from that ignorant Africa. Yet I’m sure if most readers of NC Reporter were to read God or Nothing, they would discover that he is the opposite of his portrayal.
“Though many self-identified Catholics count as liberals, broad trends away from religious attachment and observance have left fewer than ever willing to spend time and energy trying to change the Church.” THIS; I think it’s especially the case with “millenials.” I have one sister who still calls herself Catholic and hopes the Church will someday “catch up on LGBTQIAA+ issues,” but the other one was just honest and admitted to being an atheist. Despite the fact that social media is centered around the exact opposite, you read a good deal on it about how the younger generations value “authenticity,” and pretending to be a member of a religion you disagree with goes against that.
Why aging liberals are so nasty and so frightened???
Because little by little they see the liberal church crumbling before them! It is about time!
He [Cardinal Sarah] appears in their nightmares with the name Pius XIII.
I was hoping for a Pius XIII immediately to succeed Pope Benedict. That’s why I rushed to order my Twelve Piuses clock during the last conclave. I’m still hoping my clock will one day skyrocket in value. Better get yours today!
Getting ‘caught up over there’, thanks to the link to Fr. Hunwicke’s blog, I encountered a commenter linking a review by Dom Alcuin Reid (of a book discussed by Professor de Ville in his recent post, linked here), which seemed apposite to this post, too:
Orthodoxy promotes vocations and produces orthodox priests. Heterodoxy does not produce vocations, hence less liberal priests. The Holy Spirit has a habit of cleaning out His Church occasionally. :)
I don’t know, Fr. Z … I hope you are right, but my recent visit to a parish in the northeast did not show any signs of the shift you describe. [As I wrote recently elswhere: “Most parishes have not improved their liturgical and doctrinal landscape at the same pace that seminaries were cleaned up.”] The liturgy was so full of anomalies that one priest I spoke with when I came home said he wasn’t sure I had even attended a Catholic Mass. It was very sad. A layman started the Mass by commanding from the ambo that everyone to “greet your neighbor”. An uproar of hellos and laughter ensued. The priest entered and cracked jokes throughout the Mass, from beginning to end. At the consecration, he did not genuflect or offer any sign of reverence. A laywoman in short-sleeved street clothes brought the ciborium of consecrated hosts from the side chapel to the altar (there is no tabernacle in the church). In his homily, the priest complained of lukewarm Catholics and the need for the “new evangelization.” Later, one of the many EMHC’s told me the parish currently has temporary help from a priest from Cameroon; she commented: “we used to send missionaries to Africa, now they come to us!” There are currently only 6 seminarians in this particular diocese.
“Two diametrically opposed forces are intensifying within the Catholic Church”
That breeze you feel is the Holy Spirit, winnowing His wings and blowing out the smoke of Satan.
Notwithstanding the spicy topic, the National Catholic Reporter noted that crowd members were “mostly in their 60s, 70s and 80s”.
Same age as Ronald McDonald …………
Back in the mid 1970s I attended a liberal major seminary in Ontario, for a year. In one of my first theology classes I was bemused to hear my (priest) professor set the stage for what was to be taught that year. Essentially, he stated that all theology in the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II was static in nature and all subsequent theology was dynamic.
This position intrigued me. I was something of a theological ingenue then, although I was in my late twenties and had served as a commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces and on political staff in the House of Commons in Ottawa.
My innocent question to my prof was prefaced by my observation that I was confused. Much of pre-Vatican II Catholic theology, I said, was based on the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint Thomas, in turn based his theological method on the philosophy of Aristotle (thus the saying that Aquinas baptized Aristotle). Aristotle was the philosophy of becoming and was a dynamic philosophy. How then could pre-Vatican II theology be then construed as being static?
Expecting a reasoned explanation, I was shocked by the priest’s reaction. He, as they say in the Great White North, lost the proverbial hockey puck, exploded in anger and went on n extended rant. The content of his screed I’ve forgotten, but never my introduction into the liberal Catholic mind. That priest was unaware that he had suddenly and forever inoculated me against liberal theology. Afterwards, I was careful to examine the underlying premises of liberal theology finding them to be consistently flawed.
At another class we were required to comment on an article by Gregory Baum. My comment was that, if he truly believed what he wrote, he was a heretic. The priest teaching the class (not the one above) said Father Baum (as he then was) was teaching in the next class and he would bring him in so I could say that to his face. I believe he thought that would cower me, but former military types are not so easily cowed. I merely replied I would be happy to repeat my statement to Father Baum’s face, as it was true. That startled my prof, who did not follow up on his threat. I left at the end of the year. Orthodoxy was too scarce at that time and in that place.
Cardinal Sarah is a true son of the Church. May God bless and protect him.
It is not enough to wait for the biological solution to kick in without, also, dissasembling the underlying theology. As long as the liberal theology remains unchallenged and uncontradicted, it might rear its ugly head again in two or three generations. The monster theology must be slain.
“… the National Catholic Reporter noted that crowd members were ‘mostly in their 60s, 70s and 80s’.”
Not that I don’t relish the idea of a heavy return to orthodoxy and solemnity, I wonder if the above is more of a reflection of the apathy of younger Catholics, than the dying of heterodox thought. I recently had a discussion with a mid 30’s member of our parish regarding gay marriage. He admitted he voted for the legalization because he didn’t understand why “a loving Church would oppose the love of two people.”
It is hard to judge the level of orthodoxy of the, say, under 50 Catholic population because, like the Jewish community, one can be “born” into Catholicism. I know many a “Catholic” that claim that heritage because they were baptized, despite not having been to mass in several years, or even having joined other denominations (my brother-in-law is one of the latter–claims to be Catholic, despite diligently attending an Assembly of God church in town every Sunday). So we often get these polls that say majority of Catholics support gay marriage, yet when controlling for regular attendance, we see that support drop precipitously.
While I’m optimistic that the number of heterodox priests, parish leaders, and parishoners is declining, I’m reluctant to say (yet) that “their time is running out.” I don’t think it’ll be even in my lifetime (I’m in my early 40’s) that we’ll see a prominent return to orthodoxy.
“They don’t share the narrow vision of a still widespread – but rapidly weakening – discontinuity and rupture. Young people have nothing invested in that agenda.”
Although the children of the “innovators” may not have received from their parents any reason to remain involved in the Church, there are still quite a few young people of “progressive” leaning who do want to continue participating in the Church. They grew up with the understanding that elements like ad orientem worship were errors that needed to be broken away from (a positive view of the rupture), or have gotten used to personalized elements of Mass that are conveyed versus populem as important parts of the experience, much like a good public speaker is personable.
It’s not that they really want to keep changing the Church, but that they don’t want to change in the other direction. As a result, returning to the “old way” seems backwards and counterproductive to them. The consistent reinforcement of the transcendent nature of the Mass has been lacking their entire lives, so they don’t even have a basis to understand how ad orientem can unify them with the priest, as opposed to separating them from somebody whose back is turned.
They will resist re-introducing positive elements from the past. Not as fiercely, of course, nor with similar goals in mind but it will take patient and careful catechesis to draw them towards changes, and avoid making changes a line that divides opposing groups of Catholics.
This Manusco fellow must remember that he is a laicised priest and as suvh his liberal church when they allowed him to be laicized also demanded this. These priests have given up their pastoral responsibilities and as such you are to take no part in any pastoral abilities and teaching. You are to go to the Church attending mass and receiving the sacraments all else is forbidden you. Fr Andrew Greely expressed this demand very publicly and often.
I admit to some sympathy for baby boomers, being one myself (66). I always thought the “old” Church was beautiful so didn’t buy into the “leaving the dark Middle Ages” schtick bandied about then. At the same time, Catholics were raised to obey priests/bishops without question so when the changes were introduced we dutifully went along with them (a contributing factor to this mess, as Michael Davies pointed out). I went to Church – most/some of the time and dropped Confession and prayers along with everyone else.
One habit I had continued from my high school days was reading a newspaper every day and discovering that ones from all over were starting up internet versions was like a magic lamp being rubbed for me. It was from this purely secular hobby that I ran into an article by Mark Steyn in one of them. It linked to an article originally run in the UK’s “The Daily Telegraph” and suddenly I found myself in a British newspaper. It was a small step to exploring the rest of the English newspaper – it seemed quite exotic at the time – to coming across a columnist named Damian Thompson who was writing a sympathetic article on a Catholic topic. In a secular newspaper! Unbelievable! More of his Catholic articles followed, along with informed readers who led me to Michael Davies and also wonderful books like “The Rhine Flows into the Tiber”. Shock! Horror! That was what was going on at the Second Vatican Council??? This was the first time I had ever heard anything about it.
It was Damian who provided a link to Fr. Zuhlsdorf: I followed the website and here I am and through this website have discovered many other worthwhile Catholic blogs that have opened my eyes to what happened and restored my old faith to me. And yet I am where I am now not because any wise orthodox Catholic showed me the way but because I’m a news junkie who liked the humor of the non-Catholic Mark Steyn. Most people my age use the internet on a limited basis – maybe they were trained on systems at work to fulfill their tasks; they probably buy online, have email and now Facebook to keep up with family and friends but that’s about it. That means that their view of the Church is exactly the same as mine was before I stumbled onto Damian: namely, that what’s happened in the past 50 years has all been for the good and that as good Catholics we should continue unquestionably to support every innovation as an organic development in the Church. Most Catholics of my generation still don’t know that the Tridentine Mass is available anywhere. They truly are clueless about any of the issues we’re talking about here. And I have yet to see any outreach to them from the orthodox community – if we’re not on the internet we don’t exist. Instead, we’re written off as dinosaurs whose biological clock hopefully will run out sooner rather than later. So please say a prayer and have a kind thought for the baby boomers who only did what they were told by their shepherds.
Father’s commentary is, as usual, so well thought out that I fear I will come across as something of a wet blanket. Honestly, I can’t see a way through this, but by Divine Intervention. Yes, yes, I do hold in hope the assurance the gates of Hell shall not prevail, but having survived the mood swings of Roman Catholicism over the past sixty-four years – the vast number of opportunities to wake-up and come out of this insanity missed and rejected – one is left to wonder if there is to be found simple common sense among those in positions to get things on track.
Those who have missed these opportunities are not fools, are not reprobate, unlike those who insist on Thelma and Louise ecclesiology. From whence the corrective?
Yes, young seminarians and religious do have a deep reverence and respect for the Magisterium, and can recognize the fraudulence of heterodoxy a mile away. But rest assured, once recognized as potential adversaries in the battle for the soul of the Church, they will find their futures altered – their vocation targeted for extermination. The Adversary and his minion who walk among us are ruthless. Read John the Mad above. Anyone who has crossed the threshold of seminary or monastic house in the past fifty years has experienced this rabid attack mode. And if you effectively mask yourself 99.9% if the time, don’t for a moment you are safe.
The hierarchy is on the verge of being reconfigured, with still an ample supply of those addicted to the kool-aide on hand and in pride of place to make the next twenty-five years very unpleasant.
The myth cannot die soon enough.
While I find this article encouraging, I am still not convinced. I know of several individuals who are working in local Catholic churches or colleges who promote the liberal agenda. The scary thing about this is that a couple of them are running the Faith Formation programs or spirituality programs. If they are holding these important positions within the church I believe that they are setting up the youngest generation to carry their ideology.
I’ve sometimes thought hopefully of the current papacy as analogous to the Soviet premiership of Konstantin Chernenko, who took a harder line against the West in an attempt to reverse the thaw begun under Andropov. But once Gorbachev came in, glasnost was the way and the Iron Curtain fell. Maybe that’s too hopeful, but can you really have too much of a theological virtue?
I’m just relieved you used (& spelled) ‘tinker’s dam’ correctly.
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Suundy said, ” It is hard to judge the level of orthodoxy of the, say, under 50 Catholic population”
One of the major problems with this demographic is the abysmal catechesis they had (or rather didn’t have). I was raised in the northeast during the 70’s and 80’s and attended “catholic” schools from K through 12th grade. By the time I graduated I knew that “God loved me” and nothing else. As an example, in my “catholic” school” I received my First Holy Communion in 2nd grade, but didn’t have my first Confession until 5 years later! By the grace of God, through the miraculous conversion of my husband, we now practice our Faith and are teaching our 8 kids what it really means to be Catholic and how to live it.
We need to really pray for the aging liberal priests. They (as do we all) need God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness.
“There are not enough highly committed young liberal Catholics to replace the older generation.”
Yes, their day in the sun (or is it sin) is over with. The young Catholics are Traditionalists and love the beauty and solemnity of the Mass. It was these type of young Priests which encouraged and drove my son to become a seminarian. All of his young friends that were lukewarm or poor in their faith at best will darken the doorstep of a Catholic Church at Christmas or Easter. At worst, and unfortunately, they will never return. They are not interested in the church. If they do become interested later, they will find a much more solemn church.
Fr Z says,
First, do not forget that liberals are so smug and humorless because they perceive themselves as morally superior to us mere mortals. This feeds into their small-minded …
Although I definitely agree that they are small minded, IMHO, it’s more of a quasi gnosticism or perhaps rebirth of Joachim de Fiore’s (1) Age of the Spirit (which supplanted the Age of the Word). They consider themselves Enlightened, compared to us poor schlmiels who are not because we adhere to the Spiritus Verbi and Filioque.
(1 ) As both of us know, JRatzinger is a bit of an expert on Joachim de Fiore.
And this is why, notwithstanding any things that may, perhaps, be fairly said in criticism of a Pope…
as long as he doesn’t fulfil the heterodox’s heart’s desire and makes sure they will always have enough heterodox priests to carry on their work, he is still fighting for tradition.
I’m speaking, of course, of priestly celibacy. Whether or not it is per se a necessary (or more rightly an almost necessary, given Eastern practice and dispensations) requirement for the priesthood, it certainly is per accidens: apparently and not illogically you don’t give up marriage for something you don’t really believe in.
Dear Suudy, I think our reverend host was referring more chiefly to the Church’s priests.
I am constantly reassured by the younger people I see in our parish participating in Knights of Columbus, pro-life activities, etc. I know that, at least in our parish, they are getting decent sermons, if they attend the grade school or high school (based on interaction with some teachers) better teaching in faith than I got at their ages, and if they are converts (I sat through the classes when my wife converted), outstanding teaching. They are the future. Liberals (in both church and society) are so concerned with the present and their agendas that they forget that only by raising up their children (if they have them) in their beliefs will there be a future for their beliefs. Traditionalists, on the other hand, know children are the future and live accordingly.
Jack in NH, I laugh. I was once almost thrown out of a Methodist Bible study once for “swearing” when I used the expression, “he doesn’t give a tinker’s dam,” because someone had brought her little girl to the meeting so I wasn’t supposed to use “adult language.” An explanation of the term didn’t help for they were afraid of homonyms.
I am in my 7th decade, ten years of that as a Catholic. I am considered too “conservative” by most people and I am uncomfortable when some people equate being a certain age with being either faithful or not, which is what people really mean by liberal vs. conservative and I think it’s a mistake to put it in political jargon. I know some young priests (in their 30s) who are very unfaithful at least as far as behavior is concerned. It’s like they learned to parrot certain things in seminary that they are supposed to tell us to believe but “this is for thee, not for me.” I am discouraged but staying with it. “Where shall we go?” So, it’s not all about age or when you were catechized, but by whom. I was catechized by a very unfaithful priest but I had read the catechism ahead of time and knew what was expected of me by the Church.
I am more concerned about the nicey nice young liberals…..the old ones will soon go away, but the younger ones will be around for awhile.
John the Mad says,
Much of pre-Vatican II Catholic theology, I said, was based on the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Saint Thomas, in turn based his theological method on the philosophy of Aristotle (thus the saying that Aquinas baptized Aristotle). Aristotle was the philosophy of becoming and was a dynamic philosophy. How then could pre-Vatican II theology be then construed as being static?
It’s not that simple.
1. St Thomas’ philosophy is not merely that of Aristotle. Rather, it is a synthesis between Aristotle and the Platonists. The former contributed the Four Causes, the latter ontological Participation.
2. Heraclitus was the philosopher of becoming, contrasted to Parmenides and the philosophy of the One. Aristotle synthesized the two via the distinction between Potency and Act. In Aristotle, therefore, we find static and dynamic principles.
3. Before Vat II theology (which existed before Vat II) the theology taught in the Church was usually Neo Scholasticism, which had more in common with Duns Scotus than with St Thomas. Very often Neo Scholasticism rejected St Thomas’ concept that Act and Potency are real distinctions.
If, by some miracle, Pope Francis regularizes the Society of St. Pius X, we will see a dramatic change instantly. Aside from that, I foresee changes toward Tradition as incremental. Of course I pray for my first option.
Fr, thanks for this post.