Triumphant Renovationism – the ironic hypocrisy of the ‘c’atholic left

I am not a daily reader of Rod Dreher. However, today I was directed by someone to read something he wrote about a Russian Orthodox reacting to what we Catholics are doing.

Let’s see.  My emphases and comments.

[…]

Looking around for some information on an English-language Russian Orthodox site this weekend, I found this interview with a Russian who had converted to Catholicism as a young man in Russia — not an easy thing to do — because as a restless teenager, he became entranced by the history of medieval Europe, which, of course, is suffused with Catholicism. And, he loved the worship in the Catholic cathedral in Moscow, which moved him to convert away from his Orthodox baptism. He eventually went on a pilgrimage to the West, and was shocked to discover that the Catholicism he had fallen in love with had been largely discarded by the Second Vatican Council. [Surprised?] This Russian — now an Orthodox priest — said:

We should clearly understand the difference between the Catholic tradition before the Second Vatican Council and the neo-tradition that was formed after this council, for this important historic milestone drastically changed Catholicism[Remember that Dreher abandoned the Church.]

The Russian goes on to talk about how experiencing the irreverent attitude of Western worship and piety while on pilgrimage broke his heart, and his devotion to Rome. [So… he was scandalized by what Catholics did and didn’t do.] He says:

The Catholic Church today is a church of triumphant renovationism, where many traditions have been abandoned and forgotten. [I really like this term: triumphant renovationism.  Libs, progressivists, Jesuits, etc., blather about more traditional, faithful, Catholics being “triumphalistic”.  Polish the candelabra and make them shine, use beautiful vestments and fire up the pipe organ and your are mired in the evils of triumphalism, which perpetuates the sclerotic institutional and patriarchal church and represses the spirit-filled church of the whatever, high atop the thing that only they can see.  Ironically, they are exactly triumphalistic in their brutal imposition of re– … no … innovation.] Many things that were considered valuable for twenty centuries were declared simply unnecessary in in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In particular, one of the monstrous spiritual disasters of Catholicism was the Second Vatican Council that radically reformed all Catholicism in a Protestant way[This, from a guy who also abandoned the Church.  But hearing the reasons why are sobering, or ought to be.]

Unfortunately, this, first of all, affected the piety of the believers. For example, it was quite normal for the Catholic pilgrims to leave their backpacks on the altar. I can’t imagine that happening in Orthodoxy. Our attitude toward the altar is so reverential, that even the priest wouldn’t dare to put his glasses or a prayer book on it. It is only for the things that should be there.

Naturally, I was very upset by this disregard for their own traditions and their antipathy toward the ancient things that I truly loved in Catholicism.

I always find it encouraging when Catholics — especially young Catholics — go on a recovery mission for the things that their fathers and grandfathers threw away. As Marco Sermarini, my dear Catholic friend in Italy, explains in The Benedict Option,

[…]

Does he ever lose a chance to mention The Benedict Option?

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24 Responses to Triumphant Renovationism – the ironic hypocrisy of the ‘c’atholic left

  1. William says:

    For at least the last half-century, if not much longer, the so-called liberals embrace the myriad cultures of the world, as long as it’s not their own.

    A European or American embracing eastern mysticism, Islam, sufism, or various other traditions? Excellent – as long as it’s not cultural appropriate, which is defined by…whenever someone on Twitter gets offended?

    But a Catholic who embraces traditional architecture, liturgy, doctrine, morality, and spirituality? That’s triumphalist at best, and x-phobic/ist (just list them all off) at worst!

  2. veritas vincit says:

    Rod Dreher does write some good things, but he did indeed leave the Catholic Church for Eastern Orthodoxy — a grouping of churches that (according to something I once read) abandoned the living Magisterium for a static “tradition” — the opposite error that the Catholic Church often has made, in abandoning tradition recklessly.

    The temptation to leave Holy Mother Church because of her imperfections, even gross defects, is a temptation of every age, from the Great Schism of 1054 where East and West split, to the Protestant “Reformation,” to movements today, both overly “traditional” (like sede-vacantists) to Modernists.

  3. Decades ago, my late grandfather left the Catholic Church for the LDS church. Some years ago, when I was visiting him, I took him to Mass with me. After Mass, he said he was glad to see that Catholics had abandoned their belief in the Real Presence. I asked him what made him think we no longer believe in the Real Presence. His answer: because lay people are now allowed to touch the Sacred Species with their hands and drink from the chalice.

  4. veritas vincit says:

    In my last post, I should have added, those hurt or angered by the abuse scandals.

  5. HvonBlumenthal says:

    I am surprised that this Russian was disappointed by his visit to the West after going to the Catholic Church in Moscow. I lived in Moscow for several years and I know the Catholic Church there quite well. It is ultra-happy-clappy, very much at the hippy end of the Vatican 2 spectrum.

  6. Grabski says:

    We attended a beautiful Divine Mercy liturgy; first the chalet was sung then a high Mass was celebrated. Sadly it was bilingual (Polish) rather than in Latin. But it was reverential. The Church and vestments were beautiful, as was the atmosphere

  7. Anneliese says:

    Fair-weather Catholics. Both Rod Dreher and the Russian would rather abandon the Church because it’s not to their liking than to stick it out and see what will happen. I can’t say I’m always thrilled with what’s offered at some parishes. I had to sit through another Easter vigil of Rory Cooney songs that essentially turns the Mass into a school pageant of Fiddler on the Roof. I’ve learned to quietly sit through such things without laughing and offering the annoyance to God. Today’s St. Catherine of Siena’s day. Look to her as an example. The Church was in a disarray during her time and she didn’t leave when she could have easily abandoned it. We may not be in a position to change things in a drastic manner. But we can use our greatest weapons to make things better–our rosaries. Protestants and the catholics would scoff at that and say its quaint or superstitious. But we know better. I recently listened to Fr. Donald Calloway on Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s show. On the show he mentions how mendicant orders wear their rosaries on their left side, like a sword. That’s how we should start looking at the rosary. It’s a weapon that doesn’t shed blood but still destroys vice and brings virtue. I believe if more people were to pray the rosary, a lot could get accomplished.

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    Interesting observation by HvonBlumenthal, puts a different light on Rod Dreher’s article “The Joy of Orthodoxy.” Speaking of which, “Orthodoxy” is in fact Russian Orthodoxy, Greek Orthodoxy, American Orthodoxy…

    As for “The Benedict Option” it contains some insight, some interesting interviews, but it is fundamentally flawed.

  9. bobbird says:

    What is it that Dreher and others prefer about Eastern Orthodoxy? Could it be their permissiveness regarding contraception and divorce-and-remarriage?

  10. adriennep says:

    Rod Dreher is annoying beyond belief, and no one should have to endure the self-righteousness of his book. Cafeteria line Catholic lottery at its worst. In the meantime, local parish is losing the very people who might have helped build it up.

  11. rbbadger says:

    When I entered the Catholic Church in 1993, I knew of the usus antiquior, but had never encountered it. I soon did come to know it. The parish where I entered the Church was a rarity, one in which Chant and Polyphony were regularly heard. But the liturgy was all in English.

    The liturgical status of other parishes was much more painful. I have to admit that I was tempted by Orthodoxy, but the temptation subsided as I realised that I would have to, in effect, become Russian or Greek. Also, I greatly valued being in communion with the Successor of Peter, though there were times, even during the days of St. John Paul II was Pope when that was severely tested (i.e. approval of female altar servers in 1994). In the end, though, I still recognised the necessity of being in communion with Peter, despite the fact that the Byzantine liturgy is one of the greatest things on this earth. When I first encountered the usus antiquior, I had feelings of deep betrayal. I could not understand and cannot understand why it was cast aside as something useless.

    The places which offered the older form of the Mass where I was living at that time were the SSPX, who had Mass bi-monthly and a monsignor who also offered it monthly. I liked the SSPX people, but I was fearful of going into schism. I learned how to serve from Monsignor and served the old Mass faithfully until I entered the seminary.

    I found my vocation in serving the traditional Mass, though I rarely have opportunities to celebrate it. I hope that I may have more opportunities in the future.

    Latin Rite Catholics fail to understand just how scandalous our current liturgical situation is to the Orthodox. For them, the Liturgy is a priceless inheritance and is to be treated as such. It is to be handled with care and with reverence. The idea of hiring a bunch of scholars (some of whom were of dubious scholarly accomplishments) to basically rewrite was has developed over time and been handed on by generations of saints is unthinkable to the Orthodox. It used to be to us as well.

  12. The Egyptian says:

    Anita Moore, O.P.(lay) said
    “Decades ago, my late grandfather left the Catholic Church for the LDS church. Some years ago, when I was visiting him, I took him to Mass with me. After Mass, he said he was glad to see that Catholics had abandoned their belief in the Real Presence. I asked him what made him think we no longer believe in the Real Presence. His answer: because lay people are now allowed to touch the Sacred Species with their hands and drink from the chalice.”

    This should be shown to every priest and Bishop, ask them to read it out loud, then explain why it is not so, communion conga lines, no confessions, lay rummaging in the tabernacle, servers and priests no longer genuflect when crossing tabernacle, the tabernacle not front and center does not make it any easier. and my favorite, communion distributes in yoga pants.

    connected but separate did anyone notice what the falling spire took out at Notre Dame, the Cranmer table, not the high altar, coincidence, I think NOT

  13. William Tighe says:

    Coming from a Russian, the word “renovationism” has a particular salience, and set of associations. “Renovationism” refers to the “Living Church” or, sometimes, “Renovated Church:” a Communist-controlled, doctrinally modernist and liturgically revisionist, Orthodox church which the Soviet authorities sponsored in 1922 to attract gullible believers away from the traditional Russian Orthodox Church, then undergoing an intense persecution at the hands of the Communist regime. When the Russian Orthodox Church submitted to government control in 1925, the Soviet authorities withdrew their support for the rival “Living Church,” which quickly collapsed and dwindled, and which, by 1946, was extinct. For more information, see these:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Church

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/Renovated-Church

  14. JonPatrick says:

    It puzzles me why someone leaves the Catholic Church for Eastern Orthodoxy when one can have the same liturgy and still be in communion with Rome by attending an Eastern Rite parish.

    As for Dreher and the Benedict Option, I have read his book and agree with the basic thrust of it, that in a world increasingly hostile to Christianity, we need to band together and form groups that can support each other. Sometimes he over dramatizes the situation, using examples from universities which are often not representative of what we see in the “real world”.

  15. Kerry says:

    Two fascinating posts about The Benedict Option:
    “Rod Dreher’s Striking Omission”, (google the same). And at Eastern Christian Books, http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2017/03/reading-dreher-with-schmemann-and.html
    The latter has very interesting links.

  16. aquinas138 says:

    JonPatrick,

    Going to an Eastern Catholic parish makes sense if you still believe Catholic doctrine is true and if your issues are primarily with the state of the liturgy in Roman parishes. If, however, you’ve come to believe Catholic doctrine is in error, going to an Eastern Catholic parish doesn’t address that issue. I can’t claim to speak for Mr. Dreher or the Russian priest in question, but I assume they must have come to the conclusion that Catholic doctrine is in error in some respects in order to leave, even if there were other reasons that started the process.

  17. jaykay says:

    “For example, it was quite normal for the Catholic pilgrims to leave their backpacks on the altar. I can’t imagine that happening in Orthodoxy”

    Well, isn’t the Orthodox Altar usually behind an iconostasis, beyond which the laity don’t go? So it wouldn’t be possible anyway? But yes, in choirs I’ve been in, practising in Catholic churches, I’ve seen people leave scores etc. on the Altar – with no qualms, or remonstrance from anyone. Funnily enough, in the many Anglican churches I’ve sung in, the holy table, as they call it, has pretty much always been behind a closed communion rail – which they still use, kneeling, and nobody has gone beyond. In the one instance I recall where the table had been moved forward to very near the rail someone did lean over and put a book on it – and was swiftly remonstrated with by a parish member who was in the choir.

  18. Nan says:

    Converts are very particular.

    Since neither Catholic nor Orthodox doctrine has changed lately, it’s more likely zealousness. Mr Dreher, as a convert w platform, is attempting to persuade people that Orthodoxy is where it’s at.

    Doctrinal differences are a) primacy of Rome; b) Filioque (proceeds from the father and the son); and c) purgatory which isn’t an Orthodox tradition.

  19. Nan says:

    Even if you were Russian you’d be Greek. I’m Greek Catholic, it says so on the cornerstone of my Church. Why? Because we use the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, which was part of Greece at the time. The origin of the liturgy is Greek and it is used by the Byzantine-Ruthenian Church, the Ukrainian Church and both Greek and Russian Orthodox, among others.

    When Prince Vladimir converted Rus to Orthodoxy, he had invited western and eastern priests, an imam and a rabbi to come and explain why their mode of worship was best. He went with Orthodox and the land became Orthodox.

  20. Semper Gumby says:

    JonPatrick: You make a good point. “The Benedict Option” indeed recognizes that the world is increasingly hostile to Christianity and community is important.

    Two observations about the book:

    1. “The Benedict Option” proposes within its pages: a strategic withdrawal; building an ark; an exile in place; but that “Benedict Option Christians” should be active at state and local level.

    However, ceding the national government to secularists and socialists will make “Benedict Option” intentional communities untenable. That these communities would be capable of resisting the pressures and resources of a totalitarian national government is simply an illusion. These communities would be driven underground for who knows how long- and the situation today is different than that of the Cold War and St. John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher.

    A “strategic withdrawal” or “exile in place” by Christians would increase the probability of a national government transforming into a totalitarian regime. Christians should stay active in federal government, the military, and the security services.

    2. The apocalyptic tone in “The Benedict Option”- “we’ve lost on every front”, “trying to reclaim our lost influence will be a waste of energy”, “the public square has been lost”, “the culture war is over”- propagates defeatism, an unhealthy frame of mind for those living, as called for by this book, within intentional communities.

    That apocalyptic assessment is also erroneous, as evidenced by the many Christians who reject strategic withdrawal and are active, each in their own way, in the public square.

  21. The original Mr. X says:

    I can’t claim to speak for Mr. Dreher or the Russian priest in question, but I assume they must have come to the conclusion that Catholic doctrine is in error in some respects in order to leave, even if there were other reasons that started the process.

    Dreher brings up the topic ad nauseam on his blog, and it basically boils down to becoming obsessed with covering the sex abuse scandal (I recall him saying at one point that he felt like he was personally responsible for bringing every abuser to justice), getting burnt out, and switching to Orthodoxy as the next best thing (and because the Orthodox hierarchy is well-known for never sinning). He says that he has since come to agree with Orthodox theology, but I’ve come to the conclusion that, regarding his initial apostasy/conversion/whatever you want to call it, there’s no “there” there, intellectually speaking; not even an attempt to ascertain whether the things that drove him away from Catholicism (hierarchy covering up sexual abusers) were less prevalent in Eastern Orthodoxy.

  22. Pat_H says:

    From somebody who left the Church Mr. Dreher spends a good deal of time commenting on the Catholic Church.
    He clearly believes in Apostolic succession and I’ve never actually seen him defend his choice of Orthodoxy over Catholicism. Maybe he has, of course, but I haven’t seen it.
    Anyhow, given his focus, it really seems he should acknowledge his massive irritation from within the Church, where it would be more effective, as opposed to outside of it.

  23. robtbrown says:

    Jonpatrick says,

    1. It puzzles me why someone leaves the Catholic Church for Eastern Orthodoxy when one can have the same liturgy and still be in communion with Rome by attending an Eastern Rite parish.

    2. As for Dreher and the Benedict Option, I have read his book and agree with the basic thrust of it, that in a world increasingly hostile to Christianity, we need to band together and form groups that can support each other. Sometimes he over dramatizes the situation, using examples from universities which are often not representative of what we see in the “real world”.

    1. Sometimes it’s just a matter of availability. But it can also be having tired of the hierarchy and priests mouthing off with social and political criticism yet ignoring, or covering up, the internal problems of the Church.

    2. I don’t think he’s overdramatizing. At the universities the snakes have been able to come out from under the rocks.

    the universities are repeesenrative

  24. robtbrown says:

    Jonpatrick says,

    1. It puzzles me why someone leaves the Catholic Church for Eastern Orthodoxy when one can have the same liturgy and still be in communion with Rome by attending an Eastern Rite parish.

    2. As for Dreher and the Benedict Option, I have read his book and agree with the basic thrust of it, that in a world increasingly hostile to Christianity, we need to band together and form groups that can support each other. Sometimes he over dramatizes the situation, using examples from universities which are often not representative of what we see in the “real world”.

    1. Sometimes it’s just a matter of availability. But it can also be having tired of the hierarchy and priests mouthing off with social and political criticism yet ignoring, or covering up, the internal problems of the Church.

    2. I don’t think he’s overdramatizing. At the universities the snakes have been able to come out from under the rocks.

    the universities are repeesenrative