A Lutheran pastor muses about the state of the Catholic Church. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

The following was penned by a Lutheran at the blog Pastoral Meanderings: The Random Thoughts of a Lutheran Parish Pastor

It is packed with items for reflection. One in particular caught my eye.  My emphases and comments.

The glory of Rome. . . [I’ve chosen not to port over here the photo of Cupich.]

News from Chicago is grim. While the Chicago Archdiocese had 2,400 priests in 1975, including Diocesan, religious order and retired priests; today there are 1,200. In terms of parishes, just four years ago there were 344 in the Chicago Archdiocese. Under Cardinal Cupich, the Archdiocese has wonderful news. On July 1, 2022, there will likely be 221 parishes — the loss of 123 churches. At least 57 churches across the archdiocese will no longer be used for Mass and so their buildings will be closed, sold, or repurposed. Others will be yoked together into a parish that includes several facilities or sites where Mass is offered. Although this reduction has been in the planning stages for some time, the pandemic only hastened and expanded the overhaul. After all, Mass attendance had been falling long before the impact of COVID on the dismal statistics. A couple of other things to consider. The Chicago Archdiocese was one of the last hold outs for masked students in their parochial schools and Cardinal Cupich has been quicker and tougher than most bishops in clamping down against the Latin Mass. At the same time, the Cardinal made waves by performing a Chinese pagan ceremony at Mass and tolerates the abuse of the Novus Ordo by some priests, such as Father Michael Pfleger, and seems friendlier than most Roman Catholic bishops to the LGBTQ cause.
[Nota Bene!] Is there a lesson here for Lutherans? [This will be bracing.] I think there is. The road to renewal does not lead to an embrace of the prevailing move of culture or society. It leads through orthodoxy in doctrine and in practice. [Let’s consecrate this guy and give him a diocese.] The future of the churches is dim if all we can do is offer the world a faint echo to what they already think or feel. There will be no blessing from God upon such distortion of the Scriptures or betrayal of the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. In some respects, we have suffered greatly under the same temptation. When you lose faith in God to keep His promise and work through the means of grace, you are left with a conundrum. If God is not going to build His Church in a way that satisfies you, then you must build His Church for Him. Or, simply do what God has called you to do and trust that He will make sure that the Word does not return to Him empty. It seems that many are not quite willing to let God be God of His Church and so they have taken in hand the work of the Kingdom, dismissing faithfulness to Scripture and Confession in favor of a faithfulness to an image or idea — the welcoming church.

Growing up as a child in the 1950s, it was inconceivable to me that the Church would be in such a state today. Rome was monolithic and unbending. Parishes were full. But the little breathe of spring that John XXIII brought, turned out to the cold wind of winter in the hands of Paul VI. Lutherans were also enjoying rapid growth. [PAY ATTENTION!] We knew who we were, what we believed, and how we worshiped. People responded[More on this…] There was a Bible institute for the laity every year and my parents dropped everything to listen to the pastors of the Circuit. Catechism classes were full — like Sunday school. Seminaries were also full. The liturgy, though not the hymnal, was pretty much the same wherever you went in Lutheranism. And then the bottom dropped out when we thought it was time to get with the times. While an embrace of avenues to proclaim the Gospel is never bad, the Word of the Lord cannot be changed or adapted or the faith modernized without losing the Gospel itself. The changeless Christ for a changing world has become a Christ changing to keep up with a changing world. The only changeless thing around us is the primacy of the individual and the individual’s feelings and perception.

Most of our whole districts are much smaller than the Archdiocese of Chicago and we do not have a clergy shortage like Rome does but we may be in the same boat of closing down parishes because they have no people. If we have done all we could in faithfulness to Christ, His Word and His Sacraments, then closing them down is what we have to do. But if we are closing down parishes because we have been unfaithful to the unchanging Christ and His means of grace, then it is high time that we made the mea culpa and repented with the promise to amend our sinful ways. [More on this, too.] God’s forgiveness is never in doubt but our faithfulness as a Church has not exactly been certain.

Update. . . Cincinnati is not far behind. . . the Bishop announced plans to reduce the number of parishes in this 450K size diocese: 210 down to 57. They must be doing something right. Huh?

Rich points for thought.

First, note the overarching point that if we do what Paul warns against, and align ourselves with the “wisdom of this world”, it is all going to go bad.

You know my phrase, “We are our rites!”  Note what he said: “We knew who we were, what we believed, and how we worshiped.

If I’ve written it once, I’ve written it a hundred times.  Our identity is in our rites.  That’s where we start.  That’s where we return.   I pulled this out of a previous post, but it is the same as I’ve written here over and over:

The renewal of our Catholic identity requires a realigning of the Roman Rite.  How we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we believe.  This realignment requires the Traditional Roman Rite.  There is no way around it.  We have to renew our liturgical worship in order to be who we are within Holy Church, so that we can have an impact, as Catholic disciples of the Lord, on the world around us.

The Traditional Roman Rite is an antidote to the secularization of the Church.

Find a bishop or priest who resists, forbids the Traditional Rite, and you find a priest or bishop for whom the Church is an NGO.

If we don’t know who we are, no one will pay attention to us or what we might have to offer in the public square.  If we are incoherent, for example giving Communion to radically pro-abortion Catholics, why should anyone pay attention to anything we have to say on any other issue?  Bishops have squandered out moral capital for decades.

If we don’t know who we are, we can’t tell others.  So, why should anyone in the public square listen to us?

Note again what the Lutheran pastor said: “We knew who we were, what we believed, and how we worshiped.

Another of his points: “it is high time that we made the mea culpa and repented with the promise to amend our sinful ways.”

I’ve used a couple of analogies in the past, often, to get at this and its ramifications for the rational.  From our basic geometry we know that two rays that extend from the same point in different directions get farther and farther apart the farther they extend.   That’s what has been happening in the Church for decades.

Here’s another analogy, from another post in the past:

I’ve made this comparison before.

Say you are in Chicago and you want to drive to New York. You set out and drive for a long time. Suddenly, thinking you were drawing nearer to Empire State you see a sign saying “Kansas Welcomes You!” What do you do? Do you keep driving in the same direction? Not if you really desire to get to New York. No. Commonsense dictates that you do a U-turn and head the other direction until you start see welcome signs for Eastern states. That’s the smart course. It would be stupid to continue driving in the opposite direction once you know you have strayed.

Let’s add to this the fact that you have put on your car a sign, “NEW YORK OR BUST!” You pull into the gas station in Kansas to fuel up and the guy there says, “Hey, didn’t you come in from the East? Buddy, you are going in the wrong direction!” You pay him and start to pull out onto the road, again toward the West. The guy runs out waving his arms, shouting, “HEY! THAT WAY! NEW YORK IS THAT WAY!” But, no. You are on your path.

For these older guys who are committed to what they committed in the 60s, 70s, 80s, the sight of a growing congregation at a Traditional Latin Mass is like hot coals on their forehead.  But they’ve got those thinning white-knuckled  hands locked onto the steering wheel and, by gum, they’re not turning the car back.

For this reason, some of them, sad to say, would rather drive off a cliff than turn around.  They would rather destroy a thriving, growing community of happy, zealous young Catholics than let it grow.  Instead of joining them, or at least benignly watching from afar, they’ll run over them with the car on the way to the cliff’s edge.

Because, in the end, it’s all about them.

ACTION ITEM! Be a “Custos Traditionis”! Join an association of prayer for the reversal of “Traditionis custodes”.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The LCMS stands firm on their doctrine and I don’t see them closing churches over lack of solid preaching any time soon. The biggest problem the LCMS has is that they took 50 years off of preaching fruitfulness in marriage. They’re coming around and the young pastors are setting a good example, but it will take a few more years to reverse the downward trend. I live in Illinois and it was very sad to watch Cupich keep the churches closed while LCMS pastors tried in every way to bring the Gospel and their sacraments to their flocks. If only our bishops had so much faith!

  2. Elizabeth R says:

    Add St. Louis to the list. The “All Things New” initiative (“A Renewed Church. A Renewed Mission. A Vibrant Future.”) proposes to close 60% of the parishes. As well as problems with the liturgy, some of the Archdiocesan schools are teaching LGBTQ+ rights, critical race theory, women’s reproductive rights, and hatred of the police. I have spoken with students who were taken by their school to BLM protests.

  3. FrankWalshingham says:

    Allen Vigneron is doing a similar job wreaking havoc in Detroit. Zero priest ordinations this year! But who would go to the seminary in a locale where the archbishop persecutes holy, orthodox priests and where his episcopal vicar was caught fabricating evidence to frame them?

  4. hwriggles4 says:

    A few years back (2014) I was at a seminar geared for Catholic singles. The presenter brought up a statistic: Catholic marriages in many dioceses declined 40 percent in 25 years. Part of this is practicing Catholic men and women called to marriage are having difficulty finding good Catholic spouses.

    I applaud this pastor for speaking up. I have some Methodist friends (my dad was a Methodist who attended regularly) who are concerned about their church too. In 2018 I was at a conference that Raymond Cardinal Burke attended. Cardinal Burke (yes really) said that he does receive letters from Protestant ministers who are asking “what is happening to the Catholic Church? ” Years ago the Church was a moral compass that was respected.

  5. ProfessorCover says:

    Raised an Episcopalian, at 16 or 17 I stopped going to church regularly mainly because our small parish could no longer find a decent priest, that is one concerned with the salvation of souls. In the mid-1970s I decided to go back to church but I was shocked to find a new prayer book with two Holy Communion services, one similar to the old service but leaving out important details, the other requiring ad populum orientation by the priest, which I found to be annoying. At Christmas a year later I was visiting relatives who were Catholic and we were watching a televised Mass. I thought it might be an Episcopalian service, but my uncle thought it might be Catholic, but he wasn’t sure. It was Catholic. Now my point is similar to yours but comes from a different angle. The revision of the Mass by Paul VI was accompanied by revisions in the service books of the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. All as a result have in my opinion fallen apart. When I could no longer stand the watering down of doctrine in the Episcopal Church I could not go to another Protestant denomination, but because the Novus Ordovician reminded me of the mess in Episcopalianville. That is why I sought out the Latin Mass and why I believe the mess in Rome is due to the NO. It screwed up every other church, so it most likely is the source of our problems. Of course the traditional priest I found told us that he saw the smoke of satan in his monastery way back in 1948, the year he was ordained, may he RIP.

  6. Orual says:

    The frustrating part is that faithful, traditional Catholics have to watch the destruction continue at the hands of the bishops while they accuse us of being ‘divisive’ and ‘rigid’.

  7. Kathleen10 says:

    Your good advice presumes good intentions on the part of churchmen, which many of them don’t have. It is all about them. I can’t know what the men who run the church are about. I can guess, but not know, but I can certainly know what they aren’t about, Catholicism. I went to a funeral Mass the other day. A Novus Ordo service, where the priest did a fine job, although he had a lady server. But he reminded the people that Catholics in good standing with the church (my understanding was, confessed) were welcome to come up for Holy Communion, and if not, they should cross their arms for a blessing. Only Father sung the hymns. He had to tell the people when to sit, stand, kneel. Responses were minimal. But most went up for Holy Communion. The NO church is dying right in front of our eyes. It was kind of sad, actually, I felt badly for Father, who reminded the people that everyone there was going to face the same reality someday, and our baptism will make all the difference at that time. His words were very eloquent and well delivered. He was in there pitching. But this version of Catholicism is dated, weak, limp, effeminate, and only a few want it. But I do believe they will run it into the ground, because the men running the church only care about the church for the next 30 years, until they make it through. These men aren’t stupid, they know it’s failing, but it takes zeal and courage to say so, both in short supply. But look how the world is falling apart because the church is self-destructing.

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    Growing up as a child in the 1950s…

    Inconceivable then, yes. But like so many others, he fails to recognize that historically, the 50s-early 60s was a heady, good-stats exception.

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