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Adoro te ... devote?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Feb 28, 2005

Intimate Liturgical Apparel by Hérmès of Paris

"The great achievement of liberal Protestantism," wrote cocky atheist H.L. Mencken in a moment of astute cynicism, "was to make God boring."

It's true. Liberal (small-p) protestants, many of whom are (capital-C) Catholic clergy, are bored to distraction by the impotent, changeable, tardily fashion-conscious deity that they've created in their theological journals in the course of a century. Who wouldn't be? There are no more "strong hands that reach down to create and to destroy" (in C.S. Lewis's words), no "mystery that fascinates and terrifies" (in Rudolf Otto's). God works no healings, rains down no fire, makes no demons tremble, and -- apart from some school-marmish tetchiness about gender-exclusive language -- seems largely unconcerned about human conduct.

It's perfectly fitting, then, that those who find God boring replace the Roman Ritual -- as far as possible -- with the kind of floor show you see above (That's the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles under the second E of EEK -- at the youth mass for the recent Religious Ed Congress). Face it, when you need an electric bass and dancing cheerleaders to keep your audience from fidgeting or drifting away, you're admitting the Main Act is a flop from the get-go.

Eucharistic Adoration? Forget it. It's violently, almost comically, at odds with the L.A. model of liturgy. Adoration is in perfect harmony with the God addressed in the Roman Ritual, of course, but no one bends the knee before the rainbow refrigerator magnet that Fr. Roger Haight and friends offer us as His replacement. Not even liberals themselves can keep up interest in a liberal god -- except, perhaps, as a weapon for settling childhood grudges. That's why their own children eventually drop religion altogether for aromatherapy, or else become Traddies. That's why -- as with the chanteuse in the photo above -- renewed liturgy is a matter of heightened decibels, lowered necklines, and lengthened slits in the skirt. What else is there?

The doctrinal "fault lines" which, in the case of Anglicanism, are rupturing to form new islands before our eyes, exist as well in the Catholic Church, and it's only a matter of time before the latent schism becomes patent. The California land-mass may never split off from the mainland as threatened, but votaries of L.A. liturgy will inevitably break from Rome. Give credit to the Religious Ed Congress for this: that what it may lack in religion it makes up in education, by clearly instructing us, in this Year of the Eucharist, what it looks like when God no longer rates a genuflection.

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