Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

A liberal’s lament, and the problem of ‘exculturation’

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 30, 2024 | In Quick Hits

Two noteworthy essays appeared online today:

  1. Father Tom Reese, the liberal Jesuit journalist who was a persistent critic of Pope Benedict XVI, has now become a critic of Pope Francis. The title of his his piece in the National Catholic Reporter says it all: “Pope Francis disappoints progressives. He will do so again.”

    Reflecting on the Pope’s “No” to female deacons and his crude remark about “fa***try” in seminaries, Father Reese says with regret that this Pope is “unwilling to change church teaching in any radical way.” He “sometimes sounds like a grandfather who says things that make his grandchildren cringe.”

    Poor Father Reese is pessimistic about the prospects for change in the Church—at least for the sort of change he would favor. His bleak analysis recognizes the failed dreams of those who confidently predicted, after Vatican II, that having opened the windows, the Church would throw everything out:

    But the old progressives are tired and dying off. The young simply don’t care, having given up on the church as a boring, homophobic and patriarchal institution not worth their time. The church may become more conservative simply because everyone else gives up on it.

    Amen. Alleluia.

  2. Stephen White, writing for The Catholic Thing, has a very different perspective on post-conciliar changes. Reflecting on a new liturgical rite that has been proposed for the Diocese of Broome, Australia, which according to its proponents “amalgamates Catholic tradition with Aboriginal culture,” White observes that the “inculturation” of liturgy recommended by Vatican II has always been a practice of the missionary Church. “At its best, liturgical inculturation incorporates the worthiest elements of particular cultures into the Church’s life and worship.”

    White continues:

    But here’s a provocative thought. If healthy inculturation works in places like Broome, where the Church encounters a pre-existing and deeply rooted culture, what about those parts of the West in which the Roman Rite was the pre-existing and deeply rooted culture?

    White acknowledges that this might sound like a plea for the traditional Latin Mass. “And so it could be applied. But the problem is at least as relevant for the large majority of Catholics who worship in the Ordinary Form.”

    The fundamental point, he explains, is that the Church cannot evangelize successfully “without availing herself of the deepest roots of her own cultural and spiritual heritage.” The problem, he concludes, is the “exculturation” of Catholicism in the West.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Jun. 09, 2024 5:11 PM ET USA

    The amazing thing is that Fr Reese thinks that the Pope has the power to change teaching as if the Pope is the source rather than guardian of Church teaching. It's almost as if he sees the Pope as if he were a secular potentate with absolute authority. Fr Reese has embraced a secular religion that he expects the Catholic religion to conform to hence the secular ideological jargon "homophobic,"'patriarchal institution." Boring? Is religion supposed to be entertainment?

  • Posted by: ewaughok - May. 31, 2024 11:47 PM ET USA

    Excellent reflection, Mr Lawler. WRT 1), it’s not that “everyone else gives up on it,” but rather that these “exculturated” people lack the gift of faith to begin with. Without that gift, they are spiritually blind to the reality of the Church. They cannot behold it as it really is. Alas, “poor Fr Reese” like many elderly liberal religious (especially SJs and most Sisters groups) simply cannot discern these basics of Catholicism. That’s why a voice like Fr Mankowski SJ was so valuable.