winging it

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 28, 2005

Rich Leonardi lists the things he learned at a "First Reconciliation Parents' Meeting" at his Archdiocese of Cincinnati parish, all courtesy of the parish Director of Religious Education:

1. Penance was "not a separate sacrament" during the NT era.
2. Priests are "ordained by the people."
3. Priests "represent the community" during the sacrament.
4. The distinction between mortal and venial sins was invented during the Middle Ages.
5. The Council of Trent was the first time the seven sacraments were identified.
6. Helping one's neighbor, receiving communion, and attending parish retreats are valid forms of reconciliation.
7. Priests "assumed the responsibility" for the sacrament of penance from lay ministers during the Middle Ages.

Thanks, Archbishop, thanks, Father Pastor, for providing the faithful with this marvelous growth experience.

Most of us veterans can come up with similar, or yet worse, experiences with parish-level doctrine (homilies, catechesis, RCIA) and are aware of the futility of appeal. Bishops that install these purveyors of doctrine in the first place aren't going to move them, period. Most of us are reduced by necessity to a kind of "quilted" Catholicism: we form a patchwork faith life by scrounging a bit of liturgy from this parish, a bit of homiletics from that one, maybe permitting the kids to attend CCD at one place while supplementing their diet with the Baltimore Catechism and materials purchased from the Daughters of St. Paul. The average clergyman, perhaps, is in line with the Church on 60% of her doctrine; one's hope is that they don't all dissent from the same 40%, so one can assemble a more-or-less tolerable montage from the aggregate of the men at hand.

It's a burden not without benefits. Once you realize that you can't allow yourself to be spoon-fed, you have to exercise some initiative in finding out just what the universal Church wants to feed you with, and that changes you from a passive into an active learner. But of course it also alienates you, over time, from the rest of your parish, who will take the pastor and the DRE at their word -- e.g., that priests are ordained by the laity or that they can be shriven from their sins by helping old Mrs. Duffy with her groceries. You can decide to fight or you can decide to withdraw, but in neither case can you be in real communion. Moreover, even if you succeed in circumventing doctrinal error by cadging magisterial supplies from outside, there's still the problem of the sacraments, where no end run is possible.

So how do I unite myself to the Church Catholic -- the Church the Councils teach us we must have communion in -- when the only access is through ministers who hate her? I don't think the problem has been satisfactorily studied. It's absurd to ask me to trust a clergyman who despises the Church; I can only use him, e.g., as a means by which I minimally fulfill my Sunday Mass obligation. Catholics have distinguished themselves in times of persecution from outside and have an ample martyrology to instruct them in that struggle. But our predicament -- well illustrated by case of the DRE above -- has fewer precedents and no manual to guide us. We have to make it up as we go along.

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  • Posted by: - Oct. 03, 2005 1:27 PM ET USA

    I've heard it said on authority that WWl and WWll were scourges on the world for its sin and Hiler,Stalin, etc were simply "used" by God for our chastisment.He is using the Arab terrorists today for the same reason???. I think so! Pope Benedict XVl said he thinks the future Church will be one of quality of members, not large numbers. We are being sifted and measured by our faithfulness in the hard times in this Church..Yes-there are those who hate the Pope & the Church but stay to destroy her.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 30, 2005 3:46 PM ET USA

    Yes, it is discouraging and we get burned time and again. This is where a firm habit of prayer comes in handy. Our family has been in the fray for 20 years. I have begged Him to take me from a particular parish because of the stress. He has let me know, through various means, that I am in a particular place because He has chosen it. I have argued, but He always wins. He also shows us some of the results occasionally. God moved us a few times for whatever His reasons might be-but only in His time

  • Posted by: - Sep. 30, 2005 3:30 PM ET USA

    My 5 children have grown through all of our family's struggles in this area over the past years. Additionally, we live in the Bible Belt, so they have to 'discuss' faith issues with their friends. They know to respect the office of the priest, even if he is not teaching the truth. We do not have lectures after Mass, we reflect on how what was said (even the Red Sox news) relates to the Catechism they have learned and resolve to pray for our priests. Let me tell you, those prayers do have power.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 30, 2005 9:11 AM ET USA

    grainsofhope, I'm sure God will honor your efforts. We moved to a different parish, mostly because of the need to protect our children from heresy. It would have been easier to stay and fight if it didn't require a lecture from me after every Mass about what Fr. said that was wrong...I don't want them to grow up with an attitude of disrespect towards priests, but I couldn't let his statements go, either. So we moved, but it's not perfect so we still struggle. Spiritually, it's very discouraging.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 30, 2005 1:44 AM ET USA

    I wish I could drive to a more traditional church a couple hours away. However, since I can't drive, I guess I just have to bloom where I am planted, to borrow an old saw. so here in southern MIssouri, in a 'mission parish' even the diocese has forgotten which shares a pastor with 2 other parishes, I insert myself into whatever is available. Sometimes, it means providing materials with my meager resources. It always means swinning upstream. But I HAVE TO belive that God will honor my efforts.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 30, 2005 1:38 AM ET USA

    We cannot grow weary in well doing. WE MUST continue to fight the good fight, and make whatever sacrifices (temporal and spiritual) that are necessary. Souls are being lost to this foolishness. And even more so if we flee, with our tails between our legs, to something more comfortable: like the church X miles away. God has put us where He wants us to make the difference. God asks of us perseverance, not success. The battle is not ours--He holds the trump cards.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Sep. 30, 2005 12:50 AM ET USA

    In this battle, it's a sad truth that we have to catechize the catechists. Armed with the Catechism & Bible, we must keep proclaiming the fullness of the Faith. Keep close to Jesus in the Eucharist & Penance, & fight, fight, fight for Jesus & His Church. For example, the DRE et al whom Diogenes cites, need to be confronted & shown the Catechism ##1422-1498; Matthew 16:19; John 20:22-23; 2Cor.5:18-21. The DRE is then challenged to teach the Church's Teaching or dissent. There's no middle ground.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 29, 2005 7:18 PM ET USA

    Well, Psalms: apparently we're neighbors. You describe the preaching at St. Dunstan's to a T. A few weeks ago, after a particularly direct homily maintaining just what you descibe, I wrote the priest a rather long letter about indifferentism, citing several authorities. Didn't even get a postcard back saying, thanks for your stupid opinion. Just ignored.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 6:13 PM ET USA

    I recently converted from Methodism. My priest is "by-the-book," but he is not assertive and gave my RCIA instructors little guidance. With the help of my priest, the Catechism, and a friend that works at a Catholic book-shop, I eventually taught myself. Incompetent teachers can be conservative, too. Is this how every convert gets suckered into joining the Adult Education Committee?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 5:45 PM ET USA

    When my son was preparing for first communion a year ago, the DRE gave each child a small loaf of bread and told us the following: "....take this bread home - here at mass we have communion, we have communion at home too" What? Did she just tell my child that communion is just bread? If I did not catechize my children at home, they'd know absolutely NOTHING about the faith except that "we all gather for this meal so we can FEEL good" What a load of crap!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 3:17 PM ET USA

    Odysseus, I am very familiar with Holy Family in Dayton as I sponsored a catechumen there. I go to Emmanuel and I highly urge a visit for Mass. Our Society of Mary priests are orthodox and the music is uplifting, APPROPRIATE, and high quality. It is a privilege to play trumpet and I go to great effort to make sure my music is classically correct and always adds to the Mass. Sometimes our extremely talented Rwandan choir sings and their unique sound reminds me the Church is truly universal.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 1:08 PM ET USA

    Convert 94, I hear you. I too live in SW Ohio and there is a Latin Mass at Holy Family in Dayton and liturgical dancers ten minutes away. At my parish, we are blessed with an orthodox priest but have a music director who uses New Orleans brothel music to mock the mass. Every Sunday it is a battle that tests my fidelity. I'm a convert too, and sometimes I want to give up and become a pagan, but like Silas Marner and Hester Prynne, my children help save me as I try to show them the true way.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 1:02 PM ET USA

    Eleazer, The Church established by Christ and passed to his apostles is both physical in the structure of the diocese and the local parish, but it is also universal and spiritual, which allows it to rise above the folly of our current plight. Greece and Rome are dead in the physical sense, but there is some truth that continues to live because it is true. This is not much comfort sometimes when I hear our music director mock the mass, but it helps get me through some discouraging moments.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 10:52 AM ET USA

    The problem is that those of us who know the Truth become weary of the eye-rolling and contempt we get for simply suggesting Catholics act like Catholics instead of protestants. If I had a dime for every time I've been called "pre-VII" It makes me laugh--I was born in 1965--the only Church I have ever known is this wacky one--but I have a desire for the Truth. I stopped accepting the "truth" given to me by the DRE, the priest, my Mom, and started looking to the documents of the Church.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 10:04 AM ET USA

    For those of us who prefer wearing a bag over our heads there should also be some type of roving reporter or mystery sacrament shopper series where we can conduct our own surveys on the prevalence of balloons on the altar, liturgical dance, Hegelian-Marxist homilies and altar girl roquette chorus lines accompanied by banjo and ukelele.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 9:47 AM ET USA

    Why should Catholics and the Church expect to be treated any differently than Jesus was on the Cross? Why would they want to be? As for the parishes you so aptly describe, I pray they get worse ... so that even the blind can eventually see how deceived they are. For myself and those I love, I pray and I surround myself with what elements of Catholic culture I can. I find the sacraments. I wait in the certain knowledge that Victory belongs to the Church. I just hope I can live to see it.

  • Posted by: Phil - Sep. 29, 2005 9:15 AM ET USA

    Very interesting idea, inquisition. I'll work on it.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Sep. 29, 2005 8:38 AM ET USA

    Comforting words Giorgio & Leo, but are they empty words? Though I know better, I’ve tuned out, turned off and dropped away. I’ve come to the conclusion that only Christ’s Second Coming can right the bark of Peter; but pray as I might, fight as I might, cry as I might, I don’t see any response, so I've become a spectatator. Our Hebrew ancestors believed that the worst that could happen was that God would turn His back on them. I’ve become convinced that He has turned His back on Catholicism.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 29, 2005 7:47 AM ET USA

    Re: "Aussie's" comment and others ("It is easy to get discouraged, and is lonely when you appear to be the only one swimming against the tide of popular religion.") Why doesn't Catholic World News help like-minded people like us build a network? Can't Uncle Di start some kind of "take the paper bag off your head Club", for Catholics who want everybody to have access to their real name and contact info, so we can talk, and eventually meet?

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Sep. 29, 2005 12:21 AM ET USA

    Amen to all, esp. LeoXIII: "This stuff tests one's faith. Nevertheless, the Lord has assured us that He will be with us until the end of the age, and that the gates of hell will not prevail." BUT, Our Blessed Lord did not say we wouldn't have to go -through- hell! Keep fighting the good fight!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 11:17 PM ET USA

    Ecce homo. As Christ said to Pilate, they only have the authority that God has granted them.

  • Posted by: Aussie - Sep. 28, 2005 11:08 PM ET USA

    It is easy to get discouraged, and is lonely when you appear to be the only one swimming against the tide of popular religion. Tired as we may feel with the constant struggle after Truth, we can take some comfort in the knowledge that only dead fish float downstream. The struggle means we are alive.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Sep. 28, 2005 10:29 PM ET USA

    Thanks, Diogenes. Yes, we who stand with Holy Mother Church will fight the Good Fight. eg, my folks drive 35 miles to attend Sunday Mass, to a parish where the pastor is 100% with the Church & Her Teachings. People in my three parishes seem grateful that I follow the Church without hesitation or question. Our RE programs uses Ignatius Press' "Faith & Life" & "Image of God" series. Our high shcool students are armed with the Catechism, the Bible, & MidwestTheologicalForum's "Didache Series."

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 9:39 PM ET USA

    Welcome to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati! Here in our SW Ohio archdiocese you can find purveyors of the heresy described in this article, some incredibly orthodox parishes (i.e. mine) and -- Surprise! -- the Tridentine Mass is PERMITTED by our not-so-ordinary ordinary. This place is the Wal-Mart of cafeteria Catholics: We have EVERYTHING and LOTS of it!!! But within this lake of weirdness stand islands of Truth where the Catholic Church is still The Church! Pray for us, please.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 9:15 PM ET USA

    This reasoning goes along with what was taught in my local Church. All religions are good and equal with the Catholic Church. We are not the one, true Church, but just one of many who spread God's Word. Consequently, five of our young adults have married in the last two years have done so in protestant Churches and have joined them. As one young man told his mother: "They just do things different from the Catholic Church. That's all."

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 7:46 PM ET USA

    Right on again, Diogenes. The Church desperately needs faithful Catholics for religious ed and other volunteer positions to turn some of these parishes around. It can be very discouraging work, as we are working against the tide.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 7:13 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, Though I agree w/most of this post, I think it's an exaggeration to state that dissenting clergy (& laity) "hate" or "despise" the Church. More likely, IMO, is that they don't understand the traditions of the Church. They (& I) might have been taught about Tradition, but not why Tradition exists & must remain. At best, there is a fragile contraption on how to reconcile Tradition with modern life, which can be easily destroyed. (V. hard to reconcile Nat. Law w/postmod, for example.)

  • Posted by: Eusebuis1 - Sep. 28, 2005 6:52 PM ET USA

    One must remember that this is the diocese of the late Cardinal Bernardin. With "Common Ground" one doesn't have to follow the exact teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. That's why he had so much influence over the years in moving his people up the change to bishops and cardinals. So sad. Please pray for our Holy Father and that their may be a change back to following the Magisterium and our Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 28, 2005 6:43 PM ET USA

    "So how do I unite myself to the Church Catholic...?" At the risk of repeating myself, there's only one way. Just keep repeating to yourself, ex opere operato. I can't count the number of times I've said it silently since they invented "the spirit of Vatican II."

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 6:10 PM ET USA

    This stuff tests one's faith. Nevertheless, the Lord has assured us that He will be with us until the end of the age, and that the gates of hell will not prevail.