Second Things

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 03, 2006

From the Baltimore Catechism (III), 1891:

Q. 491. What is the duty of the Teaching Church?

A.The duty of the Teaching Church is to continue the work Our Lord began upon earth, namely, to teach revealed truth, to administer the Sacraments and to labor for the salvation of souls.

Listening to "progressive" bishops lecture us on the use of condoms for reducing AIDS infection, I was struck by how far the model of the Church's teaching office has departed from the traditional one stated above. Note that the catechism said the Church's prime duty was to teach revealed truth -- not psych, not medicine, not sociology. And the goal of such teaching was not improved hygiene or race relations, but the salvation of souls.

Since the Council we've watched "the salvation of souls" drop out of the vocabulary of the progressivist Catholic majority, while the duty to teach revealed truth has been shouldered aside in favor of efforts to engage contemporary secular problems in contemporary secular terms. The thinking behind this shift (fueled by a grotesquely sentimentalist misreading of certain passages in Gaudium et Spes) was to revitalize the Church by regaining the attention of the indifferent masses by showing interest in what the masses were interested in. Old liberals deny it today, but back then they gleefully announced from every podium the self-evident truth that, by accommodating herself to cultural and political fashions, the Church would see huge increases in Mass attendance and vocations, a reanimated parish life, and a groundswell of enthusiasm for religion on the part of young people. "Let's engage the Church's worldly mission," the thinking ran, "then we'll be in a stronger position to engage her supernatural one."

Wrong. When the Church tried her hand at psycho-drama and economics she dismayed those who loved her, amused those who hated her, and simply bored the rest. Churches, convents, and seminaries emptied, and the young people for whose sake the supernatural duties were abandoned resented being patronized even more than being scolded.

In a 1942 essay called "First and Second Things," C.S. Lewis drew attention to the paradoxical nature of the blunder: "To sacrifice the greater good for the less and then not to get the lesser good after all -- that is the surprising folly." He went to generalize the law:

Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made. Apparently the world is made that way. If Esau really got his pottage in return for his birthright, then Esau was a lucky exception. You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.

The sight of a retired Jesuit archbishop reduced to coaching Africans in marital onanism is sorry enough, but it only recapitulates the trajectory of his own order. Precisely in the measure that it swapped faith for justice, it ended up with neither. And the same is true of post-Conciliar progressives in general: by putting secular prestige before spiritual duty and teaching human sciences instead of revealed truth, they gutted the Church Militant and lost contact with the Church Triumphant. Today, strutting in an empty chapel of their own design, they can neither bless nor heal.

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  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 10:32 PM ET USA

    Dear Fox, Which Church are you referring to when you talk about our maligning those who love the Church? The one founded by Christ, or the one many of our leaders and laity wish existed? Christ didn't refer to the Ten Commandments as the Ten Suggestions. He very plainly told the young man who asked that he MUST keep the commandments, love God above all, and love his neighbor as himself. You probably remember he walked away rather than joining Christ. We too must do as Christ commanded.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 7:34 PM ET USA

    Is it just me or is there something bizarre about prominent Cardinals and Sweater Vested retired Superiors agiproping for condoms while asking America to open holes in its borders? Perhaps its the symbolism of people swimming to freedom that reminds me of the little spermatoza (one played by Burt Reynolds) in the Woody Allen movie Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex And Couldn't Find Out Until Talking About Touching Came To Your Parish.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - May. 04, 2006 6:57 PM ET USA

    Sorry Fox, but you mess with Christ's teachings handed down by his Apostles along with the Magisterium you can be in for something you will later regret when you face God. The warning is in the Bible, I'm sure you've heard of it! The Communist always gave you two false truths so that you would choose the lesser of two evils thereby still accepting evil as truth.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 6:39 PM ET USA

    Fox: "Clinging to old ways for their own sake is exactly what Jesus would NOT do. " Seems to me that comments here are not about "clinging to old ways" but about clinging to Truth. Truth does not change with time, so Fox is sort of right--Truth IS old. Jesus unflinchingly proclaimed Truth for its own sake, and expects no less from us. The Truth of Jesus is hard in any age, clearly too hard for progressives because they wish to toss it aside for the zeitgeist.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 5:09 PM ET USA

    Boston Blackey, your comment about Father Leonard Feeney was interesting. Several months after I joined the Church with a thorough understanding of de fide doctrine and dogma, I was surprised by the charges brought against Father Feeney for teaching de fide doctrine by the Kennedy's pocket Cardinal. Father Feeney was later vindicated and his tombstone bears the doctrine he courageously defended: Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. We do indeed seriously need this kind of doctrinal support today.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 4:35 PM ET USA

    JMJT I worry not for myself but rather for those in the next two or three decades. The Catechism, even the latest one, is very staraight forward in what it teaches (at lest what I have read in it). It appears that almost no one in the hierarchy has either read or understood it. Here in Boston no one is speaking out about anything but a lot of touchy feely stuff. No one takes to the pulpit to remind the faithful that the distribution of condoms is wrong and why it is wrong. We need Fr. Feeney.

  • Posted by: Fox - May. 04, 2006 4:27 PM ET USA

    I don't see a commenter below who lives as Christ taught us.OR thinks clearly & logically.You unfairly misrepresent a huge number of those who love the Church.Finding fault does not mean hating.Those "horrible progressives" just want the Church to be Christian again.They seek first the Kingdom of God, but acknowledge that the world isn't ending in a generation.The Kingdom of God starts now.The times are different.Grow! Clinging to old ways for their own sake is exactly what Jesus would NOT do.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - May. 04, 2006 3:43 PM ET USA

    These progressive bishops have ignored the Baltimore Catechism for years. They follow the so-called modern version that is filled with evil teachings & taught to innocent children. This is why Pope John Paul II tried to get them to obey proper Church teachings by issuing the new Catechism and help countless other souls in doing so. Parents should insist on seeing what Catechism is being taught in their schools.

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 11:55 AM ET USA

    The Holy Spirit has been there all along, just as Christ promised. We and our leaders have failed to listen to Him. Perhaps the sound of our own voices has been to loud to hear Him in the silence of our hearts. I would really like to be in a parish with you, dear fellow commentors, and be free to worship as Christ desired. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!!!

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 11:02 AM ET USA

    Forty years of wandering in a spiritual and discipline wasteland is coming home to roost. Wouldn't it be a sacrilege to blame it on the Holy Spirit?

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 10:49 AM ET USA

    C. S. Lewis is not the first to articulate this idea. How does it ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and these (other, second) things will be added unto you... Alleluia!

  • Posted by: - May. 04, 2006 10:33 AM ET USA

    Reading the comments of contributors like Pseudodionysius, Lorenz, Salve Regina, Laity1 and others often leaves me a bit intimidated because of their eloquence and clear thinking. Fortunately, my ego still allows me to dare a comment now and then. Pseudo is right - we are in for some VERY hard times. We face a mortal danger in Islam; there are many well-meaning but naive people who see it as just "different", like Episcopalianism. I'll be 70 in July. I may be spared those hard times.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2006 11:30 AM ET USA

    I don't think that many progressives will know what has happened to them until the Imam appears in their whitewashed glass cathedrals to announce their conversion to Islam. As with the OT 40 years in the desert, I think some very hard times are ahead.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2006 11:28 AM ET USA

    An excellent analysis of the failure of the experiment over the last 40 years. In regards to the progressives, when you invested your entire life and career on A=C, stubborn pride will prevent you from admitting that A=A. Also, as Dostoeyvsky observed, when something that you once you loved has failed you, a nihilistic hatred takes over and from that an urge to destroy. I am not confident that we will see significant repair of the damage in our lifetimes.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2006 11:24 AM ET USA

    I was taught "catechism" in the 70's, I must admit that virtually NO clear thinking on anything was taught to us but I thank God that through this a seed was planted in my wretched soul. The church needs so badly to return to clear-non-psychobabble-revealed-truth teaching. I shudder to think how many souls happily trot down the wide road to Hell for lack of proper Catholic catechesis. Lord have mercy on your Church and her members.

  • Posted by: Charles134 - May. 03, 2006 10:19 AM ET USA

    Gaudium et Spes rather invites sentimentalist misreadings, if misreadings they be. I've been very disheartened by all the bishops' speechifying re: immigration. It seems our bishops only speak out to make prudential judgments with which I disagree (immigration, capital punishment). Oh, well, maybe it's best they don't address first things. Perhaps their silence is the result of the Holy Spirit preventing them from teaching error.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2006 10:12 AM ET USA

    Why all of the concern for getting the Pope's permission for use of condoms in this case? To save lives? Gimme a break. Condoms will be pushed in Africa and elsewhere, as they already are, for reasons that escape this recent discussion. This recent aim is to either: if successful, poke a hole in the dike of moral teaching, or if unsuccessful, to characterize the Church and Pontiff as incompassionate, rigid, and backward (the story will run with a photo of a scowling Pope).

  • Posted by: Jim E - May. 03, 2006 10:00 AM ET USA

    Very well stated. The problem with many in the church is that Christ has become the means to further secular ends, rather than the end in itself. I am not inferring that many individuals are not well meaning, just that they miss the real meaning of the church. C.S. Lewis noted this tendency in one of the chapters of the Screwtape Letters. It is a recurring theme in most Christian eras; we are currently experiencing a particularly prevelant dose of "christian secularism' in our time.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2006 9:40 AM ET USA

    In spite of all the blatant failures in the progressive approach, most of its followers simply are blind to the world collapsing around them. The same old nostrums get trotted out, day after day; peace and justice meeting after meeting, bishops' pronouncements, ad a diminishing group...till only the sound and the fury are left...alone. Yet, where the Church's teachings are followed is where the sun is rising.

  • Posted by: - May. 03, 2006 9:02 AM ET USA

    As concise a summation of what's gone wrong that I've ever read. Well said and sadly, too true.