Thursday, February 19, 2009

Your God, My God, His or Her God

I was reading an article today about Nancy Pelosi and the Great Abortion Confrontation, in which Nancy has supposedly been chastised by both the Pope and her Bishop about her outspoken support of killing babies in utero.

I was struck by this phrase: "that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god."

What exactly is "her God?"

I know we use the phrase, "My God," when we pray. But I think this usage claims association - it is a statement of affiliation, acceptance.

But this "her god" - oh, and note the lower case G on the "god." This really means, "one view of god among many that this particular woman claims ownership of."

Ok, that may be the case. But if Nancy is a Catholic, then she has a view of God (capital G) which is transcendant, and which she should also believe is the true understanding of God as He has revealed Himself to us.

So she's either saying there are many gods of equal value, or many personal interpretations of this vague numinous thingie, and what it wants from us is totally dependent on what any individual wants that to be - that is, "god" is really just a construct of each individual, having no will of its own. That's pretty much the prevailing secular notion of "god" as a relic of our primitive and superstitious past, isn't it? "God" is sort of a quaint Lares and Penates good luck charm whose friendly assistance we invoke when we're in trouble. (I always shudder when I hear news folks say, "Our prayers go out to so and so, to whom something bad just happened." Huh? Our prayers go out "for" so and so, perhaps... but certainly not "to!")

I can only hope that the Church continues to be steadfast in its vocal corrections of these so-called "Catholics" who choose to pontificate in public on matters they clearly don't understand - or worse, willfully mis-state.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Christian Economy

"If there were such a society (ruled by Christian principles) in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious imprssion. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, "advanced," but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old-fasthioned - perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further; and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity."
C. S. Lewis

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dumb Bloggers

Here's a post from a "Catholic" blog that made me want to laugh/cry/spit up, simultaneously:


Great idea! Or not.

Oh boy. Just what the U.S. Catholic Church needs: one more apparently arbitrary change that directly affects lay members who are already on the brink of alienation.
Some of the changes they did adopt are minor, but in other cases Catholics will have to learn longer and more awkward versions of familiar prayers. For example, instead of saying, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you," in the prayer before Communion, they will say, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof."
Call me nutty (and I know many of you do -- it's OK; the feeling is probably mutual!), but the new translation seems to lose a lot of the meaning inherent in the old one. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you" is broad enough that it could be taken to mean "into my heart," which is how I always thought of it. "Under my roof" adds jarring literalism that distracts from the intensely personal moment of "Yes, please, come in." Oh well. It's not my problem now. My sympathies are with those of you who will have to put up with it."

I'm going to be completely un-Christian here and say: what a dolt!

Here are the fruits of VII, folks - a CINO who has no idea why the words of the Mass were written as they were, how the liturgy has been mangled, denuded of meaning, and crippled in its ability to instruct, and who then magnifies her ignorance by posting it for all to see! She claims to be a "journalist," but made no effort to discover why that particular change in wording was being made - does the question "WHY?" never cross the mind of a professional "reporter??"

As one commenter finally pointed out, the original wording came from a Gospel in which a Centurion, seeking a healing, said to Christ, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof..." The words were lifted as written in the Gospel, and used in the prayer at Communion to express the deep faith of the man who originally said them. The faith that Jesus himself called out as the sort of faith we need in order to attain heaven. The whole point of repeating the words is to call to mind the Gospel and all of its meaning... not whatever made-up meaning the blogger chose to give it.

Which, of course, is/was/will be the danger of VII - that Catholics no longer understand the richness of their religion. They no longer know it, forget believe it.


I went to an "EF" Mass on Sunday.

This is the Mass offered by the diocese to placate traditionalists.

There had, previously, been a small parish that practiced a traditional form of liturgy. It was a busy, vibrant little group - with a large choir struggling manfully to learn the Gregorian chant, devout regular parishioners, and even extra-curricular activities.

The diocese closed it down.

It was replaced with a "regular" Sunday Mass - at 4pm - in the basilica.

It's a low Mass. It's said on the main altar, behind the NO table, which obscures most of what the priest and servers are doing. The church, being extremely large, seems empty, and the parishioners are not quite sure what the postures are for them, and because they are spread out through a very large space, they are even more awkward and uncertain.

(There are five altars in this church - why don't they simply offer the Mass at one of the side altars, providing a more intimate feel, and allowing the priest to be seen, without trying to look through the "table?")

Why, for that matter, don't they offer a High Mass? It's Sunday, it's the main EF Mass of the day. The congregation could then sing the responses, and feel more a part of the Mass. The chant is not all that difficult to learn.

And then there was the sermon. I admit it - I sinned in my thoughts as I listened. It was not a sermon, it was a feel-good statement that "God is good and loves us, all of us, each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what we do."


The gospel was the story of the householder who hires workers throughout the day, and at the end of the day, pays them all the same wage. The guys who worked throughout the day were not happy that they weren't paid a premium when they learned that the ones who worked only 1 hour got full pay. The householder says, that was the deal when you signed on.

The parable is about the fact that God will reward us all equally - with heaven - no matter when we sign up. And it goes on to say that "many are called, but few are chosen."

So the message really isn't about "God loves us all no matter who we are," it's about God's reward is what it is - eternal salvation - no matter when we come to it. And moreover, it's about the fact that while salvation is available to us all, "few" of us will actually find it. Wow! How different that is from the touchy-feely message of today - the "protestantized" message of universal, once and for all, salvation.

The Catholic Church always taught that Jesus' sacrifice was renewed again and again at the Mass, and that even after our baptism (the initial washing away of original sin) our salvation was not complete. We had to continue to earn it with our good life and our adherence to the Church. This is a very different message from what is being modeled now, and what is taught in Protestantism.

I'm not here to say what is "right." I'm just noting what I see going on - and what we were told at the EF Mass on Sunday.

I guess this is in part what the SSPX and others have been trying to say: it's not just the liturgy, though that is a huge part of what has happened. It's the other teachings, which have strayed far from what they had been. So even though there is an EF Mass available (however inconveniently, and however badly executed), it is still a watered-down version of Catholicism that is being taught.

Anti What?

I'm having an interesting email "conversation" with a friend about the recent doings re: the SSPX. He commented that he had a problem with the apparent anti-Semitism in the SSPX. Here is what I wrote him:

Here's a question for you - what do you believe happens at the Consecration? I don't mean what we're taught... I mean, what do you really, really believe? It's not a trick question or anything... I am seriously just curious.

I think part of the problem with the anti-Semitism is that the truth is the Catholic Church was what we would now call "anti-Semitic" for a long time. Not in a vicious way, but there really was an attitude of, "Oh, the poor, benighted Jews. Bad things will continue to happen to them if they don't convert."

I remember that we were always to be a tad suspicious of anyone non-Catholic. Protestants were kind of like our slightly dumb cousins from the hills... or perhaps more appropriately, our girl cousin who ran off and married a dumb guy from the hills. She was family, but she had shamed us. Jews were "other," more like a branch of the same species from which we had diverged a long time ago because we wanted to move along with evolution and they didn't. But if we were not to participate in Protestant religious ceremonies, we were certainly not to participate in Jewish ones!

I understood that the issue wasn't that these were bad people - they were good people with the wrong information. We had two obligations where they were concerned from a religious point of view: convert them if you can, and do not be converted BY them. So all in all, you as a lay person are better off not spending a lot of time in spiritual conversation with them. * More on that later * I think that as little kids, the idea of "just stay away" was because little kids can get their heads full of ideas for which they have little frame of reference. As we get older and are more comfortable in who we are - and frankly, as our thinking has been more shaped,  it becomes safer to engage with other ideas.

I think there are two things the SSPX has trouble with, and I think that the interpretation of these things is "anti-Semitism." One is what I've stated above - the SSPX still holds to the old Catholic notion, the pre-ecumenical notion, that if it is dangerous to have too many deep discussions with people of other faiths, it is even more dangerous to say, "This religion, that one, what difference does it make?" (If that is so, then why be anything at all? That's not a challenging question, it's actually something I've spent a lot of time wrestling with.) The other thing they object to is what they call "modernism," which is actually something all priests of Lefebre's and even Fellay's era took an oath against. (They were required to as part of their seminary training.) Lefebre took it seriously. It said that we had this body of belief that was solid and for the most part unchanging, passed along from the Apostles who got it straight from Christ. It was not to be tampered with - "Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical' misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely." (You can Google Anti-Modernist Oath and read the whole thing if you haven't already. I might even have taken it for all I remember...)

So anyway... Lefebre said, what can I do? I swore an oath, how do I go back on that and now say that all religions are equally valid paths to God, and other things that VII is leading toward?

So he and the SSPX continued to teach that the Jews were wrong to reject Jesus, and that the Protestants were wrong to break away from the Church, and that we should probably not spend a lot of time in philosophical conversation with them, because if they had erred in not accepting the Church, then who can we blame but Satan?

So then you have this tangle of a goofball like Williamson, who actually does say a lot of crazy things (but of course, you also have a goofball like Mahoney who has dancing girls perform in front of him while he sits on a throne.... check out the photos). We take his personal goofy notions (that the Holocaust was not as severe as is made out - he never "denied" it, btw, he just said it wasn't that many people who were killed in gas chambers) and we merge them with the old Church teaching that we, as Catholics, believe that the Jews and the Protestants and so on are wrong, and the whole picture adds up to "anti-Semitism."

I am no SSPX scholar - I just attend the Mass there because it is reverent and beautiful. But I do know that in the years that I've gone to Mass there, I have never heard a word from anyone anti-Jew or anti-Pope. The Pope is prayed for at every Benediction - "Tu es petra, etc." And the only time the Jews are mentioned is in readings from the Bible and when they are prayed for.

* On a personal note, I have to say that I think there is something to my mom's old dictum "Marry a Catholic." A fully "modern" woman, I was sure that religion didn't matter - that you could marry anyone and it wouldn't matter. My experience has taught me that I was dead wrong about that. I married a Jewish man, and I can only tell you that his world view was 180 degrees opposite from mine. Some of it was him, personally, I'm sure, but I also think that a lot of it was the way he was raised - with what values and attitudes. And our association did not make me a better person, but dragged me down into a mode of life that was nothing I am proud of. He was comfortable with it - I was not!

I think this is what the Church, what my mom, were trying to tell me. I had been raised, for better or worse, to believe that humans are corruptible, and that we have to try all the time to do good, to be conscious of God, and to be alert to the pulls of what we can call Satan or our worse natures. He thought that anything he wanted, whenever and wherever he wanted it was ok, as long as you a) didn't get caught and b) it didn't effect you materially (therefore, for example, the reason you didn't have sex with a 16 year old was because if you got caught you'd be in terrible trouble and would not be able to earn a good living... it was not about the harm done to the kid, or the existential "wrongness" of the deed, it was about the harm done to you). This thinking was so utterly different from mine, and as I said, my association with him didn't make him a better person (and honestly I did try... not in a religious sense, but in a personal sense), it made me a worse person. 

So I think there was a good reason why the Church tried to keep its people somewhat insular. It's hard to resist the pulls of the world. It's hard to say no to yourself. It's frankly hard to believe that there is a God, and that Jesus Christ is His incarnation, and that we have a direct contact with him.

So the question is - is it better for us to open the doors to all kinds of ideas, or is it better for us to focus on what we believe?

You and I would say open the doors - because that's what we were taught in school - that it is narrow-minded and ignorant to not look with an open mind at all ideas. Part of me is pulled very strongly to that. But... I had 9 years of old-fashioned parochial school. I had a foundation. I had something I could compare all the new ideas to. I did lose my faith in the process of all that examination - but the pull of it was somewhere in there. The idea of it was always there as something against which to contrast all the new thinking. Nothing I found in all my exploration came anywhere close to the peace and focus and frankly, value to my own way of life that I have found in the Catholic Church. And nothing else ever gave me the experience of the numinous like the Catholic Church.