Monday, February 9, 2009

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment