Thursday, July 24

From earlier this month, Andrew Greeley defends the state of the Church in Ireland

It's difficult to discover what the various authors mean by their announcements that Ireland is no longer Catholic. Perhaps they mean the church no longer dominates Irish life the way it did in the middle decades of the last century. They may mean the church no longer gives orders that the government feels (or pretends to feel) it must obey. They may mean the hierarchy realizes that it can no longer control the sexual life of the laity. They may mean the Irish constitution no longer assigns a special place to the Catholic faith (this was changed to facilitate peace in the North). But one of the authors, a priest, says Ireland now is even more secular than the Czech Republic.

The implication of all this babble is that a more realistic separation of church and state means that Ireland is no longer Catholic, without any need to take into account the faith and religious practice of the Catholic laity. That may be an appropriate methodological stance, but it seems to leave behind a massive reality: the veneration of the Little Flower, the religious faith of the youngest cohorts who may not go to mass much but are firmly Catholic, have more respect for their parish priest than their parents, and are more likely to consider the mother of Jesus integral to their identity than their parents.

The response of these folks seems to be that the clerical scandals will certainly drive the laity away from the church. The faith of the Irish people is based on the virtue, intelligence and competence of their religious leaders? So little do those who suggest it understand either religion or Ireland!

The sex abuse scandals are worse here than in the United States. The media are vehemently anti-clerical (perhaps not without reason). Some of the scandals have occurred in government-owned orphanages staffed by religious orders. And the Irish hierarchy is even more clueless than the American. Moreover, they could have learned from the American scandals what not to do, but they resolutely refused to do so.

The truth, I think, is that like Catholics in the United States, Catholics in this country are still Catholic, but now on their own terms. Bishops tell me that the laity can't do that, which proves how clueless they are. They can no longer control the laity with the threat of mortal sin and eternal damnation. Such tools may have been appropriate in the Dark Ages and after the French Revolution, but they don't work anymore.

The Chicago Tribune looks at the changes in the liturgy

Last week priests received a letter advising the 378 parishes in the archdiocese to begin to prepare for the revisions to the Order of Mass, which has been in place since 1975.Homilies over the next five weeks could be devoted, the letter said, to raising "consciousness of the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and individual believers."The revisions planned for November stem from "questions about the interpretation or clarification of the norms," and from "changes that the Holy See deemed necessary," the letter states.

"This is not a new way of saying mass," said Rev. Anthony Brankin, pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 2825 W. 81st St."It's a fine-tuning for things that might have become inexact. I think their worry is that parishes are going too far afield."Brankin expects very little change at his church, which adheres to tradition, he said. Each Sunday, St. Thomas More's 10 a.m. mass in Latin draws hundreds attracted by the "very ceremonial, formal and elegant" old rite used in Catholic churches before 1962, he said.

But Rev. William Kenneally, pastor of St. Gertrude Catholic Church, 1401 W. Granville Ave., said the revisions "are only going to add to the very grave tension between conservatives and liberals" in the church."Maybe in another parish they would want these changes, and God bless them," said Kenneally, who adds that the new bowing "is clumsy" and an "external show.""They start out with a premise that if everybody is doing the same thing externally, we will be united internally. That premise is hogwash."People love the Eucharist," he said. "They have a great deal of respect for it. There are cultural differences among Catholics, and silence is not always a sign of respect. Sometimes gathering is a sign of respect."

Rev. Richard T. Simon of St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church, 4827 N. Kenmore Ave., said the revisions come in response to the "roll-your-own, smoke-your-own mass" that has become "a vehicle for self-expression" in some churches."If you're doing it by the book, there's not much change," Simon said as he greeted parishioners after an 11:15 a.m. service in Spanish, with guitar music. The church in Uptown also offers Sunday masses in Laotian, English, Vietnamese and Eritrean."The mass is nobody's private property," Simon said. "It's the property of the church universal."The changes will promote uniformity, he said, "so that I can go to mass in Beijing or Soweto and I will recognize it and be a part of it."

I am sensing that I have new readers, who might benefit from a crash course on This Blog:

1. Irony, sarcasm and attempts at mordant wit are favorite means of expression, so be warned.

2. I don't agree with everything I post. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, and sometimes I don't let you know whether I agree or not. Sometimes I am just trying in getting a discussion going. I am always intrigued by what other people have to say (well...most people anyway), and sometimes I post items (like the 2 items directly below)because I want to hear your opinions.

3. Don't try to put me in box of any kind, shape or texture. I have superpowers, and I will bust right out of it.

4. My blog is moody. Sometimes it's newsy, sometimes it's spiritual, sometimes I'm using it to work out ideas, sometimes it's quiet. You can bet that when it's busiest (from my end), I have deadlines looming and don't care to face them quite yet. I used to provide what I hoped was fairly comprehensive blogging on Catholic-related news, but I just don't have time for that these days.

The WSJ makes an interesting point: Why was it forbidden to criticize Scorcese's Jesus movie, but it's open season on Gibson's ?

It occurred to me last night that it might be interesting to pass a couple of interesting statements by you, statements that were made to me during interviews over the past few years.

Here's the first one:

A person who'd written a book on apparitions, visions and other miraculous things said that there was no way, no how that a "miracle" of any sort, healing included, that occurred in any context outside the Roman Catholic Church could be authentic. Here was his logic: Miracles occur, in part, to point people to the truth - to reveal the truth to them. Hence, any miracle that occurred in any tradition other than Roman Catholicism (although I assume he might include Orthodoxy within that, but he didn't say, so perhaps I shouldn't assume) must be inauthentic, for if it was authentic, it would mean that God was revealing truth through the means of that other tradition, and since those other traditions aren't the True Church, then God would be pointing people to untruths, or something less than the Full Truth so....such events must either be coincidental, natural or demonic - but no way from God.

Second one: A chastity advocate once said to me in an interview that the reason there were so many troubled marriages is that so many couples were using artificial contraception and because of that, those marriages couldn't receive God's grace. Hence, they were doomed to struggle along without God's grace.

I'm going to build traffic in a new way. I'm not going to post anything original, or even any links. I'm just going to post names, alternating day by day, and let the comments fly.

Day 1: Legion of Christ

Day 2: Opus Dei

Day 3:EWTN

and so on....

Personal news from blog and comment land

After some very scary days, blogger Sean Gallagher and his wife Cindy have brought home their little son Michael from almost two weeks of hospitalization for pneumonia. We will keep praying for Michael's continued recovery. (scroll down a bit for the account of the homecoming)

And..congratulations to commentor Aquinas Admirer who reports the birth of his daughter on July 20.

Blessings on all the babies...

From the current issue of Christian History (one of Christianity Today's magazines), articles on Tolkien, found here, if you scroll down a bit.

The comments are ornery this morning , so some helpful folks have written with comments regarding Stranger in a Strange might be interested in this one:

Oh, mercy, this takes me back. I haven't thought about this book in years.

Did SISL inspire any cults: probably not. It was certainly adopted as a variety of scripture by some of the free lovin' communal experiments of the late 1960s-early 1970s. Why? Heinlein had gotten (no, I don't know why. There are still people who think that Starship Troopers is a significant political document) the reputation of a heavy thinking, rather right wing science-fiction writer through the 50s, and his sudden change when SISL was published in 1961 had a lot of power. Also, the time was ripe; SISL appeared to say that you could have all the sex you wanted, and God, and personal power; always a potent fantasy, but especially attractive at the time. I can remember talking to a seminarian (an Episcopal seminarian, that is) when Dune was published; he was completely, genuinely blown away by the idea of the Orange Catholic Bible and "ecumenical" scripture. Dune is a little later than SISL, but they grew in the same soil. Heinlein worked on SISL throughout the 1950s; I have long thought that the cultural boil over of the late-60s-early 70s was the culmination of a long, slow seethe under the surface of the 1950s. If SISL had an influence out of proportion to its merits, it's because SISL shared the same background.

What this reader says about the general cultural upheaval of the 60's and 70's I've always also thought applied to Church upheaval, too. We've talked about it before, but it bears rehashing. If all Catholics - lay, religious and ordained - were so impeccably educated in the preVII period, if all was peaceful and happy and could things go so crazy, really in a matter of less than a decade? Perhaps all was not as we've been led to believe it was.


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