Thursday, 30 August 2007

Part Three: It was the best of times, it was the....

Word Picture:

The old structure within a diocese almost invariably ensured that the cream floated to the top.
The cleverest, wisest, most charismatic or empathic, the most talented, the best preachers or pastors or spiritual directors/confessors - even on the rare occasion the holiest of priests would manage to reach the top jobs/positions within a diocese - most of us have been graced with encountering the type of priest I'm referring to.
Now even if some of them weren't the best among pastoral priests ; they were assuredly the most capable or effective administrators, good chairmen or team leaders - and rarely were there any who had not experienced and obtained a deep level of understanding regarding the human condition and the spiritual necessities for societies and the individual.
because the priests were highly active and very much about the Lord's business it was more often than not quite easy to determine a cleric's capabilities and talents.
the Holy Spirit made the job of a Bishop a great deal easier by pushing the more capable and responsible priests to the fore.
Frequently a bishop would be fully aware that he could both rely on his clergy and could be assured that anyone he placed in a diocesan position of responsibility/authority was already tried and tested by time and had proved their worth on many occasions beforehand . It was more than likely that a person he had 'chosen' for a position would become his or another bishop's successor; and he could be proud of both his choice and have few qualms about the future in that cleric's hands.

Then came Vatican II.

Now there were already significant embryonic factors within the clerical and episcopal make-up:

a] The efficacy of priestly formation was being compromised by increasingly poor,irrelevant or out-of-date/overly zeitgeist training in seminaries; and the limiting of the considerations of the duties and responsibilities of Holy Orders - usually the source of this was the poor example of priests and the overlying ethos of the seminaries regarding priesthood [too many educators in pastoral ministry had little experience of being pastoral ministers!]

b] The increasing duties, responsibilities and demands upon the priest within the parish led to six significant consequences/types of clergy:

i] the Hero - the priest who seized the helm of responsibility in the storm to prevent all around them sinking - assuming an authority and duty merely by being the right person at the right time who saw the problem and acted upon it.
ii] the Envious - those antagonistic to the hero-type - there may be a vast array of reasons/causes/motivations behind their positions ; but nevertheless the predominant result is their begrudging the hero's position - how they act on that envy also manifests itself in varied forms - hostility, indifference, diammetrically opposing positions regarding doctrine or praxis, procedural antipathy, reticence to assist or even direct action against the 'hero'.
iii] the Tin Pot Dictator - the Master of his own Domain - not much more needs to be said as we have all encountered and experience such a type - it may be a virtuous and benign dictatorship or one that has compromised its authenticity and supped with the Prince of this World; but nevertheless they are still dictatorships and the priest has jeopardised spiritual authority by confusing it with the secular and temporal.
iv] the Reactionary - what are they opposing ? good grief ! it could be anything - the Pope, the bishop, certain clergy, Church teaching on sexuality or contraception or divorce or celibacy, liturgical practice, aspects of church dogma, it could be politically motivated or over-encultured with the spirit of the age [we've all suffered the hippy priests, the corporate downsizing thatcherite priests, the blairite spin/procedural committee priests...all too sad!]
v] the Counter-Revolutionary Uber-Traditionalist - could be some belligerent irish canon unwilling to change anything and stopping time somewhere mid 1928, ditto an almost anglo-catholic brideshead-type who revels in the bells, smells, frippery ; or the youngster outraged at the pragmatism/situationist ethics/abject relativism/sacrilegious liturgies/banale indolences of the reactionary clerics; and counteract with an overpietistic or overlegalistic pseudo-conservatism verging on sedevacantism. [yes this is surprisingly not a new phenomena or a product of the outrages in the late sixties and seventies- the tridentinista were already gathering forces in the forties/fifties being fully aware that there was going to be trouble ahead]
vi] the Recluse - the priest who ran away and hid from any controversy, who either swayed in the wind and agreed with everyone, or dissociated himself from the prevailing situation and got on with his own job in his own quiet way.

c] Systemic Ignorance of Fundamental Theology among the Clergy - this is the deficit of the teaching of the underlying 'why' that I referred to in the previous posting ; and led to the massive ruptures regarding doctrine/morality/liturgy/clerical praxis/ecclesiology among the clergy - let's be truthful - what we had was a schism - the only problem was that both left and right, liberal and traditionalist, were so inadequately trained and educated in all the subjects they purported to be experts on, that their ignorance prevailed, incompetence ensued; and many millions of catholics were deeply hurt in the process.

d] The Crisis in Faith - it was on its way - academia and intellectual realms and alleged 'colleges of excellence' were adopting every new fad or ideology or innovative philosophical/political/socio-cultural/anthropological process - chaos reigned.
pragmatism, relativism, demeaning post-hegelian political ideologies, behaviourism, nihilism , linguistic and logical positivism and many more ideologies all had pervasive contaminating influences ; and the ignorant ill-educated clerics and theologians became corrupted by these prevailing forces...
The results ? Well please refer to my first posting regarding anxiety and despondency.

e] The Crisis in identity [more later, but basically I'm referring to the loss of an authentic notion of a Unique Real Ordained Priesthood in contrast to 'vocational pastoral ministries']

f] The Crisis regarding the Love of God and consequently the reality of both Love and God. [ref. first posting]

g] Existential Angst and the authenticity of anything the cleric professes/represents/adheres to ; in the light of d,e & f.

Now One person in 1958 was more aware of the clerical situation than any other - Cardinal Ottaviani [indeed every member of the Vatican General Council] was inundated with reports/assessments/new writings on the impending crises regarding doctrine, morality, the liturgy and most especially the clergy:
So much so that when John XXIII announced the actuation of a Second Vatican Council one voice was heard echoing through St Peter's:
'E Pazz!!' [He's mad!!!]
to the cardinal it was like detecting a gas leak and lighting a match to see where it was coming from....

We must concede that many necessary reforms and considerations simply had to be addressed or redressed - but what happened at Vatican II and the reprehensible post-conciliar committees was a systemic fiasco of the first order....

One of its benefits was that indeed, all the sins/poisons that had previously only lurked in the mud - now hatched out !!!
The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of millions of catholics - they were left abandoned to the wolves...Holy Mother Church ruptured and millions of victims were left in its wake...

a price worth paying ?
I'm sorry, but I believe the price was too high; but I trust in God and his Divine Providence - I am certain that God did not leave us orphans ; that ultimately there MUST be a reason as to why this happened and why God allowed it to happen....
could it possibly be that had we remained the way we were we may have altered into some monolithic autarchy ? or could the world have finally confronted us head on and destroyed us all in its wake ?
I don't know , all I am sure of is that it was God's will ; and it is now a wake up call to action for every devout and orthodox sinful catholic...

maybe this was a baptism of fire in preparation for the terrible adversities ahead ?
I do not know - but I do know the affect it has had on the church at a Diocesan level - and in the choice of clerics - which is what I'll address in my next posting.

[to be continued]


Argy said...

What if people were never really that holy ever. There were just a few and a good system of obedience and correction. This coupled with a society that respected wisdom and experience ensured that the churches were full and doctrine was taught. The good ones got through and errors were supressed with strong authority. The enlightenment and subsequent technological development trains new generations to have an inherrent disregard for older wisdom. Changes takes place so fast that the only group able to handle new things are the young. What is older is disguarded as outdated. Revealtion and Truth is swept up and out in this movement automatically.
I propose this because it has happened to me. I thought the church Fathers were out of date and knew nothing, even before I read anything they had written. They were old and remote, no need to go there. I came into contact with lots of different ideas and faiths. Also, the way a person is taught to think. For instance, you may be presented with this and that theory. You are taught to analyse and judge between them. What you are not taught is to select one for yourself. You MUST keep an open mind not a closed one. The human is therefore taught to stand apart from all religions, faiths and in the case of the Church of Jesus Christ, Truth itself. The Human becomes god and the judge of all. It takes alot of effort to break this spell and it is a constant battle.

I appreciate your analysis but are philosphers and theologians really the architect of our culture. To me they simply try to explain how they experience the world and what they see around them. A philospher can convince you, you don't exist. you might agree but will you forget to have your supper as a result of its obvious pointlessness?

There is simply one starting point. A claim, what was said and what was heard. A human being ressurected. He was dead but he now lives. You can disbelieve the LITERAL truth of this event and build all the theories you like around the meaning of this image/allegory/hagiograph or you can accept it's literal truth and cling on to this man and those who have kept faith with him throughout history for dear life, fearing to move one inch away from Him and his faithful servants. We each must decide where we stand as individuals on this matter. Once a young man sticks his flag in the ground for Christ no amount of stupid theology/practise will move him. He will cling to his risen Lord. This conflict is being played out within the Catholic Church today. There are some who do not accept the ressurection running our institutions. It may not even be a conscious rejection, simply a question the priest, bishop, cardinal or pope never thought to answer for themselves - Is the ressurection really true?
The Motu Propio helps them to self-identify. With God's good grace they will turn.

stig matic said...

Vatican II, reasons why....the answer given to me was "The Missions", more specifically the African mission. It allowed for a more lax interpretation of the liturgy "more suited to people and climate" and a laxer interpretation of moral theology "more suited to people trapped in grinding poverty". As a result an explosion in numbers both of laity and religious on the continent, so the argument goes. (I know this approach disenfranchised many in the Far East who simply couldn't take to the new forms of liturgy.)

However, it is worth looking at this in more detail. Many missionary priests will tell you the people have a very poor understanding of their faith (sounds familiar). They will also say that the seminary training is a sham (again somewhat familiar). The African springtime may not produce a good harvest. Look also at the missionary orders themselves, stirrings of disobedience from long before Vatican II, became outright rebellion. The womenpriests business is the product of a MHM, much dangerous teaching about the Eucharist and the role of the laity is the result of the OMI. The missionary orders gave people with a radical, disobedient agenda a vehicle from which to operate.

Look at the missionary magazines that often accompany the blue or red mission boxes. Veiled references to how advantageous married clergy, women priests etc appear. Is it any wonder that a generation much older (people now in their 80s and 90s)than that usually accused of being influenced by the 1960s often spouts such stuff. They are the ones that love their missionary societies.

Your post was excellent, by the way. I look forward to reading the rest of it.

Ttony said...

Coo! Brilliant!

I'm really looking forward to Part 2!

White Stone Name Seeker said...

People never were that holy ever. But Jesus knew that when He established His Church on the man who going to cut someone's ear off, deny Him and do a runner.
But the Church Jesus set up not only allowed for but actively encouraged repentance of sin-so Peter could lead again after the BBQ on the beech talk with the Risen Lord.

I think one of the biggest holes in the post Vat II shenanagans was the downplaying of sin and the side lining of Confession.
"I'm okay, you're okay" no need to repent then is there? No need to strive for holiness if its just about being okay.

Saints were few in all ages of the Church, but sinners knew they were sinners until now.

John Pridmore in From Gangland to Promised Land speaks of the time he went to stay with a priest and asked where the oratory was so he could go and pray. The priest who was sitting watching TV glibly informed him he had had the chapel removed and put a jacuzzi in there instead.
This is not the Church Militant but the Church Vacation or Vacant.

(Paul I am a woman so I talk too much-tell me to go be quiet if this is too much :) )

On the side of the angels said...

White Stone - I specifically went out of my way to ask for your help and contributions - Never, ever, ever don't say something you feel you have to on here or anywhere !!!
I appreciate everything you say on here - and you've hit the nail right on the head regarding confession.

Anonymous said...

Today's countrywide pastoral on Catholic Schools was more interesting in what it didn't say than in the usual distinct ethos/alternative model/ Christ-centred etc. etc. lines that they always roll out to defend the lack of actual Catholicity in many of our schools. IOW Meaningless twaddle.
I got the feeling that they were rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

PS. yours is a very incisive analysis of the situation of the Church here - frighteningly accurate! I look forward to more.

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