Monday, February 11, 2008

The Difference between knowing and KNOWING

In response to my posting of the article from TIME magazine, Joshua said in the combox:
Didn't you know all this before? This has been the reality in the Church for the past 40 years.
Of course I "knew" this, Joshua, but it is one thing to know your history (eg. to know that in 1492 Columbas sailed the ocean blue, or that in 1066 William the Conquer won the battle of Hastings, or that in 1770 Captain Cook sailed into Botony Bay) but it is ANOTHER THING altogether to actually find a magazine article from the time reporting these events.

And what really stuns me is that even before the release of Humanae Vitae, in the two and half short years between the close of Vatican II and July 1968, the Church had already slid almost all the way down the dissenting slope that we so lament today. It didn't happen gradually over the last forty years--it didn't even take 10 years. It happened virtually overnight.

This leads me to ask two questions:

1) exactly how good were those pre-Vatican II years in terms of fidelity, catechesis, evangelisation etc.? These dissidents couldn't possibily have simply sprung up like weeds. There must have been decades behind this rise in liberalism.

2) What on earth was Pope Paul VI thinking when he unleashed the new vernacular liturgy into this mess? So often we think the liturgy is where it all went wrong, but whatever "went wrong" had gone wrong already, before the "reform" was put into action.


At Monday, February 11, 2008 12:06:00 pm , Blogger Athanasius said...

David, my comments are here:

Why should you get all of the page views? ;-)

At Monday, February 11, 2008 12:54:00 pm , Blogger Athanasius said...

My technology awareness proceeds apace!

Go to my link

At Monday, February 11, 2008 1:53:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

It didn't happen gradually over the last forty years--it didn't even take 10 years. It happened virtually overnight

. . .

These dissidents couldn't possibily have simply sprung up like weeds. There must have been decades behind this rise in liberalism

Well, which is it?

I suggest it’s the latter.

Leaving aside the polemical question of what we classify as “dissidence” and why, I would point out that it’s too easy to assume that Vatican II either (1) caused, or at least (2) uncorked a ferment of change in the church. But I think it might be more accurate to see Vatican II as part of the phenomenon of change, not the cause or instigation of it. Perhaps, indeed, it is more accurately seen, at least partly, as a response or reaction to the change.

The theological and indeed liturgical currents which were so influential in Vatican II did not, as you rightly point out, start at Vatican II. They had been around for decades, and the church was going to have to deal with them, one way or another. Had they not been addressed when they were, the strong communal and institutional character of the church might have masked what was going on for a little bit longer, at least from some, but the march of time could not have been stopped simply by not convening Vatican II. The church might have course have dealt with these phenomena differently, but there is no obvious reason to assume that doing so would have produced a better outcome (whatever a “better” outcome might mean).

It’s worth pointing out that secular society also experienced rapid visible transformation in the in 1960s and 1970s, but nobody looks to the Vietnam war, or any similar event of the 1960s, as anything other than a staging post in a very long journey. We have no difficult in tracing the social changes of the 1960s back to the Second World War and beyond – back indeeed to the Great War. Why should we expect the People of God to be unaffected by the times they live in, to have their view of themselves and their social and corporate relationships – indeed, their relationship with God – unaffected by history? The Tridentine model served the church well for quite a while, but that is no reason to suppose that it would serve the church well for ever, and period of nearly four hundred years without a general council was a anomaly in church history, not the norm.

The suggestion that everything was fine until the 1950s and then it all fell to bits is deeply implausible and unconvincing, and those – I’m not looking at you, David – who give the impression of wishing to return to the church of the 1950s so that all will be well again are effectively signalling tha tthey are not interested in the life of the church, or in exploring and meeting the challenges it faces.

What on earth was Pope Paul VI thinking when he unleashed the new vernacular liturgy into this mess?

Not to be mischeivous or anything, but could he possibly have been thinking, “Four hundred years of the Tridentine mass, and look where it’s got us?”

At Monday, February 11, 2008 4:44:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

Picking up on Pere's point, I once saw some stats that suggested the real decline in church attendance started at the turn of the last century. The wars created artificial peaks, but the trend was pretty clear. In other words VatII was a response to -- and a late one at that -- observable changes, not a harbinger.

The traditional mass is well-named 'extraordinary' because if it were ever brought back as 'ordinary' again you'd see just how incredibly boring it can be! ;-)

At Monday, February 11, 2008 5:30:00 pm , Anonymous Sharon said...

You might like to read
From One Eucharistic Prayer to Many:
How it Happened and Why

by Father Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.

At Tuesday, February 12, 2008 2:12:00 am , Blogger Joshua said...

To give my ha'penny worth again:

I have often thought that perhaps the Lord has permitted these 40 years in the desert to punish our pride and hubris.

After all, was it not prideful if not Pelagian to think that a few tweaks to the pastoral approach of the Church, liturgy included, and this would ring in the millennium, achieve the conversion of the Protestants, and convert all the nations?

With all due respect to the saintly Bl John XXIII, his opening speech to the Council, and certain of the themes of Gaudium et spes, now seem naive in the extreme in their anticipation that toning down 'negative' language, and 'embracing' the world, would somehow expedite the reconciliation of all things in Christ, and advance the parousia.

"Forty years long I was wearied of this generation, and I said, Their hearts are astray, these people do not know my ways; then I took an oath in my anger: Never shall they enter my rest."

At Tuesday, February 12, 2008 1:17:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

Joshua, is it possible that characterising the last 40 years as a 'desert punishment' could be a sign of pride and hubris?

What is it that PB16 will 'take us back to' that will bring the life back in the 'desert'? What do you expect of him (or his successors)? What will a church that has escaped from the 'desert' like for you?

At Tuesday, February 12, 2008 8:35:00 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can think of this evening is to point out some of the works of Frank Sheed and Dietrich von Hildebrand, and then the idea of 'adequate anthropology'. Perhaps 'glory' for good measure. How blessed are we to live in these days! I love it.

At Saturday, February 16, 2008 10:18:00 am , Blogger Joshua said...

Please, Tony, I could do without being accused of pride and hubris! I wonder what your strange comments are meant to insinuate...

On my part, I have no solution, and agree with Tolkien that history is a tale of 'a long defeat'. Obviously, barring miracles, Benedict XVI has little real ability to change the current parlous state of Catholicism in the West.

What I expect will happen is this: the vast majority of Catholics who still go to church regularly, but have very little commitment to or knowledge of their faith (being almost wholly uncatechized) and are otherwise completely aligned to the world (and so approve of every moral failing the West now celebrates) will simply fall away to join the vaster majority who only call themselves Catholic and never 'darken the doors' at all - and if they don't, their children will depart, sadly. After all, already there are many who call themselves 'unbaptised Catholics' - their parents were only dunked at the insistence of their own grandparents, and the current generation have never been given the sacrament at all.

As the Pope wrote previous to his election, the Church of the future will be smaller but more faithful: the small remnant remaining, in order precisely to have the strength to hold on, will be composed of those few who do commit to the beliefs and morals that the Church still does officially stand for.

What we have been working through these 40 years are the consequences of ecclesial schizophrenia: one cannot belong to a group which is divided against itself, and has come to suffer bitter divisions, without feeling the tensions between the official and unofficial codes of belief and morals, and if one is honest, one realizes that the official code is not going to change, and if one is to be contented, one must either withdraw from the group and join another in which the two codes are the same, or commit to patterning one's one code on the official code of the group.

That's what I did - I realized the choice was to stay or to leave, but in both cases to be honest about it: I hate hypocrisy! So I stayed and heeded what I believe to be Christ's revelation, through his Church, of what the Truth about faith and morals is, without conversion to which we cannot make our way through Him to the Father.

At Monday, February 18, 2008 11:25:00 am , Blogger Tony said...

Josh, the notion of 'pride and hubris' is yours. I posed my point as a question, and not an accusation, quite deliberately.

I can't reconcile the notion of being 'unhypocritally' for the church and describing the last 40 years as a desert. Surely that's a scathing critique of the church? Surely that contributes to the division you say is so destructive?

Division is, and always was, a part of the church. It's not hypocrisy to have positions that challenge orthodoxy. If you want that kind of uniformity then it is you who should consider your own advice 'withdraw from the group ...'.

At Tuesday, February 19, 2008 1:16:00 am , Blogger Joshua said...

Well, the Church has been through the Babylonian Captivity (aka the Avignon Papacy and the related Western Schism), so I think my metaphor allowable.

I certainly feel able to critique, not our Holy Mother the Church, but her very human instruments, the clergy, for their indolence, scandals, and corruption, not to mention their neglect of preaching the Word and their abuse of the Sacraments - as did, say, Erasmus, John Colet, St Hildegard of Bingen, St Catherine of Siena, and just about every other saint.

Certainly since the time of the Corinthians there have been internal feuds in the Church; but I do not understand what you mean by "It's not hypocrisy to have positions that challenge orthodoxy", as if "right belief" were something deserving of challenge (a classic bit of liberal speak).

Thank you for telling me to leave the Church! Feel free to take your own advice!

(I of course don't really mean this, but wish to point out how it makes me feel.)

At Sunday, February 24, 2008 9:38:00 am , Blogger Tony said...


In one response you refer to 'our pride and hubris'. When I suggest calling refering to the last 40 years in terms of a 'desert' might also be a sign of that hubris you then don't want to know about it?

Also, it was you who brought up the notion of leaving the church -- ' must either withdraw from the group and join another ...'. I was only trying to show you how that felt.


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