Patience is difficult when the sky is falling

Patience is difficult when the sky is falling

Karen Hall recently had two posts in which she expressed her frustration with the direction she perceives the Church and Pope Benedict appear to be going, and the lack of progress in dealing with the Church’s very visible problems of heterodoxy and dissent and liturgical abuse. The posts were “What kind of ‘kind’?”, with an extensive quote of a comment along those lines from the New Oxford Review, and “Pink elephants on parade,” in which she responds to some of the comments in the earlier post.

While I disagree with the tone and tenor of some reactions of some very rude responders to Karen’s plea, I did have some advice and comments that I thought I would share here. To get the whole context, read Karen’s first post first, then my first comment, then her second post, and then my second comment.

Here’s a bit of what she said after the NOR excerpt:

This is the conclusion I am beginning to reach myself.  The pope is not who I thought he was, and he will not be who I hoped he would be.  There aren’t going to be any sweeping, fundamental changes.  Rome sees no ships.  Or it sees all the ships, but has decided that the “kind” approach is to let them continue to unload their ammunition on us.

“Kind” to whom, I wonder, whenever I read articles and interviews about how “gentle” Benedict XVI is, or listen to Cardinal Arinze scold his worried audience with, “There are no jails at the Vatican” or “what do you want, a battalion of Swiss guards to come to your parish and make them do it right?”

Here was my first response:

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Greg:

    I find no awareness of any of this on this person’s blog. Has she read Benedict? Does she know what’s going on? Does she have any sort of theological background?

    Why are we paying attention to her?

    I’m paying attention to her because she is a Catholic sister who is struggling in her faith. I don’t know about you, but my compassion for someone is not dependent on what theological sophistication she may or may not have.

    While curial appointments may be a balm to you, to most Catholics what they know of the Church is what they see in their parishes and what many see is the same old dissent and heterodoxy and they wonder when it’s going to get fixed so that they don’t have to continue to watch souls get lost in the mess.

  • Domenico:

    I am very interested in the curial appointments; not because I know any of them, but because I believe in the maxim, “personnel is policy” and it appears the holy father does too. Making the right choices in personnel won’t often show sudden results, but they do bear fruit for a long, long time. After all, isn’t personnel what folks complain about? The wrong bishops, the wrong people in the vocations offices, worship offices, seminary administration?

    Jason made my other point already: I often say, for reasons only he knows, God chose not to put me in charge . . .

  • … by the way, I do not think the sky is falling, at least for those concerned for the Church’s tradition and faith. There are many signs of progress (of the right sort), not excluding the rising grumpiness of the “progressives” and their ilk.

  • Fr. Fox: Don’t get me wrong. I think curial appointments are important and I follow them closely as well, but for the purposes of the average Catholic, it’s meaningless. By analogy, executive branch appointments to the Treasury and Commerce Departments may have an important effect on the economy (give me a little lattitude on this analogy), but the average Joe Six-Pack just wonders why he’s earning less and paying more and wants the president to fix things.

  • Dom et al,

      I would like to make a few observations.

      The first is theological. If one thinks long and hard, ‘issues’ with the Church arise from forgetting the “Incarnational Principle’. For some, forgetting the Divine aspect of the Mystery of the Church, the Church is a human institution that can be formed and re-formed according to human whim etc. For others, however, forgetting the human dimension in the Mystery of the Church, they forget, overlook or whatever they end up doing-stumbling over the fact, no the Mystery that the Lord gave His “Great Commission” to human beings-human beings who as creatures experience a good number of limitations-for example working within a certain time and space and in community various cultures etc. On top of the creature-limitation, these human beings are also marked by ‘the human condition’, original sin (and all its effects) both within their own lives and each and all lives they ‘work’ with.

      If you just sit back for a moment and think about this-it is staggering. I came to some terms with it personally in two stages. In terms of what the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ means-my pilgrimage to the Holy Land especially Nazareth (recently assaulted by rockets 🙁 ) There in the Basilica of the Annunciation a small plaque within the first century room (around which several churches down through the ages were built)announcing’Here the Word became flesh’. Wow, not just that the Word became flesh-I believed that!  But here, at one particular place at one particular time in history in one particular (though most Blessed and Graced)Womb, the Eternal Word became flesh, became One Particular Man beginning His Divine self-emptying and human journey at conception! Yet this same Nazareth, in 1980, still had donkey and camel dung in its streets! Yes, the very Son of God could have easily stepped into such a pile walking those streets. I am not being irreverent here-this is the Incarnation!

      The second phase of my coming to terms with the ‘principle of the incarnation’ was the recent sexual abuse crisis within the Church. I was horrified and angry such abuse took place as well as the absence of the needed episcopal oversight-to protect our children. However, I also remembered the Mystery of the Church, truly Holy at Her core who accepts and embraces sinners-thanks be to God-because like everyone else I too am a sinner. I remembered that as great a scandal as this was-and it numbers up there with the great scandals of Church history, NOTHING outranks the very first Holy Thursday night when the “pope” denied knowing Jesus three times, a Cardinal betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver and the others ran!  This human dimension is right there in the Gospels and is part of our proclamation-something we forget at our peril.

      I am eternally grateful for the person and ministry of Pope John Paul the Great and now of Pope Benedict XVI!

  • To Diane and Fr. Fox
    You reminded us of the words from St. Thomas More’s UTOPIA which were quoted by Eamon Duffy in the closing pages of THE STRIPPING OF THE ALTARS:
    “What part soever you have taken upon you, playe that aswel as you can and make the best of it: and do not therefore disturbe and brynge oute of order the whole matter …you muste not forsake the shippe in a tempeste, because you can not rule and kepe downe the wyndes… and that whyche you can not turne to good, so to order it that it be not very badde.”


  • One by one the Jadot-Bernardin bishops are passing from the scene and their legacy is being undone. Sometimes this is dramatic and sometimes this happens behind the scenes. There are reasons to hope for the Church in America. In the meantime, we must work around them.

    So many and so much have been lost over the last forty years and it is dismaying that – at least initially – this destruction was the work of our pastors and religious. Nothing bearing the label “Catholic” can be trusted to be Catholic.

    There is a temptation to a kind of ultramontanism here. Because the post-Conciliar popes have been men of integrity and orthodoxy and have the gift of infallibility, we exaggerate their practical authority over the affairs of the Church and even treat exploratory teaching and opinions as binding on the faithful.

    There is a temptation to a traditionalism that refuses to make distinctions between customs and Sacred Tradition and between permissible disagreement and impermissible disobedience.

    What will emerge from all of this is a smaller more faithful Church with, we hope, a renewed and interiorized sensus fidelium – a Church prepared for the persecutions that are soon to come.

  • I have often heard the Church moves slowly etc and the analogies to the Arian crisis/Counter-Reformation.  But the world today is not like that world because instant communication and propagation did not exist then.  This is the world of technology where slowly moving doesn’t cut it because we are not in the 16th or 4th centuries and error has a power it did not have then.

    While it is true no one can forsee who is lost, no Shepherd can be indifferent to the fate of souls when they are manifestly in the hands of bad bishops and bad doctrine. 

    Moreover doctrinal authority becomes weaker and ineffective when it is perceived that there is not will to insist on it.  Think of the documents on Catholic Universities and homosexuality and the priesthood.  I tend to agree with Karen and I would like to be wrong but right now all I see is more of the same.

  • Spiritual pride is an insidious sickness. Avoid it at all costs, because, no matter what we think about this policy or that, anyone intimating that they can do better than the magisterium is treading down a deadly path. Once you start thinking, “hm, maybe the Church is all about MY sensibilities”, it’s time to stop, drop, and roll before it’s too late.

    Either you belive the magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit, or you don’t.  If you think you know better, the line starts at Martin Luther and ends at the guy who just opened up a storefront church down the block. 

    For the record, I find the Vatican’s stance on recent events in Lebanon as disturbing.  But maybe if I step out of my fleshly wisdom I’ll find the truth.  I haven’t found it yet, but criticizing the pope over slow-paced reforms and things that seem politically uncomfortable isn’t going to be very beneficial to the soul.

  • It’s not pride to look to the Magisterium to be the Magisterium and confirm and protect the brethren.  Consider this quote from St.Catherine to Pope Gregory.  “Be manly in my sight, and not timorous. Answer God, who calls you to hold and possess the seat of the glorious Shepherd St. Peter, whose vicar you have been. And raise the standard of the holy Cross.”  Was that pride?  I don’t think so.

  • What joy will heaven be if we end up there without our loved ones?

    The beatific vision will be eternal joy, love, and bliss. 

    Even the destiny of those who reject God cannot diminish the joy of Heaven in the least degree: evil has no power to limit the victory of God or to hold the happiness of Heaven hostage.

  • It’s not pride to look to the Magisterium to be the Magisterium and confirm and protect the brethren.

    It’s a short trip from “looking to the Magisterium to be the Magisterium” to “Hi, my name’s Bob, and I’m the pope”.

    “Be manly in my sight, and not timorous. Answer God, who calls you to hold and possess the seat of the glorious Shepherd St. Peter, whose vicar you have been. And raise the standard of the holy Cross.” Was that pride?  I don’t think so.

    Providing moral encouragement is not the same as questioning Benedict’s competence, which seems to be the angle on the growing discontent being displayed.  St. Catherine’s quote implores the pope to “Answer God,” not “answer ME”. 

    Satan will be happy to take our desire for a more traditional Church and show us how to eat our own.  At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit is guiding the Magisterium.  The outcry of “faster, please!” won’t alter the will of God.  Better we should be prayerful and thankful for the rock that is Peter.

  • tm30, St.Catherine did more than offer moral encouragment to the Pope.  She confronted him about his responsibilities because of the condition of the Church in her day. 

    The Pope’s competentence is not being questioned.  People are appealing to that competence that only he possesses: the office and authority of Peter.

    Consider these remarks from St.Thomas Aquinas:
    “When there is an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects.”–St. Thomas Aquinas
    Summa Theologica II, II, q. 33, a. 4

    One question: why are those responsible for public and manifest dissent and error within the Body of Christ and the undermining of Catholic teaching and worship not disciplined?

  • Janice, you posted a great comment on her blog. You should reproduce it here. If you’re going to Bash Benedict for “doing nothing,” give evidence, discuss his writing, thought and decisionsa up to this point – “Mass in my parish sucks” doesn’t quite make the argument.

    Or don’t, Janice, because your comment on her blog started with a rude ad hominem and I don’t want to see it perpetuated here.

  • One question: why are those responsible for public and manifest dissent and error within the Body of Christ and the undermining of Catholic teaching and worship not disciplined?

    I don’t know.  I also don’t know why Jesus picked Judas to be an Apostle.  It was obviously part of God’s plan.  Simon Peter was beside himself that Jesus would not use His own office and authority to steer clear of the cross.  How many souls were scandalized and lost when Jesus ascended the cross?  How many of those who waved palms when Jesus entered Jerusalem, turned on Him – never to return – when they saw Him beaten to a bloody pulp in Pilate’s praetorium? 

    Jesus, why won’t you come down from that cross?

    If I’m standing there at Golgotha, I don’t know why He won’t come down and spare His followers all the scandal and infamy.  But if I take it on faith that God knows what He’s doing, I can count myself among those lucky enough to receive the Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.  In other words, the more we try and fit the Church into our logic, the more frustrated we will become. 

    As for Saint Catherine, that’s wonderful.  But if you know someone who qualifies as a bona fide “saint” I’ll gladly send them to Rome to do the same.  Otherwise, I’ll be the sheep and trust my shepherd.

  • But there is nothing wrong with appealing to the Shepherd when the sheep are being devasted saying we need your help.  There is no pride there especially when bad shepherds are devastating the flock. 

    Take the new entry on the blog: the openly homosexual deacon of Cardinal Mahoney who is openly at odds with the teaching of the Church. To whom do you appeal about that situation where the local shepherd is askew if not to Peter and ask how long, how long?

    Plus tm30 you didn’t address the remarks of St. Thomas about publicly questioning prelates when there is imminent danger for the Faith.  I think our country alonw qualifies for imminent danger.

  • I think our country alonw qualifies for imminent danger.

    I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact that 35 million Catholics in one country (ours) is a very small amount.  We forget we are part of a much larger church (as Dom points out)

    I know several folks who are furious that sweeping changes have not taken place. They were so certain that with an orthodox bulldog like Ratzinger as pontiff, we’d be singing latin and burning guitars by now!  Honestly that made me chuckle.  What Pope BenedictXVI has demonstrated remarkably well is this:

    He takes his job very seriously. 

    His role as the head of the CDF was to be the watchdog for the Church.  He took that seriously and was relentless in protecting the faith.  But that’s not his sole role now is it? The head of the CDF takes a hardline because the Holy Father is responsible for a larger pastoral responsibility. 

    People wanted him to continue being the head of the CDF.  (granted he was for a time) He understood that his responsibilities had grown. Does that mean that we won’t see changes?  No it does not.  Perhaps we will be singing in latin one day soon.  But the Church and her Pontiff always seem to work on their own timetable.  I’ll assent my will to that

  • Every convert in every age has to deal with the fact that people are born into the faith who do not understand it or do not live it – and this is sometimes true of prominent and powerful men in the Church. We do not live in the golden age of Catholicism in America – in fact, conditions today are very bad overall – and a convert has to accept this reality and deal with it constructively.

    Pope Benedict surely understands what men like Cardinal Mahony represent and more importantly how they think. Promoting Mahony to Custodian of the Papal Chamberpots is not a lasting solution. A raw exercise of authority of this sort could be instantly reversed by Benedict’s successor. His strategy and that of JP2 is ensure that better men are in the pipeline to succeed Mahony when in due course he retires.

    Certainly, the Pope has universal and immediate jurisdiction over the entire Church but practically speaking such power should be exercised unilaterally only to preserve the faith and unity of the Church as a whole.  Recognition of this principle by the Vatican is essential to healing the schism with the Eastern churches.

    Converts (like Neuhaus) who understand these realities and take up the challenge to rebuild the Church in America are our greatest hope for renewal.

  • Ja,you are astounded by references to St.Catherine, have you considered these remarks of St. Thomas:

    When there is an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects.”–St. Thomas Aquinas
    Summa Theologica II, II, q. 33, a. 4

    There is imminent danger to the Faith.  We have an anti-church in the bosom of Christ’s Church wreaking havoc. Ja, consider how many documents have been issued from Rome concerning the Eucharist in order to correct abuses in celebrating the Eucharist and give sound teaching.  We are awaiting yet another.  What happens?  The obedient obey; the anti-church ignores them and there are no consequences.

    Case in point: Redemptionis Sacramentum comes out and a cardinal in our country thumbs his nose at it with the comment there are no abuses in his archdiocese yet the internet is full of documentary evidence photographic and descriptive of the abuses in his diocese yet there are no consequences. He knows nothing will happen to him.

    This lack of will on the part of the Holy See to enforce doctrine and discipline only damages its own authority and emboldens the anti-church. I think you ought to be able to understand why people are frustrated.

  • Here’s a lesson I learned some time ago: Rome is not coming to save us. In fact, Rome doesn’t care at all. Sorry to be a downer.

  • Karen, I didn’t mean to sound glib earlier. I had just returned from a Mass that was “co-celebrated” by a dog. After that experience I am feeling about as burnt out as possible.  I’m not broken hearted, I’m not even angry any more. I just don’t think that anybody in Rome cares one jot about what’s going on.