The pendulum is swinging…

From Father Ed’s blog

Here is an interesting fact that should not be dismissed as coincidence. The Dioceses which have most fully embraced the modernist zeitgeist are struggling to inspire vocations. But dioceses which have embraced a return to orthodoxy experience resurgence in numbers entering seminary. Why is this?

If the lesson needed underlining, the truth applies also within the religious life. The communities which ditched habits and went trendy in the 70’s/80’s are decaying but those orders which retained (or returned to) orthodoxy flourish. And it isn’t a truth only ringing out across the Catholic world; within Protestantism studies show that the more biblically faithful a parish is, the more likely it is to flourish. Consider the Church of England which, despite a very modernist bench of bishops, would collapse without finances provided by thriving evangelicals. Across denominations then we tend to find a liberal leadership/vision out of synch with what is actually working on the ground.

Of course a loss of vocations and followers was never the intention of those whose revolution was to transform Holy Mother Church into something more appealing to a secular age; think of the lukewarm, seventies-esque model of churchmanship so dominant in the latter half of the 20th C. Those who took Vatican II and ran it into a place, neither authorised nor envisaged in the actual documents, imagined they were saving the church by making it more ‘relevant’. They believed (many still do) liberalisation to be a magic bullet for aiding Christ by softening the message of the Gospel and making it more appealing.

But even a cursory look at recent church history shows the vision flawed. A focus driven by the trends of man, not the timeless truths of God, only led to a church which struggles to convince. And so the modernist experiment weakened faith and also desecrated buildings. Looking back it is hard to perceive as wisdom the decision to rip out altar rails, discard sacred images and teach a fuzzy left wing ideology in place of solid doctrine. As novelties like Fair trade Sunday have replaced devotions like regular Benediction so emphasis on the supernatural has given way to something clubby and often naff; a church that celebrates the gathered community because it struggles to look beyond itself to God.

We are left with a painful truth, perhaps too painful for many of the current Episcopacy who were the original holders of this modernist vision. Much of the direction taken by the church in recent years has proved questionable at best. Far from halting decline modernist approaches have accelerated it. And now we reap where that experimentation sowed… hence the widespread closure of parishes, the empty seminaries, emasculated priesthood, poor liturgy and countless young people switching off from faith altogether and pursuing a secular life. And the loss of vocations which chief modernist Cardinal Marx is now lamenting even though his favoured eccliology created the problem! Men will not sacrifice much for a church lacking supernatural emphasis that ever bends the knee to moral relativism..

“Project Modernity” has failed. Is it not OBVIOUSLY time then to end it?

Pope Benedict XVI thought so. Hence he encouraged us to revisit the documents of V2 and counter the errors that later took place. He wanted an embrace of the council alongside appreciation for what went before. The creation of a church able to speak to the world of today, but also reconciled to the church of the ages; renewal not rupture. And the Ordinariate was amongst the first fruits of his effort at revival. The reform of the reform, in the few years it was practiced, bore fruit. There was a renewed confidence in the church in the wake of Pope Benedict’s visit to England. Bishops began to think differently. Blogs sprang up, vocations were rising…but then came a moment of shock which threatens to turn back the clock.

I speak of the abdication of Pope Benedict which continues to fuel rumour. Did he jump or was he pushed? Did left wing activist George Soros, as Wikileaks claims, influence the change of direction? Was it linked to the lavender mafia and wolves of whom Benedict spoke in the run up to his abdication? I have no idea and, in the end, it doesn’t matter. The change of direction happened. A radical change of papacy took place which saw a clear resurgence of the 1970’s old-guard, the return of Kasper et al whom Benedict had put out to pasture; the very modernists whose revolution was thwarted. We witness, for now, a laying aside of ‘the reform of the reform’ and a return with gusto to ‘project modernity’.

It is this key change which gifted the world a Pope whose every gesture hints at relaxation not revival of Catholic teaching; dare I suggest he delights those outside the faith but divides the adherents within it? The secular realm and voices on the left cheer loudly, as do protestants and atheists alike..and of course all who sincerely love ‘Project modernity’ ..but scratch the surface and all is not rosy. The Curia is rumoured to be at civil war, Cardinals contradict one another and there is a clear sense of chaos and confusion at play. And many who felt encouraged and emboldened under Benedict now feel dismay.

What to do amidst such political upheavals and confusion? I suggest we who minister at the grassroots, who believe in the proven reform of the reform and not in the failed project modernity, must not be too depressed or cowed. Let us take up the gauntlet laid down by Pope Benedict and pledge our future to building up the faith on that model which works, not on the tired model which doesn’t. Our focus should not be on the harvest being gathered in the present but on the laying down of new vines that can be harvested in the future. Bees may buzz loudly at the end of the summer but they will make way for a new generation.

The pendulum is swinging then and grass roots growth suggest the right course to follow is that of orthodoxy. We have a Gospel to proclaim, parishes to build up and the great news is…..God is blessing abundently those who set about this work boldly and with fidelity to the faith of the Apostles. Let us be amongst them.

[CP&S: emphasis in bold is ours.]

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5 Responses to The pendulum is swinging…

  1. Mary Salmond says:

    Me thinks the climate is changing too!

  2. I know this is purely anecdotal, but I thought I’d share it as it is an example of what the post was saying. My husband was attracted to the Catholic Church because of its tradition. He was raised as an Evangelical, but attended a Christmas Mass with me while were still dating. The tradition and consistency were some of the things that drew him in. It’s interesting because I’m told that millenials like him and me desire modernization when, from my experience, many Catholic millenials are actually drawn in and desire orthodoxy.

  3. Let’s hope Father Ed is right, but here in Europe, it looks as if the Catholic Church is simply continuing to disappear.

    And in Cardinal Marx’s Munich? One new seminarian in 2016, for an archdiocese of 1.7 million Catholics. https://goo.gl/1vtlrj

    Marx’s solution? Don’t sell the parishes, turn them over to lay people! Marx can do that because the entire German Church is incredibly wealthy, thanks to a government-mandated “Church Tax” on their income that all German Catholics have to pay to the federal authorities, who in turn pass the money on to the Church.

    And if you don’t pay? Ah, such mercy, doncha know? No Catholic wedding for you, no Baptism or Confirmation or First Communion for your children, and of course no sacraments for you either; no Last Rites in your final illness, and no Catholic burial.

    But if you’re living in an adulterous or sodomite relationship? Well, then there’s PLENTY of mercy for you (as long as you keep forking over your Church tax anyway). Come to Communion! (Confession long ago became irrelevant in this country, for most Catholics anyway.)

    And the Catholic Church in Germany keeps raking in the dough, just as vocations dry up.

    However, even though vocations are disappearing, the Catholic Church is still Germany’s largest EMPLOYER, larger than Volkswagen, larger than Mercedes, larger than BMW, larger than ANY company.

    Dear God, when will You end Your Church’s suffering?

  4. kathleen says:

    @ stumblingtowardsainthood

    Well done for standing up for Catholic orthodoxy!

    Yes, that’s my experience too! It is often the younger generations born post-V2 (and thus with no recollection of the fullness of Catholic teaching, traditions, liturgy and piety that was the norm prior to the Council) that are hungrily seeking Catholic orthodoxy today…. Whilst the old greying modernists, with Pope Francis at the helm, in a last burst of resistance like that from a cornered wildcat, still desperately attempt to trivialise, dilute, and eventually destroy our Catholic identity.
    They have bought into the diabolical “One World Order” plans spread by the enemies of Christ. It is a lie that is not Catholic; it is an attack on Truth aimed directly at the heart of our Faith!

  5. kathleen says:

    @ Robert John Bennett

    Whilst I agree with you that Europe is in a bad way, not all countries are in such a steep decline as Germany.

    The Catholic churches I have visited in Spain and the UK are still pretty full for Holy Mass, especially those ones where the priest is traditional, and very especially where the beautiful Tridentine Mass is celebrated.
    Over 10.000 people, nearly all of them under 35 years, walk in the challenging 70 mile Pentecost pilgrimage, between the two cathedrals dedicated to Our Lady, from Paris to Chartes every year. (I shall be joining them once again this year, D.V.!)
    My sister and her husband recently returned from a trip to Poland where they were delighted to find there a strong fervour for their Catholic identity among the Poles. And Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia, plus other Eastern European nations… and even Italy(!) are still overwhelmingly Catholic. And just look at the resurgence of Christianity in Russia!!

    Here in Spain, and despite the raging FEMEN groups, gender theorists, old communists, etc., the Angelus bells from churches still ring out loudly at noon each day to proclaim the momentous event of the Incarnation of Christ. Catholic processions, feastdays, celebrations… have not been curbed. Just so long as the atheistic, left wing ‘Podemos’ political party remains a minority group in the country, Catholic schools, associations, et al, and the public display of our Faith, will not be hindered. The majority of people in Spain still identify themselves as ‘Catholic’.

    If we can hold on in there under this “Francis parenthesis”, remaining faithful to our traditions, those that PF often appears to be undermining, we can hope and pray for a true “defender of the Faith” to be one day sitting again on the Chair of Saint Peter. He will, please God, harken in true Catholic orthodoxy in the Church once more.

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