I enjoy reading Erin Manning. She writes at a blog called And Sometimes Tea. But every so often she goes on a tear against who she considered "conservative" Catholics. She has critiqued Pope Francis' speech with that trademark and should I say un-Christ-like disdain she presents when she get some particular bee in her bonnet.
Pope Francis isn't really saying anything new (see the blog post below this one for proof of that). But what he's saying really is challenging. Of course, that's not new either. But for some reason whenever Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI said anything particularly challenging to conservative American Catholics, it was greeted with yawns or, worse, totally ignored.
This pope isn't going to let the decadent West keep playing that game, that game which goes like this: We, the good Catholics who are fighting at the front lines of the culture wars, have nothing in particular we need to worry about (except the liturgy, because until we get the liturgical perfection we deserve it's our solemn duty to bicker, nitpick, and gripe about it all). The fact that we're capable of waiting in line to buy the latest iGadget we don't need or that we're caught up in the same pursuit of materialism as our non-believer neighbors means nothing at all. The reality that we see families at Mass with fewer children than we have and immediately judge and condemn them for the sin of actual contraception or the other sin of using NFP with a contraceptive attitude is also not a moral failing; if anything, it proves how good we are. We aren't caught up in the love of money; we're just careful with our money, and don't see why the lazy poor should get any more of it than the dollars our unfair government already confiscates. God doesn't mind that we like nice things and fill our homes with them; He doesn't care if our favorite TV shows routinely portray the seven deadly sins as if they were more or less obligatory; He really isn't interested in our habits of casual gossip or leaving really ugly comments under news articles on the Internet. He sees our pro-life bumper stickers and knows that when we speak slightingly of "welfare moms" we're not really contradicting ourselves. Oh, and He knows that when we speak of "homosexuals" with absolute hatred, contempt and disgust dripping from our voices or our pixels, we really just mean their sinful acts, not they themselves as precious human beings made in His image--even though we rarely bother to explain the difference to those hell-bound cretins we encounter in real life or online (or both).
Oh, Erin! Where do I start?
How about here. When I was growing up, I loved Mass, and I loved Jesus. I would talk to Him on the cross. I was an altar boy (when we were all boys) and I had seriously considered even at the tender age of 8, a vocation to the priesthood.
Then the Novus Ordo was promulgated. Our pastor was ticked off about it, so he did what he was told, and never talked about it. My young faith was damaged (not irreparably it seems) but I became for most of the rest of my life, a lukewarm Catholic. One who, in Revelation, Jesus will spit out of His mouth.
This was in part caused by the lack of catechesis in our parishes. Our pastor did what he was told, and kept his mouth shut. He did not explain the reason for the changes, and the years of thought, research and prayer that went into it. So I got my Vatican II catechesis from the new global media. For the first time, my faith was news on television.
AND THEY GOT IT WRONG!
Attribute it to ignorance or malice, but the result was the same. An entire generation of Catholics, to this day, believes that Vatican II forbid the use of Latin or chant in liturgy. Over the course of time, our parishes all became "like sheep, each going their own way". We got a subtle (and in many churches not so subtle) feminization of the liturgy where the statues of the martyrs in the throes of their final agony were replaced with "I'm OK, You're OK" felt banners and the associated castration of the instruction. The priest turned his back on the tabernacle (which was in a side closet anyway) so he could concentrate on us, and we could concentrate on each other. We turned liturgically in a circle, and our hymns went from "How great thou art" to "How great [b]we[/b] art". The concept of sin was washed from the homilies in favor of "Jesus is our boyfriend and he loves us no matter what!". There is no call to holiness. There is no need of confession or repentance. We have nothing to repent because Jesus rose from the dead, and we are an "Easter people".
Social justice is a wonderful thing. We need to have a preferential option for the poor, we need to help the sick, comfort the grieving and visit the prisoner. But these things do not lead us to worship God. These are just works, and should stem from our faith. When you're focused inward, all you see is yourself and you set yourself up as your own idol. The whole paradigm is bass ackward. We see this exemplified in the pants suited sisters who are wonderful ministers for the poor, hurt and downtrodden, but have their theology all wrong, talking about things like "getting beyond Jesus" (whatever that means).
We go to Mass to experience the mystery of the living God. We as a community are important insofar as we love each other and are engaging in communal prayer as Jesus commanded. But Liturgy needs to lead us to faith, the truth of that faith needs to be correct, Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. Our liturgy should lead us to faith, which leads us to live our life in communion with our Lord and King, Jesus the Christ. When we are dismissed from Mass, we should go forth and bring what we experienced to the world.
My wife and I were drafted to clean up every Sunday after one of the Masses. We were asked to do this by another parishioner who noted that chalices containing the precious blood of our Lord and Savior were sitting on a counter until the next Monday when they were discovered by the janitor. So we're quite a distance from "the liturgical perfection we deserve". The cibora contain fragments of the body of our Lord which against published rubrics, I wipe into the chalices containing the precious blood and consume them. It should really be an instituted acolyte who does this (or ideally, the deacon or priest), but desperate times require desperate measures.
So here we are in 2013 with a new pope, and the media is up to their old tricks. And Erin is carrying their water for them. If you would like an orthodox and educated commentary about this same papal speech, check with Fr. Z.
The more I read Fr. Z.'s commentaries on Pope Francis' speeches, the more I begin to understand the truth of his words. Pope Francis says (and I paraphrase): "When you are in a battle, the field hospital might need to dispense with some of the normal peacetime surgical protocols to save lives". Make no mistake. We are in a war. And maybe it's time to refocus. This doesn't mean abandon the 2000 year old teaching of Jesus through his Church, this means doing both liturgy and social justice (remembering there are also spiritual acts of mercy) well.
Federal wefare is damaging. It is unconstituional, it does not help those who receive it in the long term, and it discourages individual charitable giving. It should be stopped, and the function restored to our families, charitable organizations, our communities and the individual states in that order. This follows the Catholic social principle of sibsidiarity.
I love our homosexual brethren. I love our adulterous brethren. I love our fornicating brethren. I love our porn viewing brethren, and I love our masturbating brethren. Each of these sins is equal in the eyes of God as the misuse of the sexuality He created. I will speak out on adultery, fornication, porn and masturbation. I will also speak out against homosexual acts. This does not mean that I love each of these people any less nor does it mean I don't have compassion for their fight against their particular temptation. I know how temptation goes. Contrary to Erin's sneering, "hate the sin, love the sinner" is demonstrated in the life of Jesus.