Thursday, 14 July 2016

Schism is a State of Mind

I am not in the habit of reading the American newspaper National Catholic Reporter, but I was intrigued by a headline linking columnist Phyllis Zagano with Father Thomas Rosica, whom I remember from student days in Toronto, and clicked.

Zagano's sub-editor (presumably) entitled the column I read "The next schism is already here", and I would be rolling my eyes if I hadn't written on a similar theme when I left Boston College in 2007.  At the time I was positively (perhaps literally) shell-shocked by the deep hatred of some American Catholics for then-Pope Benedict and "conservatives" and by the contempt and fear expressed by other American Catholics for "liberals." This hatred, contempt and fear was almost completely foreign to my experience as a Catholic in Canada, even (or especially) at my Jesuit theologate in Toronto. At the latter I learned to love; at BC I learned to hate. It's amazing I kept my sanity. Oh, wait. I didn't.

Well, let us see what Ms Zagano has to say, keeping in mind that she is not talking about the Universal Church but the Universal Church as one American journalist sees it.

The next schism isn't down the road somewhere. It is already here. The proponents are lined up in a serious face-off, their team shirts emblazoned "Pre-Vatican II" and "Post-Vatican II."

I notice there is no team called "Vatican 2", the documents of which the "Post-Vatican II" gang seems to read  rather less than the "Pre-Vatican 2" gang. The "Post-Vatican II" team  also  seems shaky these days on Humanae Vitae and everything St. John Paul II ever wrote, never mind Benedict XVI.  

The "Pre" folks are the all Latin, all the time minority, solemnly preferring Bach during liturgy.  

Bach? During liturgy? Um, no. Maybe the prelude before, maybe the postlude after. But during?  My Sunday lunch money says she's never set foot in a TLM since 1970. And that she thinks her audience is so musically illiterate they'll never have heard of Palestrina.

The "Post" people comprise the rest of us, dutifully singing St. Louis Jesuits' songs and even (gasp!) exchanging handshakes at the kiss of peace. 

I enjoy the recognition that one sings SLJ songs out of duty. Meanwhile, countless ordinary mass-attending people loathe the handshake of peace, especially during flu season. In Toronto people occasionally wave germy fists of Kleenex at each other in an apologetic sort of way instead.

The fissure is getting worse, as more and more younger people come along yearning for the good old days (before they were born) when everything was orderly, everything had its place, and the rules were followed.

Fifty years of citing the "youth" as the excuse for everything have come to an end.  It was inevitable, however, as if there is something modern youth know about, it is the difference between good music and bad.

Meanwhile, older church professionals who adjusted to vernacular liturgies and who incorporate mercy into their understandings of justice are retiring daily. 

What's a church professional? Er...does she mean priests and women religious?

They are being replaced, where they are replaced, by people whose theological education is complemented by self-appointed Internet theo-bloggers whose opinions grow from the conviction that anything that happened since 1965 is anathema.

Personally, I pick 1963 as the Annus Horribilis, but I have great sympathy for those who blame 1914. Others find the beginnings of the rot in the 1940s.

I would be delighted if the next generation of priests and--please God--bishops find their education is "complemented" by my scribbles. As far as I know, three of my readers have converted to Catholicism and two have become Benedictine nuns. Okay, the nuns were not particularly influenced by me, but the converts were so--yay!

Meanwhile, I have never seen any evidence that any blogger--and I read THE most ferocious English-speaking traddy bloggers on the web--has appointed him or herself a "theo-blogger."  There are blogs, Catholics blog, and the squeakiest Catholic bloggers get the audience.

That is probably why Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest and CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation took on the so-called Catholic blogosphere several weeks ago, as he delivered the keynote address at the Brooklyn, N.Y., diocesan World Communications Day events. Rosica reported that many people say to him that "we 'Catholics' have turned the internet into a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the faith!"

Hilarious. The internet is apparently full of porn that makes even demons puke, and yet Rosica's arch-enemy Vox Cantoris is the problem. Meanwhile, if video killed the radio star, I cannot imagine what the Catholic blogosphere has done to Rosica's television station.

It is true. The internet, as Rosica said in Brooklyn, "can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders, and space."

Could you imagine if letters,  books, radio and television could do that? Eeeek!

Rosica, whose attorneys sent a "cease and desist" letter to a Canadian blogger who attacked him with a combination of character assassination and misinformation,

Amusingly someone obtained the Rosica-Vox correspondence and sent it to Catholic World Report. Who was that? Oh, it was I. The amazing thing about this so-called character assassination is that it has been carried out by many people since 1995 or so and the character refuses to die. It could give lessons in survival to Rasputin.  

charitably reported that "Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of the faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners!"

If that's charity, show me chastity.  But if I may be permitted a teeny weeny critique, the internet features videos of quite another different kind of "holy executioner" throwing men off buildings, beheading captives and setting girls on fire, so I wouldn't throw that phrase around any more that I would describe co-religionists as the "Catholic Taliban."

I agree. Because they never did or at least no longer do find space in legitimate media, 

Legitimate media including the National Catholic Reporter blog. Really, when the MSM wails about the internet, I keep thinking about the invention of the printing press and the desperate attempts of churchmen and statesmen to control it.

the self-appointed pontiffs build internet and other social media followings for their unfiltered personal attacks on anyone who strays beyond the boundaries of the church of their imaginings. In unedited postings, they freely criticize anyone -- from the pope on -- who carries and/or lives the Gospel in the "wrong" way.

Unedited!?!?? OMG! It's positively Protestant, this access to print unmediated by an editor. Editors, as we know, have years of training, plus ordination at the hands of a General Editor in communion with the Chief Editor in Rome. But criticizing powerful people (like those in establishment media) is actually in the tradition of the pamphleteers of the 17 and 18th century. Mundabor  may not be your cup of tea, but he is basically William Hogarth in print.

I hope my own experience with these type persons is atypical. 

To gather from your remark about liturgical Bach, it must be.

While Rosica's attorneys demanded his attacker stop assassinating the priest's character, 

It was just one attorney, really. Bloody expensive firm. Pro bono? My research (unpublished as I incorporate mercy into my understanding of justice) suggests so.

my own university actually banned a nasty blogger from campus and any online activities some years ago, when he tried to disrupt one of my online seminars. The idea was to keep him away from me. Aside from denigrating my scholarship 

Oh, she's a scholar? I must Google. I see. She's the Woman Deacons lady.

and defending his personal version of the faith, my attacker also brags about carrying a gun.

That really goes against the spirit of conceal-and-carry, I think. Living in a country where it is beyond illegal to firearms, I would be slow to brag about the Swiss knife I forgot to take out of my raincoat pocket when I got back from Girl Guide camp. Personally I would not want people who live far, far away from me to feel threatened by my Swiss Army knife when I denigrate their scholarship, etc., in unrelated articles.

That is where the schism is now. It is no longer butchers and bakers having street fights over Real Presence, or any other theological issue. 

 Maybe mentioning bakers was a mistake. I don't know about butchers, but Christian bakers are having a hard time over one particular theological issue right now. How much support are they getting from the NCR, I wonder.

 It is shoot-from-the-hip typists whose access to bandwidth lets them threaten your livelihood and, implicitly at least, your life. What they say is true because they say it, no matter their lack of credentials or, possibly, sanity.

Possibly St. Athanasius would just have punched her in the snoot.

The slow and steady recovery of church life during the papacy of Francis

WHAT? Slow and steady recovery ----from WHAT?  Let's look at that again.

The slow and steady recovery of church life during the papacy of Francis

What is she dating the illness of church life from? Benedict? Saint John Paul 2? Humanae Vitae? Trent? Constantine? 

is marred by these true schismatics, who denigrate the pope and everything he says and does, and who long for the good old days. 

Somehow she has managed to insult a whole lot of popes while complaining about people who denigrate the pope in the SAME SENTENCE.  Even before he became pope, Catholic academics denigrated Papa Ratzinger constantly and quite obviously longed for 1968. The good old days almost every trad I know longs for ended on February 11, 2013.

These bleating word processors have influenced, are influencing, and will influence otherwise kind people, who think verbal brickbats and worse will bring the church "around." Around to what?

Would you care to quote these otherwise kind people? If they said any such thing, which I doubt, they presumably hope the Church (capital C) returns to its work of saving souls and convincing the doubtful and despairing that every soul is worth saving, that every human being can be a Temple of Christ and that no human being has to be mired in a life of sin and degradation.

Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. 

Never heard of it, but I presume it is "legitimate".

There is no Schism in the Catholic Church, except in the minds of "establishment" media and academe who are staggered that people who disagree with them are now allowed to say so in public, without being shut up by a moderator or employing the clever nudge-nudge wink-wink style of discourse in which Benedict-haters used to begin their lectures.

It is interesting that the kind of writing that gets the most reading on the internet is not the kind of writing that appears in Catholic newspapers. The most popular figure in heritage Catholic newspapers is Father Ron Rolheiser. He's the J.K. Rowling of elderly Catholics, and if I could figure out how he does it, I would get a lot more work and no doubt sell more books. However, the kind of writing that stands out on the internet is a lot more explosive.

Those who write frankly on the internet against liberal pieties that are basically the  one-world-government religion either have nothing to lose, or are willing to lose it, or have cynically identified their target market and are pandering to it.

I was somewhat annoyed by an online comment by a woman responding to my CWR article on BC. She teaches at another Jesuit university and as everything I wrote rang true, she was feeling very stressed about being complicit with it all. My first thought was "How much money are you making?" That's my last thought, too. Here's what St. Ignatius of Loyola had to say about jobs and money in his Spiritual Exercises:

First Humility. The first manner of Humility is necessary for eternal salvation; namely, that I so lower and so humble myself, as much as is possible to me, that in everything I obey the law of God, so that, even if they made me lord of all the created things in this world, nor for my own temporal life, I would not be in deliberation about breaking a Commandment, whether Divine or human, which binds me under mortal sin.

Second Humility. The second is more perfect Humility than the first; namely, if I find myself at such a stage that I do not want, and feel no inclination to have, riches rather than poverty, to want honor rather than dishonor, to desire a long rather than a short life -- the service of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul being equal; and so not for all creation, nor because they would take away my life, would I be in deliberation about committing a venial sin.

Third Humility. The third is most perfect Humility; namely, when -- including the first and second, and the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty being equal -- in order to imitate and be more actually like Christ our Lord, I want and choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, opprobrium with Christ replete with it rather than honors; and to desire to be rated as worthless and a fool for Christ, Who first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world.

The situation in the Church is not a schism but the uneasy relationship between Catholics and non-Catholics who think they are Catholics despite never having been catechized, or never having accepted the Catholic faith, or having long since rejected the Catholic faith. Catholicism is not as easy to measure as veganism. A vegan who eats cheese is by definition not a vegan, but a Catholic who rejects Catholic teachings on holy purity and/or murder, for example, as wicked is still considered a Catholic by the Church.

However, in the old days such a Catholic would be considered a bad, renegade Catholic and not permitted to speak as a Catholic to Catholic audiences. Now he or she is given a pulpit--literal or figurative--and is shocked, shocked!--when orthodox Catholics object.

This is very disheartening for Catholics who believe Catholic teachings on holy purity and/or murder. Believing Catholics have long been persecuted outside the Church; being persecuted inside the Church for our Catholic beliefs is really an eye-open for the rank-and-file faithful.  And this is why there is anger and frustration, anger and frustration that, expressed badly in print, doesn't always make it into Catholic newspapers. The internet has broken the rules of "who gets to speak", and mercifully it has come when so many establishment posts have been taken by cheese-eating vegans.


  1. I don't know who any of these people are, except for Bach, Palestrina and St. Ignatius (and the popes), but I found this unedited screed hilarious. Esp. the part about Bach in liturgy. Always cracks me up when people who haven't been to a TLM High Mass imagine that it's the classical hour on NPR. "That was... Bach's cello suite in D Minor. Next up, Handel's Water Music. But first, let's all mumble some prayers in a dead language while I, your priest, whose hand you are required to kiss after Mass, turn my back to you."

  2. Deeply distressing to read about this kind of thing. The Church in the English-speaking world seems to be splitting into discrete branches that cannot communicate with each other. There is the 'trad' movement, to which I'm sympathetic although I'm not really a part of it. There's the progressive Catholic, which wants access to Church funds and to its reach to implement social programs but disagrees with all Church teaching on human sexuality, and - a new one to me - the branch that supports Church teachings on sexuality but believes them to be over-emphasized, and is offended by the trad movement, having wrongly conflated it with American-style neo-liberalism. (Perhaps in the US it really is associated with neo-liberal politics, though I find that unlikely.) Sigh. I've always refused to get mixed up in this kind of thing, as I believe that we are all bad Catholics, but it is getting more difficult now to stay out of it.

    Alias Clio

    1. I'm not really sure about neo-liberalism, but I think one of the big issues with the American Trad movement is that it tends to attract people who believe that woman should only wear skirts and dresses and always wear mantillas in church, you should constantly be worrying about modesty, you should only court and not date, etc.

      I'm sure they don't mean it that way, but these are the sorts of things that can come across as judgey. If you know that someone believes strongly that woman should only wear skirts and dresses, it's hard not to feel judged when you wear pants around them. :)

      So, anyway, I think people just tend to get defensive when they feel like people are criticizing them, and hence they're 'offended by the trad movement.'

    2. Oh dear. If it is true that liturgical traditionalists in the USA are so obsessed wit women's clothing, they ought to travel around the world a bit and see how other traditionalist Catholics live. At the same time, women really need to stop worrying that they are being judged by other people. As a columnist with strong traditionalist views, I must be being judged all the time, but I never think about it. For one thing, I very much doubt any given person outside my family thinks about me for more than five minutes a week, if that.

      On the other hand , now that we are on the subject of women's clothes--which interests me as a woman, not so much as a traditionalist--the latest fashion in Edinburgh is skin-tight leggings and NO blue denim shorts. Young women are now walking around my town without trousers or a skirt, their buttocks squelching up and down as they move. When I am behind them, I am certainly silently judging them, but I doubt they know or would care if they did.

    3. What the heck??? Women in Edinburgh are behind the times. I haven't seen that in Australia since, like, 2009.

    4. Oh, I 100% agree about not worrying what other people think! Personally, I think that's the case with 99.9% of the outrage over being 'judged'about clothing choices, amount of children one has, what one does for a job or staying at home with children etc. Rude comments or feeling like one is being judged can sting, but people don't actually care about what you're doing as much as you think they are.

      And I should have also clarified that I think people who are actually outraged about the trad movement are in the very tiny minority. Most Catholics who are well-catechized and accept Church teachings but aren't in the trad movement really don't care either way. I think it's mainly that the ones who do tend to be vocal about it.

      And, yes, even though I was part of it in high school in somewhat in college, I'm not sure I understand the obsession with women's clothing. It comes from a good desire to be feminine and modest, and I think it's certainly very true that how one dresses and presents oneself is important, but it's rather out of hand. Maybe it has something to do with the Protestant/Puritan American background? It might also have to do with people tending to over-compensate when they see something that is actually wrong. (ie, spending tons of time worrying about modesty because so much of modern clothing is immodest.)

      And oh dear!! I've seen the leggings only-thing (even in Mass, sadly), and I'm sorry, but it is not even attractive. On anyone. :P

  3. Re: American Trads, there are a fair number that are inexplicably attached to neo-liberalism/neo-liberalism conservatism, but there are more and more trads (and people friendly to traditional thinking) who are far from the American protestant liberal tradition that infects our country.

  4. It is ridiculous articles like Mz Zagano's that make one sympathise with St Pius X's words:

    “They want to be treated with oil, soap and caresses, but they should be beaten with fists. In a duel, you don’t count or measure the blows, you strike as you can.”

    Nevertheless, it should be said that the idea of lady-modernists being beaten is repugnant to me (I, too, incorporate mercy into my understanding of justice).

    1. I think it's okay if it's lady-traditionalists beating the lady-modernists. No hair-pulling or kicks, though. Oh dear, I hope Phyllis doesn't feel threatened now. She's seventy-something so maybe she shouldn't be beaten, just slapped once or twice by another seventy-something.

    2. Well, that's what I was thinking, but I didn't want to say it. Perhaps a vocation for a pious elderly widow (understood as practising a spiritual work of mercy, of course)?

    3. Probably one from a New York state diocese.

  5. There are certain aspects of liberalism which I will always defend, which is why I continue to call myself a liberal, in spite of raised eyebrows among my acquaintances. For example, I believe in freedom of speech, for example, and in the separation of church and state, both of which were once condemned by the Church. (I think that St JP II softened the Church's stance on these and other aspects of modern liberalism but will accept correction if I am mistaken.) It is not that I believe these to be absolute moral imperatives but rather that they are a means by which fallen men can protect themselves against their own and their neighbours' rapacity, deceit and folly.

    Alias Clio

  6. I loved this article and all the references in it, Mrs. M!

    Alias Clio, I sympathize with your definition of liberalism, but can you really say that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are still "means by which fallen men can protect themselves against their own and their neighbours' rapacity, deceit and folly"? They have now turned into clubs with which to beat those outside the liberal orthodoxy. Seeing this happen makes me more sympathetic to those who argued that such freedoms were wrong all along...freedom needs to be directed towards truth and goodness, otherwise it turns into the sort of vacuous drivel Ms. Zagano wrote, and much worse...

  7. Heather, you will have to be more detailed in your explanation of what you mean about how freedom of speech and religion are abused today and why this has changed your mind about them. In my own understanding of events in the last 10 years or so, it is precisely the abandonment of these precepts that has led us to our present difficulties.

    I do not see our elites beating those outside the 'liberal orthodoxy' with clubs fashioned from freedom of speech/religion. Instead, I see them abandoning that orthodoxy altogether now that they have control of the media and academia. I have even seen the phrase 'hatred has no rights' (i.e. wrt gay marriage, abortion, etc.) written without any sense of irony or awareness of its echo of that old Catholic line, 'error has no rights'. Who'd have thought that the new orthodoxy would have such (19th century) Catholic attitudes towards the truth?

    I do see that certain freedoms have been abused by our elites and that they are having a damaging effect on young people today (i.e. the spread of internet pornography), but however much I deplore these events, they do not seem to me as dangerous as the explosion of political orthodoxies (i.e. political correctness), which has shown itself to be capable of shutting down every kind of reasonable debate.

    Alias Clio