Linguam Latinam Amo. Surfers, if you spend enough time hanging around the Catholic Church you will have to learn a little Latin. It permeates the culture and no discussion of the Church can be complete without it. For that reason we will begin with Seamus Heaney.
‘In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.’
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’
—venerable as this English sounded, it came across as secondary. For whatever reason —maybe because of the numinous force which Latin then possessed as the medium of the liturgy and of the Church’s magisterium, maybe because of some older need for a magic language that would altogether open and close the world— for whatever reason, the Gospel heard in my own tongue sounded smaller…
To Mr Heaney, the enjoyment of the Latin “has little to do with the confession of faith. It arises from a source commonly acknowledged by myth and meditated upon by linguistic philosophers, and it is shared by all poets.” Listening to a Latin Mass can bring mystery from ancient times to the liturgy you know. For those old enough to remember the feeling is akin to nostalgia.
In this post we will continue discussions about the future of the Catholic Church. We can’t have a discussion about the future of the Church without first dealing with the past and confusion regarding the “error of the post-Conciliar Church.” Strap yourselves in because we will dive head-long into the quagmire as we bring a focus on the current state of the Church.
Many know the famous phrase of a well-known Soviet theoretician: “If the facts do not agree with us, all the worse for the facts”. This maxim fits the attitude of all too many Catholics today. Faced with the obvious crisis in the life of Grace, faced with the corresponding crisis in the Church, they insist that there is no need to change pastoral directives, the direction in which things have been moving, the specific initiatives of the last ten years.
– Professor Corrado Gnerre (European University of Rome)
Professor Gnerre loves the Church. He believes that there are too many Catholics today who see the facts and the crises but hold fast to the opinion that nothing needs to be done and no change is required. In the interest of full disclosure, I could be categorized as one of those Catholics.
If you are not familiar with all the facts of the obvious Grace crises and the corresponding crises of the Church I will guide you through one later in the blog post. Right now understand that Professor Gnerre has advocated, in his words, radically changing the moral teaching of the Church and breaking through the ideology that prevents the Church from seeing things as they are. The good professor’s understanding is that “Christians of a traditional mind-set… read things as they are” while the majority of Christians “indulge in the illusion that things are going well when they are not going well at all.”
When Professor Gnerre uses the word “things” he is speaking about “recognizing the difference between the past and the present… [and] the longing for another time.” The time he is longing for is a pre-conciliar time, or before Vatican II. Unlike Seamus Heaney, Professor Gnerre is not speaking about the mythic sounds heard as part of the Latin Mass. The good professor wants to roll back all of the Vatican II initiatives.
To reiterate the words of Professor Gnerre, if you have a traditional-mindset you recognize the difference between the pre-conciliar Church and the present day Church. Also, you see clearly that the present day Church is not going well at all, therefore a return to the pre-conciliar Church is in order.
You have now heard the argument for a return to pre-Vatican II discipline. Now is the time for the spoiler alert. If you strongly connected with the words of Professor Gnerre you can stop reading and just enjoy the link to his writing. While I do not believe the present day Church is going well the last thing I would want is to return to pre-conciliar discipline. The hairs on the back of my neck stick up just thinking about going back.
Mine is a strong reaction and in my view Corrado Gnerre exhibits a silo mentality where the like minded people form a clique to build high the wall to protect against perceived threats. The wall prevents us from talking and sharing our mutual Catholic knowledge and interests. I would like to see the whole Church open up to discussing the facts that Professor Gnerre sees. The trouble is the mere idea that there might be some question regarding the facts will elicit an angry response. The anger is part of the wall built as a security blanket to protect against threats. I am not asking the traditional-minded Catholics to submit to the Novus Ordo I am simply asking for some constructive dialogue to help make our future Church stronger.
One of the facts that traditional-minded Catholics see as a crisis in the Church is the pedophile priest scandal. The perception is that the present day Church is not going well because since Vatican II hundreds of priests have been defrocked for pedophilia. The perception is this would not have happened in the pre-conciliar Church. Cause: Vatican II. Effect: pedophile priests and crisis in the life of Grace. Seems plausible unless you understand Church history.
One of the most striking missives is the 1049 letter to Pope Leo IX from St. Peter Damian, the patron saint of church reform, in which he recommended zero tolerance. He taught that any priest having sex with a minor, mostly boys and young clerics at the time, should be stripped of his clerical office.
– A. W. Richard Sipe
This means we can take the pedophile priest scandal off the table as a fact caused by Vatican II. This crisis in the life of Grace is a genuine concern that we need to address, but let us all agree that returning to the pre-conciliar Church is not the answer. Now is the time to stop the rhetoric and solve this problem. As a side note anybody who believes that by eliminating celibacy we will solve the pedophile priest issue will be disappointed.
Celibacy was a voluntary ascetic practice of early Christian monks and some clerics, but not universally required of Roman Catholic priests until 1139.
– A. W. Richard Sipe
Every fact and crisis in the life of Grace that is seen clearly by the traditional-minded Catholic has a cause other than Vatican II. Every one. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by the conviction of Catholics with an agenda, including mine. So how is it that all the traditional minded Catholics have come to blame Vatican II for all of our current crises? The professor, and those like him, are under the influence of a human condition called false consensus bias. Never heard of this human condition? Keep reading.
As individuals trapped inside our own minds 24/7, it’s often difficult for us to project outside the bounds of our own consciousness and preferences. We tend to assume that most people think just like us — though there may be no justification for it. This cognitive shortcoming often leads to a related effect known as the false consensus bias where we tend to believe that people not only think like us, but that they also agree with us.
– Projection Bias
False consensus bias is part of being human. Now, surfers, I don’t expect you to believe as I do or even agree with me on this subject, but if we are going to have a serious discussion we need accept that our human condition comes with limitations. False consensus bias is a subset of confirmation bias and we all are affected by this condition also.
We love to agree with people who agree with us. It’s why we only visit websites that express our political opinions, and why we mostly hang around people who hold similar views and tastes. We tend to be put off by individuals, groups, and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable or insecure about our views. The often unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views, while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opinions — no matter how valid — that threaten our world view.
– Confirmation Bias
Does confirmation bias sound familiar? Can you see it reflected in your own life? If we are going to seriously discuss the state of the Church, Vatican II, realism and wishful thinking we need to understand our own limitations. Start by hanging around people who hold different views from our own. If we find individuals and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable – good – don’t get put off or dismiss their opinions. By recognizing how we feel we can make a conscious act to put our insecurities aside and openly discuss the future of our Church.
Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis. Amen.