Monday, December 31, 2007

Book Notes: Greeley on New Wine, Old Wineskins

Exploring the “Post hoc, ergo, Propter hoc” Accusation Against Vatican II


I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to continue to blog regularly. Career and family demands upon my time are steadily increasing. One thing I might try to do a little differently this year is to post up some book and lecture notes I’ve had the good fortune to take in the past.

A couple of years ago I read an interesting book by Fr. Andrew Greeley called The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council, exploring what has happened to the Church in the aftermath of Vatican II.

From Amazon... In short, he says, the new wine burst the old wineskins. He attributes this to the Church's failure to adjust its rhetoric and style to educated contemporary Catholics who no longer blindly obey the directives of Church authorities. Thus, he writes, Church leadership is now in conflict with lower clergy and laity, who have redefined Catholicism on their own terms, holding onto core doctrines and traditions even as they disagree with the rules in such areas as sexual behavior. Greeley does not necessarily endorse these unofficial reforms, but he does applaud the laity for their faith and calls on Church leaders to recognize and respect them. He has especially harsh words for authoritarian liturgists who have imposed their vision of worship on congregations starving for a real connection between faith and daily life. Catholics who want to know what happened after Vatican II will find this compelling reading.
It’s a common refrain on traditionalist blogs to blame the ills of the Church on Vatican II, or if not on the Council itself, on the nefarious Spirit of Vatican II as envisioned and implemented by liberals. The basic argument runs along the lines of “Post hoc, ergo, Propter hoc”. All of these horrible things happening in the Church happened after the Council, therefore, the Council must have been the cause of them…

Most traditionalists and conservatives don’t care for Andrew Greeley much. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus reportedly accused him once of writing “bodice ripper” romance novels. I don’t know about that, I’ve never read any of his novels. But whatever else people might think of him, he’s a trained sociologist and a pretty good one. Traditionalists who take in his book might be surprised to find that there are more than a couple of points they might agree with him on. Virtually everyone agrees that there was a “silly season” in the late 1960s and early 1970s when things got out of hand, and a lot of bad decisions were made.

I’ve been on record here several times maintaining that Vatican II was a revolution in the sense that the assembled bishops finally stood up like men and acted like real bishops, and were no longer going to cower before extreme anti-modernist functionaries in the Roman Curia who equated the Church with themselves. The popes were on the bishops' side… at least for a while. Forgive me if what I’m about to post here is repetitive. Much of what I’ve written below is a rehash of what I’ve posted in other topics and comboxes elsewhere…

If you look at the history of Vatican II, it essentially reads as a huge struggle between the vast majority of bishops from around the world, and a small minority of bishops, represented mainly by the Roman Curia, and the other Vatican bureaucrats who represented the administrative layer between the Pope and the bishops. The Curia figured that they were responsible for running the day-to-day workings of the Church, and intended to keep it that way, without meddling from the bishops. The bishops, on the other hand, resented seeing curial administrators attempting to usurp the bishops’ role as legislators.

For the most part, the Curia was opposed to the Council from the start, tried to maintain the status quo with their original schema (before the bishops rejected those and participated in drafting new schema), and dragged their feet the rest of the way, using delaying tactics and other high-handed methods such as delaying votes, or demanding after the votes were taken that the documents pass though their own Theological Commission for revision. Pope John and Pope Paul had to tell the Curia on several occasions to back off, get on board, and to be faithful to their wishes. Pope Paul first told the Curia himself on 09/21/63 that the Curia needed to be updated, and that several reforms were necessary. Cardinal Joseph Frings of Germany (with the help of his young theologian Joseph Ratzinger) delivered a famously scathing speech on 11/8/63 towards the members of the Curia, ripping into the “scandalous” methods of the Holy office (what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was called at the time). In January of 1965, Paul reminded the Curia that they were under heavy criticism from several quarters, including him, and that they were expected to be docile when their reform was eventually announced.

Considering the fact that the theologians and bishops who took part in the Vatican II debates, and later on had sharp differences between themselves over what the proper “Spirit of the Council” was, carrying their debates about "aggiornamento” vs. “ressourcement” into their respective journals Concilium and Communio (although the Communio side has pretty effectively taken out the Concilium side in one way or another over the last couple of decades), I think we all need to be modest in making sweeping claims about what the real Spirit was and what it was not. People who were still in the Roman Curia in the following years, however, such as Cardinal Alfredo Ottavaviani (the head of the Holy Office), were outright opponents of the Council, and obstructionists every inch of the way, and I’d say that at least half of the Catholic blogs I see out there today have veered in the direction of his way of thinking more than they have with either the Concilium or the Communio camps.

One thing I think can be said fairly definitively is that Pope John reigned in his curial cardinals and Roman professors at the start of the Council and gave the bishops and theologians an atmosphere of openness and trust in which to operate. The tenor of the Council was undeniably collegial and open.

Vatican I defined the power of the papacy, but it did not explicitly define the Church. Vatican I was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War before that could happen. There was a corrective needed for the papal absolutism that was seen in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. There was a need for more collegiality. The sails needed trimming a bit. At Vatican II, the Church was defined as “The People of God”, not as a pyramid structure as was assumed by many (with the Pope and bishops at the top, priests and nuns in the middle, and laity at the bottom). The gifts of the Holy Spirit were understood as being distributed throughout the Church, to the laity as well as the clergy, and not handed down from above, as in the pyramid structure... It is not the function of the bishops to lord it over their flocks but to discern spirits within the community and to steward those gifts to the benefit of the local church, and subsequently to the universal Church. Bishop's Synods were to be held regularly, the laity was called on to advise the bishops, there was supposed to be a reform of the way the Curia operated, and there was to be more respect for diversity and for the local churches. Instead, what we’ve seen in recent decades is more and more centralization in Rome, national episcopal conferences marginalized, bishops acting like branch managers, with the bishops at the synods virtually just rubber-stamping what gets fed to them in Rome (this might be changing recently), and the worst relationship between the theologians and the hierarchy that we’ve probably ever seen in living memory. Regarding the synods, many bishops over the last couple of decades have felt very disappointed, claiming that they are called merely to rubber-stamp decisions that have already been made in Rome, that their meetings are subject to curial intervention, and that they are not being seriously consulted. The agendas have been set by the popes, the deliberations are rarely public, and the popes have issued the final documents after the bishops have gone home. National episcopal conferences undeniably have a much lower profile than they did 20 or 30 years ago, as more and more decision-making has been centralized and has been taking place in Rome.

Where I think Paul VI himself specifically ran into trouble is where he took two topics off of the table for discussion in the Council, and reserved them to himself alone. One was priestly celibacy, and the other was birth control. In his refusal to follow the advice of his priests and nuns on the former, and the refusal to listen to the advice of his handpicked commission of laity and bishops on the latter, the aftermath is where we clearly see the effects of the post-conciliar crisis, whether or not we believe those decisions were right or wrong.

Anway, here is a distillation of notes that I took from Greeley’s book. I take responsibility for any errors I’ve made transcribing his thoughts, but I don’t necessarily take responsibility for his thoughts…

Bishops, in euphoria from being freed from the Roman Curia, introduced modest changes that were too much for the rigid 19th century structures to absorb.

Mandated changes persuaded the lower clergy and the laity that “unchangeable” Catholicism could change. They created their own reform, and swept away rules. The laity no longer accept the Church’s right to control their sexual lives. They have become Catholics on their own terms. The higher orders of the Church have not come to terms with the fact that in certain matters, they have lost credibility with the lower clergy and laity.

On the other hand, a small activist elite (principally liturgists?) attempted its own revolution. The tried to sweep out all they didn’t like about traditional Catholic practices and devotions without consulting the laity – resulting in “Beige Catholicism”.

The long reign of John Paul II was an attempt not to repeal the Council, but to repeal the Revolution.

Catholics have withdrawn sexuality from the area in which they feel they have to listen to the Church.


The leadership lost control of the post-conciliar moment because of what seemed to the laity to be an obsession with sex.

The “Revolution” lasted most generously from 1965 to 1974, but was more accurately within the period from 1966 to 1970.

The Council Fathers poured new wine into old winekins and they burst. Then they denied that it was new wine, or that the skins had burst. Finally, they blamed everyone else for what happened and made no attempt to fashion new wineskins. Many tried to repair the old ones.

Church leaders were frightened by the chaos and the student unrest, and aborted the reform. They didn’t proceed with the reform of the Papacy and the Curia called for by the Council Fathers.

Historical Background…

In the period prior to the Council, the Church had taken a decidedly confrontational stance to the modern world. As a reaction to the French Revolution, the Paris Commune, and Italian Nationalism, Catholicism had delivered an empahatic “NO” to liberalism, modernity, and the enlightenment.

This was a sort of departure from the normal course of history. Previously, the Church had taken in and absorbed the positive elements to be found in Platonism, Germanic folk religion (under Gregory the Great), Irish monasticism, Aristotle, Renasissance humanism, and Baroque art. It couldn’t, however, find any positive aspects of modernity to absorb.

Clericalism, of course, generates anti-clericalism.

Pre-World War I, the French 3rd Republic was anti-clerical.

Post-World War I, the Church was faced with the Communist threat.

Post-World War II, we start to see some movement against the fierce anti-modernist stance. Under Pius XII, there were somewhat progressive encyclicals issued on biblical scholarship and liturgical reforms.

Most early 20th century Catholics did not know that what they presumed had always been the style of the Church had evolved in a century-long struggle with the French Revolution.

A Church of Rules…

Catholicism had two faces:

- One of sacrament and celebration and community.
- One of rules and enforcement

There was little nuance among them. All the rules hung together, not logically or theologically, but psychologically in the minds of those who were forced to keep them, so that if one changed, the whole ball of wax would disintegrate.

The laity engaged in prescribed rituals because they had to. They had no experience in making up thir own rituals. Their identity was tied to obligatory fish on Friday (after the Council, their bishops told them that instead of obligatory fish on Friday, they should do other forms of penance… “What did that mean??”)

The rules were the Church… Sleeping together before marriage, using birth control, getting divorced, not going to Mass on Sunday… The glue that held it together was sacramentality and community.

What happened between the end of the Council and 1974?

Youth culture and a lack of respect for authority? Even older people had a change in attitudes about sex, birth control, and divorce.

Alarmed Reactions…

Certain groups of traditionalists wanted to undo the Council outright.

Modifed traditionalist version – Claimed that the Holy Spirit abandoned the Church in a Council.

Other modifed traditionalist version – John XXIII didn’t know what he was doing. Paul VI was a vacillator. Restore tradition, emphasize continuity with the past, and gradually restore the old discipline.

Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc?

The theory of “Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc”. “Negative changes occurred after the Council, therefore, the Council caused them.” (The following charge is made by Greeley – Jean Daniélou, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, and Jacques Maritain all turned their backs on the Council they’d helped to make).

Greeley notes, however - After the Council, until 1968, Mass attendence actually increased.

* An aside from the book notes for a minute… regarding the Post-Conciliar period, and problems in actually implementing the Council…

Paul VI believed it would happen by “osmosis”. This was a “trickle down” theory on how Vatican II would be implemented, but things were coming from below as well.

Greeley’s position was that the Council was enthusiastically received, but that Humanae Vitae fractured the Church.. The birth control crisis stopped positive movement, and the renewal movement was fragmented.

Council theologian John Courtney Murray maintained that it was a Council of renewal and reform, and that we failed to understand the complexity of those terms. Renewal is about one thing. Reform is something else altogether. Renewal is about the world of ideas. Reform is about institutions, in the political arena. The Council laid out a grand vision of renewal, but without the supporting institutions to implement it. Subsequently, there has been conflict, confusion, and a struggle for consensus. The Council has let loose a pwerful set of themes….
-- Rev J Bryan Hehir
There are two major tendencies in interpreting the Council…

1) The Council was an occurrence… An exercise in continuity, not change.
2) The Council was a momentuous event… A revolution. A structure-shattering event.

Greeley notes that prelates today tend to take the view that the Church should have proceeded more cautiously.

Greeley’s position is that that they should not have tried to make so many changes while simultaneously asserting that nothing was changing.

Prior to Vatican II…

- There was centralization of power in the Vatican
- There was a Post-Tridentine understanding of sin
- There was a conviction that the Church is immutable
- There was an assumption that all decision-making flowed downward
- Those who disagreed with the Pope were not considered good Catholics
- The primary goal was the salvation of the soul by avoiding sin and keeping the rules

Where were the major changes immediately seen by the laity?

- The Liturgy. In 1965, the altars were turned around
- Ecumenism. Other Christians were considered “separated brethren”
- Meat on Friday. The ban was lifted by the American bishops after the Council was over. Greeley calls this decision unneccessary and devastating (I tend to disagree. IMHO, the mandating of such an obligatory practice flew right in the face of the law-free ethos to be found in the letters of St. Paul, but I see the cultural point he’s trying to make).

None of the reforms touched on the essence of doctrine, but the distinctions were lost on the laity. “What would change next?”

Implicit in the new mutability was the notion that if something ought to change, and would be changed eventually, it was alright to anticpate the change and act on one’s own authority.

- Birth Control… The laity and the lower clergy embraced the principle of following one’s own conscience.

People justified their decision by appealing not to a Pope who did not understand, but to a God who did.

- Priests and Nuns… The dispensation of religious to leave and get married. “Why not let them get married?” Catholics were coming to believe that the Church could change whatever it wanted to, whenever it wanted to…

Central authority has lost its credibility.

The Vatican II message about the Church being horizontal as well as vertical came crashing through to the laity loud and clear.

Greeley quotes John O’Malley SJ – “The Church is defined in the first instance not through the hierarchy and clergy, but through all its members, without regard to ecclesiastical status or office.”

Is a restoration possible? That was the hope for the new catechism, but the new structures are not likely to go away.

“Effervescence”

Greeley went on at length about a thesis by Melissa Jo Wilde called
The Theory of Collective Behavior, which is defined as…

“The expectations of individuals merging into a group experience that often overrides and even reverses the emotions the individuals bring to it, and produces a mobilization of resources toward achieving the goal of the group.”

Wilde calls this “effervescence”. Wilde contends that the Council Fathers were caught up in collective behavior of the most extraordinary kind. Hope and euphoria swept through the Council. Initially thinking that nothing would happen, they began to realize things could change, and that they were going to change them.

The top leader (the Pope) had undercut the rigid controls his staff (the Roman Curia) had tried to impose on the bishops of the world. The bishops voted for reform measures, attributing the euphoria to the Holy Spirit. They knew that the Pope was on their side.

“Liberal” leaders mobilized resources to achieve the ideals of a reformed Church. They arranged formal and informal efforts at organization and coordination – a temporary social movement – to build large majorites at the Council. The Curia, on their part, waited and bided their time.

The bishops went home and left their effervescence behind them. They tried to tell their congregations, afraid of hostile reactions, that nothing much had changed, but the euphoria had already spread to much of the lower clergy and laity.

As early as 1965, people were asking about birth control, and priests were telling them to follow their own consciences.

At the time, 75% of priests expected celibacy to become optional within 10 years.

“Anything goes”, or “Everything is going” seemed to be the order of the day.

The “Confident Church” was in a state of chaos…

So….

Did the Council Destroy The Church?

It destroyed some of the structures of the pre-conciliar Church. Other structures survived, as well as core matters of doctrine, but the structures concerning sex and authority were the ones that collapsed. The bishops were not allowed to address matters related to sexuality at the Council. Paul VI reserved those matters to himself.

If you had been brought up being taught that nothing had ever changed, nothing could change, and then something did change, the changers, without intending it, would have put everything in doubt.

Blind obedience may have worked with peasants, but not with an educated laity.

The Church waited too long to change. After the interventions by Cardinals Lienart and Frings (challenging the preparatory work and tactics of the Curia) , and their acceptance by John XXIII, there was no way to prevent Vatican II from being a revolutionary event.

To blame Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council is to refuse to face the critical question of why the old structures – the patterns and their supporting motivations – collapsed so easily and so quickly.

The key element in the revolution was the demolition of the structure that said that the Catholic Church would not, and could not ever change.

12 comments:

Garpu the Fork said...

Excellent post...hope you don't quit blogging altogether, although I understand with some of the nastiness out there.

I wonder, though, if some aren't going way too far the other way in reaction to their notions of Vatican II. You see a lot of younger people being way more literal on equating "the rules" with the faith. For instance, I was reading a "catholic bride" forum (bad idea, I know), and while most of the women on it were younger than I, the overwhelming majority were planning on quitting their jobs or schooling and becoming stay-at-home, homeschooling mothers. You don't see that attitude much among Catholic women prior to the last ten years or so. Frankly it scares me, because the average Catholics--those who don't dote on every word out of EWTN--are getting marginalized, and I think they're still the majority.

Jeff said...

Hi Garpu,

Happy New Year!

I know what you're saying. I have to say, Anne has been a stay-at-home mother ever since we started having children, and she's home-schooled a couple of them at one time or another. When the kids are older, she will go back to work. We thought that was the best thing for us, and luckily, we've been in a position to do those things. The home-schooling has been a matter of doing what works best for each child, not a matter of being against the world. In our practice, we've been pretty darned traditional, but we don't look down on those who haven't made the same decisions we have, or haven't been in the same position to do so.

I don't have a problem with traditionalists, as long as the spirituality is sincere, and not a psychological vehicle for something else. The best of them extend the same courtesy to progressives within our Catholic tradition. I fear a bit of what worries you, that more recently, people who don't hew to a certain line are feeling increasingly marginalized to the extent of being silenced or feeling forced out.

Logos said...

Your own overall assessment I would endorse. I am too much the student of church history NOT to recognize the validity and fairness of your observations. But where Greeley is concerned, I am just a little bit more ambivalent. When you say that he accuses JPII, Danielou, de Lubac, von Balthasar with the post hoc propter thing with regard to the Council, then Greeley shows himself buying into the conservative/progressive divide in the Church, a divide which has been most destructive and deforming. It could be that one has to take each of the names mentioned and see. I've read Balthasar for example a good lot, and not once does he accuse the Council of responsibility for the turmoils and problems we have now. In a small piece he wrote on Vatican II as the "Council of the Spirit," he elevates the laity to its rightful position in the Church. I think we have to be very careful about dividing the Church into ideological camps, very often into reductively TWO camps. Without denying the very often political nature of many of the Church's decisions and activities, particularly of the Roman curia, still, the Church is so much mroe diverse today than it ever was. There is no way to see the Church as simply divided into two. Also, and here is a point that will surely prove to be controversial, the Church TODAY lives in a world that is vastly DIFFERENT from the world of the 1960s. There is a conservative strain in many young people today, that is true, but instead of dismissing this as a throwback to pre-Vatican II days, it behooves us to try to understand why, without the knee-jerk reaction from many pre-Vatican II adults dissatisfied with the pre-Vatican II Church that would dismiss this conservative strain as irrational. As you yourself admit, there was a lot of inane things that happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps we are moving into a new equilibrium. I certainly hope so. We need BOTH aggiornamento and ressourcement. It could be that for pre-Vatican II babies who grew up in a pre-Vatican II Church, the aggiornamento part was the more crucial need. Today, post-Vatican II babies perhaps have different felt-needs. In a post 9-11 world, in a post-modern situation, I can understand the desire of many for a more ressourcement oriented approach, without denying the need for aggiornamento initiatives.

And because I was brought up in an Ignatian way, I would propose therefore that the crucial need of the Church today is a true and deep capacity for DISCERNMENT. We must recognize for example that STRUCTURAL REFORM of the Church by itself does not assure fruitfulness. THERE HAVE BEEN STRUCTURAL REFORMS. No matter Rome's negative assessments, these reforms are IN PLACE and can no longer be turned back. Think of Bishops's Conferences for example. Whatever their theological status, the fact is the bishops of my country meet TWICE a year. And their meetings have always been helpful for the local Church. But there is a deeper need today, a need connected to the Spirit of the Council. I am often surprised by how sanguine how older generations in the Church are about questions of Christian identity... The need for roots is patent among the young, and the older ones would like to cut them off. DISCERNMENT then...a discerning Church, a Church, in the words of St. Ignatius, imbued with DISCRETA CARITAS, discerning love...

Logos said...

Your own overall assessment I would endorse. I am too much the student of church history NOT to recognize the validity and fairness of your observations. But where Greeley is concerned, I am just a little bit more ambivalent. When you say that he accuses JPII, Danielou, de Lubac, von Balthasar with the post hoc propter thing with regard to the Council, then Greeley shows himself buying into the conservative/progressive divide in the Church, a divide which has been most destructive and deforming. It could be that one has to take each of the names mentioned and see. I've read Balthasar for example a good lot, and not once does he accuse the Council of responsibility for the turmoils and problems we have now. In a small piece he wrote on Vatican II as the "Council of the Spirit," he elevates the laity to its rightful position in the Church. I think we have to be very careful about dividing the Church into ideological camps, very often into reductively TWO camps. Without denying the very often political nature of many of the Church's decisions and activities, particularly of the Roman curia, still, the Church is so much mroe diverse today than it ever was. There is no way to see the Church as simply divided into two. Also, and here is a point that will surely prove to be controversial, the Church TODAY lives in a world that is vastly DIFFERENT from the world of the 1960s. There is a conservative strain in many young people today, that is true, but instead of dismissing this as a throwback to pre-Vatican II days, it behooves us to try to understand why, without the knee-jerk reaction from many pre-Vatican II adults dissatisfied with the pre-Vatican II Church that would dismiss this conservative strain as irrational. As you yourself admit, there was a lot of inane things that happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps we are moving into a new equilibrium. I certainly hope so. We need BOTH aggiornamento and ressourcement. It could be that for pre-Vatican II babies who grew up in a pre-Vatican II Church, the aggiornamento part was the more crucial need. Today, post-Vatican II babies perhaps have different felt-needs. In a post 9-11 world, in a post-modern situation, I can understand the desire of many for a more ressourcement oriented approach, without denying the need for aggiornamento initiatives.

And because I was brought up in an Ignatian way, I would propose therefore that the crucial need of the Church today is a true and deep capacity for DISCERNMENT. We must recognize for example that STRUCTURAL REFORM of the Church by itself does not assure fruitfulness. THERE HAVE BEEN STRUCTURAL REFORMS. No matter Rome's negative assessments, these reforms are IN PLACE and can no longer be turned back. Think of Bishops's Conferences for example. Whatever their theological status, the fact is the bishops of my country meet TWICE a year. And their meetings have always been helpful for the local Church. But there is a deeper need today, a need connected to the Spirit of the Council. I am often surprised by how sanguine how older generations in the Church are about questions of Christian identity... The need for roots is patent among the young, and the older ones would like to cut them off. DISCERNMENT then...a discerning Church, a Church, in the words of St. Ignatius, imbued with DISCRETA CARITAS, discerning love...

crystal said...

I hope you don't stop blogging. I feel a touch of blogging malaise too.

I kind of wish I could be a stay-at-home wife sometimes. When I was married, we didn't share our money and I worked full time.

Agree with you about Vatican II. Maybe the division inot conservative and liberal is more messy than we can easily see but most people at the council seemed to be more on one side or the other than standing in both camps equally.

Balthasar is such an interesting guy. I haven't read a lot of his stuff but he is all over the place in what I have read - a mystic, a believer that perhaps no one ends up in hell, someone Benedict likes, ex-Jesuit :-)

Garpu the Fork said...

Right, but you're saying what works for your family might not work for someone else's...these people are saying that their way is the Way Things Should Be. The Church is way too diverse a place to let one group of people speak for everyone.

Jeff said...

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the good post, and greetings to Quezon City...

Yes, I'm sure that each of the theologians accused by Greeley would have been surprised to hear that they had "turned their backs on the Council." Especially Henri de Lubac, who was one of the principal architects. It is true that all of the men listed had some problems with what they saw happening in the 60s and 70s, but I think all of them would say (in their own way) that they supported the Council. I was a bit surprised to see Balthasar on that list, though. As far as I know, he wasn't there. He was not invited as a peritus to attend the Council, unlike his friendly rival Karl Rahner, who was a major influence on the Council, and whose thought you hardly ever hear about anymore today. I think it's fair to say that there is one thing that Balthasar and his co-founder of Communio, Joseph Ratzinger, had in common, which is that both had a much more pessimistic view of man and the world than some of the more optimistic theologians who shaped the Council so heavily, especially those most responsible for drafting Gaudium et Spes.

I agree with you that the conservative/progressive divide has been quite destructive, and perhaps it no longer makes sense to continue speaking in categories that are a couple of decades old, but I do see a new kind of polarization now that worries me.

Tony, you and I are about the same age, so perhaps you remember elements of the pre-conciliar Church like I do. It formed the basis for most of my catechesis. There are certain things that I miss about it, but I'm not interested in going back to some of the the sectarianism, fear-based legalism, and lack of biblical emphasis that was characteristic of that era... I worry that some of these younger traditionalists are nostalgic for something that they never really knew, or fully understand.

You rightly point out that the "Signs of the Times" and the challenges facing the Church are vastly different now from what they were back then. In terms of the popular culture, that is certainly true. We all know about the ubiquitous pornification of the culture. All I have to do is catch a few minutes of shows like A Shot at Love on MTV to get an idea of what young Catholics are up against these days. I see where their contra mundum stance comes from. I do get it. I understand where this comes from. It's very hard for young people today, much harder than it was for most of us. Then again, certain things aren't so different. The Council opened up during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has ever come to nuclear annihilation. The Council Fathers bravely and faithfully faced the world with optimism in a world that was giving them very little reason or hope for optimism. Perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to the sins of humankind.

What worries me about young traditionalists Tony, is this... With some notable exceptions, the evidence seems to indicate to me that they are not in the Communio camp. It would be fine if they were. But by and large, they are not looking pack to Patristics in the fashion of an Yves Congar or a Henri de Lubac. Even with Joseph Ratzinger, the appreciation is not so much for his ressourcement as for his "support for Tradition". I can only speak mainly for the USA, but it seems to me that they are "Pian", or Integrist, in their outlook. They look not to Communio, but to the anti-modernist papacies of Pius IX and Pius X, and encyclicals like Pascendi, the Syllabus of Errors, and Mortalium Animos . Many have fallen heavily for Lefebvrist rhetoric. Now, I meet very few people of this type of outlook in parish life or on an everyday basis (most Catholics that I do know are centrist or progressive), but for some reason the Catholic blogs seem to be full of them. Meanwhile, I've seen progressive bloggers continually harried, harassed, hectored, and chased off the web by them as "heretics". It's not hard to see why they feel entitled to do this, in a sense. It seems as if all of the Concilium theologians have passed away or been silenced in the last few decades. Where are the giants of theology today? Only one seems to be left standing.

I'm glad that in the Philippines, the bishops' meetings have been beneficial to the local Church. In the US, pastoral letters issued by the Conference have been fewer in number and less significant in weight and impact than they were in years past. Part of the problem is with the 1998 issuance of the Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos. In the past, all a National Bishops Conference needed to pass a statement was a two thirds majority. Apostolos Suos now states that it must be unanimous, which is practically impossible if the topic is at all controversial. A two thirds majority can still be sufficient if approval is obtained by the Vatican, which in effect, puts the Vatican in control of the proceedings. As this example shows, even if the structures are in place, they can still be subverted if they are not protected by statutes enshrined in Canon Law.

Jeff said...

Hi Crystal and Garpu,

As Tony says, I think there is more diversity in the Church today. But if there is, I think it is happening more in spite of the messages coming out of Rome than because of them. His point on Ignatian discernment is good...

...let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself.

-- Ignatius Loyola: "Presupposition"

Paula said...

This is all confusing for me. It must be my Eastern-Orthodox background and my belonging to the Greek-Catholic Church.:-).
I am reading about Vatican II and the division between conservatives and progressives since 2 years+ and each time I feel like walking on shaky ground...and what I sought in the Church was solid ground. This was one of the major reasons I did not went for the Latin Rite.
I wish you all the best Jeff and my warmest regards to your family.

Steve Bogner said...

Jeff -

Love the Ignatius quote in one of your previous comments; those are very good words to live by.

Regarding blogging - I feel for you. My wife stays home and I'm the sole financial supporter of our family. At times, there just *isn't* time or energy to blog. That's been affecting me the past few months.

I wish I could like Greeley more, but he seems to get too hysterical, too often, for me. He talks about that 'lower clergy', which are the priests who came of age during the 60's and did a lot of nonsense in the 70's. Many of those priests are retiring now, and that will change things, in my opinion, for the better.

Jeff said...

Hi Paula,

Thanks for your good wishes, as always. Please keep me in your prayers. :-)

I'm sorry to contribute to confusion. The last thing I would want to do is to weaken anyone's faith or trust in the Church. I'd rather close this thing down before I do that. I don't put critiques up in order to tear down the Church or for the amusement of non-Catholics. It is an inside, family dicussion, as far as I'm concerned.

There's nothing wrong with staying close to Peter. That's fine. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that. I guess what I'm trying to do is to offer an alternative to what I see as mainly a one-sided narrative on the blogs. I'm tired of seeing self-appointed heresy-hunters hounding people off the web online, and out of parishes offline. I'm describing history as I've seen it and as I've experienced it. I see Catholicism as a community very much like a family. Like any family, we have our disputes and tensions, and arguments, but those of us who care the most stay close and don't abandon each other. We don't split off and go our own way.

I feel very strongly about the Council and what gets said about it. It's a touchstone for where my solid ground is located. I'm not very old, and seeing an Ecumencial Council of the Catholic Church enthusiastically received and then bitterly repudiated within the course of my own lifetime is almost more cognitive dissonance than I can bear.

Jeff said...

Hi Steve,

As I'm sure you know, the older the kids get, the more attention they need. :-) As a matter of fact, between their homework and everything else going on, it's getting practically impossible for me to get any time in on the home computer.

He talks about that 'lower clergy', which are the priests who came of age during the 60's and did a lot of nonsense in the 70's. Many of those priests are retiring now, and that will change things, in my opinion, for the better.

Are those guys getting to retire? A lot of them seem to be working right to the grave. I actually feel bad for those guys, because they stayed when a lot of priests left, they lived through tough times in a changing nation and a changing Church, and they made a serious attempt to get the laity involved in collaborative ministry. The ones who make me feel creepy are the young ones with a preference for cassocks.