Thursday, 27 January 2011

Just call me Catholic please...

Cath News continues with its winning streak in the propagation of error today, with a blog entry by Fr Gerald Arbuckle SM, attacking traditionalists and conservatives, and accusing them of being fundamentalists, just like the Islamic variety.

Catholic fundamentalists are just like Islamic fundamentalists...!

Catholic fundamentalists are just like Islamic fundamentalists?  Really?!  And the last traditionalist to set off a suicide bomb or launch a terror attack was?

It is not a new line - a US liberal journalist coined the term 'Taliban Catholic' and it gained some currency around the world for a while.

It is a pretty outrageous claim though.

Here is Fr Gerard's justification for his condemnation:

"Sometimes they turn to all kinds of bullying – emotional, political, even physical violence at times – to get things back to "normal".

Those are pretty strong claims.  And I'd like to see some evidence to support them.  Because I am not aware of any cases at all of violence for example.

And most of the bullying has been from the liberal side of the fence, not the conservative-traditionalist!

But if fundamentalism means the rejection of liberal heresies....

Still, perhaps we really are fundamentalists in the broader sense.  Interestingly, the wikipedia's definition of a fundamentalist is this: "adherence to specific set of theological doctrines typically in reaction against the theology of Modernism". The term's origins lie in those who defend traditional views over liberal theology, and on that definition, I guess I am a fundamentalist, and happy to be so, since last I heard, modernism was still a heresy!

Still, it is meant to be a pejorative, and I would argue that I and others who Fr Gerald would presumably label as fundamentalists are actually just Catholics.  Just people who believe what the Church has always taught, and does what the Church tells us we have a duty to do.  But it's unsurprising to hear believing Catholics given  pejorative names by those who claim to be catholics - but don't actually believe or practice what the Church teaches.

A longing for the past - or just a desire for a better present?

Let's take a look at Fr Gerald's arguments.

His basic argument is that fundamentalism is a reaction to change social and religious change, engendering a simplisitic desire to "return to a utopian past or golden age, purified of dangerous ideas and practices".

And of course there is some truth in this - not, of course that there is a desire to return to a golden age (perhaps I would suggest that the pre-Vatican era was perhaps at best a silver one, certainly an advance on the current very dire state of the Church in Australia in terms of attendance, adherence or any other measure).  Personally I'm too young to remember the pre-Vatican II era, but I've heard and read enough about it to know that it was no golden age, and I'm very happy indeed not to be living in the 1950s. 

But certainly there is a desire to purify out dangerous ideas and practices in religion.

Indeed, the Pope himself has spoken of the need for this several times, pointing to the parallel with the period immediately after the Council of Nicaea, a council that condemned the heresy of Arianism (rejection of Our Lord's divinity).  It was a time when, as Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote, virtually every bishop in the world was an Arian heretic.  Yet after a period of disruption, through the providential action of God, the dangerous ideas that had sprung up were put down, and orthodoxy eventually restored.

And the Pope himself has given the lead on countering some of the dangerous practices that have sprung up, insisting, for example, now on reception on the tongue at papal liturgies.

Preserving our culture

Fr Gerald also attacks those who are concerned that migration is undermining Australian culture:

Here in Australia, for example, there is a political fundamentalist movement to preserve the “pure, orthodox Australian culture” from the “endangering ways of foreigners”.

The reality is of course that Australia is a nation of migrants, and almost no one thinks that can or should change. 

What some are legitimately concerned about however is the current record high levels of migration, and our capacity as a country to cope with it (both in terms of the physical and social infrastructure).  Even more concerning is the influx of migrants who do not accept Australia's system of government and law as legitimate, are working actively to convert others to their cause, and are prepared to use terrorist methods to achieve their goals.  Only this week for example, was it made public that one of the leading organisers of people smuggling into Australia, allegedly responsible for the disastrous loss of life in the recent shipwreck near Christmas Island, is an Australian passport holder of Iranian origin.  And there have been a series of terror trials and incidents illustrating the very real nature of the threat to our institutions.

Fr Gerald's signs of fundamentalism

Fr Gerald sets out a number of signs of fundamentalism.  I've given them numbers (and combined a couple) for ease of reference.

1. is assumed that Church never changed...undivided by misguided devotees of the Council’s values. The fact is that the Church and its teachings have often changed. Some statements have been shown to be wrong and were either repealed or allowed to lapse.

Do I detect the smoke of 'spirit of Vatican IIism' here?  Because the truth is that the Church's teachings do not change! They way they are presented and explained, sure.  Pastoral practices, yes.  The ordinary magisterium  - occasionally, albeit very rarely. But as Pope Benedict XVI has insisted, the Council's teachings have to be seen in a spirit of continuity, not automatically interpreted as rupture.

2.  A highly selective approach to what fundamentalists think pertains to the Church’s teaching: Statements on incidental issues are obsessively affirmed, but papal or episcopal pronouncements on social justice are ignored or considered matters for debate only.

There is a strange thing about the term 'social justice'.  Look up the index of either the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and you won't find it!  It's not that the term isn't used by the Magisterium - it is. Occasionally.  But it is put in its proper context of the much broader array of the Church's Social Teaching - including the issues that Fr Gerald presumably regards as 'incidental' - such as the right to life for example.

3. Concern for accidentals, not for the substance of issues, e.g., the Lefebvre group stresses Latin for the Mass, failing to see that this does not pertain to authentic tradition.

Latin is not part of the authentic tradition of the 'Latin rite'?! Last I heard, Latin was still the official language of the Church, and all 'Latin rite' priests retain the right to say the Mass (of whichever missal) in Latin.  Indeed, even Pope Paul VI wrote (in vain) on a number of occasions about the importance of safeguarding the use of Latin in the Church as part of its tradition and patrimony even while providing the option of the vernacular.

4.  The vehemence and intolerance with which they attack co-religionists ...attempts to infiltrate governmental structures of the Church...An elitist assumption that fundamentalists have a kind of supernatural authority and right to pursue and condemn those who disagree with them, including bishops and theologians.

The ticking timebomb of Canon 212 and the right to form private associations indeed! Because yes, the 'Gaudium et Spes' generation are dying out, and a new more traditionally oriented generation are making their views and desires known.  Though actually, if anyone is succeeding in 'this 'infiltration' process, I've yet to see the results of it!

And some of us do get angry - mostly a righteous anger in my view - when our right to a Mass without liturgical abuses or heretical sermons is abused; angry when pap 1970s songs sung badly are forced on us; when casual irreverence is the norm not the exception; and above all when those who should be shepherds of their flocks are instead ravening wolves disguised as sheep.

But is this elitism - or the sensus fidei at work?  Could it not in fact be the expression of charisms that have been so important in returning the Church to orthodoxy and orthopraxis at other key periods in the Church's history?

5. A spirituality in which Jesus Christ is portrayed as an unforgiving and punishing God; the overwhelming compassion and mercy of Christ is overlooked.

Traditionalists are certainly aware of the need for God's mercy.  But as Scripture repeatedly stresses, the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.  And if this is a reference to the view that all are saved, even if they actually reject the Church's teachings, the error of inclusivity, then yes I for one plead guilty....

It really is disappointing to see this kind of attack served up as legitimate opinion on a semi-official website.


Tommy G said...

This is a great post, and a wonderful response to the liberal trite that CathNews often publishes. I've tried, on numerous occasions, to provide in their comment box a balanced and fair-minded response to some of the less-than-Catholic opinions they've posted in the past, only to be ignored and then, after attempting to engage the moderator in some discussion I was told that I was in some way offensive.
There is unfortunately no room for open and honest debate on the CathNews site.
Thanks for your well written response.

Kate said...

Thank you Tommy, I'm glad you think this hit the mark.

I agree with you on the problems of Cath News and comments thereon - many people have said similar things, even if this bias hadn't been made explicit by Ms Hogan several times in her blog posts on the subject of posting!

And if you and others want to alert me to other Cath News articles that you think need a (real) response, I'd be happy to set up an 'open post' so that you and others could make public the comments they actually wanted to make over there...

A Canberra Observer said...

CathNews continues to be the smarmy messenger for heretical and erroneous ideas.

Good one Australian episcopate.

Felix said...

As someone with Lefebvrist friends, I'm disconcerted by the lack of fairness in referring to the SSPX.

As whenn Father Gerald says that "the Lefebvre group stresses Latin for the Mass ...", trivialising their actual concerns.

It reminds me of when I asked a priest if he knew what the SSPX actually objected to. "No" he shouted, "And I'm not interested in knowing".

(Of course, if I had referred to Buddhist beliefs or similar, we would probably have had a respectful and polite dialogue.)

Bek said...

Thanks for this post.

Given that within this past week at Mass we've had that passage from one of the Pauline epistles about unity rather than subscribing to the spin on Christianity promoted by one Apostle or another, I found your post rather apt.

I think the late, the great, the soon-to-be-blessed JP2 has a lot to offer us here with his teaching on the Universality of the Church.

It truly is disappointing that CathNews undermines the universality of the Body of Christ by publishing such tripe.

What happened to the good ol' days where if an organisation wanted to use the word Catholic (or any fraction thereof) in their name then they were required to maintain a standard of fidelity to Church teaching or risk losing the right to use the word in the name of their organisation? Bring back those days, I say!

God bless!

Cardinal Pole said...

"[Felix is] disconcerted by the lack of fairness in referring to the SSPX.

"As whenn Father Gerald says that "the Lefebvre group stresses Latin for the Mass ...", trivialising their actual concerns."

I agree that Father trvialises the S.S.P.X.'s concerns about the N.O.M. Isn't Msgr. Lefebvre on record as saying something like that if the T.L.M. had simply been translated into the vernacular without any other modification then the S.S.P.X. could not justifiably have rejected such a Mass? (I don't ask that rhetorically; is my recollection accurate, and if so where might it be verified?)