Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Transforming the Church: from the Ascension to Pentecost

Today is the Vigil of the Ascension, and a good time to start thinking about saying the traditional Novena to the Holy Spirit between Ascension and Pentecost.

And in terms of a particular focus for our prayers, perhaps we might think about the scope for a genuine new evangelization, with a new growth in the number of believers on the scale of that first evangelization.

Can it happen again?

Last week I commented in a post on a priest scandalously teaching error, that there are, as far as I can tell, but a handful of orthodox priests in my diocese.

Over at (a)Catholica Forum, Brian Coyne agreed, and suggested that the situation was pretty much the same everywhere in the West.

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far - there are a few very orthodox dioceses in this country and elsewhere still - but his point that many bishops and theologians are on the side of the +Power, Robinson and Morris' (all out of office yet continuing to spread their poison, the latest being a petition to overturn assorted teachings of the Church in the name of the abuse crisis) is valid.

But where we disagree is on the consequences.

Mr Coyne's argument is that the majority should rule, and doctrines be dumped in order to encourage the 'return' of the 90% plus of Catholics who have walked out the door since Vatican II.

By contrast I think the Church puts the texts around the collapse of the faith of the disciples at the Crucifixion; their scepticism and gradual recovery as the Lord instructs them after the Resurrection; and the dramatic growth of the newborn Church after Pentecost in front of us each year for a reason.

The reality is that over and over the Church in particular places and particular places has collapsed, and the crowds have melted away, due to persecution from within and without: its members have repeatedly fallen into heresy, and driven out the orthodox (consider, for example, the career of St Athanasius); its members have been repeatedly persecuted and martyred for refusing to conform to the demands of the world.

The truth is that the crowds have often melted away in the face of those 'hard sayings' that have always been at the core of the faith.

Yet each time they do, saints arise anew, and convert many.

 Dialoguing with the devil

Last week in one of Pope Francis' excellent little, very traditional sounding daily ferverinos, he argued that there were indeed some limits to the 'dialogue' that has become so much the hallmark of the post-Vatican II Church: there can, he pointed out, be no dialogue with the devil.  Rather, he argued, we have to stand firm for the faith in the face of the world's rejection:

Let us always remain meek and humble, that we might defeat the empty promises and the hatred of the world.” ...Humility and meekness are the weapons we have to defend ourselves from the hatred of the world. This was the focus of Pope Francis during his homily, which centered on the struggle between the love of Christ and the hatred of the prince of this world.

The Lord, he said, tells us to be not afraid when the world hates us as it hated Him:

The way of the Christians is the way of Jesus,” he said. “If we want to be followers of Jesus, there is no other way: none other than that, which He indicated to us - and one of the consequences of this is hatred – it is the hatred of the world, and also the prince of this world. The world would love that which belongs to it. [But Jesus tells us], ‘I have chosen you, from the world’: it was precisely He, who rescued us from the world, who chose us - pure grace! With His death, His resurrection, He redeemed us from the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world. The origin of the hate [we experience], then is this: that we are saved. It is that prince who does not want that we should have been saved, who hates...There can be no dialogue with the prince of this world: let this be clear! 

The problem of subversion from 'within'

In this light, I'm always bemused by the fact that so many who reject everything the Church stands for remain deeply fascinated, not to say obsessed, with happens in the Church.  And by the line that they often try and sell, to the effect that their views, and not the tradition of the Church should be given priority.

Over at Catholica Forum, for example, Brian Coyne and friends reject every doctrine going, promote every heresy on offer.  This week, for example, the latest work of ex-priest Michael Morwood is being highlighted.  It is a book in which he apparently argues that Christianity went astray when it parted ways with Judaism, something for which Mr Morwood blames St Paul.  According to Mr Coyne's review of the book, in the introduction to the book Morwood asks:

"What if the doctrine being safeguarded by the CDF [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] is flawed or is simply not believed anymore by many in the Church, including its own scholars?"

I for one don't dispute that many doctrines are not widely believed, even by many priests and bishops.

I do however remain utterly scandalised by their hypocrisy in remaining in the Church: there is not point in pretending to be within the sheepfold if you actually aren't; indeed, the only reason for doing so  is surely that you are nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing, seeking to devour the sheep.

In that same sermon, Pope Francis commented that there are many more persecuted communities of Christians now than in those early days of the Church.

Persecution takes many forms: from the red martyrdom, forced exodus and persecution of many Christians in majority Islam or Hindu regions; and the white martyrdom at the hands of secularists in the West and those who promote heresy and immorality from within.

Aux armes!

Contrary to the views of the Acatholicas, there is no contradiction whatsoever, in my view, between criticising the Churches handling of the abuse scandal on the one hand, and insisting on actual orthodoxy on the other.

The reality is that orthodoxy and orthopraxis go together, and that is why those who insist on good liturgy will often be amongst a morally bankrupt hierarchy's most vocal critics.

One of the problems of the abuse crisis is that others will inevitably attempt to appropriate it for their own ends: we've already seen a series of false accusations against Cardinal Pell and others; we've seen secularists out simply to close down the Church and squeeze it out of the public square; and we've seen heretics advocate change to doctrine in its name.

Indeed, Bishops Morris (deposed by Pope Benedict from Toowoomba) and Robinson (former Auxilliary of Sydney) are currently sponsoring a petition that asks for a 'review' of issues such as "the teaching of the Church on sexual morality" and "the part played in abuse by celibacy, especially obligatory celibacy".

And as more horrors emerge in the three sets of hearings going on at the moment in Australia (Royal Commission; Newcastle Special Inquiry; Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry) things will surely get worse before they get better.

But Pope Francis has pointed to some key weapons with which to defend ourselves: the guidance of (true) shepherds; the Word of God - "not dialogue - but always the Word of God"; and humility and meekness.

Meekness, it should be remembered, does not mean weakness: as the example of Christ's repeated 'dialogues' with the Pharisees and Scribes show us, far from it.

1 comment:

Gervase Crouchback said...

I think what Morris and Robinson want is what we all want-a Church that is open ,transparent and accountable.Removal and prosecution of both abusers and those clergy who hid them .The difference is that whilst we are aim to be Australia's ""good servants " we are "God's first " to quote St Thomas More. Mindful of our responsibilities before the law and before God. I think tradition in action's article is very valid