Sunday, February 28, 2016

Religion: The balance between submission and individual or local expression

The first words of the psalm quoted in the introit remind me of what a friend told me some time back: false religion is always about self; "fakedty-fake." Inculturation and even a semi-congregationalism can be good things; the local church as the steel-mill town Sportsmen's Club, a community and its customs, strong just like in the Middle Ages, being a hedge against heresy and the merely banal or silly. (If only more Catholics 50 years ago had that fight in them like Archbishop Lefebvre and Fr. De Pauw did.) I refer to "my Mass." But putting that above the church is taking your eyes off the Lord and stepping into a trap, the besetting sin of the alterna-Catholicisms (which do have a point) vs. the church, such as the Orthodox ("Christianity and Greekness"; as C.S. Lewis observed, that eventually becomes only about Greekness) and of the Anglo-Catholics, either thinking they're the true church vs. us (a lot of people assume all A-Cs were would-be Catholics; A-Cism started as a competitor's claim against us so only some wanted to reconcile with us "with honor") or putting off coming into the church because of our human failings, understandable stuff such as local inhospitability, even heresy locally (Anglo-Papalism in theory wasn't an alterna-Catholicism but simply trying to come into the church "with honor"). Rather, we're bigger than the apparent sum of our parts, the paradox of the infallible, sinless church made of fallible, sinful people. Even the Pope's person is fallible; his office, part of the church, in infallible. (The Articles of Religion are hooey.)

Classic A-Cism in either form, anti- or pro-Roman, really believed: "We do these things because they're objectively true." Trading the Prayer Book for copying the church appealed to a higher authority, "the larger church."

There's a difference between that and "this practice fits my religious needs; I happen to think pre-conciliar Catholicism is neat" so I come up with something that looks like it, even better-looking. John's ultimate religious authority becomes John, not God through the church. Protestant private judgment, even if it uses the Tridentine Mass. That's not the church. Also, when the local club becomes just "me and my friends," powered by the supposed warmth of the personalities involved, it's the error of well-meaning liberals such as St. Lydia's. It's not Catholic partly because it's no longer catholic. The parish, one faith for all, vs. the private club, the boutique, even if anyone is welcome to join.

Today's liberal high churchmen are the old anti-Roman party, indeed demonstrating a loyalty to Anglicanism by adopting innovations. Wrong? Sure. But sincere. But their boutique still isn't the church.
The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people the Anglican Church will do.

— Oscar Wilde
Mark Bonocore once said the same thing: Catholic cultures have extreme holiness and extreme evil; Protestant ones favor lukewarmness, mediocrity.


  1. I am sorry to say it, but my overwhelming experience of the Catholic Church in this country - with notable exceptions - is of lukewarmness and mediocrity. Bring on the boutique churches and groups!

    1. Andrew, you forgot to mention just how banal it is as well.

  2. A little off topic, but I would love to hear your thoughts regarding Fr. Lombardi's comments (as well as that of the Philippines episcopal conference) on artificial contraception, which mirror that of many Eastern Orthodox bishops. Will you take him to task in the same way that you do Eastern Orthodox clerics who take a similar position?


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