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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Catholic Homiletics Porn

In popular usage, "porn" has become a very expansive term. We can talk about gun porn, tech porn, car porn... in fact, "porn" is now used to describe any communication that increases the obsession with or lust for a specific thing, any technique used for exciting extremely strong emotions about a subject.

One FSSP church I attend has a priest who does Catholic homiletic porn.

In what does this consist?

Well, Catholic homiletic porn is a homily that professes to talk about a specific doctrine, but in fact never gets around to talking about the doctrine. Instead, the congregation is subjected to a dizzying collection of quotes, stories, private revelation and sundry nonsense, none of which actually address the purported subject at hand, but all of which are intended to provoke a visceral emotional response in the hearer.

It's all about stirring up emotion, and the facts be damned.

Two recent examples will have to suffice.

Round One
Recently, the priest subjected his flock to a homily that purported to be on the anti-Christ. Now, there is not really much that anyone can say about the anti-Christ. In Scripture, the apostle John says the anti-Christ is anyone who denies that God came in the flesh. In that sense, any time any one of us sins, we substantially prefigure the anti-Christ. The CCC devotes two articles to the subject, to whit:
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth575 will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.576
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,577 especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.578
Ludwig Ott's "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" says not much more, except to add "the historical interpretation associated with a particular time (Nero, Caligula, and others) as well as this historico-religious explanation, which seeks the origin of the idea of the Antichrist in Babylonian and Persian myths, are to be rejected." (p. 487)

And that pretty much sums it up.
So, what did the priest have to say in his sermon?

Well, NONE of this.

He doesn't mention a single particle of doctrine through the whole long thing. Instead, he claims - with no particular evidence (IrenausAugustine, and Lactantius found the idea laughable) - that Nero is a "type for the anti-Christ". So, he goes on a long, long diatribe the heretical Donatists would have loved in which he meandered on about Nero: his predilections, his sins, his excesses, his persecutions of Christians; all the bloody, gory details he could comfortably include, while hinting that there was even more sordidness that he dare not speak, lest he offend the congregation!

Ah, the titillation it produced!

You could almost see the ripple of excitement through the congregation as the voyeurs contemplated the forbidden dainties the priest set before them!

This sermon produced not a word about Scripture or what St. John had to say, no mention of the CCC's passages on the anti-Christ, nothing from the Councils, no doctrine at all. No, just the life of Nero, which Ott's manual, quoted above, seemed to prohibit... but no matter.

He had successfully increased his congregation's obsession with and mania about the "end of the world", a mania to which he is dramatically (in every sense of the word) attached.

The sermon was a rousing success.

Round Two
So much so, that the next week, the same priest followed up with a sermon on the Last Judgement. Since he loves typecasting, he chose to assert that the Roman destruction of Israel was a type for the Last Judgement. This allowed him to go on a lovingly detailed description of the bloody sack of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple and the annihilation of the Levitical priesthood.

And... what was the point of this description?

Beats me. While the description of the sack stirred marvelous emotions, none of it had a thing to do with the Last Judgement.  In fact, not only did none of it have any relevance to the Last Judgement, quite a bit of it was simply wrong. As has happened in the past, he ended his sermon by using his assembled descriptions to assert that "the Old Covenant is dead, the Jews were destroyed along with the Temple."

Now, I've heard this nonsense before.
In fact, the idea that modern Jews are not really Jews because they don't have a Temple is really, really popular among rad-trads. And really, really stupid as well. Even Michael Voris got tagged by me on this one.

And, in order to keep this post from getting any longer, let it suffice to say that every single point I make against Voris' video can be brought against this pastor's sermon. It was, and is, a stupid, stupid, stupid sermon.

But to the Voris points, I will add just one more. The CCC points out:
674 The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel", for "a hardening has come upon part of Israel" in their "unbelief" toward Jesus.569 ... St. Paul echoes him: "For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?"571 The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles",572 will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all".573
If today's Jews are not real Jews, then the real Jews are gone. If the real Jews are gone, then there is no second coming to look forward to, for those long-dead Jews didn't, in the last analysis, recognize Jesus before they died out.

That's heresy, but that's the logical conclusion you are forced to draw after listening to this priest's homiletic porn on his personal mania, the Last Judgement.

Conclusion:
Now, I'm picking on this particular priest because he is the one at hand. Actually, most priests suffer from various forms of his delusion. They claim to teach some aspect of doctrine, but their homilies are actually simply intended to foment an obsession in the minds of the congregation. Whatever the pastor's pet peeve is, he intends to make his congregation's pet peeve. So, the whole orientation of the parish is slowly altered to reinforce whatever mindset the pastor has.

The teaching of Church doctrine stops, the teaching of personal devotions as dogmatic truths begins.
It stops being the Catholic Church and starts being the parish of Father X and his tribe of whirling dervishes, all of them rabidly focused on whatever fixation the priest has.

So, I know I am not alone when I contemplate this question every Sunday: should I go to the liturgically abusive Novus Ordo parishes, with their pablum sermons, or to the liturgically inscrutable traditional Mass, with its absurd sermons?

I wish it were a rhetorical question.

10 comments:

Flambeaux said...

Well...it's not a attractive option, given the distance, but our place has some benefits.

The sermons aren't terrible and the Mass is usually well-celebrated.

Feel free to give me a shout by email if you want to discuss.

J. said...

I figured out a while back that you attend the same parish I do, though apparently at different Mass times. That means I actually heard the sermon you're complaining about, and while I agree that the priest in question has a tendency to, shall we say, allow his subject to run away from him, your characterization is a bit unfair.

The belief that Nero in fact was the Antichrist was widespread during his reign, and with good reason. Some early Christians after Nero's death even speculated that Nero himself would be resurrected as the Antichrist before the Final Judgment. Later, when St. John Chrysostom gave a sermon about St. Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians, he said that St. Paul "speaks here of Nero, as if he were the type of Antichrist. For he too wished to be thought a god."

Ott is rejecting a kind of preterist interpretation which would claim that the Antichrist is merely a historical figure and not a future enemy of God and the Church. He is not rejecting the use of historical figures as types of the Antichrist (at least, he is not in the selection quoted; I don't have my copy of Ott in front of me to read further).

I expect the priest hinted at the "sordidness that he dare not speak," because much of what Nero did should in fact be unspeakable when young children are present. If you don't know what I'm talking about, a minute or two on Google will inform you.

As to being able to "almost see" a ripple of excitement and titillation throughout the congregation -- well, I think the "almost" speaks for itself, and for the vividness of your imagination.

About the thing with the Jews, I think the point was simply that no Jews today celebrate the religion set down by Moses, which revolved around sacrifice and atonement for sin. In other words, they are Jews by blood but not by cult, because they are unable (though perhaps willing) to keep the Mosaic Law. I suppose that's an arguable point -- I don't know enough about post-Temple Judaism to say -- but I'm given to understand that this is an argument made by many of the Church Fathers and Doctors, as well.

And thanks for perpetuating the popular but incorrect use of the word "porn." Stay classy.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

J

Thank you for demonstrating my points.

As you point out, he went on and on about Nero. Of what possible doctrinal utility was it to allude to Nero's crimes? In what way did this allusion help him elucidate the doctrines related to the anti-Christ? Did he use it to explain any doctrine, or was it merely there for titillation?

In fact, do you remember him AT ANY POINT explaining ANY aspect of the doctrine of the anti-Christ?

For instance, did he mention the central doctrine: that the anti-Christ is the one who denies God came in the flesh?

Did he mention the conciliar doctrine, that ordained priesthood would prepare the way for the anti-Christ?

Did he make any reference to the CCC (trick question - he NEVER makes any reference to the CCC)?

Since you don't know anything about Temple sacrifice, I shall leave your comments in that regard stand as they are. I have sufficiently refuted those in this essay and the Voris essay.

As for my use of the word "porn", perhaps you should try reading the Oxford English Dictionary sometime:

http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/porn?q=porn

"2 television programs, magazine, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a nonsexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience:
a thrilling throwback to the golden age of disaster movies—weather porn of the highest order"

Stay informed, J.

daddylamb said...

The lack of respect for the office of the preisthood in this post is deplorable.

My hope is that the intent is more to create a visceral emotional response in the reader than it be truly believed whole heartedly.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Daddylamb, I entirely agree with you.

This priest shows NO respect for his office at all when he preaches like this.

You would THINK an ordained man would try to teach about the doctrines of the Church, but he appeals to raw emotions like the basest tele-evangelist. It's pure abuse of his office.

It disgusts me.

Thanks for that observation.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

J.

I did a little research on the Fathers and the Anti-Christ.

It turns out the good priest was wrong. Of all the Fathers, I can find only ONE, John Chrysostom, who said Nero was the Anti-Christ. None of the others do. In fact, Augustine, Irenaus and Lactantius thought it ridiculous.

And the original idea came the Donatists, who were heretics.

I've updated the essay to reflect those facts.

Mater et Magistra said...

What a shame -- and here I've been trying to sell my fellow homeschoolers on the TLM partly based on the orthodox teaching that usually comes with it.

Not sure how this might figure in to a decision for you, but isn't the case that in the Tridentine Mass, the homily is not an integral part of the Mass itself in the way that it is in the Novus Ordo? (Isn't that why the priest removes his maniple for the homily?) Not that this is an excuse for giving bad homilies.

J. said...

Steve,

I'm sorry you don't understand the difference between claiming someone as a type of the Antichrist, and claiming him to be the Antichrist himself. I think I'm starting to understand why you jump to so many conclusions.

I suppose it's the same sort of error that inspires one to flee to the Oxford English Dictionary to prove the proper use of a word. The OED long ago gave up the authority of dictating use, instead becoming a mere mirror of popular culture.

This is not the first sermon the priest in question has given about the Last Days and the Antichrist. He has noted the role of sinners in the Church making way for the Antichrist before. I won't try to defend him as a bastion of common sense or as the most level-headed fellow in the room, but he deserves fair play.

All my best,
J.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

J.

I notice you didn't answer a single one of my questions...

I'm sorry you don't accept Augustine's viewpoint. I also didn't realize that you were more authoritative than the OED.

I've given this priest fair play.

It's a pity you can't see that.

bgeorge77 said...

The Denzinger paragraph you quote is a condemned error of John Hus, see the note right before par 627 in the link you provide.