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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vocations: Charismatics vs. Traditionalists

Two very small towns in Michigan have produced dozens of Catholics religious and priests. Each town has produced 22 priests (44 priests between them), and have together produced over 80 religious:
Westphalia (population 938) has produced 37 Catholic nuns over the decades, according to diocesan data, while Fowler claims 43. Marita Wohlfert, who is 20, is in the running to make it 44
What accounts for this success? Well, Most Holy Trinity Parish, in Fowler, MI (population 1,224) celebrated the following in its Activities and News for June 19, 2014:
Meanwhile, St. Mary Church in Westphalia, MI has an entire page devoted to the Steubenville Youth Conference. 

Two "Catholic ghettoes"... towns full to overflowing with charismatic Catholics who sure do seem to create a lot of vocations. Can any traditionalist parish boast this kind of religious vocation response? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? 

I made this remark below in response to a reader's comment, but it deserves to be in the main body of the article:
I know many, many traditionalists who bear a striking distaste for the charismatic movement, accusing it of all manner of schism and heresy. The FSSP has had a quarter century to produce the kind of tight-knit communities described in this article, and - if it truly represented the traditions of the Catholic Faith - it would be building on the vast substrate of traditions that existed for two millennia, a substrate that suffered only a 25-year interregnum after VCII.

One would think the FSSP, were it truly as organic an outgrowth of the Catholic Faith as it claims to be, would be much, much more successful than the charismatic renewal in producing this kind of vocation boom. Yet quite the opposite seems to be the case.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Satanic Sermons

As a follow-up to my comparison between the FSSP and the Charismatic Renewal, we have the Pentecost sermon. It beautifully illustrates my point. Keep in mind that the parish pastor celebrated the Mass, while the parochial vicar delivered the sermon, so the pastor knew and approved of the sermon ahead of time.

So, because today was the birthday of the Church, being Pentecost, the solemn liturgical celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the giving of the gift of tongues to the apostles and the other disciples, the conversion of 3000 to Christ, a day of joy, thanksgiving and happiness, the FSSP priest decided - as any right-thinking priest would - to give us an extended meditation on hell and the various ways to get there.

Hmmm... What's that?
What did you ask?
Well, in his defense, what else would you EXPECT him to preach about on Pentecost? Indeed, what else would you expect him to preach about EVER?  No matter WHAT the Sunday? But I digress.

He began with this quote from Pope Leo XIII's Humanum Genus:
The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, "through the envy of the devil," separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God.
Now, I will pass by in total silence (too late!) the fact that Adam and Eve are, according to the traditional calendar, celebrated as saints of the Church on December 24. For if I were to dwell on this point at all, I would have to mention how this fact of our first parents' liturgical feast, when combined with Pope Leo's words, would demonstrate how cautiously we must tread whenever we read Church documents.

"But," as the beloved FSSP priest functionally replied, "to hell with caution!" He took Leo's passage as the jump-point to illustrate that, while 3000 Jews DID respond to Peter's exhortation, thousands of Jews did NOT respond to Peter's call. And they are therefore all part of the Kingdom of Satan! Yes, all of them!

He did allow as how the Jews who responded positively, being all travelers from foreign parts and new to town,  certainly had nothing to do with the Crucifixion.

Incidentally, how does he know this? Isn't it possible that some of the travelers DID join in and participate in Christ's crucifixion with gusto but, stung by Peter's interpretation of Scripture, actually turned and repented? "Balderdash and PSHAW!" bellows the reply! This fine parochial vicar not only treated such a possibility with complete silence, he implicitly rejected it as an outrageous claim.

So, the rest of the Jews, the ones who rejected Peter's call, these Jews HAD ONCE BEEN (emphasis in the original. Repeated emphasis in the original, in fact) members of the Chosen People but they were now members of the Kingdom of Satan (cue dark organ music - this is a traditional liturgy, after all. No guitars allowed.)!

Now, at this point some Novus Ordo heretic is likely to point out that the Church specifically teaches that this idea is theological insanity.
Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets...  Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.(7) Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself.(8)
The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people.
As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation,(9) nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading.(10) Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.(11) In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, the Church awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (Soph. 3:9 cf. Cf. Is. 66:23; Ps. 65:4; Rom. 11:11-32 .
Our FSSP priest made no attempt to reconcile his interpretation with Nostra Aetate, because... Vatican II! He did not try to show how the Old and the New Covenants are, like the Persons of the Trinity Himself, covenants that can be distinguished but never separated. He didn't point out that the New Covenant contains the power of salvation that was only prophesied by the Old, so that, like the Old and the New Testament, both still apply. Absurd even to propose such a possibility. No, this dear FSSP priest throws all the Jews who failed to accept Christ into the Kingdom of Satan! No one can be saved outside the Church!

And thus we admix truth (no one can be saved outside the Church) with error (the perfidious Jews!). 

Now, he did admit the possibility of blood baptism and baptism of desire (but seemed to apply the last primarily to catechumens without much mention of anyone else having a shot at it), so he at least isn't a Feeneyite. But he spent zero time emphasizing the fact that God holds individuals accountable only for what they know, and not for what they don't.He didn't mention the words of the Holy Spirit via Paul, that every man has the possibility of being saved by the natural law written on their hearts (Romans 2:15).  Instead, he spent quite a lot of time emphasizing that invincible ignorance does not save you, since it is not a sacrament and provides no sanctifying grace. Apparently, we can't trust St. Paul, because he was (did we mention this?) also a Jew.

When Jew-bashing is the order of the day, certain nuances must be omitted for reasons of length. Why waste time on the fruitless hope St. Paul raises when the Gospel so clearly preaches the message "Be Afraid! Be VERY Afraid!"

Instead, then, he then spent a few quiet moments emphasizing the possibility of hellfire to the teens in the audience, indeed, even explicitly addressing them. If you leave your parents' house and then follow up by dallying outside of the Church, you are destined for HELL! 

There. That will keep those teens Catholic! Teens respond well to threats of punishment. In fact, you should always threaten and punish someone most severely just when you are about to have the least amount of input on how they live. Father Pastor knows this about teens because he's raised so many of them. He understands their psychology, you see.

(I Am NOT Making This Up. It Really Happened This Way.)
So, later, I walked out of the parish hall, into the bright sunshine and was met by a white van carrying Catholics looking for a Mass. Only now as I type this does it occur to me how well this maps into the sermon about the out-of-town Jews. God is spooky sometimes.

Anyway, these Catholics, traveling the country in their white van, were concerned. This was the conversation, as close to verbatim as I can render it.

Them: "Are you a member of this parish?"
Me: "Hmmm... I attend Mass here sometimes."
Them: "We're from out of town, traveling, looking for a Mass and didn't realize this was a traditional Latin Mass until we got into the parking lot here."
Me: "Well, yes, it is." I shrug my shoulders
Them: "We're concerned. About what people will say about how we are dressed."
Me: "You're travelers, right? (They nod.) Then it makes no difference - you'll never see these people again, so who cares what they think?" (They laugh, as I hoped they would.)
Me, getting out of the car to show them: "As you can see, I have just slacks and a short-sleeve shirt. I'm sure you're fine."
Them: "Well, do the women have to wear mantillas?"
Me: "My niece just left Mass and wasn't wearing one. There's no requirement to do so."
Them: "Well, we're concerned that they may look at us kind of funny. Some of us are wearing shorts."
Me: "If they look at you funny, look back at them funny." (I made a face - they laughed).
Them: "Well, we don't want to be a scandal or distraction."
Me: "Just sit in the back. You'll be fine. Look, Jesus is here. If some of the congregation doesn't act like Jesus, that's kind of par for the course, right?" We all laugh. He drives off.
I didn't look to see if he parked, as I was also driving off in the other direction. I hope he did. But that's between him and God. To be honest, I was so scandalized by the conversation that I was too preoccupied to watch what he did.

He had concerns about the traditional Catholic congregation sitting in judgement of him. The saddest thing is this: his concerns were well-founded. I am positive that the minute he and his family walked in, this congregation was scandalized. 

Because, you and I both know Jesus HATES people who wear shorts. 
God just HATES them. 
As the Scriptures say:
And the Lord said to Samuel: Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature: because I have rejected him, nor do I judge according to the look of man: for man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge with just judgment. (John 7:24)
Well, no, ignore those Scriptures. The point is, if they didn't dress right, then God hates them. Because that is TOTALLY how God operates.

Here are these people who just want to go to Mass and receive Jesus. That's all they want. But instead of being able to prepare themselves for Mass, they have to spend time worrying about the community sinning by taking scandal. They have to worry about a bunch of gossipy old women and flinty-eyed old men whispering to their children, warning them to avert their eyes. 

They have to deal with a congregation of liturgy police rolling their eyes, heaving great sighs, pointedly turning away from them after Mass because - well isn't it obvious that these travelers didn't bother to take the time to dress for Mass?  I mean, when *I* travel, I always take the time, but these people just couldn't be bothered! This Novus Ordo mentality is the death of the Church! Why didn't they just come in wearing bikinis and flip-flops, with sand on their feet! Disgusting!

And what if they DID come in so dressed, and sat in the back praying "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!"? Well, at least they would be in back, where they belong, so that those of us sitting in the front pew would be justified and right to pray to God without distraction, saying, "Thank you God, that you did not make me like these sinners! I wear ties to Mass, both with the dark suit and the tan!"

Amen, amen I say to you, the people in this van showed more love and concern for both God and neighbor than many of the righteous who celebrated in the traditional Latin Mass congregation today.

Why is traditionalism stuck on STUPID?
Why will they NEVER make any serious converts among the pagans in the Aereopagus?

I give you this Pentecost.
And I rest my case.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The FSSP vs the Charismatic Renewal

A well-meaning ex-Protestant has expressed concern about the charismatic renewal within the Catholic Church. The writer falsely assumes that the modern charismatic renewal is something Protestant in origin, and therefore somehow less than fully worthy of Catholic Faith and practice.

This attitude is as mistaken as the attitudes of the Jews and the Muslims towards Sacred Scripture. After all, Jews and Muslims reject Catholic Scripture in part because they insist that God would never speak to man in a non-Hebrew or non-Arabic language. Indeed, this attitude overlooks the fact that some of our Faith, including the very words of Scripture, find their origin in paganism.    

Consider Acts 17:28: "'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'" The quotes in this passage are from Epimenides' poem Cretica, as is Titus' famous assertion that "All Cretans are liars." If we were to reject these passages as not worthy of Scripture because of their pagan origin, we would lose part of our connection with God. 

God established the Church, but He does not bind Himself to move only within the Church. He may well have chosen to send the modern charismatic renewal to the Protestants first precisely to facilitate a reunion between the shards of the Church our sins helped fragment into pieces. Baptized Christians, no matter their profession of Faith, are - by the fact of their baptism - our brothers in Christ, separated by their misunderstanding and our sinful example, but no less deserving of the gifts of the Spirit's grace than are we ourselves.

As for the utility of the charismatic renewal versus, say, "traditional" Catholicism, let us study the evidence. After all, how often have we heard "traditional" Catholics attack the last ecumenical council based on the paucity of fruits from that Council? So, if we are to compare spiritual movements by the standard the traditionalists love so well, the standard of fruits, then how would the charismatics match up with a traditional order like the F.S.S.P.? 

 The diocese with the largest concentration of charismatics in the nation is, to my knowledge, Steubenville diocese, with Franciscan University of Steubenville as the hot-bed of charismatics, and HQ for the Catholic Charismatic Conference. The diocese of Steubenville was number one in the nation for new converts, bringing in twice as many converts per Catholic as any other diocese in the nation.

DioceseCatholicsConvertsCatholics per convert
1Steubenville, Ohio36,0301,82620
2Tulsa, Okla.59,2781,27447
2Owensboro, Ky.46,30898347
2Birmingham, Ala.90,7271,92447
5Jackson, Miss.47,72499048
6Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla.64,4001,28050
7Oklahoma City113,8572,17252
9Mobile, Ala.67,4881,21656
10Lexington, Ky.45,51478458
Source: Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University 

In the United States, no diocese has more than three FSSP parishes. The dioceses of Phoenix, Seattle, Kansas City and Venice each have three parishes with F.S.S.P. priests. Notice none of them are even in the top 10 for converts, much less challenging Steubenville for the top spot. Notice the diocese of Lincoln, which has the F.S.S.P. seminary, is not listed in the top ten either.

The article laments the fact that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal has its modern origin in the Protestant Asuza Street revival. But where did the F.S.S.P. come from?

The F.S.S.P. was established on July 18, 1988 at the Abbey of Hauterive, Switzerland by twelve priests and a score of seminarians, led by Father Josef Bisig, all of whom had formerly belonged to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X. They were unwilling to follow that movement into what the Congregation for Bishops and Pope John Paul II defined to be a schismatic act and grounds for excommunication latæ sententiæ due to Lefebvre's consecration of four bishops without a papal mandate. In short, the spirituality of the F.S.S.P. finds its origin in the spirituality of Archbishop Lefebvre

If we were to examine ultimate origins, we would find that the F.S.S.P. is a breakaway group of priests who were all originally part of the S.S.P.X.  These priests were all essentially fine with Archbishop Lefebvre's disobedience between 1976 and 1988, but even they were unable to stomach his decision to consecrate four bishops without papal permission. Thus, the founding of the F.S.S.P.

To date, the Confraternity of Saint Peter, the lay group which unite themselves to the work of the F.S.S.P., claims a total worldwide membership of 4135 (French speakers,  643; German speakers, 565; and English speakers, 2927). 

The Catholic charismatic renewal movement began following a retreat held from 17 to 19 February 1967 by several faculty members and students from Duquesne University, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh operated by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (a Catholic religious order founded in France in 1703). As of 2003, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal exists in over 230 countries in the world, with over 119 million members. Indeed, the author of the wrong-headed article even admits "the charismatic parish down the road from us gives out more seminarians every year than all the other parishes in the Diocese combined."

Both laity and religious orders within the Church are constantly in need of renewal, as we witness through such orders as the Franciscans Friars of the Renewal. To say that recognition of this fact is somehow "heresy" betrays a Protestant misunderstanding of how God works in the world and in His Church. Clearly, God sent the Catholic Church the charismatic renewal precisely in order to renew His people, else we would not have such rich fruits from the movement. Indeed, it has to date been a much richer source of renewal than any of the "traditionalist" movements, which all got their start in the spiritual action and under the spiritual direction of a formally schismatic archbishop, Lefebvre. 

If we are to take note of origins, surely Lefebvre's conscious break with the Church he knew full well was both One and True stands a little farther down the scale of legitimate spirituality than the Asuza Street Protestants' desire to seek the will of Jesus Christ in their lives?

So, how can we choose between them?
We could choose by their fruits.

But somehow, I suspect the cup with which the traditionalists are wont to measure the effects of Vatican II will almost certainly not be the cup with which they wish to measure their own spiritual accomplishments.