Once more, here is a series of thoughts too small to rate a blog post on their own, combined into a general theme of people getting things wrong.
Drama Queens in the Church
There is a phenomenon in the Church where some people look at whatever incident comes along, assumes the worst and says this is the most serious crisis in the history of the Church. Usually they say this about the modern Western materialism and secularism on one hand, and members of the Church publicly saying things which are stupid and sometimes even sinful. I see this, and I want to say, “More serious than Arianism, or Nestorianism? More serious than when heretics used monks as brawlers to attack orthodox Catholics? More serious than heretical rulers trying to impose themselves over the authority of the Church? More serious than those times when the Freemasons, Nazis and Communists tried to suppress Christianity in different countries?"
I’m not denying these times are harmful for souls and we have to oppose the harmful movements. I’m just saying that we should stop being drama queens, thinking our times are the worst times, as if we could do nothing about it. Faithful Catholics have stood up against the evils of every age. Now it’s our turn to step up and face the challenge.
I have no objection to Cardinal Sarah’s recommendations that the priests say the Mass ad orientem (facing the [liturgical] east). if my pastor follows his recommendation, I’ll support him and explain the reasons why. If the Church mandates it, I’ll give my assent. I won’t let my personal preferences stand in the way of the legitimate authority of the Church in a matter of discipline. The Church had the right to make the change to ad populum (facing the people) and she can change it back again to emphasize different aspects of the faith or stop an error. It’s like the Church allowing or withholding the chalice for the laity.
But I do object to how some combox warriors are portraying it. This is not going to solve all our problems. People are people who get bad ideas. The Church could go back to the 1962 Missal and some idiot would try to turn it into a “clown mass” despite the rubrics. Nor will people “just get used to it.” Remember, some people who grew up with ad orientem bitched for 40 years about the change. We’re supposed to think people who grew up with ad populum won’t react the same way?
They Don’t Just Get the Pope Wrong
People pitched a fit when Archbishop Chaput published guidelines for applying Amoris Lætitia. They’re outraged that the bishop said that to receive the Eucharist we cannot be guilty of a grave sin, and people who remarried when their first marriage was valid need to live as brother and sister if they want to receive. His words are:
Every Catholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. In some cases, the subjective responsibility of the person for a past action may be diminished. But the person must still repent and renounce the sin, with a firm purpose of amendment.
With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist.
Archbishop Chaput isn’t saying anything new. This has always been the position of the Church and, despite claims from the combox warriors, this doesn’t contradict Amoris Lætitia.
For Mercy’s Sake!
People get mercy wrong. When the Pope speaks of mercy, he’s not advocating moral laxity in the Church. Mercy is (according to the glossary in the Catechism), “The loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to one who offends.” But the Pope links mercy to repentance. If we want God to show us mercy, we must repent and turn away from wrongdoing. Bishop Robert Barron describes Pope Francis’ approach this way:
[M]any receive the message of divine mercy as tantamount to a denial of the reality of sin, as though sin no longer mattered. But just the contrary is the case. To speak of mercy is to be intensely aware of sin and its peculiar form of destructiveness. Or, to shift to one of the pope’s favorite metaphors, it is to be acutely conscious that one is wounded so severely that one requires not minor treatment but the emergency and radical attention provided in a hospital on the edge of a battlefield. Recall that when Francis was asked in a famous interview to describe himself, he responded, “a sinner.” Then he added, “who has been looked upon by the face of mercy.” That’s getting the relationship right.
Barron, Robert (2016-03-31). Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism (Kindle Locations 617-622). Word on Fire. Kindle Edition.
When we seek mercy, we seek the healing from the field hospital. When we show mercy, we’re taking a role in assisting the Divine Physician. But either way, we recognize a terrible wound exists that needs treatment. The Pope’s not saying “reclassify that wound as being a natural condition.” We should stop thinking he is.
We need to avoid confusing our thoughts and feelings on a subject with what the Church teaches or with what the Pope says. People get things wrong and, from those mistakes, create scenarios of disaster where there are none. But these disasters are in our own minds. That’s not to say everything is fine and dandy in the Church. Things never were in the Church (See Acts 6:1 for example). But we need to keep things in context to avoid driving ourselves to despair, believing the Church has fallen into ruin. That paralyzes us. We don’t work with the Pope and Church in bringing people to Our Lord. Instead we brawl on the deck of the Barque of Peter over which way we think the ship should be going...
…and that’s the attitude present in every serious crisis in the Church.