At the time of the Reformation, when the visible unity of the Church was broken for doctrinal reasons, the Mass became a memorial service for most Reformers, its unity with Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary became purely “spiritual” and the objective, sacramental, substantial re-presentation of that sacrifice was denied. With the disappearance of the sacrifice of the Mass, the ordained priesthood was reduced to ministry, a function or service based only on baptism. The sacrament of Holy Orders was lost to the life of the Protestant faith communities. With the loss of ordained priesthood, the sacrament of penance or reconciliation became unnecessary, for neither the Church nor the priest mediated the penitent’s relationship to God’s mercy. Nor did the bond of marriage continue to enjoy the character of sacramentality, opening that tie to the contemporary reduction of marriage to an external, legal permission to have sex between two consenting adults. The individualism that is left when mediation disappears makes even the saints competitors with Christ, so there is no room for the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints to pray for us or care for us. At best, they become reminders of good behavior in past history; devotion to them is classed as a form of idolatry.
There are many good people whose path to holiness is shaped by religious individualism and private interpretation of what God has revealed. They are, however, called Protestants. When an informed and committed group of Catholics, such as the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, comes up with an agenda for discussion that is, historically, Protestant, an important point is being made. Catholics assimilated to American culture, which is historically Protestant, are now living with great tension between how their culture shapes them and what their Catholic faith tells them to hold.
This is not surprising. Many writers who claim to be Catholic make names for themselves by attacking truths basic to our faith. Without the personal integrity that would bring them to admit they have simply lost the faith that comes to us from the Apostles, they reconstruct it on a purely subjective, individualistic basis and call it renewal. The Second Vatican Council wasn’t called to turn Catholics into Protestants. It was called to ask God to bring all Christ’s followers into unity of faith so that the world would believe who Christ is and live with him in his Body, the Church. The de-programming of Catholics, even in some of our schools and religious education and liturgical programs, has brought us to a moment clearly recognized by the bishops in the Synod of 1985 (when the Catechism of the Catholic Church was proposed as a partial solution to confusion about the central mysteries of faith) and acknowledged by many others today.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Cardinal George hits the nail on the head
In a wonderful article (full article), Cardinal George of Chicago talks about how the Catholic Church and identity as Catholics. I will put a long excerpt here, but recommend the full article more. I have put emphasis in the excerpt myself.