Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Brick by brick

It is pretty well axiomatic that if you want to read a reasoned and charitable discussion on important issues, you won't find it in blog comment boxes. There 'Mr Angry of Purley' has full rein, barely even subject to editorial moderation, to write what his most extreme emotions tell him to write at two o'clock in the morning, perhaps having worked his way through most of a whisky bottle. And he doesn't even need to write his real name. From his hermitage (or his computer room anyway) he damns the world, and certainly weasel priests like me who hesitate to turn our altars around immediately and begin celebrating the Traditional Mass exclusively, no matter what our parishioners think.

The poor Holy Father is often invoked in all this 'why won't he just order the bishops to X…?' (here write in whatever your particular gripe is). There is no consideration as to what will happen if the bishop says 'no!' What does the Holy Father do? Excommunicate the bishop, of course! And when two-thirds of the episcopate are excommunicated, what then?

It is just the same, on a smaller scale, in our parishes. I should, apparently, order my musicians to put away their guitars and use the Liber Usualis from next Sunday. Well, what if they say no? I could indeed turn my parish into a screaming hell-hole of bitter arguments, but would that actually serve any purpose? In the end, my parishioners would, the majority of them, either mutinously put up with the situation, or else go somewhere other for Mass, or lapse. I would actually inoculate them against the very thing I was trying to bring about.

I am completely convinced that Pope Benedict and, indeed, the Doctor Lapidarius Father Zuhlsdorf have it right. 'Brick by brick, folks'.

The Church tried repression before. In the past, of course, it could back up its commands with the Inquisition and the State's pyre. Those options aren't open to us; our age in that respect is more civilized, thank God. But in our modern world, people really can vote with their feet, and they need to be persuaded, not ordered. Both Blessed Pius IX and St Pius X, wonderful men, tried dealing with what was then called 'Liberal Catholicism' and came to be called 'Modernism' with repression. It worked up to a point. But only up to a point, Lord Copper.

If a person asks an intelligent question, one is well advised to try and give an intelligent answer. The response 'you aren't allowed to ask that question!' may produce compliance, but a reluctant one. Resentments will seethe and brew under the surface, and the questions will not go away; rather they will become more insistent. In a more liberal age, they will burst forth like a dam breaking, and carry away all sorts of good stuff in the torrent. Is not that a good description of the Church of the 60s and since?

Right now, the Holy Father could jump up and down, shout and holler for obedience. He is unlikely to get it from everyone, and he risks actually putting the Church into a worse state by trying. Instead, he is using the policy of the Doctor Lapidarius; brick by brick. At last, the serious questions of the liberals are being treated seriously and being answered by someone who doesn't lose his temper or his charity. It is an awesome sight. I re-read the other day the Introduction to the Holy Father's first Jesus of Nazareth book. He begins by saying that what he wants to do is simply, reconnect the 'Jesus of Faith' with the 'Jesus of History.' And does just that. Bingo! Is not that worth thousands of anathemas? Even The Tablet has to acknowledge the Pope's theological skill and eloquence! On the liturgical front, he presents what he thinks people can manage right now, and by doing it himself, encourages others to imitate him. Hence all the 'benedictine arrangements' appearing here and there. For those who want the traditional Mass, it can be freely offered. It is up to the Mr Angrys to go to them, support them, encourage them, and, brick by brick, rebuild what has been lost, only stronger and better, having learnt important lessons along the way.

And that is the model for the parish, too. Brick by brick. No anathemas, just helping people to love and desire the truth because it is, just simply, better.


Anonymous said...

A very wise and true posting. The Holy Father is a very wise man as we found out when he came to these shores. Though many of us would have known this already.
"Brick by brick"is indeed the right approach. Though if you have been waiting three years for even an occasional EF Mass, as we have. It can seem an eternity. One elderly member of our group now thinks she will not see it before she goes to her reward. She could be correct.

berenike said...

Hear hear!

Fr William R. Young said...

Spot on!
That is why we must all pray for the Pope. We will, prhaps, and alas, only have him for a few more years. We must totally support him in his mission.

Maurice said...

Marvellous post. Thank you.

Joseph Shaw said...

Well said Fr!

Mater mari said...

What an inspired post! I am reminded of why, when we lived in Sussex, we often drove 12 miles to one of your parishes.
Now that we have moved to England's smallest county we are blessed with a magnificent parish priest who, like you, is making changes 'brick by brick'. We are fortunate indeed.

Seth said...

Splendid post, Father, thank you!

Tom Piatak said...

An outstanding post.

GOR said...

“I’ve told them and they don’t listen to me.” These are the words of Pope John Paul II when asked why he didn’t rein in recalcitrant bishops on various issues. At the election of Pope Benedict some expected that a ‘reign of terror’ would be unleashed on the Church. Given his popular depiction as ‘The Enforcer’, it was expected that the former Cardinal Ratzinger would wield a big stick in cleaning up abuses in the Church.

But, after decades in the Vatican, Pope Benedict is well aware of the forces at work there and elsewhere. Furthermore as a former Roman ‘outsider’ he well knows the other side as well. As the peritus of Cardinal Josef Frings at Vatican II, he was on the liberal side of that council and deemed the author of Cardinal Frings’ famous speech critical of the workings of the Curia.

So the Holy Father has seen both sides and rather than fulminating, issuing excommunications and anathemas, he decides to lead by example. Talking of his role at CDF in “Salt of the Earth” he dismissed the suggestion that he was exercising power or even had much power to exercise. He said: “All we can do actually is appeal to the bishops, who in turn must appeal to the theologians or to the religious superiors. Or else we can attempt dialogue. There are, of course, also disciplinary measures, which we try to apply as sparingly as possible…In any case, it always takes good will and a desire to serve the Church on the part of all.”

There is no doubt about the Holy Father’s good will and service. As to assorted bishops and bishops’ conferences…? The jury is still out.

B flat said...

"Helping people to love and desire the Truth, because it is simply better."
Your post is perceptive, Father, and gives encouragement to hope. I do not wish to discourage, but one aspect is not much spoken of.

There are religious Orders with ancient traditions. From the example of their lives, and of their pastoral work, many drew strength and inspiration in the past. After 1970 they departed from their traditions, to become relevant, and few cared to join them in their new unstable life. Many monasteries and religious houses closed, those which remain are usually ageing and struggling to survive.

When the monks, friars, and canons regular, return to the life of discipline and worship of their predecessors, then the Church will regain her strength, and the young will come in numbers to serve God again. Of this I am certain.

Stephen Davis said...

hear, hear!

MC Man said...

Guitars are not the problem,there is room for all types of music depending on the occasion eg Childrens Mass,Solemn Mass with incense etc.I think the problem is some of the well intentioned but domineering people who sometimes run the church choir who will not listen either to the Priest or other parishioners, who choose music that would be more suitable for a Methodist chapel And dont dare ask for occasional Latin or traditional hymns thats a definate NO.

Genty said...

Wise words.

Richard Duncan said...

Nothing sets wrong right so soon as geniality. There are a thousand things to be reformed, and no reformation succeeds unless it be genial. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm; crushed perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never. Men want to advocate changes, it may be in politics, or in science, or in philosophy, or in literature, or perhaps in the working of the Church. They give lectures, they write books, they start reviews, they found schools to propagate their views, they coalesce in associations, they collect money, they move reforms in public meetings, and all to further their peculiar ideas. They are unsuccessful. From being unsuccessful themselves they become unsympathetic with others. From this comes narrowness of mind. Their very talents are deteriorated. The next step is to be snappish, then bitter, then eccentric, then rude. After that, they abuse people for not taking their advice; and, last of all, their impotence, like that of all angry prophets, ends in the shrillness of a scream. Why they scream is not so obvious. Perhaps for their own relief. It is the frenzy of the disregarded sibyl. All this comes of their not being genial. Without geniality no solid reform was ever made yet. But if there are a thousand things to reform in the world, there are tens of thousands of people to convert. Satire will not convert men. Hell threatened very kindly is more persuasive than a biting truth about a man's false position. The fact is, geniality is the best controversy. The genial man is the only successful man. Nothing can be done for God without geniality. More plans fail for the want of that than for the want of anything else. A genial man is both an apostle and an evangelist; an apostle, because he brings men to Christ; an evangelist, because he portrays Christ to men.

Fr Faber: Spiritual Conferences