Monday, July 29, 2013

Charisma or "Charismania"


The Catholic Church is currently in a period of liturgical reform, which began in earnest on July 7th. 2007, with Pope Benedict XVI's decree of Summorum Pontificum.  It has since, very slowly, ramped up to a pitch now where it's starting to get some notice.  All over the Western world, youth are flocking to more traditional celebrations of the Church's liturgy in increasing numbers.  More Vatican prelates are speaking out on the necessity of liturgical reform, even citing liturgical abuse as a major contributor to increased immorality in the world, and bringing the Church back to a more traditional way of doing things. Some bishops are now beginning to question the common interpretations of Vatican II, and are calling upon the Holy Father to make some doctrinal clarifications. Even Pope Francis, in speaking of the modern Western Rite, in comparison to the more traditional Eastern rites of the Church, has said: "We have lost a bit the sense of adoration... We are in need of this renewal, of this fresh air of the East, of this light from the East. John Paul II wrote it in his Letter. But so many times the luxus [luxury] of the West makes us lose the horizon."  As I pointed out in a previous article, even new reformed expressions of the modern vernacular (Ordinary Form) mass, are in some places taking on characteristics that look virtually identical to the ancient Latin (Extraordinary Form) mass.  Pope Benedict XVI really started something, and nothing is going to stop it now.  What he did with Summorum Pontificum was not an earthquake, but rather a subtle tectonic shift.  The movement is slow, sometimes undetectable, but it is massive in size, and unstoppable simply because of that size.  Everywhere this traditional "Reform of the Reform" is under way, gaining momentum, and demanding more attention.  It is clear that if parishes and dioceses don't get out in front of this, they're going to be left behind.  In another article, The New Mass -- According to Vatican II, I attempted to bring attention to simple ways any parish priest can bring about this traditional "Reform of the Reform" in his parish, without having to learn Latin, or use the Extraordinary Form.  This can all be accomplished in any vernacular Ordinary Form mass, with only a few modifications.  It's not hard at all.  The complete article, along with a free video demonstration, can be found by clicking HERE.

When we see videos like the one above however, the "singing priest in Brazil," with his charismatic worship services, we're not sure what to think.  The press would have us believe that this is the future of the Catholic Church, but statistics tell us otherwise.  Surely, over the last 40 years the Charismatic Renewal movement has grown strong in the Catholic Church, most especially in the Americas, but is this really the future of Catholicism?  Maybe it is in part, but certainly not in full.  Of course, the question is "how" do we reconcile charismatic renewal movements such as this, with traditional renewal movements such as what we've witnessed over the last several years since Summorum Pontificum.  Can they be reconciled at all?  I believe they can be, but not until we understand the difference between charisma versus charismania.

Charisma is defined as a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, and in a Christian sense, it is seen as a divinely conferred power or talent.  Now pay attention here because this is important.  Charisma is a "divinely conferred power" that "can inspire devotion in others."  By that is meant devotion to God of course.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way...
So that she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit “bestows upon [the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.” “Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility and self–denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.” -- CCC 768
The Catholic Church cannot deny the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit because they have always been present since her founding on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem in 33 AD.  So there is really something to this, but as I said, to deal with it properly, we have to understand what it is and what it is not.

Charismania is defined as expressions of chaos within a religious context, that are usually loud and distracting, bringing more attention to the one exercising the charismatic "gifts" than to the one who supposedly gave these "gifts" -- that being God.  The term "charismania" was first coined by Fundamentalist Protestants, in a derogatory way, to describe the scene often found in Pentecostal Protestant churches.  However, the term works well in Catholic settings too.  Charismania is when human emotions take over, and actually begin to drown out the spiritual charisma of God.  When dealing with charismatic religious expressions, the first question every Catholic should ask himself is this: "Am I dealing with charisma or charismania here?"  The way to determine the difference is simple.  All one needs to do is determine if the event is driven by the Spirit of God or human emotions.  There is definitely room for human emotions inside of authentically Spirit-led events.  There is nothing wrong with tears of joy and cries of excitement, but inside of an authentically Spirit-led event there is always order and dignity.  Human emotion is a messy thing.  When events become chaotic and disorderly, they risk becoming more of a soulish (emotional) occasion than a Spiritual one.  I'll dive more into this topic later.  Right now I want to deal with the events of World Youth Day and how that relates to the pontificate of the current Holy Father.

Pope Francis understands something, and he is not alone.  Pope Benedict XVI understood it, and Pope John Paul II profoundly understood it.  If we don't revive Catholic youth, all other reforms won't matter. They will be a moot point. A clean Church won't matter if its an empty Church.  There are those who charge that failure to clean the house is what prevents new people from entering.  Experience tells us otherwise. The house must be cleaned of course, but it will never be spotless (totally free of corruption, heresy and liturgical abuse).  We can make it better, but we can't make it perfect.  Only God can do that, and he will make it perfect, on the last day. Experience and history tell us, however, that converts come into the Church not when she is perfectly clean, but when she is engaged with the suffering of the world. Clean or unclean, her willingness to engage the poor, sick and miserable is what gives the Church her evangelical and charismatic character. This is what attracts people, particularly the youth, and this is what Pope Francis understands in a very profound way.  So this is understandably, his profound focus.

So enters the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church with its attempt to re-engage the youth by tapping into their energy and excitement. There is nothing new here. It's been going on since the first World Youth Day back in 1984. However, it's not just World Youth Day. Similar methods of tapping into the energy and excitement of youth are employed in LifeTeen and other similar youth programs. Pope Francis has never had any problem tapping into this method of channelling the youth to deliver his message of engaging the suffering world with the love (charity) of Christ. To be sure however, this is just one of many vehicles for him. It is the message that reigns supreme in his ministry.  It's not about loud music, dancing and arms waving in the air. For Francis understands something that we all must understand, and when we do understand it, it will put to ease many of the concerns of traditional and contemporary Catholics alike. What Francis understands, and what we all must understand, is that all of this youthful excitement and jubilee is fleeting. Today it is here and tomorrow it's gone. Any seasoned Christian (Catholic or Protestant) will tell you that. Attempts to maintain such a heightened emotional state indefinitely will always fail.  Eventually reality catches up with all of us and we have to return to the daily grind of life. The excitement of youth will eventually leave us all. This is unavoidable.  That doesn't mean the joy of Christ must leave us though. You see, in order to have the joy of Christ, we have to first understand what it is, and this is the message Francis is seeking to impart to us all. Joy comes from hearing Christ's words and obeying them. It does not come from an ecstatic feeling of excitement. It comes from the peace of simply knowing God's will for your life and doing it. Of course, God's will for all of us is laid out in the gospel, the teachings of the Catholic Church, and most especially her liturgy.  This is true joy, and this is what lasts. It lasts beyond the drums, beyond the music, beyond the excitement and ecstatic feelings of youth and energy. This is joy that lasts a lifetime, and this is what we all need to hear, know and profoundly understand.

The concern of traditional Catholics is a perfectly legitimate one, and I'm sure that when presented in these terms, our Holy Father Pope Francis would agree. The concern is that if liturgy becomes simply another method of producing a heightened emotional state, its profound message of true Christian joy will fail to be conveyed. When people go to mass just to get a certain "feeling," they miss the purpose of why they are there. The later state could potentially be worse than the former, because if they mistakenly thought the objective of mass was to invoke a certain "feeling," and it eventually is no longer able to do that, many people will walk away.  Indeed, isn't that exactly what has happened over the last four decades?  Is not the disenchantment of many, with the mass, rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what the mass really is and what it's for?  As I've written of previously in my popular article, Converting Protestants -- A Secret Method, when it comes to invoking a certain feeling of excitement and energy, Protestants do it better. They always have and they always will, because after all is said and done, especially in the Evangelical and Charismatic traditions, that is the focus of their worship services. Catholics will never be able to fully duplicate what the Evangelical/Charismatic Protestants have created, because our focus of worship (liturgy) is fundamentally different, and seeks a fundamentally different goal.

That goal of mass is a singular one.  It's about bringing God and man closer together.  What does that mean.  It means man giving God the worship that is due to him.  For human beings are the only biological creatures on this planet that are capable of worshipping him.  We, humanity, represent all of material creation when we worship God. We are the material universe's "ambassadors" (so-to-speak) to the divine.  Animals, plants and minerals cannot worship God.  That's our job.  When we worship God, we represent all of the world around us, as the pinnacle of God's creation. It also means that God gives of himself to us.  In the act of Holy Communion, God bends himself down, reaching down deeply, to touch us.  He does this by transubstantiating physical matter into his real and actual presence in the Holy Eucharist, which is to be consumed by us, his material creations, in a real and material way.  The liturgy of the mass is designed to help us understand this reality.  It is NOT designed to entertain us.  It never was and it never will be, because you see, the mass is not about our entertainment.  It's about man reaching up to God in worship, and God reaching down to man as physical matter.  Thus it's about man and God coming together in Holy Communion.  The liturgy is designed to convey this reality in a dignified and beautiful way.  It is not designed to entertain us.  Any attempt to make the mass "entertaining" is severely misguided and a perversion of what the mass is really all about.  Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of this, and the liturgical renewal he started in July of 2007, is designed to ultimately bring the entire Church back to this understanding.  As time passes, the Church will most certainly return to a more traditional way of doing things.  It is already under way and unstoppable now.

So with that being said, where does this charismatic renewal of youth and excitement fit in, and how do we integrate the two in a spiritually healthy manner?

I think a good place to start is understanding the difference between the spiritual and the emotional.  Spiritual gifts can sometimes provoke emotional responses, but not always, and the two are not one in the same.  The Spirit comes from God, while emotion comes from man.  Yes, there is plenty of room in the Catholic Church for both, but these things must be done in an orderly way that gives glory to God not man.  Let's start with music shall we?

There is plenty of room in the Catholic Church for exciting and vibrant contemporary worship music, but the place for it is not the mass, or any liturgical function for that matter.  The mass (and all Catholic liturgies in general) have organically developed over more than a thousand years for the specific purpose of bring one's attention to the miracle of man's interaction with the Divine.  This is something that should never be treated lightly, and never tampered with in any kind of abrupt way.  This pertains to liturgical music as well.  Many of our modern hip-hop masses may be sincere, but they are also sincerely misguided.  Of course there is room for contemporary music in the Catholic Church, but how it's used is extremely important.  What many youth worship leaders have complained of, is what is commonly called the "let down effect."  Catholic youth ministries will invest a tremendous amount of music to get youth interacted before mass.  The worship band will ramp up the tempo of the music to a near frenzy, and then the liturgy begins, with it's slow methodical pace, leaving the youth "let down" in an anticlimactic way. As a result of this, parish priests come under tremendous pressure to allow contemporary music during liturgy of the mass itself, so as to intersperse more exciting contemporary worship music into the more "boring" and "mundane" liturgy.  This results in a "choppy" feel to the mass, with highs and lows, like a liturgical roller-coaster.  Again, this puts the priest under even more pressure to "spice it up" a little when it comes to the words of the liturgy itself and the motions he performs while at the altar.  So enters a complete attitude of entertainment, and this kind of environment is ripe for liturgical abuse.  This is what I would consider the beginning of Charismania -- Catholic style.

Might I suggest there is another way.  It all starts from the beginning and it completely taps into the musical charisma of modern worship bands. One of the problems with modern hip-hop contemporary worship music is that many of our youth leaders are doing it backwards.  Instead of ramping this music up to a crescendo before mass, and/or trying to maintain some kind of a upbeat tempo during mass, it should be the exact opposite.  Instead of ramping up with a crescendo, start off with one, and then slowly ramp it down to a soft, melodic and gentle rhythm just before mass begins.  Then encourage the priest to return to a more traditional style of celebrating mass, with regular use of incense, bells and chant.  The intent here is to use the upbeat loud music to capture the youth's attention, and help them work off some of that energy.  Then slowly lead them down into a proper disposition for Catholic worship, which is a disposition of solemnity and prayer.  This may sound strange at first, but I'm telling you from experience -- it works!  One of the most popular Evangelical chains on the West Coast of the United States is an affiliation called Calvary Chapel.  (NOTE: I am not condoning Calvary Chapel teaching here.  I'm just using their charismatic appeal as an example.)  Anyone who has attended one of their West Coast mega-churches can attest to their phenomenal success. This method of "musical declination" is frequently employed by many of their churches to burn off the hyper-frenzied disposition of modern life and bring worshippers into a proper attitude of prayer and reception of the pastor's sermon.  The worship songs start off fast and loud, then gradually ramp down to slower and quieter melodies.  While I was an Evangelical, I personally watched people in the congregation start off with their hands waving in the air, jumping up and down, and singing at the top of their voices.  Then I watched them slowly settle down, until finally, toward the end of the praise session, some of them were kneeling in the pews.  Now that's saying quite a bit, considering these were Protestant pews that had no kneelers.  These people were kneeling on the floor!  All of this is a testimony to the power of music.  When used properly, it can bring people into the proper state of mind for worship.  If Evangelicals can do that, this actually is something we Catholics can do better.   Because you see, when the Evangelical service starts, it typically consists merely of a prayer and a sermon.  We Catholics on the other hand, have liturgy, chant, bells and incense.  If Catholic youth ministries were to use the method of "musical declination," starting out big and tapering off to a gentle whisper, followed by a traditional-style liturgy with all the chant, smells and bells, I do believe we could actually see some significant growth.  I'm speaking not only of growth in the number of young parishioners, but also in the spiritual growth and maturity of them as well.  The music can lead them from their frenzied modern lives, into a state that is receptive to traditional-style Catholic liturgy, if it is used properly.  The same method can be used for Evening Prayer (Vespers), Eucharistic Adoration, and all sorts of liturgical celebrations.  This also completely takes the pressure off the priest, and allows him to celebrate liturgy the way he was trained to do in seminary.  He can do this with no fear of "boring" the youth, because they've already been led by music into an emotional state that is receptive to it.

Now we ender into the area of charismatic gifts.  Granted, we don't see as much of this as we used to, but it's still there.  I have a friend in California who is a cradle Catholic.  He was raised in a fairly traditional Catholic parish during the 1970s and 80s.  (Yes, if you looked hard enough, you could still find a few here and there.)  Then after he got married he moved to the suburbs outside of Los Angeles.  There he encountered his first experience of Catholics "speaking in tongues" during mass!  He also had the misfortune of watching the hand-waving, fainting in the pews, etc.  He described the whole experience as "spine chilling" and found himself walking out in the middle of the whole thing.  I don't think he even made it to the homily.  It scared him, and it scarred him.  He's been very careful about where he worships ever since.  Multiply this sentiment by tens of millions, and I think we can begin to understand how many Catholics view the whole "charismatic renewal" thing.  This is because what my friend witnessed was not "renewal" at all, but rather an abuse.  There is no such place for these things in the mass, and I believe I can say that with some authority.  Why?  Because the mass is the "divine liturgy."  It is the divinely inspired dialogue between God and man.  The Holy Spirit does not, indeed cannot, interrupt himself.  To speak out in extemporaneous expressions of "tongues" or "prophecy" during mass is blasphemy, because when one does this, one is basically saying that God is not speaking to us in the liturgy or through the homily at all.  It's wrong on all levels.

When it comes to the supernatural "lesser gifts" of the Holy Spirit, such as "speaking in tongues" for example, the methods for doing this are clearly outlined in sacred scripture.  Saint Paul lays out the apostolic rules in 1st Corinthians chapters 12 through 14.  Saint Paul is very detailed and explicit in this.  If you're not going to follow the rules laid down by Saint Paul, then you have no business exercising your "spiritual gifts" at all, because you're acting as a rebel and going against the expressed teachings on "spiritual gifts" in scripture.  Pastors of parishes need to be diligent on this.  They must not let these things slide by or go unsupervised.  Go to 1st Corinthians 12 though 14, and learn how these things are supposed to be done based on holy scripture.  First of all, these things have no place in the official liturgy of the Church, but they could play a role after such liturgies in what some have called "afterglow" services.  I once heard of a parish priest leading an "afterglow" service about 15 minutes after the mass.  He would begin with a benediction and exposition of the blessed sacrament.  Then he and a deacon would would outline the order of service for the youth in attendance.  With the sacrament exposed, a small few were permitted to "speak in tongues," one at a time, in turn, provided there was an officially recognised "interpreter" present.  All of this was done in a decent and orderly manner.  There was no hysteria, no fainting, and no scandalous behaviour.  Now I'm not saying this is how things should always be done, but I am saying this is one example of how things can be done well.  I have only one thing to add to this in the way of "speaking in tongues."  Based on the sacred scriptures (1st Corinthians 14:2-4), the interpreted messages of this manifestation seem to centre around expression of thanks, praise and petition to God, not prophetic messages from God to man.  The charismatic gift of "prophecy" would seem to be a completely separate matter.  As I said, follow the rules of Saint Paul, or else don't do any of this at all.  The Church needs charisma not charismania.  Follow the rules of the apostle, and you will have charisma.  Fail to follow them, and you may end up with charismania.  Sadly, in my lifetime as a Christian (both as a Protestant and then as a Catholic) I have seen far more incidences of charismania than actual charisma in so-called "charismatic" services.

Saint Paul points out, in his instructions on the gifts of the Spirit, the superiority of certain spiritual gifts over others, but the greatest of all spiritual gifts is love (charity).  This is what Pope Francis is telling us, and it is what every pope has told us since the beginning of World Youth Day.  Saint Paul and Pope Francis are talking about the most dramatic and radical kind of love (charity).  They're talking about a love (charity) that moves us out of our comfort zones, and into the streets, where there is hurting, suffering and misery.  This is where the "rubber meets the road" so to speak.  This is where charisma reaches its total fulfilment and becomes one with evangelism.  Let this be absolutely clear though.  Evangelism isn't just about drawing new members into the pews.  No!  It's about getting them there, and then transforming them.  We are all to be transformed into the image of Christ.  This can't happen with constant spasms of emotional highs.  We must be led into the deeper contemplation of solemn worship.  Only then can we fully experience communion with the Divine Son.  Only then can we be made into the image of Christ.  This is what fills us with inner joy.  It is not a joy that is always seen by expressions of excitement and ecstasy, but it is always present underneath our day to day lives, leading us and guiding us into greater works of mercy and ever deeper communion with God.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The New Mass -- According To Vatican II


Novus Ordo Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph
(St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Macon, GA)

In the above video you will see an entire mass, in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, celebrated exactly the way the conciliar fathers at Vatican II envisioned it. Yes, this is what a regular mass is supposed to look like. Seriously! Now, when was the last time you saw a mass like this celebrated at your local parish?

I've written at length on this blog about the liturgy, and that's because I believe it's very important.  There is an old Latin saying that goes like this: Lex orandi, lex credendi.  Roughly translated it means: "The law of prayer is the law of belief."  Basically, what that means is you can tell a lot about the beliefs of Christians by the way they worship.  Case in point; let's look at the Pentecostal Protestants.  Their worship services are marked by loud and fast music, dancing in the pews, hands waving in the air, people falling over in the aisles, frequent interruptions of the pastor's sermon with loud remarks, and sometimes even people "speaking in tongues" with no translation.  If this is how people worship, what does it say of their belief system?  What is their doctrine like?  How do they practice their faith?  The way of public worship is a lot like a mirror into our personal walk with Jesus Christ.  It says a lot about who we are, what we believe and how we practice it.

Thankfully, Catholic worship is much more organised and dignified.  Virtually any Catholic liturgy (with the exception of only rare abuses) looks nothing like a Pentecostal worship service.  However, that doesn't mean that every modern Catholic mass is celebrated the way it was envisioned or intended. In fact, I dare say that most Catholic masses celebrated today have very little in common with what the conciliar fathers at Vatican II intended fifty years ago.

Why is this important?  I mean "who cares" right?  Well, it's actually very important because of that whole Lex orandi, lex credendi thing.  Look, I'm a believer in Vatican II.  I think Vatican II was a good thing, and I'm really glad it happened.  In fact, the Vatican II documents were instrumental to my conversion to the Catholic Church.  It's because I'm such a believer in Vatican II that I'm such a stickler about it.  I believe the council should be followed -- religiously (pun intended).  What I mean is, I think Vatican II is such a good thing, that we must stick to what it actually says, and interpret it in the context it was meant to be interpreted.  Failure to do this is an ABUSE of Vatican II, and I love Vatican II so much, it just breaks my heart to see that happen.  I believe in being faithful to the council!  That means interpreting Vatican II properly and doing exactly what it says.  This is because I believe the Holy Spirit inspired Vatican II, and that means the "Spirit of Vatican II" literally is the Letter of Vatican II, no more and no less.

Here is where things start to get a little fuzzy, because you see, there are a lot of people, who for a very long time, have done things in the name of the "Spirit of Vatican II" that cannot be found anywhere in the Letter of Vatican II.  In the name of the council, very many things have been done, which the conciliar fathers never intended, and many would shutter to witness.  Let me just give you a small list of things that have been done in the name of the "Spirit of Vatican II" but in fact Vatican II never called for nor even suggested...
  1. Dropping all Latin from the liturgy.
  2. Dropping all Gregorian chant from the liturgy.
  3. Introducing contemporary and/or pop music.
  4. Eliminating bells and incense from the liturgy.
  5. The priest facing the people during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
  6. Eliminating altar rails and traditional altars.
  7. Eliminating or discouraging communion on the tongue while kneeling.
  8. Introducing communion in the hand while standing.
  9. Changing the vestments of the mass.
  10. Eliminating Biblical veils for women and girls.
  11. Introducing altar girls.
  12. Introducing extraordinary ministers of holy communion.
  13. Holding hands during the "Our Father."
  14. Changing the layout and structure of church buildings.
  15. Eliminating icons and statues.
  16. Eliminating kneelers.
The list could go on and on.  This does not include the extreme examples of "liturgical abuse" that are seen in some parishes, such as: liturgical dance, changing the words of the liturgy, interrupting the liturgy for various reasons, ministers dressing as clowns or in costumes, and strange performances using puppets or props.  All of these are part of the extreme fringe of liturgical abuse, but sadly, it does exist.  Count yourself lucky if you've never seen them.

The point I'm trying to make is that Vatican II never called for any of this, and it is clearly an abuse of Vatican II to claim these things are part of its "Spirit."  As I said above, the "Spirit of Vatican II" is the Letter of Vatican II.  Everything else is just innovation or abuse.

A wise bishop once told me not to get too uptight about these matters, as the vast majority of such innovations are the result of ignorance and nothing more.  The reason why people do these things, most of the time anyway, is because they just don't know any better.  Those who do know better, are actually a very tiny few.  This speaks more of an educational problem in the Church.  By that I mean a lack of education as to what Vatican II is, and what was intended to be accomplished by Vatican II.

As we enter the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, I would like to call upon every Catholic out there to get back to what Vatican II was really all about, and this would especially include the liturgy.  When it comes to Vatican II, we have to remember the following to interpret it properly...
  1. It was a "pastoral" council, not a "doctrinal" one, because as Pope Paul VI pointed out, the "note of infallibility" was intentionally not attached to any of the documents.  Therefore it is a council on a "lower order" than Vatican I and Trent.  It should be faithfully adhered to of course, but we should also remember its nature in comparison to previous councils.  The Council of Trent was the big one, which outlines the last 500 years of Church teaching and practice.  Vatican I dogmatically defined a few details, and Vatican II simply presented these things in a modern pastoral way.
  2. Everything written within Vatican II must be interpreted in the setting and teaching of everything before Vatican II.  This is the council's proper context.  Thus as Pope Benedict XVI taught us, we must interpret Vatican II in a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the past, and not a "hermeneutic of rupture" from the past.
  3. Finally, we must remember that the liturgy the conciliar fathers used at Vatican II was the old Latin mass.  It was in this context, and this context alone, that they envisioned the changes they mentioned.  Anything not mentioned in Vatican II has nothing to do with Vatican II -- period.
By following these three principles, I think we can avoid many of the errors and pitfalls surrounding our interpretation of Vatican II.  As a former Evangelical Protestant turned Roman Catholic, I appreciate the necessity of interpreting things properly.  For many of the errors Evangelical Protestants commonly make in interpreting the Bible, I have witnessed many Roman Catholics make while interpreting the documents of Vatican II.  Stick to the above three principles and that won't happen.

The mass in the video above is a perfect example of what a modern Catholic mass is supposed to look like in English, based on how the conciliar fathers envisioned it.  As we look back on Vatican II fifty years later, I do hope many priests and parishes will find their way back to what the Second Vatican Council actually said, and the original vision of the conciliar fathers.  For the sake of the council, and its preservation, I pray this happens soon.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Monday, July 08, 2013

Catholic Dating in the Bible Belt

COURTSHIP
by Edmund Blair Leighton
(21 September 1852 – 1 September 1922)
Recently, I overheard some local teenage Catholic girls lamenting about their selection of Catholic boys in the area.  Understandably, this is a problem here in the Ozarks.  The statistic of "7%" was thrown around a bit.  I assume they were citing the percentage of eligible Catholic boys in the area.  The truth is, the same problem exists for Catholic boys looking for good Catholic girls.  In fact, it's such a big problem that many Catholic youths end up looking outside the area for a Catholic boyfriend or girlfriend.  Some try dating services, Internet meeting forums, and yes some even rely on their parents to "set them up" with a good Catholic boyfriend or girlfriend.  (Not a bad gig for parents really, when you stop and think about it.)  However, it just goes to show how desperate some of these kids are.

This is coupled with the aggressive proselytism of Evangelicals in the area when it comes to Catholics.  Let's face it, most Baptists and Pentecostals (along with Evangelicals in general) don't know much about Catholicism.  In fact, I dare say that most of them don't even regard Catholics are "real" or "authentic" Christians.  The typical question here in the Ozarks is: "Are you a Catholic OR a Christian?" as if the two are not the same.  As a result of this, dating between Catholics and Protestants often results in the Catholic losing faith, or at the very least a marriage wherein the children end up Protestant or not religious at all.

Sadly, many Catholic families just give up, with parents telling their teenage kids that it doesn't matter who they date, just as long as he or she is a "good person."  Parents, I must discourage this kind of capitulation.  It's a recipe for a future family crisis -- I guarantee it.  The Holy Scriptures tell us to not be "unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14) in our covenant relationships with others.  This especially pertains to marriage.  Now granted, this passage pertains to "unbelievers" and contextually speaking, that would mean those who don't believe in Jesus Christ at all.  However, in a lesser and moderated sense, we could apply this to Protestants as well.  Typically, when Catholics marry Protestants, what usually happens is the Catholic becomes less faithful to the Church, and the kids end up being raised Protestant or non-religious in general.  It is always best for Catholics to marry other Catholics, but that doesn't necessarily mean Catholics have to restrict their dating to Catholics only.  Catholics can date Protestants safely, provided certain ground rules apply.

I'm not a matchmaker, so if you came to this blog looking for a date, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.  However, I do have some guiding principles (ground rules) which I believe will help young Catholics navigate the field of dating here in the very Protestant Ozark mountains, or anywhere in the Bible Belt really...
  1. Start seriously practising your faith if you are not doing that already.  This will do three things.  One, it will help to win the blessings of God, especially in your dating life.  Two, it will help you attract other Catholics (eligible boys or girls).  Three, it will make Protestant boys or girls curious, and knock down their resistance to Catholicism.  I can't stress this enough.  If you're not practising Catholicism, and I mean seriously practising it, then you're wasting your time.  You might as well give up your quest to find (or convert) a good Catholic boyfriend or girlfriend.  It isn't going to happen.  If you're not practising your faith, you're only kidding yourself.  
  2. Learn your faith well, and learn how to both explain it and defend it.  It starts by reading the Bible and the Catechism.  Beyond that, you can use this blog or some Internet apostolate like Catholic Answers.  
  3. Understand what you're doing.  Dating is a type of courtship.  The whole point and purpose of it is to eventually find a person to become your spouse.  It's not for "having fun" or "fitting in."  If these are your objectives, it's time to re-evaluate your priorities.  Now granted, its okay to have fun on dates and enjoy the company of those you are with, but that's a side benefit.  The real objective of the whole process is to learn about yourself, your likes and dislikes, as well as other people, so that you can make an informed and rationale decision someday when the time is right for marriage.  This involves some really mature stuff.  Which means it's time to act like an adult.  That means don't be stupid.  Don't do "married things" when you're not married. I'm talking about heavy kissing, touching and sex. It will only cloud your judgement and complicate your life in ways you don't need or want.  Another thing about being an adult is talking to your parents.  Yes, adults talk to their parents all the time.  I'm an adult, and I regularly consult with my mother and father about a lot of things.  Why?  Because they know me better than anyone else (with the exception of my wife of course).  If you don't have a spouse, then your parents really do know you better than anyone.  Listen to them.  With the experience they've had, they might be able to help you avoid some nasty traps and obstacles.  They may even be able to steer you toward a boyfriend or girlfriend who is more compatible with your personality.  Oh sure, that good looking jock on the football team, or cheerleader at the game, may look pretty hot, and maybe you've even captured their attention, but if mom or dad says "(s)he's no good for you," there is probably a good reason.  They may have some insight into your personality which has given them a red flag, knowing that while things may work out for the short term, in the long term, the relationship is headed for disaster.  Part of being an adult means talking to adults.  Guess what?  That means talking to your parents.  If you can't do that, well, maybe it's time to grow up a little.  Or, maybe you're not mature enough to date yet.  Keep it real.  Are you ready for this or not?  There is no shame in waiting a year or two longer.  If you're under age 30, you've got plenty of time.
  4. Change your attitude.  The lack of Catholic teens and young adults in the Ozarks is not a negative.  It's an opportunity!  You've got to start thinking about dating as a way to kill two birds with one stone.  The Ozark Mountains (or anywhere in the Bible Belt) is a prime missionary field.  Each and every Protestant is a potential convert to Catholicism, and yes, Protestants are a lot more "convertible" than you think.  Of course, in an ideal situation, finding a Catholic girlfriend or boyfriend is the most desired.  However, if you happen to run across a Protestant you like, the fact that he or she is Protestant may only be a temporary problem.
  5. Ditch the siege mentality.  A siege mentality is when you go into a defensive mode thinking the world is out to get you.  Catholics do this a lot in strongly Protestant areas.  Granted, Evangelicals can be aggressive in their attempt to convert Catholics, but I assure you, they are not as strong as you think.  Protestantism is based on a very weak foundation.  If you know how to knock out that foundation, you are very likely to turn the tables and convert them to Catholicism.  It happens a lot.  You just have to know how to do it.  I'll explain the basics below, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your own faith well, practise it, and get some understanding of apologetics.
  6. HOLD YOUR GROUND.  This is an important one.  You need to make it known, in a polite and courteous way, that you are a Catholic Christian.  (Use that phrase "Catholic Christian" so they know you are both.)  You will not convert, and you will only marry another Catholic.  Say it nicely, and say it often.  You love Protestants, but you will not marry one.  That way the ground rules are laid.  This will do three things.  First, it will help attract eligible Catholic boys or girls to you.  Second, it will let Protestant boys or girls know that you're serious, and it's a waste of time to try to convert you.  Those types will eventually give up on you and move on.  Third, it will let other Protestant boys or girls (the ones not out to convert you) know that if they want to get serious with you, they're going to have to take a second look at the Catholic Church and probably convert someday.
  7. If you should happen to date a Protestant, take him/her to mass REGULARLY, and make sure you REGULARLY remind him/her that this is a non-negotiable issue with you.  You love Protestants but you will not marry one, but the Catholic Church welcomes all.  (hint, hint..)  Make sure this boy or girl knows the ground rules with you.  DO NOT COMMIT YOURSELF to anyone who does not respect you on this issue.  Remember, anyone who will not respect you on this issue, probably won't respect you on others.  Make it clear to him/her that if he/she wants you exclusively, his/her loyalty to the Catholic Church is required as a prerequisite.  In other words, never commit to somebody unless that person commits to the Catholic Church.  Don't feel obligated to attend your Protestant friend's church either.  It's okay to visit once, just to get an idea of his/her background, but make it clear that is not your home and you don't feel comfortable going there regularly.  
Now I know this may seem foreign to a lot of Catholics these days, but in truth, this sort of thing has been going on for centuries, both among Catholics and Protestants in previous generations, and it works!  Don't feel bad about it.  You're not obligated to play by their rules.  If they don't like it, they can move on to somebody else and so can you.  In the past, Protestants were much more firm about their commitments to their various denominations.  Fifty or sixty years ago, it was common to hear a Protestant say: "I am a Lutheran and I'll only marry another Lutheran." etc.  Such is no longer the case.  Today, Protestants have much less of a commitment to particular denominations.  That's their problem, not yours.  Evangelical Protestants on the other hand (which includes Baptists, Pentecostals, nondenominationals, etc.) might have a stronger commitment to their "type" of Christianity, but not necessarily so much commitment to a particular church or denomination.  In other words, they're committed but they're flexible.  Believe it or not, this flexibility puts Catholics at a tremendous advantage in dealing with Protestants, so long as Catholics will just stand firm and hold their ground.

Now let me tell you a little story.  About twenty years ago, I was a young Evangelical Protestant man, living in Southern California.  I was working with a young Latina about the same age as I.  I liked her.  She was very attractive to me.  However, she was Catholic.  I thought I might try to date her, but I also wanted to "feel the waters" so to speak, and see if she was open to conversion.  I invited her to attend my Evangelical church.  She refused.  She not only refused, but she flatly refused, and made it very clear she had no interest in converting or leaving the Catholic faith.  She said if I wanted to go to church with her, I could come to mass, otherwise forget it.  Guess what?  I lost interest in her and moved on to somebody else.  You know what I say to her now, wherever she may be?  I say to her: "GOOD GIRL!  I was no good for you.  At that time I was a devout anti-catholic.  My only intention was to date you, convert you, alienate you from your family and the faith of your fathers, and then maybe even lock you into a permanent relationship with me that way. That is what Evangelicals do, even though they mean no ill will by it.  I assure you, my intentions were sincere, but they were also sincerely wrong and misguided."  Had things gone down that way it would have been bad for her and for me.  Today, now that I am a devoted Catholic, I praise this young woman for standing her ground.  She saved herself (and me) from a very big mess.  She did this by clearly laying the ground rules to me.  I was interested in her, and she seemed interested in me.  However, she made it clear that there was no way she would ever commit to me unless I committed to the Catholic Church.  That drove me off, but the truth is, we are both probably better off because of it.  Today I am sure she's married and probably has kids, wherever she may be, and I'm sure her husband is Catholic.  What I don't know is if he was born and raised Catholic, or if she managed to convert a Protestant less stubborn than I.  If she did, I know why.  She stood her ground.  Good for her!

As I said above, young Catholics need to get out of the siege mentality.  There was a time, in the last generation, when Evangelicals were extremely aggressive and Catholics were completely unprepared.  As a result, literally millions of Catholics either lost their faith or else converted to Evangelical Christianity.  Those days are coming to a close.  While some Evangelicals are still extremely aggressive in their attempts to convert Catholics, their arguments have now been soundly rebuffed by Catholic apologists.  Catholicism is much more prepared to handle this now, and as we are learning, when young Catholics prepare themselves to stand firm, they're Protestant friends often end up converting to Catholicism in just a matter of time.  Now that I've given you seven ground rules, its time to spell out three apologetic rules that are critical to every young Catholic dealing with Protestants in the dating world...
  1. KNOW YOUR FAITH.  Study the Bible and the Catechism.  Seriously, this is the most important thing.  Learning your faith is a lifelong process that begins TODAY.  Pray, read and study!  That's where it all begins.  Reading Catholic apologetic books, along with listening to similar recordings and/or videos is also extremely helpful.  
  2. UNDERSTAND THAT PROTESTANTS ARE USUALLY IGNORANT.  About 90% of everything Protestants know about Catholicism is usually misinformation or no information at all.  The average Evangelical Protestant usually has no clue as to what Catholics actually believe.  Most of the time, the only information they have about Catholicism comes from former Catholics, who converted to Evangelicalism, and usually have an axe to grind against the Catholic Church.   See yourself as an educator to anyone willing to listen to you, and don't waste your time with anyone who won't.  Once in a while, you'll run across a Protestant who has a lot to say and seems to be on a "mission" to convert you to his/her brand of Christianity.  Don't feel bad if he/she won't listen to you.  These types usually don't listen to anyone.  It's best to just smile and ignore these types.  Don't waste your time with them. Just move on.
  3. AS A CATHOLIC, YOU DON'T PLAY BY THE SAME RULES AS PROTESTANTS.  It's important to not get roped into the Protestant way of thinking about the Bible.  Protestants confine themselves to a particular mentality called Sola Scriptura which is Latin for "Scripture Only."  That means they think they have to limit their faith strictly to what it says in the Bible, and it is the very foundation of most Protestant churches.  It leads them into a lot of other errors as well.  They'll try to limit your faith to it also.  If you allow yourself to get roped into this way of thinking, they're going to take you on a ride that may land you in another church.  You must remember that Sola Scriptura APPLIES TO THEM NOT YOU.  You are not bound by this rule.  It's an artificial rule, made by an artificial "reformer" 500 years ago, and is used by artificial churches to keep their members from leaving.  Sola Scriptura actually contradicts the Bible!  This Bible nowhere says that people must follow the Bible Alone (Scripture Only).  No such Scripture passage exists.  Furthermore, the Bible in many places tells us to follow the TRADITIONS of the Church and to trust the teaching authority of the Church.  In fact, the Bible calls the CHURCH (not itself) the "pillar and foundation of truth."  To believe what the Bible says is to follow the Catholic Church.  It is Protestants, with their artificial rules, that actually contradict the very Bible they say to be preaching.  If you make it clear that you, as a Catholic, will not subject yourself to non-Biblical man-made rules like Sola Scriptura, you will catch them off guard.  This is the most important thing every Catholic must remember when dealing with Protestants.  Beyond that, Catholics should familiarise themselves with Catholic apologetics.  You can read a good overview in my books, on this blog, or Internet apostolates such as Catholic Answers.
Any young Catholic living in America's Bible Belt, especially the Ozark Mountains of the Bible Belt, is going to be confronted with the stark reality that their selection of eligible Catholic singles is extremely limited.  Thus, dating outside of the Church is very tempting.  If one has a weak understanding of the faith, or is easily manipulated by others, this probably should not be done.  If however, a young Catholic is willing to learn and practise the faith, as well as how to explain and defend it, then dating outside the Church can not only be a possibility, but even an evangelistic opportunity!  Approach these matters with caution of course, but I would have to say the best tool is often the least expected -- stubbornness.  If a young Catholic is willing to stubbornly hold his/her ground, and clearly lay the ground rules for dating him/her, meaning no commitment without commitment to the Catholic Church, then it not only can be done, but it can also be a way to lead a Protestant into the fullness of the Christian faith.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism for
Protestants


Friday, July 05, 2013

The SSPX and the Traditional Latin Mass

Father Jeffery Fasching celebrates a Traditional Latin Mass
at Saint Agnes Cathedral in Springfield Missouri
Photo by John Kelly
Vatican City, Jun 27, 2013 / 04:38 pm (CNA).- On the 25th anniversary of the illicit ordination of four bishops by traditionalist Bishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of Saint Pius X indicated a definitive break of talks with the Catholic Church... read more
I know I'm probably going to step in it with this blog entry, but that's never stopped me before.  Basically it looks like the talks between Rome and the "Society of Saint Pius X" (SSPX) are permanently stalled, with the SSPX bishops saying that Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, was wrong about his "hermeneutic of continuity" verses a "hermeneutic of rupture" and his analysis that modern forms of communication (television and radio) have given the Modernists the valued tools they needed to transform Western civilisation, bring chaos down upon all of Protestantism, and crisis into the Catholic Church.  Instead, the SSPX is insisting that the cause of the current crisis within the Catholic Church is the Second Vatican Council itself, along with the introduction of the new mass.  With this statement, the SSPX is basically saying that the Vatican is wrong.  The popes are wrong, and the entire Western Catholic Church (Roman Rite) is wrong.  It would seem, based on my understanding of their statement, that they are saying talks with Rome will not resume until Rome is willing to admit that the SSPX is right.  In my opinion, their position is now strikingly similar to that of the Eastern Orthodox (minus the filioque controversy of course) and one wonders if what we are witnessing is an attempt to plant a Western Orthodox Church apart from Rome.

What concerns me is how this breaks down locally in my immediate area, which I'm sure many parallel situations exist in many other local communities throughout the United States and the entire Anglosphere.  I know there are many good Catholics, who are part of SSPX chapels, both clergy and laity, and I would not dare question their motives.  If anything I admire their zeal.  What concerns me is our local situation that I'm sure is shared in many communities.  Here in my diocese, the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, was banned by our previous bishop for decades.  It was during his reign that a local SSPX chapel was established in our area.  At that time, it could easily be argued that the establishment of this parish was a necessity, due to the ridiculous situation that existed at that time between traditional Catholics and the local bishop.  Many wrote to him, myself included, begging him to reconsider.  He did eventually have a change of heart, in 2007 after Summorum Pontificum was given, permitting the TLM once a month in Springfield and more frequently in a distant rural parish.  However, that bishop retired about five years ago.  His successor and current bishop of our diocese has not only tolerated the TLM, but has made more than generous availability of the TLM, seeing to it that it's celebrated regularly, no less than FIVE DAYS A WEEK!!! (Sunday, Tuesday - Friday).  The priest who celebrates this TLM mass, Father Jeffery Fasching, also hears confession before each and every mass, and is the most dedicated traditional Catholic priest local to this area.  His homilies are consistent with traditional Catholic sensibilities.  His manner of dress reflects this too.  What I am saying here is that our current bishop has more than compensated for the mistakes of our previous bishop on this matter.  To learn more about our new bishop's excellent provision made for traditional Catholics, you can read this website.

One would think with such a generous provision for traditional Catholics in the area, that the need for the local SSPX parish would diminish, and that regular attendance would fizzle.  Such is not the case, and this is the cause of my concern.  Having provided more than adequately for the liturgical and pastoral needs of traditional Catholics in the area, one would think that traditional Catholics would flock to the cathedral for mass.  Many faithful have, but still, many have not.  I personally know this priest who celebrates the TLM mass for the cathedral.  I can assure you he is 100% traditional in his teaching and sensibilities.  He provides a doctrinally safe environment for anyone under his priestly care.  So why aren't more SSPX members flocking to Saint Agnes Cathedral?

I can't answer this question.  All I can do is speculate, and I would rather not do that either.  What I can say is that the leadership's decision to cut off all dialogue with Rome does not help the situation of traditional Catholics here in Springfield Missouri, and if anything, puts them in an awkward situation, especially if they still attend the local SSPX chapel for Sunday mass.

I'll leave it up to the experts to decide if a new schism has been created now between Rome and the SSPX.  What I can say is that based on perceptions alone, a "functional schism" already exists at a local level, even if not yet an "official schism" on the global level.  I say a "functional schism" for multiple reasons.  First, those who attend the SSPX chapel for confession and Eucharist are attending a chapel that is not in any way connected with any recognised authority in the entire worldwide Catholic Church, not to mention no authority recognised at the local diocesan level.  True, SSPX priests are validly ordained, and the sacraments they offer are valid, just like the Eastern Orthodox priests and their sacraments.  However, they are also illicit (meaning "illegal" according to Church law).  Like the Eastern Orthodox, the priest does not have permission to minister by any authority within the Roman Catholic Church.  Speaking as a former Protestant, who converted to the Catholic Church, primarily over the issue of authority, this is a very big problem.  It is a very "protestant" thing to buck the authority of a local bishop who is doing everything within his power to accommodate your needs.  I would say providing a TLM mass and confession FIVE DAYS A WEEK is more than an accommodation!  What more could anyone expect?  An engraved invitation perhaps?  Second,  by regularly attending the local SSPX parish, which is illicit and indeed redundant now, the faithful are separating themselves from the majority body of Catholics in the Springfield area united under the bishop or some kind of approved Church authority.  Again, speaking as a former Protestant, this is a recipe for schism.  After all, as a former Protestant, I ought to know a thing or two about schism, as this is the primary feature of Protestantism.  Who ever heard of "reforming" the Church from an organisation that operates outside of the official Church structure?  I say it's never been done.  Third and finally, there is a clear "attitude" of schism among SOME who do attend the local SSPX chapel and I'm sure this is not just a problem limited to our area alone.  I would not dare mention any names, but I know of some who are outright sedevacantists, and others who frequently accuse the pope of heresy.  Conspiracy theories abound among these types, and other Catholics are frequently looked down upon as "less Catholic" or "barely Catholic at all" simply for attending a regular diocesan parish.  I dare not say all those who attend the local SSPX chapel fit this description.  That would be an unfair generalisation.  I am only saying that I have witnessed these things among SOME who attend the local SSPX chapel, and they know who they are.   These people contribute to a "functional schism" in a more profound way than the other two reasons above.  They should step back and consider what kind of damage they are doing, not only to Christ's Holy Catholic Church, but to the SSPX as well.

The whole crisis in the Catholic Church is rather straight forward and easy to understand if people look at it in a dispassionate way and listen to the wise narrative of the former Pope Benedict XVI.

During the early 1960s the whole Western world was about to be overwhelmed by a tsunami of Modernism and moral relativism. It affected everyone and everything. All of Protestantism was affected by this as well as many within the Catholic Church. So the massive error the SSPX makes, in my opinion, is that they fail to understand the rise of Modernism was universal, affecting the Protestants even more profoundly than the Catholics. To blame all the Modernist problems in the Church on Vatican II is to entirely miss the point. Protestants could care less about Vatican II. It had no bearing on their churches or worldview. It was irrelevant to them. Yet they were more profoundly affected by Modernism than Catholics were. Modernism has gutted the Catholic Church, but in Protestantism it levelled their churches, clearing the way for Evangelical mega-churches, which though currently successful, are built on very unstable soil.

The key instrument of Modernism's torrent through Western society was the creation and widespread distribution of a little device called television. Through this seemingly harmless machine, the agents of Modernism were able to spread their poison far and wide, and as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out in the last days of his papacy, the "Council of the Media," created by the liberal press overshadowed the real "Council of Vatican II." The television, radio and press media, along with willing accomplices in the Church, spread a false notion about Vatican II, which took root in the 60s and 70s, leaving us with the crisis we currently have today.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Modernism ravaged the Church because of rapid modern communication, and the liberal press, giving people a false idea of what Vatican II was all about. The Catholic Church was wholly unprepared to deal with this new media of communication and has consistently stayed several steps behind it.

Some of the documents in Vatican II were left "deliberately vague." We don't know the reason why and we can only speculate -- so let's not. What we do know is that if these "vague" documents are interpreted in the light of previous Church teaching (the "hermeneutic of continuity") then there is no problem. Catholics stay traditional with just a few updates and that is that. If however, these "vague" documents are interpreted outside of previous Church teaching (the "hermeneutic of rupture") then all sorts of wacky things start to happen, which leads to the Modernist crisis in the Church today.

So there you go. That is what is wrong in the Church, and that is what needs to be repaired. We already have the tools and the demographics on our side. The crisis in the Church will correct on its own regardless of any further intervention by the pope, because everything has been put into place by the last two popes. The only thing Pope Francis can do is speed it up, slow it down or leave it alone, and that will be his legacy which we must trust in God's hands.

On a local level, reform can happen in only one way, and that is if, as many Catholics as possible are participating in canonically-approved celebrations of the TLM.  It has become apparent now that is not going to happen with SSPX chapels any time in the near future.  Therefore, I would encourage all those who assist at a SSPX parish to flock to the nearest diocesan or canonically-approved TLM, if one is available nearby.  Your numbers will have NO EFFECT (ZERO PERCENT EFFECTIVENESS) on reforming Holy Mother Church, if you remain separated from her main body within the walls of a SSPX chapel.  I would say your attendance there has effectively neutralised your witness.  If the local bishop has made provision for you, as our bishop has in Springfield Missouri, then your witness is needed there instead.  That is, unless you like your witness being neutralised. As for clergy within the SSPX, their situation is different of course, but thanks to the provisions made by the last two popes, the door is wide open for reconciliation with Holy Mother Church.  I would encourage these priests to strengthen their priestly ministry by incardination under a tradition-friendly bishop, or into the Vatican loyal FSSP, or any of the dozen or so traditional institutes that remain loyal to the Holy See.  Now is not the time for division and stagnation.  Now is the time for reform and renewal!  We need the witness of all traditional Catholics to make it happen in a timely manner.  Indeed, it is now only the division of traditional Catholics that is slowing things down.

I applaud the efforts of the Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau on this matter.  He is a shining example for other bishops to follow when it comes to this.  The influx of new traditional Catholics into Saint Agnes Cathedral will only trigger bigger and better reforms in the future.  It can do nothing else.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!
NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR

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