Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Church's Troubling View of the Laity

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against "clericalism", which he views as one of the preeminent problems in the Church today. The irony is that the Franciscan pontificate evidences a profoundly clericalist mindset, especially in how the pope has dealt with the traditional Catholic movement.

For example, in the letter that accompanied Traditiones Custodes, Pope Francis directed bishops "to discontinue the erection of new personal parishes tied more to the desire and wishes of individual priests than to the real need of the 'holy People of God.'" I remember being struck by this statement when the motu proprio was first published, and it has not lost its force with time. Here we see Pope Francis thinks that the initiative for parishes dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass comes entirely from priests. He cannot conceive that the faithful themselves would desire such a thing. The faithful are a passive, inchoate mass that are simply being strung along by whatever the priest wants. 

This would be evidence of clericalism if it were true, but in fact the opposite is the case. Part of the wisdom of Summorum Pontificum was the way it assumed the laity's ability to truly take initiative for their spiritual welfare. Recall Article 7:

In parishes where a group of the faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition stably exists, the parish priest should willingly accede to their requests to celebrate Holy Mass according to the rite of the 1962 Roman Missal.

The laity are presumed to have their own liturgical aspirations, which are legitimate and which priests are obliged to provide for—or even bishops in the case the priest denies the laity their wishes. But by the time we get to Francis, we see the current pope does not believe the laity even have "legitimate aspirations" about the traditional liturgy. He can't even conceive of it; he assumes the initiative behind the traditional movement comes entirely from priests.

This speaks to a larger problem: the modern Church's tendency to view the laity in an entirely passive manner. Despite all the talk about the "universal call to holiness", Vatican II, far from fixing this, made it worse. It reinforced a trend (developing post-1789) that the laity should focus themselves solely with practicing Christian virtue in the world, and leave the active passing on to the faith to a small clerical caste. Rather than viewing the laity as one of the principal ways in which orthodoxy is preserved and transmitted, they are instead meant to be symbols of Christ to the world, molded by the clerics, the chief cleric and spiritual master of your soul being the pope (the latter being a novelty invented by John Paul II because all other Church institutions in the West had collapsed). The laity are conceived in a passive sense, their job merely to "witness" whatever instantiation of the faith the Vatican in current years says they should. But they are not asked or involved in anything more 

If anything, what Francis says about the traditional movement is most applicable to his own initiatives. It was not the laity who came up with the idea of Pachamama. It was not the laity who asked for the banning of the traditional Mass. These things were the perverse conceptions of a small cadre of clerics bound to a moribund ideology, which they inflict upon the rest of the Church in the arrogant presumption that its for our own good. There is clericalism in the Church, to be sure, and the most clericalist of them all is on the throne of St. Peter.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Best Posts of 2021

I think in all my years of blogging this has been the first where I have been delinquent publishing my happy New Year post. Mea culpa! It's not just that I've been busy; I've been in kind of a funk. Lethargic. Anyway, 2021 was a pretty momentous year for traditional Catholics. Obviously Traditiones Custodes and its aftermath dominated the news cycle in the second half of the year. 

I posted around 30 articles this year, but today I have chosen to highlight my favorite eight. In reviewing these, I've noticed that most are very practical—articles about maintaining faith, happiness, and sanity in the midst of troubling times. I guess that speaks to where my heart has been this year. What about you? Where has your heart been?

Leniency and Severity: Our perceptions of what is lenient and what is severe are colored by our own spiritual struggles.

With the Joy of Christ's First Breath: You can choose joy, despite what's going on in the Church and world.

When Trads Choose Barabbas: When traditionalism becomes more about "owning the libs" than actual Catholic Tradition.

Nine Reflections on Traditionis Custodes: My immediate reaction to the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes.

Crises of Faith: Escaping our Subjectivity: The problem of religious doubt exists at the crossroads where the Church and the doubter intersect in an experience that precipitates the crisis of faith.

Crises of Faith: The Operation of Grace: Why our own assessments of whether grace is "working" are woefully deficient.

Discouragement from Habitual Sin: Some thoughts I have found helpful when I feel discouraged by habitual sin.

Pope Denethor: Reflections on the CDW Responsa: Comments on the CDW response to dubia submitted about Traditionis Custodes.

Happy New Year everybody