May 4, 2006

Blessings and Woes

Yesterday I ran across a little conflict that was going on over at the always exciting and informative The Cafeteria is Closed. It was over someone's characterization of the Voice of the Faithful movement, but certainly falls into the general category of catholic progressive vs. conservative quarreling. I threw in my two cents in a comment, but didn't feel good about it later. Why?

I think it's because I have problems with both sides of this classic debate.

You "liberal" and "progressive" catholics, you VOTF types, you're great because you insist on justice both within the structures of the church and in the larger world. You take the church's teaching on social sin seriously and understand that part of our vocation is to do something about it. You put church rules into a proper perspective because you believe the good news that our righteousness comes to us apart from the law.

But sometimes you don't understand that the relativism, moral chaos, and pervasive "culture of death" of the early 21st century demands a church that stands for its own positions strongly and plainly. You know that the Gospel is about liberation, but sometimes you can't tell the difference between the liberation that the Holy Spirit desires and every spurious form of human liberation that the world offers. Thus you sometimes want everyone to endorse homosexuality and every other form of moral chaos that the liberals of the world dream up to justify whatever it is they feel like doing. In your ecumenical spirit you attend to other faith traditions, being sure to scrupulously respect their customs and traditions, but when you come home you don't care whether your own Eucharist is licit or sometimes even whether it is valid. And you, for all of your liberal identity, are often the most intolerant of all.

And you "conservative" and "traditionalist" catholics, you EWTN types, you're great because you understand that our time demands that we rebuild our catholic culture. You understand that we need to distinguish ourselves with a proper identity amid all of the competing truth claims in our relativistic world. You see clearly that this demands a back-to-basics approach wherein we simply follow the instructions and take our own legislation seriously. You know that our liturgy and customs need to be protected from the false recipes for liberation that the world offers, from the ever-increasing pressure of New Age accretions, and the impulse to syncretism masked as inter-religious dialogue.

But you too sometimes fall into errors. You sometimes take on some of the conservative views that the world offers, getting mixed up in nationalism. You can be dismissive of the spiritual depth of the liberation experienced by the older generation through the changes of the Second Vatican Council. Sometimes you don't know the difference between retrieving our tradition (for our time) and just trying to restore what was before. And you can be a trifle self-satisfied in your views.


gmknowles said...

Great job.

Now, unlike your comment on, "The Cafeteria is Closed", THIS post is really better at telling it like it is.

Those two extremes dominate the "popular" blogs on the internet.

Br. Chris Gaffrey, ofm said...

Oh no! Not another "narrow pather!" You mean virtue is opposed to two vices, one on either side!? You mean it's not either all feel good, embracing everything stuff or the be rigid rejecting everything routine!? Shoot! You mean I actually have to balance conscience and magisterial teaching!? Darn it!

Okay, sarcasm aside, great blog. I think each and everyone of us has to find that balance (even the communities Paul wrote to had to be corrected from the extremes).

Jason said...

I got tired of reading "Closed Cafeteria" and some of those similar blogs. It felt too much like my mind was being molded into this group mentality of thinking... Latin Mass is good... Democrats are bad... memorize these prayers to be a good Catholic... and don't forget to cross yourself when you pass by a Catholic church! Seriously, how qmany people are doing all that crap because they feel like they're supposed to and how many are actually being moved from their heart and their love for God and His Church?

Anyway, a few months ago they posted a link to a video called the St. Nicolas Gospel Procession. They definitely get close to crossing the line of sacrilege. Still, I was trying to be open minded about this situation because it's not like Fr. Tiny Dancer woke up one morning and thought it would be fun to do a song and dance routine for his parishinors. Other influences lead to that kind of behavior (for lack of a better word :) Maybe it's the dreadfully boring Masses at every other Catholic church? The ones where three people sing, half sleep, and the priest talks like Ben Stein minus the sense of humor. Well, I was surprised my comment didn't ruffle any of those Trads' feathers. So I figured even the independent thinking of an orthodox Catholic isn't allowed at the Closed Cafeteria :)

Maybe you guys have some thoughts on St. Nicolas...

friar minor said...

One of our own confreres offered us a little fraternal correction on this post, which I accept.

He pointed out that what I called the intolerance of liberals is more properly labeled "dismissiveness." After all, the liberals don't tell their enemies that they are doomed to hell (if they even believe in hell), but just dismiss the idea that their positions are thoughtful or worth examining.

Second, he pointed out that our comment around the scrupulous observance of customs away from home is a larger human phenomenon, and not particular to religion. Everyone is better behaved out of their normal environment. And as my mother always says, it is the librarians themselves who are the worst at returning books.