On the Mend: The Church in the Early 21st Century

Back when I was in Seminary in the 1980s there was a “Revisionist Creed” that floated around. We never used it in any way in the Seminary and most of us thought of it as a joke that some one had ginned up. But it reflected the relativism of those times which most of us knew had deeply invaded even the Catholic Church and was disastrously affecting other seminaries, religious orders and universities. I found it flipping through my files the other day, a yellowed and wrinkled copy. Here it is:

I believe in the concept of deity,
Gentle and nurturing parent of all,
Womb of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ
its primary offspring
our counselor and brother
born of a Palestinian maiden
harshly treated by an intolerant Roman official
died and was buried

Sometime afterwards he/she “reappeared” in some form or memory
and ever since remains as a symbol of
moral a religious values.

I believe in the spirit of toleration,
the universal and essential goodness of all humankind
the primacy of fellowship,
the acceptance of diversity
the end of all suffering
and continuous human evolution.

Frankly the 1980s were difficult times in the Church and, in many ways dissent had reached its zenith. Many openly questioned the veracity of Scripture, and numerous of the fundamental moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church. I recall a steady diet of so-called Catholic theologians denying that Jesus ever knew he was God, claimed to be God or even was God. The historicity of the scriptures was openly questioned and many a simple believer, on recalling a passage of Scripture that upheld Catholic truth was scornfully told, “Jesus never said that!” Liturgical abuses were far more common and tolerated and moral theology, at least the Catholic version, was on holiday from most Catholic Universities. Yes, they were difficult times to be sure, at least here in America.

I think things have improved greatly in the Church since then. Most of the seminarians and young priests I have met are solid, orthodox men who love the Church and are eager to proclaim what she teaches. The laity too demonstrate a growing hunger for the unabridged version of Catholic Faith. Beginning in the late 1980s huge numbers of very solid magazines and publishing houses blossomed and began publishing and republishing wonderfully solid Catholic materials. This began to push back against the open dissent of the 1970s and 1980s. As the Internet dawned a whole host of great websites that are supportive of the faith have also burst forth. Many superb lay movements and new religious orders have also taken their place on the scene and are growing.

Yes, these are comparatively wonderful times. There are still troubles to be sure and the culture around us continues its alarming descent downward into confusion and darkness. But I am convinced that God is doing something powerful in the Church and that necessary reforms are well underway. I am no prophet but I do see that if American culture and civilization stand a chance it will be because of what the Lord is doing in and for the Church right now. Our on-going reforms will result in two things: we will be a light in the darkness and we will be increasingly persecuted. But praise God, I am convinced we are being purified and God is up to something good. Even the dreadful Sex abuse crisis has served to sober us up and call us to account for our laxity of the past. The days are difficult in our culture, all the more reason we should we clear and uncompromising in the glorious truth God has given us.

Unambiguous Creed – Back in those difficult days of the early 80s some of us seminarians came up with our own Creed to respond to the “revisionist creed.” We sort of stitched this thing together from various sources and each of its lines was carefully crafted to address errors that confronted us in those days. Frankly we kept this thing under wraps at that time since open asserting dogmatic truth was seen as “rigid” in the early 1980s. And to be labeled “rigid” was a death sentence to a seminarian. But looking through my files I found this and am pleased to say that it would no longer need to be kept under wraps today. Here’s what we compiled from various sources:

I, standing before almighty God and enlightened by his divine grace profess the faith which the Roman Catholic Church teaches. With firm faith I believe and profess each and all the articles that are contained in the Apostles’ Creed, that is:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven
and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of
the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell;
the third day He arose from the dead; he ascended into heaven
sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from
thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the
communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection
of the body, and life everlasting.

  • I accept and embrace most firmly the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and prescriptions of the Church.
  • I accept the sacred Scriptures according to the sense which has been held and is still held by Holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, and I shall never knowingly accept or interpret them in any other way.
  • I profess that the sacraments of the New Law are seven in number, instituted by Christ for our salvation, though all are not necessary for each individual: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.
  • I profess that all confer grace and that, of these, baptism, confirmation, and holy orders cannot be repeated without sacrilege. I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the sacraments.
  • I accept and hold, in each and every part, all that has been defined and declared by the Sacred Councils concerning original sin and justification.
  • I profess that in the Mass is offered to God a true, real and perfect sacrifice for the living and the dead; that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist is really, truly and substantially the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ through the change of all of the substance of the bread into the Body, and all of the substance of the wine into the Blood. I confess also that in receiving under either of these species I receive Jesus Christ, whole and entire.
  • I firmly hold that purgatory exists and that the souls of the faithful departed who are there can be helped by the prayers of the faithful.
  • Likewise I hold that the saints, who reign with Jesus Christ should be venerated and may be invoked to offer prayers to God for us. I likewise assert that this veneration, far from diminishing God’s glory, rather, furthers it by acknowledging what the Love, Grace and Power of God can accomplish in weak human nature.
  • I profess firmly that the images of Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God, ever virgin, as well as of all the saints, should be given due honor and veneration on account of who they represent.
  • I recognize the holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the mother and teacher for all and accept without hesitation and profess all that has been handed down, defined, declared and taught by the Church.
  • I likewise embrace the teaching concerning the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff in matters of faith and morals and, accepting his primacy, I promise and swear true obedience to the Holy Father who is the vicar of Jesus Christ and successor to Saint Peter the Prince of the Apostles.
  • This Catholic Faith, outside of which no one who knowingly rejects it can ever be saved, I now freely profess and I shall, with the help of God, maintain and profess this same faith entire and inviolate and with firm constancy until the last breath of my life.
  • I shall also strive to see that, as far possible, this same faith shall be held, taught and publicly professed by all those who depend on me and by those of who I shall have charge.
  • Amen.

A little different than the revisionist creed, don’t you think?

I am interested in what you think is happening in the Church, especially if you lived through 70s and 80s. As I have said, I think God is doing great things. More is surely needed. Our continuing drop in attendance must also be turned around. But in the end, I am once again assured of the Lord’s promise that the gates of hell, though they try, are not going to prevail against the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

Here is a silly video that depicts the dissent of 70s and 80s in a cartoonish way. It may be a bit unfair in it’s rather light-hearted approach. Not all dissent can be reduced to this ridiculous picture. But I have to say he reminds me perfectly of some of the religion teachers I had in middle school CCD back in the early 70s. The jeans, the sweater and and the smarmy conversation and the notion that there are no answers and the way that “tolerance” gives way to anger when the right buttons get pushed. So take this for what it’s worth. It’s a cartoon-like hyperbole of the laid back 70s.

61 Replies to “On the Mend: The Church in the Early 21st Century”

  1. I was born a cradle-Catholic in 1978, and was paying attention more than most of my peers.

    Everything you say here is correct.

    To answer your question, things are getting better. However, it’s a war of those under 40 against those over 60. The very oldest are the most dissenting. The youngest are the most orthodox. In the middle it’s a range.

    The biological solution must prevail. The liberals will die, the moderates will grow old, and the conservatives will take over. God is writing straight with crooked lines, and his pen is Gen X and Gen Y. Deo gratias!

    In a few decades, the Church will be filled with bishops and priests attached to tradition, especially in the sacred liturgy. Things will be as they should be.

      1. I agree that this is the direction things are taking – which is good. However, my only concern is whether the young priests will speak the truth “in love”. Most of the men I studied with in seminary received a passing grade, however there was a sizable minority which did not. Fortunately, most of the young priests and seminarians are not like most Catholic bloggers and thus do not use the truth as a hammer.

  2. I think a study of the roots of the Catholic Faith, even with a strong faith, but without relying on God, can lead to, in pride, a weaker faith, because the soul begins to doubt the Faith, since he seeks it only with a rational mind and not with his whole being by the grace of God. So, when he hears that enslavement to God is true free he is, like those without faith, scandalized and, perhaps, remembers the horrible motto “slavery is freedom” from 1984. I believe this is why some Catholic theologians and scholars end up losing their faith.

    As for what I think is happening in the Church, I think the best imagery is every holy image of Mary and Jesus: Mary holding Jesus to her bosom, Mary seeing Jesus crucified, Jesus appearing in Mary in His risen body, etc. We are each Jesus by Baptism and our Mother the Church is Mary. Not that we are the sources of anything, but that we got the Way of Jesus and the Church teaches us how. It is always dark during this Age but the darkness is light: for God is so near to us that it is as if we are pebbles in the shadow of the holy mountain. So we have nothing to fear. Even in a great apostasy God is with us to make our hearts like the Heart of Jesus.

  3. Monsignor – the events that led up to the current state of the Church, in my opinion are, in no particular order: an influx of laity into positions that were formerly filled by Religious, especially religious education and music; a lackadaisical priesthood following on the heels of a less reverent congregation and the subsequent falling away of parishioners because of that; the disgruntled or disinterested’s failure to pass along the Faith to their children; a serious lack of leadership from the bishops, and priests who do what they want when the bishop ain’t a-lookin’; and finally, the problems the Church had to learn to deal with as the divorce rate in the country soared in the wake of no-fault divorce.

    I’ve long held the notion that there is too much social work happening, and not enough saving souls. The laity should be taking care of the social work, and the bishops and priests should be much more involved with the parishioners in their dioceses. I’ve listened to priests sermonize about how they need to “be there” for their parishioners. I’ve seen the same ones turn their backs (figuratively) on people who really need them, by being “unavailable.”

    If we all felt cared for by our priest-parish-bishop-diocese, perhaps more people would attend Mass again. I’ve had the pleasure to meet our bishop once. He has no time to travel the state because he’s busy being the Bishop-In-Charge of Immigration. This makes no sense to me. His full time job should be serving the people in his diocese.

    Make sense, or rambling drivel?

      1. Sort of forgot that part, didn’t I…

        In some places, yes. In others there is still a lot of stagnation and lethargy on the part of both religious and laity.

        Overall, I’d say we’re heading in the right direction. Realistically, the direction we’re heading is one in which there will be a good deal of dismantling, and it might be painful for some. It’s hard to give up what we are used to, or more properly, “the devil we know!”

        I could be wrong.

  4. I love the video-especially “thou shall not say thou shall not.” But what I especially love is your response to the revisionist creed. It’s fabulous and perfect! It’s amazing to me that God could take that loose and rules free time in our Church and bring it back to real standards upon which we can all base our faith. I am so grateful that the times definitely are changing for our beloved Holy Mother Church, we have much for which to praise God!

    1. Yes, like I said the character in the video reminds me of a certain lay teacher in the CCD program in my parish back in the 70s: except the mustache he’s a dead ringer: same hair, crazy clothes, insistance that thre were no real answers etc.

  5. The theology of the 70s and 80s was in evidence for decades before those tumultuous decades. Why else would the Holy Office have published Lamentabili Sane (http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_df07ls.htm) and Pope St Pius X publish Pascendi Dominici Gregis (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_x/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_19070908_pascendi-dominici-gregis_en.html) both in 1907?

    I, for one, would think that more education on those two vital documents would serve the Church well. There is a distressing number of people who have never heard of them. This is not that I would make an effort to convert everybody into “radical traddies,” but understanding that modernism is something that has plagued the Church for well over a century can be an eye-opener.

    Frankly, I would love to see all bishops, priests, deacons, lay catechists, and Catholic school catechists / religion teachers / theology professors be required to take Pius X’s “Oath Against Modernism” (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10moath.htm). Or at least an expansion of the oath spoken of in JPII’s Motu Proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem to cover *all* who pass on the Catholic Faith.

  6. I’m 71 so I remember the days you speak of and I will say that things are definitely better but we do have a ways to go. The laity, the more ” conservative ” among us need to give our priests and Bishops some breathing space. Some of them expect thundering sermons about the evils of abortion and contraception each Sunday and of course that isn’t going to happen because, as you said the other day, some topics don’t lend themselves to ten or fifteen minute sermons. And some topics really aren’t suited for general presentation. Perhaps weekly classes of an ongoing ” catechesis ” type would be a better solution to some of the nagging issues still facing us. And of course the information is ” out there ” if the laity would just stir themselves a bit.

    I do still catch wind of some of the old relativism floating around. But it is carefullly camouflaged and discrete. We don’t hear much about Richard McBride and his ilk these days. One way or another they have been silenced. They are still there and still doing harm but they are definitely out of the mainstream – for the moment. And we have a crop of really strong Bishops and priests. We pray for the best.

  7. Well said! I grew up in the 70’s and witnessed the confusion of the Church first hand. The Church was turned inside out, and many of our biggest problems stem from that time.

    Over the past 12 years we have witnessed an amazing rebirth! John Paul II was clearly the right person at the right time and the world youth days and Year of the Eucharist started the changeover.

    One of the great tools of faith that has strenghened the churc and led to the reawakening has been the Internet. The older generation, in many ways, was cheated. They did not have information on every saint at their fingertips. Today they do. This is Big.

    As proof, ask a practicing Catholic about Maxamillion Kolbe and a large number would be able to tell you of his powerful story. Repeat this access to books by Ignatius Press, sermons by the Pope, and general access to blogs like this one; and WALA! The rebirth of the young faithful in our church is not suprising!

    One final mention. Truth is timeless. It can be hidden, but it always has a way of resurfacing.

    Have a great day!

  8. I am reminded of the words, I believe it was, Pope Paul VI. (Paraphrasing) The smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary. I am so glad the seminarians at that time rejected this. The first line bothered me right off the bat! “The concept of a deity”! I actually strive to only use “God” when referring to Our Lord and in respect to our Faith. I use deity to explain everything else. The title of “God” belongs to the one true God and no one else, in my opinion. Plus, it helps me guard against taking the Lord’s name in vain. To merely call him a deity is an insult I think. The term “concept” is just awful. The faith is not merely a philosophy for living it is the only way to live. It’s NOT the Father’s way or the highway, the Father’s way is the ONLY way, if ya ask me. Excellent post Father! I am currently reading the Ratzinger Report. When Pope Benedict the XVI was head of the former Holy Office. He gives his opinion on the crisis of the Church. Fascinating and fits well with what you are saying in your blog I recommend it to all who want some insight into our current Pope.

  9. I think you’re on to something about the mending trend in the Church. Can’t tell you exactly why we’re witnessing certain positive trends (although we should guard against reading too much into it). The fashions of the 60s to the 80s just never took root, is what I can make of it. Against this rock the dissident shall spend his fury. Fashions will come and go, but the Holy Ghost abides. Sounds trite, but that may what is at work. The dissenters tried to remake the Churh into something it cannot be. Female clergy, remember that? I don’t think we hear much of it any more, not after JPII draw the line. Look, the Church cannot change on that because it is not in our power, I think is how he came out. Leadership. If there is a void in leadership, the goonies will try to take over with 10 friends worse than themselves. You got to fill a void with a positive good. The Church needs good, strong leaders. Men and women. And folks not afraid to pen the truth, like your goodself. By the way, in your Creed, why did you affirm the Apostle’s Creed? The Nicene Creed is apparently older — and has the advantage of Orthodox buy-in. The Apostle’s Creed is unknown to the Orthodox, or so says B16 in one of his books, whose name I have forgotten as I write this.

    1. As an Orthodox Christian, I can readily say that we Orthodox “buy in” to the Apostle’s Creed as well, in that there is nothing unorthodox about its use. We (and you) say the Nicene-Constantinopolan Creed every Sunday because the Holy Canons instructed us to use that creed and that only (we’ll not argue over the filioque here. I suspect that problem will soon be solved). Of the above articles of Faith, we would disagree on the nature of Purgatory (it, and “hell”, remain Hades.) Obviously, we disagree on the nature of the Pope’s primacy, and on who exactly Peter’s successors are (Peter of course led the ekklesia in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Asia Minor in addition to Rome, and his only named spiritual “son” was 1st Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt (Mark)). We hope that when describing the Catholic Church as the vessel in which no one outside may be saved, you include us in the East, as we include you in our daily prayers.

    2. Jim:

      We used the Apostle’s Creed primarily because that was the one that tended to be used in Baptismal formulas etc. Surely nothing wrong with the Nicene Creed. Glad that Patrick has reassured us as to the acceptablilty of the Apostles’ Creed to the Orthodox

      1. I found the passage I referred to above on the Apostle’s Creed. It’s in “Introduction to Christianity” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1968, but I don’t have the page number because I read in on a Kindle.

        “In the East this Roman symbol (that is, the Apostle’s Creed) remained unknown; it came as no small surprise to the Roman representatives at the ecumenical Council of Florence in the fifteenth century when they learned from the Greeks that the symbolum presumed to stem from the Apostles was not employed by them. The East had never developed a unified symbol of this sort because no individual Church there occupied a position comparable with that of Rome in the West – as the one “apostolic see” in the Western World.”

  10. There seems to be a “static” world view at work in many of these posts–as if God somehow made the world a certain way and we need only hold the fort until he gets back. Another way to see the faith is in an historical context–that Jesus gave us a command to build something and to progress (maybe “continuous human evolution” even). To think of a particular time in the history of the Church as “ideal” and that we somehow need to “go back to” a particular way of doing things (whether it be Gregory X, JP II, or the first century) defies the notion that we are progressing, in God’s time, TOWARD a future reign of God, and frankly doesn’t take into account the actual history of the Church. Historically certain people within the Church have fought “progress” like allowing gentiles into the Church or recognizing universal human rights or allowing science it’s proper place or allowing lay people to read the Scriptures. Things in the past are knowable, and therefore give us comfort–the future (and sometimes the present) are scary precisely because they are not controllable and therefore require faith in God. The Good News needs to be proclaimed to the ends of the Earth. We ought not to divide the flock.

    1. Daniel,
      I agree with you in principle, but to paraphrase CS Lewis, if you are facing the wrong direction, moving forward is NOT progress. I think there were some mistakes made in the past few decades in the direction the Church took (in this country anyway), and that some of those mistakes are now being corrected. I also think it is likely that this type of thing has always happened (being a poor student of history I can not cite examples) and probably continues to happen. (For example: I think I might get jumped on for saying this, but in my opinion the use of Latin again in Mass, except in specific cases, is a mistake. There was a reason Vatican II had us switch to vernacular, and it makes sense.) In any case, I don’t think you are correct about the “static” viewpoint of people posting here. I think they are speaking of specific problems they see, and of their desire for these problems to be corrected.

      1. Michael,
        Thanks for the dialogue. I understand your point, but I just don’t see any specific problems listed here. Much of it is overly simplified in the vein of “those 70s and 80s when everything was terrible and mixed up”. That Revisionist creed is not technically incorrect except for reducing the Resurrected Jesus to a symbol–as far as I can see it simply is not specific enough to be definitive. It’s ambiguity, however, may have served to balance a feeling of certainty some had found in calling “faith” a mere intellectual assents to formulas with no ambiguity at all (and no openness to the Mystery). I also don’t buy the argument that these times are somehow worse than past eras–which has been said for centuries by those who wish to canonize the past. Let us read the signs of the times and be open to the Spirit. God is good.

    2. For the record Daniel I am not talking about going back I’m saying things are better. There may not be ideal eras but there are times wherein the Church and culture have bn in greater or lesser repair. The 70s and 80s were a time of confusion on many things, I think it is good, moving forward that we are recpturing our footing and clarity.

  11. What I see is that the younger folks will be leading the way back to true faith in God, while those of us, who are old enough to be around during Vatican Council II, those in their 40’s and 50’s, which includes myself, see not only aging parents dealing with health issues and passing on but also dealing with our own mortality. For those of us who grew up during the choatic time of the 70’s and 80’s which includes myself, can be given a renewel opportunity to be able learn about our faith and to truly come to love it. One last thing I do take confort in, that the younger folks will be very devout in faith.

  12. Gen 4:5-7 …And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

    We must never forget Satan has been couching at the door for as long as there has been “man”. History shows how the people of God – be it Israel or the Church – repeatedly fall into a sin cycle, as Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn would say… Sin, Servitude, Supplication, and Silence. We get in trouble during the silence part of the cycle and fall into sin, again and again and again. We must be vigilant, pray that we do not undergo the test, open our hearts to the gifts of the Holy Spirit that he guide us each and every day.

    The Holy Spirit is very important, as is our cooperation to the Holy Spirit.

    We must never put our guard down…

  13. There certainly has been a lot going on at the grass root level in the American Church. This has even reached to the diocesan level in more than a few places. Unfortunately the universities are lagging well behind the rest of us. Other than the short list published by the Newman Society, the Catholic University system in American is a theological wasteland.

    My university, class of ’61, gave me a solid Catholic education with many courses in philosophy and theology that have kept me in good stead for the past forty nine years. However, I stopped supporting them a few years ago after exchangeing correspondence with it’s president. It seems that there is an ex-priest teaching the one course on Catholic Studies in the Division of Religious Studies.

    He is a liberation theologist, teaches that the Church teaching on morals and sexuality are wrong, and last year supported an unsuccessful effort by the state legislature to put the Church in the state under civilian control. He firmly believes and teaches that the Church should be governed from the bottom up instead of from the top down.

    Problems like this exit throughout the Catholic Universisty system in America. It is a wonder that despite all this that young people are coming out of this system with their faith in tact.

    1. Yes, I am not sure if we will ever get some of our Universities back. But here too another good aspect of the present are new Universities that ahve been founded and most all of them are orthodox.

  14. Yeah, the things we do in the name of tolerance … but you did make me laugh with your revisionist creed and the video.

    I love and believe this Matt 16:18 verse: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

    The tide is turning. I can see it in the young people, who are longing for God … and we find our way back to Him.

  15. Wow…brings me back to my theology days (Jesuit University on the West Coast, 1980-1984). As a theology major I was in the thick of it and YES our senior seminar required that we compose a creed that would be free, open, dynamic epression of our personal faith. I was torn between turning in the Nicene Creed or the 1968 “Credo of the People of God by Paul VI. I chose neither and turned in a beautifully handwritten copy of the Apostes’ Creed. Daring for a theology student of the 80s eh? Well…I was no one’s fool. Along with it was an explanation that it most beautifully expressed the ecumenical spirit of Vatican II since it was a Creed shared by so many denominations. (yeah ok…I was a coward and not looking to be the universtity’s theological martyr).

    I had to laugh I read your story and your creed (can you believe we can laugh at this now?) And I thank God that so much, so very very much has changed. God’s gift of JPII was the unfolding flower of true renewal as his papacy endured. Devotion to Our Lady and the rosary became acceptable again and then boomed into great popularity (I recall some of us feeling like we had to pray the rosary secretively at night while on a walk in the grounds). Same for devotions to the Eucharist. One professor had told us “Jesus never said, ‘Take this all of you at look at it.'”…Uggh. Praise God for what he learned, for what we suffered, for the grace of a faith that endured.

    But I must say from my vantage point that while I rejoice in the revival of devotions and orthodoxy that seem so apparent among the younger crowd I also worry. I love talking with the new guys and sharing the stories of battle when they ask…but I sense in many (not all) a kind of kickback to pre-Vatican II days as if these were so perfect and had no need whatsoever for reform. I hear clericalism as I have not heard for decades. I tell the guys: “Look, if it was all so 100% perfect how in the world did the seminaries and convents go to pieces almost overnight? How could those whose faith, as you all seem to think, was rock solid on Peter, shout Peter down and spew vile comments about him? And if the laity were so convinced of the beauty and power of the Mass, how could they go from crowded churches to sparse attendance?

    I pray we return to the good that WAS present while we embrace the reforms that WERE needed, and that we move forward into the 21st century as a dynamic purified Church of the New Evangelization proclaiming the Gospel in words the people understand and celebrating the Sacraments as intruments of grace for their – and our – salvation and sanctification. And most of all…Ut Unum Sint. What a powerful witness that shall be!

  16. Good article! I also believe that things are changing for the better. I left the Church in the early 70’s, in part, because I thought the Church was changing what it had always taught. I reasoned that if the Church was changing doctrine and morality it could not be the true Church, and there was no point in me staying. About 30 years later I realized my error and returned to the Church. Now I see things clearly: the Chruch has not changed and continues to teach what Our Lord and the Apostles taught. Although there is still much dissent, it’s encouraging to see that the Smoke of Satan (the Spirit of Vatican II) is slowly dissipating.

    1. Rene-I don’t get your point here. You say you came back after realizing the continuity in the Church but then drop a bomb at the end…It’s a pretty radical statement to suggest that the “Spirit” of an Ecumenical Council is somehow from Satan. Can you at the same time believe the Church is faithful to Our Lord and also puts forth the smoke of Satan?

  17. Dear Father,

    Feel so very privileged that I could read this post today. Being part of this journey in faith has been wonderful. Yes! many of us are struggling to keep alive what is old and orthodox but essentially very traditional and handed down to us by the early church, Yes, I agree when someone says that though the laity as collaborators need to take active participation in the affairs of the church, let not the clergy forget its role and hand over more responsibilities to them and sit back, convinced that God will take care. The crisis that you faced in the 70’s and 80’s in America is probably sweeping the Church in India, especially in the big metros where a certain laxity is setting in among the priests and laity all in the name of faith being totally a private affair and it does not matter how we conduct ourselves in church, receive sacraments etc. But amidst the pall of gloom, let me say that we are having a huge Charismatic Renewal sweeping the church and more and more youth are getting to know the scriptures and what God wants of us and how he wants us to live in a multi-cultural society like India. Let us not forget that following Christ is following the narrow path and everything that comes forth as easygoing could be from Satan. But at the end of it all, I believe that Our Lord reigns above every other force and when he could give a Francis de sales during the Protestant movement, he will give the church many priests like you to keep our identity from being crushed by Satan…..All glory and honour to Jesus.

  18. Throughout those confusing times we were blessed to have a several churches that did not
    go innovative–and crazy. It was a drive to get to them on Sunday, but worth it..
    We also read a lot of Arcchbishop Sheen books and other
    good Catholic books so that we were able to stay on track. I am sorry for the many that gave up and left the church in disgust or became extremists.
    Yes, it is good that things are turning around. We have been advised that “few” will be saved, or that “few” will
    remain–so let us hope and pray we are in that group. God bless all of our good and holy priests.

  19. I will admit a prejudice here. I grew up with the Latin Mass and miss it mightily.

    I don’t want to jump on anyone, but I don’t understand the resistance to the return of the Latin Mass. This is not to say we should replace the vernacular masses, but to have the traditional Latin as an available option for all Catholics. The Latin can be used wherever Catholics who speak different languages gather, as in the old Italian/Irish/German/Polish immigrant parishes when I was growing up. It means that any Catholic traveling the world will be able to participate in a Latin mass, a mass they can understand, wherever they are in the world. In my current parish the 10am mass alternates between English and Spanish, meaning you will never get to worship with other people of your own parish. A Latin mass would bring us together. The Latin Mass is also beautiful and reverent. It’s an ancient and venerable tradition in the Catholic Church, an old family heirloom we are throwing away.

    1. I like the Latin Mass (EF) and celebrate it regularly. But it is not for everyone. I agree that I wish in polyglot situations like you describe that more thought would be given to using the Latin Language.

  20. Michael,

    As an old guy who went through CCD in the 60’s I believe that your idealism and Faith in humanity speaks of your integrity and trusting nature but also of your naivete. There is much evil in our present society and world; that was not as prevalent in my youth, that is perhaps hidden from the view of today’s innocents. Many more people are falling into the traps and snares of: abnormal sexual preferences, abortion, euthanasia and contraception and other evils that break down morals and the family and cause higher and higher divorce rates. There are spreading social evils such as substance abuse, human trafficing, organized crime that wage war on basic human rights and the very image of God implanted in the human soul. There is growing disparity of wealth, hunger, incurable disease (aides) and war and pestilence and growing terrorism around the globe. Yes, God is always All Good and All Knowing and All Powerful and All Loving. And so we His People must attempt to emulate Him collectively; in and through the graces bestowed through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, to be prepared to face the challenges before us with dignity and grace. May God always bless you and your friends and peers and lead you to all Truth holiness and the greatness you were meant for in Christ Jesus Our Lord. I hope you will do a better job than my generation did.

  21. Daniel and Michael

    My Apologies,

    Michael In my comment above I actually meant to address the other gentleman who you were responding to, Daniel.

    God Bless you both!

  22. I live in the Detroit Diocese. In 1960, a dissenting organization named Called to Action had it’s first conference here. Next year, under another guise, they host another conference, still harping on all the same things 10 redefining family life and morals to include abortion and birth control; redefining the nature and role of women, including ordination; elected pastors, bishops and even popes; Liberation theology; acceptance of homosexual activity; desacrilization of the liturgy; lay control of governance and parish finances; and married priesthood!

    Many of these people hide their politics and move into positions in Parishes, start conversations about the above topics, and stir up sentiments among people who ordinarily wouldn’t consider the above things.

    Yet, is there improvement? Yes. A conference countering the divisiveness, named “Call to Holiness”, is back and bigger than ever and completely loyal to the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church since the day it was formed to counter the errors spread by Call to Action.

    Anybody interested in attending can look here http://www.call to holiness.com remove the spaces.

  23. Mark, et al. —

    Yes, you are correct that it is a mistake for us to think that all the woes of the Church began in the 1960-70s. Rather, every age has had its problems. The Council did not cause the problems, rather, the Council was called as an answer to the problems.

    I too grew up in the hippie days of folk Masses, etc., and blamed Vatican II for much of the strife. That is because I was as ignorant of V2 as I was of the state of the everyday Church before the Council.

    People did not reject Humanae Vitae en masse because of the “New Mass,” but because of significant and substantial deficiencies in the religious formation of the faithful in the decades leading up to HV. Indeed — the “Novus Ordo” did not even exist yet when HV came out. And beyond the scandal of contraception, the scandals of widespread divorce broke out prior to the 1960s as well.

    No, prior to the Council, prior to the vernacular, prior to the Ordinary Form, prior to “versus populum,” prior to felt banners, prior to hippie-dippie music, the lay faithful were weak in the faith — that aspect of the Church that is the human institution was hollow. And it had been hollow for quite some time. Accordingly, when the faithful came under the attack of Modernism, of Utilitarianism and various materialistic economic ideologies like socialism, etc., they quickly fell victim.

    We are grossly mistaken if we believe that there was ever a “golden age” when everyone was firm in the faith. There have always been varying degrees of fidelity and sincere piety amongst the People of God. Read some portions of the Old Testament and you are lucky to find one guy in a hundred who is faithful to God. People have long been weak in the faith — not out of malice, but out of ignorance.

    And that is why the New Pentecost, the Springtime of the Church, was necessary. That is why, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Council was called. Not to reinvent the Faith, but to better understand it and better present the Good News to the world. And although there were attempts to hijack the Council, before, during,and after, notwithstanding those who view the landscape of the Church and see nothing but desolation, we ARE in the Springtime of the Church. Perhaps, we are a little smaller, as mentioned by Pope Benedict, but we are in the long run stronger. The Church is no longer hollow.

    The faithful center of the Church is MUCH more knowledgable about the faith, has a much greater grasp and understanding. If only we would get over this tragic foolishness of Catholics attacking each other, we are now in a much better position to be a light to the world. Of course, we should never have doubted that. That is what the Holy Spirit intended when He began this process.

    1. I agree with your analysis here Bender. It is clear that there must have been deep problems before the Council otherwise how explain the sudden collapse. One hopes te dust will settle and that we all can allow for legitimate diversity and be strongly united in doctrine.

  24. Thanks be to God. It will be the Holy Spirit that builds us back up again after so much human error in implementing the good things that came out of Vatican II.

  25. I do see God doing great things in the Church. It started with Blessed JPII’s resounding ‘Be not afraid’ call and the release of the new Catechism. While that was happening I found myself developing a quiet admiration for Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The more slurs and criticism I heard the more my devotion secretly grew. I have to admit, once JPII died, I was more than a little apprehensive about what we truly might deserve and what might be next regarding the Papacy. Needless to say, I was more than a little pleased and relieved when Cardinal Ratzinger was elevated to Holy Father. When I learned he assumed the name and patronage of Saint Benedict of Nursia, one of my favorite Saints, I was more than a little overjoyed.

    This summer I couldn’t help but notice, what seems to me, an unprecedented change in leadership regarding Bishop retirement and appointments. Secretly, I thought, change is good. Other things that give me great hope is the response to our Holy Fathers call to get blogging and the use of the Internet. I can’t help but notice the explosion of brilliant Catholic minds and voices changing things for the better, this site a prime example.

    The creation of the new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

    The approval of Liturgiam Authenticam.

    Cardinal Chaput’s recent address.

    The Holy Father’s trip to the UK this month and the talk of Anglican conservatives converting to the Catholic Church.

    Help me out here, I’m sure sure I missing many things, but yes, I truly do see God doing great things in the Church!!

    Deo Gratias.

  26. Dear Msgr. Pope,
    This topic resulted in a great back and forth discussion. I’m glad that there are so many comments.
    I too have high hopes for things getting better via our young people. I recently drove quite a distance to attend an FSSP Mass. The reason being because of my love for Latin. I was so impressed by the congregation!
    Almost all were young people with children. Likewise the choir. It was so heartwarming. There is indeed hope and light at the end of the tunnel. We have to keep working hard.
    Thank you for your loyalty.

  27. Unfortunately, I do not remember the 60’s to 80’s and maybe because of Vietnam and because I made the Military a career. Spent my career overseas (Asia and Mid East). Coming home occasionally, When I did retire in the 90’s, I saw a weak Church being very accommodating to the Government or powerful men. I heard weak homilies. I saw Churches doing the MASS different.
    It is changing, I believe our current Pope is taking the Church in the right direction. I believe Pope John Paul
    was great but unable to control the American Catholic Church.
    I recently made a novena for our youth to have the faith and courage to take a stand, something
    it appears my generation did not have. Maybe I was the one blessed by being overseas.
    Is the Church changing in the right direction. Like a large ship, the turn has to be wide and slow. It has to happen and our youth are our hope. But I think the American Catholic Church has just started the turn.
    Is it better then 60 yo 80’s? if I compare it to Asia and Mid-east, no. But I do hear horror stories of those. times.
    This was a very interesting and thought provoking article.

  28. At age 77, I can clearly recall the Church practices in the 1940s (Latin weekday masses where the students in attendance were led in the Rosary until the Sanctus), the 1960s etc. I also discovered that the Creed used in anglophone Canada differs slightly from that in the US: “…descended among the dead..” vice “…descended into hell..”
    In retrospect, I recall some (I didn’t recognize it at the time) hypocrisy in the pre Vat. II church.
    Some V. II “hijackers” still lead classes on catechetical formation; one sometimes can’t tell whether they actually believe the articles in the Creed.
    Discernment and prayer are called for. If someone, even someone in authority, teaches something that doesn’t feel right, or sound right, in terms of what I have always understood, I can refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    We need prayer for our priests & bishops, just as we also pray for our children and grandchildren.

  29. Thank you for your post Monsignor. I have a couple different thoughts about the current status of the Church and where it is heading. First, I think Pope Benedict has taken several steps, namely the focus on the “hermeneutic of continuity” and Summorum Pontificum, that have us going in the right direction. I also have seen encouraging signs among young seminarians, which is always important. However, while occasionally one sees these positive trends within the Church, I fear that this is only on the margins. Much of what I see in “mainstream” Catholicism is quite discouraging.

    Nine out of ten Catholics I speak with don’t believe what the Church teaches regarding faith and morals (i.e. divorce, contraception, marriage, etc.). Furthermore, most have a very protestantized view of Christianity that, in my opinion, is borne of gross neglect in catachesis and protestantized worship (not trying to be polemical here, just stating my experience). In fact, for the good of my family, I am considering moving to another city, home, and job simply to raise my family in a sound orthodox parish that does not compromise the faith (fssp).

    While I try to stay optimistic and hopeful, I fear that the Church is settling into a type of soft comfortable middle ground – unwilling to be politically incorrect and “offensive” to modern ears. In the end, any restoration must come from the top down. My main concern right now is to pass on the faith to my little ones and to continue to grow in wisdom and holiness.

Comments are closed.