By FR. KEVIN M CUSICK
News came in recent weeks of a violation of child protection and chastity on the part of yet another member of the clergy in the United States. While we want to avoid gratuitous interest in such cases that often does little more than feed sinful curiosity about evil, we cannot bury our heads in the face of reality. The sad lessons of human failing in matters of concupiscence abound all the more in an age where sexual images are abundantly available a “click” away. The potential for dangerous objectification of the human person and the feeding of addictive sexual response call for perennial vigilance.
Also ever with us is the anti-Catholic prejudice responsible for the willful blindness on the part of so many to similar misdeeds in other religious bodies. In conversation with another military officer while waiting for routine auto maintenance, and in the context of the topic of pornography and the need to protect children from access to it, he brought up the recent case that involved inappropriate contact with a young woman as well as a personal collection of pornographic images on the part of a priest.
Priestly malfeasance is, of course, as in all vocations, never a good thing and abuse of human beings of any kind, especially children, is never acceptable. Everyone is involved in the effort to make sure such crimes and sins never happen again. With all that, however, it never hurts to respond with “What’s your point?” when people bring up incidents involving priests or the Church in isolation from the occurrence of such things elsewhere. Amazing how it can clear the air.
A recent opinion piece in Crisis magazine makes clear the doctrinal chaos that results when one aspect of the edifice of moral doctrine is pulled from the building without regard for the effect it will have on the building as a whole. Tom Piatak, in “A Rival Good to God’s: On Cardinal Kasper’s Divorce Proposal,” writes:
“Rather than being praised as exemplars of ‘fidelity and Christian consistency,’ divorced people who make the often great effort to live by Church teaching are being told that their sacrifice was needless. They should have done what they wanted and ignored what the Church taught.
“English priest Fr. Ray Blake recently highlighted a poignant example of this on his blog, where he recounted the case of ‘a man . . . who for over two decades has been living heroically in a “brother/sister” relationship with an equally heroic woman whose first marriage broke down after ten years. . . . The man having read the text of the cardinal’s speech asked, “Father, have we wasted the last 22 years?” He said that he now felt his faith was undermined, that the struggle he and his “wife” had engaged in was by the cardinal’s teaching meaningless and vainglorious. . . . There are many men and women in this situation, the sacrifices they have made have been truly heroic, for me they are signs of grace and often heroic virtue, now it seems that they might well have wasted their lives, this is another of the signs that is being given’.”
Some of our contemporary bulls in the proverbial doctrinal china shop are making quite a mess of the very carefully developed moral teaching that has grown under the guidance of the Holy Spirit over the centuries. The gradualness of human nature held in tension over against the non-gradual nature of the law is a delicate balance that must be observed in the art of pastoral care of persons. To reach atomistically into human affairs and select one iteration of abnormal human relationships for special privileges when there are so many who lack access to the sacraments unleashes a hornet’s nest of problems for pastors and the Church. Not to speak of further confusion where there is already so much within the Church!
Priests attempting to implement the liturgical norms run into aspects of this seemingly pervasive confusion. If one were to ask the typical Catholic which aspects of Vatican II he finds most important, he would likely compose a list entirely of options: English in the liturgy, Communion under both Species, extraordinary ministers, reception of Communion standing and so on. That so many have built their spiritual lives on such inessential aspects of liturgy demonstrates the superficiality that often passes for solid spiritual life.
Not only is Latin constitutive of the liturgy while considered purely optional by many, it is one of the few elements stipulated for use by Vatican II which, in Sacrosanctum Concilium, specifies that the congregation should be able to say or to sing in Latin those parts of the Mass which pertain to them. Rigid false conceptions that have taken root in the absence of accurate knowledge of the council leave many in obstructive lack of cooperation when the priest proposes praying the Our Father in Latin, objecting that because some may struggle with the text none should use it.
If, as has been demonstrated in my own experience, a six-year-old can learn to pray the Our Father in Latin, then most adults, including some with considerable learning disabilities, are also so able. The accusation that use of Latin is about the priest’s personal preferences without regard for the people is absurd when one considers that Latin was around as the language of the Church long before anyone on the current landscape existed, including the priest.
A typical reaction focuses on the priest personally who proposes the widening of liturgical options to include those which enable liturgical celebration in continuity with our Catholic past when, in fact, it is those priests who jettisoned the tradition and substituted rupture who are to blame.
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(Follow Father Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)