Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Fr. Longenecker's diagnosis: What's killing American Catholicism - 1

  • Diagnosis: "cultural Catholicism"
  • Prescription: "intentional disciples"
The language and conceptual categories are Evangelical, or perhaps "Evangelical Catholic," and should elicit some good give and take. (We addressed this issue previously in our post, "The Advent of Confessional Catholicism and the Decline of Cultural Catholicism," Musings, June 13, 2012.) So read Fr. Longenecker's piece below and see what you think.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, "What’s Killing American Catholicism – 1" (Standing on my Head, April 30, 2013), writes:
Reading Sherry Weddell’s excellent Forming Intentional Disciples is making me think about the American church and what ails her. Can anybody deny that there is a sickness in the body ecclesia? When 50% of Catholics vote for a man who stoutly defends same sex marriage and partial birth abortion can we say that Catholics in America are okay?
I don’t think so.

Thus a series of posts on what’s killing Catholicism. All the words begin with the letter ‘C’. I can’t help it. I was brought up as a Biblical Evangelical and our pastors always used alliteration to make their points memorable.

The first problem is cultural catholicism. The Poles, Italians, Irish, French, Czech, German and more Catholics came here from the old country and the bishops reckoned the best thing to do with them all was to allow cultural parishes. So in the same town the Irish Catholics went to St Patrick’s and the Poles to St Stanislaus and the Italians to St Anthony of Padua. Geesh, a man in my parish who grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania said that when he was a boy a girl from his Czech parish fell in love with an Irish boy and the Irish priest wouldn’t marry them because it was a mixed marriage.

I’m all for cultural customs and so forth, but the problem is that the immigrant Catholics–in a foreign land–clung to their culture for security and happiness and part of that culture was their Catholicism. The didn’t distinguish their culture from their Catholicism. Then, after a few generations, when they were all really American and stopped being Italian or Irish or German they also stopped being Catholic. The Catholic faith wasn’t much deeper than Mama’s special spaghetti sauce or stories of the Blarney stone.

Of course they didn’t all stop being Catholic. Something else happened which was even more subtle and insidious. They became Americans and because their mindset was that their Catholic faith was something which blended with their culture, instead of being Italian-Catholics or Polish Catholics they became American Catholics. Just as nationalism and love of culture blended with their Catholic faith when they were ethnic minorities, now it blended seamlessly with their new American culture. Just as Catholicism gave their former culture God’s approval, not their Catholicism gave American values and culture God’s approval.

Thus we have what I call AmChurch: the American Catholic church which is happily and blissfully blended with everything wonderful about America. Except that the “wonderful” values of most Americans are unapologetically materialistic, hedonistic and self centered. Thus at least 50% of American Catholics live like their American neighbors–going to the mall, getting as much stuff as possible, giving as little as possible, having a neat and tidy two children and a double income, and basically smiling their way to success like everyone else.

Now this grates with me because I was brought up as an Evangelical fundamentalist and I realize the roots are deep. More than that, I come from seven generations of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch anabaptists–Mennonnites, Amish, Brethren and such. These people had exactly the other point of view. They were first and foremost Christians. They considered it the default setting that each person had to hear the call of Christ and leave their nets and follow him. The church was a pilgrim people–a people set apart. They were suspicious of the surrounding culture and very suspicious of officialdom of every kind. If the Catholics absorbed culture the Mennonite were deliberately counter cultural.

The Mennonite approach, however, has it’s problems. The gospel says we’re to be “in the world but not of the world”. We’re not actually supposed to be totally counter cultural. We’re supposed to be yeast in the dough, a light set on the hill. You get too counter cultural and you become a weird sect like the Branch Davidians

Being a happy Benedictine oblate I see the solution as being something more than both of these ways. The problem with cultural Catholics in America is that they have never come to realize that the Catholic faith transcends every culture. That’s what Catholic means for goodness sake! It’s universal. The Catholic faith is therefore embedded in every culture and takes from every culture what is useful and good, but because it transcends culture it is also automatically counter cultural in the right way.

The Catholic should always be in a constant tug of war with the culture around him. Here affirming what is good–there condemning what is bad. Here supporting all that is full of life, love, truth beauty and goodness and there condemning and avoiding all that is full of death, hate, lies, ugliness and evil.

The answer to Cultural Catholicism, therefore, is what I call Comprehensive Catholicism–a Catholicism that embraces all things for their essential worth. If their value is precious and eternal the more highly we love them. If their value is trash–well we love trash for what its worth too: to be thrown on the rubbish pile and burnt. This sort of constantly discerning Catholicism is what is needed at the individual and local level, but the reason people opt for cultural Catholicism is because it is easy.

This is the core problem with Cultural Catholicism: by its very nature it goes with the flow. In its love and acceptance of the ethnic culture it is uncritical, and because individual cultural Catholics are uncritical of their culture they are also uncritical of the level of their Catholic faith. They chortle along quite happily living the unexamined life.

When the test comes this kind of Catholicism will simply wither and die in the heat. “When the test comes?” We are in the middle of the test already. What I see in the American Catholic Church is a huge “F” on that test. The opportunity to stand up and be counted and to stand against the culture of death in this country has already been lost by the majority of so called Catholics because so blinded by the love of their culture, they didn’t even realize there was a test to start with.

Next installment: “Complacent Catholicism”


I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Dr. With all due respect to Fr. L, because his Diagnosis of the illness is wrong his RX to cure the disease is wrong.

The ethnic/cultural catholicism was so damn effective that the State - fearing Catholics growing political power - intervened to break-up these ethnic parishes going so far as to intentionally destroy Most Blessed Sacrament Parish (Irish) in Philly that then had the largest Catholic Grade School in the world- 3500 students. (page 175).

The Jews (who controlled Hollywood which the Catholic League of Decency forced the Jews to create moral movies or else boycotted them into near penury) and Judaised Prots intentionally targeted and destroyed these Ethnic Parishes to dimantle the Catholic vote and they got the help of AmBishops to do it in their dumb ass 1966 On Race Relations and Poverty; Pastoral Statement of the National Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops (Page 186)

FR. Longenecker would do well to read Dr. E. Michael's study of the problem he is addressing;

John Cardinal Krol and the Cultural Revolution.

AmBishops, whom specialise in ignorance about the ill-will of those not Catholic and who are cajoled by anitCatholics, via appeals to naturalism, into adopting self-defeating ideas about what the Catholic Church in America ought be doing (such as defending the very Religious Liberty condemned consistently in Tradition and which Religious Liberty puts the Catholic Church on the same footing as Pastor Bob of the Red Necktie First Parish Baptist Church of Dubuque and leads to practical atheism - See Pope Leo XIII).

The Domestic Church was working damn fine until the "best educated" fell for the shuck and jive of the Civil Rights movement which was controlled by Jews and, even today Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement is thought the way the truth, and the life.

In any event, the last thing the One True Church needs is more innovation, more new ideas, more new this, new that, more new evangelisation this and new ecumenical outreach that.


I will be dead LONG before the "experts" (so anxious for worldly acceptance and praise) awaken to the reality their enemies have played them like fools.

I am not Spartacus said...

Jesus established a Hierarchical Church and yet, invariably, conservative catholics blame the failure of the Faith on those who have no authority or power; thus the fault lies with cultural catholics and their ethnic parishes etc etc.

The Catholic Fish rotted from the Heads down..

The truth is that each and every single Catholic is a member of a nation (The Catholic Church is the new Israel) within a nation and our allegiance lies in Rome and Tradition not in political America which was created by Judaised Calvinists in DIRECT opposition to Catholic Doctrines about Jesus as King; in opposition to the requirement that the State must publicly worship Jesus as He taught us to worship Him; in direct opposition of the requirement that the State must recognise and support the one true Catholic Church etc etc

Were the AmBishops intentional disciples, they'd be working to encourage MORE immigration of nominal Catholics from the South and then they could set about Catechising them about the duty they have to try and convert America into a Confessional State.

I welcome all immigrants from the south and I encourage them to retain their ethnic Catholicism (yes, even language) for to abandon those ethnic practices is to die to Catholicism and to be reborn as what?

The heresy of Americanism was an infection introduced into the Body of Christ in America by Ireland and Gibbons and its debilitating effects have never been expunged so to blame the powerless is to blame the victims of Americanism and ignore the the manifest and ceaseless failures of our Bishops.

QV said...

"The Catholic faith wasn’t much deeper than Mama’s special spaghetti sauce or stories of the Blarney stone."

"The Catholic should always be in a constant tug of war with the culture around him."

" . . . a Catholicism that embraces all things for their essential worth."

Does anyone find this sort of stuff insightful?

I'll start telling all those weak Catholics around me to start embracing things for their essential worth and playing tug-of-war with the cutlure.

That ought to fix the problem.

Oh, by the way, food and childhood stories are among the most formative experiences one can have. And you can't have "deep" Catholicism without them.

Pertinacious Papist said...

I understand that E Michael Jones has a book entitled The Slaughter of Cities, or something like that, which addresses some of the issues you touch on, IANS. I haven't read it yet, primarily because the Amazon Marketplace prices on it seem a bit prohibitive last time I checked. But I'd like to know what he has to say. I really enjoyed his Degenerate Moderns -- particularly the chapter on Luther, which I read while teaching at my erstwhile institution of Lutheran affiliation. =)

Anonymous said...

I simply don't understand the continuing necessity to split culture from Cathoicism. You can be as intentional as you want, but that feeling doesn't last all the time. Culture is what keeps you going when you're not feeling intentional. This focus on the indvidual's efforts to be intentional all the time misunderstands human nature.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Dr. In the book I referenced (published in 1995) Dt Jones -beginning on page 77 - describes how the highly intelligent and insightful Roman Cardinals, Ottaviani and Ruffini, approached Pope John XIII during the conclave that elected him and pressed him to call a Council to deal with problems that were looming large, albeit invisible to most, both internal decay and external threat.

It was Frings and Ratzinger who led the attacks against Ottaviani and his diligent and insightful preparatory documents and got them voted down but countless are the soi disant traditionalists who have helped create the myth that it was all good prior to Vatican Two and that men like the great Roman, Ottaviani were opposed to the Council.

In his cover story in the April 2013 Culture Wars issue I noted above, Dr. Jones revisits this history and says that Pope Benedict XVI never understood what Ottaviani did - that America was the threat and the Council was called to deal with the threat (in addition to the internal stagnation) - and Jones quotes Malcolm saying to King Duncan (in referencing the abdication) Nothing in this life became him like the leaving of it.

Jones says that Pope Benedict XVI ...courageously threw himself on the grenade of his own exploding papacy... and yet this is the Pope and this was the Papacy that the Brick By Brick Bund says must be imitated by Pope Francis and presumably the Popes who follow sequentially.

It is depressing to realise that we soi disant trads have swallowed whole the very myth about an unnecessary Council (a myth created by trads) when the man we constantly cite as our Knight in shining armor, Alfred Cardinal Ottaviani, was pressing the Pope-to-be during the conclave to call it AND, we lionise as one to be imitated, he who opposed Ottaviani and who never did understand the threat America posed and poses.

If Trads have gotten this wrong - and we have gotten it ass-backwards wrong - then who are we to insist that thus and such must be done?

And STILL invisible within the Hierarchy is that Prelate who so embodies Tradition that it could be a corrective force that could be applied to our inertia into Indifference.

I declare as inapplicable to the times in which I live the no-drinking-on-a-school-night norm.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Dr. I love Degenerate Moderns and there has been not a few times in the past that I referenced it in arguing about how untrustworthy is the fatuous fraud, Freud.

I like to point out that he took liquid cocaine on Walpurgisnacht in imitation of Faust and that is also the same Walpurgisnacht that one Adolph Hitler chose as his date to commit suicide suggesting EMTA - Evil Minds Think Alike.

Anonymous said...


I don't have your background so I need to ask: why was America the threat?

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

I have never heard of Ottaviani approaching Pope Roncalli about the need for a council. Everything I have read to this point indicates that Roncalli had the idea all by his little self.
Given that Ottaviani, as head of what is today called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, considered himself to be the guardian of Church teaching, I am skeptical that he would have been enthusiastic about throwing it all into the kitty of a casino game like "Vatican Council." Of course, once Roncalli had had his Great Idea, Ottaviani had no choice, and he quickly found himself incapable of guarding much of anything. If Ottaviani was enthusiastic about having a council in 1958, I imagine he came to feel differently about it by, oh, 1965.

Ottaviani is admired by "soi-disant trads" for two reasons:

(1) his unyielding (if completely ineffectual) opposition to nouvelle theologie, transcendental thomism, liturgical reform, and other ideological diseases of the day -- he sought to defend the positions that had been (so we thought) authoritatively laid out by Pius XII in Humani Generis and Mediator Dei.

(2) his humiliation at the council by his "divinely inspired" nouvelle colleagues -- an incident which has become a rallying point for trads ever since.

I haven't read this article by E Michael Jones, so I will only say that my attitude toward him has long been "trust -- but verify."

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ralph. I have the info posted on my crummy blog.

I am not Spartacus said...

I don't have your background..

Dear Anonymous. I am sure that is not the only way in which you have been Blessed.

That aside, Culture Wars has been running - for the last year or so - a series of articles identifying America as a major threat to the Catholic Church and it has identified Time Magazine, CD Jackson, The CIA, Jewish Organisations, John Courtney Murray, Malachi Martin etc as those whose malign psy ops were so puissant and successful.

Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, accrd. to Dr Jones, was quite aware of the threat America posed to what was left of Christian Europe after WW2 (and Jones does not even address many of the actions of America in attacking Crown and Altar such as overseeing the questionable plebiscite that slipped the knife into the ribs of the House of Savoy in Italy).

Far too few members of the Catholic Nation within the nation of America understand that it was our mortal enemies, Judaised Calvinists, who successfully seceded from the English Crown and established this new order which refused to recognise that Jesus is King and refused to recognise that the State has a duty to officially recognise the Church as the one true Church and has the duty to offer public worship etc etc but AmBishops are dutifully instructing and encouraging their flock to succor the very Religious Liberty that is the antithesis of Catholicism.

I know this is quite shocking to read because the Catholic Nation in America has long been practicing the heresy of Americanism to such an extent that any contrary idea seems treasonously heretical but as more and more of the evil results of state-sponsored usury becomes unavoidably apparent, the more willing will Catholics be to hear and learn the truth.

America is the enemy of Holy Mother Church

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ralph. I know you are not a sedevacantist, still, it is amusing that the sedes consider the last real Pope to be Pope Pius XII who at the end of his Papacy was claiming many visions etc; that is the crazy sedes's last real Pope was, apparently, psychotic.

I mean no disrespect to Pope Pius XII for, obviously, he was not culpable whereas the sedes are.

I am not Spartacus said...

Two more sources re Ottaviani and Ruffini pressing for a council during the conclave:

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

IANS, thank you for pulling your info together and sharing it. I was not aware of Ottaviani's desire for a council. From what I read, I see his concerns as being manifold, not Americanism only, or even mainly. In Jones' and Komonchak's accounts, it seems to me that Ottaviani's concern was that the new theology -- ressourcement, transcendental thomism, antiquarianism, et al -- contained grave errors which would "raze the bastions," and render the Church vulnerable to the entire modernist-secularist panoply, Americanism included. And he was exactly right about all of that. What he was exactly wrong about was that convoking a council would set things straight. Pius's long decline was probably a contributing factor in his thinking (hence his support for "collegiality"). But it was also an opportunity for the nouvelles to commence their reinvention of the Church.

It seems to me that there has never been sufficient will among church leaders to purge modernist influences and leanings within. Whenever a nouvelle was ordered into silence, he managed to find sympathy, refuge, even encouragement in one diocese, one university, or another. Maybe suppression was an impossible task. For example, even the Piuses were in favor of liturgical reform in some sense. Yet liturgical reform has opened the door to many things, most of them bad.

What we needed, I guess, was a Pope Torquemada. We didn't get one. Now we have Pope Francis, who is reportedly seeking to go hammer and tong with the curial infrastructure. To what end?

Chris said...

I am not Spartacus-

Please excuse my ignorance.

Who is Dr. Jones, and where might I find his stuff in print, i.e., not relying on a television station or an internet source?

In the same vein, what is "Culture Wars"?

God bless,


I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ralph. Thanks.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Chris.

I have been a longtime subscriber to his periodical but be forewarned that, as the good Dr Blosser says, he is prolix (in a good way).

I have learned a ton from him and I admire his weltanschauung, intelligence, education, and courage. He is a hero of mine.

I have several of his books and The Bride will be buying more of them for me for my Birthday.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ralph. I am thinking about your interesting response and while i do not agree with all of it you make some good points but I am too busy to reply because I am scrambling around to get ready for a trip to the Piedmont region of Italy (LOVE that country) and where I plan to conspire with others to resurrect the House of Savoy.