Friday, September 27, 2013

Jeremiad against hypocrisy and denial over ecclesial collapse

Earlier this month St. Michael's Media released a two-part episode called "Catholic Establishment Media 09-04."

Part I involves an interview with Jay McNally, former editor of The Michigan Catholic, detailing what happened when he wanted to address "uncomfortable" questions about homosexuality within the Archdiocese of Detroit well before the Boston Globe blew the lid off the Catholic sex-scandals across the United States.

Part II involves an animated exposé‎ by Michael Voris of the "Catholic Establishment Media's" concerted effort to keep a lid on the problems surrounding the wholesale collapse of the Church, particularly featuring previously unaired backstories on various attempts to marginalize and silence the apostolate of St. Michael's Media.

This second part is of notable interest for several reasons. First, it details the development of Michael Voris' career and the watershed moment of his alma mater, Notre Dame, honoring President Obama with an honorary doctorate. Second, it reveals very clearly what animates Voris' work: what some might call his Johnny-Come-Lately discovery seven years ago that the problems in the Church stem, not from external attacks or scandalous behavior of nominally-Catholic politicians like Pelosi receiving Communion (these are merely symptomatic), but from those within the Catholic establishment themselves who appear to have a vested interest in keeping the lid on the real problems within the Church.

The whole piece is well worth listening to, but about 35 minutes into the second episode, the Jeremiad gains full force in a veritable tyrade against the hypocrisy and public denial among Catholic leaders regarding the utter collapse of the Church and the distortion of truth and loss of clarity in her message.

I developed a keen sense of smell early in life, even as a Protestant, for preaching or lecturing or writing about religious subjects with an air of unreality -- "God talk" that floats two feet above reality and contradiction like the dialogues of the Laputians in Gulliver's Travels. Do you know what I mean? This is what I get all too often while travelling when I visit other parishes and listen to priests going on and on in their homilies about everything except what really matters.

I remember once taking a visiting Presbyterian minister to Mass at a previous parish. He was a career missionary in Japan and well acquainted with what constitutes a good sermon. I was therefore particularly sensitive to what the priest might say in his homily that Sunday. At the beginning of the homily, a congregant's cell phone rang, and the priest spend the rest of his ten minutes of "homily time" addressing the issue of cell phones in Mass and never got around to proclaiming the Gospel, let alone expositing the text of the lectionary for the day.

And the amazing thing is that this is not at all surprising anymore.

In a 2002 article entitled "The Kasper-Ratzinger Debate & The State of the Church" (New Oxford Review, April 2002), I wrote:
With few exceptions, the results of Catholic catechesis over the past forty years has been dismal. We Catholics, both laity and clergy, are all too often abysmally ignorant of our own Tradition. For more than two generations now, we have been robbed of the fullness of Catholicism, which is our birthright. With a few thankful exceptions, our collective acquaintance with Scripture is piecemeal, our knowledge of Tradition is pathetic, our hymns are embarrassing, our religious art is ugly, our churches look like U.N. meditation chapels, our ethics are slipshod, and our aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities are so far from being sublime that they almost look ridiculous.
In light of this, and many other examples we could offer, it may be concluded that what Michael Voris is saying is not really new. What is new is the fact that he is willing to address these issues which so few people seem willing to talk about.

Even when the facts are abysmally depressing, it can feel like a breath of fresh air to hear someone publicly acknowledging them for what they are, like the kid who cried out "The emperor has no clothes!" -- especially when everyone around him seems intent on steering all conversation away from what is plainly before our eyes. At least then we hear someone describing the same reality that we see around us and know we're not simply going insane in our perceptions.