Friday, January 03, 2014

What is "realism" and what is "wishful thinking" for Catholics today?

Corrado Gnerre, "Who are the real 'Christian Ideologues'?" (from Il Giudizio Cattolico, via Richard Cipolla at Rorate Caeli, January 2, 2014):

A typical error of the post-Conciliar Church is that of not wanting to pay attention to the reality of things. The life of Grace diminishes…it does not matter. The sense of sin diminishes…it does not matter. The family breaks apart….it does not matter. Civil marriage increases and in some regions of Italy are more numerous than religious marriages…it does not matter. Young people have completely lost the obligation and the value of pre-matrimonial chastity…it does not matter. The laws of the State reflect more and more the dominant ethical relativism…it does not matter. All is well, and it is useless to be concerned.

This typical error manifests itself in two attitudes. The first attitude, that of a minority, is to remain silent in the face of this ruinous situation, and in a certain sense gives a positive value to these developments, and hopes that the trend will continue along these lines. Those who think in this way—and let us speak frankly—are those Catholics who do not have a clean conscience, who have a lot of disorder in their private lives. In this way they hope to silence their consciences, while convincing themselves that what all this shows is that Catholic moral teaching cannot be completely respected and that the moral teaching of the Church must be radically changed.

The majority attitude, on the other hand, that manifests this error is more complex. It is the attitude of those who are aware that things are not going well, but at the same time force themselves to show that what is not going well must have to do with a sort of physiological crisis of the Church. It is inevitable that this should happen: to free herself from “historical encrustations” of contamination by issues of power and certain conservative attitudes, the Church must live through a crisis, a crisis that will bring her to a greater “spiritualization” and to being more faithful to her commission. The arguments they invoke are complex, but one understands well that underlying these arguments there lies another question that is psychological.

If for the first attitude the question is “baser”, in a certain sense a “matter of the stomach”, for the second attitude it is more a question “of the head”. And for this attitude it is ideology that prevents understanding. Ideology, one knows, is a hypertrophic condition of the intellect, that because it is an enlarging of the intellect in size without an increase in perception and understanding, results in a blind spot in the intellectual mind itself. When something grows too much it ends up by destroying itself. Cancer is nothing but a crazed growth of cells. A man who grows too tall would not be able to live well, he could not easily walk through a door, he could not easily get into his car, he would have trouble finding clothes or shoes that fit. Ideology is the intellect that is disproportionate and hypertrophied, that wills to not pay attention to observation--- to see how things are as they are--- so that it can put its faith in its own theoretical and intellectual constructions.

We hear often the present Pontiff speak against “ideological” Christians, and many read this as referring to Christians of a traditional mind-set, who are accustomed only to denounce the state of the Faith and of the Church in terms that are never positive. Now this definition is not very useful, because there is so much “ideological Catholicism” in our day. But let us ask ourselves: in whom is this attitude found? To whom should this verbal tag be attached? To those who read things as they are or to those who indulge in the illusion that things are going well when they are not going well at all?

Many know the famous phrase of a well-known Soviet theoretician: “If the facts do not agree with us, all the worse for the facts”. This maxim fits the attitude of all too many Catholics today. Faced with the obvious crisis in the life of Grace, faced with the corresponding crisis in the Church, they insist that there is no need to change pastoral directives, the direction in which things have been moving, the specific initiatives of the last ten years. They would say: the problem is not there, the problem cannot be there. Still, through the wisdom of the Gospels, Christians should be absolutely convinced that a tree is known by its fruit.

Monsignor Giacomo Biffi, Bishop-emeritus of Bologna, using his inimitable style, in his Fifth Gospel wrote in relation to this widespread attitude: “The Reign of Heaven is similar to a pastor who has one hundred sheep and having lost ninety-nine of them, scolds that last sheep for his lack of initiative, sends him away, closes the sheep-fold, and goes to the local osteria to discuss pastoral ministry.” It gives one pause when one remembers that Biffi wrote these words as long ago as 1969: a true prophecy.


Last Advent the Cardinal of Vienna, Monsignor Schonborn, preached in the diocese of Milan, and, speaking of the Church of today, he said: “(…)let us get rid of nostalgia for the ‘50s, those of my childhood, in my village, when the church was filled with people three times every Sunday. Everyone went to church. Let us leave behind nostalgia for the vitality of our places of prayer in the ‘50s and ‘60s.” This is an example of the real “Christian ideology”. It is one thing to say that, recognizing the difference between the past and the present, the Catholic should not lose heart. It is another thing to say that the longing for another time should be abandoned. When one loses something beautiful, this longing is more than appropriate, and it is the only response that is human and reasonable. Of course, one should not get depressed. On the contrary, it is necessary to do what has to be done, to roll up one’s sleeves, and to act, convinced that the fortunes of history are not in our hands but in the hands of God and of his most holy Mother. But an undertaking, a commitment like this, can be motivated only by an intelligent assessment of the situation: things are not going well, so it is necessary to act to change them. To speak of “letting go of nostalgia” is the most an ideologue can say in this type of situation…at least if he does not want to “apostasize”, something we do not consider as possible, able to imagine or be thought of in a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.

There is a fear of seeing reality as it is, but that is not a truly Christian way of looking at things, because the Christian is first of all a person who looks, who sees, who observes, and he uses this as a basis, with the virtue of prudence, to make his own judgments and to determine how to live his own life.


Translated by Father Richard G. Cipolla

Second photo from Huffington Post


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