Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Help! Help! We're being repressed!

The Mass, it is a changin'.

And all the folks who were so enthusiastic about all the changes to the central prayer of the Catholic Church four decades ago -- and indifferent to how those changes rocked the world of ordinary folks in the pews -- suddenly have become liturgical populists.

Those who never heard a prayer of the church they couldn't change at will, for political correctness' or gender equity's sake, now worry that changing the order of the Roman Mass after a mere two years of "pre-teaching" will drive Catholics right out of the church and be a stumbling block to others who might have come in from the spiritual cold.

You can read about the leader of the resistance
in The Seattle Times, or you can read his call to arms . . . er, call to wait? . . . er, declaration that Pope Benedict XVI and the American bishops are mean, mean men (and wholly undemocratic, too) in America magazine here.

BUT I WANT you to take something into account.

Folks who are convinced the bishops and Holy Father are being mean, shortsighted and authoritarian -- authoritarian, no less, in a hierarchical organization going back two millennia -- just because they're taking away familiar-but-faulty Mass language are applying the paradigm of consumerism to the paradigm of the sacred.

Consumerism has no problem with telling people all the lies their fallen nature wants to hear if that's what it takes to get them in the door and relieve them of all that cash taking up space in their wallets. What the Catholic Church is supposed to be about is something completely different. Like truth.

If the present English-language Novus Ordo (the "new order" of the Mass established by the Second Vatican Council) is further from the truth than the original Latin text of the supreme prayer of the Church, why wouldn't we want to fix it ASAP? The bottom line is that if a translation does not conform to the message intended in the original, then it -- no matter how damn popular and familiar -- is telling people something slightly off about the nature of the Mass, the nature of God and the nature of ourselves.

That is never a good thing -- particularly in a lie-dominated age such as ours.

GOD IS TRUTH. Jesus is the Word incarnate. Our supreme duty as Catholics -- and as human beings -- is to the truth. And the Truth.

"Spirit of Vatican II" people now say they're "hanging on by their fingernails" because the bishops made an executive decision -- based on scholarship and at the command of the Vicar of Christ -- about the one thing that's absolutely their responsibility and not ours? Well, I've been freakin' hanging on by my fingernails for a long time now because truth has become apocryphal in so much the Church does (and is) nowadays.

What's important now is the Almighty Dollar and getting asses in pews, so that they might offer up their Almighty Dollars. And it seems to me that ever since I've been Catholic (and for a couple of decades before that, at least) the main thing being sacrificed at the Mass is beauty, good taste and any sense that it's all about Jesus Christ crucified and risen -- as opposed to how incredibly neato keen all us white-bread suburban Catholics are.

I am sure that a lot of the people upset about the coming rejiggering of the Mass -- truly -- are holier, better people that I. Even so, they're not going to get to Heaven on their own. And what has come to pass for contemporary Catholicism ain't helping matters.

IF YOU ASK ME, everything from The Scandals to the extreme solipsism effectively encouraged among the laity is of one piece, indicating that we all hold something very, very dear . . . and that it ain't Jesus Christ. Or even our suffering brothers and sisters (see Curtiss, Elden and his Big Ass $380,000 Retired Archbishop Bachelor Pad right here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska).

I was raised entirely unchurched by People With Issues . . . chief among them that they didn't like people. My mother was raised by people who were desperately poor and found it more important to Not Be Embarrassed Further than to make sure their raggedy kids were confirmed and churched (or, for that matter, even educated).

I did not come to the Catholic Church at age 29 to be entertained or coddled. Frankly, I can entertain myself far better on Sundays than by sitting through Marty Haugen's Greatest Hits (a.k.a. Short Bus Dinner Theater) and listening to middle-aged women frantically trying to not use third-person masculine pronouns while reciting the prayers of the church. (Well, actually, that is kind of entertaining, but I digress.)

I came to the Catholic Church at age 29 because I had come to the end of myself, and it seemed a reasonable alternative to blowing my brains out . . . which itself would have been a reasonable alternative to becoming My Parents v 2.0. I came to the Catholic Church because of an aunt and uncle who managed not to fall away despite everything, because I sensed that, in some way, Catholicism was a part of who I was despite my upbringing in a church-free, pagan version of Southern Presbyterianism.

I came to the Catholic Church because it had stood since Jesus founded it, because what I needed was unvarnished truth, and because I figured that if any church would tell me straight up what the deal was -- even though it might be the last thing I wanted to hear -- that would be the one.

Twenty years later, I put up with feckless bishops, raging ecclesiastical identity crises, white-bread suburban religiosity that will tolerate letting Jesus out of the tabernacle for just about an hour a week (but no more) because I still think that's true. That's why *I'm* hanging on by *my* fingernails.

I'M HANGING ON by my fingernails because I'm a lousy, rotten, sinful son of a bitch prone to making a damned mess of things. I'm hanging on by my fingernails because I know I have nowhere else to go, and that if I do go, that's pretty much it for me.

And every time the church chooses expedience over truth, the closer I draw -- the closer we all draw -- to the abyss.

Flannery O'Connor once told a friend that if the Eucharist were just a symbol and not the true Body and Blood of Christ "then to hell with it." I am an O'Connor Catholic. And if the Mass -- the prayer of the universal church -- is just, in effect, a marketing ploy existing to attract converts and placate the regulars, then to hell with it.


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