+ A.M.D.G. +

bf-2015-diamond-black-opt

TO KNOW, LOVE, AND SERVE GOD.

What Really Killed the Catholic Church in America

Appearing on a heavily trafficked blog today is an article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker titled What’s Killing American Catholicism. In it, Father Longenecker says two things worthy of note:

  • Ethnic Parishes destroyed America (!). Literally, he says “The first problem is cultural Catholicism”. I am flabbergasted and nearly speechless at the ignorance of this statement. His conclusions thereto are even more fantasy. He somehow conflated ethnic tradition with mainstream American Catholic Church lunacy:  “This is the core problem with Cultural Catholicism: by its very nature it goes with the flow.”
  • Father is looking at ethnic traditions from the outside. He doesn’t understand it, evidenced by this quote: ” I was brought up as an Evangelical fundamentalist.”  While Father goes on to explain that he understands traditions. I don’t find any of his explanations of Mennonite and other Anabaptist faiths to be compelling, however. Those are, after all, traditions that sought to rid themselves of humanity in favor of an insular “circle the wagons” in a safe community.

Father concludes with a fancy sounding label he created: “The answer to Cultural Catholicism, therefore, is what I call Comprehensive Catholicism–a Catholicism that embraces all things for their essential worth.”  I have to laugh at it.  He wants to make something up whole cloth from scratch.

I’ve got news for him:  people did that for the last twenty centuries and it’s called “tradition.”  G.K. Chesterton calls tradition “the democracy of the dead.”  People who lived through depressions, gnosticism, heresy, secular governments, martyrdom, aggressive cults and sects, as well as faithless priests and bishops figured out the “Best practices” and the “comprehensive solutions.”  We call it ethnic traditions.

Father is recounting his casual experience with the children of ethnic tradition, but he leaves something out:  those people have been assaulted by AmChurch. Yes, Father needs to account for the errors that are forced from within the AmChurch — they infect and destroy the cultureless, and this infection has been so festered that even ethnic traditions have been affected. What are the festering errors? It’s not ethnicity. Father seems to prefer the culture-less, whitewashed Church, like this one:

whitewashedchurch

There is nothing from tradition or ethnicity invading that “worship space!”   It truly is a vacuum! You can bring whatever you want to that space and nothing in there will confront you with opposing ideas. That’s the AmChurch!

Over the years, I have heard Fr. Hardon give many explanations of the problems in the Church. Never did Fr. Hardon, or any other priest that I recall, complain that ethnic tradition was killing the Church. Rather, I’ve heard the following, and this is not an exhaustive list by any means:

  • Lack of clear teaching on basic Catholic faith. Error is not promptly crushed or corrected by the Bishops – that’s their purpose, yet we’ve seen:
    • Silence on the assertion that God is not a person, but a genderless “thing;”
    • Silence on the assertions that the miracles in the Gospel are mere stories;
    • Silence on the errors propagated by liberation theologians (social activism, Marxism, etal.);
    • Silence on Humanae Vitae – despite what Fr. Longenecker says, implying that people think contraception is OK is caused by ethnic traditions — the real cause is that his confreres and bishops have ignored the teaching for over forty years. It starts, as Fr. Hardon would say, with contraception (see Fr. Sauppe’s take, too);
    • Silence on divorce and excessive grants of annulments leading the faithful to a diminished understanding of the sacrament of matrimony; and,
    • Silence on the morality of telling the truth (seriously, when is the last time you heard this basic concept preached?).
  • Actual error taught to the faithful:
    • Fr. Hardon recounted the story that an Archdiocese refused to give him an imprimatur on a small booklet about the Blessed Sacrament unless Father would remove the words “real presence” before the reference to Jesus;
    • I can recall being told by numerous priests (and one archbishop) that the Blessed Sacrament was a symbol, never referencing that a physical real Person is there;
    • I can recall being told by priests in AmChurch parishes that confession is arcane, and that God could hear your confession anywhere;
    • That sin is “institutional” and “social” without ever referencing actual sin, that is, error by the person; and,
    • That hell is imaginary and implying that everyone goes to Heaven, no matter their choices.
  • Liturgical Abuses:
    • Liturgical Dance;
    • The removal of Gregorian Chant and traditions of the Roman Rite;
    • the regular use of so-called “eucharistic ministers” which are properly called “extraordinary ministers” (because they are only supposed to be used in extraordinary circumstances);
    • the tinkering with the english language, which is not resolved (the ICEL psalms are terrible);
    • the destruction of devotions, statues, things of beauty;
    • the construction of empty churches that have no statues, no painting;
    • removal of kneelers;
    • bowing instead of genuflecting;
    • removal of gestures of faith during the liturgy; and,
    • the insertion of inane music to the Mass (guitars, hippy music, and other experiments of things devoid of ethnic tradition).

This list can easily be expanded. Any of these are fatal to the Church. None of these have anything to do with ethnic parishes but with the American hierarchy and the parishes therein.

Ethnic Traditions are Part of Genuine “Comprehensive Catholicism”

The traditions I learned of Polish customs surrounding the Church are literally “Comprehensive Catholicism.”  Good lay people strong with traditions have been the ones that have preserved the true faith — despite the onslaught of the AmChurch. Frankly, a lot of what I read from the Bellarmine Forum (even though it was called Wanderer Forum Foundation back then) over the years helped immensely. It is, literally, lay people coming from ethnic traditions that could see the destruction of the Church occurring around them and said “enough!”  Documents and newsletters of the Forum weren’t welcome in AmChurch parishes. I can remember seeing them traded like contraband among little old ladies who still had prayer sodalities at their houses (because the parish priest refused to give them space at the parish church) and among regular blue-collar guys who talked briefly between wrangling their children. 

For Fr. Longenecker to lay blame on someone other than the crazy experiments carried out in the “spirit of Vatican II” is not very realistic. Whatever else I can say about ethnic Catholicism is that it is real:  it has to be. Let’s be real about what killed the Church in America.

I find it funny that among the various ethnic parishes I’ve been at, the old folks all complain of the same thing:  assimilation by the culture-less American Church destroying their children. For them, the AmChurch has been a gateway drug to nondenominational worship by their kids.  That is, among other things, what the ethnically cleansed parishes of the AmChurch were:  nondenominational, noncharactered, nonsacramental, nontraditional, and non-Catholic.

Little Vinny doesn’t believe in the sacraments anymore not because he went to St. Anthony’s Grotto Parish with quarterly ravioli dinners and a giant festival to St. Anthony every year. Little Vinny doesn’t believe because he experienced AmChurch which has no ravioli, no ties to history, no statues, no sacraments, and no faith. It’s really that easy.

The problem in the Catholic Church today is that it has made a generation and a half of little Vinnys, little Seans, little Margaritas, little Sashas, and given them a false belief that what AmChurch taught them is really the Church. One of the only things that might possibly provoke these people to wake up and realize that AmChurch was wrong is the niggle of ethnic traditions. Why? because it carries with it the democracy of all those people who built it with features of Catholic faith. Such traditions are an integral part of anything we might call “comprehensive Catholicism.”


This article, What Really Killed the Catholic Church in America is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
https://bellarmineforum.org/2013/05/02/what-really-killed-the-catholic-church-in-america/
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

About John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benzinger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.

23 Comments

  1. […] seem to be limited to catechesis, though…  I think Fraser may have been talking about the stripping away of cultural underpinnings of faith as well, as I highlighted some time ago in Wha…. Again, when highlighting that we’ve succumbed to ignorant orthopraxis as well, we seem […]

  2. […] dragging out questionable votes.  See, if you thought I was being harsh or overboard when I wrote What Really Killed the Catholic Church in America, I was being very nice about it. Just speaking the facts is harsh enough.  It’s worse, […]

  3. […] We here at the Bellarmine Forum have often spoken of the revered traditional customs, especially those that take place at Easter and Christmas.  Pope Benedict XVI has spoken eloquently of these and we have endeavored over the years to celebrate and bring to a wider audience these traditions.  We have probably been disproportionate in our celebration of Central European traditions, but that is because of the heritage of the contributors here.  I have written elsewhere of these traditions and how they are a foretaste of the eternal banquet–what Chesterton called the “Inn at the End of the World.”  Manos has also never tired of repeating that the influence of the ethnic parishes and their traditio…. […]

  4. […] got into topics such as ethnic parishes, and the loss of those in America (a topic we’ve discussed here). But he really drove to a point about the focus of western thought and discussion: we’ve […]

  5. […] I’ve always chuckled that people called reacting to these things “extremism” — as if there should be no outrage, as if there were no victims.  The truth is that the error is damaging, ugly, and real — it is evil.  A further catalogue of the mess, which completes the image Frontline missed, is in the article I posted a while back on what really killed the Church in America. […]

  6. […] in the Blessed Sacrament or the indissolubility of Holy Matrimony? (I mentioned this failure in What Killed the Church… but I restrained myself from calling them Judases on my own estimation.  Now I have […]

  7. […] The problem with all that flowery language is that everyone looses sight of what went wrong in the Church in America. […]

  8. […] new life into the world? The realpolitik, the sitz im leben, the situation on the ground, is that reproductive dissent has reached and surpassed a critical mass. Whether we are talking within or outside the church, […]

  9. Jennifer Fitz on May 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

    John Manos – coming to this late, but with a couple comments in defense of Fr. L, whom I’ll attempt to represent accurately:

    a) Patheos has been doing a major overhaul of the combox system, there have been bugs, and I imagine you got lost in that. The kind of comments Fr. L moderates are the profanity-laden, not honest arguments.

    b) I gather the point wasn’t “ethnic parishes are bad” — not by a long shot. Rather, a line of thinking I have certainly encountered:

    1. I’m catholic cause that’s what Italians/Irish/etc do
    2. Look, I’m American! But Catholic is still my “heritage”!
    3. So Catholic = American Culture

    I have seen this progression across generations, time and again. I think this error *causes* the AmChurch problem you point to. In day-to-day life I see it whenever some difficult topic is brought up, and some well-meaning, enthusiastic Catholic will tell me, “Well you need to get with the times. This is normal now. All the kids are doing this.”

    That, I think, is the challenge. Think of the moments in political history when folks said, “We’ve arrived. Someone Catholic ascended to ______ position.” Never, “We’ve arrived. People in _______ position now subscribe to the Catholic belief on this or that.”

  10. Joe Ramsak on Facebook on May 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    John Manos: “In his greeting to the Pope, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, said that “here are represented ten centuries of history that few know about because it is made of simple, everyday gestures, etched nevertheless, in people’s hearts.” I suspect this may support what you were saying here? I was surprised to see the Confraternities; do not know if they exist beyond some here or there in the US. Would love to find the full transcript of the Archbishops greeting to the Pope. Yes, I have a fractured big toe so was able to watch it on EWTN.

  11. Cindy Paslawski on May 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    The picture of the ‘white’ church is an example of what killed the Catholic Church in America. For those of us who grew up in a cultural Catholic church, life revolved around the church, around the liturgical seasons, 40 hours’ devotion, processions, novenas. That’s what kept us Catholic. It was ever before us and in us.
    What did Vatican II really say about living the faith? About liturgy and environment and being the church in the modern world? Pick up a copy of the Bellarmine Forum magazine and find out. All issues of this quarterly are devoted to what Vatican II really said, not some “expert” opinion of what the Church should be this week.

  12. John B. Manos on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Thanks be to God for that, Joe! Honestly, I wish he would have allowed my comment and engaged me in discussion over there on his blog. I think he has to reckon with the reality of the past 40 years in the American Church — we’ve had countless “comprehensive programs” for parish renewal, parish this, small faith community that, everything except for the real: Sacraments, Four last things, telling the truth, and you can’t have duplicity in any way because it all comes out in the end. I haven’t seen any comprehensive programs cover that stuff, but I’ve heard a lot of ethnic people discuss it.

  13. Joe Ramsak on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    BTW, John Manos, I was stating that you hit the nail on the head more than Fr. L.

  14. Joe Ramsak on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    My wife taught PSR at an Amchurch we were parishioners at back in the mid 90s. She taught Tradition and tradition because that is what the kids would ask about…not what was in the textbook. The final straw was probably when she taught one class session that the Catholic Faith is the one true Faith…some controversy resulted after that. So she was not asked to leave…they just knew that she would not be able to teach at the time they wanted her to because we were by then attending the Traditional Mass.

  15. John B. Manos on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    before anybody asks:

    I did post a comment on Fr. Longenecker’s site stating in three sentences why I disagreed and a link to my article. I don’t see it over there, so I don’t know if that means it got moderated out or if it means that I can’t figure out disqus. But, I tried.

  16. John B. Manos on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I get what you guys are saying about the people who appear to be Catholic in name only, but you’re missing my point if you think I misunderstood Fr. L. I’m saying that the ethnic traditions did their job very well (almost too well) because they deliver second and third generations that will still come back to the Church. The problem that Fr. L doesn’t see is that these people come to the Church and find AmChurch and all the things I list and more. It’s not their culture running them away — it’s the silence of AmChurch, the lunacy, and the unilateral orthopraxis of hippies and/or reactionaries that runs them away. It’s precisely the ethnic sense that gives these people sense enough to run far away and be suspicious of arbitrary programs, even Fr. L’s suggested “comprehensive” plan. Why? Because the ethnic traditions give them enough sense to know it isn’t real. To blame these people for contraception is backwards when in fact it was the silence of forty years that needs addressed. To blame these people for not understanding the sacraments is misguided because the AmChurch hasn’t taught it, or worse, given them Sister Stretchpants (who eschews a habit) as an RCIA instructor who insisted that God is a Mother. That’s what these people experienced as “Church”. That they still bring their kids to be baptized is nothing short of miraculous and a true testament to the power of ethnic culture and tradition. The Church needs to be relevant again, and it isn’t going to get there with renew programs, bible studies, and comprehensive orthopraxis. She’ll get there by teaching once again that Jesus lives and is physically present in the sacraments. That’s the problem… AmChurch acts like it doesn’t believe that.

  17. Joe Ramsak on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    “…only for cultural reasons,”?? “Little Vinny doesn’t believe because he experienced AmChurch which has no ravioli, no ties to history, no statues, no sacraments, and no faith.” Why?? For all the reasons and more that Manos listed; who hit the nail on the head more so than the good Fr. L.

  18. Lorena Baas on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    John, I think you misunderstood. He’s not targeting the fact that there were cultural (Irish, Italian, Polish) parishes; he’s saying that as the groups assimilated, they’ve stayed Catholic only for cultural reasons, and I must say I see a LOT of this. Kids are baptized because “it’s what we do” but are never taught the Faith. Many of these folks want to get married in the Church to please their parents; the kids are baptized to please the families; the First Communion is practically the last time those kids go to Mass, or to confession. They want to be godparents because it’s “the thing” and then they get angry when the Church requires them to be practicing, adult Catholics (meaning having had all their Sacraments of Initiation). That’s what Father is talking about.

  19. Lorena Baas on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    John, I think you misunderstood. He’s not targeting the fact that there were cultural (Irish, Italian, Polish) parishes; he’s saying that as the groups assimilated, they’ve stayed Catholic only for cultural reasons, and I must say I see a LOT of this. Kids are baptized because “it’s what we do” but are never taught the Faith. Many of these folks want to get married in the Church to please their parents; the kids are baptized to please the families; the First Communion is practically the last time those kids go to Mass, or to confession. They want to be godparents because it’s “the thing” and then they get angry when the Church requires them to be practicing, adult Catholics (meaning having had all their Sacraments of Initiation). That’s what Father is talking about.

  20. Dana Tafel Nalls on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Hispanics are overwhelmingly going with the flow, unfortunately. Many vote against church teachings, yet receive in good conscience. Self-serving and don’t have a problem with it. :/ I hear what you are saying though. I agree with you in that respect.

  21. Dana Tafel Nalls on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Hispanics are overwhelmingly going with the flow, unfortunately. Many vote against church teachings, yet receive in good conscience. Self-serving and don’t have a problem with it. :/ I hear what you are saying though. I agree with you in that respect.

  22. John B. Manos on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Thanks, Dana Tafel Nalls. I did consider that possibility, except he explicitly says that immigrants and ethnic parishes are those that “go with the flow.” I had to disagree because of two things: my experience with ethnic parishes is that they are the best to resist the “flow” and the “flow” in the church is regulated and led by the bishops and pastors. As the examples I gave pointed out, it was not the people demanding that kneelers by removed, tabernacles moved out of church, or even destruction of statues and whitewashing. Rather, those things were imposed on people. In most cases, it was only the ethnic, blue collar, recently immigrated (2nd and third generation) who fought against these “flows” in the Church.

  23. Dana Tafel Nalls on Facebook on May 2, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I don’t think he means what you think he means. We have two types of Catholics in this country: Faithful Catholics and Cultural Catholics. Faithful are those who follow the catechism and truly live catholic. Cultural are those that have received sacraments and self-identify as Catholic, but do not attend Mass regularly and do not practice catholicism. In no way do I believe that his intent was aimed at specific sub-cultures within the church.

Leave a Comment





Get VIP Notice

Have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox!
Enter your email:

+ B.V.M.H. +

POPULARITY CONTEST

Pin It on Pinterest

73e678b457f55c4f8bce53fab0731b9crrrrr