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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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.
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.
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