Misguided Ecumenism 30 years later: Peter Kreeft says the Catholic Church Must Become More Protestant
When I was in grade school, there was a movement in the parish where my Catholic school was that happened alongside the push for “RENEW” — the “Gym” Mass. A young hippy priest, Fr. Tom, came in and decided that us kids didn’t like pews and pipe organs and traditional hymns, so they’d have Mass with guitars, hippy music, and “relevant” sermons instead. I went once. I think I was only interested in seeing what was happening. Even as a child, I hated the droning hymns of GIA and Gather. I hated the guitar even more, especially because it lacked the mystery and majesty of a pipe organ that made the very air alive. In my estimation, the gym Mass was merely a method of trying to “protestantinize” the services, and match the new bible study groups and self-guided disasters of RENEW & Co.
In hindsight, the only thing the bible studies and “small faith” groups did was pull people away from forty hours devotions, sodalities, and prayer cenacles, after which the people who went often met at a local diner for breakfast, coffee, or other social time. Instead, they were supposed to be social during the prayer or bible study. One thing the old guard understood, pray together at Church in front of Our Lord and be together, taking that grace out into the world, at the diner. They knew how to be social. These new hippies with their guitars and bibles underarm did not. It’s no surprise they failed to see social life in the old guard because they were misfits who insisted to persist in their misfit ways. As readers of the Bellarmine Forum know, they’ve been assisted by our Amercian hierarchy.
One of the most persistent voices in the middle of this social movement was that “we need to be community” and gather into small faith groups, etc. etal. ad nauseam. The purported reasoning was that the evangelicals were growing and that was where America was in the modern life, and the new church needs to be there. Of course, making a generation or two of totally ignorant Catholics assisted this motion. By showing that fewer and fewer people were participating in the groups lead by the misfits, they’d claim that the old Church could not compete in this new society.
That was 30 years ago. Over the decades, I have seen it over and over again. Meanwhile, the general liturgy in the United States has devolved into some sort of contemporary worship that seems to be contemporary only to the fantasyland of hippies.
It has yielded nothing but a couple of lost generations.
So, I tend to resent when someone suggests that the Church needs to become more protestant. Nevertheless, that’s precisely what a blog said Peter Kreeft has said. Kreeft is an evangelical convert. Albert Little, also an evangelical convert, waxes poetic on all the great advice he sees in Kreeft’s suggestion. He goes on and on as if there was some great new thing, with analysis:
Evangelical Protestantism, says Kreeft, has a serious market cornered on relationship-building, discipleship, and evangelization. That is, Evangelical churches the world over are great at making people feel welcome (like they’re part of something bigger—because they are), teaching them how to become “little Jesus’s”, and equipping them to go out into the world and act accordingly. Through successful programs of Bible Study, Sunday School, youth groups, and enriching fellowship, Evangelical churches build up a community that feels like a community. They’re accessible and welcoming. Through this kind of dedication and devotion to study and fellowship, Evangelicals are equipped to live amongst the world and witness to Christ—to live a life oriented to Christ and make it known. And the job of being Christ to our fellow sojourners is taken seriously, for the most part. The Evangelical church is, fundamentally, missionary in its orientation. And it shows: it’s growing, or at least shrinking less quickly than other Christian orientations. Finally, Evangelicals do worship music right. While both Kreeft and I, I’m sure, would never argue that Catholic worship music needs to be dressed up and contemporized there’s something to be said for the distinctive enthusiasm of Evangelical worship. It isn’t, I don’t think, about contemporary music but rather the devotion and expression of the Christian tradition. I can enthusiastically belt out Gregorian chant, an 1980′s Catholic hymn, or a contemporary Hillsongs tune with the same level of authentic devotion in my heart—it just seems to be a lot more present amongst the Evangelical churches.
See Little’s post: Why the Catholic Church Must Become More Protestant
I have to immediately take umbrage that Evangelicals “Do music right.” I’m sorry, maybe for a campfire. A campfire in fantasyland. Color me nonplussed against the rich tradition of hymns, chant, and a pipe organ.
We’ve seen this. In fact, we’ve lived it. The Catholic Church is where it is today in part because it kept making this argument all the way back to the mess of the 70s, and further experiments in the 80’s with “Gym Masses,” et al.
What I find most strange, while at the same time most telling about Little’s discussion is that he somehow thinks there is a “Fullness” in evangelical music. I nearly spit my coffee out in laughter. There is no exchanging fullness between evangelical “Worship” and the Mass of all ages. What I do realize from his post, however, is just how ignorant of this his parish has left him. That’s the sad thing here. Here is a convert that has not yet seen what the Church has.
That he is ignorant of the history of making the Catholic Mass “more protestant”, “more welcoming”, “more music oriented” is also sad. We’ve done what he suggests. The problem is NOT that the Catholic Church needs more potlucks, more activity, more socialization. No, that’s not what she needs at all. She needs people who believe that Jesus Christ is alive and well and present in the sacraments. We need Catholics that understand that actual grace is delivered through the ordinary means of grace. Miracles are to be expected as the norm.
The “fullness” has been gutted from the faith of the ordinary pew sitter by making it more evangelical, more protestant. Much like the fullness of artwork, pipe organs, chanted Mass (plain chant, not polyphony), and dumb stuff like the removal of altar rails, Communion in the hand, and glass bowls replacing confessionals. The Catholic Church in America has been wrecked, but the answer is not more of the same. The answer is a return to the fullness Catholics already possess in tradition.
I’m kind of sick of hearing during my entire life that some other churches do it better. No they don’t. Sure, they might have been able to swindle some emotional movements, and sweep a neopagan culture in to pass the basket, but don’t insult me by telling me that using half the bible and a bad translation of it, strumming a guitar to bad contemporary music, and holding hands up in the air is something superior to the Sacraments. It’s just not true.
Next you’ll be telling me that the Mass would get more people if they did the hokey pokey, or had clowns… Oh wait, they already tried that. Seems the evangelicals are trying it now too:
We need less of that, even the evangelicals need less of that, and they need the fullness of the sacraments, too. Lord have mercy on us!
This article, Misguided Ecumenism 30 years later: Peter Kreeft says the Catholic Church Must Become More Protestant is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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