Sunday, December 23, 2012

I failed the test of suburban Catholicism again

I took my son to mass this morning at my local parish church. My approach these days to suburban Catholicism is not to expect too much and just to look for the good things in the mass.

And I was going very well until the sermon. The argument of the sermon was that Mary wasn't such a pure or special person, she was just an ordinary, confused peasant girl. This is because God favours the powerless, the marginalised and the broken.

This isn't what set me off. There's a saying that "In man's extremity is God's opportunity" - meaning that when we reach a low point it's possible that our egoistic self lets go and we become open to the religious experience.

But what do you conclude from this? I would have thought the conclusion would be that we shouldn't allow ourselves to become so comfortable and complacent that we live through a worldly, egoistic self alone. Nor that we should think that the truths of religion are limited to the rich and powerful and favoured.

But the priest went in a different direction. His conclusion was that we should identify with whoever seemed to be the most powerless. So he said that the modern equivalents to the powerless in the Bible are the Sri Lankan refugees and the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

So he arrived, by way of suburban Catholicism, at exactly the same conclusion that a secular liberal would arrive at, namely that the point of it all is to identify with refugees and Palestinians.

It seems to me, first, to be a ridiculously cut-down version of a religion. Second, I find it difficult to believe that we should automatically side with whoever seems to be most powerless, as if being powerless defines you as good. It's a bit like when a Marxist decides to support someone on the basis of their class ("He's the more working-class one, therefore he is in the right").

Anyway, I ended up doing what I tell myself over and over not to do, which is to walk out.

I hope this post hasn't sounded too light in tone. The falling away of suburban Catholicism is a serious thing. Someone I know who has attended mass for many decades every Sunday recently stopped attending; he told me he no longer believes. And I can understand this, as there is no longer much of a religious culture within the average suburban Catholic parish.

I'm not going to stop attending, but I no longer think I can rely on the church when it comes to my children's upbringing. I'm planning to set aside some time on a Sunday to go through things with my son myself.

37 comments:

  1. I find it difficult to believe that we should side with whoever seems to be most powerless, as if being powerless defined you as good.

    Especially if the people in question are Palestinians, sheesh.

    I am no theologist, but isn't the Annunciation when Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God? At that point she was neither ordinary nor confused; she was told directly that she was special and what this would mean. Thus the priest's point is invalid from the get-go.

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  2. God favours the powerless, the marginalised and the broken.

    Allrighty then... God favours the ordinary white inhabitants of Europe, North America, and Australia. A more powerless, marginalised and broken group would be hard to find!

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  3. I'm not going to stop attending, but I no longer think I can rely on the church when it comes to my children's upbringing. I'm planning to set aside some time on a Sunday to go through things with my son myself.
    -
    GOOD THINKING!

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  4. First anon,

    I suppose if a person believes that the good is defined as being powerless, then he won't want to think of Mary as being special. That would then taint her as being privileged in some way.

    Second anon,

    Good point. And think, you have to be on the ropes before you get to lose the moral taint of doing well. Again, the criterion of being legitimate shouldn't be powerlessness.

    One further point. I stressed "suburban" Catholicism in the post, because for whatever its faults there is still a more developed and more recognisably Catholic culture to be found at the top of the church, i.e. in the Vatican.

    It's the opposite of what usually happens. Usually, it's the elite which betrays the rank and file. But in the case of the Catholic Church it seems to be the rank and file priesthood which is dropping away from Catholicism, whilst the elite holds on.

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  5. Allrighty then... God favours the ordinary white inhabitants of Europe, North America, and Australia. A more powerless, marginalised and broken group would be hard to find!
    -
    You can find even more powerless, marginalized and broken Whites in Africa.

    Are the Whites of Zimbabwe at the head of the moral queue, before Sri Lankan refugees and the Palestinians in the occupied territories, because in a more helpless situation and more marginalized, without international sympathy? No.

    Nor the Whites of South Africa, being driven toward genocide, with the continuing and extremely brutal farmer murders bringing home the bitter consequences of giving up power and trusting those favored by political correctness to exercise it kindly.

    What's going on is White genocide - not just in Zimbabwe and South Africa, but across the world, as all and only White countries are pressed to open their borders and accept forced integration and assimilation, with the predictable consequence that there will be no White people left.

    The the anti-Whites who falsely call themselves "anti-racists" are all for this genocide, and that includes anti-White leftists with clerical status.

    The anti-Whites make an endless series of exceptions and otherwise inexplicable selections of important and unimportant cases, such that what superficially sound like universal principles become an anti-White, pro-genocide agenda.

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  6. 3272Mark Richardson: "And think, you have to be on the ropes before you get to lose the moral taint of doing well."

    Whites never lose that taint, even when they are reduced to helplessness and slowly genocided. Non-Whites retain the moral and religious glamor of the officially oppressed, even when they are jetting around the world and being favored diplomatically.

    Those who favor this morally biased system say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.

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  7. It's the opposite of what usually happens. Usually, it's the elite which betrays the rank and file. But in the case of the Catholic Church it seems to be the rank and file priesthood which is dropping away from Catholicism, whilst the elite holds on.
    -
    I think that's right, and it's a strong justification for the traditionalist, anti-democratic organization of the Catholic Church.

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  8. it's a strong justification for the traditionalist, anti-democratic organization of the Catholic Church

    Good point.

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  9. Great post, Mark, and an all-too-familiar experience. If you get a chance, I recommend Mass at http://newman-community-melbourne.org/ Not only will you find some real traditional Catholicism but you may meet some kindred spirits. Merry Christmas!

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  10. I can think of many native European groups that are less well off than Palestinians and Sri lankans.

    Do you think any institution will ever actually mention them?
    Any white man that becomes successful out of poverty and especially living in an area he is minority is made of sterner stuff than half the worlds needy beggars sucking off the wests corpse.

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  11. Mishka,

    Thanks! I'd certainly like to attend a more traditional mass. It's a bit of a drive, but it should be more possible next year as my daughter is losing her daytime sleep.

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  12. I can't understand why one should be reluctant to walk out of so crass and lame-brained a feminist jamboree as this Melbourne suburban liturgy appears to have been. Catholics are not only free to avoid participating in exhibitions of outright heresy; they are required to avoid doing so.

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  13. Yeah, I had similar experiences with suburban Catholicism back when I was still Catholic in the 1990s. They less involved the homiletics (although there was that as well) as the CCD system (I was a CCD instructor at the time) and how riddled it was with radical left-wing feminist women with theology degrees from Notre Dame etc. and rampant liturgical abuses. These experiences are what set me on the path towards the Orthodox Church, which received me in 2000.

    Since that time, the suburban Catholic parishes here in suburban DC have moved in one of two directions: (1) double-down on the leftism or (2) slowly and gradually move towards a more traditional approach in all areas. I think both approaches are backed by the hierarchy, the first as a kind of containment mechanism (i.e., keep the loonies in a smaller handful of parishes) and the second as what they want the model to be moving forward. Hopefully the same is taking place elsewhere in the country and in the rest of the Catholic Anglosphere as well. For while I am now a committed Orthodox Christian, of course I take a great interest in the health and well-being of Western Catholicism, because a robust and orthodox Western Catholicism is both necessary for the West to be its proper self, and for eventual reunion with the Orthodox East to take place.

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  14. This whole "power struggle" is a leftist feature. Whether it be them taking the side of the rich or the middle class or the poor against somebody else or something else, it is not an acceptance of the entire hierarchy and of structure. It's a rebellion against society as a whole, and taking the individual (or the class) to its fullest autonomous, egalitarian aim.

    There's no acceptance of hierarchy as a whole.

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  15. Meaning there is no harmony in the hierarchy.

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  16. It's the same for diversity/equality really.

    They say that they want diversity but want they want is for everybody to mix and poof... no more diversity. Just egalitarianism. Either towards the highest denominators or the lowest denominators.

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  17. I withdrew two of my children from Sunday morning religious education. The youngest continues to attend as required to prepare for first communion. I also taught an RE class, so I was familiar with the material. If the teachers had actually followed the book, my children would have gotten plenty of "Catholic social doctrine" and environmentalism, but they actually seem to have spent most of their time cutting shapes from construction paper and gluing together popsicle sticks. My children are now working with the Catholic instruction books produced by Seaton, which seem to be pretty good, and I read to them from the New Testament. I strongly encourage you to take your children's religious education into your own hands.

    I take it the priest you heard missed class the day they went over the whole immaculate conception business. Even setting that aside, there is no reason to suppose that Mary was a poor peasant girl. She was about to wed a man who ran a successful carpentry business, and I'm guessing that means that she came with an attractive dowry. The Holy Family was clearly what we would call middle class. There was, of course, a possibly unpleasant period between Joseph's learning that Mary was pregnant and his decision to go ahead and marry her, but he wasn't planning to throw her into the street and she had had the annunciation. Another thing indicating that Mary was not among the wretched of the earth is the fact that she lived to be at least fifty years old. This was very old by the standards of the ancient world. Not having to survive multiple pregnancies certainly helped, but Mary's longevity also suggests good nutrition, uncrowded accommodations, and an absence of back-breaking labor.

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  18. JMSmith,

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Some further thoughts on this issue.

    I know people whose fathers have died and it sometimes affects them very deeply. Not just in the sense of mourning a lost one, but in the sense of their existential stability. The father brought a sense of assurance and stability to their lives.

    And this is an aspect of men attempting to be strong for the benefit of those around them, those they are responsible for.

    The interpretation of Christianity made by my local priest suggests that a man who is successfully strong in this way is separating himself from the good. He should instead focus on and identify with being powerless, broken down, marginalised etc.

    If this is true it sets up an irresolvable contradiction in the lives of men. Our worldly role would be to be strong; our religious role would be to be weak.

    I don't think this is how Christianity was understood by previous generations of Christians. I think instead the idea that we should treat well "the least amongst you" meant that those who were strong should not abuse those less fortunate.

    You can see this is in the ethos of the Christian knight; you can see it in Western literature (as when in a Jane Austen novel the heroine is chastised for mocking a poor widow).

    Is it not true that men should be morally strong and self-disciplined? That men should be strong in wisdom and prudence? That men should be strong in discharging their duties to family and community? Whilst at the same time serving God in a spirit of humility? (i.e. not adopting a stance of arrogant, closed off self-sufficiency).

    Cannot the Church sometimes encourage men to be strong? (For instance, in their role as husbands and fathers within a family?)

    Maybe this is part of the reason why many men don't feel as connected to Christianity as they might. They know that they have to develop their masculine strengths as best they can, but when they sit in a church they hear a message that identifies the good with being broken down, weak and marginalised.

    It's not that churches shouldn't challenge the way people ordinarily think, but in this case the churches are challenging genuine duties held by men. It makes the message heard by men in the churches feel "alien" to their deeper conscience.

    I'd like to hear a sermon which praises men for a strength of perseverance in working to support their families. Or for a strength in maintaining composure when there is stress within their families. Or for exercising a masculine protectiveness in stepping in when their wives need support. And so on.

    And rather than charity meaning supporting Palestinians against Israelis, maybe it could be an encouragement to do something practical and local, for instance, helping an elderly person maintain their home, or doing some maintenance work for the local kindergarten.

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  19. Mark Richardson, your "further thoughts on this issue" were good and should have been a blog post.

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  20. Elizabeth Smith: "They say that they want diversity but want they want is for everybody to mix and poof... no more diversity. Just egalitarianism. Either towards the highest denominators or the lowest denominators."

    In the left's destruction of real (global) diversity, it's not random who and what gets to survive and who and what gets eliminated.

    In 1997 the National Gallery of Victoria put on a retrospective of Andres Serrano's work, including the infamous Piss Christ, and also a Rembrandt exhibition. One message or the other was going to dominate, and the offense was so grievous that it became all about Piss Christ, with Rembrandt rendered irrelevant.

    This is how forced integration works in a cultural sense.

    I've said it before but it's still true: Asia for the Asians, Africa for the Africans, White countries for everyone - with "everyone" meaning, in the long run, not Whites, as endless mass immigration and forced blending will eliminate them. At the end of it, Asians will still be there; they are not in any danger, because they have their own lands, such as China. The Africans will still be there, with scores of states of their own in Africa, plus others where they have taken over, such as Haiti. And the Whites will be eliminated. Only one races is the target.

    This is how forced integration works in a cultural sense.

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  21. This is how forced integration works in a racial (or a "human") sense.

    I'm saying that this "blending" eliminates Rembrandts, both culturally and racially - the paintings are shouted down culturally, and the kind of people who produce them (and are a vital part of the audience for them) are eliminated physically, over time.

    Meantime the rest of the world, that is not targeted for forced "integration" is not blended out and eliminated.

    This isn't about the mingling and sharing of everybody and everything. It's about the targeted destruction of only some people and things.

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  22. "It's the opposite of what usually happens. Usually, it's the elite which betrays the rank and file. But in the case of the Catholic Church it seems to be the rank and file priesthood which is dropping away from Catholicism, whilst the elite holds on."

    And it's not just the Vatican. I recently moved and went from attending mass at a Cathedral in a large urban area to a much more suburban area. The differences are stark; the architecture, the liturgy, the homilies. All were much more traditional in the urban parish.

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  23. It's good that it's not just the Vatican.

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  24. Mark@
    I think you are right. If I were poor and weak, I wouldn't want people to identify with me, I would want them to help me. And for them to help me, they must be unlike me--they must be well-off and strong. To lack all sympathy is inhuman, but to wallow in sympathy is indecent.

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  25. JMSmith,

    Well put. And I think the Bible assumes this. It doesn't speak of relationships between the mutually weak, but of how those in a good position should treat those not so raised up in life.

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  26. I thought about sending my children to Catholic Schools, then realised they were just as leftist as the secular state schools if not more so with all the trivial Love, Jesus and God. The religious aspect was not traditional religion at all.

    home School.

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  27. According to WikkiMissa, there is a Tridentine mass every Sunday at 8:30 in Kew near Melbourne; according to Google maps, a 27 minute drive from Eltham, although I have no idea how accurate that is.

    http://honneurs.free.fr/Wikini/wakka.php?wiki=AustraliE

    I recommend you give it a try. May you have a blessed Christmas!

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  28. Re Langobard's comment, the Tridentine Mass hasn't occurred at Kew for years. It has been replaced by the Caulfield one mentioned earlier. There is also a Sunday Latin Mass under the aegis of the SSPX at Hampton, another Melbourne suburb.

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  29. There is, however, an extraordinary form (Tridentine) Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesdays at 5.30pm (for city workers, etc.) resuming on January 9.

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  30. I agree with your aversion and castigation of your classic, muddleheaded modern, dare I say.. modernist priest..

    All of Christianity has fallen under the curse of modernism with the Catholic Church coming under the most intense attacks because as Belloc wrote so aptly, the history of the Church (Catholic) and Western Civilization are one in the same.

    In the last 60 years there has been a calculated and largely successful campaign hollowing out the priesthood and doctrinal fortitude of the Church. Despite this concerted and largely successful effort to hijack the Church, they have ultimately failed. Traditionalism was never completely snuffed out and it is growing rapidly. Although we are small in numbers, we grow day by day.

    First, actively search out traditionalism whether it may be found as long as it's faithful to Mother Church. Contact traditionalist societies if necessary to discover where the closest group can be found. I found a home with the Eastern Catholic Churches.. don't rule them out at all!

    Secondly, DON'T expect or lean on any priest or parish to train you Children in the Faith. It was never the local Priest's job in the first place.. as a parent, it is your first and most solemn duty to bring up your child with the Faith.

    Finally, take on the mantle of Traditionalist counterculterism.. except that you are going to suffer barbs and ridicule from all comers.. have many children, fill your life with those of like mind and not of temporal things and you will be richly rewarded.

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  31. Mark Richardson makes some good comments and also asks if the reason why many men don't feel connected to Christianity is because, "They know that they have to develop their masculine strengths as best they can, but when they sit in a church they hear a message that identifies the good with being broken down, weak and marginalised."

    Perhaps the RC Church is hamstrung in helping men because it has itself contributed to the feminisation of the West. Leon J. Podles has written of his belief that the feminization of Western Christianity commenced, among other factors, with the preaching of a new and affective spirituality which included bridal mysticism by Bernard of Clairvaux.

    These ideas are alienating for men but don't present as many difficulties for women.
    See The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, in particular ch 6.


    http://www.podles.org/church-impotent.htm

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  32. Michael,

    The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity was really interesting and worth reading. I would have expected to find that feminization of the church was a product of the 1960s, but apparently it has been going on for centuries.

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  33. Bellesarius, excellent comment, thank you.

    Michael Ruskin, the Podles material is really interesting. I've just read through the second chapter. I'll do a post if I can on it, as it's such an important issue.

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  34. JP, like you I thought the 60's were the major catalyst in the feminisation of society and it's institutions, including the church. However, no ideology is an island and without being uncharitable to our RC writers, Catholicism, or essentialy Papism, is an ideology and it washed ashore sometime ago. It's flotsam and jetsom is still being picked up today and having an undue influence.

    Hi Mark Richardson, I look forward to your findings on The Church Impotent. I haven't read it an only came across it via a link. The author does a great job explaining causes and the problem of a feminised church. He even offers rituals which could be used to help youth feel connected to church. I found it interesting he see's problems within Protestantism and Roman Catholicism but not Orthodoxy. Having converted from an Anglican/Baptist background into Eastern Orthodoxy I can say we are not without our problems. However, confusion over male responsiblities and the insidious nature of feminism are not among them.

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  35. He is a heretic. He is implicitly denying the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Mary was an entirely unique individual. There is, in fact, no human like her, never was and never will be. She is Queen of Heaven and Earth, and the Church. She is the Theotokos, the Mother of God. Who is this stupid, apostate priest?

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