Monday, July 14, 2008

Tradition: Refounding and Restorationism

Here is yet another dangerous homily from Fr. Patrick Brennan on the occasion of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. It pains me to hear him telling his congregation these things, because the dissent he feeds his parishioners will probably manifest itself as flat-out disobedience from them towards whomever is appointed their new pastor in a matter of months. My emphases are in bold; commentary is inside and outside of the homily.
1. A group called the Gnostics, they resisted Peter's leadership. They said he didn't have the right to be looked on as leader because of his denial of Jesus. And Paul, Paul also a flawed and sinful man. Paul persecuted the early Christians. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul was right there participating when Stephen the deacon was stoned to death, was martyred. And yet Paul went on to become the first writer of the New Testament, and Paul more than anyone else in our history has taken Christianity and made it a livable spirituality, a way of life, a system of meaning that people can have conversions to. Peter and Paul, the "super-apostles", they really took the Jesus movement and ignited it. But two very human men. If they were here speaking today, I think both of them would say Jesus is the rock on whom we need to build our lives.
This is all quite fine: Jesus is the rock on whom we need to build our lives. Neither Peter (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-5) nor Paul (cf. Col. 2:6-7) would say otherwise. Scripture also testifies that the Church founded by Jesus was built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and specifically Peter (petros = "rock", cf. Matt. 16:18-19), with Christ himself as the cornerstone (cf. Eph. 2:19-20).
2. John Cardinal Newman was declared venerable by John Paul II before he [Pope John Paul II] died [obviously]. That means he's on the way to canonization, to sainthood. By John Newman said something in the 19th century: he said there was not a papacy, and there were not bishops, while the Apostles still walked the earth. [More on this below] Other historians have picked up on that theory and say there probably was not a Bishop of Rome for 100 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. [Other historians recognize there were Bishops of Rome, like Clement.] Rome was governed by a group of priests, a group of elders, and Rome compared to the other churches in the East, was not even considered a church of great esteem early on. [When?] But then [when?] Rome began to take on a position of power and authority. Why? Because Peter and Paul, who were held in equal reverence and esteem, were martyred there. Rome was the city of Peter and Paul, the two heroes of the early Church.
What John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in Development of Christian Doctrine, chapter 4 ("Instances in Illustration", section 3 ("The Papal Supremacy"), paragraph 2, was this:
For instance, it is true, St. Ignatius is silent in his Epistles on the subject of the Pope's authority; but if in fact that authority could not be in active operation then, such silence is not so difficult to account for as the silence of Seneca or Plutarch about Christianity itself, or of Lucian about the Roman people. St. Ignatius directed his doctrine according to the need. While Apostles were on earth, there was the display neither of Bishop nor Pope; their power had no prominence, as being exercised by Apostles. In course of time, first the power of the Bishop displayed itself, and then the power of the Pope. When the Apostles were taken away, Christianity did not at once break into portions; yet separate localities might begin to be the scene of internal dissensions, and a local arbiter in consequence would be wanted. Christians at home did not yet quarrel with Christians abroad; they quarrelled at home among themselves.
Cardinal Newman, interpreting (fallibly) the writings of the New Testament as well as the epistles of St. Ignatius, says that there was no "display" of a Bishop or Pope. That is true enough; there was display of the Magisterium of the Church at the Council of Jerusalem, though (cf. Acts 15). The Apostles were the "primitive" bishops, and there was no Pope until there was a church in Rome to have a Bishop! Newman is a bit off, since the Apostle John was still alive close to the end of the 1st century, and there is evidence of Clement being a successor of Peter in Rome long before John finally died. St. John himself laments that someone in a particular church is disregarding his (John's) authority there (cf. 3 John 9). Even earlier than that, Pauline and Petrine epistles refer to priests (presbuteroi, that is, "presbyters", also rendered as "elders") and bishops (episkopoi, that is "overseers"). I would guess that the language of "bishop" and "pope" was stressed more and more to distinguish between literal Apostles and the post-Apostolic leadership.

There is also literary evidence of Rome being held in high regard in the early (pre-Constantine) Church; one example is the epistle of St. Ignatius to the church in Rome, "worthy of God, worthy of honour, worthy of the highest happiness, worthy of praise, worthy of obtaining her every desire, worthy of being deemed [most] holy, and which presides over love, is named from Christ, and from the Father" of whom he goes on to say "Ye have never envied any one; ye have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed [by your conduct], which in your instructions ye enjoin [on others]." I do not know exactly how early Fr. Brennan was restricting his analysis.
3. But then some things began to shift, especially after the 4th century. Devotion to Peter, and the tradition about Peter, began to prevail over Paul. A tradition began to spread that indeed Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, and different powers that were assigned to different parts of the Church around the world began to concentrate on the Bishop of Rome, and we began to see emerge the papacy as we know it today, reaching its zenith in the Middle Ages.
Is this insinuating that the tradition that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, which "began to spread" later, was a false one?
4. Now I don't intend this history to be a critique of the papacy. What I'm trying to present today on the Feast of Peter and Paul, is that Jesus did not start a rigid, monolithic institution. [Can we use some different adjectives, though? Jesus did start a single visible institution, with standards for membership and the potential for world-wide growth!] The Church is something that evolved and developed over history. And different roles, like the papacy, and the role of bishop, and the role of priests, evolved. [But there were always priests and bishops, unless Fr. Brennan is insinuating that the Eucharist back then wasn't what it is today (or even in the time of St. Ignatius). It is true that roles developed and evolved; for example, deacons didn't exist at the start.] And that same spirit of flexibility and evolution and development must be present in our Church too, if the Church is going to face the future, if the Church is going to be relevant in the future to younger people. [What happens if the Church becomes "relevant" to younger people... but becomes "irrelevant" to older people?] Flexibility, development, evolution.
There's going to be a contradictory theme to this homily: the Church evolved and developed, and the Church needs to continue evolving and developing, but some of that evolution and development needs to be erased. Essentially, we need to "evolve" and "develop" the Church back to how it was in the time of Saints Peter and Paul, but then continue evolving and developing. It's fine to "go back in time" 1950 years, but not to "go back in time" to 1950, basically. (Not that I advocate restoring the Church to what it was in 1950, but simply that recovering Church practices from the 1st century seems to take precedence over recovering Church practices from the early 20th century.)
5. I've mentioned before the work of Gerald Arbuckle, his great classic book, "Refounding the Church". [Subtitle: "Dissent for Leadership". I kid you not.] Arbuckle says in his book "Refounding the Church", in every age, the church has to go back to its founder and ask the question, "What was the founder about... Jesus?" Well he was about the reign of God. [And everything that reign entailed, not just the "social justice" aspect of it; salvation from sin was awfully high on his list.] In every era, the Church and parishes like ours, have to ask the question, "Okay, Jesus was about the reign of God... what structures, what systems do we need in 2008 to preach him and to preach his vision of the reign of God?" The Church needs to be evolving, the Church needs to be developing; this parish needs to be evolving, this parish needs to be developing. For ever-new challenges and new ages. As the parish ages, as we move into our 25th year as a parish.
I've just purchased this book (used copy for $3.50) from someone on Amazon. I'm curious to see how it renders dissent as leadership. If you get a chance, look at the sample pages Amazon has. It's got a three-page chart showing the differences between the pre-Vatican II, post-Vatican II, and "Restorationist" (explained below) mindsets. It is general and caricatured; it also assumes the "either/or" rather than "both/and" mentality. Here are some examples:

Of the "culture of the Church", it says: before Vatican II = closed; after Vatican II = open; restorationist = "closing to dialogue; fear of dissent". Just what type of dialog is this about?

Of the "structure and authority", it says: before Vatican II = "Hierarchical - vertical authority structures, under Pope; centralization of papacy, Curia; 'creeping infallibility'"; after Vatican II = "Hierarchical - collegial authority: Pope and bishops; local church restored; collaborative emphasis at all levels"; restorationist = "Desiring a milder form of pre-Vatican II structures". Perhaps the author did not read Lumen Gentium which says, in n. 22:
The college or body of bishops has for all that no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head, whose primatial authority, let it be added, over all, whether pastors or faithful, remains in its integrity. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, namely, and as pastor of the entire Church, has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.
I suggest you read the whole document, especially the explanatory note attached to it which clarifies the notion of collegiality it espouses.

A third example describes the liturgy this way: pre-Vatican II = "Latin; theatrical; congregation passive; uncreative; legalistic/rubrical"; after Vatican II = "Vernacular; simple; congregation active; creative"; restorationist = "Creativity not encouraged" (is that all?). Again, a reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium is in order.

Vatican II never desired to get rid of Latin from the Mass. Furthermore, the Church has been staunchly opposed to "creativity" and "experimentation" in the liturgy because it impedes the universality of the Rite and endangers the proper transmission of the faith to those present. Pope Paul VI said the completion of the liturgical reform in 1969 would put an end to experimentation. And as I mentioned in a previous post, the Church was on guard against abusive "creativity" even during the 1970s and 1980s. I also think "theatrical" better describes the "creative" Masses celebrated in the Ordinary Form, involving clowns, dancing, secular-sounding music, etc.

A fourth example about the priesthood describes the three-way transition as "Cultic" to "Preacher of Word; builder of believing/worshiping/justice-oriented community" to "Role: confused". As for their relation to the laity, the transition is "superior" to "co-operation" to "confused". I think, perhaps, the author is confused. Just what the author means by "cultic" is undefined (although perhaps covered in greater detail in the book). I would hazard a guess it does not include preaching or building of community. Does the preacher/builder definition include a sacramental aspect? I would sure hope so.

A final example describes the Eucharist this way: from "Holy Communion / Mass / Sunday obligation" to "Union of faithful, centered on the Eucharist, symbol and source of unity" to "Vatican II directions not developed; fear of inculturation at local levels". Now I'm confused! Did Vatican II really do away with the notions of "Holy Communion" and "Mass"? And it is not possible for the Eucharist to be the "union of faithful, centered on the Eucharist". The Eucharist has always been the "symbol and source of unity" -- the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the source and summit, as Vatican II put it, and the "source and center of Christian piety" as Pope Pius XII put it in Mediator Dei n. 201. Pope Leo XIII wrote an encyclical on the Holy Eucharist which described it as "the source and chief" (Mirae Caritatis, n. 6). As for the directions of Vatican II, Pope Benedict has recently called us to re-examine what Vatican II said about the Eucharist, particularly in Sacrosanctum Concilium, so I think we're headed towards a truer realization of the Vatican II "direction".
6. In the late 19th century the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was declared by Vatican I at the encouragement of Pope Pius IX. That doctrine teaches when the Pope speaks [teaches] on issues of faith and morals, we must listen, we must obey, we must conform. [Are those bad words?] At the time of the doctrine of infallibility being passed, there was another theory of infallibility on the floor of the First Vatican Council. And that doctrine of infallibility said this: Yes, there's this theory of the inerrancy of the Pope -- we're not going to deny that, we'll not take that on -- but another connotation of infallibility is: the Church will never fail. [I think the Church knew that the whole time. Do Matthew 16:18 and 28:20 ring a bell?] The Church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We'll have problems, we'll have difficulties, we'll have challenges, we'll have growth spurts, but the Church of Jesus Christ will endure through the power of the Holy Spirit. [Amen!] I encourage us this morning to look at the value of both understandings of infallibility. The latter one I think is very livable and very existential: the Holy Spirit is with our Church. The Holy Spirit is with our Church. [The former one is also very livable, because it gives us assurance in the things our Church teaches us concerning the faith and morality.]

7. Quickly... Peter and Paul, equal in reverence in the early Church, have come down through history to represent two different sides of the Church. Peter obviously represents the organizational, institutional dimension of Church, Paul represents the dynamism of the Church. Paul writes a lot about charisms, he writes about the nature of community. John Paul II before he died, [obviously!] in an encyclical Redemptor Hominis, [see below] said the most scripturally accurate model of Church is the Church is a community of learners, a community of disciples. That's the model of Church that Paul preached. [The hierarchical Church is not an obstacle to the Church as a "community of disciples".] And the Church is more than just a community of disciples: the Church is sacrament to the world, herald, prophet, teacher, moral authority, agent of justice, agent of mercy. [And Bride of Christ, and Body of Christ, and Household of God.] We should never allow one image of the Church to prevail over other images of the Church. [So don't let images that may stress Her non-hierarchical nature overpower those images that make that hierarchical nature clear.] The fact that we celebrate the Feast of Peter and Paul together today is a lesson in itself that these many different sides of the Church must be held in a healthy balance and tension. Otherwise we get into mistaken notions of [the] Church.
Pope John Paul II has not released any encyclicals nor announced any canonizations after his death, just for the record. In Redemptor Hominis n. 21, he writes:
Indeed, the Church as the People of God is also-according to the teaching of Saint Paul mentioned above, of which Pius XII reminded us in wonderful terms -- "Christ's Mystical Body". Membership in that body has for its source a particular call, united with the saving action of grace. Therefore, if we wish to keep in mind this community of the People of God, which is so vast and so extremely differentiated, we must see first and foremost Christ saying in a way to each member of the community: "Follow me". It is the community of the disciples, each of whom in a different way -- at times very consciously and consistently, at other times not very consciously and very inconsistently -- is following Christ. This shows also the deeply "personal" aspect and dimension of this society, which, in spite of all the deficiencies of its community life -- in the human meaning of this word -- is a community precisely because all its members form it together with Christ himself, at least because they bear in their souls the indelible mark of a Christian.
I have no argument at all with what the Pope has written here. The minute the Church ceases being the community of disciples, She has ceased to be the Church founded by Jesus Christ. And as disciples of Christ, we are bound to "observe all that [he] has commanded [us]" (Matthew 28:20). That includes respecting the hierarchy of the Church; it's not like the Pope isn't a disciple!

Oh, and like Fr. Z, I really can't stand this trend of dropping definite articles from words like "Church", and "Eucharist".
8. I mentioned Gerald Arbuckle. Arbuckle in addition to introducing the notion of refounding the Church in every age, also coined the term "restorationism". He said beginning in the 90s, he felt there was a movement in the Church to push the Church back before Vatican II. [The extremist movement to overturn Vatican II is one thing; the "reform of the reform" movement, the "New Liturgical Movement", is another. The latter seeks to properly implement what Vatican II mandated regarding the liturgy.] Now remember why Vatican II was called: Vatican II, when I was in high school, was called an ad fontes movement, back to the fonts. Vatican II was an attempt to discover what was the nature of the Church of Peter and Paul. [While it did look to the past -- the whole history of the Church -- it was also concerned with aggiornamento, that is, "updating".] "We've become too institutionalized," the Council leaders said in the 1960s. "We're leading too much with the organization, with the institution; we've got to get back to the Church of Peter and Paul." [These are not exact quotes, of course, but when was this sentiment conveyed? Was this Pope John XXIII's vision? I'd say no.] Arbuckle is saying in this period of restorationism -- the 90s and the early 2000s -- some people are trying to push us back to the Council of Trent, back to the Council that articulated things in the 16th century. [Trent hasn't been abrogated or nullified. Vatican II quoted them. The Catechism quotes them.] I don't know if you saw in the local Chicago Catholic newspaper, The New World: the Pope is encouraging every parish to have a Latin Mass. [Amen!] Is that really the Church we want [choose your next words very carefully...] to return to? Arbuckle says at the heart of restorationism is nostalgia: nostalgia so that we don't have to do the hard work of refounding. [So if the Pope says it's not for nostalgia that he's doing this, but Arbuckle says it is, whom should I believe? Does Arbuckle know the Pope's mind better than the Pope himself?]
This is not the first time Fr. Brennan has contrasted "refounding the Church" with "restorationism". He wrote about it in his parish bulletin back in May 2005 as well. He is also hostile towards Latin, whether in the Extraordinary Form (which he caricatured in a previous homily) or the Ordinary Form. He openly questions here whether a Church which celebrates Mass in Latin, ad orientem, etc., is a Church worth having. If that Church returns, he seems to be asking, do we want to belong to it? The negative answer to that question results in schism, plain and simple.

Would he mind explaining what's inherently wrong with Mass in Latin in general, or with the Extraordinary Form in particular?
9. [Fr.] George Kane is offering a course this fall on the vision [and "Spirit", no doubt] of Vatican II. [If the budget gets approved, I'm sure it'll include actually looking at the documents!] I hope some of you will attend that course, and I'm grateful to [Fr.] George for doing that, but more than just the course in the fall, remember, John XXIII called Vatican II to open the windows of the Church because "it's gotten dusty in here", he said, and the Church needs fresh air. [That's for sure. Fresh air with a hint of incense!] The Church needs the movement of the Holy Spirit. I hope, Holy Family, that you will always keep the vision of Vatican II alive in this parish. John XXIII opened the windows; keep the windows open.
I am frightened to think what the subject matter of such a course will be. What sources will Fr. Kane use? The documents themselves, taken in context? That would be an eye-opener...


Tim A. Troutman said...

What a terrible homily - and I thought the Eastern homily I heard on the feast day of Peter & Paul was bad! (It was but not this bad)

Thanks for taking the time to respond to it.

Gretchen said...

As painful as this was to read, it gives comfort for those of us dealing with such things in our own dioceses and parishes. At least we're not alone.

preacherman said...

Extremely interesting post.
I learned alot that I did not know before. Thank you for filling my mind and stretching my fath. You do a fantastic job. Keep up the great blogging brother.