Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict
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Friday, 2 November 2012

High Church Catholics?

A friend once tried to describe the Anglican Church to me... admittedly a daunting task at the best of times. He said the Anglican Church was a party church. By this he meant that it was an amalgam of widely diverse parties operating under a single umbrella. You hear terms like high church, low church, broad church, anglo-catholic, evangelical, liberal anglo-catholic and so on. I am not even going to pretend that I understand much of this.The reason I bring up this bit of ecclesiastical history is because it has a direct bearing on our current situation.

Since Vatican II the Catholic Church has broken out into a multitude of competing factions, parties and liturgical observances. Where once identifying as Catholic was enough to set you apart, today it is not enough. You must qualify the word Catholic with some kind of modifier to indicate which party you belong to. We have become fragmented and, what is worse, each party is absolutely convinced it is the real deal, the only one legitimately entitled to call itself Catholic. This unfortunate attitude has even led to schism.

We have even brought the tactics of party politics into our church. The truth has taken a back seat to the drive to win the hearts and minds of the faithful. In such a fight a catchy slogan or a well aimed slur takes the place of reasoned argument and civil discourse. Why argue when a good smear campaign is so much more effective? Perhaps characterizing this as party politics is being too generous. This behavior in probably more reminiscent of schoolyard or playground group dynamics with their competing cliques and bullying tactics.

So long as factional loyalty eclipses a Catholic identity, it is likely that conflict will degenerate to this sort of level. Having an identifiable enemy is a great boon to group cohesion and vitality. If the group in question is in a minority position relative to some larger group then it is to that group's advantage to see the larger group as the enemy thus consolidating its own position. 'You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Indeed this is an ancient concept but Jesus goes on to say something that turns it on its head. 'But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven... The old dynamic that worked so well in the schoolyard and in party politics is no longer valid.

The anger and bitterness with which these factional conflicts are carried out are a source of scandal to many, myself included. I am sure many of you know websites that you avoid simply because you do not wish to be exposed to the angry and bitter commentary. Everyone has an axe to grind and a computer full of boiler plate text with which to grind it. Catholics are called to do things a little differently. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20.

"You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire."  Mat 5:21-22

Factional dissension is not a new thing in the church. St. Paul experienced many of these difficulties in his dealings with the Corinthians. Brothers, I urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to have factions among yourselves but all to be in agreement in what you profess; so that you are prefectly united in your beliefs and judgements. 1Cor 1:10   

How then are we to deal with people with whom we disagree if our favorite tactics are no longer acceptable? That may be beyond the scope of this blog as it involves our spiritual life and a radical change in the way we do things. However, it may be useful to point to one concrete example.

4 comments:

Barona said...

"Factional loyalty"....I'm trying to untangle this. In a sense, we have always had healthy factions: not the point here, but they can become dangerous. e.g. "I'm loyal to this or that order". This certainly can be healthy; a feeling of family etc. This also holds true for lay organizations (e.g. Society of St. Vincent de Paul --- "I am a Vincentian"). This all is good and healthy; unless it detracts from the central loyalty: Jesus Christ and His Church. This loyalty is called upon daily through our Baptism. It can only be maintained through - at times - brutal honesty - and certainly humility.

The Msgr. Foy article on arch-dissenter Gregory Baum recalls us to loyalty to Christ and His Church.
It recalls us to the reality that one cannot truly love the Church without loving and obeying the Pope and Bishops in communion with him, and the Magisterium.


A complex issue, so much more to say ....

Freyr said...

When factional loyalty eclipses Catholic identity it becomes ultimately divisive. See Ronald Knox's Divisive Enthusiasm for further information.

Barona said...

The post-conciliar chaos magnified, encouraged a real and deep-set factionalism. Paul VI once wrote" love the Church.... renewal not betrayal..." etc. All back in 1968.

We see a sad form of factionalism even post-Summorum Pontificum. Alas. One website even distanced itself from Anglican converts given that these good people were not using the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The form of Mass took precedence over the Grace of healing a a nearly 500 year heresy/schism with a segment of Anglicanism. This is factionalism in its extreme. Another form can be seen in the uncharitable labeling" e.g. "Taliban Catholic" and so on.

We should be attacking the point and not the person... Sometimes, the person has to be dealt with, but this should be after exploring all other possibilities. The CHurch tries to reconcile those who dissent - and if not, then, after consideration She takes sanctions...

Freyr said...

Why is it that in the early days of the charismatic renewal some of the leadership had not only heard of Ronald Knox's work on Divisive Enthusiasm but thought it ought to be required reading? Have the traditionalists never heard of this? Perhaps they have been so wrapped in the trappings of catholic culture that they were unaware of the dangers to Catholic unity?