How my faith (in the RC Church) became mostly dead
by Bernard Brandt
Once again, the e-magazine Patheos has given me food for thought. This time, the feast provided was through an essay there entitled ‘How my faith became mostly dead‘. I must say that I feel for the author of that essay: how his faith in God and His Church have slowly dried nearly to the point of nonexistence. I feel for the writer, because my faith in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Kingdom of Heaven are, if anything, stronger than ever. But I have little if any faith that the Roman Catholic Church on Earth, as presently constituted, inheres very much in that Kingdom at present, or is likely to come to inhere in that Kingdom during my lifetime.
I have recently started praying the Rosary, and I believe in everything it teaches there, including the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in the Catholic Church”. And I help to sing and to serve the Divine Liturgy each Sunday, and I both sing and believe the Nicene Creed which makes up a part of that Liturgy, including the line: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
I just don’t see much (if any) evidence that in most RC parishes, either the catachetical or liturgical practice of those parishes in any way expresses the fullness of the Faith handed down by the Apostles, or even of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, or current canon law.
Those four or five of my readers who actually have read all the way through my silly little weblog here will recall that I wrote a series of essays entitled ‘The Blood is the Life’, in which I attempted to analyze the current crisis in and of the Roman Catholic Church. Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII can be read through the links above. To cut to the chase, and state my conclusions, I found that the crisis of the RC Church has its source in the failure of most RC clergy either to study or to teach in depth the three fonts of the Holy Spirit: Sacred Scripture, Holy Tradition, or the Magisterium of the Church.
A primary consequence of that failure is the inability of most RC clergy to teach the Faith, because they do not know it themselves. A secondary consequence is that because they do not know what God wants of them in the service of His Divine Liturgy, that same clergy tends to do what they or their congregants want the Liturgy to be. In short, they turn the Divine Liturgy into, not an icon of the Kingdom of Heaven, but into the worship of the work of their own hands, or the worship of idols.
I wish that I could simply say that the Roman Catholic Church has lost the Faith, and has apostatized; that Her orders have become invalid, Her clergy are deposed, Her pontiffs are no more, and Her Councils are in error. I could then in clear conscience renounce my connection with Roman Catholicism, and convert to Orthodoxy. But I can not say that. There are still a number of faithful Roman Catholic laity; there are still some true priests and bishops, secundum ordinem Melchizedek; and, when I have actually read what the last several councils have taught, as well as the last seven or eight Pontiffs (His present Holiness Francis among them), I have found their teaching to be both valid and inspired.
Allow me to tell you a bit more of my crisis of faith in the present RC Church. As I have said, there would appear to be some RC bishops who actually teach the Faith. I count His Grace, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, as one chief among them. His Grace recently wrote an essay in which he analyzed the difference between the Second Vatican Council’s statement on the Divine Liturgy, and how most modern RC clergy have been serving that Liturgy. That essay may be found here, and it is well worth reading in its entirety. But I would draw the attention of my readers to His Grace’s precis of the liturgical reforms called for by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium:
The Second Vatican Council put forward the following principles regarding a liturgical reform:
1. During the liturgical celebration, the human, the temporal, and action must be directed towards the divine, the eternal, and contemplation; the role of the former must be subordinated to the latter (SC, 2).
2. During the liturgical celebration, the realization that the earthly liturgy participates in the heavenly liturgy will have to be encouraged (SC, 8).
3. There must be absolutely no innovation, therefore no new creation of liturgical rites, especially in the rite of Mass, unless it is for a true and certain gain for the Church, and provided that all is done prudently and, if it is warranted, that new forms replace the existing ones organically (SC, 23).
4. The rites of Mass must be such that the sacred is more explicitly addressed (SC, 21).
5. Latin must be preserved in the liturgy, especially in Holy Mass (SC, 36 and 54).
6. Gregorian chant has pride of place in the liturgy (SC, 116).
I ask my readers the following question: How many liturgies have you been present at which have expressed or fulfilled ANY of these six principles in the last 50 years?
For my part, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have been at such a Roman Catholic liturgy.
Which leads me to ask of my readers the following questions:
What does it matter if the present Roman Catholic Church is a successor to the Apostolic Faith, if that faith is no longer being studied or taught by Her clergy?
What does it matter if some few Roman Catholic Bishops teach the true Faith, when most RC clergy do not, and can not, because they do not know it themselves? And finally:
What does it matter that the Roman Catholic Church has a beautiful heritage and patrimony, if none of that heritage or patrimony is being handed on to the present world?