#466 – Dick Bernard: Comments on Heritage #5, All Saints Day, 2011

Heritage #5,the originating post, is here. The comments as received via e-mail are below. One person commented in the ‘comments’ box at the end of Heritage #5 (see Dan, below). I express my own thoughts at the end of this post.
There were several comments at Twin Cities Daily Planet posting. They can be accessed here (scroll up if you wish to see the entire post as it appeared on the Daily Planet).
Jeff, whose comment was included in the original Heritage #5, added this note: I re-read the comment [#2 in the Daily Planet]. I certainly would be willing to fight the historical side of it. Its pretty hard to not define the Church as authoritarian since as you say it is what is called Apostolic. Rule passed down from Christ to his apostles and the head to be Peter who became the Bishop of Rome thence passed down as the papacy.
In modern history most of the time (not all) the church leadership is conservative and tends to side with authoritarian governments. I think of Italy, Spain, France mainly but one could argue that in Poland they were against the communist authoritarians, and in some Latin American countries they were as well in the 20th century.
But most of the history which tends to be in Latin America and Europe the church was generally aligned with the forces of authoritarianism and against reform. Its just a fact. After the Reformation the main Catholic states were the Hapsburg Empire and its fiefs (Spain and Austria , non Orthodox east Europe, and south Germany and the Rhineland) and France (certainly we would know of Richelieu and Mazarin who were Cardinals and major players in the French empire)
One could argue that an Americans view of history has always been filtered thru English glasses and certainly the English view of Catholic France and Catholic Spain (and Catholic Ireland) was always one of conflict and those nations are always viewed as “papist”, non democratic, etc. minions of Rome (not that the English subjects at least until the 18th century weren’t for the most part all minions of their royal or Cromwellian head)
From alignment with the Roman Empire to Charlemagne to the Hapsburgs most of early and early modern European history of the Church is pretty much one side. The prelates, bishops, cardinals, popes, and abbots were all landed property owners and protecting their own.
COMMENT TO JEFF’S FROM DICK: One of the real surprises to me was the Church’s opposition to liberation theology in Latin America, including from Pope John Paul II, and especially Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who became the current Pope. I sense that said liberation theology was viewed as a threat to the Church’s idea of its authority. There was an element of fear, almost paranoia, of other ideologies taking root as well. Paradoxically, this resistance to a movement (Liberation Theology) devoted to simple issues of justice for the dispossessed seems to have backfired, and helped other movements, like the pentecostals, to make inroads in formerly Catholic dominant countries.
Joyce, from suburban St. Paul: One interesting thought, Dick, is that when the Latin mass was instituted, Latin was the vernacular, the common language, so the mass would have been widely understood. When Vatican II allowed masses in the vernacular, the church was, in effect, returning to an earlier tradition!
Dan, from the Twin Cities: Catholics are a lot less doctrinaire than many in the church hierarchy would presumably prefer.
Flo, in north central Minnesota: As you know I, too, was born and raised Catholic. After marriage outside of the church, for which I refused to sign the document required by the Catholic Church, Carter, an ELCA Lutheran, and I chose to become United Methodist. It was profoundly hurtful to be dis-invited to attend Catholic Mass with Mom and Dad when they visited and received Communion, because a member of the local Catholic Church objected. Where no-one knew me I still attended Mass and had Communion with them. Then came the Catholic wedding of a dear niece. In the bulletin, non-Catholics were told that they could come forward for a blessing, but could not receive Communion.
The United Methodist Church received us into membership, honoring our Baptisms, without doctrinal constraints. The United Methodist Church declares that it has OPEN HEARTS, OPEN MINDS AND OPEN DOORS, even now. Still there is a very active movement within the Church to CLOSE HEARTS, CLOSE MINDS, AND CLOSE DOORS, by adopting a doctrine.
For these reasons and many others, I often wonder if I can continue to support any CHRISTIAN church. Surely, even Jesus Christ, himself, wouldn’t be welcome because his activism and politics led him to minister to those who did not have favor with the religious and political powers of the time. Still, I was born and raised Catholic …
SAK, from London England: I read your post with interest.
I had just heard a documentary about the 30
years war (one of three parts of “The Invention of Germany”* – extremely
interesting & shows how wrong stereotypes or received ideas & views can be).
It was a horrendous war in which, as usual, politics & power struggles
mingled with religion. The main casualty was “Germany” (in quotes since the
country did not exist then.
I have always admired Martin Luther’s “Hier stehe ich; ich kann nicht
anders” (“Here I stand, I can do no other”).
But after the violent mess I see spreading (North Africa – Middle East –
Central Asia …) I can’t help but reconsider. Could he really not have done
otherwise? Had he known how the Reformation-Counter Reformation & the
ensuing wars would develop would he still have proceeded in the same manner?
As Maurice Ravel put it: if you need fresh air why throw a chair at the
window if you can simply open it? I know opening (somewhat jammed) windows
can take time & patience but it has its non-violent advantages. Furthermore
violence is rarely forgotten & its consequences roll down the ages. I can
see that one should be able to discuss the Gospels but perhaps
interpretations should be humbly advanced and not preached from atop high
horses. There is no need for vehemently attacking any who hold different
interpretations. This goes for the lay persons and to a lesser degree for
the church. Although the reformation could have been differently & less
violently advanced, I still believe that along with a reverence for
tradition religion is in constant need of reform. The Catholic church is
much more democratic now and has a growing ear to the ground. As more and
more priests express reforming ideas I believe things will change gradually.
I cannot see the church of today supporting obviously cruel unreasonable
dictators. Progress has been made and more modernisation & justice can be
achieved peacefully I hope.
* Links included: here, here and here.
Lyle, a retired minister: Thank you, Dick, for your thoughtful and penetrating view of the Roman Catholic Church. You cover a great deal of ground and offer those of us outside the R.C. Church empathetic insights in understanding of that large and varied ecclesiastical body. In the rural community in which I grew up, we had close friends in the R.C. Church and did a fair job in accommodating each other’s differences. E. g. in our 4-H club we met on Friday evening, but would wait until after midnight so that our 4-H friends could enjoy the meat contained in some of the hot dishes which had been brought for a shared meal! I also took two years of piano lessons from a nun who was very kind and able.
If you haven’t read it, you might enjoy Roland Baintan’s Here I Stand. Baintan was a professor at Yale Divinity School and his book is about Martin Luther’s life.
Thank you again for your insightful blog–and also the excellent sermon forwarded by a Jewish friend!
Connie, in big city Texas, roots in rural Michigan, who I got to know a few years ago as a very active Catholic in Minneapolis: I just read your blog article.. “Awesome”!! You guys [including respondent Jeff] got it right. I think it, but you all say it best. Thanks.
I responded to a Huffington Post article yesterday about the “Power of the Church” in Government and the Abortion issue among others..
And in my little note I did pick on the Bishops and the one [specific one] … He is going to be a factor in the future.. I’d keep an eye on him.
I heard/read about the changes in the Mass at my downtown/3blocks away church/where I hear the bells ringing every day..nice bellringing!! It’s “Our Lady of Gaudalupe”.
Very old historical Church.. Lovely.. Sits around a ton of skyscrapers in the Arts district like a mushroom in the tall pines!!
It is made up largely of Hispanics.. Very vibrant group who are very very active.. More Spanish speaking masses on the weekend than English…But it seems
well attended when I attended.. on occasion . Yes, I’ve become that Lapsed Catholic you speak of..
Rita from Twin Cities: Dick – Good to read your blog. Personally, I gave up on the Catholic
Church many years ago. I just talked with a relative from another
state who was asked from the pulpit to contribute to the legal defense
for priests accused of molesting children.She was absolutely
incredulous and said, “I’m done.” Thanks for your emails. Rita
Marcia, from Arizona: Thanks for this info. I am interested in the topic of religion in general. I like taking a birds eye view most of the time, but can enjoy an “ant’s view now and then. 🙂
Some people say the only things you can count on are death and taxes….but for me the only thing you can count on is CHANGE… and there are changes in both death and taxes! lol
This brought to mind what I posted on FaceBook yesterday. The quote from Baha’u’llah was in a letter to the Kings of the earth and how they treat their subjects. And then I added my own two cents worth. lol
“Know for a certainty, however, that whatever your hands or the hands of the infidels have wrought will never, as they never did of old, change the Cause of God or alter His ways.” (Summons of the Lord of Host, p 224,par 95)
Wondering when…if ever, we, the human race, will ever give it up and realize that it’s God who will always have the last word. lol
Molly from Twin Cities: Thanks for this follow-up post. I’d read the article when you sent the first note (thanks for that one, too). It was a terrific overview. I was raised RC, also, and left in my mid-20’s. I did not go away mad, I just went away empty, but with gratitude & recognition for the part it played in my upbringing. I wound up “dropping out” of churches till my mid ’40’s. I’m very happy where I am, at MacPlymouth, though, because of its message of love and social justice…
Anyway, I really appreciate your notes at the end of the comments. And agree, re its deadly alignment with political money & power being preached from the pulpit… (and, its dreadful role in trying to quell liberation theology in Central America, sigh…)
My late Dad, also a lifelong Catholic, said, during a conversation re directions of the Church (I believe that discussion was about how much the Church misses out on by not allowing ordination of women) “The Church persists in asking the wrong questions.” Wow. What a great observation.
My Dad was all about love and quietly helping others, and the Church keeps forgetting that part of the New Testament message as it gets embroiled in control… Again, sigh…
Lucy from Minneapolis: Thanks for sharing your thoughtful (as usual) writing, Dick. Thought you might be interested in this link I came across yesterday.
It’s written by a 16 year old Latin student who does a great job of taking the new liturgy to task. I think he did a great job of expressing the discontent I feel–plus he’s got a good grip on the Latin!
There is some of what I might call irony in the situation which led me to write this post in the first place.
On the one hand, the hierarchical Church has chosen to very publicly roll out a new translation of the Mass, calling attention to something, words, that most people, including active Catholics, would find of little interest or relevance and which are of no consequence whatsoever, except to purists.
On the other hand, this same Church has from time immemorial caused no end of damage to itself by its penchant for secrecy in very serious matters with great consequences such as the long-standing and unfortunately still ongoing scandals of sexual abuse.
It seems that there should be some learning by the Church, here.
I doubt there will be, and the erosion of active and committed membership will continue, silent and impossible to control.

The Catholic Church – MY Church – has since Roman Emperor Constantine in about 300 aligned itself with temporal power. Jeff’s comments are a good summary of that. Since then it has been ruled exclusively by a small fraternity of men who select themselves, and in turn select men as local leaders, our Priests. The Church is the consummate example of a hierarchical model of rulership.
For most of my life, until recent years, the Church has known its role, as a religious entity, separate from the political entity. It should have stayed there. While large – at most one-fourth of Americans are said to be “Catholic” in some estimates – it is by no means a reliable bloc of people who think alike. I’m an active Catholic and my concerns are doubtless shared by a great number of my fellow Catholics, including many who do not darken the church doors.
Most recently, often in alliance with other authoritarian religious leaders from other denominations, the hierarchy has very boldly ventured into the political arena pushing its own specific political agenda. I don’t need to enumerate the many ways.
The hierarchy is well-funded, of course, and controls the Church treasury, and it can afford the expensive lawyers to keep it from venturing too far into the weeds of violating separation of Church and State; and it has the money and the public relations capacity to manipulate and attempt to form public opinion, including within the pews of its churches.
Whether it has the legal and public relations and financial power to move its political agenda is not a question with me. It is powerful.
The more important question is what the Church – and the State of which it is a part – will become if it is successful.
At the same time as it demonstrates its Power and Authority (pleasing to the authoritarians); it is slowly but surely losing its core base – people who have been the heart of the good work the Church has done over the centuries. If this is what it wants, so be it.
But there can be a very high cost to “winning”, short and long term.
I plan to stay with the Church, and do what I can from inside the walls.
For everyone, whether you agree with me or not, be wary. Sometimes power plays can backfire, and have serious and unintended consequences.

UPDATE Nov. 28, 2011
This past weekend was the official “roll out” of the new Missal. It is scarcely worth the report. The biggest adjustment will be for the Priests.
I sent the initial blog post on Nov. 1 to ten Catholic Priests, most of whom I know only from the perspective of a ‘parishioner’. Five of ten responded, none disagreeing with me (I was surprised that so many took the time to respond, and through e-mail). One, with perhaps 30 years service as a Catholic Priest, now in southwest U.S., gave me permission to post his response, which follows: “Thank you for your thoughts on the direction of the Catholic Church. I for one am like Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” this is one reason why I am a Franciscan. I have a foot in the ‘peace and justice movement of the Catholic tradition’.. As such, on the inside, I effect change – and am changed as well. I choose to ‘open the window and the door’ and not do violence to myself or anyone else. Yes, there are things that drive me crazy about the crazy neo-cons in positions of authority in the Church, but for me the real Catholics that witness to me are those who are presently encamped with the Occupy movement – and feeding the poor. For those who have ‘given up’ on the Church. How much have they given up on the Gospel? Where is their community that holds them accountable? Do they honestly believe that there is any other moral authority in the world today big enough to counter the powerful forces of greed and militarism than the Catholic Church? I’m staying in and fighting with the moral authority of Christ. You can’t do it with relativism.”
Another Priest-respondent recommended a blog site which I am finding quite interesting. It is PrayTellBlog, which you can access here. This blog includes large numbers of reactions to this weekend (nearly 100 at last look). Suggestion: scroll to Nov. 27 entry.
Personal from Dick Bernard: We attended 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday – not our usual time – so could not get the sense of our 9:30 a.m. community. It is already old news so hardly worth comment. It will be with us until the next revision years from now. Some will consider it a victory. I don’t see it as adding anything to the Mass. Exalting form over substance comes to mind.
I was interested in the comment of a friend who converted to Catholicism about 1982, and remains part of the church. He noticed, “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”, which is old hat to we pre-Vatican 2 types, but was very foreign to him.
UPDATE December 11, 2011:
After Sunday Mass today I wrote a blog entitled “Going to Hell” (Church today was very positive, as usual, but I keep thinking of a TV program I watched about 24 hours ago.)
We’re in the third week of the new Missal (small portion illustrated below), and about all I’ve noticed is that the paper program book we receive each Sunday has been revised by omission of the text of the Epistles and Gospel reading. This is likely to accommodate the new language which we are supposed to communally recite without increasing printing costs.
For me, a lot is lost without the readings as we once saw them. I have been to Mass at another Church since the change, and their routine was a bit different.

It has been and will be, in my opinion, much ado about little or nothing.
Or, perhaps, it is much more significant, and troubling. In the Preface of my Grandmother’s 1906 Douay-Rheims (Catholic) Bible (see below, click to enlarge) is the following statement by Right Rev. Henry A. Brann, D.D.: “[The Church] has even restricted by legislation the promiscuous reading of the Bible by the uncultured and the ignorant who sometimes have presumed to interpret even the most difficult passages….”

Portion of Preface to 1906 Douay-Rheims Bible, by Rt. Rev. Henry A. Brann D.D.

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