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Friday, April 22, 2005

Quo vadis, Hugh?

I'm a big fan of Hugh Hewitt (alas, his radio show is broadcast on tape delay at midnight in these parts), and if you have never visited it, his blog is well worth your time.

While he is an evangelical (a member of the wholly-sane Presbyterian Church in America), what is less well known is that he was raised Catholic and only left the Church in his adulthood (roughly 1990). Fortunately, he's not one to chuck darts at his former co-religionists, as his recent positive coverage of the late PJPII and BXVI have demonstrated. In an article in the December 2002 issue of Crisis, he gave a few reasons why he left (emphasis added in bold):

Conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, who is author of The Embarrassed Believer: Reviving Christian Witness in an Age of Unbelief, says he’s "on leave" from the Catholic Church. He argues, "The American Church...needs a reformation." But, he despairs, "none is even remotely close to occurring."

Hewitt points to the new cathedral in Los Angeles as "the perfect expression of the American Church today—so sterile it could be an air conditioning plant and designed to please non-Catholics with the taste of the leadership."

Hewitt describes his move from Roman Catholicism to Presbyterianism as partly positive and partly negative. He considers himself an "ex-pat, obliged to move to a Protestant expression of faith because I experience God’s presence more easily and more conclusively as a Presbyterian and began to do so over a dozen years ago." Presbyterianism works for him in ways Catholicism no longer did. "The Presbyterian confessions and order of worship are very left-brain and made me into a much better Christian," he says.

But some of the reasons for Hewitt’s move were direct reactions to problems he saw in the Catholic Church. Hewitt says, "The American bishops literally drove me out. I could not read the paper without muttering about their inanities. James Malone, the bishop of Youngstown, my bishop, who confirmed me, sputtering about nuclear weapons and poverty"—all this while Hewitt worked in the Reagan White House.

"These silly men," Hewitt complains, "issued reams of nonsense and met and met and met even as the liturgy collapsed into incoherence and the preaching dissolved into eight-minute homilies on the need for love. There was also the problem of the Responsorial Antiphon. It would almost always cause me to either laugh or grind my teeth. Is there a worse collection of ‘music’ anywhere? And the Christian Rite of Initiation, and the revamped Sacrament of Reconciliation—all of it just another set of committee reports from priests and nuns bored with the old Church. I could go on, but my guess is that you have heard it all before."

Hewitt concludes, "There is enormous energy and talent within the American Church which might over the years genuinely renew it and rebuild it. But I need God on a much more immediate basis."

With that in mind, I found this blog post to be very, very interesting (emphasis also in bold):

Pope Benedict XVI is a scholar, and a teacher. Scholar/teachers have students, and they stay close with many of them. Father Joseph Fessio, Provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida, studied under the new pope in the early '70s, and has stayed a friend and student for thirty years. He was my guest today. Here is a short and important --in fact crucial-- excerpt from that conversation. A complete transcript will be posted later at Radioblogger:

"His deepest love is the Mass. And so he wrote a book called The Spirit of the Liturgy, and it is clear that he believes that what happened after Vatican II, that Council, was that the way the Mass was celebrated really represented a break from tradition. It was no longer in continuity. So, he has said publicly that the previous rite should never have been abolished because it was a rite that had nourished saints for centuries. At the same time, he was the one who had to negotiate with Lefebrve and others, and who had to tell the pope, 'We can't take anymore, they have broken the rules here, they have ordained bishops.' So he deeply wants to have the Mass celebrated as he says in his homily [today] with solemnity and rectitude. So I think he will reach out to those who have a love for the pre-[Vatican II] Mass."

Make of that what you will, but it's obvious that Hugh is going to be watching developments very, very closely. It is very unlikely that he will be the only "exile Catholic" to be doing so.

Interesting times, indeed.

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