Search This Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Taking a break from all your worries, Part The Last.

[Update: Paul Mitchell--with my wife agreeing--pointed out that I didn't really explain "the break in the clouds" moment. And I didn't. Yeesh. Since it doesn't reflect well on me, but it does on Him, I have expanded it below, hopefully explaining what was explicitly hinted at in Part I. Also, I added some tying it together material which makes Part II a little more integrated. Apologies for not making any of that clear.]

[Part I of the series here.]
[Part II here.]
[Part III here.]

At the end of the exceptionally looooong previous installment, I mentioned that I reject the label "conservative Catholic." And I do--wholeheartedly. It is no longer accurate.

[Aside: James Stockdale was the smartest man on the ballot in 1992, and was a careful thinker and heroic patriot. It is to our discredit that he is remembered as a punchline. God rest his soul.]

So, what am I? That's a good question. Hopefully the following will assuage those who seem to think that my criticisms of the Pope's words are tantamount to putting air quotes around his title. I hope, but I have ample reason to doubt it will be universal. Nevertheless, let's start with what I will not be. Namely, a constant flyspecker of the Pope, looking for gotcha! moments and, in a way, perversely hoping to be scandalized. That's the spiritual equivalent of exposing yourself to gamma radiation, and at some point it will become lethal.

Not that I think I've done any such thing, by any fair standard of judgment. As far as I can tell, I have spoken reasonably, and, I am certain, charitably. Unfortunately, fair standards aren't the order of the day, and some folks clearly think otherwise.

There are things I genuinely like about the Pope, and appreciate, and I keep those in mind. In addition to what I mentioned in Part II (yeah, you need to read the whole thing), I like the human touch, and am genuinely moved by moments like this. I also love his moments of crystalline Gospel clarity. Read that one twice. Then print and save. It's superb stuff: vitamin-fortified, good-for-you Gospel, right there. And, given my concerns about the American and world economies, a poor church for the poor will be more relevant and embrace a lot more of us soon, I think.

I have and will continue to remember him in prayer and Adoration, practices we have in joyful common. That is essential, and has been helpful to me, as I hope my prayers have been to him. He did ask for them, after all. And hey--we even drive old, crappy cars together!

"Price has that creaky Buick with, what--275,000 kilometers on it? A horse like that would be envelope glue five times over. Mine has a new engine, amico
Then again, it's a Renault....Good thing I only need it for short trips."

And I do owe him for strengthening my faith, however inadvertent and sideways the process. What has emerged from the crisis of faith is stronger and better than it was before. Tested by fire, it even feels clearer, for lack of a better term. But I'm still disappointed with the fact that there will now be one less Catholic priest in our corner when it comes to the path of discipleship we've followed with respect to contraception. Oh, sure, I'm sure he supports the teaching. But now he'll be like all of the other Catholic clerics we've heard from, minus one--avoiding the issue in favor of others.

Which is a shame. Because in addition to giving us our wonderful children, it also gave us the opportunity to rub shoulders with and stand in the shoes of the poor the Pope is talking about. If we'd done what 90% of Catholics do, we'd have our two or three and would have lived and live in "nicer" neighborhoods, with "nicer" people, far from such concerns.

What am I then? Still Catholic. I've said it before, but let me re-emphasize to be clear: Catholicism is (and no doubt certain evangelical/fundamentalist minds will recoil in horror) where I met and began to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Really.

So I'm still here. I'll also admit that I've taken a decided trad-ward lurch in my spiritual life, and that's all to the good. Yes, traditionalism.

Waiting for it...


Whoa, dude--those guys?

Yeah, I know how they are. I even coined a less-than-polite term for dealing with traditionalism's Jerk Wing, and this post got some notice and debate at Angelqueen of all places. Hell, given that I am a jerk...takes one to know one, right? My people--I have found you!

But I am really cognizant of the shining fact that what got me through this crisis wasn't a dose of modern spirituality, but rather the age-old, the tried, the true and the tested. God poured His grace into my confused and battered soul through the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, a Counter-Reformation Saint and formerly-indulged prayers. Scripture, too, natch. Though I'd argue all day long the previous links are all formed and informed by Holy Writ, too. Along with a long-despised Welsh layman who went through the wringer and was praised upon his death by some guy who later became Pope.

If I had to point to one moment where the dam started to break, it was managing to grind out a rosary at Assumption Grotto for the Pope two Wednesdays ago. I was there with my kids for their weekly homeschool co-op. Really, it was the most pro-forma, contractual-obligation-only prayer of my life. I felt nothing save annoyance, but in retrospect it helped a lot. An hour later, my wife almost physically forced me to go to Eucharistic Adoration at the nuns' chapel. I resisted with the surliness of a teenager, finally telling my wife something along the lines of "Fine--I'll go, but it won't help." Yeah, one of my finer moments.

To which Jesus said: "Riiight." Because that did help, shattering some of the gloom. Even in my funk, I was fully cognizant that Adoration is a peculiarly Catholic devotion, which since it worked some good, prompted a Hmmm.

sLater in the day, around 4pm, the question from my Anglican buddy cracked through: "If being a papal maximalist is the problem, then why be a papal maximalist?"

You know...I...don't have to be. In fact, I can't be one, not in good conscience. So I'm not going to be one. And I gotta tell ya, it feels phenomenal!

I just like this scene. The whole film, in fact.

Also, I'm fully convinced of the grace that flows through the Sacrament of Marriage. Throw in a confessor priest who didn't think I needed an exorcism because of my doubts, and voila--Tradition.

This actually fits...painfully well. Though my kids didn't get upset.

It worked, and works. When push comes to shove, I'm not a spiritual point man striding boldly forth into the unknown. Steady as she goes, fire as you bear: that is what I'm looking for. For my part, I don't regard it as some kind of retreat into Fortress Catholicism, pouring boiling oil down the vents on those who want in. To the contrary--this makes me more able to witness. As I said in the first post in the series: Viva Cristo Rey! He is Risen, indeed, and working in my life more than I've ever known.

As I hope you have noticed, I've tried to keep this somewhat light. But now I have to venture into slightly less cheery territory.

I haven't shaken my concerns with the Pope. I've put them in perspective though. Also, I've spelled those out with specificity, and I won't repeat them here. I'll add that this sort of Catholicism Wow! episcopal cheerleading does not cheer. I also have a brief meditation about fatherhood which I think crystallizes why I haven't warmed to the Pope like most everyone else, but that can wait.

But that is, at the moment, less worrying to me than the way concerns with the Pope are parried. Frankly, I've taken bulls--t, and it's not pleasant. Scroll down to part III, and the "love" bombing in the post immediately below this. I also have taken some "love" from a My-All-Knowing-Jackassery-Is-Good-For-You Francis booster at another blog. I responded by analogizing him to a guy on the short bus who's proud of the fact he has the biggest equipment of all his fellow riders. "Not much to be proud of, buddy!" So to speak. I'm not sure if I should feel sorry about that, or if I wasn't harsh enough. I'm working my way to sorry one of these days, but it will not be this day. I'm a sinner, and I fail.

In my eye-opening experience, some boosters of the Pope regard conscience as a guide for the following two groups only:

(1) non-Catholics, and

(2) Catholics who unreservedly applaud the Pope in all particulars. 

I've already lost a follower of this blog after I expressed my concerns. I was also de-friended on Facebook by someone you would likely recognize for the high crime and misdemeanor of being friends with a Francis skeptic. These are not good signs of the climate. Apparently journeying with the wounded, seeking truth together and offering the fragrance of the Gospel again only applies to Groups (1) and (2). I, on the other hand, am irrational. Under spiritual attack. A veritable whiny jerk, to quote another Franciscan tough-love advocate. The spiritual attack angle at least has the virtue of being true, but that's universal, and true for these guys, too:

This, too, means something. Something cult-y, I daresay.
Or daren't I?

If my concerns are offensive to you, I can't help you with that. If you think they put me beyond the pale, render me unclean and unworthy of associating with, I also can't help you with that. In fact, I don't even know how to respond to that. I, too, have a conscience, one that I have tried to and continue to try to inform on these concerns. If such is enough to prompt you to sever your relationship with me, whether real or virtual, then it has to be that way. I say this sincerely: Go with God.

I only ask this: if you've had any regard for me in the past, then bear with me for at least a while. In the final analysis, I don't think you'll be disappointed, let alone horrified.


  1. I do sympathise with you, Dale, and I think you are perfectly entitled to be concerned, and I don't think every criticism of Francis is unwarranted.

    What I am not rushing to embrace are the declarations from some (not you) that this is it, this is the end, break out the Prophecies of St Malachy, the Anti-Christ is sitting in the Chair of Peter and will bring about the final ruin of the Church.

    Yes, Francis is probably politically liberal (though I can't pin that down in American terms; I think he'd be an old-fashioned Democrat, before the Democrats turned frothing at the mouth progressive at all costs), and yes, he does things liturgically that make me wince (my heart dropped when I saw him breaking out the old Paul VI ferula after Benedict XVI changed to the older one, and I'm a Paul VI gal!).

    But I don't, as yet, see him doing any wholesale doctrinal change of the kind that the liberals are gushing about or the conservatives getting tied up in knots about. The day he gives authoritative teaching that, for instance, the consecrated Host is nothing but a piece of bread, then I'll throw in the towel.

    I should be worried a heck of a lot more. Benedict XVI was my kind of pope, not Francis. I don't know why I'm so unruffled, unless that it's because I'm not North American so I don't have the particular experiences of that environment to give me concern.

    Maybe because in the past we've had guys in charge of the Universal Church that you wouldn't put in charge of a parish raffle because the proceeds would go missing, yet here we still are in the 21s century.

    Francis may be a bad pope (it's early yet to say). He may be a complete disaster. But utterly destroy the Church? When we survived the Great Schism and the Reformation? He really would need to be the Antichrist for that!

  2. Dale,

    I don't have much to say beyond I am glad to hear you're still within the fold, although perhaps in an adjacent pen. I've had my own flirtations with the traditionalist wing, and never quite fit in. Too liberal for the conservatives, too conservative for the liberals, I guess. I share some of your concerns about the Holy Father, less others. I am willing to let him get on with his job- being Pope- while I get on with mine- being the best Catholic I can be, and trust that when I disagree with him, perhaps it is because he might just know something that I don't. For now, i have stepped aside. I don't want to spend my time either defending or attacking every little thing the Pope says. It does no justice to his job, nor helps me with mine.

    At any rate, I reiterate my old offer: If there is anything a poor guy with a crappy blog who only comments occasionally over here can do for you, let me know. I already think of you in my prayers from time to time, so come up with something else.

  3. "..., but it will not be this day."

    LOL. Stuff like that is why I read Dale Price.

    What I really don't understand in all this is the failure of the Rex Mottram crowd to address even the reasonably and rationally stated concerns of folks like you seriously and at face value.

    Yes, there are tradholes and other malcontents who have gone after the Holy Father from day one, whose "concerns" I believe can be legitimately dismissed because there just ain't no pleasin' 'em.

    But someone like you - who clearly doesn't fit "the profile" of a foaming-at-the-mouth "rigorist reactionary" expresses some reservations that are, quite honestly, not irrational given the history of the last half-century, and you (and others like you) get lumped in with the malcontents by those criticizing "fortress Catholicism".

    Okay, and I'm going to take a liberty here (given your friendship with said person) and say what needs to be said: there is a very large elephant in a very large corner of St. Blog's that just cannot be ignored when it comes to how those with doubts and reservations about the Holy Father have been treated. A WHOLE lot of people take their cues on how to respond to the "doubters", and - importantly - in what tone, from that corner of the Catholic blogosphere, and there needs to be some accountability for that.

    I know you're friends, and that you don't like it when people drag his name (which I won't use) into your comment boxes, and I'm REALLY NOT trying for a "Let's you and him fight" moment. But I want to call a spade a spade on where this nastiness and name-calling and intolerance of people's wholly rational doubts and reservations is originating (or, if not originating, at least being fed). There is NO DOUBT in my mind that others wouldn't be so nasty in expressing their lack of sympathy and understanding for your position if they didn't have the brand leader of Catholic blogging to look to as an example and provide cover for them.

    There. I said it. It's now off my chest, and I won't mention it again. I hope you won't be angry at me for directing attention to said elephant in the corner of St. Blog's (as if I really needed to point it out). And, if this comment winds up hijacking this thread and you want to delete it to avoid that, no skin off my nose. I almost didn't post it because I wanted to avoid that very thing.

  4. Whew. Got my crack pellet. As I expected, your feelings are similar to my own. I've been feeling a pull to a more reverent, classical liturgy, and having less tolerance for some elements of the OF, since before Francis. I just returned from a father-daughter liturgy at my daughter's high school. A perfectly fine liturgy, as nice as you could make it in the gymnasium and all, but the music! Guitars and drums and a lead singer who was trying real hard to be the next Joe Cocker. Every time I'd start to get a little caught up in the words of the liturgy, the music would start, I would hear this mental brake squealing or record scratching, and we'd start into another 'musical performance' by the band. By the time we were finished I thought "Well, we might as well be protestants".

    I know that it's too early for me to make a decision about how the pope is doing, so I'm stuck with a vague sense of unease until I see what actions he takes. But I'm not enjoying seeing my 'liturgical opponents' (for lack of a better term) so emboldened.


  5. What I find hardest to cope with are those who say, "It is still early days. We can't make judgments about Francis." EARLY DAYS? Really? I was born in 1961. The Catholic Church has been in crisis my whole life, a crisis directly related to the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath. John Paul II, during his looooooong pontificate, was in almost complete denial about the depth and seriousness of the crisis. Benedict XVI,at least in certain moods, was able to begin to hint that something had gone seriously wrong. And now under Francis we are back to complete denial. So ........ early days? Paraphrasing the late great Michael Davies, it is as if Coke were still stubbornly insisting on the success of New Coke, fifty years after the bottom had fallen out of its stock. At some point, and it almost certainly won't be during my lifetime, Catholics are going to have to confront the impact of this cowardice on the church's credibility.

  6. Dale,

    A few weeks ago I read your fisking of that artist's New Agey ideas about the Resurrection (wherein there was much laughter), so in that context I thought you would find this comment extremely interesting.

    I'm also including the link for the Urbi et Orbi message mentioned therein. Probably the shiniest gem from that message: "...the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus, has transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope." O_o

    I know, charity in any interpretation. This is just one more of those disorienting Swiper moments: "Oh, maaaan!"

  7. HTML fail from Kindle.

    Comment :

    Message :

  8. Horror? Cut ties with you? What, are you kidding me? You're still the best there is and whatever this is and if God has called you to Rome, then you'd best stick around.

    Besides, you've got at least one more appearance in my regular idiocy and MCJ Corporate is thinking about spinning you off into a series of your own. Demographics and all that.

  9. I've been following this series, but have understood it less and less as it's come along. Perhaps I need to re-read it whole, now that it's all up. I thought you mentioned a miracle at the beginning, some triggering even that was going to turn out to have made Everything All Right, but perhaps I misunderstood.

    But I'm very happy that you've found a perspective that you seem comfortable with.

  10. Count me among those who hope this heralds a return to your more frequent blog posting. As someone who has found himself pulled towards more traditional and reverent forms of liturgy since before B16, I cherish the fellowship of the blogoshpere. Not every post has to be a major essay, but it's a comfort to hear from the like-minded when there aren't many like-minded in one's immediate circle.


  11. Elliot:

    While the bad translation card gets played a lot in defense of the Pope, I really do think it is plausible in this case.

    It is clear that Christ's resurrection was into a real, physical, but *glorified* body. Walking through walls, etc. Really, "entered there with our humanity" is pretty consonant with that.

    However, the Maradiaga piece only gets worse with every reading. A cornucopia of awfulness.

  12. Paul:

    It is kind of stream of consciousness--a lot--but the "reveal," for lack of a better term, was an awakening to traditional Catholicism. It was like a light flooded into my soul, and it was the medium of traditional prayer and devotions that did it. Especially when I didn't want to--the first rosary in particular was ground out in reluctant gravel-like pieces.

    Finding a confessor who didn't think I was nuts because of my doubts was the capstone.

    What is happening still bothers me--especially with the Pope's inner circle, as you will see in a post soon. But I no longer feel like I will be swept away by it. In fact, I feel more fight-y and grounded. A house built on stone. Re-discovering a devotion to Christ the King is another new find, and one I am increasingly drawn to.

  13. And one more thing, Paul:

    To the extent it was mystical, it was the dawning realization that papal maximalism is not Catholicism.

    Just because so many others have been drawn into the happy frenzy doesn't make them right and me wrong. In fact, if I can be so egotistical, it was an awareness that I am not wrong, and that my position is perfectly Catholic. If something is amiss, I don't have to smile, nod and shake pompons. I've lived fourteen years as a Catholic, and if something is amiss, it is.

    Now what makes it less egotistical is that it took grace to get me there, and God having mercy on me, a sinner.

    You are not wrong, Paul. You have a right, and I'd say duty, to be worried. Your conscience is better formed than the average Joe, so if it is giving off alarm bells, answer them. God is not calling you to be a papal maximalist--he is calling you to be a Catholic. Catholicism is Christ-centered, not Chair-centered.

  14. Mise:

    Thanks. I think we are alike in temperament at this point. While you are not worried (but are open to being so), you are calm. I am worried (but are open to being wrong disabused about them), but calm. Both perspectives seem to me to be eminently Catholic.

    Which is not to say that someone who is worried and anxious is not Catholic--hardly. It seems to be a fully Catholic reaction, too.

  15. Dale:

    Oh, I agree that there's nothing heinous in the resurrection quotations (plus, he explicitly mentioned that Christ has flesh like us in his Oct. 28 fervorino), it's another chance for my ongoing squint-and-shrug problem vis-à-vis his lexical predilections. To wit, I've got a post coming up about how his new Rock Candy Jesus-Christ-Superstar ferula has striking, if not alarming, ties to his manner of expounding the Scriptures. I'm dying to know who commissioned it and how much insight the Pope might have had before accepting and then using it on All Saints Day, for goodness' sake. Keep in mind that one of the papal intentions for November is... South American churches (as a model for da rest of us?). :-s Have fun with the Everlasting Gobstopper of Cardinal Smells Like Vatican II Spirit.

  16. More fun coming down the pipe?
    Bottoms up