Dietrich von Hildebrand on Pope Francis

Dietrich von Hildebrand on Pope Francis

by Joseph Shaw

Rorate Caeli

Readers of my blog (Part 1Part 2, and Part 3) will know that I’ve been trying to get to grips with what Pope Francis has been saying, and how Catholics attached to the Church’s traditions can best respond to it. We need both a conceptual and a rhetorical framework for responding to a critique which is coming from an unexpected direction.Unexpected, but not unprecedented. We have, in fact, been here before, and I was very struck by the relevance of a chapter in Dietrich von Hildebrand‘s book Trojan Horse in the City of God. This was published in 1967 (I have the slightly revised 1993 edition), with a Foreword by John, Cardinal O’Connor. I offer an extended quotation here; I’ve had the whole chapter (10 pages of the book) retyped and you can download it here. I think Pope Francis would like it too.Hildebrand was one of the founders of the Traditional movement, and specifically of the Roman Forum, directed by Dr John Rao, which continues the work of education he thought so important. They are currently appealing for funds; go over there and have a look.—————————————

Is the Episcopal Church a Bellweather for All Churches?

Bishop Don Johnson; pioneering female photogra... The story about the collapse of the Episcopal Church might be a canary in the coal mine for the rest of us. For years the Episcopal Church has led the way in changing the structure of their church to align itself more closely to the modern world and has now evidently found their belief structure being reordered right along with all the other changes.

It would seem that when we start down a road that tries to include everyone and please everyone we find ourselves struggling to have any real identity of our own. Some of this may be creeping into all Christian churches in one form or another. The desire to be all things to all people is only natural. “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.” __ I Cor. 9:22    But we cannot assume that the Apostle meant that he would be sinful to gain the sinful. Such would be a real stretch of the scripture passage.

Yet in the Episcopal Church besides women priestesses, we now see openly homosexual priests and bishops and transsexual priests teaching that their sins are no longer sin at all. The mental gymnastics that they go through to justify their acceptance of sin is no small accomplishment: i.e. that the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was that the people were not welcoming. So the moral teachings are thrown out under the good intentions of including everyone and being relevant in the modern world. Unfortunately, people are looking to the Church to be more than what they get out of modern society: they want holiness.

I think we have to start examining the Catholic Church at some point concerning the effects of the Second Vatican Council and the Novus Ordo (New Order) Mass. Though the new order of Mass can be uplifting when done as intended, it still cannot measure up to the 1962 Missal known as the Tridentine Rite. One of the observations made by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand has always stayed with me because it portends a major flaw in the new Mass. He asked, “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?” I think it is a question that we might all want to be asking ourselves.

The Vatican has tried to clean up the mess that ensued after the release of the Novus Ordo Mass but we are still a long way from getting ourselves back to the inspiring holiness that we were honored to participate in during the Mass they replaced. The last 2 Popes have tried to stop the overuse of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, banal liturgical music and the inane English translations of the Mass that were doctrinally unsound, gender neutral and full of inclusive language. Recently, they have finally made many good fixes to the English Missal but have yet to stop the glut of extraordinary ministers and syrupy music more fitted for a youth camp than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In addition to the above problems we are awash with compromises and collaborative changes which affect the function of our local parishes and the laity’s participation at Mass. We seldom find an altar rail anymore as they ‘separate’ the clergy from the people. Presumably this is a compromise with our world’s modern outlook of equality of persons. We no longer receive communion on the tongue though it is still the ‘ordinary’ form of reception as instructed by the Church. This too seems to be a new found equality that proposes that our hands are no different from the consecrated hands of our priests and we therefore have the right to touch the Blessed Sacrament. And of course our relaxed posture of receiving our Lord standing instead of in the humble posture of kneeling before the Lord has taken its toll psychologically.

English: Tridentine Mass celebrated on Palm Su...The priest no longer takes the very manly stand of being the leader of men praying to God, in persona Christi (in the Person of Christ), with the congregation behind him as he pleads to God for all our needs. He is acting as our intercessor to the Most High. The new stance of the priest, ad populum (toward the people), places the priest in an awkward stance with his back to God and facing us as though his only purpose is to be a participant and simply another member of the congregation. I find these to be destructive symbolic gestures that instill within us unprecedented self-esteem and pride. These I place in the first tier of faith-killing changes that I hope and pray will someday be rectified.

In the second tier, we must not forget that since Vatican II men have to a large extent given up their active participation in the Mass. Our good women have taken up the slack and sadly have cast a more effeminate pall over the Mass. Women now serve our particular parishes in roles such as lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers, while our little girls are supplanting our young boys as altar servers which served as the breeding ground for future priests. Overall there is a feminization of the Mass that is quite stark when you view it against the Mass according to the 1962 Missal.

Protestant ideas have flooded into our Church as well in song and in parts of the Novus Ordo Mass replete with the evangelical holding of hands and raising them to heaven though there are no rubrics (instructions in the Missal for the actions of the people and priest) that would lead one to thinking that they are participating as the Church has asked them to do. This I would classify as third tier problems.

Lastly, and this may rise above the other tiers as described above, there is the overall sense of comfort in who we are, comfort in our sin, lack of a guilty conscience (leading to the emptying of confessionals), and arriving before our God in the most awful raggedy clothing we seem to be able to find. Some of the ladies might want to think about their modesty. They often arrive in tight jeans, short shorts and other revealing clothing when they attend the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. The men now arrive in t-shirts, shorts and sandals as if they can’t wait to get to the barbecue or some televised sporting event fast enough. The overall feeling is that we are not in awe; we have no reverence and we feel no sense of sacredness in the Church space or in the Mass itself. We chatter about our workaday lives to one another before, during and after Mass, disrespectful of those who may be attempting to pray amid the din. This I think is proof of the prophetic question that Dietrich von Hildebrand imparted to us as a warning:  “Do we better meet Christ by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our workaday world?”

It’s a question that I hope the Church comes to grips with soon. For I fear that if we allow this erosion to continue, we will no longer recognize the Church of our fathers and mothers and in the worse case might begin to see some of the collapse that is overtaking our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. Pray for the restoration of holiness, sacredness, solemnity and reverence in our Most Holy Sacrament – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Pray for our priests and for our Bishops that they may put an end to all abuses within the Church and may the men of our Church take up their proper roles and put an end to the denuded character that is engulfing our Church. We need to claim that which was ordered towards us and our Bishops should do what they can to restore this order. Religion is not just for women. Real men should properly be warriors for God as well. Lets take our rightful places back and not leave it to our wives to take up the slack.

Recollection for Prayer

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

How do I start? Personal recollection seems to reveal only a scant and inconsistent hodgepodge of memories and insights into one’s personal human experience. How does one glean the essence of the lessons and the truths revealed during life? The file cabinets of memories we’ve stored away are usually lacking in cohesiveness and resemble an office in complete disarray: piles of memories out of order, faded by age so that they are indecipherable, uncategorized and completely overwhelming. This reality leaves us with the distinct possibility that it may be completely beyond our ability. It is no wonder then that most never try to recollect them and come to a place of peace. Though we thirst for answers, we seldom come away with a cogent picture of who we truly are and to what purpose or end we were set upon this earth to fulfill. We ask ourselves if it is worth the trouble and usually lock the door so that we need not look at the mess that we have created: for the task is truly more that we alone can accomplish.

My first thought is that I am totally inadequate for the task – I will need an expert at organizing and prioritizing the scraps of memories strewn throughout my life so recklessly. I never knew that the smaller bits of my experiences during this pilgrimage on earth might actually have importance. They may have significance beyond my understanding and therefore more than likely to have been lost to the dust-bin of my unconscious. Retrieving them and making sense of them is certainly a supernatural undertaking.

This then leads me into the realm of the supernatural and the movement of faith in a man’s life. It seems that prayer and reflection hold our only hope if we are to find peace and make restitution for the wrongs we commit now or committed in our past. A true sense of sin and a firm commitment to amend one’s life seems to be the crux of any true recovery from our fallen state. But more importantly divine help must necessarily be sought from the one who has been witness to our every action and capable of retrieving everything lost to our unconscious: bringing them to the forefront of our minds for a thorough examination – and eventually to seek mercy for our wrongs and develop that supernatural hypersensitivity to anything that makes us less than the creation we were meant to be.

But even the above notions have a hidden danger. The danger is explained well in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s classic, Transformation in Christ. It is the danger that we go about our examination of self much like a psychologist; viewing it from afar in a disinterested matter. We have an objective look at ourselves without the true reality of our selves. We are almost watching a movie or a caricature of ourselves.

For real recollection of self to occur, it is necessary to confront yourself with the perfection of Christ and see the infinite chasm between ourselves and our Lord. Our goodness no longer seems good as only God is good. Our sins are against the unfathomable Good and separate us if by an impassible chasm. It is only in our true realization of self that we see the ultimate unbounded Good that made us for Himself.

Should we be lucky enough to glimpse this infinite difference between us, we might begin to feel and recognize the humility (a word that comes from the Latin root for humus or dirt). We are no more than clay pots who humbly pray for God’s grace and Goodness to fill our lowly beings with Himself. It is the only way that our worth might be realized as it really is and to recognize that our gifts and good works are a gift of the spiritual graces that Our Lord has deposited within us. We need not take pride in our successes but always be cognizant of a loving God’s care for those who seek His help and by an act of freewill seek to be transformed by Him to be worthy sons and daughters.

Truly being recollected for prayer is a stripping away of the façade of who we are and replacing it with a true representation of ourselves in the Presence of Perfection Himself.