Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vatican II Turns Fifty – Part II: Catholics and Culture Collide

From Fr. Gordon J. MacRae at These Stone Walls:
Even today, after “Marking Thirty Years of Priesthood,” I am able to look back on that story and see many subtle ways in which my defiance of the authority of dissenters attempting to impose their open rebellion against Tradition came back to haunt my priesthood. I was branded “an angry conservative.”

It was ironic, and could not possibly have been further from the truth at that time in my life. I grew up as a liberal Boston Irish Democrat in a family leaning so far to the left I thought they might topple. Even today, I am the only member of my family who does not dismiss the Catholic Church as a quaint anachronism in modern culture, a throwback to the Middle Ages that the world is slowly shedding to pave the way for true social progress. We were “Kennedy Catholics,” which today I know meant that being Catholic was something we wore around our necks, but penetrated no deeper.

When I entered religious life in 1974, my family thought I had gone insane. By the time I commenced graduate studies in theology, I was sold almost completely on the whole movement of the left, and the basic premise that the Church cannot move the modern world without fully accommodating the modern world.
I remember the round of enthusiastic applause from much (but not all) of the seminary student body when I described in 1979 – to the nodding approval of faculty – that Humanae Vitae might be one of the last gasps of a Church in the throes of death, clinging to an era long past while ignoring the needs of human nature. “Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego coqnosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.” (Psalm 51: 3).

That was my own dark wood of error, and those woods were dark indeed. My wake-up call was the incident involving Pope John Paul II and our seminary rector and faculty that I described in “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” What I learned about myself from that sordid story is that to be a good Catholic dissenter of the elitist left required that I also be a good follower, that I cease to think for myself and draw my own conclusions, that I accept without question an agenda of rebellion against authority imposed by others who would do my thinking for me. That agenda required me to commit to a version of Church and priesthood in which the Magisterium is a supremely obscene word to which I must never again refer or defer.
I could not be such a follower, and still can’t. In those days, our sponsoring dioceses assigned us to a seminary to which we had no choice but to attend. Academically, I excelled and that seemed all that mattered – that, and whether I would continue to toe the liberal line, falling into place with an intellectual refutation of Tradition when called upon.

I parted ways with that set of expectations when I witnessed a small group of seminarians from the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska being taunted by some of my East Coast leftist peers one evening as they gathered to pray the rosary together in the seminary chapel. Such open displays of spiritual tradition were simply not done at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in the 1970s.

The next day, they and their traditionalism were placed on trial in a class in fundamental theology. It was to be a sort of lynching, but light finally dawned on Marblehead (at least, on my own marble head). I wasn’t having it, and came to their defense. I was branded a dissenter from the left, a traitor to the liberal cause... (continued)


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