Saturday, September 13, 2008

Found a good one


Arturo writes "On Ecclesiastical Allegiances":

For many bloggers and writers, the cop-out answer is, “I am Catholic, period, without labels or other allegiances”. That sounds like a good answer, but it fails to articulate the identity crisis that is at the heart of the Catholic question in this country.

I would go so far as to say it is a craven attempt to pretend that there are no important divisions in the Church or, worse, an arrogant statement that he is 'above all that'. It is an answer whose claim to spiritual superiority and denial of reality invariably infuriates.

For those Catholics who write about the Faith publicly, there are inevitable questions that arise as to the shape of liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, history, and theology, to name a few. There is no straight party line in this country since our Church is divided, and anyone who would disagree with this only need to see how more orthodox Catholic pundits react when Cardinal Mahoney pulls off one of his more “creative” liturgies.

So how much of a “trad” I am depends on a number of things: who happens to be standing around, what I was reading that morning,

Heh. Yep.

But for the first time, I see that Arturo has provided a religious answer to the question, "what type of Catholic are you?" and points out that real as these division are, they are at root political, not spiritual.

...if I were to give my ecclesiastical allegiance: liberal, conservative, etc., I would have to give: Marian, period. If I am looking at God, I am always looking at Him from under the mantle of His Mother.

He says that his religious outlook, being Mexican, is feminine. That in his culture, it is the women who lead in the religious realm. And of course, the devotion of the Mexicans to Our Lady is world famous.

I can see that this is an excellent and holy answer, and moreover, I believe him and do not suspect him of just giving us a bit of a show-offy piety, but I find I cannot answer in the same way.

It seems strange to say, but Marian devotion has always left me flat. Maybe it has to do with my deep distrust of all things feminine. I see women, as we know, as devious, petty, small minded and unreliable. I prefer the company of men and the only female friends I have are those who share my distrust and dislike of other women.

It is possible, I suppose, that the femininity I dislike is that of the modern world. And indeed, the women I've had the most respect for have been the ones least influenced by modernity. The women I admire are the ones who display what I think of as masculine virtues: objectivity, stoicism, an interest in external realities, rationality. I think that feminism has had nothing but deleterious effects on the character of women, elevating the subjective and the emotive into a kind of quasi-religion and lowering them into a state of frivolous narcissism that makes them at best ridiculous and at worst a serious threat to human society.

I also have an instinctive distrust of men who think too highly of women, and am mostly put off by men who are too Marian.

But Marianism is something in general I rather distrust in the Church. It is only too easy to see the merits in the accusations, irritating and ignorant though they may be, of the Prods against Marian devotions. When I see Marianism, I see emotivism, the deliberate manipulation of mental states to bring about a counterfeit mysticism and self-generated faux-ecstasies that have more to do with emotional imbalance than holiness. Many of the Marian people I know live in a kind of fantasy land of apparitions, private revelations and end-times mania unalloyed by a healthy grasp of reality that seems more akin to gnosticism and UFO-chasing than anything Catholic.

So, though I admire the answer Arturo has given to the question of factionalism, I find it is one I cannot follow. I am not Marian and do not aspire to be. And not only do I not know how to make myself be more Marian, I don't know how I could possibly make myself want to be more Marian.


Mark S. Abeln said...

We've yet to hear the headline "Pope Cracks Down On Unapproved Marian Apparitions", although it may happen soon. At one time, there were restrictions on what could be written about Mary, but that was lifted in the '60s. Pope Benedict said that he is in favor of clamping down on such writings. Joseph Ratzinger was by no means a Marian at the Council, but instead gradually gained a devotion.

I don't think that the Mexican Knights of Columbus martyrs of the 1920s were too feminine. Secularists try very hard to marginalize religion, and one of the ways is by effeminization of the faith and encouraging Machismo among the males. The few times I'd been to Mass in the 1980s was very unpleasant to me, with the 'presiders' being the type of men mothers swooned over: "Oh, he's so good with children". Right. I doubt that the fathers of the children would agree. When my Mom was growing up in France, there was a cultural machismo among the men, who would stand at the church door during Mass, showing disdain. When fathers reject the Church, the faith of their children is in peril.

I think we are all living under the result of centuries of Protestant enculturation and so have a learned distrust of devotion to Mary. I know I did, and was dragged into devotion kicking and screaming.

Our Lady of the Rivers, pray for us.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can see your point if we speak of certain Marian tendencies that manifest themselves in modern times. I have never been a fan of apparitions, and if the Virgin appears and says anything more than a few pious words, I think that is a bit suspect. I don't think that is what I was getting at.

I think that there is little "effeminate" in Marian devotion in traditionally Catholic and Orthodox countries. I came from a very patriarchal upbring, all things considered. If anything, many accuse Marian imagery of being some sort of bizarre means of partiarchy to reduce the feminine to the Madonna/whore complex. There is something to that. I still think that there is a natural impulse of man to balance the masculine and feminine aspects of life, and that is where the outgrowth of Marian piety comes from. That, and a deep meditation on the mystery of the Church. If anything, the "womynpriests" are really an instance of supression of the feminine, not its assertion. Only men immolate blood sacrifices and can be priests, not women.

There is a place for sobriety in religion, and as an English woman, perhaps you are more comfortable in that ethos. It is merely, I would argue, a matter of balance, between high theory and low praxis.

Anonymous said...

Overall, at best, I find the Church on the 'net to be a rack of sensationalist rag newspapers, only without the need for a recycling bin. One cannot take anything labeled "Catholic" here with more than a grain of salt, unless it is copied from the Popes' or the Magisterium's writings. I will forever be wary, now, of any scrolly Latin I encounter anywhere in the world; and accidentally happening upon a photo of Pius X is enough, now, to make me sleep with the lights on. I think on the whole that any division in the Church (other than Orthodox, Protestant) is pretty much a fabrication/machination engineered to keep armchair popes and pretty priests busy.

I struggle with the Marian mantle, too, and for all the same reasons. I suspect it has everything to do with mistaking humility and gentleness for something lacking. However, Mary was the savviest woman ever. And the toughest. Bottom line, no one was closer to Jesus, nor was He closer to anyone. One can argue anything but that. And that, even to me, says, "Wisdom! Be attentive!"

Carol, RC

Anonymous said...

"I also have an instinctive distrust of men who think too highly of women ..."

The problem with this, Hilary, is that normal, masculine Catholic men think very highly of women, or at least certain women - starting with their own their mothers, wives, and daughters - and have a visceral hostility to anyone who would belittle them, insult them, or even put a spotlight on their flaws. That's how it is with normal men who have not been feminized into thinking that these instincts are oppressive and patriarchal.

Of course, we are in a world of abnormal men and women today - legions of people who have never really experienced maternal love as intended by God.

I have a nephew whose mother is a cruel, selfish wretch: that boy will grow up hating women too if something isn't done about it.

Dr. Laura, Ann Coulter, etc. - God bless 'em, but what kind of a man could be married to these ultra-masculinized women who haven't a shred of feminine tenderness in their bodies? I'd rather marry Michael Savage.

"...and am mostly put off by men who are too Marian."

I suspect that you're more put off by the sappy sentimentality of modern-day Marian enthusiasms than by Catholic men who are authentically Marian.

It could also be your Englishness, which for 500 years has forced English Catholicism to minimize its Marian (and papal) components in order to get along in English society.

Men need women in order to be fully men. That is why Marian devotion is so important to priests and male religious. As a professor in seminary once told us, in a lecture on the Crusades which were fought under the Virgin's banner: men need something to fight for, and men will fight for nothing on this earth as they will fight for a woman.

elena maria vidal said...

Actually, I think that authentic devotion to the Mother of God is a safeguard against falling into gnosticism, for it keeps us grounded in the humanity of Christ. St. Louis Grignion de Montfort describes in his works the nature of true devotion to Mary, which is an act of the will, as opposed to the syrupy religiosity which masquerades as devotion. St. Francis de Sales and St. Alphonsus Liguori, both doctors of the Church (and highly educated men) wrote in an impassioned manner encouraging devotion to Our Lady. Some are called on this path; others not so much. But true Marian devotion is recommended by the Church and always has been.

Michael B. said...

Concerning factionalism:
Arturo may have made an honest answer, but it shows him to be one of the many factions based on individual preference divorced from the tradition of the Church, the source of much of the factionalism in the Church these days. There's a Traditional Latin Mass, but some go to another Traditional Latin Mass so that they can gratify their desire for Mass their way, with Gregorian Chant. Oh please, it would help for him to consult Church teaching from the last hundred years before wringing his hands at the perplexity of it all.

I expect that we will find that what we now call a Traditional Catholic will be known as a Catholic, while those perversions which are called Catholic today will be known by their proper names: Modernism, Americanism, Neo-gnosticism, emotional revivalism, etc.

As for Marian devotion: it should be grounded in the Traditional Liturgy: Mass and Office. That is more than sufficient for true devotion to Mary, (or at least put the private revelation in its proper place), and it shields us from the manipulations of emotivism.
In the meantime, keep a holy card nearby of the Patroness of all of us descended from the Poles, the gravely formal Byzantine Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa (Here, I commend the English to her too.)

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Your point may be true, Michael, but I see no reason to make it so unpleasantly.

Mind your tone.

Anonymous said...

Michael B.,

Don't worry, not only did I "consult Church teaching", but I had it rammed into my skull in two years of SSPX seminary. I don't begrudge any of it, and to tell the truth, my personal liturgical tastes still are decidedly traditional, though I don't let it ruin my day.

One thing that I always found quaint about the traditionalist movement in all of its stripes was the "I am Napoleon" complex that many advocates of the traditional Mass seem to have. Apparently, the Church is just in a "rough patch" where 99.999% of the Catholic world has a liturgy that is inspired by "Modernism, Americanism, Neo-gnosticism, emotional revivalism, etc". One day, it will all change back, all of those heretics will be thrown out of the Church, everyone will dutifully utter their Latin responses in unison in their pews, noses buried in their missals, and Our Lady's Immaculate Heart will triumph, etc., etc. That's all quite nice: if you want to lock in your padded traditional Churches and replay the Battle of Waterloo over and over again, I suppose you can do that. You may think you are scoring lots of polemical points by trying to assert what the tradition of the Church really is, but you preach to a very, very small choir.

Of course, I think the traditionalist movement has many good points, and on my best days, when I have had a good hearty breakfast and it is not foggy here in the Bay Area, I would like to think myself an advocate of the return to the traditional liturgy. However, I realize now that any "traditional" Mass venue is just as much an innovation, a particular cultural bubble, that certain Catholics have sealed themselves into. It is no more traditional than the Gospel music Mass down the road. It is religion as hobby. Perhaps that is all we can have, but a little honesty would make the situation a little saner.

You might also be interested in this essay to that affect.

Anonymous said...

One of the parts I like best about Marian devotion is when the Russians or Italians or Argentinians or Poles are facing Mohams or Commies or Swedes and take out their icons and rosaries and defeat them.
History helps us understand what some saint said, quoted in the officium BMV):
Cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo
Its just true, thats all. No sentimentality.

Kate Edwards said...

Hilary said:

"It is possible, I suppose, that the femininity I dislike is that of the modern world."

Yes, I would say so!

Ours is a Church that is grounded above all in truth, and feminine women, just as much as manly men must surely prize objectivity and rationality. Any idea to the contrary is, in my view, the result of feminist and other evil ideologies, and is closely tied up with the cult of niceness (which is directly opposed to genuine tenderness, protectiveness and concern for others).

Of course there are differences between men and women. And some women tend to share more 'manly' characteristics than others (Joanne of Arc, and OT saints like Judith and Deborah perhaps?). But the idea being propagated by some that manliness consists in speaking the truth and taking a stand - courage in other words - and that a woman can be still be feminine while being cowardly strike me as directly opposed to key tenets of our faith!

I do hope you find some good female friends.

Anonymous said...

I must say, I don't understand Mr. Vasquez's aversion to Latin Mass "venues." Yes, they are outside the mainstream (though I suspect more people would attend if they were more encouraged) but why must they then be "religion as a hobby."

I attend the Traditional Latin Mass in Fresno, CA. There is mass, and then there is coffee and doughnuts. Sometimes a group goes out to dinner with the priest. There are also men's and women's book clubs, and friendships among the people who attend that mass. Thus, I see here a real fact, in some ways more of a community than you find in the average "come in, get communion, and leave" mass that I so often see, especially in California. This is no more "religion as a hobby" than any other parish, mass time, etc., and most likely less so.

Michael B. said...

My apology to you. Instead of engaging you, I went off on a tangent that had little to do with you.
I'll respond directly to you on your post, more to the point, I hope.

Anonymous said...

Daniel A.,

On religion as hobby: I should say that it is only a very recent American phenomenon of people having a choice where they could go to Mass. For one thing, most people were canonically obligated to receive the sacraments at their own church: not any priest had jurisdiction to absolve you from your sins; you had to confess to your parish priest (priests didn't have to jurisdiction to absolve anywhere anytime except "in periculo mortis") You had to get married in the parish of the bride, and so on and so forth. Many ethnic parishes formed in this country since Irish, Poles, and Italians couldn't be in the same church with each other for a variety of less than edifying reasons. And in Louisiana, black Catholics were often not even allowed at all in churches of white Catholics.

Also, we need to take into consideration the fact that people simply weren't very mobile back then. We all read that edifying story of the woman in Africa who crawls two and a half miles to Mass on Sunday. My deceased grandmother walked that distance just to go to Mass on Sunday as well. To travel out of your way just to go to Mass, passing five or six Catholic churches on the way, even if it is to have a "community", seems bizarre by comparison, and the best word for it is "hobby". You have thought out the whole "liturgical question", come to your own conclusions, auto-selected yourself to join a particular group, hopped in your car, and set out. That's fine, I suppose, but to think you are doing something noble by it or that you are "more Catholic" or "traditional" than everyone else begs a whole lot of questions.

In the end, a lot of it is the clergy's fault. Louis Bouyer and other liturgical innovators behind the liturgical movement wanted to re-estabilish the importance of liturgy in the lives of the laity. Some became liturgical dancers and heads of worship committees and play priest that way. Others drive dozens of miles just to get their fix of Gregorian chant and lace albs. It really is the same phenomenon, just viewed from different sides of the prism. I must say, from a purely cultural standpoint, it is a bit strange for traditionalists to read along with the priest the prayers that are supposed to be silent. One would think that they are silent for a reason, no?

Personally, if I am going to obsess about religion, I will do it with more lay pastimes like collecting chaplets, holy cards, and statues of saints. At least there, I don't end up creating my own historically false narrative of a church that never was.