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Monday, April 27, 2009

"Liberal" Catholics

This is one of my "musing out loud" posts, so please bear with me. I'm not really sure where it's going but I've got the itch to write and the itch to muse, so it's better to let this tiger from its cage. 

The more I learn about the Church (via Ecclesiology), the more the political terms "Conservative" and "Liberal" become like spiritual nails on a chalkboard. They're completely inappropriate, for one can only fall into two categories as a Catholic:  Faithful (Orthodox) or Unfaithful (Heterodox).  Period. One is either in line with Church teachings, or one is not.  

That's not to say that one cannot ask questions or have personal reservations arising from a lack of understanding, so long as that person, with integrity, remains obedient to the teachings and truly seeks to understand them.  

What does "Liberal" mean?  

Recently I've spoken with a few people who claim to be "Liberal Catholics", and because of some interactions and definitions I've seen by commenters online or in real life, before I leap onto the "You're a Heretic!" bandwagon that seems to be so popular among certain groups of Catholics, I think it might be important to figure out what the term "Liberal" really means. 

One person was a commenter on another blog, and took the blog author to task on his own ground. The blog's author claims to be a "Liberal" and a "Progressive", while denouncing pretty much EVERYTHING that makes up the Church.  The "Liberal Catholic" commenter took care to define his terms, explaining that he was all the things personally that the blog's author claimed to be, but the commenter said he was faithful to the Church, respected the teaching authority of the Magisterium on faith and morals, the importance of the sacraments, the respective positions of the clergy and laity, etc.  I was amazed.  In what he was saying, he was obviously very...orthodox!  I wanted to meet that man and shake his hand for what he said, which he stated firmly, in charity, and through logical definition of terms.   

I've met other people who claim to be "Liberal" but haven't been so forthcoming on their definition of what that means. Some people define themselves as "Liberal" not in relation to the teachings of the Church, but in relation to the Liturgy.  These people would take the place of a child about to be aborted, they are supportive of their clergy, they live and breathe Catholicism and can pray circles around people who claim to be holy and devoted but are actually just mean and spiteful in their otherwise solid knowledge of the Church.  These "Liturgical Liberals" are "liberal" in only one area, in that they have an allergy to anything remotely Latin, although they'll fall all over themselves to attend and support Masses in every other language under the sun, even Klingon.  

The liturgical liberals  have no problem, for example,  with the Mass at the LA Educational Conference (the videos of which send the rest of us into paroxysms of a thousand brutal deaths), for they don't see a problem with songs that glorify the people while ignoring God. They don't see a problem with liturgical dancers in a culture in which this is not the norm (and is actually not permitted).  They've never actually READ the Vatican II documents, especially the one on the Liturgy, preferring to allow themselves to be deceived by people who gleefully tell them what the documents said. 

Never mind that the Novus Ordo as it is celebrated today doesn't even REMOTELY look like the Mass called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  But I digress.  Other documents have come along that have permitted most of what we see, and thus, Rome has spoken. But the, those changes should not be blamed on Vatican II, if we are to be truthful. 

And above all, we need to be truthful.  

Liberal is as liberal does

These examples have revealed to me a certain dichotomy in those to whom the label is often applied.  It seems that many who consider themselves to be "liberal" are actually faithful Catholics with questionable taste.  The last time I checked, bad taste isn't a sin.  And in fact, bad taste can be corrected, albeit in charity.

How does a wine snob help a redneck to appreciate anything other than Almaden White Zinfandel?  Through careful steps, one sweet wine to the next.  Perhaps to a better Rose', then to a Gwertztraminer, a Riesling, to a Chardonnay, to a Pinot Grigiot or Sauvignon Blanc. Then on to the Reds!  Start with light-bodied like a good Pinot Noir, moving through the Merlots to the Zins to the Cabs.      (Speaking through experience on this one..I was the redneck who had never had wine that didn't come from a box.)  

How does a Matador help a PETA  activist appreciate the art of bullfighting?   

Um...actually, I haven't figured that one out yet.  Yet the above is a bit more of the image of the infighting in the Church today, isn't it?    


A lot of these liturgical liberals aren't aware of the GIRM or the fact that the GIRM is, in fact, Canon Law, and MUST be obeyed.  If they KNEW something objectively defined was wrong, they'd be first in line to come into obedience, even if they disliked the facts.  

There is a downright nasty idea out there that anyone who claims to be a "Liberal Catholic" is willfully disobedient, willfully ignorant, mean, and out to wreck the Church.   That idea is completely unfair, completely uncharitable, and fully out of bounds for anyone claiming to be seeking holiness.  

As I've discovered, and cited above, many who claim to be "Liberal Catholics" are actually fully faithful to what the Church is and what she teaches, and perhaps is actually a bit more open than the rest of us about their favorite sins.  And about their confusion on what the Church is, and what she teaches.  

A Foot in Both Worlds

It is the general faithfulness of many of these "Liberal Catholics" that is a bit of a mystery to me, for on one hand, they profess what I profess and believe what I believe, bowing and kneeling to the same Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament.  They agree that contraception is wrong, they agree abortion is evil, they agree that the Church has no authority to ordain women, they agree that obedience to the Magisterium is important and more importantly, that Christ gave that authority to the Church. We agree that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, that the Holy Spirit guides and protects us, and that our Bishops are successors to the Apostles.  

Yet invariably, through conversation, their views come into expression and I've found that although they are faithful, they've been secularized, and thus...all of their views, even with regard to Faith, have been warped such that they can ONLY see through the glasses of democratic politics.  

THAT'S how they think they could vote for Obama with a clear conscience. For in their minds, they are rendering unto Caesar while rendering unto God what is God's. To them, it's perfectly logical.   

They stand with a foot in both worlds, leaning more on the secular side. Seeing the Church not through the eyes of the Church and the eyes of objective Truth, but through the eyes of the world.  In short...they are worldly.  

This is recognized in several ways, although I'll only mention a few here:

*  They believe that abortion is the brutal murder of an unborn child and believe that it is an objective evil.  However, because there are people of other beliefs in the world, they do not see that they have the right AND duty to state across the board that it is wrong, for doing so "offends" other beliefs.  They are so ad extra that they see the immoral beliefs of others as being superior to their own.  

*  They do not believe that we have the right and duty to bring our faith into the public square, for there are those who would disagree, and to state the objective Truth which we firmly believe is a scourge to others who do not share that belief and might be "harmed" in their own positions. Thus, preaching Christ to anyone who is not Christian, to them, is not in keeping with the virtue of charity.   They have true love confused with permissiveness. 

* Vocations - this one has me scratching my head a bit, so I'll have to explain this one in more depth in another post.  Suffice to say that just as they don't understand what the Church really IS because they won't take their foot out of the world long enough to find out, so they see ALL of the Sacraments, and Vocations as well.  Their fix for more Vocations is the position they insist on holding:  a foot belonging to Caesar, defining themselves as primarily political, and a foot belonging to the Church, to whom they claim they want to be faithful. 

And in the end, they are torn to pieces because neither position makes sense to either side. 

Now, this is one of those topics that can be inflammatory, and I'm not claiming to be objective about it;  this is my blog and I get to hold my own opinion, my own bias.  If you want biased objectivity, then go to MSM and let them lie to you.  I won't do that; I'm not a journalist and I think journalism as it's practiced today is soulless, cruel, and deceptive. 

That said, I'd be interested in hearing about my readers' observations on this issue, for clearly, the term "Liberal Catholic" even though it's improper, has to be understood from the perspective of the ones claiming the title.  We have to come to understand why they claim to be such, and if possible, if we can understand them, maybe we can help them shed the glasses of the world and see clearly the spikes on the fence they straddle.  

Draft of my commenting policy:  

If you comment, please keep your comments charitable. Humor is fine, no matter what your position, but I reserve the right to decide if someone is crossing a line.  You can even criticize me, for no doubt I've badly phrased something, and fully expect that even in writing this post I'm offending people.  I accept that.  That doesn't mean I'll change my position or wording because the fact is that some people are so thin-skinned a spring breeze is nearly a mortal wound to them. 

MIND YOU!  There are people who profess to be "Liberal Catholics" and are actually outright dissidents for they don't agree with ANYTHING the Church teaches, and in fact, their beliefs are outright heretical. For the purposes of this post, please ignore the Dissidents and in charity, please read what I'm actually stating about those who fit the definitions I am providing. Thank you. 


Patrice Egging said...

As a convert to the Catholic Church, I had to sort out a lot of issues..a real struggle at times, and still is a struggle. Knowing even that there was such a thing as the GIRM was wonderful to me! after I accepted the concept of the authority of the Church..which was one of the biggest struggles. What I find amazing is that other musicians I work with, and liturgists, or so they claim to be, do NOT know what is in the GIRM, and I seriously doubt if most of them even know there is such a thing as the GERM warfare..yes, but I feel like I'm in a GIRM WAR trying to follow guidlines. I am no scholar, by any means, and have only read it, not studied it. This is only one issue. On other issues, abortion, etc. I feel like, "IF you don't agree, leave. BE Protestant. Because that is what you ARE, protesting." It took me 20 years to get to the church, 25 more in it and I still am on that struggle to learn my faith. But I love the struggle.

RJW said...

Nail on the head, Adoro. I so enjoy all your posts. I understand exactly what you are saying. I sing and play guitar at church and I know that isn't appreciated by all. But I have been leading music for 36 years. I have sang a lot of different music over the years. Yes, purgatory pending, I've sang Kumbaya at Mass. (I did start in the 70's). Now days I try to be more "responsible". I am more careful about the music I choose. I try to keep it basically short and simple to add to the prayer of the liturgy and not over shadow it. I have been lucky (read "very blessed") to have two very orthodox priests the last few years to help educate me. (see "orthometer"). And it is a learning process in which we must continually persevere.

Oh well, see I can ramble with the very best. We just keep on keeping on. Thanks for your "musings" that keep me thinking and growing.

Adoro said...

Patrice ~ Thanks for your comment, and you're exactly right! The Music Director at my own parish is one who doesn't seem to know what the GIRM is and if she does, she hasn't actually read it. (Hoping she has by now. Nice lady, just doesn't know anything about liturgy. And has very bad taste in "music") The Church is such a GIFT to us, isn't she?

RJW ~ Now, you surprise me. I would NEVER have pegged you as a guitar guy! Given the nature of your typical comments, I would have figured you for chant schola all the way! Gotta say, you're definitely blessed to have the priest you do. They make all the difference in the world!

Anonymous said...

Never mind that the Novus Ordo as it is celebrated today doesn't even REMOTELY look like the Mass called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium.Adoro, allow me to pick a nit. I would say that many Novus Ordo Masses celebrated today do not conform to Sacrosanctum Concilium.

In our regular parish, the N.O. is celebrated faithfully, respectfully and reverently.

And the Franciscan hermitage where my wife and I attend first Friday Mass, celebrates the Ordo Missae Cum Populo, which is the N.O. celebrated in Latin with chant.

So there are pockets of N.O. orthodoxy. Not all orthodox are "traditional". :)

Anonymous said...

My own pastor once said to me, "whenever anything comes from Rome, we close our eyes". Thank God we don't have clown Masses or anything like that, but there isn't much reverence unfortunately. Before Mass starts. I always ask the Lord to turn off my inner critic so I can concentrate on Him. That little pest (the critic) has caused much trouble in the past, but I've learned the hard way that all I can do is pray and focus on worshipping God with all my being rather than fussing about what others are doing. At the end, we all face the same Judgement, so I need to get the beam out of my own eye before griping about the splinters in the eyes of others. Also, I pray for my Pastor, who is a kindly man, but seems to be more interested in popularity than being a shepherd. Thank you for your posts, and please know that you're in my prayers as well.

A reader in Canada

Adoro said...

Tony ~ Please allow me to nitpick back. ;-)

I didn't say the NO isn't celebrated reverently, faithfully, or respectfully. What I actually STATED is that it doesn't MATCH Sacrosanctum Concilium.

That document states very clearly that Gregorian Chant and Latin are to maintain a high place in the Mass. I know of only 1 parish locally that, from the time of V2 has continued to celebrate a Mass which matches EXACTLY what this document states. And that Mass is at St. Agnes in St. Paul. EVERYTHING is in Latin, but for the readings and the homily. SC never stated that the alter be moved or the priest face pro populum. Thus, St. Agnes remains faithful to the document. Later documents are what changed these things, and so right now the NO continues, ALMOST EVERYWHERE to be celebrated in a manner not actually called for in the Vatican II documents, specifically Sacrosanctum Concilium. Go read the link for yourself.

I'm not against the NO. Not one bit. But it drives me CRAZY that people dont' know what's in the document they THINK describes the NO of today.

It sounds to me like the hermitage you describe is like your own St. Agnes. :-) (I don't normally get to go to the Latin NO there, or the EF now as it's not real close).

My own parish has wonderful priests, they are very reverent. I'm not in love with the music, but, hey, that's what ear plugs are for! ;-)

Canadian Anon ~ :-) As I understand it, up there you often don't really have a choice of parishes to attend, do you? Because I'm in a large metro area, we do have choices, and thankfully, good ones! I'm so grateful that most of the Pastors here are solid, and if something comes from Rome, they receive it with joy. We are blessed.

Thank you for your prayers.

RJW said...

I would love to play the piano and/or organ. (Old dog-new tricks). But I had such a hard time getting the cases zipped up let alone carrying them to campouts. Seriously, I do use chant and alot of traditional hymns.

Nan said...

I don't know anyone who claims the title "liberal Catholic" but plenty who claim Catholic and don't understand that they live their lives so that they're opposed to church teaching; sometimes it's because they had priests who didn't stand up for church teachings so they think because Father was just fine with it, the church is just fine with their choices.

Vianney33 said...

Two things come to mind when I think liberal catholic. They are either one of two things:
1. a moral relitavist cahtolic who knows what the church teaches but doesn't think it is the only truth and likes things this way because they don't want to be challenged to think too deeply because that might cause them to change.

2. a hide-their-head in the sand catholic who knows the truth is out there and knows where to find it but chooses to remain willfully ignorant because they want to go on doing what they want.

Both of these are based in the fear of "change". I was a #2 for years. I thank the Lord for changing and continuing to change me.