Wednesday, March 5, 2014


In glancing back at the literature, music, film and the theatre during the recent decades of the 1920s through the 1950s we see a remarkable thing.  Writers, composers and directors were looking in awe of Catholicism, or at least were more than a little cognizant of its strong and beneficial presence in the world at large.  Hemingway, for example, could write his novels which reveal the Faith nagging at him in his characters and plot devices.  Hollywood was more than a little reverential towards Catholicism (see THE GREEN YEARS and CALL NORTHSIDE 777 for examples of this attitude), and it wasn't just in their excellent productions of THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and others which showed reverence towards the certitudes of the Church; you could find admiring references in many films of a not overtly religious nature.

The same with novels.  We have already mentioned Hemingway but there were others who, when writing their novels, always seemed to keep looking over their shoulder for approval from the Catholics around them.  One might say they had a genuine respect for the Church or at least a healthy fear.

That has changed, of course, and rather dramatically.  We are not referring to the puerile, obscene and generally mindless overt attacks on the Church we see everywhere in what passes for our culture nowadays (they certainly no longer fear the Church), attacks awash in infantilism.  We are instead speaking of a short, nasty phrase here, a bastardization of Gregorian modes there in some musical compositions, a passing word of contempt for the Church in an otherwise harmless book, and so on.  The so-called "creative class" has almost totally lost their respect and their fear of Christ's Church (though I hasten to add that "creative" is hardly a word I would use to describe today's novelists or movie makers or playwrights.  There are other words that describe them better).

Ernest Hemingway's quiet fascination with the Church found in such novels as The Snows of Kilimonjaro didn't prevent him from killing himself with a shotgun.  Nor did Somerset Maugham's sympathy for the rituals of Catholicism propel him into converting.  C.S. Lewis, sympathetic though he was, refused the graces offered to him and died outside the Faith.  Nevertheless we cannot discount the effect the Church had on such men nor the effects they had on their readers by these often beautiful scenes of Catholic practice.  But such scenes are nonexistent now and there is a reason for that: the Church has ceased to show them that She is the sole guardian of the Truth. 

It is almost boring to have to say that since the 1960s there has been a shift in the attitude of the intelligentsia towards the certitudes of the One, True Church.  It is equally boring to point out the significant event of the early 1960s which was undoubtedly the proximate cause of that shift: the lowering of the Church's defenses, the "opening of the windows", that began with the Tragic Council of 1962.  That Council told the world there would be no more anathemas; on the contrary there would only be coexistence from now on.  The intelligentsia got the message rather quickly.

As one who has an appreciation of the art that was once common in the cinema it always impresses me to see the catastrophic decline in art, morals and even cinematic competence that began in the early 1960s.  Hollywood was put on notice that there would be no more quiet conferences between notable Churchmen and studio moguls, that there would no more bothersome "Legion of Decency", there would be no more boycotts of salacious films and plays, nor would there be any need for any earnest films about Catholics, the unjustly neglected FRANCIS OF ASSISI being perhaps one of the last of the "Catholic" movies that would get made with a true desire to tell a great story well.  And this is of course not forgetting the magnificent A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS of 1967.  While some would hesitate to call it a Catholic film (I wouldn't hesitate) it was most certainly a brilliant attempt to tell the Church's side of a story that had been distorted beyond recognition by various Whigs, past and present.  But after that it would be hard to find a single film that one could unreservedly term "Catholic" in ethos and/or presentation, made by a major studio.  (Small, independent movies made by others should not be counted here; many of them were well-intended but were lacking in professionalism.  The same observation applies to literature and far too many musical compositions.)

If the arts and entertainment industries no longer fear or respect the Church then it is to the Church that we must look for the reasons that this is so.  When Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI raised the white flag at their misbegotten Council literally all hell broke loose.  We are not going to say that Vatican II was illegitimate nor are we going to deny that buried within its documents one can still find some solid teaching.  But we are also not going to insult our intelligences by saying all is happy and lovely in the post-Conciliar world. 

Like many Catholics I long to see non-Catholics among family, friends and those I admire come to the Faith.  But they have to have something to convert to.  Not a crumbling Church in shambles, often rudderless and poorly led but a Church of certitude, one that knows Who it is who leads her and to what end.  Let us face the obvious reality.  From Pope down to priest we have been poorly, dreadfully catechized during the past decades.  Contradictory statements come from the Vatican almost every day which indicates, if nothing else, a teaching office in disarray.  Our Churchmen from the highest to the lowest seem incapable of even mentioning the word "sin" let alone talking about it.  Thus the faithful and the rest of the world are left to their own devices, to sort out for themselves what is a good and what is evil.  We can be certain that fallen man will find it a form of drudgery to discover any evil in what they do but will find it much easier to congratulate themselves on all the good they, using their own lights, deem to be "good".  That man has an unlimited capacity for self-deception can be found quite spectacularly in the infamous questionnaire that was recently commissioned by Rome.  If one-third of what the questionnaire reveals is true we have before us a body of Catholics who are no longer Catholic in any true sense of that word.

And then there is the public face of the Church, its everyday liturgy.  I cannot imagine there are too many non-Catholics that could ever be attracted to the Church based on what they witnesses at these liturgies, can there?  Yes, there are converts but the numbers are down to insignificant amounts and those who stick with the Faith after having their cultural, artistic and religious sensibilities insulted every Sunday are dwindling.  (My own wife, a convert from Lutheranism, shortly after witnessing her first New Mass, remarked that her former Lutheran services were far more reverent).  Those who can stay the course after that weekly banality and still keep their Catholic sense are truly remarkable converts.  Please God He will direct them to better liturgies.

As Catholics we have a duty to do our best to bring others to the Faith and that is why we are faced with an almost impossible dilemma: work hard for their conversion only to throw them into the maws of the horrid mess the Church is now in.  I am aware of the famous story of the Jewish convert who chose Catholicism because, he said, any Church still standing after enduring such calamities must be the true one.  And then there is Belloc's immortal quote to the scoffing Protestants of his time, a quote I have featured here often.  Yes, any Church "conducted with such knavish imbecility" and still remain standing indeed must be the one, true Church.

But the dilemma remains.  How do we convince our relatives and friends to cross the Tiber?  When everything you tell them about Catholicism is promptly undermined by the Dolans, Wuerls, Kochs, Schonborns and, yes, Vicars of Christ, what can we say to them?  When Cardinal Ratzinger can tell a Protestant to stay Protestant, or a Cardinal Koch, presumably with the Pope's approval, can tell the Jews that they need not convert in order to be saved because their Old Covenant (abolished by Jesus Christ if I recall correctly) is still salvific for them?  When this happens we Catholics are put in a very difficult position.  If we say Baptism is necessary for salvation, which the Church has officially, dogmatically taught since Day One, what do we say in reply to our friends who inform us that a high-ranking Cardinal of the Church has told us that, in essence, this Church teaching is nonsense?

His Holiness Pope Francis, as is now well known, recently called some Bible-thumping dispensationalist preacher his "brother Bishop", in fact allowing himself to be videoed saying so.  These are the things that try our souls, especially when we want our dying mothers and fathers, not of the Faith, to enter the Church in those last moments of their life.  Are our pastors aware the damage their words and actions do?

Cardinal Turkson has just condemned the recent Uganda law that re-criminalizes homosexuality.  He says these people "are not criminals".  Well, yes, Your Eminence, they are criminals.  More to the point, they are committing grievous mortal sins which will send them to Hell.  This is the kind of sentimental statement that keeps people away from Catholicism in droves.  When was the last time Cardinal Turkson, or any other prelate in recent memory, spoke of this vice as the mortal sin that it is?  On this subject, and on others like contraception, our ecclesiastical leaders have maintained a deafening silence.   We are well aware of the results of that silence: more homosexuals and more dead children.  Again, do our pastors know the damage done by their words, or lack of them?

One kind of damage it does is to stop conversions.  As one astute writer wrote of our pastors some thirty years ago, if they had been using whips and chains they could not have done a better job keeping people out of the Church.

In spite of all that these faithless servants do to keep people away from the Church I suppose, wearily, that we must keep on trying somehow.

I just wish I knew how.


donn4bill said...

Wow! I have to agree 100%.

Anonymous said...

Well, no whips and chains, but the priest present when I became Catholic seriously tried to talk me out of it.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I have to disagree 100%!!! What a sorry, condemning attitude toward the church!!! So you are right and everyone else is wrong. You obviously have no idea how self-righteous you sound!!! Try some love imbued with humility. The church does not need noisy gongs and clanging symbols. Who would want to go to such a church. Your damning of VII is especially odious to me. I did not know what or who Christian faith was about until the fruit of that fine event was produced.

James said...

"Cardinal Turkson has just condemned the recent Uganda law that re-criminalizes homosexuality. He says these people "are not criminals". Well, yes, Your Eminence, they are criminals."

## How are they criminals ? Neither world nor the Church is a country in which gay people are criminals. Nigeria or Russia or Iran may regard them as criminals; but neither the world nor the Church is any of these countries. The Church does not call them criminals - so Catholics who say that the Church does so (a) are mistaken (b) speak only for themselves. They are criminals only if adulterers and the like are criminals. Crime is a legal category, and countries do not all criminalise the same acts. The Church does not regard same sex activities of any kind as a crime either. So it is nonsense to say they are criminals.
Unless, of course, one is ill-informed enough to think homosexuality is paedophilia, or else, that all homosexuals are by definition paedophiles. But both of these ideas are untrue.

Nor does the quotation make any distinction between orientation & action - unlike the Church. The cardinal is correct; the comment on his comment is mistaken, and intellectually sloppy; like so much that is said on the Net :(

Besides, the behaviour of Christ does not suggest that He would have treated gay people as pariahs in the way that so many Catholics do. But it is much easier to treat a group of people as pariahs (something the Church has a habit of doing) than to be Christlike towards them :(

Aged parent said...


Thank you for your comment.

In short, all sinners are criminals in the eyes of God, and that is the point that was being made. I often think of St Augustine's prayer after Holy Communion when he refers to all of us not in God's grace as "shameless criminals". So, yes, sodomites are criminals.

How should the Church deal with them? By offering them the chance to disentangle themselves from this unspeakable vice via the Sacrament of Penance. The Church should not, like some of the idiots who are wearing mitres these, as Cardinal Dolan did the other day, cheer them on for being sodomites.

If you wish to close your eyes to the obvious link between the homosexual perversion and ephebophilia (the buggering of adolescent boys by male sodomites) then I would strongly suggest that you look deeper into this dark world of these poor wretches. You could start (if you have a strong stomach) with the classified ads section of any homo newspaper.

I would caution you, too, not to fall for that somewhat laughable concept of sexual "orientation". There are no orientations; but there are sins. But if you are going to use the intellectually dubious term "orientation" when describing these hideous perversions then you must be consistent and forgive a killer on the basis of his "murderous orientation". In other words, do not rely on the media or the corrupted psychology business for your information on these matters; rather, trust the Church.

Finally I would advise you in all charity to stop using the perfectly innocent word "gay" to describe this particular vice, one that as the Church has taught "cries out to Heaven for vengeance". That is the same Heaven occupied by Christ who will always be ready to forgive sinners their sin, but who will not condone their sin. Despite some of the cowards and politicians wearing episcopal robes these days, we still know that sodomy is a mortal sin, and as long as one persists in that sin, indeed takes pride in it or tries to laughably claim he was "born that way", he is no friend of Christ and if he does not get to Confession before death he will be forever lost.

If you really want to hep these poor sinners, help them out of their sin.

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