Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bishop of Sioux City: 'hermeneutic of discontinuity' has wreaked havoc in the Church.

The Bishop of Sioux City R. Walter Nickless has written a 17 page pastoral on the authentic understanding of the Second Vatican Council.

He writes about the period that followed the Council:

Sometimes we set out to convert the world, but were instead converted by it. We have sometimes lost sight of who we are and what we believe, and therefore have little to offer the world that so desperately needs the Gospel. A pendulum effect began in the Church and has not yet stopped swinging. In the effort to correct exaggerations or one-sidedness in various areas, the reform often times swung to the exact opposite pole.

This pendulum swing can be seen in the areas of liturgy, popular piety, family life, catechesis, ecumenism, morals, and political involvement, to name just a few. It seems to me that in many areas of the Church’s life the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” has triumphed. It has manifested itself in a sort of dualism, an either/or mentality and insistence in various areas of the Church’s life: either fidelity to doctrine or social justice work, either Latin or English, either our personal conscience or the authority of the Church, either chant or contemporary music, either tradition or progress, either liturgy or popular piety, either conservative or liberal, either Mass or Adoration, either the Magisterium or theologians, either ecumenism or evangelization, either rubrics or personalization, either the Baltimore Catechism or “experience”; and the list goes on and on! We have always been a “both/and” people: intrinsically traditional and conservative in what pertains to the faith, and creative in pastoral ministry and engaging the world.

My brothers and sisters, let me say this clearly: The “hermeneutic of discontinuity” is a false interpretation and implementation of the Council and the Catholic Faith. It emphasizes the “engagement with the world” to the exclusion of the deposit of faith. This has wreaked havoc on the Church, systematically dismantling the Catholic Faith to please the world, watering down what is distinctively Catholic, and ironically becoming completely irrelevant and impotent for the mission of the Church in the world. The Church that seeks simply what works or is “useful” in the end becomes useless.

Our urgent need at this time is to reclaim and strengthen our understanding of the deposit of faith. We must have a distinctive identity and culture as Catholics, if we would effectively communicate the Gospel to the people of this day and Diocese. This is our mission. Notice that this mission is two-fold, like the Second Vatican Council’s purpose. It is toward ourselves within the Church (ad intra), and it is to the world (ad extra). The first is primary and necessary for the second; the second flows from the first. This is why we have not been as successful as we should be in bringing the world to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ to the world. We cannot give what we do not have; we cannot fulfill our mission to evangelize, if we ourselves are not evangelized.

With respect to the liturgy, what I wrote in today's 'Desktop' in the parish newsletter might be of interest to readers:

Last Saturday a good number of parishioners enjoyed a lovely day at Aylesford as we joined between seven and eight thousand faithful in honouring St
Thérèse of Lisieux and in venerating her relics. St Thérèse is a ‘Doctor of Love’ in the Church, and the peace and harmony of everyone gathered in Aylesford was a testimony of the love of God that binds us as faithful Christians from so many parts of the world to one another.

Many non-Catholics attended too: one of our own group, spouses married to Catholics, and the driver of our bus Tony. Tony joined the queue of those venerating the relics and said at the end of the day how he couldn’t help but enter into the spirit of such a joyful pilgrimage. He told me that, although not a regular church goer, whenever he finds himself tired after a stressful day, he puts some Gregorian chant on to listen to and soon finds himself relaxed and at peace.

Gregorian chant CD’s have become chart-toppers in recent years. Seeing the commercial potential of this beautiful music, record companies engage communities of monks and other choirs in recording contracts to enable people with or without faith to experience this music in the comfort of their homes. But where is the proper ‘home’ of Gregorian chant? It is the Sacred Liturgy which is celebrated in our churches day in and day out. Is it not ironic that as Gregorian chant increases in popularity in the charts, there are those who resist or even resent its use in its proper setting: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? As children fed on a diet of burgers and chips would find more healthy food unpalatable, it is understandable that those who have been fed on a liturgical diet of ‘Kum ba yah, my Lord’, ‘Bind us together, Lord’ and the ‘clapping Gloria’ might find the rather richer diet of Gregorian chant difficult to digest. However, according to the Second Vatican Council, the chant ‘should be given pride of place in liturgical services’ and, as a recent teaching document of the Church states, ‘Such chant has a great power to lift the human spirit to heavenly realities.’

Since the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have all asked that the faithful in ordinary parishes not be denied access to this rich liturgical heritage but, on the contrary, be helped to participate in it. I would ask those parishioners who choose not to attend the 10am Mass on those Sundays when we sing some Gregorian chant to reconsider. I wish to congratulate our choir on the Communion antiphon they chanted last Sunday and to encourage all our parishioners to either actively join in the singing of the chant as best they can, being patient if at first they find it unfamiliar, or passively allow themselves to be raised up by it.

After Mass last Sunday morning a couple from Norwich introduced themselves to me as visitors. She was born and raised a Catholic and said how nice it was to hear the Latin chant. Her husband had only been received into the Church last Easter. He too appreciated the opportunity to experience it. In the words of Psalm 51(50), we can pray: ‘O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.’

The full text of the pastoral letter can be read here.

H/t Lifesitenews. Also covered in depth at Te Deum Laudamus (1) and (2)

1 comment:

  1. It must have take enormous courage for Bp. Nickless to say what he has. May God bless him, and may he inspire and encourage other Shepherds similarly, to speak the truth, in season and out of season.Thanks for this post, Fr.


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