Saturday, October 30, 2004

Masterpiece Theatre in LA

Neuhaus' love for the absurd is just too funny.
The archdiocese not only announced that it would not turn away protesters but sent a message to the Rainbow Sash Movement saying that they would be warmly welcomed at the altar of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Nobody with sashes showed up. What’s the point of going to Mass if you’re going to be denied a confrontation? I would not be surprised if some gay activists in L.A. are upset about the archdiocese depriving them of their right to be rejected. And just imagine the hurt feelings of an ever-so-welcoming archdiocese scorned. In the theater of gay agitprop, players should stick to their designated roles. In Chicago, the archdiocese had the satisfaction of being Catholic, and gay activists the satisfaction of being oppressed. It was a win-win proposition. In Los Angeles, it seems that everybody lost.

Chummy churches

Liturgies where the Sign of Peace becomes a mini-coffee hour never fail to send my eyeballs rolling towards the heavens. Neuhaus says it well, commenting on a classic warm-n-fuzzy line from America magazine:
“What can we do to show that the Eucharist is a communal activity? Greeting people at the door is a start. It alerts us to the fact that we are going to do something with others. . . . I have found some Catholics who think this whole ‘welcoming’ business is destroying our traditional sense of reverence and replacing it with some folksy, feel-good experience. This is a false conclusion. If you wish to invite a guest into your home, you must have space. To invite others into our hearts and our worship, we must make room for them. The enemy of reverence is not hospitality but arrogance.” Despite my being intimidated by the flat assertion, “This is a false conclusion,” I dare to wonder if the author, a professor of theology writing in America, might tolerate a modest dissent. Note the language: we are going to do something; our traditional sense of reverence; your home; our worship. Is there not something to be said for reverence for what God is doing in His house through the liturgy of the Church, the saints in heaven and pilgrims on earth? There are many conversion stories in which the narrator describes quietly entering a Catholic church, maybe even sneaking in, and being struck by the statues and candles, and, most of all, by the people kneeling in rapt devotion as the priest at the altar lifts the consecrated host and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” There may be one, but I have never read a conversion story in which a person was drawn to the Catholic Church by the kind of chumminess that one might encounter at a birthday party or around the water cooler at the office. “This is a false conclusion,” rumbles our liturgist. I’m sorry, sir, but since I’ve had the temerity to go so far, I’ll go a step further and, at the risk of your wrath, suggest that it is really not so important “to show that the Eucharist is a communal activity.” That’s not the point. The point is what God has done, and is doing in the Mass, reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ. The eucharistic community is created precisely by our turning away from ourselves and toward Christ. The wonderful friendliness of our wonderful selves is really quite beside the point. And to think otherwise is, well, arrogance.

State of the USCCB

Fr. Neuhaus has come out with another excellent column, this time, that gives a more intimate and personal overview of the state of our nation's bishops. It strikes a refreshingly hopeful, even proud and august tone on where the Church is heading. Perhaps best is his coverage of Cdl. George, confirming my appreciation of his leadership.

What remains bothersome to me is the Church's dependence on the diocesan system to farm-raise our future bishops. In my mind, it leaves too much to the whims and winds of "the spirit" (in the modern gnostic sense of the word). The Eastern way of looking almost exclusively to the monasteries for their bishops seems to provide them with a much more consistent crop of bishops, whereas for us it remains hit or miss. But maybe there's some spiritual gift to be found there as well.