Another Religion

Buddy Christ


Father Z reminds us that one of the major problem with contemporary Catholicism is that in practice it frequently bears little relationship to Catholicism as traditionally understood:

I was once in a parish with a school. I visited class rooms. I was asked to blessed the class rooms by the pastor. By way of explanation of what blessings are all about I wanted to make the distinction between sacraments and sacramentals. That’s when I discovered that even in the 8th grade, not only could not a single student say what a sacrament is, none of them could name one of the sacraments. And yet I was the one who got into trouble for asking the question in the first place!

This, friends, is what we are dealing with.

This is from First Things. It reminds me of experiences I have had.  My emphases and comments.

At noon I have to be at the local Catholic school—let’s call it St. Dismas—to train altar servers. I will arrive a few minutes early, and by 12:05 most of the kids will have trickled in. We are in Southern California, so most of the boys at St. Dismas wear short pants year-round. Students are required to attend one Mass per month with the school, but it has never occurred to anyone, not their parents, not the pastor, not the teachers, and certainly not the students, that they should wear pants to Mass. The girls wear skirts that in 1966 would have been described as “micro-minis.” When I told the boys’ parents that I expected them to wear their uniform pants to Mass when they become servers, the school principal—a genial thirty-something man who insists on the rigorous use of the title “Dr.” but often wears sweatpants and flip-flops to work [See how decorum plays into this?] —cornered me outside his office for a talk. He warned me that I might get some pushback from parents on the pants requirement. “We are only a medium-Catholic school,” he informed me. “We’re not really that Catholic.”

When we walk as a group into the nave (the church itself is almost barren of Catholic art or iconography), none of the kids bow or genuflect before the tabernacle. They are unaware that this is something they should do. [At the same parish I mentioned above, I was asked to show the soon-to-be 1st Communicants around the church.  When we came to the tabernacle, none of them knew anything about genuflecting.  I showed them and explained why.  “Because the Blessed Sacrament is kept in there!”  Blank faces.  Not a flicker of recognition… and 7 year olds aren’t usually stoic.  I tried several ways of saying what and WHO was in that big ornate box.  Finally, one little boy screwed up his face and said, “You mean that piece of bread thing?”] They don’t know, because none of these children attend Mass on Sunday. When they do become altar servers, they will be dropped off moments before Mass begins and picked up by an idling SUV before the organ has finished the recessional. From time to time, the parents of altar servers can be seen standing outside the church, hunched over a smart phone, killing time while they wait for Mass to finish.

At this point in the school year, the first-time altar servers have developed a rudimentary understanding of what is expected of them during Mass, but when they began their training in September they needed quite a lot of attention. As I said, they attend Mass once a month with their class, but never on Sunday. Therefore, none of them are aware of the Gloria, the Credo, or the Second Reading. On the first day of training, several kids made the Sign of the Cross in the eastern fashion, and I had to take several minutes to correct them. I brought this up with a member of the school administration, and she was somewhat surprised. The kids say a morning prayer each day, she said, and they begin with the Sign of the Cross. It’s possible that no one ever corrected them. I have never seen any of the teachers at Holy Mass, so it seems likely that this sort of attention to detail isn’t a priority for them either.

The children know nothing of vestments, sacramentals, [That’s for sure!] the prayers of the Church other than the Hail Mary and the Our Father, feast days, or the concept of Sanctifying Grace. None has been to confession since the first one, but all receive communion without any thought. If their parents are forced into Mass, they too will line up for communion and receive it happily and without qualm. The teachers aren’t practicing Catholics, the parents aren’t practicing Catholics, and the parish priest would never dare suggest to the congregation that they go to confession. He correctly understands that there would be outrage among his flock.

The pastor at St. Dismas is a gay man. It is quite possible that this priest—let’s call him Fr. Dave—lives a life of celibacy. I have no reason to doubt that he does. He presents himself, however, as a traditional, American “queen.” He is a kind and gentle priest, and I think the kids genuinely like him. He does everything he can to take part in the life of the school, and he always has a warm word for parishioners, students, and parents. Fr. Dave has been my primary confessor for about six years. His style in the confessional is orthodox. He makes no attempt to psychoanalyze me, and he levies a serious penance when I deserve it. He is also quite reverent as a presider at Holy Mass. He does not improvise, and he makes it plain that he considers Mass to be a grave and solemn occasion.

Fr. Dave knows better than to suggest to his flock how to live as Catholics. He does not speak of sin. Ever. He does not discuss the saints, devotions, the rosary or prayer of any kind, marriage, death, the sacraments, Catholic family life, the Devil, the poor, the sick, the elderly, the young, mercy, forgiveness, or any other aspect of the Catholic faith that might be useful to a layperson. His homilies are the worst sort of lukewarm application of the day’s Gospel reading—shopworn sermons that sound very much like they were copied word for word from a book of Gospel reflections published in 1975. No one in the pews ever discusses his homilies as far as I can tell.

The pews are not full. The most crowded Mass is at ten-thirty on Sunday morning, when the church is usually about two-thirds full. Holy days of obligation draw almost no one. I attended the Easter Vigil last year and the Church was half empty. The crowd at a typical Sunday Mass is mixed. There are quite a few elderly parishioners who sit together and ignore the rubrics of the Mass. They refuse to kneel after Communion, they hold hands during the Our Father, they chat loudly before and after Mass, and they roam the Church greeting their friends, seemingly unaware that others might want to pray in silence. The most prayerful and reverent congregants are the handful of Filipino families. The other Mass-goers are a smattering of middle class families, stray Catholic singles, and a few Latin American die-hards. After Mass, the older people hang around and shake hands with the pastor. Everyone else drives away. I know only a small handful of my fellow parishioners, and I hesitate to bring any of this up with them. It doesn’t seem worth it.

Yes, that’s how it ends.

Just a shrug of the shoulders.

It’s. Another. Religion.

If it’s a religion at all.

Go here to read the rest.  Traditional Catholicism is a mighty force that has stood for almost 2000 years and has triumphed over endless adversities and adversaries.  Contemporary Catholicism?  Catholicism Lite?  It is a “religion” that some of its top advocates wish to see follow the well-trodden path followed by main line Protestantism:  reject traditional Christianity and embrace the zeitgeist.  That this leads to extinction of the religion seems not to have occurred to the Catholic advocates of this policy.  Or perhaps it has, as many of these advocates may be secret atheists and agnostics.  Naah, most of them are just well meaning idiots who have no idea what they are doing, and, sadly, the rest of us, at present, are along for their downhill ride to spiritual oblivion.


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  1. “[T]he worst sort of lukewarm application of the day’s Gospel reading.”
    Cardinal de Bérulle used to say that a sermon that did not insist on the following three points was so much time wasted: (1) that man is a fallen creature; (2) that he can be acquitted before God only through a reliance on Christ; and (3) that God, by his Holy Spirit, can alone give him a new heart and fit him for the kingdom of Heaven.
    Bérulle was one of the principle figures in the French Counter-Reformation. An Oratorian, he introduced the Carmelites of the Reform into France and he was the spiritual director of two Saints, St Vincent de Paul and St François de Sales. Pope Urban VIII called him “the apostle of the incarnate Word.”

  2. I doubt if we are in the end. Throughout History since the time of Christ Catholics have been morally certain they are in End Times and been wrong. I take Christ’s comment about his Second Coming being a thief in the night literally, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually comes when it is least expected. My own philosophy is contained in this poem:

    ‘Twas on a May-day of the far old year
    Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
    Over the bloom and sweet life of the Spring
    Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
    A horror of great darkness, like the night
    In day of which the Norland sagas tell,
    The Twilight of the Gods. The low-hung sky
    Was black with ominous clouds, save where its rim
    Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbs
    The crater’s sides from the red hell below.
    Birds ceased to sing, and all the barnyard fowls
    Roosted; the cattle at the pasture bars
    Lowed, and looked homeward; bats on leathern wings
    Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;
    Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
    To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
    The black sky, that the dreadful face of Christ
    Might look from the rent clouds, not as He looked
    A loving guest at Bethany, but stern
    As Justice and inexorable Law.

    Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
    Sat the lawgivers of Connecticut,
    Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
    “It is the Lord’s Great Day! Let us adjourn,”
    Some said; and then, as if with one accord,
    All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
    He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
    The intolerable hush. “This well may be
    The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
    But be it so or not, I only know
    My present duty, and my Lord’s command
    To occupy till He come. So at the post
    Where He hast set me in His providence,
    I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face,
    No faithless servant frightened from my task,
    But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
    And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
    Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
    Bring in the candles.” And they brought them in.

    Then by the flaring lights the Speaker read,
    Albeit with husky voice and shaking hands,
    An act to amend an act to regulate
    The shad and alewive fisheries, Whereupon
    Wisely and well spake Abraham Davenport,
    Straight to the question, with no figures of speech
    Save the ten Arab signs, yet not without
    The shrewd dry humor natural to the man:
    His awe-struck colleagues listening all the while,
    Between the pauses of his argument,
    To hear the thunder of the wrath of God
    Break from the hollow trumpet of the cloud.

    And there he stands in memory to this day,
    Erect, self-poised, a rugged face, half seen
    Against the background of unnatural dark,
    A witness to the ages as they pass,
    That simple duty hath no place for fear.
    – See more at:

  3. ThIs sad commentary is also an epitaph on over two decades of former Cardinal Mahony’s leadership and the virtual death of the Catholic faith in Southern California.. When he took over from Cardinal Manning, It was a thriving, fairly traditional Novus Ordo Catholic diocese. But Mahoney was a strident enemy of traditional Catholic belief. Anyone who doubts that should read his pastoral letter on liturgy (in the 1990’s) or tour the new cathedral. Now it truly is a different religion, resembling CS Lewis’ criticisms of the Anglican Church in England in his time—and yet far worse.

  4. I am a Catholic convert who grew up in the Methodist church. Methodism is sometimes referred to as “Catholic Light” because a typical Methodist service mimics the Mass pretty closely in form. The substance, of course, is lacking, with no Eucharist at the center, which they don’t even pretend to believe in (their only valid sacraments, as with all Protestant churches, are Baptism and Marriage). Also instead of a 15 minute homily, you usually get a one hour (or longer) sermon… I bring up the Methodists, though, because they are a perfect example of what happens over time when a tradition becomes man centered, doctrine is developed through consensus, and principles are allowed to gradually conform to the zeitgeist of the time. The biggest example (but by no means the only one) is that the modern United Methodist Church is a member of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and openly supports abortion rights in this country and around the world. I suspect John Wesley would be appalled. Sadly, on the “Coalition Members” page of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice website (I don’t know how to code a working link, but here’s the URL:, there is also a listing for “Catholics for Choice” – an oxymoron if there ever was one. We believing Catholics in the pews must, MUST, MUST restore a full and faithful catechesis in our Parishes, starting with ourselves, so we can properly catechize our own children. If we fail to stand for the Faith, we fail Christ. It’s that simple. If we allow the Catholic Church to go the way of modern Methodism, we will deserve the judgment we receive on the last day.

  5. These ARE the end times. We are now in the 1981st year for the end times, assuming they began in the year 33.

    Unless the pastor were to quash it, the handful of orthodox parishioners should get to work. Is there a Bible study? How about a monthly movie night with a Christian themed film and refreshments? In fact, how about refreshments after Mass? Just were do those SUVs go anyway?

    I don’t think that any of this is irreversible. The kids are still dropped off to altar serve, are the not? The kids may not have been properly catechized regarding the Blessed Sacrament and its reservation. So what? Just DO IT, find some language that will inspire awe and still reach them. And pick your battles: I personally would have let slide the eastern style sign of the cross (i.e., I would have mentioned it but not insisted on changing it – Eastern Catholics use it, after all)

  6. This is all too common in American Catholic parishes. I learned more about the Catholic church and the Catholic faith the first two months I had the Internet back in January 1999 then I learned in eight years of Catholic school and CCD.

    As St. John Paul II said, the home is the Domestic Church. It starts there. Lukewarm parents beget children who drift away. Being Catholic is work – hard work. There is not try – just persistence.

  7. I think the people who believe we are in the end times are far too optimistic. They might think that things can’t get any worse, and so Christ must be just around the corner.
    But even a cursory review of history, even the last century, suggests otherwise. World wars, mass starvations, enslavement of entire counties by Islam, etc.
    It could and probably will get much, much worse. Enjoy it before we have to take public oaths approving progressivism, etc.

  8. Relativism and indifference is a sickness that attacks the body of the church. I too feel for St. Dismas. The parents weak “do as I say not as I do” attitude is screaming here. Tell me what happens when the salt looses its flavor. 🙁

  9. Thinking about this article by Fr. Z further, two things come forward for many priests in the typical diocesan post:

    1) as Fr Z observes, Fr Dave ‘ s Gospel reflections are old re-hashes, because the Scriptures are just legends of a great moral teacher, but nothing more. We should live his way and that’s that. (I call it “Living the Legend”-Christianity). We aren’t even sure they are ‘real’ accounts of actual events, as Bp. PJ McGrath (San Jose, CA) wrote a few years ago. Watch the “Scriptural Two-Step” in a few days when these types need to talk about the Infancy Narratives and the Magi, thank you, Raymond Brown.

    2) A new liturgy, that has dispensed with the beliefs of a need for a perfect oblation and a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of us, the living, and also the dead, robs the priest of his meaning for his existence and the people of a vital importance to attend it. (cf. Michael Davies).
    Kyrie eleison.

  10. The many–too many–Catholic communities that are in shambles will never improve unless we realize that any solution that puts the cart before the horse does not work. By this I mean that unless the children are taught orthodox facts of the Faith, they will grow up as generations of ignorant adult “Catholics” we encounter today. And because it is a vicious circle–that is, children with ignorant parents–the circle has to be broken by devout and knowledgeable laymen and priests.

  11. Sydney O. Fernandes, MD wrote, “unless the children are taught orthodox facts of the Faith…”
    My English boarding school, back in the ‘50s had an interesting method of religious instruction. Each evening for prep, we had to translate a chapter or so of the Gospels or Acts, taken in strict sequence. Next morning, in class, the master went round the class, making us read out our translations and parse individual words (gender, number, case for nouns and adjectives, person, number, tense and mood for verbs) and rules of syntax, for about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. The masters attempted little or no commentary.
    There are 117 chapters in the Gospels and Acts, so we completed the whole cycle every two terms, so, between the ages of 8 and 13, we must have gone through them about seven times.
    This minute and painstaking study indelibly imprinted what Bl John Henry Newman called the “supernatural facts and actions, beings and principles” of Revelation on our memories and imaginations.

  12. M. P-S: Ah, my metaphorical mouth waters at the opportunity you have had! I am grateful, though, for the old-time Spanish Missionary Jesuits for the sound formal religious education they gave to the students of the all-boys school in Bombay, and the moral instructions to the non-Catholic students. God bless them; and a prayer that the modern Jesuits would learn more about their historic predecessors, including St. Francis Xavier, whose remains are in Old Goa (minus the arm, which is in Rome.)

  13. Let’s not let the fact that there are kooks in California cause us to believe the day of judgment is at hand.

    It is always darkest before the dawn
    Where sin abounds, grace does more abound.

    Summorum Pontificum is here, and the TLM grows each year.

    Great poem by Whittier, by the way.

  14. I don’t agree with the author that its this bad everywhere. I think this Parish tends to service a lower economic class who often are ill educated with the basics in education, let alone the precepts of our faith. I found this to be true when I grew up in the 1970s, since I was raised in a lower working class parish. I have had to educate myself through catholic sites on the internet as an adult to reach my current level of understanding of the precepts of the Church.

    Its quite refreshing now, going to a parish which has full attendance and most seem to understand the basic tenets of Catholism, although I am surprised that 99% of the attendees receive communion and do not have any unforgiven mortal sins. I think it would be helpful in parishes that need education for the priests to place a small section in the weekly paper bullentine which teaches the basic precepts of our faith, since many adults may not know them and can not teach them to their children.

  15. From your lips to God’s ears, D John, that the LA Southland is not epitomized by this “St Dismas” vignette: however, I would not rely on a view that this “parish [is only so because it] tends to service a lower economic class who often are ill educated.” The local N.O. parish in a very upscale, proudly highly educated SF Bay Area, and its adjacent neighbors reflect the same lack of consciousness of their faith.
    I focus on the clear digression from the traditional Mass as a universal expiatory sacrifice, a supreme action of the priest alone witnessed by the faithful (Duns Scotus), to the New Mass of the Consilium/Vatican I, its theology as originally explained in the 1969 Gen Instr. Roman Missal (“GIRM”):
    “The Lord’s Supper is the assembly or meeting for the People of God, met together with a priest presiding to celebrate the Memorial of the Lord…” (n. 7) The 5th or so re-formulation of GIRM has tried to correct the damage: but the original intent of a Novus Ordo Mass and its framers is revealed in Bugnini’s and his commission’s original words.

    Merely an assembly does not require much on the part of a “presider” other than being a smiling potted-plant: neither do the attendees feel there is much urgency for them to attend something that is merely a “remembering meal.” (Thus why it is celebrated on a “memorial table” instead of an altar of sacrifice now.) We can have meals with our friends at holiday times and they may have the same or more meaning—and no collection basket.

    When the priest sets forth to commence the Liturgy of the Faithful in the TLM, a very important prayer makes clear his intentions (“Suscipe, Sancte Pater”), a prayer stripped from the New Mass:
    “Accept, O Holy father, Almighty and Eternal God, this spotless host, which I, Your unworthy servant, offer to You, my living and true God, to atone for my numberless sins, offences, and negligences; on behalf of all here present and likewise for all faithful Christians living and dead, that it may profit me and them as a means of salvation to life everlasting. Amen.”

    Besides this prayer reflecting the Prayer of St. Ambrose in preparation for the Mass, the specific words also fulfill the express purpose for which the priest was ordained in the “Old” rite, to offer the universal sacrifice to expiate the sins of the living and the dead,

    Many priests in the New Order piously and sincerely celebrate a Mass of efficaciousness—but that reflects their good heart and intention of praying as the Church has always prayed. St Dismas and its priest and congregation point to something else.

  16. Thank you again Steve Phoenix
    “…. to offer the universal sacrifice to expiate the sins of the living and the dead …”

  17. Steve Phoenix wrote, “ Merely an assembly does not require much on the part of a “presider” other than being a smiling potted-plant: neither do the attendees feel there is much urgency for them to attend something that is merely a “remembering meal.” (Thus why it is celebrated on a “memorial table” instead of an altar of sacrifice now.) We can have meals with our friends at holiday times and they may have the same or more meaning—and no collection basket.”
    If we look at the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians, the sacrificial notion is clearly implicit. Christ alone had offered or could offer true atoning blood. His disciples merely set forth bread and wine, and without reliance on Christ’s institution to establish the equivalence of their bread and wine with his body and blood, they could not suppose themselves to be doing anything. The bread and wine were holy things in a positive and even potentially alarming sense (Consider St Paul’s words about unworthy reception). To become so, they had to be lifted out of the common run and placed in God’s peculiar possession, so that for a man to partake of them was a privilege fenced about with sanctities. If the Lord and his death were set forth with all the realism of sacramental presence for “a memorial before God” and for thankful remembrance to God, it was natural for Christians’ thoughts to centre on a presentation, a sacrifice, (to be felt in heaven and on earth), rather than on anyone’s remembering.
    It always strikes me as odd to see the mass as a commemoration of the Last Supper. “Do this for my memorial” surely means “In commemoration of my redemptive act,” such that, Christ’s redemptive act was his death and resurrection. The Institution Narrative shows how that act was and can be sacramentally realized. It is scarcely evident that a sacramental memorial of the redemptive act should memorialize the institution of that memorial.”

  18. Well, MPS, to help me understand better what you are saying:
    1) “…In 1 Corinthians, the sacrificial notion is clearly implicit…” Permit me a logical “correction:” Only something explicit can be deductively “clear”. Implicitness is open to inductive evaluation, it seems to me, as we are doing.

    2) I don’t understand this part of your comment: “His disciples merely set forth bread and wine, and without reliance on Christ’s institution to establish the equivalence of their bread and wine with his body and blood, they could not suppose themselves to be doing anything.” If you would like to explain further, thank you for doing so. (I really dont get your drift here: maybe you meant an “If..” in front of this sentence.)

    3) I agree wholeheartedly that a [mere] commemoration is an odd modern interpretation of the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrament of the Eucharist (“…It always strikes me as odd to see the Mass as a commemoration of the Last Supper.”)—sacrifice and sacrament being dogmas which the Church, East and West, has traditionally always believed. Hitler and the Nazi’s were performed profound commemorations recalling the “sacrifice” of the war dead of WWI (cf. Triumph of the Will); the US Democratic party held infamous “memorials” after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone and Secretary Ron Brown as public grief-and-action events: is that all that the Mass is reduced to? Better not be. (I dont believe you are proposing these either.)

    4) A sacrifice is performed on an altar (as previously, East and West); a memorial meal only needs a table—which is where St. Dismas’ parish seems now to be [much more] celebrating themselves, more so than the supreme act of sacrifice in which (Duns Scotus says) we are justly nothing more than spectators, as we see Christ “repair the divine insult to the Father.” (my paraphrase of Scotus’ words)

    5) Most of all, newly ordained priests are “voting with their feet” as to which Rite, TLM or Novus Ordo (NO) they wish to be part of: The former Rite gives meaning to their existence, to offer the universal sacrifice to expiate the sins of the living and the dead. A good number of NO priests (not all by any means), as at “St Dismas,” must slap on a cadaverous smile and mumble meaningless nothings to try to keep the few people attending pacified. See Rorate-Caeli, which shows the future for France (it might as well be England, Belgium, the US or any other country) where trad ordinations far outstrip the paltry NO ordinations (only 80 in all of France last June), while the deaths or retirements of existing priests number about 500 per year:

    Eventually traditional priests including the SSPX who are particularly strong in numbers in France will outnumber NO priests.

    AS the Rorate Caeli articles also comments, French Catholics now attend Mass regularly at the rate of perhaps about 5% or even less: American Catholics are trending similarly in that direction, voting with their feet also on the need to attend a “Remembering Meal.”

  19. Michael Paterson-Seymour: “It always strikes me as odd to see the mass as a commemoration of the Last Supper. “Do this for my memorial” surely means “In commemoration of my redemptive act,” such that, Christ’s redemptive act was his death and resurrection. The Institution Narrative shows how that act was and can be sacramentally realized. It is scarcely evident that a sacramental memorial of the redemptive act should memorialize the institution of that memorial.”
    The chalice of Christ’s Blood is offered to His Father with the words: “Do this in memory of me.” The bread becomes the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ at the Consecration of the Mass by the priest acting “in persona Christi” (power of attorney) saying Christ’s words: “This is My Body.” right here, right now, in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ on the altar.
    After institution of the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ went out to the Garden and suffered a horrible death of crucifixion. So must we all.

  20. Do this In Memory of ME– “Do this” isn’t that a command to his apostles, and to our priests- to make this offering in perpetuity, as He was doing for the first time there at the last supper? .
    In Memory of ME – In living memory or awareness of Him, the whole Him, as He offered His Whole Person- Body, Blood Soul and Divinity–
    The Miracle is provided- the “Doing” is done by the God in HIs Priest- and we receivers acknowledge and accept the Living Christ into our bodies. Sanctifying and Actual.
    The priests carry out this command for every generation in every place around the world– they bring Christ to us. We ask for the grace to receive Him worthily and not profane His Body. Like Mary we ponder and keep all these things in our hearts.

    correct me where needed please

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