Monday, January 21, 2008

Echoes: Milwaukee Priest's Article Reviewed

Fr. Paul Stanosz, a Milwaukee priest, wrote an article which appeared in Commonweal (it's a Lefty rag, folks, with 'Catholic' noises.)

Dr. Jeff Mirus comments about it here.

...“The Other Health Crisis” begins by documenting the problems afflicting the author’s own archdiocese, along with the impact of these problems on priestly morale, emotional stability and physical health.

...The argument runs like this: Catholicism has been adversely affected by the larger social trends characteristic of the vast cultural shift in America beginning in the 1960’s. There has been a general trend toward secularization, a declining interest in religion, reduced rates of Church attendance, and a failure to learn the basis of traditional beliefs and values—all large cultural factors which the Church cannot be said to have caused, but with which her ministers must daily attempt to cope. The author is surely correct to note this larger cultural aspect of our religious problems, and he is also correct to observe that, starting in the 1960’s, Catholics took advantage of their rapidly expanding opportunities to enter the mainstream, often at the cost of their spiritual identity. [Thus the appellation "CINO", Catholic In Name Only. See Ted Kennedy, e.g.]

But by “Catholics” in this context, the article seems to mean only the laity, and entirely on their own. In fact bishops and priests, who should have known better, also often rushed into the mainstream at the cost of their Catholic identity, shepherding many others to do the same. And what is curious about Fr. Stanosz’ analysis is not its identification of these large cultural factors, but its failure to envision any possible alternative response on the part of the Church. For Stanosz both implicitly and explicitly assumes that there is nothing the Church could have done to deal more effectively with the cultural crisis, and that there is nothing the Church can possibly do now to make things any better

...My point is not to damn the author’s outrageous prose with faint praise. [You'll have to read the whole article to see what 'outrageous prose' really means--but trust me, the adjective is well-used.] Rather, I wish to note his deep conviction that there is quite simply nothing to be done. After all, he has already written off the following: an undiluted presentation of the Faith, a proper implementation of the vision of the Second Vatican Council, insistence on strong and competent bishops, and any sort of deep opposition to secularization in general and the culture of death in particular [Search Dad29 for the term "yoo-hoo" to see what that last phrase really means, folks. The first one is fairly expository; the other Parts are addenda.]

...a proper spirituality includes the important understanding that the economy of salvation is more complex than we ourselves can ever imagine. Sometimes one person sows—and sows very well indeed—but it is still another who reaps. On the human level, this is disappointing [yup]

...But even so, they must remain confident that through conformity with Christ their lives will bear great fruit. What ultimately matters is not measurable results but conformity with Christ.

This is wisdom indeed, but Fr. Stanosz is instead writing for a bastion of dissidence called Commonweal, and he in fact concludes that there is nothing to be done. I said at the outset that this article was fascinating precisely because it reveals more than it intends

...What is really going on here is the working out to its inevitable conclusion of a bankrupt but widespread mindset which we might justly call the Milwaukee mindset, because it is so well symbolized by the story of the church in Milwaukee. But this is really just another name for the false spirit of Vatican II. What I mean will become clear as we examine an important thread that runs throughout “The Other Health Crisis”.

The beginning of the thread is the author’s observation, in describing the current failure of priestly morale, that there is a growing polarization between recently-ordained and long-time priests, “what some call JPII priests and Vatican II priests, respectively.” Now every active Catholic who has lived above ground for the past generation knows that
these two terms are codes. John Paul II waged a long and uphill battle to reclaim the true meaning of the Second Vatican Council from those who used the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” as an excuse for deliberately fostering within the Church precisely what Fr. Stanosz describes as an insurmountable external cultural and social trend: The dilution of the spirit of Catholicism to accommodate the spirit of the times.

And here Mirus gets to the nut of the matter:

Thus, for a “Vatican II” priest like Fr. Stanosz, the term “JP II priest” is code for a priest who is a throwback to the pre-conciliar age, a cultural misfit who rejects the “spirit” of Vatican II which must necessarily guide our lives, and a deeply flawed man who cannot possibly relate positively to anybody. But the real decoded difference between a “Vatican II” priest and a “John Paul II” priest is actually the difference between those who have never taken the letter of Vatican II to heart and those who have. Instead of mining the Council documents for the serious spiritual challenge they proposed, the so-called Vatican II priest too often served the spirit of the age under the Council’s name. This provided an exhilarating opportunity to profess Christ without being flushed out of the mainstream and to put faith in programs and processes instead of spiritual growth and holiness, or, putting it more simply, to attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too. In contrast, the so-called John Paul II priest has followed the vicar of Christ in seeking to implement what the Council actually said, which was centered not on the transformation of Christ to suit the self and the world, but on the transformation of both the self and the world to suit Christ.

Do you think I am too quick to judge? Consider how consistent the “coded” language is throughout. The author begins with the same psychological canards (also code phrases) which have been used frequently during the post-Conciliar period to force men of traditional Catholic spirituality out of our seminaries. Noting the recent influx of “JP II” priests, he immediately asserts that simply ordaining more priests will not solve the problem. Here’s why:

"Bishops in recent years have been too quick to fill seminaries with fervent men who may or may not have genuine vocations. As a result, our seminaries now house a new breed of unsuitable candidates, men with poor relational and leadership skills. Ordained into a U.S. church that is losing its vitality, these men often seek to turn back the clock by embracing disciplines and devotional practices that flourished in the middle of the last century."

A strong vertical spirituality is a confirmed horizontalist's nightmare, and so it is invariably dismissed in Modernist psycho-babble as indicating “poor relational and leadership skills.”

Here in Milwaukee we know all about psycho-babble. It's cost us about $10 million or so.

Back to the rubber meeting the road:

What are we to make of an article which, in the process of concluding that there is nothing to be done, displays such an animus against precisely those spiritual solutions which have ever been at the heart of a vibrant Catholicism? What does it all mean? That’s the question which makes the article so fascinating, the question to which it is critical to understand the answer. For what it all means is that the Milwaukee mindset is so far gone in its sins that the only way open is despair. The so-called spirit of Vatican II which has wielded such a terrible power for the past forty years was nothing more than a euphoric baptism of secular utopianism. After such a long and continuous demonstration of its bankruptcy, many of its proponents have prudently stopped calling for more of the same. One might now hope for self-understanding, repentance and true renewal. But if our Commonweal article is any guide—and I believe it is—what we are witnessing instead is the only result consistent with a lack of repentance, that is, despair.

There's plenty more at the link, and it's right on.

Oremus pro presbyteres nostros.


Anonymous said...

This is pretty consistent with what passes for reporting in the Catholic press right here in Milwaukee. For example, there's a recent article in which the Archbishop gives advice to engaged couples advising them not to live together before marriage, and if they are currently living together, to separate until the wedding. It then goes on to say that Fr. Yockey at St. Jerome counsels engaged couples and makes it clear he will not marry them if they live together. As a result, they have only 10 marriages per year. On the other hand, Fr. Eichenberger of Cedarburg, says "It is my practice to never scold couples who are living together, after all, this is a sin that ends the moment they are married. I am much more concerned about whether they attend Mass." He continues, "No reasons for living together are morally permissible, but they are certainly understandable. So I practice compassion and Divine Mercy."

So there, subtly (or perhaps not so), we continue down the road of ambiguity. The right is held up for our edification, and then, just as quickly, qualified as being impractical. Is it any wonder so many are so confused?

Imagine if we used that last line as excuse for morally improper behavior in our households. EVERY rule we have could be excused. What a mess we'd be in in our homes. What a mess we are in in our Church because of it.

P.S. Is Fr. Eichenberger serious when he says that he's the author of Divine Mercy?

"... after all, this is a sin that ends the moment they are married."

Couldn't one pretty much insert the sin of one's choice here?


"... after all, this [murder] is a sin that ends the moment" the victim is killed.


"...after all, this [adultery] is a sin that ends the moment" the fornication has stopped.

Hey! I'm beginning to like this! I don't think I need to go to Confession any more! Yay!

Terrence Berres said...


If you happen to check back here, I'd like to ask you something by email related to your comment.