David Beresford is the current editor of Catholic Insight Magazine, and teaches at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry's Bay, Ontario. This opinion piece, penned primarily for Catholics, indicates that the Pope's criticisms about "The Pelagian Solution" and "restorationists" are something that both moral and and Catholic religious traditionalists could be delighted about.
Pope Francis has been causing quite a stir among Catholics, with his interviews and pronouncements. I am going to address some of the more controversial, to see how we should come to terms with his recent comments. One is particular stands out:
"The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in (exaggerated) tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past." (his Address to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America during the General Coordination Meeting Rio de Janeiro – 28 July 2013.)
So why are progressives so elated, and conservatives downhearted by this? I for one am delighted. I have spent my entire life trying to thwart the restorationists.
So let me say it plainly: It is no longer 1970, the '70s are gone! They were bad enough to live through then and I see no reason why restoriationists are trying to bring back this dark time in the Church's history. There are few things more pathetic than the sight of old hippies trying to get a youth group going by singing some of the more morose Simon and Garfunkel songs, or trying to attract young people into the church by hijacking the parish council spots and then forcing everyone to sing banal hymns like Here I Am, Lord. Can they not see how hackneyed the whole burlap banner motif is? It was hokey in 1970's, with yellow felt cutouts of the words Peace and Love in that flower-power style of lettering. At least it was a bit Avant garde 1972, now it is simply embarrassing.
Sure, I can I understand that someone could still be nursing a secret admiration for Hans Kung and Gregory Baum, but to try and turn the clock back by almost half a century just to relive a lost youth seems to me to miss the whole point of the timelessness of the Catholic Church. As the Pope points out, the Church's message is for the present, no matter when the present is in every age. Or, as Chesterton said it, the Church is always out of step with the times because it is always the antidote or corrective needed by each time in history.
We have had a church council, Vatican II, and each pope since then has been consistent, building on the Council documents, advancing the life of the church in the same direction, and each building on his predecessors. Pope John Paul II built on the good work done by Pope Paul VI, correcting many of the misunderstandings wrought by the same hippies-turn-professional church bureaucrats who tried to halt the progress of time.
Young JP2 Catholics, as they came to be called, were a different breed! These young people understood the need to go on pro-life marches, they were not interested in hearing how bad Nixon was, they were more interested in learning the timeless truths of their faith, organizing Eucharistic adoration, and learning to sing the Latin hymns that inspired the martyrs.
Then came the papacy of Benedict, who build on the work of JP2, clarifying the relationship between history and the present, bringing the traditional Latin Mass back into prominence as Vatican 2 directed, to inform a reverent participation in the Novus Ordo at the parish level. This was not a reaction by Benedict, but a forward thinking and progressive move that followed the clear direction of the Holy Ghost as outlined by Vatican 2! Look it up if you do not believe me.
Now, we have Pope Francis, a man who is utterly post conciliar. He has sent clear signals that he will not have his message hijacked by interest groups, or have the Gospel silenced by the infighting that the left is engaging in to undo the progress the church has made under the reign of JP2 and Benedict!
So no, I have no worries about Pope Francis. Quite the opposite. I fully support his direction at the helm of the Barque of Peter, a direction charted by Pope Paul VI, John Paul II, and Pope Benedict. I feel a bit sorry for the modernists and post-modernists who think he is going to endorse their agenda of the destruction of Christian morals. And, I pity the heterodox who are trying to divide us loyal Catholics from our Pope by their mis-statements, foot dragging, and obstructionism.
We do not need to bring back the 1970's to attract the young. They are drawn to the Gospel today in all its rigour the way they have always been drawn to the Gospel. They understand that marriage is a sacrament, and is for bringing children into the world in generosity, something that our progressive colleagues seem to find hard to comprehend. They believe in the grace to overcome apparent difficulties. They listen to the pope, and are going to – as he said – make a mess as they fall on their knees to receive the Blessed Sacrament each Sunday, to the chagrin of the restorationists who try to place Our Lord on their hands – I see this where I work, in the high school and university students I teach, and the children I see at Mass each Sunday.
These youth, know the hope and strength that comes from Eucharist and the Mass, they will not be bought off by washed-up hippies living in the past. As it says in the good book: Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles also be gathered together.