Commentary by Steve Jalsevac
See links to Parts I, II, and III at end of this report
November 28, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – It is often an overwhelming trial for a faithful North American or European Catholic bishop to begin the process of undoing the damage of up to 40 or more years of severe lack of leadership or even corruption in his diocese. Nevertheless, it is important for all citizens that Catholics clean up these diocesan problems.
If this were to happen Catholics would once again play a strong positive role in the culture, rather than the current situation in which Catholics are often no different than others on critical issues. Who to trust and where to begin are always the big questions for a reform-minded faithful bishop.
The “broken windows” concept could be a useful strategy for a beginning. However, as mentioned in Part III of this series, the bishop would be wise to first assemble a faithfully Catholic core staff. A staff and advisors who clearly understand and are committed to the authentic spiritual nature of the Church will serve a bishop far better than those whose primarily qualification is that they have an impressive resume of theology or other paper degrees from questionable “Catholic” colleges (https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/nov/08110603.html).
When post-grad education is necessary, it is crucial to give priority to graduates from the few orthodox colleges (https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007/oct/07100305.html) or at least to applicants who have had strong exposure to faithful professors at some of the other colleges. Peter Kreeft, for instance, is a gem of a professor at the mostly otherwise dreadful, Jesuit-run Boston College.
THE BROKEN WINDOWS
1. THE LITURGY
The first of the “broken windows,” or signs of disorder that most often communicates a message that no one is in charge or that authority is weak and rules are made to be broken, are the abuses of the liturgy – the formal, very visible ceremonies or rites of the Church.
Why do we start with this one? Because Pope Benedict, in his wisdom, has declared it to be of the highest priority. He has seen that the sense of awe of God, the wonder of His majesty and the faith of the people have been gutted by theologians, pastors and bishops who have given very liberal, unintended interpretations to the documents of the Second Vatican Council. He commented on one occasion about the original intentions of the Council: “Anyone like myself, who was moved by this perception in the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.”
It is no accident that many diocesan liturgists have since been found to be serious dissenters and an unusual percentage to be practicing homosexuals. The liturgy has power to form or to deform, to inspire or to corrupt.
The numerous abuses or broken windows on this topic range from the extreme to the more subtle, such as arbitrarily inserting inclusive language (very commonly done) or an otherwise faithful priest not giving communion at mass so that the women extraordinary ministers are not offended by having less of a role. Liturgy has often become entertainment.
Probably by far the most widespread violation of Universal Church norms, by both dissident and normally faithful pastors, has been the vastly excessive use of lay Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, who are often wrongly called Ministers of Communion. Despite repeated instructions on this from Rome, pastors and bishops routinely ignore the rules and in doing so send their flocks an especially visible disorder message, that “we are determined to do things our own way” or, that they are too afraid of the feminists in their parish or diocese to do the right thing. To be fair, a lot of the pastors who try to follow this requirement are frequently not only not supported by their bishops but are often even ordered to disregard the Church discipline.
For the broken window strategy to work, not one abuse or liberty with the universal (versus the often inadequate local diocesan or even national conference) liturgical requirements, can be tolerated. Otherwise it cannot work.
The priest, deacon and bishop are the teachers and witnesses of fidelity or infidelity to the people at every mass and other liturgical events. Any contradiction by them to what is clearly indicated in a faithful, Vatican approved missal or other text, sends a corrupting message to the people at that event. The message is that authority is what you decide it should be and that Catholics can ignore the order of love that has been prayerfully developed by the Church for the spiritual nurturing of the flock.
So what is a faithful bishop to do? Well, this is the most obvious of all the broken windows and one that can be manageable.
He can first make certain that in his cathedral and at all events directly arranged by his chancery, every single liturgical event would be conducted in a manner that would be approved by the Pope.
He can also do more than the basic requirements by changing the often man-centered emphasis of much of today’s interior church arrangements. He can encourage those who wish to receive communion kneeling and on the tongue, as Benedict has made clear he prefers. He can ensure that the music at all events under his immediate control is truly uplifting and reverent, with many traditional hymns, which Pope Benedict has also emphasized (https://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/ratzinger_sotlmusic_jun06.asp). And finally, he can ensure that the cathedral building itself truly inspires prayer, is clearly seen and felt as a place of Catholic worship of God and at all appropriate times facilitates silent prayer for those who come to fulfill that need.
After that is well under way the bishop could begin to regularly instruct all his priests on the importance of these changes and begin to have them implemented first by those pastors who he is confident will follow his instructions. Then, parish by parish, school by school, he should cajole and inspire imitation of his faithful example throughout the diocese.
What does that have to do with Catholics voting for pro-abortion, pro-homosexual politicians? A lot. It is all about restoring a unity of understanding of what it truly means to worship God. From that eventually follows a tendency to desire to go further and to begin to live and act as Christians in the community with resulting improvement to the culture.
There is far more that could be said on this issue, but the main thing is that repairing the many broken windows in the liturgy in most dioceses is feasible and will likely lead to considerable positive effect on the more overwhelming problems. That is how the broken window strategy works.
2. DIOCESAN LITURGICAL TEXTSAND HYMNALS
It is up to the bishop to approve or disapprove liturgical texts and Mass Hymnals used in his diocese. This has been a serious source of problems for many years with rampant use of feminist, gender neutralized, politically correct and ideologically altered texts weakening the faith and fidelity of Catholics.
Just one of many jarring examples in the gender neutralized, heavily politically correct Catholic Book of Worship III hymnal is the change in Amazing Grace of “saved a wretch like me” to “saved and strengthened me.” It just doesn’t convey the same message. Former slave trader John Newton, who wrote the hymn, would likely have responded with disgust to this politically correct dumbing down of his phrase. There are completely faithful, non-social engineered texts available for dioceses to choose from that would repair the scandal of these glaring broken windows.
3. DIOCESAN MEDIA
Just one article or advertisement questioning or undermining an important matter of Catholic faith or morals in a diocesan newspaper or other communications media is a broken window. It undermines all the good that is otherwise published in such media. It sends a strong mixed message about truth and certainly sends the message that authority is weak and can be challenged. Whether the publication is sent to just the clergy or to the wider Catholic community, the damage, I suggest, can be substantial and long lasting.
Why are billions spent on newspapers, magazines and television radio companies? Because they have been proven to influence behaviour. Bishops often greatly underestimate the damaging results of being laissez faire with the editors of their various Church publications.
Even if the publication is not under the direct control of the diocese, but is perceived as being a diocesan approved publication, the bishop must act. If he lets this go, it undermines his efforts and is certain to lead to greater problems as more such articles continue to appear and the faith unity is eroded.
4. SCHOOL TEXTS
Religious education texts should require the approval of the diocese. There have been many dreadful religious education texts foisted on Catholic students and teachers for many decades. The damage caused by them has been incalculable. If the bishop can’t reform the teachers or some of the publishers, he can at least permit only faithful texts to be used for Catholic education in his diocese. This broken window is very common and has been poorly addressed.
5. DIOCESAN CLERGY DRESS
Either a priest is a priest or he is a layman. The same goes for religious sisters. However, when a priest is often seen in a sweater and jeans, and just can’t seem to wait to get his clerics off after a mass, that sends confusing and damaging messages to others. This is a bigger broken window than most clergy realize.
Rome and the the Popes have repeatedly emphasized the importance of appropriate religious dress by clergy as a sign to the people of their availability for ministry and their consecration to God. It is mandatory, and yet not just priests, but also bishops, frequently violate this discipline of love.
They give witness to a sprit of disobedience and pride and then wonder why the people are weak in their faith and religious practice. They also discourage vocations by their example, which seems to say the priesthood is just a nine-to-five job and priests are embarrassed or uncomfortable about always being seen as a priest, a servant of God and His people.
I will always remember a diocesan function for all the priests of a large diocese at which the local archbishop was dressed in a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, while most of his priests were in their black vestments. It was awkward and embarrassing.
6. HEAD OFFICE
Especially in large dioceses, the chancery (diocesan offices) is often called Head Office by the priests of the diocese. That is due to the fact that some diocesan centers look and function like a cold, corporate headquarters. The bishop acts like a CEO and the priests are greatly intimidated by the chancery staff. Rather than being their father’s house where they go for nurture, support and inspiration, it is more often the place for orders, correction or formal functions. Lay people who visit are also intimidated by this startling, business-like formality when they go to see their bishop or visit some other functionary of the diocese.
Lawyers, academics and other professionals seem to abound and have undo influence in some of these Head Offices.
Where this situation exists, it is a large plate glass broken window that needs repair and it can be repaired by a good bishop.
7. MARRIAGE PREPARATION COURSES
Serious errors of theological and moral teaching are common in marriage prep courses or else crucial moral/sexual aspects are missed or downplayed because the teachers either disagree with the Church or are afraid to present the issues as they should. These broken windows can generate disorder in the marriage preparation and marriages of these vulnerable couples. A common mandated program and materials will repair this problem. But, it must be100% faithful to universal Church teaching.
8. INAPPROPRIATE SPEAKERS USING DIOCESE FACILITIES
Pro-abortion or pro-homosexual politicians or other inappropriate persons speaking at functions at Catholic facilities in a diocese is another large plate glass broken window needing repair. The same goes for special events involving out-of-diocese dissident clergy or religious sisters.
This list if eight items is by no means comprehensive. Undoubtedly, there are other visible problems in dioceses that could fall under the same category as “broken window” items – visible, relatively less serious disorders, Church graffiti, that have been neglected, but which add to a climate that perpetuates or encourages the worst “crimes” or corruption in a diocese.
In the end, where a bishop is faithful and understands the great need to rebuild the Church in his diocese as the first task for restoring the positive cultural influence of the Church, the broken window approach may be of enormous help to him.
LifeSiteNews hopes some bishops will benefit from this series and Catholic readers will communicate the articles to their bishops.
Lastly, if some readers respond with hostility to their bishop or any bishops because of the articles then they have sadly misunderstood their tone and purpose.
We are not about running down bishops or others in the Church. Rather, in light of the evidence that a majority of Catholics, not only in the United States, but also in Canada and Europe, see no problem in voting for militantly pro-abortion, pro-same-sex “marriage” candidates, it is obvious that a majority of Catholics do not comprehend their faith. The fact that perhaps 90% of Catholics in these nations contracept and most accept abortion and homosexuality, pre-marital sex and more all clearly reveals it is time for the Church to clean house and repent, renew and rebuild. Only by first doing that will the Church regain its positive influence on the culture.
Catholics, and other Christian denominations that have many of the very same or similar broken windows, are desperately needed to save what is left of our civilization lest we descend much further into barbarity and loss of basic freedoms.
The only real answer, we believe, to the frightening problems that face us today is a large-scale return to traditional religious belief and practice. The broken window strategy could be of great help in launching that renewal.
Lastly, for those Catholics who rant, “who are you to tell bishops what to do”, well, that has been a favourite strategy of dissidents – belittling the lived wisdom and experience of faithful Catholics and denying their right to appeal to their shepherds to do their job. It is not telling bishops what to do. It is telling them what we desperately need.
The worst scandals and failings of the Church in recent decades might have been prevented if Catholics had better understood that they do in fact have a right, in fact even an obligation, not to run the Church, but to appeal for fidelity and obviously needed strong corrective actions and shepherding.
The majority of faithful Catholics have been far, far too timid and quiet about this. They are themselves partly responsible for the trashing of the Church by dissidents and abusers and have left the few that have done the correct things tragically alone and hanging in the wind.
Now is very much the time to encourage, cajole, persistently press (without anger or rudeness) and especially help the bishops and other clergy to renew the faith. Let it be clearly known that broken windows in the Church cannot be allowed to stay that way and need to be repaired – for the good of all.
See the previous three articles in this series:
U.S. Election Message to Catholic Bishops: Time to Clean House
US Election Message to Catholic Bishops Part II: This week’s Bishops’ Assembly
US Election Message to Catholic Bishops Part III: The Broken Window Strategy
20 US Colleges and 1 Canadian are North America’s Most Faithful to Catholic Identity
Solid alternatives to larger number of sexually liberal, dissident, secularized Catholic colleges in US today
Study Finds Catholic Colleges Have Little Positive Impact on Faith, Values