Thursday, February 26, 2015


What if Vatican II had never happened?  If there had been no Pope John XXIII?  If Cardinal Siri had been elected instead of Cardinal Roncalli?  Or Cardinal Agagianian?  Or Cardinal Lercaro?
“What if’s” are a tricky field.  But it would not have made much difference who succeeded to the papacy after Pius XII’s death in 1958.  In the 56 and one half years since Pius’ reign ended, there have been six popes on the throne of Saint Peter.  The extraordinarily long reign of John Paul II is balanced by the extraordinarily short reign of John Paul I and the moderately short reigns of John XXIII and Benedict XVI.  In any scenario there probably would have been between five and seven popes for those decades.  While the terms “liberal” or “progressive” would probably be defined somewhat more narrowly, the right end of the spectrum would be, I would think, somewhat the same as it is now and, without the unexpected developments in liturgy, ecumenism, the role of the laity, and other “fruits” of Vatican II, I don’t think there would be the rancor we experience today between the extremes on either end of the spectrum. 
There would have been change.  Not the degree of change that we experienced; but there would have been change.  As for the Liturgy I think we only need to look at the work that was being done in several of the German Abbeys such as Beuron and Maria Laach in the 1940’s and 50’s as well as the scholarship of men like Josef Jungmann and Louis Bouyer.  Changes began even before the Council.  Pius XII had shortened the communion fast and introduced restored rites for the Sacred Triduum at the end of Holy Week.  The Mass of Pius V would still be the foundation for the Roman Rite but I suspect that a certain amount of vernacular would have replaced the Latin, especially in the Liturgy of the Word.  I think too that vernacular chants such as were developed by musicians like Lucien Deiss and Joseph Gelineau would have been introduced.  Even dramatic Mass settings like the Congolese Missa Luba would probably have emerged and been used in culturally appropriate settings.  Laity would have been introduced to do the readings.  On the other hand, I don’t think the chalice would have been restored to the faithful, at least on any sort of ordinary basis and I doubt that Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist would have been introduced.  As I think the “vocation crisis” would still have happened, there may have been a restoration to laymen of the minor order of acolyte with permission for them to administer Holy Communion. 
While the majority of altars would still be turned so that the priest faces the apse of the Church during the celebration of Mass, the practice of positioning the altar so that the priest faces the congregation had already begun in Europe before the Council.  The practice of versus populum altars was particularly strong in Rome where Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pius X, in their restoration of countless Roman Churches to their ancient forms, had so situated altars in what in pre-baroque Rome was the typical position. At the Council when bishops from America and other outreaches of the Catholic world saw this they brought the practice home, but altars that “faced the people” were not only common in Rome but not unknown in Germany and France with the Liturgical Renewal of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 
There would be no outreach to those of other Christian denominations or to those of non-Christian religions.  We would be instructed to be courteous to all, but any sort of collaboration in either mission or worship would be totally out of the question except perhaps charitable work in times of critical need. 
The distinctiveness of our Liturgy, the peculiarities of our practices (such as no meat on Fridays and other days of fast), the prohibition of social contact with our non-Catholic neighbors (where we could not be in their weddings nor they in ours, or even our being forbidden to attend weddings and funerals involving a non-Catholic service) and the strong barriers against mixed marriages would have led to a great deal of isolation for Catholics that in America and would have created considerable social difficulties.  I suspect that there would have been considerable defections to liberal Protestant groups, especially those with a liturgy similar to ours such as Episcopalians and Lutherans, and that even more Catholics would simply not practice their faith.  John Kennedy could probably not have been elected president in 1960 and there would be few Catholics in public office.  The secularization of the culture might initially have been slowed down a bit if the Church had itself resisted inculturalization, but it would have happened none the less and probably over the decades picked up even more speed than it has.   Those families and individuals who remained practicing Catholics would have a stronger sense of Catholic identity simply because they would be so clearly differentiated from mainstream American families. While I think we would still have our automobiles and even our televisions (for select programming) Catholics would be a lot like the Amish in terms of a closed community.  Such Catholic families would still be happy to see a son or a daughter give themselves to the Church in a vocation and the number might be there to serve those remaining active in the practice of the faith but as the community of the active faithful would be so much smaller, I think too the number of priests and sisters would never reach the numbers of the early 1960’s. 
Without the Council and its program of adapting the liturgy and the catechesis of the faith to local cultures the missionary activity of Asia and especially of Africa would probably not have been nearly as successful as it is. The revitalization of the Church in Latin America would probably not have happened either.  Remaining a European Church culturally would mean that the majority of Catholics would still be in the Northern hemisphere.  It would be a much smaller Church but a more distinct and even, perhaps, a more energetic church internally.  It influence on the world outside its own isolation, however, would be negligible.  The Pope would probably be a sort of Christian Dalai Lama, admired for his compassion and piety—even, perhaps with a good pope, for his wisdom—but with little or no impact on the world and its challenges.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pope Francis, Two Churches, A Bridge Too Far--Some Further Thought

I have written in several recent postings that we have seen over the past 35 years that a Church has grown within the Church, a counter-Church as it were or even an anti-Church, that is becoming increasingly hostile to its host body and a threat to its welfare and mission.  During the pontificates of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI this counter-Church had reason to think that it would absorb its host body and become the predominant form of Roman Catholicism in a post-Vatican II (read: a forgotten and abandoned Council) world, but the papacy of Pope Francis has checked its progress and questioned its legitimacy.  As Francis moves forward with his agenda for the Church in his pontificate, some in the counter-Church fear that a bridge too far will force them to take a stand against Francis and those Catholics who adhere to his vision for the Church in the third millennium.  I had written in an earlier posting that the earmarks of this counter-Church and its adherents include: 

1. Refusal under any or most circumstances to participate in the Mass, Sacraments, and Rites of the Church in the “Ordinary Form.” 
2.     Rejection of the Post-Conciliar Rites and not only the Mass but especially an insistence that Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, and funerals be performed according to the pre-conciliar ritual.  Some extremists would also insist that Holy Orders be administered according to the pre-conciliar rites. 
3.     An insistence that children be catechized according to the pre-conciliar catechism (in the United States, the Baltimore Catechism).
4.     A conviction that the (traditional) Catholic Church is the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ and is the exclusive channel of Christ’s grace outside of which salvation is impossible or, at the very least, unlikely. 
5.     A conviction that the Church and “the world” are at enmity and that the Catholic minimize contact with the larger culture; collaboration of the Church for some supposed “common good” with those outside of the Church, either secular or believing but non-Catholic being against the mission of the Church.
6.     A conviction that the Church, as the Kingdom of Christ, “is not of this world” and therefore has no business in politics, economics, or other social spheres.   
Despite the first two earmarks I list being concerned with the “old” versus the “new” liturgy, I do not think that the major issue is the pre-conciliar liturgy versus the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  There are many Catholics who for reasons ranging from an aesthetic preference to a pretentious taste for the arcane attend the usus antiquior.  (My own pretentious taste for the arcane leads me to prefer this designation for the pre-conciliar Rites.)   I think the tension between the two forms of worship mask the real issue: two very different theologies, cosmologies, and anthropologies and these, in turn, are rooted in the differing philosophical foundations of 19th century Catholicism (neo-Scholastic) and Conciliar Catholicism (neo-Patristic) as described in those recent postings. 
Different cosmologies.  There are those who see the world ordered hierarchically with power at the top and subservience in the lower ranks.  In a well ordered universe each person is in his or her proper place in the Great Chain of Being and, save some minor adjustments in the social order, one stays in one’s place.  People who subscribe to this sort of cosmology like hierarchy (and are therefore often fascinated by monarchy in the socio-political order).  Obedience and conformity are paramount to them; change is anathema because it undermines the eternally fixed hierarchical order of things.  Law and retributive justice keep everything in balance.   On the other end of the spectrum—and it is most often a spectrum, not two sharply divided camps—there are those who see the universe as an organic reality, a body as it were.  Positions are not fixed but, like the stars revolve and circulate with some rising and some falling through the course of their existence.  Different members of the body in their various functions may have greater or lesser dignity but are not of greater or lesser worth.  Power, such as it is, is distributed throughout the body with each member taking responsibility for his or her own contribution to the good of the whole.  In this fluid order of things, change is taken for granted and seen to be a healthy sign of development of the body.  The political ideal for such people is not democracy as one might expect, but more a corporatism in which all are involved in working for and establishing the common good but sometimes in different ways or with different roles.  (I think this is a lovely ideal, but am myself a proponent of democratic government because, while it is less faithful than corporatism to the organic vision of society, it is its most practical political manifestation.)
Theologies.  Those who espouse a hierarchically ordered universe will see God at the top of the pyramid.  As God is at the top, access to him is granted more easily to those at the top.  (I love the line in Anne of a Thousand Days when King Henry says: “I am the King of England; when I pray, God listens!)  Popes and bishops—good popes and good bishops, that is, not these soft-on-divorce-soft-on-queers false shepherds of today—are of course closer to God than those further down the ladder.  God is and remains totally "other."  When I pray to him I need to face away from the world and face him.  I need to approach him with the courtesy and ritual of the royal court as he is the supreme King and I am but a servant.   On the other hand—and end of the spectrum—are those who see God as the Origin of all creation and the Destiny of all creation.  Avoiding pantheism—the idea that creation or the material universe is somehow God’s “skin” or that he is a universal Spirit who inhabits his own creation—there are those who see that God resides in the depths of his creation, and most particularly in the depths of the human heart.  This leads to a very different approach to prayer in general and liturgical prayer in particular.  The one mentality sees liturgy as court ceremonial for the Great King who rules the universe; the other mentality is drawn to the communal nature of the liturgy that has a more incarnational dimension and even a mystical impression. 
Anthropologies.  The one way of looking at things, the hierarchical, stresses the un-crossable divide between the Divine and the human.  God is Divine and we, for our part, bear the burden of our fallen human nature.   We stand as sinners before the Judge, hoping for mercy but aware of the demands of Divine Justice.  Our sins demand atonement by the sacrifice of God’s Divine Son, the only victim whose innocence can balance our wickedness, but even so retributive justice demands that punishment awaits us for our sins—if not in the sufferings of this life, then in purgatory.  The other perspective, emphasizing the idea of theosis or divinization, is to see the human person to remain clearly, beneath the veneer of sin, the image and likeness of God.  This anthropology sees the human person to be and remain essentially good, despite sin and failings, and through the redemption won by Christ and the sanctification accomplished by the Holy Spirit restored in the sight of God by grace to an original integrity.  These two different anthropologies  will created two very different approaches to the spiritual life.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation, in particular, will have entirely different meanings for those in each group.
We have two different liturgies because the usus antiquior is totally incomprehensible to those whose anthropology, theology, and cosmology follows the one model and the Reformed Rites of Vatican II undermine the entire belief system of those who hold to the other.  And now, with Pope Francis having picked up the themes of the Council and moving the Church forward in that direction, we see that those who hold to the neo-Scholastic world view are increasingly threatened that the foundation is being pulled out from beneath them.  Anger towards the Holy Father is mounting.  Cardinal Burke’s vague promise to “resist” Pope Francis should he cross the bridge too far—in this case to provide some pastoral solution that would grant those in irregular unions access to the sacraments—has been a call to the barricades for many who had falsely read the ambiguities of John Paul and Benedict to be the promise of a restoration of the pre-conciliar world and whose hopes are now being dashed.  It is in fact putting Cardinal Burke in a very uncomfortable position as he knows the limits his “resistance” can take and those limits will render the “resistance” of little effect.  At the same time, the disappointment of those who are putting their trust in the Cardinal to restore the Humpty Dumpty of a well-regulated hierarchical Church in a well-regulated hierarchical world will turn vicious.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some Lenten Thoughts On the Church In the Present Millennium

Sorry, things have gotten away from this past week and I have neglected to post any entries.  I hope I can make it up over the next week or two—though the schedule gets incredibly busy at this time of year.  But it doesn’t stop the Krazies, so if they can find the time for all their manic ravings and bizarre pseudo-religiosity, I, in my little self-appointed hermitage, should be able to as well.  It is just that this time of year is so rich in the readings and prayers and liturgies of this season that it is hard to tear oneself away from Lent’s austere beauty and sit at the keyboard.  In the early morning, I just want to take my coffee and sit on the glassed-in verandah and watch the sun come up over the barren late-winter landscape and ponder how these inner and outer worlds coalesce into some sort of harmonious unity. 
This year we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Thomas Merton and the fifth centenary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Avila.  They are two of my favorite spiritual writers.  They have a huge amount in common.  Both were very much down-to-earth sort of mystics—not the sort of flighty and vague romantics so favored by the sentimental and the pious.  Both had wicked senses of humor and were quick to turn a phrase that was both pithy and mirthful.  Both were deeply sensual and each, according to their particular genders, expressive of a highly sexualized spirituality.  But for me what is most important is that each, despite they themselves being monastics, were determined to open the arcane gateway of contemplative prayer to ordinary folk like you and like me. 
I wonder if it had not been for Merton—I read him before I ever read Teresa though I have over my career done a deeper study of Teresa than of Merton—I wonder if had it had not been for Merton would I ever have found the entry point of that Interior Castle of which Teresa speaks?  Had it not been for Merton, I am not sure that I would ever have realized the potential for prayer that went beyond the devotional.  I still enjoy the devotional, of course, much like I still like Jelly Beans; but I am glad that Merton and others showed me the darker and richer delights of still and silent prayer.
Some years back I was part of a group trying to arrange to bring Father William Menninger, like Merton a Cistercian (Trappist) monk, to our parish in Northern Virginia to give a workshop on contemplative prayer.  It was all set.  At the last minute, the pastor—who up to that time had been too busy to learn much about the program other than to insure that Father William was a priest in good standing and of “orthodox” Catholicity, cancelled the program.  “I didn’t realize it was about contemplative prayer,” he protested.  “That is something for monks and nuns, not for mere (his words) lay people like yourselves.  Why, if it isn’t part of our life as priests, would it ever be part of your lives as lay people?”  I had been reading Merton for over forty years at the time—and Teresa for about twenty-five—and I knew that all Christians are called to contemplative prayer.  It is not for “the elect.”  Indeed I have come to realize that all human persons are called to contemplative prayer as Saint Augustine pointed out in his famous lines:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
A source, while far less credible than my beloved aforementioned Doctor Gratiae but still infinitely more insightful than any contemporary writer (including Merton), the Jesuit Karl Rahner wrote:   
“The devout Christian of the future will be a ‘mystic’, one who has experienced something, or he will cease to be anything at all.  For devout Christian living as practiced in the future will no longer be sustained and helped by the unanimous, manifest and public convictions and religious customs of all, summoning each one form the outset to a persona experience and a personal decision.
We live, in this country and throughout “the West,” in what has fast devolved into a post-Christian era.  The “Christian Culture” of Europe and Anglophone North America has been for the most part nothing more than an ever-thinning veneer since “The Enlightenment” and its Rosemary’s Baby, the French Revolution.  The days when one’s Christian worldview and consequent values could be widely shared with one’s family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends are gone.  This is not to say that there isn’t a sort of human goodness or moral framework to be found anymore, but it is at best the habitual remnants of an earlier era and more often a natural—and inconsistently fickle—sort of natural sense of decency or integrity.  One doesn’t need to be a Christian—or even a believer—for such natural sense of fairplay, but as I said it is often a very fickle system.  I have written in some previous posts about how the lack of philosophy in the curriculum required for a college education has led to the inability of so many in our society to make any sort of a moral judgment beyond the rule that “works for me” is good and “doesn’t work for me” is bad.   What Rahner is saying in the above quote is that if Christians are to find a moral compass in this “culture” of soulless modernity—or actually post-modernity—they must have some sort of direct experience of God.  The key word here is direct.  God’s presence can be mediated by sacred things, sacred people, sacred actions, sacred gatherings, sacred institutions.  We call these physical manifestations of the Divine “sacraments.”  (I am not speaking narrowly here of the Seven Sacraments as defined by the Fourth Lateran Council but of the entire realm of the sacramental: the visible channels or manifestations of invisible grace.)  Used correctly these sacraments/sacramentals are genuine channels of grace, but as Colm Luibheid points out in the preface to his John Cassian, Conferences (Paulist, 1985), the human heart longs for a direct and unmediated encounter with God.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in God—not in rituals and ceremonies (as helpful as they may be to some), not in icons and candles (as good as they too can be), nor even in the Bread which has become Christ’s Body and the Wine which has become Christ’s Blood—but all this only ignites a hunger for the Creator that transcends the created.  In no way does the Christian ever dispense with the mediated channels of grace—we are incarnate beings and we need the tangible, the edible, the visible, but we are also Spirit and as such we long for that which is beyond the creaturely.  
This eros for God has always been in the human soul.  It doesn’t come with baptism or with some sort of mid-life conversion or being “born again.”  As Saint Augustine points out, we are created with this hunger for God.  It is us; it is who we are.  It has always been there, though not all have let an awareness of the hunger surface.  It was there for the psalmist when he wrote “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you, my God.”  It was there for Jesus when he said: Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you.”  It was there for Saint Augustine when he wrote the line I quoted earlier.  Pseudo-Dionysius, Saint Bernard, Saint Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhardt, Saint John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, Archbishop Fenelon, and countless mystics in between wrote or spoke of it.  It drove the desert fathers out to lives in the barren wilderness.  It provided John Cassian with the major theme of his conferences.  It populated Mount Athos and Subiaco.  Ignatius experienced it in the cave of Manressa.  Teresa of Avila was obsessed with it.  Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote to her sister Guite about it.  And to come back full circle, it is the core of all of Merton’s writings. 
And it is shaping the Church for its third millennium.  I am somewhat racing a deadline as this evening we have Taizé prayer in our parish.  People still come out for Stations of the Cross and Benediction on Friday evenings, but more and more are coming for the monastic quiet of this simple contemplative prayer around the Cross.  When we have a speaker on contemplative prayer we fill the parish center; when we have a speaker about the Catechism of the Catholic Church a dozen donuts will do.  When I sit in church during the day and see people come in, one less and less sees rosaries come out or prayerbooks opened, but people just sitting silently in God’s presence for 20, 30, even 40 minutes and more.
We need to find ways to encourage people to deeper prayer.  Merton’s books are still to be found in bookshops and on Amazon.  I think the biggest challenge, however, is to convince our priests that there is more to prayer than them parading around in a cope and carrying a monstrance or mumbling away in Latin jingo as they versus apsidem and mistakenly call it versus Deum.  Rahner has not only spoken truly that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or cease to be anything at all, but also that we, as the Church itself, will either be contemplative or cease to be.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More Thoughts on Pope Francis, A Bridge Too Far, and The Two Church Problem

It's about the future 

Sitting at breakfast this morning with a colleague we got talking about various priests we knew over the years and found out we both have great admiration for the Society of Saint Columban, a Society of secular priests who work in the missions.  When I was a kid our house was always filled with Columbans and they were all great guys, but there was one in particular who was just the best priest I ever knew—Father Al Buckwalter.  Unfortunately when Father Buckwalter finally got to the foreign missions—his dream—, in Chile, he died in a motorcycle accident after only about six months.    I think the reason I love Pope Francis is that he epitomizes the sort of Church that Father Buckwalter represented to me as a kid.  He was a priest who never judged people but could see the good in everyone.  It was the heady days when Vatican II was in session and this priest represented that optimism that the Good News of Jesus Christ was the key to a better world.  I am not saying that he was naïve and could not see the flaws in human nature—but only that he lived and treated people like he really believed that God’s grace could and would triumph over sin both on the personal and societal levels. 
When I look at the two Churches that have grown up side by side in the fifty years since the Council, I think this is the key difference between them.  I had mentioned that the one Church—a holdover from the Neo-Scholastic centuries of the Reformation/Counter-Reformation period through the Reaction/Recovery from the effects of the French Revolution—has never accepted the fundamental paradigm shift represented in the Second Vatican Council.  That paradigm shift is attributable to the ressourcement theologie of the inter-war period in which theologians such as Yves Congar, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac and others went to the pre-Scholastic Church Fathers and recovered the Patristic heritage for our modern age. 
It would be simplistic to claim—but essentially true nevertheless—that the patristic theology has a far more positive anthropology than the Neo-Scholastic.   The patristic heritage certainly acknowledges the reality of sin and dysfunction.  I myself am a huge fan of Saint Augustine and nobody but nobody in the Christian tradition calls out sin like Augustine did.  Yet, despite his intellectual appreciation for the frailties of our human nature, Augustine is known as the Doctor Gratiae—the Doctor of Grace. For Augustine the emphasis is not sin, but grace; sin is merely the foil by which we can see the operation of grace. 
I think that perhaps the inability of Pope John Paul II to see the dangers of the direction in which he took the Church—in his allowance of the anti-Vatican II Church to take root and even thrive inside the Conciliar Church—was that he himself was steeped in the Neo-Scholastic philosophy and theology of the pre-conciliar era.  I am not saying that he endorsed the survival of the counter-Church or that he did not endorse the basic direction of the Second Vatican Council, but only that he failed to see the problem of permitting this alternative ecclesiology of those for whom the Council was problematic. He himself didn’t have the monolithic theological models usually associated with Neo-Scholasticism.  He was certainly was open to the ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue of the Council, indeed he was not always as precise in his actions vis a vis other Churches and other religions as some thought that perhaps he should have been.  John Paul also had no personal enthusiasm for the pre-conciliar Liturgy, he merely permitted its revival to keep the peace with those who were being drawn out of the Church by the Lefebvrists and other schismatics.  He never celebrated, at least as far as we know, the usus antiquior and his own liturgical celebrations could be quite avant-garde with liturgical dance, adaptations to local cultures, and some minor but interesting deviations from the official rubrics.  However, when it came to his basic theology John Paul’s Neo-Scholasticism came through loud and clear.  In much of his writing and speaking there was a strong emphasis on sin and the sinfulness of the human person that appealed very much to those on the neo-Traditionalist end of the spectrum. 
Pope Benedict XVI was, in many ways, the reverse image of his predecessor.  Benedict had been, in his life as a theologian, a proponent of the nouvelle theologie. There was nothing of the Neo-Thomist in him and he was—and I have always admired him for this—a strong Augustinian in his theological framework.  His encyclicals and his addresses were far more positivist than those of his predecessor.  He was, however (and so typically German), far less flexible on the connection of theory and practice.  As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict had been seriously concerned about John Paul’s imprecision in papal dealings with non-Christians and even with non-Catholics.  (The position given to the Archbishop of Canterbury at Benedict’s installation as Pope was markedly different than how that prelate and his predecessors had been ceremonially treated under John Paul II who had always accorded the Anglican Primate a position roughly equivalent to how he treated the various patriarchal representatives of the Orthodox Churches.  On the other hand, Benedict’s precision in these matters puts a very different spin on his giving Holy Communion to Brother Roger, the Protestant Prior of the Taizé Community.)  Benedict, unlike his predecessor, has a strong personal attachment to the pre-Conciliar Rites.  While he never celebrated them during his papacy—at least publicly—he had as a Cardinal been very involved in the Abbey of Fontgombault’s conferences on restoring the old rite.  As Pope he widely extended permission for the use of the pre-conciliar rites even to the point of usurping the authority of local bishops in their diocese to regulate the liturgical usages.  He hoped, I think somewhat naively as an academic might, that the revival of the pre-conciliar rites alongside the Liturgy of Paul VI might in some way create a hybrid rite that would moderate the excesses of each.  Instead, of course, it seems only to have further polarized the liturgical disputes.  My own read on Benedict’s liturgical preferences is that they are not due to his theological convictions but rather to his ardent passion to preserve the cultural heritage of the Europe in which he was raised and which has been so culturally devastated first by Hitler’s crude efforts to create and impose on his conquests a sort of Nazi Art Deco and later by the equally soulless post-modernism and secularism of the last sixty years.  Like the music of Mozart to which Benedict is so deeply attached, the Baroque represents to him the epitome of Western culture.  His garish refurnishing of the Papal Apartments from the elegant simplicity of Paul VI (retained by JPII) to the heavy gilt of the reigns of Pius XII and John XXIII along with his penchant to raid the sacristy for the discarded remnants of his gloriously reigning predecessors, like his conviction that the 20th century produced no great music, just screamed “Bavarian bourgeois.”  But in this fascination with the antique he validated the efforts of those who thought they could bypass the Conciliar Catholicism of the last sixty years and remain comfortably within the Catholicity of the Church. 
Now along comes Pope Francis who is utterly indifferent to the antiquarianism of Benedict and who doesn’t share the pessimism of John Paul II and we have a problem.  A segment of Catholicism cannot identify with this Pope.  “I am a Catholic, but I don’t have a Pope” is becoming a rallying cry for a gamut of folk that range from climate-change deniers to Baltimore Catechism enthusiasts to Libertarians to fans of Palestrina and Tallis.   Even such recent bastions of Catholicism as Christendom College and the Cardinal Newman Society are teetering.  Rumors are starting to rise that Benedict’s resignation was “coerced” and thus he is still the valid Pope—his aide-de-camp, Archbishop (Gorgeous Georg) Ganswein has had to come out with several affirmations that Benedict himself recognizes Francis as Pope.  Many are wondering—and some are hoping—about what Cardinal Burke’s vow “to resist” Francis should he go too far might mean.  The pot is roiling.  There is considerable concern about the Cardinals Francis has appointed and his ability to shape the next papal election. The September address to a joint session of Congress could be telling.  The upcoming October second session on the Synod on the Family could tip the scales. In the end the worst of what might happen is what should have happened forty years ago—those for whom Vatican II represents unacceptable change need to pack up their birettas and mantillas, um I mean maniples, and go where they can be more comfortable.  Vatican II is here to stay.  Compromise was tried and it proved to be not only a bad choice but an exercise in futility.  We need to cherish our past as history but move into the future in pursuit of the Kingdom of God.  It is a kinder, gentler Church with Francis—a Church that is Rich in the Mercy of God