I need spirituality and religion in my life. What I do not need are the nut cases who seem to be attracted to such things en masse. I have read a few debates about the Bishop Williamson issue mentioned a few posts ago. The traditionalists vs. the more traditionalists vs. the most traditionalists vs. the “we are the purest form of the Church around and if you don’t agree with us you are obviously a lost soul” crowds. And this does not even take into consideration all those who think Jesus was a nice guy who talked about love and nothing more and that all religions are basically the same. His firm belief in Christ is anathema to many of them as well. I am sure the Bishop is a good man in many ways, so I do not want to speak ill of him here, just point out some things I differ with him on.
But as far as the traditionist cultists, the whole thing is sickening. When I was younger I was big into the traditionalist, Tridentine Latin Mass thing. The abuses of the Liturgy by so many flakes drove me into that crowd. But what I discovered in the following years was this: when given a well done Novus Ordo Mass (the Mass as has been said since 1969, usually in the vernacular) vs. an Tridentine Latin Mass, I actually preferred the New Mass. I was disappointed the first time I attended a Tridentine Latin Mass. Granted, it was only a low Mass (the Mass was spoken, not chanted or sung) but I did miss the sense of mental participation that the New Mass has given us. The key to the New Mass is that must be said reverently. I will still take the Old Mass, even a low Mass, over a flaky New Mass any day. I am sure I would enjoy attending a Tridentine High Mass though if I ever get the chance.
There are many legitimate debates when it comes to the Old vs. New Mass. What is difficult to deal with are those who are encamped into their different groups within the Church, or even within Christianity itself, concerning this and other issues as well. They all can’t be right. They all can’t be representing the true Church. My only guidance in the end is to follow the ancient saying: Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, “Where Peter is, there is the Church.” I believe in the Papacy. So I follow the Pope in the end and trust that is where I belong and that it all part of God’s plan for the world.
In over twenty years of taking my faith seriously I have seen so many divisions within the Church. Recently I read an article by someone who as claiming that EWTN was nothing more than a bed of Modernists, that it was no longer pure enough for him. One of his criticisms is that there are too many “ex-Protestants” on the show. Seriously. I wonder why so people are filled with such bitterness over so many things within Christianity. I think the infighting is one of the major stumbling blocks for those who might feel a call to Christ. To quote one ancient Roman pagan source on his sarcastic observations on Christians, “Look at the Christians, see how they love one another.” Even in the earliest days there was bickering and infighting.
As Father Benedict Groeschel (one of the EWTN “Modernists” criticized by the article I read) has urged, we should not get caught up too much in “Churchy” things. We should always keep our eyes on what is most important: Christ. My own reactions to the Bishops Williams, and his detractors and defenders, is to remember that we are all in the end just human and in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. We are all flawed. I must approach everyone and every situation with that in mind. Only God is perfect.
This is what I find to be the most difficult thing about religion in general. It is not the hypocrisy of some members, although that can be difficult enough to deal with. No, rather it is the constant fighting among members of the same or different religions. It is the nuttiness that comes with fanaticism, with a too close adherence to the “I am the only one right” crowd. The agnostics and atheists are right to point out these conflicts as one of the major reasons why they do not believe. So many people claiming to have sole possession of the truth and hating, even killing those who they believe do not. The cold abstraction of it all, the adherence to the world as little more than a series of moral laws to be obeyed, is not appealing to me in the least. If religion were merely that, then I would have no religion at all. I have met so many people in my lifetime talking so coldly about “The Truth” that is sometimes can be a little disheartening. I get the sense these are the same people, or at least have the same mind set, who used to send people off to the burned alive for not following “The Truth”. Not that there is not an absolute Truth in the universe, as a Christian I must believe there is, but I also must believe that none of us as individuals are able to understand fully what that Truth really is. So we should always remain humble when approaching it and not attack others who do not believe as we do.
We already live in a world that is hostile in so many ways to Christ. The fighting among Christians only makes that more difficult. What keeps me going is the sense of God in my life, of Christ, and the living power of love that brings me.