It is not news that in the last 40 years the Sacred Liturgy has been treated with a banality that has gone from the sentimental to the silly to the irreverent to the heretical, and back again, a few million times. Now, of course, there is nothing silly or banal about the Eucharist and other teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church, only the way they are often presented and treated.
But we learn and are affected, intellectually and emotionally, by how the faith is celebrated and transmitted. A priest, dressed in a Halloween costume saying Mass, accompanied by a jug band doing music fit for a beer commercial, and making snappy little jokes (as actually happened in California), may validly confect the Sacred Species, but the effect on the proclamation to the congregation of the truth of the Holy Eucharist is all but destroyed. The words of the ritual are there, and transubstantiation occurs, but who would know? The message is not the Good News of the Mystery of the everlasting Eucharistic Lord, but the bad news of the heavenly made common and mundane. It is the omnipotent brought down to the level of the ancient golden calf of the Book of Exodus. The inevitable message communicated is that this is not serious business.
However, as destructive as the liturgical innovators have been with their silly songs, group hugs, manipulation of ritual, and general mundane approach to worship, such is not the worst of the liturgical deconstruction in our time. Modern desacralization and trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy reaches its apex at those Masses where Catholic pro abortion politicians show up for public confirmation of their claim to moral righteousness in the face of their complicity in the blood trade of abortion. The pro abort politicos solemnly march down the aisle at Mass to receive Holy Communion just days, maybe hours, after casting votes to promote the killing of millions more innocent children, as a public sign that what they do is, in fact, not evil. Unfortunately, the clergy all too often give their silent affirmation.
It is not just that the politicians are sinners, or that the clergy are equally sinful. We know that. Peter denied his Lord and Savior within hours of his ordination as a priest. Other than Mary, all of the children of Adam are sinners. The Church was created by Jesus to bring sinful souls to God, and the Church’s mission necessarily involves pointing out to modern man his sins, bringing him God’s forgiveness of those sins, and leading him away from his sins to God, mainly via the Sacraments. But the Church does not condone man’s sin, lay or clerical. “Go and sin no more,” Jesus told the sinful woman. The distinction is important: The Church is a house of sinners, but not a house of sin.
The failure of so many religious, priests and bishops, to point out the sinfulness and inherent evil of abortion, not just generally but personally, directly, and publicly to those Catholics, especially politicians, who publicly promote the killing of the innocent unborn and then present themselves for Holy Communion, reduces the majesty and effectiveness of the proclamation of the Word of God to just another routine press release. The Eucharist fed indiscriminately not only to the repentant sinner, but also to those who publicly and unrepentantly work to further abortion and other species of inherently evil acts against life, specifically trivializes the teachings of the Church on the Eucharistic Mystery, but ultimately the entire Magisterium. For all the world, it makes the Catholic Church look like a house of sin!
This sad spectacle frequently results from lack of courage, and maybe even old fashion laziness. Being a prophet is not an appealing occupation. The true prophet always suffers for speaking the word of God. He does not get good press. His ecclesiastical superiors may doubt his institutional acumen and hold back appointments. A real prophet is seen by the world as an eccentric, maybe a fool, and not infrequently is shunned. Clearly, it is easier to accommodate the sin, than to challenge the sinner. But at best that is false compassion.
St. Paul exhorts us to be strong, and warns us to be on guard against the betrayers and accomodationists who twist truth to justify evil. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Timothy 4:5).
The clerical accomodationists like to say that Jesus ate with sinners, and that giving the pro abortion politician Holy Communion is nothing less than what Jesus Himself would do. But the Holy Eucharist is not just any meal. And at the institution of that Sacrament at the Last Supper Jesus was not silent about sin. There was no silent pulpit in the upper room.
Recently retired Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles justified giving Holy Communion to Catholic pro abortion politicians because Jesus gave Communion to Judas at the Last Supper. What he does not mention is that Jesus confronted Judas about his sinfulness directly, personally, and publicly, something the cardinal has consistently refused to do. “When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, ‘He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.’ Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, ‘Surely it is not I, Rabbi?’ He answered, ‘You have said so’” (Mt. 26:20-26).
Whether from a lack of courage or induced by false compassion and sentimentality to remain scrupulously silent in the pulpit, many clergy permit the pro abortion politicians to hijack the Holy Eucharist for use as a political prop to mock the very essence of the Eucharist. Those clergy who do this are complicit in this scandal of the trivialization and desacralization of the Sacred Liturgy, and the inevitable erosion of the moral authority of the Catholic Church that necessarily results. Worse, they must share some responsibility for the evil legislation that results because of the political strength and personal encouragement that such politicians gain from these raids on the moral integrity of the Church.
For over three decades now in the United States the hierarchy has mostly proceeded with a dual approach, with one part contradicting the other. The fundamental message has generally been clear: life is sacred and must be protected. But they have allowed the accomodationists to obfuscate this clear message, by making abortion, euthanasia, and other inherently evil acts nothing more than the moral equivalents of other issues which, while serious, are not inherently evil and which are left by the Church to the prudential judgment of the faithful. This obfuscation has been the chief means that the accomodationists have been able to give the pro abortion Catholic politicians moral legitimacy, and excuse themselves from confronting the offenders. This is wrong and scandalous.
It is time that the clergy listen and take to heart the words of Paul to Timothy: “But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). Amen!
(© 2011 Robert J. Gieb)