“I never thought I’d see the day”, you will possibly think, but it is a fact that we live in a world where priests have to be encouraged to hear confessions and even to go to confession themselves. This being the situation, it is laudable that a Cardinal, Joachim Meisner, publicly tackles the issue and says a couple of uncomfortable things.
Cardinal Meisner puts the problem in clear terms:
“A priest that does not put himself frequently on one side or the other of the confessional screen experiences permanent damage to his soul and to his mission.”
A priest is there to be just that: a priest. The Church doesn’t need environmentalist priests, or revolutionary priests, or social worker priests. The Church needs priests whose first priority is to do their job. In the Cardinal’s words again:
“when the priest is no longer a confessor, he becomes a religious worker.”
As pointed out, some priests do not even regularly go to confession themselves. The mere idea makes one cringe and the Cardinal himself points out to the fact that the neglect of Confession is
“one of the most tragic ‘failures’ that the Church has experienced in the second half of the 20th century”.
Much needed words. Still, we should reflect that such problems did not arise simply because the years went by, but because something happened within the Church that caused them to happen.
Tutto si tiene. Everything is linked. You set aside your beautiful Mass and substitute it with a dumbed down version and you will cause a contagion of shallowness in all parts of the Church life, because what you do to the Liturgy, you do to the Church. You simplify and stultify the life of the faithful (depriving them of Vespers, Holy Hour and the like) and this stultification will unavoidably spread to the very priests in charge of them. You downplay the importance of being a Catholic in the economy of salvation and this will irresistibly lead to confusion among the faithful as to why sacramental life should be important. You neglect to explain and defend Catholic teaching – in your homilies and elsewhere – and your sheep will soon not know anymore what it is that makes them “Catholic”. You stress the kind of emasculated, woolly, fuzzy ecumenism beloved by so many priests and you invariably lead people to think that “provided they love Jesus” or “have their hearts in the right place” everything is fine.
Gandhi cum Dalai Lama (and some sugary songs): that’s what you’ll make of Catholicism.
All these modern errors, this shallow collection of common places very often mistaken for “Catholicism” have happened not because of some revolt from the pews, but because the clergy was in the first line in the effort to make them happen. The Church has been sabotaged from the inside, from the men at the foot of the altar who have refused to put Christ and the Church first and have started to put their popularity, or acceptance, or “going with the flow” first.
Bad theology. Bad catechesis. Socialist, or communist, or environmentalist priests. Neglect of the opus dei for mere social work (no, it’s not the same). Downplaying of the importance of sacraments. Neglect of sacraments. Loss of Catholic identity in the muddy pond of “be good-ism”….. All this has a cause. All this has been perhaps not directly created, but certainly made possible and positively encouraged by a clearly identifiable event: the Second Vatican Council.
I do hope that in time, Cardinal Meisner’s commendable analysis will not stop at the problems’ existence, but will look for the removal of their cause. It will not be easy – too many among the clergy are still emotionally invested in Vatican II – but in due course and with a lot of prayers I believe that we will get there.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.