Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Getting By

Fr. McBrien is arguing here that the Catholic Church, despite a recent Papal endorsement of the practice, should basically excise Eucharistic adoration from its parishes because it's been taken too far in the past, and 'there is little or no need for extraneous eucharistic devotions' and because with developments in education of laypeople and the Mass in the vernacular, '[t]he Mass itself provides all that a Catholic needs sacramentally and spiritually.' He doesn't come right out and say it, but I'm having difficulty reading anything else into his article aside from a desire, or at least a preference, that Eucharistic adoration be much decreased in scale and popularity, insofar as it has any.

So now we Christians are getting by only on what we need? I'm all for getting what we need spiritually; I'm not for eschewing things because they provide more than what is needed, even if there are potentially adverse effects in the hands of some people. Again, there might be little or no need for 'extraneous eucharistic devotions,' but nothing he's said here really proves that eucharistic adoration is a step backwards for the Church.

The simple fact is that everything in Christianity, even things we need, need to be checked. Heresies are overblown Truths about God; orthodoxy is the Truths in their proper proportion to one another. The Mass itself may be taken too far; indeed it often is, in one direction or another. That's part of the reason there are at least a few dozen rules in place as to how a Mass is to be done in Catholicism. So of course things we don't need should also be checked.

Lest anyone think this is only a Catholic issue: Anything unchecked in Protestant Christianity can easily be taken too far. I caught the movie Saved! on TV the other day. It's a pretty terrible movie in terms of the amount of rampant equivocation and oversimplification on matters of Christian doctrine, moral and otherwise, though there are one or two lessons. And the biggest lesson, honestly, is that we really ought to approach the Inner Workings of the Spirit, or any sort of message a person claims to have gotten from God, with extreme caution and preferably with some kind of structure that can 'check' this message against Truth. Bible study groups and even life groups in churches (Catholic as well as Protestant) need to watch out. Pietism is a perfectly sound spiritual practice so long as it only seeks to de-emphasize the need for systematics and theology proper--not to pretend that we don't need them at all.

And yes, practices like Eucharistic adoration can certainly go too far. I'm not sure if I'm down with the putting-the-host-to-bed deal; Christ may or may not be specially present there, but I personally doubt He really desires such treatment, though to avoid putting words in God's mouth I should say He probably is thankful for the intent, if not the action. But that doesn't mean the practice [of adoration] itself is bad. It seems it has massive potential to unify a community of faith and give the faithful a way of giving more order to their prayer lives. There is much good here, even good that is beyond what is classifiable as 'need.' And yet, in a Church whose very moral standards are tied up with seeking the Good beyond what we merely 'need,' we have priests calling this seeking of greater good a 'doctrinal, theological, and spiritual step backward.' Pending more evidence from Fr. McBrien that this practice is more regularly excessive than demonstrated so far, I'm going to strongly disagree that 'it is difficult to speak favorably about the devotion today.'

I am not (at present, at least) a Catholic, but what I find difficult to speak favorably of: This article.

This is by no means not the only doctrinal issue raised by the article, but the other major one in my mind is much more Catholicism-specific and I do not feel qualified to address it.

Hat tip goes to the Curt Jester.

[Brackets indicate later edits from 09-10-09. Other indicators will indicate later edits, if there are any. To date nothing has been changed in wording or deleted; addition has been the only change.]

[[Label changed to include Christianity in Pop Culture.]]

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