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Excerpts: The Taming of Catholicismnext

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quoteIf We Accept what makes sense and back away from mystery and tradition in a Church where mystery and tradition are its stock-in-trade, we’re going to end up with a pretty boring Church. ... Accepting only that which makes sense may be a natural thing to do when reason crashes into faith. Yet if doing so eliminates significant parts of what makes us Catholic, it creates a self- contradiction for the Church, because as an institution, it exists to pass its traditions down whole across generations.


We’ve passed on vague notions rather than coherent intellectual content. As a result, we share little common understanding of the faith, especially across the progressive-conservative divide. Ask a dozen Catholics about an article of faith and you’ll get a dozen different answers. The Trinity, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, what do these things actually mean? How can we agree on their meaning and explain them to our children in a way that is intellectually coherent?


In the times after Vatican II, in the process of taking faith on our own terms, we did a good job of getting rid of old-world immigrant piety. But we’ve often replaced it with the feel-good kitsch of the seventies. ... We like our modernity tidy. But with its crucified Lord, Christianity is not a particularly tidy religion.


Flannery O’Connor said that if the Eucharist is just a symbol, well then the hell with it. Yet as a sacrament, it is a sign, a symbol. The problem is not that; the problem is that in the process of trying to make faith sensible, we’ve reduced what the symbols signify and make present to what can be encapsulated by our ordinary understanding of life: the Mass as a community meal, the Incarnation as God showing how much he loves us, the Eucharist as a sign of the love we have for one another, the Resurrection as a sign of eternal hope. These insights are all true, just not sufficient. They have been tamed into reasonableness. What’s gone missing is the path to get to the authentic, underlying mysteries and their expression in the sacred. Unless belief and liturgy can connect us to these extraordinary things, they fail in their purpose.