Sed Contra: A Dose of Sacred Discontent

Deal W. Hudson
January 1, 1998

Thus we begin 1998, declared by our Holy Father as the year of the Holy Spirit. Surely, on this, the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade this country could use a strong infusion of that least understood person of the Blessed Trinity. There is no better way to get ready for the battles of the coming year—the spread of euthanasia, the influence of the homosexual agenda—than to enter more deeply into the God always invisibly present.

My new managing editor, an exceptionally bright young graduate of the University of Dallas, asked me to make this column happy and hopeful. He was worried that the articles that follow present too desolate a picture of the world. As you well know, Crisis brings you both the best and the worst of “politics, culture, and the Church.” Not everything we report is necessarily inspiring: Sometimes it is tragic and dispiriting. However, the fact that we are bringing you these reports is, in its own way, hopeful.

The hope lies in readers like you having a voice at all. Through Crisis you have a venue for bringing unreported problems to light, and for fighting back against adversaries who have easy access to the public through the mainstream media. Each day, it seems, we read the morning newspapers to find some small, insignificant dissident group treated like a major cultural force. This type of exposure, I can tell you, not only increases their level of visibility but increases their funding as well.

Every now and then Catholics are thrown a bone only to have it snatched away. We momentarily celebrate when someone with the good sense of Helen Alvare is interviewed on “Sixty Minutes,” only to watch her sandbagged by an overtly hostile interviewer. Excited at the prospect of the network coverage given to the funeral of Mother Teresa, we hear her sanctity defamed and cast under the pale shadow of a tragic princess.

It would be blatantly irresponsible of me to try to pretend all is “sweetness and light” at a moment like this. Catholics are caught between a secular media that normalizes heresy the way it normalizes sexual disorder, and a Catholic press that covers its beat with the moral backbone of a country club newsletter. The Catholic press, like much of the Catholic establishment, invokes the name of charity only to avoid conflict that will lead us toward a more serious and more debilitating period of reparation. There are no Irish banquet jokes funny enough to bandage over the moral deficit created by decades of unchecked theological diminution.

So I must say to my managing editor that the hope lies in the story being told, regardless of how he feels after editing it, or how you feel when reading it. When all is said and done, given the general state of the world, I would rather our readers be aghast after putting down the magazine than providingroe_wade.jpg some kind of “instant uplift.” We are presently witnessing where that other approach leads. So a great many people at present feel good but lack genuine hope, because they are not being told the truth.

One wonders, for example, how many of those who wax poetic about the changes in altar design are going to feel when they realize the understanding of the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ has been altered in the process. Catholics are simply not being told the truth about the intentions that lie behind the “pastoral” changes being encouraged from various compass points.

How many of those priests who hand out loaves of bread are going to crawl around and pick of the pieces of his Body scattered around the floor?

The willingness of the average Catholic to give crazed liturgists their due is puzzling; their common sense dictates that changes in church architecture and liturgical postures are related to doctrinal challenges. Standing and kneeling mean two different things! Someone recently tried to tell me that standing at the consecration indicates “the Church on the move.” Such a gesture is so inappropriate at that liturgical moment that I am amazed to hear any argument in its favor, much less one that puts the spotlight where it doesn’t belong.

But such superficialities have become the daily bread of Catholicism today. This year of the Holy Spirit would be a good time for all of us to take a good dose of sacred discontent and make the following resolution: In 1998 I will speak the truth to the culture, and the truth I will speak is the truth I can receive only on my knees.

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