Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 23
OLD KING LOG
“Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”
There are two dimensions of church craft I think caused real trouble. First, remember in the Church of the 40's and 50's, there was a strange kind of legalism that asked how little was necessary rather than how much was possible. I remember great discussions of how far one could go before something was a sin. We think of corruption as something obvious. It is really very subtle. A whole branch of church craft seemed dedicated to helping people see their way past the rules.
The best of these theological church crafters did their finest work helping people to think their way around the Church’s prohibition of artificial birth control. Their disregard for the teaching authority of the Popes thus infected the world! There were saints and sinners, but worst of all you could be a very lukewarm church crafter. “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16)
In the beginning of the sixties the great spitting out began. People left the convents and rectories by the busload. Many of the priests who prepared me for the priesthood left the priesthood even as they were teaching me. I remember the dean of our college gathering us all in the assembly hall to encourage us to get our teaching certificates. That way we would have a trade when the Catholic Church went belly up. There was, as I have pointed out, a great pressure to be a priest or nun. I suspect that a lot of people entered the religious life who would rather not have done so.
When Blessed Pope John XXIII opened up the windows, to use his phrase, a whole lot of people jumped out, and many of them got jobs working in the bureaucracy of religion, in the career field of, you guessed it, church craft. Some few remain in those positions today and they with their followers continue the deconstruction of Catholicism, making sure that hymn lyrics are politically correct and that programs are in place to eradicate the problems of the 50's and 60's. The theme song of the church crafters is “Sing a new church into being....male and female in God’s image, male and female, God’s delight.” I get tired just thinking about it.
The second, I have already called the “edifice complex.” As I have pointed out, in the 40' and 50's and perhaps earlier, certainly later, the good administrator was promoted. When an American pastor in the middle of the twentieth century talked about conversion he usually meant switching the boiler over from oil to natural gas. When first ordained I worked with a kind and holy priest who was denounced by his peers for allowing the Spanish charismatic groups to use his church. His accusers were progressives who hated the movement because they saw it as reactionary. Too much prayer. Not enough social justice. In the petition they sent to the bishop, the most damning charge was that he had let the buildings get run down!!!
Some bishops felt much more comfortable in a discussion with accountants and heating contractors than they did with theologians. One of the finest and kindest bishops I ever knew, who is now long dead, actually once said in response to a religious question, “Don’t ask me. I’m not much of a theologian.” This is certainly not true of all the bishops, but I suspect it was true of some. They were made to feel inadequate to the task by experts who were only too glad to tell them what to think and sweeping changes were made because, “Well, this is what the experts are telling us.” This is evident in the architecture of the time.
Experts decided that churches be trashed, and Communion rails were ripped out and Formica replaced marble. I know a contractor who told me once that his family had prospered first by pulling all the old stuff out, and then putting it all back in. They just had to wait until the next wave of experts weighed in. The bishops who had been so good with brick and mortar were made to feel absolutely unsure about the tradition of the Church. When they went to the council, they brought their “periti,” their theological experts with them and the council was thus called the council of the periti who after a couple martinis were happy to sing a new church into being. “His (Jesus’) disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him, and He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (Matt.24:1-2) Or, in other words, “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”
Next Week “DOMINIQUE-a NIQUE-a NIQUE-a” and “GLORY BE TO GOD FOR THE GOLDEN PILL.” RELIGIOUS MUSIC IN THE SIXTIES”