Thursday, August 11

Msgr. Clark Resigns

Without saying anything about Msgr. Clark himself, the prospect of it all reminds me of one of the greatest lessons I've learned, from the start of the sex-abuse crisis.

There was a group (since disbanded by their diocese) called the Society of St. John, a Latin-Mass sort of community which wanted to build a medieval town to be a shining example of happy Catholic life. They were essentially ruined when reports of the seminarians all sleeping together in the same bed broke.

E. Michael Jones broke a huge homosexual scandal at Notre Dame in the 1980's involving a progressive liturgist. From then on, the general assumption was that separation from traditional orthodoxy -- not even necessarily heresy -- led to immorality.

And certainly, the notorious abusers from the 1960's and 1970's (like the priest who belonged to a Man-Boy Love Assocation) were often markedly heterodox.

But the dissolution of the Society of St. John shocked me personally into the realization that what matters ultimately is not per se professed orthodoxy or traditional practices like the Latin Mass, but a a firm graft onto the Person of Christ, the Tree of Life.

E. Michael Jone's theory needed to be tweaked: immorality did not equal heterdoxy. The truth is that many abuse cases date from the 1950's, and not from priests who were dissidant theologians but the average-Joe priest of a golden (though not perfect, obviously) moment of American Catholicism--who all said the Latin Mass, for what that's worth. It is a disconnect from the living person of CHRIST, so well known through the Catholic tradition, which leads a soul to a life of (sustained and grave) sin.

Traditional Catholic practice and traditional Catholic teaching are great, powerful, and moving forces of Christianity. The great, powerful, and moving FORCE of Christianity, however, is obviously Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself: He alone matters, He alone forgives and fortifies against sin, and He alone is the Beauty towards which we strive.

Catholic teaching and practice, traditional or post-conciliar, are not magic in and of themselves, but instead matter only insofar as it brings us to Christ. That's why they're so great, powerful, and moving: because they lead us to Christ, and a life in which our hearts--our will, our temperatment, our sensitivities and our intellect--are entirely, immaculately centered upon Christ.

And when that doesn't happen, there's no innate value in proclaiming either practice (like the Society of St. John did) or doctrine (however "hard-hitting") which isn't bearing fruit in the life of the one(s) proclaiming. What matters is our connection to Christ, and the greatest of Catholic tradition is just lace and hot-air without that radical, life-changing dependency.

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