ORTHODOXY = VOCATIONS
OK - I'll come clean: in middle secondary school I once did score "0" out of 100 for a Maths test (seriously… though you'd reckon they might have found one lousy mark for effort!). And for a full eighteen months I did sit in Chemistry classes grimacing like a lunatic at blackboards smothered with impenetrable hieroglyphics (until a bemused Christian Brother announced, rather pathetically: "You don't have a clue what we're talking about, do you son?" - and packed me off to Geography). So, no, figures and formulas are not my thing. And yet, even a mind as 'algebraically challenged' as mine can understand the inexorable logic of the above equation. That orthodoxy breeds vocations is hardly rocket science. Only smug, ignorant, faithless clerics with a death-wish for the priesthood and Religious life could possibly disregard such a simple Catholic truism and the plentiful contemporary evidence available to confirm it. Which leads us to the British episcopates.
As noted in last month's edition, the push for priestless parishes currently tops the epsicopal agenda throughout the United Kingdom. It is concerted, relentless and unfolds something like this: by suppressing orthodoxy in general and discriminating against orthodox vocations to the priesthood in particular, the Modernists create a shortage of priests; they then present the shortage as a fait accompli requiring the introduction of strategies designed to laicize the clergy and democratize the Church. These strategies are pursued under the skimpiest cover of schemes like "formation and training," "collaborative ministry," "parish amalgamations," "one parish towns," "cluster parishes" and so on, all of which share two striking characteristics: they concentrate on reducing the number of parishes served rather than increasing the number of priests, while studiously ignoring the 1997 Vatican Instruction on the division of sacramental and pastoral roles proper to priests and laity.
In the January number we noted the zealous complicity of the recently appointed Bishops of Nottingham and Arundel & Brighton in this unholy agenda, while Father Martin Edwards forecast the impending dissolution of the priesthood in the Portsmouth diocese, following Bishop Hollis' acceptance of a clerical "formation" programme touted by one of his radical feminist employees. Clerical deconstruction also continues apace in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle diocese, which, under notorious dissident Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, boasted not a single vocation in 2000. A 20 page discussion document from the Deanery of St Aidan proposes "one parish in each town with one parish priest assisted by other priests and one administrative centre" for Jarrow (currently 4 churches), Hebburn (2 churches) and South Shields (5 churches). Saturated with risible Modernist verbiage - "our people empowered by the Spirit are becoming increasingly disillusioned with a hierarchical model of church;" "shared decision making is beginning to impact on our celebrations as they become more thoroughly community-planned and celebrated;" "issues to do with social justice, ecumenism and community priorities appear increasingly on agendas;" "obstacles that block or hinder collaboration from being experienced will have to be addressed through adult formation if the church in our area is to move forward" - the document is a classic fascist diktat in which faithless liberal clergy feign interest in "collaboration," "openness" and "creativity" while engineering ever greater centralisation and control for the gnostic few. It is a recipe for wiping out a goodly portion of the remaining Mass-goers in each town (still numbering 1,703 faithful in Jarrow's 4 extant parishes), and offers nothing for the massive number of lapsed Catholics (4,708 in Jarrow) - all of whom need priests of God to offer the Holy Sacrifice, lay on the Body and Blood of Christ and turn on the tap of Eternal Life for them, not cliques of naval-gazing pseudo-clerics running day-care centres and preaching heresy to congregations small enough to circle dance in a broom cupboard.
These unconscionable attitudes and actions are merely representative of the shocking refusal on the part of all the bishops of Scotland and England & Wales even to acknowledge successful vocations policies pursued abroad, let alone adopt them. As usual, the worst of all is Archbishop O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, beloved patron of some of the most heinous dissidents in this or any other nation, whose Pastoral Letter and accompanying Guidelines of 25 November 2001 on the future of his archdiocese constitute a veritable caricature of all Modernist blueprints for laicising the Church: derisory lip-service being paid to priestly and Religious vocations (two-and-half lines in 9 pages!), while promoting every conceivable initiative to cater for priestless parishes and lay ministries (lay-led funerals, Eucharistic Services, pastoral and administrative assistants etc. etc.). How significant, too, that in cases where a priest is not available for Mass but "where other parishes or Mass centres are near," the Archbishop merely suggests that "parishioners should consider travelling" to them. So much for the Sunday Mass obligation, which the present liberal hegemony is rendering as passe as Communion on the tongue.
Cardinal Winning, of course, also oversaw a spectacular decline in vocations during his tenure, preferring endemic disobedience and dissent in his archdiocese to the unpopular orthodox reforms required to replicate dramatic increases in Australia and the US. And like the rest, His Eminence preferred to blame anyone and everything except himself for the priest shortage, commenting typically in his Gonzaga Lecture of 3 April 2001 just before his death: "The many factors which go to make the priest shortage and the lack of any stable pattern of vocations to the priesthood are not going to go away unless there is a radical shift in society's attitudes… we are going to have to get used to the idea that we are unlikely to have a community of priests in many parishes." For good measure, the Cardinal followed up this diabolic fait accompli with facile rationalisations about parish closures ("Did we ever really need all the church buildings we presently have?") and the decline in vocations to Religious life ("In the past the number of people entering the religious life was higher than today because the needs were greater"), while promoting the lay agenda on cue ("The laity need to be offered the space to exercise their charisms in the Church... more effectively and with greater urgency").
The same corrosive party line is duly trotted out at every opportunity by ecclesiastical functionaries - like one Paul Chitnis, Chief Executive of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund [SCIAF], who pontificated in The Scotsman of 23 October 2001: "The old model of Church is changing from an over-concentration on clergy and buildings to a church where the laity are having to recognise it's their church. They are not just guests at this party - it's their party. There is now a huge opportunity for the laity to get involved. If they want to keep parishes open they will have to say 'now it's down to us.' I feel very positive about the future." Why such perverse optimism in the face of vocational meltdown? Because vocations are superfluous to the Modernist equation. As The Scotsman further reported: "The Jubilee 2000 campaign to encourage debt cancellation for the Third World was a tremendous success, and donations to SCIAF continue to rise despite falling numbers of practising Catholics." In other words, once Modernism holds sway in any local Church - exemplified by Cardinal Winning's pernicious declaration that "Dogma is not the least bit important to the ordinary person" [The Bush, Sept. 1978] - naught is left but the humanistic formula of the Social Gospel: money + philanthropy = smug bishops and bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, we read that the posturing Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster believes a simple "dose of 'joy and hope' will solve the Church's big worries, such as falling Mass attendance and the lack of priests in training. He says: 'The answer is not a big campaign to recruit priests. There needs to be a renewal of the whole Catholic community'." We can safely assume, however, that the Cardinal's trite formula precludes the only "renewal" that matters i.e. a Pauline conversion of episcopal hearts and minds to Catholic obedience and orthodoxy. And as for advertising campaigns, well might the Cardinal opine that they are not the answer. The episcopate's May 2000 promotion, involving 30,000 brochures entitled The Challenge of a Lifetime, merely re-trumpeted the hierarchy's loss of Catholic faith, capitulation to the world and comically passe notions. Intended to attract 18-25 year old men and women, the glossy brochure promises "a career which has all the job satisfactions of most professions" and, as the Times reported, "emphasises the priesthood and religious life as professions of a glamorous, exciting and stimulating nature, featuring photographs of young priests and nuns with mobile phones, playing field sports, doing medical work and trekking with rucksacks." Groovy baby!
The contrast in faith and praxis between the above and what follows in this edition could not be starker. The alternative equations are transparent. Orthodoxy = vocations : Modernism = liquidation. An elementary choice between spiritual life and death. How wicked (and terminal) is a local Church where not a solitary Shepherd prefers life?