The Great Distraction
The master of papal liturgical ceremonies, Msgr Guido Marini, recently stated that reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue is "destined to become the habitual practice at pontifical celebrations". This counter-cultural statement of intent has the arch-Liberal French press writhing and squealing like demons dunked in holy water. Bemoaning "the return of a more traditional liturgy" which risks undermining "40 years of accumulated [liberal] experience", Le Monde has forewarned its readership about the possible sight of prelates, clerics and laity receiving Communion in the traditional fashion, claiming it will "astonish" the whole country "during the September visit of Benedict XVI."
The liberal-Left are astute judges of the unique power of traditional Catholic liturgy and practice and its threat to their secular status quo. They comfortably co-exist with the New Mass, undisturbed by its horizontal theology and chameleon-like nature which they even utilise for their own nefarious ends. But they simply cannot live with the vertical theology and overt dogmatism of the Traditional Latin Mass. This unassailable Catholic fortress, along with the papacy, stands as a divine rebuke to the godless artifice they call 'modernity.' And so the TLM enrages them because they understand, materially if not salvifically, what is at stake.
Catholic neo-conservatives, on the other hand, still don't get it. Forty year on, with the death rattle of local Churches sounding everywhere, they continue their stubborn resistance to the serious promotion of the Old Mass as the sine qua non for a Catholic restoration and socio-cultural renaissance. This essay, essentially, is about that blindness: the endless pursuit of "renewal" without the organic liturgical engine required to achieve and sustain it. World Youth Day exemplifies the misplaced time, zeal, money and hope invested in this corrosive tail-chasing.
Road to Sydney
As this edition goes to press, WYD 2008 is finally kicking off in Sydney. For two years, the size and significance of this religious happening has been underlined by endless rehashing of statistics and logistics: anticipated 225,000 registered pilgrims; 100,000 international visitors from over 170 countries; recruitment of 8,000 volunteers, assignment of 4,000 police officers and attendance of 3,000 journalists and media organisations; 500,000 expected to attend the closing papal Mass (in their dreams!), requiring 35 giant video screens, over 60 lighting towers and 4,000 makeshift public toilets (no stats on the plumbing or sewage capacity - yet); predicted global viewing audience of 1 billion for the televised Stations of the Cross... and on and on, ad nauseam.
Recognising the humungous nature of the event (some delusional estimates notwithstanding), both Federal and State Governments rallied around: the former contributing $35 million in funding; the latter passing a special World Youth Day Act 2006, defined to cover the month of July 2008 and incorporating a WYD Coordination Authority with broad powers to override existing New South Wales traffic, environmental and planning legislation which might in any way interfere with the smooth running of the event.
Along with the visit of the Vicar of Christ himself, such eye-catching facts and measures (outstripping even those associated with Sydney's hosting of the 2000 Olympic Games!) have seen the Church Down Under experience its highest profile and biggest publicity surge since John Paul II took the country by storm in November 1986. Back then, riding the wave of interest generated by the papal tour, defenders of orthodoxy drew national attention to the withered state of this local member of Christ's Mystical Body, exposing those responsible for its doctrinal, moral and liturgical evisceration. Melbourne's John XXIII Co-operative, the nerve centre of Catholic counter-resistance tirelessly directed by Brian and Maureen Schaeffer, led the way. In particular, its landmark publication of Rome or The Bush: The Choice for Australian Catholics, detailed chapter and verse the systemic rebellion against Rome and the Faith of our Fathers. The present writer cut his crusading teeth on the subsequent media campaign which alerted countless thousands of Australian faithful to a suicidal Modernist agenda fuelled by episcopal complicity.
It was another twelve years before Pope John Paul effectively responded to the litany of shame first recorded in Rome or The Bush and later reinforced by its sequel New Church or True Church (1987), my own case study Death of a Catholic Parish (1992), endless complaints from the laity and various polls and surveys. Decrying the state of Australian Catholicism in a 1998 "Statement of Conclusions", the pontiff required the bishops personally to stamp out all tinkering with the Mass as well as the plague of General Absolution; to restore orthodox priestly formation and stop the clericalising of the laity and laicising of the clergy; to ensure liberals were neither employed in Catholic institutions as teachers or writers nor permitted to occupy any official position in which they might seem to represent the Church; and "not tolerate error in matters of doctrine and morals or Church discipline," mindful of the fact that "unity must never be at the expense of truth."
It goes without saying that most bishops ignored the Statement and went on their wicked way, until July 2005 when Pope Benedict himself, during an impromptu address to Italian clergy, finally designated Australia as one country in particular where the Church appeared "to be dying." A month later, at the conclusion of WYD 2005 in Cologne, the Holy Father formally announced Sydney as the next WYD venue. Did he view it as a last throw of the dice for the moribund Aussie Church?
Holding the line
For his part, Sydney's Cardinal Archbishop George Pell who lobbied to host WYD certainly understands that infidelity, ignorance and confusion are rife among Australian Catholics, young and old. The problem, however, is that he and so many prelates of goodwill persist in underestimating the full extent of the apostasy, since to admit the dire reality would bring down the entire postconciliar edifice and its centrepiece, the folksy liturgical facade that supplanted the Traditional Latin Mass in defiance of the Council Fathers and on which they have staked everything.
It was clear early on in his episcopal life that the Cardinal, for one, could only face so much factuality. While not entirely without sympathy for the suffering endured by the Melbourne faithful, he would still lambast those who drew his attention to regular moral, doctrinal and liturgical abuses occurring on his very doorstep. Viewed as nitpicking harbingers of doom rather than messengers sent by God to disturb his Gethsemane slumber, dutiful and polite complainants, many of them mothers dutifully seeking to protect their children from heterodoxy and heresy, were waved away, accused of "making mountains out of mole hills" or sent brutal ad hominem replies for their trouble.
This appalling attitude, involving flagrant toleration and/or robust support of dissident preaching, teachings, practices and writings, exhausted the patience and hopes of many. Fortunately, Australia's leading Catholic layman, Bob Santamaria, persevered and kept Pell close, drawing him into solid neo-conservative Melbourne circles. This surely saved him from heading down a Liberal cul-de-sac and bolstered, instead, the better orthodox angels of his nature. Thus emerged a flag-waving Vatican II neo-con whose sudden elevation as Archbishop of Melbourne shook the Modernist Australian hierarchy: akin to lobbing a grenade into the smug confines of a dissident episcopal club. Yet like many of the neo-con prelates of his generation, he still carried Liberal theological baggage [cf. "Debunking the Deconstructors," CO March 2002] and remained unwilling to face the apocalyptic truth about the Novus Ordo status quo he championed.
In early 1990, having interviewed Bishop Pell, journalist Greg Sheridan concluded in The Australian newspaper that the Catholic decline "is likely to continue" because Church leaders "do not want to face the harsh reality of the massive decline... [They] deny that the decline is really taking place [and] cite a list of excuses [for which] there is not a scrap of evidence."
The same clueless denial was evidenced when Pell wrote dismissively to a lay complainant: "The real enemy is outside the Church; the greater danger is unbelief rather than details of doctrinal understanding." Rampant Modernism, apparently, was a phantom.
Only last November this propensity surfaced once again in his reaction to yet another disturbing report on the paganisation of the local Church [The Spirit of Generation Y: Young People's Spirituality in a Changing Australia, 2007]. Addressing his flock he commented:
... While readily acknowledging [the] general confusion, I was still shocked and surprised by a number of items in the Generation Y report, especially by the data on belief in reincarnation i.e. that people had lived previous lives. Almost four times as many young Catholics (35%) as Anglicans (9%) believed in reincarnation and the Catholic figure was double the rate for other Christians (17%). It is not reassuring to be told that young Catholics are so much more superstitious than other young Christians!
The figures for belief in reincarnation are worse for Catholic baby boomers, i.e. those born after the Second World War (under 60s), with 41% of them believing this nonsense, while the 30-40 year old group [Generation X] have twice as many undecided as the Generation Y's [born 1981-95] and only three-fifths as many firmly opposed!!
Years ago I never dreamed that I would have to start a sermon on life after death by insisting that Christians do not and should not believe in reincarnation, which is not taught by Christ or the Church.
The real shock, of course, is that His Eminence is even remotely "shocked". For decades Australian Catholic schools have run syncretic RE courses which downplay and undermine the Faith, all the while extolling diabolic Eastern religions. In which case, the figures cited on belief in reincarnation are not only unsurprising but suprisingly low! That even a small fraction of Generation
X or Y Catholics have kept the Faith, whole and entire, owes everything to grace and precisely nothing to woeful Australian prelates and the seminaries, teacher-training colleges, schools, universities and parishes they have shaped in the image of Vatican II's anarchic "spirit" and the freewheeling liturgy it spawned.
The subtext of the Cardinal's nod to the latest alarming evidence, therefore, is the unchanging general line: the crisis is not a product of the dysfunctional Council and the Novus Ordo Missae but merely a "general confusion", even a "shocking" one, which will surely abate when Vatican II is fully implemented, the vernacular liturgy reverently celebrated and the New Springtime (led by New Movements like the cultish Neo-Cathecumenate) kicks in.
What Benedictine reform?
The only alternative to such wishful thinking, you see, is to admit that the postconciliar meltdown is indeed post-conciliar, and that a "dying" local Church can only be resuscitated by traditional root-and-branch reform, starting with promotion of the pre-conciliar TLM in seminaries and parishes everywhere. In fact, this is nothing less than the fundamental papal strategy announced by Cardinal Hoyos during his recent London visit, where he offered Pontifical High Mass in a packed to overflowing Westminster Cathedral on 14 June.
Asked whether the Traditional Latin Mass would be celebrated in many ordinary parishes in future, Cardinal Castrillon said: "Not many parishes - all parishes. The Holy Father is offering this not only for the few groups who demand it, but so that everybody knows this way of celebrating the Eucharist." This echoes his words of introduction on the recent instructional TLM video produced by the Fraternity of St Peter, where he describes the Old Mass as a "gift for all, it is not a gift merely for the so-called traditionalists. No, it is a gift for the whole Catholic Church." He goes on [emphases mine]:
[...] and then by the will of the Vicar of Christ, [priests] must accept the petitions and the requests of the faithful who want this Mass and must offer it to them. And even if it is not specifically asked for or requested they should make it available so that everyone has access to this treasure of the ancient liturgy of the Church.[...] The Holy Father wants this form of the Mass to become a normal one in the parishes so that in this way young communities can also become familiar with this rite.
It is easy to criticise Modernist prelates hostile to this Benedictine liturgical reform (the entire English hierarchy, for instance). But what about their neo-conservative brethren? Even bishops amenable to a genteel presence of tradition in their dioceses have yet to embrace the Old Mass (or the "Gregorian Rite" in the Holy Father's new coinage) as fundamental to the restoration of Catholicism as a dominant cultural force. Though sympathetic, they find that salvific notion untenable because the world has 'moved on' and the Church, in the 'spirit of Vatican II', has tailored herself and her worship accordingly.
Then-auxiliary Bishop Pell once opined along these defeatist lines to a group of Melbourne faithful, suggesting that if the Church attempted to 'turn back the clock' to a pre-Vatican II situation she would get herself into real "trouble". Hence, twenty years on, we find that "a specially bound volume of This Is The Mass is being prepared for presentation to the Pope" during WYD. "The 160-page coffee-table book ($40) features full-colour gloss photographs of Cardinal Pell celebrating the [Novus Ordo] in St Mary's Cathedral. The images are accompanied by a commentary prepared by the Liturgy Office of the archdiocese."[Catholic Weekly, 29/6/08]
In this way, WYD aims to uphold the status quo - presented not as corrosive but admirable; the solution rather than the problem. "There is a photo of a child and an adult receiving Communion, both receiving in the hand and standing of course," comments a Sydney reader. "Nor does the book convey any beauty associated with the Mass. Essentially, it is promoting Pell."
At the same time, while occasionally celebrating the Old Mass and lauding its virtues, the Cardinal keeps it at arms length: viewing it not as the primary and indispensable instrument of papal reform but merely one postconciliar option among many others ushering in the fanciful New Springtime. In other words, despite endgame levels of dissolution flagged by the likes of rising belief in reincarnation, even TLM-friendly prelates remain mired in that ruinous Vatican II purview which makes no distinction between the majestic "extraordinary" form of the Roman Rite and the exceedingly "ordinary" form in all its freestyle guises: workaday parish banalities, gnostical Neocat concoctions, Charismatic free-for-alls, inculturated extravaganzas featuring pagan rituals, World Youth shindigs mixing a little of everything, etc., etc..
At very best, the more generous neo-con mindset views the rock-solid TLM, organically developed under God over centuries, and the unstable Novus Ordo, bureaucratically contrived in half a dozen years under Masonic oversight, as simply part of a rich tapesty of liturgical tastes; spiritual and aesthetical 'horses for courses', neither one more advantageous or more injurious to the life of the Church than the other. (Never mind that the former inspired full seminaries, full convents, full churches, floods of converts and an instructed and vibrant laity, while the latter emptied the Church!)
All things being equal in the Cardinal's eyes, therefore, a quintessential Novus Ordo showpiece is the easiest option: an all-singing, all-dancing global youthfest of unbridled emotions and high spirits - Faith as Fun - which goes with the postconciliar flow, distracting attention from the very downward spiral of belief which continues to leave him "shocked and surprised". It plays to the worldlings, serving up the impressive stats, hype and hoopla they crave, while appealing to the worldly (Hinduised) spirit of the Catholic "baby boomers" and succeeding Generations X and Y.
In comparison, the hard graft of selling a solemn God-centred liturgy conveying seriously unwelcome notions of sacrifice, adoration, contemplation, and obeisance, is a non-starter: best consigned to the lip-service of token 'traditional communities', dotted here and there to keep up pluralistic appearances, and a small traditionalist presence at WYD in the form of Juventutem.
Yet surely it is Pope Benedict's counter-cultural liturgical programme rather than the populist WYD option which deserves centre stage, since the TLM best addresses the Cardinal's greatest fear: cultural absorption. "The long term danger," he told his flock while sermonising on the Generation Y report, "is that we are taken over by the majority culture, where the most active creative elements are often anti-religious."
Precisely. So how does bypassing the hard-sell of Catholic tradition help avoid this "danger"? Our tragic postconciliar history is testimony to the fact that nothing is as toxic to Catholic faith as the corrupting proximity of an anti-religious popular culture, at once seductive and aggressive. In which case, while (perhaps) forgiveable 30-40 years ago, seeking to coopt this culture to reach youth 'where they're at' today is suicidally wrongheaded. It simply perpetuates the spineless pandering to the "majority culture" and its cult of "youth" which sparked our demise in the first place.
Good, bad and ugly
This is not to downplay either the worth or allure of youthful exuberance. Indeed, it is hard to resist. The sight of young habited nuns materialising out of nowhere and treading the streets of a WYD venue for a few weeks is enough to enthuse even the most cynical trad observer! In that light, amidst the excitement it naturally generates, to raise such fundamental issues while calling the WYD experience into question is to invite astonishment and abuse; to appear like a glass-half-empty curmudgeon. And since the Church was already well and truly off the rails when WYD came along in 1984 it is hardly surprising that it has become something of a sacred cow; the embodiment of the New Pentecost, the great spiritual renewal, long promised and awaited. The reality behind the hype, however, is the usual postconciliar mix of good, bad and plain ugly, as a summary review of the Australian lead-up reveals.
All his anomalous positions above notwithstanding, the Cardinal clearly wishes to use WYD not only to rewaken the Faith in Australia but, according to one report, to "revive Catholic faith and practice anywhere in the world". A bold aspiration, since what transpires Down Under generally is of scant interest to the rest of the planet. And yet the Cardinal's optimism is understandable. WYD always conjures up glittering evangelical possibilities through a purposeful use of mammon and "the children of this world".
Like any other prestigious undertaking prefixed by "World" or "Global", WYD is viewed by public authorities as money in the bank due to the international goodwill and publicity generated by media coverage. Defending his Federal funding of the event, then Prime Minister John Howard said: "World Youth Day will be a great opportunity to showcase Sydney, Australia, and the youth of our country to the world." While last March, Australia Post issued three new stamps bearing the image of Pope Benedict in recognition of WYD as "a huge global gathering [which] aims to promote the building of friendships across the world, and the nurturing of hope amongst all people, denominations and cultures."
Maintaining the momentum fuelled by this secular support over the past two years, coordinating Bishop Anthony Fisher has overseen events, activities and programmes (online newsletter, promotional DVD, interractive techno-gadgetry, youth leadership courses, school curriculum materials, etc.) all worthily aimed at engaging Australian youngsters "with their religion" in preparation for the mid-July extravaganza.
This educative effort, in turn, built on the general enthusiasm in evidence since the July 2007 arrival of the 3.8 metre WYD Cross, which John Paul II gave the youth of the world in 1984 to be carried as a symbol of Christ's love for humanity, and the accompanying 15kg Icon portraying Jesus and Mary, a copy of the ancient painting Salus Populi Romani.
Among the hundreds at Sydney airport who welcomed the Cross along with the Prime Minister was disgraced NSW State Premier Morris Iemma, one of many alleged "Catholic" MPs who have supported embryo experimentation and publicly mocked and/or defied episcopal warnings about eternal salvation and sacrilegious Communions. In the first of many of the contradictory and mixed messages now synonomous with WYDs, the video showed Iemma welcoming the cross as a time of great "joy" (heedless of the embryonic lives he has written off with a murderous stroke of his pen).
From Sydney the Cross began its twelve month pilgrimage to more than 400 communities nationwide, accompanied by an Aboriginal "message stick" inviting indigenous Australians to become World Youth Day pilgrims. In the present degraded state of the local Church, one can imagine the uneven results of this national procession. It ranged from many reverent handovers of the Cross from one diocese to the next, as in the case of the Canberra-Goulburn and Wagga Wagga which a friend described as "moving", to this telling and perhaps more indicative episode recounted by a subscriber from a provincial city in Victoria:
His Lordship Bishop Grech was main celebrant at our 'WYD Jambouree Mass' which took place on the back of a truck on a sports oval. The aboriginal "message stick" was present too. All other Masses in Wangaratta were cancelled for that weekend to 'force' a crowd! The photo in the local paper showed a row of elderly people making their way up for Holy Communion (poor things): so much for Youth !?
Nonetheless, efforts to make the pilgrimage meaningful were not lacking. The Blessed Mary MacKillop Outreach centre strove to meet a production target of 500,000 mini-wooden crosses to be handed out en route as the WYD Cross traversed the country. "The whole process is helping people to understand what the whole event is all about," said one of the workers. "It's a powerful witness to what the cross stands for: the cross is about transformation and resurrection."
This unwittingly slippery assertion, however, encapsulates the WYD phenomenon: it sounds Catholic but lacks precision and conviction. In other words, the phrase could mean anything to anyone, since "transformation" is not necessarily "conversion" to Christ and His Holy Catholic Church ("the pillar and ground of the truth" 1Tim 3) - the preeminent purpose for which Our Lord suffered and died. Nor is this reading too much into things, since the dreaded "c" word was officially removed from the WYD agenda! An August 2007 Sydney Morning Herald report stated that "The Catholic Church has given a commitment that it will not try to convert members of other religious denominations taking part in inter-faith forums and volunteering facilities".
This craven attitude flies in the face of Pope Benedict's May 2007 exhortation to the youth of Brazil to actively seek out converts! "You are the youth of the Church. I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd. Be apostles of youth. Invite them to walk with you, to have the same experience of faith, hope, and love; to encounter Jesus so that they... too discover the sure ways of the Commandments, and, by following them, come to God."
The Holy Father surely had in mind the likes of Thanachart Tresaksirsakul, a Buddhist youth attending a Thai Catholic school who took part in the July 2006 inter-religious Asian Youth Day in Hong Kong. "My family is Buddhist, my parents take me and my sister to the temple every weekend," he said. "When I was elected chairman of the YCS, my father immediately warned me: 'Be careful, they want to convert you to Catholicism'. I want to become Catholic and I would like to study catechism at school. I think that this would help me to live a better life in every way."
In Sydney, the obligation to offer this opportunity to all Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Protestant and atheistic souls thirsting for "a better (Catholic) life" was surrendered to ecumenical goodwill. After a briefing session on WYD by Church authorities, Muslim leaders understood the event merely as an opportunity to "break down barriers" between the two faiths. On that basis and clearly relieved that Mohammed would not face unflattering and unwinnable comparisons with the Divine founder of the Catholic Church, they then proposed to open their doors to inter-faith forums, their school halls for boarding and even to invite Catholics to Friday prayers. "There is not inherently that much difference between Islam and Christianity," declared the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, "and this is an opportunity to educate the general community and Christian faith."
Thus, far from converting anyone, WYD becomes an opportunity for the Islamic 'education' of uncatechised Catholics! And these ignorant Catholic souls are not only partial to reincarnation but suckers for the absurd claim that "there is not much difference between Islam and Christianity," since we may safely assume they are unfamiliar with Our Lord's condemnation of false religions: "You claim to have God for your Father but you do not recognize Me and I am the image of the Father. No, your god is the devil, because truth is not in him." If that held true for the Jews He rebuked, how decidedly true for the Muslims.
More recent papal remarks further highlight this WYD 'deficit'. During his US visit Pope Benedict told a Muslim audience in Washington that interreligious dialogue "aims at something more than a consensus for advancing peace." The greater objective of dialogue is "to discover the truth" and, therefore, "Christianity proposes Jesus of Nazareth" as the answer to the "deeper questions concerning the origin and destiny of mankind. It is He whom we bring to the forum of interreligious dialogue."
Jesus, of course, is regularly referenced at WYD. However, by downplaying Catholicity in favour of ecumenicity (Australian PM John Howard typically viewed it as a generic event "for all who profess the Christian faith and the Christian belief") the voice of the Church Militant and its "one true Church" evangelism is gagged, in case someone screams "Proselytism!" and spoils the party.
It is not possible to overstate the devastating universal impact of such false ecumenism and the resulting indifference to saving souls by bringing as many as possible into the safe harbour of Holy Mother Church. Last March, L'Osservatore Romano reported that there are now more Muslims in the world than Catholics. Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, the compiler of the Vatican Yearbook, said, "For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top. The Muslims have overtaken us." According to Msgr. Formenti's statistics, Catholics accounted for 17.4 per cent of the world population, while Muslims were at 19.2 per cent. More worryingly still, while the number of (contracepting) Catholics has merely held steady for some years, the number of (non-contracepting) Muslims is growing rapidly.
Thus, the Sydney preference for putting on a 'show' rather than actively seeking converts is yet another contradictory and damaging aspect of an event hyped as a Spirit-filled gateway to Catholic discipleship. Above all, it is a missed opportunity to embrace Our Lord's exhortation to "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." [Mk 16:15-16] This singular lack of urgency abandons the evangelical arena to alluring syncretic voices preaching tolerance, dialogue and cooperation in the pursuit of humanitarian objectives - all at the expense of Catholic truth. Like Muslim Eboo Patel, founding director of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago and an advisor to Tony Blair's Faith Foundation, who recently said: "The worst mistake would be to think that the fault line of the 21st century runs between Christians and Muslims, or between theists and secularists. It's between pluralists [read: relativists] and totalitarians [read: Catholic dogmatists]."
The softly-softly WYD approach which simply mirrors the syncretic Taizé, feeds rather than challenges this diabolic social gospel. The feeble mentality is also manifest in the Cardinal's decision to tamper with the Stations of the Cross.
Scheduled to start in the presence of Pope Benedict at St Mary's Cathedral and pass through prominent city landmarks like the Opera House, before finishing with the crucifixion near Sydney harbour, the pretext for scrapping six of the traditional fourteen stations not specifically referenced in the New Testament was to encourage the widest participation by non-Catholics.
While in accord with guidelines on the staging of the Via Crucis approved by John Paul II, which in recent years have produced some controversial concoctions during Holy Week in Rome, even one ardent Pell supporter and WYD enthusiast lamented: "I must confess I am disappointed with this, as I believe these plans in particular may obscure the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the redemption of mankind, an important aspect of Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ. (One of the omitted stations is the fourth one, Jesus meets His Mother. In 1964 Pope Paul VI, during Vatican II gave Our Lady the title, Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church, to which she gave birth on Calvary). The movie was such a hit among evangelical Christians, and I don't understand why we must always compromise our Catholicity. It is this kind of attitude over the last 40 years (by seeking to minimize our differences with other Christians) that has produced empty churches, empty seminaries, and empty religious houses, and so many converts to other religious groupings."
It is especially perverse because the Cardinal appreciates and preaches on the pre-eminence of Mary in Catholic tradition. And yet it is perfectly consistent with his apparent belief that our ancient liturgical tradition, while meritorious and worthy of a walk-on part in the WYD gala, lacks the appeal and dynamism necessary to engage modern sensibilities on a broad scale. But a Church which constantly re-jigs, re-invents and sidelines such time-honoured piety and practice in the name of 'renewal' and 'adaption' and 'ecumenism' is clearly not comfortable in its own skin. It reveals a crisis of confidence in the power of the Church to attract souls simply by being Herself. It manifests a "Catholic cringe"; a sort of ongoing apology for our counter-cultural identity and a puppy-like eagerness to meet the worldlings and non-Catholics on their own terms, as if to say: 'Look! We're just like you!'
Such lack of conviction is foreign to the sects, cults and fundamentalist Christian communities. We can be sure that if the Mormons, the Jehovahs or the Evangelical Protestants had spent two years preparing for their own WYD, batallions of youthful evangelists would be unleashed onto the streets to convert us! Nor would they water down any aspect of their false beliefs or practices to make their pitch more palatable to city sophisticates, Bondi surfies or anyone else.
We can be just as certain, too, that their contagious confidence would yield results, as it has done ever since the ecumenically-induced "Catholic cringe" descended on the postconciliar Church. Again, the statistics tell the story, revealing that the salvific damage is not limited to the Muslim expansion cited above. Worldwide, Catholics now account for only just over half of all people calling themselves "Christians", which shows the failure of the Church to counter the inroads of Protestant sects, particularly in Latin America. Consider the National Council of Churches' 2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, which lists the two fastest-growing "churches" in the United States and Canada over the last year as the Jehovah's Witnesses (2.25% growth) and the Mormons (1.56%). The Catholic Church increased by just 0.87%, and even that tiny growth was due largely to immigration.
Despite these familiar criticisms, WYD continues to masquerade as part of the solution to this ongoing history of decline, as if triennial displays of youthful enthusiasm will eventually set things right. And certainly, on the surface, as already indicated, there is much to commend in the Sydney effort.
As the WYD Cross was being passed around the country, for instance, the Australian faithful were also uplifted by the relics of the young Passionists - St Gemma Galgani, St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows and St Maria Goretti - which were venerated in cathedrals, churches and chapels on their journey through several states, to finish with 12 hours veneration daily during WYD week in Sydney. (Sadly, the Australian Passionists themselves lost the Catholic plot many years ago.)
Meanwhile, in a world first, permission was obtained from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to allow the incorrupt body of Pier Giorgio Frassati OP (1901-1925), beatified in 1990 and a role model for youth, to be flown to Sydney for display in St Mary's Cathedral during the World Youth Day period.
In May, the rising expectation also saw Cardinal Pell lead a larger than usual Eucharistic procession of thousands through the streets of Sydney, the sodomite capital of Australia, the sight of which was enough to make any red-blooded Catholic jump for joy.
For every positive, however, there was a negative to cancel it out or a red flag to indicate all was not what it seemed; that the vibrant surface was a very thin veneer indeed.
Take the media campaign calling lapsed Catholics back to the Faith which saw prominent Catholic Australians named as "Ambassadors for WYD." Being Australia, sportsmen were to the fore, including Test cricketer Matthew Hayden. Witnessing on one video presentation, Hayden spoke of his weekly Mass attendance and about the Catholic faith as a challenge. Sadly, he went on to advise viewers to "follow your intuition" and "follow your conscience". Hailing from Queensland, a Modernist wasteland, these phrases betray the subjectivised nature of the 'faith' in which Hayden was certainly instructed and raised. Accordingly, he mentioned the importance of being raised in a "religious home", rather than a specifically Catholic one, thereby implying, consciously or not, that one religion is as good as another.
Although eye-catching to a celebrity-obsessed age, the campaign was not a good advertisement for the one true Faith but, rather, in perfect keeping with the ecumenical dumbing-down we have observed. It was in that spiritually non-descript vein that the Cardinal praised Hayden and the other prominent Australians he had gathered as "impressive role models" and "ideal choices as the faces of this international celebration." Role models for a "celebration", perhaps. But generations raised in ignorance of Catholicism can hardly act as credible "Ambassadors" for their religion. They merely trumpet the Protestanised ruins to which lapsed Catholics are being urged to return.
As mentioned, WYD educative initiatives and programmes have sought to address this dire predicament. Last year, Melbourne Bishop Peter Elliott stated: "In Australia we need to strengthen the Church by concentrating on two points: formation of priests and promoting vocations, and a radical revision of religious education and catechesis. Formation and education, these are the keys to family ministry, to parish revitalization, and will be evident at World Youth Day in Sydney."
In fact, WYD events are to include morning catecheses at 300 locations throughout the city and a Youth Festival which will include a large Vocations Expo. This is commendable. And yet it is very limited in what it can achieve considering the heavy baggage young pilgrims will carry with them.
The extent of the problem was glimpsed during a television programme showing the WYD Cross and Icon being enthusiastically welcomed by a school with an apparently strong Eucharistic devotion. In due course, however, the principal proceeded to query the Church's discipline on a celibate clergy and its teaching on a male only priesthood, as well as proclaiming that it was possible to be a good Catholic while deliberately avoiding your Sunday Mass obligation. "It was this kind of rhetoric when I went to Catholic college in the late 1970s that contributed to so many of my schoolmates losing their faith", commented one dismayed WYD supporter. "And now we have such a serious crisis of infidelity. Some of them are now raising families, and pay scant attention to spiritual matters."
Like Matthew Hayden's tell-tale "follow your intuition" dictum, the principal's dissident statements rammed home the deep-rooted corruption behind all the excitement and glitz. It is said that Cardinal Pell is planning to have all his teachers take the "Oath of Fidelity". Good news. But will it mean closing schools for lack of faithful men and women? Don't count on it.
Contradiction and hypocrisy
Against this background, impressing orthodoxy on young pilgrims 'on the run', as it were, would be hard enough at the best of times and under the best conditions. However, to teach Catholic kids anything at all or to reach out to them vocationally amidst the party atmosphere of a massive youth festival in Sydney (Party Central!) is problematic, to say the least. It is in this sense - WYD-as-Catholic Woodstock - that the event proves to be its own worst enemy, cancelling out any good it does, as demonstrated repeatedly in past years and recounted in shocking detail by John Vennari and Cornelia Ferreira in World Youth Day: From Catholicism to Counterchurch [CO, Oct. 2005].
Given the immodest and scandalously louche attire which normally prevails, will the morning catechetical sessions to be conducted by such orthodox prelates as Peter Elliott and Geoff Jarrett, for instance, dare to preach purity and modesty to the pilgrims through the example of St Maria Goretti and the severe yet youthful counsel of Blessed Jacinta of Fatima and St Dominic Savio? Or will that be dismissed as "unrealistic" and "démodé"?
And if indeed such lessons are given, how will the young pilgrims square them with the mixed sleeping arrangements and threadbare supervision they endure at various schools? Or the shambolic and immodest showering arrangements? Or with being handed condoms by teachers (furtively discussed in some teaching circles)? Or with immoral behaviour they are likely to witness at the "Sleepout Under the Stars" free-for-all which features at all WYDs in the lead up to the final Sunday morning papal Mass?
In other words, between attending catechetical sessions and the veneration of relics, pilgrims will encounter contradiction and hypocrisy at every turn. Moreover, this started at the very beginning with the selection of a pro-homosexual pop star as the musical face of WYD. This was particularly disappointing because Bishop Fisher had seen the Vennari-Ferreira book and was acquainted with its alarming contents which detailed the myriad scandals, sacrileges and blasphemies which have marked WYD since its inception. And yet the first thing he did was endorse "Receive the Power" as the official WYD anthem, composed and sung by Guy Sebastian - who, the Bishop said, "knew we needed a song that would inspire the young people of the world to take up Christ's challenge to go to the ends of the earth and be His witness."
He had barely uttered these words when it transpired that Sebastian's brand of Christian witness was of the extreme Blairite variety. In an October 2006 interview, asked if homosexuality clashed with his beliefs, he replied: "That's the sad side of Christianity. That's not how it's meant to be. I've been to gay clubs heaps of times. That's the old fundamentalist way of thinking that's unfortunately spread through all these generations. They miss the whole point of Christianity which is love. God loves people whether they are black, white, gay, straight, bisexual, whatever. As a Christian, we're [sic] never going to get close to being sinless or perfect, and I'm no better than anyone else on this earth, but our No. 1 goal is to be as loving as we can."
When asked if he was against gay marriage, Sebastian responded, "I'm not really anti anything. If you're a gay couple, why not? I don't really have a stance because I don't know what it's like to be told you're not allowed to marry somebody. That doesn't seem fair to me."
Given Sebastian's major WYD profile what message does all that send to the Catholic youth Fisher and Pell are so keen to catechise? In sum: it legitimises and reinforces the relentless hedonistic/relativistic propaganda of the day; it makes a mockery of Catholic teaching while sanctioning the corrupt catechetics they are fed at school; it undermines any latent resolve to be counter-cultural witnesses living the Faith without compromise.
Worst of all, it undermines respect for ecclesial authority itself, since neither the Bishop, the Cardinal nor the Vatican (which endorsed Fisher's choice) were sufficiently bothered by Sebastian's comments to terminate his involvement. Instead, he will perform at WYD as scheduled and be feted by one and all.
Before such human respect, cowardice and capitulation, lamentations about the prevailing paganism sound very hollow indeed. "The secularizing process, and a kind of ideology of secularism, has made great inroads into our families, and into the lives of individuals," Bishop Elliott opined in 2007, an unwitting allusion to his brethren furthering those inroads via the Sebastian scandal. "But that is just the kind of challenge we have had to face, in other pagan forms, in other societies in the past," he concluded. In today's society, however, WYD effectively compounds rather than challenges those "pagan forms". As John Vennari put it: "The approval of a theme song written by a pro-homosexual rock star is yet another indication of what we have said for years: that World Youth Day promotes a counterfeit religion foreign to Catholicism. It is first and foremost a celebration of the pagan pop culture with a thin Christian veneer."
Vennari is right. Being less respectful of solemn Catholic tradition and more enamoured of pop-culture, WYD not only legitimises but helps perpetuate the celebration of that corrosive culture in countless mini-youth fests around the globe, thereby magnifying its regressive effect on Catholic life.
Cardinal Pell has rightly pointed out the herd mentality of many Australians when it comes to the man-made global warming con. Yet there is also something herd-like about the WYD circus and its local spin-offs still genuflecting before the 60s cult of "youth". This cult has already infantilised three generations and accounts not only for the high median age of WYD pilgrims, where thirty-five-year-olds can pass for "youth", but also the infantile tripe served up as "faith education" in general.
Typical of this was a recent parish "mission" given at Good Shepherd parish in Alexandria, Virginia, by Jason and Kim Kotecki, the theme of which might have been: "Escape Adulthood with Kim and Jason." Instead of sin, the "enemy" according to the two is "adultitis." On a promotional video for the "mission", Jason, a cartoonist who pens a cartoon "Kim and Jason" about two little kids and their outlook on life, gives a humourous talk to the laughing audience. "You might have adultitis," he says, "if you think your cell phone is a body part." What he wants is to remind people that it's okay to smile and have fun. They will be successful if people leave and "have lives that are more fun". Several years ago, in the same fatuous vein, while explaining to a reporter his priestly raison d'être vis-à-vis his parishioners, one of Cardinal Pell's own clergy, Fr Paul Foley, effectively substituted a smiley-face symbol for the Cross. "If I can send them out of Mass smiling," he said, "then I'm in front." In other words, Faith as Fun, the unofficial slogan of WYD, has come to override the apparently boring adult business of living holier lives in accordance with God's will.
Forty years of Catholic pandering to "youth" on their own terms has entrenched this puerile mindset. In 2007, England's annual Brightlights Festival sported a cringeing theme which might have been taken from the dustjacket of any 1960s rock album or hippy flyer: "BORN TO BE. So BE bovvered, BE holy, BE blatant, BE free, BE loved, but above all BE YOU!" The juvenile hype continued: "We're really excited that Matt Maher will be coming all the way from America to lead us in prayer and worship. Crossbeam, YFriday and Indecisive will also be rockin' the airwaves. Plus all the other things that make Brightlights, well, Brightlights: BBQ, prayer, Hog Roast, praise and worship, the field, big Masses …."
We might thank God that less than 1,000 attend this weekend "fun filled opportunity to hang out with other young people, listen to amazing speakers, hear great music and eat good food." But that is still one thousand clueless ears open to the propagandising of liberal prelates and serial dissidents and heretics who drop in for the weekend to preach their naturalistic social gospel and wash notions of natural law and Catholic submission and obedience from young, and not-so-young, minds and souls.
Beyond lay 'faith educators' and festivals, even more indicative of the WYD knock-on effect is a description of a New Year's Eve "dream party" in Lourdes. "A nun and a priest dance in the Discotheque of God at Lourdes, seeing in the new year, 31 December 2006," read the French (AFP) report. One thousand people from around France, the Antilles and Spain danced with them, to the sounds of American missionary pop-rock group Exo. Also among the revellers grooving in the disco lights bouncing off the facade of L'Espace Sainte Bernadette was an 87-year-old member of the Community of Mary Immaculate, who was given a ticket by the Superior of her congregation. Sandwiched somewhere between the riffs and gyrations was a Mass at the Massabielle grotto.
As local Churches like England, France and Australia continue their speedy decline, this sort of sacrilegious activity endures. It all speaks volumes for the juvenile ditch into which "diabolically disoriented" hierarchies have led the faithful. Not least in respect of the rock music which animates such events, albeit often thinly disguised as "Christian rock". In his previous role as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Father condemned rock music in the strongest possible terms, to be "excluded from the Church in principle" because it is "the decisive vehicle of a counter-religion."
By extension, therefore, the Vennari-Ferreira thesis - WYD as a vehicle of that same pop-rock culture and thus a conduit for the "Counterchurch" prophesied by Blessed AnneCatherine Emmerich - cannot be shrugged off. And I think it is safe to say, without exaggerating anything, that when we have reached the surreal point of an octagenarian nun jivin' and rockin' at a disco at one of our holiest Marian shrines, at the direction of her Mother Superior, it is way past time to take serious stock, and drastic action - with only one sensible outcome.
Any fair-dinkum assessment would conclude that WYD, at best, is a well-intentioned but futile band-aid treatment for young Catholics wounded by Modernism; at worst, an advertisement for the universal corruption it ostensibly aims to address.
The only prudent and proper course, then, would be to end it.
I concluded my October 2005 review of World Youth Day: From Catholicism to Counterchurch with a vain plea for our newly elected pontiff to do just that: to bring to a close this failed and ruinous roadshow initiated and maintained by his predecessor. In one stroke, a final WYLD (World Youth Liberation Day) would have put an end to the tiresome hype and all the compromises, scandals, mixed-messages, duplicity and infantilisation, while freeing up colossal amounts of time, effort and money for local root and branch reforms.
Now, make no mistake, the Holy Father has shown admirable resolution and leadership in highly controversial matters, most notably the issuing of Summorum Pontificum but also in re-opening files to investigate and remove clerical perverts like Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado and Fr Gino Burresi. Yet he could not bring himself to shut down WYD. Why?
Perhaps the answer lies in sheer desperation. No matter how manifestly useless WYD has been as a means of revitalising the Faith in any deep and lasting way in the various host countries, the sight of several hundred thousand young and 'youngish' Catholics gathered together is a beguiling sight for popes and prelates desperate for any sign of Catholic life in a moribund Church. The Neocatechumenate were masters of exploiting John Paul II's weakness in this regard, parading a multitude of young Neocats before him at every opportunity. When the corporate mentality kicks in and the figures suddenly escalate, if only momentarily, it is easy to fool yourself that things are on the up.
Cardinal Pell himself has form in this regard. Several years ago, during a discussion with a friend about his Sydney youth programme which the young man found inadequate on several fronts, not least its neglect of the traditional in favour of the charismatic, His Eminence stated: "Well, it gets the numbers." This response was perfectly consistent - with both his dismissive view of tradition and courting of the ultra-charismatic Neo-Cats - but it was also patently untrue! Apparently, viewed through an episcopal lens, the pathetic few souls the programme did attract were seen as substantial against the desolate Sydney backdrop he inherited in 2001.
And so WYD was just too big a temptation for the Cardinal. Personally feted by the Prime Minister for heading a logistical operation of Olympic proportions, the Church on the front pages ... it was heady stuff. It always is. "It gets the numbers". Well, for a week, anyway. And in a barren postconciliar landscape that is an irresistable proposition. But what then?
To that key question, Cardinal Pell provides a quintessentially postconciliar response, pointing to his shiny new Pastoral Plan launched at St Mary's Cathedral last November: Starting a Fresh with Christ: 2008-2011 Mission, Priorities, Goals and Strategies, produced by his Archdiocesan Renewal Planning Committee.
As a measure of the judgement and wisdom of this Committee, it includes a lay female member who makes a living out of taking young Australians to Medjugorje, supremely confident that "the experience will rejuvenate their faith". In fact, the phenomenon is condemned by the local ordinary and considered "absolutely diabolical" by Bishop Andrea Gemma, a renowned Italian exorcist who expects Rome to move against the fraud soon [see interview in this edition]. Her involvement instills about as much confidence in the substance and direction of the plan as the Cardinal's own enthusiasm for the Neo-Catechumenate, whose heresies and bizarre DIY 'liturgies' we have documented chapter and verse (not appreciated by His Eminence!). We might therefore doubt the purported ability of Starting a Fresh with Christ to "renew and revitalise" the "life and mission" of the archdiocese, providing "a fresh start" and allowing it to "move forward".
It all sounds very familiar: a pastiche of the corporate soundbites which have hyped every other failed pastoral plan churned out worldwide since 1965. And like all those other 'blueprints', this one is also devoid of any traditional emphasis. No mention of the introduction of Rosary novenas and 40 Hours Adoration in the parishes and all that sort of bothersome preconciliar piety. As for the reforming Summorum Pontificum, nary a word.
The Cardinal assures us that WYD is integral to his Plan. As with WYD, therefore, the Old Mass - the heavenly embodiment of Catholic faith and tradition - is tangential rather than central to the proposed "renewal". Just as the TLM will remain a fleeting angelic presence among the young pilgrims from 15-20 July - allowed a walk-on part, including the Cardinal's own gracious conduct of traditional vespers for Juventutem - it will be denied centre stage billing.
Thus, the Pastoral Plan will ultimately fail for precisely the same reason that WYD will not bear the enduring Catholic fruit we would all like to see; remaining just one more neo-con attempt to solve the crisis without the primary vehicle and bulwark of Catholic tradition as its supernatural epicentre. It's not rocket science. After 40 years of Novus Ordo-led decline it does not take an advanced degree to figure out why all the "fresh starts" have gone stale. But it does require guts: involving plans which now put Summorum Pontificum and unadulterated tradition at the heart of any diocesan "renewal", and a subsequent willingness to take the vicious Modernist response on the chin and to keep thrusting it out for more of the same.
Competing and contradictory liturgies
As one who prays ardently for the restoration of the Church in his beloved Australian homeland I would gladly be proved utterly wrong and clueless about all of this. Should WYD provide any impetus at all towards the vaunted New Pentecost it is supposed to usher in - if it helps in any way to loosen the Modernist stranglehold on the Great Southern Land - nobody will cheer more loudly than I.
Alas, for the reasons outlined herein, it will not happen. Since without a liberating Damascene conversion to tradition, Cardinal Pell and his neo-con brethren are stuck in the postconciliar rut; willing victims of a Novus Ordo Church which Cardinal Hoyos privately described during his recent London visit as "chaotic." And it is chaotic because it is hostage to an unstable liturgy informed by a shallow theology unable to effect the kind of deep-rooted transformation required to power and sustain spiritual and structural reforms. Hoyos himself candidly, if unwittingly, suggested as much in an interview following FSSP ordinations in Nebraska last May.
The Old Mass is vertical, he said, an ascending worship of God, and is therefore focused on sacrifice. "It means that mystery that God is made Man, and, a human being and God in the same moment, the person of the Eternal Verbum (Word). And the sacrifice is possible because He is a man. God cannot suffer. So this is a high theological consideration." The "sacred silence" and contemplation of the ancient rite, he explained, "makes present the Lord Jesus in an expression of rich liturgical beauty, as the conqueror of death and sin… this rite brought unity to the faith and became the single expression through which the Church adores God."
The New, on the other hand, "is the new People of God who gather together as a family, and they make in the supper a convivial form. Its more convivial, the new one, and this is very good theologically-speaking... But the contemplation, the adoration, in the old one is a factor of sanctity. That's why we cannot (pedagogically compare) the two Rites."
In sum, mere conviviality is the basic horizontal characteristic of the New, versus sacrifice, contemplation, and adoration in the Old. Cardinal Hoyos readily accepts this dire contradiction as a normative and now permanent situation. Post-Summorum, what else can he do? But it does mean (at least until natural selection takes its traditional course) that the vast majority of Novus Ordo Catholics - practitioners of the "ordinary" form of the Roman Rite - are lumbered with a spirituality and worship virtually drained of the qualities of contemplation, adoration, and sacrifice! Which includes the vast majority of pilgrims at WYD.
One hopes against hope that the globally televised papal Mass will at least feature the reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue, as papal liturgist Msgr Marini has indicated. Yet while sure to incorporate some traditional elements, on that and other scores it looks like horizontalist business as usual.
For starters, the Australian bishops have recently mandated a "bow" rather than kneeling as the new posture for receiving Communion. A glossy flyer promoting the "bow"(which rapidly becomes a 'nod', then a 'twitch' , then nothing at all) does not mention the fact that people retain the right to kneel or genuflect. A few bishops have subsequently clarified this right but Cardinal Pell, though privately supportive, has not done so publicly. As a result, and not for the first time, some Sydney priests are already bullying people into bowing against their will.
Nor do local Catholic media reports inspire much confidence. "The sanctuary [at Randwick Racecourse] is taking shape very quickly," gushed one. "Soon, they will start applying the iconic Australian design elements such as Marjorie's Bird - an indigenous painting depicting the Holy Spirit by Tiwi Islander artist Marjorie Liddy." Terrific. Just what we need - more postconciliar "relevance" and "inculturation" of the kind synonmous with this venue, which in 1995 hosted the infamous Beatification Mass for Mother Mary McKillop featuring an Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony.
And as for a traditionally positioned altar, the very notion is just plain embarrassing. Consider this account from a friend who met with Cardinal Pell, Bishop Fisher and other government officials in 2005, shortly after Benedict's election, to discuss WYD and arrangements for the papal Mass: "Pell had gone off to speak privately with my boss. The rest of us were talking about where the Mass would be held and where the altar would be and so on and they must have talked about the altar being at the east end of the concourse or something, and whether people would be able to see him and all that. I lightly said maybe the Holy Father MIGHT actually want to face East? Ooh, they were funny faces they pulled. Tight smiles. Nervous laughs. Fisher knew me, the bureaucrats didn't, and none knew what to say."
That just about sums it up. Short of lip-service, when it comes to the Holy Father's thumbs-up-and-full-steam-ahead for the Old Mass, its dogmatic "vertical" theology and the pious practices and devotions which reflect and reinforce it, nobody at the top knows what to say or do. Rather than speaking up for Summorum Pontificum and taking on board its papal programme for rescuing "dying" outposts of the universal Church, neo-conservative bishops behave like rabbits frozen in the headlights of an oncoming lorry, paralysed by postconciliar events, fads and fashions; stubbornly refusing to confront the impending meltdown and the radical solution the Pope has afforded them.
In the end, Cardinal Pell's decision to buy in to the WYD franchise and the corrosive pop-culture it slavishly apes is emblematic of that paralysis and consequent desperation for a show of youthful "numbers" to mask the unspeakable reality, which continues to "shock" him.
It all reminds one of those ostentatious displays of military hardware in Red Square, with Russia parading its power when everyone knew the country was rotting within. How long will it take the Western hierarchies to understand that a new era has arrived with the publication of Summorum Pontificum and that the WYD Woodstock Extravaganza, like the Cold War, is 'so last century'; a monumental distraction from the urgent, widespread TLM evangelism needed to revive local Churches, Catholicise the Third Millennium and establish the Social Kingship of Christ.