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October 1988

 

Friends have described RENEW as "a great night out, a good chance for a cuppa and a chat"; is it no more than that? Others tell of a parish where the weekly income has dropped by $1,000 dollars. Why did that happen? The Committee on Doctrine of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (U.S.A.) published its findings on RENEW after an examination of the U.S. material and after dialogue with American bishops who had experienced RENEW.

The U.S. Committee on Doctrine said that in RENEW, basic Christian themes were not related sufficiently to Roman Catholic tradition and practice - to what is distinctly Catholic in our Faith - and further that RENEW "does not indicate the teaching of the Church that gives meaning to the living tradition which forms the basis for authentic Catholic renewal" and warned that "we must be concerned about what" RENEW "teaches by exclusion as well as by inclusion."

We are grateful to Fr. Fitzpatrick of Quorn, South Australia, for this careful and gentle study of the RENEW PROCESS that bas been imported from the U.S.A.

RENEW and You

FR A. T. FITZPATRICK

I must admit that, as I believe in the supernatural and in a revealed Faith that has to be taught and defended, I feel frustrated at times when I do not seem to be able to get through to people just what this psychological gimmickry is all about. It is being substituted for holiness; for true renewal found by sorrow for sin, a good Confession, a resolution to do God's will in spite of my feelings and experiences, a greater appreciation of the wonder of my Faith known more and more, a greater actual participation in my, or rather Christís, sacrifice at Mass, my realisation that I have to deny myseif, take up my cross and follow Him, and love God with my whole self first and then my neighbour as myself. It is being substituted for greater prayer life in both vocal prayer and contemplation (which for many is through the Rosary), as well as the reading of Scripture and pious books, the lives of the Saints, visits to the Blessed Sacrament as I believe Christ is really present, the Risen Lord.

So much to do and none of it can be substituted for by psychological gimmicks. Christ has left us the way to holiness in the Church. The "experts" are so busy trying to supplant His wa with something else … sociological conditioning. They are of course on the natural tack because so many of them do not believe in the supernatural. They are secular humanists claiming to be Catholics; and dragging others down to their lack of faith.

Too many people cannot see the dangers of substituting psychological techniques for religions formation. In RENEW we are told: "Say whatever you like because it will be right just because you've said it". And members are told to support each other no matter what is said and not to contradict each other or act as parish "soapbox theologians". Everything is said to be "based on their own experiences and feelings".

1. Non-contradiction leads to agnosticism and relativism. It is as if "I like vanilla icecream, you like strawberry, so what" is made equivalent to "I think abortion is a great evil and a serious sin, you don't, so what". We Catholics have a revealed taught faith and morality which we must hold to - and know - and have an apologetic for.

2. Narcissism ... belly-button gazing . . . infatuation with one's own "experiences and feelings" can lead to the rejection of external law and truth. "I am my own master, l'm a mature Catholic who makes up my own mind about things". They tell them to do so. The Pope has warned us that dissent in moral matters could prevent us receiving the sacraments. (See his talk to the American hierarchy.)

3. Therapeutic psychological judgement triumphs over religious judgements in the "I feel good about it, so why is it a sin!" Most temptations are about something that feels good but isn't. This "if it feels good to do it" is pushed everywhere.

4. Reductionism e.g. "Jesus changed the water into wine at Cana because He felt sorry for them". Which is not biblical and trivialises the fact that when He acted He showed His glory and His disciples believed in Him. He was revealing His divinity at Our Lady's request for help. See the trivialisation of the Peter the Rock scene in RENEW. Trivialisation of the Sacraments is found in RENEW's pseudo-sacraments of "forgiveness, eucharist and confirmation"; being sent to witness, oil-anointed with the oil blessed on the spot. Reminds me of the old joke of the mother who asked the bishop to confirm her son again as it didn't take last year.

5. Mind and Will become subject to my "feelings or experiences" whereas emotions ought to be subject to reason and will. Emotions can, as Pope Paul VI said, obscure the gaze of truth. We do not balance the "genuineness of the emotion" against the facts of truth . . . or mortality.

6. Values clarification via feelings. "How strongly do you feel about abortion?" Feelings do not affect the rightness or wrongness of facts; the appeal ought to be to reason and objective evidence and natural law. As in statistics, the questions put condition the answer. Whereas our Faith is the revealed and Magisterially safeguarded answer.

7. A false theory of ethics arises, "No feelings are bad". "No experiences are bad". Feelings do matter and experiences do matter external action is not the only thing that matters. Feelings and experiences can be the seed sources of the seven deadly sins. Our Lord cautioned us against anger; and lustful thoughts. How often nowadays are childhood experiences given as the root-cause of evils?

Such sayings as "One has a right to feel the way you do" and "Moods are neither right nor wrong", may well lead to problems if spoken to some. They could justify sinful feelings that they have. But if you want to see what God thinks of feelings look up what He says to Cain in the Cain-Abel story.

8. The absence of the theme of sin is noteworthy in these renewal materials. Well-intentioned therapeutics can lead to an error in mind. There are things we are guilty of when we go against our conscience (which ought to be an informed one) and we ought to know that we have sinned, know what sin is, and how God regards it. How He has warned us of the consequences of it ; what it cost

Christ too. Note also that "God accepts us as we are" is becoming a heresy when we mean that He is not calling us to repentance and conversion and holiness.

9. The seeds of relativism are sown in over-emphasis on flexibility, adaptation and change. Natural law is objective truth, cannot be changed. Revealed truth too, in spite of so many "experts" in the Church is not relative to time or place. Not everything is inculturable or adaptable or good. Some "pluralism" is just an attempt to deny the principle of contradiction which is the basis of all logical thought. "A thing cannot be true and not be true under the same aspect at the same time."

10. Moral dilemmas are often posed so that the conclusion to be drawn is that breaking God's law is necessary. This tends to make people think that sin is all right in certain circumstances. Again the relativism is pushed. Stupid scenarios are given to make them think that God's law must be breakable.

Too much weight is put on psychological techniques via sensitivity training, making the people give in to the encounter group, setting mood through music, lights, street (or room) drama of the simplistic type etc. The use of these as a sort of hypnosis is, of course, anti-rational and therefore anti-human, and so anti-Catholic. True renewal would make us more in conformity with reality, more human, more Catholic. It would take some strength (which a few priests had at a pseudo-confirmation service at a priests' conference recently) to not do what the group wants you to do. Even adults are subject to peer pressure. It requires courage to refuse to follow the group; even among priests.

Finally the fact that doctrine is eschewed by so many renewal schemes, so that they could be used as well by Callathumpians as by us, ought to wake us up to the fact that they are not to do with Catholic renewal. New church perhaps, but hardly true Church. After all, we judge everything we do by our Catholic Faith, doctrines and morals, not by our feelings and experiences.

Add to that that so many do not want to be woken up lest they have to take a stand; it is more comfortable just to let things go on. Damn those fundamentalist Catholics who think that we have to stand up for the Faith, even at cost to our own comfort! That frightens people! Becoming aware means YOU have to act. Crikey!! Better not to wake up. Teach and defend the Faith - Hell!

There are so many pseudo-Catholic things in this RENEW which is not Catholic that it is truly pseudo-renewal. A scam!

 



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