Faith, Integrity, and Eucharistic Coherence

Faith, Integrity, and Eucharistic Coherence October 27, 2021

My high school senior just wrapped up her volleyball career on a disappointing note, and of course there were tears among the teammates about their almost-but-not-quite undefeated season.  And though I *understand* why the girls wanted so badly to win? And I understand even more that it’s normal and healthy for a teenage girl to grieve that loss? Also, here’s the thing: This is my kid who started her high school volleyball career with surprise open-heart surgery.

Sure, a championship title would have been nice. But, kid, you already had me impressed when you showed up for practice with your sternum freshly wired back together, and frankly not being dead remains, from your mother’s point of view, the championship I care about far more.

I think that’s just basic normal parenting: Parents don’t want their kids to be dead.  So if there is one thing that galls me most about abortion propaganda it is this whole myth of “choice”.  Any sane mother has to be utterly pressed against the wall, feeling she has no choice whatsoever, before she’ll wish her own kid dead.  That’s just normal. It’s so normal that variations on “I had no other choice” are the hallmark of abortion narratives.

When I meet sane people who are pro-abortion, invariably their arguments come down to, rightly or wrongly: “But sometimes it’s the only viable choice.”

Hence pro-life people work hard to create real choices, by providing the emotional and practical support to help a mom in crisis be able to do the thing she’d rather be doing, but that the world around her is telling her she has neither the right nor the reality to make happen.

We’re getting to Eucharistic Coherence, I promise, and here’s why: The Bidens infuriate me so badly I’m this close to getting a Let’s Go Brandon t-shirt, and I don’t feel that way about Democrats generally.  I don’t feel that way about abortion proponents generally. But when someone is so actively selling their religion, and that religion is absolutely crystal clear about abortion, and that person sells their grief about a deceased child, and then pushes more and more and more for abortion?

Not, mind you, recognizing that American women are often in horrible Catch-22 scenarios and that our political leaders need to make changes so mothers can keep their babies.  But rather, the Bidens are  specifically pushing Kill It Dead! as the solution to mothers who find themselves in impossible corners.

The Bidens anger me because they haven’t got the good grace to admit they’re Episcopalians, done. I don’t have expectations of Episcopalians. Honestly I’d probably even be okay with the president and first lady just admitting they were really, truly, horribly, awfully, a little-bit-murderous Catholics.  Ideally with a mention of how they keep going to confession with a firm resolution to quit their campaigning-for-abortion habitand hopefully with time they’ll manage to stop slipping up so much.

Ditto for the Speaker of the House, of course.

Anyway, this rumination & confession session is brought to you courtesy of Amy Welborn’s fresh tear on Eucharistic Coherence, which normally I would just retweet like the dittohead that I am. But today I want to say something slightly different than what she’s saying.

See, here’s the deal, man: The Bidens get away with Eucharistic Incoherence because they have bishops enabling them.

(This is not a point on which A.W. and I diverge, I don’t think.)

The inability of bishops to proclaim the Catholic faith is the reason we’re having a synod on synodality and the reason the USCCB had its bizarre discussion last summer of whether maybe it might be good to sorta talk about, perhaps as soon as this fall!, oh, you know, what the Catechism plainly says and natural law isn’t exactly opaque about either?

Parents, don’t kill your children is not above anyone’s pay grade.  It’s bleedin’ obvious.

And therefore, here’s where I diverge with the track Amy Welborn has been very thoroughly and insightfully exploring over the past six months: The liturgy is not the cause.

Is it true that different liturgical practices have different effects and side-effects?  Yes, I think so.  That would be a reason I am so appalled at the suppression of the TLM, and so giddy every time I’m reminded the French have been faithfully picketing their papal nuncio every weekend: There are people who truly, in the depths of their souls benefit from what the older form of the Mass has to offer.  Why wouldn’t I want those people to be able to receive what the Church is perfectly able to give?

This is is, in turn, why I have no illusions about bishops’ conferences or global synods solving these problems.  The cause of Eucharistic Incoherence, and the cause of bishops who decline to teach or practice the Catholic faith, is the lack of faith.

Where faith is genuine, liturgical innovation can be for the good.  The very existence of what we think of as the “traditional Latin Mass” is a collection of innovations.  Good, powerful innovations that work because they are fueled by faith.  

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Aramaic or Greek, but yeah, using the vernacular was not a bad call when the Vulgate was first translated, and it’s not a bad call now.  That’s true even though it’s also true that for me as an outsider trying to fully-participate at Mass in a foreign country it’s a whole lot easier to just learn the Latin, done (or the Greek or the Aramaic, if you prefer), than trying to learn a bazillion different local languages.

So. Amy Welborn isn’t wrong that the change in worship and the change in outlook of the Vatican II era had consequences.  The way we pray does affect us.  I don’t deny it.

But I also think that focusing on the liturgical change is a distraction from the much deeper issue, that I think she and I agree on: If you actually believe the Catholic faith, it affects you.  Maybe you’re still a horrible Catholic (this is not the confessional but yes I have some experience with being that), but your faith informs your actions.

When you believe the Catholic faith, at the very least your conscience will bother you a little in those areas where you know you’re not living up to your ideals.

When you believe the Catholic faith, you’ll seek to understand what that faith is, and make sense even of the parts that at first seem so weird or off-putting or incomprehensible, and you’ll seek to live by that faith as well as you can.

When you believe the Catholic faith, you’ll acknowledge it’s a you-problem, not a Church-problem, when you are so painfully unable to live out some aspect of your faith that mentally you know is right, but in practice you just plain suck at doing the thing.

But of course not everyone who likes being Catholic believes the Catholic faith, even at the foundational “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” level where bad Catholics like me hang out.

So I guess that’s all I have to say:  It’s a crisis of faith.

What you believe determines how you act.

When you believe the more important thing is your kid not being dead, a lost championship is a non-issue.  You’re just thrilled to see the kid out there on the court at all, ever.

When you believe the Catholic faith is true, well, that, too, is gonna affect the things you say and do.  You can lie to yourself all you want, hold meetings and synods and issue policy frameworks and press releases about how this time we really are done sexually harassing the seminarians . . . none of those lies change the fact that you need to get right with God.

File:Northern Cardinal (7322115108).jpg

Photo: Northern cardinal (bird) perched on a bare branch, via Wikimedia, CC 2.0.

Related: If you’re in the half of readers who are nodding along at my screed there’s this book on evangelization you might find helpful.  (If you’re in the half trying to decide whether to react with rage or pity, don’t worry, we haven’t given up on you. Even if you’re a bishop or a liturgist or a tax collector . . . Jesus loves you and wants you to be saved.)



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