Catholics are standing waist deep in frozen snow. They are suffering from spiritual frostbite, Mass hypothermia, and theological trench foot. Their blue lips part in a paralyzed smile when the chill winds carry to their ears the message that the "New Springtime" is here. Scanning the frozen, white horizon they see nothing but signs of continued winter, dark and deep. "Yes, it is Springtime!!" they whisper. And they wait. And they wait…..
Kenneth C. Jones, in an excellent article found at the Seattle Catholic, "The Vatican II Renewal: Myth or Reality," explains the grim statistics surrounding the state of the Church since Vatican II. There can be no doubt that the winter wasteland he describes is a far cry from springtime. The obvious conclusion is that the Pope is either ignoring the statistics or is totally blinded to the facts, as he continues to refer to the "New Springtime" all around us.
However, could there be another explanation? Is it possible that the continuously declining number of seminarians along with the disappearance of convents, monasteries and Catholic schools, not to mention fewer converts, is not the barometer by which the new church measures its success? Could it be that the "New Springtime" spoken of so highly and in such glowing terms is actually the hard evidence bespeaking the disintegration of the institutional Catholic Church as we know it, being replaced by a generic, all inclusive religion of "peace" and prosperity for all? If this were the case, we could no longer claim ignorance on behalf of a reigning pontiff, illustrious in education, philosophy and ability to speak fluently nearly a dozen languages!
Perhaps the "New Springtime" revolves around statistics regarding the number of canonized saints…..more than ever before! Or perhaps it is about the number of young people attending World Youth Days…..staggering numbers! Maybe the "New Springtime" refers to the number of Novus Ordo masses that are weekly changing to reflect the spontaneous input of the presiders and their liturgy committees. Maybe the" New Springtime" is about the ever growing "active participation" of the faithful during the mass...or is that 'Mess'?
People are surely more talkative, more neighborly, more enthusiastic and more outgoing in their gestures before, during and after the mass than ever before! Today's Catholic doesn't need to genuflect upon entering the church because that is a "gesture of a personal nature", whereas nowadays we are concerned with community gestures which are inclusive of everyone. Folks are shaking hands with everyone, discussing last night's ball game, carrying on at fever pitch prior to mass, while Father stands at the back of the church trying to get the attention of the choir director in order to get the mass started. Parishioners line up to take their places in the different "ministries" during the mass which have been created for them so they may feel involved and "participate" at a level unheard of in the past! It's all quite amazing, really.
The essence of a successful N.O. mass is its "clear communal dimension" representing a sense of "social solidarity" emanating from the top on down. The livelier the mass, the less Catholic in appearance, the more evidence of the "New Springtime." And don't overlook the statistics regarding the number of choirs….surely there are more choirs within the New Order than ever before, situated front and center, usually singing the latest pop Christian songs to the applause of the "audience."
Let us not forget to include the statistics regarding the employment of laity in the church of the New Order. Today, there are more lay people running the church than ever before. They hold just about every office and position within a parish or diocese that can possibly be held by a lay person. Manifold new offices and positions have been created simply to make room for the number of lay people who want to run the church. Astounding numbers of women are happy to leave their children at day care centers in order to take full time, paid positions within the church of the New Order, which by its actions, no longer promotes large families or values a homemaker. This is an establishment that prides itself on the number of women running its mechanism, which has become an accomplice in the feminist movement that is destroying the home and family.
The church of the New Order has become another avenue through which to feed the ever burgeoning appetite of our society for material wealth and accumulation of stuff at any cost, thus requiring wives to spend their lives in pursuit of good pay and status rather than seeking the treasures of home, hearth and family. Money that was once spent building seminaries and schools is now used to fund the huge payrolls being racked up in every diocese. It's the "New Springtime!"
One of the most important factors of the "New Springtime" agenda is the continual emphasis on young people to the exclusion of other age groups. All good salesmen in today's dog-eat-dog marketplace know that the most highly prized target is youth. If marketers can get "ownership" of the youth, they can control the future of the marketplace and ensure success for themselves. Let's not be naïve and think the same strategy isn't being used on Catholic young people in order to influence them to seek the "feel good-ness" of the jazzed up, hip, new church.
While the powers that be in the church today impatiently await the death of the last Catholics who remember the Church prior to Vatican II, new church strongly targets our children who know nothing of true Catholicism except what they have heard by way of horror stories or crass remarks from new age priests and their entourage. The more programs for youth, the more retreats and exclusive outings for teens, the more meetings "On Tap," (these are New Order "spiritual" gatherings for young adults that take place at a local pub or bar), the more World Youth Days, Youth 2000 gatherings, etc., the more certain we may be that the New Order is not about the faith life of the family or the inclusion of the older generation and their "outdated" theology.
Despite all the hard facts and statistics showing decline in every facet of healthy Church life since Vatican II, as recently as December 2003, while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II and other church officials were still hailing the Council's liturgical reforms as "a gift of the Holy Spirit." Though keenly aware of some problems and tensions arising among Catholics regarding the "New Mass," various speakers at this Vatican event circled like vultures over the highly prized mass of the Novus Ordo to make sure the "reform" is spoken of in the most glowing terms. Any problems surrounding this magnificent "liturgical celebration" (read abuses) have been caused by a "lack of respect for the norms" but certainly not from a lack of respect for the reform itself.
The Pope and his men are now going to focus on "what is too often missing (in the mass): silence, reverence and a sense of mystery," so we will no doubt be seeing attempts to insert more of those characteristics into the Sunday productions in an effort to appease the cry of conservatives who are getting fed up with the circus. At any rate, being part of the New Order means being enthusiastic about the "New Mass" and according to CNS, it's a given that "the Council's goal of increasing people's understanding of the Mass and their participation in it has been achieved." Now all this revolves around the fact that THE MASS (read the true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Latin) was thrown out and replaced with a counterfeit, so "understanding the mass" and "participation" are suddenly relative. This marvelous "New Mass," this "gift of the Holy Spirit" is obviously perceived on a different scale by the majority of Catholics, as Mr. Jones explains in his article, Sunday mass attendance is at an all time low. At this very moment, the archbishop of Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley is outlining his plans to close dozens of parishes in the Boston area. He sites reasons for the closures as, “changes in demographics, a shortage of priests, decrease in regular Mass attendance and the financial difficulties and disrepair of many parishes.” (CNS) Smell those spring flowers yet?
With all these signs of the "New Springtime" and the tremendous amount of fruit (albeit rotten for the most part) that is forthcoming, I must disagree with Mr. Jones that "turning back the clock" is a viable solution to what we perceive as the disastrous state of the modern church. Such a solution is diametrically opposed to the agenda of the New Order, and that is why there is no desire to restore the Church to what it was prior to Vatican II. The New Order hates "Catholicism Classic," haven't you noticed? What we are facing here is a vast chasm in the heart of the Church. Eventually the breaking point will be reached and part of it, that part which has denied the true mission set forth by Jesus Christ, will fall away into the abyss of the "New Winter." At that time, many will regret that they stood by in waist-deep, frozen snow, only to find out too late that there was no real springtime coming for the New Order.