Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Question for Pre-Vatican II Catholics...

... and I mean that literally.

I was born in 1964, so I can faintly remember Latin and Greek used frequently in the liturgy (although never for the readings, homily, or eucharistic prayer). I remember that catechesis used to be much more direct and concrete, particularly concerning matters of sin and punishment. However, that's about the extent of my memories of "traditional" Catholicism. While both of my parents grew up in the 40s and 50s and attended Catholic schools through high school and undergraduate studies, they both seemed to gravitate toward the more charismatic expressions of Catholicism in the 70s. (Nonetheless, I don't recall seeing anything even in my adolescence remotely like what goes on today.)

What I've noticed when I engage people from my parents' era and a bit later is a bizarre distortion of the teachings of the Church. What I mean is that I can see the structure or formulation of certain doctrines or disciplines with absolutely no understanding of the intent or theology behind the doctrines. Let's use a most obvious example, abstention from meat on Friday.

From what I hear of it, eating meat on Friday was a mortal sin. Now, you don't need to explain that Friday abstinence was a penitential discipline and that the rules pertaining to abstinence changed. I understanding that, and personally, my wife and I adhere to the Friday abstinence because we believe it helps us in our spiritual lives. What seems to be completely lacking from the claim that "eating meat on Friday was a sin" was the reasoning. There was nothing beyond the rule: no mention of what constitutes a mortal sin, no mention of the necessity of conforming to Church law, no discussion of obedience to authority—essentially no explanation of the sinful aspects of the act, the "whatness" of the sin incurred

Once after I had begun my journey back to the faith, I had a discussion with an Eastern Orthodox fellow who had grown up attending Catholic schools. What I found fascinating were all the various "doctrines" he had been taught that he found in conflict with his own faith. With only a few exceptions, the doctrine his church taught lined up almost perfectly with current formulations of Catholic dogmas (with the exception of their doctrines on contraception and Purgatory).

Occasionally, my dad will come out with some claims that simply make me go, "WHAAAATT?"

Clearly, Catholics from my parents' era were responding to something, and clearly what they remember from their upbringing was not always positive and often not doctrinally sound (or was, at very least, theologically shallow).

So what was it, aside from the liturgy and all of the "below the waist" stuff, that people (or maybe, more accurately, progressives) from this era were reacting against? What doctrinal formulations were they actually getting, and how do those formulations differ from current, orthodox understanding? Do they actually differ?
Post a Comment