.- In his weekly column in, “The Catholic New World,” Cardinal Francis George expressed his tremendous concern over “the deprogramming of Catholics” and the “great tension” Catholics experience between “how their culture shapes them and what their Catholic faith tells them to hold.”
The Archbishop of Chicago said he was alerted to this when the mostly lay Archdiocesan Pastoral Council asked the Presbyteral Council to address “some contested mysteries of faith” during homilies at Mass over the course of the year.
The six topics that were decided upon include: the Eucharist, ordained priesthood, penance/reconciliation, marriage, the Blessed Virgin Mary and immigration.
“The first impression this list, minus the sixth concern about immigration, leaves with me is that we’re back to the Protestant Reformation,” wrote the archbishop.
“At the time of the Reformation, when the visible unity of the Church was broken for doctrinal reasons, the Mass became a memorial service for most Reformers, its unity with Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary became purely ‘spiritual’ and the objective, sacramental, substantial re-presentation of that sacrifice was denied,” he explained.
The loss of the sacrifice of the Mass in the Reformed churches allowed the ordained priesthood to be reduced to ministry, and the sacrament of reconciliation became unnecessary, “for neither the Church nor the priest mediated the penitent’s relationship to God’s mercy,” he explained.
“The individualism that is left when mediation disappears makes even the saints competitors with Christ, so there is no room for the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints to pray for us or care for us,” he continued. “At best, they become reminders of good behavior in past history; devotion to them is classed as a form of idolatry.
“There are many good people whose path to holiness is shaped by religious individualism and private interpretation of what God has revealed. They are, however, called Protestants,” he said.
“The Second Vatican Council wasn’t called to turn Catholics into Protestants,” he wrote, referring to those who call for renewal in the Church by deviating from the foundations of the Catholic faith. “It was called to ask God to bring all Christ’s followers into unity of faith so that the world would believe who Christ is and live with him in his Body, the Church.
“What seems clear to me is that God is calling us to be authentically Catholic in our faith and also, perhaps paradoxically, Protestant in our culture,” he wrote. “We live where we are, not in some ideal world where everything works smoothly.”
“The one thing necessary is to live with discerning hearts and minds. We need to keep asking ourselves what is influencing our ways of thought, our decisions, our feelings and affections,” he wrote.
“A life of constant discernment is not always easy, but it’s joyful because it means living with the Holy Spirit, whose presence brings truth and consolation and unity,” he concluded.