Sunday, October 10, 2010

Crying Wolf

The story of the boy who cried wolf is probably told in every culture in one form or another. The underlying moral of the tale is if that you tell 'whoppers' over a period of time when the real crunch comes nobody listens to you. Turning the story upside I suspect even well intended religious superiors, bishops and the like, find this a problem at a moment. With all the guff and 'nuanced statements' being issued it's hard to find the wood for the trees, to find what is important amongst a see (no pun intended?) of transitory and ephemeral opinion. Credibility is not at an all time high.

During this week a question was supposedly asked of a local 'authority' to do with a liturgical matter. I say supposedly because I suspect the conversation went something like this;

Middle Manager: 'May we do X, Y or Z?'
He Who Must Be Obeyed: 'I'm not to sure. I'll have to check with Fr B. If you don't hear back from me presume it's OK.'
At that point the towering piles of Vatican questionnaires, conference minutes, petitions and delations come crashing down on the poor man's desk. The phone call is forgotten and the dubious passes into local mythology as having the permission of the ordinary.

There has been a lot of nonsense got through by default over the centuries however it has probably picked up speed in the last 40 years as the authority, particularly the teaching authority, of  He Who Must Be Obeyed has been undermined by a lack of vigilance and the easy option of 'turning a blind eye'.  Each of these 'cracks' has widened the distance between the faith and how it gets communicated to us at the lower end of the food chain. This is where a simplistic modern ultramontanism would be very dangerous. We are left in the sad position of being fairly sure that just because He Who Must Be Obeyed says so doesn't mean it's necessarily so.

So here we have the problem. As Catholics, and particularly as traditional Catholics, we take respect for the teaching authority of the Church very seriously, certainly more seriously than the cafeteria approach of much contemporary theology. And yet as we have been let down over so many years there is no surprise that anything that issues from 'on high' is taken with a grain of salt. So what do we do? Well the Church has it's catechisms to teach us, it's canon law to protect and organize us, and  traditions which transcend the momentary fashions of the age. We need to get to know these much better.


  1. Absolutely agree, we are in rough seas at this time and need to keep focussed on our precious gift.

  2. Tradition as objective content, rather than as a "power", is what needs to be re-appropriated. This a steep hill to climb in an environment in which "orthodoxy" is "loyalty to the magisterium", or docility to "the rules"; in which the faith is conceived, more or less across the spectrum, as a polymorphic "essence" of boiled-down propositions.


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