Beware rigidity!


One of the most consistent themes in the teaching of Pope Francis is his intolerance of intolerant religion! Pope Francis warns, in no uncertain terms, against rigid Christianity- the sort closed to true expressions of faith. The sort that proves inflexible, self referential and totally unable to accommodate the other. In short he speaks of a new breed of neo-palageonists dwelling within the church; Palagianism being the heresy that man can choose good for himself without the need for divine grace and our co-operation with God. Those who look to self not God for salvation.

I delight in the warning because it chimes with my experience. The church is often let down, and found floundering, where congregations attempt to live out faith in a narrow way. Most people imagine narrow Christians as being the ultra conservative type of bigot, who denounces any change at all. And certainly stuffed shirts exist in the traditionalist wing and can be cold and uncompromising souls.

But understand that the rigid Christian is also found elsewhere. In fact the largest group in the church that I have encountered are found where the parish has become secularised- where a lowest denominator community club has sprung up, existing for the glorification of its members and their favoured political agendas, rather than as a spiritual body alive for Christ and open to what the  Spirit is doing. Yes every subsection of the church has its intransigent tyrants!

It can surprise people when I suggest liberals can be inflexible neo-Palagian totalitarian too. But it is certainly true. How else does one explain the total silence from some prelates regarding moral issues coupled with the speed with which they vehemently opposed Cardinal Sarah when he merely suggested giving traditional worship a chance? What is that but proof of angered ideologues defending their quarters?

We must accept then that many of a certain generation have rather fossilised, meaning they are not totally wed to but one particular expression of faith, the sort centred on worship bands and left wing political causes. Note all in this camp- of course- some are authentically liberal and very tolerant and decent people. But others are dug in to their favoured ways and will do anything to protect their own agendas. And these, I believe, are the rigid neo-Palagians causing most damage.

For the are so set in their ways as to have closed off their minds from even debating what is best for the church. Only 70’s style religion will do and any notion that this might have actually contributed to decline is rejected in anger. And the fact that more traditional worship seems to be speaking to the next generation does not, therefore, cause them pleasure but pain. They just get enraged when young people call for altar rails, traditional music or solemnity. For they are deeply suspicious of anything not conforming to their own limited (often erroneous) interpretation of Vatican II. Little wonder this same group grumbled so bitterly about the introduction of the new translation of the Mass. After all it is different – and encourages a sense of continuity not rupture.

Having grown self referential but powerful, this lobby are of a certain generation, they now seek to stifle anything that does not accord with their desire; hence the clear and obvious disdain for ad orientem worship, even where it is bearing fruit,  the luke warm reception of the New Evangelisation, Summorum Ponitifum and, of course, the Ordinariate. These neo-Palagianists  want a uniform church in their image, nothing else will do. And those things that encourage reverence, beauty and a look to the past are not to be tolerated!

Once you understand this rigid agenda the answers to mysteries become clear. You understand why the latest ARCIC meeting, a baby of this type of Catholic, made no mention of the Ordinariate, nor seeks to include our voices, despite the Ordinariate being not the freshest expression of ecumenism, an initiative of the papacy and the final word and formal answer to the Anglican question! Instead it is ignored and belittled by prelates too rigid to accommodate it. They adhere instead to what they wish was true, indulging gestures, but in denial of doctrinal reality. Which is to state that their own road map to unity, which was ARCIC, has largely stalled if not ended in failure; developments within the Anglican Communion having rendered unity all but impossible- as had to be conceded before the photo opportunities.

We might also consider how quickly these rigid folk attacked Cardinal Sarah for suggesting experimentation with ad orientem worship might be healthy.This group clearly despises anything other than their own favoured way- especially what is rooted in appreciation of the cultic aspect of worship – the encounter of the soul with the supernatural divine. Well Palagianists would, wouldn’t they? They prefer to look to man not God – to the prevailing culture not the faith of the ages.

If only we could help them past this terrible fear they might learn to love diversity. They might come to see that there is plenty of room in the church for both modern and traditional styles of worship, so long as all worship is rooted in truth. They might realise that the Tridentine Rite, for example, can happily co-exist with the Novus Ordo and with Divine Worship. There really is room for all and we don’t need to be so very inflexible as to deny the life of the other and engage in the culture war. A month in Pembury might help- for here we offer a variety of services and all are encouraged to support one another.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

15 thoughts on “Beware rigidity!

  1. The new translation of the Mass is a very authentic rendering of the Latin original of the Novus Ordo. It was the ICEL English version that, in rendering a deliberately false translation, included unauthorised changes from the actual NO.
    I thought it was particularly sly to take advantage of the fact that most people were not able to check the translation.
    One of the most obvious to those of us with a smattering of Latin ; ‘ Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.’ Is the Latin version of the N O and is the literal translation of the centurion’s words to Jesus ‘Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof etc.’, How could the so-called translators render this as ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you etc.? Especially since the NO Latin is identical to the Tridentine Mass!
    The intention was obvious to me i.e to use the translation as a slight of hand to move the English version as far away as possible from the old Mass.
    Benedict gave the English speaking world a truthful translation. The only amazing thing is that it took 40 years to overturn the ICEL travesty. Ironically the Anglo-Catholics appear to be the only ones still using the faulty version?

    1. Funnily enough David, amongst the very many dodgy/ watered down/!incomplete/ downright inaccurate translations in the previous version of the Novus Ordo , I have always thought this rendering was actually justifiable.; “under my roof” equates exactly to “receive you” in the English sense of ” reception room” and also doubles for receiving as in Holy Communion.

  2. When I receive someone (into my house) (English) I “enter them under my roof” (Nuanced English translation from Latin).

    Either way works for me

    (40 years a Catholic (and not a ‘liberal’))

    All the best


    1. Exactly. I can see the argument that using the exact words of the Centurion is important but, as a decent translation, “receive” works.

    2. The point being why depart from hundreds of years of tradition and at the same time remove the connection to the scriptural context so appropriately included since at least Trent.
      ICEL turned simplification into banality. Authentic translation is not about making changes.

      1. I entirely agree with the tradition point David. I was commenting on accuracy of translation. And of course the Latin is itself a translation from the Aramaic I imagine which was then perhaps translated in the interim into Greek?

          1. Din’t think he would unless he was conversing with Jesus in the local lingo! I don’t profess to know in what language the gospels were originally written but I believe they had been translated a fair bit before you get to the Vulgate. But I would be glad if someone could set me straight on this point.

          2. The gospels were written in Greek, and it is widely accepted that Our Lord conducted most of his public ministry in Greek. It was the language of commerce and government in that neck of the woods.

      2. Interestingly and following on from my previous comment I have just looked up how Ronald Knox (who should be but isn’t the acknowledge master of lucid and beautiful translation into English) rendered this verse. Intriguingly in his translation the Centurion tells Christ he is not worthy to receive Him but this is immediately followed by the words “under my roof”. Knox doesn’t use the word enter at all.

  3. We need unity of all the Christian churches, unity in diversity! Christ’s church is tottering on one pillar! The only thing that matters, the only thing we should be concerned with. The only thing we are judged on is LOVE. Just how much we loved one another, all the rest is human squabbles.

  4. Totally agree David that the closer the translation the better, and the newest version is certainly a more literal and therefore presumably better translation..

    That said, some of the Latin comes through in a funny way in some places – “consubstantial” being my favourite. And the length of the sentences at the start of Eucharistic Prayer 1.

    But agree overall the new version is much better.

    (Anyone remember when the Holy Spirit was called the Holy Ghost btw? He’s much happier with the new name since the 1960s I hear; folks were telling him he has too spooky. Dinner party introductions etc were getting awkward)

  5. Christine,
    The pope is going to Sweden tomorrow to help commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. There can’t be much more unity in our diversity than that.
    As regards our ‘squabbles’, it is sometimes a good thing to have a forum where we can crosspolinate our ideas, thoughts,feelings, opinions etc. We all learn from each other and at the very least we can begin to understand why others believe and feel the way they do even if we are not in agreement.
    As someone who I cannot now remember once said,’ I may not agree with you but I would defend your right to say it ‘ or words to that effect.
    I agree with you though that the most important manifestation of our Christianity is love. I think that all the users of Fr. Eds blog, even at their most heated and passionate, respect and love one another (perhaps when the dust has settled in some cases).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.