This was one of my favorite episodes of Mad Men.
The post-Vatican II Church epitomizes Don Draper’s very accurate definition of advertising. “Whatever you’re doing … it’s okay. You’re okay.”
I’m Not Okay; You’re Not Okay
It’s likely yesterday’s screed offended some people. Let me tell you where it came from.
A Pew survey found that most Catholics don’t believe things they are required to believe.
Yes, being Catholic is hard. You can’t be Catholic and substitute the Church’s teaching with your own. At least, not one a few dogmatic topics.
One of those dogmatic beliefs is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Transubstantiation is the doctrine, promulgated by St. Paul, that the Holy Eucharist is the transformed Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. All Catholics are required to believe this. You simply cannot be Catholic and deny the Real Presence and transubstantiation.
The dogma of Real Presence was established by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29:
For this is what I received from the Lord and in turn passed on to you: That on the same night as he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it, and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper and said, ‘This cup is a new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’
Notice how Paul begins. “For this is what I received from the Lord.” Not from the Apostles, but from Jesus Christ Himself on the road to Damascus.
Then, Paul explains what this means:
Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
In other words, as I wrote last night, the Eucharist is an unbloody recreation of the crucifixion. A sacrifice.
And, now is where it gets difficult to reconcile the Novus Ordo casualness with the Word:
And so anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily toward the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup, because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation
Notice that, unlike most Catholic priests and bishops (including Pope Francis), Paul speaks in clear, precise, and certain terms. “[A] person who eats and drink without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.”
We Can Be Okay
Friends, when I wrote last night’s rant, I wasn’t condemning anyone. I was warning of condemnation.
I warn of condemnation because the Church no longer does so. The Church too often follows Don Draper’s advice, standing up billboards that say, “Whatever you’re doing, it’s okay.”
Indeed, even conservatives like Bishop Robert Barron claim there’s “reasonable hope” that hell is and always will be empty! (Bishop Barron is much smarter than me, but he often speaks in vague and ambiguous circles.)
The Pew study found that over forty percent of “Catholics” who attend Mass every Sunday believe the Eucharist is not the Body and Blood of Christ, just a symbol.
Undoubtedly, many of these Catholics who deny the Real Presence and transubstantiation are influenced by the irreverence shown to Christ at most Catholic Masses. At most Novus Ordo Masses I’ave been to (which is many), Communion is a free-for-all with up to 12 “extraordinary” lay “ministers” slathering their hands with Purell. The priest tosses fistfuls of consecrated Hosts from one ciborium to another as if the transubstantiated Hosts were Lay’s potato chips.
Nothing about these carnivals of mayhem looks reverent.
Contrast that chaotic scene with this video of Communion at a Latin Mass:
Lay Ministers Are Devout
Look, the people who sign up to be Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers are great, devout people. I know many. And they believe what they’re told by priests. I don’t question their faith. In most cases, their faith is undoubtedly stronger than mine. And I am certain most of them have lived more saintly lives than I have. (Which, sadly, isn’t a high bar to clear.)
I don’t believe, though, that they recognize how the casual treatment and distribution of the Body and Blood of Christ affects those of weaker faith. The way the Novus Ordo Mass treats Jesus is a scandal. The scene leads others into sin.
We know, for instance, that most people who consider themselves Catholic no longer believe in transubstantiation or Real Presence. How did that happen?
Again, I do not condemn the people who participate in these casual rituals of the new Mass. They are probably as ignorant as I was of the teachings of the Church, the meaning of the parts of the Mass, the purpose of one’s postures, and, according to Pew, even of the nature of the Eucharist itself! They simply don’t know.
But lex orandi, lex credendi. The law of prayer is the law of belief. People believe as the do, not the other way around! (Science has validated this, by the way.) Handle the Body of Christ like it’s flavorless Cheez-It and, in time, you will come to believe It is a flavorless Cheez-It!
But we are not condemned. Yet.
To Love Is to Will the Good of the Other
Many times have I written about this teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. I owe my understanding of this teaching to Bishop Barron. To love is too will the good of the other. And the ultimate good is God. Therefore, to love is too will others to know God.
When 47% of weekly communicating Catholics and 2⁄3 of all self-identified Catholics believe the Eucharist is mere bread and wine that symbolizes the Last Supper, the Church is not leading people to God, but leading them into temptation. Just as St. Paul warned: “a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.”
I pray Bishop Barron and every Catholic priest will come to understand how their casual treatment of the Eucharist leads people to condemnation.
And, if you believe I am wrong, please send a link to this post to your Catholic pastor and ask him what he thinks. Or print it and had it to him.
But pay attention to the way he answers. If he answers in clear, direct, unequivocal statements, at least you know he’s trying to lead you to God. He loves you. Even if his answer is, “this Hennessy guy is dead wrong.”
If, however, he talks in circles and vagaries, throws out names of saints and theologians you’ve never heard of, or tells you “whatever you think, it’s okay,” find a new parish or oratory.
You have only one life, but it is eternal. It continues forever in Heaven or Hell. Don’t accept vague platitudes that require you to interpret things on your own. Demand a Church and priests who use plain language and tell you what you need to know to get to Heaven. Steer clear of priest who tell you whatever you’re doing is okay. That’s not “pastoral.” It’s advertising.
This video is the truth. Take time to watch carefully. Take notes.