Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Heaviest and Deadliest Cross to Bear - Part 2

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The subject of my last post was the danger of taking pride in our own abilities and talents [HERE].  I pointed out the example of the great archangel, Lucifer, who at one time was the pinnacle of God's creation.  However, Lucifer became enamored with himself to the point where he thought he could replace God.  As a result, he was expelled from heaven and became Satan, the great adversary whose goal is to destroy as much of God's creation as he can.

I stated in my post that being very gifted and talented can actually be one of the heaviest and most dangerous of crosses that anyone can bear.  Talented and accomplished people must always be on guard against trusting in themselves in place of God.  When we begin to trust in ourselves, we are starting on the same path that took Lucifer from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell.

In my post, I stated that during my years as a Catholic traditionalist, I met many talented and successful people.  It is only natural that these people, who are truly often "smarter" and more "accomplished" (as the world defines those terms) than the average person, tend to trust in their own opinions and views.  Thus, if they feel something is right or wrong, nothing and no one else - not a priest, bishop or pope - can convince them otherwise,  As a result, many traditionalists are becoming more and more separated from the Church.

Among those I was privileged to meet during my years as a traditionalist was Father George Rutler. Father Rutler is truly one of the most accomplished, talented and intelligent people I have ever had the honor to meet. He has written many books. He is one of the most popular speakers in the Catholic Church, having appeared many times on EWTN. He has many degrees, including a Master of Studies degree from Oxford. He is even musically gifted. These are just a few of his talents and gifts. He has also known many famous people in his lifetime. When I was in his office, I saw a picture of him with both George Bush I and George Bush II, as well as a picture of him with Blessed Mother Teresa.  

Father George Rutler
Credit:  www.youtube.com
In other words, Father Rutler carries a very heavy cross.  

I met Father Rutler when I came back to the Church after 38 years and chose him as my confessor. He also convalidated my marriage and even joined us for dinner afterwards. I still have the rose that he gave me that night from Our Lady's altar.

I occasionally attended Father Rutler's church, Our Saviour in Manhattan, but I never felt entirely comfortable because his parishioners were, for the most part, very upscale, upper class New Yorkers.  Our Saviour is, after all, right on Park Avenue.  I felt much more comfortable at a place like Holy Innocents, which at that time was a very poor church with a fair amount of homeless and poor people.  (You will still find many homeless people at Holy Innocents because of its location in the garment district.)

Father Rutler was transferred from Our Saviour's Church a couple of years ago. He has recently been the subject of Catholic blogs and news sites because the current pastor of Our Saviour, Father Robert Robbins, is removing many of the icons that were put in the church during Father Rutler's tenure. Many people feel that Father Robbins is quite literally defacing the church. I personally was never a big fan of all of the icons at Our Saviour, but that is not germane to the subject. Many people thought it was beautiful, and they are very upset with the actions of the present pastor.

One of those leading the fight against Father Robbins is Father Rutler himself.  He is opposing Father Robbins more or less behind the scenes.  I first heard about Father Rutler's displeasure with Father Robbins last year from a third party who related some of Father Rutler's comments in regard to Father Robbins.  It disturbed me then that Father Rutler would openly criticize another priest to a third party, especially to a member of the laity.

The Pantocrator at Our Saviour
Credit:  www.nationalreview.com
Just recently, someone forwarded an email from Father Rutler in which he said that Father Robbins is preparing to remove the large Pantocrator at Our Saviour.  The email I received was directed to the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny, a traditionalist organization in Connecticut.  As Father Rutler wrote:
The demolition is in process, and the intention is to finish it before anyone can protest. So immediate action is needed. The Cardinal must be flooded with messages, and there should be notice on as many liturgical/arts websites as possible. Any delay will be too late.
One does wonder why Father Rutler did not go directly to Father Robbins to voice his displeasure. Why does Father Rutler feel it is necessary to "flood" the Cardinal with "messages" and to garner the weight and might of not only the Catholic ("liturgical") internet but the secular ("arts") internet? By calling for such drastic actions, Father Rutler is, in effect, declaring war on another priest.

The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny jumped into action, and within a day of the email, they posted an article on their website  [HERE].  The author of the article, Stuart Chessman, takes jabs at not only Father Robbins but also at the Archdiocese of New York:
It is distressing that a church that very recently has been restored at such great effort should now be subject to an iconoclastic house-cleaning only 10-15 years later. One has to question the judgment of those who authorize unnecessary projects of this kind – one could also mention former Monsignor Hull’s Sheen Center. These expensive projects proceed at a time when so many Catholics are being thrown our of their parishes which will in due course be offered to developers – because, supposedly, the Archdiocese is strapped for funds.
This statement "supposedly the Archdiocese is strapped for funds", strongly implies that the Archdiocese is lying when it says that it is closing churches and taking other drastic measures due to financial pressures.  The not-so-subtle accusation is that Cardinal Dolan and the NY Archdiocese have nefarious motives of basically wanting to destroy the Church.

Is this the work of the Holy Spirit?

Ah, but this was only the beginning of the attacks. Father Rutler was a close friend of the late William Buckley, the founder of National Review,  Knowing that fact, it is interesting to note that an article was also published within a few days of the email in National Review entitled, "On Park Avenue, a Picture of the Catholic Church Divided."

This article really gets down and dirty. The author of this article, Nicholas Frankovich, a deputy managing editor at the magazine, builds on the strategy taken by Stuart Chessman, but Frankovich goes further in that he deliberately, and not at all subtly, set up an "us versus them" scenario. And the "us versus them" encompasses not just Father Rutler and Father Robbins, but traditionalists against the rest of the Catholic Church. Frankovich labels the two sides "Ancients" and "Moderns". He demonizes Father Robbins by equating his actions with those who are deliberately trying to destroy the Catholic Church.

The article starts out by discussing the "war" between the pre- and post-conciliar Church:.
The clear clashes between them [Ancients and Moderns] tend to overshadow the central point on which the hard core on both sides agree. Many incisive critics of Tradition, like many incisive critics of Modernism, accept the radical proposition that the break between the preconciliar Church and the postconciliar Church is so sharp that the two are in effect distinct entities, the latter being an attempt to sweep the former into the dustbin of history — for better, in the Moderns’ view, or for worse, in the view of the Ancients.
National Review is a secular publication, so we can't really expect the gospel of love and mercy to prevail.  But it is obvious that this article was written at the behest of Father Rutler, and so it can only be assumed that he is in agreement with what is written.  Can we then say that Father Rutler is in agreement with setting up opposing camps inside the Church and labeling everyone who doesn't agree with you the "bad guy" out to destroy you?

Frankovich says quite clearly that these two sides cannot exist together.   Pope Benedict XVI tried it, and it has been a failure:
To that end Benedict recommended use of the old Mass (Vetus Ordo) alongside the new Mass (Novus Ordo), that the faith of those attached to the one might be informed and enriched by the other. It hasn’t worked out.
The author then makes it very clear who the bad guys are and why they must be resisted at all costs:
For an illustration of the Moderns’ determination to break the spirit of the Ancients, consider the latest from Our Saviour Church on Park Avenue, a few blocks from the offices of National Review.
This is very divisive language, to say the least.  Is that what Father Rutler wanted?  

The article ends with a very Michael Voris-like statement:
This violence to the holy icons is itself a picture, of the demolition writ large that American Catholics have been witness to in their Church for the past half century. In China and the Middle East at least it’s not an inside job.
The author is telling us that fighting the "demolition" of Our Saviour Church is really about a much bigger issue.  It is about the wholesale destruction of the Catholic Church, with Father Robert Robbins being the personification of the enemy trying to destroy the Church.

Is this the work of the Holy Spirit?

Another article on this subject was published by First Things, a magazine started by the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, another close friend of Father Rutler.  The name of this article is, "Vandalism With Intent" written by Maureen Mullarkey. The title tells us everything.  

The article starts out by quoting from Father Rutler's email. However, the author of the email is identified only as "a knowledgeable source." It seems Father Rutler did not want it public knowledge that he had written the email. Mullarkey gives a short history (her version) of the events at Our Saviour. Then, following in the footsteps of Stuart Chessman and Nicholas Frankovich, she makes some very pointed statements alluding to a much larger conspiracy than just Father Robbins trying to "destroy" Our Saviour:
On Tuesday we learned that the remaining ones [icons], included the magnificent Pantocrator, are slated for eviction. Why? Is Fr. Robbins acting on his own initiative or at the behest of higher-ups? Certainly, a pastor has both his druthers and his prerogatives. But the severity—the totality—of this de-adornment gives off an odor of reprisal. It is hard not to sense malice at work. Whose? To what end?
Again, this is setting up an "us versus them" scenario.  But this time we are told that this is a personal vendetta against Father Rutler, and not just from Father Robbins but from much higher sources.

To bolster her argument that "this was not a renovation at all but an ideological move", Mullarkey quotes from a 2014 post by none other than Father John Zuhlsdorf, the same Father Zuhlsdorf who banned me from even viewing his blog because I pointed out that he was writing against the plain teaching of the Catholic Church.

From Father Zuhlsdorf :
What’s going on there? Is this “Get Rutler!” time in NYC? Deface Rutler’s work at Our Saviour? Slate St. Michael’s and Holy Innocents for closure a year after he arrives? By next year he’ll be pastor of a cardboard box over a grate near the Hudson.
Again, these are words that are meant to divide people into camps.

Is this the work of the Holy Spirit?

Mullarkey then points out that the decision to remove the Pantocrator from our Saviour came after an article by Father Rutler in which he criticized Pope Francis:
This latest move follows on the heels of Rutler’s essay “The Pope’s Off the Cuff Remarks in Turin” appearing in Crisis on June 30th. The essay took issue with Pope Francis’ impromptu aim at the weapons industry in what read as a naïve replay of Dwight Eisenhower’s famous 1961 warning against the military-industrial complex. Rutler wrote:
"The Pope’s comments did not engage the issue with the perspicacity and experience of Ike who seldom spoke off the cuff. Inasmuch as papal guards carry Glocks and Sig 552’s, the earnest Pope knows that weapons are necessary. The problem is that he called those who manufacture them un-Christian."
I saw this article by Father Rutler when it was posted, and it disturbed me.  Certainly the Pope's remarks on the makers of guns is not dogma, and one is free to disagree.  But I'm afraid that Father Rutler is sounding much more like a member of the NRA than a Catholic priest in his remarks.  I believe Father Rutler is missing the true meaning of Pope Francis's words, which you can read HERE.

Pope Francis was speaking about the state of our world.  As I write this, we are one day away from the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which began a new and terrible era in mankind's history.  There are innumerable wars going on around the world.  Many hundreds and maybe thousands of innocent people - including Christians - are killed with military weapons every day.

From Pope Francis:
We think, in this world, about wars. At times I have said that we are living through the third world war, but by pieces. Pieces: in Europe there’s war, in Africa there’s war, in the Middle East there’s war, in other countries there’s war. But can I put my trust in a life like that? Can I trust world leaders? I, when I go to vote for a candidate, can I trust that he won’t take my country to war? If you trust only in men, you are lost! This makes me think of something: people, leaders, businessmen who say they are Christians, and they manufacture weapons!
And yet, despite denouncing those who manufacture weapons, just a few sentences later Pope Francis said that there is a time to use the weapons:
There was that great tragedy of Armenia. So many died. I don’t know the number: more than a million certainly. But where were the great powers of the day? They were watching from elsewhere. Why? Because they were interested in the war: their war! And those who die, they’re second-class persons, human beings. Then, in the thirties and forties, the tragedy of the Shoah [Holocaust]. The great powers had the photographs of the railway lines that bore the trains to the concentrations camps, like Auschwitz, to kill Jews, and also Christians, also Gypsies, also homosexuals, to kill them in that place. But tell me, why didn’t they bomb it? Interest! And a little later, almost at the same time, there were the prison camps in Russia: Stalin…. How many Christians suffered, were killed!
The point of Pope Francis's statements is that those who make weapons don't do so to defend what is right but only to make money.  And that is what is sinful.  Father Rutler, because of his own ideology, completely missed that point and completely misinterpreted the Holy Father's remarks, as did most people.

However, Mullarkey uses Father Rutler's criticism of the Pope to make an unbelievably calumnious attack against the hierarchy of the New York Archdiocese and even the Holy Father himself, an accusation which she admits has no basis in fact:
Was [Father Rutler's] unapologetic conservatism a thorn in the side of the archdiocese and, possibly, beyond? Impossible to say. But this gratuitous vandalism at Our Savior is not a small thing.
Mullarkey then gets to the point of her article:
[A]bove all else, this is about what appears—on its face—to be a calculated effort to delete evidence of a particular priest’s presence in a place that he served and transformed.
She also compares the actions of Father Robbins (and the powers behind him) to that of godless Communism:
Physical evidence of Fr. Rutler’s tenure is being erased in the fashion of Soviet-style historiography. This is not remodeling. This is hierarchical politics on display.
There were many more articles and blog posts on this subject across the Internet, all basically saying the same thing, all condemning Father Robbins and, by extension, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

I understand Father Rutler's concern about the removal of the icons at Our Saviour.  These icons represent his legacy at that church, and it is hurtful to see them removed.  But the fact is, Father Rutler is no longer pastor at Our Saviour.  He has his own church to worry about.  If Father Robbins were preaching heresy or engaging in other actions that put him in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church, then I could understand Father Rutler's need to meddle. Removing the icons, however, is basically an administrative decision and it is wrong to attack Father Robbins and accuse him of trying to destroy the entire Catholic Church.  It is even more disturbing that these attacks have spread to include the hierarchy of the Church as well.

Father Rutler's communications and exhortations to his followers have resulted in a divisive campaign that is causing distrust and condemnation among members of the Mystical Body of Christ. St. Paul told us in I Thessalonians 5:11 to "encourage one another and build each other up." In Romans 14:19, St. Paul told us "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." St. Paul tells us further in Romans 12:17-19:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
I am seeing none of this in the actions of Father George Rutler and his followers. Divisiveness, personal attacks and calumny are never the work of the Holy Spirit.

Father Rutler and his followers feel totally justified in their divisive actions because they feel they have "right" on their side.  These are all highly intelligent people with impressive CV's.  Their accomplishments and their own intelligence have led them to trust themselves, and they are on a very dangerous path.

We must always remember that we are not in charge.  As one priest I know is fond of saying, "I'm not God, you're not God, thank God for that."  I know some will accuse me of engaging in attacks against Father Rutler.  I am not attacking him.  I am pointing out his actions which are causing great division in the Catholic Church  It is the same kind of division that I see on a regular basis coming from far too many traditionalists in the Church.  I was once very much a part of this, so I know whereof I speak.

We are living in perilous times.  We need to look to Our Lord for answers and not to take matters into our own hands.  Remember the lesson of Lucifer.

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4 comments:

  1. Reflecting back on my time as a traditionalist, you are right on the dot here. Because they are able to grasp the dogmas of the faith intellectually they become their own Magisterium. Look at Tertullian. Brilliant man. So brilliant that when the Church allowed something that didn't make sense to him, he started a sect.

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    1. I truly appreciate your feedback. Sometimes I feel pretty alone out here. There aren't very many "former traditionalists" out here. I think it takes a real work of the Holy Spirit to break free because you have to deny your own thinking process, not something that comes naturally.

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  2. Hopefully we might be able to reach them and bring them back into the Church. Somehow we have to break the spell of excessive fear of modernism that's keeping them from remembering the purpose of the Magisterium is, the main error that started the Protestant Revolt. Sedevacantism is ultimately where I ended up.

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    1. I am re-reading St Catherine of Siena right now, and one of the things that God the Father says is that self love is the motivation of all sin. Traditionalists are in love with the idea that they are right. And in many ways they are right. The TLM is beautiful. I love the great traditions of the Church. But what is not right is making yourself into your own Magesterium and condemning everyone who does not agree with you.

      I have previously written on this subject and will try to expound on it further very soon.

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