Chesterton, in analyzing the forces that are attacking Christian culture, makes the distinction between the “innocent outer circle” and the “supremely guilty inner circle”.
What has happened to liturgical music is a perfect example of how a “supremely guilty inner circle” took advantage of the “innocent outer circle” and stole from us not only a patrimony of beautiful music developed over centuries, but also in so doing robbed our churches of the Fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom.
This process is detailed by Msgr. Richard J. Schuler in an online document “A Chronicle of the Reform: Catholic Music in the 20th Century” available here.
The villains in Msgr. Schuler’s piece include all the usual suspects, most notably Rembert Weakland, who seems to turn up everywhere. Weakland is the Bishop Spong of the Catholic Church – anti-Christian, notoriously homosexual, vandal of architecture, embezzler, and perverter of minds and souls – he, along with a cadre of associates, managed to keep from U.S. dioceses and parishes the implementation of the Vatican II documents on the role of sacred music in the liturgy, and with the dithering acquiescence of the bishops, in no time at all replaced legitimate Catholic worship with what we have now. This fraud was swallowed by the “innocent outer circle”, those over-volunteering church ladies and histrionic men who for some reason like the Marty Haugen / David Haas virus that has infected us.
How tempting it is for us curmudgeons to blame Vatican II on the evisceration of the Church, when, in fact, it was all those acting (they said) in the “spirit of Vatican II” who were most vehemently opposed to the documents of the Council and their implementation – who were most opposed to the true spirit of Vatican II.
Reading Schuler’s piece it becomes difficult not to assign to the “supremely guilty inner circle” all of the benefits of conspiracy, from international coordination to communist connections – and indeed, these things are probably more true than we wish to acknowledge. What is undeniable, however, is the spiritual conspiracy at work. International communists or not, these men were at least the tools of a great supernatural conspiracy that is clearly well-organized and bloodthirsty for the ruin of the Church.
But it’s odd how these things appear to us. On the one hand, if we refuse to see these guilty ones for who they are, we can not fight them. Their minions and followers (the “innocent outer circle”) might have the best intentions – including a confused desire for ecumenism, a hope to appeal to the world at large, a legitimate reaction against legalism and Puritanism – but the leaders are clearly not well-intentioned. They are the “supremely guilty inner circle”. It is their goal to destroy the Catholic Church, period. Ye shall know them by their fruits, and also by looking squarely at what they’re doing.
But on the other hand if we start assigning to them conspiratorial powers (which they may in fact have), it’s tempting for us to romanticize bad behavior. For example, there’s a video making the rounds on the internet about how Planned Parenthood was supposedly giving low-dose contraceptives to teen age girls, in the hopes that the girls would get pregnant and come back to procure abortions. Now this may indeed be true, but is it not enough to see what Planned Parenthood is doing up front and not in secret? Do we need to assign secret motives to them in order to know that they are out to kill babies and need to be stopped? Why do we need to up the ante by coming up with conspiracy theories? They’re very up front about who they are and what they’re doing.
In the same way, if we don’t see clearly what Rembert Weakland and his cronies are up to – if we need to assign dark and secret motives to men who make it very clear that they already have dark and secret motives – we are clouding our vision.
In short, what I’m saying is we know who the real conspirators are. St. Paul tells us, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” But when we see men doing evil around us, we tend either to avert our eyes and make excuses for them, or get caught in a maelstrom of hate and suspicion, which is both spiritually and practically counter-productive.
I think the temptation to do this, to bounce from one extreme to the other, from the extreme of denying any bad motives to people behaving badly to the other extreme of seeing an invincible human conspiracy behind everything the villains do, is how good they are at whitewashing and at how docile we’ve become in tolerating them. We are out of shape, and have lost the practice of thinking clearly.
And so we have to look for guides. One guide is this: how clear is the language?
If I’ve learned anything from Judge Judy, I’ve learned to be suspicious of something with this kind of language (which Schuler quotes from “Music in Catholic Worship”, a document issued by a committee set up by the USCCB):
“We are Christians because through the Christian community we have met Jesus Christ, heard his word in invitation, and responded to him in faith. We gather at Mass that we may hear and express our faith again in this assembly and, by expressing it, renew and deepen it. We come together to deepen our awareness of, and commitment to, the action of his Spirit in the whole of our lives at every moment. We come together to acknowledge the love of God poured out among us in the work of the Spirit, to stand in awe and praise.”
Now this is a great example of using vagueness to cover up your intentions. The authors of this document have the worst possible intentions. But they know better than to say anything in particular that’s wrong and that you can point your finger at. It’s the tone of the document that is enervating and leaves us slack-jawed, unable to counter with an argument. That’s because it’s what they leave out that is telling. It’s the fact that while we may “gather at Mass that we may hear and express our faith again”, this is like saying, “I have sex with my wife in order to spend time with her” … well, yes, but that sure ain’t the whole story, nor the most important part of it. As Schuler points out, there is no mention of baptism, sacraments, sacrifice, the cross, etc.
Last Sunday, I heard a priest deliver a homily on the reading from Acts where Paul and Barnabas set right those who have been troubled by the Judaizers. While the whole point of the reading is that the Church has the authority to correct error, the whole point of this man’s homily was “let’s just get along and tolerate one another’s differences of opinion.” I wanted to scream. He later prayed for us to “respect Mother Earth”. I wanted to confront him at his car, but I couldn’t find the one with the “coexist” bumper sticker.
So my point in all of this is look at things clearly and squarely. Recognize when you hear someone “fudging”. Pay attention to what is not being said, to what is being deliberately left out. Spot the ulterior motives in our Church leaders and Church neighbors. It’s easy for us to do this with our friends and families, so just extend the common sense to those you can’t imagine sinning. Well, they sin; we all do, and the sins of the “supremely guilty inner circle” are sins that are aimed at victimizing you.
We need not make a big deal of the human conspiracies that may or may not exist behind the scenes, but at the same time we should not shut our eyes to the fraud that is being perpetrated around us by the wolves in sheep’s clothing who are dismantling the Gospels and disemboweling the Church.
Pray for Rembert Weakland, who is still outrageously unrepentant, and for those who know what they’re doing, and for the rest of us who don’t.