Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Suburban Parish and The Heresy of Inconsequentialism

I have come to a conclusion.  Most Catholics don't believe in God.

At least they don't believe in the Christian God, the God who became man to save us from sin and who died on a cross and rose again, calling us to participate in a life of sacrifice and love until He comes join us in his resurrection by raising us bodily from the dead at the Last Judgment, where some will find they've chosen eternal life, others eternal damnation.

Most Catholic instead believe (to quote H. Richard Niebuhr) that ...

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”


Today at Mass I walked out during the homily.  I've only done that twice in 14 years as a Catholic, counting today.  It wasn't especially bad, as homilies go, but I realized that it was pointless to stay any longer.  I realized at one point that Whatever religion this man is preaching and these people are celebrating, I'm not in communion with it.  In other words, I was at a putatively Catholic Mass at a so-called Catholic parish, but I was not at a service honoring anything resembling the Catholic God.

It was a parish that I was forced to go to because of time and travel constraints.  It had (as most parishes do) a guitar player singing bad songs very badly and very loudly.  He was quite obviously enthralled with the sound of his voice over the loud speakers.  It was a form of bad performance art, or a kind of narcissism on parade.  I imagine when this man enters into an intimate physical relationship with his wife, his favorite part is hearing himself moan at the moment of climax.  Perhaps he records that moan and listens to it over and over again, admiring the tones and cadences of his marvelous voice.  You know the type.  At any rate, he made me moan at this Mass, that's for sure.

Speaking of sex, before Mass a teen aged girl with a Steubenville T-shirt on ran up to an attractive young man and gave him the Christian Side Hug.  It didn't phase him in the least, but she went away quivering and giddy.  She sang the bad songs out loud with the rock star very loudly, in a pew right up front, swaying and all abuzz.

The homily had one simple message: don't be afraid when Christ comes.  Even if He comes like a thief in the night, even though Scripture warns us of "darkness" and "grinding of teeth", even though "our God is an awesome [fear inspiring] God", we Christians can be confident that "when Christ comes, it will be a good thing."

Not for this guy it won't, as Michelangelo imagines it ...

Not for that guy it won't.  But he only finds that out on the day Christ comes, not at his Suburban Mass.

So what is this weird thing that is happening all over the country, and apparently all over the world?  What is this weird religion that calls itself Catholic?

This is the religion of antichrist, of Christ without the cross.  

Others have called it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, but that phrase is not only awkward, it's a misnomer.  For this heresy is neither Moralistic, Therapeutic, or Deist.

There is nothing Moralistic about the Suburban Parish Mass at all.  Universal salvation is offered to everyone, regardless of your ethical beliefs or practices.  There's nothing Therapeutic going on there, either.  Any good therapist challenges his patient to get better, and not to continue wallowing in his addictions and bad choices; I've never heard any homily or modern hymn do anything like that; we are always affirmed right where we are.  And this whole thing isn't exactly Deism, for there is a personal God in the mix and we do more or less pray to Him, or at least we try to if the music isn't too loud.

So what is this sick and bizarre heresy that we find in the vast majority of Catholic parishes, especially in the suburbs, that we find in Mainline Protestant churches and that the "Progressives" at the Synod on the Family are pushing?  If it's not really Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, what is it?

Belloc called it Modernism, but even he acknowledged that it seemed to be a mixture of all heresies and that it was hard to pin down or define.

I think the best name for it is Inconsequentialism.  

It is the belief that the Consequential does not exist.  None of our choices or actions matters.  Nothing we do will lead to heaven or hell.  Our lives are works of fiction written entirely by our own selves.  God stands back and applauds whatever choice we make, like an indulgent public school Kindergarten teacher.  

And since nothing leads to anything (which is what "inconsequential" means), the culture of this heresy is a kind of parody of the Kingdom of heaven: it's hell on earth, a place that is above all else Unreal.  It is a place where we can choose our own genders, our own doctrines, our own way, our own truth, our own life.  It is a place lacking all judgment, for judgment is the Consequential - and by judgment I mean both the Last Judgment as well as personal judgment or discernment: both God's judgment of us and our own judgment-in-practice, our own decision making day in and day out, our own "tough choices", none of which (we are assured) matters in the least, all of which are Inconsequential.

T. S. Eliot described the effects of what I call Inconsequentialism.  "Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing," he said.  Inconsequentialism is isolating, fragmenting, and atomizing.  

But Inconsequentialists gladly pay that price, for their entire goal is to deny the Cross and everything that the Cross implies: sacrifice, suffering, discipline, decision, death, shame, and sin.  To have Christ without the Cross is their goal.  This, according to Bishop Sheen, was the hallmark of the spirit of antichrist: the denial of the cross in all its forms.

But if your entire philosophy of life is devoted to denying the Consequential (and the Cross is the most emphatic expression of the Consequential), then everything you do - especially your religion - becomes Inconsequential - which is to say, unimportant, minor, meaningless, bland, and ultimately (like the loud guitar music) a form of public masturbation.

Why would any normal human being seek something like this out?  Most of us aren't thrilled with Christian Side Hugs, even when we're teen agers.  I can get better pop psychology watching an Oprah rerun than I'll ever get at a Suburban Mass.  Dr. Phil is more challenging than just about any parish priest you'll come across.  If I want loud pop music, I can pull up good (rather than bad) pop music on my computer and put on headphones.  If I want sex, I don't need to swallow the pervy weirdness of a Christopher West or a Mark Driscoll.  If I want a religious experience, I can sleep in on Sundays and take a walk in the woods and pray in peace and quiet.  Of course, I need the Church for the Sacraments and for infallible teaching on morals and faith, but normal people don't see the value of either, as it's never pointed out to them.

The priest said today in his homily that when Christ comes, "all our desire will be fulfilled".  But the Religion of Inconsequentialism is all about denying the purpose of desire, as well as the purpose of anything.  Desire is just a kind of physical manifestation of sentiment to Inconsequentialists.  Loving a woman, marrying her, forming a family that lasts your entire life, and having a bunch of babies is not the point of normal human desire for an Inconsequentialist.  "Getting off" is.  Sterility is the sole sacrament of the Inconsequential Faith.  "Get off" however you will, but make sure nothing comes of it; make sure there are no Consequences.

And heaven?  It's a big dessert buffet where you can eat all you want and not get fat, not suffer the Consequences.  It's a place where no one ever judges anyone any more, where there is no Judgment built into the nature of Reality, where we are all happily Unreal forever more, where our desires are easily fulfilled because our desires are shallow to begin with.

Who would want a heaven like that, or a faith like that?  Rod Dreher writes of the impending collapse of what I've called the Church of Inconsequentialism (my emphasis in bold and my comments in red ) ...

Sociologist Philip Rieff, in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, observed that institutions die when they can no longer communicate their core values to the next generation in a convincing way. He said this to support his contention (in 1966!) that Christianity was dying in the West, because we Westerners have become hostile to the ascetic spirit that is inextricable from authentic Christianity and has been from the beginning.  [In other words, we have rejected the Cross] As you know, I believe Rieff was right, and that his being right is not something that traditional Christians should take comfort in, except in this one way: a Christianity that does demand something sacrificial from its followers is not only being true to the nature of the religion, but is far more likely to engender the kind of devotion that will endure through the therapeutic dark age. Aside from its radical theological innovations that are impossible to harmonize with Christianity as it was known for its first 1,900 years, Progressive Christianity has fully embraced the therapeutic mindset, in the sense that Rieff means. It is dying because it cannot convince young people to embrace its values within the institutional churches. It can’t be denied that many of the young do accept the social liberalism embraced by the progressive churches, but it also can’t be denied that most of them don’t see why they have to be part of a church to be socially progressive.

In that article, Rod points out that the Last Episcopalian has almost certainly been born.  By the time a baby baptized today in an Episcopal church is 80 years old, the Episcopal church will have ceased to exist, at its present rate of decline. The churches that worship Christ without a Cross, the churches of the Inconsequential are reaping what they have sown.

They are finding that they are Inconsequential indeed.


Timothy Jones said...

It's maddening. Worse, in it's way, than open and frank heresy.

Kevin Tierney said...

And that is why while I do not think the American Church will become a traditionalist haven overnight, there is little doubt among my generation that trads will punch way above their weight class.


Because we are able to tell the next generation of catholics why you should be a traditionalist. You get beautiful liturgies that elevate you to the things of heaven. You get challenged by the Gospel to become better. And most importantly, if you get in now, you can be a part of building something. Those churches over there? They are dying. And there's nothing you can do to stop it. Over here? We're in union with the Pope, we are Catholic, and we are expanding. What we need is a couple creative and devout Catholics to help us in any way possible to make it better. There's a place for everyone, from the thinker to the person who just folds missals before Mass so people can follow along. We need everyone to survive.

What competing message can "conservative" Catholicism offer? A spot on another pointless bureaucratic church committee? A chance to sit in on church meetings with a bunch of gray hairs who couldn't possibly begin to understand why devout young Catholics are devout?

Within 20 years, we get the demographic collapse in American Catholicism nobody wants to talk about and everyone hopes doesn't come. At that point, it's either trads (and their reform of the reform allies) or the charismatics who will be where all the action is. There will be other parishes that thrives sure, but in those two camps will be where all the exciting things come from. Why?

Because we can articulate a reason to be Catholic that makes sense within our charism. What is the charism of the average parish?

Mario said...

"Christ without the cross."

What a wonderful way to sum it up, considering many of these suburban "parishes" resemble nothing of a true house of God and often times you'd be lucky to find a prominent cross anywhere near the altar. It's usually space reserved for potted plants and Christmas trees these days, right?

I'm glad my family still attends our immigrant national parish where we have a very faithful NO liturgy and that while I'm away at school I have access to a Tridentine Mass. It's sad but you just can't trust going to a suburban parish these days. Liturgical abuse runs rampant. Another thing which I fear is that many Evangelization efforts are run by these folks who want more "vibrant, active" liturgies...

Anonymous said...

While i couldn't agree w/you more on the overview, the avg Parish has lost its flavor, and God forbid an appreciation of truth in all its implications be displayed; however, i'm intrigued by the specific exhortation that bothered you so. When i read the Saints (Faustina / Liguori / John Paul II / Bernard of Clairveaux), they seem to echo this message, St Faustina is especially clear that the terror of God can lead to a rejection of his mercy, so my question to you is just this: how do you distinguish between what bothered you in regards to what the Priest was specifically saying, "don't fear Christ when he comes, and the dangerous suggestion that in spite of my total wretchedness, and especially w/the intercession of Our Lady, i can w/some confidence, albeit totally unmerited confidence, await His coming.
Idiot Myshkin

Anonymous said...

"It had (as most parishes do) a guitar player singing bad songs very badly and very loudly."
I get it. But your blog post paints with too broad a brush from a very small sample size. I'm a cradle Catholic born in the 60s. I cannot pretend this does not exist. But I can tell you it exists to a lesser degree than it did when I was a kid. And of course, most Catholic parishes are not in the US, and while I cannot speak to the presence of guitars or not in all places I think we have reason to hope that if they are in say Uganda, or Uruguay maybe they sing better and sing better songs.

Anonymous said...

The sacraments of Christ, and so the church, do not depend on the character of the priest or the talent or taste of the choir, nor the language that it is in. Th y depend on the savior and our God. that the Parish you ventured into was not of your taste or the message was rather to simple, milk as St Paul referred, that is where those people were, and could not handle to be fed on adult food, perhaps. Maybe the pastor knew what his audience was and just maybe your pride is what alienated you. I do not know the answers here but I do know you walked away from the Eucharist.
Sometimes the greatest work the church can accomplish is to be available and welcoming when a person is in dire need and knows where to find help because they were not alienated by some self impressed blogger who can't write any better than some guitar players can sing.

Anonymous said...

Just come home-- to the original Church....Rod Dreher did.

Carolyn Lalli said...

Kevin, I fully understand your frustration and would like to make a suggestion. When you are away from home, consider attending mass at an Eastern Catholic Church. Although it is not widely known in our Western world, the Catholic Church is actually a communion of Churches. According to the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be "a corporate body of Churches," united with the Pope of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity (LG, no. 23). At present there are 22 Churches that comprise the Catholic Church. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase "autonomous ritual Churches" to describe these various Churches (canon 112). Each Church has its own hierarchy, spirituality, and theological perspective. Because of the particularities of history, there is only one Western Catholic Church, while there are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Western Church, known officially as the Latin Church, is the largest of the Catholic Churches. It is immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as Patriarch of the West. The Eastern Catholic Churches are each led by a Patriarch, Major Archbishop, or Metropolitan, who governs their Church together with a synod of bishops. Through the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Roman Pontiff works to assure the health and well-being of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Although there are 22 Churches, there are only eight "Rites" that are used among them. A Rite is a "liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary patrimony," (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, canon 28). "Rite" best refers to the liturgical and disciplinary traditions used in celebrating the sacraments. Many Eastern Catholic Churches use the same Rite, although they are distinct autonomous Churches. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Melkite Catholic Church are distinct Churches with their own hierarchies. Yet they both use the Byzantine Rite.

To learn more about the "two lungs" of the Catholic Church, visit this link:

The Vatican II Council declared that "all should realize it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve, and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition" (Unitatis Redintegrato, 15).

A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his or her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole. I am a Roman Catholic practicing my faith at a Maronite Catholic Church. Like the Chaldeans, the Maronites retain Aramaic for the Consecration. It is as close as one comes to being at the Last Supper.

You are most fortunate to have St. Raymond's Maronite Cathedral, right in your own backyard. 11 years ago, frustrated like you, I set off on a journey to find a "reverent liturgy, a holy priest and a community where my God given abilities could be of assistance." I compiled a list of other parishes within a certain radius of home, including 2 Eastern Catholic parishes. When I stepped into the Maronite Church, I knew I was home. Give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised at the beauty and reverence of the eastern Divine Liturgies.

Anonymous said...

One of the defining traits of modern philosophy is its dogmatic denial of formal and final causes, of essences and ends (with the possible exception of Leibniz).

As Chesterton pointed out, to the modern, the universe is dead and mechanical, not alive and fruit bearing. And mechanics is just technology. And technology is just power over nature (read Francis Bacon. He literally says that science is about raping nature, so she will give birth to what we want).

Philosophy is not about understanding reality any longer, it is about forcing our will on nature. Marxism and progressivism and capitalism are not abstracted from reality; they are forced onto it (especially through my generation in today's "education"). It is simply Ockhamism.

Christi pax,