The Corner


Scandalized Catholics

I enjoyed John Hirschauer’s post on the sloppiness of the contemporary Catholic liturgy. It belongs to a proud and thriving genre. I had not heard the line about crawling to receive Eucharist attributed to Mohandas K. Gandhi before — usually, it’s John Calvin or some unnamed Muslim or Jacobin.

But I wonder if he hasn’t got the causality backward: Perhaps it is the case that the liturgies, and church manners more generally, have become excessively democratic because so many American Catholics no longer really believe their own dogma, rather than that otherwise devout believers have lost their faith because of “extraordinary” eucharistic ministers in blue jeans? I’ll go a mile or two out of my way to avoid a church with bongos and guitars. (Except in the case of guitarists named Christopher Parkening.) But I am not so sure the central Figure of the Christian religion would have been quite so fastidious about this. And one of the most reverential Masses at which I ever have had the honor to be present was celebrated in makeshift conditions in a hotel room. (Ironically, this happened within view of St. Peter’s.) No one wore Birkenstocks, but there is some biblical precedent for sandals, I believe.

Of course there are outward signs indicating inward things, and much of American Catholic observance is, it seems to me, irreverent. But count me skeptical of the proposition that what Catholics really want is a pair of decent long trousers to awe them into orthodoxy.

“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” If the gates of hell shall not prevail, then business casual doesn’t stand a chance.

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