There seems to be a division within the Catholic Church. I would say that what we have now are three major groups: the Traditionalists, the Ordinary and the Charismatics. This is a pretty broad generalization of what I see in the Western church. The focus on this post is on the Traditionalists and the Charismatics and the positive and negative influence they have, and the need to form some common ground between all the three groups.

Each of the groups are a means of expressing one’s faith. Therefore, each one is not necessarily inferior to the other. There were popes who endorsed all of these groups as valid expressions and encouraged them to be fostered. Each one should be encouraged and made available for the laity as needed by each parish.

One of the biggest criticism of Vatican II is that it supposedly opened the door to the current confusion we have today in the church. I would say that Vatican II was not confusing rather those who interpreted the meaning of Vatican II were confused. Regardless, the result of this council had lead to many self interpret the meaning of Vatican II, at times leading to negative consequences. For example, it was never the intent that the extraordinary form of the mass would become almost wiped out but that has been one of the results so far. What I see with the Charismatics is an almost distaste with the extraordinary form and they have blamed it for the poor formation of the older generation. From my discussion with many pre-Vatican II Catholics, there was a general comment made that the church at that time had discouraged them from reading the Bible. How much of that is true is one thing, and to be honest that is a very poor excuse for the lack of formation, but this is a stigma still sitting with people. The Ordinary form is a beautiful expression but it has been very challenging to get it right since Vatican II and I have only witnessed a few parishes that have done it right.

So what is the dilemma? The biggest thing for me is not only do we have dis-unity among the broader Christian community but these different expressions seem to be currently producing dis-unity within the Catholic Church. For example, I have seen some Traditionalists who will not take communion at any mass outside of the extraordinary form.  It is as if the sacrifice is invalid outside of the extraordinary form. The Charismatics at times seem to have no boundaries for their expression. They at times fail to remember that Protestants are heretics, that ecumenism only works if all Christians conform to the Catholic Church and that the emotional experience of the mass must only be an aid to spiritual life and not the source of spiritual life. The Ordinary group tends to be in limbo between the two other groups and yet it makes up the largest group in the Catholic Church. They simply take on whatever expression is offered at their parish.

Now, I want to make it clear that not every member of the the two key groups is to blame for this. I am sure you will get varying degrees of Traditionalists who attend the ordinary form and are content. You will also get some Charismatics that are not interested in false ecumenism.

How do we solve this dilemma? To be honest, I am of the opinion that among all Catholics, we need a common foundation to unite everyone. The only difference for each individual is how they wish to experience the mass. The Traditionalist might attract those that love the extraordinary form, Latin, the silence and more traditional music. The Charismatics might attract those that enjoy an experience that has some emotional depth to their worship. The Ordinary group may prefer varying degrees of either. But irrespective of the expression, all need to be grounded to same base and for me this foundation is none other than the interior and Eucharistic life.

This interior and Eucharistic life is a call for everyone, not just a particular group. It is the basic way in which we grow in relationship with the Jesus Christ and are drawn to a deeper union with Him. It keeps us grounded and aligns our wills with His. Both groups would greatly benefit from this. One thing that makes me concerned with the Charismatics is a general lack of discussion on the Blessed Mother. As St. Louis de Montfort states, a love for the Holy Spirit is always associated with a love of the Blessed Mother. Therefore, when you talk to a Charismatic and there is no mention of the Blessed Mother, you can be sure there is a weak (or no) foundation in the interior and Eucharistic life. On the other extreme, the Traditionalist movements like SSPX focus “heavily” on the interior and Eucharistic life, yet they lack many virtues, such as humility and charity (which makes me question how well formed they are in this area). They tend to be rule focused, cold in their judgments and have no interest in meeting sinners where they are at. In both cases, you will always see a spirit of disobedience. Having the interior and Eucharistic life as the foundation of all Catholics in each of the three groups is the key. We would finally have a common basis and the only difference beyond that is how we ultimately wish to express our love for God.

This is the safest path because the interior and Eucharistic life will lead to greater reference and love for God, a love for the Blessed Mother, growth in virtues and a true love of neighbor. This will resolve all the above mentioned concerns with each of the groups and will create a homogeneous mixture of Catholics that are grounded in their relationship with God. Until we work to develop a common foundation, we will continue to have division. We will be dealing with extremes of each group and the Catholic Church will be pulled further and further apart from one another. We cannot let this happen. It will require work but before United Body can gain the right momentum on a global scale, we first need to work to unite the body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.

St. John Damascene, pray for us!

JM