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Full Circle

posted by awelborn

From the SF paper, a spiritual journey:

Often you hear stories about people starting out as a Catholic and leaving Catholicism behind after getting into Eastern religions. But you went back to it. What do you make of that?

Three things came together for me at this point. One was that I was in Jungian analysis, and I had heard that Jung said to Catholics that if they could find it in their hearts to go back to the Catholic Church that he would advise they do so because all of the elements were in place in Catholicism in terms of helping bridge the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious worlds.

At the same time, I also happened to find a book at a New Age bookstore called "Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism." It was a very powerful book for me because the author had also spent time searching around and ended up delving into esoteric spiritual ideas before converting late in life to Catholicism. It helped me see that there wasn’t a contradiction in being a Catholic and living the path that I wanted to live [seeking out truth in various spiritual traditions].

On top of that, I happened to overhear these two guys talking at a restaurant in the Castro, where I lived at the time, about a priest who performed the Mass entirely in Latin at a church down the street, so I went to hear him. There was something really moving to me about the way he said the Mass, the kind of consciousness that he embodied, his tenderness, the way he kissed the altar in the middle of the Mass.

Somehow these three things coalescing around me convinced me to return to the Catholic Church.



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Mark C.

posted July 18, 2005 at 3:21 pm


Apparently Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote the introductions to one of the later editions of “Meditations on the Tarot”.



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Sandra Miesel

posted July 18, 2005 at 3:26 pm


By the mysterious Valentin Tombaugh. Stateford Caldecott once gave it a favorable review in the NC REGISTER.



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hieronymus

posted July 18, 2005 at 3:36 pm


It helped me see that there wasn’t a contradiction in being a Catholic and living the path that I wanted to live [seeking out truth in various spiritual traditions].
Hoo kay…that sounds like a pretty flimsy reason for converting to Catholicism, although there may be more to the story than what is revealed in this very brief interview. I find the Hermetic and Neo-Platonic esotericism of certain Catholic scientists and theologians , especially during the Renaissance (I’m thinking of Athanasius Kircher specifically), fascinating and funny. But I really can’t see how alchemy, astrology, tarot or the like can be considered anything but occultist nonsense in our current age. Beware…..
This
is Balthazar’s afterword. I don’t think it’s all that conclusive – he just thinks it’s an interesting book. However, it appears that the book’s biggest fans are… eek… the “centering-prayer” guys (here we go again….).



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Carrie

posted July 18, 2005 at 4:37 pm


It helps to know that von B had a seer advising him. Adrienne von Speyer was the inspiration for much of his theology. To the best of my knowledge the Church has never given approval to von Speyer’s visions.
Tomberg was a former Anthroposophist. The people who are promoting it and him are interesting. Take a look through their website to see what else they promote.
Von B’s claim that “such an attempt is to be found nowhere in the history of…Catholic thought” is not quite accurate unless you disregard the earlier attempts by Pico della Mirandola, Marsilio Ficino, and Johannes Reuchlin.



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Amanda Smith

posted July 18, 2005 at 4:52 pm


“and I had heard that Jung said to Catholics that if they could find it in their hearts to go back to the Catholic Church that he would advise they do so because all of the elements were in place in Catholicism in terms of helping bridge the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious worlds.”
Can anyone give a source for this?? I’d love to read the original.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 18, 2005 at 4:57 pm


Hieronymus quoted: “It helped me see that there wasn’t a contradiction in being a Catholic and living the path that I wanted to live [seeking out truth in various spiritual traditions]./
From the
CCC:
843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”
I think a lot of people, including a lot of Catholics, labor under the assumption that their is one official form a spirituality which all Catholics in good standing must follow. It might seem freeing to someone who really wants to follow Christ to learn that certain spiritual practices are not necessarily the only ones that lead to Christ.
Centering prayer may not float your boat, but it is an authentic form of Catholic prayer. Any form of authentic spirituality (from the rosary to petitioning prayer — Joel Osteen anyone?) can get out of control.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 18, 2005 at 4:58 pm


Fixed the italics.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 18, 2005 at 5:00 pm


Try that again.



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hieronymus

posted July 18, 2005 at 5:07 pm


Oh bull. The Catechism also has some pretty strong words about occultism, divination, horoscopes, and charms. And false gods, too, y’know. There are elements of Christianity in false religions, but a Catholic shouldn’t be spiritually promiscuous. If you know the truth, and still dabble in nonsense, you’re sinning against the first commandment (Kircher and Ficino and maybe Tomberg didn’t know it was nonsense, so they can be excused).
And, just as there isn’t one healthy spirituality, there aren’t infinity. Centering prayer was invented by a couple of Trappists who pieced it together out of bits of Orthodoxy, Buddhism, and Hinduism. That’s a verifiable fact. I don’t care if some good people have said some nice things about it – it’s goofy, and I’m quite allowed to think so.



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Boniface McInnes

posted July 18, 2005 at 7:04 pm


I cannot give a source for the Jung thing, but I can testify that when I told my shrink (a very secular humanist and jungian) that I had come back to the Faith and would be seing less and less of her, her response was along the lines of “If more people could find it in their hearts to take Catholicism seriously, to live it in an authentic way, I’d be out of a job. Therapy in its various forms is nothing more than a modern attempt to put back together that which was shattered by the advent of the modern world.”
Sadly, she’s in absolutely no position, when last we spoke, of embracing the Faith.



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F. C. Bauerschmidt

posted July 18, 2005 at 7:20 pm


Centering prayer was invented by a couple of Trappists who pieced it together out of bits of Orthodoxy, Buddhism, and Hinduism. That’s a verifiable fact. I don’t care if some good people have said some nice things about it – it’s goofy, and I’m quite allowed to think so.
Of course you’re allowed to think so. But it’s no more “goofy” than Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. I mean, imagining the shade of blue of Mary’s gown? Come on.
BTW, much of what is found in Centering Prayer technique can be found in The Cloud of Unknowing.
I realize that in these syncretistic and, indeed, goofy times, it is tempting to pour scorn upon all sorts of things, but I think that we sell Catholicism short if we try to confine it too much. The great power of Catholicism is ita ability to assimilate the world’s partial truths into itself. I think we should be wary of falsehood, but still strive to maintain a generous spirit.



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A Holy Fool

posted July 18, 2005 at 8:50 pm


The Roman Catholic Church is a hospital with many wards. Different people require different expressions of that Truth that is the Great Physician, Christ.
The Sacraments unite our worship, but other expressions of prayer, such as Centering Prayer are not forms of spiritual “adultry” just because some find them “goofy”. As to their origins in Buddhism and Hinduism, this is just silly urban legendism. Centering Prayer may employ language that attracts those Catholics interested eastern forms of meditation, but its roots are in “ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.” Note that the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing was a 14th century Roman Catholic Christian mystic from England, not a buddhist monk or Hindu Brahman.
The Catholic Church is a big ship. There are many ways to pray to our God. Let’s not cut those Catholics off at the knees that choose to do so in ways that don’t suit our sensibilities. It makes us sound a little too much like the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal son. Besides, I don’t recall orthodox belief giving any one the power to read another’s heart.



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Mary Jane

posted July 18, 2005 at 9:05 pm


Well, I came back to Christianity after reading Hans Kung’s big book, which later everyone told was awful. So God works in mysterious ways. What I liked was the interviewer’s concern about the subject’s prolonged celibacy – as though she might explode in front of him.



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psalm 41

posted July 18, 2005 at 9:12 pm


“I don’t care if some good people have said some nice things about it – it’s goofy, and I’m quite allowed to think so. ”
I was quite immersed in centering prayer and will say that it’s more than goofy, it’s dangerous, and would advise anyone that wishes to practice this form of “prayer” to carefully consider the words of Fr. Thomas Dubay regarding centering prayer:
“Centering methods have been much influenced by oriental ideas, and that is the main problem. For the sake of clarity and brevity, I shall make three points. The first is that one should be beware of techniques for emptying the mind to prepare it for contemplation. This is unnatural. Our minds are made to be filled, not emptied. Nowhere does Scripture advise this. Rather the beginner is told to fill his mind by pondering the word of God day and night (Ps. 1:1-2). This is meditation, not emptying our minds. St. Teresa rightly said that when we are ready, God gives us something better than our efforts can produce, namely infused communing with himself. Secondly, it is an illusion to think that techniques can produce an immersion in God. He is not one to be manipulated as one can manipulate a machine or appliance. And thirdly, emptying methods can frustrate both the beginner who needs input on which to reflect and the advanced person needs freedom from human efforts to be able to receive the light and love God wishes to communicate.”
From “Igniting a Fire Within”.



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Samuel J. Howard

posted July 19, 2005 at 12:40 am


The death of Basil Pennington occasioned this Open Book comment thread in which centering prayer was much discussed.



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sharon d.

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:10 am


Michael Dummett, analytic philosopher and Catholic convert (I believe he had an unpublished paper on the Real Presence) wrote a book called “The Game of Tarot,” notorious in tarot “magick” circles for showing that the origin of tarot cards was not at all occult or mystical, and that occultic use of the cards dates only to the eighteenth century. Unfortunately it goes for hundreds of dollars used, being rare and in demand.



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hieronymus

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:28 am


BTW, much of what is found in Centering Prayer technique can be found in The Cloud of Unknowing.
That’s what they claim. There are plenty of intelligent people who think they misunderstand it.
The Catholic Church is a big ship. There are many ways to pray to our God. Let’s not cut those Catholics off at the knees that choose to do so in ways that don’t suit our sensibilities.
A year ago I would have said the same. As a new convert, I always talked about how wonderful the temperamental and pietistic diversity in ouir Church is. And I still believe that, to a point. But the longer I’m Catholic, the more I see things as indicative of disunity, not Catholicity. It seems the Church is willing to tolerate damn near anything as long as its propmoters still call themselves “Catholic”. Well, I’m not even sure if we all share the same faith or not. Unity is a sham if it’s just a common name, and I’m quickly becoming cynical over the matter. There are traditionalists, apparitionists, charismatics, a hundred different lay movements with their particular charisms, modernists, hesychasts and hermenetics and just about everything else. This isn’t some flowering of the Holy Spirit – it’s a Church that has behaved in such a baffling and manner in the last generations that beyond the pages of the Catechism, nobody has the foggiest idea what it teaches anymore. And to prevent it from breaking apart into hundreds of little groups, we just ignore the differneces and particular (often very serious) problems, and like good little apologists, presenting it as a virtue.



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Simon

posted July 19, 2005 at 8:46 am


There are traditionalists, apparitionists, charismatics, a hundred different lay movements with their particular charisms, modernists, hesychasts and hermenetics and just about everything else. This isn’t some flowering of the Holy Spirit – it’s a Church that has behaved in such a baffling and manner in the last generations that beyond the pages of the Catechism, nobody has the foggiest idea what it teaches anymore.
Pluriformity is not pluralism.
The only groups on your list that represent forces of disunity, or advocate beliefs other than what the Church teaches, are the “modernists” and the angrier sort of “traditionalists”. The former are a dying breed, notwithstanding their continued strong positions in the academy and among the clergy of a certain age. The latter make a lot of noise on the web, but probably don’t amount to even 1% of practicing Catholics.
All the rest represent different forms of spirituality — particular ways of praying and/or of living out one’s vocation as a Catholic. Many of them overlap with one another (surely there are some charismatic “apparitionists” out there), and none detracts in any way from the unity of Christ’s Church.
The abundance of spiritual gifts in the Church is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Unless you suppose that in the spiritual life, one size fits all.



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hieronymus

posted July 19, 2005 at 9:39 am


I’ll clarify that I don’t consider all those things I listed to be bad – I’m a “traditionalist” myelf, if that means I attend a Tridentine liturgy with regularity (although I’m certinly not typical of the people who do) and I think may of the lay movements are good.
But I really think that as often as not, especially where newer “spiritualities” are concerned, the reality is division in all but name.
Do you, Simon, regard any form of spirituality that calls itself Catholic illegitemate? Just because something is tolerated doesn’t make it true. And if we are to be discerning and intelligent Catholics, we shouldn’t need the magisterium to sweep in and quash veneration to Our Lady of Podunk or St. Death before we can recognize it as unhealthy.
And a good many of these factions make mutually exclusive claims. Tolerating them all requires more than open-mindedness – it requires doublethink.
And, no I don’t think that one size fits all. I do think that some things aren’t clothing.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 19, 2005 at 9:48 am


Quoteth hieronymus: There are traditionalists, apparitionists, charismatics, a hundred different lay movements with their particular charisms, modernists, hesychasts and hermenetics and just about everything else. This isn’t some flowering of the Holy Spirit – it’s a Church that has behaved in such a baffling and manner in the last generations that beyond the pages of the Catechism, nobody has the foggiest idea what it teaches anymore.
As Joyce once wrote: “Here comes everybody.” Or maybe Kid Rock: “Welcome to the party.”
The history of the Church is filled with thousands of different movements that are expressions of authentic worship of Christ. Don’t like what is going in the cities, go out into the desert. Don’t like being a hermit, join our monastery. Don’t like being in the monastery, join our mendicant order. Religious life not for you, join our lay apostolate. There are dozens of different ways of just living out one vocation in the Catholic Church.
There have been plenty of spiritual movements in the Church over time. Most grew out of a particular time in a particular place to fill a need. Ignatius’ exercises were not accepted at first by powers that be. Thomas Aquinas’ work spent sometime under the cloud of suspicion.
Read some Church history. Develop a longer view of the Church than the past generation or so. We have had 21 councils for reasons beyond the bishops just wanting face time. Never was Church life perfect. Peter and Paul had their differences but we have parishes dedicated to both these saints.
The Catholic Church is not going to look like a Congregationalist community with most folks practicing a uniform faith life. If someone in the congregation does not like the direction of their community, they start another one. The inherent beauty of the Catholic Church is the diversity of authentic styles of expressions of faith.
To see the different styles at play in the Church, you have to look no further than the last two popes. JPII’s spiritual life had a mystical flavor that came through in his writings. BXVI is a spiritual person, but he is no mystic.



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Sandra Miesel

posted July 19, 2005 at 9:51 am


A WICKED PACK OF CARDS by Ronald Decker, Thierry Depaulis, and Michael Dummett is another book tracing the true history of Tarot cards. Although not the original form of playing cards, they were invented in early 15th C Italy to play a harmless game and are still used for that purpose. French occultists in the 18th C read mystic meanings into the cards’ curious symbols, ultimately spawning a whole brood of fortunetelling cards.
I wrote an article about the origins of the Tarotearlier this year for THE CATHOLIC ANSWER.



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hieronymus

posted July 19, 2005 at 10:21 am


Badly Drawn: I’m quite aware of the diversity in our Church’s history. I’m also aware that for every authentic spirituality, there is a heresy or more. Saying “there have been plenty of spiritual movements in the Church over time” is no excuse for not scrutinizing new movements and pieties, and recognizing error when it exists.
Some of the current factions in the Church are irrational, ahistorical, or doctrinally unsound. It’s always been that way. Since you bring up Saint Paul, perhaps you should reflect on his criticisms of the Corinthian Church and its spiritual peculiarites. he certainly didn’t think all wlell-imeaning expressions of piety were legitimate.



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Simon

posted July 19, 2005 at 10:28 am


Do you, Simon, regard any form of spirituality that calls itself Catholic illegitemate? Just because something is tolerated doesn’t make it true.
Of course! Where shall I start? The New Age spirituality that threatened to overrun the American Church in the 70s and 80s — Jungian claptrap, the “Enneagram”, “Creation Spirituality”, “womyn church” etc. — is fundamentally not even Christian. Nor do I have any use for the modernists or rad/trads, both of which strike me more as protest movements than spiritualities (I do love the beauty of the “old” Mass, even though capital T Traditionalists are a huge turn off). There’s also a certain kind of “apparitionist” who talks constantly with barely concealed glee about the Great Coming Days of Darkness and Chastisement; that’s less a category of spiritually than of an emotional problem.
But you were talking above about charismatics and all sorts of different lay movements and widely different approaches to prayer. That kind of diversity is a blessing, and it does not contribute in any way to disunity.
Each soul is unique. There isn’t any one method of prayer, set of pious practices, or spiritual emphasis that fits every single person. Because the Church is open to all who share the fullness of the Truth, it is truly Catholic.



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Touchy Tech

posted July 19, 2005 at 10:39 am


I made a journey very much like this back to the Church twice. I think that I was the only Jungian who would own up to it in the Psych Dept. (I had a Psych. minor at the time) of CSUSD, and dabbled in the I-Ching. I would now be so hard on this guy or quick to judge his statements, as mistaken as they are from that point of view of someone secure in the faith. The road he seems to be on, if it is similar to the one I tread, is a gradual one, where art and symbolism provide a bridge, that is really Christ, from the neither lands of shadows and portents to the bright realms of truth. And truth was the key for me – that it really exists and what that means. That was the key to the door of my self-made prison of dreams and Gnostic fantasies, that opened on the splendor of the truth.
I would not be surprised to learn that this guy was thinking less and less about Jung and more and more about Jesus.



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hieronymus

posted July 19, 2005 at 10:42 am


Look, I’d appreciate it if y’all discard the ridiculous-looking straw-man that if I’m critical of many new movements in the Church, I’m somehow saying that there’s only one right way to pray.
The more closely I get to know charismatic and apparitionist Catholicism in particular, the more I’m convinced that it’s a gullible silly and counterfeit spirituality. I’m not trying to start an argument on the subject, but I think some more critical discernment definitely is appropriate in these matter.
And yet, for saying so, I’ll immediately be derided for being intolerant – well, bull. They’re just as intolerant of me. We have mutually excluse views on the matter, and saying “let’s tolerate each other” is just a sneaky way of saying “let’s tolerate us and you keep quiet”.



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Simon

posted July 19, 2005 at 11:10 am


Hieronymus: Okay, now you’re being more specific.
But “charismatics” and “apparitionists” are not organized groups with coherent, uniform beliefs or any officially recognized status within the Church. Both are just loose terms for tendencies.
The approved apparitions of Our Lady have given wonderful fruits — souls filled with peace, prayer, and hope. There are also crackpots, of course, who share some of the characteristics of Protestant Rapture enthusiasts.
I have never been attracted to the charismatic movement personally, but I have known charismatics who are deeply prayerful, doctrinal sound, and on fire with love for God. At the same, there is a minority of charismatics who have been influenced by Pentecostal sects, treat the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as though it were a sacrament, and (tellingly) express hostility or at least a sharp reserve toward Marian devotion. This latter tendency is not, IMHO, authentically Christian.
But you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. The Church will always have its dingbats. No one is giving an imprimatur to the unorthodox apparitionist/charismatics. But neither can the Church actively root out every single whacko tendency, any more than we can separate all the tares from the wheat.



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Badly Drawn Catholic

posted July 19, 2005 at 11:45 am


hieronymus,
I am not inclined to judge the merits of particular spiritual movements for a couple of reasons. One is I do not have enough time and the second is that I am not qualified. I feel fairly secure in the qualified judgment of the popes and bishops (keeping in mind that they have been wrong in many cases), so I follow their lead in such matters.
I just took exeption to your statements on centering prayer. I am not blind to certain extremes that people have taken it. Someone commented on centering prayer and the ennegram as a spiritual program. Because the ennegram is a questionable activity does not make centering prayer questionable. Just because some people pray the rosary and venerate questionable apparitions does not make the rosary suspect.
Apophatic and kataphatic (via negativa and via positiva) are very traditional forms of Christian prayer. But since people are people, some valid forms of prayer will be skewed by some well meaning participants (in my experience most kooky people are well meaning but just ill (in)formed). Heresy is just someone taking a valid teaching of the Church to an extreme it was not meant to go.
Are there kooky forms of spiritual life being practice by people who call themselves and their practice Catholic? Sure, but I would be loathe to place centering prayer in this group just because a few kooks practice centering prayer.
“Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirt of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God.” I Corinthains 2:11
Let’s not be hasty in making judgments about spiritual practices that are deeply rooted in the Christian fabric.



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Maureen

posted July 19, 2005 at 12:07 pm


First off — did you really expect someone in San Francisco not to have a wacky spiritual path? Obviously this person has been looking and has come home. His reasons may be wacky and he may still be in danger, but at least he’s there. Pray for him.
Second, I surprised nobody’s mentioned Charles Williams here. Admittedly, I think Charles Williams was pretty wacked, but he did use Tarot cards as Christian symbolism in one of his novels.



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Maureen

posted July 19, 2005 at 12:16 pm


Oh, and I don’t advocate using Tarot cards except for playing Tarocchi, which is a pretty fun Italian card game and their original intended use. But you’d almost be better off making your own Tarocchi deck than using Tarot cards, since they do give the wrong impression.
Still, it’s really funny to play Tarocchi in front of the kind of people who are devoted to “readings” and wrap their own decks in silk. Probably salutary. Possibly a good way to evangelize.
http://www.pagat.com/tarot/
Tarocchi game info on a card game site



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Der Tommissar

posted July 20, 2005 at 1:29 pm


But “charismatics” and “apparitionists” are not organized groups with coherent, uniform beliefs or any officially recognized status within the Church. Both are just loose terms for tendencies.
We’re all selective, I guess. By inference, you could say the author was intimating that “Traditionalists” are “organized groups with coherent, uniform beliefs or any officially recognized status within the Church”.
Fortunately, he only means the “angrier sorts” of Traditionalists. Is it me, or is that like saying, “It’s cool, you’re one of the ‘ok’ black people.”
Modernism is a clearly defined heresy, written about in detail by at least one Pope.
“Traditionalism” is a term that used to lump together people who go to Mass at a church with a priest from the FSSP to those who accept Corky from Utah as Pope Corky XXVII (you /have/ to jump Corky to XXVII to make it sound at all legitimate) and anything in between.
Oh, and let me let y’all in on a little secret. If you were blindfolded and driven to a Mass, and it was kept on through the homily, nine times out of ten you wouldn’t know if you were at an FSSP parish or an SSPX chapel.



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