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DOES POPE AIM TO BRING CHURCH BACK BY MAKING IT SMALLER, PURER, MORE DEVOUT?
Now that the Pope has expressed his preference for sacred music (raising issue with that which detracts from the holiness of Mass), and has opened the way for more Latin in the liturgy, as well as indicated that he prefers giving Communion on the tongue (pointedly minding not at all when those receiving are kneeling as they receive it), the question is whether bishops in North America and Australia -- where he is currently visiting -- will follow up with more traditional liturgies.
Perhaps another question is: if not, why not? Is it not time to train our eyes more directly toward Rome?
The common theory is that bishops fear a turn away from modernism will further put the Church out of touch with the culture and also further empty the pews (when, in fact, others theorize, it was modernism, including awkward and rocking new music, that helped empty them to begin with). Where is the move in America to traditionalize?
Interesting is the notion that this Pope not only doesn't care if the Church shrinks, but actually desires such, as long as it purifies -- that Benedict XVI is interested in a purer, more devotional, and stricter Church, citing the strength of the Church in its early history, when it was vastly smaller than the billion-strong institution of our present day, a Church that is large but often in disagreement.
Is there now special opportunity in a place like Australia, where the regular Sunday faithful have dwindled -- where the Church has shrunken -- in such a dramatic way?
"We might take a moment here to ponder the thoughts of Pope Benedict on the character and activity of the Church in the coming decades of the third millennium," writes Dr. Joseph Maucier in The Millennial Papacy. "His analysis is not economical but ecclesiological. Nonetheless he looks at both possibilities. Pope Benedict has spoken of a smaller, more faithful Church as perhaps the model of the Church for these perilous times, not unlike the early Church in its intense solidarity.
"We must remember that the solidarity of the early Church was ecclesiological, theological, and economical, as reflected in the Acts of the Apostles. Might that same Church in the economic life of its members be more congenial to Pope Benedict's vision than the present state within which Catholics and Christians are engaged?
"Pope John Paul II had spoken of 'a new springtime of Christianity' and Pope Benedict XVI speaks of a smaller and perhaps somewhat centripetal ["directed-to-the-center"] Church, not separated from the world but carefully guarding and nurturing a smaller household of the faithful.
"These are not contrary visions," adds Dr. Maucier, "but they do presuppose harder times are coming."
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[Photo above was taken during Pope's visit to the U.S.]
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