Thursday, September 25, 2008

Daphne MacLeod on the Crisis in the Church

Comment: Daphne McLeod argues below that the crisis in the Church is the result fo the 'new catechetics' which was imposed on the Church following the Second Vatican Council. She certainly has a point, and her organisation, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, has devoted itself to opposing bad textbooks used in Catholic schools, the creation of joint Anglican-Catholic schools and so on.

She contrasts her own view with that expressed recently in Christian Order, that the crisis derives from the liturgical changes which followed the Council. This also appears to be the view of the Pope, who famously wrote that the crisis comes from the 'collapse in the liturgy'. Pope Benedict and Christian Order's Rod Pead, of course, don't have exactly the same views on what needs to be done to put it right.

Mrs McLeod thinks her position is 'irrefutable', however, because the Church has not collapsed in places where the new catechetics could not be imposed, ie behind the Iron Curtain and in some developing countries. But it is not as simple as that. The strength of the Church in those places is in part explicable by other factors: economic, social, political. And the new catechesis cannot explain the mass apostacy of adult Catholics in the West: it wasn't just children who lost the faith. Something else was going on, and that was the liturgy.

But in any case, the contrast is too crude. Catechetics cannot be separated from liturgy. Fr Tim Finnigan wrote, on the contrast between the existing and the proposed new translation of the 1970 Mass, that the existing translation is so bad is makes correct catechetics about what is going on during Mass extremely difficult. It is often said, surely correctly, that liturgical abuses are a kind of counter-catechetics of the Blessed Sacrament, since what people see going on undermines their faith in the Sacrament. And so on. And it is just wrong to imply that people concerned about liturgy are not concerned about catechetics. Many of the people most concerned about the liturgy - people who attend the Traditional Mass - take their children out of school to teach them at home in order to ensure adequate catechetics.

'Lex orandi, lex credendi.' The rule of prayer is the rule of belief.

From Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice



Faithful and well informed Catholics know that the Church in Great Britain is in a very critical state. Every survey shows a further dramatic drop in Mass attendance, in reception of the Sacraments and in priestly and religious vocations. If this free fall continues unaddressed the future of the Church in this country is very bleak. To save us from being reduced to a Church consisting of only a few scattered Catholic families struggling to keep pockets of the faith alive in different parts of the country, this crisis needs to be recognised and corrective action taken urgently.

However, as with any critical situation, this action must be appropriate and the only way to be certain of that is to determine the definitive cause of this catastrophe. Here, unfortunately, faithful Catholics are deeply divided. The fashionable explanation, believed by a large number of good people, is that the principal if not the sole cause of all our problems is the replacement of the ancient Tridentine rite of Mass with the Novus Ordo rite. These Catholics devote all their time and all their resources to restoring the Mass of Ages and they have succeeded in bringing this rite back in many parts of the country. Now with the Summorum Pontificum the position is even better, but 97% of Catholic school leavers are still walking away from the Church every year so there is no significant improvement in our overall situation.

Other Catholics, fewer in number but just as concerned, who also love the Tridentine Mass and mourn its loss, realise that our present crisis is really due to “the widespread religious ignorance” of the Truths of the Faith found in so many Catholics under the age of fifty. If we don't know much about Almighty God we cannot love Him as we should, if we don't know Christ's teachings we cannot follow them, if we have been taught to despise the Church we will walk away from Her, whatever rite of Mass is being offered in our local church. Such Catholics devote all their energy and resources struggling to bring the Truths of the Faith back in all our schools and parishes.

This unfortunate division has arisen partly because two great changes occurred at the same time. Those who claim the new rite for Mass has caused our decline can show that it started when the rite was changed. And so it did, but only because the new teaching was enforced at exactly the same time. This is quite deliberate. The modernists who used the Council to resurrect their beliefs, (beliefs firmly stamped on by Pope Saint Pius X in his Encyclical Pascendi in 1907, ) knew that they needed a distraction if they were to succeed this time. Changing the rite of Mass was the perfect ‘red herring' because, as they foresaw, many excellent Catholics reacted so strongly they didn't even notice that the teaching given in schools and parishes was changed even more drastically. Sadly this deception is still distracting too many of us from the real cause of the Church's problems.

Perhaps Catholics who have no proper regard for the havoc caused by modernist catechetics don't realise how evil it is. They accept that the Faith is not as well taught as it used to be but they imagine it is still being taught after a fashion in Catholic schools. Unfortunately it is not. Anyone who actually examines one of the officially approved R.E. textbooks or who discusses religion with an intelligent Catholic school leaver, would soon realise this. Not only are our youngsters kept ignorant of even basic Catholic teaching and prayers, they have often been given a deep contempt for our Holy Mother Church which it is almost impossible to eradicate.

I realise my claims are very controversial so I will substantiate them with evidence it has taken forty years to discern. Recently the Catholic journalist Jeff Ziegler carried out a survey showing the number of priests, related to the number of Catholics, in every country in the World. This was published in Catholic World Report July 2008 and it shows a very interesting parallel. We must remember that the Novus Ordo rite was made mandatory world wide and has been said in every country where there are Catholics for over forty years, but not every country adopted modernist catechetics.

Thank God a situation the Modernists had not foreseen protected some countries from the new religion they had concocted. None of the Catholic priests and teachers who lived in countries behind the Iron Curtain were allowed to travel to the Study Weeks where the new religion was so cleverly taught. This means that Poland, Estonia, the Ukraine and others continued teaching the Faith to the next generation just as they always had since the time of the Apostles. They were, of course, celebrating the Novus Ordo rite of Mass but because they were properly instructed it was said reverently and without abuses. The other Catholics who were spared modernist catechetics were those in the poorer African and Asian countries who could not afford to travel to the Study Weeks set up to teach priests and catechists the new religion. They too have been able to continue teaching the Truths of the Faith as handed down to us by the Apostles.

Today, thank God, we have well instructed priests, crowded churches, stable marriages, and packed seminaries, in eastern European countries and in many African and Asian countries. Indeed, these countries are so well off for priests they are able to send priests as missionaries to help us and other countries decimated by modernist catechetics. My own experience in Arundel and Brighton Diocese is typical. Recently we had a very holy and learned Nigerian priest helping out in my parish. He offered Mass prayerfully and reverently and, although he had never witnessed it, was interested in the Tridentine Rite. He gave helpful, inspiring, spiritual sermons and joined us for the Rosary every day after Mass - the only priest to do so in over twenty years. He told us about the crowded seminaries in Nigeria and that he was engaged in building a new one to prepare some of those still waiting to become priests. The only thing these countries are short of is money and there we can help them while they help us spiritually.

Mr Zeigler's comprehensive survey confirms this situation. The countries which come out top with a high number of priestly vocations in relation to the number of Catholics, include Nepal, Macedonia, Thailand, India, S.Korea, Poland, Sri Lanka,

The Ukraine, Nigeria, etc. These are all countries which were spared the new catechetics though of course they had to accept the Novus Ordo rite. Countries at the bottom of his lengthy list with fewest priestly vocations include Luxembourg, The Netherlands, France, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Canada, Belguim Portugal, the United States and Great Britain – all countries which embraced the new teaching enthusiastically. It would be hard to over-estimate the damage modernist catechetics has done to the Church, but too many Catholics under-estimate it all the time allowing it to go merrily on.

We still get people talking about “the Novus Ordo led decline” . We are even told when comparing the ancient Tridentine rite with the Novus Ordo rite that “the former inspired full seminaries, full churches, full convents, floods of converts and an instructed and vibrant laity, while the latter emptied the Church.” ! (C.O. September 2008) If this were true there would be no countries with “full seminaries, full churches, etc.” as “the latter” has been mandatory throughout the world for forty years. However we do still have “full seminaries, full churches, etc” in many countries where the Tridentine Rite is almost unknown. Obviously, although the Tridentine rite helped when the teaching was sound it could never achieve such good results if the Faith was not being taught effectively.

‘Playing down' the evil inseparable from modernist catechetics contrasts sharply with the the reaction of Father Faber, (Cong Orat.) to the earlier modernist effort to distort Divine Revelation. He described their determination to present their beliefs as Catholic Truth as “ the sin of sins, the most loathsome thing which God looks down upon in this malignant world.” He would definitely not have seen it as something to ignore or at best to mention merely in passing as an afterthought.

In spite of all the evidence, it will take a real effort for some of us to admit that modern catechetics is the principal cause of our tragic decline. Even Mr Ziegler, although he must have worked hard on his remarkable survey, couldn't explain the discrepancy in priestly vocations he had uncovered. He speculated vaguely about poverty versus materialism but insisted that in the countries he visited the seminarians were obviously so devout their motives could not be doubted. Anyway we have poor people in the countries which are victims of modernist catechetics who do not want to be Catholics let alone priests.

However, anyone who actually looks at the situation in the whole Church with an open mind and avoids following the false trail laid for us by the modernists when they engineered this debacle, has to admit that it is knowing and loving Our Blessed Lord (Truth) which fills seminaries, convents and churches. So the time has come to think again if only because the fashionable theory doesn't fit the observable facts. I know it will come very hard after all these years to bring sound teaching off the back burner it has occupied for so long and put it first, second and third on our list of things to correct. There is no reason we cannot still work for a return of the Tridentine rite but without letting it take precedence over or crowd out the importance of a return to sound religious instruction. Unless we do make an effort to get our priorities right we cannot expect the Church to survive much longer in this country.

We must never forget that when our Lord commissioned His Church He told the Apostles “Go and teach everything I have commanded…” (Matt 28) This is what Christ founded His Church to do. As long as we go on failing to teach everything the Lord has commanded, we are failing Him, and we cannot expect full churches, packed seminaries, etc.

Daphne McLeod 23rd September 2008


Anonymous said...

How do we explain that Benedict evidently allows heretics to flourish in the Church without consequence as in some kind of new pluralism, and that these heretics are destroying our youth and seminarians? I do hope she will reply to this so I can post it at

If she does kindly let me know at

Thanks and keep up the good work,

Anonymous said...

Daphne McLeod writes:

'Perhaps Catholics who have no proper regard for the havoc caused by modernist catechetics don't realise how evil it is. They accept that the Faith is not as well taught as it used to be but they imagine it is still being taught after a fashion in Catholic schools. Unfortunately it is not. Anyone who actually examines one of the officially approved R.E. textbooks or who discusses religion with an intelligent Catholic school leaver, would soon realise this. Not only are our youngsters kept ignorant of even basic Catholic teaching and prayers, they have often been given a deep contempt for our Holy Mother Church which it is almost impossible to eradicate.'

I am sorry to see Daphne McLeod, whom I admire, embrace this rather shallow Pelagian-tinged view. It is not like the state of catechetics is some kind of mystery. The situation described by Daphne McLeod has been obvious ever since the late 1960s. It was not imposed by subterfuge, and has been accepted by virtually everyone in the Church. The question is thus; why has this situation been accepted without complaint by Catholics? Why have they pretended that the priests, religious, and bishops who have imposed this situation are actually Catholics, rather than determined enemies of the faith, as their actions show them to be? What explains the willing connivance in apostasy and the virtual disappearance of the Church in the U.K.? This can only happen as a result of a general loss of grace and faith. The havoc that was wrought by modernist catechetics is itself something that cries out for explanation, that Daphne McLeod does not provide. This is the explanation given by traditionalists; the loss not just of instruction but of grace that resulted from the abandonment of the traditional liturgy of the Church and the toleration of the offences against God committed in the new liturgy. As for the flourishing state of the Church in other countries; having worked in Africa and visited the Philippines I can assure Daphne McLeod that she is misinformed. These countries are doing better than European ones,but the churches there are not healthy by any absolute standard.

Anonymous said...

I must say, I find the tone of the author of the article unhelpful. Why setting up a dichotomy between those concerned with bad liturgical practices and those concerned with bad catechetis? In my experience, these are the same people.
Undoubtedly bad chatechesis wrought havoc, but to stir up a controversy only in order to establish whether it or bad liturgical practices came first (a bit of an 'egg & chicken' question in my opinion) is completely sterile. Let us tackle them both!
Many thanks for your blog.

John Kearney said...

There was a loss of graceat the time, yes. Perhaps the priests were not as holy as they could have been but they were trusted by the laity and this is the main factor. Catholics accepted their priests word so easily. Daphne has not mentioned the rise of the Church in many US dioceseand indeed Archibishop Curtis of Nebraska has no shortage of vocations because as he said the diocese is totally faithful to Rome.They teach the Faith.I agree with Daphne that the firgt for the old liturgy and the fight for proper catechisis has been unbalanced. We have a situation where 9 out of 10 young peole who start catholic schooling come from homes where there is not religious practice despite the baptism of the children. Surely this calls to heaven to be put right.

TerryC said...

Anyone who is a problem solver knows that in order to solve a problem the cause must be determined. One can not solve a problem by directing their attention at the wrong cause.
I happen to agree with Daphne McLeod. Catechisis is indeed the problem. As for why so many bishops, priest and faithful stood by while this happened the explanation is quite simple. It was a change imposed by the hierarchy, at least it seemed so, and so good faithful Catholics took their marching orders and by the time they realized that a whole generation was coming out of Catholic schools and parish catechism lacking the basics of the faith that generation had already left the Church.
So now that the problem is clear fixing it will be more possible, though very difficult. Parents are the first teachers of their children. When they failed to learn the basis of our faith it became impossible for them to pass it on.
Now we must catechize not only the youth, with little support at home, but also adults, many of who see no reason to change the comfortable existence they have lived up to now effectively outside the faith, though they may attend Mass regularly.

Deborah Morlani said...

Let's compare and contrast for a moment Ms. McLeod's position, that the liturgy should not take precedence over catechetics, with that of the Church as expressed by the Holy Father in the Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" paragraph #64:

"...given the close relationship between the ars celebrandi and an actuosa participatio, it must first be said that "the best catechesis on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well." (187) By its nature, the liturgy can be pedagogically effective in helping the faithful to enter more deeply into the mystery being celebrated. That is why, in the Church's most ancient tradition, the process of Christian formation always had an experiential character. While not neglecting a systematic understanding of the content of the faith, it centred on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ, as proclaimed by authentic witnesses. It is first and foremost the witness who introduces others to the mysteries. Naturally, this initial encounter gains depth through catechesis and finds its source and summit in the celebration of the Eucharist."

The Church's teaching has always been that the sacred liturgy is the source and summit of the Church and Her mission.

The paramount importance which Pope Benedict XVI and others give to the liturgy is in accord with the Church's perennial teaching about the centrality of the liturgy in the life of the Church and the faithful, its relation to doctrine and is further in accord with the lived tradition of the Faith as it has been expressed since earliest times.

Ms. McLeod's position is not in full accord with this.

There are many other points in her piece that could be readily critiqued, but I think this gets to the heart of the problem with her position.

Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen