Monday, March 05, 2018

The Epistles of the first three Sundays of Lent

St Paul
Peter Kwasniewski has an excellent discussion of the contrast between the Epistles (first readings) of the first three Sundays of Lent given us by the ancient Lectionary, and the Second Readings of Sunday Mass, usually Pauline Epistles, offered us by the 1969 Lectionary. Since there are three years of readings in the Ordinary Form there are nine passages to compare with the three of the EF. Not one of these nine passages so much as mentions the major theme of all three of the EF's selections: the importance of repentance from a sinful lifestyle, above all in relation to sexual sins.

So concerned were the compilers of the reformed Lectionary to avoid mentioning sin that they even cut out of the passages bits where the subject came up.

It is a nice illustration of a major strand of what happened in the Catholic Church when the reforms following Vatican II were implemented. Consider this, a passage commenting on yesterday's Epistle by Mgr Patrick Boylan (The Sunday Epistles and Gospels) which had its Imprimatur in 1941.

If there are among us Catholics, apparently convinced and genuine, who seek to minimise the sinfulness of unchastity, or the danger of its occasions, let us not be deceived by their words, nor follow their example. On all sides one hears voices raised against every attempt to check the growth of profligacy, every effort to restrict evil amusements and evil literature. We hear constantly of the 'sacred rights', of freedom--freedom, that is, to disregard the moral code, to follow the blind guidance of passion, to satisfy every form of curiosity, so see everything, to read everything. Popular literature is full of the 'empty words' [St Paul's phrase] with which all that is seductive to sense is represented as innocent because it is 'natural', or 'healthy', or because it 'develops the personality'!

Boylan, and no doubt the majority of his clerical and pious lay readers, was acutely aware of the ferocious assault which was being carried out against traditional sexual mores, a full twenty years before its hideous triumph in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. St Paul's exhortations were exactly what was needed at that time.

It was the moment when things were getting really, really bad--when a bad case of the common problem of all young people since time immemorial was turning into a social revolution which would permanently destroy the expectation of the permanency of marriage and of children being raised by their biological parents--that was the moment when the reformers chose to bury St Paul's message.

Everyone in the West in the middle decades of the 20th century was aware of the increasing gulf between the Catholic Church and the maxims of the world. Everyone was aware that Catholic communities, teachings, culture, and institutions were as a tightly-integrated group the last major refuge of a traditional Christian attitude.

It was for the Second Vatican Council to decide how to address this problem, and the path chosen, as far as anyone could tell through the confusion and chaos, was the path of appeasement.  The consequences tell their own tale.

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1 comment:

  1. The words "nail" and "head" spring to mind...
    What an excellent and incisive post - thank you, Joseph.