The Reactionary Utopian
                      July 12, 2007

by Joe Sobran

     Pope Benedict keeps reminding me why I am a 
Catholic. If I hadn't converted as a boy, I would now. In 
the space of a few days he has moved to correct the very 
things that once helped me (along with my own sins) to 
lose my faith.

     First, he took steps to restore the ancient 
Tridentine Rite, commonly known as the Latin Mass. This 
beautiful liturgy connects today's Church with its 
ancestors all the way back to the days of persecution in 
ancient Rome, and its use has given worshippers the sense 
not only of antiquity, but eternity. I still love the 
responses I learned as a youth: "Domine, non sum 
dignus ..."

     I never understood why anything so gravely beautiful 
and venerable should be abandoned for jejune modern 
vernaculars; what was gained by the supposed "reform"? 
The Novus Ordo liturgy has always made me feel as if I'd 
dropped in on a slangy Unitarian ceremony.

     The liturgical "reform," moreover, backfired 
miserably on its own terms. It impaired belief itself; 
and Mass attendance, Catholic education, frequent 
confession, and big families decreased sharply along with 
belief. These were the opposite of the happy results the 
liberal reformers confidently predicted, and the Church 
lost both its authority with Catholics and the wider 
respect and influence it had enjoyed among Protestants 
and even in the secular world.

     The entire world has suffered from the misguided 
changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council. Try to 
imagine the solar system if the sun dimmed and lost its 
attraction for the planets, and you have the idea. If the 
Council had never occurred, would the U.S. Supreme Court 
have dared to strike down laws against feticide? Would 
the Episcopal Church be ordaining sexual perverts today? 
Such questions answer themselves. The world has never 
seen so consequential an abdication of authority. It has 
been like the effect on a family of a father's suicide.

     The Pope has also reaffirmed the supremacy of the 
Catholic Church, a doctrine never denied, but certainly 
soft-pedaled since the disastrous Council. For some 
reason this has irritated many Protestants, who seem to 
think their sects can thrive without the strong presence 
of Catholicism. Incredibly, one Protestant editor has 
referred to Catholicism as a "denomination," rather like 
Mormonism. Does he know what the word means? He might as 
well speak of the sun and moon as "planets."

     Like its Founder, the Catholic Church has an 
unending power to inspire hatred in those who reject it. 
The world's hate is one of the proofs of its divine 
origin and authority. After 2,000 years, it is still 
persecuted, still treated as a threat. But no worldly 
persecution could have damaged it as much as Vatican II.

     And yet the Church never compromised the essentials 
of faith and morals. Amid the hysteria of a "population 
explosion" in the Sixties, even the weak Pope Paul VI, 
against tremendous pressure, refused to relax the 
Church's condemnation of contraception. Now look. White 
Europe is depopulated and overrun with aliens; its very 
survival is in doubt.

     But the last thing man gives up, even in the face of 
death and damnation, is his pride, and very few 
Europeans, even in formerly Catholic countries, can bring 
themselves to admit, "We were wrong. The sexual 
revolution has been a calamity for our civilization. The 
Church was exactly right." Europe could finally see that 
communism was a dreadful failure, but it still can't bear 
to repent. Even as the end draws near, the syphilitic 
Prodigal Son is still whoring away. God wants to save us 
so much more than we want to be saved!

     As G.K. Chesterton, one of the greatest and most 
joyously funny writers in the English language, wrote 
seventy years ago, "The Church is always in advance of 
the world. That is why it is said to be behind the 
times." "Only the Catholic Church," he also observed, 
"can save a man from the degraded slavery of being a 
child of his age."

     It's ennobling to belong to a church centuries 
behind the times, as they say, and indifferent to the 
fashions of the day; but it's supremely undignified to 
belong to a church five minutes behind the times while 
always huffing and puffing to catch up. Benedict's papacy 
is already a glorious one.


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