Fr. Gerald E. Murray: A Different Kind of Catholicism?

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*Image: Christ Among the Pharisees by Jacob Jordaens, c. 1660 [Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, France]

Fr. Gerald E. Murray, The Catholic Thing, Dec. 5, 2022

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City. His new book (with Diane Montagna), Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society, is now available.

Note: Today, Fr. Murray analyzes some recent remarks by Pope Francis that tried to strike a balance between past and present, but that, in reality, seem invariably to raise expectations of virtual revolution within the Church on long-settled moral and dogmatic matters. And the “Synodal Way” in Germany, though mildly criticized by various voices in Rome, has not only set the agenda in that country, it seems to be a template for the Synod on Synodality, whether that’s Pope Francis’ intention or not. You can be sure that this whole set of dangers will be with us – and probably growing – all through 2023 and 2024, as the worldwide synodal process continues. Fr. Murray recommends at the end of this column that we lay people raise our voices, to God and to Rome, so that something can be done to stop this. The Catholic Thing will be in that business and much more in the coming year. But we can only do our part if you do yours. We’re getting close to the goal. Let’s finish up the end-of-year fundraising so that we can all turn our minds back to the Christmas season. – Robert Royal

Pope Francis recently gave an address to the International Theological Commission (ITC) in which he returned to a theme he often emphasizes: the dangers of traditionalism and the need to avoid going backward. Traditionalism is – unfavorably – contrasted in his view with a proper understanding of the Church’s tradition. In theory, this has some value; in practice, it’s leading to disaster.

He identified tradition as “what makes the Church grow upwards from below, like a tree: the roots.” And he continued:

On the other hand, someone else said that traditionalism is the “dead faith of the living”: when you close in on yourself. Tradition – I want to underline this – makes us move in this direction: upwards from below: vertical. Today there is a great danger, which is to go in another direction: “backward-ism.” To go backward. “It has always been done this way”: it is better to go backward, it is safer, and not go forward with tradition. This horizontal dimension, as we have seen, has led some movements, ecclesial movements, to remain fixed in time, somewhere back when. They are the backward-ists. …