But the shortcomings of Latin were only the tip of the iceberg. The anonymous priest devoted an entire essay to the insufficiency of Catholic school education precisely at a time when there was a great boom in the construction of new Catholic schools and churches. “Indeed, the sisters, who represent 90% of Catholic teachers, are dedicated and zealous in their work,” writes Anonymous. “There is nothing but kindness and virtue in their penitential life. Freely and joyfully, they spend themselves for the little ones of Christ. Especially since they are unfit for work.
Even in the 1920s, it was evident that nuns were responsible for preparing children for a life that nuns themselves were unfamiliar with due to their rule of life. “Those who have given up all family ties would teach young people to become fathers and mothers of future generations,” he writes. And the education system they imposed “tends to depersonalize [sic] the pupils, to create in them a loathing of religion. The end result was a self-ostracized people. “Our children cannot sit in the classroom with the children of the non-Orthodox. We need to have our own schools, our own charities, our own cemeteries. We are the modern Pharisees who will not sit with the tax collectors. We can thank our own reserve for this. The spirit of segregation is diametrically opposed to the spirit of Christ. It was His purpose to eliminate the narrowness of His people.
He attributes much of this narrowness to clericalism favored by the compulsory celibacy of the clergy. Priestly celibacy is the great paradox of Catholicism, he laments. “The Church stresses the supreme importance of family life. Its priests are exhorted to be moral models for the people. It is not therefore a question of knowing why priests do not marry. The big problem is, does a celibate priesthood fit into the pattern of the modern world? Not only the lay spirit, but that of many ecclesiastics, stops to reflect on this serious question. While noting how little support for compulsory celibacy is in the Gospels or in the early Church, he notes: “Be that as it may, the rule of celibacy is taught in all its force today.
The roots of clericalism are deeply rooted in the training that seminarians receive. “The priesthood is always glorified. Students should listen to pious discourses on a daily basis about the high dignity to which they aspire. From this continual preaching a particular psychology develops in them. They become jealous of the great honors for which they are prepared. They feel compelled to become champions of priestly dignity. They get impatient with the opinions of those who have not been trained in sacred science. In this state of mind, they enter the modern world to become leaders of men.
Nowhere is the insufficiency of seminary training more pronounced, he believes, than in the confessional when the priest is confronted with the struggles of married couples. There he is supposed to pass judgment on the most intimate relationships of married life. “Of this he knows nothing other than what he has read in his old textbooks. He, a bachelor, has to solve the complex problems of sex.
Even if he wants to, a priest cannot recommend to his parishioners to think for themselves about what Pope John XXIII will later call “the signs of the times”. “Although a heart of gold beats in her womb, [the priest] must still stand before his people in the guise of a medieval pedagogue. To be true to his confidence, he must be reactionary. He is to preach and interpret the teachings of Christ in the spirit of men who have never dreamed of a time or a country like this in which we live. Each of its public expressions must be in accordance with the spirit of these scholars, mostly Italians, who have grouped themselves around the Vatican.
According to Anonymous, the complete lack of participation or commitment on the part of the people in the pews inevitably leads to moral and spiritual ossification. “Self-delusion is pathetic in its relationship with the individual and tragic when it brings about such consequences for the human race. The point is that the Catholic Church has never sought to develop intelligent faith. The Church has never encouraged religious thought in the individual Catholic. It demands an abject intellectual submission to its teachings. The alleged explanations of the doctrine are nothing more than controversial arguments. These too must be accepted in the humility of obedience due to authority. The intellectual coercion practiced in the Church today is just as demeaning to human dignity as was the physical coercion that the Church practiced in the Middle Ages.
Ultimately, the priest warns, if bishops are to “convert America to the faith,” they must first revert to the old Christian emphasis on righteous behavior rather than adherence to ritual formalism. “They must bring up a people distinguished by the virtue of their life. Attending Mass and receiving the sacraments are beneficial practices, according to our belief. Yet they do not impress the outside world. People today are not deceived by the crowds that attend our churches. There is only one quality that proves the excellence of a religion. It is the excellence of the life lived by its faithful. When the American bishops stop their school-building crusade and begin to develop Christian character, there will be hope for the Church in America. “
As gloomy as things were for the Good Father in 1928, I find his words now inspiring precisely because they come from a time to which today’s reactionaries aspire to return, blind as they are to loopholes. of the religious formalism that they idolize. This contemporary account from that time reminds us of how important the reforms of the past hundred years were to ordinary Catholics.