Has anyone ever seen Fr. Dwight Longenecker (Speak softly and carry a big chopstick?) and Mr. Miyagi at the same time? I suspect they might be the same person. Even if they are in fact different people, they sure do think alike. Fr. Longenecker writes in the TimesOnline about the state of the American Church (designated AmChurch). After the usual criticisms of the rad-traddies and the rad-trendies, Fr. spits the lukewarm right out of his mouth.
In between the ‘rad traddies’ and ‘rad trendies’ are the largest group which my friends refer to as ‘AmChurch.’ These bishops, clergy and laity do not take particularly radical views either in the ‘traddy’ or ‘trendy’ directions. Instead they follow a bland, comfortable kind of American Catholicism with a mix of traditional devotions, parish social events, mediocre modern music and social action. Moving here from England, this in between ‘AmChurch’ seems cut off from any real sense of the historical and cultural continuity of the Catholic faith. In a country separated geographically from the rest of the world, AmChurch Catholics also seem distanced from the traditions of the Catholicism, which would give their faith depth and universality.
At the end of the 19th century, the Catholic Church was highly suspicious of all things American, and even coined a name for a new heresy called ‘Americanism.’ Pope Leo XIII’s analysis rings true: In his 1899 encyclical, Testem benevolentiae nostrae, Leo criticised Catholics who would, in order to “attract those who differ from her…shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions.”
This pretty much sums up the problem of AmChurch: It reveals the extreme position of the ‘rad trendies’ and the extreme reaction against it evidenced by the ‘rad traddies’, but is left in the mushy situation of most in between Catholics.
It will come as no surprise that I don’t much care for the philosophy of the rad-trendies and admittedly I don’t have much patience for the rad-traddies either. But, it is these lukewarm middle of the road ‘in between Catholics” who probably bug the most. For all their flaws, somehow I can understand the radicals a little better. For me, the mushy types are a total enigma. So what is the answer to mushy AmChurch?
The answer to the problem is the present Pope’s emphasis on the “hermeneutic of continuity”. It is a splendid sounding phrase, but what does it mean? “Hermeneutic” refers to a perspective, a method of interpretation. A “hermeneutic of continuity,” means that the past informs the present and guides us into the future. Benedict wishes our understanding of the Catholic faith to be guided by that continuity.
It is all about balance. Hmmm? Where have I heard that before?
Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?