Friday, November 7, 2014

Catholic Church Shopping, Part XV: The Heresy Hut

I'm going to dispense with all the usual attempts at anonymity for this location because of the sheer egregiousness of the violation I witnessed. People need to be warned. I attended the Sunday evening Mass on October 19th at the St. Thomas half of the St. Joseph-St. Thomas parish.
First, a bit about the church. The only thing I knew about it before I first attended was that it had been hilariously described as a "Tabernacle of opulence" in a letter to the editor by an envious Protestant minister some years ago. It is indeed opulent; ugly as sin but still grand and, no doubt, expensively constructed. The shape of the church resembles a Mongolian yurt, with a statue of a dove hanging from the apex. The walls are brick and the stained glass windows- having been made in the early 1990s and thus avoiding the worst cartoonish excesses of 1970s modern church art- nevertheless still don't quite approach the standard of traditional Catholic beauty.  Again, avoiding the worst excesses of hippie-era Church architecture, it also has several alcoves with statues and relics and kneelers for devotional purposes (not that they are ever used). The stations of the cross were built, in a creative but ultimately unappealing way, into the brick walls using other bricks. There is a tiny, hermetically-sealed room at the back of the church, presumably for families with young children, where you can see the Mass through a window and strain to listen to it through a sub-par sound system. In practice, there are few families with babies in this church, so this room fills up with rowdy tweens who want to text and talk in peace, without much liturgical distraction. Any attempts to verbalize the Mass responses or- God forbid- sing, are met with heads whipping around to glare at you. The confessional is located in this tiny room, thereby precluding any self-conscious person from ever going to confession for fear of being overheard by the other people sitting 2 feet away. The music here is strictly limited to the effeminate treacle of the St. Louis Jesuits. No one sings.
Standard church wear for local Catholics
The well-to-do people who attend this church are some of the worst dressed and worst behaved congregants I have ever seen. All of the usual misbehavior can be seen here, but to a higher degree than anywhere else in my experience: unbelievably slovenly and slatternly dress, constant talking and phone use, and a complete lack of respect for or acknowledgment of the presence of God. It's not as if there's any example coming from the parish leadership, since the tall, blonde pastor, when he is not the celebrant, habitually wanders around the church before and during the beginning of Mass glad-handing and chatting up the crowd. (Bizarrely enough, when he is not saying Mass, he announces that he will be hearing Confession during the other priest's sermon). Mass is always well attended but I suspect that this has something to do with a requirement for the children at the booming parish school; one does not get the impression of any piety whatsoever from this group of people. The rotation of three priests serving the two constituent churches are nice enough but their sermons set the standard for banality and insipidness.

"Cool" priest prototype
I had heard this priest before and although his sermons are usually bizarre, this one took the cake for not only being strange but outright heretical. He came down from the pulpit in the usual pandering style of "cool" priests and started talking, with his customary histrionics, about Father Leonard Feeney (as if there were nothing more relevant to talk about than a 65 year old controversy that 99.9% of Catholics have never heard of.) Father Feeney, of course, rigidly interpreted the age-old doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Church to mean that one had to be formally baptized with water in order to be saved, and was eventually excommunicated for disobeying a summons to appear in Rome to defend himself. This priest didn't stop at condemning Father Feeney for denying the validity of Baptism by Blood and Desire, but went even further by preaching universal salvation. I kid you not.
He mused that God couldn't possibly damn a person who had never heard the Gospel and He couldn't possibly damn a person who was turned off by the Faith because they only knew bad Catholics and He couldn't possibly damn a person who was comfortable in their own non-Catholic religion. In fact, God really can't damn anyone at all, he preached, because if they are non-Catholic it's because God wanted them to be non-Catholic, which is all part of His plan (thereby reducing to worthlessness all the missionaries and evangelists and martyrs through two millennia of Church history). This priest repeatedly said that "every person made in the image of God will know God". He also repeatedly and vehemently underscored that this has always been Church teaching. He admitted that, yes, Christ said that no one comes to the Father except through Him and, yes, the motto of No Salvation Outside the Church was ancient and true, but he harmonized  his contradictions by explaining that Christ's sacrifice basically made every human being a part of the Church and ensured their salvation automatically, whether or not they were consciously Christian because, after all, "every person made in the image of God will know God".
How many souls did that priest murder that evening, I wonder.
I think I did the right thing by trying to contact the pastor privately, but several emails to the parish about this outrageous blasphemy went unanswered.

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