Catholicism in the 21st century

The op-ed that ran last week titled Mercyhurst is not Catholic enough certainly engendered controversy and discussion across campus.

Last week, a close personal friend of mine and Mercyhurst sophomore, who is seriously discerning the priesthood, and also wishes to remain anonymous asked that I interview him so that he could share his thoughts on Mr. Hakel’s op-ed.

My friend starts off by saying that “The article in general clearly points out that Mercyhurst is not a 100% Catholic institution, as much as it was at it’s founding” He goes on to recall that back when Mercyhurst was an all-girls school, that every Sunday all students would attend Mass in academic dress. “Obviously we don’t do anything like that anymore. And that shift does show that yes while times have changed, and the secular culture has become more engrained in Mercyhurst society. We are a community that still holds to the Catholic faith.”

He goes on to say that “Our sense of spirituality could definitely be heightened and the article points that out, however things could definitly be a lot worse.” He continues by saying that “It [the article] makes some good points, but in some other points the author can tend to go off the deep end a bit.”

I then asked him to explain the origins of sedevacantism and his thoughts on it. “Basically sedevacantism, as a philosophy, was originated from the fact that because of the rapid changes that took place after Vatican II, it was believed that all of the teachings of the council were complete heresies of what was taught before.” He adds that “In some cases some people have made valid arguments, but in a lot of cases though… it depends on how it’s interpreted.” In my friends view “Sedevacantism absolutely has no place in the Church and does nothing but to discourage the unity among all Christians.”

Regarding Vatican II he adds that, “The teachings of the Church before Vatican II while very different from the decrees of Vatican II, while they are vastly different one does not cancel the other out… The problem was, and why we’ve seen what some describe as a crisis in the Church, is because of how certain people have interpreted Vatican II and have basically created a completely new Church out of that.

The whole problem with Vatican II was not the decrees themselves, it was how they were interpreted by certain members of the clergy… The simple fact was, what has happened in the Church was not the intent of the Council Fathers.”Next I asked my friend what were his thoughts on Mr. Hakel’s view that “’what used to be done’ still should be done the same way.” “This isn’t the 19th century anymore” he says “this isn’t even the 20th century anymore.”

Things are going to change overtime. That was the purpose of the Second Vatican Council when Blessed John XXIII called it. It was meant for the Church to become more modernized… It has been felt that the Church has always been out of touch with reality. There is good reason for this though as His Eminence Cardinal Dolan of New York brought up. “The Church by its very focus is meant to focus on what is beyond this world. So any notion that the Church is out of touch, you are basically showcasing what the church is meant to be. It is meant to be a reflection of what is beyond, what is eternal, what is unchangeable.”

Regarding the secular world Dolan continues that, “It is obvious that tradition is important, however, it is also important to realize that times will change. While we need to be able to adapt to a changing society, it is important for us to have a respect for traditions… because they are an example of how we should live in the future while adapting to the modern world.”

When talking about Mr. Hakel’s op-ed with some other students I was told that the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which Mr. Hakel mentions, was a neo-Nazi group.

A quick Google search does confirm that there are numerous accusations of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial against them. I asked my friend to share his thoughts on this controversial group. “To put the SSPX into one word it would be schismatics, plain and simple. The SSPX was founded in the years following the Council as way to preserve the traditions of the Church.

Over time though the philosophy of the Society and the Magisterium of the Church became so separated that the Society can in no way be considered a representative of the Church. The nail in the coffin came in 1988 when the head of the Society, Marcel Lefebvre consecrated four bishops to become his successors after he died.”My friend however would encourage those interested in preserving the traditions of the Church to look to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). This group of former members of the Society that were uncomfortable with what was going on especially after the illegitimate consecrations of the bishops and “they were welcomed back into the Church and it is that group that is tasked with the preservation of the historic Church, the Latin Mass and the Sacraments as the rites were done before 1962.”

The final question I asked was whether or not my friend saw any contradiction in Hakel’s thinking when at the end of his op-ed he says, “All that matters is that we do our best to get to heaven. All of this other stuff is a complete distraction and waste of time.” Yet earlier he complains about the “modern disgusting art” and the lack of formal dress on campus. He responded that “I don’t see that much contradiction in Hakel’s words themselves. Yes our spirituality could always use an upgrade, could always be delved into deeper. But what Hakel is saying in the last line is really the ultimate importance in all our lives.

All Christians, have multiple vocations in their life, whether it be to the religious or the married life, this occupation or the other … that vocation is dependent upon the will of God in the individuals life… However what we as all humans do share… is a universal vocation, that is to become Saints; people, men and women who have lived a life of Christian virtue that is worthy of emulation by future generations.

And that is basically what Hakel is saying. That is our ultimate goal as humans, as people. The ultimate goal of all people, indeed of all Mercyhurst students is to get to heaven and to become Saints. And Hakel really hits the nail right on the head with that last line. That yes while we do like to indulge ourselves in the pleasures of this world, to be very careful of that, in that it does not interfere with our ability to answer our universal vocation.