The thriving Catholic Church vs. the (slowly) dying ‘catholic church’

Matt C. Abbott
June 3, 2008

I think it’s accurate to say there are at least two “churches” with the name Catholic. The true Catholic Church — the bride of Christ — is comprised of the bishops in union with the Holy Father and all the faithful.

The other “catholic church” is comprised of dissenters — clergy, religious and laity — who strive to remake the infallible and indefectible Catholic Church according to their misguided desires.

Critics, take note: Anyone who wants to accuse me of fostering blind obedience to priests and bishops should read some of my past columns before firing off a nasty e-mail.

An example of the thriving Catholic Church, from the June 1, 2008 bulletin of St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago:

    ‘Ever since Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have been hard at work to educate priests how to offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. Their multimedia Web site,, is not yet one-year old, yet it has already given assistance to priests throughout the world learning to offer the usus antiquor.’Because many priests regularly approach the Canons Regular for personal training in the Extraordinary Form, it seemed advantageous to them to offer a formal group-training workshop for priests so that the requests of more clergy could be met. Working in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Canons Regular received the blessing of Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I, to carry out this work of formation so that the pastoral needs of Catholics today could be better addressed. His Eminence also suggested inviting seminarians to the workshop so that they would also be able to gain from this liturgical and pastoral formation experience.’With enthusiasm, priests and seminarians descended upon the campus of Mundelein Seminary on May 19, 2008, to attend a hands-on workshop on the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass of the Roman Rite held at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House. For the next five days, these priests and seminarians, who hailed not only from the Archdiocese of Chicago but from all over the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Lithuania, Italy, and the Philippines, would study the ceremony, ritual, rubrics of the Missal of Blessed John XXIII.’Each day the participants of the workshop had an opportunity to attend celebrations of the Traditional Latin Mass, ranging from Missa Pontificalis to Missa Lecta. Hosted by the Conventual Franciscans, the Missa Pontificalis and Missa Solemnis were celebrated at Marytown. The celebration of the Missa Cantata was held three times during the week at the St. Mary Chapel of Mundelein Seminary. The participants were greeted with warm hospitality by our hosts at Marytown and Mundelein, and everyone enjoyed participating in the robust singing of the Gregorian chant ordinaries and responses.

    ‘During the workshop, the Most Rev. Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, presented a talk entitled ‘The Spirituality of the Traditional Latin Mass,’ showing how the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass, held in equal honor, can enrich the Catholic faithful in parish life. Plunging into the spiritual depths of the Traditional Latin Mass, Bishop Perry inspired all to receive the Extraordinary Form as a gift from the Church meant to nourish souls with the grace of God.

    ‘The Rev. C. Frank Phillips, C.R., pastor of St. John Cantius Church in Chicago and founder of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, gave a lecture entitled ‘The Extraordinary Form in Parish Life Today,’ detailing ways in which the celebration of classical form of the Liturgy can be successfully integrated into parochial life and help provide Catholics of all ages with a deep appreciation of the heritage and tradition that is ours.

    ‘While the priests of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius instructed the priests in the celebration of Low Mass and High Mass, the brothers taught the seminarians in attendance how to serve at the altar. Additional tutorials were provided in the correct pronunciation of ecclesiastical Latin as well as in Gregorian chant.

    ‘The workshop filled the Cardinal Stritch House to its capacity and had a waiting list of priests who expressed a desire to attend. Due to the popularity and success of this workshop, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius are scheduling future training workshops for priests and seminarians at the Cardinal Stritch House.

    ‘The entire success of this workshop was entrusted to Our Blessed Mother, and each day the priests and seminarians begged her intercession as they continued to study the celebration of the Extraordinary Form so that they might return to their parishes and serve the faithful attracted to the Sacred Liturgy celebrated according to the venerable traditions of our fathers.’

Now for an example of the (slowly) dying “catholic church,” from a June 1 story in the Chicago Tribune:

    ‘…Here in Chicago, a former priest and a former nun saw a chance for similar activism within the Roman Catholic Church.’In 1976, Dan and Sheila Daley launched Call To Action, a group of Catholics seeking to act out God’s vision in society and hold leaders accountable.’Bold and controversial from the start, Call To Action made history as the first lay group to publicly question the church’s prohibitions on birth control, women’s ordination, homosexuality and celibacy for priests….”Now the group’s founders have announced they will retire this fall as co-executive directors of Call To Action after 32 years. Though a horrific 2006 collision that permanently injured Sheila Daley was a factor in the decision, the married couple, both 65, say the time is right to pass the movement to younger Catholics….’

    ‘By 2002, Call To Action had become well-known in Catholic circles for its activism, which some admired and others abhorred. Their movement gained credibility when the sexual abuse scandal exploded on the scene and exposed cover-ups by church leaders, and church observers said Call To Action provided fertile soil for other reform groups to grow….’

I featured Call to Action in my May 9 column.

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He has worked in the right-to-life movement and is a published writer focused on Catholic and social issues. He can be reached at

© Copyright 2008 by Matt C. Abbott


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