Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another Rabbi Who Gets It

For most stuff, I've been just updating my other post on the subject of the sad overreaction and dishonesty surrounding the recent lifting of the SSPX bishops' excommunication. But this one deserves it's own post. Via Fr. Z, this article reports on an Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin, whom the site reports is head of about 800 Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. and Canada. This rabbi understands more deeply than most outside of the Church what is really going on and what is at stake.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I wouldn't even classify myself as a "traditionalist" these days, though I do consider myself a friend of the Extraordinary Form. It's not unfair I think to suggest that those in traditionalist communities tend to frame things in an Us vs. Them (Right vs. Left; Conservative vs. Liberal; Traditional vs. Progressive; Right vs. Wrong; Mature vs. Childish, etc.). That's not to say these communities have not been persecuted. Far from it, and it continues today, even despite Summorum Pontificum. However, being a centrist of sorts I am more inclined to look for the good in both sides (in as much as they are presented as "sides"). So I get a little antsy when folks just start tossing labels around and promoting this kind of dichotomy.

At the same time, I don't think that what the Rabbi is talking about is one of those cases. I can't help but observe that there are very real differences within the Church in terms of how the faith is understood and practiced. When my daughter comes home and tells me, for instance, that the teacher in her religious ed class said that killing bugs is a sin, that we don't know who created God (my 7-year-old daughter rightly scoffed, saying that nobody created God--he is uncreated), that the teacher said she hopes [one of the kid's] dogs is in heaven, and that they should pray for [the dog], and when I see prominent individuals like Stephen Colbert belittle the protection of natural marriage, and when I hear Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden saying totally wrong things about abortion and sponsoring birth control in legislation, and when I see a priest who has an Obama sticker on his car, and when I read of one who supports ordination of women, and when I hear of a priest who doesn't baptize in the Trinitarian formula, and when I see a video of some odd youth's mass where there are spotlights and band music and balloons (with a cardinal present, no less), and when even Catholic friends whom I'd expect to know their faith ardently defend relativism... well, I just can't help but note that there are indeed real and serious differences within the Church.

It seems to me that the vast majority of these stem from our culture, a religious apathy, a lukewarmness. Some of them are more pecuniarily motivated--people like politicians and other public personalities giving up the faith because it is expedient for their careers. Some, like the priest and friends I mentioned, I think are more concerned with more anthropocentric concerns--the here and now--having peace in the family and in the parish; giving people salves for their malformed consciences instead of redressing the true malady of the soul.

And yet there are those who are very conscious and deliberate in their positions, who actively and intentionally work to undermine the Faith. These are, especially, the theologians and priests and doubtless even some bishops and cardinals who knowingly and willfully advocate what can only be called apostasy, those who before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council have abused the Council and worked to advance an agenda of rupture with Catholic Tradition. These are those who are fully aware of our venerable Tradition and who have chosen, despite that, to reject It in favor of fashionable philosophies and theologies that are incompatible with the Apostolic Faith that the Church has held, passed down, defended, and refined throughout Her history.

These are they who are largely responsible for the broader slough of apathy we find ourselves in today, and it is they who continue to actively work to undermine the Faith. It is they more than any who can rightly be accused, as Rabbi Levin does, of destroying the faith. And they're not just destroying the Catholic Faith, as the Teacher points out--the tremendous influence of the Church across the world means that these destructive tendencies in the Church have a "trickle-down effect to every single religious community in the world."

Of course, no doubt some will point out that as an Orthodox leader, he will naturally support the corresponding orthodox (traditional) "side" in the Church. That may be true by way of serendipity, but it only further supports what he is saying--the same kind of in-kind support can be found outside of the Church for those working within the Church to undermine the faith, which is sadly the majority of the mass media and politicians. These destructive forces in the Church have been very well-supported and successful these past fifty years or so!

It is these forces working (consciously or not) hand in hand with the media and politicians who have good reason to be nervous about the work of our Holy Father in reconciling traditionalists, even those with fringe opinions on very sensitive issues like the Holocaust. The important points to reiterate are that the reconciliation is not complete (they are still under suspension) and that the reconciliation has no causal or logical link with Bishop Williamson's speculations but is, rather, part of His Holiness' plan to restore Catholic identity through a deeper understanding of both the contents and the practice of our faith.

This restoration indeed involves a restoration of Tradition to its rightful place--the same Tradition (for the most part) that those in the SSPX are so devoted and attached to that they risked schism and, in the case of the bishops, excommunication. Thus Rabbi Levin is very astute in his observations--this first step in the reconciliation of the SSPX, along with Summorum Pontificum, Dominus Iesus, and countless other acts and works of the Holy Father, herald the slow crumbling of the kingdom of legerdemain that the apostates have worked so hard to establish this last century.

Kudos (again) to Rabbi Levin both for his perspicacity, his honesty, and his courage to speak out on this subject!