One aspect of the recent Fr. John Corapi scandal, which puts into perspective the traditional critique of the modern Church, is the use of the word “orthodoxy” by the pundits as the scandal has unfolded. A number of writers have pointed out that Corapi represented an “orthodox” camp within the Church, and that his actions are splitting “orthodox” Catholics, some critical of his actions, others supportive. As Diane M. Korzeniewski states at the blog Te Deum Laudamus: “Orthodox Catholics who know Father Corapi are seriously, and bitterly, divided over this.”
The word orthodox is a combination of the Greek words “orthos”, meaning “true, right or straight”, and “doxa”, which means “opinion”. It is often taken to mean right or correcting thinking, and is particularly associated with religious belief. The orthodox person is a person who adheres to correct religious doctrine. An orthodox Catholic then is a Catholic who adheres to correct Catholic doctrines, or is loyal to the teachings of the Church.
However, in the post-conciliar Church the word “orthodox” has become synonymous with the mainstream, novus ordo Catholic who accepts without question the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council. The test of orthodoxy is the Second Vatican Council. A Catholic who adheres to all other teachings, but is confused or questions certain ambiguous statements from the Vatican II documents are not considered orthodox in the least. These are the EWTN Catholics who abide by the EWTN talking heads such Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Fr. Benedict Groeshel and the now fallen from grace Fr. John Corapi, etc. These Catholics are often referred to as the “Pope John Paul II Catholics".
These Catholics are opposed to both political liberalism and Catholic traditionalism, though they are often more sympathetic to traditional Catholic practices. However, traditionalism doesn’t suit them mainly because of their attachment to the novus ordo liturgy, their exaggerated admiration of democracy as a genus rather than a species of government, a dependency on unfettered laissez-faire capitalism and the modern justification of usury, and an acceptance of Modernist notions of social science and theological inquiry, all of which fly in the face of numerous judgments of the pre-conciliar Magisterium.
There’s no easy, one sentence definition of this modern “orthodox” Catholic. However, they are easily identified. They populate leadership of parish youth groups, where the catechism is taught alongside a sort of cult of Hebe (the worship of youth) and somatolatry (the worship of the body and athletic prowess). The modern “orthodox” Catholic is found on the campuses of Catholic colleges like the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where everything taught is vaunted as being “obediently Catholic” (even when it is abundantly evident to be erroneous), but at the same time 19th century Pentecostalism is practiced in the chapel. The modern “orthodox” Catholic is found on EWTN, claiming to uphold all that the Church teaches, but at the same time styling the absolute Kingship, which necessarily encompasses the social Kingship, of Christ as a silly, outmoded notion of a bygone era. The modern “orthodox” Catholic can be heard on Ave Maria Radio claiming “there isn’t much difference between Catholics and Protestants”. The modern “orthodox” Catholic is also identified as a preacher who long ago, before he fell from grace, stated rather scandalous things like that Our Blessed Lady was a “mamma” who “wore combat boots”.
Modern “orthodox” Catholicism is deficient. There is a strange mixture here of Catholic doctrine and traditional thought with modern neo-conservative politics, and a fascination with the mundane. This fascination with the mundane is an infatuation with the pilgrimage, but not with the destination. It is an overemphasis on the “joy of life” in this world but little regard for the much greater joy that comes at the termination of this worldly life. This is so because this modern “orthodox” Catholicism is a half measure, but it is a half measure that has been shaped by the ambiguities of the Second Vatican Council’s call for a dialogue with the world.
Setting aside the false elevation of “dialogue” to a virtue, this dialogue with the world has only succeeded in clouding the clear goal of our Catholic religion, which is life with God in heaven. The salvation of the soul has been relegated to the back seat, and taking its place in the front is a modernistic humanism under a Catholic chasuble. This was not circulated by a cabal of dissident theologians or a group of ultra-liberal prelates. This humanism was promulgated by the modern Magisterium, itself. If this modern “orthodox” Catholicism is deficient it is because the modern Magisterium is deficient.
However, allow me to be clear. The modern Magisterium isn’t deficient in the sense that it is incapable of fulfilling its office. Nor is the modern Magisterium deficient in the sense that it can or does teach error. It is deficient in the sense that it has adopted an unorthodox methodology of foreswearing condemnation of error. The Magisterium is the guarantor of the deposit of faith. From the beginning, the Magisterium of the Church has positively defined what is contained in the deposit of faith and rendered council on any number of both historical and perennial circumstances that the faithful may encounter. However, at the same time, and just as necessary, the Magisterium has separated from the deposit of faith what is error or mere speculation. An integral part of the Magisterium’s office is to condemn error and to anathematize those who hold those errors. However, from the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, the modern Magisterium has repudiated that responsibility.
This non-condemning spirit of error has opened the door wide open for a pervasive permissiveness that has had a devastating impact on the life of the Church’s faithful. In the wake of refusing to condemn error, error has been allowed to fester, both great and small. Sinfulness is not only tolerated, it’s defended by the modern and erroneous notion that to criticize the sinner is to be judgmental, and that mercy and forgiveness, quickly followed by forgetfulness and license, is the only “charitable” response to wrong doing. Punishment is no longer considered charitable. As result, sin and error are allowed to chafe at the Church. This permissiveness, coupled with a liberal form of clericalism, significantly contributed to the protection of profligate priests and the cover up of the priest-sex-abuse scandal by bishops and other church leaders.
In an effort to be “orthodox”, the modern orthodox Catholic is impelled to accept not just what the modern Magisterium teaches, but also the modern Magisterium's methodology. If the modern Magisterium wasn’t, itself, going about business in such an unorthodox manner, there wouldn’t be a problem. However, this isn’t the case. The modern Magisterium refuses to condemn error, and instead offers at best ambiguous and equivocal teachings. This ambiguity has shaped the “conservative” and “faithful” Catholic community into a body politic adhering to a hodgepodge of Protestant liturgy coupled by 19th century liberalism. Along with a smattering of authentic Catholic teaching, the result is a body politic racked by confusion, a regular schizophrenic mess. In short, the modern Church has gone a long way down the road charted by Modernists like Loisy.
As Enrico Maria Radaelli points out, the modern Magisterium needs to make a choice; the crisis will not allow it to remain undecided. It must apply the fire of infallibility to these new notions, and only then will it be seen if the Holy Ghost will allow them to stand.
The same is true for every Catholic who now stands in this middle position wrought by confusion. Either the authentic Catholic teachings must be reinterpreted in such a way to make them change to fit the new notions, thus acquiescing entirely to Modernism, or the new notions need to be jettisoned, thus essentially agreeing with the traditionalists. The middle ground, the modern “orthodoxy”, cannot hold, it will inevitably collapse, just as the façade that surrounded Fr. John Corapi collapsed.
It is up to the traditional Catholic to point out that there is a true orthodoxy that embraces Tradition and rejects the novelties of the 20th century, which stands in contradistinction to this modern “orthodoxy” that is nothing other than a Modernism that refashions and makes a counterfeit of the faith, that reduces it to a base humanism. That humanism can be disguised in either avant-garde vestments or fiddle back chasubles, but it will never rise any higher than a mundane humanism that fails to inspire or save souls.
It is the Traditional Latin Mass, the icon that traditional Catholics have faithfully preserved through the tempests of the 20th Century, and its commensurate spirituality, which faces liturgical east in loving adoration of Jesus Christ, Sovereign King and High Priest, it is this that can inspire and save. No other earthly reality expounds the right and straight thought that Jesus Christ, and life with Him in heaven, is the goal of this worldly pilgrimage. It is the Traditional Latin Mass that demonstrates with acute clarity the straight, true and right thought that is true orthodoxy.