The Last Roman Catholic?

199 pages,
ISBN: 092116517x

Post Your Opinion
True Confessions?
by Michael Coren

AN ANECDOTE. A middle-aged, middleclass man enters the confessional in a rural English Catholic church. He has a question for the priest. "Father, I was at a public discussion of religion when a man began to abuse Our Lady. He called the Virgin Mary the most obscene names. What should I have done?" "Well, my son," replied the angry priest, "You should have shouted, 'You blackguard, you blackguard!"' Outside the booth, the row of people waiting to express their contrition has seen a meek man enter, and moments later heard a priest scream insults at him. After five minutes the wretched communicant exits, and every face fixes him with a splenetic and judgemental stare.

The story is quintessentially pre-Vatican II, before the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s ushered in a radical alteration of the Roman Catholic church. Today, confession has lost most of its meaning and terror, lay people seldom ask priests for advice, the Virgin occupies an uncertain, ghostly position in the Church, and moral judgement is decidedly unfashionable.

James W Demers's position is that the new Church is a disaster, that Vatican II should not have and need not have occurred, and that the virtual expulsion of the Oratorian Fathers from Ottawa by Archbishop Plourd in the 1980s is a microcosmic example of the decay of contemporary Catholicism.

Founded by St. Philip Neri during the intellectual pinnacle of the Counter-Reformation, the Oratorians are a traditional Roman Catholic order, often criticized, often adored, for their loyalty to the Latin mass and to papal orthodoxy. By no means extreme or sinister, these highly educated and sophisticated men are simply faithful Catholics. But according to Demers, the mainstream is under siege. Those millions who attend weekly mass, try to lead Catholic lives, and are too busy bringing up a family to become involved in church politics have consequently lost any voice at all in the current debate, he argues. The field has been left to vociferous feminist and gay groups, anti-papal and social justice movements, and modernists with no foundation in authentic theology or Christian belief

In brief, the book's thesis is that a conspiracy - either of dedicated activists or, more likely, fatuous and weak-minded reformers - has smashed the Catholic Church in Canada, and that it is now a moribund shell. "It had long been understood that if anyone wanted to destroy Roman Catholicism they would somehow have to get to the heart of the faith, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, its founder, truly real and truly present in the bread of that sacrament called 'The Blessed."' According to James W. Demers, this is exactly what has happened.

The Last Roman Catholic? is a fundamentally slanted work, written from the fires of experience and subjectivity. As such it makes no claim to balance, and evinces no tendencies towards such a goal. It is, however, an informed and provocative account of a contemporary phenomenon, told from the belly and the soul as well as the mind. That is really not such a bad thing.


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