“Dogmas come first, not liturgies”

In his poem “Reflections on a Flea,” Fr. Leonard Feeney wrote:

“And by the way,
Speaking of how to pray,
Dogmas come first, not liturgies.”

This claim encapsulates one side in a contemporary debate concerning the best method of evangelization. Some prefer the so-called “path of beauty.” Some prefer the “path of truth.” Without denigrating the role of beautiful liturgy, I prefer the “path of truth.”

Consider that in the Early Church catechumens attended only the so-called Missa Catechumenorum, which is the overtly catechetical first part of the Mass. Only the baptized — the fully catechized and initiated — attended the Missa Fidelium, which is the overtly sacrificial part of the Mass beginning with the Offertory. In other words, it is catechesis that makes sense of the liturgy. Many who argue for the “path of beauty” seem to want the liturgical experience to substitute for or drive catechesis. This is the opposite extreme from the post-Vatican II over-emphasis on the “Liturgy of the Word.” I would say, it is doctrinal Faith that makes sense of the liturgy, not the other way around, even though the liturgy itself has an eschatological and sacrificial reality that transcends catechesis. Participation in the Mass is more the end than the means of evangelization; as Fr. Feeney said, dogmas still come first.

Matrimony of Desire and Lifestyle Ecumenism

“For they shall sow wind, and reap a whirlwind, there is no standing stalk in it, the bud shall yield no meal; and if it should yield, strangers shall eat it.” Osee (Hosea) 8:7

Once upon a time, a Feeneyite* writer — Charles Coulombe, I think — made some remark about Baptism of Desire. The remark went something like, “Have you ever heard of Matrimony of Desire? Doesn’t make sense, does it? Neither does Baptism of Desire.” In other words, neither implicit nor explicit desire for a sacrament realizes that sacrament.

Except that is what Pope Francis seems to think. The canon law requirements for sacramental matrimony don’t matter — that’s just legalism. The vast majority of marriages that would pass the canon law definition are actually null, while cohabitations are valid marriages. Why can’t we extend this type of rationalization to any type of relationship at all, heterosexual or not? It’s about grace, not hard and fast definitions, right?

I’ve seen this attitude called “lifestyle ecumenism.” It follows pretty logically from religious ecumenism, the type promoted by all Popes since St. John XXIII. Continue reading