Rorate Caeli

A Modest Proposal to Cardinal Marx - by Groucho

Dear Cardinal Marx:

I write to you as someone who shares your name.  People would never associate me with you, those who remember me, but I know we share something important in our shared name.  I write to you not as someone who shares your faith but rather as someone who recognizes in you that we are share things in common. I never learned German, just Yiddish when I was a boy in New York, so forgive me if I do not write to you in German. Where I am the language is sketchy and communication is not the easiest thing.  But I know about your latest crusade to bring the moral teaching of the Catholic Church in line with that of the contemporary world.  This is a most admirable project, and I want to be of help in achieving your goal.  

Please do not write me off as just another guy who wants the Catholic Church to break into the glories of the post-modern world.  I have been watching with great interest and, I must say, admiration of how those who run the Catholic Church have dissolved one of the pillars that holds the Church to Tradition: the dissolution of Catholic worship.  In some ways it was brilliant to use a Council to profess in its official documents in the most pious terms  the need for a pruning of the Traditional Liturgy to meet the needs of modern man and then to completely ignore this mandate and go on to invent a modern liturgy that was not only unmoored from Catholic worship but was the cause of a precipitous decline in attendance at Sunday Mass.   From where I am that is brilliant.  It is disconcerting that what is called the Traditional Mass is not yet completely dead and that young people are attracted to this manifestation of Catholic Tradition.  I trust that measures will be taken to stamp out this flare-up of the Tradition.  

But it is at this point that I want to offer you a Modest Proposal.  I write to you because I have read—yes, even where I am we have the Internet—a proposal from you to finalize the destruction of the Catholic Church—nay rather—of Christianity itself.  The Catholic Church—and in its own peculiar way, Orthodoxy—is the last barrier against the gates of hell.  Tradition is relatively easy to destroy in a time infected with radical individualism and hatred of the past.  You are fortunate to live in an age in which the papacy is accorded an absolute power never dreamed of by dictators from ancient Rome to Mussolini to those who at this very time claim absolute power over those whom they have been called to serve.  And this—so brilliantly—under the cover of the aegis of the Modern and post-Modern age: “Who am I to judge?”  The world stands in silent applause at this question from the successor of Peter.  And sometimes not so silent.   But the media is fickle and who knows what will grab their attention next?  

So this is my Modest Proposal. It is based on how the Traditional worship of the Church was attacked for destruction.  Under the cover of a mandate to make worship of God more accessible, more meaningful to Modern man (even if the Modern Age had died in 1960) by the Fathers of a Council, the plan to destroy the Liturgy used a naive faith in scholarship du jour and  the modern penchant for committees to carry out what needed to be done.  A committee was formed after the Council, and was called by the fancy name of Consilium, whose task was to implement the liturgical reforms called by the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document of Vatican II on the Sacred Liturgy.  Led by my friend, whom I have come to know, Annibale Bugnini, the Consilium was formed with members who in their writings had expressed quite openly a negativity—maybe even hatred—to the Traditional Roman Mass. And so they set about re-forming the Order of Mass based not on Tradition nor upon pastoral concern for the Catholic laity bur rather on their own personal reading of liturgical history and their embrace of the Modern Era as it was about to die.  And they almost succeeded.  Almost. That situation, Cardinal Marx, you must take care of. You must stamp out the embers of the Traditional Mass.

But I digress as always. Living where I now do has destroyed my sense of time. This is finally my Modest Proposal.  What must be done is that another Consilium must be formed. The purpose of this Consilium must be the revision of the Scriptures.  At this, my dear Cardinal, you may hesitate.  But how will it be possible to move forward with your agenda of a complete revision of Catholic morality, especially related to marriage and sexuality, without a revision of Scripture? While it is true that there are those who claim that the present Pontiff is free from adherence to Scripture and Tradition, for the common people a revision of Scripture is necessary.  Take a look at how the Collects for the Mass in the Traditional Mass were expunged of references to repentance, sin and grace to fit the Novus Ordo mentality.  It can be done again with regard to Scripture. And by Scripture I mean the New Testament.  Catholics do not care about the Old Testament. They sit in bored silence at the Old Testament readings at daily Mass about Hezekiah and even Esther. Not a clue.  No. It is the New Testament, especially the Gospels and St. Paul that have to be revised, to be redacted, so that the people will conform to what the world declares to be the way to go but never says where this goes. If I were you I would start with the Gospel of John.  There are many reasons to revise this Gospel, but the main one is John’s forceful contrast between faith in Jesus Christ and “the world”.  For example, in the Prologue, the Consilium should eliminate “and the world knew him not”.  What must be eliminated is any antagonism, any negativity, between Jesus Christ and the world as understood in John’s Gospel, that is, the world in opposition to the person and teaching of Jesus Christ.  Obviously there are other passages to be revised in the other Gospels. But Matthew 16:18  should not be touched, for it is the basis both of the supernatural role of the Pope, but also importantly of that wonderful and useful hyper-papalism that Cardinal Newman (soon unfortunately to be canonized) feared would come to pass, without which the revision of Scripture cannot  proceed.  If it were possible to revise all of St. Paul, I would recommend that as well.  St. Paul cannot be eliminated piecemeal.  It all has to go.  

I know that one of your current concerns it to update the Catholic understanding of marriage.  I humbly submit to you one of my most quoted sayings about the reality of marriage:

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?”

Cardinal Marx:  I hope Your Eminence will deign to read and even consider these remarks I send to you, I, who do not have your status or prestige or power, but only share your name.

In the hope that you will rise to the occasion.

I am, yours truly,

Groucho Marx