A Classic and Best Seller “The Broken Path” – Part 1
The relentless pursuit of the truth – website -cinops be gone – Thursday, December 22, 2011
The purpose in quoting from Chapter 2 [p. 23-24] of Judie Brown’ book, “The Broken Path,” is to persuade the reader that this book is a classic and a perfect Christmas and New Year’s gift. I could not wait till after Christmas. “The Americanism phenomena resulted from what is, in retrospect, the misguided perception of American bishops, led by America’s first Catholic bishop, John Carroll. Even though there was debate among them, history makes it clear that the majority of Catholic bishops wanted to rearrange the Catholic Church in America in a way that would make it more palatable to their Protestant counterparts. Whether they thought they could convert their fellow Americans or not, the approach they took was disastrous.
“Bishop Carroll in particular wanted freedom from the Vatican …, “Bishops may be elected, at this distance from Rome, by a select body of clergy constituting as it were a Cathedral Chapter. Otherwise we shall never be viewed kindly by our government here, and discontent, even amongst our clergy, will break out.”
“In other words, in order for American members of the hierarchy, and thus Catholics as a whole, to be acceptable to the government and the culture, the structure of the Church in America had to be drastically altered. Thank heavens that did not happen, though some would argue that what flowed from it is even worse than creating a separate electoral college for American bishops.
“Historians have hotly debated the extent to which these first American Catholic leaders fostered the attitude that has become quintessential Americanism. Be that as it may, it is to this day what plagues Catholicism in America. Anyone who studies the situation in those early days realizes that the Catholic hierarchy really believed that, to be a Catholic is America, a person must first be an American.
“Brankin opines, “Many of the bishops actually thought that if we played it carefully – and didn’t push our religion too much – we might even convert the country to Catholicism – never mind that we just emptied it of any content. This is where Leo XIII come in because in his encyclical [Testem Benevolentiae] – which is actually very peaceful in tone – he sees this attitude as a dangerous heresy that he calls “Americanism.” He defines it as the misbegotten hope that Catholics could shape Church teachings in accord with the spirit of the age and the nation. He warns that making concessions to the reigning culture and remaining silent on contentious points for the sake of patriotism is dishonest. He was convinced that the American bishops were doing just that – and he forbade them “to suppress for any reason any doctrine that has been handed down.”
“Leo highlights the particularly Americanist habits of …”confounding … license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set forth in print to the world.” Pope Leo warns the bishops that these habits wrap our minds in a sort of darkness and convince us that our free speech is somehow consecrated by the Holy Spirit who is now pouring richer and more abundant graces into our American souls than into anyone else.
“It wouldn’t be long before Americans would begin to believe that with this superabundance of grace, American opinions and decisions – and very lives – would be truer and more authentic than those of the rest of humanity. Leo worries that such a super-inspired citizenry puffed up by its exalted opinion of itself would eschew the need for guidance either of history or the Church – being eminently capable of discussing its way to truth. They would no longer see the need for supernatural virtues and counsels of “poverty, chastity and obedience” because those are passive virtues while what they would claim … the world really needs is the dynamism of active virtues – and those, of course, are so abundant in America.”…
George H. Kubeck