Scott Hahn: SUPERSTAR!!!!

23 11 2009

or: Slouching towards the “American Jesus” – part III

The autumn sky in New Orleans threatened rain. But rain this time of year is nothing like the downpours of hurricane season, the ones that all churches here pray that Our Lady of Prompt Succour temper with her motherly hand. AG was already in a bad mood, and I didn’t blame her. After rather naively thinking that going to see Scott Hahn and some other guy (Brian… something) was a good idea, and even buying tickets for ten dollars a pop to have the honor of doing so, we were then informed about a week ago that:

1. We should get there a half hour early due to the high turnout and,

2. Because the high school where the talk was being held was having “another function”, we were asked to park four blocks away, at another school parking lot, in not one of the best neighborhoods in New Orleans…

So yeah, we were starting off on a bad note. AG just wanted me to park in the original parking lot, and I quipped, “well why not? We’re Catholics, not Presbyterians.” But at the last moment, I chickened out, and parked in a parking space across the street from the parking lot.

“Why are we going to this again,” AG asked quite annoyed.

“Hey, don’t make me look like the bad guy here. You also said you wanted to come.”

When we got in, it was pop-con Catholicism at full throttle. Of course, both authors of that night had booths hawking their apologetic wares to eager Catholics with more disposable income than knowledge. I took out our tickets and we walked to the door where the presentation was being held. Some nice peppy Catholic girl took our tickets, and we walked into … wait for it… a high school basketball gymnasium. There were no seats, we were expected to sit in the bleachers. I looked at AG, and that was the last straw. In her mind, not only had we paid for the privilege of seeing the don of the Catholic apologetics mafia speak, but we had to spend two and a half exciting hours sitting in high school bleachers after a long day at the office. She reacted like any good Catholic girl would under such circumstances. By saying quite audibly:

“This is such bullshit.”

Yeah. It was going to be one of those nights.

I on the other hand was struck by the nervous chuckling that I inherited from my mother when put in uncomfortable situations. After all, we had gone to the Robert Louis Wilken lecture sometime back, and we found it quite interesting. The turnout was miniscule compared to this fiasco, and the night sky no less ominous. But I thought at least it was an opportunity to see and be seen, and maybe we might learn something. I am sad to say that I was quite disappointed.

We picked the “most comfortable” spot to sit in, which was right next to a pillar in the very top row. For a little less than an hour, we sat and watched the people coming in and out. Most of the people looked quite normal. But some were rocking the bizzaro Catholic vibe of “I am so counter-cultural and it shows”. Both presenters had distinctive beards, and one of the sound guys was sporting an “Al-Qaeda” beard. Seriously, I hadn’t seen facial hair like that since the last time I went to a mosque. AG saw a few people she knew, and was horrified of being recognized, just because she did not want to strike up any of those “Catholic crazy” conversations. I bumped into an eager young man from the church where I sing in the schola (Gregorian chant, Missal of 1962… what can I say? It’s a gig.) I was just looking for the bathroom, and I too didn’t want to have one of “those conversations” either.

Anyway, the speaking thing finally started, and thankfully, the warm-up act decided to go second, and we got to see the main attraction of the night sooner rather than later. I have to say, I have seen Gerry Matatics, evil doppelganger and sometime friend of Hahn, and found him to be quite interesting. Crazy, but interesting. But here, there were no light shows, no baritone announcers getting the crowd riled up as the venue warranted, nor even a mascot jumping off a trampoline and doing a 360 degree dunk into the basket. Just some young priest getting up and doing the mandatory yapping that passes as prayer in even the best of conservative Catholic venues. “That’s what we have prayer books for! Stick to the script!”

“It would have been nice if they started with a Catholic prayer,” was my comment to AG.

Hahn finally came to the podium and announced the topic of his talk: the breaking of the bread. He began by reflecting briefly on the Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He then drew out the obvious Eucharistic implications of this episode, and tied it into the Last Supper narrative in the upper room, the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and so on. Which was all just a transition into the real subject of the night, the one that he seems to enjoy speaking of most: himself. Yes, most of the rest of the night was just him re-telling for the fifteen jillionth time his conversion story, how blessed he is, and how swell it is to be Catholic. Sure, there were the occasional good points, but most of the night had the feel of people going to see Scott Hahn because, well, he’s SCOTT HAHN DAMMIT!!!! Oh yeah, there were the occasional corny jokes that I didn’t laugh at.

“Wow, you are being incredibly nasty, Arturo!” is what you might be thinking. If I could rewind the tape, I would take you back to 1992, when I was an impressionable teenager first handed a Scott Hahn tape from a lady in my mother’s Legion of Mary praesidium. This was back before the book deals, the Steubenville groupies, the rallies with hundreds of people hanging on his every word. Yeah, I was mildly impressed by it, though up to then, Protestantism was as alien to me as Sikhism is now. I mean, we had Protestants in my town, and I even had some in my family, but I really didn’t know what they were about, nor did I particularly care. But this is seventeen years later, and I don’t need to hear all of this again. I don’t need to hear him spew inanely about his own life story, how swell the Catholic “liturgy” is (notice the quotes), nor do I need Catholicism re-formed to meet the expectations of the American Protestant sensibility. It wasn’t even that he made any bad points. It was that he failed for the most part to make any real points at all. It was the same old “pop-Cath” rhetoric that you get from most (conservative) pulpits. And not only was I being my “bad old integrist elitist pharisaical self”, but AG was so thoroughly bored by it that she decided to use the time that we were trapped under his super apologetic spell to read a book on the Panama Canal that she had brought with her. She finally finished that boring chapter about the French’s role in its construction…

Of course, the best part was at the end, which tested even the most die-hard Scott Hahn fans. For the last ten minutes, Hahn decided to hold up every book that he had written in the last ten years and give a one minute spiel about why we needed to buy each one, and how incredibly awesome Scott Hahn is (“this book is now found in thirty percent of Catholic high schools”). After about the third book, people were starting to get antsy, and a rather uncomfortable sigh came forth from the crowd. Like any good hustler, however, Hahn forged on, book after book, adding at the end that he would be standing by his book table at the end of the presentation (added meaning: just in case you want me to autograph the books that you are going to buy). After that, I was pretty adamant that we were not going to attend the talk of the other bearded what’s-his-face. We left to get frosties at Wendy’s, like real Catholics on a Friday night.

Yeah, I admit, all of the above is quite snarky. But the atmosphere that conservative “pop Catholicism” seeks to create in this country warrants no other reaction. Such dilettantish intellectual mush that such figures as Hahn seek to feed us is very much the product of this iron age of Catholic thought. If I was to pick a legitimate criticism of this talk, and of Hahn’s “neo-Catholicism” in general, it is that I am not convinced that it is Catholic at all. When he described his first attendance at Mass, how “Patristic” the whole experience was for him, how Catholics read from the Old Testament at Mass, etc., I could only ask myself the question: “Is this man, who appears to be a smart guy, ignorant that all of these ‘reforms’ in the Mass are younger than he is? Did he really see the Catholicism of history, or was he drawn to his own vision of what he thinks the Catholic Church is? Would he have had the same experience at Mass if he had gone to one from the year of his birth?” You might think that I am splitting hairs, but I find these questions highly pertinent. For often Neo-Catholics like Hahn seem to be drawn by aspects of the Catholic Church that I would characterize as dysfunctional and illegitimate. It is the part of the Catholic Church today that is profoundly forgetful, profoundly ignorant of what the Church was like not so long ago, and only enamored with the Church insofar as it provides them with a sufficiently large bullhorn for their own strange ideas (and the book deals that go along with them). While seeking to engage the culture with its basketball gym rallies, glossy paperbacks, and events that seem to be Human Resources pep talks with a little holy water sprinkled on them, they succeed only in talking past the culture, in creating an atmosphere that is little better than a Book of the Month club, if not to say a peppy, clean-cut, bearded cult. What is missing, sadly, is tradition, with all of its boring, outdated, and inglorious burdens.

And that is the real moral of the story, kids. There seems to be an illness in the Church of intellectual infantilism, of not wanting to challenge the people because we are afraid of “losing them”. That’s why they can’t be bothered to say things like “consubstantial”, or “and with thy spirit”, or even with that old dead language called Latin. In spite of this playing to the lowest common denominator, we are losing people anyway, and all the Scott Hahns or other bearded apologetics superstars are not going to change that. No, not everyone is going to be a theological powerhouse, but when even the crème de la crème of the Catholic talking classes chooses to remain at the level of the peanut gallery, what hope is there for any intellectual vanguard that will be able to engage the culture in a viable manner? To compare it to the Robert Louis Wilken talk, which may have been “above the head” of most of the Hahn audience, it should be asked if Hahn’s self-absorbed puerile narratives will help provide the “thickness” that Catholic life needs in this country. And I have to conclusively say that it will not.

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69 responses

5 05 2014
Rejoinder to Future Protestantism « Ephraim's Arrow

[…] dictum of bible and reason. They are very loud on the internet but they are not the norm.  Further, I don’t see how anyone can take Hahn seriously (something about Gordon Conwell is floating around in my mind).   Are there really the best […]

1 12 2009
Arturo Vasquez

It’s nice that all of you read this as an ad hominem attack against Scott Hahn, rather than engaging any of my points. But I guess I attacked a sacred cow, and that is what I get. By the way, if you really want to get into sacred cows, just go ahead and search what I have written about Mark Shea on this blog.

And really people, grow up.

1 12 2009
Mary Ann Rice

I’m trying to figure out why you and AG went to the lecture in the first place.

1 12 2009
Leah

Psalm 133:
1 Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity: 2 Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, which ran down to the skirt of his garment: 3 As the dew of Hermon, which descends upon mount Sion. For there the Lord has commanded blessing, and life for evermore.

1 12 2009
George

Oh, and on the condemnation of Hahn making a living from his words –

How many of you have Advent candles and an Advent wreath in your home?

Was it free?

(Perhaps for some of you it was, fashioned from leaves and beeswax. But most of us buy ours.)

Do your children have an Advent calendar?

Did you pay for it?

Your home has religious art and sacramentals – crucifixes, statues, icons and rosaries. Did someone, somewhere along the line, pay money for these symbols of the faith?

Or were all of these somehow manufactured out of air and just appeared in your homes?

No. People made them, constructed them and sold them. In a religious goods store, they probably sold them at a 50% profit.

Why do you begrudge people whose work involves words?

1 12 2009
George

(TGINS:)

…because the Faith is so alive in Europe, because the Churches are full to bursting and the Church is such a vibrant cultural, political and social force.

I’m not seeing it. What I do see, somehow, is that the parts of the United States that had the strongest “cultural Catholicism” – the Northeast, MidAtlantic and Midwest – are now the areas with the strongest support of legal abortion and homosexual “marriage.”

1 12 2009
Thank God I'm not Shea

Here are a couple of comments that show what Mark Shea and his pack of ninnies think traditional Catholicism is. Note the complete lack of understanding. The first is from Shea himself, the second from one of his acolytes.

“Bingo. It’s the “Being Catholic is an almost purely cultural thing and there’s no way you, Disgusting Outsider, could ever *possibly* hope to *really* be Catholic” thing that puts me off. Fortunately, these people constitute a vanishingly small sample of the Church’s total population, sitting in their tiny corner bitching about the Impure and (ironically) griping about the awful Puritan culture of their fellow unworthy Americans. It’s Donatism all over again. The real Catholic spirit is “Here comes everybody!” These guys are dilettantes for their particular theories of Catholic culture and aesthetics which they regard as co-terminous with True Catholic Faith[TM].”

“The most irritating thing about these people is how they refuse to acknowledge the dark side of cultural Catholicism. Where did an intense and pervasive folk and cultural Catholicism get Quebec? Ireland? Most of Europe? Empty churches. No lively counter-cultural Catholic centered activism (like the pro-life movement in the US). They never account for the higher proportion of practicing Catholics in the bad old secularist Protestant USA.

Further, they are not willing to acknowledge the impact of cultural Catholicism on individuals – an acceptance of alcholism, acceptance of marital infidelity as a way of life…and so on.”

Mark Shea and his minions . . . always wrong, but never in doubt.

1 12 2009
George

So Arturo has a problem with Scott Hahn. Fine. Does Arturo see Scott as a fellow member of the Body of Christ? If so, and if he really feels as if Hahn causes damage of one sort or another, he has a responsibility to inform Scott and talk it over with him. I’m sure he is not hard to contact. In fact, he might have even taken the time to actually speak to Hahn after the talk in New Orleans.

So he did none of this, and why not?

Because he is more interested in matters of the ego- in drawing attention to himself, amusing himself and others and perpetuating his quirky, iconoclastic persona.

That’s all fine, I suppose, but it has nothing to do with the real work of building up the Body of Christ and correcting errors in a responsible, Christ-like way.

So, Arturo, if you *did* write a book – if a publisher asked you to write one (which would doubtless be interesting and informative), you would give it away and not sell it? And if a group asked you to travel across the country to speak about the subject matter of your book, you would go and not ask them to reimburse you for expenses?

And I fail to see, Dianne, how addressing the errors in this post or questioning the approach, makes one a Hahn groupie. In fact, several of the commentors over at Shea’s aver that they are not, indeed, huge fans of Hahn or can agree that certain aspects of his approach could be questioned, but they also take issue with this post.

It’s discourse like yours – characterizing the thread over there as a gathering of “groupies” that really do no one any good.

Here’s the question. Are you *serious* your faith in Christ and his Church or are you more *serious* about your own egos? You accuse Hahn of the latter, but it seems as if this post, in its approaching to correcting perceived errors, is a massive exertion in ego, particularly since Arturo evidently did not attempt to contact Scott Hahn himself.

30 11 2009
Jared B.

Good thing too, because this comment thread has run into 2 infinite loops: 1) A calls B a pharisee, B calls A holier-than-thou for calling B a pharisee. Wash rinse repeat. 2) C criticizes A’s opinion by saying that B is “entitled to his opinion”. Logical implosion ensues.

So I’m jumping ship to where the conversation is (for the moment) still moving in some direction instead of around in circles. Everyone’s free to join 😉

30 11 2009
Dianne

The Shea groupies are having a cow over this one:

http://markshea.blogspot.com/2009/11/vicious-cattiness-for-jesus.html

30 11 2009
byztex

I’m surprised there is so much outrage at this post. A lot of people find Scott Hahn less than appealing. Some people, former students of his even, find some of his writings off-putting or overly saccharine. Others have found him to be foundational in their coming to the Roman Church.

Many seem to have taken his criticisms personally – as if by speaking in less than glowing terms of Mr. Hahn that he is vicariously attacking you as a devotee.

He’s entitled to his opinion.

30 11 2009
Devin Rose

Scott Hahn is an orthodox Catholic who has been instrumental in countless Protestants entering full communion with the Catholic Church. Fellow Catholics denigrating him and his work is sad.

30 11 2009
Devin Rose

Called to Communion is an laudable and informative effort by several converts from Reformed and other movements of Protestantism to explain the reasons for the Catholic Faith. You do a disservice to it, them, and all Christians by your rude statements.

30 11 2009
Tom

Wow, all of a sudden, a plaque of holier-than-thou “love” types! I’m so ashamed of my phariseeism and arrogant, condescending and hateful attitude.

Let’s get to the point here: The notion that “The rich treasury of devotions and prayers, the mass (including the TLM), the sacraments, they’re all great, but they don’t save you. Love saves you” is simply nonsense.

No one EVER said they save you, without your cooperation.

The reason some of us think the TLM is superior is that the TLM, unlike the Novus Ordo, leads us objectively to an encounter with the mystery that is God. The TLM has been hallowed since the days of Gregory the Great and before. It is fitting worship for God and that is the point. It is worship given to God.

It is not empty ritual.

It is not the fulfilling of requirements.

And comments like that are equally as offensive as any directed at Scott Hahn.

30 11 2009
Thomas Joseph

… I think preservation is the first order of business …The Church will endure, fortunately it will do so despite our best efforts I might add.

30 11 2009
Allan

Wow, the rudeness, arrogance, and self-righteousness of many of the posters here is mind-blowing! I mean really, going to a lecture and then reading a book? Can you not see how staggeringly rude that is? Why did you even go to such a lecture if you wanted a doctoral presentation? Do you go to Yankee stadium hoping to see a basketball game? Or to a Barbra Streisand concert hoping to hear some Eagles songs? How is it Scott Hahn’s fault that you clearly didn’t think through your plans?

It’s not just Arturo, but ochlophobist, Mike Philips and others who seem to be filled with hatred towards anyone who doesn’t worship in Latin and read only certain “approved” authors. I’m hearing a lot of clanging cymbal and very little love in these posts, and if you have no love in you, what good are all the devotions you do? Are they just done so you can look down on others who do not do them? I know traditionalists like to mock that they are often referred to as Pharisees, but seriously, how are you different from a Pharisee? I tried to think of what a modern-day Pharisee would look like, and I couldn’t come up with anything different than what I see here. I see people who separate themselves from others, as the Pharisees did, by having your own Latin masses. I see people looking down on others’ piety and religious practices, as the Pharisees did. I see people thinking themselves saved, while condemning others, as the Pharisees did. I see people with no love in them, who count themselves holyfor following the rituals, ordinances and devotions of their faith, as the Pharisees did. How are you guys different from Pharisees? I just don’t see it. I suppose I’m not as wise or educated as Arturo, AG, or ochlophobist, but if the fruits of that education are the sort of rudeness and arrogance on display here, I think I’ll pass.

Similarly, I’ve been thinking for some months of attending the local TLM in my city, as I’ve grown tired of some of the Me-centered hymns being chosen at my parish. But if the fruits of the TLM are the sorts of attitudes seen here, then once again, I’ll pass. Even some of your doctrine seems pretty weak. Was somebody above actually suggesting that devotions come ahead a reading Scripture? That’s insane! The rosary is great, but Scripture trumps it every time. And even more so with things like First Fridays and First Saturdays. Then same goes with the comment that Protestants were savings themselves from hell by converting. That contradicts the Bible and the doctrine of the Church. I immediately thought of Jesus telling the Pharisees that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter heaven before them. I think a good number of the haught, arrogant traditionalists may be surprised to find evangelicals entering heaven while they end up with that other haughty, arrogant fellow who has been gathering up souls for himself (to devour).

The rich treasury of devotions and prayers, the mass (including the TLM), the sacraments, they’re all great, but they don’t save you. Love saves you. That was the point Jesus was making with the Pharisees, they were practicing their religion as fully as good be done, yet they missed the central point: love. Same with devotions, TLM, etc. If they don’t help you grow in love, what is the point of them? The empty fulfillment of ritual requirements? If you think that will save you, well, good luck to you. That’s really my one fear of switching to the TLM, is that instead of growing in love, I will develop that arrogant, condescending, and even hateful attitude I seem to always find on websites of TLM devotees. (Just for the record, I know authentic Christian love isn’t the namby-pamby, I’m okay you’re okay stuff that’s commonly out there, and that it occassionally requires challenging people. But hit-job insults like some of these posts (like a crack about Scott Hahn’s teeth) hardly qualify. The posts by the authors I mentioned earlier were decidly lacking in Christian love.)

30 11 2009
Sue from Buffalo

I found this blog by accident. I am not impressed. This is how you work towards your holiness?

I like Scott Hahn. I don’t view him as a “superstar” but I do remember meeting him at a Catholic conference last year. I introduced myself to him in the hall. He didn’t have a lot of time but that didn’t keep him from stopping what he was doing to speak to me. He certainly didn’t seem to have a “superstar” attitude.

You didn’t like his talk. Ok.
You didn’t like him selling his books/cd/videos (or maybe the way he did it). Ok.

And, if I’m not mistaken, you don’t like the way Mass is said today. Or am I wrong on that?

You seem to have this snarky intellectualism that completely misses the gospel teachings. People are greatly uncatechized today. Mr. Hahn and those like him, are trying to catch us up.

I am a convert. I listened to his story and it played a part in my coming into the church.

What am I offended about? I am offended at the way this blog was written. You don’t have to like Scott Hahn but if you’re going to critique him, can’t you do it in a way that would please Christ?

Do it intelligently. Do it with compassion. Your behavior is embarrassing to me as a Catholic. You don’t like modernism. I would love to go to a Latin mass. I would love to know the old Latin hymns. I have to be honest here. Reading the snarkiness in your post makes me want to turn away from anything you propose.

Please consider how you affect people when you write.

27 11 2009
Fearsome Pirate

Yes, most of the rest of the night was just him re-telling for the fifteen jillionth time his conversion story, how blessed he is, and how swell it is to be Catholic.

I want to start a career as a Lutheran apologist. I’m going to go around telling people who jinxed I am, how much it sucks to be a Lutheran, and that there’s really not any reason to join this church unless you really, really believe in the stuff the hierarchy says they believe in but have little interest in practicing.

Is this man, who appears to be a smart guy, ignorant that all of these ‘reforms’ in the Mass are younger than he is?

When I explained in my liturgics class that weekly communion is relatively recent in the Catholic Church, people were shocked.

26 11 2009
Russ

I’m a Presbyterian (PCA – the confessional kind, not the mainline kind) and whenever I feel annoyed with adulation of our own superstars swimming proudly in our little denominational pond, I remember it could be worse if I had to deal with Scott Hahn and Franky Schaeffer, if we hadn’t shaken them off to the Catholics and the Orthodox. So, thanks for that.

25 11 2009
Jared B.

Leah: why don’t you start a thread on http://forums.catholic.com ? Sounds like the perfect place for that kind of discussion.

25 11 2009
Jared B.

Processions…if there is one thing that could get a captive audience, it’s if more Catholic parishes observed processions outdoors, and I mean outside of Church property, in the streets. Even — or especially — if it breaks zoning or city ordinances. Next good one I know of on the calendar is Candlemas; save the date. 😉

If we use the tactics of postmodern evangelicalism to try to maintain Catholicism in this country, it will be American religion that will eat us for breakfast.

Very true. Evangelical Protestants have been the most vocal critics of Postmodernism in the last couple decades (I cannot think of many Catholic bishops who’ve even mentioned the phenomena) and yet they are getting eaten alive by it, as the newer generation of seminarians are attempting to dialogue with it or absorb it into themselves (they would say they are trying to convert it) instead of simply defeat it. There cannot ever be an Emergent version of Catholicism, nor should it be attempted. Dr. Hahn and the overall I-used-to-be-Protestant branch of apologetics, as I said before, is a well-intentioned attempt to conquer exactly that inferiority complex. I pointed out that one reason it has gone astray is that it’s become mostly irrelevant: we’re not swimming in a Protestant culture anymore, we’re standing in a post-Christian desert that happens to have a rapidly drying up Protestant puddle. The second reason the apologetics subculture went wrong, I think Arturo is getting at is that it was misguided to justify Catholicism by Protestant standards, even if that standard is the Bible. Not that any of that hogwash about reading the Bible being an inherently Protestant activity is true, of course, but that is a common perception even among Catholics (and if you’ll excuse me for saying so, it seems a great deal more common among the “trads”). Catholicism is scriptural in a way nothing else is, of course, but the constant pounding emphasis on this fact has in some people’s minds accidentally left the impression that deep down, the Catholic Church assents to sola scriptura after all. The third problem with the apologetics crowd is something Tom & I touched on earlier; it is very easy for apologetics to be mistaken for theology, spirituality, etc. blowing it out of proportion. The result is Protestants who enter the Catholic Church because they’re still protesting: they just switched the thing against which they protest to Protestant things like sola scriptura, imputed righteousness, the “once saved always saved” doctrine, etc. So much energy is spent on being non-Protestant that you wonder if some former Protestants have made the time to fully become Catholics, if their conception of being a Catholic had as its jumping-off point “not being a Protestant”. In that sense, I totally get the suspicions about the semi-converted.

25 11 2009
Jared B.

J. Baptiste: I love that salvationhistory.com website but I’d hesitate to call most of that “scholarly articles”, again because of the peer review thing. Dr. Hahn and his colleagues can publish whatever they want on that website, or in the Letter & Spirit journal (of which I am also an avid reader) because they own the whole kit & kaboodle.

Mike P.: How is “some kind of personal spiritual development program” a bad thing, honestly?!? If it all starts to look like a self-help program with Catholic window dressing, I can understand the “yuk” (even in my brief time as a Protestant I’ve seen that & bought the t-shirt). But if various religious practices or spiritual disciplines are not helping you develop spiritually, on what other grounds are they even defensible? The real gobsmacking punch (LOVE that phrase btw 🙂 that you find in a good Lives of the Saints sounds to me like what is commonly meant by Catholic spiritual development.

I guess I am wary of the opposite danger: that an over-abundance of devotional practices tends to become busywork. “Have only a few private devotions, but be constant in them” seems the best policy, doesn’t it? Of course we all struggle with trying to fit in the devotions to which we’ve committed ourselves, and I agree that adding yet one more is often counterproductive. So you understand I’m not arguing against anything you mentioned, I’m just questioning in what way they could be meant for something other than spiritual development. I mean, the Interior Castle, Introduction to the Devout Life, Imitation of Christ, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Practice of the Presence of God, are all spiritual development programs. Liguori even had a Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation! So how can this be a bad thing, unless all those saints and spiritual directors were misguided?

25 11 2009
Leah

This is probably (or definitely) off topic, but since there’s been a lot of discussion about trying to figure out where Vatican II fits in the scheme of overall Catholic tradition, I’ve been wondering about some of the decrees from other councils that would be hard, impossible, or distasteful to carry out. I’m thinking of things like Canon 26 from the Third Lateran Council (Jews and Muslims can’t have Christians for servants and the testimony of a Christian against a Jew is always true), Canon 14 from the First Lateran Council (laymen can’t take things out of churches or convert them to secular uses), and the part from the Fourth Lateran Council that says that Jews should wear costumes that identify them as Jews. Would such attributes be part of the “ideal” Catholic society?

25 11 2009
Arturo Vasquez

Some more sober thoughts:

We have to keep in mind that Catholicism is essentially a foreign religion in the American consciousness. There is the unfortunate American tendency to forget history, but even after the catharsis of JFK and the 1960’s, there is still a suspicion that Catholicism represents something alien to American religion: something pagan, purely exterior, and atavistic. The Church in general tries to cover this up by asserting first and foremost its advocacy of “life issues”, “social justice”, and religious liberty (an American idea if there ever was one), but this anti-Catholicism or better said, un-Catholicism, tends to surface on the ground level. That is why Protestant evangelicals are eating our lunch in terms of numbers; as I have cited in the past, for every Catholic that enters the Church, four leave, and many enter only because of marriage.

Catholicism simply does not make as much sense if you are not swimming in its ritual, culture, and imagery. I’ll give an example: in Argentina, one of the first things I saw on the highway was a ten foot colored statue of the Sacred Heart right in the middle of the road. On another highway in the interior, the government itself put up a road sign with a picture of the Virgin of Lujan saying, “Pray for us”. Then there were the processions in which the sacred image would stop in front of the police station, and the police would come out and present arms… In Europe and other parts of the Catholic world, secularization is destroying the Church because it no longer has a captive audience. When it has to compete with modern technological distractions and liberal ideologies, Christianity will inevitably decline in terms of numbers. But at the same time in those places, those who remain faithful have a sense of allegiance to a collective identity and religious language. Catholics here simply do not have that. We are swimming in a Protestant culture, like it or not.

I said that I have no problem with converts, and that is true. What I do have a problem is with the culture of the altar call, which basically drives the apologetics industry in this country. Yes, it’s nice to know how to refute grave myths that people use against Catholicism, and for Catholics to know the Bible (provided it is not in the spirit of putting down other traditional devotions and practices… I am all for a “both /and” approach). But, as I have said before on this blog, when it becomes a self-centered exercise of going before an electronic or real audience and saying how one has accepted Jesus Christ more deeply as his “personal Lord and Savior” within the Church, that is where I think it becomes problematic. Other Catholic cultures would find such gabbing about one’s “personal walk” to be pretentious and not a little ridiculous, especially if it only happened, say, a year and a half ago. People will object that Augustine and Newman both did this, but I would retort that, on the one hand, you are misreading the intention of Augustine’s Confessions, and on the other hand, I am pretty sure that you are no Cardinal Newman (and neither is Scott Hahn). If anything, if we are going to change the religious culture for the better, the spectacle of the altar call is something that we absolutely do not need.

(It also profoundly bothers me that most apologists do not ever bring up the whole question of salvation outside the Church, as if their conversion did not save them from the gaping jaws of heretical Hell. But that is a theological can of worms that I will not open here. Needless to say, if they are not explicit in saying that salvation is indeed at stake, isn’t conversion to the Catholic Church just portrayed as a matter of personal choice; of becoming a “more mature Christian closer to Jesus”; a religious feather in the cap in the unending American quest for “self-improvement”?)

And as I have said in the rest of this series, no, I am not at all optimistic about where this is all heading. I think the Church in this country is in profoundly hot water, and I think it going to take some people asking some hard questions to try to square traditional Catholicism with this evil monster that Christendom produced called “postmodernity”. But I do know one thing: if we use the tactics of postmodern evangelicalism to try to maintain Catholicism in this country, it will be American religion that will eat us for breakfast. I think this is already happening. In the meantime, I think preservation is the first order of business, and the preservation of a Catholic identity, and the conquering of the American Catholic inferiority complex that we are somehow “less Christian” for being Catholic. The only way to do this is not by tempering our distinctive Catholic features in the eyes of American public discourse, but of throwing them in its face.

25 11 2009
The Bearded Groucho

Thanks to all who have the integrity to point out that Dr. Hahn has a scholarly breadth and depth that is considerable. That he has written quite a number of books at a popular level that have been well received – and for some become a gateway to deeper realities – demonstrates both his versatility and keen sense about the pastoral needs of the Church at this time. If he had simply distributed “Kinship By Covenant,” which, while well written, would confound the average person in the pews, he would not have had nearly the positive effect he has had on both Catholics and Protestant conversions to Catholicism for the past 20 years.

Arturo, your frustration here is really quite childish. You demand that a speaker speak to you at your own level of development in your understanding of the Faith, while utterly disregarding those who may not at present have the same level of understanding or development. If you want that level of depth from him, go and take a few of his distance learning courses at Franciscan University and read his dissertation. But if you attend an event to hear a popular speaker (who is also an exceptional scholar) expect that you will hear a presentation that attempts to reach a broader audience. Not everyone has heard his conversion story. That you heard it 20 years ago and was touched by it was a grace. Why deny that grace to others who may not have heard it?

Michael, how dare you publicly speculate as to the devotional life of Dr. Hahn. Are you his spiritual director? Are you an expert in the devout life? Honestly, it is comments like yours and Arturo’s that give great weight to the adage : “No good deed goes unpunished.” If you do not feel completely satisfied by his writings, that is fine. It is your opinion and I certainly would not fault someone for wanting to read the Great Fathers and Doctors of the Church instead of contemporary authors. I will say that your point about the general busyness of family life points to the precise reasons why popular books like Dr. Hahn’s exist, although I believe that a short Lectio Divina – perhaps on the readings from the day – is always a good daily practice for Catholics and helps to feed the devotional life.

But public speculation as to a man’s interior life and spiritual praxis is really out of place. Just because he is a well known figure does not give us the right to intrude on “sacred space.”

25 11 2009
Mike Phillips

I have been a convert for 45 years and still am a convert. Just over the last three years, I have become a “Traddie”, and now at last I see what Arturo is getting at.

I mean, I just cannot see Scott Hahn (yet) seeking the graces available to him by the range of indulgenced observances, the graces of a saint’s relics, the graces which little old ladies in mantillas seek in their little precious prayer card collections, and their shrines in their rooms. Oh, that I wish I had such a born fountain of grace in my youth of such Faith.

There is no time to read the scriptures in between work, family, Rosary (and we are advised to say all the mysteries everyday if we can – impossible, but there you are), First Fridays, First Saturdays, Penance, daily reparation offerings, visit to the blessed Sacrament on the way home, etc. I don’t do anywhere near enough of this, but this is the life of Catholics through the centuries. If one goes further back even to the early Medieval past then there would be equally other devotional practices to replace some of these more modern ones. That is what Arturo is getting at. The present modern non-traditional Catholic devotional life tends to become some kind of personal spiritual development program. Yuk!

Scott’s work on scripture is passingly interesting, but every time I read his works it promises more than it delivers. From a traditional Catholic point of view it lacks the real gobsmacking punch of say an exposition of the life of St Catherine of Siena or an exposition about the miracles of Our Lady of Guadalupe or Our Lady of Fatima!

25 11 2009
Tap

Och,

1. I wasn’t the one who brought up Perry Robinson, you were.
2. I brought up Photios Jones, because you referred to the Calledtocommunion group as a “Pseudo-Spiritual Orgy”
3. Was pointing out that the same could be said of some of the Folks you seem to have “hung-out” with on the internet.
4. For the Record Perry Robinson has been ‘caught’ Interacting with the Called to Communion pseudo-spiritual orgy . I guess he’s tainted now?
5. I have nothing against Perry Robinson, i like his “stuff” like i said. Again I didn’t bring him up.
6. On a more serious note, there are various levels of “serious”, and quite agree with you that what i deem “serious” would seriously be the last place to look, especially for anybody “serious” about “serious” peer-reviewed “seriousness.” This is “serious” business.

25 11 2009
J. Baptiste

Hahn has written and edited several books and journal articles in recent years, including the following:

1. Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises – Anchor Bible Reference Library (Yale University Press, 2009), 600 pp.

2. Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Baker Brazos, 2009), 204 pp.

3. The Catholic Bible Dictionary (Doubleday, 2008), 1015 pp.

4. Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology Vols. 1-5 (2005-2009)

Many of his scholarly articles are online: http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/category/dr_scott_hahns_recent_academic_publications

25 11 2009
ochlophobist

Tap,

Perry had nothing to do with my coming to Orthodoxy. It took me 10 years to discern between C and c, and in largely non-convert rustbelt Orthodox churches at that. I became Orthodox years before I encountered Perry or his writings. Perry was instrumental in my letting go the anti-Palamite ideology that is fashionable in some Orthodox circles, particularly those with a fetish for ecumenism.

Let’s just say that Perry does have his ass handed to him by Peter Gilbert and/or Mike Liccione (both men I respect). In that event a discourse has occurred which is of a level of scholarship I have never seen in Hahn.

I raise the issue of peer review because of Jared’s comment that “with his C.V. he certainly could raise the level of discourse if he wanted” and your use of the word “serious” seemingly in relationship to Hahn’s scholarship. I assume that a serious scholar is one which is at some point engaged by those outside of his own quite parochial circles. With regard to where the Church recognizes her theology, peer review and CVs and what you deem “serious” is indeed the last place to look.

25 11 2009
Jared B.

Thank you, Arturo! Not that I’m that fragile, just that I am trying really hard to keep an open mind about folk / traditional Catholicism.

Yeah Hahn could have had a great theological career re-introducting Covenant Theology into Catholicism; it’s mostly dominated by Presbyterians the last few centuries, but the framework for reading Holy Scripture offered in his highly accessible (e.g. what many will call intellectually lazy) A Father Who Keeps His Promises is very similar to outline one gets from the “study notes” in the old Douay-Rheims Bible. That’s probably the best darn book Hahn ever came out with, because it does what all this I-was-a-Protestant-now-I’m-a-Catholic apologetics was supposed to do in the first place: inocculate the everyday Catholic against their surrounding Protestant environment that assumes they don’t know zilch about the Bible or anything else for that matter. It can certainly be argued that the “apologetics subculture” has devolved into sycophantic attempts to be as much like Evangelical Protestantism as possible while keeping one’s toes in the Tiber, but it did originate in places and times when that How to Answer Your Fundamentalist Neighbors stuff was actually useful to some Catholics. As I mentioned above, the accelerating shift away from any kind of ambient Protestant America into more fully post-Christian society has left some apologists in the dust…but still selling their books & CDs. 😛

25 11 2009
Sam Urfer

Damn. That’s a wee bit harsh.

25 11 2009
Tap

To compare the arguments on the Energies site with Rome, Sweet Home is a bit beyond the pale.

You just don’t get it do you? where did i compare Energies site with Rome Sweet home? To pretend i was doing so, is beyond the pale ( btw i have really no problem with Perry Robinson, only Photios Jones). Please no more about “Perry and his Critics.” I actually like some of his stuff, but i’ve over the years seen his arguments with Peter Gilbert(EO) and Phil Blosser & other Catholics, its not like there aren’t enough people dealing with his arguments (and handing him his head) on the Catholic side. Point being we can use the same adjective of “Pseudo-Spiritual Orgy” to describe what ultimatley led you to Eastern Orthodoxy.

Again, i was pointing out that despite Arturo’s encounter with Scott Hahn’s ‘pop’ event, he does some serious stuff, just like that conference earlier this year, or perhaps a modified version of his dissertation onconvenant theology

Does anyone here know of a publication of Hahn’s in a peer-reviewed biblical studies journal that is taken seriously within academia? I have always thought the man’s appeal to his credentials to have been something of a joke

We’re so glad that that you only get your theology from peer-reviewed journals. Its so mesmerizingly intellectual and dare i say; i stinking love it!

25 11 2009
Arturo Vasquez

For the record, I have nothing against converts. I have everything against American cultural Puritanism and those who seek to pander to it, as well as the general atmosphere of anti-intellectualism in the discourse of this country (though that might be everywhere at this point). I know “cradle” Catholics who are just as bad and even more infected with such a bug…

And I am sure Scott Hahn is capable of better. That isn’t the point. If he wants to hold closed conferences for the elect while letting the herd merely bask one more time in his glorious life story and his magisterial presence, I think that says more about him that I could possibly say.

And ten dollars is a lot of money in my part of the world.

25 11 2009
ochlophobist

To compare the arguments on the Energies site with Rome, Sweet Home is a bit beyond the pale.

Photius was the sidekick, many of us had problems with his words for some time (he once berated my godfather, an Orthodox priest, online for some position which was not pure enough), and he has now gone his own direction.

As for Perry, who runs the blog, I have met him and had many conversations with him, and he has never tried to sell me anything nor has he ever used a voice which suggests to me that he would attempt to do so. The thing about Perry that his critics don’t get is this – instead of living in the Orthodox equivalent of Franciscan University (neo-Cath bubble), he goes to the largest Greek parish in the United States (“largest Greek parish” in Orthodoxy is not a complement). It is the home parish of Valerie Karras, our token feminist in American Orthodoxy, who is a friend of Perry’s despite their ephemeral differences. Does Perry spend his time trying to convert all those Greeks to “real” Orthodoxy? No. Does he try to “raise the bar” and get them to step up in their understanding of their faith? No. He pretty much just fits in. His wife is Cuban which can pass for Greek if you have had enough Ouzo, as could his kids, so that helps. Perry told me once that he went GOArch because he figured if he could survive there he might actually survive Orthodoxy. That seems to me to be the right spirit, a spirit that is missing among many converts to Orthodoxy who are actively seeking to turn it into a Byzantine Rite expression of their former Evangelical faith.

As for Hahn’s supposed serious academic credentials, in Rome Sweet Home he talks that up quite a bit, but so far as I can tell besides one non-tenured teaching position he was not all that before his conversion. The only things I have seen by him that were peer reviewed have been in neo-Cath publications. Does anyone here know of a publication of Hahn’s in a peer-reviewed biblical studies journal that is taken seriously within academia? I have always thought the man’s appeal to his credentials to have been something of a joke. I would be happy to learn that I am wrong, as some Catholics I know respect the man’s claims regarding himself, and every once in a while I like to think that they are right about something having to do with religion.

25 11 2009
Tap

Is this Called to Communion pseudo-spiritual orgy the same group that was advocating some nuanced position a few years ago regarding the authority of scripture in the Catholic Church?

This from the same guy who fell for trite polemics of pompous and pseudo-scholastic folks like Photios Jones.

In any case the reason for providing the link was not so that you could perhaps berate him for his (perhaps exagerrated) enthusiasm. I provided the link because Dr. Hahn does other “lectures” as it were than the “variation” that Arturo happened to encounter in this particular event.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

Two converts try to figure out what’s making some Catholics so irrationally angry with another convert. I get some very good answers but along with that we get…that same anger directed at us. Nice. That’s pretty much the kind of blind sputtering hatred toward any way of thinking about Catholicism that is 0.00000001% different from one’s own, that most people assume is foundational to “trads” (I try to avoid the term since I myself am not comfortable with “pop-Cath” or “neo-con”) but I am not going to be deterred from learning more. Anyway I’ve just gotten to the neo-con part of that article from The Latin Mass magazine and it’s as enlightening as promised. 🙂

Seeing this sort of bias against converts out in the open is totally new to me, but it’s something that I actually expected back before I signed up for RCIA in 2000. I just assumed that there would be some levels of classism, whereby mere converts didn’t have the right to speak to cradle Catholics about ‘the faith of their birth and their heart’ (at least until they stopped talking like Protestants and sounded like they knew what they were talking about) but I never saw any evidence of it from any Catholics — no matter how traditional or conservative — until just now. At least my intuition was correct that such a thing must exist in some quarters. Living in the Seattle area, where many of my coreligionists imagine Scott Hahn to be the arch-ultra-orthodox-hyper-traditionalist-conservative nightmare, they would never believe me if I told them that some Catholics view him as…well, falling short of their ideals. Still, I think I am beginning to see what this is about and I’m open to learning different ways of relating to the tradition and Magisterium. ^_^

24 11 2009
ochlophobist

Just when I couldn’t get enough of Jared, Tap comes along.

I especially liked this on his blog:

“I stinkin’ love being Catholic.”

But not as much as I liked this in the About Me section:

“I set up this blog to explain to interested folks why my family and I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church (on the Feast of Pentecost 2008). Before this pivotal event my wife and I had been Reformed Presbyterians for about ten years. Covenantal theology, together with a deeper study of the Church Fathers and Christian history, led me to flirt with Anglicanism for roughly a quarter of a year, before I finally had to admit that being a (little ‘c’) catholic as opposed to a big ‘C’ one was no longer something I could do in good faith.”

Catholic for a year and a half!!! After that intensely long struggle to discern between C and c which took three months!

Now there’s a resume for the credentials needed to give Arturo guidance about his disposition toward the faith of his birth and his heart.

Good God you people need to get your heads out of you asses.

Then I followed the links to some “Called to Communion” site, which had an essay on Solo Scriptura / Sola Scriptura which led me to think, I would rather my daughters grow up to be militantly lesbian abortionists who believe everything that Christopher Hitchens ever wrote than assent to this triumphalist masturbation. In the Kierkegaardian sense, of course (he wrote that if he had a daughter who became a whore he would never give up hope with regard to her salvation but if he had a son become a journalist he would despair immediately, and forever, for he would then know he could never be saved).

Is this Called to Communion pseudo-spiritual orgy the same group that was advocating some nuanced position a few years ago regarding the authority of scripture in the Catholic Church? I read Hahn was associated with something like that, basically arguing that both Scripture and Tradition were authorities in the Catholic Church but in some manner or another Scripture was higher, or some such. I can’t remember because as soon as Hahn’s name is mentioned it reminds me of his voice, a voice I used to have to do business with when I sold books at a Catholic bookstore he bought from years ago. Didactic used car salesmen might be the phrase.

24 11 2009
Tap

Arturo, i think this is over the top, my goodness dude! i wouldn’t expect Hahn to lecture on the nuances of Aristotelian metaphysics re. Transubstantiation, to what is essentially a lay audience. You really need to relax, this type of even was not meant for people like you. Why you went there to begin with is beyond me. He has much more serious “events” like the “Letter & Spirit Summer Institute” that perhapd would have been more up your alley.:
http://nealjudisch.blogspot.com/2009/06/letter-spirit-summer-institute.html

You need to calm down bro.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

Thanks Tom! I’ll read that. The term neo-con is very unfortunate given the other political meaning 😛 but ah well.

Meanwhile I’m loving this blog, shows a whole side of Catholicism I never knew existed; or to put it another way, that traditional / folk Catholicism is really a 3rd category that doesn’t fit in with the “progressive” (National Catholic Reporter) vs. “conservative” (National Catholic Register) “moderate” (Our Sunday Visitor??) compartments that I honestly thought everyone in the States fell into. Traditionalists obviously have their difference with “conservatives” (I hate being called that as a Catholic) while somehow avoiding the big-happy-family-with-crazy-grandpa view of the Church that the liberals picked up. It’s pretty impressive if you think about it, steering clear of that many different extremes at the same time.

24 11 2009
Tom

I’m not suggesting you’re “under-converted” if you accept 100% of the Church’s teachings.

Let me suggest an article that gets to the bottom line between pop-culture (or neo-con) Catholics and traditional Catholics. It’s on the internet. It’s by Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP on the difference between Neoconservative and Traditional Catholicism. Go to: http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_2001_SP_Ripperger.html.

I think the differences are one reason why people like Scott Hahn irritate Catholics of a more traditional frame of mind.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

I think the various “folk Catholic cultures everywhere” are simply going to have to share legitimacy with the Catholicized Protestants or Protestant-ish Catholics or whatever they are. Is that what you meant by “both movements”?

Apologetics as a subset of evangelism is probably the best way to scope it. And yeah, Hahn is no Ronald Knox unfortunately, and with his C.V. he certainly could raise the level of discourse if he wanted. That’s probably why I’ve never tried to attend one of his speaking engagements; I just read his books, take what I can out of them (which for me is mostly Wow Cool I Didn’t Know That About Scripture) and move on.

Evangelization, at any rate, is not a movement, it is an obligation of all baptized Christians. Vatican II emphasized evangelism (it frequently mentions it as one of the main motives behind everything else Vatican II proposes…back to SC again) and the universal call to holiness may sound innovative, but it certainly did not invent the universal command to evangelism!

Yeah, lots of the everyday evangelism happening out there ends up distorting the message — sometimes screwing it up royally — with the good intentions of gaining adherents. But that has nothing to do with the message being protestantized because here’s a fact: Evangelicals sweat & worry about the exact same thing! They’re constantly reevaluating what they’re doing and how they’re doing it out of concern of distoring their intended message. It is a risk simply inherent in all evangelism; I’m sure the Muslims & Buddhists have to worry about it to. That risk, however, does not get any of us off the hook for failing to try.

In the Novus Ordo orbit (is that synonymous with “pop Catholicism”?) as I stroll through the internet in places like Inside Catholic, the increasing consensus seems to be that we shouldn’t be called conservative Catholics because there is so little Catholic culture left to conserve. Tragic as that is (I would love to travel back in time and experience that) it cannot possibly be necessary to as you say grasp what it is to be a Catholic, else the gates of Hell prevailed afterall. I am perusing this blog largely because it’s my first exposure to a folk Catholicism that is real and not just an historical footnote; but it’s insulting to suggest that I or any Catholic who accepts 100% of the teachings and practices of the Church are semi- or under-converted just because we have never had access to experiencing the faith in that way.

24 11 2009
Tom

Jared,

OK, I take your points.

But here’s my point. In the glaring absence of the traditional Latin Mass, which was the focal point of Catholicism and engendered Catholic culture (which then always spins off into folk Catholic cultures everywhere), Protestant converts really cannot grasp what it is to be Catholic. And many, such as Hahn, do not seem eager to do so, in part because the Novus Ordo is much more amenable to Protestant categories of thought than the traditional Latin Mass. And it’s been abused to the point where in many places it doesn’t differ substantially from Protestant services.

As to apologetics, it didn’t used to be as “dumb” as it is now. And Hahn could raise the tone if he wished.

And I’ve heard some so-called Catholic evangelizers who present the so-called Catholic message in terms very much akin to that of evangelical Protestantism. So I wonder if I am confusing evangelism with apologetics. I think there is a fair amount of overlap between the two.

And I think there is a fair amount of semi- or unconverted among those in the forefront of both movements.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

Tom,

I like your point about people failing to rise when they’re not challenged enough (and I’ll ignore the quibble about SC because it isn’t going anywhere).

I think you’re confusing apologetics with evangelism in general. A Christian is supposed to advocate for what s/he believes. As I understand it, apologetics is that one narrow and limited branch of this which does some work simplifying and in particular rewording what we believe, so that it can be better understood (whether it is accepted or not is a Parable of the Seeds issue; my use of “chance” was a bad way to word it) by non-Catholics, non-Christians, non-theists etc. That’s where I meant by meeting the audience where they are; not all evangelism should do this, but apologetics does this by definition. That means that, from an educated Catholic point of view, much apologetics looks like dumbing down, because it falls short of expressing our beliefs the way we express it to ourselves and to fellow Catholics. A lot of it probably is dumbing down; I read somewhere that the average teenager today even finds C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity to be a difficult read! I’m not defending Hahn here…in fact I think I hit upon a possible reason why, by so many accounts, he’s degenerated into self-promotion: what he’s doing stopped being apologetics a while ago. The boom of Protestants who get enthusiastic about the Magisterium came and went; Marcus Grodi is doing most of the heavy lifting for them now. I can’t think of a single Protestant friend who would be swayed by listening to a Hahn tape. That’s not necessarily because it’s dumbed down (tho the corny jokes don’t help) but because they’re not the same kind of Protestant that Hahn was before he converted; . But Dr. Hahn’s idea of what potential converts find convincing is frozen in time, so he is preaching to the choir in the most egregious way now.

I don’t begrudge Catholicized Protestants. Every convert in history is a Catholicized something, and the Platonic Form of the Really Truly Catholic is as fluid as the development of doctrine, introduction of new devotions, and the rest of Catholicism. My own forray into Evangelicalism only lasted about a year and a half so I supposed I’m a Catholicized Wiccan!

24 11 2009
Tom

Jared,

This is crap. Meeting your audience “where they are” is part of the problem. No one ever rises when all they read is garbage (and, yes, I’m referring to Hahn and his ilk).

And no, you didn’t know what you were doing with the SC quotation.

It’s nonsense and a fraud that apologetics is supposed to rest at some level that people “have a chance of accepting.” Because at that level is nothing. That’s where ecumenism has been all these years. An apologist is supposed to advocate for what he/she believes, not dumb it down to meaninglessness.

By the way, I certainly don’t begrudge Hahn becoming Catholic. But, as with the cases of too many converts, I’d love it if he really wanted to BE Catholic, rather than some “Catholicized” version of a Protestant.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

I’m not arguing any of that (and I knew what I was doing w/ the SC quote too 🙂
Even if the N.O. is inferior in every way to the older Mass (something I am not debating about) I think the Holy Spirit is working through it, and that converts like Hahn are evidence of that. I was concerned about an unspoken attitude that dislikes Hahn so much that they’d rather he not have entered the Church at all — something hardly charitable!

As for the apologetics culture, it too predates Vatican II (or was Ronald Knox a part of so called pop-Catholicism?) and every good apologist will be the first to admit that apologetics is not a substitute for theology or spiritual reflection. So yeah, that means that a lot of Hahn fans are not good apologists, and Hahn himself is largely to blame for that. Apologetics isn’t supposed to raise the level of discourse, it’s supposed to level it to where ever the discourse is. Fundamentalist Protestants, atheists, New Agers, etc. all need to hear Catholic apologetics that speaks on a level that they might have a chance of accepting; otherwise it isn’t apologetics at all it’s just talking past people (something Arturo has expressed worries about in other posts). The “quality” has to match the target audience; in many cases equiping Catholics to discourse with people who think Thomas a Kempis is a cream soda.

24 11 2009
Tom

Jared,

The NO Mass is valid, but it is far from the best the Catholic Church has to offer. The phrase you cite from Sancrosanctum Concilium preceded the Novus Ordo rite. I seriously doubt that the Council Fathers ever envisioned anything more than a slight nuancing of the traditional Latin Mass. If you read SC, it still mandates Latin as normative. There might have been some simplification, etc., but nothing like the wholesale reworking of the collects, etc., that Bugnini and the Consilium engaged in. That was NOT mandated by SC.

Of course, the NO can bear fruit. At the Mass, Christ is present. What people here are saying, if I am correct, is that they would prefer a less childish, more substantial, more in-line-with-the-tradition-of-the-ages-Catholicism, in all of its parts, including the Liturgy than the pop-Catholicism we have now.

And Scott Hahn, regrettably, is part of that. There’s no analysis, no profundity, no real insight, just superficiality and self-promotion. He’s part of the apologetics culture of the day. He doesn’t raise the level of discourse.

People were better off when all they had was a copy of the Holy Scriptures, a Lives of the Saints, and an Imitation of Christ. At least they had quality.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

I really do need to attend a Tridentine Mass one of these days (or whatever the politically correct term for it is these days…used to be indult Mass; is it motu proprio Mass now?) because all the trads have the advantage of easy access to any N.O. Mass for comparison, and I’ve got no frame of reference. So here’s what I don’t understand: plenty of people like myself entered the Catholic Church from Protestantism, and did so in the context of the post-Vatican II N.O. Mass. “Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful [34]. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel.” (Sacrosanctum concilium #33) So no matter what its deficiencies, the N.O. Mass is producing fruit, right? Is anyone seriously suggesting that someone who becomes a Catholic in part because of rather than despite the N.O. Mass is somehow improperly converted, or a Catholic under false pretence, or something? Maybe it’s my imagination I’m hearing kind of an undertone like that.

24 11 2009
AG

No, Arturo actually wasn’t angry about the first three items. I was angry, but he was nonchalant. For him, the talk itself was the horrible let-down, which when combined with the other things involved amounted to paying $10, being told to park in an unconvenient/borderline unsafe location, and sitting in bleachers all to be in the wonderful presence of Scott Hahn and sit through a “Catholicism is Scriptural, now let’s all cheer ourselves” pep rally.

24 11 2009
Jared B.

That was more or less my point; catechesis has gotten to such a low point that any reading or listening to CDs or radio is an improvement. Most Catholics I know — and I am talking about intelligent people who make the time to improve their knowledge in their career fields and other areas of interest — can easily go years without ever making the time to expand / deepen their knowledge of the Faith. In other words, Hahn definitely does ameliorate that condition. If he does so in a way that doesn’t suit everyone’s intellectual tastes (AG seems to have a beef with Ressourcement) that’s a pretty weak critique. The intellectual tradition in the Church is so vast that no one can encompass it all in a single cranium; everyone has to find or have introduced to them those things that help them live their faith, and leave aside some other things simply because there are only 24 hours in a day and only so many decades in the human lifespan. That is not intellectual laziness.

Now I am not a big Hahn fan, and I agree with Arturo’s point about him not really having any points. For an amateur Scripture scholar (as 99% of us are amateur Bible scholars and theologians) he writes a lot of cool things I didn’t know before…but very little of it is of practical use to me as a Catholic trying to answer the call to holiness, so I devote more of my painfully limited reading time to St. Francis de Sales than Hahn.

Tom, that “gatekeeper to Holy Scripture” comment was low; it sounded exactly like something a Fundamentalist would say about the “Papists” as a whole.

24 11 2009
dymphna

I don’t care for Hahn but I dont’ the point of this post. You were angry about paying ten dollars, you were angry about parking, you were angry about sitting in the gym. It sounds like you just had a bad night and would’ve been ticked off even if the special guest speaker turned out to be St. Paul.

24 11 2009
Leah

I want to be really different and say I haven’t read Scott Hahn and don’t plan on doing so in the future. So I’m indifferent, although I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pay to go see him either.

24 11 2009
Margaret

I started ‘The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth’ out of good manners because it was a gift, finished it with tolerance towards a fellow partial preterist and then filed it under ‘mildly bizarre’. I did agree, of course, with much of the theology and typology but none of it was particularly profound or indeed new to me and what was new – the idea that anyone could derive it from the novus ordo – scrambled my faculties. I even went to a novus ordo here in Edinburgh incase I had remembered it unjustly and the next week I went to another one in Verona and on the way out felt like tossing the book in the bin but Italy is shorter on public waste receptacles than Scotland so I still have it and keep it as an example of roseate-hued convert optimism. All in all it reminded me strongly of being a scared little student nurse with mild hearing difficulties who screwed up her courage to go to the cancer ward and instead found herself struggling with a gruff German professor using words like ‘equilibrioception’. Mind you, when I eventually worked out that the word I’d thought was oncology was actually otology I was alright but I don’t think I’ll ever be alright with the idea that the novus ordo is heaven on earth.

24 11 2009
Arturo Vasquez

Yeah, that’s it. I am envious of Scott Hahn. I wish I could make lots of money telling my life story over and over again, hanging out with charismatics (wait, my grandparents are charismatics), and getting accolades from people for feeding them second rate analyses that make them feel good… Yeah, great way to cyber-pyschoanalyze someone.

If I wanted to be popular, I wouldn’t spend my time studying things like Renaissance Neoplatonism, Protestant folk magic, Sufi poetry, modern ballet, etc. Trust me, if I wanted to make that deal with the devil, I would have a long time ago. As it stands now, I have a day job, this is all on the side, and I happen to like things that way. Search for my recent “Theological Mercenaries” essay, and you will see why.

24 11 2009
Tom

By the way, the Ignatius Bible is edited by Scott Hahn. So now those who purchase it have Scott Hahn as their gatekeeper to Holy Scripture.

To those who regard Hahn as a “step up” for Catholics, who are purported to have no literacy in matters Biblical or otherwise: you can thank Vatican II and subsequent catechesis for that. And Hahn doesn’t particularly ameliorate that condition.

24 11 2009
Lucian

I like Scott Hahn.

24 11 2009
The Scylding

Eish! (That is an African expression, btw). Some fellows don’t get the point, do they? TBG, knowing (in a cyber-fashion) Arturo for a long time, I would think that he would dissappear in a dust cloud should you offer him the platform. And he has a healthy disdain for the accolades, or is your reading comprehension that low?

24 11 2009
The Bearded Groucho

Arturo,

Your comments betray the fact that you simply do not know what the hell you are talking about. All rage in random directions with little substance. I’ve read tirade after tired tirade against Dr. Hahn and those in the Catholic speaking circuit. I think much of the issue is simply envy. Envy at the audience, the accolades, the books, the reputation, etc etc. Perhaps you wish it was you who has been given such a platform? Perhaps you believe yourself to be more deserving or substantive?

Pride and envy are dangerous and potentially damnable combinations.

Maybe you should ask yourself how much effort you have made to convert souls through prayer and apostolic effort? Oh, and when you take a breath, try reading his dissertation recently published under the title “Kinship By Covenant.” That ought to stretch several unused synapses, teach you a bit of respect for the learning this man possesses and the need on your part for a little humility.

24 11 2009
AG

I should have turned around and left the moment we walked into the building and saw the assortment of audio CDs for purchase by Dr. Brant Pitre (the other bearded guy) along with various Hahn merchandise, which Dr. Hahn was generous enough to spend a good six minutes describing, even with the titters from the audience, as he brought up book after book after book from behind the podium (all written by himself, of course).

The talk we skipped out on seemed to have been about Dr. Pitre’s amazing discoveries of the relationship between the Mass and liturgical calendar and Jewish practice and feasts, or at least that’s what the handout we got seems to be aiming for. Because, as everyone knows, Catholicism needs to defend itself by showing just how Jewish it is. Riiight.

Besides the venue and parking demands, what really bothered me about this talk was that I was, in effect, paying ten dollars to hear Hahn tell a story he has told many many times before, including in a book I read a full decade ago. Since I had heard that Hahn had become a more serious scholar since his early books, even publishing in peer-reviewed journals, I was looking forward to a somewhat scholarly discussion. What I got was the talk a famous memoirist gives when he’s doing the talk-show circuit: “look at how smart, special, and clever I am. Laugh at my previous naiveté about Catholicism. Pat yourselves on the back at how special you are because you are Catholic too, and have all this Scripture stuff in your Mass.” As several people clapped every time he brought up another of his decisive early encounters with Catholicism – used to demonstrated just how stupid Protestants are, which they are but still – it just started to seem so smarmy, so self-congratulatory. Besides his focus on the (clearly Novus Ordo) Mass as so important in his conversion, he also said he started to read the great theologians of the Catholic Church…and proceeded to list only Resourcement scholars. Part of my dislike was also for the audience, who sighed when he talked about how importance the Mass was, as if they could not have picked up any number of writings of great saints of the Church over the past two thousand years and read it better-stated. As I often criticize my own sister, I never understand people who want to swim in the kiddie pool of thought and feel proud for it. It’s just pure laziness.

Halfway through, I did start reading my book and finally finished the chapter on the French government’s investigation into the Panama Scandal from “The Path Between the Seas.” Because of the bleacher seating, I couldn’t very well just get up and leave, but I also wasn’t going to continue wasting my time after I had already wasted my money.

24 11 2009
Alice C. Linsley

Sigh. All milk and no meat. No wonder our Christian brothers and sisters are not maturing.

If this is any consolation, Arturo, its worse among the Protestants. : (

23 11 2009
ochlophobist

In the photo it looks like he does not have his teeth professionally whitened. How earthy.

23 11 2009
Jared B.

I gotta side with christina here; I just don’t GET what’s with all the anger here. I entered the Church about 9 years ago, largely by reading Mark Shea, Peter Kreeft and yes some Hahn, and this is the first time I have ever heard of the term “neo-Cath” at all, much less as a pejorative. Why this resentment against converts who do the most natural thing possible for converts to do: import some of their previous worldview into their new faith?

I also don’t understand the intellectual gripe. For almost every one I know who has read Hahn, it was an intellectual step upward, particularly in Biblical literacy (now expecting hate mail because “Biblical literacy” isn’t a really truly Catholic phrase, or something). Exactly what was this great and broad Catholic intellectualism that was stomped out by “neo-Caths”? Popular Catholicism had already bottomed out in terms of catechetical knowledge; low-to-middlebrow reading such as Hahn’s can do nothing but raise the bar.

23 11 2009
William Tighe

Arturo,

Off-topic, but I have lost both your e-mail address and your postal address (and the latter was, in any case, your Berkeley address); could you send them to me at tighe.at.muhlenberg.edu?

23 11 2009
The Scylding

Arturo, I’m closely reading this series of yours, and concurring with most of what you say (I wanted to say enjoy, but somehow felt that that would unintentionally be using the commercialchurchspeak you are disparaging..).

Some months ago i wrote on the dangers of enthusiasm on my own blog. And by enthusiasm, I meant the all-encompassing New Thing phenomenon. GKC, somewhere in his Farther Brown Stories, has a character, an American, who is energetic and enthusiastic, jumping wholeheartedly into an instant version of whatever his new fancy might be. Sorry, I cannot recall where in the FB corpus that occurs. But whenever discussions like these arise, I am reminded of that fellow.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that this character has multiplied around the planet – there are plenty of him in Southern Africa, especially amongst the urbanised population. And I recognise him in myself, too.

The properity gospel-type is common in one sector of protestantism. I was enmeshed in the other corner, the worldview-thinking type, even the WWDWD type. I am trying hard not be a “type”, without becoming a “trying not be a type”-type.

AARGH!!

23 11 2009
Tom

Me, too. I actually laughed out loud.

Arturo, thanks for going to hear Scott Hahn, so we didn’t have to.

23 11 2009
Joseph

I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

23 11 2009
christina

I wonder… did Catholic laity prior to Vatican II sit around trying to figure out what was truly “Catholic” and what wasn’t? Did they judge the relative “Catholicity” of converts to the Faith? Or is this merely a post-conciliar malady?

It’s not just here, I see it on other Catholic blogs too… the judgmentalism, anger, bitterness, cynicism. Needless to say, these aren’t among the fruits of the Holy Ghost. Is any of this helpful to the Mystical Body of Christ? Not that I’m perfect, mind you… far from it, but it’s getting harder and harder to find anything spiritually edifying in the Catholic blogosphere. I guess I’m just looking in the wrong place.

23 11 2009
Sam Urfer

I agree with you on all points but one: beards are awesome.

That being said, I recently went to a talk about G. K. Chesterton given by the president of the American Chesterton Society which, as a talk, was better than what you went through, because at least there were jokes. The main problem was that it was in the sanctuary of a Church. And that the sanctuary had a kitchen attached to it. And the parishioners brought out coffee and cookies for afterwards, in the sanctuary. And Ignatius Press and the author set out their books for sale, in the sanctuary. So people milled around, chatting and laughing, IN THE SANCTUARY.

During the talk, he mentioned Chesterton’s profound dedication to the Eucharist, and quoted him as saying something about imagine the glory of Jesus walking into the room. I wanted to jump up, point at the TABERNACLE STANDING BEHIND THE SPEAKER and shout “He’s right there, for crying out loud!”

23 11 2009
jacobus

“For often Neo-Catholics like Hahn seem to be drawn by aspects of the Catholic Church that I would characterize as dysfunctional and illegitimate. It is the part of the Catholic Church today that is profoundly forgetful, profoundly ignorant of what the Church was like not so long ago,”

So true. From a recent article on InsideCatholic:

“we go to Mass to hear, well, basically the same thing repeated to us again and again, often in identical words (the Creed and, most especially, the Words of the Institution of the Eucharist, for instance).”

Sigh.

23 11 2009
Ariston

At some point, I felt compelled to read “Rome Sweet Home” by some neo-Cath acquaintance or another, and other than a moderately interesting side account of how he and his wife were in very different places as he became Catholic, I felt that if I wanted to read sterile proof texting and faux-folksy “argumentation” and what-not, I could just be a Baptist and have it in whole. The whole phenomenon has since left me baffled.




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