The day before his final parish Mass on 29 December 2011, it was business as usual for media celebrity Father Bob Maguire. Forever playing to the crowd, Melbourne’s resident "maverick priest" mused: "I hope it doesn't turn out like a circus." Fat chance! Since the liturgy at Ss Peter and Paul's was always a three-ringed circus under "Fr Bob," his farewell appearance, due to his forced retirement by Archbishop Denis Hart after decades of public scandal, could be nothing less. And so it transpired.
"Let's get this show started," the 77-year-old declared as bagpipes led him into his packed church to a standing ovation:
"Thank God we got through it," he sighed at the end of the "show." "As long as they enjoyed themselves," he added, missing the sacrificial point. Impressed with the three standing ovations accorded him "before, during and after the service," the Herald Sun enthused: "Even though he lost this battle with the Catholic Church, he was a winner in the eyes of the people." The CINOs and non-believers, that is: the people he didn’t catechise and who were therefore applauding his much vaunted social work: community service that ever reflected his wise-cracking, this-worldly Novus Ordo "service."
Talking to the press, the liturgical ringmaster himself gushed false modesty. "People shouldn't be treating me as a celebrity. I've just been here and I'm more or less a Mickey Mouse, just an ordinary man," he protested rather too much, as if to say: 'I’m just one of the mob, disseminating a Social Gospel and entertaining "the comrades" (as he called his parishioners), not a Sign of Contradiction-weirdo, offering solemn sacrifice and shouting the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the rooftops.'
Naturally, such horizontalism within and without the parish suits "the comrades," so they’ll obviously miss him. "The church service heard from a speaker who paid tribute to the people's priest," reported the Herald Sun. "'Father Bob is definitely a breath of fresh air and, at times, a gale-force wind,' the speaker said" — code, of course, for the pestilent breath of dissent from Church teaching and authority.
Typical of this smart-alec defiance was the February 2011 headline that Fr Bob "would conduct a gay ceremony – but not a wedding – if it was held outside a church building and was good for his local community." He added that he "did not have a personal view on the issue" of church weddings for sodomites! His non-catechesis made it just as hard to tell if he even had a Catholic view of Easter. The same paper related in April 2011 that "Father Bob Maguire said Easter was a chance for people to be a ‘good egg’ to others." While digesting this profundity, Victorians were "encouraged to visit fatherbob.com.au and contribute to the Father Bob Maguire charity fund." A contribution to a 'better world,' no doubt – with Jesus as an optional extra.
In the same month, the "people’s priest" disseminated an April Fool’s Day joke about a drive-through confessional. Complete with a cardinal sin-selection board that would allow sinners to select, Chinese-menu style, "three No.7s and a No.4," he explained: "Now they can stop at the window, open their window and confess their sins. Then I'll reassure them that they'll be right." A symbolically refreshing spray of rose water would be thrown in and a flashing green light would signal when a driver's sins have been forgiven.
As ever, the media guffawed: "Father Bob was unrepentant for apparently poking fun at the Catholic sacrament, despite the outrage by some more pious Christians. On the other hand almost two-thirds of readers supported the radical idea to allow drive-through confessions. 'I don’t think I’ll be getting a medal from the Church,' Father Bob admitted. But he said he was happy to play the fool, if it meant that he got the message of Christ into the community." Quite how a godless "community" finds God through mockery of His most holy sacraments, inaugurated at such painful cost, was not explained.
In the same adolescent vein, when Bishop Christopher Prowse condemned a blasphemous April 2010 advert in a local street magazine, Fr Bob duly took a contrary stance. The full-page advertisement for a restaurant depicted the crucifixion alongside the words: "Jesus died for somebody's sins ... but not mine!" and "Holy Thursday. The biggest night of the year", to promote a booze-up. "This is totally disrespectful because they are trying to make a financial gain out of religious imagery, which is precious in the eyes of millions of people. ... This sort of material is highly offensive ... the timing is deliberate and callous," fumed the Bishop. Even the restaurant owner was genuinely "horrified" when confronted with the ad concocted by an "external promoter." Yet Fr Bob insisted the blasphemy was a tempest in a teacup, opining that "religious communities should be careful not to make too many demands in 'a secular society' like Australia."
Predictably, he promotes this secular capitulation under the guise of "tolerance," claiming that religious education needs to be broadened. I’ll bet! A tragic product of his time, Fr Bob exemplifies the countless priests and religious who found true meaning in their vocations in the espousal of social justice and political causes. Thus, the "broadening" of Catholic education à la Bob has involved socio-political indoctrination at the expense of Catholic doctrine and morals, with a view to producing a more engaged Catholic populace. But since when was it an either/or situation? As Australian novelist Christopher Koch commented: "The Church has always been involved in social welfare by its very nature, but the way it is involved in welfare and politics today makes you feel religion is almost an afterthought." Nor can Vatican II be wholly blamed for this diabolic disorientation. These key lines in Gaudium et Spes are rarely quoted by Fr Bob and his "comrades":
A Social Gospel for Cafeteria "Comrades"
No need to go on relating the antics of this post-conciliar poster-boy who has demeaned the Faith and the local Church for so long. The persona and the parable are all too universally familiar. Suffice to say that after decades of scandalous opining and behaviour, the media "celebrity" continued to vent his spleen to the press — "still fuming that he was not allowed to continue being the parish priest." Recklessly indulged for nearly 40 years, his episcopal contempt was palpable as he railed against the Archbishop for dignifying his exit with a kindly title. "Father Maguire described the role [Pastor Emeritus] as a 'bull**** title. Emeritus is the kind of thing where you're given the flick. I'm taking it as a dishonourable discharge'."
Hell surely hath no fury like a liberal cleric (finally) scorned! As if speaking for all the clerical "mavericks" and lay "comrades" spawned by the Council, he then whined to the Associated Press that his retirement was a punishment from Cardinal Pell (his former Archbishop) for being "open to all."
He boasted of his great work of unification for a better world that his forced retirement would undo: ''There's 250 in there [the parish church], 2500 outside, and you throw in the people we go out to in the streets with those food vans, and that's another couple of thousand. Throw in Twitter and you've got 50,000.” Sounding like a nineteenth century Protestant WOWSER (We Only Want Social Evils Removed), his indignant materialistic response not only reflects the essence of the Social Gospel — Religion as an Afterthought — it also personifiesthe debilitating Achilles heel of prelates and priests everywhere: false charity.
Unlike the last two generations of malformed clergy, his own generation, who once knew better, have simply forgotten that the first object of our charity is the Church! Continuing neglect of this godly primacy, especially as regards clerical confusion and scandal in the press, flags the most egregious yet routine aspect of the 40-year saga. For instead of sending Fr Bob far away from the corrupting limelight he has courted — to reflect penitentially on the sea difference between the demands of the Catholic Gospel and the faux-Cafeteria Gospel he champions — the Archbishop praised him to the hilt and encouraged him to continue his work within the Church! "We're not preventing Bob from doing anything," he insisted, "we're opening out to him possibilities.... I think that we can best use Bob and his wonderful abilities by providing him with a broader canvas, a bit of freedom, and a broader scope."
What! More "freedom" and more "scope" to mediate scandal and confusion?! Truly, if our fathers in the Faith don't understand the first object of our charity, which is certainly not Fr Bob and his liberal ilk, how can we blame rebellious clerics for anything? As Msgr George Kelly lamented:
Thus wrote the late American scholar in 1982, in his book about The Crisis of Authority — which continues to deepen and worsen even as dioceses worldwide prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Catastrophic Council. Perversely described by John Paul II as "the great grace given to the Church in the 20th century," we can expect the usual orgy of self-congratulations for the kind of systemic supernatural failure embodied by Fr Maguire — a quintessential product of "the great grace" who is still indulged and still benefiting from the general party line: "spare the rod and spoil the post-conciliar child"!
As indicated at the outset, the Maguire tenure not only exemplifies this pivotal crisis of authority, it also highlights the nexus between the saltless Social Gospel and the worldly Novus Ordo: two sides of the same Masonic coin forewarned at Quito by Our Lady of Good Success 400 years ago [see May 2011]. In his unwitting fulfilment of this frighteningly accurate Marian prophecy, Fr Bob at once eschews making religious demands on Australia’s secular society, while dumbing-down the liturgy of the secularised Aussie Church; pandering to its "jiving Catholicism," which has emptied the liturgy’s "mystery and menacing fascination," as writer Thomas Keneally scathingly remarked. While Keneally finds its rites "now on the level of those for the opening of a supermarket," his fellow novelist Christopher Koch proffered a quasi-Masonic simile more attuned to the Quito revelations: "Before Vatican II, liturgy and music had such power. But now the richness and mysticism has gone; it’s more like a Rotary meeting."
Or a "show," as Fr Bob prefers. And so, on 29 December 2011, his final performance over, he walked down the aisle of Ss Peter and Paul's to great applause, two black boxing gloves hanging from his neck. A farewell present, one bore the words: "Father Bob God’s Own." We can safely leave that assessment to the merciful and just Judge. Yet despite his renowned work for the poor and homeless, one wonders if the Lord is much impressed with the various accolades and awards of recognition Fr Bob has been accorded by the worldlings; whether He looks on benignly at this focus on human bodies at the expense of His Mystical Body? Might He rather disown His wayard brother instead: For preferring to embrace the world rather than evangelise it? For denigrating the sacred priesthood and the Holy Sacrifice, for which He suffered, died and gifted to His Church for the salvation of souls?
Peeping through this canopy of grave questions, however, is a sliver of light and hope. It transpires that Fr Bob has latterly been offering the Old Mass! — happily responding to a request in accordance with Summorum Pontificum. Apparently, when the strict rubrics of the 1962 missal were pointed out to him he not only accepted the admirable fact, he also acknowledged the stark contrast with the option-riddled Novus Ordo.
Since Archbishop Hart has copped out, it seems that God has stepped in: giving weight to Fr Bob’s corporal works of mercy and handing him a liturgical lifeline; one that could yet see him reassess, rein in and rectify the egoism and imbalance in his priestly life. For as recounted in the ensuing passage from Rome or The Bush, a landmark study of the Australian Church, among the intrinsic characteristics and benefits of the Traditional Latin Mass is "a self-ordering of the kind necessary to civilized self-restraint."
While it could be the making of Fr. Bob Maguire, this TLM ego-suppressant is not just for clerical "mavericks" and "celebrities." It is, of course, the divine remedy for all Novus Ordo entertainment junkies addicted to their Heinz 57 liturgical "shows." But since this includes the hierarchy, and since they are not about to enter a Twelve-Step programme to wean themselves off Vatican II, they will not prescribe the liturgical cure for what ails themselves, their clergy and their disappearing flock. Hence their forthcoming October festivities to celebrate Groundhog Day: 50 repetitive years of liturgical "shows," social gospel clerics, cafeteria "comrades," complicity, and decay.
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Extracted from Rome or the Bush: The Choice for Australian Catholics :
Even after years of de-sensitising experiences, older Catholics find it disconcerting to encounter the studied casualness of the young during school Masses or youth liturgies. Before the Council, Catholics had been taught to show reverence to the Blessed Sacrament by careful genuflections, while many attended daily Masses on cold winters’ mornings, received Communion on the tongue and knelt at altar rails in an atmosphere of mystery and awe, along with others of the 60-70% of Australian Catholics who attended weekly Sunday Mass. Whatever Catholics were like in daily life, for better or worse, it would never have occurred to them to reduce the Mass to the mundane and the banal through the intrusion of pop songs and instruments, gaudy “creative” posters of light chatter. In Australia especially, sports mad, often both aggressively informal and unthinking, the ancient ritual and established liturgical customs served as sheet-anchors and regular reminders of the transcendent, otherwise so elusive in the workaday world.
Despite the later eagerness of the "renewed" to parade their credentials by lampooning the old liturgy, there had been few signs of questioning or restlessness among the faithful before the Council at the demands imposed on them. Even among adolescents there was never a hint that the Church “owed” them entertainment at Mass, or that it was incongruous to have Latin, fasting, the Sunday Mass obligation or the priest facing the tabernacle while celebrating Mass. After all, this was the form of Mass celebrated by Cardinal Newman just as by Archbishop Mannix [of Melbourne] and Pope John XXIII. It was a Mass which made Australian Catholics a part of the universal Church and the Communion of Saints; it was a Mass that transcended barriers of time and space. As British historian Paul Johnson expressed it quite recently, the old Mass was “one of the most precious and complex manifestations of the human spirit which our civilization has been able to devise. It was art, ethics, philosophy, history, theology and worship in one; and also a self-ordering of the kind necessary to civilized self-restraint. Its latinity gave it both geographical ubiquity and historical continuity.”
One of the persistent myths propagated by Australian liturgists since the Council has been that in the past there was no sense of community at worship, no participation, no link between individual worship and social awareness. In reality, most Australian Catholics before the Council were of one mind in their beliefs and worship, imbued with broader social concerns, and drawn together by common parish endeavours to build and maintain their own schools and other facilities. Moreover, the Old Mass allowed for many signs of participation as people genuflected with the priest, struck their breasts at the “mea culpa” of the Confiteor, and followed their missals diligently as they had been encouraged to do for years before the Council.
If there were some who recited their Rosaries or day-dreamed, what of today’s congregation, particularly those in their teens and twenties, rarely saying a prayer before Mass, many of them taking no part in the responses, and usually looking anxiously around for the next piece of “action” after receiving the Blessed Eucharist, seemingly without any resources of thanksgiving or reflection upon the momentous events in which they have just participated?