Happy Anniversary

Over at “The Swag”, Fr Eric Hodgens has a piece called “Reflections on an Ordination Golden Anniversary”, in which he says:

“We are the Gaudium et Spes priests. We went into the seminary at the highest rate in living memory. We were ordained between 1955 and 1975 – in double the numbers our parishes required. Most of us were from the Silent Generation with a few years of Baby Boomers at the end. We took Vatican II to heart.

We changed from being priests called and consecrated by God to being presbyters called and ordained by the Church – the People of God…

We have experienced the awakening 60s, the exciting 70s, the suspicious 80s, the depressing 90s and the imploding 00s. During the 1980s we became aware that a lot was going wrong. Ordinations suddenly dropped after 1975. We started to lose parishioners – first from Mass then from affiliation. Both of these changes had mixed social causes.

Worse! Discordant decisions were coming down from the pope. Priestly celibacy, despite being highly contentious, was reasserted by Paul VI in 1967 without discussion. In 1968 Humanae Vitae was a shocking disappointment. Most of us never accepted it. Paul VI began appointing bishops opposed to the council’s ethos. This was most notable in Holland which had become a trailblazer in implementing the council. Paul killed that initiative and we are all the worse off for that. The whole trend was demoralizing.

Then came John Paul II. Charismatic in front of the TV camera; brilliant at languages; but – out of touch in scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener and rock solid is his self-assessment as God’s chosen man of destiny.

…Benedict XVI has continued the reversal of Vatican II. He is imposing a new English translation of the Sacramentary on a resisting English speaking constituency. This may very well backfire because many priests are not going to implement it. Benedict has received back bishops from the schismatic Society of St Pius X. He has encouraged the Tridentine Mass in Latin. He has reintroduced kneeling for communion on the tongue at his public Masses – all deliberate key pointers to regression from the spirit of Vatican II. To the priests who embraced Vatican II they are iconic insults.

Then he has the nerve to decree a Year for Priests in 2009 with St John Vianney as patron. Like Fr. Donald Cozzens, many felt they were being played…”

Etc. etc. etc.

Well, Happy Anniversary, Fr Hodgens and co. Let us just say that we too are counting the years…

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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21 Responses to Happy Anniversary

  1. Tony says:

    Are you being ‘nice’ David? Or is it like saying to me ‘If you have trouble with that, you might be a Protestant’?

  2. Matthias says:

    Eric Hodgens one time parish priest of Good Shepherd Glen Waverley North. Had a great name amongst his congregation ,as my boss was married by him and then she and her husband many years later settled in the parish .

  3. The “awakening ’60s”…”the exciting ’70s”, and it’s all downhill from there, eh?
    Statistically, at least, he’s right.

  4. Alfredo Watkins says:

    Wait. Is the priest in the quote being sarcastic?

  5. adam george says:

    Well EH really has gone to the dogs hasn’t he? Where is the loyalty to the Church? Seems to have disappeared. And did he ever say to his congregations what he now states about contraception along with attacks on every pope since Pius XII except John XXIII and JPI.

    His blase comments on JPII are just amazing. Did he ever meet the pope and talk with him. If not, how the heck does he know he was not a good listener? And was he in Rome or Europe during the dying months of this great pope and especially the days after his death and on the day of his funeral? If there he would have seen the mass of thousands of young people who literally worshipped the man. But sadly Eric H is too far away and just reverts to crass criticisms of the pope. Does he see nothing of greatness let alone the witness of his suffering in those later years of his long papacy that were an amazing witness to millions, not just catholics.
    EH has now become a very disloyal priest. And when he picks out that Benedict XVI asks people to kneel for communion in front of him, what in the Lord’s name does he suppose this to mean? It is reverence for the sacrament, something that has flown out the windows of many churches as we see abuse of the sacrament and just what a miracle occurs at every Eucharist.
    No Fr EH the Church has not gone backwards. It needs to get back to the greatness of what it always had and the holiness of its very being. Your disloyal diatribe as a priest given to you by the Church is unworthy of you.
    If this is what the priests of the 1950s have now come to, just criticising, remember it was you who were preaching the Gospel all through those years of Paul VI and JPII.

    Very sad commentary by a priest who ought be praising and not condemning and being sarcastic. Sad piece and not inspiring at all. What has become of loyalty within the priesthood?

    • Tony says:

      If there he would have seen the mass of thousands of young people who literally worshipped the man.

      I think this is exactly the point — or one of the points — EH was making.

      In his review of Light of the Word, referenced in this very blog, Dr Adam DeVille makes a similar point:

      On not being a star: Some time ago, as those who follow him know, Cardinal Ratzinger expressed considerable unease with the fact that John Paul II was considered a “superstar.” (He appeared on the cover of Time more than a dozen times.). He reiterates that here, but more gently and circumspectly, asking “is it really right for someone to present himself again and again to the crowd in that way and allow oneself to be regarded as a star? On the other hand, people have an intense longing to see the pope” and not him personally so much as “this office…the representative of the Holy One” (73).

      So that begs a fairly fundamental question: does being critical of the church, even a Pope, mean disloyalty?

      • adam george says:

        Well Tony, as I remember it the very Founder of the firm, Jesus Christ himself spoke to thousands and even fed the thousands and would no doubt have been the ‘Superstar’ for those who heard him in the hills and vales of Galilee. And all this was without modern means of communication especially loudspeakers. How was he heard?
        It was not the fault of JPII that huge crowds came to hear him around the planet expecially in Africa. That the media thought he was a ‘star’ then that is theire judgment. And the Church needs it’s stars, like Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier and millions of others who carry out the Gospel. The papacy just brings with it a dramatic focus. And as for BXVI, not exactly the most outgoing charistmatic of popes, if you watch the general audiences every Wednesday in Rome there are hundreds of young people yelling out ‘Benedetto’ at the man.
        I am not a fan of this type of screaming adulation, but BXVI does not tell them to shut up or keep quiet. And it happened in Britain when he was there especially in Hyde Park with 60000.

        Finally, I do not believe JPII ever considered himself a star. He had huge natural gifts as a person, an actor, which you need as pope on the world stage. It is a galvanising position that politicians would die for.
        EH is still wrong in his blame of so many popes. He really needs to take a mature look and grow up and look to see if perhaps it is others who have failed, not the Vicars of Christ.

        • Tony says:

          Adam, you need to direct your defence of ‘the star’ to the current Pope or Adam DeVille.

          And, I think it must be said, Jesus didn’t go looking for crowds or setting up big meetings; they came to him. Also, I think PB16 has toned down the adulation bit.

          • adam george says:

            Touche – yes it was actually directed at Adam but I did not make that point. Points remain but apologies to you.
            But David S, I have now gone and read the whole piece that the Gaudium et Spes Eric H has written and its far worse, condescending, critical, negative and highly more raucous than I had expected. Still this is EH’s style of late and perhaps always in the past. He was the future once, but now he has placed himself well in to a negative camp of no spiritual value whatsoever – sadly.
            But this is something of his diatribe against the popes of recent memory, especially JPII:
            Quote: ‘How can they urge Holy Hours and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament when most priests have moved on from that static theology of Eucharist to a dynamic one – with Vatican II leading the way’.
            This must be the most unbelieveable piece I have ever seen to come from the mouth of a priest. So people like Archbishop Fulton Sheen (who spent 1 hour EVERY DAY of his priesthood in adoration), St John Vianney, M Teresa, probably most popes, are just people of ‘static theology’ and ought to have moved on.
            I find this just amazing.
            The fact is ADORATION is now coming back across the Catholic world, especially in the USA and Europe. It had been thrown out for the past 30-40 years by many priests in parishes so that churches had become cold and empty, devoid of their real purpose – prayer and praise.
            But to say we ‘OUGHT HAVE MOVED ON’ – moved on to where – just no adoration at all, no witness of the Blessed Sacrament?
            The dynamic of holiness in any priest is the time he spends in prayer, real prayer before the Lord, listening to |Him in silence.
            Go watch ‘Into Great Silence’, about the French Carthusians, a 3 hr movie that swamped Europe and showed the power of prayer.

            Fr EH just throws out prayer before the Blesssed Sacrament as though it is totally worthless. JPII prayed for hours every day; holy men and women do. If we do not go back to that the number of priests will decrease, good bishops will not be appointed and the faith will fall.

            EH is totally misguided and to say JPII was poor in Scripture is just baffling. Perhaps we need more discipline and a few more Opus Dei priests to inspire the Church in what it really is. Priests are NOT social workers EH, they are meant to be men of prayer, witnesses to the Gospel.

            Sadly David S the letter of EH is a total negative piece and it’s in the public domain as you note – thus is can be discussed, agreed with or better still hurled on the trash heap of negativity.


            • Christine says:

              The fact is ADORATION is now coming back across the Catholic world, especially in the USA and Europe.

              Right you are!!

            • Christine says:

              The fact is ADORATION is now coming back across the Catholic world, especially in the USA and Europe.

              Right you are!!

  6. Arabella says:

    It is sad to read Fr Eric Hodgens’ ideas which he claims are based on the ideals of the second Vatican Council. Fr Hodgens writes “Despite Vatican II he (JPII) effectively stopped the third rite of Penance, reversed a burgeoning dynamic theology of Eucharist by reverting to and re-emphasising devotion to the static Real Presence”.

    The real Vatican II favourably mentioned veneration of the Eucharist in the document Presbyterorum Ordinis (Decree on The Ministry and Life of Priests). Here it recommended to priests “a visit to and veneration of the Most Holy Eucharist” as one possible way of faithful daily dialogue with Christ (section 18, para. 2) – yet Fr Hodgens denigrates this practice. Sadly the Blessed Sacrament is often treated with little respect by those who strongly emphasis the Eucharist as the congregation itself becoming the ‘Body of Christ’ (seemingly they believe veneration of the Blessed Sacrament takes away from this).

    As for the third rite of Penance – the post-Vat II liturgical books always stated this was for extra-ordinary use only and the celebrant was to ensure participants were told of the obligation to make an individual confession of any serious sins soon afterwards.

  7. An Liaig says:

    I think the context may give some balance here. This was in a newsletter which is directed at and primarily read by priests. It was not directed at the general public or even the laity. I think that we may be able to cut father a little slack and view this as a letting off of steam. I know that to collegues I have said some bitter things about my own university while still proclaiming in public (truthfully!) that it is the best university in Australia. If this were said in a homily or, worse, in a letter to the editor it would be a different matter. I know from my own reflection – men get grumpy as they get older.

    • Schütz says:

      It was on the Internet. As we know, anything on the Internet is virtually in the public domain. Whoever he wrote it for, it’s there for the world to read.

      • An Liaig says:

        Not sure this is always apparent to men of Fr Hodgens’ age. They generaly still think that Powerpoint animations are really cool.

  8. Shan says:

    So the disappointments of the largest seminary cohort in history can be blamed on the popes? I’d buy that argument if Eric and friends were acolytes of the pope and mindlessly heeded Rome’s decrees. But that certainly aint the score in Melbourne.

    (My own bias surfaced reading Eric’s editorial: “another baby boomer cranky that he can’t get what he wants.” But I’m a selfish Gen-Yer, so that is to be expected – at least if we esteem generational analysis to the extent Eric does.)

  9. Peter Golding says:

    Fr.Hodgen’s offering is little more than an unhinged rant from an ageing hippie who,along with his fellow travellers,have seen their demented agenda for the catholic church in Melbourne crash and burn.
    Whenever someone trots out the “Spirit of Vatican 11″line it is a safe bet that the arguments and agenda on offer will be largely fraudulent.They certainly won’t be located in the concilliar documents.
    Fr.H’s assertion that the appointment of inappropraiate bishops by Pope Paul VI derailed Vat 2 simply doesn’t stand up.From 1974 until 1996 the late Sir Frank Little was Archbishop of Melbourne.Dr Little did nothing to reign in the excesses of the trendies.
    They also controlled the church beauracracy during this period.The CEO was a good example.RE courses were little more than soggy humanism and what kids actually learnt about the faith and what it meant to be a catholic could be chiseled on the back of an aspro.The liturgy was completely dumbed down to the extent that rather than being an act of worship,it was nothing more than a group bonding exercise.
    Fr.H admitted himself that it was during this period that both the seminary and the pews emptied.Funny about that!Anyone with any objectivity and humility might have at least paused to consider that perhaps they were the problem rather than the solution.This lot were very much the emporers with no clothes.
    When Cardinal Pell was appointed archbishop in 1996,there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth amongst the trendies.They knew the party was over.And over it was.The blow torch was applied and order largely restored.
    Another failure of this lot was the fact that they were never able to sell their sorry ideas and agenda to the generations that followed them.
    Fr.H’s attacks on Divine Mercy Sunday and eucharistic adoration are indicitive of someone who has really lost the plot.You are left wondering what he actually believes in.
    We can only pray that one day the kumbaya generation may see the error of their ways.

  10. adam george says:

    David – I want firstly to agree with Peter Golding as I think he has also hit the nub of the issue with EH’s anti pope-bishop and almost any saint he would care to mention, especially John Vianney.
    But as EH’s vitriolic diatribe is in the public domain (just like Assange’s leaked cables) it is open to scrutiny and debate and yes, attack. It may have been written in some minor publication, but what it says is of paramount concern as it reveals some clear positions of a certain breed of priest who have been ministering in the Church of melbourne and elsewhere. And if this priest and others place their views on public display (obviously for a reason) then they are liable to be questioned and their own criticisms up for grabs.
    Of course the mind boggles at why a priest in his 70s would all of a sudden now wish to have us all hear and read just how disgruntled and angry and upset he/they are at so many of the popes and bishops of the Church. Yes they may have been a cohort of large numbers in the 50s (a bygone era) but many of them have left the ministry and many of them were there because of deep familial faith. I am sure if you look at the numbers of seminarians in Ireland and the USA at the same time you would find large numbers in the post war era who had come from large families and small, but where to have one son a priest was tantamount to putting the family on the Catholic map and stardom for all to see.

    But I come back to the lengthy priece by Hodgens which is not all quoted in the blog. EH speaks of John Paul II’s ‘lust for power’. This is an amazing statement and claim, as I am sure EH has never sat down at spoken with the man who had helped jews in Poland during world war II and later was ordained after much suffering and then became a young bishop. EH even claims that the pontiff had a ‘grievous abuse of power [in his appointing] of bishops’. Well some statement. My understanding of CAtholic theology and canon law is that that is precisely what popes do – THEY CREATE BISHOPS. Per se the role of Bishop of Rome is to appont bishops. We do not vote for them or have polls for them. Maybe the process of appointment could be improved but still great bishops like those in recent times in Milan, Paris, London and elsewhere have been created. But EH does not state how JP abused this power. He just blasts the pope without sound argument. And I might venture to say that perhaps EH thought himself episcopal material when he was at Werribee and when in parish work as did many of his era who probably thought they should wear the purple. Many seminarians were sent to Propaganda Fide college in Rome but very few ever became bishops. Only Pell of recent memory is a Prop man. Hart, Coleridge, Grech, Prouse, Wilson – none of these are Prop Fide men, not even Elliott or Deakin.

    And what really hits me is that EH derides the great priestly saint of France, John Vianney. Why is this so? Vianney was renowned for his discipline, his prayer and fasting and thousands came to him for confession and the sacraments. he was violently attacked by the devil and is now a saint. I am surprised when he says adoration of the Blessed Eucharist is ‘static theology’ and weve all ‘moved on’ did not fire his guns at St Padre Pio, the priest whose masses oftne lasted 3 hours as the great saint was in ecstasy at Mass. are the stigmata just statid theology?

    The fact is today there is a crisis in the priesthood that needs to be arrested. Opus Dei have large numbers of recruits. Major seminaries have suffered big deficits in numbers. Prayer has gone out the window and many priests think they are just glorified social workers. Well, believe me, the Church needs men of holiness and prayer and it needs popes who will be men of prayer and adoration, for 1 or 2 hours a day.

    Its a FACT that Mother Teresa of Calcutta used rise early each day of her religious life (after retiring late) and prayer for over 2 hours in the chapel and then attend Mass. Prayer before the blessed sacrament was fundamental to her faith and work and those of her order (one that has a surplus of applicants). This was the crux of her life and energy – the fulcrum was PRAYER – yes, on her knees before the Lord, listening and praising Him. I myself saw her many times at prayer.
    I’m not sure when was the last time I saw a priest on his knees in a church praying with and for his people. But it is essential and EH needs to do so.
    His attacks on John Paul II and others as well as BXVI are disloyal, venimous and really place EH on the edge.
    He and his cohort were the future in the 50’s. Sadly his words in Swag are a betrayal and frankly a disgrace.

  11. Pauline Kennedy says:

    Hello Chaps of SCE,

    I’m a newbie on this blog and just wanted to make an observation about this rather sad post.

    Obviously we have one sad, bitter and disappointed priest here who pinned all his hopes on a self-invented, sparkly future Vatican 2 was supposed to bring. He can be cranky about the ‘old’ guard and pre Vatican 2 practices as much as he likes, but it is precisely those practices of prayer, adoration, Benediction, (anyone remember that?) the holy days of obligation, fasting etc etc, on behalf of a generation before him that lead him, and many others, to consider the priesthood in the first place. Priesthood is a fruit of prayerful people. It would go well for Fr H to show some gratitude to his family along with the preceding generation for their prayerful and sacrificial legacy. What he has received as a blessing from a community steeped in close sincere communion with Our Lord and Our Lady through the effective practices of the Church, he would, like the dog in the manger, deny others. He has bitten the hand that has blessed him.

    Another question though, ‘what on earth did he think the priesthood was?’ I ask this because I would have thought that the model of St Jean Marie Vianney was an excellent example.

    Oh dear, a sad post indeed.

  12. Rob Flammang says:

    What an utterly disheartening editorial. But it gives me hope to see our blogger and commentators rising up against it with so much vigor.

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