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My friend Marilyn, at age 83, is afraid of changes in the Catholic Church. Not because the Church is moving forward, but back — to pre-Vatican II thinking and acting. She doesn’t want to go back. Neither do I.

I don’t remember the Church pre-Vatican II; it was over before I was born. But I know the Church of my childhood, and it is the Church I love: open, welcoming, modern. Enough with the pomp and circumstance! Let the people be a true part of the celebration of their faith! Primacy of conscience! Right to legitimate dissent! Sensus fidelium!

Many parishes, alas, are regressing. There is a patina of lost glory around things like Latin masses, altar boys in red cassocks with censors and incense, and the clergy being elevated to a pedestal unreachable to the rest of us. Funnily enough, this pining for the old days occurs less in older people — who remember those days well — than in younger people, particularly younger priests. They like the idea of being cloaked in mystery, of being above and beyond the people of God. It makes them more important.

I read some comments by a German nun this week questioning, again, the regulation against women priests. (Here’s a hint: It basically comes down to “the wrong plumbing.”) You should have read the responses on Facebook from the so-called faithful! “Your job is not to doubt; it is to obey.” “The bishops and cardinals know best.” Do they? Is it? Primacy of conscience. Right to legitimate dissent. Sensus fidelium. All of these things back the nun, not the Facebook commenters. Is no one being taught the lessons of Vatican II?

I am hoping this regression to the “good old days” will lapse into obscurity. Just as the ‘80s brought back the ‘50s — and then promptly forgot them — I hope that the shine will come off the apple of the pre-Vatican II church and that the precepts of Vatican II will come back into the spotlight again. Because going backward has never been the answer, in any human endeavor. We can only move ahead. Even if that means leaving some people behind.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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