Five Stages of Grieving for the Church in this Crisis - Revisited


A few years ago I noted in an article (see link) the similarity to the grieving process and the process of Catholics who become 'Trads'.

Because of the continued angst caused by Pope Francis, I think this is an opportune moment to repeat myself.  Quotes for this article are taken from Five Stages of Grief.

First to set the scene.

In considering the crisis of the Catholic Church, there are two 'deaths' where the model can be applied.

First, the 'death' of the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council when the hounds of hell were released within the Church.  This 'death' was grieved by the Traditional Catholics.

Second, the 'death' of the facade of normality that was created post Second Vatican Council.  This 'death' is being grieved by those non-Traditional Catholics who are witnessing the destruction of many of their assumptions.

These 'deaths' are metaphors for the destruction of something that was held dear by Catholics at some point in the crisis (the beginning or anytime up to the present). The reaction to these 'deaths' also has a link to the cognitive dissonance theory that I have been writing about for some time.

One thing that is essential is to deal with the reality of this crisis, no matter when one becomes aware of it!

Onward to the model ...

Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. 
Basically, this is the "this can't be happening" or "this isn't possible" so there must be another reason why it is happening (read: popular Pope substitution theories, sede vacantism, that emerged in the late 70's and early 80's).

This happened to Catholics in the 70's as bastion after bastion of the Catholic Church was razed to the ground.

The danger for souls is if they never proceed past this point or continually return to it.  Denial of reality over a long period of time will result in the creation of a new perception of reality.  Call it a spiritual psychosis.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this? Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. 
  Anger is a natural response to this crisis, especially when one first realizes that the Church is in a crisis. A crisis created and fueled by the ones that we trusted (brothers, sisters, priests, bishops, cardinals and, sadly, popes). A friend related to me the experience of sitting beside his Father during the Novus Ordo Missae in the 70's, watching his arms tense up.  This was the physical manifestation of his anger. The danger is remaining angry for so long that it becomes simply mindless rage.  When that happens people make BIG mistakes and are particularly vulnerable.  Why?  Because if I know what makes you really angry, I can manipulate you into making even BIGGER mistakes.  So while being angry is a natural response, keeping it bounded by virtue is essential.
Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God, ” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumor sooner, recognize the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. 
I've seen a fair amount of bargaining over the last 35+years.  Those who have compromised with Rome are a good example of sincere people who simply made a bargain to keep their present state.  What we have to realize is that while the crisis emerged in the 60's, its roots go back over a hundred years.  Back to the emergence of Liberal Catholicism.  So to try to go back to the way things were is not a viable option.  It is necessary to not 'bargain' away our birthright as Catholics. Simply put, no compromises on elements where compromise is not allowed.  Sounds simple eh?
After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. 
This is a key step in the process, moving into the present reality.  Frankly, looking at the everything that has been lost over the last 50 years it is depressing.  Some people just want to give up and frankly after all the persecution that I've witnessed and experienced at the hands of other Catholics, it is an understandable response.  But there is a Catholic way to respond to this suffering called depression.  Offer up the pain to God for the salvation of your soul and to help the Church emerge from this crisis.  That's right, offer it up!  If your depression is being augmented by a demon, you'll be surprised at how quickly the suffering will lighten.  If not, you'll be contributing to the strength of Catholics all around the world.  It's the Catholic thing to do!
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. 
Finally, we reach acceptance. This is not a point where we no longer feel pain of loss or suffering. It is simply that we have come to understand and accept the reality of this crisis of the Catholic Church.  From this understanding we take a reasoned, principled and uncompromising approach.  As Catholics we cannot compromise on Dogma, Doctrine, Principles - and even Discipline. It is up to us to do what we can, within our duty of state, to help the Church emerge from this crisis.

We can best do that by our prayers and when  providence leads us, to helping other Catholics go through the stages of grief.

While the model is presented as linear, humans don't work that way.  I fully expect Catholics have bounced around between all stages until they stick in one stage or another.

I pray that all the non-Traditional Catholics that I know will one day stick in 'Acceptance' and then start to make the right decisions in line with Church Teaching.



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