Thursday, July 23, 2015

Let's Go Back In Time

For those who remember the good old days, this will be a trip down memory lane. There are those who long for those good old days of the Catholic Church, when nuns wore costumes that reflected a notion of excessive modesty. The religious walked around like a bunch of Muslims, covered from head to toe, not a single hair showing. They could have strolled through Tehran and not drawn the ire of the modesty police.

You went to Mass and if you had not studied Latin you had no idea what was being said. Instead, you repeated sounds you had learned at school. It was part of a ritual, with all the mystery inherent in a service offered up in a dead language. Did it matter what the priest was saying up there on the altar, with his back to you? You mouthed noise at key times, and you felt good about the whole thing. Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

Jean Marie Roger Kozik wanted to go back in time, to those glory days before the Vatican made changes to bring the Catholic Church into the modern world. Things were simpler then. People were happier then. They went to Mass regularly, and obeyed their priests and bishops, and there was no shortage of religious to serve the community.

He founded the Fraternite Notre Dame, and invited fellow travelers to go back in time with him. Back to the days when pray, pay and obey was the order of the day. Except that he did it without getting approval from the Vatican, which runs the whole Catholic show. The religious group is not officially recognized by the Catholic Church, and as such is operating independently.

No matter to those who think the Church erred by modernizing. They donated to the group anyway, and the little community grew. A branch was set up in the Chicago area to serve the poor, and the nuns went about their typical fundraising activity of bake sales at local farmer's markets to generate the capital needed to maintain themselves, with a little left over to buy a piece of land out in the country.

That little piece of land where they built their chapel and housing is now being promoted as the perfect place to go back even further in time. The Fraternite Notre Dame wants to go all medieval, and rejuvenate the monastery model. They want permission to build a brewery and wine-making facility so they can be like the monks of old, who brewed beer and fermented grapes and sold the product as a way to be self-sustaining.

Would that be the order of religious who cried poor when their boiler broke down this past winter? Yes, indeed, that is the same group that tugged heartstrings until those hearts donated over $200,000, while the Fraternite can boast of millions of dollars of assets.

Not exactly the way to generate trust, is it?

So it is not surprising that those who live near the rural outpost of the Fraternite are less than supportive of the group's plan to expand their mission and become more like the monasteries of history. A big concern involves paying for such a massive project, when the nuns have little income beyond farmer's market stalls and an outpost in a shopping mall.

It's all well and good for a recognized order of religious, who have to answer to the local bishop, who has to answer to his parishioners, to set up shop in a community. The Fraternite is a free agent, operating on the fringes of Catholicism, and seen as a cult by some. They are not exactly welcome.

The nuns cry religious persecution and the neighbors call foul. The land is not zoned for the use the nuns wish to make of it, and the people living in the area want the area to stay the way it is, which is undeveloped.

If only Bishop Kozick could take everyone back in time, to the days when no one dared to question a bishop. He'd have his monastery up and running by now.

There just aren't enough fellow travelers who want to return. They don't see the good old days as particularly good, let alone worthy of a return visit.

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