Infantilism in the modern Church

Another great article by Monsignor Aguer

“The fornication culture, which is...

Spiritual childhood, or infantilism?

In the history of spirituality, a mode of relationship with God is recorded that is known as spiritual childhood. The modern expression of this spirituality is found in the writings of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. Investigating in the patristic age, and in the Middle Ages, traces of that consideration can be found, which presents the Christian as a child in his spiritual dimension, in his relationship with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, especially in the scope of Trinitarian Theology. Even today that aspect of the question can be formulated like this: we are children of God the Father participating in the divine sonship of Jesus, which is made possible in the imitation of Christ, animated by the Holy Spirit. But this is not the purpose of this note. I propose to confront the authentic meaning of spiritual childhood with the infantilism that emerges in some pastoral attitudes, whose “pastorality” is very debatable.

In general, it would have to be said that the post-conciliar pastoral care of children proposals are infertile and useless, if compared with the common tradition expressed univocally in the most diverse sectors of society. That pastoral tradition was made up of preaching, catechesis, mass meetings, and camps. An attempt was made, with varying luck, to ensure that the children persevered after their First Communion. Catholic Action had a Section directed by the ladies of Catholic Action – the AMAC; The M means Women-. Some priestly vocations came from this work. Along with preaching, which had an adapted and popular character, there was work in the Confessionary. That attempt at perseverance had success that lasted for a few years, until adolescence. It was a well-placed pastoral orientation, which implied a sensible reflection on the nature of the stage that was being faced. This pastoral did not yield to a kind of imitative infantilism.

Confusion currently reigns. I cite an incredible example, a fact that was only possible due to the devastation of the liturgy, and the loss of the sense of the Mystery. A priest of the diocesan clergy, from a city in the province of Córdoba, celebrated Mass dressed as a clown. Thus he thought to make the Mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice “fun” for children. In reality, he took children as idiots.

The pastoral attitude of some episcopates can be classified as infantilism. It is curious that this attitude ignores spiritual childhood as a value of Christian spirituality, which can enjoy full relevance today. Then we can speak of infantilist orientation in that the faithful are taken as incapable of seeing and assuming things as they are. This kind of pastoral infantilism is like the tip of an iceberg: the episcopate that childishly develops its pastoral attitude, thinks that way because it is that way. He is totally incapable of recognizing the truth of the situation that the Church is experiencing. This is the place to affirm that progressivism usually falls into childish ideas. This observation does not mean that progressivism is innocent; his childishness is guilty.

The alternative is seriousness in finding the appropriate means and coherence in its development and application. The goal is the pastoral Common Good, which implies a correct historical judgment. It is worth saying that it is necessary to guard against contempt for Tradition, which is the capital vice of progressivism. Contempt for Tradition can be due to ignorance, although it is more often due to ideology; This follows fashion, and the Episcopal Body is infected by the secular situation, and drags the Church, the Body of the faithful.

The question, then, is seriousness or childishness, and seriousness is simply adulthood to perceive the pastoral Common Good as the end of all activity. When the perception of that goal fails, the entire activity is disrupted and it is easy to fall into childishness. In this context it is logical that authentic spiritual childhood is unknown as the way of being Christian. Thus the faithful are at the mercy of ideologies. There is always a dominant ideology, universally imposed as fashion.

Let us say, in conclusion, that from pastoral seriousness that surpasses fashions, spiritual childhood, the authentic way of being Christian, which is ruined by progressivism, can be recovered and strengthened.

+ Hector Aguer

Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata.

Buenos Aires, Tuesday, October 17, 2023.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr


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