Our world is becoming increasingly violent; a world where people are led and misled by half-truths, slogans and ideological clichés. This violence is directed against individuals and institutions; and a new term – cancel culture – has been coined to describe what can happen to individuals, especially to historical figures and even institutions that may not meet the standards of a new and intolerant orthodoxy. We are now all too familiar with the removal and destruction of statues and other forms of art deemed offensive and no longer acceptable. Cancel culture has also become a feature of the Church’s life at least here in North America.
Catholic media have of late reported on a number of cases where priests have been quite simply cancelled, summarily removed from their pastoral assignments and charges, most often without the benefit of any prior consultation or due process. Although it is a phenomenon principally affecting priests in parishes, it has also resulted in the defenestration of members of seminary faculties. There is little of the much vaunted accompanying charity in what may be compared to a drive by shooting; and the church of accompaniment appears more like a church of expulsion and exclusion. It seems as if from the corridors of power resembling a totalitarian regime an order has been issued to engage in what amounts to a war of annihilation (vernichtungskrieg) against perceived enemies, representatives of a church that no longer exists, to quote a career auxiliary bishop; obstacles to the hoped and dreams of those who wish for a ‘modern church’. In a widely viewed and commented on segment, Church Militant TV recently provided a forum for nine America priests, all of whom have been or are in the process of being cancelled. It is a sad episode to watch; one which however anyone who loves their Catholic Faith should watch to the bitter end (This Has to End | The Vortex (churchmilitant.com) so as to understand the gravity of this situation and also to see the palpable pain and sorrow inflicted upon good and zealous priests; men who have suffered and continue to suffer injustice because of their dedication to upholding and promoting the integrity of the Catholic Faith in all its splendor.
Some claim that the numbers of cancelled priests is in the hundreds but such a claim is difficult to substantiate unless one posits that cancel culture has been part of the Church’s culture for quite some time now, certainly for the last fifty tumultuous years and counting. A case may be made for the ascendancy and prevalence of cancel culture in the Church since the aftermath of the Vatican Council and specifically, since the introduction of the Novus ordo Missae, the Mass of Paul VI. It is not an exaggeration to maintain that some elements in the Church have in fact led the way for the ascendancy of cancel culture and in this regard at least the modern church has been a guiding light of sorts, lumen gentium as it were. An unrelenting process of cancellation followed the revolutionary council – so designated by some of its more influential participants and later, by its sober critics. (Even if the texts of the council were themselves on the whole rather conservative)