No, It Is Not Clericalism

 

Christ the King IIIIn the document, Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God, the pope recently addressed the clerical sex scandal crisis.  One term that is found repeatedly in this letter is that of “clericalism.”  Pope Francis apparently feels that the present Church crisis is primarily due to clericalism, and the bishops in America and elsewhere are quickly following his lead.  As a result, one already finds the term “clericalism” in one episcopal statement after another.  Even the media has seized upon it.

I would agree that clericalism is a serious problem in the Church.  It always has been, and it probably always will be.  But what, exactly, is clericalism?

Clericalism is one manifestation of the capital sin of pride.  The glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it in this way:

“Pride is undue self-esteem or self-love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God.”

In other words, to be proud is to be full of yourself.  It is to have a disordered infatuation with one’s own qualities, achievements, status, and opinions and to crave or even demand praise from others.  We are all guilty of the sin of pride and we especially act on it according to our particular station in life.

Clericalism is that manifestation of pride that afflicts men of the cloth – popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons.  It takes many familiar forms: misplaced pomp in liturgical and other public appearances; excessive signs of external respect; emphasis placed on clerical opinions on Church matters, to the belittling of the opinions of lay people; an aloofness and air of superiority; a tendency to look upon the laity as personal servants, and to disregard lay concerns as unimportant.

Christ warned the Apostles about clericalism.  He said,

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:25–28).

The man who practices clericalism does just what Our Lord proscribes.  He makes his authority over others felt in oppressive ways.  He does not serve others, but insists that they serve him.  And he enjoys every bit of it.  Let me give one concrete example of clericalism.  Many years ago, when I was employed by the Church as an organist, I was socializing in a friary with the priests shortly before a Confirmation ceremony.  A priest who had just been ordained said to everyone present, “When I’m finally made a pastor, it’s going to be ball-and-chain.”  Everyone laughed.  From what I’ve heard about this priest, I’d say the prophecy has been fulfilled.

Now, let’s suppose that the pope and the bishops are correct in their assessment of what ails the modern Church, that it’s primarily clericalism.  If this is so, then I would expect to see some predictable forthcoming changes.  For example, let cardinals be addressed, not as “Your Eminence,” but more humbly as “Cardinal so-and-so.”  Let bishops be addressed, not as “Your Excellency,” but more meekly as, “Bishop so-and-so.”  Forsake the kissing of episcopal rings, and such expressions as the bishop’s “throne” and the bishop’s “palace,” wherever these practices are still in use.  And let’s simplify clerical and liturgical vestments as well, so that the pomp in Catholic liturgy is directed entirely to the glory of God, and not to man.  Such changes could be only the beginning of purging the Church of arcane signs of clericalism.

Does anyone really expect to see these changes?  If you do, then I’ve got a drawbridge I’d love to sell you.

The present crisis is not due to clericalism.  Clericalism does not make a normal heterosexual male want to sexually molest another male or a child!  Such a term only provides an easy escape for those unwilling to admit and confront the far more malevolent problem in the Church; namely, rampant homosexuality.  The liberal pro-gay media has escaped this admission by defining the crisis as one of pedophilia.  The ecclesiastical powers that be have done the same.  But the statistics prove otherwise.  Pedophilia consist of sexual relations between an adult and a child thirteen years old or younger.  There have been many such incidents in this crisis, that is for certain.  And one of the most disturbing aspects of this is the realization that men this sick, with such an extreme sexual-psychological disorder, have been ordained in droves, in spite of the various examinations candidates for the priesthood must pass.  Is this not suggestive of collusion?  However, the statistics reveal that approximately eighty percent of the sexual abuse in the Church has been committed against boys older than thirteen.  In other words, the present crisis is one of bishops and priests having homosexual sex with teenagers and seminarians, boys and young men.  That is the unpopular but well-documented fact.

The present crisis in the Church is not one of clericalism or pedophilia, but widespread homosexual activity, abuse, recruitment, and protection of the guilty.  This latter tendency has unfortunately been receiving all the attention, and it’s in this protecting of the guilty that there is the alleged clericalism.  But every ring of scoundrels protects its own, so there’s nothing unique about this.  The real issue is the behavior itself, the actual sin committed, which is then being concealed and denied.  And that sin is homosexual acts.  Until the pope and bishops can face this ugly truth, the Church will continue to be mired in scandals and to decline in her reputation and her ability to perform her God-given mission.

Although I do not have proof, I think it’s a safe presumption that many holy souls in the Church’s history – men and women from all periods and places – have been afflicted with homosexual desires.  These persons have perhaps suffered in silence, confessed their occasional falls, and striven to the utmost to avoid temptation, by the grace of God.  Perhaps heaven is full of such saints.  However, especially in light of our age’s omnipresent encouragement to indulge in all forms of sexual sin, I am strongly opposed to the ordaining of homosexual men.  This includes celibate homosexual men.  Again, such persons may live lives of extraordinary sanctity, but there is far more to the priestly ministry than only personal sanctity; there is also fidelity to Catholic teaching.

A priest with a homosexual attraction will be surrounded by temptation for his entire life.  The Church prudently and wisely teaches that, in order to effectively avoid sin, we must avoid the near occasions of sin, those circumstances which cause us the most potent types and degrees of temptation, those to which we are most likely to fall, based on our personal history.  A homosexual man in the priesthood, having even the purest and noblest intentions, would nevertheless be contradicting the Church’s counsel to avoid the near occasions of sin.

An equally prudent and wise teaching of the Church warns, “Do not trust thyself.”  Do not ever place faith in yourself, in the confidence that you will not fall to a temptation.  Instead, presume that you will fall, and so, avoid the temptation.  Saint Augustine once advised his fellow priests and bishops, “Don’t ever leave me alone with a woman.”   A homosexual priest would again contradict this invaluable counsel of the Church, recklessly trust himself, and frequently be alone with one man after another.  This is a reliable recipe for the commission of many sins.

There is another reason that I’m opposed to the ordaining of homosexual men to the priesthood, and it concerns teaching the faithful.  To make an extreme understatement – the current state of biblical and catechetical teaching in the Catholic Church is deplorable, and it has been so for over half a century.  There is a consistently narrow selection of Christian themes that are repeated over and over again, ad nauseam, wherever the Church teaches.  Sometimes I feel as if every homily is the same as every other homily, except that the order of words has been rearranged.   And we all know the themes: love, mercy, tolerance, acceptance, blah-blah-blah.  It sounds like a campaign speech from Bernie Sanders.  We hear and read this drivel week after week and decade after decade.  But these themes, as much as they are somewhat biblical, are not accurately presented as Holy Scripture presents them.  They appear to be, not strengths and virtues, but weaknesses and vices.  For example: love, the most over-used and abused word in the modern homiletic vocabulary.  Properly understood, Jesus Christ did not teach about love; He did not say one thing about it, except to warn us about it.  Instead, Christ taught about the virtue of charity, which is about as far from the emotion of love as you can get.

The Catechism defines charity in the following way:

“Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC 1822).

Charity is God-centered, transcendent, and exceedingly holy.  And if it is genuine, then it results in the acceptance of all that God has revealed through Scripture and Tradition, and the conformity of one’s actions to the divine moral law.  But this is light years above the rubbish that is repeated day and night in the sanctuaries, halls, and classrooms of the Church today.  Instead, we hear about love, love, love, without any clarifications that would distinguish Gospel love –  charity – from worldly love – desire, often of the most disordered kind.  After all, rock musicians sing about love all the time.  Is that Gospel love?  Absolutely not!  So then, let our pastors and preachers teach us about the vast differences between charity and love.

I could carry on regarding the other redundant themes that we constantly hear and read about in the modern Church, but I’ll stop with charity.  In my opinion, the above-mentioned narrow selection of Christian themes amounts to a new gospel, a false gospel; it amounts to an effeminate gospel.  The teachings that are presented to us week after week and decade after decade are the by-product of an effete character.  I dare say, it is all that a homosexual clergy, or a homosexual-influenced clergy, is willing to preach and teach.  It is their system of belief, not God’s.  It is the gay gospel of the world, rather than the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For this reason, it is especially weak in the area of sexual morality.

This is not to imply that all or most priests and bishops are homosexual.  Realistic estimates place the number at an average of about forty percent.  But as with the rest of the population, in which homosexuals amount to only about two percent, the political, social, and cultural influence this population has is astounding.  It’s a testimony to the effect a committed and uncompromising group of people can have on others.  If only the Church would get the message.

My favorite spiritual writer – Dominican theologian Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange – once penned a passage that struck me from the first and has remained a personal guiding principle ever since.  In a footnote, he wrote, ‘The greatest thing a man can do is nothing.’  This is pithy Thomistic wisdom at its best.  The greatest thing a man can do is NOTHING!  What on earth does this mean?

It is the common view that the manly man is the character that is quick to curse, quick to punch, and has half-a-dozen women hanging all over him.  He’s the handsome stud who’s sleeping with all the beauts.  But this is exactly backwards.  It takes no strength to indulge in one’s desires.  It requires no heroism to surrender to temptation, vice, and sin.  There’s simply nothing manly about falling.  On the contrary, the strong man is the one who fights his sinful desires and wins.  The Christian hero confronts his temptations like a soldier of Christ, defeats them by the grace of God, and retains his holiness.  In the face of sin, the true man of God stands strong and does…nothing!  That is, he does not act on his temptations, but resists them.  Through the spiritual gift of self-mastery, he overcomes his most potent foe: himself.

This is precisely what the homosexual life style contradicts.  It gives in to grave sin, it surrenders to extreme temptation, and it celebrates these mortal falls as victories in the name of a perverse liberty.  But such a so-called liberty, such libertinism, is actually a dreadful form of bondage.  As Our Lord said,

“Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jn. 8:34).

In my opinion, the presentation of Catholic teaching and preaching has been deplorable for so long because homosexualism – an actual ideology, meaning a philosophy, world view, culture, and religion all based on the homosexual fixation – has dominated the Church on all levels.  The fragmentary gospel that we nearly everywhere encounter in the modern Church is a gay false gospel that has surrendered to grave sin.

Until the Church ceases to ordain homosexual men, the gay false gospel will be the only Gospel we hear.  May God Almighty give our pope, bishops, priests, and deacons the manly courage to confront this evil and reform His Holy Catholic Church.

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Furious Righteous Anger

Who can stomach it any longer?  Priests, bishops, and cardinals; Roman collars, pectoral crosses, and purple piping; clergy from the rank-and-file to the high and mighty, having run like maniacal hedonists through the Holy Church of Jesus Christ, molesting, desecrating, and corrupting to degrees and depths it would be hard to fathom even in a secular institution.  It is like a nightmare from which we cannot wake, with media report after media report disclosing behaviors one would expect only from a satanic cult.  And it has been going on for years and years.

Thus far, the bishops have calmly managed the sex scandal crisis and have seemingly believed that the fallout would just go away, that we, the outraged faithful of Christ, would sooner or later forget about it and go back to sleep. The princes of the Church have held their press conferences and sat confidently at their tables and microphones, sipping their little bottles of Poland Spring water and reassuring us in a hundred different ways that the crisis is past, that they’ve established new guidelines, that things are so much better now.  And it has been going on for years and years.

Pardon me, but I’ve been watching this scripted travesty of indignation for far too long – this dainty aristocratic curtsy more properly called “damage control” – and it disgusts me.  Why?  For one, because of the absence of genuine manly anger – even holy fury, such as inspired Our Lord to cast out of the Temple with a whip the money changers.  Yes, if there’s one quality that is lacking in the awesomely up-to-date and totally cool Catholic Church, it’s the virtue of manliness.  Effeminacy is everywhere.  I noticed this when I was in Catholic high school.  It was made still more apparent to me when I was considering a religious vocation and visiting monasteries.  I was even propositioned by a priest in the confessional, a character I later learned was charged with two cases of sexual abuse.  At the end of it all, I decided I would not spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder, for fear that some prowling pervert was trying to get into my bed at night.

I dare say, we don’t need any more males in the priesthood.  No – what we need from now on are men.

When the sex scandals first came to light so many years ago, I remember the initial reaction of Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, a man I’ve always greatly respected.   He said, when he first learned about them, that his immediate reaction was to think of…”a bat and a gun.”  That’s all; a bat and a gun.  It was the gut reaction of a man of God who loved God, the faith, and the faithful, and who, when he first heard of the scandals, wanted to respond to the crooks and their crimes with a bat and a gun.  His reaction gave me hope that the scandals would be swiftly and courageously confronted, and that we could trust the leaders of the Church to take care of the problem once and for all.

Nope.  Not by a long shot.

I have not seen a Bishop Bruskewitz for a long long time.  I have not heard of a “bat and gun” reaction from the ecclesiastical powers that be for a long long time.  Instead, I see and hear reactions that are disturbingly measured and calm, and it sickens me.  I wonder to myself, “How can they take this so evenly, as if they’re cleaning up a little spilled milk on the kitchen floor?  Do they not see what we see?  Do they not love what we love?  Or else, are they all a part of it?”

When I finally see a pope, cardinal, or bishop publically lose his temper, pound his fist with anger, send his water bottle tumbling, and demand that the guilty sexual deviants in the clergy do public penance and jail time, then I’ll know that a new breeze is at last blowing through the Church.  When I see substantial numbers of bishops being removed from their pompous stations, then I’ll believe that we truly have a reforming pontiff.  But until then, it will be the same old game with the same old actors and the same old jargon, and a fully merited mistrust and disgust from the laity.

I’ve heard our leaders say countless times that the Church needs “healing,” and I’m still hearing it.  This is absolute nonsense.  No, the Church doesn’t need healing, Your Excellencies.  The Church didn’t sprain her ankle or stub her toe.  She’s not limping just a bit.  On the contrary, if we must use imagery, she’s lying flat on her face in a pool of feces, and the world is triumphantly laughing and walking all over her back.  But the Church hasn’t been injured, Your Excellencies.  No, she’s been betrayed by sexually deviant apostate clergy and cowardly colluding overseers.  So please keep your insulting “healing” comments to yourselves, because they make it sound as if we’re the problem, as if we the laity are the disturbed ones that need the healing.  What the Church needs, following decades of your systematic highly collaborated abuse and neglect, is nothing less than repentance and reform.  Repentance and reform are the only proper Christian responses to grave sin, in case you’ve forgotten your catechism, Your Excellencies.

The fact is, the clergy on a mass scale abandoned the faith and abused the faithful; they molested our children with their bodies and corrupted our minds with their heresies; they drove away our vocations, cried that there was a vocations shortage, and then declared that the only solution was to ordain married men and women; and they desecrated our Catholic institutions with that most disgusting sin that cries to heaven for vengeance, and will one day receive it.   But the problem wasn’t pedophilia, as the liberals would have us strategically believe; the sexual abuse didn’t primarily concern boys thirteen years old or younger, because these amounted to minority of the number of cases.  No, the vast majority of cases involved homosexuality – unnatural sexual relations between older men and young men fourteen years old or older – teenagers and seminarians.  Homosexuality has been the primary problem in the Church for a full seventy years, and it remains the problem today.  Until the bureaucracy of sodomites has been broken by outraged and courageous men of God, the Catholic Church will continue to be the devil’s favorite joke and an effective tool in the promotion of his filth.

Men who have the homosexual disorder must be removed from their influential positions in the Church and barred from ordination.  Unless these reforms are enacted and enforced, we will be living in a professionally managed scandal-ridden Church into the distant future.

It is impossible to imagine what life must be like for holy and faithful priests and bishops, for those heroes of our era who have not succumbed to the moral and intellectual diseases of our age, who fulfill their duties as Our Lord would have them, and yet, who must endure the daily soiling of the priestly image by their disgraced brothers and fathers.  We must always keep these men in our prayers, for they are suffering at least as much as we are.

At this point, I have lost all hope in the cast of characters presently running the Church into the ground.  I have faith in none of them, except perhaps five.  Signs of hope will appear when the old faces pass away and new ones replace them, and not until.  There are two possibilities for such change: either mass resignations or the grave.  I would be happy with either, for God’s Church and her mission are far more important than the reckless reigns of these pompous potentates.

From now on, I will assess the clergy – from pope to deacon – by one clear indicator: furious righteous anger.  Either they have it, or they lack it.  If they lack it, then they are definitely a part of the problem.

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Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, there is hope. We who possess the virtue of faith know that God will never abandon His Bride.  And yet, in spite of the much-misunderstood promise of Our Lord that the powers of hell will never prevail against His Church, history demonstrates that He allows her to sink to deplorable depths of corruption.  Yet, even when she forsakes Him, He refuses to forsake her.  In fact, in the midst of appalling circumstances, such as those we presently face, God always raises up saints necessary to the challenges of the times.  And I believe He will do so in these circumstances as well.  God will purify, strengthen, and restore His Church with holy men and women, with saintly preachers and prophets formed for the times by the Hand of God.

The only infidels among us are those who give up on God and declare the devil the winner.  No – we must never rest, quit, or surrender in the spiritual battle.  As long as we’re still fighting by the light and strength of God, we’re winning.

Ireland Legalizes Murder

FetusIt’s official.  Ireland is a pagan nation.  It is pro-homosexuality, pro-contraception, pro-divorce, and pro-abortion.  It is liberal, secular, leftist, and progressive.  It is faithless, immoral, and godless.  It is conformed to the age and has embraced the spirit of the times.  It has burned the banner of the Holy Gospel and stomped on the Word of God.  It has insulted the saints, desecrated the sacraments, and blasphemed Our Eucharistic Lord.  Ireland is a pagan nation.  Period.

The vote to repeal the Irish Constitution’s Eighth Amendment by a two-third’s majority is a victory for ignorance.  Why?  Because a people formed after the Gospel, who affirmed the two Great Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, and the natural law, and who understood the necessity of these moral principles in creating and maintaining a civilization founded on charity and justice for both the strong and the weak, would never have even considered such a repeal.  It would have been morally unthinkable.  But ignorance of the faith has prevailed, and now it will be helpless pre-born children who first pay the price.  And this price will increase, as the abortion mentality stretches its rancid tentacles throughout Irish society, corrupting its culture, art, and education, strangling Christian virtue, and founding a hundred abortion-related practices and industries.

Legalized abortion will produce laws restricting public opposition and free speech, and will establish abortion mill zones where the Rosary cannot be prayed or pro-life counseling offered to desperate pregnant women on the verge of murdering their own flesh and blood.  Funding for abortion facilities will be drawn from federal taxes.  The government you make YOU fund the killing.  Medical students will be required to take part in abortions as a part of their training, or they will not be licensed.  An underground body parts industry will establish itself, whether legally or illegally.  And any person who openly objects to the new “culture of death” will be regarded as a backwards lunatic who hates women and practices a religion that is a threat to Irish culture and freedom.  You will feel like an unwelcome alien in your own home, among your dearest friends.  Pro-life Catholics will be regarded as potential terrorists for their views.  And then, one deranged individual among the pro-life fold will attack or kill an abortionist, and the laws against pro-life beliefs and activism will suddenly grow shockingly severe.    On and on the abortion infection will spread, like a bacteria from hell, until the same methods that successfully introduced homosexual marriage and abortion will be re-employed to introduce the next leap into the bottomless pit of perdition: euthanasia.

I know the Irish. I’ve lived among them and listened to the stories of their lives for thirty years now.  The Irish clergy left them hopelessly ignorant of the Catholic faith, precisely as happened in the United States.  Catholics were formed to be mere Mass-goers, pew-sitters, and sacramentalists who couldn’t offer an effective word on behalf of the faith they professed, because they studied neither the Bible nor the Catechism.  They were cultural Catholics who received Holy Communion weekly or daily and prayed the Rosary in ten minutes, members of the institutional Church, rather than disciples of Jesus Christ who were willing and prepared to spread and defend the faith, as every Catholic is commissioned to do by virtue of their Confirmation.

I have always identified Irish Catholicism as being unusually deficient in the catechetical domain – and directly related to this, superstitious as well, due to its infatuation with a pre-Christian Celtic spirituality that seems to saturate the Irish soil itself.  All of this has left the Irish folk intellectually lame and spiritually vulnerable to the lies of the irreligious left, until good seemed evil and evil good, until murder seemed like equality and liberty for all.  Finally, add to this the anger aroused by the horrific scandals among the Irish clergy and religious, including the Magdalene Sisters and the Christian Brothers, and perhaps the future was inevitable.  One might even say that the abortion vote signified a denunciation of the Catholic Church itself.  As morally insane as it is, many voted for abortion as a means of registering their opposition to the Catholic Church.  The fact is, the Church lost the Irish people many years ago, so that this political outcome was entirely predictable.  Indeed, in light of the vote in favor of homosexual marriage, a vote in opposition to abortion would have made no sense whatsoever.

Saint Patrick – that holy Brit – has been rebuked by brogues.  Perhaps King Herod the Great – that murderer of the Holy Innocents – would now be a more fitting patron for Ireland.  The druids have arisen to reclaim the Irish ignoramuses for the powers of darkness, with their “black laws of pagandom.”  Yes, child sacrifice is returning to the Emerald Isle, as the land of saints and scholars, once known for producing countless Catholic missionaries who brought the ancient and perennial faith to a world living in heathen darkness, now degenerates into a Guinness-soaked godless domain.  As Father John Hardon once warned, there is nothing as anti-Christian as a formerly Christian nation.

And all of this…in the month of Mary.  May Our Lady of Knock still intercede before her offended Lord.

The battle goes on.  The soldiers of Christ know no white flags.  We do not surrender to evil.  We make no deals with the devil, even as he takes our homes from us.  Jesus Christ, His Holy Gospel, and His Holy Church have already won this war.  All that matters now is fidelity to the true faith, even as our co-religionists burn incense to Baal and offer their firstborn to Moloch.  There is no middle ground here, no neutral position, no moderate view, no place for conscientious objectors.  There is no way to abstain from the battle between God and Satan, between the true Church and the anti-church.  The only option is to choose your side – the right or the left, the sheep or the goats, the wheat or the weeds.

Be faithful…or be damned.

 

Even the Devil Must Bear Witness

Fall of LuciferI was born and raised in a liberal Catholic environment.  I attended twelve years of Catholic school, went to Sunday Mass with my family, was an altar boy, went to monthly confession with my class, and was educated by nuns and priests as well as Catholic laymen.  My father was the school physician and cared for the parish priests, and my mother was the parish organist.  To state the obvious, my upbringing was Catholic, Catholic, Catholic.  But the key word in all of this is not the term “Catholic,” but the term “liberal.”  To say we were Catholics is simply misleading; rather, we were liberal Catholics, and this little qualifier changes everything.  It means that, although ostensibly my daily life was surrounded by the appearances of Catholicism, in fact, the Catholicism generally went no deeper than the appearances.  And to make brief what could be a very long story, let me summarize the rest by saying that my intellect during those twelve years was far from Catholic.

We did not study the Bible; we did not study the Catechism; we did not study the history of the Church; we did not learn how to understand, explain, or defend the Church’s teachings; we did not read the lives of the Saints; we did not pray the Rosary, say grace before meals, attend the Stations of the Cross or Eucharistic Benediction, or practice penances.  The ostensibly Catholic environment in which I was raised expected only that we would remain in an ostensibly Catholic environment, never taking our religion too seriously, never inquiring too deeply into its teachings, and never practicing too literally its morality.  The Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist?  Frequent confession?  Heaven, hell, and purgatory?  Grace, free will, and merit?  Atonement and Redemption?  Apostolic succession?  Papal infallibility?  The Purpose of life?  Heresy, apostasy, and schism?  Divorce, adultery, cohabitation, contraception, and homosexuality?  Whatever.  I was vaguely familiar with these terms and presumed they were Catholic issues of some type, but I couldn’t possibly understand or explain them, nor did I feel obligated to believe or respect them, nor did I.  It was merely the stuff that liberal Catholics could expect to hear about once in a while – usually from the old men in Rome – but that shouldn’t cause them any fear or concern.  For none of it – we lazily presumed – was actually true or even important.  And if it was…whatever.

What was the outcome of this liberal Catholic upbringing?  With a heavy heart I can say – like so many of you – the outcome has been that most of my siblings have left the Church.  And during my twenties, when I began to ask all the big questions in life and found that my religious formation offered me no answers, I left as well and became a virulent anti-Catholic.  For I thought the problem was Catholicism itself.

Shouldn’t this have been expected?  After all, if our priests and bishops have preached for decades that one Church, denomination, or religion is basically as good as any other, then isn’t it only natural and logical that those who have absorbed such ecumenical cheerleading should never again come back?  Yes, if everyone and their pet is going to heaven, regardless of their religion, personal beliefs, or actual sins, then why should we stay for even one more Kyrie?  If there is no substantial difference between St. Mary’s Catholic Parish and Duck River Baptist Church, then let’s skip the whole religious thing and sleep in on Sunday mornings.

It is the countless Catholics who have fallen away that have actually acted on the sermons of the past fifty years.  They are the ones who have taken it all seriously.  And those who have remained in the Church – they are the ones who have, thanks be to God Almighty, not taken seriously the preaching of the liberals and ecumaniacs.  Our pastors should be thankful that many of us simply ignore their homilies and remain in spite of them.  And if ever we take them seriously, they’ll know it when they see the empty pews.

For at least six years I despised the Catholic Church and every trace or shadow of Catholicism.  During that time, I trained myself in the black craft of anti-Catholic argumentation.  I formed my intellect with the writings of the Protestant so-called “Reformers;” I studied the King James Version Bible, supplemented by Protestant commentaries; I read Church history from a Protestant perspective; I attended countless worship services of both denominations and cults, prayed fervently for the purest Gospel faith, and believed I was born again and saved; and I often discussed and debated Christian belief with both Protestant ministers and lay people, constantly enforcing my own positions with anti-Catholic arguments.

In spite of this monumental intellectual effort, in spite of studying religion for hours each day, the cracks in my anti-Catholicsm began to appear.  They struck its foundation from every direction, from studying more carefully the Bible, from reading the Apostolic Fathers, from reflecting on Church history, and from considering the catastrophic state of Christendom in light of the private interpretation of Holy Scripture.  All of these noble pursuits revealed the flaws in my arguments and the errors in Protestantism itself.  Their combined effect increasingly pointed back to the last place on earth I was willing to go.  I told myself over and over, “God forbid; I will never again be a Catholic.”  In a panic, I begged God in prayer to save me from Catholicism and to help me remain Protestant.  I asked Him to lead me to anyone or anything that would help me maintain a Protestant faith.   A hundred times I prayed, “Lord, save me from this!  Don’t ever ask me to be Catholic again!”  And then God answered my prayers with another type of fracture: He forced the devil to bear witness to the truth.

I had always been fascinated with the New Age Movement – fascinated in that I recognized the grave threat this neo-pagan revival posed to the Christian faith and world.  As a result, I had studied about it for years and gained a sound understanding of its fundamental beliefs and practices.  One topic that frequently came up in these studies was Satanism – the beliefs and practices of Satanists.  But I recognized over and over again one aspect of Satanic practice that increasingly bothered me: the Black Mass.  When the foremost opponents of the Kingdom of God – the Christ-loathing Satanists – gathered to offer their most formal and solemn blasphemous praises to the devil, they performed a mockery of the Catholic Mass said backwards in Latin and on the back of a naked woman!  They did not perform a mockery of a Protestant service.  They did not sing multiple hymn verses to Satan, or listen to forty-five minute sermons on hatred and blasphemy, or answer an evil altar call, or read backwards the KJV Bible, or even preach their own Satanic Bible on street corners.  No.  When Satanists wanted to perform the wickedest act of blasphemy, they turned to a mockery of the Holy Mass.  And when they wanted to perform the lowest act of sacrilege, they sought to desecrate a Host.  No, not a piece of communion bread from a Protestant service, but only a Host consecrated at Holy Mass by a Catholic priest.

These unwelcome realizations caused me great pain as I reflected on their meaning.  Why, I wondered, would the Satanists not mock Protestantism – almost as a favor to me?  Then I could have a desperately needed reason to remain Protestant!

Three more giant cracks soon appeared.  I learned, first, that one of the most significant symptoms of demonic possession was the inability of the possessed to tolerate the moment of consecration at Holy Mass, and second, that they could not bear to consume a consecrated Host.  And then I learned from a former Satanic priestess (turned Catholic) that such a person could identify a single consecrated Host in a bowl of unconsecrated hosts.  Why?  Because the demons, the possessed, and those who have received certain powers from the devil, are painfully sensitive to the presence of their enemy, Jesus Christ.  CRUNCH!

The Church teaches that – mystery of mysteries – the devil and his fallen angelic companions can do nothing except what they are allowed to do by God.  They are not free; rather, they are like chained junkyard dogs – vicious as can preternaturally be, but hopelessly chained by Divine Providence.  And in spite of all their wicked stratagems and desires, the demons cannot prevent one iota of the establishment of God’s Kingdom, and they even contribute to its establishment with their resistance to it.

In every way, Satan and the demons are the antithesis of God and everything godly.  Hence, in hating, they bear witness to divine love; in killing, they bear witness to the sacredness of life; in promoting perversity, they bear witness to purity; in assaulting the family, they bear witness to traditional marriage; in despising the Gospel, they bear witness to the truth that sets us free; and in mocking both the Catholic Church and the Holy Mass, they only bear witness to all things authentically Catholic.  For every act of demonic evil is answered with infinitely superior acts of divine goodness – in Christ’s Incarnation and atoning death, in the establishment of His Church, in her edifying teachings and grace-bearing sacraments, and in God’s promises of a blessed eternal life for the just in the presence of the beautiful Thrice-Holy God.  No matter what he does or says or where he goes, even the devil must bear witness.

In the Gospels, the demons, speaking through the possessed, repeatedly bore witness to Christ.  In His presence they would pitiably cry out,

“We know who you are, the Holy One of God!  Have you come to torment us before the time?”

They feared Christ; they dreaded His holy presence and divine power.  They wanted to run from Him, but couldn’t.  As our Lord drove them out of the possessed, they would fall to the ground in their last moments, flailing about and screaming in the agony of exorcism, bearing witness over and over again to Christ our Lord.  And to this day, nothing has changed.  Exorcisms continue to bear witness to the spiritual powers given to the Church by Christ, while the inability of the possessed to endure the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist bears witness to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of sacraments.

Several years before she died, my mother heard me tell on The Fullness of Truth radio program the story of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.  My own beloved mother, a life-long Catholic who had secretly prayed daily for my return to the Church, had never heard of this remarkable story in which the findings of modern science demonstrated the assertions of faith in the Eucharistic Real Presence.  She could only shake her head afterwards and ask one question that I will never forget: “Why?  Why did they never tell us such things?”

Indeed, why hadn’t they told us such things?  Why did the Church miserably fail to testify to herself, to her own magnificent teachings, and to her precious divine Savior and His saving Gospel?  Would it have caused a breach in the truth-loathing liberal and ecumenical mission to do so?  Must everything be thrown overboard in order to save and serve the New-Church euphoria, including immortal souls?

I guess my parents could only give us what they had been given.  I hold absolutely nothing against them.  They were the best of parents, but they raised us in an age of religious revolution, when the Church wanted to be something other than Christ had made her, and when she wanted to possess something other than Christ had given her.  And to this day, the Catholic Church still suffers from the same identity crisis in which she would prefer to be just another merely human institution with just another assortment of human ideas and customs.  But such is not the case, for she is God’s exceptional channel of divine truth and grace, and she has the gravest obligation to dispense these to a lost and languishing human race.

How I wish all of these astounding and life-transforming truths had been persuasively taught to us so many years ago in that liberal Catholic environment.  If they had, that godless liberalism, alas exorcised by Gospel truth, would have instantly fled back to the fiery hell from which it had come.

“At Jesus’ name
every knee must bend
In the heavens, on the earth,
and under the earth,
and every tongue proclaim
to the glory of God the Father:
JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!”

– Phil. 2:10-11

Bored Out of the Church

 

I recently found myself out of state for an afternoon. I happened to be near my old childhood parish, so, since there were a few hours to kill, I stopped at the church to pray the divine office. The interior was exactly as I remembered it thirty years ago – contemporary, cold, barren, and distractingly ugly. No altar rails of any kind, tabernacle to the side and priest’s chair elevated in the center, no confessionals within the nave (probably a “reconciliation room” down a hallway), and rather than a crucifix, a massive risen Christ on a painfully stark sanctuary wall. It was truly a “worship space” for the “parish family” sharing in the “celebration” of the “Eucharistic banquet” around the “holy table”. A brochure in the vestibule proclaimed that this was a “Vatican II parish.”  I would strongly disagree, but that’s another topic.

After praying the office, I went for a meandering drive through the old schoolyards and neighborhoods of my childhood – always a dangerous thing for a middle-aged man. Needless to say, it was a depressing day, and I was glad to get back home that evening to western Massachusetts.

I’ve always felt sadness at recalling the past, remembering the struggles of growing up, and most especially, the religious emptiness, confusion, and anger of my youth. I was raised in a liberal Catholic environment from top to bottom – from home, to church, to school. Liberalism, liberalism, and more liberalism. Interpreted, this means sex education, folk Masses, nuns without religious habits, gay priests and teachers, clay sacred vessels, the absence of grace before meals, catechism and Bible studies, Eucharistic Benediction, Stations of the Cross, and the Rosary, and an attitude that those pompous old men in Rome loved to impose on us ordinary folk a thousand burdensome rules and regulations about pre-marital sex, contraception, abortion, and so on. Even Sunday Mass was regarded as an obligation to be fulfilled; it was that boring forty-five minute recitation of memorized words and perfunctorily performed gestures, a sermon full of platitudes, and a little something to eat just before the dismissal.

After a full twelve years of Catholic schooling, and perhaps six of serving as an altar boy, I lacked even a rudimentary understanding of the faith.  And I dare say, I lacked also an experience of genuine Catholicism.

Ignorance is the key to boredom. So, after finally graduating from Catholic high school, I left the Church. I was bored out of the Church. And hardly a soul on earth cared about the departure…except my mother, God bless her soul.

Three days after my trip out of state, I received an unexpected email from an old friend who had been searching for me online. He was once my best friend, but we had lost contact with each other for perhaps twenty-five years. We had attended school and played in bands together and used to dream out loud about the gorgeous girlfriends or wives we would one day have. To get immediately to my point – he’s no longer a Catholic, but is now a Baptist. He said that when he was Catholic, he found himself not wanting to go to Church most of the time. Surprise, surprise. He had been dragged through the same liberal machinery that I had been. And he, too, was another casualty of liberal Catholicism, of false Catholicism. He left a Church he never knew and a faith he never heard convincingly and courageously proclaimed. I can’t blame him for initially leaving, because the so-called Catholicism that we had both experienced was a load of leftist rubbish. It was anything but authentically Catholic. And it was painfully boring.

In the perennial battle between orthodox and heterodox Catholicism, between authentic and fraudulent Catholicism, I’d like to make one observation.  Liberal Catholcism is allegedly the peoples’ version of the faith. It’s supposedly relevant to real daily life and the issues that concern real ordinary people. It doesn’t brow beat or offend, but only comforts and consoles; it’s non-judgmental and tolerant of diverse beliefs and life styles. In other words, it has been designed in strict accordance with the prevailing spirit of the times to please the masses, and it is free and able at any moment to make the next requested adaptation to the secular zeitgeist.

Why, then, have so many Catholics left the Church in the heyday of this godless liberalism? Because liberalism fails to provide humanity with what it most needs: namely, the supernatural gifts of absolute truth and divine grace. And this failure in the supernatural domain results in utter boredom, as it should.  For the human person longs for the divine and finds true fulfillment and joy in God alone.

Liberalism places before man an over-sized image of his own fallen self. This image is not for reflection, but for admiration and adoration. Liberalism does not invite man to recognize either the tragic human condition or the divinely provided remedy to it. Instead, it intoxicates man with self-love and produces self-adulation – the very antithesis of true religion and charity itself. He falls in love with an image that is actually grotesque beyond comprehension; only, modern man has become blind to this type of grotesqueness, to moral and spiritual ugliness. He believes, not the hard revealed truth about himself, but only the lie that he is beautiful just as he is, just as he comes into this world bereft of sanctifying grace, and thus, spiritual beauty. And He believes also that nothing in his personal behavior could increase this interior ugliness. Hence the liberal mantra, “God loves and accepts us just the way we are.” I dare say that if this were the case, Christ would never have died on Calvary, for there would have been no need to die, no need to redeem humanity.  And now that our Lord has objectively redeemed us, we must subjectively respond to His salvific plea.

The Catholic religion is the fullness of this salvific plea. It is the masterful divine scheme which no human being or society could have invented. It speaks to us the truth about God, the world, man, and the catastrophic human condition. And it offers to us the only solution to this catastrophe – absolute truth and divine grace, without which there is no salvation.

Liberalism cannot see or will not admit the existence of this preternatural catastrophe. As a result, it denies the substance of the divine scheme and the reasons behind it. It presumes everything to be optional and fully subject to its editing. Whatever is difficult or mysterious, it simply disregards without a concern that it might be essential or necessary. “You don’t like this particular dogma? Fine, ignore it. You don’t like that particular moral precept? Fine, violate it. You don’t like the transcendence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Fine; turn up the guitars, pound the drums, boost the song leader’s microphone and let’s sing about ourselves. Celebrate the community. Sing, not about man’s desperate need for God, but about God’s love and admiration for man just as he is.”

There is nothing in this navel-gazing brand of anti-religion that the human soul needs or that cannot already be found in the world. We already have the self-help industry, human potential movement, and New Age spirituality. The world already offers a thousand ways to spoil, flatter, massage, and adore the self.  The Gospel is meant to be the remedy to this obsessive self-infatuation.

The Church is at her all-time worst whenever she tries to imitate this self-infatuated worldliness, because she was designed to be other-worldy and was given an other-worldly commission to “go out” to the world with the Gospel and bring into the Kingdom of God all who would respond to it.  And ironically, whenever she is most this-worldly, it is then that she most neglects the world by withholding from it the divine scheme for salvation that is the Gospel. Such a treasure was given in order to be given, and to the degree the Church keeps this treasure to herself, she has nothing.

In a morbid sort of way, I would like to know exactly how many of my old Catholic classmates have survived their liberal formation and retained any amount of belief, and how many regularly attend Mass, confess their sins, study the faith, and live a holy Catholic life. Based on the many studies on the state of the modern Church, I believe the number would be quite small. And this is the mathematical indictment of liberal Catholicism, of that “religion” that has abandoned man’s inherent religious nature, leaving him utterly bored.