“…the Lord does not abandon His Church,
even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing”
(Pope Benedict XVI’s message delivered at the funeral Mass for Joachim Cardinal Meisner, 15 July 2017).
This statement from the Pope Emeritus succinctly describes the current state of the Church in the West. The Catholic Church, traditionally portrayed as a ship sailing along the seas which has to navigate past all the dangers present among open waters, is indeed facing difficult times. While the Church has always had to battle error outside her walls along with traitors from within her ranks, the time in which we live today presents a unique situation of grave sickness within her clergy which has radiated out among the laity. In the same funeral message, Pope Benedict wrote that today “the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination.” Such was the case with the late Cardinal Meisner. He was a loyal son of the Church who was direct in his approach and uncompromising in living and teaching the true Catholic faith. Would that the Catholic Church today had more men like him within the hierarchy!
How did we arrive at such a situation where the Church does appear, in fact, to be on the verge of capsizing? The reality is clear and evident: Church leaders currently present muddled teaching in doctrine and moral practice that in effect allows anyone to do most anything with no practical consequences, Catholics are woefully ignorant of even the most basic elements of their faith, a majority of Catholics remains uninterested—especially in the younger generations—of attending Mass because their parents largely abandoned that practice long ago, bad liturgical celebrations and false teaching from priests and religious have been tolerated for the past fifty years with no consequences for their disobedience. Meanwhile, there are many persons today within the Church who would prefer to maintain a Pollyanna attitude that “everything is just fine and we should not talk about such negative things” because that makes them feel badly. Apparently, the only grave sin today is taking away people’s false, comfortable feelings and making them feel uneasy. How terrible.
The current situation in the Church is simply the natural result of forces that began long ago. This week, the Church celebrates the feast day of Pope St. Pius X (1903-14) on 21 August. He was a thoroughly modern pope who was not, however, a modernist. Pius’ theme throughout his papacy is best expressed in his first encyclical in 1903 in which he wrote that he would unabashedly “champion the authority of God. His authority and Commandments should be recognized, deferred to, and respected” (E Supremi Apostolatus). Pope Pius was extraordinary in many ways, but his insight into the dangers of the heresy of Modernism is particularly relevant. Because his warnings and remedies were not heeded sufficiently, the Church today lives under the weight of Modernist ideas which, unfortunately, have become commonplace in thought and teaching. The result is a large-scale abandonment of the faith among Catholics, and particularly among the younger generation, a sense of complete apathy regarding the Catholic Church as the one, true Church exists. So many baptized Catholics today live as practical atheists who are, in the words of the late Judge Robert Bork, simply “slouching [their way] towards Gomorrah” completely unaware of the beauty, majesty, and glory of all the truths divinely revealed to us by Jesus Christ and which are fully present only within His Catholic Church.
This last statement often causes many Catholics today to bristle. This demonstrates perfectly the widespread acceptance of the Modernist mentality so prevalent within the Church currently. Even Pope Pius’ statement that we must defer to and respect the authority of God in all that He has revealed to us grates upon the will and malformed mentality of not a few Catholics who have been taught erroneously that a person can “think for himself” in accepting what he will and will not follow regarding the doctrines and moral practices of the faith. In short, how many Catholics believe that they are their own authority when it comes to faith and no one is going to tell them what to believe and how to live their moral life? Are there any practical consequences for maintaining such a false idea? The hierarchy (the Church’s bishops) today never dares to challenge anyone in such false ideas—unless it involves a loss of money or someone dares to contradict the false gospel of social justice. Then, and only then, does the hierarchy largely become excited—especially when money might be lost. However, when it comes to maintaining sound doctrine and correct liturgical practice among her clergy and faithful—which just happens to be the primary job of the hierarchy: not so much.
In next week’s bulletin, we will examine the Modernist mentality more in-depth and see how its aim to transform the Catholic Church internally into a post-Christian institution has succeeded spectacularly in various ways. Nevertheless, we will also see how the Church still possesses all the means necessary to combat the Modernist mentality and how faithful Catholics can play their part in restoring and living the truths of our faith in all its integrity. Pope Benedict’s message ultimately was a sign of hope: Jesus does, indeed, remain faithful to His Bride, the Catholic Church, particularly when she is most in need of His presence in difficult times and situations. The question is: how faithful are we to His Bride each day in defending her and sacrificing for her?
May you have a most blessed and holy week!
Fr. Shawn William Cutler
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