FOR twelve years the Lord has asked me to sit upon the “rampart” as one of John Paul II’s “watchmen” and speak about what I see coming—not according to my own ideas, pre-conceptions, or thoughts, but according to the authentic Public and private revelation through which God continually speaks to his People. But taking my eyes off the horizon the past few days and looking instead to our own House, the Catholic Church, I find myself bowing my head in shame.
THE IRISH HARBINGER
What happened in Ireland over the weekend was perhaps one of the most significant “signs of the times” I have seen in a long while. As you probably know, an overwhelming majority just voted in favour of legalizing abortion.
Ireland is a country that is (was) overwhelmingly “Catholic.” She was steeped in paganism until St. Patrick led her into the arms of a new Mother, the Church. She would mend the country’s wounds, reinvigorate her peoples, reorder her laws, transform her landscapes, and make her stand as a lighthouse guiding lost souls into the safe harbours of salvation. While Catholicism wained in much of the rest of Europe after the French Revolution, Ireland’s faith remained strong.
Which is why this vote is a dreadful harbinger. Despite the scientific facts that underscore the humanity of an unborn child; despite the philosophical arguments that affirm its personhood; despite the evidence of the pain caused to the baby during an abortion; despite the photographs, medical miracles, and basic common sense of what and who exactly is growing in the womb of a mother… Ireland voted to bring genocide to their shores. This is 2018; the Irish don’t live in a vacuum. A “Catholic” nation averted their eyes from the brutal procedure that abortion is, and absolved their conscience by dismissing the truth with paper-thin arguments of a woman’s “right.” The idea that they believe the unborn is just “fetal tissue” or a “blob of cells” is too generous. No, Catholic Ireland has declared, like American feminist Camille Paglia, that a woman has the right to kill another person when her own interests are at stake:
I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman’s body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman’s entrance into society and citizenship. —Camille Paglia, Salon, Sept. 10th, 2008
Welcome to the rest of the “progressive” West where we have not only adopted Hitler’s eugenics rationale but have gone a step further—we actually celebrate our collective suicide.
The suicide of the human race will be understood by those who will see the earth populated by the elderly and depopulated of children: burnt as a desert. —St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Mind you, we saw a microcosm of this suicidal tendency when, in 2007, Mexico City voted to legalize abortion there. The significance of that cannot be overstated either, because that is where the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hangs—a miracle that literally brought an end to the Aztec “culture of death” where hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were sacrificed to the serpent-god Quetzalcoatl. For that “Catholic” city to once again embrace human sacrifice thus making blood offerings to that ancient serpent Satan once again (now in sterilized rooms instead of on temple mounts) is a staggering reversal.
Of course, Ireland’s recent vote follows on the heels of their Marriage Referendum in 2015 where a radical redefinition of marriage was embraced. That was warning enough that the serpent-god has returned to Ireland…
“In one way,” noted an Irish professor of moral theology…
…the awful result [two thirds voting for abortion] is just what one might expect, given the modern secularised and relativistic world we live in, the dire record of the Catholic Church in Ireland and elsewhere regarding the child sex abuse scandals, the weakness of the Church’s practice of teaching on moral issues and morality over the past few decades… —private letter
One cannot underestimate what the sexual scandals in the priesthood have done around the globe to undermine the mission of Jesus Christ.
As a result, the faith as such becomes unbelievable, and the Church can no longer present herself credibly as the herald of the Lord. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Light of the World, The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times: A Conversation With Peter Seewald, p. 23-25
Both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have insisted that the Church does not engage in proselytism but grows by “attraction.” If that is the case, then the shrinking numbers of the Catholic Church in the West indicate a death by “repulsion.” What exactly is the Church in Europe and North America offering to the world? How do we appear any different than any other charitable organization? What sets us apart?
Professor of theology, Fr. Julián Carrón, stated:
Christianity is called to show its truth on the terrain of reality. If those who come into contact with it do not experience the newness that it promises, they will certainly be disappointed. —Disarming Beauty: Essay on the Faith, Truth, and Freedom (University of Notre Dame Press); cited in Magnificat, May 2018, pp. 427-428
The world has been deeply disappointed. What is missing from Catholicism in many places is not the absence of nice buildings, sufficient coffers, or even half-decent liturgies. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit. The difference between the pre and post-Pentecost early Church was not knowledge but power, an invisible light that pierced people’s hearts and souls. It was an interior light that flowed from within the Apostles because they had emptied themselves in order to be filled with God. As we read in today’s Gospel, Peter stated: “We have given up everything and followed you.”
The problem is not that we in the Church don’t run a good organization and even do worthy social work, but that we are still of the world. We have not emptied ourselves. We have not renounced our flesh or the world’s dazzling offerings, and as such, have become sterile and impotent.
…worldliness is the root of evil and it can lead us to abandon our traditions and negotiate our loyalty to God who is always faithful. This… is called apostasy, which… is a form of “adultery” which takes place when we negotiate the essence of our being: loyalty to the Lord. —POPE FRANCIS from a homily, Vatican Radio, November 18th, 2013
What good is it to have the perfect website or the most eloquent homily if our words and being transmit nothing more than our own artistic flair or cleverness?
Techniques of evangelization are good, but even the most advanced ones could not replace the gentle action of the Spirit. The most perfect preparation of the evangelizer has no effect without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, the most convincing dialect has no power over the heart of man. —BLESSED POPE PAUL VI, Hearts Aflame: The Holy Spirit at the Heart of Christian Life Today by Alan Schreck
The Church is not only failing to preach through Spirit-filled lives and words, but she has failed on the local level to also teach her children. I am half a century old now, and I have never heard a single homily on contraception, much less many of the other moral truths that are under siege today. While some priests and bishops have been very courageous in carrying out their duty, my experience is all too common.
My people perish for want of knowledge! (Hosea 4:6)
This colossal failure is the result of a programme of Modernism, which brought a culture of relativism to seminaries and society alike, thus transforming many in the Church into cowards who bow at the altar of the god of political correctness.
…there’s no easy way to say it. The Church in the United States has done a poor job of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And now we’re harvesting the results—in the public square, in our families and in the confusion of our personal lives. —Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Political Vocation, February 23rd, 2009, Toronto, Canada
And not just shepherds. We, the sheep, have not followed our Lord either, who has made Himself clear in a myriad of other ways and opportunities where the shepherds have fallen short. If the world does not believe in Christ, it is primarily because they have not seen Christ in the laity. We—not the clergy—are the “salt and light” that the Lord has scattered into the marketplace. If the salt has gone bad or the light cannot be perceived, it is because we have been tainted by the world and darkened by sin. The one who truly seeks the Lord will find Him, and in that personal relationship, they will radiate the Divine Life and freedom that brings.
What every single man, woman, and child longs for is true freedom, not only from authoritarian regimes, but most especially from the power of sin that dominates, disturbs, and steals away interior peace. Thus, said Pope Francis this morning, it is necessary that we become holy, that is, saints:
The call to holiness, which is the normal call, is our call to live as a Christian, namely living as a Christian is the same as saying ‘living as a saint’. Many times we think of holiness as something extraordinary, like having visions or lofty prayers … or some think that being holy means having a face like that in a cameo … no. Being holy is something else. It is to proceed along this path that the Lord tells us about holiness… do not adopt the worldly patterns, – do not adopt those patterns of behavior, that worldly way of thinking, that way of thinking and judging that the world offers you because this deprives you of freedom. —Homily, May 29th, 2018; Zenit.org
But who is listening to the Pope these days? No, even clear and true words, such as those above, are tossed in the garbage today by many “conservative” Catholics because the Pope has been confusing at other times. They then take to social media and state that “Pope Francis is destroying the Church”… all, while the world looks on wondering why on earth they would want to join an institution that uses the most intolerant rhetoric toward one another, let alone their leadership. Here, the words of Christ seem to have escaped many these days:
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
In the over twenty-five years I have been in ministry, sad to say, it is the most “traditional” Catholics who have proven to be the most hard-hearted, vicious, and uncharitable folks I have had the disappointment of dialoguing with.
A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, n. 94
Something has gone terribly wrong in general with communication today. Our capacity to have polite disagreements has rapidly disintegrated within just a few short years. People use the internet today like a battering ram to force their views. When this happens between Christians, it is a cause for scandal.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord… but if I do not have love, I gain nothing. (Hebrews 12:14, 1 Cor 13:3)
Oh, how often I have found that it’s not what I say but how I say it that has made all the difference!
The ambiguity that has trailed Francis’ entire pontificate has itself created scandal. One cannot take back those headlines that have declared the Pope as stating that “There is No Hell” or that “God made you gay.” I have received letters from converts to Catholicism who are wondering now if they have made a grave mistake. Others are considering leaving the Church for the Orthodox or Evangelical persuasions. Some priests have expressed to me that they are being put in compromising situations where members of their flock, who are living in adultery, are asking to receive Holy Communion because “the Pope said we could.” And now we have the grievous situation where bishop’s colleges are making declarations totally in contradiction to other bishop’s conferences.
If we were making any inroads toward unity with Evangelical Christians, many of those paths have been plowed over and sown with the seeds of distrust.
I have defended Pope Francis the past five years for the reason that he is the Vicar of Christ—whether you like or not. He has taught, and continues to teach many true things, despite the clear confusion that is growing daily.
We must help the Pope. We must stand with him just as we would stand with our own father. —Cardinal Sarah, May 16th, 2016, Letters from the Journal of Robert Moynihan
We help the Pope—and avoid causing scandal to unbelievers—when we strive to understand what the Pope really said or meant; when we give him the benefit of the doubt; and when we do disagree with ambiguous off-the cuff statments or non-magisterial comments, it is done in a manner that is respectful and in the proper forum.
THE “CATHOLIC” POLITICIAN
Last, we Catholics have failed the world when our own politicians like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a host of other political careerists who grace our Sunday Masses declare themselves protectors of human rights, all the while trampling upon them—especially the genuine rights of the most vulnerable. If freedom of religion is being utterly shipwrecked in our times, it is thanks in large part to Catholic politicians and voting blocs who have elected spineless men and women who are more in love with power and politically correct agendas than Jesus Christ.
No wonder images of Our Lady (whom Benedict XVI called “a mirror of the Church”) are reportedly weeping all over the world. It is time for us to face the truth: the Catholic Church is but a shadow of the influence she once had; a mystical sway that transformed empires, shaped laws, and art, music, and architecture. But now, her compromise with the world has created a Great Vacuum that is rapidly being filled with the spirit of antichrist and a New Communism that seeks to supplant the providence of the Heavenly Father.
With the intellectual currents of the Enlightenment, the subsequent anti-religion rebellion of the French Revolution, and the profound intellectual rejection of the Christian worldview symbolized by Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, forces were unleashed in Western culture that eventually led to not only a repudiation of the church-state relationships that had evolved over many centuries but a repudiation of religion itself as a legitimate shaper of culture… The collapse of Christian culture, as weak and ambiguous as it was in some ways, has profoundly affected the beliefs and actions of baptized Catholics. —The Post-Christendom Sacramental Crisis: The Wisdom of Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Ralph Martin, pg. 57-58
Pope Benedict XVI noted this, comparing our times to the collapse of the Roman Empire. He did not mince words when he warned of the consequences of faith dying out like a flickering flame:
To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010
Someone might reasonably ask then, “Why do you remain in the Catholic Church?”
Well, I’ve already faced-down that temptation many years ago (cf. Stay, and Be Light). The reason I didn’t leave then is the same I would never leave today: Christianity is not a religion, it is a pathway to authentic freedom (and union with God); Catholicism is what defines the borders of that path; religion, then, is simply walking within them.
People who say they are spiritual but don’t want religion aren’t being honest. Because when they go to their favorite prayer spot or prayer meeting; when they hang their favorite picture of Jesus or light a candle to pray; when they decorate a Christmas Tree or say “Alleluia” every Easter morning… that is religion. Religion is simply the organization and formulation of a spirituality according to a set of core beliefs. “Catholicism” began when Christ appointed Twelve men to teach everything He commanded and to “make disciples of all the nations.” That is, there was to be an order to it all.
But this order is also expressed through sinful human beings, of whom I am one. Because after all that I have said above—some of it written in tears—I look at myself and shed yet more…
Note that a man whom the Lords sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight. How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching. I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgment of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. —St. Gregory the Great, homily, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, p. 1365-66
I am not ashamed to be a Catholic. Rather, that we are not Catholic enough.
It seems to me that a great “reset” of the Church will be necessary for which she must be purified and simplified once again. Suddenly, the words of Peter take on renewed meaning as we not only see the world becoming pagan again, but the Church herself in disarray, like “…a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side”:
For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
The Church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes… She will lose many of her social privileges… The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death. —Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), Faith and Future, Ignatius Press, 2009
I wrote this song several years ago while I was in Ireland.
Now I understand why it was inspired there…
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