Monday, July 30, 2012

Six Critiques of the Mentality of the Church since the Second Vatican Council: Part Two

As some of you may know, I am continuing my series on six critiques of the mentality and actions of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. My apologies for the long wait between the first, and now the second, critiques. Here is a link to the first post of this series.

2) This second critique is more or less a second aspect of the first critique, for I am approaching the same topic from a different angle; it should therefore sound very similar. In the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council, among both the majority of the sacred Hierarchy and the majority of the laity, the true understanding of what 'holiness' means has been either partially or totally obscured and replaced with a concept of a more open, ecumenical notion of widespread sacredness, a sacredness which is believed to be more or less present in a blurry but particular way in the Catholic Church, but also spilling out beyond its visible boundaries and truly present in many other religions, systems of thought, cultures, and localities. The two concepts, the widespread sacred, and holiness, are not at all the same; sacred carries the import of merely different from the ordinary and somehow connected with the Divine; something to be reverenced and honored because of its connection to God or to grace. Holiness, on the other hand, carried the import of separateness from other people and spiritual entities and total consecration singularly to God. Sacredness in the modern conception, then, is pseudo-unifying in a false way of blurring distinctions; holiness in its true sense is the epitome of divisive, it is what Christ said would divide family members from family members as some chose to follow Christ as Lord and God, and some chose to be scandalized of him.

Now that I have introduced the topic, let me give some broad background. Both the concept of sacredness and of holiness are good, and are part of our human and also Judeo-Christian patrimony as Catholics. That is why both terms are indeed used in their respective functions within Catholic vocabulary. Of the two, however, holiness is the more critical to understand. One of the single most distinctive marks of the Hebrew religion from the very beginning is that above all else, the concept of holiness distinguishes it from all other systems of religion in that age. It shared the concept of sacredness with the other pagan religions that surrounded it, but the true and full concept of holiness was uniquely Hebrew, just as the concept of a single, infinite, omnipotent Creator God that created all things ex nihilo, out of nothing, was originally uniquely Hebrew. You don't have to be a theologian or a historian to know this about the Hebrew religion and holiness, all you have to do is scan through the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim; the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, what Christians would recognize as the Old Testament. I will here provide you with some quotes to demonstrate this singular understanding of holiness in the Hebrew Old Testament, as well as from the Deuterocanon that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox recognize as Scripture. All quotes taken from the Knox version of the Scriptures, unless otherwise noted:

"IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness."- Genesis 1:1-4, RSV-CE

St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church and arguably second only to St. Thomas Aquinas as far as Latin theologians, expounded this to be first about the creation of the entire cosmos and then particularly of the world, but also about the story of salvation, and the New Creation. In the beginning, God created man, but man became corrupt and void, and darkness was over his entire soul, blocking the light of God grace from shining upon him. In the fullness of time, through Jesus Christ, all we who are Baptized under the waters, also are renewed and regenerated and made New Creations by the Holy Spirit, who hovers over the waters at Baptism. Through this New Creation in Baptism, the Light of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts to illumine us; hence did the Apostolic Fathers, such as St. Justin the Martyr, call Baptism "the Enlightening." One we are enlightened by the Light of the World through Baptism, God separates us through that Baptism and makes us set apart, separate, and divided from the darkness of this world, separating the Light from the darkness. This is who we are as the Catholic Church, and this is God's testimony of salvation to us. If you have been Baptized, this is your calling: to be separate from the darkness of this world, and shine forth the Light of Christ to a lost and dying world.

"[Moses was told by the Lord God,] Do not come nearer; rather take the shoes from your feet, you are standing on holy ground."- Exodus 3:5

Holy ground, distinct ground, separated ground from the rest of the ground.

"[The Lord said to Moses,] Listen, then, to my voice, and keep your covenant with me; and I, to whom all the earth belongs, will single you out among its peoples to be my own. You shall serve me as a royal priesthood, as a consecrated nation; tell the Israelites this."- Exodus 19:5-6

Again, this is explicitly what holiness entails, from God's own mind. God is in effect saying: 'The whole earth belongs to me, but it is under the power of evil and the peoples of the earth give in to that power. There is corruption and disobedience everywhere. But you, as a people, I am singling out to be distinctly and separately my own. You shall be consecrated to me, and my presence will dwell with you, hallowing you and separating you from the rest of the world.'

"This veil will be held up by rings. The ark is to be set down behind it, and thus it will be a division between the sanctuary and the inner sanctuary."- Exodus 25:33

God is here describing the building of the Tabernacle and teaching the Hebrew people how he is to be worshiped properly, and here he divides that which is more holy from that which is less holy. It is precisely this division that so many Catholics of all dignities and ranks today are offended at. They will not think nor speak of the division which holiness requires between that which is God's own and where His personal, sanctifying presence dwells, and where it does not dwell.

"It is your task to distinguish between what is holy and what is profane, what is defiled and what is clean; and to teach the sons of Israel all these commandments of mine, the Lord's word to them through Moses."- Leviticus 10:10-11

This is a powerful passage, because it is a solemn charge from the Lord God Almighty to his Levitical priests that it is their sacred and official duty to distinguish and divide that which is holy from that which is profane, and that which is defiled from that which is clean, which is the Lord's word and command. It is also their sacred duty in the sight of God to teach all of God's separated people what is holy and what is profane, and to distinguish the two in their eyes. This is powerful because it is a statement of mission that applies to the Priests of the Order of Melchisidech even more fully now than it did then, because they have the ministry of the Word made flesh. Any Priest or Bishop or Archbishop or Cardinal or even Pope who fails in this mission, fails a substantial portion of what it means to be a Priest of the Most High God.

"I am the Lord your God; you must be set apart, the servants of a God who is set apart. Do not contaminate yourselves with any of these beasts that creep along the ground. I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt; I am set apart and you must be set apart like me."- Leviticus 11:44-45

"The Lord, too, spoke to Moses, bidding him give the whole company of Israel this message: You must be men set apart, as I am set apart, I, the Lord your God[, as] worshippers of such a God..."- Leviticus 19:1-3

"You must be set apart for my service, as I am set apart, I, your God, who have chosen you out among all the nations of the world, to belong to me."- Leviticus 20:26

"They must not let their thoughts and eyes wander free, into all manner of unfaithfulness, but rather bethink them of the Lord's decrees and carry them out, a people set apart for their God; and that God the Lord, who brought them out of the land of Egypt to make them his own people."- Numbers 15:39-41

" shew that yours is a people set apart for its own God, chosen by its own God, out of all the nations on earth, as his own people."- Deuteronomy 7:6

" [are] a people set apart for the Lord, chosen out of all nations on earth to be his very own."- Deuteronomy 14:2

"In this camp of yours the Lord your God goes to and fro, waiting to deliver you and give you victory over your enemies; all must be holiness there, no defilement be seen in it, lest his Presence should be withdrawn."- Deuteronomy 23:14

These seven passages from the Law are perhaps the single most important series of passages in the entire Scriptures on what holiness means; Holiness is the very identity of God as separate and unique from all evil and corruption, and it is consequently the very identity of His Church, at that time Israel. It is the sacred and solemn marital relationship between God and His People that is separate from the rest of the world. Egypt typologically represents the sin that God has saved us as Catholics from, and the beasts that creep along the ground typologically represent satan and the demons, and all power and workings of evil and darkness in this world. We who have been called out of sin and rescued by God, must no longer have communion with or an affection for the devil or his demons or his workings in this world, his workings in other religions, his workings in heresies, his workings in other cultures of men and systems of thought that fall far short of God's will and which do not have the sanctifying and personal presence of God in them. These seven passages ought to be the character of the Catholic Church and our mentality, and were our mentality and character for almost 1970 years. We are by nature as the Church of God set apart, separate, worshipers of the set apart and separate God, belonging to God alone as His Bride; we are the Church Militant by nature and have true and perfect enemies, the powers of darkness in this world, satan and the demons, and to a lesser extent those human beings who wittingly or unwittingly do the will of the evil one in acting spiritually and physically against the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the One who was declared the set apart and holy Son of God by the set apart and holy Spirit in the Resurrection (c.f. 2 Corinthians 4:6; Romans 1:1-4). I beg you, dear Catholic, whoever you may be, read the writings of the Church Fathers, read the Ecumenical and Infallible Councils prior to the Second Vatican Council, read the Papal encyclicals over time, and for goodness sake read the Sacred Scriptures! Recall your identity as the Church Militant, set apart and holy, and speak it boldly and proudly, even if it costs you your life some day.

"Praise the Lord our God, and do worship on the holy mountain where he dwells; the Lord our God is Holy."- Psalm 98:9

"In the year of king Ozias death, I had a vision. I saw the Lord sitting on a throne that towered high above me, the skirts of his robe filling the temple. Above it rose the figures of the seraphim, each of them six-winged; with two wings they veiled God's face, with two his feet, and the other two kept them poised in flight. And ever the same cry passed between them, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts; all the earth is full of his glory."- Isaiah 6:1-3

"For thus saith the High and the Eminent that inhabiteth eternity: and his name is Holy, who dwelleth in the high and holy place, and with a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite."- Isaiah 57:15, Douay-Rheims

"Many a son of Israel refused the unclean food, preferring death to defilement; and die they must, because they would not break God's holy law."- 1 Maccabees 1:65-66

These passages continue the same message as the Law of Moses, and are simply a small sampling of the many passages of Sacred Scripture that continually demonstrate this revelation of the essential nature of God as set apart, and us as His Church likewise set apart from the world and the evil in the world.

The passages I have already quotes are from the Old Testament Sacred Scriptures, in order to show that the concept of the holiness of God and his people as being set apart from the world and its evil is as old as the Judeo-Christian revelation itself. Now, the question before us is, Is the God of the New Testament different from the God of the Old Testament? Does He no longer care about His Church being set apart and separated from the world and the evil therein, and does He no longer reveal Himself as the One who is preeminently set apart and hold? Not by a long shot! Again, just a few quotes from the New Testament to demonstrate this point:

"You must not give that which is holy to dogs. Do not cast your pearls before swine, or the swine may trample them under foot, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces."- St. Matthew 7:6

"And the Angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most High will overshadow you. Thus this holy Offspring of yours shall be known for the Son of God... And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit has found joy in God, who is my Saviour, because he has looked graciously upon the lowliness of his handmaid. Behold, from this day forward all generations will count me blessed; because he who is mighty, he whose Name is holy, has wrought for me his wonders."- St. Luke 1:35; 46-49

"In the synagogue was a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit, that cried out with a loud voice: Nay, why do you meddle: with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to make an end of us? I recognize you for what you are, the Holy One of God. Jesus rebuked it; Silence! he said; come out of him. Then the unclean spirit threw him into a convulsion before them all, and went out of him without doing him any injury. Wonder fell upon them all, as they said to one another, What is this word of his? See how he has authority and power to lay his command on the unclean spirits, so that they come out!"- St. Luke 4:33-36

"I have no longer much time for converse with you; one (the devil) is coming, who has power over the world, but no hold over me. No, but the world must be convinced that I love the Father, and act only as the Father has commanded me to act. Rise up, we must be going on our way."- St. John 14:30-31

"I am remaining in the world no longer, but they remain in the world, while I am on my way to you. Holy Father, keep them true to your name, your gift to me, that they may be one, as we are one... I have given them your message, and the world has nothing but hatred for them, because they do not belong to the world, as I, too, do not belong to the world. I am not asking that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them clear of what is evil. They do not belong to the world, as I, too, do not belong to the world; keep them holy, then, through the truth; it is your word that is truth."- St. John 17:11; 14-17

"Do you not understand that you are God's Temple, and that God's Spirit has his dwelling in you? If anybody desecrates the Temple of God, God will bring him to ruin. It is a holy thing, this Temple of God which is is nothing other than yourselves."- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

"You who are husbands must show love to your wives, as Christ showed love to the Church when he gave himself up on its behalf. He would hallow it, purify it by bathing it in the Water to which his word gave life; he would summon it into his own presence, the Church in all its beauty, no stain, no wrinkle, no such disfigurement; it was to be holy, it was to be spotless."- Ephesians 5:25-27

"No, it is a holy God who has called you, and you too must be holy in all the ordering of your lives; You must be holy, the scripture says, because I am holy."- 1 St. Peter 1:15-16

" too must be built up on him, stones that live and breathe, into a spiritual fabric; you must be a holy priesthood, to offer up that spiritual Sacrifice which God accepts through Jesus Christ... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people God means to have for himself; it is yours to proclaim the exploits of the God who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."- 1 St. Peter 2:5; 9

"Each of the four figures had six wings, with eyes everywhere looking outwards and inwards; day and night they cried unceasingly. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who ever was, and is, and is still to come."- Revelation of St. John 4:8

You see, God has not changed one bit. God is the same from the beginning of His Revelation to the end of it; from the beginning of the Sacred Scriptures, to the end of it, and all throughout Sacred Tradition. Now that I have laid the foundation in describing the concepts I am trying to communicate, I want to now look at the source of the current confusion in the Catholic Church about this very fundamental aspect of the Catholic Faith, and discuss some of the theological issues surrounding it. The source of the confusion is a movement within the Catholic Church in the mid-twentieth century till today among the sacred Hierarchy and among the laity to 'be more open and more ready embrace and love the world and its people. To open the windows of the glory of the Catholic Church and share it with the world, and be open with it, and not stingy.' That movement of ideology was given voice in many of the documents of the Second Vatican Council; indeed, that ideology is one of the main clarion calls of the Council.

Let me now be clear, just as I was in my previous post in this series: I am not questioning the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which was invoked in the Second Vatican Council. We must understand that some of the Council documents contain Ordinary Magisterial teachings on Faith and Morals; that is, they contain pastoral clarifications of perennial Catholic dogmas from an Ecumenical Council, and these documents that contain this Ordinary Magisterium have the most dogmatic authority in the Church regarding Faith and Morals short of Infallible Magisterium, which is invoked in all previous Councils save this one. Ordinary Magisterium, however,  has two distinctions that must be remembered: 1) It is not the same as Infallible Magisterium. It has utmost authority just short of Infallible authority that must be given religious submission of intellect and will, but it is not of itself infallible except in repeating previously stated infallible Catholic dogmas. Because of this, 2) All of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, including those that contain the Ordinary Magisterium, must be interpreted in light of the twenty Infallible Councils prior to the Second Vatican Council, along with the whole Sacred Deposit of Scripture and Tradition, including Papal Encyclicals. This means that every statement in the Council that is given to the Church as Ordinary Magisterium, especially where they are ambiguous or vague, or seem very unclear, or even suggest rupture of Tradition, must at every location be interpreted by previous Infallible Magisterium.

Forgive this technical theology; it is necessary to make these distinctions, and now it is necessary to make one more distinction: within the documents of the Second Vatican Council, what I question is not the Ordinary Magisterium, but specifically the manner in which things are presented, the language that is used, and most especially, the way that statements are phrased with regard to other world religions or other sects of Christianity. It is my conviction that the false understandings of holiness in the Church today can be traced back to this inclusive, ecumenical movement that seeks to embrace all people of the world at almost any cost, irregardless of their religious opinions or errors; irregardless of what the devil is doing in their midst to blind them to the Truth, to Jesus Christ our God. And this inclusive, hyper-ecumenical movement was given its most powerful voice in the language of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the statements that were made within the Council regarding the world, and the religions of the world. These statements, while we can believe they were intended from a good heart in order to embrace the people in these religions themselves, in reality obscured the difference between loving people and embracing all religious thought and cultural thought, whether it contains the evil of religious error or not. The language and statements also pass over the activity of evil in the world to blind men to the Truth of the Gospel of Christ, God Incarnate, and so by passing over that critical truth so fundamental to the Catholic Faith, the Council served to confuse Catholics of all rank and stripe and in the end confused the understanding of holiness and separateness in the popular belief of the Church, in both laity and hierarchy. This confusion has been with us ever since in this last half century or so, and still continue to plague our understanding to this day.

Here's the thing: It's perfectly right and true to say that there are elements of sanctification and grace outside of the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, which is simply acknowledging the Scriptural and Traditional understanding that the Word does indeed enlighten and call, to a limited extent, every person that comes into this world. Where the Word is active in calling and enlightening men, there too is His grace. This is all fine, and this is one of the main teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise, it is also perfectly accurate to say that it is important for the Church to embrace people and to evangelize fervently, and both act and speak with charity and sensitivity to all religions and not act pompous or too good for the world; that too, another main point Ordinary Magisterium of the Council, is right and proper.

What is NOTTTTTTT right and proper is to FORGET that the Church, by its essential nature as the Bride of the Triune God and the Body of Christ, in the Blessed Virgin Mary who is both of these in her person, is holy, separate, and divided from the world; and that the world, on the other hand,  together with all its false religions, erroneous thought, and evil, is to a certain extent corrupted and under the power of the devil.  Likewise, it is NOT accurate to suggest, believe, teach, or act like you believe that the devil is not the principle entity responsible for religious error and heresy present in the world that deviates from Catholic, absolute Truth, that religious error and heresy are not evil, or that we can overlook the activity of the devil in other religions and systems of thoughts and simply forget that we are the Church Militant, sworn to fight evil wherever it shows its head and confront it, not allow it into our doors and embrace it!

Neither of these two heresiesand that is what they are, follow necessarily from the two Ordinary Magisterial truths that I called to attention above; Nay, God forbid that the Church, the set apart and separate and divided from the world spotless Bride of Christ, should have to change her nature as the set apart Temple of God in order to bring grace to the world, either remotely as an aura that, as mediated by her, goes out from her visible boundaries in the Word born from her; or immediately as her fervent actions to love all men through her members, regardless of their religious thought or cultural location. We cannot help the world come to know God and get to Heaven to dwell with Him forever if we become something other than the Church, which is exactly what the second two propositions would do to us if we accept them.

This is incredibly important to understand, and is the main thrust of this post: even though other religions in the world and other systems of thought represent a fundamental reaching of man's soul toward the Divine, the souls of men are hijacked in this desire to reach for the true God, which the Word enlightens them to, and are taken captive by the devil lest they should accept the Gospel of Christ, which Christ would lead them to were they not to some extent under the power of the devil. This means that we, the Catholic Church, are holy, set apart, separate from the world, and divided from it fundamentally by our very identity as the Church, and this fundamental division between Church and world simply cannot be ignored in favor of a false unity. Anything that suggests a contrary position, that this division does not in reality exist between the Church, which is holy, and the world and its religions, which is profane, is simply heresy. You see, there are two parties involved when God establishes the Church as His own separated people, just as there are two parties involved when the Church reaches toward God with all her might. In both cases, the devil and all evil have no part whatsoever in that fundamental relationship between God and His Bride; the devil persecutes the Church from without, but he cannot worm his way into the core of that connection between God and His Church any more than sin can worm its way into the relationship between Jesus and Mary. However, when the world and all the people in it, no matter which false religion they happen to belong to, reach for the vague Divine as they are made aware of Him through natural revelation, the prompting of the Word, and the grace of the Spirit, there are in reality THREE parties at work: The Triune God, the man in the world religion, and the devil. The man, as prompted by grace, reaches toward the one true God, but as under the power of the devil and of evil, he cannot clearly see God as Triune and One, nor Jesus Christ as God the Son Incarnate to be the Savior of the world, but rather sees simply a vague picture of the Divine. Because of this interference by the devil who blinds him to the truth, he ends up believing things that are abhorrent to or at least in conflict with the one true God's Revelation of Himself to His Church. Therefore the religion that he believes, though it contains elements of grace and truth within it due to the Word calling every individual man within that religion to Himself, is in and of itself a corrupt and a profane thing that is not willed by God nor hallowed and made separate and holy by His personal presence, because it is not that singular marriage between God and man which God has willed for all men from all nations to enter into. The devil is responsible for this corruption, and therefore, his involvement in that religion makes it, the religion itself, an abomination in the sight of God. All truth and grace within this religion therefore CANNOT be ascribed to the religion itself, but simply as grace mediated through the Catholic Church but outside her visible boundaries and present among these poor, lost souls in said religion, through which the Word calls all men to himself in the Catholic Church.

So again, dear Catholics, accept that the identity of the Church is set apart and separate from the world; do not give in to hyper-ecumenism that insists on blurring the distinction between the holy Catholic Church and the profane world, or that naive unspiritual idiocy that claims that we, after 1970 years warring against evil as the Church Militant on earth, are suddenly in Heaven already where the devil will never attack us or blind the world again. This. Is. Madness. Wake up, Catholics, wake up and reject this lunacy, this poison that has woven its way into the consciousness of the Church of the last half century. Accept Magisterial teachings and only the Magisterial teachings, and interpret even those in light of infallible Catholic dogma contained in Scripture and Tradition. As for the naive optimism, the pandering to the world, the willing ignorance to the work of the devil in religious error and in blinding minds to Christ, His Church, and His Truth, and the ignoring of the set apart and separate nature of the Church, whether it be contained in the language and presentation (as opposed to Magisterial teaching) of the Second Vatican Council, or whether it be dripping from the lips of the Hierarchy today, reject it, for the love of God and His Holy Church, reject it!

Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, and his Outstanding Defense of true Marriage

I don't always agree with everything that many of the Cardinals say and do, but for once, a Cardinal in our age has actually stood up and gave a fairly masculine and honest statement on the Catholic Faith, for the benefit of the world and the Church (two separate entities, if you didn't already know). This was in response to the Chik-fil-a controversy, locally at least in Chicago, as over-hyped and over-blown as it has been. Giving all credit to His Eminence, I had to reproduce his statement in quotes from his website, in order to share this incredible, reasoned defense of the Catholic teaching on marriage. Here it is in its entirety:

"Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago.  I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval.  Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?  Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it?  I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.”

The value in question is espousal of “gender-free marriage.”  Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus.  Are Americans so exceptional that we are free to define “marriage” (or other institutions we did not invent) at will?  What are we re-defining?

It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage.  Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago.  Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature. 

Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female.  The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women.  Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital.  Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and “gender-free marriage” is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle.

Both Church and state do, however, have an interest in regulating marriage.  It is not that religious marriage is private and civil marriage public; rather, marriage is a public institution in both Church and state.  The state regulates marriage to assure stability in society and for the proper protection and raising of the next generation of citizens.  The state has a vested interest in knowing who is married and who is not and in fostering good marriages and strong families for the sake of society. 

The Church, because Jesus raised the marital union to the level of symbolizing his own union with his Body the Church, has an interest in determining which marital unions are sacramental and which are not.  The Church sees married life as a path to sanctity and as the means for raising children in the faith, as citizens of the universal kingdom of God.  These are all legitimate interests of both Church and state, but they assume and do not create the nature of marriage.

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life.  The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage.  This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages.  Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6).  Was Jesus a bigot?  Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan?  Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society?  One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. 

Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.  Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice.  The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI"

For another, more philosophical and in-depth look at the Catholic teaching on marriage, please listen to this lecture from Dr. Peter Kreeft. It's an hour long, but it is well worth your time, because this is, with the possible exception of abortion, the single most inflammatory culture war currently raging in the West.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Going to Mass

I had to interrupt my other six-part series that I was beginning to mention this: I finally went to Mass for the first time today. It was wonderful! I went to the 8:30 Mass, and was nervous in general from when I entered the pew to when I left it. But it was something that needed to be done to break the ice, to move all of my conversion journey from the theoretical/video level to the experiential level. I loved going to Mass so much, though, that I stuck around for the 10:30 Mass, and prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Latin Rosary while I was waiting. The second Mass was better, I was able to actually relax and smile, and enjoy the fact that I had overcome a number of challenges to finally be in the presence of the Lamb on the Altar, and in the Tabernacle.

I am fortunate to live within walking distance of my local parish, and I am also fortunate that the parish is fairly orthodox and that they have an opportunity for Holy Mass six out of seven days (with a Communion Service on Monday) and Adoration for six out of seven days (with the exception of Saturday and the morning on Sunday when Mass is going on.) I am also very fortunate that there is a lovely mediation garden behind the Church, with trees, flowers, and a statue of Our Lord and Our Lady, and benches where you can sit in front of them and pray. By Ordinary Form standards, it is a lovely parish - the Church is immaculately clean, the flowers are tended and watered, Father actually "says the Black and does the Red" of the Missal as Fr. Z would say, he preaches fairly challenging homilies on proper marriage, the family, and accepting that Jesus wants to have all of us, and not be relegated to just part of our lives. He also incorporates quotes from the Saints and their wisdom and mysticism into his homilies, which I very much appreciate. The people are friendly and nice, and because it is directly next to a home for the elderly, there is a great number of pious, quiet, holy elderly men and women that are incredible to watch as they live their faith. When I say elderly, I mean people in their 80's and 90's - truly inspirational men and women from a different era who were trained in the traditional Latin customs and piety, who know how to act at Mass and in Church, not aging hippies and dissidents. My parish has three fairly long times per week where the Sacrament of Penance is offered by Father, which again by Ordinary Form standards, I consider to be a blessing. The building is fairly modern-looking, but has the best of modern beauty, such as arching, slender wooden pillars, a lofty ceiling, and perfectly placed windows, and not the tackiness that was prevalent in buildings from the 1970's or 80's. The Church also incorporates some ancient elements, such as having a rather majestic Altar (a proper one, permanently fixed to a consecrated Altar-stone underneath, not a portable table-Altar - even though the Altar is thus permanently facing Ad Populum), and a beautiful Baptismal font connected to an elegant stone bowl of holy water. The Baptismal font is in the proper and traditional Latin Catholic place in the Church - just inside the doors to the main chamber where Mass is celebrated and before the pews and the Altar. There are also two or three beautiful stained glass windows, including a glorious one celebrating the final Mystery of the Rosary, Our Lady's coronation by her Son as Queen Mother of His holy Kingdom, in Heaven and on Earth. They have a visible (if plain and box-like) Tabernacle, that is actually at the front of the Church where it's supposed to be, and under a rather ornate, golden Sanctuary Lamp, which is extended from the wall and which is always burning, calling attention to the fact that Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, is actually and perpetually present among us, both bodily and spiritually, in the Eucharist and His Spirit. There is an army of Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, as is common to almost all Ordinary Form parishes, but I will say that there is a bit - if only a bit - more justification for it in this Church because apparently they do not have a permanent Deacon or two to assist Father at the present time (which I hope they do at some point). And yes, the Extraordinary Ministers were going through a pseudo-blessing on all of the children who came up to them by laying their hands on their heads briefly (which is profoundly annoying because it diminishes the dignity of the Priesthood and because it is not in keeping with our holiness as the Church, the holy people of God. Just as the Church of the Old Covenant's purity and sanctity, insofar as they had a legal sanctity that the Mosaic Law afforded them, flowed from the Levitical priesthood, so too our truly holy and divinizing purity and sanctity flow from the Melchisidech Priesthood. We ought always to remember that and to do everything in our power to emphasize that it is Father who, as an extension of the Archbishop, exercises the Binding and Loosing, forgives sin, blesses us and our holy objects and water, and through whom Christ, our eternal and Divine High Priest, sanctifies us in all things. Holy Communion is offered under both Species, the Host and the Chalice(s), and it is done fairly respectfully. The Chalices used are all solid gold, the Hosts are treated with respect by Father and by many (notice I don't say most - we can't forget this is an Ordinary Form parish) of the laity. Father knows how to efficiently offer the Host on the tongue, and he doesn't squirm from doing this or get annoyed if one of the faithful wishes to bow profoundly for a moment, or wishes to receive on the tongue.

I thought that I would take this opportunity in mulling over my experience today to be as positive as I possibly can with my current situation, and to count my blessings in the midst of an admittedly negative though thoroughly necessary series on the dismal state of the Latin Church. I have been more and more coming to the conclusion that, at least in the experiential realm, the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Latin Rite have to be treated as different Rites in order to stay sane as a faithful Roman Catholic. If nothing else, doing this mentally will save you a lot of stress.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Six Critiques of the Mentality of the Church since the Second Vatican Council: Part One

1) Since the Council, there has been a profound lack of awareness on the part of the Church that the devil is, indeed, real, coupled with an over-emphasis that all men, in a shadowy and incomplete way, partake of the Logos. Furthermore, there has been a complete ignoring of the fact that the evil one and the demons are really and truly active outside of the safe and sanctified boundaries of the Catholic Church, hence why we have powerful weapons against evil like the Holy Mass, the Rite of Exorcism, the Charismatic Gifts, the Holy Rosary, and many others. The devil and the many demons are at work to varying degrees in various religions and groups of men, but rest assured, all error that is outside the Catholic Church and her absolute Truth is ultimately due to sin, and sin is ultimately the domain of the devil. This means that any religion or group of men that is outside of the Church and that contains error is to a certain extent and as allowed by the Triune God, under the devil's power. Even the various groups of Protestants are, to varying degrees corresponding to their level of divergence from Catholic Truth, under this category; hence, St. Ignatius of Antioch clearly declares that if anyone does anything relating to the Faith without the lawful Bishop, he does in reality do service to the devil.

You can clearly see a number of ways that this skewed mentality has played out in the Latin Church, from the removal of the office of Exorcist from the Church, to the editing of the sacramental blessings, to the tinkering with the Rite of Exorcism, to the over-openness to other religions, to the dropping of the term Church Militant, and too many other horrible litanies of doing away with or radically altering many of our greatest weapons and holiest possessions. In the Byzantine and other Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, as well as in the Anglo-Catholic Rite, thanks be to God, there hasn't been nearly as much of a disaster; both have kept the purity of their Faith largely intact. This issue mainly affects the Latin Church. In the Second Vatican Council itself there is a repeated obsession to be overly-reverential of other religions to the point where the Church was almost tripping over herself to respect and reverence other religions. The reason why the Council was declaring this reverence was because of the elements of grace that exist outside of the Church's visible boundaries, and the universal enlightenment of the Logos to all men born into the world. The problem with this attitude is that it was never counterbalanced in the Council's documents, nor in the mentality of the Church since the Council, with the reality that the devil is active in promoting error and that he is very much present in religious error and, yes, blasphemy. For instance, wherein Islam blasphemes Jesus Christ by denying that He is the Son of God, true God and true man, this is the evil one at work in this religion to present to them a warping of the Truth and keep them from the grace of the Catholic Church. Hence does the St. Paul the Apostle say:

And if our Gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world (the devil of Hell) hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the Light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ, who is the Image of God, should not shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord; and ourselves your servants through Jesus. For God, who commanded the Light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the Light of the knowledge of the Glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus.- 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

St. Paul also continues this theme in another place, confirming moreover that we are in a constant spiritual warfare with the devil and the demons for the souls of men, and that we are also in warfare to be salt in our society and prevent it from rotting under the weight of sin:

Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.- Ephesians 6:10-13

The problem is, you never hear this truth from the Catholic Church today; her hierarchy is completely silent on this matter. There is an entirely lopsided and unbalanced focus on part of this truth told to us by St. John:

In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto his own, and his own received Him not... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw His Glory, the Glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.- The Gospel according to St. John 1:1, 9-11, 14

St. John here tells us that the Logos does indeed enlighten and guide every man that comes into the world, and calls all men by His grace. He does all this outside of the visible boundaries of the Church, even though the grace that He dispenses to all men is mediated mysteriously through His Church, which is His Body and completely united to Him. This activity of Logos outside of the visible boundaries of the Church clearly justifies the Second Vatican Council declaring as much, and thus, at least theologically and relating to Faith and Morals, the Council is accurate. St. John also clarifies, however, that the world did not (and still does not) know the Logos personally and perfectly, this knowledge of the Logos brings holiness and sanctity, and it is precisely for this reason that the Logos was made man, in order to join Himself in righteousness to His Church and make Himself known in holiness to her. It is this balance that is missing, this understanding of both the theological truth that the Logos and His grace is active outside of the visible boundaries of the Church, and on the other hand, that the devil is also at work outside of the Church viciously spreading error and encouraging sin and blasphemy against Jesus Christ among men and religions. Ignore this truth to your own peril, for it is very real. The longer we refuse to balance our vision in this regard, the longer we will be willingly ignorant of the devices and practices of the devil, as St. Paul encourages us not to be. Both truths are indeed complementary and based on Apostolic Christian doctrine taught in Scripture, but there must be a clear hierarchy to these two truths; the activity of evil in this world and the sinister nature of the evil one's work in other religions is no mere fairy tale, and it must be firmly believed and must inform and restrain our understanding of the presence of the Logos, together with the Church's grace, throughout the whole world. We must embrace and reverence those elements of truth and grace outside of the visible Catholic Church only because they are in fact the Church herself; we must not embrace nor reverence the other religions of the world as themselves; for as themselves, they are a gross blindness imposed by the power that the evil one has over this world. The lack of this common sense and essential understanding of Christianity is alarming when your read the Council's documents, as there is a very strong emphasis on embracing other religions and reverencing them without due caution being taken to emphasize the reality of the evil one acting to sow blasphemy and error against the Triune God. Indeed, when you take this unbalanced attitude into perspective together with the "pious pelagianism" and completely unwarranted optimism of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (as Cardinal Ratzinger put it) regarding culture in the West, you get a glimpse of an almost naive vision on the part of the Council Fathers that is dangerously dismissive of evil, as if we had already entered Heaven and positive, supernatural evil was now a fairy tale to be remembered no more. When we understand this essential mindset starting in the Council's documents themselves and bleeding over in tenfold strength into the later decades, we can understand the complete collapse of Latin Catholic worship, identity, and life: the Latin Catholic Church let her guard down almost entirely and allowed the evil one to strip her down to shameful nakedness.

Let me be clear, I do not mean to claim that the Second Vatican Council is heretical. All of its Magisterial teachings on Faith and Morals are sound and within the scope of Catholic orthodoxy, and they are faithful to Sacred Scripture as well. However, the manner in which these truths were presented, the language that was used to present them, and the undue reverence and naivete that was shown to other world religions and secular Western culture in the Council without the counterbalancing emphasis that sin, error, and blasphemy are the domain and power of the devil in the world, are all truly frightening and dangerous to good Faith in Christ and His Church, which is His fullness and His Body.