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
"...to 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
"...you [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
"...you 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 heresies, and 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!