The Neverending Story: Heretics Attacking the Church
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
In September 1907 Pope St. Pius X wrote his famous encyclical Pascendi which unmasked what he described as the “synthesis of all heresies” – Modernism. Only two months earlier, he approved Lamentabili Sane, the Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists which condemned 65 errors, “corruption of dogmas,” that were being “daily spread among the faithful” and endangering the “purity of their faith.” These two hundred-year-old documents are as relevant today as on the day they were signed by the saint. And, in fact, reading through them one can hear the voices of living dissenters and smell the evil smoke they blow into the Church. This article will examine some of the heretical activities taking place in the Church today and the on-going legacy of modernism.
Heresy is nothing new. On reading Acts of the Apostles, one realizes almost immediately that, with the birthday of the Church, came the party crashers. From the first century, heresy continues to plague the Church in every generation. Heretics have denied the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ, Mary’s perpetual virginity, Mary’s divine motherhood, the goodness of the material world, God’s omnipotence, papal authority, divine revelation, inerrancy of scripture, and on and on. They have claimed secret knowledge and elite status for some, while condemning the many to predestined hell fire. In Pascendi, Pope St. Pius X reminded the faithful there has never been a time when “watchfulness of the supreme pastor was not necessary to the Catholic body” because there “have never been lacking ‘men speaking perverse things,’ ‘vain talkers and seducers,’ ‘erring and driving into error.’” What was different during his papacy (1903-1914), what made papal action “imperative,” was the fact that the “partisans of error” were no longer “open enemies,” but stealth invaders at the very heart of the Church. Claiming to be “reformers” they poisoned both clergy and laity. Pope Pius lamented that attempts to restrain the modernists failed and, judging from current uprisings against the faith in many places, the situation is even worse today. Let’s look at some specifics: the revolution by clergy and religious and the revolution by laity and within institutions – all to subvert the faith.
Revolution by Clergy and Religious: One need not look far to find organized attacks on the Church from those called to be vigorous defenders and champions. Clergy and religious all over the globe are shaking their fists at God. Ireland, once described as the “land of saints and scholars,” a country whose missionary priests helped evangelize the U.S., is a particular hotbed of dissent. The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) claims 850 members, about a fifth of the total number of priests in Ireland. While their list of objectives is nuanced, they mirror the demands of other “Catholic” dissent groups: married priests, women’s ordination, changes in teachings on human sexuality, democratic Church government, primacy of conscience, and “full implementation of the vision and teaching of the Second Vatican Council.” The implication, as always with dissenters, is that Vatican II established a new Church severed from the past. A particularly troubling goal calls for “Full acceptance that the Spirit speaks through all people, including those of faiths other than Christian and those of no religious faith, so that the breath of the Spirit will flow more freely.” How does this square with the universal call to evangelization? If the “breath of the Spirit will flow more freely” among diverse religions (or no religion) why would one work for the conversion of those outside the Catholic fold? So chalk one up for promoting the sin of indifferentism, a violation of the First Commandment. The founder of ACP, Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, was silenced by the Vatican earlier this year for, among other things, his work supporting contraception and women’s ordination.
Last March the Vatican released a report on the Apostolic Visitation of Ireland which identified a “certain tendency…fairly widespread among priests, religious and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium.” The report called for major reform in theological and catechetical formation. ACP responded by organizing a May conference in Dublin, Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church. If anyone needed further evidence of the group’s defiance, National Catholic Reporter, the dissenters’ mouthpiece, described the meeting saying “there is little doubt that the Dublin assembly represents a significant challenge to the Vatican's authority.” Exactly!But the Irish aren’t the only vowed men organizing against the faith. In Austria, dissenting clergy calling themselves the Austrian Priests’ Initiative (API) released a “Call to Disobedience” in 2011. Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture described their movement: “Claiming the support of 329 priests, this group states that it will proceed to give Communion to those who have divorced and remarried, end priestly celibacy, bring married priests back into ministry, promote the ordination of women, and permit lay people to preach and lead Communion services.” The situation in Austria is so bad Pope Benedict took the unusual step of openly criticizing the priests’ group during his Holy Thursday Chrism Mass last April. At the Holy Week service that commemorates Jesus’ union with his apostles, the pope asked, “Is disobedience a path of renewal for the church?” He then reminded his spiritual sons, “We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the church.” The pope also decried “the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society.” Sadly, that “growing illiteracy” is often deliberately fostered by groups like API and ACP, the very men who have the most serious obligation to transmit the authentic teachings of Holy Mother Church.
Christoph Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna and Austria’s highest prelate finally took action in June warning priests that if they continued to participate in the “Call to Disobedience” they could not hold an administrative post in the Church, but membership in API would be permissible. In an interview with Catholic News Agency (CAN), Schönborn said the dissenters include, “practically no young priests.” CNA reported that Schönborn “criticized “‘a certain nostalgia’ among older clergymen who seem to think that if the Church would be ‘a little bit more liberal’ then the churches would be filled again and have the popular acceptance they once did. He said this kind of thinking is ‘a dream’ and ‘an illusion.’” While his action is welcome, Schönborn sends mixed messages. In April he overruled a pastor’s decision to deny a position on the pastoral council to a practicing homosexual elected by the parish. This is just one among many of the cardinal’s inconsistent acts contributing to confusion in the pew. And, in fact, the state of the Church in Austria testifies to the failure of the shepherds to clearly articulate the truth and inoculate the people against heresy. One sad example took place last April when Norbertine pastor Fr. Patrick Busskamp told those at the First communion Mass at the parish church in Amras that only those in the state of grace should approach for Communion. In an act of protest not a single adult received and the priest, who spoke the truth about the seriousness of approaching the Sacrament, was severely criticized by superiors for his “pastoral insensitivity.”
In another act of dissent, last year about a third of the German-speaking theologians of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland petitioned Rome for women’s ordination and a long list of other reforms echoing similar manifestos of the past. In response, German journalist, Peter Seewald, author of the in-depth interview with Pope Benedict, Light of the World: An Intimate Portrait, called the petition a “rebellion in the nursing home” by the “chief priests of the zeitgeist.” Seewald told Kath.net that the theologians are the same ones who have caused a crisis in Catholic education. These theologians are among the false teachers leading many to embrace and rationalize heresy.
Of course the Church in the U.S. has been harboring heretics for years enabled by wolves among the shepherds who in some dioceses have almost destroyed the faith altogether. Religious orders like the Jesuits bear singular responsibility for educating the next generation as heretics through their colleges. America Magazine, the Jesuit mouthpiece, extolls those who tell the Vatican they will not serve. The dismal record of most Catholic colleges led Fulton Sheen years ago to warn parents against sending their children there because the faith would be “taken from them.” I’ve written about many of these situations in articles archived at the Les Femmes website.
Priests aren’t the only vowed religious fomenting revolution, however. For several generations, sisters and brothers have also served as heresy’s foot soldiers. The recent flap with the “nuns on the bus” fighting Vatican efforts to rein in the 1500 member Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) illustrates how the media assists and magnifies heresy. The sisters received great press coverage, not surprising since they were also shilling for liberal politics and hitting cities where they hoped to boost support for Obama in the November election. The media love affair with Catholic dissenters assured they would be portrayed as traditional religious rather than the leftist kooks they really are. To realize just how far these women list toward the Twilight Zone, one has only to review the keynote speaker for LCWR’s latest assembly. Barbara Marx Hubbard addressing the “Mystery Unfolding: Speaking in the Evolutionary Now.” Hubbard runs a program, “Agents of Conscious Evolution,” the purpose of which is to transform the individual into: “a powerful catalyst… [to] play a role in one of the most exciting events ever envisioned: a planetary Birth Day on December 22, 2012.” The kind of birth she’s talking about is the same one the serpent described to Eve in the garden. In fact, Hubbard believes Eve made the right choice when she defied God to gain wisdom. In her book, Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of our Social Potential, Hubbard writes, “We are immortal. We are not bound by the limits of the body….We can create new life forms and new worlds. We are gods! Hubbard, incidentally, is a liberal Democrat who supports population control and eugenics. Apparently, not everyone is allowed to “play a role” in the planetary birthday. She also rewrote the Lord’s prayer as an ode to the enlightened ones of the new age which includes, “Hallowed be our name, Our kingdom is come, our will is done” and ends with “Ours is the kingdom, Ours the power, Ours the glory forever….”Inviting Hubbard to speak says it all as far as LCWR is concerned. Jesus' new covenant isn't enough; we need Hubbard’s program to reach the "next stage for humanity" where we become our own gods. LCWR has dabbled in this new age nonsense for several decades. They graphically display the reality that when you rebel against God you first lose your faith and then your mind. Female heretics seem to gravitate toward goddess worship and pantheistic paganism. Sadly, they lead many astray. (For a more on the sisters’ dissent, see The Truth vol. 17 #1 Spring 2012 and the Les Femmes blog.)
Revolution by Laity and Institutions: It’s not surprising to find the laity imaging the heretical beliefs of clergy and religious. After all, if the teachers preach a false gospel, many in the flock will follow, especially if it permits their sinful desires. Laity often band together in heretical organizations many funded by enemies of the Church. Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Dignity, New Ways Ministry, Call to Action, Catholics for a Free Choice, Women’s Ordination Conference, Voice of the Faithful, and Faith in Public Life (ecumenical) are all among the groups undermining Catholic teachings and promoting a smorgasbord of heresies including support for abortion, contraception, sexual deviance, women’s ordination, remarriage after divorce, etc. Laity often belong to several dissent groups and the agendas often overlap with groups and individuals signing dissent ads in leading publications like the New York Times.
Recently Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations for the bishops’ conference (USCCB) challenged Faith in Public Life after John Gehring, their Catholic Program Director, attacked the “Fortnight for Freedom” project which urged Catholics to defend religious liberty against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. Like many in the heretics’ camp who move freely among groups, Gehring previously worked at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He also served at the USCCB for a time. Where better to undermine the faith than from within? In fact, dissenters are active at the USCCB especially in their social justice and environmental departments. As for Gehring, he describes himself as a “big tent Catholic,” but it’s clear from reading his material that his tent houses all the heresies of modernism.
One of the main arguments used to justify heresy is the sensus fidelium, the so-called sense of the faithful. Heretics treat it as a popularity poll; hence they claim Pope Paul VI should have affirmed the majority Birth Control Commission’s call for contraception instead of issuing Humanae Vitae. Heretical Catholics claim the sensus fidelium for women’s ordination and same sex unions. There is even a blog of that name by Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. Vatican II clearly articulated the real meaning of sensus fidelium, but dissenters trumpeting the council’s “spirit” conveniently ignore that particular conciliar teaching: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One (cf. Jn 2:20, 27), cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole people's supernatural discernment in matters of faith when 'from the bishops down to the last of the lay faithful' they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the People of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the Word of God (cf. 1 Thes. 2:13). Through it, the People of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints (cf. Jude 3), penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life." (Lumen Gentium, No. 12; citing St. Augustine). It is impossible for the sensus fidelium to operate isolated from the pope and magisterium and it can never contradict the truth. Modernist revolutionaries would have us believe there is no objective truth at all, except for their absolute commitment to moral relativism.
Summary: So what’s a serious Catholic to do in the face of widespread heresy? The first imperative is to know the faith. When heretics distort the truth, the faithful must be ready to respond with fact. The lies about Vatican II are legion. They’ve been used to destroy the liturgy, Church architecture, and Church music. While the “reform of the reform” has corrected some of the abuses, the most serious problem, the collapse of catechetics, left many Catholics prey to the heretics. Additionally, many are so conformed to the world they gladly embrace heresy’s license to do whatever they want as “freedom.” We need to preach the truth in a way that attracts them away from the lie that sin equals happiness into the reality that, in fact, sin is the cause of all unhappiness. Groups like Silent No More illustrate that truth as women share the stories about their abortions and their regrets. Jesus showed the power of storytelling in his parables and following His example by telling stories can lead many to Him. The lives and writings of the saints are another powerful tool for transformation illustrated by the conversion of heart of St. Ignatius and the literal conversion from atheism of Edith Stein.Heresy is a reality of our day, but, in His faithfulness, God always raises up prophets to call his children back. Think of the English martyrs and other champions like St. Dominic and the “hammer of the heretics” St. Anthony. Think of warriors against Arianism like St. Basil the Great in the 4th century, the historian bishop St. Eusebius who ordained him and, of course, St. Athanasius, their contemporary. Whenever heresy raises its fist against God, He pours out His grace in response. Will our age be any different? Impossible! God is ever faithful to his people. So keep your eyes open for we live in saint-making times. What a cause for rejoicing! Take to heart the words of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1) Faith foils heresy; truth is stronger than falsehood. Jesus is calling us. “Listen to what I say: Open your eyes and see! The fields are shining for harvest! The reaper already collects his wages and gathers a yield for eternal life.” (John 4:35-36) So…to the Church Militant…”Let’s roll!”