The Year of Faith Could't Come Too Soon

by Mary Ann Kreitzer   

Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed a Year of Faith from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In a world dominated by secularism and moral relativism, the call to re-evangelize is crucial. In his letter announcing the Year of Faith, the pope declared his wish to “arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction” because “What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people…capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for…life without end.”

If anything illustrates the need for renewed faith in the United States it is the reelection of Barack Obama. Over half the Catholic voters pulled levers or marked ballots for the most pro-abortion president in history, a man who believes killing babies in any situation, by any means, is legitimate, a man so extreme he believes the deadly deed can be finished even after birth. Imagine a medic on the battlefield stabbing wounded survivors in the heart. You have a graphic picture of Barack Obama. It didn’t matter to 52% of Catholic voters. Even among those who attend Mass every Sunday, 42% chose the abortion extremist.

Every bishop in the country warned his flock about the intrinsic evil of forcing Catholics to pay for contraception and abortion through the Obamacare mandate. It didn’t matter. Many clerics warned that voting for politicians who stand for intrinsic evils is mortally sinful. It didn’t matter. With the Nuns on the Bus lobbying through the swing states claiming Obama was the “real pro-life candidate” and Catholic dissenters from George Soros-funded front groups claiming the same, the heretics swelled Obama’s ranks. Although, when you get right down to it, they essentially made the Catholic vote irrelevant. Like a married couple who cancel each other’s vote, Catholics simply made no difference. Think about that! We who are called to be salt, light, and yeast to the world were tasteless, burned out, and flat as a voting group. If anything shows how much we need the year of faith, the 2012 election pointed it out in spades!

A few days after the election, Phil Lawler of Catholic World News lamented the “decisive defeat for the culture of life,” not just because of the election of Obama, but the success of gay “marriage” initiatives in four states, a first. Up until this election traditional marriage was sustained every time it was on the ballot, 32 states upheld marriage between one man and one woman. “The momentum,” Lawler says, “has shifted.” Massachusetts nearly approved assisted suicide, and its advocates will no doubt try again. We are losing the culture war. Why? A failed strategy. “For years,” Lawler says “the pro-life movement has tried to win elections without winning hearts and minds….It’s time – past time – for a change in our approach.” How? As a Catholic, Lawler responds by referring to Pope Benedict XVI and the Year of Faith. “The Pope said that Christians must help their secularized neighbors to recognize the ‘mysterious desire for God’ that is an innate aspect of human nature. We must, he said, lead our neighbors in ‘learning or re-learning an authentic taste for the joys of life.’ Every man and woman on earth is predisposed to religious faith, and to seek contentment in a happy family. If we can help people to realize these desires – which are pre-programmed in their nature – we can still recover our culture and our nation.” Lawler recommends a three pronged strategy: 1) encourage marriage, 2) educate the children by recapturing the schools, 3) engage in the “public battle of ideas” by forming our own lines of communication to by-pass the hostile media, and 4) most of all by example. “Happy households,” he says, “are attractive; our neighbors will want to know our secrets.”

Lawler leaves out of his analysis, however, the reasons for the disastrous situation of the culture which must be addressed to find right solutions. The fact is that many of the “secularized neighbors” Pope Benedict mentioned are Catholics who attend Mass every week. And yet, they ignored their shepherds and rationalized voting for Obama despite his very public and extreme support for the culture of death. With Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke and celebrity women hawking his abortion/contraception position, could any Catholic possibly vote for him out of ignorance? So what gives? How did this happen?

The Year of Faith and its celebration of the 50 year anniversary of Vatican II is a good starting place to ask questions. What is there to celebrate? In 1967 and1973, when liberal theologians and laymen were usurping the Council and introducing radical secularism into the Church, the great theologian, Dietrich von Hildebrand, wrote two books: Trojan Horse in the City of God (THCG) and The Devastated Vineyard (DV) which analyzed the Council and its aftermath. Von Hildebrand began THCG with praise. “When one reads the luminous encyclical Ecclesiam Suam of Pope Paul VI or the magnificent ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ of the Fathers of the Council, one cannot but realize the greatness of the Second Vatican Council.” He went on in THCG to evaluate distorted interpretations of the Council and secularism’s “invasion” of the Church. Many modern movements came under von Hildebrand’s astute examination (progressivism, evolutionism, science fetishism, amoralism, historical relativism, etc.) and were exposed as “ominous signs of decay.” He also lamented the break with the past illustrated by changes in the liturgical year and the liturgy. Von Hildebrand closed THCG with a description of “false prophets,” some of whom like Gregory Baum and Hans Kung he discussed in the body of the book, and Teilhard de Chardin who merited a 30-page appendix all to himself.

One of the issues von Hildebrand introduced in THCG that he developed further in a series of essays and lectures (1966-67, published in 1993 as The Charitable Anathema) and in DV was the urgency of condemning heresy. “The protection of inalterable divine revelation,” he wrote, necessarily requires the condemnation of all heresies…. The anathema against all errors that are essentially incompatible with Christ’s revelation is not only a holy mission dictated by fidelity to Christ, but also an expression of the Church’s holy love…for all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church must protect them from being poisoned by error and thus alienated from Christ….The anathemas are the very test of the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the expression of the Church’s loving protection of the faithful and Her charitable attempt to liberate and draw to Christ those possessed by error.”

It is self-evident that the failure of the bishops to address heresies introduced into the Church in the U.S. after Vatican II has undermined the faith of millions of Catholics and continues to do so today. During the recent election cycle a number of priests publicly supported homosexual marriage. I know of none disciplined by his bishop. Here’s just one egregious example. In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Bishop William Lori required all diocesan priests to read a letter asking parishioners to vote against Q.6 allowing homosexual “marriage” in Maryland. After doing so, Fr. Richard Lawrence, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul in downtown Baltimore, gave his own opinion that gay couples could marry. “Even if we believe gay marriage never could or should be allowed in the Church, we could live with a provision that allows the civil marriage of gay and lesbian couples. Personally, however, I would go farther than that. I believe there are reasons for suggesting that an eventual change in Church teaching is possible in this regard and that we could come to recognize the total, exclusive, permanent interpersonal commitment of gay and lesbian couples as part of the Sacrament of Matrimony.” Father didn’t stop there but went on to claim authority from Vatican II. “Prior to the council it was the teaching of the Church that the ends or purposes of marriage are primarily the procreation and education of children and secondarily the mutual support and common life of the spouses. The Council Fathers made a small but significant change in that teaching. They removed the words primarily and secondarily and substituted the words both and, thus elevating the mutual support and common life of the spouses to the rank of a primary end of marriage. This brought official teaching back in line with theological developments going back to at least St. Bernard of Clairvaux.” Included in the nonsense spouted by this priest (who received a standing ovation) was the unsubstantiated gay claim that people are born homosexual. He also equated homosexual sodomy with an elderly couple having marital intercourse because neither can procreate – perverted thinking to justify perverted behavior.

So how did Bishop Lori respond to this outrageous heretical scandal? Was Fr. Lawrence removed or ordered to retract? No! Was he disciplined in any way at all? No! The bishop merely posted a statement on the archdiocesan website that neither mentioned Fr. Lawrence nor the scandalous incident. He wrote that “No bishop, priest or deacon has the right to use the pulpit to advance his personal opinions. The pulpit is the place where the living word of God, as it comes to us through the teachings of the Church, is to be proclaimed and taught.” All well and good, but how many of Fr. Lawrence’s misled flock who heard the sermon, not to mention the thousands who read about it in the news or watched the video on YouTube (still on) and the parish website (now removed), will see the bishop’s response? His action can only be described in all charity as irresponsibly inadequate. Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture had a stronger suggestion. “What Fr. Richard T. Lawrence has done merits his prompt removal from ministryin the Diocese of Baltimore.” Amen! In a U.S. Church where heresy is common and discipline is often reserved for the orthodox, Fr. Lawrence is probably safe, although his flock clearly are not.

Dietrich von Hildebrand writing in DV, called the failure to vigorously defend the faith, the “lethargy of the guardians” and his assessment is as true today as it was in 1973. “One of the most horrifying and widespread diseases in the Church today is the lethargy of the guardians of the Faith of the Church. I am not thinking here of those bishops who are members of the ‘fifth column,’ who wish to destroy the Church from within, or to transform it into something completely different. I am thinking of the far more numerous bishops who have no such intentions, but who make no use whatever of their authority when it comes to intervening against heretical theologians or priests, or against blasphemous performances of public worship. They either close their eyes and try, ostrich-style, to ignore the grievous abuses as well as appeals to their duty to intervene, or they fear to be attacked by the press or the mass media and defamed as reactionary, narrow-minded, or medieval. They fear men more than God. The words of St. John Bosco apply to them: ‘The power of evil men lives on the cowardice of the good.’”

If the bishops are unwilling to chastise heretics, however, they are more than willing,von Hildebrand pointed out, to discipline and silence “faithful believers who take up the cause of orthodoxy.” Two recent examples come to mind. While many heretical front groups use the name “Catholic” with nary a word from the local bishops, Michael Voris was ordered to abandon use of the name Real Catholic TV by the Archdiocese of Detroit. A few other bishops banned him from parishes in their dioceses and defamed him to boot. All this, despite the fact that several bishops endorse his work which is completely orthodox. But he commits the cardinal sin (pun intended) of criticizing the hierarchy.

Judie Brown of American Life League receives similar treatment. Cardinal Timothy Dolan who had no problem sitting down to dinner with Barack Obama immediately before the election giving him a valuable photo op, refused to attend a Pro-Life Wisconsin dinner in 2009 because Judie was the keynote speaker and (horrors!) she criticizes the bishops. Mike Voris and Judie Brown are the people considered “disturbers of the peace” according to von Hildebrand. They are safe targets for clerical venom. “If they are reprimanded or disciplined, their bishops run no risk of being attacked by the liberal press and being defamed as reactionary.” But bishops abandoning their obligation to defend the faith has serious consequences says von Hildebrand. It “leads necessarily to the disintegration of the Church.” Can anyone deny that statement? In the past 40 years the collapse of authority has led to a neutered Catholicism that clearly has little impact on evangelizing the culture.

But it isn’t just the silence of the shepherds that has damaged the faith of so many. In Chapter 8 of DV, The Great Disappointment, von Hildebrand describes the destructive impact of the Council’s changes in the liturgy and liturgical year. He mourns the loss of reverence in the post conciliar Church illustrated by Communion in the hand, disappearance of genuflecting before the Eucharist, changes in language, treating the Mass as a meal, etc., but describes as “much more serious…the unfortunate mutilation of the liturgical year and the Holy Mass in the New Ordo.” The break with the past weakened our connection to the heroes of the faith and our sense of true community in the Communion of Saints. The truth of this is seen in numerous modern parishes celebrating their uniqueness and proud to “follow their own consciences” in isolation from Church doctrine.

In addition to sacrificing reverence, von Hildebrand says the “so called renewal of the liturgy...robbed us of any possibility of a true participation in the liturgical year” by gutting the “celebration” of the great feasts and seasons so embedded in the structure of the Tridentine Mass. In a stunning condemnation, he writes, “Truly, if one of the devils in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters had been entrusted with the ruin of the liturgy, he could not have done it better.” Pope Benedict himself recognizes this break with the past when he describes the “hermeneutic of rupture” with tradition.

What are the faithful to do faced with the serious crisis in the Church? Michael Voris of Church Militant TV took a page from von Hildebrand when, following the election, he delivered a Vortex message saying Catholics need to vote again -- with their feet. “The Catholic faith has been so watered down and protestantized in most parishes across the country that its ability to transform people’s lives, meaning making them grow in holiness…has been neutered.” Emphasizing the responsibility of parents, especially fathers, for the faith of their children, Voris urges families to leave liberal parishes and find places where the faith is truly nurtured by faithful priests. It’s a sensible first-step strategy to begin rebuilding the faith.

“Recapturing the schools” as Lawler suggests may be possible with Catholic institutions although many Catholic colleges appear hopeless. Nevertheless, it’s a laudable aim. Certainly at the Catholic elementary and high school level faithful Catholics must retake the formation of children’s minds and hearts or lose more of them to the culture of death. If schools won’t change, home schooling may be the only option. As for public schools, in many places they are totally controlled by the enemy, and parents risk the souls of their children to place them there particularly where organizations like Planned Parenthood have infiltrated. Continuous vigilance over children’s education is essential. An evil culture always goes after the young.

In this Year of Faith, the Church calls us to study and evangelize. Teaching the faith begins in our own homes, parishes, and neighborhoods with examples of fidelity, first of all to God by embracing His doctrines revealed through the Church, then to our spouses and families, and finally in our commitment to true social justice in the community starting with the most vulnerable. Make this a year to study the faith and put it into practice every day. Begin by reading Vatican II’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity and Lumen Gentium which describes the family as the “domestic church.” (These are short documents easily available on the Vatican website.) If each of us begins by growing in our own faith, our witness will blossom and begin to transform the culture from the ground up like the tiny mustard seed that, once sown, grows larger than all the other plants in the garden. During this Year of Faith let us sow and nurture our mustard seeds to become trees of life so, in the words of Pope Benedict, our witness may open “the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for…life without end.”

Realize that you may gain more in a quarter of an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament than in all the other spiritual practices of the day.

St. Alphonsus Liguori

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