Is It the Best of Times or the Worst of Times?
by Mary Anne Kreitzer
Ever since Adam ate the apple inviting sin and death into the world, the devil’s prowled the earth seeking souls to devour – very successfully as the state of our country and the world illustrates. He’s deluded mankind into physically murdering the innocent (and not-so-innocent) by abortion, euthanasia, suicide, etc. But he desires souls more than bodies and uses the lies of gender ideology, porn, drugs, lust of all sorts – all the capital sins to consume them. Then there’s the dismal state of Holy Mother Church! Called to win souls for Christ and defend the vulnerable, she struggles in the grip of traitors who’ve jumped ship, some to crew for a diabolical captain aiming his torpedoes of hate at the unwary as well as the barque of Peter.
But that’s only the black half of the story. Since bad news often captures our attention more quickly than good, we can be tempted to overlook signs of hope and renewal. We need to remember that God always works things together for good for those who love and serve Him. In fact, evil times often unmask Satan, making the good shine more brightly through saints God raises up to address the evil of the times. No matter how dark the night, the Son rises!
To be frank, things look pretty bleak at the moment. Setting aside the disastrous secular situation, the revolution in the Church continues full tilt. I’ll mention just three things undermining the faith, a trinity of evil so to speak: first the ongoing sex abuse scandal which has driven many out of the Church, second, synods and Vatican documents used to change doctrines or give that perception, and third, the destruction of orthodox religious orders and institutes.
There’s no need to further address the sex abuse scandals which continue to make headlines. A one-year suspension of the statute of limitations ensures ongoing coverage as real victims and fortune hunters demand settlements. We will continue to bleed. And, as the situation in the Diocese of Wheeling shows, the scandal is likely to widen as embezzlement to fund lavish lifestyles is further exposed. Michael Bransfield, former bishop, is hardly the only prelate who treated diocesan bank accounts as his personal ATM. Prepare for more exposes!The second evil, deliberate gutting of Church doctrine, takes center stage with the Pan-Amazon synod in October masquerading as pastoral concern for those in remote areas. Cardinals Raymond Burke, Gerhard Müller, Walter Brandmüller, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, other clergy, and orthodox laity are appalled at the heresy and apostasy in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). While it’s only the latest battle in the revolution by synod, encyclical, and apostolic exhortation; the Pan-Amazon confab ramps up the attack.
First, it’s regional, excluding most of the world’s bishops. Why are the indigenous people of the “second lung” of the world, the African rainforest, excluded? Is it because the African bishops are too orthodox and likely to oppose the dissent-ridden German church which is sending almost a third of the delegates? Remember, the German bishops were prominent at the two family synods undermining the faith. The October meeting is also financed by German relief groups. As Diane Montagna of LifeSiteNews wrote:
The two synods on the family, the synod on youth, Pope Francis’ encyclicals, Laudato Si and Evangelium Gaudium, his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia all - blazed the trail for a “new path” for the Church outlined in the Pan-Amazon IL. Pope Francis is deeply involved in all the machinations to create a revolutionary “new church.”
Last February, writer Maike Hickson reported on a book by French homosexual atheist, Frederic Martel, In the Closet of the Vatican, which included a chapter describing the two synods on the family. While critics on both sides of the debate panned Martel’s book, his chapter on the family synods is corroborated by others. Hickson quotes Martel:
National Catholic Register’s Jennifer Morse, reviewing Martel’s book, writes that “we can conclude that [the] two synods on the family weredeliberately steeredtoward changing the ancient teachings of the Church on marriage, divorce and the Eucharist, with the added goal of changing the teaching on homosexual practice.”
Add to this the infamous footnotes in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (AL), which promote the acceptance to Communion of those in invalid marriages. The Argentine bishops’ guidelines for implementing AL allow Communion on a case by case basis for some in irregular unions and Pope Francis described them as authentic magisterium. Reporting on the guidelines, Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin wrote:
The Argentine bishops appealed to “conscience.” It was déjà vu. Liberals used personal conscience for decades to ignore Humanae Vitae’s ban on artificial birth control. “Follow your conscience!” no matter how uninformed was the rally cry of raging liberals, many in roman collars, and it continues with AL. Pentin also described the reaction of Cardinal Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who “expressed some reservations, telling the Register Dec. 6 that he finds it ‘disturbing’ the Holy Father would declare an interpretation of a group of bishops as ‘almost infallible’ teaching.”
Keep in mind that Pope Francis never responded to the Dubia of four cardinals who in 2016 asked five questions about how to interpret AL. 1. Can those living in adultery receive the sacraments? 2. Are there still “absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts...that are binding without exceptions?” 3. Can one still say, “a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery …[is] in an objective situation of grave habitual sin?” 4. Based on Sacred Scripture and Tradition, can one still say, as Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendor, that “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice?” And finally, 5. Can one still say “conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?” Since then, two of the four cardinals have died, but the Dubia remain unanswered and Pope Francis continues to enable the wrecking ball of heresy and confusion in the Church. He is about to magnify it 100 fold by the Pan-Amazon Synod, a heretical witches brew of pantheism, liberation theology, syncretism, and pagan shamanistic religious practices.
Much more could be said about what Pope Francis is bringing into the Church, (strange gods perhaps?), but space considerations prevent it. While undermining Church doctrine is nothing new (Every heresy involves a denial of truth.), the October uprising is set to inject heresy and apostasy into the heart of the Church.
The third factor undermining the faith in the Francis papacy is the persecution of orthodoxy. In 2017, Francis removed every member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (POA) and dissolved the requirement to sign a pro-life declaration. One of the most orthodox organizations at the Vatican was put into the hands of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, notorious for enshrining a sacrilegious, homoerotic mural in the cathedral of the Diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia. In the mural Jesus rises to heaven holding two nets with dozens of nearly nude bodies in erotic poses including Paglia embracing a man with bare buttocks. Jesus’s genitals are clearly visible through his clothing. Sacrilege to be sure!
Paglia previously headed the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF) which released a disgusting and graphic sex ed course at World Youth Day in 2016. Commenting on the program, Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a well-known and respected psychiatrist said:
Putting a man like Paglia in charge of groups addressing the culture of lust, while praising abortionists and filling Vatican congregations with enemies of life is more than alarming! Francis also recently named a close associate of disgraced McCarrick, Kevin Farrell, former Dallas archbishop, to head the PCF. There’s more!
The pope is calling for classroom sex ed, “objective” lessons not “soaked with ideological colonization,” whatever that means. Catholics who’ve fought classroom sex ed for decades feel betrayed. Both secular and so-called Catholic programs violate modesty, chastity, and the rights of parents. Another betrayal of the family!
The destruction of traditional religious orders and institutes is also devastating, especially the recent blitzkrieg against the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciencesin Rome when the entire faculty was summarily dismissed. The abuse of academic freedom reinforces secular fears of Church interference in education. Paglia, a non-academic, holds dictatorial power over employment at the institute. One final bad sign: the pope will name another 13 cardinals in October making his appointees a clear majority in the next papal conclave –an alarming thought in view of his record of destruction.
Nevertheless, we have Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, and there are many signs of hope including bastions of orthodoxy among religious and laity. Let’s examine a few.
First, despite scandals, young men continue to answer God’s call to the priesthood, and liberal “gatekeepers” no longer hold the keys to the door. A particularly hopeful sign comes from an unlikely source, Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, former editor of the Jesuits’ America Magazine. Reese, who dissents from many Church doctrines, was forced to resign in 2005 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, soon to be Pope Benedict XVI. Since his departure, Reese remains a darling of the heterodox left and continues to attack the faith along with fellow Jesuit James Martin, both of whom contribute to the dissent rag, the National Catholic Reporter.
Last February Reese penned an article calling for “seminary reform” lamenting that too many promote orthodoxy. He condemned faculty for telling seminarians to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Horrors!) and is incensed that many faculty are (get ready for it) pre-Vatican II.He is particularly distressed that, “Under the papacy of John Paul II, seminary professors were screened to remove theologians who questioned church teaching, especially in the area of birth control, sexual ethics or ministry.” He goes so far as to say, “It is tempting to suggest blowing up the seminaries, hiring lay professors and integrating their students into Catholic universities.” When a man like Reese condemns the seminaries, you know many must be doing a good job. Availability of the Latin Mass is also increasing. The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) continues to grow with an average age of 35 among its several hundred priests. The Benedictines of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma, founded only two decades ago, are well on their way to their goal of 60-70 friars. The Cody Wyoming Carmelites and the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem are small but thriving Latin orders. Many dioceses see mature young men committed to pious practices entering their seminaries.
Orthodox orders of women religious are seeing the same positive trends. While the pearl and pantsuit nuns on the bus near retirement, not to mention extinction with an average age in the late 70s, orthodox orders are booming. Take the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Since their founding by four members in 1997, the order has grown to 140 today with an average age of 32. The Nashville Dominicans have over 300 sisters with an average age of about 35. The Sisters of Life are even younger. Another example comes from the Discalced Carmelites. Fr. Shenan Bouquet writing for The Wanderer, describes the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Elysburg, PA in the Diocese of Harrisburg. The order has:
...experienced such growth in vocations that it has warranted the construction of a new convent in Fairfield ....Mother Stella-Marie of Jesus, the prioress, attributes the growth to the convent’s decision to re-embrace the Traditional Latin Mass in 2000 – in other words, to make their highly non-relevant [in the world’s eyes] lifestyle even more non-relevant.
A drop in the bucket, you say? Never forget the power of grace. Jesus told us to be salt and yeast. It takes very little of both to either flavor the soup or make the bread rise.
It’s clear where the future lies in religious life, and it’s not with the likes of Fr. Thomas Reese and the aging Jesuits. The orthodox among them would do well to imitate the Dominican sisters by leaving and founding a reformed order to become, once again, Christ’s marines!
Orthodox laity are also thriving. Lay groups defending the faith and evangelizing proliferate. FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) which evangelizes college students on campus now has 700 missionaries at 700 colleges around the country and has helped motivate 700 students to discern religious vocations. In my own state of Virginia FOCUS is on four campuses: UVA, VA Tech, James Madison, and George Mason. The conversion stories on the FOCUS website show how life-changing the ministry is. The Cardinal Newman Society continues to report on the growth of solid Catholic colleges which attract many students who want an authentic Catholic education. One of the most exciting signs is the growing interest of young people for the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). While Pope Francis doesn’t understand it, scripture implies it. “A little child shall lead them.” My own daughter and her husband were drawn to the TLM by four of their daughters ranging in age from 11 to 17. It’s a beautiful thing to see children excited about going to Mass. And a friend recently contacted me asking for suggestions of where to take her daughter who wanted to attend the TLM for her 18th birthday. Promoting reverence in the Novus Ordo is also important. More silence at Mass, especially during and after Communion, receiving Our Lord kneeling and on the tongue, preaching on the Real Presence and other doctrines, increased use of Latin, and saying Mass ad orientem with the priest acting as the shepherd leading his flock to Christ - all could spark serious revival in the Church.
In 2016 Msgr. Charles Pope wrote an article about the TLM with some sobering observations:
Restoring the TLM is a noble goal. Frankly, I doubt the Novus Ordo will disappear. But in a noisy world, increasing silence and reverence in the N.O. in addition to promoting the TLM can make this the “best of times” or at least as close as we can get. But it’s up to us to do the work rather than point fingers at others in a never-ending blame game. Which reminds me of the old Pogo cartoon. “We’ve met the enemy and it is us.” We need to examine our own consciences and ask whether we’re working effectively for the reign of Christ the King, or just lamenting the “worst of times.” Making things better begins with each one of us. We can’t fob it off on others! Viva Cristo Rey!