With merciful candour, and a lifetime of forming young Australian souls in our holy Faith behind him, a Marist Brother lays it on the line to his fellow Aussies. Essential, provocative reading.
An Open Letter to Catholics
To our Archbishops,
14 December 2004
Your several Reverences and fellow Catholics,
I recently received an appeal for contributions to the Marian Eucharistic Alliance, aka St. Gabriel Communications. (I am putting a curse on the source of the rumour that I have won the lottery a few times.) The appeal reported Archbishop Hickey [Perth] as referring to A Catholic school where not one boy or girl in Year 12 went to Mass. He said, "This floored me, I had no idea how bad the situation had become."
It was hardly news. Twenty years’ research by the late Brother Marcellin Flynn had recorded what was happening, and it is now many years since ‘Bob’ Santamaria was one of those spelling it out: "Let us not conclude our assessment with the monumental absurdity that, as Catholics vote with their feet and empty once-filled churches, the Holy Spirit is renewing what is visibly ceasing to exist."
But who was listening then? Father John Parsons: "An extraordinary number of Catholics pay so little intellectual attention to doctrinal matters that they are still unaware that anything much has been happening."
True, but it was more than doctrinal matters that suffered the inattention.
For the ‘extraordinary number’ there was no problem, of course.
For others, well, our Education Officers and our teachers were professionals, there had been crises and glitches before, the Church was to last to the end of time, so where’s the problem? Of course there was the odd skeleton or two in the cupboard, such as the R.E. teacher telling a confrere, "I don’t believe half of this crap", and the non-Catholic mother able to say of her non-Catholic son’s Catholic school, "It’s no big deal, there’s not much dogma."
The Gabriel Communications brochure correctly reports Mass attendance as at best 15 percent, but further shock awaits the Archbishop. Many even of that 15 percent are counterfeits. In The Banished Heart author Dr. Geoffrey Hull explains:"Most Catholics today - ordinary believers as well as the theologically literate - have adopted a ‘self-service’ approach to the beliefs and practices of their Church, accepting some and rejecting others on the basis of private judgment. It is an approach that is quintessentially Protestant. Among those Catholics who unhesitatingly rise to join the Communion queue at a modern Mass are many who rarely fulftl their Sunday obligation, who have not been to confession in years, who deny the existence of Satan and hell, who believe that women no less than men are called to the priesthood, and who scorn official Church teaching on sexual morality."
The truth is that the revolution that has taken place in the thinking and practice of the Catholic ‘faithful’, has followed the revolution that has occurred in Catholic teaching over the last three or four decades.
A brochure I received this week is a breath of fresh air in that it at least acknowledges the deplorable and critical state of the Church.
It proposes a remedial project in the form of New Apologetics By Mail. The effort is commendable as far as it goes, but it falls short of a solution in that it counters only one of the causes of the debacle, namely ignorance of the Catholic faith. Commendable as that endeavour is, its promoters should be aware that if they are going to present the full Catholic faith they will be facing opposition from within the Church. More precisely and sadly, from within the Vatican.
That last statement will not surprise those who have kept in touch with what has been happening. The ‘inattentives’ will, of course, find it ‘outrageous’. Patience! They should hold their fire until some of the facts they have been missing are aired herein.
A concerned Mr. Dixon recently claimed that to increase Mass attendance the Church ‘must invent and adopt completely new approaches’ (Sydney Catholic Weekly). In the above brochure Archbishop Hickey speaks of ‘new initiatives that we have not even thought of yet’.
I humbly, respectfully, but confidently submit that both are mistaken.
What the Church needs is not inventions and new initiatives, but the resumption of old strategies that ‘worked’ in the past. I refer to those simple but highly successful strategies used by the Apostles:
Each of the above could be the subject of a book, but the briefer treatment here has a better prospect of being read.
A Victorian parish priest has written, "Our young people are religious illiterates, pleasant, engaging, and thoroughly pagan in outlook. I’m sure God will be gentle with them". Translation: The fault isn’t all theirs. The priest said nothing about God being gentle with the shepherds responsible for the illiteracy.
‘Whole packet’ means what it says. Aren’t we supposed to be passing on to the young the faith that comes to us from the Apostles? What we have been passing on is a heavily edited version of it. If the Church wants to climb above that 15 percent, it has to resume throwing the whole book at us - without apology to either the faithful or to the so-called separated brethren - as it used to do when Mass attendance was 65 percent.
Included would be the doctrines that have been virtually mothballed: the one true Church, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hell, purgatory, the ‘four last things’.
Is it true or isn’t it that the bishops have stood silently by while ‘requiem’ Masses have celebrated the ‘life’ of the deceased, whereas such Masses used to be, and should be, for the repose of the soul of the deceased? Is it true or isn’t it that bishops themselves have said such Masses, which are a covert denial of the doctrine of Purgatory?
Classroom and pulpit have been silent about hell. When novelist David Lodge wrote, "Around 1970 Catholics ceased to believe in hell", writer Piers Paul Read added, "Not only did the laity cease to behave as if there were a credible danger of damnation, but the clergy ceased to preach it."
When a child asked a teacher about hell she was told, "Hell is not as important as it was. Don’t worry about it." The ebb and flow of Catholic doctrine!
What that child - and every Catholic - should know is that the doctrine of hell is as important as that of the Resurrection. Seeing that without it the serving of God becomes optional, where is the mystery in that Year 12 student not going to Mass? They are just exercising their option, and the Church is simply reaping what it has been sowing for all too long.
Is there somewhere a bishop so dishonest as to stand up and tell me the Church has been teaching for the past three decades, exactly what it taught when I stumbled into the Church 72 years ago?
Few, even of the 15 percent Mass goers, realise that both the new liturgy and the new ecumenism are products of the desire to please the separated brethren.
This second policy requires honesty and courage. The Church’s record in the first - honesty - is hardly brilliant: • An archbishop lied in emphatically denying he sought to suppress a sub-committee’s report, while doing exactly that, and succeeding in the suppression.
Wanted now is an authority in the Church with the honesty to admit the dismal failure of the liturgical reform, and to admit that Pius XII was right in warning such reform would be suicidal.
Is a still lower Mass attendance required to convince the Church its persistence with the new Mass amounts to flogging a dead horse?
For those who want innovations there is one ready made. Without interfering with the Novus Ordo Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass could be restored, not just tolerated as it has been – barely - but given the same recognition as the current Mass. Of the many things that deserve to be said in favour of restoring the Latin Mass, time and space permit only a few:
WHAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH THREW AWAY
Following the televising of Pontifical High Mass from St. Anne’s Cathedral, Leeds, on January 10th 1954, Cardinal Heenan wrote:
"Although I realised that the Mass had made television history, I was astonished by the volume of correspondence which resulted. Telegrams began to arrive an hour or two after Mass. Letters poured in the next morning and throughout the week. I was accustomed to the so-called ‘fan-mail’ from the many BBC programs in which I had taken part during the previous decade, but I had never received correspondence so large and varied as this. The most surprising feature was the absence of criticism, and the number of appreciative letters from non-Catholics .... A letter from Cheshire aptly illustrates the general attitude of correspondents: ‘I am not a Catholic, but may I express my gratitude to you for the most beautiful and moving service of High Mass from your Cathedral Church. For we who have found it hard to believe, your service came as an inspiration shattering in its impact. It seemed to reveal a great truth so long hidden from us. God bless you Father for the light you have shown us.’
"... A friend working in the BBC was on duty that day, and was so full of enthusiasm that he could not wait until he reached home, and wrote from Broadcasting House: "I can’t stop myself from writing this note. This morning’s televised Mass and sermon must mark a turning point. The whole thing was moving and magnificent in the extreme... Father Agnellus’ commentary, being a strict account, must have made the ceremony meaningful as well as beautiful.... a lot of superlatives in one paragraph, but then it was high time you vindicated your logical view that Catholic ritual needs no watering down on the BBC. What a thundering vindication this was!" - From A Crown of Thorns
PLEASING GOD RATHER THAN MEN TAKES COURAGE
Courage is needed to stand by unpopular truth. Was not that how the martyrs died? Cardinal Ratzinger knew he was stating the plain truth when he admitted the radical new liturgy had done extremely serious damage to the Church; but he also knew the statement would take off like a lead balloon with the many clinging to the idea that the Church had got things right with the novelties that followed Vatican Council II.
THE CURRENT ECUMENISM
The revolutionary new liturgy was not the only change that has seriously damaged the Church. The radical new ecumenism had the same purpose as the new liturgy, to please men - the separated brethren - rather than God.
Whether or not it has moved the faithful closer to the separated brethren, it has certainly moved them further from God. It has inflicted on the Church even more damage than has the liturgical revolution. In essence it has been the virtual suppression of a doctrine as old as the Church, that of the one true Church. That suppression has contributed even more than the new liturgy to reducing Mass attendance to its current 15 percent.
The Church’s ecumenism prior to Vatican Council II was an open book, proclaimed in Mortalium Animos by Pius XI in 1928, and in the Instruction on the Ecumenical Movement from the Holy Office in 1949. Its principles were:
The new ecumenism violates all four principles, without showing one of them to be wrong.
On the other hand Professor Romano Amerio, a peritus at Vatican Council II and lifelong student of the Church, warns where the new ecumenism is taking us:
"The specific character of Christianity is being lost, and Catholicism is being dissolved into a combined universal religion, of which all particular religions are regarded as valid expressions, because, on this view, religions are simply the expressions of the different cultures in which they exist."
In other words, the new ecumenism is moving towards the One-World church anticipated and condemned by St. Pius X.
The following are samples of the new ecumenism in operation:
The above list is not exhaustive, but can anyone read it and fail to see:
Sadly, in this current ‘second Reformation’ the bishops have been silent witnesses, as were the bishops in the Arian heresy and in the English Reformation. In each of those upheavals there was one bishop who stood up and stood out.
In the current ecumenical heresy Cardinal Ratzinger has a claim to being the solitary figure that stood up. He lodged his protest in his document Dominus Iesus, which re-asserted the doctrine of the one true Church, and stated the truth that other man-made churches were just that - man-made churches - and not really churches at all: His fellow bishops offered only a deafening silence or an ecumenical groan.
Unfortunately the Cardinal was not only closing the stable door after the 85 percent had bolted, he was also competing against Pope John Paul telling his audience of 30,000 in St. Peter’s Square that there is a great deal to be said for other religions, God works through them, etc.
Again, when the ARCIC final report had been favourably received by almost every Catholic hierarchy in the world, it was Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who found the agreed statements incompatible with Catholic teaching by reason of wrong concepts, omissions and ambiguities. Again it was one bishop standing up.
Progress? An Australian Archbishop wrote recently of the progress made in ecumenism in the last 40 years. Without going into all the statistics, where is the ‘progress’ in a Mass attendance of 15 percent, or (in the U.S.) a fall from 70,000 to 20,000 in the annual conversions? It is indisputable that what was supposed to take the faithful closer to their ‘separated brethren’, has certainly taken them several leagues further from God.
WHO IS TO BLAME?
Despite the hints in the previous page the answer may shock, even offend, Archbishop Hickey and many more. In the current ecumenical apostasy the lion’s share of the guilt is born by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, and the bishops who say ‘amen’ to his ecumenism.
If that is offensive so be it. What matters is that it is the truth.
The Church is riddled with ecumenists like a structure riddled with termites, and Pope John Paul leads the infestation. A directory issued from the Vatican in 1970 showered us with terms previously unknown – ‘ecumenical education’, the ‘ecumenical dimension’, the ‘ecumenical aspect’, ‘conditions of a genuine ecumenical mind’, ‘due regard for the ecumenical point of view’, and so on, ad infinitum.
Not only has Pope John Paul identified ecumenism with being a Christian, (a poor compliment to the saints who never imagined, and would have rejected his ecumenism) he has called for seminars and workshops, and for the ecumenical formation of every man, woman and child in the Catholic Church.
Not to be overlooked: When Pope John Paul has not been himself actually damaging the Church with this ecumenism, he has been silent while his subordinates have been doing it for him, as in the list on the previous page, and sometimes in his presence in St. Peter’s Basilica.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
As always, the first step in solving a problem is recognising and admitting the problem. It cannot be denied that the current ecumenism rejects Christ’s commission to the Church he founded, nor that Pope John Paul leads the field in promoting the ecumenism.
The astonishing aspect of the new ecumenism is how such a radical reversal of Catholic teaching ever got so much as a foot in the door. There is somewhat more than a clue in Our Lady’s predictions at Fatima about Satan entering ‘even the highest positions in the Church.’
Those needing evidence that Our Lady’s Fatima prediction has been fulfilled, have it in the following:
Pope John Paul’s denial is the essence of ecumenism - giving a higher priority to pleasing men than to serving God with the truth. No less astonishing than Pope John Paul’s denial is the silence with which some 3,000 bishops accepted that denial.
The silence is not inexplicable.
Some 130 years ago the Church was infected with a ‘virus’ that plagues it to the present day, namely an exaggerated sense of loyalty to the Pope, and unquestioning belief in his every utterance and action, and approval of his policies.
Author Fr. John W. O’Malley explains the relatively short history of this inflated loyalty to the Pope. It developed out of sympathy with Pope Pius IX in his distress as ‘prisoner of the Vatican’ in the standoff between the Vatican and the Italian Government of the time. It was not a matter of doctrine like papal primacy or infallibility, but allegiance to an individual and his policies.
Spelling out that irrational concept of loyalty to the Pope:
The irrational and inflated loyalty to the Pope has been the Achilles Heel of the Catholic Church. It has meant that Satan had only to mislead the Pope to have the whole flock. This he has done. One result is the faithful uncritically accepting, even applauding, a revolutionary ecumenism that cancels the commission Christ gave to his Church.
Criticising or Disagreeing with a Pope
There are Catholics who don’t mind criticism of a Pope of the distant past, but hesitate if the subject is closer to home, a recent Pope of their own lifetime. If the subject is the reigning Pope they are likely to need the smelling salts.
It is ironical that the same Catholics do not mind in the least the solemn statements of previous Popes, even recent Popes, being ignored. [Some victims: The Council of Trent, Pius V, Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Vatican Council II (Sacrosanctum Concilium)].
No criticism is justified if indulged in for the pleasure or satisfaction of the critic, whether the subject is a Pope or a peasant; but if the criticism is responsible, just and aimed at rectification of wrong, it is irrelevant whether the subject is Pope or peasant. Those who would exempt the Pope from criticism, even of the right kind, are unlikely to know that even holy nuns have remonstrated with Popes in endeavouring to have them do the right thing. St. Catherine of Sienna was influential in the return of the popes from Avignon to Rome.
The folk who would shield the Pope from just criticism are victims of the virus we have been discussing, and as Prof. Marcel de Corte says, they are close to superstition.
In an interview, retired Archbishop Jean Jadot recalled one of his audiences with Pope John Paul II. When the Archbishop asked, "Holy Father, may one disagree with you?", the Pope replied, "That is why you are here." Thus on the personal level the Pope’s feet would appear to be on the ground, and one might see him as having something in common with his predecessor, Pope John Paul I. But in the matter of ecumenism, when he tirelessly promotes other religions, he resembles rather the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
His ecumenism is changing the Church:
Nothing remotely approaching these reversals has occurred in the past history of the Church, yet there are those infected with the ‘virus’ mentioned earlier, who are calling Pope John Paul a saint. But even that is not enough for a Father Ange, who sees the Pope being declared a doctor of the Church, and nominates him as the greatest Pope in the history of the Church. That is lavish praise for a Pope who has presided for 25 years over a Church sliding not only into oblivion, but into apostasy.
But Fr. Ange does render us one service. He illustrates how short one can be on the facts of the case, and how complete has been the victory of Satan in seducing the Pope-worshippers of the flock.
As regards salvaging the faith, it was claimed earlier that the first step is recognising and admitting the problem. That has been done, and we are at the second step.
This must be obvious. But as regards degree of difficulty it would be the equivalent of ascending Everest, or cleaning out the Augean stables. It is the excision of the virus discussed above, the exaggerated and inflated sense of loyalty to the Pope that is the Achilles Heel of the Church.
Loyalty to the Pope when he stands by the Faith remains a duty as it always has been; but loyalty to him when he is at odds with Catholic teaching is apostasy. In the errors of ecumenism Pope John Paul has had unstinted support, if sometimes only the support of silence.
The starting point on the road back is not the novelties, innovations, inventions, welcoming parties and cups of tea that have been mindlessly suggested. Only the bishops have the power to turn the Church around. Have they the will to do it? It is for them to end their silence, stand up and accept their responsibilities as the teachers of the Catholic faith and refuse to be rubber stamps for whatever is the going heresy. Not least, they need to remind themselves they are to give an account of their stewardship.
In short, it is for the bishops to stand by the faith that comes to us from the Apostles (I borrow now from Fr. Parsons) "the Catholicism as known to history, that religion for which the ancient martyrs died, the religion of Irenaeus and Cyprian, of Ambrose, Anselm and Thomas, of Dante,. Cajetan and Bellarmine ... the religion with which the papacy, the hierarchy and the generality of Catholics were happy to identify themselves when I was a boy".
For some four decades the Church has been plagued with dissent from its teachings. Needed now is dissent from the flourishing heresies coming from the Vatican or wherever. If your lordships and your graces need a lead you have it in advance. Cardinal Ratzinger has stood up at least three times. On those occasions did you support him, or were you silent, or did you groan?
If the late Pope John Paul I were with us he would be regarding Cardinal Ratzinger as one more prelate (like himself) subject to error. But even prelates subject to error are not always in error, and can sometimes stand up.
Brother Cassian, FMS.
The author may be contacted