THE COMMUNITARIAN TRANSFORMATION OF THE CHURCH
Numbers 50-75 offer numerous connections with the ‘ points ’ 101-147 of our ‘ ecology. ’
POINT NO. 16 : AN EVANGELICAL DISCERNMENT.
50. The Pope wishes “ to mention briefly the context in which we all have to live and work. ” He does not do so with a “ purely sociological analysis that would aim to embrace all of reality by employing an allegedly neutral and clinical method. ” That would be of no avail.
“ What I would like to propose is something much more in the line of an evangelical discernment. ”
51. “ We need to distinguish clearly what might be a fruit of the Kingdom from what runs counter to God’s plan. This involves not only recognising and discerning spirits, but also – and this is decisive – choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil. ”
POINT NO. 17 : PROGRESS OR DECLINE ?
(cf. our Point 110 : The Universal Market)
52. “ We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. ”
The diagnostic is sever : “ A number of diseases are spreading. ”Desperation and violence prevail even in “ rich countries. ” What are the causes ? They are “ enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power. ”
53. “ We also have to say ‘ no to an economy of exclusion and social inequality ’. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points ? This is a case of exclusion.
“ Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving ? This is a case of social inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised : without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
“ Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘ throw away ’ culture that is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live ; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it.
“ The excluded are not the ‘ exploited ’ but the outcast, the ‘ leftovers. ’ ”
THE HERESY OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
From the opening of the Council on, John XXIII had invited the Fathers to find a new language, one better adapted to the modern mentality than the ancient dogmatic language : “ It is necessary for this certain and unchangeable doctrine, which must be respected faithfully, to be studied and expounded in accordance with the research and modes of presentation that modern thought employs, ” etc. To affirm the necessity of new expressions of the Faith, of pastoral style, was tantamount to discrediting the ancient dogmatic formulas.
The Pope immediately announced that the Church would no longer condemn errors, on the grounds that they “ exclude each other ” and, “ as quickly as they arise, they vanish like fog before the sun ” (sic !). To change the formulas and then to announce that the Church would no longer condemn… What would you say about a pharmacist who gives orders to his employees to change the labels of all the flasks of his pharmacy, guaranteeing them impunity in case of error or crime ?
In his Opening Address of the second session, Paul VI used more general terms to invite the Assembly to reform the face of the Church to resemble the Face of Her Lord Whom she contemplates : “ The Church wants to see herself in Him as though in a mirror, ” etc. This comparison and contrast only make sense, if the Church contemplates Christ separately, without any kind of mediations. This “ interior illumination of the Holy Spirit ” becomes the supreme Rule of faith ; it frees the one who enjoys it from all submission to the dogmas and traditions or to the Scriptures that would be contrary to it.
Finally, in the constitution Dei Verbum, the Council distorts the classic doctrine of the Church in a precise sense : to submit the teaching of the Magisterium to Scripture and the so-called ‘ living ’ Tradition with the obvious aim of freeing itself from the encumbrance of dogma, in the name of Scripture and the living experience of present-day Christians. In no. 10, a key text, the role of the Magisterium was recalled at the demand of the minority, a reminder that was regretted by the others, even though it had no lasting impact !
This totally ambiguous text is made clearer by the intention that presided over its laborious drafting, an intention that is summarised in these three points :
1° Revelation transcends the Acts of the Magisterium. This is true, but it prepares for the falsehood.
2° The Church of Vatican II returns to Revelation. She replenishes herself directly at it. This is an exorbitant pretention, that of collegial free judgement.
3° This revision of dogma, in a pastoral manner, must produce a general enrichment of the faith with an ecumenical impact. This is tantamount to announcing a mutation, the substitution of one doctrine for another.
The postconciliar situation. To denounce this intention does not amount to imputation. The intention was avowed. The will to innovate produced its fruits :
1° The danger of lapsing into Protestant and Modernist heresy was not feared but was denied. This way of perdition was not at all barred ; openings were made in that direction.
2° Implementing this revision of dogmas in conformity with the Constitution and with the agreement, at least tacit, of the hierarchy essentially consisted in the general abandonment of the ante-conciliar teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in favour of the living Gospel and a new Revelation of Christ in the world.
3° The result is known : an immense and scandalous confusion of language, the substitution of a hundred opinions for the unique Creed, the crumbling of the Faith. What is more, by order of the hierarchy acting in the name of the Council, the liturgy and catechetics have been systematically renewed in view of a new, informal, immanentist ‘ training in the faith ’. The ancient rites and catechisms have been reproved and banished precisely because they preserved the Roman faith in its unchangeable form.
Critical examination. John XXIII’s thought smacks of heresy and promotes it. In fact, the dogmatic language is as unchangeable as its object. It does not change with the mentality or the culture of men. New theologies are possible and permitted. They are submitted to the Magisterium’s judgement and are never obligatory. On the other hand, all criticism and, a fortiori, all contestation of canonised dogmatic expressions are forbidden.
Paul VI’s thought smacks of heresy and promotes it. No one – not even a Pope, nor even a Council – can claim to contemplate Christ, by direct illumination or with the help of Scripture and Tradition, above and against the constant teaching of the Magisterium, with a view to correcting and improving it according to this subjective vision.
The Constitution Dei Verbum smacks of heresy and promotes it. Its surprising praise of scientifically studied Scripture and its presentation of the ‘ Word of God ’ currently uttered by the men of the Church as though it were a real and current presence of the living and acting Christ, substitutes for the firm teaching of the Church a Word that does not exist personified, structured, or objective in our common experience. This thesis is taken from illuminism.
The demand of the faithful : that their Pastors teach and protect the Catholic Faith !
Georges de Nantes,
CRC no. 50, November 1971, p. 14
Cf. To Prepare Vatican III, ‘ The Sources of the Faith. ’
POINT NO. 18 : AGAINST THE GLOBALISATION OF INDIFFERENCE.
(cf. our Point 111 : Economic Science… Is Not Innocent)
54. “ In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised workings of the prevailing economic system. ” The Pope responds to this so-called ‘ economic science ’ with a cry of indignation :
“ Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle that excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalisation of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us ; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle ; they fail to move us. ”
POINT NO. 19 : NO TO THE NEW IDEOLOGY OF MONEY.
(cf. our Point 125 : For a Rigorous Society)
55. “ One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis : the denial of the primacy of the human person ! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32 :1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings ; man is reduced to one of his needs alone : consumption. ”
56. “ While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. ”
To put it more exactly, they monopolise power, through the mechanism of democratic institutions, for the sole benefit of the ruling party.
“ A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, that unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realise the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything that stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. ”
POINT NO. 20 : NO TO A FINANCIAL SYSTEM THAT RULES RATHER THAN SERVES.
(cf. our Point 123 : A Catholic Revolution)
57. “ Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. ” Replying to this, the Pope encourages financial experts and political leaders “ to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity : ‘ Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods that we hold, but theirs. ’ ”This “ sage ” is none other than a Father of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, whom Francis resembles like a brother !
58. “ Money must serve, not rule ! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. ”
POINT NO. 21 : NO TO THE INEQUALITY THAT SPAWNS VIOLENCE.
(cf. our Point 113 : The Vengeance of the Uprooted)
59. “ Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, however, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes, law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquillity. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. ”
60. “ Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence that recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. ”
POINT NO. 22 : CHRISTIAN LIBERTY.
61. The Pope goes so far as to confront this situation with ‘ some cultural challenges ’. The expression first refers to “ veritable attacks on religious freedom, ” which are the causes of “ new persecutions directed against Christians ; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. ”
He, however, implicitly condemns ‘ religious freedom ’ as being contrary to ‘ Christian liberty, ’ by recognising “ how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan that transcends individual gain and personal ambitions. ”
62. “ In many countries globalisation has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of ways of thinking and acting proper to other cultures that are economically advanced but ethically debilitated. ” Admire the euphemism used by a Pope who does not want to upset anyone. To put it plainly : in Africa and in Asia the episcopal synods deplored the masses of ignominious programmes that “ the media and entertainment industries ” of our ‘ culture ’ dump on helpless populations.
63. As for “ the Catholic Faith ” itself, it “ is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism while others seem to propose a spirituality without God. This is, on the one hand, a human reaction to a materialistic, consumerist and individualistic society, but it is also a means of exploiting the weaknesses of people living in poverty and on the fringes of society, people who make ends meet amid great human suffering and are looking for immediate solutions to their needs. These religious movements, not without a certain shrewdness, come to fill, within a predominantly individualistic culture, a vacuum left by secularist rationalism. ”
What a strange explanation using abstractions in Benedict XVI’s style to avoid recognising the “ vacuum left ” by the conciliar reformism !
Being a vigilant pastor, however, Francis adds :
“ We must recognise that if part of our baptised people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. ”
Fifty years of conciliar reformation have led to this admission by a Pope who does not equivocate : “ In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelisation. ”
Nevertheless, there are also external causes :
64. “ The process of secularisation tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism. These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood that are so vulnerable to change. ”
Sister Lucy spoke of “ diabolical disorientation. ”
Here is the result : “ As the bishops of the United States of America have rightly pointed out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms that are valid for everyone, ‘ there are those in our culture who portray this teaching as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights. Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without reason, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In this view, the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom. ’ ”
Thus it was in vain that Paul VI proclaimed religious freedom at the U.N. before imposing it under duress ( !) upon the Council : the Church remains the tutelary power established by Our Lord Jesus Christ !
65. This is what Pope Francis maintains. Going against the Second Vatican Council, he gives back to us the freedom that we have in Christ to admire and defend the Church :
“ Despite the tide of secularism that has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need.
“ Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the environment, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth. And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world ! This is a good thing. Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good. ”
POINT NO. 23 : THE FAMILY.
(cf. our Point 40 : The Family, a Cell of Christianity)
66. “ The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another ; it is also the place where parents pass on the Faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.
“ The indispensable contribution of marriage to society, however, transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. As the French bishops have taught, it is not born ‘ of loving sentiment, ephemeral by definition, but from the depth of the obligation assumed by the spouses who accept to enter a total communion of life. ’ ”
67. “ The individualism of our postmodern and globalised era favours a lifestyle that weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds. Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion that heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. ”
Thus ‘ personalism ’ is not the last word of our ‘ culture ’ but rather “ the relationship with the Father, ” our most cherished heavenly Father, the foundation of the family. This is salutary !
POINT NO. 24 : CATHOLIC HUMANISM.
(cf. our Point 103 : A Catholic Ecology)
68. “ The Christian substratum of certain peoples – most of all in the West – is a living reality. Here we find, especially among the most needy, a moral resource that preserves the values of an authentic Christian humanism. Seeing reality with the eyes of faith, we cannot fail to acknowledge what the Holy Spirit is sowing. It would show a lack of trust in His free and unstinting activity to think that authentic Christian values are absent where great numbers of people have received baptism and express their faith and solidarity with others in a variety of ways. This means more than acknowledging occasional ‘ seeds of the Word ’, since it has to do with an authentic Catholic faith that has its own expressions and means of showing its relationship to the Church. The immense importance of a culture marked by faith cannot be overlooked ; before the onslaught of contemporary secularism an evangelised culture, for all its limits, has many more resources than the mere sum total of believers. An evangelised popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom that ought to be gratefully acknowledged. ”
69. Consequently, what will the “ evangelisation ” of “ countries of Catholic tradition ” entail ?
“ It will entail encouraging, fostering and reinforcing a richness that already exists. ”
Or to restore it !
As for the “ countries of other religious traditions, or profoundly secularised countries, it will mean sparking new processes for evangelising culture, even though these will demand long-term planning. ”
At any rate, the Pope gives “ popular piety ” his preference.
70. He, however, has reservations about “ alleged private revelations thought to be indisputable. ”
To whom, to what is he referring ? We need to know, because Pope Francis’ predecessor, the “ emeritus Pope, ” placed Fatima in this category.
Francis adds : “ Nor can we overlook the fact that in recent decades there has been a breakdown in the way Catholics pass down the Christian Faith to the young. It is undeniable that many people feel disillusioned and no longer identify with the Catholic tradition. Growing numbers of parents do not bring their children for baptism or teach them how to pray. There is also a certain exodus towards other faith communities. ”
When did this “ breakdown ” occur ? To be quite precise, it dates back to the “ decade ” 1960-1970. Its obvious cause is the Second Vatican Council.
Pope Francis, however, seems to be unaware of this :
“ The causes of this breakdown include : a lack of opportunity for dialogue in families, the influence of the communications media, a relativistic subjectivism, unbridled consumerism that feeds the market, lack of pastoral care among the poor, the failure of our institutions to be welcoming, and our difficulty in restoring a mystical adherence to the Faith in a pluralistic religious landscape. ”
All this bears a name : religious freedom. Proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council it engendered the “ pluralistic religious landscape. ”
POINT NO. 25 : GOD IN THE CITY.
71. “ The new Jerusalem, the Holy City (cf. Ap 21 :2-4), is the goal towards which all of humanity is moving. ” Ourcities prefigure it. In them, the Pope’s contemplative gaze “ sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares. ”
72. Pope Francis is thinking about the Samaritan city called Sychar, which is mentioned in St. John’s Gospel, and advocates “ a dialogue like that of our Lord and the Samaritan woman at the well where she sought to quench her thirst (cf. Jn 4 :7-26). ”
73. “ New cultures are constantly being born in these vast new expanses where Christians are no longer the customary interpreters or generators of meaning. Instead, they themselves take from these cultures new languages, symbols, messages and paradigms that propose new approaches to life, approaches often in contrast with the Gospel of Jesus. ”
Yet, it is urgent “ to imagine innovative spaces and possibilities for prayer and communion that are more attractive and meaningful for city dwellers. ”
74. “ Various subcultures exist side by side, and often practise segregation and violence. The Church is called to be at the service of a difficult dialogue. ”
75. “ We cannot ignore the fact that in cities human trafficking, the narcotics trade, the abuse and exploitation of minors, the abandonment of the elderly and infirm, and various forms of corruption and criminal activity take place. At the same time, what could be significant places of encounter and solidarity often become places of isolation and mutual distrust. Houses and neighbourhoods are more often built to isolate and protect than to connect and integrate. The proclamation of the Gospel will be a basis for restoring the dignity of human life in these contexts, for Jesus desires to pour out an abundance of life upon our cities (cf. Jn 10 :10). ”
POINT NO. 26 : A PATERNAL REMONSTRANCE.
76. How is it possible to be a missionary in such circumstances ? By resisting certain temptations that besiege “ pastoral workers, from bishops down to those who provide the most humble and hidden services. ”
The Pope begins by affirming “ in justice, that the contribution of the Church in today’s world is enormous. The pain and the shame we feel at the sins of some members of the Church, and at our own, must never make us forget how many Christians are giving their lives in love. They help so many people to be healed or to die in peace in makeshift hospitals. They are present to those enslaved by different addictions in the poorest places on earth. They devote themselves to the education of children and young people. They take care of the elderly who have been forgotten by everyone else. They look for ways to communicate values in hostile environments. They are dedicated in many other ways to showing an immense love for humanity inspired by the God Who became man.
“ I am grateful for the beautiful example given to me by so many Christians who joyfully sacrifice their lives and their time. This witness comforts and sustains me in my own effort to overcome selfishness and to give more fully of myself. ”
77. Nevertheless, the Pope is also an uncompromising director of conscience who has no illusions :
78. “ Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. At the same time, the spiritual life comes to be identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world or a passion for evangelisation. As a result, one can observe in many agents of evangelisation, even though they pray, a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour. These are three evils that fuel one another. ”
POINT NO. 27 : LET US NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE ROBBED OF MISSIONARY ENTHOUSIASM !
79. “ At times our media culture and some intellectual circles convey a marked scepticism with regard to the Church’s message, along with a certain cynicism. ”
Whose fault is it ? The fault lies with the Second Vatican Council. Its alleged ‘ reformation ’ was based on a criticism of the Church. As a consequence, “ many pastoral workers, although they pray, develop a sort of inferiority complex that leads them to relativise or conceal their Christian identity and convictions. This produces a vicious circle. They end up being unhappy with who they are and what they do; they do not identify with their mission of evangelisation and this weakens their commitment. ”
80. The Pope probes the wound to the bottom : “ Pastoral workers can thus fall into a relativism which, whatever their particular style of spirituality or way of thinking, proves even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism. It has to do with the deepest and inmost decisions that shape their way of life. This practical relativism consists in acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist.
“ It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle that leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission.
“ Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm ! ”
POINT NO. 28 : LET US NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE ROBBED OF THE JOY OF EVANGELISATION !
81. Instead of assuming “ a missionary dynamism that will bring salt and light to the world, many lay people fear that they may be asked to undertake some apostolic work and they seek to avoid any responsibility that may take away from their free time.
“ For example, it has become very difficult today to find trained parish catechists willing to persevere in this work for some years. Something similar is also happening with priests who are obsessed with protecting their free time. This is frequently due to the fact that people feel an overbearing need to guard their personal freedom, as though the task of evangelisation was a dangerous poison rather than a joyful response to God’s love that summons us to mission and makes us fulfilled and productive. Some resist giving themselves over completely to mission and thus end up in a state of paralysis and acedia. ”
The Pope is severe but how are we not to agree that he is right ?
82. “ The problem is not always an excess of activity, but rather activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, without a spirituality that would permeate it and make it pleasurable. As a result, work becomes more tiring than necessary, even leading at times to illness. Far from a content and happy tiredness, this is a tense, burdensome, dissatisfying and, in the end, unbearable fatigue. This pastoral acedia can be caused by a number of things. Some fall into it because they throw themselves into unrealistic projects and are not satisfied simply to do what they reasonably can. Others, because they lack the patience to allow processes to mature ; they want everything to fall from Heaven. Others, because they are attached to a few projects or vain dreams of success. Others, because they have lost real contract with people and so depersonalise their work that they are more concerned with the ‘ road map ’ than with the journey itself. Others fall into acedia because they are unable to wait ; they want to dominate the rhythm of life. Today’s obsession with immediate results makes it hard for pastoral workers to tolerate anything that smacks of disagreement, possible failure, criticism, the cross. ”
83. In brief, “ a tomb psychology thus develops and slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum. ”
POINT NO. 29 : LET US NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE ROBBED OF HOPE !
84. Pope Francis quotes the passage of John XXIII’s Opening Address to the Council, on October 11, 1962, in which he attacks “ those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. ”At that time, these words were aimed at the message of Our Lady of Fatima. The Pope had read Her Third Secret but contrary to the will of the Blessed Virgin that Sr. Lucy had transmitted, he refused to reveal it.
85. Today, we see Pope Francis making this ‘condemnation’ his own in a totally different sense, against “ one of the more serious temptations that stifles boldness and zeal, ” i.e. “ the evil spirit of defeatism, which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘ sourpusses ’. ” Such was precisely the “ evil spirit ” of the ‘reformers’ of 1962, Fathers Rahner, Congar, de Lubac, Schillebeeckx ! Pope Francis sets out ‘ against the tide ’ to vanquish.
“ No one can go off to battle, ” he continues, “ unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to St. Paul : ‘ My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness ’ (2 Co 12 :9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross that is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. ”
86. “ In some places a spiritual ‘ desertification ’ has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. ”
“ In those places ‘ the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground, which transforms into a desert. ’ ” Newman wrote these words in a letter of January 26, 1833. What would he say today ? !
“ In other countries, violent opposition to Christianity forces Christians to hide their faith in their own beloved homeland. This is another painful kind of desert. Even one’s own family or workplace can also be a parched place where faith nonetheless has to be preserved and communicated. ”
“ In these situations we are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from His pierced side, that our Lord gave Himself to us as a source of living water.
“ Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope ! ”
POINT NO. 30 : THE REVOLUTION OF TENDERNESS.
87. “ Today, when the networks and means of human communication have made unprecedented advances, we sense the challenge of finding and sharing a ‘ mystique ’ of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage. ”
One might think that the description depicts his arrival on St. Peter’s Square for the Wednesday general audience !
88. Against those who “ want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross […], the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence that challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy that infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. By His Incarnation, the Son of God summoned us to the revolution of tenderness. ”
POINT NO. 31 : LONG LIVE POPULAR RELIGION !
(cf. our Point 41 : Respect for the Immemorial Popular Religion)
89. “ Isolation, which is a version of immanentism, can find expression in a false autonomy that has no place for God. In the realm of religion, however, it can also take the form of a spiritual consumerism tailored to one’s own unhealthy individualism. ”
What is the remedy ?
90. “ Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are corporeal, they have a face. ”
POINT NO. 32 : LET US NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE ROBBED OF THE COMMUNITY !
91. The Pope quotes the Imitation of Jesus Christ, showing that “ the solution will never be found in fleeing from a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others. This happens frequently nowadays, as believers seek to hide or keep apart from others, or quietly flit from one place to another or from one task to another, without creating deep and stable bonds. ‘ Imaginatio locorum et mutatio multos fefellit ’ : Dreaming of different places, and moving from one to another, has misled many.’ ”
“ It means learning to find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas. ” In a footnote, the Pope quotes St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus who supported an old infirm, ill-natured sister :
“ ‘ One winter evening I was carrying out my little duty. It was cold and growing dark… Suddenly I heard in the distance the harmonious sounds of a musical instrument. I began to imagine a well-lit drawing room, brilliantly gilded, and in it, elegantly dressed young ladies exchanging worldly compliments and courtesies. Then my glance fell upon the poor invalid whom I was supporting. In place of a melody, I heard her occasional complaints […]. I cannot express what took place in my soul. What I know is that the Lord illumined it with the rays of truth which so surpassed the flickering glow of earthly revels, that I could scarcely believe my happiness. Ah ! I would not have exchanged the ten minutes employed in carrying out my humble office of charity to enjoy a thousand years of worldly feasts. ’ (Manuscrit C, 1897) ”
A word to the wise is enough !
92. “ There indeed we find true healing, since the way to relate to others that truly heals instead of debilitating us, is a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity. It is a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the heart to divine love and seeking the happiness of others just as their heavenly Father does. Here and now, especially where we are a ‘ little flock ’ (Lk 12 :32), the Lord’s disciples are called to live as a community that is the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt 5 :13-16). ”
POINT NO. 33 : NO TO SPIRITUAL WORLDLINESS.
93. “ Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for : ‘ How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God ? ’ (Jn 5 :44). It is a subtle way of seeking one’s ‘ own interests, not those of Jesus Christ ’ (Ph 2 :21). It takes on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. ”
94. A first form consists of “ a purely subjective faith the only interest of which is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information that are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his own thoughts and feelings. ” The Pope calls this “ worldliness ” “ Gnosticism. ”
Another form, which is the opposite, consists of “ the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelising, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. ”
The analysis is implacable !
“ In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelising thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity. ”
POINT NO. 34 : LET US NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE ROBBED OF THE GOSPEL !
95. The Holy Father dismisses equally all the forms of these two sorts of “ attitudes that appear opposed ” and have“ the same pretence of ‘ taking over the space of the Church, ’ ”of which he alone is the legitimate Head…
“ In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something that is the property of a select few. ”
Our Father has jealously preserved us from this haughty integrist reaction by maintaining communion at all costs with the other Catholics in the parish, the diocese and in the Church.
According to the Pope, another form of “ this spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or an obsession with programmes of self-help and self-realisation. It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions. It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations the principal beneficiary of which is not God’s people but the Church as an institution.
“ The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present ; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervour is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence. ”
96. “ This way of thinking also feeds the vainglory of those who are content to have a modicum of power and would rather be the general of a defeated army than a mere private in a unit that continues to fight. How often we dream up vast apostolic projects, meticulously planned, just like defeated generals ! This is to deny our history as a Church, which is glorious precisely because it is a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work, tiring as it may be, for all work is ‘ the sweat of our brow ’. Instead, we waste time talking about ‘ what needs to be done ’ – in Spanish we call this the sin of ‘ habriaqueísmo ’ – like spiritual masters and pastoral experts who give instructions from on high. We indulge in endless fantasies and we lose contact with the real lives and difficulties of our people. ”
97. “ God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings ! This stifling worldliness can only be healed by breathing in the pure air of the Holy Spirit Who frees us from self-centredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel ! ”
POINT NO. 35 : THE TIME FOR RECONCILIATION.
98. “ How many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities ! In our neighbourhoods and in the workplace, how many wars are caused by envy and jealousy, even among Christians ! Spiritual worldliness leads some Christians to war with other Christians who stand in the way of their quest for power, prestige, pleasure and economic security. Some are even no longer content to live as part of the greater Church community but stoke a spirit of exclusivity, creating an ‘ inner circle ’. Instead of belonging to the whole Church in all its rich variety, they belong to this or that group which thinks itself different or special. ”
We find in Fr. de Nantes’ writings the same depiction of the sectarianism of alleged ‘ traditionalists ’ for whom “ the important thing becomes not the safeguarding nor the understanding of the Faith but the need to furnish their troops with massive arguments to sustain their exasperation. The important thing is no longer to preserve one’s communion, however painful, with the visible, hierarchical, apostolic Church, but to construct chapels for the ‘ in group ’ far from all the others and their pestilence. To do this they ignore the Pope for the sake of a Bishop who makes himself pope, or a priest who makes himself bishop, or a layman who makes himself leader of the sect and chapel proprietor. ” (Integrism, Progressivism ? Traditionalism ! CCR no. 79, October 1976, p. 14)
POINT NO. 36 : LET US NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE ROBBED OF THE IDEAL OF FRATERNAL LOVE !
99. “ Our world is being torn apart by wars and violence, and wounded by a widespread individualism that divides human beings, setting them against one another as they pursue their own well-being. In various countries, conflicts and old divisions from the past are re-emerging. ”
“ I especially ask Christians in communities throughout the world to offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion. Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another : ‘ By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another ’ (Jn 13 :35). This was Jesus’ heartfelt prayer to the Father : ‘ That they may all be one… in Us… so that the world may believe ’ (Jn 17 :21). Beware of the temptation of jealousy ! We are all in the same boat and headed to the same port ! Let us ask for the grace to rejoice in the gifts of each, which belong to all. ”
100. “ Those wounded by historical divisions find it difficult to accept our invitation to forgiveness and reconciliation, since they think that we are ignoring their pain or are asking them to give up their memory and ideals. If, however, they see the witness of authentically fraternal and reconciled communities, they will find that witness luminous and attractive. It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose one’s personal ideas at all costs, even to persecutions that appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelise if this is the way we act ? ”
101. “ Let us ask the Lord to help us understand the law of love. How good it is to have this law ! How much good it does us to love one another, in spite of everything. Yes, in spite of everything ! St. Paul’s exhortation is directed to each of us : ‘ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good ’ (Rm 12 :21). And again : ‘ Let us not grow weary in doing what is right ’ (Ga 6 :9). We all have our likes and dislikes, and perhaps at this very moment we are angry with someone. At least let us say to the Lord : ‘ Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to You for him and for her ’. To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelisation. Let us do it today ! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love ! ”
POINT NO. 37 : THREE CONCERNS.
102. “ Lay people are, put simply, the vast majority of the people of God. The minority – ordained ministers – are at their service. ” After having affirmed that “ there has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the laity in the Church, ”the Pope must recognise that “ this involvement is not reflected in a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors. ”
103. The second concern deals with “ the indispensable contribution that women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess, ” for example devotion to others.
104. Surprisingly, we can read that “ men and women are equal in dignity, ” even though the Pope rightly puts the Blessed Virgin above all else. In a few brilliant lines, however, he writes that “ the reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse Who gives Himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion. ” After having recalled the distinction between the greatness of function and that of holiness, he writes : “ Indeed, a Woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops. ”
105. His third concern is that “ youth ministry, as traditionally organised, has also suffered the impact of social changes. ” To be precise, he ought to speak of the change of religion brought about by the Second Vatican Council. Since then, “ young people often fail to find responses to their concerns, needs, problems and hurts in the usual structures… For the same reason, our efforts in the field of education do not produce the results expected. ” Take for example the new catechisms that no longer transmit the Faith. That is the truth.
106. The Pope, however, insists on “ recognising that despite the present crisis of commitment and communal relationships, many young people are making common cause before the problems of our world and are taking up various forms of activism and volunteer work. ”
107. Nevertheless, it must also be admitted that “ many places are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. ” This is no reason to “ accept candidates on the basis of any motivation whatsoever, especially if those motivations have to do with affective insecurity or the pursuit of power, human glory or economic well-being. ”
108. As for “ the elderly, ” they are not a concern but a resource : “ The elderly bring with them memory and the wisdom of experience, which warns us not to foolishly repeat our past mistakes. ” Namely all the mistakes that have been accumulated during the fifty years of ‘ conciliar reformation ’.
“ Young people call us to renewed and expansive hope, for they represent new directions for humanity [cured of its illusions]and open us up to the future, [which will be the Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary], lest we cling to a nostalgia for structures and customs that are no longer life-giving in today’s world, ”since they have caused the ruin of the Church.
109. “ Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour ! ”