Christ has endowed the Church with the gift of infallibility, the highest level of participation in His teaching authority. “This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of Divine Revelation; it also extends to those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed” (CCC, n. 2035).
Cardinal Raymond Burke
Cardinal Raymond Burke
I have posted many times on this blog about the great crisis of faith we have been experiencing in the Church in the last several decades. The very fact that 50% of Catholics voted for a pro-abortion, pro gay rights, anti-Catholic for president of the United States should tell us everything we need to know. Women want to be priests, priests want to get married, Catholics support abortion and same sex marriage, Mass attendance is at all time lows. Many in the Church, including many religious, i.e., the nuns on the bus, feel they are completely justified in questioning and even disobeying the authority of the Magesterium. But it isn't just the United States. For example, Ireland, once the most Catholic country in the world, has had a major drop off in Mass attendance and those faithful to the church. The entire country is down to one seminary and the continued existence of that one is in question. Similar circumstances can be found throughout the entire world.
I was recently listening to Michael Voris, and I found one Vortex episode particularly interesting. Michael asked for viewer participation in a survey to determine the top cause of the crisis we have witnessed in the Church in the past 50 years. He started out by stating that there are many causes to the Catholic Church crisis:
The crisis in the Church in the west has many causes and these causes create NEW causes which sometimes become responsible for even MORE problems that the original cause.
We’ve heard from hundreds of priests and seminarians .. as well as sisters and brothers and deacons .. even some bishops on what they each are the most concerned with. We’ve communicated with thousands and thousands of laity .. a lot of it face to face. So .. as we said .. we have put together a list of the top 10 most frequently pointed to causes of the crisis in the Church and here they are .. in no special order:
1. False Ecumenism – (too much protestant influence in liturgies and life of the Church)
2. Liberal Social Justice Agenda (including lack of attention to Pro-life issue)
3. Rebellion Among Clergy (being disobedient to the Magisterium)
4. Secular Relativism (attacks against the faith from outside the Church)
5. Cafeteria Catholics (indifferent and lukewarm Catholics)
6. Abuses at Novus Ordo Mass (lack of reverence, understanding of the Sacrifice)
7. Lack of Zeal by Bishops (more interested in earthly concerns than spiritual)
8. Unwillingness/Cowardice in Confronting Dissent (a “don’t rock the boat” attitude)
9. The Homosexual Clergy network (the infiltration into parish life, seminaries and orders)
10. Poor Lay Education and Priestly Formation (on all levels, school, college, RCIA, seminary)
My question is this: what has caused this explosion of spiritual cancer in the Church?
|Raymond Cardinal Burke|
Archbishop Burke started out with a very profound statement in which he says that our very relationship with Jesus Christ and our eternal salvation are bound up in the Magesterium. This should catch our attention immediately:
The relationship of the Magisterium to our eternal salvation lies at the very foundation of our life in Christ.
In a world which prizes, above all else, individualism and self-determination, the Christian is easily tempted to view the Magisterium in relationship to his individualism and self-pursuit. In other words, he is tempted to relativize the authority of the Magisterium. The phenomenon today is popularly known as “cafeteria Catholicism.” [This statement supports #5 (Cafeteria Catholics) of Michael Voris' list.]Archbishop Burke defines the "Magesterium" :
The entire content of our faith, what Saint Paul in his First and Second Letters to Timothy calls the deposit of faith, is found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition (1Timothy 6:20; and 2Timothy 1:12-14). The faith, in its integrity, has been entrusted to the Church by Christ through the ministry of the Apostles. The deposit of faith is the teaching of the Apostles and the living of that teaching in the life of prayer and the sacramental life, and the witness of the teaching in the moral life. The foundation is the sound doctrine which finds its highest expression in the Sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist, and which is witnessed in the holiness of life of the believer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter CCC), n. 84).
|When Christ gave Peter the|
Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven,
He established the Magesterium
The responsibility for the deposit of the faith and its transmission in every age belongs “to the living teaching office of the Church alone” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, “On Divine Revelation,” 18 November 1965, n. 10b). The “living teaching office” or Magisterium of the Church, exercised by the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him, has its authority from our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has conferred upon the Apostles, with Peter as their Head, and their successors, the Bishops, with the Successor of Peter as their head, the authority to teach authentically (CCC, n. 85).
Archbishop Burke emphasizes the fact that the Magesterium is the voice of Christ on this earth:
The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops are servants of Christ and of His Holy Word. The Magisterium “teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully” (Dei Verbum, n. 10b). The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him teach only what is contained in the deposit of faith as divinely revealed truth (CCC, n. 86).
The Magisterium, in obedience to Christ and by the power of the particular grace of the Holy Spirit, interprets the Word of God, contained in the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition, in matters of both faith and morals. The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him define the dogmas of the faith, that is, the truths contained in the deposit of faith and “truths having a necessary connection with these” (CCC, n. 88).
|The Magesterium leads the|
Church just as the Pillar of Cloud
and Fire lead the Israelites
Archbishop Burke gives a further explanation into the workings of the Magesterium:
The Magisterium is exercised in solemn declarations and in “catechesis and preaching” (CCC, n. 2033). The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him are, in the words of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: Lumen gentium, n. 25).Archbishop Burke would seem to take strong exception with those who say teachings of Vatican II are not part of the Magesterium and that we are not bound by them because Vatican II was pastoral and not doctrinal in nature. As a side comment, it is interesting to note that Archbishop Burke constantly referred to the documents of Vatican II to show the authority of the Magesterium. Archbishop Burke makes it plain in the following statement that all ecumenical councils are part of the Magesterium:
The Magisterium is either ordinary or extraordinary. The Ordinary Magisterium is all that the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with him teach. The Extraordinary Magisterium consists of the “definitions of the ecumenical councils or the ex cathedra definitions that the Popes might pronounce” (Louis Bouyer, Dictionary of Theology, tr. Charles Underhill Quinn, New York: Desclee Company, 1965, p. 290).
When we reject the Magesterium, we put our souls in extreme peril, and that is as true for "traditional" Catholics as for "progressives." This is why our Holy Father is insisting that the Society of St. Pius X accept all of the Second Vatican Council. To allow them to reject any part of the Council is to allow them to reject the Magesterium, an act expressly forbidden by the Holy Spirit.
Next, Archbishop Burke goes on to explain how and why the Magesterium is infallible. The gift of infallibility of the Magesterium "extends as far as does the deposit of Divine Revelation; it also extends to those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed” (CCC, n. 2035)." The Magesterium, according to this statement, not only explains the "saving truths of the faith", but actually preserves them.
Further, the infallibility given to the Bishops and the Holy Father in teaching the Divine Truth is also given to the faithful when it comes to believing these truths so that the "whole body of the faithful cannot err in matters of belief". The faithful's belief and acceptance of the Magesterium is just as much the work of the Holy Spirit as it is in the teaching of the Bishops and the Roman Pontiff:
The gift of infallibility, by which the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in communion with Him, exercise most solemnly the teaching authority of Christ, refers to the all-generous gift of Christ to the Church by which the “whole body of the faithful cannot err in matters of belief” (Lumen gentium, n. 12). The gift is manifest in what is called the sensus fidei, which is the grace to give assent to the faith, poured out by Christ on all the faithful. The Magisterium guides the faithful by handing on to them “the faith, once for all delivered to the saints” (Lumen gentium, n. 12).
The faithful, inspired by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them “unfailingly [adhere] to this faith, [penetrate] it more deeply with right judgment, and [apply] it more fully in daily life” (Lumen gentium, n. 12). It is clear that the sensus fidei is not the foundation for some democratic form of Magisterium but a reflection of the fundamental and essential obedience to the Magisterium in the lives of the faithful.The next statement by Archbishop Burke gives, I believe, the key to the crisis of faith that we have seen in the Church:
When Bishops and faithful obediently submit themselves in mind and heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the perennial truth of the faith shines forth in the whole Church for the building up of the Body of Christ and the transformation of the world.
Archbishop Burke shows us the consequences that arise when the bishops and the faithful do not "obediently subject themselves in mind and heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit":
In what pertains to morals, in particular, the faithful “have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason” (CCC, n. 2037). At the same time, the faithful “have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church” (CCC, n. 2037). The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that even the disciplinary norms of the Church “call for docility in charity” (n. 2037). One cannot fail to observe the grave harm done in the Church and in her mission to the world by the lack of obedience to the disciplinary norms regarding the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the teaching of the faith and the right order of the individual communities of the faithful. Our Lord Himself cautioned us that our fidelity in little things is the indispensable condition to our fidelity in great things (Luke 16:10). [This statement would seem to support #6 (Liturgical abuse), #7 (Lack of zeal by bishops) and #10 (poor Catechesis) of Michael Voris' list]Archbishop Burke puts the major responsibility upon his fellow bishops:
When the shepherds of the flock are obedient to the Magisterium, entrusted to their exercise, then the members of the flock grow in obedience and proceed, with Christ, along the way of salvation. If the shepherd is not obedient, the flock easily gives way to confusion and errors. The shepherd must be especially attentive to the assaults of Satan who knows that, if he can strike the shepherd, the work of scattering the flock will be made easy (cf. Zechariah 13:7). [This covers #3 (rebellion among the clergy) on the Voris list]I would submit that the root cause of the cancerous growths in the Body of Christ and, by extension, throughout the world, can be summed up in one word: sin.
Oh c'mon, you say. That's not the question. We want to know what causes people to turn away from church teachings.
Sin is both the the cause of all the ills in life we suffer and the result of our actions. It can be either our personal sin or the sin of others. Sin is what causes the growth of "abnormal cells." Sin is when, like Satan, we say to God "Non Serviam", "I will not serve." Each sin we commit is a replay of the original sin of our first parents. We are taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We are becoming our own magesterium, deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong, what is good and evil. When we do that, like our first parents, we are cast out of the Garden of Eden to a greater or lesser extent, and we are on our own in a spiritual wilderness. Disobedience to the Magesterium of the Church is sin, which leads to even greater sin in our lives until, if our sin is not repented of and absolved, we say to God as Satan did, "Non Serviam."
Since the time of Christ, our Lord has worked through only one Church, and has guaranteed that the teachings of that one church, the Catholic Church, are perfect. This does not mean that the people in the Church are perfect. Far from it. But the one thing in this world that you can rely on with 100% certainty is the Magesterium - the teaching - of the Catholic Church. You will never be led astray if you stay in line with the teachings of the Church.
Archbishop Burke tells us that obedience to faith is "the disposition of mind and heart to believe all that God has revealed to us and to do all that He asks of us." He goes on to say that obedience to the Magesterium, which is "the guardian and teacher of the faith, is the fundamental disposition of the baptized and confirmed Catholic." In other words, disobedience to the Magesterium destroys our faith, and as Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "without faith it is impossible to please God."
|A glaring example of how problems of morality|
stem from disobedience to the Magesterium
The moral life flows from our faith in God. It is the “obedience of faith” in action. The first tablet of the Ten Commandments governs our right relationship with God, which makes possible our right relationship with others and the world, governed by the second tablet. When we fail morally, we also fail in faith (CCC, nn. 2087-2088). I often recall the words of a sage professor of Canon Law, who taught me the Church’s discipline regarding clerics. More than once, he told the class: “Where there are problems of chastity, there are problems of obedience.” Our rebellion against the moral truth is a rebellion against God and all that He teaches us.Archbishop Burke readily admits that obedience to the Magesterium is no walk in the park. It has always been difficult and in many ways, is even more difficult in our modern times:
Obedience to the Magisterium is difficult for man in every age. The practice of the “obedience of faith” is difficult to master. The difficulty comes both from within us and from outside of us. We suffer the effects of the sin of our First Parents, which fundamentally was a sin of prideful disobedience, of rebellion against God’s will. The grace of the Holy Spirit, poured forth into our soul through Baptism, strengthened and increased in our soul through Confirmation, and nourished within our soul through the Holy Eucharist, alone helps us to overcome our inherited tendency to rebellion and disobedience.Archbishop Burke goes on to explain the difficulties we face in our modern culture in being obedient to the Magesterium:
The world around us, the culture in which we live, to the degree that it is has succumbed to Satan’s deceptions, is a source of strong temptation for us. Our culture, in fact, has been described as “godless” both by the late and most beloved Pope John Paul II and by Pope Benedict XVI. Our culture teaches us to act as if God did not exist. At the same time, it teaches a radical individualism and self-interest which lead us away from the love of God and from the love of one another.
Often the lack of obedience to the Magisterium is not total but selective. Our culture teaches us to believe what is convenient and to reject what is difficult for us or challenges us. Thus, we can easily fall into “cafeteria Catholicism,” a practice of the faith, which picks and chooses what part of the deposit of faith to believe and practice.Archbishop Burke now touches upon what I believe is one of the main sources of the crisis in the Church. It is not Vatican II, but the rejection and disobedience to Humanae Vitae:
A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.Archbishop Burke now goes on to tell us how to obey the faith:
To meet the challenges to the practice of the “obedience of faith,” we must draw upon the grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.How do we draw upon the Holy Spirit? Archbishop Burke gives us two key steps. First of all, we must have a life of prayer, "an indispensable condition for being able to obey God’s commandments. It is only through communion with God in prayer that we come to know His will in our lives and that we find the courage to do what God asks of us." Archbishop Burke emphasizes contemplative prayer, which is "hearing the Word of God." He tells us this is not a passive act, as it may appear from the outside, but "attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child." It is our participation with Christ in saying to the Father, "Not my will but yours be done", and with Mary when she said "Yes" to being the Mother of God.
Prayer and sacrifice will lead us directly to obedience of faith. In fact, Archbishop Burke says that it is impossible to have a life of obedience of faith without prayer and sacrifice:
Prayer and sacrifice necessarily lead us to attend to our growth in the life of the virtues. Prayer and sacrifice both unveil for us the virtues which make obedience possible and win for us the grace of the Holy Spirit to grow and develop in those virtues, for example, justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, humility, chastity, and, above all, charity (CCC, nn. 2340-2342).
Prayer, sacrifice and the practice of the Christian virtues lead us to hear God’s Word ever more attentively in our lives and to put it into practice, without hesitation or compromise. There is no other way to know God’s will in our lives and to do it, to know who we are and to be true to our identity. Clearly, they are the most important heritage for us to hand on to our children and young people.Archbishop Burke does not hold back but tells us plainly that our obedience of faith could ultimately lead to martyrdom, especially as our culture becomes more and more anti-Christian, as the trend now is:
The obedience of faith obliges us in all situations of life, also in situations in which it is most difficult to do what God asks of us. Ultimately, the obedience of faith could require martyrdom. In his Encyclical Letter Veritatis splendor, “Regarding Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching” of August 6, 1993, our late and most beloved Holy Father Pope John Paul II taught us that there can be no compromise in the obedience to the moral teaching of the Magisterium:
Even in the most difficult situations man must respect the norm of morality so that he can be obedient to God’s holy commandments and consistent with his own dignity as a person. Certainly, maintaining a harmony between freedom and truth occasionally demands uncommon sacrifices, and must be won at a high price: it can even involve martyrdom (n. 102a).
How often our beloved Father John A. Hardon, S.J., taught us that living the Catholic faith today in our totally secularized society demands a readiness to give the ultimate witness of martyrdom!Going way back to the beginning of this post, what is the answer to Michael Voris' question on the cause of the crisis of faith in the Church? It is all of the reasons he listed, which are in reality the result of rejection of the Magesterium of the Church. The Magesterium is our Pillar of Cloud and Fire to lead us through the spiritual desert in which we live. It is the means by which God protects us from the mortal dangers that surround us. To step outside of the protection of the Magesterium is to place ourselves outside the protection of our Lord and Savior, and to subject our souls to the very real danger of eternal hellfire.
A crisis of faith boils down to a crisis of authority, and takes us right back to the Garden of Eden - shall we eat of the Tree of Life, which is the Magesterium of the Catholic Church, or do we become our own Magesterium and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and find ourselves cast out into spiritual darkness.
Archbishop Burke concludes with the following statements, in which he tells us that there is no other way to salvation than obedience to faith, which is obedience to the Magesterium:
It is my hope that these few reflections will help us all to understand the fundamental importance of obedience to the faith for our eternal salvation and the irreplaceable service of the Bishops in leading us all to an ever purer and stronger obedience. There is no other way to salvation than hearing God’s Word and putting it into practice with all our being. The Letter to the Hebrews which teaches us, in a particular way, the “obedience of faith” reminds us that our Lord Himself “learned obedience from what He suffered” and thus became the source of eternal life, of eternal salvation, for us all. We ask for the obedience of Christ each time we pray to God the Father in the words which our Savior Himself taught to us: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We pray through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may imitate her belief that God’s promises to us will be fulfilled.
I conclude with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, inspired by our prayer, Christ’s prayer in us, that God’s will be done in all things. How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in Him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to His Son’s, in order to fulfill His will, His plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of His Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to Him and decide to choose what His Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father (n. 2825).
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles, intercede for us, that we may grow in the obedience of faith, in obedience to the Magisterium, for our own salvation and for the salvation of the world.
"Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
-St. Ignatius of Antioch