Thursday, November 15, 2012

Penance and Evangelization: Cardinal Dolan's Answer to Persecution

Many Catholics have been walking around in a kind of dazed state of mind since the re-election of President Barack Obama, an avowed enemy of the Catholic Church who stands against everything the Church teaches. Obama's re-election ensures that persecution of the Church will now be institutionalized in the government. It is a sure guarantee that all future laws will be in opposition to Church teaching and Catholics will be forced to choose between their Church and their country.

On top of that, we have lost all hope for our beloved country itself.  The United States is like a burning building in a 5-alarm fire.  We cannot save the building.  Our task now is to try to pull as many souls to safety as we can before the building burns completely to the ground.

However, the harder we work to save the souls trapped in the burning building called the United States, the more persecution we will receive from those who are, consciously or not, bent on destroying the Catholic Church and, in turn, destroying the country.

It is imperative to recognize that we are in the midst of a great spiritual war. There is no neutral ground in this war.  The GOP candidate in this last election tried to convince us it was all about the economy.  No, Mr. Romney, as bad as our economy is, that was not the pivotal issue.  This election was about the spiritual state of our nation, and you lost because you failed to recognize that fact.  The Democrats knew it and campaigned on the social issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality, and that is why they won.  As a result, the Culture of Death is now completely in charge of the United States of America.

The combatants in this spiritual war have been clearly defined.  One side is our secular, humanist society which rejects all spiritual, moral values and embraces a hedonistic lifestyle.  The other side is one that affirms life, supports traditional marriage and morality, and values every human being, especially those who are weakest and most vulnerable.  If you are not actively a part of the Culture of Life as it was called by Blessed John Paul II, then you are part of the Culture of Death.  There are no other options, no neutral ground.  No one is on the sidelines, everyone is in this fight.  If you are trying to coast and not get involved, then you have chosen the Culture of Death.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, perfectly described the current state of our nation in his book, Spirit of the Liturgy, published in 2000:
Law without a foundation in morality becomes injustice. When morality and law do not originate in a God-ward perspective, they degrade man, because they rob him of his highest measure and his highest capacity, deprive him of any vision of the infinite and eternal. This seeming liberation subjects him to the dictatorship of the ruling majority, to shifting human standards, which inevitably end up doing him violence . . . When human affairs are so ordered that there is no recognition of God, there is a belittling of man.
Moses receiving the
10 Commandments from God
Giving us a prime example, Cardinal Raztinger went on to discuss ancient Israel and their physical attainment of the Promised Land and how Mt Sinai - where God gave them the 10 Commandments and which represents God in the life of Israel - fits into the goal of the Promised Land :
It becomes clear that what took place on Sinai [the giving of God's law], in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the [promised] land.  Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters.  No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. . . . Sinai remains present in the Promised Land.  When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.  Whenever Israel falls away from the right worship of God, when she turns away from God to the false gods (the powers and values of this world), her freedom, too collapses.  It is possible for her to live in her own land [representing freedom] and yet still be as she was in Egypt [the land of slavery].  Mere possession of your own land and state does not give you freedom; in fact, it can be the grossest kind of slavery.  And when the loss of law becomes total, it ends in the loss even of the land.

We in the United States have completely pushed our Creator out of our laws.  Our laws are no longer based on the Judeo-Christian ethic - on the 10 Commandments.  Our laws are based on how we feel and what we want.  I want my birth control, I want my abortion, I want to be able to marry anyone I choose, be it man or woman.  As we have just seen in two states - Colorado and Washington where recreational use of marijuana was legalized - we can now legally use drugs.  Just as we can kill our inconvenient babies, we are also on the edge of legalizing the killing of our elderly, sick and handicapped if they get in our way.  Physician assisted suicide was very narrowly defeated in Massachusetts, but suicide is already legal in Washington and Oregon and sure to spread to other states.

Like the Israelites, we have lost the reality of Sinai - God's Law - and as Cardinal Ratzinger so presciently pointed out, this will result in the loss of our land.  The re-election of Barack Obama has sealed the deal. As I previously stated, the house is burning down.  We can't save the building, but we can and must try to save souls.

The question is, how did America go from a nation based on the Judeo-Christian ethic of the 10 commandments to one based on secular, humanist values?  Is it just coincidence that America's slide into degeneracy is simultaneous with the rejection of so many in the Catholic Church of Humanae Vitae?  The Catholic Church is the ark of salvation to the world, the salt of the earth, the city set on a hill.  If we reject the Law of God, the rest of society doesn't stand a chance.  And that is exactly what we have seen.  50% of the Catholic vote went for President Obama, the symbol of all that is wrong with America.  Just as it was Catholics who initially put Obama into office, so it was the Catholic vote that re-elected Obama.  And the Church and society will now pay the ultimate price.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan at the Bishops' Conference
The Catholic Church must come to repentance for what she has done and what she has failed to do.  And it would seem that the head of the US Bishops, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, is aware of this fact.  Cardinal Dolan gave a pretty amazing speech at the recent conference of US Bishops in Baltimore in which he emphasized penance and the New Evangelization. Cardinal Dolan's speech is one that can also benefit the faithful as well. We didn't see our usually jolly, wise-cracking Cardinal this time. He was very serious and reminded me of a general preparing his troops before sending them out to battle.   He began with telling the bishops that before trying to convert the Culture, they have to start with themselves and their relationship with the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ:  From Catholic World Report:
But I stand before you this morning to say simply: first things first. We gather as disciples of, as friends of, as believers in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, "the Way, the Truth and the Life," who exhorted us to "seek first the Kingdom of God."
We cannot engage culture unless we let Him first engage us; we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with Him; we cannot challenge unless we first let Him challenge us.
The Venerable Servant of God, Fulton J. Sheen, once commented, "The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was 'come'; the last word of Jesus was 'go'."

Opening of Second Vatican Council
He then quoted Blessed John XXIII at the opening of the Second Vatican Council in which Blessed John XXIII emphasized the need for evangelization.
Fifty years ago, on October 11, 1962, Blessed John XXIII courageously convened the Second Vatican Council "the greatest concern of which," he insisted, "is that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously." (Allocution on the occasion of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudet mater ecclesia).
We gather for our plenary assembly in our nation's premiere see, at the close of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, still near the beginning of the Year of Faith. Both occasions have the same origin, the same goal expressed by Blessed John XXIII: the effective transmission of the faith for the transformation of the world.
Cardinal Dolan then quotes from our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI on the importance of re-evangelizing ourselves before we take on the world, and that we should do this not just once but as an ongoing process:
Here's an especially striking example from his [Pope Benedict XVI] first ad limina address: "Evangelization," the Successor of St. Peter noted, ". . . appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ's truth."
To put even more emphasis on the need for the bishops (and the laity) to start with themselves when it comes to evangelization, Cardinal Dolan quotes from the final message given at the last Synod of Bishops. As he says, evangelization starts with a call to conversion of ourselves:
As we bishops at the just concluded Synod of Bishops confessed in our closing message:
"We, however, should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us as Bishops personally. In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion." 
"We Bishops firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus' disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware – we bishops first of all – that we can never really be equal to the Lord's calling and mandate to proclaim His Gospel to the nations. 
We… do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced that the Lord's Spirit is capable of renewing His Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let Him mold us." (Final Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God, October 28, 2012)
The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization – you and me -- will never achieve that abundant harvest Blessed John XXIII described unless we are willing and eager to first be evangelized themselves. Only those themselves first evangelized can then evangelize. As St. Bernard put it so well, "If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir."
Sacrament of Confession
At this point, Cardinal Dolan touches on a subject that we have rarely heard in our churches in recent decades:  the need for penance and the sacrament of penance.  His Eminence has recently been speaking of this fairly often, and I give him much credit for doing so.  Our personal conversion cannot take place without recognition of and penance for our own sin.  Without penance, people forget they are sinners.  Without penance, we are unable to be a witness to the world of the saving message of Christ's Gospel.  Cardinal Dolan seems to be taking concrete steps to get this message to the Church.
I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That's the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the Sacrament of Penance.
"To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance," declared the council fathers in the very first of the documents to appear, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (SC, n. 9)
​To be sure, the sacraments of initiation - - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist - - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.
​But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance -- a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.
What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.
​We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? "The Kingdom of God is within," as Jesus taught.
​The premier answer to the question "What's wrong with the world?" "what's wrong with the church?" is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming . . .none of these, as significant as they are. As Chesterton wrote, "The answer to the question 'What's wrong with the world?' is just two words: 'I am,'" 
* * *
 We kneel in the Sacrament of Penance because we are profoundly sorry for our faults and our sins, serious obstacles to the New Evangelization. But then we stand forgiven, resolute to return to the work entrusted to us - as evangelizers of the Gospel of Mercy. 

Cardinal Dolan next made a statement that has energized many Traditional Catholics, but will leave many average Catholics in [and out] of the pews scratching their heads and wondering what he is talking about:
The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. Our pastoral plan offers numerous resources for catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance, and the manifold graces that come to us from the frequent use of confession. Next June we will gather in a special assembly as brother bishops to pray and reflect on the mission entrusted to us by the Church, including our witness to personal conversion in Jesus Christ, and so to the New Evangelization.
I personally find this very exciting. The Church has never discontinued Friday as a day of penance.  Friday has always been a day of penance in the Church because it is the day our Lord died, and doing penance keeps the great Saving Sacrifice of our Lord central in our lives.  The traditional penance was to abstain from meat.  But in trying to free the laity from rules and regulations, Bishops came to the conclusion that Catholics should be able to decide their own penances.  The result was no one did anything.  Most Catholics in these times are not even aware of Friday as a day of penance and, in fact, many believe Friday penance is no longer required.  This is truly tragic because it has led directly to the loss of awareness of Christ's great sacrifice on the Cross and the reason for that sacrifice - our sins.  Without penance, the Church starts to die, and the society dies with it.

St. John Vianney in the Confessional,
where he would often be
16-18 hours each day
Cardinal Dolan ends his speech by stressing, along with penance, the virtues that spring from penance:  humility and love. It is very hard to be proud when you are aware of your own sins. When we are repentant and humble, the Holy Spirit can then fill us with His Love and Compassion for men and use us to preach God's Gospel of mercy and salvation:

We work at giving our people good examples of humble, repentant pastors, aware of our own personal and corporate sins, constantly responding to the call of Jesus to interior conversion. Remember the Curé of Ars? When a concerned group of his worried supporters came to him with a stinging protest letter from a number of parishioners, demanding the bishop to remove John Vianney as their curé, claiming he was a sinner, ignorant, and awkward, St. John Vianney took the letter, read it carefully ... and signed the petition!
As I began my talk this morning, my brothers, so I would like to end it, with Blessed John XXIII.
It was the Sunday angelus of October 28, 1962.The message the Holy Father delivered on that bright Roman afternoon never even mentions the phrase New Evangelization.  But it strikes right at the heart of the mission entrusted to each of us as shepherds.
"I feel something touching my spirit that leads to serenity," Good Pope John remarked. "The word of the Gospel is not silent.  It resonates from one end of the world to the other, and finds the way of the heart. Dangers and sorrows, human prudence and wisdom, everything needs to dissolve into a song of love, into a renewed invitation, pleading all to desire and wish for the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ. A kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love and peace."
How could we not see it alive in those holy men and women of every time and place, the heroic evangelizers of our faith, including most recently St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope?

We have beheld it in the Church's unrelenting corporal and spiritual works of mercy, in the heroic witness of persecuted Christians, in the Church's defense of unborn human life, the care of our elders and the terminally ill, advocacy for the unemployed, those in poverty, our immigrant brothers and sisters, victims of terror and violence throughout our world, of all faiths and creeds, and in our defense of religious freedom, marriage and family.

And, I have suggested today, that as we "come and go" in response to the invitation of Jesus, we begin with the Sacrament of Penance.  This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization, for as Pope Benedict reminds us, "We cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire to conversion." (Homily for the Opening of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops).

With this as my presidential address, I know I risk the criticism. I can hear it now: "With all the controversies and urgent matters for the Church, Dolan spoke of conversion of heart through the Sacrament of Penance. Can you believe it?"
To which I reply, "You better believe it!"
First things first!

Confessional used for storage
My hope is that these are not just words, but that Cardinal Dolan will follow up these words with actions.  I hope that he will reimplement abstinence on all Fridays throughout the year, not just Lent.  I hope that under his direction we will start hearing about the Sacrament of Confession on a regular basis, and that Churches will start offering this Sacrament on a daily basis as most Churches did in the past.  Maybe churches will revert the confessionals they have turned into storage places back into confessionals where people can be pulled from the jaws of hell. 

Of course, if you're going to preach about the Sacrament of Confession, that means preaching about the reason for this Sacrament - sin.  No more general sermons about "being nice" and "loving everyone".  Certainly we need to hear about God's mercy and love and about extending this love to others, but we also need our priests to hold up the mirror and show us our sins.  We need to hear about the evils of birth control, cohabitation, homosexuality.  We need the priests to tell us that missing Mass on Sunday without excuse is a mortal sin and puts our souls in eternal danger.  We need to hear about the reality of hell.  And we need to hear that we must be in a state of grace to receive the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord in communion. 

Holy Mother Church has given us the tools and weapons that are necessary to fight the spiritual war in which we are all involved.  But if we don't use what we have been given, we will be defeated and many, many souls will be lost. 

We can't save the United States. That ship has sailed.  Let us be about the business of pulling souls from the fires that surround us, starting with our own soul.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vatican II: Blessing or Curse?

The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.
Blessed Pope John XXIII

October 11, 2012 was the 50th Anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council.  The Vatican II Council basically defined the 20th Century Catholic Church.  Everything that happened in the Church prior to Vatican II is referred to as "pre conciliar", and everything after Vatican II is called "post conciliar".

Alas, the Vatican II Council would also seem to be the most divisive event in the Church, not just in the 20th Century but possibly in her entire 2000 year history.  Casual Catholics probably don't give the Council a second thought, but more serious Catholics have very strong opinions, both good and bad, when it comes to the Second Vatican Council.  The problem is, too many of us don't base our opinions or beliefs regarding Vatican II on what we are told or taught by the Magesterium, but on what we have heard or been told by others.  It's like forming an opinion about a person based on gossip and never actually meeting the person face to face.

I most definitely consider myself a "traditional" Catholic.  I love the Latin Mass and am fortunate enough to be able to go to a Latin Mass several times a week.  Many of my friends are "traditional" Catholics and I have a great affection for them.  But I have to admit that sometimes my fellow "Trads" go a little over the top.  Mention "Vatican II" to a Traditional Catholic and often you will get a "Slowly I Turn" response.  You will see an otherwise mild mannered, soft spoken person become somewhat unhinged, not holding anything back in voicing his or her disdain for Vatican II. Many "traditional" Catholics point to Vatican II as basically the root of all evil in the church, calling it, in effect, the door through which Satan entered into the Church. This is seen very clearly in a recent article written by John Vennari entitled, "Celebrating a Catastrophe, the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II".  This article appeared in Catholic Family News, an ultra conservative newspaper.  The title tells us everything we need to know about Mr. Vennari's views on Vatican II:
To commemorate the anniversary, Pope Benedict inaugurated the “Year of Faith,” which we can observe is yet another one-size-fit-all slogan that everyone in the Church from conservative to the most liberal will adopt according to his own lights.  [Has Mr. Vennari read Pope Benedict's letter in regard to the Year of Faith?  Has he read any of the talks the Holy Father has given on the Year of Faith and its meaning and purpose?]
What would be more appropriate on the Council’s 50th Anniversary would be a “Year of Mourning” for the countless souls whose faith was destroyed by Vatican II, or a “Year of Reparation” for the abuse of Catholic authority in promoting modernism and liberal Catholicism by means of this troublesome Council.

The fact remains that the Second Vatican Council is nothing to celebrate. It ushered in perhaps the greatest crisis of Faith in the Church’s history. An objective, thoroughly Catholic measuring rod was laid out by a clear thinking American theologian even before the Council convened. This realistic standard established by Msgr. Fenton demonstrates the Council as a colossal disaster.
One of the many books written
by Catholics condemning
Vatican II
Whoa!! These are some mighty strong accusations to make against the Magesterium.  Vatican II was a "colossal disaster"? It "ushered in perhaps the greatest crisis of Faith in the Church's history"?  The article becomes even more scathing:
It is the proponents of liberal Catholicism who celebrate Vatican II as victory for their cause.

The progressivist Cardinal Suenens exclaimed with joy, “Vatican II is the French Revolution of the Church.”

The liberal French Senator Marcel Prelot celebrated that Vatican II accomplished the triumph of “liberal Catholicism” as “official” Church policy.
The modernist Father Henrici celebrated that Vatican II also saw the triumph of the modernist “New Theology” that had been condemned by the pre-Vatican II popes. [What is the "New Theology" and how is this connected to Vatican II?  Mr. Vennari doesn't give us an explanation.] Young Father Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Karol Woyjtyla were firm adherents of this new theology at the time of the Council and throughout their entire lives.  [This statement comes dangerously close to condemning our current Holy Father and his immediate predecessor.]
On this 50th Anniversary, it time for the charade [???] to end. Traditional Catholics should be long past simply defending their position against the architects of destruction. The situation calls for an all out offensive against the catastrophic Second Vatican Council, and for hard questions to those who, in a delirium that comes straight from the sickbed, celebrate Vatican II as a glorious grace for Catholicism.  [Is Mr. Vennari suggesting that Catholics rise up against the Church??  And is he suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI, who most definitely is celebrating Vatican II, is in a "delirium that comes straight from the sickbed"?]
We need to ask those enthused about the Council: why do you love an event that has been cataclysmic for the Church? Why do you love bubonic plague? Why do you love tonsillitis? Why do you love gangrene? Why do you love decay and death? [Again, are these questions directed to our Holy Father?]
Pope John XXIII signing the bill
invoking the Second Vatican Council
Mr. Vennari is condemning a Council that has been lauded by at least four popes:  Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Blessed Pope John Paul II and our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.  (I could not find any statements by Pope John Paul I either positive or negative about Vatican II.)  Is Mr. Vennari trying to tell us that he is able to judge the hearts of those men who were chosen by the Holy Spirit as the Vicar of Christ on earth?  Is Mr. Vennari trying to tell us that these popes are/were "proponents of liberal Catholicism"?  Is it really Mr. Vennari's place, or the right of anyone else, to judge the men chosen and led by the Holy Spirit to sit in the Chair of Peter?

I'm not playing Pollyanna here.  Vatican II had some very contentious moments, and there was most certainly a struggle between the liberal and conservative elements of the Church at the Council.  In fact, I would think it could not have been any other way considering the times.  The Council took place at a very momentous time in both Church history and world history, and the forces of good and evil were then and still are engaged in a tremendous struggle.  The world in 1962 had been through two horrific world wars and experienced suffering and destruction on a scale never before seen in history.  This was less than 20 years after the end of World War II in which it is estimated that 60 to 70 million people died, and many of the survivors were still shell shocked.  Pope John XXIII and all of the bishops at Vatican II had lived through those times, and many had seen the horrors of World War II up close and personal.  Many were old enough to remember World War I as well.  Humanity was desperately in need of Christ's saving message, and Pope John XXIII wanted to share the saving Gospel message of God's mercy and love with the world in the best way he could find.  That was his hope for the Council.

Pope John XXIII Addressing the
Opening of the Second Vatican Council
Pope John XXIII made the following statement at the beginning of the council on October 11, 1962, strongly affirming that the aim of the Council was not to lessen the authority of the Magesterium, as so many Traditional Catholics now claim, but to actually emphasize the infallibility of the Magesterium and at the same time to make the Church even more accessible to the world:
In calling this vast assembly of bishops, the latest and humble successor to the Prince of the Apostles who is addressing you intended to assert once again the Magisterium (teaching authority), which is unfailing and perdures until the end of time, in order that this Magisterium, taking into account the errors, the requirements, and the opportunities of our time, might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world.
Warsaw, Poland in World War II
The Holy Father also gave a strong message of God's mercy to a war weary world.  It was a message which fit in with the proclamation of Divine Mercy given directly by our Lord to St. Faustina less than 30 years before the Council:
[T]he Catholic Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her. To mankind, oppressed by so many difficulties, the Church says, as Peter said to the poor who begged alms from him: "I have neither gold nor silver, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6). In other words, the Church does not offer to the men of today riches that pass, nor does she promise them merely earthly happiness. But she distributes to them the goods of divine grace which, raising men to the dignity of sons of God, are the most efficacious safeguards and aids toward a more human life. She opens the fountain of her life-giving doctrine which allows men, enlightened by the light of Christ, to understand well what they really are, what their lofty dignity and their purpose are, and, finally, through her children, she spreads everywhere the fullness of Christian charity, than which nothing is more effective in eradicating the seeds of discord, nothing more efficacious in promoting concord, just peace, and the brotherly unity of all.
St. Peter healing the beggar
Blessed John XXIII went on to succinctly state the problem faced by the Church and by all mankind since the founding of the Church 2000 years ago,  Far from endorsing other religions, as many Traditionalists claim, the Holy Father showed that to reject the Catholic Church is to reject Jesus Christ:
The great problem confronting the world after almost two thousand years remains unchanged. Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life. Men are either with Him and His Church, and then they enjoy light, goodness, order, and peace. Or else they are without Him, or against Him, and deliberately opposed to His Church, and then they give rise to confusion, to bitterness in human relations, and to the constant danger of fratricidal wars. 
Many Traditionalists accuse Blessed John XXIII of trying to break new ground spiritually or replace traditional church doctrine with liberal ideas.  These Traditionalists don't seem to know of the following statement from His Holiness:
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.
So if Blessed John XXIII's intention was to strengthen the message and teachings of the Catholic Church, then how did it turn out that Vatican II had the exact opposite effect in which we see millions of Catholics falling away from the Church, a huge drop in vocations, apostate priests and religious, etc etc.  These tragic circumstances which have developed in the last 50 years would seem to confirm the very troubling assertions made by those like John Vennari who reject Vatican II.

However, much to the chagrin of many Traditional Catholics, we have the added problem that all of the Holy Fathers since Blessed John XXIII have given their approval to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.  This produces a real conundrum for Catholics.  If we are to believe those who reject the teachings of Vatican II, then we must also believe that our Popes are not infallible when it comes to faith and morals.  If the Popes are not infallible, then it is possible for a Pope to rebel against the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it comes to the teachings of the Church, thus making Jesus Christ a liar.  Our Lord told us that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church, but if our Popes are giving us false teaching, then hell has prevailed in the Church.   To quote the Apostle Paul, we are of all men most miserable.  They may not realize it, but people like John Vennari are telling us that our Catholic faith has been destroyed and we have no hope.

But is this really possible?

There have been many books written about Vatican II, but there is one book that approaches the Council in a truly unique way. What Went Wrong With Vatican II was written by the late Ralph M. McInerny, who is best known for his Father Dowling mysteries.  In his book on Vatican II published in the 1990's, Mr. McInery freely admits and laments the great crisis that has engulfed the Catholic Church since Vatican II.  He lays out the statistics of dropping attendance and the loss of vocations.  He discusses the great rebellion among Catholics that we have all witnessed since the 1960's.

He also methodically and clearly shows that the root cause of the crisis in the church is not and, in fact, cannot be the teachings of Vatican II.  Whether we like it or not, Vatican II is part of the Magesterium of the church, and it is not possible for the Magesterium to give us false doctrine.  Following is Mr. McInery's answer to John Vennari and all others who reject the teachings of Vatican II:
Since the close of the council, tens of thousands of pages have been written discussing the meaning and proper implementation of hundreds of points made in sixteen documents.  In some of these many books are heard the voices of critics who claim that the Second Vatican Council contradicts earlier councils and other solemn teachings of the Church and therefore is itself invalid.
To these critics I say that whatever problems may be posed by the documents of Vatican II, contradiction of earlier councils cannot be one of them.  It is the Pope who calls an ecumenical council into session; he monitors the work of the assembled bishops; and he promulgates the documents expressing the judgment of the bishops.  When he does that, those documents become the measure of our Faith.
That which makes Vatican II valid is what made Vatican I, the Council of Trent and every other council valid.  To accept one council is to accept them all; to reject once council is to reject them all; we cannot have pick-and-choose conciliarism.
I do not, therefore, defend the Second Vatican Council against those who think it is suspect and in contradiction to earlier councils or to solemnly defined teachings of the Church.
Mr. McInery has made some very serious statements here, and those who stand in opposition to Vatican II should take them to heart.  Many and probably most of the Traditionalists who oppose Vatican II do so out of what they perceive to be loyalty to the teachings of the Church.  But these Catholics should be the first ones to realize that the Church is not a democracy.  Our own personal opinions and beliefs carry no weight whatsoever.  We must always follow the teaching of the Pope.  He is the Vicar of Christ on earth, and if we stop believing that, we have stopped being Catholic.

Mr. McInerny goes on to address those Catholic liberals who misuse the Council to justify going against sound Church teaching:
On the contrary, I take as a necessary premise the fact that we are bound by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Yes, I grant that many passages in the sixteen documents of Vatican II require careful study and interpretation, but study that begins with an animus against the council is bound to go astray. For my part, I embrace the council wholeheartedly and with gratitude. My aim is to clear away the impediments to its proper fulfillment.

And that itself is urgent work. For among those who accept the authority of the council, some have tried to use its documents to justify practices that the council Fathers never foresaw or intended. A comprehensive evaluation of such abuses of the council documents is essential for understanding much of the history of the Church since Vatican II. It would produce a very interesting judgment on the kaleidoscope of changes in the Church these last thirty years, changes that many have welcomed and that many abhor.
As I pointed out, Mr. McInery fully admits that there is a major crisis in faith in the church and is as appalled as anyone else at the many Catholics who have fallen completely off the rails.  But if he doesn't attribute Vatican II to this crisis, then what does he feel is the basis of the crisis?
Nonetheless, although I accept the council and reject the abuses of it, I have not in these pages attempted such a kaleidoscopic survey. Volumes could be devoted to it, but I believe they would obscure rather than illuminate the most fundamental answer to the question, "What went wrong with Vatican II?"

To give the very deepest answer to that key question, I have written a lean and focused book. I purposely avoid hundreds of important but lesser issues that might be raised by a thoughtful and receptive reading of the documents of Vatican II.
Why? So that I can concentrate on the one issue that gives life to so many of the other controversies swirling around the council and the Church today: the crisis of authority, which is the single most important focus stirring up the choppy seas through which the Barque of Peter has been navigating since the close of Vatican II.
For thirty years [now 50 years], the Catholic faithful have been confused and troubled by a single question: Where does authority in the Church really reside? Only a sure answer to this question will expose the roots of the problem of what went wrong with Vatican II. Only a sure answer to this question will enable us to see what must be done to bring the council back to its intended goals.
Is Vatican II the reason for the rebellion and the crisis of authority in the Church?   As Mr. McInery writes in his book:
War seems to have broken out within the Church Herself: appealing to Vatican II, prominent theologians deny the authority of the Pope and urge the faithful to ignore it. Yet how can the council be right and the Pope be wrong?
When did this war actually break out?  Many Catholics tend to forget about the events surrounding the release of Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae.   This document  IMHO, is the most important document of the 20th Century.  Humanae Vitae contains the answer to at least 90% of the problems in our world.  If the teachings in this document had been followed, we would not have the probably billion plus abortions (both chemical and surgical) that the world has witnessed in the past 50 years.  We would not have the scourge of AIDS and the hundreds of other sexually transmitted diseases.  Our families would be intact instead of disintegrating before our eyes.  We would not have pornographic programs on our TVs and computers and even our cell phones.  Women would be treated with love and respect and not as objects intended solely for sexual gratification.  We would not have had the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.  We would not have the rise of militant homosexuality and the threat to marriage.  Barack Obama would not be President  because people would never accept his evil and heretical ideologies.  There would not be a war against the Catholic Church in the United States.  The list goes on and on.

Pope Paul VI warned us of all these dangers in his encyclical.   For anyone who questions whether our Popes are guided by the Holy Spirit, a reading of Humanae Vitae will immediately rid them of those doubts.   It is the most prophetic document of our time.

But when the Pope released Humanae Vitae in 1968 and confirmed the Church teaching that use of artificial birth control was a mortal sin, all hell literally broke loose.  It was at this time that the great rebellion began in the church.  Although there was a buildup of at least 100 years or more to this rebellion, it did not actually come to full bloom until the release of Humane Vitae.  The crisis in the church did NOT originate with Vatican II, nor did it even find its roots there.  The roots go back much, much further.  And although there were admittedly many at Vatican II who tried very hard to push the Church off the rails at that time, it did not occur there.  It occurred three years after the end of Vatican II with the release of Humanae Vitae.

Many Traditionalists complain, and rightfully so in my opinion, about the disintegration of the Mass and its terrible effect on the faith of Catholics.  Our current Holy Father wrote a book about the crisis in the Liturgy in 2000 called The Spirit of the Liturgy.  Most Traditionalists attribute the liturgical crisis in the Church to Vatican II, saying the seeds for the liturgical abuse we have seen through the years were sown at the Council.

This is just my opinion, but I see a direct connection between the rejection of Humane Vitae, which was rejection of the Vicar of Christ and by extension, rejection of Christ Himself, and the introduction of the New Mass the following year in 1969.  It seems to me that our Lord said that if we reject the authority of His Vicar, His response was to take away one of the most precious gifts He had given us:  the Holy Mass.  Many wonder why Pope Paul VI wanted to give us a New Mass.  I believe he was directly inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, but this was as a punishment for our rebellion.  Is it just coincidence that veneration and devotion to Our Lady also seems to have faded in the Church?  Again, I believe this is a direct response to our rebellion and rejection of God's command to the church.

The Israelites in the Wilderness
But God in his Great Mercy and love for the Church, despite our rebellion and rejection, did not and would not allow the Mass to be totally destroyed, and it is slowly but surely coming back.  It is not unlike the Israelites' journey from Egypt into the Promised Land.   Just as the Israelites rejected Moses and the authority of God and as punishment God forced them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until that rebellious generation had died, so God has allowed the Church to wander in the spiritual wilderness after our rejection of Him when we were given Humane Vitae.  But that rebellious generation is slowly dying out and a new, faithful generation is taking their place.  We need to ask ourselves where we individually stand.

A clear and unprejudiced view of the recent history of the Church reveals that Vatican II is not our problem. It is rejection of Humanae Vitae.  That is where rebellion came into full bloom.  For a full and illuminating look at this subject, I cannot recommend enough that you read Ralph McInery's book, What Went Wrong with Vatican II.  

If Traditionalists are to be truly honest with themselves, then they must face the brutal truth and admit that they are guilty of the same sin of which they accuse their liberal counterparts:  rebellion against the authority of the church.  A very holy priest once told me that Satan is rarely in a problem.  His deception is almost always in the solution.  He will take whatever problem you might have and steer you to a solution that will lead you away from God.  I'm afraid that has happened to many Catholics who are very upset with the apostasies they have seen in the Church, but instead of trusting in the Vicar of Christ who cannot lead them astray, they have listened to others who sound good, but are leading in the wrong direction.  And to be totally honest, this can also be a great sin of pride because it gives us a chance to look down on others and puff up our own ego at how righteous we are.  Remember, Martin Luther had some legitimate grievances, but that didn't stop him from becoming a heretic.

Ralph McInery quotes one of the shepherd children of Fatima:
Jacinta, one of the three children to whom Mary appeared at Fatima, once said, "I can't say how, but I saw the Holy Father in a very large house, kneeling before a table with his face in his hands. He was crying. Many people were in front of the house; some were throwing stones, while others were cursing him and using foul language."

Has anyone better described the beleaguered state of the Papacy and the Magesterium of the Church since Vatican II?

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