The people that John the Baptist preached to were very similar to the people of today.
Prior to the current and lively discussion on the actual validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the Papacy, there was (and is) a group of Catholics called sedevacantists who believe that the Chair of Peter has been empty for nearly 50 years, due to putatively-changed doctrine. “Sedes” (pronounced sed-ayz) as they are nicknamed in the traditional world, believe that the last valid Pope was Pope Pius XII. Some even deny the validity of his papacy and some even deny the validity his predecessors, going back centuries. Sedevacantism is Latin for “empty chair,” in reference to the Roman Chair of Peter. They have very good arguments for their positions, many of which I can not counter. (For those unfamiliar with this debate, yes—there are actually Catholics who make me look like an ultra-liberal!)
In any case, I have a good friend looking at the sedevacantists. Here is an email I wrote to him to discourage him from joining them. It was only after I hit “send” that I decided it was worth a blog-post, published with his permission, but no names of course:
You write “I simply don’t know what to do at this point.” My answer: Nothing. There’s an old phrase in Canon Law that is: impossibile non tenetur which means one is not held to the impossible in the Catholic life. In other words, God has not made life to be an intellectual riddle that is impossible to solve except for being solved by a few sedevacantists with their big book of old Pope quotes. I fully understand the difference between God’s positive will and His permissive will for this current Church crisis. But both types of providence still fall under God’s sovereignty. If that were not the case, then the only people to be saved would be sedevacantists because they have figured out God’s post V2 code.
It’s all intellectual for them, and really, it’s all intellectual for your quotes to me this past week. Yeah, they are pretty air-tight. So maybe they are totally correct. But sedes are so miserable and mean, that even if they were correct, I’m pretty sure I would not want to go to heaven with them. If only the miserable and mean who have finally cracked the intellectual code of Pope Paul IV and the 1917 code of canon law are going to heaven, then we are all held to the impossible by God and we are essentially nothing more than 5–point Calvinists (who the sedes all remind me of.) Also, remember the sedes don’t really have charity (just try to counter me on this!) and if faith without charity means nothing for salvation (1 Cor 13) then no one is going to heaven…in which case every single person is in an impossible situation…and Satan has beat us all into despair via a mind game.
You will never beat Satan at mind games in quoting canon law. I believe sedes are following Satan because Satan can quote Councils and Popes as well as Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in the desert. But Satan quoted Scripture without obedience and charity. As Calvinists live Sola Scriptura without obedience or charity, so also sedes are Sola Conciliar without obedience or charity.
Every family that goes sede is because the man gets wrapped up into endless syllogisms. I have never met a sede family where the woman, in total love, has a deep understanding of the Church. It is always the mind games of very, very intellectual men who is led by some spirit to lead their whole family into sedevacantism. And their arguments are usually air-tight. But again, Satan can quote Scripture and Popes perfectly.
Be very, very careful to not look at only all your endless arguments but to do St. Ignatius of Loyola’s discernment of spirits. More or less, St. Ignatius teaches that the one gift of the Holy Ghost that Satan can not simulate is peace. Peace is deeper than a feeling. If you are called to lead your family to sedevacantism, you will have an overwhelming peace of the Holy Ghost. (And remember that numerous Popes have set St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits as the gold standard of retreats and decision making.)
But you will never have peace in sedevacantism, as evidenced by the fact you have never met a peaceful sedevacantist. They are all so jumpy. I used to think they acted neurotic, but now I see that from a secular point of view (not theological) they all act mildly psychotic. There is no peace there. Have you ever met a joyful, peaceful, inspiring sedevacantist?
If you say “No, but that doesn’t matter in the face of all their arguments” then you are left with this:
We are all then called to this Catholic-Calvinism or Sola Conciliar Catholicism of anger, where God has (in His permissive will) wired the universe as a horrible riddle where only loveless sedes are saved and where the average Catholic (who can not read hundreds of pages of 14th century Popes every week to figure out the truth) has a goal of SALVATION HELD TO THE IMPOSSIBLE.
Sounds like a pretty good pathway to despair made perfectly by Satan, if you ask me.
The Office is not a particularly edifying TV show and I would not recommend it for its secular world view. I’ve never seen the UK version of The Office and I’ve only seen a few episodes of the American version. Still, it struck me this week that the personalities (not the religious or political views) but the personalities of The Office characters seem to reflect the very personalities attracted to various movements of American Catholicism in the 21st century.
Notice equal-opportunity target-practice below:
These are the young Catholics who want to make Catholicism look relevant. Jim Halpert is no neo-conservative on the TV show, but his personality is exactly what young neo-conservative Catholics like to be: cool but accessible. Perhaps he is even hip, at least when compared with the stranger breeds who surround him.
Baby boomer Catholics≈Phyllis
Again, Phyllis Vance is not a Catholic in the TV show, but Wikia’s “The Office” describes her as “very depressed, lacks self-esteem and is somewhat eccentric.” Yes, baby-boomer Catholics represent. Add a dash of harmless SJW in there, and you got it.
Cheerful and shallow
Traditionalists≈Angela and Dwight
The skin-tone screams “homeschooling-mommy-blogger.”
Dwight Schrute does not go to the Latin Mass, but he has what all Latin-Mass-men must come equipped with: weapons and conspiracy-theories.
Michael Scott thinks he’s figured out something no one else has, but really, he has not.
Oscar Martinez SJ?
This Sunday sermon is about why Jesus was not a people-pleaser, and why you shouldn’t be one either.
This subtitle is The 7 Hidden Dangers of Smartphones for Teens. The first of these seven is indeed cyberbullying. Simply read the first one if you were lured-in by the title of this blog post.
Recently, I was at a large family’s home. The kids were all out back blowing bubbles. The older kids, being about 10 years old, twirled foot-long wands out of their dish soap to create bubbles about six inches in diameter. The youngest brother who was playing bubbles with them was only five years old. He simply couldn’t help himself from popping his older sisters’ bubbles. I told him: “Just make your own.” He looked at me with a smile of pure-gold and said, “Yes, sir.” He then tried so hard for the next five minutes to obey me and his sisters’ pleas for longer bubble-longevity. He cranked out a few smaller bubbles. Still, he ended up running back to pop their bigger bubbles. He simply couldn’t help himself! His sisters and I were laughing at how he tried but failed.
The above bubble-story is true, but it could also be an analogy for something more serious that is happening to teens everywhere: To tell a teenager to avoid bad things and bad people on a smartphone is akin to telling a five year old not to pop giant bubbles. They just can’t do it. Many good parents have handed over a smartphone to their kids, covering their tracks with overly-moralized instructions. The weak ones are addicted by the end of the day. The strong ones are exhausted by the end of the day. I have worked with many families that range from non-Catholic to devout Catholic. Yet almost all these parents make same mistake: Parents give their teen (or worse, a child) a smartphone by explaining internet safety. It’s a nice start, but it fails to understand that the real dangers lurk not in who your kids’ search for, but who is searching for your kids.
1) Cyberbullying. Growing up, I weighed 2/3 of what my friends weighed, so I got bullied occasionally on the playground. But I always had a way out. Cyberbullying targets do not have a way out. Cyberbullying is making fun of someone on social media. It is particularly harmful because of the backdrop of loneliness and isolation in families today. Global broadcasting against them on social media makes teens feel like the whole world is against them. This is obviously devastating to their social lives and psyches. Many teens are targeted for cyberbullying, but one that I will always remember is Kiana. Kiana was a cheerleader in my home state of Colorado. She was bullied online by “friends” who were jealous of her. They repeatedly made fun of her weight and told her to hang herself. Eventually, she obeyed their instructions and she hung herself. Her Dad found her barely alive. She was airlifted from the southern suburbs to Denver Children’s Hospital. She survived, but with severe brain damage, secondary to lack of oxygen before her father found her. This is her today:
Someone snapped that picture of us all, about two years after the tragedy. Kiana was not raised Catholic, but we still met later through mutual friends. I never expected to use the above picture for a blog post, but her mother gave me permission to write about this when I told her my concern about teens and technology. After coming out of the hospital, Kiana and her family got a Colorado law passed against cyberbullying. Subsequently, Kiana has told her story to Denver News stations. Thus, this blog is not revealing anything private.
Of course, the reason we are all smiling in that picture is because Kiana is alive, and because she is a beautiful child of God. Her parents are wonderful and loving people. We all wish she had never been cyberbullied, but the whole family is attempting to overcome the tragedy in making a conscious efforts to live as the phrase says: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
I never asked her parents if the cyberbullying happened on a smartphone or a desktop, and that is irrelevant to this post. In fact, I am not judging parents as wonderful as the parents of Kiana. I am simply writing this so that my readers might know that even the best kids from the best families get cyberbullied. Kiana was a cheerleader in a nice suburb of Denver and yet probably no one knew she was getting cyberbullied. Readers might protest: “But my kids have never told me anything like that.” Exactly. They don’t tell anyone, for they are embarrassed to share. And then they hurt themselves. I recently asked a friend who works at a pediatric ICU if he has seen anything like teen suicides. He told me he had seen innumerable teen suicide attempts, some as young as 8 years old, sometimes by hanging. Of course, Satan is behind this hatred of our children. But on a natural level, I think that a lot has changed in America since I left Emergency Medical Services in 2004. In those days, I was only seeing adult suicides, never child suicides.
But nowadays, the loneliness and isolation of social media locks kids into a world that they cannot escape from. Since they can not escape from the virtual world without escaping from the real world, they do just that: They escape from the real world by committing suicide. Few of the parents of these suicides thought that their kids had a problem. Even the best kids in the world tend to hide their deepest feelings of inadequacy from their parents. Sometimes, kids simply believe that their parents are too busy. Or, sometimes parents see a little depression but remove themselves from the parent-role under the false pretext of inadequacy themselves. Maybe parents are afraid that they don’t have answers as brilliant as Dr. Phil. But the key to success is not having great answers. Simply “good” answers will do. In fact, the key to success is even more simple: Turn off the phones and turn your families on. Just be there for your kids. Just listen to them, even if you have lame answers. That’s all your kids are looking for, anyway. You can’t do that if you’re all looking at your own private device. Get rid of the smartphones if you want to avoid cyberbullying.
2) Pornography According to Covenant Eyes, 90% of boys and 60 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn by age 18. According to InternetSafety101, searches for “teen porn” tripled to 500,000a day (!) from 2005 to 2013. A single site released their 2015 statistics, which state that a total of 4.3 billion hours of porn was watched there in 2015. Do you realize the difference between a million and a billion? It would take you about a week to count to a million. It would take you over 30 years to count to one billion! Now, 4.3 billion hours of porn were watched at one porn site in 2015. There are only 7 billion people on this planet. That means that on average, every human being on this planet spent 40 minutes of his year on that single porn site. Of course, not everyone is looking at pornography, but a disproportionate number of those people using porn are teenagers. From great families. It’s so simple: If you give your kids a black-porn machine to keep in their pocket and bed, they will use it. If they don’t search for porn, porn will find them. I don’t know why this happens to teens and even children more than adults, but they are so susceptible to getting found by bad websites. Why gamble with your kids’ souls? That is exactly what you are doing if you give them a smartphone. (If you or someone you love is addicted to porn, scroll to the bottom of my blog post here to read some heavy-duty advice on to come off porn quickly and effectively.)
3) Sexting: Something “good kids” would never do, or maybe just sometimes: This is another term I did not learn until I was a priest, but this is when boyfriends and girlfriends text semi-nude or full-nude pictures to each other. Sometimes it’s just a body part. Besides being a mortal sin, here’s another reason to avoid it: Even the images that self-destruct after being sent can be saved by the recipient if he knows how to do a “screen save.” Another teen can save those forever, or embarrass the sender by putting it on the internet. Many boyfriends have embarrassed their ex-girlfriends this way, leading to more suicides of these poor girls (and sometimes boys.) Again, I promise you that your kids are not “too good” to get into this stuff. Some flip phones don’t have the ability to send pictures, so go for a flip-phone instead. (Funny we all grew up without flip-phones and even went to universities without them.)
4) Trafficking and kidnapping is a real danger to even the best kids on social media. Traffickers find kids, especially girls, through social media. See HERE and HERE and HERE to see how and why. Although social media can lead to outright kidnapping in other countries, the means in the United States are more subtle: Most traffickers in the United States lure in lonely girls through what those in the rescue movement call “Loverboy syndrome.” For example, a 24 year old male acts like he is the only one who understands a lonely 14 year old girl. She falls in love with him. He brings her to a hotel where her life is history. Other kids are trapped by traffickers through a job application or modeling job that they do not tell their parents about. Others teens find a “sugar daddy” to pay online for something they need, but the transaction must be done in person. Of course, the child is kidnapped at that first meeting. This doesn’t just happen to “those types of families.”
“But my kid would never…” There are thousands of child sex-slaves in the United States. None of those kids had planned sex-slavery as a life. I once asked the FBI director of child cyber crimes in Chicago what it felt like to put away a criminal into prison. I thought he would give a tough guy answer to me about “throwing away the key.” Instead, he simple said: “It’s like taking a spoonful of water out of Lake Michigan.” In other words, he meant that there is an endless list of men abusing children, and one criminal behind bars makes almost no difference. But you can make a difference by not letting your kids on social media until they are 18.
5) Multi-tasking on devices destroys brain-matter.The University of Tokyo reports that “higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex.” Another study at the University of London “found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana.” (emphasis mine) Larry Kim at the Observer notes that “a study from the University of Sussex ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”
It’s a good thing that none of your teens text while watching TV! Otherwise we might start to see a nation of kids with a lower IQ and lower empathy. Marijuana and smartphones will lead the next generation of teens to create a world that looks like Idiocracy or any of the other dystopian films that are turning out to be strangely prophetic in a secular sort of way.
6) Smartphone Isolation and Self-Injury. As mentioned above, using multiple devices may reduce “emotional control.” Usually self-injury means cutting oneself, but there are other forms, including burning. I have discovered in my priesthood that it is usually not suicidal. At least 7% of University students do some form of self-injury according to the National Institute of Health study here. But I have also read on self-injury websites that up to 25% of all University women in the United States do some form of self-injury. I think it is closer to the latter. Of course, I would never blog about anything confessional, but I can share a conversation that I had with a teenage boy when I was running a youth group from when I was a seminarian (before I was a priest.) I asked this 12 or 13 year old boy why he cut his arms up. I will never forget his answer. He said: “Because I can’t talk to anyone about anything.”
Indeed, his cut arms were pressure-release valves for his interior frustration of having no one to talk to. No friends. No parents who cared. It’s like the Goo-Goo Dolls line, “You bleed just to know you’re alive.” If the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is harmed by devices’ overuse and that is the area responsible for empathy and emotional control, then the conclusion is obvious: Isolated children with smartphones will not be able to control their emotions. But they can control a knife on their arms. Again, this is not suicidal. It is an exterior manifestation of interior frustration that could sometimes (but not always) be alleviated by putting down the video games and getting outside to just play. At the very least, turn off the phones and turn on life. That is the only answer.
7) You don’t need a smartphone and neither do your kids. Remember Pascal’s wager on the existence of God? If God exists and you believe, you get heaven. If not, you get hell. If God doesn’t exist and you believe, you lose a little fun on earth. If not, you only gain a little fun on earth. Apply a wager like that to your kid having a smartphone: If you give your kid a smartphone and she fails at temptation, she is addicted or stalked or cyberbullied. If she navigates temptation well with her smartphone, she is exhausted at the end of the day (but still dumber) and slightly more popular with the social status of having an iPhone.
However, If you don’t give your kid a smartphone and she protests, then she is correct about some increasing mild social pressure to have a smartphone or inability to complete a certain internet homework assignments on the go (yeah right.) If you refrain from smartphones in your family and she turns out psychologically and spiritually balanced, it means (from the six things I listed above) that she endured mild social ostracizing (for not having a smartphone) all for the sake of being: Not cyberbullied, not addicted to pornography, not sexting boys you never met, not getting trafficked into sex-slavery, and…she lives with a lesser chance of cutting her arms.
Is the wager worth it? Why bring your kids into the near-occasion of sin, and then tell them to avoid sin?
As I finished this article, I thought of renaming it “Why no one needs a smartphone.” We adults also need to ask if our soul in heaven is worth constant connectivity on earth. In 2003, I had one of the first phones with email and internet. The next year was my first year in seminary, so we had to give up all technology. In 2005, I got a simple flip phone, which I used all through the next five years. In fact, I used a flip phone for the first five years of my priesthood. I have been a priest seven years. The past two years I got a smartphone only for my blogging, videos and podcasts. My point is this: If I can go as an active priest until I am 36 with a flip phone, and still be available for emergencies, then most people don’t need a smartphone. In fact, I look forward to the day that I get rid of mine all together.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out.”—Mt 5:29. This is not to be taken literally, except for the fact that sin functions like addiction, and addiction can only be broken by a self-discipline so serious that it often feels like a violence to the soul. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”—Mt 11:12. Like any act of violent warfare, one can never negotiate with a terrorist, and this is true in spiritual warfare too. It might lead to many fights in the house to rid the family of smartphones, but addicted kids are crying out for discipline and boundaries, even if his or her initial response speaks to the contrary. Even if it leads to temporary arguments on homework assignments that can only be completed with a smart phone (yeah right) I still would hold on to this: No education or social status is worth your kids’ souls, bodies, or mental health.
In fact, if that smartphone causes you adults to sin, remember that no psuedo-availability to your job could possibly be worth the loss of your own soul. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
St. Louis De Montfort teaches that Lucifer and all the angels were given a preview that one day, a creature would contain more glory than the angels. That creature is the Blessed Virgin Mary. So infuriated was Satan that a creature would be higher than him, that Lucifer (now Satan) led a third of the angels to rebel against God. St. Michael ejected the rebel spirits to the earth. So, eons later, Satan went to pursue Mary and her child: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.”—Apocalypse 12:13
Both before and after Satan’s failure at spiritually overcoming the woman and the child, he decided to turn against the image and likeness of God on earth—man and woman. Like Mary, we are each born with God’s image upon our souls. Unlike Mary, we are born without God’s likeness, due to original sin. However, baptism restores God’s likeness in us, bringing us to be children of God in both His image and likeness. This spiritual reality is so Trinitarian that St. Francis of Assisi used to genuflect before newly-baptized babies. The soul reflects God, even in a Triune nature (intellect, memory and will.) Physically, however, there is something in the human face that also reflects the glory of God:
This is a child born to a couple that I married in my University ministry. He was made in God’s image and likeness, but his likeness was remade the day of his baptism because this was lost after this most-important event of creation: “And God made man, according to the image of God he made him, male and female he made them.”—Genesis 1:27. The word in the Greek Septuagint (Septuagint being the Old Testament translation from Hebrew to Greek done by 70 elders) uses the words according to the image of God as three words even more power-packed and short in the Greek, κατ᾿ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ. When εἰκόνα is written in Latin letters it becomes eikona, where we get the word “icon.” Man and woman are icons of God. Satan hates a face like that.
Suffering under Nazi Germany, an Austrian couple, Erik and Christiane Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, wrote a book called Moscow 1979. In it, a bishop in Russia talks to a dead body, but that dead body becomes possessed by Satan. Satan explains through that body his actual tactic for reaching humanity in 20th century:
I am not mean! I’m only radical. ‘Radical’ – that is to say ‘from the roots.’ And sex is the root of all life. Nothing pleases me more than to turn the natural instinct for creation of new bodies and souls into the vilest filth. I hate those human beings who are allowed to take part in God’s creation. At least it is some consolation for me if human beings play tricks on God …if experimental biology is victorious over the curse of Eve, cheating women out of the joy of suffering for the sake of a new being. I don’t want the Creation! And if I’m not able to exterminate it, at least I can twist it, smear it, distort it!
I’m not using this picture for shock-value. But I have to be very honest: I used to see people in circles like this as the enemy of the Catholic Church. Oh sure, I admitted that God loved them, but I saw them as the enemy in a culture war. Now, as things get so twisted, I see they are deceived. How prophetic that in 1940 those Austrians saw that “experimental biology” would be the goal of Satan in communism and secularism: “And if I’m not able to exterminate it, at least I can twist it, smear it, distort it!”
This gang member is obviously deceived by Satan. No, beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder. There is objectivity to beauty, as there is truth. And what I see is boys-become-semi-men who were so abused (not necessarily sexually, but in some way abused) finishing the job of twisting what the Ugly One had begun against them. Yet, they don’t know to whom they belong as hostages. Or maybe they do, since many gang members add satanic tattoos. But still they are hostages, and Jesus told St. Faustina: The greater the sinner, the greater he has a right to my mercy.
A young woman from an Eastern-block country recently wrote me about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. She told me how many tears she has wept for what Communism did to not only her country, but what Communism has done to her new-found Catholic Church. One particularly sad story was the story of an 18 year old homosexual man in the rural area of her country. When he failed at chastity, the rural priests helped him back up, and again when needed. He was succeeding, albeit with difficulty. Then, he moved to a large city in “middle-Europe” as she calls it. There, in that large city, he found a Catholic priest with very different advice than he had ever heard: The priest told him that he could continue his homosexual behavior, as long as it is done “in good faith.”
Now the young man has AIDS. He no longer goes to Church and lives with his boyfriend.
Jesus is infinite Truth and Jesus is infinite Mercy, so please, you priests who are telling gay men and women that they don’t have to live chastity: You are killing people. Not just spiritually as we “trads” say, but now we have proof you are killing people physically. The outcome of your trashing of Catholic teaching is not only hell (which I can’t prove outside of Divine Revelation) but AIDS (which the above story proves.) When we distort Christian doctrine, we distort peoples’ souls and bodies. Jesus and the Catholic Church have the best plan for every person on the planet, so please stop discriminating and show some compassion for the image and likeness of God that He died to restore. Jesus was disfigured on the cross so that none of the above disfigurement would ever have to happen. Thus, we priests have no right to sacrifice our children on the altar of popularity. They are God’s children, made in His image and likeness.
I have only been a priest for seven years. About halfway through that period, I switched from the Novus Ordo to the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments. It was also during this time that I stopped saying a line that I was famous for in seminary: “We do not have a crisis of sacraments. We have a crisis of catechesis.” I used to say this because I knew how many people received Holy Communion in this country without knowing Who they were receiving. In fact, I put my money where my mouth was: As a young priest, I taught a Eucharistic class just off-campus of Colorado State University, a school with 33,000 students. I called my class “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” after this excellent book by Dr. Brandt Pitre. Most weeks I had about 50 CSU students attending that class. Their hunger and faithfulness was my proof that “we do not have a crisis of sacraments but a crisis of catechesis.” And the students responded with fervor and a greater Eucharistic love.
Programs like Catholic Formed now flood the American parishes of younger priests and more orthodox older pastors. Formed is a new video program of catechesis designed to invite the ordinary Sunday Catholic into a deeper formation of video catechesis. These movies include good information on the sacraments, moral teaching, salvation history and Catholic Church history. Formed features the common lineup of orthodox lay Catholic celebrities who have gained their fame in apologetics and chastity topics. They really do a good job at tackling our current crisis of catechesis. But do we really have a crisis of catechesis instead of the sacraments as I had said for most of my priesthood?
Since switching to the Traditional Latin Mass, I have seen that most of our modern catechetical methods are geared exclusively towards the intellect. For example, the average rich, suburban American parish now has a small handful of devoted Catholics who would not have believed in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had they not read a Scott Hahn book. And God bless Scott Hahn for his great intellectual work.
But notice that in the previous paragraph I purposely used the word “rich, suburban parish.” By and large, these are the decent parishes which (thankfully!) have moved past the 1970s catechesis of exclusively-social-justice materials. Formed and That Man is You and Scott Hahn “book clubs” are all great for budding intellectuals who don’t have to work 80 hours a week on a Louisiana oil barge. But what happens to the run-of-the-mill poor Catholic? How does the blue collar worker (who might be too busy to read a book by Tim Staples) receive catechesis on the sacraments?
The answer is that for thousands of years, the catechesis happened by kneeling at Holy Mass. I do not mean that Mass is enough to catechize ourselves. I mean that the serious Catholic learned and prayed during the week as best he could. Then on Sunday, everything he learned or offered was forged in a mysterious and powerful ritual that incorporated all his senses, his intellect, his will. He would have have to kneel for most of the Mass. There was no question in his mind that he had to be “set apart” in baptism and grace to do something as strange as receive Holy Communion, even in poor mission countries of the illiterate. He might wonder: Why did he have to kneel at an altar rail? He stuck his tongue out while the priest blessed him with the Son of God. If not a sign of the majesty of God…if not a sign of the chasm between Creator and creature…this ritual was simply too weird for a non-Catholic to approach the ancient ritual! In other words, the Traditional Latin Mass engenders catechesis because it engenders automatic reverence and intimacy (or total rejection if one finds it “weird.”) The average illiterate Catholic learned that Jesus was truly present by simply attending Mass. He did not need a book tailored to a bourgeois intellectual group to tell us the Mass is still “valid” even if it doesn’t appear to be so:
It would take a PhD from the University of Dallas to accurately explain how this this is the sacrifice of Calvary.
On the other hand, an exhausted marine is easily forced to his knees with his head down at the Traditional Latin Mass in Saipan during the Pacific Theatre of World War II:
My sister and her husband are raising their children in a Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church. My niece began prostrating at the age of 18 months at the right time of the Divine Liturgy. She had learned by a full-body experience that she is not God. She learns to adore God and to prostrate before him even before she learns the term “transubstantiation” (a term she may never learn in the East.) But she already knows that her Mom is not allowed to hand out the Holy Eucharist in that Divine Liturgy. There is an iconostasis separating everyone from the Holy of Holies, the Eucharist. That teaches a lot.
For nearly 2,000 years, the ancient liturgies of both East and West had catechesis built-in in a way that was not hyper-intellectualized. Catholicism needs to be accessible to the illiterate (as much as to the Christendom College grad student.) The above picture of the soldiers kneeling for the Traditional Latin Mass is the perfect example of this. Catechesis was a full-body experience of the majesty of God. For centuries, Catholic learning was done in all five senses: The sight of the priest facing God, the smells of the incense, the sounds of angelic Gregorian chant. Yes, all of these can be done in the Novus Ordo, but it is not just the externals of the Mass. Rather, I am talking about the substance of tradition that was passed on within every sacrament, and substituted only 50 years ago. For example, when I used to do the new anointing of the sick, I put a little oil put on the head and then I moved on to the next hospital room. Now, in extreme unction, I anoint the mouth, the nose, the ears, the eyes, the feet, the hands and the forehead. It’s not my personal catechesis of the sacrament. It is required in the rite, probably anointing all those body parts since the time that St. James wrote about it in the Bible.
Everything in these sacraments (which can be traced back to the 6th century at the latest) taught man and woman that there exists a chasm between Creator and creature. The illiterate Catholic learned about the majesty of God and the evil of his own sin by simply hearing that he had to have his sins forgiven, those he had committed with his eyes, ears, hands, even nose, as the old rite extreme unction strangely says. (What sins can be committed by smell!?) And yet, it is not strange. It is beautiful, for the ancient prayers for the commendation of the dying call more frequently on God’s mercy than anything I have seen in the new anointing books.
Yes, the rich Catholics of America now have a library of books by Steubenville grads. And I like these books. But they are all a replacement of what Catholicism taught by it’s very nature: A full-bodied, full-person experience of the majesty of God. The intellectual side was not as emphasized. The reason the Novus Ordo rites invite an over-intellectualization of the Catholic faith is first of all because the author of these rites, Archbishop Bugnini, actually consulted with five or six Protestants to write it. (Remember, faith for Protestants is a Credal and emotional act, where for Catholics, the Faith is best summarized in the book of Romans as “the obedience of faith.”) But because the new rites do not carry much physical actions, the lacunae must be filled by lay apologists. God bless them, but they should know that their jobs are concessionary existences for what we priests and the ancient rites used to carry in our very being.
Maybe the best would be to keep producing the Steubenville books but return to all the 1962 sacraments. That way, the new presentation practiced by the Church Fathers could be forged in the very sacraments of the Church Fathers (erroneously named the “Tridentine Mass,” since the Traditional Latin Mass was nearly-fully crystallized between 350 AD and 380 AD.) By contrast, the changes of the past 50 years to the liturgy present us some sad challenges, especially since we live in a era that has little time for intellectual or aesthetical learning on the mysteries of God:
“The challenge becomes more difficult because one of the peculiarities of the old rite is that it makes itself accessible only slowly—unless the uninitiated newcomer to this ancient pattern of worship is a religious genius. One has never ‘learned everything there is to learn’ about the Roman Rite, because in its very origin and essence this enduring and truly extraordinary form is hermetic, presupposing arcane discipline and rigorous initiation…The great damage caused by the liturgical revolution after Vatican II consists above all in the way in which the Church lost the conviction with which all Catholics—illiterate goatherds, maids and laborers, Descartes and Pascal—naturally took part in the Church’s sacred worship. Up until then, the rite was among the riches of the poor, who, through it, entered into a world that was otherwise closed to them. They experienced in the old Mass the life to come as well as life in the present, an experience of which only artists and mystics are otherwise capable.”—Martin Mosebach, Return to Form, Crisis Magazine.
I experienced what Mosebach writes about during my mission trips to poor nations around the world. During my second trip to India, I lived with some lay American missionaries in Kolkata. One night, a mix of Americans and Indians were having a conversation about the Catholic Church. A 45 year old Indian was very thankful that Vatican II opened to Indians a deeper understanding of the Mass, now that they understood the language of the service. When posed with the question “Why do you go to Holy Mass?” he and I both agreed that most young Catholics from both the United States and India would say “To receive Jesus in the Eucharist.” We were both content that this is a better answer than the 1970s answer: “I go to Mass because of the community.”
However, I then reminded my new Indian friend about the history of Indian Catholicism. I reminded him about the missions of St. Francis Xavier and I said: “Any of your ancestors evangelized by St. Francis Xavier would have described the Mass with one word that your friends and my missionary friends would not use: Sacrifice. An illiterate 16th century Indian farmer or a little girl in Chicago in the 1940s Catholic school system would give the same description: ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.’ Why wouldn’t your friends or my missionary friends in the United States use that word ’sacrifice’?” I suspect that the absence of this term (even among relatively-orthdox young Catholics) is because the New Mass no longer looks like a Jewish priest at a Jewish sacrifice. It no longer feels like that. That is why people think they have to receive Holy Communion at Mass, no matter what, even if they’re in mortal sin. The True Presence is all they have.
I don’t mean to downplay the beauty of the answer, “The True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.” But the liturgical reality of “sacrifice” is still of supreme importance to the most proletariat of Sunday-Mass goers. Current liturgical theology maintains that the Eucharist is confected by the priest, but rarely is it mentioned by even orthodox CCD teachers that this happens within the very sacrifice of Calvary re-presented. Never have I heard it mentioned from a “JPII-generation Catholic” or even a professor at my seminary what constitutes the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass: The separation of the body and blood of Jesus, under the species of the double consecration of bread and wine. In fact, one “very conservative” nun who taught us sacramental theology mocked this theology as merely devotional. She did not want to hear me point out that this was what was taught by everyone from St. Gregory Nazienzen to the Council of Trent to Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Even if you don’t remember the above reasons for why the Mass is a sacrifice, remember this: Sacrifice is key to explaining the Mass. You can’t just say “Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.” Why? Because the presence of God without sacrifice is Protestantism. The Franciscan University grads will talk all day about the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but rarely will they speak of the sacrifice of the Mass. Perhaps that is why their divorce rate is the nearly the same as they rest of the nation: They want presence without sacrifice. 1
Our Faith is founded on the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, which is the same as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For somewhere between 1500 years and 2000 years, Western Rites Catholics were always seen kneeling for about 75% of the duration of the Mass. All this kneeling taught something important to their children, children who could be found worshipping on their knees throughout the old Roman Empires, in Los Angeles in 1925 or off a river in Goa in 1540. Yes, children would have knelt before a sacrifice of Calvary that took place at the hands of St. Francis Xavier who baptized hundreds of thousands with those very same hands. They knew Who was in his hands was somehow even greater than the saint, for the saint himself would kneel before the King of Kings (even if a Jesuit comrade to follow him would not kneel before the Eucharist five hundred years later.)
The conversation with that 45 year old Indian man continued in some different directions that night. About 20 minutes after the above conversation, he started explaining to me how important religion is in India. He said whenever there is a religious event, dizzying myriads of worshippers show up: Be it Hindu, be it Muslim, Be it Sikh, Be it Christian, there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who come to worship in pilgrimage. He told me about how 100,000 Catholics will frequently show up at a devotional event that has only one altar. Thus, the 8am Mass (on that single altar) will be in Tamil for 10,000 Catholics. The 9am Mass will be in Bengali for another 10,000 pilgrims. The 10am Mass will be in Hindi and the noon Mass will be in English. The 45 year old Indian had just forgotten about our mild debate on Vatican II just 20 minutes earlier, but I wanted to gently bring him back to that discussion on Vatican II. So, I broached the subject lightly by asking him: “And what did all Indian Catholics do before Vatican II?” The good Indian man hung his head a little. He quietly replied: “We all worshipped together.”
I brought this well-repeated but undocumented statistic of FUS divorce to a friend who used to work for the development department of Franciscan University of Steubenville. I immediately believed he would balk at it, but to my surprise, he admitted it was true. To this day, I do not have statistics to back this up. However, several reputable sources have told me that this is true. This means that the national divorce rate is about 50%. The national Catholic divorce rate is about 50%. The divorce rate for FUS would therefore also be about 50%. However, this was told to me about 10 years ago, so I hope things have changed. I imagine that the rate has lessened, since most FUS grads are at least intellectually (there’s that word again!) against contraception. But for Catholics who live a life without contraception, the divorce rate is 3% in all studies averaged. That 3% is the average of numerous studies that are all statistically significant, including large populations sampled. ↩
It is often believed that those who spend their time fighting abortion are of a different ilk than those who fight child sex-slavery. Indeed, all those seeking justice usually have time for only one area of total-expertise, but my blog today will attempt to show that both child-sex slavery and abortion feed each other in a vicious cycle. We must become abolitionists for both of these attacks on children. Indeed, besides the obvious link that slavery and abortion both harm innocent children, there are several important reasons why sex-slavery will continue to grow within the abortion and contraception empire.
1) The disproportionate number of unborn girls killed in China has driven young Chinese men to Vietnam and Cambodia in order to kidnap children as “brides.”
China had a one child policy from 1979 to 2013. This changed to a two-child policy in 2013. However, because a family could only have one child, they heavily favored a male child. Thus, Chinese girls were aborted in the millions. Some of these abortions were elective. Other times these were governmentally-forced abortions, even to the extent that China had “abortion vans” that travelled and forced abortions upon young Moms. The effect of this one-child policy has led to an aging population as the BBC reported on here. The effects of gender selection are also far-reaching. By 2020, China will have an astronomical 30 million more men than women. Who will these men marry? The men of China now pay for kidnapped children in Southeast Asia. (The term “child-bride” is a an inaccurate term, considering that coyotes simply kidnap child sex-slaves for a single “owner.”) Thousands of Hmong girls have been kidnapped from Vietnam for Chinese men who have no one to marry, as seen in this article by Business Insider, appropriately titled Chinese men buying brides from Vietnam is getting out of control. Put all this together and the conclusion is obvious: Abortion has played a significant role in the child-sex slavery of Asia today.
2) Planned Parenthood keeps American pimps in business.
Today, there are at least 27 million slaves in the world. At least 2 million of these are child sex-slaves (more than 2 million, if we consider how many abused work sex “on the side” of their forced manual labor.) The United States government reports that there are 100,000 child-sex slaves here in the United States alone. (One should never use the term “child prostitute,” since a child never chooses prostitution, for only emotional brainwashing and drugs lead these children to this forced sex-slavery.) The FBI has rescued children as young as 6 years old from child sex-slavery. 95% of the child sex-slaves in the United States are girls, and most of them are between the age of 13 and 18. Of course, these are child-bearing years for most of these girls. But if a pimp is to allow 20 johns (trafficking term for rapist) a day to enter a 15 year old child sex-slave, he most certainly does not want her to get pregnant. The answer is clearly contraception and abortion for the numerous children that he “owns.”
However, these pimps do not want to get caught, so Planned Parenthood has proven to be their aid in providing contraception and abortion to their sex-slaves, without the involvement of law enforcement. In this video, Live Action conducted a sting-operation in 2011 against Planned Parenthood in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. A fake pimp tells Planned Parenthood manager Amy Woodruff, “We’re involved in sex work…some of them are like fifteen, fourteen, and some of ‘em don’t speak any English.” Amy Woodruff then helps the fake pimp to keep the girls in slavery. She even gives him advice on what kinky acts the children can do for sex after the children are subjected to abortion. “Waist up,” Woodruff says with a smile. This is not an isolated incident. Planned Parenthood frequently covers for adults raping children. In this similar sting-operation video, the sexual abuse of a 13 year old proved to be no problem for Indianapolis Planned Parenthood. Law enforcement is never contacted to help a 13 year old who was raped. Money remains the bottom line for Planned Parenthood.
The abortion agency goes deeper into the world of child sex-slavery than most of us pro-lifers might expect. Roughly two-thirds of those rescued from sex-slavery say that their forced abortions came not from a back-alley abortion chop-shop, but rather from an official abortion center. In this sickening report, one young survivor said, “I got pregnant six times and had six abortions during this time. Several of them were from a doctor who was a client- he did them back door- I came in the back door after hours and paid them off the books. This kept my name off any records…At least one of my abortions was from Planned Parenthood because they didn’t ask any questions.” Notice that the abortion doctor raped a child and then killed his own child when she got pregnant by him.
3) Contraception is the bond that keeps teenage sex-slaves under control, not free to control their own bodies.
A Guttmacher report shows that “54 percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method…during the month they became pregnant.” This means that contraceptives do not prevent abortion, but rather promote abortion. Besides the fact that the Pill or injections function as an abortifacient nearly 500 million times a year worldwide, the Pill and barrier methods also prove to be false-saftey nets against surgical abortions for both girls and women. What does this mean for the trafficking world? This means that contraception and abortion go hand-in-hand for traffickers who are trying to control their teenage girls’ active reproductive systems. The reasoning is obvious: Traffickers must stop pregnancy at all costs. A child born to one of his slaves will greatly reduce his income. Thus, conception and birth must be stopped at all costs for the pimps who make hundreds of thousands a year on their child sex-slaves, even here in the United States. Indeed, contraception and abortion are the primary bonds against the girls (combined with the brainwashing and drugs to get them in the underground market in the first place.)
The ILO reports that Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers. This includes $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation. Mafia members have switched from selling drugs to selling girls. Why? Cocaine can be used only once, but a girl can be used over 20,000 times. Thus, child sex-slavery is extremely profitable, as long as the girls don’t get pregnant. And if they do get pregnant, Planned Parenthood will abort the baby with no questions asked. That way, the children return to their abusive owners (who pay for the abortions) as soon as possible.
In 2011, the FBI did a raid on a brothel in New Jersey. They suspected that there were Mexican prostitutes being run out of the home. What they found was rather a home for child sex-slavery. This became the well known story of “The Girls Next Store.” The FBI website reports:
“The article ‘The Girls Next Door’ describes a conventional midcentury home in Plainfield, New Jersey, that sat in a nice middle-class neighborhood. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, the house was part of a network of stash houses in the New York area where underage girls and young women from dozens of countries were trafficked and held captive. Acting on a tip, police raided the house in February 2002, expecting to find an underground brothel. Instead, they found four girls between the ages of 14 and 17, all Mexican nationals without documentation. However, they were not prostitutes; they were sex slaves. These girls did not work for profit or a paycheck. They were captives to the traffickers and keepers who controlled their every move. The police found a squalid, land-based equivalent of a 19th-century slave ship. They encountered rancid, doorless bathrooms; bare, putrid mattresses; and a stash of penicillin, ‘morning after’ pills, and an antiulcer medication that can induce abortion. The girls were pale, exhausted, and malnourished.”
Notice who wanted the easy access to morning-after pills and abortion-inducing drugs. It was not the teenage Mexican girls. It was their captors who wanted easy access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Of course, these were not for the physical health of the young girls, but to keep them enslaved as long as possible. Thus, contraception is like chemical handcuffs that the pimps put on barely-fertile girls, even here in the United States. Remember also from number two above that many abortion centers will provide contraception and abortion for these for girls being raped without any involvement of law enforcement. Thus, even the FBI report makes it clear that abortion and child-sex slavery fit together like a hand in a glove.
We must get over the Pretty Woman glamour of prostitution that we saw in that movie with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. In that imaginary world of prostitution of the 1980s, an adult woman uses contraception for her health. The reality is much more grim. First, the normal oral contraceptive kills embryos at the rate of millions a year. Secondly, the Pill frequently causes pulmonary embolisms in women, as seen in this study by the British Medical Journal. Thirdly, most girls enter slave work during their teenage years, usually against their will. This means that contraception rarely comes with their own consent. Globally, contraception is truly the friend of traffickers. The New York Times even did an article titled To Maintain Supply of Sex Slaves, ISIS Pushes Birth Control.
4) Once a society allows children to be abused in the uterus, they will be abused as toddlers and teens.
When the topic of child sexual abuse comes up in conversation, many Americans will bring up the Catholic Church priest scandals. The 2% of priests who did such actions did irreparable harm, so I will never make any excuse for those priests who destroyed families and probably forfeitted their own souls if they die without repentance. However, the Catholic Church has always said that such behavior is a mortal sin, and it is categorized as a sin that cries out to God for vengeance. So, we need not worry about the articulated faith and morals of the Catholic Church on this. But we should worry about the teaching of the academy on these things. Consider that the American Psychiatric Association has recently (but somewhat quietly) condoned pedophilia by declaring that It’s Normal to be Aroused by Children.
One of my heroes in the anti-slavery movement is an Italian priest named Fr. Cesare Lodeserto. In Italy, countless women and girls from Albania and Nigeria have been trafficked into the sex-slave world. Fr. Lodeserto has not only rescued numerous Albanian women, but he has a safe house until they can return to work a normal job in the world. This safe-house has heavy steel gates at the entrance, replete with armed police patrol behind its high wire fence. Due to his rescue of valuable “property,” the mafia even kidnapped Fr. Lodeserto and threatened his life, as seen here. But Fr. Lodeserto continues in his life saving work of women.
When a trafficked woman gives birth to a baby, she is rarely free to leave the sex-trade business. In fact, the mafia who does the trafficking will often take the baby and harvest it for organs. A 22 year old Romanian prostitute who gave birth to baby. The baby was taken by her pimp and killed. She never saw her baby again. She said, “I think that my babies were taken for their organs or to be sold. I don’t know for sure.” See the BBC article here with her and Fr. Lodeserto.
Why do the pimps take these babies? In that same article, Fr. Lodeserto explains that the babies are kidnapped to kill and then sell their organs, especially their kidneys and livers to the international transplant industry. Secondly, he points to the illegal adoption agency, which has also become a very profitable business.
What does this have to do with abortion? You see, once a child is a commodity in the uterus, a toddler or teen will soon lose value in society, especially if the young person be a female. We should not be shocked that a world that accepts abortion will kidnap the babies of sex-slaves and kill them for their organs. Just click on the BBC article above if you think this is an exaggeration.
The rate of gender-selection in favor of boys in India is upwards of 99%. During the National Prayer Breakfast in February 1997, Mother Teresa said the following in the presence of President Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton: “What is taking place in America is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another.” I add: When a life can be extinguished by the push of a vacuum button, then what is to stop a nation from pushing a similar button to nuke another country? Indeed, the ending of abortion is our only hope for the safety of children worldwide. We are now seeing that we are willing to kill and abuse toddlers and little girls, and I believe this is because we have devalued pre-born life.
What can we do to rescue and protect children?
You can donate to your favorite a pro-life organization that either does sidewalk counseling, free ultrasound services, work for unwed pregnant mothers or support families who have adopted children originally slated for abortion. As most people have their favorite pro-life organization, I will not suggest any here.
However, to rescue those involved in sex-slavery, I will suggest a new Catholic home is opening near San Diego. Children of the Immaculate Heart is to be a refuge for teenage girls who were sex-slaves. The Children of the Immaculate Heart will take care of the girls’ physical needs and psychological needs following unspeakable trauma. It will also be also offer very orthodox Catholic teaching for any girls who are open to it. I’d encourage you to support this exciting new venture.
Most importantly, fast and pray for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, the only thing that will end abortion and child sex-slavery. The Holy Mass and the Rosary are our best weapons. Please make a concrete resolution with me to pray these daily for the end of everything you just read.
Spoiler alert on Rogue One for the second half of this blog post.
Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Catholic Church. His martyrdom is found in Acts chapter 7 and it contains the jarring testimony of a young deacon who chooses God’s religion over man’s intertwined religious games. Although engaging the high-powered Jewish religious leaders of Christ’s own time, St. Stephen is fearless in proclaiming how Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all the Hebrew Scriptures. Before being stoned to death, Stephen recounts to the Pharisees all of Salvation history. Then he accuses them:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”—Acts 7:51-53
Why did Stephen die? The obvious answer is out of love for Jesus Christ. In fact, every martyr dies for love of Jesus Christ. But there’s a second reason that is not as obvious or ecumenical: Stephen died for the full deposit of the faith. “Deposit of the faith” is not a romantic term but we should face the facts: Most martyrs of the early Church (especially in the Byzantine East) died for the transmission of the deposit of the faith to remain pure against heresy. Think about it: If the early Catholic martyrs of Rome and Palestine and Byzantium had not died to maintain the purity of the Apostolic Christian faith, there would be no Catholics. Actually, there would be no Orthodox or Protestants. There would be no Christians. It’s quite a fragile system of Apostolic succession that God put in place.
Do not think that any particular heritage or bloodline is the sole guarantor of your Faith. For example, no English or Irish Catholics reading this post would be Catholic if Italians like St. Gregory the Great had not sent missionaries to the isles up north. Gregory was born in Rome, and he himself owes his faith to more individuals than Christ: He would never have been baptized a Catholic, had not the Roman martyrs for hundreds of years before him maintained the courage under fire to keep the pureness of the faith. Pope St. Gregory the Great learned about Catholicism only because it was preserved by the martyrs of the Roman empire for a full five centuries prior to his own baptism.
2 Maccabees chapter 7 relays the account of the martyrdom of a Jewish woman and her seven sons. They die not for a pure emotional love of God but to keep even the smallest of dietary laws. So also, the martyrs died not only for Christ, but for the fullness of the Catholic faith. Every little bit. Did every little bit really matter? Jesus said: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 5:19. The Apostle John urges the Churches of Turkey to “return to their first love” and the Holy Spirit warns through him that there will be consequences to watering down the faith. Today, the faith is all but dead in Turkey. Similarly, we must avoid any presumption that would lead us to believe that God would “owe us a living,” so to speak, in the Church in the West today.
I’ve gone to see Rogue One twice now. What struck me is that all the good guys in the movie die. At least the ones we learn by name, perish. They are either blasted or nuked by the Imperial forces. Why? Because the Rebel Alliance chose to sacrifice their lives for one single piece of information: The digital plans for the DeathStar. Americans usually don’t like movies where all the good guys die. Europeans can handle it. But Rogue One took a risk with us Americans in wiping out almost every significant member of the Rebel Alliance against Darth Vader and his DeathStar pioneers.
Was it a good idea for Lucas Films to force us to watch our heroes die for the transmission of a single piece of information? Yes, because this is how the martyrs of the early Church saw things: The Catholic Faith was worth their blood for every single one of those small pieces of “information.” Yes, they received the courage and charity to die, primarily because they were given grace and mercy by the Blessed Trinity in their hour of agony. Yes, they died out of love of Jesus Christ. But if you look closely, many of early martyrs of Byzantium and the Roman Empire actually died to also maintain the pure deposit of the faith against certain “small” heresies that wouldn’t even be recognized by the post-modern reader.
Nowadays, people are taking sides between Cardinals on issues of doctrine that are finally making the mainstream news. The group on the left claims that their Cardinals are pastoral and merciful. The group to the right claims that their Cardinals are traditional. But many traditionalists do not understand just how traditional we are talking. We’re not lining up behind a Cardinal because he dresses like someone at the Council of Trent. We’re lining up behind men who are not only maintaining the Apostles’ Faith but also the blood of millions of “little people” to preserve it. Literally millions.
Like Rogue One, many “little people” died to bring us this pure, untouched information. For me to deny any single tenet of the Catholic faith has little to do with the liberal/conservative spectrum. For me to deny any single tenet of the Catholic faith would trample the blood of martyrs like St. Stephen. St. Stephen is known as the proto-martyr because he was the first martyr of the Catholic Faith. St. Stephen proto-martyr is first Rogue One against lawyers’ manmade religion of popularity when St. Stephen presented them with Divine Revelation.
The martyrs that followed Stephen died for Jesus Christ, yes, but let’s examine a less ecumenical truth: Jesus didn’t need those martyrs as much as we Catholics in future generations needed those martyrs to stay strong under torture. It was a torture for your children to know the fullness of truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The whole truth. Surrender without content is usually not worth dying for. Neither was an ambiguous “deposit of faith” (unromantic though it be) transmitted in apostolic succession or the martyrs of the early Byzantine and Roman Empires. I am only a priest. Too many men, women and even children died for me to learn the Catholic faith for me to tamper with that deposit of the faith with political terms like “liberal” or “conservative.”
St. Stephen was the first Rogue One. He chose truth over the false-peace contained in man’s laws. So also every martyr is a rebel against the kingdom of man; he is a Rogue for God in an enormous community of the Catholic Church. Every one of them played a small part in brining us not only Jesus Christ and His sacraments, but also the full and saving doctrine His Church—a doctrine without which the sacraments would contain no power to live…or to die.
Although Colorado’s Supermax is the federal prison that is featured on all the TLC shows, Colorado’s death row for our homegrown felons is actually on the Eastern Plains. For my second assignment as a priest, I was sent to a parish containing within her bounds that very Correctional Facility.
Upon arrival, I had a plan to reach not just the Catholics, but all the semi-professed Christians at the prison. I would hold a Bible Study called “What the First Christians Believed,” but not write “By Fr. Dave Nix” on the flyer. It was an immediate success. Many people from all denominations arrived. Great discussion ensued for the first two weeks. However, one non-dom felon with too much time on his hands (imagine that in America’s prisons) had learned…Hebrew. By week three, he jumped on my smallest inference to the Catholic faith, attempting to debate the meaning of New Testament Greek words transliterated into his Hebrew purview. By our fourth meeting at that enormous prison, a fight broke out between the Catholics and the Protestants. The guard arrived to protect me. No punches were thrown, but my cover was blown. As if the cassock hadn’t given it away, they now knew: I was a Catholic.
Numbers dwindled. Within three weeks, I was sitting in my Bible Study room with one man…a single black man from Brooklyn who was getting released in two weeks. That evening, we gazed across the hallway through the classroom windows to see another large room, filled with Muslims doing prostrations. Depressed, I asked him “Why do you think Islam is the number one growing religion in the world?” The man must have learned a lot in his prison sentence; He answered: “Because there you get what you see. No games with God. No loopholes.”
Rewind a few years earlier in seminary. I was saying to my friends that, as a priest, I would not have girls on the altar as acolytes. A formator overheard me and chimed in: “You wouldn’t want to be less generous than the Church.” Ok. I went away feeling corrected and, um, ungenerous.
But it hit me a bit later that the common ground between the two above stories is this: Is the mind of God found in the tradition of the Church or in the Church’s loopholes? Imagine that your 15 year old son or daughter had a curfew of 9pm, and “on very rare occasions” you allow her to come home at 11pm. What if she came home every night at 11pm and midnight? We would rightly conclude that there was something wrong with her sense of fatherhood.
Now consider that the Church has held a great many things sacred for many centuries, and how now dispensations are overruling. We must remember God’s words: “For I the Lord do not change.”—Malachi 3:6. Consider how, under great pressure from progressive bishops, Pope Paul VI hesitantly allowed communion in the hand to occasionally replace communion on the tongue in circumstances that almost seem to read “safe, rare and legal.” St. John Paul II was put under similar pressure to allow altar girls to occasionally join the army of boys on the altar. Dispensation…now become norm.
Did you know that the 1917 Code of Canon Law said that it is “forbidden” to marry a non-Catholic? The 1983 Code of Canon Law similarly says it is “prohibited” to marry a non-Catholic. Both codes refer to the dangers to salvation to the Catholic party (cf. Pope Pius XI’s Castii Conubii.) I’m not against the Church occasionally granting dispensations to a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, but when was the last time you heard of a Tribunal reminding the couple that such norms are in place for the salvation of their eternal souls? Was the Apostle Paul’s admonition to be “equally yoked” purely the Revelation of an arbitrary Father? Or, is there any chance Our Father’s original plan was the most generous?
Liturgists (including Chief Liturgists) also need to consider whether rubrics be capricious…or from a reasonable God. For example, Vatican II reads that the Mass should be offered normally in Latin, but that the vernacular language may also be allowed. Which is the rule and which is the exception? Or, consider how Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI notes that even in apostolic times there was no precedent for the priest to face the people during the sacrifice of the Mass. Nowadays, however, that small loophole to the 2000 year-old Catholic (and Orthodox) norm has covered the globe. This was all for the sake of filling the parishes. Has it worked?
A point of dogma needs to be made: It is not just pious devotion, but it is actually the dogma of the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Thus, in order to understand the generosity of the Fatherhood of God, we must consider the mind of the Church through tradition, through 2000 years, not just modern loopholes.
I think I could summarize Jesus’ message to the Pharisees in one sentence: “Stop playing games with God.” Jesus’ main message to the Pharisees was not to abolish the law (See Mt 5:17) nor overturn the necessity of the commandments for salvation (See Mt 19:17) nor even end liturgical sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7-8.) Living in a country with so many Protestant overtones, we nowadays tend to picture a Jesus who, being a bit of a flippant religious-cowboy, wanted to end the Jewish hierarchy. Even this is not true (See Mt 23:3.) Jesus admits that the Pharisees still remain on the “chair of Moses,” but “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (23:23). In other words, “Stop looking for the loopholes, and start living for God. He does not play human games based in human tradition.”
I believe there is a key to attract men to the Catholic Church. It’s to stop playing games with dispensations in the name of being “pastoral.” I’m not saying a system of hard-core rules is key to making disciples of all nations. Nor am I promoting those ultra-conservative men who talk to their wives like they talk to their daughters (both like slaves.) But think about what that man from Brooklyn recognized in those 20 young black men prostrating at the prison. He saw that these men were attracted to a way of life that was concrete. These Muslim men—most of whom grew up without fathers—suddenly found a solid and clear-thinking system of religion that did not require a PhD in theology to tell you the rules didn’t apply to you if you know how to play this or that theological game. No, those inner-city men had had enough childish games in their adolescence to land them in prison. Now, they had something clear-thinking, something the male mind longs for, even if it sunk its teeth into something as sick and violent as Islam.
If a religion without a loving Father (Islam) has attracted men without fathers, how much more will the plan of a loving Father change our nation if we can be clear-thinking and clear speaking? We don’t want to make Kouachi-brothers of a new militant-Catholic-bent, but see my point: How much more do Catholic men contain a capacity for reaching the inner-cities of America if we can become unafraid of a full Catholic vocabulary? The maternally-run suburbs of America could use some good men, too. We as Catholics have the unique ability to reveal both the mercy of God and the expectations of God to a hurting and very confused nation. The peace in the womb doesn’t begin with women. It begins with men exercising self-control and protecting the women in their lives. It is peace that Jesus seeks to give us, but not as the world gives it.
Most young Catholic men secretly long for coaches, priests and mentors who will actually believe in them as sons. Young men long to see their dads (biological and spiritual) keep the high bar, not found in the confessional of priests who tell the penitent that because his masturbation “is an addiction, it is not done with full consent.” That’s a copout of responsibility for one’s penitents. No man ever wanted to live within a “dispensation” of weakness. Rather, most young men actually respond to a tough coach who believes in them. They want to be told that they can reach the high bar of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They want to give their lives away with other brothers.
In July of 2007, Pope Benedict wrote Summorum Pontificum to again promote the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. He had a very interesting line in there: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.” This is an important sentence because it shows that God, as Father, does not change His mind for His family, based on the fads and whims of the time. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”—Hebrews 13:8.
Mass attendance statistics are pretty good proof that our hearts resonate with something “eternal” more than “pastoral.” Why? Because there is protection and freedom in God’s eternal order found in the liturgy. There is protection in the house rules, the unfolding of the Universe, the beauty of the Church, the two-parent Family. Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. But relationship without rules leads to a surrender without content—indeed, a surrender that is short-lived.
To be sure, the Gospel is ever ancient and ever new, with new creativities of evangelization growing out of every century of the Church that were surprising and unexpected. But as GK Chesterton wrote: “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
This was originally published under the title Why Pastoral Dispensations Lose Catholic Men.