No True Catholic?
In today’s world, Catholics are troubled by the emergence of camps that harm the unity of the Church and scar the body of Christ. These two classifications could be divided simply into the “progressive” or “traditionalist” categories with their own ideological bents and ideas of how they want the Church to run. First, the archetype of the progressive.
The progressive sees the Church like any other institution of fallible human beings that can be subject to change with enough pressure. Their spiritual life is one of sentimentalism, where Christ elicits nothing but happy butterflies in the soul of a believer and very little else. The attacks of the enemy can be surmised as whatever attack on their party platform, in which with enough banner drops and protests, can be overcome. The progressive is, at his heart, a nihilist. He sees religion as a creation of man that comprises a few values as to how he is to live, and the spiritual life is nothing but bursts of dopamine meant to elicit a feeling of ecstasy. This is a very disparate state that the liberals live in, and the reason why the children of liberals often go on to become atheists and lose faith in God altogether. Ultimately the harvest of their fruits reaps unbelief. One need only look at the heretical and schismatic assembly of the germans to see that there is no youth in that audience, only their baby boomer elders who strangled their children’s faith in the crib. These people do not believe in Christ, but in the idol of evolution and change which renders no good. If nothing is sacred to this supposed believer, and no doctrine or dogma is to be protected and guarded, then why believe at all? Orthodoxy cannot be a passing fancy or choice of what is to be believed today and discarded tomorrow, it has to be both unmoving and life-giving in every age, lest man loses his connection with God altogether. The Orthodoxy of the Catholic Church is a fact, not a choice or temporary rule that changes when enough people revolt against it. Ironically, Father Yves Congar, in his book “True and False Reform”, documents how all reformation movements in the life of the Church that depart from both fidelity to the Church’s authorities and the tradition, ultimately die out and become forgotten, in a twist of fate in which the liberal claimed it was the traditions of the Church that would die out. Reform, properly understood, is not liberal when it is to reform ourselves in greater fidelity to Christ and the deposit of faith. It is, however, liberal when we throw off the Gospel and make idols of ourselves that only have the death promised as Adam’s punishment as its end. Why is it that every order after the Second Vatican Council that embraced a false reform finds itself lacking vocations and ultimately dying a slow and painful death? It is because they cast off the sacred rule of our fathers in the Church, and followed only passing fashions that would die with them, and leave nothing for the future. In fact, Our Lord himself says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 16:19-21) Likewise, the Holy Apostle Paul exhorts us, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”(2 Thessalonians 2:15) Truly, as was said by the many wise men that proceeded this sinner, the faith of the liberal is dead from the start, since his heterodoxy is born in the maxim of satan himself: non serviam (I will not serve). The moment you are born in revolt against that which is sacred, you are destined to fall out of the good graces of God and His Church altogether.
The second archetype of the aforementioned camps I have laid out is the “traditionalist”. This term is a little too broad, and so I must lay out what I am defining here, lest I contradict holding fast to Apostolic Tradition that was given to us by the Lord and Saint Paul admonishes me to cling to. The definition I use here is one who is blindly reactionary against the kind of acceptable change permitted by the Church, that is always in continuity with herself (I cannot stress this point enough). These changes pertain not to the unchanging nature of the deposit of faith, Apostolic Tradition, or even a substantive amount of the magisterium, but rather to those things which are subject to positive development or growth. This can be ways of doing things, such as catechetical methods, or elements of changing aspects such as parts of the liturgy. These changes, of course, are not done haphazardly, and offering respectful concern for possible means of restoring something that came prior is not blindly reactionary, it can in fact be very great at times. Rather what the reactionary becomes engaged in is not a mere call back to the Church’s past or a desire to hand on the sacred torch, but rather being a pessimist that carried a hermeneutic of suspicion to any of the legitimate changes outlined above. Their faith oftentimes chooses an arbitrary point of time to “harken back to” in which their golden age nostalgia blinds them to the necessary reforms that may have well improved the issues that such a time struggled with. For instance, many will choose a date such as 1955 and lament how great everything was at that time in an uncritical manner, putting it in a black-and-white contrast to our own age in the life of the Church. This negates, however, the fact that liturgical abuse, lukewarm Catholics, lack of catechesis, and other lamentable problems were still alive and well at this time, and our age is only the further rot already happening at that era. This is of course not to say we should have an iconoclastic view of 1955, or any other date in the life of the Church as if we have to muddy up our view of that epoch to make our own age seem that much greater. This would fall into the adage of one “cutting off their nose to spite their face”, and one that is rightfully a condemnable attitude to have. Instead, we should have a balanced view of all the ages of the Church, including our own, knowing that at some times there are certain fruits and rot that must be overcome with the prayers of saints and sinners alike. This more balanced view can actually salvage the saintly values of the “traditionalist” for the preservation of the faith and remaining ever faithful to the call of Our Lord. It is actually why, despite my at times overfocusing on this group, I see a lot of good that can and will take root. I love these individuals with all my heart, and their desire to protect the Church and love Christ is my own. Rather, my utterances above are to fine-tune the crosshairs of the “traditionalist” away from the Holy Father and the proper authorities of the Church, but to the progressive dissenters whose exact error is their dissent against the hierarchy. In that way, the sacred elements of this camp such as good catechesis, desire for reverence in the liturgy, and unapologetic witness to the Lord can be mixed with the traditional fidelity to the authorities Christ has set over us, making us truly the Catholics God needs for this time.
So dear reader, where does that leave the individual who only wishes to be Catholic? This desire is found fulfilled in the simple admonition of Our Lord “And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). But what does it mean to become like Children? Certainly, we do not want to be as naive and weak as children if we are to be the next generation to inherit the Church, so what is meant by Our Lord’s word? Well, my brother and sister, it means that we must approach our faith with that of the joy and fidelity that a child possesses. Joy is meant here by feeling the elation of being loved by God and being in his hand. It means not giving in to the pessimism of the latter camp I stated above, seeing the Church’s past as the sacred flame that lights our way well into the future, and keeping close to the heart the knowledge that Christ has already won. The joy can be had in all things the Church offers, both in the wisdom of saints past and present, the exciting opportunities we have to spread the Gospel in the modern world, and realizing that behind us is the angelic choir with its choirmaster ever willing to help us go forth. It’s smiling when we hear the readings of mass or the prayer shared with our brother. It’s getting excited to read the wisdom of Church Fathers, the Saints, or Peters’s successors that help us to understand how Christ is manifest in our life and world. It’s even taking the time to appreciate the smaller aspects of the faith, such as beautiful paintings or a small prayer. This is the splendor of the faith that helps bring a smile to our faces and song in our souls, the light of Christ in our hearts that is ever willing to touch the hearts of those around us. Likewise, with joy comes fidelity to that subject our elation. The progressive has a false joy that comes from the trends of today’s age, whereas the Catholic derives his joy from the unchanging word of the Lord, the rock on which all the People of God have been built up. This sacred flame is what gives us assurance of a future in the face of uncertainty, and lights our way so that we know exactly who Jesus Christ is and what he wants for our lives. This certainty of what we must believe is freeing, and knowing that our hierarchs which God has set over us (Hebrews 13:17) will safeguard the Gospel gives us the armor by which we can face the spirit of the world. If we remain ever fidelitous to the Gospel, the magisterium, the Church’s tradition, and the prelates that guard these sacred things, we can be courageous in the face of any enemy that comes our way. This light will never go out, and keep us safe from all the distress we may face as Catholics in a world that hates the faith. Never forget what Christ assured us of: “And I assure you that I will be with you always, until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20). With that promise, know that God is with us and that the troubles of our time will come to pass. Choose and dare to be Catholic, confident that the Church is your Mother and God is your father. Live your life in such a way that you hear the immortal words “Well done, good and faithful servant”( Matthew 25:23).January 1, 2022