|The Tempest Calmed|
Niccolò Circignani (1517 – 1596)
In ages past, the Catholic Church faced three great crises....
- The First Great Crisis was the Arian Heresy, and it was by far the worst. It happened in the fourth century and lasted about sixty years. The crisis centred around the divinity of Jesus Christ, wherein a rogue priest, named Arius, challenged established Church doctrine that Jesus Christ is divine, and God exists in the form of Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Arius asserted that Jesus was merely a man, a great prophet, and the promised Messiah, but not God. Arius was the first one to come up with the concept of a "Bible" or Canon of Scripture, in which he hand-selected the books contained therein, all of them affirming his heretical views. This period saw the majority of the world's Christian bishops, priests and laity siding with Arius. The Councils of Nicea and Constantinople were held during this time, and in response the Church not only condemned Arius and his heresy, but also formulated the Nicene Creed and commissioned the work of compiling an authentic Christian Bible, particularly the New Testament, which happens to be the same one all Christians use today. The First Great Crisis of the Church came to an end with the dismantling of Arianism and the victory of the Catholic Church.
- The Second Great Crisis in the Church came during the tenth century, in what some have called the "Obscure Century". This was a period when the papacy was corrupted by wicked families with great wealth and political power. During this time the papacy was drug through the mud, so to speak, with corrupt popes, nepotism, materialism, political ambitions, and so on. No official heresy was taught from the Chair of Peter, but the level of corruption and lack of discipline led many Catholics to be carried away by heretical doctrines anyway.
- The Third Great Crisis in the Church was called the Occidental Schism (or "Western Schism"), which was in part caused by the exile of the papacy to Avignon in France. This led to confusion which ultimately culminated in the reign of three "popes" simultaneously, each contenting to be the one true authentic pope. The crisis was ended at the Council of Constance in 1414-1418, when two of the three "popes" agreed to resign for the greater good of the Church, the third was deposed by the council, and a new authentic pope was elected in their places.
Now we face the FOURTH GREAT CRISIS of the Catholic Church. These words are not my own. They come from Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary of Astana (Kazakhstan), who's interview can be read on Rorate Caeli blog. The Fourth Great Crisis in the Catholic Church can be summarised as the widespread abuse of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is manifested in the form of liturgical, doctrinal and pastoral abuse.
The seeds of this crisis began in the middle twentieth century, before the Second Vatican Council and shortly after World War II. It was at this time that the focus of leaders within the Catholic Church began to shift from God to man. The discipline of psychology was growing in popularity at the time, and many Church leaders started to embrace it. Along with that, new theologians were coming to the forefront that questioned what was previously established Church teaching. Into this mix the Second Vatican Council was called. Pope Benedict XVI, who was present at the Council as Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, in one of his final public addresses as pontiff some fifty years later, clarified the situation that existed at that time. (I blogged on this extensively here.) In summary, he said that "two councils" were going on simultaneously. The first was the "Council of the Fathers", or the authentic Second Vatican Council, which is what the bishops were actually discussing in Rome. The second was the "Council of the Media", which was a counterfeit council created by the mainstream news press, in which the documents of the Second Vatican Council were "reinterpreted" by the press, and then disseminated to the public with a remarkably Left-wing and Modernist spin that the Council Fathers never intended. This process has continued, more or less, for the last 50 years, to a point where we now live in a time when the popular media has more influence on Catholics than the bishops of the Church. What we have witnessed in the last half century is nothing short than a psychological coup d'état on the minds of faithful Catholics, wherein the authentic leadership of the Church was replaced by the counterfeit leadership of the mainstream press.
Immediately following the Second Vatican Council was the introduction of the Missal of Pope Paul VI. On the whole, the missal was a simplification of the Roman Liturgy, making room for the expansion of Lectionary readings, as well as greater liturgical participation by the faithful laity. This was all it was ever intended to do, and the Council Fathers, previously assembled in Rome, envisioned a future liturgy with greater public participation and more reading from the Sacred Scriptures. They also envisioned a future liturgy that looked remarkably similar to the Missal of Saint Pius V, celebrated by the Council Fathers at the Second Vatican Council. That was not to happen. Immediately, the counterfeit Council of the Media went into action in the 1970s, following the release of the new missal, reinterpreting the intention and purpose of the new liturgy. What was produced was a new Roman liturgy that scarcely looks anything like what the Second Vatican Council intended, resulting in a complete loss of the Latin language (a language the Council Fathers affirmed as liturgically necessary), the loss of Gregorian chant, and most profoundly, a watered-down presentation of the Eucharist wherein the faithful receive communion in the hand while standing, and the sacred tabernacle is literally pushed off to some remote corner of the parish chapel. In almost all celebrations of the new missal, the priest faces the people, and in those parishes where the tabernacle is set off to the side somewhere, it leaves the congregation with the visual impression that man is the centre of the liturgy not God.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in his book Spirit of the Liturgy put it this way:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), in his book Spirit of the Liturgy put it this way:
'In the very form of its places of divine worship, which we have just been considering, Christianity, speaking and thinking in a Semitic way, has laid down principles by which this question can be answered. Despite all the variations in practise that have taken place far into the second millennium, one thing has remained clear for the whole of Christendom: praying towards the East is a tradition that goes back to the beginning. Moreover, it is a fundamental expression of the Christian synthesis of cosmos and history, of being rooted in the once-for-all events of salvation history while going out to meet the Lord who is to come again. Here both the fidelity to the gift already bestowed and the dynamism of going forward are given equal expression... Admittedly, these connections were obscured or fell into total oblivion in the church buildings and liturgical practise of the modern age. This is the only explanation for the fact that the common direction of prayer of priest and people got labelled as "celebrating towards the wall" or "turning your back on the people" and came to seem absurd and totally unacceptable. And this alone explains why the meal – even in modern pictures – became the normative idea of liturgical celebration for Christians. In reality what happened was that an unprecedented clericalization came on the scene. Now the priest – the "presider," as they now prefer to call him – becomes the real point of reference for the whole liturgy. Everything depends on him. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity sustains the whole thing.... Not surprisingly, people try to reduce this newly created role by assigning all kinds of liturgical functions to different individuals and entrusting the "creative" planning of the liturgy to groups of people who like to, and are supposed to, "make their own contribution." Less and less is God in the picture. More and more important is what is done by the human beings who meet here and do not like to subject themselves to a "pre-determined pattern".... The turning of the priest towards the people has turned the community into a self-enclosed circle. In its outward form, it no longer opens out on what lies ahead and above, but is closed in on itself.'
THUD! And with that, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) summarised the prevailing direction of the Catholic Church in the modern age. The Council of the Media was so powerful that it affected the minds of some priests and bishops, reorienting them toward a new hierarchy, one in which the Zeitgeist of Modernism (the diabolical spirit of our age) reigns supreme.
Ratzinger characterised the fruit of this zeitgeist as the "tyranny of relativism" in which sin and depravity is tolerated in the name of "tolerance", while objection to sin and depravity is not tolerated in the name of "tolerance". So we see it played out in the Western governments of today. Easy "no-fault" divorce is commonplace, as is unmarried sexual cohabitation, artificial contraception and abortion on demand. A tide of homosexuality is rising at a rate unseen since the days of Pagan Rome, and once again in the name of "tolerance" this Zeitgeist of Modernism imposes a tyranny of relativism upon anyone who would dare speak out against it. Legal homosexual unions, mockingly called "marriages", have become the norm in Europe and Canada, while in the United States, one state after another falls to this tyranny in spite of the electoral will of the people.
In Christianity, the Zeitgeist of Modernism, with its tyranny of relativism, has wreaked havoc on the Protestant world. What was once just a couple dozen denominations and sects has exploded into literally hundreds, as conservative Protestants, faithful to traditional Christian morality, have fled their mainline denominations to create new splinter churches that maintain older Biblical standards. These "conservative" churches provide a refuge of peace for now, but the Zeitgeist of Modernism knows no denominational boundaries. Already the tyranny of relativism is knocking at the doors of many of these new conservative Protestant denominations. Some religious trend observers have forecasted their downfall within a matter of a decade or two.
In the Catholic Church, the Zeitgeist of Modernism, with its tyranny of relativism, has not fractured the unity of Rome -- yet -- but it has apparently infiltrated into the highest echelons of the Church hierarchy. Priests, bishops and even cardinals have been unable to evade its deep reaching tentacles. We have seen this unfold over decades with priests who refuse to teach their congregations the evils of: divorce, cohabitation, contraception, abortion, euthanasia and homosexual acts. We have seen this unfold over decades with bishops who refuse to enforce Canon 915 by making excommunication and interdiction almost unheard of in the modern Church. We have seen this unfold over decades with innumerable examples of liturgical innovation and abuse. We have seen this unfold over decades in the form of a clerical sex scandal, with the abuse of minors, that is unprecedented in the whole 2,000 years of Church history!
Now, after the election of Pope Francis, the mainstream press has put the Council of the Media into overdrive. If the Council of the Media gave us that diabolical "Spirit of Vatican II", which had nothing to do with the actual Vatican II, then what we are now witnessing is the equally diabolical "Spirit of Pope Francis" which has nothing to do with the real Pope Francis -- or so we can only hope. This artificial "Spirit of Pope Francis" is in every way heterodox. It embraces homosexual acts along with homosexual persons, as well as divorce itself along with divorced people. It makes no distinction between the act and the person. All is one in the same, with this "lovey-dovey, hippy-dippy" new pope, who refuses to judge anything, and views everything as permissible. Is the real Pope Francis anything like what the media has portrayed in its artificial "Spirit of Pope Francis"? We hope not, but only time will tell.
In the midst of this latest media push comes the Extraordinary Synod on the Family this October, to be followed by an Ordinary Synod on the Family in October of 2015. As we have seen unfold in the Extraordinary Synod, the sum of all fears has been realised. The Zeitgeist of Modernism has reached its tentacles deep into the Church hierarchy, and touched the highest ranking prelates with its tyranny of relativism. We have seen a statement released calling for changes in Church discipline, tone and language, related to the sins of: adultery, fornication, contraception and homosexuality. At the centre of this agenda is a push to permit the reception of Holy Communion (the Holy Eucharist) by those knowingly and obstinately in mortal sin, all with the blessing of the Catholic Church. Along with this comes the predictable "Synod of the Media" which is already making international headlines. As terrible as the Extraordinary Synod has become, the "Synod of the Media" will compound the situation, and make it so much worse, with the news media's reinterpretation and repackaging of the Synod's already warped message.
It remains to be seen what will come of this, and the first Synod report is just preliminary, but with this report, it has become painfully clear and obvious that Bishop Athanasius Schneider was right. With pinpoint accuracy he nailed it. We are now in the Fourth Great Crisis of the Catholic Church. The crisis revolves around the nature of the Holy Eucharist and abuses related to it. Surveys of Catholics all over the world reveal that the doctrine of the transubstantiation (literal presence of Christ) is no loner believed by a majority of Catholics, and this perhaps explains a lot. It is no wonder that the Eucharist is no longer centre in Catholic life, when the tabernacles are placed in some obscure corner of the parish church. It is no wonder when communicants are no longer asked to kneel in the presence of God, and receive Him enthroned on their tongue, but instead take Him in their own hands like a common cookie to be consumed as a casual snack. It is no wonder when the sacrament of confession is celebrated only occasionally, and rarely before mass, so that the faithful are not reminded of their need to confess their sins and prepare themselves for physical communion with God. It is no wonder when the liturgy becomes a "self-enclosed circle" wherein the priest, and not the sacrament, become the centre of attention. It is no wonder when the liturgy takes on an innovative carnival atmosphere, instead of a solemn and reverent celebration of the presence of God. As the Church used to say: Lex orandi, lex credendi, meaning in Latin, "the law of prayer is the law of belief". When the Church creates a liturgical experience that focuses more on man than God, is it any wonder that the people begin to think of man as God? In the Garden of Eden, the lie the serpent told to humanity was this. To disobey God was to become a god, and to become a god is to judge for yourselves, without God, what is good and what is evil. God's laws do not matter. What matters is your own judgement. So we see this unfolding in the Catholic Church, as we previously saw it unfold in the mainline Protestant churches. Man becomes God, and man creates his own morality, based upon his own judgement. We have seen this happen among the laity, many of whom no longer believe in the "real presence" in the Eucharist, but simultaneously believe homosexual "marriage" is permissible and should be embraced. God is denied, and man is exalted to the level of a god, judging for himself what is good and evil. God is left out of the process. What began in the laity has crawled its way up into the hierarchy of the Church. In the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, we have witnessed Catholic prelates call for a relaxation of laws pertaining to the reception of Holy Communion, so that what is already practised illegally in the Catholic Church, may now receive the blessing of the Catholic Church. This way the Holy Eucharist may be profaned even more regularly, and without the care or concern by those in charge. The community of the Church may finally focus entirely on itself, rather than the One whom they have supposedly gathered to worship.
At he heart of the moral crisis evolving at the Synod on the Family, is a deeper crisis related to the Holy Eucharist, and in particular its treatment in the modern Church. It is revealed in everything, from beliefs, to practises, to liturgy, to discipline. This is the Fourth Great Crisis in the Catholic Church. How long it will last depends entirely on the long-suffering and mercy of God Almighty. In the painting above is depicted a recreation of Jesus calming the storm at sea. Our Eucharistic Christ will calm this storm as well, but like the disciples before us, we must first wake him and ask. Perhaps the time has come for constant prayer vigils to be held at every tabernacle, in every parish, around the world.
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