|"By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them." (Matt 7:16)|
The turmoil, confusion and conflicting forces that currently exist in the Roman Catholic Church in America have led to an instability of the faithful that is unprecedented in its history. The devastation is brought to the utmost by the very fact that the disrupters are within and very often are not only the ordained but members of the Church hierarchy itself. A deadly combination indeed! We cannot beguile ourselves, however, in thinking we were not forewarned because the New Testament writers gave extensive and specific warnings of these times and the nature of its leaders.
These days, then, have brought demands upon the individual faithful that are unique and which do not allow, in many instances, the conventional institutional remedies of the past. We shall here speak specifically of the ecclesial (Church)) authority and teaching of faith and morals. One finds themselves in the midst of a maelstrom of opinions concerning teaching and dissent from those teachings. In what we would call normal times, dissent (heresy, schism, apostasy, etc.) was quickly disproved and suppressed by the legitimate governing authority of the Church. Such acts of governance provide real charity to those that are venturing into error, and its subsequent loss of faith, while at the same time sparing the faithful from being led down deadly paths.
Otherwise, governing is an absolutely essential function in maintaining union/unity in the Church. Law, any law, is of no significance if it is not, or cannot, be enforced. Without governance, you have anarchy, which is another word for chaos, a condition that exists in many areas of the American sector of the Church today. It is significant to note that even with all the lather whipped up by the infallible imbeciles demanding changes (corruption) of faith and morals, the Church's official teachings have not bent at all in acceding to these demands.
It must be acknowledged, however painful as it may be, that governance in the Catholic Church (beginning with Rome and the Vatican itself) has for all practical purposes come to naught in recent times. This is often referred to as the "pastoral" approach, but that disastrous policy is a subject for another page. Still, the Law is intact and in place but the lack of resolve to govern renders the Law functionally ineffectual.
Coupled with this emasculation of governing is the further dissembling of the Church institution in the overabundance of bishops currently in place who are best described by no less than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Vatican Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the following manner:
"'The words of the Bible and of the Church fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like' mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, that let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive." 1
What is related above certainly is not "news" to any observing Catholic. What it has done, however, is create a new (if not aberrant) perspective amongst a great number of the faithful. Whereas in the past the Catholic Institution could always be depended upon for its unerring rudder in voyage and sound anchor in moorage, this can no longer be looked to by many. When anarchy reigns in the provincial church, then that institution is no longer an arbiter of truth for the faithful. This reality has had a devastating effect upon the faithful, for a religion without immutability is a belief logically subject to question. "You vary, therefore you are not the truth!" 2
Where these conditions exist, now quite predominately, it is no great mystery that you have a scattered sheepfold. It is no less a mystery that the fallen away number is at an all time high and the percentage of Catholics attending Mass regularly is at an all time low. Certainly there are churchmen culpable in the spawning of these deplorable conditions, and they will answer for every instance of their miscreant conduct. But does that scandal provide the individual exoneration for his/her departure from the true teachings and responsibilities bestowed by Christ upon His Church? The answer is a resounding NO!
Before proceeding, we shall dwell here on a particular phenomenon (a potentially dangerous one) that is a direct by-product of the current chaos in our local church. This is the unprecedented flocking of so many of the faithful to a storm of so-called "apparitions, sightings, visions, prophecies" and "encounter movements" which are daily being announced. Our Archbishop Brunett himself has addressed this in his column in The Catholic Northwest Progress of May 21, 98, pg. 4. We quote extracts:
"Each day we pick up the paper to read about another apparition, to another person and yet another place. This has spawned the frenzy to seek after the bizarre, the strange, the unusual, consequently to drain from the life of the church the energy' that should be expended to bring others to Christ and to share his love by our service for his kingdom. So we see in these visions not the power of that redemptive love, but the charisma and attraction of the visionary, who then becomes a kind of Christian guru. This attraction to visionaries makes their followers vulnerable to every word spoken, and willing to believe and practice whatever they are told, even if it is not focused in the life of the church... All too often the faithful are led on pilgrimages to the four comers of the world where some new sighting is claimed. Their conduct is not far removed from those who chase UFOs, looking for secrets from some distant planet."
What the good Archbishop might not be aware of is that this very behavior can be attributed directly to the instability that has been generated in the faithful by the acts of his own churchmen calling to question the teaching and authority of the Church and its leadership. People are not normally drawn to these things unless they are searching for security and assurances that they find lacking in their local church. People often are drawn to private revelations (many of the current ones totally bogus) when they come to have question of the sanctification they should be attaining from their own parish. The all too frequent witness to open dissent, contradiction, and liturgical aberrations over a period of time will bring doubts and uncertainty to the most steadfast of the faithful. That is when private revelations start providing escalated allurement. The fact that the demonic is undoubtedly behind some of these bizarre movements is a truth that cannot be denied and their activities are going to be an ever-growing source of more disruption and apostasy. ABP Brunett is quite correct in being concerned, but the answer is in his own church. A man does not seek water unless he is thirsty.
Getting back on focus. One thing that has changed is our comfort zone. It is always easier to go with the crowd. Our thinking and responsibilities are programmed for us by the institution. We find it comforting to huddle in the herd, as it were. The assembly provides us the (false) security that is thought to be assured in numbers. Christ, however, did not bestow the inestimable gift of Faith to the masses or groups. He conferred it upon specific individuals. Furthermore, we are informed that this gift is of such eternal worth, that those who do not place it before all persons and things are not worthy of it. cf. Mat. 10: 34-38, Luke 12: 51-53.
Faith, then, is never that to be taken for granted, much less given scanty attention. Such actions lead to the loss of faith and the heavenly doctor, Thomas Aquinas, informs us that no greater ruin can befall man. Faith is the cornerstone to every man's eternity with his Creator. Has Christ spoken to this?
Most all of us are familiar with the parable of Christ's teaching pertaining to the "Talents" (Mat. 25: 14 - 30), but one might wonder how many had acquired the extremely important message it conveyed.
This is where the master (God) departing to a far country gathered his servants and delivered to them his "goods." The "goods" (faith/graces) he gave in measures known as "talents." To one he gave a measure of five "talents," to another "two" and the third he gave "one talent." Upon the Lord's return "after a long time," there was an accounting called for. The first two servants had invested the Lord's talents in profitable works and those efforts had doubled the return for their Lord. They were praised by their Lord and greatly rewarded for their prudence. The third servant, however, had buried his one 'talent" and had only this to return to his Lord. The pretense put forth by this unfortunate servant, and the Lord's response, is the vital key to this teaching. The servant:
"Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed: And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here thou hast that which is Thine. And his Lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knoweth that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed. Thou ought, therefore, to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming, I should have received my own with usury. Take ye away, therefore, the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to every one that hath, shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away. And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall there be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Here the Lord acknowledges that he does not need the servant in order to attain returns for himself but the servant was given the trust of the talent to put it to use, not bury it. The returns spoken of here have nothing to do with money but with souls that the Lords "goods" (faith/grace) have the power to gain when employed ("...And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more." Luke 12: 48). In our present-day scenario you might properly employ the likeness of a bishop being entrusted with 5 talents, the clergy with 2 talents and the loyal faithful with 1 talent. Otherwise, the bountiful gift of faith has with it the individual responsibility in striving to further that gift by using its powers to bring a return of more souls to the Lord. God apportions no one with more trust and obligation than are of his or her own capabilities.
We are learning two very important lessons here. First, when it comes to judgment (accounting), it is each individual him/herself who shall answer to the Lord. Second: "Thus not only the rapacious, the unjust, and evil doers, but also all those who neglect to do good, are punished with the greatest severity." 3
Our being sheep, we find it natural and good to seek sanctuary in the flock of our good shepherds. When a "hireling" displaces the shepherd, however, then the flock shall be scattered and Christ warns us of these days. At such times, the true faithful know that the faith (truth) does not change and will seek and recognize the voice of the true shepherd. The answers do not lie with "huddling in the herd," for that would be burying the 'talent." Rather, we take that "talent" (the legitimate catechism of the Catholic Church, as example), put it on as armor, and stand unwavering until we have a true shepherd again before us.
And: "His Lord said to him: Well-done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" Mat 25: 23.
1 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger - Salt of the Earth (Ignatius) pg.82, 1997
2 Jacque Bossuet - 1627-1704, French Bishop and Philosopher
3 Commentary Haydock edition of Douay-Rheims Bible, pg. 1304