EWTN talk show host Raymond Arroyo is doing a great service to the Church. His last interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke is particularly worth watching. This recent scandal in PA, which exposed so much internal corruption over a period spanning decades, as well as the scandal of Cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, have not only brought to greater light the problem of homosexuality secretly networked in the hierarchical ranks of the upper-clergy, but the same light also includes the exposing of all those who are either Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, deacons, lay apologists and journalists who have thought themselves emboldened, particularly beginning with the Pontificate of Francis (but also goes way back), to defend the pampering and degradation of the moral rigor and discipline of Jesus Christ.
If the history of the 2nd half of the 20th century was insufficient to do so, the last 2 Synods on the family in 2014/15, together with their post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (Amoris Laetitia), have proven to us that the hierarchical leaders of the Church have been white-knuckle intent, albeit in a sneaky and gradual manner, to ambiguously soften and relativize the moral demands of Jesus Christ. And this, with particular regard to the purpose of God for human sexuality, marriage, and the 4 marks of the Church.
My hope is that recent exposure of what no one today outwardly defends (the scandals already mentioned above) will not just ruin the credibility of the current Episcoapal machinery on handling sex-abuse allegations in the Church (which seems to be hogging everyone’s attention), but more importantly ruin the credibility of the neo-Conservative face of the Church which has ongoingly defended the greater collapse from moral/disciplinary strictness as proven under Pope Francis and the group of left-leaning clergy/laity which are emboldened by him; as well as put down and shame those of us who have been mightily voicing our concerns (c.f. canon 212) against this sad example of ecclesial leadership.
Yes, I hear speak about those who have utilized blog, book, seminar, and public speaking space to defend Amoris Laetitia (and the general Reform which will prove to be tied so close to nearly every effort descent from the current Pontificate), those who have been pedal-to-the-metal critical of those of us who have decried the liturgical crisis since the 70s, those who have accused many of us decrying as “dissident” and disobedient to the Magisterium, and finally those who have even gone to the level of saying that the Clergy/Theologians who have been vigilant to offer filial corrections to the Pope, and even EWTN, are self-made unlawful “magisteriums”. I speak of those who have been disturbingly wont to cite Blessed Newman’s essay on the Development of Doctrine in order to relegate the recent collapse (since the 60s) to a mere “organic change” which is not only a good thing, but necessary. It almost always turns into an embarrassing case of mental gymnastics which puts the mind of the speaker and the listener into a pretzel. I guess if you always have 45 minutes to spare, you will always get the “scoop” of how these things all come together as one big mass of continuity. If it used to be that “few there are who will be saved” it is now “we can hope all mankind will be saved”. If it used to be that the grace of marriage was tied to the ontological bond between Husband and Wife, now the “grace of marriage” can exist in those merely living together. If it used to be that one had to join the Church in order to save your soul, now it is “Bah! Let the theologians go to an island to figure out our differences while we work together even in our divisions to foster the real sort of unity in the Spirit”. If it once was “The fool says in his heart, there is no God”, now its “Atheists can be saved! In fact, there may even be atheists who are now in heaven who can be prayed to for intercession!”. If it once was “Only those who agree with us on doctrine in faith and morals can receive communion”, now it is “well, we must look at the objective person and distinguish it from what is going on subjectively”. Even if some of these motions are not entirely incorrect, something tells me this is not right, even diabolical.
In any case, there is indeed great benefit to tackle head on the matter of legal and ecclesiastical procedure in regard to abuse allegations and adjudication, but let’s not pretend this is the root of the current crisis. Simply doing this would be akin to making sure better traps are set out in the house to catch all the hiding rats. Equal, if not more, attention should be given to rooting out the source of the rat infestation to begin with. I have shared my theory with others on what I think is the root of the problem in the 21st century Catholic Church, and have been shot down quite a number of times by prominent voices in the Church who have supposedly been sufficiently diagnosing the problems and theorizing the adequate solutions. Is that really the case? I am most definitely not confident.
I will briefly share with my readers what I think is the problem. The issue lies not so much with respect to how to undo problems that the Church has gotten into, but more so with the Doorkeepers of the Church. By Doorkeepers, I mean those who are responsible to stand at the entrance of the Church. Who do we baptize today? Darn near everyone who asks. How many do we commune? Darn near everyone who asks. Who do we confirm? Darn near everyone who asks. And on what principle? “Mercy” , is what we are consistently told. Do we think it is much different in the seminaries or those applying for sacred orders? Compare that to how many inquirers were actually baptized in the 2nd to the early 4th centuries. Just like today, the Church then suffered from many false conversions (some coming in as spies to gather intel from the Christians on behalf of the civil government) , and she responded by paying more attention to the Door through which people came into the Church by adorning the Doorkeepers with a much stricter and elaborate process of initiation. It turned into a interview of the inquirer as to why they wish to become Christian (often which proved to the interviewer the person was not fit to be admitted as a Catechumen, even), and if proven sincere, was admitted to a 3-year Catechumenate wherein either diligence in good works, almsgiving, and service to widows/orphans/poor was looked at as proof of ones worthiness for Baptism come Easter Vigil. If we were to instill something akin to this as a response of what has been going on (not just this past century, but even prior to that), I believe we would see a massive change in the moral definition of the Catholic Church. Do not just baptize any baby. Do no just commune all inquiring. Do not just confirm all who participate, even begrudgingly. And definitely do not easily admit persons to to sacred orders. Let’s regain a sense of – “holy things for the holy”.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Nothing has been said about doctrine and ecclesial discipline which is also of equal concern, but for which I have no time or space to write about currently.
Critics have told me this would be so judgmental, logistically impossible, and flat out impractical. Firstly, this may shorten the population of Catholics by half within a decade, if not a few short years. Secondly, a reduction of clergy would negatively impact those many persons needing sacraments (a terrifying ratio between clergy/laity). Third, a sub-culture turned mega-culture of Pharisaic or Donatist leadership, and will thus cripple the credibility of the Church. Fourth, human nature is evil and it will be a fools dream from the start. Fifth, that because Doctrine has developed we need not go backwards through some misguided return to “primitivism”. On and on and on. Reason after reason after the next as to why doing what we’ve been doing is the way to go, or that mild reform is what is called for. Ironically, according to Pope Benedict XVI, the Church in the near future will be forced into a small minority of the martyr-type faithful anyway. We can get there willingly or unwillingly.
I think many of us have been told this too many times , and this last time is one of far too many.