Tailoring the Message for "Modern" Man
by Thomas A. Droleskey
Of the essence of Modernism, which is the synthesis of all heresies, is the belief that "modern" man cannot accept the doctrines of Holy Mother Church as they have been handed down under the infallible guidance of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost, over the centuries. The teaching of the Divine Redeemer, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, must be made "relevant" to the needs of "contemporary" man, who has grown accustomed to looking at the world in rationalistic rather than supernatural terms. Efforts must thus be made to make the Faith "understandable" to men whose world view is diametrically opposed to First and Last Things. "Modern" man has, for example, rejected the dogmatic formulations of the Faith by the Church's dogmatic Councils over the centuries. Novel ways must thus be found to draw men into the Gospel message of "love" and to reconcile the Church herself to those things in the world, such as the "principles of 1789," that actually shape the way in which men live and think.
No thinking Catholic can deny that this is the approach taken by the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger throughout his priesthood. The argument above is not a "straw man." It is a description of the approach of Modernists and of the "new thinkers" (Karl Rahner, Yves Congar, Johann Baptist Metz, Henri de Lubac, Maurice Blondel, Hans Urs von Balthasar) that served as the foundation of the Second Vatican Council, in which then Father Joseph Ratzinger served as a peritus (expert). As I have noted in recent commentaries, the goal of these "thinkers" is to make complex that which is simple, the Holy Faith, in order to arrogate unto themselves the principal ability of explaining these complexities to the masses. This is nothing other than a recrudescence of Gnosticism, the belief that there is "secret" knowledge that can be discerned and explained by only a few.
You see, the complexity contained in Father Joseph Ratzinger's writings makes it possible for different people to come to different conclusions about what is contained therein. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais, who is no theological slouch, said that there were many heresies in Father Ratzinger's An Introduction to Christianity. His Lordship chose his words very well. It was he who insisted on making these points in this interview with Stephen Heiner. He reiterated them several times. This prompted others to infer that Bishop Tissier de Mallerais must have given Father Ratzinger's book a superficial reading, which is a terrible insult to His Lordship, insisting that, though ambiguous and couched in a way to appeal to "modern" man, there is nothing directly heretical in An Introduction to Christianity. This conclusion has convinced many people to believe that there is thus no problem at all in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, who must be laughing riotously as the very people who he once said could not be resisted firmly enough, traditionalists, shoot at themselves and dig in their heels as hearts are hardened and friendships severed. Please tell me that this is not diabolical.
One of the chief goals of all revolutionaries, my friends, is to get their opponents to oppose each other with such fury and force that they lose sight of the fact that there is indeed a revolution going on at all. Some might be inclined to accept the very premises of the revolution itself in order to "prove" a particular point or two. In plain truth, however, the whole approach of the theologian who is now Pope Benedict XVI has been to put into question the traditional formulations of doctrine in order to make it appear as though those formulations had lost their "force" or "relevancy" over time. This is why Pope Benedict appeals to "patristic" sources to justify his nebulous, ambiguous approach to theological issues. He is trying to find some way to "move beyond" specific doctrinal concerns in order to return to the "ancient sources" that might be of use to appeal to "modern" man. This is the approach of Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was not all concerned about how his theological speculations contradicted even the words of Our Lord Himself, and it is the approach of Pope Benedict himself, especially in his first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est.
There is a little problem, though, in the approach of the "new thinkers" to try to appeal to modern man. Apart from the condemnation of the errors they propound that have been condemned by Pope Pius IX in the Syllabus of Errors and Quanta Cura and apart from the condemnation of Modernism by Pope Saint Pius X in Lamentabili Sane and Pascendi Dominci Gregis, the approach of the "new thinkers," including the former Father Joseph Ratzinger, was foreseen and condemned by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, August 12, 1950:
These new opinions, whether they originate from a reprehensible desire of novelty or from a laudable motive, are not always advanced in the same degree, with equal clarity nor in the same terms, nor always with unanimous agreement of their authors. Theories that today are put forward rather covertly by some, not without cautions and distinctions, tomorrow are openly and without moderation proclaimed by others more audacious, causing scandal to many, especially among the young clergy and to the detriment of ecclesiastical authority. Though they are usually more cautious in their published works, they express themselves more openly in their writings intended for private circulation and in conferences and lectures. Moreover, these opinions are disseminated not only among members of the clergy and in seminaries and religious institutions, but also among the laity, and especially among those who are engaged in teaching youth.
In theology some want to reduce to a minimum the meaning of dogmas; and to free dogma itself from terminology long established in the Church and from philosophical concepts held by Catholic teachers, to bring about a return in the explanation of Catholic doctrine to the way of speaking used in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. They cherish the hope that when dogma is stripped of the elements which they hold to be extrinsic to divine revelation, it will compare advantageously with the dogmatic opinions of those who are separated from the unity of the Church and that in this way they will gradually arrive at a mutual assimilation of Catholic dogma with the tenets of the dissidents.
Anyone who believes that this does not provide the key to why there can be differing interpretations of Father Joseph Ratzinger's An Introduction to Christianity--and in all of his intellectual work-- is not willing to examine this matter dispassionately.
Once again, to Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis:
Moreover they assert that when Catholic doctrine has been reduced to this condition, a way will be found to satisfy modern needs, that will permit of dogma being expressed also by the concepts of modern philosophy, whether of immanentism or idealism or existentialism or any other system. Some more audacious affirm that this can and must be done, because they hold that the mysteries of faith are never expressed by truly adequate concepts but only by approximate and ever changeable notions, in which the truth is to some extent expressed, but is necessarily distorted. Wherefore they do not consider it absurd, but altogether necessary, that theology should substitute new concepts in place of the old ones in keeping with the various philosophies which in the course of time it uses as its instruments, so that it should give human expression to divine truths in various ways which are even somewhat opposed, but still equivalent, as they say. They add that the history of dogmas consists in the reporting of the various forms in which revealed truth has been clothed, forms that have succeeded one another in accordance with the different teachings and opinions that have arisen over the course of the centuries.
This is exactly what Bishop Tissier de Mallerais said in his interview with Mr. Stephen Heiner. His Lordship was not making things up on the basis of a superficial reading of Father Ratzinger's words. His Lordship had identified the exact nature of the problem with the Modernist bent of Father Joseph Ratzinger and of the entirety of the Second Vatican Council, which is why he said the latter should be forgotten by the Church and spoken of no more.
Pope Pius XII went on to assess the inevitable consequences that flow from the Modernist theological approach he was critiquing in Humani Generis:
It is evident from what We have already said, that such tentatives not only lead to what they call dogmatic relativism, but that they actually contain it. The contempt of doctrine commonly taught and of the terms in which it is expressed strongly favor it. Everyone is aware that the terminology employed in the schools and even that used by the Teaching Authority of the Church itself is capable of being perfected and polished; and we know also that the Church itself has not always used the same terms in the same way. It is also manifest that the Church cannot be bound to every system of philosophy that has existed for a short space of time. Nevertheless, the things that have been composed through common effort by Catholic teachers over the course of the centuries to bring about some understanding of dogma are certainly not based on any such weak foundation. These things are based on principles and notions deduced from a true knowledge of created things. In the process of deducing, this knowledge, like a star, gave enlightenment to the human mind through the Church. Hence it is not astonishing that some of these notions have not only been used by the Oecumenical Councils, but even sanctioned by them, so that it is wrong to depart from them.
Hence to neglect, or to reject, or to devalue so many and such great resources which have been conceived, expressed and perfected so often by the age-old work of men endowed with no common talent and holiness, working under the vigilant supervision of the holy magisterium and with the light and leadership of the Holy Ghost in order to state the truths of the faith ever more accurately, to do this so that these things may be replaced by conjectural notions and by some formless and unstable tenets of a new philosophy, tenets which, like the flowers of the field, are in existence today and die tomorrow; this is supreme imprudence and something that would make dogma itself a reed shaken by the wind. The contempt for terms and notions habitually used by scholastic theologians leads of itself to the weakening of what they call speculative theology, a discipline which these men consider devoid of true certitude because it is based on theological reasoning.
Pope Benedict XVI does indeed reject the sure foundation provided by Scholasticism, relying upon the efforts of the "new thinkers" to re-think that which has been defined by the Church so as to reach "modern" man. And the next passage in Humani Generis explains why the current Holy Father relied upon "Greek fathers" in Deus Caritas Est to discuss "agape" and "eros" without ever once scholastically defining the nature of God's love for man:
Unfortunately these advocates of novelty easily pass from despising scholastic theology to the neglect of and even contempt for the Teaching Authority of the Church itself, which gives such authoritative approval to scholastic theology. This Teaching Authority is represented by them as a hindrance to progress and an obstacle in the way of science. Some non Catholics consider it as an unjust restraint preventing some more qualified theologians from reforming their subject. And although this sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians, since to it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith -- Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition -- to be preserved, guarded and interpreted, still the duty that is incumbent on the faithful to flee also those errors which more or less approach heresy, and accordingly "to keep also the constitutions and decrees by which such evil opinions are proscribed and forbidden by the Holy See," is sometimes as little known as if it did not exist. What is expounded in the Encyclical Letters of the Roman Pontiffs concerning the nature and constitution of the Church, is deliberately and habitually neglected by some with the idea of giving force to a certain vague notion which they profess to have found in the ancient Fathers, especially the Greeks. The Popes, they assert, do not wish to pass judgment on what is a matter of dispute among theologians, so recourse must be had to the early sources, and the recent constitutions and decrees of the Teaching Church must be explained from the writings of the ancients.
A reliance upon the "ancients:" is what led the liturgical revolutionaries, who were, to be honest, enabled by Pope Pius XII himself, to change the Holy Week liturgy, which was used for the first time fifty years ago this year, as a harbinger of their further efforts to destroy the Mass of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church and all of the other rites, especially that pertaining to the consecration of bishops. A reliance upon the "ancients" is of the essence of the Modernist desire to "get beyond" dogmatic formulations in order to appeal to "modern" man. A reliance upon the "ancients" is of the essence to place the Received Teaching of the Divine Redeemer into much question and doubt, thereby placing the welfare of the souls for whom Our Lord shed every single drop of His Most Most Precious Blood to redeem in jeopardy.
Pope Pius XII condemned in no uncertain terms a rejection of Scholasticism as destructive of the good of souls. In other words, he condemned Pope Benedict XVI's entire theological approach in this one passage of Humani Generis:
How deplorable it is then that this philosophy, received and honored by the Church, is scorned by some, who shamelessly call it outmoded in form and rationalistic, as they say, in its method of thought. They say that this philosophy upholds the erroneous notion that there can be a metaphysic that is absolutely true; whereas in fact, they say, reality, especially transcendent reality, cannot better be expressed than by disparate teachings, which mutually complete each other, although they are in a way mutually opposed. Our traditional philosophy, then, with its clear exposition and solution of questions, its accurate definition of terms, its clear-cut distinctions, can be, they concede, useful as a preparation for scholastic theology, a preparation quite in accord with medieval mentality; but this philosophy hardly offers a method of philosophizing suited to the needs of our modern culture. They allege, finally, that our perennial philosophy is only a philosophy of immutable essences, while the contemporary mind must look to the existence of things and to life, which is ever in flux. While scorning our philosophy, they extol other philosophies of all kinds, ancient and modern, oriental and occidental, by which they seem to imply that any kind of philosophy or theory, with a few additions and corrections if need be, can be reconciled with Catholic dogma. No Catholic can doubt how false this is, especially where there is question of those fictitious theories they call immanentism, or idealism, or materialism, whether historic or dialectic, or even existentialism, whether atheistic or simply the type that denies the validity of the reason in the field of metaphysics.
In one fell swoop, ladies and gentlemen, Pope Pius XII condemned the approach of Pope Benedict XVI's mentor, Hans Urs von Balthasar, that has shaped his own mind throughout the course of his priesthood. Yes, Bishop Tissier de Mallerais is therefore entirely correct in pointing out the dangers inherent in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI. The writings of the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger stand condemned as injurious to the Deposit of Faith and thus to the good of souls by Pope Pius XII himself.
Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI's rejection of the Social Reign of Christ the King as it must be realized in the confessionally Catholic State stands condemned by Pope Pius XI as species of Modernism. Writing in Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, December 23, 1922, Pope Pius XI wrote:
Many believe in or claim that they believe in and hold fast to Catholic doctrine on such questions as social authority, the right of owning private property, on the relations between capital and labor, on the rights of the laboring man, on the relations between Church and State, religion and country, on the relations between the different social classes, on international relations, on the rights of the Holy See and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff and the Episcopate, on the social rights of Jesus Christ, Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord not only of individuals but of nations. In spite of these protestations, they speak, write, and, what is more, act as if it were not necessary any longer to follow, or that they did not remain still in full force, the teachings and solemn pronouncements which may be found in so many documents of the Holy See, and particularly in those written by Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV.
There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.
The approach of the Second Vatican Council and of the conciliar popes, including Pope Benedict XVI, stands condemned as a "a species of moral, legal, and social modernism." Any effort to deny the binding nature of this condemnation flies in the face of the First Vatican Council's anathematizing anyone who believes that defined dogmas can be understood so differently that they can appear to contradict themselves over time, which contradiction is of the essence of the Hegelian mind possessed by von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger.
Some readers might be overwhelmed by all of this. It must be remembered, though that the regime of novelty of the past forty to fifty years has been built on the clever facade of
"denying nothing of the many problematic elements offered in the name of progressive theology but denounced by Catholic orthodoxy." The Popes of Tradition warned us about the wolves in shepherds' clothing who now reject practically every aspect of the Catholic past as they attempt to use words, such as Tradition itself, to justify their efforts. It is important to revisit the warnings of the Popes of Tradition and to recognize that their condemnations have consequences on those who profess allegiance to condemned theologies and approaches in our own day.
Mind you, this commentary has focused on the foundation of the Modernist approach to "reach" "modern" man. I will review once again in a forthcoming article the errors of ecumenism which reaffirm others in their false religions while eschewing all efforts to convert them before they die as members of those false religions. The purpose of this commentary, though, has been to demonstrate that the Modernist mind has been condemned repeatedly by the Popes of Tradition. No one, including a pope, is free to defy these condemnations.
Some might say that, well, Pope John XXII made an erroneous statement about the souls in Heaven needing bodies to see the Beatific Vision. True enough. He did. However, the dogma of the Beatific Vision had not been defined at that time, and Pope John XXII repented of his error before he died. The conciliar popes, on the other hand, are defying the defined teaching of the Church (ecumenism, religious liberty, the nature of the Church and her sacraments) and defying anathemas in their effort to embody the very errors condemned by Popes Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Saint Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII. This reality cannot be dismissed out of hand by an exercise in positivism, believing that the past is the past and that the only thing that matters is what a current pope says and does, an approach that makes a mockery of Catholicism in its entirety. The Oath Against Modernism, which was included in Words Have Meanings, Including Those of Father Ratzinger, states what a Catholic had to believe and what he had to reject. Please re-read this Oath to understand the gravity of our situation.
Although I have been writing about the contradictions between conciliarism and the authentic patrimony of the Catholic Church for the better part of the past decade, I have been unwilling up until now to admit (although I probably did recognize) that there are consequences for such contradictions. It was upon reading Father Anthony Cekada's devastating analysis of the invalidity of the 1968 Rite of Episcopal Consecration that I was forced to recognize that the problems we face may be far more than a matter of a denial of dogma, as bad as that is. The very sacramental life of the Church, starting with the validity of her bishops, may have been targeted for an eclipse of a magnitude that can only be termed as part and parcel of the Great Apostasy.
Father Cekada, who was ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, has eviscerated the effort of Father Pierre-Marie, O.P., to justify the 1968 Rite of Episcopal Consecration as valid. I read Father Cekada's analysis without prejudice to my continued disagreement with him over the murder of Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo. We must be willing to put aside shallow, ad hominem arguments ("He's a sede, don't listen to him") to consider in a scholarly and dispassionate manner the positions an author outlines. Father Cekada's article has such important implications for each and every single one of us that it is important to read and to consider very carefully (Father Cekada Article on Episcopal Consecrations).
Remember this when you read Father Cekada's article: Blessed Anne Katherine Emmerich did say that there would come a time when Catholics would think that they were receiving Holy Communion but instead would be receiving "blessed bread." As I mentioned a few days ago, what if the goal of the revolutionaries, who do indeed believe in existentialism and immanentism and thus do not care about the form and matter of the sacraments (which "kind of work because we want them to"), was to obliterate the sacraments by obliterating the fullness of the priesthood, that is, the episcopacy? Absurd? Don't resort to dismissive language. Read Father Cekada's article. Reflect. Pray. I have come to the conclusion that the problems we face are far more than a denial of the "relevancy" of dogma by the Modernists and their allies. The problems we face involve an attack on the very sacramental life of the Church over and above the Novus Ordo Missae, which is itself based on the premises of antiquarianism, and going to the very heart of the hierarchical structure of the Church herself.
The price of all of this effort to "reach" "modern" man may be much higher than most of us, save for those who have been given the graces to see it from the beginning, have been willing to recognize or admit. And this very high price, which goes to the heart of the life of the Church herself, has not converted modern man, who has been busy killing babies, both chemically and surgically, and killing souls, including his own, by a total emergence in the allures of this passing world. Modern man has rejected the effort of the Modernists to accommodate the Faith to his "needs," content that the Church in her human elements has adapted herself to his "sophistication."
As Catholics, we fly unto the patronage of Our Lady. We trust completely in her Fatima Message. The late Mario Luigi Cardinal Ciappi, O.P., who had served as the Theologian to the Papal Household during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, was reported to have said, as recorded in The Devil's Final Battle, as saying that the Third Secret of Fatima dealt with the apostasy within the highest reaches of the church. We must admit that this is indeed the case and simply trust in Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, never fearing where the truth will lead us and always keeping uppermost in our minds that her Immaculate Heart will indeed triumph in the end. We just have to remain faithful to her Divine Son by cleaving to the fullness of the Faith until the point of our dying breaths.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, pray for us.
Pope Saint Pius V, pray for us.
Pope Saint Pius X, pray for us.
Saint Athanasius, pray for us.
Saint Philomena, pray for us.
Blessed Pauline Jaricot, pray for us.
Blessed Francisco, pray for us.
Blessed Jacinta, pray for us.
Sister Lucia, pray for us.
An Afterword: Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre Reflecting on his "Suspension," 1976:
“What could be clearer. We are suspended a divinis by the conciliar church, for the conciliar church to which we have no wish to belong.
The conciliar church is a schismatic church because it breaks with the Catholic Church that has always been. It has its new dogmas, its new priesthood, its new institutions, its new worship; all already condemned by the church in many a document – official and definitive.
This is why the founders of the conciliar church insist so much on obedience to today’s church, prescinding from yesterday’s church as though it no longer existed.
This conciliar church is schismatic because it has taken as a basis for its updating, principals opposed to those of the Catholic Church. This conciliar church is therefore not Catholic!
To whatever extent pope, bishops, priests, or faithful adhere to this new church, they separate themselves from the Catholic Church.
Today’s Church is the true Church only to whatever extent it is a continuation of and one body with the Church of yesterday and of always. The norm of Catholic faith is tradition. The demand of His Eminence Msgr Benelli is then illuminating: submission to the conciliar church, to the Vatican II church, to the schismatic church!
For our part we persevere in the Catholic church by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
Whatever our conclusions currently, can we all agree that Archbishop Lefebvre was exactly correct thirty years ago?
The Longer Version of the Saint Michael the Archangel Prayer, composed by Pope Leo XIII, 1888
O glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defense in the terrible warfare which we carry on against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of our Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay, and cast into eternal perdition, souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. That wicked dragon pours out. as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on Her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck the sheep may be scattered. Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
Verse: Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
Response: The Lion of the Tribe of Juda has conquered the root of David.
Verse: Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
Response: As we have hoped in Thee.
Verse: O Lord hear my prayer.
Response: And let my cry come unto Thee.
Verse: Let us pray. O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as suppliants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin, immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all other unclean spirits, who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of our souls.