St. Alphonsus Liguori once wrote, in commenting on a passage in the Biblical book of Matthew, "'You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid' (Matt v 14). A city on the summit of a mountain cannot be concealed from the eyes of men. Thus he has declared, that the Church cannot but be visible to all." So how does one go about hiding the City on the hill which cannot be hid? As with any magic trick, all it takes is a little misdirection.
Any savvy Catholic cognizant of authentic Catholic doctrine, would have to be suffering from a rather considerable cognitive dissonance if they continue to mistake the present Vatican apparatus as being the Catholic Church. To know authentic Catholicism is not only to know what the Church teaches and how She worships, but also to know that the Church cannot defect nor be compromised in these areas, not even by fallen and corrupt churchmen. And to know all this while seeing a fallen Vatican apparatus while thinking it to be the Church, at least in some external, material, legal, visible, or canonical sense, is to have the distress of cognitive dissonance. You know that it cannot be and yet there it is before your very eyes. It's like seeing two and two make five - it can't be and yet there it is.
I think people avoid facing that mystery since surely it has to be something way beyond the knowledge of any ordinary person. It is as if only some extraordinary genius, a St. Thomas Aquinas perhaps, or like, would ever be able to come to some understanding of it, as if only the greatest theologians might even be able to comprehend the answer were it given to them, even as only the greatest mathematicians can comprehend Wiles' proof of the famous “Fermat's Last Theorem.”
For example, Fr. Simoulin and his fellow priests of the Italian district of the SSPX once wrote "Faced with the mystery that at present envelops the Church, confronted with a crisis situation to which no one can furnish an apodictic and completely satisfying theological explanation, the only position truly in conformity with the Faith, the Creed, and Catholic doctrine, is to practice the virtue of prudence," which in a nutshell describes quite fully the entire position of the SSPX. Without attempting to comprehend the nature of the situation they proceed on ahead with the best praxis they can (and I have never faulted their praxis, which is identical to the praxis of the other traditional orders stemming from Archbishop Thuc and Bishop Mendez). Again, he writes, "Faced with the mystery of the current situation of the Church, in no way can we claim to have understood and resolved every difficulty. Nor do we claim to have delivered some definitive theological or dogmatic definition."
So of course it is easy for most people to think that our situation is somehow incalculable and incomprehensible, as if we are confronted with some major breakdown in God's own promises to His Church, or the ability of mere men to preempt God's Church with their own whims. Sensing the question to be so far above one's level, it is quite a natural and instinctive reaction to avoid thinking about it, and even to tune out when it is being discussed, since "Surely any explanation capable of truly addressing what I have just seen would itself have to be as incomprehensible as what I have seen itself."
Part of this is perhaps the thinking that it must all have something to do with some deep and subtle facet of one of the lesser known Divine Mysteries, namely that of the Church being the Mystical Body of Christ - how it is that an organization made up of fallen and sinful men can nevertheless be the perfect society, holy, and without spot or wrinkle, and how it is that God can give to man the power to forgive sins. And we all know that that Divine Mystery, like all Divine Mysteries, is something that we will never get to the bottom of, not even with all Eternity to explore it in ever further and further depth. So perhaps in a way, many just throw up their hands in resignation and attribute the present situation to some deep and unknown aspect of this Mystery, and leave it at that.
However, as it turns out, the "mystery of what has happened to the Church since Vatican II" is not to be equated with any of the Divine Mysteries, of the Trinity, the Incarnation, or even for that matter, with the Mystery of Iniquity. It is not a mystery on par with these great Divine Mysteries, nor is it even like Fermat's Last Theorem which only some of the most intelligent and expert mathematicians can fully understand. If anything, the "mystery" regarding the present situation of the Church is on par with the typical "mystery" of a Whodunit thriller. It only looks impossible to figure out due to clever stage management and misdirection. Any work of skilled stage magic can look frightfully impressive, until one finds out how it is done. "Oh, is THAT all there was to it?" And that is exactly what we are dealing with here.
I recall once being in a magic store and the person there was showcasing a trick in which a match levitates. There were no strings or anything on the match (I could get as close up as I pleased, which was very close) and yet it moved and twirled and raised itself over his otherwise empty hand with no visible means of support. Seeing that, one could really believe that one was in the presence of mysterious forces (spirits? psychokinetic powers? physical forces unknown to science?). After purchasing the trick I tried it on a friend of mine who literally thought I must have been messing around with the occult. I can't give the whole thing away but suffice it to say that the match was specially rigged, and it uses a certain kind of magnet, carefully placed. No spirits, no psychokinetic powers, no unknown physical forces, just magnetism. The same thing, if done with a paper clip, would have been much more obvious. The use of a match, which one would not expect to be magnetic, is what made the phenomena so much harder to recognize.
The example that I really want to use is that of when the famous stage magician David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Making the Statue of Liberty disappear is really not at all that different from making the Church disappear, with the one rather theoretical exception that the Statue of Liberty really could be made to disappear, for example by blowing it up or tearing it down. However, its existence throughout the trick was fully as constant as the existence of the Church is Divinely guaranteed to be down throughout history, and as such was not based on an actual disappearance. So how did it look, and then how did it work?
The book "Bigger Secrets" by William Poundstone provides the most detailed surviving account of the event, both what it looked like and how it was done. To the audience, seated on a special area of Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty towered over their heads behind the main stage on which David Copperfield performed all his various tricks. One could see it, brightly lit directly straight ahead neatly framed between two towers At a certain point in time, a curtain was pulled up between the towers, thus hiding the statue from the audience. A short while later the curtain came down again and there was no statue! Searchlights waved this way and that through the empty space but all was dark and empty. It was clean gone! Where did it go? How did he make it disappear? The curtain then went up, and again some time passed, after which it came down again and there it was restored back to normal.
One of the basic classic texts for aspiring stage magicians is the three-book set of "Showmanship for Magicians," "The Trick Brain," and "Magic by Misdirection," by Dariel Fitzkee. In the Misdirection book, quite a number of methods of misdirection are described, and how they would be used in performing magic tricks. It's all about attention control. If you can get the audience to look over here while you are doing something else over there which is crucial to your trick, then you have successfully employed misdirection, and once the trick reaches its denouement, it is to great dramatic effect. Of the many kinds of misdirection there are, I am only going to discuss three: ruse, simulation, and dissimulation.
With a Ruse, one does something, apparently for one reason, but really far more importantly for another. For example, after "accidently" dropping something on the floor, you seemingly naturally bend over to pick it up, supposedly just to pick up what you dropped. But while you are down there it gives you a chance to do something, to see something, to pocket something, to fix something, which will prove crucial to a later part of the trick (or even a later trick sometimes).
The two key misdirections I want to devote most of this to however are Simulation and Dissimulation. They are opposite sides of the same coin. With simulation you pretend to have something you don't really have; with dissimulation you pretend to not have something you in fact do have. If a magician seems to have an egg in his mouth, and he seems to squeeze it out into his hand and then carries his hand in such a manner that it really seems as if there is an egg inside, but it's not really there; the hand is only empty and with sudden flourish the magician can at the appointed time suddenly open his hand and Poof! it's gone, that is simulation. He simulates an egg in his hand when it is in fact empty. When one "palms" a coin or a card one is dissimulating by making their hand seem empty when in fact it is holding a coin or a card. He dissimulates holding the coin or the card in his hand.
So, assuming that one has not yet read up on how the Disappearing Statue of Liberty was done, what kind of speculations would have to go through your mind, and perhaps went through the minds of those in the audience who were not prepared for this? Perhaps some wondered if it could have been lowered in some big lift down into the ground. Perhaps others wondered if some gigantic helicopter yanked it away. Still others might suppose hypnotism to cause us to think we can't see it when in fact we can. And perhaps still others wondered if the man truly had some sort of supernatural powers to make the thing actually disappear. No matter what of these sorts of approach would be used, it must have been something quite extraordinary, expensive, complicated, showing some sort of vast resource or else even preternatural help. And would hypnosis be enough? There is always a few in any crowd who simply cannot be hypnotized, even by the most expert at it. But in truth it wasn't any of that. It was only misdirection by simulation and dissimulation.
Now let's look at how these two elements were used in making the Statue of Liberty disappear. (It is all right for me to be discussing how this trick was done since this information is already published, not only in "Bigger Secrets," but also in various places on the internet; it is not hard to find this information. The only new detail I add to it here is to highlight what role simulation and dissimulation served in this trick.) Even more basic, there were three basic components to the trick. The first and most obvious were the bright lights close to the stage. When one's eyes (or any camera with an automatic shutter setting based on overall light levels) attempts to look out into the empty darkness, the bright nature of the close objects at the stage render the actual nature of what is going on with such low contrast as it cannot be seen. The second part of the trick is also not that hard to figure out, all the lights illuminating the Statue of Liberty were doused (this trick was done at night time), thus rendering it barely visible. Obviously it must have taken some doing, since one does not just "turn out the lights" on the Statue of Liberty without at least clearing it with the Mayor of New York, but David Copperfield was quite a famous magician and no doubt able to obtain this permission.
The third component of this trick was that the entire audience was placed on a rotating platform, along with the towers and the whole stage setup. While the curtain was up the whole shebang was rotated just a few degrees, perhaps about 10 to 15 degrees, thus hiding the statue behind one of the towers (there is a good ruse - the tower not only frames the statue and holds the curtain, pulling it up and letting it down, but also one of them also conceals the statue as well). This effectively had the whole audience looking in the wrong direction, and nobody then figured it out. Only later did the secret leak out.
For simulation, the frame of the towers and a hovering helicopter (the pilot was in on the trick, and knew were he was to fly) all seemed to imply without saying it that the statue should be directly ahead, where they saw it just before, but of course there is no statue in that direction. In addition, a circle of lights (which provide most of the illumination of the statue) had an equivalent in the 10 to 15 degree offset direction, namely a second "circle of lights" to light up the empty space. This was only for the benefit of the television audience which saw portions of what the helicopter could see. And then there were also searchlights in that direction simulating the searchlights in the direction of the statue. The key aspect of the dissimulation was that the statue was now unlit, and since no one knows that they have all been rotated, no one is going to look over to the left where in fact a small portion of its widest part of its base is just visible in the extreme lower left corner.
So, knowing all this, one realizes that the Statue of Liberty was never done away with, merely hidden by various misdirections. Now knowing how it was done, all of those sorts of speculations about giant helicopters and elevators and hypnotism and spirit powers can only seem rather silly and extravagant.
Getting back to the question of hiding the City on a Hill which cannot be hid, one can see that one simply does it by hiding the whole Hill (along with the City on it) as best as one can (one can never do a thing like that perfectly) and then directing attention to an alternate hill. As I have often written of before in my series Down the Yellow Brick Road to Apostasy, it all started with the Vatican II documents, most notably Lumen Gentium. The City on the Hill was not the only thing they thus hid, but also there was some other things being hidden as well. As a small digression I would like to address a couple such smaller points first as an illustration of how these and other Vatican documents can, through mere sleight of hand, quietly substitute destructible foreign elements for Catholic things that, like the Church Herself, are indestructible.
Unlike the Statue of Liberty which could, theoretically, have been perfectly concealed behind one of the two towers (it wasn't; since a tiny bit of its base is actually visible in the extreme lower left part of the open area viewed when it supposedly had disappeared), the attempt to hide the City upon a Hill can never be perfect. The visible nature of the Church requires that the nature of any such trick must leave spoor tracks of its activities. The thing can't be done secretly. It all has to be done officially and publicly, but it can be (and was here) done by using bizarre and complex language that almost disguises its meaning, a subtle but necessary point hopelessly buried in an sea of ambiguity and incomprehensible flower-talk. After all, what exactly IS a "Pilgrim Church," or as something that shall only receive its perfection in the glory of Heaven? (Lumen Gentium Para. 48)
Where did missionary evangelism somehow get "changed" into the aimless blather of "dialogue" and other non-conversion political correctness and what not? In fact there was never any such morphing. "Ecumenism," consisting of all manner of dialogue, joint doctrinal statements, mutual endeavors, and so forth, though central and integral to what is commonly called today "The New Evangelism," is not and never was any sort of outgrowth or extension of the Old Evangelism of preaching the Gospel to all nations and baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. No matter how much one gets sold as the other, that is all nothing but simulation.
Back in the Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio (published later the same day as Lumen Gentium), the whole new "ecumenism" project is mandated for the new "Vatican institution." And the document is quite explicit in making clear the distinction between this new program of "ecumenism" versus what evangelization is. In paragraph 4 it states, "However, it is evident that, when individuals wish for full Catholic communion, their preparation and reconciliation is an undertaking which of its nature is distinct from ecumenical action." That "preparation and reconciliation" for those who happen to wish for Catholic communion is all that remains within the Conciliar "church" of any real concept of the Old Evangelism. But this here makes it quite clear and explicit that "ecumenical action," that is to say all of Vatican II-style "ecumenism," is being introduced as something new alongside and parallel to evangelism. It is something else, something other than evangelism, separate and distinct, and quite alien.
Missionaries who were once sent forth to distant lands to bring to them the Gospel of Christ are now sent there as tourists. Instead of teaching them the Gospel of Christ and baptizing them and so forth, now they are taught by the pagans all about Pagandom and how to become pagans, just so they can bring the lesson back and teach us how to be pagans as well. Mind you I have nothing against tourism; I've done some of it myself. But there is no way that such an activity could ever become an official action or mission of the Church. One might as well make an official action or mission of the Church out of horseback riding, or falconry, or playing video games.
But this "tourism" is being touted today as "The New Evangelism." And that is complete misdirection. That is why attempts to morph it "back" into the Old Evangelism invariably fail. The thing never was real evangelization in the first place. Where before we told Protestants to come back to the Church, now they issue "Joint Statements" with various Protestants. Much time and effort is squandered in "dialogue." As one wag put it (with a bit too much truth sometimes), "Dialogue is where Catholics and Protestants sit down together and talk about what the Catholics aren't going to believe anymore."
But even when dialogue doesn't sink to such levels, the best it can attain is:
"Well, here in England we eat fish and chips."
Absurd as it sounds, this is what "The New Evangelism" amount to, quite an empty hand pretending to be full. But meanwhile, the Old Evangelism has quietly fallen away and is now mostly forgotten and seldom practiced.
"Oh, how so fascinating! We in America eat hamburgers and french fries."
"Do you now? How extraordinary! Well, it's been a pleasure dialoging with you. We must do it again sometime."
The same was done to the Mass. Little is it known that the Novus Ordo is not any "change" made to the authentic Catholic Roman Rite, but rather a new ceremony created again in parallel to the Catholic Rite. But when originally published, the Novus Ordo was not an abrogation of the Catholic Rite, but rather something new being introduced to exist alongside it. The most explicit admission of this is documented in the May 2004 Inside the Vatican.
Fr. Charles-Roux was interviewing Paul VI, and he said, "For 18 months I celebrated the new mass, but I cannot continue. I was ordained to celebrate the old Mass, and I want to return to it. Will you permit me to do so?" Paul VI replied to him, "Certainly. I never forbade celebration of the old Mass; I have only offered an alternative." So there it is in black and white. The holy Mass never "morphed" into the Novus Ordo, rather the Novus Ordo was an alien innovation introduced to exist alongside the holy Mass. The two are separate and distinct.
Catholics of all kinds have at least sensed that the "church of today" is not the same thing as the "Church of yesterday." Few of them have any idea just how right their instincts are. For the above two examples of evangelism and the Mass are but warm-ups to the big-ticket misdirection that has managed to fool nearly everyone, even many of the Catholics who devoutly withdrew from the "church of today" to return to the "Church of yesterday," and even many of those who comprise the living hierarchy of the "Church of yesterday."
When Lumen Gentium spoke of the real Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ as something that subsists IN their organization, instead of subsisting AS their Vatican-based organization, right there is the formal charter and constitution that established a new and parallel hierarchy to that of Holy Mother Church, and the members of their Vatican-based organization as the founding members of that new and rival parallel hierarchy! For a thing cannot subsist "in" itself, only "as" itself, but "in" another and different thing. There is no escaping the explicit meaning of this grammar. Where before there was one thing now here are two. And, according to the relevant paragraph contained within Lumen Gentium, the first partly subsists within parts of the other, and also partly subsists elsewhere, and the leader of the second possesses no authority, de jure, over the portions of the first that happen to subsist outside the confines of the second.
So how was it that so many were fooled into following the new and second group, the parallel and rival hierarchy to the real Catholic Church? Again, the misdirections were quite simple and clever. Let's start with the simulations. How did the new simulate being some sort of "continuous identity" with the old? For this case it is simple.
The same thing was done in sixteenth Century England. Up until 1534 there was only the Church IN England. There was no such thing as any "Church OF England." But when the King wanted his own church he created his new "Church OF England" as a rival to the Church IN England. See my essay A Lesson from Jolly Old England. Those clerics who signed the Declaration of Royal Supremacy thereby officially and visibly transferred over from the Church IN England to the new Church OF England. But the ordinary Englander never knew the difference. With only the rarest of exceptions of those clerics who refused to sign (and thus had to go into hiding or even get killed - either way they could not continue in their former parishes and cathedrals), they had all the same bishops in all the same cathedrals, with all the same dioceses filled with all the same parishes staffed by all the same parish priests, and still having all the same attached religious houses, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and so forth. So of course practically everyone mistakenly assumed what they now had was merely continuous with what they had there before as one and the same thing. And so we have today.
The rival hierarchy quietly took over all dioceses and parishes, in most cases again retaining the same clerics in equivalent posts to those they had formerly held in the Church, and using all the same buildings and other material assets. And a mere physical plant can be quite impressive and seemingly persuasive. Why do you suppose it is that courtrooms are all in fancy oak-paneled rooms, with expensive brick buildings, with columns and marble and so forth? This is all done to make what happens therein seem all the more "important" and "official" than it could ever seem if done in some cheap temporary structure. Again, it's all manipulative psychology, made to enable a false and rival new "hierarchy" to simulate being one and the same as the original and authentic hierarchy.
So once again, the Devil manages to be the "ape" of God. For a true pope he substitutes a CEO-like president (in practice), for a true hierarchy he substitutes invalidly ordained or consecrated heretics, for the Holy Rite of the Mass he substitutes the Novus Ordo service, for evangelism he substitutes ecumenism, for missionaries he substitutes tourists. These things are not THE Church now fallen (for it can never fall), but rather a clone "ape" of the Church, created for the express purpose of falling, and having done so. God's promises apply to the Church itself, not to any such new artifice created merely to ape the Church. So of course its leader is not infallible, of course it is free to fall into modernism or any other of the many false "-isms" there are out there.
The promises of God to His Church simply do not apply to it at all. So that is how it is that the Gates of Hell have so perfectly and completely prevailed against the present Vatican institution. There is no room to deny that they have; the Church was simply smuggled out of there first, and then the rest was left to fall.
Benedict XVI (as "cardinal" Ratzinger) once wrote in Milestones: Memoirs: 1927-1977 that "when the community of faith, the worldwide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence?" So right there is an express admission that the Novus Ordo "church" is not even a visible church, and so indeed we find. That is to say, they are not visibly the Church, but (thanks to Lumen Gentium), visibly separated from the Church, visibly cut off from the community of eternal life. The real Church is visible, and the usage of the Holy Mass for its worship is where it shows itself visibly. As such, we have always been a visible Church, even in the darkest years of the present crisis.
To the world, and in pretense, the organizers of the overthrow of the Church at Vatican II pretended that it was merely some sort of "good neighbor" policy, one of showing respect to persons of other religions (but we always did that; it was just the false religions themselves we could not respect), a claim of applying mercy where sterner medicine is plainly needed. But all of that was merely a ruse. The real intent was to impart the Divine Commission to preach to all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, to those who are not answerable to the Vatican leadership, and in that they have succeeded, and the results we all see today.
But simulation and ruse are only part of the trick. What role has dissimulation played in the present misdirection? There are several things that make the true Church difficult to recognize, despite her plainly visible existence throughout all time and including even during the present crisis. The first and most obvious is the relatively small size we now have. Where before the Church had hundreds of thousands of priests and thousands of bishops now She has barely a thousand or so priests, and maybe a dozen or two bishops, worldwide. And thinly scattered as She is here in America and many other developed nations, in other areas she is scattered far thinner. Whole nations presently go without the continuous presence of even a single hierarchical representative of the Church, some may be visited only once or twice a year, others perhaps visited only once every several years or more.
Another part of the dissimulation is that even of what few clerics we now have, even most of those are exiled from their former parishes and cathedrals and forced to use funky buildings, many of which were never meant to serve as churches, some formerly served as small Protestant churches, temporary buildings, and even rented hotel rooms. Only the barest handful of facilities of the Church's physical plant have managed to remain in (or be returned to) Catholic hands so as to serve the same purpose and the same Church as when they were built: The facility at Mount Saint Michael's in Spokane, Saint Mary's Academy and College in St. Mary's, Saint Vincent's in Kansas City, Immaculate Conception in Norwood, and San Nicholas du Chardonnet in Paris being the only ones I am aware of. The lack of a substantial physical plant does make the whole thing seem less "official" but again this is all just manipulative psychology.
Still another part of the dissimulation is how the conventional diocesan boundaries can no longer be enforced or even observed. Even as traditional priests in England, trained in France and smuggled in, moved not only from parish to parish area but even former diocese to former diocese, so do many traditional priests today, and equally with no recognition or approval from the holders of the now fictitious dioceses, again giving the authentic ministers of the Church a seeming fly-by-night status, one which the holy priest Saint Campion lived with until his martyrdom.
But finally, and this is the one part that something can and must be done about, for this is what lies at the heart of the present sustainment of the crisis, and that is the fact that even the legitimate hierarchical members of Holy Mother Church do not all recognize each other. This is what happens when the Church is forced to function so long without a pope. Bishop argues with bishop as to the most prudential course, and in the days when there was a pope he could arbitrate between them and order them to work together for the one Church they serve. But now with no pope, such arguments merely degenerate into name calling and insults against each others family parentage and/or episcopal line of succession. And when that fails one then gripes to one's own flock about how bad the other fellow is. Not since the First Great Western Schism has the Church ever been in such a state - until now.
And that has been the REAL crisis IN the Church, not modernism, not ecumenism, not any of the other patently bogus "-isms" the ape "church" may fall into for lack of Divine authority and protection. The REAL Catholic Church has never succumbed to modernism, has never said a Novus Ordo, has never dialogued with non-Catholics in some vain attempt to find some "consensus" palatable to Catholics and non-Catholics, has never had any of the public scandals (child molestations, satanic ritual murders, embezzlement, etc.) that have so permeated the ape "church." The real Church has never taught heresy, has never led any soul to Hell, and remains the "Perfect Society" that our Lord Jesus Christ created it to be. But how can people return to the Church when they think they have to choose whether to join "this" or "that" portion? So we remain small, weak, divided, though many many more would join us in a second if only they knew, or even if only we gave them something more palpable and visibly united within itself to join.
So, like turning off the lights to the Statue of Liberty, we may seem invisible, but we can be seen, if only one looks carefully and also knows where to look. Even in the case of the actual Statue of Liberty, if one looked carefully at the extreme of one of the corners of the empty area between the two towers, a small bit of its base could be made out whenever the searchlights passed, so not only did the Statue of Liberty remain in existence, it also remained visible, at least to those who only knew where to look. It was still in plain view, and so is the Church.