"Who do you trust?" That was the title of a popular TV game show back in the 50's and 60's - a time when one's word meant much more than it does today. It meant something to our founding fathers as well for the national motto was then and remains today "In God we trust." Yes, despite all the rhetoric of humanism and atheism, God is still the One we must trust. In fact, save for a few close loved ones in everyone's life, He is the only One we can trust.
I bring this up because God's chief nemesis, the evil one known as lucifer, is running amok today - everywhere. No one, I repeat, no one is immune from the wiles of satan. That includes you and me. We are all sinners. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the world came that we may "have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10: 10). He did so for all: From popes, patriarchs and presidents to paupers, from the just to junkies, from parents to politicians, from children to charlatans, from innocent to infidels, from protectors of life to pro-aborts. No one is exempted from God's graces. In that same context no one can escape the toils and troubles of this world. That is part of the free will pact God made with man.
Adam and Eve complicated it, but the Father, in His ultimate Mercy and Love for His creation, sent His only-begotten Son to even the score - level the playing field, so to speak.
Satan was furious and vowed to get even. The devil operates that way. Christ warned us of his ways, he warned us of the wide path the evil one would lay out before us, strewn with roses and promises. Yet, man from time immemorial, even after Jesus provided us the answers, has continued to foul up a good thing.
The Old Testament documents the countless times the Jews were subdued by other nations and given a reprieve to redeem themselves before God through penance and atonement. After a while, they forgot God and suffered the consequences over and over again...even to this day. The great Egyptian empire crumbled because of greed and exploitation of others. The wisdom of the Greek empire caved to the whims of self-indulgence to the point of perversity as sodomy became the national pastime. The mighty Roman Empire imploded because they too embraced all the grievous faults of past empires. Throughout history the casualty list of mighty nations has one identifying common thread: all defeated themselves because they turned their back on God's holy laws. No matter how strong, they all were finite. All failed because they thought they had a better idea than God.
Is it any different today? No way. America is heading down that path today. Europe also. In fact it is so similar that it is indeed frightening. In all cases over the past 2 millennia, the Roman Catholic Church was part and parcel of the causes and effects. Many times gloriously, a few times ingloriously. The Protestant Reformation came about not because Martin Luther just decided to rebel. No, he would never have been granted the stage to protest had Rome remained firm in her moral authority and own conduct. It is a known fact that the Popes of the late 15th century were not only weak, but greatly violated the sacred trust by relaxing moral values to the point where one Sovereign Pontiff - Pope Alexander VI bought his way to the Papal Throne, bribing those electors and punishing those who opposed him. It was the powerful Borgia cartel that produced a line of men who contributed much to the Renaissance, but erased that good by the evil that they embraced for their own selfish purposes. I have said often that were I living in that time and realized the double standard set by Alexander and his lustful ways, I too might have been blinded by his sins and turned against him and followed Luther. Remember, Luther was not an ignorant man - misguided, stubborn and proud, yes - but not stupid.
I bring this all up because today the Church is under great attack as is our present Sovereign Pontiff Pope John Paul II. Some have mistakenly assumed, because of our Traditional stance, that we have been part of this attack. Nothing could be further from the truth. We love our Holy Father. We love him so much that we will fight for him and stand behind him because he is the true successor of Peter. Yet, at the same time he, as a person is not infallible. He, too, makes mistakes. He is only infallible when speaking from the Chair of Peter ex cathedra on matters of Faith and Morals. No Pope has spoken thusly since Pope Pius XII declared the Dogma of the Assumption on November 1, 1950.
That is so important to realize. We are totally obedient to the Pope, but at the same time we have the right to question things that collide with Catholic traditions and teachings or the contradictions that arise such as his appointments of known progressivists that further weaken Catholic teaching and the Primacy of Peter. Why he has done so is the questions we are asking. The more we have researched, the more we see how politics plays such a pivotal role even in the Church. There is distrust everywhere for man in every walk of life has a tendancy to betray trust. We see this everyday everywhere. It can be so frustrating, so disconcerting. As much as we would like to believe, things are not always as they seem. We want to trust the Pope above all. When he engages in actions that bring into question the matter of compromising for the sake of pleasing man such as the ecumenical movement and not accounting for the laxity of the American bishops then we ask as humble children 'why?'
Consider the scrutiny that has gone into the canonization process of Mother Teresa. The vast majority of civilization - Catholic and non-Catholic already consider her a saint. It brings to light the fact that all - even the humble, holy founder of the Missionaries of Charity - are human and therefore susceptible to sin - whether it be the most venial for those striving for sanctity or the fatal flaw of mortal sin for those who defy God's laws. The Pope must be above all, setting the example of holiness for his flock and avoiding any possibility of impropriety for his own behavior and for those he has appointed. The Holy Father is under the microscope constantly. He would be easy to criticize as a man. As a public figure that comes with the popularity of the position and the global attention he has garnered in this high-tech age. The unfortunate aspect is that the media and modern icon makers have played up the man rather than the august position he holds. I daresay all the world respects John Paul II whereas far fewer - even within the Church - respect his role of Supreme Pontiff. That is evident by the bishops' consistent tendency over the past three decades to disregard what the Holy See has directed - from Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae to Pope John Paul II's Ecclesia Dei edict to the bishops to make the Tridentine Mass readily available.
The Keeper of the Keys, no matter who he is or period in history, must always balance the quest for sanctity with the need to reach all God's children in a way they will understand. This means some times conforming to customs and cultures in his pilgrimages that could scandalize others if taken out of context. This is a great danger that the enemies of the Church seek to capitalize on and divide the family within. This could easily be done, just as taking anything out of context can be done including passages of Sacred Scripture. Remember the devil can twist things to make it sound true no matter what it is. The man of gehenna has such a strong influence on souls today and he doesn't present himself as hideous but rather in half-truths that can have credibility with even the most ardent believers. Do you see the problems with who do you trust?
Trust is such a fragile virtue that ebbs and flows with the tides of emotions and causes. Trust is paramount to the foundation of family. I liken the Church to a family - a large one, true, nevertheless a family of one billion Catholics. In any family there are differences. God made each one of us in His Image, but He also made each one of us different, each one of us with traits and genes that distinguish us as individuals. No two people are alike.
Name a family, other than the Holy Family, where husband and wife have not disagreed on issues. Name a family where brother and sister have not fought amongst themselves. Name a family where bickering doesn't come into play. But at the same time, name a family who, despite their own differences within, will not stand and fight to the death united against those outsiders who would attack the family. Brothers who go at it tooth and nail with each other in a fistfight will become the strongest allies when someone tries to divide them. The Crusades proved this fact. Other causes in history have as well, both good and bad.
So also with the Church. The family of Holy Mother Church is in faction today. Is this the Pope's fault? No. However, because he is head of this family, the responsibility must rest with him. He realizes this. Yet, the question arises just how much are his hands tied? How much does politics come into play? How much damage done by previous Popes has he inherited and tried to correct? Why has he not replaced progressive prelates? Why has he allowed the bishops to gain so much collegial power? Why has he pushed the modernist agenda for ecumenism through compromise rather than conversion? These are all serious, concerned questions that need to be answered. We don't know all the answers, but we would venture to project that all these factors have a great bearing on what is going on today. We hope and pray that the Holy Father is above the fray, that he will eschew politics and hidden agendas, dark secrets and scandals, to do the right thing before God. At the same time, consider the predicament he is in and what he inherited.
It is no secret that the Conclave of 1978 was a bitter microcosm of what is happening today in the Church. There was much infighting then as to ideologies just as there is so much infighting going on today. Because of that the Church's enemies are taking advantage. That's why we have recommended the FirstCRUSADE of the 21st Century to refocus on what is important, to reestablish the family of the Mystical Body of Christ - the Church Militant so they can be more effective with and for God. Just as the Popes and saints of the time of the Crusades rallied and united nations who had been at war, brought together people of different cultures and customs throughout Europe to fight for one common cause, so also we hope and pray that in these times a true, authentic Crusade for the Tried and True, Tridentine True Faith can rally the various ideologies to fight as one for the truths of Holy Mother Church against the enemy that seeks to destroy.
The factions within our family are many, not unlike the European countries of the time of the Crusades. From right to left you have the Sedevacantist Catholics, the ultra-traditionalist Catholics, the Traditionalist Catholics, the Neo-Traditionalist Catholics, the Saint Pius V Catholics, the Saint Pius X Society Catholics, the Neo-Catholics, Conservative Catholics, Charismatic Catholics, Committed Catholics, Cultural Catholics, Catechumen Catholics, Casual Catholics, Liberal Catholics, New Age Catholics, Progressive Catholics, Rebellious Catholics, and Pro-Abort Catholics.
Now those are a lot of factions and I'm sure I've left out a few. The interesting point is that those Catholics in every group above believe in their hearts that they are right. Rightly or wrongly they believe the course they have set is the way it should be. We are no different. Cyndi and I are convinced that the Faith we were weaned on with its traditions, teaching and liturgy was right, proper and sure. We bemoan the fact so much has been discarded to where the end result today is a Protestantization of our precious Faith. We will always continue to fight for a purity of the Faith. Christ demands it. Yet, in the same vein I suspect, so will all the other factions listed above. So what do we do? How do we reconcile with the family?
It's a tough, tough question that cannot be answered by man, but only through the grace of God, through trial and error, through perseverance to the true ideals of Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Each faction, in their assumption that they are right, tends to villainize the other factions. We've seen it from many sides. Both Cyndi and I were brought up as committed traditional Catholics in the pre-Vatican II days of the 50's thanks to our parents and dedicated religious teachers and confessors. It was the Latin rite, the rite that was and is right, the rite and faith of the saints - tried and true, Tridentine True!
In my earlier years in the seminary I heard the grousing at times that we should have Mass and the Breviary in the vernacular. Why? So people could understand it easier? That was part of it, but mostly because then we wouldn't have to study so much Latin. The search for the easy way had already set in. Unfortunately, a year of studying Cicero and Homer under the demanding meticulous correctness of Father Don Joseph Paris, OMI could send even the most admiring aficionado of the mother of Romance languages into rejecting the official language of the Church if they had to conjugate another verb. This was just before Vatican II and there were rumblings then that eliminating Latin was on the agenda. I was still very traditional, but leaning toward newer renovations that would cater to my youthful liberal nature.
After college and my wonderful seven-year seminary experience with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, I tried to make up for lost time in the secular world and drifted away from the Church. I was a died-in-the-wool liberal then. I even campaigned for Senator Eugene McCarthy in my college years. Vietnam was wrong. I got involved in protests and pleasures. Partying on Saturday night took precedence over Sunday morning Mass. I fear this same fault was and is shared by many - especially after Vatican II. Although I protested, I still enlisted because, well, obedience is paramount. I didn't like it, but that's life. While serving as an information officer in the Air Force stateside I slowly came back to the Church. I thank God for placing patient and devoted base chaplains in my path for that. However, I was still liberal and felt the Bible wasn't relating with the youth of today. Ah, the brashness of youth. I see it reflected in my own sons and want so much to convey this to them so they don't make the same mistakes I did. Yet, they must in order to grow. I can attest to that.
I will continue with this in my next editorial on Thursday. I ask the reader to understand how we are sympathetic to all these factions for I was exposed to most of them myself. Sometimes reflection on walking in another's shoes can help decipher the causes and effects of why these factions have arisen. Perhaps, without compromising principle, we all should consider them in the same manner we are asked to discern private revelation. Saint Paul so inspiringly asserted what we should do in 1 Thessalonians 16-22: "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus regarding you all. Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. But test all things; hold fast that which is good. Keep yourselves from every kind of evil." That applies to all members of that universal family aptly known as the Catholic Church. Despite all our errors, our sinfulness, our lack of trust, God has a method to our madness.