Piety and Purity, Not Policies and Procedures|
By James W. J. Wiseman
Editor's Note: Following is a letter sent by a concerned Catholic on June 5th to USCCB Headquarters in Washington, D.C. intended for the body of Bishops to consider in their semi-annual meeting June 13-15 in Dallas, Texas.
As you prepare for your meeting in Dallas, I implore you to consider, during your deliberations, the proposal that the present crisis in the priestly ministry of the Church in America does not need policies and procedures. Please lead our Catholic faithful in a renewal of piety and purity. Policies and procedures are of man. Piety and purity are of God. When confronted with the sin of man, you must lead with a position from God.
I respectfully ask you to look for the root causes of the present problem, rather than attempt to simply address the symptoms, notwithstanding the fact that the popular press is only interested in the headlines of the latter.
The Real Problem is found in the Root Causes.
An honest appraisal of the root causes cannot exclude the high level of dissent that has built up over the past 35-40 years. I am speaking of the dissent of many priests and bishops which long ago reached an alarming and dangerous level. Although dissent from the timeless teaching of the Magisterium is almost as old as our Faith itself, no-one can deny the remarkable and horrendous explosion in dissent since Vatican II. The roots of the present dissent itself are now more than 100 years' old, and Leo XIII warned us in America, in his Encyclical, "Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae" of 22nd January, 1899, of the dangers inherent in "new opinions" about the Faith. Pope Leo III said, quoting Vatican I:
"For the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared. Hence that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother, the Church, has once declared, nor is that meaning ever to be departed from under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them."
- Constitutio de Fide Catholica, Chapter iv.
These words apply equally today. Unfortunately, we face much of the same kind of attempt to change the Church's teachings as prompted Pope Leo XIII to write to the bishops of the United States 103 years ago, "to call attention to some things to be avoided and corrected." (Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae)
Dear Excellencies, yours is the responsibility to lead your flocks into Assent and out of the cesspool of Dissent.
Pope Saint Pius X, in his Encyclical, "Pascendi Dominici Gregis," just less than 100 years ago, on 8th September, 1908, was compelled to write, concerning the dangers of Modernism:
"That We should act without delay in this matter is made imperative especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church's open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open. We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more sad, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, animated by a false zeal for the Church, lacking the solid safeguards of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, put themselves forward as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the Person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious audacity, they degrade to the condition of a simple and ordinary mall."
- "Pascendi Dominici Gregis" #2
How sad to say that these words ring just as true today. One needs only to have a conversation with almost any lay person to find a grave misunderstanding of the Faith. This speaks volumes about the woeful inadequacy of catechesis. Even in conversations with many priests, the dismal truth is that misdirection, misinformation, and misapplication of the perennial truths is only too evident.
Dear Excellencies, yours is the responsibility to lead your flocks into Tradition and out of the swamp of Modernism.
The present, and quite prevalent, tendency in many of our parishes in the United States, for the stated purpose of "ecumenism," of emphasizing what different religions have in common with the Catholic Faith is an additional root cause of the present crisis. This insipid movement to remove differences, which in any case, ought to truly stand out in any contrast of different faiths, because we can go nowhere without appreciating them, drags us down the road to indifferentism. No matter how many "matters of faith" we might have in common with certain other faiths, ignoring the differences brings the souls of all the faithful into danger. In his Encyclical, "Mortalium Animos" of 6th of January, 1928, Pope Pius XI, speaking of the attempt of people "to come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life," wrote:
"Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion."
- "Mortalium Animos," #2
Certain it is, and clear to all, that we live now, as then, in a time where the attempts are rife to "dumb down" the Catholic Faith and eliminate differences in order to "get along." This, as Pius XI so clearly said, "is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion."
Dear Excellencies, yours is the responsibility to lead your flocks into the One, True Faith and out of the quicksand of Indifferentism.
This dissent, this modernism, this indifferentism, are the root causes of the present problem, and correcting these will enable the Church in America to right itself, assuming that prayer and penance on the part of all American Catholics, led by your Excellencies, accompany your efforts.
The Real Problem shows up through Many Symptoms
In the Mass
The increasing number of questions and complaints one can read or listen to on EWTN's website and radio programs is evidence enough of the present state of the Mass in ordinary parishes throughout the country. Simply read and listen to the liturgical abuse heaped upon the Holy Mass by priests every day, to the endangerment of souls. Where is to be found an adequate attention to Pope Pius XII's Encyclical, "Mediator Dei?" In paragraph 8, Papa Pacelli writes:
"Indeed, though we are sorely grieved to note, on the one hand, that there are places where the spirit, understanding or practice of the sacred liturgy is defective, or all but inexistent, We observe with considerable anxiety and some misgiving, that elsewhere certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty, are straying beyond the path of sound doctrine and prudence. Not seldom, in fact, they interlard their plans and hopes for a revival of the sacred liturgy with principles which compromise this holiest of causes in theory or practice, and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic faith and ascetical doctrine."
- "Mediator Dei," 20th November 1947.
As a CCD teacher, I know that the texts bought by the parish churches are deplorable, and fall into all three categories of root causes mentioned above. As an example, the texts given to us were from Saddlier and Harcourt. In both of these series, at least in both the fifth and the eighth grade books, our Faith was presented as social studies. Nowhere in these books was the Catholic Faith presented as the One, True Faith. More was made of the similarities between different religious practices. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is rarely referred to in these texts. How can we expect our younger people to be faithful to the teachings of the Church if they do not receive them intact? In "Ecerbo Nimis," Pope Saint Pius V, established CCD by saying:
"In each and every parish the society known as the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine is to be canonically established. Through this Confraternity, the pastors, especially in places where there is a scarcity of priests, will have lay helpers in the teaching of the Catechism, who will take up the work of imparting knowledge both from a zeal for the glory of God and in order to gain the numerous Indulgences granted by the Sovereign Pontiffs." - Ecerbo Nimis, 22 IV, 15th April 1905.
Elsewhere in the same Encyclical, Saint Pius, quoting Benedict XIV, wrote:
"There is nothing more effective than catechetical instruction to spread the glory of God and to secure the salvation of souls." - paragraph 17.
If we are to be true to our Faith, we must pass it on to our descendants. We must be able to say, at our lives' ends, as did Saint Paul: "Tradidi quod et accepti" (1 Cor).
In Catholic Schools, Universities and Colleges
Pick up almost any "Catholic" school, university, or college curriculum, visit almost any campus, speak with almost any teacher at one of these institutions, and you will find it difficult to differentiate between the education offered at Catholic and secular institutions. We are therefore compounding the errors in catechesis by virtually giving up on Catholic education at every level. The examples are too numerous to mention.
In the Seminaries
My dear Excellencies, this is the foundation to the topical issue you are gathering next week to discuss. Your responsibility here is tremendous for, without priests, properly formed, we are in danger of illicit and even invalid Masses. In its clarity of language, The Catechism of the Council of Trent rightly says:
"If one attentively considers the nature and essence of the other Sacraments, it will be readily seen that they all depend of the Sacrament of Orders to such an extent that without it some of them could not be constituted or administered at all; while others would be deprived of all their solemn ceremonies, as well as of a certain part of the religious respect and exterior honor accorded to them." -- Part II, Holy Orders
The real problem in some of the seminaries under your authority is that many vocation directors and seminary teachers appear to have an agenda of their own which is directly in conflict with the teachings of our Faith. The result is the ordination of priests who have been led astray during their formation. Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, writes:
"But though we, or an Angel from Heaven, preach a gospel to you beside that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema." -- Galatians 1:8
The Council of Trent was very clear about the qualification requirements for entrants to the Ecclesiastical Seminaries and the duties of accepted seminarians. Many of our present day seminaries would benefit greatly from an understanding of the program of studies, the way of life, and the promise of perseverance in the Church's service that were the hallmarks of seminarians following Trent. Nowhere in the history of the Church, before now, is there any hint of the perversion that is exhibited in our seminaries today.
The Real Solution will be found in Prayer and Penance and Action
To reach the real solution to the real problem, you must lead the faithful, through piety and purity, back to Holy Mother Church. This means authentic, orthodox, traditional teaching. I mean the teaching that has sustained the Church through two millennia, not the Catholic Lite to which we have been subjected through the last half a human lifetime.
Prayer and Penance
Some 430 years ago, Christendom was facing one of its most serious challenges; a challenge that could have swamped the Church in Europe. The Muslim hordes were about to sweep through Europe. Pope Saint Pius V, rallying the Christian kingdoms for the Battle of Lepanto, insisted that every Christian make prayer and penance by praying the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This helped create the miraculous victory at Lepanto in 1571. Pope Saint Pius V sets for us a good example in our present crisis. Clear it is that we are facing the gravest situation in the history of the American Church. Please lead the American Catholics; please emulate Saint Pius by leading the faithful in praying the Rosary. Under her title of Our Lady of Victory she is patron saint of the United States, and under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is the patron saint of the Americas. She will carry the prayers of the faithful, led by your Excellencies, straight to Jesus, who will hear and answer them. Pope Saint Pius V wisely wrote the following on 17th September 1569; we should follow his exhortation:
"Following the example of our predecessors, seeing that the Church militant, which God has placed in our hands, in these our times is tossed this way and that by so many heresies, and is grievously troubled and afflicted by so many wars, and by the depraved morals of men, we also raise our eyes, weeping but full of hope, unto that same mountain, whence every aid comes forth, and we encourage and admonish each member of Christ's faithful to do likewise in the Lord."
- "Consueverunt Romani"
In order to foster, inculcate, and engender piety and purity, I beg you to take the following actions immediately:
a) In the Mass. Restore the Traditional Latin Rite Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 in every single parish in the United States of America, at least as an option once a week. Because this may take a few years, it is essential that, in the meantime, the full provisions of Liturgiam authenticam be instituted without delay, taking into account the Holy Father's 23rd April 2002 charge to Vox Clara that this committee assure "that the texts of the Roman Rite are accurately translated in accordance with the norms of the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam." You may wish to replace the now disgraced ICEL with a group of more orthodox translators.
You, dear Excellencies, are due to begin your meeting on Thursday, the 13th of June in this year 2002, the Feast Day of Saint Anthony of Padua, the "Hammer of Heretics." I pray that, in your deliberations, you will raise up the demeanor of Saint Anthony and follow the lead he gives, as he says:
b) In Catechesis. Restore the kind of catechesis found in such authors as Fr. John Laux, M.A. My wife and I are teaching our son using Fr. Laux's excellent books, and he is excited, interested, and learning very well. Extensive use of the Catechism must also be restored. What was ever wrong with the Baltimore Catechism?
c) In Catholic Schools and Universities. Restore true Catholicism to the curriculum by following the Holy Father's Apostolic Constitution, "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" of 15th August 1990.
d) In the Seminaries. Root out the rot. Immediately. There is no room for instructors who do not follow the Church's teaching. There is no room for homosexuals or those who lobby for the ordination of women. Restore proper formation of holy priests in seminaries run by holy priests who, in turn, demonstrate their allegiance to the Magisterium of the Church. Approved by John XXIII on 23rd January 1961, "Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders," issued formally by the Sacred Congregation for Religious on 2nd February 1961 says, in part:
"…Finally, let those who are afflicted by the perverse inclination towards homosexual vice or pederasty, by whom communal life and the sacerdotal ministry would be gravely at risk, be prohibited from religious vows and ordination…"
"Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions."
Saint Anthony also spoke for millions of the faithful, when he said:
"Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith so our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God."
It is eminently clear and obvious that you, Dear Excellencies, have the salvation of souls at risk. May you be "filled with a keen sense of sorrow" and may you be ready to take all appropriate actions, so that your flocks may be able to find their reward, which is "to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God."
"When there is an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects."
-St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica II, II, q. 33, a. 4
Respectfully yours in Christ,
James W.J. Wiseman
For past articles in the archives of Traditional Thoughts, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002tra.htm ARCHIVED ARTICLES