So Wrong For So Long!|
Section One of Four Parts
Pope Leo XIII sternly admonished the American Bishops over a century ago of the inherent dangers of Americanism. Obviously his inspiring words were ignored and we thus have the bitter fruits of scandal today because of those shepherds placed in care of souls have neglected the wisdom of the Vicar of Christ.
"Bishops who are themselves sodomites protect and promote each other, as Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., has demonstrated in a very documented way without even the threat of a lawsuit. And those bishops who might be faithful to the Deposit of Faith in their own hearts adopt either a "hear no evil, see no evil" approach to such problems or deny altogether that they exist, thus exculpating themselves from taking any corrective action to help foster an environment more conducive to the formation and salvation of the souls entrusted to their episcopal care. The spirit written of by Pope Leo XIII was enshrined worldwide following the Second Vatican Council, and it will not be until some future Pope and/or some future council recognizes this frankly that we can get about the business, humanly speaking, of making amends for ignoring the wisdom of Leo XIII."
The recently concluded meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was a miniature case study in what has been wrong about the life of the Church in the United States of America dating back her origins in the English speaking colonies of North America in the early eighteenth century. Far too many American prelates, dating back to Archbishop John Carroll himself, were far too sanguine about the ethos of religious indifferentism and cultural relativism which served as the foundation of English America. After nearly two centuries of unremitting persecution in England and Ireland, many of the first Catholics to settle in what became the thirteen states of the United States were so grateful to be able to practice their faith openly, especially in Maryland, that they did not see the dangers being posed to the faith by the ethos of religious indifferentism and cultural relativism, to say nothing of the republican spirit of self-governance and the ideology of egalitarianism which would ultimately attack the integrity of the priesthood within the Church in the United States. The current crop of American bishops is merely the inheritors of a long tradition of independence and arrogance that is older than the nation itself. That scandals have erupted into full public view, although they have been reported in The Wanderer for nearly twenty years, should not shock us. These scandals-and the modus vivendi proposed by the American bishops to deal with them-are partly the result of the naturalistic, secularistic world view that has been seeping into the life of the Church in this country from the very beginning. They are, as will be demonstrated at great length below, the rotten fruit of what the great Pope Leo XIII predicted would happen to the Church in the United States if the heresy of Americanism was not arrested.
This essay will cover much of the same ground I covered in Christ in the Voting Booth and in previous essays in Christ or Chaos. It will also review much of the material I cover in my thirty-six hour lecture program, "Living in the Shadow of the Cross." However, it is important in this era of sound bites to develop themes in a sustained manner. These scandals did not simply occur overnight. They are part and parcel of an attack upon the entirety of the Deposit of Faith that many American bishops and their chancery factotums have been advancing for a long time, yes even antedating the Second Vatican Council (but certainly expedited exponentially as a result of Vatican II). This essay will conclude with a protracted exegesis of Pope Leo XIII's Testem Benevolentiae, which analyzed so cogently the true state of the Church in the United States of America in 1899, despite the fact that the faith was being taught well and that there was a lively intellectual life among American Catholics. Pope Leo XIII knew that the life of the Faith was being undermined by the cultural milieu in which Catholics found themselves, which would result, he saw, in the horror of Catholics viewing the Church through the lens of republicanism and egalitarianism rather than seeing the world through the eyes of the true Faith and working for the conversion of this nation to the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ.
Protestantism and Americanism
The heresy of Americanism is a species of Modernism. The Modernist spirit is what would attack the Church violently in countries where the Cross of the Divine Redeemer had been implanted firmly in the bedrock of their soil. This was true in Europe, where the Protestant revolutions, both on the mainland and in England, and it was true in Catholic America, where Freeemasons, inspired by the success of the American Revolution, sought to attack the Church as violently in Latin America as she had been attacked in Europe (especially during the French Revolution).
In essence, Americanism is the exaltation of the American spirit of democracy, consensus, egalitarianism, religious indifferentism, cultural relativism. This Americanist spirit eschews those who claim to have the entirety of revealed truth, no less those who content that truth of its nature is unchanging and not subject to the arbitrary whim of plebiscites. It rejects any allegiance to that which is foreign, especially as represented by the office of the Successor of Saint Peter. Americanism exalts the natural human spirit, unaided by sanctifying grace, to resolve all human problems and to even attempt (quite arrogantly, it should be noted), to come to a new understanding of human nature without referencing Original Sin and Our Lord's Redemptive Act on the wood of the Holy Cross. Indeed, Americanism embraces all that is "new" and "modern," making a religion out of political ideologies and science. The goal of the Americanist ethos is to produce the "good citizen," not to form souls in light of First and Last Things so that they can be citizens of Heaven for all eternity.
Some Catholics contend to this very day that this heresy never existed, that Pope Leo XIII had been given bad information about the writings of Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, the founder of the Paulists (a religious community that is rife with sodomy currently). However, Pope Leo had a very good understanding of how the currents summarized above were undermining the life of the Church in the United States. He knew that there had been, as I demonstrated in Christ in the Voting Booth, a systematic opposition by American prelates to the full proclamation of the Faith in some instances, including the solemn proclamation of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854 and the First Vatican Council's solemn proclamation of Papal infallibility sixteen years later. The latter was opposed vigorously by several American bishops, not on prudential grounds but on grounds of a disbelief in the doctrine itself, including Peter Richard Kenrick, the Archbishop of Saint Louis, Missouri, and John B. Purcell, the Archbishop of Cincinnati. Archbishop John Ireland, the Archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis, went so far as to praise public education at a meeting of the National Education Association in the late nineteenth century (praising public education for its formation of citizens, even though one of the goals of public education was to brainwash the children of Catholic immigrants to this country that religion was a private matter that had no relation to public policy and that no one religion had any special claim to God's teaching, the essence of Masonry, obviously). Finally, there had been active opposition by some American bishops to the idea of the appointment of a Papal delegate to the Untied States, led by John Lancaster Spaulding, himself no stranger to scandal, then the Bishop of Peoria. Indeed, Spaulding captured the spirit of Americanism quite well in a letter he sent to a friend:
"This opposition arises in part from a fixed and strongly-rooted desire, which exists throughout the English-speaking world, to manage as far as possible one's own affairs. The firm determination of the American people to permit no needless foreign interference is shown in the Monroe Doctrine, and it was more practically demonstrated by the overthrow and death of Maximilian. Catholics who live here, and who, wherever they were born, are true American citizens, feel the impulse of this desire and wish to manage as far as possible their own affairs. They are devoted to the Church; they recognize in the Pope Christ's Vicar, and gladly receive from him faith and morals; but for rest, they ask him to interfere as little as possible."
This letter is quite telling. Spaulding analogized the appointment of a Papal delegate to an interference with American national sovereignty, implying that the Church in the United States was autonomous in her governance from Rome. He also lionized the murder of the Catholic Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian, as something that was a laudable display of the spirit of independence which prevails in the Americas. His letter is a road map to the current state of the Church in the Untied States.
As I noted in "From Luther to Clinton to Gore" some eighteen months ago now, there are a number of intellectual currents dating from the time of the Renaissance that have helped to shape the modern world (and the modern worldview held by so many of our bishops). The quintessence of these intellectual currents was expressed by Niccolo Machiavelli, who sought to undermine and overthrow the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ as the basis for statecraft. It was the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ which restrained the tendency to absolutism in the Middle Ages; rulers and potentates understood that the Church had the right to interpose herself if they proposed to do things-or had indeed done things-inimical to the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law and/or the conditions in society conducive to the salvation of souls. As influential as Machiavelli was (Warren Carroll notes in The Cleaving of Christendom that Thomas Cromwell kept a copy of The Prince by his bed!), he could not have been successful ultimately had it not been for Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. Thus, the state of the American Church is directly influenced by the currents which began in the Renaissance and the spirit of Protestantism. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to state that many bishops and their "theological" advisers are post-Christians, men who really do not believe that the Incarnation and Redemption matter in the lives of men and their societies. Thus, it is important to review once more the nature of Protestantism, for it is in Protestantism that we find many of the roots of the problems facing the Church in the United States of America.
The Protestant Revolt, launched by the then Father Martin Luther in 1517, set human history on a course which resulted in the rise of secularism and secular political ideologies as the foundation of social life. Why? Well, it is really quite simple. The revolution against the authority of the Church instituted by our Lord Himself upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope, help to usher in the spirit of individualism as the basis of Christianity. Luther contended that individuals did not need any "guide" to help them understand Sacred Scripture, which he believed was the sole source of Divine revelation. The rejection of the authority of the true Church to be our mater and magistra turned the world of Christendom upside down. Luther helped to give rebirth to the old lie of Satan, first offered to Eve in the Garden of Eden, that we creatures are the equal of the Creator. A man of enormous pride, Luther did not want to submit himself to any authority, especially ecclesiastical authority, on the face of this earth. By asserting himself pridefully, however, Luther's pride was the exact opposite of the humility demonstrated by the Divine Redeemer, Who submitted Himself voluntarily to the authority of His own creatures, the Blessed Mother and His foster-father, Saint Joseph, in the Holy Family in Nazareth. Luther did not understand-and wound up rejecting-the fact that our Lord humbled Himself for thirty years at home in Nazareth in order to teach us that we must submit ourselves in humility to the authority of His Mystical Bride, Holy Mother Church, in all that pertains to our salvation individually and to the administration of justice founded in Divine Truth collectively in the institutions of civil governance.
Protestant individualism went through many mutations over the course of 259 years between Luther's posting his ninety-five theses and the Declaration of Independence. Human pride being what it is, however, individualism of any strip leads people into thinking that all forms of authority, whether ecclesiastical or civil, are founded upon human consent. Certain Protestant sects, for example, believe in congregationalism, the belief which asserts that there exists a strict equality among the community of believers. Thus, individualism breeds the paradox of egalitarianism, which asserts that everyone is equal in authority to everyone else. This is the exact opposite of what Holy Mother Church had taught is the basis of personal sanctity and social order. While we are individuals who have free wills, we are supposed to surrender ourselves freely to the authority our Lord has placed over us for our sanctification and instruction, and that is based upon our recognition (certainly not consent) of the fact that our Lord established a hierarchy to sanctify us and to teach us. We are not automatons and we are not all equal in authority to each other (something that we are supposed to learn in the cradle of the family, where children learn that they are not the equal in authority to their parents). Protestantism denies all of this. Many American bishops believe that they are equal in authority to the Vicar of Christ, who they believe has no right to remove them or to question what they do in their own "local churches." They do not believe in the sacerdotal, hierarchical priesthood instituted by Our Lord at the Last Supper, and they do not believe that truth of its nature is unchanging. This is the fruit of failing to recognize the dangers posed to the Faith by a Protesant and Masonic culture.
However, Protestantism contains within itself many paradoxes. It is founded upon the fallacious belief that mutually contradictory beliefs and interpretations can all be simultaneously true. Protestantism is an absurdity. As Pope Leo XIII noted in Immortale Dei in 1880:
"To hold therefore that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and in practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points, cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God." And the absurdity which is Protestant individualism led all too logically to the demands for the separation between Church and State, which has been embraced so enthusiastically by many American bishops. After all, how is it possible for divergent sects to live in peace civilly when they disagree about so many things theologically in the name of individualism and egalitarianism? And the doctrine of the separation of Church and State gave Freemasons and other naturalists and secularists the opening they needed to impose that which was truly novel and revolutionary upon human society: a world where all public references to the Divine Redeemer, no less a recognition of the authority of His true Church, would be eradicated entirely.
The Founders of this nation, for example, were influenced by many beliefs and ideas. But the enduring heritage of the Protestant Revolt-with its emphasis upon individualism, civil liberty, civil peace, religious indifferentism and egalitarianism-led them to believe that the only way for people of divergent religious beliefs to live together in peace was to pursue the Roman concept of "civic virtue." This is the prevailing spirit of ecumenism in this country, which, sadly, has the endorsement of the Holy Father himself. But it is not possible in the normal course of human events for people, whether acting individually or collectively in society, to pursue virtue successfully over the course of a long period of time without cooperating with the sacraments instituted by our Lord - and entrusted by Him to Holy Mother Church for their valid administration - to do so. It is difficult enough with sanctifying grace to pursue virtue, fallen human nature being what it is, subject to a varieties of temptations; it is next-to-impossible for an individual to do so without sanctifying grace, and absolutely impossible for a society to do so. Alas, this is one of the principal lies of the Americanist spirit that is the progeny of Protestantism: the recrudescence of Pelagianism, old heresy which contends that human beings are self-redemptive, that they can be good on their own power without any action by God working through His sacraments.
Another aspect of Protestantism which influenced the Founding of this nation-and still influences its political and cultural life today-is its stress on Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) as the only source of Divine revelation. The Church teaches us that there are two sources of Divine revelation, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. And she maintains that she has been entrusted by Christ Himself to use Sacred Tradition as the basis of interpreting applying Sacred Scripture. Protestantism relies only upon the written word, however, just as the Americanist spirit relies upon written documents (the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) as the answer to all questions about civil governance. This has led to the triumph of the spirit of legal positivism, which asserts that there is no law above human law, that whatever a majority (be that majority popular or legislative or judicial in origin) deems to be legal is, ipso facto, moral. Even Catholic jurists such as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia believe that the U.S. Constitution must be interpreted only in light of the words it contains, not by using the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law. He told a communion breakfast in 1997 that it is his duty as an American judge interpreting American law to use only the language of such law. Thus, since abortion is neither prohibited nor permitted by the Constitution, a state legislature is free to enact whatever legislation it considers appropriate on the matter. Such a positivistic view is the direct result of the Protestant reliance upon a written document, the Bible, as the only source of Divine revelation, denying the reality of Sacred Tradition and of the Church as the repository of that revelation. But isn't it the case that even "pro-life" candidates, such as Alan Keyes, assert that we oppose abortion because it is in opposition to our American principles, especially as they are expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? A slavish attachment to a written document, especially those which do not mention the Divine Redeemer and which reject the authority of His true Church, reinforces the spirit of individualism and of egalitarianism, thus creating and reinforcing a vicious cycle of the delusion of human autonomy from Christ and His Church as the basis of electoral politics and public policy. That Archbishop John Carroll and one his most notorious Americanist successors, James Cardinal Gibbons, embraced this spirit of American secular constitutionalism speaks volumes about the substitution of the profane for the sacred. Even many "pro-life" bishops embrace the schema of the American Founding uncritically without realizing how it has contributed directly to the deterioration of both our civil and ecclesiastical situations.
The time of Christendom during the Middle Ages was far from perfect. There were wars and scandals and heresies and periods of corruption within the highest quarters of the Church. Despite the problems, however, it was the period in which culture was informed by the true faith, a time when, as Pope Leo XIII noted,
"when States were governed by the principles of Gospel teaching. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people; permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or even obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is-beyond all question, in large measure, through religion; under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were broght to completion."
It was during the Middle Ages that rulers understood, sometimes with more than a little bit of reluctance, that their civil rule was subordinate to the mind of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They understood that they were placed in a position of authority over their subjects to as to enforce the binding precepts of the Divine positive law and the natural law as the foundation of civil authority. They knew that it was their obligation to help to foster those conditions wherein it would be more possible for their subjects (and for themselves) to save their immortal souls. Moreover, the rulers and princes of Christendom knew that the Successor of Saint Peter had the right to discipline and to correct them if their administration of justice went awry. And, most importantly, they knew that the very salvation of their own immortal souls depended in large measure on how just they were to the subjects in the application of the binding precepts of the divine positive law and natural law.
The average person during the Middle Ages considered himself a Catholic first and a citizen of a particular kingdom second. He sought, albeit imperfectly, to please God, trying to do all that was entrusted to him in whatever state in life he found himself perfectly as befits a redeemed creature, making sure to do all things in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He knew that there were limits which existed in the nature of things beyond which he could not legitimately go, that mere possession of a physical ability to perform a given act did not mean that he had the right to do so, that he was only free morally to choose the good, to choose that which redounded to the glory of the Blessed Trinity and the salvation of his own immortal soul. This is what provided the foundation for stable and happy marriages, which produced children who were taught from their earliest years to love God through His true Church, that human existence consisted not in the acquisition and retention of material wealth but of living in such a way so as to die a happy, holy death. And while Catholic home-schooling families are attempting to recapture the spirit of Christendom, most children, including those who are baptized Catholics, are being raised in a thorough secular, relativistic, individualistic and positivistic culture, which is not propitious to a true understanding of the purpose of human existence or of the nature of the State as being subordinate to the mind of Christ as He has expressed It through Holy Mother Church.
The many brands of Protestantism differ from one another in many things. But each of them stems from the twin pillars of the Protestant Revolt: individualism and a reliance upon the written word alone. It is these twin pillars which, though highly secularized, have infected the mindset of many believing Catholics into thinking themselves as Americans and Catholics second. It is what has led Catholics into believing that we have to find some kind of secularist "common ground" by which to resolve our problems. However, the problems of modernity are the direct result of the Protestant Revolt and its many mutations (including Freemasonry). And the problems facing the Church in this country are in no small measure the result of the uncritical embrace of all that is modern and a rejection of all that is Catholic, including the Traditional Latin Mass (which served as the bulwark in this country to prevent things from getting worse than they became after the Mass was revolutionized in 1969).
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives
MID-SUMMER HIATUS ISSUE
July 15 - September 1, 2002
volume 13, no. 104
CHRIST or chaos