2 Timothy 3:1-9 – You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.”
These verses from the letter of St Paul to his disciple St Timothy describe the moral state of mankind in the last days. We have examined before how the mystery of iniquity exists since the early days of Christianity, how it is made progressively manifest within the Church eventually triggering a worldwide rebellion against God’s paternity. St Paul presents us with a list of vices encompassing all the ugly manifestations of the human character. One can read this passage and not notice that the saint is describing the Christians of the last days, people having all the appearance of godliness who do not let God transform the inner quality of their being: “holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.” We are commanded to avoid the company those for two reasons: in first place to avoid trouble, to safeguard our homes and our families; in second place to avoid being counted in their rebellion against godly truth. In time “their folly will become plain to everyone” when the son of disobedience is revealed.
I am not going out on a limb by affirming that we are living days like those described by St Paul. The Church is now going through a crisis that is shaking her very structure at the time when the people that inhabit what was once Christendom reflect the abhorrent spiritual qualities listed by St Paul.
Elements of the crisis
The enemy of God is never original. He is unable to create and is limited to a form of grotesque imitation of divine work. Christ sent his Church into the world and taught us that the Church would be known by its unity. The enemy presents us instead with a deceptive unity.
John 17: 20-21 – “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The identity and destiny of the Church is “catholic” that is general, universal, completely united in the same kind of communion manifested by the inner life of the Holy Trinity. In the last days the enemy mocks the catholicity of the true Church presenting the faithful with a false ecumenism. The false spirit of that “counterfeit faith” multiplies the interfaith gestures, ceremonies, liturgical shows of unity, and words of praise for the disobedient and the heretic “holding to the outward form of godliness” but rejecting the doctrinal truth and the sacramental integrity of the Catholic faith.
The false unity leads to the false idea of universal salvation outside the Church in complete opposition to what Holy Tradition has affirmed for twenty centuries. This heretical universalism denies the principle of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Those who failed to obey St Paul’s counsel of “avoid them!” are now seduced into a second circle of error that leads them to a third deadly ring: indifferentism, the heresy that proposes that all religions lead to salvation and it makes no difference, they all lead to God. We have so far three opposite concepts.
- False Ecumenism opposes a Catholic communion in one body, as taught by Christ.
- Universalism opposes a false universal salvation to the salvation of the elect, as taught by Christ.
- Indifferentism teaches that all religions are valid while Christ clearly taught that his followers should be “sanctified with God’s truth” the one and only truth of God.
Those are the cracks mentioned by Pope Paul VI back in 1972: “da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio” that is “the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God through some crack [in the wall]” – a very ominous and quite prophetic observation by the Holy Father. The seducers “made their way into the household” of God and began to hold sway on the weak. The folly of homosexuality growing among the clergy began to spread and now it has “become plain to everyone.”
- Homosexuality and all sexual impurity oppose the courageous purity of the manly Crusader.
The root of those four errors, the center of the circle is ignorance of the justice of God as expressed in the perfect doctrine declared both in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. The works of the enemy of God always begin in darkness. To the powers of darkness we must oppose the light of truth. Read the advice of St Paul:
2 Timothy 3:12-17 – Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
- Good catechesis is the full light of the Gospel. Bad catechesis is a form of darkness.
All the ills listed above, all the lies and half-truths taught to the faithful in this age of darkness are the result of bad Catholic formation. To that form of darkness we have to oppose a rapid, deep, and precise knowledge of the faith. Who is going to do it? How could it be done?
Our duty as disciples of Christ
The majority of heresies in the history of the Church started among the clergy. It is a sad fact but also a reminder that our clergy are under constant attack. They need our prayers more than anyone because the enemy is still holding on to his old practice of “striking the shepherd to disperse the sheep.” One more encouraging fact of history is that every time the shepherds lost their way, the Catholic flock fought to preserve the faith courageously. This time is not different.
When we travel by airplane we are carefully instructed to grab the oxygen mask and place it on ourselves before attempting to help others. In the same manner we have the awesome responsibility to know the faith well before passing it on to others. How do we learn the faith? How do we learn not only to defend our faith but also to joyously share it with others?
Could it be possible to create an organic program to teach the Catholic faith to everyone? I would like to know your thoughts.
There are about half a million Catholic priests in the world at this time, perhaps a few less. One cannot expect half a million men to properly form two billion baptized Catholics. Do the math.
Most of us never even think about our duty to teach the faith, first to ourselves and then to others but that does not mean that we are exempt. We cannot avoid learning the faith. If we cannot teach to others then we should support someone who does it. Some give by going to the missions, others go by giving to the missions. Pray, think; meditate about these words of Christ.
Matthew 12:30 – “ Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
The whole purpose of Lent is to remind us that one day we will have to give account of our talents: memento mori.