Ever since I can remember I have seen things from some odd, different angle. Things that appear to me quite evident, are completely obscure to others. From time to time I find people like some of my dear readers who say “Aha!” and agree with me. Lately there seems to be more of us. What is the world coming to!
Early today I read this article by Fr Dwight Longenecker dealing with a controversial figure in Catholic media: Mr Michael Voris, of Church Militant. You know already that I follow Michael Voris. I have translated a few selected videos of him, and posted quite a few in the right column reserved for videos here in this site.
Father Longenecker has a penetrating intellect paired with his innate ability to extract the core elements of a complex problem and lay them there for the reader to see. That, I recognize as the sign of a profound intelligence (i.e. see here). Of course, Father is a priest, and he gets some extra help from the Holy Spirit, I’m sure. His analysis of the problems of the Church according to Michael Voris is as fair as it is revealing. Here are his points:
The big point he [Michel Voris] is making is that Christianity has been on the wrong track since the Protestant Revolution and that the Catholic Church has been infected with the dry rot of heresy and compromise along with the rest of the professing church, and that the problem has gotten steadily worse since the Second Vatican Council. What are the signs? First of all, a neglect and de-emphasis on the supernatural realities of the faith in favor of a peace and justice gospel. Second, immorality, greed and luxury in the church–especially the sin of sodomy. Third, a continual compromise with secularism and the philosophies of materialism. Fourth, a poverty of worship, pusillanimous priests, tepid religion and spineless sentimentality. Fifth- a modernist trend in theology–accepting (among others) the heresies of universalism and it’s sister indifferentism. What are the symptoms? A disastrous decline in Mass attendance, priestly and religious vocations, the absence of true evangelization and the general attitude of being on a sinking ship. Voris thinks the problem has reached crisis point, and that the worst thing is that the heresy and scandal is all covered over with a false veneer of tolerance and kindness. Furthermore, he argues that most Catholics–especially in the hierarchy–are trying desperately to ignore the problems. They do not so much have their heads in the sand as in a pot of butter icing. What’s the solution? Repentance. Renewal. Reform.
Perfect. Now, Fr Longenecker follows that analysis with a short overview of Michael’s methods:
The problem however, is because of the divide in Christendom I’ve just explained, we should ask what Michael Voris hopes to accomplish. Shining a spotlight on the corruption and heresy may illuminate a dark secret, but he will not convert too many from the other side. He may encourage and energize his followers, but if that increased energy is only spent in invective and self righteous condemnation it will, in the end, lead only to fruitless fear and empty despair. If, on the other hand, he encourages and energizes people to pray harder, trust the Lord more fully and live lives of joyful worship, service and sacrifice, then he will have done the Church and Lord he loves a greater service.
I agree with Fr Longenecker. There have been more than one dramatic exposé in Church history since the days Nathan revealed King David’s darkest side. There is so much bad stuff that should be exposed and there is also much dirt laying on plain sight for anyone willing to look. I agree that all of that should be exposed but we have to do it in a positive, edifying manner or we may end up depressing everyone. Moral misery hardly ever moves anyone to positive action. What can we do?
When Jesus preached, he condemned Herod, the Pharisees, and then had a word or two for his own followers: “you followed me because I gave you bread”, “offspring of vipers!”, “go tell that vixen …”, “stand behind me, Satan” and many other stinging expressions that laid bare the weaknesses even of those men and women following him. And yet, the core of his message was always “repent, and believe in the good news”. His severity was tempered by a loving desire to move everyone’s heart closer to God by showing them the power, justice, wisdom, and love of the Creator. He delivered his message in a manly way. He was not nice, pusillanimous, nor he beat around the bushes. C. S. Lewis compares Jesus to a dentist that goes straight to the source of human pain. That is the problem with our priests today: too many of them are anesthetists and too few of them are surgeons.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Revelation 19: 17-20
See how St John describes the final battle. The mighty are slain by God himself and the rest are dispatched by the sword that comes from his mouth, the Gospel, the word of God.
For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4: 12
I am convinced that most of the problems of the Church today come from decades of bad and ineffectual catechesis. Too many bad homilies, too many empty platitudes, too much insincere repetition of the same old boring stuff. If I had a dollar for every time I have received an email telling me: “I have learned more reading your blog than in nearly two decades of Catholic education.” Let us be clear about this: there is nothing good in this blog that does not come from the trove treasure of the Fathers of the Church, Pontifical Documents, or the legacy of our saints. I hereby declare to be the less original apologist in the whole of Catholic history and yet, when I watch Catholic television, hear Catholic radio, etc. I feel like crying when I see the kind of “food” that is given to the flock.
That is why I understand Fr Longenecker, who has a family, a parish, and his blog followers to feed. And I understand Michael Voris who — like so many of us — feels like swinging that shiny sword, sending heretical heads rolling in every direction. I only differ in one thing: we must feed the flock of God first, showing them the marvels of the faith, teaching them all the things that no one talks about, the marvelous, the amazing work of God in history through the Church militant. If we excel at doing that, the rest will fall into place easily. God will take care of the rotten apples in the Vatican. Believe me: the divine arm is not short, nor is he sleeping. He is just busy taking names.
To complete the education of the faithful, we must use the technology available to us now in the same manner that the early Christians did. It was them that perfected the Alexandrian papyrus codex and invented new ways to send the word of God around the world. It was them who developed the complex iconography –the audiovisuals of that age– and do I need to say that Gutenberg, the Catholic printed a Bible before printing anything else?
Take for example this book, published here: Guadalupe: A River of Light. The Story of Our Lady of Guadalupe From the First Century to Our Days. Someone, a solid Catholic, saw that title and thought I was guilty of producing a bad anachronism. “Hey, there was no Guadalupe in the first century … etc.” But he read the book anyway, hoping to have a good laugh at my expense. When he reached the last page, he was not laughing. On the contrary, he took the time to write and let me know that his “whole outlook on Christian history” was enriched by that little book. He concluded that God is present not only in sacred history but in all history. Do you see? Those are the treasures we have to unearth.
The perspicuity of men like Fr Longenecker, and the sincerity of others like Michael Voris are like the two edges of that sword. It is up to us to use both edges well, to cut the rotten flesh away and save the body from dying.
Please remember to pray for (and if possible donate to) this ministry during Lent season.