Solving the Modernist Crisis of the Church
by Griff Ruby
The "newsy" type facts in this chapter are all occasions of heaviness and sadness in the heart of every true Catholic. For those who are yet at a loss to ascertain what is actually going on, these facts are also a source of confusion since the horrors listed below seem to have their origin in the indefectible and authoritative Church, the channel of all graces, yet we know that is impossible. Let us survey the problems:
There is a drastic reduction worldwide in nearly every facet of Catholic life. A simple statistical comparison between the years 1965 and 1995 for the Church in the United States of America shows the following reductions: of priests, from 58,632 down to 49,551; of monks, from 12,271 down to 6,578; of nuns, from 179,954 down to 92,107; of seminarians, from 48,992 down to 5,083; of adult baptisms within the year, from 126,209 down to 73,332; of infant baptisms within the year, from 1,310,413 down to 1,029,694; of marriages within the year, from 352,458 down to 305,385; of Catholic high school students, from 698,032 down to 378,847; and of Catholic grade school students, from 4,476,881 down to 1,949,989.
These numbers, which are hard and indisputable facts, come from the Official Catholic Directories of 1965 and 1995. As if that werenít enough, we are looking at a period during which the overall population within the same country has more than doubled. That means these counts would have to more than double just to keep pace with the expanding population. In other countries, a similar drop is more or less universal, but even in what very few limited areas which are able to show some modest gain in objective numbers of any of these things, they are nevertheless hopelessly outstripped by the expanding population in those same areas.
Even these figures conceal much of the story, since there is considerable decline in other, less quantifiable areas. For example, the drastic reduction in seminarians indicates a drastic coming decline in the total number of priests, which has been sustained so far only due to the health and longevity of many of those who were priests in 1965. Behind that drastic reduction in seminarians is a drastic reduction in religious vocations, and behind that a serious decline in respect and admiration for those with religious vocations. Objectively, this all points to a serious trend for the near future. The average age of priests is dramatically higher in 1995 than in 1965. Before long, many of those elderly priests will have died off, with far too few younger priests left to take their place.
Another less quantifiable area is the decrease of Mass attendance and confessions made on a regular basis. Often, in order to sustain the illusion of a well-attended church, the total number of Sunday Masses is cut way back so as to fill the building with people during what few Masses remain. The short, and sometimes nonexistent, lines at the confessionals give it away however. It has happened on many occasions that the priest stops reserving time to hear confessions, and no one notices for months, if ever. At least three out of four practice contraception or else give approval for others to do so and imagine that they commit no sin by doing so. One out of four regard abortion as an acceptable option, at least for certain cases. Many who nominally remain on the membership rolls are only seen at weddings and funerals, and (maybe) Christmas and/or Easter.
Even less quantifiable and yet indisputable is the overall reduced piety and religious understanding among those who still remain. Less than one in four can satisfactorily explain the difference between the Eucharist and the Protestant communion. It is shocking to see just how many liturgical abuses have gone from being explicitly condemned to being grudgingly tolerated and finally, to becoming some kind of "norm": Communion in the hand, priest facing the people, vernacular services, "Sunday Mass" on Saturday evening, midweek holy days of obligation such as Ascension Thursday rolled over to Sunday, frequent and ordinary use of "extraordinary ministers" to dish out communion, female "extraordinary ministers," altar girls, standing during reception of communion, standing during the consecration, removal of altar rails and statuary and stained glass, altars removed from the wall or even replaced with funky wooden tables, kneelers removed, churches built "in the round" so that the people face each other rather than facing God, tabernacles removed to places of dishonor, talking and chattering allowed in Church, disappearance of chapel veils, people routinely allowed to attend while indecently dressed, hand-holding, hand clapping, irreverent music and use of forbidden musical instruments, simplified vestments, the routine use of invalid matter for consecration, ordinary people holding the sacred vessels, and the use of "sacred vessels" made of glass, porous materials, plastic, or even paper.
Is there anything which has truly increased? There is one such statistic which shows a truly dramatic increase, genuine growth here: Marriage annulments are up from 338 (in 1968) to 52,000 (in 1983). Marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics are up from about 20% to 40%, and where of that 20% fully three out of four families brought up their children Catholic, now of that 40% scarcely one out of four do so. Although not statistically quantified, another major area of "growth" is in conversions to other religions, especially to the various Protestant Fundamentalist and Pentecostal sects, and to Islam, the New Age movement, Communism, Mormonism, Jehovahís Witnesses, and Iglesia ni Kristo, all of which now proliferate in many once Catholic countries where they had been all but unheard of only a generation ago.
Of the relatively few persons who remain, and who are truly devout and knowledgeable and serious about their faith, little vitality exists. A tremendous malaise has set in; one typically finds in parish churches that same morose atmosphere one might find in a home where the parents have just stopped arguing so as to avoid arguing in front of their child who has just arrived from school. A listless atmosphere of boredom, depression, and even despair has set in, as what few remaining devout persons (most of whom are elderly) carry out their religious and volunteer duties in a cold and mechanical manner.
Unfortunately, those (mostly elderly) devout persons are only part of those remaining; another part consists of those who have wild and crazy agendas which flatly contradict the Magisterium of the Church. For example, there is Call to Action, a (mostly lay) group dedicated to legitimizing priestesses (despite the firm papal teachings rendering such a thing impossible), contraception, abortion, the "blessing" of homosexual unions, and a married clergy. A so-called "Charismatic movement," actually nothing but a pale imitation of Protestant Pentecostalism, is replacing the quiet solemnity in the actual presence of God with a loud, raucous, party-like atmosphere very reminiscent of the pagan dances before idols. Oh yes, they may seem to drum up some enthusiasm for a while, but it is all form without substance, the substance having been necessarily gutted out along with the rest of the Protestant theology which makes Pentecostalism possible in the first place. Even those who enjoy seeking enthusiam through such a venue soon drop out due to a lack of any real spiritual feeding. A whole host of other crazy agendas seem to be going on all over the place.
Catholic priests and individual Catholics are attending many different houses of false worship and being congratulated by their bishops for their ecumenism. The Sacred Liturgy, already rendered banal and questionable and evidently rather unCatholic in flavor by their official changes made back in 1970, are rendered "interesting" and "livened up" only by the introduction of bizarre abuses, some of the more drastic of which feature clowns, dancing girls, topless girls, balloons, "smoke íem peace pipe," hula dances, a live donkey, and (for all we know) eucharistic food fights, to say nothing of music and musical arrangements far more suited to pop tunes than to liturgical worship.
Many priests and bishops are openly affiliated with Communist groups and causes. "Liberation Theology" is still alive and well, despite certain papal criticisms against it. Involvement in Freemasonry is no longer listed as an excommunicatable offense in the new Code of Canon Law. Catholic schools no longer teach the standard Catechism, instead teaching from various diocesan collections of vague, boring, and mindless blatherings promoting a communistic sense of "Social Justice," among other less coherent concerns, where the only place the information really comes into focus is when the topic is about the mysteries of reproduction (explicit sex education for the kiddies).
Some persons, seeing an occasional strong stance coming from the Vatican about any of these problems, have made the claim that "the pendulum is starting to swing back," that "yes, there were some problems but itís all getting to feel all better now." The hope such a view engenders is repeatedly dashed as the local problems simply continue to increase, and even accelerate. Whatever improvements are claimed to be happening always seem to be "somewhere else," never where one is. In India, Africa, or wherever (always someplace very remote), the religious vocations are up, but go to those places and thatís what is said there about religious vocations over here. Even "traditions" are becoming fashionable in certain circles, but for some reason these never seem to be the traditions anyone grew up with. Rather, these "traditions" always seem to be some supposed "ancient" practice, however factual research (which almost no one ever does) shows that the ancients knew nothing of these practices.
When oneís mind flits back and forth between such phrases as "the Mystical Body of Christ," or "the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic," and the above described Church, all one sees is a seeming contradiction. Deep down, we know that the Church Herself, the Mystical Body of Christ, that which alone is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, cannot be the source of anything bad, even though one might allow for the possibility that bad people in the Church might. Yet we see the above situation, totally tolerated and in some cases even openly pushed by "approved authorities." Are we to conclude that the above described disorder and loss of faith is good for our souls? That CANíT be right! Are we to conclude that our indefectible Church has defected? That CANíT be right! Could the truth be somewhere in between these conclusions, some sort of mixture of them? That would imply both the goodness of some of these bad things for our soul AND some defection of our indefectible Church. That really CANíT be right! That is why so many Catholics are confused.
Donít dare suppose that the presence of bad people in the Church could come near to accounting for any of this, let alone all of it! The promises of God are not dependent on the Church being filled with or even run by good people. If that were so, some of the bad people who maneuvered themselves into power positions of the Church in centuries past would have destroyed it back then. Furthermore, we have an abundance of good people right now. For example, look at John Paul II himself. Who else would visit in jail the man who shot him?
There are some who avoid controversy by taking the position that "Well, this is certainly very mysterious and I wouldnít presume to have any answer, other than the mysterious will of God and the sinfulness of Man, but since I donít have any answers, donít you go looking for any!" What course can these people recommend except continuing to plod along in the present confusion, unable to take any substantive action to alleviate the present situation? None, always none! They act as if it were all up to God, and as a matter of course end up praying as if it were all up to Man, the perfect Satanic neutralization!
So here are the questions raised: First and foremost, What has happened here? How can the Church have become filled with all of this nonsense? Is it really just the increased appeal of the world, or is the world losing Faith due to some sort of loss of Faith on the part of the Church? Or has some far more fundamental disaster occurred? Is it the end of the world? Where has the Catholic Faith gone? Where can it be found today? Can the Church survive all of this, and if so, how? Most pointedly, What can WE do about it, or at least what ought we be found doing by our Creator on the day of His Visitation?
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