Friday, 7 March 2014
Cracks by which the Smoke of Satan entered the Church
I was shocked when I first came across the words of Pope Paul VI that “through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the Church” (1972, Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul). He had already stated, five years earlier, that
“we looked forward to a flowering, a serene expansion of conceptions which matured in the great sessions of the Council. But one must notice above all the sorrowful aspect. It is as if the Church were destroying herself.” (Address to the Lombard Seminary at Rome, December 1968)
These were prophetic statements in the sense of seeing the signs of the times. Unfortunately nothing was done for far too long. It took until the 1990’s to get a post-Vatican II Catechism -though this is ignored by many folk who call themselves Catholic yet call for a democratic Church, women priests and the toleration of contraception, serial marriage, homosexual relationships etc. We can understand that Bishops refrain from correcting such doctrinal irregularity for fear of scandal and division, but not to make the correction is also scandalous and divisive. They prefer, it seems an approach which favours “dialogue seeking retraction” rather than correction. This approach is, I suggest, one of the cracks through which the smoke of Satan has entered the Church, since it allows error and confusion to grow; it allows weeds to choke the word of God.
A second crack by which the smoke of Satan entered the Church is mishandling of the liturgy. Sadly, Divine worship has been allowed to become a battleground of disagreement between those who prefer the Traditional Form and those who prefer the ‘Reformed Form’. Sadly, those with authority in the Church have tried to force those who have difficulty receiving the Novus Ordo to make exclusive use of it. This use of force waned somewhat after John Paul II’s Ecclessia Dei (1988), and was put to rest (we thought) by Summorum pontificum (2007). But the division remains, as does an occasional misuse of force. Such hostility towards our Liturgical Tradition and patrimony only encourages division within the Church. Yet this division need not exist. As I once wrote in a letter to a Catholic Newspaper (which they chose not to publish),
“we must have the courage to let both forms of Mass be celebrated without any restriction of law or any interference from Bishops or Popes (or their appointed commissioners). Only then will we be able to see which Form of Mass the Holy Spirit wishes to foster and which He allows to die out naturally, since if either form is restricted by law or obstructed by local ‘prudential judgement’, those making the laws or providing the obstruction will be forcing His hand. It is worth remembering the counsel of scripture: “if the undertaking is from God, you will not only be unable to stop it, but you may find yourselves fighting against God”. (Acts 5v38,39).
I continue to contend that both forms of Mass be celebrated freely, without obstruction by universal law or local ‘prudential judgement’. By this we will avoid hardening our hearts against the Holy Spirit. After all, the authority given to Popes and Bishops in their rightful measure, is “unto edification, and not unto destruction” (2 Cor. 13v10): they have all authority to denounce false doctrine and halt liturgical abuses, but no authority to forbid what is holy. Simply put, the Church cannot forbid what is holy without opposing God, since He is Holiness Itself.
The primary crack by which the smoke of Satan has entered the Church and from which the cracks in doctrine and liturgy arise is, I suggest, the adherence to non-directive, Person-centred Theory (PCT) in pastoral care, since this theory abandons the Lord’s command to His Church to actively direct souls: “Go teach all nations...teach them to observe all the commands I have given you...”(Matth. 28v19.20). PCT is a theory which sees the individual as good at the core; as directed toward the good, and therefore able to determine their own way forward. This facilitates subjective, relativist decision-making, from which flow all the sexual irregularities of our time: sex outside of marriage; serial marriage; contraception; homosexual activity, etc., as well as such ins as abortion. Non-directive therapy has been given erroneous credibility by hanging it on the hook of “Do not judge”, fooling many a sincere Christian into accepting it as a sound pastoral tool when in fact it is a supreme danger to souls, replicating in itself the pattern seen in the commission of original sin (original sin being a turning from God’s law to one’s own law) in that each person is self-directed. The acceptance of non-directive theory into pastoral care is, I suggest, the primary crack by which the smoke of Satan entered the Church -and the reason why dogma is discarded and liturgy anthropocentric. The fight against relativism must therefore be central to the work of the up-coming Synod on the family.