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. 


  1. Person Centred Theory is opposed to the truth about the nature and dignity of man and the Catholic Faith. Refusing to correct decisively and zealously "doctrinal irregularity" where one has such a grave and great duty, is gravely evil, to assist in the continuance of evil doing and its awful consequences for souls. For a long time these widespread abandonments of the Faith and morals are great gaping chasm-like wounds, rather than cracks. They are a direct attack on Our Lord, God.

    1. Thank you, Lynda.
      I suspect those who fail to correct doctrinal irregularity or correct what is in conflict with dogmatic truths probably see causing emotional pain and a measure of social isolation as the evil thing, but I would disagree with them on that: where Truth is lost, the father of lies steps in. We cannot tend the emotions and neglect the soul.
      As for therapy, I think all of today’s major therapies have unacceptable aspects to them; PCT is not alone. For example, psychodynamics and psychoanalysis blame our past, which can write off concupiscence; Transactional Analysis (TA) wants to free the individual from the behavioural scripts others write for them (and the Church would be considered a major script-writer) so that the individual can live freely. Sadly, these therapeutic theories have good imports which are lost behind these unacceptable ideas. PCT requires empathy and unconditional positive-regard for people, which we can (should?) embody in pastoral care; psychodynamics allows us to see that we are indeed affected by our past, but not clear enough on the fact that human freedom is not eradicated by it; TA helps us to seek solid ‘adult-adult’ relationships rather than childish subservience to a ‘controlling parent’, but tends to see all ‘scripts’ as originating in a controlling parent. The devil is very clever: he can take what is good and manipulate it so that its up-shot is harmful to souls.
      God Bless you and yours.

  2. Father,
    you are so right. PCT is indeed relativist, seeing truth as something that changes from person to person; situation to situation.. it is utterly relativist and opposed to God and his unchanging truth. It should have been thoroughly condemned by the Church in the 50's and 60's, not greeted with applause.
    David A.

    1. Thank you for this comment, David.
      It is not too late for the Bishops to revoke its place in pastoral care...
      God bless.

  3. Dear Father
    About 10 years ago I was working as a PR/Education Officer for a pro-life charity and my wife and I were asked to go through the counselling training. We were disturbed to learn that they were using the Rogerian Non-Directive approach based on the ideas of Carl Rogers.
    The Rogerian model allowed no space for Catholic understandings of Original Sin, Concupiscence, Redemption, Grace, or the Thomistic principles for giving good guidance and wise counsel.
    As such the non-directive approach aimed only to give 'information' to make an 'informed choice' through so-called 'self-actualization.' We realized that such an approach could actually facilitate a woman towards having an abortion! Also, the Catholic counsellors were required to leave their Faith at the door when it came to helping people in such a serious situation. Another amazing thing that we noticed, was that those most committed to the non-directive approach became remarkably directive when we questioned their approach. They preferred it to the Catholic teaching.

    This led us to do further research. We learned that Rogerian group therapy sessions had been used on the IHM nuns in Southern California in the 1960's. When Rogers and his team arrived there were 615 religious in the community. One year later, 300 of them petitioned Rome to be released from their vows. The nuns ran 60 schools at the outset and ended up with just 1 school. So we researched further and came across William Coulson. He had been a 'disciple' of Rogers in the early days, but had been converted and spent years warning people of the corrosive effects of the Rogerian approach.
    Coulson explained that Rogers had influenced the New Age Esalen Centre in California and that his principles had migrated into education and have taken root in much of the 'Values-Clarification' education which has evolved into the educational systems around today. These are, of course, explicitly warned against in the 1993 document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality from the Pontifical Congregation for the Family. As an Education Officer, I was horrified to realize that the very relativistic forces we were fighting against in education had been influenced by the man behind the charity's counselling system. These techniques are at times used in schools today - in the Orwellian-sounding Citizenship Education for example.

    In the end we had to leave that charity because they would not listen to us, but we were glad to have learned so much about our present cultural milieu from the experience. Hopefully the Trinitarian-Christocentric approach can replace this selfism. Paul VI wrote a helpful book about all this called Psychology as Religion- The Cult of Self-Worship. He has a lot of helpful material in there.

    In Christ

    1. Thank you for this.
      It is an example of the problems PCT creates not only for the Church as an institution but for persons who see its flaws.
      God bless.


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