The great crisis, in which we live, has come about because for nearly five centuries (In 2117 we will in celebrating, if that is the right word, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s revolutionary hurling down of the gauntlet against the Catholic Church with the nailing of his 95 theses onto the door of Wittenberg University Church) the Western World has been subject to an erosion of the truth, much as when we comes across subsidence on the East Anglian coast. At first the cliff shows a few cracks, and before you know where you are, a small portion of a householder’s garden falls into the sea, and then one day so does the house. Truth has been eroded.
First of all the Catholic Church was gravely damaged by this, with whole nations becoming Protestant, and very extraordinarily it was those nations in particular that were to do so well financially and politically in the future. We see this with the emergence of Protestant Britain, and its extraordinarily successful Empire. Another example is the Netherlands. How was it that such two quite small countries could do so well? Was it simply their naval power? Spain with her massive Empire in the New World never perhaps did so well. This might be due to the fact that the Spanish Empire began to collapse as the industrialisation of Europe was being exported to the New World. In the 19th century the now mainly European population of Canada and the United States, with assistance from Industrialised Europe, could forge ahead. The Spanish Empire in that way was not so different from the Russian Empire, too huge, too dispersed and too unwieldy.
Undoubtedly Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain most probably never envisaged the sheer cruelty that would be meted out to the indigenous American peoples by Columbus and subsequent conquerors like the dreadful Pizarro, and the cruel Cortes. Pizarro who conquered Peru received a just retribution for his cruelties and treachery against the Incas, in the fact that he was assassinated by the brother of his fellow conquistador Amalgro who had turned against him; all for the terrible greed for gold. Cortes was marginally better in that he did not betray Montezuma whom he got on well with. It was the Aztecs who killed their Emperor. What the Incas and the Aztecs and other Indians had to suffer at the hands of these so called Christians is hard to contemplate. No doubt Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego to give the conquered peoples hope. So whole continents such as North and South America, and of course central America, Africa, and Australasia had to suffer at the hands of rapacious men, who called themselves Christians, and would have thought themselves as either devout Catholics, devout Calvinists, or goodness knows what. Behind all was that terrible thing the overwhelming desire for money. Did Pizarro, Cortes, did Drake, did Hawkins, did any of them ever really think that the founder of Christianity was a poor itinerant preacher and that he was God also; probably not. Patriotism indeed is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Luther certainly realized, to his horror, that the Reformation that he had started had produced no better Christians than the Catholic Church from which he had broken away, and in fact he came to the conclusion that they were rather worse. The terrible tale continued with France wanting to get the upper hand over Spain, so that it could have its Empire, and was quite happy, in the person of Cardinal Richlieu, to fight with the Protestant nations against Spain, and in doing so scupper any hope of bringing unity back into Christendom. All that it did help to do, was to multiply Christian sects, which continue to multiply to this day and like dreadful new viruses destroy the truth more and more and thus produce real heresies such as the Mormon Church, the Jehovah’s witnesses , and the Moonies; not to mention the not remotely Christian sects such as Scientology and the Temple Solar Cult, to name but a few.
So as the emerging Empires were all intent on draining the subdued peoples of their wealth and their people in the form of slaves, Italian, French, German, and English philosophers would emerge with an independent view of reality which scorned Christianity. I think that it would be fair to say that the originator of this movement was the Italian Marsiglio of Padua, who is the Wycliffe of the philosophy of the State. Born in the 13th century he was against the power of the clergy and the Papacy and he saw the state as a secular thing altogether, and its basis relying on popular consultation and natural rights. How ironic it is that we think of the rights of Man in connection with the American and French revolutions, and it all came from Italy, and Marsiglio, who was a citizen of Padua, that city whose name is always connected with the great St. Anthony of Padua renowned as wonder worker, and almost completely forgotten as a social reformer. It is indeed that St. Anthony, who is known chiefly for finding lost objects, was known as a great preacher and social reformer. Marsiglio of Padua, almost unknown to the generality of the population has been far more effective as the originator of the modern state.
If the new Protestant Empires had wanted to know how they should govern their recently acquired continents, they would have been better advised to follow in the footsteps of such great Fathers of the Church as St. Basil of Caesarea, St. John Chrysostom, and even the hated Jesuits, who in South America were coming up with a sort of Christian Communism. But No! the West whether Catholic or Protestant wanted nothing of it, and by the 18th century the wars of the British in North America, which were still to an extent fuelled by the ardent Old Testament religion of their 17th century antecedents, suddenly found themselves, not in the theological landscape of the Israelites carrying out the ban on the Canaanites, but in a philosophical world which was moving swiftly from Deism to atheism, and which would erupt in the French Revolution. However it is salutary reminder for the Americans to consider that of the 52 founding fathers of The United States of America only 2 were not Freemasons. A fault line had been created between the devout American Christians and their godless leaders. Deft propaganda has concealed this fact and so Barak Obama and his ilk reflect a true atheistic view of the World which is based on the peculiar views of that peculiar English Clergyman, Thomas Robert Malthus, the father of Malthusianism, who came to the conclusion that population increase outstripped the means of subsistence. This utterly unscientific theory was to inspire the even more unscientific theory of evolution, and it is interesting to note that Darwin was greatly influenced by Malthus.
Now what Malthus should have said was that the increase in a greedy minority of the population would lead to subsistence and starvation for majority of the population. It is a tragedy common to the educated middle classes to think too much and to think in the wrong way, and thus you end up with disastrous conclusions, such as Rousseau’s noble savage. Rousseau’s appalling treatment of his own children whom he had adopted because to have brought them up himself would have meant that he would have had to neglect his great philosophical work, which at the end of the day was and is complete nonsense. If he had simply married his mistress and been a good father, the world would have been preserved from his lunacy. These mad ideas of Darwin’s survival of the fittest, Malthus’ population theories, and Rousseau’s rose tinted view of man’s innate innocence, an innocence he did not share with this remarkable specimen the noble savage, then filtered into the world of government and resulted in Totalitarianism and population control, be it by contraception, abortion, economic subjugation, and worst of all genocide. This would be practiced to perfection by the Turks in 1915 with the slaughter of the Armenians, the Nazis with the Jews during the Second World War, the Russians with the Cossacks and Ukranians, Pol Pot with his fellow Cambodians, The British with the Chagos Islanders, and the Hutus with the Tutsis. One fears that the Israeli Government may be in grave danger of doing the same thing to the Palestinian Arabs, and so bringing down on the Israeli people the curse of Deuteronomy so graphically described in chapters 28 and 29 of that final book of the Pentateuch.
The ultimate horror is that age old contempt of the ruler for his subjects, be he, king, or emperor, demagogue, or Doge, oligarch, or plutocrat, and worst of all the Communist dictator; there is that same contempt. It is seen in the horror of the transportation of slaves from Africa to the New World, or supposed criminals to Australia. It is the old case of the law having nothing whatsoever to do with justice, and very often nothing to do with the Justice of God. We need only think of the unjust trials which God was to undergo in the Passion. The religious leaders, Roman Law, and the ever present mob, conveniently found God guilty of blasphemy and insurrection.
Ultimately the problem has been the misunderstanding of God and his relationship to his creation and humanity’s relationship to him. The schism between the Latin West and Orthodox East had a disastrous effect on Theology. Whereas the East felt that theology was sacred and a mystery, and so there was no need to develop theology, the West took the opposite view and became more and more cerebral and rational and so God had to be explained. It seems that few have really taken into account that when Thomas Aquinas had his great mystical experience and saw that his theology was simply so much straw, that he really was commenting on his writings. Great as they are, they were only an attempt to deal with the dangers posed by rediscovered Aristotelianism , and by using Aristotle, at the service of theology, to defeat heretical views about God, but in doing so a chink in the armour of theology was exposed, and he started a trend, which would lead to Scotus and Ockham, and would in the latter’s case begin the foundations of atheism.
When you deny God as Marx did, ( He had, of course, been born a Jew became a Christian, then repudiated it, and wrote a hymn Satan. It is hardly a recommendation for a social theorist and a reformer, especially in the religious atmosphere of the 19th century)there will then be, in such a person, a desire to destroy all that he was before, and so he will try to make a new World, based on his highly subjective view of reality. These secular prophets have all the fervour of a missionary, but there is a complete void in which there is no Faith. The spiritual landscape is dead and all that matters is material welfare, but how is that achieved? Ultimately only by violence, which in Marx’s case was the Class struggle, and this would lead to Utopia. What it leads to is a terrible abyss of nothingness. The problem is Marx failed to realise the lurking evil within Man; the effects of Original Sin.
Today we have many Christians who still have the Faith, to some degree ,but no fervour, because, they like Marx, think that one can have Paradise on Earth, and soon they will follow Marx into his optimistic view of a bizarre world, which has about as much reality as Rousseau’s noble savage. But if only Christians actually wanted to imitate Christ, then we would have something very wonderful on Earth, but it would not be Utopia, because it would not be centred on Man. It would be centred on God. It is one of the most extraordinary things that in a little over 120 years since the publication of the Penny Catechism in 1889 that the second question and answer of that great document could have been almost obliterated from the Catholic consciousness in just under 50 years. Here is the great question which even the lapsed Catholic, aged 60 years or over,will well remember: 2. Why did God make you? God made me to know him, love him, and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next. It is as simple as that. Precisely because it is so simple and so unexciting, we try and do things differently. Thus you will end up with someone like Jung, the son of a Calvinistic minister coming out with the mind boggling assertion, at the end of his life, that he thought that perhaps there was a God; well how bizarre! Was he not brought up a Christian? Just because he was a Calvinist, did he not realize that all he had to do was to become a Catholic and there he would have the truth, rather than the terrifying theology of Salvation that Calvin had concocted that some were destined for eternal glory, and some were destined for eternal reprobation, and there was nothing that you could do about it? No! Man, and here I mean Man and not Woman, always knows better. Even feminist religious have an instinct for the truth. I heard of one order who were re-translating the psalms with inclusive language, but always kept the Devil as “He”. Women do not go to War, it is Men. Women do not want to wield enormous power; they don’t have to, being a Mother is the greatest power on Earth, but men do. And when women renounce that maternal power they become terrifying imitations of men, and with a ruthlessness that makes Lady Macbeth seem like a cosy housewife.
The greatest tragedy has been that since the Reformation, the pursuit of knowledge has not been controlled by the Church. Yes there have been times when the Church has misused her authority, but certainly not in the case of Galileo, whose arrogance was really the real problem, and who had not got all his facts correct either. When I talk of knowledge being controlled by the Church, I do not mean that the Church should be issuing Stalinist diktats controlling science, culture, philosophy etc. with a terrifying violence, no I mean that like the Communist vision, there should be the overarching view that all knowledge is contained in God, that he is the source of everything. It is precisely because that has been pushed into the background that things are so bad, so wrong.
A good example in government is the United Nations, or the EU. Neither of these organizations are submitted to Christ, nor would they wish to be. Who are they subservient to? The changing fashions of thought, and morality. This is what Pope Benedict has wisely termed the dictatorship of relativism. How can the United Nations, in particular come up with moral terms of reference which are universal? We do not have to discover moral laws by choosing from the great religions or philosophies. Either God taught the human race directly as he did on Sinai to Moses, and again through the prophets, and definitively as Jesus of Nazareth, God Incarnate, or we have to accept that God really is the God of the Deists, and is not really interested, which makes such a God very uninteresting, and no-one in their right mind would want to spend eternity with such a God, who is really no God at all, but simply a figment of the Enlightenment philosophers’ overheated imaginations.
Either God gave us the Law and the prophets, and then the Church founded on Peter, the Rock, or it is all nonsense. However the other alternative, which is embodied by various branches of atheistic totalitarianism, and such peculiar organizations as the United Nations, and the EU, produces a man made morality that will end up being no morality at all, and will lead to the extinction of the human race by either abortion, sterilization, contraceptive devices, war, and war induced famines, aided by genetically modified crops, which would be better termed genetically mutated crops.
However God is the Lord of history, and he will determine when the World ends, not us. No amount of dictators, wild eyed mad scientists, and deplorable eugenicists will determine the end of the World. They will however, if they do not repent, be appalled at how really medieval Heaven, Earth, and Hell are, and how wrong they have been about the World, morality, history and science. Let us pray for these poor deluded people that they may convert before it is too late, and find themselves in a Hell of fire, which is far worse than physical fire, for it is spiritual fire.
Precisely because we are in the greatest crisis in the Church’s history, this should not cause us too much concern for the very good reason, that God triumphs in every situation, and only he can bring good out of evil. However it is very difficult to see this, especially in the 20th century (This statement is not a mistake; chronologically the 20th century might have ended but spiritually and thematically it has not. A good example of a century ending would be the 19th century, where it ends with the outbreak of the First World War.) when evil seems in the ascendancy, and when the morals of the so called Christian West seem far worse than those in the pagan and communist East. However lest we lionize pagan cultures, we must realize that often they are very bad indeed, but they have the excuse of being pagan. In the West the great vice is saying good is bad, and bad is good. A homosexual marriage is bad both philosophically and morally. The Christian who begins to reduce Christ to simply a great teacher, is guilty of apostasy, and those many baptized Christians who foreswear Christ for Buddha, as is so common in the West today, are in the gravest danger of courting damnation. Contemporary Western Christians are so like the ancient people of Israel defying Moses, or filling the Temple with male prostitutes, sacrificing their children, or worshipping the gods of the pagans. The continual cry of “I’ll do it my way”, and “I will not serve” reverberates down through the ages. That is the kernel of the great crisis, disobedience to the will of God.
Certainly the crisis of authority seems to have gone to the very top and affected the Popes. Blessed John XXIII seemed to be strangely optimistic about human goodness, and in making his beloved hero Francis de Sales his mentor, he seemed to forget the iron fist in the velvet glove, which was the real Francis. There is no doubt whatsoever that John was a saint, but did he not realize how debilitating his Ost-Politic was to the Church. His successor Paul VI, whom John described as a bit like Hamlet, seemed unable to make up his mind about most things, and the bemoaned the state of the Church. He would take a very strong line with Marcel Lefebvre who was an Archbishop, and be hopelessly lenient with a Hans Kung, and yet the former really was in the tradition of the Church that Innocent III, Pius II, Pius V, Benedict XIV, Leo XIII, and all the Pius’ this century would have recognized, and so would have Benedict XV.
Why, one would like to ask have Cardinals Wysinski, Beran, Mindzenty, and Slipjy not been beatified, who were all heroic confessors of the Faith. Something is amiss somewhere, and perhaps the fact must be fairly faced up to, that suddenly in the 60’s the Catholic Church became unwittingly and unknowingly liberal, not in its essence, but in its acceptance, albeit cautious, that modern psychology, sociology, modern philosophy, and evolution were essentially right and could be Christianized. That Carl Jung, and Carl Rogers can be taken so seriously by so many priests and religious is truly extraordinary. If it was left on a purely academic level that might be bad enough, but when its fruit is the highly respectable St. Anselm’s Institute in Cliftonville, one is staggered that bishops, priests, and religious can believe the balderdash that this place offers as being authentic psychology; having done a course there, I speak from experience. The problem is that everyone is well meaning and really think that they are loyal Catholics, but what they fail to realize is that they are all semi Pelagians. Their founder told me himself that he had problems with the devil! The whole area of psychology and counselling is profoundly Pelagian. We can save ourselves, we can become better people, and more caring, and more human. It is tragic that such intelligent people have been taken in, and why, because they have been taught by men and women not to believe that the Bible is utterly and totally the word of God and inspired. When you begin to pick and chose what to believe in the scriptures, you will find yourself doing the same nthing with Classic theology, and you will do the same with morality, and the end of it will be either utterly muddled thinking and syncretism, or atheism. When our wonderful Holy Father, Pope Benedict goes on about the scourge of relativism, he will have to admit that many in the Church happily embraced relativism most probably sixty or more years ago. Amidst moral and theological, and philosophical mayhem, the Papacy has just managed to keep its head above water, but only just, and that is because the Holy Spirit will not let it sink beneath the waves of a World intent on drowning it with all the isms that one can think of.
John Paul in In Unum Sint wisely asked us to go back to the Church in the First Millenium if we wanted to know what the undivided Church should look like, but I would humbly suggest that we go further, and present Peter, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude, James the Less, and Thaddeus to Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeex, and Hans Kung, Raymond Brown and other American and German trained theologians. As these learned professors argue with the Apostles, I know who I would choose to believe, and I know that being sensible orientals and men of the earth and the sea, they would find these great intellectuals as so many buffoons and clowns. They would see it all as dangerous nonsense and they would not give it the time of day. Sadly contemporary Catholicism is too much taken up with man, and his existential dilemma; the fact is that if modern man loved God there would be no existential dilemma. All the Church needs to worry about is the salvation of souls, that does not preclude social Christianity and the utter necessity of the corporal works of mercy, but without the spiritual works of mercy the Church is sunk. The Church must allow herself to be guided by faith rather than Utopian socialism, which lurks behind that most unfortunate exhortation endorsed by the British bishops several years back “Make Poverty history”. If the good bishops had really thought about what they were saying, they would have realized they had come perilously close to heresy, for did not Our Lord say “The poor you will have always with you”. We do not need wholeness, or a holistic view of human beings, neither do we need to eschew the body spirit view, which apparently was a peculiarly Greek philosophical contstruct and showed a dangerous dualism, or so we are told by recent religious pundits. I suppose that such a view could mean we should all rush off and become Manichees, simply for acknowledging that we are body and spirit. Paul talks of body, soul and spirit, so does that mean we are suffering from triism if there is such a thing. These days no-one wants asceticism, everyone wants to avoid suffering, and everyone wants to find their true potential and develop it. The reason that we have reached this disastrous state of affairs is that we have begun to celebrate ourselves in life and liturgy, tell each other how gifted we are, and what wonderful human beings we are, and in the process have come very close to worshipping ourselves. The great comfort of Western society has made bishops, priests and religious has made them more and more professionals; it has made them business like, and efficient but it has not made them holy and it has not made them wise. Admittedly in the Middle Ages bishops, especially in England were often professional politicians, but they really had the faith, and they had grandeur. They might have overdone it, but they knew the importance of the Office. Would that our bishops would wear the full purple and celebrate the Mass magnificently, but be poor beneath all that and zealous pastors of their flocks, protecting them from the heretical fads that infect far too much of the body of the Church. And so we are overwhelmed by commissions, and synods, and more commissions, and more letters, and more organization, and so much bureaucracy that the Holy Spirit is being shut out in so many areas of the Church.
So all I can do dear reader is to leave you in the company of St. Peter and his fellow apostles, and by that it must be clear that I am not for one moment suggesting that you should be like Luther and the early Reformers feverishly trying to find the pristine Church, and sweeping everything away that followed, but I ask you to follow Jesus with them, and then you will see that it was all there in the beginning, and that it bears no resemblance to the Church envisaged by the likes of Hans Kung and his intellectual bed fellows. For the Church is the companions and devoted disciples of Christ, who believe in what he told them, namely that he had come not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfil it, not to dispense with sacrifices, but to be the great and everlasting sacrifice, to bring into sacramental form healing which had been enacted by Moses, Elijah, and Elisha, and forgiveness, which had been so often offered to the people of Israel through the prophets, especially in the persons of Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The great sacraments of baptism and the priesthood foreshadowed in circumcision and the anointing of Aaron find themselves in the Kingdom of God on Earth in the Church, and finally in that most ancient of unions marriage we see it under Christ as a sacrament, and also as a symbol of Christ and the Church. The modern theologians too often look at the Church and scriptures as something to be analysed, or a dead body to be investigated, but really do they see it in all its radiant splendour scintillating and intoxicating in its sheer loveliness. It has become the sport of academics and is far dryer and less interesting than Thomas or Bonaventure, and even more subtle and perilous than Scotus, and Ockham. Theology should not be done in modern universities as simply another subject; it should be done on the knees in prayer, penance, and charity.
In conclusion; it is very often music that, above all, evokes Heaven and the Divine, and this is done with varying degrees of success, for music is the one muse which takes us on its wings and carries towards the foothills of Heaven, where we will hopefully one day see the beauty and glory of God. Some music, especially some of the Orthodox chants bring us wafts of heavenly breezes, and on one level these can be too beguiling, whereas the Gloria from the “Missa Cum Jubilo” brings us closer. The “Veni Creator Spiritus” from Mahler’s 8th Symphony is magnificent and staggering, but perhaps is slightly overblown, and Mozart’s Requiem, lauded by so many seems, ironically, to be less spiritual than “The Magic Flute”, which tells you a lot about Mozart. No! strangely enough if we want an evocation of the Church in music, we have to look for it in two oratorios, both by Elgar.
In Elgar’s“The Kingdom”, towards the end of this great work, Our Lady reflects after the day of Pentecost on the arrest of Peter and John. In the aria “As The Sun goeth Down”for soprano, we are shown what the kingdom requires in a patchwork of scriptural passages and allusions. It is one of the truly great arias of a style that is late Romantic and modern at the same time. The whole evocation is one of glory. Yes! the disciples of the Kingdom will suffer but we are assured that “The gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world; the Kingdom and patience, which are in Jesus. The Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.” The listener is, so to speak, catapulted into the glory of the Apostolic Church on a golden stream of sound, that is quite ecstatic, and this sense of the glory of the Church is taken up again in Elgar’s other oratorio “The Apostles”. Once again we find ourselves in the company of Our Lady Mary, Magdalene and the Apostles, who having seen Christ ascend into Heaven conclude the Oratorio with a marvellous description of what the Church is meant to be in music. The Apostles sing “Give us one heart, and one way: in Thy light shall we see light;” and then the two Marys join in this prayer. Then in this musical ensemble Mary takes up her very own theme with the opening words of the Magnificat. Peter then comes in with “For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted: neither hath He hid His face from him:” And so in a gradual crescendo, all the strands of discipleship are taken up, the Mercy of God, the Cross, and the oneness of the Kingdom. Throughout all this the chorus and the mystic chorus sweep the listener up into a musical tapestry of the Kingdom of Heaven and the work of Christ’s redeeming love. We see in music the suffering crucified Christ, but we also see Christ triumphant and King of a Heaven, Earth and All Creation. After a thundering climax, we find again the tranquillity of Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter and John as they close this great oratorio with the words “In His love and in His pity He redeemed them.”, as they are accompanied by the Mystic chorus singing “Alleluia”.
These words should be written on the tablets of our hearts “In His love and in His pity He redeemed them.” Then as we turn the pages of the Gospels we will see more and more the face of Jesus in his glory, majesty, simplicity, and no more so than we see him in his sufferings and in his passion. Here is Heaven, here is God, here is our King, our master, and our beloved brother and friend. His face, his mannerisms, his look, and his voice, and actions should be imprinted our souls. Transformed by his love, we will transform the Church and the World.
In recent centuries, most probably no one has understood this better than St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Her love for Jesus was so all consuming that it has flooded the modern world with this “Holy Daring”, to use the title of Fr. John Udris’ book on Thérèse’s fearless trust. This great inheritance, that Thérèse offers us , is from a life lived solely in the most ardent discipleship of Christ, and it is the one that will make the great ones of this World fall on their knees and repent in tears of joy and gratitude. Let us pray that this may come about, and that the blood of the countless thousands, if not millions, of martyrs of the 20th Century will convert them before the terrible wrath of God is let loose upon them. In these dark and perilous times we have two incomparable aids to help us, first is the message of Our Lady of Fatima with its emphasis on the rosary, praying for sinners and making the “First Five Saturdays”, and then the extraordinary devotion of the “Divine Mercy”, which is the crown and culmination of the devotion to The Sacred Heart. If we make these our own, and encourage others to do the same, we will usher in Our Lady’s reign of Peace which she promised at Fatima;
"In the end, my Immaculate Heart will Triumph.
The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me,
and she will be converted,
And a period of peace will be granted to the World."
We pray that this will happen soon, even though the path to it will include great suffering and martyrdom, but emboldened by Thérèse’s holy daring and fearless trust, we know that truly “Nothing is impossible to God”.