One of the most serious problems facing the Roman Catholic Church today is the failure to recognize and utilize the resources of instant global communications for dealing with dangerous spiritual, doctrinal and liturgical abuses. This failure has been understood by many for over half a century as an indication that basic truths of the Faith may validly be questioned and reinterpreted so as to cater to the expectations of our culture. Some bishops even quietly praise dissent by delaying the disciplining of dissenters, so as to allow their erroneous teachings become more widely disseminated and accepted.
Although such pastoral practices over the past five decades have tended to ignore it, the fact remains that there is a serious need for promoting solidly orthodox teaching and discipline to guide the faithful in these times of major cultural changes. And the content of such teaching needs to be clear, concise and consistent. Only in this way will pastors and catechists be able to assure the faithful that the Church does indeed teach and submit to the same truths always and everywhere.
My concern, though, goes beyond ensuring the proper operation of the official structures of the Church. Beneath the bureaucratic bungling that has seriously compromised the credibility of the Church, I am worried that some more sinister dynamic may be at work. Specifically, I cannot help but to wonder if there is a demonic dynamic, which is subtly manipulating the clergy into collegial collusion with culturally acceptable evils. Such collusion tends to camouflage cowardice under the guises of a false prudence, a co-dependent compassion and a dishonest humility, which, in turn, coalesce into a politically expedient tolerance of both doctrinal error and moral evil. It is enhanced by stressing the importance of valuing subjective pastoral judgment above objective accountability to the virtues proclaimed by the whole truth of God. Sad to say, these perspectives are regularly ratified at various gatherings of bishops, where those driven by zeal for the truth are frequently outvoted by those championing the
"moderation" of a milquetoast mediocrity.
I am in no position to determine whether the participation of any particular Church leader for this collusion is deliberate, unwitting or acquiescent. But I can say with certitude that many continue to suffer deeply from the de facto consequences of such collusion with the socially accepted evils of our day.
Sad to say, this diabolically orchestrated dynamic seems to reflect a macabre Mafia practice of contracting for a man to be killed while he is in the act of committing a mortal sin, thus ensuring both his death and his eternal damnation. To ensure the damnation of souls, the operation of this dynamic entails four steps:
1) Church officials issue teachings and policies that clearly inform the faithful that specific points
of Church doctrine, morality and liturgical discipline are serious matters, for which they will be
held accountable on Judgment Day;
2) Church officials then tolerate, or even encourage, practices by clergy and laity,
which clearly violate the the objective truths of the Faith and the rightly-formed
consciences of the faithful;
3) Church officials proceed to abuse, marginalize or undermine the credibility of Catholics,
who insist on the discipline needed to promote respect, at least in the public forum,
for the objective truths proclaimed by Church teachings and protected by her laws;
4) Church officials not only proactively cater to the demands of those cynically questioning
or attacking legitimate Church authority, but even go so far as to publicly honor such people
because they selectively support and promote some aspects of the Church's social teaching.
This demonic dynamic became quite evident in the pederasty scandal that so dramatically came to light around the world over the past decade. But, while expensive and embarrassing lawsuits have driven the hierarchy to attempt to remedy this one symptom of the demonic dynamic, the dynamic itself continues to metastasize, with only token resistance, in numerous areas of the Church's life and spirituality. By continuing to clearly inform the faithful of their serious obligation to follow the prescribed teachings and disciplines of the Church, Vatican and diocesan officials guarantee that these people clearly know that certain practices and teachings are evil.
They thus ensure that the faithful will be in conscious collusion with evil, as they are forced by contrived circumstances to renounce the graces of their Confirmation and to go along with sacrilegious abuses of the liturgy and the Blessed Sacrament or with the mocking of the authenticity of certain Church doctrines at officially sponsored events. These same officials, when pushed by the faithful, sometimes do admit that such abuses are serious, but are slow or negligent in decisively correcting them. Instead they often tend to affirm the whine of "compassion" to be more pastorally expedient than the harsh discipline of truth.
Aside from grooming the faithful for eternal damnation, this disintegration of Church discipline has had another serious effect. It calls into question both the eternal authenticity of Church doctrine and the objective validity of the whole sacramental discipline of the Church. For example, there have been baptisms, wherein the correct matter and form were not used. Such abuses include infants being baptized "in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier", or by having only the rear end of their naked bodies dipped into the water, or by having one person say the baptismal formula while someone else pours water over the child.
In such cases, though, the offending parties are frequently disciplined in a way that neglects requiring them to ensure that those invalid baptisms be properly validated. Thus, they are led to believe that the Church supplies validity to invalidly celebrated sacraments. Church leaders, therefore, through the cowardice of collegial collusion, have been giving the impression that the objective matter and form of a sacrament are not important, just so long as people feel good and empowered by the way it was celebrated. This is giving many the impression that psychology (how things are perceived to be) rather than ontology (how things really are) is the foundation of the Church's life, worship and teaching. Thus what is subjectively relevant, rather than what is divinely revealed has increasingly become the norm endorsed by the collegial collusion for the spiritual formation of the faithful.
For over fifty years, we have witnessed both this dallying in the demonic dynamic of collegial collusion and in the tragic, expensive, scandalous and sacrilegious consequences it has brought upon the Church. I pray that all Church leaders may become more docile to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and less subservient to the ultimatums of secularism and moral relativism. Our bishops have succeeded to the chairs of the Apostles. And to fulfill their ministry, they must always be firmly ensconced in those chairs by faithfully teaching, sanctifying and ruling the Church in full harmony with the truth and love of Christ. Even a little sedevacantis is intolerable for
May they fully appreciate the seriousness of their obligation to use modern high-speed communications to expeditiously investigate and decisively correct any liturgical and catechetical abuse, which molests or deforms the consciences of those who want to remain faithful to the whole truth of God. The present perverted pastoral practice of informing, betraying and abandoning the faithful is anything but salvific. Tragically, such a promotion and perpetuation of ignorance and confusion with regard to clear teachings of the Church continues to deny people access to the authentic conversion required to enter the Kingdom of God. This is the ultimate injustice.
Spero columnist Rev Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest who serves the people of Virginia.