The Holy Father will soon visit Spain for the World Youth Day. He will find a country where Catholicism has been in steady decline for some time. This is the same, though probably even more marked, that has happened in France, Italy and the Catholic part of Germany.
I look at all those countries and my answer to who is the culprit is always the same: the clergy. I have lived personally – and I do not doubt that the same has happened in the other countries examined – the simple reality that there has been no issue by which traditional Catholic practice or thinking has been attacked or dismantled, without prestigious members of the Clergy giving their support.
We live in times where bishops allow churches to be used by non-Christians; support the building of mosques; carefully avoid to mention I do not say Satan and Hell – whose existence they have long forgotten – but even the evil of abortion, or basics like Sunday Mass obligation; sabotage the sacredness of the Mass; downplay or do not believe in the Eucharist; downplay or do not believe in the Church as the way to Salvation; downplay or do not believe in the sacrament of confession. I could go on.
You tell me whether a national church whose clergy doesn’t even have the gut to forcefully remind the faithful of Mass obligation has any right to avoid being punished by the Lord with humiliation and decay. The Church (big C) is obviously indefectible, but the same guarantee is not given to the local churches, in Italy, France, Spain, Germany. If they insist in wanting to commit suicide, here and there they might even succeed.
This is exactly what is happening today, where we see a generation of cowardly or heretical or plain stupid bishops trying the possible and the impossible to please the young generations not by being Catholic, but by pretending to be young. The problem is that the Church is not sexy, and no disco-masses or similar bollocks will ever – thank God – make it so, nor will any dismantling of her liturgical apparatus make her attractive to secular minds. A church without sacredness is neither fish nor fowl: she is too boring for the worldly, and too shallow for the spiritual.
So, the Pope will visit a country with declining Catholicism. He will crowd the streets, as a Pope is always a media event. He will say the usual words that everyone is expecting to hear: be good, don’t be bad; be faithful, don’t be atheists; do things right, don’t do things wrong. To the bishop, he’ll give similar words: be courageous, don’t be weak; say it straight, don’t say it “nuanced”; be real bishops, don’t be fake bishops, & Co., & Co.
After which, he’ll go away leaving the same incompetent cowardly bishops free to continue the work of destruction in exactly the same way as they were doing before his arrival, and the church in Spain will continue to die exactly as she was doing before his arrival.
Mind, I do not think that they will succeed in this. The clergy, as Cardinal Consalvi reminded Napoleon and us, has tried to kill the Church for eighteen centuries and has never succeeded. But if the church in Spain avoids extinction, I think it will not be for lack of effort of her incompetent shepherds, but because the V II generation will not live long enough to see the work of destruction completed. Already the next Pope will be the first one in half a century not directly involved with V II, and from there the dynamic will take its own course. The first Pope with real chuzpah will be enough to repair if not all the damage, an awful lot of it. Catholicism is, if properly used, an extremely powerful weapon.
If the government of the United States embarks in a policy of senseless spending, sooner or later some rating agency will downgrade its debt. For the Church, the punishment is slower, but harsher. The Lord punishes the Church by making her weaker, allowing her to lose perspective and prestige, suffering that she be humiliated.
The Church in all Western European countries has been, as the Spanish experience abundantly proves, downgraded not of one, but of several notches. It is high time that those in charge (Pope, bishops) realise this simple, undeniable, plain to see reality and react accordingly. The Church in Spain is in decline because in Spain , as in many other countries, the clergy “no tienen cojones“. The sooner this very simple message is understood, the sooner the reconstruction work will start.
The present situation is like talking with a shepherd whilst more and more of his sheep fall into ravines, with the shepherd saying “you see, in these modern times more and more sheep are lured into the ravines” (no, they always were at risk; but they used to have good shepherds); “we admonish them not to fall into them, but we believe in sheep liberty and therefore can’t force them” (of course you can, you must, even!); “at the same time, we must be sensitive that we are not harsh to the sheep that are still alive, lest they throw themselves into the ravines, too” (gotta love the logic: don’t tell them not to fall, or they will fall). Whilst you talk with the shepherd, you see further sheep falling. The shepherd says to them “oh please sheep, be good, don’t fall into the ravines”, but stays there without moving one finger. More sheep disappear. The shepherd looks at you and says “sad, isn’t it? It’s the modern times, you know…”.
I do not doubt that the Papal visit will be a great media success, though…
Rorate Caeli has an old-ish, but always beautiful blog post: the translation of the message sent by Pope Pius XII to the Spanish Faithful at the end of the Civil War in Spain.
Pointedly, Rorate Caeli point out that this is a reminder of who represented what in that conflict.
I reproduce the text in its entirety, and allow myself to suggest that it be accompanied by a prayer for Francisco Franco, the brave men who followed him in his stand, and all those who fought and died for Christ.
Let us also use this as a reminder that open persecution is always nearer than one thinks.
«CON INMENSO GOZO»
OF HIS HOLINESS
TO THE SPANISH FAITHFUL
(April 14, 1939)
With great joy We address you, most dear children of Catholic Spain, to express to you our fatherly congratulations for the gift of peace and of victory, with which God has deemed worthy to crown the Christian heroism of your faith and charity, tried in so many and so generous sufferings. Our Predecessor, of venerable memory, expected, with longing and trust, this Providential peace, which is undoubtedly the fruit of that copious blessing which he sent, in the very beginning of the struggle, “to all those who had devoted themselves to the difficult and dangerous task of defending and restoring the rights and the honor of God and Religion” ; and We do not doubt that this peace shall be the one that he himself foretold since then, “the sign of a future of tranquility in order, and of honor in prosperity” .
The designs of Providence, most beloved children, have once again dawned over heroic Spain. The Nation chosen by God as the main instrument of the evangelization of the New World and as an impregnable fortress of the Catholic faith has just shown to the apostles of materialistic Atheism of our century the greatest evidence that the eternal values of religion and of the spirit stand above all things.
The tenacious propaganda and the constant efforts of the enemies of Jesus Christ seemed to have desired to try in Spain a supreme experiment of the dissolving forces which they have at their disposal throughout the world; and even though it is true that the Almighty has for now not allowed them to achieve their goal, He has at least tolerated some of their terrible effects, so that the world could see how religious persecution, undermining the very bases of justice and charity, which are love for God and respect for His holy law, may drag modern society to unthinkable abysses of evil destruction and passionate discord.
Convinced of this truth, the sane Spanish people, with the two marks characteristic of their most noble spirit, which are generosity and frankness, rose up determinedly in defense of the ideals of Christian faith and civilization, deeply rooted in the Spanish soil, and, aided by God, “who does not abandon those who hope in Him” (Judith 13, 17), could resist the push from those who, deceived by what they believed to be a humanitarian ideal of the exaltation of the meek, truly fought only for Atheism.
This primordial meaning of your victory makes us dwell in the most promising hopes, that God in His mercy will deign lead Spain through the safe path of its traditional and Catholic grandeur; which will be the point that will guide all Spaniards, who love their Religion and their Fatherland, in the effort to organize the life of the Nation in perfect harmony with its most noble history of Catholic faith, piety, and civilization.
We thus exhort the Authorities and Shepherds of Catholic Spain to enlighten the mind of those who were deceived, showing them, lovingly, the roots of Materialism and Secularism from which their errors and wrongful acts came forth, and from which they could spring forth again. Propose to them the principles of individual and social justice, without which the peace and prosperity of nations, as mighty as they may be, cannot subsist, and which are those contained in the Holy Gospel and in the doctrine of the Church.
We do not doubt that it will happen thus, and the bases for Our firm hope are the most noble and Christian sentiments, of which the Chief of State and so many gentlemen, his faithful collaborators, have given unequivocal evidence with the legal protection which they have granted to the supreme religious and social interests, according to the teachings of the Apostolic See. The same hope is also founded upon the enlightened zeal and abnegation of your Bishops and Priests, tempered by pain, and also in the faith, piety, and spirit of sacrifice of which, in terrible hours, all classes of Spanish society gave heroic proof.
And now, before the remembrance of the mounting ruins of the bloodiest civil war recorded in the history of modern times, We, with pious regard, bow our head, above all, to the holy memory of the Bishops, Priests, Religious of both sexes, and faithful of all ages and conditions who, in such an elevated number, sealed with blood their faith in Jesus Christ, and their love for the Catholic Religion: «maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet», “Greater love than this no man hath” (Jn 15, 13).
We also acknowledge our debt of gratitude towards all those who sacrificed themselves even unto heroism in defense of the unalienable rights of God and of Religion, either in the battlefields, or devoted to the sublime works of Christian charity in prisons and hospitals.
We cannot hide the bitter sorrow that the remembrance of so many innocent children, who, having been ripped from their homes, were taken to faraway lands, often in danger of apostasy and perversion: we desire nothing more ardently than to see them returned to the bosom of their families, where they will once again find the warm and Christian tenderness of their own. And those others who, as prodigal sons, wish to return to the house of the father, we doubt not that they will be welcomed with goodwill and love.
It falls upon You, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, to advise all, so that in their policy of pacification all will follow the principles taught by the Church, and proclaimed with such nobility by the Generalísimo: of justice for crime, and of lenient generosity for the mistaken. Our solicitude, also as a Father, cannot forget these deceived ones, whom a deceitful and perverse propaganda succeeded in enticing with praises and promises. Your Pastoral solicitude should be targeted at them, with patience and meekness: pray for them, seek them, lead them again to the regenerative bosom of the Church and to the warmth of the Fatherland, and lead them to the Merciful Father, Who awaits them with open arms.
Therefore, most dear children, since the rainbow of peace has returned to brighten the heavens of Spain, let us come together heartily in a fervent hymn of thanksgiving to the God of Peace and in a prayer of forgiveness and mercy for all those who perished; and, in order that this peace be fruitful and longlasting, We exhort you with all the fervor of Our heart, to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4, 2-3). Thus united and obedient to your venerable Episcopate, devote yourselves joyfully and with no delay, to the urgent work of reconstruction, which God and the Fatherland expect from you.
As a pledge of the copious graces, which the Immaculate Virgin and Saint James the Apostle, Patrons of Spain, shall obtain for you, and which the great Spanish Saints have merited for you, We bestow upon you, Our dear children of Catholic Spain, upon the Chief of State and his illustrious Government, upon the zealous Episcopate and their selfless Clergy, upon the heroic combatants, and upon all the faithful Our Apostolic Blessing.