Dear readers, you often read me complaining that the “reform of the reform” (namely: the recovery of liturgical and theological sobriety after the drunkenness of the post-Vatican II years) is far too slow, and that whilst a new orthodoxy opens its way into the heart of the Church (both in the liturgical sense and as a new assertiveness in making clear again what too often had been obfuscated, played down or, rather often, dumbed down), at the periphery, in the many dioceses where the faithful live, the reform is far too slow and most Western Catholics are still afflicted by fully inadequate but, alas, not really old shepherds.
It is true that yours truly was not born with the vocation of the diplomat, and I am the first to admit that I am, erm, somewhat right of centre in most things. Still, I must confess my scepticism whenever I read of supposed “schisms” that would loom if the Holy Father decided – as is wildly desired among devout Catholics of all tendencies – to put a heavier foot on the gas pedal.
Against this argument I have following objections:
1) It seems to me a contradiction in terms. It is difficult to say that heterodox tendencies should be tolerated in order to avoid schisms. A schism is not an evil in itself. It is an evil because it shows that there are heterodox tendencies. To say that to have a schism is worse than to live with schismatic thinking doesn’t make really sense to me. It is like saying that by abolishing jails you at least avoid the evil of criminality; but jails are merely the result of criminality, and by refusing to build jails one only achieves the free-flowing of criminal energy within the veins of society.
2) It seems to me that it vastly understates the strenght of the Church. The modernist and feminist drunkenness we are living now is, once seen within the great picture of Church history, certainly not the greatest threat to her survival. Nestorianism, Gnosticism, Lutheranism at least can be considered threats of vaster proportions. If no fear of schism has refrained the Church leaders of past times from seeking a clear path to Truth whatever the cost, I can’t see why the same shouldn’t be done now. The Church that has survived the hurricane of Lutheranism will certainly survive the storm of neo-modernism and V II-worship.
3) It seems to me that it puts the interest of the schismatics before the interest of the Catholics. It is as if one should refrain from demanding orthodoxy, for fear of the people who are not orthodox openly choosing heresy. Well they should choose truth then, or accept the consequences. It can’t be that truth accommodates lie in order for lie not to be upset at its own falseness.
4) It seems to me that it ignores the workings of human nature. Whatever the rhetoric, in real life most people tend to refrain from extreme gestures, and from revolutionary behaviour, even in more profane circumstances. Much more so for Catholics. The bond of a Catholic to the Church is much stronger than, say, the bond of a Baptist to his local church, or pastor, or the bond of a political activist to his party of choice. The bond of a Catholic is so strong in fact, that even the most deluded nutcases go to unbelievable lenghts to persuade themselves that they are still Catholics. The expression “mother church” has, for most Catholics, a very real meaning. In a world where not even the Tories defeat en masse after being served Cameronism, I truly can’t imagine Catholics defeating en masse after being served.. Catholicism.
We live in times where one can’t avoid wondering how many of our priests believe in the Real presence, or in God in the first place. The frequency with which even bishops openly embrace heterodoxy (from the one wondering whether he will perform same-sex marriages; to the one expressing himself in favour of the building of a mosque; to the one saying that female priesthood will not happen “yet”, and so on) leaves much to be feared as to how many embrace it more quietly, but still undermining Catholicism with their total refusal to defend it.
I do not think that such threats can be underestimated. It is true that the “biological solution” (that is: the undertaker) will in time very probably solve the problem and it is also true that the Church is indefectible. But in the meantime an entire generation of Catholics will have been exposed to great danger for their souls, and many more will lose the opportunity to experience and get in contact with a Truth now unknown to them. Besides, to allow the spreading of heterodox thinking will probably cause a sizeable minority to continue in their errors for generations to come.
The solution is, in my eyes, twofold:
1) generous use of the rod and staff. Heterodox bishops should be not only removed, but excommunicated pour encourager les autres. Bishops are, as a category, not what you’d call professional agitprops (particularly the crop of weak, popularity-seeking cowards we are afflicted with today), and it is therefore not reasonable to suppose that they will choose to lose rank, prestige and livelihood in great numbers. Methinks, most of them will shut up all right, and do what they’re told.
2) Total absence of compromise in the appointment of new bishops. Young, absolutely orthodox bishops with a fighting spirit will revitalise the Church in just a few years. If they refuse and there is no better alternative, they must be required to obey and take responsibility. Karol Wojtyla became bishop at 38, and it is clear that a young, brave bishop was what Pius XII wanted for communist Poland. Difficult situations require determined and energetic shepherds.
Revolt is easier said than done. Particularly among Catholics.