Pastoral prudence versus faith
Some in the Church advocate “resistance” to the false magisterium and that is necessary for true holy obedience to the authentic magisterium. What form does this resistance take and what are its parameters? Often answers to these thorny questions in the past seemed unclear or inadequate but we had to try even if we made mistakes in good faith. I would like to address an issue wrestled with by priests who have not yet anesthetized their consciences to it.
Unfortunately it seems that there have been many basically orthodox priests that have not resisted as they should have out of fear for their “job security.” That fear was justified but where is our faith? Do we believe that if we seek first the kingdom, that God will feed and clothe us as the birds of the air and the lilies of the field?How can we teach others to trust in the Father if we falter? We have the recent heroic example of many doctors and nurses who were viciously persecuted during the deadly COVID scam. If we haven’t set an example perhaps we could follow their example?
For decades conscientious priests have questioned the prudence of being thrown out of ministry. Is not half a loaf better than none? In other words, is not some priestly ministry better than being thrown out by the infiltrators or their hireling collaborators and being forced to try to find a secular job and have little or no ministry? I had a lay person complain to me about us priests not standing up to the bad leadership in the Church. I agreed that it is a serious problem but I asked if that person was prepared to see good priests removed and a sycophant brought in with his “church of nice” homilies? One who carefully avoids preaching on all the raging moral battles in society? Or addressing them in such a weak way that does not disturb cafeteria “Catholics” in grave need of repenting? To begin to address that quandary I would ask if with that posture of compromise are we not just preparing ourselves to join the “patriotic church” of China? Oh, how much damage is done incrementally! How much damage is done with unjust compromises? Our Lady of Akita on October 13, 1973 warned:
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres … churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
There has been some wisdom in not being dismissed by a true lack of prudence that unnecessarily provokes bishops of weak faith, poor quality or worse. There has been some wisdom in not letting the seminary gatekeepers screen you out like Michael Rose’s 2002 book Goodbye, Good Men recounts. Nevertheless, there exists the profound problem of seminarians and later, the same men as priests, keeping a posture of hiding the truth that prevents us from courageously confronting the evil of the gatekeepers. Over time we may be thoroughly conditioning ourselves like Pavlovian dogs to hide and continue to hide the truth that we say we believe. That formed mindset is quite corrosive to our own faith and piety. We are conditioned to hide as seminarians. We hide as a good little assistant pastor and don’t make waves with an eye to being promoted to pastor some day when we will have the freedom to do more good. Then when promoted to pastor we keep compromising to avoid demotion due to controversy. We also forget that we have set precedents that will be thrown back in our face if we “change course.” Long ago when I was first made pastor I sought advice from the bishop’s right hand man (Vicar General). He warned me, “Watch setting a precedent, they will hang you with it.” We convince ourselves we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. But, are we? There is also some serious discernment as to whether a lack of faith and perhaps excessive fear are lurking behind these “prudential judgments.” What would have happened if more priests and bishops had refused cooperation (servile, non-virtuous, obedience) with the pernicious “spirit of Vatican II” early on? Would it not have been much easier to “nip these things in the bud?”
Malachi Martin tells the story of two cardinals that went to Pope Paul VI and told him to correct some things concerning the Novus Ordo Mass, on the verge of being promulgated, or they would immediately denounce him as a heretic. Unfortunately, the Holy See has seen fit on too many occasions to not back those bishops and priests who would uphold Catholic teaching of the Universal Ordinary (infallible) magisterium concerning intrinsic moral evils. Or, on the other hand, not disciplining those bishops and priests who publicly dissented from such church teachings. For just one of many instances of the first situation consider the “Washington Case” where Cardinal O’Boyle disciplined 19 priests for publicly dissenting from the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. He was told to relent. According to papal biographer, George Weigel:
The Truce of 1968 taught theologians, priests, and other Church professionals that dissent from authoritative teaching was, essentially, cost-free.
The Truce of 1968 taught bishops inclined to defend authoritative Catholic teaching vigorously that they should think twice about doing so, if controversy were likely to follow; Rome, fearing schism, was nervous about public action against dissent. The result, as I put it in Courage, was that “a generation of Catholic bishops came to think of themselves less as authoritative teachers than as moderators of an ongoing dialogue whose primary responsibility was to keep everyone in the conversation and in play.
And Catholic lay people learned, as I wrote, ‘that virtually everything in the Church was questionable: doctrine, morals, the priesthood, the episcopate, the lot.’ Thus the impulse toward Cafeteria Catholicism got a decisive boost from the Truce of 1968: if the bishops and the Holy See were not going to defend seriously the Church’s teaching on this matter, then picking-and-choosing in a supermarket of doctrinal and moral possibilities seemed, not simply all right, but actually admirable — an exercise in maturity, as was often suggested at the time.
For one of the many instances of the second situation, consider the 1968 infamous Winnipeg Statement of the Canadian Bishops. In that statement of dissent the bishops essentially told married couples they could practice intrinsic evil if their consciences were comfortable with it. I am sure that the Holy See justified its behavior as being patient and avoiding unnecessary counterproductive conflict. This posture allows for more rational discussion, study and discernment of a controversial issue. That position might be of value if there were a time limit on it. Endless dialogue with recalcitrant, hard of heart and unfaithful persons is a disastrous and scandalous policy.
Instead of nipping these things in the bud we now have oak trees. The St. Gallen mafia (a network of prelate Judases and their proselytes) has fully entrenched themselves now and can cite our silences, capitulations and compromises as endorsements of their agenda. Some are of the opinion that only divine intervention can uproot them from the hierarchy of the Church. One thing seems for sure, the longer we avoid confrontation the worse it gets. Some good priests that have been thrown out suffered greatly especially if they did not have a family able to help them. Many Catholics and hypocrite priests haven’t supported them but sadly, superficially (true rash judgment) second guessed their witness. They comfortably distanced themselves from the fray by saying things like, “I would not have done it that way,” “He was not prudent,” “He wasn’t obedient to his bishop” or “We don’t know the whole story.” Will we ever know the whole story? I know that sometimes these distancings are justified. Some priests are despicable enough to join in the persecution of decent priests to curry favor with the “bishop.” I have long despised the behavior of “bishops” who suppress priests who are trying to bear public witness in a prudent, if not perfect, manner to our saving Catholic faith thereby defaming them. (I am sure that if you obtained beforehand the opinions of a group of orthodox priests on what the perfect response would be to a given situation you would get different opinions.) These suppressor bishops are also bearing false witness to the gospel. Of course these hypocrites will not show us how witness is done properly regarding resisted and rejected church teachings such as in Humanae Vitae, the Gospel of Life and Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons. They avoid controversy as if that were the real sin because persecution is what is really being avoided. Or they simply don’t believe in the Catholic faith and morals. I spoke once with a wise older priest who preached seminars on God’s plan for married sexuality and family happiness as well as the thwarting of that plan by contraception etc. He told me “if you are getting flack you are over the target.” Please realize that the hirelings are often responding to the nasty complaints of unfaithful laity. Some of these laity make it worth your while, in lucrative or punitive ways, to keep off moral issues that prick their consciences. The unfaithful laity bear significant responsibility for the sellout of the bishops and priests. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of impurity” (cf. Mt.23: 26-28). Eventually hypocrisy as a way of life yields to the loss of faith and morals (“every kind of impurity.”) Pray much for priests and bishops as we need them to be willing to be martyrs. Many saints and religious orders were dedicated to praying for priests recognizing their critical role in the salvation of souls. In the Communion of Saints we have great need each other’s prayers and sacrifices.
We priests should be charitable and humble in our ministry of truth. We should not “break the bruised reed nor extinguish the smoldering wick.” (cf. Mt. 12:20) We must not scare off the lost sheep who have some good will. St. Paul spoke of giving milk to spiritual babies. We must not have the “messiah complex” nor, on the other hand, be without zeal for the glory of God. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! We should have the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit evident in our lives. However, when are we going to tell the salvific truth, the full truth, in season and out of season? On our deathbed? We should also know when to “shake the dust” from our sandals in testimony against certain persons and groups. It will go better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the town that rejects the gospel witness of a faithful priest. St. Paul gives us guidance here too when he says “since you have rejected the Word of God and condemned yourselves we now turn to preach to the Gentiles.”
I was considering this problem of prudence once and I thought of St. John the Baptist. He had a very successful ministry down at the Jordan River. He “ruined” it by calling the adulterous King Herod to repentance. I think many priests today would say St. John was imprudent and could have “done more good” by leaving Herod in his sins. He should have focused on other sinners that would have been easier to convert. A few would go so far as to say that if St. John had not “provoked” Herod and his brother’s wife Herodias, she and her evil dancing daughter, would not have incurred the additional sin of murder. Hey, its John’s own fault! He was a firebrand! He should have acted in communion and checked with the local religious authorities for their wise opinion. I firmly believe that many so called bishops today would say that St. John was not pastoral. He should have dialogued ambiguously, endlessly and fruitlessly. It’s a good pretense of pastoral charity and, coincidentally, devoid of the painful persecutions endured by St. Paul. Please take a moment and read the footnote about the sufferings St. Paul endured as recounted in 2 Cor. 11:23-33 for his efforts to spread the Glad Tidings of Salvation.
We know the Jewish Sanhedrin was very concerned with the sin of adultery since they presented the woman caught in the very act thereof to Jesus for his judgment. We can wonder . . . where was their pastoral zeal concerning the manifest public sinners, Herod and Herodias?
So if you are wondering about your priest who seems orthodox but something still seems amiss, perhaps fear of how to make a living with only philosophy and theology degrees might be a hidden factor. Many lay Catholic theologians and lay leaders seem to have a similar problem. Or, they may not be quite so orthodox after all. Lord God of heaven and earth “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4)
I would contend that the prelates who make a special show of “obedience” now under a corrupt “papacy” to their liking, in the past ignored, undermined and despised Pope John Paul II’s authentic magisterium. Pope Benedict XVI implied that they hated him. They currently show no authentic obedience to the dogmatic Sacred Tradition of the Church. The disobedient cannot call for obedience to their discredited persons and their works of darkness. Its a mockery! They were chameleons under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They are true hypocrites. Their puppet-masters wish to change the Catholic Church and her doctrines into a government-controlled branch of the new world de-Christianized order dedicated to the “humanitarian” principles that inspired the bloody French Revolution. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has prophetically warned about this and his labors are true corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Why is God allowing this to happen?
People often ask “why is God allowing this tragedy to happen?” I believe the Lord says in response “why are you (all of us) allowing this to happen?” The Trinity graces us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, save the unborn etc. We are accountable for this beautiful, transforming grace. This truth is clear in St. Matthew’s gospel chapter 25. This chapter contains the parables of the Ten Virgins; the Talents; and the Last Judgment. We must not blame God for the consequences of our negligences and sins. Please note that the goats were not condemned for not praying but for not acting.
When we priests are discerning these issues we need to practice an Ignatian meditation. We need to list all of our considerations (excuses?) for not resisting and imagine our Heavenly Queen Mary standing near us and envision all the souls that are lost due to false obedience, false mercy, and maybe due to saving our “half a loaf” ministry. We need to see present our heavenly brothers and sisters, the various red and white martyrs, who suffered the loss of everything out of the strength of purest love. Then, in their luminous presence and, asking for their guidance, let us make our decisions.
The Lord Jesus predicted his passion and death three times so that the apostles’ faith would not be shaken. Still they faltered and terrified Peter denied even knowing him. We all must pray not to let the trials the Lord permits in life to shake our faith to the slightest degree in his disfigured (cf Isa. 53:2 ff) One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He allows the evil that can come from free will that he may bring good from it. (CCC 311-312)
A comforting thought in these distressing times is the realization that each of us has a mission and that we were created for these times. The following is a hopeful meditation by John Henry Newman dated March 7, 1848.
1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory—we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.
2. God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.
O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I—more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be—work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.