By Charlie Johnston
It is often said by conservative (and moderate) commentators that the hard left destroys everything it touches. When you look at establishment news outlets, entertainment, sports, even comedy, it is hard to disagree. Just in the last 100 years, rulers of socialist nations have murdered between 100-120 million of their own people. Venezuela is just the latest prosperous country to have been ruined by the seductive promise and brutal reality of socialism. That so many schooled young people now prefer socialism to capitalism, despite the hard evidence of the last century, is evidence of how the hard left has destroyed education, turning it into indoctrinating credential factories without serious content. I will note that it is a neat trick that they have persuaded so many to pay for their own indoctrination. Forcefully lobotomize a healthy generation while persuading them to pay for the privilege…that is a trick worthy of Houdini.
But in trying to destroy the Church, the hard left has made a fatal error. Oh, there will be a terrible battle, perhaps one of the greatest battles in Church history. The Church, though, is not dependent on the protection of feeble men for its defense: its defense is guaranteed by the Majestic Christ, Himself. Thus opens Waterloo for the hard, atheist left.
It was a thunderbolt of a weekend. We had a visiting Priest on Sunday. It would not bother me, at this point, if a Priest chose not to discuss the scandals at all until things have shaken out a bit. For heavens sake, though, if you are going to address it, do not just try to spin the news. I don’t think most politicians are very good at spinning. Clerics are terrible at it. This Priest mentioned that we were all probably shocked at the results of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. He noted that almost all the abuses happened more than a decade ago, so we need not worry – those sort of things are long in the past and it’s all better now. He did not mention the McCarrick scandal or Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano’s allegations at all, apparently believing none of us would have noticed it if he didn’t mention it. I could not believe it. If one of my clients did something that tone deaf, treating people as absolutely stupid with such happy talk, I would have resigned. It was a great way to make sure no one ever took you seriously again. Unbelievable!
Though there must be a formal investigation in order that all righteousness be fulfilled, Abp. Vigano’s allegations are solidly credible. Dr. Robert Moynihan’s “Inside the Vatican” Newsletter is one I long ago subscribed to for its balance and accuracy – and solid grounding in verifiable, factual, information. Moynihan takes this very seriously. His is one of many similar assessments from serious, sober people. I do not know Vigano, but I have two friends who do – and their assessment is the same. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, who issued such a clear-headed and blunt statement after the revelation of the original McCarrick scandal, has done it again on this one.
Certainly, there is no doubt that a large coterie of Bishops have taken power who hold a form of religion, but deny the power of it (See 2 Tim 3:1-5). While the headline portion of Vigano’s accusation is that Pope Francis knew, yet covered up and even promoted a vicious abuser to high power within the United States, the larger take-away is that sexual immorality – and an effort to re-define sexual sin into no sin at all, has become systemic in the Church’s hierarchy – and that this is not just a refutation, but an absolute betrayal, of Christ. Clerics who have abandoned their faith have told themselves that it is because of their superior intellectual enlightenment (though they sure don’t dare wrestle with the work of Aquinas, Augustine, or John Paul; they just ignore it). They have abandoned any sense of sin for psychological excuses. They have traded intellectual rigor for ideological pretensions. It is clericalism taken to its logical and horrific conclusion. They treat the Church as a man-made institution which is a means to gain power and influence. Having treated Christ, the devil, and authentic Apostolic Exhortations as mere metaphors, it is easy to seek to deny Christ – for it is merely to “refine” what they already think is a set of rules made by men. For, of course, there is no actual God in their minds…only power to be had and exercised.
Should investigation confirm that Pope Francis knew and did what he is alleged to, for his own good, he should resign and begin a life of true prayer and penance. Yet I find myself largely unconcerned with that matter. You see, I do believe in God – and that He exercises His sovereign will for the good of His people. So He will allow such an offense to continue until it has fully accomplished what He intends it to…and no longer.
It is the depth of the rot in the hierarchy that has been revealed. There will be more, no doubt, but the heart of it stands naked before us now. In revealing this God has sent the ball back into our court. We, the laity, will have to act with deliberation, decisiveness and charity to acquit ourselves more honorably than much of the hierarchy has.
We always had the right, even the duty, to demand that we be fed the solid meat of sound doctrine (see Galations 1:6-10), but we insisted upon treating the most abusive Priests with the same deference as those who kept fidelity to the faith. In doing so, we empowered the predators while marginalizing the faithful pastors. We must not allow our anger to lead us to replace the old error with an equal and opposite new error: attacking the faithful pastors along with the abusers in a rage at all. We bear great responsibility for the rise of the predators. If we had not allowed a formulaic response to replace the command to judge righteous judgment, if we had not been seduced by the permissiveness that the acceptance of sin as okay allowed us to indulge in, we would not be here.
We must insist on orthodoxy from the pulpit. The only protocols and procedures that we need are Scripture, the Gospels, and the actual Magisterium. Period. That does not mean we suddenly start substituting our judgment for that of our shepherds. But again, you do not need a theological degree to know that when a cleric starts opining that “Thou shalt not fornicate” actually means fornicate to your heart’s content that you are suffering an apostate – and not a man of God.
Some will be tempted to have the laity take over the governance of the Church. A big chunk of the hierarchy is discredited because it repudiated the teaching of Christ. Do NOT repeat their error. It is Christ who gave the governance of the Church into the hands of the hierarchy. Follow Christ. Rather, empower those many Bishops and Priests who have kept faith, who obviously do believe in God. There are many Bishops who are going to have to go or be repudiated. We have been here before. Thanks be to God the wolves thought they were winning. Otherwise, they would never have so openly revealed themselves. Already, the smear machine has grown up against Abp. Vigano. I thank God for that, as well, for it further reveals who the wolves are.
Some will want to repudiate Vatican II as the source of the problem. I sympathize with them, though I reject their conclusion. Certainly, the visible problems in the Church correlate with Vatican II – but correlation does not imply causation. Already, vast swaths of clerics were succumbing to a puerile intellectual pride, kidding themselves that God was a fairy tale, a useful one for enhancing their own power, but a fairy tale, nonetheless. Had there been no Vatican II, the growing cultural forces of the anti-Church would have burst forth, simply using a different excuse for their apostasy than “the spirit of Vatican II.” St. John Paul was a prime architect of the documents of Vatican II – and his papacy gave the authentic interpretation of it. The authentic purpose of Vatican II was to have the Church engage energetically with the world in order to more effectively evangelize it. The purpose of the perverting “spirit of Vatican II” that so many clerics used to justify their abuses was to conform the Church to the world. Embrace the former, reject the latter. That is the only approach consistent with the authentic Magisterium.
Over these last five years I have told you repeatedly that many things are not going to be as you expect and that your formulaic approaches are not going to be sufficient. You are going to have to actively judge righteous judgment every step of the way. Some men are made such that they will gladly suffer great peril rather than abandon their faith, but will retreat in anger, shame, and resentment at a little humiliation. You are going to fail at some things, you are going to be wrong about some things, some of your cherished certainties are going to fall. Your faith is dependent on none of these things and your duty is not suspended because of your errors. If your faith is dependent on your certainty that you have it all figured out, it is just a subtle form of pride – and you know what pride goeth before. Follow the example of King David who, after he sinned grievously of his own fault, got up again at the behest of the prophet and lived his duty, even so. You will fail, you will err, you will sin of your own fault. God knows all of this. He waits to see whether, after each failure, you will get up and start again, humbly living your duty with steadfast resolve even though your fault is ever before you – thus trusting to Him, and not to your own virtue. Do not think this is an excuse for those monsters who have infiltrated the hierarchy. There is a world of difference between one who falls, even grievously, and one who actively plots to undermine Christ. King Theoden is forgiven his error and received back into good fellowship: Bishop Wormtongue can only be banished. Be Theoden, not Wormtongue, and all will be well in God’s own time. And what a glory it is to know that God has chosen each of us to live in this great time when He is renewing His Church and His people. Strive to live your duty well.