By Charlie Johnston
When he was in St. Louis and Milwaukee, Cardinal Timothy Dolan was an archetype of shrewd orthodoxy, a reliable defender of both the faith and the faithful. It was sometimes delightful to watch him elegantly skewer an attacker with a shrewd riposte. I miss that guy.
Dolan announced he would not excommunicate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the overtly infanticidal abortion law just passed, because he feared enemies of the Church would criticize him for it and use it against the Church – that it would give our enemies ammo. I am utterly flummoxed. Sadly, in these hideous times, all the junior Himmlers and Mengeles out there are free to advocate making the womb a death chamber for millions of infants. It is a long, hard struggle for all of us who would restore the culture of life. You cannot, however, be authentically Catholic and promote and enable death chambers for infants. That is pretty basic. Thanks be to God that in the many times Sts. Peter and Paul were jailed or punished for proclaiming Christ, they never decided to back off for fear of giving their opponents ammo.
It is true that excommunicating Cuomo would almost certainly not change his mind – and that it would be used to attack Catholics as being bullies. But the situation with the Covington kids showed that our opponents don’t care about getting ammo from us. They have manufactured plenty of their own to persecute and revile us. What could be viler than supposedly mainstream leftists lying about teenagers and then unrepentantly using those lies to fantasize about burning or throwing the kids into a woodchipper? Perhaps they will just call it post-natal abortion when they start acting on their vicious, violent fantasies.
I am not at all concerned that defending the faith will give ammo to leftists who don’t need no stinking ammo to viciously attack us. I am far more concerned with those people who will look at the squib of a response Cdl. Dolan fired and conclude that, when push comes to shove, Catholic leaders don’t believe in anything enough to stand for it. I am most concerned about the many Catholics who will look at this statement and conclude the same thing. It is our solemn duty to defend the faith, hearten the faithful, and defend the faithful. Cdl. Dolan abdicated all three duties here.
There is something much larger than the particular incident here. The battle has been joined. We will not escape the trials that have already begun. That effort is already lost. Now we must prove to the world and future generations that we DO believe what we preach, that we WILL stand for it in season and out of season, and that we WILL be true to the Christ who formed our faith. It is our solemn duty and our holy privilege to proclaim the Kingdom, to announce Christ and Him Crucified – who rose again – to a world that is savagely tearing itself apart, having been seduced by the false promises of satan. Anything less is a rank betrayal. If we who follow Him won’t proclaim Christ, who will?
I long admired Cdl. Dolan for his shrewd and joyful orthodoxy. I had much affection for him because of the close mutual friends we have. But he has lost me. The Blood of Christ has not become anemic – except in some of our leaders.
I am always grateful for where I live. St. Joan of Arc Parish in Arvada is a wonderfully orthodox, vibrant and thriving Parish. It has plenty of older folks like me – and a whole lot of young Catholic families. It is a wonderful community.
This last Sunday, I was forcefully reminded of how fortunate we are. It was Catholic Schools Sunday and our Archbishop Samuel Aquila sent out a letter to be read at all Parishes. The Colorado legislature is pushing for formal adoption of laws requiring that abortion be championed in public schools and that parents will not be notified before sex education starts promoting transgender ideology and promoting disordered sexual orientation. Archbishop Aquila made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that these viruses will NOT infect Catholic Schools in the Denver Archdiocese:
“Today I join our pastors, principals, teachers, staff, parents, students, and benefactors to say that our Catholic schools will stand firmly against all ideologies that defy natural law and contradict the truth that has been revealed to us about the human person through the teachings of Our Lord, Sacred Scripture, and the Church.”
This is not unusual for him. Within a few days of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, he issued a full-throated statement standing for Christian Marriage and family life. It was he who ordered and led the Jericho March around Planned Parenthood a couple of years ago. Abp. Aquila is not a flashy guy, but he routinely defends the faith, heartens the faithful, and defends the faithful – in this case, our vulnerable children. This is the unshakeable resolve we must have to weather these storms.
I read voraciously. I have, I think, a fine mind – but a clever mind not wedded to disciplined study and rigorous logic is just a megaphone for error. Couple that with a few dashes of vanity and you have the makings of a vicious, petty tyrant.
I said near the end of Part I of this piece that we have to put away childish things. We like to come up with simple solutions, panaceas, that we think will solve everything. They never do; what they do accomplish is to cause us to quit thinking about the issue at hand, because we think we have already found the solution. My friend, the eschatologist Desmond Birch, wrote an astute Facebook post last week on this. I quote:
“1) In times of stress, people tend to look for quick simple solutions or endings to what is causing the stress.
2) The quick solution they wind up with, is usually the first one which is presented to them.
- There are a whole list of such fetishes out there. I shall give a very partial list of some of them now. Allow me to warn you, there may be people on my friends list who will be offended by one of the list items to follow. But I must be a man of courage 🙂
- All we have to do to solve all of the worlds problems is return to the Old Latin Mass as the only allowed Mass. [A caveat: The Eastern Rite Catholics tend to take a dim view of this kind of thinking, as the Tridentine Mass was never part of their Liturgical practices. I have nothing against the old Latin Mass. I just know that when we still had it, the vast majority of Catholics were contracepting and becoming part of what JP II calls ‘the consumer culture’.]
- If everyone would just become part of the Charismatic Movement and speak in tongues, the whole world would convert in no time at all. [Caveat: Nowhere near all Charismatics think this way, but there are plenty I know and have known who do.]
- If they would just do away with Vatican Council II, then we could return to the good old days. [Caveat, the good old days they are thinking of are the ones where at least 3/4 of the Catholic Couples of child-bearing years were already contracepting. Good old days?]
- If the Church would stop being so rigid in Her moral teachings, then most everyone would see the balance of the truth of the Church and join – and the world’s major problems would disappear. There wouldn’t be war no more. People would stop judging one another. [Caveat, Jesus says there will be wars and rumors of wars till the end. He also warned that there would also always be the poor, and Pharisees would always judge the poor as having done something bad to deserve their poverty.]
- If Rome would just cave in on a celibate clergy, then the priest shortage would go away, and there would be enough priests to care for the flock, and everything would gradually get better. [Caveat: In the various Eastern Rites of the Church – where married men are allowed to be ordained as priests, they have the same kind of priest shortage. Sorry, celibacy is not the cause of the priest shortage even in the West. [3nd Caveat: That shortage is not universal, in my diocese we have no such shortage, and there are other Dioceses where that is the case also. Where are they? They are where the Bishop is traditional/faithful to the Gospel, and the seminary is faithful/orthodox.
I promise you the list could go on and on through almost the entire alphabet.
My central point is that it is not just ‘the Antichrist is just around the corner’ crowd who have an overly simplistic solution for the world’s problems – and are personally emotionally invested in it. There are a plague of them.”-Desmond Birch
The fundamental problem in the Church today, as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, is that I am a sinner. Let us deny ourselves and follow God completely. We come up with half-baked solutions that are extraneous to the challenges we face, convince ourselves that if only our half-baked solution were adopted to replace the existing muddle, all would be well. I exhort each of you to challenge your own premises. Look for the flaws in your own thinking, be candid about those areas where you lack extensive knowledge, then either remedy those matters or dial it down. You don’t have to do all that studying: the simple way of “acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope” is sufficient to all. But when you engage in debate, when you find yourself struggling, do not double down out of vanity: dig deeper into the facts of the case. If you are wrong, admit it graciously as soon as you know and move on. If you believe yourself to be right after thoroughly studying the matter at hand, stand your ground but let the other guy up easy.
We are in very deep water now. The FBI and the Dept. of Justice, for almost a decade, have been using the “law” to savage Christians and conservatives, while helping leftists to destroy evidence. Several US Senators and Representatives openly avow that anyone who is a faithfully practicing Catholic should not be allowed to hold public office. The Twitter Mob, accompanied by well-regarded public figures, routinely attacks Christians, Jews, and conservatives for who they are, not what they do, even when they are the ones who clearly have been victimized. Official agencies throughout business, the states and federal government routinely try to destroy the lives, property and livelihoods of people because of their faith or deeply-held beliefs. We most assuredly are not in Kansas, any more – or even a reliably Constitutional Republic . The persecution of Christians and others who engage in “wrong-think” has proceeded in the same path all pogroms have throughout history: First, ridicule the enemy; 2) then dehumanize him; 3) then blame him (however absurdly) for every failure of your own; 4) do not offer him serious police protection when rogue elements attack him; 5) then have the government, itself, covertly participate in the attacks; 6) then have the government take the lead in the attacks; 7) then jail him and send him to re-education camps; and 8) finally, if he will not submit, exterminate him. WE are midway between items 6 and 7 already – and it is speeding up dramatically. Many of our institutions and governmental officials are become fascist totalitarians. In fact, they hold most of the levers of power. Fortunately, they do not yet hold all the levers of power. Those who defend traditional American institutions and Constitutionalism are become the thin red line between us and carnage – and that line has become very thin, indeed. We are tottering on the very brink of the sort of destruction that sent Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians and clerics to the ghettoes and concentration camps in German-occupied territory in WWII – or that erupted in frenzied mass slaughter in Rwanda just 25 years ago. It has very quickly become deadly serious – and we have to discipline ourselves to be ever bold, but never brash.
The late Rev. Martin Luther King, in his letter from the Birmingham Jail wrote that, “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action.” (bolding by me) We must step up our game and step down our vanity if we are to prevail – particularly to prevail in a way that converts many, even multitudes, of those who are currently our tormentors.
More and more people are writing about the expected arrival of the Antichrist. It is important to distinguish between the spirit of antichrist (which I identify by using a small a) and the personification of Antichrist – the diabolical incarnation (the latter phrase is meatily descriptive, but not theologically precise), which will not come until the actual end. The spirit of antichrist has been with us from the beginning of the Church, ebbing and waning in its influence on the world, depending on the tenor of the times. There are many who are foreshadowings of the actual Antichrist. What was Hitler, or Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot but images of the Antichrist who, though not themselves the personification, were filled with the spirit of antichrist and so became precursors? The Antichrist comes just before the actual end, so there is a certain need for precision in this matter. People think if they can defeat Antichrist, they can forestall the end. They cannot: that is a matter reserved specifically for those God has chosen from the beginning for the purpose – and even the defeat will NOT forestall the end (which will end in judgment and a glorious transformation – a new heaven and a new earth).
I am adamant that this is not the end – and that if people get caught up in that, they get drawn into irrelevant peripheral work that distracts them from what is useful and important, at best – or led into ambush and destruction, at worst. The Antichrist is not here and is not coming anytime soon. We have entered what the Fathers called the Minor Chastisement (a terribly misleading name, because it is the worst crisis in history except for the actual end – so it is, up to this point, THE worst crisis in history anyone has ever known. It is only “minor” in comparison to the tribulations to come at the actual end.) On the other hand, the spirit of antichrist is rampant – perhaps as rampant as it has ever been in New Testament history.
Let me tell you a snippet from my first great vision (a “great vision” is not necessarily more important than others: it is the term I use to describe the big visions that expound in some detail on what is happening and what is expected of me). It came in March of 1993 (in fact, this was the vision which I recounted in full to my first spiritual director at the instruction of my angel). The significant parts for consideration are that I was told that the spirit of antichrist had grown rampant in the world over the last century, that it was deceptively simple and seductive. It was simply this: the belief that good can be done without reference to God. It became institutionalized in a unique way with the Russian Revolution to become “good can ONLY be done without reference to God.” It was seductive because those taken in by it believe they are actually doing good – and every failure is used to inflame their vanity to double down on the error, while still believing they are doing good. I frequently comment that the belief that good can be done without reference to God is as absurd as the notion that thirst can be quenched without reference to water – and those who are determinedly trying to get us to quench our thirst with sand or sawdust are leading those who follow them to doom. I developed this formulation specifically from contemplation of that supernatural encounter.
From the very beginning of my consciousness of these things when I was a very little boy, two of the things that have been consistently emphasized were that this would be the greatest, most comprehensive crisis in the history of the world to this point but that, despite that, this is NOT the end. Had it been otherwise, I do not think I would have signed up. To help people through a great crisis is something worth sacrificing a lot for. To be color commentator for the Apocalypse is a role I would never have had any interest in.
I was pleased that Birch recently wrote another post on the subject that is more technical and authoritative. Again, he is one of the foremost living eschatologists in the world today. He has spent his entire professional adult lifetime, over 50 years, studying what the Church actually teaches, what the Fathers say and what both approved and non-condemned mystics have to say on the subject. He has been guest lecturer at Seminaries around the world. Here is what he wrote in a brief essay on the subject:
“What I am about to write is critically important to our ability to follow the Scriptural admonition to: Read the Signs of the Times.
There is absolute chaos amongst Christians in general [and on average, the Catholics are no exception] in our ability to see where we really are in salvation history.
Therefore I will begin with a statement of Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, “There are regions of the world which have not yet received their Initial Evangelization”.
What does that mean? It means that the very end-time events cannot yet begin, e.g., ‘The fullness of the Gentiles’, and the ‘Great Apostasy’ spoken of by Paul, the ‘advent of the Antichrist’ who will make such war on the Church, etc.
If you want to know where the Church says we are, please read the text below. I can give you the ammunition to combat the desperate thinking of those who think the Antichrist is right around the corner. Here is the text I posted to another site this morning on this issue:
“I would link the beginning of this “last period of the world” with the end of the period of Satan’s greater power foreseen in the vision of Pope Leo XIII.”
I was reading fast – and evidently missed the full import of that last sentence. The last period of the world – the last out of several others – according to the private revelations of a number of Canonized Saints, Blessed and Venerable – that period contains a complex quilt of events – which include the following: the Initial Evangelization of the world will be completed “sometime in the third millennium”, as Pope St. John Paul II states after his famous Encyclical, “Redemptoris Missio.” St. Hildegarde, a Doctor of the Church, states that this period includes a massive virtually global struggle between good and evil [within which Satan will be as active as he has ever been. Satan and his forces will be so powerful that, God will finally have to physically intervene – with a miracle of Divine Intervention as dramatic as His slaying of the forces of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. THAT, IS A KEY PART OF THE MINOR CHASTISEMENT. [Hildegarde is only one of many to say God told them this.] Also included will be the absolute defeat of Muslim forces in Western Europe. The percentally few survivors of those defeated forces will be chased back to the Middle East. That will mark the end of Islam as a major force in the world.
All the great Saints, Blessed and Venerable who speak with any fullness about that time in Salvation History, they say that the ‘minor’ chastisement will be followed by an ERA OF PEACE, within which the entire world’s Initial Evangelization will be completed, ALONG WITH the Re-Evangelization of the parts of the whole world which had previously received their Initial Evangelization – but have subsequently in large part lost the faith.
[All the serious Catholics in ‘the West’ – who are not also deaf, dumb and blind, know that the heart of the previously Christian World is now in ruins spiritually speaking, filled with people who have never heard the Kerygma and rest of the Good News effectually proclaimed to them.]
This leads us to the question of, ‘What constitutes Evangelization’? Someone commented the other day that the whole world has previously been evangelized because, Christians have visited every country of the world [or something just like that].
What does Jesus and His Church mean by Evangelization. What will be going on during the period of the 3rd Millennium which Pope St. John Paul II describes as the period when the world’s Initial Evangelization will be completed.
1) Jesus sends his disciples out ‘two by two”.
2) With no suitcases, hotel reservations, no money, no extra shoes,
3) in the Gospel it says that wherever they stay – in the same place for their evangelization stay, they are to gratefully eat whatever is put before them,
4) heal the sick in the town [mother Theresa and her order did and do this by establishing houses for that purpose (I helped establish the one in Denver which cared for men dying of AIDS),
5) PROCLAIM THE KERYGMA – AFTER THEY HAVE SEEN PROOF OF YOUR LOVE FOR THE CHILDREN OF GOD [The first full Kerygma took place on the first Pentecost, when Peter proclaimed the salvation of Jesus Christ to the assembled Jews outside the building which contained the Upper Room where they had awaited the anointing of he Holy Spirit.]
6. Then to those whom the Kerygma has Initially been preached, they were offered the opportunity to enter the Catechumenate. THERE THEY LEARNED WHAT THEY HAD TO BELIEVE AND HOW THEY HAD TO LIVE IN ORDER TO RECEIVE THE SALVATION OF JESUS CHRIST. Only after that Catechetical minimum of 3 years average, could they receive the Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, EXCEPT in immediate danger of death – they could be baptized without the Catechization.
Evangelization is not comprised by a couple of Christians visiting a country or town.
To cover much of the above – we see a passage from the Gospel of Luke below:
“10 After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Nowhere has the Catholic Church ever considered a couple of ‘Christians’ going to a country as Evangelization. When the Church comes to the factual conclusion that a whole country or region has been evangelized, She has always removed that country or regions from her list of Mission Lands.
The USA was finally removed from the list of Mission Lands during my lifetime. i.e., The Church saw that the Gospel had been initially preached to the entirety of this massive United States of America. The same thing occurred in Canada when I was a boy.
POINT: A couple of people or a couple of hundred for that matter, visiting a country or region does not constitute what Jesus and His Church call Initial Evangelization. It requires living witnesses who proclaim the Good News, that Jesus is Savior and Lord. Those who respond to this announcement are then offered living instructions by members of the Church, who are mature enough in their faith to live it in front of their Catechumens – and lead those Catechumens through what Jesus will require of them as Christians – both what they must believe and how they must live.
THAT IS WHAT EVANGELIZATION IS.
That has not happened in all the countries and regions of the world. After an exhaustive search of the records in the archives of the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI publicly announced in 2010 that there are entire “regions” of the earth which have not yet received their Initial Evangelization.
Now if someone chooses to respond [whether or not they say it out loud or write it] that that isn’t what evangelization means – then they are arguing with Jesus Christ and His Church. They are not arguing with me.”
Sadly, that post was littered with comments from people who angrily told Birch the Anitchrist IS just around the corner. Their arguments were not based what the Church teaches, not what the Fathers or Doctors of the Church teach, but just because they KNOW (though in a few cases someone would mutilate a piece of teaching out of context to support their idea). Sorry, but when it comes to this subject, I will take what I was told from the beginning AND what the Church, the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church teach. It is somehow “Sexy” to preach the coming of the actual Antichrist, which is why all generations since the Resurrection have had loud voices proclaiming his arrival. I would ignore them, except to the extent that they distract the faithful from what God calls us to do in these times.
If you are a commander of troops, you plan attacks on the enemy. But if that is all you do, you will lead your troops to destruction. You must anticipate and protect against avenues by which the enemy may exploit your plan and any flaws in it to his advantage. You must rigorously examine your plans for flaws and error. To do otherwise is to fail those under your command. Whether those given into your care in these times are your family or a cohort of faithful warriors, take care not to lead them into destruction. That means to stay grounded in the hard foundation of facts and authentic teaching, steering clear of the murky waters of speculation and ignorant willfulness.
This concludes Part II of the End of the Beginning. Part III, the final, will deal with what my mission actually is – and what it is not…and what your mission (should you choose to accept it) actually is and is not.
We all need to meditate deeply right now on how to walk the knife’s edge, neither reflexively condemning to outer darkness those who disagree with, or even, persecute us nor failing to defend with vigor those who are attacked – always defending the faith against all attacks. My friend, Susan Skinner, wrote a thoughtful piece on the matter at her Veil of Veronica Website. Let us all “Joan up!”