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And now arises again the great question of conscience for us: how should we respond in the present situation when the vineyard of the Lord is devastated? We already posed this question in discussing the distortion of the sacred humanity of Christ, which is perhaps the worst part of the devastation of the vineyard. And now we return to this question, which is so important, and we ask what the right attitude is for each individual who clearly recognizes the full, terrible extent of this devastation.
It would be thoroughly false to say: since God allows it, it must be according to His will, and so we have nothing to do but say, “Thy will be done,” even if this devastation breaks our heart. At the basis of this attitude is that equivocation with the term “the will of God” which we uncovered in meditating on the “Our Father.” When God allows something of a great disvalue, such as the triumph of evil, or apostasy, or heresy, it would not be the right response to say, “Thy will be done.” As St. Paul says, God allows these evils in order to test us. But it is a deadly and radically false notion to think that, because God allows heresies to be readily spread, we should not fight against them but should go along with them in a spirit of resignation. This is a false interpretation of resignation to God's will. The devastation of the vineyard of the Lord should instead fill us with the deepest pain, and mobilize us for the fight, to be fought with all legitimate means, against everything which is evil and offensive to God, against all heresies.
A second false response would be that of resignation, “It is a terrible source of grief that the Church is in such a state of disintegration, but how can we possibly put a stop to this process?” In this attitude of despair one gives up all hope of a “second spring” in the vineyard of the Lord. One throws up one's hands in despair, and is even in danger of separating in spirit from the Church. Such people are in danger of being so scandalized by the unfortunate new missal and especially by the elimination of the Tridentine Mass that they think that they no longer have the duty of attending Sunday Mass if it is in the Novus Ordo. But just the contrary is true: necessary as it is to recognize arid to suffer under the spirit and the tendency which is at the basis of these changes in the liturgy — and we cannot help saying that these changes have disfigured the holy Mass — nevertheless the right response from us is to strengthen our faith in the real bodily presence of our Lord in the Sacrament, and to desire more deeply than ever to attend Mass and receive Communion every day. And by the way, we should not let ourselves be diverted by new formulations and by the elimination of important prayers, from what is objectively present at Mass. For instance, we must not forget the Tridentine Confiteor in which we accuse ourselves before God and before the whole court of heaven, since objectively our sins offend God and not the parish community, and objectively the important thing is to enter into the invisible world of heaven. 78
Padre Pio told a friend of mine who was deploring many of the liturgical changes, “You are right — but Christ has not abandoned us. He is still present in the tabernacle, and the Holy Sacrifice still takes place objectively!” And so it is clear that the attitude of resignation, of despair over the Church, is not the right response.
A third false response, and perhaps the most dangerous one, would be to imagine that there is no devastation of the vineyard of the Lord, that it only seems so to us — our task as laymen is simply to adhere with complete loyalty to whatever our bishop says and not to dare to pass judgment on all those things which I have referred to in this book as elements of the devastation of the vineyard of the Lord. This is the attitude which, as mentioned above, is demanded precisely by the bishops who pursue an ostrich-policy of willful blindness and who as a result regard as annoying disturbers of the peace all those who protest against heresies and the devastation of the Church.
At the basis of this attitude is a false idea of loyalty to the hierarchy. When the pope speaks ex cathedra on faith or morals, then unconditional acceptance and submission is required of every Catholic. But it is false to extend this loyalty to encyclicals in which new theses are proposed. This is not to deny that the magisterium of the Church extends much farther than the dogmas. If an encyclical deals with a question of faith or morals and is based on the tradition of the holy Church — that is, expresses something which the Church has always taught — then we should humbly accept its teaching. This is the case with the encyclical Humanae Vitae: although we do not have here the strict infallibility of a deﬁned dogma, the content of the encyclical nevertheless belongs to that sphere of the Church's magisterium which we must accept as true.
But there are many encyclicals which deal with very different (e.g., sociological) questions and which express a response of the Church to certain new conditions. Thus the encyclical of the great Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, with its idea of a corporate state, differs on sociological questions with encyclicals of Paul Vl. But when it is a question of practical ordinances such as concordats, or the suppression of the Jesuit order by Pope Clement XIV, or the introduction of the new missal, or the rearrangement of the Church calendar, or the new rubrics for the liturgy, then our obedience (as Vatican I declares 79), but by no means our agreement is required (I made this distinction in my article in Triumph. March, 1970). In the history of the Church there have been many unfortunate ordinances and practical decisions by popes, which have then been retracted by other popes. In such matters we may, while obeying an ordinance, with all due respect express opposition to it, pray for its elimination, and address many appeals to the pope.
This holds even more for the ordinances of a bishop, especially in a time when there are bishops who belong to a kind of “fifth column” in the Church, and when there are many other bishops who, while not belonging to it, nevertheless fear public opinion more than God, and thus always swim with the tide of the times, or at least do not dare to take up the fight against the prevailing tendencies.
No, none of these responses is the one which God expects of us. Our response must be rather a growth in faith, hope, and charity. Is not the devastation of the vineyard of the Lord an exhortation to love God, Christ, and His holy Church more than ever? Do we not betray Christ if we turn away in disgust? Should not we of all people strive to see that true beauty of the vineyard of the Lord, which objectively continues to exist despite the devastation? So our response must be to work for the glorification of God, and toward our own personal sanctification, and to oppose this-worldliness by our own unconditional imitation of Christ.
This has, of course, become more difficult. We are no longer surrounded by the radiance of the holy Church as we were before the Council. When we attended a solemn high Mass, what an indescribable atmosphere of holy truth we breathed, how we supported in our faith, how we were drawn into the world of Christ. Today our faith no longer has this support and help, it has to penetrate through much which is foreign to this sacred world in order to reach that tremendous and sacred event, the mystery of the unbloody re-enactment of Calvary, and of the union of love between our soul and Jesus in Communion. This is precisely why the devastation of the vineyard of the Lord is a time when our faith is tried, when we are called upon to grow in faith, hope, and love. But it is a time of trial which demands a completely new kind of watchfulness, and this leads to a further response which we must give.
We have to realize that our time is like the time of Arianism, and so we have to be extremely careful lest we be poisoned ourselves without noticing it. We must not underestimate the power of those ideas which fill the intellectual atmosphere of the time, nor the danger of being infected by them when we are daily breathing this atmosphere. Nor should we underestimate the danger of getting used to the evils of the times, and then becoming insensitive to them. At first perhaps many people see the devastation of the vineyard, and react in the right way. But gutia cavat lapidem (dripping water slowly erodes the stone) — after a while one becomes accustomed to it. Then, too, there is this to consider, that the devastation of the vineyard is an increasing process, and so certain evils which belong to the earlier stages, seem harmless in the light of the later stages. And so we are in danger of becoming insensitive, on the one hand, because we get used to the devastation, and on the other hand, because the devastation progresses, and its beginnings seem insignificant in the light of its advanced forms.
But it is still worse to become infected than to be insensitive. The first thing to be done in order to avoid both dangers is to realize completely how extraordinary is the situation in which we live today. St. Peter tells us, “Brethren, be watchful, be sober, for your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Just fifty years ago this watchfulness mainly referred to our temptations to sin, to the danger of offending God by sins of impurity, pharisaism, pride, greed, ambition, lack of charity, disobedience to the commands of God. Of course, even then there was the danger of being tempted by those intellectual and spiritual trends of the time which were incompatible with the revelation of Christ — but those dangers were outside the Church, and the danger for a Catholic was to fall away from the Church under their influence (and this happened often enough).
But today these trends are able to develop within the Church. We can clearly discern them in sermons, in pastoral letters, and in books by well-known theologians. Since these bad trends encounter so little resistance within the Church, it has become much more difficult for the simple faithful to grasp their incompatibility with the deposit of faith? 80 Thus St. Peter's exhortation to watchfulness applies today in a special way to watchfulness with respect to heresies within the Church. We must constantly determine whether sermons, or new books of Catholic theologians, do not contain something heretical, or some basically false emphasis. The Imprimatur used to be a great guarantee, and especially the Index. But today we have to develop in ourselves a special awareness, a holy mistrust, for we not only live in a poisoned world, but in a devastated Church. In our present trial God requires of us this watchfulness, this holy fear of being infected. It would be a lack of humility to think that we are in no danger of being infected. It would be a false security rooted in pride if we were to think that we are immune. Each of us must become aware of his frailty, and understand that this special watchfulness is required of us by God in the trial which we are going through.
It is important to realize that this is not the first time when Catholics have had to go through this trial. Cardinal Newman tells us:
“It is a miserable time when a man's Catholic profession is no voucher for his orthodoxy, and when a teacher of religion may be within the Church's pale, yet external to her faith. Such has been for a season the trial of her children at various eras of her history. It was the state of things during the dreadful Arian ascendancy, when the flock had to keep aloof from the shepherd, and the unsuspicious Fathers of the Western Councils trusted and followed some consecrated sophist from Greece or Syria. It was the case in those passages of medieval history when simony resisted the Supreme Pontiff, or when heresy lurked in the universities. It was a longer and more tedious trial, while the controversies lasted with the Monophysites of old, and with the Jansenists in modern times. A great scandal it is and a perplexity to the little ones of Christ, to have to choose between rival claimants upon their allegiance, or to find a condemnation at length pronounced upon one whom in their simplicity they have admired."” 81
In the present time, “when a teacher of religion may be within the Church's pale, yet external to her faith.” we must nourish ourselves with the thought of the great theologians of the past, with the works of St. Augustine. St. Anselm, St. Thomas. St. Francis de Sales, Cardinal Newman. Let us arm our souls against the theological poison of the times, by reading those condemnations of errors which were pronounced by Trent and Vatican l. Let us read the Credo of our Holy Father Pope Paul Vl. Let us sharpen our sense of the specifically supernatural ethos by reading the lives of the saints. Let us preserve a lively contact with the saints, let us ask them to intercede for us.
And then we have to fight with all our strength — each of us according to his own possibilities — against all the heresies which are being spread every day without being explicitly condemned, without being anathematized, and without the heretics themselves being excommunicated. Phrases about “the unity of Catholics” must not hinder us from taking up this holy struggle. Let us not forget that St. Francis de Sales, the saint of meekness, admonishes us in his Introduction to the Devout Life, “Here I am especially speaking of the Open enemies of God and His Church; they must be publically branded just as often as possible. It is a deed of love to cry the alarm when the wolf breaks into the sheepfold” (Part III, Chap. 29).
Of course an important part of this struggle is the “apostolate of being,” that is, the great responsibility that every Christian has before God of giving witness for Christ not only by what he says and does, but also by what he is. In this sense every Christian is called to the apostolate, and is partially responsible for the soul of his neighbor.
And contemplation must play a role in the life of every Christian if he is to be a real apostle, although the role of contemplation varies for each Christian, according to his particular calling.
When we realize all this, when we consider the lives of the saints and the unadulterated teaching of the holy Church, we cannot help seeing what real renewal consists in, and how we can awaken and give new life to our faith, to our lives as Christians.
So we see that God expects us, in the present devastation of His vineyard, to respond first of all by growing in faith, hope, and love; secondly, by being especially watchful lest we be infected in any way; thirdly, by struggling against the devastation with all the means at our disposal; and fourthly. by not forgetting that the absolute truth of the deposit of the Catholic Faith objectively remains untouched by all the empty talk of certain theologians. The “world” radiated by the Tridentine Mass and by Gregorian Chant objectively remains the true, blissful world which awaits us in eternity. The incomprehensible holiness and beauty of the sacred humanity of Jesus remains a great objective reality despite all the attempts at secularization and desacralization.
We must never forget that in spite of all diabolic devastation of the vineyard of the Lord, the glory of the holy Church, the bride of Christ, and the glory of all the saints nevertheless remains untouched in its reality, indeed it is the one true reality. What do all the changing trends of the time really amount to? They are so much “sound and fury, signifying nothing” when compared with the eternal truth and the objective glory of Jesus Christ, with the holiness of the saints which glorifies God. Of course, it is terrible to see the vineyard of the Lord ravaged, to see the souls of innocent children poisoned by outrageous catechisms and by “sex education”; we cannot shed enough tears over all this, we cannot fight fiercely enough against it with all the resources at our disposal. And yet, holy joy must awaken in us because we know what the truth of the Redemption is, because God is and remains the same God who is revealed to us by Christ and His holy Church in the deposit of the Catholic Faith. The true sacred humanity of Christ, of which we find a reflection in all the saints, remains the same.
Jesu nostra redemptio
Tu esto nostrum gaudium,
78. When I say that it was an unfortunate change to eliminate all mention of the saints in the first part of the new Confiteor, and to replace them with the parish community, one should not object that the priest in the Tridentine Confiteor turned to the congregation and said, et vobis fratres (and to you, my brothers). For in the dialogue between priest and congregation it was quite meaningful for the priest to accuse himself before those people who are entrusted to his spiritual care. And in monasteries and convents there is a deep meaning in confessing to the others in the Confiteor, since the religious of a monastery form a kind of family whose members live together.
One should also not object that our sins are alter all a wrong committed against the whole Church, the mystical Body. For this is not at all adequately expressed in the vernacular phrase. “and you. my brothers and sisters.”
79. The duty of this obedience is made clear by the dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I: “And so we teach and declare that in the disposition of God the Roman Pontiff holds the pre-eminence of ordinary power over all other churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate. Regarding this jurisdiction the shepherds of whatever rite and dignity, and the faithful individually and collectively, are bound by the duty of hierarchical submission and sincere obedience. And this holds not only for matters relating to faith and morals, but also to matters pertaining to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the whole world.” (Ch. 3; Denz. 1827).
80. I was quite astonished when a deeply devout Catholic friend told me how enthusiastic she was about a study group to which she belonged which was reading the works of Teilhard de Chardin. Though an intelligent and educated person, she nevertheless found Teilhard to be wonderful, and did not notice how absolutely incompatible his theories are with the teaching of the holy Church. But I was able to change her mind on this.
81. John Henry Cardinal Newman. The Idea of a University, “A Form of Infidelity of the Day.” par. 2, section 1.
82. From the Hymn of Vespers on the Feast of the Ascension. One English translation renders these lines as follows:
Hail, thou who man's Redeemer art.