The American Catholic is comfortable. This is a person who has remained in the Church despite all of the reasons others have found for leaving; a person who feels good inside after Mass; a person who is glad that the Church has caught up with the times. Staying enrolled in the parish, raising your hands to heaven to acknowledge the “kingdom and the power and the glory” of God, and living in an inclusive, judgment-free world — isn’t this the very model of a faithful American Catholic?
You may think this person is being herded toward Hell by faithless shepherds. But this person has been warned about people like you. Face it: you may have much evidence and many arguments to support your position, but this person has recourse to the pope, the final and supreme authority. How can someone be eternally damned for obeying the successor of St. Peter?
Any awakening of this American Catholic must come from within. It is appropriate to call the process “red-pilling,” after the film The Matrix.
The red pill is more than some chemical compound, some antidote for bondage. Neo already knows, deep down, that something is not right with the world. The red pill did not awaken him to that. Rather, the red pill represents his irrevocable choice to learn the truth about something that has been gnawing at him and to accept the consequences of his knowledge.
Each of us possesses the ability to discern the truth. The Baltimore Catechism teaches that everyone has a soul (no. 133); that the soul has understanding and free will (no. 137); and that “understanding” is the “gift of reason” by which we are enabled to think, to acquire knowledge and to regulate our actions (No. 142). This gift of reason enables each person to observe temporal events; to process them in light of that person’s own knowledge and experience; to reach a conclusion; and, if necessary, to take some action.
Reasoning is not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with someone else’s analysis or recommended action. Rather, reasoning is a matter of coming first to one’s own conclusions and then, perhaps, calibrating one’s own conclusions by seeking out the views of other persons on the same question. To decide to use your gift of reason to examine a pronouncement, action or mandate of the institutional Church is to take the Catholic red pill. A church where one is forbidden or prevented or intimidated from doing so is a prison for your mind.
Our faithful American Catholic is bound in that prison and unlikely to seek to escape. It is, after all, a comfortable place, especially if one does not realize the price to be there. In The Matrix, the horrifying truth is that humans are being farmed by machines as living batteries to maintain the machines’ supply of energy after sunlight has been blotted out. “Reality,” for those humans, is simply a computer simulation, intended to pacify the inventory of human batteries.
The truth about the institutional Catholic Church is no less horrifying. It is clear now to every red-pilled Catholic that the institutional Church is in the hands of a financially, intellectually, and morally corrupt hierarchy. The institutional Church, from the pope on down, has become an imitation of the real thing. A simulation. Or, as venerable Fulton J. Sheen foresaw, it has become “the ape of the Church,” with all the notes and characteristics of the Church but emptied of its divine content — a Church that in all externals resembles the mystical body of Christ, a Church that gives modern man membership in a community but at the cost of losing himself in some vague collectivity .
Talk to any red-pilled Catholic, and most will point to some event, some utterance, or some image that stirred something inside them and prompted them to action. Mother Angelica famously red-pilled in 1993 during World Youth Day in Denver, when the Stations of the Cross were re-enacted with a woman portraying Christ. She accused a liberal element in the Church of trying to destroy the Church. In that assessment, she was a bit off the mark. That element was not trying to destroy the Church. It was trying to become the Church. In our time, it has succeeded.
In the film, not all humans are enslaved. A fragment of the human population lives deep underground in a place called — of all things — Zion. The machines do not have complete control. There is always hope that humanity could be restored from the surviving remnant.
Neither is the corrupt hierarchy in complete control of the institutional Church today. Important voices are courageously resisting them, often with grave personal consequences. See, for example, the “Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time.” These voices remind us that core Catholicism still survives, even in the ersatz Church on display today.
More importantly, these voices give parish priests the courage to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Be like Morpheus, Fathers. Offer your parishioners the Truth. Tell them of their duty to understand what is happening around them. Preach to them Matthew 16:2,3, as Fulton Sheen preached it in 1947. See what happens.
Image: CatholicClips via YouTube.
 “Signs of Our Times,” radio sermon delivered by then-monsignor Sheen, January 26, 1947. Printed in Light Your Lamps, 8th ed., 5–17. Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 1956.
Raymond Kowalski is from Rochester, New York. He is a product of parochial elementary schools and The Aquinas Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and a law degree from The George Washington University. After a forty-year career in communications law, he is retired and living with his wife in Gainesville, Virginia. They are the parents of three and grandparents of five.