At the end of Lent last spring, on Lazarus Saturday, I experienced resurrection from death in sin in conversion. Through illumination in the mysteries of baptism, chrismation (also called confirmation in the West1 My conversion is a bit unusual in this regard. I became an Eastern Catholic — a member of one of the twenty-two sui iuris Eastern Churches in peace and communion with the Apostolic See. These constitute, with the Latin Church, the universal Catholic Church spread throughout the world, which worships with one voice in many languages, and offers one bloodless sacrifice in a variety of rituals.), and the holy Eucharist, I became a member of the Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and the will of the Father.
I’ve not been a Catholic long. Including the years I spent investigating the Church before swimming the Tiber, I’m barely out of spiritual toddlerhood. There’s wisdom in recognizing the incompetence of a new Catholic to do justice to religious matters seasoned veterans struggle with. Developing the interior life is paramount for us all, but especially for neophytes.
I understand all this. I say this not in a spirit of bombastic critique, but rather as an infant’s cry to Mother Church: I’ve ceased to care whether the just-concluded first part of the synod in Rome affirms Catholic doctrine. Not now, next year, or in the years to come.
I no longer care whether the final result is a resounding reaffirmation, a technical one wedded to the corruption of orthopraxy, or an outright denial of Church teaching since time immemorial.
I no longer care; because it’s become obvious the pseudo-Catholic revolutionary doesn’t usually mount a direct attack on doctrine. No, the Catholic Church is far too old and traditional for that. The more direct approach taken in the Anglican communion does not work here.
Nine times out of ten, our ecclesial revolutionaries settle. They gladly concede reaffirmations of abstract doctrine on a host of issues, whether technical or absolute, so long as the concrete reality is changed at the parish level. Our Catholic revolution, ongoing for fifty years, is one not of the letter, but of appearances. Unlike the clumsy heretics of yesteryear, today’s variety neither leaves the Church, nor foments a change in its teaching — instead, they pass themselves off as “loyal sons of the Church,” happy to concede ancient doctrine for the dusty few who care about it, if only they’re allowed to control the image of the Church. They would rather have the Spirit of Vatican II than the letter of tradition; because it’s the former that the masses take as their cue for what to believe.
This influence through propaganda has never been stronger than now, in this generation of the faithful. The Franciscan pontificate is itself the perfect example: Francis and his Cardinals wield the power of appearance, via clichés, slogans, and photographs, better than any other in history. Amplified by mass and social media, there is enormous potential to bring about change in belief and practice, without the slightest doctrinal change.
Which brings me to the synod on the family. The synod has become the perfect environment for this phenomenon, which we’re seeing in a way unrivaled since the decade immediately following the close of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict XVI, shortly before renouncing the Chair of St. Peter, spoke candidly on this effect, which he dubbed “The Council of the Media,” as contrasted with The Council of the Letter. Benedict, however, refrained from attributing it to Catholic clergymen, preferring to mention only the comfortable scapegoat of secular media outlets.
This is an oversimplification.
It’s obvious to me that influences both within and without the Catholic Church caused palpable changes in parishes and dioceses around the world after the Council, with the goal of changing ecclesial praxis, entirely without serious regard for changing doctrine. Only confusion and an emerging false vision in the public eye are necessary for change in practice; so why should they trouble with what the remnant of stuffy doctrinal adherents believe? The Church has, so to speak, moved beyond them in the only way that matters to our revolutionaries: in the reality experienced by average Catholics in their daily lives.
So, what is my point? Simply this: I believe that I, and others like me, are being played for fools. We are allowed by revolutionary clergymen to continue believing Catholic doctrine, investing our entire lives in the Church of a bygone era, while the movers-and-shakers create lying impressions that drive what the majority of Catholics and non-Catholics believe and do. This is worse by far than an outright, head-on assault on the deposit of faith, because there’s no creedal heresy to be refuted, rejected, and warned of. It’s all ether in the wind; all pastoral praxis, publicity, public opinion, and change at the parish level.
Worst of all, very few orthodox Catholics seem aware of these mechanics. Continually insisting that “Rome hasn’t changed doctrine, there’s no need to be alarmed” seems the stupid talk of fools – saps to be taken advantage of. Sure, the revolutionaries say, have your precious doctrine. Have your pie in the sky ideals. We, the change-agents, have wrought revolution without regard for it.
If we’re to begin turning the tide of the practical experience and identity of being Catholic, the one lived out in our parishes and dioceses, we have to acknowledge the problem with clarity. This is already beginning to happen among our bishops and the rest of the faithful, thanks to the good that God is bringing out of this terrible synod. The cancer of creeping, incremental change has exploded in violence; and the body is waking up. We who believe know that doctrine is unchangeable. Let’s stop concerning ourselves only with it, and begin to take seriously the substantial change brought about through propaganda, fed to the world by those of who’ve lost the Faith.
Jonathan Pierre Cariveau is a Minnesota native and a convert to Eastern Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. He writes on Eastern Catholicism, Church history, liturgical theology, and Catholic life in the 21st century.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||My conversion is a bit unusual in this regard. I became an Eastern Catholic — a member of one of the twenty-two sui iuris Eastern Churches in peace and communion with the Apostolic See. These constitute, with the Latin Church, the universal Catholic Church spread throughout the world, which worships with one voice in many languages, and offers one bloodless sacrifice in a variety of rituals.|