Browse Our Articles & Podcasts

Talismanic Words and the Anti-Church Agenda

NB: For those seeking reliable catechisms, the Tradivox series is recommended.


In the previous two installments, we offered some background and textual analysis of the Vatican’s new Directory for Catechesis (DC), showing its problematic novelty in both form and content. Part I showed its disproportionate indebtedness to the “postconciliar paradigm” (and Pope Francis above all), while Part II further illustrated not only its bizarre educative priorities, but also the manner in which its pages could be used to impart an entire system of false doctrine.

Here, we complete our analysis by highlighting a few of the DC’s practical directives, showing their conformity to certain Communist persuasion techniques, and offering a few predictions regarding the DC’s usability in subverting the Church’s catechetical mission in our times: a work that we pray will be countered with clarity and conviction at the institutional level and in the public sphere.

Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Persuasion Techniques: A Cursory Note

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was the first to detail the Communist subversive techniques of unperceived ideological transshipment from the Latin American perspective.[1] He describes how the subversion of the Catholic teaching edifice is accomplished more effectively through ideological conversion than by overt coercion: moving the “patient” from antagonism, to tacit collaboration, to sympathy, to support of what we could today call an AntiChurch agenda. This approach makes use of a novel lexicon, peppered with what Oliveira calls “talismanic words” – terms that powerfully evoke, but are never defined.

The patient is most effectively transshipped when the basic philosophical and theological assumptions of the persuader are not openly declared at the outset, but are rather reached by the patient on their own accord: something almost entirely achievable simply through shared use of the novel lexicon. Thus, lexical saturation and a sense of confinement or urgency is also essential to the method. For those versed in educational science, this dynamic is essentially identical to the auditory bombardment of cycles phonological remediation: the clinician creates a “no-escape” setting for the patient, and then proceeds to “flood” the patient’s active mind and memory with corrective phonemes.

Each of these three aspects is clearly present in the new Directory. A sense of urgency pervades the document:

“…it is urgent to rethink the work of evangelization with new categories and new languages…” (44)
“This demand to which the Church must respond at the present time…” (57)
“Every local Church, through designated offices and organisms, is urged to evaluate the situation…” (243)
“New approaches to pastoral and catechetical action must therefore be conceived…” (256)
“Such a reflection is required with particular urgency…” (331)
“…urge the Church to reconsider her pastoral care and her catechetical initiatives…” (343)
“In the modern context there is an urgent need…” (379)
“This is all the more urgent in the present context…” (396)

It has already been shown that talismanic words and a novel lexicon are in play to a high degree in the DC, and that these form the most potent dimension of the document as a whole. For, as explained in Part II, the very reconstruction of language in an official directive document for catechesis is already a victory for the enemies of Christ.

In addition to these difficulties, other practical aspects of the DC are also worth considering.

“Operation of Decentralization” – The DC’s Programme

Facing a tremendous atrophy in Church membership around the world, no one at the Vatican is oblivious to the fact that a massive infrastructural collapse is now inevitable for Catholic institutions everywhere. Pundits of the so-called “New Evangelization” have been warning about this demographic implosion for over a decade (although breakdancing priests and movie-reviewing bishops have proven ineffective in reversing it), and not a few have wondered if the higher ranks of the hierarchy were aware of or concerned about this trend.

Fortunately, the authors of the DC have shown that they are well informed. In fact, they seem to regard widespread apostasy as an expected “phase of life,” speaking of “the drop in church attendance that often happens during the adolescent years” (249) as if this were a perfectly normal feature of Catholic child-rearing, and saying likewise of young adults: “in this phase of life, many fall away from the Church or display indifference or distrust toward it” (251). “Migrants” are also presupposed to experience “the abandonment of religious practice and a crisis for the convictions of faith” (273), and there runs throughout the DC a general sense that the Catholic Faith already is and will continue to be vastly lost, simply as matter of course.

Rather than issue a resounding call to conversion or a major effort to reverse such a trend – a cause truly worthy of the Church’s crusading spirit, and one that prior pontiffs often set forth with zeal – the DC’s solution is instead to “accompany” and to “dialogue.”[2] Avoiding preoccupation with the inculcation of a saving body of doctrine that must be known and lived for salvation, catechesis should instead endeavor to be more “relevant” (Preface, 170, 303, 380) and “meaningful” (Preface, 41, 247, 249, 251, 262, 263, 328, 352, 353) to contemporaries in the new programme.

Helpfully, the DC acknowledges that the Church’s current institutional structures are not exactly built for this, and must be retrofitted to avoid becoming “useless structure[s] out of touch with people, or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few” (300). Institutions must therefore “decentralize” (303) to become more “open” (39, 301) and “flexible” (252, 300), even to the point of liquidating the parish-diocese model in favor of “pastoral units” and “communities of communities” (301). As one sentence rather ominously suggests: “there are other ecclesial pathways and proposals that are not strictly connected to the existing structures” (302).

The new programme demands the overhaul of every institutional structure, in what the DC does not hesitate to call a “conversion” of the Church and even a “transformation,” always of a pastoral or missionary character (5, 7, 40, 230, 244, 297, 300, 302, 303, 420). As with so many other concepts in the DC, nowhere is this process explicitly described, although it is strongly declared. For example:

This missionary tension prompts catechesis to decentralize and to set itself to listen and go forth toward the life experiences of people, illuminating them with the light of the Gospel. This operation of decentralization, which has to do above all with mental attitudes, can also be expressed from the point of view of physical spaces: the Church’s joy in communicating Jesus Christ is expressed both by a concern to preach him to areas in greater need and in constantly going forth to the outskirts of its own territory or toward new sociocultural settings (303).

Regardless of what else it may practically entail, this “operation of decentralization” is to rely upon more democratic approaches, as found in collegiality and synodality – perspectives made necessary by the new “journey” that seems to have come upon the Church as a summons:

It is important that the Church, which wants to give the beauty of the faith to all and to each person, be aware of this complexity and develop a deeper and wiser view of reality. Such a condition makes it even more necessary to adopt the synodal perspective as a methodology consistent with the journey that the community is called to make (321).

The DC’s Transshipment

An appended Glossary would certainly have helped to render the DC a more readable and understandable document; however, we maintain that this is precisely why it lacks one. Instead, it offers a twenty-seven page Thematic Index: a tool that shows conceptual relationships without defining terms – a classic dimension of transshipment.[3] The overall notional framework for the DC’s “missionary transformation,” on our read, goes something like this:

STEP 1: From Catechesis to Evangelization. Rather than be clearly defined, catechesis must be regarded as a process that “does not allow for rigid distinctions” (Preface), being rather “a privileged stage in the process of evangelization” (56) that “cannot always be distinguished from the first proclamation” (57) or other aspects of the work of evangelization. “[I]f it is still useful to make conceptual distinctions… in the present context it is no longer possible to stress such differences” (56). Catechesis is sublimated within the broader and still less definite scope of evangelization.

STEP 2: From Evangelization to Kerygma. The scope of evangelization is in turn narrowed to an abbreviated and variously-modified message called the kerygma or “initial proclamation,” which “is simultaneously an act of proclamation and the content of the proclamation itself,” made in “a reciprocal dynamic of listening and dialogue” (58). In order to make this core message relevant and engaging to modern man, “the Church must be able to embody the kerygma according to the needs of her contemporaries” (325). Its content may vary, given its inculturation: “The ultimate aim should be that the Gospel, as preached in categories proper to each culture, will create a new synthesis with that particular culture” (395).

STEP 3: From Kerygma to Discernment. In today’s world, “marked by ambivalent elements of religious and cultural pluralism” and “whose inner physiognomy is today particularly dynamic, complex, and multifaceted,” the Church must engage in a “pastoral discernment aimed at formulating an understanding of the kerygma best adapted to the various mentalities” (325). In this process, a careful study and affirmation of “the signs of God’s action already present in the lives of persons” (179) is regarded as central. A shift is made from declaration to discovery.

STEP 4: From Discernment to Universal Salvation. Discovering God’s action already present in the lives of persons, one realizes that His saving grace is also accessible in the various cultural and religious phenomena of the world. Salvation being attainable independent of Catholic faith or morals, formal instruction for its adherents becomes less important than efforts at group facilitation and peaceful “co-existence of different faiths” (343) around certain shared humanitarian goals – “the environmental question” being paramount, as this offers a setting “for rethinking the relationship between economy, protection of creation, social justice, and political decisions” (382).

TRANSSHIPPED: The Democratic Nanny Church. The Church’s catechetical mission – indeed, the Church herself – becomes at this point a functionally atomized, localized, democratic entity. Her task becomes less that of pointing out eternal goods to which all must convert in order to be saved, and more one of emphasizing already-present goods that all should enjoy; the common trait of which is their physicality. Thus the Church becomes not a Mother and Teacher who births, nurtures, and educates her children unto eternal salvation, but a Nanny: one who tends only the bodily health of another’s offspring, while the true parent is away.

Brass Tacks: What to Expect

Understanding the new Directory as a serviceable playbook for the “parallel Church,” one can perhaps anticipate a few things to continue developing since the DC was published:

The first is lexical saturation, this being a key stratagem for ideological transshipment. It comes as no surprise that the DC calls for the creation of new catechisms and catechetical directories at the local and regional levels throughout the world, reflective of its new priorities (401-408). Various diocesan curricula and initiatives are already doing as much, and bookstores are beginning to crawl with the new texts (that schools and parishes will be expected to buy and use). Furthermore, with the growing phenomenon of individuals subscribed to a continuous “virtual feed,” even the average pew-sitter should expect to be swimming in the new lexicon for the foreseeable future, bringing to mind the comment of one Vatican watcher back in the Fall of 2020, when the DC was fresh off the press:

It seems that Pope Francis is eager to tell the world what he thinks, the way he sees the world, and how the world should operate in the post-pandemic era. In the upcoming months, we are going to be somehow submerged by Pope Francis’ publications, perhaps more than ever before in papal history (MondayVatican).

An entire chapter of the DC is devoted to ensconcing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) as a doctrinal monolith (182-193), ensuring that it be regarded as the “sure and authentic text of reference” (184) for teaching institutions and materials, especially for seminary training (152). Readers may therefore be forgiven if they come away mistaking the CCC for the Deposit of Faith itself, “incarnate” in a single text, and superseding all other catechisms and prior teaching; a rather convenient mistake in the eyes of any innovator, seeing as the  CCC will  be subject to endless updates: “The Catechism is therefore not a static expression of doctrine, but a dynamic instrument, suitable for inspiring and nourishing the journey of faith in the life of every person” (192). That manifest errors in matters of faith and morals can and will continue to be included in the CCC was already illustrated by Francis’ 2018 death penalty update, to which the DC’s footnote #52 tellingly refers the reader: “Cf. also CCC 2267 (new edition August 1, 2018)” (emphasis ours). The CCC thus becomes “weaponized” for the teaching of error.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization will serve as the “sharp end of the stick” for attaining the required approval and production of any “official” catechetical texts going forward, and the body in which “the Roman pontiff ordinarily acts” in regards to catechesis (410). This body will continue to re-echo “pastoral/missionary conversion” as a convenient PR smokescreen for bishops’ ongoing liquidation of Church property assets (parishes, schools, religious houses, etc.), already occurring monthly around the world. “Bishop, why close down xyz?” “To continue our missionary transformation, of course.”

Such terms will also frame the continued emphasis on “proclamation” over corporate worship and sacraments. Because these latter two have a “members-only” application, and the DC simply accepts the inevitable implosion of this membership, “a process of missionary conversion must be begun that is not limited to maintaining the status quo or guaranteeing the administration of the sacraments[!], but presses forward in the direction of evangelization” (300). A more Protestant modus operandi would be hard to find.

Increasing requirements for physical health and social goods, these being the sole disciplinary powers of nannies. The only moral authority wielded in the new paradigm will be an insistence upon bodily health and social cooperation, utilizing talismanic words like fraternity, dialogue, common good, etc. Leaders with the most physical connectivity to Church members (clergy, pastoral staff) will be the chief enforcers of the new discipline, and so statements like that of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales should be expected to continue apace.[4]

In sum: the DC’s missionary transformation heralds the reduction of all catechetical activity to the spreading of a message – something easily carried out virtually, requiring far less overhead than all that sacred structure and sacramental apparatus. The message will be that God loves everyone and is already present in, with, and through them and all of creation; and therefore, all must regard the care of man’s physical body and natural environment as the preeminent (and maybe the only) moral duties.

Incidentally, this was precisely the “Gospel” being preached by virtually every national government in the 2020 COVID crisis, when the DC was originally released.

alphonsus liguori moral theology
St. Alphonsus Liguori

Conclusion: “Cast It at Once into the Fire”

There are certain aspects of the DC that could be praiseworthy, were it not for the overwhelming amount of subversive technique and heterodox mush that one must wade through in order to glean them. Such an exercise, in our view, vitiates the entire work of merit, and brings the pejorative of St. Jerome to mind: Non necesse habes aurum in luto quaerere – “Why seek gold among the mire?”[5]

We hope that our systematic chart serves as a particular aid in further analyzing the DC itself, as well as for interpreting the various official texts that will continue to emerge from official Church channels, so many of which have come under the sway of the “new paradigm” of AntiChurch interests, rather than serving the true and spotless Bride of Christ.

In closing, if St. Alphonsus is correct in his assessment that one bad book can destroy a monastery, we submit that the Vatican’s new Directory for Catechesis could well destroy what little supernatural faith remains in any Catholic institutions that employ it; and we hope that the content and approach it seeks to install will be resisted. We conclude with the great Doctor’s own directive:

A single bad book will be sufficient to cause the destruction of a monastery. Blessed spouse of the Lord, should a work of this description ever fall into your hands, cast it at once into the fire, that it never more may be seen.[6]


Title photo: inside the Synod hall during meetings on the Synod on the Family in Vatican City on October 21, 2015. © L’Osservatore Romano.

[1] See Oliveira’s 1965 essay in English: Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue – a study meriting wider attention in the current ecclesiastical situation.

[2] For a sampling of the Church’s crusading spirit against error and apostasy, see Benedict XIV’s Cum Religiosi, Clement XIII’s In Dominico Agro, Gregory XVI’s Probe Nostis, or Pius X’s masterful Acerbo Nimis.

[3] For instance, under the DC’s Thematic Index entry for “Liberation,” one finds: “See also Salvation” – an entry loaded with theological implications.

[4] Fortunately for the American Church, institutional health care makes up about 60% of its estimated $170 billion operating budget, so any newfound “moral imperatives” related to bodily health will likely prove rather profitable.

[5] Jerome, Ad Furiam De Viduitate Seruanda, n. 11.

[6] Alphonsus Liguori, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Ch. 17, “Spiritual Reading.”


Popular on OnePeterFive

Share to...