Over the past few months, I have made several unsuccessful attempts to write new articles on a variety of topics. In one, I attempted to argue how Kasper’s thesis is actually condescending and an attack on the nobility of the human soul. In another, I attempted to analyze the prophecies of Bl. Elena Aiello in light of recent events. Most of these articles were in response to some error or scandal currently facing the Church, but a few sentences in, I would despair of my efforts. My attempts to offer truth as a remedy seemed useless; my intentions to aid the Church in her present difficulties felt hopeless. And in each case, I found myself feeling exhausted by the constant deluge of bad news and negativity.
As any writer knows, however, inspiration often comes by way of happy accident. Yesterday, I was searching for a quotation I had used in a letter written to some Protestant friends after my conversion. I got sidetracked, and began re-reading the conclusion to my letter. What I found there was the life and spirit that has, of late, been missing from my both my thought and writing. I considered what I was seeing for a while, wondering why I was able to write so joyfully and peacefully then. I tried to explain it to my wife. When I was witnessing to my protestant friends, I told her, there was a great joy in that effort. It was not my purpose to give them a stern admonition or offer fierce criticism of their errors, but rather to explain the ways in which the Gospel is better than they had ever dreamed. That salvation is more than just the forgiveness of sins – it is union with God Himself. That holiness is not the absence of sin, but an active participation in the life and power of the Holy Ghost. That God is not separate from or inaccessible to us, but is daily available for us to receive — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — at the Holy Mass.
Now, a few of these Protestant friends have converted, or are in the process of converting. Others have not, and due to distance and the busyness of life, my efforts at evangelism have had to take a back seat to other concerns. As my focus has moved away from evangelization to a deepening study of the Faith, I have turned my intention, perhaps inevitably, to the present crisis in the Church – with a particular emphasis on the danger presented by the synods. In my preoccupation with these ecclesial concerns, the joy that flows naturally from religious zeal has ebbed away. The resulting intellectual (and perhaps also spiritual) depression had caused a correlative decline in my ability to write.
If only, I thought, I could return to a meditation on how wonderful the Gospel is rather than on how wicked heresy is! Suddenly, I realized that the same argument I made to my protestant friends can be made to these modernists in the Church. We who uphold the Faith of our fathers do not come with distraught faces to announce unhappy truths. The Catholic religion is not the unhappy religion, and the modernist false religion is not the happy one. No, it is the saints on earth and in Heaven who are happy, and it is because the truths they know, have loved, embraced, and triumphed by are beyond all human imagining.
The final response to the modernists must be: The Gospel is so much better than you dreamt it to be!
To those who insist that mercy looks like the re-writing of the natural law to fit the whims of the present age, we do not announce the sad news that such a thing cannot be done. We do not cry out, “If only you were right! If only we were not bound by such oppressive rules by such a tyrannical God! Yet, God has so decreed, and we must obey.” No, instead we can say, “Thank God you are wrong! Thank God life has more meaning and more direction than you will allow it. Thank God that He does not allow us to follow our every wish or desire, but grants us knowledge of His holy law, so that we may participate in His Triune Life for all eternity.”
We do not need to apologize to the world for the moral law. We do not need to apologize to the world for our antiquated customs. We do not need to apologize to the world for our creeds, our cults, and our crusades! That the world does not understand these things does not mean that we must grovel before her, but rather that we must teach our ways to her in truth and charity.
To the lapsed Catholic who professes belief in the universal salvation of all men, we can reply, “The Gospel is better than you ever imagined, and it is precisely because it denies such a universal salvation.”
To the modernist bishop who calls for Church recognition of same-sex unions, we can reply, “The Gospel is better than you ever imagined, and it is precisely because it denies man the right to moral self-legislation.”
We believe in dogma, not because it bars our mind from free thought, but because it frees our mind to know God. We believe in divine ritual, not because it forms us into an unthinking mass of automatons, but because it forms us to worthily serve God. We believe in traditional piety, not because it condescends or encourages ignorance, but because we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We believe in the discipline of the Church not because it is authoritarian rule over what should be self-governing individuals, but because it is divinely appointed to strip sin away from our souls.
The modernist should sorrow over the supposed lack of dogmatic knowledge: “If only God had revealed Himself so clearly to man!” He should sorrow over the supposed lack of divine ritual: “If only God had instituted a rite to communicate His divine life to man!” He should sorrow over the supposed lack of God-given, traditional piety, of the efficaciousness of Church discipline, and everything Catholic that he rejects. Just as the only logically consistent heretic is a sad heretic, sFo the only logically consistent modernist is a sad modernist!
This odd testimony may not be very welcome in the world, but it is true. And we will only win this war for orthodoxy within the Church if we come crying out to the faithful: do not listen to these heretics, and do not let your hope be dimmed! God spoke truly through the whole of Scripture, and every word is inerrant. Christ is no liar; He is the very Word of God, and His words are perfect and clear, enlightening the heart. The Church is no liar; she can be relied upon to perfectly and spotlessly transmit the Faith. God is not creating infants who cannot tell right from wrong and cannot be led to a share in His holiness. No, He created sons to assist at the divine processions, to burn with a holiness that outshines human nature in its nobility, to make the Blessed Trinity present in a world of sin!
We can extend this answer past the modernists presently attempting to subvert the natural law. To those who would have us acquiesce, to accept the political, economic, social, and philosophical systems of modernity, we do not reply, “Oh, if only progress were good; but we were commanded to live in the dark ages.” No, our response is, “True society directed towards the common good is so much greater than you have imagined. You have accepted the twentieth century with its Fascism, Communism, genocide, and abortion, as if it were the norm of human society, the necessary cost of progress. But it is not. We will not apologize for our kings, even though they often fought with one another and laid waste medieval villages, for they committed pre-modern sins of pride, greed, and envy, not post-modern sins of nihilism, skepticism, and relativism. Our kings were better than your presidents, even if some were wicked. We will not apologize for our priests and bishops, even though they often became worldly and lived with concubines, for they at least were sinners against the law, and did not deny the existence of the law, like the false religions of today. Our clerics were better than your teachers of the religion of relativism, even if some were wicked. We will not apologize for our theologians and philosophers, even though they often fell into errors, for they at least recognized the possibility of falsehood and truth, unlike the philosophers of today who love not wisdom, but sophistry. Our prophets were better than your philosophers, even if they often entertained falsehood.” The sins of the medieval world were the sins of a society failing to achieve the good; the sins of modernity are the sins of a society succeeding in achieving evil. Moreover, we eagerly await the resurrection of Christendom. Many of us hope this will be part of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. But surely, at least, we will see it on the end of days. Golden ages have come and gone, but the true Golden Age is yet to come.
The philosophy of modernity is a dark hell, and though Plato’s cave-dwellers could not see their sad state of affairs and the beautiful truth, it did not make the truth any less beautiful. Cardinal Kasper and those who support him are attempting to drag the Church into this relativistic hell. They have come not to liberate, but to bind. We will not let them ever accomplish what they set out to do, as far as is in our power, because we will not allow the Good News to be mixed with their pessimism. We will not allow their despair to creep in and destroy our hope. We will not allow their lukewarm, unattractive, condescending message to be preached to the world as if it were the Catholic Faith.
We will instead preach the Good News: That the Son of God took on human flesh in order to redeem us from our sins through the infusion of grace, by which we are initiated into the inner life of the Trinity. By grace, we participate in the Word spoken by the Father through perfect and umblemished faith to the exclusion of error, and in the Holy Ghost breathed forth by the Father and the Son through perfect and umblemished charity to the exclusion of sin. Nothing can be so hopeful as this creed, and anyone who obscures our ability to turn from sin and error to faith and charity should be the ones to wear a mournful countenance.
Two years ago, I told my Protestant friends that the Gospel was much greater than they ever imagined. Today, I say the same to the modernists leading a revolution in the Church: you are not too optimistic, but too pessimistic. We will not allow your false doctrine to prevail over the hearts of the faithful, for your toxic denial of virtue to sweep like a poisoned tide over the shore of salvation, and for the Gospel to be forgotten. We will keep the Faith, and we will teach it as the good news that it is. Likewise, we must also take the same message to friends and family who unknowingly have adhered to the modernist drift. God is so much greater than they think; grace is so much nobler than they realize; the Church possesses more truth and holiness than they imagine.
Finally, this is not simply a message for others, but a message for us, especially as the darkness of night falls upon the West. For the more convinced we are of the goodness of the Gospel, the more we will be willing sacrifice everything for its sake.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Carl Wolk lives in Wisconsin with his wife and children. He entered the Catholic Church on Easter 2012, a convert from Calvinism and before that, atheism. He has a B.A. in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Washington and Lee University, and an M.A. in Theology from the Dominican House of Studies in DC. He is the Upper School Dean at Providence Academy in La Crosse, WI, where he teaches theology and philosophy.