PREFACE: I shall not endeavor to explain how these two letters fell into my hands. I shall only note how curious their contents are in light of the debates surrounding the upcoming Amazon Synod.
My dear Wormwood:
I am gravely troubled by your slackening efforts against priests. You proceed as if they are equal to our other patients, as if they require no greater spiritual battering. I shall thus endeavor to write to you about the priesthood: how we despise it, how we abhor it, how we plan to attack it.
Did you know that this month, the Enemy celebrates the great boast of His priesthood, St. John Vianney? When that detestable one was young, he once asked the definition of a priest. A priest, he was told, is a man who’d die so he could be one.
And how he did die — daily! — in spite of all our wiles. He fasted for days at a time and then subsisted on musty potatoes. He taught his flock to abhor sin — the “executioner of the good God and the assassin of the soul” — and then offered reparation with the most frightful penances. He modeled the most burning love for the Eucharist, exclaiming, “Oh, beautiful life!” at the mere thought of it.
For this he suffered terribly at the hands of us, the diabolical ones. As one of the Enemy’s priests summarizes:
‘Vianney! Vianney! potato eater! Ah! You are not yet dead! I shall get you all right!’ The sound rattled and overturned furniture. Sometimes it growled like a bear or snarled like a dog; when it did speak it spoke the local dialect[.] …
Sometimes the spirit, or spirits, felt like rats running over him, and sometimes they tried to toss him out of bed. On other nights the straw mattress became suddenly soft, and the voice sang a lullaby or seductive tune. In the next morning, the Curé would arrive at Mass pale and shaken. In 1826 as he walked to Saint-Trivier to preach, the atmosphere took on a sinister glare, and the roadside bushes glowed a sickly red color; when he arrived to begin the mission, four witnesses watched his bed get tossed about and deposited in the middle of the room accompanied by shrill squeals[.] …
When his visiting sister heard the noises, he calmed her with words we would not consider a consolation: ‘It is the grappin. He cannot hurt you; as for me he torments me in sundry ways. At times he seizes me by the feet and drags me about the room. It is because I convert souls to the good God.’ [i]
I relate this all to you to remind you of what it is that we hate. We hate the priest’s asceticism and purity in reparation for his people’s sins. We hate his ethereality, his otherworldliness, in testimony to a life beyond this one. We hate his power to enrapture souls with love for the Eucharist which he makes present. Do you not see how powerless our assaults were on this hated one, Vianney? As one of us, possessing a woman, snarled at him: “If there were three like you on earth, my kingdom would be destroyed. You have taken more than eighty thousand souls from me.”
Never, my dear Wormwood, underestimate the power of the priest to snatch souls away from Our Father’s house. Never forget to attack the priest first, for he will drag innumerable souls down with him.
I look forward to hearing of your renewed efforts against these loathsome foes.
Your affectionate uncle,
My dear Wormwood,
I was heartened to hear you ask more specifically about our tactics against the priesthood. They are sly and manifold.
We are in a war to replace St. John Vianney, the glory of the priesthood, with the “caricature-priests.” This term “caricature-priests” comes from one of the Enemy’s bishops, who used it to describe the “aid workers, NGO employees, socialist syndicalists, eco-specialists,” and priestesses of nature who will try to seize the priesthood, forming a kind of “sect.” We are in a war to turn the priesthood into a caricature of itself, a mockery.
One of the Enemy’s cardinals laments that so many souls are leaving the Church “in the same spirit as one cancels membership of a secular organization.” They apostatize, and they have no more dread than they’d have at leaving a community club! This cardinal warns that those who promote women’s ordination “consider the Church to be at best a secular institution and subsequently fail to recognize the ordained office as a divine institution.” He warns that any attempt to confer such ordination would be “invalid” — in other words, another mockery.
Note, too, what this foe says about celibacy:
In a Church which – as a mere human institution with purely secular goals — has abandoned her identity as the mediator of salvation in Christ, and who has lost all transcendental and eschatological reference to the Coming Lord, the freely chosen celibacy ‘for the sake of the kingdom’ (Mt. 19:12), or, in order to be able ‘to concern himself with the Lord’s work’ (1 Cor. 7:37) is perceived now as an embarrassment — like an alien element or a residual waste from which one has to be freed as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. At best, this celibacy might be granted to some exotic people as a masochistic form of an extremely autonomous self-determination.
Celibacy, that font of graces which we hate, is now being successfully mocked as a masochistic holdover from a primitive past! Do you see, my dear Wormwood, how we are eviscerating the Church’s supernaturalism and strangling graces by directly attacking the priesthood? “When people wish to destroy religion,” Vianney once said, “they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.”
And yet we shall not leave the people with no priests; we shall leave them with the caricature-priests. The caricature-priests are the practitioners of no asceticism, the foes of no grappin, the presiders over a mock “religion without a Cross, a liturgy without a world to come, a religion to destroy a religion, or a politics which is a religion” — to borrow a line from the Enemy’s soon-to-be Blessed Fulton Sheen. We shall let their play-religion of eco-politics kill whatever vestigial thirst the people may have for real Catholicism.
May this letter impel you to redouble your efforts against Vianney’s heirs.
Your affectionate uncle,
PS: One last word, my dear Wormwood: Can you not feel it hanging in the air — the thick, electric sensation of a coming showdown? Things accelerate toward the end.
[i] From Fr. George Rutler’s The Curé D’Ars Today: Saint John Vianney.
Julia Meloni writes from the Pacific Northwest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale and a master’s degree in English from Harvard.