Yesterday, I asked a question on my Facebook page that has been on my mind:
Does the proposition, “The Catholic Church as we know it no longer exists” seem like an overreach? I think we’ve reached a point where we have to re-define our terms.
Dozens of comments later, I can’t say that I have an answer I’m satisfied with.
As I explained in a followup to my post, the reason I’m asking is because of the dawning realization I’ve been coming to that reporting on this or that scandal in the Church is not simply a case of exposing corruption or documenting outliers but merely observing the day-to-day status quo.
Only holiness and positive developments are outliers now. Bad stories are the norm; good stories are much harder to find.
The actual Catholic Church — the one that leads people to eternal salvation and nourished countless saints — is in what appears to be a devastating retreat. Go the average traditional chapel and — if they’re an Ecclesia Dei community, at least — you’ll often hear that they just can’t pay attention to what’s going on in Rome. It’s counterproductive, they’ll tell you. And that’s probably true. But the bunker mentality leads, in a way, to isolation and atomization.
Meanwhile, reports filter in about orthodox Bishops and Cardinals who have been forbidden to speak in various dioceses or who think that what is happening in Rome has become severe to the point of apostasy. Yet these same men will not allow any of these reports to be put on the record, such is the obsequiousness cultivated toward the papacy.
And through it all, the laity are left perusing the headlines, trying to find the proper mental gymnastics to explain things away. Each day’s news is like a renewed assault on the Catholic sensibility. I’ll give you a taste of what I have open in my internet browser at the moment.
From Phil Lawler, quoting the pseudonymous priest “Diogenes” circa 2005:
The Washington Times reports that “the U.S. Catholic bishops will sidestep the issue of whether gay men should become priests at their semiannual meeting,” which began today at the Chicago Fairmont.
And why, boys and girls, was it a foregone conclusion that the bishops would “sidestep” the issue? Because the question of whether gays should be ordained cannot be addressed without first addressing a considerably more explosive question: the number of bishop-disputants who are themselves gay and have a profound personal interest that there be no public examination of the connections between their sexual appetites, their convictions, and their conduct of office.
Thirteen years later, as the fallout from the McCarrick scandal continues to unfold, we’re left to wonder why nothing has changed.
From Rod Dreher, at The American Conservative:
One former priest who left the priesthood in disgust over the constant gay sex among other priests, and the adamant refusal of his bishop — who is today a cardinal — to do anything about it, wrote me, using his name, and providing details. He says this cardinal was part of a gay clique before he became a bishop, and therefore had no reason to act on the information he (this priest) and others provided him — including information about a gay priest whose sexual crimes landed him behind bars. I’m going to ask that former priest if he’s willing to go public, and name names. I’ve heard rumors about this cardinal, but never details like this. He needs to have a #MeToo moment.
From Julia Meloni, at LifeSiteNews:
October’s youth synod is about finishing the old business of the St. Gallen mafia. It will mark four years since Archbishop Bruno Forte crafted a manipulated synodal report on the “precious support” found in same-sex relationships – released the very day that two Italian political parties backed homosexual unions.
Pope Francis approved the text before it was published, and his homily that day excoriated” doctors of the law” – an “evil generation” – for resisting the “God of surprises.” Archbishop Forte, meanwhile, declared to the media that “describ[ing] the rights of people living in same-sex unions” is a matter of “being civilized.”
From Diane Montagna, at LifeSiteNews:
The demographic collapse of the West in recent decades was planned in order to create the necessary conditions to usher in a New World Order, and the authors of this collapse are now influencing the Vatican at the highest levels, the former president of the Vatican bank has said.
Speaking at the first international conference of the John Paul II academy for human life and the family, Italian economist and banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said efforts to decrease the world’s population by globalist elites have set in motion a series of predictable and intended economic, geo-political, and social catastrophes meant to “persuade” people around the world to accept a global “political vision” that would eliminate national sovereignty and institute “gnostic environmentalism” as its “universal religion.”
According to Gotti Tedeschi, the “greatest enemy” of the New World Order is the family because it provides “education, autonomy and independence” from the state. Its second enemy is the Catholic Church, he said, and yet these gnostic prophets are “rewriting genesis in the halls of the Vatican.”
From Dorothy Cummings McLean, at LifeSiteNews:
The Vatican has dropped a criminal investigation against Libero Milone, a Catholic layman they hired to audit their finances. This despite the fact that in September the Vatican chief of police, Domenico Giani, told Reuters that there was “overwhelming evidence” against the former Auditor General.
Now, however, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register has reported that “the separate inquiry conducted by the Vatican promoter of justice with Milone’s lawyers came to the conclusion that no evidence existed to support the accusations that had been lodged against him.”
Pentin also cited an unnamed source who had told the Register on July 5 that Milone had “apparent apparently stumbled upon certain and clear abuses of funds, and they could no longer wait to remove him.”
How about this, from Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, also at LifeSiteNews?
A group of Catholic clergy and theologians, including two bishops, have signed an ecumenical declaration with Anglican clergy published on the Vatican website that affirms the possibility that the Catholic Church might create a “female diaconate” in the future, which would imply a contradiction of Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Church’s 2000-year tradition.
Paul VI, in October 1967, during the first Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican, had the Cardinal Secretary of State ask for an opinion on contraception in view of the publication of the encyclical. Only 26 of the 200 bishops present produced a written response. Of these, most said they were in favor of some opening to the pill, while 7 were against. But Pope Montini, who had already removed the subject from the Council discussion and had listened to the opinions of a commission of experts (the majority of whom were in favor), did not believe that there was any reason to change the position held up to that moment by his predecessors and promulgated a few months after his Humanae vitae, which came out in July – fifty years ago – lacking however the chrism of infallibility, as some would have liked.
This is one of the new elements that emerges from the research of Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, author of the book “La nascita di un’enciclica. Humanae vitae alla luce degli Archivi Vaticaniˮ (Birth of an encyclical. Humanae vitae in the light of the Vatican Archives) published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana; a search in the light of never consulted before documents, which allowed to reconstruct the genesis of the encyclical, its various drafts, the corrections made by Paul VI.
The news of the Pope’s desire to consult all the members of the synodal assembly is very important – Marengo points out- because one of the most repeated accusations, after the publication of Humanae vitae, was that the Pope had decided in solitude, in a non- collegial way”.
Perhaps most striking, among the assortment of stories in front of me, are the words of Michael Brendan Dougherty, who writes in the pages of National Review:
There is an undeniable psychological tension between my religious belief that I cannot have hope for salvation outside the visible, institutional Church and my honest conviction that of all the institutions and societies that intersect with my life, the Church is by far the most corrupt, the most morally lax, the most disillusioning, and the most dangerous for my children. In that tension, personal prayer will dry up like dew at noon. [emphasis added]
This cross-section of ecclesiastical news, and the reaction to it, is far from comprehensive, but it tells us a great deal.
In the Facebook discussion, some mentioned the notion of a faithful “remnant”, as so often comes up in conversations like these. My response was to say: talking in vague terms about a Remnant is fine, but what does that mean? Where is it? How does that play out in the lives and families of those trying to simply stay on the path to salvation? How do we raise kids in this without them becoming bitter or giving up on what seems a quixotic refusal to let go of something dying?
How do we boil down what the Church truly is, in her essence, and separate that from what we get in almost every parish we walk into? Just saying “I’m Catholic” could mean virtually anything in 2018, and that’s a problem for us.
So I ask again: where is the Church? What does it consist of when 95% of parishes and bishops and priests and laity are actually not, in any substantive sense, Catholic?
What does it mean when the handful of orthodox bishops in the Church — those very few who give us hope — would prefer to endure unjust persecution rather than stand their ground and fight on behalf of the faithful?
I think paring down the bloat and getting to the lifeblood of what the Church is, and where we find it, is actually where people are going to find some hope. It may feel like going through the motions for a while. But as Michael Dougherty also writes:
Where do I find hope? I find it in the faces of other young Catholics. The families at my parish who make real sacrifices for the Faith. I find it in the young writers such as Sohrab Ahmari , B. D. McClay, and Matthew Schmitz who still convert and fall in love as I did. … Even if sometimes my personal piety dries into dust and nothingness, the bell rings at Mass, my knee drops to the floor, and if nothing else, this gesture testifies objectively to the reality that Christ is present in the Eucharist, that Christ is Lord. Hopefully for now, that’s all I need to know.
This, as the interminable winter in the Church stretches on, is where I think more of our time could be well spent. Preserving the beloved things. Finding green shoots poking up through the ice. Reminding each other that despite all appearances, hope is not lost.
I plan to dedicate more of my time in the coming months to such pursuits.
I will spend more time with books. I will attempt to find more time for prayer, and in gratitude. I will seek out the true, the good, and the beautiful. I will, I hope, find a way to recharge somewhat, and seek healing for my battle-weary soul.
This means that you may see a bit less of me here for a while, or that my contributions will take different forms, as I seek to prioritize quality over quantity. In the mean time, the work we do here will continue with the help of those capable soldiers ready to carry the standard.
We know that the Church continues, but she is being reduced to a fraction of what she once was. This is a hard truth, but one we must come to terms with. What choice have we but to press on?
Where is the Church? Its treasures are scattered, but they are present in those who hold to and keep the faith. We need to find each other in the darkness, and gather our light.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:69)
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.