Catholic Fundamentalist?

 

FROM a reader:

I have been reading your "deluge of false prophets" series, and to tell you the truth, I am a little concerned. Let me explain… I am a recent convert to the Church. I was once a fundamentalist Protestant Pastor of the "meanest kind"—I was a bigot! Then someone gave me a book by Pope John Paul II— and I fell in love with this man’s writing. I resigned as Pastor in 1995 and in 2005 I came into the Church. I went to Franciscan University (Steubenville) and got a Masters in Theology.

But as I read your blog—I saw something I did not like—an image of myself 15 years ago. I am wondering, because I swore when I left Fundamentalist Protestantism that I would not substitute one fundamentalism for another. My thoughts: be careful you do not become so negative that you lose sight of the mission.

Is it possible that there is such an entity as "Fundamentalist Catholic?" I worry about the heteronomic element in your message.

The reader here raises an important question: are my writings overly negative? After writing about "false prophets," am I perhaps a "false prophet" myself, blinded by a spirit of "doom and gloom," and thus, unhinged from reality such that I have lost sight of my mission? Am I, after all is said and done, simply a "Fundamentalist Catholic?"

 

WHEN THE TITANIC IS SINKING

There is a popular saying that it makes little sense to "re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic." That is, when the ship is going down, the most important thing at that point becomes survival: helping others into the safety boats, and getting into one before the ship sinks.  Crisis, by its nature, takes on an urgency of its own.

The above is an appropriate image for both what is occurring to the Church today and the mission of this apostolate: to brings souls into the safe refuge of Christ in these troubling times. But before I say another word, let me point out that this is not the view of some if not many bishops in the Church today. Indeed, there is little sense of urgency or even crisis apparent among most bishops. However, the same cannot be said for the "Bishop of Rome," the Holy Father. In truth, it is the Pope whom I have been following carefully for many years like a lighthouse in the darkness. For I have found no where else such a powerful blend of reality and hope, truth and tough love, authority and anointing like I have heard coming from the popes. For the sake of brevity, let me focus primarily on his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.

In an interview with Peter Seewald in 2001, then Cardinal Ratzinger said,

To begin with, the Church "will be numerically reduced." When I made this affirmation, I was overwhelmed with reproaches of pessimism. And today, when all prohibitions seem obsolete, among them those that refer to what has been called pessimism… often, is nothing other than healthy realism… —(POPE BENEDICT XVI) On the Future of Christianity, Zenit News Agency, October 1, 2001; www.thecrossroadsinitiative.com

This "healthy realism" was expressed most vividly just weeks before he was elected Pope when—using our Titanic reference again—he said the Catholic Church is like…

…a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. —Cardinal Ratzinger, March 24, 2005, Good Friday meditation on the Third Fall of Christ

However, we know in the end that the boat does not sink. That the "gates of hell will not prevail against it." [1]Matt 16:18 And yet, this does not mean that the Church will not experience suffering, persecution, scandal, and ultimately…

…a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. —Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 675

Thus, the mission of the Holy Father (and so in many ways my own) has been to throw "lifejackets" (the truth) to those on board, to reach out to those who have fallen into the water (message of mercy), and to help into the "Life-boat" (the Great Ark) as many souls as possible. But here is a crucial point: why would others put on a lifejacket or step into a lifeboat if they are convinced that not only is the ship not sinking, but that the deck chairs would look much better facing the pool?

It is clear, as we briefly examine the words of the Holy Father, that there is a serious crisis throughout vast portions of the Church and broader society itself, and many do not yet realize it. And not only the Church, but the great vessel of humanity itself is "taking in water on every side." We are now in a state of emergency

 

SAYING IT LIKE IT IS

Here, then, is a synopsis of the Holy Father’s description, in his words, of this "state of emergency." Hang on for some "healthy realism"—this is not for the faint of heart…

Following his predecessor’s lead, Pope Benedict warned that there is a "growing dictatorship of relativism" in which the "final measure of all things [is] nothing but the self and its appetites." [2]Cardinal Ratzinger, Opening Homily at Conclave, April 18th, 2004 This moral relativism, he warned, is resulting in "a dissolution of the image of man, with extremely grave consequences." [3]Cardinal Ratzinger in a speech on European identity, May, 14, 2005, Rome The reason, he explained clearly to the world’s bishops in 2009, is that ‘in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel.’ He went on to say, ‘The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.’ [4]Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 10, 2009; Catholic Online

Among these destructive effects is the new potential for man to obliterate himse
lf: "Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword [of the vision of Fatima]."  [5]Cardinal Ratzinger, The Message of Fatima, from the Vatican’s website Last year, he lamented this danger in a homily while in Spain: "Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end…" [6]Homily, Esplanade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima, May 13th, 2010 In his encyclical on hope, Pope Benedict warned that, ‘If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man’s ethical formation, in man’s inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.’ [7]Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, n. 22 In fact, he pointed out in his first encyclical—in a direct reference to a rising godless new world order—that ‘without the guidance of charity in truth, this global force could cause unprecedented damage and create new divisions within the human family… humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.’ [8]Caritas in Veritate, n.33, 26 This was essentially an echo of what the Second Vatican Council stated decades earlier: ‘the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming.’ [9]cf. Familiaris Consortio, n. 8 Another terrible destructive effect of the rampant relativism in our times is the rape of the environment.  Pope Benedict warned that technological advancement is a trend that often goes "hand in hand with social and ecological disasters." He continued saying that, "Every government must commit themselves to protecting nature in order to protect "the covenant between humanity and nature, without which the human family risks disappearing." [10]CatholicCulture.org, June 9th, 2011

Again and again, the Holy Father has linked the global crisis to a spiritual crisis, beginning with the Church, beginning with the domestic church, the family. "The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family," said Blessed John Paul II. [11]JOHN PAUL II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 75 Just this past weekend, Pope Benedict sounded the alarm again in this regard: "Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe." [12]Toronto Sun, June 5th, 2011, Zagreb, Croatia The very heart of the crisis goes back to the heart of the Gospel: a need to repent and believe again in the Good News. In a rather startling warning at the beginning of his papacy, Benedict sent notice: "The threat of judgment also concerns us, the Church in Europe, Europe and the West in general… the Lord is also crying out to our ears… “If you do not repent I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Light can also be taken away from us and we do well to let this warning ring out with its full seriousness in our hearts, while crying to the Lord: “Help us to repent!" [13]Opening Homily, Synod of Bishops, October 2nd, 2005, Rome With that, the Holy Father sharply signaled that the Church and the world are facing a major crisis and that "rearranging the deck chairs" is no longer an option: "No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society." [14]POPE BENEDICT XVI, London, England, September 18th, 2010; Zenit

And thus, at the end of 2010, the Holy Father clearly warned of the dangerous precipice upon which humanity is teetering. Comparing our times to the collapse of the "Roman Empire," the Holy Father pointed out that our day is seeing the collapse of a "moral consensus" upon that which is right and that which is wrong. He went on to say that "To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake." [15]POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010

 

HEALTHY REALISM

There are many other things the Holy Father has said, quoted here in meditation after meditation, but the above frames the picture that has been painted by several popes over the past two centuries. It’s just that this generation in particular has arrived at a crucial moment: the very future of the world is at stake. Does this sound rather doom and gloomy? Is the Holy Father, then, a "Fundamentalist Catholic"? Or is he speaking prophetically to the world and the Church? I suppose one could be accused of only taking the negative comments from the Pope and highlighting them in my writings. And yet, how does one simply gloss over such warnings as we’ve just read? These are not insignificant comments when "the very future of the world is at stake."

One could summarize all of the above in the simple phrase of St. Paul:

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:17)

That is, Jesus, through His life, death, and Resurrection, is the "glue" that holds the world together, that prevents sin from bringing about its wages, which is utter destruction—death. [16]Cf. Rom 6:23 Thus, the more we take Christ out of our families, institutions, cities, and nations, the more chaos takes His place. And thus I hope it is understood by my reader who is perhaps new to this website, that the mission here is precisely to prepare others by first waking them up to the times we are living in. Alas, the problem is that many simply don’t want to be woken up, or they find that the message of this website is too "hard," too "negative," too "dark and gloomy."

It’s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil… the disciples’ sleepiness is not a problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, ‘the sleepiness’ is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into his Passion.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Catholic News Agency, Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011, General Audience

Such dispositions, he added, can lead to "a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil."

But let me also note that the nearly 700 writings on this website also deal with the tremendous hope in our times. From God’s love and forgiveness, to the Early Church Father’s vision of a time
of rest and restoration for the Church, to the comforting words of Our Mother and the message of Divine Mercy: hope is the essential theme here. In fact, I even began a webcast called Embracing Hope to put the said crisis in the context of our personal response to God—a response of hope and trust.

Pope Benedict assures us that the "triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary," and thus the Church, is going to come. [17]cf. Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 166 Evil and disaster are not the last word. But we are truly blind or asleep if we fail to notice the flood of apostasy pouring through the portals of the Church and rising like a tsunami throughout the world. The Titanic is going down, that is, the Church as we know it. For a time, she will subsist in smaller, more humble Life-Boats—scattered faith communities. And that is not necessarily "bad" news.

The Church will be reduced in its dimensions, it will be necessary to start again. However, from this test a Church would emerge that will have been strengthened by the process of simplification it experienced, by its renewed capacity to look within itself… We must take note, with simplicity and realism. The mass Church may be something lovely, but it is not necessarily the Church’s only way of being. . —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), God and the World, 2001; Interview with Peter Seewald; On the Future of Christianity, Zenit News Agency, October 1, 2001; thecrossroadsinitiative.com

If preparing others for this "test" makes me "negative," then I am negative; if repeating these things often is "dark and gloomy," then so be it; and if warning others of this present and coming crisis and triumph makes me a "Fundamentalist Catholic," then so I am. Because it’s not about me (God made this very clear when this writing apostolate began); it’s about the salvation of souls floating in the mirky waters of relativism… or asleep on the deck chairs of the Barque of Peter. Time is short (whatever that means), and I will continue to shout as long as the Lord compels me—no matter what label that puts me under.

At this point, however, we ask ourselves: "But is there no promise, no word of comfort… Is the threat the last word?" No! There is a promise, and this is the last, the essential word: …"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly" (Jn 15: 5). With these words of the Lord, John illustrates for us the final, true outcome of the history of God’s vineyard. God does not fail. In the end he wins, love wins. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Opening Homily, Synod of Bishops, October 2nd, 2005, Rome.

 

EPILOGUE: A NOTE ON THE PRESENT TIMES

It is easy to see why some would begin to doubt the urgency of the Holy Father’s statements. After all, we get up in the morning, we go to work, we eat our meals… everything goes on as usual. And at this time of the year in the northern hemisphere, the grass, trees, and flowers have all sprung to life, and one can easily look around and say, "Ah, creation is good!" And it is! It is wonderful! It is a "second Gospel" said Aquinas.

And yet, it is not all wonderful. Aside from the spiritual crisis described by the Holy Father, there is a massive food crisis looming over the entire globe. And while Westerners may be enjoying relative peace and prosperity at this moment, the same cannot be said for billions throughout the world. While we seek the latest smartphone, millions today are still looking for their first meal. The lack of basic necessities and freedoms can throw entire nations into revolution, and thus, we are seeing the first convulsions of a Global Revolution.

…the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate, Encyclical, n. 27

How, one might ask, will the Church be "reduced," "scattered," and forced to "begin again?" Persecution is the crucible that purifies the Bride of Christ. But what we are speaking of here is on a global scale. How could such a universal persecution take place? Through a universal system. That is, a New World Order that has no room for Christianity. But how can such a ‘global force’ come about? We are already witnessing its beginnings.

I shared here the seemingly "prophetic" words that came to me in prayer at the start of 2008:

This is the Year of The Unfolding

Those were followed in the spring by the words:

Very quickly now.

The sense was that events around the world were going to unfold very rapidly. I saw in my heart three "orders" collapse, one upon the other like dominoes:

The economy, then the social, then the political order.

From this, would rise a New World Order. Then in October of that year, I sensed the Lord say:

 My son, prepare for the trials which now begin.

As we know now, the "economic bubble" burst, and according to many economists, the worst is yet to come. These are headlines from just the past week:

We Are on the Verge of a Very Great, Great Depression’

Horrible Economic Data Continues

Fine Line Between Slowdown and Stall

In terms of timelines, no one can say for certain when or even wha
t is coming in the months ahead. But I’ve never been concerned here with dates. The message is simply to "prepare" the heart for the changes that have been forecast by the popes and echoed in the apparitions of the Blessed Mother. That preparation is essentially no different than that which we should be doing daily in a healthy relationship with God: a readiness to meet Him at any moment for one’s own particular judgment. 

Is it fundamentalist or negative to speak of the imminent realities of our times, elucidated by the Holy Father?

Or could it even be charitable?

 

 

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1. Matt 16:18
2. Cardinal Ratzinger, Opening Homily at Conclave, April 18th, 2004
3. Cardinal Ratzinger in a speech on European identity, May, 14, 2005, Rome
4. Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 10, 2009; Catholic Online
5. Cardinal Ratzinger, The Message of Fatima, from the Vatican’s website
6. Homily, Esplanade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima, May 13th, 2010
7. Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, n. 22
8. Caritas in Veritate, n.33, 26
9. cf. Familiaris Consortio, n. 8
10. CatholicCulture.org, June 9th, 2011
11. JOHN PAUL II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 75
12. Toronto Sun, June 5th, 2011, Zagreb, Croatia
13. Opening Homily, Synod of Bishops, October 2nd, 2005, Rome
14. POPE BENEDICT XVI, London, England, September 18th, 2010; Zenit
15. POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010
16. Cf. Rom 6:23
17. cf. Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, A Conversation with Peter Seewald, p. 166
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