In the current shifting state of the Catholic Church’s ambiguous disorders, some Catholic families, and individual Catholics too, feel an unmistakable agony over the sad fact (and indeed a psychological fact) that they have few people with whom they can even talk about these matters with a wholehearted candor and in depth. And this form of trial is especially the case if one also wants to take action: to consider a cooperative, engaged and active resistance to some of the things that are unfaithfully now coming out of Rome. In this challenging situation and individual probation of character there often seems to occur a growing “isolation of the human soul” and thus an enervating and dispiriting loneliness. And this trial inclines us to consider afresh the loneliness of Christ Himself, not only in His final Passion, but also in those other portions of His Life amongst us in His own Sensitively Passible Sacred Humanity. Those who fully believe that “the Incarnation happened,” also fittingly affirm that “God has a Human Heart.” And He intimately knows of the agony that we may also now have in our hearts—and also knows if we have it for the right reasons.
After publishing my own Open Letter to Pope Francis—where I expressed my own resistance against the novel ideas coming from Rome concerning marriage and the family—several of our family’s friends called us or came to talk to us in person, telling us about their sense of being lost in the face of a Pope (with a small group of Cardinals surrounding him) who seems to want to change the Unchangeable: to alter Irreformable Moral Doctrines, and maybe even to subvert some defined Dogmas of the Faith. They have come to this conclusion after Pope Francis’ explicit support of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to admit “remarried” couples to Holy Communion,” after the shocking “Mid-term Report” of the Synod of Bishops of last October, which was approved beforehand by the Pope, and by Pope Francis’ own words in the interview with La Naćion (Dec. 2014), where he said that admitting these “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion is not the solution alone, but that they have to be fully integrated in the life of the Church and be able to become God parents and Lectors at Holy Masses.
Nonetheless, some of our other Catholic friends said: “But a Pope cannot do that.” Or: “God will surely not allow it.” After such denials or evasions, another friend told us about her resultant sense of loneliness, since almost none of her Catholic friends wants to face this unsettling situation, and most of them would rather avoid this topic altogether. (Yet, should we not all act, as if the Holy ghost would want to use US as His instrument to prevent such a possible disastrous destruction of the Faith?)
After having sent out to a few friends my own public act of resistance and cri de coeur to the Pope, I felt nearly the same. For, only a few the friends and acquaintances even responded to my letter. And most of the responses commented on my sincerity, not at all on the specific substance of the Letter.
What is troubling in this fact is that there seems to be a certain lack of robust willingness to fight for Christ, and an inclination not to want to resist any equivocal development that comes right out of Rome. It seems to be even more uncomfortable for them to make that further step of resisting a pope directly and forthrightly.
Yes, that is what still troubles me. Where is the sustained outcry from the loyal Catholic world at the gathering onslaught against Christ and His irreformable teaching? Do we not owe Him so much, so sacrificially much, to the extent that we feel obliged to act in concert and intelligently? And are we not even honored to be able to defend Him? As many of us know, the attack on the marriage and the family and the little children is finally an attack on the Divinity of Christ Himself. It is, after all, His Teaching that is regarded now to be out-of-date, too strict, too unrealistic, too inflexible, too uncharitable, even if the advocates of these proposed reforms would not quite put it in that way. But such a disjunctive “evolution of doctrine” is implied.
Finally, indeed, the attack on the Church’s longstanding doctrine on marriage and the family—hence the protection and education of the vulnerable children unto Eternal Life—is an attack on Christ Himself and His Redemptive Mission for our now-possible Salvation under Grace.
To what extent, and how soon, are we going to stand up and defend Him and His Teaching and instructive Example?
While on my walks some ten years ago around the hills and paths of the Swiss Pilgrimage Shrine of the Nativity of Mary at St. Pelagiberg (near Sankt Gallen)—during my gradual conversion to the Catholic Faith—I suddenly discovered the following inscription written in Gothic Script on a Field Cross along the path, and it was beneath the sheltered presentation of Our Lord on His Crucifix:
“This I did for you. And what do you do for me?” (“Das tat ich für dich. Und was tust du für mich?”)
These incisive and very piercing words confused and troubled me at the time – because I did not then yet have our supernatural faith – but, more and more over the years these words have touched my heart; and this inscription, dare I say it?, inspires me now. For, I regard it to be a special time in Church history to be able to be part of a doctrinal and moral struggle that is not only a matter of integrity, but also so fundamentally serious and which goes to the very roots of our Faith.
Many have gone before us and have fought this kind of fight, people with such a fervent love for Christ that it made them wince when they saw His words trampled upon and besmirched and mocked: especially His words about our More Abundant Life, our possible Eternal Salvation, and the Glorified Kingdom of His Father. These fervent and loyal disciples called aloud in manifold ways when Rome appeared to mingle promiscuously with other religions both in prayer and in festive song, as if Our Lord’s words did not matter any more and were not still to be our standard: “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) In their diligence, these loyal disciples of the Lord sat down and wrote studies – just as some courageous and good Cardinals have recently done about the matter of the family and sacramental marriage – in defense of Christ’s Truth and with the intention of helping us to remain in that Truth. And with our Loyal Love.
These Catholics who have gone before us should still be honored by us. They will one day perhaps even be counted among the Saints. For, they were attentively perceptive and woke up early to the subversive disorders in doctrine and the moral order; and they had to face just the same kinds of derision and loneliness that some of us are now more hesitant to face: the isolating loneliness. Loneliness in the battle. Loneliness in the heart. Our questions: Where are those expected and cooperative comrades who still receive daily Our Lord in Holy Communion, who have received His other fortifying Sacraments and have regularly received the Sacrament of Penance and even pray the Rosary every day? When will they also give Him back what is still owed in action and in what Jean Ousset called “doctrinal action”? Lest our inaction become a culpable omission—the sluggishness and inner unrest of spiritual sloth or of passive quietism.
Now is the time to act in certain truly prudent ways—as the first cardinal virtue should teach us—and in a timely and intelligently decisive way, before it is too little too late. The Catholic authorities in Rome must see and feel the ardent earnestness of the Catholic resistance and effective indignation that is loyal to Christ.
“How dare you to want to change God’s Laws!?” some of us might want to vociferate! “Do you think that human nature has changed since God laid down His Laws—His “Manufacturer’s Instructions” to make things work well and better?”
How must Christ Himself have felt when He walked upon this earth, in comparison to what we poor sinners feel in our weakness. He gave so much, all of Himself, and even unto the end. But even before His final and mortal Passion, He healed bodies and souls, He loved the Little Ones, He cried for the death of His friend, he had wonder at the faith and trust of the pagan Centurion, He had pity again and again on the maimed and impurely vulnerable, He instructed and He rebuked, not only the hypocrites and the defiling money-changers and the scandalizers of the Little Ones.
And in the end, in the final test, many still did not understand Him and many even walked away and left him (except, of course, for Our Lady and Saint John and Saint Mary Magdalene and a few other loyal women). He was largely alone. O, how alone must He have felt in His Sacred Humanity, hanging there on the Cross. So derided and so ignored. The preceding Gethsemane trials may even have tempted Him almost utterly, not only by suggesting the futility of His approaching Sacrifice, but also by tempting Him even to abandon His Redemptive Mission that would merit the salvation of man. These are deep and unsearchable mysteries. As G.K. Chesterton even once said: “Man must not tempt God; but God may (and can) tempt God.”
It nearly seems that the same might soon happen with the Passion and Loneliness of His Church – or perhaps, it is already perceptibly happening to His Mystical Body on earth – His Church Militant. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me [My Church]?” (Acts 22:7) Is He already stripped of His garments? Did He already fall for the third time?
Within my own grave limitations of knowledge and understanding, I do not think He is already hanging on the Cross. But perhaps that will come, too, and soon. For sure, Christ is hunted again, even as He was at His birth.
So, therefore, for all of us who sometimes have this agony of loneliness in our struggles to attain and sustain a greater fidelity to Christ, and thus to include the struggle for the conversion and grace-filled salvation of souls – let us more fully try to unite ourselves here with Him and His beloved Mother. Let us unite ourselves with the Loneliness of Christ at the Cross and the Com-Passion of Our Blessed Mother. And, as was the case on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday, when the lights seemed nearly to go out, may we attentively await and robustly trust and hope for His Resurrection in the more abundant Life of Grace of His Militant Mystical Body still supra terram. “What we have is Nature; what we need is Grace.” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J.)
Dr. Maike Hickson