Sacred Authority or Sacrilegious Anarchy
by Donna Steichen
It was Mao-tse Tung who said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun". But such power has
no legitimacy; it lasts only as long as the gun is aimed at the head. For any society to maintain a stable order,
legitimate authority is essential.
The lasting authority of pagan Rome, for example, derived from three sacred elements: (1) a religion of purportedly
divine establishment, (2) rulers invested with authority to interpret the divine will as (3) faithful representatives
of the tradition. The rulers never claimed this authority as their own, but always identified it as that of the
God doubtless willed that foreshadowing in preparation for the Church. When Catholicism replaced Rome's pagan myths
with Christ's revealed truth, her authority too rested on the elements of divine institution, vested authority
and faithfulness to sacred Tradition. Without these roots in the sacred, the Church would lack the Magisterial
authority by which she teaches and rules. This is not a codex made by men of the present era, for the present era,
but a dominion instituted by the Son of God, to represent Him in the world, and faithfully transmit His Revelation
as received. Therefore it is sacred. And therefore it endures.
As to the Church's exercise of that Magisterial authority for the twenty-first century, those who lead her face
only two alternatives: either they can clearly, quickly and courageously reassert her Sacred Authority, or she
will sink further into the swamp of Sacrilegious Anarchy. At present her prospects as an ark look dim to many people.
For three decades, she has been taking on water faster than the orthodox can bail, and it smells of the pestilential
Catholics have lived with mounting chaos as rebels within the Church sought to discredit her authority by repudiating
its essential elements. Their cause is Neo-Modernism, a ferocious revival of the heresy St Pius X condemned in
1907. His firm exercise of Magisterial authority properly reasserted order, put down scandal and safeguarded the
Sacred Deposit of revealed truth. Most Catholic adults living at the time of Vatican II had grown up in the era
of Good Shepherding that followed his action.
Yet Modernism smoldered on underground, especially among Scripture scholars. After the Council, they exploited
a general expectation of change to contest the Church's most basic teachings: denying the objective reality of
Divine Revelation, denying that Christ established the Church, denying the sacredness of her Tradition. Their goal
— to overturn her Magisterial authority -- was fixed from the start.
This century, countless revolutionary movements have promised freedom but delivered tyranny. They have taught us
that it need not take an army, or even massive public support, to seize control of an institution or government
that is psychologically and spiritually irresolute. Revolutionary strategist Nikolai Lenin built his reputation
devising tactics to enable minorities to overturn majority regimes. The method involves planting supporters in
influential positions in the targeted regime --- or subverting those who already hold such positions — in order
to destabilize authority. Seditious ideology planted from within lends the revolution a look of legitimacy.
An illusion of legitimate authority is even more essential when the target is the Church. In Pascendi
(#43), Pope Pius X described the modernist strategy:
…They "seize upon chairs in the seminaries and universities and gradually
make of them chairs of pestilence. From these sacred chairs they scatter, though not always openly, the seeds of
their doctrines; they proclaim their teachings without disguise in congresses; they introduce them and make them
the vogue in social institutions."
We have all seen these tactics employed against the Church. Their success depends on weakness in the authorities.
If rebels underestimate the will, wisdom and courage of legitimate rulers, the coup fails. But if the governors
are timid, apathetic, oblivious — or in sympathy with the rebels — they may not use their authority to defend the
For example, the cultural battle over contraception by Catholics was lost by default on the part of churchmen,
first by delay, and then by concession to human respect. Fear of the climate of opinion in the world, and sympathy
for it among many in church offices, allowed opponents of Humanae Vitae to deal with the press in Rome, and permitted some national episcopal conferences to issue official statements
of dissent without disciplinary consequences. As an immediate consequence, many individual theologians, pastors,
teachers and institutions did the same unofficially. The authorities lost their nerve, and so failed to teach this
most timely document. That breakdown of ecclesial authority proved to be as serious in its consequences as the
Reformation. The ultimate result is that Western society now worships sexual pleasure more than God; much of what
passes for theology today is merely rationalization for license. International Planned Parenthood and other arms
of the abortion industry are treated as major agencies of government, and morally depraved candidates are elected
-- and re-elected -- to high government office.
On the other hand, we often hear that authorities could respond too harshly, provoking public sympathy for the
rebels. That possibility is often cited to explain tepid episcopal responses to mutiny. Whether or not for that
reason, bishops have undeniably shunned strong responses; their excess has been too much restraint. Despite the
Holy Father's tireless restatement of Church doctrine in new documents, despite the paranoid howls of rebel anguish
that greet the mildest hierarchical reproof, little has been done at the episcopal level to halt the chaos and
restore sacred authority.
This failure of authority permitted rebels to gain positions of authority from which to foment sacrilegious anarchy.
They swiftly won the postconciliar battle over catechetics. Daphne McLeod and others from Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
have recalled that catastrophic history for you. Today in the US as in England, Australia, New Zealand and the
nations of Europe, catechesis is in meltdown. Catholics of every age and social category are doctrinally, ecclesially
and morally illiterate. The net effect is a tragic vulnerability to indoctrination in whatever new religion dissidents
may plan to build on the grave of traditional Catholicism. And a false religion -- feminist, spiritually presumptuous,
both homosexually and heterosexually permissive, ecologically pantheist, attuned to the spirit of the age - is
indeed being offered today in place of divinely revealed Catholic truth.
How Did Neo-Modernism Come to Rule Religious Education?
Those who introduced New Catechetics probably had not set out to destroy the faith of Catholics and the moral consensus
of Western civilization. But whatever they intended, destruction was what they achieved. Why didn't they notice
what was happening, and stop it?
Because they did not do so, those church professionals -- religious, clerical and (to a lesser degree) lay -- were
subverted into the Neo-Modernist rebellion in an incredibly brief time, and came to serve as a willing delivery
system taking it to the laity. How were they persuaded to become counter-evangelists?
Most post-conciliar graduate students in religious education were women religious who left parochial teaching to
prepare for new careers directing parish or diocesan catechetical programs. Always docile students, they were easily
subverted by the deconstructionist Scriptural interpretations and anti-dogmatic perspectives of their professors
in university departments of Religious Education. Surely these experts knew more than the simple folk-Catholics
in the pews and the parish houses?
Their faith shattered by Neo-Modernist theories, these students soon embraced revolutionary feminism. Neo-Modernism
is broader than feminism, but feminists are the vanguard of the rebel force comprising most of "Catholic"
academia and the ecclesial bureaucracy. Once they had ceased to believe in Catholicism, they were no longer consecrated
brides of Christ, evangelists for the truth, but merely aging, underpaid, overworked spinsters -- and bitter about
Resentment is at the heart of religious feminism. Its premise holds that God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and
Christianity as belief that we are saved by the Son, the God-Man, is male propaganda invented to oppress women
by depriving them of influence in society. Feminists are bent on destroying patriarchy to do away with its perceived
inequities. Some turned to overt paganism, with its worship of multiple goddesses or a mythological "Great
Mother." Some were so deeply confused that they embraced contradiction, trying to believe in both paganism
and Christianity at once. Others have remained within the Church only in order to subvert believers. They intend
to replace the Catholic faith with a substitute religion.
By 1979, such religious feminists were reading books like The Changing of the Gods: Feminism
and The End of Traditional Religions, where feminist theologian Naomi R. Goldenberg declares:
We women are going to bring an end to God….. Can we predict anything about
the new gods of the new age, except to say there will be many of them?…. those who have already outgrown the father-god
-- the witches, the radical feminists, the modern psychologists….tend to place their gods within themselves ….It
seems highly likely that the West is on the brink of developing a new mysticism: post- Christian, post-Judaic.
Eighteen years after Goldenberg's book, more than 80 percent of all Church employees in the United States are women,
and overwhelmingly feminist, as non-feminists are weeded out in employment interviews. In other countries the same
general pattern prevails. Though ordination remains high on their list of political demands, feminists give little
evidence of belief in Jesus, the authority of the Church, or the efficacy of her Sacraments. They denigrate the
Church, conduct sham "Masses," write books and give television interviews about their blasphemies, while
defying any bishop to excommunicate them.
Sister Sandra Schneiders, I.H.M, professor of New Testament Studies and Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School
of Theology in Berkeley, California, is a feminist radical by any definition. In a 1997 address to the Leadership
Conference of Women Religious she spoke approvingly of their members' mindset. Many of today's shriveling communities
of Catholic nuns look dysfunctional, she conceded, yet they are really being led by the Spirit out of the medieval
worldview of Aristotelian Thomism to the postmodern worldview of chaos theory, where they are now engaged in developing
a "spirituality without religion."
And so they are -- unhappily -- just as Goldenberg predicted they would be.
These are the feminist converts who completed Master's degrees and set about evangelizing for the new belief system.
Dissident theologian Fr. Hans Kung described them in a 1987 address to the neo-Modernist Association for the Rights
of Catholics in the Church. There is, Kung said:
"a network of another kind of church….being formed from below...benignly
tolerated and indirectly supported by many anonymous people at the switching points of the ecclesiastical apparatus."
With clear consciences but foggy intellects , the re-educated religious became just such anonymous supporters.
One pathetic example is Fr. Terry Odien, now a pastor in the Camden, N.J, diocese, who served as a bureaucratic
functionary for thirty-three years: as Camden Diocesan Religious Education Director (1979-1996), as a member of
the Board of Directors of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership (1987-1995), and as president of NCCL
(1993-94). In 1998, at the East Coast Conference on Catechetics, Fr Odien admitted that:
we went "from the Baltimore Catechism to Simon and Garfunkel theology
with scissors and paste and making collages. I mean, its amazing that anyone has any faith after what we've gone
through in the last 33 years. It's unbelievable, when you think about it."
Yet, when asked if he now sees those changes as errors, he paused, then replied:
"No. I wouldn't call it error. To me that means malicious. No one was
malicious. We were trying to make religion appealing, and we didn't know how…..I think some people came out of
that experience OK. I don't think we did any harm."
Once installed in their new positions, these educators looked to a coalition of interlocking professional groups,
official and unofficial, to reinforce their "progressive" new belief system. In the US these range from
the official National Catholic Education Association through unofficial, activist dissident groups like Call To
Action, Women-Church, We Are Church, Women's Ordination Conference (WOC) and Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC).
Orthodox US Catholics know that these groups all network with counterpart organizations in other countries, but
we are stunned to learn that things are even more chaotic elsewhere than at home, that in the UK, for example,
Catholic Women's Network and St Joan's International Alliance are actually listed in the 1999 National
Catholic Directory as Catholic Societies that have "ecclesiastical approval"!
Catholic Women's Network (CWN) was spun-off from the moribund St Joan's International Alliance (SJIA) in 1984,
but the two groups remain close and equally heterodox collaborators. Neo-Modernists everywhere use such spin-offs
to magnify their apparent strength by providing new "fronts" for the same little claque of partisans.
Both CWN and SJIA are officially attached to the Bishops' Conference through membership in the National Board of
Catholic Women (NBCW). At the same time, both are affiliates of the international "We Are Church" movement
through membership in the "Jubilee Group."
Like WOC in the US, both have long advocated women's ordination. Through its journal, Network, CWN has not only
endorsed active homosexuality but actually promoted the notorious, spuriously Catholic abortion lobby, CFFC.
We in the US have much to deplore in Church affairs, but at least neither "We Are Church" nor WOC is
listed in our National Catholic Directory. As for CFFC, it has been explicitly condemned by our National Conference
of Catholic Bishops, and any open or official link with it would be unthinkable.
The activities with which feminist neo-modernists attempt to proselytize for their new religion are often not only
sacrilegious but ludicrous. Though they are ugly and full of malice, we often can't help chuckling over their absurdities.
- In the US, where lunatic feminism has had a long run, PBS television last October filmed "A
Critical Mass," the fourth public feminist "eucharist" celebrated at Oakland's Bishop Begin Plaza,
the site of a former Oakland Cathedral destroyed in a 1989 earthquake. The feminist celebrants came from Sophia
Center, formerly the Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality, which used to be headed by Fr Matthew Fox,
OP. Fox has since become an Episcopalian clergyman, and launched his own "University of Creation Spirituality"
in an Oakland warehouse. The "Critical Mass" event was initiated in 1997, and featured a real but defrocked
priest who was driven from an altar by a bevy of women dancers. They went on to perform a "feminist revisioning"
of the Mass, using dance, symbol, song, and touch to "celebrate and honor women's experience" - that
is, themselves. Ironically, the plaza site was lavishly decorated with yards of fabric once used by the city to
welcome Pope John Paul II.
- Feminist Monika Hellwig, a champion of liberation theology, has left Georgetown University
to serve as executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), an arm of the National
Catholic Education Association (NCEA). ACCU's current aim is to emasculate Ex Corde Ecclesia, the Vatican directive
calling Catholic universities to 'think with the church.'
- Sacrilegious anarchy has secular consequences, too: Wicca devotees, who claim to number 100,000
in North America, are gaining legal standing. Priestesses are admitted as chaplains at some prisons, and Wiccan
gatherings are offered on US Navy ships, along with traditional religious services, by the regular chaplain corps.
A 69-year old Wiccan high priestess has been approved by the Norfolk Circuit Court to perform marriages in Virginia.
- @ In March 1998, officials at the new national museum in Wellington, New Zealand, refused to
remove a statue sculpted by one Tania Kovat, featuring the Virgin Mary draped in a condom. Kovats said her work
was meant to provoke reflection on Church's teaching about contraception.
- In Sydney, Australia, in October, 1998, England's Celia Capstick, former chairwoman of the
NBCW and a participant in its Joint Dialogue Groups of members and bishops, advised the Australian feminist organization,
WATAC (Women in the Australian Church) how to influence bishops on issues of concern to women. Ms. Capstick assured
the Australians that by forming a similar national body, they can achieve more from within the Church than by pressure
from outside. Outlining NBCW's role, successes and problems, she said its board has significantly influenced the
bishops. She also mentioned the "shared spirituality" of women.
- That "shared spirituality," has been described previously in NETWORK, the newsletter
of NBCW member group CWN: a feminist liturgy in which members ritually anointed each other with scented oils, then
paired up for bear-hugging "roly poly sessions" in which they rolled on the floor, giggling and shrieking.
Some of us may question the spiritual nature of such odd activities.
- Women's ordinations in the United Kingdom made international news twice within the past year.
Last September, 67 year old Sr Frances Meigh of Whitby announced that she had been ordained to the priesthood by
Pat Buckley, a suspended Irish priest known for performing marriage ceremonies for divorced Catholics. He was illicitly
ordained a bishop in a so-called "Latin Tridentine Church" by Bishop Michael Cox, a former policeman
who was himself illicitly made bishop by a schismatic Spanish sect. Sr Frances' ordination drew extra media attention
because it coincided with the resignation of a Mill Hill theologian, Fr John Wijngaards, who said he was leaving
the priesthood to set up an Internet website protesting the Church's refusal to ordain women.
- In April this year, Irish pop-star Sinead O'Connor announced that she too had been ordained
a priest by the above-mentioned Bishop Michael Cox. But her gift of IR£150,000 to a center run by Cox precipitated
a schism in the tiny "Latin Tridentine" sect, when Bishop Buckley suggested it smacked of the sin of
simony. O'Connor's ordination is of course neither licit nor valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Fr William
Smith, an orthodox American moral theologian, dismissed concerns about ordained women by commenting, "Nothing
to worry about. Invalid matter. Might as well ordain a rock."
- In Austria last October, 270 delegates from dioceses, church institutions and associations
met with all the Austrian bishops -- except Cardinal Schoenborn, who was providentially ill -- to vote on a slate
of questions virtually recapitulating the standard We Are Church agenda. Among the delegates were WAC leaders Ingrid
Thurner and Thomas Plankensteiner, nominees of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, and another 25 members of the
WAC platform committee. Approved were such items as:
Free choice of birth control methods (by 75%); Communion for divorced and remarried (87%); Diaconate
for women: (79%) Acceptance of homosexuals: (75%. What "acceptance" might mean was not spelled out.)
The event was held in response to a 1995 "People of the Church" (We Are Church) petition that garnered
some 500,000 signatures. The bishops pledged to forward all resolutions to the Holy Father and then, in the words
of one, to "stand with our people."
Obviously, the same problems are manifest worldwide, but the most ridiculous are not the most dangerous. Attempts
to create a substitute Catholicism are not limited to the aging Women-Church dancers at WomenEucharists. The same
ambition burns in the hearts of chancery and parish staff members, and members of bureaucratically-controlled committees,
because most of the feminists in the Church are employed there. It was largely such staff employees who rammed
through the resolutions at the We Are Church "synod" in Austria. The more closely members of the hierarchy
are implicated, the more seriously the Church is threatened.
The Cumulative Effect Illustrated: Apostasy in Rochester
For twenty years, in the diocese of Rochester, NY, Bishop Matthew Clark's permissive episcopal regime fostered
a climate of dissent that led inexorably to the problem of Fr James Callan.
Ordained a priest for Albany, New York, Bishop Clark was spiritual director of the North American College, Rome
until named to the Rochester see in 1979. As bishop he has consistently indulged and encouraged "progressives"
in his diocese and, through conferences and other links, those outside it. In a pastoral letter summing up the
results of a recent lay "synod," he complained:
"Why is it that men and women may publicly read at the sacred liturgy
and may devoutly distribute the Eucharistic species as 'extraordinary ministers' while men alone can be installed
in the official Church ministries of lector and acolyte? Why is the diaconate, called a 'source of all goodness'
and a 'servant of the mysteries of Christ and the Church' (LG 41), reserved to men alone? Why does the magisterium
seem to say that all are called to holiness but only men may symbolize that holiness to the community?"
In the same letter, Clark charged the Vatican with exercising too much authority in the US, asserting that the
principle of subsidiarity requires that local bishops be free to interpret doctrine and moral teachings according
to their sense of the needs of their flock.
In a 1998 address to a conference sponsored by Dignity, a Catholic homosexual group proscribed by the NCCB, Clark
urged homosexual priests and religious to proclaim their sexual orientation publicly.
His diocese held a compulsory conference for parish staffers, where pro-homosexual literature was prominently displayed,
mandated a "day of solidarity with our lesbian, gay, and transgendered sisters and brothers" in every
parish, and hosted the annual convention of National Association of Diocesan Directors of Gay and Lesbian Ministries,
where speakers defended "Church blessings" for homosexual household pairs, adoption of children by homosexual
couples, and a "need" for dissent from Church moral doctrine.
Rochester priest Fr James Callan made his modernist leanings plain from the time of his ordination in 1974. In
his very first homily, he called for women's ordination, and urged everyone present to receive Communion, even
the unbaptized and unbelievers. Yet within two years he was made pastor of the inner city parish of Corpus Christi.
For the next 22 years he was allowed a free hand, while his flamboyantly unorthodox religious practices grew with
his social service ministries.
In 1983, Mary Ramerman joined his heterodox parish and began "ministering to her flock," by preaching
every Sunday, hearing advisory "confessions" and "presiding at Mass" by simulating concelebration:
wearing a stole, she stood beside Fr Jim at the altar and recited the words of institution along with him.
In 1993 Fr Callan began "blessing gay unions."
His confused, uninstructed congregation kept growing, and the bishop did nothing to stop its heterodox practices.
Indeed, according to Callan's defenders, the same supposedly prohibited practices can still be seen in other city
Suddenly, in the fall of 1998, Bishop Clark told Fr Callan that he must begin conforming to Catholic practice:
no more unlimited intercommunion, gay "marriages" or women "concelebrants." When Fr Callan
refused to obey, the bishop surprised him again, with a transfer to a rural parish. Fr Callan's admirers grew more
irate when the new pastor dismissed five insubordinate staff members, as well as Ms Ramerman, who refused to stay
off the altar.
Because it is so inconsistent with Bishop Clark's past behavior, Fr Callan's fans blame the bishop's crackdown
on orders from the Vatican. The Bishop denies that he is obeying such an order. In October, 1998, at a Corpus Christi
parish meeting, Bishop Clark begged for cooperation:
"These [forbidden] practices raised the concern…that the norms of our
church had been set aside and replaced by norms devised by Corpus Christi. I am not asking anyone here tonight
to ignore their conscience, but to accept that there are implications for following one's conscience."
Struggling with his emotions, the bishop said he respects the "beautiful work" of the parish and its
"embracing of issues," but it had simply "gone too far" and must stop "working alone."
"The trend in our church has been more restrictive of late. That would
not be my choice if it were my call alone. But it is not."
Fr Callan refused to remain at his new assignment. Soon, he and Ms Ramerman began concelebrating
a Sunday service for some 600 of his old flock at Downtown United Presbyterian Church. Bishop Clark ordered Callan
to desist, and when he refused again, suspended his priestly faculties.
Callan's breakaway new "Corpus Christi Community" announced it will continue its independent effort to
"obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit." The de facto break is now official, and a defiant new post-Catholic
denomination has been launched.
Black Death or New Springtime?
Thus, as the second Christian millennium ends, Holy Mother Church is in such disorder as to recall
the aftermath of the Black Death — and the primary cause is the persistent failure to exercise legitimate ecclesial
authority. In this state of advanced decay, is reform even possible?
All things are possible with God. As Christians, we can never despair, because Our Savior has proved He can lead
us back from death to new life. With the eyes of Christian hope, we can see green shoots of wheat springing up
even amid the tares. Among the examples:
- Because Fr Callan's new church perfectly embodies the Neo-Modernist vision of social action
without doctrine, based on pity without principle, spirituality without inhibiting religious rules, its potential
for growth could be considerable. The Rochester apostates may well persist in their error, and like-minded others
are apt to follow their path, given that the doctrinal ignorance of the laity leaves them open to the sentimental
appeal of "non-judgmental" compassion.
How could this be good news?
- Sad though it is to contemplate open apostasy, the departure of unbelieving and defiant rebels
is no cause for despair; rather it serves the common good. The Church is always open to repentant sinners, but
those who persist in calling sin "virtue" cut themselves off from the rest of the body. They can do less
harm when clearly identified as apostate, than when permitted to subvert others by calling their positions Catholic.
- Happier causes for hope can be found among the faithful, notably in the growth of home schooling
by parents who are teaching their children - and at the same time, learning for themselves -- the neglected doctrines
of Catholicism. Like the monasteries of an earlier Dark Age, they preserving and passing on the treasure of the
faith. This is an apostolate I support with particular enthusiasm, as all of the school-agers among my nineteen
grandchildren are being home-schooled.
- Even in the secular world, there are signs of change: a rash of recent books by women, being
widely and well reviewed, admit that feminism has robbed women of dignity, leisure and respect for their natural
maternal vocation. They include Carolyn Graglia's, Domestic Tranquillity: A Brief Against Feminism; Wendy Shalit's,
A Return to Modesty, and Danielle Crittenden's, What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us.
- On June 3, 1999, Miss Crittenden was featured in a full-page interview in the London Times.
The attention being given to these writers' opinions indicates that they are not the only women to realize that
feminism led them to accept outrageous exploitation.
- Hope can also be found in the growth of orthodox newer women's orders like Mother Teresa's
Missionaries of Charity, Cardinal O'Connor's Sisters of Life in New York, and Mother Assumpta Long's Sisters of
Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, as well as in such still-sound communities as the Nashville Dominicans, the Alhambra
Carmelites and the New Mexico Poor Clares. Nor should we forget the consecrated lay women of Opus Dei and Regnum
- Vocations are growing among Catholic men, too. A recent cover story in the New York Times Sunday
Magazine focused on the upsurge in vocations to the priesthood that is currently causing crowded conditions in
Catholic seminaries - but only in the orthodox seminaries. Among groups suffering from this exhilarating crisis
are the Legionaries of Christ, as well as orthodox diocesan seminaries like Mount St. Mary in Baltimore and St.
Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia. Also thriving are the traditionalist orders of the Institute of Christ the King,
Sovereign Priest, the new Society of St John, and the Benedictine monks of Fontgambault Abbey, who have just launched
a new community in Oklahoma. In all three, members celebrate only the ancient Tridentine Mass. Another traditionalist
order, the eleven-year old Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, is currently building a nine-million dollar the seminary
in Lincoln, Nebraska, the first new seminary to be erected in the US since the Second Vatican Council.
- Other signs of great hope are the converts who are leaving their academic and pastoral posts
in Protestant churches to enter the Catholic Church. At Franciscan University of Steubenville, one such convert,
Marcus Grodi, has established the "Coming Home Network" to help men and women to make that difficult
transition. These people are making heroic sacrifices for the faith, not only leaving their former church communities
but their lifetime careers as well. There can be no doubt that God is calling them to help restore His suffering
Bride. Men like Scott Hahn and Gerry Matatics, converts from conservative Presbyterianism, are using their knowledge
of Scripture to reach out to uninstructed and spiritually famished young Catholics.
- Three seminarians were recently ordained in Russia, the first Catholic priests to be prepared
and ordained in that country since the revolution. They were formed at the Queen of the Apostles Major Seminary
in St Petersburg, currently the only seminary in the country. Closed in 1917, it was re-opened in 1993 with 12
students. Currently some 50 seminarians are studying there, the great majority of them from atheist or Orthodox
- Nevertheless, Call to Action's latest fund-raising letter tries to stir panic in fellow rebels
by warning that the "progressive" sky is falling. Faithful Catholics were delighted to read its complaints:(a)
that Church authorities are refusing to seek "creative" solutions to the priest shortage, (b) that the
Vatican continues to reject feminist language, and (c) unlikely as it seems, that bishops are cracking down everywhere.
For example, in the face of a lawsuit by a senior male student charging illegal -and ironically
sexist -- discrimination, Jesuit-run Boston College is trying to encourage 70 year old Professor Mary Daly toward
well-paid retirement. Daly, author of such books as The Church and the Second Sex, Beyond God the Father, and Gyn/Ecology,
refused to allow men in her classes, lest their presence unduly influence women students. A Boston court ruled
that the university had the right to dismiss her.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, Cardinal Maida barred a Catholic parish from hosting a Pax Christi conference
on "Voices of Hope: Gays and Lesbians in the Church."
Finally, CTA bleats in shrill protest against the founding of what it calls "a traditionalist Catholic radio
network that spews mortal sin and Letter-of-the-Law lectures." (Presumably CTA means to say the network "spews"
opposition to mortal sin, which is certainly not something one could expect from any CTA venue.) The reality to
which it is referring is Fr Joseph Fessio's splendid National Catholic Radio network, now up and running across
the US, and rapidly adding new stations.
It would appear that the author's memory is beginning to fail; he mourns that the Church seems
to be going back in time to a pre-Vatican II era. Though there seems little prospect of that, other events help
to keep a little flame of hope alive:
- Repentance seems to be rare among feminist religious professionals -- I know few such women,
and they did not return to the faith until after they left their congregations. Yet, between natural attrition
and declarations of open apostasy, Catholic feminism is literally dying off.
Witness May 15 this year, in Boston, when Massachusetts WomenChurch assembled in full force,
with all the allies it could muster, to protest Cardinal Law's ordination of seven priests. The women were irate
not only because none of the ordinands was female, but also because the cardinal recently asked that Catholic institutions
in his Boston archdiocese no longer permit WomenChurch meetings on their premises.
When all their friends had joined the last ten members of Massachusetts Women-Church, the total number of the graying
protesters was estimated at 45. They were met by an equal number of younger Catholic Defense League representatives
who had turned out in spontaneous protest against the WomenChurch demonstration.
Encouraging as this outcome was in terms of numbers and aging, the exercise of authority that provoked it was even
- In another such case, when the Vatican criticized Woman At The Altar, a book by England's Sister
Lavinia Byrne advocating women's ordination, Minnesota's Liturgical Press amazed many observers by dropping it
from their publication list.
- Further, the remarkable Mary Grey is no longer teaching in an even nominally Catholic institution.
- Fr. Raymond Collins, the liberal Biblical scholar who has been Dean of the School of Religious
Studies at Catholic University of America for five years, resigned abruptly in late May. According to rumor, Fr.
David O'Connell, the recently appointed president of Catholic University, had told Collins that he could either
resign or be fired.
Other thrilling instances of episcopal authority asserted have occasionally been spotted in the news:
- On Thursday, September 10, 1998, Bishop Geoffrey Mayne, the Australian military bishop and
pastor of a parish in suburban Canberra, advised parishioner Ann Nugent, a founding member and national executive
of the Ordination of Catholic Women group, that she would not be given Communion by him or by his assistant, Monsignor
Fuller, because of her public advocacy of women's ordination. Bishop Mayne said he was acting as her pastor, in
accord with the Pope's apostolic letter, Ad Tuendam Fidem.
- The Oakland feminists' "Critical Mass" attracted so much media attention that in
March, permissive Oakland Bishop John S. Cummins - who for years tolerated Matthew Fox in public silence -- was
moved to issue an official statement criticizing the event.
- Neo-Modernists who dominate the Australian Church are irate over the frank and accurate Statement
of Conclusions issued jointly by the bishops of the Roman curia and Australian episcopal leaders during their November
Ad Limina visit. Faced by their howling bureaucracies, many bishops began edging away from the document, which
accurately diagnoses the ills of the AustralianChurch. By contrast, Melbourne's valiant Archbishop George Pell
published it with a trenchant cover letter that spoke directly of the national spiritual crisis.
"The Australian temptation is not to crucify Christ, but to trivialize
Him," he said , reminding believers that we are "a single world-wide Church, whose basic teachings were
given by the Son of God… his teachings have a unique authority ….we cannot improve on them…."
Of the trend toward New Age eco-pantheism, Pell said, "Only humans are made in God's image. The Second Person
of the Trinity became a man, not an angel or a cabbage." If anyone can compel the Australian hierarchy to
address their spiritual crisis, Archbishop Pell looks like the man.
Good News From the Catechetical Front
Central to our hope of catechetical restoration is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a Magisterial restatement
of sacred Catholic tradition, produced despite efforts by Neo-Modernist "scholars" to forestall publication
or undercut implementation. Gradually it will move the Church toward genuine catechetical reform. Such reform is
apt to come slowly, because in their abject ignorance, many lay Catholics may be as reluctant to hear the Church's
hard but essential teachings as many religious bureaucrats will be to enunciate them. Remedial Education is needed
all around. But at least in America there are signs that a catechetical revival is beginning.
- At Franciscan University in Steubenville, orthodox Professor Barbara Morgan achieves extraordinary
results as head of the Department of Religious Education. In addition, her popular St John Bosco Catechetical summer
conference instructs working catechists. For her doctoral project for Maryvale in Birmingham, England, she is consulting
with the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, on a 3-year revision of its RCIA program. In the diocese of Sioux Falls,
South Dakota, she guides a catechist certification program. There is a tremendous hunger for truth among deprived
young people, and where they are presented with truth, many respond. Barbara reports:
"I can say that my students…everywhere - all love doctrine! Revelation
from God is heady stuff. It is very interesting. The human mind was made to clamp down on it. They all love it.
And they all want to serve the Church."
Even more encouraging than Professor Morgan's good work is the growing demand for it, and for graduates of the
program, from dioceses around the US.
- The most promising item of all, for its welcome if still tentative assertion of authority in
the field of catechetics, is the NCCB's Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism. It is headed by Archbishop
Daniel Buechlein of Indianapolis, whose straightforward assessments of prevailing doctrinal deficiencies roused
the Bishops Conference to establish the committee.
Working subcommittees actually chaired by bishops review voluntarily submitted catechetical texts
and rate them on conformity to the Catechism. Publishers are not required to submit such texts, nor are dioceses
required to follow them, but this voluntary system is having a dramatic effect among publishers eager for endorsement,
and many dioceses are in fact looking to the ratings as a guide.
As Always, Our Hope is in the Will of Christ.
The authority of the Church rests on its Divine source in Christ, and the faithfulness with which its tradition
has been handed down through her popes and bishops. It is powerful not because it convinces every one who hears
it -- in this fallen world, some hearers' tastes run less to the sacred than to the profane, or more to democratic
consensus than to dogmatic proclamation - but because it is sacred; it speaks and acts for God. Such authority
is an obligation binding those who command as well as those who obey. The Church must exercise her sacred authority
and offer the sheep her patrimony of Divine Revelation, whether or not the world embraces it.
Why would God permit His Church to suffer anarchy? We believe it is in order that she will enunciate needed clarifications
of doctrine. We are in a war for the faith with the powers of darkness, and we long for shepherds to lead us. Until
most bishops begin to teach with the conviction of Archbishops Pell, and Chaput, and Bishop Bruskewitz, and the
intelligent pastoral concern of Archbishop Buechlein, we cannot expect the help we need from that quarter. Still,
we have those noble examples to point to, when we plead with others to exercise their sacred authority.
In any case, Cardinal Ratzinger has said this war isn't going to be won on a canonical front. Rather, it's going
to require prayer and sacrifice, spiritual and intellectual formation. God has put each of us in our places, at
this time, for some reason. To resign ourselves to the current chaos would betray our own sacred obligation to
the faith. We must proclaim the truth in our lives and our words, knowing most people will scorn that truth, but
believing that some will be converted, by grace, through experience and example.
That much we know is God's Will for us. Beyond that, we cannot know, but we can trust Him, who brings good out
Donna Steichen is a Catholic journalist and the author of Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face
of Catholic Women (Ignatius Press, 1991). Her book Prodigal
Daughters: Catholic Women Come Home to the Church, was published by Ignatius Press in
Section Contents Copyright © Donna Steichen 2008
Version: 1st February 2008