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Not Quite Party Time

Writing my latest book, Father, Forgive Me, for I Am Frustrated, took longer than I had planned. Assignments in Amman, Nairobi, Khartoum, Jerusalem, and Rome kept my life in turmoil. My laptop computer was stolen at Tel Aphek, Israel, the place where the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites in the days of Samuel the prophet, and that did not help. Moving from Chicago to Dallas, while teaching in San Diego, kept me preoccupied. I do not regret the delays (except for my publishers’ sake). The writing and traveling helped me see that many good things are happening in the Church.

To be sure, many of the problems and abuses I describe in the book still go on, but they do not seem as frequent as they once did. Already, thousands of orthodox and deeply committed clergy, religious, and laity are working steadily for a reform of the Church’s post-conciliar renewal. On the other side, the heterodox are declining in number; they recognize that they are graying and losing energy. I have two analogies for their sad situation.

First, the heterodox are spiritual geldings. They may once have had the faith, but they have removed it from their lives for a pseudo-Catholic Pelagianism by which they try to save themselves. Their theology of God is weak, and their belief in Christ’s divinity and power to save is weaker still. As spiritual geldings, they cannot reproduce: They make neither converts nor vocations. I have yet to meet an atheist who has converted to heterodox Catholicism; why would one bother? The more heterodox a religious order is, the fewer its vocations; many of the “progressive” orders haven’t had a vocation in years. The best the heterodox can do is take those who have the faith and turn them into spiritual geldings, equally unable to reproduce through conversions and vocations.

My second analogy for the present state of the heterodox is a mental picture set in late April, 1945; the scene is a bunker in bombed and smoking Berlin. A madman blames the cowards who do not fight hard enough and barks out orders to counter-attack the Allies so the Reich can be victorious. Surrender would be logical, but it is not considered. Fast-forward to today. In the Church, the heterodox cry out, “The Holy Spirit wants our religious order to die out!” (Yes, some of them actually say that.) “The priesthood in its present shape must come to an end!” “The Church must come to its senses and validate the experience of loving people who are not married but engage in sex!” Their religious orders, parishes, and projects collapse around them, yet it never occurs to the heterodox that the problem might lie in their acceptance of false, uncatholic doctrines and practices. To them, the fault must lie in Rome, the bishops, the Fundamentalists, Opus Dei, Mother Angelica, and the whole host of counter-revolutionaries.

The logical tactic would be surrender: Surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and to his Church, which has withstood persecutions, schisms, heresies, and immorality within. Surrender to the confessional, and give up sinful practices. Surrender to Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and the teaching of the councils and catechisms. Surrender, with arms raised as a sign of the defeat of falsehood and sin, but also as an expression of praise of God. Surrender means sanctity and eternal life.

The slowing down of heterodox movements within the Catholic Church does not mean that we should lower our resistance, nor does it call for an early victory party. Instead, still greater service within the Church is the order of the day because there is hope for still greater victory. The silencing or disappearance of the heterodox is not the goal of the Church. The only goal is the ongoing conversion of heterodox Catholics, inactive Catholics, and committed Catholics, plus all of our separated brothers and sisters and everyone who does not yet believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Until God accomplishes that great task, or until the day we die, the opportunities for mission, service, and evangelism remain open and set before us.

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