The Catholic Thing
The Perfect Ecclesial Storm Print E-mail
By Fr. Mark A. Pilon   
Saturday, 23 November 2013

Problems connected with family life have their basic root in the degradation of Catholic moral life since Vatican II. Catholics in large numbers – 80 percent we are told – have been living a contraceptive style of marriage for decades, and that perversion has led (as Paul VI predicted) to a lowering of general morality among married and single Catholics, an explosion of the divorce rate and marital infidelity in general, Catholic majorities approving of abortion and gay marriage, and – the latest phenomenon – addiction to pornography among Catholic boys and men. Radical theologians are already composing and signing petitions asking for a total overhaul of Church teaching on all sexual matters to liberate the Church.

The solution, according to some Church leaders, seems to be to take a more “pastoral” approach to these issues, but not to undertake a moral reform of the Church itself. Now, since Church leaders for decades have been basically silent on issues like contraception, the only more “pastoral” approach one can think of is to invite people not to think that such things are always morally wrong or mortally sinful, and thus not deprive the practitioners of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The pastoral solution to divorce and remarriage has been to open the floodgates of annulments, to the point where it seems anyone can get one, if only he applies. Obviously many people in Germany won’t bother, so the Church leaders in Freiburg decided to invite people in adulterous unions to come home anyway and feel welcome at the Communion line. Rome stepped in to quash that invitation. But the Archbishop of Munich and Freising has declared that this effort is not over as far as the German bishops are concerned, no matter what Rome says!

Now does that archbishop really think that inviting adulterers to Communion will begin to refill empty German churches? Or does he think that softening the teaching on contraception, which will almost certainly guarantee that the 20 percent of Catholics who follow Church teaching on that issue will dwindle to near 0 – is likely to bring droves of German ex-Catholics back to the Communion lines?

Has this man paid no attention to what has happened in the Church of England that has followed such accommodating pastoral solutions since 1930? No, as a cynic I suspect the issue may be well be just monetary, an effort to get more ex-Catholics to check that income-tax box that requires the German government to direct part of the tax to the Catholic Church. Sorry, but that makes more sense to me than a serious hope that such pastoral action will restore the faith of former Catholics.

The Catholic Church in western countries is truly in need of serious moral reformation. The priest pedophilia scandals were signs of the times and they were just a tip of the moral iceberg of clerical moral issues. The Church’s bishops have sedulously covered up the much greater problem of homosexuality in the priesthood, and – in Europe especially – a growing problem of priests having ongoing immoral relationships with women. This might explain why the issue of married priests is on the agenda of some European hierarchies.

The perfect storm upon us is that all this is tied to bad moral teaching, like the notion of a “fundamental option,” which both John Paul II and Benedict tried to overcome. And we’re now at the point of believing in universalism of salvation on both the theoretical and practical level. The corrupting power of the “fundamental option” is that almost no sin can change it, once that option is directed to God. So contraception does not alter my fast track to heaven, nor does abortion, homosexuality, and any perversion you can think of, not even murder, genocide, and so forth. None of these things matters in the end.

And why don’t these things matter? Because, in the end, everyone is going to end up in Heaven anyway since God supposedly only cares about getting us to Heaven. For anyone to be lost would mean that God has failed in love, at least according to one prominent theologian of recent memory, one who was very popular among many conservative Catholics, and especially among the middle-aged members of the German hierarchy and other European hierarchies.

Professor Ralph Martin has recently written Will Many Be Saved?, a splendid book on this topic of universal salvation theology and its negative effects on evangelization, which one can only hope many bishops will read soon. That idea is not only communicated academically, but in many other practical ways as well, like the constant stream of funeral eulogies and homilies that canonize everyone – including very public sinners.

Like the popularized fundamental option approach to moral living, the notion of universal salvation deeply undercuts any real effort at moral reform in the Church. It rather easily convinces people that it really doesn’t matter how one lives, so long as one is kind to others and trusts in a merciful God. The Anglicans have not done very well employing a pastoral approach based on that kind of doctrine.

I am confident that next year’s planned Synod on the Family and Evangelization will avoid such nonsense. Mainly, I suspect, that will be because synods are increasingly made up of bishops from non-European churches who have witnessed the death spiral of the continental churches and the Anglican Church. They seem determined not make the same mistakes. In fact, one good effect of the Synod is already apparent: It has caused some of the Anglophile bishops to show their true colors.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary, a former contributing editor of Triumph magazine, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at 

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Comments (12)Add Comment
written by Jack,CT, November 23, 2013
Fr Pilon,
You truly captured almost it all!
Bravo,well done and I agree with
all you say and worry about.

Well I pray for Pope Francis and
all tha truly "Holy" man and father
has to juggle was well mapped out,
for sure! Thanks-
written by Manfred, November 23, 2013
Thank you for very well researched and very timely column, Fr. Pilon. I especially appreciate your citing Ralph Marin's recent book "Will Many be Saved?" You do elect not to bring in the popular Fr. Robert Barron who disagrees with the CATHOLIC research and findings of Mr. Martin for this has generated a powerful discussion on Hell which is long overdue. While doimg some research on the Kennedys after reading Dr. Royal's column yesterday, I reread the report on the infamous meeting at Hyannisport in 1964, the year Robert Kennedy ran for the Senate from N.Y. The Kennedys and Shrivers were lectured by Robert Drinan, SJ, dean of Boston College Law School who also served many terms as a US congressman, Joseph Fuchs, S.J., Fr. Richard McCormick, Fr. Charles Curran, Giles Milhaven, S.J. on the rationale of how Catholic politicians can be pro-choice on abortion while still maintaining their Catholic beliefs. This occurred nine years before Roe v. Wade and set the stage for Pelosi, Biden, the Cuomos et al.
I believe it was St. Thomas More who wrote What man, when his son asks for bread, gives him a snake? Was it not St John Chrysostom who wrote: The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of (Catholic) bishops?
Thank you for warning the flock to be alert and to not trust many if not most of those in the hierarchy. "Narrow the gate and difficult the road which leads to eternal life, and few their are who find it." That warning comes from Christ Himself.
written by free-at-last, November 23, 2013
I would like address the first part of this post, the part concerning the collapse of sexual mores. I would like to tell how I found freedom from a deep seated addiction to pornography. I will spare you the sordid details but you should know that I was an otherwise faithful catholic who fell into the trap of pornography and other sexual vice. All attempts to rid myself of these evils proved completely futile. I was chained and helpless.

Then I discovered the power of the holy angels to help us in this matter. I began invoking the intercession of our blessed lady under the title of Queen of Angels, asking her to put the angels entrusted to her by our Lord at my disposal; asking, in fact, for her to send me legions of angels. I "made friends" so to speak with the angels, especially Michael, Gabriel and Raphael and my guardian angel. I invited the angels into my home and household asking them to expel from our household ever source of evil and impurity and to protect our household from every foul work of the enemy, from all of his lies and all of his pollutions. I installed an icon of the synaxis of the angels of the angels which depicts the holy archangels gathered around Christ our Lord and an icon of the unburnt bush which depicts, among other things, the angels gathered around our holy mother as a sign of my devotion to the angels and of their being welcome in my household and in my life.

My victory, or rather the angel's victory, over my sexual sins was swift, dramatic and complete. They quickly trampled under their feet the enemy and his temptations and put the gift of chastity easily within my grasps.

I know that this will sound crazy to many with modern temperaments but it absolutely worked for me. Will it work for others? I don't know but I encourage you to try. Our Lord, and Our Lady, are eager and willing to put their angels at our disposal and the angels are eager to help us. If you are struggling with matters of purity I would encourage you to ask them to do this. Ask God to strengthen your guardian angel and ask him to put at your disposal as many angels as you need. We are in a spiritual war. We need the assistance of angelic friends and they are eager to help. We do need to fight this battle alone. We have powerful friends - VERY powerful friends. Ask and you will receive.

I would like to share the concluding prayer from Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours for Sunday.

we beg you to visit this house
and banish from it
all the deadly power of the enemy.
May your holy angels dwell here
to keep us in peace,
and may you blessing be upon us always,

written by Ernest Miller, November 23, 2013
Well done, @free-at-last, well said.

written by Howard Kainz, November 23, 2013
Re: the Hyannisport meeting: I think we have to credit the Kennedys and the Shrivers for at least consulting on this matter of conscience with the priests and theologians. This lessens their culpability, and the "buck" of responsibility stops with their advisors.
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, November 23, 2013
What would round out the picture painted by Fr Pilon of the Modernist Church is an altar just adjacent to the altar of sacrifice that can be used by the Satanists. There, they can sacrifice the living in homage to their god Lucifer.

The whole thing is ghastly. But no less ghastly than when I sat in a counseling session with a bishop of a diocese in the Northeast who came to see me for his depression which did not seem unrelated (given how conscience is supposed to work) to what he told me of his homosexual relationships with a couple of his own priests. It was one of the few times I was speechless; I can just imagine what hearing confessions used to be/is like.
written by Carlos Caso-Rosendi, November 23, 2013
I have seen those efforts "to bring people to the pews" fracas one after the other. Rock music and karaoke failed, so did short homilies by priests wandering about like Phil Donahue wireless microphone in hand, etc.

The Church appears to continue to shed souls and it is likely to do so until we become that "little flock" that Jesus so lovingly talked about. Numbers do not impress Heaven where more angels live than humans ever walked this planet. It is quality what really matters. We have been told many times that many will take the wide path to destruction and few will find the straight and narrow path to salvation. Why are you surprised then if the pews are empty? Why does anyone think that there is "something," some trick of the tale that will bring the 'faithful' back? The majority of Bishops in the last two centuries forgot about forming the character of the youth, teach them the wonders of the true faith, and prepare them for the looming battle with our ancient cunning enemy. And now you are surprised they fall like flies in battle?

Do you want a solution? FALL TO YOUR KNEES, repent for your dereliction of duty, live evangelical lives, inflict yourselves plenty of penance, tell the truth from the pulpit, dare to be martyrs that are witnesses to the extreme fringes of the human condition, kiss the lepers, sell everything you have, give it to the poor and make for yourselves treasures in Heaven, follow Christ all the way to the Cross. Such is the way to exercise spiritual paternity by spreading the seed of the Gospel by being Alter Christus! Do that and see how God opens the flood gates of Heaven and fills your churches and your societies with plenty of good and faithful Catholics until there is no want!
written by ken tremendous, November 23, 2013
I agree that moral reformation is needed. And I agree that birth control has undoubtedly been very bad for sexual mores. But has it caused really adultery and divorce to surge as this piece claims?

I doubt it. Divorce rates have actually declined considerably from what they were in the 70's. Now this is complicated. The surge in divorce rates in the 70s and 80's was no doubt due in part to the rapid attrition of unhappy marriages contracted in the 50's and 60's. Those high rates were probably unsustainable. And without doubt, far fewer people get divorced today because far fewer people bother getting married to begin with.

On the other hand, the marriages that do take place--controlling for education of the spouses--tend to be much more solid than marriages that took place a generation or two ago. A college educated woman married in 1992 was far more likely to still be married 20 years later than her counterpart who got married in 1972.

Is adultery more common now than before, say in the 50's? I very much doubt it. The fact that divorces are much easier to obtain actually raises the cost of adultery dramatically for spouses who cheat. High profile people, say in Congress, were by any account far more adulterous in the 50's and 60's than today, where the wink wink culture pervaded behind the scenes. Men knew their wives would quietly suffer their dalliances and would probably get the short end of the stick should they risk the public scandal of a divorce proceeding. I really think today married men are on a shorter leash. It is hard to know this for sure of course, but there is a lot of anecdata that suggests it.

My advice for those advocating traditional morality.... 1) don't make sweeping assertions about how everything everywhere and in every way is getting worse about marriage and family life, as this will not ring true to much of your intended audience and 2) don't make simplistic arguments that try to offer easy solutions for complex social phenomena. The pill, while very bad for people in general, is not responsible for all that ails American families today. You could take away the pill tomorrow and it would not cause the spring time of family life in America.
written by Sue, November 23, 2013
Ken T, I've got two words to rebut your Pill shilling:

Humanae Vitae

Pope Paul prophesied the bad, bad things that would domino off the Pill and they came true.

And he commanded his bishops and priests to preach it.

And they didn't. And every test-tube orphan, slice-and-diced fetus, starved-to-death euthanasee, lost-orphan-of-divorce, or homosexual couple "plaything"-child is burdened with the curse of that shameful silence.

It may be true that taking away the Pill tomorrow won't help, but that's only because of the Humpti-Dumptiness of the evil, not because the Pill didn't cause it.

In science, the ability to predict the results of an experiment that's never been done before is key to theory validation. Pope Paul slam-dunked this.
written by Manfred, November 23, 2013
Surely you jest Howard. This troupe of dissident priests
( McCormick and Curran) and radical theologians (the rest) did not just drop in. They were invited there to assist Robert to be able to "prove" he was a card carrying, pro-choice Democrat without sullying his Catholic "reputation".
He did not have to run for office. He could have had a career in law. Ted gives it away as he remained a pro abortion, pro same-sex marriage advocate until he died recently. BTW, Drinan kept running and serving in Congress over the stern requests from his ordinary to desist. He stopped when the Vatican finally stepped in. Everyone at the meeting were peas from the same pod. They were Catholics in name only.
written by Thomas J. Hennigan, November 24, 2013
The fundamental problem is not the fact that so many Catholics pay scant attention to the Church's teaching on sexual morality, which certainly is not going to change. The fundametal problem is that there are so many Catholics who are not evangelized. Preaching morality to those who have not made Jesus Christ their true Lord and King. Pope Paul VI described evangelization as: "For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: 'Now I am making the whole of creation new.'" (Rev. 21:5; cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15)". Until Catholics are so evangelized, it seems pretty useless to go on a campaign of preaching of Catholic sexual morality. That is what the New Evangelization is about. It seems tome that Pope Francis has this clear and that he considers the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and all that this implies as the paramount duty of the Church. However, we need to avoid Jansenistic rigorism and remember that God's grace is continually at word in our world, although at times one might not be aware of this.
As for the question whether few or many will be saved, let us recall the answer given by Jesus to this question: Enter by the narrow gate. The narrow gate is the following of him which leads to the cross. The truth is that before his resurrection he could harldy have been considered successful in this preaching; practically all of the apostles abandoned him, one of them betraying him and their leader denying that he even knew him, not before Pilate, or the Chief priests, but before a slave girl. His whole mission seemed to have been a total fiasco, and that was what the two who were on the road to Emaus thought. However, it when all seemed totally lost was when he achived the total victory over sin and death in his resurrection. Likewise, in the history of the Church there have been periods when it seemed that she was about to disappear, such as the time of the Protestant Reformation, or the French Revolution. However, in those dire situations the Church not only didn't disappear, in accordance with Christ's own promise, but began to flourish with an extraordinary number of great saints such as St, Teresa of Ávila, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Charles Borromeo. The list is too long to even mention just a few.
written by Rosemary, November 25, 2013
I think, Howard, that some of those priests and theologians the Kennedys consulted were subsequently silenced by Rome. It appears that the family wished to hear only from those who would agree with their views. Just like in the White House.

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