The modernist trick of undermining faith through “experience”
by Rev. Anthony Cekada
“WHEN I HEAR the word, ‘culture,’ I reach for my revolver.” The idea behind the pithy saying, usually attributed to Nazi Hermann Goering, is that a soothing term often hides a poisonous agenda. So it is with the term “pastoral” used in the context of the post-Vatican II religion.
Every priest, bishop and indeed, pope worthy of his calling, of course, must strive to imitate the solicitude of the Good Shepherd as he goes about the work of teaching, ruling and sanctifying the flock in His Master’s name. But as those of us who lived through the first chaos-filled decades following Vatican II can tell you, “pastoral” on the lips of a modernist had another, more sinister connotation. It was the common code for “promotes the revolution in doctrine and morality.”
And it is this word that we find Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) using in just about every public pronouncement he makes — daily homilies, Angelus messages, talks to priests and bishops, pastoral exhortations, and interviews. Everything and everybody in the post-Vatican II establishment must now must be “pastoral.” Soon, no doubt, someone will feed his statements into a computer and come up with a count for how often this word and related concepts appear.
What is the real message Bergoglio wants to convey by constantly employing the word “pastoral”? And what does it tell us about his long-term program?
1. The Post-Vatican II “Pastoral” Bishop
Since Bergoglio began his priestly work (and seems forever fixated) in the heady post-Vatican II ’60s and ’70s, this is era we must look to for clues about how he understands the descriptive term “pastoral.” And here we encounter the species known as the Vatican II “pastoral” bishop. It existed everywhere in the world. Some prime examples in America were Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (first of Cincinnati, and then Chicago), John Cardinal Dearden (Detroit), Roger Cardinal Mahony (Fresno, Stockton, Los Angeles), Walter “Bucky” Sullivan (Norfolk), Matthew Clark (Rochester), and the recently-retired Howard Hubbard (Albany).
This sort of bishop tolerated every sort of heresy and attack on Catholic moral teaching in his diocese. He let priests engage in sacrilegious (if not insane) liturgical practices. He brought in radical modernist theologians to brainwash priests into accepting the new theology. (New York’s Terence Cardinal Cooke sent every priest in his archdiocese Raymond Brown’s modernist screed Priest and Bishop, an attack against Catholic teaching on apostolic succession.) He allowed every sort of error to be taught in his seminary, which he put in the care of modernists who then systematically expelled any seminarians still adhering to “old Church” notions of faith and morality.
He was a believer in “proportionalist” (=no real rules) moral theology. He promoted, by winks, nudges and silent acquiescence the idea that contraception was not a sin. He assaulted the indissolubility of marriage by installing modernists in his marriage tribunals who handed out phony annulments like party favors on spurious grounds (“immaturity” and “psychic incapacity” were two favorites.)
He created a bloated diocesan lay bureaucracy, staffed by uppity feminists with chips on their (bare) shoulders over patriarchy and “reproductive freedom.” He imposed heretical catechism texts that left generations of children utterly ignorant of the fundamental truths of their faith, and he instituted sex “education” (i.e. initiation) programs that stripped the same children of innocence and any sense of Catholic morality. He looked the other way or to godless psychology when his clergy preyed upon the little ones. At the same time, he ruthlessly persecuted old priests for adhering to the true faith, by driving them into early retirement, supporting parishioners or younger priests who rebelled against them, punishing them with threats of suspension, and in some cases, trying to get them certified as insane.
When conservatives challenged his loyalty to Catholic dogmas and moral principles, the “pastoral” bishop feigned offense and proclaimed himself utterly faithful to church teachings —without, of course, ever being too specific about what these teachings were.
He taught by example — bad example. Everything he did — and more importantly, failed to do — reinforced the idea that Vatican II definitively broke with the past, and that the old beliefs and rules no longer applied.
The “pastoral” bishop did not openly deny traditional Catholic doctrine and morality in words. He didn’t need to. He denied them with his deeds. His actions and inactions spoke far louder and far more eloquently than anything he could have ever said from the pulpit or published in his crypto-Arian diocesan newspaper. His clergy got in line and followed along.
And the “pastoral” bishop’s flock learned the lesson he taught. Fifty years later, the typical American Catholic is utterly ignorant of the most fundamental truths of his faith, which he reduces to good feelings, and a relativist in morality, which he reduces to being “nice,” not “judging” and “following your conscience.”
This, then, is the world Bergoglio, a dyed in the wool member of the post-Vatican generation — perhaps more polyester than wool — summons up when he utters the word “pastoral.”
2. De Mattei’s Warning on Bergoglio’s “Pastoral Revolution”
Naturally, conservatives of the Wanderer and Father “Reading-Francis-through-Benedict” Zuhlsdorf stripe dismiss such notions as exaggeration, leftist/National Catholic “Fishwrap” wishful thinking or even — shock! horror! — sedevacantist propaganda. But some respected voices in the Novus Ordo church, especially in Italy, have figured out Bergoglio’s “pastoral” code, and have started to warn fellow Catholics of the danger it represents.
One example is the well-known Italian author and church historian Roberto de Mattei, who made a considerable reputation for himself by attacking the conclusions of the “School of Bologna,” a group of church historians with a more “progressive” take on Vatican II. De Mattei has already criticized Bergoglio several times, notably his appalling interviews for the atheist Scalfari and the Jesuit publication Civiltá Cattolica this past year. Earlier this month, the Rorate Caeli blog translated and published two lengthy de Mattei articles that dissected Bergoglio’s “pastoral” code. The titles convey his dire message: “Meltdown of the Church” and “The Process that has led us to the New Modernists.” The articles are written in a high-toned style that may make them tough going for the average U.S. reader, but here are some significant points from the first, Meltdown of the Church:
- Vatican II was repeatedly termed a “pastoral” council.
- But on some points, nevertheless, it did in fact want to teach new things.
- Overall these novelties do constitute a true and real magisterium, which was presented as an alternative to the traditional one.
- The innovators expected to reform the whole Church by their praxis or pastoral application of the Council. By doing this, they made it into doctrine.
- This approach is sometimes called “the spirit of the Council” or “the virtual Council,” and its advocates enthusiastically welcomed Francis.
- Benedict XVI’s interpretation (“heremeneutic”) of Vatican II as “continuous” with the past was bound to fail, because this admits that a variety of interpretations were possible.
- So, the virtual Council — what progressives did with it — is just as authentic as what is in the V2 documents themselves.
- Because the language of the Vatican II documents “was deliberately ambiguous and vague,” the progressives interpretation “offered the authentic key to the reading of the final documents.”
- Vatican II represents “a moment of un-doubtable, and in certain terms, apocalyptic historical discontinuity.”
- Bergoglio is not interested in theological discussions, “but in the reality of the facts, and it is in [practice] that he wants to show that he is the true ‘implementer’ of Vatican II… he incarnates the essence of Vatican II.
- “Pastoral revolution” is the primary characteristic of Francis’ pontificate, and “pastoral” is a key word in his ministry.
- The pontificate of Francis is “the most authentically conciliar one, in which praxis is turned into doctrine, and which “attempts to change the image and the reality of the Church.”
- The roots of this “pastoral” approach lie the “new theology” condemned by Pius XII in the 1950s, a theology that reduces faith to nothing more than “religious experience” or “encounter.”
- The consequence of this “pastoral theology of experience” is that “doctrines, rites and the interior life are submitted to a liquifying process so radical and so perfected that you can no longer distinguish between Catholics and non-Catholics.”
- The measure of faith is not “in the doctrine believed [the traditional definition] but in the life and action of the believer,” in which it becomes “religious experience, freed from any objective rule of faith whatsoever.”
Here, then, is the key to decoding what Bergoglio and other modernists like him mean by “pastoral” — through actions, silence or dissimulation one seeks to undermine Catholic dogma and morality by changing men’s experience of them.
Want to dump the dogma of transubstantiation? Say nothing about it from the pulpit, except maybe that it’s an explanation of the Eucharist, abolish Benediction, reduce signs of reverence, promote hand communion, sing songs filled with all sorts of “bread” terms, and hide the tabernacle. Want to change teaching on hell? Never mention it. Want to bless contraception? Never preach against it, remain silent in the confessional if anyone bothers to confess it, talk a lot about the “primacy of conscience” and “mature decisions.”
Change the experience — through action, silence and dissimulation — and the dogma and objective moral principles will follow. That’s the diabolical genius of the modernist method.
3. Papa Gaga and Content-Free “Catholicism”
Modern society rejects dogma and reduces religion to mere personal experience, and this is why it has made Bergoglio a media superstar, if not a supernova. His interviews have already clearly conveyed the idea that he regards doctrine and church law as falling into the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” category, a winning proposition in a secular culture that dismisses differences in faith among various “denominations” as so much hair-splitting. Bergoglio’s exaltation of the individual conscience and his “who am I to judge” remark appeals to a generation of self-absorbed “seekers,” each of whom feels free to fashion his own commandments and call himself “spiritual but not religious.” Advocating material help for the poor is a perfectly acceptable message to preach to modern man, because it can be done without it impinging on either modern man’s vague religious beliefs or his personal moral (i.e., immoral) conduct. Providing sandwiches for the hungry and clean needles for addicts is a lot less taxing than “small minded rules” about tossing out the birth control pills and ditching your third trophy wife.
Bergoglio is adored and idolized not because of what he says, but because of the image he projects and the experience he delivers. In this respect, he is like the pop stars Madonna or Lady Gaga (both grossly immoral apostate Catholics and, not incidentally, products of Bergoglio’s “pastoral” post-Vatican II church). He is an attractive and recognized brand you can endlessly talk about without any impact whatsoever on your day-to-day-existence. The “spiritual insights” of his preaching — sometimes a recycling of various ’60s liberal obsessions — are as trite as a Hallmark card; one fully expects to find him to delivering a homily at Casa S. Marta about caterpillars turning into a butterflies.
For these reasons, there was nothing to prevent Bergoglio from being proclaimed “Person of the Year ,”not only by Time Magazine but also even by a national “gay” publication — the latter fact being proof once again that events in the Novus Ordo are beyond parody.
In sum, Bergoglio’s “pastoral revolution” does exactly what it is intended to: It delivers religious experience without real faith — a content-free “Catholicism,” one that is Catholic in name only.
So when in the coming months and years, you hear from the secular press and the Novus Ordo hierarchy that Papa Gaga’s “pastoral” approach is really reaching people, remember what you should “reach for” yourself…
• • •
Donate for a Christmas Poinsettia Memorial
Help beautify God’s house for the forty days of the Christmas season!