How to properly use righteous anger about the Amazon Synod
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November 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — A friend and former student of mine sent an email to me recently that will surely resonate with many who have been dismayed, scandalized, and horrified by the paganism, syncretism, and contempt for the Catholic religion on full display during last month’s Synod in Rome. With his permission, I share below the email and my reply.
Dear Dr. Kwasniewski:
I’m relieved. For some reason, I’m happy that the evil everyone has suspected all along and warned against is finally rearing its head — though it is far nastier than I thought it would be. To me, the disaster of the Amazon Synod has completely and forcefully established the failure of Vatican II, exposed the modernist influence preceding Vatican II, put a floodlight on the abuses of the current and more recent popes, and stripped bare the lukewarm, pathetic, bright-lipstick-wearing-and-hand-sanitizing-before-distributing-communion-in-the-hand kind of Catholicism that has been around since before I was born. Any compromises I was willing to make either with other people or even in myself are totally banished. Here is the polarizing point I’ve been longing for. Do you think it’s appropriate to feel relief along with great sadness?
A different kind of question: Why do you suppose a vague pantheism has gained so much appeal in our times, becoming the most common opponent of Christianity — more popular than atheism, agnosticism, or even downright satanism?
The big question: What do we do? Pray, obviously, and shuck any vestiges of non-traditional Catholicism in our lives. But I kind of want to fight. For some reason, I see this Pachamama demon as an antithesis of the Virgin Mary. Mother Earth vs. Mother Mary, or a generic cult of “fertility” vs. the veneration of the Theotokos. That makes me so angry. It makes me so angry that our pope, our bishops, and our cardinals are disrespecting our Mother so blatantly and viciously. It makes me so angry that I want to take the wooden idols and smash them to pieces before hurling them into the Tiber, this time for good. How can I turn that anger to constructive purposes?
Here was my reply.
You have expressed to perfection the way we are all feeling. It is a worldwide phenomenon, and we can indeed be thankful for the clarity with which the evil of modernism (with all of the other -isms that precede or follow it) is being exposed on the stage of the Vatican. My own “polarizing point” already occurred long ago, when I studied how the Novus Ordo came into existence and how much the tradition of the Church was despised during and after Vatican II. Everything that is happening now is an extrapolation of this fundamental sin against tradition. Once you reject your identity, you can become anything — or nothing.
The reason for pantheism’s appeal is not hard to see: it mingles enough truth in with the falsehood to appeal to the human mind, which has an instinctive apprehension of divinity. Atheism, in that sense, is always artificial and forced; it runs against the grain of our conscience and our experience. But Christian theism is much more radical and demanding than pantheism, because one has to profess one’s faith in a God utterly transcendent and at the same time fearfully intimate (since His immediate presence to all things is caused by His very transcendence). Pantheism lets a person be “cool” with “religious stuff” while keeping the true God at arm’s length. It adds a religious veneer to an essentially secular lifestyle.
Anger always has to be channeled into thoughtful and focused efforts; otherwise, it disperses itself wastefully and harmfully. I have spoken a little bit here about what laity can do, but it boils down to a few things.
1) Don’t give a red cent to any bishop or priest who does not publicly and expressly preach the orthodox Catholic faith and condemn the errors going on in the Church and at the Vatican. Their most basic job, after offering sacrifice, is to preach the truth, in season, out of season, reproving, rebuking, exhorting (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2). If a bishop or priest is not doing this, it’s like a parent who neglects or abuses his children and who therefore deserves to lose their affection, their support, and their collaboration — even if not their prayers for his conversion. If we have any extra money, we should give it to reliable traditional religious orders and apostolates, which are the hope of the future.
2) Pray and fast more seriously. We are doing battle with evil spirits: “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph. 6:12), and about such demons, Our Lord says: “This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mk. 9:28). All of us — myself included! — tend to talk a lot and wring our hands, but when push comes to shove, how often do we sign up for holy hours, or skip meals, or abstain from meat or alcoholic beverages or TV or other creature comforts, or pray 15 decades of the rosary, or get up for an early morning Latin Mass? Like Jesus, of whom Scripture says, “He began to do and to teach” (cf. Acts 1:1), we have to begin with doing.
3) Keep studying the Faith, and know it very well. Only in this way can we marvel at it, give thanks for it, live it, discuss it with others and debate its opponents, and pass it on to the next generation. This is no small thing: there is so much ignorance, error, and wishful thinking out there that an accurate knowledge of the Faith, and especially of the liturgy, is rarely to be met with. Books like Fr. Jackson’s Nothing Superfluous and Mosebach’s Heresy of Formlessness and my Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness; books like the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, the Catechism of Trent, and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma — and I would add Bishop Schneider’s new book, Christus Vincit — these ought to be in front of our eyes for some period of time each day. Extrapolating from this, one could think about starting a book group, or inviting people periodically to one’s home or apartment for readings and discussions. It is the age of the laity: we are the ones doing the heavy lifting at this point in terms of evangelization, catechesis, theology, and liturgical renewal.
4) We should pray about joining ourselves more closely to a traditional community, be it as an oblate of a Benedictine monastery, the Confraternity of St. Peter (Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter), the Society of the Sacred Heart (Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest), or some other, in order to share in the spiritual riches of that community and have a more orderly rule of life to follow.
5) This may seem an odd bit of advice, but it is the advice of many saints: practice giving thanks. Thank God each day for making you a Christian and a Catholic. Thank Him for leading you away from ignorance, error, and sin. Thank Him for giving you a hunger for the truth, a desire for the good, eyes and ears for the beautiful. Thank Him for leading you to Catholic tradition, to a good education, and to good friends. Thank Him for exposing evils and stirring up resistance. Thank Him even for your feelings of anger, sadness, dismay, and perplexity, which keep us from being lukewarm and comfortable. The more we acknowledge and rejoice in His gifts to us, the more we are drawn through the hardships of this time to spiritual and eternal goods that will never fade.
I agree with Roberto de Mattei that we must have, or recover, a “militant conception” of Christian life: we are soldiers fighting for Christ the King, even if all we are doing at the moment is faithfully discharging a desk job. We will not be passive, indifferent, lazy, taking whatever nonsense the hierarchs of the Church decide to dump on us; we will resist, respectfully but firmly, and insist on the true Faith.