Archbishop identifies ‘five wounds’ afflicting the Church
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June 25, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Archbishop Hector Aguer, former Archbishop of La Plata in Argentina, has offered a meditation on the “five wounds” that are presently affecting the Catholic Church that he has always served and loved on the Spanish website InfoCatolica.com.
Archbishop Aguer, following the example of the Blessed Antonio Rosmini (1789-1855), priest and founder of the Institute of Charity, sought which wounds are affecting the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church, today. At the time of Rosmini’s writing of his book “The Five Wounds of the Holy Church” the text was condemned by the Holy See. It would later be rehabilitated at the same time as Rosmini himself.
Hector Aguer, who was “exiled” from his diocese from one day to the next in order to make way for Pope Francis’ appointee to the see of la Plata, Archbishop Victor Manuel “Tucho Fernandez,” ghostwriter of the most controversial passages of Amoris laetitia, has often been vocal in his condemnation of the culture of death and the distorting of children’s consciences by faulty teaching.
In his most recent column, Aguer named five contemporary “wounds” that are directly affecting the Church and not only the surrounding culture: relativism, the devastation of liturgy, secularization of priestly life and flawed formation in the seminaries, ruin of the Christian family and of the natural family order, and lastly, the de-Christianization of society, which Aguer attributes to the lack of true Christian life on the part of Catholics, “Christians who do not live as such.”
In a secularized culture that is rejecting the Catholic Church, the specificity of Aguer’s point of view lies in the fact that he considers the danger to come mainly from within. This also means that the answer lies within the Church, which needs to heal those wounds in order to play its true role.
Hector Aguer’s conclusion is particularly forthright: “The Catholic absence from those areas where new cultural vigor is emerging leaves the world in the hands of the Father of lies.”
Here below is LifeSite’s translation of the part of Archbishop Aguer’s op-ed in which he describes the contemporary wounds to the Catholic Church.
I venture to present a hypothesis regarding the actualization of the wounds of the Church, those that she suffers in these days; I do so modestly, as an expression of the respect and love that I profess for Catholicism, and of the pain that it causes me to recognize them. These are not my own ideas; many authors with greater wisdom and authority than I have expressed their anxiety, and countless faithful, at times with outbursts of indignation, give their opinion on the ecclesial situation and do not even hide ideological positions. The “social media” constitute a world tribune, a confused areopagus. I will not locate the wounds, as Rosmini did, which one on which hand or which foot, which one on the side. I will only list five evils, about which I have spoken on various occasions, or which have been the subject of my writings.
1. I begin with the wound that I consider the most comprehensive and profound: relativism, an evil with historical roots that spread in the 20th century, permeating the culture, thought and attitude of the multitudes. Relativism has penetrated the Church, and manifests itself in her as doubt, neglect and omission of the doctrine of the faith. One of the main causes has been, in the opinion of many, a biased interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, the denial of its homogeneous continuity with the previous magisterium. The masters of relativism often claim that that great Assembly was a revolution that determined a change of era. From the metaphysical point of view, the relativist position is equivalent to the negation of the Absolute, and is camouflaged in ambiguous propositions. As an attitude of thought it means the abandonment of objective criteria and the primacy of subjectivism. In fact, anyone says what comes to mind, and there is no one to correct it; worse, those who should correct it promote confusion. During the last decades, numerous authors have expressed theological relativism, with the subsequent damage to the formation of priests and in the pastoral orientation of the clergy. Ethical relativism includes the denial of nature, from which objective, universally valid principles of behavior are followed: neither the natural law nor the commandments of God’s law are expressly reminded and urged upon the faithful as a norm of personal life and relationship with others. Sociological reductionism insists on emphasizing the conditioning of epochal factors and cultural validity. The spread of relativism and its current consequences frustrate the intention of Vatican II: “The whole Church must work vigorously in order that men may become capable of rectifying the distortion of the temporal order and directing it to God through Christ” (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7). Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote in his book The Day Is Now Far Spent: “It is decisive that fundamental values should govern the life of societies. Relativism feeds on the negation of values to affirm its deleterious intent.” We have extraordinary resources to overcome the temptation of relativism: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the complete and clear magisterium of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
If relativism is permanently installed in the Church, the world will go to ruin.
2. The devastation of the liturgy. A stern warning from Vatican II was not heeded: “No other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 21§3). It is true that many priests celebrate Mass with dignity and succeed in incorporating the faithful into “a full and active participation” (ibid.). But there is no denying, and I am referring to what happened in Argentina, that the most sacred rite of Catholicism has been widely manipulated, and improvisation, the abolition of beauty – especially in music –, gestures and attitudes such as shouting, applause, dancing, have been imposed, that are completely alien to the sacred nature of the celebration. The sacred is undermined or has disappeared. I myself have heard my fellow bishops say that there is no longer any distinction between the sacred and the profane, and that they were pleased with this development. The one-sided conception of the Mass as a fraternal gathering has obscured its sacrificial nature; one does not see that what unites the faithful is a supernatural reality: the common participation by faith and charity in the Lord's Paschal Sacrifice which becomes sacramentally present in the Church's rite. In some cases the celebration becomes a show or a little party for children; the worship of God disappears, it is only satisfaction, the “feeling good” of those present that is sought. With that decline that I am briefly describing, faith is placed in parentheses and the reference to God is replaced by the centrality and primacy of man. The phenomenology of religion shows the error of such a posture; probably a man of the Stone Age would be scandalized by some Catholic celebrations today; he would not find in them the indispensable reference to “that which is other,” to transcendence, to the world of the gods. The loss of the sense of worship has a cultural effect that is destructive of man's authentic humanity. Cardinal Robert Sarah has written: “The sense of the sacred is at the heart of every human civilization.” I stop here; readers can surely add to the above details their own reflections and experiences.
3. Secularization of priestly life and flawed formation in the seminaries. This has been one of the most striking chapters of the crisis that followed Vatican II. The causes and meaning of that crisis will have to be clarified by historians, but it is not possible to deny that, as Paul VI lamented, “we expected a flourishing spring and a harsh winter came instead.” Jacques Maritain, a great friend of Pope Montini, evokes in The Peasant of the Garonne “the contagious neo-modernist fever, at least in the so-called ‘intellectual’ circles; in comparison, the modernism of Pius X’s time was a modest cold.” He also speaks of “a kind of immanent apostasy that had been in preparation for years, and whose manifestation was accelerated by certain dark expectations of the lower parts of the soul, attributed at times, mendaciously, to the spirit of the Council.” The clergy was particularly affected; thousands of priests abandoned the ministry; a form of “liberation” led many to neglect the spiritual life; numerous were also those who dedicated themselves to social and political “activism”; priestly celibacy, with which noncompliance can be registered with greater or lesser intensity in any epoch, was criticized on principle, and today the campaign to achieve its abolition is growing.
The luminous magisterium of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, which was the cause of a certain recovery, no longer counts for much, and not only regarding celibacy. Experiments in reorganization of the seminaries have proliferated, and agitation and doubts continue. I have noticed that sometimes ridiculous attention is paid to disqualifying and persecuting students in whom an attachment to tradition can be found, such as those who would like to study Latin well and wear a cassock (and some are even forbidden to wear it), but the correctness of the doctrinal, spiritual and cultural formation is not looked after. Study is often opposed to “pastoral care,” and there is a rush of supposedly pastoral experiences for which young people are not prepared, and which lack educational value. How can the Church flourish with the neglect of serious philosophical, theological and spiritual preparation of her future ministers? Humbly, I can display a certain authority on this subject: I was the organizer of a diocesan seminary and its rector for a decade, as well as a professor in the Faculty of Theology, where seminarians from various dioceses studied. During my 20-year archdiocesan ministry, I went to the seminary every Saturday and always spent my vacation with the seminarians. One thing I have learned. Ek toû kósmou ouk eisìn, “they are not of the world” (Jn 17:16), said Jesus of the Apostles in his intimate conversation with the Father. Nor are priests “of the world;” their secularization – worldliness is an open wound in the heart of the Church.
4. Ruin of the Christian family and of the natural family order. Never has the Church had such a wide teaching on conjugal love, marriage and the family as in these last decades. However, the current culture is imposing itself with overwhelming force. The generalization of divorce, favored by the law, has led to many people not getting married, but to live in concubinage, which is no longer frowned upon. Now we do not speak of husband and wife, husband and wife, but of a “partner.” In almost all femicides, the murderer is the boyfriend or ex-boyfriend, the partner or ex-partner. We must also deplore the fact that marriages – when they exist – do not last; the terrible examples of people in “show business,” to which I add sportsmen and politicians, and the media with its continuous hammering, have led to the devaluation of conjugal love and family stability; many children are orphans of living parents, or “single parent” children. Sexual abuse occurs, in eighty percent of the cases, in the family setting, and the culprit is usually the mother’s partner. The sacrament of marriage is not properly appreciated, and the grace that flows from it is not known. Artificial birth control has become a common practice. The encyclical Humanae Vitae was resisted by vast sectors of the Church, and its fiftieth anniversary went unnoticed.
The pastors of the Church do not duly reiterate a teaching that is valuable not only for Christian life, but that has a cultural, social and political dimension. The legal approval of “same-sex marriage” and other iniquitous laws inspired by gender ideology alter the constitution of the family order, and the legalization of abortion is extended. The faithful are subjected to unprecedented pressure. A very serious phenomenon is the imposition by the State of school sex education programs that are contrary to the natural and divine law and that violate the rights of parents. Young people need to be accompanied so that they can recognize the value, beauty and usefulness, both personal and social, of the virtue of chastity, but this does not seem to be a pastoral priority. In Catholic schools, it is very difficult to form young people to these essential realities, and generally families do not collaborate; in many cases, for all that has been said, they are not in a position to do so.
In short, it is an open wound that bleeds abundantly; with this blood the life of society drains away. Is it a wound of society? Certainly, but it is also a wound of the Church. That is the tragedy.
5. The de-Christianization of society. The process thus described is, at the same time, a process of dehumanization. Its cause is, first of all, of an internal, religious nature: Christians who do not live as such; baptized persons who either have not completed Christian Initiation, or after completing the rite of “only communion” do not persevere in sacramental practice. They have not received a formation to the truths of the faith, and have been devoured by the pagan culture. Saint Paul already noticed this problem, for example, in the community of Corinth; he went so far as to say that not even among the pagans were there such grave vices (cf. 1 Cor 5:1; 6:8 ff.). This intrinsic weakness of the Church, the spiritual fall of its members from the level befitting a Christian community, prevents its vital presence in culture and in the structures of society. It makes it impossible for the faithful to shine in it, hos phosteres in kosmos, like lights in the world, as the Apostle himself taught (Phil 2:15). De-Christianization is not identified with the change in the forms of political organization. Leo XIII stated that “The right to rule is not necessarily, however, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form, provided only that it be of a nature of the government, rulers must ever bear in mind that God is the paramount ruler of the world, and must set Him before themselves as their exemplar and law in the administration of the State” (Encyclical Immortale Dei opus, 4).
In that document of 1885, he recalled that “There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel,” and the energy proper to Christian wisdom had permeated the laws, institutions and customs of peoples; it permeated all classes and relations in society.
A homogeneous development of the Church’s Social Doctrine has been observed; the Compendium promulgated by John Paul II in 2004 includes a complaint against secularism, which in democratic societies is “hostile to granting any kind of political or cultural relevance to religious faiths. Such intolerance seeks to exclude the activity of Christians from the social and political spheres because Christians strive to uphold the truths taught by the Church and are obedient to the moral duty to act in accordance with their conscience. These attitudes even go so far, and radically so, as to deny the basis of a natural morality” (No. 572). As this last statement points out, the denial of the higher order of the spirit leads to dehumanization, to the denial of human nature and its demands.
The Church must recover, first of all, from the internal crisis that affects her, in order to become more relevant in the cultural and social order, so that she can help man to orient himself towards his authentic destiny. The Catholic absence from those areas where new cultural vigor is emerging leaves the world in the hands of the Father of lies (cf. Jn 8:44). There is a need for a reaction and a coherent and determined work to forge a counter-culture as a true alternative.