|The Church will -- |
through the power of the Holy Spirit!
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The City of God has a problem, a big problem. Many of those charged with protecting and defending the city have gone over to the enemy. Some are active members of the treasonous conspiracy, but others commit treason by their silence and capitulation. They are the “nice guys” who want to be liked and admired. They don’t want anyone rocking the boat by insisting on unpleasant truths and they fear epithets like “rigid” and “medieval.” And so they say and do nothing when the active conspirators within and the enemy without take their jackhammers and wrecking balls to the foundations of the holy city.
In a recent article at The Catholic Thing, Deacon James Toner discussed The Nice Guy Syndrome and raised some provocative points:
This article will focus, not on the “nice guys” of the world who lack the advantage of the fullness of the faith; rather it will look at those within the City of God with the responsibility to teach: the men in Roman collars with multiple letters after their names, the Catholic educators and writers willing to purge the truth from their institutions and works, and the laity in the pew who pick and choose their beliefs in accordance with their pet sins. Not all these “nice guys” are merely silent about the truth. Some actively seek the approval of the world by vigorously defending what’s popular and politically correct. They may even uphold certain teachings of the faith when it is easy and costs nothing. Their silence, however, is deafening when it comes to hard truths that make them targets of criticism and ridicule. These are the “nice guys” committing treason against the City and her ruler, Jesus Christ.
The word treason derives from the Latin “traditionem” meaning to hand over, deliver, or surrender and from the Old French verb “trair” meaning to betray. Under old English law, high treason involved a subject’s betraying his sovereign (in our case Christ Himself) or the state (the City of God). Petit treason involved a subject’s offense against a fellow subject. Today, “nice guys” commit both of these treasons. They violate the two great commandments to love God and neighbor. They undermine the faith and weaken the ability of the City of God to carry out its proper role of bringing the entire world to the service of Christ the King. They also undermine the faith of Catholics.
Let us examine several common spheres of silence that reflect the failure of “nice guys” to defend the faith and rob the Church of her evangelical mission to proclaim the truth and spread it to the ends of the earth: silence in the pulpit about moral evils common among the flock, silence from the hierarchy about syncretism, the belief that all religions are essentially the same and all can lead to salvation, and failure of the laity to defend the faith in the marketplace.
First of all, consider the silence of the clergy to teach the faith clearly and boldly. This problem plagued the Church from its very beginning and often arises from human respect. Peter himself fell victim when he stopped eating with the Gentile converts in order to please the Jewish converts.[ii] St. Paul called him to account and, when the first council met in Jerusalem, the Church spoke clearly about the limited obligations of the Gentiles to follow Mosaic Law. But it took a very UN-silent St. Paul to chastise the pope himself. How many clergy fall into the same trap as the English bishops who chose silence to please a king and avoid martyrdom? And the clergy today do it with much less cause, since they will hardly be executed for making a handful of parishioners angry. The bishop may lose some big contributors, of course, which seems to be an important consideration with nice guys in the chancery.
There are several particularly pernicious areas of silence for which our teaching shepherds are culpable. Humanae Vitae, the encyclical condemning contraception, remains unproclaimed after fifty years. The silence in most dioceses and parishes is deafening. Most clerics never challenge the sins of the flesh common to their flocks: abortion, contraception, pornography, immodesty, etc. Have you ever heard a sermon on the seven deadly sins or the four last things? Hell and damnation are very real, but those words are seldom heard. Instead, the Sunday homily, the major opportunity each week for the clergy to teach doctrine and morality to their parishioners, often has little more substance than a bowl of jello. How many clergy will have to answer to Christ, because they abandoned their flocks to spiritual ignorance?
We should be especially aware of the damage of silence in this anniversary year of Fatima since Our Lady told the three shepherd children that sins of the flesh send most sinners to hell. And certainly the sin of our day is lust. Contraception, pornography, and immodesty give free reign to fornication, adultery, and the perversion of the marriage bed. Contraception often leads to abortion since many couples cite contraceptive failure as the reason they kill their children. According to a 2011 U.K. study by the largest abortion provider in the country, two thirds of women choosing abortion were using contraception when they conceived.[iii] When I was sidewalk counseling, several abortion-minded women told me it wasn’t their fault since they conceived while using birth control. Hence, in their minds, abortion was justified.
And yet the silence about the immorality of these evils continues. Since the publication of Amoris Laetitia it’s been joined by another major assault on the family, the attack on the indissolubility of marriage. Only a handful of clerics joined the Dubia asking Pope Francis for clarification of the document which is being interpreted in some places to allow adulterers and fornicators to receive Communion. The majority of the clergy are taking the role of silent “nice guys” who want to be “pastoral” by not upsetting those living in sin. Add the massive silence on gender ideology and you have a triumvirate of lust treated with silence: contraception, the indissolubility of marriage, and gender ideology.
Many families I know struggle with “gender” issues having a son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, close friend, etc. who identifies as one of the letters in the LGBTQ alphabet. Is this ever addressed from the pulpit except in gay-friendly parishes where clergy affirm it? Silence indicates consent. So it appears that the “nice guys” are willing to accept that the souls in their care can choose their own genders and/or embrace “marriage equality” even when these choices defy reality and lead to spiritual death. Perhaps they sincerely believe it isn’t a problem for their parishioners, but most religious polls show that Catholics are more accepting of same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality than any other group except white mainline Protestants and the unaffiliated.[iv]
Of course, since so many self-identified Catholics don’t believe what the Church teaches, it’s hard to say what the statistics really prove. It is probably more useful to look at beliefs. In a 2014 Pew Religious Landscape study of 35,000 Americans(20.8% were Catholic, but only 58% of the them said religion was “very important.” The survey found that about 19,000 of those interviewed favored same sex marriage while about 14,000 opposed it. The differences among the two groups were not surprising. A lower percentage of gay marriage supporters attended religious services once a week and prayed daily or were even certain that God exists. 76% of those strongly opposed said religion was “very important” in their lives. Only 36% of gay marriage supporters believed religion was important.[v]
But no matter how you look at the statistics, it’s clear that a large number of Catholics do not accept Church teaching on these issues. It is an obligation of charity to preach and teach the truth lest many souls fall into hell as Mary showed the children at Fatima. Silence is a cowardly option. Sadly, it is one commonly found on Catholic college campuses where faithful professors are likely to be persecuted if they break the silence, as happened to Professor Anthony Esolen at Providence in Rhode Island. The Cardinal Newman Society website gives ample testimony to the collapse of Catholic higher education at schools like Notre Dame, Marqhette, Fordham, Boston College (a university but distinguished from Boston University), etc. where LGBTQ events are more prominent than teaching the faith.
What may be an even more dangerous error of the “nice guys,”however, is their focus on a false ecumenism that treats all religions the same and fosters indifferentism, a sin against the First Commandment. Authentic ecumenism works toward the unity desired by Our Lord at the Last Supper when He prayed that “All might be one.”[vi] The Vatican II document on ecumenism makes it clear that:
…our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life - that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it never loses sight of the fact that it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.”[vii]
Our goal in ecumenism, then, should not be to conform Christ’s teachings to the heretical beliefs of those who abandoned the Church. Rather we should encourage our “separated brethren” to return to the fullness of the faith. Watering down doctrines to make them more palatable to non-believers and Protestant Christians is like turning the miraculous wine of Cana back into water. But that’s exactly what the “nice guys” do. In RCIA classes they avoid discussing difficult issues like remarriage after divorce (even more problematic after Amoris Laetitia) and the use of contraception. They often focus exclusively on shared and non-controversial beliefs. They join in ecumenical prayer services that imply a union with mainline Protestants and even non-Christian religions that does not exist. At weddings and funerals they fail to instruct that only Catholics not conscious of grave sin may approach for Communion. Some even invite non-Catholics to receive committing a serious sin of scandal.
Pope Francis’ trip to Lund last Fall to “celebrate” Martin Luther’s revolution was a prime example of the scandal of false ecumenism and it is being imitated by some bishops. In Orlando, for example, Bishop John Noonan held a similar event and, on the Orlando diocesan website, quoted Pope Francis’ statement from the week of Christian Unity last January that “the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her.” That anyone can know the intentions of another is questionable, but one can be especially skeptical after considering Luther’s own statements.
After refusing to reconcile with the Church, Luther responded to the Bull of Excommunication three years after his rebellion by calling the pope the “anti-Christ.” His statements attacking Holy Mother Church and the priesthood caused his contemporary, the bishop-martyr, St. John Fisher, to write, “My God! How can one be calm when one hears such blasphemous lies uttered against the mysteries of Christ? How can one without resentment listen to such outrageous insults hurled against God’s priests? Who can read such blasphemies without weeping from sheer grief if he still retains in his heart even the smallest spark of Christian piety?”[viii] My answer to the saint’s question – the “nice guys.” Ecumenism for the them equals indifferentism. I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay. This is particularly noticeable among those who believe and teach no one needs to convert.
Not so for St. Pope John Paul II who wrote in his encyclical, Ut Unum Sint (That all may be one) “The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, the way, and the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth?”[ix]
Ecumenism will not come about by the friendly indifferentism promoted by “nice guy” clergy with their touchy-feely prayer services ignoring doctrinal differences on major moral issues like abortion and theological issues like the Real Presence. They foster a false ecumenism described by Fr. John Hardon, S.J. who writes, “In large part, and with rare exception, Christian bodies separated from Rome conceive the foundation of religious union more or less independent of doctrinal agreement; or at best, they minimize the agreement and make it subjective. They are less concerned to reunite the churches by their common acceptance of Christian revelation than to merge them at any price, even to eliminating doctrines that are an ‘obstacle’ to uniformity.”[x] Father also warns that this false ecumenism leads many Catholics out of the Church who, with a weak foundation in their own faith, come to think that all faiths are essentially the same. Fr. Hardon concludes writing, “For the Catholic Church only one condition is necessary [for reunion] and only one possible—the acceptance of her teaching and submission to her authority, not because they are hers but because they are divine. Conscious of her possession of revealed truth, she assumes that those who are seeking unity implicitly want, because they need, the unifying principle that only God in His Church can supply.”[xi]
The silence of the English bishops, with the exception of St. John Fisher, allowed the heretic Henry VIII to snatch the authority of the papacy and make himself the head of the Church in England. That entire country, with the exception of a minority of recusants, lost the faith. Today, 500 years later, the silence of most American bishops about the real Martin Luther, a malicious heretic who began by addressing an abuse over indulgences and ended up viciously attacking the priesthood, the Mass, the papacy, and Jesus Christ Himself, is creating a spirit of indifferentism.
Bishop Robert Barron recently called Luther a “mystic of grace.”[xii] What an insult to Jesus Christ. Luther accused our Savior of being a sinner who committed adultery and fornication with the woman at the well and Mary Magdalene.[xiii] Can Bishop Barron be serious? Silence on these facts is part of the false ecumenism that threatens to mislead poorly formed Catholics to accept the idea that all faiths are the same. If Luther is such a hero, why not be Lutheran?
The laity too can fall into the “nice guy” trap. Parents do it when they condone by their silence or even actively affirm their adult children living sinful lifestyles or fail to discipline and train teenagers because they fear their wrath. In the workplace it can be tempting to participate in immoral activities especially in health care where a medical school or nursing program might require a rotation performing or participating in abortions. A psychiatric social worker might be required to affirm gender ideology and pharmacists will almost surely face the problem of being asked to fill prescriptions for drugs that kill babies in the womb. More commonly, the challenge might be the temptation to be silent when work colleagues share dirty jokes around the coffee station or brag about their immoral activities. Going along “for fellowship” is tempting, even for serious Catholics. No one wants to be ridiculed or disliked by his peers. We all want to be accepted and considered “nice guys.”
Being “nice guys” may be the most insidious temptation of our day, leading us to a treasonous betrayal of Christ. Jesus told Pilate He came into the world to “testify to the truth.” We can testify by our actions, but also refuse to testify by our silence. In the Confiteor of the Mass we confess and express sorrow for “what I have done and what I have failed to do.” Silence can be, and often is, a sin.
In May, Cardinal Caffarra, speaking at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum organized by Voice of Family, described the culture of truth and the culture of the lie. Catholics, he said have an obligation to testify to the truth. “Testimony means to say, to speak, to announce openly and publicly. Someone who does not testify in this way is like a soldier who flees at the decisive moment in a battle. We are no longer witnesses, but deserters, if we do not speak openly and publicly.”[xiv] The silence of the “nice guys” is not an option for the Church militant.
Deacon Toner hit the target when he said if being “nice guys” means being wishy-washy about the truth we must be as disagreeable and dyspeptic as possible.” Was he advising unkindness? Of course not! He was using hyperbole to condemn the temptation to value human opinions above the will of God. Toner ended his article quoting a man often called the apostle of common sense, G. K. Chesterton. “how, in your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated….You have a mission of bringing Divine Revelation to bear in the lives of your fellow citizens…. Do not be afraid to proclaim the truth with love…. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: ‘Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.’…and above all pray.”[xv]
[i]Deacon James Toner, The Nice Guy Syndrome, The Catholic Thing, https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2017/05/17/the-nice-guy-syndrome/, May 17, 2017.
[ii] Acts of the Apostles
[iii] Peter Baklinski, Two-thirds of women seeking abortions were using contraception: Britain’s largest abortion provider, LifeSiteNews, February 5, 2014, https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/two-thirds-of-women-seeking-abortions-were-using-contraception-britains-lar.
[iv] Pew Research Center, Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage 2001-2016,
[v] Pew Research Center, Religious Landscape Sudy, 2014, http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/views-about-same-sex-marriage/
[vi] Gospel of John
[vii] Unitatis Redintegratio,
[viii] St. John Fisher, The Defense of the Priesthood, translated by Msgr. P.E. Hallet, published by American Council on Economics and Society, Fraser, Michigan 1996, p.2.
[ix] Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, chapter 18, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint.html
[x] Fr. John Hardon, S.J. Christ to Catholicism, Chapter XI, The Ecumenical Movement, http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Church_Dogma/Church_Dogma_033.htm
[xii]Bishop Robert Barron, Looking at Luther with Fresh Eyes, Catholic World Report, June 13, 2017, http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/06/13/looking-at-luther-with-fresh-eyes/#comment-699
[xiii] Raymond Taouk, Luther, Exposing the Myth, http://catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/protestantism/matluther.htm#_ftn57
[xiv] Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Address to 4th Annual Rome Life Forum, May 19, 2017, http://voiceofthefamily.com/cardinal-caffarra-we-are-no-longer-witnesses-but-deserters-if-we-do-not-speak-openly-and-publicly/
[xv] Cardinal Robert Sarah, Address to the 12 Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, May 17, 2016, https://thewarourtime.com/2016/05/18/his-eminence-cardinal-robert-sarahs-keynote-speech-at-the-12th-annual-national-catholic-prayer-breakfast-tue-may-17-2016/