Church Bickering, Heresies and Gratuitous Grace
Because we are all stubborn and in error, but think we are totally right, God gives us Gratuitous Grace from our “enemies” to give us pause and make us think about what we are doing. But are we so self-righteous that we don’t see and respond to God’s gift right in front of us. It is to our benefit to be obedient to God and listen to the words of our enemies. They are most likely the words of God telling us to wake up and change our ways.
Look at King David in the Second Book of Samuel, he is running away from his son, Absalom, who is trying to steal the kingship away from David. As David and his party are fleeing Jerusalem, they come across a man named Shimei, who is from the house of Saul. Shimei continually curses David and throws stones at him. One of David’s men offers to silence the man by taking off his head. But the king replied: “What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Suppose the LORD has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’” (2 Sam 16:10)
It’s not clear what David learned or did as a result of this exchange, but it is clear that David acknowledged that this man’s outburst might be directed by God. Do we acknowledge God’s message in the outbursts of others towards us? Are we being obedient to God? There is such a thing as mutual obedience. Even if you are in charge, you still have things to learn. How do you learn them? Even the supremely intelligent can learn something from their simple brothers and sisters. They just need the humility to listen and respond.
So what about all of the endless bickering that goes on in our Church? Are we being stubborn? Are we not hearing the Word of God in the concerns and complaints of our fellow Catholics? Sadly we debate the changes in the Mass, the effects of Vatican II, as if we are talking about a baseball game. And we shouldn’t. The Mass doesn’t have close calls or three strikes. The Mass is our time in heaven, our face to face time with Jesus! The Mass isn’t a pastime. It’s not a hobby. It’s the source and summit of our lives. Most of us don’t see it that way. Some of us like the Mass this way, and others that way. And so the Mass has become a battle ground between the opinionated casual church goer and the stuck-up, self-righteous traditionalist church goer and everyone in between. What gets lost in this battle is Jesus Himself!
Are we listening to the concerns of our fellow pew sitters or do we think their point of view is irrelevant? Do we think good riddance when they finally walk away from the faith or to another church, thinking that we are purifying our parish to have only “good” Catholics? Wait a minute, isn’t the Catholic Church a hospital for sinners?
One of the big stumbling blocks in this battle field is the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II ruined the Church. Vatican II improved the Church. Vatican II created the clown Mass. Everything was stuffy, Latin shirts before Vatican II. First of all the Church is run by men, fallen men. There are always going to be problems and misconceptions and complaints. But also, the Church has over one billion members in probably every country on the planet. Jesus told His apostles to spread the Gospel to every corner of the world and they have. That gives us a lot of diversity in the Church. She can’t please everybody, everywhere, all the time. She can’t even please everyone in a small town parish. God made us unique. Diversity keeps things interesting. We have to listen to each other’s diverse needs. Some are good, and some are not so good. We need to listen and dialogue and be open to criticism and not get so offended all the time!
We still have the problem of declining Mass attendance. Many say that Vatican II is the bad guy. The Fathers of Vatican II should have just left things alone and we wouldn’t be in the state we are today. Really?
Why did Saint Pope John XXIII call the Second Vatican Council? Did he just want to stir the pot? Probably not. There have been many councils called over the centuries of the Church. Councils are called mainly to address heresies. Ancient councils were called to address the Arian heresy and the Nestorian heresy and so on. So what is a heresy?
From Fr. John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary: In the Roman Catholic Church, heresy has a very specific meaning. Anyone who, after receiving baptism, while remaining nominally a Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith is considered a heretic. Accordingly four elements must be verified to constitute formal heresy; previous valid baptism, which need not have been in the Catholic Church; external profession of still being a Christian, otherwise a person becomes an apostate; outright denial or positive doubt regarding a truth that the Catholic Church has actually proposed as revealed by God; and the disbelief must be morally culpable, where a nominal Christian refuses to accept what he knows is a doctrinal imperative.
So what was the heresy that inspired Vatican II? Actually there were many!
Most people think of the 50’s as sweetness and light, motherhood and apple pie. Then the free love revolution of the 60’s descended upon us and the Church Fathers got the free love itch and called a council to modernize the Church. Um, no.
Let’s look at some of the papal encyclicals that were written prior to Vatican II. You will find much drama and error in the twenty years preceding the Second Vatican Council and see that the writing was on the wall, and the Church had to do something to try to stop the bleeding that had already begun in the pews.
Pope Pius XII, the World War II pope, reigned from March 2, 1939 to October 9, 1958. He issued all of the following documents on the dates shown:
March 12, 1950 – On a Program for Combating Atheistic Propaganda throughout the World (Anni Sacri) says “often the lie is substituted for the truth” indicating that the media and culture are trying to turn people against the Church.
August 12, 1950 – Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine (Humani Generis) speaks on the religion of evolution, depriving souls of the idea of a personal God, and the promotion of materialism.
March 25, 1954 – On Holy Virginity (Sacra Virginitas) speaks on the value of virginity and how those who make a vow of perfect chastity are able to serve God and neighbor more easily.
July 2, 1957 – Against Materialism on the Centenary of the Apparitions at Lourdes (Le Pelerinage De Lourdes) says our materialism and prosperity have blinded us to the ills of the world. We need to heed Our Lady’s appeal: “Penance, penance, penance!” return to the sacraments and pray for sinners. Conversion of the individual is not enough, all of society needs to be renewed.
September 8, 1957 – On the Communications Field: Motion Pictures, Radio, Television (Miranda Prorsus) speaks about the remarkable products of technology, while created by human toil are gifts from God. In and of themselves these gifts can be good, but they can also be misused.
June 29, 1958 – Communism and the Church in China (Ad Apostolorum Principis), where he wrote about the hostilities of Communist China towards the Church and the people of faith.
And so Vatican II gets the blame for the hemorrhaging of the Church, when in fact it might have been too late. The “Spirit of Vatican II” people, the free love infiltration into the Church, took advantage of the timing of the council. They took modernization to the extreme, and the people in the pews were confused. Over time the people began to take sides and now we have a terrible case of “he” said, “she” said. And neither side can nor wants to hear the other side.
We need to stop the infighting! We need to be a little more accommodating to our diversity! And most important we need to evangelize! Very few Catholics have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us see and hear and respond to the Gratuitous Grace that Our Lord bestows on us in our interactions with those on the other side. We are all on the same team! Get the devil out of our dugout!