Each era of history has something of value to help us understand the coherent unity of our Tradition of Faith (both written in Scripture and passed on orally). Likewise, each era has opinions and teachings which are at variance to the ongoing self-understanding of the Church. From the ancient world till today, the Church has had to deal with heresies which initially made sense to a great number of members of the Church. But after careful theological investigation they were found to be inadequate and had to be exposed and condemned, usually by Councils or Papal interventions.
This is the positive effect of heretical opinions. By confronting them head on, the Church is forced to clarify her position.
The modern age has introduced new challenges to our self-understanding of the nature of salvation and what is the required pathway for human beings interested in reaching the beatitude of heaven.
The Second Vatican Council was the most important religious event in the 20 Century. It was called not to combat a specific heresy that had arisen, but to address the modern world in a positive sense and find what is the best way to preach the Gospel in this changed landscape of faith and reason. The image often used is that of throwing open the windows of the Church.
But what came in was not a breeze but a tornado.
In our eagerness to embrace the modern world we forgot the Biblical teaching that the evil one is the prince of this world. This hideous presence is allowed by Almighty God to test us as he tested Job. But because ‘it’ (angels and demons have no gender) was an angel originally, it is a being of very high intelligence and therefore very cunning. It knows us and our weakness and is bent on destroying the life of God in us. It is to ‘its world’ that we opened our windows and what a mess it has been!
For instance, the devolution of sex (I hesitate to give it the name ‘revolution’ since that has gained a sheen of respectability) has coursed through first the cultures that had embraced Christ and then it threatened other religious centers. This devolution of sex ended up degrading the gift of humanity. Our sexual selves were meant by God to procreate humanity and to instill in the family, the permanence and the bounty of God’s love. God gave the human person the dignity of self-development as an act of trust. Once sex had been degraded to a commodity then all hell broke loose – in more ways than one!
Sexuality is a very powerful force, made so by God Himself, the reason being the importance of creating new eternal lives – God’s special mandate to married couples. When that force is misdirected, it is like a Howitzer canon shooting everywhere. Gender issues, diverse sexual attractions, sexual abuse of minors, rape, violence against women, and abortion are just some of the shrapnel from this devolution.
Sexuality is a gift given by God for specific purposes. It was never meant to be used merely for the pleasure it gives. To divorce it from its purpose is to degrade it, not enhance it.
But that was not the only very serious consequence in following the way of the world instead of working with the world to do God’s will.
We have lost our reverence for the sacred. We have lost our sense of sin and its consequences. We have lost our quest for Truth or even our belief that there is Truth. We no longer believe that we will be held accountable for our actions both in the particular and the general Judgement. We no longer believe that hell is a possibility for us and that there is Justice in God, a loving Justice but Justice none the less.
In our misunderstanding of the Council, we have made Man the center of it all and God has been relegated to being our gofer. In many ways Western Culture has gutted the Christian Faith. Is it any wonder that our young men and women can go through years in Catholic Educational Institutions and come out hardened agnostics?
I believe that what Saint Pius X feared, when he defined the new heresy of Modernism, has occurred and that the way back to faith must be through an arduous critique of the modern world and its presuppositions that have the patina and sheen of Christianity but are really a disguised form of paganism.
But, are we ready for a new wave of persecution!