by Fr Richard Heilman | March 5, 2017 7:19 PM
Today, Fr. Dwight Longenecker offered his thoughts (HERE) on whether there already exists a schism in the Church. I agree with Fr. Longenecker, and these are my thoughts …
In an article I wrote, “An Open Letter to All Those Looking to Restore a Sense of the Sacred,” I laid out the conditions of our times and what I believed the answer to be. I believe that underlying it all is a deeper evil, a more ancient and intractable error which gives rise to all the rest. Many have pointed to what is called “Modernism” as the heresy of our times. Modernism, while it takes many forms, is basically a break from or rejection of our past in favor of all things new. And, while it seems Modernism is on the rise, I believe that it, too, is a symptom of this more fundamental threat.
What am I referring to? Something that impacts the very nature of human existence and the opportunity for our salvation. Lacking an official name, I call this, “Stealth Arianism.” Students of history know that the Arian heresy – the worst crisis in the Church before our present age – was rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ was merely a created being, not equal to God the Father. Stealth Arianism follows the same fatal error, but with a twist: while the Arians of the fourth century openly denied Christ’s divinity, today‘s Arians will profess Jesus as God, and yet through their actions deny it. In other words, they don’t even realize they are Arians.
You see, once we diminish the identity of Christ as the Son of God, we are left to view Him as simply a historical figure that was a nice guy, a respectable teacher and a good example for how we are to live. Religion is then reduced to a nice organization that does nice things for people as we seek a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. And this is not only not what He came to give us, but it’s something He made sure to leave no room for.
How do we recognize this pervasive Stealth Arianism? There is a story of two friends – a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister. They stood in the doorway of the priest’s church, staring at the tabernacle in the sanctuary at the other end. The Protestant minister said to his priest friend, “You don’t believe that is God in that tabernacle.” The priest was startled, and said, “What do you mean? Of course I do.” The Protestant minister said, “Listen, if I believed that was God, I would, right here and now, fall prostrate on my face and crawl toward that tabernacle, with tears of joy running down my face … you don’t believe that is God.”
Over the past 50 years, the Stealth Arians have done everything within their power to remove from our lived experience of Catholicism anything that would point to the divinity of Christ, and the supernatural quality of our faith. Much has been stripped from our churches – sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music, and the sacred elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and we are left in the barren desert of the banal.
Moreover, the Stealth Arians have deliberately chosen to keep their teachings muddled, ambiguous and elusive in an effort to increase “pastoral sensitivity” as the highest of all values, which keeps people feeling good about themselves just the way they are – though never challenged to strive for sainthood! But whether confused and uncertain, the faithful are left prone to be conformed to the world.
Did Archbishop Fulton Sheen prophesy about the condition of (many parts of) our Church today?
“[Satan] will set up a counterchurch which will be the ape of the [Catholic] Church … It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content.”
We are living in the days of the Apocalypse, the last days of our era. The two great forces – the Mystical Body of Christ and the Mystical Body of the anti-Christ – are beginning to draw battle lines for the catastrophic contest.
The False prophet will have a religion without a cross. A religion without a world to come. A religion to destroy religions. There will be a counterfeit Church.
Christ’s Church the Catholic Church will be one; and the false Prophet will create the other.
The False Church will be worldly, ecumenical, and global. It will be a loose federation of churches and religions, forming some type of global association.
A world parliament of Churches. It will be emptied of all Divine content, it will be the mystical body of the anti-christ. The Mystical Body on earth today will have its Judas Iscariot, and he will be the false prophet. Satan will recruit him from our Bishops.
The Antichrist will not be so called; otherwise he would have no followers. He will not wear red tights, nor vomit sulphur, nor carry a trident nor wave an arrowed tail as Mephistopheles in Faust. This masquerade has helped the Devil convince men that he does not exist. When no man recognizes, the more power he exercises. God has defined Himself as “I am Who am,” and the Devil as “I am who am not.”
Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find warrant for the popular myth of the Devil as a buffoon who is dressed like the first “red.” Rather is he described as an angel fallen from heaven, as “the Prince of this world,” whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world. His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, then there is no sin; if there is no sin, then there is no judge, and if there is no judgment then evil is good and good is evil. But above all these descriptions, Our Lord tells us that he will be so much like Himself that he would deceive even the elect–and certainly no devil ever seen in picture books could deceive even the elect. How will he come in this new age to win followers to his religion?
The pre-Communist Russian belief is that he will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves …
The third temptation in which Satan asked Christ to adore him and all the kingdoms of the world would be His, will become the temptation to have a new religion without a Cross, a liturgy without a world to come, a religion to destroy a religion, or a politics which is a religion–one that renders unto Caesar even the things that are God’s.
In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God. Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counterchurch which will be the ape of the Church, because he, the Devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ …
But the twentieth century will join the counterchurch because it claims to be infallible when its visible head speaks ex cathedra from Moscow on the subject of economics and politics, and as chief shepherd of world communism.
(Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West [Bobbs-Merril Company, Indianapolis, 1948], pp. 24-25)
This “counterchurch” is emerging, and this is our Lepanto. In 1571, Pope St. Pius V called upon the world to turn back the forces looking to “deal the last blow.”
In 1571, this Holy League was a collection of the remnant forces of Christianity who, miraculously, defeated a much larger force, looking to deal the last blow to Christianity, in the famous “Battle of Lepanto” on October 7, 1571. In our times, this is spiritual warfare. The devil is gaining immense ground with his forces of secularism within our Church. Or, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it, a Church “emptied of its divine content.” We must reclaim the surrendered ground of the sacred … the supernatural.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen believed this was the place in which we will win the war: “You will have to fight many battles, but do not worry because in the end you will win the war before the Blessed Sacrament,” and …
Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are proceeded by a personal encounter with Him. Theological insights are gained not only from between two covers of a book, but from two bent knees before an altar. The HOLY HOUR becomes like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world.
Go to Confession frequently – be made pure – and make time to Mary-nate before the Blessed Sacrament.
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