2 Timothy 3:1-9 – You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.”
These verses from the letter of St Paul to his disciple St Timothy describe the moral state of mankind in the last days. We have examined before how the mystery of iniquity exists since the early days of Christianity, how it is made progressively manifest within the Church eventually triggering a worldwide rebellion against God’s paternity. St Paul presents us with a list of vices encompassing all the ugly manifestations of the human character. One can read this passage and not notice that the saint is describing the Christians of the last days, people having all the appearance of godliness who do not let God transform the inner quality of their being: “holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.” We are commanded to avoid the company of those for two reasons: in first place to avoid trouble, to safeguard our homes and our families; in second place to avoid being counted in their rebellion against godly truth. In time “their folly will become plain to everyone” when the son of disobedience is revealed.
I am not going out on a limb by affirming that we are living days like those described by St Paul. The Church is now going through a crisis that is shaking her very structure at the time when the people that inhabit what was once Christendom reflect the abhorrent spiritual qualities listed by St Paul.
Elements of the crisis
The enemy of God is never original. He is unable to create and is limited to a form of grotesque imitation of divine work. Christ sent his Church into the world and taught us that the Church would be known by its unity. The enemy presents us instead with a deceptive unity.
John 17: 20-21 – “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The identity and destiny of the Church is “catholic” that is general, universal, completely united in the same kind of communion manifested by the inner life of the Holy Trinity. In the last days the enemy mocks the catholicity of the true Church presenting the faithful with a false ecumenism. The false spirit of that “counterfeit faith” multiplies the interfaith gestures, ceremonies, liturgical shows of unity, and words of praise for the disobedient and the heretic “holding to the outward form of godliness” but rejecting the doctrinal truth and the sacramental integrity of the Catholic faith.
The false unity leads to the false idea of universal salvation outside the Church in complete opposition to what Holy Tradition has affirmed for twenty centuries. This heretical universalism denies the principle of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Those who failed to obey St Paul’s counsel of “avoid them!” are now seduced into a second circle of error that leads them to a third deadly ring: indifferentism, the heresy that proposes that all religions lead to salvation and it makes no difference, they all lead to God. We have so far three opposite concepts.
- False Ecumenism opposes a Catholic communion in one body, as taught by Christ.
- Universalism opposes a false universal salvation to the salvation of the elect, as taught by Christ.
- Indifferentism teaches that all religions are valid while Christ clearly taught that his followers should be “sanctified with God’s truth” the one and only truth of God.
Those are the cracks mentioned by Pope Paul VI back in 1972: “da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio” that is “the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God through some crack [in the wall]” – a very ominous and quite prophetic observation by the Holy Father. The seducers “made their way into the household” of God and began to hold sway on the weak. The folly of homosexuality growing among the clergy began to spread and now it has “become plain to everyone.”
- Homosexuality and all sexual impurity oppose the courageous purity of the manly Crusader.
The root of those four errors, the center of the circle is ignorance of the justice of God as expressed in the perfect doctrine declared both in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. The works of the enemy of God always begin in darkness. To the powers of darkness we must oppose the light of truth. [Please see the Vortex video below.] Read the advice of St Paul:
2 Timothy 3:12-17 – Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
- Good catechesis is the full light of the Gospel. Bad catechesis is a form of darkness.
All the ills listed above, all the lies and half-truths taught to the faithful in this age of darkness are the result of bad Catholic formation. To that form of darkness we have to oppose a rapid, deep, and precise knowledge of the faith. Who is going to do it? How could it be done?
Our duty as disciples of Christ
The majority of heresies in the history of the Church started among the clergy. It is a sad fact but also a reminder that our clergy are under constant attack. They need our prayers more than anyone because the enemy is still holding on to his old practice of “striking the shepherd to disperse the sheep.” One more encouraging fact of history is that every time the shepherds lost their way, the Catholic flock fought to preserve the faith courageously. This time is not different.
When we travel by airplane we are carefully instructed to grab the oxygen mask and place it on ourselves before attempting to help others. In the same manner we have the awesome responsibility to know the faith well before passing it on to others. How do we learn the faith? How do we learn not only to defend our faith but also to joyously share it with others?
Could it be possible to create an organic program to teach the Catholic faith to everyone? I would like to know your thoughts.
There are about half a million Catholic priests in the world at this time, perhaps a few less. One cannot expect half a million men to properly form two billion baptized Catholics. Do the math.
Most of us never even think about our duty to teach the faith, first to ourselves and then to others but that does not mean that we are exempt. We cannot avoid learning the faith. If we cannot teach to others then we should support someone who does it. Some give by going to the missions, others go by giving to the missions. Pray, think; meditate about these words of Christ.
Matthew 12:30 – “ Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
The whole purpose of Lent is to remind us that one day we will have to give account of our talents: memento mori.
I can only speak for myself and my own experience, but I keep wondering why I never hear the bad news. Only the good news very carefully spoken at homilies in church. Perhaps if the priests would teach that there IS hell and there is a good chance that many of us could go there, we might have the proper fear of God.
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You are right, Abby. If Jesus Himself warned us about the reality of Hell, and told us that many lose their souls and go there … we should at least remind everyone of that dreadful possibility. Better to be scared into Heaven that to happily coast the wide road into perdition.
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Another moving, insightful, and clear essay. I think we may be at a point in time when creating the capacity to evangelise and the systems by which to spread the word is most crucial. I am aware that, almost always these days, I am either preaching to the choir or unable to say something that penetrates the resistance to awareness of those who are comforted by their ignorance.
Might it be that the best way to access the hearts and minds of those who can potentially be brothers and sisters in Christ is to build upon the striking beauty of the church? I often imagine what it might be like for a non-Catholic to go to a novus ordo mass. Often the building itself retains some of the beauty of its origins, even the quaint little country churches. But then the mass itself is folksy in the extreme, and the music, even the Gloria, so pedestrian that the only reason to return would be out of obligation. What is needed, first and foremost, is more Latin.
If the outward beauty of the Church is enhanced, then the ambivalent ones will know where they can go when the fear of the Lord envelopes them, as it eventually must.
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I agree, Castelletto. Beauty is gone from liturgy for the most part — and you haven’t even seen what the great postconciliar brainiacs of Liberation Theology have done to the liturgy all over Latin America. To change that is temporarily out of reach for common Catholics. I believe we will have to concentrate in bringing out the beauty of the “hidden treasures of Christ” that St. Paul talks about in the second chapter of Colossians. Talking about them and their neighbors in Laodicea the Apostle says: “I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Holy Tradition, the Holy Scriptures, and the legacy of the saints and doctors of the Church form an awesome structure full of beauty and truth. Opening the eyes of the faithful to those marvels is priority one. A well formed laity will translate that beauty straight into the Liturgy and into every aspect of the life of the Church. We all have to work to mine the old treasures. There God has kept the materials to build the greatest Renaissance of the Church that lies ahead. The time for reconstruction is coming.
For the past 50+ years, faithful Catholic laity have been unable to reach many of those who have been formed in the heresies carried out by the popes, bishops, and priests. All they see is sacrilege and blasphemy and yet, have been taught these are the true, Catholic faith. We, the faithful laity, if we try to educate those who know nothing of the true faith are called names, even by the pope, and told we are troublemakers, living in the past, and heretics.
One has to know the true faith to teach and defend it. Since the true faith has not been taught in its fullness for the past 50+ years, one has to receive some kind of stirring in the mind, heart or soul to begin to find out what is true and what is false. At this point, all the faithful laity can do is be an example in their life, living the true faith and suffering with grace when they are mocked or persecuted and, of course, pray mightily that God will pierce their heart with a desire to know the Truth.
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Your assessment seems correct to me, Lanie. It is good to remember that the Church is eternal and so is her teaching. “To this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth” and so this is our hour and we should follow Our Lord’s example. Let us live the faith, declare the truth, and in the words of Fr Leonardo Castellani: “make truth” joining Jesus and his apostles in declaring the Gospel even when times are not favorable.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires.…” 2 Timothy 4:2.
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