The Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ, is besieged by scandal and persecution, along with dwindling numbers and influence, in an increasingly troubled world where gender and morality seem to be in a state of flux and 2+2 may or may not equal 4, depending on the circumstances.
While Jesus said in John’s Gospel “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), far too many people these days, including many in the clergy, seem to respond “Uh.. no…we can do just fine on our own, thank you very much.” Look around: How’s that working out these days?
You might well ask “How did we get into this mess in the first place?!” A new book just came out called Infiltration (available on Amazon and from the publisher) by Dr. Taylor Marshall, a best-selling Catholic author, podcaster, and educator (founder of the New Saint Thomas Institute). In this very readable study, he sheds light on some of the causes of the current confusion and despair for Catholics, and, not coincidentally I would say, for society at large.
Dr. Marshall writes of those forces, including Freemasons (advocates for secularism or what might be called secular humanism) and Modernists that for over a century, as he put it, “infiltrated the Catholic Church in order to change her doctrine, her liturgy, and her mission from something supernatural to something secular.” As a result, many in both the clergy and the laity these days have little or no supernatural faith!
While numerous tradition-minded Catholics blame this all on the liturgical and other “reforms” emerging in the wake of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the seeds for these Modernist changes were planted way before then. Vatican II saw not the birth of Modernism, but rather its coming out party!
So what is Modernism? Pope Pius X called it the “synthesis of all heresies” in his famous encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis in 1907 when he identified this movement by that name. Dr. Marshall lists its fundamental concepts (as the pontiff understood them) as he explains that:
• “The first feature is the critical analysis and rational 'demythologizing' of Sacred Scripture. For Modernists, the Bible is an important collection of legends redacted by powerful people to communicate a message.”
• He continues soon after that: “Modernism rejects anything truly supernatural….. With the Modernist denial of the supernatural, the secular and the political become primary. The concepts of beatitude and salvation are reinterpreted as secular or political goals. This reduces the clergy to political activists and demotes the pope to merely an inspiring ‘coach’ to the secular nations. It is such a separation of Church and state that the Church no longer even has relevance in the public sphere. Religion is private.”
• And further on Dr. Marshall continues: “The tight system of original sin, venial sin, mortal sin, and being forgiven and healed through redemption in Christ is abandoned. Moral relativism is promoted.”
Regarding the first feature mentioned above, have you ever been taught, or otherwise led to believe, any of the following:
• Jesus didn’t really feed the multitudes in the miracle of the loaves and the fishes (the account of which is found in all four Gospels). Everyone brought their own food.
• When we refer to Christ’s resurrection from the dead we’re really speaking of something that occurred in the hearts and minds of his disciples, not an actual event.
• Belief in the devil is a medieval concept. We know now that this was a metaphor for evil at best.
• Jesus performing actual miracles? Well, maybe….maybe not… It depends on which modern scholars you read. You probably should be careful not to take all of that stuff literally in any case!
• The Rosary and other such devotions are kind of quaint, OK, but they are rather outmoded and obsolete for people's spiritual needs today.
• Don’t worry about your Eternal Soul! We’re all going to heaven, or at least most of us, as long as you’re not Hitler or someone like that!
Is it any wonder that we have many lukewarm or fallen away Catholics and that many among the laity and the clergy are lacking supernatural faith, as mentioned earlier?
• That vocations to the priesthood and religious life and church attendance have dropped precipitously over the past few decades?
• That the prevailing wisdom of Catholics that other forms of love and marriage are fine with Jesus besides that stodgy traditional one?
• That sin is not as big a deal as it was made out to be years ago?
• That we are to focus on creating heaven here and now, and not so much on the hereafter?
• That what really counts is how we take care of the poor and respect the environment?
(By the way, I by no means wish to suggest that we shouldn’t take care of the planet, or the poor among us! That is part of the corporal deeds of mercy, after all! But what of their souls as well as their bodies?)
Dr. Marshall takes us through a fascinating history, chapter by chapter, from the mid 19th century to the present, of the conflict between Freemasonry and Modernism on one hand and traditional Catholicism as passed down since Apostolic times.
He points out that the goal of the Alta Vendita, (a branch of Freemasonry) as spelled out around the 1830’s, was not to take the church by storm, but rather to establish a Fifth Column within her of those whose allegiance would be to the false God of nature and human reason, rather than to the true God (Jesus) of great transcendent miracles including His incarnation and resurrection for our salvation!
The papacy would be the ultimate prize, but all this would take time. The main focus was to gradually teach in schools and in seminaries the Freemasonic/Modernist mindset of a church subordinate to the ever changing whims of man, one that would reject the supernatural aspects of church teaching, tradition, and scripture to overshadow Apostolic teachings and doctrines handed down over the centuries.
Dr. Marshall covers the valiant and largely successful efforts by the Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII to sound the alarm to this threat and keep it at bay in the 19th century.
Pope Pius X during his pontificate dug up the secular weeds of naturalism and Modernism, with its appeal to "the evolution of dogma”, by purging the ranks of those sympathetic to this movement. Yet those weeds sprang up again in full force not in the 1960’s but rather earlier, in the '40’s and '50’s. After Vatican II they emerged in full flower (if you can think of weeds in that manner!).
Dr. Marshall names names of those who helped promulgate Modernist ideas at the Council, in the name of opening up the window to let in the fresh air of the the world. They operated under the guise of what was then called the Nouvelle Theologie, and included such theologians as Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Küng, Henri de Lubac, and Yves Congar.
By 1970, following that worldly outreach, the liturgy was stripped of much of its awe and grandeur by a simplified Novus Ordo Mass in the vernacular rather than in Latin, still celebrated today, in an effort to be less “scholastic” and more relevant to Christians of other faiths. It was a people-centered rather than a Christ-centered liturgy.
The priest was no longer facing Jesus in the tabernacle but rather the congregation, and in many churches the tabernacle itself was shunted aside to a remote location off center or even in another room entirely!
Also, during the years that followed many churches removed a number of their sacred mainstays, such as communion rails and special altars and statues
This is not to denigrate those who get value and God’s graces in the Eucharist in Novus Ordo masses, particularly when they are done tastefully and not just like some sort of community gathering with guitars and folksy hymns exclusively. Still, reverence for Christ in His Real Presence in the Eucharist has suffered nonetheless.
As the great 20th Century Philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand put it in 1966, (as quoted in Infiltration) "for the question is whether we better meet Christ in the mass by soaring up to Him, or by dragging Him down into our own pedestrian, workaday world. The innovators would replace holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity”.
All of this Modernist/secular humanist thinking has fostered a relaxation of traditional Catholic mores and teaching, particularly about the nature of sin and the spiritual combat being waged for souls between God and Satan.
Dr. Marshall notes a prime example of this in the 1983 Code of Canon Law which facilitated the opportunities for sexual abuse by the clergy by watering down the specifics and penalties from the previous 1917 Code for such dreadful misconduct.
Now we are experiencing the body blows of more and more discoveries day after day of instances of sexual abuse by priests and prelates either having participated in these heinous actions or having covered them up with full knowledge of what was happening, over the past few decades!
Another pitfall of Modernism is its tendency to have the church strive to be "relevant" and to "keep up with the times". When Catholicism is stripped of its charism, the world winds up setting standards for the church rather than the other way around.
As Dr. Marshall puts it, in such a state of affairs as we have now, “The pope and the cardinals are generally reduced to cheerleaders for globalism, migration, and the redistribution of goods. Catholic morality has declined. Heresy is preached from the pulpit. And once-glorious churches have been renovated to remove statuary from the sanctuary in favor of their bare utility as ‘worship spaces.’”
In such a world the created takes primacy over our Creator (all in the name of “reason” or “science”, of course!) and Mother Earth gets more respect than Mother Mary.
Yet Dr. Marshall is not one to end this work in despair! The gates of Hell will not prevail over Christ’s church after all, as we read in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 16:18).
Marshall is quick to point out that the real enemy we must fight in all this is Satan and his demonic minions. He urges all of us to engage in spiritual combat through "taking up the humble weapons for spiritual battle: the Rosary, the Scapular, prayer, fasting, abstinence from meat, novenas, almsgiving, Advent and Lent, ember days, vigils, First Fridays, First Saturdays, sexual chastity, modesty, regular catechesis [instruction] of children, and rigorous study of the theological sources of our Catholic Faith." In other words, back to basics! Pray above all for God's will to be done, not what we'd like to think is His will.
If all this seems like a quite a tall order, just do what you can with these suggestions. They can help each of us as St. Paul said famously "put on the armor of God" (Eph 6:11) to fight the iniquitous infiltration of our own souls by Satan and his miserable minions.
In Infiltration Dr. Marshall sheds valuable light on the roots of some of Catholicism’s problems in the 21st century, which can help the clergy and laity alike to work on fixing them. Each of us can play a part in turning the Church’s Good Friday into its Easter Sunday!