Holy Cross Seminary

The Anti-Cross Council

 

The spirituality of the Cross and the changes wrought in the Catholic Church subsequent to the Second Vatican Council

This is the text of a conference given at Holy Cross Seminary on Saturday September 14, 2002,
feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, patronal feast of Holy Cross Seminary
by former Seminary Rector, Father Peter R. Scott.



            In Roman antiquity Crucifixion was the most cruel, most severe, most terrible, most shameful of all punishments, a torment reserved for slaves and non-Roman citizens who had comment offenses against the public order. In order to add to the disgust with which it was regarded, it was prescribed that the bodies not be removed from the cross, but that they be allowed to be ripped apart by vultures and other birds of prey.

            How could such a horrifying and disreputable symbol become the glorious sign of our Faith, our only Hope, and the banner of our King, as we proclaim it in the Vexilla Regis? By what strange kind of paradox could this sign of a curse have been erected into the glorious throne upon which the King of Heaven Himself desired to enter into His Kingdom? What is the sublime novelty that enabled the mystery of the Cross to bring about the transformation of the world?

 

The mysterious power of the Cross

            Our Lord certainly spoke very explicitly about the Cross. However, it is hardly to be supposed that the Apostles, vying for the highest position as they did, unable to stand faithful at the foot of the Cross during the crucifixion, truly understood the full import of such expressions as: "He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Mt 10: 38) or Our Lord’s assurance that without taking up our Cross we cannot follow him: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me". However, as St. Luke adds, he who does not do so "cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:27). St. Matthew expresses the same astounding reality in slight different words: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake, will find it" (Mt 10:39).

            In fact, it was only the Holy Ghost who could enlighten the Apostles as to the power that the Cross had acquired on Good Friday, when God the Son deigned to shed His divine blood upon the Cross for the Redemption of mankind. It is from the moment of the Passion that this mystery shines forth (fulget Crucis Mysterium), as we sing on Good Friday: "Behold the wood of the Cross, upon which the Saviour of the world hung".

            St. Paul’s extraordinary understanding of this mystery is repeatedly the focus of his Epistles. He explains how the humiliation of the Cross was the necessary means chosen by God to overcome the opposition of the sinners that we are and bring us back to Himself, reconciling "both in one body to God by the Cross, having slain the enmity in himself" (Eph 2:16), "author and finisher of Faith, Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured a Cross, despising shame and sits at the right hand of the throne of God". It was only by emptying and humbling Himself that he would be exalted and win the victory that was His: He "emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to the death on a Cross". (Phil 2:7&8). It is for this reason that he teaches that it is only through the imitation of the lowliness of Our Savior’s humiliated state, i.e. through the mystery of the Cross, that eternal salvation and the gates of heaven will be opened wide to us, for thus He will "refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory" (Phil 3:21). Thus he has no hesitation whatsoever at condemning those who refuse this mystery, who "are enemies of the Cross of Christ" and proclaiming their eternal damnation: "Their end is ruin, their god is the belly, their glory is in their shame, they mind the things of earth" (Phil 3:18 & 19).

            Hence the universality and obligatory nature of devotion to the Holy Cross among Catholics, truly the sign of the Son of man by the love of which the elect will be recognized on the last day. The vision of Constantine the Great – "In hoc signo vinces - In this sign you will vanquish" - his subsequent victory over Maxentius, the first display of the sign of the Cross on his labarum, and the subsequent discovery of the true Cross by his mother, St. Helen in 326, simply furthered the recognition of this most profound and simple truth of our Catholic Faith. This appreciation of the Cross as inseparable from the living of our Faith is magnificently expressed by Pope Pius XI in his letter to the German hierarchy condemning the evils of National Socialism Mit brennender Sorge of 1933: "The Cross of Christ…is still for the Christian the hallowed sign of Redemption, the standard of moral greatness and strength. In its shadow we live. In its kiss we die. On our graves it shall  stand to proclaim our Faith, to witness our hope turned towards the eternal light" (§31).

 

Mortification - the mystery of the Cross

            What precisely is meant by "the doctrine of the Cross", that it might become "foolishness to those who perish", but "the power of God" "to those who are saved" (I Cor I:18), so much that St. Paul "determined not to know anything among you, exception Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Cor 2:2)? What is it about the Cross that is so specifically Catholic that without it is impossible to accomplish God’s will?

            If the Cross is the instrument of Christ’s death, it must necessarily mean for us the dying to ourselves, to our pride, self love and passions that we call mortification. It must mean the generous and positive will to suffer for the love of Christ, according to the example of St. Paul: "I rejoice now in the sufferings I bear for your sake; and what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ I fill up in my flesh for his body, which is the Church (Col. 1:24). The Cross consequently symbolizes the willing and joyful death to ourselves: "They who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires". (Gal 5:24).

            However, a more precise view of this mystery reveals that the embracing of the Cross involves a multitude of different elements or spiritual convictions, all inspired by divine grace and impossible without it:

1.      Profound contrition for sin, for if the Cross is a reparation for the punishment due to our own sins, then it is manifestly obvious that the very first element in understanding its mystery is the consciousness and sorrow for our sins.

2.      Expiation or some kind of suffering to unite with Christ’s suffering to pay the temporal punishment due to sin is a necessary consequence. Such meritorious and temporary suffering takes the place of the eternal and fruitless penalty that we ought to have received for our sins. Thus applies to us what St. Luke says of Our Lord: "It was necessary for him to suffer, and so to enter into His glory" (Lk 24:46).

3.      Sacrifice of our self-will is also necessary, according to Our Lord’s command before following Him: "let him deny himself".

4.      Poverty of spirit or detachment from the things of this world is also necessary for the imitation of Christ, who had nowhere to lay his head, according to the words of St. John: "Do not love the world or the things that are in the world…the world with its lust is passing away, but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I Jn 2:14-17).

5.      Chastity according to one’s state in life, "because all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh…" (I Jn 2:16)

6.      Obedience and humility, without which there is no imitation of Christ and no overcoming of the pride of life (Cf. Phil 2:6 – 8).

7.      Abandonment to Divine Providence, as a manifestation of the sacrifice of our self-will, following the example of Our Lord’s sixth word on the Cross: "Into Thy hands I commend My spirit" (Lk 23:46). It is from such abandonment that comes the generous acceptation of trials and tribulation, and the desire to bear them after Our Lord, unlike Simon of Cyrene. This is also what enables us to see scourges as a sign of God’s blessing, mercy and love: "Those whom I love, I rebuke and chastise, be earnest therefore and repent" (Apo 3:19).

8.      Fortitude, patience in bearing evils, and magnanimity, the great desire to practice virtue for the love of Christ, are the consequently of such abandonment.

9.      Hope, finally, is also inseparable from the mystery of the Cross, for it is the assurance that God’s mercy and compassion are applied to our souls through the Cross that alone enables us to embrace it, as the Apostle says: "For our  present light affliction, which is for the moment, prepares for us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all measure;" (2 Cor 4:17).

Such is precisely the mystery of the Cross, that is central to the very life of divine grace in our souls. The question remains to consider whether or not this mystery is present in the theology of the post-conciliar reform.

 

The Precursors

            It is interesting for us to consider two errors that prepared the way for Vatican II, and which were each in their turn condemned for the absence of the mystery of the Cross. The first is the heresy of Americanism, condemned by Pope Leo XIII in 1899 in his encyclical letter to Cardinal Gibbons entitled Testem Benevolentiae. In it, he explains that the essence of Americanism, and the foundation of the new ideas that it represents is that the Church must adapt to the humanism of the present "adult" times, abandoning its former severity both in doctrine and in the discipline of daily life. It does this by giving precedence to natural abilities, such as the ability to get things done, and to natural virtues, such as efficiency and productivity, demeaning the so-called passive virtues, such as patience, humility and mortification. It is obvious from the preceding considerations that this is effective a denial of the Cross, and that it means a contempt of the evangelical virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience, of whom Christ is the perfect model. The consequence of this is the contempt of the religious life and the undermining of a truly supernatural life of grace, built necessarily upon the mystery of the Cross, i.e. mortification. This cult of action, success and progress, as the Pope mentioned, became a kind of dogma, effectively relegating the Cross to the background.

            In 1907, St. Pius X was even more clear in his condemnation of Modernism in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis, clarifying from the very beginning that the ultimate root of this heresy, the sewer of all heresies, was the rebellion against the mystery of the Cross: "It must, however, be confessed that these latter days have witnessed a notable increase in the number of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, who by arts entirely new and full of deceit are striving…as far as in them lies, to utterly subvert the very kingdom of Christ" (§1).

 

The Spirit of Vatican II

            It is not without interest for us to examine the various aspects of the post-conciliar reform, and to consider the relationship that each of them has with the spirituality of the Cross. Most obvious is the very spirit of Vatican II, clearly manifested in Gaudium et spes the document on the adaptation of the Church to the modern world. Pope Paul VI described it as a "new humanism" in his discourse at the public session for the formal closing of Vatican II, on December 7, 1965, in which he summed up the whole purpose of the Council. It was, he explained to be a response to the secularism of modern man and to his spirit of independence (which, by the way, St. Pius X, in his first encyclical E supremi apostolatus, called apostasy from God): "The religion of God who made himself man has met the religion (for such it is) of man who makes himself God" and he goes on to explain that what happened was neither a clash nor a struggle: "What happened? A shock, a battle, an anathema? This could have happened, but it did not …An immense sympathy for men completely overwhelmed it. The discovery and study of human needs...has absorbed the attention of our synod". He followed with the following profession of faith in humanism that is the key to understanding the spirit of Vatican II: "You, modern humanists, who renounce the transcendence of divine things, at least acknowledge this merit and recognize our new humanism, for we more than anyone practice the worship of man".

            Here lies the fundamental motive for the aggorniamento, the continual, ongoing and substantial changes in the teachings and life of the Church: the divinization of man. Placing man first, a new relationship of friendship and not of opposition has been created with the world. However, such is not the Catholic perspective, according to which the love or hatred of the Cross divides mankind into two opposing groups: those who are of the world and those who are not. Cf. Jn 17:14: "The world has hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not"; and I Jn 2:15 – 17: If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…". Necessarily small is the number of those who are true followers of Our Lord in poverty, suffering and humiliation, for the Cross is the narrow gate that few find: Mt 7:14: "How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it". It is consequently manifestly obvious that the one reality that has been evacuated from Christianity by the post-conciliar church, and that has made possible the new humanistic adaptation to the world is the mystery of the Cross. Moreover, the more one examines the different aspects of the post-conciliar theology, the more one realizes that they are all characterized by the absence of the Cross.

 

The Liturgy

            It is in the Church’s public prayer that the post-conciliar spirit is most obvious to the faithful. The list of doctrinal realities that have either been entirely obliterated from the prayers of the liturgy, or at least deliberately pushed into the background, is impressive indeed: hell, judgment, the wrath of God, the wickedness of sin, the greatest evil, the temporal and eternal punishment owed for sins, detachment from this world, purgatory, prayer for the poor souls, the Church militant, Christ’s Kingship on earth, the triumph of the Catholic Faith, the  merits of the saints, the conversion of non-Catholics. Note that these are the very same truths that are deliberated omitted from sermons, and that they are the dogmas that relate most closely to the mystery of the Cross.

            For, firstly, the apparently "negative" dogmas, such as hell, judgment, the wrath of God, the wickedness of sin, detachment from this world would be incomprehensibly harsh without the mystery of the Cross, in which God’s mercy is allied to His justice, His patience is associated with His holiness, His love united to His majesty and His kindness inseparable from His greatness.

            Secondly, the teachings that express the necessity of reparation for sin, including purgatory, penance, sacrifice would fill us with dread and despair if it were not for the Cross and its continuation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

            Thirdly, the dogmas that express the Communion of the Saints necessarily take their root in the merits of the Cross, upon which all human merit, effort and good words are entirely founded. These dogmas include the invocation of the merits of the saints, praying for the poor souls, the combat of the Church militant herself, fighting for the (Social) Kingship of Christ on this earth and for the conversion of non-Catholics.

            Also crucial for an understanding of the new liturgy is the whole question of the new theology of the Paschal Mystery that is at the basis of the reforms of the New Mass (Cf. The Problem of the Liturgical Reform published by the Society of Saint Pius X). This paschal mystery theory is that of a redemption without the cross and without reparation for sin. For sin does not, according to this theory, incur a debt owed to divine justice, and nothing needs to be done to repay the outrage to the divine Majesty that sin brought about. Consequently, it considers that Christ’s vicarious satisfaction, that is his paying for our sins and on our behalf, was not essential to the Redemption. The Redemption is really just the ultimate manifestation of the eternal love of the Father. It is for this reason that every reference to propitiation, that is to the satisfaction owed to God to repay the punishments due for our sins, has been removed from the new reformed rite of Mass. The exclusive reference to the Risen Christ, as symbolized by crosses that no longer have a corpus, is ultimately an indirect negation of the mystery of the Cross. The Vatican II beliefs that believers of all religions can be saved, since Christ enters into union with every man in virtue of the Incarnation, are the corollary.

 

The Priesthood

            The post-conciliar Church’s manifest difficulties with celibacy, particularly manifested by the unhindered infiltration of homosexuals and pedophiles, is but the consequence of a new concept of the priesthood, in which the priest is reduced to the level of a presider or president, as indicated in the definition contained in Art. 7 of the instruction that introduced the new Missal of Paul VI. (Instruction Generalis), especially in its original text. This new concept, however, goes even further than this. At its root it is a deliberate confusion between the spiritual priesthood shared by all the faithful and the sacramental priesthood that the priest alone has and that enables him to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This confusion is deliberate because it has as its purpose to introduce into the minds of priests and laity alike the idea that the priest is just a man like other men, that he is not to be regarded any differently from them, and certainly not as another Christ, personally standing in the place of God made man and representing him on this earth. He has the same needs and rights as any other man, for example with respect to recreation, and for those who are logical with themselves ultimately with respect to marriage also.

            One wonders what could be the motive of such deliberate confusion, so alien to the Faith and to the Catholic way of thinking. In fact, there is only one explanation. It is the deliberate elimination of the mystery of the Cross. The new Mass is no longer essentially regarded as an unbloody renewal of the sacrifice of Calvary. Being a meal of men, it needs a president to preside, just like the traditional Mass, being the sacrifice of God, needs a priest to offer it. The priest of the New Mass consequently no longer needs to live a life of ascetical mortification, sacrifice and obedience, nor to follow the example of Our Lord, who "was heard because of his reverent submission. And he, Son though he was, learned obedience from the things that he suffered." (Heb 5:7&8)

 

The Religious Life

            The defections from the religious life are legion, as every Catholic knows. It is no accident that many of these took place in the fifteen years that followed the close of Vatican II. This was not just because the doors were opened to change, and the religious no longer felt bound by a ball and chain. The reason was the lack of a special goal for religious. The service of God became equated with the service of man, which then became the new end of the religious life, rather than striving for perfection through self-denial in order to assure one’s own eternal salvation. This anthropocentric revolution in the minds of the religious life removed the special ideal from their lives. Why make the efforts any more? A person can serve man and be kind to man in the world just as easily as in the convent, without the restrictions and hindrances of the religious life.

            Humanism replaced the Cross, through which alone we have at the same time the love of our own soul, and the true, supernatural love of our neighbor. It was an immediate consequence that religious obedience, or entire submission simply out of the love of God, disappeared to be replaced by utilitarianism, or what is useful to one’s neighbor in the purely temporal order. The destruction of the community life followed in turn, replaced by individualism or self-government at all costs, applying to religious the liberal principles of independence and egalitarian emancipation.

 

Education

            A marked characteristic of the post-conciliar church has been the idealization of youth, that has been called "Juvenilism" (Cf. Romano Amerio, Iota Unum p.196). According to this way of thinking youth is to be particularly honored for its continual seeking, its uncontrolled spontaneity, and for its liberation from formal ties and rules.

            This, however, is the destruction of education, for it neglects the fact that youth is a time of potency, that is of incompleteness, of imperfection, of frequent and ready change and of lack of conviction. It is far less perfect, since it is far removed from the immutability of God. It consequently needs a firm master to draw it towards true convictions and to protect it from fallen human nature’s rebellion and propensity to sin. So readily even the idealistic youth will be entirely subverted by his passions, by his self-centered feeling of infallibility, that he will convince himself in apparent "good faith" of error, all due to a lack of willingness to receive the wisdom handed down by the experience and knowledge of older persons. Education ought consequently to be the drawing out of a person’s potential by forming true convictions by dependence upon a wise instructor. It is the exact contrary of spontaneous self-seeking.

            Where does this replacement of spontaneity for education by handing down, that is by tradition, come from? Surely from the absence of the Cross. Does it not take a great mortification of the intellect as well as of the will to receive from another? Is it not the Cross which alone will ensure that we seek dependence upon others rather than independence by ourselves, by which we know and recognize our personal inadequacy and insufficiency (Jn 15:5"Without me you can do nothing"), by which we overcome our selfish self-sufficiency and learn to depend upon the wisdom of the ancients. It is this mortification of the spirit, essential consequence of living the mystery of the Cross, that the idealization of youth entirely rejects.

            The modern pedagogy is based upon the philosophy that truth transcends both student and teacher, that is that it is essentially subjective. Education is consequently nothing more than the transmission of an experience of learning. It is ultimately but self-education, the very notion of authority and submission of one’s intellect to it being removed. A teacher is a helper and a friend, but not a master who directs. Just as protestantism substituted private judgment for dogmatic authority, so does the modernist educator substitute subjective examination or personal choice for objective truth. But just as the ultimate self-teaching and self-government was the sin of our first parents, in which we participate through our own sins, so likewise can there be no substitute for the Cross in the re-establishing of order, in the denying personal autonomy, in submitting ourselves to the objective truth of our sinfulness, showing us our wound of ignorance, our need for the Redemption, for grace, and for guidance. There can be no substitute for the Cross in a Catholic philosophy of education.

 

Feminism

            The post-Vatican II woman is proud of her emancipation. She is now on an equal level with man, and she can do everything he can, including read in church, speak publicly or even preach in church, distribute Holy Communion, make sick calls, and even to be appointed "pastor". She considers that she can be just as much a leader as man can be. The principle of such unnatural egalitarianism, woman’s rejection of her traditional functions and duties is not really feminism at all, but masculinism, making women as much like men as possible. This is nothing less than the application of the principle of independence to the social role of women, unshackling things that are dependent by nature and confined to specific roles of support, as if there were something inferior or pejorative about a role of dependence and support. It is also a refusal of the so-called "passive" virtues so well demonstrated by Our Lord on the Cross, notably patience, meekness, gentleness, humility.

            Can there be any doubt that the obliteration of the feminine and supportive role of women is a denial of the Cross, its humble self-abnegation, its lesson of denying our self will to help another and to do God’s will? Many consequences follow. Mary’s so magnificently feminine role of dependent cooperation in the mystery of Our Redemption, the mystery of her Co-redemption at the foot of the Cross, by which she became Mediatrix of all graces, is thereby evacuated of all meaning. For the modernists she is just there to watch, or as John Paul II puts it several times in Rosarium Virginis Mariae, to contemplate the face of Christ. If the Woman who brought God into this world and who crushed the serpent’s head is not necessary, then the same must be said of any other woman.

            Another consequence is rampant vanity, the abandonment of the sense of modesty (i.e. of the sense of shame of one who is aware of the disorder of fallen human nature), and the denial of the Church’s teaching on the necessity of avoiding proximate occasions of sin, under the excuse that the forming of relationships is a necessary step in growth in maturity and in the capacity to love. If woman has, by losing her femininity, cheapened herself, it is because she practically denies the necessity of mortifying fallen human nature, that is of the Cross one more.

 

Penance

            The modern abandonment of works of penance on the grounds that sorrow for sin should be interior is ultimately a denial of the unity of body and soul. In fact it is just as necessary for the human sinner to express his compunction by physical acts of penance as it was for Our Lord to redeem us by his physical death on the Cross. It is not hard to see that this exclusive emphasis on the interior is but an excuse to eliminate all true sorrow and expiation for sin, and to deny the reality of the debt of the temporal punishment for sin, which no longer has to be paid, according to the new theology. The minimization of purgatory and indulgences goes hand in hand with the elimination of outward words of penance. Of course, according to such a perspective the sufferings of the Cross have no purpose either.

 

Ethics

            Situation ethics is the name that Pope Pius XII gave to the transference of the judgment of right and wrong, and of good and evil from the objective to the subjective domain. All morality depends upon the situation in which a person finds himself. There is no outside rule. It eliminates the natural law, making all morality depend upon the eye of the beholder. Personal conscience becomes a rule unto itself, in direct contradiction with the very notion of law, according to which an individual, contingent being conforms itself to an absolute by the ordering of reason, that derives from the eternal law, the mind of God Himself.

            This independence of the conscience and its refusal of submission to any external standard is based upon the theory of man’s autonomy, which is called anthropocentrism. This theory was clearly taught by the Vatican II document on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes. It is there stated that it is to man that "all things must be ordered, as to the center and culmination" of all creation (GS 14), and that man is willed "for himself" (GS 24) and that consequently he is no longer willed for the greater glory of God. It is a practical denial that God is the center of all things, which He made for Himself (Prov 16:4), and that if God was made Incarnate on this earth for us and for our salvation, it was not that we are the end of the creation and the Redemption. To the contrary, it was to make satisfaction to divine justice for our offenses, and to restore to God the due honor that He is owed by His creatures, and which can only be given by our salvation. Consequently, there is only one answer to anthropocentrism, and it is the very same mystery that anthropocentrism denies - the mystery of the Cross. Just as the Cross demonstrates how hopelessly inadequate we are by ourselves, so also is it that Our Lord died on the Cross because he loved us and because it was His Father’s will that by such satisfaction He would redirect sinful human nature back to God, its only final end. It is this direction of everything in him to Almighty God, effectively denied by the new theology, that can alone be the basis of true objective morality.

 

The Death Penalty

            The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, while admitting the possibility of the legitimate use of the death penalty in the Church’s traditional teaching, strictly limits it to its deterrent and remedial benefits for society (§2266), thereby "rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm". However, it entirely overlooks the principal reason in the Church’s traditional teaching, which is that of restitution of the public order of justice, so disturbed by the crime. If it does admit that punishment can have an expiatory value, it is only "when his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender" (Ib.), thereby making it a purely subjective and personal expiation, rather than the public, social restitution demanded by justice. Furthermore, there are in the same catechism such strong statements against capital punishment in virtue of the dignity of the human person (Ib. §2267) and the demands of evangelical charity (Ib. § 2306), that even the above-mentioned possibility is practically denied, as can be seen by the universal opposition to the death penalty by the Pope and the modernist bishops. This denial of the objective requirements of justice is inseparable from the denial of the mystery of the Cross, which is that of Christ’s vicarious satisfaction for the punishment due for our sins. Consequently, it is ultimately the refusal of the Cross which is at the root of the refusal of the demands of justice present even in the natural law.

 

Dialogue

            Both the word and the reality of dialogue are an entire post-conciliar novelty in the Catholic Church. It is based not only on the false principle of freedom of expression, but also on the idea that all truth is problematic and open to discussion. Furthermore, it is understood that Catholics have something to learn from non-Catholics in spiritual things, for they must speak with them as if they did not possess the truth. After a while, the whole question of who possesses the truth becomes considered as irrelevant. For it necessarily maintains that nobody has to sacrifice his opinion in the mutual exchanges that take place, that is that there are no fundamental points of contradiction between opposing religious viewpoints. It is consequently in its very nature a denial of Christ’s superior authority, and of His use of that authority in instituting the Church. It is the Cross that teaches the mortification of the intellect, by which it will only discuss on the level of objective truth, which makes all dialogue impossible. Cf. Gal 2:20. "The life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the Faith of the Son of God who loved me and delivered himself up  for me".

 

Ecumenism

            The fundamental basis of Ecumenism, the sharing of prayers and religious experience with non-Catholics is the principle of non-proselytism, namely of the abandonment of all effort to make converts. This renunciation of all proselytism was explicitly acknowledged with respect of the Orthodox in the 1993 Balamand agreement, and with respect to the Jews in the August 12, 2002 statement of the U.S. bishops. It has likewise been the necessary understanding for all inter-religious meetings, in particular those sponsored by Pope John Paul II in Assisi in 1986 and again in January 2002. This clearly means indifferentism with respect to the universality and expansion of the Catholic Faith and of supernatural truth throughout the world, and consequently indifference to the mystery of the Cross, the objective cause of our Redemption.

            The harmony of Catholics with non-Catholic and even non-Christian religions that is sought for by such meetings is not unity and is consequently not the fruit of the Cross, only capable of creating unity amongst those who are at odds, as St. Paul states: "For he himself is our peace, he it is who has made both one" (Eph 2:14). Clearly this is not possible with non-Christians, who do not believe in the divinity of Christ, or with non-Catholics who although they may believe in Christ do not venerate the passion or understand the power of the mystery of the Cross. In its place ecumenism establishes an egalitarian humanism, according to which false religions must be recognized as valuable means of salvation, for as Vatican II say, they have "many elements of sanctification and of truth" (Lumen gentium, §7), for they "have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation" (Unitatis integratio, §3).

            They are consequently all valid, changeable, historical expressions of a single world-wide religion of immanence, which means that God is to be found in every man, regardless of his character, of his virtue or of his life, and regardless of his acceptation of supernatural truth. This is, in fact, exactly what Gaudium et spes (Vatican II document on the Church and the modern world) means when it states that "Christ is in a certain way united to every man" (§22). In this way the Cross is entirely evacuated of meaning, and if all men are united to Christ, it is whether they know it or not, and whether they love the Cross or not. Consequently the Christ that they are united to is a disincarnate, cosmic Christ, one in whom the real human nature, and the superabundant sufferings of the Passion have somehow become superfluous.

 

Collegiality, Religious Liberty and Liberation Theology

            You might wonder what these three novelties have in common. Collegiality is the denial of personal authority in the government of the Church, reducing it to a democratic process, and making all the world’s bishops (together with the Pope) a second supreme authority in the Church, equal with the Pope himself. Religious Liberty is the new idea that all the false religions have equal rights to practice their false worship as the Catholic Church has, and that they cannot be prevented from doing so, provided that they do not harm the public order. Liberation Theology is the substitution of earthly justice and peace as the Church’s goal, instead of a heavenly kingdom.

            They do indeed all have a common denominator. All three groups of ideas have as their goal earthly happiness. They aim at some human harmony to be found on this earth, either amongst Catholics by the democratic process in the Church allowing the expression of all ideas (=collegiality), or with non-Catholics by allowing to all religions freedom of expression (=religious liberty), or with non-religious people by demonstrating that Catholics can be just as zealous for earthly well being as they are (=liberation theology). In all cases, it is an attempt to "rescue" the Church, considered unpopular, by making it appealing to the world, and by making it embrace the false principles of the French revolution, which are anti-Catholic because they limit human life to the dimensions of this earthly existence: namely Liberty (= Religious Liberty), Equality (= Collegiality) and Fraternity (= Liberation Theology). By promoting such ideas the Church becomes a modern democracy with a religious veneer, namely the vehicle for a man-centered, immanentist religious feeling to promote earthly well-being.

            All three of these false philosophies – for they are philosophy and not religion at all – are a manifest rebellion against the authority of God, to whom all of mankind must be subject, which is only possible through the power of the Cross, "exerting the power by which he is able also to subject all things to himself" (Phil 3:21). There is no other source of divine order, no other means to give true, supernatural freedom, dignity and harmony to mankind, as St. Paul says: "For it has pleased God the Father that in him all his fullness should dwell, and that through him be should reconcile to himself all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross." (Col 1:20). All three of these philosophies have become a autonomous, self-sufficient good, independent of and devoid of all reference to God, by their absence of any connection with the mystery of the Cross.

 

The Sacraments

            The new post-conciliar theology constantly emphasizes the aspect of the sacrament that they are a sign, overlooking that they are efficacious signs, producing the grace that they symbolize. The downgrading of the ex opere operato effect of the sacraments reduces them to becoming symbols of subjective events, and thus a "sacrament" comes to include everything that symbolizes the sacred, and no longer the seven sacraments that "contain and effectuate" (Catechism of the Council of Trent, p.139) the grace that they symbolize. It is in this sense that the Church itself is defined as a sacrament (Lumen gentium, §1). However, to redefine the sacraments in such a way is to confuse the true sacraments with any other symbolic mystery and to undermine not only Catholic doctrine, but also the basis of the Catholic life in the administration of the sacraments.

            The seven sacraments are profoundly different from all the other signs or mysteries that can be spoken of. The seven sacraments not only symbolize something present, as every sign does, but also symbolize a past real event and a future grace to be obtained. The past reality is the cause through which all seven sacraments bring about our sanctification, namely the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The future reality is the final end for which the sacraments exist, namely everlasting life, to which the sacraments give a right. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this very simply: "Consequently a sacrament is a sign that is both a reminder of the past, i.e. the passion of Christ; and an indication of that which is effected in us by Christ’s passion, i.e. grace; and a prognostic, that is, a foretelling of future glory" (S.T. IIIa, 60, 3). All the sacraments have their effect of producing everlasting life through the Passion of Christ.

            However, according to the new concept of sacrament, enlarged to include any sacred, symbolic mystery, a sacrament is no longer a sign of the past reality, namely the Passion, nor of our future hope, everlasting life. It is simply a sign of something present, without relation to either of these. A sacrament is a mystery that relates to our consciousness here and now, that is to our gift of faith. It has consequently become a purely subjective symbol, limited to the present, or to the "today" of our experience, separated from the Passion and from eternal life. The new theology of the sacraments, with its whole new emphasis on community experience, is consequently an evacuation of the Cross.

            Hence baptism is no longer primarily to remove Original Sin, but to introduce into membership in a community. Penance is for reconciliation, and no longer for the forgiveness of the guilt of actual sin and for the remission of the punishment that is due to it, possible only through the mystery of the Cross. The beautiful prayer that the priest recites after each Confession in the traditional rite is an illustration of this traditional understanding of the sacrament of Penance: "Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi, merita Beatae Mariae Virginis et omnium sanctorum, quidquid boni feceris vel mali  sustinueris sint tibi in remissionem peccatorum, augmentum gratiae et praemium vitae aeternae – May the Passion of  Our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints obtain for you that whatever good you do or whatever evil you bear might merit for you the remission of your  sins, the increase of grace and the reward of everlasting life". Likewise, Extreme Unction is no longer considered as a purification and immediate preparation for death, nor Confirmation the source of fortitude that will enable us to die for the Faith as Christ did on the Cross, nor is Matrimony considered as the source of the spirit of self-sacrifice that makes parents place children first. Matrimony is now considered primarily as a "communion of life and love" (Gaudium et spes, §48). In each case the Cross is evacuated as the source of the holiness that the sacraments give.

            The same applies even more for the Blessed Eucharist, in which the concept of a meal has totally taken over, and eliminated the Blessed Sacrament as a remedy for our failures, venial sins and weaknesses and as the gage of everlasting life, for it has eliminated the mystery of the Cross. Hence the love that it inspires is not a love of reparation for the ingratitude of men, starting with ourselves, which is so much a part of our daily visits of adoration to the Blessed Sacrament. Entirely different is the traditional devotion to the Blessed Eucharist, not just as to a meal, but as to the sacred banquet that opens up to our souls to everlasting life by applying the grace of the Passion in the most sublime and perfect way. This is described beautifully in the antiphon written by St. Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi, that the priest recites in the traditional rite when he administers Holy Communion outside Mass: " O sacrum convivium in quo Christus sumitur, recolitur memoria passionis eius, mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur – O holy banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace, and there is given to us a pledge of future glory".

 

Conclusion

            The Cross is not simply omitted from the spirit of Vatican II and its reforms. It is not just a dysjunction or separation. There is a profound, consistent, fundamental and across the board opposition to the Cross. Whatever aspect of life is examined under the optic of Vatican II, we find every time a deliberate and universal rejection of the mystery of the Cross. It is for this reason that Vatican II can legitimately be called the Anti-Cross Council.

            As Romano Amerio point out in Iota Unum, p. 754, whenever there is crisis or confusion, the cause must be sought for in the absence of a principle of unity coordinating the multiplicity of different goods and activities into one. However, the Church’s principle of unity is precisely the mystery of the Cross, for this was his hour, for which he came into the world: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again." (Jn 10:17). It is the elimination of this principle of unity that is responsible for the crisis of the post-conciliar church, that, in 1972, Paul VI rightly called "autodestruction".

            Every attempt to find another principle of unity has failed; e.g. the dignity of man, human consciousness, liberty, equality and human brotherhood. The reason for this is that it takes an external and transcendent principle to unite a society, group or organization. It cannot attain to unity by something within itself, that is immanent to itself, by only by some superior principle over, beyond and superior to that which is to be united. Falling back upon some interior element such as personal conscience or freedom can only ultimately cause further division, as every member goes his own way.

            It is the grace of the Passion and the power of the Cross that unites the members of the Church, the mystical body of Christ, to their head, and to one another. It is the only source of justice, restoring the order destroyed by sin, and the only hope for us to practice the charity so necessary to the restoration of divine order. Hence it is ultimately the deliberate exclusion of the Passion and Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ that is the cause of the present crisis in the Church, nor can there be any other response than the total reinsertion of the Cross into theology, spirituality and Catholic life.


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Holy Cross Seminary, Goulburn, Australia