+Sts. Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia+
Please review Part I of this post and order Fr. John Kearney’s valuable work on the faith. A link for this is provided at the end of Part I.
What follows here is not some sensationalistic evaluation of a modern-day plague, but is an actual condition observed as evil and destructive to religion by Pope Pius XII prior to his death. It is a miasma covering the minds of those who otherwise might see and rejoice in the truth, but who, unable to escape this poisonous fog, instead lash out with hatefulness and rancor, cheered on by their Traditionalist leaders and cohorts. While such blindness is prophesied for these times, we must ever pray that those suffering from it be granted the miracle of grace they need to find Our Lord, who alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The cult phenomena
The word cult is no longer “politically correct,” but what is discussed here does not have anything to do with politics. While obstacles to the faith will be peculiar to each individual, there is yet another phenomena that must be factored in that did not even exist as such when Fr. Kearney wrote his work. This is not an obstacle so-called, but an overriding mental state that must be recognized and combatted before any of the other obstacles can even be considered. It has to do with compelling vulnerable individuals to accept a false idea of authority and obedience to the same. And unless this veil is lifted, no progress at all can be made in the life of grace. Pope Pius XII in his constitution Ad apostolorum principis identified this tactic at work in Red China through:
“…a variety of means including violence and oppression, numerous lengthy publications, and group meetings and congresses, [where] the unwilling are forced to take part by incitement, threats, and deceit. If any bold spirit strives to defend truth, his voice is easily smothered and overcome, and he is branded with a mark of infamy as an enemy of his native land and of the new society… An almost endless series of lectures and discussions, lasting for weeks and months, so weaken and benumb the strength of mind and will that by a kind of psychic coercion an assent is extracted which contains almost no human element, an assent which is not freely asked for as should be the case… These are methods by which minds are upset — by every device, in private and in public — by traps, deceits, grave fear” (and other means). “Against methods of acting such as these, which violate the principal rights of the human person and trample on the sacred liberty of the sons of God, all Christians from every part of the world, indeed all men of good sense cannot refrain from raising their voices with Us in real horror and from uttering a protest deploring the deranged conscience of their fellow men.”
Today the term coercive persuasion is used to designate the type of thought reform now being used by most religious cults. A modern definition found on the Internet reads: “The coercive psychological influence of these programs aim to overcome the individual’s critical thinking abilities and free will – apart from any appeal to informed judgment. Victims gradually lose their ability to make independent decisions and exercise informed consent. Their critical thinking, defenses, cognitive processes, values, ideas, attitudes, conduct and ability to reason are undermined by a technological process rather than by meaningful free choice, rationality, or the inherent merit or value of the ideas or propositions being presented.” And this describes very well the plight of many who seem dazed by systematic truth and unable to absorb it. To this must be joined the constant assault on the senses by the liberal media (including N.O. publications), ever seeking to mold public opinion to its standards and thereby control the thought processes of the masses.
The system Pope Pius XII described above in Ad apostolorum principis was the ruthless use of thought reform by the Communists in all its classical applications. Because the dangers of the system eventually became so well known, the Communists were forced to modify it and resort to more subtle means of “persuasion” without resorting to violence. In turn, this modification was refined to suit the needs of whatever group adopted this technique, and this process is described by ex-Moonie Steven Hassan in his Combatting Cult Mind Control (1988). So sophisticated are the methods of these sects and personality cults today that when Hassan met with Robert Jay Lifton, the author of the definitive work Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, (on brainwashing methods used on American prisoners during the Communist Chinese takeover and the Korean War), Lifton told him that these sects today were so much more sophisticated and so thoroughly evolved that he no longer was the expert — Hassan, the ex-Moonie was the expert. Today, in light of our own experiences with these Traditionalist groups, all of us may be the “experts.”
Lifton enumerates eight likely markers of coercive persuasion, and all of these in some way can be identified with Traditionalists. They are:
- Milieu control or control of the environment. This is the deliberate limitation by leaders of destructive sects on the types of information followers are allowed to read (or, in the case of Traditionalists, the interpretation they are allowed to take away from what they do read, regardless of whether this clearly contradicts Church teaching). In some sects, contacts with non-sect family members and friends is discouraged or forbidden.
- Mystical manipulation, where group members are introduced to mystical experiences attributed to the leaders. This can be specialized or “secret” information known only to the leaders and certain group members, a “miracle,” a vision or prophecy fulfilled, or some special “power” the leaders possess to transmit spiritual favors (such as the Mass and Sacraments, when the Church teaches Traditionalists do not possess these powers). One group in particular is guilty of promoting secret information, which most likely qualifies them as a secret society in the eyes of the Church and excommunicates their followers for apostasy and heresy. Little do they know that the secrets they think they are hiding are known to be elaborate fabrications, exposed as such in a document yet to be released, with all the pertinent documentary proof.
- Demand for purity of purpose regarding the goals of the group; pursuit of spiritual perfection without the means necessary to accomplish this goal (the hierarchy in union with a canonically elected pope; valid mass and sacraments.).
- Cult of confession, which would not be seen as anything but one of the seven Sacraments if Traditionalists were certainly valid and possessed the jurisdiction to hear confessions. But because this is not the case, this is nothing more than confessing past sins to fellow laypeople with no obligation to observe the Seal of the Confessional, which means these men could easily use such knowledge against the ones confessing.
- Sacred Science, such as Traditionalists doctrines like “the salvation of souls is the supreme law” and the absolute necessity of Mass and Sacraments. Only the group perspective is true and to be believed, whether it is contrary to the teachings of the Church or not. One is not allowed to disagree with or point things out to the almighty Traditionalist “hierarchy” without receiving a barrage of verbal abuse.
- Loaded language, which is the vocabulary of the groupthink of each particular sect: “Unite the clans,” “recognize and resist,” “It is the Mass that matters,” “save the Mass,” “counterfeit church,” “Materialiter/Formaliter,” “the Church eclipsed” and many others. These terms are shortcuts or ready-made explanations for followers to use in order to escape the rigors of study, or handy phrases signifying a united purpose. These slogans or cliches only reinforce existing prejudices.
- Doctrine over person means that all previous experience in other Traditionalist or Novus Ordo groups can only be viewed through the lens of the group’s own doctrines, regardless of any contradictions where actual Church teaching is concerned.
- Dispensing of existence means anyone in the group challenging its leadership, no matter how previously useful or loyal they may have been, is dispensable. Salvation is possible only within the group.
In his book, Into the Rabbit Hole (Google Books), Michael Warren talks of “buzz words, phrases and slogans” used by those wishing to dominate others, phrases that send “very strong signals” to the brain every time they are spoken or written. This is what Lifton calls “loaded language.” Another secular author assigns the use of slogans especially to demagogues, those now busy creating political (and spiritual) unrest. Let’s use as an example the word “homealone,” coined by a Traditionalist cleric decades ago. First association: Frightened children, left to their own limited resources. Second association: Well now it is quarantine, limited social contacts, no support systems and so forth. Third association: The movie was basically a comedy, so it is ridicule to boot. Who would ever want to be counted as a member of that group?
This is how destructive religious groups prejudice others against the truth. Rev. A.C. Cotter says regarding slogans: “Slogans [are] the handy tools of intellectual laziness… Certitude is to be had only at the cost of serious effort and untiring labor… The indolent student …finds it easier to repeat what others have said than to probe the matter for himself…” (The ABC’s of Scholastic Philosophy, p. 288; 1949). And like it or not, we all must be students today and all must arrive at certitude before acing. “Man’s first duty is to know God,” Fr. Kearney writes. “Ignorance… shows a want of esteem for the gift of Faith and this is a disloyalty to God who has given us the Faith. Hence it leads to a diminution of grace.” Shouldn’t everyone seek to become more knowledgeable, then, on what the Church has always taught if grace is the prize they are truly seeking?! Willful or affected ignorance is nothing more than self-deceit.
Spiritual combat: Overcoming mind control and spiritual obstacles
Hassan the Moonie left the Unification Church to become what is known as an “exit counselor,” one who assists those involved in cults to leave the groups they belong to and resume their lives free from the strictures of enforced belief. With the situation in the Church being what it is today, the greatest obstacle to any exit from Traditionalist groups is the lack of authority needed to guide those involved in error back into the true Church of Christ. While priests and bishops may not be at our disposal today, there is a wealth of information and instruction that will aid in this process if inquirers become as little children and assume the docility Fr. Kearney speaks of in the beginning of this article. In the words of A. C. Cotter, S. J.: “[Only] authority clothed with the necessary conditions is true authority. False authority makes the same claims, although it lacks these conditions… Authority is not the last criterion of truth or motive for certitude.” In other words, Catholics must make sure they are obeying only legitimate pastors!
Having sat at the knee of false authority, exiting Traditionalists need now to immerse themselves in the true teachings of the Church minus the filters superimposed on the Catholic Faith by Traditionalists. Fr. Kearney leads them along this path by warning the faithful against the following, which endangers their faith:
- Indiscriminate reading: This becomes a real problem for many Catholics with the easy availability of all sorts of information on the Internet that is not always easy to evaluate or verify. Concerning written works, Fr. Kearney writes: “Many literary works are prejudicial to the faith. Their tendency is to weaken it imperceptibly. The naturalistic philosophy, irreligious views, materialistic outlook contained in them is so subtle as not to be noticed.In this matter of safeguarding our Catholic faith and morals, no one should presume to say that his Faith is so strong and his morals so firmly established as to be proof against all attack, no matter how subtly or systematically directed. Neither good intentions nor experience in life can render anyone absolutely immune to painful surprises. It may be taken as a practical rule of guidance that indulgence in evil reading will end in spiritual disaster… The only effective antidote to bad books is to think rightly. This involves filling the mind with … the truth of Jesus Christ such as is found in Catholic literature.”
- Indiscriminate discussion: “A person who asks… for information on the teaching of the Church and honestly desires to know should be answered and you should be able to answer. You are not required to prove the doctrine from Scripture. [But] a person who wishes to discuss religion simply for the sake of argument or for the purpose of confounding you should not be answered… The danger of discussion for those whose opportunities have not permitted them to make a very profound study of their religion is due to the fact that they may find themselves in the hands of a very clever man who misrepresents things and whose errors their limited knowledge is not able to detect. Look what a clever barrister can do when he has a bad cease to defend, how he can put interpretations on the facts, misrepresent their different importantces, and in the end completely persuade those who are ignorant.”
Canon 1325: “The faithful are bound to profess their faith publicly whenever silence, subterfuge or their manner of acting would otherwise entail an implicit denial of their faith, a contempt of religion, an insult to God or scandal to their neighbor… Catholics shall not enter into any disputes or conferences with non-Catholics — especially public ones — without the permission of the Holy See, or in urgent cases, of the local Ordinary (bishop)” (A Practical Commentary on the 1917 Code of Canon Law; Rev. Stanislaus Woywod, revised by Rev. Callistus Smith; Joseph F. Wagner, 1957). Defending the faith by stating the truth is one thing; entering into a series of protracted public discussions is quite another. We have no bishops to consult and conducting such discussions without the proper training is a presumption of papal permission, hence a usurpation of papal jurisdiction. This is forbidden during interregnums by Pope Pius XII in his papal election law Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis.
- Frequent association with non-Catholics: “Frequenting the company of, and making friends with, those who are not friends of Our Lord, who are not childlike and docile before Him, is an evident disloyalty to Our Savior and our God, and hence a cause of the diminution of our graces,” (and unfortunately this also applies to maintaining friendships with Traditionalists). “It leads to a spirit which is the very opposite of the spirit of a child before the Father in Heaven. John Henry Cardinal Newman warns Catholics about these non-Catholics in his comments on obstacles to the will, discussed in Part I.
- Mixed marriage in these times is scarcely possible to avoid today, and in this emergency the Church has relaxed her laws on this score. But Catholics should be counseled to marry only those with the best possible backgrounds and who they determine are at least open to the possibility of conversion in the future. Of course the promises must always be made and the children raised Catholic, and this can become a major stumbling block to faith and marital relations, which is why the Church prohibits mixed marriages in the first place.
Fr. Kearney then explains how Catholics can strengthen their faith as follows by:
- Learning and obeying the laws and teachings of the Church;
- Fidelity in prayer; daily examination of conscience, (a Perfect Act of Contrition each day and frequent Spiritual Communions);
- Frequent deliberate acts of faith;
- Spiritual reading, particularly reading about the Church of God and Her teachings;
- Keeping the will united always to God, which better enables the mind to submit to the word of the Church, and
- Filling our memory and imagination with the things of God, the grandeur of the Faith, and the glorious works of the Church.
As Fr. Kearney observes: “The life which includes contemplation of Divine truth and giving to others the truth we have contemplated is, as St. Thomas teaches, most like the life of Christ and therefore most perfect. St. Thomas also teaches that a special aureola of splendour will be given in heaven for doctrine and preaching. Preaching does not mean formal teaching in the pulpit only; it means the leading of others by word and example to understand the Catholic doctrine… Here is a test of our charity: If we think much of God and find our contentment in Him, if His interests are our interests, if the success or failure of His Church brings us joy or sorrow, if, in comparison, with those of heaven, we despise the passing things of earth, then we can have confidence that charity is predominant in our life, and, in consequence, it will be easy for us to make charity predominant among the motives that lead us to do good to our neighbour… The Church wants strong Catholics. The most prominent fault in our fairly strong Catholics is weakness — want of courage. We must be independent of evil even in our own home, in our own community… Our resistance to evil will be very much more pleasing to God if we are not only charitable to our own soul but try to do something to eradicate the evil we meet, i.e., to cause the evil to cease. If we do this for the honor of God and for the good of the soul of our neighbour, we are doing a work of supreme divine charity and of supreme fraternal charity,” (As I Have Loved You, 1941).
I have tried for many years to follow Fr. Kearney’s advice. Still there are those who accuse this author and others of being prideful and refusing correction, even when acting with the assurance of formal certitude; of behaving in a harsh even rude manner when truths of faith are questioned and a defense must be made. This only displays their liberal mindset, described by Rev. Felix Sarda-Salvany: “Liberalism prefers the tactics of recrimination, and under the sting of a just flagellation, whiningly accuses Catholics of a lack of charity…Narrow! Intolerant! Uncompromising! …Are not your vigorous denunciations, it is urged against us, harsh and uncharitable, in the very teeth of the teaching of Christianity which is essentially a religion of love? Such is the accusation continually flung in our face,” (Liberalism Is a Sin).
So in light of this, I make no apologies. As Fr. Kearney himself explained, “Who will stand by in silence and see His Lord and Saviour insulted by sin or by lukewarmness and never raise his voice, never make an effort to stop the evil, but will permit the heart of Jesus which bled for him, to be again grieved and the Precious Blood to be ignored? What ingratitude, what meanness, what cowardice there is in this,” (Ibid.). Good Catholics are docile, as noted in part one of this post, and not easily put off if they are really looking for the truth. They do not take offense at an impassioned defense of the faith or show displeasure when corrected. And those demonstrating the doctrines of the Church need not walk on eggshells in presenting these truths.
As Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey has pointed out, “We must submit ourselves with childlike docility to the teachings of faith…We submit our judgment not only to the truths of faith, but to the directions of the Holy See…We must study before all else not what is pleasing but what is profitable…In order to discipline the mind we must study what is most necessary, with the desire to know and love the truth and to live by it…As St. Augustine tells us, knowledge should be put to the service of love: ‘Let knowledge be used in order to erect the structure of charity,’” (The Spiritual Life).
Dangers of Traditionalists interpreting papal documents
The truth is out there if Catholics will only accept it from the continual magisterium, without interpolation by Traditionalists using coercive persuasion. Below, Msgr. J. C. Fenton explains the dangers of allowing theologians — and Traditionalists are essentially leaders of destructive sects, not valid clerics far less theologians! — to interpret papal encyclicals. This only the lawmaker (the Roman Pontiff, the Sacred Congregations, those on the Commission for the Authentic interpretation of the Code of Canon Law) are allowed to do.
“There is, however, an attitude towards the encyclicals which can be productive of doctrinal evil, and which can lead to a practical abandonment of their teaching. According to this attitude, it is the business of the theologian to distinguish two elements in the content of the various encyclicals. One element would be the deposit of genuine Catholic teaching, which, of course, all Catholics are bound to accept at all times. The other element would he a collection of notions current at the time the encyclicals were written. These notions, which would enter into the practical application of the Catholic teaching, are represented as ideas which Catholics can afford to overlook.
“Despite its superficially attractive appearance, however, this attitude can be radically destructive of a true Catholic mentality. The men who have adopted this mentality imagine that they can analyze the content of an individual encyclical or of a group of encyclicals in such a way that they can separate the pronouncements which Catholics are bound to accept from those which would have merely an ephemeral value. They, as theologians, would then tell the Catholic people to receive the Catholic principles and to do as they liked about the other elements.
“In such a case, the only true doctrinal authority actually operative would be that of the individual theologian. The Holy Father has issued his encyclical as a series of statements. Apart from those which he himself stamps as manifestly merely opinionative, all of these statements stand as the Holy Father’s own declarations. The man who subjects these declarations to an analysis in order to distinguish the element of Catholic tradition from other sections of the content must employ some norm other than the authority of the Holy Father himself. The Holy Father’s authority stands behind his own individual statements, precisely as these are found in the encyclicals.
“When a private theologian ventures to analyze these statements, and claims to find a Catholic principle on which the Holy Father’s utterance is based and some contingent mode according to which the Sovereign Pontiff has applied this Catholic principle in his own pronouncement, the only effective doctrinal authority is that of the private theologian himself. According to this method of procedure, the Catholic people would be expected to accept as much of the encyclical as the theologian pronounced to be genuine Catholic teaching. This Catholic teaching would be recognizable as such, not by reason of the Holy Father’s statement in the encyclical, but by reason of its inclusion in other monuments of Christian doctrine.
“There is, of course, a definite task incumbent upon the private theologian in the Church’s process of bringing the teachings of the papal encyclicals to the people. The private theologian is obligated and privileged to study these documents, to arrive at an understanding of what the Holy Father actually teaches, and then to aid in the task of bringing this body of truth to the people. The Holy Father, however, not the private theologian, remains the doctrinal authority. The theologian is expected to bring out the content of the Pope’s actual teaching, not to subject that teaching to the type of criticism he would have a right to impose on the writings of another private theologian.
“Thus, when we review or attempt to evaluate the works of a private theologian, we are perfectly within our rights in attempting to show that a certain portion of his doctrine is authentic Catholic teaching or at least based upon such teaching, and to assert that some other portions of that work simply express ideas current at the time the books were written. The pronouncements of the Roman Pontiffs, acting as the authorized teachers of the Catholic Church, are definitely not subject to that sort of evaluation.”
“Unfortunately the tendency to misinterpret the function of the private theologian in the Church’s doctrinal work is not something new in English Catholic literature. Cardinal Newman, in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (certainly the least valuable of his published works), supports the bizarre thesis that the final determination of what is really condemned in an authentic ecclesiastical pronouncement is the work of private theologians, rather than of the particular organ of the ecclesia docens which has actually formulated the condemnation. The faithful could, according to his theory, find what a pontifical document actually means, not from the content of the document itself, but from the speculations of the theologians.
“If we were to apply this procedure to the interpretation of the papal encyclicals, we would deny, for all practical purposes at least, any real authority to these documents. We would be merely in a position to admit that the Holy Father had spoken on a certain subject, and to assent to his teaching as something which the theologians would have to interpret. In the final analysis, our acceptance of doctrine or truth as such would be limited to what we could gather from the interpretations of the theologians, rather than from the document itself.
“This tendency to consider the pronouncements of the ecclesia docens, and particularly the statements of the papal encyclicals, as utterances which must be interpreted for the Christian people, rather than explained to them, is definitely harmful to the Church. It is and it remains the business of Catholic theologians to adhere faithfully to the teachings of the encyclicals and to do all in their power to bring this body of truth accurately and effectively to the members of Christ’s Mystical Body” (The Doctrinal Authority of the Encyclicals,” Part II, The American Ecclesiastical Review, September 1949).
But Traditionalists make no attempt whatsoever to do this. Interpretation, not explanation, is their game plan. They cannot and will not accept the plain words of the encyclicals or any other papal document, even if it is an infallible one, as binding on their consciences. Truly they aid, then, in the operation of error to believe lies, which in truth they have been doing for decades. And this deception will be allowed to take place, Scripture commentators tell us, solely because these people have not loved the truth nor sought it out. So as Mother Mary Potter cautions us, do not wonder that so many of our friends and relatives fall into these errors; wonder instead that we are not among them and pray with all our might that we never shall be!
This two-part series on obstacles to grace is absolutely wonderful. Helps me to understand why some will just not hear, and leads me to pray more intensely for them. I ordered the book “Our Greatest Treasure” by Father Kearney. Thank you, Teresa. Your never ending concern for us is so evident. God seems to be allowing on the secular front exactly what you explain is happening on the spiritual front–a massive, collective group-think which is “on the march” in such a horrible, rapid and deceptive way which will be the ruin of so many lives, so many souls. I search the airways for mention of God, and there is none to be found. The media has eradicated nearly every mention of the only One Who can save us. Only God can save us now. Our joy is in knowing that He will.