It’s 2051, and you’re on a top-secret mission to New York City which has been overrun by zombies since The Great Zombification of 2028, caused, as we now know, by a disastrous biological experiment in population control funded by Jeff Bezos and the Ford Foundation. In other parts of the nation and the world, the strange contagion has been contained and eradicated, but the Big Apple has been, to mix a metaphor, a tough nut to crack. The elite Bio-Force Rangers have selected and equipped you and four others to look like zombies, mix with them, and gradually spread the antitoxin that will, it is hoped, heal all the infected New Yorkers. Grueling work, and tense, because you must look like zombies to zombies, but like a healthy human to the newly de-zombified. The work is progressing apace, and your team is creating “missions” that are quarantined and secured, where healthy New Yorkers can now live in safety. The mission is going well, but then … it happens.
One of your fellow elites has lost his mind, cracked under the pressure. He becomes convinced that the zombified state is more in keeping with his Rousseauian philosophy, and uses his advanced training to reverse the work that you all set out to do. His goal is not only to reinfect all of New York, but to send his own zombie agents into uninfected cities all over the world; and his plans are working …
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The above Halloween tribute to the zombie-horror genre, tacky though it be, came to mind while I was thinking of the subject at hand, for the recently concluded Amazon Synod was at least as horrifying as expected: on display were idolatry, syncretism, indifferentism, feminism, modernism, radical environmentalism, and liberation theology, a much more terrifying combination than anything Steven King or John Carpenter could imagine.
It is not mine to give a rundown of the event, but rather to ask a fundamental question: How did we get here? For this was not something that started in 2019 or 2013, but long before.
Let us begin our answer in the Amazon itself. Why is the Catholic Church there? Because, in the sixteenth century, she declared it to be mission territory. What is a mission? It is an effort to extend the Kingdom of Christ — the Catholic Church — by following His command to teach and baptize all nations. But why does the Church do that? Aside from obeying the command of Christ, who has unique authority to bind us to His commands, we do so to give glory to the Holy Trinity and to save souls. This two-fold purpose can be unified into a neater formula: to give glory to God by saving souls. This is the mission of the Church. She is called “catholic” precisely because of this divine mandate to teach “all nations” (Matt. 28:19, Luke 24:47), and even “every creature” (Mark 16:15). To extend the Kingdom of Christ is her divine mission; there is no divine mission to “dialogue.”
Here, then, is a provocative question: what if that mission becomes something the missionaries themselves no longer believe in? What if they “crack” under the pressure of the world and fall prey to false philosophy?
The first missionaries to Brazil arrived with Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500. Immediately on the heels of Christopher Columbus, that same century would see evangelism all over what we in the Anglosphere call Latin America. The mass conversion of Mexico, largely due to the gracious visit of Our Lady of Guadalupe to those blessed people, happened in that century.
Regarding that same sixteenth century, Pope Benedict XVI said:
If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.
From this came a deep double crisis.
On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it?
But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic.
If the Church is not necessary for salvation, then the missions do indeed lose their urgency, as Benedict pointed out. The missionaries themselves, all but the ones who haven’t fallen for the heresy, become social workers at best; at worst — and here is what we are seeing now — they become revolutionaries. One of the persistent mantras of the Amazon Synod was the need to listen to and learn from the Amazonians.
To be sure, a good missionary will learn about his people, their language, customs, beliefs, etc., else how can he minister to them effectively, teach them, correct their beliefs and their morals? So, too, he must love them deeply, and be willing to die for them (even by their hands) so as to get them the Faith. Thus the heroism of so many missionaries.
But the new missionary, the social worker or revolutionary, what of him? His Christian heroism is absent. This is the model pseudomissionary that was being promoted in the Synod Hall, and in him we see both sides of the Ratzinterian “deep double crisis”: the actual mission of the Catholic Church is scuttled, and the “obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life” is questioned, altered, and mutilated into something it is not — zombified, if you will. Hence, in this second part of the double crisis, not only do we, contrary to Christ’s command, not need to baptize the natives — as Austrian Bishop Erwin Kräutler boasted — but we now, having “listened to the natives,” know that we must have deaconesses, married priests, an ecclesiastical structure that resembles the vision of condemned and impenitent Marxist liberation theologians, and a host of other novelties that more closely resemble the ecclesiastical vision of European and American Modernists than the ideas of the poor Amazonians themselves, who have been put on display and used as foils by cynical Western progressivists. (Many of the Amazonians, by the way, were flatly ignored by the Synod Fathers.) And speaking of cynical progressivists, the same Bishop Erwin Kräutler, who wants women priests, admitted to Edward Pentin that the Amazonian female deacons he is agitating for “may be a step to” a female priesthood.
Really? What a surprise!
A little over a year ago, I gave a talk to a Fatima Youth Conference on the subject, “In the World, Not of It: Being Catholic amid the New Paganism.” The main thesis I developed in that talk, and around which the practical advice was woven, was this: the members of the Catholic Church are those “called out of” the world, and when we blur the distinction between “the Church” and “the world,” we don’t sanctify the world; rather, we corrupt the Church. “The world,” as I use the term here is Johannine; it is not the world that God made and called “very good” (Gen. 1:31), but the fallen world, or, rather, those rational animals on this earth who make its temporal goods the sole objects of their desire. Concerning these, Dom Prosper Guéranger says, “Men were called after the object of their love. They shut their eyes to the light; they became darkness; God calls them ‘the world.’”
The Amazon Synod was simply a very fast-paced version of this process of corrupting the Church by tearing down the distinction between it and “the world.”
The preposterous notion that Catholic dogma, apostolic tradition, and ecclesiastical discipline must be adapted to those the Church evangelizes is not something the Apostles themselves believed. It contradicts the very notion of “conversion.” Saint Paul did not want to alter the Gospel’s teaching on idolatry, sodomy, or drunkenness in an effort to “listen to” the Corinthians who might find Christian restrictions on this behavior somehow incomprehensible. No, instead he says to them, after their conversion:
Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God. —1 Cor. 6:9-11
Christian faith and baptism have made the Corinthians different, and they were to live accordingly. It has brought them from the world into the Church. Neither was the Apostle sanguine about the pre-baptismal state of the pagan Ephesians, those former devotees of Artemis, who were the objects of his Apostolic zeal:
For which cause be mindful that you, being heretofore Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands; That you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the conversation of Israel, and strangers to the testament, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world. But now in Christ Jesus, you, who some time were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in his flesh….” —Eph. 2:11-14
But for the last half-century and more, some successors of the Apostles have been freely discussing how Christian Faith is not necessary for salvation, going so far as to say things like this: Because, for the children of the Church, incongruity between believing and living can cause the loss of salvation, for non-Christians a harmony between belief and life can be positively salvific. The italicized is my very accurate paraphrase of something written by a very learned cardinal, who favorably cites this abomination and others from the book, In Ways Known to God: A Theological Investigation on the Ways of Salvation Spoken of in Vatican II, by Dr. Francis Fernandez. There is nothing essentially different between the theories this cardinal favors and Karl Rahner’s heretical “Anonymous Christian.”
Between such so-called “theology” and the madness of the Pan-Amazonian Synod there is a straight line.
Lose track of the purpose of a thing, and eventually you will abuse it. Thus it is with the missions, which have become tools of revolution in the Church, even to the point of grave sins against the first commandment. Hence, the Italian Bishops are now promoting idolatrous prayers to Mother Earth, whereas a zealous laywoman who actually evangelizes is accused of wicked “proselitysm” by the Successor of Saint Peter himself, whose harsh words on the occasion brought to my mind harsher words of the Prophesy of Isaias: “Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Is. 5:20).
If we had truly Christian hearts, we would weep at such things.
God Himself must cleanse His Church. Meantime, the faster we abandon the novel thinking that has brought all this upon us, the better off the Church will be — looking more like an All Saints’ Day feast, and less like a bad Halloween flick.