Billy Graham’s ‘Catholic’ Apotheosis

My next Reconquest will be an interview with Charles Coulombe on the subject, “The Canonization of Billy Graham.” But I would also like to write some things about the vast outpouring of Catholic eulogies for the popular preacher, which phenomenon is a signum temporum for the Catholic Church.

Here is a micro-catalogue of Catholic eulogies for Mr. Graham:

Those suffice for now, and I will not add more because putting in all those links takes time, and there are many, many, many more such pieces. Catholics are falling all over themselves trying to show how much they really love Billy Graham, appreciate all the good work he did for Christ, and are quite hopeful that, due to his celebrated Christian commitment, the lovable evangelist is well on his way to Beatitude — even if he has to pass through that unpleasant place of purgation he didn’t believe in while on earth.

Scratch that last bit; the celebrity priest below, interviewed on Fox News, apparently ruled out the prospect of Purgatory in favor of the santo sùbito approach:

Standing in stark contrast to the indifferentist love feast is a Tweet from Rorate Caeli: “Billy Graham was a major inspiration for a global wave of Protestant preachers who removed hundreds of millions of faithful from the Catholic Church. The inept Catholic hierarchy was most to blame, but preachers like Graham caused immense loss of souls to the Church.”

The present writer agrees.

Billy Graham was a beloved cultural icon. How many men have met with every sitting President since Truman? How many have traveled the world for over six decades speaking (about anything) to hundreds of millions of people in about 175 nations? What other living person but the Queen of England herself has seen so many days in the limelight? No doubt she will be similarly eulogized at her passing.

What’s more, Billy Graham was lovable. And I mean it. He had a charm, a frankness, and a winning sincerity that was enhanced by his pleasant Southern accent and what became, thanks to that shock of snow-white hair when he aged, the look of an Old Testament prophet sans beard — and sans harsh prophetical rhetoric. An anti-Communist all-American with a simple message of hope, his life seems to have been free of serious moral scandal, unlike many other famous Evangelical preachers — and celebrity Catholic priests for that matter. (The Washington Post‘s attempt at smearing him in that regard failed to live up to its sensationalist headline.)

I could probably go on saying kind things about the deceased, but the reader no doubt gets the point. To say something like, “Have fun in hell” on the occasion, as some girl from some magazine recently did, is mean-spirited, pointless, and crass. For our part, Catholics faithful to all the rigors of Church teaching should certainly not do that; nor should we emulate the professional bores from the Westboro Baptist Church and declare categorically, with great glee, that a soul has just been damned.

But can we please stop scandalizing the world with the heresy of indifferentism?

We are infallibly taught that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. We are also taught, by Ven. Pope Pius IX, that the proposition “Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church” is a condemned error.

Ah, but our less doctrinaire brethren will tell us that we are not to judge. Fine. Judgment goes two ways: damnation and salvation. So, everybody quit judging! Stop the canonizations, beatifications, laudations, and glorifications.

Now, avoiding such judgments, I speak conditionally: If Billy Graham is in Heaven (or, more realistically, in Purgatory) now it is because he cooperated with God’s actual graces drawing him to the Catholic truth and — sometime before meeting Jesus Christ as his Judge — rejected his heresy in favor of Catholicism. With faith, hope, and charity in his soul, along with sanctifying grace, Billy could have been saved. Perfect acts of contrition and love of God, founded on true faith, can happen. I emphasize it: God’s mercy can do that, and it could have happened in an instant. Whether or not the man’s name was on a parish register is of no consequence; whether or not a canon lawyer would consider him to be officially Catholic or not in a juridical sense is of even less concern to me. (Sorry canonists, you do have a utility, just not here.)

Let us recall that Billy Graham was baptized as an infant, probably validly, in the Presbyterian Church. EVERY valid sacramental baptism makes one a member of the one and only Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. One leaves it only after the age of reason by schism, heresy, or apostasy. (Ironically, from this angle anyway, the sect Mr. Graham later joined as a minister, the Southern Baptist, is anti-paedobaptistic, that is, opposed to baptizing infants.)

To say that God does not concern Himself with the exact nature of one’s Christian profession of faith is a devilish lie, one that Catholics must stop propagating.

For the record, here are some things that Billy Graham believed (h/t to Peggy Frye of Catholic Answers):

Graham on how one receives Christ and becomes a Christian:

Remember, we must admit that we are sinners. We must turn away from our sins and to Christ. We must trust Him as our Savior and follow Him as our Lord. God promises that when we do this, He will save us and make us His children, and we will live with Him forever.

On eternal security:

Another of the many reasons believers can feel eternally secure in their relationship with God has to do with the steadfast love of God for His Son, Jesus. . . . God does not, cannot and never will condemn Jesus, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). To reject a believer in Christ, God would have to cast Jesus Himself out of heaven.

This is not the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a counterfeit, as is so much of the religion of Billy Graham, which preached a false christ who does not come down on our altars at an august liturgical sacrifice, and therefore dwells not corporeally in our tabernacles, who did not establish seven sacraments, whose mother was not immaculately conceived and gloriously assumed into Heaven, whose vicar on earth is not the pope, whose saints do not intercede for us, who does not damn those who deny him before men if they have once believed in him, whose church did not condemn as heresy the blasphemies of the so-called “reformers” of the sixteenth century, etc., etc., etc.

Yes, he was nice to Catholics. He eventually came to believe that we, too, are Christians. Maybe that somehow counts for something, but it is not divine and catholic faith. Billy Graham was also an indifferentist, who told the Dutch-Reformed “theology of self-esteem” preacher, Robert Schuller, that non-Christians of all sorts will be “in heaven with us.” Look at this minute-and-a-half video and behold Karl Rahner’s “Anonymous Christian” theory briefly enunciated in kindly Tar Heel drawl.

There’s what the modern Catholic has in common with Billy Graham: indifferentism, America’s national religion that has also invaded the sanctuary of the Catholic Church.

The real scandal of Billy Graham isn’t that he preached heresy, which he did. That is something we should expect of Protestant divines. The real scandal is that all the celebrated Catholics he knew — including Bishop Sheen, Cardinal Cushing, and Cardinal O’Connor — gave him accolades instead of a firm challenge to convert. The latter two, among many others, even allowed their faithful to go to his Crusades and explicitly promoted his work among Catholics. Cardinal Cushing allowed his own paper, The Pilot, to print “BRAVO BILLY” on the front page after one of his Crusades in Boston, and declared, in 1964, that “no Catholic can do anything but become a better Catholic” for having heard Graham preach.

Almost incredibly, Graham also preached in the Krakow Cathedral in Poland in 1978, but missed a planned dinner with his episcopal host because Bishop Karol Józef Wojtyła was off to Rome for the conclave that would make him pope.

That’s the real scandal. The indifference of Churchmen to heresy. Imagine Saint Francis de Sales, as kind and mild as the “Gentleman Saint” was, allowing Theodore Beza to preach in his cathedral, or telling his own people to go hear him. No, instead, the saint tried to convert Beza. That his efforts were not successful is not the fault of the Bishop of Geneva, who did, with the grace of God, convert numerous other Protestants.

May God send us shepherds after His own Heart, holy men of prayer and action who will enlighten the Church with the apostolic doctrine, show mercy to those in error by preaching the truth in all its challenging vigor, and stamp out the bane of sentimental theology that has so afflicted the Church militant in our time.

And if, by reverting to the divine and catholic faith of his Baptism in his last moments, Billy Graham did make it, he would give me a big AMEN!