There’s no way to keep up with the furious pace of those seeking to change the Catholic faith from the inside out, and it’s gotten pretty exhausting trying. It’s like theological whack-a-mole. This is why, I think, it’s good to step back and try to engage in pattern recognition, looking for the larger picture that is emerging through their death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach. Taking any single statement, appointment, interview, etc., on its own is most likely (though not always) insufficient. Seeing many pieces of circumstantial evidence pile up on one side of a scale gives weight to a thesis that’s difficult to definitively prove.
In other words, Modernists are tricky. That’s kind of the point of their whole operation. They are infiltrators, waging war through ambiguity and endless nuance, throwing chaff at their pursuers in the guise of this or that apparently orthodox thing they embrace while simultaneously dealing damage with the other hand.
The latest symptom of the Modernist infection comes from the appointment of the new Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Germany:
The Vatican has appointed the archbishop of Berlin, seen by German media as part of a “new generation” of less dogmatic clergy, to take over the Cologne archdiocese, the largest and richest in Germany, it said on Friday.
The move makes Rainer Maria Woelki, who turns 58 next month, one of the most influential Roman Catholic cardinals and is an indication of the type of person Pope Francis wants to see in prominent Church roles.
Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper called him “the prototype of a new generation of bishops … not grumpy and dogmatic … these men speak of mercy and mean it. They’re open to people, even their critics, to a point and have a heart for the disadvantaged. Still, they’re theologically conservative.”
Woelki is a Cologne native and served there for years under his retired predecessor, the staunchly conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner, before becoming bishop of Berlin in 2011.
When his Berlin appointment was announced, some politicians and Catholics in Berlin said he was too conservative for a city with such a large gay community, pointing to comments he had made that homosexuality was against “the order of creation”.
They also noted that he did his doctorate in theology at a pontifical university in Rome run by the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei.
But Woekli surprised Berliners by saying he respected all people and would gladly meet with gay activists.
A year later, in 2012, he said: “If two homosexuals take responsibility for each other, if they are loyal to each other over the long term, then one should see this in the same way as heterosexual relations.”
Berlin’s Alliance against Homophobia nominated him for its Respect Prize that year, an honour he politely declined by saying it was normal for a Christian to respect all people so he should not receive an award for it.
Some people read this and see only certain keywords and phrases: “mercy”; “conservative” (x3); “open to…critics”; “Opus Dei”; etc. These work in support of their confirmation bias, namely, they support the fact that a pope they want to like is appointing prelates they want to believe are good men to be in charge of important things.
When I read these articles, however, I can’t help but view the facts through my Modernist-doublethink-secret-decoder-ring. In the life of those who advance the Modernist cause from within the Church there is always some confusing mixture of laudable and problematic characteristics, which makes it difficult to figure out exactly what they are about. This is why, I think, men like Cardinal Schönborn can be responsible for the organization of the new Catechism that is widely lauded as a theological resource while simultaneously participating in or approving of scandalously inappropriate liturgies.
My “decoder ring” is, of course, Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, since it warned us with great specificity about what to look for. For example, in referencing the credibility of the modernists within the Church:
[N]one is more skillful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious devices; for they play the double part of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; and as audacity is their chief characteristic, there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance To this must be added the fact, which indeed is well calculated to deceive souls, that they lead a life of the greatest activity, of assiduous and ardent application to every branch of learning, and that they possess, as a rule, a reputation for irreproachable morality.
“Mercy” is the word of the day that covers a multitude of anti-Catholic thought popular within the hierarchy of the present-day Church: it is not merciful to forbid divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving the Eucharist; it is not merciful to forbid Catholic politicians who support abortion from receiving the Eucharist; it is not merciful to leave heterodox theologians outside of visible communion with the Church (even when they do not publicly retract their heresy); it is not merciful to treat homosexual relationships as qualitatively different than heterosexual ones when approaching from a pastoral standpoint, etc.
I can’t help but view the facts through my Modernist-doublethink-secret-decoder-ring.
Mercy, when contrasted with dogma, is set up as an alternate orthodoxy. It is the orthodoxy of the heart, of kindness, of the anti-Pharisaical ethos. But those who would set up this dichotomy never acknowledge that true mercy is always inextricably intertwined with justice, and justice is predicated upon law.
These people wish to change dogma to create an inclusive Church. A Church without boundaries, unfocused on rules and sacraments, unwilling to exclude salvation to those who choose not to embrace it, a Church that can lock hands with people of every other faith in a seamless garment of interwoven theology, all respecting each other’s “faith walk” progressing on a path to the same “god”. And dogma gets in their way, because the real Church looks nothing like that.
Again, from Pascendi, the Modernist’s view of dogma. It should sound eerily familiar to anyone paying attention:
Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and clearly flows from their principles. For among the chief points of their teaching is the following, which they deduce from the principle of vital immanence, namely, that religious formulas if they are to be really religious and not merely intellectual speculations, ought to be living and to live the life of the religious sense. This is not to be understood to mean that these formulas, especially if merely imaginative, were to be invented for the religious sense. Their origin matters nothing, any more than their number or quality. What is necessary is that the religious sense — with some modification when needful — should vitally assimilate them. In other words, it is necessary that the primitive formula be accepted and sanctioned by the heart; and similarly the subsequent work from which are brought forth the .secondary formulas must proceed under the guidance of the heart. Hence it comes that these formulas, in order to be living, should be, and should remain, adapted to the faith and to him who believes. Wherefore, if for any reason this adaptation should cease to exist, they lose their first meaning and accordingly need to be changed.
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.