Dissent into Hell – Fr. Z rants

Lately there has been a sharp uptick in the media – even “Catholic” media – in open and cavalier dissent from the Church’s teaching and the authority of her duly ordained pastors.  Much of it seems to revolve around the two poles of personal claims of self-determination and autonomy from anything outside one’s own skull or one’s groin.

Many who dissent from the Church’s teachings and authority simply don’t know any better.  They were, perhaps, never taught or they were taught error.  I tremble for those who are responsible for their ignorance.

Some dissenters know full well what they are refusing to accept.  I worry that they are in peril of going to Hell.   Tragically, they are dragging people into confusion with them and putting their souls in peril as well.  Tragically, some of the Church’s pastors are watching it happen.

In so doing we make ourselves slaves of the world, the flesh and the devil and we could wind up in hell as a result.

It is a terrible thing to even think, much less say, but I suspect that in our O-so-sophisticated-age, this time of picking and choosing, not many people are actually going to their judgment in the friendship of God.

St. Teresa of Avila was granted a vision in which she saw souls falling into hell “like snowflakes”.  If memory serves, the three children of Fatima were given the same vision with the same sight of falling souls so numerous that they were like a snowfall.

Many saints have said this in the past.  Is the situation worse now?  I don’t know.  It might be, because the prevailing attitude today, at least in wealthy regions, seems to be autonomy and self-determination without regard for anything transcendent, even while what is truly transcendent is being replaced by concern for the environment, or chimeric personal “rights”, blah blah blah.

Give the way the dissolution of mores is accelerating and given the weakening of the bonds of society ad intra and ad extra regarding even the Church, I don’t know if we can reverse the trend anymore. Nevertheless, the one important challenge that has never changed for everyone through all ages remains.  In accord with our state in life we must do our best to get to heaven.  We have to do what small things we can for ourselves and loved ones and those immediately in our sphere.  We simply must persevere.

The terrible alternative should be a point for daily reflection.

Christ, God, gave us the Catholic Church.  It is the Church He founded.  He gave us the sacraments as the ordinary means of salvation.  He gave His own authority to the Church to teach about faith and morals.  He gave us a visible point of reference for unity and security of knowledge for our membership in His Church: Peter and his successors and the apostles and their successors with Peter.

Knowingly reject the Church – and Peter – and the Church’s teaching and her discipline of Christ’s sacraments, and you place yourself on a path that might just land you in hell for eternity.

If nothing else from this rant gets through to readers, and this is especially my plea to priests and bishops, I beg you on my knees, I implore you: make it a habit to think about the Four Last Things at least once a day.  We are all going to die.  We must all go before our Judge to give an account of the gift of life and the graces we have been offered.

Nothing will change this vector we are on within the Church and throughout the world until Catholics engage in a serious renewal of our liturgical worship of Almighty God.  And that might not work either, frankly.   It may, however, save some souls who would otherwise be lost.  That’s not nothing and it is worth our effort.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, Pope of Christian Unity, The Drill, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. shin says:

    “That all Christians are to be saved.”

    [Condemned in the letter “Cum sicut,” Nov. 14, 1459]

    Pope Pius II [Denzinger – Sources of Catholic Dogma]

    ‘St. Prosper says that to save his own soul it will not be enough for a priest to lead a holy life, for he shall be damned with those that are lost through his fault. . . The Council of Cologne declared that if a person take the Order of priesthood without the intention of performing the office of vicar of Jesus Christ, or of saving souls, a great and certain chastisement is reserved for him, as for a wolf and a robber, which he is called in the Gospel. . . And St. John Chrysostom says, “Not on account of their own, but on account of the sins of others that they did not prevent, priests are often condemned to hell.”‘

    St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Bishop, Doctor of the Church

    ‘I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many priests are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous. The reason is that the office requires a great soul. For there are many things to make a priest swerve from rectitude, and he requires great vigilance on every side.’

    St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop, Doctor, Father of the Church

    I have read that it is our duty to pray every day for the grace of final perseverance.

    And of the consensus of the saints on the fewness of the saved.

    Surely we must pray for the conversion of sinners everyday, as well as our own souls, and the holy souls in purgatory, among our other foundational duties.. of which at times I often find out a new one that I had not known about, but should have realized for many reasons, time after time, simply by entering into more study of tradition and the writings of the saints.

  2. Mike says:

    I have seen three of my four children confirmed in the last three or four years, and each time there was zilch said about the Four Last Things, and sadly, two of the three bishops were Cardinals. I don’t buy the NewChurch thing put out by some of our brethren, but the lack of a note of eternal consequences sort of leaves us enduring “Rain Down” for nothing. Please.

  3. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    You know Father, you aren’t the only one with doubts that we might be heading towards the end of the world. Other internet bloggers such as Mark Mallett and in less of an extent John Pacheco on So Con or Bust in Canada, and The Catholic Knight on the blogosphere in the U.S.A., allude to a coming “Chastizement” for the Church and Catholics worldwide, and possibly the coming of the anti-Christ shortly after that. Even the Catechism talks about one last battle or crisis of faith for the Church before it’s all over. Perhaps we are there. Help us Jesus.

  4. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Yes, Father, I too get the impression that we are fighting (in Tolkien’s words) the Long Defeat. But to be faithful and holy in the midst of this increasingly toxic world is a great victory indeed, a great victory of grace. To be a saint today is to be a glittering diamond in a sea of sludge, even more than in the past. We are to be lights of Christ shining in the darkness, so that those poor folk out there can see and be freed from their afflictions.

  5. Mundabor says:

    “I don’t know if we can reverse the trend anymore”.

    I allow myself to be more sanguine.

    In my eyes, every trend can be reversed. Communism was raging over half the planet and is now destroyed, the Church was once effectively wiped out from France and was back just a few years later; and I write from England. If Communism was destroyed, the ignorance and stupidity of our times can be destroyed, too.

    But it must start from the top. It must start with heretical cardinals and bishops being punished publicly and in an exemplary manner, and with bishops being called to lead their sheep in a proper way rather than presiding over a slow decadence whilst talking about the environment.

    When this happens, the entire dynamic changes. The attraction of Catholicism is irresistible, if Catholicism is properly spread and vocally defended. The Jesuits were able to regain Poland in one generation. With brave shepherds, there’s not much that can’t be achieved.

    Today we have in my eyes a huge problem of complacency within the clergy, and of ignorance outside of it. But in end, that’s that.

    I’d say that communism and French terror were much worse, and they’ve both gone.


  6. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    “Give the way the dissolution of mores is accelerating and given the weakening of the bonds of society ad intra and ad extra regarding even the Church, I don’t know if we can reverse the trend anymore.”

    This is the quote I was referring to initially. I finally figured out this HTML tagging with “Cite”! This was my first success!

  7. shin says:

    Yes, I have heard another priest say rather plainly, I believe it was on Sensus Traditionis or Audio Sancto, that societal disintegration is at this point inevitable, as well as divine chastisement. There is too much, it is too far.

  8. irishgirl says:

    Amen, Father Z, amen! You hit the nail right on the head!
    We are due for a big-time chastisement from God. Although He is long-suffering, I think that even He in His infinity has ‘had enough’ with what we’ve been doing on earth, messing around with His moral laws and defying the teaching authority of His Church.
    Come, Our Lord Jesus, please come!

  9. Brad says:

    According to my wall calendar of indulgences (bridegroompress.com, love it), today a plenary is available for the faithful who visit a cathedral and recite the Pater Noster and Creed. In light of Father’s words here, let us all try to do this! Any reason to visit my Sacramento CA cathedral’s beauty is wonderful.

  10. Pachomius says:

    O brave new world, that has such people in it!

  11. gloriainexcelsis says:

    We have a very devout, devoted, tell-it-like-it is pastor. More than one homily has dwelt on this. His warnings about cardinals, bishops and priests who are, and have been for so long, leading their flocks to perdition, include offering prayers for their souls. He includes the constant reminder that we are not guaranteed our salvation. He also has asked who of us would be able to withstand persecution and die in our Faith. Perhaps that’s why confessions are frequent in the parish.

  12. skull kid says:

    Good reflection Father Z, thanks.

    Readers would do well to read an excellent book on these themes, one that was highly thought of by the Little Flower.

    “Reading this book was one of the
    greatest graces of my life!”
    St. Thérèse of Lisieux

    The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life
    Fr. Charles Arminjon

  13. rgarcia149 says:

    I have three daughters and I fear for their future here on earth and for their souls in the afterlife. I agree, things have gone to far, the disintegration of American Christianity is almost complete, and I fear more advanced within the Catholic “faithful” a complete misnomer am afraid. Just last weekend on a men’s Church group one man said “am spiritual but not religious” and another opined that we are no longer required to fast before taking communion. Just two small examples of a sea of ignorance and outright apostasy. I know we need to take care of our own salvation, but frankly am pessimistic about the Church today. It almost seems to be at the same stage the old pagan religion of Rome was around the fourth of fifth century, moribund, big empty temples, nominal participation. The Lord Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail, but I wonder here in the U.S. if anyone at all is storming those gates.

  14. Pachomius says:

    The problem is: whom does one trust? As we saw with +Fellay’s homily a few day’s ago, even Rome itself is divided and sending mixed messages. The bishops, at least in this country, are of highly dubious calibre and oftne pubicly say things whih skate very close to heretical moral teaching. And even good priest have undergone a dodgy formation, in which even if the orthodoxy was sound the intelletual rigour often looks questionable.

    Meanwhile, Catholic intellectuals seem to alternate between the frankly nonsensical statements of the ultra-liberals (“God is a rainbow, so we must support married gay priests”, says Dr. Joan Heretic) and a frankly intellectually feeble orthodox rump, fighting a desperate rearguard action, who in doing so often resort to the same selective attitude to the truth and distorting and emotional argumentative approach as their opponents. Academically, we’re trapped between people who want to destroy the priesthood and people who want to go back to the “good old days” of Fr O’Flaherty riding through the village on horseback, whipping the poor children to school as they walk barefoot in the snow. To compound the problems on the ‘orthodox’ side, one frequently finds such proponents uncomfortably allied with American Republican politics and quick to dissent on Church teaching regarding the poor (and a certain sin which cries out to heaven for vengeance… what was it St Athanasius said about how to spot on Aryan?)

    So who do you trust? I find it may be better for my faith to ignore the homily altogether; assuming it has any real content at all (and plenty of priests have got very good at repeating-the-gospel-for-the-stupid in their homilies), it has a high likelihood of being damaging to the faith, either through an insidious heresy I can’t see, or absurd statements on science and highly questionable political interpretations of Church teaching.
    Sanctus Deus, Sanctus Fortis, Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis!

  15. avecrux says:

    ” It may, however, save some souls who would otherwise be lost. That’s not nothing and it is worth our effort.”

  16. Stephen D says:

    There is also the problem of ‘universalism’. Some major ‘Catholic’ theologians and priests have stated that it is “reasonable” to hope that all will be saved. Once someone is persuaded that such an outcome is likely, then what they do and whether or not they pray ceases to matter very much. These theologians and priests ignore so many saints and contradict the Fatima warnings, can they have any ‘reasonable hope’ for themselves?

  17. Xmenno says:

    “I don’t know if we can reverse the trend anymore.”
    I am obligated to disagree. A tiny group of people with a leadership of 12 men made inroads into a Roman world system, and in a time of inconvenient communication and distance, changed civilization. These people, empowered by the Holy Spirit cannot be so different than people of our day. Surely a billion Catholics, with the same Spirit, can influence human events. I believe that we do influence the world in many ways, but can it not be increased? We must, as Fr. Z says, persevere, but always with a mind to do more.
    Are the billion souls that the Church claims any more than “baptized citizens of the world system?” If the presence and power of God, dispensed in baptism and confirmation, in hearts is truly real, I fail to see how a mighty tide of faith would not overwhelm the evil that seems so rampant. If every Catholic put aside fear, and lived the life of Christ openly and clearly, we might not be such a non-entity on the scene.

  18. Sword40 says:

    We have seven grown children, of which, only one is a solid Catholic and one is trying to return to the church. Two are full blown evangelical protestants, one is agnostic and two are totally non-committal(sp?).
    At times I get so tired of struggling to assist in bringing back the old Mass. I’m getting too old for this struggle, but I keep on keeping on. I have no other choice.
    My prayers are always going up for our priests, so I’ll just keep doing this until I drop.

  19. guatadopt says:

    I just think of Athanasius, that great defender of the faith during the Arian crisis. A time when 90% of the church’s bishops (including Pope Liberius!) were forced by a succession of emperors to sign creeds that were opposed to Nicaea. Athanasius endured torture, exile, false trials and numerous suicide attempts but persevered. By far my favorite saint. Even from exile, he continually wrote to his flock and gave them the gift of the true faith. His festal letters are amazing. He was even the first church father to canonize the exact books we use today in the New Testament. The Cappodocian fathers and Jerome (later on) would comment that if it weren’t for Athanasius, we’d all be Arian.

    Is there an Athanasius today? I just don’t think so.

  20. teomatteo says:

    I have witnessed so many people of my generation walk away from the Church that it is easy for me to become hardened. The number of divorces all around me. The number of young women having children without fathers. I am slowly closing off the trends and becoming despondent. Sometimes I’m reduced to “say a prayer, then just dont care”. I know it isnt what i should do. But closing off seems protective.

  21. UncleBlobb says:

    To whom it may concern: I’m sorry if I sound condescending or arrogant, as that is not my intention, nor to hijack dear Father’s blog. But Please do not give in to the temptation to despair! Mat. 18:8-9. I have spent the last 10 days or so fighting this every moment of the day, and this has been some of the worst 10 days of my life. I am not through it yet. But please pray for me, and I will pray for you. Read the end of The Book, as they say, and see who wins. Also recall 1 John 4:18: “Perfect love casts out fear.” And please also, remember how much God loves each of us. Jesus I trust in You! God bless you.

  22. GregH says:

    Von Balthasar and Fr Robert Barron’s viewpoints on how many are saved or lost are part of the problem.

  23. JKnott says:

    Thanks Father.
    Encouragement from “The Way of Perfection” by St. Teresa of Avila which speaks to Fr Z’s comments.
    “Set out with firm determination on the royal road to Heaven.”
    “Strive like strong men until you die in the attempt,…”
    “Make an earnest determined resolve not to halt until the goal is reached whatever may come, whatever may happen, no matter the labor, whoever may complain against you, whether the goal is reached or you die on the road or have not the heart to confront the trials, or whether the very world dissolves before you.” “Determined determination.,” for our heavy hearts.

    @skull kid: Good book! “The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Fr. Charles Arminjon

  24. Rouxfus says:

    Michael Voris is in Ireland right now and did some Irishman-in-the-street interviews to illustrate the state of the faith in that once-faithful faith-spreading bulwark of a nation. He asked everyone if they attended Mass every day, and why or why not. Only one said they went to Mass every Sunday without fail because they believed. Of the Mass attenders, most were doing it to please grandmother, but probably wouldn’t go on their own, if it was up to them.

    The video is illuminating, shocking and disturbing at the same time:

    Irish ‘Catholics’

  25. The Jesuits were able to regain Poland in one generation.

    And now somebody needs to regain the Jesuits.

    Our Lady of Akita predicted the crisis we are now in, and said to pray the Rosary for the Pope, priests and bishops. Say the 54-day novena for all priests and bishops.

  26. anilwang says:

    “I don’t know if we can reverse the trend anymore”.

    As G. K. Chesterton once wrote “Can we turn back the clock? Of course we can. The clock is a human invention and we can turn it forward as well as back.”

    The great thing about the Catholic faith it wasn’t just started a few decades or hundred years ago because the “previous church went apostate or fell apart so our church might fall apart or go completely apostate too”. It was built on the rock.

    It’s not the first time the faith became worldly and it’s not the last. It’s not the first time Bishops and Priests (both Catholic and Old Testament Jewish) abandoned their faith and lead their sheep to the slaughter and it’s not the last. The Church has been through much worse and come back from the brink many times.

    Of course, each time it does come back, there is often a heavy price (e.g. eternal souls are at risk and martyrdom may be required), so we can’t get too complacent and we must turn the tide or God will do it for us with full force.

  27. marthawrites says:

    I know that each of us has his own prayers which are offered for the situations being discussed here. My way of petitioning which covers many of these issues is the following: each morning I pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy: decade one for all bishops and priests in a state of serious sin; decade two for the revitalization of the faith in Europe; decade three for the turning away from sins of immorality in the U.S., specifically abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and violence; decade four for the conversion of those who persecute the Church in various ways–through torture and imprisonment, through the media, by giving scandal ; and decade five for those in my family and parish who are lukewarm or indifferent in the practice of Catholicism or have left the Church entirely. I don’t think our children and grandchildren will escape a time of some significant retribution for the many egregious sins now being committed, but I have strong faith that the aspiration, “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee” has real repercussions.

  28. Glen M says:

    guatadopt said: “Is there an Athanasius today? I just don’t think so.”

    If Athanasius had that attitude we’d all be Arians today. We are all called to be saints, each one of us. Some saints were wretched sinners at one point in their life; others were poor and seemingly non influential in their community. I’m not aware of one saint who began their life or were at some point convinced they’d be made a saint one day. They just did it.

    These are indeed dark days we live in, however, they are also a tremendous opportunity to become a saint! If all the world was living according to the Church and worshipping God as we should, how would any of us distinguish ourselves in a saintly way? The enemy has presented us with an opportunity to defend the Church, to make a difference, to save souls. As those blessed with the faith we owe it to ourselves, our neighbour and most of all God to rise to this challenge.

    Change can begin with one person. If you want to rebuild the Church and help save souls in your own parish or diocese, request the Extraordinary Form, Adoration, additional Confession times, start a group to say the Rosary prior to Mass, initiate a First Friday and/or First Saturday devotion. The Church has supplied all the tools necessary – what it needs is people to use them.

  29. jellysquare says:

    Thank you, Martha, that is beautiful. My husband and I say the rosary each evening. I am going to add those intentions.

  30. Bprayer says:

    Holy Obedience has always been a key virtue of holiness in the lives of the Saints. The Lord said if you love me you follow my Commandments. He established the Church as a visible sign of His presence and authority on earth. He gave us the Mass and the Eucharist as a visible sign of His real presence and His Sacrifice on the cross, which according to the Council of Colonge “man in his nature needs.” I think reason through the Mercy of God will eventually be restored after humanity has sunk far enough and it is fast approaching . We as faithful Catholics can do something by helping atone for the world by our prayers and especially making up for the insults to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by Mass and Adoration. God promised not to destroy Sodom if he found only a few faithful people there. God loves us so much in His Eucharist that He desires us at every Mass. We need to be missionaries and evangelist to the goodness of Christ especially in the Eucharist. People at any level of society can understand the truth and recognize it when they hear it. The missionaries of the past had no problem with presenting the truth of the Catholic Church in it’s pure form without watering it down neither should we and they were most successful in winning pagan cultures over to Christ. All for Jesus and Mary

  31. Mike says:

    1. Yes, it looks bleak inside the Church; bleaker outside it.

    2. Christ is God.

    3. My son is going to a large state university, and seeing the neo-paganism there will surely bolster his Catholicism. When the options are clear, that is not altogether bad.

  32. Father G says:

    Re: Fatima vision of hell
    The following is an English translation from Sr. Lucia’s description of hell as written in her memoirs. The words snowfall and snowflake are not used, but the description is quite chilling (no pun intended).

    Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.

    Source: http://www.wafusa.org/fatima_message/full_message/fatima_message_fullarticle.html

  33. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I am reading Fr. Arminjon’s book now. It is helpful in all kinds of ways, for anybody who suffers and who worries about final perseverance as I do. It is helping my healing from an incident which will never heal completely but it is helping me want to keep on.

  34. Hidden One says:

    According to the great St. Peter of Alcantara, if you (who art reading this) and I both reformed our lives, it would be a very good beginning to the reform of the whole world, no matter how badly off the world is.

  35. Our Holy Father’s homily today is very cheering. I imagine especially so for priests!

    I’ve been translating St. Beatus of Liebana’s Commentary on the Apocalypse. (Because it’s neat, that’s why.) Don’t believe anybody who tells you it’s scary and trying to scare you. For the most part, it’s about the duties of religious, priests, laypeople, and educated and uneducated people. (Beatus is firmly on the side of country people as less likely to pull boneheaded smartypants moves.) He was reasonably convinced that the world was going to end in 801 AD, but he wasn’t really worried about it. He was much more worried about people doing the everyday things God has commanded. If they did that, they would naturally be prepared when trouble came. And in the end, the Church would win and be happy, and many of her enemies would repent and be saved.

    So feel motivated a little by fear, but don’t let it overwhelm you.

  36. Heh, forgot his great disclaimer about AD 801. ‘I think it’s 801 and this is why, but of course God could make the world end sooner or later if He thinks it’s a good idea and it would help save souls, and of course I could be wrong about the date. So basically, going with “we know not the date or the hour” is probably easier.’ (And he ended up dying several years before his pet date, anyway, which is a great lesson to anybody who likes to think up prophecy dates.) But I haven’t gotten to that whole bit of Book IV, alas.

  37. Mdepie says:

    Excellent post Father.
    I am not sure what you mean when you ask if we can reverse the trend . Does this mean , it is unknown whether we collectively have the will or ability ( maybe not, Lord only knows! ) or are you asking whether there is anyting we can do in principle that would work at this point?

    If the later I think there is a least something worth a try. We have a saying in medicine, if what you are doing is killing the patient you stop. If one looks at the state of the Church pre and post Vatican II, the dismal statistics tell the tale that there has been nothing short of a catastrophic collapse. Of course this does not mean that Vatican II is the cause per se, and some of the problems were in embryonic stage earlier as outlined by others. Still if I gave a patient a drug and shortly therafter all his vital signs collapsed, I probably would stop the drug. ( Would it not be malpractice to keep giving more)

    So lets start the renewal by reevaluating the changes post Vatican II.
    I have 3 simple suggestions:

    1) You are right about Liturgical renewal . Those of us in the Pews are desperate. Bring back the Old Mass, completely and fully. I realize, The Novus Ordo is valid , and of course the Mass is always the prayer of Christ himself so we have to respect any valid rite , But I am only Human and it is simply very difficult to imagine there is really an eternal sacrafice of unimaginable importance going on during the Mass as its currently done. ( I mean look around is anyone there acting like this is what is taking place? ) I am barely able to remember the old Mass, I vaguely recall mass when I was quite young said with the Priest facing the alter, but from what I have seen on video and film the Traditional rite appears to be much closer calling the imagination to what is really happening. In any case anyone who is not in a coma should be able to acknowledge anything which gets rid of songs like ” On Eagles Wings”, or the execrable “Lord of the Dance” is itself a God send. It is very difficult to raise sons to be devout with this as the high point of our worship . ( Dont have girls so don’t know what that would be like, but frankly studies show that how religious the Dad is determines how devout the kids, both boys and girls will be. I am quite certain we are stuggling to keep the boys.

    2) Bring back the Baltimore Catechism. The very first chapter had the secret of life, I memorized it when I was 7, and It has stayed with me over the last 40 plus years even when I failed to live up to it.
    Q: Who made you? A: God made me
    Q: Why did God make you ? God Made me to know him, love him and serve him in this life so as to be happy with him in the next.
    If this is not a really good start to a catechism, well I am not sure what is. Frankly it cuts to the chase a lot more clearly than anything that passes for instruction in your local CCD class taught by the typically vaguely heretical DRE lady, or for those of us forking over large amounts of cash for private “Catholic” School, a lot better than what passes for religion class there too.

    3) With all due respect we need to scrap all the modern theology of the “Balthasaar era”. I bought some books by the late Cardinal several years ago, mostly because a Priest writer and lecturer who I thought was quite good recommended him as a brillant modern theologian . ( The Late Father Thomas Dubay) Much as I still would recommend Father Dubay to anyone , I think he was way off on this call. I have tried to read Balthasaar, and he is incomprehensible . ( A flaw that runs through all the theologic writing of the modern era) Try this experiment, I did it with my 16 year old son. ( I am a physician so am ordinarily an evidence based guy) Pick up any of the great doctors of the Church ( I used St Alphonsus Ligouri) and randomly select a passage from a book he wrote, than pick a randon passage from someone like Balthasaar. Which passage is your reader able to understand? Theology should be clear ( can be deep, God is deep, but opaque is not helpful, A revealed religion which is obscure, opaque and barely comprehensible is not Christianity, it is closer to some kind of gnosticism) In any case anyone who claims that we must hope “all might be saved” is disconnected from reality. As my oldest son said, “If thats true maybe Balthasaar can room in heaven with Bin Laden”… no this theory fails the 16 year old common sense test.

    Do this 3 things and we have a good start, but probably I am just dreaming

  38. Lurker 59 says:

    Fr. Z, you are absolutely right that the only thing that can chance the vector that we are on is serious renewal of our liturgy. It may not work…but it will save more than doing nothing. The problem is frankly systemic. I hold a BA and MA in theology but I have been applying for work for two years. I have looked at so many parishes and so many schools that I can tell you that it is very depressing out there in terms of what passes for “catholicism”.

    I don’t think we are headed for a shrinking of the Church in America, I think we are heading for a collapse. The parish where I am at has never seen a vocation to the priesthood. Never. How many parishes are like that across the US?

    What should scare people is that there may come a time when things have disintegrated so far that the people of faith will have no priest to burry them.

  39. digdigby says:

    How many saved? MYOB. Literally. To avoid presumption and avoid despair is enough work for me! This is Monsignor Gilbey of Cambridge who after bringing hundreds and hundreds of brilliant young Cambridge students into the Church was given the sixties heave-ho. One of my favorite quotes of Gilbey:
    “Each of us is brought into this world to establish the Kingdom of God in his own soul. If we do that we shall fulfill the whole purpose of our being. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his own soul?” Even if he gains the whole world for Christ but loses his own soul it STILL profits him nothing. I want to emphasis this because so much of our modern Christianity gives the impression that what we are here for is to put the world right. The first and indispensable thing we must do is establish the Kingdom of God in our own hearts. This primary duty is ours all the time. Any good we do will be as a consequence or ‘overflow’ of accomplishing this.”

  40. Praying with you, Father Z!

  41. Tony Layne says:

    One time, when I was fretting about the size and complexity of a task I had to complete, my best friend interrupted my obsessive ranting by asking, “How do you eat an elephant?”

    I paused, half-expecting a joke. “I dunno.”

    Larry shrugged. “One bite at a time.”

    All of which is by way of saying, you’re quite right, Father … we should reflect on the Last Things at least once a day during our private devotions. But as for reversing the trend, instead of worrying about saving the world, or even the US, I think we can best start with that piece of the earth centered around our neighborhoods and parishes. Living the faith is the best witness we can give to the faith. I also remember Chesterton’s reflections on the many “deaths” of the Church, as well as another comment he made: Hope only makes sense when the situation is desperate.

    I also figure that the Church’s enemies, having chosen a culture of death, will eventually fall victim to natural selection. Satan’s weapons are often self-defeating in the end.

  42. Gail F says:

    All ages are ages of doubt and refusal. One thing that distinguishes ours is that we are so vocal about it, and that when we are vocal, so many people can hear it. I agree that things are bad, but — the Last Days? Surely the Reformation felt the same way, and the reign of the Medici popes, and the Arian heresy, and so on and so on and so on. Despair is one of Satan’s best tools because things are ALWAYS bad in one way or another, and if you are the sort to notice the way they are bad in your day (not everyone does) you will suffer. But as bad as things are, the message to despair is a lie. It is better to be alive than the alternative, it is better to love and follow God than the alternative.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    digdigby is absolutely correct. The last sentence is particularly correct. If we are to do anything about the culture and the state of the church it must be grounded in establishing the Kingdom of God first and foremost in our hearts. Before ourselves. Before our favorite habits and feel-good preferences. It won’t do to prescribe a cure for everybody else, and then go on the way we have been. We have to act like Christians or we won’t convince anyone of anything. To be convincing, we have to commit to certain attitudes sorely lacking in many Catholics. [Yes, absolutely: Fix the liturgy and improve knowledge of the Church because it can only help, but we can’t stop there.]

    I’m a convert of 25+ years. I can honestly say that I love the Catholic church and will never leave, but I can also honestly say that many Catholics often tend to behave very badly. Catholics often think that they’re going to heaven because they’re obeying rules, and so many of them don’t think of themselves as sinners, and as a result can be very judgmental, critical & righteous with a flip prescription for everything. Inside the church, this is extremely disagreeable and makes the whole thing appear quite hollow & clannish. Inside the church, many Catholics want the title “Catholic” but don’t want to commit to acting like Christians in even the most rudimentary way. Maybe they don’t know how; I could grant you that, given the state of catechesis in the last 40 years. But if anyone should know how to behave like a Christian, a member of the Catholic church should know how!! We have everything, everything, and I mean everything. There’s something terribly wrong about all this.

    As far as on the street or at work, in full view of non-Catholics, many Catholics are completely indistinguishable from pagans. We’re not convincing anyone of anything as long as this is the case. And that’s the bottom line here. We’re just not convincing anyone because too many of us aren’t convinced ourselves.

    I would go out on a limb and say that many people have used the abuse scandals as a handy excuse. After all, our stats aren’t any worse than any other group and that’s not such a big secret, really. What they are really objecting to about us is that we aren’t out there being visible Christians because we’re not in here being visible Christians. That’s the real problem. It strikes the world as scandalous and pointless. To say you’re catholic and then act like a pagan makes your Catholicism an accessory to precisely nothing. It’s becomes just a label. UNLESS it makes a difference. A positive difference somewhere, somehow, even if it’s only that you hold your car horn & your mouth and act like a Christian on the street. Even if it’s only that you can welcome a stranger who sits down next to you, live simply & honestly, and share your life with a smile and a prayer and mean it.

    The best, and only ambassadors for the church, that will suffice are those who take the Kingdom of God in their souls seriously. There is a fine example in St. Augustine: St. Augustine’s conversion didn’t happen in a moment when he saw “Take and read.” That was only the beginning. It happened in stages. He was a brilliant man, who learned the facts of the faith first, and could not understand why it wasn’t enough. He had to bring himself to live it in order to understand it. Only then did he begin to be really Christian, and Catholic. That is our job too.

    The most tragic thing of all is that everyone is looking for something whether they admit it or not. You’re never going to reach everyone but huge numbers of people are looking for Christ and for US. But they don’t recognize us. And because of us, they don’t recognize Christ. We have to make Him present in the world in a myriad of special ways-work, charity, family life, teaching, praying- each according to our own relationship with Him which we MUST have. That’s our work on this earth.

  44. cdenmier says:

    Speaking of “Dissent into Hell,” I saw the following quotes in a book review on the National Catholic Reporter website. Mind=blown:

    “If we think we know Genesis, any commentary delivers some surprises. Being made in the “image and likeness of God” does not refer to the infusion of the human soul, but to kings who planted their image in stone in territories they controlled. The serpent is not “Satan,” he’s a symbol of fertility and wisdom. … The eating of the forbidden fruit was both an act of autonomy and a search for wisdom. What’s so bad about that?”

    (You can read the whole thing here: http://ncronline.org/node/24258)

  45. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Thank you for posting this, Fr. Z. We’re all of us sinners, but few acknowledge what that means. Pretending that some sins aren’t really sins – whatever the motivation – is a serious apostasy and an invitation to problems much worse than the tears of repentance.

  46. Centristian says:


    “You are right about Liturgical renewal . Those of us in the Pews are desperate. Bring back the Old Mass, completely and fully.”

    No, please don’t. I think there is alot that the reform of the Western liturgy can do to rejuvenate the faith of the Western Church (and subsequently of the West, itself), but to simply go back in time and make the extraordinary form of Mass ordinary again isn’t my idea of authentic liturgical development. I think that Mass in the extraordinary form is lovely, and I’ll attend it from time to time, but please don’t tell me that’s the hope of the Church and the World, or even of the liturgy. Liturgical reform is sorely needed, but forward is the way to go.

    I hope the Church would find herself able and willing to move forward with respect to the reform of the liturgy, soon, incidentally, because liturgical reform really needs to move forward, at this point. Things can’t just stay the way they have been, by and large, since Vatican II. The Mass needs to develop from what it unfortunately turned into. The Catholic Mass is stagnant and mired in the ethos of an age of revolution and confusion. It is lame; it is deformed (in its typical presentation), it is often soft and effeminate (even in more traditional presentations), and it fails to inspire. The reform, therefore, needs to get moving, the Church recognizing on the one hand the treasures that have been lost, but on the other hand appreciating the good reforms that have been gained. Keep the good reforms and restore the lost treasures. There is room in a future Mass for both.

    The Church and the World move in a flow, toward the future. That flow is natural, and shouldn’t suddenly be unnaturally supplanted by a bolt back to the past in an effort to avoid a future that may seem bleak to some. It might be radiant, for all anybody knows. We can only see the past and the present, after all. We can’t see the future.

  47. digdigby says:

    Centristan says –
    “The Church and the World move in a flow, toward the future.”
    If I had a bumper sticker, it would say “THAT WAS NOW, THIS IS THEN.”
    The ‘future’ is worldly by definition. The ‘idea’ of the future is a trap. The Church exists in God’s Perpetual Now. The Christ of which I partake is the SAME Christ that an Italian missionary in Alaska went 300 miles through 40 below zero weather to give to a dying Eskimo woman….. ‘a hundred years ago’. A hundred years ago or a hundred years from now – the same Christ. I respectfully disagree with you. WITHOUT such ecstatic, transcendent and accessible understanding, both Trads and Aging Hipsters can argue – literally – till doomsday. This Eternal dimension is accessible in the old forms – even to snarky teenagers. In the new form,
    Bishops and ‘brilliant theologians’ seem to often miss it.

  48. Brad says:

    Digdigby, great quote! I see the Monsignor was not a fan of social justice uber alles.

  49. Lepidus says:

    Fr. Z., I’m missing something that bothers me in this discussion. As you quoted, a number of saints have seen the souls in hell falling like snow. However, the way I was taught (which may be the problem), the only way to get to Hell was to commit mortal sin and to do that you must do an act that is grave, fully know that it is grave, and fully consent to doing it anyway. Any one of those conditions missing -> not mortal. That seems to preclude anybody outside the Church who wouldn’t share the definition of grave as well as many people inside the Church who were just poorly taught or didn’t fully understand what they were taught. In fact, I would suggest that many priests and bishops who teach these incorrect things got suckered in by some so-called-theologian whom they may have assumed studied the issue and knows more than they did. So maybe Fr. Theologian ends up on a slow roast for eternity, but the millions of others? That doesn’t seem right in light of the revelations of the saints, but I’m having a difficult time with pulling out a definition that properly describes it.

    Any help? Thanks.

  50. Bruce says:

    “The big problem that confronts Christianity is not Christ’s enemies. Persecution has never done much harm to the inner life of the Church as such. The real religious problem exists in the souls of those of us who in their hearts believe in God, and recognize their obligation to love Him and serve Him – yet do not!” Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth

Comments are closed.