If You Had All the Time in the World, How Would You Attack the Church?
The recent Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, accusing Pope Francis of heresy, precipitated a large number of commentaries. A common response was to cite ecclesiastical law for the proposition that “no one judges the pope” and thesk, “So what is the point of accusing him of heresy?”
This is another way of saying, “Even if the pope’s accusers are right, there is nothing anyone — including the bishops— can do about it.” Most commentators saw the authors of the Open Letter as merely wailing in despair. One saw them as giving their professional lives to attempt to save the rest of us.
In a sulfurous cavern somewhere, a dark, brooding presence is rubbing its talons together and saying, “I love it when a plan comes together.” And what a plan it is — namely, to turn the full weight and power of the Catholic Church against itself and bring about its destruction.
Most of mankind’s battle plans throughout history have been fairly simple: defeat the opponents’ army, kill their king, seize their territory and riches, and enslave their population. The plan had to be simple, because life is short, and conquering takes time. What good is being victorious if you do not live long enough to enjoy it?
If time were not an issue, however, what would the plan look like? If your enemy were not an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom upon the earth, how would you attack? Would you attack the pope? No. You would learn from 2,000 years of failure that this is not a successful strategy. Besides, the papacy could be useful.
You would notice that unsuccessful attacks on the Church resulted in various measures by the Church that were meant to defend against future attacks. For example, after various heresies had been beaten back, encyclicals and councils would anathematize persons who held or stated those heretical beliefs. You would notice especially that the Church pronounced that the formal teachings of its pope in matters of faith and morals are infallible.
You would notice that provisions would be added to the Code of Canon Law to discourage and punish actions such as inciting anger against the Holy See or even asking bishops to do something about an action of the pope.
In short, in defending itself against attacks on its dogmas and its pope, the Church down through the ages has put in place in terrorem proscriptions, designed to prevent future attacks from even being conceived, as well as severe punishments for those who are not deterred.
The only plan that could possibly succeed is one that makes use of the Church’s own weapons. To accomplish that, it would be necessary to invert the Faith. Truth must become false; falsehood must become truth. The Church must become the world; the world must become the Church. The pope, however, must continue to be unassailable, assuring his global flock that he is infallibly guiding them to safe pastures. Those who would say otherwise are to be painted as merely the continuation of the enemies of the Church, who have failed for two millennia.
How long might it take to invert the Faith? Judging from the Old Testament, two or three generations should be enough. Time and again the Lord would rescue the Israelites. Time and again would they rejoice, then slowly forget, until they succumbed to the surrounding culture and found themselves suffering in captivity again. Human nature has not changed over the millennia.
How best could the Faith be inverted? Past attacks on doctrine have failed. This time, let the attack not be a nettle to theologians over such matters as whether Christ had one will or two. This time, let the attack be on things that directly impact the faithful in the pews. This time, let the targets of attack be the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, and the priesthood.
Legitimacy. The inverted faith must have legitimacy. A pope may formally declare a new dogma from time to time, but something more grand is required for the plan. The plan needs a full-blown, worldwide, newsreel-filling Church council. The plan needs a council with no focus, no heresy to combat, no real raison d’être. The plan needs a council that is so cumbersome that a mere handful of insiders can control its processes and products.
Then comes the most delicate phase of the plan. The products of the council must not raise alarm. They must be subtle. They must seem orthodox. At worst, they may be ambiguous. Do not make a new rule, but leave room for an exception to become the rule. Keep the changes small, like changing only one word, est, for example, to subsistit. Tap into the culture and mores of the times. Tell the curious to ignore that wisp of smoke in the chapel; call it fresh air.
With the products of the council in hand, the plan to attack the Mass, the Eucharist, and Jesus Christ Himself can be executed. These three, after all, are integral to each other: the Mass is a sacrifice, Christ is the priest and victim, and consumption of the Eucharist is required for eternal life.
It will be easy at first. If nothing else, Catholics are used to following orders. They have been conditioned for centuries to do so. If the bishop says this new Mass is good, then it is good. Ours is not to question the bishop. If the bishop says that the new Mass is still the Mass, then it is the Mass. Move slowly, imperceptibly.
In two or three generations, the people will have forgotten that the Mass is a sacrifice; they will look upon it as a communal meal. They will not understand that Holy Communion is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. They will have forgotten the sound of Latin. They will confuse preaching with worship. They will substitute themselves for God. They will judge the Church. Perfect!
In our times, the target of attack can finally be the priesthood, not that the priesthood has not been getting softened up for some time. How could the priesthood most successfully be attacked? How about priests running off and marrying nuns? Nope. Luther tried that, and virtuous priests are still with us. No, the plan needs something truly vile. How about homosexual priests raping and molesting seminarians and altar boys? Almost. What about a homosexual cardinal raping and molesting family friends and seminarians? Perfect!
The priesthood is now set up for the kill shot: the ordination of women as deacons. Every commenter worth listening to is saying this move will trigger the formal schism of the Catholic Church. In one brilliant move, this will both destroy the priesthood and fracture the Church. Perfect!
But wait. Does the plan end with a fractured Church? No. The plan has a use for Summorum Pontificum. Summorum Pontificum is an apostolic letter given in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI motu proprio, that is, “on his own impulse.” The letter gives priests all over the world the right to offer the Latin Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962 with no need of permission from the Apostolic See or the local Ordinary. Pope Benedict ended the letter with an order that it be given “full and lasting force,” but it seems clear that another pope’s motu proprio could vacate it.
Yet in the current pontificate, it has not been vacated. The plan took into account that the traditional Latin Mass would attract those Catholics who never accepted the new ways, as well as those who came to reject the new ways. These Catholics would assemble and coalesce around the usus antiquior. They would herd themselves into their own corral. And when the schism came, these Catholics would be the ones cast out en masse from the Church, into the cold. They, holding to the authentic liturgy and divinely instituted sacraments, would be the schismatics, who are no longer in communion with the See of Peter. Perfect!
The signers of the Open Letter surely must see the pope’s heresies in the context of the plan. In a special May 2, 2019 episode of Tumblar House’s Off the Menu, concerning the Open Letter, Charles Coulombe asked, why else would the signers risk their reputations, their positions, and possibly their lives to accuse the pope of heresy? He speculated that they might be trying to check the plan’s final move to open Holy Orders to women.
Mr. Coulombe dwelt a bit on the question of the emotions evoked by the Open Letter, especially the emotion of fear. He said this is a special kind of fear — the kind of fear felt by a four-year-old as he watches his parents fighting bitterly.
Imagine yourself to be that four-year-old. You are in a church, a place of safety, founded by Jesus Christ, protected by the Holy Ghost, and promised victory over the gates of Hell. But something is amiss. Some grown-ups around you have intuited the unthinkable. They stand up in protest, risking all to prevent it. A tinny loudspeaker in a corner somewhere is blaring, “The First See is judged by no one.” You catch a whiff of sulfur. You are in real danger of real attack. How anyone can or will protect you is not immediately apparent.
Raymond Kowalski is from Rochester, New York. He is a product of parochial elementary schools and The Aquinas Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and a law degree from The George Washington University. After a forty-year career in communications law, he is retired and living with his wife in Gainesville, Virginia. They are the parents of three and grandparents of five.