In 2005 the Catholic Church elected Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI and created a short term rally. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued motu proprio Summorum Pontificum freeing up the Old Mass. As a beleaguered Catholic heavily invested in the Church, I allowed myself to believe that perhaps the worst was over. Even though none of the fundamentals had changed, I bought into the foolish notion that we had hit bottom and that it was all uphill from there. It might be slow, it might be painful at times, but the progressives who had systematically sought to destroy the Church for forty years were getting old and would soon die off. Young people seemed to increasingly embrace tradition. Time was now on the side of tradition.
Boy was I ever wrong. I bought into the Catholic version of the dead cat bounce.
In reality, the Church was thoroughly infiltrated and infested with progressives from top to bottom. Their quiescence during the early years of the Benedictine pontificate did not signify that they knew they were defeated, quite the opposite in fact. It was merely a tactic of the moment by a nefarious group of modernists that had been playing the long game since some fifty years before Joseph Ratzinger was even born.
Within a few short years, they had effectively ground Pope Benedict’s papacy into nothingness and ultimately Pope Benedict just gave up. The dead cat bounced. The decline continues unabated and in many ways has picked up speed, progressive gravity working its freefall magic.
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The Church is experiencing a great crisis, what Bishop Athanasius Schneider calls the fourth great crisis of the Church. Many well-meaning Catholics want to exclusively focus their attention on the culture at large ignoring what is happening in the Church. But this is first and foremost a crisis of faith, a crisis of the Church. I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible for the Church as a whole to effectively engage the culture with the purpose of saving souls when the Church, in large part, ignores the need for souls to be saved. Moreover, Catholics themselves are lost to sin because the Church has given up on them. Many Catholics who have only attended the Novus Ordo simply have no idea of what has been lost and what is necessary to truly engage the culture as the Church did successfully for two millennia.
The Catholics who generally sense that things are headed in the wrong direction in the Church but that have yet to fully understand or acknowledge the depth of the crisis are not the enemy. In many ways they are the future. They are the folks that cannot imagine that the October Synod will undermine marriage. Focusing on the internal crisis of the Church makes many Catholics uncomfortable, some angrily rejecting the truth or its messengers. They don’t want to believe it is true. I understand. I was like you.
For me, the turning point was the closing years of Pope Benedict’s papacy when I realized that in many dioceses the Pope’s signature achievement, Summorum Pontificum, was simply a dead letter, like it never even happened. That modernist progressivism was much more entrenched in the Church than I had assumed. My opening eyes moved to Japanese Manga cartoon size during the first two years of Pope Francis’s pontificate. Modernists, sensing their moment, have come out of the woodwork. Even some prelates I thought mostly reliable have firmly established their modernist bona fides. We now have Cardinals openly opposing Cardinals, Bishops openly opposing Bishops. We have the top hierarchy of the Church, with a few notable exceptions, openly and publicly debating how to get around the very words of Jesus Christ so that they can institutionalize the sexual revolution in the Church that has only tacitly accepted it the past fifty years.
The depth of the crisis makes itself more manifest every day and I don’t think it will get better any time soon. I don’t know how far our heavenly Father will allow His Church to go down this road, but I suspect it is a ways more. But as Catholics, our supreme focus should be on saving souls by preaching the Gospel. But we must face the fact that much of the new navel–gazing anthropocentric Church is no longer interested in doing that. To change that, it is necessary to support all those Catholics in the middle as they grow in their unease and understanding of the nature of this crisis and that its only solution lies in tradition and the restoration of all things in Christ.