The Constantinian heathenism of the Church: Ratzinger and the crisis of our time

The vapid lunacy of the post-conciliar Church was the product of the hollow and merely forensic “faith” of the pre-conciliar Church.

(Image: Austrian National Library/

“The appearance of the church in the modern era shows that in a completely new way it has become a church of heathens, and increasingly so: no longer, as it once was, a church made up of heathens who have become Christians, but a church of heathens, who still call themselves Christian, but have really become heathens.  Heathenism is entrenched today in the church itself. That is the mark both of the church of our time and also of the new heathenism. This heathenism is actually in the church and a church in whose heart heathenism lives.” — Joseph Ratzinger (Hochland, October 1958)

With these incendiary words in an article shocking for its candor during a time when such things were just not said, a young Joseph Ratzinger burst onto the theological scene in Germany.  All was not well with the Church, despite outward appearances, and Ratzinger was convinced that the Church was in a deep crisis of faith requiring an equally deep theological response.  What is instructive in the quote isn’t just the blunt claim that the Church had been infected by “heathenism”, but also that these words were written in 1958, which gives the lie to the currently popular view among some conservatives that the reforms of Vatican II are responsible for the malaise in the Church.  All Vatican II did was to lift the lid off of the ecclesiastical libido and to thereby allow for the first time a full public expression of the unbelief, brewing for centuries, of the laity and the clerics alike.  Only this can explain why the putative “Catholic” culture of the pre-conciliar Church collapsed almost overnight.  The vapid lunacy of the post-conciliar Church was the product of the hollow and merely forensic “faith” of the pre-conciliar Church.  There is only one Church and these shallow distinctions between the pre- and post-conciliar Church—distinctions designed in order to assign blame based on your favored ecclesiastical ideology—are useless as valid diagnostic tools.

Ratzinger was not alone in ringing the alarm, as many fellow ressourcement theologians, philosophers, Dorothy Day, and Catholic literary figures in the period between 1920 and 1960 were making similar claims. The signs of rot were there if you only had the eyes to see it. These prophets were largely ignored by Church leaders and were viewed with deep suspicion as crypto-modernists—the charge of “modernism” being the new twentieth-century version of “she’s a witch!” as it was indiscriminately deployed against both real modernists as well as the nouvelle theologie.   Church leaders were mainly focused on maintaining the façade/illusion of “fortress Catholicism” viewed as a rock-solid bulwark of unchanging “orthodoxy” standing firm against the evils of the modern world.  Ratzinger, and like-minded thinkers, knew that the “fortress” was in fact a house of cards, as later events would confirm.

One of the thinkers who also raised the alarm was the French novelist George Bernanos.  I am currently reading a new reprint of an old book by Bernanos called The Great Cemeteries Under The Moon.  The book is an account of what Bernanos witnessed in the Spanish Civil War while living in Majorca.  First published in 1938, it is a scathing indictment of the Church’s alliance with the Franco regime and the Church turning a blind eye to the State-sponsored terrorism that Franco used in order to stay in power.  And pertinent to Ratzinger’s claim about the new heathenism in the Church, the main alarm Bernanos raises is the same as in all of his novels. Namely, that the worldly, practical atheism of the Church was causing a numbing down of her spiritual senses through a process of accommodation to the existential exhaustion of bourgeois European culture.

I mention the text by Bernanos in particular because it brings out the main point I want to make.  Namely, that the “heathenism” (or “paganism”, as it has also been translated) that Ratzinger saw in the Church was of a far deeper kind, and involves a far deeper apostasy, than the heathenism of a moral and religious relativism that Ratzinger was concerned with at that time.  These are real concerns, and I too share them, but they are largely the bourgeois concerns of the leisured academic class (a class of which I am a member).  In other words, Ratzinger was correct, but insufficiently so (as he himself came to see), since the heathenism that Bernanos is pointing out is not just of the kind denounced in the usual jeremiads about the “corrupt worldliness of the Church” but rather an indictment of the Church’s blessing and embracing of worldly “power” as such that amounts to an endorsement, among many other things, of State-sponsored murder.  Indeed, the Church has not only quite often blessed modern, worldly power but also, as Bernanos notes, it has sought to import its methods and to imitate them.  The Church has, of course, murdered people herself in the name of “orthodoxy” not so long ago, so her baptism of the bastards should not shock us, despite the happy-face ecclesiastical emoji that her leaders like to project as they use the fig leaf of “development of doctrine” as an excuse to overlook past sins:  “Yeah, yeah, we used to do bad stuff, but we don’t now. Our bad. Now, onto our reform of curial dicasteries.”

Therefore, one can hardly be blamed for understanding the relativism that so concerned Ratzinger as merely a symptom of a much deeper rot. Because nobody is ever really a relativist.  Ever.  Relativism therefore is always a subspecies of some kind of a deeper rejection directed at the existing moral and spiritual ordo of a specific culture.  And the rot of that culture, the Church’s culture included, with its hypocrisies, corruptions, inconsistencies, and manifest injustices, share deeply in the blame for the emergent “relativism” of those who reject the entire, tired monument of mendacity.  There are of course theoretical, philosophical relativists, but they do not seem to understand that if their thesis is “true” then they should stop writing and retire to the faculty lounge for a spirited discussion of linguistic theory while drinking high-end bourbon out of a crystal glass made in a sweat shop, while sitting on furniture made in a sweat shop, and wearing tweed suits made in a sweat shop.  Nobody takes such idiots seriously.  But what we often call (too superficially) “relativism” in the broader culture is in reality nothing more than the cri de coeur of exhausted souls living in an exhausted culture and in search of alternative answers.

The deeper problem, brought out clearly by Bernanos, is the Church’s 1700-year-old commitment to various iterations of the Constantinian arrangement. I know this is a cliché these days, but even cliches can be true and this one is.  I hasten to add now all of the usual caveats concerning the broad social implications of the Gospel and of the necessity of the Church to be a participant in the full life of a culture, its political culture included. Nevertheless, the Church is never stronger in the political/public sphere than when it is least implicated in the apparatus of the State.  As soon as it becomes an apparatchik for the reigning political powers, its ability to preach a Christ who was unjustly murdered by the Roman Imperium is blunted.

The Roman State is often treated as a vestige of a “long ago” regime that was apparently a one-off example of the misuse of State power, rather than being held up, as it should be, as a paradigm for just about every “sovereign State” that has come after.  That certainly seems to be one of the main points of the Book of Revelation with its whore of Babylon (cf. Rev 17) sitting astride the nations. However, Christ’s State execution is often glossed over and soteriologized into a purely “spiritual” act seen as having little to do with our efforts throughout history to curry favor with State power.  The Gospel has social implications? You are damn right it does, and first among them is the recognition that Pilate’s question “What is truth?” displays the convenient relativism of “power” employed by all hegemonic States. Therefore, the Church’s proper stance toward all such forms of political power should not be collusion, but distance.  For it is only in distance from such power that the Church is most free even if, and perhaps most especially, that freedom is that of the martyr.  And that is the only “integralism” that matters: the integralism of the cross and its paradoxical victory over the powers of this world.

The list of authoritarian States the Church has colluded with over the centuries is so long it would take pages upon pages to enumerate.  But far worse than this collusion wherein the Church tacitly baptizes worldly power for the sake of proximate and expedient goals, is the fact that the Church herself has imported patterns of worldly power into her own governing structure.  After Constantine, the Church began a centuries long expansion of power that saw the rise of an inflated “papalism” equipped with all of the apparatus of a political power and eventually adorned in princely, if not kingly, renaissance garb.  Bishops began living in palaces and behaving like the landed aristocracy (and many still do), all of which, in practical terms, was an open repudiation of Christ’s warning that you cannot serve both God and mammon.  The political, as opposed to the cultural, concept of “Christendom” was predicated on the notion that the Church had to wield worldly power in order to be free from other worldly powers.  The papacy even developed its own prisons, standing army, and executioners.  And this is to say nothing of the rampant corruptions and debauchery that infected the Church as a result of this mimesis of Caesar’s power.

Would the great schism between East and West have happened without this political corruption of the Church?  Would the Reformation?  Tetzel may have lit the match, but the kindling was all around, doused with accelerants and just waiting to explode into an inferno.  And even though these are all events in our distant past, the fact remains that the Church, well into modern times, clung to its Constantinian power, its worldly perks, its secretive curial intrigue in the tradition of corrupt kingly courts, and its episcopal pleasure palaces, with ferocious tenacity, kicking against the goad as Christendom slowly died one body part at a time. And even as Christendom’s corpse began to give off a stench the Church tossed perfumed talc over the mess and published a syllabus of errors and demanded oaths against modernism.  Errors were indeed afoot, and modernism was real, but the point is that the old methods of coercive power were now as effective as putting a band aid on a melanoma.

On the theological side it was inevitable that this political corruption of the Church would also bleed into the concept of the Church as “teacher” and “the sole means of salvation”.  The proper uses of the magisterium devolved into a hyper-magisterialism that turned the doctrine of apostolic succession into a weaponized ideology of control. Theological orthodoxy and holding to all the right doctrines became a central focus of the Church’s concept of salvation as such, elevating doctrines and creeds beyond their status as second and third level reflections on the sources of Revelation, and into the realm of Revelation as such.  Creeds, as C.S. Lewis notes, are like road maps.  Useful indeed, but they are not a substitute for the reality they depict.  Creeds are necessary.  But the living Christ is a person, and not a creed.

Thus did correct adherence to doctrine come to be wedded with coercive power, as the Church justified murdering unrepentant heretics on the grounds that it was for their own good since their salvation depended on getting the doctrines correct.  Church-sponsored inquisitions have been greatly exaggerated, as many modern historians are now uncovering, but their existence nevertheless cannot be denied, and they did indeed put people to death.  And the fact that the magisterium of the Church did not condemn the very concept of an inquisition is a sure indicator that the doctrines of the Church had been turned into an ideological superstructure for the maintenance of political Christendom.

Salvation is a gift from God, in the ordo of grace, and not a parlor game for the intellectually gifted.  And well into the modern period this politicized and distorted magisterialism created an ethos of inquisitorial coercion that did nothing to stem the tide of modernism, since its chief means of operation was coercive power and not argument, the imitation of Christ, and the exercise of legitimate authority.  As for modernism and the supposed “fortress” of magisterial efforts to combat it, Ratzinger writes in Faith and the Future:

Modernism never really came to a head, but was interrupted by the measure taken by Pius X … The crisis of the present is but the long deferred resumption of what began in those days.

I am obviously not arguing against the theological necessity of a magisterium, apostolic succession, the papacy, and the witness of the Church in the public square.  I hold to all of those truths.  However, I am arguing against the peculiar political form that these structures have taken on.  The Italian philosopher Augosto del Noce , in an important essay reprinted in the Summer 2015 edition of the journal Communio makes an important distinction between “power” and “authority”.  True authority is rooted in a moral and spiritual sphere and exercises its responsibilities to the truth utilizing tools from that same moral and spiritual domain.  As such, it is the exact opposite of the coercive modus operandi of political “power”. Political power must be coercive since it has no attractiveness in and of itself—and even when it appeals to the enlightened self-interest of its citizens does so from purely utilitarian calculations.  As such, it has very little power to “persuade” and quite often must resort to the stick of force when the carrot of self-interest fails.  How much more imperative then is it for the authority of the Church, which is after all a theological reality (and moral and spiritual in its very essence) to eschew “power” and to persuade rather than to coerce.  And the only power of persuasion it has is the towering figure of Christ, who coerced no one but drew the world to himself even as he was “lifted up”. The Church therefore will have no authority whatsoever unless it pursues the path of its Lord and imitates His pattern of kenotic “glory”.

My claim therefore is that the crisis in the Church today—a crisis of faithlessness and de facto atheism—has been caused by a Church that has had, historically, a lot of “power” and, therefore, now has very little “authority”. And what good, after all, is a magisterium in a Church that has no real spiritual authority even as she continues to function in a purely forensic manner? The “infallibility” of the Church may still be technically intact, but the authority behind it is not.  I wonder, for example, if the American bishops understand that they have zero credibility to teach anything? Decades of colluding with the local civil authorities to cover up child rape for the purpose of preserving that outward façade of a “holy” Church may have preserved their “power” for a time, but at the expense of their authority.  And their response to the crisis, which arose only after their lies were exposed, was to tinker with the bureaucratic apparatus of the Church, her “mechanisms”, all the while exempting themselves from their own protocols for “others” thus insuring a degree of immunity for their ongoing “power”. All they did was double-down on “process” in order to save the appearances.  In short, it was a cynical and mendacious betrayal of the faithful in order to save their own skins, showing once again that the only thing that matters to them is the power that comes with respectability.  We have replaced the old political integralism with an integralism of insurance companies and lawyers, an integralism of bourgeois comfort, in order to preserve the current status of the Church as a suburban strip-mall of ersatz spiritualities.

Hans Urs von Balthasar notes that there are two basic principles that structure the Church.  The Petrine principle forms the institutional, skeletal element without which the Church would just be a formless blob of disconnected tissues lacking a proper foundation. The Marian principle, which is superior to the Petrine, constitutes the Church’s internal holiness, her “guts” if you will.  And Balthasar emphasizes that without this Marian dimension of holiness the Church is just a dead pile of bones.  The Dominical warning about “whited sepulchers” comes to mind and is exactly what Balthasar is alluding to here.  For too long our hyper-magisterialism, born out of an idolatrous ecclesial ideology that makes the Church an end onto itself rather than a mere medium to Christ, has fostered an eclipse of that Marian element in the Church, no matter how many apocalyptic visions of Mary are currently popular.  I have no doubt that Mary has appeared, but her message of prayer, penance, and holiness is ignored in favor of the “secrets” and predictions of doom.  In other words, we are awash in “correct doctrines” and superficial pieties that tickle the ears, but where is the true Marian holiness?

The pathology, unfortunately, is deep—as can be seen in the quality of our current debates. Is Pope Francis a heretic?  Should we take communion on the hand or on the tongue? Is the Novus Ordo a creation of Freemason conspirators? Should women lector at Mass? Is Vatican II a robber Council? Should Benedict still be wearing a white cassock? Latin or vernacular? Gothic or fiddleback? Should homosexuals be ministered to gently or should we smash them over the head with a catechism as we refuse to bake them cakes? Is Vigano a prophet or a clown? Should the Vatican bank be shut down? How should the curia be reformed? Should some women be made Cardinals? Deacons? Is Bishop Barron a dangerous modernist? Was von Balthasar a heretic?

All of these debates signal a Church still locked in the heathenism of power insofar as they are all concerned with “winning” the debate for “their side” of disputes that are essentially concerned with the Petrine element of the Church at the expense of the Marian.  Where are the debates over asceticism, prayer, penance, vocational commitment, evangelization, and so on? Off the radar.  Nobody cares.  My good friend Fr. Michael Kerper calls this sort of thing “team theology”. And lost in the debates, as we take our side with our team members, is the “one thing necessary” (Luke 10:42). In short, we are a Church of Marthas.

My positive proposal is simple, yet difficult:  holiness.  The Church of concordats and position papers is dead.  “Infallibility” is a completely empty concept when it is rooted in power instead of authority.  And where there is no holiness, there is no authority.  I wouldn’t take a recipe for brownies from Stalin, no matter how perfect they look.  Personnel is policy and a hypertrophy of the Petrine element produces the wrong personnel.  Nor is this Donatism.  I am not questioning the validity of anyone’s office.  I am questioning the existential authenticity of the modern Church and its efficaciousness.

Joseph Ratzinger also understood that the Church of success, wealth, and power—the Church of Constantine—had run its course.  The future would belong, he wrote, to a “remnant” of believers, serious in their pursuit of holiness even as they reached out to their neighbors.  It will be a smaller, chastened Church, that will be cruciform and devoted to the “simple ones” so neglected by the world.  It will be a deeply spiritual Church, shorn of its political trappings and having almost no social standing.  And so I give him the last word even as I gave him the first, again from Faith and the Future:

And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult… but the Church of faith.  It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that it was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming, and be seen as man’s home where he will find life and hope beyond death.

(Editor’s note: This essay originally appeared in the Gaudium et Spes 22 site in slightly different form and is reposed here with the kind permission of the author.)

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About Larry Chapp 56 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at "Gaudium et Spes 22".


  1. I have no doubt that many will disagree with the main points of the essay.

    [All of these debates signal a Church still locked in the heathenism of power insofar as they are all concerned with “winning” the debate for “their side” of disputes that are essentially concerned with the Petrine element of the Church at the expense of the Marian.]

    I will disagree with HvB on the two basic principles. There is only one, however one wants to elucidate it, and it is the All Holy Trinity. There is no holiness apart from law, and even agape is a commandment unto itself. Hence those questions listed above are not merely about power or the “Petrine element” but reflect confusions that result from an untenable Latin ecclesiology, which the author takes pains to affirm. I am otherwise sympathetic to the claim that there has been a distortion in the understanding and exercise of ecclesial authority.

  2. A monumental essay of deep and simplifying insight. At one point, we read: “Therefore, the Church’s proper stance toward all such forms of political power should not be collusion, but distance.”

    So, today, no longer any distancing of vestments from the halls of power, but social-distancing of exactly six feet combined with masked Prayer Breakfast pieties under the chandeliers, where the centerpiece is not only Constantine-thru-Modernism, but also those 200 Aztec gods who sanctioned human sacrifice atop a political pyramid devoid of moral authority.

    Very multicultural! Trans-American goulash! Or is it ghoulish? The alphabet soup of Huitzilopochtli (Father of the Aztecs), Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent), and cancel-culture LGBTQ+Gender Theory (the shiny axe head of Biden’s wafer-gobbling cafeteria-Catholicism).

    The heathen practices of the dominant triad—-Pelosi, Harris and Biden—-hellbent to validate a political power said to “coincide” with Catholic teaching. All to be carved in stone on the temple mount by codifying Roe v. Wade’s 60+ million since 1973.

  3. This blanket indictment of the “Church” describes the many wrong actions, atrocities, and sins of Catholic clergy and laity. There is little if any mention of the holy and blessed service to Jesus of those whose humble, mundane lives, through time, gave glory to God. The fact that the record of their faithful service to the person, Jesus Christ, whom they knew and had received through the sacraments of the same Church is not at least mentioned here seems problematic.

    The Church seems to be viewed here as a worldly institution, one given over to clever maneuvering for political advantage. Is this the whole story? I say “No”; most emphatically “No”.

    Dr. Chapp commendably speaks hard words. He sees a need; a gap, a lacuna in our understanding of developments within the institutional church. I understand the concept of righteous anger. There is much to be angry about. Jesus spoke the truth to all; no softening of the message: “Get thee behind me, Satan!” These harsh words served Peter well in that he came to understand the meaning of obedience to God. He also came to know himself at the third crow of the cock. And “Jesus turned and looked at him.” When we are wrong, how blessed we would be to have that transformational gaze turned on us.

    And yet we, men and women of the Church, must not blind ourselves to the good in our anguish over the bad, even the evil. We, each of us, have done wrong things; even perhaps many wrong things. This is true. But there is much more to the story. We must not lose hope.

    In the heart of the Church, and in the hearts of faithful priests and members of the laity, the true faith, love of Jesus Christ lived and still lives. And we can, even now, come to know Him in the “breaking of the bread”.

    Pope Benedict had many things to say about the true Church. These I and others who have access to them may post at this site later today.

    Dr. Larry Chapp has performed a service through his writing today. He sounds a warning: “Sleepers, awake!”. But I do believe that the Church as Christ’s body is never asleep. Muted, attacked, sinned against even by those to whom Her well-being has been entrusted – “Yes”. And it is true that Her faithful people, true followers of Christ, do fall but only to “rise again”. May God grant that all who love God and the Church will rise again through prayer, fasting, and unfailing fidelity to the Truth who is Jesus Christ.

    • Very nice balanced response. In these troubled times we need to guard against being jaded, which presents its own dangers

  4. The Catholic Church is unchangeable, and never wrong, its the people “who claim” to be knowing of the church that are wrong, of heathenism.

  5. Dr. Chapp, thank you for writing this essay and allowing it to be posted here. I agree with your analysis, and am trying to focus on living my faith as opposed to winning arguments. It’s hard to change.

  6. But, gee whiz, the Second Vatican Council was supposed to fix all that, and create a more dynamic and vigorous church. Yet here we are, awash in pagan vomit and with an atheist for our pope. If we don’t reverse our course soon, our church is going to be dead. And it’s going to deserve it.

  7. A lot to take in and consider, but this essay certainly explains many of my observations and concerns the past several years that have been highlighted this past year and especially now with the accommodation of our new pro-abortion president. As a nod to Tolkien’s Lord of Rings trilogy, our Church leaders and pastors have their “precious” and can’t give it up. Many twist and rationalize everything (pro-abortion president) for the sake of “unity”. A unity that keeps them safe and in power.

  8. Another lengthy analysis of the condition of the Church (that physical institution led by man, I might add), adding nothing new really. And, like most analyses, it ends quickly with a semi-solution, in this case “holiness.” No doubt the institution is – and has been since its beginnings – plagued with false shepherds, false teachers, false prophets, and false apostles who lead the sheep astray, thieves who come to steal, kill and destroy. And no doubt this has become grossly pronounced as the Church grew. But I’m still waiting on someone to provide a well-researched analysis of the problem, chiefly its root causes (other than just simply saying “the problem is sin”), and then provide a well-researched solution that is practical, applicable, and actionable, other than just “we need to return to holiness.”

    The Church is tired of books, websites, homilies, magazines, and popular activists constantly telling us all what’s wrong; we need clear instructions on how to address the root causes and correct the problem with a solution that leads us to being that city on a hill that lights the way for all the nations to return to God. And we need Church leaders and laity who are bold enough to put into action that solution regardless of how painful, laborious or time-consuming it might be.

  9. Fancy titles: His Excellency, His Eminence, His Holiness…just like the apostels and Our Lord…no?

    “His Holiness” Francis orchestrating idolatry in Rome in 2019.

    Millionaire jet-set life-styles for the Excellent and Eminent and Holy.

    So-called “Catholic” Universities and schools which are enemies of The Good Shepherd, and monied enclaves of the zeitgest, well represnted by Fordham University, with its Chairman of “theology” Professor Hornbeck, a non-Catholic man professing sodomy in a fake “marriage” with his male sex partner.

    Bishops “in good standing” (Carlson of St. Louis) who give depositions in sex abuse investigations declaring under oath that they didn’t know that it was against the law for adults to have sexual relations with minors.

    Outright heretics such as Walter Kasper, promoted to be Bishops and Cardinals, despite writing “theology” books (Jesus the Christ 1974) teaching young people and seminarians that Jesus did not rise from the dead, and that the Gospel miracle accounts are fiction, and that all of the former “probably don’t need to be believed.”

    The Vatican Secretariat of State as the choice of “the world” over “he faith,” the very emblem of the contemporary fraud Church, with the Congregation for Faith demoted to “second place” in Paul VI’s 1970 “reorganization,” and demoted deeper down again by the Pontiff Francis in his 2019 (?) reorganization.

    Sex-abuse coverup Cardinals like Danneels of Belgium, who get restored to power by the idolator Pontiff Francis in 2013, a mere 3 years after publicly retiring in disgrace in 2010 after being exposed in the Belgian newspapers for refusing to help the Vanglewhue family, who are asking him to bring their own uncle (Bishop Roger Vanglewhue) to justice, for raping their brother, his own little nephew, and choosing instead to coverup for his incestuous, sex-abusing pederast Bishop friend.

    Sycophants and frauds like “His Eminence” Cardinal Farrell climbing his career ladder by serving one ecclesial, sex-abuser and fraud after another, from Maciel to McCarrick to he Pontiff-Idolator Francis.

    An infanatalized cult of mediocrity and fraud, worshipping power and prestige and well-appointed living arrangements, and teaching its children to revere this counterfeit cult.

    As one screen-writer put it: “If Jesus ever came back he would never stop throwing up.”

    As Our Lord warned one fateful Friday: “what will be done to the dry wood?”

  10. “… but also that these words were written in 1958, which gives the lie to the currently popular view among some conservatives that the reforms of Vatican II are responsible for the malaise in the Church. All Vatican II did was to lift the lid off of the ecclesiastical libido and to thereby allow for the first time a full public expression of the unbelief, brewing for centuries, of the laity and the clerics alike.“

    Please. A better analogy is that Vatican II tried to put out a small fire with a hose of gasoline. Or tried to cure a man with warning signs of alcoholism with a case of gin.

    • Most amusing. I endured the corruption of Vatican II all my life and there was certainly a conflagration. Dear Pope Benedict, who so faithfully served Pope John Paul, both of whom, with Mother Teresa, lit up my life in the midst of moral insanity, which has intensified. My Australian mother, half English and half Irish by antecedents, and her friends, were an example to me all my life of fidelity and simplicity, by which I don’t mean lack of intelligence or instruction but humility before God. Status seeking was not their motive and status seeking seems to be something that is ascribed to the Church in the article. Hum. As my mother said of the Church, “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”, so pray.

  11. A lot of good points, anyone familiar with Catholic history could agree with many points. However going back into history one cannot judge by todays standards. Kings ruled and popes, and there were good popes, had to deal with them along with the wars with Moslems, who were always encroaching on Christendom. Also the lack of the internet made communication a litle dicey. The mere survival of the Church is a testament to God’s grace. So to denounce all that occurred in the past needs to be tempered with some dose of reality.

    One has to remember there was and is no shortage of kings, dictators, and self righteous politicians etc that had and have no problem with torturing and killing people. While there were collaborators, there were many good and saintly catholic nuns, priest bishops and laity that were slaughtered in the process. So a little balance is suggested.

    Regarding Pope John Paul II, former Cardinal Ratzinger, why did he not do something about this when he was the pope. While he was a great theologian, I am sad to say, I think he wimped out, tossed in the towel, when a frank revision of the direction of the Church was and still is needed. Sometimes theologians need to take off the gloves, get their hands dirty and do the grubby work of putting the ship back on course. But maybe that is what God not intended for JPII, hopefully the next pope will do the grubby work.

    • Mike- Grubby work is and has been called for. We have been looking to or church leaders for taking these risks, and for the most part been let down. I don’t believe most priests and bishops are capable of grubby work, it has been trained out of them. Most are not capable of chasing the money changers out of the temple with whips. They have been deceived of what brings about true peace – sacrifice, doing something risky by living by faith rather than playing it safe and by vocation obedient. Very difficult to weigh obedience to their wordly order versus their heavenly faith.
      Nope, we’re not going to get the amount and depth of virtue we need from our church leaders. We the laity, who take risks and get grubby everyday, need to lead the way now – we can’t delegate this responsibility any longer. We too, let our reverence for our leaders cloud our judgement because it made our lives easier and less risky. We need to wake up, fear God, and get more involved with our local parishes and communities. This does not need to be traditionally sanctioned parish activities like KofC, or the other typical Catholic organizations – we need new ones, that if the parish priest or deacons don’t want to soil their hands with for fear upsetting someone, then we still need to do it with smaller and focused prayer groups. If we aren’t a member of a parish now because of the hypocrisies all around us, we need to find a parish that has at least one other who believes as we do. We need to scout these places of worship out. We need more voices to put pressure on our church leaders from within. This pressure needs to be constant and performed with love, the kind of love that is sometimes referred to as tough love or truthful love.

  12. Well written and needed. I am simple in reflection as I see The Church. It fails miserably often in inspiration of the Cross. It does not say NO but far more apt to say well, maybe. She aligns with political issues
    Just my thought you provoke God bless

  13. What does Christ’s Church teach on the subject of the authority of one’s (His) conscience? If our Lord God is found within our souls, do we first have to “experience” His truth before we can truly have within us Christ’s conscience? A Christian conscience is a gem, don’t you think? I’m sure my question is not worded in the best grammar and for that I do apologize.

    • Dear Carol — of all the comments/questions here, your question about having experienced the presence of God’s conscience in our soul is my most recognizable truth. I copied your comment below…. it surely is a Gem.

      What does Christ’s Church teach on the subject of the authority of one’s (His) conscience? If our Lord God is found within our souls, do we first have to “experience” His truth before we can truly have within us Christ’s conscience? A Christian conscience is a gem, don’t you think? I’m sure my question is not worded in the best grammar and for that I do apologize.

  14. May I quote Hilaire Belloc?
    “THE Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

    • Oh, brilliant, Abigail, thank you! It ain’t over yet until the final Redemption and this author is hard to assess: perfection is not for this earth but virtue “is a vivid and shining thing”, it is hard to discern whether he is in fact a bit liberal small l or a true believer: love of the Church gives energy and hope, the willingness to fight, which is a bit lacking in the content.

  15. Avalanche it was a wall of heathenism that cascaded through the fissures with Vat II. Words not meant to mislead although were seized upon. It didn’t require genius to know that. Although Larry Chapp rightly cites Ratzinger’s 1958 oracle. Ahead of his time? In 58 I was just released from the Army 20 years young oblivious to what must have fomented for years within our Church. It shatters the myth that Vat II [many target the change from the tradition liturgy to the Novus Ordo as a singular reason] caused the moral debacle that followed. All indication is that Vat II actually contained by keeping the ‘heathens’ within eventually many realizing their errors [Cardinal Avery Dulles a prime example] what would likely have been schismatic breakup. The Konstantine arrangement is a cliche admitted by Chapp, that said because the Church must interact with civil authority. At least since the demise of Christendom. Following the French Revolution, Church friendly government ceased to exist despite Metternich’s European arrangement. Nationalism, Marxism assured that. Pius IX Leo XIII struggled with this radical change and began the remodeling of the Church. State and Church since, even as previous even during Christendom, we recall Philip the Fair et al vie for power. The change from spiritual v civil authority has devolved to identification of Church and State. Heathen politicians representing Catholicism, Catholic hierarchy more heathen than not aligned more with State than faith. A nexus, a new, secular form of Constantinianism became inevitable with Laudato Si, Amoris Laetitia. Thus spake Zarathustra as channeled in Fratelli Tutti. Although national government is surpassed with prospect of global. A Church [or church?] larger embedded with heathen hierarchy presbyters Laity apparently taking with it the Chair of Peter drifts toward the global, a smaller faithful Church true to Christ making claim of loyalty to the Chair not the titled person. A Church no longer the dominant social power “that it was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming, and be seen as man’s home where he will find life and hope beyond death”. What will be the saving grace for the chosen few if not steadfast adherence to Christ’s Gospels [as distinguished from the new version] and Apostolic Tradition.

  16. Thank you Dr Chapp, a very timely reminder that God and his Church are perfect, but the men who run the Church, not so much. People, especially non-Catholics, often confuse and project the sins of these men onto the Church, and this is wrong. Gods ultimate and perfect power need to be taken into our hearts and spread and LIVED. I dont want to see the Pope telling me to take a vaccine that hasn’t been tested properly in the name of “brotherhood” and unity. The Church should stay out of racism and societal issues and focus on the nurturing of the worlds relationship with God.

  17. Holiness and spirituality, and the lack thereof, are certainly the problem, and have been for much of Church history, when Christianity went from a mystery religion requiring in depth spiritual catechesis step by step before full admission to the religion and its worship, to baptising kings and nations without education, while never actually telling them exactly how one gets in touch with this God we worship.

    Hardly a reader here can point to a priest or bishop who can point a seeker towards how to firstly know this God, much less in how to love and serve this God. The miracle for quite some time is that despite this utter lack of instruction, an extreme minority have managed to actually find and love this God, and only then be fitting to serve this God…it is THEY who have preserved the Church for all this time.

    They generally were able to do this via personal spiritual instruction, or, lacking that, able to read texts by other holy people of deep spiritual development, but that is a mine field in that most folk are not educated enough to separate the wheat from the chaff in such writings, and to find a sure path. And so, many have fallen astray.

    Formerly, such seekers were at least directed to unhelpful and obtuse works by assorted declared saints (where such declaration does NOT automatically grant deep spiritual faculties), but today, they are not generally even given those crumbs.

    Today, the majority of the Church consists of the blind leading the blind, where a Church of mainly those truly striving to intimately know, adoringly love, and thereby enabled to serve this God, would not have any problem with following commandments and teachings from their divine lover.

    What we need is a SPIRITUAL awakening, where knowing this God the most pressing order of the day.

    • Hi! Bob. You say “The miracle for quite some time is that despite this utter lack of instruction, an extreme minority have managed to actually find and love this God”

      “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction

      So, narrow is the Way.–Literally, pressed, or hemmed in between walls or rocks, like the pathway in a mountain gorge as in The Inviolate Word (Will) of God “Not One Iota”

      So, the ‘Way’ “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”.

      Humility is the key for it takes an honest heart to truly see the full fallen reality of oneself as in “One Iota” before Him, for if we do so it will induce humility (St Bernard, Humility; a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself)

      We find self-knowledge (Reality of ourselves) as we reflect in faith on the living Word/Will of God within the Gospels while The Holy Spirit prompts/enlightens our understand of our own brokenness which leads to humility as a humble heart is His known dwelling place.

      “What we need is a SPIRITUAL awakening, where knowing God ‘is’ the most pressing order of the day”

      Our Lord Himself in this present time has given His Church ‘a vision of hope’ to embrace humility via the True Divine Mercy Image that is one of Broken Man which from my uneducated understanding has the potential to draw the Church into a new dawn, as in the manifestation of a truly humble church/people before God and all whom we encounter within the world.

      As previously stated, when the Truth is embraced honestly, it will induce humility within the heart. A Truthful heart/church will never cover its tracks (Past) or hide from its shortcomings, and in doing so, confers authenticity, as it walks in its own vulnerability/weakness/brokenness in trust/faith before God and mankind. It is a heart/Church to be trusted, as it ‘dispels’ darkness within its own self/ego, in serving God (Truth) first, before any other.

      If we walk His ‘Way’ we will eventually accept ourselves and then each other in wholeheartedness, while we are led along the path/Way of spiritual enlightenment, the ongoing transformation of the human heart, a moist heart, a gentle tearful one, one of compassion, where it is not possible to judge another individual harshly, for to do so would be to judge/condemn one’s self.

      Rather in our humility, we would want for all our brothers and sisters no matter what their state of being, that which we have been given ourselves, His known gift of Divine Mercy, which can only be known/accepted in a humble/Vulnerable heart, before Him because is that not what Christianity (Love of God) is all about.

      “Believe me,” he said, “unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven”

      So, we learn from His vulnerability, while in humble/child-like ‘simplicity’, we are been emptied (Set free) of the selfhood; we will then eventually find (the lost coin, a dewdrop, a mustard seed, pearl) His gift of joy/peace/the Holy Spirit, the spiritual ‘treasure’, dwelling while adorning our own hearts/souls.

      So, humility is the key but will we in Unity of Purpose bend our knee.

      kevin your brother
      In Christ

      • Your comment Kevin was the only one that really moved me I have been experiencing this humbleness you talk about with our Lord he has blessed me so much in my life and until recently I never really responded to him the way I have and it proved to become the most humbling experience Thank you

        • Thank you Mark for your comment may you continue to follow His way now and always. We are taught

          “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

          In past times a Quickening (The first known movement of the fetus within the uterus) was an acceptance of a new life (Creation). Those born anew of the Holy Spirit do not fully understand the time and place (Whereof) of that birth as initially He enlightens our minds with the ‘sound’ of His living Word given within the Gospels (True knowledge God) while quickening/moving our hearts into obedient, truthful tender compassionate ones as we are gradually been transformed into a New Creation.

          The Holy Spirit prompts us to cry out Father! With His beloved as His Holy Spirit inspired/gave His Beloved the pray which glorifies His Name as we are taught to say in Unity of Purpose.
          “Our Father, who art in heaven
          Hallowed be thy name
          thy kingdom come
          thy will be done,
          on earth as it is in heaven….etc

          kevin your brother
          In Christ

      • Kevin, I am in total agreement. Another great builder of humility is an honest appraisal of the multitude of sins committed against that divine love on a daily basis, or even hourly, all the times we ignore this love of loves.

        Personally, I am partial to The Cloud Of Unknowing (anon) and Sancta Sophia (Father Augustine Baker) as how-to, while the excellent Common Mystic Prayer (Father Gabriel Diefenbach) fleshes out WHAT the interior life is and where it leads. Meanwhile, the full spectrum of Christian doctrine and prompts to conversion of heart is very well handled by Bishop Richard Challoner’s Meditations For Every Day Of The Year, and just excellent in pushing for that needed humility as we leave the Christmas Cycle and enter the penitential season.

        Blessings on you and yours.

        • Thank you, Bob, for your well-meaning comments for which I am grateful.
          From your further comment on FEBRUARY 6, 2021 AT 5:38 PM which now appears to be missing /deleted

          “If the love is lacking, we have any number of devotions, exercises, devotionals, as well as scripture and teachings and sacraments to build up that love”

          For myself I know that my love is lacking for Him that is why I identify in my post with the true Divine Mercy Image which is an Image of Broken Man. This identification of my fallen nature (Brokenness) creates a ‘continual’ silent awareness of His Goodness before me.

          For further information relating to the True Divine Mercy Image One of Broken Man please consider continuing via the link

          kevin your brother
          In Christ

      • I can put everything in a nutshell quite easily. God is love. Our duty and honor is to return that love with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, quite literally, which comes easily to those truly in love, as any lover knows, and as anyone in love knows, they never are worthy of that beloved.

        If the love is lacking, we have any number of devotions, exercises, devotionals, as well as scripture and teachings and sacraments to build up that love.

        HOWEVER, those things will never substitute for loving attentiveness to the beloved, just as no gift can ever make up for ignoring a spouse. We practice this love in the silence of regular prayer.

        Without that wordless loving prayer, which is the engine room of the religious life, the religious life is dead in the water and subject to every storm.

  18. As we used to call out to our own teammates when a player didn’t realize he was fighting for the ball amongst ourselves: “Same team!” I liken these discussions similarly, we’re all on the same team, standing alert, ready for the next play. Not sitting in the pews checking our watches. We are orthodox, rock solid in our faith, who else would be reading the Catholic World Report? We’re preaching to the choir.

  19. Luke 12:49: Dr. Larry, great essay. Just the other day I was talking to my Church of Christ neighbor across the street and we were discussing the very topics you discussed in the essay – but not as poetic, (I felt like I was reading lyrics from an old miscreant “Black Flag” song there for a while except without the foul language). As you pointed out, there is a sense among my Catholic and non-Catholic Christian peers that a general materialist stupor, lack of unity and a self-imposed penchant for moral mediocrity is killing Christendom today; and that only a strong counter-cultural movement against the rise of the modern heathens/pagans in Christian garb now in charge of this country (and Church?) will ensure that Christianity will not be a mere cultural effigy.

  20. I am surprised that CWR would publish this intemperate screed by Dr. Chapp.
    It is, literally sophomoric, in that it repeats a lot of the garbage that “reform”-indoctrinated teachers were trying to feed us high school sophomores circa 1963-1965. The notion of a “Constantinian corruption” of the Church is a black legend concocted after WW2 by German theologians (alas, my beloved Ratzinger among them) to inoculate Europeans against any longings for revival of a sacrum imperium. This is, perhaps, understandable in view of their misguided recent enthusiasms for the Second and Third Reichs.
    But the “First Reich”, founded by Constantine and given a Western footing by Charlemagne, was a genuine initiative to construct Christendom. It was the “thousand years” foretold in the Apocalypse. And it was real and salutary. However, after the thousand years were over, Satan will be given a certain amount of leash to deceive the nations, preparatory to the coming of the anti-Christ and the Second Coming of Our Lord. Is that where we find ourselves now?
    Dare we hope that Christendom may have some unexpected life left in it? Not if we follow the historical and theological exegesis proposed by V2, Pope Francis and Dr. Chapp.
    The author’s extremely offensive references to Franco’s regime are disgraceful. Franco was trying to save what was left of Christendom in Spain. And he succeeded for two generations.

    Arriba Espana! Viva Cristo Rey!

    • Not keen on Franco the man, myself, but he certainly foxed Hitler. Never say die, Robert, the Magisterium has not metamorphosed into some unrecognisable creature and Dr Chapp could address himself to the reform that has started in a post-Vat II world where the catechism is almost unknown (digraceful), not that I blame Pope Benedict, and some children are once more being taught the tenets of their faith. As for Spain, let’s hope she will recover or has recovered from the lunatic expression of the secular which assaulted her post-war. That Spanish backbone ought to do it. Si, vivo Cristo Rey! de todos los siglos. Amen.

    • Not only that, but it appears to promote separation of Church and State, which has been repeatedly condemned by Popes from Leo XIII to Pius X.

    • Robert, what struck me about this article was its’ glib version of history. I got the impression that anything short of a Church divorced from history with all of its’ messiness was unacceptable. An example would be his drawing a clean line between The Church and worldly powers, kind of like a historical “Benedictine option”. His take on Constantine was lacking in that, if my understanding is correct, he, under the influence of his sister or wife became an Arian and persecuted the Church after having first defended it. While Franco did become dictatorial the author should have been aware of the myriad of forces at play that led to the Civil war and Franco.
      Aside from all that is his apparent lack of understanding that the modern idea of Church and state was not a thing in those days. There were powers and empires that given the nature of the cultures at that time inevitably involved a mixing of the profane and the profound. Lastly he gives no role to the hundreds of heresies that firmly established the orthodoxy against a mix of heretics and earthly powers. Christ will always be with His Church and us but we will always be a fallen people until he returns.

  21. Thank you for this essay. I agree with so much of what is in it but as a convert I don’t know enough history to be able to judge all. However, by looking around us, at the plague we are suffering through, the political turmoil, the relentless attack on traditional values, the endless fires, floods and earthquakes, it seems to me that maybe God is less than pleased with us in these times, and a return to holiness is certainly needed, which is far from a lame answer. Holiness is the most difficult thing to achieve in this lifetime. I believe God is calling us to repent, repent, repent, and put Him first. Thank you for explaining to me why our spiritual leaders aren’t leading anymore. This will have to be a movement from the ground up. Remember, the Church is beautiful in the spiritual realm. It’s time to clean it up in the “real” world, too and show other’s how beautiful the love and sacrifice of Jesus really is.

  22. I may be dimwitted, but I did not read this article as an attack on the Church of Christ. Rather I heard a call to every Catholic Christian to reflect on what Jesus demanded of us if we are to follow Him.

    • If this is in response to my reference to the Church of Christ I am just saying that protestants are feeling the same uneasiness of the direction of Christianity in the United States-Respectfully gka.

  23. Larry says in his article: “And the rot of that culture, the Church’s culture included, with its hypocrisies, corruptions, inconsistencies, and manifest injustices, share deeply in the blame for the emergent “relativism” of those who reject the entire, tired monument of mendacity.”

    First, if the surrounding culture was as bad as Larry says it was, why would a Church want to “socialise” and dialogue with it, and feel the need so badly to explain the teachings of the Church to it? The Church thought that it could convince and convert the secular world, but it seems to have turned out the other way around.

    Second, I freely admit that I’m no historian; I would therefore really benefit if Larry were to give merely one example of EACH of the “Church cultural hypocrisies, corruptions, etc, etc” that he says permeated the pre-Vatican 2 Church (such examples would not add much length to the usual prolixity of his articles).

    If the culture of the Church was as rotten as he and Father/Cardinal Ratzinger strongly suggest it was, it’s no wonder that the Protestants feet justified in their rejections and objections. Perhaps the Church should have been totally shut down at Vatican 2 and a completely new re-start made? In the event, Vatican 2 seems merely to have nibbled at a few innocent “edges”; not even barely enough to clean out the filthy stables.

    As an aside, psychologists tell us that it is not the fact of change which is problematic and resisted by people, but rather the SPEED of change. I was a teenager in the 1960s; the lightening speed of changes (quite apart from the wholesale abuses) quickly left me as nothing better than “walking wounded”. The never-ending years of liturgical banality have now reduced me to being one of the “crawling wounded”. In fact, if it were not for the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, I would have ceased mass attendance long ago.

    • Woo hoo, do I feel the same: wot happened? 40 years of woffle and twoffle in the parishes, God help the true priests, what a fate. But I don’t hold Pope Benedict responsible and he and Pope John Paul did their best to rectify the abuse. I came to refer to the ‘bloody laity’, those whose aim seemed to be to perform at Mass and be noticed, eek; is this author at all aware of the flaming, glittering, blazing ignorance infesting Catholic shcoolchildren? never mind the academic study, how about teaching the catechism so that Catholics are not lost to the Church? PLEASE. Forget the gabble of dancing on a pin, Larry, and institute Catholic instruction in the schools. No communist or secularist misses that one, teach the young, corrupt them early. When I taught a class of Year 8/Second Form in a Catholic diocesan school, in which ONLY ONE CHILD of 30 children could tell me what the Mass celebrated, the offering of the body and blood of Christ, reliving the sacrifice that led to salvation? I could just weep – for us and our children’s children. IT MATTERS. Their little lives matter to Christ, saving them matters, guiding them for life through the truth of the faith, MATTERS; IT MATTERS, LARRY, MATTERS MORE than your article or a million articles.

    • ‘If it were not for the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist …’ – the key interpretive point among many words of essay and commentary.

  24. This article is interesting, raising many questions. But life is also made of answers. Preferably unequivocal.
    I wouldn’t eat a brownie made by Pagan Pope Francis. And yes, he is heretic. Obviously. In internet there’s a quite famous site with a list of his errors and heresies. Somebody had to do it. They did. Many hate that site. Sometimes I go there to see what’s new in that list, although I pay attention everyday to the declarations, homilies, etc, by this pagan pope. And to check such a list is a good start to judge him and the Catholic Church today that evolves around him.

    Since Constantine the Catholic Church has had lots of power: sometimes it used it well, sometimes not well. I would prefer a Catholic Church essentially Deposit of Faith stricto sensu. No mingling with world powers. This pagan pope is making deals with Atheist Communists in China: who does he think he is to go into Evil ways ? What do we think he is seeing him going into Evil ways ?
    Maybe Pope Benedict XVI is right about a smaller Church. In my opinion the Catholic Church is already small: made of few Faithful, like during the Captivity of Babylon. These few Faithful are the ones that put the Holy Trinity above all interests: no mingling here with pro-Abortion Joseph Biden, as Pagan Pope Francis does. No mingling here with James Martin’ s homosexuals, as Pagan Pope Francis does. No mingling here with Atheist Communist China, as Pagan Pope Francis does. If they repent and sin no more, they are welcome. Otherwise, no way. Can Pagan Pope Francis tell these sinners to repent and sin no more ? He can’t. He never said it since sitting in the chair of Peter. Facts are the sad reality here.

    Depending on the popes, the Catholic Church has had different stances. The most important for the Catholic Church is to be Deposit of the Faith. Losing such important quality, the Catholic Church becomes, like today, a world institution infiltrated by world powers, ideologies, and many pressures from the princes of this world: John XXIII, Paul VI and Pagan Pope Francis gave in to those pressures.

    About Pope Benedict XVI. What do I like in him ? He called our attention to the threat of Moral Relativism in Contemporary Thought and in Contemporary Society ! He made the Cathechism of the Catholic Church, during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II ! And he gave us back (the possibility) of Latin Mass !

    About the question marks in this article:

    -“Is Pope Francis a heretic?” Obviously, yes.
    -“Should we take communion on the hand or on the tongue?” On the tongue.
    – “Is the Novus Ordo a creation of Freemason conspirators?” Yes, freemason influence, but also Marxist influence.
    -“ Should women lector at Mass?” Obviously yes.
    -“Is Vatican II a robber Council?” Yes.
    -“Should Benedict still be wearing a white cassock?” Yes.
    -“Latin or vernacular? Latin.
    -“Gothic or fiddleback? “ Fiddleback.
    -“Should homosexuals be ministered to gently or should we smash them over the head with a catechism as we refuse to bake them cakes? “ Gently is the Christian approach, being the only goal: repentance/sin no more.
    -“Is Vigano a prophet or a clown? “ Neither a prophet, nor a clown, but a very courageous, outspoken and intelligent Archbishop.
    -“Should the Vatican bank be shut down? “ Yes.
    -“How should the curia be reformed?” Concentrating on Ecclesiastical matters: leave the problems of the world to be resolved by world powers; stick to the Word of Our Lord Jesus Christ stricto sensu; be prudent; don’t invent; don’t update the word of God, don’t change it.
    -“Should some women be made Cardinals? “ Women can help, but no women priests. Male priests have no period and its cyclical imbalances/headaches, resist better phisical efforts, are always ready to do their ministry, unlike female priests who would have to stop eventually because of birth labours.
    -“Deacon ?” No: same reasons I mentioned before.
    -“ Is Bishop Barron a dangerous modernist?” Yes.
    -“Was von Balthasar a heretic?” Yes: who you hang out with, is who you become. Prudence in Theology is gold.

  25. Very nice balanced response. In these troubled times we need to guard against being jaded, which presents its own dangers

    • Sir, you could have said everything you say without having to refer to Bernano’s book. First, it is the assessment of an observer who was located outside continental Spain. Second, the first edition of his book was in 1938, which means it was written at least a good many months before publication, while the Spanish Civil War lasted from 1936 to 1939. Third, you do not refer to the book The Last Crusade, by Warren Carroll, which documents the atrocities committed by the non-Franco side that resulted, literally, in the deaths of thousands of priests, seminarians, and nuns. Fourth, Bernanos died in 1949. Perhaps he would have looked at Francc differently if he had lived longer. Last, the book you are reading is probably the condensed version of the original written in French. Would be good to read the complete version. Franco saved Spain from the gulag that was the Soviet Unuon and from the gulags we have seen since.
      Concerning your comments in general , the Church survives and will survive. John Paul II prohibited clergy involvement in politics. The future Church Benedict believes may develop will be the Church of true, humble, prayerful believers who understand that “my Kingdom is not of this world”.
      As I read your article, I hope your writing is not a sign of frustration or anger at the Church. Have faith. Let each of us do our work in the service of our Lord.

  26. There is an interesting distinction between Authority and Power, an Idea worth contemplating… As those called “Authoritarian Regimes” are those, who have least of True Authority, but they most flex their “Power” muscles… There are multiple such false labels to confuse people to not see the obvious, like “Authoritarians” lacking true “Authority” replacing it with “Coercion”…

    There is a paragraph with questions, starting about Pope Francis and ending about von Balthasar, to which I’ve written replies, but as it has short paragraph reply for each question, it is too long to include in one comment…

    I understand you don’t understand yet why my opinions about these topics should even matter… That may change some time later…


    • Your opinion, or anyone else’s, will only matter to me when you spend the majority of your life lost in love for he who created you and gifted you all things, and your life dedicated to returning that love. Then you, or anyone else, will be approaching holiness and will be worth a listen.

      Never forget the point of our religion, and even the very sacraments, is to foster that loving union here, so that it goes on forever, lovers sharing all things, God sharing eternity with those who love him. Fixation on any other thing is to deny him that which he most wants. Do not let your fixation on all which is broken lead you astray from the one thing God desires of you.

      • Bob, how delightful are your words. In my contemplation He is saying exactly the same things you are hearing. The fruit of this Divine Eros is fecundity. Song of Songs 7:10 is the essence of holiness, and Agape means our hearts desire is for God’s delight which is that my neighbor falls into the Divine embrace. My wellbeing is God’s delight and God’s delight is everyone of His children.
        Let Exodus 32:32 be my prayer. We have lost all credibility; we are flavorless salt. The madness all around us is the result of a Church lukewarm and distracted by the tribal insanity of left vs right, distracted and sterile. We would rather our neighbor be damned than for us to know a moment of want. We pass on marital fecundity in order to make sure our kids get into the best schools and thereby rob God of the great abundant delight that the fruit of our marital embrace gives Him, but let us never think of this, let us only ever be blinded by the Kabuki theatre of liberal vs conservative. This evangelization will take centuries

  27. It is an insult to the Catholic Church with its faith, saints, tradition, etc.
    The others said it better, I won’t elaborate.
    Lord have mercy.

  28. Vatican II may not have created the malaise which the author describes here, but it certainly enabled the Heathens to take charge, as some “conservatives” in 1958 warned strenuously that it would. While it is impossible to know what the state of the Church might have been had the Council not been summoned, I think we have to concede that the “prophets of doom” rather blithely dismissed by John XXIII got it exactly right.

  29. Whew, I’ve just read the above comments and article. What a lot of energy!! When I used to desire to know about God and reassure myself I was using the correct metaphors all the above was a necessary energy. I can assure you however there is a stage of personal Spiritual literacy worth looking forward to. One comes to know God and like Eckhart one gives up God for God’s sake!!

  30. Dr. Chapp’s comprehensive analysis and conclusion are truths for those who have studied the Church and those who love Christ. St. JPII’s Mulieris Dignitatum fleshes out and offers more thought on the Petrine and Marian dimensions of the Church. Before there was Peter, Mary was and is. The Church, as the Bride and the Body of Christ, is Marian. Peter’s denials and failures are only of consequece in a secondary sense. Mary and Christ will triumph.

    HOPE in Him, always and everywhere. Christ turned to look at Peter. If Peter is today not moved by the look of Christ, WE MUST BE. Onward and upward, all Christian soldier-brides.

    The Rosary.

  31. I’ve long suspected that the Church had spiritual issues for at least a few decades before Vatican II. The Ratzinger lecture confirms this.

    However, I’m concerned that the Ratzinger lecture document might not be genuine. This document appears out of nowhere from a Homiletics and Pastoral Review (HPR) article. HPR, on the other hand, traces it back to a footnote in one of Pope Benedict’s works. The lecture title and date are not given. Can anyone confirm its legitimacy?

    • “However, I’m concerned that the Ratzinger lecture document might not be genuine.”

      It’s genuine. It has been much discussed since it originally appeared, when Ratzinger was just 31 years old. For very helpful background and history of it, see Peter Seewald’s first volume of his biography of Ratzinger.

      Dr. Chapp did not use the HPR translation; CWR linked to it so readers could have access to the entire essay. I’m fairly certainly that Dr. Chapp used his own translation from German.

      • Excellent! The depth of Ratzinger’s observation was uncanny, which made me question the document’s veracity. Thank you for providing the additional information.

  32. This piece highlights important issues that deserve thought. Some fragmentary and maybe tangential comments:

    1. It’s certainly true that a lot of us should spend more time contemplating 1 Corinthians 13 and for that matter Philippians 4:8. And acting accordingly.

    2. Without holiness the Church is a pile of dry bones. On the other hand, Saint Francis revered the Church, and he wouldn’t have lived very long without a skeleton. So we shouldn’t underestimate bones.

    3. If the Church is falling into ruin it’s a lot easier to rebuild if the skeleton is still there. Mediocre people seem to be able to maintain the skeleton. That’s good, since there are lots of them. Including some of us.

    4. I don’t see anything specially bad in the debates mentioned. The way they’re carried on isn’t always shot through with charity and the love of truth, and there are things they don’t cover that deserve lots more attention. But describing the debates in a dismissive way doesn’t fix the problem.

    5. Political power backed by force, the sword of the law, is obviously legitimate. And if it’s legitimate, why treat it as a leper? It’s often corrupt and abusive, but ditto for everything else.

    6. The relation between truth, power, and love is incredibly complicated.

    Presumably, the Faith is a better ultimate standard than e.g. utility or secular conceptions of human rights, and rulers including Constantine should recognize its truth and authority. But ultimate standards are regularly abused by the powerful and for that matter by certified interpreters. Dunno how you fix that. You do what you can.

    In modern times we’ve seen lots of secular ideological abuse and heresy hunters, although just now they’re not as bloody as they’ve been.

    Here are some of my own noodlings on power etc., which don’t go anywhere very striking:

    7. The Constantinian Church had some problems. So did the pre-Constantinian Church, and ditto for the post-Constantinian Church. There are lots of actual human beings involved with all of them, and that causes problems. That’s not entirely bad, though, and tiny sects have problems too. Fr. Ratzinger said they are likely to have problems with “pompous self-will” and “sectarian narrow-mindedness.” So a smaller Church wouldn’t necessarily be all that pure either.

    8. Fr. Ratzinger’s answer for the problems of the small powerless future Church is the cultivation of holiness. But that’s also the answer in other settings.

    9. It’s evident there were major problems in 1958. I don’t think anyone disagrees. Did Vatican II help? Does rejection of fortress Catholicism in favor of engagement with the world on the world’s terms differ from a new would-be Constantinianism?

    10. Is holiness more cultivated now than it was pre-Vatican II or pre-1500? If not, what’s the point of complaining about the Constantinian Church? Are their problems the problems we should be worrying about now? Why not learn from what they did better?

    11. Was there some Golden Age of the Church we should all look back to and imitate? If you read the New Testament it seems there were problems then as well.

    12. Why all the scare quotes (“faith,” “power,” “catholic,” “orthodoxy,” etc.)? From God’s point of view the way Catholics speak about things is no doubt moronic, but if we’re going to speak ourselves how can we be confident we’re doing better?

    13. Above all, now what?

    (If anyone’s read this far, my own thoughts inspired by Fr. Ratzinger’s talk are at

  33. Plenty of food for thought in Larry Chapp’s article and in reading i learnt a lot. Perhaps, paradoxically, one of the most positive I have read. Thank you CWR.

  34. I hereby resolve (not for the first time) never again to read an article by this author. The to my mind obscure subject matter requires the lucid enunciation of, say, a Robert George. I don’t have neither the time nor the patience for this.

  35. Is Dr.Chapp on the left or the right? Maybe both? Perhaps neither? He reminds me of a book I came across a few years ago. It was titled: Weapons of the Spirit, by Fr. John Hugo. Fr. Hugo was called a liberal by some, but really be can’t be positioned on our hackneyed left-right spectrum. Both Fr. Hugo and Dr. Chapp have encouraged me to consider different perspectives. I have actually long considered myself a traditional-leaning Catholic. But more recently I’ve been wondering about the validity of some of those gradations. Aren’t we taught that Catholicism is a “both\and” faith? Aren’t we called to seek truth no matter where it falls on a pre-conceived spectrum? I’m grateful to Dr. Chapp for reminding us that Catholicism is not a dead religion.

  36. Good article but one thought..I keep hearing about how awful Franco was during the spanish Civil war..yes I get it but the alternative for catholics was to continue to be murdered..churches burnt to the ground…clergy killed etc etc..people need to read alexandr solzhenitzen and his take on that war and he should know coming from the gulag

  37. Yes, we need holiness.

    And it feels a little like an attempt at rhetorical smackdown to point out the obvious. Sort of like someone saying, “I prefer to feed the poor rather than worry about evangelism!” I am certain Chapp would not say any such thing, but his approach towards his close has a little of that spirit.

    Really, who disagrees with the necessity of hard faith and devotion? But that need does not negate the parallel imperative to maintain theology and practice to sustain that devotion. Right doctrine won’t save the Church, but distorted doctrine won’t help. And not all questions are as seemingly trivial as “Gothic or fiddleback,” although that made me laugh. Yes, the Very Conservative can be off-putting, legalistic, and go way overboard, and losing sight of the forest for the trees. But they can also steer us back to helpful truth.

    “The pathology, unfortunately, is deep—as can be seen in the quality of our current debates.” Quality? I don’t know. I find much of the commentary at a site like One Peter Five pretty helpful, for example. The *content* of our debates seems rather relevant to me. Is Chapp making the needed distinction there in what he is lamenting?

    With that as context, in answer to his bouquet-of-questions soliloquy, here are some rejoinders:

    “Is Pope Francis a heretic?” Is he a problem? Can popes be bad, harmful, wrongheaded? Are we knee-deep in a decades-long ultramontism?

    “Should we take communion on the hand or on the tongue?” Or maybe, why does the conversation, one with deep historical roots, matter?

    “Is the Novus Ordo a creation of Freemason conspirators?” Here we jump to conspiracy theories, after legitimate theological questions. I feel like I’m reading the transcript of a bad debate.

    “Should women lector at Mass?” Take it from a former Protestant: no.

    “Is Vatican II a robber Council?” I don’t know. Is Romano Amerio a crank? And does the phrase “Living Tradition” mean we can adjust doctrine like the Mormons do?

    “Should Benedict still be wearing a white cassock?” Or maybe, what’s up with a pope resigning, and should it seem shocking?

    “Latin or vernacular?” Or, is it a question of just language or also content?

    “Gothic or fiddleback?” Fun, but id it fair to equate such an issue with the other questions here? Does the fact there are shrill and brittle Trads negate every over which they obsess?

    “Should homosexuals be ministered to gently or should we smash them over the head with a catechism as we refuse to bake them cakes?” Or maybe, Does Courage even exist anymore? Does that Church still teach what it did ten years ago? And is it remotely fair to characterize the Masterpiece Bakery court case with such a zinger?
    “Is Vigano a prophet or a clown?” Or perhaps simply an overrated voice of dissent?

    “Should the Vatican bank be shut down?” Yes. Obviously yes.

    l”How should the curia be reformed?” Totally out of place in this list.

    “Should some women be made Cardinals? Deacons?” Take it from a former Protestant: no.

    “Is Bishop Barron a dangerous modernist?” Or, should anyone right now be singing the praises of Jim Martin?

    “Was von Balthasar a heretic?” Is Alyssa Pistick? Is Ralph Martin?

    All of which is to say, many will read this long piece and assume Chapp wants to sweep a lot of pressing ones into a neat little pile marked, “The Gates Won’t Prevail: Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Frank Sheed tried that in his later years took that approach to the mess surrounding Vatican II. In terms of the fate of the modern Church, he died somewhat depressed.

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