A New Reformation

We need to remember — and remembering is a sacred task — that there will be no real novus ordo seclorum, no genuinely “new order of the ages,” without the kingship of Jesus Christ.

Detail of window in St Botolph without Aldersgate, London, depicting Christus Rex. (Image: John Salmon/Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: The following text is adapted from July 24 remarks at the 2021 national Napa Institute summer conference.

Napa’s summer conference gets better every year. It’s an island of encouragement in a world that can look pretty rough when we get home. Back in the “real” world, it can be hard to be optimistic. And depending on the size and scope of our problems, optimism can actually be pretty unwise.

Optimism is not hope. Hope and optimism and are very different creatures. Optimism is an attitude. Attitudes come and go. Hope is a virtue, and that word “virtue” comes from the Latin word meaning “valor.” Hope is grounded in reality, not emotions. It’s the muscle — the strength of character — we get from fidelity and endurance under pressure. It’s the courage we need to learn from, and draw from, the believing generations that came before us. As Christians, we’re branded at baptism as people of hope. And we have very good reason for our hope. If you bear with me for a few minutes, I’ll tell you why.

This year’s conference theme is “all things made new.” And this final day is meant to focus on renewing our nation and culture. But I want to start with stuff not new, but old. The reason is simple: Looking back can help us think forward, because memory matters. History matters. The past is a great teacher because it’s a record of who we are; a diary of what works and what doesn’t.

George Orwell said that he who controls the past, controls the future. And he who controls the present, controls the past. What he meant, and what he warned, is that in the hands of bitter and vengeful people, control of the present becomes a tool to rewrite the past. And once the past is reinvented, it becomes a tool to control the content of things to come. This is the spirit behind today’s 1619 Project, the defacing of public monuments, and the whole poisonous narrative of America as an irredeemably unjust state.

The trouble is that “grievance culture” — the kind of culture we have today — is deadly. There’s always another oppressor to expose and accuse. Grievance feels good in an ugly sort of way. And it’s addictive. It presumes the wickedness of anyone who disagrees. It kills reasoned discourse. After all, who wants to waste time listening to stupid or evil people — especially if, by definition, they’re stupid or evil because their views conflict with our own? This explains why our nation’s political life is now so toxic. It’s senseless for our leaders to blather on about the “common good” when, by their words and actions, they make a genuine common good impossible.

But it’s not only our leaders who are at fault. It’s also us. In effect, politics is our new religion. The more resentment we bring to our politics as citizens, the more venomous our political culture becomes. It will get worse until we remember the roots and purpose of our country. And that won’t be easy because memory is not, and never has been, an American strong suit.

We Americans have always had a split personality when it comes to the past. On the one hand, the Founders were shaped by biblical morality and Enlightenment thought. They had a deep admiration for the Roman Republic and the Classical age. These things shaped the checks and balances in the structure of our government.

Our problem with the past lies in the words the Founders themselves used. We’re a novus ordo seclorum; an entirely “new order of the ages.” As a nation, we’re manufactured. We’re a product of the human mind. Our system works very well when people share a basic mutual respect, and the same broad moral convictions. And it doesn’t, when they don’t. That’s where we find ourselves right now. The terrific talks this morning by Carl Trueman and Mary Eberstadt showed us just how deep our divisions go.

The other half of America’s personality was summed up neatly by Henry Ford: “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that’s worth a tinker’s dam is the history we make today.” We’ve always been a nation of pragmatists and innovators. Dragging around the past as a kind of mortgage on the future interferes with our freedom to invent and reinvent ourselves. In some ways this is a strength. But it also means that we forget things we need to remember, like the cost of self-indulgence.

The Founders revered the Roman virtue of pietas, a mix of piety, duty, loyalty and gratitude. Self-mastery and self-sacrifice are qualities of personal character that make a real political community possible. What we have as a nation today, instead, is an empire of desire.

Imagine a giant Walmart of appetites and distractions run by Pontius Pilate, with a corporate slogan of, “What is truth?” That would be a very unkind, and very incomplete, description of America in 2021. But not an entirely false one. We have tens of millions of good people in our country. They make the good that remains in our nation worth working and fighting for. But “what is truth” really is a kind of national anthem for some of the most privileged people in our leadership classes. And if there really is no over-arching truth that judges us all and binds the world together, but only your truth and my truth, then “truth” is simply an alibi for the arbitrary will of whoever has power, and the ruthlessness to keep it. We know where that leads. It’s not a life, or a society, worthy of human beings.

So what do we do about it?

In his remarks yesterday, Archbishop Chaput mentioned the deep differences that separate our own time from the Europe of 500 years ago. But he also noted that our culture today and the world of the Reformation era share some striking similarities: political and social turmoil; big changes in technology that reshape how we learn, think, work, and believe; and ambiguity and conflict within the Church herself. He also mentioned the names of some key Catholic humanists and reformers: Thomas More, John Fisher, Erasmus, and John Colet. The first three names are well known. John Colet much less so. I want to focus on Colet for just a few minutes. I think he speaks directly to our age.

John Colet was born in England in 1467. He arrived in the middle of a 15th century that began with the chaos of three simultaneous and rival popes. It was marked throughout by fierce political conflict. And it ended with a corrupt Renaissance papacy. Colet was ordained a priest in the late 1490s. He began his ministry during the papacy of Alexander VI — one of the worst popes in a 2,000 year line; a man of greed, intrigue, nepotism, and illicit sex. None of this pushed Colet away from the Church. But it did anger him in the same way Christ dealt with the moneychangers. Google the words “John Colet, 1512 sermon.” You’ll be a taken to a homily that he gave to English Church leaders just a few years before Luther posted his 95 theses. Five centuries later, it’s still a barn-burner on the urgent need for Church reform. Nobody listened. We know the rest of the story.

Colet died in 1519, just as Martin Luther was gaining steam in Germany. So he’s sometimes described as a kind of proto-Protestant. But the facts simply don’t support that. Colet placed a very high value on personal humility. He rejected any idea that we can “earn” salvation through good works. Everything good is achieved through God’s grace. But God does leave us room to refuse or cooperate with his purposes. In other words, unlike some Protestant reformers, Colet believed that we do have free will. Our choices and actions do matter. He also, and very strongly, believed that the clergy, despite their sins, were absolutely necessary for the saving role of the Church. Had he lived, it’s unlikely he would have sought any restructuring of Church doctrines or sacraments. He was fundamentally a man of fidelity, continuity, and stability. To borrow a thought from another Catholic reformer of his time, Colet believed that “men must be changed by religion, not religion by men.”

So that’s some background. But the real reason I mention Colet lies elsewhere.

Colet had a deep love for the clarity and zeal of St. Paul. In 1497, and barely 30 years old, he gave a series of lectures at Oxford University on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. His lectures still have remarkable power. They speak directly to us, here and now, today.

And here’s why: Read Paul’s epistle. The Rome that Paul describes there, especially in the first two chapters, will be uncomfortably familiar — the malice, the vanity, hypocrisy, strife, and idolatries; the perverse and promiscuous sex. St. Paul’s purpose in writing his epistle to the young Church in Rome was very simple: How should Christians live in such a corrupt and difficult place — the pagan capital of a pagan empire? Rome at the time was the pre-eminent power in the world, just as our own nation is today. Most first century Romans viewed Christianity as an ugly superstition. Many saw it as a threat to public order and welfare. And if we think that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are disappointing models of leadership, the Christians of Rome dealt with Nero. To put it simply: The Romans of today are us.

In unpacking the epistle for his Oxford audience, Colet made a masterful tour of its meaning. But two lessons are especially useful for our time together today.

First, we need to live and act wherever God places us in the world, and in the concrete conditions of our times. We can’t escape or wall ourselves off from reality. We’re involved with the world, and we need to deal with it. In other words, the Christian community mustn’t try to flee the world, but rather be a purifying leaven within it. One of the duties this implies for the Church is a law-abiding respect for worldly authority. As a result, Christians need to set an example of good will, discretion, service, and charity — even to their enemies — for the sake of the unbelieving world around them. St. Paul’s letter stresses that Christians have an obligation of obedience to the emperor and Roman magistrates in all things. And Colet, in his homilies, adds the one obvious exception: No such duty applies to authority that attacks or violates one’s faith.

Second, and here I’m quoting from Colet directly: “[It] is from moderation, order, and love that all things are established in beauty.” Colet stresses that “This is what St. Paul here enjoins, that [Rome’s Christians] should be transformed to a new sense and judgment of things; that they should prove and make manifest by their deeds . . . what is good and perfect and well pleasing to God, instead of to themselves.” The human heart, even when it’s ignorant of God, and even in its fallen state, has a natural appetite for the true, the good, and the beautiful. And if we as Christians live our faith well, we can trust the Gospel to attract the lost, and be food for the searching soul. Whether we ourselves see the fruit of our actions is not important. God will handle the rest.

The passion of John Colet’s life and witness, in a time of widespread confusion and deep corruption in the Church and in the world, was his call to personal righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ; personal repentance for sin; personal conversion of heart; and a life of personal choices and actions that radiate the truth of the Gospel. St. Paul preached exactly this message, and it conquered the Roman empire, from the inside, one soul at a time. Colet saw it as the only sure answer to the crises and failures of his own time; the task of what he called a “divine reformation” of persons, Church, and world, beginning again with each believer, ad fontes — in other words, from the sources and foundations of the Christian faith. The same applies to our own nation, our own culture, and the world we have today.

We really don’t want to hear that. The “personal” sounds too small, too slow, too pious. We Americans compulsively think big. It’s in our DNA. We want plans, policies, programs, and committees; the machinery that gets things done. And these things do all have their place.

But you see, the reason things like “personal conversion” and “personal righteousness” seem so irrelevant to the Really Big Issues of national life is that nobody wants to do them. And we don’t do them — I don’t do them — because they’re hard. They take time and effort. It’s easy to sign a petition, or give a speech, or rant on Twitter, or throw a rock, or make a fist, or a put a BLM sign on your upscale, white-neighborhood lawn. But it’s brutally hard to examine, and know, and speak the truth to ourselves; to honestly acknowledge our own sins and hatreds; to repent and convert; to forgive precisely the irritating people whose views and behaviors most offend us.

But in Jesus Christ, these things are possible. In his mercy, and with his courage, we do have the power to change ourselves and the world around us, because even non-believers “have what the law requires . . . written on their hearts” — Romans 2:15. Jesus came that “we might no longer be enslaved to sin” — Romans 6:6. “We know that in everything, God works for the good with those who love him,” and “if God is for us, who is against us?” — Romans 8:28 and 31. We need to understand that we’re never powerless. Vaclav Havel, the great Czech poet and dissident of the Soviet era, often said that “the power of the powerless” resides in the simple willingness to speak and live the truth, whatever the consequences. St. Paul and John Colet would fully and passionately agree. But when speaking and living the truth, they’d add the words, “with love.”

Truth has power because it anchors our words and our world to reality. And precisely because of that power, it needs to be guided by love.

As Americans, we have the privilege to be part of a great experiment in ordered liberty. Each and every one of us here today has the duty as a citizen — but even more so as a Christian — to bring the Catholic faith to bear in advancing that experiment in its service to human dignity. What we believe as faithful Christians is integral to who we are. And if we don’t advance those beliefs peacefully but vigorously in our politics and public discourse — in season and out — then we make ourselves into liars and thieves. We steal from our nation the best we have to offer.

Again: We’re never powerless. And we’re also never alone. These are challenging times. But as the great saint and Church Father Augustine said, we are the times. We make the times by what we do in our daily lives. So it’s impossible to be distressed, and to feel anything but really good, at a conference like this — and rightly so.

Look around us today at all of the astonishing people and ministries that are here and already serving the task of renewal: the Augustine Institute, EWTN, the Napa Institute, the Magis Center; FOCUS; the Napa Legal Institute; Ignatius Press; the Leonine Forum; the Thomistic Institute; Becket Law; the Catholic Leadership Institute; Alliance Defending Freedom; and writers, thinkers, and evangelizers like Mary Hasson, Mary Eberstadt, Chris Stefanick, Curtis Martin, Ryan Anderson, Roger Landry, Carter Snead, and Rusty Reno, who’s our wonderful next speaker — the list goes on and on.

Our talent pool is wide and deep. And it’s refreshed and made clean in every generation by the Word of God, through the courage of people who commit their lives to the mission of the Church. Don’t ever allow yourselves to be fooled. We’ve been here many times before. We have every reason for hope, and every reason for joy — because Jesus actually meant it when he said he’d be with us until the end of the age. So take confidence in the gifted friends and leaders who gather here this weekend. And support them in any way you can, because they’re doing important work that urgently needs to be done.

What we need to remember — and remembering is a sacred task — is that there will be no real novus ordo seclorum, no genuinely “new order of the ages,” without the kingship of Jesus Christ. And that new order, that “new reformation,” will only happen when we each take to heart the words of St. Paul, which John Colet preached again and again and again, throughout his life: “Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2).”

Thanks for listening. And God bless you.


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About Francis X. Maier 4 Articles
Francis X. Maier is a senior fellow in Catholic studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and senior research associate in Constitutional studies at the University of Notre Dame.

22 Comments

  1. This is a wide ranging diagnosis and prognosis for the U.S.A. today. I see it rather as done, metaphorically speaking, by an alcoholic unaware he is alcoholic. Alcoholism here can be likened to other extremist “isms” in the U.S. today: racism, nativism, sexism, even Trumpism, etc. A much better diagnosis this speaker and many others could have done would be an abstinence and application of the Twelve Steps program on the national level. I dearly love America – while it has its blessings and gifts – it also has serious issues that have not been reckoned with fully. In the Twelve Step parlance, it is high time to make amends for these flaws – “flaw” being a gross understatement regarding slavery, genocide, internment camps, systemic racism, endless wars… the list is tragically too long.

  2. “Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2).”

    A “new reformation” must therefore start by admitting that much of the once-Christian world, and even a great many self-described Christians, are in fact pagan ..V.. for comprehension, please consider following the link
    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2021/07/08/why-we-need-the-church-the-sacraments-and-the-saints-to-fight-satan/#comment-268431

    In ‘Curing Mad Truths’ by Remi Brague he states “What is the difference, he asks, between civilization, and barbarism, One answer is that the barbarians are the other, those outside of the city, or those we cannot understand. Brague argues that we (Christians) ourselves might be barbarians. (Sinners”)

    Which could be understood as “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you”

    While “many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first.”
    For insight into this statement, we can look to the parable of The Workers in The Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) For me, this parable is all about our personal presumption before God’s Mercy (Compassion/’Generosity’), hence “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” ….“So, likewise, ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do”

    There are no Vineyards in Leeds but nevertheless even to this day labours stand in the City Centre waiting to be hired. In the fifties and sixties, I was aware of many Irishmen standing outside Public Houses waiting to be hired for work in the construction industry, the custom was to congregate at about 7-30 am and wait to be hired for the day, I know this because on a few occasions I had participated in this ritual.

    Different employers would turn up and offer a standard rate and then select those he wanted, some workers would be known to him, others not, in choosing he would choose those who appeared more capable of performing a hard day of labour, there was always joy on the face of anyone chosen, this joy would often dissipate during the day due to the drudgery of the work.

    As the morning progressed it could be said that the weaker, impaired, aged, etc were left and some would wait all day in the hope of employment, which at times was occasionally offered, later in the day. It was quite apparent in comparison to those original chosen, the value that these late arrivals placed upon the call to work, in accepting in humility their own physical shortcomings, their ‘gratitude’ was manifest before all.

    This same scenario would have applied in our Lord’s time and many workers who heard the parable instantly would have been drawn towards the generosity of the landowner, in his compassion towards the afflicted but also to the selfishness of those who complained, as they had taken for granted the good fortune of their own abilities (in forgetting He who gave them, to them) while begrudging the weak and vulnerable the opportunity to earn a living (Participate in the harvest) and ‘live’
    So “The first shall be last and the last first” as only God sees the full picture of our gratitude before the generosity of His Divine Mercy.

    “Not one iota will pass from the law until all is accomplished” We ‘all’ fall short in regards to this teaching which can only be embraced in humility as humility permits us to walk His Way in the ‘generosity’ of His continual Divine Mercy
    We can align God’s generosity with “Who Is Forgiven Much Loves Much”. … On the other hand, those who are forgiven little, as Jesus said, “love little”
    So ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?

    When God’s ‘Generosity’/Mercy/pardon is received in humility/honesty it compels us to pardon (Be less judgemental towards) others, as it goes to the heart of our faith, which is that Christ forgives, that we may love (Forgive) also, while we walk in humility before Him, wanting for others that which we have been given ourselves, His known gift of Divine Mercy, because is that not what Christianity is all about.

    If we struggle with love/forgiveness of others, it could be said that this rigidity stems from our own dishonest ungrateful hearts, as this attitude emanates from self-righteousness, as possibly we underestimated the ‘generosity’ of Jesus Christ in our own personal salvation; as to attempt to embrace our Father in the Truth of His Inviolate Word (Will) can only be accomplished in humility (Self-abasement before Him)

    A faith that does not embody this consistent realization, will be sterile, comparable to a stylus stuck in the grove of a record, as the heart will not hear/absorb the full transforming message of Spiritual enlightenment, which is the ongoing transformation of the human heart. I know this from personal experience because my own heart was stuck in a grove over so many years.

    Is it not in the self-knowledge of our own individual need of His ‘continual’ Mercy that induces within us a humble heart, as a human heart of self-abasement before God, creates a tender compassionate heart towards our neighbour?

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • Addendum to my post above
      On one occasion while working on a building site, where the work was found to be behind schedule, about half a dozen late arrivals were transported onto the site. Word circulated that they were to be paid the same full day rate as the rest of us, which inflamed anger and resentment in some/many.

      How wonderful it is that the Gospels home into the reality of our fallen natures in every life situation, in every age, while enlightening us to the reality of how Jesus Christ embraced and understood the reality of men’s hearts. While rightly teaching us in the Gospels His unique authority, His clear ethic, and the good news of the kingdom, as it reveals Him God-man, the risen Lord, whose message is truly radial because it is supernatural. His message cannot be misunderstood by ‘anyone approaching his Word (Will) with honesty/humility, its beauty (Truth) cannot help but inspire integrity, no matter of what religion, race, creed, state of being you are or belong to. While it liberates the heart from pretentiousness in setting the captive/blind (Ignorant) free.

      “The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day”

      We look and reflect upon His inviolate spoken Word (Will) within the Gospels for guidance in our daily often complicated and for many of us deficient lives.

      kevin your brother
      In Christ

        • Thank you, Anne, for your encouraging comment nevertheless many today still do not understand rather they look for justification (Rather than the balm of healing God’s Divine Mercy which can only be received in humility) to their own perceived stance/understanding of the Word of God within the Gospels as this comment in response to my identical addendum post above, on another site demonstrates.

          “What does your first paragraph have to do the rest of the comment? The all-day working men have reason to be at least somewhat resentful. Not sure what you’re getting at.

          Thank you for your comment xxxxxxxx
          You say “The all-day working men have reason to be at least somewhat resentful” in ‘Truth’ they don’t as I with others had agreed on the going rate for a day’s work, for whatever reason the contractor had agreed to pay the same rate to the late arrivals, we all ‘knew’ that these less fortunate (Older/weaker) late arrivals had stood with us at 7.30 am that morning and ‘remained there’ waiting to be hired, for a Christian to resent their good fortune in been hired at the same rate of pay would be sinful.

          The first paragraph (Addendum) was an afterthought (True life experience) in relation to my long post above, giving emphasis to the workings of our fallen human nature in this case highlighting jealousy, anger, and resentment by those who wrongly perceived that they had been treated unjustly.

          This then gave me the opportunity to convey the wonder of the teachings given by Jesus Christ the Word made flesh within the Gospels which home in on our often twisted, warped human nature in relation to the Truth.
          I hope xxxxxxxx this clarifies what I was attempting to convey.

          kevin your brother
          In Christ

  3. We read: “St. Paul’s purpose in writing his epistle to the young Church in Rome was very simple: How should Christians live in such a corrupt and difficult place — the pagan capital of a pagan empire?”

    HOW? Maybe how not, as in this from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:
    “Do not yoke yourselves in a mismatch with unbelievers. After all, what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common, or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What accord is there between Christ and Belial [or Christ and Mexico’s Aztec humming bird god, and Amazonia’s Pachamama, and America’s Biden-esque and Pelosi-esque split between reality and their imperial fatwas], what common lot between believer and unbeliever? Tell me what agreement there is between the temple of God and idols. You are the temple of the living God….”

  4. Francis Maier’s gives us a hopeful perspective for the future during our special time of religious turmoil. Special because nothing like it has preceded it, including the Reformation John Colet notwithstanding, a fine man with great insight. Our difference is the centuries that fomented the Reformation were in process of adjusting to and digesting Catholicism. Sin was prevalent then as now, except that this age has long past digested Christ’s revelation and are now spitting him out of their lives in favor of new age liberty. People are not simply more sinful, they’re apostates. Reformation envisioned by author Maier centered in Christ is our certain goal; the reality we’re confronted with is Deformation of Christianity from high command. The papacy. A review of comments to Fr Fessio’s article the Mass of Vatican II offers a sense of our disparate views, the process of deformation discussed in other articles, seen in the strengthening of conceptual synodality to date, open ended and revisionist. The fight and it is a real one and I expect blood will be required to win this one looks to who can fight and win, bishops with courage to live the faith, to implement Eucharistic coherence, to protect the faithful whether their liturgical preferences are Novus or Extraordinary, to call out the moral leprosy of homosexuality in all its bizarre forms, to shift focus on the monumental abortion disaster rather than climate change, and to support men like Donald Trump rather than compare him with the apostate Biden, Trump a different personality than the staid holy guy, a sinner like the rest of us who had the moral fiber to fight for justice and be successful. It’s a new kind of spiritual war that requires solidarity with those willing to fight it.

  5. “…the astonishing people and ministries that are here and already serving the task of renewal…”
    Rather astonishing those listed and those omitted. That speaks volumes.
    Most grateful for the citation of Colet.

  6. “Disagreement and error among men on moral and religious matters have always been a cause of profound sorrow to all good men, but above all to the true and loyal sons of the Church, especially today, when we see the principles of Christian culture being attacked on all sides.”
    Pope Pius XII, 1950 encyclical

  7. Francis Maier’s article does indicate a rationale for hope particularly in the large number of agencies, persons in their laudable effort for renewal. Although as James suggests they’re many others engaged in the exact opposite to a viable spiritual renewal. Most significant is the direction of the Church by Pope Francis toward a more secular than Apostolic profile and the many appointed cardinals, bishops in favor. Worldwide that seems the trend except in the US and perhaps France where there remains a majority of bishops who support Eucharistic coherence, a true red line demarcating global accommodation or Apostolic tradition. Effort must be within the US the USCCB to initiate real renewal even if in opposition to some of Francis’ policies, as Cardinal Burke et al regards Traditionis in perfectly permissible canonical disagreement. Church hierarchy must take the lead to encourage laity and Catholicism at large.

  8. The diminution of the Catholic Church begins at the parish level and “rises” through the hierarchy. Yesterday, my former pastor told me not for the first time that I have no authority in the Church. His “father knows best and makes no mistakes” attitude is what has led us to the crisis in the Church today. As a faithful member of the “lowerarchy,” I refuse to be silent in the face of what leads to this diminution. I reminded him of my baptismal roles of priest, prophet and king, which he discounted, telling me that I am essentially powerless to speak truth to him, or by extension anyone else. This, I do not believe. Not only do I have the authority, I have the responsibility, and I won’t be silenced. We all have the responsibility and therefore authority to speak out about the wrongs in our Church and in our society. Keeping silent denies the roles we have as priest, prophet and king. Everyone remain silent, and we will lose our society and diminish Christ’s message in the world. Thanks, Fran, for the reminder that we all have a responsibility in the world and the authority to speak truth to power.

    • Donna,I am not at all clear about what is fueling the conflict between yourself and your pastor, to the extent he’d say you have no authority? You must be opposing him on some direct matter?? Far from gathering too much authority, I feel that today’s clergy, at a local level at least, are afraid to wield any power or authority at all, for fear of alienating either deep pocket parishioners or members of the hierarchy, to whom they might complain. I want my church leaders to LEAD, and frankly in a regular, orthodox, religiously observing manner. Talk about Jesus, about sin , about repentance, about our obligations yo our fellow man. Thats way different than the socialist agenda of waving in any illegal who appears, or accusing everyone of being a racist, which seems to be the agenda of far too many clergy.

    • Donna, while you don’t possess ecclesial authority, which belongs to the ordained minister the Church acknowledges your right to advise and correct where warranted. See canon 212: “Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
      §2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
      §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

    • Also, Donna there’s what I call the Catherine of Siena Option. Saint Catherine was a third order Dominican, technically a layperson. She lived at home [in those days tertiaries were permitted to don the habit] practiced the contemplative life, eventually became involved in Church political and religious affairs and was quite influential. So if your circumstances provide for that route and you’re interested you certainly have my blessings and prayers. Even if we simply live that intention we can effect much good.

  9. “Our system works very well when people share a basic mutual respect, and the same broad moral convictions.” I think the Founders would have agreed with Mr. Maier’s point. This famous quote from John Adams expresses it well: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Thank you for writing this excellent essay.

  10. People need to get over the illusion that the U.S. is a “Christian” nation. No nation that truly was Christian would murder over 60 million babies. For now the U.S. is still the better place to be but for how long?

    We live in a pagan nation and our job is to bear witness to the Truth as early Christians did.

    Also, until our Bishops actually defend Jesus Christ in the Eucharist we have no hope of them actually defending the faithful. Thankfully at least one bishop in New Mexico has that courage, who also opened churches first too.

    Food for thought…how can a priest tell us Jesus needs to be center in our lives when they shove him in a corner and don’t even have the tabernacle center in most churches?

    • Righteous comment, Jeremy. How can the Church tell us God should be central in our lives and then proscribe a liturgy which aims focus on praise of God rather than his followers and their (pagan) culture?

      Thomist philosopher Feser’s blog has a commenter called “Deuce.” At OP “Pope Victor Redux” Deuce states that the only Biblical precedent with analogy to a secularizing pagan ruler (Pope) who oppressed his own people–“…when both the Israelite people and the priesthood had fallen into the pagan idolatry of the nations around them, and were persecuting the faithful remnant.

      “And if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, it looks to me that God is likely fixing to resolve this situation the same way He resolved it then: By subjecting the West and the Church of the West to societal collapse, conquest, and/or subjugation which only the faithful can withstand.”

      This reinforces your (and John Adams’) view that only a Christian nation can thrive in such a democratic constitional republic as ours, together with our Church so weak and so vulnerable, with greater and greater numbers of Christians acting to deny, reject, dismiss, or cancel God in heretofore unthinkable ways.

  11. The Benedict Option has more substance than this, which is full of pious platitudes for political action that amount to a plan for failure, following neither reason nor the order of charity. The elites are not really threatened by Christians who think like this, though they may still hate them.

  12. A good article, but I think professor Maier misses the mark, because he and so many he mention are actually part of the problem, not the solution. Let us consider only that the good professor teaches at Notre Dame, a “Catholic in Name Only” University that now “mandates” a worldly vaccine that the CDF stated was morally licit only because of its “remoteness” to abortion (not its absence from abortion), and in that same document, even the CDF stated plainly that it “cannot be mandated” and must always be voluntary. I guess Notre Dame and professor Maier did not read it to the end-:(.

  13. I like the title of this article.

    A better title for some future article might be — The New Reformation of the Catholic Priesthood.

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