Chartres 2006
Photo Story

Remnant Tours

Click Here to visit
THE REMNANT Scrapbook!


See Remnant


Fortress Church?

Enabled by Neo-Catholics and Other Useful Idiots,

the Modern State Will Have Its Way

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED: 2/23/12

"The fort is betrayed even

of them that should have defended it"

Bishop John Fisher -


Bishop  Fisher

( Ten years ago, in The Great Façade, my co-author and I explored the curious inconsistency of neo-Catholic commentators who defend the disastrous liturgical and pastoral novelties of the past forty years as if they were dogmatic pronouncements, while blithely disparaging the solemn teaching of great Popes perceived to be at odds with the “updating” of the Church at Vatican II. Typical of these people is Alan Schreck, a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In discussing the Syllabus of Errors of Blessed Pius IX, a truly prophetic condemnation of the false principles of modern liberty and Church-State relations that plague us today, Schreck wrote: “Unfortunately, the Syllabus condemned most of the new ideas of the day and gave the impression that the Catholic Church was against everything in the modern world…. The Catholic Church looked like it was becoming a fortress Church, standing in opposition to the modern world and rejecting all new ideas.” (Schreck, Compact History of the Catholic Church, p. 95).

That the Church before the Council was a “fortress” walled off from the goods of  the “modern world,” its timid adherents hiding behind the ramparts of inflexible formulae and soulless discipline, is the master shibboleth of neo-Catholic thinking. The essence of the neo-Catholic mind is its smug certitude that the great conciliar “opening to the world” was a long overdue tonic for the fortress Church, and that traditionalists are the sorry Catholic equivalent of the Amish, blindly clinging to their outmoded ways in a Church that has gone out to meet the world and other religions in the new spirit of dialogue and ecumenism.

But our neo-Catholic brethren have failed to perceive a great paradox in this development, just as they have failed to perceive the magnitude of the disaster that has resulted from what they themselves admit—with satisfaction, no less—was “a series of reforms and changes which have scarcely left a single Catholic unaffected; and which, in many respects, have changed the external image of the Church.” (Likoudis and Whitehead, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, p. 11). The paradox is apparent in the way the American Catholic hierarchy has approached the diktat of the Obama administration that Catholic organizations must provide covereage for abortion pills, contraception and sterilization as part the health insurance mandated under “Obamacare.”

At first the American hierarchs showed promising signs of being willing to lead nationwide civil disobedience to the diktat: “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens,” declared Cardinal George in a letter to the faithful echoed by other cardinal archbishops.

Now, the one thing the forces of Liberty fear most is civil disbodience by a Catholic sleeping giant awakened at last from the Liberty-induced slumber during which it has done little or nothing while more than 50 million unborn children have been put to death in this country alone.  And so the Obama administration quickly cobbled together a “compromise” under which Catholic organizations would be exempt from the contraceptive mandate but the insurer would be obligated to provide the immoral “medical services” at issue “free of charge” to any employee who requests them.  This will mean, of course, that the contested coverage will effectively be provided by Catholic organizations at their expense, as the adminstrative cost of the “free” services will simply be passed along in the overall premium for the policy.

This accounting gimmick has apparently sufficed to quell the threat of civil disobedience.  Archbishop Dolan, for example, now says that the phony compromise “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions” and “does not meet our standard for respecting the religious liberty and moral convictions of all stakeholders...” As reported by Fox News, Dolan asked: “Does the federal government have the right to tell a religious individual or a religious entity how to define yourself?”   “This, is what gives us greater chill.”

But instead of a refusal to comply with the contraceptive mandate as amended, Dolan now promises only that the hierarchy will make “efforts” to “correct this problem through the other two branches of government [i.e. Congress and the judiciary]. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.”  The proposed Act is nothing more than a legislative patch for the gaping hole that has always been present in the American regime of “religious liberty”: that Catholics are subject like any other citizen to “neutral laws of general application,” as the “ultra-conservative” Justice Scalia announced in Employment Division v. Smith. This subjection of believers to neutral, generally applicable laws that may contradict their beliefs, wrote Scalia in City of Boerne v. Flores, is “in accord with the background political philosophy of the age (associated most prominently with John Locke), which regarded freedom as the right ‘to do only what was not lawfully prohibited’…”

So now there is talk from the bishops only of new laws and “legal challenges” to protect “religious liberty,” but no more talk of any direct confrontation with the government or the politicians over an immoral law. The general regime of contraception and abortion initiated with Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade is accepted as a political given that the Church has no temporal power, not even indirect temporal power, to alter. And therein lies the paradox: Dolan and his fellow prelates do not contest the very fact that contraception, abortion pills, and sterilization are legal in America and in the rest of the “modern world” the Church has supposedly boldly encountered in dialogue since the Council. They do not say, as even Martin Luther King did from his Birmingham jail cell, that an immoral law is no law at all and that Catholics must not only refuse to obey but actively resist the implementation of any and all laws that strike at the sanctity of human life. They do not excommunicate by name, or even refuse Holy Communion, to Catholic politicians who legislate the culture of death.

Rather, they protest only that the contraceptive mandate represents “government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions...” and violates “our standard for respecting the religious liberty,” as Archbishop Dolan put it. That is, they defend the concept of a fortress Church, within which Catholics must be permitted to hide from the reigning evil while the rest of the world goes to blazes with no real opposition by what used to be known as the Church Militant.

Irony of ironies, the Church’s endlessly vaunted engagement with modernity since Vatican II is looking more and more like a craven retreat. It is a retreat into what passes for a fortress in the midst of a battlefield on which the Adversary is engaged in final mop-up operations, while Catholic prelates complain about governmental “chill” seeping in from the outside and violation of the “right... to define yourself...”

Before the Council the so-called fortress Church had no fear of confronting the world with fierce and uncompromising condemnations of the errors of political modernity—as we see with the Syllabus Errorum, which elicits howls of outrage and hoots of derision from the Church’s enemies in our secular age, and is now viewed with embarrassment by post-conciliar prelates and neo-Catholic sages. In fact, the very aim of the Syllabus of Pius IX was to isolate and extirpate, as if they were plague bacilli, the false principles that were leading our civilization to what Pope Leo XIII, in defending Pius and the First Vatican Council against their worldly critics, called “final disaster.” In that encyclical of Leo’s (Inscrutabili Dei Consilio), the Pope referred precisely to a “plague” being spread by those who “make semblance of being champions of country, of freedom, and every kind of right...” How is it that those champions now include the neo-Catholics and many members of the Catholic hierarchy?

Nor was the so-called fortress Church of the pre-conciliar Dark Ages at all afraid of encountering the world with the truth the fact of her divine institution implied: that, as Pius XI declared less than forty years before the Vatican II train wreck, the “ideals and doctrines of Christ... were confided by Him to His Church and to her alone for safekeeping,” that “she alone has been given by God the mandate and the right to teach with authority,” and that “she alone possesses in any complete and true sense the power effectively to combat that materialistic philosophy which has already done and, still threatens, such tremendous harm to the home and to the state.”

The neo-Catholic dismisses this teaching as “triumphalism,” when it is actually a dictate of reason compelled by the very divinity of the Church’s Founder.

Cardinal George at least put his finger on the problem when he wrote in his letter to the faithful that Obama’s diktat “reduces the Church to a private club, destroying her public mission in society.” The reduction of churches to private clubs is the very aim of Lockean liberalism with its Law of Toleration and its monism of power in Locke’s “one body politick under one Supreme government.” But the truth is that no earthly power can reduce the Church to a private club unless the leaders of the Church consent to the arrangement. The consent to put on the mind-forged manacles fashioned for the Church by political modernity and go to sleep is the real outcome of the conciliar “opening to the world.” The slumbering giant that is the Catholic Church today could have stopped legalized abortion in its tracks had the hierarchy roused itself to galvanize the laity in a mass resistance movement like that which produced the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  No government, no political party, could withstand the social force of millions of Catholics on the move against evil—if only their leaders would lead them.

In sum, the “fortress Church” of neo-Catholic mythology was a Church that actually engaged the world in a way that challenged it with the witness of the Gospel—a fortress divinely built to repel the onslaughts of ephemeral error and serve as an impregnable citadel for the launching of a great mission to convert the world rather than being converted by it.  But that fortress has been abandoned for one of human construction—a thing entirely of the mind—whose occupants demand only the “right to be heard” and market their religious project in the modern Aeropagus and Agora of democratic capitalism. Post-conciliar Churchmen, their neo-Catholic enablers, and brash young “Catholic libertarians” of the Austrian variety are now as one in defending the very errors—above all separation of Church and State and unlimited freedom of opinion—the Syllabus condemned as threats to the Church and the survival of a once Christian civilization. In demanding “religious liberty” from the powers that devised it to subordinate the Catholic Church, they continue to confirm their own prison.

  HOME    |    PRINT SUBSCRIBE    |    E-EDITION    |    ADVERTISE    |    NEWS    |    ARTICLES   |    RESOURCES    |    ABOUT    |    CONTACT
Web Format and Content   ©  1996-2010 Remnant Press