As praiseworthy as this is, one may reasonably wonder whether the primary implementers of Vatican II have paid any attention to this section of Lumen Gentium. Do we see any genuinely successful efforts from the Conciliar Church to lead Catholics to holiness and perfection? Does it rather seem that perverse forces within the Conciliar Church have intentionally sought to steer clergy and faithful toward unholiness?
Is it possible that some Novus Ordo Catholics are leading truly saintly lives? Of course, but this would be in spite of the Conciliar Church changes rather than as a result of them. It seems that the only real virtue the Conciliar Church teaches, albeit inadvertently, is that of long suffering.
The twelve virtues discussed in The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation, compiled from the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori, provide a useful framework evaluating how well the Conciliar Church has fostered holiness in its members. Following the Spirit of Vatican II, the Conciliar Church has made fundamental changes to how Catholics understand and practice each of these virtues:
Faith: In 1969, Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci sent Pope Paul VI a theological study of the Novus Ordo Mass (the “Ottaviani Intervention”) which demonstrated, among other things, the way in which the new Mass threatened the belief in transubstantiation: “all these things only serve to emphasize how outrageously faith in the dogma of the Real Presence is implicitly repudiated.” Not surprisingly, then, a 2019 Pew Research survey found that only 31% of U.S. Catholics believe in transubstantiation. One could cite countless other indications that most Catholics worldwide have effectively stopped believing in Catholic teachings, but a more troubling trend is the current practice of holding regular synods to call into question settled truths of the Faith. Even when this insidious practice ultimately leaves Catholic teaching unchanged, the process itself fosters a belief that hitherto timeless truths are subject to change.
Hope: As St. Alphonsus wrote, “hope is the supernatural virtue by which we confidently expect, in virtue of God’s promise, the endless happiness of Heaven and the means necessary for its attainment.” Although it cannot formally teach such a heresy, the Conciliar Church has found some bishops, such as the “conservative” Bishop Robert Barron, who promote the idea of “universal salvation.” The Conciliar Church bolsters this mistaken belief by using white vestments instead of black vestments in Requiem Masses. But if we all go to Heaven, then the “means necessary for attainment” is simply that we are human, and St. Alphonsus’s description of hope becomes meaningless.
Love of God: One might think that the Conciliar Church has done well in fostering a love of God by mistakenly attempting to reduce morality to a question of whether we love God, but this conflicts with the words of Jesus: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). False ecumenism also undermines love of God. We do not love God by putting Him side-by-side with false gods or Pachamama idols.
Love for Our Neighbor: Although there is no shortage of Catholic charities, which might suggest that the Conciliar Church excels at fostering love for our neighbors, almost all of these charities dramatically limit distribution of the one thing that our neighbor needs most: the Catholic Faith they need to save their souls. As Jesus said, “for what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Poverty: St. Alphonsus wrote that “the poor of this world do not possess poverty of spirit from the mere fact that they suffer the want of the goods of this life. Poverty of spirit consists of the desire to possess nothing but God.” Even before Pope Francis’s focus on the things of this world rather than God (as exemplified by his Laudato Si), the Conciliar Church had elevated the material over the spiritual. The Conciliar Church is vitally interested in eradicating physical poverty and smog, but relatively apathetic about addressing spiritual poverty.
Chastity: Clearly we can identify grave offenses against chastity from the clergy. The chronic failure of the hierarchy to remedy this evil teaches the world that the Conciliar Church is not concerned about chastity. Additionally, the Conciliar Church positively encourages abandonment of chastity through its practical relaxation of teachings about extra-marital relations.
Obedience: St. Alphonsus wrote that “perfection consists in the conformity of our will to the Will of God. Now what is the surest means of knowing God’s Will, and regulating our lives according to it? It is obedience towards our lawful superiors.” One might think the Conciliar Church excels in promoting obedience because it routinely insists that traditional Catholics obey prohibitions on practicing their Faith. And yet we also see the Conciliar Church permitting Catholics to disobey God’s commandments and the Church’s consistent teachings. By establishing a conflict between obedience to the “Will of God” and obedience to “our lawful superiors,” the Church creates a disastrous crisis of conscience for faithful Catholics. We must obey God by disobeying the false shepherds of the Conciliar Church.
Meekness and Humility: Although the Conciliar Church has made some false shows of meekness of humility — such as abandoning the papal tiara and frequent criticisms of the Church’s own history — the fundamental tendency has been quite the opposite. The Conciliar Church is meek and humble to almost everyone except Jesus. To Jesus, the Conciliar Church says that the faithful will no longer be reverent in Church, kneel to receive Communion, or receive Communion on the tongue. The Conciliar Church abases itself before heretics and pagans and then seeks to debase our Creator and Redeemer.
Mortification: As a general matter, the Conciliar Church has all but abandoned the Catholic teaching on mortification. When we consider, for example, the changes to rules about fast and abstinence, the limiting of kneeling during Mass, and the abandonment of Ember Days, we can see that the unquestionable message of the Conciliar Church is that Catholics have no real need for mortification.
Recollection: St. Alphonsus wrote that “to preserve recollection of spirit or the constant union of the soul with God, three things are necessary: solitude, silence, and the recollection of the presence of God.” Anyone with eyes to see the difference between beauty and ugliness, or ears to hear the difference between silence and chatter, can tell whether they are in a church that wants to promote recollection of the presence of God or, conversely, one that attempts to faithfully implement the cacophonous Spirit of Vatican II.
Prayer: St. Alphonsus wrote that “every prayer is a humble acknowledgment of the greatness and goodness or fidelity or mercy of God.” The Novus Ordo frustrates efforts to pray not only because of the lack of recollection but also because it focuses on man rather than God. Even worse, the Conciliar Church’s pervasive false ecumenism, as epitomized by the 1986 prayer meeting at Assisi, puts false gods on the same level as the Holy Trinity. Accordingly, contrary to what St. Alphonsus wrote, we see that the prayer of the Conciliar Church is frequently a denial of the greatness and goodness of God.
Self-Denial and Love of the Cross: St. Alphonsus wrote that “hand in hand with the love of the cross is the virtue of self-denial, for he who is attached to the comforts of life or to himself lacks courage to walk in the bloodstained footsteps of the suffering Saviour.” Over time, kneeling in silent adoration and prayer at a Tridentine Mass teaches the faithful to place the Crucified Christ at the center of their lives and to absolutely depend upon Him for all of their needs. One loses so much of that with the Novus Ordo Mass, with its noise, distractions, and continual interaction with the priest (or lay ministers). As described in the Ottaviani Intervention there is also a textual reason why the Cross is largely missing from the Novus Ordo Mass: “The mystery of the Cross is no longer explicitly expressed. It is only there obscurely, veiled, imperceptible for the people.”
Thus, although the Conciliar Church does not have the power to prevent Catholics from practicing any of these virtues, it has made them much more difficult to attain. Is it possible that some Novus Ordo Catholics are leading truly saintly lives? Of course, but this would be in spite of the Conciliar Church changes rather than as a result of them. It seems that the only real virtue the Conciliar Church teaches, albeit inadvertently, is that of long suffering.
In his Phoenix from the Ashes, H.J.A. Sire provides a sobering summary of the current state of holiness in the Conciliar Church:
“The central fact of the past fifty years is the vast impoverishment of the spiritual life of Catholics as a result of the liturgical revolution. The tradition of the Church had enriched the life of the faithful with a great wealth of spiritual aids: the intimate devotion of low Mass and the splendour of high Mass on great feasts, the attendant rites of eucharistic devotion, Benediction, processions of the Blessed Sacrament, the Forty Hours, the devotion to the Sacred Heart with its domestic prayers and its communions on the first Fridays of the month, the stations of the cross, devotion to Our Lady in all its forms, the praying of the rosary, devotion to the saints, with the knowledge of their lives and love of their individual characters, and fostering this all the sodalities and confraternities that gathered the devout into a true community. The iconoclasm of the liturgists swept everything away, leaving the ordinary Catholic with virtually no experience of prayer except the weekly parish Mass, reduced to its flattest expression.”
Sire goes on to quote the 1978 observation of a Lutheran professor of sociology, Peter L. Berger, “If a thoroughly malicious sociologist, bent on injuring the Catholic community as much as possible, had been an adviser to the Church, he could hardly have done a better job.”
Is it accidental that everything about the Spirit of Vatican II has tended to have the opposite effect of that apparently intended by the “universal call to holiness”? Why have all these changes increased lukewarmness and unholiness? And why do our “shepherds” respond to the unmistakable signs of unholiness amongst the clergy and laity by making it even more difficult to find the path of virtue?
It seems plausible that all of this relates to Pope Leo XIII’s vision that God had permitted Satan a hundred years to seek to destroy the Church. This vision prompted the pope to compose the the great prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which was included in the Leonine Prayers to be said after Mass. The pope also published an exorcism of St. Michael which included this passage (in the original version):
“Behold, very cunning enemies have filled the Church, Spouse of the immaculate Lamb, with bitterness; have watered it with absinthe; they have cast ungodly hands onto all that is desirable in it. Where the See of the blessed Peter and the Chair of Truth were established like a light for the nations, there they have set the throne of abomination of their impiety; in order that, once the shepherd is struck down, they may be able to disperse the flock.”
This would help explain why Lumen Gentium’s “universal call to holiness” has been so distorted within the Conciliar Church.
No matter what Bishop Barron and Pope Francis tell us, there is a hell that is well-populated with souls who were convinced during life that they were “good Christians” on the way to Heaven.
These considerations should, of course, prompt Novus Ordo Catholics to reevaluate their choice of shepherds, but they also have implications for those who make great efforts to adhere to what the Church has always taught and practiced. Certainly we could put up more resistance to the new world order if the entire Church Militant was better equipped to implement the counsel of St. Paul: “Take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect” (Ephesians 10:13). Correspondingly, a lack of holiness, particularly from Catholics, increases the overall wickedness in the world. As such, our current crisis is fostered and exacerbated by the seemingly intentional attacks on holiness from the Conciliar Church.
The Conciliar Church’s attack on holiness also tends to make most of us less willing to heed the “universal call to holiness.” Perhaps this is because we “grade ourselves on the curve” and consider that we are doing well in relation to even many members of the Church hierarchy if we still practice the Faith and avoid mortal sin. Sure, we may think, there are pious old ladies who always want to be at church, but “there are many mansions” in Heaven (John 14:2) and their pursuit of a more resplendent mansion will not make ours any less glorious.
Almost one hundred years ago, in his Cross and Crown, Robert Mader offered a counterpoint to this mentality:
“Christianity should not be for us anything else than it was for the Apostles: a living relationship to Jesus present . . . Neither work nor politics, neither the press nor science nor sports ought to occupy us in the least in comparison to the occupation of our memory and our understanding by Jesus. That’s Christianity! . . . The church, the house where Jesus lives, ought to be a stronger attraction for every genuine Christian than any other house in town, even during the week . . . Not to want to love Christ, Who is Love, is the sin of sins! Whoever does not love will be damned. We want to become Christians again. We want to love again, love and die for Christ the King.”
If we grade ourselves by this standard rather than the one promoted by the Conciliar Church, we do considerably less well.
Still, we may not find much inspiration if it is merely a question of whether we are living up to the highest Christian standards. But the question is even more important than that. In his Attaining Salvation, St. Alphonsus ties holiness to our eternal salvation:
“The business of our eternal salvation is for us that affair which is not only the most important, but the only one which ought to trouble us, because if this goes wrong, all is lost. One thought upon eternity, well weighed, is enough to make a saint. The great servant of God, Fr. Vincent Carafa, was accustomed to say that, if all men thought with a lively faith upon the eternity of the next life, the world would become a desert, for no one would attend any more to the affairs of this life.”
No matter what Bishop Barron and Pope Francis tell us, there is a hell that is well-populated with souls who were convinced during life that they were “good Christians” on the way to Heaven. We have this on the authority of Jesus Christ:
“Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).
We have a universal call to holiness because we have a universal call to save our souls.
In this regard, we should also consider the words of Sister Lucy to Fr. Agustin Fuentes:
“Father, we should not wait for an appeal to the world to come from Rome on the part of the Holy Father, to do penance. Nor should we wait for the call to penance to come from our bishops in our diocese, nor from the religious congregations. No! Our Lord has already very often used these means and the world has not paid attention. That is why now, it is necessary for each one of us to begin to reform himself spiritually. Each person must not only save his own soul but also all the souls that God has placed on our path.”
In the many decades that have followed, we have only continued to offend God. It is now even more clear that God wants us to turn to Him, to love Him as we should. If we will not answer the call to holiness, so needed in these dark times, who will? St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!