The Catholic Church, especially in North America and Europe, is in a demographic nosedive. The writing is on the wall, and it cannot be denied anymore, at least not by any reasonably informed person. Throughout the United States, for example, parishes are closing. Congregations are being merged, and dioceses are downsizing. Our bishops today have become little more than custodians of the managed decline of the Catholic Church. It’s a sad reality, but it is a reality. Since I joined the Catholic Church in 2000, I’ve watched this sad reality unfold, and I’ve watched the finger-pointing play out as well. Contemporary Catholics blame the traditionalists, while the traditional Catholics blame the contemporaries. I’ve also watched the theoretical explanations unfold as well, in an attempt to explain it all. Personally, I think Dr. Taylor Marshall has the most credible version in his book “Infiltration,” because it points to a more gradual decline over the course of two centuries that finally accelerated after Vatican II. All theories aside, I think I’ve known the answer all along, not because I have any inside information, I don’t, but because I’ve seen it all before. The exact same thing is going on in the Protestant world, and I’m a convert from that world. This is all deja vu to me.
Before I go on, a little explanation is probably in order. the above cartoon is for comic relief not condemnation. While there is a certain amount of truth to it, which is what makes it funny, I’m not solely blaming the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) for the decline of the Catholic Church. I think Vatican II, in the way it was done and particularly its aftermath, played a big role in the decline of the Catholic Church, but it is not solely to blame. The conditions were ripe for decline in the Church long before Vatican II, and indeed, they were already starting to play out, as Dr. Marshall so accurately points out in his book. However, in keeping with the position of Pope Benedict XVI, in his farewell address to the clergy in Rome, I would clarify that it is possible to interpret Vatican II in a positive light, provided it’s held in a position that is both in continuity with, and inferior to, the First Vatican Council and the Council of Trent. Consequently, I not only accept Vatican II, but I also affirm many of its teachings in this context, even though I am very much a traditional and orthodox Catholic in practice. I refer you to my position on Vatican II for further detail.
What we are experiencing in the Catholic Church is almost a mirror image of what Protestants are experiencing in their world, and they never had a Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). I mean their problems are virtually identical to ours. Yet they had no Vatican II, no Novus Ordo Mass. There was nothing of the sort. However, they did have a Masonic infiltration. The only difference was they were open about it. No secrets there. Protestant men wear their Masonic rings proudly in church, and even place the symbols of their order proudly on their cars. They were also hit with a wave of Modernism, and Marxism, at roughly the same time as Catholics. The two decades that seemed to be most active in this regard were the 1920s and the 1960s. On this front, Catholics and Protestants have a lot in common. We were both hit with the same assault at roughly the same time. We just handle things differently.
Protestantism was born in heresy and schism, but it is schism that ultimately defines Protestantism more than heresy. The Catholic Church has had more than its fair share of heretical movements. Not all of them ended in schism. Protestantism may have begun as a heretical movement within the Catholic Church, but it wasn’t its own entity until after its separation from the Catholic Church between 1520 to 1535. Those fifteen years were the birth period of Protestantism. In those fifteen years, from the excommunication of Martin Luther, to the declared schism of King Henry VIII, everything Protestant had its beginning. Since that time, Protestants have defined every new movement, reform and revival with another schism. This is how all the Protestant denominations, affiliations and sects were started. There are hundreds of them now, formally, and thousands of them informally. This is the Protestant way. Keep in mind, in the Protestant world, schism is not always accompanied by conflict and sore feelings. In the Protestant world it’s sort-of expected. If you’re an aspiring pastor, and you want to go your own way, you just part with your denomination quietly, go find an empty storefront, and start a whole new independent church. That’s how most of these things get started in the Protestant world.
So when the heresy of Modernism invaded the modern world in the late 1800s, followed by the Apostasy of Marxism, the Protestant world was impacted almost immediately in the early 1900s. The Protestant answer to this problem was the same as all problems before it – schism. Over the course of the 1900s, but particularly after 1960 (sound familiar?), there was a separation going on in the Protestant world, between the older, more liberal, mainline denominations and conservative factions that went on to form the newer Evangelical affiliations we know today. When Modernism and Marxism invaded the mainline denominations (Anglican, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.), the conservative members of those denominations just got up and left, forming their own churches outside to their former denominational jurisdictions. Some Anglicans just created new Anglican denominations. Some Lutherans did the same. Others just left the formality of their denominations behind and joined non-formal Evangelical churches, that focused more on traditional Protestant teaching and less on traditional identity and customs. This is why Protestantism looks like a confusing network of unconnected churches. That’s because it is. This is how Protestantism works. Traditional and conservative Protestants may put up a fight against Modernism and Marxism for a while, but when they realize the battle is lost, they don’t stick around for the long war. They just pack up their bags and move out, starting their own churches more to their liking.
While admittedly, this is not the Catholic way, it’s hard to criticize it too much. That’s because it works. In the Protestant world, Evangelicalism, and conservative Protestant denominations, have grown exponentially over the last several decades. While more liberal, mainline denominations have suffered tremendous loss, shrinking in size and influence, closing churches and consolidating congregations all the way. In my own city of Springfield, Missouri, once home to five thriving Episcopal churches, it is now down to three. Meanwhile, a new (more conservative) Anglican church in town is thriving. These Anglicans broke their ties with The Episcopal Church denomination, and switched over to the more conservative Anglican Church in North America. Likewise, on the broader front, the entire region has switched from traditional Protestantism, to more conservative Evangelicalism over the last several decades. The only exception being the local Baptist churches, which have remained conservative all along. All and all, this region of Southwest Missouri has maintained a relatively conservative Protestant disposition, even though the dominant religious affiliations have changed.
I’m not suggesting we Catholics should follow their example. Heaven forbid! Schism is a way of life in the Protestant world, generally avoided, but readily embraced, once all other options have been exhausted. Part of being Catholic is shunning the very possibility of formal schism, especially with the pope and the bishops. On the other hand, Protestants can teach us something in principle. They may be many things, but they’re not passive. If they see a problem, they follow prayer with action. Catholics could learn a thing or two from this, but we have to apply it in Catholic ways. We can’t risk becoming Protestants (or schismatics) ourselves.
There is much talk today about Pope Francis, the cardinals and the bishops, as being the primary problem in the Church today. I agree, the Catholic Church is a hierarchy, and so just as good governance comes from the top-down, so does bad governance. However, when you have a systemic problem of bad leadership, where it seems like one bad leader is followed by another, there is no way to reform the Catholic Church from the top-down. It doesn’t work that way. You can sign all the petitions you want. You can attend rallies, protests and conferences to your heart’s content. You can rant and rave against Catholic bishops (including the pope) until you’re blue in the face. (I’m speaking from experience here.) But it will make no difference. The bishops will continue to carry on, as if you don’t exist. If they do acknowledge you at all, it will be to just call you a “troublemaker.” The pope will continue along his merry way, if he even hears about you at all, it will just be in passing. He’ll shrug his shoulders and go about his business as if nothing happened. Yes, pray for the pope. Yes, pray for the bishops. But just remember, only God keeps track of these things. Nobody here in earth does; no, not even the pope. As Pope Francis has proved, all the petitions and grievances in the world, won’t stop a wayward pope.
We can’t reform the Catholic hierarchy from the top down. It just doesn’t work that way. That was Martin Luther’s big mistake. When summonsed to Rome, to defend his Ninety-Five Theses, it became all too obvious to him that reform from the top was impossible. His Ninety-Five Theses would soon serve to become the basis for his excommunication if he didn’t yield. So instead he chose excommunication, followed by schism. Thus, he compounded one error upon another. Those who try to reform the hierarchy from the top will likely face a similar conundrum. So it’s best not to try. Pray for them, and renounce their errors, but don’t directly challenge them. You won’t succeed, and it won’t be worth it.
There is, however, a better way. It is the Catholic way. You see, popes are chosen from cardinals. Cardinals are chosen from bishops, and bishops are chosen from priests. So, if you want to reform the hierarchy, you must do it from the bottom up. It is the priesthood that must be reformed and renewed. From there, we’ll slowly start to get better bishops, which in turn will translate into better cardinals, and someday give way to better popes. As you can see, this isn’t an instantaneous process. This is a slow and tedious process, spanning decades. That’s how it’s done. This is the Catholic way.
What we must do now is commit ourselves to a fifty-year plan to restore and revive the Catholic Church. Many of us will not live to see its completion, and that includes yours truly. However, a fifty-year plan is realistic, practical and totally doable. It’s also possible to get ahead of schedule! So keep that in mind too. It may only take half as long, if we are dedicated to it enough.
So what is this plan? It all comes down to the priests, because you see, priests aren’t “chosen” by the hierarchy. They are called by God. Which means, they volunteer for the position. They volunteer from the laity. Priests receive their primary formation in their parishes; starting as boys, and into adulthood. What I’m proposing is this. We start raising our boys with enough traditional and orthodox formation, that some of them will actually want to become priests. However, before we turn them over to the seminaries, we prepare them with our own priestly formation first, prepping them for the Modernist and Marxist onslaught they’ll face from the seminaries and the hierarchy. We teach them to be warriors ahead of time, cunning warriors, who know how to slip into key positions undetected. If they receive the call from God, we prepare them to be “infiltrators” of a traditional and orthodox persuasion. So that in time, we take back the Church, one diocese after another, one cardinal after another, until we eventually have the papacy again.
There’s nothing illicit about this. There’s no canon law that says we can’t prepare our boys for the priesthood the way we want to, nor does the Church tell us how to do it either. It’s a family affair, and totally under the jurisdiction of the parents. So, how do we do it?
First, we have to start taking our family formation seriously. This can only be done by getting our families into a Reverent Catholic Mass at a traditional, or at least conservative, Catholic parish. I’m as serious as a heart attack on this one. If you’re not involved in a parish with a Reverent Catholic Mass, the battle is already over before you’ve even begun. It’s hopeless. You might as well give up. Stop fooling around in parishes where it’s obvious that reverence, tradition and orthodoxy are not a priority. You’re wasting your time. The only type of priests these parishes will produce are the kind we’re not interested in, and it won’t produce many of those either. These parishes are where vocations go to die. They rarely ever produce priests, and when they do, they’re often priests who have some funny ideas about Catholicism and what it means to be Catholic. You can find locations of Reverent Catholic Masses in the United States here on this website at Reverent Catholic Mass (dot) Com. Some of you will be in a position to coax your own priest to make his celebration of the Mass more reverent, based on the parameters set on this website. There are resources on the website to help you do that. Some of you may have an Anglican or Methodist background. If so, Rome has set up a special provision for you to form your own traditional Catholic parish using the English Patrimony through a personal ordinariate. You can learn how to do this through the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society at A C Society (dot) Org. However, most of you will not be so lucky as to bring Catholic tradition to you. Rather, you’ll have to go to it. That might mean, minimally, commuting to a parish that’s farther away then usual. If it’s more than thirty minutes drive, I strongly recommend moving closer to that parish. Yes, I’m talking about making a sacrifice here. If you can’t bring Catholic tradition to you, then you need to commute or move to where Catholic tradition is. If you don’t, then just throw in the towel, because it’s over. The Catholic Renewal is 100% dependent on Catholics willing to get involved in, and financially support, Reverent Catholic Masses. If you’re not doing that, you may be on the team, but you’re not in the game. There is no other way.
Second, we need to bring up our boys (and girls) deeply involved in this environment of the Reverent Catholic Mass. We need to impress upon them that this is really the only way to do the Mass, and that any other way is irreverent and disrespectful to God. As you can see on the Reverent Catholic Mass website at Reverent Catholic Mass (dot) Com, there are many different forms of the Mass included: Extraordinary, Ordinary, English Ordinariate and the Eastern Rites. The Reverent Catholic Mass website is not particular as to what form of the mass is being used, so long as it is celebrated reverently, in accordance with tradition and orthodoxy.
Third, we need to teach our boys that authentic Catholicism is very manly. We do this by nurturing masculine elements of the Faith, and teaching them that part of being masculine is protecting women and children. This is what the Catholic priest does, in a spiritual sense, supporting families in their spiritual needs.
Fourth, we need to give our boys a good example of both masculine and feminine role models. This begins in the home with a strong father and a nurturing mother. Both parents must be loving, but at the same time established in their roles. In today’s society of broken marriages, where fathers are often absent from the home, mothers then need to make sure there is a strong father-figure instead. This could be a grandfather, or an uncle, or even a friend of the family, so so long as this father-figure is straight and virtuous.
Fifth, Catholic parents must become the primary teachers of religion to their children. You can’t rely on somebody else to do it for you, and you can’t give what you don’t have. So, that means learning the Faith yourself, while you’re teaching your kids. I recommend focusing on the Bible and the Baltimore Catechism. Get your children a good picture Bible when they are young, and this is the time to focus on the Old Testament stories. When they are teenagers, get them a Revised Standard Version (RSV) Catholic New Testament, and study the books therein together. For Catechism, use the Baltimore Catechism Series. Number 4 will be yours. These will align with the lessons in the lower numbers 1, 2 and 3. Number 4 is for the parents. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are for the children based on age. The parents alone should decide which number is most appropriate for each child based on age and reading comprehension. The Baltimore Catechism Series, is designed to help parents teach the Faith. The parents read the Lesson ahead of time in Number 4, then the children read a scaled-down version of the same lesson in 1, 2, or 3. The parents are then equipped to answer the children’s questions because they’ve been prepared ahead of time by reading a much more advanced version of the same lesson. Baltimore Catechism, numbers 1 and 2, come in children’s illustrated forms too: illustrated 1 and illustrated 2. Families should set aside regular nights during the week for Bible reading and Catechism lessons. Dad should lead them primarily. Mom should lead them alternatively, only when Dad is not available. Remember, the Faith must have a masculine face primarily. This is what produces vocations.
Sixth, understand your faith as a relationship with God. I’m not talking about a “private relationship.” That’s a Protestant thing. Rather, it’s a community relationship that has personal aspects to it. The relationship is between Christ and his Church. That’s what it is. You are part of the Church, so naturally, this community relationship has personal characteristics. This relationship with Christ flows from the Church, in other words, the Church is what makes it possible, because you’re part of the community. Try addressing God as “Father” in your home, and pray to the Father in the name of the Son, through the Holy Spirit. Use both formal and informal prayers in your home, and guide your children into thinking of God as their Father too. This is what Jesus Christ wants of us.
Seventh, and finally, don’t be a killjoy. Understandably, good Catholic parents will be more strict than worldly parents. This is expected. At the same time, however, good Catholic parents should never be prudes. Enjoy your family life. Take your kids on outings. Don’t shelter them too much. Use problematic things as teaching opportunities, rather than hiding things from them. In other words, rather than constantly disciplining them, teach them how to discipline themselves! Try to empathize with the movies they like, and the music they want to listen to. But teach them about good Catholic taste simultaneously. Discuss the problematic issues with some of these movies and songs, teaching them the difference between right and wrong, without being constantly prohibitive. For example: “It’s okay if you listen to that song, but keep in mind what that singer is saying is wrong.”
If we do these things, we will create vocations, and by that I mean good vocations, meaning the kind that can renew the Catholic Church. You see, Satan’s ultimate goal is not the episcopacy, or even the papacy. He knows he can only control these things for a time. There is one thing he cannot control, and that’s why all he can do is try to destroy it. That one thing is the Catholic family. For in the Catholic family lies the Catholic hierarchy’s future. Catholic boys become Catholic men, and some of those men are called to become priests. In the end, the care and formation of Catholic boys is not in the hands of priests, bishops, cardinals or popes. The care and formation of Catholic boys rests solely in the hands of Catholic parents, within the sanctity of the Catholic family. That’s an area Satan would like to pervert, and he’s tried, for about 200 years now, starting with the Masonic infiltration into the Catholic Church in the 1800s. Liberalism, Modernism and Marxism (Liberation Theology) are all perversions, directed not so much at the hierarchy of the Church, but at the Catholic family.
I hate to burst the bubbles of Catholic clergy out there, but they were never Satan’s real target. They were just the tools. If he could convert them, and get them working on his side (and he succeeded in converting many, most of them unknowingly), then he could use them to stab at the Catholic family, his real target. Because in the end, he knows that his influence over the hierarchy of the Church is limited, so long as the Catholic family remains. Bad priests grow old, and eventually die off. The same goes for bad bishops, cardinals and popes. They’ll all be replaced one day, by boys, who come from Catholic families. However, Catholic parishes tainted by the errors of Modernism and Marxism won’t produce much in the way of vocations. So this limits the influence, and time, of Satan even more. His time is limited, and he knows it. That’s why he wants the family destroyed so badly. That’s why he wants boys corrupted, as much as possible.
This, however, is beyond his reach. Every family has a choice, and God will always provide some options. Today, he has given us a network of reverent masses to choose from, and now he’s given us the Reverent Catholic Mass website to easily find them. We need faithful Catholics in other countries to start making their own maps and websites, based on the same criteria laid out on the Reverent Catholic Mass (dot) Com website. He’s also left for us the old Baltimore Catechism series to instruct our children with. This, along with the Holy Rosary, gives us ample means to bring about a Catholic Renewal. We can do it on our own, through our families, and time is on our side. God has made it so. This is a remarkable time to be alive. The traditional and orthodox Catholic movement is stronger now than its ever been in fifty years, and it’s growing more with each passing year. Take heart, because Satan has been trying to rob us of our faith for two centuries now. In spite of the phenomenal success he’s had in the last fifty years, he’s failed to destroy the last bastion of Catholic orthodoxy — the faithful Catholic family. Have you lost your Faith? No. If you’re still reading this, obviously not. So Satan has failed with you too.
It’s time to step up our game. Make some commitments. Become part of the counter-infiltration, and the Catholic Renewal. We have everything we need now. Fight back!
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.