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Source: Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 3, No. 1. (Winter, 1969) © World Wisdom, Inc.



Both the letters on this subject in the Summer issue of Studies quote Christ's promise about the Church, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" for the purpose of lulling Catholic readers once more into a sense of security—false security, as I believe—after the stirring alarm so well sounded by Lois Lang-Sims in an earlier issue. Suppose that your two correspondents had been living in England in the year 1500 and had been told, by some Cassandra of the times, that in 1600 there would not be a single Roman Catholic church left in England. Would they not then have confidently put forward Christ's promise as an irrefutable proof that the prophecy could not be true? Nor does the fact that the situation has now changed from what it was in 1600 wipe out the fact that for two hundred years or more the English people, all but a very few privileged exceptions, were deprived both of Mass and, as far as this is possible, of the Blessed Virgin. In other words, the gates of hell did prevail, in a certain sense. This clearly cannot be the sense of Christ's promise; but it certainly seems, mutatis mutandis, to be the sense in which these writers interpret that promise.

There can be no doubt that the Church will remain until the end of time. But this does not mean that she will not become increasingly inaccessible to vast tracts of the so-called Christian world. Nor does it mean, unless some strong action is taken, that there will not be an increasing number of Masses which are invalidated by the heretical views, concerning the Sacraments, of the officiating priests. If the Church can never become rotten to the core, certain parts are already as rotten as can be—witness the Pope's continual protests—and it is the duty of the layman to be more and more discriminating, and more and more on his guard. Little could be more pleasing to the progressists than the kind of attitude which is betrayed by the remark "the Christian who is eager to grow in the love of God will go even to a ‘guitar Mass’ if nothing else is available", but it may well be doubted whether such an attitude is pleasing to God. In any case, it cannot be in accordance with the Will of Heaven that a man should deliberately attend, and therefore condone, the desecration of a sanctuary. If he cannot follow Christ's precedent and drive out the desecrators, then let him stay at home and pray for himself and for the Church. But let him raise his voice in protest afterwards and encourage others to do so.

At the end of the letter in question, despite the earlier quotation about the "gates of hell", the "rock" appears to be, not the Church, but the "modern technological civilization", to which the Church is to adapt herself. But is there not too much "writing on the wall" as regards the modern civilization, is it not far too precarious a thing to be made the centre of a "programme", even supposing that this were not the exact opposite of the true function of the Church? As your correspondent seems to admit, we are living in an extremity of decadence. Decadent also, in their own particular way, were the times of Christ. If Christ is an example to be followed, let the Church judge and condemn our times as he did his; let her be uncompromising, relentless, adamantine, terrible. Such language could not fail to have at least some effect, whereas the unctuous platitudes of "co-existence" and "accommodation" and "keeping in touch" merely serve as promoters of worldliness and soporifics for guilty consciences.

The Church has absolutely no precedent, in Christ and in his Saints, to do anything other than address herself to what is best in man; and this "best" is something which does not change. Not being "modern", it does not require any new language. On the contrary, to be evoked and sustained, it needs something in conformity with its own nature, something which is, precisely, like a "rock".[1] Particularly unfortunate therefore is the sentence "the message of salvation must be preached, and in a language which is comprehensible to the men of our time" for that is almost word for word the official pretext so often given for all those abuses that are listed by Lois Lang-Sims. The "men of our time" are not supposed to have any "better selves"; and their intelligence, which may not be on an average very great, is none the less grossly underestimated. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that the Bishops are tearing the fabric of the Church to shreds ostensibly on the grounds that "modern man" can no longer understand that "two and two make four". The real grounds no doubt lie in the obscure progressist and evolutionist persuasions to which so many dignitaries of the Church have succumbed, and in "unity at any price".

I do not wish to give the impression that I am unappreciative of the good things in John Sanderson's letter. What he says about the Eucharist itself, for example, is excellent; but the main point of both letters was to blunt the edge of an admirably sharp sword, and I find that hard to understand. The more such swords are raised, the easier it will be for the Pope and the conservative Bishops to take whatever action may be necessary in order to safeguard the heritage of the Church before it is too late.

London, 13.1.69



[1] Until Vatican II no one seemed to doubt this. Even Pope John, who was himself scarcely a conservative, forbade the Bishops “to dream of altering the liturgy,” and was continually affirming, in favour of Latin, the unfitness of the ever-changing modern languages to be the vehicles of Eternal Truths.