(Hilaire Belloc, 1915, Public Domain, U.S.A.)
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)
In the last chapter of his book, The Great Heresies, the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, who died in 1953, discusses the nature of the final heresy to attack the Church which he calls “a wholesale assault on the fundamentals of the Faith – upon the very existence of the Faith.” The final heresy is therefore aimed at the complete destruction of the Catholic Church. And what is this final heresy, what is this manifestation of the Anti-Christ?, it is atheism. Belloc comments: “of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.”
Belloc refers to atheism as the “Modern Attack” against the Church. He says the “modern attack is materialistic because in its philosophy it considers only material causes.” It is superstitious, as well, says Belloc, because it nourishes itself on the silly vagaries of spiritualism…and other fantasies.” He mentions atheistic communism as one example of the “Modern Attack,” although perhaps a “passing one.”
Belloc maintains that this all-out attack against the Church is “now at our gates,” and he wrote The Great Heresies around 1938. He states that the “fruit” of the modern attack is to “undermine every form of restraint imposed by human experience acting through tradition,” but he maintains that there are other “evil effects” which may prove more permanent than the breakdown of sexual morality. He does say, however, that the “Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral field a thousand evil fruits….”
The “quarrel” we are in right now, says Belloc, “is between the Church and the anti-Church – the Church of God and the anti-God – the Church of Christ and the Anti-Christ.” Atheism thus represents the forces of the anti-God, and according to Belloc “the modern attack is far more advanced than is generally appreciated.” Even at the time he lived Belloc could say that “the mood of the faith has been largely ruined,” and that “we have already arrived at a strange pass” where the opponents of the Catholic Faith simply do not understand the Catholic Church. From this predicament, Belloc predicts that a new “paganism” will emerge that tends more towards cruelty than enlightenment.
Belloc predicts that “either we of the Faith shall become a small, persecuted, neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle cry, “Christus Imperat.”
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
Here we are some 80 years after Belloc wrote The Great Heresies, and his points regarding the “Modern Attack” on the Catholic faith seem spot on. What concerns me most – as we witness firsthand the breakdown of the Catholic faith in the Western world – is the growing tendency of the Catholic Church in many quarters, and even at very high levels, to align itself in certain ways with movements that seem to be under-girded by the advance of atheism – movements like the LGBT movement and the Global Warming movement.
The LGBT movement could not have risen to its present heights without the general breakdown of religion in the culture and the repudiation of the natural law (and the repudiation of the natural law represents an attack on God’s sovereignty and Divine revelation). I don’t think anyone would deny that there has been a certain push within the Vatican to make gay unions more acceptable to the Catholic consciousness, as in the Pope’s famous “Who am I to judge” comment, and in his tacit support for the legal recognition of gay unions (but not marriage). Most recently, Vatican adviser, Father James Martin, has been prominently in the news advancing an agenda which seems to call on the Church to reverse its condemnation of the practice of homosexuality, and one of the Pope’s top advisers, Cardinal Marx, has insinuated the possibility of blessing gay unions in the Church (the perceived difficulty here with the Church, then, leans to the “LG” side of the movement).
And the Global Warming movement is no doubt closely aligned with the culture of death. There is – it cannot be denied – an alliance between the Global Warming movement and the culture of death. The Global Warming movement is full of high-ranking members (apart from the Church) who see human population as something that needs to be dramatically reduced – by contraception and abortion – in order to save the planet. The culture of death is an anti-God culture. The Vatican, itself, has shown a certain infatuation with speakers at its conferences who advocate radical population reduction policies – not that the Vatican itself in any way endorses abortion rights. However, there is a rumbling within the Vatican walls (by some) to moderate Humanae Vitae and approve of contraception (and one wonders if this development comes under the influence of global warming concerns?). The Church, in this way, makes itself more vulnerable to be engulfed by secular ideologies that threaten to distance it from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Sacred deposit of faith entrusted to it.
We also sense in the Vatican a movement away from the strong reaffirmation of Catholic morality that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI watched over. In fact, with the publication of Amoris Laetitia we saw for the first time the introduction of moral relativism or situation ethics into the teachings of the Church (see AL 301-303). This would appear to be a concession to ways of thinking previously antithetical to the Church and its morality. See my post link below:
Fatima was a warning about atheism and its devastating consequences for society by the spreading of its errors. We are on the threshold of a new paganism, or it may even be the case that we have entered the era of the new paganism. The key characteristic of this era is that it is atheistic – that is, anti-God. The Church itself seems drawn into some of the currents of this movement, and seems even perturbed at those members who resist. Atheism will destroy the Church. Our foundation is God and His commandments.
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
References: The quote from Pope John Paul II was made when he was a Cardinal during a visit to the United States in 1976. Pope John Paul II spoke of “the confrontation between the culture of death and the culture of life” in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life.
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