When I was but a boy, not yet 10 years old, and first realized how peculiar my visitations were, I had a chat with my angel. I told him I enjoyed the instruction we went through together, but that if he ever told me to do anything to hurt anyone I would immediately confess all to a doctor. I also told him that for all the training, before I would actually do anything, I would have to have an authority on earth to which I could submit with my whole heart – and that authority would have to approve. As I have recounted here before, my angel surprised me: he was delighted with me, treated me as a star pupil because of what I had rather intensely said. The point, of course, is that even as a little boy, I knew that voices and visions, however intriguing and pleasant, were not a firm foundation upon which to make decisions.
When I first began to seriously investigate the Catholic Church, it was in order to dismiss it as a possible home, too. Before I had ever seriously examined it, I had tried about a dozen different Protestant denominations. Intellectual coherence is critical to me. I had realized as a boy that most churches took a few snippets of Scripture which they preached rigorously, while ignoring those Scriptures that seemed to contradict their denominational emphasis. I would go worship and attend until I discerned what they were ignoring, then question pastors about it. When I got either baffled puzzlement or angry denunciation, I sadly moved on. Either it all cohered or none of it cohered. I felt like an orphan. I knew Christ…shoot, He chatted with me fairly regularly. But I did not know where He was authentically and fully proclaimed.
Thank God the Lord was not inclined to just tell me – and thank God some of my forebears had instilled in me a dread of the “errors” of the Catholic Church. I say thank God because my journey through so many denominations revealed to me the authentic Christian faith of so many very Godly Protestants – and the wonderful charisms they bear. It also prepared me to defend my faith in terms all can understand – and to develop a deep grasp of Scripture from my constant reading and re-reading of the Bible. It was St. Augustine’s “Confessions” that prompted me to seriously consider the Catholic faith. He cleared up several problems for me in that masterful tome, including the abuse of Scripture as mere science or history rather than the inspired Word of God. We also had several characteristics in common, including that he was the equivalent of a sort of political and rhetorical consultant in his time. Even so, I had been so oft disappointed all I really expected was to study until I found the sticking point, then continue my peculiar and solitary Christian journey.
Had I relied solely on the discussion in the RCIA classes, I might have been disappointed. But I read, And the more I read, the more I craved. I was looking for the flaw. With every book of Church documents, Church fathers, Encyclicals, and Church history I read, I found a new hope dawning. This might be real. It mattered little that I was discovering Catholics did not know much about their own faith; the more I tried to find the rotted timber, the more I found sturdy, solid hardwood. It drove me into a white heat. I consumed dense books like they were jelly beans. In that first month and a half I had to have read about 30 dense books in my spare time, searching relentlessly for the flaw. During that time, the folks at RCIA considered me an enigmatically silent sort – one of the rare times in my life anyone would have so described me. I don’t know that I had become fully convinced yet, but I had surely fallen head over heels in love. That is exactly how it felt. The excitement, the euphoria, the fear of something going wrong…and soon enough it came gushing out in a rush, first at the RCIA classes and then everywhere else. I remember the first time I spoke seriously in class, passionately taking a contrarian view on an ethical matter under discussion. I was just talking, but when I was done, the room was dead silent and everyone was gazing at me as if confronted by a panther without the benefit of an intervening cage. Eventually, the priest called on a woman to speak on the matter. She looked up with wild panic in her eyes, finally pointed her arm at me and said, “What that guy said!” Everybody laughed and the tension gushed away. I thought to myself that, well, my cover was blown now. Later in the year, one of the instructors chuckled that I had said nary a word before that night – and hadn’t shut up since. It felt very much like a successful courtship.
Finally I had found a home that was spiritually coherent, intellectually coherent, theologically coherent and encouraged inquiry in all areas as it developed its understanding and application of its unchanging doctrine. I was very head over heels in love. It struck me that God had, indeed, given me an earthly authority to which I could submit with my whole heart. And it was an authority that was confident enough in God that it could tolerate the messy process of developing understanding and application of its tenets, even when some – or many – of its adherents came up with some singularly bone-headed notions. This poor orphan had found his home and it was always Christmas there!
For just over nine months after my formal reception into the Church, my visitations ceased altogether. Even my intuition failed me repeatedly (I have always, except for that period, been able if I really needed to understand something, to be able to contemplate and reach in and see it, at least in outline). It felt like I had lost something vital, like an arm. I thought, though, that if the choice was between having my Church – my Home – without the visitations or my visitations without a Home, I had made a good bargain, indeed. Nothing would separate me from the Home God had promised – and given – me. She had my whole heart. And then, my heavenly friends came back, more lively and raucous than ever – and jubilantly pleased that I had decided I really meant it when I said I would not turn loose of the Church for anything, even them.
While I often joined into the various disputes that arose on matters of doctrine, theology and practice, it did not surprise me or shake my confidence that such disputes existed. There is a notion that Christian doctrine has passed down in a straight line through the ages, unbroken except for the occasional aberrant heresy which, once broken, led all back to the original clean, neat path. To the contrary, the development of understanding of Christian doctrine and its refinement has resembled more an oddly shaped funnel. If you imagine it began with people holding, say, 200 really wacky misinterpretations of Scripture and the Gospels and how it should be lived, you are much closer to the truth. The history of Christianity has been the steady – and almost always messy, knocking away of various such misinterpretations to get ever closer to truth. In several ages, long-standing false notions that had roiled the Church were finally cleared away only to see new, unexpected ones rise. We would succeed in determining that 5 X 10 actually equals 50, not 500 and everyone would breathe a sigh of relief, when some new wag would arise showing complex and detailed proofs that 2 + 2 actually equals 22, not 4, and we would be off to the races of controversy again. The miracle of Christianity is that, despite our foolishness, and the folly of many theologians and Bishops along the way, the doctrine has been firmly grounded in the foundational teaching and, once settled, the institutional Church has never contradicted a point of defined doctrine. That is unprecedented in the history of any institution in the history of the world. But the way forward has always been very messy.
Those who call themselves traditionalists think they are harking back to the original purity and practice of the Church. They are not. They simply prefer the stylistic liturgical adjustments of 500 years ago to the stylistic liturgical adjustments of 50 years ago – and think everyone else should, too. Those who call themselves progressives think they are visionaries seeking to break bold new ground, but they simply want to follow the ground the “Mainline” Protestant denominations have already trod – and which have led to those denominations’ wholesale collapse. The virtue of the traditionalists is that they still believe God is God, unlike progressives who think the “myth” of God is a great foundation for social work. The virtue of the progressives is that they are not fearfully trying to bury their talent in the ground, suspending practice into the amber of what was a major innovation 500 years ago. The authentic development of Christian doctrine has not just been a refining of the rules, an esoteric ideology, but a lively concern for how it is lived practically. At bottom, Christians cannot just come up with an airy doctrine as an intellectual exercise or a distraught pity that manifests itself as a sort of charity that enables disorder. Truth and mercy are the twin guardrails of the faith. In the end, Christians know that if it is not true, it is not merciful and if it is not merciful, it is not true.
About 200 A.D., the Italian Bishop Callisto allowed for what he called “just concubinage,” that a woman could live with a man without benefit of marriage with Christian approval. Critics called it the ennabling of adultery. Why did he do it? High-born pagan women, if they married outside their faith, were stripped of their property and titles. This allowed high-ranking women to live monogamously with low-ranking Christian men without sacrificing their perquisites and property, which opened the door for more conversions – and also made those assets available to the local Church. The decree did not stand the test of time, but it did speak to Christianity’s unique concern for practical application of doctrine from the earliest days.
The first major heresy, the Marcionists, believed that the God revealed by Christ was an entirely new God who had overthrown the God of the Old Testament. It seems absurd today, but was consonant with a pagan age which saw the gods as a warring bunch who were little more than men with strange powers and incredibly long lives. Some Marcionists also believed that, in his natural state, man was an hermaphrodite, containing within each being both male and female organs. It based this theory on the Scripture in Genesis that “male and female God created them.” It is an utterly absurd misreading of Scripture, but a study of Church history will reveal enough similarly willfully absurd readings that were taken seriously in their times that it should make us ponder more deeply what absurdities we might, perchance, believe. In practice, many Marcionists lived “virginity” as refraining from marriage and practiced a sexual lifestyle so licentious it would make a pagan blush. No sooner was this heresy decisively refuted than the mystic, Mani, emerged to found the new Manichean heresy, which troubled the faithful even more and was more widespread than the old Marcionist heresy.
In the midst of all of this, the early Bishops had to contend with a host of purported written letters, gospels and fraudulent acts of particular apostles all contending for canonicity, the overwhelming majority of which were heretical frauds – but were also plausible within the context of the times and had their supporters and advocates. That is not even to mention the Gnostics, who claimed to have “secret knowledge” and treated the Bishops with contemptuous pity as unenlightened rubes. The Gnostics depended heavily on private revelation for their “secret knowledge,” most of which was fraudulent and delusional – but they, too, had a substantial following.
Through all this, the Bishops did not just refine doctrine; they reformed their own understanding and application of that doctrine, as they saw that misapplications led people into sin and despair. Just one example: In the first centuries, Christians taught that the sacrament of reconciliation could only be used ONCE in a lifetime after Baptism. The period of penance was usually three years or longer, much of which the penitent had to literally spend in sackcloth and ashes wailing outside the churches. This led to several abuses, including the common one of people sympathetic to Christianity waiting until they were near death to be Baptized, and sinning with impunity until that point. There also was a belief common among many – including many Bishops, that a martyr was not only cleansed of all sin, but could act as “confessor” to others, cleansing them of sin, as well. The guards at the prisons where the condemned were held started holding them for weeks or months and accepting bribes to let others in to receive their absolution. Eventually, these became genuine dens of iniquity, where both the condemned and their “penitents” gave themselves over to the sins of the flesh and riotous behavior, with the approval and often participation of the guards because it was all going to be wiped away anyway. During the persecution ordered by Decius in 250, several condemned martyrs were sent to a sort of solitary confinement for a time because of their objection to such riotous behavior. Contemplating this, the Bishops ultimately reformed the Sacrament of Reconciliation, despite the cries of those who accused them of watering down the rules – and their reforms helped keep people from such egregious sins and to make their way back when they had sinned.
Imagine for a moment a city council, composed often of knaves and scoundrels, ruling over even more raucous knaves and scoundrels. Imagine that this city council rarely roused itself to make a firm decision at all, instead choosing to allow all manner of nonsense and drivel to be debated. Then imagine that for over 2000 years, every time this council actually made a firm decision, it was a decision that was right, improved the city, and remained faithful to its founding principles. That is what Christianity is. Its seats of authority have often been occupied by knaves and scoundrels. Its edicts have been mutilated by people either trying to use them to oppress others or find a sneaky way around them. If you can come up with an idea so absurd that only an intellectual could believe it, surely sometime along the way a Christian Bishop propounded it. The miracle of Christianity has not been the steady sobriety of its leaders or its followers – it is a raucous, scrapping bunch, occasionally punctuated with a breathtaking saint, which somehow still seems to get it right while staying true to the Founder. It is despite all this that it has moved ahead in faith ever more true to what its Founder called for. It is almost as if some Unseen Hand were guiding it through the eons.
Of course, that is precisely what the Unseen Hand of the Holy Spirit has done. It has even used the disorders of the heretics to refine doctrine and reform its application. The ravings of Marcion and Mani forced the Church to contemplate deeply the meaning of Christian marriage and sexuality, and so refine their understanding and application of that understanding. The dualism of Mani led the Church to deeply contemplate the nature of God and the reality of Christ, to recognize and proclaim Him to be True God and True Man. The Albigensian Heresy was the adversary which led the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, to develop his deep and comprehensive theology. (I might note that some 20 of Aquinas’ propositions were originally rejected before the rest of the Church caught up with his inspired brilliance). Throughout, God has used the grit of heresy as the irritant around which the pearl of great price has been formed – a doctrine and practice that is true to Christ and gives life. And for all the ugliness involved in forming it, it has ever been formed truer and more beautiful, layer upon layer. I looked at the Synod which so many were in panic about and thought, well, it pleases God to form yet another layer upon the great pearl which is His Church. It is why I kept saying as it unfolded that to doubt the final outcome was not to doubt the men involved, but to doubt the faithful guidance of Christ through all the ages of the Church.
Almost two decades ago I described for my priests the sequence of satan’s tools as we entered the Storm. For generations we had labored under the burden of seduction, satan persuading men that good was evil and evil, good. I reported that during the brief period of rumblings before the Storm, satan’s most important power would be that of large-scale terror. As we entered the Storm, satan’s most important tool would be that of deception, to mimic that which was actually good and orthodox. I told them that this was the gravest danger by far. It was why I did not get too worked up over progressive nonsense: I had seen it would be blown away like the weightless chaff it is in the first heavy winds. But deception would settle in and deceive many.
Though I saw it, I somehow thought that the seemingly orthodox betrayers would be a sort of mole in the hierarchy; that they would pretend to loyalty to the Church even as they undermined fidelity to its tenets. I saw that they would be very impressive in their erudition, but also very barren, giving rise mainly to dissension and inciting people against the faith as they narrowed it down, driving others away. What I did not expect was that they would use their seeming piety and orthodoxy to mount a full frontal assault on the Church that Christ founded. Yet that is what is happening. It began, comically, with Maria Divine Mercy (MDM), the Irish fraud who was exposed as a cynical marketing scheme, as she argued that Pope Francis is an antipope, an antichrist of sorts – because she had seen this in private revelation. It skipped over to Dr. Kelly Bowring, once a respectable Catholic writer, who bought in wholesale to MDM’s heretical attack. He was smart enough to recognize when she was completely debunked and dropped his devotion to her, then he paused in his own apostasy, before launching it anew. I have hinted at a European cabal that will soon wash ashore. It is headed by Antonio Socci, another well-regarded Catholic author and journalist. All of these take great pains to argue that Pope Francis is an apostate leading the Church into perdition and that the only course of safety is to abandon the ancient Church and go into the “true church” they are touting. Socci has a book out on it that will, soon enough, be translated into English. I had held off on writing about it, for I saw no reason to trouble the waters until it made landfall. But now I have had five or six English-speaking correspondents write me seeking to make the case that Socci et al. are leading, so it is about to become common.
Some of the arguments are absurd. One of the more primitive argues that a Pope cannot resign, therefore Benedict is still Pope. One such note told me that while Benedict lives he holds the “unum” of the papacy and it cannot be transferred. I don’t know what an unum is, but I know the argument is so much flimmum and flammum. The argument would be more powerful if it weren’t for the fact that, though it has been a good six centuries, Popes (note that is plural) HAVE resigned before. Another argument says that one ballot was rescinded because one of the Bishops accidentally submitted two ballots – a blank one along with his marked ballot – and it was re-voted. This correspondent says that only four ballotings a day can occur during a conclave and this caused five ballotings, which invalidated everything. God is not the God of sophomoric technicalities. I doubt that, even if it was shown that there was the conclave equivalent of a “hanging chad” at one point, God would just say, “Never mind!” But this is just rube-bait.
At the heart of this “more pious than thou, orthodox” apostasy is the elevation of private revelation above the authority of Scripture and the Magisterium. The foundation of it all is various prophecies made, some spurious, some authentic over the years and centuries. Oh, there are so many evils and deceptions here! First, the great majority of private revelation is the product of fraud or delusion. If it is not subject to a concrete interpretive authority, it has no foundation and is just a series of fevered dreams. Second, the great majority of the time, authentic prophecy is misinterpreted by the thick-headed children we are. I would say that private revelation which is not subject to the authority of the Church is built on sand, but that would be to give it too much credit. It is just the resurrection of the “secret knowledge” of the Gnostics in a virulent new guise.
The authority of the Bishops, collectively, and the primacy of the Pope are two of the rare points that go all the way back to the beginning of Christianity. They are confirmed in Scripture. It is an arrogant, errant absurdity to argue that you love Jesus so much that you are going to correct the noxious errors He made by promising that Peter’s faith would not fail and charging all the faithful that, he who hears His apostles hears Him and he who rejects them rejects Him. Jesus did not give such assurances to even the saints who had private revelations, only to His Church. Some of the greatest evils in history have been brought about by following private revelation untethered to any concrete authority. The Manichean heresy was the product solely of private revelation. The man who receives visitations cannot be a law unto himself, or the devil will have free reign.
I now understand why my angel was so enthused when, during my period of supernatural blindness after being received into the Church, I eagerly chose the solid meat of the Church over the airy uncertainty of private revelation – even if it meant I would not see him again until after my death to this world. In so choosing, I chose full submission to Christ. The rise of this abusive primacy of private revelation over Church teaching is primarily what has made me, in this last month, consider dropping any mention of such visitations so as not to further pollute the waters. But I understand now that God has other plans. It pleases Him that one who values obedience over “secret knowledge” should speak on this to combat the abuse of this satanic-inspired apostasy.
I was told long ago that vanity and self-love run far deeper than we can imagine, that even many of the best are not so devoted to God as they are to their own superiority and enlightenment – and that the Storm would be used to expose and sweep away that toxic vanity from all.
I have been receiving pleas from some to try to convince me of this apostasy – or to at least let them use this forum to get a “fair” hearing. When I was in media, particularly in the 90s, I often got requests from overheated fantasists who mixed fact with fiction with great skill to give them a fair hearing of their proposition that the Holocaust was a hoax. I would have none of it. I was not about to collaborate with that assault on truth and memory. I know that some of those who plead with me now are convinced of their own rectitude, that they have found the true way – and that it leads away from the Church. It is with no little grief I watch them go, but the only way I will publish any arguments here is for the same reason St. Thomas sometimes published the arguments of the Albigensians – to crush them and protect the faithful from their pernicious errors. The great apostasy has begun – and you who promote the idea of the failure of the Church Christ guaranteed, and the apostasy of Peter, whose faith Christ guaranteed, are the apostates. Some of you are unknowingly satan’s minions, but that is what you are. May God forgive you for what you do and lead you back to the safety of the Church and the faith He founded.
I spent 35 years as a spiritual orphan. The Good Lord gave me the authority I demanded to be able to submit to before I would speak publicly in His name – and it is my home. Under NO circumstances will I abandon it.
If, when all is done, I am publicly celebrated for having served the faithful well, I will die in the Barque of Peter. If I remain an obscure fellow scribbling along on these matters, I will die faithful to the Barque of Peter. If, for some odd reason, I should be condemned by the home I love, I will die loyal to the Barque of Peter trusting that, like St. Joan of Arc, I will be rehabilitated as a faithful and loving son of the Church in better times. There is no middle course here. That is where I have lived and that is where I will die.