On the Mend: The Church in the Early 21st Century

Back when I was in Seminary in the 1980s there was a “Revisionist Creed” that floated around. We never used it in any way in the Seminary and most of us thought of it as a joke that some one had ginned up. But it reflected the relativism of those times which most of us knew had deeply invaded even the Catholic Church and was disastrously affecting other seminaries, religious orders and universities. I found it flipping through my files the other day, a yellowed and wrinkled copy. Here it is:

I believe in the concept of deity,
Gentle and nurturing parent of all,
Womb of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ
its primary offspring
our counselor and brother
born of a Palestinian maiden
harshly treated by an intolerant Roman official
died and was buried

Sometime afterwards he/she “reappeared” in some form or memory
and ever since remains as a symbol of
moral a religious values.

I believe in the spirit of toleration,
the universal and essential goodness of all humankind
the primacy of fellowship,
the acceptance of diversity
the end of all suffering
and continuous human evolution.

Frankly the 1980s were difficult times in the Church and, in many ways dissent had reached its zenith. Many openly questioned the veracity of Scripture, and numerous of the fundamental moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church. I recall a steady diet of so-called Catholic theologians denying that Jesus ever knew he was God, claimed to be God or even was God. The historicity of the scriptures was openly questioned and many a simple believer, on recalling a passage of Scripture that upheld Catholic truth was scornfully told, “Jesus never said that!” Liturgical abuses were far more common and tolerated and moral theology, at least the Catholic version, was on holiday from most Catholic Universities. Yes, they were difficult times to be sure, at least here in America.

I think things have improved greatly in the Church since then. Most of the seminarians and young priests I have met are solid, orthodox men who love the Church and are eager to proclaim what she teaches. The laity too demonstrate a growing hunger for the unabridged version of Catholic Faith. Beginning in the late 1980s huge numbers of very solid magazines and publishing houses blossomed and began publishing and republishing wonderfully solid Catholic materials. This began to push back against the open dissent of the 1970s and 1980s. As the Internet dawned a whole host of great websites that are supportive of the faith have also burst forth. Many superb lay movements and new religious orders have also taken their place on the scene and are growing.

Yes, these are comparatively wonderful times. There are still troubles to be sure and the culture around us continues its alarming descent downward into confusion and darkness. But I am convinced that God is doing something powerful in the Church and that necessary reforms are well underway. I am no prophet but I do see that if American culture and civilization stand a chance it will be because of what the Lord is doing in and for the Church right now. Our on-going reforms will result in two things: we will be a light in the darkness and we will be increasingly persecuted. But praise God, I am convinced we are being purified and God is up to something good. Even the dreadful Sex abuse crisis has served to sober us up and call us to account for our laxity of the past. The days are difficult in our culture, all the more reason we should we clear and uncompromising in the glorious truth God has given us.

Unambiguous Creed – Back in those difficult days of the early 80s some of us seminarians came up with our own Creed to respond to the “revisionist creed.” We sort of stitched this thing together from various sources and each of its lines was carefully crafted to address errors that confronted us in those days. Frankly we kept this thing under wraps at that time since open asserting dogmatic truth was seen as “rigid” in the early 1980s. And to be labeled “rigid” was a death sentence to a seminarian. But looking through my files I found this and am pleased to say that it would no longer need to be kept under wraps today. Here’s what we compiled from various sources:

I, standing before almighty God and enlightened by his divine grace profess the faith which the Roman Catholic Church teaches. With firm faith I believe and profess each and all the articles that are contained in the Apostles’ Creed, that is:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven
and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of
the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell;
the third day He arose from the dead; he ascended into heaven
sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from
thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the
communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection
of the body, and life everlasting.

  • I accept and embrace most firmly the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and all the other constitutions and prescriptions of the Church.
  • I accept the sacred Scriptures according to the sense which has been held and is still held by Holy Mother Church, whose duty it is to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, and I shall never knowingly accept or interpret them in any other way.
  • I profess that the sacraments of the New Law are seven in number, instituted by Christ for our salvation, though all are not necessary for each individual: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.
  • I profess that all confer grace and that, of these, baptism, confirmation, and holy orders cannot be repeated without sacrilege. I also accept and admit the ritual of the Catholic Church in the solemn administration of all the sacraments.
  • I accept and hold, in each and every part, all that has been defined and declared by the Sacred Councils concerning original sin and justification.
  • I profess that in the Mass is offered to God a true, real and perfect sacrifice for the living and the dead; that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist is really, truly and substantially the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ through the change of all of the substance of the bread into the Body, and all of the substance of the wine into the Blood. I confess also that in receiving under either of these species I receive Jesus Christ, whole and entire.
  • I firmly hold that purgatory exists and that the souls of the faithful departed who are there can be helped by the prayers of the faithful.
  • Likewise I hold that the saints, who reign with Jesus Christ should be venerated and may be invoked to offer prayers to God for us. I likewise assert that this veneration, far from diminishing God’s glory, rather, furthers it by acknowledging what the Love, Grace and Power of God can accomplish in weak human nature.
  • I profess firmly that the images of Jesus Christ and of the Mother of God, ever virgin, as well as of all the saints, should be given due honor and veneration on account of who they represent.
  • I recognize the holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church as the mother and teacher for all and accept without hesitation and profess all that has been handed down, defined, declared and taught by the Church.
  • I likewise embrace the teaching concerning the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff in matters of faith and morals and, accepting his primacy, I promise and swear true obedience to the Holy Father who is the vicar of Jesus Christ and successor to Saint Peter the Prince of the Apostles.
  • This Catholic Faith, outside of which no one who knowingly rejects it can ever be saved, I now freely profess and I shall, with the help of God, maintain and profess this same faith entire and inviolate and with firm constancy until the last breath of my life.
  • I shall also strive to see that, as far possible, this same faith shall be held, taught and publicly professed by all those who depend on me and by those of who I shall have charge.
  • Amen.

A little different than the revisionist creed, don’t you think?

I am interested in what you think is happening in the Church, especially if you lived through 70s and 80s. As I have said, I think God is doing great things. More is surely needed. Our continuing drop in attendance must also be turned around. But in the end, I am once again assured of the Lord’s promise that the gates of hell, though they try, are not going to prevail against the Church founded by Jesus Christ.

Here is a silly video that depicts the dissent of 70s and 80s in a cartoonish way. It may be a bit unfair in it’s rather light-hearted approach. Not all dissent can be reduced to this ridiculous picture. But I have to say he reminds me perfectly of some of the religion teachers I had in middle school CCD back in the early 70s. The jeans, the sweater and and the smarmy conversation and the notion that there are no answers and the way that “tolerance” gives way to anger when the right buttons get pushed. So take this for what it’s worth. It’s a cartoon-like hyperbole of the laid back 70s.