Cardinal Blase Cupich recently furthered The Big Lie of our times.
This Lie of surpassing Bigness is not the systematic cover-up of decades of sexual abuse by ecclesiastical authorities, although this can certainly be laid at their feet. Neither is it the strange eagerness of many bishops to promote illegal immigration, resettlement, and the mass injection of citizens with abortion-tainted serums (positions entirely unrelated to attracting government funding as a replacement for collapsing pew-sitter revenues, so we’re told).
No, The Big Lie considered here is far more fundamental, nefarious, and harmful to man’s salvation. This lie has been fought, even within the body of the Church, for well over a century. Today, it is ubiquitous.
What is The Big Lie?
Pope St. Pius X put it most succinctly: “The intrinsic evolution of dogma.”
Formally condemned in 1907, the false notion that the Catholic religion is little more than a mass of perpetually evolving “expressions of belief” about God, creation, and human moral activity (all continuously modifiable to suit contemporary interests) is certainly a much older error than its 20th century proscription. Like so many heresies in Church history, this error—a fundamental tenet of Modernism—went unnamed for many years.
Even so, The Big Lie was flatly condemned in the dogmatic declaration of the First Vatican Council (1870):
If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.
Sadly, this error of the evolution of dogma is still alive and well, and the ranks of bishops who understand and oppose it have grown depressingly thin. Indeed, over the last half-century, this error has become so deeply lodged within nearly every ecclesiastical structure that it has shaped the minds of most Catholic clergy and laity today.
A salient demonstration of this appeared recently at the blog Pray Tell, where Cardinal Cupich sought to silence the just outcry against the odious provisions of the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes. In his article, the Cardinal insinuates The Big Lie in remarkable style:
[Pope John Paul II] in 1993 reformed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, again for the purpose of bringing it up-to-date in view of the theological insights of the Council [of Vatican II].… With the reforms of the Code and the Catechism, the Church left behind their earlier forms. No one would think of arguing that the earlier forms of the Code or the Catechism could still be used…
Leaving aside the rest of the Cardinal’s article, it is important to digest precisely what is being asserted here about the Catholic catechism: for, if indeed the Church has “left behind” the substance of her previous catechism such that “no one would think” of using it now, then the Church has in fact left herself behind, and the gates of Hell have prevailed—something that we know (on supremely Good Authority) can never occur (see Matthew 16:17-19).
Alas, as I have pointed out in these pages before, there is a concerted and ongoing effort among many officeholders in the Church to substantially liquify Catholic doctrine, largely by way of “catechetical reform”—and I submit that this is the only frame of reference in which the Cardinal’s statement can be properly understood.
The claim that John Paul II “reformed the Catechism” could be just a simple imprecision of language. After all, that pope never reformed an existing document, but rather issued an entirely new text, entitled Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which does indeed include copious passages from the Second Vatican Council as the Cardinal suggests—including, it must be said, many of the ambiguities and prima facie errors found therein. Then again, it would be rather embarrassing for the Cardinal to maintain that the CCC is intended to replace all other Catholic catechisms, seeing as its official document of promulgation, its own opening paragraphs, and even the USCCB website clearly assert the opposite!
In truth, the only other way in which one might construe the Cardinal’s statement about forsaking the earlier catechetical form would be to define “catechism” in its classical and broad sense: that is, as the basic and received doctrine of the Church. In this light, the statement requires that the most recent iteration of the CCC stand as the definitive—indeed the only—legitimate expression of the Church’s faith: a faith which appears to have accrued sufficiently dramatic “theological insights” viz. the Second Vatican Council to warrant a novel rewrite. The “earlier forms” have been swept away, and only the most up-to-date version of this catechism, the CCC, may stand as the normative guide on matters of faith and morals.
Such a notion is manifestly absurd, as any number of satires have pointed out in the past. There has never been one monolithic, exclusive, and formally binding document regarded as “the” Catholic catechism, just as there has never been “the” Catholic credal statement that supersedes all others. There are, in fact, many of both—each with its own unique character and value relative to that single, unchanging body of apostolic doctrine that continues to endure through time and space.
To assert, therefore, that one particular book will henceforth supersede all prior articulations of Catholic doctrine, and that this compendious tome must in turn be perpetually revised, even to include teachings that are exactly contrary to points of settled doctrine (as the CCC does), is both an announcement of revolution in the Church and a declaration of war on Divine Revelation itself: it is the final stage of the evolution of dogma, which includes its total relativization and abandonment.
As St. Pius X saw clearly, to accept the infinite malleability of settled doctrine finally terminates not in Protestantism, but in atheism. Today, this Big Lie must be manfully resisted, lest we find ourselves guilty of holding or teaching the error condemned over a century ago: “Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and all men, but rather inaugurated a religious movement adapted or to be adapted to different times and places.”
It is more pressing now than ever to heed the advice of St. Vincent of Lérins:
What then should a Catholic do if some portion of the Church detaches itself from communion of the universal Faith? What choice can he make if some new contagion attempts to poison, no longer a small part of the Church, but the whole Church at once? Then his great concern will be to attach himself to antiquity, which can no longer be led astray by any lying novelty.
Or perhaps, in the plainer language of St. Paul: “Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught” (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15)!
[Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency]