God in the Apostate West


Under the title: “We are going to bring the West back to God”, the weekly Knack published an interview with Cardinal Rino Fisichella on 08-08-12. He is described as the “unofficial ideologue” of the Vatican, a title suitable for political associations, but not fitting into a religious church community. In reality, since 2010 he has been the president  of a new “dicasterium” (in translation “bureau”):  the  Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.  He had an important announcement: the Church will start a large-scale offensive in the autumn of 2012 to re-Christianize the West. Our Archbishop Léonard is also working on this. Between 7 and 28 October, a special synod of bishops about this will take place in the Vatican.

The word “West”, as in many other cases, does not refer to a geographically defined region, but to “Western culture”, originating in Western Europe but spread over several continents. In fact, the planned revival is aimed at all countries “born of Christian civilization” (including those of North and South America and Australia). That description is perhaps a mistranslation from Italian, for it suggests that Christianity is a state-founding community of faith. Christianity is there to serve the spiritual Kingdom of God and not to demarcate political territories.

The tenor of the deluge of reactions, after the appearance of a summary of this interview on Knack’s website, was mostly very negative.  Most of the more than 200 comments, spread over several days, were explicitly hateful, sometimes downright vulgar or banal. The writers of these kinds of reactions like to pretend to be skeptical or scientific, but practice teaches us that many forms of superstition are practiced among the so-called unbelievers. Among other things, card readers get a good penny in these environments and stories about space aliens go down well with quite a few anti-church people.  Fortunately, there were also some wiser and thoughtful comments. Of those who defended the Church, some even came from honest atheists.

A small selection of the negative comments:  “Completely lost touch with reality” – “God no longer lives in your churches” – “Religion is the biggest mistake in human history” – “And that gang of lunatics is going to bring the west back to God” – “God did not make people, people made god” – “It will be adapt or disappear” – “Sickly sect with such power that no one dares to start to shut it down”  – “The Inquisition is going to be reintroduced” – “Please let us keep those lunatics in their mini-state” “They can start reintroducing the pyre” – “Actually, they would be better off bringing God west than the other way around” – “ The only thing they have done well and are still doing is brewing Trappist” – “Religion is the most dangerous drug in existence” – “Are they finally starting to realize that their brand is no longer working?” – “The pastor said to the mayor: keep them poor and I keep them stupid” – “Don’t send “understanding” vultures like Léonard to us” – “More people are dying every day from the effects of what religions have made people believe” – “I am a believer, but I no longer believe in the Church” – “Believing is for fools” – “As long as the Church protects pedophiles and considers this more important than the victims, she will need many synods and the like to survive” – “Our time on this planet is too short for bigotry” – “Are we going to start the Crusades again? ” – “the church factory is nothing more than exploitative mafia, only reason and science will advance the world and humanity” – “They have chosen the most well-behaved and are going to put them in a monastery in the Ardennes … in terms of marketing stunt, that can count” …

In all that ferocious word violence – presumably mainly from people who want to vent certain frustrations (which the Church or the faith probably have nothing to do with) – the essence has been forgotten.  In fact, the title of the article misleads readers. It is not about “bringing the West back to God” and certainly not about “bringing God back to the West.” After all, God is everywhere, in the midst of us. People just have to learn to perceive Hem again.  If they assume that He does not exist, that becomes difficult, of course, because that incredulous dogma clouds the objective perception.  God is observable, among other things, in the splendor of  the universe and in particular of nature on our planet. Unbelievers do believe in the laws that science discovers in nature, but unscientifically ignore the logical conclusion that there must be a lawgiver who has established these laws. The incomparable  intelligence of life also testifies to the intelligence of He who gave it birth. But above all, the disinterested goodness of fellow human beings should be an indication to many atheists that there is more than just the materially perceptible.

If we want to bring our people and countrymen back to the spiritual richness of the Christian faith, we must first of all rely on the omnipotent wisdom of God himself and not on ‘marketing techniques’.  This is a way of achieving temporary successes, but in the longer term it only reinforces the perception that our religion is a kind of commerce. Moreover, we must particularly take notice of the first Christians, who lived their faith in much more difficult circumstances than we did. Their most striking feature was thus described: “see how they love one another”. It was this attitude of consistently experienced love that attracted their fellow human beings like a magnet. It is the ideal counterpoint to the seductive appeal of an atheist faith, which draws modern man into nihilism,  libertinism, individualism and other typical ills of our time.

We should not bring God to the West, for He is here among us. What we must do is reopen the hearts of our fellow human beings to Christ. He gave concrete form to his and our Father’s Love being in a harsh world, so that those around Him became aware of God’s caring closeness and accessibility through the way of faith. The love that characterizes Christians is not a cheap human sentiment. It is a child’s love for his brothers and sisters, aware that we are all children of the same loving Father. It is not love that aims to acquire a maximum of artificial human rights. The practice of Christian charity consists in joyfully, humbly, and obediently performing the natural human duties to which we are called by our Creator in our conscience.

Here we immediately encounter a major stumbling block. Many confuse love with permissiveness. A truly loving person is  tolerant, knowing that no one is perfect. Tolerance is a form of gentle patience, but it must not be accompanied by indulgence. What is wrong and sin remains wrong and sin. This includes everything that contradicts love, which takes shape in the far-sighted care and respect for human life. It must be fought, not  with inappropriate violence, but  with good arguments and, above all, with our examples. We live in “the West” in a democratic pluralistic society and in which we cannot simply impose our Christian values. Fortunately, the time of inquiry  and religious wars is over  for Christians, and Hopefully, a similar awareness is beginning to permeate other religions as well. Our best asset in the proclamation of faith is – in addition to a great trust in God’s help – our own edifying example.

Based on the knowledge and experience of evangelical values, it is our task to make the hearts of our fellow human beings receptive to Christ’s teachings. He is the Son of God, who is entitled to the chief place of honor in every human heart. But in the hearts of many modern Westerners, the places of honor have already been taken by  the  demons of  their addicts or the adored demigods from the fake world of show, glitz and media fame. Often they are not opposed to Christ in principle, but try to settle his words according to their wishes. They falsify and reinterpret his life history, make him a superstar and his teachings a mixed bag with which their evil passions can be excused. The unbeliever or half-believer says “yes” to a life that gives him maximum satisfaction and denies God’s commandments in whole or in part. A truly believing Christian, on the other hand, says “yes” to life as God offers it. He makes the best of it in respect for God’s will. The first shortsightedly thinks that he/she is the  smartest, but  the second knows that he/she is practicing the true wisdom that leads to true happiness.

The Church in the west has other assets. One of them comes from a rather unexpected angle, namely the increasing migration. Insofar as they come from Islamic areas, they are not exactly enthusiastically received by a large part of the population. The cultural values imported from there do not in many respects fit the democratic visions and Christian traditions that made up our societies. But a large percentage of immigrants come from countries with a similar Christian value scale to ours.  Between them there are many Roman Catholics, as well as Christians who are closely aligned with Catholicism. In our European countries they form groups that live their faith in the traditional tradition or folklore  of their countries of origin.  Quite a few parishes in our major cities, thank God, have opened their doors wide to these faith communities, which often show an contagious dynamism and spontaneity rarely found in our native Sunday celebrations.

On the other hand, there are some serious problems that make a renewed evangelization more difficult. Two of these are the current image of the “institution Church” and the sham conflict between faith and science. The Roman Catholic Church is indeed an “institution”, which means that it was founded according to certain original rules, which were not invented afterwards, but which are directly descended from its Founder. In any case, what has been added over time should not contradict this. A great deal of ink has already been spilled on the relationship between faith and science. The Church has left her ‘Galileo period’ definitively and far behind and has learned, as an ecclesiastical institution or as a community of faith, not to interfere in disputes of a purely scientific nature.  However, the  same cannot be said of some in the scientific world who still believe that the fight against the belief in God is a scientific activity (well-known “specialists” in this are, for example, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, or the Belgian philosopher Etienne Vermeersch). However, their so-called scientificity takes questionable forms when confronted with arguments that show the probability of a creative God.

Institutionally, there is still much to be said about the “problem” of not admitting women to the  priesthood. Some argue that this  is a form of discrimination, although Christ himself introduced this rule  by referring only to men as his apostles.  As we all know, the bond between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds that exist on earth. This bond is so strong and predominant that many mothers are willing to do whatever it takes for their child. This is an undeniable reality, but it is  difficult to reconcile it with the words of Christ: “He who does not hate his father, mother, wife and children cannot be my follower.” By “hating,” of course, He meant that one must be able to completely distance oneself from them (as He himself did). The few followers who literally meet this demanding criterion are celibate priests, brothers or sisters. The fact that a fertile woman can always become a mother could be one of the reasons why Christ only referred to men as his apostles, who have ordained their successors in his name.  This concern is, of course,  not a certainty, but merely a possibility, together with others, which we have already discussed elsewhere. In any case, the discussion on this subject was definitively declared closed by our previous pope, since the Church  can only be the true Church of Christ insofar as it faithfully responds to the will of its Founder. Those who truly want to serve the Church accept this and avoid further division.

The Church acts and teaches according to criteria that in some respects are not in line with the prevailing Western patterns of thought. Among other things, she is originally hierarchical and not ‘democratic’, which can be called perfectly logical. In our case, her authority is unfortunately undermined by persons who, on the one hand, teach Canon Law or have a position at a theological faculty and, on the other hand, spray their criticism in our media on the ecclesiastical institute. At almost every new church event, they are the first to be consulted by our media, instead of the official church leaders The ordinary believers are watching this situation with sorrow, wondering why our church leadership is not responding firmly to that. The overly passive attitude  of our church authorities comes across as a sign of weakness and causes collateral damage to the image of the Church.

As a final factor of image damage, we cannot avoid mentioning the wave of abuse scandals. They have  caused  many  to turn their backs on the Church. The perpetrators  of these crimes are in fact only a small minority of the clergy, but the damage they inflicted on the Church is great. The contrast of their actions with the teachings and commandments of the Institute to which they swore allegiance could hardly be greater. For many unbelievers or people from other religions, the Church was also, to a greater or lesser extent, a moral beacon of light. Unfortunately, that light has now been extinguished for a long time. The deliberate magnification of the facts by a press with a largely anti-church attitude has undoubtedly  contributed to this.

We have already set out our position on this in other articles on this website. According to our analysis, the huge surge in abuse scandals is very clearly linked to the sexual permissiveness that has affected both our Western societies and churches since the middle of last century. The Catholic Church is supported by millions of simple believers. The main source of inspiration for their religious life are priests who are supposed to live a holy life. If some of them are exposed as defilers of children, then the blow to the trust of the ordinary lay believer is, of course, terrible.

Archbishop Fisichella’s response to  all these challenges is firm: “We are going to rediscover what an amazing treasure of culture and faith we have built up over the last two thousand years. I’m not a romantic and I’m not sentimental: I don’t think the turnaround is near. The crisis will continue for another twenty or thirty years. Maybe even longer. But I’m alive now, and this is the moment of the turnaround. I throw open the door and step out. Right away!


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