[ Nuance: The Council of Vatican II is fine. It is the people who exploited various ambiguous statements or altogether ignored the documents themselves...]
From time to time, various figures spring up who embody a spirituality of the anti-Christ. In the early Church NERO best describes the anti-Christ. In fact, in the book of Revelation, the number 666 was a reference to the emperor Nero. Each letter in the Greek alphabet has a numerical value, and Nero’s adds up to 666. This was St. John’s way of speaking about the enemy of the Church.
Hitler is another figure who embodies the evils of the anti-Christ. Both NERO and HITLER both had great ambitions to create art work and large buildings. But they also sought to destroy culture and art-work when things didn’t go their way.
The Catholic Church believes that culture and art are sacred realities and seeks to preserve them, in their churches and in museums throughout the world. Art is more than having a monetary value, but it speaks to the history and identity of a people. It is the embodiment of the creative energies and values of a given society. Wiping out such culture cuts a group of people off from their own identifying heritage.
Interestingly enough, after Vatican II, much of Catholic Culture was lost. Statues were removed from Churches, designs and architecture were over-simplified (to put it politely) and devotional practices of piety in the public sphere were altogether eliminated and now considered offensive in the eyes of many.
The repressive tendencies to hide and supress Catholic Culture is largely the fault of leaders within the Church herself. The Catholic Church is not called to assimilate into a culture, but rather to form and shape the culture. This we failed to do, and instead devoted ourselves to succumb to a culture of death.
When we consider how the Catholic identity has been lost, we might call to mind the Old Testament, where the Jewish people who practiced pagan forms of worship and feasts and celebrations would often lead the whole tribes of Israel into Exile.
God wants to be infused into the culture of the peoples, and when we are not, idolatry ends up seeping in instead. Either the culture is ordered towards God or towards idolatry. As a result of poor leadership, bad liturgical practices, the absence of processions, and the confining of religious expression to a Church building, the western world has not merely burned away our Catholic Identity, it has also forgotten it. There is a blurred line between worldliness and Catholicism; we think being worldly makes us somehow more relevant.
A recent study shows that the Pre-Vatican II generation was incredibly culturally positive. They were often ideologically negative, which means they were not so much motivated by meaning and theory, but rather emphasized cultural expression of faith. The Vatican II generation on the other hand emphasized a stripping away of cultural expression, perceiving it as an instigator of division amongst protestants, and become devoted to an ideological narrative that repressed external expressions.
The latter has done great harm to the Church today. As a result of removing Christ from our culture, Bishops have not excommunicated political leaders who have allowed for abortion, same-sex marriage, and soon: euthanasia. The catholic culture has no impression upon the values and principles of our society since it has been compartmentalized into the “church-lady” whom many priests roll their eyes at as she constantly begs for processions and devotional practices.
No saint has ever claimed that the leadership within the Church was incapable of being corrupted by sin. Many often said that the road to hell was paved with the skulls of priests with the Bishops as sign-posts. St. Augustine says this:
“Brothers and sisters, allow no one to deceive you. If you do not wish to be deceived, and you want to love your brothers and sisters, then realize that every profession in the Church has its counterfeits.
I did not say that everyone is a counterfeit, but that every profession includes people who are counterfeit. There are bad Christians just as there are good ones.”
– Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 99
It is an unfortunate state of affairs. And I’d like to suggest reading the following passage in light of everything I’ve just written. There is no reason to lose hope. Even if the current leadership chooses not to listen to this resounding call from God, God will nevertheless still be present to the remnant of his faithful. God never abandons the Church, even as the churches become bankrupt from corruption, from an absence of those who practice their faith, and from poor theologies that break away from truth, only to enable people to run from their crosses and live in comfort.
God is still here for those who trust him.
“From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord.
16 This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
Therefore hear, you nations;
you who are witnesses,
observe what will happen to them.
Hear, you earth:
I am bringing disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words
and have rejected my law.
Re-read verse 14…I recently heard a priest state that while all of these things are falling apart, “Life is still beautiful.” If by this one means “Christ is beautiful” since He is the Life, then yes. But that wasn’t how people took it to mean. I believed full heartedly that this was a re-echoing of this particular passage. People will state that things are okay, while they are not. This is an empty statement and a refusal to repent. Is this saying no less than playing the fiddle while the Church burns?