Well, here we are in the 21st century Catholic Church. We have survived all of the liturgical innovations brought to us by the “spirit of Vatican II,” including clown masses, balloon masses, puppet masses, homemade banners, horrible liturgical music (Sons of God, anyone?), and somewhat-less-than-awe-inspiring architecture for new churches. For sure, Vatican II was a great Holy Spirit-inspired Church Council, and its sixteen documents are blueprints for a great future of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. But what the liberals inside the Church told us that the council was all about (remove those statues, no more Marian devotion, no more Latin, no more rosaries, build new age labyrinths, social work taking precedence over Catholic theology, etc.) was poppycock. The St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI generation of priests are in the process of fixing all of those misconceptions, thank God!
The purpose of this article is to address one of the last mistaken beliefs about the Church from the previous century. It is the misguided belief in some parishes that the Catholic Church is not about being militant in the fight against Satan, but rather, the Catholic Church is all about being “nice.” The purpose of a church isn’t to smile with us while we are on the way to hell; rather, it’s to get us to stop sinning so that we can go to heaven. We are the Church Militant down here on earth after all, not the Church Wimps!
Sadly, some Catholics have fallen into this fluff-trap. Mass attendance is a fraction of what it once was fifty years ago, and in my humble opinion, it’s because of poor catechesis from the pulpit, especially about the evil of sin. We hardly ever hear stirring sermons about overcoming the evils of adultery, stealing, fornication, pornography, artificial birth control, abortion, or homosexuality. Priests want to be liked as much as the next guy, and so sometimes we hear lots of forgettable sermons about uninteresting niceties. But this approach is not what the Church Militant Saints taught, and it certainly is not what the Bible teaches.
St. Bernardine of Siena once said this about sodomy. Notice that he is not judging anyone, but rather, he is condemning the sin. This distinction is lost on so many people today – hate the sin, love the sinner:
“No sin has greater power over the soul than the one of cursed sodomy, which was always detested by all those who lived according to God….. Such passion for undue forms borders on madness. This vice disturbs the intellect, breaks an elevated and generous state of soul, drags great thoughts to petty ones, makes [men] pusillanimous and irascible, obstinate and hardened, servilely soft and incapable of anything. Furthermore, the will, being agitated by the insatiable drive for pleasure, no longer follows reason, but furor…. Someone who lived practicing the vice of sodomy will suffer more pains in Hell than anyone else, because this is the worst sin that there is.”
St. Bernardine was right on the money, as we see so many angry homosexuals today, who not only threaten people who disagree with them, but who get them thrown out of a job for having traditional values. Tolerance is certainly not one of their traits. St. Bernardine was right to warn us about the effects of this sin.
The Blessed Virgin Mary said this at Fatima, a private revelation for sure, but a Church-approved one:
“More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
And that was in 1917, almost one hundred years ago. Today, in this age of anything goes and internet porn, how much truer is her statement now! I don’t think I have ever heard this statement repeated from the pulpit one time in my entire life.
St. John Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed Archbishop of Constantinople in the fourth century, once declared the following:
“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”
Where have you gone, Archbishop Chrysostom? Anybody who preached like this today would bring back thousands of lost souls. These are the kinds of sermons that stir the hearts of parishioners, like a rousing political speech before an election. And it is certainly a sermon that wouldn’t be forgotten five minutes after it’s preached.
The Bible also has examples of admonishing sinners:
“Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip for John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.””
So, if the greatest man born of woman can admonish Herod in order to try and save him, cannot we today do the same? Or should we just mind our own business and let sinners fall into hell? St. John the Baptist lost his head for doing this, and we might lose our jobs if we speak out today. Is it worth it? Warning a person of mortal sin (The Church calls this “admonishing the sinner, and it is classified as a spiritual work of mercy) is not now, nor has it ever been, “judging” the sinner. Only God can do that at his death. But we certainly can warn people of impending doom if they don’t repent. G.K. Chesterton once said that only living things swim against the current, while dead things just float along with it.
St. Paul once said, in 1 Corinthians 5:5:
“You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”
St. Paul is actually telling his followers to excommunicate an evil person from the church, for his own good. Paul is saying that once this apostate finds out about Satan’s false kingdom, then he will come back to the true Kingdom of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. Lots of us sinners have found this out the hard way, albeit without being excommunicated, but through our own sinful nature.
Jesus, in Matthew 23:33-36, warns the scribes and the Pharisees about the impending doom coming upon Jerusalem for their abandonment of God, even calling them serpents:
“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of Gehenna? Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
The scribes and Pharisees were so evil that their punishment includes the guilt for all of the righteous blood spilled since the murder of Abel! This came to pass with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The lesson here is that Jesus Himself believed in admonishing sinners in the boldest terms.
Admonishing the sinner is not “judging” the sinner. Paul tells is in 1 Corinthians 4:3 that he doesn’t even judge himself (something everyone going around saying “I’m saved, are you?” should take to heart).
So let’s all start being the Church Militant, and start imitating the saints with true evangelization, which has always included speaking up and admonishing (NEVER judging) the sinner. Helping people get into heaven sometimes includes overturning tables in our own temples (bodies), as well as in our neighbor’s! Father Manning, my parish priest a long time ago, once said during a sermon, loudly, “GOD DOESN’T WANT GOOD PEOPLE. HE WANTS SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST!” And that is exactly what we became at Confirmation!