Christ's Faithful People
|A major factor related to our living in a post-Catholic civilization allows Liberalism
to live and to thrive; it is an element the author does not touch upon, and in fact, which
I have never seen mentioned by any other author, and it is this: Christianity (read
"Catholicism") solved the nagging questions for mankind as to the purpose of
life, whether man is immortal, and what is his eternal destiny. Those who have studied the
pre-Christian era literature of ancient Greece and Rome realize that the answers to these
questions held at that time were at the very best vague, shadowy and uncertain notions in
the minds of the ancient people. Save for the Israelite nation, singled out by God to
prepare themselves (and to a certain extent, the world) for the coming of a Redeemer, the
nations of the world by the time Our Lord Jesus Christ entered the picture of human
history had pretty well lost the correct view of these important questions, which God had
communicated to Adam and Eve and which had been handed down through the millenia before
Christ. But the teachings of Jesus Christ, once they had permeated the Roman world and
spread to the barbarian European nations, solved all these ultimate questions for our
ancestors in the West. People were assured by Divine Revelation that man is immortal, that
he is destined ultimately either to Heaven or to Hell, that these states last forever (in
an ever-present now that the human mind, knowing only the element of change in this world,
finds impossible fully to grasp) and that man's acceptance or rejection of Christ's
doctrine, plus living an absolutely correct life and dying in God's grace, are the
determining factors as to whether a person will go to Heaven or to Hell. Since the advent
of Protestantism, it is my contention, the SOCIAL AWARENESS of the answers to man's
questions about the immortality of the soul, the purpose of life, the ultimate end of man,
and the role of human behavior in determining man's last end has not been lost! The
historical reality of Catholicism's being the only religion of Europe is not that old
(16th century), and therefore the memory of its teaching is still fairly fresh from a
social awareness aspect, plus Catholicism is still with us today--e.g., almost 20% of the
U.S. population is Catholic, at least in name, and some areas of the Western world are
predominantly Catholic. So the ferment of Catholicism, the fountainhead of Christianity,
with its true, unalloyed doctrines on these ultimate questions, is still in our midst
(though in the post-Vatican II era, i.e., after 1965, it definitely has become
significantly weaker). Consequently, there exists in our social awareness a pretty strong
conviction among most people of our society today that man is immortal, that he is
intended by God for an eternity of happiness and that, if he will lead a good life here on
earth, he will attain that end.
The one aspect relative to all these Catholic answers to man's questions about the meaning of life and the ultimate end of man which has been lost--alas, even by many Catholics--is "exactly HOW salvation is attained!" "Just WHAT it takes to gain Heaven!" Non-Catholics no longer know this--or they would become Catholic--and even most Catholics today (those who are Catholic in name only) have lost it as well.
(The answer to how one attains salvation is simply this: to know and embrace Catholicism, "the faith of ... Christ" (James 2:1), "the faith of God" (Rom. 3:3), and to live an absolutely correct moral life by means of sharing actively and regularly in the Sacramental life of the Catholic Church. "For without me you can do nothing" said Our Lord (John 15:5), by which He meant that we need the light of His faith for knowledge of the way, plus the grace of His Sacraments to receive the life of God in our souls and for assistance to lead a good life. "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day." (John 6:54-55). This passage refers to the Sacrament of Holy Communion, which is received under the form or appearance of bread and wine.) Now Liberalism is able to live and to thrive today precisely because the people of our time have lost the precise knowledge of HOW to attain salvation. They have lost the awareness that the salvation of one's soul is a big job, the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, second-by-second preoccupation of man's entire life (especially if he intends to avoid Purgatory and gain a high place in Heaven), that it is bound up intimately with participation in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, to give us, first of all, the life of Sanctifying Grace (God's life) in our souls through Baptism and, secondly, the assistance through the actual graces of the other Sacraments (Confession, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders) to lead an absolutely correct life according to God's law and befitting our vocation and state of life.
People today, in other words, have RETAINED the general ideas that man is immortal, that he is destined by God for an eternity of happiness in the next life, that he must lead a good life in this world and die repentant of his sins to gain Heaven, and that the wicked will be punished in Hell. But they have LOST the exact knowledge of just what a "good" life entails and of bow all-consuming the job of salvation is and that it of Jesus Christ, which He gives through the Sacraments of His Church, and therefore that membership in His Church, the Catholic Church, is essential to salvation. (This membership is essential because only Catholicism has the KNOWLEDGE, through faith, plus the DIVINE LIFE and the HELP received from the Catholic Sacraments that we need for attaining this end.) Therefore, in the distance between modern man's SOCIAL AWARENESS (inherited through the centuries from Catholicism) that "all is well with man" (we are immortal and destined for Heaven if we will "be good") and the PRECISE KNOWLEDGE of the monumental task of salvation (achievable only with the exact knowledge of the Catholic faith and the assistance of the Catholic Sacraments), Liberalism--that doctrine that one religion is as good as another, that it does not matter what you believe so long as you lead a good life, that in effect if you do not accept any religion at all, it is all right--finds a comfortable atmosphere in which to thrive, living, as it only can, on contemporary man's SOCIAL AWARENESS that "all is well" regarding eternity and his ignorance of PRECISE spiritual truths and his laziness to bestir himself to learn the truth, plus his fear of the challenge which a correct perception of the truth will force him to accept. Probably the most important spiritual fact lost to the majority of people today--a fact that makes Liberalism so plausible--is the Catholic distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders--between natural ends and means and supernatural ones. Those today who entertain the fuzzy thinking of Liberalism do so largely because they have lost cognizance of this distinction. Heaven, according to Catholic teaching, is a supernatural state, an end or objective above man and beyond his ability to attain, a goal which man on his own cannot achieve. It is the presence of God. It is the eternal vision of God and an eternal sharing in the life of God Himself. But this is not something within the nature of man to achieve or possess. It is rather a special, supernatural gift from God, an unwarranted (on man's part), gratuitous GIFT OF GOD. We do not deserve it. We can only attain it by the special, supernatural assistance which God has given us through the knowledge of the "faith of God" (Rom. 3:3) and the help of the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, the divinely revealed religion. These Sacraments were given by Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, to the Church and are supernatural means to give us supernatural assistance to save our souls and attain Heaven, a supernatural end. People who have lost the Catholic faith but retain the "social awareness" that we can be saved will just automatically think that every "good" or nice" person who dies will be saved, not realizing that "None is good but God alone" (Luke 18:19) and that Heaven is something we do not deserve in the natural course of things, but that it is a supernatural reward freely given by God, as a result of supernatural faith in His revealed word and requiring supernatural means to attain (which He provides through the Sacraments of the Catholic Church).
Thus, when people lose the True Faith, the natural and the supernatural get blurred or lost sight of, and people think everyone can be saved or even that everyone is saved--no matter that they ignore and neglect the only means of salvation. This is why Liberalism can exist!
Liberalism, because modern man has lost the true Christian faith (with its recognized distinction between the natural and the supernatural), can mouth its absurdities and find a hearing among ignorant lazy and/or unthinking people. But, as stated earlier, here on earth the ultimate fruit for man of Liberalism's chaotic reasoning is chaos and anarchy in the social order. And that chaos is now upon us, so that people are now seriously asking, "What is wrong?!"
And therefore now is the time we must shed the light of the True Faith upon the spiritual darkness of our times. Sweeping away Liberalism is the last job to be accomplished before the work of the regeneration of the True Faith and the reintroduction of the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, the light of the world" (1 John 8:12), can begin.
Thomas A. Nelson
March 15, 1993