Many, Many years back, I would say in the 1970s, I read something that so shocked me that I never forgot it, and from time to time would quote it in my teaching. Admitting the possibility of the memory's paraphrasing it a bit, it asserted: 'Protestantism has within it the germ of its own destruction. But by the time it destroys itself Catholicism will have become Protestant.' I wish I had noted who said that but I had not -- a fact I greatly regretted. The statement The statement shook me greatly as I had been -- even way back then -- witnessing both the disintegration of Protestantism and the temporizing of much of the religion in which I had been reared. I knew then, and I still affirm that the Catholic Church cannot ever be extinguished. Yet there is no divine guarantee that the true faith will be preserved intact everywhere until time's end. The prophecy of doom contained in that forbidding dictum may not have been entirely accurate but it contained a truth that experience could not deny Something was going wrong with the Catholic Church.
During the past week I was overjoyed after so many years, to have alighted upon that quotation once again, at least substantially. It reads somewhat variously fro the form preserved in my memory but conveys essentially its core. "The Catholic religion will destroy the Protestant religion, and then the Catholics will become Protestants." The source cited is the (Baron de) Montesquieu in a work of his titled, Spirit of the Laws (1748-50). This writing was condemned by the Church and put on her Index of Forbidden Books, yet it proved to be very influential in forming American political theory.
My purpose here is not to advance the writings of this or any other philosopher but to refer to Montesquieu's frightening prediction as an impetus for us to remain solidly grounded in the true Catholic faith which admits of no compromise with error. The Author of the Church and of her doctrines is none other than the Son of God, He who can neither deceive nor be deceived. And where this bears particular relevance is in the affirmation of profession of the Creed.
There's a corrosive tendency in our anti-intellectual times to denigrate creedal formulas (by which I mean here the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds as the prime examples). A vaguely formulated biblical creed (essentially a protestant postulate) is admired as presented as the ideal, for it shrinks from making apodictic [indisputably certain] affirmations of belief. In order to bring down the whole edifice of the Catholic Church, one need not begin at the periphery, dismantling brick by brick, but only to dislodge its foundation of stones. Such are the articles of faith enshrined in the various Creeds of the Catholic Church, first and foremost being those articles that refer to God Himself. "I believe in one God" is not an idle opening statement having little or no bearing on what follows. It is rather that without which nothing else can be asserted as true. From the "unity" of God (that is, the one God) follows the trinity of God (His threeness), and from there all the rest: the incarnation, redemption, the Church, the scaraments, grace, eternal life.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the liturgically ideal day for the priest to assert and explain to the people the foundational beliefs of the Church in the whole truth about God. That most parish priests will probably avoid delivering a dogmatic sermon for this day is as sure as the aforementioned dire prediction of Montesquieu, for many priests lead their charges away from that indispensable doctrine which alone identifies them as Catholics. An amorphous belief in Jesus, or in "the bible" is regarded as all-sufficient, even though nothing can be therein asserted as positively binding beyond barebones statements. It is this minimalism, this reductionism which is uprooting the Catholic religion from the minds of men and leaving them, at best, as Protestants.
Today when you stand up to sing or recite the Credo (Creed), do it with confidence and with an awareness of being a faithful witness to the whole edifice of that Catholic truth in which you have been baptized as Christians. It is, may I say, your moment of glory, of greatness. And, while I'm at it, I'd like to propose thatyou revive the age-old Catholic devotional practice of reciting the Creed with your daily morning prayers. Such starts the day off with that solid affirmation of truth that will steady the course of the rest of your day.
"This is our faith: it is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord" (from the Rite of Baptism).
An important footnote: Next Sunday is Corpus Christi Sunday (either a replication, in the Tridentine calendar, or a transfer in the new calendar), a feast which more properly belongs to this Thursday. The Latin Tridentine Mass net Sunday will not be at the 9:30 but at noon where it will be followed by the Eucharistic Procession, that splendid demonstration of Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Our fearsome ushers will be at the ready to offer you, for a nominal price, a light lunch after the Procession (weather permitting).
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Montesquieu: "The Catholic religion will destroy the Protestant religion and then the Catholics will become Protestants."
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, May 27, 2018):