A Letter from the Trenches
To Mr. Michael Voris, STB
Founder of ChurchMilitant.tv
Dear Mr. Voris,
It is obvious that you have a passion for the Catholic Church and have put the passion forth. I thank you for your insights and want you to know that I agree with your assessment of the situation we find ourselves in today. I can confirm that there is a very liberal ilk of priests and religious, including some prelates, in the ranks of the Catholic Church in the United States whose errors have undermined the Splendor of Truth. I can confirm there have been seminaries that had been infiltrated with less than Catholic theology and pastoral advice. Yes, the resulting “church of nice” is all around us, and we need to work at regaining the Splendor of Truth as the centerpiece of all we do. We are embroiled in the ancient spiritual battle for souls, and that battle will rage until the Second Coming of Christ.
To be honest, I have heard your call and followed the things you have said with interest. I, like you, want to see the Church continue the mission of Jesus Christ here in the United States, and I am willing to work with those who have joined the ranks. There is no doubt in my mind that Pope Paul VI was correct when he noted that “the smoke of Satan” has entered the Church, and despite his warning the smoke has spread. That being what we agree upon, here is where I disagree with you: your method of addressing the situation is harmful and divisive. You want the war to be fought only with “shock and awe” tactics. You seem to advocate using a bazooka when a handgun would suffice. There are times in battle when we must fight and times when we must seek diplomatic solutions. As one in the trenches, I am not the one who decides which tactic we follow at a given moment in history. Such decisions belong to those in charge. Yes, more needs to be done, especially by the hierarchy, but a denunciation of prelates in our country is not helping the cause. We must always remember that we did not get into this situation overnight and we will not emerge from it overnight.
I know you may find this hard to believe but in recent years many things have changed, and changed for the better. For the most part, the changes have been internal, particularly in the formation of men for the priesthood. Recall that it was not even 10 years ago that an Apostolic visitation of the seminaries in the United States took place. At the conclusion of the visitation, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a very lengthy report summarizing their findings. Yes, the report noted that many things needed to be addressed, and that process remains ongoing. However, the report also noted that the seminaries have been changing, changes that began in the 1990s. This is good news. The problem you and I have to face today is the fact that turning around a system that was highly compromised takes some time. The good news is that the system is turning around, albeit very slowly. As someone on the front lines, I welcome the help and the gains that are being made for Christ.
Most recently you have indicated that Cardinal Dolan is part of the problem, not the solution. In following what he has done in his priesthood, I cannot conclude he has any malice toward the Church or Her Teaching. Do I disagree with how he has handled various issues in the public forum? Yes, at times I do. Would I like to hear more from him and hear him speak with conviction? Yes, I would. But I am not in his shoes and I do not have the pieces to the larger picture that he has. That is why, using the military imagery of which you are fond, we need to have generals and privates in the war. You and I must be very careful how we proceed because neither you nor I are generals. As members of the army, we must be careful to not divide the ranks against each other because, as Jesus warns us sternly, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.” To be clear, I am not saying those in the hierarchy are without error or that they have not made some egregious tactical or theological mistakes in recent years. I could point out many of them, but I would only do it in private out of respect for the office they hold. Yes, I can agree that sometimes a public corrective measure is needed to address an error, but to put forth conspiracy theories or engage in angry rhetoric merely serves to separate the troops from the leaders, which endangers many in the spiritual battle we are fighting.
Remember that your videos and publications are accessible to everyone, including the average Catholic. The average Catholic does need to grow in awareness of the situation at hand, especially the errors that continue to haunt us. That awareness will come through teaching and prayer, especially as the renewal of the priesthood continues. Remember, it was Cardinal Dolan who pointed out that we are currently dealing with a tremendous level of catechetical illiteracy among the faithful. What the average Catholic does not need is to constantly be looking with suspicion at those who are leading them. Some of those who lead are on the wrong path and will need to be brought back by a constant repetition of the Truth. That is why we must not only teach but also encourage everyone to get on his or her knees and pray before the Blessed Sacrament. To work together means we must correct the errors by putting forth the Truth in all its beauty.
Since you have invoked Mother Angelica, please note that she rarely spoke strongly against the hierarchy. Most of her shows encouraged her viewers to live a holy and devout Catholic life. She truly was a mother and teacher. She was witty and stern in her presentation. Her criticisms were direct when they needed to be, and she did occasionally cross a line when challenging those who were espousing errors. Her strength was an inspiration, and so was her humility. If we are going to engage in the battle properly, we can learn a great deal from her.
To this end, I encourage you to read what Cardinal Dolan has written to priests and seminarians. From what I can tell, he is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he is trying to address the problem by forming a new generation of priests apart from the compromised system we have inherited. As a case in point, his writing and work as rector in Rome, and even things he has done since becoming the Archbishop of New York, have been ordered toward building up the ranks of devoted and faithful priests. His efforts have made a big difference in the new generation of priests and seminarians, and again I welcome the help. It will never be perfect but it is getting better.
So please keep up the good work in helping us spot the errors. But save your attacks for the devil, not the members of the army. Please join me in praying for the lost and help bring them back to the fold.
Respectfully in Christ,
Rev. Peter J. Dugandzic, STD