New Motu Proprio
Pope Francis has unexpectedly just “established” the new “ministry” of catechist, vis. the generally unexpected and problematically entitled motu proprio Antiquum ministerium, issued today (text here).
The entire theo-historical premise upon which the document is built – encapsulated in the opening sentence of the document – may be considered a bold-faced lie. There was never any “ministry” of catechist in “antiquity”; at least, not in the properly theological sense of the term, which is of necessity connected to sacramental Orders.
But then again, the proper meaning of the term ministry has all but evaporated since the Second Vatican Council. There are now “ministries” for darn near everything, from Lectress to Usher to Donuts Distributor. One may reasonably claim that Antiquum is predominantly about moving this theological ball a bit further downfield.
Thus the need to consider “the broader charismatic tradition of the New Testament,” and insist that “From the beginning, the Christian community was characterized by many different forms of ministry carried out by men and women” (n. 2). Thus the reprehensibly ambiguous claim that lay women “in some cases were also founders of Churches” (n. 3). Of course the ceaseless drumbeat for Vatican II must also be sounded (n. 4), along with restatements of the “urgency” of the Church’s pressing “missionary transformation” (n. 5).
Of course the real meat of the text is paragraph ns. 9-11, wherein Francis does “by apostolic authority establish the lay ministry of Catechist,” announce the forthcoming “Rite of Institution” for the new “ministry,” and direct the bishops to fashion more infrastructure for the reception, vetting, and training of interested candidates.
You know things are bad when you see a document like this and think “well, that’s not so bad.”
Indeed, on the face of it, this seems to be one of the less disastrous things to occur in the last few years. A ministry of catechist doesn’t seem so awful… Especially when any appreciation for antiquity is claimed by a pontiff this novel.
But alas, Dear Reader, we’re inclined to suspect this is worse than it appears.
First, we must remind all of the tactic of linguistic novelty. Language is everything. The abuse of the term ministry is not a minor issue.
Second, this entire operation looks an awful lot like what military science calls a force-multiplier. It is right in line with the strategies already outlined in the Vatican’s Directory for Catechesis issued last year (a text that continues to go woefully unexamined; to date, the only deep-dive that we’re aware of being that featured at WOR here, here, and here).
What’s the significance of a new “ministry” of catechist as a force multiplier?
Well, if you were an occupying military force and became aware that a large portion of non-combatants were suddenly joining the fight on the side of the natives, such that your position was going to be predictably overwhelmed in the short term or outlasted in the long term, you might task your special forces operatives with the Priority 1 Initiative of creating local forces.
Translated to this situation:
Antichurch knows that their theological-juridical-liturgical dominance is unsustainable in the longterm. They are also aware that the number of faithful Catholics is actually growing in the midst of the postconciliar wasteland they have created, as the faithful discover the true religion buried in the modernist rubble all around them. Though Antichurch knows that they currently occupy the majority of the institutional structures of the universal Church, they cannot hold the ground or gain new ground on the force of their own value proposition (e.g., nobody would die for the Novus Ordo, though many have died for the TLM). They admit as much in the the Directory as we point out in the analysis mentioned above.
Coercion, then – by alignment with the ascendent globalist health-technocracy – will be the chief means for Antichurch’s self-propagation: alignment with the Caesars of our time.
But, to shore up the moral legitimacy of the facade, they must employ a force-multiplier at the ideological level: the propagation of doctrinal novelty by numbers. For, the real water-carriers of doctrinal novelty in the hierarchy – those prepared to shout it from the rooftops, as it were – are actually relatively few. Furthermore, there are clerics who oppose such innovation (though perhaps still too seldom, and too timidly), and their numbers are growing. More will rise through the clerical ranks, and the innovators know this.
Enter the new “ministry” of catechist.
Hundreds of (almost exclusively well-meaning) Clueless Carls and Saccharine Sues throughout the world are now to be trained and “Instituted” with their own “Rite” as lackeys for the extension of Antichurch doctrine: provided, of course, that they be “active participants in the life of the Christian community, capable of welcoming others, being generous and living a life of fraternal communion,” (n. 8) whatever that means.
Let’s see… is there a historical precedent for Deputy Innovators of Doctrine?
Of course. We’ve just described the emergence of Protestantism.
Any Joe Bob could be a “minister” when the Protestant system was fashioned and generally imposed by force upon Catholic Europe: a proposition made all the more attractive as it was subsidized by the Crown and the nobility looking for fast cash. See, it so happened that there was great civic interest in underwriting a doctrinal revolution, on the back of lay preachers in the 16th century…
…and where do you suppose most of the funding for Catholic institutions is coming from, nowadays?
A Gleam and A Chuckle
One may expect that traditionally-minded Catholics, knowing the novelty of this whole enterprise and understandably allergic to “anything Francis,” will avoid all of the above, and calmly carry on with the work of saving their souls and spreading the true Faith in their spheres.
But just for fun, let’s imagine:
What if an army of traditionally-minded Catholics approached their bishops to be “instituted” in the “ministry” of catechist? Better still, what if the few remaining bishops of more traditional mind did the “instituting” – building their own formation programs, even writing their own catechisms to match? You know, Catholic ones?
Where there is no hatred of heresy, there is no holiness. A man, who might be an apostle, becomes a fester in the Church for the want of this righteous abomination [i.e., abhorrence].Fr. Frederick W. Faber, The Precious Blood
…Bravo the Restoration!