RORATE CÆLI: “Deconsecrated Temples and the Religion of Man” — Archbishop Hector Aguer

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This is the main problem, revealed in the painful crack opened in the Church by the official departure from the great and unanimous Tradition. On the other side of the crack, on the shore of homogeneous continuity with the right doctrine — always the same and always renewed — are those who are despised as “indietrists” or “backwardists.”

RORATE CÆLI: “Deconsecrated Temples and the Religion of Man” — Archbishop Hector Aguer

In recent times, we have witnessed, here and there, the use of cathedrals and other sacred buildings for conferences and other events for politicians, social leaders and members of other groups of different orientations. In this way, for example, recognition is sought for the ten years since the pontifical election. And the Pope himself endorses them with words such as: “It comforts my soul that my person has made possible this moment of communion, of encounter beyond differences.” In these meetings, the Holy Father’s teachings in the encyclicals Laudato Si and Fratelli Tutti are invited to be taken up.

Beyond this allusion, it is known that there are many in Argentina, as in the rest of the world, who do not agree with the ideological position of the Pope, specifically with his ecological globalism that has become the official position of the Roman Church. The message of the two documents cited has little to do with the essential mission of the Church and the substance of the faith; in this sense it is clearly different from the homogeneous tradition of the Social Doctrine opened in 1891 by Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum novarum.

It has been remarked, for example, that “even if we have different political or religious visions, we cannot ignore that Francis’s social message challenges us all, invites us to ask ourselves questions, summons us not to forget the enormous dignity of every human person.” This description of papal thought makes evident the distance that separates it from the Lord’s command to the apostles — valid for the Church of all times — to make Christians of all peoples (pánta tà éthnē).

This is the main problem, revealed in the painful crack opened in the Church by the official departure from the great and unanimous Tradition. On the other side of the crack, on the shore of homogeneous continuity with the right doctrine — always the same and always renewed — are those who are despised as “indietrists” or “backwardists.”

In a previous intervention I explained the meaning of this position [of fidelity to tradition, which stands] contrary to the official progressivism that proposes the nebulous gnosis of a “way out,” of a march “forward,” heterogeneous with respect to the roots that have sustained the Church in difficult times, of express or immanent schisms, and of the heresies that could have wounded her. To move forward, in authentic progress, it is necessary to look back (indietro, as they say in Italian), that is, to sink the roots of thought and the loving adherence of the will in the ecclesial Tradition, which is not a museum piece, but the ever-fertile soil in which the life of Catholicism flourishes.

The encyclicals Laudato si and Fratelli tutti are novel texts that are assimilated to the globalist movement, to the gnosis present in the “new paradigms,” foreign to a timely and homogeneous continuation of Tradition. In the 5th century, St. Vincent de Lerins pointed it out in his Commonitory as a matter of identity: in the same dogma, the same sense, the same affirmation.

Let us return to the acts that take place in different sacred buildings. They are political meetings, convocations to bring about a unity of diverse opposing forces; that is what the mission of the Church has ended up in, according to what the Argentine Episcopal Conference, for example, has assumed as its main aspect. Christ remains, in reality, on the margin; he does not count because, obviously, he divides: one is either with Him or against Him. Freemasonry is surprised by this new competition that has come its way, but remains, after all, grateful.

Why are churches specifically chosen for such days? There are spaces as wide or wider than churches, in the civic and social realm. It would be authentically pastoral, for example, to occupy a historical place, the usual scene of all kinds of significant events for cities and towns and their institutions.

Why, then, are churches chosen to become conference halls? Let’s say it brutally: to desacralize them. I cannot affirm that this was an express will; for such an express will is not necessary in order to desacralize. These facts are inscribed rather in a habitual purpose, in different dioceses, that in liturgical matters we should do the opposite of what was practiced in other times (and with optimal results). The validity of sacrality was coherent with the grandeur, beauty, and sublimity of the building of worship.

Why, then, are cathedrals and other temples the settings for these convocations? The Kirchnerist political narrative and the Bergoglian ecclesiastical narrative have coincided in a new secular religion. The lecturers are the officiants of the new cult; the parishioners are the irreconcilable politicians, miraculously reconciled for a short while. I apologize for the ironic comment I have just made; however, I am convinced that it expresses the profound meaning of what happened in these churches.

It is enough to reread the Pauline Letters to see that according to the great Apostle and the Church that was contemporary to him, unity and peace in the world depend on conversion to Christ. In some way, with the art of pastoral discourse, it is necessary to present to political leaders, as to society as a whole, the need to be converted to the Gospel. It does not respond to the Church’s mission, according to the Lord’s command, to avoid the very core of preaching — much less, to accommodate the Gospel to the taste and tolerance of politicians or society.

Let us take as an example Paul’s attitude in the Areopagus of Athens before Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. The altar dedicated to the unknown God (Agnóstō Theō) inspired in him a lesson in theodicy: he uncovered to the listeners the meaning of that title and introduced them to that God whom they worshipped without knowing him, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). But the purpose of his discourse was to announce the Risen Christ, Redeemer and Judge of men. Some of the listeners scoffed, but others gave a positive response: “We will hear you speak about it again” (Akousómetha sou perì toutou kaì pálin, Acts 17:32). Those people were restless and eager to hear news, Luke, author of the Book that is the second volume of his Gospel, points out.

The meaning that one wants to give to acts of this type leads whoever wishes to interpret it, for example, to the basic problem of Argentinean Catholicism. Is ours a Catholic country? Father Leonardo Castellani answered in the affirmative, but he added that it was with a “mistongo” [miserable, low-quality] Catholicism. This reality, present to some extent since its origins, has historically upset the heads of the Church. At present, and I believe that without much effort of interpretation, the dislocation of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, whose discourse is usually quite alien to the cultural and social reality of the country, is noticeable. There is, yes, an awareness of the division, of the aggressiveness of the political factions, and the somewhat illusory concern to overcome them.

The same illusion is reflected by the Pontiff in his various messages. In the panorama of the not very serious Catholicism (that means the qualification of “mistongo”, according to Castellani), a good number of serious Catholics stand out — they would be recognized as “backwardists” in Rome — people convinced that the political malaise and other penalties that afflict us cannot be overcome without the conversion of the majority of the society. The solution would be for the majority of “mistongos” Catholics to become true Catholics.

These “backwardists” are not few in number. On October 8, no less than 1,000 men, on their knees in Plaza de Mayo, prayed to the Blessed Virgin with the recitation of the Rosary, asking for the conversion of the nation. Just a small example. This was the second time that this meeting of men was held in this place, in front of the seat of the national government. The fact that men are the ones summoned is significant in light of the gender perspective, but it is also an invitation to remember that in October 1934, within the framework of the International Eucharistic Congress, presided over by the then Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli as Pius XI’s legate, a massive and unusual Communion of men took place. It was a historic milestone in a country where the baptized do not go to Mass; they did not go in 1934, and even fewer go now, especially men.

The reference made above to the Pauline discourse in the Areopagus of Athens can serve as an incitement, an inspiration, to elaborate the discourse that has to be addressed to the crowd of Stoics and Epicureans in today’s Argentina. The Apostle based himself on the Unknown God. We can start from the God who is the source of all Reason and Justice, invoked by the authors of the National Constitution. The specifically Christian moment of the speech appears in the mention of the famous article 2, which invariably survived all the reforms: it is a historical fact that has not been reversed. The State “sustains” the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Worship.

Lost as it is, Argentina preserves, albeit faintly, that historical memory: a dimension that cannot be erased. It should not be forgotten or shamefully hidden. Juan Bautista Alberti, the author of the Bases that have served as support to the Constitution, maintained that the State cannot “sustain” a cult that is not its own; that is to say, ours is, in spite of all regrets, a Catholic country. With these data that I have recalled, one may elaborate a theodicy to be proposed in the confused Areopagus of today’s Argentina.

+ Héctor Aguer

Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata

November 12, 2022

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