A Grand Inversion at the Heart of Neo-Catholicism Featured
Written by Patrick Archbold
Salvador Dali’s The Human Face (Look Again)
I don’t care for the term neo-Catholic, for it is too often used as pejorative. For this reason, you will not often find the term in my writing, not least for the reason that I was frequently accused of being one.
The term neo-Catholicism actually has a meaning, even if that precise meaning is frequently ignored. Generally, the term refers to Catholics that take their faith seriously, but generally don’t have a problem with the Church of the last 50 years, even embracing changes that have proven themselves disastrous.
Well, that wasn’t me, not entirely. Prior to my traddification, I certainly recognized the significant problems in the Church. Further, I recognized the rupture that occurred during and after the council that gave rise to the neo-Catholic Olympic-level sport of hermeneutical gymnastics. But even as I recognized these things, it was hard for me to put my finger on the root cause. As it turns out, to some degree I too was infected by the same virus as many neo-Catholics. However, unsure of the proper diagnosis, my efforts at a self-cure were sometimes helpful and sometimes not.
So it is that I have spent much time pondering the questions of why I was able to see the problems of NuChurch, that I wanted nothing more than to be orthodox and faithful, but spent so much time in unhelpful pursuits.
Have you ever seen one of those images that at first glance seem like one thing, but after some time another image emerges? I remember one time I saw a knit image in someone’s home that on first glance seemed like a blocky maze pattern. I saw it several times before I realized that the spaces between the maze walls formed the name JESUS. Once I saw Jesus in the maze, I couldn’t un-see Jesus in the maze. From then on it seemed so obvious that it was all I could see when I looked at the image. I couldn’t see the maze anymore.
In similar fashion, once I realized the true difference between the ways I saw things before and the way I see them now, I cannot un-see it. In fact, it seems so obvious now; I am chagrined that I missed it before. As it turns out, there is one simple cause to all the problems that we see in the Church and the promoters of those problems are not shy about telling us about it.
When people ask me about why and how I changed, I tell them about the grand inversion. It is the one thing that separates otherwise well-meaning neo-Catholics from understanding how they in some ways contribute to the problem.
Several wise traditional commenters have focused on the problem present in Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium #161 “…above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’…”
It is easy for Catholics reared on and fed modernist Catholicism to look at the above and not see the problem. I mean, who is against loving your neighbor?
But contrast it with how Jesus actually answered the question and the problem starts to reveal itself.
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” —Matthew 22:36-40 (see also Mark 12:28-31)
See that? There are two separate commandments in order of importance. First “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”
As you can see, NuChurch has inverted the order. First, NuChurch put love of God on a par with love of neighbor, as if they were one command. Love of neighbor, they would have us believe, is equal to love of God. But as can be seen from EG161, even that is not enough. Pope Francis, avoiding Jesus’ direct answer to the question, answers the question with another quote entirely, purposely avoiding love of God, not just as the primary commandment, but dropping it altogether in favor of the love of man.
This simple, but pernicious change is at the heart of NuChurch. Any Catholic from a century ago would understand that the love of God comes first and that love of neighbor, which derives from the first, is secondary. But now man is first and the love of God is a secondary to loving man, instead of the other way around. This is the grand inversion that is at the heart of NuChurch.
But don’t take my word on it. Listen to Pope Paul VI address this very question in his closing remarks from the Second Vatican Council:
“It might be said that all this and everything else we might say about the human values of the council have diverted the attention of the Church in council to the trend of modern culture, centered on humanity. We would say not diverted but rather directed.”
It is right there from the beginning. This error, this inversion of the Truth of God’s command is at the root of all of it including our man-centered liturgy, false ecumenism, indifferentism, and the false mercy of the current pontificate. They believe that the only love that matters is the love of man. Yet the Council of Trent takes a very different approach.
“Moreover, no honor, no piety, no devotion can be rendered to God sufficiently worthy of Him, since love of Him admits of infinite increase. Hence our charity should become every day more fervent towards Him, who commands us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and with all our strength. The love of our neighbor, on the contrary, has its limits, for the Lord commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To outstep these limits by loving our neighbor as we love God would be an enormous crime.” —Catechism of Trent, Part 3, Chapter 5, Question 5
So ingrained has this inversion become in NuChurch, that when a Catholic puts the love of God and his commandments first as he always should, he is derided by no less than the Pope himself as a rigid and unmerciful Pharisee.
But once you see this inversion and understand it for what it is, your entire approach begins to change and your neo-Catholicism can no longer be sustained.
So what changed for me? I realized that love of God is the first and primary commandment and Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And I realized that in order to love my neighbor, I must help them to keep God’s commandments too.
So I saw it. I don’t how or why, but I saw it. God’s grace is everything. Then what do you do? Well you try to put God first in every aspect of your life and you try to do the same for the Church by shouting it from the rooftops. And you fight against the ongoing process of making man the center of our religion. You fight against a false mercy that rejects the first commandment. You fight, because you love God. And only when you love God first, can you truly love your neighbor, even if your neighbor hates you for it. ■