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June 24, 2004

Herod's Helpers

by Thomas A. Droleskey

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Our Lord's precursor who called sinners to repentance as he was preparing the way for Our Lord to assume His Public Ministry. Saint John the Baptist, who had been freed from Original Sin at the moment of the Visitation, lived an austere live of penance and mortification as the last Prophet of the Old Testament. His efforts to call sinners to repentance spared no one, including King Herod the Tetrarch, the son of the notorious Herod Antipas who had sought to kill the Infant Jesus shortly after His birth in Bethlehem. Saint John the Baptist's remonstrations with King Herod stand in stark contrast to the cowardice of most of the American bishops, men who lack the prophetic courage to discharge their apostolic duties by denouncing those in public life, Catholic and/or non-Catholic, who support grave evils such as abortion and contraception and the perversion of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, among so many others. As the last of the Old Testament Prophets, Saint John the Baptist was merely carrying on the example and the work of Amoz and Osee and Nathan and Gad and Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah. The words of Amoz were particularly harsh and stinging concerning the infidelity of the Chosen People and their leaders.

Saint John the Baptist minced no words when denouncing King Herod the Tetrarch for his bigamous and adulterous "marriage" to the wife of his brother Philip, Herodias. Herod knew that the Baptist was correct and that he was living in sin. Herodias, though, did not share Herod's misgivings about their relationship, scheming with her daughter Salome to have the head of the Baptist delivered to her on a silver platter, thus fulfilling Saint John's prophesy about himself: "I must decrease. He must increase." Saint John the Baptist was unafraid to stand up in defense of the truth. He did not bow to the will of those in power who did evil. He knew that the One Whose way he had prepared would reward him for his fidelity to the mission that had been entrusted to him, which included a firm proclamation of uncomfortable truths to the lowly and the powerful alike.

The first bishops of the Church, the Apostles, became as bold as Saint John the Baptist following the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them and our dear Blessed Mother on Pentecost Sunday. They were unafraid to proclaim the truths of the Divine Redeemer, counting it as pure gain to be reviled by the Jewish religious authorities and to be misunderstood and persecuted by the secular Roman authorities. They did not shrink from telling all men that there was no other Name other than that of the Holy Name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by which they could be saved from their sins. They trusted in the power of the graces won by the shedding of Our Lord's Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross to proclaim clearly and unequivocally what the Divine Master had entrusted to them, knowing that the seeds they planted might never come to fruition in their own lifetimes. They cared about fidelity to Christ their King, not about human respect or earthly privilege.

It has been the case throughout the history of the Church that bishops and priests and ordinary lay men and women have had to stand fast in behalf of the truths of the Divine Redeemer as He has revealed them through His true Church when those truths have been undermined and/or ignored by public officials. Many thousands of Catholics accepted death as the price of their fidelity to Our Lord rather than worship the false gods of the secular Roman Empire. Great bishops and priests and members of the laity stood fast against the injustices and immorality of some of leaders of Catholic Europe. Saint Thomas a Becket asserted the rights of the Church against the claims of King Henry II. Saint Stansislaus was slain personally by the jealous King Boleslaus. Saint John Nepomucene was killed on orders of King Wenceslaus IV in Prague for refusing divulge the Queen's confession. Saint John Fisher was the only bishop in England who remained faithful to Rome when King Henry VIII had Parliament declare him to be the "supreme head of the Church in England." Saint Thomas More refused to assent publicly to that declaration or to the validity of Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn. Over 72,000 Catholics, fully 3.1 percent of the population of England at the time, were put to death by Henry and his minions between 1534 and the time of his death in 1547. Thousands of Catholics were persecuted during the French Revolution and its aftermath. Countless numbers perished as a result of Bolshevism and Nazism. Saint Maximilian Kolbe was imprisoned in Auschwitz, where he gave up his life for a fellow prisoner, because he was a fierce critic of all manner of secular political ideologies and movements, including Freemasonry and Zionism, that were poisoning the world and thus ruining souls. The late Ignatius Cardinal Kung spent over thirty years in a Red Chinese prison cell for his remaining steadfastly loyal to the Holy Father after the Chinese Communists had created their own schismatic, rump church. This list could on and on and on. These great heroes of the Faith did not do the bidding of Herod's successors: they proclaimed the truth to the point of their deaths, trusting that the all-merciful Lord would reward them for their fidelity and that their efforts would be used by Our Lady in ways that that would not be made manifest to them until eternity.

How sad it is to note, therefore, that most of the world's bishops today, including the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have more in common with Herod the Tetrarch and with the enemies of the Faith over the centuries than they do with Saint John the Baptist and with their own predecessors, the Apostles and their successors in the episcopate. Most of the American bishops, for example, believe that it is inopportune, imprudent, unpastoral or otherwise bad form to boldly proclaim truths in order to defend the integrity of the Holy Faith, including the integrity of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a result in large part of a loss of the Faith among many in the hierarchy (as I noted in "Two Sides of the Same Unholy Coin" a few days ago). Thus we find Successors of the Apostles tripping all over themselves to curry favor with the rich and powerful. The few bishops who stand up as they should in defense of the Faith are looked upon as "extremists" who are unwilling to accept the "realities" of our day.

No, this is not a new phenomenon, to be sure. There were plenty of examples of bishops who did the bidding of corrupt rulers in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, many more who did so in the aftermath of the Protestant Revolt (men who held their tongues in the fear that a rebuke to a public official might lose a particular country to the forces of Protestantism, as Father Fahey notes so well in The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World.). What is new, however, is that the Church's very liturgy in the Latin Rite embraces a false spirit of an "opening up to the world", thus feeding the natural tendency of human beings to refrain from doing that which is difficult, especially as it pertains to the defense of the Faith and the proper formation of souls unto eternity, in order to maintain peace and a sense of "respectability." A whole legion of Herod's Helpers in the hierarchy, therefore, has thus been created by the very ambiance of the regime of novelty of the past forty-five years or so. These Herod's Helpers, who enable by silence and by public praise (see, for example, Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York, praising the Attorney General of the State of New York, Elliot Spitzer, who has been on a vicious campaign of persecution against crisis pregnancy centers) public officials who are at war with everything contained in the Deposit of Faith and thus everything that is necessary for the right ordering of souls and of societies.

Bishops must be willing to lose their heads to defend the truths of the Holy Faith. So must we, obviously. They, though, have a special obligation by virtue of their possessing the fullness of the priesthood to bear a visible, courageous witness to the Holy Faith so as to inspire and embolden the faithful themselves to do so in every aspect of their own lives. Upon their immortal souls rests the eternal salvation of everyone who lives within the boundaries of their episcopal jurisdiction, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. If they do not see Saint John the Baptist and the Apostles and the martyrs who came from the ranks of the episcopate and the priesthood their examples of how to deal firmly with public scandal and with laws that are at variance with the laws of God and the rights of His Holy Church, then they are likely to be numbered in history among the largely anonymous vipers who went along with Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer in England nearly 470 years ago.

Just as we sometimes get bogged down in the trees of the forests of partisan politics, as I pointed out in The Remnant's May 15 issue, it is also the case that we tend to get bogged down in the trees of ecclesiastical politics, forgetting that today's Herod's Helpers, such as Roger Cardinal Mahony, are merely the successors of the late John Cardinal Dearden, in whose Archdiocese of Detroit Call to Action started, and the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who invented the "consistent ethic of life" (seamless garment) to provide a cover for Catholics to vote for pro-abortion Catholic politicians with impunity. The Pope appoints these men. He never removes them. His curial cardinals actually enable them by undermining frequently the few bishops who stand up against them. The problem is not with the bishops, my friends: it is with their boss, the Vicar of Christ, and the doctrinal and liturgical revolution he helped to introduce at the Second Vatican Council and thereafter--and which he refuses to admit is at the root of the Modernist crisis in the Church.

As I noted in a recent piece on this site, the worst chastisement God can send is Church is bad priests. We are being chastised, make no mistake about it. We must therefore pray and do penance for our own sins and those of the whole world, especially for the sins of those in ecclesiastical authority who look askance at the example of Saint John the Baptist and the Apostles and their own predecessors in the line of Apostolic succession. And we must, as always, beseech Our Lady that some pope will one day consecrate Russia to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. While it is important to chronicle the betrayals of our bishops and priests, we must remember that those who are Herod's Helpers will be consigned to the dust bin of ecclesiastical history if they not repent of their treachery before they die. God will not be mocked. He will impose judgment on those of His own bishops and priests who sought human respect and popularity when they were obligated under peril of the loss of their immortal souls to stand fast in His behalf to the point of physical torture and death.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

Saint Elizabeth, pray for us.

Saint Zachariah, pray for us.






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