As can be readily ascertained, the common thread running through the gradual disintegration of St. Joseph’s parish was its loss of Catholic identity which, understandably, is the trademark of newchurch infiltration. One of the most effective strategies a liberal cleric can utilise to achieve this end is to say as little as possible or, preferably, nothing at all about Catholic essentials.
The faith of pope or saint is too sharply defined for the fuzzy, “everything is grey” religion of ‘progressive’ clergy. Thus, their sermons rapidly degenerate, becoming aimless, disjointed and usually preoccupied with the earthly progress of mankind. Von Hildebrand describes this strategy as an “insidious distortion of Revelation by wrong emphasis rather than formal heresy.” He writes:
Today we find a silence about certain dogmas, a shift in the centre of gravity: a lack of interest in what belongs to the essence of Christian revelation, in favour of things which are related at most only as indirect consequences to the mission of the Church, which is the sanctification and salvation of souls.
…in the Church today, in pastoral letters and sermons, does one not speak much more of earthly improvement than of incomparably more important things such as our redemption through Christ’s death on the cross, the communication of supernatural life, the sanctification of the individual, the resulting glorification of God, and eternal blessedness.)
One Parishioner alluded to the Team’s tendency in this regard when he commented that on one occasion Father “spoke more about running in his triathlon than anything else.” This was not an isolated incident. Parishioners often spoke of a lack of proper “direction” or “substance” in the priests homilies and I had experienced this same emptiness and ambiguity on several occasions. To borrow from one priests criticism of the Melbourne Catechetical Guidelines, if a man from Mars had dropped in to Mass at St. Joseph’s with a view to discovering what Catholic Australians living in Benalla believed, he would have experienced “much ado about nothing” and departed none the wiser.’ As a parishioner said of Father:
His homilies have no relation to doctrine or Church teachings. And he will refer to Our Lady as a “Jewish mum” or to Moses as “that old man”.
Each Team sermon was, in fact, a veritable show-piece of “cryptogrammic heresy.” Karl Rahner, who coined the phrase, wrote in 1961 that cryptogrammic heresy is present:
when for instance one scrupulously avoids speaking of hell, when one no longer speaks of the evangelical counsels, of the meaning of vows or of life in a religious order, or when one speaks with hesitation and embarrassment about these things if some mention of them cannot be avoided. When a preacher is speaking to an educated congregation today, how often does he preach to them about temporal punishment for sins, about indulgences, about angels, fasting, the devil (the preacher might at the most still say something about the ‘demonic’ man), purgatory, prayer for the poor souls, and similar supposedly outmoded things.3