Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Almost exactly seven years ago, I got a call from an Egyptian surgeon who was trying to reach one of the scientists on our advisory council. He told me that the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo would like to host a conference in Cairo in defense of creation and against evolution as he was concerned about the growth of atheism in Egypt--there are apparently two million self-proclaimed atheists in Egypt today! November had been proposed as a good time for me and some of our other colleagues, since we were going to be in Rome on November 8. With such distinguished patronage, there was a good chance that the leaders of the Catholic Churches in Cairo (mainly Melkite and Coptic Catholic) would also attend.
Dr. Thomas Seiler, Dr. Dean Kenyon (virtually), Greg Clovis, and I were eventually able to participate in the conference in the presence of the Metropolitan of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, and the Metropolitan announced the conference on the Coptic television network which reaches millions of people throughout the Middle East. This experience had a special meaning for us, because we see so many parallels between the current crisis of faith and the Arian crisis of the fourth century. The spread of theistic evolutionism, like the spread of Arianism which it resembles, cannot be understood apart from its historical context. Indeed, the two phenomena are so similar in many ways that it is helpful to compare them.
The Arian Crisis
The rise and spread of Arianism took place after three centuries of continual persecution of the Church throughout the Roman Empire, culminating in the vicious persecution under Diocletian at the dawn of the fourth century. When the conversion of the Emperor Constantine finally brought a halt to the persecution, most Church leaders saw the emperor’s support for Christianity as a tremendous grace from God, and they were understandably eager to show their appreciation. For his part, the Emperor wanted Christianity to act as a unifying force within the Empire and he convened the Council of Nicea in 325 to resolve the theological disputes that were dividing the Church—especially the dispute over Arius’ teaching that Jesus was only an exalted creature. It is hard for contemporary Catholics who have never known violent persecution to imagine how tempting it was for Church leaders to compromise the truth to please the emperor. Men who had witnessed the cruel slaughter of Christian men, women and children wanted to do everything in their power to preserve the favor and protection of the emperor. Only in this context can one appreciate the grace-filled courage of the men who refused to compromise and who fought against the Arian heresy to the bitter end.
The council of Nicea opened with a speech in praise of the emperor given by one of the outstanding intellectuals of the Church, Eusebius of Nicomedia, a man who would emerge as one of the leaders of the party that sought to compromise with the Arian faction. As the council proceeded, Arius was called upon to defend his doctrine, knowing full well that the emperor wanted the bishops to compromise if necessary to achieve unity. Arius was an impressive, charismatic personality, and his argument, taken on its own and in abstraction from the Tradition of the Church, seemed eminently logical:
If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he [the Son] had his substance from nothing.
Most of the bishops listened politely, but Blessed Cardinal Newman records that the deacon St. Athanasius, though only 28 years old, could scarcely contain his anger at this affront to the divinity of His Savior and Redeemer. “Whoever heard such doctrine?” he demanded. “Whence, from whom did they gain it? Is it not enough to distract a man, and to make him stop his ears?” St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, a victim of the Diocletian persecution, also burned with holy anger as he listened to Arius’ suave, articulate, and logical presentation. Unable to contain his indignation, St. Nicholas finally confronted Arius and struck him in the face.
For a bishop to use violence against another member of the clergy—especially a holy bishop like St. Nicholas—was unthinkable, and St. Nicholas was stripped of his episcopal regalia and imprisoned pending the emperor’s judgment. According to an ancient tradition, the emperor refused to pass judgment in an ecclesiastical matter, and while St. Nicholas was being held in confinement Our Lord and the Blessed Mother appeared to him and Jesus asked him, “Why are you in prison?” St. Nicholas answered, “Because of my love for You.” At this, Our Lord and the Blessed Mother freed St. Nicholas from his chains and clothed him again in his episcopal regalia. When several of the bishops were granted visions of St. Nicholas standing between Our Lord and the Blessed Mother, clothed in his episcopal regalia, the council of bishops reinstated him. It is worth recalling that of all the clergy in attendance at the Council of Nicea, many who were outstanding personalities of the day, like Eusebius, are remembered only by a few scholars, but the two who voiced their righteous anger against the Arian heresy and who fought it to the end of their strength have enjoyed the grateful devotion of the Catholic faithful for more than sixteen hundred years.
“The Whole World Groaned to find Itself Arian”
In spite of the dogmatic definition of the divinity of Christ in the Nicene Creed, the Arians obtained the support of Constantine’s son, Constantius, who pressured the pope to join the Arian faction in condemning St. Athanasius. In the middle of the fourth century 400 bishops—more than had attended the first Council of Nicea—agreed to remove the homoousios (of one substance) from a profession of faith to satisfy the Emperor and to make peace between the Arian party and the orthodox bishops who wanted to defend the divinity of Christ. This compromise inspired St. Jerome’s famous words: “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.”
If St. Jerome had meant that all or most of the bishops of the Catholic Church actually embraced the pure Arian doctrine and held that Our Lord Jesus Christ was a mere creature, he grossly exaggerated. In reality, only a handful of bishops believed the pure Arian doctrine. The tragedy was not that most of the bishops had embraced the Arian doctrine, but that they had made peace with it. The difference between St. Athanasius and St. Nicholas of Myra and most of their brother bishops was that the offense that Arius offered to the dignity of Our Lord Jesus Christ outraged them—and no amount of political pressure, pragmatism, or theological circumlocution could rob them of their righteous indignation. It is particularly tragic that two of the fourth century theologians most responsible for granting Arianism a cloak of respectability, Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia, were also two of the most brilliant and learned theologians of their time.
In his work The Arians of the Fourth Century, Blessed J. H. Newman observed that “the episcopate . . . did not, as a class or order of men, play a good part” in the Arian controversy; but “the laity did.” “Taking a wide view of the history,” he wrote, “we are obliged to say that the governing body of the Church came short, and the governed were preeminent in faith, zeal, courage and constancy.” Commenting on this “remarkable fact,” Newman concludes:
Perhaps it was permitted, in order to impress upon the Church at that very time passing out of her state of persecution to her long temporal ascendancy, the great evangelical lesson, that, not the wise and powerful, but the obscure, the unlearned, and the weak constitute her real strength. It was mainly by the faithful people that Paganism was overthrown; it was by the faithful people, under the lead of Athanasius and the Egyptian bishops, and in some places supported by their Bishops or priests, that the worst of heresies was withstood and stamped out of the sacred territory.
Like the bishops of the fourth century, by the middle of the twentieth century many Church leaders were exhausted from hundreds of years of combat with the enemies of Christ, especially after the relentless onslaught of the errors of secularism and various forms of “enlightenment” thought. Theistic evolution offered a way to make peace with the Church’s enemies by accepting a new “scientific theory” that her enemies championed while professing the dogmas and retaining the forms of Christianity. Indeed, although theistic evolutionism posed as great a threat to Catholic orthodoxy as Arianism ever did, by the middle of the twentieth century it was taught or tolerated throughout the Catholic world. Just as few bishops had embraced the pure Arian doctrine, few bishops or theologians embraced what could be called the “pure doctrine” of theistic evolution espoused by Teilhard de Chardin. But, like the bishops of Caesearea and Nicomedia, most of them apologized for Teilhard’s doctrine and opposed those, like Dietrich Von Hildebrand, who exposed its errors and strove to combat them.
Evolutionary Science in the Service of Sexual Perversion
Since the new theology promoted the cruel, bumbling, incompetent and death-dealing god of evolution, it was hard for Church leaders who taught or tolerated the new theology to be motivated primarily by love for Him. In the absence of a genuine relationship of love with the living God, a desire to protect the power, prestige, comfort and security that Church institutions provided guided more and more of the bishops and pastors of the Church in their decisions. The bishops and theologians who taught or tolerated theistic evolution’s calumnies against the wisdom and goodness of God ensured that outrageous practical expressions of the new theology would also be tolerated. Indeed, their lack of outrage at evolutionary calumnies against a holy God paved the way for new outrages against the most vulnerable members of the Church.
With the spread of the new theology, new priests and seminarians were brought up to think that the “old” theology had given way to a new theology in which “science” replaced Scripture and Tradition as the primary revealer of the nature of God and the ultimate arbiter of questions about faith and morals. At Vatican II, Cardinal Suenens urged his brother bishops to overturn the Church’s teaching on contraception, arguing that moral theologians had not taken “sufficient account of scientific progress, which can help determine, what is according to nature” (emphasis added). As head of the United States Bishops’ Conference Family Life Bureau, Bishop James McHugh spearheaded the introduction of sex education into the Catholic schools of the United States and used the “fact” of evolution to argue for a tolerant view of new practices that separated conception from the marriage act. He argued that:
...The important point to grasp at the onset is that such speculations are not an insult to God nor a denial of His creative plan. There is no reason why God's power to summon man into existence must be limited to the reproductive process as we know it now. Indeed, there is no reason to presume that the Divine plan does not go far beyond our present scientific speculation and encompass evolutionary breakthroughs that are even beyond our imagination.
The Rev. André Guindon was dean of the faculty of theology at St. Paul’s University in Canada from 1978-1984 and taught moral theology there until his death in 1993. According to Guindon, “recent studies tend to disprove that lasting harm results from the pedophiliac contact itself” (emphasis added) But perhaps no single action better exemplified the new evolutionary attitude than the publication by the Catholic Theological Society of America of Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought, by seminary professor Rev. Anthony Kosnick, who wrote:
At this time the behavioral sciences have not identified any sexual expression that can be empirically demonstrated to be of itself, in a culture-free way, detrimental to a full human existence.
With this document the theological society of the most vigorous Catholic community in the western world cast aside the Word of God as it had been understood in the Church for nineteen hundred years pending scientific confirmation of God’s Word through “empirical demonstration.” It was the old lie of the serpent all over again, this time directed at the Bride of Christ. God’s Word, as understood in the Church from the beginning, taught that the nature of man, human maleness and femaleness, were divine creations; that the union between man and woman in marriage was holy, a reflection of the mystery of the inner life of God and of the union between Christ and His Church; consequently, it taught that any abuse of sexuality within marriage, such as contraception, or any use of sexuality outside of marriage was not only a sin but a sacrilege. All of this was annulled by the new evolutionary theology. All forms of sexual expression had arisen through the evolutionary process, including the sexual expression of the "chimpanzee” in whose womb the first human beings had been conceived. In light of cultural prejudices, certain forms of sexual expression might be constrained, but none of them could be considered “detrimental to a full human existence.”
Bishops and theologians who taught or tolerated these ideas could not be outraged when they were put into practice. And put into practice they were. As Leon Podles documents in his exhaustive study of the clergy sex scandals, sexual abuse of children is not a new phenomenon in the Church. But what was new in the last three quarters of a century was the acceptance by many bishops and theologians of an evolutionary theology that could be used to rationalize sexual perversion. When the true Catholic doctrine of creation is reaffirmed and proclaimed by all Catholic bishops, parents and teachers, every attempt to rationalize sexual perversion and other violations of the natural law will be destroyed. Indeed, we can be confident that this fundamental doctrine will be restored during the era of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima, because then, and only then, will it be possible to lay the foundations of a genuine culture of life.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the Holy Spirit lead us into all the Truth!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. Today is a First Saturday. Please be sure to answer Our Lady’s appeal for the First Saturday devotions as described by the Fatima Center at this link.