The following article was written in March 1985 to help people not to fall into the trap that I and so many others fell into at the cult in Necedah, Wisconsin. Unless otherwise specified, all the direct quotations and references as well as further information can be found in the 125-page booklet, "The Holy Catholic Church and Private Revelation" (see: http://priv-rev.blogspot.com ) which was handed out by Bishop Francis DiBenedetto on May.31, 1983 in the Shrine Men's Home Chapel.
My Personal Reasons Why I Left the Shrine At Necedah, Wisconsin
Reasons For Going To Necedah
After signing up over 2000 people door to door in my home town during a two-year period to pray an extra hour each week to help fight abortion in the "Constant Vigil of Prayer" while being a Legion of Mary member, I left California to go to Necedah with the intention of better serving God through His holy mother in the new religious order at Necedah, Wisconsin under Bishop Francis DiBenedetto, FFSC. Being somewhat repelled and disgusted with the behavior and fruits of some of the Catholic clergy, I went to Necedah with the desire to serve God feeling that I had found a good holy environment directed by heaven itself by which to more easily help save my soul and the souls of others. I thought I had found another Fatima or Lourdes in the midst of much confusion and problems in the world and in the Church herself.
I put my whole heart and soul into becoming a good religious. In the mean time I heard from time to time strange or at least non-coherent things about either the Shrine organization or Mary Ann Hirt (Van Hoof) or the Old Roman Catholic Church. But each time that I heard a strange or surprising fact or rumor such as disobedience to the lawfully seated local ordinary of the La Crosse diocese or a sign up list for a space ship guided by "Alex" before the chastisement or a schismatic church or ..., I tended to rationalize or explain away each one in turn in the context of the whole of seemingly good fruits or people at the Shrine or just human weakness, and then I would forget about it just as so many others around me at the Shrine were doing.
Blindness To Blatant Problems At The Shrine
What were some of the possible reasons or influences that caused me to slough off so easily or at least not to take a closer look at these inconsistencies and blatant problems? One reason was that I tended to compare and conclude that these problems at the Shrine were smaller than the problems of many clergymen outside of the Shrine. With the help of my fellow Shrine friends, I had slowly grown accustomed to hearing and speaking and even amplifying out of proportion and context the problems and faults of the lawful and valid clergy of the Catholic Church especially those priests and bishops who had supposedly not treated us Shrine members properly or at least the way we wanted or demanded to be treated. I usually received this calumnious or detracting or distorted information second, third, or fifth hand of which I readily accepted as true and in the given context due to my slanted frame of mind when I first came to Necedah. Looking back, I can see more clearly how our weak but prideful human natures would naturally prefer to point the finger at others, especially clergy, rather than at ourselves. As we continued to develop this critical habit and spirit toward others, we automatically increased our esteem of ourselves and our own opinions while becoming more blind to our own faults and sins as well as the reality of our personal situation at the Shrine.
Another reason helping to develop as well as cause this critical spirit toward others, especially the clergy, was the natural tendency to feel that I was special to be called or chosen by God to serve the Mother of God at her special Shrine while. judging the majority of men offending God and heading toward hell. I naively felt that the "apparitions" at Necedah were true, infallible, God-sent apparitions to straighten out a corrupting Church. But I failed to realize that as I was gaining confidence and complacency in myself, I was slowly undermining and loosing my confidence in my precious but delicate faith in my only infallible and indefectible authority on earth, the Holy Catholic Church. How easily one can loose his faith especially if one only listens to talk about the bad side, even if seemingly true, or listens to talk that is unsubstantiated rumors even from the mass media or speculations of idle gossip about so-called "traitorous" bishops and heretical cardinals or "Black Popes", or supposed "modernists" or "liberals". I later learned that there had been many heresies throughout the history of the Church which began with the seemingly good intention to reform the problems in the Church but ended up losing their precious faith and abandoning the indefectible Ship founded by Christ by gradually setting themselves above the Church and her lawful representatives. The heretical sect, the Waldensians, in the 13th century, began by over reacting to bad bishops and then ended up anti-clerical. The followers of Joachim de Fiore spoke of their age as the age of the Holy Spirit (1260 and on) and thus they felt they no longer needed to obey Church authority. The vast majority of the schismatic and protestant churches began with seemingly good intentions of reform during scandalous and rebellious times but ended up cutting themselves off from the one true Vine, the Holy Catholic Church.
As time went on, a third major reason that caused me to think that there was light at the end of the tunnel was the fact that many seemed to be sincerely seeking union or at least recognition from Rome as evidenced by the several trips to Rome from 1979 to 1983 by Bishop Francis DiBenedetto and accompanying clergy or Shrine members. But what I did-not fully recognize (or at least not understand the full significance of) was that during all these trips we were consciously or unconsciously avoiding or at least trying to conveniently circumvent obedience to the local ordinary of the diocese due to the fact that he (Bishop Freking) did not do and say what we wanted him to do and say concerning our petitions or even our mandates to him. Thus, since we felt we were absolutely right and directed by "heaven", considering ourselves as almost the "last remnant" or even the salvation of the Church, we circumvented the lawful authority of the La Crosse diocese, Bishop Frederick Freking.
Told By Rome To Obey - The All-Important Individual (Test) Decision
Finally, after Bishop Francis came back from Rome in February, 1983 after talking to Cardinal Oddi and other Church officials, we learned that Rome was telling us that we must work directly with the local ordinary of the La Crosse diocese. Now we were faced with a major decision! Was I, and each one of us individually affiliated with the Shrine, of good will and truly seeking the truth and the holy will of God no matter how much it hurt? or not? We were being told by Rome to humbly submit to the direction of the Bishop whom we had so often over the years undermined and degraded by our talk.
During the preceding visits to Rome, the Church officials tended to encourage Bishop Francis in his quest to establish a new religious order. But in reality, we should have eventually expected this mandate of obedience from Rome as soon as Rome received and put together all the necessary communication and correspondence from the lawful Bishop of La Crosse. Just as a prudent principle of a school will solve a problem working through his teachers under him rather than by-passing the teacher and going straight to the student, so too, the Pope will solve a problem working through his bishops under him rather than going straight to the priest or laymen or group of laymen who are under the lawful jurisdiction of the seated bishop.
When I fully realized the impact and consequences of the directives from Rome, I knew then that the light at the end of the tunnel was gone. I wanted sincerely to know and do God's holy will. Through the grace of God and the knowledge and study of my basic rudiments of my Catholic faith, I knew there was no hope for the Shrine or the new (unofficially Shrine-affiliated, to a certain degree) religious order if we were not attached to the one true indefectible Vine.
Also at this time I discovered that way back in 1955 the local ordinary of La Crosse, Bishop Tracy, had forbidden any public worship on the Shrine grounds; this order was later reaffirmed by Bishop Freking in the late sixties. I also had previously learned that the new order of sisters of the "Seven Sorrows of Our Holy Mother", who were operating the "Infants Home" at the Shrine, initially petitioned the bishop of La Crosse for canonical recognition, as a religious order, of the Church . But as soon as the bishop of La Crosse asked this new organization to move to another house offered by the diocese of La Crosse and to operate under the diocese of La Crosse rather than the Shrine organization, "For My God and Country", they refused to submit to the lawful representatives of Holy Mother Church, but even later went against the direct orders of the La Crosse diocese of proclaiming themselves and dressing themselves as a Catholic order of religious sisters. I had also previously learned that when Bishop Freking had ordered that the different individual shrines be covered up during the mid-70's, the Shrine members initially submitted to this order, but as time went on, the Shrine members became more impatient and began to put pressure on the unapproved "seer", Mary Ann Hirt (Van Hoof), until finally, less than a year or so later, "heaven" supposedly said to uncover the small individual shrines. This supposed revelation from "heaven" by an unapproved "seer" was in direct disobedience to the lawful authority of the Church which Christ Himself founded. Shortly after this forthright disobedience, Bishop-Friking imposed valid and signed official interdicts on Mary Ann Hirt and several other Shrine members. The Shrine organization, "For My God and Country", was asked at least once to submit to the jurisdiction of the La Crosse diocese but they refused. The organization, "Constant Vigil of Prayer", under the jurisdiction of "For My God and Country", was ordered out of the parishes of the La Crosse diocese. It is also interesting to note that the schismatic Old Roman Catholic Church itself was initiated and founded several hundred years ago in Holland on an act of disobedience by consecrating their own bishop without the permission or approval from Rome and thus remained schismatic with valid orders from that point on.
Thus, through God's grace and mercy, the scales were finally falling from my eyes. I could finally begin to see the overall picture from the prospective of Holy Mother Church. The Shrine organization was in disobedience, the group of women dressing and proclaiming themselves as religious were in disobedience, the "Constant ..Vigil of Prayer" organization was in disobedience, Mary Ann Hirt was in disobedience, (the Old Roman Catholic-Church was founded on disobedience 300 years ago in Holland); all under the banner of "heaven says" from an unapproved supposed seer.
We "Shriners" demanded the virtue of obedience to an unapproved "heaven says" but were disobedient to the lawful representatives (of God) of the One True Church that Jesus Christ the Son of God founded. We were disgusted with disobedient bishops and priests or liberal theologians telling bishops what to do but were we not doing the same thing in our own rationalized way? We naively felt that we were following true, infallible messages from heaven to straighten out a corrupting Church. But if we only obey the particular authority that we agree with and that we have chosen according to our own thoughts and personal criteria, we are only obeying ourselves even though we feel confident and comfortable in our personally-formed consciences that we are obeying God Whom we do not see and hear with our physical senses as we do a bishop or priest who directly and visibly represents God. King Henry VIII, Martin Luther and all the Protestant reformers felt they were called to straighten out the one true Church founded by Christ during scandalous and rebellious times. But is this not absurdity or blasphemous to directly insinuate and believe that the infinite Son of God does not have the power to keep His promise of founding His One Church that would last until the end of time? Some Protestant reformers and their initial followers of good will later, through the grace and mercy of God, returned to the One Fold, Holy Mother Church, before death after they saw the whole picture and situation that they had put themselves in. But many persisted in their self-righteous campaign feeling that they were called to "reform" the One True Church, the same Church that was promised to last to the end of time by the Son of God Himself with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Did these supposed reformers (as well as persistent Shrine members) feel that the Son of God was not good enough or powerful enough to found a Church, made up of sinners, that would last to the end of time? Did they not know that the divine attribute of the Church of perpetuity or indefectibility means that the Church, as Christ established it, will last until the end of time? Among other reasons and false motives, the deserters did not seem to know their faith well enough to realize that the divinely founded and guided Church on earth (the "Church Militant") is made up of sinners, not confirmed saints or angels. As history proves, the Church has always had weak sinners and traitors as well as great saints and defenders of the faith within her ranks. But the divine Ship on the stormy waters of life will continue to the end of time to sail to her appointed destiny, the "Church Triumphant" in Heaven, loaded with all those faithful and true followers of her divine Founder, Jesus Christ, loaded with those who have persevered steadfast despite the alluring attractions of seemingly prettier false ships or false groups on the sea of life.
The Tendency To Automatically Assume The Validity Of The "Visions"
Also during the early part of 1983, I was doing an in depth study of private revelation and the -criteria of discernment regarding private revelation. How many of us who were attracted to the Shrine at Necedah had previous experience with private revelation and had studied private revelation? I had not! But after I began to study, private revelation and its accompanying phenomena described and documented in authoritative Catholic texts, I was very surprised to discover that the supposed "heavenly” revelations and "Friday sufferings" of Mary Ann Hirt (which I had, witnessed many times while' at Necedah) were much more similar to the descriptions of hallucinations and hysteria (most likely provoked and developed, consciously and/or unconsciously over the years) than to the description of a genuine private revelation or supernaturally imposed sufferings from God. (See chapter IV, 'Criteria Of Discernment' (pp. 22-49) in the booklet "The Holy Catholic Church and Private Revelation" for exact paraphrased documentation and comparisons of these phenomena.). Even the supposed "miracle of the sun" of August 15, 1950 was not seen and reported by any of the newspaper reporters present at Necedah on that day as had been reported at Fatima in 1917 by the secular newspapers.
Before I came to Necedah, I had very little knowledge or experience of mystical phenomena. Thus when I was immersed in and exposed to the unusual phenomena that I heard about and personally witnessed during these supposed "apparitions" or "sufferings", I tended to accept these phenomena as genuine. Another important factor contributing to my acceptance of these unusual occurrences was the fact that I was surrounded by many others who accepted these phenomena as somehow coming from heaven; those who did not believe these phenomena as genuine had already left the Shrine and were not around to explain their reasons for leaving the Shrine. The remaining Shrine members, especially the leaders, having mutually supported and convinced each other of the evilness of the outside world and of the privilege of being called by God to serve His mother by following her heavenly "messages" through Mary Ann Hirt (Van Hoof), tended to control the environment and mental input of the Shrine members according to their own ideas and according to these supposed "messages" from "heaven" in order to avoid the contamination of an evil world and to avoid leaving the "holy cause" of the Shrine. Thus, this type of controlled totalistic environment made it even more difficult for myself and the other Shrine members to observe these unusual phenomena objectively or to observe them at least without a preconceived slant or point of view. In a more or less similar way, a young boy growing up in a Protestant family would find it difficult to know or even discover that he was not a part of the One True Visible Church founded by Jesus Christ, the One Whom the young boy was told to believe and follow. At the Shrine, one certainly felt the pressure to conform to the rules and norms of the Shrine leaders. To have even suggested openly that Mary Ann Hirt (Van Hoof) might not be a true mystic would have been met with scorn or at least implicit ridicule or avoidance.
If someone would have asked me when I first came to the Shrine something like: "What would you think of a supposed mystic who disobeys lawful superiors ( a seated bishop), who talks to dead relatives at his bidding, who says he suffers more than the martyrs (even St. Joan of Ark), who tells people to sign up for a space ship, who frequently contradicts himself, who demands to be believed and obeyed, who becomes irate and even enraged when told that every word that comes out of his mouth is not infallible and that he should be obedient, who follows the true Church and even her laws and canons only if he decides the laws are acceptable, who implicitly and explicitly puts himself above all clergy, bishops, and even the Pope himself, who says Friday will be the last vision but continues later with more visions, who portrays or exhibits on certain occasions unusual phenomena that resemble the documented and authoritative descriptions of psychoneurosis much more closely than supernatural phenomena -- I think, or rather I hope I would have left this mystic until (if ever) the Church, working through her lawful representatives, might sometime in the future give the "apparitions" of this mystic at least implicit approval.
The Prudent Manner Of Fighting For The Truth
I am very grateful to God for his grace and mercy to have guided me back to Holy Mother Church. I treasure the Church so much more now after my experience at Necedah (May 1980 to March 1983) despite the human frailties and faults of many of her laity and clergy. At times fraternal correction or standing up and fighting for the truth as given to us by the magisterium of the Church, especially through her visible head the Pope, is necessary, but always with prudence and patience using the legal means within the structure of the Church that Christ founded. By so doing, we constructively support our local bishops and priests rather than undermining or destroying their lawful authority.
Commenting on the laity fighting for the truth, Edouard Gagnon, Pro-President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, during an August 27, 1983 interview with 'The Wanderer' said, "For years, no problem was solved without having recourse to the Holy See every time. If there was a difficult situation, the people would just go and ask the Holy Father to intervene and settle the problem, because they didn't want to burn their fingers. Since Vatican II, this has changed.... Now, local fights have mainly to be fought at the local level, and I encourage associations of parents and other groups to fight and be ready to work at the parish and diocesan level. ... But you know that the Holy Father has repeatedly, for more than 20 years now, given orders, such as on general absolution, or children partaking of the Sacrament of Confession before receiving Communion, but these orders are disobeyed. And they will not be obeyed, in too many cases, until such time as the local people make their bishops understand that they have to be obeyed, that the bishops have to obey them. ... Oftentimes I think some would like to obey, except they are surrounded by people who implement things contrary to the will of the Church, and perhaps such bishops are afraid to discipline, or make the necessary changes. ... At one time a great number of bishops fell into Arianism and it was the lay people who brought them back, and through the centuries it has been like that. Two or three centuries ago, the bishops were quite involved in the life of the court in France and other countries and it was the lay people, working with some good priests, who had the courage and grace to change the situation. ... One has to suffer for the truth, but at the same time for the benefit of the truth, he must fight if he has to, using the legal means that exist. And one must use them." (see also Canon #212)
Thus we see that there are times that the laity should “fight for the truth" but "using the legal means that exist" and in a "prudent, discrete and non insolent" manner as St. Thomas Aquinas describes in his several sections on "Fraternal Correction" in the 'Summa Theologica'. St. Thomas tells us that one sinner cannot justly rebuke another in such a way that his own sin seems less to be condemned than that of the person he rebukes. Yet, if the thing be done humbly, one sinner may correct another, even though he condemns himself at the same time. The good thief at the Crucifixion humbly acknowledged his own sin as he rebuked the bad thief for upbraiding Christ.
Fraternal correction, to deserve the name, must be an act of charity, not of officiousness, or meddling or pride, or hypocrisy. It is to be given in the spirit of loving friendship in God. And when such correction is necessary, those bound to administer it, by reason either of justice or of charity, are not to refrain from it for fear that the person corrected may be angry or resentful, or may be worse in conduct because of what is said to him in correction.
But we must remember that the sole infallible interpreter and protector of Christian truths is not myself alone or a particular group or even one bishop but the Catholic Church. According to Catholic doctrine, the infallibility of the Church's Magisterium extends not only to the deposit of faith but also to those matters without which that deposit cannot be rightly preserved or expounded. "As numerous past popes have declared, Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter, and to the Apostles His divine authority and sending them to teach all nations His commandments (Mt 28:18-19), constituted them as guardians and authentic interpreters of all the moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law, which is also an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which is equally necessary for salvation (Mt 7:21)” (Humane Vitae). Thus our all-important job is to correctly follow the magisterium of the Church with the Pope as her 'visible head. (See also Canons 212, 747-755)
On the other hand a bishop, who seems to us to be not following the Church in certain areas or certain orders of the Pope "such as on general absolution, or children partaking of the Sacrament of Confession before receiving Communion", still has his full powers and full authority from God through the Church unless he is officially and legally removed or censored by the Church herself, not by a group of laymen or priests no matter how intelligent or perceptive they might be. Even if we personally feel that a particular bishop or priest is acting worse than Jesus Christ's description of the Pharisees and Scribes, we must, as Christ commanded, "observe and do" what they "say" (Mt 23:3) in all things but sin within their sphere of jurisdiction unless lawfully removed by the proper "leaders of the Church" who have the power from God to lawfully suspend or take away their authority. (see also Cannons 195, 193.3)
Archbishop Gagnon also pointed out in the August 1983 interview: Hoping that "the offender" would "eventually abandon- the errors and-return to the Church ... Pope Paul (VI) tolerated many things because he knew that many people would have_ followed the false teachers out of the Church, because of the fault of the pastors. ... He was afraid of (formal) schism and he did not want to deprive the faithful of the grace of the sacraments because of the shortcomings of their pastors. I think it was in a great measure a matter of charity. But this is a very prudential judgment and a very difficult one, which the leaders of the Church have to make and this is why we have to pray for them everyday." When asked by Wanderer editor, A. J. Matt, Jr., "Could one say that the Church is tolerating a material schism in the United States?", Archbishop Gagnon replied, "Yes". Thus we see that "the leaders of the Church have to make" these "very prudential judgments" and "this is why we have to pray for them everyday". It is not easy today to be and remain a good Catholic layman in our pursuit of doing God's will and arriving one day in heaven. It is even more difficult for a priest and still more difficult for a bishop. We should pray diligently and offer daily sacrifices for our religious pastors and leaders of the Church.
Just as the Church's attribute of infallibility is not a personal prerogative, nor a reward for virtue (but rather a result of the assistance of Holy Spirit as promised by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ), so too the God-given authority of a lawfully seated bishop within his diocese remains fully intact despite what we think of his personal virtue or apparent past mistakes.
Unlike all human creeds and sects, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and commissioned by Him to teach, to sanctify, and to rule all mankind unto the end of time in order to attain her purpose of giving honor and glory to God and thereby effecting the salvation of souls. This authority of the Church was centered in Peter, whom Christ appointed the chief of His Apostles and the visible head of His Church on earth. Every validly consecrated bishop (or priest) receives his authority and power through an apostolic succession of bishops that can be traced all the way back to the twelve Apostles who received their authority and power from Christ Himself. This is the Church's divine attribute of authority.
Thus, within a bishop's sphere of jurisdiction, it is important for us to imitate the saints by humbly submitting to his authority in all things but sin. It is certainly within the sphere of jurisdiction of a lawfully seated bishop within his diocese to investigate and judge a supposed apparition, to forbid any public worship on the Shrine grounds, to refuse canonical recognition to a disobedient group of women proclaiming themselves a Catholic religious order, to order the covering of the small, individual shrines, to impose interdicts and refuse Holy Communion or a Catholic burial to disobedient laity, to order the "Constant Vigil of Prayer" out of -the parishes of his diocese, to ask the Shrine organization to submit to the jurisdiction of his diocese (the La Crosse diocese), or to refuse to recognize a schismatic church. (See Canons 1374, 915, 610, 683, 751, 1215, 1230, 391, 397, 822)
What Modernism Is and Is Not
When we feel: it is our responsibility to standup and fight for the truth due to the circumstances and the gravity of the situation, it is important for us to diligently seek prudent and well-informed counsel and to study the related documents of the Church which include the encyclicals of the Popes. As the example of the Shrine at Necedah vividly shows us, it is all too easy to be misinformed and to be lacking in the fundamental rudiments of our faith while charging forward indiscreetly as a self-righteous ("traditional") crusader resulting in only bad fruits of tearing and shredding the flesh of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Quite frequently, the specific violations of the heresy "Modernism" are confused and misinterpreted. The heresy of Modernism deals with the evolution of the doctrines of faith and moral of our religion NOT the evolution or change of moral application laws, disciplinary laws, or rubrical laws of the Church; it is important to note and realize the difference between these two groups. The doctrines of faith and morals cannot change since they are the fundamental laws of the one immutable infinite God either from the laws of nature or His revealed laws. Thus, even the Church cannot change the laws of God themselves. The Church can never change them to make it all right, for example, to steal, or to lie. But all of God's laws and revealed truths have been turned over by Christ to His Church (that He left us) to guard and protect and infallibly interpret for us and all souls till the end of time. The Church is not only the guardian and teacher of the commandments, but also fulfilling her commission given by Christ, makes rules and precepts to guide its members, helping them to live this present life in such a way that it will best prepare them for the next.
Explicitly proclaimed dogmas are not new truths or new doctrines but rather they are the eternal truths proceeding from the one immutable infinite God which are formalized to facilitate general understanding, and to avoid misunderstandings and distortions of the ancient truths which were always believed, e.g., the Hypostatic Union, Transubstantiation, etc., are formulated in new, sharply defined concepts. Truths which formerly were only implicitly believed are expressly proposed for belief. Also questions formerly disputed are explained and decided, and heretical propositions are condemned (theological censures).
But the application of the doctrines of faith and morals can and should be changed by the Church due to the different circumstances of place and time. These applications of immutable doctrines are Church laws which the Church has the full right and power from Christ to change and bind under pain of sin. Jesus Christ said to the Apostles, the first bishops of His Church: "Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven." (Mt 18:18). Examples of these changeable Church laws include the Canon laws, the six Precepts of the Church, etc.
Two other basic categories of the changeable Church laws are those concerning discipline and rubrics. Examples of these would-not only include many laws from canon law and the precepts of the Church but also laws regarding how the sacraments are to be administered etc. Thus, the Church has the full right, power, and obligation from Christ to change the external ceremonies which have been added by the Church in administering the sacraments when she sees fit due to changing times and circumstances. The Church also has the power to enforce all of these laws under pain of sin or even excommunication or theological censures as well as by using her hierarchical structure which includes the Episcopal conferences, bishops, priests, etc.
Thus it is most important to realize that changes by the Holy Catholic Church of her Church laws is not Modernism but rather the prudent use of her powers as Christ's visible Church on earth. Therefore it is not Modernism for the Church to change from the Tridentine Latin Mass to the Novis Ordo or to change the external ceremonies of the rites of Baptism, Reconciliation, Sacrament of the Sick, or any of the other external ceremonies of the other sacraments which have been added by the Church since these ceremonies are not essential to the sacrament but are for our edification. "Communion in the Hand". is not Modernism per se. In fact Pope Paul VI gave the power to the bishops to determine how they felt the prudent manner of distributing Holy Communion should be done for their specific needs and circumstance. The Pope cannot be everywhere at all times. For this reason Christ (as-well as His Church) chose more than one apostle (bishop) with Peter, the first Pope, as their visible Head. Thus when the Pope visits a diocese of another bishop, he will naturally follow the rubrics and rules which the local ordinary or Episcopal conference has lawfully established such as in regards to offering the option of receiving Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue. This situation is similar to a superintendent of schools allowing each principle to establish the less general rules of order and discipline for each of their prospective schools, each having their own circumstances and needs.
It is important for us to be patient. For "in your patience you shall possess your souls" (Lk 21:19). The Church has always acted slowly and prudently. Each era in the history of the Mystical Body of Christ has its own needs for the salvation of souls. Holy Mother Church, the Ark of the New Testament, guided by the Dove, changes her disciplines when needed. Thus, our Heavenly Mother on earth takes care of us, her children. Sometimes we, her children, do not understand why she makes the changes that she does. But we can be-sure of one thing, no other organization of the face of the earth can boast of her three attributes and four marks identifying her as the true divine Ark on the sea of life. The Church can truly be compared to that wise scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven: "Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven, is like to a man that is a householder, who brings forth out of his treasure new things and old." (Mt 13:52).
What then is Modernism? Very briefly, Modernism is to believe or promote the idea that: religion or doctrine evolve to new truths. The clear teaching of Holy Writ and Tradition is that after Christ, and the Apostles who proclaimed the, message of Christ, no further Revelation containing new truths will be made. Christ was the fulfillment of the Law of the Old Testament (Mt 5:17,21), and the absolute teacher of humanity (Mt 23:101:"One is your master, Christ"; cf. Mt 28: 20). The Apostles saw in Christ: "the coming of the fullness of time" (Gal 4:4) and regarded as their task the preservation, integral and un-falsified, of the heritage of Faith entrusted to them by Christ (1Tim 6:14; 6:20; 2Tim 1:14; 2:2; 3:14). The Fathers indignantly repudiated the claims of the heretics to possess secret doctrines or new revelations of the Holy Spirit. St. Irenaeus and Tertullian stress, against the Gnostics, that the full truth of Revelation is contained in the doctrine of the Apostles which is preserved un-falsified through the uninterrupted succession of the bishops.
Pope St. Pius X was the great Pope among others who courageously and steadfastly fought against this subtle but very powerful satanic disease within the Church especially today in our modernistic rebellious age. He termed it as the basis and "synthesis of all heresies" (See the decree 'Lamentabili' (1907) and the encyclical 'Pascendi' (1907) as well as the 'Oath Against Modernism! (1910) for all clergy to be advanced to'major orders.)
The tenets and numerous followers of Modernism and Neo-Modernism promote the fallacy that the Church must conform to the norms of the world as they change with the whims of the masses of people through time. Whereas Christ and His divinely guided Church have always told us that the world must conform to the Church and be guided on faith and morals by the Church (Mt 16:17-19; 18:17; Mk 16:15-16; Lk 10:16; Acts 20:28; 2Cor 5:20).
Thus, in essence, before we stand up and fight for the truth for love of God and our beloved Holy Mother Church, we should know well our Catholic faith and know specifically what the Church teaches or requires regarding the specific violations of an offender whether it be in the area of the doctrines of faith and morals (such as publicly teaching that Christ is not divine or that His holy mother Mary was not a virgin) or in the area of moral application laws of the Church (such as improper sex education), disciplinary laws of the Church (such as illicit general absolution), or rubrical laws of the Church (such as not following the important rubrics of the-Mass or o the other sacraments).
The Greatest Criteria Of Validity - Sincere Humble Obedience
As the lives of the saints and mystics teach us, the first thought in regard to revelations of every kind should be to inform fully a representative of the Church. Actually the history of revelations teaches us that visionaries of every type and their associates have understood that the .were obliged to tell everything to the priests.
It goes without saying that one must in such cases follow the directives of the representatives of the Church. Even if these are opposed to the strongest convictions of the visionary, they must be obeyed. God will always arrange things for the best, and, if necessary, change the feelings of His representatives. We recall the case of St. Teresa - through obedience she was made to deride the visions of the Lord of which she had said that "when I saw Him before me, if I were cut to pieces, I could not believe it was Satan..." The Lord later told her that she had been perfectly right to act obediently. The Lord blessed all obedient people. To offer opposition to the obedience owed to the Church is to set oneself upon the wrong path. Disobedience-is a negative criterion of discernment and emphasized by theologians. And one of the reasons which bishops and other ecclesiastical authorities have given for condemning this or that apparition has been precisely the disobedience of the visionaries or even of members of the Church who believed in the apparitions in question and disobeyed the instructions given upon the matter, as happened at Exquioga and on other occasions.
No quality in the subject (visionary) of a revelation bears clearer testimony to his or her authenticity than does deep humility. All experts insist upon this virtue. Gerson puts it at the head of five criteria of discernment which he recommends in his treatise upon the distinction between true and false visions. It is not difficult to see why humility is so important for discernment. It is because the man who possesses it is not seeking his own glory; he seeks self-effacement. He is, as a consequence, excellently disposed to receive revelations without including therein anything of his own. Praising humility, our Lord Himself declared: "He that speaks of himself seeks his own glory: but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, he is true, and there is no injustice in him" (Jn 7:18).
As explained by the Catholic Encyclopedia, the visionary should be perfectly calm and patient if his superiors do not allow him to carry out the enterprises that he deems inspired by Heaven or revealed. One who, when confronted with this opposition, becomes impatient or discouraged, shows that he has very little confidence in the power of God and is but little conformed to His will. If God wishes the project to succeed, He can make the obstacles suddenly disappear at the time appointed by Him. A very striking example of this divine delay is to be found in the life of St. Juliana, the Cistercian prioress of Montcormillon, near Liege (1192-1258). It is to her that the institution of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament is due. All her life was passed in awaiting the hour of God, which she was never to see, for it came only more than the century after the beginning of the revelations.
It is sad to think of the many Catholics and non-Catholics who have been scandalized by the Shrine at Necedah. Not only the Catholics who have been drawn away from their licit and valid parishes in the Catholic Church thinking that they had found a genuine Fatima or some type of a utopia, but also the non-Catholics have been scandalized hearing and reading in the newspapers about the turmoil and confusion and supposed miracles of the "cult" at Necedah with their "bead worship" and "gaudy statues" and "Black boxs" and ... It is sad that such holy devotions as the Rosary and the inspiring value of beautiful statues of Christ and the saints (God's exemplary creations) are drug down with the scandal of a rebellious schismatic group in opposition to their pastor, the lawful local ordinary of the La Crosse diocese.
Perhaps if I had known better the basic rudiments of my Catholic faith and the absolute requirement of being attached to the one, true, indefectible Vine, even if many of her ministers exhibit many faults and human failings and even promote false doctrines and scandalous practices, perhaps I would have discovered more quickly the real situation at the Shrine, despite the many alluring and reverent and devotional trimmings. It took me almost three years to discover that I had jumped from the frying pan of the environment of liberal and scandalous practices to the fire of being outside of the one true Church.
I have learned how important it is to see beyond the human shortcomings of a priest or a superior in order to see and respect their God-given dignity and authority and obey them in all things but sin within their sphere of jurisdiction, just as a child should toward his parents. But at the same time, I have also learned how important it is to struggle and even fight for the truth while striving to be ever more prudent and tactful in this important pursuit, otherwise the possible good fruits may not ripen or could easily spoil due to impure personal motives outside the holy will of God.
It is true that times are tremulous and confusing now, but do difficult and confusing times warrant any of us to become protestant and leave our divinely guided and indefectible Ark on the turbulent sea of life, our Holy Mother Church, as so many other thousands of souls have done in the past both through heresy and schism? Only in heaven will we find no confusion and perfect peace!
While living and working at the Shrine, there was a type of self-inflated thrill or enthusiasm to be specially called to serve the Mother of God even amid the frequent internal and external disagreements and divisions at the Shrine which were blamed on "the old boy" (the devil) rather than looking at ourselves or the real overall Shrine situation. I hope now that this self-complacent energy of being important and the chiefs of the "holy cause" at Necedah will be replaced by an ardent zeal to serve Jesus through Mary in the more normal daily routine of serving Holy Mother Church in my ordinary daily prayers and sacrifices as I strive to purify my intentions and love of God each day through a good morning offering, daily meditation and examination of conscience. This is the normal "little way" of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and all the saints of God.
I am very grateful to God to have been born and reared a Catholic and for the many faithful Catholic clergy who have given their whole lives to bring me the sacraments and the undiluted and undistorted truths of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I love my clergy very much and I realize their great God-given responsibility and power over the precious souls of Christ's flock. I diligently pray and offer sacrifices daily for our priests and bishops as was requested by our Heavenly Mother at Fatima.
I sincerely ask for your prayers that I may serve Holy Mother Church with all my heart, soul, mind and strength for the rest of my life and into eternity with the Immaculate Church Triumphant!!!
Sincerely in Christ through Mary,
Joseph J. Dwight, Jr., March 1985