Over at the National Catholic Reporter there is a satirical piece about the new Mass translation. The piece itself is sort of funny, and as one who writes ‘leaden satire’ on this blog I can appreciate it well enough.
What tickles me most though, are the comments–especially ones from priests. Here’s one: he’s having a big grumble and stamping his foot and saying he’s not going to use the new missal…Most of all, he says, “And I for one will not pray heresy….. Christ came for “all” not just “many”.
Is it possible that this Catholic priest does not know that this is a direct quotation from Matthew’s gospel? “Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” Apparently not.
I’ve heard other priests complain about this faithfulness to the actual words of Our Lord. One of them said with a pained expression, “It grieves me when I read those words knowing how so many of our people will feel excluded.” Whaat? If you’re at Mass you’re not one of those who are excluded–if you’re in a state of grace that is. So who’s excluded? The people who are not at Mass–and they excluded themselves, and geesh—they’re not even there so how are they going to be hurt and excluded?
But anyhow, the word ‘many’ in the canon is balanced by the words the priest says at the introduction to communion, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world.” Beautiful. It is there at the introduction to communion that the priest declares to the world with John the Baptist–that Christ takes away the sins of the whole world.” Then he welcomes all who will come to him with the words, “Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.”
The two phrases in the liturgy–both of them direct quotations from the gospels–balance each other and reveal the true Catholic theology: It ain’t that hard: Christ died for the sins of the whole world, everybody is welcome to accept the gift, but not everyone will.
To go off on a tangent a little, we also have to understand the context of Jesus saying at the Last Supper. When he says ‘shed for many for the forgiveness of sins’ the emphasis is actually on his inclusiveness, not his exclusiveness. He is looking to ‘those other sheep’ of the Gentiles, and his word ‘many’ therefore means, “Many, many more than are here present who you apostles cannot imagine right now.” This is an opening up, not a narrowing down.
In any case, this is not the real problem. The quarrel over the words is just a symptom of the real problem. The real problem is that the modern Catholic Church is shot through with the heresy of universalism and semi-universalism.
What is universalism? The belief that “everyone will eventually be saved no matter what.” Semi-universalism is “we hope and believe that everyone will be saved no matter what.” In other words, semi- universalism is universalism for those who don’t have the guts to be universalists.
Universalism is a heresy because it is a half truth. Christ did die for all, but the universalist only holds on to that part of the truth. He denies the other half of the full truth, that not everyone will accept that grace and therefore some will go to hell.
It is a sentimentalist heresy because it is based not on clear thinking or logic or the authority of Church teaching or the catechism or the Sacred Scriptures, for there is no support anywhere for universalism in the Catholic faith. Instead it is based on people’s longing to be nice and ‘not hurt anyone’s feelings’ and the syrupy sentiment that, “God is too loving to send anyone to hell.”
The effects of universalism on the church are catastrophic. It’s not real hard to understand. People aren’t dumb. If everyone is going to be saved, then why bother to go to church? If everyone is going to be saved there is no such thing as mortal sin. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need for evangelism. If everyone is going to be saved there is no need to feed the hungry, become a priest, build the church and become a saint.
Of all the various Hydra heads of modernism, universalism is probably the most insidious and diabolical and destructive of them all. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s sweetness and light and sentimentality and underneath it’s poison.