A Manifesto for Recovering Our Church

by Fr Richard Heilman | June 2, 2023 5:39 PM

A Manifesto for Recovering Our Church

I write this on the First Friday of the month in the month of June. First Fridays and, in particular, the month of June are dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This while, in the public square, June is “Pride Month,” which is dedicated to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers, etc. The contrast cannot go unnoticed. How did we ever get here??

Here’s how …

I begin by stating that I have been particularly struck by the Gospel on this First Friday in June. Enraged by the desecration of the temple, Jesus violently sets about turning over tables of those blaspheming God. Yes, on this First Friday in June, as we contemplate the great love of Jesus radiating from His Most Sacred Heart, the Gospel reveals the Son of God in a fit of rage.

How can this be? He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is love in its perfection. Yet, we see him outraged and violent? Isn’t love all about gentleness and never offending anybody?

So does the modern mind believe. So do those who want to cherry-pick the Gospels, emphasizing some characteristics of Jesus while deemphasizing others. They want their Jesus to fit neatly into the image of an effeminate hippy skipping through the tulips, who would never say or do anything that might offend anybody.

This identifies an important part of the problem we have today. We (especially spiritual leaders) want to identify love as giving in and giving way to anything or anybody for the sake of peace.

The classic analogy is the bad parent who rarely corrects or disciplines their children. Temper tantrums are rewarded by candy bars, for the sake of peace. These parents are quick to give “participation trophies,” for fear their child may collapse back into another temper tantrum. What is the result? A child that grows up with a plethora of psychological issues, especially narcissism; a child who feels entitled and never strives to become the best version of themselves; a child with a very poor moral compass; a child that is destined to live a life filled with anxiety and distress; a child who grows to act out with adult forms of temper tantrums; a child that may never understand what brings peace to our souls. Parents such as these do not actually love. They only desire their own personal peace at any price.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the perfection of love, models for us what love actually looks like. When certain behavior is particularly egregious, Jesus (like good parents do) does not hold back. His demeanor, his words, his actions make it extremely clear that He is saying, “NO! NO! NO!” This is an authentic love that rises above any desire for some kind of temporary personal peace, and is determined to be exceedingly clear, “STOP IT! THIS IS WRONG!” Jesus (like good parents) loves His children enough to want the very BEST for them. And that is a life lived in the peace and tranquility of the splendor of truth. If He needs to be tough in order to get us there, then so be it.

BOTTOM LINE: Our spiritual leaders are “bad parents.”


Why Does the Sacred Heart’s Anger in Love Speak to Us Today?

There are two scenes in the Gospels that are particularly striking. These are two times when Jesus, the perfection of love, was utterly outraged. As I wrote, today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:11-26) sees Jesus astonishingly furious in the temple area, turning over their tables. The other scene is found in Matthew 23 where Jesus, in strident anger, goes through His “Seven Woes” oration against the spiritual leaders of His day, and concludes by calling them, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:23). Here the Pharisees had actually just witnessed a supernatural miracle with their own eyes, and yet they quickly began to try to disqualify Jesus by leveling accusations and criticism.

Here’s what’s going on. Here’s why these two particular instances led Jesus to such severe outrage. It is the “Corporate View” vs. the “Supernatural View.” What do I mean by that?

In both of these biblical scenes, Jesus is witnessing something that He knows can cause some of the most severe damage to the souls He loves so much. In essence, we are talking about complete disregard for the supernatural power of God in favor of a business model for profit. And, in the case of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day, an abusive totalitarian business model.

How do these reasons for the intense level of anger from Jesus speak to us today?

I find it more than interesting that, just after turning over the tables in the temple, Jesus goes on to say,

“Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:22-24).

So, here comes the question: “Do our spiritual leaders, today, believe in the supernatural power of God?” I mean, TRULY believe.

Since 1970, just as the culture first proclaimed June as “Pride Month,” we have witnessed the effective campaign of those who have sought to demythologize our faith, a flat-out rejection of the supernatural power of God. More and more common is the modern “secularized” version of religion that sees it reduced to a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. In other words, instead of seeing Jesus as God with us — a real and ever-present source of supernatural love and grace — He is reduced to a historic figure we simply emulate as a model in our efforts at self-actualization.

The new Mass was presented in 1970. In the years following, it would make its way throughout the Catholic world. However, many more demythologizing modifications, not called for by Vatican II, occurred in those years following the introduction of the new Mass. And, not just the Mass, but sacred art, sacred architecture and sacred devotions were dismantled.

By the time I entered seminary in 1981, nearly the entire treasure chest of our Catholic faith was dismantled. In all of my seminary training, throughout the 1980s, we were not offered one minute of Eucharistic Adoration, Confession was downplayed, chairs without kneelers in the chapel, the tabernacle was removed from sight, and I witnessed at least two of my fellow seminarians asked to leave the seminary because they were “caught” having a devotion to the Blessed Mother. They were actually recommended for psychological counseling for their fanatical tendencies. The new normal was now entrenched in our Church.

While we saw a movement to recover a belief in the supernatural power of God between 1993 and 2013, for the past 10 years we have seen a return to this stripping out of the supernatural of our faith. In most parts of the Church, the “corporate view” has returned, with an emphasis on the “bottom line,” more than the “Divine Life.”

Now, efforts to offer the Mass in the most reverent way (closest to what Vatican II actually prescribed), while forcefully speaking up, just as Jesus did, against this historic diabolical movement of evil, are now seen, by the Pharisees of our day, as “dividing the Church.” Our effete spiritual leaders are more concerned with never offending anyone who objects to this deeper and more serious way of living out their faith. These weak and worldly spiritual leaders calculate that this “more serious way” is not the best business model for filling the collection baskets.

Yes! The Church is divided! The unfortunate laxity of discipline, and silence in the face of historic infiltration of evil, has permitted confusion and strife where there should be clarity and harmony, an authentic unity based on the TRUTH. As a result, the modern trend, among those who believe and teach falsehoods that directly contradict the Church’s teaching, is to consider these pockets of dissent as merely “differing tribes” within the Catholic Church. In this deceptive tribal system, those who believe in and teach all that the Church teaches are then considered extreme among these tribes, while most spiritual leaders of our day see these “serious” Catholics as dangerous and the cause of division. Do you see why Jesus was so intensely outraged in the face of this “corporate view” of the Church?!

Yet, the reality that is being swept under the carpet is that souls are flocking to those places where this “serious” approach to faith is being practiced. This, while our spiritual leaders manage decline. While we see that 70% of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence. 70%!!!


It’s Time for Heroes to Rise Up!

It’s time for us to courageously rise up and take back our Church! It’s time for us to accept our call to be heroes in our time.  We simply must, in all charity, outwardly express our resolve to stand with God, not the world! Our place is with Jesus.

Demonstrating our true BELIEF in the supernatural power of God, prayer and fasting are our first “action steps” always. Beyond this, we must, outwardly and intently, support heroic spiritual leaders who demonstrate a TRUE belief in the power of God, and a TRUE love for their flocks. These are spiritual leaders who truly believe what Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”

You will know these spiritual leaders by their fruit. You will recognize TRUE belief and TRUE love in those spiritual leaders willing to courageously put their lives on the line, in the face of the Pharisees of our day, to foster greater reverence in the Mass, while they boldly and forcefully (just as Jesus did) call out the forces of evil manipulating and abusing their flocks. Let’s reclaim surrendered ground, just as Jesus modeled for us. Truth and transcendence must return! It’s time for heroes to rise up!!!

We simply must “Unite at the Foot of the Cross!”


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