by Edward Pentin
Catholic philosopher Josef Seifert has said he sees a “terrible danger of a complete collapse of the Catholic Church in many countries” unless cardinals speak up about a “tremendous crisis” within the Church, one he says is possibly the greatest she has ever faced.
In comments following the publication of an open letter he wrote April 30 calling on all cardinals, bishops and Church leaders to stand up for the truth of Catholic teaching in the face of prevailing relativism and situational ethics, Seifert observed what he described as the cardinals’ “frightening silence” on this unique crisis that runs “from the top of the Church down.”
The respected Austrian professor, who in 2017 founded the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family as a counterweight to the once respected Pontifical Academy for Life now led by dissenting Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, said it was his love for the truth and the Church, and the fact that key elements of Pope Francis’ teaching run contrary to Pope St. John Paul II, that prompted him to put pen to paper.
He recalled that in his 1993 encyclical on the moral teaching of the Church, Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II “elucidated magnificently” the truth of recognizing “non-negotiable wrong acts,” defending it against relativist ethical positions which “seek loopholes everywhere” in order to try to justify “adultery, sodomy, contraception, idolatry, apostasy, denial of purgatory, hell and last judgement.”
Tracing such dissent to criticisms of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae which underscored the use of artificial contraception as intrinsically evil, Professor Seifert stressed that the Church’s teaching on the subject has deep roots.
“The anti-baby pill and others, that are already described in the Old Testament as gravely disordered, are intrinsically evil,” he said. He also said that even the Anglicans had issued declarations against artificial contraception, only to then make a “flat contradiction” of their previous teaching at their Lambeth Conference in 1930 when they became first ecclesial communion to allow contraception.
As a result, he said, “tremendous pressure” was placed on Pope Paul VI to adopt the same change, but “the Holy Spirit prevented this,” and Humanae Vitae was written upholding the Church’s perennial teaching. Furthermore, Seifert said, “new studies show” that John Paul II, then Karol Wojtyla, “deeply influenced” that encyclical which practicing Catholics faithful to the Magisterium have long viewed as prophetic. Veritatis Splendor was, in fact, written to counter the dissent against Humanae Vitae.
But Professor Seifert, a senior lecturer in metaphysics and epistemology at the Ludwig Maximilians Universität in Munich, said that such dissent re-emerged after the publication in 2016 of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and Francis himself “started to throw doubts on, or even to deny, the essential contents of Holy Scripture and Church teaching.”
“It became incomprehensible to me that none of the cardinals, besides the four dubia cardinals, spoke out clearly against such errors and of obscuring Catholic teaching,” Professor Seifert explained. “Therefore, as in the Arian Crisis, when one bishop, Saint Athanasius, and many laymen, rushed to the defense of truth, it was necessary that even miseri laici [us miserable laity] stood up for the truth.”
Seifert explained that the letter he sent to the College of Cardinals was first sent two and half years ago to a cardinal with whom he was on friendly terms who had said criticism of Pope Francis was a “great evil that should be eradicated.”
When the cardinal replied respectfully but didn’t act, Professor Seifert decided to address the letter to all cardinals and bishops, “not so it would land in wastepaper baskets” but because they have a “holy duty” to warn their brethren, especially in Germany, and the Pope “against any deviation from the perpetual teaching of the truth in the Church.”
Given what he calls the “frightening silence of the majority of cardinals and bishops on this unique crisis from the top of the Church down during a whole decade,” he is not optimistic about receiving a response to his appeal.
But he said he has “hope that the omnipotent God, who is the truth, will awaken the fire of love for truth and for the Church in the hearts of all cardinals and bishops, and will bestow the gift of holy courage on many of them, as he has done already on some cardinals and bishops.”
“I am not at all optimistic but truly hopeful that the cardinals and bishops will no longer watch passively the downfall of the Church which only divine intervention can prevent,” he said. “God wants to use all of us, but especially chooses cardinals and bishops, just as He chose St Paul to spread the Church, and St Athanasius to save it from Arianism and destruction.”
Asked what the consequences might be if they don’t, Seifert replied: “I see a terrible danger of a complete collapse of the Catholic Church in many countries, and indeed of its total destruction in some areas of the world.”
But he added that he knows, not through reason but through a “cruelly tested” faith, that this is “not possible because the truth itself has told us that the gates of hell will not ever prevail against the Church.”