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Dr. Rudolf Graber, Bishop of Regensburg, Germany and one of the "Council Fathers" of Vatican II, sent shockwaves around the world when on May 2, 1973, the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Athanasius, he issued a short book entitled, Athanasius and the Church of Our Time. In this brief work, Dr. Graber revealed the true roots of the Council and the "diabolical plot" of the enemies of the Catholic Church to infiltrate her ranks and attempt to destroy her from within. The book has been largely ignored, but fortunately an English translation was published.
It must be admitted from the start that Dr. Graber did not follow the facts he reveals to their logical conclusion. He remained defensive of Vatican II until his death in 1992, while lamenting the Council's fruits and its "spirit."Like so many pseudo-conservatives, he maintained that the Council has been misinterpreted – a position which is neither borne out by the revelations made in his book, nor by the Decrees of the Council itself.
Dr. Graber begins his book, naturally enough, with a mention of the 1600th anniversary of the death of St. Athanasius, and how that great Father of the Church had to wage a mighty battle against Arianism in the 4th century. A little later he quotes a letter from St. Athanasius to his Bishops, urgently asking them to come to the defense of the Church in Alexandria, which had been entirely usurped by the Arian heretics.
More to the point, Dr. Graber quotes works by earlier authors, who had used St. Athanasius as their inspiration, either in combating current crises in the Church, or predicting such crises in the future.
First he quotes extensively from a pamphlet called Athanasius published in 1838 by the great Josef Görres after the arrest of the Archbishop of Köln, Klemens August von Droste-Vischering (the great friend and protector of Ven. Anna Katrina Emmerich). It was a troublesome time in the Church and in Germany. The effects of the 18th century "Enlightenment" were painfully evident, especially amongst the Catholic clergy. In its second edition, Görres took to task those who were demanding a "German Council": "Everyone who has thought up some wild idea in the past 50 years and has not found a market for it has of late peddled it here; for it is now or never." This "Council" would, of course, have to be "an ecumenical one." Görres liked to use irony and satire, so he thought a good pre-condition for allowing Protestants to take part in this "Council" would be "that they have destroyed at least one chapter of the Bible by the critical method..." He is even more sarcastic about the Catholic participants: it "would be natural, in order to eliminate thoroughly all further embarrassment, to take the step...of abolishing the Pope...it might soon be most urgently necessary to abolish celibacy at the same time... Once these arrangements had been made, the holy synod would not hesitate to proceed at once to the decreeing and establishment of doctrine. As a basis and foundation for the whole undertaking, a new Creed would have to be drawn up in such a manner as to be likely to be acceptable to any reasonable human being..."
Next Dr. Graber quotes from a novel by Dr. Josef Pietsch, published in 1930 with the title, Athanasius Comes to the City or the Beast's Den. In this futuristic novel, the author depicts the city of Teilopa "in which God, the spirit, the soul and nature have been radically eliminated; where love is degraded to lust and the dictatorship of technology has gained its hold." Living in this city there is a small group of people who have heard something about Christ and call themselves "Christianists." Their Christianity is a compromise, and St. Athanasius admonishes them: "You pretend to be the children of Light, but you are unwilling to give up being children of the world. You ought to believe in penance, but you believe in the pleasures of the new age. You should speak of Grace, but you prefer to speak of human progress. You should proclaim God, but you prefer to preach man to mankind. You call yourselves after Christ, but you would do better to call yourselves after Pilate...you are the great corruption. You want to sit on the fence between the Light and the world. You are masters of compromise..."
Dr. Graber concludes these quotes by saying: "Are these not really prophetic words? Our aim in this study becomes apparent from all that we have quoted from the works mentioned so far. The undaunted Athanasius, with his spiritual greatness, should also raise his voice again today against what is going on in the Church."
Dr. Graber then turns to what he believes are the causes of the "present crisis in the Church." He quotes the words of St. Basil, who, speaking of the Arians, said: "For when the devil saw that the Church grows and flourishes even more under persecution proceeding from heathens, he changed his plan and no longer waged war openly, but began to oppress us secretly...so that we suffer in the same way our fathers once did, but do not appear to be suffering for the sake of Christ, since the persecutors, too, bear the name of Christians."
Dr. Graber then states plainly, "There really is a diabolical plan, which is what Pope Leo XIII is referring to when he says: 'Insane and dark aspirations of this kind seem to reveal to a certain extent Satan's inexpiable hatred of Jesus Christ and his thirst for revenge' (Encyclical Humanum Genus). We must now investigate this plan, and in so doing we touch on the question of the causes of the present crisis in the Church. In his encyclical on Modernism, Pope St. Pius X called it 'the synthesis of all heresies.' And indeed, if we look back at the early Church, we can see the old false doctrines of those days reappearing in new garb. Arius, who denied that the Son was of one substance with the Father, lives on. He lives on wherever attempts are made to avoid professing unequivocally that Christ is true God and to take refuge instead in a variety of what are, from the human point of view perhaps, attractive terms. But the central dogma of our Faith is to all practical purposes denied. Pelagius, who questioned Original Sin and so exaggerated the power of the human will that God was practically irrelavant, lives on. It is strange how these false doctrines are becoming virulent again. And the reason for this? It is the flight from mystery into man's reliance on his own powers of reasoning, which finds the Arian solution to the mystery of Christ plausible, because it can be understood rationally; it is the proud insistence on man's will-power, which can achieve anything he wants, so that he does not need to let himself be led about by supernatural power flowing from Grace... In our attempt to throw light on Lucifer's plan, we now jump a whole century and find ourselves in one of the greatest spiritual upheavals in history, Humanism and the Renaissance... Whereas up to that point man and history were God-orientated, from then on man became the focal point..."
The similarities between the state of the clergy of today and that of the last phase of the Enlightenment, just before the French Revolution, are the next focus of Dr. Graber. For this he returns to Görres' Athanasius: "For it can be neither denied nor concealed that... there had already been a tendency among many members of the clergy to abandon themselves in ever growing proportions to increasing laxity... they would go heedlessly in and out of the cathedrals built for their Faith by the inspiration of their fathers, and see in the pictures, with which the artistic hand of the latter had decorated their interiors, nothing more than old lumber: and they were scarcely aware any longer of the rich treasure which it was their calling to protect and pass on. Alongside the aging generation, which sought to preserve the remnants of old vigorous tradition as earnestly and strictly as of old, a new generation grew up which, looking down on the former, persuaded themselves that the earnestness confronting them was simply gloomy monkishness, and that the strictness was useless self-torment. Declaring both to be no longer up-to-date, they sought to come to various arrangements with the times. They looked to Protestantism as their shining ideal, believing that they had only to come closer to it and what was outmoded would be rejuvenated in a rapid process of transformation. They resolved to undertake the task, which was, however, to be carried out at first with moderation... First of all they took dogma in hand... it was now declared to be totally incomprehensible and as such banished from the realm of what alone was worth knowing... Discipline was dealt with along similar lines... The old rules of discipline were seen as representing unforgivable harshness towards nature, which... led away from the goal because those who were being 'maltreated' would rise up in revolt against it. Hence there was a general inclination to help liberate the oppressed;...monastic rules and tradition throughout all ranks of monastic life were everywhere relaxed... and the new generation in the seminaries was soon also being brought up in this spirit of laxity."
(To be continued in future issues.)
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