Dear Challenged Disciples,
The temperature of the battle is rising—and with this letter, I want to give you my best understanding of where we are in the war, as well as reasons to hope and how to help.
The Masks are Off
“The fog of religion has been lifted, the positions and numbers of both armies can be observed: and real shooting is now possible.” //C.S. Lewis, The Decline of Religion
In the quote above, C.S. Lewis refers to the ambiguity and false covering of “religion” that is not real Christianity and can camouflage the real battle going on under the surface.
I remember when abortion supporters said they wanted it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” They acknowledged many of its negative dimensions and claimed to only want it used in truly difficult situations.
For many, though, that was merely a tactic; it was never the true underlying conviction of many in the pro-abortion movement. The repeal of Roe v. Wade has exposed the fallacy that there was a right to abortion in the US Constitution, and rage against God and the moral law—the real rage underlying the desire to kill babies—is coming out. Abortion supporters boldly declare independence from any moral norms except those determined by the autonomous self. A good analysis of how we got to this point is provided in the book Strange New World by Carl Trueman. While a serious book, it is very readable and easily understood by the educated Catholic.
A multitude of voices now claims the only one with rights in the matter of abortion is the pregnant woman, not the child. When it is pointed out that there is another body now in existence, abortion supporters no longer deny it is a human person—the biological science of that matter is increasingly difficult to refute. They simply repeat the mantra, “My body, my choice.”
Genuinely heartbreaking situations do surround some pregnancies, but the solution is never to kill another person. Once we abandon the absolute moral law to not kill innocent life, it becomes easier to rationalize killing in a broad array of situations: already born infants with health problems; girl babies who aren’t wanted; older people who drain resources from their families and the economy; and one day soon, perhaps those who are “haters” and enemies of the state.
The violence and hatred against Christ and the Church are very much out in the open now. In Canada this year, more than sixty churches have been attacked, and in the United States, there have been many instances of attacks on churches, defacing of statues of the Virgin Mary, robbing of tabernacles, firebombing of pregnancy counseling centers, and more.
Monkeypox and the Sexual Rebellion
Peter Herbeck posted an important video on our YouTube Channel that compassionately explains how monkeypox is almost exclusively contracted through gay male sexual activity and results in terribly painful sores on the body parts involved in such activity. The disease’s initial outbreak has been tied to raves, group sex, anonymous sex, and multiple sexual partners. Peter lovingly invited those who may be suffering from monkeypox to consider if this shouldn’t be understood as a “wake-up call” that this way of life can never lead to satisfaction or happiness and will have terrible consequences not only in their bodies but also in their souls. His message is relevant not just for those suffering from the latest plague of sexually transmitted diseases but for all declaring their independence from the will of God as it pertains to marriage and sexuality. Consider sharing it with those who may be suffering from the consequences of any such abandonment of God’s ways.
A profound rejection of God lies at the root of sexual rebellion. Having sex (any kind of sex—heterosexual, homosexual, solitary, etc.) outside of the faithful marriage of one man and one woman, open to life, is a grave offense against God’s gift of sexuality and causes grave damage to untold millions of people. The Church still theoretically believes this is the case but in many places is weakening in its conviction and even more so in its courage.
Some responses to the monkeypox plague reveal how many people have completely rejected any semblance of common sense or the traditional moral truths once held by virtually all the world’s religions.
It took many months to stop talking about monkeypox in generalities and tell the truth about who was almost exclusively affected by it. The fear was that if people learned that ninety-eight percent of cases were connected almost exclusively with promiscuous gay sex,1 federal funds wouldn’t be given to help alleviate it and people might develop a prejudice against gay sex. There was even a concern that the knowledge might cause people engaging in promiscuous behavior to think there is something wrong with their lifestyle. There is often an extreme unwillingness to suggest that people alter their sexual behaviors, even for a time, to reduce the transmission of a painful disease.
According to an article published on NPR’s website, “The WHO emergency committee that had previously considered whether to issue such a declaration (making monkeypox a public health emergency) was unable to reach a consensus in part because of concerns about the risk of stigma, marginalization and discrimination against the communities hit hardest by the virus.”2
The WHO offers the following advice for protecting yourself and others from monkeypox:
“(Limit) close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox, or with animals who could be infected. Clean and disinfect environments that could have been contaminated with the virus from someone who is infectious regularly. Keep yourself informed about monkeypox in your area and have open conversations with those you come into close contact (especially sexual contact) with about any symptoms you or they may have.”3
The US CDC recommends quarantining and abstaining: “But that can be very difficult with a disease that can last four weeks.”4 Specific recommendations include:
- “Limit your number of sex partners to reduce your likelihood of exposure.”
- “Masturbate together at a distance without touching each other and without touching any rash.”
- “Have virtual sex with no in-person contact.”
- “Consider having sex with your clothes on or covering areas where rash is present, reducing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. Leather or latex gear also provides a barrier to skin-to-skin contact; just be sure to change or clean clothes/gear between partners and after use.”5
One doctor felt the advice given was so weak and irresponsible that he spoke out publicly against it, warning that if the spread wasn’t stopped in the gay sex networks it could spread more widely and become the global pandemic it was falsely presenting as. The New York Times reported,
“Inside the (New York City Health) department, officials are battling over public messaging as the number of monkeypox cases has nearly tripled in the last week, nearly all of them among men who have sex with men. A few epidemiologists say the city should be encouraging gay men to temporarily change their sexual behavior while the disease spreads, while other officials argue that approach would stigmatize gay men and would backfire.”6
According to the article,
“Dr. Don Weiss, the director of surveillance for the department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease . . . believes the department should advise those at risk of monkeypox to temporarily reduce their number of partners, saying, ‘We’re not telling people what they have to do to be safe.’ His concerns are shared by some of his colleagues, emails and interviews show, indicating growing frustration and pessimism within the ranks of the health department as the window for controlling New York City’s monkeypox epidemic—the largest such outbreak in the United States—quickly closes.”7
How Deep is the Darkness!
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer 17:9-10).
They know it’s wrong but do it anyway!
How can I make this bold statement? Because the Word of God, the only true source of light in the world, tells us so.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom 1:8-30; emphasis mine)
Does the Church believe this today? Yes, it does.
God has put in everyone a knowledge of himself and of what the Church calls the “natural law.” Everyone has a basic, moral instinct, which if followed will lead to fuller understanding and fulfillment, but which if ignored, buried, or rationalized will lead to deeper darkness and frustration.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: “But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man” (1860).
In the world today, we are seeing deep darkness, deception, and complicity in grave immorality that destroys the body and soul of those who practice it.
Why isn’t the Church boldly and compassionately proclaiming the answer to this misery and darkness? Why isn’t the Church coming to the rescue of those suffering?
Has the Enemy Infiltrated the Church?
There is something like a “fifth column” in the Church, a network of high-ranking prelates, low-ranking theologians and pastoral ministers, and many ordinary Catholics who no longer believe what God has revealed to us and what the Church has taught faithfully for two-thousand years. Many continue to hold their ecclesiastical positions while working to undermine Church teaching, most particularly regarding marriage and sexuality. (See my video I Never Thought I’d See This Happen.)
I never thought I’d see such high-ranking cardinals and bishop openly declare they don’t believe the Church’s teaching on sexuality. Countless books have been published that try to undermine the Church’s understanding of Sacred Scripture. If we lose our well-grounded belief in the inspired Word of God, as many people have, we are adrift. We are building the house of the Church on sand, not rock. We will keep accommodating the culture until the Church in parts of the world where this is happening is washed away. (Thank God that in Poland and Africa, the Church is resisting this wave assaulting us!)
The Church also has been cowed into submission by the aggressiveness of the culture and the exposure of our own grave sins. The complicity of bishops in covering up grave evil and the abuse of so many children and adults by clergy has humiliated the Church, and rightly so. But despite our humiliation, leaders in the Church whose hands are clean, and those whose hands weren’t clean but have been cleansed by appropriate repentance and penance, need to not be cowed or cowards any longer.
A False Gospel
Are we blind to what has happened in major Protestant denominations that have gone in this direction? Their numbers plummet and they make one compromise after another until there is little to distinguish them from the world. The Episcopal Church in the United States, a branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, recently completed its eightieth general convention and some of the resolutions it approved are appalling. Even though there are probably many real believers in the church, it now can be called an apostate church, a false church preaching a false gospel.
The House of Bishops concurred with the House of Deputies’ adoption of these resolutions:
- D066, which advocates for unrestricted “gender affirming care . . . at all ages” (endorsing the surgical and drug mutilation of even young children).8
- D076, which “denounces the work of Crisis Pregnancy Centers . . . (and) apologizes for the Church’s previous support of Crisis Pregnancy Centers.”9 This resolution made it out of committee but was not adopted by the general convention.10
This radical pro-abortion spirit also was amply expressed in other resolutions adopted by the delegates and the bishops that declared pregnancy is dangerous and access to abortion is important and should not be limited.11
This spirit, these beliefs, and these decisions unfortunately are present in many Christian churches. Now, in response to the overturning of the constitutional right to an abortion, these apostate churches are claiming that religious freedom guarantees them the right to abortion. This perversion of religion is severely condemned by the Word of God—false prophets and teachers, calling virtue vice and vice virtue.
This false gospel also has penetrated the Catholic Church. I’ve documented this in my book A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward. If you want a deeper look into what’s going on, please read it.
Signs of Hope
I’ve just finished teaching summer courses to priests who come from all over the world to Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, to study in an advanced degree program on evangelization that I lead. The work is both extremely demanding and immensely rewarding. These priests are hungry for more and absolutely devour what we provide. Their locations and work are diverse, but they are united in their love of Christ and desire to serve Him:
- A priest from Sydney, Australia, is preparing to teach in his seminary.
- A priest from Tanzania is already teaching in a seminary.
- One priest is both a spiritual director and a seminary director of lay formation.
- One priest is responsible for many diocesan offices in Los Angeles.
- One priest from New Jersey oversees the training of future deacons and is a chaplain at a university.
- One priest from a new religious order is working in the jungles of Peru.
- One priest is part of a new Society of Apostolic Life from Argentina that is working on university campuses in Oregon and Washington, DC.
- And there are wonderful parish priests from Portland, Oregon; Lansing, Michigan; and Bismarck, North Dakota.
During these weeks, I was able to bring in—live or by Zoom—amazing men and women who told of their work that is having a big impact on the body of Christ. Our own Be Love Revolution Director Debbie Herbeck shared about how their work is helping young women grow closer to Christ. In fact, a week-long camp was going on locally that allowed over two-hundred girls to experience conversion and God’s immense love. Fr. James Mallon, founder of Divine Renovation, shared the immense challenges the Church is facing today and how he is helping more than seven-hundred parishes around the world take small steps to become more effective in evangelization. ChristLife Founder Dave Nodar shared the instruments of conversion, discipleship, and evangelization he’s developed over the years that are now being used by hundreds of parishes. And what a joy to have Archbishop Allan Vigneron join our last class to share the amazing way the Holy Spirit has worked over the past six years to lead the whole archdiocese to grow closer to Christ and more fully embrace his call to evangelize!
These are wonderful men and women who are true lights in the darkness—and there are many like them all over the world. When the prophet Elijah was discouraged and thought he was all alone in a culture taken over by the demonic, the Lord reminded him that there were actually seven-thousand people who hadn’t bowed to the demon Baal. It was still intimidating, but not as bad as Elijah had thought!
It is going to get worse before it gets better. All who shared with my class acknowledged the power of secular culture; the inertia of Church structures; and the oftentimes timidity, passivity, and outright cowardice of those in leadership. The trends are powerful, and they are not good. It is rare to find a place where the Church has been changed from a culture of “business as usual” to a culture of Pentecost. At the same time, everyone who presented to my class acknowledged the power of Christ and the hope that comes from following Him. Every bit of progress, every person helped to know Christ, and every person encouraged to not give in to the deception surrounding us brings great joy to heaven!
What Should We Do?
“How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him” (1 Kgs 18:21). (I’ve devoted Chapter Five of A Church in Crisis to this issue.)
We need to “strop straddling the issue.” We need to make decisions. We need to decide who we trust, what we believe, and where we really are in relationship to the glorious lordship of Jesus. And then we must “up our game.” We must put some flesh in the game.
Every awake and alive bishop, priest, deacon, and lay person must rise in bold and joyful proclamation of the Gospel, not afraid to identify lies and deceptions, and not afraid to call us all to greater repentance, fidelity, and obedience to God’s high call to union with Him. We must get over our fear of people’s reactions. We must fear God more than man. We must stop being paralyzed by the opposition and recognize that the power at work in us is greater than the power at work in the world. We must stop waiting for “someone else to do it.” If we are a bishop or a priest near retirement, we must stop giving in to the cowardly temptation to leave the problem to our successor. Now is the time! Souls are perishing. Stand up and proclaim clearly and with the authority of Jesus the merciful truth that forgiveness is available, that mercy is near, and that now is the time!
As Mary said at Fatima, “Many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”12
Souls are going to hell. The darkness is deep. The self-deception is deep. The denial of reality is deep. The refusal to really “follow the science” is deep. The cowardice is great. The hatred of Christ and the Church is great. The anti-Christ is pulling out all the stops to gain control of all the secular authorities of the world and use them to crush Christ and the Church. The Church is weak, confused, divided, and infiltrated.
But we were born for such a time as this. We all have a mission and purpose. We all should have immense and growing confidence in the providence of God, who is permitting all this evil to bring it to a culmination of even more severe chastisement with the hope of widespread repentance and revival. We all should be growing in our love for our dear God, who is so good and is doing much so that as many as possible may be saved. Let’s do all we can, in the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, to love one another and all people.
Your challenged but hopeful brother,
Signs of Hope
Ralph Martin recently invited the leaders of the following organizations to speak to his class at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. We’ve provided each group’s website to help you learn more about the work they are doing and why Ralph considers them signs of hope! (Above: Ralph with his Sacred Heart Major Seminary class and Archbishop Allen Vigneron.)
Be Love Revolution (BLR), an outreach of Renewal Ministries, works with primarily middle-school and high-school-aged young women, to help them develop a personal relationship with Jesus and grow into mature disciples.
Pine Hills Camp (pinehillscamp.com)
Pine Hills Camp is also an outreach of Renewal Ministries, with a thirty-five-plus-year history. It is a week-long summer camp that helps junior-high youth encounter Jesus and establish friendships that help them live as disciples.
Divine Renovation has helped thousands of priests and their parishes find new hope, reverse decline, and help people know Jesus.
ChristLife equips Catholics for the essential work of evangelization so that all people might personally encounter Jesus Christ and be transformed into his missionary disciples. The ChristLife Evangelization Process is a relational way to make missionary disciples by helping people discover, follow, and share Jesus Christ.
Unleash the Gospel is a movement of missionary transformation developed by the Archdiocese of Detroit based on a pastoral letter written by Archbishop Allen Vigneron. The movement encompasses a great number of initiatives to help people encounter Jesus, grow as disciples, and give witness to his love.
Encounter Ministries trains and disciples Catholics to demonstrate the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit in their sphere of influence. Through its school of ministry, dynamic conferences, events, and ministries, Encounter Ministries provides opportunities that empower disciples to love like Jesus.
1. Michaeleen Doucleff and Pien Huang, “Monkeypox: The Myths, Misconceptions—and Facts—About How You Catch It,” NPR: Goats and Soda, Aug. 5, 2022, https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2022/08/05/1115859376/clearing-up-some-of-the-myths-that-have-popped-up-about-monkeypox.
2. Rachel Triesman, “As Monkeypox Spreads, Know the Difference Between Warning and Stigmatizing People,” NPR, July 26, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/07/26/1113713684/monkeypox-stigma-gay-community.
3 World Health Organization, Monkeypox, Aug. 4, 2022, https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/monkeypox.
4. German Lopez, “Monkeypox, Explained,” The New York Times, Aug. 3, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/03/briefing/monkeypox-contagious-vaccines-us.html.
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Safer Sex, Social Gatherings, and Monkeypox,” Monkeypox, Aug. 5, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/sexualhealth/index.html.
6. Joseph Goldstein, “Debate Over Monkeypox Messaging Divides N.Y.C. Health Department,” The New York Times, July 18, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/18/nyregion/nyc-monkeypox-health-department-information-inaccurate.html.
7. Goldstein, “Debate Over Monkeypox Messaging.”
8. “Episcopal House of Deputies Affirms Gender Transitions at Any Age,” July 8, 2022, https://anglican.ink/2022/07/08/episcopal-house-of-deputies-affirms-gender-transitions-at-any-age/.
9. George Conger, “Episcopal House of Deputies Condemns Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” July 8, 2022, https://anglican.ink/2022/07/08/episcopal-house-of-deputies-condemns-crisis-pregnancy-centers/.
10. George Conger, “TEC Bishops Split Over Abortion Votes: Reject Condemnation of Crisis Pregnancy Centers but Back Abortion on Demand,” July 11, 2022, https://anglican.ink/2022/07/11/tec-bishops-split-over-abortion-votes-rejecting-condemnation-of-crisis-pregnancy-centers-but-backing-abortion-on-demand/.
11. “DO83 HD Committee #08 Report #02,” Virtual Binder: Calendar, July 8, 2022, https://www.vbinder.net/calendars/71/committee_report?calendar_id=70&house=HD&lang=en
12. George Pollard, “The Revelation of the Immaculate Heart at Fatima in 1917,” EWTN, https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/revelation-of-the-immaculate-heart-at-fatima-in-1917-5465.
This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ October 2022 newsletter.