Desire & Deception
Publisher: Tumblar House
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
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How Catholics Stopped Believing
The Catholic Church is THE great fact of our entire civilization. Art, architecture, music, literature, theatre, law - even cuisine and sports - at their best, all bear her mark. However much she and her teachings may be despised by media and government, however many of her children may abandon her, this is a reality that cannot be shaken. For over two millennia, it has been so.
Yet at the same time, the Church has perhaps never faced so great a combination of challenges as she does today. Most secular governments oppose her to greater or lesser degrees; the Mass, her most solemn rite, has in many places been turned into a collection of strange ceremonies where irreverence views with sheer banality to conceal the awe-filled reality of what is actually happening - the descent of Jesus Christ Himself into the bread and wine on the altar.
There remains an enormous question which few are anxious to tackle: why bother with the Church at all? Why is she here? In Desire and Deception, Charles A. Coulombe makes the case that the role Christ first envisaged for her - that of the sole means of Salvation for mankind - has been completely obscured in the minds of the vast majority of Catholics today. He gives the history of how this came about, explains that this obscurity is at the root of the Church's current internal dilemmas, and shows that Catholics must regain their sense of mission if they are to fulfill Christ's mandate.
[Modernists] have succeeded in blotting out former solemn pronouncements from the popular mind with the newer ones, proclaiming as development of doctrine what was actually repudiation. Unfortunately, at every stage of this process, there have been folk who, knowing what the Church actually teaches, have resisted.
It is a hallmark of the modern mind that it dismisses with labels anything it cannot overcome intellectually.
The Catholic Church is sick in head and members. This can only be doubted by the deaf, the dumb, the blind—and those with a vested interested in the present decline. The evidences of that decline in terms of regular communicants, vocations, education, liturgy, and so on have been chronicled admirably by many other writers, and this writer feels no need to add to those chronicles. Rather, he would prefer to shed light on one factor in that decline.
It is true that diverse reasons may be adduced for the present malaise. Liturgically, the alterations made in the past several decades have had disastrous results, to be sure; coupled with these have been an unending flow of theological stupidities from experts and bishops alike. The twin heresies of Americanism and Modernism (the former being the official creed of the single most wealthy and powerful segment of the Church long before Vatican II) may be seen as the proximate causes, certainly. Others have pointed out such things as the pre-Vatican II undue adulation of clerics, which prepared the Catholic faithful to accept anything one said—regardless of its veracity—so long as the one in question wore a Roman collar. Still others would point to various political and economic factors. While all these mentioned played their part, of a certainty, it is my considered belief that history reveals an ultimate source of the present mess. Had this source not been present, all the other items enumerated could not have had the devastating effects they did have upon us. What, then, is this ultimate source?
We must return to the first principles, to the reason for being of the Church. If a Catholic is asked why he is one, these days he is likely to give all sorts of answers: “I was raised that way.” That is little help, indeed. What if you had been raised a Nazi? “Well, historically, it is the Church Christ founded.” Better, but so what? Christ founded a Church, Buddha a way of supposedly escaping the pain of life, Mohammed a way of surrender to the Will of Allah. So what? Why be Catholic? The answer is simple. Because the Church is the means God has ordained for every human being to save his or her soul.
You may recall the old saying “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.” Prior to Christ’s coming, so the Church teaches, no one achieved Salvation; that is, none received after death the Beatific Vision and eternal union with God in Heaven. The wicked went, of course, to Hell, but even the Just languished in the “Limbo of the Fathers,” barred from Heaven by their fallen human nature. To rescue us from Hell, Christ was born and set up the Sacraments and the Church which dispenses them. Christ described the problem in rather stark terms:
Lord, are they few that are saved? But He said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. (Luke 13:23, 24)
Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate and how strait the way that leadeth to life, and few there are who find it! (Matthew 7:13, 14)
Rather a negative attitude, we would say today! But actually, given the facts of fallen nature, merely realistic. It would really have been dreadful if He had not prescribed a solution. Providentially, He did:
Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, the same shall also live by me. (John 6:51-58)
Jesus said to him: “Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)
Going therefore teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:19-20)
He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me. (Luke 10:16)
One could quote other texts, but in these you see Christ’s answer to the problem of the Fall. The sacraments are the means; the Church dispenses them; her head, successor to Peter, wields the power of the keys and administers the Church; her members are to spread it all over the world, and He will be with them; lastly, acceptance or rejection of that Church is the equivalent of similar action toward Him. He offers no other way to escape the trap of being human.
So it was then. Today, apparently, things are different! Commonweal is a magazine which for long decades has been the voice of intellectual American Catholicism. In its pages one will find advertisements for such things as Paulist Press’ newest book releases, the Ph.D. program at Loyola University of Chicago, Theology and Pastoral Ministry Graduate Studies at the University of Dayton, and Graduate Studies in Theology at Boston College (prestigious Catholic schools all). In a word, Commonweal is written, supported, and read by the dominant set in the American Church, itself (at least financially) the dominant segment in the Church Universal. The 17 January 1992 issue carried on the back cover, as a subscription appeal sample, a Dore engraving of Hell. Next to it, under the catchy slogan DAMNATION JUST ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE, is an excerpt from an article by Paul Elie run in the 27 September 1991 issue and entitled On Young Catholics and the Church:
Current discussions about young Catholics suggest that Catholic leaders are less concerned with our welfare than with the well-being of the church general. This is a natural consequence of the Second Vatican Council’s revised understanding of the church, and its corresponding revision of the nature of salvation. If you see the church chiefly as the body of its people, and not chiefly, as, say, a divine agency appointed by God to do his saving work on earth, your in-house evangelizing efforts will be less menacing but also somewhat less compelling … Your sense that Catholicism isn’t taking hold on the younger end leads you to think not of souls lost for eternity, but of the church losing its vigor in the here and now. Because you can’t get all worked up about young people going to hell, you mostly worry that if you fail to sponsor a Catholic identity in them, the religion you’ve known will go out of this corner of the world, and the kids will have missed something grand.
If what Mr. Elie says is true, then the Church is not something grand; she is something worthless; a fundraiser for parasites based upon a 2000-year-old swindle. Why indeed should young folk have anything to do with that? As we have just seen, Christ’s vision of the Church was precisely that “of a divine agency appointed by God to do his saving work on earth.” If she were merely the “body of its people,” then judging by both its history and its present state, she is a pitiful thing which ought to be put out of her misery post-haste. The fact that the Commonweal gang would consider a piece like this an inducement to subscribe tells us much about the mindset of many in the ruling circles of the Church.
Contrary, however, to what Mr. Elie says, this change is not to be laid entirely at the feet of Vatican II (although there can be no doubt that “believers” of this stripe can find justification in its ambiguous documents). No, it has been “a long, long trail a-winding” from the clear teaching on the Church as enunciated by Christ, through twenty centuries to the near complete dominance of opposite ideas. We shall dip into the current of Church history and teaching to see how this alteration came about, and whether it was justified.
Charles A. Coulombe is one of North America’s most respected and sought-after commentators on culture, religion, history, and politics. A specialist in the history and government of the Catholic Church, Coulombe’s influence and expertise extend far beyond matters religious. He has written on topics ranging from the history of rum to haunted houses to a history of the United States.
Mr. Coulombe is a social and political commentator of note. In 2005 he provided narration and commentary for ABC News during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election and installation of Pope Benedict XVI. A former journalist, Mr. Coulombe served as a film reviewer and Contributing Editor of the National Catholic Register, during which time he received the Christian Law Institute's Christ King Journalism Award. Coulombe's work has appeared in over than 20 journals, including regular columns in Fidelity (Australia), PRAG (London), Monarchy Canada, and Creole Magazine (Louisiana). He has also been a frequent contributor to such publications as Success, Catholic Twin Circle, Gnosis, FATE, and the New Oxford Review.
As an informed and passionate speaker on a wide variety of religious, social, political, historical, and literary topics, Mr. Coulombe has appeared on lecture circuits throughout the North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1992 he lectured at Oxford University and the following year embarked on a lecture tour of Ireland and Great Britain, returning to Oxford and Cambridge in 1995. Coulombe has also delivered lectures at the University of Southern California on the history of Rock & Roll and at Cleveland's John Carroll University on the history of medieval monarchy. In February 2011, he was invited to take part in a debate on the abolition of the monarchy before the prestigious Oxford Union.
I am so glad I read this book. In "Desire & Deception" Mr. Coulombe tackles a subject that has the potential to be dry and theoretical, but at the same time controversial and polarizing. His premise is that the reason the Faith is in such decline (understatement alert) is that the dogma of Extra Ecclesia Nulla Sallus (no salvation outside the Church) got shoved down the memory hole.
He lays out the philosophical history leading to that and said philosophical history is what electrified me. This is not, however, a nerdy esoteric book. It is a knowledgeable, engaging everyman discussion of two irreconcilable currents of thought in the Church, what each current leads to and the consequences thereof. Mr. Coulombe's writing style is so entertainingly educated, veering perfectly between the twin pitfalls of oversimplification and insider baseball. It has caused me to think critically about ideas that I took as established facts. This book is important because its subject is foundational. Get the foundation wrong and everything built on that foundation will be out of kilter. This is a terrific read.
I can't recommend this book enough, the whole reason for the Catholic Church which Jesus established is the salvation of souls!, today the emphasis is on every other thing instead of why Jesus (GOD) incarnated on earth to bring salvation. Even the name Jesus means Savior. This shows the philosophy and history why modern Popes, Bishops ,Priests and Laity have no idea how to guide the Ship of Peter. Start preaching this Dogma and watch all HELL break out literally. A great book!!!!!
This was the first book I read from Mr. Coulombe and I was not sure what to expect. The title and cover are both a bit odd and I honestly was worried this would be a superficial analysis of where things went wrong. What a surprise! Mr. Coulombe lays out a detailed (and to me, unexpected) argument that the problems extend centuries back to the reintroduction of Aristotelian logic to European thought. The introduction to ultra-realism and nominalism alone was worth the price of this book. His arguments against Baptism of Desire and in support of E.E.N.S. are solid and I've noticed that elsewhere in trad-land, these topics can quickly make a man persona non grata. Often such bitterly emotional responses are indications that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and after reading this book, you'll have good reasons to believe it so. A must read.
Coulombe, in characteristically witty style, upholds the primacy of the Will over the Intellect and Plato over Aristotle, and he cuts through the fog and the "slithering" of certain theologians and philosophers.
It is Coulombe's assertion that the Church has long taught the necessity of water baptism for salvation, despite common deviation in the last two centuries. Before then, "There were those who believed in Invincible Ignorance, and in Baptism of Desire. But these were for the most part confined to Universities and Seminaries."
He points out that it was common practice for jailed catechumens and those in danger of death to be baptized, and so claims that use them as examples for "baptism of desire" or "baptism of blood" are unsubstantiated -- "one's own fallen blood, sprung of Adam, simply could not have the salvific effects of Christ's Precious Blood", he writes. He argues in response to users of St. Ambrose's Oration that the saint "in fact knew, that Valentinian had indeed been baptized, but was not at liberty to reveal the circumstances of the event, which presumably were bound up with the Emperor's mysterious death". He also highlights potential contradictions in St. Thomas Aquinas' stance. And he says that while the Council of Trent ruled that "the laver of regeneration or its desire" brings *justification*, it does not necessarily bring *salvation* ("which can only come about if the individual goes ahead and receives the Sacrament and then finally perseveres", according to the author).
There's a lot in here. For background, Coulombe shares several enlightening bits on the Americas that are given more context in his other work, and he goes into much detail on the case of Fr. Leonard Feeney, whom he clearly admires a great deal.
It would be nice if this work (written in 1993) were to be expanded to answer CCC #1258-1261.
Charles Coulombe does a fantastic job of reminding Catholics that the Church means what she says: There is no salvation outside the church. Be prepared to have whatever you think you know about church history/theology thrown out the window.
In Desire and Deception, Mr. Coulombe has presented several lines of evidence for a strict interpretation of the doctrine, "Extra Ecclesium Nulla Salus". Whether or not you agree with his conclusions or analysis (I can't say I do completely), I think it is difficult to come away from this book without realizing that something has gone terribly wrong in the Catholic Church over the last century. Simply put, if our doctrines inspire indifferentism rather than zeal for the salvation of souls outside of the Church, then something is dreadfully amiss.
I have subtracted two stars for the following reasons:
1) I believe it would have been beneficial to better represent more conservative interpretations that lie somewhere between Frs. Feeney and Rahner.
2) There are numerous typographical errors that need to be corrected. If Vincent reads these reviews, I would be willing to send him an email with the errors I found.
Thank you, Tumblar House and Mr Coulombe!
This compact book quickly goes through the history of a subject that is often forgotten by many Catholics and yet is essential to the mission of the Church. Having been a convert to the Catholic faith, I found the book made me contemplate why I came into the faith. This book helps to elaborate on the necessity of the Church for salvation, and how that underlies great missionary activity and zeal for the faith. Without this, there are not many reasons to convert to or stay in the faith. From this book, hopefully everyone will gain zeal to bring converts into the faith and have hope for people to come into the Church.
These were the first books I've read by Mr. Coulombe. I consider myself quite lucky to have found someone as insightful and knowledgeable in such an enormously important subject, particularly in these days. I look forward to reading all his other books.
Desire & Deception
Very convincing and well-argued