The Lake Garda Statement: On the Ecclesial and Civilizational Crisis

 From Catholic Family News

sm-img_2306CFN intro: I just returned home from the 23rd Roman Forum at Lake Garda, a unique event held at one of the most glorious locations on the face of the earth. The Symposium ran from June 30 to July 10. The beauty was breathtaking, the Catholic camaraderie magnificent, and the lectures first rate. At the close, we issued an important “Lake Garda” statement, signed by Dr. John Rao, Father Richard Munkelt, Professor Thomas Heinrich Stark, Christopher Ferrara, Sebastian Morello, Michael Matt and myself. This Statement will appear on a number of Catholic websites and in various print media. I hope you will read the statement, be emboldened by its contents and share it with others. The Church Militant is alive and well at the Roman Forum. – John Vennari


“We implore the reigning Roman Pontiff to reverse the Church’s course of the past fifty years, abandoning the disastrous ‘opening to the world’ and the endless ‘dialogue’ and fruitless collaboration with the Church’s implacable opponents…” sm-img_2232

On the Ecclesial and Civilizational Crisis


Among the Catholic faithful the conviction grows that the ongoing crisis in the Church and the drastic moral decline of our civilization have entered a critical new phase which represents a turning point in the history of the world.

In the Church, a Synod on the Family has devolved into a battle to defend the indissolubility of marriage from an attack within, pitting cardinal against cardinal and bishop against bishop. The Synod has produced a midterm relatio, approved by the Pope himself, which calls for the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion on a “case by case” basis without any renunciation of adulterous relations, contrary to the explicit teaching of Pope John Paul II in line with the perennial discipline of the Church.[1] The same document speaks of “valuing” the “homosexual orientation” while recognizing the “precious support for the life of the partners” supposedly provided by “homosexual unions.”[2] Bishop Athanasius Schneider rightly observes that “[t]his is the first time in Church History that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character.”[3]

In Ireland, a popular referendum has legalized “gay marriage” in that once exemplary Catholic country, while in the United States a bare majority of the Supreme Court has imposed “gay marriage” on all fifty states. Yet the Pope and the Vatican observe a resounding silence. At the same time, the Vatican hosts conferences on climate change with notorious atheists who advocate population control and “sustainable development goals” (SDGs) that would only oppress ordinary people, including the poor, while leaving untouched the hegemony of multinational corporations which, in fact, are working with the United Nations to fashion a worldwide SDG regime. The Vatican itself has endorsed a SDG calling on member nations to “ensure universal sexual and reproductive health and rights.”[4]

As the nations descend ever more rapidly into an abyss of depravity, the Pope has issued a 185-page encyclical on an ecological crisis that diverts attention from the catastrophic collapse of sexual morality in a civilization ridden by divorce, contraception, and abortion. As to abortion, the encyclical speaks of the “human embryo” in the context of “concern for the protection of nature,” while earlier lamenting the extinction of plant and animal species as a loss to our children and a diminution of the glory owed to God.[5]

Echoing the belief of many Catholics, Bishop Schneider has stated that we are in the midst of the “fourth great crisis” in Church History, involving “a tremendous confusion over doctrine and liturgy. We have already been in this for 50 years.”[6] In this context the Roman Forum, founded by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand, has decided to issue this Statement on the ecclesial and civilizational crisis, calling upon the leadership of the Church, above all the Supreme Pontiff, to return to the path from which much of the human element of the Church has strayed since the Second Vatican Council. Because we believe this twin crisis is Christological, not ecological, we call in particular for a recovery of the Church’s traditional teaching on the Social Reign of Christ the King as the only sure remedy for the temporal and spiritual ills that now threaten both the Church and human society.

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16 Responses to The Lake Garda Statement: On the Ecclesial and Civilizational Crisis

  1. toadspittle says:

    “Civilizational” !

  2. I sincerely and even desperately hope I’m wrong, but I’m very much afraid that we can “implore the reigning Roman Pontiff” as much as we want to, but it’s not going to do any good. The Pope knows what he wants and expects from the synod in October, and he’s going to get it: no change in doctrine, of course, just “pastoral” change.

    Some day, though, years and perhaps even decades from now, we’ll have a good Pope who will undo the damage. Nothing can prevail against that.

  3. Michael says:

    I think the crux of the matter here is summarised well in one of the earlier paragraphs in the document:

    Within the Church, moreover, we have witnessed during the post-conciliar epoch what the future Pope Benedict XVI famously described as “a continuing process of decay that has gone on largely on the basis of appeals to the Council, and thus has discredited the Council in the eyes of many people.” An ill-defined ecumenism promotes what Pope Pius XI called “a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed”—meaning the idea that Christian unity no longer requires “the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it”­—as if membership in the Catholic Church no longer mattered for the salvation of souls. A perpetual process of “dialogue” replaces the Church’s forthright proclamation of the necessity of conversion to the one true religion for both human flourishing in this life and eternal happiness in the life to come. Along with these developments, an unprecedented liturgical reform devised by a committee has ended with what Cardinal Ratzinger called “the collapse of the liturgy” and later, as Pope Benedict XVI, the “banalization of the liturgy.”

    I don’t agree with the statements in the conclusion that the Church should abandon dialogue or openness to the world – these are sound enough principles in themselves – but it is clear that the manner in which these two concepts have been understood since the Second Vatican Council has distinctly lacked any sense of priority being given to Catholic truth, and so the Council has indeed thereby been ‘discredited…in the eyes of many people.’

    The forces ready to exploit Vatican II were already there before its sitting, and were not going to go away anytime soon, and furthermore, the drastically changed attitudes in our society do need to be engaged with by the Church, so I can only see abandoning dialogue and closing the doors to the world as a bad thing in the long run. What is more important I think, is to clean house within the Church (something that may well become easier in time, if the proportions of seminarians professing a commitment to orthodoxy and Tradition being reported is anything to go by), so that when we engage with the world, we are doing so from a standpoint confident in what we believe and passionately concerned with communicating these truths for the benefit of individuals and society at large.

    This can only come about by a return to the vast resources of Catholic teaching, and a re-appreciation of the fact that sound doctrine and charitable living are not two separate things – one of the real failures of the Church over the last fifty years, apart from the ‘ill-defined ecumenism’ engaged in, is that the idea has been continually (if not officially) endorsed that attracting people to the Faith via the holiness and generosity of one’s life is something to be achieved over and against being grounded in the Truth. In reality, one cannot have the former without the latter, and the proper synthesis of the two needs to be reaffirmed regularly and loudly. As the document makes clear, the world does not need what it wants, it needs what it needs, both for now and the hereafter:

    ‘Let laughing childhood and ardent youth learn how not to give itself up madly to the ephemeral and vain joys of sensual pleasure, nor to the pleasures of intoxicating vices which destroy peaceful innocence, breed a gloomy sadness, and sooner or later weaken the strength of the soul and body.’

    Venerable Pope Pius XII during the canonisation of Saint Maria Goretti. H/T to Kathleen for sending the following article (from which the above quote was taken) my way!

  4. kathleen says:

    Michael, so true!
    That is such an intelligent, profound and insightful comment. What a great theologian you would make! 🙂 And with a few more priests who thought and preached like this too, the Church would be well on its way to clearing out the false ecumaniacism and twisted liberal thinking that infiltrated and has assailed Her since the Council.

    (BTW, typo corrected for you. 😉 )

  5. Michael says:

    Thank you Kathleen, very much! And thank you for the correction 🙂

  6. geoffkiernan says:

    RJB at 1225: I agree. No Change of Doctrine but just a Pastoral change… I fear the ‘pastoral change’ will lead to a change in doctrine. Not by intent maybe but certainly by inference. The Secular press and those who seek change in the eternal doctrine of the Church have already instigated that change by blurring the lines between what is unchangeable Doctrine and the ever changing will/want of human kind.
    As a consequence already in my small part of the planet there are those that have changed their ‘behaviour’ in anticipation of what they see as a change or potential change in Doctrine.

    Homosexuals have responded to the Holy Father’ “who am I to Judge” comment for example with a skewed interpretation to suit themselves. And who can blame them. I am not the only one who is confused by that statement. Sadly the Holy Father has chosen not to clarify his comment thereby adding to the confusion.
    And as I’ve said many times before, Confusion is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.
    Michael at 1236: Careful, you could be accused of speaking the Truth…. “The world does not need what it wants….” Try telling that to some of our weak leaders. Ditto to Kathleen’ comment.
    I hope some of the usual suspects don’t stumble upon your post for fear they will sully what is sublime.

  7. Michael says:

    I have just read an excellent article by the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, which seems to me to complement the post above, insofar as it provides some sobering practical advice as to how we might go about getting on with the business of converting the culture in difficult times. Here is an excerpt summarising the attitude which we are faced with, and which we must patiently seek to overturn:

    ‘So many modern people seek to change the order they find in the world because they experience it as confining or unjust. Eric Voegelin notes that the more modern men and women seek to re-create the natural order, the more they need to remove God from its head…This explains the bitterness of the voices that seek to discredit God in our own time. It also explains the savagery of the totalitarian regimes of the last century. God can be mocked, but in the end, his order can’t actually be overturned.’

    His advice is essentially that we try as best we can to convert our neighbours (always starting of course with the daily task of our own continual conversion) through the cultural channels that still remain to us, doggedly refusing to give up, in the knowledge that the moral law is something which, whilst it can be toyed with or temporarily perverted, cannot finally be altered or covered over.

  8. kathleen says:

    I have been musing over this sticky word “DIALOGUE”. What exactly are we saying when we dialogue with another who holds a contrary position to ours (which is the ‘position’ taught by the Magisteruim of the Holy Catholic Church since Her beginnings, and thus the One and Only Truth revealed to Mankind through Her Doctrines and Dogmas?)

    Dialogue can only go so far as to reiterate and confirm God’s Divine Law to the person, or institution, we are dialoguing with. Anything else, i.e. making concessions, searching for a compromise, agreeing that there are exceptions to the rule, etc. is all anathema, and nothing more than a betrayal of that Truth that Our Sovereign Lord gave to His Church under the protection of Peter (the first ‘Pope’) and the Apostles (the first Bishops).
    There is simply no other form of ‘dialogue’ possible. Twisting what is sinful (worldly, lustful, evil), trying to hide sins’ true colours and dish it up as acceptable to suit those who oppose Christ and His Bride, is a cunning trick of the Devil, and sadly many have fallen into this wicked trap. Relativists within the Church are constantly trying to bend the Church to the world… and to do so they insist on “dialogue”.

    The Church has been accused of being disconnected to the world, set apart, and that we should ‘get involved’, or we should “smell of the sheep” (sinfulness ?)!! Surely if we wish to ‘convert sinners’ and bring others into the ‘one fold of the Good Shepherd’ for the good of their immortal souls, we should never falter in presenting the truth of the Sovereignty of Christ, and thus the Eternal Truths taught by His Church to her opponents? That is the only form of “dialogue” needed, for the doors of the Church are always open to welcome home repentant sinners. (There are times when we have all been in need of God’s Mercy and Forgiveness for our many personal betrayals.) Allowing others to wallow in their sinfulness through misguided ideas of a dialogue of ‘tolerance’ and ‘understanding’ however, is a complete and utter falsehood.

  9. Michael says:

    Surely if we wish to ‘convert sinners’ and bring others into the ‘one fold of the Good Shepherd’ for the good of their immortal souls, we should never falter in presenting the truth of the Sovereignty of Christ, and thus the Eternal Truths taught by His Church to her opponents? That is the only form of “dialogue” needed, for the doors of the Church are always open to welcome home repentant sinners.

    Yes, this is true indeed. But I think it is also true that if we only reiterate the truths of the Faith to people, they are often won’t to simply walk away and not listen (they will often do this anyway mind, but you know what I mean!) I think when we speak of dialogue then, we always have to be speaking of bringing the Truth to people, undiluted and without compromise (for this is precisely what they need) but also in tandem with an affirmation of any things that the person/group we are speaking to might have in common with us.

    In the case of dialogues with other religions for example, we share the natural law, and sometimes elements of Revelation (like with Judaism), and I think authentic and fruitful dialogue (i.e.; that which enables us to work together with people on things that are a common concern – e.g.; family and life issues, or community work with the poor) has to have this element as well as the affirmation of what we disagree on. The problem with a great deal of ecumenism is that it goes beyond what we have in common and tries to play down or even dilute what it is particular to Catholicism.

    In discussion with people resistant or hostile to the Faith it is even harder to find common ground, but I think the attempt still must be made when we can, or even the ones who might be disposed to listen to us will walk away as well. Saint Paul used this technique (finding common ground with his audience, combined with fidelity to the Truth) a lot, particularly at the Areopagus, and he was quite a productive evangelist! 🙂

  10. Michael says:

    P. S. I would also add that dialoguing with people, either of different faiths or of none (or people from other Christian communities for that matter), and whilst doing so affirming both common ground and genuine differences, should not be difficult to achieve at all. I think the reason so many have slid into ecumaniacism (an excellent word btw!) is that they never had the strength of their convictions in the first place – they couldn’t separate the areas of shared commitments from areas of clear difference and thus ended up diluting the truths of the Faith because they never believed those truths in the first place. If someone has faith in the Church’s divine origins, and believes what she reveals to be true, there should be absolutely no problem entering into discussions (for whatever reason) with people that hold different beliefs – if one truly believes, then they will hold fast in all times and places.

  11. GC says:

    Taylor Marshall (just lerv the name) has spoken on “five life habits” of an apologist, Michael:

    There’s some other good stuff there on “doing apologetics” that we could profit from.

  12. kathleen says:

    Michael, I wasn’t referring to the interaction we all face daily with our neighbours of other faiths or none; naturally we can’t go around like soapbox preachers, shouting out our beliefs with dire threats to all who refuse to listen or take heed! How terribly off-putting that would be. 😉
    No, the best form of evangelisation is simply to live out one’s Catholic faith in the world in the most Christlike way possible, only “being always prepared to satisfy every one that asks you the reason of that hope which is in you, with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

    I was interpreting the term “dialogue” in a more designed and formal way, like that called for in the Synod of the Family, or in debates under the dreaded heading of “Ecumenism”. Unfortunately, in this latter case, it has (since VII) too often been used not to present the Eternal Truths of the Catholic Church to others, but to water them down, or put aside the ones that ‘offend’ Protestants, or even to accepting false teachings and un-Catholic practices, liturgies, etc., all in the mistaken idea that this would make our Faith more appealing to those outside it. In fact it has done exactly the opposite! Because it then no longer remains truly Catholic.
    This all comes about through that relativism introduced into discussions with non-Catholics about our beliefs, or (as in the case of the Synod on the Family) with liberal factions within the Church, under the misnomer of “dialogue”. There is nothing to dialogue about in God’s Divine Law.

    Personally, I agree with everything quoted in the outcome of the Lake Garda statement above. If we return to the ancient beauty and purity of the teachings and liturgy of our Catholic Faith, no longer ‘dancing with the devil of the world’, we would herald in a new era for the Church.

  13. GC says:

    I’m just thinking, kathleen, that you in western Europe and North America have much apologeticising to do and on several distinct fronts. You have the protestants, but these can be either more evangelical or more liberal, as the case may be. You have the muslims. And then of course the atheistic secularists and then also the ex-Catholics. I am not sure that one size of apologetics fits all and that multi-skilling might be called for.

    I personally am most worried about dealing with the secularists and their conquests, the liberal and ex-Catholics (the second largest group in the US, after the Catholics.). I am convinced that no apologetics would be useful in their cases but merely much prayer would be, and waiting for their cardboard or sand castles to collapse.

    I have a feeling that in Canada the problem is different and there is something strange in the water supply or the air that makes everybody feel permanently light-headed, with the exception of johnhenry, of course.

  14. Michael says:

    Dear Kathleen,

    Apologies for only replying to this now – I have been away from a computer for a few days, and am only just ‘catching up’ with things!

    Anyway, yes, there is certainly a difference between how we witness to our neighbour and the formal procedures of entering into dialogue with other religions, cultural forms, etc, and I was also talking about the latter (though, reading back what I wrote now, I see it does give the impression I was talking more about person-to-person dialogue). Thus when I was talking about people sometimes shutting their ears to the Truth if we present it without laying the groundwork first (by affirming basic things in common, like natural law for example) I did mean groups of people.

    Basically, I don’t think there is a problem in this kind of procedure – if those preaching and teaching the Truth are confident in their beliefs, there is nothing to lose and all to gain, and furthermore, they will not diminish or dilute anything, because, knowing the clear boundaries of Catholic teaching, they will not transgress them. The problem, I think, lies in the fact that in the last few decades those taking it upon themselves to ‘dialogue’ with other religions etc never really believed what they were meant to be defending, and so what should be a fairly straightforward thing (talking to people from other religions in order to work better with them on things like pro-life issues, as well as patching up any bad feelings that may have come up over the years) has become tarnished because the people engaging in it were basically insincere in their beliefs. That’s my ‘two-penneth’ anyway! 🙂

    But yes, I completely agree, the results of this – watering down the teachings of the Church to make it more ‘attractive’ etc are ultimately futile, and pretty much concede that the (for want of a better phrase) ‘other side’ are right and we have to play catch up with them. The more honest thing to do in such cases would be for those involved to just become Protestants. And yes, it almost goes without saying that relativism has infected the vast majority of these discussions, as it has the majority of all kinds of debate in contemporary culture. As a self-refuting philosophy, I am sure it will end eating itself in the end, but as for now, we will have to continue to exercise the virtue of patience for quite a while…

  15. kathleen says:

    No need to apologise dear Michael, and nice to have you back again.

    We are basically saying the same thing here and had only been talking past each other earlier (yup, even friends do that sometimes on this strange invisible method of cyber discussions 😉 ).

    When dialoguing with non-believers, or with those of other faiths, perhaps we Westerners are too eager not to offend and to be always super PC, don’t you think? We are so vain and egocentric, often without realising it. Yet we should beg God for the courage and fortitude of great defenders of Truth – men and women of the mettle of St. Joan of Arc, St. Padre Pio and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. They never accepted compromises or worried about offending the counterpart or their ‘image’ in his/her eyes.

    Remaining always true to one’s Catholic Faith at all times and in all circumstances means holding oneself up to abuse and scorn, and in some circumstances losing one’s livelihood… or even one’s life in many parts of the world today. Yet God must always come first: “[L]ovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15) asks Our Blessed Lord. We must pray for the grace to always reply, “yes Lord, I do”.

  16. Michael says:

    We are basically saying the same thing here and had only been talking past each other earlier

    Haha – yes, indeed, that sums it up I think 🙂 And yes, I certainly agree we in the West can be too eager to offend, or even give the impression that we believe anything too strongly – the hallmark of modernity is equivocation and uncertainty (unless we are talking about deeply felt emotional commitments, in which case woe betide the person who disagrees!) and it is certainly an atmosphere that discourages conviction, particularly on moral matters, and particularly if you are on ‘the wrong side of history’!

    And yet, as you say, if it were not for people who witnessed strongly for the Faith (and it is all too easy for us to imagine that things were a bit easier for them in a culture that was more accepting of Christianity, whereas we know that really the world has never been too welcoming of the challenges of the Gospel) then we would be so much the poorer for it. We too must be willing to take the hits that come with that sort of witness, especially in circumstances such as we find ourselves; and we must, hard as it is sometimes to accept, remember that Our Lord, whilst bringing a message of love and reconciliation, told us that this very message would, paradoxically, often bring not peace but division.

    Incidentally, during my ‘catch up’ I read two good articles on this very topic:

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