July 1, 1996
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
"Charity" is a word both used to name the greatest of virtues, and misused to name a multitude of sins. Where this confusion comes from is worth examining on the occasion of a recent letter from a Catholic in Florida.
He writes: "Please answer rumors that the Society of St. Pius X, its seminaries and its schools, have lost their charity and are so harsh, judgmental and filled with animosity towards the Conciliar Church that they are becoming a cult. Defensive and fearful of the outside world, they are with their spirit of 'Thou shalt not' falling into the opposite extreme from Vatican II."
To this question Our Lord himself gives the immediate and practical answer: judge by the fruits. It is certain that the Society of St. Pius X is at present a major source of priests ensuring the continuance of the Traditional Faith, worship, and sacraments. It must constantly be judged from their actions whether these priests are keeping or losing their Catholic balance. Thus on June 22 here in Winona upwards of a thousand Catholics were blessed with brilliant sunshine for the largest ordination of priests to be held yet at the Society's seminary in the U.S.A., but it is only as these priests begin to circulate in Florida and wherever else they are sent, that Catholics will be able to judge for themselves whether the Society is taking on the spirit of a cult.
However, behind that practical and unfailing answer to the rumours, there hangs a more general question, concerning which there reigns a great deal of confusion in people's minds today: What is true charity? When do people fall into extremism? What does it mean to be judgmental? What is a cult?
The confusion arises ultimately from the clash between two opposite world-views: the ancient Catholic world-view whereby God is God, and the new humanistic (Judeo-Masonic) world-view whereby man is God. By whatever Catholic Faith Catholics still have, they read life according to the first world-view, but from the apostasy of the nations built up all around them over the last few centuries by the Judeo-Masons, they come under a fierce pressure, of which they are often unconscious, to re-read life according to the second world-view. From the mixture of the two contradictory world-views comes the confusion.
For if God is God and men are His creatures, designed by Him to merit in this brief life their eternal happiness with Him in the next, then in order for men to get to Heaven they must be given not what they think they want, but, whenever the two things differ, what they really need, and it is God who will have laid down what men really need. On the contrary, if man is God, then men are the divine measure of anything they need, and all their wants are to be satisfied as divine wants, even if they constantly change. From these two sources come two quite different ideas of charity.
Thus on the one hand, if God is God, then reality is as He made it and not such as men would re-make it. Now in reality all love or desire must follow some knowledge, for nobody can love or desire what he in no way knows. This is common sense. For instance: She: "I want to go shopping." He: "Yes, honey, but for what?" She: "I don't know, but once I get to the shops I will find out!" (He: "Oh, my hard-earned dollars!") She knows, and so can want, the delights of shopping in general, but it seems she cannot desire anything in particular to go shopping for until she knows it by seeing it in the shops. Some knowledge must go ahead of any love.
Now charity is a love, in reality a supernatural love of God, and of neighbour in and for the love of God. "Supernatural" means that in reality charity is above any natural strength or powers of man, in its origin and in its object. As to its origin, it can come to a man from God alone. No man can, by his own merely human efforts, acquire or increase his own charity. As to its object, charity loves God not just as man can love God naturally from the world of nature, but as God is in Himself, infinitely high above all possible realms of mere nature.
It follows that ahead of this love must go such a knowledge. That knowledge (in the broad sense) is supernatural Faith, having for its origin God alone, which no man can give himself by his purely human efforts, and having for its object the supernatural God as He is in Himself, way above the highest idea that man's mind can naturally form for itself of the Maker of the Universe. But how then can man's mind have any such idea of God? Only by God's revealing Himself as He is in Himself, for instance "One in Three and Three in One", a revelation which nothing obliged God to grant to men, but which He did in its fullness bestow on men through His Incarnation, when the Second of the Three Persons took flesh, and for one human lifetime walked as a man amongst men.
Now the essence of what Our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed naturally and revealed supernaturally to men in that lifetime is summed up in the Creeds of His one Church which all lay out, more or less elaborately, the same essential truths. And the above-natural knowledge, or gift of mind, by which a man assents to those truths, is the Catholic faith, which is not just a cozy glow in my breast, but a knowing assent in my mind to a quite determinate set of truths, namely the Faith laid before my mind by that instrument of God which is His one and only Church.
From all of which it follows that if God is God, then only a believer who enjoys that fullness of the knowledge of God which is the Catholic Faith, can possibly have that fullness of love which is true charity. Catholics may, alas, have the Faith and not have charity; non-Catholics may also not have the Faith and yet - above all by an imitation or a heritage of Catholicism - have a semblance of charity, but true charity necessarily requires beforehand assent to the Catholic Faith, at least implicitly.
That is why believing Catholics are remarkably united amongst themselves by their Faith (did not Our Lord say that men would recognize his disciples by their love for one another?). That is why dissension amongst Catholics is so scandalous. That is why the Catholic Faith is so important, and why heresy destroys charity. Heresy matters! That is why Catholics are in duty bound to love non-Catholics towards Catholicism, but cannot love them independently of Catholicism. That is why, if God is God and took flesh as Jesus Christ, the modern churchmen's ecumenism, whereby non-Catholics are to be loved with -- and even for -- their non-Catholicism, is intrinsic nonsense.
On the other hand, if man is God (or if God matters as little as religious liberty would have Him matter), then we have a very different picture of "charity". If I think I know man as man to be the highest being, then I can only love man as man as the highest being. But man as man is full of error, pride, weakness, and sensuality. Therefore the new "charity" will love man with and for the error and vice that are his ruination, because these are what he clings to. What kind of love is that?
At the back end of our poor 20th century, it takes the following form: when all Christendom held the Catholic Faith, the natural effect was a universal love amongst men which made life as relatively cozy as it can be made in this valley of tears, so that in today's after-glow of Christianity, when most men have lost all idea of the Faith, still they remember the cozy effects of all-round love, and so want to enjoy them. Hence modern "charity" - a mushy warmness towards all my fellow human beings, regardless of their beliefs, and with no desire to get them out of their errors or vices. That is the Judeo-Masonic version of love amongst men, coming from the rejection of God and leading to the abjection of men, and which, when it infects churchmen, produces today's "ecumenism".
But notice how, if true charity or love amongst men depended on the true knowledge of God, the cosy effects amongst men cannot long survive the loss of that knowledge of God. That is why today's after-glow of Christianity is fast fading, growing cold, and why today's mushy "charity" is rapidly turning into mutual alienation and hatred amongst men. That is why the most tolerant of liberals yesterday have - incredibly! - swallowed down today the most intolerant expression of "politically incorrect" with which to brand those who disagree with them, and why tomorrow the most "charitable" of men will swallow down the next Satanically clever ticket with which anyone will be discredited who still believes in God.
So, to get back to our original questions, true charity towards men is that love of neighbour proceeding from a Catholic knowledge and love of the true God who created him for Heaven, whereby we wish to our neighbour every good by which he can get to Heaven, for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of his soul and body which will otherwise burn eternally in Hell.
Then "extremism" as a word of blame cannot be applied to anyone who does all he prudently can to save his neighbour's soul. It can only be applied to someone who either so exaggerates one part of the Faith against another as to dislocate the foundation of charity, or mistakes charity by using such means to save his neighbour's soul as serve only to alienate him. Similarly being "judgmental" can only mean making judgments on people which are out of line with the Faith or counter-productive in the saving of souls (but let it be remembered that it is by no means always the apostle's fault if the Gospel is rejected!). Finally, the word "cult" might be used for any worship or practice offending against the Catholic Faith or practice of the Church in the saving of souls, but it cannot be used for the teaching or doing of whatever the Catholic Church has always taught or done.
So, to answer the rumours from which our friend in Florida set out, he must ask, when they pass him by again, in exactly what such and such a Society priest - or any priest - is departing from Catholic Faith and practice. If the departure is real, which he can examine for himself by checking against 2,000 years of Church history, then the harsh words apply. But if the departure is only apparent, or is a calumny, then our friend should reckon he is falling foul of misunderstandings of "charity". If God is God, then there is such a thing as sinners, and they must only be loved despite their sins, not with and for them.
Dear friends, you have seen us through another peaceful and successful school-year here at the Seminary, culminating in the ordination of nine priests, about whom you can read in next month's Verbum. We owe great thanks to God, and many thanks to yourselves. Please continue your support, however little. And please help finish the Society's church in Ridgefield (flyer enclosed).
May God grant us to put our trust in Him, and not in the machinations of men, or their pieces of paper!
Most sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Richard Williamson
Letter to Friends and Benefactors