Headlines blared in New York City last week: “Manhattan Catholic Church declares God is Trans.” They referred to a banner hanging on the façade* of the venerable St. Paul’s Church in Manhattan, sitting right outside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts [*See Editor’s Note at the end of the article]. This historic Church, founded by the Paulist Fathers, was once a fabled mecca for conversions to the Catholic Faith; now, it’s a tomb for a bloodless Catholic ghost.
Those of us familiar with the Catholic landscape of Manhattan were not surprised at this latest salvo against the Faith. The Paulist Fathers, for the past forty years, have made this glorious architectural wonder the busy workplace for disassembling the Catholic Faith. Their own Paulist Press, once a publishing engine for scores of books explaining and defending the Catholic Faith, is now more of an abattoir for All Things Catholic.
An alert Catholic may ask: But why has such a Catholic anomaly been permitted to exist? To that question, one must ask the forty-year span of Cardinal Archbishops of New York. Live and let live, I suppose.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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A damning strategy, for sure.
A New York newspaper inquired of a number of St. Paul’s parishioners their thoughts of the subversive slogan. One remarked: “St. Paul’s is a place of welcome. It’s also a place to question one’s own path.”
Hmm. Almost sounds hallucinogenic. That, or maybe a text from an ancient gnostic gospel. What makes it so unsettling is that it expresses what might be the feeling of a majority of Catholics today, where typical parishes reprocess them to speak in such jargon. They have been disconnected from historic Christianity and float in a solipsistic ether of the “self,” with an occasional sprinkle of “god-talk.” Wouldn’t Feuerbach be proud!
Because the dissemblers have been busy at their work, most Catholics today have only the leanest idea of what being a Catholic means. They certainly possess even less understanding of what the word religion means.
It is derived from the Latin religio, and buried in that word is the Latin term ligatus. Ligatus is defined as a binding, or an intimate connection, from which we receive our English words ligament and obligation. That enables us to appreciate the depth of the meaning of the word religion. It is a binding to Almighty God: to His Revelation, His teachings, and most sublimely, to God Himself. While this generic definition can be applied broadly to any entity fulfilling its terms, it can only be applied perfectly to Roman Catholicism.
Now, to our St. Paul’s parishioner.
The Roman Catholic Church is indeed “welcoming.” But “welcoming” to all those who are prepared to embrace, with full and unreserved obedience, her supernaturally revealed truths. The Roman Catholic Church is indeed “welcoming.” But “welcoming” to all those who are prepared to embrace, with full and unreserved obedience, her supernaturally revealed truths. Tweet This
The Church “welcomes” all into a glorious objective world of winged divine mysteries. She “welcomes” all those who possess the valor to adhere unquestionably to virtue and sacrifice. The Church offers a “welcoming” to enter the life of the Bride of Christ, in all her spiritual and physical splendor. A “welcoming” to all who want possession of a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46), whose value exceeds all things human. A “welcoming” to all those who are willing to shout “from the housetops” (Matthew 10:27) that the only path to fulfillment and glory is found in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church does not exist to “find one’s own path.” The Church is the path. Chesterton put it dramatically:
Modern man is more like a traveler who has forgotten the name of his destination, and has to go back whence he came, even to find out where he is going. Modern Man has not only forgotten the name of his destination, he has even forgotten he has a destination.
For poor Wandering Man the Church is his destination, where he can find his true home in Heaven.
This privilege is enjoyed solely by Catholics. Here we enter upon the greatest mystery of our holy religion. Not a mystery as a riddle or a clever problem to solve. That is not mystery at all. True mystery is a truth so dazzling that not even the greatest of human intellects could fully grasp it. Mystery is not intimidating but, rather, intoxicating. It is like looking at the wondrous expanse of the oceans: even as one gazes at its lovely immensity, one is seeing only a scintilla of what is there.
So, mystery: one sees, but mostly, one does not see.
Once in the arms of the Church, men understand why she is called Mother. She feeds not only with truth but with God. The colossal mystery of our religion lies in our binding to God in intimate friendship. How can this be? Friendship entails equality. Friends holding each other. Even Aristotle, in the Metaphysics, when asking himself if men can be friends with God, answers no. Applying pure logic, there is simply no proportion between an infinite being and man.
So how can a man be God’s friend? How does God approach, so man can hold Him? Here we arrive at the ineffable mystery of our Holy Faith: its deepest center, its loftiest height, its unfathomable richness. Somehow, somewhere, in some way, God holds us so that we can hold God. This only happens in Christ. It is Christ who surrendered the invisible splendor of His divine nature to have it be joined to the visible poverty of our human nature. For Christ, even this Incarnation is not sufficient for friendship. Before He dies, He leaves to us a divine way that He can bind Himself to us and we to Him: the Holy Eucharist.
Catholics do not bind themselves to a Christ who is out there or up there but, rather, to God who is right here, in the very midst of us. In our tabernacles. So it is that Roman Catholicism is the true religion—because God is right here.
Yes, other religions might honor God. But other religions can only honor God out there. Catholics actually have God. Each time you receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist, God holds us, and we hold Him. Mother Church fittingly calls this mutual holding Holy Communion.
For God and man hold each other in a common union. A union so intimate that words collapse before the mystery.
This recalls Graham Greene in his The Power and the Glory. When the whiskey priest is distributing Holy Communion to the poor Mexican peasants kneeling on a dirt floor in one of their hovels, the narrator remarks: “And the priest was amazed as he placed God on the tongues of men.”
’Tis a pity that the St. Paul’s parishioner is blind to this supernatural grandeur.
When men want religion without God, they enclose themselves in a claustrophobic world. Things are left with gaping metaphysical holes. They are not what they are supposed to be. And since nature abhors a vacuum, that metaphysical hole is filled by the whims of men. Those whims are the stuff of terror.
Again, Chesterton: “Take man away from the supernatural, and he is not left with the natural, but with the unnatural.” Apart from God man does not die. Much worse. He becomes a monster. Oh, he looks the same; but his soul, like Dorian Gray’s attic portrait, becomes disfigured, twisted and grotesque.
Look around. No lack of evidence for that.
We fully appreciate the remark of St. John of the Cross in his Spiritual Canticle: “outside of God everything is narrow.”
My poor St. Paul’s parishioner, what riches have been stolen from you. What a grand theft of cosmic proportions. You see, the closer we are to Christ in the Holy Eucharist, the more He sends us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lets us see the finger of God in all things. He lets us see through circumstances to the ways of God, where other men see only circumstances. He lets us see with eyes of charity, which can see the reasons for all things—even things which violate charity. Thus, St. Thomas Aquinas: “ubi amor, ibi oculus” (where there is love, there is the eye).
The typical Catholic, like the one at St. Paul’s, is missing the vast horizons of our Holy Religion. He has been sold a basket of lies, and now he chokes on them. Without the bracing air of the Church’s truths, he chases after each and every deceit du jour served up by a wheezing secularist culture. And as a man at sea trying to slake his thirst with salt water, each draught brings on a maddening and unquenchable yearning.
Such yearnings will not be satisfied with bizarre concoctions such as “God is trans.” Those inventions are the clacking approach of the Gates of Hell.
There is only one place where the Gates of Hell do not prevail.
Leave St. Paul’s and come home.
[*Editor's Note: After the publication of this article, a representative of the Paulist Fathers contacted us requesting that certain information in this article be corrected. He noted: "The sign in question was a small sign giving the name and description of one artist's display in the eight-artist exhibit "Vessel: A Spiritual Art Experience." The exhibit was curated by a Duffy Fellow from the Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture. The exhibit is a partnership between the Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture and the Openings Collective, a visual artists collective that often exhibits at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. The exhibit was supervised by the staff of the Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture and Paulist Fr. Frank Sabatté, director of the Openings Collective. The pastor of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle and the leadership of the Paulist Fathers did not approve the original title of the display. The original title of the display was that one artist's opinion. It did not reflect any opinion of the parish or of the Paulist Fathers. When the original title of the display was brought to the attention of the leadership of the Paulist Fathers, it was changed. There was never a banner with the original title of that one artist's display on the facade of the Church." When asked multiple times by Crisis whether the statement "God is Trans" is blasphemous, the Paulist Fathers representative refused to answer.]