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(Rogier van der Weyden. Seven Sacraments Altarpiece. [Source])
Suppose you're in business, for example that you have a small company that manufactures boots. If you want your little company to become big and rich, what are you going to do? You'll have to do many things, but one of the most important will certainly be to manufacture an excellent product, in this case extraordinary boots that will charm your clients because of their superior quality.
Why? Because an extraordinarily good product will attract extraordinarily large quantities of new customers, and will ensure you of the extraordinary loyalty of the customers you already have.
Literally at each step of the way, your boots will disseminate the message of their comfort, their robustness, their capacity to protect the feet against wounds, and to eliminate slippage on wet or icy surfaces, etc.
Not only will each buyer of your good boots be more and more convinced of their great quality, but each buyer will transform himself into an "Apostle" for your products, since he will speak in season and out of season of your wonderful boots to the people he will meet along his way. And inevitably, even more surprising stories will start to circulate: a mountain climber who almost fell to his death but who was saved by your boots which don't slip, or a fireman who was able to enter a burning house to save children, because his boots protected him from the burning floor, etc.
Therefore, all else being equal, your reputation will grow, your existing customers will not abandon you, and new customers will constantly be redirected to you. All this because of the "word of mouth" publicity made by the people who wear your extraordinary boots. Notice that since the verb "to evangelize" means "spreading the Good News" of our Redemption, we could almost talk about the work of "evangelization" done by your extraordinary boots. Indeed, a good pair of boots is good news that spreads fast.
Conversely, a company who wants to tarnish its reputation, decimate its clientele and stave off all potential clients needs only to make cuts in its quality control system. Teachers in Business Administration can give you a long list of case studies of companies that were rich and prosperous, and who self-destroyed simply by starting to manufacture junk. In other words, companies who launched a "disevangelization" campaign.
Isn't there an interesting parallel to be made here with the Sacraments of the Catholic Church? It could be said that the seven Sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Confession or Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony [CCC, #1113]) are a bit like the "products" offered by the Church. If we eliminate "quality control" for these "products", we will tarnish the reputation of the Church, decimate the faithful, and stave off new converts. Basically, a "bad Sacrament" transmits bad news. It's a kind of "bad product" that causes a "disevangelization".
Of course, talking about a "bad Sacrament" is in a way an oxymoron, since a Sacrament is essentially good, having been directly instituted by God. But it seems to us that in another way, we can talk up to a certain point about a "bad Sacrament". (Warning! This question is theologically complicated, and I don't have the necessary training, so don't forget Legal Consideration #6: "If there is a disagreement between the Pope and me, the Pope is right.")
In what sense can we talk about a "bad Sacrament"? We can mention among others:
2.1) Superstition. "To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition." [CCC, #2111].
2.2) Priests who don't have the intention of doing what the Church does. Sacraments confer grace ex opere operato (i.e. by the power of the completed sacramental rite) [Denzinger #1608], and not because of the holiness of the Priest [Denzinger No. 1612]. On the other hand, a Priest who changes the rite intentionally and non-trivially, doesn't confer the Sacrament [Denzinger #3318]. For example, a Bishop who attempts to confer the Sacrament of the Holy Orders to a woman, or a Priest who says Mass with a Chalice filled with beer instead of wine, etc.
2.3) The person who is opposed to receiving the Sacrament receives neither the grace nor the character of the Sacrament. [Denzinger #781].
2.4) The person who places an obstacle to the reception of grace doesn't receive it. [Denzinger #1451, 1606, etc.]. We will see below some of the ways whereby one can place an obstacle to grace.
Generally, a "bad Sacrament" is a Sacrament given for the wrong reasons, or to the wrong persons, or with the wrong rite, etc.
We could think that the fundamental cause of these shortcomings is "sociological Faith", i.e. the absence of Faith. For example, people who get married or who get their child baptized because they cave in to family pressures, or because they like the reception with the little triangular, white bread sandwiches.
Perhaps "sociological Faith" does explain some cases. But I claim that the root cause is probably less innocent than a simple tendency to "do like everybody else", to "follow the herd". I claim that the root cause probably looks a lot more like shame, shame for one's spiritual "nakedness", which makes these people try to use the Sacraments of the Catholic Church like so many "fig leaves" to hide their sin. A bit like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, many people have killed Jesus Christ in their hearts, and now end up more or less consciously in front of their shameful crime.
In my opinion, the lay faithful who play this hypocritical game are a lot less guilty than certain religious leaders (Deacons, Priests and Bishops) who also have a spiritual "nakedness" to hide, and who are therefore quite willing to play the game, and to give out these Sacraments without asking too many questions. But it's not as if the Church didn't have any regulations to prevent these abuses:
3.1) Baptism. How many parents get their children baptized even though they themselves don't have Faith, or the slightest intention to raise their children as Catholics? Nevertheless, no Priest should grant this Sacrament under these conditions [Code of Canon Law, #868.2; and Denzinger No. 4674]. And what about purely "decorative" godparents? They should be rejected in favor of really Catholic persons, who can and want to make sure the child will be raised a Catholic [Code of Canon Law, #871.1 and 874.3].
3.2) Confirmation. As with Baptism, one must not confirm a person who doesn't have Faith, or who ignores it to the point he or she cannot practice it correctly [Code of Canon Law, #889.2].
3.3) Confession. One must not grant absolution to a person who doesn't repent or who doesn't want to change their lifestyle [Code of Canon Law, #980, and also Misericordia Dei #7(c), etc.]. Neither should collective absolution be given the way we do it here in the Province of Quebec Misericordia Dei #2 (e)]. But the more usual "techniques" to incorrectly give out the Sacrament of Confession are to avoid preaching about it, to avoid encouraging the faithful to use it, to reduce the opportunities to have access to confessors, to supply bad confessors, etc.
3.4) Matrimony. We can testify that many couples perform "role-playing in a Church". These couples have neither the Catholic Faith, nor any intention to respect the teachings of the Church (whether on pre-marital sex, or the pill, or sterilization, etc.), nor even be faithful to their spouse until death do them part! And nevertheless, despite the fact it is forbidden, bad Priests grant them the Sacrament of Marriage [Code of Canon Law, #1095.2 and 1101.2, etc.]. And what could we say about the circus surrounding these mock-marriages! They are organized first and foremost for the relatives, but relatives don't even have a right to go to a mock-marriage! [Code of Canon Law, #1071.4].
3.5) Anointing of the Sick. Not much to add here, if not that this Sacrament is not for the ordinary sick, but for the sick who are in danger of dying [Code of Canon Law #1004], and that this Sacrament must not be given to those who obstinately persevere in an obvious serious sin [Code of Canon Law, #1007].
3.6) The Eucharist. The insults thrown at the Eucharist are so numerous these days in the Province of Quebec, that it would be difficult to list them all. Let us at least repeat that one must not go to communion in a state of mortal sin, and that communion must be refused to people who persist in a serious and manifest sin [Code of Canon Law, #916 and 915]. See also "The Diocesan Demolition Derby" and "Overview of the Redemptionis Sacramentum Instruction".
3.7) Holy Orders. There are many heretical Priests in Quebec, but the Holy Orders never should have been given to these people [Code of Canon Law, #1041.2]. There are also many Priests (we hear about this a lot these days, especially in the USA) who don't have good morals. But they too should never have been ordained [Code of Canon Law, #1051.1].
But what is this? Was the Church founded by God-Love in order to refuse the Sacraments to men? Not at all! I'm trying to find out if it's true that the Church in Quebec is doing a "Disevangelization Campaign". Now, to systematically manufacture bad products, you need a totally broken down quality control system. And what is the symptom of a totally broken quality control system? Everything goes! Nothing is ever rejected! Everything is automatically declared "conforming" or "up to standard"!
Do your own investigation: find cases where a Sacrament was refused to somebody. There are probably some cases out there, but personally, I've never heard of any here in the Province of Quebec. I therefore claim that the Catholic Church's Quality Control System is badly damaged.
What happens when you give out Sacraments of "low quality" in great numbers? To understand the outcome, we need to consider (far to briefly here, unfortunately) the very nature of a Sacrament, as well as human nature [CCC, #1113, etc.]. The root of all evils on this Earth is sin. Whether wars, famines, discord, murders, robberies, rapes, pollution, etc., all the worst things in this world are caused by sin. Christ came to redeem us from our enslavement to sin, by His Passion and Resurrection. The grace of God which heals us is given out by the Church using the seven Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. If we cut off at the source the powers which flow out of Christ to heal us [Luke 8:46, etc.], we sort of cancel out Redemption, and lead man back to his satanic slave-driver: sin. Except this time, not only is man larded with sin, but on top of that he has a big "CATHOLIC" sign stamped on his forehead!
Imagine the horrible disevangelization campaign! We manufacture in great numbers the worst "product" imaginable (the pseudo-Catholic), and we disseminate it all over the planet!
It appears to me that the solution to this problem is two-fold: we need a real quality control system (and therefore we need to reject "products" which are not up to standard), but because we are "manufacturing products" which are in fact men, and not plain objects, we also need a system to improve the quality. In other words, raise the standards, but also give people the means to "jump higher". Indeed, we can't do as in a real manufacturing plant and simply throw the rejects in the recycling bin! As always, we have to find the Golden Mean between God's Justice, and His merciful Love.
To have a real quality control system, many things need to be done. One of them is that bad Priests must stop loving their paycheck and their little personal comfort, and must start loving their parishioners. Indeed, if a Priest doesn't love us enough to tell us the bad news, and if he is willing to give us a mock-Sacrament just so we'll leave him in peace, then this Priest doesn't really love us, and he contradicts the love that the Church and God have for us.
On the contrary, if we really love somebody, we'll be willing to suffer (and even die) for their own good. Refusing a Sacrament to insufficiently disposed persons, and then taking all the time and the efforts necessary to help them dispose themselves properly, is these days one of the greatest proofs of love a Priest can give.
The other option would be to accept the current situation here in Quebec as being inevitable. We could then simply make official the current practice, perhaps by inventing an eight Sacrament: the sacrament of Disevangelization.
Only Priests could receive this new Sacrament. To bestow it, one would give the Priest some rose-colored eyeglasses (so he couldn't see sin), and one would give him an anointment on both of his mouths. Indeed, bad Priests have two mouths: one to give the official teachings of the Church when under investigation by the Pope, and the other to teach the heresies that their bad parishioners want to hear. This anointment would be done with a kind of modern Chrism: a mixture of molasses and cyanide, to symbolize the toxic "happy-talk" gushing from the mouths of these bad Priests.
And of course, this new Sacrament would be dispensed by women pastoral associates!
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