From Catholic Action’s Misguided Mercy to Contemporary Nudism

Catolicismo, August 2005

Relativizing Catholic doctrine has led many to accept as normal what the Church has always condemned. Hence Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s question: “Who is still Catholic in the Catholic Church?”

Juan Gonzalo Larraín Campbell

How to explain that a vast majority of mainstream Brazilian Catholics have accepted or at least ignored the raw pornography displayed on TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, the Internet, with the general adoption of bikinis on beaches, swimming pools, etc., the widespread use of two-piece “costumes,” birth control practices, the killing of millions of innocents through abortion, the legalization of divorce and same-sex unions?

In this article, we will try to give a partial answer to these questions by publishing Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s warnings to Catholic circles in his book, In Defense of Catholic Action, published in 1943.

Changing People’s Mentalities Through the Catholic Action Movement

Until the 1930s, the Church’s entire hierarchy, headed by the Holy Father, and all her teachings, presented a monolithically anticommunist position and supported morals and good customs that constituted the most important obstacle to communism. Let us recall that the adherents of communism –– which Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira defined as the Third Revolution, after Protestantism and the French Revolution –– were striving to impose their godless system on various countries. It was necessary to change the mentality of the Catholic faithful and overturn their barriers to immorality before they would accept to shake hands with the ‘newly friendly’ Communists.

Curiously enough, this psychological maneuver spread its tentacles from the most influential sectors of the Catholic Action movement, whose leading exponents were continuators of the modernist heresy condemned by Saint Pius X in 1907.

Curiously enough, this psychological maneuver spread its tentacles from the most influential sectors of the Catholic Action movement, whose leading exponents were continuators of the modernist heresy condemned by Saint Pius X in 1907.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira discerned their origin, methods and errors, showing how they formed a system of thought and action, and denounced them in his 1943 book, In Defense of Catholic Action. He also predicted the dire consequences that the spread of those errors would bring to the Church and Christendom.

Years before the publication of this work, he had been warning readers of Legionário — an unofficial organ of the Archdiocese of São Paulo, which he directed — about the distortions spreading in some Catholic circles. They consisted in disseminating an emotional and sweet mentality that cast aside faith and reason, cunningly replacing them with secular and philanthropic human sentiments that ignore the existence of evil.

This process led to a complete subversion of sacred Catholic principles in people’s minds.

Merciful Nervousness and Nervous Mercy

One of the characteristics of this mentality at the origin of progressivism was the liberal error that all men are good. It gave rise to copious yet groundless sentimental complacency toward the enemies of the Church. On the other hand, this complacency contained implacable hatred of Catholics who defended the Church against her opponents.

Prof. Plinio relentlessly denounced this state of mind. In 1941, commenting on a brochure printed in the United States, which claimed that Catholicism, Nazism and Communism were united in a bid to destroy democracy, he wrote:

“How is it possible for public opinion to believe such nonsense? How can anyone dare claim that the Church, which is fighting so hard against Nazism and Communism, has allied to both?

“The blame for this lies largely with ‘moderate’ Catholics with bouts of merciful nervousness or nervous mercy that fills them with inexplicable tenderness, fine sensitivities, and a heartfelt spirit of brotherhood with all Church enemies. With whom do they become indignant if a Catholic attacks an adversary of the Church? With the adversary of the Church? No, with the Catholic who defends her. They become more irritated with possible excesses against Church adversaries than the latter’s notorious excesses against the Church.” (“7 dias em revista,” Legionário nº 465, August 10, 1941)

The same article goes on to unmask the injustice contained in the romantic deformation of mercy:

“This amount to feeling sorrier for Malcolm than for Our Lord. To feel sorry for Malcolm is good, and Our Lord gave us an example of it. But is it not wrong to cry over Malcolm’s ear and become as angry with Saint Peter as to ignore the sufferings of Our Lord and the infamy of Judas?” (idem)

Egalitarianism and Liberalism in the Catholic Action Movement

The most dynamic sectors of Catholic Action were the ones spreading the errors we are pointing out. They were animated by a profoundly egalitarian and liberal mentality that tolerated neither the fundamentally hierarchical organization of the Church, as Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted it, nor the separation and fight between the Catholic spirit and the spirit of the world.

Egalitarian members of Catholic Action advocated reducing or eliminating the distance that separates the men and women religious from the laity. Desirous of equating all beliefs, they broke down the barriers that differentiate a Catholic from a heretic.

As liberals, they tended to destroy the wall between Catholic morality and widespread impurity in society. They also gave free rein to unruly passions by systematically rejecting asceticism and traditional religious practices.

Here we will only review some denunciations on this point that Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira made in his book In Defense of Catholic Action. Today’s events have confirmed his foresight.

Unlimited Concessions in Matters of Fashion

Human respect seems to be the basis of Catholic Action’s new apostolic tactic. Its members’ tendency to adapt to the world gradually diluted their firmness of principles and diminished their courage to defend them, giving way to a mentality of unlimited concessions in matters of customs:

“Under the pretext of breaking with routine, they talked about “apostolate of infiltration.” The necessity of this apostolate is urgent. Nevertheless, nothing warrants, in the name of this truth now in open delirium like the others, making a radical condemnation of all the open, bold, and undisguised methods of apostolate. It could be said that human respect, which leads one to be silent about or sweeten the truth and avoid any fight and any argument, has become the source of inspiration for a new apostolic strategy. And this strategy, according to the desires of certain circles, should be the only one to have an officially recognized status in Catholic Action. At the same time, a spirit of unlimited concessions in face of the outbreak of new fashions and customs began to take shape. This attitude further disguised itself in the cloak of a serious obligation to do apostolate in ambiences proscribed by moral theology for any Catholic unwilling to fall from the supernatural dignity granted him at Baptism.” (In Defense of Catholic Action)

Sexual Camaraderie Driven by Egalitarianism

One of the reflexes of Catholic Action’s egalitarian and liberal mentality was a gradual equalization of the sexes in its environments as a consequence of adapting to the world:

“A total camaraderie levels sexes, ages, and social conditions in an equality presented as the realization of Christian fraternity . . . Yet, oblivious of the effects of original sin and diabolical temptations alike, they despise and mock many of the barriers that Christian tradition established between the sexes in society.” (Idem. In Catholic Action circles, they insinuated that because of the “mandate” that supposedly incorporated its members into the hierarchy, they had become immune to the effects of original sin)

“Among these barriers, some are designed not so much to protect the innocence of young ladies as their reputation. As these barriers in Brazil are very lively, they constitute a precious protection for the integrity of domestic life. Besides, they expressly conform to what Saint Paul says when he instructs us to avoid evil and even ‘from all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.’” (1Thes 5:21-22.)

“These people, however, under the deceitful pretext that the infraction of these customs is not intrinsically immoral, not only tolerate but recommend that members of Catholic Action put them aside.

“Let us give an example: Everyone knows that, in theory, it is possible for a young lady to go out at night completely by herself with a group of young men who are not her relatives without thereby falling into sin.

 “But in a country like Brazil, in which this dangerous habit has not been introduced, everyone knows how much society stands to gain by repudiating such an imprudent practice.

“Nevertheless, these people not only permit but advise such conduct in Catholic Action.” (In Defense of Catholic Action)

Eliminating Retreats and Generalizing Dances

Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira denounced the fledgling suppression of spiritual retreats and the generalization of today’s immoral dances, in which most Catholics participate. He also criticized the ‘legitimization’ of frequenting pleasure houses.

 “No one is unmindful of the multiple dangers that dances present. Dances, however, are not only tolerated but recommended; not only recommended but imposed. Spiritual retreats during carnival are considered a desertion because a Catholic Action member must do apostolate amidst the pagan celebrations of the carnival.” (Idem. In this sense, the monthly Catolicismo published in its March 2005 edition a photograph of Most Rev. Mauro Morelli, Bishop of Duque de Caxias (RJ), participating in a carnival parade. Caption: “Bishop Mauro Morelli appears holding a [female] reveler’s hand in the attitude of someone who is dancing samba.”)

“Some claim that going to doubtful or scandalous places, taking ‘the Christ’ there, would do apostolate.” (Idem)

In Catholic Circles, Feminism Denounced in Its Inception

 “Everything that reminds them of feminine delicacy irritates them [CA members] since it accentuates the difference between the sexes.

“They fight against wearing a veil in church, for example. They find no fault in women wearing men’s pants or smoking.” (Idem)

Silent on the Spread of Immorality

The failure of Catholic Action circles to denounce indecent fashions facilitated their spread in all Catholic ambiances:

 “Although the Church established a prudent distinction between the masculine and feminine branches of Catholic Action, some souls almost deny this distinction in practice as they want a complete intermingling of both in their respective activities, leisure time, and so on. Everything that speaks of a direct and up front combat against indecent fashions, bad books, bad company, and bad shows is often passed over in the deepest silence.

“It is no wonder, therefore, that education in purity is frequently done in a rash way, soaked in morbid sentimentalism and paganizing ideas full of dangerous concessions to modern customs.” (Idem)

25 Years Later… Complete Debauchery

Today, the radicalization of the errors denounced has become obvious. The immorality germinating in sectors of the Catholic Action movement many years ago has penetrated Catholic environments with such intensity as to become a single perversion with that of the world.

Here are two examples of how most scandalous immorality has manifested itself in religious circles, which Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira described in a 1968 article for Folha de S. Paulo:

“This [TFP campaign against communist infiltration in the Church] has saved the country an immense drama of conscience. Faced with religious innovations that went far beyond the line of Vatican Council II or scandalous events such as a Congregation of Women Religious allowing its nuns to be photographed in shorts and very advanced swimming suits by a magazine with huge circulation, more and more people had been saying, ‘I don’t understand anything anymore,’ ‘I’m going crazy.’

“Another example is the statement by Fr. Guido Logger, director of the Catholic Cinema Central, in Boletim Telepax (issue 125), published under the auspices of the Brazilian Bishops Conference (CNBB). He says, verbatim, ‘I admit four-letter words in theater, nudity in the cinema, and bedroom scenes when it makes sense within the work or is needed for the sake of dramaturgy and to define a character or situation psychologically. There is a healthy, clean eroticism in theater and cinema. Eros is part of man’s life, and where one gives a portrait of man, the Eros must appear, for otherwise, the image of man, contemporary or not, would not be complete. It would be deceitful and less convincing.’” (“Das páginas da imprensa para as da História,” Folha de S. Paulo, August 21, 1968)

The Responsibility of Authorities

That was back in 1968! What would Prof. Plinio say about the growing apostasy of men and women religious getting married, the frightening expansion of homosexuality and pedophilia in sectors of the clergy, or still the mysterious silence of so many churchmen about the legalization of divorce, abortion, and homosexual unions in most of the West?

We can gauge in part what his judgment would be like by another article in Folha de S. Paulo pointing out the responsibility of members of the clergy for the adoption of sexual ‘freedom’ among Catholics.

He shows how such ‘freedom’ is approved by spiritual directors who implicitly or explicitly admit there has been a change in Catholic morals. This attitude, a sin against Faith, formalizes apostasy and confirms his 1943 denunciations:

 “Capuchin religious have allowed the setting up of a store in a room next to the Church of Piedade in Salvador, Bahia, in which they sell ‘unisex’ merchandise, including bikinis.

“As one can well imagine, this initiative has scandalized many churchgoers …

“A few months ago, when I published an article about a convent of nuns in Spain that manufactured bikinis,(“Algoz-mór, Princesa e abstrusas clarissas!” Folha de S. Paulo, August 12, 1973) it caused an explainable stir among readers. Although no one dared to deny such an unusual piece of news, some found it doubtful, as so much scandal ‘could not happen.’

“Now a similar case breaks out in Salvador, as there is not so much difference between making bikinis and selling them.

“However, most people are not drawing proper conclusions either from the Spanish or Brazilian case.

 “One conclusion, however, stands out. From its foundation to our days, the Church has regarded nudism with horror. The bikini is one of the most aggressive manifestations of nudism. Now, if ecclesiastical entities are manufacturing and selling bikinis,

“1) Either Catholic Morals have entirely changed, and then the Church is neither infallible nor divine;

“2) Or these ecclesiastical entities, by affirming the legitimacy of the bikini, are adulterating Church teaching implicitly but ostensibly and thereby excluding themselves from the Church.

“Now, since the former hypothesis is utterly unacceptable, the second imposes itself.

 “Let’s not be afraid to face the truth head-on. The nudity issue raises a question that goes far beyond the case of the two ‘bikinista’ convents.

 “It is entirely impossible for the wearing of bikinis and other forms of direct ‘sexual aggression’ to have become so widespread without many spiritual directors granting absolution to people who could not receive it because of the way they dress. So they too should be asked this question:

“If you believe that Church morals have changed, how can you still call yourselves Catholic? If you allow your penitents to wear bikinis, with what right do you claim to be Catholic priests?

“The question goes even deeper. In Catechism classes, many females who dress immorally and hence participate in the ongoing ‘sexual aggression’ learned that Catholic morals do not change.

“Now, if they think they have changed, how can they admit Church infallibility and divinity?

“And if they think it they have not changed, how do they want to be seen as Catholic?

“Someone may claim that wearing a bikini is a sin against the 6th or 9th Commandments (depending on the case), but not a sin against the Faith, and that, therefore, my argument is baseless.

“I am not saying that whoever makes, sells, or wears bikinis sins against the Faith, but that whoever affirms, implicitly or explicitly, that Church morals have changed does sin against the Faith.

“Hence, regarding also their conduct in the face of communism and other matters, one can ask: who is still Roman Catholic in this immense magma of 600 million people – cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay people – habitually considered as members of the one and imperishable Church of God?” (“Quem ainda é católico na Igreja Católica?” Folha de S. Paulo, January 5, 1975)

If this was the situation in 1975, what is it like in 2005?

Had ecclesiastical authorities heeded Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s warnings in 1943, today we would not have this massive collapse of customs and Faith within the Church. From the Catholic Action movement, immorality spread through Catholic circles. It has equaled the moral demise prevalent throughout the world, calling upon mankind the terrible punishments Our Lady announced at Fatima.