The second memorable thing he told us was “The greatest threat to society is neither capitalism nor socialism nor communism. The greatest threat to society is somnambulism.” He claimed that no less than Chairman Mao had uttered those words, although I’ve never been able to verify it. But it sounds like something an ardent communist would say. In fact, it sounds like something an ardent Catholic would say. In fact, let me say it: our social decline over the last sixty years is due to the fact that most of us have been sleepwalking.
I mean, we have become fat, lazy, and passive. Since FDR began expanding the federal government in the 1930s, most Americans have become more or less wards of the state. Local governments followed the federal government’s expansion, and now an impenetrable bureaucracy suffocates almost every aspect of our lives. If I want to paint stripes on my parking lot, or cut a branch off a tree, or hire a part-time assistant, or buy a pack of gum: some level of government has a say in that. We've got to get permission for everything we do, and that generally suffocates individual initiative.
The Church herself (at least in her human dimension) has mimicked the federal government. Despite Pope Francis’ claims to “decentralize” the Church, the Vatican has ramped up control to unprecedented levels (enabled by current technologies). A priest friend who works in the Vatican tells me how everyone is on edge in Rome these days, afraid of saying or doing something that will “make Francis upset.” The Vatican wants to know everything everyone is doing and thinking at all times. Local church offices are not far behind. Budgets swell as diocesan chanceries hire more and more employees to exercise more and more administrative control of parishes, schools, and every aspect of Church life.
The general effect of centralization and government control is … somnambulism. In the Church, the greatest problem with clergy is not infidelity or criminal behavior. The problem is passivity. Most clergy have little initiative or apostolic zeal. Precisely when the Church is under increasing attack, priests and bishops are doing almost nothing to defend her. Most Church leaders have contented themselves with managed decline; most priests spend most of their time in their rooms, and most bishops spend most of their time in meetings. Pope Francis has ordered every diocese and every parish and every Catholic to spend the next two years in meetings about how to have meetings (the unfortunate “Synod on synodality,” or “Meeting on meetings”). As with the ordinary American Joe, who has been trained over the last fifty years to eat, watch TV, and let the government do the thinking for him, so Catholic clergy have largely given up on evangelizing the culture. Most clergy watch the same soft-porn shows every night that most Americans watch, and many clergy are addicted to the same hard-porn to which many Americans are addicted.
Most of us are sleepwalking, but there is one who never sleeps. And there is One who never sleeps either. The dark powers never sleep, but neither does the Lord God Almighty. In the end, the battle is between the “powers of the air,” and in the end the Immaculate Heart will triumph. But we have our little part to play in history’s great drama. If most of us are sleepwalking, then most of us will be lost. Most of us, to a large degree, are already dead. God did not create us to die. He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. In the words of Mother Teresa, “God created us for greater things: to love and to be loved.” So jump out of bed every morning ready to work for the love of God and love of neighbor!