Friday, November 3, 2017

What is the "Deposit of Faith?"

Michaelangelo's "Creation of Man"
#1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.
#2 So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."4 Strengthened by this mission, the apostles "went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it."5
Christ teaching the Apostles
#3 Those who with God's help have welcomed Christ's call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ's faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer.6
There is a lot of talk in the Church these days about "changing teaching."  This kind of talk is dangerous, especially when it fails to make clear the critical distinction between what is changeable, and what is not, among the Church's many teachings.
The whole of the "deposit of faith" is not changeable.  As the quote from the beginning of the CCC shows, it is precisely this core content, revealed by God in the Incarnation, life, Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, that must be kept whole and intact, and passed on to future generations.  Christ Himself commanded that the Apostles (and their successors) do exactly that: preserve and hand on, without change, the teachings ("deposit of faith") He taught them.
St Bede the Venerable,
preserving and proclaiming
A certain bishop recently said, "We're not a Church of preservation, but rather a Church of proclamation."  This is misleading.  We certainly are a Church of proclamation, but the only thing we have authority (given by Christ) to proclaim is precisely what has been preserved, namely the apostolic deposit of faith.  We're not free to add to it or subtract from it, to alter it, to rearrange its parts into a more pleasing pattern, to hide parts of it behind other parts of it, etc.  We are given the mandate by Christ Himself to preserve it, and to hand it on.  So, we are also a Church of preservation - not for the sake of preserving as an end in itself, but precisely for the sake of proclaiming something real and true.
So what constitutes that deposit of faith?  Here's a brief schematic (following CCC #84 ff):
  • Scripture and Tradition - the unchangingness of revealed/inspired Scripture is generally unquestioned, but some modern translations implicitly change the meaning by subordinating the actual text to (transient) cultural norms; "Tradition" tends to be understood rather nebulously, rather than as the concrete set of things the Apostles actually did and taught, and therefore passed on to their immediate successors to be received as essential to faith in Christ.  The problem is precisely that Tradition is not written down.  But, the synthesis of the Pastristic Fathers and the witness of the medieval and early modern Church does a good job of demonstrating in practice what Tradition really means.
  • An ecumenical council:
    pope and bishops together
    Magisterium - the teaching authority of the Church.  It has two and only two explicit duties, for which Christ has given His authority, namely, the preservation of the deposit of faith, and the interpretation of it across time and cultures.  There is no authority given to innovate.
  • defined Dogma - Some aspects of faith are so overarching that they "crystalize" in dogmatic form.  Dogma must be present from the beginning, as part of the deposit of faith, but may be demonstrated either from Scripture or from Tradition.  Having been defined with full magisterial authority, dogma cannot be changed, and we should not lightly change the formula in which the dogma is expressed.  Here's a short list (not trying to be comprehensive):
    • Trinity - God is three persons in one substance; God is both transcendent and immanent
    • Incarnation - Christ is both fully God and fully man; "remaining what He was, He became what He was not;" He truly suffered and died for our sins; His sacrifice on the Cross is sufficient for our redemption; He truly rose from the dead and took again the body he had previously assumed, now perfected and glorified; He founded the Church He intended to found; etc
    • Church - "One, holy, Catholic, and apostolic," with a divinely-intended mission and "constitution," including the authority of the papacy and the episcopate
    • Seven Sacraments - hence also the fullness of the liturgy, sacramental grace, the reality of sin and conversion, the necessity of baptism; the baptismal call to holiness; the revealed definition of marriage; the mission of the laity in the world as witnesses and disciples; the clergy
    • Four Last Things
    • Etc - all of these defined dogmas have numerous further implications for doctrine (positively expressed but not defined with highest authority), which likewise can't be contradicted without calling the dogma into question, as well as for pastoral practice, which likewise can't be contradicted (although there is generally a wide range of pastoral options that don't contradict the dogma)
  • "sensus fidei," the actual unity of faith experienced as the instinctive acceptance of what is consistent with Catholic faith, and the instinctive rejection of what isn't - this is a sure guide, to the extent that it matches up with "what Catholics believe, always, everywhere, and by everyone"
    • It is a greatly damaging modern conceit that only Catholics today matter, because Catholics in the past weren't "mature" or were "superstitous" or the like.  This idea must be rejected as a grave sin of pride, and as a contradiction of the deposit of faith.
  • "faith seeking understanding," the actual fullness of truth (sufficient for salvation) of the whole of the one faith, experienced as longing to know and love God by faith, contemplation, and study (study does not have to be formal; pious practices like reading the lives of the saints are also study, in this sense)
The Lamb of God
All this content of the deposit of faith is ultimately received from God Willfully to reject it, modify it, or subordinate it to personal whims or cultural demands is to commit the same sin of pride that caused the fall of the lost angels.  (We sometimes do that not willfully, because we are finite beings, and because we are always under pressure from the world, the flesh, and the devil to make compromises.  This is what we mean we say "The Church is always in need of reform.")  To be faithful to Christ means that we must make every possible effort to receive the deposit of faith entire and uncorrupt (which is given to us with supernatural power in the sacraments and in the Magisterium of all time, so we can actually know it), and also to pass it on by our teaching, our witness, and our piety, likewise entire and uncorrupt. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pope Francis on "irreversible" liturgical reform

Last week, Pope Francis gave a short talk to a gathering of Italian liturgists.  (The Vatican website has posted the text of the speech in Italian only, so far.)

(Three excellent takes on this talk are Fr. Hunwicke's, Fr. Zuhlsdorf's, and Dr. Ed Peter's.)

Much of what the Holy Father said is unexceptional, even inspiring.  He began with a brief summary of the process of liturgical reform, noting such luminaries as Pius X, Pius XII and the 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei (a marvelous and inspiring work), and the sacred consitution on the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium.  And he concluded with some thoughts about the "vivifying" character of the liturgy, particularly of the Holy Mass, noting especially (1) our Eucharistic participation in Christ's life-giving victory over sin and death, (2) the unity of the Church which flows from the sacraments (uniting peoples with peoples, and laity with clergy, and whole Church with Christ her Head), and (3) the importance of "mystagogical catechesis" (as of the Fathers, he noted) for revealing and sustaining our personal and corporate relationship with Christ.  All this was quite good.

And yet, as he too often does, Pope Francis managed to say something that sounded immensely important, but with a great degree of ambiguity and confusion.

Following his summary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, he talked about the implementation of the liturgical reforms by Pope Paul VI.  He said, "It's not enough to reform the books, in order to renew the (liturgical) mentality."  He twice insisted on the identity (!!) of the enacted reforms with the intentions of the Council Fathers and text of SC.  And he stated that "...we can affirm with security and magisterial authority that the litugical reform is irreversible."

I agree that the liturgical mentality in the Church in much of the 19th and 20th centuries needed to be renewed.   Under the cultural pressures of the Revolution(s) and the Enlightenment, the mentality of the Church became constricted, in several areas.  Low Mass became the norm, rather than High Mass; minor orders fell into disuse in nearly all parishes; Gregorian chant became ossified, and congregations were little able to sing their parts; and so on.  Against these trends, the Liturgical Movement was attempting precisely to renew the Church's culture of worship, starting with the refounding of the great abbey of Solemnes after its destruction during the French Revolution, and the renewal of its monastic liturgy.  It slowly gained momentum before Vatican II. 

It's impossible, however, not to notice that much (not all, certainly, but much) of the implementation of the postconciliar reforms changed the nature and the direction of that Movement.  It's also impossible not to notice that, on several significant points, the implementation of the reforms did or attempted things not called for in SC, and also did or attempted things contrary to what SC called for.  The result has not been a renewal of a vital litugical mentality, but the further erosion of what vitality remains.  Where immediately before the Council, liturgy was very often done hastily, carelessly (of the Latin, of the reverence expected, etc), and therefore sloppily, immediately after the implementation of reforms, liturgy came to be done "experimentally," iconclastically, "self-referentially" (ironically, one of Pope Francis's more significant criticisms of the modern Church), and still more sloppily.  The "Low Mass" mentality that prevailed was not renewed, it was cemented, and the spirit of modern lawlessness was added to it. 

Pope Benedict XVI understood these trends profoundly.  He grasped, and taught repeatedly, both that the practical implementation of the Council's vision of liturgical renewal had failed on several points, and needed to be very carefully reviewed, reconsidered, and corrected (this is often dubbed "the reform of the reform"), and that the Church will never be able to evangelize effectively in the modern world, with banal liturgy (!!!).  On the first point, he led by example, and also gave the Church the gift of Summorum Pontificum, not out of a sense of nostalgia, but as a "restart" of the intended renewal.  If we can remember the right way to undertake the liturgy in the "extraordinary form" -- that is, reverently, in union with Tradition and with the angelic, Heavenly liturgy, and in a manner that elevates hearts and minds to God -- then we can apply that to the "ordinary form," and find or develop the intended renewal there.  On the second point, he preached loudly and incessantly about worldly banality as the prototypical illness of modernity, and that the medicine to cure it is true, deep, personal encounter with Christ, divine Love personified - best found in a vital, authentic, devoutly Catholic worship.

It is, therefore, very difficult to understand quite what the Holy Father means by asserting "irreversibility."  It seems that the statement must either be a tautology, or else factually false. 

Like so much else in the contemporary Church, that falsity is directly the fruit of the poor practical implementation of the desired reforms of SC.  Fortunately, a good part of that needed "reform of the reform" has already begun, at least in some places; for example, a return to Gregorian chant (sometimes with classical Latin pieces, but even more so with new, vernacular plain-chant); a rejection of ugly, polyester vestments and burlap banners, and a retrieval of more beautiful and fitting vestments, church adornment, etc; a rejection of side-lining Christ in the tabernacle, and a return to "front and center" placement; the related re-emergence of Adoration and similar devotions; and so on.  None of this means a rejection of Vatican II's liturgical reform and renewal.  It _is_ the renewal.  And, God willing, it will indeed prove "irreversible."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Archbishop Gomez pastoral letter on Human Person

Archbishop Gomez - photo from
Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles has released a pastoral letter on the human person, addressing in a broad but clear way the anthropological problems of our culture and all its attacks on human dignity and sanctity.  I'm just skimming it quickly now, it looks like it's hitting the right notes and will be well worth more careful reading later.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Prescient 1958 Article by then-Fr. Ratzinger

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, editor-emeritus of Homiletic and Pastoral Review has recently translated and made available an outstanding, and prescient, article from then-Father Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI), first published in 1958.

It is notable to what extent the problems we continue to wrestle with today were already noticeable in the Church of the "pre-Vatican II" decades.  It is also more than noteworthy, with what consistency Ratzinger/Benedict has approached these sorts of issues over the past five decades.  What an outstanding thinker and teacher for the Church.

In this article, he supports the now-common practice of admitting to the Sacraments (when no obstacles exist) those weakly or improperly formed Catholics whom he calls "secularized" (I often use the phrase "formed more by the world than by the Church"), when they ask for them.  The request itself constitutes some evidence of faith and desire to belong to the Church, however imperfect it may be, and the grace of the Sacraments certainly can aid them in growing in faith over time.

He also notes that this secularization of believers constitutes a tangible challenge for many believers, in that, if a very basic and worldly level of moral commitment, with occasional sacramental participation, is truly sufficient for salvation, then the higher level of commitment to Biblical morality and consistent sacramental participation (including frequent Confession) can be experienced as a burden rather than a grace.  The long-term solution for this, he argues, is for the Church to relinquish its "medieval" assumptions of social prestige and place in the world, and return to a "martyrial" distinctiveness - not an opposition to the world, as if all the world outside the Church is evil and bad, but a distinctiveness of "the few" as witness and fulcrum for the lifting up of "the many."  He calls this a "de-secularization" of the Church, and notes three (simultaneous) levels or steps:

(1) the sacramental, in which the distinctiveness of the Church's true worship stands over against any materialistic, "magical" thinking about sacramental participation, and therefore invites to a deeper level of conversion;

(2) the proclamation of the faith, in which the distinctiveness of the Church once again supports a clear difference in mode of preaching, between the catechetical (to those in the Church), and the missionary (to those not yet deeply converted) - and this mode has not been heard in the West in many centuries; and

(3) the personal witness, in which the distinctiveness of how the believer lives in the world, especially in the midst of rejection, ridicule, and suffering, stands as clear evidence of the reality and effectiveness of grace.

This core, missionary, and witnessing Church, then, serves ultimately as "priestly people" for the whole world, bringing the salvation of Jesus Christ to the whole world, even those baptized who remain quite worldly, and even those outside the Church, who might respond in any way to the power of God:

"If men and women, indeed the greater number of persons are saved, without belonging in the full sense to the community of the faithful, so then it takes place only because the Church herself exists as the dynamic and missionary reality, because those who have been called to belong to the Church are performing their duty as the few..." (third-to-last paragraph).

If, however, the Church has no such core, no such missionary impulse in the modern world, no such capacity for witness to grace (i.e., "the spirit of Vatican II" church), how shall Christ be proclaimed?  If the Church's only mode of worshipping, proclaiming, and living, is "worldly," more or less indistinguishable from everyone else, what is there to inspire to a deeper and greater love? 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Is the indissolubility of marriage a *dogmatic* teaching?

The Church has always taught that marriage, validly entered (i.e., with true and free consent of both spouses) and consummated, is indissoluble - that is, bluntly, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19:6, Mk 10:9).  This is true both of natural marriage (i.e., between unbaptized persons), and of sacramental marriage (i.e., between baptized persons).  A quick glance at, say, the index of Denzinger's or the footnotes of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will show how often this teaching has been repeated.

But, one might ask, is this perennial teaching doctrinal (could be divinely revealed, or is at least consistent with apostolic teaching and practice, yet possibly subject to revision), or dogmatic (divinely revealed in Scripture and Tradition, defined as clearly as possible/necessary with full authority, and not subject to revision as far as the definition goes)?

Doctrine and dogma are not opposed to each other, in the sense that the first is optional and the second not.  Both are to be received as fully as humanly possible, for living and believing with "the mind of Christ," and for not living "according to this age" (Rom 12:2, etc).  There's no difference of truth between them, but there is a difference of clarity and of finality.  Dogmatic teaching is the highest level of exercising the teaching authority of the Church (Magisterium); doctrinal teaching is the ordinary level of the same.

To asnwer the question posed, consider a small sample of points:

  • The quote in the first paragraph, above, shows without ambiguity that the indissolubility of marriage is taught by Christ Himself, directly. 

  • The 24th session of the Council of Trent (Nov, 1563) dealt with marriage, and its decrees and canons were accepted and promulgated by Pope Pius IV.  It certainly appears to be a formal, solemn, and intended-to-be-dogmatic definition of marriage, including its indissolubility.

  • Pope Pius XI, in the encyclical Casti Connubi (1930), refers to that definition of Trent as a "solemn definition," and repeats the unchanging teaching of indissolubility with great clarity.

  • The Second Vatican Council, in its sacred consititution Gaudium et Spes, repeats the same (e.g. #48, albeit without the same verbal markers of dogmatic intent; it does, however, cite Casti Connubi, which seems to imply dogmatic intent, given that document's clarity).

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats the same again (e.g. #1639, 1640, etc), without ambiguity.  It cites the same biblical passage above, and GS #48.

Moreover, all these sources consistently present a clear and compelling theological reason why marriage ought to be indissoluble; namely, that God, in establishing the natural of marriage, does so on the pattern of the divine covenant.  This is a thoroughly Scriptural and Traditional claim (e.g., Jer 31:31, Dan 2:44, Eph 5, etc.).  Since God's covenant is indissoluble, marriage must also be.  To claim that marriage is soluble is to claim that the divine covenant is also soluble, that God could change His mind about the promises of salvation; or in other words, that Christ died, but not for our sins (!).  If marriage has any spiritual reality at all, it must, then, necessarily be indissoluble.

Given all this sort of evidence, it seems to me very difficult to claim that the indissolubility of marriage is merely a doctrinal, but not a dogmatic, teaching. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Thoughts on "rigidity" and orthodoxy

Twice in as many months (e.g., here and here), Pope Francis has inveighed against "rigid" believers.  He uses very negative language against this perceived phenomenon: “They appear good because they follow the Law; but behind, there is something that does not make them good. Either they're bad, hypocrites, or they are sick. They suffer!” Such people are "enslaved," they "lead a double life." They exhibit the opposite of the beatitudes: "Rigidity is not a gift of God. Meekness is; goodness is; benevolence is; forgiveness is. But rigidity isn’t!"  He attaches the same label and language to those who know, love, and respect the traditional liturgy: "Pope Francis told Father Spadaro he wonders why some young people, who were not raised with the old Latin Mass, nevertheless prefer it. 'And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.'"

Certainly, the temptation to this sort of "pharisaical" attitude exists in the Church.  It is something always to be guarded against.  Because of our sacramental forms and theology, it is easy at times to get caught up in the details of the liturgy, and miss the forest (interior and spiritual realities) for the trees (exterior and physical forms, words, symbols).  Likewise with the nuances of our moral theology.  One can, in this sense, fall into "rigidity."  And it is true that rigidity is not loving, and that rigidity resists Christ and grace.

But there is another sort of "rigidity" not often adverted to, although it appears to be far more common, currently.  It consists in putting one's own will before God's, insisting that one is right while Tradition, the Church, the Bible, and God Himself must be wrong.  St. James says, "Submit yourself to God... If you judge the law, you are not subject to the law." (Jms 4:7, 11).  Those who are rigid in this sense judge the law of faith, and do not submit to God in their hearts.

The path of faith always involves conversion.  After our initial conversion (which might be as an infant or child in Baptism), we continue to experience "ongoing conversion," as we strive over our whole life to conform our hearts and minds, our loves and desires, to those of Christ.  To be united with Christ in this conformity, "putting on the mind of Christ" (Rom 2:12, etc), is precisely what it means to live as a Christian.

The heart experiencing conversion must be humble.  It must recognize and accept (even when there is struggle actually to do - concupiscence is a real thing) that what the believer desires, of himself, is likely not what God desires for him, and therefore that one must learn to desire instead what God desires.  This softness and pliability of the heart in respect to God's Law, Revelation, commandments and precepts, personal vocation, moral law, and Tradition is properly understood as a sign of strong faith.  As the Rule of St. Benedict says in its very first words, "Listen carefully, my son, to the Master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart...  The labor of obedience will bring you back to Him from whom you have drifted by the sloth of disobedience."  This is the opposite of rigidity.  (See e.g. the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, Lk 18:9-14.)

Rigidity, then, is not only clinging to the exterior forms of religion, which Pope Francis (rightly) decriesThe willful rejection of Tradition is equally a form of rigidity (see e.g. Dei Verbum #7-8, etc).  It is a hardness of heart with respect to God's calling the believer.  It is spiritual pride, asserting in effect that this generation (or even this individual!) knows better what is good for souls than all prior generations, than all prior saints, doctors, mystics of the Church.  I don't think it's too strong to say that there's more than a touch of idolatry, of self-worship, in this attitude.  (It remains true that much of the rejection and loss of Tradition and faith in the last century is not willful, but from ignorance and weakness.) 

Thus, one might correctly say: The idea that external or physical forms (e.g., the construction of a church, the placement of the Tabernacle, the beauty of vestments and statues, etc) don't matter to internal or spiritual realities (faith, union with God, repentance and conversion) is false (e.g. Sacrosanctum Concilium #8, 112-3, 122-5, etc).  To cling to this idea in the face of Tradition and correction is to be rigid. 

Idem: The idea that Christ did not and does not will the seven Sacraments for the Church, as the primary means of salvific grace for believers, is false (e.g. SC #5-8, Lumen Gentium #7, 11, etc).  To cling stubbornly to the opposite idea, that we can meddle with the Sacraments or deny their efficacy, in the face of Tradition and correction, is to be rigid.

Idem: The ideas of moral relativism and religious indifferentism are false (e.g. Dominus Iesus, Fides et Ratio, etc). To insist, in the face of Tradition and correction, that they are true, is to be rigid.

And so forth....  In short, modernism is rigid, but Tradition properly received and loved ("the living faith of the dead," as one great Church historian noted) is life with Christ.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Lessons of the Early Church

I am the Catholic I am, in large part because of the martyrs of the early Church.  Their faith shamed my lack of faith, and understanding why they felt it was worth sacrificing the world for the sake of Heaven gave me the impetus to return to the Church as the only way to salvation.  Now, the Church needs their witness again, as the world around us seems primed to descend into a new paganism.

Martyrdom of St. Polycarp - "Away with the atheists!"
The Christian refusal to cooperate with pagan Roman society was rooted in three connected things: (1) The Roman Empire was inherently idolatrous.  Civic participation required participation in pagan ritual worship.  Oaths of office required the same, to be a soldier, a teacher, etc., not just for politicians.  (2) The reality of (unjust) persecution.  Romans persecuted Christians mostly because they saw Christian faith as "atheism" and "innovation," two things that threatened the stability and success of the Empire as a whole.  But as Tertullian famously pointed out in his Apologeticum, forcing Christians to worship other gods by violence made that worship ineffective for the good of the Empire.  (3) Idolatry and unjust persecution represented abuses of power by the Empire.  All worldly authority comes ultimately from God, as Paul argued.  Its uses must therefore conform at least to natural law standards of justice.  That the Empire abused its power in these (and other) ways justified Christian non-participation.

This line of argument, which permeated Christian thought for two centuries, has been buried under other understandings of the Church's relationship to a world seemingly cooperative rather than repressive.  The successful evangelization of the West and the creation of Christendom meant that we didn't need to think much about things that support a Christianity of non-participation.  But we have this treasure somewhere in the attic, not entirely lost or forgotten.  If we confront the increasingly hostile world only with the lessons of cooperative Christendom, we will probably lose.  We need the lessons of conflict as well, distilled from that earlier Christian experience of martyrdom.

Here are three of those critical lessons.

1. The world can never provide an avenue of salvation.  This should be obvious to Christ's disciples.  Only God can forgive sins; only God can save souls; our ultimate homeland is not earth, but Heaven.  But in contrast, it's a key plank of modernism, more or less obvious in all three of its branches (liberal democracy, Communism, and fascism), that the State aspires to become all-in-all, the "savior," in a sense.  In fascism, it does so directly.  In Communism, it does so as the mediating institution of the people's revolutionary will.  In liberal democracy, it does so more subtly, as the mediating institution between conflicts of rights and powers; but over time, its mediation inevitably expands and coems to dominate everything else. In all three, "scientism" promises imminent salvation from all the suffering and evils of the world.

Reductio ad absurdum of acceptance of modernism.
Any uncritical acceptance of modernism, then, implicitly accepts the (false) claim that the State exercises the highest and most decisive form of authority.  This claim tends to be not merely political, but also moral (i.e., abusing God-given authority!).  It rejects, more or less explicitly, a traditional, Bible-informed moral vision.  Acceptance of modernism therefore also means accepting the relegation of religion to the private sphere only.  The moral verities and priorities of the culture (which are, in terms of Christian Revelation, not true) come to be enforced as true, and any serious objection to them is firmly punished, at least socially (loss of status, respect, jobs, friends, etc), possibly legally (fines, jail, the police showing up in the middle of the night to investigate your family, etc), and even (sometimes) fatally. 

A different acceptance of modernism - no less absurd.
If we accept, even implicitly, that the world offers salvation within itself, we cannot be Christians.  We must stand firmly and intentionally in the core Christian claim of salvation through Christ alone.  Short of martyrdom, we do this especially in our (public) worship. Worship focused on God (as in traditional modes) demonstrates our conviction, and teaches spiritual salvation.  Worship focused on ourselves (as in "theater in the round" church design, or hymns all about us or making us speak in God's first person voice, etc.) opens the door to implicit acceptance of the lie of the world saves itself. 

2. Forms of idolatry must be clearly rebuked.  The Church of the martyrs taught clearly and consistently to all its members that cooperation with idolatry leads to loss of saving relationship with Christ.  It wasn't just pagan rituals that were identified, it was a whole host of public or civic activities or positions that were inherently idolatrous - teachers and soldiers, attending theater or civic games, etc etc.  This process of identifying and rebuking forms of participation in idolatry was very successful.

Pope St. John Paul II, for one example, did an excellent job throughout his pontificate (and even before) of doing the equivalent for us today.  We don't tend to think in terms of "idolatry" today, but the moral equivalent corrupting the Church and society is "secularism" (and similar labels).  A creeping domination of "secular" ideas in all spheres of life is intent on displacing any Biblical or natural-law-based cultural patrimony in the West.  This is especially apparent at the moment in issues of sexuality and family, or education policy, for example.  Pope St. John Paul II showed us how to parse the good and the bad in all such conflicts, and having identified the elements or ideas inconsistent with truth and therefore unacceptable to Christians, he rebuked ideas without condemning people. 

March for Life 2013 - excellent example of rebuking without condemning

The more we conform ourselves to the mores of the world, the more this creeping secularism insinuates itself into our faith.  Pope St. John Paul II told us constantly, "Be not afraid!"  Short of martyrdom, we can be clear and consistent in our rejection of modern forms of idolatry by fearlessly knowing the truth (virtue of faith), living the truth (virtue of hope), and speaking the truth (virtue of love) - always with charity and mercy.  It is, in fact, the visibility of the true charity and mercy of Christ in our lives that can attract those mired in worldly idolatry.

3. Faith in Christ is the greatest treasure.  If we look to the world for our salvation (even unconsciously), and fall into secular (idolatrous) modes of thinking, we will inevitably undervalue our faith.  This doesn't necessarily mean we will lose our faith entirely, but we won't have much motive for living it out consistently.  We will be "secular Christians," who, even when we go every Sunday to worship God, live the rest of the week as if Christ doesn't matter to us.  We will be "formed by the culture" rather than "formed by the Church."  We will have fallen into the trap of privatizing our faith - which is precisely what the totalizing, secular world demands of us.

Pope Benedict XVI Adoring our Lord Jesus Christ
Pope Benedict XVI understood this dynamic deeply.  So much of his pontificate was aimed at enflaming our faith anew, at helping us realize just what an inestimable treasure faith in Christ actually is.  Nobody is attracted to a faith that seems not to matter even to its regular practitioners!  Only those who are on fire for God have the chance to spread the fire to others.  Only those who, by how they live in every sphere of life, clearly value above other things the love of God can proclaim the value of that love. 

If it's true, finally, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," then our evangelizing efforts can only bear fruit if we first die to self, and to the world, and live only in Christ.