After 14 years: why does AD2000 continue?

After 14 years: why does AD2000 continue?

Michael Gilchrist

As AD2000 approaches its 150th edition in its 14th year of existence, it is timely to recall its origins and restate its raison d'etre as developed by its founder, the late B. A. Santamaria.

In its first editorial, "An act of faith or an act of folly?", Mr Santamaria unapologetically said that AD2000's purpose was to defend and promote religious orthodoxy at a time when a deep and long-term crisis had created widespread confusion, effectively dividing the Catholic Church into two churches - one liberal and the other orthodox. The same division has happened in all the Christian Churches and in Judaism.

Essentially the crisis arose from two related causes.

The renowned 20th century Jesuit theologian, Fr Bernard Lonergan, said that one part of it began as a crisis in the culture that spread to the Churches. The Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s was in essence an attack on all forms of authority and any form of commitment to a higher moral order, in the name of individualism. It has spread doubt and confusion among many church-goers over the past 30 years.

As John Paul II explained, at its heart was a mistaken idea of individual freedom and conscience. This idea asserted that a person was only free when freed from the restraints of all forms of authority - the restrictive authority of the state, the Church and the family. This libertarian, or secular humanist, philosophy was used in the language of rights: "I have a right to do as I please", on issues like abortion, euthanasia, drugs, divorce and remarriage, and various forms of sexual expression.

This idea, popularised by the cultural liberation movements of the time, was used to justify a moral revolution that has turned the West from its 2000-year-old Christian-based civilisation into a post-Christian society that is semi-pagan.

This mistaken notion of freedom challenged the Church's notion of authentic human freedom, which is a personal freedom from doubt, uncertainty and the imprisonment of sin and guilt, which gives this person the freedom to do what is good. This true freedom unleashes enormous creative forces.

Christ, his mother, the apostles, the saints and millions of Christians down the ages have demonstrated these two aspects of true freedom. By embracing as their conscience the eternal, divine moral law, a law that will truly set us free, as St Paul put it, they created the great Christian culture of the past two thousand years.

Indeed, the modern notion of human rights originates from the Church's moral teaching on the sacredness of each human being, created in the image and likeness of God. Accompanying these rights are responsibilities. Human rights and responsibilities are spelt out in the divine moral law, handed to the Church and guaranteed by Christ to be faithfully interpreted and transmitted by St Peter and his successor popes and bishops (the Magisterium) until the end of time.

John Paul II says that even democracy cannot effectively and legitimately function unless there is a strong core of advocates, a prophetic minority, who accept the higher rule of the divine moral law and seek to steer civil society according to the tenets of that law.

AD2000 firmly reasserts its loyalty to the orthodox moral teachings of the Church entrusted to all though the Pope and the Magisterium.

The second cause of the crisis in the Churches arose out of a theological seduction by elements of the modern social sciences and modern Biblical studies. Some of these varied intellectual forces have a tendency to undermine the fundamental doctrines of the Trinity, the nature of Christ's hypostatic union, the nature of the Church and sacraments, the Virgin Birth, the occurrence of miracles, the authenticity of the Scriptures and the teaching authority of the Magisterium. Indeed, some forms of theology have become a means to empty the transcendental out of religion altogether. Without these foundations of faith, some of these new theologies became susceptible to the fashionable ideologies of the time. For example, Liberation Theology became influenced by Marxism.

These tendencies have fostered a climate of dissent in many seminaries and schools of theology, particularly during the period of openness and discussion that followed the Second Vatican Council. But as John Paul II observed in his 1998 Encyclical, Faith and Reason: "A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based on the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today's most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth".

AD2000 firmly reasserts its loyalty to the creed, the fundamentals of faith, and the teaching authority of the Magisterium. It seeks to uphold these fundamentals and restore confidence in the Church's teaching.

AD2000 and the Pope

In a long succession of encyclicals, Pope John Paul II has gone to great lengths to reason with both the hostile culture and dissenters within the Church. He has sought to defend orthodoxy with reasoned, patient and compassionate, yet firm, persuasion. He has seen there is a crying need for moral leadership in an increasingly secular and rudderless world.

He has been seeking to win a worldwide constituency to himself and in doing so to present a clearer picture of the true Christ. He has travelled throughout the world using his gift for languages to preach in the native tongues of all who would listen. He is adept at using the media. And, extraordinarily, he answered a series of questions in 1994 from an Italian journalist, Vittorio Messori, in what became a world's best-selling book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. His Catechism of the Catholic Church became another best-seller.

In the great encyclical The Gospel of Life, he summarised the essential struggle for the hearts and minds of the world's peoples as being between those forces wanting to build a culture of life founded on authentic human freedom, and those secularist, individualist philosophies and tendencies that are leading the world towards a culture of death.

AD2000 reasserts its loyalty to the Pope as the authentic, legitimate successor of St Peter.

AD2000 and the hierarchy

Fr Hubert Jedin, best known for his definitive History of the Council of Trent and a ten-volume History of the Church, published a remarkable "Letter to the German Bishops" in 1968 in which he drew parallels between the periods following Vatican II and the Protestant Reformation:

"Had the German bishops in the first years of the 16th century's schism from the faith joined together for common action before the Reformation became political, the schism in the Church, even if it were not totally prevented, could quite possibly have been reduced to a mere splintering.

"The episcopate of today is no longer burdened and obstructed by defective theological education or by its social place and the resulting entanglements in politics. The constitution Lumen Gentium has conferred on them thorough- going rights and opportunities, but also a higher responsibility for the integrity of the faith than ever before. They cannot wait for the intervention of higher authorities, but must act themselves.

"Where public communications media construct walls of silence or permit one to observe daily events only through distorted lenses, a word of clarification and corresponding action is doubly indispensable. To every Catholic and non-Catholic it must be made clear that the bishops consider the unabridged truth and care for the good of the faithful their first and highest duty."

Fr Jedin's comments reflect the sentiments of this journal on the status and responsibilities of our bishops.

AD2000 encourages loyalty to the position of bishop, as a bishop is the primary teaching authority in the local Church. We give particular support to our Church leaders who are notable for their strong spiritual and moral leadership.

AD2000's place in the Church

AD2000 is the product of an organisation with a 60-year history of lay engagement with the wider culture. It was practising lay action long before the catch-cry of lay involvement became fashionable.

AD2000 is a lay-run, independent journal of religious opinion. It exercises its canonical right "to strive so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all people throughout the world ..." (225 §1). As lay, active participants in the Church, we do our part to foster the spiritual life of the Church. Our understanding of orthodoxy is not arbitrary or opinionated, but is based on authoritative Church sources, notably the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the documents of Vatican II and other Church councils, and the encyclicals and statements of the Pope.

This journal seeks expert advice and regularly publishes articles from reputable philosophers, theologians and scholars.

When guidance and teaching come from the Vatican, we report and encourage further study and inquiry by our readers.

AD2000 has not been bound by an embarrassing silence on some of the difficult issues facing the Churches. In dealing with these we have tried to focus on the issues rather than on personalities.

We seek to report events accurately and honestly, are meticulous about checking our sources, and are open to discussion and debate. Frequently, the facts are allowed to speak for themselves, leaving readers free to reach their own conclusions. We respect the right of reply of those who consider that any of our articles or reports have been inaccurate or misleading.

Inevitably, in handling issues of contention, such as priestless parishes or the opinions of dissenters, we are sometimes labelled as being negative. This is not so. When people become disheartened and think they have to resign themselves to the inevitability of priestless parishes - which can all too easily become a self-fullfilling prophecy - we attempt to build hope by suggesting strong episcopal leadership and prayer and penance for vocations as a positive alternative.

We believe it is negative to embrace misleading dissent, or to succumb to the secular culture and lose hope.

Looking backward or forward?

Is AD2000 simply hankering for a return to the good old days of the 1940s and '50s? No!

AD2000 embraces Vatican II. We believe in its authentic "spirit" as expressed in the Council documents. We see this "spirit" living and active in the words and deeds of the popes, in new movements in the Church, World Youth Days, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the guidance and teaching of the Magisterium. We do not subscribe to a so-called "spirit" of Vatican II based on various dissenting theological agendas.

We make our own the words of Pope John XXIII when he opened Vatican II: "The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this, that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously." The Church, he emphasised, must never depart "from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers."


Mr B. A. Santamaria indicated in 1988 that AD2000 would need to reach a circulation of 5,000 within its first 12 months if it were to remain viable. It has surpassed this figure comfortably, levelling out in recent years at around 7,500, despite a lack of outside funding and carrying no paid advertising. It is sold throughout Australia and around the world. Our new website should further extend this outreach.

The crisis in our culture has not abated but has deepened during the 14 years since AD2000 began. The culture of death has become evident in our civilisation. No obvious mass religious revival has yet occurred. Historically, it has never occurred without either great organisation or great charismatic leadership, or both.

But the strengthening of orthodoxy through John Paul II's leadership, the leadership of new bishops, the rise of new movements in the Church and the consolidation of a determined laity are what constitute the beginning of a revival.

AD2000 is committed to continuing its modest role in helping reconstruct and consolidate a new culture of life and orthodox Christian faith in Australia.

Before joining 'AD2000' in 1989 at the late Mr B.A. Santamaria's invitation, Michael Gilchrist lectured at Melbourne and Ballarat campuses of what is now Australian Catholic University, and earlier taught in Catholic secondary schools. He has written several books, including 'Forces and Issues in Australian Politics' (1976), 'Daniel Mannix: Priest and Patriot' (1982) and 'Rome or the Bush?' (1986).

Related links:
  Original editorial article An Act of Faith or an Act of Folly?, B.A. Santamaria
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