Romanian medical doctor Anca-Maria Cernea made waves at the synod of bishops on the family last year when she told the assembly of bishops that the primary cause of the family crisis is not material poverty or consumerism but an ideological revolution being waged by “cultural Marxism.”
“This ideology calls itself progressive,” she said, “but it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world. It’s an error of religious nature; it’s Gnosticism.”
In this recent interview with the Register, Dr. Cernea returned to the theme after giving a talk on the subject at the Rome Life Forum in May of this year. She called on the Church to return to her main task of the past 2,000 years: to lead people through what is primarily a spiritual war to salvation rather than placing priority on fighting earthly problems. She also explained why those who have had experience of living through communism are well placed to help the Church leave behind the cultural Marxism that she believes has infiltrated many institutions, including the Church, and rediscover the authentic truth of the Catholic faith.
Cernea currently serves as president of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest, Romania.
What were the main points of your speech at the Rome Life Forum?
I started by recalling the two interventions [talks] in the synod of bishops of last year, which I found very important. One of them was made by Archbishop Fülöp Kocsis, metropolitan of the Greek Catholic Church from Hungary. He said that what we are dealing with are not actually sociological or economical challenges that challenge the family. It’s, rather, something that’s directly against God’s plan, and it comes from the evil one. He quoted St. Paul and said we are not fighting flesh and blood, but we are fighting the powers of evil. The other intervention was made by Bishop Tomash Peta, from Kazakhstan. He said that the “smoke of Satan” that was mentioned by Paul VI could also be perceived in some synod fathers’ interventions.
I thought that these two interventions somehow summarized the problem that I was addressing, which is that there is an assault of a religious nature against God’s creation, his moral and natural order. And this is not coming from flesh and blood, from consumerism and individualism, as we usually hear — the cause of the sexual revolution. It’s something deeper than that, an ideology that is a form of Gnosticism, which we are facing nowadays. Another problem is that the Church is fighting this assault not only from gnostic heresies coming from the outside, but this is also happening inside.
You also addressed this subject at the synod?
Yes, the time was very short, but I referred to that: that for us doctors and pro-lifers, we are engaged in this war to defend life and family. We can see this is a spiritual war, and we need our shepherds to lead us, first, in this spiritual war. The priority for the Church should be to save souls and not to fight, in the first place, earthly problems. This comes second, after the word of God has been preached. So we need our Church to tell all people, not only Church members, but the whole world, to repent and to come back to God’s law, because the Kingdom is near.
As in an exorcism, the devil needs to be named. This is what the Church should be doing isn’t it, calling out evil in the world for what it is?
Yes, this is what the Church has been doing for 2,000 years. This is how things have functioned, how Catholic theology has been formulated, because the Church was being attacked by errors. Primarily, it wasn’t a set of texts on what you had to believe; it was the personal witness of the apostles, who had been there with the Lord and had seen the Lord risen from the dead. So it was a personal story they were telling. Over time, the Church has come under attack by errors, and then councils were convened in order to discuss and expose those errors and to protect the flock against those errors. So I think this is something the Church has experience with, and it’s time for her to go back to this basic task, because these ideologies present themselves as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They just need to be exposed.
You also refer to Antonio Gramsci, the Italian communist who advocated spreading communism through cultural infiltration, in your talk. Do you believe this approach is also taking place within the Church, to try to change the culture of the Church in a very subtle way?
Yes, I mention Gramsci in my presentation and also the Frankfurt School [a specific interpretation of Marxist philosophy that reinterprets some of its central economic and political notions]. I also mentioned that we could see a change in the way the Church documents, encyclicals for example, express certain things, starting from Vatican II. The language moves from basic, Christian language to media language, and media language is profoundly ideologically contaminated. There was a difference, for example, between [Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical] Pacem in Terris and all the previous ones. [Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical] Divini Redemptoris was absolutely anti-communist, no doubt. It was dedicated to countering communism. On the other hand, Pacem in Terris treated the same world, the situation was more serious when it was written, and yet you could see another language, a different language.
And from that, do you think we have the confusion and ambiguity that some argue has been apparent ever since?
Yes, because it didn’t mean the Pope was approving of communism, but the fact that he was not treating it as a priority — that we have to fight this heresy — already it was doing harm because people got confused. They thought it wasn’t important and thought the previous condemnation of communism was no longer valid, that they could work together with such people to relieve poverty and other causes that sounded good but were actually strategies for communism to take over. This is all in Gramsci; you can find in Gramsci all of these strategies.
Would you say your and others’ experience of communism in Central and Eastern Europe has a lot to offer, in terms of tacking this crisis in the Church?
Yes, for us, also, it’s easier, because we went through this for decades. … Now, we’re in a better position to fight this aggression. We are better placed to fight, those of us interested in this. We are more familiar with real Marxism than our brothers and sisters in the West.
You see more clearly what’s happening?
Yes, and there’s no doubt that it is Marxism. In our country, when you visit some internet pages, if there’s a new article about political correctness, you can see people commenting, and they’re saying it [political correctness] is communism, and asking, “Don’t you people realize it’s communism?” It is communism, and the people who make such comments tend to have a very clear intuition. They are correct.
Looking to the future, how can the faithful counteract this trend?
To combat this spiritual battle, the weapons that are the most important are prayer and spiritual guidance from our shepherds. Laypeople should pray for the shepherds and for the Church, and [that] they should lead us in this spiritual battle first. But we shouldn’t only rely on contemplation. Some people have a more contemplative vocation; others have to act. So I think study is necessary, as well, and an honest search for the truth, because it’s not about taking sides. It’s about trying to see what’s going on. It’s not a question of personal sympathies — that you like that pope or another better. It’s just that you really need to find out what’s going on, and there really is a lot of information available. It’s not difficult to find, but it’s a lot of work. Then we should be brave and not lose hope, because there are victories. For instance, Poland is a very inspiring example. They have had victories and don’t have any doubts that they’re going to win the cultural war.
What gives them hope?
They have lost many leaders, not only political and military leaders, but also cultural, religious, and that has been a big, big blow for them. But on the other hand, they could already see in the long term they had chances to win because they had a lot of citizen initiatives, clubs for intellectuals, alternative media groups that are not government-run or funded by [Hungarian billionaire George] Soros. It’s genuine Catholic media, and this media is very, very diverse, and so you have very high-level intellectuals of caliber, but you also have things more popular that are addressed to people who don’t have time to go into depth. [A Catholic Polish philosopher] said, “Look at the libraries; they’re full of our books. And the other side has lots of colorful magazines made with a lot of money. But the books are ours and the students are on our side. We educate them, and they start writing on their own initiative” — and so in the long term, he couldn’t see how we could lose this war. So I think its approach should be taken as a model, because we have no reason to lose. It’s our world, and we have to take it back. It’s created by Christians, this Judeo-Christian civilization. It has Jewish roots and Christian revelation, but it’s ours.
Would you say Christianity, the Church, is being eclipsed?
It’s going through a crisis. It’s not the first one, but it’s very, very serious. We shouldn’t underestimate this, but this can be overcome. There have been many crises before, there have been invasions, other errors, big heresies, which also penetrated the Church herself, the councils and among the leaders of the Church. But God has told us not to worry; it’s his Church.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.