Category Archives: Benedict XVI

This week’s Gospel is very appropriate

<blockquote>The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.  The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.  Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streetsand gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”</blockquote>

This is a fitting reading to have in the midst of the debates surrounding the Synod on the Family.  We are told by Cardinal Walter Kasper–one of those whose retirement Pope Benedict was very eager to accept–that the current praxis of denying communion to divorced and remarried Catholics is “unmerciful.”  He claims that those who emphasize “one verse” (actually, two separate occasions) are “fundamentalists.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Wuerl, the latest Archbishop of Washington, DC, to do nothing about enforcing Canon 915–and who has, rather, punished priests for enforcing it–says that refusla of Communion is a matter of discipline, not doctrine.
They both seem to miss the meaning of this week’s Gospel, that those who present themselves for the Wedding Feast–that is, the Eucharist–must wear a “proper garment”–that is, a clean soul.
The news coming out of the Synod does not bode well for the short term health of the Church or the immortal souls of some hierarchs and the laity they are encouraging to “live in sin” (sorry, we’re supposedly not supposed to say that anymore).  Supposedly, the “working groups” voted on by the Synod Fathers are all very “conservative,” with Cardinal Burke (whom the media had reported would not even be in attendance) being chair of the English language committee, but Pope Francis of “decentralization” and “collegiality” fame, who supposedly convened the Synod to gauge the bishops’ views towards his proposed “reforms”, has now appointed six Cardinals of his own choosing–Wuerl among them–to write the working document.  The exact relationship of those six to the “working groups” is not yet clear.
For the most part, ad hominems and genetic fallacies are at work in dismisssing the few sites reporting on these issues, but even Robert Royal at _The Catholic Thing_ has been reporting that the Synod is exposing deep fissures in the hierarchy, that even the “moderates” are unhappy with the Holy Father’s proposals.
It is true that a properly “pastoral” approach takes into consideration a person’s growth (so-called “gradualism”) and the various factors that play into culpability, etc., but that doesn’t excuse someone from the Sacrament of Reconciliation–it *does* mean that priests should be more merciful when it comes to habitual sin and being encouraging to those who come over and over with the same sins.

Time will tell, and prayer is called for, but it is so very disheartening, having just begun to heal the damage done in the 1960s and ’70s, to have it all come flooding back.

 

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Scandal versus Scandal, and Controversial Cardinals

I believe that, 10 or 20 years in the future, people will look back on “the Francis Effect” as they now look at “the Spirit of Vatican II.”  In the meantime, we seem to be reliving the 1960s and 70s.
Two cases in point: the upcoming Synod on the Family, which is supposed to be about determining how to more effectively articulate the Church’s teachings, but the media and some cardinals–most notably Walter Cardinal Kasper–are trying to make it about changing teaching.  Meanwhile, there are the still-unofficial rumors that Raymond Cardinal Burke will be removed from his post as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, in the wake of a book that Burke and other “conservatives” published that upholds the Church’s teachings against Cardinal Kasper’s “approach” to divorce.
Simultaneously, Timothy Cardinal Dolan will grand marshal the first ever New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade to include “gays” marching as homosexuals.  Dolan defends this position by appealing to the “Francis Effect,” and the idea–which he used a year ago to applaud openly homosexual football player Michael Sam for his “courage”–that the Church says it’s OK to identify with a disordered inclination so long as one doesn’t act on it.  Kevin O’Brien asks if he can start a chapter of Irish Adulterers and march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, since–following Cardinal Dolan’s reasoning–having a disordered inclination to adultery makes one an “adulterer.”
Sadly, though, Dolan’s reasoning is not that far off from Kasper’s.  Kasper contends that we cannot know for certain if a couple who are divorced and remarried are living in a Josephite marriage.  Kasper has

accused his opponents of faulty interpretation of Scripture, saying, “We cannot simply take one phrase of the Gospel of Jesus and from that deduce everything.” That would be Luke 16:18, which quotes Jesus saying, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

He apparently has not read St. John Paul II’s _Theology of the Body_, since that’s exactly what John Paul does (though “induce” would probably be the more accurate verb).  Cardinal Kasper heads into dangerous ground by suggesting that those who are divorced and remarried “don’t look like they’re committing adultery,” that somehow superficial happiness and later fidelity can atone for the previous infidelity–neo-pelagianism, indeed!

So, on the one hand, we have “you can be a homosexual, and be in a ‘homosexual relationship,’ and not act on it.”  Then we have “you can be divorced and remarried and not act on it.”  Both propositions are *technically* true.

Then we have the more important question, one of the foundational questions of Christian spirituality and praxis and the juridical question of Catholic governance.  If we set aside Cardinal Kasper’s 1960s theology of “conscience,” let’s focus on the objective viewpoint.  Technically, he’s correct that people can sometimes live in Josephite marriages or similar situations.  Technically, he’s correct that we shouldn’t assume the worst of other people.  However, in practice, his views defy common sense.

Why would someone get divorced and remarried and not act on it? Even if it is possible, and people are willing to (sometimes, they are), the Church should still say, “this is what you’re supposed to do in this situation.”

This is a paradox at work in much of “pastoral” theology and canon law: two meanings of the word “scandal.”  To the world, and many members of the clergy, scandal means rumor-mongering.   If Y knows X is divorced and remarried with no annulment and Y sees X receiving Communion, it is true that Y is possibly breaking the 8th Commandment in one or more respects to be scandalized by it in the secular sense and definitely breaking the 8th Commandment to gossip about it.

However, in traditional Catholic parlance, “scandal” means behavior that encourages other people to sin.  Maybe N is thinking about divorce and follows X’s example.  Maybe B *is* divorced and remarried and thinks it’s OK.  . . .

There are other times where the Church says precisely that we shouldn’t endanger people’s souls by encouraging people to put themselves into a possible occasion of sin, or of setting a bad example.  Another topic being hotly debated in mass and social media is Pope Francis’s example of officiating a wedding of couples who have been cohabiting.  Conventionally, pastors have discouraged marriage of cohabiting couples, although canonically they cannot refuse to marry anyone.  Sacramentally, as with any sacrament, a state of grace is necessary to confer the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is why couples are expected to go to Confession before their weddings.   The reasoning behind discouraging such practices is to discourage setting a bad example.  Since our society is heavily scandalized in that regard already, and in some ways always has been, I suspect the Holy Father is right that it’s better to encourage marriage.

Nevertheless, there is that understanding that people of opposite sexes who are not related by law or biology should usually not live under the same roof because they put themselves into situations of temptation and setting a bad example.

More surprisingly, I was reading an article somewhere recently about the notion of impediments–how, just as an annulment can be granted for inability to consummate, supposedly one of the few reasons the Church will preemptively deny a request for marriage is if one of the spouses is known to be incapable of consummation.  To the question of how that’s to be known without presuming attempts at fornication, I was told that obvious cases include people who are mutilated or paralyzed.

Apparently, go figure, the reasoning is that the non-deformed partner cannot be expected to go through life with a person of the opposite sex and not act on it, that he or she cannot be expected to contract marriage and be continent!  Of course, any argument in favor of such a relationship raises complex issues about those who struggle with same sex attraction, and “what about those who become deformed after marriage” was answered with little more than “That’s complicated.”

So, we cannot expect heterosexuals to live in continence (even though it has been done), but we cannot presume those who are married are having marital relationships, and we can expect people who identify as homosexual, have homosexual “significant others,” kiss in public, and so on, to be courageously living in chastity.

On the other end of the spectrum is Cardinal Burke, who argues in favor of presuming sacramentality in the vast majority of cases.  Perhaps such a presumption is good, but there is much to be said for simplification of the annulment process.

The SSPX, like the Dwarves in _The Last Battle_, will refuse to be taken in

Haven’t written much lately, and have several posts saved as drafts, but wanted to post some thoughts on a report that talks are still continuing informally between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X’s superior, Bishop Bernard Fellay.

When he spoke in Columbia several years ago, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, said that, in his experience, the higher you go in any given “denomination,” you’re generally more likely to find people who are reasonable and open to dialogue. He told a story of giving an address to a Baptist seminary once on the Marian dogmas and how they reinforce authentic Christology. He said the ordained ministers and the theology professors all nodded in agreement. The students and other laity present got angrier and angrier as his talk progressed.
I’ve only ever met one SSPX family “IRL” that I can recall. It was at the Traditional Latin Mass the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP; the Order established by St. John Paul II for former SSPX members who were willing to return) used to offer monthly in Columbia–ironically, after Summorum Pontificum, they said they could no longer afford to drive from Atlanta every month unless the attendance increased. They offered to train one of the local priests. The only one who was willing was transferred, and no other pastor would volunteer to host or celebrate the Extraordinary Form.
Anyway, one of the only times I brought my whole family, there was this “nice” young family visiting their family for the holidays (I am not being politically correct; I forget which holiday it was). Our kids played with their kids while we talked after Mass.
They told us, “We only came here because there wasn’t an SSPX parish nearby. . . . ” They actually said they felt guilty for attending a “fake” Latin Mass and that, back home, they had both FSSP and SSPX but attended the latter. That, to me, summed up the problem and crushed any hope of formal reconciliation.
Bishop Fellay seems like a man of good will. He may get some of the other bishops and many of the priests to agree to reconciliation with Rome, but the priests and the laity already have the freedom to rejoin “full communion” (I’m choosing my words carefully) if they want. The priests can join the FSSP. The laity can just come to a local EF, but they won’t, because they fundamentally oppose the “New Church.” If Rome tomorrow said, “The suspension of SSPX is lifted, and they are in full communion and enjoy full canonical status as a [personal prelature or ordinariate],” there would still be Ross Perot’s “Giant Sucking Sound” of people defecting to Williamson’s group, the SSPV, etc.
Most people think the Mass is the issue, but it’s really a relatively small issue. The real problems the SSPX and other (for lack of a better term) “RadTrad” groups have stem from the documents: the vague wording, the teachings on religious liberty, _Nostra Aetate_ (which Pope Benedict XVI said was open to criticism for its naivete), etc. The fundamental issue of the “schism” (for lack of a better word), though not an official SSPX position, was the new rite of episcopal ordination. Bishop Fellay and other critics of the Second Vatican Council argued that the new rite has key points in which it diverts from the common traditions of all Catholic rites in history that render all post-Vatican II episcopal ordinations, in their view, invalid–including that of Josef Ratzinger. That is why Bishop Fellay ordained the group of four relatively young priests as bishops in 1988 against Vatican approval: to ensure in his view a valid line of Apostolic Succession, but ignoring that the ordinations would be canonically illicit and incurring excommunication on himself and the four young valid but illicit bishops.
When B16 succeeded St. John Paul II, the SSPX website got friendlier to Rome. It praised him and featured him prominently when he lifted the excommunications of the four bishops and opened discussion. It praised him even more when he issued Summorum Pontificum. Then suddenly it got very quiet. Rome made an offer. The SSPX refused. Controversial Bishop Richard Williamson was expelled but Fellay started sounding like Martin Luther.
The Benedict, for whom reconciliation with SSPX was a target of his papacy (how could the Church expect to heal centuries of other divisions without starting from the most recent?) gave his radio address saying it’s OK to criticize _Nostra Aetate_. He appointed Archbishop Gerhard Muller, often seen as something of a “liberal” to many of us because of his sympathy for liberation theology and his calls for St. JPII to retire, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Then, a few months later, after few headline-grabbing statements, Benedict resigned. His resignation of course created the situation of “two Popes,” a scenario which many traditionalists and many who were not previously “traditionalists” saw as potentially fulfilling warnings from various saints and visionaries.
There is so much pride and anger and hard-heartedness mixed up in all of this. I don’t doubt there are forces at work in the Vatican who squashed the talks and probably contributed to the Holy Father’s decision to resign, but there is so much hard-heartedness among the rank and file of the SSPX that, if Rome issued a statement tomorrow saying, “The faculties of all bishops and priests of the Society of St. Pius X are reinstated, and the Society will enjoy canonical status as an Ordinariate,” even then you’d hear Ross Perot’s “Giant Sucking Sound” of SSPX members starting yet another group, joining Williamson’s group, or joining the Society of St. Pius V.

St. Pius X and St. John Paul II, pray for unity of the Pilgrim Church on Earth.

They’re not just “Pelvic Issues”

Some people on the Left, in the “Center” or whatever, say that Catholics like me who prioritize abortion and family-issues are “obsessed with the ‘pelvic issues'” and disregard the Church’s teachings on economics or other life issues. While that is true for *some*, there is a difference between disagreeing about interpretation or prioritization and disregarding them. I’d contend that both “Parties” in the US get the Church’s economics teachings wrong, and that’s a whole other issue.
Here, I’d like to address the annoying insistence on “Pelvic issues,” which is a slightly more superficially polite way of resorting to crudity or of insinuating some Freudian double meaning.
First, abortion is not a “sexual issue.” Abortion is a life issue. It’s about killing, and the recent attempt by a National Catholic “Fishwrap” columnist to turn pro-life rhetoric around to say that alleged global warming should take priority notwithstanding (again, another time), there is nothing that can match 3,000 legal homicides a day, as I have represented previously.
Abortion is only “about sex” to those who do not want to recognize the rights of the victim.
As for contraception, divorce, redefinition of marriage, etc., the Church teaches these issues are important because they impact the family. Catholic “Social Teaching” is often presented, even by the Popes, as striking a balance between “subsidiarity” and “solidarity,” and those in turn are often applied as the Catholic equivalents of being “left wing” and “right wing.” Solidarity says government and individuals owe a responsibility to the “common good,” to helping one another out. Interestingly, the workers’ movement known as “Solidarity” in Poland was credited with politically bringing down Communism in Poland and, by extension, the Soviet Bloc. On the other hand, “subsidiarity,” which I often write about, says that the family is the basic unit of society, and that whatever can be accomplished close to the family “level” should be. From the Compendium

185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church’s social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical[395]. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth[396]. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to “the creative subjectivity of the citizen”[397]. This network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons, making possible the recognition of higher forms of social activity[398].

It goes on to discuss how it is unjust to deprive smaller social units of the rights proper to them, that the purpose of higher levels of organization is to foster and support the lower levels, etc. The Compendium is such an easily accessible and relatively short document that every Catholic interested in politics should read it.

Wow! Here’s the Pope who called for Vatican II wearing the Tiara and being carried on a litter! It would be nice to see some of these external signs of papal authority return.

The whole point of Pope St. John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra is that Catholic social, economic and moral teachings go hand-in-hand, and require a commitment by people in all social strata. This is what the “common good” means. People must have their basic needs met in order to live full moral lives. Economically, society has to look out for families. What cannot be done at the local level must be done higher, but it is also wrong of government to usurp the power of localities or of private organizations to do good. This is why many Catholics interpret libertarianism as the most convenient ally of subsidiarity (though many also mistakenly equate the two).

“Abortion kills the common good.”


As Francis Cardinal George, OMI, put it:

The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.

“Common good” implies an understanding of “the good.” If society is fundamentally at odds with the Natural Law, then that has to be the priority of the “common good.” If “common good” presupposes Natural Law and understands money as a means to the end of promoting a moral society, and if subsidiarity is seen as government existing to support the family, we can see on the one hand why “old school” liberals are right about the “social safety net,” but we can also see why “family issues” must take priority over everything else. It matters to everyone when states declare that “husband and wife” must be replaced by “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” (or more). It matters to everyone when divorce is presented as an easy out to marital difficulties, and vows supposedly made under oath are easily broken. It matters to everyone when children, as C. S. Lewis warned in The Abolition of Man become reduced to property and status symbols of their parents.

On the St. Malachi thing

Imagine, if you will, a colonist in the late 1600’s reports a vision that, some day, the colonies will be independent and have a Republic, and that he foresaw the heads of that Republic. Over time, as this alleged vision gets closer to reality, it gets talked about. History proceeds. Somewhere in the 1960s, someone claims to have found the prophecy and publishes the colonist’s list of the Presidents. It says something like, “The first will be the cleanly town. The second will be the son of Man. The third will buy the west. . . . The sixteenth will be the Man who frees. . . .” And so on till, “the thirty-fifth will be cut short.” Then it starts more like, “37 will end a war.” “40 will speak.” “43 will be the Sun.” “44 will be the moon.”
In other words, the alleged prophecy of St. Malachy was more exact before it was published, and gets increasingly vague such that people have really had to stretch to make them fit.

Check this out

David Alexander, aka “The Man with the Black Hat,” has done me the honor of quoting me in his piece on the first anniversary of His Holiness Pope Francis.  When he asked me if he could quote a reply I made to one of hsi Facebook posts (basically a summary of my entire “take” on Francis), I agreed, assuming he was assembling a bunch of quotes from different people.  I was honored when he quoted me as extensively as he did and as basically the only such quotation he used.  Please return the favor by reading his piece, but basically I was saying, which David elaborates on, that people either criticize or praise Francis for supposedly not being as academic as his immediate predecessors, but the problem, to my mind, is the opposite: when I read Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I feel like I’m reading teachers–really smart teachers who use big words, but teachers nonetheless–when I read Francis, I feel like I’m reading a scholar: someone who knows his stuff and assumes you do, too.  Put another way, as people like to treat them like The Only Three  Popes Who Have Ever Existed, and find “common themes,” and using Francis’s “field hospital” metaphor, JPII was our Bachelor’s advisor; B16 was our doctoral advisor; Francis is the hospital director managing our residency.  He expects us, rightly or wrongly, to know everything the others tried to teach us and is talking about application.

Funny . . .

For 8 years, certain publications were saying, “Pope Ratzinger” (if they even called him “Pope” or even “Ratzi”), and are now adoringly talking of “Pope” Francis.
Now, other publications which used to say “Pope Benedict” are saying “Bergoglio”.