Category Archives: John Paul II

Is the Catholic Church Infallible?

I have convert friends who rightly worry that traditional Catholics, in criticizing Pope Francis, tend towards a Protestant mentality.  I
Conversely, I have convert friends who feel that Pope Francis’s teachings and praxis–telling an Anglican friend *not* to become a Catholic for example–have undermined their reasons for conversion.
Many worry that criticism of Francis undermines their faith in the Church Herself.  Perhaps–but that criticism is only the symptom.  There is a point at which we have to stop saying “It’s a mistranslation,” or “It’s just the media.”  The Holy Father knows fully well what people are saying he said, and he’s had ample opportunity to correct misconceptions.  In many cases, he’s “doubled down” on comments like “Who am I to judge” and the infamous “promethean neo-pelagian” invective.
If he did not want to create certain impressions, he wouldn’t create them.
However, to say that Catholics who point out the problems, whether those who look at the implications of his phrasing while supporting the orthodoxy of his words or those who accuse the Pope of outright heresy, are the problem is proverbially shooting the messenger.
Instead of trying to understand the fears and concerns of many tradition-minded Catholics about the Pope’s words and deeds, many in the middle and conservative wings of the Church are merely joining the Pope in condemning “Older brothers on the Porch” who “don’t want to see converts returning to the Church” and “Just look for reasons to hate Francis the way the Pharisees looked for reasons to hate Jesus.”
Here’s my perspective, as a temperamentally traditionalist cradle Catholic who grew up in the 80s and 90s, who grew up with priests as frequent dinner guests, devout parents with devout friends, who was reading _Catholic Answers_ in my early teens.
For me, the Francis Papacy seems to be the fulfillment of two equal and opposite narratives/predictions I grew up with.  On the one hand there were the priests, “church ladies,” etc., who showed commitment to protecting the unborn, devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, etc., and spoke or recommended books about alleged and approved apparitions.  So on this side were the warnings (cf. _Pierced by a Sword_) of a time when a pope would be forced into hiding–either exiled from Rome or imprisoned in the Vatican itself–and replaced with a Pope who would be the first to change defined teaching, probably on matters of sexual morality.
On the other hand, there were the ones who said, “Vatican II got rid of that” about everything that seemed  “cool” about Catholicism–not just Latin, but popular devotions, Indulgences, Mary and the Saints, and so on–who were more concern about social activism than spirituality, and who spoke longingly of how, “A time will come when this old Pope [St. John Paul] dies and we get a Pope who will truly follow Vatican II and get rid of Canon Law, allow priests to marry, allow divorce and birth control, . . . .”
I heard nearly those exact words on more than one occasion.  A noteworthy example was a daily Mass “homily” in late 2002.  The priest claimed that the “only divine laws are the Ten Commandments, and everything else was man-made.”  He mocked the Church for having Canon Law, mocked the 1917 and 1983 codes, and expressed the aforementioned hope.  Before I could write to the bishop, the priest had resigned, amidst a pornography scandal in which, ironically, he had previously been protected by Canon Law.

So, now, we have a Pope who keeps hinting at such changes, who has brought back into the forefront cardinals and bishops like Walter Kasper, whose retirement Pope Benedict had readily accepted, and who keeps saying the same kinds of things the priests in the latter group would say.  It’s no wonder that many with a similar or more traditional background than my own are highly suspicious, at best, of the present Holy Father.

I’m still holding out hope that Pope Francis is like Pope Liberius, speaking ambiguously to hold the Church together, but that didn’t turn out well for Pope Liberius.

Regardless, after 3 years of trying to articulate my own concern, reading the synopsis of a recent homily that sounds like so many others, I finally got it.  My convert friends who don’t want to hear  Pope Francis criticized because they feel it undermines the Catholic faith are, as I said, putting the blame in the wrong place.

When the Pope says his critics are “following the Law” and ignoring the “Will of God,” when he says of changing an ancient ritual that copies something Christ did by saying, “It’s what Christ would do” (even though He precisely didn’t), the implication is clear: the Pope thinks, or sympathizes with those who think, that the Church before his Papacy, or at least before Vatican II, was *not* doing the will of God, was not doing what Christ would do.  He is the one saying the Church is not infallible, not those of us who question or challenge some of the things he teaches.

Oh, wait, saying the Church is infallible is “triumphalism.”  As a FB friend who’s a priest said, “A shepherd who pats a wandering sheep on the head and applauds his conscientious decision to leave the flock isn’t helping anyone but the wolf.”

“Joy of Love”–What’s missing

The media are abuzz with Pope Francis’s long-anticipated Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation _Amoris Laetitia_, and from what I’ve seen on Facebook, the following Bingo game could be quickly won:

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I’ve read the first three chapters, and I’ve read that, like every other document from Pope Francis, the several assurances of orthodoxy in the first few chapters are followed up by a buried lied of “freedom of conscience” somewhere in the middle.

Let’s set aside that “freedom of conscience” and “Let’s adopt a new tone instead of authoritarianism” has been said over and over since  Vatican II.  Let’s set aside that some of the same people who, almost 20 years ago, were having conniptions over a very similar, but more more succinct, document from Rembert Weakland are now saying, “Let’s celebrate!  The Pope didn’t change doctrine!”

As usual, I sympathize, though don’t entirely agree with, the Pope’s critics from the “Right.”  My reaction thus far is really disappointment.  The document is the epitome of lukewarm.  It’s so insipid and boring I was outraged by the waste of time.  It really adds nothing to what previous documents have already said on any of the subjects at play.

When it comes to marriage and family issues, there are four groups of people:

1) Those who want a clear-cut, black and white moral code.

2) Those who “freedom of conscience” *from* the Church.

3) Those who simply don’t care.

4) Those who want to follow the Church but are struggling with difficult situations.

Group #2 are the only ones who have any cause for celebration in this document, and they are celebrating.  However, from what I’ve read directly or seen quoted, it *really* doesn’t say anything that isn’t somewhere in the post-Vatican II magisterium already.

Ostensibly, the whole point of the Synod was to address group 4, but so far it seems to be more of the same:

Yes, extreme circumstances may mitigate culpability.  However, this seems addressed in a way that’s more about alleviating the responsibility of pastors than providing mercy to those who struggle.  Emphasizing lack of culpability works out to the same as emphasizing sin in a punitive manner: both escape the Biblical responsibility of the clergy to help those who are in need.

This has always been my problem with group 2, the so-called “liberals” or “progressives”: too often, I’ve seen Acts of the Apostles cited by liberals to support socialism or communism rather than Christian community.

The Pope says we should “admire” and “be supportive” of families with disabled parents or children, single mothers, and so forth.  But “being supportive” is very different from “supporting”.  He mentions civic responsibility, but not clerical responsibility.

Instead, it’s the cop-out of “personal conscience.”  So much easier to say, “You’re not really responsible for the sins you commit out of  desperation” than to say, “We’re going to try to provide you with practical help so you don’t have to be put in a situation of desperation.”

 

The Proper Weight of Man

January 15, 2000, at about 9 PM at the now-closed Steak & Ale on Forrest Dr. in Columbia, SC, I proposed marriage by reading this passage:

“The weight of these golden rings”, he said, “is not the weight of metal, but the proper weight of man, each of you separately and both together. Ah, man’s own weight, the proper weight of man! Can it be at once heavier, and more intangible? It is the weight of constant gravity, riveted to a short flight. The flight has the shape of a spiral, an ellipse—and the shape of the heart … Ah, the proper weight of man! This rift, this tangle, this ultimate depth— this clinging when it is so hard to unstick heart and thought. And in all this—freedom, a freedom, and sometimes frenzy, the frenzy of freedom trapped in this tangle. And in all this—love, which springs from freedom, as water springs from an oblique rift in the earth. This is man! He is not transparent, not monumental, not simple, in fact he is poor. This is one man—and what about two people, four, a hundred, a million— multiply all this (multiply the greatness by the weakness) and you will have the product of humanity, the product of human life.”
Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II), The Jeweler’s Shop, Act 1, scene 4).

Here’s a link to the play:

Let’s say the “worst case scenario” happens . . .

I happened to pray the Office of Readings for the first time in ages today, and it was a very appropriate reading from St. Gregory the Great that could have been written about the church today:

Beloved brothers, consider what has been said: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest. Pray for us so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge. For frequently the preacher’s tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness; while on the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people’s sins, the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly. With reference to the former situation, the psalmist says: But God asks the sinner: Why do you recite my commandments? And with reference to the latter, the Lord tells Ezekiel: I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be dumb and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. He clearly means this: the word of preaching will be taken away from you because as long as this people irritates me by their deeds, they are unworthy to hear the exhortation of truth. It is not easy to know for whose sinfulness the preacher’s word is withheld, but it is indisputable that the shepherd’s silence while often injurious to himself will always harm his flock.
There is something else about the life of the shepherds, dearest brothers, which discourages me greatly. But lest what I claim should seem unjust to anyone, I will accuse myself of the very same thing, although I fall into it unwillingly—compelled by the urgency of these barbarous times. I speak of our absorption in external affairs; we accept the duties of office, but by our actions we show that we are attentive to other things. We abandon the ministry of preaching and, in my opinion, are called bishops to our detriment, for we retain the honorable office but fail to practice the virtues proper to it. Those who have been entrusted to us abandon God, and we are silent. They fall into sin, and we do not extend a hand of rebuke.
– See more at: http://divineoffice.org/ord-w27-sat-or/?title=Oct+10%2C+Office+of+Readings+for+Blessed+Virgin+Mary&date=20151010#sthash.zuBnCfii.dpuf

And in the midst of the debates about the Synod, there’s something I’ve never understood about people’s understanding of Papal primacy and infallibility. The “Old Catholics” broke off because they rejected Vatican I’s declaration of Infallibility. Then the “traditionalists” broke off, or whatever, because by their understanding of papal infallibility, and previous papal statements about modernism, religious liberty, etc., Vatican II was in violation of Vatican I, and they developed various approaches to the question. Now, I take the doctrines of infallibility and indefectibility to mean that the Holy Spirit will protect the Church from falling into error–She just can’t. It has never happened in many situations similar to our own–though some crises have come close, and there was even at least one pope in history who was a material heretic.
Now, let’s say that the Synod does something directly at odds with the words of Christ in the name of Mercy. In practice, it means no more than a regional or national bishops’ conference. After all, B16’s Synod on Liturgy came up with some pretty strong statements that have been mostly ignored, such as calling for an end to “bilingual” Masses, and saying that it needs to be Latin, one vernacular and Latin, but not multiple vernaculars, and any congregation with significantly multiple languages should be Latin–how many diocese have implemented those guidelines?
Now, let’s say Francis, either with the support of the Synod, or unilaterally, does something that directly contradicts the words of Christ. *I am not saying I think it will happen*, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.
What becomes of infallibility and indefectibility?
The way I have always seen it, both the Vatican I schisms that we now consider to be morally “liberal” groups, and the Vatican II schisms and “not in schism but not fully in communion” groups that we call “traditionalist” are taking intellectually dishonest positions.
If Vatican II was heretical, then just saying, “It’s pastoral and not doctrinal” isn’t enough–“pastoral and not doctrinal” means that it is formulating authentic teaching, and promoting an approach to methodology, that is not necessarily “wrong” but one is free to disagree with. If one truly believes that teaching contradicts previous anathemas, one cannot simply say, “it’s pastoral and not doctrinally binding.” That only works for rectifying the apparent contradiction in approach.
That’s why the sedevacantists say that the “Seat is vacant,” and compare to times when there were exceptionally long papal interregnums, the Great Western schism, the Cadavar Trial and surrounding events, etc. Yet the sedevacantist position is that Vatican I was right.
What if Vatican I was wrong? Then we get to the “Old Catholic” position that Vatican I was wrong to say the Pope has unilateral infallibility, yet they hold to the teachings of Trent.
What I have not understood for a long time is how either group still clings to Trent.
If it’s possible for a Council to err, what makes this Council erroneous and not that one?
Between “in union with Rome” Catholics, anti-Vatican II traditionalists, anti-Vatican I “Old Catholics,” Protestant of various sorts, Greek and Russian Orthodox, and “Oriental” Orthodox (Copts and Chaldeans), Rome and Byzantium had the strongest and most intellectually consistent claims.
For me, though, one of the key proofs of Rome’s being the true Church of Christ is that She holds fast to Christ’s teachings on the indissolubility of marriage. If that ceases to be true, it creates a theological rift that simple sedevacantism cannot rectify. It cannot simply be “The Pope of Rome is infallible until I disagree with him.” It *has* to be, “maye he was never infallible to begin with.”

A Pope of the People?

There once was a cardinal from a country with a large Catholic population but a secular, anti-Catholic government. He had something of a reputation in his homeland, in Rome, and among the Catholic commentariat, if you will, but wasn’t really known to the average priest or layperson, or especially most non-Catholics. As a bishop and Cardinal, he seemed to be just like the bishop in Les Miserables. He didn’t like to be addressed as “Your Emminence,” “Your Excellency,” or even “Father,” but told people to call him “Uncle.” He enjoyed hiking and outdoor sports, and preferred hanging out with laity to clergy, and when he hung out with clergy, he didn’t “pull rank”–even to the extent that, on a weekend vacation with various priests, an old monseignor, not knowing who he was, decided to boss around the unassuming middle-aged “priest,” until the monseignor was embarrased to learn he had spent the weekend ordering a cardinal to fetch his tea or his newspaper.
When a papacy was suddenly cut short, there was an emergency conclave though it seemed one had just happened recently. There were rumors that this cardinal had been a front runner during the previous conclave, or that another cardinal had actually been elected first then rejected because of political lobbying, but either way people suggested for almost his entire papacy that this popular, populist cardinal was actually a communist agent.
He was elected Pope, and shocked the world with his unassuming greeting. For the first few years of his Papacy, he seemed to embody the “hopes” of the Vatican II generation for a “radical” who would strip away wall the remaining trappings and traditions. He appointed some key bishops and cardinals who emphasized a “pastoral” approach. He shunned some of the security measures and other trappings of the papacy to be “close to the people.” A few of his appointments, most notably his Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, seemed to have a more “conservative” or “traditional” bent. His erstwhile admirers began to be concerned that that he wasn’t the Pope they’d been looking for, although those inclined to mistrust him largely retained their mistrust.
Then, after a time, something happened. He was shot. After, he adopted more security. His teachings became more bold. His appointments became, generally, more “traditional.” Within a few years, though some of those who suspected he was a secret Communist never relinquished that view, even as he helped topple communist and other secular regimes around the world, but the progressives who had embraced him early on began to denounce him as a traditonalist and a reactionary. They began to express hope that he’d die soon so they could get a “Pope who will get rid of all that canon law stuff, allow contraception and divorce and abortion and women priests. . . . ” When he or his prefects at the CDF and the CDW issued strong statements on moral or liturgical issues, they’d say things like, “he’s trying to stop his successor from making the changes we want.” Yet when his CDF prefect became his successor, they ignored him.
And now I think we’re seeing the same process with Francis that we saw 30 years ago with St. John Paul II.

A Question for Pastors

I have a serious question to ask to any priests who may happen to read this, but first, I’d like to begin with an example.
Arguably, the worst pope in history was Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia: we say “Borgia Popes” when there was really only one, but his reputation defined an era; his daughter(!) Lucretia is ranked in history and myth with the likes of Jezebel and Medea; his son(!) is believed to be the model for the behaviors Machiavelli describes in _The Prince_.
During an era when women were forbidden, both in canonical and civil law, from preaching, a woman who claimed to be a locutionary and prophetess was brought before the throne of Alexander VI on charges of witchcraft.  She began to recite and denounce the sins of Rodrigo Borgia.  The Pope, not known for any particular respect for human life, could have publically or privately ordered her tortured or killed in any way he wanted, but he acknowledge the truth of her words and ordered that she be released.
I have known few local pastors willing to demonstrate such humility when laity have even so much as questioned their decisions on morally neutral matters, much less challenged them for setting a bad example or being outright cruel.  13 years after the so-called “scandals,”  which were really for some reason a sudden media outburst about problems long known and rumored, have we learned nothing?
While the Church has addressed child sexual abuse nominally by targeting parents and making up draconian policies based more on legal, insurance and PR concerns than morality–which was the problem to begin with–and while some reports suggest the cases of sexual abuse have gone down, verbal and emotional abuse by pastors goes on unabated.
When a few lay organizations perhaps go overboard in their zeal for prophetic witness, they are dismissed as “causing division,” while the average Catholic who cares about the Church is still ignored or dismissed or even banned.
The Holy Father worries about pastors “obsessing” in homilies about a “few disjointed moral issues,” yet most of us have rarely, if ever, heard those moral issues addressed from the pulpit, except by priests who preach of “tolerance” and “more important issues,” and the ones who do preach about them tend to “disappear,” get  passed up for pastoral appointments, or suddenly adopt a softer tone.
You see, if a rich liberal Catholic writes an angry letter to the bishop, that letter gets heard, but if a traditionalist, whether rich or not (but usually we have less disposable income because we actually have kids) writes to the bishop, in that case the letter-writer gets ignored or worse.

Poll after poll shows that most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of Our Faith, and it’s not preached about, even when we have the Bread of Life discourse every three years.  Poll after poll shows that only a small percentage, if only a fraction of a percent, of Catholics are using NFP.
We’re told, if we point to the lack of children in the pews as a cause for pastoral concern, that we’re “being judgemental” and that maybe all those people are suffering infertility.  If that’s the case, then priests should be preaching about adoption or about how the birth control hormones polluting our water supply are causing rising infertility rates.

Yet, when the saints, and the Popes (including Pope Francis) suggest avoiding preaching against sin, they usually do it with the alternative of preaching prayer.  St. Louis de Montfort and St. Teresa of Avila both call on priests to teach prayer and devotion to Our Lady, that sinners want to know how to repent, and God will open the truth to them in prayer.

We’re told about the Pope’s admonitions against using air conditioning, but not his admonitions against priests living in luxury and his calls for pastors to “smell like the sheep” and go out among the poor.

And the question that I always come back to is: Father(s), do you care more about saving souls or about saving money?

Do you care that the majority of your flock are likely to go to Hell?  Why don’t you warn them?   Do you understand that, when you don’t encourage families to be in the church, when you tear down playgrounds or forbid people from using them, you’re telling people “children aren’t welcome”?  Do you care about the souls of people you push away?  St. Alphonsus warns that pastors will be held accountable for every soul lost to Hell because of their sins of deed or omission.  Even St. John Bosco had a vision, late in life, where St. Dominic Savio admonished him for permitting too many boys to be lost to Hell because he lacked enough faith!

If you find yourself wishing that the most fervent of your followers would die off or get over the alleged “fad” of Tradition, think about it.
If you find yourself suggesting you’d leave the priesthood rather than following Pope Benedict’s call to offer the Extraordinary Form to any group who requests it, or St. John Paul’s call to say part of every Mass in Latin, think about it.
If you find yourself saying things like a hole in one is the greatest moment in your life, think about it.
If you’re more concerned about money issues than whether children or families with children feel welcome in your parish, think about it.
If you find yourself too proud to read something like this and take fraternal correction in humility the way even Rodrigo Borgia was able to do, think about it.

And when you’ve thought about it, I invite you to make or renew a total consecration to Our Lady.  Start today.  Even if it’s not 33 days from a Marian feast, there’s no time like the present.

A guide to St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration
A guide to St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Consecration
IMG_3746
Please, Father, whoever you are reading this, please act now.

The Key to a “Perfect Marriage”

Is not to think there is one.

Back in the late 90s, Mary Beth Bonacci wrote a column about how the purpose of dating is to break up.  So often, that seems to be the purpose not just of dating but of most “relationship” articles.  “How to tell if your [guy/girl] is [cheating/wrong for you/the right one,” “How to tell if your relationship is failing.”  “What do all successful marriages have in common?”

Bai MacFarlane once observed of her divorce that there’s a certain attitude of the “perfect Catholic marriage” that has grown out of the JP2/NFP/TOB movement that sets a certain standard, and people are often led to stress about trying to achieve that standard.

A few years ago, Matt Walsh wrote a piece called “My Marriage Wasn’t Meant to Be,” which he apparently recently revised for his new Blaze column in response to the Sparks divorce.  His point is that we have free will, and the notion of being “destined” to marry someone takes away from free will but also creates an ideal that is too easily lost to sentimentalism–or questioning whether “this is the right one.”  I’d argue that a Mystery is far more complicated than that, and he is quite literally touching on the basic question of free will versus predestination and God’s plans versus our own, but he makes a good point.

Closer to home, my wife, thinking about cases like the MacFarlanes, or Nicholas Sparks and his wife, or of how every celebrity couple who give an interview about their great marriage seem to divorce shortly thereafter, always says, “Don’t say we have a ‘happy marriage.’  Saying that is just inviting the Devil to tempt us.  There’s no such thing as a ‘happy marriage’ or a ‘perfect marriage.'”  It wasn’t until recently that I connected all those thoughts and realized that’s what she means.

Maggie Gallagher a few years ago wrote of attending a 50th anniversary party, where the husband was asked the secret to staying married 50 years, and he said, “Arrive for your wedding and then wait.”

That, really, sums it up.  There are plenty of good points available for guidance in discerning whether someone is the “right” person to marry, and there is plenty of good advice for trying to do better.  But there is a great danger in constantly thinking that a relationship must be “perfect,” that a person must be “perfect,” that if you’re *not* living up to the standard, that you should call it quits.

Nonetheless, however you get there, presuming proper formation and discernment, and no canonical impediments, whether you’re “best friends,” “soul mates,” or arranged, or whatever, after the vows are exchanged, the key to marriage is a) to remember that divorce is never an option; b) to always keep working at it; c) to remember that you’ve given yourselves to each other and be grateful for that gift.

And that’s really all there is to it.

They’ll know We Are Christians by Our  Blocks?  “Unity” and the Francis Effect

Somewhere in 2013/14, my Landlord asked me, casually, my opinion of Pope Francis. I wasn’t in a mood to elaborate, so I shrugged. My answer would be the same today.

1) I am troubled by the things lots of others are troubled by, and there are plenty of red flags but also plenty to be happy about. Pope Francis is, ultimately, a typical “good” priest of his generation, especially a Jesuit, someone I’d probably admire as a pastor or bishop, but as Pope?

2) the current papacy challenges certain notions we have of what a Pope should be like, and I think that’s a good thing.  For one,we really shouldn’t assess Popes as if they’re politicians even if they are.

3) It’s been two years. He is only the third Pope to have 24/7 scrutiny in the new media or even cable news. It’s interesting that sedevacantism only really became a “thing” with the rise of television. Suddenly, day to day papal activities that were previously ignored are international headlines. A casual Papal remark, like a movie star’s wisecrack on a press junket, gets dissected in the media.  Would “Pio Nono” have worn a clown nose to amuse suck kids or accepted a photo op with an environmentalist group?  I think probably, but we can’t know because photography as we know it didn’t exist then.  Might Leo XIII have made a throwaway comment about not judging people who are sincerely trying to follow God but struggling with sin?  Would St. Pius Zx have changed Eucharistic discipline?  Oh, wait, he did.

Regardless, 2 years is a short time.  Look at John Paul II in 1980 versus 1990 versus 20000.  People expected  Paul VI to permit contraception for like 5 years then were devastated by Humanae Vitae.  Though comments from numerous cardinals are giving the appearance otherwise, I still expect a repeat of that.

4). What if he doesn’t?  Either we go in with this muddled confusion till the next Conclave elects Cardinal Burke, or else he does something unquestionably wrong and shows all the antiPope prophecies are true, which means something really good would be coming after a short time if trial.  

Nevertheless, what I find troubling most of all about the “Francis Effect” is that it’s affecting people.   From top-down, regardless of where the proverbial buck stops, people are being told to stop talking about certain issues, that the pope has changed this or that, . . . It’s the 80s all over again.  In the midst of all that, I see people who should be 99.999999% in agreement and uniting with common cause instead unfriending and blocking each other over things the Pope has said.  Ultramontanist, the equivalent of “Papist,” is being used as a pejorative by people who once wore it as a badge of honor, who in turn are being accused of heres, not trusting the Holy Spirit, etc.

It’s very sad.  “If they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” what does that tell us?  Are love and peace and mercy flowing like a river through you and me?

Will it be _Humanae Vitae_ or _Mater et Magistra_?

In 1961, when Pope St. John XXIII issued his social justice encyclical Mater et Magistra, Garry Wills, then of National Review, and later author of Papal Sins (a book that perpetuates calumniation of Pope Pius XII in the name of promoting contraception), utteinfamous “Mater, si; Magisra, no” to William F. Buckley, Jr., who quoted it in his own column. In his spiritual autobiography, Nearer, My God, WFB expresses regret for the quotation.

The alleged “dissent” from the “Right” in the Church usually comes in matters of positive law. In Veritatis Splendor, Pope St. John Paul II says that negative law (“negative law”) is always absolute, but application of positive law (“thou shalt”) is relative. Nevertheless, the quote about dissent from the seemingly socialist Mater et Magistra (even though many of its suggestions have since been implemented and are now considered hallmarks of capitalism) has been dragged out both every time a “conservative” questions a Pope and every time a conservative challenges a liberal’s “dissent.”

Even Ralph McInerny traces the popularity of Wills’ assertion to the massive dissent that accompanied Humanae Vitae seven years later, and, though seemingly divided in the US political spectrum, there is certainly a connection–after all, as already noted, Wills opposed HV, as well.

Since the beginning of Pope Francis’s papacy, though many on both “sides” of the spectrum have insisted he is a radically new kind of pope, I have been struck by the parallels to Paul VI and the early John Paul II. I have said repeatedly that he will have his _Humanae Vitae_ moment.

It may be the Synod on the Family, or it may be his upcoming encyclical on “Global Warming.” The Left has been salivating about this announced encyclical for months–the “National Catholic Fishwraps'” Michael Sean Winters argued several months ago that “stopping global warming” must be a greater political priority than abortion because the possible passive death of all life on earth is supposedly a worse evil than the active and intentional slaughter of millions.

Now, as a conservationist conservative, I don’t see why anyone who believes in the Natural Law, preserving the status quo or economic efficiency should see a conflict between political conservatism and conservation of natural resources. I have always argued that the environment is one of the issues where liberals are right in principle but not practice, and where Republicans could get a lot of support if they just adjusted to promoting a localist, subsidiarist approach contra the Democrats’ use of environmentalism as an excuse for socialism.

That said, I hope the Holy Father does not take a definitive stance on “man-made Global Warming,” since, as Robert George is being lampooned as a hypocrite for pointing out, that is a science issue, not a theology issue. Centuries from now, if Global Warming turns out to be the hoax many of us think it is, Pope Francis risks this being ranked with Galileo and Columbus as one of the many times the Church allegedly was “against science.”

One of the memories I retain most vividly from elementary school is the picture from my second grade social studies book (1984-1985) of how, by the time we were in our thirties, we’d all be wearing gas masks and protective gear because of the acid rain an nuclear fallout. When I was in high school, I learned the chemical formulae that made acid rain inevitable. I did a science fair project on testing the pH of rain and various bodies of water in my town. I found little evidence of acid rain, and that same semester, a study was published saying the same thing.

Then people started talking about “Global Warming.” 20 years later, the climate is more or less the same, if not more like it was in the 80s to begin with. “Global Warming” has become “Climate change,” and there are debates over “man made” versus a matter of natural cycles–a theory I read in the late 90s. We hear from politicians, journalists and celebrities that the “science is settled,” that the “scientific community” is in agreement and the scientists who question “man made global warming” are unscrupulous, unreliable quacks. On the other hand, there are scientists, including a co-founder of The Weather Channel, speaking ut that it’s a hoax and that scientists have their careers threatened. It’s all based on mathematical models that leave out other factors, and there is little empirical evidence for it.

Does that make it OK to continue despoiling nature? By no means, but the Catholic Church risks humiliation if she gets on Al Gore’s bandwagon.

Either way, the way lines are drawn up, this encyclical will elicit the response of either Materi or HV.

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.

 

Is it “the Little” Way because it’s Easy or Narrow?

Jen Fitz posted a great reflection on the Feast of St. Therese, entitled, “If it doesn’t cost you everything, you’re not on the little way.” The title pretty much sums up the profound observation. My honorary “name in Carmel” is “John of the Little Way of St. Therese.” There’s a reason for that much deeper than a pious devotion to the Little Flower or even the spiritual connection that the past 18+ years of my life have in a very real way belonged to her.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face knows that, within ten years of her death at 24, before she was even Venerated, much less Canonized, the future St. Pius X declared her “the greatest saint of modern times.” When Pope St. John Paul II declared her the third official female Doctor of the Church, he said that this girl who had very little formal education but wrote one of the greatest spiritual classics of all time “gave the Church a new doctrine” in her “Little Way.”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who was baptized Agnes but took her name in religion from the Little Flower, got her motto “small things with great love” from Therese, though the latter was really just following teachings found throughout the Discalced Carmelite tradition, through Brother Lawrence’s _Practice of the Presence of God_ all the way back to the “great” Teresa of Jesus of Avila, our Holy Mother.
The message of Fatima is very similar to the Little Way: offer up “small” sacrifices. This can often be trivialized a bit, and a deeper understanding of Therese’s life and journey tell us that there’s a difference between “offering it up” in little things and enduring without comment the despair of, for example, being so emaciated by TB that her bones were protruding from her skin (a fact I just learned the other day).
Some make a big deal of Therese’s struggles with the Office and Rosary, which are certainly encouraging to anyone genuinely trying and struggling, but when she said that saying the Rosary was a “penance,,” we must remember that, in the Little Way, and the Way, period, penances are a good thing. Part of the reason the Rosary was a penance was the famous example of the Sister whose relatively noisy manner of praying was very distracting to Therese, who first dreaded that nun’s presence in chapel but so practiced patience in her regard that she eventually looked forward to seeing her–the same with another Sister who treated her badly, but, as the sister says in the Leonardo de Filipis movie _Therese_, “Every time I see you, you smile!”
In short, when we say, “Small things with great love” we all, myself included, tend to emphasize the first part and not think about what the latter means. It means putting as much love as we possibly can into putting up with that unpleasant person or situation.

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.

Is Pope Francis “too vague”?

A common complaint about Pope Francis is that he’s too vague.  For some, that complaint means “he speaks outside my set categories, so I don’t want to agree with him.”  For others, it means just that: he’s vague.  He sends mixed messages, at least as they’re received.  For anyone following the trends of his papacy, it clearly echoes the papacy of Paul VI and the early years of St. John Paul II: appointments of bishops who lean to the “left” politically and liturgically; demotion (generally) of bishops and curial officials who lean to the “right” politically and liturgically; statements that are worded with lots of “wiggle room.”   People forget that they made the same complaints about JPII when he was still getting adjusted to the Papacy.
Still, to the extent that I agree with those complaints, a common response is to say, “You’re being like the Pharisees, who complained Jesus was too vague.”
Actually, they didn’t.
It was the *disciples* who complained that the parables were too hard to understand (cf. Matthew 13:10,36).
The Pharisees understood *exactly* what Jesus was saying.  They took offense not at His symbolism, but His clarity.  When He spoke to them directly, He used no uncertain terms.  As Amy Jill Levine, author of a recent book on the parables, points out, for the 1st Century Jews, a Samaritan was scum.  It would be like someone  preaching in modern day Israel and saying, “A member of Hamas was walking along,” or telling an American, “an al Qaeda member. . . .”
The *Pharisees* were, so to speak, vague.  Their hypocrisy was based upon finding exceptions for themselves and holding others to stricter standards (the classic example of Qorban–essentially “laundering money” or embezzling through the Temple).  When they preached, it was always, “Rabbi Simeon says X, but Rabbi Judah says Y. . . .”
Jesus said, “You have heard it said X, but I say to you. . . .”
That, as Fr. Robert Barron points out in _Catholicism_, is why they are amazed at His teaching “with authority” (Matthew 7:29).
And when He speaks with authority, He always says something stricter.  It always rankles me when people say, “The Church’s attitude towards divorce is very Old Testament.  It’s not what Jesus would do.”  Uh, yes, it is.  The modern attitude towards divorce is “very Old Testament.”
Our Lady told Bl. Francisco that he would have to say “many Rosaries” to avoid Purgatory.  Our Lord showed St. Faustina the *years* she would spend in Purgatory for a single venial sin and offered her the choice between a longer life here or dying and spending *more* time suffering in Purgatory.
I still believe that Pope Francis is going to surprise everyone doctrinally, as Paul VI and JPII did, and  I pray that, given time, his appointments will reflect more what we saw with JPII, though in some cases, years of damage may have already been done–and years in this life could equate to eternity in the case of some souls and years of purgatory for others.

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.

Will the real Fatima.please stand up?

It dawned on that, everywhere I look, I see people who need Fatima’s message, yet even most who “promote” it get it wrong.
For many, Fatima is “about Vatican II,” when, if anything, Vatican II was about Fatima.
For many, it was and is about a magical formula for the “consecration of Russia” that will lead to the magical “conversion of Russia,” and in turn to an “era of Peace.” Those prophecies are open to interpretation until they can be seen through the lens of history. Sr. Lucia said St. John Paul fulfilled it. If he didn’t, it’s too late, anyway.
Russia’s errors have spread through the world: not just the Communism that is encroaching on the US thanks to so many money-hungry “Catholics” voting for Obama, but also abortion (the USSR was the first country to legalize it).
The reason we have not seen mass conversions and world peace is not because the Pope failed to say the right words at the right place and time with the right bishops. It’s because laity, priests and religious fail to answer Our Lady’s call to conversion of heart:
sacrifices (in the manner of the Little Way);
true contrition and monthly (at least) Confession;
Frequent, sincere and meditative praying of the Rosary;
Devotion to and respect for the holy Eucharist
Wearing the Scapular or Miraculous Medal.
How many people do these practices at all, much less with the depth and sincerity Our Lady called for.
Francisco didn’t see her the first few times. He was below the age of reason and yet she still said he was guilty of too many sins and needed to say many Rosaries to see her and to avoid Purgatory. Yet we presume we’ll all be instant Saints.
She showed them souls falling into Hell like snowflakes, yet we hold to a watered-down universalism.
She said souls go to Hell mostly for sins of the flesh, which are as disgusting to the Devil as they are to God, and that, “Fashions will be introduced that will offend my Son greatly.” Yet we fall right into the filth with the rest of the Culture of Death.

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Why do people reflexively oppose Pope Francis?

While it is not exclusive, I think much of the divide over Pope Francis concerns more traditionally minded cradle Catholics and reverts on the one hand, and traditionally minded converts.
Many of us grew up with the oral tradition of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Fatima, La Salette, and more recently Garabandal, Medjugorje, etc. Our grandmas, family friends, and even many priests warned us to be prepared for the Three Days of Darkness, False Pope, etc. When one collective narrative stands so firmly against the world we see as so clearly flawed, it can be difficult to separate out the authentic “traditional teaching” from the popular oral tradition.

Some of the most anti-Francis Catholics I know are people who were raised Catholic, fell into gravely sinful lives and returned to the Church, with a greater appreciation for the oral tradition they were partially raised with, and a mistrust of the post-conciliar permissiveness that they see as having contributed to their youthful downfalls. They’re not so much “older brothers on the porch” but more like the ex-smoker or ex-alcoholic who turns virulently anti-smoking or anti-alcoholism.
Since the Prodigal Son is often brought up in these circumstances, let me offer a modified parable that illustrates the problem more precisely. Let’s say the father in the parable had *three* sons, two of whom ran off, and, when the second son returns home, he says, “Dad, you showed me such mercy, and I was in a horrible state. Please, I’m very worried about my younger brother. I know what it’s like for him out there. Will you please go out and find him and make him come home?”
Dad says, “I can’t force him to come home unless he really wants to.”
This makes the second son very upset, especially given the rebellious tendencies that led him to stray in the first place.
So, I think that’s part of it: people talk as if Francis’s critics do not want the “prodigals” to return, yet that is precisely the problem people have with some of the Pope’s teachings: *he* sounds like he’s saying, “Go ahead and sin, stay non-Catholic, whatever you want to do. God will love you, anyway, even if you stay in the parabolic pig sty.” I don’t believe Francis really intends that message. But that is where his critics are coming from: they want to see souls saved and converted. This aspect of the controversy definitely has its ideological roots at least as far back as the Jansenists versus the Jesuits.
The other part, though, concerns the aforementioned prophecies. It can be very difficult, again, especially when those sources have been proven right in so many ways, to separate out what is authentic Tradition, etc.
To the extent that the problem is with Francis’s critics, I’d contend it’s an issue of spiritual growth, and name-calling and condemnation aren’t an effective approach with them any more than anyone else.
However, it is very easy to see why those who may have had qualms with Vatican II and the past few Popes and sympathies with “radTrads” are feeling greater inclinations in that direction. Francis could have been a virtual redux of Pope Benedict, and some of us would still have that voice in the backs of our heads for the mere fact of the Resignation. When we’ve been told to beware of a time when a Pope is driven from the Papacy and still lives while another is elected in his stead, what else can we think?

The problem is that such matters often can only be discerned in hindsight. I see little evidence from what Pope Francis has actually said that supports the narrative: indeed, some of the alleged prophecies could be read to suggest Francis will lead the Church out of the great crisis.

I’m not saying Francis’s strongest critics are right, though it’s taken me a lot of growth to get to where I am not 100% with them. Indeed, had I not been unconscious, in a hospital, fighting for my life when the infamous foot washing happened on Holy Thursday 2013, I would have been horribly scandalized by it. Part of me still suspects he’s more like “Puzzle the Donkey” in C. S. Lewis’s _Last Battle_: a kind, saintly pope who is being manipulated, not so much a wolf in sheep’s clothing as the opposite, but I do think it’s important to understand where people are coming from. I think he’s far more like St. John Paul II than some Catholics are willing to admit.

Apologetics is in some sense the rhetoric of theology, a notion I will hopefully develop more in a later post. An apologist makes the point of understanding why people think the way they do about “the Faith” and religion in general, answering their objections and explaining the faith in a way that helps their understanding. Yet many Catholic apologists whom I otherwise enjoy reading and often agree with try to insist that the obstinacy of “radTrads” (or “Radical Reactionaries” or “The Greatest Catholics of All Time,” “neo-pelagians,” or whatever the latest label is) is somehow worse than the obstinacy of liberal Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants or non-Christians, that these souls are not worth the effort of discerning and attempting to correct the flaw in their understanding.

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.

I finally heard the “My Little Pony Mass”

Dan Schutte, whose biggest claim to fame was ripping off the “Brady Bunch” theme song for “Here I Am, Lord,” has now written an entire mass setting that seems to be derived from the “My Little Pony” tune:
http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2014/04/dan-schuttes-glory-to-god-and-my-little.html
Even the local “youth Mass” we usually end up attending on Sunday evenings thankfully only stoops to using Contemporary Protestant music at Communion but sticks to more familiar 70s tunes. Schutte has apparently never written a Mass setting in his illustrious career. In spite of recent quotations about following the rubrics that have raised his status in my mind of late, his “new” setting published in the post-new translation edition of _Gather_ not only uses the hokey melody linked above, but it also breaks _Liturgiam Authenticam_ right out of the gate by changing the words.

So, anyway, we happened to attend St. Peter’s in Columbia today after my Carmelite meeting and got to hear this setting for the first time. Since St. John Paul II visited there in 1988, we went down the hall to make a pilgrimage to the chair he sat it, which used to be on display but isn’t anymore. Then we went to the wall of crucifixes I posted about a few years ago.
Joe asked, “Why do they still have *that* one?”
Buddhist Cross
Gianna said, “They shouldn’t have a Yin Yang Cross!”
Clara asked, “What’s a Yin Yang?”
Gianna said, “You don’t need to know about that till you’re my age.”

On the other hand, the lady in front of me knelt to receive Communion. The kids were very good for Mass, and when Joe asked me to take him to the bathroom after Communion, he came out, and I just stayed in the hall to say my prayers. He pointed to the sanctuary and asked, “When are we going back in there?”

Why “Gay Marriage” Matters

Even many who profess faith in Christ insist that “gay marriage,” even as a civil entity, doesn’t hurt anybody.  Examples like “husband” and “wife” being changed everywhere to “spouse 1” and “spouse 2” should be enough for starters.  Then there is the increasing persecution of those who oppose the homosexualist political agenda: CEOs being fired from companies they co-founded,

Brendan Eich, who helped invent Java and Firefox, fired from Mozilla for a $1000 donation made 6 years ago.

and nuns being persecuted by the Church.

Should be speaking everywhere, not silenced

Of course, the latter was justified by “Catholics” bearing false witness against the Holy Father by saying his statements that homilists must talk about more than a few disjointed moral teachings means that none of us is supposed to talk about the specific examples, ever.

It all goes back to my old saying that we lost the Culture Wars before they began, at the 1929 Lambeth Conference.   The slippery slope that  led us to the current gay marriage debate started when the Anglicans became the first Christians to permit birth control, as Pius XI and Paul VI predicted.  Anyone who has tried to teach Catholic morality even in CCD, much less Catholic school, in the past generation or two knows how awkward it is to tell kids divorce and remarriage is a sin when their parents are divorced and remarried, that swearing is a sin when even their mothers cuss like sailors, or that birth control is a sin when everyone else uses it.  I went to high school with kids whose parents were NFP instructors, and even *they* would say things like, “It’s a sin for us but not for other people,” or “It’s better to tell teenagers to use birth control than to have them get pregnant or STDs.”

I think the persecution of Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, OP, STD, has as much to do with her speaking about the negative consequences of divorce as anything else.  Indeed, the claim of Aquinas College that Sr. Jane is outside her academic credentials by talking of anthropology negates the traditional hierarchy of academic disciplines that a Dominican should be the first to recognize.

Soon-to-be St. John Paul II, who doesn’t mince words in Evangelium Vitae about the Conspiracy of Death, writes in Theology of the Body that the entire of Catholic anthropology is based in the Creation Account: indeed, that is the whole point of TOB.  From man being made male and female in the image of likeness of God and to be “one flesh” to the fact of Original Sin, JPII’s explication of the first three or four chapters of Genesis and Jesus’ teachings on marriage shows how everything else in theology stems from those passages.  He argues that the danger of Darwinism, and its importance to secularists, is that without a Creator, without teleology, without man being a soul/body hybrid, without Original Sin itself, then man is not a moral creature, and ultimately anything goes.

Something similar is at work in the Culture Wars in the contemporary West.  From contraception at one end to “marriage equality” at the other, advocates of “most favored sins” tend to promote each other’s cause: nobody wants to be perceived as a “hypocrite,” after all.  If some “bossy” Thomistic nun wants to start talking about sexual morality, then so much for “voices of women in the Church”!

And that’s the ultimate agenda of the Culture of Death (and, yes, Pope John Paul himself states repeatedly in Gospel of Life and elsewhere that it’s a conspiracy).    It’s even the agenda of those who, in the name of preventing child abuse, expose children to graphic “sex education.”  Obviously, Satan wants everyone in Hell, and Satan’s agents, whether they realize they are or not, need to encourage others to sin so they can feel justified in their own filth.

The 1988 Don Bosco film that used to run on EWTN before the 2004 version came out has subplots involving a brothel next door to St. John’s Oratory.  In one scene, there’s a commotion outside the brothel: two prostitutes get into a “cat fight.”  The boys stop their play and study to see what’s going on.  The Saint cuts through the crowd and pulls the two hookers apart.  “You people can drown in your sins, if you want!” he cries.  “But if a single one of my boys is lost because of you, not one of you can be saved!”

Harsh, you say?  Remember Our Lord calls for anyone who causes a child to sin to be drowned (Matthew 18:6).

That’s what’s at stake in “gay marriage.”

When I can no longer watch Wheel of Fortune with my kids because of a contestant introduction like, “So you’re getting married? . . . You found some nice young lady to marry you?” “Gentleman, actually,” that affects my family.
When we’re watching The Middle, and an ad comes on for Modern Family with two men talking about “their wedding,” and a cake topper with two men, that affects my family.
“Why?” asks the person who actively or passively supports same sex marriage.  “Are you afraid of them?  They’re nice people.”
No.
“Do you think you’re kid’s going to be gay?”
No.
Every child at some point wants to know why boys can’t marry boys or girls can’t marry girls, and “because they’re not supposed to” is usually a sufficient answer.

If society isn’t going to back that up, and if “the Church” isn’t even going to back that up, then one is left stranded explaining Natural Law.  It’s hard enough having to gloss over other issues.

They do not think parents have the right to teach their children morality or even to protect their children’s mental purity at a young age.   Then there are the increasing accounts of children at young ages becoming addicted to porn or committing sexual abuse because of things they’ve seen online.

When that stuff is literally everywhere, there comes a point when parents are forced to explain certain things to children that are not otherwise age appropriate–and that’s exactly what these demonic perverts want.