Category Archives: John Paul II

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?

Advertisements

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.