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See preceding page for earlier posts today, 4/23/17...



After the Four Cardinals, six laymen speak on
the significant problems for the faith raised by AL

Does anyone really think the pope will listen?

April 22, 2017

La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and its 'parent' publication, the monthly Il Timone, organized the event.

The four cardinals have never been alone with their DUBIA. Proof of this is the conference held in Rome yesterday, April 22, in a hotel auditorium not far from St. Peter’s Square, where six renowned lay Catholic scholars came together from as many countries of the world to give voice to the appeal from a large part of the “people of God” so that clarity may be brought to the confusion raised by “Amoris Laetitia.”

Anna M. Silvas came from Australia, Claudio Pierantoni from Chile, Jürgen Liminski from Germany, Douglas Farrow from Canada, Jean Paul Messina from Cameroon, Thibaud Collin from France. And one after the other, they took stock of the crisis that the document of Pope Francis has produced in the Church, one year after its publication.

Settimo Cielo offers its readers the complete texts of the six presentations, in the languages in which they were delivered. But it calls special attention to the one by Claudio Pierantoni, a scholar of patristics and professor of medieval philosophy at the Universidad de Chile, in Santiago, an abridgment of which is provided below.

Pierantoni brings up again the cases of two popes who fell into error during the first Christian centuries, the one condemned post mortem by an ecumenical council and the other induced to correct himself during his lifetime.

But he argues that today, too, we have a pope who is “a victim,” although “hardly aware of it,” of a widespread tendency to error that undermines the foundations of the Church’s faith. And he too is in need of a charitable correction that may bring splendor back to the truth.

Pierantoni is not the only one among the six to have recalled the lessons of the past, ancient and recent.

Thibaud Collin, a professor of moral philosophy and politics at the Collège Stanislas in Paris, recalled for example the opposition of numerous theologians and entire episcopates to the encyclical of Paul VI Humanae Vitae, which was downgraded to being nothing but an ideal and thereby made inoperative.

He showed how this deleterious “pastoral” logic has come back into vogue with AL, this time bringing into question the indissolubility of marriage by seeking to justify the adultery of irregular unions and clearly implying that such justifiable unions would include homosexual liaisons.

Anna M. Silvas, an Australian of the Eastern rite, a scholar of the Fathers of the Church, and a professor at the University of New England, instead emphasized the danger that the Catholic Church might also go down the road already traveled centuries ago by the Protestants and Orthodox toward divorce and remarriage: just when - she surprisingly added - the Coptic Church is returning to the indissolubility of Christian marriage, without exception.

Ms. Silvas was skeptical that the pope would ever respond to the DUBIA, but also that any ‘correction’ will be forthcoming from his cardinal critics. She instead proposes a “Benedict option” for the current post-Christian era, inspired by the monasticism that arose with the collapse of the ancient world, in which the monks undertook a life of prayer and work in humble and communal “dwelling” with Jesus and the Father in the hope that the tempest shaking the world and the Church today may cease.

Six voices, six different interpretations. All profound and nourished by caritas in veritate [as against ‘faux mercy in untruth’]. Will Pope Francis at least listen to them?

I choose however Ms Silvas’s presentation to begin with, because I find her approach the logical one to take when trying to reconsider one’s initial judgments 12 months after one first came to them, and her new reflections colloquially direct. But I do not share her harshness against the Four Cardinals and other prelates who have expressed their objections to AL forcefully, while being decorously contained about the personal responsibility of Jorge Bergoglio for this colossal fracas of the faith. (I was ready to post this last night, when it was the only one of the six made available by Magister today, but the Forum server froze up before I could hit the Reply button, and I did not have the time nor patience to recreate the post.)

A year after ‘Amoris laetitia’:
A timely word

by Anna M. Silvas

‘I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out all over the world, and I said, groaning: ‘What can get through so many snares?’ Then I heard a voice saying to me: ‘Humility’. So said Abba Antony the Great, Father of Monks.

And so also it seems to me, in accepting to speak to you now, a year after "Amoris Laetitia". Please forgive me, for it seems to me any number of more qualified lay faithful should be speaking ahead of me. The current field of the Church is so strewn with canonical, theological, and ecclesiological snares, one would hardly dare say anything, so strange is this hour in the Church.

If I were to point to one issue the present crisis in the Church is, it would be ‘modernity’, and that mood in the Church that so greatly prizes ‘modernity’ and follows it at all costs. Theologian Tracey Rowland points out that ‘the modern’ to which we were urged to update by Vatican II, was never defined in the conciliar documents - a truly extraordinary lacuna. She says: “The absence of a theological examination of this cultural phenomenon called ‘modernity’ or ‘the modern world’ by Conciliar fathers in the years 1962-65 is perhaps one of the most striking features of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.’ (1)

The Latin word moderna means the ‘just now’, the ‘latest’, the ‘most recent.’ The cult of modernity happens when we make this an overriding object of desire, so as to gain the approval of the elite classes, the captains of the media and arbiters of culture. If I were to place the finger of diagnosis, it would be precisely on this emulous desire.

Two years ago or so, a young friend of mine who is a teacher and passionately committed in her Catholic faith, took a new job in a new Catholic School. One day some of her Year 8 students did a class exercise in ‘politics’. Her students were in the second year of high-school, so they had been through eight years of Catholic schooling, and through the whole sacramental ‘program’ (horrible word that); what does its use signify?

She asked that if they were a candidate for an upcoming election, what would would be their policies. To her surprise, every one of them, except for one boy, nominated same-sex marriage and the LGBT agenda. So she began to engage them in remedial conversation. That brought home to me how far the values of a purely secular modernity have more ascendancy among ‘Catholics’ today, than the values of the life in Christ and the teachings of the Church.

Immersion in the practices of modernity has led to a de facto situation, that the mythos of modernity has seeped into the very bone-marrow and veins of Catholics. It permeates their way of thinking and acting implicitly. I look around, and I begin to wonder, with horror, how much this is now true of the leadership of the Church, perhaps even among the best of them. How many are deeply, deeply, more tributary to the modern world’s ‘program’, than obedient to Christ’s summons to our deepest mind and heart, really? [It is, quite simply, a horrifying panorama because leading that misguided legion of modernists is no less than the man who is supposed to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, a nominal shepherd whose hallmark is utter sheeplike yielding conformity to the ways of the world.]

Under St John-Paul II we seemed to have something of a ‘push-back’ for a while, at least in some areas, especially his intense explication of the nuptial mystery of our first creation, in support of Humanae Vitae. This continued under Benedict XVI, with some attempt to address liturgical decay, and the moral ’filth’ of clerical sexual abuse. We had hoped that some remediation at least was in train.

Now, in the few short years of Pope Francis’s pontificate, the stale and musty spirit of the seventies has resurged, bringing with it seven other demons. And if we were in any doubt about this before, AL and its aftermath in the past year make it perfectly clear that this is our crisis. That this alien spirit appears to have finally swallowed up the See of Peter, dragging ever widening cohorts of compliant higher church leadership into its net, is its most dismaying, and indeed shocking aspect to many of us, the Catholic lay faithful. I look at any number of higher prelates, bishops and theologians, and I cannot detect in them, by all that is holy, the least level of the sensus fidelium — and these are bearers of the Church’s teaching office? Who would risk their immortal soul by trusting to their moral judgment in Confession?
In preparation for this paper, I thoughtfully re-read AL after nearly a year. As I waded into the murky waters of Chapter Eight, I was overwhelmingly confirmed in my reading of it last year. In fact it seemed to me a worse document than I thought it was, and I had thought it very bad.

There is no need here to offer further detailed analyses, carried out by so many thoughtful commentators in the intervening year, such as the early heroes Robert Spaeman and Roberto de Mattei, Bishop Schneider, the ’45 Theologians’, Finis and Grisez, and many others, all of whom should appear on an roll-call of honour when the history of these times comes to be written.

There is one group however, whose approach I find very strange: the intentionally orthodox among higher prelates and theologians who treat the turmoil arising from AL as a matter of ‘misinterpretations’. They will focus on the text alone, abstracted from any of the known antecedents in the words and acts of Pope Francis himself or its wider historical context. It is as if they interpose a chasm that cannot be crossed between the person of the Pope on the one hand, over whose signature this document was published, and the ‘text’ of the document on the other hand. With the Holy Father safely quarantined out of all consideration, they are free to address the problem, which they identify as ‘misuse’ of the text. They then express the pious plea that the Holy Father will ‘correct’ these errors. [While these observations are obvious and valid, one must consider that cardinals and bishops are constrained from any ad hominem references to the pope, since the oath they make when they are consecrated into their high offices imposes upon them a degree of loyalty to the pope, whoever he is, and sometimes, it seems, right or wrong. This is the only reason I can see that they have ‘quarantined’ his person out of their objections. Yet the unfettered considerations of laymen who owe no such ‘loyalty’ to the pope do make it unnecessary for the Four Cardinals and the prelates who think like them to articulate the bill of charges against Jorge Bergoglio noted continually by aware orthodox Catholics.]

No doubt the perceived constraints of piety to the successor of Peter account for these contorted manoeuvres. I know, I know! We have been facing down that conundrum for a year or longer. [There we are!] But to any sane and thoughtful reader, who, in the words of the 45 Theologian’s Censures, is ‘not trying to twist the words of the document in any direction, but … take the natural or the immediate impression of the meaning of the words to be correct’, this smacks of a highly wrought artificiality. [If it is artificial, then it is in the sense that all decorum is ‘artificial’, i.e., imposed by written or unwritten rules].

Pope Francis’s ‘intent’ in this text is perfectly recoverable from the text itself, reading normally and naturally and without filters. Let us try some examples.
The first of the Cardinals’ Five Dubia concludes: ‘Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 of the exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?’ [The DUBIA are not framed as though the authors did not know Bergoglio’s immediate and ultimate intentions – though they can be in no doubt about them - but as a way to get him to answer a simple YES or NO to essential questions of the faith. Does anyone doubt that even they must have thought from the outset that they would never get him to answer the questions as he should, but the questions had to be raised and framed. nonetheless, to underscore this pope’s willful deviation from 2000 years of Church Tradition and Magisterium based on the Revelation in Scriptures which is the Word of God. One should look at the DUBIA questions as an exercise in articulating the true faith in the face of AL’s willfull distortions and deviations, and not as an attempt to make this pope own up to his offenses!]

Without doubt, a papal clarification of the intent in this footnote is of urgent importance to the Church. Nevertheless, what the Pope intended is clear from the beginning of this current section #301. His topic is ‘those living in “irregular situations”’. All that is said a few lines later about those in situations of objective sin growing in grace and charity and sanctification, maybe with the help of the sacraments, Holy Communion in particular, is posted under this heading of ‘irregular situations’.

That those in supposedly ‘sanctifying’ ‘irregular situations’ who are admitted to the Eucharist include the divorced and civilly remarried who do not intend to abrogate their sexual relationship, is flagged in #298, where in footnote 329, a passage in G&S 51 which discusses the question of temporary continence within marriage, as taught by St Paul, is outrageously transposed to those not in a Christian marriage, i.e. in ‘irregular situations’, as an argument that they should not have to live as brother and sister. The intention, prefaced by a misrepresentation of St John Paul and a bare-faced lie about the meaning of G&S 51 is clear. So where is the difficulty in understanding what the Pope intends?

In #299 Pope Francis asks us to discern ‘which of the various forms of exclusion currently practised in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.’ This indicates his aim clearly: how are we going to overcome those ‘exclusions’, liturgical first of all, practised till now? Where is the difficulty in grasping Pope Francis’s intent?

And there are many other instances like this. As early as the preface he alerts us that ‘everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight”, and then late in that chapter (#308) admits obliquely that his approach may leave room for confusion. Let us believe him: this is his intent, which is not at all that difficult to grasp.

We have noted the abstract focus on the text alone that punctiliously excludes the acts and the person of Pope Francis from all consideration of the document’s intent.

Also strictly excluded as a means of ascertaining the Pope’s mind, are the wider historical antecedents. To pick off a few in a galaxy of incidents, these include ‘
- Archbishop Bergoglio’s known practice in his archdiocese of tacitly admitting to Holy Communion all comers, the cohabiting, as well as the divorced and civilly remarried (2),
- his personal choice of Cardinal Kasper to deliver the opening address of the 2014 Synod, as if we are to politely turn a blind eye to the entire back-history of Kasper’s activities on these issues,
- the various ways in which these two synods were massaged, such as the papal order that a proposition on communion for the divorced and remarried, voted down by the bishops in the 2014 synod, be included in the final relatio (3),
- his scathing condemnations of the Pharisees and other rigid persons in his concluding address at the conclusion of the 2015 Synod, and
- more recently, his warm praise of Bernard Häring, the doyen of dissenting moral theologians throughout the 1970s and 80s, whose 1989 book on admitting the divorced and civilly remarried to the Eucharist in imitation of the Eastern Orthodox oikonomia, was ammunition in Kasper’s saddle bag.
- Then of course there was Pope Francis’ endorsement of the Argentinian bishops ‘interpretation’ of AL, precisely in the way that he intended: ‘No hay otras interpretaciones.’ (5) You know all these incidents, and many, many more, almost on a daily basis, in which it is not difficult to grasp Franciss’ intent at all.

Pope Francis, I am sure, is very well aware of the doctrine of papal infallibility, knows how high are its provisos—and is astute enough never to trigger its mechanism. The unique prestige of the papacy in the Catholic Church, together with the practical affective papalism of many Catholics, however, are useful assets, and these he will exploit to the full. For to Francis, and we have to grasp this: infallibility doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all, if he can continue to be the sort of change-agent in the Church he wants to be. That this is his spirit we learn in AL #3 where he says:

‘Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does.(5)

But I think ‘the spirit’ to which Francis so soothingly alludes, has more to do with Hegel’s Geist, than with the Holy Spirit of whom our blessed Lord speaks, the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him (Jn14:17).

The Hegelian Geist on the other hand, manifests itself in the midst of contradictions and oppositions, surmounting them in a new synthesis, without eliminating the polarities or reducing one to the other. This is the gnostic spirit of the cult of modernity.

So Francis will pursue his agenda without papal infallibility, and without fussing about magisterial pronouncements. He tells us so in the third paragraph of AL: “Since ‘time is greater than space’, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium".

We are in a world of dynamic fluidity here, of starting open-ended processes, of sowing seeds of desired change that will triumph over time. Other theorists—you have here in Italy, Gramscii and his manifesto of cultural Marxism teach how to achieve revolution by stealth. So within the Church, Francis and his collaborators deal with the matter of doctrine, not by confronting theory head on, because if they did so they would be defeated, but by an incremental change of praxis, played to the siren song of plausible persuasions, until the praxis is sufficiently built up over time to a point of no return. Such underhand tactics are clearly playing to the tune of Hegelian dialectic.

That this is Pope Francis’s modus operandi, consider a certain ‘behind the scenes incident’ in the 2015 Synod, ‘“If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried,” said Archbishop Forte, reporting a joke of Pope Francis, “you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, (but) do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.” “Typical of a Jesuit,” Abp Forte joked (6).

Then slowly, region by region, bishops around the world begin to ‘interpret’ AL to mean that ‘“the Church has now ‘developed’ her pastoral praxis to admit the divorced and civilly remarried to the Eucharist, setting aside the gravest of sacramental provisos that obtained up till now—provided of course that a sonorous note of ‘accompaniment’ is struck. And when Pope Francis sees this happening, what is his response? He rejoices to find that they have accurately picked up his cues in AL: I have already mentioned his famous ‘No hay otras interpretaciones’to the Argentinian bishops; the latest is his letter of thanks to the bishops of Malta for their interpretations.

I think it an injustice to blame these bishops for ‘misuse’ of AL. No, they have drawn the conclusions patent to any thoughtful, unblinkered reader of this papal document. The blame however, and the tragedy for the Church lies in the intent embedded and articulated well enough in AL and in the naïve papalism on the part of bishops, that has so poor a purchase on the Church’s imperishable obedience of faith, that it cannot perceive when it is under most dangerous attack, even from that most lofty quarter.

In this game of subterfuge and incremental intent, ‘“the elaborate talk of painstaking ‘discernment’ and ‘accompaniment’ of difficult moral situations has a definite function—as a temporary blind for the ultimate goal. Have we not seen how the dark arts of the ‘hard case’ work in secular politicking, used to pivot the next tranche of social re-engineering? So now in the politics of the Church.

The final result will be precisely in accord with Archbishop Bergoglio’s tacit practice for years in Buenos Aires. Make no mistake, the end game is a more or less indifferent permission for any who present for Holy Communion. And so we attain the longed for haven of all-inclusiveness and ‘mercy’: the terminal trivialization of the Eucharist, of sin and repentance, of the sacrament of Matrimony, of any belief in objective and transcendent truth, the evisceration of language, and of any stance of compunction before the living God, the God of Holiness and Truth. If I may adapt here a saying of St Thomas Aquinas: Mercy without truth is the mother of dissolution (7).

Pope Francis has absolutely no intention of playing by anyone’s ‘rules’—least of all yours or mine or anyone else’s ‘rules’ for the papacy. You know well what he thinks of ‘rules’. He tell us so constantly. It is one of the milder disparagements in his familiar stock of insults.

When I hear those who lecture us that Pope Francis is the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Church today, I do not know whether to laugh at the naivete of it, or weep at the damage being done to immortal souls. I would say that yes, Francis is the agent of a spirit, namely the Hegelian Geist of ‘modernity’ very much at work in the Church. It is, as I said earlier, a stale and musty spirit, an old spirit that has no life in it, a privative force that only knows how to feed parasitically on what already is.

Perhaps Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine gives us all we need to face the present crisis. In his seven ‘notes’ or criteria for discerning genuine development of doctrine from its corruption, Newman provides the needed response to the Hegelian praxis dialectically overwhelming theoria.

The seventh note is “chronic vigour”. Over time, a corruption shows itself to be exceedingly vigorous—but only at the beginning of the “infection”, since it does not possess the life to sustain itself in the long term. It will run its course and die out. The Life of Grace, however, possesses in itself the Divine Life, and will therefore throw off in the course of time all that militates against it. Truth perdures. There will be moments of high drama, but, eventually, it must necessarily prevail. It is the way in which grace acts in the organic development of nature, the very reverse of the gnostic ‘time is greater than space’.

My dear fellow-believers in Christ Jesus our Lord, this false spirit shall not, cannot ultimately prevail. In the 16th Century, the Protestant revolt demoted Marriage from a sacrament, and set in train the secularisation of marriage in the West. Constantinople began to lose its purchase on the accuracy of the Gospel of marriage with the Emperor Justinian and his Roman civil law of divorce.

As the scandalous example of adulterous Emperors and Empresses remarried in the lifetime of their true spouses filtered down into the Church and became the custom, so a fair-seeming theology of oikonomia grew up to cloak this grave breach with holy Tradition. This is what Häring, Kasper and co, in their ignorant folly, have been invoking as an example for us to follow.

Except that until Bergoglio, the Catholic Church in communion with Rome has held fast to theApostolic teaching on the sacramentality and indissolubility of Christian marriage. I qualify that: you should study the recent history of the Coptic Church on this issue: it is most inspiring and encouraging. Let us take the Copts for our allies, in this and in other ways too.

Is it still a possibility, the Cardinals’ proposed fraternal correction of the Pope? We heard of this last November, and it surely lifted our beleaguered spirits. But now it is the end of April, and nothing has come of it. I cannot help but think of that passage from Shakespeare: There is a tide in the affairs of men…, and wonder if the tide has come and gone, and we the lay faithful are left stranded again.

Yet Cardinal Burke has recently said: “Until these questions are answered, there continues to spread a very harmful confusion in the Church, and one of the fundamental questions is in regards to the truth that there are some acts that are always and everywhere wrong, what we call intrinsically evil acts, and so, we cardinals, will continue to insist that we get a response to these honest questions.” (8)

Well, I hope so, dear Cardinals, I hope so. We the faithful, beg you: forget about calculating prudent outcomes. Real prudence should tell you when it is the right time for courageous witness, whose other name is martyrdom.

Pope Francis will not heed any fraternal correction, as John XXII once did. But you know what? It would not matter much even if he did publish some statement along those lines. Let one 24 hour news-cycle go by, and we had better not count on it that further utterances do not subtly undercut or openly contradict what was said the day before. If we have not learnt that about his manner by now, then we truly are the stupidest of sheep — or shepherds, as the case may be.

Pardon me if I venture to say this, but, however we account for it, the papacy is not working right now in the Church. Until we face this reality, unbelievable as it may seem, we are bound in intimidation and illusion, and the way out that the Lord would open up for us will be deferred. What kind of prophet do you want to show you the times? Hananiah or Jeremiah? Choose.

What then is the plight of us the lay faithful in these days of severe trial in the Church? I could hardly better the following comment, to an article by the honourable and courageous struggler, Steve Skojec, on 1P5. Pray for Steve and his family.

The author of the comment is Roderick Halvorsen from Santa, Idaho. He came into the Catholic Church from Protestantism some years ago, and has no intention of leaving, but sees the follies of liberal Protestantism metastasizing in the Catholic Church. He speaks here of us, the lay faithful:

"But in reality, God is testing us. He is asking us to be in relationship with HIM, yes, personally and intimately and truly. He has taken all the “crutches” of Catholicism away; the power, the glory, the world’s respect, trustworthy leaders and models, in short, all the stuff that can be of assistance to the faith, but is unnecessary to the faith, and like wealth and worldly success, can be the source of a weakening of our faith, when we begin to shift our trust to the “culture” of the faith, instead of to the person of our faith: Jesus Christ."(9)

In the midst of social, cultural and ecclesial collapse, it is a wonderful thing, but I see signs of a common cause between monasticism and the lay faithful who are seeking this interior abiding with Christ. Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option, that appeared a few weeks ago, attests this movement. For not in efficient political programs, but ‘below the radar’ so to speak, in the humble life of community ordered in Christ, monastic communities quietly established advance outposts of a new liturgical universe in the rubble of the western Roman empire.

In other ways too, the lay faithful, and I have in mind especially the domestic churches of families, sense the worsening crises of these times, and intuit that for them the way of spiritual contest is in the local community, in the small, the hidden, the unimportant in this world’s eyes. They have little or no role in the ecclesiastical world, or perhaps in worldly success either. Such seekers hunger for an alternative liturgy of life and community, prayer and work, and some of them are sensing that deep monasticism has a word for them.

A dear friend in the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, sadly soon to close, Conor Sweeney, likes to use the hobbits in Tolkien’s mythology as an analogy for this hidden alternative Christian lifestyle. For it was the hobbits, an insignificant folk, who had no part in the counsels of the mighty, who against all odds had the decisive role in overturning the powerful forces of the dark Lord threatening to engulf the whole of Middle Earth in a reign of savagery.

I have another friend, Michael Ryan, a married man and father, whose shining light of inspiration among the saints is St Bruno. Imagine it, the witness of the most intentionally contemplative monastic life in the Western Church, the Carthusians, a beacon of hope to the lay faithful? For deep monasticism is all about moné, ‘abode’ or ‘abiding’ in Christ, about waiting and watching with hope-filled faith, as ‘useful’ as the Prophet Habbakuk standing upon his watch and stationing himself on the watchtower, as ‘useful’ as Simeon and Anna haunting the temple and waiting their life long for the dawning light of salvation and knowing him when he came, as ‘useful’ as the women who sat at a distance and watched at our Lord’s tomb on the eve of the first Good Friday, as ‘useful’ as our all-holy Lady, Mary, taking her stand beside the Cross.

Perhaps prayer, prayer of this sort, is the most radically political act of all, and the very core of Christianity? Where oh where have we Catholics been?

Our Lord himself used to rise long before dawn and watch in the night hours, even in the days of his busiest ministry. The disciples, awed one day by the mystery of his prayer, felt a deep wistful attraction: Lord, teach us to pray.

This is the one emulous desire that we do need: Jesus, the one model to whose imitation we can give ourselves completely, and we will not be betrayed. Can we, is it at all possible to learn something of the sentiments that filled his human mind and heart in those solitary hours of intimacy with his Father? Yes we can, for in his great compassion he shared them with us in a form of words: sacred words, holy words of complete trustworthy power and truth:

Abba! Abbuna de b’ashmayo, yithqaddash shm’okh.
Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name…

(1) Tracey Rowland, Culture and the Thomist Tradition (London: Routledge 2003), 13.
(2) Above all he encouraged his priests not to deny communion to anyone, whether they be married, or cohabiting, or divorced and remarried. With no fuss and without making this decision public, the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires was already doing what the popes at the time prohibited, but he would later permit once he became pope.
—Sandro Magister, ‘The Man who had to be elected Pope’, accessed Wednesday, April 5, 2017
(3) Relatio Synodi 2014, #52.
(5) See Deacon Jim Russell, ‘Pope Francis ‘Time is greater than Space’: What does it mean?’, , ‘
(6) Friday, 7 April 2017
(7) Super Matthaeum, Cap. V, l. 2. The original statement is: ‘Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.’
(8) From
(9) ‘RTHEVR’ from the comments to “Archbishop of Malta Claims Fidelity to Pope on Exhortation Guidelines”, Steve Skojec, February 20, 2017, accessed Wednesday, February 22, 2017.

My own one-year take on AL (in black) - commenting on my earliest banner about it when it was first published:

An appropriate addendum:

Fake canon law that
keeps being perpetrated

There is just one problem with the narrative of a pope kicking down
a penal door locked against divorced-and-remarried Catholics:
The 1917 Code did not excommunicate divorced and remarried Catholics.

April 22, 2017

Fr. James Keenan writing in Crux this week makes his own a question raised (last July, it seems) by Rocco Buttiglione in L’Osservatore Romano: “Is there any contradiction between the popes who excommunicated divorced and remarried persons and Saint John Paul II who lifted that excommunication?”

That’s fake canon law. John Paul II never lifted any excommunication against divorced and remarried Catholics because, quite simply, there was no excommunication against divorced and remarried Catholics for him to lift. Shall we talk about it?

Buttiglione writes in the OR piece upon which Keenan draws:

“Once upon a time, divorced and remarried persons were excommunicated and excluded from the life of the Church. That kind of excommunication disappears from the new Code of Canon Law and Familiaris Consortio, and divorced and remarried persons are now encouraged to participate in the life of the Church and to give their children a Christian upbringing. This was an extraordinarily courageous decision that broke from an age-old tradition. But Familiaris Consortio tells us that the divorced and remarried cannot receive the sacraments.”

Gracious! However far back in Church history Buttiglione needs to search for an excommunication of divorced-and-remarried Catholics, he apparently thinks that the 1917 Code itself excommunicated divorced and remarried Catholics and that, only by making a “courageous decision that broke from an age-old tradition”, could John Paul II ‘disappear’ that “excommunication” from the new (1983) Code of Canon Law.

There is just one problem with Buttiglione’s and Keenan’s canonical narrative of a pope kicking down a penal door locked against divorced-and-remarried Catholics — and thus with their broader ‘if-John-Paul-could-then-Francis-can’ claim, namely: the 1917 Code did not excommunicate divorced and remarried Catholics.

Neither Buttiglione nor Keenan provide a citation for their claim about what canon law allegedly did up to the time of John Paul II (nor, come to think of it, did Abp. Scicluna who was, it now seems, uncritically repeating Buttiglione’s claim and extending it to embrace adulterers!), so one is left to guess at what they had in mind. But a couple of ideas occur to me, some of which I have addressed before.

Maybe Keenan and Buttiglione had in mind the Pio-Benedictine excommunication levied against Catholics who attempted marriage in violation of canonical form; problem is, this sanction was applicable to all Roman Catholics (not just to divorced-and-civilly-remarried ones) and, more importantly, it had already been abrogated by Paul VI in 1970, a dozen years before the 1983 Code went into force!

Or maybe Keenan the American (if not Buttiglione, an Italian) recalled when American Catholics who divorced and civilly remarried were indeed excommunicated for that offense; problem is, that rule was peculiar to American (not universal) canon law, it dated back only to 1884 (hardly ‘age-old’), and, most importantly, it too had already been abrogated in 1977 — again by Paul VI, not John Paul II — several years before the 1983 Code was promulgated.

Or maybe by “new” Code of Canon Law, Buttiglione and Keenan meant the 1917 Code which, in its day, was certainly new; problem is, I can’t find an excommunication for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics in the main, pre-Code, penal document of the 19th century, Pius IX’s Apostolicae Sedis moderatione (1869).

Do Buttiglione and Keenan know of one? Of course, even if one were found lurking somewhere, it had obviously ‘disappeared’ from codified canon law some 65 years before John Paul II arrived on the scene.

Or maybe Buttiglione and Keenan understand by the term “excommunication” a much older usage that sometimes blurred the distinctions between “excommunication” (as a canonical penalty, c. 1331) and “denial of holy Communion” (as a sacramental disciplinary norm, c. 915).

Problem is, their claim about what John Paul II supposedly did demands that they use canonical terms as he and the Church understand them today — and as Buttiglione himself recognizes when he notes above that, despite the (alleged) lifting of a (non-existent) excommunication, divorced-and-remarried Catholics are still prohibited the sacraments (a statement wrong in some respects, but right enough in this regard).

So much contextualizing and back-storying, just to address one more fake canon law claim. But at least such research allows one to argue better not ‘if-John-Paul-could-then-Francis-can’, but rather ‘John-Paul-didn’t-and-Francis-shouldn’t’.

[I wish though that Dr Peters had raised this very elementary correction at the time Buttiglione first made his erroneous citation! I myself took it for granted that it was correct! Would I have thought that a so-called philosopher who is credited widely - rightly or not - to have been an 'adviser' to John Paul II would make such a fundamental mistake? One must think it was made in bad faith, because surely before the Honorable Rocco put his words down on paper, he must have checked his facts!]

An even more fundamentally apropos commentary on the un-Catholic and anti-Catholic assumptions in AL Chapter 8 is this:

Is God's grace not sufficient
to help keep us to do right?

Al assumes it is not, which justifies 'mercy'
for those who cannot help themselves

by Fr. Mark A. Pilon
SAPRIL 22, 2017

What I find most troubling about the current controversy over whether the divorced and civilly remarried can be allowed to receive Communion (while living in the state of adultery) is the way the debate seems to obscure the whole issue of free will and grace. This is not simply a dispute over moral norms or sacramental discipline; at its very heart is the whole question of the power of God’s grace in the soul of the sinner.

Those who say that a person living in adultery may find it “impossible” to obey the sixth commandment – by logical extension any of the commandments in a difficult situation – are in effect demeaning either the operative power of the graces flowing from Christ or the operative freedom of the person struggling with temptation or living in sin. [Yet this is the operating assumption of no less than the current Vicar of Christ on earth!]

If the operative grace of Christ is not sufficient to enable the sinner to reject the sin, repent, and do what’s necessary to change a sinful way of life, then just how powerful can that grace really be? When Paul begged Christ three time to remove the thorn in his flesh, which he attributed to Satan, Christ replied: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Now, we don’t know exactly what this “thorn” from Satan was – perhaps a grave temptation or a serious health problem. What is important, regardless of the problem, is the solid assurance that His grace is not only sufficient to overcome it but is actually made perfect in the face of any human weakness.

Moreover, Paul has already addressed this same issue of the power of Grace when he reassures the Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The “way out” is by virtue of His grace, which is the reason why the Christian never boasts in his own power, but in his weakness, because he trusts that God will come to our aid and help us overcome any temptation, any struggle with evil if we surrender to His grace.

When a Christian says that it is “impossible” for another Christian to obey a commandment, as a Roman Cardinal recently did, what is such an assertion but a practical denial of the power of grace and of Christ Himself? If His grace is ultimately conditioned in its effectiveness by human will and passions and circumstances, then it is weaker than they are.

Thus, at least in practice, it becomes very much a secondary element in the moral life – somewhat like what the Pelagian heresy taught about grace: that it’s effectively non-essential, if helpful in some instances.

Pelagianism was not simply an anthropological and moral heresy that denied the transmission of Original Sin and asserted that free will was sufficient to attain moral perfection. The denial of the necessity of Grace for Justification and moral perfection led theologically to an even more profound Christological and soteriological heresy, which undermined the whole redemptive mission of Christ and thus undermined the theological foundation for the Incarnation. What do we need Christ for, if man is perfectly capable of saving himself by properly exercising his free will?

What is going on today, however, is not exactly a form of neo-Pelagianism, but rather a new form of quasi-determinism. While Pelagius exalted free will to the heavens, the modern denial of the power of grace is based on the reduction of free will to a slave of the passions. Free will is so utterly weak, that in difficult situations, it cannot begin to cooperate with God’s grace. Thus obedience to the will of God becomes “impossible” in some cases, a position condemned at the Council of Trent for important theological reasons.

If God’s grace is so weak that it cannot heal the weakness of the will and enable it to overcome temptations, or moral conundrums – especially those related to the flesh – “my grace is sufficient for thee” is reduced to a platitude or banality, a nice saying, but ultimately meaningless for real life. Maybe Christ should have said, “Sometimes my grace is sufficient for thee, and only sometimes it is made perfect in weakness, but not always, in tough cases.”

Today, the penetration of the Christian ethos by various forms of determinism, especially by a rabid psychological determinism, has radically demeaned free will and human dignity and the power of actual operative grace, while absolutizing the grace of justification. It is more like a resurgence of extreme Calvinist determinism but without the element of negative predestination.

In that view, man’s free will is totally corrupted, but, thanks to Christ’s redemption, most if not all men are positively predestined to heaven. So why agonize over the moral life so much, since many if not most men seem to find it “impossible” to overcome certain sins?

The proponents of this strange combination of moral determinism and salvific universalism never seem to see just how these various denials of moral responsibility demean not only the operative grace of Christ but likewise the true dignity of man.

How much more dignified is the man who confesses his responsibility for sin than the man who declares himself guiltless because he found it just impossible to follow God’s commandment, regardless of the grace of Christ?

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 25/04/2017 13.53]
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Utente Gold

Benedict XVI:
The prophecy of faith

by Angela Ambrogetti
Translated from

ROME, April 19, 2017 (ACIStampa) – One of the most significant aspects of the life of Joseph Ratzinger was his work as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Without that almost quarter-century of work, his pontificate as Benedict XVI would have been very different.

This was well understood by Giovan Battista Brunori, Vaticanista of Tg2 (the primetime newscast of Italian state TV’s second channel), who had a solid preparation as archivist and has also been in charge of foreign affairs for the RAI editorial department.


His book, Benedetto XVI. Fede e profezia del primo Papa emerito della storia” (Benedict XVI: Faith and prophecy of the first Emeritus Pope in history) (ed. Paoline, 2017), is invaluable for reporting his bibliographical references, and other notes and citations which make it a true instrument for study, even for other journalists.

As Brunori explains it in his introduction,

“To a world that is increasingly uncertain and fearful, that has been thrown into a crisis of identity by mass migrations, embittered and constrained to defend itself from the threatening hatred of terrorists who are passing off their perceived ‘duty to kill’ as their ‘duty to believe’, Ratzinger’s response was to present to everyone ‘the Christian difference’ which love, the true face of Christianity. ‘God is love’, he reaffirmed in his first encyclical, taking off from the evangelist John. This is the key to understanding the ‘prophetic’ quality of Joseph Ratzinger’s life."

One simply needs to look through the Table of Contents to see how this prophetic quality has emerged. From his life in his native Bavaria, through the Second World War, his formation as a priest, his work as a professor, in the Second Vatican Council, and especially, his work at the CDF.

Brunori notes, “Ratzinger committed many years of his life in seeking to renew it and make it more international, calling on theologians and canonists from all over the world to work with the CDF. Durign his term in office, he carried out service which changed the Church”.

The text cites the most difficult issues faced by the Bavarian cardinal at the CDF, but also includes his clear but respectful working method as the theological and doctrinal right-hand man of John Paul II. A method that also shaped and reflected what would be Benedict XVI’s spiritual program.

“Few appreciated that Benedict XVI was not interested in making political statements but in transmitting spiritual messages that indicate the way for the Church to return to the essentials of the faith."

One could see this in his papal coat of arms which signaled a discontinuity with the past (it does not use the image of the papal tiara), in that it indicates a pope who did not think of himself as ‘a successor of Emperor Constantine’ but of a fisher of men” as Peter was.

And few are aware, Brunori says, of the breadth of the dialog that Benedict XVI carried on – with those unused to thinking of faith and reason as compatible and inseparable, with thinkers from other confessions and from other faiths.

Whereby he reports on the Regensburg lecture in its real sense: “The Regensburg lecture – despite all the opposition, errors and controversy it stirred up – was a turning-point, a change from the tendency to the irenism that usually characterizes inter-religious relations, in which a kind of false courtesy takes over, so that dialog becomes nothing but an exercise in good manners and fine-sounding words that last only as long as the news spotlights are on, but really does not stick to the consciousness of the participants and their followers”.

After Regensburg, in Paris, London and Berlin, the great September secular discourses of Benedict XVI conveyed to the world his vision of the faith, with particular application to the European experience.

But there is also an ad intra analysis of his pontificate regarding the difficulties in his relationship with the Roman Curia some of whose elements, in some way, viewed Benedict XVI with suspicion. [Hostility is perhaps the more appropriate word, because ‘suspicion’ can imply some degree of collaboration, however reluctant – whereas the few overt elements who worked proactively against him (the Vatican Old Guard from the previous pontificate, along with a few influential progressivist retired cardinals living in Rome, who saw in him their nemesis because of his implacable rejection of the erroneous but stubborn ‘spirit of Vatican II’) sought to sabotage his efforts when they could, and as they could.]

But Benedict proceeded with his program – renewing Catholic thought, fruitful dialog with the right parties (like the Anglicans he welcomed back to the Church in the Ordinariates), consolidated special relations with the Jews, held out a hand to the excommunicated Lefebvrians.

“Benedict’s understanding of the Biblical Israel”, writes Brunori, “was part of his research into the sources of the Christian faith. The Jews of the Bible were almost like a ‘traveling companion’ for Ratzinger – for whom the Christian faith would not be properly understood without what came before it. That the relationship with the Jewish people is part of the Church’s path, and that the renewal of the faith that he aspired to was impelled by his own Biblical formation, by his study of Sacred Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testaments”.

And so, Brunori comes naturally to a conclusion after a careful reconstruction of many facts:

“The outwardly ‘timid’ Pope, gifted with strong and brilliant thinking, who proposed rather than seeking to impose, who would have preferred not to become a bishop nor Curial official, who did nothing to become Pope, really prefers a life of reserve, yet more than any other prelate in our time willingly exposed his person to criticism and insults.

He publicly acknowledged the errors committed by the Curia in the same way that he never hid his human frailty, yet he did not draw back from dealing with the recurrent tempests that afflicted the Church during his Pontificate”.

His renunciation of the Papacy was simply the final step in a life of prophecy. Brunori’s book takes the reader beyond the superficial chronicle of daily headlines to bring a clarity to the work and achievements of the 265th Pope.

Just when I thought I had caught up with the new books on B16, Vatican radio turns up another one today – this time a book that pays tribute to Benedict XVI’s
relationship with the arts. Its very title is programmatic:
“Benedetto XVI. L’Arte è una porta verso l’infinito. Teologia Estetica per un Nuovo
(Benedict XVI: Art is a door to the infinite. An aesthetic theology for a new Renaissance)


A book honors Benedict XVI’s
appreciation of the arts

Translated from the Italian service of
April 22, 2017

A tribute to Benedict XVI for his 90th birthday and to his constant invocation of the theme of beauty as a way of evangelization. This is the book Benedetto XVI. L’Arte è una porta verso l’infinito. Teologia Estetica per un Nuovo Rinascimento” (Benedict XVI: Art is a door to the infinite. An aesthetic theology for a new Renaissance).

Published by Fabrizio Fabbri Editore and Ars Illuminandi, and edited by Mons. Jean Marie Gervais, founder of the association Tota pulchra (All beauty), and journalist Alessandro Notarnicola, the book was presented Saturday morning at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, and contains the most significant texts of Benedict XVI on the arts. It is illustrated by the artist Bruno Ceccobelli.

RV’s Paolo Ondarza interviewed co-author Notarnicola who spoke about why the book was put together:
Notarnicola: I think of this book as a true and proper biography – I like to think an original one – of the Emeritus Pope because it puts together his thoughts on the arts and on beauty, written when he was cardinal as well as after he became Pope. We all know that Pope Benedict made numerous references to beauty – both the material artistic beauty which we all experience and see in churches everywhere, but especially, at the Vatican; and the beauty of nature, of Creation, what God has given man.

The book does not consider beauty as abstract and remote from man’s affairs, and within the book, Benedict XVI is often cited telling artists that “Mankind needs beauty – beauty can give us courage and encouragement”. Which makes it very immediate…
Yes. The Emeritus Pope explains that one of the ways by which man can carry out his continuous search for the infinite which conflates with the imago Dei and therefore ends in God himself, is art which should not simply be something beautiful – it must not be empty. It does not end with the tourist who comes into a church, admires the works of art he sees and photographs them – but that each work of art has a message. Art is a bridge between reality, the life of each of us, and the transcendent – God. Substantially, we can say that every work of man should be a work of art.

In his eight years as Pope, rich with content that we ought to be studying constantly, Benedict XVI underscores two points about beauty. On the one hand, art, beauty, the union between the via veritatis, our continuous search for truth, and the via pulchritudinis, our search for truth. On the other hand, we must not forget that Benedict XVI was conscious of beauty even in his reference to the new technologies, having been the first pope to use the social media. In this, he sought to make it clear that art can be lived even through the Internet, that the social networks should not be vacuous initiatives that are simply vehicles for vanity, like the selfies that are posted on Instagram. They can be used to propagate ethical principles ‘artfully’ – art for evangelization. And so, as Paul VI did in 1964, he called on artists to evangelize through their talents because God ought to be present in everything, including works of art.

Against the prejudice that sees dogma, doctrine, even the Catechism, as obstacles to the liberty of the artist, Benedict XVI said: “Do not be afraid to confront the first and last sources of beauty – namely, the Gospel, the face of Christ. Faith will not take anything away from your genius”.
It is an appeal that goes back to the early 20th century when the artistic avant-garde made itself felt, when artists began to distance themselves from the Church and from religious art, indeed from the sacred and religious sense of art. Modern art became individualistic, while at the same time, artists lost what once had been a principal patron of the arts – the Church and her popes.

Avant-gardism was also accompanied by a crisis in sacred art. Do you think there is now a rediscovery of the link between faith and art, between art and liturgy?
I think there is still a long way to go before contemporary artists recover the via pulchritudinis indicated by the Church. The artist Bruno Ceccobelli seeks to do that in this book. In seeking to give graphic form to the ten addresses of Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI that are found in this book, he defines the ten illustrations he made as contemporary icons of the sacred.

What do hope to accomplish with this work?
I hope it will signal a return, that our churches once more avail of the joy in the fine arts, in beautiful art that can be shared by everyone.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 25/04/2017 20.48]
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Utente Gold

Report on the lay conference
‘Seeking clarity’ one year after AL

By Lorenzo Bertocchi
Translated from
April 23, 2017

“We’re not here for an ideological battle,” said Riccardo Cascioli, editor in chief of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana which with its parent publication, the monthly Il Timone, organized and sponsored a conference entitled “Seeking Clarity: One year after Amoris laetitia,” held in a hotel around the corner from St. Peter’s Square.

A conference convened by lay people, with lay speakers from around the world. Many journalists were present, among them, prominent Italian Vaticanistas like Sandro Magister, Luigi Accattoli, Giuseppe Rusconi and Aldo Maria Valli; and among the foreign Vaticanistas, Edward Pentin. Around 200 people followed the proceedings of the busy day.

The most important emphasis of the event was precisely the role of the laity, as Valli rightly noted in his article before the conference and published on his blog:

“All too seldom are Catholic lay people seen gathered on their own, without the guidance of a cardinal, a bishop, a monsignor or at least a simple priest, to discuss issues that concern first of all the fundamental contents of faith. It is even rarer to see lay people who decide to come out in the open to appeal to the pastors with an admonishment that sounds like ‘Excuse us, but look at what, according to us, you all have produced, that is, something which does not work, and which can become dangerous not only and not so much in an abstract sense, but precisely for the salvation of souls’.”

One of the speakers, Anna Silvas , an Australian university professor, brought up Tolkien’s saga to point out that the laity are like the hobbits of Middle Earth. - “not powerful, but with a fundamental role in the battle for the triumph of good.”

Cascioli summed up in his introductory remarks the issues of concern that led to organizing the conference. “The dispute over Amoris Laetitia has to do with t the significance of three sacraments: marriage, penance and especially the Eucharist. We have bishops’ conferences, individual bishops, priests, who have given opposing interpretations and directives of AL on these most sensitive issues. It has become so absurd that these directives differ not only from country to country but also from diocese to diocese and parish to parish.”

“This conference,” Cascioli reiterated, “is not an act of rebellion against the Pope, nor does it intend to put an ultimatum, nor does it have schismatic intentions. Criticism of certain passages – especially contained in chapter eight of Amoris laetitia, as well as of certain interpretations by bishops’ conferences such as the German and Maltese ones, and of individual cardinals, bishops, religious, are simply a testimony in favor of clarity.”

Hence this request for clarification from laymen building on the five DUBIA that four cardinals have handed over to the Pope so that he may untie the knots on fundamental issues that concern Catholic moral doctrine and the pastoral practice that follows from it.

These prominent speakers, Cascioli said , “come from different cultures, from different ecclesial experiences, they also express different sensibilities and also the way to address the current situation is not identical. But in common, we all have the perception of the seriousness of the crisis of the Church and the desire to carry out our personal responsibility fully in order to contribute to the good of the Church itself, in order to call the pastors to their duty.”

The proceedings opened with the intervention of Jürgen Liminski , director of the Institute for Demography, Welfare and Family (Germany), who stressed the social value of the indissolubility of marriage. “A long-lasting marriage,” he said, “guarantees a climate of trust in the bonds of affection and trust is the cement of society. For this reason, stable and non-liquid relationships are a cultural capital useful to society and also to the economy.”

Douglas Farrow, professor of Christian philosophy in Montreal, recalled the “Gnostic risk in distinguishing a judgmental God from a merciful God”. And that the challenge for the Church today is to raise man’s eyes to a God who does not need to mitigate justice to give mercy.

If tradition “cannot contradict itself, paragraph 303 of Amoris laetitia raises the question of how conscience is understood compared to what paragraph No. 56 of the encyclical of St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, teaches.”

Parisian philosopher Thibaud Collin noted that the issue of the relationship between natural law and conscience, between the objective order and subjective responsibility, is at the heart of the five DUBIA raised by the Four Cardinals. “The law of God,” Collin said, “cannot become one element among others, to be weighted on the basis of situations.”

The Frenchman also confronted the claim that Amoris laetitia is a doctrinal development in continuity with Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor, noting that this claim presents a number of inconsistencies that are far from being resolved.

Professor Claudio Pierantoni of Chile said that, in a sense, the DUBIA are ‘new’, because “they ask something on which the magisterium had already clearly expressed itself several times.” [In other words, no faithful orthodox member of the Church had ever made the DUBIA issues that need to be clarified at all, least of all by the pope responsible for raising the issues to begin with.]

In Amoris laetitia, according Pierantoni, “the indissolubility of marriage is affirmed, but proceeds with innovations in practices that contradict it.”

Jean Paul Messina, a Cameroonian professor, focused mainly on the issue of polygamy which, in Africa, is a true and proper risk to the Gospel of the family and Christian marriage.

The ff is the presentation made by a Chilean professor to the April 22 conference on AL...

The necessary consistency of
Magisterium with Tradition -
Examples from Church history

by Claudio Pierantoni
Translation courtesy of

In this presentation we will first briefly examine the incidents of two popes of antiquity, Liberius and Honorius, who for different reasons were accused of deviating from the Tradition of the Church, during the long Trinitarian and Christological controversy that occupied the Church from the 4th to the 7th century.

In the light of the reactions of the ecclesial body in the face of these doctrinal deviations, we will then examine the current debate that has developed around the proposals of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” and the five DUBIA raised by four cardinals.

1. The case of Honorius
Honorius I was the only pope to have been formally condemned for heresy. We are in the early decades of the 7th century, in the context of the controversy over the two wills of Christ. Honorius upheld the doctrine of one will in Christ, or “monothelitism”, which was however later declared to be in contrast with the dogma of the two natures, divine and human, a doctrine solidly founded on biblical revelation and solemnly decreed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Here is the text with which, in 681, after his death, the third ecumenical Council of Constantinople, the sixth ecumenical council, condemned him together with Patriarch Sergius:

“Having examined the dogmatic letters written by Sergius, in his time the patriarch of this imperial city. . . and the letter with which Honorius responded to Sergius, and having seen that they are not in keeping with the apostolic teachings and with the definitions of the holy councils and of all the illustrious holy Fathers, and that on the contrary they follow the false doctrines of the heretics, we reject them and execrate them as corruptive.

2. The case of Liberius
Liberius was pope at one of the most delicate moments of the Arian controversy, halfway through the 4th century. His predecessor, Julius I, had tenaciously defended the faith established by the Council of Nicaea in 325, which declared the Son to be consubstantial with the Father. But Constantius, the emperor of the East, supported the majority position of the eastern bishops, contrary to Nicaea, which according to them, did not leave room for the personal difference between the Father and the Son. Constantius ordered Liberius to be abducted, deposed, and sent into exile in Thrace, where after about a year he gave in.

Liberius thus renounced the faith of Nicaea and excommunicated Athanasius, who was its most significant defender. Now obedient to the emperor, Liberius obtained permission to come back to Rome, where he was reinstalled as bishop. In the months that followed, all the pro-Arian prelates who had established their careers through the favor of Constantius consolidated their power in the main episcopal sees.

This was the moment at which, according to the famous expression of Saint Jerome, “the world lamented that it had become Arian.” Of the more than one thousand bishops in Christendom at the time, only three stalwarts held firm in exile: Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, and Lucifer of Cagliari.

But Constantius died suddenly, in 361, and the emperor Julian, later called “the Apostate,” rose to the throne. He imposed the return of the Roman state to paganism, eliminated the whole ecclesiastical policy of Constantius at a stroke, and allowed the exiled bishops to go back to their jurisdictions.

Free from threats, Pope Liberius sent an encyclical that declared invalid the formula he had previously approved, and required the bishops of Italy to accept the creed of Nicaea. In 366, in a synod celebrated in Rome shortly before he died, he even had the joy of obtaining the signature of the creed of Nicaea by a delegation of eastern bishops. As soon as he died he was venerated as a confessor of the faith, but devotion to him was soon interrupted because of the memory of his concession.

In spite of their differences, the two cases of Liberius and Honorius have in common an attenuating circumstance, and that is the fact that their respective doctrinal deviations took place when the respective doctrines were still being determined, that of the Trinity in the case of Liberius, and the Christological one in the case of Honorius.

3. The case of Francis
However, the doctrinal deviation that is taking place during the current pontificate instead has an aggravating circumstance, because it is not countering doctrines that are still unclear, or still being determined, but doctrines that, in addition to being solidly anchored in Tradition, have also been exhaustively debated in recent decades and clarified in detail by the recent magisterium.

Of course, the doctrinal deviation in question was already present in recent decades and with it therefore, also the underground schism that this signified. But when one passes from an abuse at the practical level to its justification at the doctrinal level through a text of the pontifical magisterium like “Amoris Laetitia” and through positive statements and actions of the pontiff himself, the situation changes radically.

Let us see, in four points, the progress of this destruction of the deposit of the faith.

First, if marriage is indissoluble, and yet in some cases communion can be given to the divorced and remarried, it seems evident that this indissolubility is no longer considered absolute, but only a rule that can admit exceptions.

Now this, as Cardinal Carlo Caffarra has explained well, contradicts the nature of the sacrament of marriage, which is not a simple promise, as solemn as it may be, made before God, but an action of grace that works at the genuinely ontological level. Therefore, when it is said that marriage is indissoluble, what is stated is not simply a general rule, but what is said is that ontologically marriage cannot be dissolved, because in it is contained the sign and the reality of the indissoluble marriage between God and his People, between Christ and his Church. And this mystical marriage is precisely the end of the whole divine plan of creation and redemption.

Second, the author of “Amoris Laetitia” has instead chosen to insist, in his argumentation, on the subjective side of moral action. A person, he says, may not be in mortal sin because, for various reasons, he is not fully aware that his situation constitutes adultery.

Now this, which in general terms can certainly happen, involves an evident contradiction in the way AL makes use of it. In fact, it is clear that the much-recommended discernment and accompaniment of individual situations directly contradict the assumption that the subject continues to be unaware of his situation indefinitely.

But the author of AL, far from perceiving this contradiction, pushes it to the further absurdity of affirming that an in-depth discernment can lead the subject to have the certainty that his situation, objectively contrary to the divine law, is precisely what God wants from him.

Third, recourse to the previous argument, in turn, betrays a dangerous confusion that that does not just undermine the doctrine of the sacraments but the very notion of divine law, understood as the source of the natural law, and reflected in the Ten Commandments: a law given to man because it is meant to regulate his fundamental behaviors, not limited to particular historical circumstances, but founded on his very nature, the author of which is none other than God.

Therefore, to suppose that the natural law may admit exceptions is a real and proper contradiction - it is a supposition that does not understand its true essence and therefore confuses it with 'positive law'. The presence of this grave confusion is confirmed by the repeated attack, present in AL, against the quibblers, the presumed “pharisees” who are hypocrites and hard of heart.

This attack, in fact, betrays a complete misunderstanding of the position of Jesus toward the divine law, because his criticism of pharisaic behavior is based precisely on a clear distinction between positive law - the “precepts of men” - to which the pharisees are so attached, and the fundamental Commandments, which are instead the first requirement, indispensable, that he himself asks of the aspiring disciple.

On the basis of this misunderstanding one understands the real reason why, after habitually insulting the Pharisees [both those in Jesus's time and those Bergoglio considers contemporary Pharisees], the pope ends up in de facto alignment with the ancient Pharisees' position in favor of divorce, against that of Jesus.

But, even more deeply, it is important to observe that this confusion profoundly distorts the very essence of the Gospel and its necessary grounding in the person of Christ.

Fourth, Christ,according to the Gospels, is not simply a good man who came into the world to preach a message of peace and justice. He is, first of all, the Logos, the Word who was in the beginning and who, in the fullness of time, becomes incarnate. It is significant that Benedict XVI, right from his homily “Pro eligendo romano pontifice,” made precisely the Logos the linchpin of his teaching, which is fought to the death by modern subjectivism.

Now, this subjectivist philosophy justifies one of the postulates most dear to Pope Francis, according to which "realities are more important than ideas.” A maxim like this, in fact, makes sense only if one thinks there cannot exist true ideas that not only faithfully reflect reality but can even judge and direct it. [It's a most stupid and self-destructing maxim, any way you look at it. It is in itself an idea, and will Bergoglio maintain that it is 'less important' than whatever it is he considers 'realities'? It is God's eternal Idea - the Logos - that has made every reality possible; and just so, human actions which mediate our daily realities, spring from ideas, conscious or subconscious!]

The Gospel, taken as a whole, presupposes this metaphysical and epistemological structure, where truth is in the first place the conforming of things to the intellect, and the intellect is in the first place that which is divine: indeed, the divine Word.

In this atmosphere it can be understood how it is possible that the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica could state that it is pastoral practice that must guide doctrine, and not the other way around, and that in theology “two plus two can equal five.” It explains why this pope would allow a Lutheran lady can receive communion together with her Catholic husband: the practice, in fact, the action, is that of the Lord’s Supper, which they have in common, while that in which they differ is only “the interpretations, the explanations” mere concepts after all [including Trans-substantiation which distinguishes the Catholic idea of the Eucharist from that of Protestants - and will Bergoglio say that the idea of Trans-Substantiation is less important than its 'reality' when in this case, idea and reality are one and the same?].

But it also explains how, according to the superior general of the Society of Jesus, the incarnate Word is not capable of coming into contact with his creatures through the means that he himself chose, the apostolic Tradition: in fact, he says to do this, it would be necessary to know what Jesus truly said, but we cannot, he says, “since there was no recorder.”

Even more thoroughly in this atmosphere, finally, it is explained how the pope cannot answer “yes” or “no” to the DUBIA. If in fact “realities are more important than ideas,” then man does not even need to think with the principle of non-contradiction, he has no need of principles that say “this yes and this no” and must not even obey a transcendent natural law, which is not identified with reality itself. In short, man does not need a doctrine, because the historical reality suffices for itself. This is, in short, “Weltgeist,” the Spirit of the World.

4. Conclusion
What leaps to the attention in the current situation is precisely the underlying doctrinal deformation that, as skillful as it may be in evading directly heterodox formulations, still maneuvers in a coherent way to carry forward an attack not only against particular dogmas like the indissolubility of marriage and the objectivity of the moral law, but even against the very concept of right doctrine, and with it, of the very person of Christ as Logos.

The first victim of this doctrinal deformation is precisely the pope, who I hazard to conjecture, is hardly aware that he is the victim of a generalized epochal alienation from Tradition in large segments of theological teaching.

In this situation, the DUBIA, the five questions presented by the four cardinals, have put the pope into a situation of stalemate. If he were to respond by denying Tradition and the magisterium of his predecessors [as he in fact does in AL], he would also be formally heretical, so he cannot do it.

But if he were to respond in harmony with the previous magisterium, he would contradict many of the doctrinally significant actions carried out during his pontificate, so it would be a very difficult choice. He has therefore chosen silence because, humanly, the situation can seem to have no way out. But meanwhile, the confusion and the “de facto” schism are spreading in the Church.

In the light of all this, it therefore becomes more necessary than ever to make a further act of courage, truth, and charity, on the part of the cardinals, but also of the bishops and then of all the qualified laity who would like to adhere to it. In such a serious situation of danger for the faith and of generalized scandal, it is not only licit but even obligatory to frankly address a fraternal correction to Peter, for his good and that of the whole Church.

A fraternal correction is neither an act of hostility, nor a lack of respect, nor an act of disobedience.
It is nothing other than a declaration of truth: “caritas in veritate.” The pope, even before being
pope, is our brother first.

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‘Islam is a religion of the sword’
An Egyptian Jesuit contradicts his fellow Jesuit’s
political correctness (and willful blindness)

April 18, 2017

On Friday, April 28, Pope Francis will land in an Egypt still shaken by the massacres of Palm Sunday, carried out by Muslims in two Christian churches packed with faithful. But the mantra of the Vatican authorities, starting with the pope, continues to be that “Islam is a religion of peace.” Absolutely forbidden to speak of a “war of religion” or “Islamic terrorism.”

La Civiltà Cattolica tried once, in a 2014 editorial signed by Fr. Luciano Larivera (who is no longer among the magazine’s contributors), to let itself be overtaken by reality, writing of the most bellicose elements in the Muslim world: that “Theirs is a war of religion and of annihilation - exploiting power in the name of religion, and not the other way around.” But Fr. Antonio Spadaro stepped in immediately to disown this simple truth that had inadvertently appeared in the magazine he edits.

However, in the run-up to Francis’s journey to Cairo, it has emerged once again, developed in depth, this time in L'Osservatore Romano and once again by a Jesuit. [How shall one explain the occasional stepping outside the Bergoglian line in OR? A courageous act of protest by one of the editors? (After all, they do decide what items are ultimately chosen for publication, then laid out in an issue, and ultimately printed.)]

His name is Henri Boulad, 86. Born in Alexandria, Egypt to a Syrian family of the Melkite rite that escaped the anti-Christian massacres of 1860, he lives in Cairo, and the following is part of the interview that he gave to the Vatican’s official newspaper published April 13, Holy Thursday.

Fr. Boulad, you were rector of the Jesuit college in Cairo where many Muslims and Christians have studied, a concrete example of coexistence. And yet today the world seems to be under attack by Islam itself.

But which Islam are we talking about? This is the point. In the Qur’an there are so-called verses of Mecca and verses of Medina. In those written in Mecca, Muhammad presents a very open discourse that speaks of love, in which Jews and Christians are friends, there is no constraint in religion ,and God is closer to us. The first part of Muhammad’s life therefore transmits a message of spirituality, reconciliation, and openness.

But when Muhammad leaves Mecca for Medina, there is a change. From being a spiritual leader he becomes a head of state, military and political. Today three fourths of the Qur’an consists of verses from Medina, and they are an appeal for war, violence, and fighting Christians.

The Muslims of the 9th and 10th centuries were aware of this contradiction and got together to try to resolve it, the result being that they made the now famous decision of “abrogating” and “abrogated”, namely. that the verses of Medina abrogate those of Mecca. Not only that. Sufism [the mystical form of Islam] was rejected and whole libraries were burned in Egypt and northern Africa.

But the verses of Mecca have been abrogated and that makes the Muslim religion a religion of the sword.

But many observers and analysts speak of a moderate Islam.
‘Moderate Islam’ is [considered] a heresy, but we must distinguish between the people and the ideology. Most Muslims are very open, kind, and moderate. But the ideology taught in books and writings, in school and in the mosques, is radical. Every Friday the children hear the preaching in the mosques, which is a continual incitement that those who leave the Muslim religion must be punished with death,; that one must not greet a woman or an infidel - fortunately this is not widely practiced - but the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis insist on this doctrine. [Salafis refers to an ultraconservative movement within Sunni Islam that began in the late 18th century,.They advocate "a fundamentalist approach to Islam, emulatingMuhammad and his earliest followers ; They reject religious innovation and support the implementation of sharia .The movement is often divided into three categories: the largest group are the purists (or quietists), who avoid politics; the second largest group are the activists, who get involved in politics; and the smallest group are jihadists, who form a small minority. Since the 1960s, Salafism has been used interchangeably with Wahhabism, the Muslim denomination that is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, which is like Salafism in its radicalism.]

Moderate Muslims do not [really] have a voice in Islam, where the power is in the hands of those who presume to interpret orthodoxy and the truth. Those who have the power today are not the Muslims who have taken from Islam that which is compatible with modernity and with life in common with other people, but the radical Muslims, who apply a literal, and sometimes even exploitative interpretation of the Qur’an and reject any sort of dialogue.

But in this way they deny the work of all the great Muslim thinkers, like Avicenna or Al-Ghazali.
Yes, this is a sensitive point. Any reforms in the history of Islam have been rejected. For example, the Abbasid caliph Al-Ma'mun, who was born in Baghdad in 786 and died in Tarsus in 833, a follower of the Mu'tazilas, the rationalists of Islam, attempted a reform, but who still remembers him today? What has prevailed has been the closed and rigorous Islam of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab [founder of Wahhabism]. The most recent reform was that attempted by the Sheikh Mahmoud Taha in Sudan, but he was executed in the town square of Khartoum because he said that the verses of Mecca should abrogate those of Medina.

This is a problem within Islam, which does not offer responses to the questions of modern life and finds itself facing the need to reform itself. Islam would appear to need a Vatican II. [Benedict XVI, of course, articulated this viewpoint best in the Regensburg lecture, except that he was more fundamental. He said Islam needed an Enlightenment, to begin with.]

Today what are the challenges that Egypt is facing?
One phenomenon that is spoken of little is atheism. In Egypt there are more than two million atheists. They have become so because they can no longer endure religion as an incitement to violence or to capital punishment. In this there is nothing of the divine. They want no more of fanaticism, of the liturgy as a mechanical repetition of actions and prayers. And to leave religion is something entirely new in Egypt and in the Arab world.

POSTSCRIPT – On the occasion of Joseph Ratzinger's 90th birthday, the state and Church of Poland held a conference in Warsaw on the theme: "The concept of state in the perspective of the teaching of Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI." And part of the message from the pope emeritus to the conference was this:

’"The theme selected leads state and ecclesial authorities to dialogue together on a question essential for the future of our continent. The juxtaposition of radically atheistic conceptions of the state and the rise of a radically religious state in the Islamist movements is leading our time into an explosive situation, the consequences of which we experience every day. These forms of radicalism urgently require that we develop a persuasive conception of the state that may withstand the encounter with these challenges and may overcome them."

Words and judgments that would be unthinkable from the lips of his successor.

While his successor prepares to visit Egypt,
Benedict XVI recalls the warning he made in Regensburg

By Riccardo Cascioli
Translated from
April 25, 2014

It was certainly a coincidence brought about by a birthday symposium in honor of Benedict XVI, but his powerful message just two weeks before Pope Francis’s important visit to Egypt on April 28-29 could not have been casual.

Indeed, on April 19, on the occasion of the Emeritus Pope’s 90th birthday on April 16 [and coinciding with the 12th anniversary of his election as Pope], a conference was held at the headquarters of the Polish bishops conference in Warsaw on the topic “The concept of the State in the teaching of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI”.

For which event, Benedict XVI sent a message which, brief as it was, affirmed a fundamental concept, or better, an explosive verdict which once again tears into the political correctness that continues to mark the relations between Islam and the Western world.

The Pope of the Regensburg lecture speaks here of “an essential question for the future of our continent”, saying:

“The confrontation between the radically atheist concepts of the State and the emergence of a radically religious State from the Islamist movements, have led our time to an explosive situation, whose consequences we experience every day. These radicalisms demand urgently that we develop a convincing concept of the State which can support confronting these challenges and overcome them”.

Thus, he reproposes again a lesson from the Regensburg lecture which he gave on September 12, 2006, one that was as greatly criticized as it was grossly misunderstood [not so much misunderstood, I think, but largely unread by its critics whose only knowledge about the lecture was the single passage citing a Byzantine emperor’s remark about Mohammed that Muslims found offensive.]

It was criticized and largely misunderstood in the West itself, where a false controversy was contrived that provoked a furious reaction in the Muslim world and which [worse!] obscured the true significance of his words [about Islamist violence, and the pathologies that all religions are prone to] which after 11 years, sound even more immediate than ever.

Yes, there was a reaction but behind all those artificially fueled protests, something also moved in the Islamic world, which became evident in a few weeks with a letter from 138 ‘moderate’ Muslim scholars and leaders to the Pope and the heads of other Christian confessions, an initiative that led to formal Catholic-Muslim dialogs at the Vatican and elsewhere. [Unhappily, the initiative appeared to have stalled after a few years, despite the establishment of a Saudi-funded center for Catholic-Muslim interaction in Vienna.]

In Regensburg, Benedict XVI had underscored the importance of uniting faith with reason, of a God who acts with reason, not arbitrarily, as the Greeks had already theorized centuries before Christ. He saw the scission between faith and reason as behind the current tragedy of society today:

On the part of the West, because reason has been ‘reduced’ by the desire to exclude God: “Reason which, in the face of the divine, is deaf, and has pushed aside religion to the status of a subculture, is incapable of being applied to the dialog among cultures”.

And on the part of Islam, whose idea of God is of one who acts arbitrarily, which believes that since God is transcendent, his will is not linked to reason at all. Therefore, Islam justifies violence. And it is only in the Greco-Judeo-Christian culture that “not acting according to reason is contrary to the nature of God”.

Anyone who observes current reality without the blinders of ideology cannot fail to recognize that this stark contrast in the concept of God is the tragedy we are experiencing. On the one hand, there is the secular West which has become incapable of understanding reality and other cultures, and which uses the violence of political correctness to impose its worldview. On the other hand, Islamism which is not able to conceive of anything other than its drive for world domination, even if this has to be imposed with terror.

And this confrontation between opposing radicalisms has Europe as its theater of war, thanks also to the irrational immigration policies that are the outcome of Western failure to cope with the reality of Islam.

In this sense, Benedict XVI’s message as he turned 90 sounds a bit like the last alarm before the tragedy explodes. What way does he indicate, and what could be that “convincing concept of the State” that he refers to?

This was summarized at the Warsaw conference by Fr. Federico Lombardi, who was the Vatican press officer for much of Benedict XVI’s Pontificate [and was named president of the Fondazione Vaticana Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI nine months ago]:

Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI is profoundly convincesdthat the true foundation, the most solid guarantee, of a human order that is capable of safeguarding the dignity and value of the human being is the recognition by human reason of the truth that there is an objective moral order based ultimately on the creative reason of God”.

It is a clear indication that also explains what it really means to acknowledge the Christian roots of Europe: It is not to impose religion but to have an idea of reason that is ‘revealed in all its amplitude’ and therefore, open to the transcendent, as Benedict XVI said in Regensburg.

Reproposed today, this sounds even more revolutionary with respect to the dominant cultures and to the spiral of violence which is tightening in the world. But on the eve of Pope Francis’s trip to Egypt, it also sounds an alarm – or at least, a reminder – to a pope who had never disguised his disapproval of the Regensburg lecture [zeroing in only on the citation about Mohammed] and considered it an obstacle to dialog with Islam.

To Benedict XVI’s challenge on truth and reason, Francis has opposed the challenge of ‘meeting as message’ as this pope himself has defined his approach. For him, what matters is to meet and talk, in the belief that this brings barriers down and enables bridges to be built. That is why this pope has never considered Islam as a problem, certainly not in terms of mass migrations into Europe by Muslims [nor in terms of jihad!].

He continues to reiterate that Islam is a religion of peace, and that there is no difference between the violence of the jihadists and the violence of Christians [but the contemporary examples of ‘Christian violence’ that he cites and equiparates to terrorist massacres are common criminal acts like family murders!].

We still have to understand whether the Bergoglian position on Islam is simply a strategic ‘Operation Sympathy’ or his core conviction. What is certain is that some of his statements on Islam do not correspond to reality, as we are told by those who live in Islamic countries and those who are experts on Islamic culture. Like the Egyptian Islamologist Jesuit priest, Samir Khalil Samir, professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and one of Benedict XVI’s chief advisers on Islam.

Speaking to newsmen recently, Fr. Samir said: “This pope comes from Argentina. He does not know Islam. In Buenos Aires, he was friends with a very kind Muslim, but his ignorance about Islam does not help for dialog. He often says that Islam is a religion of peace, and this is simply a mistake!”

In any case, later this week, the pope will visit Al-Azhar University in Cairo where he will meet with the rector, Imam Ahmed al Tayyeb. No doubt it will be a cordial meeting, but Benedict XVI’s warning should be kept in mind: The step that needs to be taken is to bring together faith and reason, otherwise the confrontation between the two radicalisms of our day (secularist and Islamist) can only be tragic.
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The Good and Evil Angels, William Blake, c. 1800 (Tate Gallery, London)

Private judgment and anarchy
Why Catholic teaching and the structure of the Church
kept European society together - and Protestantism
has fostered anarchy in 'freedom of thought'

by David Carlin
APRIL 21, 2017

It was Auguste Comte (1798-1857) who said, “Ideas govern the world.” [Tell that to Jorge Bergoglio!]

By “ideas,” he meant beliefs and values; not so much the beliefs and values of individuals as the beliefs and values of a society. If a society is to hold together – if it is to cohere – its members must generally agree on a system of ideas. If there is considerable disagreement on beliefs and values, the society in question will tend to fall apart.

Though he didn’t believe in God or life after death, Comte was a great admirer of the Catholic Church. Its time, for him, had come and gone, but in the Middle Ages it had been just right; it was European society’s indispensable institution. For it provided the system of commonly held ideas needed to hold European society together: the system called Christian theology (or mythology as some by his day preferred).

Further, the Church had a marvelous structure, centered in the pope, while at the same time decentralized in bishops and still further decentralized in parish priests. So greatly did Comte admire the Church of Rome that he would have been happy to see it govern the modern world – if only it would be so modern as to abandon its belief in God and accept instead the teachings of Comte.

The marvelous unity of the Middle Ages began to collapse with the coming of Protestantism and ]u]its disastrous principle (as Comte saw it) of private judgment. Protestants, having rejected the religious authority of the pope and his bishops, and having declared the Bible to be the one and only religious authority, had to exercise their own individual private judgment when reading the Bible.
At least that was the theory.

But early Protestant political leaders (e.g., Queen Elizabeth I in England, the Puritans in Massachusetts), sensing the anarchic tendencies of the principle of private judgment, did not hesitate to persecute those who ventured to exercise their private judgment in the “wrong” way.

In the long run, however, the private judgment principle belonged too much to the very essence of Protestantism to be suppressed. It survived, it flourished, it expanded. Modern people learned – first in the Protestant countries but then everywhere – that they had a right to “think for themselves.”

Freedom of thought became a fundamental principle of modernity; and not just freedom of thought when reading the Bible, but freedom of thought in all things: religion, morality, politics, art, literature, and anything else you can name.

Comte was no fan of freedom of thought; in fact, he was its great enemy. For he felt that it would lead to the breakdown of society, to intellectual and moral and political anarchy. We need, he held, a new authority to replace the old authority of the Catholic Church; a new modern authority that can teach everybody to think the same way about the really important questions, the “big” questions – just as the Catholic Church used to teach everybody to think the same way about the big questions.

Where can we find that authority? In science and the scientists, Comte answered. Mathematicians, astronomers, physicists, chemists, and biologists can tell ordinary people what to believe about the world of nature, and ordinary people will be persuaded by those teachings because they are truly scientific.

But we will have to develop two new sciences, sociology (which will give us correct beliefs about history, politics, and society) and ethics (which will give us correct beliefs about right and wrong conduct). Comte himself kindly undertook to create these two final but very necessary sciences.

A new religion, the non-theistic Religion of Humanity, would be created, and the “priests” of this new religion would teach these seven sciences to the world, and the world would live in peace because everybody would agree on the most important beliefs and values, just as they did in the Catholic middle ages. Comte himself would be the high priest (in effect the pope) of this new religion, which would be headquartered not in Rome but in Paris.

Unfortunately for the unity of society, while the first five sciences (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology) were, and still are, universally accepted, the final two (sociology and ethics) never became truly scientific.

In those two fields, private judgment continues to prevail today, more than 150 years after Comte made his noble but futile attempt to turn them into sciences. The Religion of Humanity never came about. Moral and intellectual anarchy continue to flourish.

When I consider a few of the crazier ideas that prevail widely today – for example, the idea that unborn babies are not babies, the idea that persons of the same sex can “marry” one another, and the idea (perhaps the craziest idea of all to date) that you can be of one sex, biologically given, and of an opposite gender, personally chosen – I remember Comte and his warnings about the dangers of private judgment.

Where will all this lead eventually? In two directions, I believe.
- First, since the anarchic dangers of free thought are so great, politically powerful forces will attempt to stifle free though not by persuasion (Comte’s way) but by compulsion and persecution (the way of Elizabethan England and Puritan Massachusetts).
- Second, since free thought is of the very essence of modernity, these attempts at compulsion and persecution will in the long run fail, and our moral and intellectual anarchy will grow worse and worse.

And where that will lead us, lacking some renaissance of religion or the moral sense, is difficult to say. But one thing is certain: it won’t be a pretty or very pleasant world.

A companion piece from Fr. Schall, which of course, does very well as a stand-alone.

On absolutes
by James V. Schall, S.J.
APRIL 25, 2017

The past participle of the Latin verb absolvere is absolutus. It means freed from any restrictions. Modern man wants no “absolutes.” He wants to be loosed from things binding for all times and places.

An “absolute” refers to lines not to be crossed. “Moral” absolutes can, in fact, be crossed. “Thou shalt not kill” does not mean that no killings will take place. It means that, on crossing, “absolute” consequences – either in the here or hereafter – follow.

All things not forgiven remain with us. Indeed, they remain with us even if they are forgiven. Our deeds and words form the character into which we have made ourselves. We are always a “this someone” who, in the days of our mortality, did or did not do this or that.

Let us suppose that we want to deny the existence of absolutes, how would we go about it? Initially, it is easy to imagine why we might want to rid the world of absolutes. Their elimination would, presumably, free us to do whatever we wanted to do with no fear of untoward repercussions.

No doubt, if I want to eliminate the prohibition against murder or stealing, I want it removed only for my own case. I do not want it universalized. I do not want others to feel perfectly free to wipe me out or, with impunity, to abscond unscathed with my hard-earned goods.

We cannot have it both ways. So viewed from this angle, we really do not want absolutes abolished except as convenient for ourselves.

But if we still insist on abolishing absolutes, we might approach the issue from the angle of authority. Who says that any absolutes exist? Scripture, for instance, has some pretty hefty “thou shalt nots.” But why should we bother about Scripture? Who knows what it said? Who was around to check the accuracy of its recorded prohibitions? Why could not the “thou shalt nots” have held only in that ancient time or in those strange customs?

Descartes even worried that maybe the devil was deceiving us so that we could not rely on our senses to tell us anything reliable about what is going on in the world. But if no God exists – or, if we cannot figure out who said what – it is senseless to trust any authority that sets down absolutes. When Christ pardoned the lady caught in adultery, He told her: “Go and sin no more.” Wasn’t He violating her “rights” to live the way she wanted to live?

Still, if we find no divine authority capable of defining or enforcing absolutes, what about the state? Can’t it enforce whatever it wants? Isn’t that what Hobbes taught? This civil absolute power seems to be pretty much true. But states differ. They can change from day to day as to what they consider absolute. Opposites can be absolutes on given days.

Likewise, scientifically inter-related absolutes seem to exist. If they did not hold, the world would not stay together. No one wants to change the speed of light or the fact that we human beings are born with hands and brains. The range of sound waves that we can and cannot hear seems pretty absolute.

When we come right down to it, the number of absolutes that we might want to change is very minimal. The only way an outfielder can catch a fly ball is if a) the ball is not made of lead, b) a batter hits the fly, c) the ball comes down on an arc, and d) the legs, eyes, and hand of the fielder are so coordinated that they are there where the ball comes down. If these absolutes are not permanent, don’t bother to take me out to the ballgame.

If the world were not full of absolutes, we could not live in it. Indeed, we would not want to live in it. The problem that we human beings have concerns only a few absolutes. These are the absolutes that indicate what we are and how we ought to live, even when we do not observe them.

The annoying trouble with absolutes usually shows up when we do not observe them. For some reason, all sorts of unwelcome things happen to ourselves or others that we are reluctant to attribute to ignoring the absolutes. We develop a whole rhetoric that usually ends up reassuring us that what we did was just fine. The fact is that no one can violate any absolute without giving some reason why it is quite all right.

Where does this leave us? We usually end up proving the existence of absolutes by seeing that our reasons to prove them wrong actually prove them right. The witticism that no good deed goes unpunished deserves one addendum: “No bad deed,” as Plato said, “goes unpunished either.” That too is an absolute.
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I find it strange that in the past two weeks, two German journalists have written articles that are very critical of the reigning pope. One
would think that because he espouses all the causes dear to secular ultra-liberal Europeans, they would stay solidly in the ranks of those
who adulate this pope for this very reason.... BTW, I must correct a translation I made earlier of 'sponti' in the term 'sponti-pope' used
by both German journalists in their articles below. I had originally thought it was used as a combining form for 'spontan', the German word
for 'spontaneous', but it turns out 'Sponti' has a specific political meaning, namely 'a member of an alternative movement that rejects
tradition', so it is self-explanatory when applied to Bergoglio.

Self-secularization by the ‘Sponti-Pope’
Critics of the Church find Pope Francis ‘fabulous’ because he ingratiates himself with the spirit
of the times. Unfortunately, he is repeating mistakes already made by the Protestant churches.

by Jan Fleischhauer
Translated from
April 17, 2017

The only church that can be taken seriously is the Catholic Church. I know this sentence is an impertinence for many readers, and I am sorry that I have to write this in Year of Luther. But that's how I see things.

Everything that the critics mock about the Catholic Church - the veneration of Mary, sacred worship, the priesthood, liturgy – constitute for me the things that speak most for Catholicism. Plus, of course, its long continuing history. Surely, an institution that is 2000-plus years old must be taken more seriously than one that, say, has been around for only 500 years. When it comes to the Ultimate Questions, surely the institution that was the first Church would have the answers. Everything that came after the Church is, to a certain degree, heresy.

To be clear about it: I am writing this as one who has fallen from faith. I left the Evangelical Church of Germany [EKD] ten years ago. As a young man, I was impelled by political commitment to the community. We collected ‘Bread for the World’, wrote letters for Amnesty International, and demonstrated in the cities. When my political views changed, then I also broke off with the EKD.

Because the spiritual roots of Protestantism are thin and weak, there is little to hold you back when your worldview changes. A church in which the existence of heaven and hell is not considered binding is a lost cause for anyone who needs discipline to keep faith.

If things do not change as they are today, then the Catholic Church is doomed to repeat the errors of Protestantism. It is led today by a man who shows a strange contempt for everything mature and traditional in the Church, and loves to startle the faithful with sottish, mocking words.

Matthias Matussek recently described Pope Francis as a ‘Papst allerlei’ [a pope of sorts] in a brilliant article for Weltwoche. There are those who think that Matussek is politically confused, but he certainly knows the significance of doctrine as a dam against the relativism of the Zeitgeist. Which he has in common with Martin Mosebach, a great Catholic reactionary [????]

One could see in this pope the culmination of a ‘development’ which began with the Second Vatican Council. The first great blow against Catholic liturgy came between 1962-1965 [those were the V-II years, but the liturgical earthquake did not really take place until 1969, and it was an upheaval that took place literally overnight]. Not accidentally, the 1960s was the decade of widespread iconoclasm.

It has been forgotten by many, but the Church at that time ditched important parts of its centuries-old Mass in a bid to keep up with the spirit of the times. Priests no longer celebrated towards the altar and the tabernacle housing the Blessed Sacrament but facing the people, as if behind a dais onstage. They stopped saying the Mass in Latin because this was supposed to obscure the ‘message’ of the Mass, and the Host was pressed into the hands of the faithful rather than received reverently on the tongue. Many carried their conformity to the Zeitgeist to the point of getting rid of traditional altars and the sacred images that were always a familiar and comforting presence in Catholic churches.

To non-believers, this may seem trivial. But anyone who has attended a Mass in the ancient Tridentine rite would realize what was lost to the Church by way of proper worship of the Lord when it succumbed to the cultural turmoil of the 1960s.

Why has secularization afflicted the Church? If what happened to Protestantism is indicative of what the Catholic Church faces, then the number of persons leaving the Church will go on increasing, which would lead Church leaders to the erroneous assumption that they should push modernization even more decisively. But if a Church self-destructs, then what can it offer that is different from the secular world, and is the Church still needed?

Right now, the fastest-growing religion is Islam. It does not seem to have occurred to most observers that this could have to do with the fact that somehow Islam satisfies spiritual needs better than its Christian competition.

In any case, Islam is not about to forbid reading the Koran in Arabic from mosques outside the Arabic world because the faithful would be unable to follow it, nor do the Muslims intend to get rid of their minarets to better adapt their mosques to environmental norms.

Let me make it clear: I am very much for the separation of Church and State which I regard as a great achievement of the Enlightenment. But I ask why secularism should not be confined to the state – why must it extend to the Church [which by definition cannot be secular].

Faith is about the numinous [having a spiritual quality that suggests the presence of divinity]. It is not about cheap consumership of its truths. Religion is distinguished by its assertion of the arcane, of the mysterious, a transcendent domain beyond human reason.

Two weeks ago, I posted my translation of the first half of the article by Matthias Matussek referred to above.
Allow me to post the entire article now. The cover headline reads: "The pope clears the ground - The Sponti-shepherd
on a collision course with the Church"
. Or, in simpler, more direct terms: the anti-Catholic pope.


A pope of sorts
Arbitrary, accommodating, ingratiating – Francis, the pope of the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times)
is less and less one’s idea of a Pontifex Maximus, even as he himself has remarked that for many,
he is seen as the cause of the division in the Church.

by Matthias Matussek
Translated from
April 12, 2017

With refreshing directness, the British weekly Spectator recently asked on its title page, “Has the Pope gone mad?” Which is not so far-fetched as one might think: In fact, since the beginning of his pontificate, the Argentine pope has generated so much confusion, contradiction and partisan provocations that his media-minders cannot keep up with corrections and explanations of ‘what he really meant to say’. For example, how could they ‘moderate’ a formulation like ‘media consumers tend to coprophagia’ (eating excrement)?

And how to explain contradictions such as this: At the beginning of the year, he called on the bishops of the universal Church to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards any abuse of young people. Something which his predecessor always demanded and carried out.

But one of the over 800 priests and bishops defrocked by Benedict XVI was the Italian priest Mauro Inzoli, nicknamed ‘don Mercedes’ because of his predilection for luxury cars. But he also had a weakness for minors.

Two years after the suspension of his priestly faculties by Benedict XVI, "Don Mercedes" was back on the Roman scene. Pope Francis had lifted his penalty. But when the pedophile priest renewed his swineries even from the confessional, Italian authorities intervened and asked the pope for cooperation in their prosecution of Inzoli. But ‘zero-tolerance’ Francis apparently declined. It seems Inzoli is a friend to some of the pope’s closest friends, and well, ‘my friend’s friend is also my friend’. A rule that applies to most friendly relations in Italy.

And enemies are enemies – and it is really going very bad for this pope’s enemies. One hears that in his small circle of close associates, this pope gives vent to strong expressions, curses, and unprintable ribaldry, and that recently his outbreaks of rage have become more frequent. It is said he loves to humiliate those around him.

Humiliation, he apparently believes, is an important spiritual experience, as though it were a lesson he has drawn from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Perhaps he should have taken another rule more seriously. That which prohibits Jesuits from aiming for higher ecclesiastical office - unless the Pope expressly requires them in individual cases. Then they would be bound by the rule of obedience. But how do you deal with a Jesuit who has become pope?

Vatican insiders report that, unlike with Pope Benedict, very few refer to Bergoglio – the secular name of the current Successor of Peter – as ‘Holy Father’, and when they do, it is in an ironic way. As in, “The Holy Father has declared, in his immense wisdom, that people love to eat shit”.

The fact that he does not live in the papal apartment three stories above the Bernini colonnade but rather – at considerable financial expense – in the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican’s four-star hotel, we now believe is not really a sign of modesty and humility, but rather a method of control. In that it enables him to be better informed about what is happening among the various factions in the Vatican.

And this pope makes short shrift of his enemies. He relieved the conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke of his Curial office as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (i.e, the Church’s ‘Chief Justice’). Recently [after unceremoniously relieving Burke of his demotion-appointment to be Patron of the Order of Malta – Bergoglio simply appointed a Vatican bishop to take over full powers as the pope’s envoy to the Order, which is the function of the Patron], he sent Burke off to the Pacific island of Guam “to adjudicate an extremely complicated case of abuse that required great expertise” [The Bishop of Guam is accused of misconduct in dealing with clerical sex abuses].

What brought on Bergoglio’s ire against Burke? Because with three other cardinals, he has opposed the Bergoglian liberalization of Church practices regarding communion for remarried divorcees.

Catholics know that marriage is a sacrament, a sign especially in our times when nearly one of every two marriages ends in divorce. The Catechism of the Catholic Church considers marriage – in which the spouses pledge to be faithful to each other ‘for better for for worse’ – indissoluble for three reasons.

First, because the essence of marital love is total and unconditional surrender of the self to each other; second, because it reflects God’s own unconditional faith to his creatures; and third, because it represents Jesus’s gift of himself to the Church with his death on the Cross. And so, a Catholic marriage is not just church bells and wedding cake, but a sacrament, a consecrated act of faith that consolidates the Gospel passage “What God has brought together, let no man take asunder” (Mt 19,6).

At first glance, Francis's document, "Amoris Laetitia," would seem to confirm traditional Church morality. The loosening of the marriage vow is hidden in a footnote with proverbial Jesuitic cunning, one is tempted to say.

It was logical that some cardinals saw the need for clarification. They formulated the DUBIA, questions answerable by a simple Yes or No, whereby the pope could easily dispel the doubts related to the five points that they wish to be clarified.

One of the DUBIA signatories is German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a Church historian of undisputed rank. He told Der Spiegel that Sacred Scripture is not a self-service cafeteria. “According to St. Paul, we [bishops] are administrators of the divine mysteries, but without the right to dispose of them as we please”. Meanwhile, he and his three colleagues have not been answered by the pope [who, for all intents and purposes, has made it clear he does not intend to answer them at all, nor the DUBIA directly].

In any case, the Curia is not finding it easy with this ‘Sponti-Hirt’ [the German word for spontaneous is spontan, so it’s a portmanteau word for ‘spontaneous shepherd’, or more precisely, ‘shepherd of the spontaneous’] who loves formlessness and who seems to thoroughly despise his Curial associates.

A high-ranking Curial official says it has come to a point when the pope prefers to decide on Church legislation over lunch with his associates, bypassing Curial committees.

Nor can the Curia forget the way in which, at his last Christmas address to them as in the one he gave in 2014, he denounced the entire Curia as lazy, hypocritical and negligent of their duties, calling them Pharisees, which seems to be his idea of being ‘Jesus-like’.

Now, the chief pastor and teacher of the Catholic Church has declared that is “better to be an atheist than a Catholic who leads a hypocritical double life”. Meanwhile he has described himself ‘a sinner and fallible’ in public, which in itself sounds hypocritical. Should he not rather fight his own hypocrisy, and as a pastor, and ensure that even the most hypocritical ‘atheists’ can see the way back to the Church, to the faith and to truth?

Not a few cardinals are now concerned about possible successors to this pope who has said that he does not think he will be pope for longer than four or five years – a deadline that is due.

But meanwhile, the protests against him have reached the streets, so to speak. Several weeks ago, central Rome was papered with posters carrying a mocking message for the pope, as Romans have for centuries expressed themselves against popes and other leaders. It is as if the base is launching a mobile move against Francis, in ways not less cunning than he.

Before his election, which had been driven by German-speaking cardinals and Benedict-adversaries, his electors ought to have asked questions in his home diocese of Buenos Aires which he ran without gentleness or humor, pushing his policies with the subtlety of a butcher's knife.

In Rome, his pontificate began on a note that was almost ludicrous, greeting the waiting crowd with 'Buona sera' which they cheered enthusiastically. And he was quickly portrayed as a humble simple man, soon to be built up in the secular world as the poster boy of political correctness.

In fact, he has just made his second appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone, a publication not known for citing the Catechism of the Church. This time, he is quoted for his line "This economy kills!" in a flourishing capitalist media enterprise supporting the multibillion-dollar music industry of the United States. [His first Rolling Stone appearance was a Man of the Year tribute for the line "Who am I to judge?" about homosexuality.]...

Without a doubt, this Pontifex Maximus has popstar potential [Not just potential! He was instant Pop-Star from the first gushing media reports of his initial appearance as pope, quickly displacing John Paul II from the distinction of being ‘the most popular pope ever’ – and media reports in the next few weeks and months seemed like little short of proclaiming the Second Coming in the person of Bergoglio.]/dim], and now has more Twitter followers (about 13 million) than Miley Cyrus.

But Rolling Stone forgot in its latest Bergoglian paean that as head of the Catholic Church, the pope has some 1.3 billion ‘followers’ around the globe, known collectively as Catholics!

They are mostly conservative, especially in Africa, where the Church has been growing fastest in the past several decades, and the continent that produced Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, whom Benedict XVI named to the Curia as President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum in charge of papal charities, and later named Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship by Pope Francis.

As CDW Prefect, Sarah has been openly in favor of the traditional Mass in which priest and congregation pray together ad orientem – towards the liturgical East from which the faithful await the Second Coming of the Lord. Last year, the cardinal called on priests worldwide to mark the first Sunday of Advent by starting to celebrate the Mass ad orientem once again. But the pope quickly threw cold water on that initiative.

The all-powerful Pope loves to manifest his might. He is not at all averse to the cult of personality. As pope, he has marked out a definite political agenda. He has become the darling of all those who would normally keep away from the Church. The New York Times called him 'the anti-Trump' after he declared that Trump could not be Christian because he favors ‘walls’. The newspaper says that both the president and the pope are populists, each in his own way – but Trump is the evil version, and Bergoglio is the good one. The Wall Street Journal was even more definitive. In December 2016, the newspaper called him ‘the leader of the global Left’.

Francis the populist has an instinctive sense for what is the fashionable thinking of the day and of the Zeitgeist in general. In Washington, he arrived at the White House in a small minivan – quite a spectacle! He wears black orthopedic shoes, not the red shoes which, in the well-thought formal tradition of the Church symbolizes the blood of martyrs [Peter, the first pope, was martyred in Rome].

The contrast with Benedict XVI – who renounced the papacy, having reached the limit of his physical capabilities for the office - could not be greater. Even as pope, Benedict was the hermit of St. Peter’s Square. He used his homilies, pastoral letters and encyclicals to straighten the paths through the overgrowth in the gardens of faith. With courageous earnestness and probably some academic naivete, he spoke, among other things, of Muslim intolerance and violence in his Regensburg lecture. As a result of which Muslim demonstrators around the world raged [for all of two weeks!], a nun was murdered in Africa, and all of Islam, it seemed, took offense.

But Francis, more inclined to laissez-faire in religion [which is sheer dereliction of his duty as head of the one true Church of Christ whose mandate was to “Go and make disciples of all nations”], because, he says, "we are all children of God".

Jesus’s saying, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; No one comes to the Father except through me"(John 14: 6), seems to be just a pious calendar saying for the present head of the Catholic Church. And from his trip to a refugee center in Lesbos, Greece, he brought back with him to the Vatican a few Muslim families and no Christians.

While Benedict defended Church doctrine and their truths as dams against the relativism of our time, Francis instead concentrates on how much he can relax Church teaching and practice. Yet, more than ever, G. K. Chesterton’s words apply: "The Catholic Church is the only thing that protects man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his time."

Francis does not seem to see the indignities inflicted by the Zeitgeist. He presents himself as the ‘man of the people’ – backslapping, given to dramatic gestures, careless and injudicious. He says he knows that beatings can be helpful in raising children as long as you don’t hit them in the face. He exhorts Catholics not to multiply like rabbits. And he is not all ‘narrow-minded’ about abortion. He welcomes abortion activists like Paul Ehrlich to promote their cause at the Vatican .[but Ehrlich was only the latest of the world’s leading abortion activists with whom this pope has happily associated].

He does not seem to be averse at all to other liberal concerns such as priesthood for women or doing away with priestly celibacy – both being projects long promoted by the leftist German episcopate and faith-weary German Catholics. On homosexual activity among priests, he has said “Who am I to judge…?” [Commonly interpreted to have been his full statement. In fact, he said, in answer to a question about a priest who had a documented homosexual past and whom he subsequently named ‘spiritual director’ of the Vatican bank, If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?' A patent contradiction, of course, since he did judge that Mons. Ricca had repented for his past life and was therefore now worthy of his new position!]

As for judging the conduct of men, one must ask, who else, if not the pope – and priests and bishops – would do the judging as they do when they hear confessions? His predecessors have been unequivocal that homosexual practice is a sin - not homosexuality in itself, but its exercise, no matter that it has become widely accepted in contemporary society.

At a time when all bonds are breaking down – a recently published poll conducted in the European Union’s 28 member states showed that only 28% of those polled trust ther governments – it seems that the certainties that allowed the world’s oldest continuing institution to survive have also been crumbling. And it has done so because it held fast to her rites, doctrines and traditions.

The Spectator’s question, “Is the pope mad?”, has very serious implications. What if he is, indeed, crazy? But this pope is not crazy. [Worse], he has an agenda which could lead to the disintegration of the unam sanctam catholicam Ecclesiam which, Catholics believe, was instituted by God himself, at which time Jesus said, “The gates of Hell shall not prevail” against his Church.

Reason enough not to be discouraged. But reason also to examine closely what it means. The Church exists in time [and in the world]. But it is timeless and not of this world, because it is here for the eternal salvation of souls, Catholics are taught.

But Francis himself acts according to the times - indecisive and fundamentally ‘democratic’. Where his predecessors, in their teachings on questions like the morality of marriage, relied on what the Gospels say, Francis has seemed to be guided by ‘surveys’ of what Church members around the world think. [Imperfect, random and uneven surveys, of course, since so far, they have consisted of pre-synodal questionnaires sent to the bishops of the world – and one does not know if the answers they send back to the Vatican really reflect an honest image of their parishioners’ views, or simply that of the bishops themselves!]

The two family synods under him were convoked under the sign of ‘mercy’, as though adherence to the words of Jesus amounts to hardheartedness.

His first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The light of faith) was really written by Benedict XVI [[and whatever Bergoglio’s ulterior motives were for agreeing to publish it, we must be grateful that it was published at all]. It was intellectually demanding in its affirmation that faith and reason are not just compatible, but must be compatible, because faith offers Christians the only explanation for the world that makes sense.

His second encyclical [It was not an encyclical but an apostolic exhortation] , Evangelii gaudium, nicknamed ‘Gaudi’ by some theologians, was a smashdown of the traditional view of the Papacy and constituted the new pope’s manifesto for the program of his pontificate.

And the third document [his actual second encyclical, but the first written by him and his ghostwriters] was Laudato si, about the environment and ‘our common home’, planet Earth – so ‘comprehensive’ and detailed (down to instructions for sorting garbage) that generations of Green Parties could live off it. Its immediate objective was to influence governments and organizations taking part in the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris [towards supporting drastic and costly measures the UN wishes to impose on all governments in preemptive action against imagined global catastrophes brought about by climate change].

His goal is to wield political influence, as in his repeated calls on all European states to open their borders unconditionally to migrants. Now. Immediately. But in matters that concern the faith, he remains lax and equivocal. He told a Spanish newspaper that one must not ‘turn to one’s own opinions’, but ‘listen with respect and accept the opinion of others’. Really? One accepts the opinion of others if the opinion is true, and for Catholics, if it follows what the Church teaches.

But in the Catholic Church, especially for the Pope, the question is not about opinions but about dogma – defined by the Greeks as a doctrine or teaching that is unquestionably true, such as, for Catholics, the Godhood of Jesus.

Perhaps one should recommend that this anti-dogma pope read the Catholic convert G. K. Chesterton, who wrote: "The disadvantage of the modern idea of spiritual progress is that it is consistently associated with the breaking up of fetters, the elimination of barriers, the abolition of dogmas."

For Chesterton the human being is "the dogma-making animal." The modern skeptic, who refuses to bind himself to systems, who does not believe in purpose, "sees himself as a god who himself has no faith, but looks down upon all religions… (who) sinks back into the indecision of stray animals, the unconsciousness of weeds. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded”.

The essence of the Catholic Church is to assert dogma as objectively ascertainable reality - without the doubts brought about by fluctuating fashions and which finally led the French post-structuralists into a cognitive-theoretical cul-de-sac.

Catholics know that a pope who seeks to approach the truth with the help of opinion polls is basically out of it. The truths taught by the Catholic Church have manifested themselves in doctrine and practice since the time of Jesus, the unique being whereby God took on human form.

Martin Mosebach, a first-rate Catholic commentator, has thought of ‘form’ in the human sense most thoroughly. [His book on liturgy was entitled “The Heresy of Formlessness”.] It is very rare, he says, that forms are born that transcend time – examples being Greek columns, or Greek tragedy (which lives on in the lowly soap opera). But he points out that one Catholic form that has survived – effortlessly, it seemed – was the Holy Mass, which developed organically through the centuries, and in the 16th century, after the Council of Trent, found its final form.

But this form was deliberately shattered after Vatican-II in the late 1960s, with the idea of ‘opening’ the Mass to modernity – whereby precious historical altars were smashed and replaced with ugly sacrificial tables. Church art and architecture became image-less, avant-gardish. The priest faced the congregation as if he was a TV show moderator, celebrating Mass not as a re-creation of Christ’s supreme sacrifice but as a commemorative meal, performing before the faithful as in a third-class variety act. But the barricade-stormers of the 1960s and 1970s, now in their 80s or older, cling to their juvenile modernizing innovations and the nonsense of the Zeitgeist.

One of the great spiritual acts of Francis’s predecessor was the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum whereby Benedict XVI re-legitimized the venerable Traditional Mass, with its Latin prayers, Gregorian Chant, and the common prayer orientation of priest and congregation ad orientem. Today, younger Catholics are discovering the Tridentine Mass and have come to treasure it as the right form of worship. Mystery has returned to barren modern churches, and with it, devotion and true adoration.

Should not Pope Francis think in this direction - about the truth of form and dogma - instead of, as reported recently in Der Spiegel, saying to his circle of intimates that he would ‘probably enter history as the pope who split the Church’? What a historic punchline to this Reformation 5th Centennial Year! May the Holy Spirit help him and the entire Catholic Church, the first global institution in history (‘catholic’ means generically global or universal).

Perhaps the second letter of Paul to Timothy would help him, in which the apostle urges his disciple:

“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.

But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 25/04/2017 13.59]
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Utente Gold
April 24, 2017 headlines


April 25, 2017 headlines

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Utente Gold

Doctrine vs discernment
in Bergoglian theology

Translated from
April 18, 2017

The recent interview given by the new Jesuit Superior-General, Fr. Arturo Sosa, to Vaticanista Giuseppe Rusconi (which he published on his website Rossoporpora), created a buzz especially because of his infelicitous statement that Jesus’s words have to be continually re-interpreted since we do not really know what he did say because there were no tape recorders in his time.

But Fr. Sosa also made some statements about ‘discernment’ which were ignored by most commentators, statements which I believe deserve dwelling on, considering the consequences they could have on the life of the Church.

He uses the words ‘discern’ and ‘discernment’ a total of 24 times in the interview. But I will limit myself to the passage where he talks about the relationship between doctrine and discernment:

Let me see if I understood you correctly: If my conscience, after ‘discerning’ a case, tells me I can go ahead and do something, then I can do it without feeling guilty and with the approval of the community – for example, I could then receive Communion even if I do not fulfill the norms for doing so…
The Church has developed over the centuries – it is not a piece of reinforced concrete – it was born, it has learned, it has changed – and that is why there have been ecumenical councils, in order to put developments in doctrine through a crucible. But I do not like the word ‘doctrine’ – which carries with it the image of stony hardness. Whereas human reality is much more nuanced, it is never black or white, but a continuous development…
I take it that for you, the practice of discernment takes priority over doctrine…
Yes, but doctrine is part of discernment. True discernment cannot do without doctrine.
But it can come to conclusions that are different from doctrine…
Yes, that is right, because doctrine cannot replace discernment, nor the Holy Spirit.
[i.e., Sosa seems to think that ‘discernment’ – i.e., the judgment of one’s conscience - is equivalent or tantamount to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit!]

I chose the above excerpt from the interview because it highlights very well the new pastoral attitude taken by ‘the Church’ today: Doctrine per se is not rejected, but discernment is preferred over doctrine.

In an earlier post, we already dwelt on such a juxtaposition: that the passage from the priority of doctrine to that of discernment is the principal characteristic of the ‘pastoral revolution’ that is underway. And Fr. Sosa’s statements confirm that conclusion while giving us the opportunity for further analysis.

First of all, let us understand what doctrine really consists of. The word comes from the Latin doctrina which is the substantive of the verb docere (to teach) – so its original meaning is ‘teaching’. But it has progressively taken on a more technical meaning as “the organic complex of fundamental theoretical principles upon which is based a political, artistic, philosophical, scientific, etc movement“. More specifically, Christian doctrine is the “complex of dogmas and principles that constitute the Christian faith”.

Thus, we can understand Fr. Sosa’s uneasiness with the term – “I do not like the word doctrine; it carries the image of stony hardness”. He is not saying anything new, but he is expressing a mentality that is quite widespread in the Church today, a mentality shared by Pope Francis. Consider what this pope has said about this:

”It is true that in a certain sense, to say that we share something is also to say that there are no differences among us, that we have the same doctrine – and I underscore the word, which is difficult to understand. And I ask myself, don’t we share the same Baptism?" (Visit to the Lutheran Church in Rome, 11/15/15)

“The view that the doctrine of the Church is a monolith to be defended without nuances is wrong”. (Interview with La Civilta Cattolica, n. 3918, p. 476; cf Evangelii gaudium, n. 40)

“Rather than offering the healing power of grace and the light of the Gospel message,some would “indoctrinate” that message, [I suppose he means to turn the Gospel into doctrine – but is that not what the Gospel is? Christ’s teaching, i.e, his doctrine of salvation]turning it into dead stones to be hurled at others".(Amoris laetitia, n. 49)

“Our teaching on marriage and the family cannot fail to be inspired and transformed by this message of love and tenderness; otherwise,
it becomes nothing more than the defence of a dry and lifeless doctrine". (ibid, n. 59)

Honestly, it is difficult to understand such aversion against – stone (or rock). Stone is hard; stone is cold; stone is immovable and immutable – whereas reality is changeable, unstable, fluid, in continuous development. Reality is nuanced and difficult to encapsulate in fixed, intangible formulas. But precisely because reality is so ‘liquid’, we need something stable on which to stand. As the Gospel parable tells us, let us build our house on rock, not on sand (Mt 7,24-27), Lk 6,47-49).

And this Rock is Christ (1Cor 10,4). He is the living stone which is the foundation for the spiritual edifice formed by the living stones that we are (1Pt 2,4-5). In this passage of Peter’s first Epistle, the apostle cites a verse from the prophet Isaiah “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame” (28,16), in which faith is expressed in relation to stone. In Hebrew, the root ‘mn' (from which comes the verb ‘aman’, to believe, and our interjection ‘Amen’ (which means ‘truly’, ‘so be it’, ‘so I believe’) expresses the idea of stability, solidity, fidelity. And ‘to believe’ means, above all, ‘to acquire solidity and firmness’ by relying on something solid and firm as rock or stone.

Jesus - the only stone upon which we can build (1Cor 3,11) – chose to rename Simon ‘Peter’, the Rock. If Scriptures convey such a positive idea of stone, what right do we have to judge it negatively and consider it only cold and hard? Is it correct to cite it exclusively as it has to do with how it was used in those times as an instrument of punishment (stoning a culprit to death, as provided by law) – certainly not recommended by the Gospels?

So, if doctrine plays in the Church the role of the rock on which the faith of Christians rests, I do not see that there is anything wrong with that. Faith necessarily must be associated with something solid, fixed, immutable – it cannot be prey to the winds of human ideologies and changeable sentiments.

It is true that in the beginning, there were animated discussions among Christians – at times being true and proper ‘battles’ – on the significance to give to Jesus’s teachings. But little by little, the Church succeeded to define such meanings and to ‘fix’ them in place by certain formulas that could not thereafter be changed, if we were not to fall back into endless diatribes, and formulas by which we could consider these meanings definitive and closed.

Let us take an example: During the Arian crisis, the debate was over whether Jesus Christ was homoousios (of the same substance) as the Father, or homoiousios (os similar substance). Once it was accepted that Christ is consubstantial with the Father, it was no longer possible to lament that homoousios was a ‘fixed formula’ that impeded legitimate dialectic and theological pluralism in the Church; it could no longer be said that reality is more nuanced, that it is not black and white, etc. Christ is homoousios or he is not – there are no possible nuances. And if I affirm that Christ is homoousious, I am not casting stones at anyone: I am simply affirming my faith in the true nature of Christ. And it there are those who are scandalized by my affirmation, it is their problem, not mine.

Moreover, as Scripture anticipated, for those who do not believe, ” “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps 118, 22) as well as “a stone for injury and a rock for stumbling (Is 8,14). Non-believres would stumble on the stone because they do not obey the Word of God.

So I do not see why we should be surprised at the possibility that some may reject Christ – it is an eventuality allowed by free will. But the fact that someone could reject Christ does not authorize me to change doctrine – or, if you will, enclose it in parentheses - simply not to offend or annoy someone.

Thus it is true that doctrine is the outcome of a crystallization - a process of clarification, precision and definition of the truths of the faith. A process that cannot be seen negatively as a manifestation of a closed mind, of pharisaism or legalism, as some would and do [starting the current Successor of Peter, alas!].

Rather doctrine should be considered as a form of love and veneration for the Word of God. It is love which impels believers to seek to understand better what God has deigned to reveal to men, and once understood, to seek to define it as settled, to safeguard it, and to transmit it, as it is, without changes. It is a most precious gift especially because it can be manipulated. Depositum custodi… (Guard this rich trust with the help of the holy Spirit that dwells within us.), was Paul’s clear advice to Timothy. How can the Church do otherwise?

But, it may be objected, fixed formulations can be transformed into ‘words that kill’, as Paul implies in 2Cor 3,6 – the characteristic of the New Covenant is not its words, but the Spirit which gives life to the words. And we have the certainty that the process of crystallizing the Word of God took place precisely under the impulse and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that continues to give life to apparently dead letters.

But, as we said, today, discernment is given priority over doctrine. I am aware of the limitations of the earlier post in which I wrote about this, but I was unable till now to pursue the discussion more deeply. There is no doubt that ‘discernment’ can vaunt of a noble ancestry (in its New Testament sense, and later in the Ignatian tradition which is understandably the reference point for both the pope and Fr. Sosa).

It remains to be seen whether [Bergoglian/Sosan] discernment – which is now being proposed as somehow a replacement for doctrine – is a legitimate offshoot of the discernment described in the New Testament or the Ignatian one. Or should we rather consider it a bastard fruit?

Today, instead of doctrine – firm as a rock, fixed, immutable, cold and abstract – we are asked to prefer discernment because it is closer to reality, it is more malleable, as though it were therefore more able to grasp the presence and the will of God in multiple and diversified life situations.

Fr. Sosa describes the practice of discernment – namely, “setting out to heed the Holy Spirit, which as Jesus promised us, helps us to understand the signs of God’s presence in history”. See how he takes it for granted – Jesus promised it! – that the Holy Spirit is necessarily present in our discernment, forgetting that we discern precisely in order to verify his presence.

He is forgetting that Biblical discernment was discretio spirituum [‘discernment of spirits’, a biblical charism and patristic virtue, whose object is to identify the presence or absence of God in given human activity]. He is forgetting that such ‘spirits’ can be good (the Holy Spirit) or bad (the devil), that it not always easy to distinguish the presence and action of one or the other, and precisely because of this, discernment is needed.

My impression is that we are presented here with a banalization of discernment, as if it were enough to “set out to heed the Holy Spirit” (what does this mean, concretely?), when the problem is really to determine whether it is the Holy Spirit that is addressing me, or is it rather the Enemy, who as St. Paul reminds us, often masquerades as an angel of light (2Cor 11, 14). A Jesuit ought to know how difficult it is to distinguish the true Spirit from its counterfeits.

Among other things, Fr. Sosa brings up an important aspect:

“Discernment must take place together. It is never that of a single individual – we must all share in the process of discernment, which is very demanding, and not a caricature word”.

So before the individual, it is the Church that discerns – which is what she has always done. Basically, doctrine is the fruit of discernment. To get back to our example, in deciding that Christ is homoousios and not homoiousios, the Church exercised discernment. But she did so once and for always. It’s not as if the Church has to continue discerning what is supposed to be settled doctrine according to changing circumstances, as though in some cases Christ could be homoousios and at other times, homoiousios. [Which is the implication of the Bergoglian situational ethics in AL.]

Moreover, as I pointed out in my July 29, 2016 post, the Church does not exercise discernment only through her Magisterium but also through the sensus fidelium. The faithful, collectively, have an infallible sixth sense, a sense of spiritual smell whereby they instinctively recognize a good spirit and a bad one.

That which is passed off today as ‘pastoral discernment’ is nothing more than the old Lutheran ‘free examination of conscience’ camouflaged by Ignatian discernment. It is just another way of legitimizing subjectivism in the Church.

Whereas till now, there was doctrine to regulate the life of the faithful – a fixed reference point which everyone had to live up to, willing or not – now, we are invited to ‘discern’, meaning practically to decide autonomously (though ‘officially’ purporting to heed the Holy Spirit).

It doesn’t make it any less wrong to say, as Fr. Sosa does, that ‘doctrine does not disappear’ because ‘it is part of discernment – that true discernment cannot be separate from doctrine” - only to concede that discernment can reach conclusions different from doctrine since “doctrine cannot replace discernment nor the Holy Spirit. In that case, doctrine really becomes ‘a dead letter’ and gives way exclusively to unconditional discernment.

And yet, it is doctrine that should constitute one of the objective criteria of true discernment: to indicate the limits (today it is fashionable to speak of the available ‘pallette’) beyond which discernment, if it is to be authentic, cannot cross.

Thus, doctrine and discernment should not be considered as alternatives, but as complementary and reciprocally dependent. Doctrine is the fruit of discernment, yet at the same time, discernment can never be divorced from doctrine – it can only and always take place within the limits of doctrine.

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is superior to both – but not only with respect to doctrine [revealed by the Spirit] but with respect to discernment. Doctrine and discernment are two manifestation of the same Holy Spirit and therefore cannot in any way conflict with each other.

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April 25, 2017 headlines - B


Cardinal Sarah is probably my favorite cardinal today - I had no particular preferences among the cardinals in Benedict XVI's Pontificate -
and one of the things I admire him for is his unflappable 'cool' in confronting the tragedy in the Church today. In two best-selling interview
books, he has not just brought God back front and center to Catholic consciousness as it was in Benedict XVI's time, but also emphasized
as he should, being Prefect of Divine Worship, the basic essentials - including the importance of silence in the liturgy - that all
Catholics could immediately observe in our worship practices...

At the same time, while underlining all the right and proper things Catholics ought to do, he thereby manages to highlight everything that
is wrong and improper in the Church today, starting at the very top, without having to name names - all he does is recite the facts - and
therefore, without provoking a direct confrontation with the pope who could squash him like a bug at will, as by invalidating his Curial
position (as he cursorily invalidated Cardinal Burke's Knights of Malta post) without so much as an "Excuse me, but I no longer have any
use for you!' In fact, did JMB not begin to do that when he overhauled the cardinal/episcopal membership of CDW, fired the
traditionalist sub-secretaries of the dicastery, and replaced them with Bugnini diehards?


Anyway, here is another great interview with Cardinal Sarah, in which almost every statement is a serious and objective critique of this

Cardinal Sarah:
Church is facing ‘grave risk’
of schism over morality

by Pete Baklinski

NEW YORK, April 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Cardinal Robert Sarah warned that the Church’s unity is being threatened by influential leaders within the Church who “insist” that national churches have the “capacity to decide for themselves” on doctrinal and moral matters.

“Without a common faith, the Church is threatened by confusion and then, progressively, she can slide into dispersion and schism,” he said.

“Today there is a grave risk of the fragmentation of the Church, of breaking up the Mystical Body of Christ by insisting on the national identities of the Churches and thus on their capacity to decide for themselves, above all in the so-crucial domain of doctrine and morals,” he added.

Catholics profess every Sunday in the Nicene Creed that the Church is “one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.” These are often called the four “marks” of the one true Church.

Sarah, who comes from Guinea, made the comments when asked in an April 18 interview with the charitable organization 'Aid to the Church in Need' about the relationship between the “African Church” and the “Universal Church.”

The Cardinal, who is the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said that, strictly speaking, there is no such reality as the “African Church.”

“The Universal Church is not a sort of federation of local churches," he said. “The Universal Church is symbolized and represented by the Church of Rome, with the Pope at its head, the successor of Saint Peter and the head of the apostolic college; hence it is she who has given birth to all the local churches and she who sustains them in the unity of faith and love.”

Sarah’s remarks will be seen by some as opposing a push by Pope Francis to give bishops’ conferences in individual countries more power, even to settle doctrinal and moral disputes.

In his 2013 Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis called for a “conversion of the papacy” that would help him “exercise” the Petrine ministry. He criticized in the same document “excessive centralization” of power in the office of Peter, suggesting that bishops’ conferences should be empowered with “genuine doctrinal authority.”

Francis also wrote about a decentralized Church in his 2016 Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He wrote: “I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium…Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.”

According to Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish bishops' conference, the Pope told Polish bishops last year that a decentralized Church would be able to interpret papal encyclicals and to solve contentious issues, such as giving Communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics.

In the interview with 'Aid to the Church in Need', Cardinal Sarah said that the Church will grow throughout the world only if it is united by “our common faith and our fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in union with the Pope.”

As Pope Benedict XVI tells us: "It is clear that a Church does not grow by becoming individualised, by separating on a national level, by closing herself off within a specific cultural context, by giving herself an entirely cultural or national scope; instead the Church needs to have unity of faith, unity of doctrine, unity of moral teaching. She needs the primacy of the Pope, and his mission to confirm the faith of his brethren.”

Later in the interview, Sarah said the Church would be “gravely mistaken” to think that social justice issues such as combatting poverty and helping migrants were her real mission.

“The Church is gravely mistaken as to the nature of the real crisis if she thinks that her essential mission is to offer solutions to all the political problems relating to justice, peace, poverty, the reception of migrants, etc. while neglecting evangelisation,” he said.

The Cardinal said that while the Church “cannot disassociate herself from the human problems,” she will ultimately “fail in her mission” if she forgets her real purpose.

Sarah then quoted Yahya Pallavicini, an Italian and former Catholic who converted to Islam, to drive home his point: “If the Church, with the obsession she has today with the values of justice, social rights and the struggle against poverty, ends up as a result by forgetting her contemplative soul, she will fail in her mission and she will be abandoned by a great many of her faithful, owing to the fact that they will no longer recognize in her what constitutes her specific mission.”

I feel a twinge of guilt that I have so far not posted anything - apart from the mentions in the PS/C212 headline summaries - about the new book-length interview Cardinal Mueller has published, deliberately called 'The Cardinal Mueller Report'. It has received positive reviews for its orthodoxy but I can't work up any enthusiasm that can neutralize my outrage at his blanket endorsements of AL and leaving the Dubia cardinals stranded on the steppes of the Bergoglian Siberia!
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by William Kirkpatrick
April 24, 2017

In February, female members of an official Swedish delegation to Iran donned headscarves and long coats so as not to offend their Iranian counterparts. At about the same time, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front Party, cancelled a meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti after he insisted that she wear a headscarf. “You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti,” said Le Pen, “but I will not cover myself up.”

The contrast neatly captures two different responses to the ongoing Islamization of Europe. Le Pen represents resistance, and the Swedish delegation represents appeasement. So far, the party of appeasement holds the upper hand.

Shortly after her gesture of defiance, the European Parliament voted to lift Le Pen’s immunity from prosecution (as a Member of Parliament) for tweeting images of Islamic State violence. Like the Swedish delegates’ gesture of obeisance, this too is an act of appeasement. It signals to the Muslim world that Europeans will take it upon themselves to punish those who criticize Islam.

There may be cases where appeasement works to placate an enemy, but it never seems to work against an implacable foe. In May 1938, while competing in Berlin, the English national football team gave the Nazi salute when the German national anthem was played. They did this, reluctantly, on orders from their own foreign office. It was one of numerous futile gestures of appeasement offered up to Hitler.

Some historians have suggested that Hitler could have been stopped if the Allied Powers had confronted him earlier before he had time to build up the Wehrmacht. That’s probably true. The best time to fight a war is while you still have a good chance of winning it. This applies also to the ideological struggle now going on between the West and Islam.

Of course, “struggle” might not be the best way to describe a conflict in which only one side is fighting. Indeed, Western authorities often join in Islam’s war against the West. By passing laws against “Islamophobia” (Canada) and by prosecuting critics of Islam (as in Europe), the West is strengthening the hand of its foe.

Instead of appeasement, what is needed is an ideological counter-attack. And the best time to launch it is now — now while it is still possible to make one’s case without being fined or jailed. Now is the right time from another perspective, as well. The sheer volume of Islamic violence is difficult to ignore. As a result, more and more people now realize that criticism and challenge of Islam is fully justified. They realize that it should be Muslims who are put on the defensive, not the so-called “Islamophobes.”

Imagine if Catholics were committing violence on the same scale as Muslims, and doing it in the name of Jesus. Would the Catholic Church be afforded the kind of kid-glove treatment now given to Islam? Would Catholic clergy be let off the hook for the crimes of tens of thousands of Catholics who cited Catholicism as their motive? Not likely. The Catholic Church would be put on the defensive — and rightly so if, indeed, the Church had a doctrine of jihad as does Islam.

In a sane society, Islam and its representatives would be put on the defensive, not critics of Islam. Instead of exonerating Islam of responsibility for Islamic terror, non-Muslims should pressure Muslims to justify the tenets of Islam that call for violence. Islamic authorities should be pushed back on their heels and kept there.

Just as non-Muslims can no longer deny the immensity of Islamic violence, neither can Muslims. Yet, absent any outside pressure, they can ignore it. This is a good time for Muslims to do some soul-searching about the beliefs that, in the words of Egyptian president El-Sisi, “make the entire umma [Muslim community] a source of concern, danger, killing and destruction for the whole world.”

But if no one (with a few exceptions such as El-Sisi) asks them to question themselves, whatever doubts Muslims may have about their faith will be brushed aside. If Western leaders persist in lauding Islam as a great religion, it will be taken as confirmation that Islam is indeed the supreme religion that the imams say it is.

Muslims won’t attempt to reform Islam unless they believe there is something wrong with it. If we want to see reform, we need to drop the “great faith” pretense and confront Muslims with the troubling realities of their beliefs. Now is the time to put Islam on the defensive because the window of opportunity for doing so will soon close. It is already dangerous to question or challenge the Islamic belief system. The time is coming when it will be supremely dangerous to do so.

Right now, the West is worried about the danger of provoking Islam. But there is a greater danger. By refusing to confront and challenge Islam’s ideology, we allow an already confident Islam to grow more confident and stronger — two characteristics that make it all the more attractive to lukewarm Muslims and potential convents. The West’s walking-on-eggshells strategy is aimed at preventing a confrontation with Islam, but it may only serve to delay a confrontation to a point in time when the West is too weak to stand up to Islam.

The West will continue to have the military edge for a good time to come, but possessing weapons is one thing, and possessing the will to use them is another thing altogether. The West is strong militarily, but weak ideologically. It lacks civilizational confidence. It is not sure if it has anything worth defending.

While Islamic countries have been busy raising a generation of devout warriors, the West has raised a generation of social justice warriors who are convinced that their own civilization deserves to be eliminated.

Conviction and confidence are potent weapons. Soldiers need them, but so also do civilians. They need them all the more today because much of the campaign against the non-Muslim world is being conducted on the civilian level —through stealth jihad and lone-wolf terrorism. If that twin-pronged campaign is successful then war may not be necessary. Western citizens will simply go quietly into the long night of dhimmitude.

It’s a loss of civilizational confidence that causes the West to crumple whenever Muslims press for another concession.
- Burqas in public? Well, OK.
- Muslim prayer rooms in public schools? It would be insensitive not to allow it.
- Laws to prevent criticism of Islam? That’s only reasonable. - Polygamy? If you insist.
Taken one by one, these mini-conquests are not decisive, but cumulatively they work to remake the culture. And one day you wake up to realize that it’s too late to do anything about it.

In a way, this culture war with Islam is more difficult to fight than a battlefield war. The whole direction of our culture in recent decades presses us to yield to the multicultural other, and to assume that in any dispute, he is right and we are wrong. If Islam’s cultural jihad is to be halted, that mindset must be rejected, and Islam must be put on the defensive.

Apostasy laws. Blasphemy laws. Cruel and unusual punishments. Harsh discrimination against women. Child marriage. There’s something very wrong here. And Muslims should be made to know it, and made to feel ashamed of it. We should want Muslims to be uncomfortable with their faith — uncomfortable to the point that they begin to doubt it. As Mark Steyn put it, “There is no market for a faith that has no faith in itself.”

The reason that the apostasy laws and the blasphemy laws are there in the first place is because Islam is a fragile belief system. It rests on the uncorroborated testimony of one man. The system cannot stand up to questioning and, thus, questioning is not allowed.

The West should take advantage of this fragility and raise the questions Muslims will not ask of themselves. Why don’t we? Is it out of respect for another religion? Yes, there’s some of that, but increasingly, it seems, we remain silent out of simple fear. We fear that ideological war will lead to real war.

But it’s worth remembering that in the 1930s a similar reluctance to challenge a similar ideology did not prevent war. On the contrary, the reluctance to face up to Nazi ideology only guaranteed that war would come.

A new analysis by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) concludes that the Trump administration’s get-tough policy is already having a pacifying effect on Iran. After its failed missile launch on January 29, Iran was “put on notice” by the administration. According to the MEMRI analysis, the effect on Iran was almost immediate: “a halt to long-range missile tests,” “a halt to provocations against US Navy vessels,” “a halt to public threats to burn and sink U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf,” and “a near total moratorium on hostile anti-U.S. statements” such as the slogan “death to America.”

The get-tough attitude seems to have — temporarily at least —made Iran less belligerent, not more. Could a get-tough attitude improve our chances of winning the civilizational struggle with Islam? Perhaps some of the slogans that apply to real war also apply to ideological war: “weakness is provocative,” “if you want peace, prepare for war,” and, as Osama bin Laden said, “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.

One of the chief reasons for waging a war of ideas is to avoid real war. The Cold War was in large part an ideological war. And Western success in establishing the superiority of its ideas and beliefs did much to prevent the Cold War from turning into a hot war.

The Cold War analogy, by the way, is not a stretch. The communists pursued their objective with a religious fervor worthy of today’s Islamists. Indeed, the chief twentieth-century exponents of jihad such as Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi borrowed heavily from the Marxist-Leninist playbook. While they rejected the atheism, they found the idea of an all-encompassing state to be very much in line with the goals of Islam.

Like communism and Nazism, Islam is meant to be a system of total control. Keep that in mind the next time a priest or politician declares his solidarity with the Muslim faith. Don’t let the fact that Islam is a religion keep you from realizing that it is also an ideological opponent every bit as oppressive and determined as were the Nazis and the Soviet communists.

One more thing. The point of ideological warfare is not only to cast doubts in the mind of the enemy, but also to convince your own citizens that they possess a valuable heritage worth defending. To a large extent, that conviction has been lost in the West. And no amount of armaments can replace it.

If it ever comes to actual war or to daily attacks by lone wolves, or to a combination of both, Western citizens had better know what they believe, why they believe it, and why it is worth defending. Islam has a mission. We must have one too.

William Kirkpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad" and "Christianity, Islam, and Atheism," among other works. This article originally appeared in the April 4,2017 edition of Crisis.

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This is the third of the six lectures given at the above conference i Rome on April 22, 2017.

The roots of the present crisis
by Douglas Farrow
Professor of Christian Thought
McGill University
Montreal, Canada
Courtesy of

It is not too much to speak of a crisis in the Church today, a crisis in several dimensions. There is a crisis of morality. There is a crisis of doctrine. There is a crisis of authority. There is a crisis of unity.

True, such crises are more common than some like to think. Perhaps the closest analog, however, comes from the sixteenth century. Half a millennium ago,
- The fathers of Trent had to defend the sacraments governing confession, communion, and conjugality from coordinated, if somewhat chaotic, attacks. The same three sacraments are threatened again today.
- They had to defend the Church’s unity and authority against the Protestant principle – against the inevitably divisive claim that the meaning of holy scripture could be determined independently of tradition and without accountability before the entire Church. That too is necessary today.
- They had to weed out persistent abuses both in the sacramental life and in the governance of the Church, while striving to recover a unified vision of Christian existence in which justification and sanctification, freedom and obedience, hold together. This also is urgently required in our own time.

There are differences, of course. During the Reformation, the problem of justification put the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist under pressure, before overwhelming the sacraments generally and washing away, for many Protestants, the very idea that Christian marriage is a sacrament.

Today the flow is in the other direction. There is great pressure on marriage, and this pressure is being felt by the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, which are being asked to accommodate a changed view of marriage. But the problem of justification remains, as we shall see, a driving force and source of pressure.

Another difference can be found in the fact that the individualism of the nominalists, aided and abetted by the Protestant Reformation, has carried our whole civilization much further down the road towards a mythical utopia called Autonomy, governed (in Benedict’s apt phrase) by the dictatorship of relativism. This utopia is in fact a deepening abyss of strife between body and soul, between man and woman, between the human and the divine.

Recently, the sexual revolution has created a moral landscape more like that of the first century than of the sixteenth, and even worse in some respects. For we belong now to a generation with few sexual scruples and with little love for children.

Indeed, we belong to a generation fully absorbed in the contraceptive mentality; a generation engaged in an attempt to detach its sexual acts from procreation as far as possible; a generation losing, in consequence, the unitive function of sex along with the procreative. Ours is a generation which, for all its talk of global unity, is lacking the glue of a common humanity, deficient in inter-generational interests.

It is not surprising, in such a context, that the sacrament of marriage is under great pressure.
- A generation that approaches sex in this fashion, as Humanae Vitae predicted, is a generation that experiences alienation between the sexes, routine abortions, and growing dependency on increasingly authoritarian government.
- It is a generation in which the body is at best a play-thing of, and at worst a resented impediment to, the soul – or rather to the will, since we no longer believe in the soul.
- It is a generation in which marriage is becoming rarer, and in which roughly half of marriages end in divorce.
- It is a generation that does not look after others, and cannot even look after itself, except by trying to amass as much wealth as possible in support of its profligate habits.

Were it merely the case that the Church had to confront this in society at large, the task would be very much like that of the first century – a missionary task, a call to conversion, to a new vision of man, to a new mode of life, to a new discipline in support of a new hope. But not so; the situation is more complicated than that.

For, in the West, all of this has entered the Church. It is inside as well as outside. It is celebrated in murals and liturgies. Hence there are those who think the Church has little choice but to change its own view of sex and of marriage and of the body itself.

The problem is: It cannot do so without losing its own soul, without sacrificing its own identity as the body of Christ, as the people and society and kingdom of Christ. It cannot do so without denying the lordship of Christ. It cannot do so without rejecting the Lord and Giver of life. It cannot do so without the gravest disobedience to God the Father Almighty.

What was said at Trent is true again today: There is an urgent need for “the rooting out of heresy and the reform of conduct.” There is a need to recognize, as those fathers explicitly recognized, “that ‘we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’” (Eph. 6:12; Session 3).

Yet Trent is behind us. Vatican I is behind us. All those fine passages produced by the fathers of Vatican II, they also are behind us. What then is ahead of us?

Another thing that is different today is the uncertainty that people inside the Church feel about the Pope’s own approach to the crisis. Now, I am not among those who suppose that everything rests on the Pope; it did not do so then, and it does not do so now. Nor am I among those who can only be critical of the Pope, or of Amoris Laetitia. There is a real danger in that.

How can we fail to show proper love for, and deference to, the successor of Peter, through whom God has moved people on every continent to begin (or begin again) to pay heed to the gospel of Christ, especially as it concerns the poor? How can we fail, without ourselves forfeiting both good sense and the joy of love, to acknowledge the many wise insights, incisive cultural critiques, and inspiring admonitions of Amoris? [REALLY???]

But I do share the concern of many around the world that the situation has evolved in such a way, not without some encouragement from the Pope, that the dubia – we might even say, the notorious dubia – were deemed necessary.

That, having been deemed necessary, they are necessarily in need of an answer, is clear enough; my concern here is not with process, however, but rather with substance. The substance, as I see it, is this: The Church is in crisis because it must once again face – inside itself, precisely as the Church – the question of its allegiance to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For society at large it cannot decide. For the separated brethren it cannot decide. For itself it must decide, and give answer. And that answer ought to be voiced without hesitation by the successor of Peter. [So, Mr Farrow, what does that make of your protestations in the paragraph above of showing 'proper love and deference' to this Successor of Peter who has been derelict in his duties in more ways than one? 'Proper love' in this case is nothing more than dutiful love, because it is a Catholic's duty to 'love' the pope as pope (not his person necessarily). And how much more deference could be shown by the Four Cardinals and others who have written their protests on AL to the pope? The problem is that this pope thinks he owes deference to no one (if he cannot even genuflect at Consecration), certainly not to cardinals who disagree with him, but only to his beloved 'victims of human indifference' (migrants, refugees, Muslims, even the jihadists, the poor of the world, etc) - all of whom he liberally exploits at every occasion as instruments to underscore his mercy, his human kindness, his 'Christianity' such as it is,]

So much for prolegomena. I would like now to say something further, and more theological, about the roots of the crisis. I said that the crisis is a crisis of morality, doctrine, authority, and unity. Permit me to speak briefly to each of these dimensions, calling on St Irenaeus (more specifically on Adversus haereses 3.24f) for help.

The Moral Root: Justifying Sin
The moral root is always the deepest. Legend has it, and in the legend there is at least a parable, that the arch-heretic Marcion was excommunicated by his father, a bishop in Pontus, for sexual sin. Instead of repenting, this wealthy young shipping magnate sailed to Rome and founded a dissident network of competing religious communities, for which he was excommunicated permanently in AD 144.

Marcion, as you know, taught that the God of Moses was a capricious, despotic deity; that the God and Father of Jesus was an altogether different God. To that extent he was a forerunner of the movement we call Gnosticism.

The Marcionite communities were morally rigorist rather than libertine, and were eventually absorbed into the Manichaean religion. Perhaps that’s the kind of repentance Marcion thought his father was looking for, but it came at quite a price – not only for his own soul, but for all who followed him.

Everything that smacked of the Jewish religion, Christianity’s own mother, he rebelled against. He tore up the emerging canon, excluding everything that Jesus himself had regarded as holy scripture and much of what the apostles wrote as well, preserving only ten letters of Paul and a truncated version of Luke’s Gospel.

In other words, he set covenant against covenant, scripture against scripture, community against community, and God against God. Rather than repent of his own sexual sin, he chose to remain outside the ark of salvation that is the Church of God.

Irenaeus – where today is our Irenaeus? – led the Christian bishops in providing a theological response to Marcionism, and he did not shy from fingering the real problem. The heretics, he said, “defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour.” The one is connected to the other; let us not deny it.

Orthodoxy, of course, is no guarantee of good will or of good behaviour. Too well do we know that it can be a cover for all manner of deceit and wickedness! But heterodoxy actually lends itself to wickedness, though this too may be slow in revealing itself.

Who are the men and women of real holiness in the Church today?
- Do they tell us that scripture may be set against scripture?
- Do they remind us that no one caught the words of Jesus about adultery with a tape-recorder?
- Do they invite us to rearrange tradition in a fashion more convenient to the mores of our age?
- Do they turn the principle of double effect into the principle of proportionalism, telling us that we may do evil if we think doing good will do more harm than good?
- Do they, for that matter, wink at contraception, turn a blind eye to abortion and euthanasia, or paint homoerotic pictures on the walls of their churches?

Of what manner of life are such things the signs? I hear the voice, not only of St Irenaeus, but of St Basil, lamenting in his 90th letter:

"Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prize and has rejected the glory of the cross; shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves harrying the flock of Christ…".

The Doctrinal Root: Opposing Justice and Mercy
Let us turn to the matter of “perverse opinions” and to the second root, the theological or doctrinal root. There is almost always a doctrinal problem attached to a persistent moral problem, for it is a feature of fallen man that he projects his own disorder into the heavens, imagining strife in God as the real source of his own strife. Marcion and the Gnostic teachers spent a good deal of theological energy doing just that.

Not surprisingly, what Irenaeus fixes upon here (he needed no help from Feuerbach or Freud) is the opposition set up by Marcion between those two great perfections of God, namely, his justice and his mercy. “That they might remove the rebuking and judicial power from the Father,” says Irenaeus, “reckoning that as unworthy of God, and thinking that they had found out a God without anger and merely kind or good, they have alleged that one God judges but that another saves” (Haer. 3.25). By thus dividing God, they unwittingly deny “the intelligence and justice of both deities,” putting an end to deity altogether:

"For, if the judicial one is not also good enough to bestow favours upon the deserving and to direct reproofs against those requiring them, he will appear neither a just nor a wise judge. On the other hand, the good God, if he is merely good and not one who tests those upon whom he shall send his goodness, will be beyond both goodness and justice; his goodness will seem imperfect, as not saving all who deserve it, if it be not accompanied with judgment."

[Clearly, neither Bergoglio nor his acolytes have 'wasted' any time reading Irenaeus!]

Today our neo-Marcionites are more subtle.
- They do not speak of two gods, but they do speak of the one God as if he lacked judgment or could be known only by way of his mercy.
- They say they are serving this one God when they accompany non-judgmentally all who desire their accompaniment. “Judge not, that you be not judged” – here is a scripture, indeed a dominical saying, of which they are quite certain. Very good.
- But they forget to speak to those whom they accompany of the judgment of God, which is a very different matter than the judgment of mere men.
- They forget to speak to them of the holiness without which no one will see God.
- They think that to speak thus is intrusive, insensitive, rigid, or at all events unrealistic. Who would willingly listen to such a thing? Who wants to hear of the judgment of God?

This means, of course, that a great deal of what Moses and the prophets said, of what Jesus and the apostles said, must simply be set aside; for in the dominical coinage judgment and mercy are two sides of the one gospel about the one God, who is always perfect in justice and in loving-kindness.

- It means, not that Jesus has displaced us as judge – the true judge taking the place of the false – but that there is no judgment at all. - There is only negotiation; gradual, drawn out, endless negotiation. - Under the “law of gradualness,” it seems, no final judgment need ever be reached by us and perhaps none will ever be reached by God either, as regards us.
- Not to put too fine a point on it, it means that justification is possible without sanctification; that Trent, therefore, has been undone.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Church today is to lift its eyes from earth to heaven; from “discernment of situations” to discernment of God; to recover its sense of the unity of God, the God who is all holy mercy and all merciful holiness, the God who does not need to attenuate justice for the sake of mercy or mercy for the sake of justice. St Irenaeus, ora pro nobis. St Anselm, ora pro nobis.

The Jurisdictional Root: Conscience v. Revelation
Now, to divide God, it is necessary to divide his revelation: not just scripture from scripture, but scripture from tradition. Tradition itself is regarded with suspicion as that which confines us in error rather than that which maintains us in the truth.

So they do it violence. And their violence extends, as Cardinal Sarah (The Catholic World Report, 31 March 2017) recently observed, as far as the gospel itself. In his remarks to a colloquium on the tenth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, he speaks of “a horrible, outrageous thing that seeMS like the desire for ... a complete break with the Church’s past”
- as if “the apostolic Church and the Christian communities in the early centuries of Christianity understood nothing of the gospel,”
- as if the gospel has remained all but unrecognized until our own time,
- as if it were “only in our era that the plan of salvation brought by Jesus has been understood”!

He refers us, for example, to “the audacious, surprising statement” of Paul Joseph Schmitt, Bishop of Metz:

"The transformation of the [modern] world teaches and demands a change in the very concept of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ. This transformation reveals to us that the Church’s thinking about God’s plan was, before the present change, insufficiently evangelical... No era has been as capable as ours of understanding the evangelical ideal of fraternal life" (cited from Jean Madiran, L’hérésie du XX siècle, Paris 1968, 164ff).

“With a vision like that,” says Sarah, “it is not surprising that devastation, destruction and wars have followed ... at the liturgical, doctrinal and moral level.”

Indeed. And from whom were these habits learned? Who taught us to exercise a hermeneutic of suspicion about the past and to prize our present enlightenment? How did we learn to mark, not the time of Jesus Christ, but our own time as the fullness of times?

I have already said in my books on the ascension most of what I want to say about the myth of progress, to which the Bishop of Metz obviously subscribed. I will add here, however, that by the 1960s that myth had deeply penetrated Catholicism, having found forceful expression fifty years earlier in Buonaiuti’s The Program of the Modernists (1907), whose handling of scripture and tradition is thoroughly Protestant in spirit even where it is Catholic in form.

The outright rejection of Pascendi Dominici Gregis [St. Pius X's 1907 encyclical that condemned modernism and a whole range of other principles described as "evolutionary" and a threat to Roman Catholic dogma] marks a turning point of sorts in Catholicism, [I do not know what Farrow means by 'outright rejection'. but it is true that in 1967, after Vatican-II, Paul VI abolished both the Index of Prohibited Books updated by Pascendi..., as well as the Oath against Modernism that Pius X had ordered "all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries" to swear to]* after which it became at least conceivable that Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor should also be rejected, and that we should eventually be presented with a puzzle like Amoris Laetitia, which both is and (in a few spots) isn’t obviously part of the Great Tradition.

No one drew it up quite like this, of course. The whole problem was meant to be solved at Vatican II. There the council fathers sought to incorporate what they could of Protestant insight into scripture and tradition, while recalling critical scholarship to the path of faith without loss of its enquiring spirit. So we have, for example, Dei Verbum, and Dei Verbum will not hear of any such change as the Bishop of Metz and his ilk demand. Nor will it hear of Marcionism, old or new.

"In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations... Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers...” (DV 7–10).

But we have not been holding fast to this deposit as one entire holy people united with their shepherds. On the contrary, among the shepherds themselves there has been, in far too many cases, a letting-go of the deposit, a departure from tradition, an embrace of the Marcionite “divide and conquer” principle that Modernism did its best to disguise.

Scripture is indeed set against scripture, and tradition deprived of its integrity. Both are rejected where they prove inconvenient. The function of the magisterium is therefore in doubt. The new voice of authority is that of the conscience, to which revelation, as vouchsafed in scripture and tradition, is merely a guide and not a governor.

This requires a word of explanation. Properly understood, conscience is a function of practical reason. It is the innate capacity and involuntary instinct to measure particular actions by the moral principles and knowledge of good and evil that are grasped by the intellect, whether through natural law or by instruction. Its primary role is to mark the divergence of actions, whether performed or proposed, from the good, insofar as the good is known to the agent.

Conscience is ineffective to the degree that the good is not properly known, or to the degree that the agent has suppressed the instinct in question. Simply put, conscience belongs to the rational soul through its participation in the divine intellect, as that capacity “whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act” (Catechism 1778).

Which is to say, conscience is not itself a source, but only a voice, of moral authority. Its function is to point out to me that I am out of step with true moral authority, known to me through natural and divine law. Conscience therefore invites me – through conscience God himself, my maker, invites me – to a free, if sometimes costly, conformity to natural and divine law. And it rightly and rationally accuses me if I do not conform.

I say all of this, not to be pedantic, but to make clear that conscience can in no way assume jurisdiction over natural or divine law. Over civil law, yes; over natural or divine law, no.

Now, what of ecclesial law? Ecclesial law, in its narrow sense as ius canonicum, is, to be sure, a form of civil or positive law, which must always be measured by natural and divine law, and therefore also by conscience. But that is not our present problem.

Our present problem – and a major component of the current crisis – is that conscience is being misconstrued as a source of moral authority alongside natural and divine law: a source capable of overriding, not merely the ius canonicum and sacramental discipline, but dominical teaching and the lex credendi, on which such discipline is based.

Is this not what worries the authors of the DUBIA? After asking for clarification in the first dubium regarding a single type of situation – sexual relations that, because of Jesus’s own words, have always been regarded as adulterous: are they adulterous or are they not? – the burden of the others comes to rest in the fifth, regarding the role of conscience in relation to scripture and tradition:

"After Amoris Laetitia (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, which excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?"

Amoris §303 calls for “individual conscience ... to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.” It urges a certain negotiation between conscience and the moral norms of the Church, observing that “discernment is dynamic” and “must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.” [And does not this provision alone, and by itself, Mr. Farrow, make a mockery of all the orthodox teachings about marriage, etc, that AL so piously reaffirms until it goes completely rogue in Chapter 8? Which is why it is foolish and hypocritical to wax lyrical, as you did, earlier in this document on "the many wise insights, incisive cultural critiques, and inspiring admonitions of Amoris"!

Veritatis Splendor §56, on the other hand, already rules out such an approach, objecting to the opposition thus established

"between the teaching of the precept, which is valid in general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called “pastoral” solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a “creative” hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept."

No one, it adds, can fail to see that such an approach poses “a challenge to the very identity of the moral conscience in relation to human freedom and God's law;” that it overturns the teaching that conscience derives its binding force from the fact that it “does not command things on its own authority, but commands them as coming from God's authority, like a herald when he proclaims the edict of the king” (§58, quoting St Boniface).

Well, apparently some can fail to see it, but no one can fail to see that there is a conflict. Hence the fifth dubium, which asks whether the earlier text remains binding.

This is first of all a question about tradition: Can it contradict itself? If it can’t, then either one of the texts must be read in a manner contrary to its evident meaning or one of the texts must be judged not to carry the force of tradition.

Second, it is a question about conscience. Does conscience determine what is right, or does it merely discern what is established by God as right? Does conscience, in other words, command on its own authority or on the authority of another? If the former, then the first step in moral analysis is eliminated.
- One no longer has to consider whether a particular act (in this case an act of adultery) is intrinsically right or wrong, to be recognized as such by way of natural or divine law.
- One can bypass that and move straight on to questions about intention, circumstance, and consequences. In addressing these, the act can be rendered right without reference to its intrinsic character.
- The maxim that it is never licit to do evil that good may come – a maxim that distinguishes Catholic ethics from competing ethical systems, as St John Paul II emphasized – is set aside.
- But then the very notion of conscience disappears into a black hole of subjectivity.
- The lesson of Genesis 3 is lost to the subtleties and lies of the Serpent. (“Did God really say, ‘thou shalt,’ or ‘thou shalt not’?”) - The fear of the Lord, it turns out, is not necessarily the beginning of wisdom.

There is a third, pastoral question as well:
- How do things stand in the internal forum and especially in the confessional?
- Where the conscience is excused from reckoning with the intrinsic nature of an act, and set directly to wrestling with the subjective and circumstantial and consequential dimensions of the act, the requisite contrition, penance, and absolution will be quite different.

And this will have implications for the external forum also. What was once regarded as adultery, and hence as a disqualification for communion, will now be regarded as a new form of fidelity, and hence as a qualification. In which case, the Eucharist itself will be made witness to this fidelity that was once an infidelity.

I said earlier that the dubia, having been deemed necessary, are necessarily in need of an answer. But it is not so simple as that. Considered substantively, and not merely procedurally, the dubia are indeed necessary; but the fifth, at least, cannot be answered. Or rather, the only possible answer would be to withdraw the offending section of Amoris Laetitia and to correct or clarify the premises, appearing elsewhere, which support that section.

The Diabolical Root: Dividing the Church
I come now to my conclusion, and to what I will call the diabolical root of our present crisis. The enemy of our souls is also, and a fortiori, the enemy of the Church of God. The devil seeks to divide man from God, woman from man, the steward of creation from creation itself, even from his body. He seeks above all to divide the Church.

And division in the Church is what can be expected if we justify sin by insinuating opposition between the perfections of God; if we set scripture against scripture and tradition against tradition, and conscience against both.

The truth about God is that he is never without either his justice or his mercy. “Neither does he show himself unmercifully just; for his goodness, no doubt, goes on before his judgment and takes precedency” (Haer. 3.25), the two working in wonderful harmony.

The truth about scripture and tradition is that they cohere, and in their coherence they sustain the Church. There is, as Irenaeus says, “a well-grounded system that tends to man's salvation, namely, our faith: which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself to renew its youth also.”

The truth about conscience is that it has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the law of God.

We are faced with a crisis in the Church today, a crisis much exacerbated (though not caused) by Amoris Laetitia, because that “well-grounded system” has begun to come apart, as it did in the sixteenth century.

Where the Protestant reformers tried and failed to put it back together, the Council of Trent succeeded; but it can no longer be said, even in the Catholic Church, that “the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in a stable course” (Haer. 3.24).

On the contrary, bishop vies with bishop, and it must in all honesty be said of Amoris that it appears to “think differently in regard to the same things at different times”. (ibid.).

As Cardinal Sarah himself remarks, our present crisis is made more acute by the fact that high-ranking prelates “refuse to face up to the Church’s work of self-destruction through the deliberate demolition of her doctrinal, liturgical, moral and pastoral foundations.”

I cannot claim here what Irenaeus claims at the conclusion of his third book, for it is impossible in so short a space even to list, much less to “expose and overthrow,” all those “impious doctrines” and falsehoods with which we are again confronted.

But I can and will maintain this: If Marcion’s problem was fundamentally a moral problem, so is ours. I will go further, and say that its character is spiritual.
- It is not, in the last analysis, a question about pastoring people who have fallen into sexual sins and other relational difficulties, as important as that is.
- It is not a question of being patient or charitable, either to those appeal to us for help or to those who beg to differ with us – “for our love, inasmuch as it is true, is salutary to them, if they will but receive it” (Haer. 3.25).
- And it is not a question, I hasten to add, of meeting this or that test of orthodoxy prescribed by the pride, or the insecurity, of über-traditionalists, who in their own fashion only perpetuate Marcionite errors.

It is finally a question of allegiance to our Lord, a question of the fear of the Lord. Without a renewal of the fear of the Lord, it will not be resolved.

Rome April 22, 2017

*I think it is worth looking at St. Pius X's Oath against Modernism and what has replaced it since Vatican II:

Oath against Modernism
Decreed by St. Pius X
September 1910

To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.

I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world;
- sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport;
- reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists;
- declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition;
- firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. ]The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way;
- promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing.
Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God...

Consider the brief and perfunctory replacement to the Oath by Paul VI in July 1967:

Formula to adopt from now on in cases
in which the Profession of Faith is prescribed by law

in substitution of the Tridentine formula
and the oath against modernism

I, N., believe and profess with firm faith each and every truth which is contained in the Symbol of the faith, namely:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

I also firmly accept and retain each and every truth regarding the doctrine of faith and morals, whether solemnly defined by the Church or asserted and declared with the ordinary Magisterium, as well as those doctrines proposed by the same Magisterium, above all those which regard the mystery of the Holy Church of Christ, the Sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, as well as the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff.

No separate Oath of Fidelity accompanies it. BTW, since Jorge Bergoglio was ordained a priest in 1969, he probably swore this oath, although later on as bishop and as cardinal, he would have sworn the version promulgated by John Paul II.

In 1989, and again in 1998 with the Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, John Paul II promulgated the following Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, which, I suppose, continues to be professed today.


I, N., with firm faith believe and profess each and everything that is contained in the Symbol of faith, namely:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.

I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.

Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.


(Under Canon 833, such offices include voting participants in an ecumenical council or bishops' synod; cardinals; bishops and their vicars; parish priests; deacons; and the rector and professors of theology and philosophy at seminaries)

I, N., in assuming the office of ………, promise that in my words and in my actions I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church.

With great care and fidelity I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both universal and particular, in which, according to the provisions of the law, I have been called to exercise my service.

In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.

I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law.

With Christian obedience I shall follow what the Bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of the faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish. I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan Bishops, so that the apostolic activity, exercised in the name and by mandate of the Church, may be carried out in communion with the Church.

So help me God, and God’s Holy Gospels on which I place my hand.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 26/04/2017 21.47]
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Utente Gold
The decline of Western civilization
and 'he who must not be named'

Secularists have convinced Western societies that Christianity was an impediment to humanism and liberal democracy.
The practical consequence has been the privatization of faith, another way to describe an impotent faith.

by Thomas M. Doran
April 25, 2017

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories, Lord Voldemort is so frightening that he’s referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named”.

Those who think Western Civilization still has something to offer the modern world, a minority in today’s academic and intellectual milieu, have been trying to make sense out of the declining attraction of liberal democracy, and the rights traditionally embedded in democratic societies: free speech, religious freedom, freedom of association, free elections, property rights.

Instead of being a superior form of government, many now consider classically defined liberal democracy to be just another model, not inherently better or worse than many other models, even praising alternate models for their economic efficiency, streamlined decision making, or ideological purity.

In an April 21st essay titled “The Crisis of Western Civ”, David Brooks — who lauds the “humanistic ideal” that underlies liberal democracy — writes, “According to a study published in The Journal of Democracy, the share of young Americans who say it is absolutely necessary to live in a democratic country has dropped from 91% in the 1930s to 57% today.”

It’s hard for me to find fault with anyone who champions Western civilization, but there’s something missing in Brooks’s analysis, and others I’ve seen like his, and that something is the modern age’s He Who Must Not Be Named, namely, Jesus Christ, the source of the humanistic ideal.

Before Jesus, how could one imagine marred and damaged humans as beloved sons and daughters of the Creator of this 100 billion light year wide and 100 billion galaxy universe? [Except that the knowledge of earth's insignificance in relation to the cosmos in such quantitative terms was not appreciated at all by most humans who have inhabited the earth, although the more reflective ones did know that philosophically. And so the terracentric world view of Scriptures was not thought to be anomalous!] That’s pretty bold talk, then and now, no matter how you cut it.

Distinct from the pre-Christian classical virtues that were intended to produce human contentment and orderly societies, Christianity promoted religious beliefs and moral norms that were objectively true and good, even when they troubled people and societies.

Outside of explicitly religious conversations, we’re not supposed to talk about him, or the effect he had on Western civilization and the world. In high-minded secular conversations and writings, he must not be named, and if he is, it must be muted or constrained. As to his practical effect on individuals, societies, and cultures two millennia ago, two hundred years ago, and today, that’s a no-go zone.

Secularists have convinced Western societies that Christianity was an impediment to humanism and liberal democracy, convinced us to such an extent that even many believers now hold this view, with the practical consequence being a privatization of faith, another way to describe an impotent faith.

The secularists accomplished this by defining Christianity by its worst moments and worst acts, though for every Cardinal Richelieu or Borgia pope there were thousands of people-serving, self-sacrificing Christians, and for every Crusader or clergy depravity there were thousands of works and institutions of mercy and generosity.

Contrary-wise, non-Christian civilizations are judged by their best moments and achievements, with few words about the anti-humanism that coursed through these societies: tribes in the Americas and Africa that enslaved, murdered, and mutilated each other; Muslim armies repeatedly invading Europe and enslaving non-Muslims; Asian kingdoms with “divine” rulers, and human beasts of burden to provide for them and their pleasures, and to fight their wars.

I distinguish between a Christian ethos that informs and forms individuals, societies, and states, their decisions and actions, and explicitly theocratic states of any flavor that invariably damage human freedom and authentic religion.

Let’s take slavery. Even when accepted or tolerated within the Christian world, it was always a troubled acceptance, with plenty of prominent objectors and regions that wouldn't tolerate it. Contrast this with the broad acceptance of slavery in pre-Christian and the non-Christian world, even to this very day.

Forced or coerced conversions of Jews and other non-Christians? Certainly this occurred, but without institutional or theological sanction. Augustine said, “God created us without us, but he did not will to save us without us,” meaning conversion involves our willful cooperation, something Thomas Aquinas called “cooperative grace”. For Aquinas, conversion is incomplete or invalid if the “converted” does not freely and fully accept the Creator’s invitation to allegiance.

While the human temptation to convince or make others believe what we believe is powerful, Christianity recognizes that correspondence of the human will is necessary for true allegiance to the Creator, and this understanding of the importance of free will was a necessary ingredient in the development of liberal democracy.

As for the intellect and reason, where Christianity flowers, one finds a melding of reason, clearheaded faith, and an insistence on the pre-eminence of human dignity and objective moral norms, with countless exemplars throughout the centuries: Augustine, Mother Teresa, William Wilberforce, Elizabeth of Hungary, G.K. Chesterton, Georges Lemaitre, Thomas Aquinas, Patrick of Ireland, Blaise Pascal, Catherine of Sienna, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, Thomas More, Gregory the Great, Gianna Molla, John Paul II, Joan of Arc, Edith Stein, and on and on.

As for art and beauty, can anyone in their right mind suggest that today’s culturally lauded, and often ideological, art, architecture, literature, poetry, and music can hold a candle to that produced in societies infused by the Christian ethos?

And with what ethos have we replaced the Christian ethos? With soft or hard nihilism, where everything is allowed, and almost nothing is wrong, if it gets me what I want, or gets my ideological allies what they want, or achieves some “noble” end.

Though the Islamists are an extreme example of this attitude, a softer nihilism is common in the Western democracies. An ISIS terrorist who kills and maims strangers can’t be said to have committed an evil act, since there is no such thing, objectively speaking. Therefore, he must have been psychologically damaged, or economically or socially victimized. When you open the doors to nihilism, there’s no keeping out his brothers and sisters: materialism, relativism, and anarchism.

For all our lofty talk about liberties and rights, human beings are now weighed in relation to their productive value — how much they earn me versus how much they cost me; the “burden” they impose on the planet; their usefulness in pushing an ideology or electing someone; their value dependent on what they produce or consume, rather than who they are.

Look at modern France and its frustrated, confused, and alienated citizens, emblematic of the malaise of modern liberal democracies. How do citizens rally around an avowedly soulless, secular welfare state? Though conditioned to feed at its trough, they’re not inclined to give this faux-liberal democracy their allegiance, much less their trust.

As for secular France’s motto, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, to quote Fulton Sheen: “To believe in the brotherhood of man without the Fatherhood of God would make men a race of bastards.”

If demography is destiny, Islamist hard nihilism will supplant European soft nihilism, and the only hope is The New Evangelization, generous Christian families and 21st century Patricks, Cyrils, and Francis Xaviers.

How can one defend any humanistic ideal unless it’s undergirded by an inspiring ethos a civilization embraces, even when falling short of achieving its ideals? This is the irreconcilable dilemma when embracing humanly derived ideals, no matter how noble, lofty, or tolerant, in that such ideals cannot be incumbent on me if they don’t provide what I desire, or if the majority chooses to replace them with murkier standards.

Brooks closed his article with, “All I can say is, if you think this (Western civ) was reactionary and oppressive, wait until you get a load of the world that comes after it.”

Brooks is on to something, but cultural blinders don’t allow him and likeminded defenders of Western civilization to go deep enough. It’s as if they’re determined to make delicious beer, but refuse to use yeast. What’s more, they disdain the need for yeast, as it infringes on their freedom to make beer as they desire. Finally, they convince themselves that yeast damages the beer.

When the West kicked out the Christian ethos, it kicked out the legs that supported the table of true humanism, and without He Who Must Not Be Named and his vision of the human person, liberal democracy can’t be sustained.

Thomas M. Doran is the author of Toward the Gleam, Terrapin, and Iota, all published by Ignatius Press. He is a member of The Engineering Society of Detroit’s College of Fellows. He has worked on environmental projects for 40 years, was an adjunct professor at Lawrence Technological University and The University of Detroit/Mercy, and has contributed extensively to the mainstream media and technical publications on the environment.

I must apologize. I didn't realise the server had ocne again generated multiple posts out of my initial uncorrected draft post on Prof. Farrow's anti-AL paper - until my corrected post showed up on Page 574 - surely too early for a page change. Only then did I become aware that all that dreck had clogged up Page 573 through no fault of mine. It's not easy to delete unwanted posts, so all the time I had all that annoying garbage there! I am so sorry...
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April 27, 2017 headlines



The pope, leading propagandist
for Islam today, heads to Egypt

The Church and past popes combatted
the errors of Islam. Francis praises them.

April 26, 2017

As the prototypical progressive Jesuit, Pope Francis prides himself on his “ecumenism.” He oozes enthusiasm for every religion except his own. At the top of his list of favorite religions is the Church’s fiercest adversary — Islam.

He often sounds more like a spokesman for CAIR than a Catholic pope. After jihadists cut off the head of a French priest in July 2016 — yelling “Allahu Akbar” over the priest’s slit throat — Pope Francis rushed to the defense of Islam.

“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence,” he said, before ludicrously blaming the rise of terrorism on the “idolatry” of free-market economics: “As long as the god of money is at the center of the global economy and not the human person, man and woman, this is the first terrorism.”

As Europe turns into Eurabia, Pope Francis is picking up honors and awards from progressives, including, hilariously, the 2016 “Charlemagne Prize” for his Islamic apologetics. It is hard to imagine a Christian leader less like Charlemagne.

Pope Francis is energized not depressed by the disappearance of Christian Europe. “States must be secular,” he told La Croix. Christian states, he said, “end badly” and go “against the grain of history.” He added that “when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful.” It also takes on “colonialist overtones,” he complained.

The most liberal pope ever, of course, sees no irony in shilling for the most illiberal religion on Earth. On his anti-colonialist scorecard, Islam wears the white hats and Christian Europe, the black ones. After jihadists gunned down ten journalists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, Pope Francis rushed to Islam’s defense again, in effect rebuking the dead journalists for incitement: "You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” Those who do, he continued, should “expect a punch.”

This week Pope Francis takes his pro-Islamic apology tour to Egypt. Previewing the trip, which starts on Friday, he said he seeks to “offer a valid contribution to inter-religious dialogue with the Islamic world.” Francis’s fawning media courtiers are already rolling out the propaganda for it, predicting that it will “build bridges to moderate Islam.”

“A main reason for the trip is to try to strengthen relations with the 1,000-year-old Azhar center that were cut by the Muslim side in 2011 over what it said were repeated insults of Islam by Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict,” according to Reuters.

“Ties with the center were restored last year after [Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb] visited the Vatican. Tayeb, widely seen as one of the most moderate senior clerics in Egypt, has repeatedly condemned Islamic State and its practice of declaring others as apostates and infidels as a pretext for waging violent jihad.”

Being “one of the most moderate senior clerics in Egypt” is about as meaningful a distinction as being one of the most chaste Kardashian sisters. Useful idiots in the West call Tayeb moderate, but anyone paying attention knows that he is not, unless calling for the killing of apostates now counts as “moderate.”

As Raymond Ibrahim has written, “There’s nothing like knowing Arabic — that is, being privy to the Muslim world’s internal conversations on a daily basis — to disabuse oneself of the supposed differences between so-called ‘moderate’ and ‘radical’ Muslims.”

Ibrahim has listened to Tayeb’s speeches and comes away from them with the conclusion that Tayeb is a double-dealing phony. He trots off to the West to tell the gullible what “they want to hear” then returns to his mosque and Egyptian television studios to reaffirm traditional jihadist theology, writes Ibrahim: "All throughout the month of Ramadan last June, Tayeb appeared on Egyptian TV explaining all things Islamic — often in ways that do not suggest that Islam seeks “peace, encounter.”

That this is the case was made clear during another of Tayeb’s recent episodes. On the question of apostasy in Islam — whether a Muslim has the right to abandon Islam for another or no religion — the “radical” position is well known: unrepentant apostates are to be punished with death.

Yet Tayeb made the same pronouncement. During another Ramadan episode he said that “Contemporary apostasy presents itself in the guise of crimes, assaults, and grand treason, so we deal with it now as a crime that must be opposed and punished.”

It has never been easier for orthodox Islamic clerics to take liberals for a ride. Salman Rushdie once bitterly remarked that the “face of moderate Islam” in Great Britain had called for his death.

Past popes regarded Islam as a font of poisonous heresies. Dante placed Muhammad in hell. St. Thomas Aquinas said Muhammad peddled “fables and doctrines of the greatest falsity” and sardonically remarked upon the perverse basis for his claim of divine favor: “Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms — which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.”

What has changed? Nothing about Islam. Islam remains as violent as it started. But one thing is new: The Catholic Church, under the death-wish progressivism of Francis [who as pope is supposed to preach the Gospel of Christ to non-Christians], has become one of Islam’s loudest boosters [Because in his view, all religions are merely differing ways of reaching God. Can there be anything more anti-Catholic and anti-Christian???? Shame and anathema!!!]

George Neumayr will soon publish a book entitled THE POLITICAL POPE - about the man who is selling the Church over to her enemies, old and new, for a mess of press clippings celebrating his hubristically monstrous ego! (My rejoinder.)

St. Francis and Pope Francis:
Opposite views on inter-religious dialog

[And, one might add, on the liturgy, on 'nothing but the best' garments and
vessels for Mass, and on the proper (and honest) manifestations of personal poverty]

by Andrew Parrish
April 26, 2017

With the Pope’s visit to Egypt looming large in the headlines, the UK Catholic Tablet has published an article by Christopher Lamb comparing this trip to Saint Francis's visits to the Middle East.

As documented in the Life of St. Francis, St. Francis of Assisi – after whom this pope named himself - undertook a journey to the court of the Sultan of Jerusalem, the most powerful Muslim leader of the time. Unfortunately the author of this piece subscribes to a fairly common misconception – that this early meeting between Catholicism and Islam represents a primitive example of the “ecumenical dialogue” [Parrish means 'inter-religious', as 'ecumenical' refers to intra-Christian relations] approach which is common today.

The text of the Life, however, indicates that this was not the sort of dialogue of which modern proponents would approve, and the differences in approach between St. Francis and Pope Francis are worthy of note.

With regards to the Pope’s intentions, Mr. Lamb says, “The main focus of Francis’s short trip will be dialogue and diplomacy, a moment where a global Christian leader travels to the cradle of civilisation and a city known as “the mother of the world.”

More than anything he says, "the Pope’s presence and appeals for peace in such an important Islamic country will provide a powerful counter-narrative to the idea that religions are the cause of violence or that Islam and Christianity are involved in a clash of civilisations. [Puh-leeze! Such embarrassing naivete!]

The Pope has indeed frequently rejected attempts to identify religion as a cause of terrorism, saying that arms dealers, poverty, and inequality are more likely culprits. In his video message to the people of Egypt, which was released today, the Pope also rejects the idea that Islam and Christianity are in any way fundamentally in conflict,[HAR-DE-HAR-HAR!] declaring members of the two faiths to share a common identity as “children of Abraham,” and his own aim to be “reconciliation with Muslims”. However, the Tablet‘s portrayal of St. Francis is not similarly accurate.

“During the sweltering heat of an Egyptian summer,” Lamb says, “a pair of humble friars wearing rough robes and walking on bare feet ignored the scoffing of knights on a fifth crusade to the Holy Land to cross to the Muslim forces and appeal for peace. One of the friars was St Francis of Assisi, the famous founder of the Franciscan order, and his meeting with Islamic leader Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt has gone down in history as a powerful moment of Christian/Muslim relationships.” Unfortunately, this description of the official history omits the most crucial details, and it is only right that it be corrected.

St. Francis made two trips to the Middle East, according to his medieval biographers: the first to Morocco via Spain, and the second to Syria. The reason for his travel was not to “appeal for peace”; on the contrary, St. Francis so strongly hoped that the Muslims would murder him for proclaiming the Gospel to them that, as St. Bonaventure writes, “…the thought of dying for Christ meant more to him than any merit he might earn by the practice of virtue… he took the road towards Morocco with the intention of preaching the Gospel of Christ to the sultan... his desire bore him along so swiftly that even though he was physically weak he used to leave his companion behind and hurry ahead.” (Major Life of St. Francis, Chapter IX)

Prevented by an illness from realizing this plan, St. Francis’s desire for martyrdom remained so strong that he undertook a second trip to Syria several years later, while a Crusade was ongoing. He successfully navigated a battlefield with a Franciscan brother, as Mr. Lamb correctly states, and made his way into the presence of the Sultan, the Muslim forces’ commander.

As St. Bonaventure recounts, “[Francis] proclaimed the triune God and Jesus Christ, the Savior of all, with such steadfastness, with such courage and spirit, that it was clear the promise of the Gospel had been fulfilled in him”.

Bonaventure continues:

“When the sultan saw his enthusiasm and courage, he listened to him willingly and pressed him to stay with him. Francis, however, was inspired by God to reply, "If you are willing to become converts to Christ, you and your people, I shall be only too glad to stay with you for love of him. But if you are afraid to abandon the law of Mahomet for Christ’s sake, then light a big fire and I will go into it with your priests. That will show you which faith is more sure and more holy." (Major Life, Chapter IX)

The sultan refuses this repeated entreaty for a conclusive test, and Francis, stymied, eventually leaves in peace and returns home.

While there is always room for discussion about the most effective way for Catholics to interact with the faithful of other religions, this discussion cannot be carried on effectively if the facts are obscured.

The purpose of interacting with those of other faiths is to convince them to convert to Catholicism, a point which St Francis did not forget. Contemporary apologists would be well advised, perhaps, to remember the fiery and uncompromisingly dogmatic spirit of the saint of peace, a man willing to undergo diplomatic awkwardness, torture, and even death for the sake of a clear and unapologetic Faith.

One truly gets the impression that when he chose to name himself after the Saint of Assisi, Jorge Bergoglio knew little about Francis of Assisi beyond the Flower-Power caricature of him. And seems to have learned little more afterwards. A dedicated Franciscan scholar-monk ought to write a paper comparing the two very unlike figures who are separated by far more than their eight centuries in time!
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What’s wrong with the post-modern world:
A review of Fr. Schall's new book

by Anthony S. Layne
April 25, 2017

Jesuit philosopher Fr. James V. Schall has been described as “America’s Chesterton” by theologian Tracey Rowland in the book's cover blurb.

Like G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Schall has a talent for making philosophy accessible to the average person, the mark not only of the true sophisticate but also of the good teacher. But also like Chesterton, Fr. Schall is very much concerned with the pervasiveness of ways of thinking that run counter to common sense. [A good description of the mot objectionable passages in AL!]

And in Catholicism and Intelligence (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, $22.95), Fr. Schall, like Chesterton before him, shows us how revelation is necessary for reason to comprehend the cosmos as it really is.

We should note first of all that Fr. Schall does not treat intelligence as we commonly think of it; that is, as the sum of our raw knowledge and cognitive capabilities. Rather, he gives it the older, broader sense of its root in the Latin verb intellegereunderstanding, comprehension, perception, discernment. It also embraces reason as the means by which one makes sense of the world, though Fr. Schall does not commit the modern error of supposing that reason only reaches correct answers.

This last point, that reason does not necessarily lead to truth, can hardly be stated strongly enough. For much of Fr. Schall’s book centers on the fact that modern reason is devoted not to comprehending objective reality — the “what-is”, as he puts it — but to denying it in order to create “realities” more amenable to our wills.[Doesn't that describe exactly the mindset of Our Beloved Holy Father???]

“The essence of all ideology is that, at some point in its explication, it does not conform to the way things are. The history of human thought can be seen … as a long and connected series of hypotheses designed to explain why invalid theories are true” (p. 64). [It is hard not to read these generalities as they apply specifically to Jorge Bergoglio who is, above everything else, a passionate and committed ideologue of Bergoglianism which is essentially nothing more than broad-based anti-Catholicism.]

The start of this deviation of modern thought Fr. Schall - as do many other writers working within the Aristotelian/Thomist tradition - traces back to Rene Descartes. “He began in doubt and ended up with himself. … The consequence of doubting our senses and what is connected through them to the world is not the certainty that ‘I am.’ Rather, it is the lack of certainty in anything else but my ‘I’” (p. 2).

We can draw a straight line from Descartes's damaging 'Cogito, ergo sum' (I think, therefore I am) to the incoherent absurdities of transgender theory, a straight line increasingly described as voluntarism: what-is is no more or less than what one wills it to be. [Hence, Bergoglio's skewed optic on Islam and unconditional mass migration, his strange negation of Christian morality on abortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, irregular unions (homo- and hetero) to the death penalty and just war].

From Descartes, Fr. Schall goes on to discuss a wide range of modern issues in the light of Revelation and its connatural relationship to reason. To the questions that are variants of “Why didn’t Jesus/Scripture say anything about X,” Fr. Schall gives the quite reasonable reply:

Revelation was not designed to tell us what we could know or figure out by our reason. We did not need the Bible to invent the wheel or to know how to build a house. Revelation was not a complete scheme of life as the books of other religions often claim to be. This limitation is why we speak of the things of God and the things of Caesar. …

Christ did not need to reveal the contents of Aristotle’s Politics because it was already figured out before He came along. The Gospels were not designed to explain the intricacies of atomic energy. And it was not a defect or an oversight in God if they did not deal with the things we could know by ourselves. What we could find out by reason, we should find out by reason. Catholicism itself affirms this position and rejoices in it. (p. 85; italics in original)

But revelation is not just a special bonus explaining what lies beyond our senses. Through revelation, material reality became intelligible in a way not previously accessible to other cultures at other times. Through the union of Jerusalem with Athens, Catholicism became the key that unlocked the door to what would eventually become the empirical sciences.

Catholicism insists on the objective reality of the created order, which modern idealism would retreat from for the sake of various secular utopian visions. And until recent times, Fr. Schall reminds us, the definition of madness was “living in a thought world that did not correspond to the real world” (p. 20). [Reason enough to think that in this sense, Bergoglio is mad!]

Indeed, until recently, no one ever thought there was a right not only to live in such a thought world but to force others to live in it as well. [Which is what JMB has been trying to do!]

Catholicism and Intelligence is not a philosophical textbook, a treatise on doctrine, or an apology for Catholicism. Rather, we should call it a series of meditations on how the Catholic mind differs from the minds of different movements in the world, as well as why Catholicism is threatened from so many quarters. Most of these meditations were previously published elsewhere.

However, Fr. Schall has seamlessly blended them together so the text takes on an almost narrative quality. And to the extent that Fr. Schall does touch on doctrine, his voice is within the narrow tolerances of orthodoxy — to be expected, given the comparison of him to Chesterton.

It is in this near-story-like feature that Fr. Schall most closely resembles Chesterton. He does not display his English precursor’s penchant for paradox or the inverted cliché, nor does he make an obvious attempt to be funny. Like Chesterton, though, his strength is in finding what is essential to a particular thought or worldview, discarding the extraneous fluff and puff in which it is packaged for our consumption, and presenting the remnant nugget so its poison is exposed. At the same time, he never gives you the sense that he is “dumbing things down” for your benefit.

But Fr. Schall does not shy away from controversy, either. In Chapter Nine, “Ongoing Catholic Intelligence”, Fr. Schall takes on remarks about poverty from the current head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cdl. Robert Sarah. In his own book, God or Nothing, Cardinal Sarah made a confusing distinction between poverty and destitution, arguing that the Church does not want financial poverty eliminated. In return, Fr. Schall argues that Cardinal Sarah misconstrues Jesus’s statement that we would always have the poor among us (cf. Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7).

I cannot imagine how Christ’s love of the poor was intended to keep men poor. … Christ also loves the destitute, as do we. But we do not want them to be destitute, that is, poor, if we can help it — and we can. (p 144)

[As I have not read Cardinal Sarah's book - though I will seek out if I can what he actually said in the original French of the interview - I cannot imagine he would have said or implied that the Church does not want financial poverty eliminated. (Though I have argued that bleeding-heart liberals like Our Beloved Pope who relentlessly exploit 'the poor' as their God-given raison d'etre do not really want the poor to get out of poverty because then who would their hearts bleed for?) Like most of us, I am sure he interprets Jesus's statement that 'we will always have the poor among us' not as an implacable destiny for the poor, but as a reality that will be with us to the end of our post-Fall world.]

Common sense is the shared understanding of things we all (should) know to be true, even if we cannot scientifically prove them true, and even when we labor mightily to prove them false. Common sense is common not because it is widespread but because it is available to all of us.

As Fr. Schall says, the ordinary person does not have to work so hard as Descartes did to know his own reality, and would be stunned into a dropping jaw to read, as this writer has, a neuroscientist who declares that consciousness is a “persistent illusion.” The most paradoxical truth of the postmodern age is that only the very educated and very clever can come to the most foolish conclusions.

Catholicism and Intelligence has this quality of common sense, of explaining things in such a way that you wonder how one could have ever come to think otherwise. Continuing the parallel with Chesterton, one might contend that Schall’s work is comparable to the English writer's book Heretics. The significant difference, however, is that while Chesterton named the heresiarchs, Fr. Schall mostly does not. If anything, Catholicism and Intelligence reads more like 'What’s Wrong with the World' updated for the twenty-first century.

But while, as said above, Catholicism and Intelligence is not an apologetics work, Fr. Schall indirectly makes a persuasive case for the truth of the Catholic faith from its insistence on the intelligibility of the universe. There is an “is”, as Chesterton put it, and that “is” is knowable. That there is something real outside our heads that we can come to know is the only justification possible for everything we call knowledge, especially that particular kind of knowledge we derive from science.

Through this insistence, Catholicism becomes a lighthouse of sanity and sensibility in a sea of madness and nonsense.

Catholicism and Intelligence, then, is for the reader troubled by the conflict his faith encounters with the “truths” held by the postmodern world. Ideas matter because ideas have consequences. [Tell that to Bergoglio, who seems to think that ideas have no reality, when he insists "Reality is more important than ideas"!]

“Conflict arises,” writes Fr. Schall, “when both sides of an issue realize that something basic is at stake, that our ideas do make a difference” (p. 148). And as the consequences of false ideas play themselves out in our society, throughout the world, we can no longer afford the supposition that we can buy peace by setting error on equal terms with the truth. Many errors will offer the truth no such quarter.

What Fr. Schall gives us in this book is the reassurance that Catholicism alone offers us not only heaven but also the real world, because only in Catholicism do reason and revelation embrace. Without reason, revelation is incoherent. But without revelation, reason is lost. If all we seek is what this world offers, we will lose even that. But if we seek the kingdom first, everything will be ours (Matthew 6:31-33). ['Seek ye first the Kingdom of God' has, of course, never been part of Jorge Bergoglio's pontifications, formal or otherwise! Not for him "Look for the things above' but rather, "Look at everything around you and below you first".]

I shouldn't have been surprised that Fr. Schall's most trenchant commentaries reported from his book - which was certainly not intended to be a commentary on Bergoglio - apply in both the generic and specific senses to the current pope's statements and actions. Which only shows how emblematic JMB is of the post-modern, post-Christian thinking, mindset and dominant worldview. This is a pope who is very much in the world and of the world, even at the expense of the Church he was elected to lead, the Church that that world has been meaning to crush and annihilate from the scene forever, an attempt of which he has become the principal agent.

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A vestment maker's birthday present
for Pope Benedict XVI

April 27, 2017

We are very grateful indeed to Mrs Clare Short of DiClara Vestments for sharing with NLM this account of her recent meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. On on this occasion, she presented him with a new set of vestments as a present for his 90th birthday, which he celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 16th. The presentation itself took place on April 19, 12th anniversary of his election as Pope...

A set of traditional Mass garments
especially made for the Pope Emeritus

by Clare Short

To have Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI hold your hand and thank you, and describe your vestments as “…wonderful, beautiful…” is something I never dreamed could happen 18 months ago when I started my vestments business - Di Clara.

With my husband recovering from long-term illness and unable to work, I knew I had to do something to provide our family with some income. And with 3 young children, I knew the only viable option was to work from home.

Running a small business from home wasn’t a new thing for me. I had experience of working from home before with a wedding cake business that I was forced to close due to the change in the marriage laws. And after a priest friend suggested I “have a go at making some vestments…” I realised that there was a need in the market for good quality, affordable vestments that brought beauty and reverence to the liturgy.

I share Pope Benedict’s belief that beauty is a highly important and spiritual thing in the liturgy; as he once said, “Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.”

Beauty is something that draws us out of ourselves into an encounter with the transcendent. C.S. Lewis gets to the heart of the matter when he says that “created beauty provokes in us a longing to be united with, to receive into ourselves, and to enter into that infinite Beauty of which all created beauty is but a reflection.”

It was my aim with this 90th Birthday set of vestments to surpass anything I have ever made previously. For the design of the embroidery, I was inspired by one of Pope Benedict’s favourite Marian shrines – Our Lady of Altötting. On her dress you can see a sunflower, edelweiss and vines.


I managed to incorporate these into my own design, which was then embellished with fresh water pearls and garnet. At the base of the back of the chasuble I embroidered his Papal coat of arms.

The full set includes a Roman style chasuble, spade end stole and maniple, chalice veil, burse and pall.

I can imagine you asking – how did you manage to present the vestments to Benedict himself, and at such a short notice? That’s where my friend Alessandra De Crespo comes in.

She is Maltese and a great admirer of Benedict, and runs a very successful Facebook page dedicated to him. I asked her for suggestions on what design to use, and she immediately came back with Our Lady of Altötting. In fact, when she saw my post on crowdfunding the vestments, she got in touch and offered to advertise the project among her thousands of followers on her page. She then asked the inevitable question. How are you going to give it him? When I told her “By post” she was horrified, and offered to get me an appointment, which she managed in record time.

Approaching the Pope Emeritus was one of the most surreal moments of my life. When greeting him we each knelt and kissed his hand and ring. There was nothing but joy and love in his eyes. He kept insisting on holding our hands as he spoke to us, which just confirmed his kind and gentle nature.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein was very friendly and accommodating, and did everything he could to put us at ease and help the meeting to run smoothly. I noticed how he anticipated every need of Pope Benedict and was always one step ahead of what was required. He seemed to be a truly humble servant of God who obviously adores Pope Benedict.

When I took out the chasuble from the suit bag and wished him a Happy 90th Birthday, Benedict’s face shone. When Archbishop Gänswein saw it, he exclaimed “Altötting!” I explained the design, and Benedict particularly loved the Edelweiss motif. I then told him the most important bit about the chasuble, showing him the list of the donors embroidered in the lining and read out the inscription inside.

We all know that Benedict is a man of a few words,so when he saw the names of the people who donated on the lining in the chasuble, he (obviously moved) blushed and said in a soft voice, “Thank you, thank you.”

It was a tremendous honour to be able to make this set and then present it to Pope Benedict on the anniversary of his Papal inauguration. He is one of my personal heroes, as he is for so many of us.

I was also honoured to bring along my 10 year old son – something he will remember for the rest of his life. True to his knack for making people feel at ease, Benedict spoke to Alex with disarming simplicity, and in no time, both of them starting talking about cats.

It is traditional when you have a private audience with a Pope to bring along a white skull cap called a zucchetto, which he will then take and wear for a time. It will then be delivered back to you with an inscription stating that this zucchetto has been worn by a particular Pope; my son was in charge of this duty and Pope Benedict was more than happy to oblige! The Pope Emeritus asked to be called ‘Father Benedict’ in one of his interviews, but when speaking to Alex, he was more like a kind grandfather.

Benedict XVI with Alessandra De Crespo, Clare Short and Alex Short

One thing that was foremost on my mind was to tell him about was my very recent formal entry into the Discalced Secular Carmelites (Third order). I wore my ceremonial brown scapular and told him my Carmelite name, Magdalene of the Resurrection. He was delighted I had taken that step, and really was interested in everything we had to say.

Alessandra and I both chose to wear mantillas out of respect, and also because they too are just extremely beautiful – something different from ordinary life, something reverent. So many women want to veil and it just takes one person in a parish to have the courage to be the first one. I wanted to offer mantillas to my customers as they too, in their own way, bring beauty and reverence to the liturgy. What is going on outside is simply a reflection of what is going on inside. Certainly all of our communities could stand to reflect more deeply on what we are doing to make the liturgy, and our faith life, something that draws us out of ourselves into an encounter with the transcendent.

The fact that an invitation to meet with Pope Benedict was issued almost immediately was in my opinion all down to Our Lady. The Carmelite order is the order of Our Lady and everything I have and do, including all my talents and my business, have been consecrated to her.

The vestment set, although it is not blue, is still a Marian set, and as we knelt to be blessed by Pope Emeritus at the end of the meeting, I could only thank our Blessed Mother for her intercession in all of this.

Ms. Short cutting the cloth for the chasuble; right, the back of the chasuble in its magnificent detail.

You can see more of my vestments at, or contact me directly at Worldwide shipping available.

What a beautiful story! And a necessary reminder about the unsung but certainly very visible work of Catholic men and women through the ages who have undertaken the unusual apostolate of art and artisanship not just as a service to the Church but also as a means of livelihood.

Earlier this month, on her Facebook site COURT OF THE GENTILES, Alessandra de Crespo posted photos of herself
presenting Benedict XVI with a copy of the Maltese edition of LAST CONVERSATIONS.


And some other photos:

Alessandra's Facebook page 'cover photo' has now changed to this:
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 28/04/2017 14.58]
28/04/2017 04.51
Post: 31.044
Post: 13.134
Registrato il: 28/08/2005
Registrato il: 20/01/2009
Utente Gold
April 27, 2017 headlines - B

28/04/2017 14.45
Post: 31.045
Post: 13.135
Registrato il: 28/08/2005
Registrato il: 20/01/2009
Utente Gold
The first comprehensive journalistic account
of the entire Knights of Malta mess

April 27, 2017

It is lengthy, but well worth the read, so here is the link:

A sordid and ugly picture of the German Knights and their drive for power; the questionable role of Vatican officials in more-
than-shady funding solicited by the Germans, and the officials' subsequent support for the German Knights, with Bergoglio's full
backing; and Vatican machinations against Fra Matthew Festing who did rightfully defy a papal order banning him from coming
to Rome for the election of a new Grand Master...

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