Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pope Francis and the Martyrs of Uganda: Missing the Point

It seems that every time our Holy Father goes on a trip anywhere, he sows confusion and concern as much as any good he does with his Apostolic visits.   In another post soon, I will discuss the truly scandalous interview he gave in his latest airborne press conference.  I use the term "scandalous" in the sense of the sin of scandal.  If you don't know what that is, please look it up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

And just for the record, yes, I do believe the Holy Father does much good in his travels.  In spite of the serious issues Pope Francis creates with his unscripted comments, and even at times with scripted ones, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth he has a powerful charism, endowed by the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, if you prefer).  I have no doubt that the Spirit works through Pope Francis in numerous ways, and not just when he administers the Sacraments.  This is not something to be demeaned or belittled in any way, and it is not my purpose to do so.  The unfortunate fact is that he also does much damage to the Faith and to souls, who need to be confirmed and supported in their faith, not led astray by a pope who seems at times to be incapable of coherent communication.

This post is concerned, as the title indicates, with the pope's homily during the Mass he celebrated this past Saturday for the Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and companions.  These men, all of them quite young, were canonized in 1964.  As is usually the case with martyrs for the Faith, they died under horrid circumstances but remained faithful to the end, praying and singing hymns even as they suffered unto death.  Joanna Bogle wrote an article for Catholic Answers Magazine, published in May, 2008, describing the case of the martyrdom, which is very informative, although it contains a couple of typos in the online version, here.

The papal homily was, in and of itself, not problematic.  You can read the full text on the Holy See's website.   It was a moving tribute to anyone who makes the ultimate sacrifice for Christ and His Church.  The problem was not what the pope said, but rather what he did NOT say.  As Ms. Bogle's article explains, these men were not martyred simply for their adherence to the Christian faith.  The primary motivation of the king who murdered them was their refusal to submit to his demands that they engage in sodomitical acts with him.  Yet for reasons known only to him, the Bishop of Rome (as he insists on being called, in his often strained effort to demonstrate his own humility) chose to say not one single word about this critical fact.  Hence, the subtitle of this post, "Missing the Point."  In a world where whole nations are enshrining in secular law the oxymoronic notion of marriage between persons of the same sex, and engaging in legal and social persecution of anyone who dares to resist, the putative spiritual leader of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, the successor to St. Peter, threw away a perfect opportunity to teach the whole world the truth as revealed by God, that sodomy is always and everywhere an offense against nature, and therefore against God and our very essence as human beings made in God's image and likeness.  The heroism of St. Charles Lwanga and the other Ugandan martyrs stands for this truth, because it was their Christian faith, their Catholic faith, that gave them the strength to refuse the king's deplorable demands.  (Yes, I know, there were also Anglicans martyred at or about the same time and for essentially the same reason.  They deserve to be honored as well.  More than that, I will say only that in today's Anglican church, it is open to question whether they would even be considered martyrs.  It will soon be a moot point in any event, as Ross Douthat noted some time back, since the Episcopal church is in its death throes in the US, as is the Anglican Communion worldwide.)

The redoubtable Father Z also has commented on the pope's omission from his homily of the facts of the Lwanga story.  I reproduce here his closing paragraph, which as always hits the bullseye:
"I saw some of the coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Africa.  I am not a fan of the dancing and so forth and some liturgical choices (HERE etc.), but I will say this: African bishops still know the difference between a boy and a girl, they still know what male/female sexual organs are for and what they are not for, they still know that marriage is between one man and one woman, and now they really know how to scare German bishops."
Please do read Father Z's entire post and follow his links.  It will be worth your time.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Friday, November 27, 2015

On Personal Liturgies

I have recently attended several Novus Ordo Masses during which the celebrant took it upon himself to alter as well as add to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  There is much to be said about such a practice, none of it good.  Even the oft-criticized Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium  prohibits it unambiguously.  Paragraph 22 provides as follows:

22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.
2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.
3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. (Emphasis supplied.)
This principle is not new with Vatican II, of course.  It is a long-standing tradition, maybe even "big-T" Tradition, as in Sacred...one of the three legs of the doctrinal stool of the Catholic faith, along with Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium.  One often hears the liturgical duties of the Mass celebrant summarized thus: "Say the black, do the red", referring to the two colors of text appearing in the Roman Missal, the book from which the celebrant reads during the Mass. 

It mystifies me why any Mass celebrant would presume to ignore this simple advice and amend the Sacred Liturgy sua sponte.  It is "the prayer of the Church", not the prayer of any individual, whether clergy or laity.  Thus, it is supposed to be the same everywhere.  Sure, there are different languages in use under the Novus Ordo, but where celebrated in the vernacular, the Missal translations are approved by the Holy See, or "within certain defined limits" by a legitimately established "territorial bod[y] of bishops."  The faithful are entitled to hear the Mass as it is set down in the Missal.  [N.B., I would bet my next retirement check that no celebrant of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form deviates from the Missal text and rubrics.] 

St. John Vianney, patron saint of all priests, please pray for conversion of heart of all clergy who, for whatever reason, take it upon themselves to "improve" upon the Sacred Liturgy.

That's all for now.  God bless you and thanks for reading.  Please pray for me.

Laudator Jesus Christus!  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Crazy College Kids, the Pope in Africa, the African Church and...Catholic Revival in France?!

Insanity In The University
"...a bawling nursery of expensively diapered howling half-wits."

I love a finely-turned phrase, especially when it expresses the equivalent of hundreds of words in one short, rapier-like thrust to the heart of a matter.  So I invite you to read the piece in which it appeared, a marvelous essay by Kevin Williamson on National Review Online that deals with yet another of the suddenly fashionable instances of adolescent preening (a/k/a "student protest") that pepper the news these days, this one at Princeton University.  It seems that a group of Princeton students have determined that it is no longer politically correct for the University's School of Public and International Affairs to be named after Woodrow Wilson, and have been making their displeasure known in various noisy ways.  Williamson's work is a political essay, and doesn't even mention the Church, so it may be a bit out of place here, but I couldn't resist giving it a plug.  That said, there are certain parallels between Wilson's brand of "progressivism" and the Modernist faction within the Church, which has become quite bold under the current pontificate.  The basic approach of both secular and Catholic "progressives" is the presumption that anything old is bad and needs to be changed, especially if it involves the application of standards and principles to human thought and activity of any kind.  To see the Williamson piece go here.

The Pope Visits Africa

Please pray for the safety of Pope Francis and his entourage during the visit to Africa this week.  Unfortunately there are some dangers involved in the areas to which he is traveling, from domestic political unrest in some areas to the risks of attack from various Islamic jihadist terror groups such as Boko Haram.  Short of destroying the Vatican itself, which is a publicly professed goal of ISIS, the jihadis would like nothing better than to bump off the Vicar of Christ.  Regardless of what one may think about how Francis is performing his vocation, (and I have some issues with it myself, as you may know), his personal safety should be of great concern to all of us.  To physically attack the pope is to physically attack the Church, which means us!  God's will be done, but I don't think we need any more martyrs right now, least of all the Holy Father himself.  ISIS and the rest of the Islamic jihadist whackos out there are making plenty of them already.

And speaking of Africa...

The State of the Church in Africa

If you've been paying attention, you probably know that the Church in Africa is strongly orthodox and growing at an amazing pace.  Some of the strongest defenders of true Catholic teachings at the recent Synod on the Family were Africans, most especially Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  There are so many priestly vocations there that men are being sent out from African dioceses to help alleviate the needs of other areas where vocations have been suffering in the post-Vatican II Church, especially Europe and North America.  My own parish has been blessed with two excellent and holy priests from Nigeria serving as Parochial Vicars in the six years we have lived in our current home, for which we are most thankful.  I believe it would be a marvelous thing for the Church as a whole if the next pope were to be from Africa.  The African Church is a tremendous source of hope for the future of the faith.

And, Would You Believe...France?

I happened to hear part of an interview today by EWTN's Teresa Tomeo with Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute, in which Dr. Gregg discussed a growing movement of orthodox Catholicism in France, one of the most secularized nations in Europe, once known as the "Eldest Daughter of the Church."  To hear Dr. Gregg tell it, there is much good going on there, led by lay Catholics and a generation of young priests, plus a few solid bishops.  The discussion led me to peruse Dr. Gregg's recent online essay on the subject at the Catholic World Report web site.  You should not miss it.

That's all for now.  Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving feast!  Also, please don't forget to go to Mass and to do something for the homeless and the needy, who don't have much to look forward to on a day like Thanksgiving.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Coming Tribulation? Or Just Another Day in the Life of the Church?

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Francis Cardinal George, former Archbishop of Chicago (d. 2015)

I have been silent in this space for a little over three months now.  So much has been going on in the Church, with first the Pope's trip to Cuba and the USA, the World Meeting of Families, and then the Synod on the Family, that I've spent all my "blog time" reading my favorite commentators (and commenting quite a bit myself on other blogs) leaving little or no time and inclination to write for my own.  Despite the wide and deep well of subject matter, it always seemed that I didn't have much to say that wasn't already being said by others. 

So after three months, if I am going to be serious about this endeavor, it's time to get back to work.  Here we go.

With all the noise generated by the Pope's trip (which I found rather disappointing, but maybe that will be grist for another post at some point) and the Synod on the Family (which was confusing, at best, but isn't really over until we get some kind of papal document, so we wait for that), I continue to be intrigued by one thread that seems to be running through many of the blog posts and comments I've been seeing: the idea that the Church is facing a crisis unlike any other in its history, and that the resemblance of the present situation to apocalyptic prophecies in 20th Century private revelations, especially Our Lady's appearances at Fatima and Akita, is strong enough to warrant the most serious concern.  The End is near!  Fear, fire, foes! Awake! (Apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.)

Well, OK then.  It does seem clear to many (most?) of an orthodox mindset that the Church is indeed in a state of crisis, and I have a hard time disagreeing with such an assessment. See my August 10 post, for example.  To run through another brief summary of the "bad stuff":  In recent times we have witnessed the violent slaughter of many thousands of Christians (mostly Catholics and Orthodox) in the very birthplace of the Faith, together with wanton destruction of their churches and holy treasures, by barbaric Jihadists bent on eradication of everything and everyone that is not Muslim; the near total collapse of European Christendom; a seeming rush of North and South America to follow suit via declining Mass attendance, millions of annual defections to "evangelical" or "none" status, the enshrinement in secular law of false marriages and the concomitant state and media persecution of Catholics and Catholic institutions who refuse to affirm them; and a papacy that praises material heretics (e.g. certain German Cardinals) while excoriating as "pharisees" those who stand for traditional doctrine and practice, and which sometimes seems more concerned with pleasing the international secular media than with the salvation of souls and the preservation of the deposit of faith.  To be fair, at other times we hear strikingly orthodox statements and exhortations of the type to which we have grown accustomed over the past several pontificates.  (Confused?  So am I.)

Even so, however, is it really as bad as some maintain?  Stated another way, whatever the magnitude of the crisis, is it in fact unprecedented?  Or is it just another day in the life of the Church that Our Lord promised would prevail to "the close of the age" (Cf. Mt 16:18, 28:20), despite being constantly under attack? (Cf. Mt 5:10-11; 10:16-23).

After all, the Arian heresy had most of the bishops in the world in its grasp at one point, and it took not one, but two ecumenical Councils (Nicea and Constantinople) to put it to rest.  (See here.)  In fact, legend has it that the Council of Nicea included the spectacle of Saint Nicholas (yes, that Saint Nicholas) punching out the heresiarch himself, in full view of the entire assembly.  Indeed, one could argue that at least a stepchild of Arianism survives to this day in certain quarters, where Modernists (see extensive discussion of Modernism here) insist upon a distinction between "the historical Jesus" and "the Christ of faith."  The former, these enlightened scholars solemnly inform us, was merely a man, albeit a wise man and great teacher, while the latter, the Son of God co-equal and consubstantial with the Father, is a mythical construct of a self-interested Church fearful of "reason and truth", which virtues the Modernist claims as exclusively his own. We beg to differ.

In any case, there were other serious heresies throughout the early Church, not to mention two major schisms, first the departure of the Eastern churches in the Eleventh Century A.D., followed by the Protestant revolt in the Sixteenth.  Finally, let's not forget how close Christendom came to being swallowed up by the Muslim hordes, not long after Luther and Calvin took their toys and went home.  The Battle of Lepanto, at which a massive Ottoman fleet bent on the sack of Vienna was defeated by a coalition put together by Pope St. Pius V, was a close-run thing, and many (including St. Pius V) believed the victory to have been secured only through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. (See here.)  Now, those were crises!  Can today's situation match up, and more importantly, are we really on the verge of the Last Days?

In my view, the most likely answer to both queries is "no."  Nevertheless, it is not hard to understand why people are fretting.  I find myself doing it too, more often than I care to admit.  See that August 10 post again, for example.

Of course, I wasn't there for any of the events just listed, so I don't know what it was like for the lay faithful in those times.  But it seems pretty certain that most of them, given the absence of any sort of rapid communication over long distances and the general illiteracy of the vast majority of the population, didn't even know anything was wrong.  Taking the Arian case for example, if your average layman was told by his bishop that Jesus was not really a God-man, but a mere creature given great power by God the Father, he probably just shrugged or nodded and kept praying, and going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  Ignorance was bliss, one might say with some degree of assurance.

For better or worse, we no longer have this luxury.  In our day and age, when even the most trivial matters can gain world-wide attention via social media in a matter of minutes or hours, we have immediate access at any given moment to more information than, until very recently, even the most industrious seeker of knowledge could have acquired in a lifetime.  We know of many things occurring in the Church at large and in the Holy See in particular that were never before open to all the world as they are now.  Frequently, the result is information overload, and unless we are very careful we can find ourselves, in the classic idiom, unable to see the forest for the trees.  In a more recent idiom, we suffer from "TMI", or "too much information."  In this light, it seems prudent to keep in mind the following:

First, we have the aforementioned guarantee of Jesus himself that his Church will survive until his return, and we should take some comfort in the fact that the Church has survived for nearly two millennia despite all the challenges She has faced.  This is not something to be taken lightly.  No human institution has ever lasted more than a few hundred years, and most didn't make it that long.  Only a Divine institution could still be around after this much time.  God is in charge; let him take care of it!

Second, recall the vast time scale of the Church and of Salvation History.  Even if we go back to the very dawn of humanity, we are only talking about a few thousand years.  This is nothing in the sight of God.  Man has a natural tendency to view all things through his own extremely limited lens, where around eighty years is an average lifetime and even a single hour, if spent with, say, an extremely boring speaker, can seem interminable.  When we add up all the bad news available to us now, we conclude rather easily that things could not possibly ever have been worse, so the end must be near.  But in the "big picture", we exist in a blink of God's eye.  Father John Zuhlsdorf, a/k/a Father Z, a prolific and excellent blogger of traditional bent, recently exhorted his readers:
I am trying to take the longer view.  I remind myself that each pontificate is a parenthesis in the long history of the Church and of our Salvation.  This parenthesis will close one day and another will open.
Wise advice from a wise and holy priest.

Third, recall and heed the advice Jesus gave the Apostles just before his Ascension:
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:6-8 (Emphasis supplied.)
It is not for us to know when the Last Days will come.  In the meantime, we share in the Great Commission given by the Lord here and in Mt 28:18-20.  See next point.

Fourth, there are only a few things we lay members of the Church Militant can do, and we ought to be doing all of them anyway.  We can share the Gospel of Christ with the world.  We can obey the Commandments.  We can pray, a lot.  We can fast.  We can perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  We can (must!) continue going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.  We can attend weekday Mass.  We can go to Confession regularly.  Cardinal Burke has encouraged us to stay faithful!  The great Twentieth Century Saint Pio (Padre Pio) frequently advised everyone to "Pray, hope and don't worry."

If we do all these things, we can rest assured of Christ's promise: the Church will prevail over the gates of Hell, and those who persevere will be saved.  In the end, it doesn't really matter when the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming will occur.  What I do know is that my Day of Judgment is coming, and even assuming I survive to a ripe old age, it's coming a lot faster than I like to think about.  The same applies to every one of us, regardless of age.

I conclude with another Scriptural quote, one of my favorites:
"Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." Jn 14:1-7.
Laudator Jesus Christus!

Friday, August 14, 2015

On Criticism of the Pope

One of my favorite Catholic blogs, Rorate Caeli, posted a very good article yesterday, reproducing a letter memorandum written back in 1976 by a prominent publisher and writer, Neil McCaffrey, and sent to a number of prominent Catholics including, among others, Dr. & Mrs. Dietrich von Hildebrand.  In light of some of my remarks about Pope Francis in my previous post ("These Are Disturbing Times"), I thought it appropriate to also comment on the McCaffrey memo and link to it here. 

The gist of Mr. McCaffrey's commentary was that constructive criticism of a pope is not only appropriate but necessary.  Unfortunately, at the time he wrote his memo and perhaps even more so today, many Catholic commentators seem to believe that any criticism whatsoever by Catholics of the Holy Father is verboten.  This involves, I believe, a serious misunderstanding of the relationship between the Vicar of Christ and the Catholic faithful, as we all serve the One King of the Universe, our Lord Jesus Christ, who requires that we speak the truth at all times, in all situations, subject only to the limitations of the sin of detraction.  When we believe in good faith that our Holy Father is in error in matters not subject to the dogma of papal infallibility, it is incumbent upon us to raise our criticisms, charitably but without dancing around the point.  A couple of examples:

“There being an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And, as the Glosa of St. Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2,14), ‘St. Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if they should stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects’” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Turin/Rome: Marietti, 1948, II-II, q.33, a.4). (Source)
“Since [Christ] has given you authority and you have accepted it, you ought to be using the power and strength that is yours.  If you don’t intend to use it, it would be better and more to God’s honor and the good of your soul to resign….If I were in your place, I would be afraid of incurring divine judgment.”  -St. Catherine of Siena, in a letter to Pope Gregory XI. (Source)
Let there be no mistake, I love our Holy Father, in the Christian way--I desire only the greatest good for him, I pray for him every day, and I have absolute respect for him and for the office itself, the See of Peter, established by Christ until the end of the age.  (Mt. 16:18-19).  In light of the above, I believe that I stated my criticisms appropriately in my previous post.  But I am a fallen man, a sinner, so if you disagree, please let me know.  I avail myself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently, and one more item added to the list next time around will not be a problem.  :)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Monday, August 10, 2015

These Are Disturbing Times

The Catholic blogs I regularly read (see "Recommended" over to the right for my list), especially the more traditionally-oriented ones, have been taking on a decidedly dark and foreboding tone in the past couple of years, and the foreboding has deepened in recent months. I can't say I blame them, as recent events in this country and in Europe, Africa and the Middle East have not been particularly kind to followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I have been silent on this blog all summer long thus far, while viewing events with a sense of growing discomfort myself.  I finally decided the best way to step back, take a hard look at the present situation and organize my thoughts would be to write a post, so here it is.  It's long and somewhat rambling, so please forgive both defects. 

Chief among my concerns are the systematic slaughter by Islamic jihadists of Christians in Africa, Iraq, Syria, etc.; the desecration and destruction of holy sites throughout the lands where Christianity has existed since literally the time of Christ, also by Islamic jihadists; the social and legal attacks on Christians in Europe and Canada, often based on the application of the noxious idea of "hate crimes"  to statements defending traditional marriage; and the growing pattern of anti-Christian behavior right here in the good old U.S.A., from the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court right on down the line to local governments and both social and commercial media. 

In case you missed it, for example, the U.S. health care reform law has resulted in the Federal government (through an administrative agency, not directly by the Congress itself) dictating to Christian businesses and institutions that they must pay for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs for their employees regardless of their religious beliefs, on pain of fines so large they would mean the literal death of the business or institution in most cases. (The so-called accommodation given by the Obama Administration in the wake of many, many protests and legal actions does not really change anything; it merely makes the mandated payment indirect rather than direct. It still amounts to a violation of conscience for those who adhere to Christian doctrine that holds abortion and contraception are inherently and gravely sinful.) The Administration argues in both words and effect that the First Amendment only protects freedom of worship, not the fully free exercise  of religion promised by the text. (Note to the White House and HHS: they had "freedom of worship" in the old Soviet Union. Is that your model?)  Not incidentally, the same law, which its supporters assured us would not result in more taxpayer funding of abortions, has in fact increased such funding significantly.  To the extent existing law purports to prohibit Federal funding of abortion, the current Administration simply ignores it.  So much for the system of Constitutional checks and balances, eh? 

In addition, a pattern of vicious public condemnation of anyone who dares to speak out or act against the agenda of the increasingly powerful and well-funded homosexual lobby in the U.S. has been underway for some time--just ask Brendan Eich and the owners of "Sweet Cakes by Melissa" how their First Amendment rights are doing.  Talk about the tail wagging the dog...all of this fuss is over a tiny minority of no more than two or three percent of the population, by any credible measure, yet the rest of us are told we must bow down and affirm them in their way of life, regardless of our deeply held religious beliefs.  And make no mistake, the situation for faithful Christians will only become more serious and widespread in the wake of the unbelievably arrogant and legally fatuous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges.  There, a 5-4 Court majority led by putative Catholic Anthony Kennedy discovered a heretofore unimagined right in the Constitution for same-sex couples to be "married" nationwide.  In stark contrast to Justice Kennedy's bizarre New Age reasoning, faithful Christians and Jews know that marriage is a sacrament instituted by God between one man and one woman, and no human person or institution has the slightest power to change that, period.  If the Church in the United States were not so thoroughly infected with Modernism, Justice Kennedy would be at risk of formal excommunication.  Fat chance of that happening today, especially in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where the reaction to the decision by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the reigning Ordinary, was "The law of the land is the law of the land."  No word on where the law of God might fit into the picture.  With all due respect, Your Eminence, you sound more like a politician than a Cardinal Archbishop of the Catholic Church.

To be clear, I don't doubt that two people of the same sex can really love each other, at least in the somewhat truncated manner in which this culture understands the nature of love.  We as Christians are called to love them as well, as brothers and sisters made in the image and likeness of God, and since true Christian love means willing the ultimate good of the other as other,  that means we must sincerely desire the other's eternal salvation.  But whatever a same-sex living relationship is, it can never be marriage as instituted by God because it is not naturally ordered to procreation.  As for their physical relationships, despite the attempts of homosexual apologists to find support for same-sex unions in Sacred Scripture, the truth is that homosexual acts are strongly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments, as are fornication and adultery--in short, any sexual activity outside the bounds of sacramental marriage constitutes serious sin.  And faithful Christians cannot affirm any such way of life, for to do so is to be at serious risk of committing the grave sin of scandal. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2284-2285 (emphasis added):
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."86 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.87
 86 Mt 18:6; cf. 1 Cor 8:10-13. 87 Cf. Mt 7:15
Let it not be forgotten in this regard that as Christians we all are obliged by nature to teach and educate others--it's called evangelization.  Jesus left no doubt that he expects his followers to evangelize, to bring his Gospel to the whole world, and the Church has always taught that three of the spiritual works of mercy required of all Christians are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful and admonish sinners.  Thus, we cannot evade the sin of scandal by claiming "it's not my job to say anything about this."

If memory serves, it was St. Augustine of Hippo who originally said “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”  The idea of same-sex marriage is simply and eternally wrong, and ultimately it will not stand, although the journey back to truth will be painful for all concerned.  In the meantime, the Obergefell ruling, this travesty of Constitutional law which has no rational connection to anything actually written or implied in the Constitution, will be the launching pad for serious persecutions in this country of anyone who stands for the truth about marriage and human sexuality.  Well, such is the lot of the true follower of Christ, for which our Lord offers this consolation in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12.
And as long as we're on the subject of perpetrating and affirming grave sin, how about Planned Parenthood?  (One excellent Catholic blogger refers to them as "Planned Barrenhood."  Zing!)  The series of undercover videos released in the past few weeks has been eye-opening, to say the least, and has generated predictable hyperventilation from the secular Left in the U.S. (excepting the Administration, who yawningly inform us they haven't watched the videos and have no plans to do so), along with, one hopes and prays, a fair amount of soul-searching among people of good will on all points of the secular political spectrum.  Putting aside the issues of secular legality, the words and actions shown in the videos speak for themselves, and the reality of the evil that is abortion is finally sinking in for a lot of people.  The souls of the tens of millions of aborted children cry out to Heaven, as the hearts of medical practitioners (!) who perpetrate not only the acts of abortion, but also engage in trafficking in the body parts of the aborted, are revealed as cold and hard as the stone of a tomb. We must pray for their conversion and repentance, of course, and engage in prayer and penance for ourselves and the world for allowing these evils to occur.  It must also be said that the reaction of the Catholic Bishops in the United States has been underwhelming, to say the least.  Many have spoken clearly and forcefully in condemnation of this egregious evil, but many others have issued weak-kneed statements that should embarrass any committed Christian, and this shameful list includes the Archbishops of Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, to name just three.  On the other hand, one of the better statements, in my humble estimation, came from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who hasn't always been so clear recently on other matters of faith and morals, so bravo to him!  You can see his statement here.

All in all, I'd say that's plenty to be dark and foreboding about.  But it's by no means all that is worrisome today. We have another whole set of serious concerns within the hierarchy of the Church.

Standing at the top of this list is the highly public campaign being led by Cardinal Walter Kasper and some other Catholic prelates in Germany, France and Switzerland to change the practice of the Church with respect to Catholics who have undergone civil divorce and been remarried, without a declaration of invalidity of the previous marriage by the Church.  According to the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, these people are living in a state of open adultery, violating the Sixth Commandment every time they engage in the conjugal act, not to mention giving scandal every day of their lives simply by living together.  (Cf., Mt 5:31-32; Lk 16:18). This is every bit as inherently sinful as the same-sex relationships discussed above.  But Kasper, et al. are suggesting in all seriousness that there can be some "pastoral" way to permit such persons to receive the Holy Eucharist without true repentance, i.e., contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.

The Church has taught for as long as anyone can remember that it is necessary for civilly re-married couples whose prior marriages remain canonically valid to commit to living as brother and sister, and better yet, to separate completely from their adulterous union, before they can obtain valid absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion.  And yet, under the guise of mercy, we are being told by Cardinals and Bishops that it should be possible for these Catholics, living in mortal sin, to be admitted to Communion without taking either of these steps. We are also assured by the same group that this would not really be a change in Church doctrine.  Not to put too fine a point on it, this contention is facially absurd.  Many other Cardinals and Bishops have responded by reminding all concerned of the words of our Lord in the Gospels, of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, and the millennia-old Church practice, based on Sacred Tradition as well as Sacred Scripture, concerning reception of the Eucharist.

But the outcome of this issue in the upcoming Synod remains in doubt at this writing, primarily because the Holy Father has mostly remained silent through all the public campaigning of the Kasperite group and the responses by the more orthodox prelates. And the logical mind must conclude that if this Synod indeed endorses a practice of permitting reception of the Eucharist by civilly remarried persons in a non-repentant state of grave sin, the extension of the practice to persons actively and unrepentantly practicing homosexual acts will follow in short order.  Could this happen? Yes. Christ's promise that the gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church does not preclude the human beings who occupy positions of ecclesial authority from becoming heretics or apostates; this has happened before and can happen again.  The Synod will not be an "ex cathedra" proclamation of dogma, so the charism of papal infallibility will not be in play.  Nevertheless, the results of such a Synodal declaration would be devastating, and would lead many souls to perdition.  Scandal, anyone?  Perpetrated by Cardinals and Bishops, and possibly even with the support of the Pope himself?  I pray daily that this will not be permitted, but only God knows.

If one were of an apocalyptic frame of mind, one might view this simmering dispute as a very ominous sign, indeed.  In one of a series of apparitions in Japan in 1973, (and approved by the local Bishop as worthy of belief, although not yet definitively approved by the Holy See), Our Lady of Akita gave the following message on October 13 of that year (emphasis added):
"As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never [have] seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests."
"The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres...churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord."
Given that this was a private revelation, all are free to make of it whatever they will.  But I wouldn't call it very comforting, and it sure does appear timely.  On the other hand, it's only been 42 years since this message, which is a mere eyeblink in God's eternity, so maybe we still have some time to make things right.  For "the rest of the story" as related by EWTN, go here.

And this brings us to Pope Francis himself.  In Francis we have a Pope who says and does many uplifting, inspirational things, most prominently in leading by example in the application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden...all the people Jesus made it his business, and ours, to love and care for as we love ourselves.  His installation of rest rooms and showers for the homeless in the immediate vicinity of St. Peter's Square is a good example, although it has not thrilled some of the business owners in the area.  Francis also is one who takes pains to show personal humility, and to speak directly to people, even if it means going "over the heads" of his advisors and schedulers.  He professes to be a "Son of the Church" and says the "right" things about matters of faith and morals with some regularity in his prepared homilies and remarks.  These traits have made him quite popular among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and a darling of the mass media, (the latter, so far at least.)

Yet at the same time, when a Pope is a media darling, is that really a good thing?  We are called to be in this world, but not of it, and pleasing the mass media in this day and age is by definition a very worldly pursuit.  As a relatively recent convert (2005) who believes that the authority of the Pope is one of the most important characteristics of the Church, which stands on Sacred Scripture as strong evidence that it is the one Church established by Jesus Christ (See Mt 16:13-19), I am reluctant to be critical of the occupant of the Chair of Peter.  But in Francis we have a Pope who has managed to confuse, insult and denigrate a large portion of his own flock with a long and continuing series of statements and actions that seem always to need explaining and clarification; who said early in his pontificate that we spend too much time "obsessing" about topics such as abortion and contraception, two of the gravest evils afflicting our culture, and who characterized attempts to convert non-Catholics to the one true Faith as "solemn nonsense"; who has taken actions against orthodox Cardinals and Bishops that are difficult not to perceive as exile or demotion; and who at the same time has appointed men to important positions in the Vatican and in dioceses and archdioceses around the world who seem to go out of their way to show disdain for orthodoxy and tradition (as well as orthodox clergy and lay faithful) in favor of a modernistic, almost secular approach to Church teaching. This is not to mention the inexplicable appointment to an influential Vatican post of an openly dissident priest who blasphemously calls the act of sodomy "Eucharistic", and his selection of a notorious atheist German politician, who has suggested that six billion people need to die to save the Earth, as one of the spokesmen for the release of the encyclical Laudato Si.

Ah, yes, Laudato Si.  Most puzzling of all, to me at least, in this, his first encyclical not partially inherited from his predecessor, the Holy Father jumped headlong into a secular political controversy, lecturing the world about "climate change" and environmentalism in a manner bordering on pantheism, while thousands of babies are murdered in the womb daily, Christians are being martyred and churches demolished in the Middle East and Africa, and Mass attendance in Europe, once the cultural heart of the Church, is in single-digit percentages and continues to fall, with Church buildings being converted into mosques at an alarming rate. Also worthy of note is the extreme paucity of references in the encyclical to Christ, or to sin and salvation, and what few clearly Catholic statements it contains are all but lost amidst thousands of words that could have been taken directly from a screed by those faithful Christians over at Greenpeace. (/sarc) As the redoubtable traditionalist Catholic writer Christopher Ferrara so eloquently put it:
"One must ask how it is possible to take seriously a call to respect God’s creation in an encyclical that mourns the loss of plants and animals as an offense against God we have no right to commit, but then, many pages later, weakly criticizes the mass murder of unborn children because it “compromises the very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment,” is inconsistent with “concern for other vulnerable beings,” and “everything is connected.”
Perhaps it would be enough to say that any encyclical in which a papal condemnation of excessive air-conditioning appears 62 paragraphs before the first muted mention of the legalized murder of “human embryos” is a mockery of the papal Magisterium. But the overall thematic way in which this “pro-embryo” encyclical treats the infinite value of even a single human life in comparison with plants and animals shocks the sensus catholicus. The abortion holocaust rages on while Francis eulogizes lost fish, mammals and flowers our children will never see, never mentioning the murdered children our children will never see. This is ridiculous."
For the full text of the article, which I recommend most highly, go here.

And the hits just keep on coming... within the past few months, there have been two more extremely confusing and disturbing events centering on the Holy Father.  First was his acceptance during the Apostolic visit to South America of a shockingly blasphemous crucifix in the shape of the "hammer and sickle" emblem of international Communism, the atheistic creed that has resulted in the deaths of scores of millions of people in the last century.  It is difficult to imagine a more anti-Christian belief system than Communism, whose leaders repeatedly expressed the intention to eradicate Christianity entirely.  Yet Francis not only smilingly accepted this "gift", but took it with him back to Rome, when it should have been tossed in the nearest dumpster.  At least it probably won't be displayed in the Papal apartments, where Francis ostentatiously declines to live.

Then there was the Pope's statement, in a homily given during the same South American visit, attributing the Gospel miracle of the loaves and fishes to people "sharing what was their own", a piece of modernistic historical-critical exegesis that flies in the face of the clear words of the Scriptural text.  This view also, it must be said, works to undercut the deeper meaning of the miracle as a type of the Eucharist, the reality of which is so clearly taught in St. John's Gospel later in the same chapter containing St. John's narrative of the miracle itself.  (John 6:35-69.) Let's also not forget that the miracle of the loaves and fishes is the only one of Christ's miracles which is related in all four Gospels.  Yes, it's that important...but apparently Christ's Vicar on Earth doesn't believe it really happened the way Scripture says it happened. 

In the wake of all of this, Catholics who honestly try to live out all aspects of the Faith handed down to us from Christ and his Apostles over nearly two thousand years, and who think it improper to entangle the Church in secular politics and worldly disputes over matters of prudential judgment, have begun to wonder if our Holy Father really believes the same things we believe.  Whether or not these misgivings are well-founded, they exist, and a lot more people have them than I think anyone realizes.

What, then, is the faithful Catholic in the pews to do? Persecution is rampant abroad and looms here at home, our culture glorifies mortal sin and viciously attacks those who demur, millions of souls have left the Church if not abandoning faith altogether, and the highest levels of the Church hierarchy act as if none of this matters as much as giving communion to adulterers and sodomites and taking action against climate change.**  

Clearly we must remain faithful to the teachings of the Church, which after all are the teachings of Jesus Christ.  We must pray much, fast and do other forms of penance, and give alms to those in need. We must not be afraid to stand up and speak up for our Lord, his Church, and the eternal truths of natural law and divine revelation.  We must speak in charity to our family and friends who hold beliefs or are living lives inconsistent with these truths, and pray and offer Masses for them and the whole world.  And we must prepare for martyrdom, whether it be the "soft" martyrdom of economic and social loss, or the martyrdom of blood now being suffered by our brethren abroad. 

It is probably a good idea to find a parish where the priests and deacons are not afraid to tell the people what we need to hear, rather than just what we want to hear, and shift your financial support there along with your worship and participation in parish ministries. I also recommend serious study of Sacred Scripture and the writings of the great saints, especially the Doctors of the Church, such as Augustine, Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Therese of Liseux, to name just a few. Follow their guidance in developing your prayer life and daily practices. All but Therese are rather difficult reading, but the rewards will be great.

In the end, we know who wins, but we also know that "...the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Mt 7:14. On that same note, recall the admonition of St. Paul in the letter to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2. It's time to be devoting as much energy as we possibly can to discerning the will of God and finding that narrow gate, because regardless of when the End Times arrive, the day of individual judgment for each of us is nearer than we care to think about, and may even be hastened by the trials that lie ahead. And through it all, as we are reminded by that great saint of the 20th Century, Pio of Pietrelcina, "Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer."

So...go to Mass as often as possible. Pray the Rosary. Pray the Divine Office. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Ask the saints to pray with you. Then pray in your own words, as well. Pray for the Church, for the Holy Father, for this Nation. Pray for all of our bishops and priests, our deacons and seminarians, our religious sisters and brothers, and those in formation or discernment. Pray for our secular leaders--the President, the Congress, administrators, judges, state governors and legislators, tax collectors, everyone! And one final quotation from St. Paul:

"Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, "At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation." Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."  2 Cor. 6:1-2.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

Laudator Jesus Christus!

**--As to climate change, by the way, contrary to the unquestioning acceptance by the Holy See of the full plate of alarmist rhetoric issuing from various governments, the U.N., and other non-governmental organizations, the science is by no means "settled"--science by definition is never "settled", and many reputable experts in the field of climatology and related disciplines do not accept the contentions either that carbon dioxide is a pollutant or that an increase of a few degrees or fractions of degrees in global temperatures, even if it were to occur, is principally caused by human activity.  Rather, such fluctuations as have been reliably measured, as opposed to being erroneously predicted by various "models", are more likely caused by natural climatic cycles.  For more information on this issue, which exceeds the scope of this post, go here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pray For The Church In Germany-And The World

From Rorate Caeli comes this excellent article which contains the text of the recent Declaration of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) in preparation for the Synod of Bishops this coming October, as well as an analysis of the text.  Save yourself some time and aggravation (at least, the tone and content of the Declaration aggravated me) and start by scrolling down to the Analysis.


The ZdK claims it is making "a contribution to the debate" with this Declaration. To me, it looks more like a condescending threat of schism unless the Magisterium follows the Germans' lead in rank capitulation to the secular tyranny that is, before our eyes, purporting to redefine the essence of human sexuality and deny everything the Church has taught on the subject for two millennia.  According to the ZdK, Magisterial teaching ought to be based not on natural law and Divine Revelation, but rather on "the life realities of the faithful...".  In other words, ZdK openly advocates that the Church adopt a wholly subjective view of the world, which abandons the very foundations of Christian life in favor of the worst possible degree of moral relativism.

What their real motivation is, behind all the disingenuous, ambiguity-laden "mercy-speak", is not stated and is not for us to judge.  But we can and must judge the document on its face, and it has to be recognized as pointing to heresy and the road to eternal perdition. The mission of the Church is to save souls in Christ, not to lead them to Hell. Pray, pray, pray for the Church in Germany and throughout the world.

UPDATE: Not all the news from Germany is bad.  At least six German Bishops have publicly stated their adherence to Church teaching and strongly criticized the ZdK declaration.  For a report see this blog by Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register.  This had already been published when I first posted the above comments, but I missed it.

Laudator Jesus Christus!