Mr. Louie Verrecchio documents for us the obsession with novelty found in Evangelii Gaudium, which Pope St. Pius X describes below with searing accuracy - Oh, how we need a Council of Vigilance!
“We decree, therefore, that in every diocese a council of this kind, which We are pleased to name ‘the Council of Vigilance,’ be instituted without delay … They shall watch most carefully for every trace and sign of Modernism both in publications and in teaching, and, to preserve from it the clergy and the young, they shall take all prudent, prompt and efficacious measures. Let them combat novelties of words remembering the admonitions of Leo XIII. (Instruct. S.C. NN. EE. EE., 27 Jan., 1902): It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications of a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilisation.” – Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi 55
“In the space of one month I made Christians of more than ten thousand. This is the method I have followed. As soon as I arrived in any heathen village where they had sent for me to give baptism, I gave orders for all, men, women, and children, to be collected in one place. Then, beginning with the first elements of the Christian faith, I taught them there is one God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and at the same time, calling on The three divine Persons and One God, I made them each make three times the sign of the Cross; then, putting on a surplice, I began to recite in a loud voice and in their own language the form of general Confession, the Apostles’ Creed, the ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ave Maria, and the Salve Regina. Two years ago I translated all these prayers into the language of the country, and learned them by heart. I recited them so that all of every age and condition followed me in them. Then I began to explain shortly the articles of the Creed and the Ten Commandments in the language of the country.
Where the people appeared to me sufficiently instructed to receive baptism, I ordered them all to ask God’s pardon publicly for the sins of their past life, and to do this with a loud voice and in the presence of their neighbours still hostile to the Christian religion, in order to touch the hearts of the heathen and confirm the faith of the good. All the heathen are filled with admiration at the holiness of the law of God, and express the greatest shame at having lived so long in ignorance of the true God. They willingly hear about the mysteries and rules of the Christian religion, and treat me, poor sinner as I am, with the greatest respect. Many, however, put away from them with hardness of heart the truth which they well know. When I have done my instruction, I ask one by one all those who desire baptism if they believe without hesitation in each of the articles of the faith. All immediately, holding their arms in the form of the Cross, declare with one voice that they believe all entirely.
Then at last I baptize them in due form, and I give to each his name written on a ticket. After their baptism the new Christians go back to their houses and bring me their wives and families for baptism. When all are baptized I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken in pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done, witnessing the destruction of the idols by the very people who but lately adored them. In all the towns and villages I leave the Christian doctrine in writing in the language of the country, and I prescribe at the same time the manner in which it is to be taught in the morning and evening schools. When I have done all this in one place, I pass to another, and so on successively to the rest. In this way I go all round the country, bringing the natives into the fold of Jesus Christ, and the joy that I feel in this is far too great to be expressed in a letter, or even by word of mouth.”
“Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with
thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to
this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth
the whole law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40
A commenter on this post at the blog “That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill” alerted me to this problem. A very common error in contemporary Catholic preaching – and indeed in what passes for catechesis throughout much of the Church today – is the reduction of the Gospel to “love one another” as though this were the highest commandment of God, or even more strangely, the “Good News” itself. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake in light of the stark anthropocentric direction of the Second Vatican Council. If you regularly attend the Novus Ordo Mass, chances are you have heard this error in one form or another hundreds of times. Unhappily, even Pope Francis, who should know better, falls into this error in “Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161):
“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12).”
No, sorry, the “first and greatest commandment” is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind”. Why is Pope Francis and the post-conciliar Church so intent on ignoring this? Because this commandment pertains above all to: 1) worship, liturgy, and private devotions thought to be outdated; and b) Christian morality, the transgressions of which cannot be so easily dismissed as “love” when they clearly violate a divine precept. The rest of the paragraph boldly takes Romans 8:10, 13 out of context, and implies that “the greatest and first commandment” doesn’t exist for St. Paul!
Friends, this is grade school Baltimore Catechism stuff:
189. Which are the two great commandments that contain the whole law of God?
The two great commandments that contain the whole law of God are:
- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength;
- Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)
190. What must we do to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves?
To love God, our neighbor, and ourselves we must keep the commandments of God and of the Church, and perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
My dear children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:18)
198. What is the first commandment of God?
The first commandment of God is: I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.
Thou shalt not have strange Gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. (Exodus 20:3-4)
199. What are we commanded by the first commandment?
By the first commandment we are commanded to offer to God alone the supreme worship that is due Him.
It is written, “The Lord thy God shalt thou worship, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8)
200. How do we worship God?
We worship God by acts of faith, hope, and charity, and by adoring Him and praying to Him.
Why bring this up? Why blog a whole series demonstrating that the teachings of “Evangelii Gaudium” are inconsistent with Sacred Scripture and the immutable doctrines of the Faith? It’s a heartbreaking act on my part, and the thought of it has depressed me for days. Catholics naturally look to the Holy Father for sound doctrine, not only in his infallible teachings, but in his ordinary statements and writings such as this Apostolic Exhortation. We expect him to know and teach the Catholic Faith, at all times. But we can’t expect that of Pope Francis. We just can’t. Pope Francis is, I believe, a sincere Catholic with a big loving heart, but he cannot be relied upon to teach the Faith or to uphold the disciplines that flow from it. And that, my friends, is the salient tragedy of our time. Christ will not forsake His Bride, the Church, and He will mercifully limit the damage, but Catholics still need to be paying attention.
“We will discuss it without any taboos. The Orthodox experience could be of help to us.”
- Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops
Vatican Insider has put an end to my speculation: “Church should take new approach towards question of communion for remarried divorcees”:
“The experience of the Orthodox Church may be helpful to us, not just in terms of synodality and collegiality, but also in the case we are talking about now. It can help illuminate the way. But now is not the time to discuss which solution is better. These are issues that will be discussed in the Synod. We have started taking a different approach to these issues in relation to the past, asking dioceses and parishes to contribute information and ideas – the basis of this new approach – and this will help us a great deal. The experiences of other Churches such as the Eastern Churches will also be helpful. As you said, the Pope himself made reference to Orthodox practice.”
“The ‘school of Bologna’s victory was sealed by the election of Pope Francis, who, speaks little of the Council because he is not interested in theological discussions but in the reality of the facts, and it is in the praxis that he wants to show that he is the true accomplisher of Vatican II. Under this aspect, it could be said, he incarnates the essence of Vatican II, and makes it doctrine, by fulfilling its pastoral dimension. Theological discussion belongs to modernity and Pope Francis presents himself as a post-hermeneutic pope and thus post-modern. The battle of ideas belongs to a phase in the history of the Church which he wants to go beyond. Francis will be a conservative or a progressive, according to the historical and political demands of the moment.
The ‘pastoral revolution’ is, according to Alberto Melloni, the primary characteristic of Francis’ pontificate. ‘Pastoral’ – the Bolognese historian writes – is a key word in understanding Pope Francis’ ministry. Not because he was a teacher of pastoral theology, but because when he interprets it, Francis evokes with amazing naturalness the pulsing heart of the Gospel at the crossroads of receiving (or refusing) Vatican II. ‘Pastoral’ comes from the language of Pope John: it was thus that he wanted ‘his’ Council, – a pastoral Council – and Vatican II was just that. (L’estasi pastorale di papa Francesco disseminata di riferimenti teologici, in “Corriere della Sera”, 29 marzo 2013).
Melloni, as always, forces reality, but basically he is not wrong. The pontificate of Pope Francis is the most authentically concilar one, in which praxis is turned into doctrine, and which attempts to change the image and reality of the Church.”
“In which praxis is turned into doctrine”. Remember that phrase. For Pope Francis religion is primarily about human action and experience, about the “encounter” and the feelings thereby inspired. Christ appears as only a means to this human experience, rather than an end in Himself. Doctrine and even morality, when they seem to inhibit the kind of praxis that religious feeling and experience demand, are at best considerations to be postponed, but more usually they are just swallowed up by the all-important “encounter” and disregarded.
In Paragraph 198 of “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis writes:
“This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”
This is one of those paragraphs that, ordinarily, I would not draw attention to for fear of embarrassing the author. It pretends to be full of deep insights and significance, but in fact it is senseless and absurd. Isn’t the Church supposed to evangelize the poor and not the other way around? If the “new evangelization” means only acknowledging the “saving power at work” in the poor and embracing their “mysterious wisdom”, then the “new evangelization” is the white flag of surrender. The Holy Father isn’t redefining evangelism; he is repudiating evangelism.
Note the language throughout the document: the Church is “we” and “us”, the poor are “they” and “them”. Although Pope Francis insists that he wants a Church “for the poor”, the Church apparently has nothing to offer them. The Gospel is for “us”, not for the poor – but it’s a this-worldly “gospel” that almost worships the poor. The poor themselves are never called to repentance, as they are already possessed of spiritual abundance. “We” just need to stop offending the poor with our wealth and start listening to them.
What a terrible, tragic mistake! Poor people are sinners, just like the rest of us, and because of their poverty their sins only compound their misery. Unlike the wealthy, whose resources can alleviate the temporal consequences of sin, the poor are devastated and trapped by their sins. I’m afraid that what Pope Francis actually proposes is depriving the poor of the true Gospel, which alone can make them free.
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart,
and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up.” – Isaiah 61:1
Let’s first recall this famous interview with Pope Francis on the airplane when returning to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil:
Holy Father, during this visit too, you have frequently spoken of mercy. With regard to the reception of the sacraments by the divorced and remarried, is there the possibility of a change in the Church’s discipline? That these sacraments might be an opportunity to bring these people closer, rather than a barrier dividing them from the other faithful?
This is an issue which frequently comes up. Mercy is something much larger than the one case you raised. I believe that this is the season of mercy. This new era we have entered, and the many problems in the Church – like the poor witness given by some priests, problems of corruption in the Church, the problem of clericalism for example – have left so many people hurt, left so much hurt. The Church is a mother: she has to go out to heal those who are hurting, with mercy. If the Lord never tires of forgiving, we have no other choice than this: first of all, to care for those who are hurting. The Church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy. And find a form of mercy for all. When the prodigal son returned home, I don’t think his father told him: “You, sit down and listen: what did you do with the money?” No! He celebrated! Then, perhaps, when the son was ready to speak, he spoke. The Church has to do this, when there is someone… not only wait for them, but go out and find them! That is what mercy is. And I believe that this is a kairos: this time is a kairos of mercy. But John Paul II had the first intuition of this, when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy… He had something, he had intuited that this was a need in our time. With reference to the issue of giving communion to persons in a second union (because those who are divorced can receive communion, there is no problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t…), I believe that we need to look at this within the larger context of the entire pastoral care of marriage. And so it is a problem. But also – a parenthesis – the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance, they allow it. But I believe that this problem – and here I close the parenthesis – must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage. And so, two things: first, one of the themes to be examined with the eight members of the Council of Cardinals with whom I will meet on 1-3 October is how to move forward in the pastoral care of marriage, and this problem will come up there. And a second thing: two weeks ago the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops met with me about the theme of the next Synod. It was an anthropological theme, but talking it over, going back and forth, we saw this anthropological theme: how does the faith help with one’s personal life-project, but in the family, and so pointing towards the pastoral care of marriage. We are moving towards a somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage. And this is a problem for everyone, because there are so many of them, no? For example, I will only mention one: Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null. But why did he say this? Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married. And this is where the pastoral care of marriage also comes in. And then there is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this. It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage. Thank you.
Please note: the Holy Father could have given a direct answer to a direct question and said: “There is no possibility of a change in the Church’s disipline”, and then he could have explained this discipline in terms of mercy. Instead, he offered the example of the Eastern Orthodox, who permit up to three “marriages” with no disciplinary sanctions. In response to the questioner’s clear suggestion that our longstanding Catholic discipline is unmerciful, the pope did not deny the premise, but instead responded “this is the season of mercy” – as though mercy were something new and unheard of in the Catholic Church until now. He furthermore suggests that “half of all marriages are null”, indicating that fully half of married Catholics are receiving communion while in a state of adultery anyway, so why arbitrarily exclude the divorced and remarried?
Fast forward to “Evangelii Gaudium”, and Pope Francis writes as follows:
“The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”
What does this suggest? Clearly, it suggests that barring anyone at all from the Eucharist is to “act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators” because, in the Church (and at the altar rail), “there is a place for everyone”. Furthermore Pope Francis declares that “If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another!”, and he specifically mentions the Eastern Orthodox in this context.
So, let’s not be naive about what the pope intends to impose at next year’s Synod on the Family. He wants to admit remarried divorcees to holy communion without annulment or repentance. There are other hints in “Evangelii Gaudium” about how this will be accomplished doctrinally, such as his statement that:
“The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37).”
Keep in mind that, in this context, Pope Francis is specifically addressing pastors – those who are the legitimate guardians of the Eucharist, who must sometimes make precisely those kinds of judgments. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” - John 20:23. The pope’s statement is all the more problematic in the context of evangelization – the very topic of this Apostolic Exhortation – for which the knowledge of human responsibility and culpability is not a matter of personal judgment but of divine revelation. But here’s the point: it will be argued at the Synod that exclusion from the Eucharist is a matter of personal moral culpability alone, which only God and the sinner himself are permitted to judge; and therefore, remarried divorcees should be admitted to the Eucharist unless they choose to exclude themselves.
The majority of Catholic criticism of Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” seems to be focused on his radical economic proposals and his lack of appreciation for “free market” economic theories. But these are the very least of this document’s many defects which are fundamentally doctrinal, moral, and spiritual. That Catholic “conservatives” are so fixated on the economic passages, and apparently oblivious to much more serious problems with the rest of the document, speaks volumes about the state of “conservative” Catholicism today.
At one point (par 165), Pope Francis writes:
“The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part …”
In other words, if I understand the context, the pope is saying that the evangelizer is not to appeal to moral or religious obligations, such as the duty of every man to worship the one true God and obey His laws, because those obligations don’t exist for him until he encounters the Gospel. Do I misunderstand?
The Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” also contains multiple problematic statements with respect to non-Catholic religions. For example, Pope Francis writes:
“As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word … God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism.”
The reference to 1 Thes 1:9 really has nothing to do with the stunning claim that Judaism is not a foreign religion, or that Jews are not called to turn from idols and “serve the true God”. I invite you to read the verse for yourself, in context, at this link. Why this irrelevant biblical passage was cited in the text is anyone’s guess. Sacred Scripture offers no support for the idea that the Jews are not to be evangelized and converted to Christ. On the contrary, the apostles gave their lives for the conversion of their kinsmen according to the flesh, even going into their temples to proselytize and suffering martyrdom. We have also, of course, the words that St. Peter himself preached to the Jews:
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests, and the officer of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead: And they laid hands upon them, and put them in hold till the next day; for it was now evening. But many of them who had heard the word, believed; and the number of the men was made five thousand. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their princes, and ancients, and scribes, were gathered together in Jerusalem;
And Annas the high priest, and Caiphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest. And setting them in the midst, they asked: By what power, or by what name, have you done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people, and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole: Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole.
This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:1-12)
But it gets even worse. Here’s “Evangelii Gaudium” driving another nail in the coffin of Catholic evangelism:
“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live ‘justified by the grace of God’, and thus be ‘associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’. But due to the sacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying towards God. While these lack the meaning and efficacy of the sacraments instituted by Christ, they can be channels which the Holy Spirit raises up in order to liberate non-Christians from atheistic immanentism or from purely individual religious experiences. The same Spirit everywhere brings forth various forms of practical wisdom which help people to bear suffering and to live in greater peace and harmony. As Christians, we can also benefit from these treasures built up over many centuries, which can help us better to live our own beliefs.”
To which a Catholic need only respond with the Syllabus of Errors, by which Pope Pius IX condemns the following propositions:
15. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. — Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.
16. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. — Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.
17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.
The error of indifferentism has been condemned repeatedly by popes, councils, saints, and doctors of the Church in thundering passages like this one from Pope Gregory XVI:
“Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.’ Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: ‘He who is for the See of Peter is for me.’ A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: ‘The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?’
This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. ‘But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,’ as Augustine was wont to say.”
It would be unfair to single out Pope Francis as being uniquely prone to confusing statements about non-Catholic religions. The Second Vatican Council, along with the popes of the post-conciliar era, all helped lay the groundwork. What is unique about Pope Francis, however, is that he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned – thus far – about openly contradicting established doctrine or the pre-conciliar magisterium. But perhaps it’s too early. When the religious indifferentism of Bl. John Paul II’s pontificate got out of control, due in part to many of his own statements, his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was compelled to issue “Dominus Iesus” and thereby saved the day. Let’s hope that a similar corrective will soon be forthcoming, and the sooner the better.