Before anyone gets too excited about Pope Francis’ latest interview wherein he suggests that the Church could tolerate civil unions that mimic marriage but cannot possibly be marriage, let’s recall the unambiguous teaching of Pope Benedict XVI on the matter:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
Clear enough? You have a duty to oppose what has become known as “civil unions” because they are gravely unjust. You must not formally cooperate with them under any circumstances. You must refrain from material cooperation insofar as possible. You are encouraged to exercise conscientious objection even in cases of material cooperation. None of this “it is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety” nonsense!
The official line of the hierarchy requires all to tip their hats to the Second Vatican Council. One can scarcely become ordained without a fervent belief in what Cardinal Ratzinger identified as the Council as “super dogma”. Certainly, there are no ecclesiastical promotions for anyone who dares to criticize the Council, or for anyone who even suggests that it may have been less than a perfectly inspired work of the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, from Ecclesia Dei Afflicta in 1988 until the elevation of Pope Francis one year ago, if traditionalists politely tipped their hats to the Council and kept quiet about its salient flaws, they were more or less assured of a secure place in the Church, their “legitimate aspirations” respected by the pope himself and those bishops who cultivated their loyalty to Rome.
Something has dramatically changed. The “Francis effect” has nullified this agreement. Catholics must still tip their hats to the Council, of course, but traditionalists no longer feel secure, nor do traditionalist sensibilities enjoy even the minimal outward respect of the pope. Summorum Pontificum seems to be a dead letter. Whereas Pope Benedict XVI largely succeeded in removing feelings of persecution and isolation among traditionalists, and also in toning down the polemics on all sides, the old wounds have been re-opened under Pope Francis. There is now a palpable sense of urgency in resolving the crisis once and for all; the widening liturgical and theological chasm seems unsustainable.
Furthermore, there are a growing number of Catholics who do not identify as traditionalists, and who do not normally attend the TLM, who are nevertheless weary of pretending that the Council has brought nothing but goodness and light to the Church. The evidence to the contrary is too overwhelming.
Why not speak frankly and openly about the Second Vatican Council? It’s long past time to lift the taboo. This much is readily apparent: the prevailing doctrinal chaos and confusion is not clarified by the Council; on the contrary, dissent takes inspiration from it and finds refuge in it. We should not be shy in exploring the reasons for this. Truly, I believe the silver lining of this pontificate will eventually be a season of open discussion – among the clergy and faithful of every rank – about the objective merits (or lack thereof) of the Second Vatican Council and the Pauline liturgy.
Rorate Caeli has another outstanding post this morning, written by a priest who necessarily remains anonymous, explaining one possible approach to the problem of the Council: “How to Regard Vatican II”. Overall the article is written with respect, nuance, and the kind of delicacy this topic requires.
We have noted that the texts are ambiguous between a Catholic and a non-Catholic sense. We should add that the non-Catholic sense is the prima facie sense of the texts, and is the sense, moreover, that was intended by their authors. The texts are in fact the work of the Conciliar ‘periti ’, a number of whom had already been censured for heterodoxy prior to the Council; together they constitute a body of doctrines condemned by various of the previous Popes under the name of ‘Modernism’, a body of doctrines, furthermore, which was to cause untold damage to the Church in the years succeeding the Council …
The purpose of a Church Council is to declare the Faith in a way which can change over time only by increasing in depth and clarity. Vatican II did not do so, and thereby failed in its purpose.
For this reason we cannot claim that it enjoyed the positive assistance of the Holy Spirit but only a negative assistance, in preserving the declarations of the Council from formal heresy.
Lent is a time when many souls are attacked with temptations against faith – the worst of all temptations. In the midst of the crisis presently engulfing the Church, I would imagine that such temptations will test even the best of Catholics. Perhaps especially the best of Catholics. St. Francis de Sales, who often suffered these temptations, advises:
… not to fight against this temptation by contrary acts of the understanding, but by those of the will, darting forth a thousand protestations of fidelity to the truths which God reveals to us by His Church. These acts of Faith, supernatural as they are, soon reduce to ashes all the engines and machinations of the enemy.
For my part, one of the most powerful and consoling things to do is to think of the saints. The miracles of the saints could only be of divine origin. The kind of supernatural charity that confounds the world is found only in the saints of the Catholic Church. Where else can be found the likes of a St. Maria Goretti? Or, for that matter, her forgiving mother? Not to mention her murderer, who repented with great humility, did a lifetime of penance, and even attended his victim’s canonization ceremony? Such marvels are only imaginable as a Catholic Christian. But we don’t have to imagine them: they are real and tangible proofs of the truth of our holy religion. Dear fellow sinners, let this letter of the aged Alessandro Serenelli revive your spirit:
“I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart.
“Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.
“My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.
“There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.
“When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.
“If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.
“Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.
“I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.”
Signature, Alessandro Serenelli
Please read this important article by Peter Crenshaw of The Remnant, which pertains indirectly to the letter of Bishop Michael Olson banning the Traditional Latin Mass at Fisher-More College. Note especially Pascendi Dominici Gregis’ condemnation of a now ubiquitous … let me be gentle and not use the “h” word … doctrinal error.
…For the Modernist believer…it is an established and certain fact that the reality of the divine does really exist in itself and quite independently of the person who believes in it. If you ask on what foundation this assertion of the believer rests, he answers: In the personal experience of the individual…They assert, therefore, the existence of a real experience, and one of a kind that surpasses all rational experience…It is this experience which makes the person who acquires it to be properly and truly a believer. How far this position is removed from that of Catholic teaching!
We might also note the First Vatican Council:
2. If anyone says that…
- for divine faith it is not required that revealed truth should be believed because of the authority of God who reveals it:
let him be anathema.
3. If anyone says that…
- men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one’s internal experience or private inspiration:
let him be anathema.
Then make sure to watch the videos at the end of the article, in which Bishop Olson affirms this very … doctrinal error … as Catholic truth. Is it naive to hope that one of his fellow bishops, or even the Vatican, will offer some fraternal correction?
There is lots of enthusiasm for Pope Francis among Catholics. Many believe this enthusiasm is unambiguously good for the Church and the world. However, before reaching such a conclusion, it would be prudent to examine just what it is about our pope that gets so many Catholics excited. According to the latest Pew Research Center survey:
Francis, who draws giddy teenagers to his Wednesday audiences and generates Twitter traffic with every public remark, has clearly invigorated the church. But the poll finds that Francis has raised expectations of significant change, even though he has alluded that he may not alter the church’s positions on thorny doctrinal issues.
Nearly six in 10 American Catholics in the poll said they expected the church would definitely or probably lift its prohibition on birth control by the year 2050, while half said the church would allow priests to marry. Four in 10 said it would ordain women as priests, and more than two-thirds said it would recognize same-sex marriages by 2050. Large majorities of American Catholics said they wanted the church to change on the first three matters, and half wanted the church to recognize same-sex marriages.
This is highly significant. Pope Francis is wildly popular, but that popularity seems to be rooted in what is perceived as a papal blessing for moral laxity and doctrinal indifference. Furthermore, the pope appears to be encouraging false expectations that the Church will soon be changing her moral teachings. Also significant is that Pope Francis seems to be having a negative effect when it comes to the most fundamental disposition of the Christian life – repentance.
As for confession, only 5 percent of Catholics said they went more in the past year, compared with 22 percent who went less.
Let’s be clear: enthusiasm for Pope Francis is directly correlated with a sharp decline in Catholics going to confession. Before Pope Francis, the numbers were already dismal with only 26 percent of Catholics confessing even once a year – the bare minimum. That Pope Francis has influenced Catholics in this way should not be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The Holy Father has consistently lambasted what he calls “rigorism”, “legalism”, and “small-minded rules” but without specifically identifying which rules he has in mind. Following the Second Vatican Council, many Catholics have come to view the requirement to confess mortal sins as just another a “small-minded rule”, and Pope Francis appears to have confirmed them in this perspective. His own dismissal of rules he doesn’t like, such as his washing the feet of a Muslim woman on Holy Thursday last year, also sets a powerful example.
What is rather more surprising is that, despite all the praise Pope Francis receives for his emphasis on serving the poor, Catholics have not been inspired to increase their own service to the poor.
Volunteering in the church or community has not increased among Catholics, and the percentage of Americans who are Catholic, 22 percent, is the same as a year ago.
Behind this statistic we also learn that 23 percent of American Catholics report volunteering less often, while only 13 percent have volunteered more often - a net decline in volunteer activity. One possible interpretation is that the majority of American Catholics with “first world problems” are pleased to have the spotlight taken off of moral issues that hit them much closer to home.
Among the innumerable truths forgotten since the Second Vatican Council, we may count the following teaching about good works performed in a state of mortal sin:
Are good works available which are performed in the state of mortal sin?
Good works performed while in a state of mortal sin avail nothing in regard to eternal life, writes St. Lawrence Justinian, but aid in moderating the punishment imposed for disobedience and the transgression of God’s commandments. They bring temporal goods, such as honor, long life, health, earthly happiness, etc.; they prevent us from falling deeper into sin, and prepare the heart for the reception of grace; so the pious person writes: “Do as much good as you can, even though in the state of mortal sin, that God may give light to your heart.“
I can think of no better poem for entering into the spirit of Lent than this one. The author may not approve of my mentioning his name, so I will merely link to his website.
A Sonnet to the Sorrowful Jesus
Let me mingle these, my tears, with Thine,
Whose tears roll down Thy face’s cheeks so fine.
Let me share my sorrows, Lord, with Thee –
And, too, Thy sorrows, prithee, share with me.
Let me know the love between us twain,
Who, lovers true, do share each other’s pain.
Let compassion, common, given be;
And thus shall I the love between us see.
Let me walk along, O Lord, with Thee,
Along the paths of this Gethsemane;
Let me be condemned with Thee and whipped,
And of the cup of sorrow take my sip;
Let me wear Thy holy crown of thorns,
Along with Thee endure the soliders’ scorns.
Let me wear Thy shameful scarlet cloak,
And let me hear the words that Pilate spoke.
Let me, Lord, embrace the cross with Thee,
And bear it by Thy side to Calvary.
Let my hands, like Thine, be nailed down,
And let my grievous wailing cries resound.
Let me, nailed upon the cross, be raised,
And hear the tumult of the crowd’s dispraise.
Let me, Lord, with Thee be crucified,
And for Thee die, just as for me You died.
Mr. Patrick Archbold, co-editor of the lively and popular Creative Minority Report, also writes a column for the National Catholic Register. His latest column is an appeal for Pope Francis to regularize the status of the Society of Saint Pius X – not because Mr. Archbold agrees with the SSPX on every point, but because regularization would serve the cause of Christian unity that (we are led to believe) is a high priority for the Holy Father. The column was cleared in advance by the powers-that-be at the Register, posted, and quickly pulled down without explanation. In the interest of disseminating an important and persuasive message, I am reposting his column here.
By now, many of you have probably seen the Tony Palmer video last week that was so exciting to many. At a Protestant conference, Tony Palmer, an Anglican priest, brought along an iPhone video of greeting from Pope Francis. The subject of the presentation and of the Pope’s recording was unity of Christians.
In his remarks, Pope Francis made the following statements to our separated brethren regarding the separation: “Separated because, it’s sin that has separated us, all our sins. The misunderstandings throughout history. It has been a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame. We have all sinned. There is only one blameless, the Lord.”
It is certainly true. Regardless of the truth of Catholic doctrine, the Church has accepted its share of the blame for the misunderstanding that were allowed to deepen and harden, leading to centuries of separation.
When I heard this, something else written by Pope Francis’ predecessor came immediately to mind. In 2007, along with the issuance of the “motu proprio” Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI issued a letter explaining his reasoning. In that letter, he made the following statement.
“Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to unable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: ‘Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!’ (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.”
It strikes me that this may be one of those critical moments in history to which His Holiness refers.
With the breakdown of discussion between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X at the end of the previous pontificate, the public mood during this first year of the current pontificate, and other internal events, traditional Catholics, both inside and outside the Church, have felt increasingly marginalized. Whether fair or true, I say without fear of contradiction that this is a prevailing sentiment.
This perception of marginalization has manifested itself in increasingly strident and frankly disrespectful rhetoric on the part of some traditionalists and their leaders.
I have great concern that without the all the generosity that faith allows by the leaders of the Church, that this separation, this wound on the Church, will become permanent. In fact, without such generosity, I fully expect it. Such permanent separation and feeling of marginalization will likely separate more souls than just those currently associated with the SSPX.
I have also come to believe that Pope Francis’ is exactly the right Pope to do it. In his address to the evangelicals, he makes clear his real concern for unity.
So here is what I am asking. I ask the Pope to apply that wide generosity to the SSPX and to normalize relations and their standing within the Church. I am asking the Pope to do this even without the total agreement on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever their disagreements, surely this can be worked out over time with the SSPX firmly implanted in the Church. I think that the Church needs to be more generous toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a non-dogmatic council. The issues are real, but they must be worked out with our brothers at home and not with a locked door.
Further, Pope Francis’ commitment to the aims of the Second Vatican Council is unquestioned. Were he to be generous in such a way, nobody would ever interpret it to be a rejection of the Council. How could it be? This perception may not have been the case in the last pontificate. Pope Francis is uniquely suited to this magnanimous moment.
I believe this generosity is warranted and standard practice in the Church. We do not insist on religious orders that may have strayed even further in the other direction sign a copy of Pascendi Dominici Gregis before they can be called Catholic again. So please let us not insist on the corollary for the SSPX. Must we insist on more for a group that doctrinally would not have raised an eyebrow a mere fifty years ago? I pray not.
Give them canonical status and organizational structure that will protect them. Bring them home, for their sake and the sake of countless other souls. I truly believe that such generosity will be repaid seven-fold. Pope Benedict has done so much of the heavy lifting already, all that is required is just a little more.
Please Holy Father, let us not let this moment pass and this rift grow into a chasm. Make this generous offer and save the Church from further division. Do this so that none of your successors will ever say, “If only we had done more.”
The town of Durham, California, was founded by Robert W. Durham of Virginia, who inherited 240 acres of Rancho Esquon from his business partner, Samuel Neal. The town was planned by Robert Durham and his nephew, William W. Durham, in 1870 when the railroad came through, as a transportation and supply center for local farming operations. The Durham family and the town’s early pioneers are buried in an old cemetery just a few miles outside of town. I lived about a mile away from the cemetery in my boyhood and remember the place as being overgrown, neglected, and abandoned. According to a group of concerned citizens who restored the cemetery:
“In 1978, the defunct Christian Service Society deeded the cemetery to a private family. Over the years, weeds, brush and huge bushes of poison oak were rampant throughout the gravesites, and it became impossible for families to place flowers or visit the final resting place of their loved ones. When building materials appeared on top of the gravesites, the community of Durham became outraged. Residents banded together in a joint effort to protect and defend this sacred and historic site. In 1994, after many years of conflict and legal proceedings, the Butte County Board of Supervisors initiated eminent domain proceedings and subsequently approved an agreement designating the newly formed ‘Durham Cemetery Preservation Association, Inc.’ as caretakers. The non-profit Association was given the responsibility for restoration, repair and maintenance of the cemetery.
The monumental task of cleaning up years of neglect and disrepair was started immediately. The cleanup has revealed beautiful marble and granite grave markers which have not seen the light of day for decades. Other stones were repaired, and families contributed toward obtaining new stones for those missing or destroyed. Records of burials at Durham Cemetery had long since disappeared, so research was conducted to document evidence of those buried there.”
I had about 30 minutes to kill this afternoon and stopped by the old cemetery to take a few photographs. The place is now properly cared for and is obviously being used again by local families. The large monuments of the Durham family are the most most prominent graves in the cemetery, as they should be. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Today is Septuagesima Sunday in the traditional Roman rite. The editor of the blog “A Foretaste of Wisdom” reflects on the incomprehensible suppression of this season in the Novus Ordo Missae:
“In the new missal of Pope Paul VI, the preparatory, pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima has been completely eliminated, on the grounds that it would be difficult for the faithful to understand why Septuagesima, like Lent, is a penitential season. But in fact, as Dr. Pristas stresses, the traditional understanding of the difference between Septuagesima and Lent is that the latter is a season of obligatory penance, whereas the former is a season of simply devotional penance, for the faithful to prepare themselves for the obligatory penances of Lent. This distinction was overlooked by the authors of the new missal. And so they paid no regard to the eminent fittingness of a period of spiritual preparation for the coming penitential season. Consequently, they opted to suppress this season altogether.
Along with this suppression came the loss of a beautiful set of collects which were prayed at the three Sunday Masses of this season. These prayers express a humble anticipation of the purgative processes of Lent, referring explicitly to the sinfulness of man and his deserved punishment, the need to be freed from the bonds of sin, the insufficiency of man’s own efforts, and the need for God’s protection. There is also a reference to St. Paul in the collect of Sexagesima Sunday, on which the Teacher of the Gentiles is specially honored. All three of these prayers are lost in the Novus Ordo.
In what way was this loss of a centuries-old tradition conducive the genuine spiritual benefit of the Church?”