New Sherwood

Forming the loyal opposition

PopeFrancis1

“Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial
that will shake the faith of many believers.” – CCC 675

What was once unthinkable for many loyal Catholics has now become a necessity: open, public opposition to the designs of a pope. That is because Pope Francis is pushing hard for “reforms” that constitute a positive threat to every Christian marriage. You, Mr. and Mrs. Catholic, need to take this direct attack very personally. If there were ever any doubt that Pope Francis himself is behind the push to undermine Catholic discipline on marriage and the sacraments, that doubt should be firmly dispelled by his actions of the past two years. He called an Extraordinary Synod specifically for this purpose. He has been constantly dropping un-subtle hints in his interviews, homilies, exhortations, and public acts. He has appointed men who support this agenda to positions of great influence. Likewise, he has removed or marginalized influential prelates who seemed likely to resist, most shockingly the brilliant and devout Cardinal Raymond Burke. The pope has now established a commission to completely “streamline” the annulment process, something no one expected to happen until after the Synod. He is obviously in a hurry and wants to keep the Synod fathers in check. The result will probably look a lot like what Bishop Tobin recently proposed (something he would never have dared to suggest without positive signals from Rome), seemingly making annulments as easy to obtain as a no-fault divorce.

If Pope Francis succeeds in his designs, the traditional presumption of validity – so essential to the legal protection of marriage – will be turned on its head and every Christian marriage will be a candidate for “annulment”. Remember, behind all of this mischief is the pope’s wild (and irresponsibly public) estimation that half of marriages are invalid anyway, a notion that he first floated in the famous airplane interview following World Youth Day.

Even more disturbing than the attack on marriage is the threat of ecclesiastically sanctioned sacrilege. Once divorced and remarried Catholics with spurious annulments are admitted to holy communion, there will be a push to formally admit everyone else – cohabitators (including same-sex couples), non-Catholics, and ordinary sinners who once thought they needed to be in a state of grace.

The question is: what can be done? We should pray, of course, like we’ve never prayed before, for Our Lord to save His Church and defend His people. But the Catholic faithful – that is, the orthodox core of the Church that receives the Faith with gratitude and guards it with zeal – need to make it clear that they oppose, reject, and condemn unequivocally any “reforms” that undermine the teachings of Jesus Christ on marriage. It is time to speak out, to write, to blog, to study possible responses, to play a little chess. The faithful, who can no longer rely on their pope to defend the truth, will also need a leader or group of leaders to organize them and strengthen their morale. Good priests and bishops who may have been in “wait and see” mode, hoping to teach and sanctify quietly, should consider whether the timing is right to publicly choose their side, speak directly to the crisis, and come to the assistance of the faithful. If the pope’s commission goes his way, and if the Synod goes his way, and if his “reforms” are finally imposed on the Church, I will expect the loyal opposition in the hierarchy to crystallize. Despite growing ecclesiastical confusion, I do believe that clarity is around the corner.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Justice and illegal immigration

BorderChildren

Illegal immigration is one of those topics that tends to divide the best kinds of Catholics. The public statements of the hierarchy seem to be absolutist in nature and to that extent wholly unreasonable. Likewise, political voices on either side of the debate tend towards an off-putting rhetorical excess. The “left” tends to dismiss the legitimate considerations of the state in securing the border, and to ignore the economic and social costs of the problem. The “right” tends to ignore the human consequences of any proposed solution, while failing to make necessary distinctions between different kinds of illegal immigrants. It seems to me that any reasonable policy solution must consider the following realities:

1. All nations have the right – and the duty – to control their borders.

2. The best interests of its own citizens is any government’s primary concern.

3. Nevertheless, a nation may also have moral obligations to non-citizens both inside and outside its own borders. Those obligations vary according to circumstances.

4. The United States has tacitly encouraged and even rewarded illegal immigration for decades. Millions have come here illegally and made their homes with this understanding. It’s much like the speed limit: in many places governments have a statutory limit on the books, but actually enforce something else as a matter of unwritten policy. The difference is that, in the case of illegal immigration, the violators have actually been rewarded by the government. The reality of this situation sharply mitigates – but does not eliminate – the culpability of illegal immigrants.

5. In justice, then, mass deportation of all illegal immigrants is off the table. Such a solution would be a human catastrophe and a punishment that is disproportionate to the offense.

6. At the same time, rewarding illegal immigrants with citizenship and other benefits is also off the table. Such a solution would breed further contempt for the law, and would be an injustice to those who came about their citizenship honestly.

I believe there is a sensible way to make the best of a bad situation. First, deport illegal immigrants who have shown themselves to be otherwise lawless by their involvement with gangs, drugs, violence, etc. That’s a slam-dunk. Second, allow the rest to apply for a special class of permanent legal residency with the help of a citizen sponsor (e.g., an employer or relative). Permanent legal residency is not citizenship. This particular class would exclude the right to vote, and would also exclude the right to certain non-essential public services (e.g., higher education subsidies). Third, announce that within 180 days our immigration laws will be strictly enforced, and then enforce them. Finally, immigration policy should take into account certain emergencies that may arise, such as the unaccompanied children now flooding into the country. They should be well-treated but with the goal of repatriation or, perhaps, adoption by qualified American families.

One can anticipate the objections from both the right and the left. Many on the right will argue that my suggestion is too soft and continues to reward lawbreakers. My reply is that many of these illegal immigrants were acting on the basis of what they understood to be the unwritten policy of the American government. The United States bears significant responsibility for the lives of those affected by decades of “don’t ask, don’t tell” immigration policy. Many on the left will argue that my suggestion creates “second class citizens” without certain rights. I reply that we already have “second class citizenship” written into the law for various kinds of people who are denied the rights of full citizenship – foreign students, children, convicted felons, etc. Those who enter this country illegally, even if their culpability is mitigated, ought to face a penalty of some kind. Inequality is a fact of life and the law needs to accommodate reality.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | Politics | 7 Comments

A false dilemma

KnowYourFallacies

False dilemma:

A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the “or” operator. Putting issues or opinions into “black or white” terms is a common instance of this fallacy.

E.g., criticize the pope, or pray and fast for him. Those are your only two choices.

An analogy was suggested at Mass this morning: that of St. Peter, the first pope, who denied Our Lord three times and yet subsequently became a great saint, and Pope Francis, who is likewise sinful and flawed but may also become a great saint. The homily’s implication was that we should temper our criticism of the Holy Father just as we do for Saint Peter.

First, praying and sacrificing for the pope, and criticizing or correcting him when necessary, are not mutually exclusive. I don’t believe our homilist explicitly claimed they were, but I suspect that many in the pews came away with that impression. This suggestion would be a classic false dilemma.

Second, it must be recalled that St. Peter, at the time of his denials, was not in a position of great influence. There is no record of others following him in his denials. Certainly, if he had encouraged others to do the same, any disciple of Christ would have been obligated to state publicly: “No, don’t follow Peter in this matter. He is wrong. To follow him would be a sin.” Unfortunately with Pope Francis we are faced with a pope who has immense influence and who has, in fact, led millions into false beliefs by his many heterodox statements. No good Catholic can be silent in the face of this reality. We must oppose Pope Francis publicly when he is misleading people publicly. Pray and sacrifice, of course, but also speak up!

It is crucial that the SSPX not be the only voice that warns people of this danger. The Society’s voice is essential, but there also need to be voices among other orthodox Catholics of every persuasion. At this point, the orthodox clergy must toe the line, in order to preserve what good influence they have under this pope, but the laity are not so constrained. Speaking out at this juncture is primarily the duty of the laity. You have been taught your Faith for a reason. Defend it.

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 7 Comments

Synod’s Preparatory Document: Communion for Divorced and Remarried Not Proposed

At least, not so far, and for that I suppose we should be grateful. Rorate Caeli has published some of the relevant text.

The preferred “solution” seems to be faster annulments, easier annulments, more annulments: i.e., “streamlining” annulments. Because, as the pope casually suggests, probably 50% of marriages are invalid anyway, so the Church needs needs to pick up the pace! This “solution” will be equally disastrous for Christian marriage – just as the present regime of easy annulments is already an immense catastrophe – but it has the virtue of leaving Catholic dogma untouched on paper even if rendered meaningless in real life.

As for pastoral care, the document proposes:

“Pastoral charity impels the Church to assist people who have suffered the breakdown of their marriage and are living with their situation relying on the grace of Christ. A more painful wound results when these people remarry and enter a state of life which does not allow them to receive Holy Communion. Clearly, in these cases, the Church must not assume an attitude of a judge who condemns (cf. Pope Francis, Homily, 28 February 2014), but that of a mother who always receives her children and nurses their wounds so they may heal (cf. GE, 139-141). With great mercy, the Church is called to find forms of ‘accompaniment’ which can support her children on the path of reconciliation. With patience and understanding, she must explain to these people that their not being able to celebrate the sacraments does not mean that they are excluded from the Christian life and a relationship with God.”

Contrast this with the words of Our Lord: “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.”

“In referring to these complex situations, many responses highlight the lack of a specific pastoral ministry for these people in some dioceses. Many bishops’ conferences mention the importance of offering these members of the faithful a means to participate actively in the life of the Church through prayer groups, liturgical functions and charitable activities. They also refer to some pastoral initiatives, such as giving an individual blessing to those who cannot receive the Holy Eucharist or encouraging their children’s participation in parish life. In this regard, the role of movements on conjugal spirituality by religious orders and parish commissions for the family cannot be undervalued. A particularly meaningful recommendation is to include a prayer for people in difficult situations in the Prayer of the Faithful at parish and diocesan liturgies.

Oh, man, containing my sarcasm here is just too hard. But I will restrain myself. Unless I am missing something, this document contains not a word about calling the divorced and invalidly remarried to a life of virtue; nothing about leaving their sinful lifestyle in order to return to the sacraments; nothing about the necessity of taking up their cross and following Christ. Kyrie eleison!

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 41 Comments

The new ultramontanes

Simon J. Dodd has made an important contribution to the exploding genre of “crisis literature” under the pontificate of Pope Francis:

“A year ago, I would not have resisted the label ‘ultramontane’—keen-eyed readers will notice that posts on this blog appear beneath a papal crest—and would have cheerfully recited the conventional wisdom that since Vatican I, ultramontanism has merged into Catholic orthodoxy. As we have seen, that is not quite right. For a while, though, it was right enough; that kind of sloppy thinking worked when Benedict XVI was pope, because there was no need to delineate carefully between the prerogatives proper to the papacy itself and the substantial deference and respect afforded to its distinguished occupant. But with Francis’ election to the See of Rome, it became necessary to think more precisely, and I have become convinced that in recent decades, in Millegan’s words, conservatives have ‘overstate[d] the role, powers, and privileges of the papacy.’”

June 5, 2014 Posted by | Catholic Faith, Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 2 Comments

Catholic economic and social doctrine is not libertarian

Rorate Caeli has an excellent post up today – “Truth be told: The Traditional Catholic position on the economy is not Libertarian”.

“Very few indeed have been making the case, a case that is true, that the positions stated by Pope Francis on economic and social matters are much closer to the Traditional Catholic position on the economy and the State than not. Indeed, it can be said unhesitatingly that this is one area in which the Pope will find mostly allies in Traditional Catholics. They know by heart, also as victims of injustice (including within the Church), that the doctrine of the Church regarding individual persons, society and economic relations, and individuals faced with government, is one which privileges ‘justice’ as its foundational aspect.”

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Catholic Faith, Culture, Pope Francis | 4 Comments

More than the angels?

“And in God’s eyes we are the greatest, the most beautiful, the best things about Creation…’But father,
the Angels?’ No, the Angels are beneath us! We are more than the Angels! We heard it in the Book
of the Psalms! God really loves us! We have to thank him for this!”
– Pope Francis, today’s General Audience

“What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou hast
made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour: And hast
set him over the works of thy hands.” – Psalm 8:5-7

“So, therefore, God’s mercy is great in the comparison of man to God; but this follows from man in the comparison to the angels, who man comes into proximity to. Thou hast made him a little less. The image
of God is found in the angels by the simple intuition of truth, without any inquiry; but in humans
discursively: and therefore in man only in a certain small degree.

- St. Thomas Aquinas, commentary on Psalm 8

May 21, 2014 Posted by | Pope Francis | 36 Comments

Advice for surviving the crisis

As the Church marches toward the October Synod, let’s not forget that the Synod was called by Pope Francis with an explicit goal of revising the Church’s discipline on communion for the civilly divorced and remarried. This was announced to the world during the infamous airplane interview following World Youth Day, in which the pope called for a more “merciful” approach to those living objectively in a state of adultery. He has already stacked the event and its preliminaries with leading prelates who favor relaxing the discipline. The international survey of parishes, which the Synod has been ordered to consider, was also a clever move towards that end, as Pope Francis knows full well that our barely catechized laity and often malformed clergy are frequently at odds with Catholic teaching (at least in the West; there is reason to believe he may have underestimated the more orthodox third world outside of Latin America). In doing this he may be relying on a false notion of the sensus fidelium as a pretext for making the changes he wants.

Ordinarily, when bad things happen in the Church, the charitable and prudent thing to do is to look for explanations that do not imply any grave fault on the part of the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ. And if some prominent fault is found in the Holy Father, we do not dwell on it, but put the best construction on things and cling to the goodness and faithfulness we know is there. It’s also true that the pope’s governing decisions can be complicated and must take into account many things we aren’t even aware of, so our judgments can easily be mistaken. In any case – aside from the influence of our prayers – the governance of the Church is entirely out of our hands as laity. Normally it is a healthy Catholic impulse to avoid passing judgment on the prudential decisions of a pope.

But this pope is different, and this crisis is different. Catholicism is, above all, a religion that faces reality square in the face – let the chips fall where they may. We adore the crucifix, we make the stations, we examine our consciences and confess our sins. The truth can hurt but it must not be avoided. For reasons I have been documenting over the past year (please see the archives) it is impossible to give Pope Francis the “benefit of the doubt” anymore. We know his eucharistic and sacerdotal theology is gravely defective, to say the least. We know the irrepressible heterodox ideas that are floating around in his head. We know that he is the pope of experience and good feelings, with nothing but contempt for doctrinal concerns that get in the way of experience and good feelings. It’s not that Pope Francis is being manipulated or undermined by cunning advisors, or is being radically misinterpreted by the media, or is the constant victim of bad translations; and it’s not that he hasn’t been on the job long enough. No, Pope Francis himself tells us who he is and what he wants. One of his virtues – and I mean that sincerely – is that he is very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of man. Not that he’s entirely above duplicity, of course, but he genuinely prefers everything to be above board. It’s true that he speaks in progressivist code language a lot, but he’s been doing that for so long that it isn’t code to him anymore: everyone who counts, no matter their views, knows exactly what he means even if they are afraid to say it openly. He called the October Synod in order to finally capture what has long been considered “low hanging fruit” by the progressivist element in the Church. That’s the long and the short of it. We have a crisis because the discipline under consideration, once it falls, will not only open the floodgates to sacrilege but will undermine the Church’s theology and discipline across the board. The implications are enormous and, if the pope succeeds, will almost certainly lead to schism.

How are good Catholics supposed to survive this crisis? The first thing is to know your Catholic Faith, especially Our Lord’s teaching on marriage and the eucharist as infallibly taught by the Church from the beginning. The second thing is to have your eyes open wide. Perhaps disaster will be averted, and perhaps it won’t, but the danger is real and imminent. You may have to make some excruciating choices in the near future. You may need to re-think some of your old prejudices. You may suffer more divisions within your family and among your friends. It’s good to try to be ready for such things. The truth will not change, but it’s possible that Catholic prelates will abandon the truth in droves – even at the highest levels. Our Lady promises that all such evils can be avoided with sufficient prayer and penance, so we know what we should be doing. Most of us have contributed to this crisis in some way already, so there’s no room for pride or haughtiness.

Still, we need more than knowledge, prudence, and piety. Dr. Peter Kwasniewski offers some timeless spiritual advice in his latest contribution at the New Liturgical Movement, “There But for the Grace of God”. (My original intention was just to provide a link and a quote from this essay, but I got carried away with my introduction.) In summary …

Modernity is a terribly confused time, and the Church, in her human members, will not escape at least some of that confusion. It is one of the crosses we are asked to bear in our lives: the cross of a confused world that is careening out of control. We don’t know when the end of time will come, but we do know that it will be like purgatory on earth. As our Lord prophesies, it will be a time of momentous upheavals, massive apostasy, vast deception, horrible crime: “Will the Son of Man find faith left on earth?” The barque of the Church will be tossed on the waves of this storm, and some of the raging sea will come overboard, not to mention plenty of shot and cannonballs. To play our part well, we need to be full of faith, equipped and ready for anything, gritty, determined, ever obedient to high command and not overwhelmed by the casualties or the confusion. And to do that, we need, more than ever, a serious interior life.

St. Alphonsus Liguori once said: “Short of a miracle, a man who does not practice mental prayer will end up in mortal sin.” Even fifteen minutes of quiet prayer each day, abiding in the presence of our Lord, will make the difference between sanity and insanity. According to the saints, daily mental prayer, jealously guarded, makes the difference between a frantic activism that terminates in despair and a peaceful reliance on God’s grace that renders our activities fruitful, even when humanly unsuccessful. The deeper our interior life, the more we can handle adversity of any kind. The shallower it is, the harder life seems for us—indeed, the harder it really becomes. It is a truth taught quite clearly by our Lord: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these other things shall be given unto you.” “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 6 Comments

Pope Francis rails against the “intellectual aristocracy”

My, how this pope can rant! This has got to be the best rant of his pontificate thus far. Please do read the whole report at the link. Clearly – reading between the lines – Pope Francis is running into those who are “resisting the Holy Spirit” by presenting reasoned (i.e., “intellectual”) arguments against abolishing the Church’s perennial discipline on divorce, re-marriage, and holy communion. Pharisees and whited sepulchers, the whole lot of ‘em!

True faith in Christ is only possible if we open our hearts and show “docility” to the Holy Spirit which inspires “good things” in us. One group which has a tough time reaching this faith are the “intellectuals”. “They always came back to the same point, because they believed that religion was a thing of the mind, of laws.”

“Jesus”, the Pope noted, “has always had problems with them” because they saw it as a question of “fulfilling the commandments and nothing more. They cannot even imagine the existence of the Holy Spirit”. They questioned Jesus, “they wanted to argue. Everything was about the mind, the intellect”. “These people had no heart” he added, “there is no love or beauty, there is no harmony”, these people “only want explanations.”

“And you give them their explanations and, not convinced, they return with more questions. This is their way: they spin round and round … As they spun Jesus around throughout his life, until the time that they were able to take him and kill him! These people do not open their hearts to the Holy Spirit! They believe that the things of God can be understood only with the head, with ideas, with their own ideas. They are proud. They think they know everything. And what does not fit into their intelligence is not true. You can raise a dead man in front of them, but they do not believe.”

… “These people had distanced themselves, they did not believe in the people of God, they only believed in their own things, and thus built a whole system of commandments that chased the people away: they chased people away and would not let them come into the Church, the people. They could not believe! This is the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit”.

Pope Francis concluded: “Two groups of people”, those who are “gentle, sweet people, humble, open to the Holy Spirit”, and the others “proud, self-sufficient, detached from the people, intellectual aristocrats, who closed their doors and resist the Holy Spirit”. “This is not just stubbornness”, he said, “it is much more: it is having a hard heart! And this is more dangerous”. “Let us ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit to move forward in life, to be creative, to be joyful, because the other people were not joyful”. When “there is a lot of seriousness – he said – the Spirit of God is lacking”. We ask, therefore, “for the grace of obedience and that the Holy Spirit will help us to defend ourselves from this other evil spirit of self-sufficiency, pride, arrogance, closure of the heart to the Holy Spirit”.

One wants to laugh because it’s all so petty and mean and ridiculous, but one also wants to cry, because this is a tragically unhappy man who is fundamentally at war with the Church. And yes, he is our pope. Let’s pray mightily for him. Even more importantly, may Almighty God continue to frustrate his intentions.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Pope Francis, The Catholic Crisis | 23 Comments

On the necessity of the SSPX

Many faithful, thoroughly orthodox Catholics will say things like this: “The SSPX needs to ‘return to the Church’ (i.e., regularize their canonical status) in order to help us fight from the inside. They don’t do any good on the outside.” Putting aside, for the moment, the mistake of thinking the SSPX is not already in the heart of the Church, the fact is that the SSPX would never be allowed to say things that need saying if they were under the control of the modernist hierarchy. Theirs is an indispensible voice at the present time.

Let’s take just one real world scenario, which I mentioned in an earlier comment. On April 8 in Saint Louis, the diocese recently co-sponsored a Jewish Seder meal, with prayers led by a local rabbi, purportedly to combat hunger. Catholics were encouraged to attend. Naturally, this kind of thing has long been forbidden by the Church, the danger of indifferentism for Catholics being rather obvious, and the negligence of permitting Jews to believe that the Church does not desire their conversion being still more scandalous. A good priest would warn his flock that they should not under any circumstances attend this event. But how likely is it that the bishop would tolerate one of his own priests, or even a priest of the traditionalist orders, publicly issuing such a warning? Such insubordination is naturally intolerable. Only the SSPX is in a position to act freely against this kind of scandal.

It’s wrong to say, as some in the Society occasionally do, that the Ecclesia Dei institutes cannot combat errors or fight for tradition. They can and they do, but on a different front. The work of these institutes is also very necessary. They teach and sanctify, reaching thousands who cannot be reached by the SSPX and who might have been lost otherwise. A congregation that has been well instructed by them already understands that attendance at the “interfaith Seder” would be scandalous. But these institutes cannot publicly oppose the bishop upon whose generosity they depend. The SSPX remains a necessary voice 25 years after the consecrations.

May 8, 2014 Posted by | The Catholic Crisis | 7 Comments

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