Brace yourselves for another attack on marriage


This time, coming from a source that will break your heart:

“I think the time for mercy has come as John Paul II predicted by introducing the Feast of Divine Mercy. Divorced people can take communion, it is those who have divorced and remarried that cannot. Here I must add that the Orthodox follow the theology of economics and allow second marriages. When the commission of eight cardinals meets at the beginning of October we will discuss how to proceed. The Church is taking a very close look at pastoral initiatives for marriage. My predecessor in Buenos Aires, Cardinal Quarracino always used to say: ‘I consider half of today’s marriages to be invalid because people get married without realising it means forever. They do it out of social convenience, etc. …’ The issue of invalidity needs to be looked into as well.”

Yesterday’s news about the Holy Father’s crackdown on Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate was devastating enough, but these words have my blood running cold. Pope Francis is clearly hinting that permission for the divorced and remarried to receive communion is imminent because “the time for mercy has come”. He is considering the Eastern Orthodox practice of allowing second (and third!) marriages. He openly suggests that half of today’s marriages may be invalid and therefore should be more easily annulled. Etc.

With all due respect to the Holy Father, are we to understand that the Church’s perennial discipline with respect to divorce and remarriage is unmerciful? On the contrary, it is the highest possible mercy! Countless marriages have been saved because of it. Countless children have been saved because of it. Countless millions have learned how to love because of it. I daresay that countless souls have been saved from hell because of it! There is nothing merciful about making it easy to deprive children of married parents, or liberating married people from solemn vows made before God, or eliminating the challenge of loving as Christ loves. Changing this discipline would be an absolute disaster for marriage and for the Church.

For every “yes” there is a corresponding “no”. To say “yes” to communion for the divorced and remarried is to say “no” to perseverance in marriage, “no” to marital love, and “no” to marriage as an image of Christ and the Church.

There may be some truth to the claim that many Catholics today “marry without realizing it means forever” or marry “out of social convenience”, but if that is the case, the blame lies squarely at the feet of a post-conciliar hierarchy that has failed to catechize for going on five decades. Even so, in order to safeguard marriage there must always be a “presumption of validity”. Canon 1060 reads:

“Marriage possesses the favor of law; therefore, in case of doubt, the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven”.

This safeguard is necessary for obvious reasons. Persons who are unhappily married, and who may therefore be subject to intense emotions, are dangerously susceptible to rationalizing their own specious grounds for annulment. Without the Church’s legal presumption of validity many would act on their own authority and do further damage to a marriage that may, in fact, be completely valid – perhaps making reconciliation all but impossible. The solution to the problem of poor catechesis on marriage is not to abolish the Church’s discipline, but to restore orthodox catechesis, and furthermore to restore the traditional ideals of Catholic spirituality which have been all but jettisoned in recent decades.  Please pray for Pope Francis, Holy Mother Church, and the restoration of Christian marriage.

Faithful Answers

0901_CHURCHADS 5_rrrFaithful Answers is a promising new Catholic apologetics website. Notable contributors include Fr. Chad Ripperger, Fr. Michael Rodriguez, and Mr. Hugh Owen among many others. It is broadly traditionalist, orthodox, and notably insistent on communion with the Holy Father and “the patriarchs and bishops in communion with him.” They tackle the hard questions, such as “On the Pastoral Nature of Vatican II: An Evaluation” by Msgr. Brunero Gherardini:

Adherence to Vatican II is, for the reasons stated above, qualitatively articulated. Inasmuch as all four described levels express conciliar teaching, all four require of individual believers and Catholic-Christian communities the duty of an adherence that shall not necessarily be always “of Faith.” Such adhesion only goes to the truths of the third level, and only inasmuch as they derive from other assuredly dogmatic Councils. A religious and respectful reception is due to the other three levels, as long as some of their assertions do not collide with the perpetual reality of Tradition by reason of an obvious break of some of their formal variants with the eodem sensu eademque sententia [with the same sentiments and the same consensus]. In such a case dissent, especially if calm and reasoned, determines neither heresy nor error.

As regards the second, pastoral level, one must truly think that the Council Fathers were not aware of the mortgage paid by themselves to Enlightenment by opening up the Council to a pastoral role that from the very beginning, according to the Enlightenment mentalitè from which it sprang, had given a trip to God in order to replace Him with man and even, at times, to identify God with man. Indeed, eighteenth-century pastoral care bypassed the motivations, sources, contents, and methods of dogmatic theology and opened wide the gates of the theological fortress to the primacy of anything natural, rational, temporal, sociological.

By saying this, I do not mean at all that the pastoral model of Vatican II is the same as the pastoral model of the eighteenth century. But anyone who, in order to deny their identity, denied any relationship between the two, would be naive or disinformed. In Vatican II the pastoral model remained rooted in Enlightenment, albeit with different expressions and motivations. It was Paul VI who rescued it from the quicksands of Enlightenment when, at the opening of the second post-conciliar period, he transferred that model to a Romantic sphere in order to make it “a bridge to the contemporary world” that would convey to it “its inner vitality…as a life-giving event and an instrument of salvation for the world itself.” Thus the Arabian Phoenix became a bridge, a coefficient of life, an instrument of salvation; yet without losing its relationship with Enlightenment as its source through the Neo-Modernistic inspiration of its proponents. Not by chance secularization, which subsequently celebrated its triumph in the present post-conciliar stage, moved from a pastoral theology thus understood. And if an uncertain notion of its pastoral nature derives from ignorance of its precedents, the absurdity of the dogmaticalness of a self-styled merely pastoral council must needs derive from its original relationship with them. Thus, the Arabian Phoenix unveils her true features. All things considered, it would have been better to keep them secret still.

Amen, Monsignor.

Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter turns 25

CSH- Campfire1

“Praise-all and blame-all are two blockheads.”- Ben Franklin

The wisdom of Poor Richard’s Almanac always serves to restrain my impulsive tendencies. It’s true that nothing is so praiseworthy as to be without fault, or so blameworthy as to be without merit, and that excessive praise or blame usually derives from self-deception and obscures reality. Nevertheless, I have no hesitation in saying this: the F.S.S.P. leads the most excellent orders in the Catholic Church today. It’s more important than any diocese. It’s more important than the Jesuits. It’s seminaries are the best in the world. It has produced a harvest of sanctity in its priests. It has introduced thousands of Catholics to their own tradition, which they would never have discovered otherwise. The F.S.S.P. is creating islands of orthodoxy in a sea of doctrinal chaos; islands of fidelity in a sea of moral confusion; islands of beauty and reverence in a sea of liturgical mediocrity; islands of fecundity in a sea of sterility; islands of hope in a sea of despair and disillusionment. This order, so blessed by God, is at the heart of the restoration. By its patient and unceasing work for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, I believe it will rise to prominence after the post-conciliar dust finally settles.

You understand, of course, that most priests of the F.S.S.P. would deny everything I just wrote. They have no ecclesiastical ambition. They understand that their very existence is itself miraculous and entirely dependent upon the favor of God, which they could lose at any time should their humility and zeal begin to wane.

An article in today’s National Catholic Register commemorates the 25th birthday of this remarkable fraternity. The founders’ conflict with Archbishop Lefebvre and the S.S.P.X. is mentioned, but it would be a mistake to assume that the F.S.S.P. and the S.S.P.X. are fundamentally opposed in their respective identities. There exists a sense of camaraderie and goodwill between members of both fraternities, despite their disagreements, and a surprising number of laymen attend masses offered by both societies. I see them working towards the same end (albeit imperfectly), but through different approaches, both of which strike me as being necessary.

The FSSP’s current superior general, Father John Berg, a Minnesota native, is thankful to God for how the fraternity has developed over the past quarter century. Despite some growing pains, Father Berg believes the fraternity has remained faithful to its founding principles while finding the best concrete ways to serve the Church.

“We’ve gone from a handful of priests and seminarians to 240 priests and 140 seminarians worldwide,” Father Berg noted. “The numbers are good, so you have to be thankful for them. More important than numbers, though, is the retention of our original identity while serving the lay faithful on a day-to-day basis.”

The chief pastoral work of the FSSP is offering the sacraments in the traditional form in parishes across Europe and North America. From Vancouver, B.C., to Sarasota, Fla., the fraternity has more than 50 locations in North America where Masses are offered publicly. In order to do this, priests are trained at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Neb., the heart of FSSP’s North American territory.

In addition to offering the traditional Latin Mass themselves, FSSP priests also train their diocesan counterparts to do the same. While the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal is the hallmark of the fraternity, its priests also conduct retreats, lead pilgrimages and travel on mission trips to Asia, Africa and South America.

Father Berg believes the biggest challenge facing the FSSP today is the formation of excellent priests. “I suppose each generation thinks that this is an even greater challenge than it was for the one before it, but we need to form men who want to live a life of self-sacrifice,” he said. “This is done in imitation of Christ, in whose priesthood they share.”

Shallow religion

“We are cherishing a shallow religion, a hollow religion, which will not profit us in the day of trouble …
The age, whatever be its peculiar excellencies, has this serious defect: it loves an exclusively cheerful religion.
It is determined to make religion bright and sunny and joyous, whatever be the form of it which it adopts.
And it will handle the Catholic doctrine in this spirit … it will substitute its human cistern for the well of truth;
it will be afraid of the deep well, the abyss of God’s judgments and God’s mercies.”
Bl. John Henry Newman