Is Pope Francis of sound mind? The dementia hypothesis.

Epiphany Is Celebrated At Vatican City
What kind of a pope hath the Catholic Church today? A liberal? A modernist? A Lutheran? A charismatic? A liberation theologian? A socialist? A Catholic? A phenomenologist? We see all of these strains and more in the writings, homilies, interviews, and actions of Pope Francis. The only consistency is a nasty impatience with Catholic doctrine, and the absolute priority of human experience over any other consideration. The rest is, quite frankly, an incomprehensible mess.

This baffling incoherence is leading some to question whether Pope Francis is actually of sound mind. Open speculation about the Holy Father possibly suffering the early stages of dementia arose within several months of his election. He seems not to be aware that he contradicts himself (and the Church) continually, and embarrassingly.

For my part, I am aware that Pope Francis has been educated under Modernist influences from his earliest years in seminary; that Modernism is a flight from reality; and that a mental habit of fleeing from reality eventually destroys one’s rational faculties. So, I’m not yet convinced that Pope Francis is suffering from a biologically-induced mental decline along the lines of dementia. It seems more likely that his intelligence has suffered because of the contradictions in his theological worldview, and his habitual avoidance of difficult or painful truths.

Nevertheless, the dementia hypothesis is gaining traction and may one day be vindicated. The prospect should move every good Catholic to a sentiment of compassion for the Holy Father. Blogger Laurence England of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill gives expression to this concern:

“Is Pope Francis okay? I mean, is he okay? I know that we can all quite happily overlook our own sins and bothersome personality traits. We can all be a bit hypocritical and recognise in others more quickly those faults that are our own, but I agree with Veneremur Cernui that there is something about Pope Francis’s homilies and speeches that almost demands some call for a papal ‘reality check’ …

The way in which papal homilies are going nowadays indicate a Pope who does not have a healthy relationship with reality and I say that as someone who enjoys escaping reality a great deal.”

“I am so confused by this Papacy I don’t have a clue what is going on, where the Pope really stands on anything. I’m still left a little confused. In fact, every day I find his comments and the lack of transparency in Rome confusing. I’m confused at the ‘de-Ratzingerisation’ of the Vatican. There is nothing terribly clear about this papacy. It’s like driving in a dense fog. Even when his opinion is made clear on something, you still have a nagging feeling that that is simply the opinion (life imprisonment, the death penalty, the Big Bang, evolution etc) of Jorge Bergoglio, the man, rather than that of the more hitherto carefully constructed and balanced positions of the Catholic Church.”

The Pope’s First Commandment Problem

“I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” – Exodus 20:1-3

“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

It’s official: Pope Francis has a problem with the First Commandment.

The first sign was his homily on July 3, 2013, in which he said that knowledge of Jesus Christ cannot be arrived at through “meditation”, which in his words is the “path of the gnostics”. Meditation – which might also be called contemplation or adoration – is a work that is focused on God alone, and has been the vehicle for countless saints in their ascent to God. According to the pope, one can only find Jesus through “His wounds … [in] the body of your wounded brother” – that is, through loving one’s neighbor.

The second sign was his bold inversion of the commandments as given to us by Jesus. In his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161), the pope stated that the “first and greatest of the commandments” is to “love one another”, which of course is contrary to the words of Our Lord in Sacred Scripture. This mistake is so obvious and fundamental that I expected it to be corrected eventually. But, alas, eleven months later it’s still there in the document. As every Catholic schoolboy has been taught, 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”. Jesus could hardly have taught otherwise, as the First Commandment of the Decalogue imposes this primary obligation upon all believers.

The revolutionary nature of this error cannot be overstated. It undermines the Church’s entire theology. There are, after all, Christian duties that are prior to love of neighbor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that adherence to the First Commandment – which derives from the love of God – demands sacrifice, worship, and adoration; the assent of faith to all that God has revealed; obedience to the divine and natural law; and public witness to divine truth. The Catechism states clearly that “adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion” and is directed to God alone. The First Commandment also forbids sins like idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, blasphemy, sacrilege, heresy, schism, apostasy, atheism, agnosticism, voluntary doubt, religious indifference, despair, and presumption. Whereas obedience to the commandment to love God results naturally in the love of neighbor, the same cannot be said of the reverse. The love of God is the necessary foundation for properly loving one’s neighbor.

And now we have more confusion on the matter from Pope Francis. It’s simply not credible to say that his previous statements were just careless “off the cuff” musings, mistranslations, or media spin. No, Pope Francis has a real problem with the First Commandment. In yesterday’s Angelus the pope chose a different approach. Rather than ignore the first and greatest commandment altogether, as he has done in the past, he chose to present the first and greatest commandment (i.e., the love of man for God), and the second which is like unto it (i.e., the love of man for neighbor), as though they are totally merged without hierarchy or distinction, as though one did not have priority over the other. It is the error of false equivalence. The practical effect is the same as before: seek God in your neighbor first, to the exclusion of divinely revealed truth (doctrine) and the demands it imposes. Vatican Insider/La Stampa reports:

“In the midst of the dense forest of rules and regulations – the legalisms of yesterday and today – Jesus shines a ray of light that helps us to make out two faces: the face of the Father and that of our brother,” Pope Francis said at today’s Angelus. “Today’s Gospel reminds us that the whole law of God is summed up in love for God and neighbour.” The “novelty” of Christ’s teaching consists “in the union of the two commandments – love of God and love of neighbour – proving that they are inseparable and complementary, they are two sides of the same coin.” …

“Remember this: love is the measure of faith,” Francis said speaking off the cuff. “How much do you love? What is your faith like? I believe as much as I love.” “A visible sign that the Christian can show to witness God’s love to the world and to others, to his family, is the love of his brethren,” Francis observed. This is why, he explained, “the commandment of love of God and neighbour is the first, because it is not high on the list of the commandments. Jesus does not put it at the top, but at the center, it is the heart from which everything eradicates and to which everything returns.”

Ah, so the two commandments are now merged as one! And this new merged commandment of Francis is not even “high on the list of commandments” or “at the top” – that’s too hierarchical, too much like the old scholasticism, I suppose – but “at the center”, whatever that means. Are the commandments are now arranged in a circle? And aren’t we supposed to start with the existential peripheries? Nevermind …

Fiddling around in Red Bluff

The 32nd annual Western Open Fiddle Competition was launched in Red Bluff today. This is always a welcome respite from work and the worries of life. I can’t adequately describe how relieved I was to see old familiar faces – not close friends, but people I see at all the contests, all ages, everyone in a jovial mood. Strangers saying hello and goodbye. Music in every corridor. The live entertainment was light-hearted, funny, toe-tapping, rejuvenating. Children playing everywhere: innocence, wild and free.

The California Old Time Fiddlers Association survives on the work of self-less volunteers who love the old time fiddling tradition, donating countless hours without remuneration of any kind. I have the privilege of knowing some of these generous souls, and meeting new ones at every contest.

I would estimate that fifty percent or more of the youngest competitors are home schooled. One of the perks of these contests – for home schooling families, at any rate – is that the children have the opportunity to perform on stage in front of the multitudes from a very young age. To a friendly and appreciative crowd. Our little Annie Jo (age 6) earned 6th place in the PeeWee division today. Her older sister, Amanda (age 11), earned 1st Place in the Junior Junior Division. Here’s the round of tunes that led to Amanda’s prize:

And here’s Christopher (age 16) in the Junior Picking Division on his new mandolin:

One Peter Five: “Who Ya Gonna Call?”

A link and a nod to One Peter Five is long overdue. If you’re not already reading this website, it isn’t too late to start. Read the archives, too. They’re rich, rich, rich.

Have you ever wondered why all those deathbed conversions are conversions to Catholicism, and little else? I remember the first time I met a real Catholic priest. A Lutheran with Lutheran prejudices, I was nevertheless in awe … and then subsequently dejected at the priest’s tragic worldliness. (He was a Jesuit, alas.) There is just something about the Catholic Church. Everyone – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – instinctively looks to the Church and her priests for holiness and spiritual power.

“Why should men love the Church? … She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.” – T.S. Eliot

Whether it’s the crisis of an impending death, a personal tragedy, or a haunted house, men turn to the Catholic Church when in distress. And so it was with the Cranmers of Pittsburgh. Steve Skojec of One Peter Five introduces the fascinating story of a non-Catholic family who found their home occupied by evil spirits, and who naturally turned to the Church for help:

“For two years, a private demonologist, protestant ministers, and most importantly, Catholic exorcists, worked to remove the demonic presence from the Cranmer family home. Victory was finally achieved through exorcism and the celebration of Mass at the house in 2006. The details of the story are unnerving, to say the least. A local report on what transpired provides more detail …”

Trent, the Pope, and Annulment “Reform”


“[T]here is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this”. – Pope Francis, 28 July 2013

“Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals? In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?”  – Bishop Thomas Tobin, 21 September 2014

“CANON XII. If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent, Session XXIV, 11 November 1543

Pope Francis turns Sistine Chapel into corporate playground

Pope Francis likes to say that God is full of surprises. Actually, it is Pope Francis who is full of surprises, and they just keep coming fast and furiously. Like a Porsche. These days they are coming so fast that I’m more surprised when there is a day without papal surprises. In any case, the latest jaw-dropper: The Holy Father is renting out the Sistine Chapel to Porsche AG for one of their corporate galas. This is part of a new initiative for soliciting corporate donations for the pope’s charity projects. The article states that the Vatican wants to retain the visitor cap at six million per year to protect the artwork: that means more wealthy corporate executives, and fewer regular Catholics on pilgrimage.

“Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:8

Denounce the Synod

Today, the first official document of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was released. Suffice it to say that the document doesn’t even bother in the least to present Catholic teaching on the family. The whole document is an exercise in modernist tactics of persuasion by means of doctrinal ambiguity, and by unsettling that which is settled. But the most sinister passages depart clearly from the Catholic Faith. First, the document opens the door explicitly to holy communion for those who are publicly living in objectively adulterous unions:

46.  In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against. For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring.

47.  As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop – and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.

48.  Suggesting limiting themselves to only “spiritual communion” was questioned by more than a few Synodal Fathers: if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament? As a result a greater theological study was requested starting with the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist in relation to the Church-sacrament. In the same way, the moral dimension of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of spouses.

49.  The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the Synodal Fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts to which have to be found suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.

Second, the document asserts that homosexuals (the term strongly implies that these persons are sexually active, or at least not striving to be chaste while struggling with same-sex attraction) have “gifts and qualities” to offer the Church as homosexuals, and even more scandalously, that the Church should be “accepting and valuing” of homosexual orientation itself:

50.  Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

51.  The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

52.  Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

It needn’t be pointed out that homosexual relationships (there is no such thing as “unions”) might be the context for some good things. There has always been honor among thieves. What is most telling about this document is what it doesn’t say: nowhere are the faithful warned of the temporal and eternal consequences of sexual sin; nowhere are homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, or those who commit other sins against Christian marriage called to repentance and conversion; nowhere are those in irregular “unions” called to live chastely in order to receive holy communion; nowhere are the faithful given the hope of being delivered from their sins and living in a state of grace; nowhere is the salvation of souls included as a priority. Clearly, the whole thrust of this document is to weaken the Church’s resolve in opposing the forces of modernity in redefining the family, even at the expense of doctrine.

This disgraceful “relatio post disceptationem” must be repudiated by good Catholics at every level, and this train-wreck of a Synod publicly denounced.