This post by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf inspired a lively discussion with some erudite comments. One reader suggested that the next president, if sufficiently conservative, could head off the persecution that seems to be barreling towards us at breakneck speed. To that idea, a fellow named Dennis Martin responded:
“No president can change the trajectory. The bureaucracy can destroy any president it sets out to destroy. Even if a incredibly gifted president-leader managed to move reform legislation through Congress, the fundamentally lawless mentality of a rising majority of the culture would do a ‘non serviam’.
The Department of Justice is now loaded with radical civil service appointees who cannot be removed because of civil service protection. The federal appeals courts are loaded similarly because the Democrats politicized judicial appointments 30 years ago (Bork), denied George Bush many of his appointments, and then railroaded many of Obama’s during the last Congress. Beyond that the law schools are hopelessly politicized. The chatterati, the intellectuals, the journalists, the financial sector–all the movers and shakers are now post-Christian, deeply-contraceptive, deeply anti-nature and thus deeply lawless. They don’t realize it but they have no god but Power.
The problem is far beyond what even the most gifted single leader can address. We have a culture that is anti-culture, that hates law itself, hates nature itself. No, not everyone is like that but the elites of the culture and, in a curious but really not surprising way, also the hoi polloi in the ‘just gimme mine and leave me alone’ segments of the culture, are like that now.
Nature is real and powerful and in the end will reassert Herself as the truth from the Creator. Human nature, divine nature, natural law cannot be buried for ever. But they can be buried for the lifetimes of one or more generations–until the prosperity and comfort built up over centuries is finally dissipated and brutal scramble for survival sets in. The truths of Caritas and Creator will eventually be rediscovered, in desperation and calamity at the bottom. But not before much evil and bloodshed has been visited upon this and other lands.”
Absent a miracle from heaven on a grand scale, I have to agree with Mr. Martin. All is masterfully arranged. Everything is now in place, including a relentless and ubiquitous propaganda infrastructure. And while many Americans are still kindasorta sympathetic to Christian morality, insofar as it fits their favorite political narrative, that sympathy is hopelessly soft and easily swayed by the emotional manipulation of the Left. Not that “conservatives” don’t also resort to emotional manipulation, but grown-ups always fail when they try to be cool. When it comes to the same-sex “marriage” issue, the sob stories of the Left are more persuasive for a couple of reasons – first, most Americans accept Liberalism’s flawed assumptions about reality; and second, most Americans place a high premium on their own sexual freedom.
It seems ridiculous and surreal that something as marginal as homosexuality would trigger the demise of a great civilization. In 500 years, if this poor earth is still around, archaeologists and historians will be scratching their heads at this one.
Archbishop Sample of Portland, Oregon, is definitely one of our best bishops. Articulate, energetic, and intelligent, he is an outspoken defender of the traditional liturgy and celebrates it regularly. In addition, he contributes in concrete ways towards improving the celebration of the Novus Ordo. His participation in this Gregorian Chant workshop held at a Brigittine Monastery is a case in point.
We can certainly go a long way with the sermon he preached in this video. It’s a plea for unity of mission and purpose in the Catholic Church. More specifically, though, he’s saying that adherents of TLM should not be needlessly divisive; that we should be joyful and filled with charity towards our fellow Catholics; that we should refrain from harsh and bitter language; and that we should strive to remove any exaggerated divisions that are the result of liturgical sensibilities. All good advice in a Church where the “angry trad” stereotype makes the job of good bishops that much more difficult. But he also suggests – rather strongly – that traditionalists should not view the Novus Ordo as inferior or defective, and should refrain from criticizing problems in the Novus Ordo milieu. These remarks begin at 13:05 and continue for the rest of the video.
Unfortunately this last bit is asking too much. The Novus Ordo is without question an inferior and defective liturgy, and its defects have had enormous consequences. That doesn’t mean we should always be shouting this from the rooftops – there is a time and place to discuss such things: discernment and prudence is needed – but it would be wrong to give the impression that the TLM is a mere personal preference without any qualitative content. There also needs to be a realization that unity is pointless (or even harmful) unless it is unity in the truth. Unity does not exist for its own sake. The “gospel” preached these days by even the best in the hierarchy, going all the way to the top, is so weak and empty as to be an embarrassment. Are we to be united in the “gospel” of social work, of being nice to people, or even of loving our neighbor? Not even the so-called “gospel of life” counts as the real Gospel. There’s nothing wrong with unity around these admirable things, but it’s not unity in the Gospel or in the mission of the Catholic Church! The Church exists fundamentally for the salvation of souls. Nothing else is even a close second. I’m sure Archbishop Sample would agree, but the point is that Catholic unity is not possible until Catholics actually believe in the tenets of their own religion once again.
There does seem to be a heightened sense among many prelates that division in the Church is, today, reaching the level of a crisis. Catholic unity is threatened as never before. Division in the Church is certainly a scandal, and many of our divisions can be healed with the exercise of simple charity. But there is another kind of division that charity alone cannot bridge. We need to understand that doctrinal dissent and bad liturgy have made certain divisions insurmountable. Mutual love between orthodox and heterodox Catholics doesn’t create unity in the Gospel. Only a return to God and a reverence for all of His gifts, bequeathed to us in the Church, will end the division. The Novus Ordo liturgy and the revolution that followed was, more than anything, a rejection of those gifts. It’s not too late to lay down our arms and receive His gifts again with gratitude.
My blog statistics yesterday indicated one visit from a reader in the tiny nation of Kiribati. I had never heard of this place, so I decided to do a little research. It turns out that Kiribati is a nation of 33 mostly uninhabited islands in the south Pacific. The total population is just over 100,000, and the people are predominantly Catholic. The interesting thing about this place is that the islands are sinking into the Pacific at a rate so alarming that the government is calling for the voluntary evacuation of the entire country. Last year, Kiribati purchased 7.7 square miles of forested land in the Fiji islands for the express purpose of relocating its population.
This short documentary explains their predicament:
In this video, some unsuspecting tourists find themselves in the middle of a rosary procession:
Since the Synod last October, there have been numerous reports indicating the extreme concern and dissatisfaction of the Polish hierarchy with the direction of the Church under Pope Francis. The latest report from Radio Poland uses the strongest language I have seen to date:
“Pope Francis is openly departing from the teaching of the ‘Polish pope’, Zdort wrote in daily Rzeczpospolita on Friday.
Pope Francis may be be seeking the establishment of a new religion, distinct from Catholicism since John Paul II’s teaching was without a doubt within the Catholic tradition, Zdort wrote.
The traditionalist writer sees the potential for a schism, as ‘never before has such a large (and growing) group of hierarchs been openly against the incumbent pope’s chief contribution to ideas.’ As examples of opposition figures, Zdort names Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and the archbishop of Warsaw, Henryk Hoser.
In Pope Francis’s overtures to divorcees or gays, the Church has ‘betrayed John Paul II,’ Zdort quotes Archbishop Hoser as saying.”
At the link is a beautiful story about the only non-Egyptian of the Christians beheaded by Islamist savages this month.
“He was a Chadian Citizen (Darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians to die for Christ. When Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends he replied, ‘their God is my God’ so the terrorist beheaded him also.”
I don’t hesitate to use the word “martyr” with a small “m”. That doesn’t mean I want these men canonized by the Catholic Church – on the contrary – but it does mean that they died for the love of Jesus Christ. The word “victim” just isn’t enough.
It is one of the great tragedies of our time that the Catholic Church reels from such unprecedented internal divisions. The modernists – now firmly in control under Pope Francis – are more alienated from orthodox Catholicism than were any of the ancient heretics whose errors, by comparison, seem like mere child’s play. This crisis has brought even the possibility of evangelism to a halt. It isn’t clear anymore to which set of “Catholic” beliefs a convert would be converting to. Indeed, we see a kind of reverse evangelism in actual practice – “stick to your non-Catholic religion and dialogue with us”.
Readers of this blog are well aware of the crisis and its sad details, so I’ll say no more about it here.
Orthodox Catholics have survived until now due, in part, to their hard-won knowledge of a “secret” and unpublicized network inside the Church. Most every diocese has an oasis or two. We all know which priests, parishes, schools, organizations, religious orders, seminaries, and colleges can be trusted. We’ll drive for hours and make tremendous sacrifices to find them. We’ll pack up and move to be close to them. We’ll spend ourselves into penury so they can educate our children. Etc.
There is every reason to believe that this underground “A”-list is soon to be put to the test. I’m not Ann Barnhardt’s biggest fan (for reasons of tone more than anything), but lately she’s been hitting it out of the park. Miss Barnhardt refers us to a Remnant article by Megaera Erinyes concerning the October Synod and its obvious raison d’etre, from which she quotes the following:
“The gravity of this looming crisis cannot be overstated. If this proposal is adopted, it will be more far-reaching than any other of the post-Conciliar manipulations like Communion in the hand or altar girls. This will strike, in one blow, against the very pillars of the Faith: the Eucharist and the priesthood. The Eucharist, the presence of which was barely preserved in the New Mass, will be systematically desecrated. And those who will be expected to do the desecrating will be the priests, who will certainly be punished if they refuse.
It will also put paid to whatever hopes we have of restoring the Faith by the work of an up-and-coming young faithful priesthood, since only men who have demonstrated their willingness to desecrate the Holy Eucharist will be considered suitable for the seminary.”
In other words, many if not most priests will be obliged to knowingly facilitate sacrilegious communions – objective desecrations of the holy Eucharist – and will likely be disciplined or even removed from ministry if they refuse. Barhardt then tells us how she will personally handle the situation:
“IF this Bergoglio-Kasper plan is brought to fruition, I will refuse, AS POLICY to attend any Mass celebrated by a priest who has not, either personally or through his order, fraternity or society, made a positive statement of rejection, refusal and resistance to the Bergoglio-Kasper plan, and made a positive statement of fidelity to the teaching and Magisterium of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Body and Bride of Jesus Christ. I suspect this is what Cardinal Raymond Burke was referencing when he said ‘I will resist’. And this is also what I suspect Pope Benedict XVI was referencing when he said that the Church was going to become ‘very compact’.
To be present at such a Mass, where Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist was being knowingly desecrated by the priest at the distribution of Holy Communion, would be a grave, grave sin.
And PLEASE REMEMBER that these lines will NOT be drawn strictly down the Novus Ordo – Traditional Mass line. There will be groups and priests who celebrate the Traditional Mass who will capitulate on this, too. I suspect that MOST, but not all, Novus Ordo priests will capitulate to Bergoglio, if it comes to that, and that MOST of the Remnant Church will be tied to the Old Rite, but the delineation will not be perfect along that line. There will be crossovers on both sides. One will have to do one’s due diligence.”
I agree entirely with her comment about the new line of delineation crossing both traditionalist and Novus Ordo ranks. Absent some very tolerant bishops (don’t count on it), what this means is that the new “A” list – once the shifting alliances have settled in – will essentially be a small network of faithful priests who will be forced into the catacombs, some of them (perhaps most) operating without faculties. Sound familiar? If almighty God does not intervene to avert this disaster, may He grant us the faith, hope, and charity we will need to persevere.
Yesterday, on February 23, it was reported that Pope Francis formally declared Gregory of Narek to be a Doctor of the Universal Church. Gregory of Narek was an Armenian priest, monk, and poet who is greatly revered by Armenians but virtually unknown otherwise. Bypassing what must be dozens of qualified orthodox Catholics (Dom Prosper Gueranger is already de facto a doctor of this stature), Pope Francis instead chose an obscure mystic who died in schism, and who was presumably an adherent of the Miaphysite heresy in conflict with the Council of Chalcedon. Traditionally, a Doctor of the Church is chosen only among recognized Catholic saints. So far as I can tell, Gregory of Narek is the first and only non-Catholic among only 36 doctors of the Church.
Is this a problem? Well, the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia are somewhat consoling:
“It is not in any way an ‘ex cathedra’ decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error.”
And yet, and yet …. this is setting a potentially disastrous precedent. Gregory of Narek may have been a man of extraordinary sanctity; he may have been a great teacher; and it may be a laudable thing that his works become known to the larger Christian world outside of the Armenian community. But if a man is declared a “Doctor of the Universal Church”, the faithful have the right to assume that he is, at the very least, a Catholic. Furthermore, as Ann Barnhardt drives home, granting this title to a non-Catholic Armenian priest sends an unmistakable message to all the faithful: heresy and schism are no big deal.
Why this unsettling choice? It really makes no sense of any kind. Given what we know about Pope Francis and his appalling religious indifferentism, it is safe to assume that he has an ulterior motive. Let me make a little prediction: Pope Francis is preparing the faithful for the canonization of the first non-Catholic “Catholic” “saint”. Anyone care to guess who that might be?
God is merciful. Behold the third delusion of sinners by which an immense number are lost! A learned author says, that the mercy of God sends more souls to hell than his justice; for sinners are induced, by a rash confidence in the divine mercy, to continue in sin and thus are lost. God is merciful. Who denies it? But great as is his mercy, how many does he send to hell every day ? God is merciful: but he is also just; and therefore he is obliged to punish those who offend him. He shows mercy; but to whom? To them who fear him. He hath strengthened His mercy toward them that fear Him. As a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion on them that fear Him (Ps. cii, 11, 13). But he executes justice on those who despise him, and abuse his mercy to insult him the more.
God pardons sin; but he cannot pardon the will or the determination to sin. St Augustine says, that he who sins with the intention of afterward repenting, is not a penitent, but a mocker of God’s majesty. But the Apostle tells as that God does not allow himself to be mocked. Be not deceived. God is not mocked (Gal. vi, 7). It would be a mockery of God to insult him as often and as much as you please, and afterward to expect heaven. But as God has shown me to many mercies hitherto, so I hope he will treat me with mercy hereafter. Behold the fourth delusion ! Then, must the Lord, because he has had compassion on you, show mercy forever, and never chastise you ? No: the greater have been his mercies to you, the more you have reason to fear that, if you offend him again, he will pardon you no more, but will take vengeance on your sins.
Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? For the Most High is a patient rewarder (Ecclus. v, 4). Say not: I have sinned, and have not been punished; for though God endures, he will not do so, forever. When, the number of mercies which he has resolved to show to the sinner is exhausted, he then punishes all his sins together. And the longer God has waited for his repentance, the more severe will be his punishment, says St. Gregory. (In Evang. Hom. 13). If then, O my brother, you see that you have, often offended God, and that he has not sent you to hell you should say; The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed (Lam. iii, 22). Lord ! I thank Thee, for not having sent me to hell, as I deserved. Consider how many have been damned for fewer sins than you have committed, and labor to atone, by penance and other good works, for the offences you have offered to God. The patience which he has had with you, and the great mercies which he has shown to you, and not to others, ought to animate you not to offend him again, but to serve and love him.
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.”
“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 …