This is an important video. The Remnant gently reminds us that our modern struggle with Islam is rooted in the spiritual crisis of the West and the auto-implosion of the Catholic Church. In that analysis, Michael Matt is spot-on.
It doesn’t seem to me that he is taking a pacifist stance, but he does seem to suggest that if the West’s response to Islamism isn’t overtly and militantly Catholic, then it’s more or less a waste of time. I’m not quite on board with that, but I will say that any country whose military is institutionally hostile to Christ and which is, moreover, riddled with women and homosexuals, is going to have a hard time winning God’s favor and protection.
In the wake of yesterday’s Islamist attack on Paris, some people are saying “Yes, that’s bad, but why all this media attention for France? There are recent Islamist strikes in Lebanon, Nigeria, Indonesia, etc. Isn’t the focus on France at best Eurocentric, or at worst racist?”
I’m not a big fan of the American mainstream media, but I will say that the MSM isn’t wrong to give this story prominence and maximum coverage. In the first place, it’s impossible to report everything equally. Choices have to be made, priorities assigned. The Parisian attacks are objectively more important for the world – and for the United States – than similar events in other countries. Why?
France is the “Eldest Daughter of the Church”, an important progenitor of western civilization. There is no escaping the ubiquity of French influence on the civilization we have inherited.
What’s happening in France, a nation with an historically Christian identity, is uniquely instructive for every nation in the West.
France is central to Catholic prophecy, some of which can be reasonably understood to incorporate events like this.
Catholic France was an important ally in the founding of the American Republic.
France once ruled what is now American territory.
The French were some of the earliest American settlers and have had enormous influence on regional cultures in the United States.
Over 9 million Americans claim French ancestry, which is even more than the Scotch-Irish.
France is part of the NATO alliance with the United States.
It isn’t racism or Eurocentrism to make a French catastrophe like this one a media priority. Choices have to be made, priorities assigned. I may not have a drop of French blood, but that doesn’t stop me from acknowledging that France is more important to us – as Catholics, as citizens of the West, and as Americans – than are most countries in the world.
There is one reason – and only one reason – why the SSPX is does not enjoy a normal canonical relationship with Rome, despite years of negotiations: Bishop Bernard Fellay will not relinquish the Society’s freedom to defend the Faith in a public way. The other details had been worked out, but Rome wanted compromises that would have effectively silenced the SSPX when it came to proclaiming hard truths. It’s fair to say that Bishop Fellay has been fully vindicated by recent events. The SSPX is the only priestly society, and Bishop Fellay the only Catholic prelate, capable of addressing Pope Francis in so direct and public a manner as this:
Declaration Concerning the Synod on the Family
The Final Report of the second session of the Synod on the Family, published on October 24, 2015, far from showing a consensus of the Synod Fathers, is the expression of a compromise between profoundly divergent positions. Of course we can read in it some doctrinal reminders about marriage and the Catholic family, but we note also some regrettable ambiguities and omissions, and most importantly several breaches opened up in discipline in the name of a relativistic pastoral “mercy”. The general impression that this document gives is of confusion, which will not fail to be exploited in a sense contrary to the constant teaching of the Church.
This is why it seems to us necessary to reaffirm the truth received from Christ (1) about the role of the pope and the bishops and (2) about marriage and the family. We are doing this in the same spirit that prompted us to send to Pope Francis a petition before the second session of this Synod.
1. The Role of the Pope and the Bishops
As sons of the Catholic Church, we believe that the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter, is the Vicar of Christ, and at the same time that he is the head of the whole Church. His power is a jurisdiction in the proper sense. With regard to this power, the pastors, as well as the faithful of the particular Churches, separately or all together, even in a Council, in a Synod, or in episcopal conferences, are obliged by a duty of hierarchical subordination and genuine obedience.
God has arranged things in such a way that, by maintaining unity of communion with the Bishop of Rome and by professing the same faith, the Church of Christ might be one flock under one Shepherd. God’s Holy Church is divinely constituted as a hierarchical society, in which the authority that governs the faithful comes from God, through the pope and the bishops who are subject to him.
When the supreme papal Magisterium has issued the authentic expression of revealed truth, in dogmatic matters as well as in disciplinary matters, it is not within the province of ecclesiastical organs vested with a lesser degree of authority—such as bishops’ conferences—to introduce modifications to it.
The meaning of the sacred dogmas that must be preserved perpetually is the one that the Magisterium of the pope and the bishops has taught once and for all, and it is never lawful to deviate from it. Hence the Church’s pastoral ministry, when it practices mercy, must begin by remedying the poverty of ignorance, by giving souls the expression of the truth that will save them.
In the hierarchy thus instituted by God, in matters of faith and magisterial teaching, revealed truths were entrusted as a Sacred Deposit to the apostles and to their successors, the pope and the bishops, so that they might guard it faithfully and teach it authoritatively. The sources that contain this Deposit are the books of Sacred Scripture and the non-written traditions which, after being received by the apostles from Christ Himself or handed on by the apostles under the dictation of the Holy Ghost, have come down to us.
When the teaching Church declares the meaning of these truths contained in Scripture and Tradition, she imposes it with authority on the faithful, so that they might believe it as being revealed by God. It is false to say that the job of the pope and the bishops is to ratify what the sensus fidei or the common experience of the ‘People of God’ suggests to them.
As we already wrote in our Petition to the Holy Father: “Our uneasiness is caused by something that Saint Pius X condemned in his Encyclical Pascendi: an alignment of dogma with supposed contemporary demands. Pius X and you, Holy Father, received the fullness of the authority to teach, sanctify and govern in obedience to Christ, who is the Head and the Shepherd of the flock in every age and in every place, whose faithful vicar the pope should be on this earth. The object of a dogmatic condemnation could not possibly become, with the passage of time, an authorized pastoral practice.”
This is what prompted Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to write in his Declaration dated November 21, 1974: “No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can force us to abandon or diminish our Catholic Faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church’s Magisterium for nineteen centuries. ‘But though we,’ says St. Paul, ‘or an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.’”
2. Marriage and the Catholic Family
As for marriage, God provided for the increase of the human race by instituting marriage, which is the stable and perpetual union of a man and a woman. The marriage of baptized persons is a sacrament, since Christ elevated it to that dignity; marriage and the family are therefore institutions that are both divine and natural.
The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children, which no human intention should prevent by performing acts contrary to it. The secondary end of marriage is the mutual assistance that the spouses offer to each other as well as the remedy to concupiscence.
Christ established that the unity of marriage would be definitive, both for Christians and for all mankind. This unity possesses an indissoluble character, such that the conjugal bond can never be broken, neither by the will of the two parties nor by any human authority: “What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” In the case of the sacramental marriage of baptized persons, this unity and indissolubility are further explained by the fact that it is the sign of Christ’s union with His Bride.
Anything that human beings may decree or do against the unity or indissolubility of marriage is not in keeping with the requirements of nature or with the good of human society. Moreover, faithful Catholics have the serious duty not to join together solely by the bond of a civil marriage, without taking into account the religious marriage prescribed by the Church.
The reception of the Eucharist (or sacramental Communion) requires the state of sanctifying grace and union with Christ through charity; it increases this charity and at the same time signifies Christ’s love for the Church, which is united with Him as His only Spouse. Consequently, those who deliberately cohabit or even live together in an adulterous union, contrary to the laws God and of the Church, cannot be admitted to Eucharistic Communion because they are giving the bad example of a serious lack of justice and charity, and they are considered public sinners: “He that shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery.”
In order to receive absolution for one’s sins within the framework of the Sacrament of Penance, it is necessary to have the firm resolution to sin no more, and consequently those who refuse to put an end to their irregular situation cannot receive valid absolution.
In keeping with the natural law, man has a right to exercise his sexuality only within lawful marriage, while respecting the limits set by morality. This is why homosexuality contradicts natural and divine law. Unions entered into apart from marriage (cohabitation, adulterous, or even homosexual unions) are a disorder contrary to the requirements of the natural divine law and are therefore a sin; it is impossible to acknowledge therein any moral good whatsoever, even diminished.
Given current errors and civil legislation against the sanctity of marriage and the purity of morals, the natural law allows no exceptions, because God in His infinite wisdom, when He gave His law, foresaw all cases and all circumstances, unlike human legislators. Therefore so-called situation ethics, whereby some propose to adapt the rules of conduct dictated by the natural law to the variable circumstances of different cultures, is inadmissible. The solution to problems of a moral order must not be decided solely by the consciences of the spouses of or their pastors, and the natural law is imposed on conscience as a rule of action.
The Good Samaritan’s care for the sinner is manifested by a kind of mercy that does not compromise with his sin, just as the physician who wants to help a sick person recover his health effectively does not compromise with his sickness but helps him to get rid of it. One cannot emancipate oneself from Gospel teaching in the name of a subjectivist pastoral approach which, while recalling it in general, would abolish in on a case-by-case basis. One cannot grant to the bishops the faculty of suspending the law of the indissolubility of marriage ad casum, without running the risk of weakening the teaching of the Gospel and of fragmenting the authority of the Church. For, in this erroneous view, what is affirmed doctrinally could be denied pastorally, and what is forbidden de jure could be authorized de facto.
In this utter confusion it is now up to the pope—in keeping with his responsibility, and within the limits set on him by Christ—to restate clearly and firmly the Catholic truth quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, and to keep this universal truth from being contradicted in practice locally.
Following Christ’s counsel: vigilate et orate, we pray for the pope: oremus pro pontifice nostro Francisco, and we remain vigilant: non tradat eum in manus inimicorum ejus, so that God may not deliver him over to the power of his enemies. We implore Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for him the graces that will enable him to be the faithful steward of the treasures of her Divine Son.
Menzingen, October 27, 2015
+ Bernard FELLAY
Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X
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.
Does anyone know how long this embarrassing and incomprehensible document has been on the Vatican website? Have they gone completely and utterly mad? Here’s one gem of a quote (courtesy of Hilary White):
223. As members of one body, Catholics and Lutherans remember together the events of the Reformation that led to the reality that thereafter they lived in divided communities even though they still belonged to one body. That is an impossible possibility and the source of great pain. Because they belong to one body, Catholics and Lutherans struggle in the face of their division toward the full catholicity of the church.
Try and wrap your brain around that. Nothing against Lutherans personally, God bless ’em. Used to be one myself. But no self-respecting Lutheran would ever sign off on this rubbish. Catholics and Lutherans, for all our differences, used to understand each other. It seems that modern ecumenism has deep-sixed the very idea of rational understanding. Christopher Ferrara and Louis Verrecchio offer some pointed commentary:
Speaking of rational understanding, the renowned Thomist Dr. Edward Feser – who really needs to be teaching in a Catholic seminary – recently visited Thomas Aquinas College where he gave an outstanding lecture on “What We Owe The New Atheists”. It’s long but it’s definitely worth your time.
The Maestro has two important reflections up this week: Liturgy and Legislation, which seeks to recover the proper Catholic attitude toward liturgy; and some perspicacious thoughts on The SSPX, wherein he defends their general position but is also frank about what he perceives as their limitations.
This is an interesting article about the impact of names: Does a baby’s name affect its chances in life? A worldly and secular perspective, to be sure, but nevertheless illuminating:
Although the main focus of his research is family names, Clark has looked at first names too – specifically, the names of 14,449 freshmen students attending the elite University of Oxford between 2008-2013. By contrasting the incidence of first names in the Oxford sample with their incidence among the general population (of the same age), he calculated the probability, relative to average, that a person given a particular name would go to Oxford. (For the purposes of his research he excluded students with non-English or Welsh surnames.)
He notes that there are more than three times as many Eleanors at Oxford than we might expect, given the frequency of that first name among girls in the general population, and Peters, Simons and Annas are not far behind. Conversely, there is less than a 30th of the expected number of Jades and an even smaller proportion of Paiges and Shannons. An Eleanor is 100 times more likely to go to Oxford than a Jade.
Thanks be to God, there are still a few faithful bishops with backbone left in the Church. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, California – of all places! – is one such bishop. I think it’s fair to say that he’s not only holding the line, but pushing back. This good man could definitely use our prayers.
Cardinal Burke: “There are many difficulties with the text of Cardinal Kasper, and I say that openly.”
Let’s all take a moment to thank Our Lord for Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, who isn’t going to be silent about the defections of his fellow cardinals from Christ’s teaching on marriage. He must be suffering a great deal at this time.
We received some good news at Mass this morning: the Society of Saint Pius X has formally agreed to assume responsibility for St. Therese Chapel in Chico. The chapel, located at 367 E. 8th Avenue, had been operating independently for many years. Holy Mass is presently celebrated on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month at 10:00am.
This is a highly significant development in my opinion. The traditional Latin Mass now has a degree of stability and permanence in the north valley.
The SSPX has been largely silent during the recent firestorms created by Pope Francis’ interviews. Today, the silence is broken with what strikes me as the most comprehensive and respectful criticism I have seen thus far:
After he has been in charge of the Holy Catholic Church for more than half a year, it is easier to understand the thought of Pope Francis. Due to many of his statements, even if we see a genuine movement in his way of focusing on our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel as the Good News, we may feel real causes of concern.
In his declarations, we seem to find running through the papal thought a kind of idée fixe, which focuses on the Pauline teaching developed by St. Augustine regarding the gift of life and the fight against what may kill it. “St. Paul,” says the Pope, “is the one who laid down the cornerstones of our religion and our creed. You cannot be a conscious Christian without St. Paul… Then there are Augustine, Benedict and Thomas and Ignatius,” who was “especially a mystic.” And “naturally Francis.”
His model is Fr. Peter Faber, the Reformed Priest co-founder of the Jesuits. The Pope likes his gentleness and simplicity, his proximity to the poor and those on the margin of society, his availability and qualities of discernment and judgment.
“His two preferred contemporary thinkers are Henri de Lubac and Michel de Certeau.” Henri de Lubac, a founder of the New Theology, opened a theological battlefield and created a great confusion with his works on the natural and the supernatural. Moreover, he rejected the necessary ecclesial logical link, the continuity between the present beliefs and the explicit faith of the first centuries.
Would the word of the Apostle to the Corinthians: “For the letter kills, but the spirit vivifies,” help us to discern the web of his mind?
“We have to find a new balance. Otherwise, even the moral edifice of the church is likely to
fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
– Pope Francis
Radical, earth-shaking, disruptive policy changes don’t generally happen before subtle hints have been dropped in order to gauge reactions and initiate some low-level discussions. A prudent leader wants to anticipate problems and objections in advance. On several occasions now, Pope Francis has hinted that he would like to relax the Church’s perennial discipline as it pertains to withholding communion from those living in invalid “second unions” (those who have divorced and remarried without an annulment). He believes that the present discipline is “unmerciful”. Yesterday, it was announced that the pope will call an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops next year to discuss the matter. This appears to be a subject close to Pope Francis’ heart. His previous remarks on this topic may have seemed unscripted and “off the cuff”, and perhaps subject to translation problems, etc., but he seems very determined to move forward on this subject.
As every Catholic should know, the sacramental theology of the Church requires that communicants be in a state of grace, or free from mortal sin. A person who contracts a civil “marriage” while still validly married to another person is, objectively, living in a state of adultery until this second union is renounced or the first union is canonically annulled. That is reason enough to bar such persons from the reception of the Eucharist. Furthermore, there is the additional problem of scandal, whereby even if such persons were subjectively ignorant of their sin, by publicly receiving communion they would still give scandal to the faithful.
This is a big deal, folks. In theory, I suppose it is possible that Pope Francis could change the longstanding discipline of the Church without, in theory, unraveling the Catholic doctrine of indissoluble marriage. But a change in discipline wouldn’t change the objective reality of sacrilege at the altar. Furthermore, with respect to the faithful, the psychological effect would be devastating, effectively making a mockery of marital “indissolubility” and thereby poisoning every marriage at the outset with an escape clause. I can’t help but think of the insult this would send to thousands of faithful Catholics who, in obedience and faith, have remained faithful to their marriage vows, even when deserted by and divorced from their spouses, and whose fidelity has been – until now – honored by the discipline of the Church.
In the La Cavilta Cattolica interview quoted above, the pope expresses concern that the Church’s “moral edifice” could collapse like a “house of cards” unless the Church finds a “new balance”. He seems to be saying that the Church must relax her disciplines or risk losing her moral authority in the lives of the faithful. The danger is that this “new balance” will itself reduce the Church’s “moral edifice” to a paper tiger.