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
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.
Blessed John Henry Newman – like many nuanced and complex thinkers – has the unhappy burden of being misunderstood by just about everybody. He dedicated his life to fighting against liberalism in religion, becoming one of its most formidable enemies. His effectiveness was undoubtedly due, in part, not only to his powers of persuasion, but also to the example he presented as a powerful intellect and evidently liberal (in the classic sense meaning “free”) personality devoting itself to the service of … dogma. Catholic dogma! If Newman is for it, there must be something to it! Nevertheless he was also intellectually satisfying and persuasive, assisting the conversions of multitudes to the eternal Catholic Faith. These days, however, one often finds Newman disingenuously adopted by the very same liberals who Newman would have eaten for breakfast if he had the opportunity. I have long wondered how most of the nation’s heterodox “Newman Centers” on university campuses get away with the name. The only possible explanation is that they know nothing about Newman’s work beyond, perhaps, a rude caricature of his theory of conscience.
At the same time there have always been a number of Catholics who have suspected and even accused Newman of the very liberalism he condemned. And to be honest, his critics aren’t entirely wrong. Newman breathed the cultural air of Oxford liberalism for much of his life: these were the people he was arguing with, these were the minds he had to convince, and it seems clear that he adopted some of their premises for the sake of common ground. We should expect that he shared much of this common ground even without consciously embracing it. But I have to maintain that Newman’s liberalism – yes, the term is fair if used in context – was largely a matter of temperament and process, not religion, and though it did lead to mistakes in my opinion, on balance it did not pose a threat to the integral Catholic faith he professed and defended. On the contrary, Newman’s thought opened the doors to a perfectly legitimate investigative approach to Catholicism that most intellectuals felt was heretofore closed to them. Would that all Catholics were as “liberal” as Newman!
But don’t take my word for it. As the result of a brief discussion with a friend this afternoon, I found online a letter from Pope St. Pius X himself defending Newman against his critics – a rebuke not only to traditionalists who revere Pope St. Pius X and revile Newman, but also to certain liberals for whom Newman is the hero and Pius X the villain. I reproduce the letter here in its entirety.
In which Pope Pius X approves the work of the Bishop of Limerick
on the writings of Cardinal Newman.
To his Venerable Brother
Edward Thomas Bishop of Limerick
Venerable Brother, greetings and Our Apostolic blessing. We hereby inform you that your essay, in which you show that the writings of Cardinal Newman, far from being in disagreement with Our Encyclical Letter Pascendi, are very much in harmony with it, has been emphatically approved by Us: for you could not have better served both the truth and the dignity of man.
It is clear that those people whose errors We have condemned in that Document had decided among themselves to produce something of their own invention with which to seek the commendation of a distinguished person. And so they everywhere assert with confidence that they have taken these things from the very source and summit of authority, and that therefore We cannot censure their teachings, but rather that We had even previously gone so far as to condemn what such a great author had taught.
Incredible though it may appear, although it is not always realised, there are to be found those who are so puffed up with pride that it is enough to overwhelm the mind, and who are convinced that they are Catholics and pass themselves off as such, while in matters concerning the inner discipline of religion they prefer the authority of their own private teaching to the pre-eminent authority of the Magisterium of the Apostolic See. Not only do you fully demonstrate their obstinacy but you also show clearly their deceitfulness.
For, if in the things he had written before his profession of the Catholic faith one can justly detect something which may have a kind of similarity with certain Modernist formulas, you are correct in saying that this is not relevant to his later works. Moreover, as far as that matter is concerned, his way of thinking has been expressed in very different ways, both in the spoken word and in his published writings, and the author himself, on his admission into the Catholic Church, forwarded all his writings to the authority of the same Church so that any corrections might be made, if judged appropriate.
Regarding the large number of books of great importance and influence which he wrote as a Catholic, it is hardly necessary to exonerate them from any connection with this present heresy. And indeed, in the domain of England, it is common knowledge that Henry Newman pleaded the cause of the Catholic faith in his prolific literary output so effectively that his work was both highly beneficial to its citizens and greatly appreciated by Our Predecessors: and so he is held worthy of office whom Leo XIII, undoubtedly a shrewd judge of men and affairs, appointed Cardinal; indeed he was very highly regarded by him at every stage of his career, and deservedly so.
Truly, there is something about such a large quantity of work and his long hours of labour lasting far into the night that seems foreign to the usual way of theologians: nothing can be found to bring any suspicion about his faith. You correctly state that it is entirely to be expected that where no new signs of heresy were apparent he has perhaps used an off-guard manner of speaking to some people in certain places, but that what the Modernists do is to falsely and deceitfully take those words out of the whole context of what he meant to say and twist them to suit their own meaning.
We therefore congratulate you for having, through your knowledge of all his writings, brilliantly vindicated the memory of this eminently upright and wise man from injustice: and also for having, to the best of your ability, brought your influence to bear among your fellow-countrymen, but particularly among the English people, so that those who were accustomed to abusing his name and deceiving the ignorant should henceforth cease doing so.
Would that they should follow Newman the author faithfully by studying his books without, to be sure, being addicted to their own prejudices, and let them not with wicked cunning conjure anything up from them or declare that their own opinions are confirmed in them; but instead let them understand his pure and whole principles, his lessons and inspiration which they contain. They will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith.
To you, therefore, Venerable Brother, and to your clergy and people, We give Our heartfelt thanks for having taken the trouble to help Us in Our reduced circumstances by sending your communal gift of financial aid: and in order to gain for you all, but first and foremost for yourself, the gifts of God’s goodness, and as a testimony of Our benevolence, We affectionately bestow Our Apostolic blessing.
Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, on 10 March 1908, in the fifth year of Our Pontificate.
Pius PP. X
“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 year. 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), effectively 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. Every Christian marriage will be perceived as a candidate for “annulment” predicated on the subjective whims of the spouses, resulting in tentative vows with one eye on the annulment door should “for better or worse” come to the point of “worse”. 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.
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.
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 important, 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.
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!
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.’”
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.”
“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