Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Fact of Death

Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.

Catacombes de Paris
(Photo: munichphoto)
If there are many platitudes written in the effort to explain life, there are many more written about death; indeed it would seem that there is nothing that can be written about it but must in the end be resolved into one or two obvious remarks. There is nothing new to be said; we are no wiser now on this point than was the first man who had to face it; when the last man comes to die he will know no more about it than ourselves. Philosophers have analyzed it, and have ended where they have begun. Poets have attempted to sing of it, and they have sung nothing more striking than that "Death once dead, there's no more dying then"; surely an obvious truism enough. Spiritual writers and preachers have discussed it more, perhaps, than they have discussed any other subject; yet, however impressive they may have been, all they have had to say has been summed up in some such statement as, that death is certain, that the time and manner of death are uncertain, that a man only dies once, that death is the end of this life and of all that is in it, and so forth. It is true that we can cover these dry bones with fancies of our own. We can guess at death and imagine what it will be like. We can do the very opposite, and leave it solemnly alone. Still the platitudes remain, severely cold and bony, neither to be hidden beneath the trappings of a silken dress, nor to be kept out of the way in a cupboard.

And this is precisely the crux of the whole matter; these platitudes will not be silenced. At other obvious remarks we may yawn in weariness, or we may laugh them out of countenance. If we laugh at these, the grinning skull does not blush for shame; its hollow sockets do not show any indignation, the rows of teeth grin none the less; if we yawn, the bones do but rattle and awake us. To be irritated with them, to question their truth, is mere foolishness; from the fact of death we have not even the escape that we had from the fact of God or the fact of sin. We cannot deny that we shall die, that we shall one day cease to count upon this earth, and all the rest. Even when we shrug our shoulders and pretend to have no care or fear of the spectre, we dread all the time that the cold, clammy finger-bones may at any moment be about our neck, perhaps all the sooner because we have turned our back upon it. We may defy it, and say that death is nothing to be feared, that it is nothing but an everlasting sleep; it does but echo, and they are ears of a wise man that catch the words: "To sleep, perchance to dream." We may declare that death brings only dissolution; it answers: "What of the soul?" We may say we will be men, and will be content to take our chance; it asks, are we sure whether this is manliness or cowardice, it hints that this refusal to face the fact may itself be our condemnation. We may mount our horse and ride away, galloping in a wild career that we may forget it; we turn our head and find that it has got up behind us, biding its time until we choose to give it our attention, or until it can claim us for its own.

So whichever way we turn, whatever we may say or do, we are haunted by the endless platitude. "Everything," we read in a daily paper this morning, "can be escaped except death." There was not much news in that, yet more than one reader will have dwelt upon it. The certainty is there, and everyone must face it. The only question is: How may it best be faced? Not many ways are possible. There is the way of despair; the acknowledgment that death is the one great curse and evil in this world, and on every account and by every means to be avoided and deferred. Along such a road, death is indeed a weird spectre; the lives of those who go along that road are indeed haunted lives, very nightmares in which the poor dreamer flies on without ceasing, knowing that in the end he must be overtaken. Of this we need say nothing; common as it is, it is not the attitude of a man but of a craven. Then there is the way of ignoring. We hate unpleasant facts; if we cannot escape them we ignore them; any fallacy suffices to justify our leaving them alone. Whatever may be in store, men tell themselves, at all events here and now life spreads out before them. Death may be tomorrow, today we are alive; let us then eat and drink today, tomorrow shall look to itself. So it is assumed that death will always be tomorrow, not today, and life is lived on that assumption. When at last tomorrow becomes today, it is accepted as an accident which has taken us unawares. Or, again, there is the attitude of bravado. We can face it, and defy it, and fight it, and be beaten by it, assume that we have met it like men and soldiers, and trust that this will atone for all the rest. This, too, is very bitter; it is close akin to despair.

But there is another attitude. There is the attitude that has been taken up by man from the beginning - the attitude which the world itself accepts as alone consistent with the present life. Man in his heart does not think he is made to be annihilated; to come to the belief that he is, even to the profession of it, whatever he may really believe, demands a forcing of intellect and will that Nature itself can scarcely stand. The very fear that haunts a man when he ignores the solemn fact is alone telling evidence against him. He knows that death is the end, but he also thinks it is a beginning. He knows that the present life is good, but he also feels sure that if he dies aright that which follows will be better. If he dies aright - that is the whole matter. Whether he believes or whether he affects the opposite, he knows it is vital that the verdict should be found in his favour. He will insist that he has lived up to his lights, he will have us reckon only the good done; he has a fellow-feeling for those who are already dead, and hopes that if he treats them with condoning, so he will be treated in his turn. So he says So-and-so was a good man, take him altogether; or, at all events, that he served his country well; or that he was a good friend; or that he prospered and helped others to prosper; and for the rest it is better left alone. We do not blame him. De mortuis nil nisi bonum - "of the dead let us only speak well" - is a good proverb. But it has reference to this side of the grave alone. On the other side, there must be the whole thing or nothing - and there is not nothing.

Then why not face the facts as they are? Whatever men may see about me or may say, whatever outward show I may make, that will remain, and may indeed suffice, on this side of the door. But it is not what appears, it is what I am that will pass through - the good in me, the bad, and the indifferent. And when I accept this and make it a factor in my life, at once it alters my perspective. It alters my ideas of right and wrong. It alters my observance of the same. The fact of life-in-death acts at once as a stimulus and a warning, where nothing else will avail. Indeed, if it were not for the fear of the life beyond, the life on this side would soon bring about its own corruption. And if that is so, or even if it is a half-truth, then death, and the thought of death, cannot be the spectre that men make it. Dark as are the wings of the angel of death, they are yet tipped with gold, lit from the sun that shines beyond, which for the moment he hides from us. And to look death in the face is worth while; it is the only manliness. Not as the ancient pagan, who would drink his hemlock or open his vein at command, and calmly, stoically, await the issue; not even as the modern pagan who can boast, but with a strange metallic ring in his laughter, that he will "go to his death like a soldier," as to a doom he cannot avoid; but as those who have kept their eyes toward the light, and have so found joy in their sacrifice.

"It is appointed unto men once to die," and He who has appointed it can do only good; He alone can raise the dead to life. And here at last we have come to a statement about death which is not an obvious platitude. He who has made the dry bones can also make the dry bones live. He can clothe them again with sinews and flesh and skin, can breathe into them the spirit, and make them "stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army." He can, and He has done it. St. Paul was no dreamer, yet he saw and understood that which for him turned death into life and life to death. For him this life was living death; death was the beginning of life. "Who will deliver me from the body of this death?" he cries; and he adds elsewhere : "I desire to be dissolved and to be." He desired to be dissolved, not that he might end but that he might begin; not that he might rest, but that he might labour; not that he might look back on what he had done, but that he might look forward. No wonder he could cry in triumph: "Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy sting?" For death had been swallowed up in his conquest: Absorpta est mors in victoria. And the same is true of very many. We have all watched them striding down the plane of time, laughing as they went, enjoying this life as only those can enjoy it who have no misgivings about the next. We have seen them nearing the goal, with their eyes fixed on the light beyond; when the time has come they have been ready, and we have felt that indeed they were men.

Of every one, young and old alike, death makes either a friend or an enemy. To his enemy he is an abiding terror, to his friend he is a friend indeed; warning in danger, in trial encouraging with strong hope, reconciling in misfortune, stirring when action is called for, stimulating to every sacrifice.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

In Festo Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Regis

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui in dilecto Filio tuo, universorum Rege, omnia instaurare voluisti: Concede propitius, ut cunctae familiae Gentium, peccati vulnere disgregatae, eius suavissimo subdantur imperio.

Almighty, everlasting God, who hast willed to restore all things in Thy beloved Son, the King of the universe, mercifully grant that all the nations of mankind who are torn asunder by the wounds of sin, may submit to His most sweet rule.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Catholic Dissidents: A Case of Stalking the Bride

It's no secret that the Catholic Faith is divisive. It was Our Lord Himself who said, "Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword" (St. Matthew 10:34). History is littered with people who took exception to some part of the teaching of Our Lord and His Church, set themselves against it, and were eventually broken upon the rock that is the Catholic Faith. We traditionally referred to such people with terms which, though accurately describing their situation, have been largely dropped from our vocabulary due to their "judgmental" tone: schismatic, heretic, apostate. Today, we often refer to such people with something far more innocuous-sounding: dissident. Despite the change in labels, however, the thing in question remains the same: disagreement with and/or rejection of some part of the Catholic Faith.

In times past, the Church was careful to expel from its body any members which did not accept the Catholic Faith whole and entire. This was commanded by the Apostle Paul:
But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat. For what have I to do to judge them that are without? Do not you judge them that are within? For them that are without, God will judge. Put away the evil one from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)
That this teaching was stressed repeatedly by countless Fathers, Doctors, Saints and Popes is so commonly known as to need no citation. Surprisingly, however, precisely this well-known teaching has fallen into disfavor today. Instead of expelling dissidents from amongst our midst, we are called to enter into "dialogue" with them, to "walk" with them, to "meet them where they are". Indeed, St. Paul would not have fared well in today's ecumenical climate.

The dissidents themselves have picked up on this change in approach. No longer do they fear censure or reproach for their now open dissent. Not only are they permitted to remain in the Church despite their rejection of one or more teachings of her magisterium, but they are allowed to propagate their dissenting ideas, teach them in Catholic institutions, and publish them in Catholic publishing houses. If anyone raises an objection that such things are inappropriate for the Bride of Christ, they are scorned as "judgmental", "narrow", "pharisaical". "Division," we are told, " is diabolical." It would seem that Christ's sword has, as a matter of principle, been replaced with the sending of peace upon earth.

Nonetheless, the question is often asked: Why don't Catholic dissidents leave the Church? Mark, gentle reader, this is not the same as saying they should leave the Church. Rather it is to inquire as to why it is that, given the fact that they openly and often fiercely disagree with the official teachings of the Catholic Church - teachings which are definitive and not liable to change - they choose to remain in her - if only nominally - instead of joining some other community which shares their beliefs and/or approves of their behavior? 

To answer this question, we must learn to see things from the dissident Catholic's perspective. Virtually all Catholic dissidents base their choice to remain in the Church upon a dichotomy they see as existing between the "institutional Church", sometimes also referred to as the "hierarchical Church", and the "People of God" as the "true Church" of Christ. This dichotomy was described well by the dissident Catholic priest Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, now a full-time "gay rights" activist: 
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, if you think of the Catholic Church as the hierarchy then, there is very little reason to remain a Catholic. On the other hand, if you see the Church as the People of God, a living community of faith, then there are many reasons for hope. Catholics in the pews disagree sharply with their bishops on a host of social issues and tend to be far more progressive than their protestant counterparts. Eventually, the bishops will get it, or will die off and be replaced by bishops who do get it.
That, in a nutshell, is why dissenting Catholics do not leave: they are convinced that they are the "true Church". The visible hierarchy is, in short, an impostor Bride.

If you're still having problems understanding the dissident view, perhaps the following case study will help to clarify things:

In the Spring of 1988, a 36 year-old woman was arrested at Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey for failing to pay the $3 toll fee. She was driving a $45,000 Porsche that she said belonged to her husband, talk show host David Letterman. The police ran the license plates and found that the car did, in fact, belong to David Letterman. The woman behind the wheel, however, was not David Letterman's wife. She was his stalker. 

Margaret Mary Ray wasn't simply lying when she claimed to be Letterman's wife; she actually believed she was Letterman's wife. She had not confused her identity with Letterman's actual wife, whom he had divorced several years prior. She, Margaret Mary Ray, was Letterman's one and only wife. Ray was so convinced that she was happily married to Letterman that she even claimed him as the father of her three-year-old son. No amount of direct confrontation with the truth - she went on to be arrested for trespassing on Letterman's property on eight different occasions - was able to dissuade Ray. In her mind, they were married, they were in love, and they belonged together.

The case of Margaret Mary Ray is one of the more famous examples of the increasingly common phenomenon known as stalking, i.e. unreciprocated obsessive attention which often includes monitoring, intimidation and/or harassment. Unlike Margaret Mary Ray, most stalkers do not suffer from hallucinations or severe delusions. It is common, however, for stalkers to display other forms of mental illness, such as depression, substance abuse and various personality disorders. While commonly exhibiting above average intelligence, stalkers often suffer from low self-esteem combined with erotomania and mild to severe paranoia. In rare cases, stalking can be accompanied by grave psychological disorder and can lead to tragedy - something which has inspired numerous films, such as the 1987 psychological thriller Fatal Attraction.

Some might object to the analogy, but it does serve to shed some light on the situation of dissenting Catholics when they pit themselves in the role of the "People of God" against the "institutional Church": it is a case of the "true Bride" versus the "impostor". In the view of dissident Catholics, the Bridegroom, Our Lord, is actually joined to the prophetic "People of God"; the "institutional Church", for which the dissidents have nothing but contempt, has simply taken advantage of some technicality to assert her nearly 2,000 year-long control over the helpless Bridegroom. If she could only be exposed as the impostor she is, or - if necessary - be eliminated from the equation, the two lovers could be finally united, to live happily ever after....

And so the dissenting Catholics set about to monitor the Church, placing her every move under scrutiny, noting with great pleasure the failings of her loyal members; to intimidate her by putting political, financial and media pressure upon her; to harass her by spreading lies about her past and making veiled threats on her continued existence; and all the while telling everyone that they are the "true" faithful, the "true" lovers of Christ - some even going so far as to dress up for the role.

In short, they stalk the Bride.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sanctity and Temptation

Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.

St. Joseph
Patron of Workers
It is a strange thing how little we Catholics, who make so much of devotion to the Saints, really understand of the secret of sanctity. We read the lives of Saints, and we are filled with reverence and admiration. We see their statues in our churches, and we honour them as we might honour some great man who is otherwise no concern of ours. We look at their figures in our stained-glass windows, and we are induced to fancy them to have been different creatures altogether from ourselves; not men and women of living flesh and blood as we are, but some kind of privileged being, some kind of angel in human form, sent on earth to win our esteem, it may be, but scarcely one of ourselves, scarcely near enough to us to be seriously taken as our friends. And yet, when we come to understand them better, how very like our own we find their lives to have been! The same kind of trials and temptations, the same sense of failure and shortcoming, the same unceasing disappointments. They, too, knew all the weakness of human nature; and they knew it as much from their own experience of themselves as from what they saw around them. "You do not the things that you would," says St. Paul, writing a word of pity and encouragement to his children in Galatia; but of himself he says no less spontaneously: "I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do." Again, in another place he says, bearing witness to the sense of his great weakness: "I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

What a tale do all these words tell us of a man who, with all his chosen sanctity, had first-hand knowledge of temptation! And the same may be said of all the Saints. All of them who have left any record of their lives in writing tell us how they realized their own great weakness, and how they feared for themselves in the face of their temptations. "Life spends itself in sorrowing, but, indeed, there is no amendment." So writes the great St. Augustine, a man who in his early life had drunk deep of the cup of sin, who had found it so hard to recover, and who to the end of his days felt the consequences of his early misdeeds press hard upon him. Every morning of his life we are told that the great St. Philip Neri, that most happy because innocent of Saints, added this to his daily prayer: "Have a care of me, Lord, or I shall certainly betray Thee today." St. Teresa, who stands so high because of her intimate union with God in prayer, yet confesses that for seventeen years she was so beset with every temptation that she could scarcely hope to be able to persevere. St. Alphonsus Liguori, who has written about sin and its nature as has no other doctor in the Church, was to the end of his days so overcome with scruples and temptations as to be almost persuaded that God had foredoomed him to hell.

No, in this at least the Saints were more like ourselves than we imagine, more like ourselves than the written lives sometimes let us see. For the written lives tend to dwell on the golden harvest; they do not always tell us either of the seed-ground or of its tilling. There is no royal road to Heaven, not even for the innocent Saints of God. "Man's life on earth is a warfare," says Holy Scripture; it does not say that the Saints are excepted. Everyone, whether Saint or sinner, whether innocent or guilty, whether priest, or religious, or layman, has his particular battle to fight, his particular temptation to conquer, and in that fight, in that conquest, lies precisely the secret of his sanctity. Men and women have worked miracles before today, and in the end have been found wanting. Men and women have been raised to great heights of contemplation and prayer, and at the last have failed. Men and women have apparently lived lives and died deaths of peace and security, and yet the Just Judge has been compelled to pronounce on them the sentence: "Amen, I say to you, I know you not." But no man and no woman yet has fought on against crushing trial and temptation, and has failed to win a crown of glory; has stood up and gone onward in spite of past misdeeds, and has not been received into the company of the Saints. This it is that makes the basis of sanctity, this never giving in, this constant resisting, this refusing to accept the dead level of one's own failures ; the rest is the structure that is built upon it.

So very human a thing is sanctity, so very ordinary; when the apostle addresses his disciples as those "called to be Saints," he makes no selection, he does not seem to think that he is asking something quite extraordinary. It does not demand special notice; it does not require that a man should live any other life than that which he is living. In every rank of life, under every condition, true sanctity has been and yet can be found. St. Onesimus was a slave; St. Genevieve was a simple shepherdess; St. Isidore was a country farmer; Marie Lataste was a servant-girl, St. Benedict Joseph Labre was a common tramp. And yet we tell ourselves that this can mean nothing for us. In theory it may be very well; in practice it is not possible. We must earn our daily bread, we must endure our circumstances; we are crushed beneath temptations that are inconsistent with sanctity. My own household is against it - a wild and reckless son or brother, a careless, irreligious father or mother, a systematic persecution that is roused to madness by the very shadow of a holy deed. St. Stanislaus was the most innocent of Saints, yet for years he lived with, and was in everything subject to, a restless, selfish brother, who would kick the poor child to the ground, and trample him beneath his feet, because he would not join in his nightly revelry. Is our lot worse than that? St. Elizabeth was a great Saint, though she was turned out of house and home by her brother-in-law to starve with her children in the street, while he sat drinking in his palace. Is it worse for us than that? And if we speak of our temptations, which one of us will dare to say that we have one particle of the trials, interior and exterior, that some of the Saints have been compelled to endure? Nay, more than that; to go no farther than our own immediate surroundings, if we had but the sight of the Angels, perhaps if we had but the knowledge of some confessor, if we could but see the battles, far greater than our own, which many close about us are fighting, and fighting with success, though they may not know it, we should be shamed into silence when we would complain, and into greater bravery in action.

"Why cannot I do what these and those have done!" This is a question that has turned two sinners into two of the greatest Saints in the Church. Before St. Augustine and St. Ignatius of Loyola put it to themselves, no one would have suspected they were the material of which Saints are made; and even if they were, no one would have thought that they would have paid the price. What it cost the first we know, at least in part, for he has told us himself, and his story is of the kind that is understood by every human heart. What it cost the second we do not know; but if any master "knew what was in man" he did, and he learnt it from his experience of himself. Indeed, that is the value of it all. The more difficult our particular trial, the greater our particular temptation, so much the more shall we know when our turn comes for action, so much the deeper shall we see into the hearts and lives of others. We have, most of us, courage for other things that are hard; if we would only have a little courage for this! If, when temptation is pressing most upon us, we would only not turn cowards and give up! If we would only keep always in mind the words of St. Paul: "God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which you can endure, but with the trial will also give the means to overcome it." It is just the little more that we want; it is just because we fail to give the little more, to hold out a very little longer, that all the rest comes to grief. It is just that little more that makes the difference between ourselves and the Saints; that little more of spiritual character, not less of trouble and temptation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

To The Depths They Will Sink

There's been a bit of chatter regarding a tweet made by Salt and Light's Fr. Thomas Rosica regarding a particularly nasty bit of writing. In Fr. Thomas Rosica's defense, it has to be said that he is not the originator of the nastiness; he's actually paraphrasing the last line of the article to which he linked: What Is a Catholic Family? by Peter Maneau, which appeared a few days ago in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times. At the same time, however, it's hard not to see the paraphrase as an open endorsement of the comparison itself. Which, with all the charity I can muster, is positively horrid.

We are first met with the tired ad hominem argument that priests, bishops and cardinals are unable to speak from experience when it comes to matters of sexuality and family life. Does anyone actually give credence to such twaddle? Each and every one of these men were raised - contrary to popular belief, apparently - in a human family, and witnessed first-hand the tests and trials of dedicated parents in raising their often large families. I'd wager that most if not all of them have numerous brothers and sisters, many of whom did not enter religious life but instead went on to start families of their own. And is there anyone who is not by now aware of the fact that a considerable number of priests and even bishops struggle with the temptation of succumbing to inherently disordered sexual behavior? (Bishop Kieran Conry, anyone?) These men know exactly what a life of dedicated chastity means. So, yes, they are perfectly well-qualified to speak with authority on matters pertaining to the proper use of human sexuality and healthy family life.

Furthermore, the author willingly ignores the well-known truth regarding the paragraphs pleading for "valuing the homosexual orientation" in the first Relatio, i.e., that they were introduced secretly by one man: Bishop Bruno Forte. Given this fact, it should not surprise us in the least that the overwhelming majority of bishops and cardinals strongly objected to the paragraphs, as they were in no way a truthful representation of the discussions of the first week. The real news here is not that the participants "backtracked" on their previous statements, but rather that one very sneaky bishop tried to pull a fast one on the whole world and suffered zero consequences for his shameful actions.

The author goes on to imply that the Church, by spending more time discussing the importance of marriage in the life of Catholics today, is somehow breaking with her past, which placed the state of consecrated virginity above that of married life - as though the two are now to be seen as equals. On the contrary, it is a defined canon of the Council of Trent (Session 24, Canon 10), that "if any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony: let him be anathema." The 2015 Synod could shower reams of flowery praise upon marriage, and it wouldn't change a thing regarding the rightfully elevated status of consecrated virginity.

In what one could be forgiven for assuming would be the apex of this particular article's malicious obtuseness, the author flatly labels what has been the historical norm regarding marriage, i.e., the lifelong union of one man and one woman in mutual, loving support for the procreation and rearing of children, as "an unattainable ideal". I'll be sure to pass on the note to my spouse that our marriage has officially hit "mythical" status.

If you think we've reached the bottom of the barrel, gentle reader, brace yourself. The author shows us that he is prepared to dig well beyond the barrel floor and into the filth beneath it. He proceeds to produce what has to be one of the most stunningly perverse and utterly sacrilegious comparisons ever made: the Holy Family was the forerunner of modern "irregular unions". 

Yup. He went there. He just equated this:

with this:

And this:

with this:

There is obviously no limit to the depths people will sink to promote the disorder of human sexuality in the Church. Even if it means digging their way to hell.

The Example of a True Prince

As this year's undoubtedly remarkable Synod slowly begins to fade from our collective memory - though only to rear its unseemly head yet again in a mere twelve month's time - I invite you, gentle reader, to pause for a moment to reflect upon the truly dramatic events which transpired in those two brief yet momentous weeks.

There are, of course, the many documents and speeches which will, no doubt, be examined, weighed and dissected like exotic cadavers over the course of the coming year. Important business, to be sure. Yet it is not to the tangible fruits of the Synod that I wish to direct your attention; rather, it is to those of a more fleeting nature, for, though their appearance was but ephemeral, they shall, I assure you, remain long after the starry heavens above have been curled up like so much blackened parchment in the hands of Him who stretched them forth.

And though there were, indeed, several valiant and intrepid guardians of that most beautiful and spotless Bride of Christ who, not unlike Lot unto the depraved of Sodom, through impassioned admonitions urged their wayward brethren to leave off from their errors and return to sanity, whereby making themselves worthy of the title of "Princes of the Church," there is one Prince in particular whose actions deserve our special consideration: His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke.

Penetrating the many-layered darkness, cutting through the wailing din and commotion of those days were the calm and measured words of His Eminence, soothing in their compassion, assuring in their wisdom, and, above all, pleasantly startling in their familiarity, as though hearing again the voice of one loved and feared lost. With the sword of ecclesiastical exile and public humiliation hovering above his noble head, he bared his neck obediently and spoke the truth of Christ Our Lord, plainly, with candor and in genuine humility. Of course, we take our supreme example from none other than Our Blessed Lord Himself - He who, though faced with brutal torment unto death, forgave those who persecuted Him. Yet have we not seen something of that same gentle patience, that same steadfastness, that same persevering fidelity in the person of His Eminence Cardinal Burke throughout the trial of the Synod? What we heard from his lips was not a collection of mere human words; what we heard was the living Word.

It is not necessary, gentle reader, that we conquer the world. We need only submit in humility to the will of Our Lord, remaining loyal regardless of personal cost, and He will conquer through us.

His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke

Monday, October 20, 2014

Modernism: A Historical Retrospect

Last in a Series treating Modernism and Modern Thought
Fr. Joseph Bampton, S.J.

It was said in our opening lecture that Modernism represents a spirit, a tendency, a movement in contemporary thought rather than a cut-and-dried system. Such movements develop almost imperceptibly. It is difficult, therefore, to trace the history of Modernism, to say precisely how and when it arose. But certain stages in its development may be put on record.

The name Modernism would seem to be derived from France; the thing would seem to owe its origin partly to French, partly to German sources. The name, it is said, is as old as the days of Jean Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher and deist of the latter half of the eighteenth century. He used the term Modernist of certain savants of his own time and country who were the forerunners, apparently, of our modern evolutionists. But, as applied to the system we have been discussing, the term Modernism seems first to have come into general use in Italy. The thing, the system of Modernism, as sufficiently appears from what has been said, may be ultimately ascribed to the German professor of Konigsberg in the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant. The name of Modernism, then, may be traced to Rousseau, the system ultimately to Kant. But Modernism in its present form is much more recent than either Rousseau or Kant.

In the year 1864, Pope Pius IX published his famous Syllabus of Errors against the faith, in which he solemnly condemned by anticipation some of the most conspicuous doctrines of the Modernism of the present day. The views which distinguish it were gaining ground even then, but, as a system, it seems to have developed somewhat as follows. There was a French Catholic Professor of the University of Lille, by name Maurice Blondel, who was known to be imbued with Kantian ideas. He had first come into notice as the author of an essay entitled L'Action, directed to the harmonising of Catholicity and modern thought. In the year 1896, he published a Letter, in which he attacked the traditional methods of defence employed by the Church against the infidel philosophy and science of the day. He declared that traditional method of the Church to be antiquated and out-of-date. He contended that some new kind of apologetics was necessary to meet the requirements of modern thought. He was followed soon after by a French Oratorian priest, Père Laberthonnière, who, in 1897, published a book called The Religious Problem, very much on the same lines as the Letter of Maurice Blondel. Similar views had been expressed in print by another French priest, the Abbé Marcel Hébert, an avowed disciple of Kant, a professor of philosophy in the École Fénelon in Paris. Observe, the attack was delivered at first upon Scholasticism of which it is enough to say here that it is the traditional method employed in Catholic schools of philosophy and theology. Blondel, Laberthonnière, and Hébert were soon joined by a more formidable adherent, the Abbé Loisy.

The Abbé Loisy had already come into some prominence as a man of extreme views on scriptural subjects; he became one of the leaders of this new movement, and, therefore, we must devote a little more attention to him. He began his career as a professor in the Catholic Institute of Paris. He was a man of brilliant abilities and of great learning; but, after a brief tenure of his chair, he had to be dismissed on account of his liberalising tendencies by the Rector of the Institute, the late Mgr. d'Hulst. At that time, however, he was not formally condemned. He became chaplain to the Dominican Convent of Neuilly, near Paris, but unhappily, while residing there, he began to publish under assumed names papers and articles, many of which were in distinct opposition to Catholic teaching. Such furtive methods of propagating their views have unfortunately become characteristic of the leaders of Modernism. Loisy seems to have set the example. From his retirement as chaplain, he presently emerged as professor again, this time in a Government post, in a lay school of higher studies in Paris. There, under Government patronage, he became bolder, and published what is perhaps his best-known work, The Gospel and the Church. That book was a reply to a work by the German Lutheran professor, Harnack, entitled The Essence of Christianity. Loisy's book was ostensibly a defence of the Church. But its main thesis was "The necessity of the adaptation of the Gospel to the changing needs of humanity." And the adaptation advocated by Loisy was of such a radical kind that this book and similar publications led to his condemnation, and, on his refusal to retract, to his excommunication in 1908. We have mentioned Blondel, Laberthonnière, Hébert, and Loisy. To these may be added Leroy, another French lay professor, whose book, Dogma and Criticism, reversed all accepted notions of what dogma means, and the Abbé Houtin, who, in the Crisis of the Clergy, published a violent attack upon the Church. Observe the rate at which Modernism was travelling. At first it began with an attack on the scholastic system; in a few years'  time it developed into an attack upon the Church itself. However, the views thus advocated began to spread among some of the younger and more adventurous spirits in the ranks of the French clergy. From France they passed, chiefly through the writings of Loisy, into Germany and Italy. In Germany, the names of Schell and Schnitzer were associated with the movement, and, in Italy, those of Romolo Murri, the priest-agitator, and of Fogazzaro, the well-known author of Il Santo. England did not escape the invasion of the new errors, as the Autobiography and Life of Father Tyrrell sufficiently proves, and in the year 1900 a joint pastoral of the English Bishops warned English Catholics against them. It might have given pause to those Catholics who affected Modernist views if they had taken note of the kind of persons who claimed fellowship with them. To confine ourselves to France, the cradle of the movement, there were first the Sabatiers, the younger of whom, Paul, lectured on Modernism here in London at the Passmore Settlement in 1908, and was dubbed in France the Pope of Modernism; but the Sabatiers were Protestant divines of what we should call in England "broad-Church" views. Another ally of the Modernists was the well-known Professor of the College of France, Henri Bergson, but Bergson is a professed free-thinker. And yet another patron of the movement was Solomon Reinach, the distinguished archaeologist and art critic and litterateur, but a Jew.

So much with reference to the leaders. Now to come to the rank and file. What the number of the adherents of Modernism may have been at any given time is difficult to estimate. It was undoubtedly large at one period, especially in France and Italy. In 1909, a French writer went so far as to say that the number of Modernists amongst the French clergy alone might be computed as at least fifteen thousand. This was a gross exaggeration, a libel on the French clergy as a body. It was promptly contradicted by one who was perhaps the best authority on the subject - the Abbé Loisy himself. Loisy said that he would not put the number at fifteen hundred, and he added that, in his opinion, Modernism had for the moment sustained a complete rout. That was true of the movement considered as a public agitation carried on openly and without concealment in the Church. And what brought about the rout was the energetic action taken by Pope Pius X. In July, 1907, he published a syllabus - Lamentabili - in which he condemned sixty-five of the most distinctive doctrines of Modernism. They were extracted chiefly from Loisy's writings. Later, on September 8th of the same year, he published his famous encyclical Pascendi, in which he condemned the whole system of Modernism, root and branch.

As was to be expected, both the Pope himself and his measures were severely criticised in certain quarters. He was represented as the very type of a reactionary and obscurantist Roman Pontiff, eager to repress by violent means every indication within the Church of originality of thought and independence of judgment, attempting to stifle a movement with which some of the best thinkers of the age were in sympathy, and which, if properly directed instead of suppressed, might have resulted in incalculable benefit to the cause of religion in general. And not only the person of the Pontiff, the measures also taken by him were fiercely attacked. Such measures were the regulation of the professional studies of the clergy, the prohibition of the reading of books dangerous to faith and morals, the anti-Modernist oath exacted from the officials of the Church and candidates for Holy Orders, and the like. Such measures were denounced as tyrannical, trivial; so trivial, so minute, as to be childish. But the measures had to be drastic, and to descend to matter of detail, if they were to be effective at all. Vague, general denunciations would have been of little use. I wonder how many of those who thus found fault with the Holy Father's action understood what Modernism really meant. I wonder how many of those Christian critics who were among the severest in their criticisms suspected that they were undermining their own position. I wonder how many of them realised that Modernism struck at the very roots of Christianity itself. What the Holy Father did was to tear away the mask from Modernism, and expose it to the world in its true colours as subversive of the Christian faith; and all who called themselves Christians should have been grateful to him for doing so. We Catholics at least may thank God that in Pius X we possess a Pope quick to discern error, and prompt to crush it. We who in this country are accustomed to the spectacle of a State-Church which, faced with the determined onslaught of infidelity upon Christian truth, compromises and temporises and economises and minimises, we who almost daily read and hear of doctrines incompatible with the most elementary Christian notions taught without protest by so-called Christian teachers from so-called Christian pulpits, while ecclesiastical authority looks on with folded arms, helpless, inarticulate, tongue-tied, incapable of taking any steps to protect the truth of which it is supposed to be the official guardian in the land; we, who are more happily circumstanced, may thank God that in Pius X we possess a Pope who understands his office better, and is more conscious of its solemn duties and responsibilities; we may thank God that, whenever the need arises, and Christian truth is called in question, above the confused babel of conflicting tongues there rings out loud and clear, proclaiming truth and refuting error, the voice of the successor of him to whom Christ gave the charge of the sheep and lambs of His flock, for whom Christ prayed that his faith might fail not, whom Christ appointed to confirm the brethren. Pius X will go down to history distinguished amongst the illustrious line of Roman Pontiffs for his vigilance in watching over the deposit of the faith entrusted to his keeping, and for his courage, his superb courage, in defending it; and nowhere have these qualities been more conspicuously displayed than in his condemnation of Modernism. Dominus conservet eum et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra et non tradat eiim in animam inimicorum eus.

"The Pope has spoken, Modernism has ceased to be." Such were the words of the distinguished French novelist and academician, Paul Bourget. They are true of Modernism regarded as a public movement within the Church. But it would be a mistake to suppose that Modernism as a hidden force is extinct. We need not credit the stories of a secret propaganda, a sort of organised Freemasonry of Modernism among the faithful. We need not accept as authentic the manifesto which purported to come from large numbers of the French clergy, and which declared their intention of subscribing to the anti-Modernist oath as a mere outward formality, while inwardly repudiating it. This document appeared in the public press in 1910; it was unsigned, and, if authentic at all, was probably the work of a handful of malcontents. But, apart from such exaggerated statements, there is evidence to show that Modernism still reckons some secret adherents among the clergy and laity of the Catholic Church. Whatever their numbers, they seem to be considerable enough to encourage them in the hope of gradually influencing the general body of the faithful. It was with the object of warning Catholics against that danger, and of helping them to realise its character, that the foregoing course of lectures was undertaken.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pope Francis' Address to the 2014 Synod Fathers

His Holiness Pope Francis
(Photo: Getty Images)
Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultants, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that - with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality - we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been "a journey" - and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say "enough"; other moments of enthusiasm and ardor. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

  • One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called - today - "traditionalists" and also of the intellectuals.
  • The temptation to a destructive tendency to do-goodery, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the "do-gooders," of the fearful, and also of the so-called "progressives" and "liberals."
  • The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
  • The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
  • The temptation to neglect the depositum fidei, not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them "byzantinisms," I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted - and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) - His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard - with joy and appreciation - speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the "supreme law," the "good of souls" (cf. Can. §1752). And this always - we have said it here, in the Hall - without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Can. §1055, §1056; Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn't see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church - the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquility, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro, and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock - to nourish the flock - that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome - with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears - the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said 'welcome': [rather] to 'go out and find them'.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: "The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God’s People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, 'to see to it [...] that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity' and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6) [...] and it is through us," Pope Benedict continues, "that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: 'let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord' (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1)."

So, the Church is Christ’s - she is His bride - and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant - the "servant of the servants of God"; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being - by the will of Christ Himself - the "supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful"(Can. §749) and despite enjoying "supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church" (cf. Can. §§331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the Synodal Relatio which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as lineamenta [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]

Thank you, and rest well, eh?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Message of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops


We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.

The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.

We offer you the words of Christ: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.

We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.

We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.

We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the "the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose" (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.

We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. "The culture of prosperity deadens us. [...] all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us" (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.

Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.


There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light - the light of a wedding story - shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are "face to face" as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his... I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

 This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values - an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.

This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God - a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord's word, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.

 The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when "Christ is all and in all" (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.

We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:

Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.

Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.

Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.

Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Is Cardinal Kasper Promoting Heresy?

A Layperson's View

His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper
(Photo: CNS)
Usually, a question like the one posed in the title of this article would be rejected outright as too hyperbolic - hystrionic, even - to merit serious consideration. A Cardinal - a prince of the Church - promoting heresy? Balderdash! And a mere layperson presuming to pass such a judgment? Poppycock! However, given the recent series of events, I think it's time for the question to be posed in all earnestness, by laypersons and clerics alike: Is Cardinal Kasper promoting heresy?

According to the Catechism, heresy is "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or an obstinate doubt concerning the same." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2089) In other words, a heretic is one who "has been baptized and claims to be a Christian, but who pertinaciously denies or doubts a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith" (Dictionary of Canon Law, pg. 103)

The Council of Vatican I provides us with the criteria of what a Catholic must believe:
By divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium. (Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 3:8)
From this, we can define dogma as "an opinion or belief authoritatively stated, a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted by the Apostles in the Scriptures or Tradition, and proposed by the Church as an article of faith, to be accepted by the faithful." (New Catholic Dictionary, pg. 303)

Now, there are three premises of central importance to the issue of the permission of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion:

  • Divorced and remarried persons are guilty of adultery.

This is a truth revealed by God (Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18) and proposed by the magisterium of the Church to be believed as such (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2384; Council of Trent, Session 24, Canons 5 & 7).

  • Adultery is a grave sin.

This, too, is a truth revealed by God (Exodus 20:14) and proposed by the magisterium of the Church to be believed as such (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2380).

  • Persons guilty of grave sin are not to receive Holy Communion without previous sacramental confession.

This is also a truth revealed by God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) and proposed by the magisterium of the Church to be believed as such (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1385; Council of Trent, Session 13, Canon 11; Code of Canon Law §915-916).

Judging by the criteria mentioned above, it seems safe to conclude that all three of these statements are dogmas which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith and that, therefore, to deny - or even to obstinately doubt - any one of them would be, per definitionem, heresy. In fact, regarding the last, the Council of Trent went as far as to say that, "if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated" (Session 13, Canon 11). 

These three statements, taken together, lead to one - and, in my estimation, inescapable - conclusion: divorced and remarried persons are not to receive Holy Communion. To suggest otherwise would be to deny one or more of the dogmas upon which the conclusion is based and, thus, to commit the sin of heresy and, possibly, an act worthy of immediate excommunication.

We return to our question: Is Cardinal Kasper promoting heresy?

Cardinal Kasper is on record as saying that, in some circumstances, he would offer Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. In fact, in 1993, he released a pastoral letter along with Bishop (now Cardinal) Karl Lehman and Bishop (now Archbishop) Oskar Saier which granted permission to divorced and remarried Catholics in Germany to receive Holy Communion on the condition that they perform a "serious examination" of their conscience. He and his fellow German bishops proceeded to give Holy Communion to such persons until the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith saw it necessary to intervene in 1994 with its Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful. Despite the intervention, Caspar never yielded in his support of this position, and has continued up to the present, made obvious to all at the 2014 Synod on the Family. It would seem, then, that Cardinal Kasper does, indeed, maintain that at least some divorced and remarried Catholics should be permitted to receive Holy Communion.

Barring some glaring fault in the logic of the above considerations, that would mean that Cardinal Kasper is, as a matter of fact, promoting heresy. Openly. Obstinately. Defiantly.

And what are we to make of one who promotes heresy?

Anathema sit.

Granted, it is not fitting for a mere layperson - who is also certainly not without stain - to come to such a conclusion regarding a prince of the Church. Believe me, gentle reader, I do not enjoy passing such a judgment, and do so only after a great deal of consideration. Meditating upon the four last things, I ask myself: What account will I have to make of this action before Our Lord on the Day of Judgment? I do not wish to condemn Cardinal Walter Kasper; on the contrary, I pray for his conversion. But I cannot reconcile the position he is so vigorously promoting with what I believe to be irreformable, divinely revealed truths. Moreover, I feel morally compelled to warn my fellow Catholics that what we have before us here is not merely "misguided moral theology," but rather heresy of the kind Pope Leo XIII spoke when he said "there can be nothing more dangerous."

Redemptor mundi, miserere nobis!


Note: I would not be surprised in the least if a canon lawyer were to point to this article as a prime example of why lay persons should not presume to engage in canon law. But if I have erred in my thinking - which I readily admit is certainly possible - I would appreciate someone explaining to me where, exactly, the error resides. Upon such explanation, I would gladly retract the article in its entirety.

God’s Unfailing Mercy and Our Response

Bishop Robert C. Morlino

His Excellency Robert Bishop Morlino
Dear Friends,

Last week I was blessed to be in Rome for the ordination for two of our men (Scott Emerson and Gabriel López-Betanzos) to the Order of Deacon in St. Peter's Basilica. It was a wonderful event, and I was so pleased to experience it, with so many faithful from our parishes and some brother priests. I know you'll all join me in prayer for our two new deacons and the three we saw ordained this spring (Deacons Chahm Gahng, Christopher Gernetzke, and Tafadzwa Kushamba), as they make their way to priestly ordination this coming June 26!

Of course the attention in Rome is very much fixed upon the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is meeting right now and discussing the subject of "the Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization." The pastoral challenges facing our evangelization of, and within, families are numerous and growing by the day. Indeed, in this day, more and more people are unable to define even what "the family" is. Due to a desire to acknowledge the very real love that exists in families in which one or both parents are no longer in the picture, even stating that a definition of family ideally begins with a marriage has become politically incorrect. And yet in this, as in all things, it is the duty of the Church to state the truth in a loving and merciful way.

So, while acknowledging the reality of exceptions to "the rule," it is indeed the case that in accord with the Natural Law of God, written on every human heart, the family typically flows from the procreative reality of a man and woman who have entered into a loving and stable relationship (one man, one woman, one lifetime, with openness to children).

It seems to me that the very first pastoral challenge that we face today is in having the courage to speak this first reality in a way that does not judge, but invites: the family flows from life-giving marriages. Now, can we state this without making to feel alienated the child who was born to an unwed mother, or the father whose marriage failed despite his every attempt, or even the woman who conceived a child through artificial means while living out a same-sex attraction and who now wishes to return to the Church with her child? Yes, we can still speak that initial truth and exhibit the love and mercy of Jesus. But situations like these provide a pastoral challenge, no doubt.

So, these types of challenges are very much at the heart and mind of the Church today and the topic of a great deal of discussion. And yet, at the root of things, it all remains quite simple: we are all broken, and fallen, and yes, sinful, and Christ and His Church must respond with healing, with mercy, and with forgiveness.

This is why mercy has very much become a keyword in the discussion. How can there be mercy for a Church and for a God who believes that there is also justice; that there is right and wrong; that there is sin and redemption? Wouldn’t the merciful thing be simply to "live and let live?"

All of this was on my mind as I encountered Jesus' parable from the Gospel this past Sunday (Mt 22:1-14). In the passage, Jesus speaks to His disciples, as well as the crowds, the chief priests, and the Pharisees, and tells them that, "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come (Mt 22:2-3)."

Now, even this first segment is shocking: the king has summoned people, and they are refusing. Not only are they refusing, but they are refusing to come to a feast for the king's son. This is not just an act of disobedience, but a very personal insult.

The only response we hear from the king is one of mercy; he invites them again. He says, "send out some other servants, and tell the people 'everything is prepared; I've done all the work; you only have to show up'." In mercy, the invitation is extended again, without question. The people have only to make the appropriate response and they can celebrate the feast. However, they do not.

We are told that some of them ignore the king's servants and go about their business. Others, however, take the king's servants, mistreat them, and murder them. And this misdeed receives a direct response from the king: "The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city (Mt 22:7)."

And still the king makes another invitation, and this invitation is much more broad: he sends the servants to invite everyone they encounter, "the bad and the good alike (Mt 22:10)," and finally the hall is filled.

This is a remarkable showing of mercy on the part of the king, and it mirrors salvation history itself, from the time of Adam and Eve forward. In the thrice-repeated invitation of the king, we see God's own unfailing mercy. Even when rejected by us, God continues to return, and He returns with the word that "all has been prepared," and all that is required is our appropriate response. And this we cannot fail to note, for, although the king has invited all to the wedding feast, he still requires that they know to what they are responding and that they change accordingly:
But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, 'My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?' But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, 'Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth' (Mt 22:11-13).
In this regard, Jesus concludes, "Many are invited, but few are chosen (Mt 22:14)."

Here we encounter a reality that seems a paradox: is God merciful, or is He not? The reality provides a challenge for many who struggle with the teaching of the Church and with the desire to have only a 'feel-good' Jesus. God is unfailing in extending His mercy, but He does so by invitation: the invitation of Jesus to "come take up your cross, and follow me (Mt 16:24)." In His mercy, God does not stop making the invitation, but the invitation requires a response not only to show up, but to change for the event '' as St. Paul says, "to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rm 13:14)."

Yes, God continues to make the invitation to all who hear his servants. Yes, God invites the "good and the bad." Yes, "all are invited." But simply stopping there fails to tell the story. There is a requirement that we not only accept the invitation, but that we respond to him with a change that is noticeable. The invitation of God is tough stuff for those who want to see mercy as license to sin, and it's also tough for those who want to limit God’s ability to make the invitation. This latter challenge, I believe, is the one the Holy Father really wants to challenge the Church with, and the former is the temptation to be more "merciful" than God, who is Mercy Himself.

We must not hinder the mercy of God by failing to be His servants sent to the whole world to invite all to the wedding feast, nor can we fail those invited by not calling them to conversion and to realize fully what it is that they’re called to. Do we serve the purpose of mercy by failing to prepare people to accept the call they are given? If we tell them there is no need to change, does that do them any good when the king arrives, has their hands and feet bound, and throws them into the darkness? Or does it do us any good when we tell ourselves that we have no further need to change?

There is a great deal to ponder here, as it comes to God's mercy and the kingdom of heaven, but it is good too to offer the prayer that opened Sunday's Mass: "May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after...." Indeed, here is a further expression of God's Mercy for, in Christ and in His Church, we have grace before us and after us, if we but ask. All is prepared for us, and we need only make the response - which we’re equipped to make through the grace that goes before us. For, as our Second Reading assured us, "My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19)." This is good news for us who are trying our best to be servants of the King, and it is good news for all to whom the King is issuing his invitation. It is good news, too, for families and for married couples who find themselves struggling with the many issues of today and even those who find themselves in "irregular situations," but desiring to take up the invitation of the King: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)."

Let us not forget and let us not limit God’s mercy. But let us not fail to make the proper response or to call others to make the same.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! May God bless each one of you! Praised Be Jesus Christ!

Bishop Robert C. Morlino