Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter Wish

So it is that because of the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, many Catholics do not practice their faith to the point of standing out from those who are ignorant of Christ. In approaching the vexing questions of modern society, too many Catholics take positions based on a liberal-conservative spectrum, rather than on the teachings of Jesus Christ which come to us via His church. Only genuine conversion, metanoia,the fruit of evangelization, will change this reality, allowing Catholics to experience the joy of faithful discipleship. No ideology may substitute for real personal conversion. In essence, metanoia means to question one’s own way of living, to start to see life through God’s eyes, and turn away from conformity to this world. Genuine conversion predisposes us not to see ourselves as the measure of all things, but to a humility that trusts ourselves to God’s love, which becomes the measure of all things. This was the central teaching of Vatican II: a renewed call to the faithful to strive after holiness, which means doing the Father’s will in all things, empowered by His grace.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Here we Go Again!

In The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God, my second chapter deals at length with a phenomenon that is still alive in some circles, namely, that Pope Francis will take the Catholic Church in a new direction, at odds with the desire of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to restore traditionalist elements, as evidenced in a recent Associated Press editorial:

"Francis' decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls - a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic - during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict's papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church."

As I point out in The Smoke of Satan, there were indeed reform-minded Council Fathers who responded to Pope John’s vision of the Church growing in spiritual riches as a fruit of the Council under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the hope that the faithful might through grace be aided in turning hearts and minds toward heavenly things.  It should not surprise the reader that many “liberal Catholics” view the pontificate of John Paul II as too “conservative,” and out of touch with the modern world, while the traditionalists view the writings and teachings of the Holy Father as modernist! Thus the schema of “liberal” (progressive, left) vs. conservative (traditional, right) which followed upon the close of Vatican II is wholly inadequate for explaining the present-day crisis of faith within the Church of Jesus Christ, though it is most unfortunate that usage of these terms persist among many Catholics and in the media today. Division within Christ’s Church is a clear attack by the evil one. Satan’s strategy here is the time-honored one of divide et impera - divide and conquerRemember, too, Jesuswords to the Pharisees: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Quite simply, no ideology, no matter how sincerely embraced, may substitute for personal conversion.

On Marriage

Marriage comes to us from nature.  In Catholic teaching Jesus sanctifies marriage as a sacrament for the baptized, giving it significance beyond its natural reality. Traditionally the state has safeguarded marriage because it is indispensable to family and thus to the common good of society.  But neither Church nor State instituted marriage, and neither can change its nature.
God created two mutually complementary sexes, able to transmit life through marital union.  Consummated sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is ideally based on mutual love and must always be based on mutual consent, if they are genuinely human actions.  No matter how strong a friendship or deep a love between persons of the same sex might be, it is physically impossible for two men, or two women, to consummate a marital union.  (In civil law, non-consummation of a marriage constitutes grounds for annulment).
It is easy to see that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is naturally and necessarily different from sexual relations between same-sex partners.  This was true before the existence of either Church or state, and will be true should, heaven forbid, the United States of America cease to exist.  Any scheme to change this truth about marriage in civil law is nothing less than an insult to reason andthe common good of society.  It would mean that we are all to pretend to accept something we know is physically impossible, much like saying that a legislature could pass a law saying that God should not be God.
What is also at risk in the recent hullabaloo over whether or not two humans of the same gender should be permitted to “marry” is the natural relationship between parents and children.  Children, even if they are loved and raised by people who have not procreated them, desire to know who their parents are.  All data to date has demonstrated what we all know” stable marriage between a husband and wife safeguards their children, enveloping them with familial love and fashioning the secure foundation for healthy humans.  To cut to the gist of the discussion, if the nature of marriage is destroyed in civil law, then the natural family goes with it. Should religious teaching based on natural truths be considered evidence of bigotry and punishable by law, when majority opinion embraces disordered causes? The media have conducted a tremendous propaganda effort to propagate this view.  Isn’t it true that since all of the firmly legal consequences of natural marriage are already given to same-sex partners in civil unions, what is really at issue in the debate is whether or not civil society will grant self-respect and full societal acceptance of their intrinsically disordered sexual activities?  It is often heard that since Christians must not be bigots, “same-sex marriage” is the only appropriate Christian response to help those with homosexual orientations pursue happiness. Those who feel this way offer approval of “homosexual marriage” as an illustration of compassion, justice and inclusion.  History has shown that such sentiments have been used to excuse everything from eugenics to euthanasia.  Revealed religion is more than mere sentiment! It rests on the firmament of the truths of what human reason understands and God has revealed. Can anyone deny that so-called “same-sex marriage” is incompatible with the teaching that has kept the Catholic Church united to Our Lord for two thousand years? Because of what we celebrate this week, the Passion death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, the Church throughout time offers the grace to live chastely in all circumstances, as the love of God both obliges and makes possible. Let’s remember that traditional marriage is a public commitment with a obligations entailing more than mere “happiness,” and that creating “civil rights” (more accurately, “civil wants”) that reverse natural rights will not lead to societal happiness. As a student of the thought of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, I take to heart his recent statements on all of this: “The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.  From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be.  Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed.  But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and women in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.  Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.  Rabbi Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of right, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.  When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.  The defense of the family is about man himself.  And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears.  Whoever defends God is defending man.” As I wrote in The Smokeof Satan in the Temple of God, quoting John Paul II, “Without the Creator, the creature vanishes.”

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Devil and Pope Francis

One of the most exciting developments in the papacy of Francis to date is that he's already mentioned the Devil several times: At his first papal Mass in the Sistine Chapel, during the homily to the cardinal electors:
"Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil."  He continued: "When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil."
Two days later to a gathering of the cardinals he emplored that they "not cede to the bitterness and pessimism that the devil offers us every day." 
When struggling to stop the Argentine government from legalizing same-sex "marriage," he said:
Let's not be naive:  This is not a simple political fight; it is a destructive proposal to God's plan.  This is not a mere legislative proposal (that's just its form), but a move by the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God ... Let's look to St. Joseph, Mary, and the Child to ask fervently that they defend the Argentine family in this moment ... May they support, defend, and accompany us in this war of God.

A pope who openly and repeatedly speaks about the language of the devil, the father of lies, the war against God, and prayer to the Holy Family as a way to combat it clearly understands the fullness of the Church’s teaching on spiritual combat! The Holy Father thus seriously asserts again that sin exists, that it's more than a matter of mere human weaknesses and errors, that the whole of the old Christian drama as a contest between God and Satan is still the center of the Faith — and the reason that the Church exists — just may have something fresh to say to the world. Read more on the topic here.

Libido Redux

Did you ever notice that when people take issue with Catholic teaching such as in the hoopla over whether or not men should marry men, and women, women, rarely does the dissent concern the Hypostatic Union, the Vatican’s guidelines on road rage, or the Conference on Extraterrestrial life? No, those things with which they take issue bear directly or vicariously on their sexual lives — homosexuality, same-sex “marriage,” premarital sex, adultery, contraception, masturbation, population control, abortion, divorce, remarriage, in vitro fertilization, consensual sex between young and old, etc. Remember Our Lord’s words on this: "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." Perhaps this is why Paul VI saw the unredeemed human libido as a primary way Satan tempts us to disregard Our Lord's teaching on chastity.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

An American Pope and The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God

From The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God:

As mentioned in our first chapter, it is the enemy who seeks to breach the integrity of the human person, and effect the ruin of souls. And it must also be said that the contemporary polarization in the church discussed in the second chapter is a clear attack by the Evil One.  As Basil Cardinal Hume has observed: “I suspect that it is a trick of the devil to divert good people from the task of evangelization by embroiling them in endless controversial issues to the neglect of the Church’s essential role, which is mission.” Thus, in this spiritual combat, trials will come, but God knows they are edifying for us, for they disclose the nature of the enemy and our own need for salvation and growing in relationship with Him.
So it is that because of the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, many Catholics do not practice their faith to the point of standing out from those who are ignorant of Christ. In approaching the vexing questions of modern society, too many Catholics take positions based on a liberal-conservative spectrum, rather than on the teachings of Jesus Christ which come to us via His church. Only genuine conversion, metanoia, the fruit of evangelization, will change this reality, allowing Catholics to experience the joy of faithful discipleship. No ideology may substitute for real personal conversion. In essence, metanoia means to question one’s own way of living, to start to see life through God’s eyes, and turn away from conformity to this world.. Genuine conversion predisposes us not to see ourselves as the measure of all things, but to a humility that trusts ourselves to God’s love, which becomes the measure of all things. This was the central teaching of Vatican II: a renewed call to the faithful to strive after holiness, which means doing the Father’s will in all things, empowered by His grace.

Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio):

The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission. . . . It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats. . . . What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel . . . out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries. . . . 
A Catholic faith reduced to mere baggage, to a collection of rules and prohibitions, to fragmented devotional practices, to selective and partial adherence to the truths of faith, to occasional participation in some sacraments, to the repetition of doctrinal principles, to bland or nervous moralizing, that does not convert the life of the baptized would not withstand the trials of time. . . . We must all start again from Christ, recognizing [with Pope Benedict XVI] that “being Christian is . . . the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” -quoted in George Weigel, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church

Monday, March 18, 2013


Samuel Gregg of Crisis Magazine has written, "Given the contempt with which some people regard Catholicism these days, it’s extraordinary just how badly the very same individuals want everyone else to hear their views of the Church’s future. Plainly there’s something about this 2000 year-old faith that truly bothers them. How else can one explain the tsunami of unsolicited advice from pop atheists, incoherent playwrights, angry ex-priests, and celebrity theologians that has erupted since Benedict XVI’s abdication?"

If the reader is interested in what it is that bothers them, I have spent the last ten summers researching what it is, the fruits of which can be found here:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fr. Fox Has Created a Spiritual Ruckus!

For those who are thrilled at the accession of Pope Francis  and do not believe that the gates of hell are still attempting to prevail against the Church, I offer the following from Salon Magazine, and recommend my book  if you wish to learn more of what motivates those like Fox to attack the Church! My exposure of Fox is particularly damning....

"As Fox and many other Catholic and ex-Catholic dissidents see it, Vatican II marked the moment when the church had the chance to reinvent itself as a flexible moral and spiritual force in a rapidly changing world. Indeed, it briefly seemed to do just that – and it’s important to understand that Bergoglio, like Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla before him, was part of the right-wing counterrevolution within the church that aggressively rolled back those changes, crushed dissident thought and reasserted the absolute power of the pope and his hierarchy. Pope Francis is a longtime ally of Communion and Liberation, a fiercely conservative Catholic organization that insists on “total fidelity and communion” with the church leadership and is devoted, among other things, to battling European socialism and Latin American liberation theology. In Italian politics, CL has been closely tied to the party of Silvio Berlusconi, and its founder was an intimate friend of Cardinal Ratzinger before he became Benedict XVI.
If you engaged with the Catholic church in any way between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s, you witnessed the limited effects of Vatican II on the ground: the Mass was in English and could partly be understood (more’s the pity); many dioceses were afflicted with faintly groovy young priests and nuns who played folk guitar; fish was no longer mandatory for Friday night’s dinner (an innovation resisted to this day by many older Catholics). But Vatican II was intended — at least by Pope John XXIII, who convened it, and the group of theologians who wrote and rewrote its central documents — to cover a lot more ground than Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks and “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.”
Vatican II offered the promise of a church that communicated openly with the modern world. It specifically repudiated the church’s history of anti-Semitism and vowed to pursue dialogue with non-Catholics and non-Christians of many stripes. It held out the possibility of a new dogmatic flexibility in which the church would assert the truth of the Christian Gospels while permitting freedom of conscience on a wide range of issues. Millions of learned words have been written on what was and was not addressed or implied in the ambiguous Latin prose crafted by the bishops and scholars of Vatican II, but it might be fair to sum it all up this way: No specific promises were made about changing church policy on priestly celibacy or the role of women or the moral status of homosexuality or the decentralization of Vatican power. But it was implied or understood by many participants and observers that those issues were potentially on the table, and at least you wouldn’t be punished or excommunicated for discussing them.
There was an ideological counterattack against Vatican II almost immediately, with Cardinal Ratzinger as its intellectual leader, and that became the dominant current in the church hierarchy after the ascension of John Paul II in 1978. Fox believes that the last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, departed so far from both the letter and spirit of Vatican II — which should have been viewed as the authoritative teachings of the church — that they should be considered “schismatic,” or illegitimate. “In the Catholic tradition, a council trumps a pope,” he says. “A pope does not trump a council.” (In the great tradition of Catholic intellectuals, he cites precedence in the Council of Constance, convened in 1414, which fired three warring popes and appointed a new one.) “What’s happened since John Paul II is that he and Ratzinger have turned back all the basic principles of Vatican II. I would include the principle of freedom of conscience, the principle that theologians have a right to think. They brought the Inquisition back, there’s no question about it.”
Fox’s 2012 book “The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved” contains a list of 105 prominent Catholic theologians who have been silenced or expelled under the last two popes, including many influential figures of the Vatican II period and its aftermath. Fox himself is on the list; he was silenced by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in 1988 after publishing his New Age-flavored bestseller “The Coming of the Cosmic Christ” and expelled from the Dominican order five years later. (I noted during our conversation that Fox, who is now an Episcopal priest, consistently refers to the most recent pope — his particular nemesis — as “Ratzinger” rather than Benedict XVI.) This climate of inquisition, Fox says, “runs totally contrary to the entire attitude and teaching of Vatican II. In the Vatican councils, they defined the church as the people, not as the hierarchy. Under these last two popes, it’s all about the hierarchy.”
Fox insists that he’s not alone in believing that the authoritarian reign of the last two popes represents a kind of illegitimate intra-Catholic coup d’├ętat. He says he got the idea from the lateEdward Schillebeeckx, a prominent liberal Dutch theologian and Dominican priest who managed to remain inside the church, at a private lunch in the late 1990s. “He told me, ‘I and many other European theologians feel that the present papacy’ — that would have been John Paul II — ‘is in schism.’ My response was very American. I said immediately, ‘What are we gonna do about it?’ I’ll never forget his look, which without saying anything said, ‘These Americans are so crazy. They think you can do something!’”
Fox argues, in essence, that the Schillebeeckx doctrine means the official church no longer exists or, to put it another way, that the power of the church has been diffused and now belongs to everyone. “What it means is that every cardinal, priest and bishop anointed in the last 42 years is illegitimate. What that means to the Catholic in the pew is, ‘Hey, there’s no one looking over your shoulder!’ If you’re trying to live out the principles of Vatican II, combined of course with the Gospels, that’s what the church is. The church is the people.”
That’s a lovely argument – as well as a distinctively Catholic one, I would say – and ex-Catholics and dissidents who already agree with Fox will no doubt find it unassailable. But those Catholics who’d like to go to Mass on Sunday and simply wish the church could be a bit less antiquated and noxious may not find it satisfying. Fox imagines a grassroots-based, decades-long popular uprising within the church, one that would install female priests and openly gay priests and married priests, would reclaim the spirit of Vatican II and ultimately render the repellent and backward hierarchy irrelevant. That’s a lovely idea too, but in the meantime we have the realities of political power, and a new pope with a soft spot for dictatorship and a hatred of gays at the reins of a decaying right-wing junta with especially fancy uniforms. Fox’s friend Schillebeeckx saw this coming more than 20 years ago, when he wrote that many conservatives of the John Paul II era were pushing toward a shrinking, outdated and increasingly isolated “monolith church … a ghetto church, a church of the little flock, the holy remnant.”
When I asked Fox whether he actually held out hope for Pope Francis, he briefly tried to be diplomatic, saying he was praying for the new pontiff and wished him well. Then he said, “But remember that all those cardinals that voted for him were appointed by John Paul II and Ratzinger” – and therefore, from Fox’s point of view, are not legitimate cardinals at all. “They’re all cut from the same cloth. Can he break out of that history, that background? That would take a major miracle.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God is now on sale!

After two years of blogging about my book, I believe it providential that my book about the Catholic Church in the U.S. after Vatican II is now available as we welcome our Holy Father Pope Francis! View the book on Amazon by clicking HERE!