Saturday, May 31, 2014

Libido Redux

Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts. Place within us love that truly gives, tenderness that truly unites, self-offering that tells the truth and does not deceive, forgiveness that truly receives, loving physical union that welcomes.
Open our hearts to you, to each other and to the goodness of your will. Cover our poverty in the richness of your mercy and forgiveness. Clothe us in our true dignity and take to yourself our shared aspirations, for your glory, for ever and ever.
Mary, our Mother, intercede for us. Amen.

Being Catholic is ALWAYS Fun

Five years ago, I would have been afraid of saying anything like what the pope said in his [recent] interview,” the Rev. Tom Reese told Sally Quin . “I’m ecstatic. I haven’t been this hopeful about the church in decades....”  “It’s fun to be a religion reporter again. For a while it felt like being on the crime beat. It’s fun to be Catholic again.” George Weigel has raised the question of whether or not Fr. Tom has been paying attention throughout the last quarter of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st. Among his findings on the legacies of Pope Francis' predecessors:
Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J.

  • millions of adults have been baptized as or entered into full communion with the Catholic Church.
  • new forms of campus ministry in the mold of JPII's "New Evangelization" have developed across the United States.
  •  Catholic-studies programs have bloomed on genuinely Catholic campuses across the U.S.
  •  the Church has produced the most compelling televisual tool for the New Evangelization available in the world: Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.
  •  Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation (Nashville) built a new novitiate to house candidates for their growing community of religious sisters.
  • The Pontifical North American College, the U.S. Church’s seminary in Rome, has more students than at any time since the mid-1960s.
  • Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., is full; Mundelein Seminary in Chicago is now increasing, due to the leadership of the Father Barron, and is founding new models of training in evangelization and defense of the Faith.
  • the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious has been formed to help support the work of the orders of religious sisters that are actually attracting young women.
  •  Bishops of the United States are challenging the United States government’s efforts to chip away at religious freedom — to the benefit of all Americans, and these U.S. bishops are increasingly about to “put out into the deep” of the New Evangelization of Pope St. John Paul II.
  • The liturgical inane season has nearly ended, as the reform of the reform of the liturgy according to the Second Vatican Council has been accelerated, though much remains to be done.
  • Catholic-sponsored crisis-pregnancies centers have served tens of thousands of women in crisis pregnancies and their children.
  • And so on....
 For dear Fr. Tom to say that he is “ecstatic” and more “hopeful” about the Church than he has been “in decades” because of Pope Francis' America interview is tantamount in my view to being guilty of inattention to what has been happening in the Catholic Church in the United States. Perhaps Fr. has accepted the stereotyping of Catholics that is one of the last acceptable prejudices in America, supposedly triggered by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Certainly in his time as editor of the Jesuit magazine America Fr. Tom has given no evidence of being a happy warrior in the culture wars, preferring to ape a Chamberlainesque negotiation with the culture, ceding territory repeatedly.  Possessing these attitudes would hardly make for genuine happiness….

Monday, May 26, 2014

Paul VI Wakes Up!

     -from The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God:

….In effect, a “rival magisterium” of theologians and religious education experts had arisen, taking upon itself the authority to say what Catholic teaching was and was not after Vatican II. Paul VI noted this, alarmed at the apostasy of these neomodemists in not believing the fullness of Catholic teaching handed down from the Apostles and interpreted for the faithful by the Vicar of Christ in union with the successors of the Apostles. The Pope’s alarm was evident in his call for the Church to observe a “year of faith” in honor of Sts. Peter and Paul:

We wish to address a special exhortation to those engaged in the study of Sacred Scripture and theology, to collaborate with the hierarchical teaching authority of the Church in defending the true faith from all error and in sounding its unfathomable depths, in correctly expounding its content and in drawing up reasoned norms for its study and spread. This same appeal we make to preachers, to teachers of religion and to catechists.

In announcing the year of faith, what concerned the Holy Father was a crisis of faith bordering on apostasy, the result of neomodernist ideas attacking the Church from inside:

And while man’s religious sense today is in a decline, depriving the faith of its natural foundation, new opinions in exegesis and theology often borrowed from bold but blind secular philosophies have in places found a way into the realm of Catholic teaching. They question or distort the objective sense of truths taught with authority by the Church; under the pretext of adapting religious thought to the contemporary outlook they prescind from the guidance of the Church’s teaching, give the foundations of theological speculation a direction of historicism, dare to rob Holy Scripture’s testimony of its sacred and historical character and try to introduce a so-called “post-conciliar” mentality among lie People of God; this neglects the solidity and consistency of the Council’s vast and magnificent developments of teaching and legislation, neglects with it the Church’s accumulated riches of thought and practice in order to overturn the spirit of traditional fidelity and spread about the illusion of giving Christianity a new interpretation, which is arbitrary and barren. What would remain of the content of our faith, or of the theological virtue that professes it, if these attempts, freed from the support of the Church’s teaching authority, were destined to prevail?

                        Paul VI furthered his crusade against this threat from within the Church Jesus built upon Peter in his Credo of the People of God. The genius of the Credo was in its twofold purpose of “confirming the brethren against the errors in the Dutch Catechism which had brought about widespread doubt and uncertainty, and doing so by a positive expanded restatement of the traditional creedal outline derived from the Nicene Creed.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Fast approaching are the three minor Rogation Days (the Major Rogation fell on April 25) held on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday immediately before Ascension Thursday. Like the Ember Days, these are days set aside to observe a change in the seasons. Rogation Days are tied to the spring planting.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, Rogation Days are "Days of prayer, and formerly also of fasting, instituted by the Church to appease God's anger at man's transgressions, to ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest."

Rogation is simply an English form of the Latin rogatio, which comes from the verb rogare, which means "to ask." The primary purpose of the Rogation Days is to ask God to bless the fields and the parish (the geographic area) that they fall in. The Major Rogation likely replaced the Roman feast of Robigalia, on which (the Catholic Encyclopedia notes) "the heathens held processions and supplications to their gods." Since the practice itself was laudatory, just misdirected, Christians adopted it as their own. By the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604), it was already considered an ancient custom.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dancing With Mr. D:The Devil and Man at Harvard II

Awhile back I posted on the attempt at holding a Black Mass on the campus of Harvard. 
Harvard's Memorial Hall
This reflection on the event by Timothy George in First Things caught my eye:

....on a balmy Monday evening in May, two events took place near Harvard Square—both involving the Devil. A group of Satan-devotees and their friends assembled in a Chinese restaurant for a little diablerie along with their egg rolls and lo mein. A few yards away, at St. Paul Church, more than 1500 people turned out for a holy hour in order to pray, as one of the organizers of the event said, “for those who seek to persecute the Church and a university that has allowed it.” One of those in attendance at the Eucharistic holy hour at St. Paul Church was President Faust. She was there, she said, “in order to join others in reaffirming our respect for the Catholic faith at Harvard.” Meanwhile, at the Vatican, Pope Francis was hosting a conference on exorcism. “The Devil is present!” he said. “The Devil is here, even in the twenty-first century! And we musn’t be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Friday, May 23, 2014

Libido Redux: Sex or Marital Act?

Whenever I refer to sexual intercourse in teaching my classes, I refer to it as “the marital act,” largely because sex is unitive and marriageis about union. Truth about human sexuality sees that its unitive nature completes husband and wife as persons, as couples and as a people. Likewise, to live it incompletely renders us incomplete and divided.

My review of  Humanae Vitae centered on the reality that sexual intercourse between husband and wife is both unitive and procreative. In my experience what Catholics and others fail to understand is that in recognizing the unitive nature of sex as different from its procreative nature, Humanae Vitae did not separate the two. The Holy Father wrote that the traditional doctrine taught within it “… is based on the inseparable connection … between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act”. As outlined in TheSmoke of Satan, dissenters from Humanae, lay and clerical separated the two, claiming the unitive nature of sex remains genuine when distanced from the procreative. Quite simply, the Pope’s point was that sex that is not open to procreation, sex that is shut off from its very nature, cannot be unitive. Just look about our overexcited sexualized world and see—there is no intrinsic unitive value in sex divorced from its natural end. Humanae Vitae posits truth in connecting the unitive nature of sex to its procreative nature. A marriage that accepts in every marital act the possibility of a child with its own needs, changes the nature of a relationship into something more than the husband and wife. In considering the yet to be conceived child, a man and wife subordinate their lives to another. Their love for each other is no longer solely about themselves but a gift to their child not yet conceived. It is this love, rooted in the creative nature of the sexual act, that makes it unitive.

Untying the procreative nature of our sexuality from its unitive nature, as we have done, extinguishes the very thing that makes it unitive. Contraception fundamentally changes the marital act, changing it into something completely different. Sex open to new life and deliberately sterile sex are wholly different acts. Using “sex” to refer to both of these is deceptive, for intercourse open to life changes the lives of husband and wife beyond themselves.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Trouble with Angels

Some time ago I read Joan Wester Anderson’s thrilling collection of stories attesting to angelic intervention in human affairs. If you do not believe in angels, check out these true stories of angelic intervention. This exhilarating book offers overwhelming evidence that heavenly beings are very much with us -- combating evil, bringing news, warning of danger, consoling us in our suffering. The flip-side of these spiritual faculties, as readers of these pages can attest, is the existence of a dark kingdom, using the same intelligence and power to prevent the spread of God’s kingdom, get more recruits, and consolidate the powers of evil in the world. In Luke 4:7, Satan declares that power over the kingdoms of the world have been delivered to him, and he offers Jesus a share in this power, if only Jesus would worship him; As we hear in the Lenten reading, Jesus avoids the temptation, but does not contradict Satan’s claim of power. With some restrictions, the power is there. The spiritual landscape we encounter includes extraordinarily intelligent, gifted, influential and murderous demons capable of outsmarting all the forces of the other side.

In my book I recounted Pope Leo XIII’s account of a vision of Satan, which gave birth to the St. Michael prayer. As told on this blog, future popes have also discerned diabolical opposition—one thinks of Pope Paul VI’s warning about the “smoke of Satan” in the Church, and Pope Francis’ recent remarks ascribing the persecution of Christians to the devil, and exhorting “Let us renounce Satan and all his works and seductions because he isa seducer.”

We should not lose sight of the tremendous advantages that Satan has in his intention of subverting the Body of Christ—with the help of human minions bent on exterminating Christianity, often aided by great numbers of misled Christians anxious for the Church to gain acceptance by the modern world. The greatest plus for Satan is the experience he has had with Christians for two thousand years, coupled with his awareness of what sort of things destines one to hell. Libido just may have pride of place.

Since the onset of the sexual revolution, we have had to face an ever-increasing display of sexual problems. One has only to think of the tremendous increase in the number of post-1960s illegitimate births and abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, opposition to censorship of pornography (especially on the Internet), and the resulting sexual addiction (in some extreme instances resulting in murder). Consider too the tremendous blows to marriage and the family done by adultery, the battle over the homosexual lifestyle in the United States, Canada and Europe (now to the point of the redefinition of marriage under the law); the increasing incidences of sexual harassment, child pornography on the Internet, Internet predators, date rape, and of course, the divorce rate. Then, too let us not forget the abortafacient properties of the Pill. Clearly attempts to reduce procreation so as to block God’s favorite thing to do, amounts to an offense against Him, is not a matter to be lightly dismissed.

As I recounted in my third chapter, dissent from Humanae Vitae’s proscription against artificial contraception originated a crisis of faith in the Church. The dissent that ensued after Pope Paul VI’s visionary encyclical set the stage for pervasive dismissal of the Vicar of Christ's authority in faith and morals. Given this, Satan, famous for his “non serviam,” was allowed to slip in little snippets of spiritual rebellion here and there, depending on the naiveté of his hearers. In Professor James Hitchcock’s The History ofthe Catholic Church, as the noted historian takes up twentieth- century modernism and the aftermath of the 1960s, he recounts the story of the unmaking of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Los Angeles, whose program of aggiornamento was guided by the prestigious (now deceased) psychologist Carl Rogers, a one-time student for the Protestant ministry who had developed a negative attitude toward religion. Sadly, the Immaculate Heart “renewal” was a paradigm for many others that followed: many religious, having abandoned both traditional spiritualties and traditional ministries, created vacuums waiting to be filled by new absolutes—left-wing politics, environmentalism, and above all feminism, which produced a drastic decline in vocations to religious life.

Tragically, it was nuns dedicated to Mary, shedding their habits and often their vows, who were the innovators of developments quite removed from service of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. The surest weapon against the onslaughts of Satan, as many saints have taught us, is confidence in, imitation of, and devotion to the Queen of the Angels (see Genesis 3:15), who is far ahead of the strategies and nefarious designs of the fallen angels. This weapon still offers us the best hope for the defeat of the subtle moves of a supremely evil Mastermind.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gay and the Third Way

Blogging as I do on the Catholic Church's teaching on the truth about human sexuality, I stumbled upon this article by Joseph Preverone of the best-known gay Catholic bloggers, who believes totally in the Church’s teachings and who has therefore chosen to live celibately.  He blogs about issues of faith, sexuality, and mental health at under the semi-pseudonym of Steve Gershom. While we are on the topic, there is a new film out that has sparked lively discussion!

Deliver Us from Evil

A 1997 survey of beliefs about Satan revealed that 69 percent of Catholics believe that “Satan is only a symbol of evil;” only 26% believing that “Satan is a living being.” My, how times have times have changed. Pope Paul VI, soon to be beatified, instructs us that the former position is “a departure from the picture provided by biblical Church teaching.,” one little “crack in the wall” through which the smoke of Satan could enter the Body of Christ. Priests, catechists and religious who take the Devil lightly are indeed the easiest target for what St. Paul termed “the mystery of iniquity.” What the Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur taught me regarding the reality of the Devil prior to Vatican II proved no different from what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us today:

The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free[emphasis added]. Original sin entails 'captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil. Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.

This originally good angel, the Devil, is a powerful spiritual creature whose goal is to destroy us by turning us against the Father. Christians refer to him every time they pray the Lord’s Prayer—“deliver us from evil” refers to the Evil One, of and to whom Jesus spoke regularly in the Gospels, the angel who opposes his Father. The Catechism broadens this teaching, noting that “heresy, apostasy, and schism--do not occur without human sin: Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes.” Thirty years of teaching in Catholic schools, all of them since the time of Vatican II, has taught me that the Church has witnessed the aforementioned errors in the Sacred Liturgy, religious life, catechesis, social action, and morals, all of which have divided the People of God.The present pope realizes this very well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Shepherd with the Odor of the Sheep

My reading of Pope Francis is that his vision of the world is one of a cosmic battle, with the devil as the great adversary. He speaks of the Devil often. 

In addition, the Pope refers often to his aversion to the advent of self-proclaimed families without "the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother." 

He is inflexible in calling abortion an "abominable crime." 

What to make of this? Simple. The holy Father is correctly reading the winds of the Catholic Church.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Libido Redux: Another perspective on Porn

The following was received by a priest from a parishioner:

Dear Father:

I write to you in an anonymous fashion because if I were to tell you who I am, I would be ashamed to come to the confessional, to Mass, to the place where I am gratefully being nourished. I thank you for the wonderful priest you are and for the pastoring you provide to all of us. 

Anonymously in your pews are women holding families together against the destructive forces of pornography on our husbands and sons. We are hurting and ashamed, tolerating – not enjoying – marriages and dealing with our inadequacies and depression. Personally, I feel like the 15 years of my marriage before my discovery were one big lie; that I have been “duped” by an otherwise faithful, church-involved, Knights of Columbus husband. In the three years since my awareness was heightened, I have come to believe that an affair would have actually been easier to tolerate; for perhaps I could compete with flesh and bones, but not with this. That pleasure and satisfaction can come to my husband from something so 2-dimensional has shaken me to the core; my very sense of who I am and what I am worth is utterly destroyed. My world was turned upside down and I know if not for our children, I would have left the marriage. Unbecoming of me, I daydream about that day when I might still. 

I am certain you are hearing it in the confessional from the husbands; my own husband has now been forthcoming in his challenges with pornography and about his frequent confessions of the sin. He initially felt great relief that I knew and somehow thought that my knowing would give him greater resistance against the temptation. Unfortunately, I think it just makes him deceive and “hide” more. If this doesn’t destroy our marriage, I fear my “response” will. 

The other side is the woman’s side: our sin is the profound anger and inability to forgive because it doesn’t stop; how do we trust it even would? Some husbands regret their failure to stand up against this temptation; many do not even think there’s a problem, but it has them held captive. I have heard another woman say she would rather her husband were doing drugs; at least there are programs to get past that demon. I am confident this is affecting my husband’s ability to do his job, and I imagine it is threatening the security of his employment. My now sinful thoughts and giving in to anger; my energy expended trying to keep our home free of the temptations that come with every latest technology; my “revengeful spending” – these are not what God has called me to. I constantly replay Jesus on the cross saying “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do,” but I answer myself with a “but, no one told Jesus they would love him and honor him all the days of their life.” 

I have sons who serve at the altar, and I fear for them and their futures; for their future wives. I try to teach my teenage boys about purity, the value of their sexuality, and the Theology of the Body, but they know the magazines and websites of their father, who is a “good man” and “receives the sacraments”—so I am just the “old-fashioned” prude of a mother. I feel constantly under attack, and it doesn’t seem there will be an end to my hurting. 

I wish there were a support group for the women suffering this way, but we are all so ashamed that we can’t satisfy our husbands enough, and afraid to make it public and destroy our husbands’ reputations, that none of us would come. We simply suffer and die inside alone. I am not offering any advice or asking you to do anything about this. Perhaps you can just say a prayer now and then for the wives in your parish trying to hold a family together. Thank you for tolerating my rambling here. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014


When listening to a talk by Fr. Benedict Groeschel some summers ago, he once told a joke on the end times: "In Brooklyn, when we see people carrying around signs that say the end is near, we say, 'Could ya hurry it up a little?'" What about the end of the world? Will trumpets blow from the four corners of the earth, etc.? Emmett O'Reagan has written a superb piece on what Catholics believe on the end of the world, a tough and often controversial topic, to say the least!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Libido Redux

House Concurrent Resolution, HCR 0011, approved Common Core as the standards for Michigan math & English, last fall. How is the Core faring in other States? I have read that a Newburgh New York school district pulled a ninth grade book considered by teachers to be “pornographic.”  An Arizona mother launched an storm of protest that forced Arizona schools to pull an eleventh grade book portraying teens in a sado-masochistic relationship.  A Catholic school administrator admitted there were two first grade books about families— The Family Book and Who’s in a Family—that included pictures of homosexual pairs—listed on the Common Core Catholic Identity Initiative website. The books were removed from the website after parental protest.

Perusing the anti -Common Core social media reveals that across the U.S., in public and Catholic schools, parents and teachers have found sexually inappropriate materials in the examples recommended by Common Core State Standards .  In some cases the offending material is removed. In others, parents are offered “opt out” choices for their children.  However, the question that looms large is, why has so much disturbing material been systematically built into the CCSS recommended texts?   Should a small band of unelected ideologues have nationwide power to decide that American first graders should be exposed to homosexual “families,” or, that ninth graders be given pornography under the façade of literature? 
Under New York State’s Common Core requirements, portions of the book, Black Swan Green, are required reading for high school freshmen. The book features a 13-year-old boy as the narrator who graphically describes his father’s genitals and a sex act. 
An English teacher in the district pointed out that “At least three of the books listed on the modules [curriculums] contain passages using inappropriate language and visual imagery that most people would consider pornographic.” Other teachers noted that this and similar situations are an example of systemic flaws in the Common Core aligned curriculums.  The school district hopes to return a $6,000 shipment of the books.
The most disturbing CCSS selection is the novel, The Bluest Eye, by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Toni Morrison, an explicit portrayal of rape, incest, sexual violence and pedophilia.  The pedophile, named Soaphead Church, claims God as his inspiration, “I work only through the Lord. He sometimes uses me to help people.” The book is written with sympathy for the pedophile, so that the reader becomes a “co-conspirator” with the pedophile.  She took pains to make sure she never portrayed the actions as wrong in order to show how everyone has their own problems. The author even goes as far as to describe the pedophilia, rape, and incest ‘friendly,’ ‘innocent,’ and ‘tender.”
The Common Core State Standards website tells how these works are selected:
Selecting Text Exemplars
The following text samples primarily serve to exemplify the level of complexity and quality that the Standards require all students in a given grade band to engage with. Additionally, they are suggestive of the breadth of texts that students should encounter in the text types required by the Standards. The choices should serve as useful guideposts in helping educators select texts of similar complexity, quality, and range for their own classrooms.

Of course, no parent or teacher group should oppose reading material that includes complexity and quality. The issue with the Common Core selected exemplars concerns “range” and age appropriate material, as well as proper context.
A high school in Sierra Vista, Arizona, acknowledged parental pressure and removed the sexually explicit novel, Dreaming in Cuban, which includes teen sado-masochism passages. These happenings are occurring at a time when we read of the increased reports of teacher student sex and the effect such erotic “educational” material may have on students. Nevertheless, education officials defend the choice as part of a “broad” literary foundation intended to introduce students to Nobel Prize winners (Morrison) or multicultural perspectives (Latino and Black)…. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dancing with Mr. D: Satan and Man at Harvard

One wonders what the Divinity school at our "most prestigious university"  makes of this recent development. Hats off to the Telegraph for coverage of the Church's training of her exorcists. Sign petition to stop here.

On Follow Up

Having worked for the Church for my entire adult life, I have encountered many women whose stories have proven that abortion hurts women, not only the ones denied life, but those who, for whatever reason, choose to end life. Here are some given in response to yesterday's post on Emily, for whom I now pray. Please watch this....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dancing With Mr. D: Emily's Abortion Video

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 
                                                                                                                                                                                            -John 8:44

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different....

As one who has suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic disorder, this article pretty much on the mark. The descriptions here are pretty accurate.
Luckily my debilitation became so bad that I developed depressive symptoms, and my Dr. prescribed an SSRI used to treat BOTH depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as well as Panic Disorder. (Paroxetine). The sourcee of my trouble clearly was related to neurotransmitters, and was cleared up with a proper dosage of the SSRI. Also, while waiting the 6 weeks for the dosage to take effect, I read a book on CBT, whi ch also helped tremendously. So, if any of the 40 million who also suffer from this stumble upon this, I hope this helps!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday

Good Shepherd Sunday is the Second Sunday of Easter in the Traditional Catholic liturgical calendar (the Sunday after "Low Week," the week beginning with Quasimodo or "Low" Sunday).

 The name derives from the gospel readings on this day which are taken from the 10th chapter of John. In this reading Christ is described as the Good Shepherd who, by dying on the Cross, lays down his life for his sheep.A major new Tridentine Mass site originated in metro Detroit on 
this day!: The Oakland County Latin Mass Association began its long-anticipated weekly Sunday Mass at 9:45 AM at the Chapel of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Archbishop Vigneron Has appointed Rev. Msgr. Ronald Browne as chaplain. 
High Altar, Academy of the Sacred Heart

What this Blog is About

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cannons Irregular?

As one who has studied ecclesiastical history, I have learned never to get bent out of shape when reading about papal "do's and don'ts" offered by Catholics in print and social media. The gates of hell shall not prevail against the body of Christ. The victory has been won, though I admit it is possible that some of the flock may stray when they understand not what he does....

Canonizations Oddie

When researching my book I read an account of how the feminist movement affected the Catholic Church by a then-Anglican, Dr. William Oddie, and remember thinking to myself, " I wonder how long it will be before this gentleman becomes Catholic?" It didn't take as long as I expected. Now Dr. Oddie has written a prescient article for Crisis on the recent canonizations, which appears below. I am posting this merely to offer my take in red on the edifying analysis:

John Paul II Set the Barque Back on Course
Why was Pope John Paul canonized this past Sunday not alone but together with Pope John? There is a very good answer to this question: but it is not the one generally being touted by the liberal press, Catholic or secular. Here, for instance, is the often sensible John L Allen, writing in the National Catholic Reporter: “With the canonizations,” he writes, “Francis is speaking not just to the outside world but to rival camps within the Catholic fold who see John XXIII and John Paul II as their heroes—meaning liberals and conservatives, respectively. The message seems to be, ‘You both belong here’.” On this see here.

It is, of course true that both popes “belong here”: the canonizations belong together, but not for the reason John Allen gives here, the easy, glib explanation picked up by all the liberal commentators, from the BBC (“The decision to canonize the two at the same time appears designed to unify Catholics…. John Paul II is a favorite of conservative Catholics, while John XXIII is widely admired by the Church’s progressive wing”), to the Guardian and the New York Times (“a highly unusual move that was taken as an effort to promote unity within the Roman Catholic Church”). The message is that it’s all Church politics. My aversion to using creature-like political terms to modify "Catholic is well-known...."

The fact is that the two popes had far more in common than ever separated them: they were, contrary to common belief, on exactly the same page: both were popes of the Council—the Council, that is, that Pope John intended. He opened it, remember, with these words: “The Councils—both the 20 ecumenical ones and the numberless others … all prove clearly the vigor of the Catholic Church and are recorded as shining lights in her annals. In calling this vast assembly of bishops, [I] intended to assert once again the magisterium [teaching authority], which is unfailing and endures until the end of time, in order that this magisterium … might be presented in exceptional form to all men throughout the world.” His intention was the very opposite, in other words, of a Council whose deliberations were to be interpreted according to a “hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity.”

This was, as we all now know to our infinite cost, an intention that was cynically hijacked and betrayed. As Cardinal Avery Dulles reminded us, the Jesuit Henri de Lubac—appointed as a peritus by Pope John, to advise him personally—was to perceive in post-conciliar Catholicism “a self-destructive tendency to separate the spirit of the Council from its letter … The turmoil of the post-conciliar period seemed to de Lubac to emanate from a spirit of worldly contention quite opposed to the Gospel.” The unhappy Pope Paul, in 1972, said, now famously, that he had “believed that after the Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms…. It is as if from some mysterious crack … the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”

Pope John Paul’s major achievement for the Church was to recover Pope John’s original purpose: to “guard” and to teach more efficaciously “the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine.” Nothing, therefore, could be more fitting than that they should be canonized together: the pope who convened the Council, and the pope who rescued it from its abductors.

In that desperate reference to the smoke of Satan, Pope Paul was speaking particularly about the liturgy, but just as disastrous was the unchallenged rise during his pontificate of the so-called “alternative magisterium” of Küng, Schillebeeckx and the rest of those who challenged any notion of a “sacred deposit of Christian doctrine” to be guarded and passed on. It was a time of vast destruction; and to destroy is always easier than to rebuild. Recovering from the aftermath of the Council will take many years yet. But Pope John Paul began the fight back: he set the Barque of St Peter, and the Church with it, firmly back on course.
It is true that Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the chief Vatican liturgist during the pontificate of Paul VI, in an interview with the Roman Petrus website, related that when Paul spoke of the “smoke of Satan” entering the Catholic Church, he was referring to liturgical abuses. In that denunciation, he said, the Pope “meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render proper worship to the Lord, celebrating Holy Mass badly because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.” While I agree this was indeed a concern, I believe that the Holy Father’s subsequent remarks on this subject discussed in my book corroborate that, were the Pope alive, he would agree with his former master of ceremonies when he stated, “Now it is necessary to recover—and in a hurry—the sense of the sacred in the ars celebrandi, before the smoke of Satan completely pervades the whole Church.”

His greatest achievement was that he did more than any pope of the last century to defend and reassert beyond any doubt the stable and objective character of Catholic teaching. He discredited the “alternative magisterium,” not by suppressing individuals (though Küng, for instance, had his license to teach Catholic doctrine removed) but by clear and unequivocal teaching. As a result, he made it possible once more for hundreds of thousands of non-Catholics like myself, tired of the uncertainties of secularized versions of Christianity, to come into full communion with the Holy See.

The old indiscriminate ecumenism was allowed quietly to sink into the quicksand of its own internal contradictions; the mists of uncertainty obscuring the Catholic faith were blown away, and the Magisterium was revealed, still standing, firm on the rock of Peter. Quite simply, he had re-established—by the publication of such documents as Veritatis Splendor and Dominus Iesus, and in particular by the massively successful launch of the Catechism of the Catholic Church—what had become uncertain: the simple fact of the Church’s authority to declare the objective truth, and the content, of Catholic doctrine. I and many others had been enabled at last to come home, to escape finally from ecclesial communities in which there was no means of coming to a clear mind about anything, in which it was deemed more important to ask questions than to find answers to them.

It wasn’t just that Pope John Paul recalled the Church to herself: he showed the whole world the power of the Catholic faith in the world, most strikingly perhaps by his astonishing geopolitical achievement in finally giving the answer to Stalin’s contemptuous question “how many divisions has the pope?” This is how George Weigel summed up this part of his achievement:
In 1978, no one expected that the defining figure of the last quarter of the twentieth century would be a Polish priest and bishop. Christianity was finished as a world-shaping force, according to the opinion-leaders of the time; it might endure as a vehicle of personal piety, but Christian conviction would play no role in shaping the twenty-first-century world. Yet within six months of his election, John Paul II had demonstrated the dramatic capacity of Christian conviction to create a revolution of conscience that, in turn, created a new and powerful form of politics—the politics that eventually led to the revolutions of 1989 and the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe.
That explains why many said he was a Great Pope who stood in a particular tradition—the two popes generally thought of as bearing the title “the Great,” Leo and Gregory, both re-established the teaching authority of the Roman Church after a period of uncertainty as well as exercising a geopolitical influence over the events of their own times. But none of that explains why there has been an even stronger feeling that he was not merely great and forceful in historical and doctrinal terms but also that he was a powerful exemplar of holiness, a holiness the Catholic Church needed to recognize. His huge geopolitical and dogmatic impact does not explain the spontaneous demand of the tens of thousands who had poured into Rome to be with the Pope as he died, and who, his earthly sufferings at last at an end, chanted—again and again—those extraordinary and compelling words “santo subito” (“Sainthood now” in Italian).

They had all prayed, those multitudes, with him and for him, as he lay dying; and on hearing they were there, in the piazza outside and far beyond, he said: “I have searched for you, and now you have come to me….” Even as he lay there, said one priest afterwards, he continued to teach us; dying himself, he taught us how to die.
It had been an extraordinary life. His funeral was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, surpassing the funeral of Winston Churchill in 1965. Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended alongside the faithful. It is thought to have been the largest single pilgrimage of Christianity ever, with numbers estimated in excess of four million mourners gathering in Rome.

“Be not afraid,” John Paul had declared, in Christ’s words, in his inaugural sermon as pope. It was a sermon that powerfully established not only the tone of his pontificate but also the breadth of his own mind and the vast scale on which he assessed the possibilities for the Church in the modern world:
Be not afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.
Be not afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Be not afraid. Christ knows ‘what is in man.’ He alone knows it.
Be not afraid: it became, almost, the watchword for his papacy: not because he obsessively repeated it for others to follow, but because he lived it out himself. He was for many long years in constant pain; his hands shook from Parkinson’s disease; and still he did not spare himself. The older and more frail he became, the more his courage shone out, and the nearer his papal service came to being a kind of living martyrdom.

This was indeed the life of one of her saints. But there is more to be said. By any human measure, his qualities amounted to greatness of the highest order: it is surely very hard to believe that that will not be the verdict of history. Those closest to him certainly saw him as a truly great man. In his first address from the loggia of St Peter’s Basilica, Benedict XVI referred to him, from the perspective of intimate personal knowledge, as “the great Pope, John Paul II.” And with or without the title, that is what, surely, he was: John Paul the Great.
Editor’s note: This column first appeared April 24, 2014 in the print edition ofCatholic Herald (London) and is reprinted with permission.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Progressive Catholics? Catholic Right Catholics? Whaddup?

But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ.   I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready,  for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says, "I belong to Paul," and another, "I belong to Apollos," are you not merely men?

                                                                                   -1 Corinthians 3: 1-4

During the course of my prior catechetical career I spoke often with parents, colleagues, and parishioners about catechesis and the Church. Stereotypical remarks in these conversations ran as follows: “Oh, I hear the principal is a liberal Catholic,” or “the teachers at my previous job were all from the Catholic Right,” or “Isn’t the new Pope a Catholic fundamentalist?” Some of the principal so-called “progressive” groups in the public square today are Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, Women‘s Ordination Conference, the Catholic Theological Society of America,
Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J.
the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Catholics  for a Free Choice. During the homosexual priest scandals in 2003, the American media sought out almost exclusively representatives of these groups and priests and religious sympathetic to their views as spokespersons for the Church. Among those (mis)labeled by the "progressives" as “conservative-traditional-rightist” are Catholics United for the Faith, Regnum Christi, Women for Faith and Family, the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, Opus Dei, The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, Priests for Life, the Sisters of Life, and the Eternal Word Television Network. Their terminology misses the mark; rather, it would more accurately fit the Society of Pius X.  

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 conquer. Remember, too, Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” No matter how sincerely embraced, no political ideology may substitute for personal conversion. "Unless a man be born again, Nicodemus...."