A corporal work of mercy.

A corporal work of mercy.
Click on photo for this corporal work of mercy!

Sunday 30 April 2017

Good Shepherd Sunday and the Lamb's High Feast - woe to the hireling who defy the True Shepherd

Today, is "Good Shepherd" Sunday according to the Gospel in the proper Roman Rite. Why the liturgical revolutionaries had to change it to next week in the nervous disordered and modernist rite after 1500 years can only be described as diabolical.

It is critical for every Roman Catholic to get themselves free of the modernist rite and return to the traditional Mass and to read the Divine Office according to the pre-revolutionary rites. Those who cannot, I urge you to at least read the Missal on line for Sundays if that is all you can do and to read and pray the Office according to the Divino Afflatu available at the top right tab, "Divine Office." 

Not only will it strengthen you to endure the horrors coming upon us in Church and State, it will give you solace and comfort and connect you with the riches of the faith from those who came before 1950 and the false notion of a great Catholic decade, in fact, a decade leading up to destruction.

The Sermon below is by Pope St. Gregory the Great who died in 604. Would that every priest and bishop could write and speak as this today.

Image result for st gregory the great

From the Holy Gospel according to John
John 10:11-16
At that time, Jesus said unto the Pharisees: I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth His life for His sheep. And so on.

Homily by Pope St Gregory the Great.
14th on the Gospels.

Dearly beloved brethren, ye have heard from the Holy Gospel what is at once your instruction, and our danger. Behold, how He Who, not by the varying gifts of nature, but of the very essence of His being, is Good, behold how He saith: I am the Good Shepherd. And then He saith what is the character of His goodness, even of that goodness of His which we must strive to copy: The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the Sheep. As He had foretold, even so did He; as He had commanded, so gave He ensample. The Good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep, and made His Own Body and His Own Blood to be our Sacramental Food, pasturing upon His Own Flesh the sheep whom He had bought.

He, by despising death, hath shown us how to do the like; He hath set before us the mould wherein it behoveth us to be cast. Our first duty is, freely and tenderly to spend our outward things for His sheep, but lastly, if need be, to serve the same by our death also. From the light offering of the first, we go on to the stern offering of the last, and, if we be ready to give our life for the sheep, why should we scruple to give our substance, seeing how much more is the life than meat? Matth. vi. 25. Antiphon at the Song of Zacharias. I am the Shepherd of the sheep: * I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. Alleluia, Alleluia.

And some there be which love the things of this world better than they love the sheep; and such as they deserve no longer to be called shepherds. These are they of whom it is written : But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth 12. He is not a shepherd but an hireling which feedeth the Lord's sheep, not because he loveth their souls, but because he doth gain earthly wealth thereby. He that taketh a shepherd's place, but seeketh not gain of souls, that same is but an hireling; such an one is ever ready for creature comforts, he loveth his pre-eminence, he groweth sleek upon his income, and he liketh well to see men bow down to him.

V. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
R. Thanks be to God.

And a most relevant hymn from the Office in its English version and one of my personal favourites. 

 Ad regias Agni dapes,
Stolis amícti cándidis,
Post transitum Maris Rubri,
Christo canámus Principi: 
Divína cujus cáritas
Sacrum propinat sánguinem,
Almíque membra córporis
Amor sacérdos immolat.

Sparsum cruorem postibus
Vastator horret Ángelus:
Fugitque divisum mare;
Merguntur hostes flúctibus. 
Jam Pascha nóstrum Christus est
Paschális idem victima,
Et pura puris mentibus
Sinceritatis azyma.

O vera cæli victima,
Subjécta cui sunt tartara,
Soluta mortis víncula,
Recépta vitæ præmia. 
Victor, subactis inferis,
Trophæa Christus éxplicat;
Cæloque apérto, subditum
Regem tenebrárum trahit.

Ut sis perénne mentibus
Paschále, Jesu, gáudium,
A morte dira criminum
Vitæ renatos líbera. 
Deo Patri sit glória,
Et Fílio, qui a mórtuis
Surréxit, ac Paráclito,
In sempitérna sǽcula.


Saturday 29 April 2017

The Disgrace of the Knights of Malta

Today in Rome, the Knights of Malta are meeting in disgrace. A once chivalrous and brave Order has shrivlled as if a long dead mouse. The Pope of Rome's minions wrote to the former Grand Master to "order" him not to be present in Rome. A free man, barred by a fascist, clericalist thugs who have disgraced the Bride of Christ and betrayed Her founder.

Christine Niles at ChurchMilitant writers of the "greed, cover-up and betrayal," of this once great Order.
It's a complicated story and it has not all been told. Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Insitute does an outstanding job of digging into the mire behind the scenes.

Coup de Grâce? With Election Imminent, Has An Ancient Chivalric Order Been Toppled From Within?

Siege of Malta

This Saturday, April 29, 2017, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMoM) is going to elect its new Grand Master.  As preparations are being made for this election, anonymous sources within the Order have provided us with documentation, giving some depth and clarity on how it all came to this, who is behind it, and what it’s all about.
Since December 2016, there have been rumors, accusations, firings, suspensions, investigations, and outright lies regarding the SMoM.  It all began when the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, was suspended for refusing to resign his post, due to his part in the distribution of contraception by Malteser International.
Von Boeselager takes his case to Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, who appoints a commission to investigate the matter.  Nearly two months later, Fra Matthew Festing, the Grand Master of the SMoM, is summoned to Rome where he is forced by the Pope to resign.  Four days later, Albrecht von Boeselager is reinstated.
During this time, there are stories about a search for Freemasons, a conflict of interest among the investigating commission, and a mysterious financial deal in Switzerland.

Read it all at:


Friday 28 April 2017

The challenge to Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia - IV

I meant this post for yesterday, but my schedule did not permit it. The remainder of the articles are not yet in English (if they are please direct me), however, Maike Hickson at OnePeterFive gives a brief summary.

The Pope continues to refuse to answer the reasonable questions of the Cardinals. He is boxed in, one answer undoes the whole house of Amoris, the other would declare himself to have taught against doctrine and opens himself for a declaration of heresy. The laity are confused, the bishops, emasculated, the Church, in increasing turmoil.

The Psalm from the Office of Sext for yesterday, Feria Quinta infra Hebdomadam I post Octavam Paschae speaks clearly to us in this day of the darkness that has descended on our Holy Mother, the Church.

Be edified by its reading.

Ut quid, Deus. A prayer of the church under grievous persecutions.

[1] Understanding for Asaph. O God, why hast thou cast us off unto the end: why is thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of thy pasture? [2] Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed from the beginning. The sceptre of thy inheritance which thou hast redeemed: mount Sion in which thou hast dwelt. [3] Lift up thy hands against their pride unto the end; see what things the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. [4] And they that hate thee have made their boasts, in the midst of thy solemnity. They have set up their ensigns for signs, [5] And they knew not both in the going out and on the highest top. As with axes in a wood of trees, [6] They have cut down at once the gates thereof, with axe and hatchet they have brought it down. [7] They have set fire to thy sanctuary: they have defiled the dwelling place of thy name on the earth. [8] They said in their heart, the whole kindred of them together: Let us abolish all the festival days of God from the land. [9] Our signs we have not seen, there is now no prophet: and he will know us no more. [10] How long, O God, shall the enemy reproach: is the adversary to provoke thy name for ever?

[11] Why dost thou turn away thy hand: and thy right hand out of the midst of thy bosom for ever? [12] But God is our king before ages: he hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. [13] Thou by thy strength didst make the sea firm: thou didst crush the heads of the dragons in the waters. [14] Thou hast broken the heads of the dragon: thou hast given him to be meat for the people of the Ethiopians. [15] Thou hast broken up the fountains and the torrents: thou hast dried up the Ethan rivers.

[16] Thine is the day, and thine is the night: thou hast made the morning light and the sun. [17] Thou hast made all the borders of the earth: the summer and the spring were formed by thee. [18] Remember this, the enemy hath reproached the Lord: and a foolish people hath provoked thy name. [19] Deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to thee: and forget not to the end the souls of thy poor. [20] Have regard to thy covenant: for they that are the obscure of the earth have been filled with dwellings of iniquity. [21] Let not the humble be turned away with confusion: the poor and needy shall praise thy name. [22] Arise, O God, judge thy own cause: remember thy reproaches with which the foolish man hath reproached thee all the day. [23] Forget not the voices of thy enemies: the pride of them that hate thee ascendeth continually.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

The challenge to Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia: III - The Roots of the Present Crisis

On April 22, 2017 at the Hotel Columbus in Rome and in the vicinity of St. Peter's Square a conference took place called "Seeing Clarity: One year after Amoris Laetitia." It featured six eminent Catholic laymen who called on Pope Francis to answer the dubia of the four cardinals on the matter of certain passages in Amoris Laetitia, passages that undermine the Church's magisterial teaching on adultery, mortal sin and the Holy Eucharist.

This is the third of six, which will be posted on subsequent days.

The Roots of the Present Crisis
by Douglas Farrow

It is not too much to speak of a crisis in the Church today, a crisis in several dimensions. There is a crisis of morality. There is a crisis of doctrine. There is a crisis of authority. There is a crisis of unity.

True, such crises are more common than some like to think. Perhaps the closest analog, however, comes from the sixteenth century. Half a millennium ago, the fathers of Trent had to defend the sacraments governing confession, communion, and conjugality from coordinated, if somewhat chaotic, attacks. The same three sacraments are threatened again today. They had to defend the Church’s unity and authority against the Protestant principle – against the inevitably divisive claim that the meaning of holy scripture could be determined independently of tradition and without accountability before the entire Church. That too is necessary today. They had to weed out persistent abuses both in the sacramental life and in the governance of the Church, while striving to recover a unified vision of Christian existence in which justification and sanctification, freedom and obedience, hold together. This also is urgently required in our own time.

There are differences, of course. During the Reformation, the problem of justification put the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist under pressure, before overwhelming the sacraments generally and washing away, for many Protestants, the very idea that Christian marriage is a sacrament. Today the flow is in the other direction. There is great pressure on marriage, and this pressure is being felt by the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, which are being asked to accommodate a changed view of marriage. But the problem of justification remains, as we shall see, a driving force and source of pressure.

Another difference can be found in the fact that the individualism of the nominalists, aided and abetted by the Protestant Reformation, has carried our whole civilization much further down the road towards a mythical utopia called Autonomy, governed (in Benedict’s apt phrase) by the dictatorship of relativism. This utopia is in fact a deepening abyss of strife between body and soul, between man and woman, between the human and the divine.

Recently, the sexual revolution has created a moral landscape more like that of the first century than of the sixteenth, and even worse in some respects. For we belong now to a generation with few sexual scruples and with little love for children. Indeed, we belong to a generation fully absorbed in the contraceptive mentality; a generation engaged in an attempt to detach its sexual acts from procreation as far as possible; a generation losing, in consequence, the unitive function of sex along with the procreative. Ours is a generation which, for all its talk of global unity, is lacking the glue of a common humanity, deficient in inter-generational interests.

It is not surprising, in such a context, that the sacrament of marriage is under great pressure. A generation that approaches sex in this fashion, as Humanae Vitae predicted, is a generation that experiences alienation between the sexes, routine abortions, and growing dependency on increasingly authoritarian government. It is a generation in which the body is at best a play-thing of, and at worst a resented impediment to, the soul – or rather to the will, since we no longer believe in the soul. It is a generation in which marriage is becoming rarer, and in which roughly half of marriages end in divorce. It is a generation that does not look after others, and cannot even look after itself, except by trying to amass as much wealth as possible in support of its profligate habits.

Were it merely the case that the Church had to confront this in society at large, the task would be very much like that of the first century – a missionary task, a call to conversion, to a new vision of man, to a new mode of life, to a new discipline in support of a new hope. But not so; the situation is more complicated than that. For, in the West, all of this has entered the Church. It is inside as well as outside. It is celebrated in murals and liturgies. Hence there are those who think the Church has little choice but to change its own view of sex and of marriage and of the body itself.

The problem is: It cannot do so without losing its own soul, without sacrificing its own identity as the body of Christ, as the people and society and kingdom of Christ. It cannot do so without denying the lordship of Christ. It cannot do so without rejecting the Lord and Giver of life. It cannot do so without the gravest disobedience to God the Father Almighty. What was said at Trent is true again today: There is an urgent need for “the rooting out of heresy and the reform of conduct.” There is a need to recognize, as those fathers explicitly recognized, “that ‘we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’” (Eph. 6:12; Session 3). Yet Trent is behind us. Vatican I is behind us. All those fine passages produced by the fathers of Vatican II, they also are behind us. What then is ahead of us?

Another thing that is different today is the uncertainty that people inside the Church feel about the Pope’s own approach to the crisis. Now, I am not among those who suppose that everything rests on the Pope; it did not do so then, and it does not do so now. Nor am I among those who can only be critical of the Pope, or of Amoris Laetitia. There is a real danger in that. How can we fail to show proper love for, and deference to, the successor of Peter, through whom God has moved people on every continent to begin (or begin again) to pay heed to the gospel of Christ, especially as it concerns the poor? How can we fail, without ourselves forfeiting both good sense and the joy of love, to acknowledge the many wise insights, incisive cultural critiques, and inspiring admonitions of Amoris? But I do share the concern of many around the world that the situation has evolved in such a way, not without some encouragement from the Pope, that the dubia – we might even say, the notorious dubia – were deemed necessary.

That, having been deemed necessary, they are necessarily in need of an answer, is clear enough; my concern here is not with process, however, but rather with substance. The substance, as I see it, is this: The Church is in crisis because it must once again face – inside itself, precisely as the Church – the question of its allegiance to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For society at large it cannot decide. For the separated brethren it cannot decide. For itself it must decide, and give answer. And that answer ought to be voiced without hesitation by the successor of Peter.

So much for prolegomena. I would like now to say something further, and more theological, about the roots of the crisis. I said that the crisis is a crisis of morality, doctrine, authority, and unity. Permit me to speak briefly to each of these dimensions, calling on St Irenaeus (more specifically on Adversus haereses 3.24f.) for help.

The Moral Root: Justifying Sin

The moral root is always the deepest. Legend has it, and in the legend there is at least a parable, that the arch-heretic Marcion was excommunicated by his father, a bishop in Pontus, for sexual sin. Instead of repenting, this wealthy young shipping magnate sailed to Rome and founded a dissident network of competing religious communities, for which he was excommunicated permanently in AD 144. Marcion, as you know, taught that the God of Moses was a capricious, despotic deity; that the God and Father of Jesus was an altogether different God. To that extent he was a forerunner of the movement we call Gnosticism.

The Marcionite communities were morally rigorist rather than libertine, and were eventually absorbed into the Manichaean religion. Perhaps that’s the kind of repentance Marcion thought his father was looking for, but it came at quite a price – not only for his own soul, but for all who followed him. Everything that smacked of the Jewish religion, Christianity’s own mother, he rebelled against. He tore up the emerging canon, excluding everything that Jesus himself had regarded as holy scripture and much of what the apostles wrote as well, preserving only ten letters of Paul and a truncated version of Luke’s Gospel. In other words, he set covenant against covenant, scripture against scripture, community against community, and God against God. Rather than repent of his own sexual sin, he chose to remain outside the ark of salvation that is the Church of God.

Irenaeus – where today is our Irenaeus? – led the Christian bishops in providing a theological response to Marcionism, and he did not shy from fingering the real problem. The heretics, he said, “defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour.” The one is connected to the other; let us not deny it. Orthodoxy, of course, is no guarantee of good will or of good behaviour. Too well do we know that it can be a cover for all manner of deceit and wickedness! But heterodoxy actually lends itself to wickedness, though this too may be slow in revealing itself.

Who are the men and women of real holiness in the Church today? Do they tell us that scripture may be set against scripture? Do they remind us that no one caught the words of Jesus about adultery with a tape-recorder? Do they invite us to rearrange tradition in a fashion more convenient to the mores of our age? Do they turn the principle of double effect into the principle of proportionalism, telling us that we may do evil if we think doing good will do more harm than good? Do they, for that matter, wink at contraception, turn a blind eye to abortion and euthanasia, or paint homoerotic pictures on the walls of their churches? Of what manner of life are such things the signs? I hear the voice, not only of St Irenaeus, but of St Basil, lamenting in his 90th letter:

"Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prize and has rejected the glory of the cross; shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves harrying the flock of Christ…".

The Doctrinal Root: Opposing Justice and Mercy

Let us turn to the matter of “perverse opinions” and to the second root, the theological or doctrinal root. There is almost always a doctrinal problem attached to a persistent moral problem, for it is a feature of fallen man that he projects his own disorder into the heavens, imagining strife in God as the real source of his own strife. Marcion and the Gnostic teachers spent a good deal of theological energy doing just that.

Not surprisingly, what Irenaeus fixes upon here (he needed no help from Feuerbach or Freud) is the opposition set up by Marcion between those two great perfections of God, namely, his justice and his mercy. “That they might remove the rebuking and judicial power from the Father,” says Irenaeus, “reckoning that as unworthy of God, and thinking that they had found out a God without anger and merely kind or good, they have alleged that one God judges but that another saves” (Haer. 3.25). By thus dividing God, they unwittingly deny “the intelligence and justice of both deities,” putting an end to deity altogether:

"For, if the judicial one is not also good enough to bestow favours upon the deserving and to direct reproofs against those requiring them, he will appear neither a just nor a wise judge. On the other hand, the good God, if he is merely good and not one who tests those upon whom he shall send his goodness, will be beyond both goodness and justice; his goodness will seem imperfect, as not saving all who deserve it, if it be not accompanied with judgment."

Today our neo-Marcionites are more subtle. They do not speak of two gods, but they do speak of the one God as if he lacked judgment or could be known only by way of his mercy. They say they are serving this one God when they accompany non-judgmentally all who desire their accompaniment. “Judge not, that you be not judged” – here is a scripture, indeed a dominical saying, of which they are quite certain. Very good. But they forget to speak to those whom they accompany of the judgment of God, which is a very different matter than the judgment of mere men. They forget to speak to them of the holiness without which no one will see God. They think that to speak thus is intrusive, insensitive, rigid, or at all events unrealistic. Who would willingly listen to such a thing? Who wants to hear of the judgment of God?

This means, of course, that a great deal of what Moses and the prophets said, of what Jesus and the apostles said, must simply be set aside; for in the dominical coinage judgment and mercy are two sides of the one gospel about the one God, who is always perfect in justice and in loving-kindness. It means, not that Jesus has displaced us as judge – the true judge taking the place of the false – but that there is no judgment at all. There is only negotiation; gradual, drawn out, endless negotiation. Under the “law of gradualness,” it seems, no final judgment need ever be reached by us and perhaps none will ever be reached by God either, as regards us. Not to put too fine a point on it, it means that justification is possible without sanctification; that Trent, therefore, has been undone.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Church today is to lift its eyes from earth to heaven; from “discernment of situations” to discernment of God; to recover its sense of the unity of God, the God who is all holy mercy and all merciful holiness, the God who does not need to attenuate justice for the sake of mercy or mercy for the sake of justice. St Irenaeus, ora pro nobis. St Anselm, ora pro nobis.

The Jurisdictional Root: Conscience v. Revelation

Now, to divide God, it is necessary to divide his revelation: not just scripture from scripture, but scripture from tradition. Tradition itself is regarded with suspicion as that which confines us in error rather than that which maintains us in the truth. So they do it violence. And their violence extends, as Cardinal Sarah (The Catholic World Report, 31 March 2017) recently observed, as far as the gospel itself. In his remarks to a colloquium on the tenth anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, he speaks of “a horrible, outrageous thing that seem[s] like the desire for ... a complete break with the Church’s past” – as if “the apostolic Church and the Christian communities in the early centuries of Christianity understood nothing of the gospel,” as if the gospel has remained all but unrecognized until our own time, as if it were “only in our era that the plan of salvation brought by Jesus has been understood”!

He refers us, for example, to “the audacious, surprising statement” of Paul Joseph Schmitt, Bishop of Metz:

"The transformation of the [modern] world teaches and demands a change in the very concept of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ. This transformation reveals to us that the Church’s thinking about God’s plan was, before the present change, insufficiently evangelical... No era has been as capable as ours of understanding the evangelical ideal of fraternal life" (cited from Jean Madiran, L’hérésie du XX siècle, Paris 1968, 164ff.).

“With a vision like that,” says Sarah, “it is not surprising that devastation, destruction and wars have followed ... at the liturgical, doctrinal and moral level.”

Indeed. And from whom were these habits learned? Who taught us to exercise a hermeneutic of suspicion about the past and to prize our present enlightenment? How did we learn to mark, not the time of Jesus Christ, but our own time as the fullness of times? I have already said in my books on the ascension most of what I want to say about the myth of progress, to which the Bishop of Metz obviously subscribed. I will add here, however, that by the 1960s that myth had deeply penetrated Catholicism, having found forceful expression fifty years earlier in Buonaiuti’s The Program of the Modernists (1907), whose handling of scripture and tradition is thoroughly Protestant in spirit even where it is Catholic in form. The outright rejection of Pascendi Dominici Gregis marks a turning point of sorts in Catholicism, after which it became at least conceivable that Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor should also be rejected, and that we should eventually be presented with a puzzle like Amoris Laetitia, which both is and (in a few spots) isn’t obviously part of the Great Tradition.

No one drew it up quite like this, of course. The whole problem was meant to be solved at Vatican II. There the council fathers sought to incorporate what they could of Protestant insight into scripture and tradition, while recalling critical scholarship to the path of faith without loss of its enquiring spirit. So we have, for example, Dei Verbum, and Dei Verbum will not hear of any such change as the Bishop of Metz and his ilk demand. Nor will it hear of Marcionism, old or new.

"In His gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what He had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations... Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers...” (DV 7–10).

But we have not been holding fast to this deposit as one entire holy people united with their shepherds. On the contrary, among the shepherds themselves there has been, in far too many cases, a letting-go of the deposit, a departure from tradition, an embrace of the Marcionite “divide and conquer” principle that Modernism did its best to disguise. Scripture is indeed set against scripture, and tradition deprived of its integrity. Both are rejected where they prove inconvenient. The function of the magisterium is therefore in doubt. The new voice of authority is that of the conscience, to which revelation, as vouchsafed in scripture and tradition, is merely a guide and not a governor.

This requires a word of explanation. Properly understood, conscience is a function of practical reason. It is the innate capacity and involuntary instinct to measure particular actions by the moral principles and knowledge of good and evil that are grasped by the intellect, whether through natural law or by instruction. Its primary role is to mark the divergence of actions, whether performed or proposed, from the good, insofar as the good is known to the agent. Conscience is ineffective to the degree that the good is not properly known, or to the degree that the agent has suppressed the instinct in question. Simply put, conscience belongs to the rational soul through its participation in the divine intellect, as that capacity “whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act” (Catechism 1778).

Which is to say, conscience is not itself a source, but only a voice, of moral authority. Its function is to point out to me that I am out of step with true moral authority, known to me through natural and divine law. Conscience therefore invites me – through conscience God himself, my maker, invites me – to a free, if sometimes costly, conformity to natural and divine law. And it rightly and rationally accuses me if I do not conform.

I say all of this, not to be pedantic, but to make clear that conscience can in no way assume jurisdiction over natural or divine law. Over civil law, yes; over natural or divine law, no. Now, what of ecclesial law? Ecclesial law, in its narrow sense as ius canonicum, is, to be sure, a form of civil or positive law, which must always be measured by natural and divine law, and therefore also by conscience. But that is not our present problem. Our present problem – and a major component of the current crisis – is that conscience is being misconstrued as a source of moral authority alongside natural and divine law: a source capable of overriding, not merely the ius canonicum and sacramental discipline, but dominical teaching and the lex credendi, on which such discipline is based.

Is this not what worries the authors of the dubia? After asking for clarification in the first dubium regarding a single type of situation – sexual relations that, because of Jesus’ own words, have always been regarded as adulterous: are they adulterous or are they not? – the burden of the others comes to rest in the fifth, regarding the role of conscience in relation to scripture and tradition:

"After Amoris Laetitia (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, which excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?"

Amoris §303 calls for “individual conscience ... to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.” It urges a certain negotiation between conscience and the moral norms of the Church, observing that “discernment is dynamic” and “must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.” Veritatis Splendor §56, on the other hand, already rules out such an approach, objecting to the opposition thus established

"between the teaching of the precept, which is valid in general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called “pastoral” solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a “creative” hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept."

No one, it adds, can fail to see that such an approach poses “a challenge to the very identity of the moral conscience in relation to human freedom and God's law;” that it overturns the teaching that conscience derives its binding force from the fact that it “does not command things on its own authority, but commands them as coming from God's authority, like a herald when he proclaims the edict of the king” (§58, quoting St Boniface).

Well, apparently some can fail to see it, but no one can fail to see that there is a conflict. Hence the fifth dubium, which asks whether the earlier text remains binding. This is first of all a question about tradition: Can it contradict itself? If it can’t, then either one of the texts must be read in a manner contrary to its evident meaning or one of the texts must be judged not to carry the force of tradition.

Second, it is a question about conscience. Does conscience determine what is right, or does it merely discern what is established by God as right? Does conscience, in other words, command on its own authority or on the authority of another? If the former, then the first step in moral analysis is eliminated. One no longer has to consider whether a particular act (in this case an act of adultery) is intrinsically right or wrong, to be recognized as such by way of natural or divine law. One can bypass that and move straight on to questions about intention, circumstance, and consequences. In addressing these, the act can be rendered right without reference to its intrinsic character. The maxim that it is never licit to do evil that good may come – a maxim that distinguishes Catholic ethics from competing ethical systems, as St John Paul II emphasized – is set aside. But then the very notion of conscience disappears into a black hole of subjectivity. The lesson of Genesis 3 is lost to the subtleties and lies of the Serpent. (“Did God really say, ‘thou shalt,’ or ‘thou shalt not’?”) The fear of the Lord, it turns out, is not necessarily the beginning of wisdom.

There is a third, pastoral question as well: How do things stand in the internal forum and especially in the confessional? Where the conscience is excused from reckoning with the intrinsic nature of an act, and set directly to wrestling with the subjective and circumstantial and consequential dimensions of the act, the requisite contrition, penance, and absolution will be quite different. And this will have implications for the external forum also. What was once regarded as adultery, and hence as a disqualification for communion, will now be regarded as a new form of fidelity, and hence as a qualification. In which case, the Eucharist itself will be made witness to this fidelity that was once an infidelity.

I said earlier that the dubia, having been deemed necessary, are necessarily in need of an answer. But it is not so simple as that. Considered substantively, and not merely procedurally, the dubia are indeed necessary; but the fifth, at least, cannot be answered. Or rather, the only possible answer would be to withdraw the offending section of Amoris Laetitia and to correct or clarify the premises, appearing elsewhere, which support that section.

The Diabolical Root: Dividing the Church

I come now to my conclusion, and to what I will call the diabolical root of our present crisis. The enemy of our souls is also, and a fortiori, the enemy of the Church of God. The devil seeks to divide man from God, woman from man, the steward of creation from creation itself, even from his body. He seeks above all to divide the Church. And division in the Church is what can be expected if we justify sin by insinuating opposition between the perfections of God; if we set scripture against scripture and tradition against tradition, and conscience against both.

The truth about God is that he is never without either his justice or his mercy. “Neither does he show himself unmercifully just; for his goodness, no doubt, goes on before his judgment and takes precedency” (Haer. 3.25), the two working in wonderful harmony.

The truth about scripture and tradition is that they cohere, and in their coherence they sustain the Church. There is, as Irenaeus says, “a well-grounded system that tends to man's salvation, namely, our faith: which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself to renew its youth also.”

The truth about conscience is that it has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the law of God.

We are faced with a crisis in the Church today, a crisis much exacerbated (though not caused) by Amoris Laetitia, because that “well-grounded system” has begun to come apart, as it did in the sixteenth century. Where the Protestant reformers tried and failed to put it back together, the Council of Trent succeeded; but it can no longer be said, even in the Catholic Church, that “the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in a stable course” (Haer. 3.24). On the contrary, bishop vies with bishop, and it must in all honesty be said of Amoris that it appears to “think differently in regard to the same things at different times” (ibid.). As Cardinal Sarah himself remarks, our present crisis is made more acute by the fact that high-ranking prelates “refuse to face up to the Church’s work of self-destruction through the deliberate demolition of her doctrinal, liturgical, moral and pastoral foundations.”

I cannot claim here what Irenaeus claims at the conclusion of his third book, for it is impossible in so short a space even to list, much less to “expose and overthrow,” all those “impious doctrines” and falsehoods with which we are again confronted. But I can and will maintain this: If Marcion’s problem was fundamentally a moral problem, so is ours. I will go further, and say that its character is spiritual. It is not, in the last analysis, a question about pastoring people who have fallen into sexual sins and other relational difficulties, as important as that is. It is not a question of being patient or charitable, either to those appeal to us for help or to those who beg to differ with us – “for our love, inasmuch as it is true, is salutary to them, if they will but receive it” (Haer. 3.25). And it is not a question, I hasten to add, of meeting this or that test of orthodoxy prescribed by the pride, or the insecurity, of über-traditionalists, who in their own fashion only perpetuate Marcionite errors. It is finally a question of allegiance to our Lord, a question of the fear of the Lord. Without a renewal of the fear of the Lord, it will not be resolved.

Rome April 22, 2017

Tuesday 25 April 2017

The challenge to Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia II: A Year After "Amoris Laetitia". A Timely Word

On April 22, 2017 at the Hotel Columbus in Rome and in the vicinity of St. Peter's Square a conference took place called "Seeing Clarity: One year after Amoris Laetitia." It featured six eminent Catholic laymen who called on Pope Francis to answer the dubia of the four cardinals on the matter of certain passages in Amoris Laetitia, passages that undermine the Church's magisterial teaching on adultery, mortal sin and the Holy Eucharist.

This is the second of six, which will be posted on subsequent days.

A Year After "Amoris Laetitia". A Timely Word
by Dr. Anna M. Silvas

‘I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out all over the world, and I said, groaning: ‘What can get through so many snares?’ Then I heard a voice saying to me: ‘Humility’. So said Abba Antony the Great, Father of Monks.

And so also it seems to me, in accepting to speak to you now, a year after "Amoris Laetitia". Please forgive me, for it seems to me any number of more qualified lay faithful should be speaking ahead of me. The current field of the Church is so strewn with canonical, theological, and ecclesiological snares, one would hardly dare say anything, so strange is this hour in the Church.

If I were to point to one issue the present crisis in the Church is, it would be ‘modernity’, and that mood in the Church that so greatly prizes ‘modernity’ and follows it at all costs. Theologian Tracey Rowland points out that ‘the modern’ to which we were urged to update, was never defined in the documents of Vatican II, a truly extraordinary lacuna. She says: ‘The absence of a theological examination of this cultural phenomenon called ‘modernity’ or ‘the modern world’ by Conciliar fathers in the years 1962-65 is perhaps one of the most striking features of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.’ (1)

The Latin word moderna means the ‘just now’, the ‘latest’, the ‘most recent.’ The cult of modernity happens when we make this an overriding object of desire, so to gain the approval of the elite classes, the captains of the media and arbiters of culture. If I were to place the finger of diagnosis, it would be precisely on this emulous desire.

Two years ago or so, a young friend of mine who is a teacher and passionately committed in her Catholic faith, took a new job in a new Catholic School. One day some of her Year 8 students did a class exercise in ‘politics’. Her students were in the second year of high-school, so they had been through eight years of Catholic schooling, and through the whole sacramental ‘program’—horrible word that; what does its use signify? She asked that if they were a candidate for an upcoming election, what would would be their policies. To her surprise, every one of them, except for one boy, nominated same-sex marriage and the LGBT agenda. So she began to engage them in remedial conversation. That brought home to me how far the values of a purely secular modernity have more ascendency among ‘Catholics’ today, than the values of the life in Christ and the teachings of the Church. Immersion in the practices of modernity has led to a de facto situation, that the mythos of modernity has seeped into the very bone-marrow and veins of Catholics. It permeates their way of thinking and acting implicitly. I look around, and I begin to wonder, with horror, how much this is now true of the leadership of the Church, perhaps even among the best of them. How many are deeply, deeply, more tributary to the modern world’s ‘program’, than obedient to Christ’s summons to our deepest mind and heart, really?

Under St John-Paul II we seemed to have something of a ‘push-back’ for a while, at least in some areas, especially his intense explication of the nuptial mystery of our first creation, in support of Humanae Vitae. This continued under Benedict XVI, with some attempt to address liturgical decay, and the moral ’filth’ of clerical sexual abuse. We had hoped that some remediation at least was in train. Now, in the few short years of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the stale and musty spirit of the seventies has resurged, bringing with it seven other demons. And if we were in any doubt about this before, "Amoris Laetitia" and its aftermath in the past year make it perfectly clear that this is our crisis. That this alien spirit appears to have finally swallowed up the See of Peter, dragging ever widening cohorts of compliant higher church leadership into its net, is its most dismaying, and indeed shocking aspect to many of us, the Catholic lay faithful. I look up at any number of higher prelates, bishops and theologians, and I cannot detect in them, by all that is holy, the least level of the sensus fidelium—and these are bearers of the Church’s teaching office? Who would risk their immortal soul by trusting to their moral judgment in Confession?
In preparation for this paper, I thoughtfully re-read "Amoris Laetitia" after nearly a year. As I waded into the murky waters of Chapter Eight, I was overwhelmingly confirmed in my reading of it last year. In fact it seemed to me a worse document than I thought it was, and I had thought it very bad.
There is no need here to offer further detailed analyses, carried out by so many thoughtful commentators in the intervening year, such as the early heroes Robert Spaeman and Roberto de Mattei, Bishop Schneider, the ’45 Theologians’, Finis and Grisez, and many others, all of whom should appear on an roll-call of honour when the history of these times comes to be written.

There is one group however, whose approach I find very strange: the intentionally orthodox among higher prelates and theologians who treat the turmoil arising from "Amoris Laetitia" as a matter of ‘misinterpretations’. They will focus on the text alone, abstracted from any of the known antecedents in the words and acts of Pope Francis himself or its wider historical context. It is as if they interpose a chasm that cannot be crossed between the person of the Pope on the one hand, over whose signature this document was published, and the ‘text’ of the document on the other hand. With the Holy Father safely quarantined out of all consideration, they are free to address the problem, which they identify as ‘misuse’ of the text. They then express the pious plea that the Holy Father will ‘correct’ these errors.

No doubt the perceived constraints of piety to the successor of Peter account for these contorted manoeuvres. I know, I know! We have been facing down that conundrum for a year or longer. But to any sane and thoughtful reader, who, in the words of the 45 Theologian’s Censures, is ‘not trying to twist the words of the document in any direction, but … take the natural or the immediate impression of the meaning of the words to be correct’, this smacks of a highly wrought artificiality.
Pope Francis’ ‘intent’ in this text is perfectly recoverable from the text itself, reading normally and naturally and without filters. Let us try some examples.

The first of the Cardinals’ Five Dubia concludes: ‘Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 of the exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?’ Without doubt, a papal clarification of the intent in this footnote is of urgent importance to the Church. Nevertheless, what the Pope intended is clear from the beginning of this current section #301. His topic is ‘those living in “irregular situations”’. All that is said a few lines later about those in situations of objective sin growing in grace and charity and sanctification, maybe with the help of the sacraments, Holy Communion in particular, is posted under this heading of ‘irregular situations’.

That those in supposedly ‘sanctifying’ ‘irregular situations’ who are admitted to the Eucharist include the divorced and civilly remarried who do not intend to abrogate their sexual relationship, is flagged in #298, where in footnote 329, a passage in G&S 51 which discusses the question of temporary continence within marriage, as taught by St Paul, is outrageously transposed to those not in a Christian marriage, i.e. in ‘irregular situations’, as an argument that they should not have to live as brother and sister. The intention, prefaced by a misrepresentation of St John Paul and a bare-faced lie about the meaning of G&S 51 is clear. So where is the difficulty in understanding what the Pope intends?

In #299 Pope Francis asks us to discern ‘which of the various forms of exclusion currently practised in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.’ This indicates his aim clearly: how are we going to overcome those ‘exclusions’, liturgical first of all, practised till now? Where is the difficulty in grasping Pope Francis’ intent?

And there are many other instances like this. As early as the preface he alerts us that ‘everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight”, and then late in that chapter (#308) admits obliquely that his approach may leave room for confusion. Let us believe him: this is his intent, which is not at all that difficult to grasp.

We have noted the abstract focus on the text alone that punctiliously excludes the acts and the person of Pope Francis from all consideration of the document’s intent. Also strictly excluded as a means of ascertaining the Pope’s mind, are the wider historical antecedents. To pick off a few in a galaxy of incidents, these include Archbishop Bergoglio’s known practice in his archdiocese of tacitly admitting to Holy Communion all comers, the cohabiting, as well as the divorced and civilly remarried (2), his personal choice of Cardinal Kasper to deliver the opening address of the 2014 Synod, as if we are to politely turn a blind eye to the entire back-history of Kasper’s activities on these issues, the various ways in which these two synods were massaged, such as the papal order that a proposition on communion for the divorced and remarried, voted down by the bishops in the 2014 synod, be included in the final relatio (3), his scathing condemnations of the Pharisees and other rigid persons in his concluding address at the conclusion of the 2015 Synod, and more recently, his warm praise of Bernard Häring, the doyen of dissenting moral theologians throughout the 1970s and 80s, whose 1989 book on admitting the divorced and civilly remarried to the Eucharist in imitation of the Eastern Orthodox oikonomia, was ammunition in Kasper’s saddle bag. Then of course there was Pope Francis’ endorsement of the Argentinian bishops ‘interpretation’ of AL, precisely in the way that he intended: ‘No hay otras interpretaciones.’ (5) You know all these incidents, and many, many more, almost on a daily basis, in which it is not difficult to grasp Francis’ intent at all.

Pope Francis, I am sure, is very well aware of the doctrine of papal infallibility, knows how high are its provisos—and is astute enough never to trigger its mechanism. The unique prestige of the papacy in the Catholic Church, together with the practical affective papalism of many Catholics, however, are useful assets, and these he will exploit to the full. For to Francis, and we have to grasp this: infallibility doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all, if he can continue to be the sort of change-agent in the Church he wants to be. That this is his spirit we learn in AL #3 where he says:
‘Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does (5).

But I think ‘the spirit’ to which Francis so soothingly alludes, has more to do with Hegel’s Geist, than with the Holy Spirit of whom our blessed Lord speaks, the Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him (Jn14:17). The Hegelian Geist on the other hand, manifests itself in the midst of contradictions and oppositions, surmounting them in a new synthesis, without eliminating the polarities or reducing one to the other. This is the gnostic spirit of the cult of modernity.

So Francis will pursue his agenda without papal infallibility, and without fussing about magisterial pronouncements. He tells us so in the third paragraph of AL: Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium". We are in a world of dynamic fluidity here, of starting open-ended processes, of sowing seeds of desired change that will triumph over time. Other theorists—you have here in Italy, Gramscii and his manifesto of cultural Marxism—teach how to achieve revolution by stealth. So within the Church, Francis and his collaborators deal with the matter of doctrine, not by confronting theory head on, because if they did so they would be defeated, but by an incremental change of praxis, played to the siren song of plausible persuasions, until the praxis is sufficiently built up over time to a point of no return. Such underhand tactics are clearly playing to the tune of Hegelian dialectic. That this is Pope Francis’s modus operandi, consider a certain ‘behind the scenes incident’ in the 2015 Synod, ‘“If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried,” said Archbishop Forte, reporting a joke of Pope Francis, “you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, (but) do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.” “Typical of a Jesuit,” Abp Forte joked (6).

Then slowly, region by region, bishops around the world begin to ‘interpret’ AL to mean that the Church has now ‘developed’ her pastoral praxis to admit the divorced and civilly remarried to the Eucharist, setting aside the gravest of sacramental provisos that obtained up till now—provided of course that a sonorous note of ‘accompaniment’ is struck. And when Pope Francis sees this happening, what is his response? He rejoices to find that they have accurately picked up his cues in AL: I have already mentioned his famous ‘No hay otras interpretaciones’ to the Argentinian bishops; the latest is his letter of thanks to the bishops of Malta for their interpretations.

I think it an injustice to blame these bishops for ‘misuse’ of AL. No, they have drawn the conclusions patent to any thoughtful, unblinkered reader of this papal document. The blame however, and the tragedy for the Church lies in the intent embedded and articulated well enough in "Amoris Laetitia" itself, and in the naïve papalism on the part of bishops, that has so poor a purchase on the Church’s imperishable obedience of faith, that it cannot perceive when it is under most dangerous attack, even from that most lofty quarter.

In this game of subterfuge and incremental intent, the elaborate talk of painstaking ‘discernment’ and ‘accompaniment’ of difficult moral situations has a definite function—as a temporary blind for the ultimate goal. Have we not seen how the dark arts of the ‘hard case’ work in secular politicking, used to pivot the next tranche of social reengineering? So now in the politics of the Church. The final result will be precisely in accord with Archbishop Bergoglio’s tacit practice for years in Buenos Aires. Make no mistake, the end game is a more or less indifferent permission for any who present for Holy Communion. And so we attain the longed for haven of all-inclusiveness and ‘mercy’: the terminal trivialization of the Eucharist, of sin and repentance, of the sacrament of Matrimony, of any belief in objective and transcendent truth, the evisceration of language, and of any stance of compunction before the living God, the God of Holiness and Truth. If I may adapt here a saying of St Thomas Aquinas: Mercy without truth is the mother of dissolution (7).

Pope Francis has absolutely no intention of playing by anyone’s ‘rules’—least of all yours or mine or anyone else’s ‘rules’ for the papacy. You know well what he thinks of ‘rules’. He tell us so constantly. It is one of the milder disparagements in his familiar stock of insults. When I hear those who lecture us that Pope Francis is the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Church today, I do not know whether to laugh at the naivety of it, or weep at the damage being done to immortal souls. I would say that yes, Francis is the agent of a spirit, namely the Hegelian Geist of ‘modernity’ very much at work in the Church. It is, as I said earlier, a stale and musty spirit, an old spirit that has no life in it, a privative force that only knows how to feed parasitically on what already is. I am not sure that Newman’s Essay on the Development of Doctrine does not give us all we need to face the present crisis. In his seven ‘notes’ or criteria for discerning genuine development of doctrine from its corruption, Newman provides the needed response to the Hegelian praxis dialectically overwhelming theoria. The seventh note is “chronic vigour”. Over time, a corruption shows itself to be exceedingly vigorous—but only at the beginning of the “infection”, since it does not possess the life to sustain itself in the long term.

It will run its course and die out. The Life of Grace, however, possesses in itself the Divine Life, and will therefore throw off in the course of time all that militates against it. Truth perdures. There will be moments of high drama, but, eventually, it must necessarily prevail. It is the way in which grace acts in the organic development of nature, the very reverse of the gnostic ‘time is greater than space’.

My dear fellow-believers in Christ Jesus our Lord, this false spirit shall not, cannot ultimately prevail. In the 16th Century, the Protestant revolt demoted Marriage from a sacrament, and set in train the secularisation of marriage in the West. Constantinople began to lose its purchase on the accuracy of the Gospel of marriage with the Emperor Justinian and his Roman civil law of divorce. As the scandalous example of adulterous Emperors and Empresses remarried in the lifetime of their true spouses filtered down into the Church and became the custom, so a fair-seeming theology of oikonomia grew up to cloak this grave breach with holy Tradition. This is what Häring, Kasper and co, in their ignorant folly, have been invoking as an example for us to follow. Only till now did the Catholic Church in communion with Rome hold fast the Dominical and Apostolic teaching on the sacramentality and indissolubility of Christian marriage. I qualify that: you should study the recent history of the Coptic Church on this issue: it is most inspiring and encouraging. Let us take the Copts for our allies, in this and in other ways too.

Is it still a possibility, the Cardinals’ proposed fraternal correction of the Pope? We heard of this last November, and it surely lifted our beleaguered spirits. But now it is the end of April, and nothing has come of it. I cannot help but think of that passage from Shakespeare: There is a tide in the affairs of men…, and wonder if the tide has come and gone, and we the lay faithful are left stranded again.
Yet Cardinal Burke has recently said: “Until these questions are answered, there continues to spread a very harmful confusion in the Church, and one of the fundamental questions is in regards to the truth that there are some acts that are always and everywhere wrong, what we call intrinsically evil acts, and so, we cardinals, will continue to insist that we get a response to these honest questions.” (8)
Well, I hope so, dear Cardinals, I hope so. We the faithful, beg you: forget about calculating prudent outcomes. Real prudence should tell you when it is the right time for courageous witness, whose other name is martyrdom.

Pope Francis will not heed any fraternal correction, as John XXII once did. But you know what? It would not matter much even if he did publish some statement along those lines. Let one 24 hour news-cycle go by, and we had better not count on it that further utterances do not subtly undercut or openly contradict what was said the day before. If we have not learnt that about his manner by now, then we truly are the stupidest of sheep—or shepherds, as the case may be. Pardon me if I venture to say this, but, however we account for it, the papacy is not working right now in the Church. Until we face this reality, unbelievable as it may seem, we are bound in intimidation and illusion, and the way out that the Lord would open up for us will be deferred. What kind of prophet do you want to show you the times? Hananiah or Jeremiah? Choose.

What then is the plight of us the lay faithful in these days of severe trial in the Church? I could hardly better the following comment, to an article by the honourable and courageous struggler, Steve Skojec, on 1P5. Pray for Steve and his family. The author of the comment is Roderick Halvorsen from Santa, Idaho. He came into the Catholic Church from Protestantism some years ago, and has no intention of leaving, but sees the follies of liberal Protestantism metastasizing in the Catholic Church. He speaks here of us, the lay faithful: "But in reality, God is testing us. He is asking us to be in relationship with HIM, yes, personally and intimately and truly. He has taken all the “crutches” of Catholicism away; the power, the glory, the world’s respect, trustworthy leaders and models, in short, all the stuff that can be of assistance to the faith, but is unnecessary to the faith, and like wealth and worldly success, can be the source of a weakening of our faith, when we begin to shift our trust to the “culture” of the faith, instead of to the person of our faith: Jesus Christ." (9)

Jesus answered, and said to him: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23). To this abode, this abiding, this being hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3), therefore, we must go.

In the midst of social, cultural and ecclesial collapse, it is a wonderful thing, but I see signs of a common cause between monasticism and the lay faithful who are seeking this interior abiding with Christ. Rod Dreher’s the Benedict Option that appeared a few weeks ago, attests this movement. For not in efficient political programs, but ‘below radar’ so to speak, in the humble life of community ordered in Christ, monastic communities quietly established advance outposts of a new liturgical universe in the rubble of the western Roman empire. In other ways too, the lay faithful, and I have in mind especially the domestic churches of families, sense the worsening crises of these times, and intuit that for them the way of spiritual contest is in the local community, in the small, the hidden, the unimportant in this world’s eyes. They have little or no role in the ecclesiastical world, or perhaps in worldly success either. Such seekers hunger for an alternative liturgy of life and community, prayer and work, and some of them are sensing that deep monasticism has a word for them. A dear friend in the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, sadly soon to close, Conor Sweeney, likes to use the hobbits in Tolkien’s mythology as an analogy for this hidden alternative Christian lifestyle. For it was the hobbits, an insignificant folk, who had no part in the counsels of the mighty, who against all odds had the decisive role in overturning the powerful forces of the dark Lord threatening to engulf the whole of Middle Earth in a reign of savagery.

I have another friend, Michael Ryan, a married man and father, whose shining light of inspiration among the saints is St Bruno. Imagine it, the witness of the most intentionally contemplative monastic life in the Western Church, the Carthusians, a beacon of hope to the lay faithful? For deep monasticism is all about moné, ‘abode’ or ‘abiding’ in Christ, about waiting and watching with hope-filled faith, as ‘useful’ as the Prophet Habbakuk standing upon his watch and stationing himself on the watchtower, as ‘useful’ as Simeon and Anna haunting the temple and waiting their life long for the dawning light of salvation and knowing him when he came, as ‘useful’ as the women who sat at a distance and watched at our Lord’s tomb on the eve of the first Good Friday, as ‘useful’ as our all-holy Lady, Mary, taking her stand beside the Cross.

Perhaps prayer, prayer of this sort, is the most radically political act of all, and the very core of Christianity? Where O where have we Catholics been?

Our Lord himself used to rise long before dawn and watch in the night hours, even in the days of his busiest ministry. The disciples, awed one day by the mystery of his prayer, felt a deep wistful attraction: Lord, teach us to pray. This is the one emulous desire that we do need: Jesus, the one model to whose imitation we can give ourselves completely, and we will not be betrayed. Can we, is it at all possible to learn something of the sentiments that filled his human mind and heart in those solitary hours of intimacy with his Father? Yes we can, for in his great compassion he shared them with us in a form of words: sacred words, holy words of complete trustworthy power and truth:
Abba! Abbuna de b’ashmayo, yithqaddash shm’okh.

Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name…
Rome, April 22, 2017
(1) Tracey Rowland, Culture and the Thomist Tradition (London: Routledge 2003), 13.
(2) Above all he encouraged his priests not to deny communion to anyone, whether they be married, or cohabiting, or divorced and remarried. With no fuss and without making this decision public, the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires was already doing what the popes at the time prohibited, but he would later permit once he became pope.
—Sandro Magister, ‘The Man who had to be elected Pope’, http://www.onepeterfive.com/man-elected-... accessed Wednesday, April 5, 2017
(3) Relatio Synodi 2014, #52.
(4) https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-n...
(5) See Deacon Jim Russell, ‘Pope Francis ‘Time is greater than Space’: What does it mean?’, ,  ‘http://aleteia.org/2016/05/24/pope-francis-time-is-greater-than-space-what-does-it-mean/
(6) http://www.onepeterfive.com/pope-speakin... Friday, 7 April 2017
(7) Super Matthaeum, Cap.  V, l.  2. The original statement is: ‘Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.’
(8) From https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/03/27/b...

(9) ‘RTHEVR’ from the comments to “Archbishop of Malta Claims Fidelity to Pope on Exhortation Guidelines”, Steve Skojec, February 20, 2017, http://www.onepeterfive.com/archbishop-o... accessed Wednesday, February 22, 2017.

Monday 24 April 2017


On April 22, 2017 at the Hotel Columbus in Rome and in the vicinity of St. Peter's Square a conference took place called "Seeing Clarity: One year after Amoris Laetitia." It featured six eminent Catholic laymen who called on Pope Francis to answer the dubia of the four cardinals on the matter of certain passages in Amoris Laetitia, passages that undermine the Church's magisterial teaching on adultery, mortal sin and the Holy Eucharist.

This is the first of six, which will be posted on subsequent days.


by Claudio Pierantoni
Professor of Medieval Philosophy
University of Chile

In this presentation we will first briefly examine the incidents of two popes of antiquity, Liberius and Honorius, who for different reasons were accused of deviating from the Tradition of the Church, during the long Trinitarian and Christological controversy that occupied the Church from the 4th to the 7th century.

In the light of the reactions of the ecclesial body in the face of these doctrinal deviations, we will then examine the current debate that has developed around the proposals of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” and the five “dubia” raised by the four cardinals.

1. The case of Honorius

Honorius I was the only pope to have been formally condemned for heresy. We are in the early decades of the 7th century, in the context of the controversy over the two wills of Christ. Honorius upheld the doctrine of the one will in Christ, or “monothelitism”, which was however later declared to be in contrast with the dogma of the two natures, divine and human, a doctrine solidly founded on biblical revelation and solemnly decreed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Here is the text with which, in 681, after his death, the third ecumenical Council of Constantinople, the sixth ecumenical council, condemned him together with Patriarch Sergius:

“Having examined the dogmatic letters written by Sergius, in his time the patriarch of this imperial city. . . and the letter with which Honorius responded to Sergius, and having seen that they are not in keeping with the apostolic teachings and with the definitions of the holy councils and of all the illustrious holy Fathers, and that on the contrary they follow the false doctrines of the heretics, we reject them and execrate them as corruptive.”

2. The case of Liberius

Liberius was instead pope at one of the most delicate moments of the Arian controversy, halfway through the 4th century. His predecessor, Julius I, had tenaciously defended the faith established by the Council of Nicaea in 325, which declared the Son to be consubstantial with the Father. But Constantius, the emperor of the East, supported the majority position of the eastern bishops, contrary to Nicaea, which according to them did not leave room for the personal difference between the Father and the Son. He had the pope abducted, deposed, and sent into exile in Thrace, where after about a year he gave in.

Lberius thus renounced the faith of Nicaea and excommunicated Athanasius, who was its most significant defender. Now docile to the emperor, Liberius obtained permission to come back to Rome, where he was reinstalled as bishop. In the months that followed, all the pro-Arian prelates who had established their careers through the favor of Constantius consolidated their power in the main episcopal sees. This is the moment at which, according to the famous expression of Saint Jerome, “the world lamented that it had become Arian.” Of the more than one thousand bishops that Christendom numbered, only three stalwarts held firm in exile: Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, and Lucifer of Cagliari.

But Constantius died suddenly, in 361, and the emperor Julian, later called “the Apostate,” rose to the throne. He imposed the return of the Roman state to paganism, eliminated the whole ecclesiastical policy of Constantius at a stroke, and allowed the exiled bishops to go back to their jurisdictions. Free from threats, Pope Liberius sent an encyclical that declared invalid the formula he had previously approved, and required the bishops of Italy to accept the creed of Nicaea. In 366, in a synod celebrated in Rome shortly before he died, he even had the joy of obtaining the signature of the creed of Nicaea by a delegation of eastern bishops. As soon as he died he was venerated as a confessor of the faith, but devotion to him was soon interrupted because of the memory of his concession.

In spite of their differences, the two cases of Liberius and Honorius have in common an attenuating circumstance, and that is the fact that their respective doctrinal deviations took place when the respective doctrines were still being determined, that of the Trinity in the case of Liberius and the Christological one in the case of Honorius.

3. The case of Francis

However, the doctrinal deviation that is taking place during the current pontificate instead has an aggravating circumstance, because it is not countering doctrines that are still unclear, or still being determined, but doctrines that, in addition to being solidly anchored in Tradition, have also been exhaustively debated in recent decades and clarified in detail by the recent magisterium.

Of course, the doctrinal deviation in question was already present in recent decades and with it therefore was also the underground schism that this signified. But when one passes from an abuse at the practical level to its justification at the doctrinal level through a text of the pontifical magisterium like “Amoris Laetitia” and through positive statements and actions of the pontiff himself, the situation changes radically.

Let us see, in four points, the progress of this destruction of the deposit of the faith.


If marriage is indissoluble, and yet in some cases communion can be given to the divorced and remarried, it seems evident that this indissolubility is no longer considered absolute, but only a general rule that can admit exceptions.

Now this, as Cardinal Carlo Caffarra has explained well, contradicts the nature of the sacrament of marriage, which is not a simple promise, as solemn as it may be, made before God, but an action of grace that works at the genuinely ontological level. Therefore, when it is said that marriage is indissoluble, what is stated is not simply a general rule, but what is said is that ontologically marriage cannot be dissolved, because in it is contained the sign and the reality of the indissoluble marriage between God and his People, between Christ and his Church. And this mystical marriage is precisely the end of the whole divine plan of creation and redemption.


The author of “Amoris Laetitia” has instead chosen to insist, in his argumentation, on the subjective side of moral action. The subject, he says, may not be in mortal sin because, for various reasons, he is not fully aware that his situation constitutes adultery.

Now this, which in general terms can certtainly happen, in the utilization that “Amoris Laetitia” makes of it instead involves an evident contradiction. In fact, it is clear that the much-recommended discernment and accompaniment of individual situations directly contrast with the supposition that the subject remains, for an indefinite time, unaware of his situation.

But the author of “Amoris Laetitia,” far from perceiving this contradiction, pushes it to the further absurdity of affirming that an in-depth discernment can lead the subject to have the certainty that his situation, objectively contrary to the divine law, is precisely what God wants from him.


Recourse to the previous argument, in turn, betrays a dangerous confusion that in addition to the doctrine of the sacraments goes so far as to undermine the very notion of divine law, understood as the source of the natural law, reflected in the Ten Commandments: a law given to man because it is suited to regulating his fundamental behaviors, not limited to particular historical circumstances, but founded on his very nature, the author of which is none other than God.

Therefore, to suppose that the natural law may admit exceptions is a real and proper contradiction, it is a supposition that does not understand its true essence and therefore confuses it with positive law. The presence of this grave confusion is confirmed by the repeated attack, present in “Amoris Laetitia,” against the quibblers, the presumed “pharisees” who are hypocrites and hard of heart. This attack, in fact, betrays a complete misunderstanding of the position of Jesus toward the divine law, because his criticism of pharisaic behavior is based precisely on a clear distinction between positive law - the “precepts of men” - to which the pharisees are so attached, and the fundamental Commandments, which are instead the first requirement, indispensable, that he himself asks of the aspiring disciple. On the basis of this misunderstanding one understands the real reason why, after having so greatly insulted the pharisees, the pope ends up in de facto alignment with their own position in favor of divorce, against that of Jesus.

But, even more deeply, it is important to observe that this confusion profoundly distorts the very essence of the Gospel and its necessary grounding in the person of Christ.


Christ in fact, according to the Gospel, is not simply a good man who came into the world to preach a message of peace and justice. He is, first of all, the Logos, the Word who was in the beginning and who, in the fullness of time, becomes incarnate. It is significant that Benedict XVI, right from his homily “Pro eligendo romano pontifice,” made precisely the Logos the linchpin of his teaching, not by coincidence fought to the death by the subjectivism of the modern theories.

Now, in the realm of this subjectivist philosophy there is the justification of one of the postulates most dear to Pope Francis, according to which “realities are more important than ideas.” A maxim like this, in fact, makes sense only in a vision in which there cannot exist true ideas that not only faithfully reflect reality but can even judge and direct it. The Gospel, taken as a whole, presupposes this metaphysical and epistemological structure, where truth is in the first place the conforming of things to the intellect, and the intellect is in the first place that which is divine: indeed, the divine Word.

In this atmosphere it can be understood how it is possible that the editor of “La Civiltà Cattolica” could state that it is pastoral practice that must guide doctrine, and not the other way around, and that in theology “two plus two can equal five.” It explains why a Lutheran lady can receive communion together with her Catholic husband: the practice, in fact, the action, is that of the Lord’s Supper, which they have in common, while that in which they differ is only “the interpretations, the explanations,” mere concepts after all. But it also explains how, according to the superior general of the Society of Jesus, the incarnate Word is not capable of coming into contact with his creatures through the means that he himself chose, the apostolic Tradition: in fact, it would be necessary to know what Jesus truly said, but we cannot, he says, “since there was no recorder.”

Even more thoroughly in this atmosphere, finally, it is explained how the pope cannot answer “yes” or “no” to the “dubia.” If in fact “realities are more important than ideas,” then man does not even need to think with the principle of non-contradiction, he has no need of principles that say “this yes and this no” and must not even obey a transcendent natural law, which is not identified with reality itself. In short, man does not need a doctrine, because the historical reality suffices for itself. It is the “Weltgeist,” the Spirit of the World.

4. Conclusion

What leaps to the attention in the current situation is precisely the underlying doctrinal deformation that, as skillful as it may be in evading directly heterodox formulations, still maneuvers in a coherent way to carry forward an attack not only against particular dogmas like the indissolubility of marriage and the objectivity of the moral law, but even against the very concept of right doctrine, and with it, of the very person of Christ as Logos. The first victim of this doctrinal deformation is precisely the pope, who I hazard to conjecture is hardly aware of this, victim of a generalized epochal alienation from Tradition, in large segments of theological teaching.

In this situation, the “dubia,” these five questions presented by the four cardinals, have put the pope into a situation of stalemate. If he were to respond by denying Tradition and the magisterium of his predecessors, he would also be heretic formally, so he cannot do it. But if he were to respond in harmony with the previous magisterium, he would contradict many of the doctrinally significant actions carried out during his pontificate, so it would be a very difficult choice. He has therefore chosen silence because, humanly, the situation can seem to have no way out. But meanwhile, the confusion and the “de facto” schism are spreading in the Church.

In the light of all this, it therefore becomes more necessary than ever to make a further act of courage, truth, and charity, on the part of the cardinals but also of the bishops and then of all the qualified laity who would like to adhere to it. In such a serious situation of danger for the faith and of generalized scandal, it is not only licit but even obligatory to frankly address a fraternal correction to Peter, for his good and that of the whole Church.

A fraternal correction is neither an act of hostility, nor a lack of respect, nor an act of disobedience. It is nothing other than a declaration of truth: “caritas in veritate.” The pope, even before being pope, is our brother.