Archive for the ‘The State of the Catholic Church’ Category

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The Nature and Scope Of Religious Freedom In Our Contemporary Culture

February 24, 2014
ANGELO CARDINAL SCOLA, previously the Patriarch of Venice, was named Archbishop of Milan in 2011. The longing for truth respects the freedom of all, even of the person who calls himself agnostic, indifferent, or atheist.

ANGELO CARDINAL SCOLA, previously the Patriarch of Venice, was named Archbishop of Milan in 2011. The longing for truth respects the freedom of all, even of the person who calls himself agnostic, indifferent, or atheist.

Every 3rd Sunday of the month I am off to St. Clement’s Eucharistic Shrine in Boston to participate in a Communio study group. The group chooses an article from The Catholic journal Communio for discussion and each member leads a discussion on it. This Sunday it was my turn and we read an article titled The Nature and Scope Of Religious Freedom In Our Contemporary Culture by Angelo Cardinal Scola, previously the Patriarch of Venice and currently the Archbishop of Milan. I posed a Q&A on the article and here are my notes.

If you would enjoy Catholic fellowship and a discussion group on Catholic topics, join us. Happy to provide information to any interested. Leave a comment and I will get back to you.

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Q:    What was the significance of the Edict of Milan?

A     It marked not only the gradual ending of the persecutions of the Christians but, above all, the birth of religious freedom. In a certain sense, we can trace as far back as the Edict of Milan the very first emergence in history of the two phenomena that today we call “religious freedom” and “the secular state”.

Q:    The author speaks of “the grave contradictions linked to the practice and conception of religious freedom.” What are some of those contradictions that arose over time?

A     Ambrose wrote that Christians should be loyal to the civil authority, while at the same time he taught that the civil authority must guarantee freedom to citizens on the personal and social level. In this way there developed recognition of the boundaries of the public weal, whose security citizens and authority alike are called to ensure together.

In the early years of Christianity social disorders connected with the phenomenon of heretics invalidated the framework of religious freedom and the secular state that Ambrose and the Edict of Milan had established.

The Protestant Reformation led to an intensification of the rigid admixture [vocab: The state of being mingled or mixed] of political power and religion that culminated in the Wars of Religion.

The French Revolution introduced the idea of the absolute autonomy of the individual and society in respect to God and his Church. The Church responded in Dignitatis humanae by stating that the right to religious freedom implies immunity from coercion in a twofold sense: man has the right not to be constrained to act against his conscience and at the same time not to be prevented from acting in conformity with it.

Q:    How did the promulgation of the Declaration Dignitatis humanae fundamentally change the classic doctrine of religious tolerance developed after the Edict of Milan?

A     Dignitatis humanae stated that the human person has a right to religious freedom, and this right continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. Dignitatis humanae shifted the issue of religious freedom from the notion of truth to the notion of the rights of a human person .Although error may have no rights, a person has rights even when he or she is wrong. This is, of course, not a right before God; it is a right with respect to other people, the community and the State.

The moral law in question is a negative right that adequately establishes the limits of the state and of the civil powers, denying them any direct competence in the area of religious choice. Understood in this way, the right to religious freedom implies immunity from coercion in a twofold sense: man has the right not to be constrained to act against his conscience and at the same time not to be prevented from acting in conformity with it.

Q:    What does the affirmation of religious freedom entail (really mean)?

A     The affirmation of religious freedom is the acquisition of a renewed knowledge of truth and, as such, always constitutes the start of a journey more than an arrival point. In this case it really means the acknowledgement of a crisis:

  1. In countries still governed by atheist dictatorships, persecution of dissidents and members of religious communities continues to be common practice.
  2. In Western Europe and the U.S. several frequent legal acts and decisions have been taken in the West which tend to coercively prevent the full expression of religious freedom: from prohibitions of conscientious objection in a professional sphere to the ban on wearing and showing religious symbols to the obligatory teaching even in religion schools of subjects based on an anthropology or a scientism which is opposed to one’s own creed

Q:    Contemporary neo-liberalism (Think Barack Obama or Andrew Cuomo) advances the idea (née conceit) of a neutral state, one that is in-different to religious phenomena which are labeled in the article as secularity of laicité.  Describe the position citing examples from the article:

A     In no particular order:

  1. A vision of public power as the defender of a secularity (laicité) that is extraneous to and mistrusts — or even discriminates against — any religious group or institution
  2. Encourages a cultural prejudice, i.e., the idea of identifying — in a way that is more practical than theoretical — what is secular with what is non-religious. In this way, the public arena is willing to accommodate all different visions and practices other than the religious ones.
  3. Takes on a secularist orientation which, by means of legislative choices, especially in matters of a sensitive anthropological nature, becomes hostile toward cultural identities of religious origin.
  4. By means of the objectivity and the authority of the law, it spreads a culture that is a secularized vision of man and of the world that improperly limits religious freedom.
  5. Takes on a secularist orientation by means of an anthropological vision marked by a profound individualism with an undue emphasis on “rights” rather than duties or obligations and the exercise of/moral conscience. Freedom “from” rather than freedom “to.”
  6. Elevating a scientistic and technocratic political culture at the expense of the religious.

Q     When Cardinal Scola speaks to the notion of religious freedom he encounters what he calls a complex knot of “classic problems.” One is the relationship “between objective truth and individual conscience.” What do you think he means by that?

A     A reference to a kind of Vatican short hand shown in this quote from Veritatis Splendour, encyclical letter of John Paul II:

The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the “heart” of the person, in his moral conscience. As the Second Vatican Council observed: “In the depths of his conscience man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience can when necessary speak to his heart more specifically: ‘do this, shun that’. For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged (cf. Romans 2:14-16)”. 101  The way in which one conceives the relationship between freedom and law is thus intimately bound up with one’s understanding of the moral conscience. Here the cultural tendencies referred to above – in which freedom and law are set in opposition to each other and kept apart, and freedom is exalted almost to the point of idolatry – lead to a “creative” understanding of moral conscience, which diverges from the teaching of the Church’s tradition and her Magisterium.
Veritatis Splendour, #54

Q     The following is a reading selection from pp 326-27 about some of the features of American neo-liberalism. How does it contrast with your understanding of what the American Founding Fathers had in mind or traditional American religious values vis-à-vis the state?

Contemporary neo-liberalism has taken positions that try to found what is political on procedures that are totally neutral with regard to any “substantive” vision, wanting to guarantee an active neutrality. In some cases, however, this even goes so far as to theorize that people who believe in a truth must be marginalized from liberal political debate… it is now a widespread conception in European juridical and political culture, particularly within European institutions. This conception interprets the categories of religious freedom in the light of the so-called “neutrality” of the state, and tends to become an institutional negative prejudice toward the religious phenomenon, instead of protecting an irreducible distinction between state and religions…. [It] encourages the idea of identifying – in a way that is more practical than theoretical — what is secular with what is non-religious. In this way, the public arena is willing to accommodate all different visions and practices other than the religious ones. … By means of the objectivity and the authority of the law, a culture spreads that is marked by a secularized vision of man and of the world, which is a legitimate voice in a plural society, but which the state cannot assume as its own, without implicitly taking up a position which improperly limits religious freedom. … Consequently, the so-called “neutral” state is not, in fact, impartial, in cultural terms. Rather, it takes on a secularist orientation which, by means of legislative choices, especially in matters of a sensitive anthropological nature, becomes hostile toward cultural identities of religious origin.
pp 326-327

Q     Based on the reading what is the difference between a non-confessional state and a secular state?

A     Couldn’t find it but I found this (my previous post on PayingAttentiontotheSky.com):  A non-confessional state is one in which no religious belief is given precedence over any other. The government refrains from favoring or imposing one particular world view, and, without being dogmatic about it, tries insofar as is possible to treat different religious communities evenhandedly. This presumably is what the majority of the American founding fathers had in mind. A secularist state, on the other hand, is one in which religion as such — the notion or even mention of God — is as far as possible excluded from public life, public affairs, and public documents — with the purpose of eventually making godlessness, coupled with a humanistic adulation of man and his achievements, the reigning belief of the majority of citizens. This is the current American state.

Q     Were the American founding fathers being inconsistent when, in establishing equal treatment (at least in theory) for all religious denominations, they allowed references to God and the natural law in their Declaration of Independence and their Constitution?

A     I (Philip Trower, previous post, speaking here) would say No, because belief in a Creator, in the natural law, and in a moral conscience are not matters of faith. They are logical inferences based on the evidence, and as such are acts of reason within all men’s reach. This is at least implicitly recognized in the Vatican II documents on religious liberty.

Q     After describing a crisis in our current state of affairs living under secularism, Scola asks how are we to find a remedy for this serious state of affairs? What is his solution?

A     Recognizing that under the Edict of Milan (313) a) Adherence to truth is possible only in a voluntary and personal way, and b) external coercion is contrary to its nature, it has to be acknowledged that the realization of this double condition hinges on a presupposed personal commitment to truth. Indeed, to follow “the duty, and even the right, to seek the truth” (DH, 3) releases religious freedom from the suspicion of being just another name for religious indifferentism, which, in turn, presents a precise worldview, at least practically speaking. In the present historical moment, the worldview of religious indifferentism tends to dominate the others.

Q     What is Truth to the secular vision?

A     Truth is conceived only in relation to the subject and the subject’s freedom (which more than occasionally declines into subjectivism and its consequent relativism), it is, however, also true that religious adherence to established traditions is lived, too often, as a mere reaction. It is thus increasingly conceived solely in terms of public, community, and social life, to the point where it is quite difficult today to find cases in which the words “private,” “intimate,” “interiority,” “particular” and “individual” are used without a derogatory connotation.

Q     What does “a search for truth in the existential sense” mean for religious freedom and how does the current secularist state view it?

A     A search for truth in the existential sense still remains an inescapable part of life. However the secularism that embraces us encourages that the very idea of the search for a truth that is ultimate and therefore religious is simply losing any meaning.

Q     “A faith that is lived integrally” What does that mean to religious freedom?

A     The recognition of the fact that a faith that is lived integrally has an anthropological, social, and cosmological importance, which carries extremely concrete political consequences with it. If in every sphere of human existence, including the political, one witnesses to one’s convictions, this does not infringe anyone’s right. On the contrary, in the moment in which one promotes it, one sets in motion the virtuous search for the “noble compromise” (cum-promitto) on specific goods of an ethic, social, cultural, economic, and political nature. Where it is not possible to agree with other members of a pluralistic society on unrenounceable principles, one can resort to conscientious objection. It is more necessary than ever, today, to reflect deeply on the social dimension of conscientious objection, a reflection that is sadly still lacking.

Q     How are we to react then to the objection of a secular society that does not perceive an obligation to seek the truth in order to adhere to it? How does the Truth seek us? How does that longing for Truth affect society and religious freedom?

A     Our free invitation to them to reflect on what it means to have the obligation and the right to search for the truth is crucial. Augustine, a genius at giving expression to human anxiety, had grasped the secret of it, as Benedict XVI observes: “It is not we who possess the Truth after having sought it, but the Truth that seeks us out and possesses us.” In this sense, it is truth itself, through the significance of the relations and circumstances of life in which each person is a protagonist, which presents itself as the “serious event” in human existence and the shared life of human beings. The truth which seeks us out is evidenced in the irrepressible longing which makes man aspire to it: Quid enim forties desiderat anima quam veritatem? [What does the soul desire more strongly than the truth?] This longing respects the freedom of all, even of the person who calls himself agnostic, indifferent, or atheist. Religious freedom would otherwise be an empty word. The claim for religious freedom would become absolutely empty if we did not suppose the existence of human beings who personally and intimately cannot renounce the desire to adhere to an ultimate truth that determines their life.

Q:    What is the duty of the state vis–à–vis religious freedom

A     To guarantee space for public expression of religion (a safety zone which guarantees the inviolability of a human space) and communication between subjects.

Q:    What is the role of the laity in society?

A     It is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.” This is not an invitation to pursue hegemony or domination, but rather the recognition of the fact that a faith that is lived integrally has an anthropological, social, and cosmological importance, which carries extremely concrete political consequences with it. If in every sphere of human existence, including the political, one witnesses to one’s convictions, this does not infringe anyone’s right. On the contrary, in the moment in which one promotes it, one sets in motion the virtuous search for the “noble compromise” (cum-promitto) on specific goods of an ethic, social, cultural, economic, and political nature. Where it is not possible to agree with other members of a pluralistic society on unrenounceable principles, one can resort to conscientious objection. It is more necessary than ever, today, to reflect deeply on the social dimension of conscientious objection, a reflection that is sadly still lacking.

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Secularism as a State Religion — by Philip Trower

February 20, 2014
The rapid transformation of traditional Anglo-Saxon liberalism and non-confessionalism -- with its well-intentioned attempts to be genuinely fair to everyone in religion as in everything else -- into dogmatic French-style secularism, bent on establishing godlessness as the dominant and privileged world view, seems to me the most significant development of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The most notable illustration of this change has been the recently drafted constitution for a federal Europe, drawn up under the chairmanship of former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, which excludes any mention of Christianity as a formative influence on European culture, attributing everything good in that culture to the Greeks and Romans or the 18th century Enlightenment. What we are hearing in this preposterous document, I would say, can legitimately be called secularist fundamentalism, even secularist fanaticism.

The rapid transformation of traditional Anglo-Saxon liberalism and non-confessionalism — with its well-intentioned attempts to be genuinely fair to everyone in religion as in everything else — into dogmatic French-style secularism, bent on establishing godlessness as the dominant and privileged world view, seems to me the most significant development of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The most notable illustration of this change has been the recently drafted constitution for a federal Europe, drawn up under the chairmanship of former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, which excludes any mention of Christianity as a formative influence on European culture, attributing everything good in that culture to the Greeks and Romans or the 18th century Enlightenment. What we are hearing in this preposterous document, I would say, can legitimately be called secularist fundamentalism, even secularist fanaticism.

Philip Trower, a veteran English Catholic journalist, is the author of Turmoil andTruth: the Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church (Ignatius, 2003). This article first appeared in the March 2004 issue of Catholic World Report.

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Western cultures are losing sight of the critical distinction between a non-confessional state and a secularist state.

At last someone has said it. At least as far as I know, it’s the first time it’s been said in a major English newspaper. On September 20 of last year, the Daily Telegraph — England’s largest quality national daily — carried an article about the problems the French government is having with some of its Muslims. “At the start of the school year,” the report ran, “several Muslim girls nationwide were suspended or expelled for arriving at schools with their heads covered.” In most French state schools this is forbidden. The French educational authorities see the wearing of headscarves by Muslim girls in state schools as a statement of religious belief, which — in the words of the relevant government document — would “constitute an act of intimidation, provocation, proselytizing, or propaganda.”

To defuse this potentially explosive situation, the French education ministry has appointed a special official to mediate between the Muslims and the local education authorities. The press have nicknamed this official “Madame Foulard” — Mrs. Headscarf.

Meanwhile in the northeastern industrial city of Lille, a group of parents and businessmen, following the long established practice of French Catholics and Orthodox Jews, confronted with the determinedly secularist nature of French state education, have set up the first Muslim secondary school in France. The students’ parents each pay just under $1,000 a year; the main funding comes from the businessmen. In short, Muslims-like other religious believers in France, where there are no tax rebates for education — will soon be paying twice for their children’s education: paying directly out-of-pocket for the schooling that their children actually receive, and indirectly through taxes for an education they prefer not to have.

However, this tax treatment was not the subject that attracted my attention and set me thinking as I read this report. It was, rather, a remark by the young Muslim administrator of the school, when he was interviewed by the press. “Secularism,” he said, “has become a new religion.” Indeed it has, and in a sense it always was. But why has it taken a young Muslim to notice it? Perhaps because, although now a French citizen, he is still able to look at Western civilization from outside, and therefore see certain things more objectively.

If most Westerners remain blind to what was all but self-evident to this young cultural “outsider,” it is no doubt because they are committed to the idea of the non-confessional state, and fail to see how it differs from a secularist state.

Apostolic Atheism
A non-confessional state is one in which no religious belief is given precedence over any other. The government refrains from favoring or imposing one particular world view, and, without being dogmatic about it, tries insofar as is possible to treat different religious communities evenhandedly. This presumably is what the majority of the American founding fathers had in mind.

Whether a non-confessional state can or should treat different codes of behavior impartially is a separate question. You can hardly have a nation or state with a plurality of codes of behavior — not at least about fundamentals and if that is the case, where are the basic precepts of such a national code to come from? This is a problem that the American founding fathers do not seem to have considered. It probably never occurred to them that any considerable body of citizens would one day question the truth of the natural law as formulated in the Ten Commandments.

A secularist state, on the other hand, is one in which religion as such — the notion or even mention of God — is as far as possible excluded from public life, public affairs, and public documents — with the purpose of eventually making godlessness, coupled with a humanistic adulation of man and his achievements, the reigning belief of the majority of citizens.

Such was the aim of anti-clerical French governments from 1870 to 1914. A high proportion of the republican politicians of that era were, in their own peculiar way, as apostolically atheist as Marx and Lenin; their teacher-training colleges were like seminaries, formed for the production of dedicated young apostles of unbelief, and a similar mindset apparently continues to permeate the thinking of an influential part of contemporary French officialdom. Hence the whole fuss about headscarves.

Atheism of this sort, which is a peculiarly modern phenomenon, deserves to be classified as a religion — at least from a governmental and legal perspective because it promotes its own fully formed view of the origin and meaning of life, offers its own form of salvation, and is zealously missionary and illiberal toward other world views or belief systems. In the rapidly approaching secularized European states (or pan-European state, governed from Brussels or elsewhere), atheism of this breed could become as much a state religion as it was in the Soviet Union — even if it is applied with more polish and less brutality.

Equal Mistreatment
Returning to the non-confessional state, one might ask: Were the American founding fathers being inconsistent when, in establishing equal treatment (at least in theory) for all religious denominations, they allowed references to God and the natural law in their Declaration of Independence and their Constitution?

I would say No, because belief in a Creator, in the natural law, and in a moral conscience are not matters of faith. They are logical inferences based on the evidence, and as such are acts of reason within all men’s reach. This is at least implicitly recognized in the Vatican II document on religious liberty.

Atheism is, by comparison, an act of unreason. It is much more reasonable to believe that the universe with all its complex structures is the work of a Mighty Intelligence than that it generated itself by accident and sustains itself without cause.

This obviously does not mean that atheists are all unintelligent. There are many reasons why people become atheists. Vatican II gives as one of them the bad example of believers; that is a melancholy truth. However, it no more constitutes an argument against belief than the evidence of bad lawyers is an argument against having laws, or people to administer them. The problem of evil is another major stumbling block. But whatever the grounds for unbelief, it is a matter of self-deception, or else of faith in human thinkers like Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, or Freud.

All this being the case, if devout little secularists and their parents feel intimidated or provoked by references to God and to religion in public places one can see no reason why in a genuinely non confessional (rather than secularist) state, religious believers should not enjoy an equal right to feel intimidated and provoked by God’s exclusion.

The rapid transformation of traditional Anglo-Saxon liberalism and non-confessionalism — with its well-intentioned attempts to be genuinely fair to everyone in religion as in everything else — into dogmatic French-style secularism, bent on establishing godlessness as the dominant and privileged world view, seems to me the most significant development of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It is not perhaps as noticeable in the United States as in Europe, where there is no strong “Religious Right” to make politicians and seculists cautious about what they say or do. However in Europe we see small and large signs of the accelerating change every week, even every day.

The most notable illustration of this change has been the recently drafted constitution for a federal Europe, drawn up under the chairmanship of former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, which excludes any mention of Christianity as a formative influence on European culture, attributing everything good in that culture to the Greeks and Romans or the 18th century Enlightenment. What we are hearing in this preposterous document, I would say, can legitimately be called secularist fundamentalism, even secularist fanaticism.

That is why I believe one of the greatest services we can do our fellow citizens today is to help them recognize the crucial difference between a non-confessional state and a secularist state — so that the principles of the former can be manipulated as little as possible to advance the cause of the latter.

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Fire Upon the Earth — Charles J. Chaput

October 15, 2013
Reubens, The Entombment of Christ Flemish, about 1612. Peter Paul Rubens depicted the moment after the Crucifixion and before the Resurrection when Christ is placed into the tomb. He is being supported by those closest to him in life: John the Evangelist, in a brilliant red robe, bears the weight of Christ; Mary Magdalene cries in the background; while Mary, the mother of James the Younger and Joseph, bows her head in sorrow. Mary, the mother of Christ, cradles his head and looks heavenward for divine intercession. The Entombment was meant to make the viewer's religious experience personal and encourage the faithful to imagine the physical horror of Christ's Crucifixion. Christ's tortured features confront the viewer, and our attention is focused on his corpse, sacrifice, and suffering. Wounds are openly displayed: blood flows from the gaping laceration in Christ's side and the puncture wounds on his hands. Rubens contrasted the living and the dead by juxtaposing the lifeless body and green-tinged skin of Christ with the healthy complexion of St. John.

Reubens, The Entombment of Christ Flemish, about 1612. Peter Paul Rubens depicted the moment after the Crucifixion and before the Resurrection when Christ is placed into the tomb. He is being supported by those closest to him in life: John the Evangelist, in a brilliant red robe, bears the weight of Christ; Mary Magdalene cries in the background; while Mary, the mother of James the Younger and Joseph, bows her head in sorrow. Mary, the mother of Christ, cradles his head and looks heavenward for divine intercession. The Entombment was meant to make the viewer’s religious experience personal and encourage the faithful to imagine the physical horror of Christ’s Crucifixion. Christ’s tortured features confront the viewer, and our attention is focused on his corpse, sacrifice, and suffering. Wounds are openly displayed: blood flows from the gaping laceration in Christ’s side and the puncture wounds on his hands. Rubens contrasted the living and the dead by juxtaposing the lifeless body and green-tinged skin of Christ with the healthy complexion of St. John.

These remarks from Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., the Archbishop of Philadelphia, were delivered the evening of October 1 at Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary as part of a Year of Faith discussion series. A reblog from First Things.

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In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks the first words of his adult ministry not to his family or to his friends — but to his adversary, Satan, in the desert. He says,“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus begins his public ministry with these first words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”

My goal tonight is to speak about personal conversion and the new evangelization, through the lens of the Year of Faith. And I’d like to do that in three steps. First, I’ll revisit what a “year of faith” is, and why Pope Benedict felt we needed one. Second, I’ll talk about Pope Francis and the new spirit he brings to witnessing our faith as a Church. And third and most important, I’ll speak about what we need to do, and how we need to live, going forward — in other words, how we might share our faith so fully and joyfully that we truly become God’s lumen gentium, God’s “light to the nations.”

Before we start though, I want to go back to those two verses from Matthew and Mark, because they frame our whole discussion tonight.

This is the verse from Matthew: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In the Gospel, when Jesus says these words, he’s ravenous from forty days in the desert. But he’s speaking with the devil here about a great deal more than bread. Men and women need food and shelter to survive. These things are basic to their dignity. But they need God to be fully alive. Human beings are more than a bundle of appetites. Our longings go beyond what we can see and touch and taste. We were made for God. And material answers to questions of the soul can never be more than a narcotic. The proof is all around us. So much of the suffering in modern American life — we see it every day — can be traced to our misdirected desires, and the distractions we use to feed them. We look for joy and purpose in things that can never give us either.

Here’s the verse from Mark: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. This is one of the key moments in all of Scripture. Jesus comes out of the desert on fire with the presence of his Father. He calls on us to wake up from the darkness in our lives. He speaks with passion and urgency. And that’s how we need to hear his words, because time matters. Time is the only thing in life we truly own, and none of us has more than a little of it. God is near. The kingdom is coming. What we do right now to prepare for it — tonight, tomorrow, and for however long God gives us in the world — has consequences not only for ourselves, but for the people we touch with our lives.

The kingdom of God is at hand. God’s kingdom builds on two foundation stones in the human heart: repentance and belief. Repentance makes us new, and it makes us sane. It makes us new because it gives us a chance to begin again by healing the evil we’ve done. It makes us sane because it’s an act of humility and truth telling. It forces us to look honestly at who we are, how we’ve failed, and the people we’ve wounded. And belief — specifically belief in the gospel, belief in the “good news,” because that’s what the Old English word “god-spell” means — gives us the ability to hope that despite all our failures, despite our insignificance and sins, the greatness of God’s love can reach down and redeem even us. We have a future, we have meaning, we have hope for something more than this life, because we belong to a people that God calls his own and loves without limits. And he proves his love with the sacrifice of his own son.

That brings us to the first step in our talk tonight:

What A “Year Of Faith” Is, And Why Pope Benedict Felt We Needed One
Benedict announced the current Year of Faith in his apostolic letter Porta Fidei, or “Door of Faith.” The Year began on October 11, 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It ends next month on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

A Year of Faith is a time set aside by the Church to focus on the meaning of our baptism — in other words, who we are, what we believe, and how we’re called to act as a Christian community. Pope Paul VI announced the last Year of Faith in 1967, hoping to heal the ambiguity and turmoil in the Church that followed Vatican II. That was a turbulent time. And yet, despite the confusion of the ’60s, Paul led a Church that still had a strong memory of her own unity and purpose. The Church pursued her mission in a developed world that was still broadly influenced by a Christian moral vision and vocabulary.

Times have changed over the past five decades. In many ways, the challenges facing the Church in the world, and the fractures even within her own house, have grown more difficult. In Pope Benedict’s words, we now live in a world marked by “a profound crisis of faith.” And this fact shaped the course of his entire pontificate.

In Porta Fidei, Benedict listed three reasons for calling a Year of Faith. He hoped Christians would be led to profess the faith more fully and with conviction; to deepen their encounter with Jesus Christ in the Liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, and to witness the faith more credibly by the example of their lives. He stressed that “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith [involves] choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him.” Therefore faith, “precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes.”

Above all, in living the Year of Faith, Benedict wanted the Church and her pastors to recover the courage and zeal “to lead people out of the desert toward the place of life,” toward the God who gives us life in abundance.

Now those are beautiful words. We need to take them to heart. The image of man’s “crisis of faith” as a desert is a powerful one, and true. But if surgeons have just saved your child from cancer, it can be very hard to see the modern world as wounded or empty of meaning. Vatican II understood this clearly in describing the modern age as a patchwork of light and shadow. There’s enormous beauty and good in the world. Humanity has achieved great things. We have a right to take joy and pride in them.

But just as we can often learn the right lessons from a failure, we can also learn the wrong lessons from success. Rich or poor, mighty or weak, every one of us is mortal. Every one of us will die. And so will every one of the people we love. It’s profoundly rational to ask what our lives mean; to acknowledge the limits of our reasoning and senses; and to hope for and seek something more than this life. But these questions — so urgent, so fundamental — are exactly the ones modern life buries under a mudflow of distractions and narcotics.

One of the conceits of our age is the idea that reason and science have banished superstition and brought a new era of light to human affairs. Faith, sin, heaven, hell, God and grace — these are throwback ideas to a dark age of supernatural mumbo jumbo and witch burnings, doomed to the dustbin of history. In effect, this is the atheist version of a creation myth. It’s a sunny theory. And for people who imagine themselves as materialists, it can be very comforting.

But it’s false. As scholars like Christian Smith and many others have shown, there’s really no such thing as an “unbeliever.” We all put our faith in something. In fact, we all believe in things we can’t see or prove every day, including the premises we use to organize our understanding of reality. Science operates off first principles — in other words, assumptions about the nature of reality — that can never be proven by science itself.

The cultural power of science comes from its ability to explain many of the observable workings of reality, and also from the technology it creates, which can be very useful in humanity’s service. The trouble is that scientists are also directly or indirectly responsible for Sarin gas, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the technology that murdered six million Jews and the “morning after” abortion pill. Both of the great murder ideologies of the last century — Marxism-Leninism and National Socialism — based their claims to legitimacy on science. More human beings were gassed, starved, aborted, burned, or shot in the name of genetic and racial hygiene, or the laws of history, or scientific materialism in the twentieth century than died in all the previous nineteen centuries of religious conflict and persecution combined.

Some years ago Alasdair MacIntyre wrote that the “new dark ages [are] already upon us” — a darkness brought on not by religion, but by the vanity, moral confusion and failure of the Enlightenment. The key difference between the sixth century and our own, said McIntyre, is that this time “[the] barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this [fact] that constitutes part of our predicament.”

MacIntyre’s words may explain a lot about the framework of Catholic thought over the past two hundred years. The Church is a global community. But her heartland for centuries has been Europe. Issues in Europe and the developed world have tended to mold her agenda. Quite apart from the mistakes and sins of her own leaders, the Church in Europe in the years since the Enlightenment has faced constant pressure from revolutionary violence, intellectual contempt, ideological atheism, idolatry of the nation state, two disastrous world wars, and mass genocides. And Catholic attempts to hold on to the Church’s privileges have often made conflicts worse.

Today a new and even more effective atheism — the practical atheism of an advanced but morally empty liberal consumer culture — is pushing the Church to society’s margins. This, on a European continent that owes much of its identity and history to the Christian faith. And we can see some of the same trends now in Canada and the United States.

Obviously I’m using a very broad brush here. There’s no way to squeeze a couple of centuries of Church life into a few sentences. But thinking like this has helped me imagine what God may hope for us in the leadership of our new universal pastor and bishop of Rome. And that brings us to the second step in my talk tonight:

Pope Francis And The New Spirit He Brings To Witnessing Our Faith As A Church
Pope Francis issued his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei or “Light of Faith,” in June — just three months after his installation. Benedict clearly helped shape the text. But Popes don’t put their names on major teaching documents unless they believe in the content. So in seeking to understand Francis, it’s worth hearing some of his words from Lumen Fidei.

Here’s a passage. “Faith consists in the willingness to let ourselves be constantly transformed and renewed by God’s call . . . The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms life and sustain it in being.”

Here’s another. “Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers . . . Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: It comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed.”

Here’s a third. “In the Bible, the heart is the core of the human person, where all his or her different dimensions intersect: body and spirit, interiority and openness to the world and to others, intellect, will and affectivity . . . Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love.”

And here’s a fourth and final passage. “[Love] requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time . . . [And if] love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth are inseparable.”

My point is this: Anyone hoping for — or worried about — a break by Pope Francis from Catholic teaching on matters of substance is going to be mistaken. At the same time, the tone of this pontificate will certainly be distinct from anything in the past century. Pope Francis has been formed by experiences very unlike the factors that shaped John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

Francis said shortly after his election that the cardinals had chosen a bishop of Rome from the “[far] end of the world.” Argentina may be the most European of Latin American countries, but Pope Francis’ world as a priest and bishop has been the global South, the problems that wound it and the poor who inhabit it.

Last Sunday’s reading from the Book of Amos (6:1, 4-7) — “Woe to the complacent in Zion, lying on beds of ivory” — would resonate with this Pope in a uniquely vivid way. So would the Gospel reading from Luke (16:19-31) about the Rich Man and Lazarus. In other words, Pope Francis comes to the moral and cultural struggles of the Church in the North from a different perspective.

A lot of commentators have already analyzed the recent La Civilta Cattolica interview with Pope Francis. I wrote about it myself last week. I won’t revisit what I said here. But I do want to highlight some words in the interview that struck me as a clue to the way his Pope thinks about the future. The interviewer asked Pope Francis about the relationship between the “ancient” Churches of the developed world, the global North, and the “young” Churches of the developing world, including the global South. The Holy Father answered this way:

The young Catholic Churches, as they grow, develop a synthesis of faith, culture and life, and so it is a synthesis different from the one developed by the ancient Churches. For me, the relationship between the ancient Catholic Churches and the young ones is similar to the relationship between young and elderly people in a society. They build the future, the young ones with their strength and the others with their wisdom. You always run some risks, of course. The younger Churches are likely to feel self-sufficient; the ancient ones are likely to want to impose on the younger Churches their cultural models. But we build the future together.

How that future will play out is unclear. It holds opportunity and risk; ambiguity and hope. But God is in charge. God will guide his Church. And God will fill this holy man who is our Pope with the wisdom to lead us well.

That brings us to the third and last step in these thoughts tonight:

What We As Catholics Need To Do, And How We Need To Live, In The Years Ahead
I think we make a mistake when we identify the “new evangelization” too closely with techniques or technologies or programs. It’s true that using the new means of communication to advance the Gospel is important. We just founded the Cardinal John Foley Chair in social communications here at the seminary. And I’m glad we did. Today’s mass media are reshaping society. They influence how we think, what we buy and how we live. We need to understand the language and master the tools of the modern world. Through them, with God’s help, we can do a better job of bringing Jesus Christ to our people, and our people to Jesus Christ.

But the main instrument of the new evangelization is the same as the old evangelization. It’s you and me. There’s no way around those words: Repent and believe in the gospel. The world will change only when you change, when we change, because hearts are won by personal witness. And we can’t share what we don’t have.

The words and habits of religion are easy. We can sometimes use them to fool ourselves. We need to drill down below the counterfeit Christianity so many of us prefer into the substance of who we are and what we really treasure. We need to let God transform us from the inside out, and conversion requires humility, patience and love. It requires letting go of the desire to vindicate ourselves at the expense of others. So much of modern life, even in the Church, is laced with a spirit of anger. And anger is an addiction as intense and as toxic as crack.

Pharisees come in all shapes and sizes, left and right. We need to be different. As Pope Francis said in his La Civilta Cattolica interview, the Church needs to be more than “a nest protecting our mediocrity.” We prove or disprove what we claim to believe by the zeal and joy of our lives. What we need to do in the years ahead is what God has always asked us to do: forgive each other; encourage each other; protect the weak; serve the needy; raise the young in virtue; speak with courage; and work for the truth without ceasing — always in a spirit of love.

There’s a passage in The Confessions where St. Augustine writes “My weight is my love.” For Augustine, the more our hearts burn with the love of God, the more the heat of that love carries us upward into his presence. And I think this is exactly what Jesus means in the Gospel of Luke, when he says “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled.” A world on fire with the love of God is a world redeemed; a world lifted up on the heat of that love into the arms of God.

The reason the world has paused for Pope Francis — if only for a little while — is that so many people sense in him something more than himself; not just God’s truth and God’s justice, but God’s tenderness. It’s the tenderness Charles Peguy captured in his poem “God’s Dream,” where God says:

[From] those who share my dreams
I ask a little patience,
a little humor,
some small courage,
and a listening heart –
I will do the rest.

Then they will risk,
and wonder at their daring;
run — and marvel at their speed;
build — and stand in awe of the beauty of their building . . .

So come now –
Be content.
It is my dream you dream,
my house you build,
my caring you witness,
my love you share.

And this is the heart of the matter.

The heart of the matter is God’s love. It always has been. It always will be. So as we draw to the close of this Year of Faith, may God turn our hearts to him, and make us a “fire upon the earth” — a fire that lifts up his creation in love.

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No Longer Needed – Derek Jeter

April 29, 2013
While in active service, O'Callahan reported aboard the USS Franklin on March 2, 1945, just 17 days before she was severely damaged at dawn by two bombs from a lone Japanese aircraft. The hangar deck immediately became an inferno of exploding gas tanks and ammunition. Although wounded by one of the explosions after the attack, Chaplain O'Callahan moved about the exposed and slanting flight deck, administering the last rites to the dying, comforting the wounded, and leading officers and crewmen into the flames to carry hot bombs and shells to the edge of the deck for jettisoning. He personally recruited a damage control party and led it into one of the main ammunition magazines to wet it down and prevent its exploding. For this action he received the Medal of Honor in February 1946. He was from Boston. The godless secular elite in Boston no longer feel men of this caliber are needed. May God have mercy on the rest of us.

While in active service, O’Callahan reported aboard the USS Franklin on March 2, 1945, just 17 days before she was severely damaged at dawn by two bombs from a lone Japanese aircraft. The hangar deck immediately became an inferno of exploding gas tanks and ammunition. Although wounded by one of the explosions after the attack, Chaplain O’Callahan moved about the exposed and slanting flight deck, administering the last rites to the dying, comforting the wounded, and leading officers and crewmen into the flames to carry hot bombs and shells to the edge of the deck for jettisoning. He personally recruited a damage control party and led it into one of the main ammunition magazines to wet it down and prevent its exploding. For this action he received the Medal of Honor in February 1946. He was from Boston. The godless secular elite in Boston no longer feel men of this caliber are needed. May God have mercy on the rest of us.

In the Houses of Worship column in last week’s WSJ there was a jarring piece on how priests were barred from the chaotic bombing scene after the Boston Marathon:

The heart-wrenching photographs taken in the moments after the Boston Marathon bombings show the blue-and-yellow jackets of volunteers, police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, even a three-foot-high blue M&M. Conspicuously absent are any clerical collars or images of pastoral care.

This was not for lack of proximity. Close to the bombing site are Trinity Episcopal Church, Old South Church and St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, all on Boylston Street. When the priests at St. Clement’s, three blocks away, heard the explosions, they gathered sacramental oils and hurried to the scene in hopes of anointing the injured and, if necessary, administering last rites, the final of seven Catholic sacraments. But the priests, who belong to the order Oblates of the Virgin Mary, weren’t allowed at the scene.

The Rev. John Wykes, director of the St. Francis Chapel at Boston’s soaring Prudential Center, and the Rev. Tom Carzon, rector of Our Lady of Grace Seminary, were among the priests who were turned away right after the bombings.
Jennifer Graham, Faith at the Finish Line

While the author of the piece pointed to security concerns as a rationale for the policy that barred priests and religious from the scene, clearly much more was going on in my beloved secular paradise of Boston. Jennifer Graham (the author) referred to “a poignant irony that Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died on Boylston Street, was a Catholic who had received his first Communion just last year. As Martin lay dying, priests were only yards away, beyond the police tape, unable to reach him to administer last rites — a sacrament that, to Catholics, bears enormous significance.”

Ms. Graham is a “religion” editor from the Boston Globe, a newspaper that has savaged the Catholic Church with such glee in recent decades that the idea it would appoint any kind of religious whatever is utterly laughable. The Globe hates, nay detests, religion and I have witnessed Catholics forbidding even their death notices to be published in it. Yes, it’s that bad. Ms. Graham’s title carries the weight and authority of a Senior Editor from the Daily Show among the faithful here in Boston: a complete and utter joke.

The mind-set of the Globe and of its sister liberal publications is aggressively arrogant and secular. A good example of it long ago in the movie, “Mash:” a priest is pushed away from a badly wounded patient by the doctor, as being of no consequence. In general the man is portrayed as a fool. That mindset of the ‘60s – -not just anti-clericalism but an ascendant and sick atheism — is now dominant in both the Globe and the medical profession, for that matter. It explains in no small way why the Philadelphia abortionist, the gentlemanly Dr. Kermit Gosnell, was aided and abetted by his medical colleagues and the liberal press in his city for so long.

Seemingly unrelated but read this review of the blasphemous “Testament of Mary” now on Broadway:

If you’re a lapsed Catholic, preferably Irish, who now believes that Christianity is the principal source of evil in the modern world, then I encourage you to see “The Testament of Mary,” a modern-dress solo stage version of the 2012 novella by Colm Tóibín in which Jesus’ mother (played by Fiona Shaw) proclaims to all and sundry that her son was (A) crazy and (B) not the Messiah. It’s your kind of play, and then some. If, on the other hand, you’re a Christian of the old-fashioned sort, you’ll likely go home praying for fire, or at least a plague of locusts, to descend upon the Walter Kerr Theatre and its blasphemous occupants.

…The members of the audience, whose unswerving secularity is comfortably taken for granted by Mr. Tóibín and his collaborators, are invited to snigger along with Mary at her son and his disciples, and snigger they do, over and over again. Rarely have I heard laughter so smug as that which greeted this line: “He gathered around him, I said, a group of misfits, only children like himself, or men without fathers, or men who could not look a woman in the eye, men who were seen smiling to themselves.” Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
Terry Teachout, WSJ drama critic

So why not ban priests from disaster scenes with their silly sacraments claiming more than psychological comfort to their recipients? Science knows that “Extreme unction” is a cultural conceit. What the hell is that anyway? Well, Catholics believe it has the power to help body as well as soul; it gives grace for the state into which people enter through sickness and approach death. Through the sacrament a gift of the Holy Spirit is given, that renews confidence and faith in God and strengthens against temptations to discouragement, despair and anguish at the thought of death and the struggle of death; it prevents the believer from losing Christian hope in God’s justice, truth and salvation. But screw all that mumbo-jumbo say our totalitarian secular guardians. Go back to raping your children.

Thankfully not all cities are like Boston:

It was jarring for Father Wykes, who, as a hospital chaplain in Illinois a decade ago, was never denied access to crime or accident scenes.

“I was allowed to go anywhere. In Boston, I don’t have that access,” he says.

But Father Wykes says he has noticed a shift in the societal role of clergy over the past few decades: “In the Bing Crosby era — in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s — a priest with a collar could get in anywhere. That’s changed. Priests are no longer considered to be emergency responders.”

The Rev. Mychal Judge is a memorable exception. The New York City priest died on 9/11, when the South Tower collapsed and its debris flew into the North Tower lobby, where Father Judge was praying after giving last rites to victims lying outside. The image of the priest’s body being carried from the rubble was one of the most vivid images to emerge from 9/11.
Jennifer Graham, Faith at the Finish Line

Pray that your City doesn’t become the outrage we constantly suffer here in Boston. The local Imams have a better chance of comforting the suffering before a Catholic priest does here. It is nothing short of ironic that the godless culture of death and licentiousness these secular nitwits have spawned is one of the chief reasons it has come under attack by Muslim jihadists. It was here, after all, that homosexual priests became the center of a worldwide scandal and distortion in the Church and caused a split between the faithful and the Church that exists today.

This is the triumph of the secular over the Church here in Boston: go back to raping your children why don’t you? This appears to justify Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died on Boylston Street, not receiving his last rites: a sad, sad day in many ways. “Boston Strong” chant the Fenway Park secular faithful. Hell no, sez I. This is a city so weakened and so corrupt, it can invite only your prayers. Pray for anyone wearing a “Boston Strong” T-shirt.

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Reading Selections from Difficulties Confronting The Faith In Europe Today – Benedict XVI

April 2, 2013

1,280 years ago today[732AD], Charles Martell, the leader of the army of the Frankish-Germanic kingdom, saved Europe from Moslem armies that were storming upon them. This decisive battle is also called in Arabic the “balat ash-shuhada” (“road of the martyrs for the faith”). This outrageously quick expansion of the Moslems who left the area now called Saudi Arabia with the objective of conquering the world for Allah finally found it’s end here, thank God.  Now as the Faith recedes from Europe “only by learning to understand that fundamental trait of modern existence which refuses to accept the faith before discussing all its contents, will we be able to regain the initiative instead of simply responding to the questions raised. Only then can we reveal the Faith as the alternative which the world awaits after the failure of the liberalistic and Marxist experiments. This is today's challenge to Christianity, herein lies our great responsibility as Christians at the present time.”

1,281 years ago today[732AD], Charles Martell, the leader of the army of the Frankish-Germanic kingdom, saved Europe from Moslem armies that were storming upon them. This decisive battle is also called in Arabic the “balat ash-shuhada” (“road of the martyrs for the faith”). This outrageously quick expansion of the Moslems who left the area now called Saudi Arabia with the objective of conquering the world for Allah finally found it’s end here, thank God. Now as the Faith recedes from Europe “only by learning to understand that fundamental trait of modern existence which refuses to accept the faith before discussing all its contents, will we be able to regain the initiative instead of simply responding to the questions raised. Only then can we reveal the Faith as the alternative which the world awaits after the failure of the liberalistic and Marxist experiments. This is today’s challenge to Christianity, herein lies our great responsibility as Christians at the present time.”

A meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the Presidents of the European Doctrinal Commissions was held at Laxenburg (Vienna), 2-5 May 1989). This text is a translation of the opening address delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger, then-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Published in L’Osservatore Romana (24 July 1989). My reading group and I met to discuss this Communio piece a couple weeks back and all were unanimous in their appreciation for the compactness and density of expression the former Pope achieves in his writings.

We can give a meaningful answer to the questions raised only if we … are able to express the logic of the Faith in its integrity, the good sense and reasonableness of its view of reality and life.

*******************************************************

A Particular Notion Of Human Freedom
As we can see, there are quite different issues linked together in this litany [of objections to the practice and teaching of the Church]. The first two [contraception and homosexuality]claims pertain to the field of sexual morality; the second two [the admission of the divorced who remarry to the Church's sacraments;ordination of women to the priesthood]to the Church’s sacramental order. A closer look makes it clear, however, that these four issues. their differences notwithstanding, are very much linked together.

They spring from one and the same vision of humanity within which there operates a particular notion of human freedom. When this background is borne in mind, it becomes evident that the litany of objections goes even deeper than it appears at first glance.

What does this vision of humanity, upon which this litany depends, look like on closer scrutiny? Its fundamental characteristics are as diffuse as the claims which derive from it, and so it can he easily traced. We find our starting point in the plausible assertion that modern man would find it difficult to relate to the Church’s traditional sexual morality. Instead, it is said, he has come to terms with his sexuality in a differentiated and less confining way and thus urges a revision of standards which are no longer acceptable in the present circumstances, no matter how meaningful they may have been under past historical conditions.

The next step, then, consists in showing how we today have finally discovered our rights and the freedom of our conscience and how we are no longer prepared to subordinate it to some external authority. Furthermore, it is now time that the fundamental relationship between man and woman he reordered, that outmoded role expectations be overturned and that complete equality of opportunity- be accorded women on all levels and in all fields.

The fact that the Church, as the particularly conservative institution that she is, might not go along with this line of thinking would certainly not be surprising. If the Church, however, would wish to promote human freedom, then ultimately she will be obliged to set aside the theological justification of old social taboos, and the most timely and vital sign of such a desire at the present moment would be her consent to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

The roots of this opposition continue to emerge in various forms and make it clear that what we are dealing with in our imaginary but quite pointed litany is nothing less than a very coherent reorientation.

“Conscience” And “Freedom” In The Modern World
Its key concepts present themselves in the words “conscience” and “freedom,” which are supposed to confer the aura of morality upon changed norms of behavior that at first glance would be plainly labeled as a surrender of moral integrity, the simplifications of a lax conscience.

No longer is conscience understood as that knowledge which derives from a higher form of knowing. It is instead the individual’s self-determination which may not be directed by someone else, a determination by which each person decides for himself what is moral in a given situation.

The concept “norm” — or what is even worse, the moral law itself — takes on negative shades of dark intensity: an external rule may supply models for direction but it can in no case serve as the ultimate arbiter of one’s obligation. Where such thinking holds sway. the relationship of man to his body necessarily changes too. This change is described as a liberation, when compared to the relationship obtaining until now, like all opening up to a freedom long unknown. The body then comes to be considered as a possession which a person can make use of in whatever way seems to him most helpful in attaining “quality of life.”

Bodiliness
The body is something that one has and that one uses.
No longer does man expect to receive a message from his bodiliness as to who he is and what he should do, but definitely, on the basis of his reasonable deliberations and with complete independence, he expects to do with it as he wishes. In consequence, there is indeed no difference whether the body be of the masculine of the feminine sex, the body no longer expresses being at all, on the contrary, it has become a piece of property.

It may be that man’s temptation has always lain in the direction of such control and the exploitation of goods. At its roots, however, this way of thinking; first became an actual possibility through the fundamental separation — not a theoretical but practical and constantly practiced separation — of sexuality and procreation.

This separation was introduced with the pill and has been brought to its culmination by genetic engineers so that man can now “make” human beings in the laboratory. The material for doing this has to be procured by actions deliberately carried out for the sake of the planned results which no longer involve interpersonal human bonds and decisions in any way.

The Distinction Between Man And Woman
Indeed, where this kind of thinking has been completely adopted, the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality- as well as that between sexual relations within or outside marriage have become unimportant. Likewise divested, of every metaphysical symbolism is the distinction between man and woman, which is to be regarded as the product of reinforced role expectations.

It would be interesting to follow in detail this revolutionary vision about man which has appeared behind our rather haphazardly- concocted litany of objections to the Church’s teaching. Without a doubt this will be one of the principal challenges for anthropological reflection in coming years. This reflection will have to sort out meticulously where quite meaningful corrections to traditional notions appear and where there begins a truly fundamental opposition to faith’s vision of man, an opposition that admits no possibility of compromise but places squarely before us the alternative of believing or not.

Change Of “Paradigms”
Such reflection cannot be conducted in a context which is more interested in discerning the questions which we have to pose for ourselves today than in looking for the answers. Let us leave off this dispute for now; our question instead must be how does it happen that values which presuppose such a background have become current among Christians?

It has become quite evident at the present time that our litany of objections does not turn upon a few isolated conflicts over this or that sacramental practice in the Church, nor is it over the extended application of this or that rule. Each of these controversies rests upon a much more far-reaching change of “paradigms,” that is, of the basic ideas or being and of human obligation. This is the case even if only a small number of those who mouth the words of our litany would be aware of the change involved.

They all breathe in, so to speak, the atmosphere of this particular vision of man and the world which convinces them of the plausibility of this one opinion while removing other views from consideration. Who would not be for conscience and freedom and against legalism and constraint? Who wishes to be put into the position of defending taboos?

If the questions are framed in this way, the faith proclaimed by the Magisterium is already maneuvered into a hopeless position. It collapses all by itself because it loses its plausibility according to the thought patterns of the modern world and is looked upon by progressive contemporaries as something that has been long superseded.

The Disappearance Of The Doctrine On Creation From Theology
In the first place. we have to point out the almost complete disappearance of the doctrine on creation from theology. …Notwithstanding all this, it remains always a disagreeable fact that “nature” should be viewed as a moral issue. An anxious and unreasonable reaction against technology is also closely associated with the inability to discern a spiritual message in the material world. Nature still appears as an irrational form even while evincing mathematical structures which we can study technically. That nature has a mathematical intelligibility is to state the obvious, the assertion that it also contains in itself a moral intelligibility, however, is rejected as metaphysical fantasy. The demise of metaphysics goes hand in hand with the displacement of the teaching on creation.

A Philosophy Of Evolution
Their place has been taken by a philosophy of evolution (which I would like to distinguish from the scientific hypothesis of evolution). This philosophy’ intends to discard the laws of nature so that the management of its development may make a better life possible. Nature, which ought really to be the teacher along this path, is instead a blind mistress, combining by unwitting chance what man is supposed to simulate now with full consciousness.

This relationship to nature (which is, to be sure, no creation) remains that of one who acts upon it; it is in no way that of a learner. It persists as a relationship of domination, then, resting upon the presumption that rational calculation may be as clever as “evolution” and can therefore lift the world to new heights. The process of development up to this point had to struggle along without human intervention.

Conscience, to which appeal is made, is essentially mute, just as nature, the teacher, is blind, it just computes which action holds the best chances for betterment. This can (and should, according to the logic of the point of departure) occur in a collective way. for what is needed is a party which, as the vanguard of history, takes evolution in hand while exacting the absolute subordination of the individual to it. Otherwise, things occur individualistically and conscience then becomes the expression of the subject’s autonomy which, in terms of the grand world picture, can only seem absurd arrogance.

It is quite obvious that none of these solutions is helpful, and this is the basis for the deep desperation of mankind today, a desperation which hides behind an official facade of optimism. Nevertheless there is still a silent awareness of the need of an alternative to lead us out of the blind alleys of our plausibilities, and perhaps there is also, more than we think, a silent hope that a renewed Christianity may supply the alternative. This can be accomplished, however, only if the teaching on creation is developed anew. Such an undertaking then, ought to be regarded as one of the most pressing tasks of theology today.

The World’s Having Been Created ”In Wisdom”
We have to make evident once more what is meant by the world’s having been created ”in wisdom” and that God’s creative act is something quite other than the “bang” of a primeval explosion. Only then can conscience and norm enter again into proper relationship. For then it will become clear that conscience is not some individualistic (or collective) calculation; rather it is “conciens” a “knowing along with” creation and, through creation, with God the Creator. with God the Creator.

Then, too, it will be rediscovered that man’s greatness does not lie in the miserable autonomy of proclaiming himself his one and only master, but in the fact that his being allows the highest wisdom, Truth itself, to shine through. Then it will become clear that man is so much the greater the more he is capable of hearing the profound message of creation, the message of the Creator. And then it will he apparent how harmony with creation. whose wisdom becomes our norm, does not mean a limitation upon our freedom but is rather an expression of our reason and our dignity.

Then the body also is given its due honor: it is no longer something “used,” but is the temple of authentic human dignity because it is God’s handiwork in the world. Then is the equal dignity of man and woman made manifest precisely in the fact that they are different. One will then begin to understand once again that their bodiliness reaches the metaphysical depths and is the basis of a symbolic metaphysics whose denial or neglect does not ennoble man but destroy him.

The Decline Of Metaphysics
The decline of the doctrine on creation includes the decline of metaphysics, man’s imprisonment in the empirical, as we have said. When this occurs, however, there is also of necessity a weakening of Christology. The Word who was in the beginning quite disappears. Creative wisdom is no longer a theme for reflection. Inevitably the figure of Jesus Christ, deprived of its metaphysical dimension, is reduced to a purely historical Jesus, to an “empirical” Jesus. who, like every empirical fact, contains only what is capable of happening. The central title of his dignity, “Son,” becomes void where the path to the metaphysical is cut off. Even this title becomes meaningless since there is no longer a theologv of being sons of God, for it is replaced by the notion of autonomy
.

Jesus as Representative
The relationship of Jesus with God is now expressed in terms such as “representative” or the like, but as regards what this means, one must seek an answer by the reconstruction of the “historical Jesus.”

There are today two principal models for the alleged figure of the historical Jesus: the bourgeois-liberal and the Marxist-revolutionary. Jesus was either the herald of a liberal morality, struggling against every kind of “legalism” and its representatives; or he was a subversive who can be considered as the deification of the class struggle and its religious symbolic figure.

Evident in the background are the two aspects of the modern notion of freedom, which are seen embodied in Jesus; this is what makes him God’s representative. The unmistakable symptom of the present decline of Christology is the disappearance of the Cross and, consequently, the meaninglessness of the Resurrection, of the Paschal Mystery. In the liberal model, the Cross is an accident, a mistake, the result of short-sighted legalism. It cannot therefore be made the subject of theological speculation; indeed it really should not have occurred and a proper liberalism makes it in any event superfluous.

In the second model Jesus is the failed revolutionary. He can now symbolize the suffering of the oppressed class and thus foster the growth of class consciousness. From this viewpoint the Cross can even be given a certain sense, an important meaning, but one which is radically opposed to the witness of the New Testament.

Now in both these versions there runs a common thread, namely, that we must be saved not through the Cross but from the Cross. Atonement and forgiveness are misunderstandings from which Christianity has to be freed. The two fundamental points of the Christian with of the New Testament writers and of the Church in every age (the divine sonship understood in a metaphysical sense and the Paschal Mystery) are eliminated or at least bereft of any function. It is obvious that with such a basic reinterpretation all the rest of Christianity is likewise altered — the understanding of what the Church is, the liturgy, spirituality, etc.

Naturally- these crude denials, which I have described here with all the severity of their consequences are seldom spoken of so openly. The movements, however, are clear and they do not confine themselves to the realm of theology alone. For quite some time they have entered into preaching and catechesis; on account of the ease of their transmission they are even more pronounced in these fields than in strictly theological literature. Quite clearly, then, the real decisions today fall once again in the field of Christology; everything else follows from that.

The Decline of Eschatology
Finally, I should like to refer briefly to a third field of theological reflection which is threatened by a thoroughgoing reduction of the contents of faith, namely, eschatology. Belief in eternal life has hardly any role to play in preaching today.
A friend of mine, recently deceased, an exegete of note. once told me of some Lenten sermons he had heard at the beginning of the 1970s. In the first sermon, the preacher explained to the faithful that Hell does not exist; in the second, Purgatory went the same- way; in the third, he eventually undertook the difficult task of trying to convince his hearers that even Heaven does not exist and that we should seek our paradise here on earth. To be sure, it is seldom as drastic as that, but diffidence in speaking about the hereafter has become commonplace.

The Marxist accusation that Christians justified the injustices of this world with the consolation of the world to come is deeply rooted. and the present social problems are now indeed so serious that they require all the powers of moral commitment. This moral requirement will not at all he called into question by the one who views the Christian life in the perspective of eternity, for eternal life cannot be prepared for otherwise than in our present existence. Nicholas Cabasilas, for example, expressed this truth in a wonderful reflection in the fourteenth century. Only those attain to it ( that is, the future life) who already are its friends and have ears to hear. For it is not there that friendship is begun, that the ear is opened, that the wedding garment is readied and all else prepared, it is rather this present life which is the work place where all this is fashioned. For just as nature prepares the embryo, even while it leads a dark and confined existence, for living in the light and forms it, as it were, according to the pattern of the life that is to come, just so does it happen with the saints.

Only the exigency of eternal life confers its absolute urgency on the moral duty of this life. If however, heaven is only something ”ahead” of us and no longer “above” us, then the interior tension of human existence and its communal responsibility are slackened. For we indeed are not “ahead.” and whether this prospect of what is ahead is a heaven for those others who appear to us to have gone ”ahead.” we are not in a position to determine since they are as free and as subject to temptation as we are ourselves.

The Idea Of The “Better World
Here we find the deception inherent in the idea of the “better world,”’ which, nonetheless, appears today even among Christians as the true goal of our hope and the genuine standard of morality. The “Kingdom of God” has been almost completely substituted in the general awareness, as far as I can see, by the Utopia of a better future world for which we labor and which becomes the true reference point of morality — a morality which thus blends again with a philosophy of evolution and history, and creates norms for itself by calculating what can offer better conditions of life.

I do not deny that it is in just this way that the idealistic energies of young people are unleashed and that the results are fruitful in terms of new aspirations to selfless activity. As an all-embracing norm for human endeavor, however, the future does not suffice. Where the Kingdom of God is reduced to the “better world” of tomorrow, the present will ultimately assert its rights against some imaginary future. The escape into the world of drugs is the logical consequence of the idolizing of Utopia. Since this has difficulty in arriving, man draws it to himself or throws himself headlong into it. It is dangerous, therefore, if the better world terminology predominates in prayers and sermons and inadvertently replaces the faith with a placebo.

*****

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With The Pope Against The Homoheresy 4 — Fr. Dariusz Oko, Ph.D.

March 7, 2013
The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, 15th century

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca, 15th century

“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes…she will lose many of her social privileges… As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret. And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”
Pope Benedict XVI

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Our Struggle
It is important to understand the reasons for which the Church has been unable to deal with the problem of the homolobby for so long. It is not only about the influences of the homolobby itself, where complaints about one homosexual wearing a cassock end up on the desk of another, then in the dustbin or, worse even, in the hands of the wrongdoer himself – so that he can freely take revenge on his victims. It is not only the evil kind of group solidarity, defending those who are “one of us”, no matter how guilty they are. [37].

There is yet another reason, and that is ignorance, failure to understand the weight of the problem. For a normal priest, it is inconceivable for such terrible evil to be taking place behind his back. Moreover, decent, well-meaning clergymen are usually burdened with so much work they feel unable to deal with yet another problem. Who would want to deal with such filth, unless they were forced to, anyway? That is why until a really huge scandal erupts, people tend to act like “it’s rickety, it’s wobbly, but at least it’s moving”.

After all, we are at times dealing here with criminal activity, and the Church is not the police, it does not have the tools necessary to deal with organized crime. If a priest has caused a car accident or committed an economic crime, he must first be dealt with by the police or the prosecutor, not the bishop or provincial. And acts of paedophilia and ephebophilia belong to the most serious offences against the bodies, psyche and souls of children and youth. What a great disturbance in clergymen who repeatedly do things like that for a moment’s pleasure! They ruin the lives of their neighbours.

It was first of all about paedophiles and ephebophiles that Jesus said: “Woe to you”. He said that for anyone who “causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (cf. Matthew 18:6-11 and Luke 17:1-2). Such abuse is the most abominable, terrible harm for a normal boy, it is like killing his soul.

Sometimes the victim of an ephebophile is unable to get over such an abuse for his entire life, to trust others, to respect himself or to obey any moral norms. If such brutal evil is done by a clergyman, the issue becomes even more painful, because harm is inflicted by the one who has preached beautiful ideas, whom the boy trusted, from whom he had the right to expect all that is good and noble.

Abused boys then say: “I will never go to church anymore”, “all priests are bastards”. Sometimes, they lose faith altogether or join some sect, and sometimes they really never come back to the Church. Even though they used to be part of the young group closest to the priest, particularly involved in their religion, most of them coming from families of believers; they used to be altar boys, lectors, went to summer camps, retreats, pilgrimages, they were the treasure and future of the Church. The ardent work of a multitude of decent parents, religious sisters, catechists, priests, bishops, is destroyed by the crimes of a group of vile men.

In that situation, those wronged may be helped especially if defended by another priest. That is the most effective way of restoring their trust in the Church, to have another priest defend the victim from a perverted fellow priest, and take them to the police. That is faithfulness to man and to Christ. It is necessary, because an act of paedophilia or ephebophilia is usually one in a whole series, and needs to be stopped immediately.

In such matter, there is no room for hesitation, no matter how much there is to risk, no matter whom we might fall into disfavour with, no matter what there is to lose. Just like a father has the duty to die to defend his child if necessary, so a priest has the duty to die to defend each and every one of the little ones, who are God’s children.

In Poland, the situation is particularly dangerous because some elderly gays and ephebophiles in cassocks may have connections with the former Security Service and other special services. Many secret collaborators recruited from them, since they were especially prone to blackmail. Sometimes, they are still blackmailed today. If their vile acts are exposed, the officers of such services will have nothing to blackmail them with, and thus their source of regular income will run dry. That is why a priest who stands up in defence of youth and opposes an influential paedophile or ephebophile may undergo an ordeal. He may find himself standing up against not only the homomafia in the local Church, but also the old structures of special services. And they are proficient in maltreating and murdering clergymen, as was the case not so long ago not only with Blessed F. Jerzy Popiełuszko, but also with F. Zych, F. Niedzielak, F. Suchowolec, and others.

Therefore, the homomafia in the Church must be dealt with in a very professional way – we must act like a prosecutor or an officer in the battlefield. We must be aware that the other party may have become internally degenerated by decades of living in sin and hypocrisy, that they may have gone downhill to the level of ordinary criminals, that they are prepared to do even the worst things, both in words and acts, to defend their interests and position.

We must be prepared, and not be surprised even if we are insulted with the worst curses, if we are accused of the worst things, for it is “out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks” (cf. Matthew 12:34). Someone who has committed great iniquities for dozens of years is ready to do things at least equally vile to conceal evil and avoid responsibility. It is much easier to lie and say they have not done anything wrong than to beat or kill someone.

It is important that we find a possibly large group of people of goodwill to protect us and support what we do[38]. That group should include clergymen, as high in the hierarchy as possible, experts in various fields, archive records specialists, lawyers, policemen, journalists, and as may believers as possible. It is good to exchange information, documents, evidence.

The global network of the homolobbies and homomafias must be counterbalanced by a network of honest people. An excellent tool that can be used here is the Internet, which makes it possible to create a global community of people concerned about the fate of the Church, who have resolved to oppose homoideology and homoheresy. The more we know, the more we can do.

We need to remember that in these matters we are like “sheep sent among wolves”, and so we must be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We must have the courage to stand up against evildoers, as Christ had the courage to stand up against the Pharisees of his times. We cannot build our lives on sweet illusions, for only “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), and that is why “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

The global network of homolobbies and homomafias must be counterbalanced by a global network of decent people.

All interventions should be made with utmost respect and love for every person, including the abusers. The essence of Christianity is reflected in the will to save everyone, and the worst criminals are especially at risk of losing both their earthly and their eternal life, so they need an especially abundant portion of concern and prayer. The greatness and beauty of Christianity resides also in the fact that Abel here should try not only to save himself, but everybody else too, including Cain.

Love And Truth Of The Church
In our struggle for the Church of Jesus Christ, we must not be misled by arguments like: “The Church is our mother, and one must not say bad things about one’s mother”. Such words are often heard from those who have hurt their mother the most, who have made her seriously ill, and now refuse to begin the treatment. If the best mother of all is sick, to treat her effectively we need the best possible tools and the best, most accurate diagnosis possible.

Thus, we must know about the illness and talk about it. If the Church in Poland is now heading for harder times, if it must prepare itself for persecution, if it must resist and fight, its organism must be healthy and strong, and any gangrene must be removed. President Joachim Hauck said that in the former East Germany the process of cleansing and compensation was opposed most strongly by those who had the most to weigh on their conscience, who had hurt their brothers and sisters the most, who betrayed them the most.

Similar charges of disloyalty could be brought against the Evangelists themselves, because they reported on the betrayal of Judas, Peter’s denial of Jesus, his being rebuked by Jesus, on Thomas’s incredulity, on the careerism of James and John. One might ask why they did not hide that shameful truth – especially in the times of the initial weakness of the first Church, in the times of the first bloody persecutions, when both the Apostles and other Christians were being killed, one by one?

And in the end, similar charges could be brought against Lord Jesus himself – why did he criticize the Pharisees so radically, why did he publicly expose their inequity, their falsehood, their hypocrisy and lies? He was, after all, attacking the religious and national elites of his time, the public form of a religion as valuable, as deserving as that of the Chosen People. And not only did the Evangelists write it all down, but then they described the way priests, Sadducees and Pharisees dealt with Jesus during the Passover. This way greatly undermining the highest religious and moral authorities of their nation – and all of that was done during the dark night of Roman occupation!

It was indeed the public fight against the social structures of sin, against Pharisees, that was one of the most important areas of Christ’s activity. We should follow in his footsteps as well – in his courage, in his determination to fight against evil, in the precision of his arguments in exposing evildoers. Whatever Christ did is a model to be followed in any age. But we need knowledge to make sure our struggle against evil is effective. And so, remembering to “recognize them by their fruit” (cf. Matthew 7:16), based on the publicly known events of the last quarter of the century, the reaction of the Holy See and the documents it issued, we must clearly, explicitly and resolvedly say: yes, there is a strong homosexual underground in the Church (just like in many other places), which – depending on the degree of involvement of its members, depending on their words and deeds – may be referred to as homoheresy, homolobby, homoclique or even homomafia[39].

Such circles in the Church strongly oppose truth, morality and Revelation, cooperate with the enemies of the Church, incite a revolt against the Peter of our times, the Holy See and the entire Church. Members of that lobby in the Church are a relatively small group, but often hold key positions (which they are very anxious to achieve), create a close network of relationships and support one another, which is what makes them dangerous. They are dangerous especially to the youth, who are threatened by sexual abuse. They are dangerous to themselves, as, more and more hardened in evil, they may finally “die in their sins” (John 8:23), as Christ warned. They are dangerous to honest lay people and clergymen who oppose them.

Finally, they are dangerous to the Church at large, because when their iniquities are finally exposed, when they become a topic for media coverage, the faith of millions of people is weakened or destroyed. Many say then: “No, in a Church like that there is no place either for me, or my children or grandchildren”. And so, homosexual depravers and abusers scandalize millions of people, putting a huge obstacle on their road to faith, to Christ, to salvation. And all of that just for several dozen years of a comfortable life of sin.

Can there be a greater sin? The Church has been created as the most wonderful, most beautiful community of love and kindness, of believers living in peace with the Lord and with one another. We must not allow our greatest treasure to be destroyed. Let us be confident and peaceful. Normal, honest people are the overwhelming majority. They only need to be properly informed, mobilized and unified in action.

It was indeed the public fight against the social structures of sin, against the Pharisees, that was one of the most important areas of Christ’s activity.

Every truth, even that which is the most difficult, should lead us to work for the better, to struggle for the wellbeing of man and the Church. Despite all sin and weakness, the best, the most beautiful thing we have is the Church. Evil, including homosexual evil, is present to a much greater degree outside the Church, in other communities. Those who criticize us are often like hypocrites who cannot see “the plank in their own eye” (cf. Matthew 7:1-5).

That is why the Church is now hated so much and attacked with such vehemence – because its very existence is a constant prick of conscience, a constant admonition for those who live in sins which are much, much greater than those of some people in the Church. Let us keep the right proportions. There have always been and will most likely be baptized people in the Church who live like Cain or Judas, but we must not condemn Abel because of Cain, or reject the other eleven Apostles and Christ himself because of Judas. That would be a fundamental mistake, Judas represents only about 8% of the Twelve Apostles.

But neither should we allow Judas to dominate and rule in the Church. His influence must not be greater than that of John or Paul. It is the Peter of our times that is the most important person in the Church, and he should be listened to. Benedict XVI is a great gift of the Providence, just like his honourable predecessor, John Paul II. Let us stand together on Benedict XVI’s side, just as we would have stood on the side of Blessed John Paul the Great. They were such a wonderful, wise and courageous duet of apostles. They agreed and supported each other so much – also on this matter[40].

To say “I am leaving the Church because it is too evil for me, and too sinful” is to say that apparently “I am too good for it”, to say, in a way, that “I am a better, a more valuable person than Mother Theresa, or even Our Lady or Lord Jesus himself”, since for them that Church is good enough to stay in, to love and protect.

The Church is like the people who make it up, and that is why it is always sinful, but always holy as well. Among more then a billion of its members, there are thousands of people who commit vile and base acts, but there are also hundreds of millions of Catholic men and women who are honest and holy. More than half of them are women – persons who are particularly sensitive to the well-being of man, to the fate of children and youth, to pure love.

There are hundreds of millions of people who take up the great effort of work, marriage, family, bearing and rearing children. There are thousands of missionary men and women (more than two thousand from Poland alone) who devote all of their lives in the most difficult conditions, the greatest poverty. There are about 700,000 religious sisters who try to live their lives as unsparingly and evangelically as they can. There is Mother Theresa and several thousand of her sisters.

To say “I am leaving the Church because it is too evil for me, and too sinful” is to say that apparently “I am too good for it”, to say, in a way, that “I am a better, a more valuable person than Mother Theresa, or even Our Lady or Lord Jesus himself”, since for them that Church is good enough to stay in, to love and protect. For it is that Church that has the most of God in it, and thus the most of truth, goodness and beauty. That is why being part of it and growing in it, one may reach the topmost heights of Christianity and humanity – like Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, like Blessed John Paul the Great, like Benedict XVI – the most beautiful people of our times.

We are all invited to become holy in the Church of Lord Jesus Christ through grace and our own work – no matter at which phase of development and what place in the Church we are in now. All we need to do is “arise and go” (John 14:31).

[NOTES]


[37] It should be added here that the failure to discipline clergymen who live an indecent life, particularly if they hold important positions, is part of a greater problem in the Church, it is a weakness and a sin that is structural in nature. A similar failure to react can be observed if a Bishop gives in to alcoholism, or starts to act like a fanatic campaigner for a political party. It may go on like that for decades, when the comfort of one clergyman is put before the spiritual welfare of millions of the faithful, when for the comfort of one person a whole multitude of people is exposed to the risk of weakening or losing their faith in the face of such terrible depravity. The same applies to parish priests having concubines. Even though these facts are publicly known, the wrongdoers do not even try to hide them too much, nothing changes. Sometimes, their superiors excuse themselves saying there is no indisputable proof. And yet, a great majority of personnel decisions are not taken based on detailed proceedings in court, but based on common knowledge, that which is generally known about a particular person (especially if that knowledge is confirmed by a number of reliable people). In any case, there is clearly an urgent need for developing institutions which are concerned with the discipline of religious life. We need many more people like F. Charles Scicluna and such offices as his. A Church which makes such high demands on the world, must first and foremost demand of herself and meet them. She may not let herself be exposed to ridicule. The sources of an evil that is so great cannot be tolerated for that long – especially seeing that it is taking an ever greater toll. The Peter of our time, Benedict XVI, says that one of the fundamental sources of the sea of iniquity which has flooded the Church of Ireland was abandoning the penal functions of Canon Law, because “Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.” (Benedict XVI, Light of the World, op. cit., p. 26.)
[38] When helping the victims of sexual abuse, one should secure evidence, make sure the victim is examined by a physician, immediately record live the testimony of the victim and any witnesses. It is important, because sometimes even those most wronged withdraw their testimonies – because of shame, opportunism, fear of the abuser and his allies on whom they may be dependant or to whom they may be subordinated in many ways. Criminal cases should be reported to the police and the prosecutor, not only to Church authorities. In other cases, an attempt should first be made at solving them within the local Church. If the local situation is very bad, help should be sought from the Holy See, but making sure the request is received by the right, trusted person – one of the best persons here being F. Charles Scicluna. He should be written in Italian or in English, and it is worthwhile checking he actually received the documents. He will know what to do about the problem. One should remember that any sexual contacts with minors under 15 years of age are punishable and indictable offences in light of the Polish Criminal Code. In Canon Law, the age limit is even higher. Any abuse inflicted on a minor under 18 years of age by a clergyman must be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
[39] It should be emphasized that not every clergyman with such tendencies belongs to these communities, some of them suffer very much seeing their brothers act that way.
[40] Cf. the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 2003 Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognitions to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, where John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger in one voice point out that “all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions” (Section 10), and criticize the ideology behind such attempts. Cf. also John Paul II, Pamięć i tożsamość [Memory and Identity], Kraków 2005, p. 20. Blessed John Paul the Great repeatedly condemned homosexuality, calling it a “deviated behaviour, inconsistent with God’s intention” (1994), a “lamentable perversion” (1999); he also said that “homosexual acts are contrary to the laws of nature” (2005).

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With The Pope Against The Homoheresy 3 — Fr. Dariusz Oko, Ph.D.

March 6, 2013

 

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertonealso, points to the fact that “80 percent of paedophiles convicted in the USA are homosexuals. Among priests convicted for paedophilia, they represent 90 percent.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertonealso, points to the fact that “80 percent of paedophiles convicted in the USA are homosexuals. Among priests convicted for paedophilia, they represent 90 percent.

Homoheresy In The Church
Not everyone wants to accept the above rules. There is resistance to what is taught by the Pope. The homosexual community in the Church defends itself and is on the attack. It also needs an intellectual tool, a justification, and that is why homoideology takes in their minds, words and writings the form of homoheresy.

The most open revolt against the Pope and the Church is headed by some Jesuits in the United States, who openly oppose them and announce that despite the above decisions, they will keep admitting homosexually-oriented seminarians, who are, indeed, especially welcome[26].

They have a long tradition in that vein, for years being the mainstay of homoideology and homoheresy. They take many views of the heretical moral theologian, ex-priest Charles Curran, for their own. They are also under the overwhelming influence of their former fellow friar, F. John McNeill SJ, who founded the pro-homosexual movement called Dignity, and published a book entitled The Church and the Homosexual, where he explicitly rejects the teaching of the Church and adopts homoideology. The book was given an imprimatur by his provincial from New York, and has been republished several times despite being banned by the Vatican. This way, it has become a homosexual bible for many American Jesuits.

McNeill seems to mean more for them than Jesus or Saint Paul, much less the Pope[27]. The Theological Studies and America papers they publish still uphold and promote pro-homosexual ideas. Consequently, it is estimated they have achieved the highest saturation with homosexuals, way above 30 percent. Gays feel more comfortable with them than ever, while other priests find the specific atmosphere less and less bearable[28].

It appears as though the Jesuits have replaced their traditional, fourth vow of obedience to the Pope with a fourth vow of arch-disobedience. We should not be particularly surprised or shocked, though, knowing that the clergy is submitted to all influences of their times, including the worst ones. If they are intellectually or morally weak, they are not only subject, but succumb to them. That is one of the basic sources of heresy in the Church, which has already seen so many of them that needed to be exposed and overcome so many times. In the age of fascist ideologies and Marxism, we also had fascist priests and Marxist priests in the Church. Now that the extreme leftists promote homoideology in turn, we naturally have homoideologist, and sometimes even homoheretic priests in the Church.

In Poland, their best known representative is F. Jacek Prusak, SJ, who had been trained by American Jesuits, after all. For eight years now he has taken on the role of a spokesman of the homolobby in the Church, fighting uncompromisingly to defend its interests. His vocabulary and his arguments sometimes seem to be literal quotations from handbooks on homoideology, copied from gay websites. His writings suffer from numerous defects both as to the contents and to logic, but their main goal is always the same: the ultimate apology of homosexuality in general, and homosexual priesthood in particular – no matter how much manipulation is needed to achieve that goal[29].

Whenever a priest or a lay person talks about what the Church teaches on homosexuality, when they defend and explain it and call for it to be followed, they should expect an immediate, brutal attack from Father Prusak – sometimes even on the pages of particularly anti-Christian papers. In this great struggle fought by the Church against homoideology, he explicitly takes sides with the enemy and excels in it. He was once supported by Father Tadeusz Bartoś OP, even though in a much less aggressive way. Since F. Bartoś left priesthood and his congregation in 2007, he has remained alone in that role[30]. He is the tried-and-tested commentator for the media particularly hostile to the Church in that regard.

In 2005, right after the instruction prohibiting the ordaining of homosexuals was announced, F. J. Prusak published a devastating criticism in a paper whose editors are known for their fanatic propagation of homoideology[31]. Similarly, in his article entitled The Lavender History of the Church, precisely contravening the statements of the Magisterium quoted above, he claims that homosexual orientation does not preclude a candidate for priesthood. He questions the existence of a homolobby in the Church, even though he and his activities are particularly convincing evidence to the contrary[32]. Thus, he continues in the long line of priests who presented views contrary to the teaching of the Church, for which they were promoted in leftist, antichristian media, e.g. F. Michał Czajkowski, ex-Jesuit Stanisław Obirek, and ex-Dominican Tadeusz Bartoś.

One can easily see that, comparing his opinions with those expressed by the Pope quoted above and the documents of the Church mentioned here. One cannot allow, however, for a homoideologist priest to continue his attacks on the teaching of the Church and on the priests and lay people who defend that teaching, for homoideological minority to dominate the normal majority. The way in which Father J. Prusak opposes the Holy Father is inadmissible and scandalous.

The way Father Jacek Prusak opposes the Holy Father is inadmissible and scandalous.

This is about the very existence of the Church. Ideology and manipulation must be nipped in the bud, for if more clergymen like Father Prusak appear, it may be too late. The Church may destroy itself from within – just as has already been the case in many places in the West. A Church which contradicts itself, rejects its own teaching, becomes useless and dies – like the Church in Holland. Anything that is self-contradictory is bound to disappear.

Bad theology is deadly dangerous. An incompetent theologian may reduce faith, theology and philosophy to psychology, may infect the organism of the Church with viruses of the enemy’s sick ideas, may pick up and pass on somebody else’s illnesses.

That was, for example, the case with the ex-priest Eugene Drewmann, who began as a professor of dogmatic theology in Paderborn, and through a reduction of theology to psychology ended up with New Age and Buddhism. For him, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung became more important than Jesus and Saint Paul. The consequences were already waiting around the corner[33]. If such theories are allowed to spread, their consequences may be destructive for the entire Church – as it was in Holland. It was there that the sick theology of Edward Schillebeecks contributed to the disintegration and near destruction of the Church which was once so full of life. Within a dozen or so years, it almost made it disappear. It was like a mine planted under a building. We should defend ourselves with all resolution against such “Dutch theology”.

This is about the Church’s to be or not to be. If homolobbyists are allowed to act freely, in a dozen or so years they may destroy entire congregations and dioceses – like in the USA, where the priestly vocation is more and more now called a gay profession (particularly with reference to American Jesuits), or like in Ireland, where men are hesitant about joining the emptying seminaries for fear of being suspected of suffering from some disorders.

In the USA, the priestly vocation is more and more often now called gay profession.

In Ireland, men are hesitant about joining the emptying seminaries for fear of being suspected of suffering from some disorders.

The situation is a bit like that in the beginning of the Reformation, when entire countries and nations left the Church, and when one of the fundamental reasons for that state of affairs was the unprecedented decline in morality and libertinism of some clergymen, including Pope Alexander VI himself. Just like the Council of Trent tried to save the Church first of all through repentance and discipline, Benedict XVI tries to save it by limiting the size and the influence of the homolobby within the Church.

This shows his prophetic and scientific genius, and emphasizes his importance as one of the greatest theologians of our time, capable of participating in spiritual warfare. This can be seen particularly in a longer perspective, when we think about how many other theologians flirted with fashionable ideologies, or even succumbed to them. As theologian and bishop, Ratzinger was always high-principled and made excellent, accurate decisions. He never came under such illusions, never went either into “newspaper theology” or “postmodern theology” with their utmost irresponsibility, making it is easy to put forward claims which profoundly contradict Christianity. Now, he has nothing to be ashamed about.

And yet, it is for that accuracy of opinion that he is so vehemently opposed, or even hated by some in the Church, especially by members of the homolobby which represents the very centre of internal opposition against the Pope. The greatness of Benedict XVI can also be seen in the way he suffers all that, peaceful, trustful and patient, when he humbly remains silent in reply to the most primitive attacks – from those who are “in the same camp”. He does not defend himself, what he cares about is first of all Christ and the wellbeing of man. He is a great scientist and a faithful witness to the Revelation. He is indeed not only the most outstanding intellectual, but also a “good shepherd who does not abandon the sheep or run away when he sees the wolf coming, but lays down his life for the sheep” (cf. John 10;12.15).

He cannot do it all by himself, however. He needs each and everyone of us. He needs support and healthy preaching in every local Church. It is a matter of remaining faithful to one’s conscience: defending the truth of salvation, no matter how much it should cost us. In this context the greatness and holiness of the Church can be seen particularly well.

Homoideology seems to be so powerful and is being as aggressively promoted as Marxism or fascism used to be in the past. Its victory seems unavoidable to many (just like with those other ideologies). In that situation, it is first of all the Church that openly defends elementary truth, defends that which is reasonable. When the demons of ideology rage, faith must, paradoxically, become a special guardian and defender of reason. The Church has survived through difficulties and heresies greater than this. That which is absurd must ultimately collapse, exhaust and devour itself. One cannot live in contradiction forever. We cannot always live against reason, against nature, against commandments, just like we cannot stand on our head forever. We must finally either repent or fall.

The greatness of the Catholic Church is revealed also in that it can admit to being wrong, acknowledge the faults of its members, apologize for them, embark on the road of repentance and cleansing. Other communities are capable of doing that to a much lesser extent, even though their faults are much greater. The media, which could at times be called CHC – Centres of Hatred against Christianity, present the situation as though that was the main or the only problem of the Catholic Church, as though ephebophiles were only found among priests and every priest should be suspected of the same thing. Exactly in the same way Catholic clergy was presented by Goebbels’ propaganda in the times of Hitler, with the same methods of generalization applied to individual cases. Honest journalists, however, say: “We can see the Catholic Church is the only institution to be doing anything with paedophilia. The paedophilia which is a common problem in all communities and educational institutions”[34].

One could ask, then, when will journalists start investigating the scale of the problem among themselves, including the owners of the newspapers they work for, among those who set the tone for manipulations and witch-hunts in the media? It may be hard – as for example in Belgium or Lithuania, where even people at the topmost levels in the hierarchy of various authorities are involved in paedophilia. But where is the courage and enthusiasm of those journalists who have been so willing to attack the Church? Reliable studies show that the problem is the least widespread in the Catholic Church. Why, then, it is the only thing we hear? According to researchers, only one for a thousand cases of pedo- or ephebophilia is related to the sphere of the Catholic Church, in the USA only one to five Catholic priests are involved in that problem per ten thousand people. Statistically, much greater risk exists e.g. with married Protestant clergymen or teachers, particularly sports teachers.[35].

There is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia. Statistically, much greater risk exists e.g. with married Protestant clergymen or teachers, particularly sports teachers.

It is not celibacy, then, that is to blame here, contrary to what is sometimes suggested. This has been pointed out, among others, by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who said that “many psychologists and psychiatrists have proved that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia, while many others have shown that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia”. He also points to the fact that “80 percent of paedophiles convicted in the USA are homosexuals. Among priests convicted for paedophilia, they represent 90 percent”.

These data show that “the Catholic Church has had a problem with homosexuals rather than paedophiles.” He is backed up by Itrovigne Massimo, an Italian sociologist, who reminds us that “there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia, as there are more paedophiles among married clergymen than among Catholic priests …  In the USA, nearly one thousand priests have been charged with sexual abuse against minors, and only about fifty were found guilty. Meanwhile, there were as many as six thousand sports teachers and coaches, most of them married, convicted for the same abuse. [36].

Is that not a perfect scoop for the media? Why do they hardly talk about it? It appears their intentions are not so much to protect children and youth as to destroy the Church. If their intentions were honest, they would first strike at those who commit the greatest number of such crimes. But their shortage of “just men” is much greater than here, however, they lack people who would be willing to do something about the problem, to take the risk. Such incidents among those who are “one of us” are covered up and justified much more than was the case in the Church (e.g. the behaviour of Roman Polanski in Hollywood in 1978, which apparently was a standard in that community then). They seem to be saying: “if this is done by ‘one of us’, we will not lift a finger, let the children be tormented, we do not care, as long as we are fine.” Here is the hypocrisy and cynicism of the “brave” journalists and their employers.

[NOTES]


[26] Cf. for instance statements on the matter by two Jesuit provincials in the United States, F. John Whitney SJ from Oregon, and F. Gerald Chojnacki SJ from New York, published also in Polish papers: M. Gadziński, Gej to nie ksiądz [A Gay is No Priest], “Gazeta Wyborcza”, 1-2.10.2005, p. 2. Homosexual propaganda in the German church is illustrated particularly well by the example of the Dominican monastery in Braunschweig. Cf. : http://www.dominikaner-braunschweig.de/Kloster/Homosex/Homosex.html.

[27] Cf. J. McNeill, The Church and the Homosexual, Kansas City 1976.

[28] Cf. R. J. Neuhaus, Rozejm roku 2005? [The Truce of 2005?], op. cit., p. 15.

[29] Cf. e.g.. J. Prusak, Miłość czy potencja  [Love or Potency], ”Tygodnik Powszechny” 24.10.2004; Manifest teologiczny [Theological Manifest], ”Tygodnik Powszechny” 16.12.2005;  Inni inaczej. O prawie homoseksualistów do bycia zrozumianymi [Challenged Otherwise. On the Right of Homosexuals to be Understood] ”Tygodnik Powszechny” 25 (2919) 2005, pp. 1 and 7; Norma i kultura [Norm and Culture], ”Tygodnik Powszechny”, 31.01.2012. What is perfidious, dangerous and deceptive in F. Prusak’s efforts is that he tries to make the impression as though he alone in the Church best understood and properly accepted homosexuals. The truth is, however, that only helping them face the truth and providing them with therapeutic assistance in overcoming their tendencies is what can help them. This is what is done by those who actually work for their benefit.

[30] Cf. J. Prusak, Inni inaczej, op. cit. and id., Zgadzamy się nie zgadzać [We Agree Not to Agree], ”Tygodnik Powszechny” 27 (2921) 2005, p. 6; Homofobia Camerona niebezpieczna, także dla Kościoła [Cameron’s Homophobia Is Dangerous, Also for the Church], an interview with K. Wiśniewska, ”Gazeta Wyborcza” 19.05.2009; O homoseksualizmie przed Mszą [On Homosexuality Before Mass], an interview with R . Kowalski, ”Gazeta Wyborcza” 28.08.2009; J. Prusak, Lawendowa historia Kościoła [A Lavender History of the Church], Rzeczpospolita 26.03.2012, s. 3. Cf. also F. T. Bartoś OP, Kościół gejów nie odrzuca [The Church Does Not Reject Gays], ”Gazeta Wyborcza” 11-12.06.2005, p. 4 and id., Homoseksualizm w publicznej debacie [Homosexuality in the Public Debate],  ”Gazeta Wyborcza” 25-26.06.2005, p. 29.

[31] Cf. K. Wiśniewska in an interview with F. J. Prusak, Instrukcja ma luki [The Instruction Has Gaps], ”Gazeta Wyborcza” 30.11.2005, p. 11.

[32] Cf. F. Jacek Prusak SJ, Lawendowa historia Kościoła [A Lavender History of the Church], op. cit. p. 3.

[33] Cf. D. Oko, Wokół sprawy Drewermanna [Around Drewermann’s Case], (together with J. Bagrowicz), “Ateneum Kapłańskie” 4 (500) 1992, pp. 102-114; Sprawa Drewermanna czyli “Luter dwudziestego wieku” [Drewermann’s Case, or the Luther of the Twentieth Century], ”Tygodnik Powszechny” 51 (2267) 1992; Fałszywy prorok. W odpowiedzi Tadeuszowi Zatorskiemu [False Prophet. In Reply to Tadeusz Zatorski], ”Tygodnik Powszechny” 7 (2275) 1993.

[34] F. J. Augustyn SJ, Kościelna omerta [Omerta in the Church], op. cit.

[35] Cf. Benedict XVI, Light of the World, op. cit., p. 30.

[36] P. Kowalczuk, Watykan: nie zawinił celibat [Vatican: Celibacy Was Not To Blame], ”Rzeczpospolita” 14.04.2010. After the Roman symposium “Towards Healing and Renewal”, a delegate from Poland, Bishop Marian Rojek from Przemyśl, pointed out that „as far sexual abuse of minors in the U.S.A. is concerned, 0.05 percent of all cases involves clergymen …. Studies conducted in Italy show similar percentages. In Germany, in turn, 210.000 cases of abuse against minors were reported from 1995 until the middle of 2012. In that context, only 94 cases were related to the Catholic Church. Which means one in every two thousand cases of harassment in Germany involves a clergyman”. That is why the Church “will not remain silent about the distortion of the overall picture of paedophilia in the world” (M. Majewski, Prawda i miłość lekarstwem na nadużycia [Abuse Can Be Healed With Truth and Love], an interview with Bishop Marian Rojek, “Uważam Rze”, 20.02.2012, pp. 60-62, 61.) Cf. F. D. Kowalczyk, Mówić prawdę o pedofilii [Speak the Truth About Paedophilia], “Gość Niedzielny”, 19.12.2012, pp. 28ff.

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The One Church and the Divided People of God — Fr. Louis Bouyer

December 20, 2012
The Byzantine development of the richly decorated east wall as “liturgical east” as illustrated by the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.

The Byzantine development of the richly decorated east wall as “liturgical east” as illustrated by the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.

Father Louis Bouyer (1913-2004) was one of the most respected theologians of the 20th century. Born in France, Bouyer was a Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism. He was a member of the Oratorians in France, he authored many major theological works, and his ideas contributed greatly to the Second Vatican Council. His other works include The Word, Church and Sacrament in Protestantism and Catholicism and Newman: An Intellectual & Spiritual Biography of John Henry Newman. A post [reading selection] on PayingAttentiontotheSky from the latter work is here. Note that part 2 follows the part1post.

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We have not yet come to the most serious stigma in the body of Christ the sin of its members, including (perhaps above all) the sin of her visible leaders. Accordingly, we want to speak about the present division of the People of God.

It is important to differentiate carefully between “schisms” and “heresies”, inevitable accompaniments of the development of the Church, which essentially are not sins of Church members, who remain with her, but of unfaithful members who separate themselves from her and from the majority of divisions that afflict the People of God at present. These divisions are the result of sins, and persistent sins, of supposedly faithful members, and particularly of responsible leaders in the Church.

This is why all attempts at Catholic ecumenism, however well intentioned, that are meted to proposing radical change in the Church’s attitude toward schisms and heresies are irreconcilable with Catholic tradition, starting with the New Testament, and especially St. Paul and St. John. It must be said that ecumenists put aside the question and, despite generous plans, misconstrue the positive value of Protestantism, to say nothing of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Orthodox are not in general schismatics, nor are the Protestants agile heretics, like Valentinus or Arius. To ignore this, while working (our purpose also) to make rapprochement easier, is not to see the real question. We are sorry to point out such an error, even with an author so open to Protestantism as H. Kung. Cf. The Church, 42ff.]

Certainly, the distinction is not always easy to make in practice. It can even be supposed that no or scarcely any schisms or heresies could have developed without the presumed or actual existence of culpable inadequacies in faithful (or supposedly faithful) Christians, and especially in their leaders. For example, deeper Christian reflection in the early Church might have prevented, or at least considerably limited, the Gnostic and, later, the Arian crises.

Yet these crises lasted for one or two generations because churchmen did not more forcefully reassert the truths misunderstood by the Gnostics and the Arians, although they were able to understand the gravity of the problems the latter had posed and poorly resolved, and to give them satisfactory solutions. The misunderstandings were soon clarified, and all that remained of these ancient heresies was their errors, and all men of good faith rapidly abandoned them, so that they were extinguished “automatically”.

Nothing like this followed the schism between the Church of the East and the Church of the West, nor even the proliferation of undeniable heresies in which, later, the Protestant movement became involved, dividing itself against itself as well as from the Church. Of course, the problems in these latter cases were not so simple as the problems in the former; but are we right in thinking that, in such a situation, the initial faults must have been widely shared on both sides for there to have been no conciliation, after so many centuries? In the Church herself, did the faithful and their pastors not know how, or not want, to correct their faults?

This suspicion becomes a certainty when we observe that those who separated from us, and remain separated, have produced results of undeniable holiness. They are quite capable of positive missionary endeavor. In fact, they continue to develop essential elements of the Catholic tradition which today, with Catholics themselves, have only a dwarfish existence or a barely visible survival. In such cases, it is clear that comparison of the schismatic or the heretic with a detached branch of the trunk condemned to swift death if its connection with the stock is not quickly restored (as verified in the schisms and heresies of antiquity, and in others since), has no or hardly any application. It must be acknowledged that even the possibility of such a situation poses a problem that menaces the faith.

Could it be possible, then, that the Church that Christ establishes unity, as his own body, in which his Spirit lives and to which he assured survival until his return, might be fallen from this unity? But this unity is so constitutive that to say that the Church has ceased to be one, to be the one Church of Jesus Christ, would come down to saying there is no longer any Church in the New Testament sense and that Jesus’ work in history has therefore failed. If this were the case, not only would there no longer be a Christian Church, a Catholic Church that is worthy of name; we would have to say that there never will be any. For if the Church founded by Christ fails, if her very existence ceases, no one other than Jesus Christ, returning into our history before his time (which seems unthinkable), could resurrect her.

Consequently, we must believe that, despite all contestations, the Church still subsists, is still one and unique. That she could subsist in a series of social bodies, independent and different from one another, and even in endemic conflict, is absolutely contrary to the vision of the New Testament and the ancient Church. The contrary idea, that, whatever her vicissitudes, there is not and will never be but one Church of Jesus Christ, is therefore essential (and rightly so) to Catholic tradition. It is no less essential to Orthodox tradition. Neither, without denying themselves, could abandon it.

Orthodox and Catholics
It is precisely here that the first major difficulty arises — the first and perhaps the greatest scandal for the faith. On first sight, there are two Churches: the Catholic Church, whose distinctive sign is communion with the successor of Peter, and the Orthodox Church, which no longer has (or seems to have) this communion. But each claims for itself, in equally exclusive fashion, this identification with the una, sancta, catholica, which both confess in the same Credo.

It would seem that one or the other might be right, but not both at the same time. After so many centuries, their apparent incapacity to reconcile themselves may suggest that one or the other is in error and that the una, sancta, catholica has simply disappeared from earth.

This is the greatest scandal given by members of the Church, by men of the Church”, charged with the highest responsibilities, so that it becomes very difficult for the faith itself not to see this scandal of the Church, her preeminent scandal: the Church teaching her unity as the greatest gift of God but, in fact, seeming to be divided (against God’s will).

There seems to be only one answer: the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, though dreadfully tempted by the spirit of division, remain one Church, in fact and by right, despite contrary appearances. This is verified by the most thorough historical investigation of this problem, however painful it may be. In fact, neither the conflict and reciprocal excommunications of the patriarch Michael Cerularius and Cardinal Humbert, nor the scandalous Crusade, redirected toward Constantinople, and its consequences, nor even the fruitless attempts at reconciliation at Lyon and Florence, which merely embittered the oppositions, suspended all communion between the Church of the East and the Church of the West.

To the end of the eighteenth century, limited incidents of inter-communion between the two Churches are innumerable. Not only (as a general rule) were all baptized and communicating members of one received in the other on the same basis, without abjuration, but priests and even bishops passed from one to the other or, more exactly, occasionally “moved through” both without encountering major difficulties. However violent and acrimonious the polemics, they were only disputes of particularly spirited schools, and not necessarily more spirited than those that occasionally arose among Easterners or Westerners themselves, without in break in communion as the result.

The policy among the great sees of Christendom, despite spasmodic outbursts of violent reproaches (though not one of them seemed to justify a schism), was to ignore one another absolutely in mutual embarrassment, rather than to condemn one another absolutely. In fact, at least per conniventiam, Rome — like Constantinople and Moscow — did not concern itself with preventing communion, which remained the rule where there was untroubled opportunity to meet and cooperate.

Not until the beginning of the nineteenth century did Latin missionaries, moved by unfortunate zeal, take it into their heads to apply to Orientals the canons decreed by Trent against Protestants, and, through a regrettable but understandable twist, that Orientals (particularly Greeks in permanent conflict with Latins in the islands of the Peloponnesus or elsewhere) did the same.

On both sides, then, people developed outrageous practices, such as repetition of baptism or ordination, in certain cases of contact. Also on both sides, theologians for the first time treated not only bishops or theologians of the other side as schismatics, but the totality of the two blocs, accusing each other of heresies with a systematization unknown until then (except in brief and local flushes of intolerance).

To all of these procedures and to those responsible for them, we must apply Christ’s prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not they do!” If their sly maneuvers made any sense, it could only be rejection of the Church they defended, as well as the one they attacked, as schismatic or heretical. For all these wretched polemics suppose, on both sides, a confusion of tradition, whether Catholic or Orthodox, with an artificial partisanship that, for this very reason, is adulterated, which is precisely the process whereby people normally go from schism into formal heresy. The primary question, then, is: How did we arrive at a situation as deplorable as it is absurd? Obviously, once this question has been answer complementary question can be broached: How are we to get out of it?

What is primarily responsible for preventing the East from returning to full and lasting communion with the Christian West is this hypertrophy and, consequently, this deformation of authority we have analyzed. However, what obliges us to acknowledge that responsibilities for the division are shared on both sides is the undeniable fact that Church authority in the West involved itself in a near-fatal evolution from a healthy and originally necessary reaction against encroachments of the supposedly Christian empire on the Church, of the secular authority on the ecclesiastical authority, to which, on the whole, the East became too easily resigned.

On the other hand, it is only right to acknowledge that if the endeavors of ancient popes, such as St. Leo and St. Gregory the Great, to regain or defend the independence of the Church, were in principle unassailable and, in fact, were never assailed in the East, bishops of the East, such as St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, were never less clear or less courageous for the same cause. Consequently, in this conflict the de facto failings (in the opposing sense) of both East and West were never improperly canonized. At the time when the first conflicts threatened, the Byzantine doctrine of the Epanagogē was firmly articulated (as we have seen) with the doctrine uttered by Pope Gelasius. Even long after the apparently consummated division, the episcopate of the East, even when subjugated by basileus or tsar, never made a dogma of this situation — any more than Boniface VIII dared do with the more than doubtful vision that the famous bull, Unam Sanctam, proposed for relations between the two authorities. For a stronger reason, the Christian West, in its totality, was far from making such a view its own.

It is true, however, that alienation of the apostolic authority in the East, in contrast with its cancerous development in the West, permitted the liturgical function, more than the function of the magisterium (threatened, along with authority itself, with being taken over by the secular power), an autonomous development which was not entirely beneficial. Orthodoxy became, or aspired to become, “heaven on earth” — above all, if not exclusively, in liturgical and sacramental celebration.

Without doubt, this celebration retained substantial richness, and even had lasting and fecund developments, which had scarcely any equivalents in the West, where, as we have seen, the-aggrandizement of authority tended to reduce worship to a court ceremonial. Tending to develop more and more outside real life (monastic life apart), the liturgy in the East, instead of remaining in this sacramental world (which should be intermediary between the eschatological world of the risen Christ and the concrete universe of our daily life), would, always be tempted to become a world in itself — a dream world enclosed within itself — wishing to substitute itself for the real world but without the power to do so; indeed, concealing its reality, which has remained in great part pagan. Undoubtedly, as their best modern thinkers are the first to acknowledge, this was the major sin of the Orthodox as the major sin of Catholics of the West was their clerical imperialism.

Thus a twofold orbit was accentuated in the life of the Church and determined, over the course of centuries, a de facto separation, tending more and more to opposition in principle between Christian realities should be conjoined in unity.

Confusing the papal function with its exercise or its more or less excessive theoretical justifications, the East, unlike the West, never developed its whole significance, implied in the deeds and texts of the New Testament and the early Church. What is worse, the East tends, if not to reduce its import unduly, to forget the attestations of its own past. Reciprocally, the West neglected and more and more misunderstood the irreplaceable value of the traditions it received from the Fathers and the Church of the East; and in believing it could build itself independently of this heritage, it unconsciously risked cutting itself off from its roots.

Thus, on both sides, undue identification of the truth as Catholic Orthodox became dangerously confused with a merely partial form of its expression and with cultural nationalism: Orthodoxy and Byzantinism Catholicism and Latinism (or, later, Romanism).

Today, the first remedy to this situation, now that sufficient historical awareness of these errors (which are above all, moral faults) has been assumed or is in process of being assumed on both sides, is escape from religious nationalism and the unilateralism it crystallized. Finally, it would be necessary to deny the obvious negation of “catholicity”, of sobornost; (to use a term the modern Orthodox have developed, often fortuitously). Beginning with this, rediscovery and reestablishment of full unity would become possible on both sides, or rather in common.

Recuperation of doctrinal harmony in the apostolic ministry between its function of pastoral authority and its liturgical function, would come about in common renewal of its magisterium. However, renewal of two inseparable units of the Church, finally coming together, could happen open only in symphony with a common rebirth of living witness to the truth of love by the entire (now fraternal) life of all Christians, Orthodox and Catholic.

Then, the unity of the Church Catholic and Orthodox — which we believe has never ceased, though many clouds have obscured. it — would reappear. Reappearing, she would immediately flourish and fructify in the special manifestation of charity and holiness that the modern world expects from the Church of Christ, which she will never bring it so long as this basic reunion is not effected.

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The Treatise Of St John Eudes On The Kingdom Of Jesus

November 30, 2012

St. John Eudes was born in France in the year 1601. After being ordained to the priesthood, he spent years preaching missions and in founding congregations to improve priestly formation and promote a life of Christian virtue. He was particularly dedicated to fostering devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary. St. John Eudes died in 1680.

The Mystery Of Christ In Us And In The Church
We must strive to follow and fulfill in ourselves the various stages of Christ’s plan as well as his mysteries, and frequently beg him to bring them to completion in us and in the whole Church. For the mysteries of Jesus are not yet completely perfected and fulfilled. They are complete, indeed, in the person of Jesus, but not in us, who are his members, nor in the Church, which is his mystical body. The Son of God wills to give us a share in his mysteries and somehow to extend them to us. He wills to continue them in us and in his universal Church. This is brought about first through the graces he has resolved to impart to us and then through the works he wishes to accomplish in us through these mysteries. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.

For this reason Saint Paul says that Christ is being brought to fulfillment in his Church and that all of us contribute to this fulfillment, and thus he achieves the fullness of life, that is, the mystical stature that he has in his mystical body, which will reach completion only on judgment day. In another place Paul says: I complete in my own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.

This is the plan by which the Son of God completes and fulfils in us all the various stages and mysteries. He desires us to perfect the mystery of his incarnation and birth by forming himself in us and being reborn in our souls through the blessed sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. He fulfils his hidden life in us, hidden with him in God.

He intends to perfect the mysteries of his passion, death and resurrection, by causing us to suffer, die and rise again with him and in him. Finally, he wishes to fulfill in us the state of his glorious and immortal life, when he will cause us to live a glorious, eternal life with him and in him in heaven.

In the same way he would complete and fulfill in us and in his Church his other stages and mysteries. He wants to give us a share in them and to accomplish and continue them in us. So it is that the mysteries of Christ will not be completed until the end of time, because he has arranged that the completion of his mysteries in us and in the Church will only be achieved at the end of time.

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The Tridentine Genius of Vatican II (Part II) — Thomas Joseph White O.P

November 28, 2012

The Nativity (also known as The Holy Night (or La Notte) or as Adoration of the Shepherds) is a painting finished around 1529-1530 by the Italian painter Antonio da Correggio. It is housed in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.
The work was commissioned from Correggio in October 1522 by Alberto Pratoneri for the family chapel in the church of San Prospero of Reggio Emilia: completed at the end of the decade, it was placed in the chapel in 1530. In a what was considered a minor sacrilege, the painting was absconded in 1640 by duke Francesco I d’Este and taken to his private gallery, it was moved to Dresden in 1746.
The artist, following the trail blazed by a number of celebrated works by Titian, interpreted a scene that is fully ‘à la chandell’ and produced an outstanding result in the treatment of light. The scene pivots around the Child, surrounded by Mary’s arms, with a group of shepherds on the left, of which the bearded figure is portrayed in the same position of Jerome in the Madonna with St. Jerome (c. 1523). On the right are the traditional presepe animals and St. Joseph. The upper left part features several angels reminiscent the ardite positions in Correggio’s dome of the Cathedral of Parma, executed in the same years.
From Wikipedia Article on Correggio.

Vatican I’s emphasis on the unifying role of the papacy is not lost at Vatican II but reasserted as the basis of a communion in the one Church. If each local Church is to be fully herself, she must be in communion with the larger principle of unity, the Church in Rome and her prelate. This does not mean that there are no other grounds for ecumenism, but rather that ecumenism is truly possible and necessary especially because the Roman primacy provides a way for Christians to be one in a visible way, holding to a common doctrine.

How would we find mutual doctrinal accord if there were no way to attain to a touchstone of unity and to know in what we must be unified? Thus some form of doctrinal infallibility is the necessary condition for doctrinal unity. We can say with certitude: No pope, no true and final ecumenism.

Analogously, if Vatican II states that the laity are to be consulted in their practices and beliefs because of the sensus fidei — the sense of the faith — they hold, it is not because this functions independently of the ecclesial hierarchy. Rather, they are to be consulted because the life of the laity in ordinary society can embody and express, with its own unique genius and sanctity, the concrete truth of the gospel proclaimed by the apostolic hierarchy. Because there is a hierarchy, the laity can have a distinct and complementary mission of witness and teaching.

On this reading, Newman is right. The Church is alive in myriad ways, both in profound unity and in genuine, diversified vitality: in the sacraments, in the grace of Christ working invisibly to lead persons outside the Church to encounter Christ fully in the sacraments, in the Church in Rome and in her sister Churches, in the bishops and in the laity. The Council’s insistence on the sacramental visibility of the Church becomes a point of continuity with the past, not a point of rupture.

Consider another modern Catholic touchstone: the relationship between authority and rationality. The standard secular narrative is that we have to choose between an appeal to a unified doctrinal authority and the openness of human rationality to the fullness of universal truth. From Trent to Vatican II we see a contrary teaching, that authentic apostolic authority and vital human rationality are not only complementary, but also deeply and mutually enriching.

Trent committed the Catholic Church to this stance through that most authoritative of pronouncements: the affirmation of the Greek-language books of the Old Testament as inspired. By accepting the complete Septuagint as the authoritative Scripture of the Church, the Roman Catholic Church knowingly committed herself to a very ambitious project of historical study. How should we understand the narrative of the development of the books of the Bible, from the Torah and prophets (in Hebrew) to the inter-testamental literature (Hellenized Judaism), to the New Testament? What are we to make of the interpretations of the patristic age and the formation of the biblical canon during the time of the early christological disputes?

The Council of Trent saw that historical rationality and the divine authority of Scripture are not in competition but in profound concord. After the Council, the Church sought to win over the academic culture of Europe by making historical arguments about the true genesis and development of early Christianity. As Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.” This strategy committed the institution, however, to an ambitious new program of seminary and university studies, one that was in turn propagated throughout Europe by the episcopacy and renewed the study of philosophy and sacred theology in the early modern period.

Vatican I carried this program forward in conversation with the secular Enlightenment. Dei Filius insisted, against secular reason, on the infallibility of divine revelation: Revelation is a gift that human rationality cannot procure for itself. Yet it also underscored the high natural capacities of human reason, our philosophical capacity to know of the existence of God and to cooperate with divine revelation.

Against the reductive tendency of modern thought that so quickly rejects appeal to divine authority, that council sought to underscore the existence of a fruitful, liberating interaction between sacred theology and human rationality. The two are not at war, but may mutually interact with one another in peace and liveliness. Revelation is a gift to human reason seeking perspective. Reason seeking meaning can arrive at the threshold of the question of God and can therefore admit the possibility of divine revelation.

The modern Church’s living confidence in both divine authority and human rationality flowers at Vatican II, bringing to greater fullness what is present in seed at Trent and in stem at Vatican I. For instance, Dei Verbum, the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, affirms that the Holy Spirit is the principal author of sacred Scripture but that it is also always to be understood as the simultaneous product of true human authors. There is no rivalry between divine causality and human creativity.

Rather, God the Holy Spirit works through the living instrument of human rationality. Consequently, there need be no opposition between the study of the cultural context of a particular author and pursuit of the inspired, deepest meaning of the text. Each should in principle facilitate a deeper appreciation of the other.

Analogously, Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, called for an integrated understanding of modern cosmology and human political and moral life in concord with divine revelation. Engagement with the sciences or modern constitutional law are profoundly compatible with a biblical understanding of reality.

More to the point, only the theological vision of the human person who is created in the image of God can give final explanation to the development of the physical cosmos and the world of living things. Only theological recognition of the dignity of the human being who is redeemed in Christ can give ultimate justification to the humanist aspirations of modern democratic government and the legal system of rights.

As a last example, Nostra Aetate, the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, underscored the importance of a search for intelligent points of contact between divine revelation and the diverse religious traditions of humanity. One can seek to explain and promote Christianity while also seeking to understand and learn culturally from the Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim traditions.

Most especially, the Church’s engagement with the Jewish people stems first from her recognition of the authority of Christ. This engagement requires that the Church take account of the theological and moral implications of the grave mistreatment of Jews by baptized persons in both medieval and modern Europe.

The Church in modernity has understood that human reason is enriched by revelation, and in its teachings on this matter Vatican II is thoroughly and faithfully Tridentine. While the Church simultaneously embraces the exploration of divine revelation and the expansion of human reason, the mystery of the faith itself does not change, but the way that mystery is understood, articulated, and transmitted does develop. Through this development, doctrines are clarified and purifications occur. In and through the process, the Church is called to become more herself, more attentive to the truth that she bears within herself in order to proclaim it with integrity and vitality to the world.

Consider the third theme, that of holiness. The Reformation was most fundamentally about the doctrine of justification: What is it that makes us righteous before God? We know Luther’s bold answer: justification by faith alone, apart from works. The Church took issue with this definition, but not with the notion of justification as a gift of grace. All were agreed on that. Nor did the Church dispute the need for supernatural faith. Again, the Church insisted at Trent that faith is necessary for salvation.

Rather, the heart of the matter had to do with Luther’s formula simul justus et peccator: the claim that by faith one could be just while simultaneously alienated from God in the will by the interior wound of sin. Against such a notion, Trent taught that the infusion of supernatural charity is an essential dimension of justification. In the fallen human person, the disordered loves of sin turn the human will away from God. By the grace of justification, faith, hope, and love together turn the human person freely and voluntarily away from sin and back toward God, all through the power of Christ.

What is at stake in this technical theological argument? One answer is: the Church’s insistence on the essential character of holiness at the core of Christian life. For there is no Christian life without charity. The seed idea of Trent, then, is that charity is at the root of all authentic Christian life.

Charity, however, is not only interior but lived out in the street. At Vatican I, the Church militant insisted on the public and social character of religion, in the face of the militant secular state that wished to confine religion to a merely privatized “freedom of worship.” The inner core of this Catholic militancy is based on a deep understanding of the all-embracing character of religion. Since charity impels the human person toward the service of God in all things, it is not feasible to ask the religious person to quarantine his or her belief behind the walls of private life. Catholic charity bears fruit through public, Christian institutions.

This is not to say that Vatican I pushed for a state-imposed religiosity (it did not). It did hold for the principle of integrity. For the Catholic Christian is called to submit the whole of his life to the mystery of God, in all spheres of life. Holiness is the fruit of such integrity, and it tolerates no half measures of self-offering. It stems instead from the victory in the human person of radical, oblative love.

This, too, is a theme that flowers in Vatican II. The Council emphasized the “universal call to holiness” of all of Christ’s faithful, the people of God. Baptism brings with it intrinsically a vocation to holiness that is grounded in the life of charity. This pursuit of holiness should affect both family and social life at their root, and the effect can transform the world.

But the world also can and does resist the holiness of God. Gaudium et Spes enjoins Christians to public practices of Christian charity that can be performed through the instrumentality of the state: education of the poor, economic development in underprivileged countries, and the pursuit of international peace, for example. The Council also calls upon Christians to demarcate clearly those threats to sacramental married life that strike at the heart of the holiness of a civilization, referring particularly in this respect to adultery, abortion, and contraception.

This theme of the Council is deeply interconnected with the sacramental vision mentioned above. We are frail human beings, in need of spiritual healing and elevation, dependent upon nourishment and continual aid from God. The sacramental life is the visible sphere wherein the baptized Christian can be habitually rejuvenated, in order to bring the mystery of Christ visibly and invisibly into the heart of modernity. Vatican II’s emphasis on holiness is grounded in Tridentine presuppositions in the charity of the sacraments of reconciliation, and the Eucharist stands at the heart of the Christian calling to renew the world.

Some today, particularly among younger Catholics, wonder not if the Council’s teaching is true but whether it is of any great help to us in our contemporary setting. The council fathers did not really foresee the radical secularization of Europe and the Americas that was beginning (or beginning to be seen) just as the documents were being published.

In our new and very challenging context, in which the Church suffers internal dissent and external persecution, many look back to the liturgical spirituality and theology of Trent and Vatican I as expressions of vibrant Catholic identity, and this makes perfect sense in light of the life of the Church as Newman described it. A plant under attack from disease will protect the roots and the stem and let the flowers go. These earlier configurations of Catholicism are like the root and the stem of modern Catholicism, wherein the life of the modern Church is expressed in concentrated fashion.

But we cannot do without the Second Vatican Council. The stem and the root are meant to flower, and the flowering of the Church occurs through the Christian life of charity and the public, credible proclamation of the truth, the realities of her life developed and articulated at Vatican II. It is precisely because Catholic Christianity is not sectarian but cosmopolitan and culture-forming that it must remain ever engaged with the world around it.

The modern Church is indeed a sacramentally visible order. She recognizes simultaneously the absolute importance of divine authority and public rationality. She is committed at her heart to the life of holiness. Because all this is true, the confidence of the Second Vatican Council should continue to speak to us.

The faith of the Church truly can transform the world, even as leaven in the dough or as the lamp that illumines an entire room. Newman was acutely sensitive to the great difficulty and simultaneous grandeur of being a Christian in the contemporary age.

The Christian is always a stranger in the world, but the Christian is the soul of the world as well. The greatness and promise of this vocation can be underscored by a patient reading of the Second Vatican Council that understands its place in the living tradition of the Church, particularly its place as the third great council of modern Catholicism.

That Council teaches us confidence. For in modernity the Church surely does travel through a dark night of faith, but she also bears within herself the hidden and radiant presence of the inextinguishable light of Christ.

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