Today was celebrated the funeral Mass for Pope Benedict XVI, a loving and gentle father whose concern for the spiritual good of all the faithful was most deeply manifested through his encyclical Sumorum Pontificum. The Ecclesial career of Fr. and later Cardinal Ratzinger, who would succeed St. John Paul II in the Petrine office as Benedict XVI, showed a commendable willingness to adapt his views from the abstract notions of the young intellectual to the concrete realities and challenges facing the Church. What I mean is that Benedict, like his predecessor, made valiant efforts to reconcile the novel teachings of Vatican II with longstanding Church tradition. History remains to judge whether their attempts to “square the circle” known as Vatican II succeeded or failed.
At this time we can only give both Pontiffs credit for making the effort, an effort which cost Benedict a great deal of opposition, criticism, and mental anguish. Although himself a progressive young periti or theological expert at the Council, time began to reveal that much of the Second Vatican Council was in fact a substantial miscalculation. I mean that instead of healing the rift between the Church and the modern world which the young, idealistic Fr. Ratzinger undoubtedly imagined to be possible, i.e., that the Church would finally convert the world through the means of modern social communications, in fact just the opposite occurred: secular values quickly invaded the Church.
Rather than the Church acting as a leaven in the world, the leaven of the world began to act within the Church through the power of those same means of social communication which flooded both clergy and faihful with its own secular messaging. Within the Church itself “pastoral” became the new catchword for “anything goes” while moral theology became hopelessly confused with sociology. The Council inadvertently opened those floodgates by allowing an admixture of true, long held doctrine to be sprinkled with subtle errors. This occurred when the former clarity in Church pronouncements was replaced by a verbal ambiguity in which, if one carefully reads the documents produced at Vatican II, one can sense the parsing of terms and even internal contradictions throughout many of those same documents. One consequence of the new “pastoral” guidelines being that a whole generation of clerics was trained to believe that the Catholic Church is no longer essential to salvation, therefore one can use means outside the Church to be saved. From this it is but a short step to the belief that all men, at least those of reasonably good will, are to be saved. The problem is that this teaching is not a part of the Apostolic tradition.
Christmas is above all a season of hope, a chance to throw off all the media induced fear porn we have been bombarded with over the past eleven months and to renew our faith and hope in the One who alone conquers fear and death. Fear is the enemy of both true faith and hope, as the recent pandemic has so copiously illustrated. I say true faith and hope because today we are presented with a counterfeit version of faith and hope which contradicts, and even opposes, those great theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity whose proper object is the Son of God, of whose birth we are celebrating.
The fear mongers in today’s world are working hard and long to distort and secularize the authentic theological virtues so that they are no longer religious, rather they become transformed into humanist values. Faith thus becomes a misplaced faith in human science and progress, not faith in God and His providence. Our hope is no longer for eternal salvation but only a brighter future here on earth. Charity which is an ardent love for God becomes an exaggerated love and concern for nature and the planet. In order to draw our minds away from contemplating the divine Creator as the proper object of faith, hope, and love, the enemies of God are using fear to heighten anxieties over temporal concerns. Thus they redirect the theological virtues towards purely materialistic ends. And the catalyst they have used over and again to effect this devilish transformation is fear.
The following are excerpts from a recent letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano to the Bishop of Novara, Italy. His comments pretty well sums up the deploarble attitude of too many prelates in the current Bergolian church towards those faithful Catholics who yearn for the beauty and reverence of the traditional Sacred Liturgy, which is every Catholic’s rightful patrimony.
“Most Reverend Excellency,
“Your recent decision to suspend the celebration of the Tridentine Liturgy in the church of Vocogno and in the chapel of San Biagio in the Ossola Valleys (Piedmont, Italy) has provoked a great bitterness in the thousands of the faithful and in the priests who are tied to the Traditional Rite (here). After years of application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the coldness with which you have executed Traditionis Custodes has aroused deep indignation, despite the fact that the Code of Canon Law gives diocesan Ordinaries faculties that would permit you to derogate from it…
“The “church of mercy” finds itself exercising its power with the force of coercion, which fails when it ought to instead be used to heal situations that are much more serious: theological deviations, moral aberrations, sacrileges and irreverences in the liturgical ambit, The image of the (present day) Hierarchy given to the people of God is summed up in the adage: Strong with the weak; weak with the strong. Which, if you will permit me to say so, is the exact opposite of what you pledged to do as a Bishop.
Alongside the thorny question of Sacred Tradition v. Holy Scripture, those doctrines concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary have proven to be some of the more contentious barriers for many non-Catholics to reconcile with their understanding of Christianity. On this last day of October, the month of the most Holy Rosary, I thought it appropriate to post some of the Church Father’s thoughts regarding Scripture and Tradition, Mary’s perpetual virginity, the Catholic Church, and even infant baptism. Because without some agreement on these key doctrines Christian unity will never be achieved.
Religious diversity has been a cornerstone of our Western culture for so long now that it has become a given, even among Christians whose competing sects number in the thousands. Nonetheless, the essential question for any serious Christian today, yet rarely asked anymore, remains: is there only One Church founded by Christ or many? Did our Lord intend for there to be countless churches claiming his name or did he mean for there to be a single united body of believers, for as He himself prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one… I do not pray for these only but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.” (Jn 17: 11; 20-21)
Christian unity is thereby identified by Jesus Christ as one of the visible hallmarks that will attract the world to belief in the Gospel. If today’s world is sinking back into the abyss of neo-paganism then undoubtedly part of the cause must be the scandal of disunity among Christians which translates into a kind of religious adventurism allowing each person to follow his or her own take on the Gospel. Like a marketplace, modern Christians feel free to pick and choose from among those items which may appeal to their fancy (while ignoring more challenging demands): Tradition or Scripture (alone); preaching or sacraments; grace or good works; ordained hierarchy or lay governance, priests or ministers of the Word; sacrificial worship or a memorial communion feast. While all these things are important elements of the Church founded by Christ, they are not stand alone tenets but rather ingredients able to congeal together and form a tightly integrated whole which, bound together, forms and expresses a rational and unified deposit of faith.
The Spring of 2020 witnessed something entirely unprecedented in the 2,000 year history of the Church. Under pressure from government officials the bishops of the world shut down the entire public sacramental life of God’s Church without a whimper of protest, and did so during the holiest season of the year, Lent and Eastertide. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Under the most virulent Roman persecutions the Church was forced underground, but its sacramental life continued to flow and flourish in the chambers of the catacombs. The faithful continued to be fed in spite of the tremendous risk to life and property. The same can be said during the devastating plagues of the Middle Ages when priests and bishops continued ministering to the souls entrusted to their pastoral care.
In times of great crisis or mortal threat pastors well understood that the sacraments became even more so a necessary and efficacious means of strengthening their flocks against physical and spiritual perils. So what happened in 2020 represents an inexplicable and entirely novel reaction on the part of prelates to a supposed threat, callously barring church doors against their own people ─ on Easter Sunday no less! Rather than working to dispel fear, the fecklessness of many pastors only heightened the tension and enabled manipulative fear mongering by secular public authorities. Something had certainly changed in the general attitude of our cowering prelates. Had they never read the response posed by Peter and John? “Whether it is right to obey men rather than God…” (Acts 4:19)
It was the most disastrous social experiment in our history. No I don’t mean slavery but a far more destructive horror – Roe v Wade – a judicially imposed policy to enlarge “women’s freedom” which in effect claimed over 60 million unborn American lives. Put into context that is roughly 100 lives lost for every single fatality suffered during America’s Civil War, the deadliest conflict in our nation’s history. Just last Friday five justices on our Supreme Court finally recognized the travesty of that Constitutionally flawed decision, laying to rest its blood-stained legacy after 49 long years.
Forty-nine years is itself Biblically significant: seven cycles of seven years each which have transpired between Roe and Dobbs v Jackson. The date of that decision, June 24, was also highly significant for it marked the conjunction of two major feasts in the liturgical calendar ~ The Feast of the Sacred Heart and the Birth of St. John the Baptist. The last time these two feasts fell together was on June 24, 1960, exactly one day after the FDA had approved the first hormonal oral contraceptive, an event which greatly ushered in the sexual revolution. Development of that first oral contraceptive, Enovid, was largely funded by Margaret Sanger and her Planned Parenthood organization. The work itself was performed by Gregory Pincus and Dr. John Rock, an lifelong Catholic who would eventually leave the Church rather than submit to Humanae Vitae which deemed use of the pill for contraceptive purposes to be objectively immoral.
Sandwiched in between those 62 years (1960-2022) separating the conjoined feasts of the Sacred Heart and St. John the Baptist, who leaped for joy in the womb when his own divine kinsman approached him in the maternal womb of the Virgin Mary, one can witness the anti-conception movement known as the sexual revolution. “For in those days they will say, ‘blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.” (Lk. 23:29) And so, over this span of less than one lifetime the sexual revolution has greatly exhausted itself in an orgy of angry, destructive self-indulgence. Rather than enhancing intimacy between men and women this revolution has rejected the bonds of conjugal intimacy and family life for a narcissistic expectation of endless self-gratification, an unrealistic expectation which then morphed into today’s angry resentful brand of feminism which regards human fertility as a curse.
Do our bishops really understand the difference?
Fifty-five years after passing the nation’s first liberalized abortion law, Colorado has shamefully doubled down by approving an Unrestricted Abortion Access Act fraudulently labelled as the Reproductive Health Equity Act (RHEA). Such deliberately misleading terminology has sadly become a staple of modern political discourse. Referring to the grisly process of abortion as “reproductive health” is an utterly absurd twisting of word meanings, intended only to mislead and deceive John Q. Public. Imagine legislators passing a bill to encourage and subsidize smoking called the Healthy Lungs Act! Yet that is precisely what the RHEA designation does. It turns the plain meaning of words upside down. Abortion provides neither a health benefit to an unborn child whose health is utterly destroyed through willful death nor to the mother whose emotional and often physical well being can be compromised by chronic depression, a perforated uterus, or permanent sterility. And where is the “equity” achieved for an aborted unborn child who has been unceremoniously stripped of all legal protections.
RHEA is a heinous and cynical effort to make Colorado a safe-haven for abortionists and a center of “abortion tourism” for surrounding “less progressive” states where life in utero may still be cherished and protected. It allows unrestricted access to abortion from conception right up to the moment of birth, for any reason whatsoever including gender selection. (But wait! I thought that parents no longer had the right to choose their child’s gender once they have reached kindergarten age. Yet before they are born it’s okay to unilaterally make such a choice by pruning out an unwanted gender, thus exposing the current hypocrisy of the leftist political class.
The story of Josef Cardinal Mindszenty’s confrontations with Hungarian Communists immediately after World War II is a gripping tale of intrigue, deception, and power politics. After watching the recent documentary film 2000 Mules I was particularly intrigued by the many parallels between what we had witnessed in November, 2020 and the convulsions Hungary was subjected to during and after the 1947 election that ensconced a Soviet puppet state that would maintain its totalitarian grip over the Hungarian people for the next 42 years. At the time the only organized opposition to the Communist takeover came from the Catholic Church under the strong leadership of its Primate of Hungary, Cardinal Josef Mindszenty. Ultimately Mindszenty himself would be targeted by the Communists, arrested, and imprisoned for his intransigence towards the totalitarian ruling power.
But in order to show the world that a Communist takeover was “the will of the people” that crucial 1947 election had to be rigged to obtain the desired outcome. According to Dr. Nicholas Boer, a Catholic priest who was himself an important official in the Ministry of Education, “In the West and elsewhere, everybody knew that the Hungarian elections of August 30, 1947 took place under an anti-democratic electoral law (which excluded a considerable part of the voters)… We do not want to discuss in detail how the Communists committed numerous abuses with the so-called “blue slips” which enabled a man to vote at various polling stations several times.” Just an aside, as an election judge in Denver County in the early 2000s I personally witnessed something very similar to this after the county had abandoned precinct voting to set up various “polling stations” around the city. I remember reporting to my supervisor that the ticket given to a voter after initial check in then remained in the voter’s custody and could then be simply re-used at any other polling station to vote again without having to check in. My complaint was simply ignored.
Back at the founding of our republic John Adams famously prophesied that the Constitution was designed to govern a religious and moral people, emphatically adding that it was not fit for any other kind. Now, some two plus centuries down the pike his observation is being proven out in real time. Wokeism is plaguing and eating away at the foundations of American society. Confusion reigns in the public square because the American people, too many of whom have fallen away from religion altogether, are being relentlessly gaslighted by their own leaders and public officials, greedy to obtain ever more power and control over our lives, our families, even our inmost thoughts.
This unpleasant fact was forcefully brought home to me recently as I watched a televised interview featuring a state senator from a wealthy suburban Detroit district. Identifying herself as a typical educated white Christian female she went on to rail against those parents who were upset by their five and six year old children being exposed to LGBT sexual ideology in the public schools. She was utterly dismissive of the notion that any kind of sexual content presented to kindergartners might either be age inappropriate or something rightly reserved to parents to discuss with their own children. Instead she turned the table on the parents insisting that they were essentially hateful bigots for wanting to shield their innocent offspring from sexual indoctrination wrapped in the fig leaves of “education” and “equity.”
You may have read the disturbing news about the Phoenix priest who performed hundreds of invalid baptisms over a period of years through his improper changing of the words “I baptize you…” to “We baptize you…” A small clerical error you may think which, in reality, has had huge and tragic ramifications for hundreds of people who believed they were redeemed Christians but in reality remained under the curse of original sin. This is no small matter, since any of those persons who may have died in that state will be denied the joys of heaven and the beatific vision.
This case represents a prime example of the careless and lax attitude in free circulation today among Christians that good intentions can pave the way to heaven. Actually, that familiar adage says just the opposite, namely that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For too many contemporary Churchmen the sacraments have become symbols of our inherent virtues. This is a further reflection of the presumptuousness of modern man who has neatly forgotten that salvation is a free gift from God, not an entitlement. In fact sacraments, and especially baptism, are visible concrete realities capable of infusing invisible grace into otherwise deadened souls. As such their form needs to be fixed and precise so that there can be no doubt as to their efficacy. Yet too many “progressive” liturgists have been playing loose and easy with long settled formulas and causing untold damage in their egoistic wake.
For example, over the past 50 years it has become popular among certain priests and ministers to baptize children in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier, a formula that invalidates the sacrament for the simple reason that those things are divine functions – not part of the divine NAME in which Christ himself mandated baptisms be performed (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). I am reminded of a pithy line from the movie The Princess Bride where Wesley reminds the princess after her hasty wedding ceremony, “You didn’t say it then you didn’t do it.” Words are incredibly important.