Saturday, 21 May 2016

Amoris  Laetitia,  Paragraph 3:  Inculturation  or  a new  ideology?

There is one incontrovertible fact about the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL) and that is that it has caused immense controversy. The most discussed issue is whether those who have divorced and remarried but who have not had their previous marriage annulled can receive communion despite continuing sexual relations in their second 'marriage'. St John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio para 84 made it quite clear that they could not.

There are those such as Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Muller, head of the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith, who say that AL can be read from an orthodox viewpoint and thus can be interpreted as orthodox. On the other hand there are those such as Cardinals Baldisseri, Schonborn and Kasper who have made it plain that in certain circumstances such divorced and remarried can receive communion. The issue goes to the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and that is why it is so important in view of Christ's explicit teaching that marriage was indissoluble and that sexual relations outside that marriage are adultery. Whatever else that might be said about AL, good or bad, this is the most explosive issue.

Perhaps less certain is the position of Pope Francis on this issue. However it is fair to say that at every juncture the Pope appears to have facilitated the views of the three Cardinals which I refer to as the Kasper agenda. This has been documented by Edward Pentin at length in his book “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?” (note the question mark!) and although that was published 16th August 2015 I.e. before the second session of the Synod on the Family in October 2015, nothing that has happened since suggests that this facilitation of the Kasper Agenda has ceased. However one wonders whether there is not something deeper in all this.

The Apostolic Exhortation starts, in the first paragraph, with a quotation from the Relatio Synodi of the first session in 2014 of the Synod on the family: “the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people”. Some in the Western world might doubt the validity of that statement in view of current mores and indeed Pope Francis in his aeroplane conference returning from Lesbos on 16th April 2016 said something rather different: “Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry?”

In para 3 Pope Francis says “time is greater than space” and he has said this elsewhere. The meaning of which is not obvious to me. However it is the premise from which the rest of this important paragraph is intended to follow:

    3. Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For “cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated,if it is to be respected and applied”.

So we have a premise the meaning of which escaped me and I suspect would escape the understanding of most readers. However this premise is supposed to entail that the Magisterium is not needed to decide on all doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues. So if there is a doctrinal issue we should not expect the magisterium to tell us what the correct doctrine is and this can therefore be interpreted differently from country to country. But surely if we do not know what the correct doctrine is how can we interpret it? If the doctrine is fluid then the interpretations are going to be all over the place. Different interpretations of doctrine means that the doctrine does actually change. Any suggestion that this exhortation is merely about pastoral matters and in no way affects doctrine goes out of the window.

The suggestion is that only later will we know the entire truth about these matters of doctrine, teaching etc and St John is quoted. “This will always the case”. The idea seems to be that in the meantime the different interpretations are equally valid until the Spirit puts us right at some time in the future. However St John was talking about the imminent arrival of the spirit at Pentecost: It will be for him, the truth-giving Spirit, when he comes, to guide you into all truth”. So this is a process that has been going on for two thousand years in addition to what Christ told us when he was on earth. Are we to put a question mark over what the Church has taught in that period and in particular what Christ said?

Pope Francis puts all this under the idea of inculturation and there is a footnote referring to four texts:

  1. His own address at the conclusion of the Synod in 2015:

The relevant passage in that address would appear to be as follows:

And – apart from dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium – we have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous – almost! – for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion. Cultures are in fact quite diverse, and every general principle – as I said, dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s magisterium – every general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.[2] The 1985 Synod, which celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, spoke of inculturation as “the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity, and the taking root of Christianity in the various human cultures”.[3] Inculturation does not weaken true values, but demonstrates their true strength and authenticity, since they adapt without changing; indeed they quietly and gradually transform the different cultures.[4]

In para 3 of AL he specifically mentions doctrinal issues. However in this address he first of all excludes 'dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s Magisterium' implying that up to now there have been no differences over doctrinal issues from country to country but only on other matters. But then in the second sentence he appears to be suggesting that “every general principle – as I said, dogmatic questions clearly defined by the Church’s magisterium – every general principle needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied. That is to say the interpretation and therefore the doctrine is going to be inculturated differently in future from country to country.

It is then a question of what is meant by inculturation. Is inculturation the adapting or using the local culture better to illustrate universal teaching or is it a question of adapting that teaching to fit local culture? Pope Francis seems to be tending towards the latter definition.

I have always seen inculturation as the sort of thing one sees in Portugal: religious artefacts brought back from their days of empire and mission – from China, Japan, Goa, Africa and Brazil such as crucifixes where Christ has oriental, african etc features etc. In the museum at Viseu there is a painting of the visit of the three kings painted in 1506 where one of them is clearly a Brazilian Indian. However Pope Francis seems to be suggesting a much wider ambit for inculturation.

  1. Pontifical Biblical Commission, Fede e cultura alla luce della Bibbia. Atti della sessione plenaria 1979 della Pontificia Commissione Biblica, Turin, 1981

From its title this document dealt with Faith and Culture in the light of the Bible. I have not had access to this document so I cannot comment as to what it might say or not say in support of Pope Francis's thesis.

  1. Gaudium et Spes

The reference is to para 44 which is delightfully vague and ambiguous but does not use the word 'inculturation'. Unfortunately it is susceptible to being quoted out of context such as the sentence about the role of the Church: “Her purpose has been to adapt the Gospel to the grasp of all as well as to the needs of the learned, insofar as such was appropriate.” But we are not told what is appropriate! Later, in the same paragraph, we are told that things must be judged in the light of the divine word:

With the help of the Holy Spirit, it is the task of the entire People of God, especially pastors and theologians, to hear, distinguish and interpret the many voices of our age, and to judge them in the light of the divine word, so that revealed truth can always be more deeply penetrated, better understood and set forth to greater advantage.”

It is surely disingenuous to say that this lends support to Pope Francis's thesis.


4. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio

The reference is to paragraph 52 which inter alia says:

The process of the Church's insertion into peoples' cultures is a lengthy one. It is not a matter of purely external adaptation, for inculturation "means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures." The process is thus a profound and all-embracing one, which involves the Christian message and also the Church's reflection and practice. But at the same time it is a difficult process, for it must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith.”

Ouch! Well that makes it very plain as to what St John Paul II meant by inculturation. It must not compromise … the Christian faith. Is this a case where Pope Francis is in direct contradiction with St John Paul II?

  1. Evangelii Gaudium

The references are to paragraphs 69 and 117. However there is nothing in either paragraph that is not in harmony with what St John Paul II wrote and indeed there are footnotes referring to him.


Now where does all this get us? First of all let us get one thing straight. If a doctrine is interpreted differently in country A from country B then you cannot say that the doctrine is the same in both countries. For example the crime of murder in the UK is very carefully defined in the UK by statute and precedent. In other countries there may well be a crime of murder but the intepretation may be quite different even in common law countries. Thus what might be regarded as not murder but merely manslaughter in the UK might well be regarded as murder in the USA where apparently they have degrees of murder that the UK does not have. It is therefore nonsense to say that the law of murder in the UK is the same as in the USA but just interpreted differently.

Pope Francis is proposing that doctrine can be interpreted differently in different cultures in certain cases but he does not tell us what those certain cases are. It is left in the air as in Gaudium et Spes. The suggestion is that what Christ says is adultery is not necessarily adultery in certain cultures i.e. the doctrine is not going to be the same in different cultures. This is not just a development of doctrine but fundamentally it is saying that what Christ said was adultery is not adultery. Is that not what Pope Francis is suggesting can be the case?

The next question is why this third paragraph appears as the third paragraph. One might think that an exhortation on the family might first start explaining what a family is or should be, then examine what has gone wrong and then suggest proposals as to how matter could be put right and at that point it could be suggested that things be dealt with differently in difference cultures. Yet here we have this suggestion up front as if the Pope is saying this is a most important point that whatever he may say in the rest of these 325 paragraphs it can all be interpreted differently in different cultures. This is precisely what has happened.

Cardinal Kasper first of all told us that the doctrine and Canon Law have not changed but everything has changed. A contradiction which makes one scratch one's head as to his mental processes. On 22nd April he followed this up with an article in Aachener Zeitung saying:

The door is open. … There is also some freedom for the individual bishops and bishops’ conferences. … Not all Catholics think the way we Germans think.” And he concludes: “Here [in Germany,]something can be permissible which is forbidden in Africa. Therefore, the pope gives freedom for different situations and future developments.

More recently we have had the extraordinary interview with Archbishop Bruno Forte on 3rd May:
Archbishop Forte has in fact revealed a “behind the scenes” [moment] from the Synod: “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried,” said Archbishop Forte, reporting a joke of Pope Francis, “you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.

Typical of a Jesuit,” Abp Forte joked

So all this is just a matter for jokes. Perhaps Forte is a liar and no such conversation took place but if it did just what are we supposed to think?
But let us go back to the premise “time is greater than space” because there is a very interesting article about this by Fr. Giovanni Scalese to which Sandro Magister has referred us entitled “The four postulates of Pope Francis” of which our premise is the first postulate. Fr Scalese (writing from Afghanistan) suggests that Pope Francis regards the premise as a fundamental first principle incapable of proof but self-evident. Pope Francis explains it in “Evangelii Gaudium” at para 223:

This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time. One of the faults which we occasionally observe in sociopolitical activity is that spaces and power are preferred to time and processes. Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back. Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.”

I suppose one could summarise this as emphasising the importance of letting time reveal the full truth. Father Scalese thinks that Pope Francis thought this up himself but he detects “ some threads of idealistic philosophy, like historicism, the primacy of becoming over being, the origin of being from action”. His subsequent unfinished doctorate in Germany probably brought him into contact with some of the Hegelian ideas of Cardinal Kasper and others such as history is God. The other three postulates which Father Scalese says underlie Pope Francis's teaching are:

    - unity prevails over conflict
    - realities are more important than ideas
    - the whole is greater than the part.
    Fr Scalese concludes:
That Christian doctrine runs the risk of becoming ideology cannot be denied. But the same risk is run by any other principle, including the four postulates of “Evangelii Gaudium”; with the difference that these are the result of human reflection, while Catholic doctrine is founded on divine revelation.

May that not happen today which happened to Marx, who, while he taxed with ideology the thinkers who had preceded him, did not realize that he was elaborating one of the most ruinous ideologies of history.”

Is therefore Pope Francis proposing an ideology of his own invention much influenced by German idealism? An ideology that only pays lip service to Christianity? It is tempting to think so amongst all the muddle, waffle and prolixity of his writing. Positioning this paragraph at number 3 of 325 makes sense if we are to see this new ideology as intentionally permeating the whole of Amoris Laetitia and thus raising very serious questions beyond the question of communion for the divorced and remarried.
Lastly another bit of inculturation from Viseu. St Kasper gives communion to a divorced and remarried man. “Just ignore the little devil”.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Solemn Consecration of the City of Aliquippa


To the
Immaculate Heart of Mary
and the
Sacred Heart of Jesus

Saturday, 4 June 2016

        11 AM Divine Liturgy followed by
        Consecration to the Immaculate Heart
        St. George Byzantine Catholic Church
        1001 Clinton Street, Aliquippa

        1PM Consecration to the Sacred Heart followed by
        Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass
        St. Titus Roman Catholic Church
        952 Franklin Avenue, Aliquippa

        Additional information here.

Knights of Columbus Latin Mass

Sunday, 24 April 2016

On Praying for Life

Pope St. John Paul II on Praying for Life

The sanctity of life issue has risen to the forefront of the American polity.  

The Supreme Court is deciding a religious liberty case on whether the Little Sisters of the Poor should be forced to violate their consciences by passive compliance with the Obamacare Contraception Mandate.  

Republican Presidential front runner Donald Trump took myriad alleged pro life positions, including the modest proposal of legally punishing aborting mothers. Then Trump lapsed into allowing the status quo. However, in a Today Show Townhall, Trump vowed to change the GOP pro life platform to allow exceptions which Planned Parenthood would endorse.  

Congress continues to investigate how Planned Parenthood was selling baby body parts and altering abortion procedures to maximize the harvest. But these hearings received scant coverage in the Lamestream Media.

With all this in mind, Father Frank Pavone and the Priests for Life are engaged in a campaign of prayer and fasting to end abortion in the United States along with the evils perpetrated by Planned Parenthood. 

Father, you have created us in body and soul
To honor you and our neighbor
And to receive honor and respect in return.

Our bodies are sacred.
They reflect you, our Creator.
And we hold sacred
The bodies of all the children in the womb.

Lord, we are saddened
That these children are being killed,
And saddened again
That their body parts are being harvested and sold.

Have mercy on our nation.
Have mercy on those who are perpetrating these evils.
As more and more people become aware of this,
Turn their hearts towards you,
The Fountain of life and love.

Give consolation to all who have had abortions,
And give wisdom to our public officials
That they may respond adequately
To the corruption found in the abortion industry.

Grant that we,
The People of Life and the People of Mercy,
May recommit ourselves to building a nation
Without abortion and without the many evils that flow from it.

May we choose life;
May we choose mercy;
May we choose your Kingdom!
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Some may wonder, why pray to end abortion, especially as the Lord's Prayer includes the intention "Thy will be done".

Perhaps the point is that is is our invitation to participate in building the Kingdom of God even through the power of prayer.  Such sentiments echo Pope St. John Paul II's exhortation in Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life, 1995).

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A Wise and Prudent Father

On social media and even some blogs, there are some quite wild and fantastical things being said of Cardinal Raymond Burke's 'intervention' including talk of 'betrayal'. What madness.

Nobody's asked me for my thoughts, so I thought I'd give them to you anyway...

Precisely because faithful Catholics - especially in the blogosphere, yep, me too -are engaged in the painful realisation that their worst fears have largely been confirmed by the tone and noted passages within Amoris Laetitia, and because we are either involved in or are witnessing something akin to a mass public meltdown, it is probably a very good thing that Cardinal Burke has stepped forward with a calm and measured response to the document. Precisely because unfaithful Catholics - especially in the blogosphere - are engaged in the jubilant realisation that their dreams are made true by this document, is it important that Cardinal Burke has said what he has said. He has said, 'You are still living in dreamland.'

We can easily get into a frame of mind in which because we are angry at the injustice that we have seen, that we are entirely justified, in every sense, in how we respond to that wrong. Cardinal Burke's approach to the document is distinctly different to the lay, angry Catholic blogger. He is being criticised, may I suggest, because his response is humble, measured, deferential, meek, legal, proportioned, Christian and, for a man in his particular rank, very prudent. He is not pouring petrol onto the fire. He is pouring water.

Nowhere in the article he has penned for the National Catholic Register can it be inferred, that Cardinal Burke believes Amoris Laetitia to have added anything of great value or weight to the Church's proclamation of the Gospel. It can almost certainly be inferred that it adds nothing to the Church's teachings. Cardinal Burke is looking at Amoris Laetitia from a legal perspective. He is, after all, the former Apostolic Signatura. He knows his canon law. His assessment that the document changes nothing is, as a leading Prelate, important and worthy of note. His assessment is that, 'There is nothing to see here.' He is being widely ridiculed for saying that, but he is right to say it. Cardinal Burke is saying that, in terms of the Church's teachings and in terms of the Church's pastoral practise, Amoris Laetitia is 260 pages of irrelevant.

And yet, some Catholic bloggers are saying that the good Cardinal has hereby 'wimped out' of the debate? Have you seen any other prelates summarily call Amoris Laetitia, in terms of the Church's teachings and practise, basically 'entirely irrelevant'? I don't know about you but if I had penned a document frantically or maniacally hoping that it will effect massive, revolutionary, epoch-defining change within the Catholic Church - or at least signed it in this hope - and a leading Churchman came out and publicly called my efforts - in terms of the Church's perennial, irreplaceable teachings a waste of time, I might be a bit affronted if for no other reason than I had been challenged publicly by someone much cleverer than me and who was wise to my game plan.

Cardinal Burke surely knows that it is the intention of 'progressive reformers' to use this document to lever a culture shift in the Church. While bloggers speak of 'betrayal' few have noted that he is publicly reminding those who seek to do so that there is no cause at all in altering your Diocese's or your parish's customs in terms of the distribution of Holy Communion to those in objective mortal sin. When Cardinal Burke said, 'I will resist' in answer to an interviewers question concerning how he would respond should Pope Francis persist with the Kasper proposal, I think a lot of people thought that would mean, 'I will rebel'. The good Cardinal is in no good place and no good position to behave as a petulant Catholic blogger nor just say the first thing that comes into his mind. Do you not think he may have prayed about this? Why are you not also feeling betrayed by Pope Benedict XVI who hasn't yet said anything? Don't expect Bishop Schneider to do say what you want him to say, in the way you would say it either. They would be fools to do so and they would also be fools not to think of the Church's long term future after Francis, while countering the erroneous idea that this document has the authority to change anything.

For let us imagine that day, for a dreadful moment, that day when our beloved Pope dies and goes to his eternal reward. One day the Church will have to elect a new Pope and that Pope - if he is of sound Catholic judgement and believes sound Catholic doctrine - is somehow going to have to reconcile the thoughts, words and actions of his humble, pastorally-minded predecessor given to public bouts of populism, sometimes at the expense of sound doctrine, with what came before Francis and what comes after him - namely, the new Pope and those who may follow him. Whoever that man might be, unless he is going to dig up the bones of his predecessor and throw them into the Tiber, somehow the teachings of Francis, even his non-magisterial teachings (of which there are many) are going to have to be addressed.

What will be kept of Francis's papal teachings? What will be left to gather moss and disappear? What does the post-Francis Church look like? A glorious citadel? A city in ruins? A crumbling edifice? Somehow, continuity, rather than rupture, in the line of Popes will have to be presented to the Church. That can be done, now, only if the thought of Jorge Bergoglio is ignored and the teachings of Pope Francis are retained. It may be that due to a lack of well-constructed thought and many 'off the cuff' remarks not a great deal of Pope Francis's teachings are retained. After all, if you're going to throw away your original speech/homily, tell the UN you come 'in your own name' etc...

Don't you realise that Cardinal Kasper wants to change the culture of the Church in a revolution that will span 100 years? Don't you realise he thinks that he has won? Don't you realise that if leading Prelates suggest - for a moment - that he has won, that this lends to him a victory in terms of credibility that has not occurred? Don't you realise that it is likely that Cardinal Burke and others, not wishing for the Church to break in two, must keep also in mind not just the present but the future of the Catholic Church after this tempest? Don't you realise that Cardinal Burke and others are praying with you and for you that this storm within the Church comes to an end and peace will be restored within the Church, that the Barque of Peter can once more sail on waters that are serene? Are you really willing to so readily turn on someone who is on God's side, who is on your side, who is on the side of the Angels?

As a lay Catholic blogger, I can say that I believe that whatever flowery language is within this document I believe it is thoroughly fraudulent, malevolent in intent and a danger to souls and I believe that in saying this, I am correct. Cardinal Burke is no less correct in telling the Church that the document carries no weight in apostolic teaching authority, that it is the private opinion of Pope Francis and that this summary of the Synod on the Family contains some interesting thoughts but ultimately cannot adjust, even a little bit, the Church's teachings, customs, doctrines, laws and disciplines. But if you think he's going to say what I just said in the way I say it, you're mad. I think we bloggers can get so excited by our role in teaching our glorious faith that we can easily think we need not be taught or we have little new to learn, but we do. We need to learn humilty.

If priests and bishops and bishops conferences decide to take this document and use it as a vehicle for institutionalising their grievous dissent from the Magisterium and from the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ then they must know that they do so not because the Pope has released a non-magisterial document 'permitting' they do so - no power on Earth can, in fact, do that - but because they are looking for any excuse they can to spread their lawlessness over the Church. If they do, they act illegally and contrary to the will of Christ. Nothing the Pope has written changes that. It is Cardinal Burke's position that it is not the Holy Father's intention to do so.

I admire very much the tireless effort of those who blog much more than I do on the errors and dangers posed by this tempestuous period in the Church and the deeply distressing things that have been said, written and done during this papacy, by this confusing Pope and those who he has gathered around him. Especially, analysis of this document which highlights its serious flaws is important in defending the Church.

However, I also admire Cardinal Burke for his unfailing bravery, his unfailing charity, his unfailing modesty, his unfailing love for the Pope and the Church, his unfailing prudence and the fatherly nature in which I have seen him conduct himself in the public forum. He is a true Pastor behaving in a reasoned and calm manner while the whole Church is losing its head. He has shown true leadership by penning this article, leadership which is calm and measured which seeks to gather in, rather than to scatter, to make firm that which is shaken to the core. Holding these positions are not mutually exclusive.  Come on, people. Chin up. Gird yourselves. Keep the Faith. Don't give in to despair and don't give into hatred, bitterness and rancour, for know you not that your enemy, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, then, strong in faith. And hope. And charity.

Long live this wise and prudent Prince of the Church and long live the Pope. Let us pray very much for the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops and the clergy and entrust all of them to the ever-Virgin, most wise, most amiable and prudent, Mother of God, Mary, most Holy.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

College Hoosiers Confuse Dominican Friar with a Klansman

Recently, there was a frantic eyewitness report from a student that a Klansman was walking the campus of the University of Indiana Bloomington with a weapon.  Other students confirmed that there was a guy wearing a white hooded robe with what looked like a whip around his waist.

Following the spirit of Hoosiers Helping Hoosiers, word was quickly spread throughout the campus The Residents Assistant at Eigenmann Hall Sophomore Ethan Gill dutifully spread this warning to his charges via e-mail.

Two hours later, Gill sent this update after another sighting of the mysterious man at the Red Mango Frozen Yogurt shop:

Before one simply tut-tuts the cluelessness of these secular snowflakes for mistaking a Dominican Friar as a KKK Klansman, it is worth considering the social media commentary after the elucidation of this so called "hilarious misunderstanding". 

One wag wondered, in a less than graceful way, why the friar was on campus at night.

A few social media commentators who seemed to get it gave the wayfare wag his comeuppance. 

HT: The Tab

Monday, 4 April 2016

Celebrating a Belated Lady Day

Pope Francis on the Annunciation

The Feast of the Annunciation, or Lady Day, is normally celebrated on March 25 which is nine months before Christmas.  However, this year March 25th was Good Friday, so it is inconceivable to observe such a solemnity on the same day so the liturgical observance of Lady Day was moved.  

Eastern Catholic Churches, like the Melkites, observed the Annunciation on March 28th, the day after Easter.  In the Roman Catholic Church, the Octave of Easter is eight days, so the Solemnity of the Annunciation was moved to April 4th.

Lady Day used to be the start of the New Year in England from 1155-1752.  With calendar changes, the observance moved from April 5th (old Lady Day) to April 6th.  One vestige of considering Lady Day as the start of the year is that the United Kingdom's tax year starts on Lady Day. 

Sometimes the miracle of the Annunciation gets glossed over in Christmastide or it gets confused with the Immaculate Conception of  Mary.  As one contemplates the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, one gets a glimpse at how the Lord can be surprising and nothing is impossible for God to choose a humble virgin full of grace from the backwater country to be the Mother of God.  

As Scripture and Holy Tradition has it, Mary is the first believer and all of her actions point to her Son Jesus.  Hence Pope Francis' pearl of wisdom about Mary being like the figurative sunrise for her son (metaphorical sun) Jesus.

Monday, 28 March 2016

On the Passing into Eternal Life of Mother Angelica

Carl Anderson on Mother Angelica

Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation  (nee Rita Rizzo), the Poor Clare nun who founded the Eternal Word Television Network, died on Easter Sunday at the age of 92.  Mother Angelica had suffered from a debilitating stroke in 2001.

Mother Angelica founded a monastery in Irondale, Alabama in 196 at a time when Catholics were only 2% of the population in the South.  .  As a charismatic speaker, Mother Angelica began to do radio shows in 1971 and she gravitated to hosting "Our Hermitage" for Christian cable television stations in 1978.

However, when the secular TV station where Mother Angelica recorded her shows planned to program "blasphemous" programs, the feisty nun protested.  The station manager ignored her complaints which resulted in Mother Angelica threatening to do her show elsewhere.  The station manager threatened: "You leave this station and you're off television."  Mother Angelica vowed: "I'll build my own."

Philadelpha Archbishop Charles Chaput on Mother Angelica

The Eternal Word Television Network started in the Our Lady of Angels Monastery's garage in 1981 on a budget of $200.  Today, EWTN is the world's largest satellite television religious network operating in Hanceville, Alabama. The EWTN media empire broadcasts Catholic programming 24 hours a day reaching 264 million homes in 144 countries as well as having a terrestrial radio network and shortwave service and employs 400 people. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has served on the EWTN board since 1995, recognizes how this Poor Clare nun in rural Alabama was able to do what US Bishops had been unable to do, namely effectively evangelize through the mass media in this day and age.

Mother Angelica expressed how she attributed all the success of her mission to emptying herself out to the Lord.

Despite her failing health, Mother Angelica proclaimed that she wanted to live longer. Such a proclamation may seem surprising coming from a contemplative and convicted religious.  But Mother Angelica reasoned that by doing so, she could suffer one more day for God and get to know Him better.

It seems fitting that as Christians celebrate our Savior's victory over death, Mother Angelica goes to her eternal reward.  May Mother Angelica rest in peace.

H/T: Catholic News Agency

Friday, 25 March 2016

Artistic Impressions of the Agony in the Garden

Agony in the Garden, studios of El Greco (c. 1590s), National Gallery of Art, London UK 

Could ye not stay awake with me an hour,
You who by your consent would die for me?
Could you not stay awake with me one hour?
Judas--do not not see how he does not sleep,
But hastens to hand me over to the Jews?
Why are you sleeping?
Arise, and pray,
Lest you fall into tempetation.
       ~Sept répons des ténébres (1962)
         Francis Poulenc 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

In a ‘post-Christian’ age, why do we still want our leaders to be moral?

In terms of the practise of Christianity, the majority of the Western world – unlike Africa - has long since entered into an era of religious decline that has all the signs of being terminal.

Children grow up with little understanding of Christianity. Among Catholics, belief in fundamental tenets of Catholicism is markedly low. Generally, belief in the supernatural is widely mocked and ridiculed, the Church has become a peripheral force in society, the cultural left is in the ascendency, and enlightenment ideals of ‘equality’ and ‘liberty’ are being pushed to their breaking point in so far as it is no longer even considered whether their extreme manifestations create more division in society than cohesion.

Values on marriage and gender that were taken for granted for millennia have been overturned on a mass scale across whole Western societies. In many ways, it is hard to disagree with those who would call the United Kingdom – or even the United States of America – ‘post-Christian societies’.

With the marked exception of Eastern European countries like Poland, the transition from ‘Christian societies’ in Europe to ‘post-Christian’ societies that can see even Italy adopt same-sex civil unions with muted and lacklustre protest from even the Catholic hierarchy in Rome has not been an easy one. No bullets were needed during this cultural revolution but nonetheless the transition will continue to claim victims in terms of human tragedies.

The break-up of the family will continue apace. The wounds and divisions inflicted upon families lacking the solid foundation of marriage and respect for life will continue. The rates of abortion will most likely remain at a constant. Drug addiction will continue to rise. Mental health problems are likely to accelerate and society will continue to be ravaged by a moral relativism that denies fundamental or absolute truths as backwards, even foreign concepts that are no longer relevant to that ‘post-Christian society’ to which even the Church, lacking in zeal and humiliated by sexual scandal in the eyes of the world has made its own unique contribution.

Yet despite all of this, despite Western man and woman’s unshakable belief in the universal benefits of human progress, as human beings in an era of instant communication and instantaneous 24-hour news services, we all still agree on something. No matter whether we are on the ‘left’ or on the ‘right’, whether we are religious or not, we still want our leaders to be moral and to show moral leadership. One begins to feel rather sorry, then, for those public figures who fall short of the glory of God.

For this reason, I feel a particular sympathy for Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Mr Trump has been on the receiving end of insults from journalists, politicians, opinion formers, fellow nominees and pundits everywhere. Everyone has an opinion on Donald Trump in a manner that not everyone has an opinion on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Yes, Mr Trump has even the Pope’s condemnation, a diplomatic anti-medal that can be claimed by very few politicians in history. When Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were striding across the world stage, what did the Pope of their time say publicly concerning their moral character? As far as I know, not a great deal was publicly said.

Traditionally, Popes condemn morals and distorted, erroneous ideals, rather than individuals and their morals and distorted ideals. In this manner was Nazism condemned, Communism condemned, Fascism condemned. Dangerous ideas are traditionally condemned but on individuals – even those in the full glare of public life - Popes usually maintain a dignified silence. It was impossible for journalists not to take away from Pope Francis’s comment on his return from Mexico that the kind of person who ‘builds walls’ is ‘not a Christian’ was a direct attack on the moral character of the billionaire Republican nominee. This from a Supreme Pontiff who hit the headlines for his now well-known catchphrase that in certain circumstances in a person’s spiritual search, an attitude of non-judgementalism should be adopted by even the Pope.

I think I know why ‘the Donald’ is so disliked. People don’t agree with his personal morality. People wonder if he really has one. I don’t think many people even believe what he says. He’s been described as a ‘con man’. People think he is crass, vulgar, intellectually unfit for high political office and carries himself with all the offensive, arrogant swagger of the billionaire of ‘Trump Tower’ who, having indulged himself in a life-long fantasy concerning his own greatness, finds that he has the money and power and prestige to make his lurid fantasy become a reality for all Americans. When he says he wants to make America ‘great again’, we wonder whether he is just saying he wants to remake America in his own image.

Donald Trump’s bombastic response to the Pope’s unprecedented, barbed personal criticism made it appear that only he – among all mortal men – among even the plethora of security services and methods at Western government’s disposal - could protect Rome from a future invasion of blood-thirsty, Islamic, axe-wielding barbarians. Many don’t like him because somehow, despite the horrors unveiled by the Planned Parenthood scandal, this candidate cannot make his mind up on whether abortion-provider Planned Parenthood is a force for good or evil within US society.

If I was an American citizen, I don’t think I could vote for a man who I see to be a political opportunist who sees his country as he may an ace business opportunity, a man whose narcissism is of such proportions that he either hasn’t noticed it is a part of his personality or has so much money and status that public knowledge of it simply doesn’t matter, a man for whom the excesses of capitalism derided as obscene by most, has become for him a badge of honour.

Yet whatever his faults, or perceived faults, and all the messages we receive from the media concerning him, surely all of this should really be irrelevant today. The West, after all, has moved on from Jesus Christ, the moral law, the objective moral order, the natural law, divine law.

We don’t as one Blairite PR man said, ‘do God’. As Western societies, we don’t condemn self-fascination and self-glorification. We don’t honour humility or the virtues Christ called us to on the Sermon of the Mount. Instead, we raise the false gods of money, sex and power to new ideals to live up to. We don’t value poverty and weakness, instead as a society we hold them in contempt. So why should we hate the man who ‘lives the dream’, rather than the nightmare that is these false and dangerous new ideals?

We British, just like other nations, like to see our politicians or even our Churchmen who so often imitate politicians, exude false humility and pretension because there are public standards to live up to at least in public. We would rather be deceived that the next Prime Minister of our country will be a ‘man of the people’ working ‘for the people’ and then decry our disappointment that they didn’t meet our expectations as we realise that underneath the pleasant exterior lurked a Machiavellian despot who held the will of the general populace in low esteem, preferring the praise of powerful companies, or union bosses or Party benefactors or international agencies.

We want our political leaders to love truth and integrity, to value honesty and dedication to the common good, to defend the weak and respect human life, to live upright personal lives, to uphold those parts of the confused, tattered moral framework that the West proclaims which help us to admire our leaders rather than look upon them with scorn. Many Catholics and many atheists might agree with Donald Trump that he is a ‘unifier’ but only in the sense that he has united the pious and impious in loathing of him and what he stands for. Only Christians, however, can say that in a ‘post-Christian society’, we get the leaders we deserve.

For this reason I feel sympathy for Donald Trump in the attacks he receives that escape many others, including those against whom he will be pitted in the elections. Why pick on him? Why throw stones at him when he, like US politics in general, is symptomatic of an entire culture that has rejected any sense of the absolute and embraced the relative as the accepted social norm? Or as Pope Francis said, 'Who am I/are we to judge him?' By what standards are we judging when we judge? God's law? Natural law? Fashion? The times in which we live?

Western nations have rejected Christianity. We have moved 'beyond Jesus'. We no longer accept as given a universal, traditional understanding of public and private virtue. There is no tangible concept of ‘sin’ or ‘vice’ in the modern mind set. Even within the Church these terms have become unpopular or deemed offensive. As nations we abhor as oppressive any external religious or moral limitations placed on our own personal liberty. As societies, then, how dare we even contemplate asking our leaders to be moral and show moral leadership when we cannot even decide, much less agree on, what morality is? The negative reaction of the press, the pundits, the people and even the Pope to Donald Trump tells us something that could so easily be missed. Our ‘post-Christian societies’ are not quite ‘over’ Jesus yet.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Three Years Later

On this day, in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Church and the World by resigning the active ministry of the Petrine Office, while remaining "in the service of prayer, so to speak, in the enclosure of St Peter".

Three years later, it has become abundantly clear that the man who assumed the vacant Chair left by Benedict XVI was and remains, an unswerving ideological opponent of the Pope Emeritus.

For those who think that such a description of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio - who became who we now know as Pope Francis - to be unfair or unjust, or misleading, a relatively brief assessment of these three years which have quickly passed may be helpful.

Whatever history says of the still controversial resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, history itself is not the ultimate judge of a man. The judge of every man is Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Vicar on Earth, Benedict XVI was. I say 'was' because, like the vast majority of Catholics, I assume that this title now belongs to his Successor, Pope Francis.

The Church: Macro and Micro-Scale Impacts of the Francis Revolution

On a macro-scale, the Catholic Church has been thrown into a crisis of perhaps hitherto unprecedented proportions. So much has changed, most notably, in the public image of the Pope and the Church. The man who Austen Ivereigh dubs, 'The Great Reformer', Pope Francis, has expended huge amounts of energy in cultivating an image of the Catholic Church which is astonishingly human, so human that it is not an exaggeration to argue that under the reforming Pope of our current times, the Catholic Church is experiencing, on a general scale, a cultural revolution of secularisation effected through an engineered collapse of the Church's fundamental tenets of belief. Quite simply, Pope Francis is, in terms of the message going out to the city and the world, for the Catholic Church, our 9/11. Whatever is knocked down can, however, be rebuilt.

And while ity cannot be exaggerated just how very damaging this cultural revolution - effected from above, mostly, though not exclusively, through public relations - is, precisely because it comes from the summit of the Church, what Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Cardinal Raymond Burke have called a 'crisis' is, in my opinion, like Lent and Passiontide, only a prelude to, a preparation for, the birth-pangs of, something else entirely. For what we look forward to in Lent is not simply an ecclesiastical event but the Resurrection of Christ our Lord and ultimately, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Resurrection of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

The Church is Universal, but the Catholic Church is experienced locally

Yet there are real signs of hope. This is because on a micro-scale, the Catholic Church is organised into living cells of those who believe in the Teachings of and the Person of Jesus Christ. If they don't, they usually don't come to Mass. All will never be lost. In the papacy of Pope Francis and whatever changes it effects within the Church, it must be said that there are parish priests, religious communities, some bishops, bodies of laity, Catholic institutions, collections of Catholics who work within the media and new media, who are far more attracted to the vision of Pope Benedict XVI - a vision which included and promoted continuity with the Sacred Tradition of the Church, than the far less easy to define, more popularist, secular and incoherent vision of Pope Francis and his fellow reformers.

On a micro-scale, we might see that there remains a vocations crisis and that Catholic parishes are being merged in the West. We might discern that the 'Francis Effect', however lasting that may or may not be, has done little to ease this crisis, but there are serious and credible reasons for hope for both the present and the future of the Church's mission. This is because on that micro-scale, for quite a number of Catholics, while the person at the top of the Church has changed, they themselves remain themselves. They still love Jesus Christ and His Church - love Her as She is in Her essence, rather than as progressive reformers wish to see Her. They love Her teachings, her doctrines, they love her very walls. Parish life continues. If you are in a parish with a priest who has a traditionally Catholic outlook, you may very well still see in 2016 what you saw in 2012: the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in your region. Younger clergy are, I believe, and anecdotally there is evidence for this - far more impressed by the traditional liturgy that communicates the Cross and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Eucharistic Presence, the Church's timeless Teachings, and by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself than they are by His Vicar on Earth and whatever program of reform he may or may not wish to enact.

The real holiness of Benedict XVI did then - and it still does today - make itself known by his ability to draw people to God in pointing away from himself to Jesus Christ. Faithful priests strive to do the same. The real deficit of the present incumbent of the Chair of Peter, is his ability to draw people to himself by pointing to himself and not pointing to Jesus Christ, something illustrated by his now notorious videos on ecumenism and ecology in which God does not even get a passing mention.

Where Benedict XVI successfully detoxified the 'traditionalist community' to the horror of the modern impulse for all things new, Pope Francis has found success in detoxifying the Church's image - even on child abuse - by maintaining a stubborn insistence that 'all things new' are to be embraced. This is a new flavour the World can consume happily, but it will not convince everyone. For the traditional Catholic, the 'newness' is embarrassing because, for once, the Church and the World do not seem to be completed opposed when, in reality, they are implacably so. Unfortunately, the deficit in this position is that more and more people are discovering, with their own unhappy, unfulfilling experiences (for which I can attest) that all things 'new' that the world offers are not all life-giving. Quite simply, in the marketplace of spirituality, religion and morality, everybody is offering something 'new', up-to-date and modern and now this Pope is offering...more of the same.

'The new' does not satisfy

There's a downfall to all of this. In offering 'newness' and prompting expectation of 'change' what Pope Francis appears to be offering to the World is something that appears to be artificial, something 'created', his creation indeed, rather than the Creator Himself. New things, after all are created, or even invented. They are not timeless. They also usually have a 'sell by' date.

This is seen most strikingly of all in his dedication to the environment in which we are asked to preserve and conserve with enthusiasm the created, natural world. Benedict XVI respected stewardship of the environment, but what Benedict XVI prioritised and offered to the world was the Creator of the natural, created world. Like all before us, our obsession with the 'new' does nothing to restore our spiritual happiness. The newest Iphone, the newest fashion, the newest film, the newest belief and innovation. These do nothing for man's Soul. To achieve peace in our souls and friendship with our Creator may involve advice from Saints from long ago and most certainly the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It is not something or somebody 'new' Who can take away man's sin and reconcile him to God. It is Somebody Else Entirely, the Lord Who ascended Calvary 2,000 years ago, Who can do that.

What the Catholic Church brings to man, so bombarded by advertisements and enticements towards something 'new' is, in one sense, always wonderfully new, but in another sense, not at all, precisely because God does not fit these kind of 'brand categories'. He is that Something Else Entirely that man truly seeks. With the wonder of the Incarnation, the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ we can truly say, 'And now, for something completely different'.

What Holy Tradition offers to modern man is its ability to communicate He Who is Completely Different. It offers to modern man the encounter with the Completely Other, yet the God Who was made flesh and dwelt among us.

After three years, we can measure Pope Francis's success in communicating his personal vision of the Church of the 21st century and it can be summed up in his homiletic theme of the Church embracing that which is 'new' in contrast to that which is 'old'. We have encounter, dialogue, ecumenism, ecology, but where, oh where, is Jesus Christ?

In terms of Popes, we can see that Pope Francis himself is something new, perhaps that he is even completely different to his predecessors, but the themes of the pontificate: poverty, ecology, human trafficking, perhaps with the exception of the theme of 'mercy', are not greatly different to the philanthropic and charitable endeavours of various UN agencies.

It may very well be that from 13 March 2013 to whenever this pontificate ends, history will record that the Catholic Church was turned upside down in two senses. Firstly, in the sense that from the top of the Church came radical or even revolutionary ideas that inflicted damage on the Church, but, secondly, that the bottom of the Church resisted them and faithfully clung to Jesus Christ and His Teachings.

People are still searching for meaning...

The pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, in which he made it so known that he would do what he could within his power to hold back 'wolves' encircling his active ministry, should such a resistance to perverse distortions of the Catholic Faith that threaten to ensnare the souls of God's children be forthcoming, will have done an immeasurable amount to aiding that defense of the One True Faith. Summorum Pontificum permitted to Priests that which was hidden from the Faithful for over 50 years. What was taken away with the use of authority in the highest place in the Church was restored. This Mass, the Mass of Ages, communicates the sheer enormity of the love that the Almighty bears for His creatures and the enormity of love and worship which is owed to Him.

The success of Summorum Pontificum shows that what satisfied and fed our ancestors, in defiance of those who would suggest satisfaction can be found in modern teachings and new principles that owe more to the secular than to the sacred, still satisfies men and women today. We have not changed and we are delighted when we see that God has not changed either because if God changed, nothing and nobody could be trusted. 

So when the Church and the World seem more and more to become one, and when that union is advertised as something 'new', men and women will still seek that which is entirely Other, because men and women were not created for anything new, but for Everlasting Life and for Union with the Lord Who alone can grant it. The whole Church can be reformed in the image in the mind of any particular Pope, at any particular time, but God Himself cannot be reformed, neither can man's yearning for his Creator be reformed. It can be misled, deceived, perverted, but not entirely destroyed. Our desire for Truth, for the True God, even if we flee Him, is in our very DNA. Benedict XVI knew this and spoke of things Eternal, as well as encouraging us in facing the real challenges in the modern world.

Pope Francis, for all his positive effects in terms of detoxifying the Church's 'brand', speaks of things temporal, transient and passing but does not successfully communicate Eternal truths, the truths concerning God Who, like our souls, is Eternal. The truth is that we receive the temporal, the transient and the passing every day. We find it everywhere and we don't need to go to Church to receive it.  We yearn, however, for the Eternal, the Absolute, the Lord, for Absolute Love, Absolute Truth, for holiness. God loves mankind and mankind still seeks God because man seeks his ultimate meaning and destiny. Let us all seek Him, while He is still to be found.Yes, we will return to dust, unless the Lord returns before, but even our dust will come to praise Him, when He comes again and transforms these lowly bodies into incorruptible bodies after the pattern of His own.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...