A statue of Luther in the Vatican and a new papal definition of ‘lukewarm’

By John-Henry Westen, October 25, 2016, LifeSiteNews

pope_francis_luther3_810_500_55_s_c1Pope Francis will travel to Lund, Sweden, next week to assist in the launch of a yearlong commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the castle church of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

In a lead-up event at the Vatican on October 13, the Pope received a group of 1,000 Lutherans and Catholics from Germany in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall and addressed them from the stage where a statue of Luther was erected. The sight came as a shock to many Catholics because Luther was excommunicated and his theses rejected by Pope Leo X in 1520. The split he caused in Christianity remains as one of the most damaging in the Church’s 2,000-year history.

At the meeting, Francis reinforced his admonition from earlier this month against converting people. Weeks after saying it is a “very grave sin against ecumenism” for Catholics to try to convert Orthodox Christians, Pope Francis told the pilgrims “it is not licit” to “convince [non-Christians] of your faith.” In that meeting, the pope also offered a novel definition of “lukewarm,” which according to Pope Francis is when Christians “are keen to defend Christianity in the West on the one hand but on the other are averse to refugees and other religions.”

The word ‘lukewarm’ has significant meaning to Christians because of the words of Christ revealed in St. John’s Revelation (3:15-16): “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” The common interpretation of the verses was to condemn the practice of picking and choosing among the Christ’s teachings rather than holding to all of them. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “Half-hearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ.”

In answer to a question about what he likes about the Lutheran Church, the pope said, “I really like good Lutherans, Lutherans who really practice their faith in Jesus Christ. What I don’t like are lukewarm Catholics and lukewarm Lutherans.” Italian daily La Stampa’s Vatican Insider quotes the pope as saying it’s a “contradiction” when Christians “are keen to defend Christianity in the West on the one hand but on the other are averse to refugees and other religions.”

The Pope’s application of Christ’s strong condemnation to those who would be averse to other religions is perhaps a warning to those who would object to his coming praise for Luther scheduled for October 31. Swedish Catholic professor Clemens Cavallin points out in an essay on the upcoming celebration with Pope Francis in Lund that the common prayer service to be used has a very positive view of Luther.

“The text,” he says, “paints a picture of Luther as a religious hero who found the way to a more true form of Catholicism.” Cavallin notes that in the liturgical guide, the Common Prayer, a section called Thanksgiving, is intended to express, “our mutual joy for the gifts received and rediscovered in various ways through the renewal and impulses of the Reformation. After the prayer of thanksgiving, the whole assembly joins in singing thanks for and praise of God’s work.”

“The ecumenical journey enables Lutherans and Catholics to appreciate together Martin Luther’s insight into and spiritual experience of the gospel of the righteousness of God, which is also God’s mercy,” the text says.

The section concludes with the following prayer of gratitude:

Thanks be to you, O God, for the many guiding theological and spiritual insights that we have all received through the Reformation. Thanks be to you for the good transformations and reforms that were set in motion by the Reformation or by struggling with its challenges. Thanks be to you for the proclamation of the gospel that occurred during the Reformation and that since then has strengthened countless people to live lives of faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Is Facebook listening to your Confession?

Is Facebook listening to your Confession?

By Diane Montagna

VATICAN CITY — As our smartphones become smarter and social media expands, so does the risk that your privacy will be increasingly breached.

In light of this, how much of a danger is it to bring your smartphone into the confessional? And what precautions can priest and penitent take?

“All phones have a microphone, and Facebook and many other phone apps require access to the microphone and camera,” said Fr. George Hajj, parish priest at St. Anthony of Padua Maronite Church in the United States. “Therefore we don’t know what technology, and in whose interest it is in, to spy and overhear what is being said in the confessional.”

For Father Andrew Pinsent, Research Director at Oxford’s Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, surveillance through modern technology has become so thorough that it makes Orwell’s Big Brother fears look almost quaint, like “something from the dinosaur era.” It therefore demands “extra vigilance” to ensure “proper privacy in regard to the sacraments, when matters of salvation are at stake.”

Fr. Pinsent covers cameras “that can be turned on electronically” to prevent snoopers (FBI director James Comey recently advised people to do the same thing). He also has other concerns such as built-in microphones on computers as well as mobile devices (as does Mark Zuckerberg), and the general profiling that comes with browsing. He calls e-assistants like Siri and Amazon’s Echo “simply insane from a privacy perspective.”

The problem is magnified all the more, he adds, since “a staggering variety of low-cost spyware for sale” exists which allows anyone, government or individual, to “glean information” if they are determined to do so.

Yet more and more priests are taking their phones into the confessional, because they find the portability and ease of a smartphone more practical for praying the Divine Office than carrying a hardbound book. Similarly, penitents sometimes prefer to use a phone app to make an examination of conscience before their confession, and often they bring that app with them into the confessional, to easily reference their sins.

Read the rest here

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Cardinal Kasper: Can the ‘remarried’ now receive communion? ‘Yes. Period.’


By Jan Bentz, October 24, 2016 , LifeSiteNews

maxresdefaultIn a recent publication of the German journal Stimmen der Zeit (Journal for Christian Culture), Cardinal Walter Kasper published an article calling Amoris Laetitia a “paradigm shift” in the Church’s teaching.

Amoris Laetitia: Break or Beginning” is the title of a recent scientific article by Kasper in which he analyzes the post-synodal exhortation and provides his opinion on the right hermeneutic in reading it.

In the first part called “Discussion regarding the binding character,” Kasper critiques Cardinal Raymond Burke for his statement that post-synodal documents by the Pope are not necessarily binding. Instead, Kasper states, “This position is refuted by the formal character of an Apostolic Exhortation as well as its content.”

According to Kasper – and indeed he is right, as evidenced by the post-synodal discussions concerning the document – critiques of Amoris Laetitia boil down to the question of “remarried” divorced Catholics receiving Communion.

As Kasper points out, the question is addressed by two different camps: One opinion is held by “conservatives,” some of whom (including German philosopher Robert Spaemann) see Amoris Laetitia as a break from the tradition of the Church, whereas others (including Cardinal Gerhard Müller) say the publication does not change the position of the Church.

Another (held by Italian theologian Rocco Buttiglione) says the doctrine of the Church is developed further but not on the line of Pope John Paul II. Yet others acknowledge a “careful development” that is paired with a lack of “concrete guidelines.” The last position among the “conservatives” is Norbert Lüdecke (Canon Law, Bonn, Germany) who says it is up to the individual conscience of the remarried divorced person to decide if he or she may receive Communion or not.

Kasper goes on to cite Buttiglione that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presents the “decisive interpretation.” This citation refers back to a publication in  L’Osservatore Romano. The same position is taken by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ in La Civiltà Cattolica, among whom Kasper wants to count himself.

Kasper critiques the “alleged confusion” as having been caused by a “third party” who has “alienated themselves from the sense of faith and life of the people of God.” He continues to say that “behind the pastoral tone of the document lies a well thought-out theological position.”

The Cardinal praises the “realistic, open, and relaxed way of dealing with sexuality and eroticism” in Amoris Laetitia that does not seek to “indoctrinate or moralize.” “With a grain of salt, one can say that Amoris Laetitia distances itself from a primarily negative Augustinian view of sexuality and turns toward an affirming Thomistic view on creation.” Kasper repeats his opinion that the moral ideal is an “optimum,” yet is unreachable by many. “Oftentimes, we have to choose the lesser evil,” he states, “in the living life there is no black and white but only different nuances and shadings.”

Amoris Laetitia does not change an iota of the teaching of the Church, yet it changes everything.” The text provides ground for believing – so says Kasper – that the Pope, and with him the Church, moves away from a “legal morality” and toward the “virtue morality” of Thomas Aquinas.

Afterward, the Cardinal presents his own complex interpretation of Thomistic teachings concerning virtue and moral law in concrete situations. He bases his opinion on prudence as the “application of a norm in a concrete situation.” “Prudence does not give foundation to the norm, it presupposes it,” Kasper writes. He draws the conclusion that the “norm” is not applicative mechanically in every situation, but prudence is needed as fits the case.

With reference to Familiaris Consortio (No. 84), Kasper states that “remarried” divorcees are not anymore punished with excommunication but instead are “invited to participate as living members of Church life.”

Instead of choosing the path of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (“who had adhered to John Paul II’s decision”) to not allow “remarried” divorced Catholics to receive Communion and instead to insist that they practice abstinence in their sexual relations, Pope Francis “goes a step further, by putting the problem in a process of an embracing pastoral [approach] of gradual integration.”

Amoris Laetitia envisages which forms of exclusion from ecclesiastical, liturgical, pastoral, educational, and institutional services can be overcome,” Kasper explains. He posits that when John Paul II gave permission for remarried divorced to receive Communion – if they lived as brother and sister – this was “in fact a concession.” The Cardinal reasons this by saying, “Abstinence belongs to the most intimate sphere and does not abolish the objective contradiction of the ongoing bond of marriage of the first sacramental marriage and the second civil marriage.”

Kasper further denies the magisterial content of the provision: “This provision obviously does not have the same weight than the general norm; anyhow it is not a final binding magisterial statement.” In Kasper’s eyes, John Paul II’s request opens up a “playground” between the “dogmatic principle” and the “pastoral consequence,” which Amoris Laetitia tries to widen.

Another argument Kasper tries to use to justify allowing “remarried” divorcees to receive Communion is the distinction between “objective mortal sin” and “subjective culpability.” He insists that Pope Francis “emphasizes the subjective aspects without ignoring the objective elements.” Kasper also alludes to the fact that sometimes people are not able to be convinced of an “objective norm” because it seems to them to be “as insurmountably estranged from world and reality.”

“The conscience of many people is oftentimes blind and deaf to that which is presented to them as Divine Law. That is not a justification of their error, yet an understanding and mercifulness with the erroneous person.”

Therefore, Kasper states that “Amoris Laetitia lays the groundwork for a changed pastoral praxis in a reasoned individual case.” Yet he also says the “Papal document does not draw clear practical conclusions from these premises.” According to Kasper, the Pope leaves the question open, and the very fact of leaving it open is “in itself a magisterial decision of great consequence.”

Kasper explains that the direction of Pope Francis is clear: “One does not need to focus on footnotes. Much more important is that the gradual integration, which is the key topic in question, is directed essentially towards admittance to the Eucharist as full-form of the participation of the life of the Church.”

Kasper quotes Francis’ statement from an in-flight press conference on April 16 wherein he responded to the question if in some cases remarried divorced can receive Communion with the poignant words: “Yes. Period.” This answer is not found in Amoris Laetitia but ‘corresponds to the general ductus.’”

According to Kasper, this statement is in full accordance with Canon Law (915 CIC/1983) because it does not negate that “obstinacy to remain in mortal sin” can supposedly be judged in individual cases, and in some cases be excluded. It is even up for discussion whether an objective mortal sin is present in the given case.

He adds that the cause of scandal is not necessarily having a person who lives in a second civil marriage receive Communion. Rather, in such a situation, “not the admission but the denial of the sacraments is creating scandal.”

Update: Here’s Fr Z’s take on this

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Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Burial and Cremation


Waverley Cemetery at dusk

Waverley Cemetery at dusk

Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation:

1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”.[1] Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.

2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5).

Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).

It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”.[2] By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.[3]

3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.[4]

In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death,[5] burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.[6]

The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.[7]

By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body,[8] and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.[9] She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.

Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.[10]

Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead,[11] and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.[12]

Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.

4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.[13]

The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.[14]

In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.

From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.[15]

The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

7. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.

8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.[16]

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gerhard Card. Müller

+ Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.
Titular Archbishop of Thibica

[1] AAS 56 (1964), 822-823.

[2] Roman Missal, Preface I for the Dead.

[3] Tertullian, De Resurrectione carnis, 1,1: CCL 2, 921.

[4] Cf. CIC, can. 1176, § 3, can. 1205; CCEO, can. 876, § 3; can. 868.

[5] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1681.

[6] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300.

[7] Cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1683.

[8] Cf. St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5; CSEL 41, 628:

[9] Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 14.

[10] St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 3, 5: CSEL 41, 627.

[11] Cf. Tb 2:9; 12:12.

[12] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300.

[13] Cf. Holy Office, Instruction Piam et costantem, 5 July 1963: AAS 56 (1964) 822.

[14] CIC, can. 1176 § 3; cf. CCEC, can. 876 § 3.

[15]Catechism of the Catholic Church, 962.

[16]CIC, can. 1184; CCEO, can.876, § 3.

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What Will You Do When the Persecution Comes?

By Anthony Esolen on CRISIS MAGAZINE


I know there are plenty of Catholics who are, in one way or another, looking forward to the relentless institutional persecution that is coming our way unless we surrender the One Thing Needful to the secular left, and that is the family-destroying and state-feeding beast called the Sexual Revolution, with its seven heads and ten horns and the harlot squatting atop it. As I see it, these Catholics belong to four groups.

The Persecutor
First are the Persecutors. These people hate the Church, and that is why they remain ostensible members of it. They desire from within to punish the Church for what they perceive to be her sins, which these days have nothing to do with her teachings on the Trinity or the nature of Christ, but with sex—so tawdry are our heresies. O Arius, Arius, would that we had such as you for our enemy! The Persecutor has unbridled contempt for Pope John Paul II, the too-lenient father whom the Persecutor, like a spoiled brat, portrays as a tyrant, and for Benedict XVI, whose broad-ranging and penetrating intellect makes the Persecutor feel puny by comparison.

In all conflicts between the State and the Church, the Persecutor will not only side with the State; he will be glad to lead the charge. He will, to give one recent example from Connecticut, push a bill designed to subject the governance of Catholic parishes to state oversight. He will, to give a current example from New York, attempt to compel Catholic crisis pregnancy centers to refer women to the nearest abortorium. He will be eager to threaten Catholic schools with loss of government funds if they remain Catholic—if, for instance, they think it is not a good idea to sponsor groups committed to Sodom, and let them massage the minds of children. But why do I use the generic masculine pronoun here? She—she will want to compel Catholic interns to assist in abortions, or even to perform one; she will want to compel Catholic parishes to allow their grounds and their halls to be used for the celebration of pseudogamy. Religious freedom? The Persecutor respects neither God nor the conscience of man.

The Quisling
Second, the Quislings. The Quisling does not hate the Church, but he does not love her, either. He is a worldling and craves the approval of the world. He believes in “the future,” and that means he is easy prey for the peddlers of ideological fads: a field mouse against the Great Horned Owl. He is embarrassed by tradition. He is seldom brave enough to express formal heresy, just as he is seldom brave enough to defend the Church with any clarity or confidence. He seems pleasant enough, is perfectly lamb-like when it comes to wining and dining with the powerful, but will turn with a pent-up frustration against the ordinary churchgoer who dares to question his prudence. If he is a bishop, he is secretly happy to close churches and sell off their property, comforting himself with the thought that he is doing what is only necessary in hard times, and blaming the parishioners themselves for failing to bring up their children in the faith—when in point of fact he and the chancery have given them no help at all in doing so, and have usually checked them at every pass.

The Quisling wants the state to bring the Church into “the modern world,” whatever that may be; it depends upon the times and the place. Oh, he does not want the compulsion to be violent, and he can intone pontifically about the sanctity of individual conscience; so long as the individual with the tender conscience keeps it to himself, where it will remain ineffectual and inert, like a seed on concrete. The Quisling, with a sad and knowing shake of his head, pleases himself by meditating upon the many sins of his Holy Mother the Church, and will magnify them, or even invent sins that she never committed, the better to prove to himself how open-minded and pious he is.

The Avenger
Then comes the Avenger. He has tried to live in accord with the Church, and has received mainly contempt from her, or neglect, or persecution. That has curdled him within, and he now hates the Church such as she is more than he loves her as the bride of Christ. He sees that the Church has compromised herself by taking Caesar’s coin, even when Caesar offered it at first with the most innocent of intentions, and so he looks forward to the time when Holy Mother will have to do without that money. It occurs to him that that will kill an untold number of Catholic schools and colleges, but he says that they deserve to die; and he does not clearly consider how many souls will be lost. To him, it is better that there should be no Catholic school at all, than that there should be a school struggling to remain Catholic in a bad time—struggling, and often failing, but struggling for all that.

The Avenger makes conversion more difficult, not less, for people who still wish to believe in Christ but who have bought, usually without much thought, the confusions of our time. The Avenger enjoys rejection, enjoys loss, because that gives him a fine opportunity to meditate upon his courage. Sometimes the Avenger is a traditionalist. Sometimes he is a hater of the traditionalist. Whether he is one or the other, he does not aim his rifle at the terrible enemies of the Church from without: he does not fight the materialist, the sexual revolutionary, the radical secularist, the globalist, the corrupter of children, or the hawker of filth. He aims his rifle at Catholics, and many of them will be good Catholics who disagree with him about strategy. The Avenger will not go forth to war unless he approves the strategy in all its details, which of course will never happen. He prefers to be an armchair general rather than to be a private slogging in the trenches.

The Soldier
Last we have the Soldier. The Soldier complains about his superiors not because they give him bad orders, but because they give him no orders at all. He wants to do battle, and is willing to be led. He knows that war is hell, but that he and the Church have not sought the war. The war and the demons who lead it have sought the Church, to adulterate her or to kill her. The Soldier would prefer peace: he would prefer that his country might return to at least a worldly sanity, and grant the Church the liberty that she is owed and that redounds to the great benefit of the state itself.

The Soldier does not say, “I will fight, but my generals must be perfectly wise.” Generals are never perfectly wise or perfectly anything else. The Soldier does not say, “I will fight, but only if I do not have to share the field with these others,” which others may be traditionalists, the ecumenically minded, Protestants friendly to the Catholic Church, or Catholics who disagree with him on some political point. The Soldier is grateful for his brothers in arms, and if their uniforms are a little different from his, he figures that the Lord of Hosts will sort the matter out in the end.

The Soldier does not make light of the desperate situation. His name is not Pollyanna. But he remembers the words of Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” The Soldier will not refuse a hearty meal, but he will not grumble if he has to fast. The Soldier is filled with thymos: his eyes narrow and look to the horizon; his nostrils flare and his heart beats with excitement; he sings Rise Up, O Men of God; he craves honor, most of all the honor of the Church; he does not care who calls him a fool. He is immensely attractive and wins the respect even of his enemies. He brings both men and women into the Church without that being his principal aim, because it is sweeter to spend one day in the field with the Soldier than a thousand in the halls of the wealthy, the powerful, the timid, the faithless, and the mad.

May God grant us the grace to be Soldiers—all of us, now. The war is here.

See Father Z’s take on this article and the following comments.

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Ave Maria

Time is running out on us for the Month of the Holy Rosary.

Offered by some of the gents of the young Catholic Australian liturgical singers, Prima Luce. From memory it’s Jacques Arcadelt’s quite ‘umble and merciful Ave Maria, if I’m not mistaken.


A fuller complement of Prima Luce for the Immaculate Mary.


Does Father Z ever say . . . and pray the Rosary?

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The coming Isolation and Desolation

Veil of Veronica

light in the darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

We have entered into a time of chaos and lawlessness.  Hatred and vitriol are everywhere.  Terror is starting to reign.  Everyone is blaming everyone else.  I know we all fear.  People may decide to stay in their homes, and not go out, for fear of the hatred in the world.  But hiding brings isolation.  Isolation brings desolation.  There is nothing the devil wants more than to bring this desolation to your soul.  Many have already begun feeling desolation.  Trapped in sin of wrath, pornography, addiction, adultery and envy.  Now we have added violence to the mix, a quickening of the isolation.   We are fighting powers and principalities.

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil…

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A child’s life saved by a distant memory

by DR JOHN MORRISSEY at the Catholic Herald

‘Her Heart is attuned to the dying’ (Leopold Kupelwieser/Diana Ringo)

Smell memory is very persistent. We can all perhaps remember the smell of our childhood comfort blanket, our mother’s perfume on the saliva moistened hankie that dabbed our chops, the incense at church.

And for doctors like me, smell memory can even save lives.

A few years ago, I was urgently summoned to the “resus” room in A&E at about 6am. (I refer to ITU doctors as “resus monkeys”.) There, a number of junior medics, nurses and I found a puzzling sight. On the ambulance trolley lay an extremely sick two-year-old-boy. His skin was a peculiar chocolatey-purple colour. He was comatose, gasping for breath, and his heart rate was 200 beats per minute – the maximum. His blood pressure was unrecordable. None of us knew what on earth was going on.

His parents stood in the corner of the room looking terrified, but also a bit sheepish. Then the smell hit me. It was the unmistakeable sickly sweet odour of amyl nitrite. This is a medical drug originally used to treat angina and more recently to treat cyanide poisoning. It also is used as a legal high, known as “poppers”.

The child’s clothing reeked of it and so did his breath. I ordered his clothes to be removed and double-bagged for our own safety, and for his body to be washed clean. Amyl nitrite can be absorbed through the skin as well as by inhalation.

I took a sample of blood from the artery in his groin and sent it off for urgent blood gas analysis. I then gave a paralysing drug and passed a tube into his windpipe and ventilated his lungs with 100% oxygen. He remained comatose and critically ill. We might have been too late.

The blood gas result came back: more than 95 per cent of his red blood cell haemoglobin was poisoned by the amyl nitrite and therefore unable to carry oxygen. His blood was racing around his body but failing to deliver life-giving O2. This child was about to die. There was no time to phone a poisons helpline. What could I do?

Read the rest here

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Psalm 53 Sung In Aramaic

 (To the choir-master. The Melody, Mahalat. A maskil. Of David.[1])
1 εἰς τὸ τέλος ὑπὲρ μαελεθ συνέσεως τῷ Δαυιδ 2 εἶπεν ἄφρων ἐν καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν θεός διεφθάρησαν καὶ ἐβδελύχθησαν ἐν ἀνομίαις οὐκ ἔστιν ποιῶν ἀγαθόν 3 ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ διέκυψενἐπὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων τοῦ ἰδεῖν εἰ ἔστιν συνίων ἢ ἐκζητῶν τὸν θεόν 4 πάντες ἐξέκλιναν ἅμα ἠχρεώθησαν οὐκ ἔστιν ποιῶν ἀγαθόν οὐκ ἔστιν ἕως ἑνός 5 οὐχὶ γνώσονται πάντες οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν οἱ ἔσθοντες τὸν λαόν μου βρώσει ἄρτου τὸν θεὸν οὐκ ἐπεκαλέσαντο 6 ἐκεῖ φοβηθήσονται φόβον οὗ οὐκ ἦν φόβος ὅτι ὁ θεὸς διεσκόρπισεν ὀστᾶ ἀνθρωπαρέσκων κατῃσχύνθησαν ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἐξουδένωσεν αὐτούς 7 τίς δώσει ἐκ Σιων τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ Ισραηλ ἐν τῷ ἐπιστρέψαι κύριον τὴν αἰχμαλωσίαν τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ ἀγαλλιάσεται Ιακωβ καὶ εὐφρανθήσεται Ισραηλ 1 There is no God above us, is the fond thought of reckless hearts.2 Warped natures everywhere and hateful lives, there is not an innocent man among them. 3 God looks down from heaven at the race of men, to find one soul that reflects, and goes in search of him; 4 but no, all have missed the mark and rebelled against him; an innocent man is nowhere to be found. 5 What, can they learn nothing, all these traffickers in iniquity, who feed themselves fat on this people of mine, as if it were bread for their eating, 6 and never invoke God’s name? What wonder if fear unmans them, where they have no cause for fear? Where are the foes that hemmed thee round?[2] God has scattered their bones far and wide, forgotten as his enemies must ever be. 7 Oh, may Sion bring deliverance to Israel! Day of gladness for Jacob, day of Israel’s triumph, when God restores the fortunes of his own people.
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Blessed Karl of Austria, Emperor and King: 21st October

Leon Bloy once wrote, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

Why? Because to be anything less than holy is to remain unactualised. To be called to life is to be called to sanctity.

All men and women, in every age, wherever we live, whatever status we achieve in life, every single person is born with an immortal soul, created in the Image and Likeness of God. Everyone, without exception therefore, has the potential for sanctity, for holiness, which is, simply stated, the full flowering of our personality.

imageBlessed Karl knew this. In like manner of many holy kings before him, he devoted his life to humble obedience and imitation of the King of Kings, Christ, our Sovereign Lord. He did not allow either riches or honours to stand in his way or blur his vision of where his first duty to God lay. In leading his people during a short reign lived in the turbulent times of World War I, and whilst caring for their needs, their spiritual welfare was his first and foremost preoccupation. He was well-loved by the vast majority of his subjects, and greatly mourned at his early death.


From The Emperor Karl League of Prayer (with a h/t to The Hapsburg Restorationist on ‘The War for Christendom‘)

The Emperor Karl League of Prayer promotes the canonization of Blessed Karl of the House of Austria who, as Emperor Karl I and King Karl IV, reigned in Austria-Hungary from 1916-1918. The League invites new members.

Karl was conscientiously given a Catholic education and supported from childhood by the prayers of a group of people, because the religious sister and stigmatist, Sr. M. Vincentia Fauland, prophesied that he would suffer greatly and be attacked. After Karl’s death this group developed into the Emperor Karl League of Prayers for Peace Among Nations, which introduced his cause for beatification in 1949, and has had ecclesiastic recognition since 1963 as a prayer society. Through his life and dying, Emperor Karl has encouraged and strengthened the faith of many people. Inspired by his spirituality, the Emperor Karl League of Prayers continues to pray today.

Karl of the House of Austria was born on August 17, 1887, at Schloss Persenbeug in Lower Austria. His parents were Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, daughter of the last king of Saxony. Emperor Franz Joseph I was Karl’s great uncle.

From an early age, Karl fostered a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He used prayer to guide him in making all important decisions.

The wedding of Zita and Charles, 21 October 1911.

The wedding of Zita and Charles, 21 October 1911.

On October 21, 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. During the ten good years of their happy and exemplary marriage, the pair were given eight children. While on his death bed, Karl said to Zita: “I love you unceasingly!”

On June 28, 1914, because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Karl became the heir apparent of the throne of Austria-Hungary. In the middle of the First World War, the death of Emperor Franz Joseph on November 21, 1916, made Karl the Emperor of Austria. On December 20, 1916, he was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary.

Karl also saw his duty as a way to follow Christ: by loving his people and being concerned and devoted to improving their lives.

The most sacred obligation of a king – to provide peace – became the primary focus of Karl’s efforts during this horrific war. The only world leader to do so, he support the peace proposals of Pope Benedict XV.

During a most difficult time domestically, he offered extensive assistance to his people and gave example to them by passing social legislation in conformity with Catholic social teachings.

His stance prevented civil war from occurring during the post-war transition of government. Yet still he was banished from his homeland.

At the request of the pope, who feared that communism would overtake Central Europe, Karl attempted to restore his government and return to the throne of Hungary. Two attempts failed because he wanted to avoid civil war at all costs. Karl was then sent into exile on Madeira. He saw his abandonment there as a commission from God, a duty he could not put aside.

Emperor Karl and Empress Zita with their children while in exile.

Emperor Karl and Empress Zita with their children while in exile.

He lived with his family in poverty, in a damp house. There, Karl contracted a fatal illness, which he accepted as a sacrifice to make for the peace and unity of his people. Karl endured his suffering without complaint, forgave everyone who had treated him unjustly, and died on April 1, 1922, with an almost holy countenance. The motto of his life, which he even said on his deathbed, was: “My entire endeavor has always been to clearly recognize the Will of God in all things and to follow it as completely as possible.”

On October 3, 2004, Pope Saint John Paul II beatified Emperor and King Karl.

Beatification Mass of Blessed Karl presided over by Pope Saint John Paul II, 2004. Note the banner of Blessed Karl in the background.

Beatification Mass of Blessed Karl presided over by Pope Saint John Paul II, 2004. Note the banner of Blessed Karl in the background.


THR: “[Below is the] brilliant recounting of an important day for the Imperial-Royal soldiers on the Italian Front, written by author Christopher Reibold. The story itself is based on a true event in Blessed Karl’s life, attested to in the biographies prepared for his beatification.”

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Christ, you walked on the sea


James McAuley, Professor of English at the University of Tasmania (1961-76) with Sir James Freeman, Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney (1971-83)

The recently posted article on CP&S  Six Cultural Trends That Challenge The Modern Evangelizer, written by Monsignor Pope, for me was pretty scary. I wonder too how many of us thought that Mons. Pope had stolen all our best original ideas? Or am I unique in that conviction? Well, it seems often to happen to me, I’m not sure why.

Meanwhile Professor James Phillip McAuley (1917-76) was an Australian poet. He was a founder in 1956 of the literary and cultural journal, Quadrant, and its chief editor until 1963. It is still running, as johnhenry, a subscriber, could tell us. McAuley also played the piano, pipe organ and virginal.

Dame Leonie Kramer, longtime professor of Australian Literature at Sydney University, said of Professor McAuley that . . . at the centre of his intellectual interests was the large and complex set of problems related to the erosion of traditions, customs and beliefs in the modern world. She adds that . . . he was driven to search for the right word and the right phonetic structure in his poetry and the results were a number of the finest poems ever written in Australia. Dame Leonie edited all of McAuley’s works after his death and published them in 1988.

Two days ago on CP&S we enjoyed very much reading of all the sometimes shiver-inducing “cultural impediments” to evangelisation and faith in the West today. That would have been right up Professor McAuley’s alley as the following poem attests. In fact, it was his alley, mostly. There is much affinity in these few verses between Monsignor Pope’s most accurate observations about the modern West and the Professor’s own deep disappointments and concerns about same. I suggest so anyhow, as we can now see:

In the twentieth century

Christ, you walked on the sea

But cannot walk in a poem,

Not in our century.


There’s something deeply wrong

Either with us or with you.

Our bright loud world is strong:


And better in some ways

Than the old haunting kingdoms:

I don’t reject our days.


But in you I taste bread,

Freshness, the honey of being,

And rising from the dead:


Like yolk in a warm shell –

Simplicities of power,

And water from a well.


We live like diagrams

Moving on a screen.

Somewhere a door slams


Shut and emptiness spreads.

Our loves are processes

On foam-rubber beds.


Our speech is chemical waste;

The words have a plastic feel,

An antibiotic taste.


And yet we dream of song

Like parable of joy.

There’s something deeply wrong.


Like shades we must drink blood

To find the living voice

That flesh once understood.

Archibald_1963~M.tif *** Local Caption *** Archibald Portrait Prize winner.

Professor James McAuley, portrait (1963) by Jack Carrington Smith, oil on canvas – held in the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

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Convergence Rather Than Conversion?

CP&S Comment: This completely un-Catholic idea of not proselytising we are hearing as apparently being the personal opinion of Pope Francis, is profoundly disturbing. Here is a timely reminder from Torch of the Faith of a story about the distinguished philosopher and author, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, related by his widow, Alice, on how deeply he believed in Our Lord’s last commandment – to bring all men home to the One True Faith of the Catholic Church.

Hitler's Enemy Number One: The Catholic Theologian and Philosopher, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, who fearlessly struck at the spiritual and intellectual roots of both National Socialism and the Modernist crisis in the Catholic Church.

Hitler’s Enemy Number One: The Catholic Theologian and Philosopher, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, who fearlessly struck at the spiritual and intellectual roots of both National Socialism and the Modernist crisis in the Catholic Church.

All this talk of not ”proselytizing” anyone has put us in mind of a story told by Alice von Hildebrand, about her remarkable husband Dietrich, in the summer 2001 edition of the American Latin Mass Society magazine.

During an interview for the magazine, Alice von Hildebrand was asked the following question: ”I take it by your remarks about ecumenism that you do not agree with the current policy of ”convergence” rather than ”conversion”?

Alice von Hildebrand provided a very heartening answer to this question.

She replied: ”Let me relate an incident that caused my husband grief. It was 1946, just after the war. My husband was teaching at Fordham, and there appeared in one of his classes a Jewish student who had been a naval officer during the war. He would eventually tell my husband about a particularly stunning sunset in the Pacific and how it had led him to the quest for the truth about God.

He first went to Columbia to study philosophy, and he knew that this was not what he was looking for. A friend suggested he try philosophy at Fordham and mentioned the name Dietrich Von Hildebrand.

After just one class, my husband and this student went for a walk. He told my husband during this time that he was surprised at the fact that several professors, after discovering he was Jewish, assured him that they would not try to convert him to Catholicism.

My husband, stunned, stopped, turned to him and said, ”They said what!”

He repeated the story and my husband told him, ”I would walk to the ends of the earth to make you a Catholic.”

To make a long story short, the young man became a Catholic, was ordained a Carthusian priest, and went on to enter the only Charterhouse in the United States (in Vermont).”

Torch of The Faith reflects: If we truly love those who are different from us, then we should desire and do all that is possible to help them find the full truth about Our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation which He alone can offer through His Holy Catholic Church. In light of the truth of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, this is the very essence of any charity and mercy worthy of the name.

For, as Dietrich Von Hildebrand once reflected: ”The great mystery of our metaphysical situation is that we cannot even be wholly ourselves until we are reborn in Christ.”

To which, we can only add for any potential converts out there: Try it and see!

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People, This is Paradise

CP&S Comment: After so much doom and gloom in the MSM and blogosphere in recent weeks, the St Louis Catholic blog looks at the current situation from a more positive angle.


And the Lord God sent him out of the paradise of pleasure, to till the earth from which he was taken. And he cast out Adam; and placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubims, and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. –Genesis 3: 23-24

In the midst of a spiritual direction conference last week, almost as an aside, my director said something that rang true then and has only grown in my mind:

The current situation in the Church is like paradise.


If you haven’t been awake the last fifty twenty four years, I can’t do much more than I have done to sound the alarm and point out all of the disasters we face today. But remember this: as much as the Church is in turmoil and confusion– from top to bottom all the way back up– a time is coming when we will look back on 2016 and wish we had appreciated it.

We have the Mass. You, Joe Catholic, can go to Mass every single day. Even the timeless Mass is available to more people now than at any time since 1970. I, personally, can assist at the traditional Mass every single day. Do I? The Holy Sacrifice is effected every single day, all over the world. There are priests to celebrate it. Do I avail myself of this means of salvation?

“A day will come when the civilized world will deny its God, when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask, ‘Where have they taken Him?’” — Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII, 1931.

We have confession and the availability of sacramental absolution. How precious is that? You, Joe Catholic, can go to confession at least every week, no matter where you live. There are still priests who can and will absolve you. You just have to ask. Do you? I can avail myself of a regularly scheduled confession time every single day in my Oratory. Every day. Any day. Do I make use of it?

We can speak to, encourage, and commiserate with other Catholics every single day. We can speak with our brethren throughout the world at any time. How great is that? Do we encourage each other? Do I encourage anyone? Not nearly enough, I know.

Yes, the obscuring of the faith and the confusing of the faithful at the highest levels of the hierarchy is flat-out wrong, troubling, and a portent of worse to come. But we have access to Denzinger, the Roman Catechism, books by saints, fathers and theologians at our very fingertips. I have an app on my phone that gives me a totally solid spiritual library– greater than that which monasteries used to guard as precious treasures of civilizaton— that I can access at will. This app contains the Bible, the Breviary, a comprehensive collection of traditional prayers, Aquinas, De Sales, a Kempis, and so much more. Do I read these things to my sanctification? Did I mention that I have the entire liturgy of the Church in an iphone app? It is incredible. These works are not just there, but they are searchable and extremely easy to use.

Do I use these resources for good?

We are free to do all these things. This is not 17th Century England, where we would be arrested and tortured for assisting at Mass, or for refusing heretical worship. This may be the case in the future– maybe the very, very near future– but not now. Do we understand how good we have it? All the weak and faithless members of God’s Holy Church do not prevent us from being Catholic.

People, this is Shangri-La.

Yes, we will likely look back on this time, with the clouds gathering, as a period of glory. We have the total freedom to practice our faith and to fortify us for hard times. Let’s do just that. Man up. Stay close to the Sacraments. Stay close to Mary and the saints. Stay confessed. And let us be grateful.

Heads up– we are made for Christ, and He will sustain us.

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be scandalized: and shall betray one another: and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. – Matthew 24: 9-13



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Six Cultural Trends That Challenge The Modern Evangelizer

By Msgr Charles Pope

It is critical for us who would preach the Gospel to ponder what sorts of presuppositions our listeners bring to the conversation. Today, sadly, there are many trends that have poisoned the culture and thus make our task much more difficult.

But difficult does not mean impossible. It helps to describe modern mindsets, not to despair of them, but rather to look at them with some insight rather than being only vaguely aware of them. If we are more clear on the presuppositions that people bring to the table, we can better direct our message to them and ask them to consider whether or not these notions are helpful or even right. For indeed, most people carry their preconceptions subconsciously. Bringing them to light can act as a kind of medicine or solvent, which will assist us in clearing the thorns so that the seeds of truth can be sown.

I list here six presuppositions; I’ve tried to avoid an overly philosophical analysis, instead using a more descriptive approach. The first few may be familiar to you, but the last three are less often discussed. Feel free to add to this list in the comments box. I will discuss a few other presuppositions in tomorrow’s post.

I. Secularism – The word “secular” comes from the Latin saecula, which is translated as “world,” but can also be understood to refer to the age or times in which we live. Secularism is excessive concern about the things of this world and the times in which we live to the exclusion of the values and virtues of Heaven and the Kingdom of God.

Hostile – It is not merely a matter of preoccupation with the world, but often of outright hostility to things outside the saecula (world or age). Spiritual matters are often dismissed by the worldly as irrelevant, naïve, hostile, and divisive. Secularism is an attitude that demands all attention be devoted to the world and its priorities.

Misplaced Priorities – Secularism also causes those who adopt it to put their faith beneath worldly priorities and views. In this climate, many are far more passionate about and dedicated to their politics than to their faith. Their faith is “tucked under” their political views and made to conform to them. It should be the opposite—political views should be subordinate to faith. The Gospel should trump our politics, our worldview, our opinions, and all worldly influences. Faith should be the doorkeeper. Everything should be seen in the light of faith. Secularism reverses all this and demands to trump the truths of faith.

Secularism is the error through which one insists that faith give way when it opposes worldly ways of thinking or worldly priorities. If faith gets in the way of career, guess which one gives? If faith forbids me from doing what I please and what the world affirms, guess which one gives way? The spirit of the world often sees the truths of faith as unreasonable and unrealistic, and demands that they give way, either by compromise or a complete setting aside of faith.

As people of faith, we should put the world and its values on trial. Secularism instead puts the faith on trial and demands it conform to worldly thinking and priorities.

Secularism also increasingly demands that faith be privatized. Faith is to have no place in the public square of ideas or values. If Karl Marx said it, that’s fine, but if Jesus said it, it has to go. Every other interest group can claim a place in the public square, in the public schools, etc. But the Christian faith has no place. Yes, God has to go. Secularism in its “purest” form demands a faith-free, God-free world. Jesus promised that the world would hate us as it hated Him. This remains true, and secularism describes the rising tendency for the world to get its way.

To make this world our priority and to let it overrule our faith is to board a sinking ship with no lifeboats. With secularism, our loyalty is primarily to the world. This amounts to “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” If the world is really all that matters then we are the most pitiable of men, for everything we value is doomed and already passing away.

II. Materialism – Most people think of materialism as the tendency to acquire and need lots of material things. It includes this, but true materialism goes far deeper. In effect, materialism is the error that insists that physical matter is the only thing that is real. Materialism holds that only those things that can be weighed on a scale, seen in a microscope, or empirically experienced (through the five senses) are real. The modern error of scientism, which insists that nothing outside the world of the physical sciences exists, flows from materialism. (You can read more on that HERE.)

In effect, materialism says that matter is all that “matters.” The spiritual is either non-existent or irrelevant to the materialist. This of course leads to the tendency to acquire things and neglect the spiritual. If matter is all that really matters, then we will tend to want large amounts of it. Bigger houses, more things, and more creature comforts are amassed in order to give meaning and satisfaction.

In the end, however, it is a cruel joke, because All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing (Eccles 1:7). Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. [It] is meaningless … The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep (Eccles 5:10-12). But never mind that; the materialist will still insist it is the only thing real or relevant.

The error of materialism is ultimately tied up in thinking that matter is all that exists and that man, a creature of matter and spirit, can be satisfied with matter alone. Materialism denies a whole world of moral and spiritual realities that are meant to nourish the human person: goodness, beauty, truth, justice, equity, transcendence, courage, feelings, attitudes, angels, and God. These are ultimately spiritual realities. They may have physical manifestations to some extent, but they are not physical. Justice does not walk through the door and take a seat in the front row. Transcendence does not step out for a stroll, give a speech, or shake hands with beauty. Such things are not merely material.

To deny the spiritual is to already be dying, for the form of this world is passing away. To deny the spiritual is to have little to live for other than today, for tomorrow is uncertain and one step closer to death.

III. Individualism – The error of individualism exalts the individual over and above all notions of the common good, and our need to live responsibly in communion with God and others. Individualism exalts the view of the individual at the expense of the received wisdom of tradition.

Individualism demands autonomy without proper regard to the rights and needs of others. It minimizes duties to others and maximizes personal prerogatives and privileges. It also tends to deny a balanced notion of dependence on others for human formation, and the need to accept correction and instruction.

Individualism also tends to be defiant and declare, “I will not be told what to do.”Hence there is little notion of being required to conform to the truth or even to reality. The notion that I should live by the “creeds of dead white men” is rejected as absurd, repressive, and even unhealthy.

Most individualists think of themselves as having an intrinsic right to make their own religion, to invent their own deity, and even to craft their own reality. In the past these sorts of things were called idolatry, syncretism, heresy, and delusional thinking. But today many in our culture celebrate this notion as a strange form of liberty, not seeing it for the isolation that it is, and not recognizing that they are consigning themselves to the status of spiritual orphans.

Personal freedom and autonomy have their place and should not be usurped by government or other collectives, but freedom today is often misunderstood as the ability to do whatever one pleases rather than the ability—the power—to do what is good. Freedom is not absolute and should not be detached from respect for the rights and welfare of others. Individualism ultimately scoffs at this idea.

Never mind that excessive and mistaken notions of freedom have caused great harm in our culture and that it is often children who suffer the most. Sexual promiscuity, easy divorce, abortion, substance abuse, etc. are all abuses of freedom and cause harm to both children and to the wider society that must often seek to repair the damage caused by irresponsible behavior. Individualism still scoffs at this, refusing to acknowledge any personal responsibility for societal ills.

Individualism, because it rejects the collective wisdom of the ages, also leads to the iconoclasm of the next problematic area: the hermeneutic of discontinuity.

IV. The Hermeneutic of Discontinuity – The word “hermeneutic” refers to the interpretive key by which one sees and understands the world. Thus, the phrase “hermeneutic of discontinuity” refers to an interpretation that the wisdom of previous generations is flawed, erroneous, naïve, and so forth.

It is true that no past era was perfect or all-wise. Nevertheless, there is an accumulated wisdom that has stood the test of time.

But those possessed of the hermeneutic of discontinuity will have none of it. It is old, and therefore bad, irrelevant, unenlightened, bigoted, naïve, superstitious, backward, medieval, etc.

In the Church, we are just emerging from a time when anything “old” was dismissed as “pre-Vatican II.” There was a presumed break and a great chasm with the past that we “ought” to observe, that it was somehow “wrong” to quote St. Thomas or the Council of Trent.

There is a widespread, arrogant, modern notion that we have “come of age.” We confuse our technical knowledge with wisdom. But our arrogance cuts us off from the collected wisdom of our ancestors and we make mistakes that were long ago recognized as harmful and foolish.

Here, too, as the Church “re-proposes” the Gospel, she is proposing the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the ages. Yet a modern world, often locked in the hermeneutic of discontinuity, scoffs merely on the basis that what we propose is ancient rather than modern.

Regardless, we must continue to insist upon and preach the wisdom of God, in season and out of season. We must refuse to be swayed by false notions of and demands for relevance. The true meaning of the word relevant is not “modern” or “hip.” The word comes from the Latin re (again) + levare (to lift). And thus, it means to take up again what was dropped or which fell by the wayside.

Our job is to persevere and by our persistence to keep the wisdom of God ever before humanity like a burning torch. We must preach the Gospel in season and out of season and not confuse ephemeral notions with wisdom. But neither should we imagine that there is nothing good today or that something is bad simply because it is modern. Jesus says, Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Mt 13:52).

V. Neo-Nominalism – There are at least two main versions of nominalism. One version denies the existence of universals—things that can be illustrated by many particular things (e.g., strength, humanity). The other version specifically denies the existence of abstract objects since they do not exist in space and time. Most nominalists have held that only physical particulars in space and time are real, and that universals exist only subsequent to particular things. The term “nominalism” stems from the Latin word nomen (name).

The modern and lazier version of nominalism, which I will here call neo-nominalism, holds that words (nomen = word) are simply arbitrary sounds we assign to things, and that they reflect us more than they reflect anything we call reality. In a more sweeping way, whole categories are also dismissed.

Thus, for example, words and categories such as male, female, marriage, abortion, euthanasia, etc. are just words we assign; they are mere human constructs that do not exist in reality. So, many claim the right today to move beyond human words and categories such as male, female, marriage, and so forth. They also claim the right to assign new words to describe these realties. Abortion becomes “choice,” “reproductive freedom,” or “women’s healthcare.”  Unnatural acts of sodomy are called “gay” (a word that used to mean happy) and anal sex is celebrated as an “expression of love.” Same-sex “pseudo-gamy” is called “marriage.” Suicide or killing of the aged or imperfect is called “euthanasia” (a word that mean means “good death” in Greek). Sexual identity is now called “gender” (a grammatical category of nouns in nearly one-fourth of the world’s languages, not a word for human sexual differentiation).

Neo-nominalism claims the right to define new reality and scoffs at the humbler proposition that we ought to discover reality and conform to it. Nominalism casts aside such humility and claims the right to merely define reality by inventing new words and thoughts and then imposing them on what really is. And thus we get endless absurdities such as LGBTQ (and Lord knows what letter will be added next). We have bizarre notions such as being “transgendered,” a concept that denies human distinctions that could not be more obvious and are literally inscribed in our bodies. But the neo-nominalists will not be troubled with reality.

The next and even more absurd “edge universe” for many of them is the so called “trans-human” movement, in which even the reality of being human is dismissed as a mere construct. People will claim the right to start calling themselves other species and (presumably) the right to engage in all sorts of bizarre consort with animals, the “right” to develop cross-cloning, etc. After all, who is to say what is “human” to these neo-nominalist iconoclasts?

For them, there is no reality per se, just human constructs that are fungible. So-called “reality” is merely to be toyed with and defined according to the latest whim and need for self-justification through the re-describing of what is actually happening.

Neo-nominalism gets dark and absurd very quickly, as we are observing every day in our increasingly indecipherable “anti-culture.”

VI. Hedonism – This is the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the chief good in life. It comes from the Greek word hēdonē “pleasure” and is akin to the Greek hēdys meaning “sweet.”

Of course pleasure is to be desired, and to some degree sought, but it is not the sole good in life. Indeed, some of our greatest goods and accomplishments require sacrifice: years of study and preparation for a career; the blood, sweat, and tears of raising children.

But hedonism seeks to avoid sacrifice and suffering at all costs. Hedonism is directly opposed to the theology of the cross. St. Paul spoke in his day of the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things (Php 3:18–19). He also taught that the Cross was an absurdity to the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23).

Things have not changed, my friends. And thus the world reacts with great indignation whenever the cross or suffering is even implied. And so the world will cry out with bewildered exasperation and ask (rhetorically) of the Church: “Are you saying that a poor woman who was raped needs to carry the child to term and cannot abort?” (Yes we are.) Are you saying that a “gay” person can never marry his or her gay lover and must live celibately?” (Yes, we are.) “Are you saying that a handicapped child in the womb must be ‘condemned’ to live in the world as handicapped and cannot be aborted and put out of his (read ‘our’) misery?” (Yes we are.) “Are you saying that a dying person in pain cannot be euthanized to avoid the pain?” (Yes, we are.)

The shock expressed in these rhetorical questions shows how deeply hedonism has infected the modern mind. The concept of the cross is not only absurd, it is downright “immoral” to the modern hedonistic mentality, which sees pleasure as the only true human good. To the hedonist, a life without enough pleasure is a life not worth living. And anyone who would seek to set limits on the lawful (and sometime unlawful) pleasures of others is mean, hateful, absurd, obtuse, intolerant, and just plain evil.

When pleasure is life’s only goal or good, how dare you, or the Church, or anyone seek to set limits on it let alone suggest that the way of the cross is better or is required of us! You must be banished, silenced, and destroyed.

And indeed many faithful Catholics in the pews are deeply infected with the illusion of hedonism and take up the voice of bewilderment, anger, and scoffing whenever the Church points to the cross and insists on self-denial, sacrifice, and doing the right thing even when the cost is great. The head wagging in congregations is often visible if the priest dares mention that abortion, euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, contraception, and so forth are wrong; or if he preaches about the reality of the cross. The faithful who swim in the waters of a hedonistic culture are often shocked at any notion that might limit the pleasure others want to pursue.

Hedonism makes the central Christian mysteries of the cross and redemptive suffering seem like a distant planet or a strange, parallel universe. The opening word from Jesus’ mouth, “Repent,” seems strange to the hedonistic world, which has even reworked Jesus and cannot conceive that He would want them to be anything but happy and content. The cry goes up, even among the faithful, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” And on this basis, all sorts of sinful behavior should be tolerated because insisting on the opposite is “hard” and because it seems “mean” to speak of the cross or of self-discipline in a hedonistic culture.

Bringing people back to the real Jesus and to the real message of the Gospel, which features the cross as the way to glory, takes a lot of work and a long conversation. We must be prepared to have that long conversation with people.

I will discuss four other modern trends in tomorrow’s post (reductionism, scientism, “designer” religion, and arrested development).

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Contraception and Communion

From Crisis Magazine 


It is puzzling: why do many Catholics receive the Eucharist, the source of all grace and the sign of being in communion with the Catholic Church, and yet support and practice contraception, abortion, and unnatural relationships such as homosexual “marriage,” all of which are in direct contradiction to the Church’s teachings? How can there be such a gulf? One would think that in time something would get through.

One reason for this gulf between the reception of communion and its fruitfulness in the public life may be because, with so many Catholics, there is a severance in the reception of their spouse and its fruitfulness in private life, that is, in marriage. In short, contraception in marriage leads to contraception in communion; both sacraments can be harmed, perhaps rendered fruitless.

In several places our Lord draws parallels between our relationship with him and marriage. Thus marriage, besides being a sacrament, is meant to show us what our relationship with Jesus is supposed to be, which is one of openness and exclusive and total commitment. If we compare what is happening between a couple using birth control with what happens when a Catholic using birth control receives communion, the results are interesting.

Reception of the Eucharist—communion—and marital relations are both meant to be life-giving acts, fruitful acts. Both involve great risks, and, as such, require great faith in the spouse. In both, there is to be a communion of flesh. (Cf. Mark 10:8 and John 6:53 et seq.) G.K. Chesterton held the reception of the Eucharist in such awe that he is said to have sweated when he went up for communion.

Thomas Aquinas said that, while there is an infinite amount of grace in the sacraments, that does not mean that one receives an infinite amount of grace. The amount of grace one receives depends upon one’s preparation, disposition, attention, and thanksgiving. One essential disposition that should be present in both marriage and communion is openness, self-surrender. It is an act of faith in the spouse.

Our Lord does this in the Eucharist. He has surrendered his body to us on the cross; Christ is surrendering his BODY to us in the Eucharist; without reservation, without holding back, wanting, more than we can imagine, that Life comes forth.

The couple open to life in the marital act knows they are surrendering control of their lives. They are engaging in the greatest natural gamble in the world. Children change—the word is too mild—your life. They take over your plans, your schedule, your goals. They completely overturn how you deal with the world. They will make you materially poorer. They will get you strange, perhaps nasty, looks at the grocery store and at parties. Having more than 2.1 children these days makes you open season for snide remarks and raised eyebrows. The same is true for a life with Christ.

Both are terrifying. Both are also the greatest joy.

Our prayer before both the marital act and the reception of communion should be, “Let me be open to the life you want to bring forth from this union.”

Not so the couple practicing birth control. They are saying (in the best of circumstances), “I love you; I want to be one with you; I want to give myself to you; and I want you to give yourself to me … but.” But—“but I want nothing to come of it. I do not want the life that is the natural fruit of the act. I want the appearance of union, but not the risk. I want the show of self-giving and commitment, but not the evidence.” In so many cases, the unspoken reality is, not “I want to give myself to you and you to me,” but, “I want to be pleased.” It is the opposite of self-surrendering; it is calculating.

Perhaps another way of looking at it is this: Our Lord said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.” If that is true concerning the least among us, how are we treating the Lord when it comes to our spouse? If we act to render the marital union sterile, aren’t we, in a sense, acting to render our union with the Lord sterile? Catholics who use contraception and yet receive communion may love our Lord and desire to be one with him; it is, though, a love that comes with a “but.” “But not enough to obey you in the teachings of your Church; not enough to give you control of my body, of the fruits of my acts.”

Peter Kreeft has pointed out the diabolical mockery of the pro-choice mantra, perverting the words of our Lord when they defend abortion by saying, “This is MY body.” To a lesser extent, but to an extent nevertheless, this is true of the Catholic practicing birth control. The defiance is still there, knowingly or not—“This is MY body.”

This applies equally to the man. He cannot absolve his guilt by saying, “It’s what she wants.” Pontius Pilate tried to wash his hands of our Lord’s death using that excuse. It didn’t work for him.

The Church is the body of Christ. Her teachings are Christ’s teachings. If one doesn’t believe that, then one is merely play-acting at Mass. As Catholics, we believe body and soul are mysteriously but truly connected. We believe in the resurrection of the body. To use contraception and receive communion is to put up a barrier not only to spouse of one’s body, but to the spouse of one’s soul.

Imagine a couple where the wife, who is open to life, discovers that the husband, on his own and knowing it is against the desires of his wife, has had a vasectomy. How devastated that wife would be. Yet that is what happens when a Catholic using contraception receives communion. How hurt is our Lord. By not receiving all the grace they could, all the grace he died for, these Catholics live truncated lives. No wonder they see no problem supporting—wittingly or not—abortion, the perversion of marriage and the destruction of the family. They have rendered the life of their family and their life of faith fruitless.

The life of the Church, physically and spiritually, depends upon the fruitfulness of her families. The fruitfulness of our families depends upon the fruitfulness of our communions. They cannot be separated. What God has joined, let no man put asunder.

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