“Crypto-Lefebvrianism” & the Willful Confusion Around the SSPX

Author: Steve Skojec


I was on the receiving end of the “crypto-lefebrvist” charge yesterday – a neat trick considering that the originator of that term is now sentenced to pay hefty restitution for defaming the founder of a religious order. Still, it would seem that in the minds of some, the charge bears a certain sting. And I suppose it does. I’m a long-standing devotee of the traditional Mass. We go to great lengths to ensure that our children are baptized in the old rite (because what kid these days couldn’t use a double-exorcism upon arrival?)

I came across yet another online discussion this morning about the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (there seems to be a new one all the time) and those who attack them. Sadly, they are always under fire from pretty much all sides, which must only deepen their sense of isolation.

Reading the back and forth, I have to admit that I do not know what to make of the SSPX situation. I have always carefully avoided becoming involved with them, because it feels like a trap. I know there is good being done there. I know good faithful people who are involved. I refuse to accept asinine arguments like the one made by Fr. Paul Nicholson about how Satanic “masses” are less offensive to God than those offered by the SSPX in good faith. But there are questions that demand consideration:

Does anyone here think it’s possible to disagree with the disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre but still agree with the theological positions he put forth?

Does anyone believe that Rome has been in any way clear about the canonical status of the SSPX, or whether or not people can attend their Masses, support them financially, or even receive other sacraments from them?

Does anyone believe, after taking into account ALL the various pieces of documented evidence which so frequently seem to contradict each other, that they can say with 100% certitude they know that the SSPX is a) in schism or b) not in schism – based solely on the statements of popes, cardinals, and the relevant persons in the appropriate dicasteries and commissions in the Vatican?

Is there a single person reading these words who does not believe that the very existence of the SSPX serves as a perpetual indictment of the Church’s post-conciliar liturgy and ecclesiology, and that any validation from Rome provided to the SSPX beyond the occasional vague updating of the semantics of their status or the lifting of the excommunications would absolutely decimate many of the precepts upon which the current Catholic edifice stands?

Subsequent to this last point: can anyone think of a reason why, considering the modernist/gnostic/neo-pagan political machine that the Vatican has sadly become, we could reasonably expect there to be sufficient interest in Rome to accomplish reconciliation or at least offer sufficient clarification to pull us out of this morass?

It seems undeniable that we (faithful Catholics) are being manipulated by at least some of the Roman officials who should be dealing with this, and quite possibly actively being lied to. The SSPX remains a stigma-by-association deathtrap for all those traditionalists who take pains to maintain clear communion with Rome. If you show any sympathy to the SSPX and their arguments or positions, you, like me, will be branded a “crypto-lefebvrist” or a flat-out schismatic. If you cite any of the clearly-articulated theological arguments made on their websites as part of a discussion, you will be instantly dismissed and the citations disregarded. They are, for all intents and purposes, radioactive. And while they have done things over the years that demonstrate that they share the blame for this, they appear to be intentionally kept in the outer darkness by those whose very job it is to make them a full and licit part of the Church.

Perhaps most important is this: if it is schismatic or somehow un-Catholic to believe the things that they believe, then this means all of our ancestors in the faith should be similarly condemned for believing and worshiping the same way. As an institution, they do not hold a single theological position that is not clearly and unequivocally Catholic. They cannot be condemned because of their theology – it is simply not possible to show it to be in error. They even believe in and promote submission to the Petrine office. (One could cogently argue that they have more respect for the institution of the papacy than even the last few popes have – because those last few have been willing to make changes that no pope, if he desired continuity with his forebears, should have made.) Even the infamous act of disobedience has been presented with a very explicit canonical justification. Agree or disagree that this justification is valid, they do not appeal to their own authority, but to the law of the Church.

Their isolation has damaged them. I have no doubt pride has crept in in some areas, which can be very off-putting to those on the outside looking in. The act of disobedience remains a scandal to many. They are most certainly not perfect.

And yet…and yet they are what the Church was before it abandoned its patrimony. They give every appearance that they are doing their best to be faithful to an authentic Catholicism. Should any of us be surprised that there are many in the Vatican who want to keep them as far away as possible, and keep us confused and wary about them in the process? They represent, to Rome at least, the sort of problem that would by its very solution create more problems than it alleviates. Thus, I cannot accept that the confusion surrounding them is entirely an accident. Too many contradictions in official statements exist; too many distinctions without differences are made. Meanwhile, nothing moves forward, and the majority of Catholics associate all traditionalists with the black legend of SSPX schism.

What do you think?


Apart from some comments worth reading on the original blog where the article was posted, there is also this levelheaded article in response to Steve Skojec’s post, with a following very interesting pertinent discussion in the comment section below.

Where do I personally stand? I could not put it better than that of the author of the Opus Publicum response to Skojec in his final paragraph:

“The SSPX—and those who regularly attend their chapels—don’t care. Deo gratias. They have found it necessary in these troubled times to be intentionally hard to the volley of misguided, and sometimes calumnious, criticism which is sent their way on all sides. This does not mean that the Society is closeminded or unwilling to discuss their positions; it only means that they will not let the unfair derision distract them from their apostolate. Contrary to the false claims of others, the SSPX is not out to replace the Catholic Church or her hierarchy. The Society has no interest in vesting itself with the mantle of being the “last true Catholics” on earth. As Skojec makes clear in his article, the SSPX is not perfect. There is reasonable room to disagree with some of the SSPX’s actions and words, including those of their founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. Even so, the Society continues to bear good fruit while remaining a thorn in the side of those who would demolish and then rebuild the Church into a worldly institution bereft of Divine mandate and purpose. And for that all Catholics, particularly traditional Catholics, owe them a debt of gratitude.” (My emphasis.)

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A Novice Reminisces about Thomas Merton

From My Unquiet Heart

Part 1

Part 2

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What Is The Endpoint Of Lent, Apart From Easter Sunday*?

This is NOT the endpoint of Lent, God willing.

Forty days and forty nights of devotion to the Lord don’t come easy, especially when it involves fasting and abstinence and extra emphasis on one’s spiritual health via prayer and the Sacraments.

The compleat Christian has the following qualities:

1) They see reality as it really is: truth is truth, lies are lies, the press is the press, Toad is Toad, drama and entertainment are just that, hyperbole is just exaggeration and

CP&S is God’s Only Truth etc. (/irony)

2) They treat every other human being that they meet or think about, with as much reverence as though they and their neighbour have Christ at their very heart,  which they do, no matter how obscured. Jesus saw every person he met in this way.

3)They rely for 1) and 2) on the solid basis that God wants to be worshipped in Spirit and Truth, and Caritas. He said this in Scripture.

Have a happy AND lugubrious Lent, and God be with you all!


(*Look away now: the answer is “Saints”)

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Two Meditative Hymns for Lent

Attende Domine

To Thee, highest King,

Redeemer of all,

do we lift up our eyes

in weeping:

Hear, O Christ, the prayers

of your servants.

 Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee!

Innocent, He was seized,

not refusing to be led;

condemned by false witnesses

because of impious men;

O Christ, keep safe those

whom Thou hast redeemed!

 Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy, because we have sinned against Thee!


Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

“We can think of Lent as a time to eradicate evil or cultivate virtue, a time to pull up weeds or to plant good seeds. Which is better is clear, for the Christian ideal is always positive rather than negative. A person is great not by the ferocity of his hatred of evil, but by the intensity of his love for God. Asceticism and mortification are not the ends of a Christian life; they are only the means. The end is charity. Penance merely makes an opening in our ego in which the Light of God can pour. As we deflate ourselves, God fills us. And it is God’s arrival that is the important event.” (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen)

Fr. Z is once again providing 5 minute daily Lenten meditations called “LENTCAzT” to help us on our Lenten journey. Highly recommended!

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England and Liberty: The Problem of Catholicism

From The Imaginative Conservative


It is undeniable that American constitutionalism and the ordered liberty it provides have historical roots in England. Nevertheless, one might be excused for finding it somewhat ironic that American Catholics join other Americans in seeing themselves as inheritors of a distinctly and specifically English liberty. England itself historically has not been particularly friendly toward religious liberty or Catholics in particular. Why, then, look to England? Is England the only place where liberty flourished? Worse yet, from a Catholic perspective, does the very fact of England’s militant Protestantism during the early modern era explain the rise and maintenance of political freedom, meaning that there is something “unfree” about Catholic politics?

Were it true that only England provides a true history of liberty’s growth prior to the time of modern revolutions, that would be tragic from two points of view. It would show that there is in fact something “anti-liberty” about Catholicism, as Protestants often have claimed. Further, it would seem to excuse the sometimes quite oppressive and even violent treatment of Catholics by English authorities and by those who wish to follow in their footsteps today. Catholics should not need to be reminded that the English government going back to Henry VIII, and coming forward even into the twentieth-century, has been hostile toward Catholicism and Catholics. The martyrdom of numerous priests and bishops such as Thomas More, the sacking of the monasteries, and laws forbidding the saying of Catholic mass and even decreeing execution for priests lasted for centuries. Catholics were disenfranchised until the nineteenth-century and even in the twentieth-century social disabilities were common (e.g. J.R.R. Tolkien, being Catholic, was not allowed to dine with his Protestant colleagues at Oxford). A central justification of these injustices was that Catholics were “loyal to a foreign prince” who sought enslavement of both souls and bodies, imposing the tyrannous hierarchy of Catholicism. Even on the continent, the story often was repeated that Popes ruled their “estates” as tyrants and sought only to expand their temporal authority in order to force reconversions to their faith and re-establish a kind of absolute rule over the bodies and minds of the people. What is more, it has been this vision of Catholicism as intrinsically hostile to human liberty that has fed into an anti-Catholic sentiment in portions of the American public that has damaged religious liberty and constitutional government itself.

If true, the charges leveled at the Catholic Church and her people would be damning, indeed. Were it true that only the particular cultural institutions and developments of Protestant England, along with, perhaps, those of Protestant Holland, could produce political liberty then Catholicism would be riven by internal contradictions. Catholics recognize that, while salvation is the ultimate, highest good, liberty also is a real human good and freedom aids greatly in the development of the human person. If their religion were hostile to liberty, then, they would have to choose between salvation and freedom. Thankfully, ordered liberty is not a purely English phenomenon and Catholicism is entirely consistent with ordered liberty, not merely in theory, but also in historical practice. My purpose, here, is to examine some of the reasons for Americans’ focus on English liberty. Some of these reasons are accidental and some genuinely important. They are worth exploring for what they can tell American Catholics about ourselves and about the requirements for ordered liberty.

Continue reading…

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An Understanding of Temptation

2015-02-22 09.31.32

We had no ‘Lectio Divina’ on the Mass readings this past Sunday, but the Gospel of the three Temptations of Jesus is one that is very important for us to understand as we commence our Lenten journey towards Holy Week. By God’s grace I came across this marvellous Angelus address of Pope Benedict XVI from 2010 for the first Sunday of Lent that gives us some clear insights: 

“The Evangelist St. Luke recounts that after receiving Baptism from John, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for 40 days in the wilderness, tempted by the Devil. There is a clear insistence on the fact that the temptations were not just an incident on the way, but rather the consequence of Jesus’ decision to carry out the mission entrusted to Him by the Father, to live to the very end of His reality as the Beloved Son Who trusts totally in Him. Christ came into the World to set us free from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of planning our lives leaving God out. He did not do so with loud proclamations but rather by fighting the Tempter himself until the Cross. This example applies to everyone. The World is improved by starting with oneself, changing with God’s grace, everything in one’s life that is not going well.

The first of the three temptations to which Satan subjects Jesus originates in hunger, that is in material need: “If you are the Son of God, command the stone to become bread”. But Jesus responds with Sacred Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Then the Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the Earth and says: “All this will be Yours if, prostrating Yourself, you worship me.” This is the deception of power and an attempt which Jesus was to unmask and reject: “You shall worship the Lord you God, and Him only shall you serve.” Not adoration of power, but only of God, of Truth and Love. Lastly the Tempter suggests to Jesus that he work a spectacular miracle, that He throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and let the Angels save Him, so that everyone might believe in Him. However, Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test. We cannot do an experiment at which God has to respond and show us that He is God; we must believe in Him. We should not make God the substance of our experiment. Still referring to Sacred Scripture, Jesus puts the only authentic criterion, obedience, conformity to God’s will, which is the foundation of our existence, before human criterion. This is also a fundamental teaching for us: if we carry God’s Word in our minds and hearts; if it enters our lives; if we trust in God, we can reject every kind of deception by the Tempter.”

Temptation could not touch the Son of God, but Man, in his concupiscence since the Fall, is subject to temptation to sin. With a ‘hat tip’ to Chalcedon (from AATW) I reproduce these sage words from St Pope Gregory on how temptation affects us:

“Gregory the Great reminds us that there are three stages to temptation: suggestion; delight; and consent. In temptation we normally fall through delight at what is offered us, and then we consent; for things begotten of the sin of the flesh we bear within us that through which we suffer conflict. But God, incarnte from the Virgin’s womb, came into the fallen world without sin, and suffered, therefore, no conflict within himself. He could be tempted by the suggestion, but the delight of sin could not touch his mind, and so all these temptations were from outside, from Satan, and not from within his nature.”

And finally, from the Imitation of Christ Chapter XIII, 5, comes this advice:

“For first cometh to the mind the simple suggestion, then the strong imagination, afterwards pleasure, evil affection, assent. And so little by little the enemy entereth in altogether, because he was not resisted at the beginning. And the longer a man delayeth his resistance, the weaker he groweth, and the stronger groweth the enemy against him.”

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Lent Ain’t About YOU!

LISTEN TO THIS SERMON by Fr Larry Richards.

It won’t take long, and may change you permanently for the better.

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Minimalist Monday: 10 Simplifying Lessons from The Rule of St. Benedict

Whether you’re Christian or not, some interesting insights can be gained from The Rule of St. Benedict. For those constantly overwhelmed by physical possessions, internal clutter and society’s spiralling superfluity, The Rule of St. Benedict, can be a mighty tool towards living a happier and more minimalistic lifestyle.

So, who was St. Benedict and how can his spirituality help those aspiring to minimalism today?

Benedict was a 6th century monk from Nursia near Rome, who first lived as a hermit before establishing various monasteries and writing a Rule to guide monastic living. His Rule is still used today in many monasteries and convents as well as being followed by many lay people.

Whilst many Christians practise the traditions of fasting, prayer and giving to charity during the forty days of Lent, the Benedictine way of life is like a permanent Lenten journey. At the heart of St. Benedict’s Rule is his message to listen to God’s voice in the everyday. However, Benedictine life is not about total abstinence. Instead it’s about moderation, humility and serving others.

Some UK readers may remember that the Benedictine way of life was the subject of two BBC TV series The Monastery and The Big Silence broadcast about ten years ago. The aim of these projects was to enable people from different walks of life and different religions or non-religions to experience monastic life for a sustained period of time and thus to reveal to the participants and viewers new insights into their inner lives and spirituality.

I didn’t watch the TV series at the time – I was probably too busy collapsing in front of something far less meaningful on the box after a demanding day working and dealing with my own two young children, if I remember correctly – but the results were fascinating and can be read here. Similar TV series were later broadcast in the USA and Australia.

Now, whilst we can’t easily give up our current lives to seek spiritual guidance in a Benedictine community there are simple ways we can incorporate St. Benedict’s ideas and values into our everyday lives.

Read the original article here.

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The Secret of True Love

By David Torkington

Many years ago when I used to run courses for school leavers, I used to begin by asking the boys and girls to tell me when they were last really happy. I remember one boy said that it was when he was fishing with his father, another when watching one of his favorite films, and yet another when he was playing football with his friends. One of the girls loved a day of retail therapy with her mother, another loved playing the piano, not for her exams, but for the sheer pleasure of it. Finally one girls said her happiest moments were spent on holiday with her boyfriend. Strangely enough it always used to take them a long time to see the common denominator – the reason why doing all these different things had given them all so much pleasure. For a greater or less period of time they had been so absorbed in something, or someone else, that they simply forgot about themselves. In the discussions that followed they usually came to the same conclusion, namely that, this happiness could be found and perpetuated more in loving someone else than in anything else.

In the first Christian centuries no one sought to live for themselves, but for God and for his honour and glory alone. All authentic prayer of whatever sort ends up here, as did the prayer of Jesus. That’s why the first Christians learnt to seek God not for what they could get out of him, but for himself alone. Seeking God for what you can get out of him was an unfortunate development that came later, thanks to the influence of Neoplatonism. However on occasions, but rarely, you do find expressions like ‘sober inebriation’ or ‘spiritual intoxication’ to express interior spiritual feelings that sometimes occurred while taking part in the liturgy or in prayer. You can find words like Apatheia or Ataraxia too, words borrowed from Stoicism. They are used to refer to the inner peace and tranquility experienced at the outset of contemplation. You find words like spiritual transportation too, as these inner states of repose become ever more intense and raise believers up and into experiences similar to those that St Teresa of Avila would later call the Spiritual Betrothals or the Mystical Marriage. However I have only mentioned them to make the point that they were only very rarely used – Why? Because the whole emphasis of early Christian spirituality was not on oneself, but on God, and on his good pleasure, not one’s own. The faithful did not seek out mystical experiences to give themselves pleasure, they sought out God to give him pleasure. Their whole aim and the whole object and direction of their spiritual life was not to seek their own honour and glory, but the honour and glory of God. It was in doing this that they, like any lover who lives for another, forgets themselves. Then, freed from self-absorption and the misery that this brings, they experienced the joy of living for another.

Read the original article here

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Fellow Blogger VOX CANTORIS Threatened with Lawsuit by Vatican Official Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

We may have come late to announcing this shocking news, already widely reported by Catholic bloggers all over the web, but we stand firmly with Vox Cantoris (David Domet) and in solidarity with him for his valiant fight for Truth, to protect the Church from her enemies in its midst who teach heresy and harm the souls of men. Domet’s crime? None other than revealing the blasphemous and scandalous pronouncements made by Papal Advisor, Fr. Rosica, who is now threatening to sue David Domet for bringing these heretical statements to light!

Today, the first Sunday of Lent, let us take heed of the words of the Introit for Holy Mass: “He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I will deliver him, and I will glorif him: I will fill him with length of days. Ps. He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High shall abide under the protection of the God of Heaven. Glory be. 

For further reading on the subject:





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Kneeling for Communion

(Please excuse the poor choice of music for this YouTube video.)

I have no alternative but to attend a Novus Ordo Mass, except for every first Sunday of the month when a visiting priest comes to our city to celebrate a beautiful Traditional Latin Mass. Sometimes (not always) at the N.O. Mass I am the only one who, when reaching the priest distributing Holy Communion, kneels down to receive the Sacred Host on my tongue. I feel I cannot do otherwise at such a momentous occasion as the Sacred Body of Christ being received into my unworthy person. All around me I get stares and looks of surprise from the people who file up to receive standing. At first this embarrassed me terribly, not because of the ridicule I may have been making of myself in their eyes, but because knowing myself a sinner, I found it mortifying that they may think I was attempting to show myself up as ‘holier than thou’ – totally untrue of course. I offered up this suffering to the Lord and now with time it has become no more than a minor discomfort.

I must add that I have never had a priest refuse me Holy Communion for breaking the common custom here to stand to receive (as I have heard has happened to some Catholics on occasions, especially in the US) but once a priest made a very audible sigh to show me, and the other communicants nearby, his displeasure at my ‘audacity’!

Pope Benedict XVI emphasised, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favour “a centuries-old tradition”, and that it is “a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species”.

Kneeling for Communion may be seen as a small thing in the great scheme of things (that many laugh off as unimportant) for after all, there are such multiple problems and dangers assailing us in Our Holy Catholic Church these days. However, we should never forget the old maxim: ‘Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi’ (As we Worship, so we will Believe, and so we will Live.) Perhaps the tradition of kneeling to receive Our Blessed Lord could start a gradual return of all that is holy and reverent in the practices within the Holy Liturgy once more.

“That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10)

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Francis says “Reform of the Reform” is “mistaken”. “Traditionalist” seminarians criticized, Pope says their “imbalances” are manifested in their celebration of the liturgy

Again, we must thank Rorate for bringing this worrying news from Rome to wider attention.  http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/02

Most media attention on Pope Francis’ annual meeting with the clergy of Rome (held yesterday, February 19) has been focused on his remarks on married clergy. Of equal and possibly more immediate importance were his remarks on the liturgy, which have now been published by the ZENIT news agency.
The Pope could not have been any clearer in his view of the “Reform of the Reform”. He speaks of the need for a more respectful ars celebrandi but anyone who has actually followed the liturgical debates of the last 20 years will know that this is not the same as the “Reform of the Reform”. We sincerely hope that the “usual suspects” in the blogging world and in the social networks will neither ignore this talk completely, nor try to explain this away by constructing elaborate explanations as to why the Pope “really meant” something else, or that this whole thing is really a hoax, a fabrication, or whatever. Anything that will allow them to keep their heads in the sand!
Remarkably the Pope criticizes the “Reform of the Reform” outright but he did not say anything negative about Summorum Pontificum itself, quite the opposite. Nevertheless, his apparently condemning and contemptuous words about “traditionalist” diocesan seminarians cannot and should not be explained away as simply referring to the immoral behavior of some such seminarians — behavior that can also be found, empirically much more frequently, among non-traditionalist seminarians. By specifically naming the (“Reform of the Reform”?) “liturgies” celebrated by “traditionalist” seminarians, once ordained, as the manifestation of their “moral and psychological” “imbalances”, it is clear that the Pope’s target is the traditional-friendly views on the sacred liturgy of many young priests and seminarians. By mentioning that the Congregation of Bishops is conducting interventions in this regard, the message is sent out loud and clear: bishops accept “traditionalist”-leaning seminarians at their peril. By declaring outright that moral and pyschological problems “happen often” in traditionalist “environments” a broad bush, apparently lacking in mercy, may now henceforth be used to tar these young men. 

The relevent passage from the Zenit report is reproduced below, with our emphases.

However, some excerpts of the Pope’s discourse were released thanks in part to several priests who spoke to the press following the meeting. Some even managed to record the Pope’s words. In addition to several phrases reported by a few Italian news agencies this morning, the 78 year old Pontiff touched upon the theme, for example, on the “traditional rite” with which Benedict XVI granted to celebrate Mass. Through the Motu Propio Summorum Pontificum, published in 2007, the now Pope Emeritus allowed the possibility of celebrating the Mass according the liturgical books edited by John XXIII in 1962, notwithstanding that the “ordinary” form of celebration in the Catholic Church would always remain that established by Paul VI in 1970.

Pope Francis explained that this gesture by his predecessor, “a man of communion”, was meant to offer “a courageous hand to Lefebvrians and traditionalists”, as well as to those who wished to celebrate the Mass according to the ancient rites. The so-called “Tridentine” Mass – the Pope said – is an “extraordinary form of the Roman Rite”, one that was approved following the Second Vatican Council. Thus, it is not deemed a distinct rite, but rather a “different form of the same right”. (sic)

However, the Pope noted that there are priests and bishops who speak of a “reform of the reform.” Some of them are “saints” and speak “in good faith.” But this “is mistaken”, the Holy Father said. He then referred to the case of some bishops who accepted “traditionalist” seminarians who were kicked out of other dioceses, without finding out information on them, because “they presented themselves very well, very devout.” They were then ordained, but these were later revealed to have “psychological and moral problems.”

It is not a practice, but it “happens often” in these environments, the Pope stressed, and to ordain these types of seminarians is like placing a “mortgage on the Church.” The underlying problem is that some bishops are sometimes overwhelmed by “the need for new priests in the diocese.” Therefore, an adequate discernment among candidates is not made, among whom some can hide certain “imbalances” that are then manifested in liturgies. In fact, the Congregation of Bishops – the Pontiff went on to say – had to intervene with three bishops on three of these cases, although they didn’t occur in Italy.
During the beginning of his address, Francis, spoke on homiletics and the Ars celebrandi, calling on the priests to not fall into the temptation of wanting to be a “showman” on the pulpit, perhaps even by speaking in a “sophisticated manner” or “overt gestures.”

However, priests shouldn’t also be “boring” to the point that people “will go outside to smoke a cigarette” during the homily.

(Source: Pope Holds Two Hour Meeting with Roman Clergy)

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The times are dire. So where are the priests we desperately need to lead us?


Roaring flames stretching for miles, and warriors out for vengeance? If only our enemies were so few, so meek, and so feeble.

Roaring flames stretching for miles, and warriors out for vengeance? If only our enemies were so few, so meek, and so feeble.

You are an eighty-year-old scout and trapper on the high plains far west of the Mississippi. You have with you an officer of the United States Army, a roving hunter of beehives, their affianced brides, an almost useless naturalist, and two dogs. Your means of transportation are two horses, a donkey, and your feet. The women have escaped from the camp of a courageous and unscrupulous family of whites, moving in from the east; one of the women they had kidnapped. Their eldest son has been murdered, and the people believe you are responsible. They’re out for blood.

Meanwhile, a band of Sioux warriors have stolen the white men’s cattle and are plotting to steal the rest of their goods. They do not know whether you are friendly to the settlers or not. You have managed to slip out of their grasp, with two of their horses. They know you are hiding among the tall grasses and have determined to smoke you out with fire. And that is what you see billowing around you, a ring of fire ten miles wide.

But this is not Sioux territory. It’s Pawnee territory, the enemies of the Sioux. They too are in the neighborhood, waiting their chance to strike at both the Sioux and the white settlers.

What do you do?

I’m describing the situation in the middle of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Prairie, the last of his four novels featuring the noble and uneducated man of God and nature, sometimes known as Hawkeye, sometimes known as Leatherstocking, and christened with the apostolic name Nathanael. Though the man has four score years on his back and his eyes are bleary with age, the other men and the women defer to his judgment.

There is no notion of democracy here, or play-acting at Leader of the Escapees. The “intellectual” among them, that naturalist, can claim no precedence based upon a degree from Harvard. There is no special set-aside Women’s War League pitting white women with rifles against Sioux women with bows and arrows and tomahawks, and referees running back and forth across the prairie to make sure that the rules are observed. A job has to be done, and that is that.

If justice means that we give to each his due, for the sake of the common good, then justice here means that Hawkeye must be the leader whether he likes it or not, though he could easily save his skin and leave the others to fend for themselves. It means that the young men must obey him readily, though one of them is used to command and the other is used to being his own master. It means that the women accept their protection and do what they can to help, though they are ready to die. It means that the intellectual must keep his mouth shut and do as he is told, though he is ever apt to lose himself in the vagaries of his “science.”

The approach of mortal danger clears the head. We can imagine ideal men and women all day long such as the world has never known and never will, insisting that there is no such thing as nature where those are concerned. Once take away our food and our cozy shelter and our modern conveniences and surround us with wolves, and all those imaginations will vanish faster than a dream before the stark light of day. “What were we thinking?” we say, and shake ourselves to alertness, and get to work.

Now then: we Christians are not surrounded by a prairie fire and a band of Sioux warriors. All they could do is kill the body. Our situation is implied by the prayer that Pope Leo XIII instructed Catholics to say at the end of every Mass. I’ll translate:

Holy Michael Archangel, defend us in battle; against the snares and wickedness of the devil be our fortress; may God rebuke him, we pray upon our knees; and do thou, O prince of the heavenly army, by the power of God thrust into Hell Satan and all the other malignant spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Roaring flames stretching for miles, and warriors out for vengeance? If only our enemies were so few, so meek, and so feeble.

Am I exaggerating? The devil may scour the plains of America hungry for souls, but we are a Christian nation, and he is apt to sweat for nothing, especially since, as we hear from the spiritually fat and easy, that God in His infinite mercy will save us all. For God is the smiley face we paste upon our middling lives. He will take our sins as seriously as we do, which is to say, he will literally not give a damn. Isn’t that why Jesus was crucified, so that we might not have to give a damn?

The question suggests the bitter rejoinder. But we need not be theologians if we have eyes and look about us, and judge with uncompromising honesty. We are the Church Militant. What then is our military situation?

A few days ago I tried to watch a movie that had recently won an award for Best Picture of the Year. In a ninety second stretch I saw someone calmly put a bullet into the forehead of two men, one of whom had just offered to be his ally. I turned it off. I tried to watch a football game. There I saw a sluttish woman stretched out on a floor, talking in a sultry and blithely contemptuous way about men and their hydraulic problems; this for an audience of millions of sport-following boys. Trailers for television shows and movies suggest that the only “virtues” remaining in the world are avarice, ambition, aggression, scorn, lust, vanity, and wrath. That’s our mass entertainment, what is left of popular culture. That fortress has been reduced to sticks and stones.

What about our schools? I answer the question with a question. Which of the following would be least likely to occur there, or most likely to be condemned? A teacher instructs a co-ed class to put rubbers on bananas. The class reads a pornographic novel. A boy dressed as a girl is voted prom queen. Children are instructed to despise the history of their nation. A teacher explains an allusion in Paradise Lost by turning her pupils’ attention toward a passage in the gospels. Which one? I don’t have to answer. The brick walls of the schools may be solid, but their souls are rubble.

Our government? The one that declares that a people’s culture is illegal, and that appeals to human nature are inadmissible? The one that has subordinated its Constitution to the summum bonum of sexual license, with child-murder as the fail-safe?

In this military calamity, how have our Church leaders, the officers in the army upon earth, comported themselves? Where are the priests to lead us? Many men might be found if we understood that we must fight in love on behalf of a mad and lost world, and that souls hang in the balance. But no boy dreams of growing up to be a quisling, a lieutenant at the sufferance of the enemy, a temporizer at whom the enemy laughs even as he sends the wine and the crepes suzettes our way.

We need those priests. The Church is not a Spirituality Club. She is not the ecclesia impotens. But do we actually want those leaders? I’ll have more to say about this next time.

Anthony_Esolen_headshot.jpg_300_300_55gray_s_c1Anthony currently serves as professor of English at Providence College, and is perhaps best known for his widely acclaimed translation of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. He has also authored several original works, including ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization’ and the satirically titled ‘Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child’. He regularly writes for publications including ‘The Catholic Thing’ and ‘Crisis Magazine’.

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A Blessed who spread Devotion to the Way of the Cross


Blessed Alvarez of (Córdoba) Cordova (1350-1430) whose feast day is celebrated on 19th February, was born to a noble family in Zamora, Spain. He joined the Dominican Order and preached throughout Spain. Upon his return from pilgrimage to the Holy Land he preached the crusades against the Moors that were fighting Christendom. He also successfully led a resistance against the anti-pope and brought Spain under allegiance to the true Pope of Rome. He founded the famous priory of Scala Caeli (ladder of Heaven) at Cordova, a convent of strict observance, and it is said that angels helped provide its building materials. In its gardens he erected pictures of the holy places in Jerusalem where Our Lord had suffered His Passion, the origin of the custom of the Stations of the Cross. It was also by his preaching and contemplation of the Lord’s Passion that the practice of the Way of the Cross was spread throughout western Europe. He lived a life of great austerity and holiness and numerous miracles are attributed to him. Among them, it is told that he once came upon a poor dying man. He wrapped him in a blanket and carried him back to the Order. Upon unwrapping the cloth he found only a crucifix.

Here is an audio recording of meditations on the Stations of the Cross by St. Alphonsus de Liguori (in the voice of Fr. Z).

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“The Heroism of the Christian Martyrs” – Let’s look at them in the face

from: Rorate Caeli, http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-heroism-of-christian-martyrs-lets.html

How can the Church waste time with pseudo-questions, such as “communion for ‘remarried’ divorceed”, when scores of Christians are being slaughtered every single day?
by Antonio Socci
February 18, 2015
We need to look at those 21 young Christians in the face. Rather than deny Christ they underwent martyrdom in Libya and before having their throat cut by ISIS – in reading their lips (which was done) – they were continuously pronouncing the name of Jesus. Like the martyrs of old.
Their Bishop says: “That name whispered at the last instant was akin to the sealing of their martyrdom.” Coptic Christians are strong people, tempered by 1400 centuries of Islamic persecutions. They are heirs to that St. Athanasius of Alessandria, who saved the true Catholic Faith from the Arian heresy, held by most of the bishops [at that time]. They are tough Christians, not like the spineless, tepid-Catholics we are here in the West.
Here’s what real strength is: it’s not what hates and kills the defenseless (even children) and crucifies those who have a different faith, rapes the women – waving a black flag, faces hidden.
The real strength is the one of the defenseless who accept even martyrdom rather than deny their own dignity – that is to say, their faith – giving witness to the wonders of “ the Beautiful Love” as an ancient definition of the Son of God names Him.
A wonderful testimony. These are the true martyrs: the Christians. Not those who go around slaughtering defenseless innocents.
This is the glory of Christians: to follow a God who saved the world by having Himself killed, not by killing others, like all the leaders, ringleaders and ideologues (or revolutionaries) of this world [have done] and that are so exalted in history books.
This is a great lesson to the West drunk with being “politically correct”, like the disastrous Obama who does his best not to mention even the word “Islam” and “Muslims” when speaking about the massacres In North Iraq, Paris and Libya over these past months. A nihilistic West which is ashamed of its Christian roots and never misses a chance to show contempt for them.

It’s a painful lesson, ultimately, and most of all, for the Church: for a Church that is no longer a witness to the ardent fire of the Faith.
It’s a painful lesson for the Church of Bergoglio, who defines the Christian proclamation and proselytism as “solemn nonsense” – while men and women are giving their lives for Christ; for the Church of Bergoglio , who makes an act of adoration in a Mosque – while Christians are being persecuted and massacred in the entire Muslim world, and who follows the dominant ideology of Obama, by carefully avoiding the pronunciation of the word “Islam” except in laudatory terms. (On the other hand, his spokesman in Buenos Aires attacked Benedict XVI for his discourse on Islam at Regensburg).
Furthermore and most of all, a Pope Bergoglio, who says that the great emergency at present for the Church is not the Faith, but the environment; then, the acceptance of the new (type) of couple and Communion for the divorced and remarried.
It’s all a bit like Benigni’s film where they say that the real, big problem in Palermo [center of the Mafia] – “is the traffic.”
The situation is such, that soon we will have the Bergoglian encyclical on ecology and the merits of differentiated rubbish, in place of a loving cry to God in this world with no faith and hope. We will have an appeal against pollution instead of a condemnation of the anti-Christian hatred now spread all over the entire planet. (In any case, even at his installation Mass, he spoke about the environment and also in his speech to the Expo 2015 in Milan – instead of speaking about Christ).
It ‘s Pope Bergoglio who receives and addresses the Social Centers of the Leoncavallo type, but not the Christians who are heroically and peacefully fighting as witnesses of salvation, suffering the contempt and accusations of the world.
It’s Pope Bergoglio who chooses new cardinals on the basis of his own ideology (and shows that if he wants to he can even decide to make a cardinal – like the Bishop of Ancona, for example) instead of giving the red hat– a sign of martyrdom – to those Bishops in these precise days, who are concretely and heroically living with their threatened communities and truly risking their lives with them.
This is the situation of the Bishop of Tripoli, Father Martinelli, the Bishop, (practically the only one at the time, but with the support of Benedict XVI) who protested every day against the war in 2011, explaining that Pandora’s Box would be opened, which then unfailingly happened. A tragedy for which we must thank the “Nobel Peace Prize” – of Obama and Sarkozy.
Further – while today, in Italy and abroad, those who applaud that war feign ignorance (an example -Maurizio Belpietro and “Libero” yesterday), while today Libya risks becoming a base for ISIS, Bishop Martinelli has decided to stay there, exposing himself to death: “I saw the decapitated heads – he relates – and thought to myself that I could end up like that. And if God wills that I end up having my head cut off, then so be it […] Being able to give witness is a precious thing. I thank Our Lord for allowing me to do it, even with martyrdom. I don’t know where this road will take me. If it brings me death, I will say that God has chosen this for me…I will not budge from here. And I’m not afraid.”
He doesn’t want to abandon his small community made up of around three hundred Philippine workers who are understandably terrified. The Bishop is the only Italian left in Tripoli, with some non-Italian nuns and religious.
Up until yesterday evening, no telephone call had arrived from Pope Bergoglio, usually so lavish in his phone calls (he even called [Radical Party leader Marco] Pannella, as well as his friend [Repubblica founder Eugenio] Scalfari, several times). Perhaps, seeing the pressure of the media, he’ll call him before long.
Still, facts are needed more than words.
I’d like to propose something to the Pope. With the help of the Italian government, the Vatican could ask for a humanitarian bridge, a lightening rescue operation for the Christians left there with their Bishop. There are only three hundred of them and they’re risking their lives for their faith. The Vatican could give hospitality to them and then they’ll decide whether to return to the Philippines.
This is something possible. Why not do it?
This is my plea to Pope Bergoglio – to save an entire Christian community and their pastor from being slaughtered. This would really be something worthy of the Holy See. Not that climate of witch hunts and purges that have been circulating in the Vatican establishment for some time now against those “great cardinals” (Ratzinger) who, in fidelity to the Church, dared oppose Kasper in the Synod last October. It would indeed, be incredible if the Vatican devoted itself to purges while Christians are being martyred all over the world.
[Rorate translation by Contributor Francesca Romana]
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