Knights of Malta elect new leader

Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto 
Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto  Credit: DAMIANO ROSA/AFP

The Knights of Malta elected a new leader in Rome on Saturday in a bid to end a bitter internal feud that led to Pope Francis’ personal intervention in the ancient Catholic chivalric order.

Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto was named lieutenant of the Grand Master, which means he will serve a one-year term instead of the customary life-long term of a full Grand Master.

The 72-year-old Italian was chosen from 12 candidates by the order’s council in a secret ballot held at its grand 14th century Magistral Villa with panoramic views overlooking the Tiber River.

Dressed in traditional black robes with a white Maltese cross, 56 electors celebrated Mass in at the Church of St Mary of the Priory inside the villa’s sprawling gardens early on Saturday before marching solemnly to the villa to cast their ballot.

Former Grand Master Matthew Festing, second left, defied a Vatican order to stay away from Saturday's vote
Former Grand Master Matthew Festing, second left, defied a Vatican order to stay away from Saturday’s vote Credit:  FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP

Pope Francis was informed of the election, according to a statement.

An expert in art and archeology, Mr Dalla Torre taught at Rome’s Pontifical Urban University and published several articles on medieval art. He previously served as the order’s lieutenant for an interim period after the death of Grand Master Andrew Bertie in 2008.

He is expected to act as a crisis manager charged with implementing radical reforms and “strengthening the spiritual life” of the nearly 1000 year old organization following the bitter confrontation between the previous British-born Grandmaster and his German deputy.

Matthew Festing, a Cambridge-educated former Guards officer, resigned in January after conflict with the Holy See over his removal of Albrecht von Boeselager, who was a senior deputy at the time.

Knights of Malta take part in the secret ballot for a new Grand Master at the order's Villa Magistrale in Rome
Knights of Malta take part in the secret ballot for a new Grand Master at the order’s Villa Magistrale in Rome Credit: Remo Casilli/Malta Knights via AP

He had accused Mr von Boeselager of condoning the distribution of condoms in an aid project in South-east Asia, in contravention of the Catholic order’s opposition to artificial contraception.

But after weeks of mud-slinging, which drew in the Pope and the Vatican, German-born Mr von Boeselager, whose title is Grand Chancellor, was reinstated, in what was seen as a defeat for Mr Festing.

Mr Festing defied a Vatican order to stay away from Saturday’s vote.

The pope met senior officials from the order at the Vatican late on Wednesday with Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican’s deputy secretary of state, appointed “special delegate” to the order.

Reformers, backed by the Vatican, want to overhaul the order’s constitution to make it more transparent.

Albrecht von Boeselager, second from right, walks in procession along with other Knights of Malta before the election of the new Grand Master
Albrecht von Boeselager, second from right, walks in procession along with other Knights of Malta before the election of the new Grand Master Credit:  Alessandra Tarantino/AP

“The recent crisis has brought to light some weaknesses in control systems and the conduct of its governance: the reform will take this into account,” the order said in a statement following the election.

“The reform will focus on the order’s need to strengthen its spiritual life and to increase the number of its professed members.”

Founded nearly 1,000 years ago to protect pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land, the Knights of Malta is a Catholic charity that operates in 120 countries.

It is a sovereign entity which runs refugee camps, drug treatment centres, disaster relief programmes and clinics around the world.


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Suffering Souls

By Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing:

There are many strong arguments, pro and con, about the existence of God. But one of the most powerful challenges to the idea of a good and loving God on the Biblical model (the bloodthirsty and capricious pagan gods are something else again) is the suffering of innocents. A contemporary British atheist has remarked that if he were asked why God does not exist, he would simply say, “Bone cancer in children.”

Austin Ruse, one of TCT’s founders and formerly a regular columnist here, takes on this challenge directly in his concise but consequential new book The Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ. Christianity, he argues, alone among religions and philosophies finds meaning in suffering as such. Stoicism and most other faiths simply take suffering as a fact of nature and offer techniques about how to endure it.

But this book is not an abstract argument. Ruse treats in detail some concrete cases: Margaret Leo and Brendan Kelly (both of greater Washington D.C.), and “Audrey” (last name withheld by parental request), a young girl who lived and died near Paris.

Austin is a friend and longtime collaborator (these stories began as TCT columns and produced hundreds of reactions from all over the world). But I can say, objectively, that the result is something nearly miraculous. Who knew that saintly, suffering children could be living evidence to those who knew or even just heard about them that a loving God exists?

Austin Ruse

It’s nearly impossible to write well about the spiritual dimensions of children going through medical tortures. What usually happens is pious in the bad sense and therefore falsely sentimental. The great and unflappable Flannery O’Connor quailed, for that very reason, when the Hawthorne Dominicans asked her to write an introduction to A Memoir of Mary Ann, an account of another young sufferer in the 1960s.

Cardinal Burke wrote the foreword to this volume and commends it, quoting St. John Paul II, about how, uniquely in Christianity, our sufferings – even those of the littlest souls – participate in the redemptive suffering of Jesus.

Ruse captures this in the telling of these stories better than any writer I know: preserving proper sentiments (not sentimentality) but also conveying the occasional humor and ultimate inspiration of these little lives with nary a false word. (And while we’re at it, kudos to TAN Books for having produced a simply beautiful volume.)

The truth is that even parents and family can come to hate God during such trials – and that their suffering children often help them.

Two of the children featured have important fathers. Leonard Leo is executive vice-president of the Federalist Society, a lawyers’ group that advised President Trump on his recent Supreme Court appointee. Frank Kelly heads global government affairs for Deutsche Bank. Both were at the D.C. Catholic Information Center this week when the book was presented, highly accomplished men but – you could see – all but tongue-tied when asked to speak about their children. Hence, the additional value of this book.

Brendan Kelly was born with Down syndrome and at two was diagnosed with leukemia. He died at only sixteen after a series of medical dramas, punctuated by much love and remarkable (including inexplicable, miraculous) events that touched an unbelievably wide swath of people – not least a long episode with St. John Paul II at Castle Gandolfo that will make you laugh out loud. Two thousand people were at his funeral.

Margaret Leo had such a severe form of spina bifida that it is usually fatal despite medical advances. When amniocentesis indicates that condition, most children these days are aborted because their “quality of life” will be so low. Margaret spent her whole life in a wheelchair because of twists in her spine so powerful that when titanium rods were inserted to keep her back straight, the rods bent. Yet that tiny child never complained or seemed to feel fear, had a simple faith, and a gift for friendship, despite the way that many people are put off by handicapped people in wheelchairs. She died, almost unexpectedly, but miraculous events followed her death.

Audrey died at seven after years of battling leukemia. Her French family was nominally Catholic and didn’t instruct her in the Faith, but by age three she was instructing them. Spotting a crucifix in a confessional she said, “Just looking at Him, you love Him.” She took up mortification instinctively, somehow, giving up sweets; making acts of penance without anyone telling her what it meant; insisted on grace before meals (not a family practice); seemed to know Gospel passages without having been taught them; lived perpetually, as many came to feel, in the presence of God.

These are only the bare bones of the stories of three saintly children who have many things to teach us that proceed along expected lines. But the fact that they were from prominent families also has significance, Ruse explains. As he mentions their various connections, he says, “I am aware that I am doing what is commonly referred to as ‘name-dropping’; this is deliberate, but hopefully to be excused, as it is done to emphasize a particular aspect of these ‘little suffering souls.’. . .[These] were not peasant children tending their flocks. They were born into families of influence, families that inhabited a particular milieu: the power center of Washington, D.C. In short, they too were born into a kind of spiritual desert, an environment in which the things of the world can so easily take precedence over the things of God, and they had – and still have – lessons to teach the inhabitants of that particular desert.”

We’ve recently had debates over the Benedict Option, the Dominican Option, and many more such “options” in our troubled Church and state. There’s something to be said for them all, of course. But to my mind, and not only in Washington, the suffering souls option has them all beat.

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Leaked Report of Cardinal Burke Audience Reveals Background on Malta Crisis

By Maike Hickson at OnePeterFive:

Today, 28 April, the Austrian Catholic website has published an important report written by a Maltese Knight about a recent audience with Cardinal Raymond Burke in which the (“de facto suspended“) Cardinal Patron revealed much of the background of the current crisis in the Order. Burke, who has not spoken publicly on the matter himself, revealed in this audience information pertinent to tomorrow’s scheduled election of a new Grand Master of the Order Malta — information that some within the order have now apparently leaked in the hopes of forestalling the Order from being led in the wrong direction.

As reports, Fra’ Matthew Festing is now in Rome, but has been “coldly received” and he also was told to hand over his own diplomatic passport which had been issued by his order.

Since the report is somewhat lengthy, I will concentrate for now on the most important parts of this new revelations. itself has good connections with people within the Order of Malta, and has repeatedly revealed important information about the current crisis. Importantly, it also has already received a cease-and-desist order for their reporting on the financial dealings of Albrecht von Boeselager, the current (and re-instated) Grand Chancellor.

First of all, published today a screenshot of the pope’s own 1 December 2016 letter to Cardinal Burke in which he insists that the moral problems with regard to the distribution of condoms and contraceptives has to be addressed within the Order. Since we reported on this letter already, I will proceed to the next point. then also published the above-mentioned report about a meeting with Cardinal Burke which now has been already widely distributed within the German branch of the Order of Malta, and which was written by Josef von Beverfoerde, himself a (married) Knight of the Order of Malta. Since there is an English version of parts of that text already available, I will quote from this report, if possible. Otherwise, I will use my own translation. Von Beverfoerde met Cardinal Burke at the beginning of March 2017 and wrote down this report with Cardinal Burke’s approval and with the explicit disclaimer that it is representing Burke’s own positions, not von Beverfoerde’s. The report was not intended for the public, but is now being widely circulated since it was revealed this week.

Cardinal Burke himself, at the end of the report, is quoted as having said about the current development of the Maltese crisis:

I find it profoundly saddening that the grave scandal of the distribution of contraceptives and the advancing secularization of the Order which this immoral action represents are now minimized and, effectively, forgotten. All of the many press conferences, interviews and other interventions through the media on the part of the Order, in the time since the reinstatement of the Grand Chancellor, make no reference to the grave scandal and acknowledge no responsibility on the part of the Grand Chancellor for such scandal. From my view, I fear that the obscuring of this scandalous situation at the root of the recent difficulties in the Order is not a good augury for the renewal of the Order, according to its long, noble, and thoroughly Catholic tradition. [emphasis added]

When speaking about the course of events, Cardinal Burke makes it clear that Albrecht von Boeselager was involved in the immoral distribution of condoms and contraceptives and that a report by the Order itself about these matters was approved by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

The Cardinal Patron [Burke] told him [Festing] that the whole thing must come to an immediate end and those responsible could no longer enjoy the Order’s confidence. Finally, the Grand Master set up an investigative commission, which presented its first report in January 2016. That report presents the gravity and extent of the distribution of contraceptives by the Order.

The report of the investigation was submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for examination. On 12 March 2016, its prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, wrote a letter to the Grand Master in which he confirmed the investigation’s report with the words: “The proposal of the above-mentioned report is consistent with the doctrine and practice of the Church.” Among other conclusions, the report clearly shows that the Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, who had been Grand Hospitaller for the previous 25 years, had accepted the morally reprehensible practices and had deliberately avoided informing the Sovereign Council and Grand Master about them. [emphasis added]

What Cardinal Burke made clear in this private conversation with von Beverfoerde is that he encouraged Fra’ Festing to take steps to make von Boeselager accountable for his actions, but that he himself did not ask von Boeselager to resign since it was not in the field of his authority as Cardinal Patron:

The responsibility of the Grand Chancellor [von Boeselager] was evident since the appearance of the investigation report. The Grand Master therefore informed Cardinal Burke that he had asked the Grand Chancellor to resign, but that he had refused. During the following months, the Grand Master told the Cardinal of his further attempts to convince the Grand Chancellor of his responsibility to resign. As he is the Cardinal Patron responsible for the spiritual constitution of the Order, Burke encouraged the Grand Master in this sense so that the scandal surrounding the distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients would not progress unimpeded, leading to further moral confusion and aberrations within the Order. [emphasis added]

When Burke then met, on 10 November 2016, with Pope Francis, the pope was supportive of Cardinal Burke and Fra’ Festing’s approach. Cardinal Burke is quoted as having said to von Beverfoerde:

“Pope Francis expressed profound concern and dismay about the practice of distributing contraceptives by any work of the Order. He urged me [Burke] to collaborate diligently with the Grand Master to make certain that all such practices cease and that those in highest authority who had approved of them be appropriately disciplined.”

Cardinal Burke also made it clear, once more, that he never claimed Pope Francis ordered the dismissal of von Boeselager:

“During the meeting of December 6, 2016,I [Burke] never claimed to have a mandate from Pope Francis to demand the resignation of the Grand Chancellor and, therefore, I, in my capacity as Cardinal Patronus, never asked him to resign, nor did I do so, claiming that I was speaking for the Holy Father. I made two statements, in the light of the letter of Pope Francis: 1) that it was completely unacceptable to me that an organization, of the high historical and present-day Catholic profile of the Order of Malta, could be engaged in such a scandalous practice over a number of years and yet not hold responsible the senior official who condoned the practice; and 2) that, if the First Report of the Commission of Inquiry is false, as the Grand Chancellor claims that it is, why had he not made a formal correction of the document, especially because it points to his specific responsibility for the scandalous practice.”

According to von Beverfoerde’s report

The Grand Chancellor gave no answer. This did not surprise Cardinal Burke, however, because on at least two occasions, since he had been informed as Cardinal Patron in December 2014 that Malteser International distributed contraceptives and he had insisted on immediately terminating this activity, the Grand Chancellor in the Grand Chancellor[sic], in open conversation with him at the Magistral Palace, had insistently declared to him: “We have to give contraceptives to these poor women, or they will die.” Burke’s last statement at the meeting of the 6th of December was that he saw it as his duty in connection with the Pope’s letter to say that the Holy Father expected the Order to deal with this serious problem. The Holy See should not be compelled to intervene further. [emphasis added]

Cardinal Burke describes in the following how Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrongly claimed in a letter to Fra’ Festing that Burke claimed Pope Francis had demanded the dismissal of von Boeselager. Burke immediately called Parolin in order to correct this claim – which Parolin never double checked with Burke himself – whereupon Parolin merely answered “ that it was an emergency situation.”

Several other aspects which are not to be found in the English version of the von Beverfoerde report, but which are published by, might be of interest here. First of all, Cardinal Burke once asked Fra’ Festing why he had accepted to resign right during the audience with Pope Francis on 24 January (without further consultation or reflection), and also why he (Festing) agreed to write down in his letter of resignation that Cardinal Burke had influenced him to ask for the resignation of von Boeselager, even though this was not the case.

To both questions, Fra Festing “only answered that the obedience toward the Holy Father did not give him any other choice,” according to the von Beverfoerde report.

Cardinal Burke also once more showed his grave concern about this strange monetary donation of 120 million Swiss Francs part of which the Order of Malta purportedly had received. Nobody knows of its origins, and the Grand Master had not been even informed about its existence for a long time, according to Burke. In Burke’s eyes, “an independent audit of the situation should be done, for the sake of the good of the Order and for the sake of clearing up all difficult questions concerning this topic.”

Last but not least, Cardinal Burke also revealed, according to this document, the undue and disproportionate influence which Cardinal Parolin exercises over the Order of Malta. Parolin and von Boeselager “are in a close relationship,” according to the report. Von Boeselager himself, the report alleges, had immediately protested when he heard that Pope Francis had appointed Cardinal Burke as the Cardinal Patron of the Order of Malta in 2014. From day one on, von Boeselager made it clear to Cardinal Burke that he has “a direct connection to the Cardinal Secretary [Parolin].” On several occasions, it became clear to Cardinal Burke that Parolin and von Boeselager were working closely together with regard to internal matters of the Order of Malta. The von Beverfoerde report ends with the following statement:

Cardinal Burke over the years had the clear impression that the Cardinal Secretary was – with the help of the Grand Chancellor – closely involved with the matters of the Order, even though Cardinal Parolin never spoke with him, Burke, about the Order and his own service as Cardinal Patron.

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St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort

Image result for st. louis de montfort
April 28th is the the Feast day of that great Saint  St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. His Marian teachings have, to my mind, never been equaled, and if some of our readers, like me, are struggling through the Ninevah devotions with Father Richard Heilman in preparation for the 100th Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, then they will be very familiar with this holy saint.

St. Louis on Mary as spiritual mother of all Christians

St. Louis spent most of his priestly life preaching and teaching in western France, basing his teaching on Mary on the principle that just as God had initiated the work of Redemption on the basis of her cooperation, so he would continue and finish that work by means of her: “It was through the blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world.”

He also stressed Mary’s role as spiritual mother of all Christians, basing himself on the fact of her divine maternity and her role in Redemption. He taught that by means of her faith, trust, love, and holiness, she merited the status of “Co-Redemptrix,” one that gives her rights over all mankind, since Jesus’ death was sufficient to save all mankind.

Since she is the spiritual mother of every human being, then we are her “children” in the order of grace, and as children, especially when they are still in the womb or very small, are totally dependent on their mother, so we too are totally dependent on Mary as “Mediatrix” of all graces. This implies that we should be totally devoted to her, which is the essence of the “Holy slavery of love,” although perhaps the idea of “spiritual childhood,” as popularised through St. Thérèse of Lisieux, is easier for the modern mind to understand and accept.

St. Louis on Mary’s future role

St. Louis composed a formula of consecration to Mary that emphasised the idea of the individual making a total offering of self to God through Mary, arguing that this was really a renewal of the baptismal vows, in which the individual is completely consecrated to God. He insisted though that this consecration had to be carried over into daily life, as a lived spirit, if it was to be really effective.

St. Louis’s major work, the Treatise on True Devotion, was hidden away and not found until 1842, when it providentially began to contribute to the resurgence of Marian ideas that took place from 1830 onwards. His work has been approved by a number of Popes, and he was finally canonised in 1947, thus indicating that the Church has found nothing objectionable in his ideas on the total consecration to Mary.

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St. Louis made a number of interesting prophecies concerning the future role of Mary in the Church and the world, including this statement in the True Devotion: “If …as is certain, the knowledge and the kingdom of Jesus Christ must come into the world, it can only be as a necessary consequence of the knowledge and reign of Mary. She who first gave him to the world will establish his kingdom in the world.”

He argued that this was the case “because God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin ever since he created her, [and so] we can safely believe that he will not change his plan in the time to come, for he is God and therefore does not change in his thoughts or his way of acting.”

St. Louis and modern Marian apparitions and devotion

St. Louis then went on to describe Mary’s future role: “The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished. Mary scarcely appeared in the first coming of Jesus Christ so that men, as yet insufficiently instructed and enlightened concerning the person of her Son, might not wander from the truth by becoming too strongly attached to her.”

He argues that the reasons for hiding Mary’s importance, that is the danger of her being treated as a goddess by the early Church, no longer exist, and so now God can reveal her and make her better known during the “latter times.” This prophecy certainly seems to have been at least partially fulfilled in the nineteenth and twentieth century Marian apparitions and their aftermath, but St. Louis apparently goes on to argue that an even more splendid Marian age is to come.

He foresaw men and women who in their true devotion to Mary would prepare the way for Christ by living the message of the Gospel in simplicity and humility, and thus inaugurate a future great triumph for Christianity, but one also involving persecution and suffering for the Church.

This seems to agree with the prophecies made by St. John Bosco in the nineteenth and by Mary herself at Fatima in the twentieth century.

St. Louis on true and false devotion to Mary

St. Louis also dealt with true and false devotion to Mary. Speaking of his own era he complained how, “The devil, like a counterfeiter and crafty and experienced deceiver, has already misled and ruined many Christians by means of fraudulent devotions to our Lady.” Obviously “fraudulent devotions,” also includes the possibility of false apparitions, and if that was true three hundred years ago, then it is even more the case today.

He then goes on to make an extremely important point, one which clearly indicates that some modern apparitions must be false: “A counterfeiter usually makes coins only of gold and silver, rarely of other methods, because these latter would not be worth the trouble. Similarly, the devil leaves other devotions alone and counterfeits those mostly directed to Jesus and Mary … because these are to other devotions what gold and silver are to other metals.”

Thus unless the devil has radically changed his method of operation, which seems unlikely if not impossible, given that his opposition to the divine remains unchanged, then some of the modern alleged apparitions of Mary must be false. As is indicated in the section on biblical prophecy and apparitions the devil’s usual approach is to copy an authentic prophecy, writing, movement or devotion and “flood the market” with forgeries, thus sowing confusion and causing problems for the Church.

Thus it is certain that the authentic Marian apparitions have been counterfeited and that in all probability many, if not most, of the modern alleged apparitions are false. This may seem like an extreme statement, but the facts will bear it out.

Sources: St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, (Montfort Press, Liverpool, 1976); Gaffney, “The Holy Slavery of Love,” in Mariology, Vol. 3.

The following is a story (I do not know of its origins) told by St. Louis. On this Feast Day it is worth repeating:

Alphonsus, King of Leon and Galicia, very much wanted all his servants to honor the Blessed Virgin by saying the Rosary. So he used to hang a large rosary on his belt and always wore it, but unfortunately never said it himself. Nevertheless his wearing it encouraged his courtiers to say the Rosary very devoutly.

One day the King fell seriously ill and when he was given up for dead he found himself, in a vision, before the judgment seat of Our Lord. Many devils were there accusing him of all the sins he had committed and Our Lord as Sovereign Judge was just about to condemn him to hell when Our Lady appeared to intercede for him. She called for a pair of scales and had his sins placed in one of the balances whereas she put the rosary that he had always worn on the other scale, together with all the Rosaries that had been said because of his example. It was found that the Rosaries weighed more than his sins.

Looking at him with great kindness Our Lady said: “As a reward for this little honor that you paid me in wearing my Rosary, I have obtained a great grace for you from my Son. Your life will be spared for a few more years. See that you spend these years wisely, and do penance.”

When the King regained consciousness he cried out: “Blessed be the Rosary of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, by which I have been delivered from eternal damnation!”

After he had recovered his health he spent the rest of his life in spreading devotion to the Holy Rosary and said it faithfully every day.”


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O felix culpa! Keeping the Vigil of Easter, pre-1955 style

For those of you who love Tradition, and are aware of the treasures that we have lost in the Church over the last decades,and are also too young to remember the pre-V2 liturgy this is a wonderful read.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Modern Medievalist wishes all of you as happy an Easter season as I’ve had so far! You’ve seen how much fun I had visiting the new Museum of the American Revolution as I described in my last post; now it’s time I tell you a bit about my experience at the Easter Vigil. This year, the rector of Mater Ecclesiae Chapel in Berlin, New Jersey, Fr Robert Pasley, invited me to assist the community by chanting several of the 12 Old Testament prophecies as used in the full Easter Vigil as it was known in the Roman Rite prior to the reforms of 1955–as some other communities such as the FSSP’s parish of Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome have lately done. Now, I’ve generally acknowledged my preference for the pre-1955 forms on paper, having read about the differences in well-written articles like those by Gregory DiPippo on the New Liturgical Movement here. But nothing could have really prepared me for the unbridled splendor of the old forms being played out before my eyes as I sat in choir at Mater Ecclesiae this past Holy Saturday.

Before I begin, I’d want to point out to anyone unfamiliar with Mater Ecclesiae that it’s not a sedevacantist chapel or anything of the sort. On the contrary, ME is the only diocesan community in the entire United States that observes the pre-Vatican II rites exclusively. Fr Pasley, like my old pastor, Fr Phillips at Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, is the sort of priest who knows how to build something otherworldly virtually ex nihilo. Not surprisingly, like my old pastor, Fr Pasley is also very musically oriented (he is also chaplain to the CMAA, the Church Music Association of America). Every year, they fill the entire Cathedral-Basilica in Philadelphia for their annual solemn orchestral Mass for the Assumption. Last year, their leading liturgist was instituted as an acolyte by the Bishop of Camden to allow them to have solemn high Mass more frequently. (This has reminded me to add his blog to my list on the right, which I haven’t updated in years until now. Please check it out!) Since I had then shared the news with my own bishop afterward, Mr. Rotondi’s institution was actually, in large part, the catalyst for Bishop Lopes to create an acolyte institution program throughout the entire Ordinariate, which I wrote about here. In short, Mater Ecclesiae treats the liturgy as paramount, and should serve as a model of  excellence for all of us, whatever rites we follow.

Blessing of the Fire

It took about an hour to get there, but I still miraculously arrived in time with the whole family to get situated at a comfortable pace. It was about 5:30pm, with a starting time of 6… the only thing not strictly pre-1955 about the ceremonies, which in the early 20th century would have been Holy Saturday morning (though, in my opinion, a correct choice). I briefly greeted my fellow instituted acolyte as he was giving out last-minute instructions to the altar servers, and then donned cassock, surplice, and biretta at the breast (as the custom at Mater is for acolytes to wear biretta when seated in the sanctuary). I sat beside and soon befriended a young man bound soon for the Carmel in Wyoming (of Mystic Monk coffee fame) who was also assigned to chant some lessons. He kindly retrieved for me a chapel copy of a pre-1955 Liber Usualis so I could follow along. I knew bringing my 1962 edition of the Liber would more likely cause mischief than help, so I left that at home.

The junior servers lined up in the hallway adjoining the sacristy while the ministers vested. They were understandably excited; that another acolyte other than Mr. Rotondi existed out there in the world was novel to them and probably contributed to the chatter; but a sense of reverent quiet assumed as soon as they all knelt to recite their preparatory prayers. I gladly joined in.

The procession to the porch outside the church wasn’t planned out in advance, so Fr Pasley had to make an executive decision to ask the congregation to remain in their places for the blessing of the fire, lest chaos break out. So, for the initial rites, only clergy and servers formed up around the Easter fire outside. There’s no need for me to get into lengthy descriptions of the differences between pre- and post-1955 ritual here when others have done so much more thoroughly, so I’ll only make personal remarks on my strongest impressions. The most obvious is that the Paschal candle is nowhere to be seen here. It’s already situated in the sanctuary. Instead, a triple candlestick called the arundo is lit outside and carried into the church by the deacon in procession. Like the Paschal candle, he stops at intervals and intones Lumen Christi (“the light of Christ”) at successively higher pitches, the people genuflecting each time.

The Exsultet

As the ministers enter the sanctuary, the deacon places himself before the Paschal candle as though he were about to sing an ode to it and carries out his single most important liturgical duty of the year: the Exsultet. As someone who has discerned a vocation to the diaconate for many years, this ceremony alone is enough to convince me of the superiority of the pre-1955 ritual over the Bugnini revisions. You see, in the pre-1955, there is no blessing of the Paschal candle outside by the priest, nor does he ritually inscribe and insert the grains of incense himself. This is because, traditionally, the act of singing the Exsultet is itself the blessing–indeed, the most solemn blessing the lowly deacon ever imparts.

About halfway through the Exsultet, right before the words:

“In thanksgiving, then, for this night, O holy Father, receive the evening sacrifice of this incense..”

the deacon pauses to insert the five grains of incense into the Paschal candle, just as the text alludes! Then, as the deacon sings:

“And now we know the glories of this column which the flickering fire doth kindle in God’s honor.”

He, not the priest, takes light from the arundo and lights the Paschal candle. At last, when the deacon sings:

“Which fire, though it be divided into parts, yet knoweth no diminution of its light. For it is nourished by the fluid wax which the mother bee hath produced for the material of this precious torch.”

The lights in the church multiply at this line as the fire is passed to the candles of the congregants.
It seems the architects of the 1955 Holy Week reform thought this ceremony too high an honor for a lowly deacon to bear, so they composed a new blessing for the priest to recite over the Paschal candle in the reformed edition. The ceremonies of inserting the grains and lighting the candle were now to be done by the priest. The deacon was now left only with singing the Exsultet straight through. And now, in our contemporary Church, most deacons probably pass the job of singing the Exsultet entirely on to the priest or a lay cantor, completely oblivious to how central this rite was to the order of deacons across the many centuries of the Roman Rite.

The Prophecies

As a lasting relic from the fervor of the early centuries in keeping all-night vigils, the unreformed Roman Rite has a staggering 12 lessons from the Old Testament, all of which are expected to be sung. One of the oddities of keeping Holy Week strictly according to 1962 is that even the Ordinary Form has concluded that the 1955 reform went too far. A strict 1962 Easter Vigil has only 4 lessons, while the Ordinary Form (and the Ordinariate Missal) allows as many as 7. To be fair, I believe the old Sarum Use of pre-Reformation England only had 4 lessons, so quantity wasn’t universally prized throughout the west until 1955. I also suspect that the usual experience for the faithful was a single priest droning on the lessons world without end, without any sense of the spirit of the liturgy.

At Mater, on the other hand, four lectors were assigned to divide the chanting of the prophecies amongst each other. I sang the 1st, 5th, and final lessons. For the 1st, the account of Creation from Genesis 1, I used the hauntingly beautiful “Genesis tone” composed for the FSSP (may be downloaded and printed here, or listened to here). I particularly liked its conclusion for each of the six days: dies unus, dies secundus, and so on.
For the other two, I used the standard Prophecy tone used in the Liber Usualis for Old Testament lessons at the vigil, the ember days, and the like… though, since it was my first time actually using it, I didn’t get the conclusion of each lesson quite right. It was nonetheless quite a joy to add my own emphases to the cadences of the account of King Nebuchadnezzar and the worship of the golden statue with the whole host of instruments: tubæ, et fístulæ, et cítharæ, sambúcæ, et psaltérii, et symphóniæ, et univérsi géneris musicórum (“the trumpet, and of the flute, and of the harp, of the sackbut, and of the psaltery, and of the symphony, and of all kind of music”).
All readings pre-1955 are done facing the altar, while in the post-55, they’re done toward the Paschal candle. At Mater, there was an impressive sequence of commands for each collect after the lessons: Oremus (“let us pray”) from the priest at the top step, Flectamus genua (“let us bow the knee”) from the deacon at the middle step, and Levate (“arise”) from the subdeacon at the foot of the altar. The reform takes the subdeacon’s command to the congregation to Levate away from him and gives it to the deacon; perhaps a prefigurement of the subdiaconate’s total abolition years later.

The Blessing of Baptismal Water and Litany of Saints

This rite was performed at the baptismal font, well outside the sanctuary (in the post-1955, it’s done in the sanctuary with a basin of water that’s then carried to the font). Since I remained at my place in choir, I didn’t get to observe this part, though it must have been a treat for those in the congregation who happened to be standing nearby.

The ministers returned to the sanctuary for the Litany of Saints and, instead of kneeling, did a full prostration before the altar as on Good Friday. (Mr. Rotondi remarked to me afterward that whereas the prostration on Good Friday was appropriately rather painful due to the carpet being absent, this time the carpet was in place and the prostration was almost relaxing by contrast.) Every petition was doubled: that is, the schola precentor sang each petition completely by himself, and the whole congregation repeated it. What a delight it was to hear them all (or quite many, at least) sing each in response, rather than stand mute as many other TLM congregations do. Even petitions as long and tongue-twisting as Ut domnum apostólicum et omnes ecclesiásticos órdines in sancta religióne conserváre dignéris, te rogámus, audi nos didn’t deter them from responding in full.

The Vesperal Mass

The ministers put away their penitential, violet folded chasubles one last time and donned the golden vestments of jubilation. The Kyrie gave way to the most spectacular Gloria in excelsis (from the Missa Breve by Domenico Scarlatti) I’ve heard in years. After the priest intoned, the first words, a thunderous organ medley paved the way for the choir to resume with a polyphonic rendition accompanied by…. a harpsichord, perhaps? I sat and followed the cues of the ministers as to when to doff the biretta during the customary words (adoramus te, Jesu Christe, etc.), but my headgear could scarcely keep the contents of my brain from exploding out as I struggled to contain the fullness of the beauty of worship.

The rest of the Mass proceeded more-or-less the same as a post-1955 Vigil. As a sign that this Mass was still an anticipation of the Resurrection rather than the fulfillment, the Agnus Dei and some of the minor Proper chants were omitted. Of course, where the reformed order has Lauds follow the end of Mass, we had an abbreviated form of Vespers instead.. though not so truncated as to possibly contemplate omitting a polyphonic Magnificat, of course.

Over 3 hours later, we recessed into the sacristy, knelt for a final blessing from the celebrant, and adjourned to the social hall for a well-earned reception with the community. I raised my glass to Mr. Rotondi in celebration, port in his hand (if I recall correctly) and Pepsi in mine; I excuse my troglodytism on account that I was breaking my Lenten fast from soft drinks. Madame, meanwhile, caught up with an old classmate from college who now sings in the choir.

By the end, the girls’ patience had long since expired. We began the long journey home, but to play a part, however small, in the restoration of ancient liturgical tradition is well worth the trip in my book! I hope to return soon enough to assist with the solemn vigil of Pentecost.


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Analysis: why are emotions running high in the Order of Malta election?


The reformist German party want sweeping changes. But can they win over the voters?

Elections always provoke excitement, but in the run-up to the Order of Malta’s leadership vote this weekend, something more can be detected: anguish, anxiety, even a distinct note of panic. The 60 voters – most of them professed knights, who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – are being intensely lobbied. Members are sending emails to the voters, asking them to save the order from “corruption and destruction”. Meanwhile, Pope Francis has asked to see 15 of the voters this evening.

To simplify things hugely, the contest is about whether a German-led reform party will get what they want. Normally, the Grand Master is elected for life; but the Germans want to elect an interim leader, who can reform the Constitution. Erich Lobkowicz, who heads the German Association, has proposed sweeping changes. At the moment, several senior positions, including Grand Master, can only be filled by professed knights. This “link” between religious vows and holding office, Lobkowicz writes, “must be deleted.” Meanwhile, Albrecht von Boeselager, the de facto leader of the German party, says he wants new rules which “limit the autonomy of the Grand Master”.

The Germans say these reforms avoid fiascos like what happened last December. Boeselager faced allegations, which he denied, about his previous job in charge of Malteser International (MI), the order’s humanitarian arm. Fra’ Matthew Festing, the Grand Master, asked for his resignation; Boeselager refused, precipitating an internal crisis. Eventually, Fra’ Festing resigned at the Pope’s request – hence the need for an election.

Critics of the German party say that the professed knights are at the heart of the order’s identity, and that the proposed reforms would secularise the order. They point to the crisis over Boeselager and MI. For years, MI had been giving out contraceptives, some of them with the potential to cause abortions. The charitable view is that the leadership had no idea: a big aid organisation has many moving parts, and it’s hard for the Grand Hospitaller in Cologne to know what is being given out at a clinic in Rangoon.

What is certain, however, is that the leadership knew by 2013. And as the Catholic Herald revealed yesterday, their response raises a few questions. For one thing, they did not tell the Grand Master or the Sovereign Council – who found out by accident a year later. In 2013, Boeselager asked his MI colleagues to keep the matter internal, as “this is an extremely sensitive matter that, without an appropriate background and know-how, could lead to serious misunderstandings”. Boeselager’s allies vehemently insist that he wasn’t proposing to conceal the problem. But the question remains: why didn’t he tell his superiors about a crisis that he evidently considered important?

Yet more strangely, MI’s response was to issue new ethical guidelines which were – as a 2016 internal report politely put it – “inconsistent with the Church’s teaching”.

Then there is the money. The labyrinthine story of trusts, donations, frozen accounts, legal cases, allegations, investigative journalism and legal threats has been summarised by Edward Pentin. The evidence is difficult to weigh up for those of us who do not know much about the world of finance. Someone who does is George Hope, a member of the order (he’s a Knight of Honour and Devotion) who spent a decade on HSBC’s internal audit team as a bank inspector. Hope says: “While at HSBC, I gained considerable in-depth knowledge of banking and bank fraud. To put it bluntly, both my experience and my instinct tell me that there has been serious financial irregularity within the order.”

Hope thinks the problems extend well beyond the recent allegations, and could have severe repercussions further down the line. The solution, he believes, is to re-elect Fra’ Matthew Festing – even if only for a year – with a mandate to clean up the order’s finances.

Hope is not the only knight who wants Fra’ Festing re-elected. While writing a profile of the former Grand Master, I spoke to several people who have worked for him, and found that he inspires a remarkable degree of loyalty. Fra’ Festing was asked to step down by Pope Francis earlier this year. But Francis also gave the green light for him to be re-elected. Members of the order who value Fra’ Festing’s legacy – above all, his emphasis on the spiritual identity of the order, reinforced by the professed knights – could choose to elect him, or someone of a similar school of thought.

However, the German party have tactical advantages. Boeselager has personally written to the voters, asking them to elect an interim leader (who could initiate the German-backed reforms). Moreover, the Vatican appears to back the German party. Since the Order of Malta is a sovereign entity, it’s curious for the Vatican to be so closely involved, and officials seem unsure about how to act. The Vatican delegate tried to ban Fra’ Festing from Rome, a ban which has now been lifted. But the papal delegate is heavily involved in preparations for the vote, and may choose to exert his influence over the knights.

Gary Lineker once explained the rules of football as “22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans win.” Threescore knights in Rome will now decide whether a similar law of nature applies to the Order of Malta.

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The Rosary has a new efficacy in these times


The diocesan phase of the canonization process of Sister Lucia – one of the three children who saw and spoke to Our Lady of the Rosary in Fatima – was officially closed on February 13, 2017. As we celebrate this year the 100thanniversary of the apparitions, this announcement represents a great step in the process of her canonization, begun ten years ago. This is what Sister Lucia said of the Rosary:

“The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families… that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”

“Since we all need to pray, God asks of us, as a kind of daily installment, a prayer which is within our reach: the Rosary, which can be recited either in common or in private, either in church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament or at home, either with the rest of the family or alone, either when traveling or while walking quietly in the fields.”

From Marie de Nazareth

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Christians need not apply

From Father Ed’s Blog (a Catholic priest reflects)

This week the ugly face of modern British bigotry was exposed. And again the intolerance came, not from Christian quarters as we are led to believe, but was aimed squarely at them. How the media gunned for Tim Farron over his personal views on sex. He was hounded aggressively until cornered then given a clear ultimatum: publicly endorse the moral values of the sexual revolution/gay lobby or face the consequences and be damned.

The witch hunt was the more alarming given that Farron’s voting record proves he is no threat to LGBT causes. This was not about his being problematic but a test of his orthodoxy; when push came to shove would he side with the teaching of the faith, that sex has a procreative purpose and belongs in marriage, or concede to the secular consensus that sex is for gratification with no questions asked? The message is crystal clear; a luke warm faith that bends to secular will is, just about, acceptable but a strong Christian faith is now anathema and will not be tolerated.

In the Early Church Christians were persecuted if they refused to bend the knee to the prevailing culture. The authorities tested commitment to inclusivity by demanding sacrifice on the altars of false gods. Today the test has resurfaced and Christians must bend the knee to the inclusivity of the sexual revolution or be shamed and excluded. Thus we have seen bakers, teachers, nurses, adoption agency workers, registrars, and now politicians, suffering if they refuse to submit. It isn’t edifying or very caring of Christians.

It was politically astute of Farron to concede but it deals another blow to Christian culture and the liberal health of our nation. A liberal country would be mature enough to foster a culture of respect in which people of different values work together despite disagreement. Space for mutual flourishing would be made. Instead we witness Christians frozen out unless they ‘get on message’. What an impoverishment as regards genuine diversity!

Of course a liberal society would also tackle bigotry. There can be no place for those endorsing hatred of either homosexuals or Christians. But just because a Christian believes sex cannot be divorced from the natural law/ its procreative purpose doesn’t make them a hater. Some Christians are gay themselves incidentally. So why take private matters into the public square? Why shame and exclude people of faith? Why do the very voices which would so strenuously denounce a Christian media which cornered homosexuals and demanded they endorse the biblical view only fall silent when the tables are reversed?

I am genuinely worried about liberal values in modern Britain. Increasingly we see bully boy tactics deployed and nothing is done when people of faith become the victims of hate. The media loves to suggest bigotry belongs with the Christians but reality looks different. Thirty years ago I would have laughed at the notion Christians would find it impossible to work in the public sector unless hiding their beliefs. Today it seems to be true. How illiberal certain liberals prove to be.

[emphasis in bold is ours]


The Catholic Herald first picked up this story last Friday – “The outrage at Tim Farron could have serious consequences for Christians in politics” – under the subtitle, “We should all defend Tim Farron from the charges of ‘prejudice’ and ‘intolerance'”.

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Further Thoughts on Papal Silence

 from Fr. Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB


Recently I made use of Frank Sheed to suggest that the cloud of papal silence over the Amoris Laetitia crisis, and in particular the dubia of i quattro cardinali, might perhaps carry with it a silver lining. In a nutshell, Sheed explained that papal infallibility can be secured by the Holy Spirit in a positive way, definitive teaching for example such as that on Our Lady’s assumption, or in a negative way, in that even the most scandalous of popes were preserved from teaching error ex cathedra. In that case, their silence was at least silver, if not golden. So too now, papal silence might not be as bad as we think.

For we do well to remember that the papacy does not exhaust the teaching authority of the Church. Historically popes have not been doctrinally very active, save as courts of final appeal. The dubia were presented to Pope Francis precisely in his capacity as the final and magisterial arbiter of doctrinal contention. It would be wonderful if he answered them by reaffirming the teaching of Christ.

However his silence is not the end of the world, nor grounds for his deposition as a heretic as some commenters have suggested.

Bishops are also teachers of the faith, with magisterial authority especially when they teach as a college. The first responsibility for teaching and defending the faith and practice of the Church is the local bishop’s. If the pope is silent, nothing is stopping the bishops of the world from reaffirming the teaching of Christ. As we have been seeing, many have been doing so, while a few are temporising. There is nothing like a crisis to sort the sheep from the goats.

So while we should be praying for the pope, and praying that he bring to an end the current fractious debate, we can be also praying that our local bishops step up to the plate and start hitting some doctrinal home runs. Pope Francis has expressed esteem for collegiality. So the bishops can start employing it to a good end, teaching clearly and with charity what Christ has revealed as the truth on marriage and family life, and human sexuality. The combined weight of their positive teaching will itself encourage the strengthen the pope to do the same. This presents at least one positive aspect to the often problematic conception of collegiality.

And instead of searching out scandal like bloodhounds—and if we have to search for it then there is probably little scandal in the proper canonical sense of the word—let us examine the Church’s teaching and the current situation in western society and what how we might both uphold Christ’s teaching and deal with real pastoral care for those who have entangled themselves, or been entangled, in complex and morally problematic relationships.

To that end, may I recommend you all go and read an article by Christopher Altieri, recently of Vatican Radio and now of Vocaris Media. He parses the controversy, and very helpfully, by identifying two basic camps and doing so without casting one or other of them as agents of darkness. Rather he identifies what the motivating principle is for both of them. Then he sets about trying to reconcile them in light of the teaching of Christ and the Church.

The article is long but lucid, and I need to reread it to comprehend more adequately the lineaments of his argument. He raises pertinent issues such a motivation, firmness of intent in repentance, and other categories of sinner who, it might reasonably be argued, get off much lighter than some remarried divorcees of goodwill.

Mr Altieri also implies that the role of conscience needs to be more fully and adequately taught. For many conscience is little more than a manipulable inner voice that we invoke to get us off hooks we find too uncomfortable. But when we invoke personal conscience we must remember it comes inevitably with personal responsibility. Are we truly confident that we can stand with heads held high before the Judgment Seat of God with the various decrees of our personal conscience in hand? Are we truly sure that God will see it our way? Are we truly sure, indeed, that we see it God’s way?

Therein lies what should always be our first prayer, or first quest: Lord, what is Your will? Let Your will be done, not mine.

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Monks of Norcia to Move Permanently Outside the City Walls

Since moving to Norcia from Rome in the year 2000, the traditional community of Benedictines in the birthplace of St. Benedict had been living in the middle of the town in the old diocesan chancellory, and praying the office in the basilica built over the house of SS. Benedict and Scholastica. Since the destruction of the basilica by the recent Umbrian earthquakes, however, they have been living at an old monastic grange on a hill above the city. Now they have announced on their website that the move is to be permanent:

For 16 years, the monks acted as guardians over the historic birth home of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica. The monks are grateful to the many who helped them restore the basilica to great beauty over the course of those blessed years. Now, the European Union and the Italian state have pledged to restore the basilica and monastery. The Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, which owns the buildings, has decided that the spaces will have to be used by the diocese since all the other churches in town were also destroyed. Throughout the many years needed for the massive work of reconstruction, while the monks work to build the new monastery in Monte, their hearts will remain there in the ancient crypt of the basilica, the birth home to their great founder and father, St. Benedict.

Unfortunately it seems that the Bishop of Spoleto wants to restore the basilica in a modern style. The monks, however, see in this new development the hand of Divine Providence. In his Easter Message, the prior, Fr. Benedict, writes as follows:

For the monks it is a time to focus on new building projects at our home in the Norcia mountains, following the request from the archdiocese asking us to free up space in our buildings in town (which belong to the diocese) for their own needs. The archdiocese has hundreds of damaged properties and the buildings in town were among the least damaged. We see their request as a sign of God’s will as we too can begin a new chapter of our community’s life on the mountainside.

The monks will need support in order to build a new Abbey on the site of the old grange.

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Gender Ideology Harms Children

from: Tradition In Action –

 by Margaret C. Galitzin

Unusually helpful guidelines on “gender ideology” were recently released by the American College of Pediatricians (ACP). Unusual because today’s media generally loses no opportunity to promote the LQBT agenda, encouraging every type of sexual deviation at ever younger ages.

For this reason, it is refreshing to find an American pediatrician society taking a strong stance opposed to today’s gender perversion: “The American College of Pediatricians urges healthcare professionals, educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts – not ideology – determine reality.”

kerriMcFadyen is promoting confused thinking by promoting her son’s ‘feeling’ that he is a girl

To see how early this deviant behavior is being encouraged, consider this aberrant case: An ”enlightened” Scottish mother Kerri McFadyen is being praised and promoted for encouraging her three-year-old toddler Daniel to live as a girl (Danni). The “with-it” family pediatrician told the mother that it would “benefit Daniel to live as a girl” and prescribed drugs to postpone puberty.

Kerri boasts that she chose to go public with “Danni’s story” to encourage other transgender parents and their children “who are suffering in silence.” She is also trying to raise enough money so Daniel can have gender reassignment surgery as soon as possible. Otherwise, “poor” Daniel will have to wait until he is 18 when UK’s national health service will pick up the costs for this “vital” procedure.

‘Beyond he or she’

Recently Time magazine dedicated its cover story “Beyond He or She” to bolster the revolutionary movement that wants to redefine the meaning of gender. Contrary to the recommendations of the American Pediatrician College, which clearly states that “everyone is born with a biological sex,” we are told that today’s youth should have unlimited choices in deciding who and what they are.

time beyond he or shePromoting ‘choice’ of gender for youth

Youth are being told they are free to choose their identity. They can be strictly male or female (renamed “cigender”), bi-sexual, transgender or even reject the fact that they have a gender in the first place. Time quotes the suspicious survey from the LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD to say that 20% of millennials – as the generation born after 2000 is called – say they are something other than male or female, as God made them. Instead, they are choosing from the 60+ options offered by Facebook.

Further support for rejection of God-given genders comes from the screen. There are more than 200 LGBTQ (Q for Queer) characters on cable TV and streaming series. Even commercials are promoting the gender perversion: a recent Bud Lite commercial declares beer is for “people of all genders.” IKEA shows an interracial same-sex “couple” lounging on a sofa with a caption that reads “All homes are created equal.”

Parents, please be aware that this is what is being promoted in the public arena: in the schools, secular clubs and sports activities, the movie, television and music worlds. How do you defend youth from this onslaught?

The once-considered-radical advice to throw out the television and strictly monitor any computer use does not seem so outlandish anymore.

‘Gender Revolution’

gender revolution‘The best thing about being a girl is now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy,” reads the caption

On the cover of its January 2017 special issue titled “Gender Revolution,” National Geographic put a boldly defiant 9 year-old transgender “girl” from Kansas City, Mo.

Inside we find lots of advice for parents: “All children need the opportunity to explore different gender roles and styles of play.” “Ensure your young child’s environment reflects diversity in gender roles.” “When your child discloses an identity to you, respond in an affirming supportive way.” “Be non-judgmental.”

In a shocking photo below that seems to come from an alien hellish underworld, we find a “portrait of gender today: youth who call themselves androgynous, transgender, straight, bi-gender, trans male, transgender female, trans boy, intersex non-binary person, non-binary gender queer, black trans activist, non binary. All are approvingly and “non-judgmentally” displayed as the new reality that should be accepted.

explore gendersA grouping of youth in the National Geographic article who each ‘chose’ a different gender for himself or herself

We are told to consider all these identities as normal as we approach the new godless, genderless frontier of the future. Everything depends on feelings not facts – “She has always felt more boyish than girlish;” “Hunter felt ‘himself’ to be a boy since fifth grade.”

henry‘Henri’ role-playing with his parents’ support

Feminists like Gloria Steinem are featured, announcing that “the most pressing gender issue of today is getting rid of the idea of gender.” In the articles we meet these confused youth – some very young – who are already in a full revolution against what God made them.

For example, on page 68-69 of National Geographic we are introduced to “Henry” who calls himself “gender creative.” He expresses himself, we are told, through his singular fashion sense. His parents have enrolled him in the Bay Area Rainbow Camp, so he can find the vocabulary to explain his feelings.

Then, the final outrage: “At six years old, he is already very sure of who he is.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. We are dooming children like this to a life of hell on earth and, then, to one in eternity as well for their supreme revolt against God and nature.

Refreshing Guidelines

Here are the main points of the January 2017 report by the American College of Pediatricians:

1. Human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait: “XY” and “XX” are genetic markers of male and female, respectively – not genetic markers of a disorder. The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. …

2. No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one. … People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.

HunterThis 16-year old girl had her breasts surgically removed, a procedure the ACP strongly opposes

3. A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.

4. Puberty is not a disease and puberty-blocking hormones can be dangerous. Reversible or not, puberty-blocking hormones induce a state of disease – the absence of puberty – and inhibit growth and fertility in a previously biologically healthy child.

5. According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.

6. Pre-pubertal children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence. This combination leads to permanent sterility. These children will never be able to conceive any genetically related children even via artificial reproductive technology. In addition, cross-sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) are associated with dangerous health risks including but not limited to cardiac disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.

blockersA boy waiting for his puberty blocker treatment, a practice ACP calls child abuse

7. Rates of suicide are nearly 20 times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery, even in Sweden which is among the most LGBTQ – affirming countries. What compassionate and reasonable person would condemn young children to this fate knowing that after puberty as many as 88% of girls and 98% of boys will eventually accept reality and achieve a state of mental and physical health?

8. Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse. Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to “gender clinics” where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures they will “choose” a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.

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“Predestined Yet Free to Choose” – St Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Woe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned captain

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1577-1622) was born with the name Mark Rey in what is today Germany. He studied and taught law and became known for his charity, austerities, and great devotion to God. He gained a reputation for being “the poor man’s lawyer” because of his concern for the helpless. He eventually left his profession to become a Capuchin Franciscan friar and priest, taking the religious name “Fidelis,” meaning “faithful.” His work as a friar was fraught with danger. He lived during the Counter-Reformation, a time of great religious, cultural, and political upheaval in Western Europe. He zealously defended the teaching of the Catholic Church against the Protestant heretics. He wrote many pamphlets against Calvinism and Zwinglianism, and even travelled to Switzerland to preach against the Calvinists both in the pulpits and the public square. His untiring efforts to bring souls back to the Church was so successful that he became a threat to the heretic preachers. One day his preaching provoked a mob that confronted him and demanded he renounce his Catholic faith upon pain of death. He replied, “I came to extirpate heresy, not to embrace it,” after which he was bludgeoned to death.

So St. Fidelis, German Cappuchin Franciscan preacher and martyr, died at the hands of fanatic Calvinists for his faithful witness to the Catholic truth. In contrast to their false doctrine on “predestination”, he preached with great success and fruits of conversion, that though God knows everything that we will do and what will be the eternal consequences (and therefore whether or not we will choose eternal life in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ), He does not predetermine any of our actions, but always conserves in us the freedom to choose.

Many miracles led to the canonisation of St. Fidelis in the following century. His feast day is 24th April.

Podcast homily by Fr. Maximilian Warnisher (FI) for the feast of St. Fidelis:

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Mater Si, Magistra No: Renewal of Tradition in the Catholic Church

By Paul Ingrassia on American Thinker

It has been over a half-century since the closure of the Second Vatican Council, which ran in multiple sessions from 1963 to 1965 under the papacies of Pope Saint John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. Vatican II, as the ecumenical council is colloquially known, is considered the defining moment of the Church in the twentieth century. The council brought forth historic change to the Roman Catholic Church, fundamentally altering the liturgy and dispensing with centuries of tradition to appease a world society that had freshly emerged from the two deadliest conflicts in human history.

The council, which sought to rigorously examine the challenges that had long plagued the Church in the modern era, was the impetus behind the liberalization of the Catholic Church. The Council Fathers sought to transfer the focus of the liturgical movement from the priests to the laity, ascribing renewed significance to the congregation. This coincided with a movement away from Latin to the vernacular. The way the documents of Vatican II were written allowed practitioners of the Novus Ordo Mass, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, to replace Gregorian Chant with secular religious hymns, thus making the latter the predominant musical tradition.

This and other reforms accelerated the overhaul of traditional customs and likewise reflected the Church’s growing aloofness to such things as doctrinal orthodoxy and traditional morality. In keeping with the stylistic changes of the liturgy and the theological approach of aggiornamento, a “bringing up to date,” Church architecture, particularly over the past half-century, has been compromised by the spirit of Vatican II. Grandiose cathedrals that once towered over cities and reached toward heaven have been replaced by pedestrian structures devoid of the Romanesque and Gothic elements that in years past fostered the allure and mystique of the Catholic Church. The interiors underwent a similar transformation: tabernacles were, in many cases, relegated to side alcoves, and the centerpiece crucifix was replaced by a resurrected Christ or a barren cross, indistinguishable from Protestant symbolism.

In addition to the liturgical alterations, the rites of the seven sacraments were subject to considerable revision. Traditional vestments were dispensed with, and the regalia of the papal coronation, such as the sporting of the papal tiara, last worn by Pope Paul VI in 1963, was indefinitely retired. Priests have also moved away from the Tridentine custom of celebrating Mass ad orientem (facing “liturgical east,” or toward the high altar), instead opting for the more personalized versus populum (facing the congregation), which was consistent with the Church’s pivot toward personalized morality and emphasis on self-fulfillment over set dogma.

Perhaps the most salient change is the Second Vatican Council’s commitment to ecumenism. Keeping in line with its desire to democratize and reconcile longstanding theological rifts in a rapidly globalizing world, the ecumenical reforms were met with varying degrees of success. In this respect, the Council Fathers had hoped to reorient the Church’s perspective to highlight the shared orthodoxies between the Catholic Church and other faiths, a departure from its former practice of highlighting the deviations among other denominations. Some traditionalists viewed these unprecedented measures with horror, believing the Church to have completely abandoned centuries of tradition. But the Council Fathers reiterated that no doctrinal changes had been made; the Council’s chief aim was to democratize and appease a modernizing world, not surrender to it.

Over a half-century later, it remains unclear just how successful the Council was in achieving its goals and to what extent the ensuing history of the Church is incumbent upon Vatican II reforms. Some traditionalists cite the vibrant state of the Church prior to the Council’s formation in many parts of the world – notably, the United States, Canada, and many parts of Eastern and Southern Europe. Today, Mass attendance in all these regions – particularly those bereft of a prevailing Protestant subculture – has dropped precipitously, suggesting a failure of the Council to deliver on its goals. Incidentally, Mass attendance in the United States has declined as well – approximately three in four practicing Catholics attended Mass on a regular basis prior to Vatican II, whereas now, participation hovers around twenty to twenty-five percent. To some, this is vindication that the Church must restore many of its former traditions or risk annihilation altogether. And while it would be unwise to ascribe a cause-and-effect relationship between Mass attendance and Vatican II, it is nevertheless indisputable that Christianity in the Western world is currently experiencing an existential crisis as people everywhere – particularly the young – abandon organized religion in droves.

Perhaps the most disheartening case of this is the devitalized state of the Irish Catholic Church, which, for centuries, had provided the cultural foundation of one of the most Catholic countries in Europe. Today, Mass attendance barely exceeds thirty percent and remains in decline. This figure is less than a third of its 1950 participation rate and, by some estimates, is markedly lower than in countries that do not have a traditionally Catholic heritage, such as the United States. The long-term results of this wholesale secularization are not yet fully understood. However, the fact that Ireland redefined marriage in 2015 by popular referendum in an attempt to include same-sex couples suggests a certain permanence to these trends, at least for the foreseeable future. Granted, the Catholic Church remains an integral part of Irish society, but its influence has waned considerably in the past few decades, setting the stage for a renewed debate of once untouchable issues like abortion and euthanasia.

The problems facing the Catholic Church in Ireland are very much interrelated with the problems affecting the Catholic Church globally; the former is a concrete derivative of a systemic issue whose origins trace back to the fallout of the Council itself. Some, including Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI, maintained that it was not Vatican II, strictly speaking, that caused the crisis of the modern Church, but rather how the Council was subsequently misconstrued by the burgeoning news media and leftist academicians. Considering the liberal climate of the late 1960s, there is little doubt that the cultural changes of that era impacted the interpretation of the Council. This, in conjunction with the evolving media climate, in which biased journalists labeled the Council Fathers as winners and losers depending on their philosophy, furthered the confusion about the Council’s implications. In recognizing this, some blame can still be accorded to those who backed the Council for haphazardly calling for its creation without accounting for the cultural changes that would invariably dint its rollout, regardless of whatever the actual outcome was.

Ultimately, whether or not the Council accelerated today’s lack of religiosity is secondary to the larger premise that the modern Church was, in fact, greatly shaped by Vatican II reforms. Knowing this, it would be wise for Church officials to gradually roll back many of the liturgical changes and work toward implementing a more traditionalist platform. Pope Benedict XVI appeared to sympathize with traditionalists in expressing during his papacy that liberals had wrongly interpreted Vatican II by objecting to such reforms as pushing back against local suppression of the Latin Mass, in addition to smaller reforms, like reviving several papal garments that had fallen into disuse. Although these efforts were rather diminutive in theological significance, they nevertheless signaled that the Vatican was at least open to the idea of bringing tradition back to the Catholic Church.

So where left to go for the surviving religious hoping for a grand awakening of their faith?

Some, like Rod Dreher (who left the Catholic Church for Eastern Orthodoxy), believe that a new “dark ages” have befallen contemporary civilization and that the best way to manage the situation is for the remaining few Christians to organize into monastic communities of believers removed from the moral decay of modern times. This so-called “Benedict Option,” named for St. Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480-537), is tailored for Americans who wish to preserve genuine Christian culture by displacing themselves from a society that is in its current state outwardly hostile to the Christian faith. Essentially, the debauchery of American civilization has reached a point of no return, forcing the few devout remaining to withdraw from the world, if not physically, then at least spiritually, into true communities of faith that will uphold the principles of the Church and form a “living spiritual relationship with God.

Others have advocated for less drastic measures, though a common pessimism about the degraded state of Western civilization appears to unify many traditionalists. Indeed, there is a clear metaphysical crisis working to dismember any form of objective truth or attach genuine significance to the human person. Above all, the effects of modernity have reduced the dignity of the modern man into nothing beyond a baseless social construct contingent on no substantive higher moral truth. The horrible eventualities that might result from such spiritual lethargy are, at present, unknown.

Christians should hope that at some point in the future, the truths embedded in the writings of such distinguished theologians as Benedict XVI may ignite an awakening of the Logos and a renewal of faith founded in the memoria Ecclesiae, the memory of the Church. Tracey Rowland, writing for the Catholic Herald, put it this way:

When a new generation arises in full rebellion from the social experiments of the contemporary era, craving a human ecology that respects both God and nature, and wanting to be something more than rootless cosmopolitans, Ratzinger’s publications will serve as Harry Potter-style Portkeys, giving creative young rebels access to the missing cultural capital – indeed, access to what Ratzinger calls the memoria Ecclesiae.

So long as current trends continue, traditional Catholics may ultimately become the Church’s most prominent voice, if for no reason other than that they will be the only ones remaining, thereby forcing it into this direction by default. Naturally, Catholics should hope it doesn’t reach this point, but considering that the updated papal idiom of Pope Francis did not usher a wave of disaffected Catholics back into the Church, it seems that a reversal of course might actually be a good thing. The Church would be well advised to stop pandering to lapsed Christians, and instead to strengthen its resolve on doctrine and tradition, especially given the alarming trend of moral relativism among younger people in particular, which is grossly incompatible with the objectivism espoused by Catholic doctrine. A more reverend, disciplined, and ordered Church might ultimately precipitate a rekindling of the Catholic faith and shift the emphasis away from the material and personal and toward the metaphysical and divine.

[Our emphasis]

CP&S Edit. – S. Armaticus from The Deus Ex Machina Blog, in referring to this post by American Thinker, draws this conclusion:

“This post contains several key DATA POINTS, which is why I am bringing it to your attention. Among those key DATA POINTS are:

1. The Restoration is real, taking place and a good thing.
2. The “Francis” as well as the entire “new springtime” experience has been a complete bust. (last paragraph)
3. Only way forward is to return to Tradition.
4. Catholicism (Tradition) will become the largest movement within the Catholic Church in the not too distant future.

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Consecration prayers to the Divine Mercy



Jesus, the Divine Mercy, I consecrate my entire life, from this day on, to You without reserve. Into Your hands I abandon my past, my present, and my future. From this day forward, make me a true follower of Your teaching. Let Your Divine Mercy Image protect my home and my family from all the powers of evil in this world today. May all who venerate it never perish, may it be their joy in life, their hope in death, and their glory in eternity. Amen.


God, merciful Father, in your Son, Jesus Christ, You have revealed your love and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. We entrust to You today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman. Bend down to us sinners, heal our weakness, conquer all evil, and grant that all the peoples of the earth may experience Your mercy. In You, the Triune God, may they ever find the source of hope. Eternal Father, by the Passion and Resurrection of Your Son, have mercy on us and upon the whole world! Amen.

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Cardinals’ Dubia and Papal Silence: The Silver Lining

from: Dom Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB (

The five questions, or dubia, submitted by Cardinals Caffarra, Burke, Meisner and Brandmüller to Pope Francis regarding his Apostolic Exhortation on family life, Amoris Laetitia, have been mentioned here before. Many commentators have expressed frustration that the pope has yet to answer them. Plain rude, some say. Probably quite a few liberals also would like Pope Francis to answer the dubia, and make the de facto practice in many places de iure: that divorcees who have entered into a subsequent civil remarriage might be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

So far the pope has been silent, and his defenders—not a few of them self-appointed and self-serving—have taken it upon themselves to attack i quattro cardinali, and even to advocate what it is said the pope thinks but has never quite said: that civilly-remarried divorcees should receive Holy Communion, as part of the Church’s “accompaniment” of them. There is a supremely strong case that the Chief Shepherd of the Flock should answer the dubia and clarify once and for all the Church’s teaching.

However, if Pope Francis really does think remarried divorcees should be admitted to Holy Communion, do we really want him to say so? If it is contrary to revelation and the consistent teaching of the Church, why would we want him to commit himself definitively to error? What a crisis it would provoke in the Church, and crises are not something to be sought.

The papal silence, especially if it is true that Pope Francis thinks this teaching should be changed (and that is still a big if at the moment), is surely not to be lamented but embraced. Why?

My new “crush” (well, an old crush actually, but the flame has been rekindled), Frank Sheed, has given me the answer. Sheed, a lay Australian apologist and publisher, got me my STB in Rome summa cum laude, but that is another story. I am reading, as relief from pressing work work and life’s stresses, his ecclesial autobiography, The Church and I. I just chanced upon something in it that made me stop and think of the dubia. Sheed was writing about the objections raised to papal infallibility when he was preaching on the soapbox in Hyde Park. I quote:

…we came upon the illustration used by the Jesuit Father Rickaby. It seems he would put to his students the question—if the Pope were infallible in algebra, how many marks would he get in an algebra exam? They all said 100, whereupon Father Rickaby gave them 0. He explains: For the rest of men there are three possibilities—we can give the right answer, the wrong answer or no answer. Infallibility means that the Pope cannot (in the appropriate circumstances) give the wrong answer—the Holy Spirit will not let him. That leaves him with two possibilities as against our three—he can give the right answer, or no answer. What decides? Whether he knows: infallibility does not in itself mean inspiration. The Holy Spirit might in a given situation enlighten the Pope’s mind, but that is now what infallibility is about. In the general way what a Pope does not know he must find out, like anyone else. (pp.59-60)

You see what Sheed is revealing. Infallibility is a gift that works negatively, as it were: it does not guarantee that the pope will always teach the right thing, but it does guarantee that he will never teach the wrong thing. If a pope holds a personal opinion that is contrary to revelation, then the Spirit will never allow him to teach it magisterially, ie infallibly.

So, if Pope Francis really does believe that remarried divorcees should be admitted to Holy Communion, despite the implications of our Lord’s explicit teaching and the unchanging doctrine of the Church, then it is better that he keep silent. It is not ideal, of course, but in the world of fallen human nature the ideal is rarely realized. Sometimes we have to settle for the sufficient.

So, if the ideal is not yet achievable (but are we praying for it?), then let us settle for the sufficient. Let the pope keep silence. If it is the best we can hope for, let it be done. We can cope for now.

Could I ask for your prayers at this time? On the one hand I have a looming deadline; on the other a sort of existential crisis. I could with some grace for both!


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