German cardinal and US bishop to bless world with miraculous image of Jesus’ face

Holy Face of Jesus in Manoppello

By Maike Hickson

A German cardinal and U.S. bishop, who are renowned for their firm and courageous defence of the Catholic Faith, will bless the world on Sunday January 20 with what is considered by many to be a miraculous image of the Holy Face of Jesus, the Volto Santo – called by Saint Padre Pio “the greatest miracle we have”.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller

Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone will be in Manoppello, Italy, in order to celebrate Mass in the Basilica del Volto Santo and then to bless the Church and the world with the miraculous image of Our Lord’s countenance.

Paul Badde – author of several bookson the Volto Santo and Rome Correspondent of EWTN – has just interviewed Cardinal Gerhard Müller about this upcoming event. Different websites are announcing the event – at which Archbishop Bruno Forte, the local bishop of Chieti-Vasto, will also participate. The Jan. 20 event will start with an 11 o’clock Mass in the Basilica and then be followed by a procession and a blessing with the Holy Face relic.

January 20 is the traditional Omnis Terra Sunday, on which, in 1208, Pope Innocent III for the first time blessed the Church and the world with this relic, which is believed to stem from the tomb of Our Lord, depicting His Face at the moment of His Resurrection. (Please see here for more information on the Holy Face and its miraculous nature – there are no paint traces to be found on this picture.) In that year, Innocent III led a solemn procession with the Volto Santo from St. Peter’s to the church of the hospital of S. Spirito, S. Maria in Sassia. The procession was to be observed annually on the second Sunday after the Epiphany.

When the Holy Face became lost during the Sack of Rome (1527), this tradition stopped, only to be revived in 2016 by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the private secretary of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Gänswein then carried a copy of the Volto Santo through the streets of Rome and celebrated a festive Mass in honor of this relic.

Pope Benedict XVI looks over a mysterious icon that many believe shows the face of Christ, Manoppello, Sept. 1, 2006. Max ROSSI/AFP/Getty Images

In 2006 and not long after his election, Pope Benedict himself went to Manoppello, a little village in the Abruzzi mountains, in order to visit the Volto Santo and thus to honor, as Pope, this relic once more .

Pope Francis, as of today, has never visited the Holy Face, but numerous cardinals have done so, among them Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Cardinal Robert Sarah, and Cardinal Kurt Koch. The bishop responsible for this shrine, Archbishop Forte, has given an interview to Paul Badde, in which he has strongly endorsed the authenticity of this sacred relic.

In his interview with Paul Badde, Cardinal Müller, who is the former Prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine, explained that he, as bishop and as priest, sees himself as “a defender of the Faith.”

“Even if I may not be anymore the Prefect [of the CDF],” he said, “it is still left to me the mission – as given to me in my ordination in Christ – to defend ‘the truth of the Gospels’ (Gal. 2:17).” It is in this light that Cardinal Müller said he also sees his visit to the Holy Face of Manoppello: “Therefore, it is also his [the priest’s] holy task to bless the faithful with Christ’s image, which he lifts up high. The Most Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, Christ’s Cross and Resurrection are the fundamental truths of the Christian Faith,” he explained.

Holy Face of Manoppello detail of eyes.

In light of these holy duties of a priest, Cardinal Müller said he sees today, however, “a secularized way of thinking, also among the highest authorities.”

“It is fatal when bishops feel more at ease in being fundraisers, secret diplomats, a darling of the media, and a political confidant,” rather than being “humble servants of the Word (Luke 1:2)” and “examples for the flock (I Peter 5:3).” In the midst of the people, Müller continued, the priest “lifts up the Body and Blood of Christ during Holy Consecration and presents before Holy Communion the ‘Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world’ (John 1:29).”

When Paul Badde asked the German prelate about his own seeming fearlessness in the face of resistance and scorn, Cardinal Müller stated that “scorn and ridicule, intrigues and evil gossip” and other such traits “are not the adornment of a true Christian.” He clearly rejected forms of “power politics and intrigues which undermine the credibility of the episcopacy and also of the Vatican.” However, he added, “we would give a good example to the world if each of us were to follow his conscience, to live according to God’s Commandments of the Decalogue and to the Beatitudes of Jesus at the Sermon of the Mount,” with the help of grace.

“To pray together is better than to speak secretly evil things about others,” he said.

Further commenting on how the Church could come out from under her current crisis, the cardinal pointed to the importance of purification and penance. “That is to say: not to blame others, the Church, one’s predecessors, the clergy for one’s own guilt, but to beat one’s own breast and to pray mea culpa, that would really enhance the atmosphere within the Church.”


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Leonie Martin, the ‘difficult’ sister of St Thérèse of Lisieux

On a memorable pilgrimage that I made with my mother to Lisieux in 1997 for the centenary of the death of St Thérèse, we also visited Alençon (birthplace of the Martin sisters) and Caen where Thérèse’s elder sister, Léonie, lived for over 40 years as a Vistatiin nun. We heard her hard story for the first time from the dear sisters at the convent there. They were all convinced that this gentle and prayerful member of their community, who had overcome so many difficulties to become a religious – most of all, that of conquering her own recalcitrant nature – was now a Saint in Heaven. Since then the cause for Léonie’s beatification has been opened.


Throughout the book, Léonie Martin: A Difficult Life, author Marie Baudouin-Croix utilises numerous excerpts from letters written by members of the Martin family that provide candid insights into Léonie’s physical and emotional problems. Indeed, her turbulent childhood and adolescence dominated the family dynamic.

Léonie herself wrote that her childhood and youth “were spent in suffering, in the bitterest of trials.” These trials included a maid who threatened and bullied her for years until this was discovered by her elder sister Marie when Léonie was in her early teens, and the maid immediately dismissed.

From birth, she suffered from painful eczema and frequent intestinal ailments. The third child and third daughter of Sts. Louis and Zélie Martin, she was clumsy and a slow learner; she failed in boarding school and was expelled due to her disruptive character.

Most troubling were her outbursts of defiance that multiplied exponentially as she grew older, aimed particularly at her overwrought mother, who was suffering from terminal breast cancer and felt helpless to gain her daughter’s trust.

Her mother, St. Zélie (who along with her father, St. Louis, is celebrated by the Church on 12th July), shared her anguish in a letter to her oldest daughter, Pauline: “The poor child is absolutely full of faults. I don’t even know where to begin! Yesterday, she had a dreadful day. She did everything as badly as she could.”

But after the bullying maid who had been the cause of so much of Léonie’s erratic behaviour had been dismissed Léonie was at last able to bond with her mother shortly before her mother’s death.

Nonetheless, the scars of abuse ran deep. Unable to stabilise, she entered and then left convents three times, plagued by bouts of depression, self-doubt and illness. During the interims, she helped to care for her father during his final illness, performed works of charity among the community, and corresponded in letters with her Carmelite sisters, whom she would always esteem as her closest friends.

Before her sister Celine entered Carmel, while visiting relatives in La Musse, Léonie penned a letter to her, revealing her soul: “More and more, I see the meaninglessness of all that passes, and this does me good, gradually increasing my detachment; but there is always this sadness, deep within me, that I can never completely overcome. Although I feel that I am, for the moment, where God wants me to be, I suffer — I suffer terribly — and my exile seems very long to me. Only Jesus knows what it costs me.”

On 18th January 1877 Léonie had written: “May the Good Lord give me the vocation to become a true religious”. Never without hope, Léonie’s desire to become a bride of Christ was finally realised. At her third try at age 36, on 28th January 1899, two years after Thérèse’s death, Léonie entered the Visitation convent in Caen, fulfilling the Little Flower’s prophetic words during her last days on earth, “After I die, I will make Léonie rejoin the Visitation Order, and this time she will stay.” On 2nd July 1900 she took her final vows thus becoming at last a professed member of the Visitation Sisters .

In her religious order, Léonie chose the name Sister Francoise Thérèse, again a prediction of her saintly sister: “She will take my name and that of St. Francis de Sales.”

Although Léonie experienced peace and joy as a Visitandine, perhaps the greatest miracle of her life was that she never succumbed to harbouring resentment about her past difficulties.

Through persistent prayer, she lived the Gospel according to the inspired teachings and example of her saintly sister and accepted her limitations with good humour. Describing her life in a letter to her Carmelite sisters, she wrote, “I have been appointed assistant to the bursar. It is just the job for me; I put things in order here and there, all through the house. I think of myself as the convent’s little donkey, and I certainly find my lot an enviable one. So many sacrifices, known only to Jesus! How many souls I can save by these little nothings — as little as I am myself — which are my humble harvest!” Attuned to the Heart of Jesus, in 1923, upon hearing of the death of the maid from her childhood, she wrote, “I forgive my tormentor with all my heart.”

Léonie Martin has a story that will inspire all who seek holiness.Her life is a testimony to the power of transformation.  She was transformed by reading Thérèse’s “Story of a Soul” and by the spirituality of her little sister, which she incarnated with struggle and generosity.  She is a source of strength to wounded souls and a witness to the power of forgiveness and healing.

Léonie’s cause for canonisation is now underway since the bishop of her diocese received permission to open her cause. Therefore she now has the title “The Servant of God.”  The next big step in the process is to be declared “venerable.”  A candidate who is called “Venerable” has been found by the Church to have practiced the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) and the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) to an heroic degree.

And so, on 25th March 2012, Mgr Jean-Claude Boulanger, bishop of the diocese of Bayeux and Lisieux, granted the imprimatur for a prayer of intercession so that Léonie might be declared “venerable.”


Dear Leonie our Sister,

You have already intervened with God on our behalf,

and we would  like to be able to pray to you officially,

so that many more might know you.

Come to the aid of parents who risk losing a child,

as you nearly died at a very young age.

Continue to uphold the families

where different generations

have problems living together in peace.

Enlighten youth who question their future

and hesitate to commit.

Show to all the way of prayer

which permits you to bear your limitations

and your difficulties with confidence,

and to give yourself to others.

Lord, if such is your will,

deign to accord us the grace that we ask of you

through the intercession of your servant Léonie, and

inscribe her among the number of the venerable of your Church.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Imprimatur: March 25, 2012

+ Jean-Claude Boulanger
Bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux

Persons who receive favours by the intercession of Léonie Martin, in religion Sister Françoise-Thérèse, are asked to make them known  to the Monastery of the Visitation:

Monastery of the Visitation
3 rue de l’Abbatiale
14000 CAEN

[Sources: Sanctuaire de Lisieux, National Catholic Register, ]

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The #1 Reason Average Catholics Don’t Evangelize

by Marcel LeJeune

The data doesn’t lie. In what they personally believe about salvation, most Catholics are closer to Universalists than they are to Catholic doctrine – that is they believe that being a “good” person will get you to heaven. Catholics aren’t alone. Many modern Christians believe in what could at least be described as a quasi-universalism, which is that the default setting of our souls is that most people are “saved”. According to Pew data, from 2008 – Catholics are some of the least likely to believe in Hell, Jesus as necessary for salvation, etc. If this is the case, then multiple questions arise:

  • Why evangelize?
  • Why seek to grow in holiness?
  • Why decide to intentionally follow Jesus, etc?
  • If “good” people are going to heaven anyway, why would you evangelize and seek conversion?
  • If all religions are the same, why would you follow Jesus, which requires so much of us?

I believe there is a clear correlation between those who believe in universalism and those who don’t evangelize.

Recently, in a conversation with my teenage son, I told him my greatest desire in life is to see my family and friends go to heaven. I went on to tell him that this is the reason I talk about Jesus, evangelize others, share my faith, reach out in friendship, etc. I pray for a long list of folks every day. Some are far away from God and I pray for their salvation. I do this because I love them and to love them is to will their good. What could be better for those I love than to go to heaven?

It all goes together:

  • I believe Heaven and Hell are real.
  • I believe salvation is by God’s grace.
  • I believe we have to accept Jesus as our savior (in faith and love), repent of our sins, believe, and be baptized.
  • I believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven.

Because of these beliefs, I evangelize.

But, for the Catholic who would say that being a “good person” is enough to gain heaven, there are few (if any) reasons to evangelize. Unfortunately, for many, this has grown from this false understanding of Christian theology/history & the Biblical understanding of salvation. If one holds to a universalist theology, they have separated themselves from an orthodox and biblical understanding of salvation and grace. So, it is a VERY important issue. Not only will they fail to evangelize, but they are endangering their own souls with the lies they hold to.

Yet, this isn’t the first time such a false understanding of salvation has come up in the history of the Church.  A heresy called Pelagianism really kicked it all off. Pelagius was a British monk who taught that man can obtain salvation through our own free works and choices. In other words, it is a denial that God’s grace is necessary and that we can work our way to heaven. In many ways, our modern culture is really a modern form of Pelagianism, and this mentality has once again seeped into the Church. Pelagius also denied original sin and it’s consequences. His teachings were strongly opposed by St. Augustine and other Bishops – who clearly taught that he was wrong about almost everything in regards to salvation, grace, and free will.

Several recent Vatican documents have warned against a neo-pelagianism. Here is one snip of one doc.

“A new form of Pelagianism is spreading in our days, one in which the individual, understood to be radically autonomous, presumes to save oneself, without recognizing that, at the deepest level of being, he or she derives from God and from others. According to this way of thinking, salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures, which are incapable of welcoming the newness of the Spirit of God.”

Read on at Catholic Missionary Disciples

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China’s crackdown on Christians continues

From CNA

.- A campaign by the Chinese government to ‘Sinicize’ religion is ongoing, with detention and indoctrination of Muslims in the far west of the country, and the closing of underground churches to the east.

In early December, Wang Yi and more than 100 members of his congregation were detained in Sichuan province. Some were released the next day, but then put under house arrest.

The Observer, a sister paper to The Guardian, reported Jan. 13 that Wang’s ecclesial community, Early Rain Covenant Church, has now been closed, and that Wang and his wife remain in detention,charged with inciting subversion. Some members of the community are in hiding, some have been effectively exiled from the Sichuanese capital, and others are under surveillance.

The building rented by Early Rain Covenant Church has new tenants, and police turn away those looking for the church.

According to The Observer, another church was put under investigation in the Sichuanese capital last week, a Sunday school was raided in Guangzhou in December, and a 1,500-member church in Beijing has been “banned … after its pastor refused to install CCTV.”

Part of the plan to Sinicize Christianity, The Observer reported, is “thought reform”: “The plan calls for ‘retranslating and annotating’ the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a ‘correct understanding’ of the text.”

Religious freedom is officially guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, but religious groups must register with the government, and are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. The Sinizication of religion has been pushed by President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2013 and who has strengthened government oversight of religious activities.

The Church in mainland China has been divided for some 60 years between the underground Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a government-sanctioned organization.

In December, two bishops of the underground Catholic Church agreed to step aside in favor of bishops of the CPCA, in the wake of a deal signed between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

And the month prior, four priests from the underground Church in Hebei province who refused to join the CPCA were taken into police custody for indoctrination.

The US Commission on International Religion wrote in its 2018 report that last year China “advanced its so-called ‘sinicization’ of religion, a far-reaching strategy to control, govern, and manipulate all aspects of faith into a socialist mold infused with ‘Chinese characteristics.’” Christians, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners have all been affected.

The September 2018 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics and unify the underground Church and the CPCA. The agreement has been roundly criticized by human rights groups and some Church leaders, including Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.

In 2017, Xi said that religions not sufficiently conformed to communist ideals pose a threat to the country’s government, and therefore must become more “Chinese-oriented.” Since he took power, crosses have been removed from an estimated 1,500 church buildings.

And a government official who oversees religious affairs said in April 2018 that government restrictions on bishop appointments are not a violation of religious freedom, as he emphasized that religions in China must “adapt to socialist society.” The official, Chen Zongrong, added that “I believe there is no religion in human society that transcends nations.”

Restrictions put in place in February 2018 made it illegal for anyone under age 18 to enter a church building.

Reports of the destruction or desecration of Catholic churches and shrines have come from across China, including the provinces of Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shaanxi, and Shandong.

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Our Lady of Pontmain: “But pray, my children. God will soon answer you”

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you“ (Matthew 7:7). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer“ (1 Peter 3:12).  And again, “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:15). Time and again we have Our Lord’s promise, and that of His Apostles, that the prayers of His children are heard in Heaven, and they will be answered.  Yet whilst we suffer through one of the worst crises the Church has ever known we are tempted to lose hope, to perhaps even doubt the promises. On the anniversary today of this little known apparition of Our Blessed Mother in Pontmain (France) we are given an encouraging message: if we remain patient, faithful and keep praying, God will soon answer us. 


Our Lady of Hope

The years 1870 to 1871 and beyond were to be critical and very difficult years for France as Bismarck embarked on a course of German unification, which was to bring untold tragedy to the people of France. So began the Franco/Prussian war, in which France was totally unprepared, therefore making Bismarck’s job that much easier, but for the peoples of France it was to herald in great strife and difficulties.


It was in the year 1871 on a very brisk and chilly January evening that an event was to touch a particular family in the village of Pontmain. This family was not unusual in anyway, yet what they were to see and experience was the epitome of unusual, for it was on January 17th, that the family whilst working in their barn they came upon a vision of a very beautiful lady.
The family was small and consisted of parents, father Cesar, his wife, Victoire, and their three children, all of them boys. It was the second to eldest son, Eugene who first saw this most surprising vision of a lady dressed in a blue gown which seemed to be sprinkled with gold stars and a black veil and crown upon her head. The lady smiled gently at Eugene who stood awestruck at such a sight!
Eugene called his father who was irritated at the interruption, as the day had been long and he was tired, but he went outside to see what the fuss was about. He was more than irritated when he could not see what Eugene was pointing at, but it was his other son Joseph who also exclaimed that he too could see this most wondrous lady. Upon hearing all the yelling Victoire also decided to join her husband and boys to see what the outcry was about, she too was joined by a neighbour.
Victoire was puzzled as she could also see nothing, but she knew her boys were not ones for lies, so it was her suggestion that maybe the beautiful lady was the Blessed Virgin and they should all pray the Rosary. But as the adults could see nothing and the time had come for supper, Victoire and Cesar decided to go inside for their family meal.
The two boys quickly finished off their meal and requested permission to once again go outside and see if our Lady were still there. Upon going outside both boys exclaimed that our Lady was still present, the parents decided to ask the local teacher, Sister Vitaline to come and see if she could do anything to help them.
Unfortunately the sister could also see nothing, so she requested that three other children be brought to the farm of the Barbadette family. When the three girls arrived two of them exclaimed loudly and with great excitement that they too could see the vision though the third and youngest child could not.
During all this commotion a crowd gathered around including the local priest, Michel Guerin, and though the adults could see nothing they began praying the Rosary. It was as they were reciting the Decades that the children excitedly exclaimed that four candles were now surrounding our Lady, two at her shoulder and two at her knees enveloping our Lady in an oval of light, and upon her heart the appearance of a red cross. As the prayers continued the children excitedly informed the crowds of the changing appearance of the vision of our Lady as she increased in her size, and that stars which had gathered around this vision was now becoming a part of her garment.
The children could not contain themselves, as they excitedly continued to inform the villagers of what they could see, they all said that now our Lady was showing a banner at her feet which read, “But pray, my children”. Upon the instructions of the Priest the crowd began to recite the Litany to our Lady, as the crowd sang this prayer more words showed up on the banner, “God will soon answer you” and also “My Son allows Himself to be moved.”
The children could barely contain their excitement upon receiving a visit from the most Pure and Holy Virgin Mother, but Our Lady’s _expression was soon to change to sadness, as the children watched awestruck at the red cross which appeared before our Lady with the figure of Jesus in a deep shade of red. The children continued to inform the adults of the changes that were happening to the vision of Our Lady and all told that one of the stars was lighting four of the candles which surrounded Our Lady, they then saw the Crucifix disappear. The group of villagers then recited the night prayers, as the children said that a white veil was appearing and then obscuring the vision of our Lady, upon this the apparition ended!
At this time and in a move that still defies military reason, the Prussian army decided not to enter Laval only a short distance from Pontmain, and to return to Paris! In March, an armistice was signed and the war ended.
It was also in March of the same year that a canonical enquiry began into the Apparition at Pontmain, and upon further investigation, the Bishop decided in favour of The Apparition of Pontmain in February 1872.
Two of the Barbadette boys, Joseph and Eugene, entered the Priesthood, whilst another young village girl who had also seen this miraculous vision of our Lady became a religious.
A large basilica was built at Pontmain and consecrated in 1900.
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Overcome Evil by Embracing Authentic Repentance

By Fr. Tom Collins

“If you didn’t want me to sin, why did you give me that woman, God?”

Editor’s note: Fr. Tom raises important issues in this post. Do you have a sincere conscience or a “sin-seared” conscience? How do you form your conscience — by the opinions on The View and Good Morning America or by the dogmatic teachings of the Church? Unless each of us examines his life with a well-formed, sincere conscience, he can never overcome his evil actions or avoid the appeal of seductive temptations. Rationalization has been man’s weakness since  Adam pointed his finger at God and said, “The woman you gave me, she gave me the fruit and so I ate it.” We are all tempted to rationalize and imitate Adam saying, “You made me do it, God! It’s your fault!” 
In a few [weeks] Lent will be upon us. Now is a good time to reflect on reforming our lives through the practice of penance and regular use of the Sacrament of Confession. In addition Father provides some solid advice on how to address the evil age in which we live. Thank you, Father, and may God keep you writing and witnessing!

In view of the many dimensions of the metastasizing evils infecting the Church, it is important to note that we are in the midst of some major spiritual combat against principalities and powers of darkness. And, as it has always been in the Church, the way to overcome such evils is our embracing more deeply the grace of authentic repentance. This means a regular examination of conscience to determine where we may be infected with the second-hand smoke of perversion and heresy. Such an examination will lead to more fruitful reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Likewise, since authentic repentance requires the nourishment of prayer and mortification, each of us has to become more conscientious embracing our sacred communion with Our Lord Jesus, Our Blessed Mother and the saints with solid regular disciplines of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and Christ-centered fellowship. As one man put it, “Don’t become cynical. Join a cenacle”. After all, as Mother Theresa repeatedly pointed out – there is nothing as awesome, beautiful or transformative as the humility of God. Satan seeks to desecrate relationships. Christ, however, if we allow Him to do so, can sanctify us through humble and prayer-filled fellowship. Would that Catholics were more willing to gather for prayer, reflection, instruction and virtuous encouragement than they are for worldly entertainment.

Secondly, when we do confess our sins, we need to mention the times we may have received Holy Communion with an impure heart – or possibly in an objective state of mortal sin. This is often overlooked in a society where rationalizations for sin have led so many to allow their sincere consciences, guided by the whole truth of God, to become sin-seared consciences. Also, a sincere confession promotes the authentic dignity of our humanity. Sins compounded by sacrilegious Communions become extremely toxic. This is evidenced by the fact that so many bishops refuse to mention the serious sacrileges committed by clergy, who were sexual predators. Thus they, tragically, tend to overlook a basic truth of the spiritual life – the gates of hell cannot prevail against a repenting heart.

Thirdly, each of us should receive Communion on the tongue. This is required for several reasons. First of all, the practice of Communion in the hand was initiated in violation of liturgical law, as an arrogant affirmation that we, as adult Catholics, can feed ourselves. Secondly, when the hierarchy capitulated to this practice, they did so by carefully delineating specific steps as to how this practice was to be implemented – steps which rarely, if ever, are implemented. Thirdly, the practice of Communion in the hand increases the risk of Eucharistic particles falling into the floor. Thus, as we have seen the arrogant elite assert that such particles are not to be reverenced as the Eucharistic Christ, we have witnessed several concomitant assertions infecting the Church. Among them are the allegations 1) that “particles” of human life, such as a human embryos or fetuses, are not to be viewed or treated as persons, 2) that the validity of particular doctrines and moral standards may be disregarded at times for the sake of “a greater good”, and 3) that the marginalized, poor, and helpless in our society may be viewed and treated as merely social “crumbs” whose rights and dignity may be ignored and violated for the sake of promoting a utopian New World Order.

Following on this, we need to decisively destroy the distorted theologies of the fundamental option and the supremacy of conscience. In opposition to the fickleness of a fundamental option to good, we need to assert the serious need for a fundamental commitment to know, love and serve God with all our heart, soul, mind, strength and relationships. And regarding the alleged supremacy of conscience, we need to assert the serious obligation to form our conscience in accordance with God’s revealed Word, not on the latest fad broadcast on “The View” or “Good Morning America”.

Fifthly, we must keep in mind that human dignity can only be realized by a humble accountability to the truth. While the thinking of our secular world asserts that the avoidance of accountability is the way to true human freedom, the opposite is the case. One who is a slave to his passions and addictions is not free. Accountability is based on reverence for the truth, whereas the standards for responsibility are often merely based on social convention. And the social conventions of our society are becoming increasingly perverted.

A sixth needed action is the reaffirmation of the sacredness of human language. For too long, we have been seduced into tolerating or even laughing at perversions of our language. All authentically human language must be in harmony with the original sanctifying Word of God. The profusion of vulgarities, profanities, obscenities and blasphemies, which the societal elitists extol as an essential part of “adult entertainment”, are disgusting abominations.

Following on this, we need to confront the evil of slander. Sadly, as I mentioned in my article, Catholic Bishops Fail to Address Roots of Racism in Political Correctness, even the latest USCCB pastoral letter on racism seems to have been composed as a kind of #Me-too rubber-stamp approval for the decades of slanderous allegations by so many Democrats, who allege that any opposition to or deviation from their agenda of promoting perversion, and the Culture of Desecration and Death is racist. It was particularly noteworthy that the USCCB’s pastoral letter would not specifically mention Planned Parenthood, whose racist and genocidal agenda is so well documented at

Next, we need to reassert that we have been incorporated through Baptism into the Catholic Church. This means that our primary allegiance is to the Communion of Saints, who suffered so much to pass on the precious heritage of our Faith. And our primary accountability is to the Catholic Faith, rooted in the whole truth of God, not to ecclesiastical bureaucracies, which, in recent years, have so often displaced the fear of the Lord with the fear of the lawsuit.

Finally, we need to arouse the graces of our Confirmation and become bold in proclaiming our Faith.

We need to let our clergy know that we are praying for their sanctification and salvation – and invite them to join with us in prayer. We need to call our families together daily for the Rosary and/or other prayers and devotional activities. If we do not conscientiously make Jesus Christ the center of our homes and our families, there are more than enough demons willing to subtly move in and take His place. We need to acknowledge, then, that the crisis we face today is rooted in spiritual mediocrity. Whereas social convention allows us to get excited about sports, politics, economics or fashions, political correctness demands that we keep the so desperately needed light of our faith under an elongated bushel basket called a steeple.

Boycotts and other activities may manipulate our clergy into cleaning up their act. But these will only address the symptoms of the real malady infecting our Church. What they, and all of us, really need is a more profound transformation in God’s grace. All of us are infected with the perversions of this age. However, “If My people, upon whom My Name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek My Presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land”. (II Chr 7:14)

[Posted on Les Femmes]
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Francis and Sexual Abuse. The Pope Who Knew Too Much

By Sandro Magister on Settimo Cielo

Pope Francis has already made it clear for some time how he judges and how he intends to address the question of sexual abuse among sacred ministers. As a problem not primarily of sex but of power, not of individuals but of caste, the clerical caste.

He gave this to be understood in the letter on this question that he addressed to the “people of God” on August 20, 2018, in which he never mentions “sexual abuse” on its own, but in the combination of “sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience .”

He reiterated it in this year’s January 1 letter to the bishops of the United States, in which he continues to systematically use the triple formula, but changing the order: “the abuse of power and conscience and sexual abuse.”

He restated it even more explicitly in the closed-door meeting he had in Dublin on August 25 with the Irish Jesuits (see photo), carefully transcribed and published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro in “La Civiltà Cattolica” of September 15: “Elitism, clericalism fosters every form of abuse. And sexual abuse is not the first. The first abuse is of power and conscience.”

The final document of the synod of last October, in the paragraphs concerning sexual abuse, also made this theorem of Francis its own, attributing the cause of everything to “clericalism,” meaning “an elitist and exclusivist vision of vocation, that interprets the ministry received as a power to be exercised rather than as a free and generous service to be given.”

Against this backdrop, the convocation in Rome of the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the whole world, scheduled from February 21 to 24, should be according to the pope’s intentions the calling to account of an organic representation of the clerical caste, before which he would present himself as the alternative and immaculate authority, entirely at the service of the powerless and the victims of power.

That’s the way it should be, in Francis’s plan. But meanwhile, events are moving in the opposite direction.


The latest event that Settimo Cielo covered a few days ago is the case of Argentine bishop Gustavo Óscar Zanchetta and his stupefying career all the way to an elevated position in the Vatican curia, in spite of his manifest demonstrations of inadequacy and unreliability, and charges of sexual abuse against a dozen seminarians:

> Francis From Innocent To Guilty. Bad News From His Argentina

The Zanchetta case is a blatant example of those “abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse” so stigmatized by Francis. What a  shame that the whole career of such a character should be the fruit of the pope’s friendship and protection.


A second case is that of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The congregation for the doctrine of the faith – as Catholic News Agency revealed on January 7 – has almost completed an “administrative” penal process, more rapid and stringent than the regular canonical one, on his misdeeds, collecting the testimonies of two other victims whom he abused, even during the sacrament of confession, when they were 11 and 13 years old, and of twelve other seminarians made the object of sexual practices when he was bishop in Metuchen and Newark.

It is therefore probable that before the February 21-24 meeting Pope Francis will adopt a further and extreme sanction toward McCarrick: reduction to the lay state.

Here as well, however, there continues to weigh against Francis the responsibility of having provided McCarrick with cover and honors for years, in spite of being aware – on a par with other representatives of the hierarchy, in this and in the two previous pontificates – of his reprehensible homosexual activity, deciding to sanction him only after there had come out into open, a few months ago, his abuse of minors as well.


A third case concerns Cardinal Donald Wuerl, until last October the archbishop of Washington and still the apostolic administrator of the diocese while awaiting the appointment of his successor, whom Francis thanked with emotional words of pride and esteem for the “nobility” of mind that he demonstrated – according to the pope – in dealing with the accusations of having covered up sexual abuse that he knew about, including that of McCarrick.

In effect, last June Wuerl stated that he had never known anything about the allegations of abuse against McCarrick before one of these, against a minor, had become known in the spring of 2018.

But on January 10 of 2019 both the diocese of Pittsburgh and the archdiocese of Washington confirmed that back in 2004 Wuerl, at the time the bishop of Pittsburgh, had learned about McCarrick’s bad behavior from a former priest of the diocese, he too the victim of homosexual acts on the part of McCarrick, and had forwarded the claim to the apostolic nuncio in the United States at the time, Gabriel Montalvo.

In the summer of 2018 the report of the Pennsylvania grand jury on sexual abuse by the clergy also came down against Wuerl, who was accused of having left various cases of abuse unpunished when he was bishop of Pittsburgh.

And then there came to the field, also against him, the authoritative former vaticanista of “Newsweek” Kenneth Woodward, who in a commentary for the progressive Catholic magazine “Commonweal” wrote that the diocese of Pittsburgh had been known for some time as one of those most invaded by homosexual priests, starting with its bishop from 1959 to 1969, John J. Wright, later made cardinal and prefect of the Vatican congregation for the clergy, he himself with many young lovers and as his personal secretary none other than that Wuerl who was his successor.

And yet, incredibly, the word “homosexuality” never occurs in Francis’s letter to the “people of God” of August 20, 2018, nor in his letter to the bishops of the United States of January 1, 2019, nor in his conversation with the Irish Jesuits. As if this problem did not exist.

When instead it is precisely homosexual activity that is the statistically dominant factor among clergy who abuse, in recent decades. Just like it is homosexual activity with young and very young men that characterizes the behavior of McCarrick, for whom only a few cases of abuse against minors are known, although these too are males.

And it is this deliberate removal of the homosexuality factor that is the Achilles heel of Francis’s anti-abuse strategy, as denounced in recent days by two cardinals.


The two cardinals are the Germans Walter Brandmüller, 90, a Church historian and former president of the pontifical committee for historical sciences, and Gerhard L. Müller, 71, a theologian and former prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

Brandmüller, in a January 1 interview with KathNet and in another on January 4 with DPA, indeed reiterated that the problem of abuse among the clergy is predominantly a problem of homosexual activity. And therefore it must be addressed by ruling out, for starters, the admission of young homosexuals to the priesthood. All the more so in that the erosion of Catholic doctrine that is underway facilitates a growing moral justification of homosexuality.

These statements – replicated in a subsequent January 9 interview with him for the German edition of Catholic News Agency – earned Brandmüller a storm of indignant reactions, from outside of and above all from within the Church.

And that led Cardinal Müller to intervene in turn, with a hard-hitting January 7 interview on LifeSite News, which sounds like a direct critique precisely of Pope Francis’s theorem according to which sexual abuse among the clergy is primarily a product of clericalism, meaning the abuse of power by the clerical caste.

Müller writes:

“When a clergyman commits the crime of sexual abuse of an adolescent, the ideologues are not hesitant to accuse priests in general or ‘the’ Church – as they say – in a theologically uninformed way. This is the only case where it is still permitted to generalize in a reckless way, and even to present gleefully their phantasies of a collective guilt. When an Islamicist commits an act of terror, it is exactly the same people – with their dull prejudices against celibacy and against the despised moral teaching of the Church – who acquit Islam of any complicity and who – justly so – defend the majority of peaceful Muslims.”

And he continues, raising the stakes:

“When an adult or superior sexually assaults someone who is entrusted to his care, his ‘power’ is only the means (though also abused) for his evil deed, and not its cause. It is indeed about a double abuse, but one may not confuse the cause of the crime with the means and occasions for its implementation in order to unload the very personal guilt of the offender onto the circumstances or to ‘the’ society, or to ‘the’ Church… The offender’s will for sexual gratification is the cause of the violation of the physical and emotional intimacy of a person entrusted to him. To babble on here of clericalism or of Church structures as the cause (of sexual abuse), is an insult of the many victims of sexual abuse (outside the Catholic Church) by persons who have nothing to do with the Church and clergymen.”


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Priests call on Cardinal Marx to resign as German bishops’ head

Cardinal Reinhard Marx at a synod press briefing, Vatican, Oct. 24, 2018. (Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

Communio veritatis, a group of priests from the Archdiocese of Paderborn, published a statement today accusing the prelate of “abusing your spiritual office by obviously considering the Church’s Sacraments as your personal property which you sacrifice at your own whims on the altar of the Zeitgeist.”

The first sentence of the statement, as published today on the Austrian Catholic website, refers to a recent claim made by Marx, namely, that he does not like the term “Christian West” because it is too “exclusive.” In response the German priests say: “We call upon you to renounce the presidency of the German Bishops’ Conference because this notion is exclusive of your own fellow bishops!”

The Communio veritatis group had formed itself in light of the 2018 debate in Germany about giving Holy Communion to some Protestant spouses of Catholics. Communio veritatis strongly opposes this idea and had published a statement opposing their own archbishop in Paderborn, Hans-Josef Becker.

In their new 14 January statement, the priests accuse Cardinal Marx of syncretism and relativism: “You stand with your sociological viewpoint on the grounds of syncretism and relativism.” In reality, they say, Christ has revealed Himself to us, and with it the Truth. “We reject the instrumentalization of our religion!” the priests call out and criticize Cardinal Marx for using the Catholic religion “in a falsifying secularization in order to spread the left-liberal political ideology of the mainstream.”

The group of priests further stated: “We remind you that the red of the cardinal does not refer to the flag of Neo-Marxism, but to the defense of the Catholic Faith, up to shedding one’s blood. Thereby, the Catechism is not the name of an island in the South Sea, but the reliable interpretation of the Church’s teaching.”

In reference to the fact that Cardinal Marx, when visiting the Temple Mount in Israel in 2016, had removed his pectoral cross so as not to “offend” his hosts, the priests say that “We will confess Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer and true Savior, while you yourself have laid down the Cross of the Lord in a scandalous manner.”

Cardinal Marx had also received much criticism in 2018 for distancing himself from Markus Söder, the Bavarian governor who had ordered the public display of crosses in state administrative buildings. Cardinal Marx at the time claimed that he was “quite sad and ashamed” of this decision. Furthermore, the prelate then said publicly that Söder was causing “division, unrest and animosity” with his own plan, and that Söder was even “expropriating the cross in the name of the state.”

The Paderborn priestly group is, however, of another opinion: “We pray that our western world will return to the Faith in the Triune God, in Whom alone is to be found life and salvation.”

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Archbishop Viganò urges McCarrick to publicly repent in new open letter (FULL TEXT)

ROME, January 14, 2019 

Breaking News From LifeSiteNews:

With a tone of fraternal and priestly charity, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has written an open letter to former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, encouraging him to publicly repent of his sins and thus to save his soul.

In the brief letter, dated January 13, 2019 and published in English and Italian (see full text below), Archbishop Viganò has also sought to persuade McCarrick that he has a unique opportunity to greatly benefit the Church with a public act of repentance.

“Time is running out, but you can confess and repent of your sins, crimes and sacrileges, and do so publicly, since they have themselves become public. Your eternal salvation is at stake,” Archbishop Viganò writes.

“A public repentance on your part would bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church. Are you willing to offer her that gift?,” he adds.

The former U.S. Nuncio’s open letter comes after reported disclosures from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that McCarrick’s case is being handled via a stripped-down administrative process — called an “administrative penal process” — that is expected to conclude before the Vatican summit on clerical sexual abuse in February.

Such an “administrative penal process,” which canon law reserves for cases where the evidence is so strong that a full trial is deemed unnecessary, suggests that the odds of a conviction are very high.

Theodore McCarrick is accused of molesting three boys — the youngest beginning at age 11 — and at least eight seminarians in dioceses he formerly led. If convicted, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C. would be removed from the clerical state.

In June 2018, following reports of alleged sexual abuse of a minor, McCarrick, 88, issued a statement saying: “While I have absolutely no recollection of this reported abuse, and believe in my innocence, I am sorry for the pain the person who brought the charges has gone through, as well as for the scandal such charges cause our people.”

McCarrick is currently residing at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Franciscan Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

Here below is Archbishop Viganò’s open letter to Theodore McCarrick. (Download a PDF of the English translation here, and of the original Italian here.)

Letter to McCarrick

Dear Archbishop McCarrick,

As has been reported as a news by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the accusations against you for crimes against minors and abuses against seminarians are going to be examined and judged very soon with an administrative procedure.

No matter what decision the supreme authority of the Church takes in your case, what really matters and what has saddened those who love you and pray for you is the fact that throughout these months you haven’t given any sign of repentance. I am among those who are praying for your conversion, that you may repent and ask pardon of your victims and the Church.

Time is running out, but you can confess and repent of your sins, crimes and sacrileges, and do so publicly, since they have themselves become public. Your eternal salvation is at stake.

But something else of great importance is also at stake. You, paradoxically, have at your disposal an immense offer of great hope for you from the Lord Jesus; you are in a position to do great good for the Church. In fact, you are now in a position to do something that has become more important for the Church than all of the good things you did for her throughout your entire life. A public repentance on your part would bring a significant measure of healing to a gravely wounded and suffering Church. Are you willing to offer her that gift? Christ died for us all when we were still sinners (Rom. 5: 8). He only asks that we respond by repenting and doing the good that we are given to do. The good that you are in a position to do now is to offer the Church your sincere and public repentance.  Will you give the Church that gift?

I implore you, repent publicly of your sins, so as to make the Church rejoice and present yourself before the tribunal of Our Lord cleansed by His blood. Please, do not make His sacrifice on the cross void for you. Christ, Our Good Lord, continues to love you. Put your entire trust in His Sacred Heart. And pray to Mary, as I and many others are doing, asking her to intercede for the salvation of your soul.

“Maria Mater Gratiae, Mater Misericordiae, Tu nos ab hoste protege et mortis hora suscipe”. Mary Mother of the Grace, Mother of Mercy, protect us from the enemy and welcome us in the hour of death.

Your brother in Christ,

+ Carlo Maria Viganò

Sunday, January 13, 2019
The Baptism of the Lord
Saint Hilary of Poitiers

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A Cleansing Fire Is Coming for Catholics

By JOHN ZMIRAK,  January 12, 2019

The oldest living thing on earth is a vast stand of aspens, named Pando. Genetically one single plant that has extended its roots for 106 acres, it has existed for 80,000 years. But now it may be dying. Why? In part because we humans have been suppressing forest fires. But aspens need periodic cleansing fires to thrive.

The Catholic Church considers Herself the heir to the oldest religion on earth — the monotheism revealed to Adam and Eve in Eden, then deepened with the covenants of Noah, Abraham, Moses and finally Christ.

But the Church stands, like Pando, in desperate need of a fire.

Pope Francis has tried to change historic Church teachings on marriage and capital punishment. In each case he’s used a fig leaf of ambiguity and “development” to hide stark contradictions. He has punished and even closed faithful religious orders. A whistleblower archbishop, Carlo Maria Viganò, who exposed Francis’ knowledge of the sex predations of Theodore McCarrick (former cardinal of Washington) now lives in hiding, for fear of his life.

Pope Francis has stonewalled requests by impartial journalists and U.S. bishops alike for the documents that would prove or disprove Viganò’s charges. Indeed, Francis refuses to answer Viganò’s assertions, comparing his critics to Satan or Herod. Sycophant cardinals compare Francis’ silence to Christ’s.

We just learned that the prelate now running Washington, D.C., the “retired” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, knew about McCarrick’s perversions way back in 2004. And has lied about it repeatedly, in public.

As Catholic convert Sohrab Ahmari writes at The New York Post:

Back in July, when McCarrick was first unmasked as a collared predator of boys and young men, Wuerl insisted he knew nothing. Pressed by an interviewer about the rumors that for years had swirled around McCarrick, Wuerl said: “In the past month, I have seen some of those now-public reports. But in my years here in Washington and even before that, I had not heard them.”

One more time: “In my years in Washington and even before that, I had not heard” the McCarrick rumors. Said by a man who himself reported McCarrick misconduct allegations to the Holy See.

The Washington archdiocese, where Wuerl remains administrator while Pope Francis selects a successor, released a statement Thursday seeking to justify the unjustifiable: “Cardinal Wuerl has attempted to be accurate in addressing questions about Archbishop McCarrick. His statements previously referred to claims of sexual abuse of a minor by Archbishop McCarrick, as well as rumors of such behavior. The Cardinal stands by those statements, which were not intended to be imprecise.”

Decades of Cover-ups

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s report had already revealed Wuerl’s squalid cover-up and payoff of Fr. George Zirwas, a priest who made sadistic child pornography on church grounds. As I wrote here back in August:

Wuerl never called the cops. He didn’t tell Rome to defrock him. After moving Zirwas from parish to parish, watching him re-offend, Wuerl finally put him on paid leave, for the rest of his life. When Zirwas offered Wuerl names of still more priest offenders, Wuerl paid him more not to tell him. Instead, Wuerl asked him to sign a false declaration that he had no such information. Which would get Wuerl off the hook, legally speaking….

As the indispensible Church Militant reports: “Zirwas spent his retirement in comfort, living off a monthly stipend from the diocese (paid by Catholic laity), using it to fund his homosexual lifestyle in Cuba. His boyfriend would later reveal that Zirwas was a fixture on the gay scene in Havana, his apartment a popular stopping place for foreign visitors. Meanwhile, the diocese was telling the public Zirwas was ministering to the poor in Cuba.”

We’ll likely never know what Zirwas was doing to poor boys in Cuba. When Zirwas was murdered and went to meet Justice, what did Cardinal Wuerl do? He lifted Zirwas’ suspension from the priesthood, so he could be buried with full church honors. Wuerl welcomed the body and said the funeral Mass himself. Zirwas’ sins and crimes? They were still a church secret.

In his glowing eulogy, Wuerl said: “The one thing we know is that George Zirwas responded to God’s call. … [Wuerl expressed] great confidence that Father George will experience new life in Christ.”

Donald Wuerl is technically retired. But Pope Francis has not replaced him, so Wuerl is still running the Catholic Church in our nation’s capital.

Pope Francis’ Double Game

Last month, U.S. bishops found themselves stymied by a sudden Vatican veto when they tried to plug a corrupt loophole in their abuse policy of 2002, leaving bishops who commit sex abuse or cover it up immune from removal. Who introduced that loophole? McCarrick himself. Who nixed the reform? Pope Francis, with the collusion of Cardinal Blaise Cupich, an old protégé of McCarrick, who (Viganò reports) helped pick Cupich and other leading U.S. bishops for Francis. Who’s the leading U.S. figure at the Vatican’s global meeting on sex abuse in March? Cardinal Cupich, who has dared to defend as “consensual” sex between bishops and seminarians.

Cupich also persecuted a priest, Fr. Paul John Kalchik, who had removed a blasphemous rainbow flag his predecessor had hung in the church sanctuary. When that predecessor turned up dead inside a “sex machine,” near his massive cache of gay pornography, the Chicago Archdiocese quietly removed the porn and lied about his death to parishioners. When some of those parishioners chose to burn his rainbow banner, and Fr. Kalchik wouldn’t stop them, Cardinal Cupich sent two hulking priests to try to spirit him off to a mental institution. But Kalchik escaped. Like Abp. Viganò, he is in hiding.

The Rot Runs Deep

It is clear that the institutional structure of the Catholic Church in America (and many other countries) is deeply corrupt. Many seminaries, and whole religious orders such as the Jesuits, suffered a takeover by elites or even pluralities of active homosexuals. That much is clear, and will soon become obvious to every faithful Catholic.

It’s also becoming obvious to state attorneys general and the U.S. Justice Department. Their probing eyes, subpoenas, and grand jury hearings will shine a light in every corner. We will learn much more that grieves us.

The Church will lose hundreds of millions more dollars in sex abuse judgments. Pope Francis’ meddling in the U.S. bishops’ conference might even strip the Vatican of legal immunity. That could put the Vatican’s art and buildings on the auction block.

A Cleansing Fire Is Coming

At some point, Congress will cease to award massive contracts to Catholic non-profits — which last year provided the U.S. bishops with 40 percent of their budget. By law, all that money must be spent on secular purposes. Think about that. It means that 40 percent (at least) of our bishops’ activities were totally … secular. Something any federal contractor (such as Planned Parenthood) could have done.

Ironically, defunding the U.S. bishops would probably do more for the Church than defunding Planned Parenthood. It would starve the massive bureaucracy, force the bishops to listen to laymen’s concerns — or lose donations. It would remove the financial motive for the bishops to issue 200-plus public policy statements per year. Most of all, it will take away temptations.

Soon, becoming a priest, but especially a bishop, could cease to be a prestigious or comfortable life. It certainly won’t be a cozy hiding place for homosexuals, or a way for a degenerate like Theodore McCarrick to live like a Disney princess in a palace. Instead it will be hard, humbling, and grueling — as it was for 19th century bishops like St. John Neumann, and is today for brave Christian leaders in places like Nigeria and Iraq.

I worry that magnificent, historic churches built in past centuries by immigrants’ pennies will end up as discos or restaurants. Bishops should sell them off to committees of laymen today, before the auctioneer comes to claim them. Otherwise we’ll end up praying in people’s garages.

The cleansing fire of worldly justice will burn away the thorns and kill off the parasites. It will do for the Church what it does for aspens — scour the ground and leave room for new, healthy life. New life in Christ.

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Biblical Reflection for The Baptism of the Lord – Cycle C

Image result for the baptism of our lord

FIRST READING            Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.  A voice cries out:  In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.  Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!  Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah:  Here is your God!  Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by a strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him.  Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

SECOND READING                  Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7

Beloved:  The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.  When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

GOSPEL                Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

The mystery of the Baptism of the Lord–with His Epiphany–are at the heart of our faith.  These mysteries are less known in the Western Church than the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.  In almost every way, the mysteries of the Epiphany and the Baptism are the same as the mystery of Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord.  Christmas has enormous emotional overtones throughout the world and because of that, very often the understanding of preparation is lacking.

The first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, explains what it means to be prepared to meet the Lord: “A voice cries out:  In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”  Who better would understand the gravity of this eventuality than we monks here at Monastery of Christ in the Desert.  Our monastery is located in a remote place.  One must take a 13-mile dirt road off the highway to reach the church.  The road is mountainous, windy with multiple turns and dips—this is not written to discourage anyone from paying us a visit.  So, when the prophet proclaims: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley”, we monks know what an awesome and awe-inspiring feat that would be!  This is extreme preparation discernable in the physical world.  But, what about our interior lives?

The second reading, from the Letter to Titus, explains even further what this preparation entails: “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.”  St. John Chrysostom challenges us, too, when he spurs Christians: “We who are disciples of Christ claim that our purpose on earth is to lay up treasures in heaven. But our actions often contradict our words. Many Christians build for themselves fine houses, lay out splendid gardens, construct bathhouses, and buy fields. It is small wonder, then, that many non-believers refuse to believe what we say. ‘If their eyes are set on mansions in heaven,’ they ask, ‘why are they building mansions on earth? If they put their words into practice, they would give away their riches and live in simple huts.’ ”  This may be easier for monks, but those living in the world approaching more revelry and excess in the upcoming days of a holiday season, it is a formidable challenge.

From Luke’s Gospel reading, people flocked to John the Baptist to seek a way to be faithful to God, or, in other words, to prepare to receive Him.  There are Old Testament precedents of men and women preparing to receive a king, notwithstanding Jesus.   Think of the preparation of Esther.  “Now when the turn of each young lady came to go in to King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women–for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics for women …She would not again go in to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name…And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her” (Es 2:12-15).  A person can do a great deal of changing in 12 hours, let alone a year and a half!

We are invited to believe in Jesus as the one, unique and only God.  And He has come to save us.  If we are baptized in Him, let us share His mercy and walk with faith.  Let us steadfastly order our lives to be better able to receive His mercy.  For if you desire to receive the Lord, then be prepared to change.

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Donald Wuerl: Shameless Liar

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)

By Fr Mark D. White

We read: the Spirit is truth. The Spirit that consecrated the Christ, giving His human soul a prelapsarian integrity. Total engagement with unadulterated reality, unswerving communion with the heavenly Father, faultless courage and selflessness. Man in full. The new Adam, free of sin and deceit.

The integrity of the Christ became our integrity, too–by the Spirit of truth which He breathed forth on His Holy Apostles. We will discuss this further on Sunday. For now, let’s just put it like this: The ministry of Christ’s Holy Church involves human integrity, honesty, open humility before the God—all flowing from the spotless integrity of the Christ.

A year ago, we welcomed our new bishop here in our cathedral in Richmond. Pope Francis’ ambassador handed him the pastoral staff. Everyone cheered. Two Cardinals sat in choir, cheering. Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington. And Donald Wuerl, sitting Archbishop.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The truth is: I wouldn’t have trusted either of those men any farther than I could have thrown them, even then. We worker bees in the clergy have known for years: Honest Christians do not become bishops. At least not in this day and age, in this particular province of Holy Church. Attaining such an office requires a long initiation phase of flattering sycophancy. Honest men naturally run in the other direction.

But we had no idea, a year ago, of the depths of Theodore McCarrick’s dishonesty. We learned a lot about it, last summer and fall.

Nor did we have any idea about the depths of Donald Wuerl’s dishonesty. At the end of last August, Archbishop Viganó called Donald Wuerl a shameless liar. The pope defended Wuerl, writing that Wuerl has “the heart of a shepherd, nobility, and docility to the Holy Spirit.”

But yesterday the Washington Post published proof that Wuerl is every bit the shameless liar that Viganó said he is.

My dearly beloved: This is not the way it’s supposed to be. When we go to the cathedral and see our leaders, we should think: I want to have the integrity these men have. I want their scrupulous obedience to divine law. God, give me the grace!

Instead, we see a rogues’ gallery of childish liars. We see grown men who have more trouble telling the truth than eight-year-old children. Liars who spew falsehoods not out of malice, but simply because they have never developed the competence to manage the inconvenient facts of this toilsome life on the Planet Earth.

My dear ones, what can I say? “Welcome to our world?” The world of those who have had close dealings with these men for decades, and have known them all along as the frauds they are?

But I can’t put it that way, because it all breaks my heart too much. You don’t deserve this, any more than I do.

We must carry on. Our leaders are incompetent frauds, compulsive liars, defensive little boys who mom just caught having broken the garage window.

But God is no liar. His Christ is no liar. And He still has a Church. And we proudly belong to Her.


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Papal Infallibility and the Canonization of Saints

Is  canonization of a Saint a doctrine of faith or morals? Is it a teaching of the Church “to be held by the universal Church” that each and every Saint who was canonized by a Pope: led a holy life, died in a state of grace, and now dwells in Heaven forever? Is it infallibly true that no Saint canonized by a Pope has ever passed through the sufferings of Purgatory, however briefly, on their way to Heaven?

Currently, it is the opinion of a majority of Catholic theologians that the canonization of Saints by the Pope is an exercise of papal infallibility. The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (CCS) supports this opinion. And some Bishops also believe and teach this idea.

Now there is some difference of opinion among these theologians as to which assertions, related to canonization, would fall under papal infallibility. Is it merely the assertion that the Saint led a holy life, died in a state of grace, and now dwells in eternity with God? Or does it extend to the assertion that the Saint did not spend any time in Purgatory and so went directly to Heaven upon their death? Both claims raise the question as to what kinds of truth can be defined under papal infallibility.

First Vatican Council

The First Vatican Council exercised the infallibility of an Ecumenical Council to define papal infallibility:

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God our Saviour, the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council, We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in the discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable. But if anyone—which may God avert!—presume to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema.
(First Vatican Council, Pastor Aeternus, chap. 4.)

Notice that when the Pope exercises this infallibility, “he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church.” Again, the Pope is endowed by God with this infallibility “in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals.” This infallible conciliar definition clearly teaches that the Pope cannot define any and all truths on any and all subjects. The scope of papal infallibility is limited to a certain range of truths. The truths that are defined under papal infallibility must be doctrines, and they must regard faith or morals. Any truths that are not doctrines of faith or morals cannot be taught under papal infallibility, no matter how certain those truths may be, because the infallible definition of the First Vatican Council taught that papal infallibility has such a limit.

Second Vatican Council

[Contrary to what many have been led to believe] the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed and clarified the infallible teaching of the First Vatican Council on the extent of papal infallibility.

And this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. (Lumen Gentium, n. 25)

The extent and limit of papal infallibility, and of any and all infallibility given to the Church by God, has the same extent and limit as the Deposit of Divine Revelation, that is, Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Truly, then, no Pope or Ecumenical Council has the ability to add any truths to this infallible Deposit of Faith. For the purpose of the Magisterium, of which papal infallibility is one function, is to guard and to expound the truths Divinely revealed in Tradition and Scripture, not to attempt to add to such truths.

The term ‘faith and morals’ is often used to refer to the truths of Divine Revelation. However, no truths, even if they are related to faith or to the Church, can be taught by the Magisterium at all, neither non-infallibly nor infallibly, unless they are found within Tradition or Scripture. 

The natural law, including the whole moral law, is certainly also found, at least implicitly in Tradition and Scripture. Truly, even the single act of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross for our salvation contains the whole moral law implicitly. And the entire moral law is a part of the truths of faith. But, even though morals are included in the things of faith, it is usually and aptly expressed as ‘faith and morals,’ not because morals are separate from the faith, but in order to give that part of the faith a special emphasis.

The Canonization of Saints by the Pope

The cause for canonization of a Saint requires an examination of the facts of that person’s life. If witnesses are still alive who knew the Saint personally, they provide testimony. Copies of the Saint’s writings, sometimes in their own handwriting, are examined, along with records of that Saint’s life. Lastly, evidence of a miracle, received after praying for that Saint’s intercession, is presented. The evidence is frequently in the form of a miraculous healing, so that medical testimony or other evidence is examined. Without such evidence, the cause for canonization could not go forward, and no conclusion could be reached about that person’s sanctity.

The decision of the Church on the canonization of a Saint is necessarily and almost entirely dependent on the claims of fallible human persons and on a subjective evaluation of evidence that is not certain. This evidence and testimony establishes their sanctity, and its degree, and its perseverance, and its manifestation in reported miracles due to their intercession. But none of this evidence is infallible. None of this evidence is found in the Sacred Deposit of Faith (Tradition and Scripture). But the Magisterium is absolutely limited to teaching the truths found, explicitly or implicitly, in Tradition and Scripture. Therefore, the Magisterium is completely unable to teach that any person is a Saint (except for those persons mentioned in Tradition or Scripture). Neither the Pope himself, nor the entire Body of Bishops united with him, can teach that such a person is a Saint. The Pope cannot teach this infallibly, under papal infallibility, nor can he teach it even non-infallibly, under the Ordinary Magisterium. Likewise, the Bishops united with the Pope, even in an Ecumenical Council, cannot teach that such a person is a Saint. For the Magisterium is unable to teach truths found entirely outside of the Deposit of Faith.

Now the Saints who are mentioned in Tradition and Scripture, such as Saint Peter the Apostle, are a separate case. Since their lives and holiness is attested to in infallible Divine Revelation, the Church can infallibly teach their holiness and can infallibly declare them to be Saints. But most Saints have lived long after the canon of Scripture was closed. For unless the life of a Saint is a part of Sacred Tradition (e.g. the mother of the Virgin Mary), or unless a Saint is mentioned in Sacred Scripture (e.g. the father of the Virgin Mary, called Heli), such a Saint’s canonization cannot be considered a part of the teachings of the Church, nor of the Magisterium, neither infallibly nor non-infallibly.

A Judgment of the Temporal Authority

Instead, such canonizations fall under the Temporal Authority of the Church (not under the authority of the Magisterium itself, which applies only to teachings from the Deposit of Faith). The Temporal Authority of the Church is never infallible and it does not teach, but it can make practical rules and judgments. In the case of Saints, it judges that a person lived a holy life, most probably died in a state of grace, and therefore most probably dwells in Heaven. As to whether or not any of the Saints ever had to pass through Purgatory, however briefly, the canonization of a Saint does not determine the answer to that question.

A true Saint may well have to pass through Purgatory, briefly, because the will of God sometimes prefers a man to enter a situation where he might perhaps sin more (but only venially), and also do more good, rather than to avoid all possible situations where any sin might be found, and so be prevented from doing significant good. (If you hide under your bed all day, you might sin less, but you will not do much good.) An baptized infant who dies in infancy has no sins. A Saint who dies in old age has personal sins, perhaps more than a few, yet he has done very much more good than the infant, and so, despite his greater sins, he has a higher place in Heaven. Therefore, some Saints may pass through Purgatory and still be true Saints.

A Saint’s sanctity might not be at its height at the hour, or even in the year, of his death. The holiest portion of some Saints’ lives was not their youth. Saint Augustine misspent his youth and his early adult years. Similarly, some Saints might decline in holiness in the latter years of their life (as wise king Solomon did). A missionary who suffers much in his work may reach a degree of holiness which he cannot maintain to the same degree later in life, due to changes in his circumstances and his retirement from active life. Some Saints find it easier to be holier in active service to those in need, and others in contemplative service before God. A Saint who was holy during one part of his life, might be less holy in his last days, if he is forced to change from an active life to an inactive one, or vice versa. Therefore, some Saints may spend some brief time in Purgatory, in order to reacquire, as it were, their past holiness.

Answers to Questions

Is the canonization of a Saint a doctrine of faith or morals? No, it is a judgment and decision, make by proper authority in the Church, that a person lived an exemplary holy life and was faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church. Canonization is not a teaching, so it cannot fall under the teaching authority of the Church.

Is it a teaching of the Church “to be held by the universal Church” that each and every Saint who was canonized by a Pope: led a holy life, died in a state of grace, and now dwells in Heaven forever? No, no one is obligated to believe, as an article of faith, that a particular person (someone not referred to in Tradition or Scripture) is a Saint. There is no obligation under the sacred assent due to infallible teachings of the Magisterium, nor under the ordinary assent due to the non-infallible teachings of the Magisterium. Judgments of the Temporal Authority of the Church are, in some sense, binding on the faithful, but they are not in the realm of belief and faith, because the Temporal Authority issues rulings, not teachings.

Is it infallibly true that no Saint canonized by a Pope has ever passed through the sufferings of Purgatory on their way to Heaven? No, a person can be a holy Saint and still have passed, however briefly, through the holy and purifying sufferings of Purgatory.

[Adapted and summerised from CATHOLIC PLANET]


For further reading: Canonizations not always infallible? by Professor Robert de Mattei

Prof. de Mattei points out some important factors about the infallibility of canonizations, even demonstrating that this is not even a dogma of the Faith, but rather the opinion of theologians.

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Philippines: Five Million Pilgrims at the Annual Procession of the Black Nazarene

A multitudinous crowd of devotees – a sight not seen anywhere else in the world – come from far and wide to Manila for the annual procession of the statue of the “Black Nazarene”. This overwhelming display of love for the “suffering Christ” is an astounding example of the faith and hope of the Philippine people. 

The annual procession of the Black Nazarene statue in Manila

Over 5 million pilgrims at the Black Nazarene feast

Manila (Agenzia Fides) – More than five million devotees attended the “Traslacion”, the annual procession featuring the image of the Black Nazarene, which started on January 9th, with a prayer vigil during the night. This feast is a manifestation of popular devotion in the Philippines that has lasted more than four centuries, with millions of devotees who place their hopes in the suffering Christ.

The theme of the “2019 Traslacion” is “Devotees of the Lord Jesus the Nazarene: chosen to serve him”. The peak of the programme is the traditional procession through the streets of Manila with a statue, in black wood, depicting Christ carrying the cross towards Calvary. Thousands of believers converge from all over the country to Manila to attend this feast.

The statue of the Black Nazarene was brought to Manila in 1607 by Augustinian missionaries from Mexico. It is also believed that it was partially burned and blackened when the galleon carrying it caught fire on a transpacific trip from Mexico, another Spanish colony at the time.

Mgr. Hernando Coronel, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church, in Quiapo district, in Manila, explained to Agenzia Fides: “The feast of the Black Nazarene revolves around the devotion to the suffering Christ, with whom Filipinos identify themselves, in their life marked by poverty and daily suffering. Along the route of the Traslacion, a procession of almost 24 hours carrying the statue begins at Quirino Grandstand, in Rizal Park, in the center of Manila, and ends once the statue reaches up Quiapo Church”.

During the Mass celebrated today in the church, the Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Cardinale Tagle in his homily said that “the devotion to the Black Nazarene is the love for Jesus and it is not fanaticism. A true devotee loves: the essence of devotion is love. The fanatic clings only to something that gives value to himself. The devotee loves Jesus. The fanatic does not love”, said the Cardinal to the faithful.

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Will ‘Brazilian icon of liberation theology’, Dom Helder Camara, be canonised?

By George Neumayr at Church Militant:

Around the time of Vatican II, a group of socialist bishops signed a secret manifesto called the Pact of the Catacombs. It received its name from having been signed at a church near the catacombs in Rome. Most of the signatories of the secret manifesto came from Latin America. According to the text of the Pact of the Catacombs, the bishops pledged to politicize the Church for the sake of ushering in the “advent of another social order.” The pact read like something that a committee of a high school socialist organization might have scribbled out:

We will do our utmost so that those responsible for our government and for our public services make, and put into practice, laws, structures and social institutions required by justice and charity, equality and the harmonic and holistic development of all men and women, and by this means bring about the advent of another social order, worthy of the sons and daughters of mankind and of God.

Under the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, talk of the pact evaporated.

“It had the odor of communism,” Brother Uwe Heisterhoff explained to reporter David Gibson. But after the election of Pope Francis, Cdl. Walter Kasper, among other figures, drew attention to the pact. Indeed, Kasper saw the election of Francis as its vindication — the Church had finally embraced a pope who embodied its socialist spirit.

“It was forgotten,” Kasper said to Gibson. “But now [Francis] brings it back. … His program is to a high degree what the Catacomb Pact was.”

One of the signatories to the pact was Dom Helder Camara, a Brazilian archbishop who served as the head of the archdiocese of Olinda and Recife from 1964–1985. He was famous for his open socialism. He put his support for it in the most flattering terms: “My socialism is special, it’s a socialism that respects the human person and goes back to the Gospels. My socialism it is justice.”

During that era of political upheaval, armed socialist struggle was common, and Camara couldn’t bring himself to condemn it: “I respect a lot priests with rifles on their shoulders; I never said that to use weapons against an oppressor is immoral or anti-Christian. But that’s not my choice, not my road, not my way to apply the Gospels.”

Under previous popes, a canonization movement for a figure like Camara would have been unthinkable. Not so under Pope Francis, who routinely commingles Catholicism with radical left-wing politics. In 2015, his Congregation for the Causes of Saints stunned conservatives and delighted liberals by quickly approving a request that the canonization process for Camara be opened up — a development the heterodox publication America called “ground-breaking.”

America noted Pope Francis’ fondness for Camara: “Pope Francis remembers him; they have much in common. Addressing the Brazilian bishops in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, Francis recalled ‘all those names and faces which have indelibly marked the journey of the church in Brazil’ and listed Dom Helder among them.”

According to a recent report from Crux, the canonization movement for Camara is picking up speed: “Brazilian icon of liberation theology moves closer to sainthood.” It reports that “the diocesan phase of a canonization process for the late Archbishop Hélder Câmara of Brazil closed on Dec. 19.”

The postulator of his cause is Capuchin Fr. Jociel Gomes. He spoke to Avvenire, a publication for the Italian bishops that serves as a bellwether of this pontificate. His comments suggested that Camara could get a boost from the recent canonization of Oscar Romero, another Latin American prelate whose politics appealed to Pope Francis: “Both had a deep intimacy with God. Both were pioneers of what Pope Francis preaches today with such vehemence: A church that reaches out, capable of reaching geographical and existential peripheries.”

Camara was nothing if not a forerunner of this liberalizing pontificate. Like Pope Francis, he combined an unusually aggressive commitment to left-wing politics with modernist theology. Nicknamed the “red” bishop, he supported the Orthodox tradition of permitting divorce and remarriage. It is not hard to imagine him supporting Amoris Laetitia.

He supported women priests and described the Church’s prohibition on contraceptives as “an error destined to torture wives and to disturb the peace of many homes,” though later claimed to applaud Pope Paul VI for Humanae Vitae. He played a leading role in the politicization of the Latin American bishops, pushing them to embrace socialist liberation theology at a 1968 conference in Medellin, Colombia.

All of this turned him into a celebrity among members of the liberal elite, who took delight in his suggestion to Pope John XXIII that he “should, in a symbolic gesture, hand over the Vatican and all its fine works of art to UNESCO, and go to live in a much more modest building as Bishop of Rome,” reported The Independent.

Much of the rhetoric and gestures of this pontificate were anticipated by Camara. Is it any wonder that his canonization movement proceeds apace? In the past, popes measured sanctity by traditional works of orthodoxy and holiness. This pontificate measures it by left-wing political engagement. But will this famously pacifist pope canonize a bishop who extolled priests with “rifles on their shoulders”?

If so, it will reveal once again Pope Francis’ desire to remake Catholicism in a liberal image — a socialist church in which the Gospels are swapped out for the Pact of the Catacombs.

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