The Viganò Tapes: The Limits of Authority

The Viganò Tapes consist of 18 tapes each one containing a question that we asked Archbishop Viganò at the end of August 2021.

This exclusive interview covers the current situation in the Church and in the world. This video is #6 of these 18 tapes, in which Archbishop Viganò explains, “If authority fails its duties, it is no longer entitled to demand the obedience of its subjects.”

The remaining tapes will be released in the coming days.

Go here to watch the previous interviews:

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St. Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard was born the tenth child of a noble family at Bockelheim, Germany, in 1098. She was dedicated to the Lord, and grew up with a deep faith. Hildegard was attracted to the ascetic life and frequently visited her aunt, Blessed Jutta, who lived as an “anchor” next to a Benedictine monastery, spending her life as a recluse in prayer, meditation, and quiet contemplation.

Several young women were attracted to the holy life of Jutta, and a convent was founded. After Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard succeeded her as the prioress of the new convent. The community moved to the area of Bingen on the Rhine, and established another convent in the mid-12th century.

Hildegard’s talents were many! Her musical plays were performed in her convents, and her beautiful choral compositions were sung in church. Musicologists and historians of science and religion initiated revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the middle ages; her music has a lovely ethereal quality, which is highly appreciated to this day. Hildegard believed in natural remedies, and produced writings about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, trees, and stones.

Hildegard was accustomed to seeing visions, and recorded them at the request of her spiritual director. She produced major works of theology. She wanted her visions to be formally approved by the Catholic Church, though she herself never doubted the divine origins to her luminous visions. She sought the recommendation of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who brought the writings to the attention of Pope Eugenius III (1145-53); he, with the archbishop of Mainz, approved them and exhorted Hildegard to finish her writings.

Like St. Catherine of Siena, Hildegard advised bishops, popes, and kings. She was considered to have great knowledge of the faith and the natural life. In a turbulent age, Hildegard used her talents in the quest for obtaining true justice and peace. She corresponded with four popes, two emperors, King Henry II of England, and famous clergy. Her works include commentaries on the Gospels, the Athanasian Creed, and the Rule of St. Benedict as well as Lives of the Saints and a medical work on the human body. Hildegard is regarded as one of the greatest figures of the 12th century — the first of the great German mystics, a poet, a physician, a musician, and a visionary. Hildegard died on September 17, 1179. Miracles were reported at her death, and the people honored her a saint. Beatified but not formally canonized, her name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology in the fifteenth century. Her feast day is September 17.

(source: Catholic Exchange)

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Pray for Pope Francis!

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Our Lady of Sorrows

Pieta by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)

Wednesday, September 15 
Our Lady of Sorrows – Memorial 

Roman Ordinary calendar

Letter to the Hebrews 5,7-9.

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; 
and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. 

Psalms 31(30),2-3a.3bc-4.5-6.15-16.20.

In you, O LORD, I take refuge; 
let me never be put to shame. 
In your justice rescue me, 
Make haste to deliver me!   

Be my rock of refuge, 
a stronghold to give me safety.   
You are my rock and my fortress; 
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me. 

You will free me from the snare they set for me, 
for you are my refuge. 
Into your hands I commend my spirit; 
You will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God. 

But my trust is in you, O LORD; 
I say, “You are my God. 
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me 
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.” 

How great is the goodness, O LORD, 
which you have in store for those who fear you, 
and which, toward those who take refuge in you,  
You show in the sight of the children of men. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 19,25-27.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” 
Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. 

Rupert of Deutz (c.1075-1130) 
Benedictine monk 
Commentary on Saint Johns Gospel, 13 ; PL 169, 789

“Behold, your mother.”

“Woman, this is your son. This is your mother.” By what right is the disciple whom Jesus loved the son of the Lord’s mother? By what right is she his mother? By the fact that, without pain, she brought into the world the salvation of us all when she gave birth in the flesh to the God-man. But now she is in labor with great pain as she stands at the foot of the cross. 

At the hour of his Passion, the Lord himself rightly compared the apostles to a woman in childbirth when he said: “When a woman is in labor she is in anguish because a child is born into the world” (cf. Jn 16:21). How much more, then, might such a son compare such a mother, the mother standing at the foot of his cross, to a woman in labor? What am I saying? “Compare”? She is indeed truly a woman and truly a mother and, at this hour, she is truly experiencing the pains of childbirth. When her son was born she did not experience the anguish of giving birth in pain as other women do; it is now that she is suffering, that she is crucified, that she experiences sorrow like a woman in labor, because her hour has come ( Jn 16:21; cf.13:1; 17:1). (…)

When this hour has passed, when the sword of sorrow has completely pierced her soul in labor (Lk 2:35), then no more shall she “remember the pain because a child has been born into the world” – the new man who renews the entire human race and reigns for ever over the whole world, truly born, beyond all suffering, immortal, the firstborn from the dead. If the Virgin has thus brought the salvation of us all into the world, in her son’s Passion, then she is indeed the mother of us all.


The First Sorrow of Our Lady


The Second Sorrow of Our Lady


The Third Sorrow of Our Lady


The Fourth Sorrow of Our Lady


The Fifth Sorrow of Our Lady


The Sixth Sorrow of Our Lady


The Seventh Sorrow of Our Lady



An Age Old Devotion
Devotion to the Sorrows of Mary has always been a favorite devotion among Catholics. It has been sanctioned by the Church and introduced into the Missal and Breviary. In order to keep before our minds the inexpressible sufferings endured for us by the Mother of God, while she lived here on earth with her Divine Son, the Church observes two feasts in honor of the Seven Sorrows of Mary: one on the Friday before Good Friday and the other on September 15th. The Church has enriched, with numerous indulgences, the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, as well as a number of other devotions to the Mother of Sorrows. How touching is the beautiful hymn, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, which the Church intertwines with the public recitation of the Way of the Cross. The Church spares no pains to induce her children to venerate the sufferings of their Heavenly Mother.

Seven Sorrows from Countless Sorrows
Seven of her countless Sorrows have been chosen for our special veneration. These are the ones selected for the mysteries of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. They are:

1. The prophecy of Simeon.
2. The flight into Egypt.
3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple.
4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
5. The Crucifixion.
The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross.
7. The burial of Jesus.

Because of these Seven Sorrows, which pierced her maternal heart, the Mother of God is often represented either as standing beneath the Cross, or as holding the lifeless Body of Jesus on her lap, her heart transfixed by seven swords, according to the prophecy of holy Simeon: “Thine own soul a sword shall pierce” (Luke 2:35).

Holy Church recalls to our mind only seven of Our Lady’s sorrows, but who could form an estimate of their real number! The sufferings of the Mother of God cannot be comprehended; they are inconceivable. But although her whole life was, like that of her Divine Son, a continuous series of sufferings and tribulations, the greatest woes and trials came to her during the week of the bitter Passion and Death of Jesus, when the storm of hatred and fury burst forth with all violence against Him.

During our Savior’s Passion, every glance at her suffering Son forced the sword deeper into Mary’s soul. Every sound of His voice brought special bitterness to her Heart. Every increase of her love for Him—and it increased with every moment of His Passion—augmented her sorrows. The dearer and more precious Our Lord became to her, the more keenly she felt the heart-rending woe of His cruel and ignominious Passion! In her spirit as well as in her senses, she felt every blow that was inflicted upon her Divine Son, every insult that was offered to His sacred Person. Yet no complaint or cry escaped her blanched lips. With heroic fortitude she suppressed her violent grief, and, wholly conformed to the Divine will, generously offered the sacrifice of her Son for the sins of the world.


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New letter from Bishop Schneider on “no jab, no job”

Today, I greet all of those workers who at this very hour are being forced to choose between keeping their job and getting the Covid-19 vaccine or being fired for not getting the vaccine.

Through this brief letter I extend some encouragement in your trials. The Confraternity of Our Lady of Fatima can also offer a religious exemption.

Some of you have already paid the price for the truth about the Covid-19 vaccine and its causal link to abortion.

I am deeply touched by the witness of a lady in the U.S. who writes:

“Today was my last day of packing up the remainder of my stuff. As I would not take the vaccine, I was told to leave last Friday. They called over and asked me to tidy up my desk and said that today would be my last day. My boss is hoping that I will cave in, get vaccinated, and come back. I am extremely sad.”

I am moved by the witness of this woman. I would say to her: “Today you pack your things from your place of work, and while you pack, your treasure is being transferred to the room that Jesus has already prepared for you in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

There are thousands and thousands of Catholics like her who have the courage to choose Christ and who will not throw a pinch of incense to Caesar, just like the very first Catholics of old.

I encourage all of you to hold fast to your conviction and to your faithfulness to Christ.

The sufferings and the losses that you will have to endure are tiny when compared to the
reward that God prepared for you in heaven.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

I urge you to continue on this path that you have chosen of witnessing to the truth that unborn life is sacred and that the trafficking of fetal body parts is an evil industry that cries out to Almighty God for His justice!

As you seek His Kingdom, first and above all, believe that you will be provided for.

Jesus and Mary will open up new ways to provide for your families. I also exhort and encourage the lay faithful of means to step in and help your fellow Catholics to find new meaningful work.

My dear brothers and sisters, these are the prices that we knew we always had to pay to be faithful to Jesus Christ.

And now at this very hour the payment is being required and so we must pray that we will pass the test and be faithful to the Lord Jesus. I give all of you God’s abundant blessing!

+Athanasius Schneider
Auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan

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Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Christ on the Cross. Francisco de Zurbarán (1627)

Tuesday, September 14 
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross – Feast 

Roman Ordinary calendar

Book of Numbers 21,4b-9.

With their patience worn out by the journey, 
the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” 
In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died. 
Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, 
and the LORD said to Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.” 
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. 

Psalms 78(77),1-2.34-35.36-37.38.

Hearken, my people, to my teaching; 
incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 
I will open my mouth in a parable, 
I will utter mysteries from of old. 

While he slew them they sought him 
and inquired after God again, 
Remembering that God was their rock 
and the Most High God, their redeemer. 

But they flattered him with their mouths 
and lied to him with their tongues, 
Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him, 
nor were they faithful to his covenant. 

But he, being merciful, forgave their sin 
and destroyed them not; 
often he turned back his anger 
and let none of his wrath be roused. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 3,13-17.

Jesus said to Nicodemus : “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. 
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” 
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942) 
Carmelite, martyr, co-patron of Europe 
Poem « Signum Crucis », 16/11/1937

“That the world might be saved through him”

(…) Made man for love of men

He made a gift to the souls he has chosen

Of his human life in its fullness.

He who formed each human heart

Desires to make known one day

The secret meaning of each one’s being

By means of a new name that only the one who receives it understands (Rv 2:17).

He has united each chosen soul

In a mysterious and unique way.

Drawing from the fullness of his human life,

He makes a gift to us

Of the cross.

What is the cross ?

It is the sign of greatest shame.

Whoever comes into contact with it

Is rejected from among men.

People who acclaimed him before

Turn away from him with dread and know him no longer.

He has been handed over, defenceless, to his enemies.

Nothing remains for him on earth any more

Except suffering, anguish and death.

What is the cross ?

The sign pointing to heaven.

Far above the dust and mists here below

It reaches up high into pure light.

Therefore abandon what men may take away,

Open your hands, lean against the cross:

Then it will carry you

Into eternal light.

Raise your eyes to the cross :

It stretches out its wooden beams

Like a man opening wide his arms

To receive the whole world.

Come, all you who toil beneath the weight of the burden (Mt 11:28)

And you who have nothing but a cry, on the cross with him.

It is the image of the God who, being crucified, becomes pale.

It rises up from earth to heaven

Like the One who rose heavenward

And desires to bear all of us there together with himself.

Only embrace the cross and you possess him

Who is the Way, the Truth, the Life (Jn 14:6).

If you carry your cross, it will carry you;

It will be your bliss.

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The Exorcistic effect of the Word of God

By Msgr Charles Pope at Community in Mission:

Many often think of exorcism only in relation to driving out demons from possessed people using ancient prayers. But, truth be told, we all have afflictions, oppressions, temptations and other negative thoughts and drives that are influenced by demons. Such influences may be direct and personal, but there are also sources of error and negativity that come from the world; and the world itself is often under the sway of the “prince of this world” (Satan) who spreads his lies and hate.

Among the Lord’s principal weapons in driving demons out is his Word, given to us in the Scriptures and Sacred Teachings of the Church. In the desert, Jesus rebuked every temptation by recourse to scripture. St. Michael is often depicted holding a sword against Satan. But this sword is not a physical sword of shiny steel, it is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph 6:17).

One of the great purposes of the Lord’s Word is to drive back the demons in our lives associated with ignorance, despair, presumption, sinfulness, worldliness, and every other foolish and harmful thought or drive. In the sacred liturgy, the proclamation and preaching of the Word of God is not a mere conveying of information or the telling of ancient stories. The Word of God does not merely inform, it performs, and thereby transforms. In this way demons and their influence are driven back and there is built for us a bulwark of truth. If we faithfully attend Holy Mass and carefully listen to the proclaimed Word of God, it has an exorcistic quality. How much more so then when we also receive the Word Made Flesh, in Holy Communion!

Consider, as a demonstration, the following Scripture passage. It describes Jesus in the Synagogue at Capernaum:

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,  and he cried out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region. (Lk 4:31-37)

Note that Jesus’ authoritative proclamation as he taught them in the synagogue provoked and summoned a demon who stood forth. The authority of Jesus’ words so troubled the demon that he was forced to manifest his presence and admit the truth about Jesus. He now stands before Jesus and is driven out by his mere word.

See the picture here! As noted above, proper and orthodox preaching does this. It is endowed by the Lord’s grace and the power of his word. It summons the opportunistic demons forth who exploit human weaknesses such as ignorance, error, fear, past trauma, despair, doubt, stubbornness, hatred and so forth. While these are human struggles, demons often “pile on” by seeking these doorways, much as bacteria exploit cuts or wounds in our skin. God’s Word, helps to heal us, and disempower demonic strongholds.

Of course Jesus does all this in less than a minute! But the gospels often present deliverance and healing as compressed in time. For most of us, this deliverance, this casting out of negativity and the demons associated is something that takes place over a longer period time, even decades.

Steadily attending to God’s Word through our presence  at holy Mass, devotional reading, the Divine Office and other things, such as parish bible studies, goes to work over time and casts out many evil spirits that assail and tempt us with sinful and worldly thought.

And in this way, God’s holy Word has an exorcistic quality. Of this I am a witness. For almost forty years now, since my entrance into the seminary I have daily read, prayed and studied God’s Word. And it, along with the reception of the Sacraments, has changed me profoundly. Dark, despairing and sinful thoughts have been brought to light and been driven away, along with any demons associated with them. This work is on-going, but the Lord has brought me a mighty long way.

How about you?

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Pope Francis to French Bishops: “They must accept Vatican II, and BASTA!”

Francis to Bishops of France in “Ad Limina” visit, regarding Traditionis Custodes: “They must accept Vatican II, and BASTA!”

 Basta! – Enough!

That was the tone of Francis to the bishops of France — the first group to proceed to the periodical Ad Limina Visit to Rome met with him earlier today (it was the group of the bishops of the South of France and Eastern Catholics).

French Catholic weekly Famille Chrétienne has a summary of the visit, including this paragraph on Traditionis custodes:

Motu proprio: “It is necessary to establish a limit, and basta.”

Regarding the Motu proprio Traditionis custodes, the pope, “insisted on the fact that it must be avoided that the celebration of the ancient rite be a pretext to refuse Vatican II.” “A limit must be established, and basta,” he insisted before the French prelates, so that a liturgical attachment will not be the façade for an ideological position. At the same time, the successor of Peter encouraged them to adopt a “paternal attitude” towards the faithful. 


A short video of the visit below, from the Twitter account of the French Episcopal Conference:

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Sunday Readings and Reflections

Flemish School; Christ Rebuking or Calling Saint Peter; National Trust, Kingston Lacy

Sunday, September 12 
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Roman Ordinary calendar

St. Guy of Anderlecht († c.1012)

Book of Isaiah 50,5-9a.

The Lord opens my ear that I may hear, 
and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. 
I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. 
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. 
He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let him confront me. 
See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong? 

Psalms 116(114),1-2.3-4.5-6.8-9.

I love the LORD because he has heard 
My voice in supplication, 
Because he has inclined his ear to me 
The day I called. 

The cords of death encompassed me; 
The snares of the netherworld seized upon me; 
I fell into distress and sorrow, 
And I called upon the name of the LORD, 
“O LORD, save my life!” 

Gracious is the LORD and just; 
Yes, our God is merciful. 
The LORD keeps the little ones; 
I was brought low, and he saved me. 

For he has freed my soul from death, 
My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. 
I shall walk before the Lord 
In the land of the living. 

Letter of James 2,14-18.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, 
and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? 
So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 
Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 8,27-35.

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, «Who do people say that I am?» 
They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” 
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” 
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. 
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. 
He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” 
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” 

Saint Raphael Arnaiz Baron (1911-1938) 
Spanish Trappist monk 
To know how to wait 03/04/38 (trans. Mairin Mitchell, 1964)

“Whoever wishes to come after me must take up his cross, and follow me”

How can I describe what my soul felt when, from the mouth of the holy prelate, I heard the very thing that is my obsession, that which makes me completely happy in my exile, the love of the Cross! (…) Oh who will give me the command of words which David had, to describe the wonders of the love of the Cross? (…)

Oh! the Cross of Christ, what more can one say? I don’t know how to pray, I don’t know what it is to be good. I haven’t a religious spirit, as I’m full of the world. One thing I know, one thing which fills my heart with joy: in spite of seeing myself so poor in virtue, so rich in the reverse, I have a treasure which I wouldn’t change for anything or anyone – my cross – the Cross of Jesus, that Cross which is my only ease. How can I explain it? Whoever hasn’t felt this can’t have the remotest idea what it is.

Would to God that everyone would love the Cross of Christ! Oh, if the world could know what it is to embrace fully, truly, without reservation and with frenzy of love, the Cross of Christ! (…) How much time is lost in conversations, devotions, exercises that are good and holy but are not the Cross of Jesus and so are not the best forms of worship (…).

Poor, worthless, useless creature (…), dragging out your life, following as best you can the austerities of the Rule, be content with keeping your aspirations in silence, love to distraction that which the world counts nothing because it has no knowledge of it. Adore in silence, without telling anyone of it, the Cross which is your treasure. In silence, at its foot, meditate on the greatness of God, the wonders of Mary, the wretchedness of man (…). Follow your life in silence always, loving, adoring, and united with the Cross. What more can you wish? Savor the sweetness of the Cross, as the Lord Bishop said this morning, find delight in the Cross.

Traditional Latin Mass Readings for this Sunday

Click here for a live-streamed Traditional Latin Mass

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9/11 Twenty years on – I escaped from the 80th floor of the North Tower, then it collapsed on me

From The Independent UK:

In an extract from her memoir ‘Complicity, The United States v. The People of the United States’, Sharon Premoli shares her memory of the day the World Trade Center was attacked 

You know what happened.

Twenty years ago, on what began as a splendid Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, at 8.46:30am, an American Airlines Boeing 767 passenger jet, Flight 11, travelling from Boston to San Francisco at 500mph, weighing about 12 tonnes, carrying about 24,000 gallons of fuel with 93 people on board, some of whose throats had already been slit by the suicide-terrorists, was hijacked and plunged into the 93rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, like a gigantic hurtling meteor from outer space.

It practically tore through the entire width of the building, straight across, from one side to the other. I was on the 80th floor, where I worked for Beast Financial Systems.

In search of eternal martyrdom, the delusional Islamist terrorists methodically planned and successfully executed part one of a gruesome massacre, fuelled by ignorance, abiding hatred of western values and American interventionism.

I had never been the victim of deadly force before, had no military training and could not even watch violence on television or in films. My frame of reference was several levels below where I found myself at that moment. Not that my life had been without pain and struggle, I was keenly aware of the dangers and violence all around us, but that was something that happened to other people, not to me. I was open, privileged and unscathed. Years of global travel for my work without any hint of risk or danger had inured me to a false sense of safety.

The scale of the impact and immediate explosion was unlike anything I could possibly identify. In seconds, my brain took over and did what it was designed to do: prepare me for the first phase of battle, because within that maze of complex circuitry most of us know little about, there is a fail-safe system dedicated to making us fight for our lives, as long as we are breathing.

Adrenaline started pumping through my body and my breath got shorter and faster, but I had to function. Almost immediately after the impact and unknown to us, most of the plane’s 24,000 gallons of fuel rapidly emptied into a freight elevator shaft, coursing down 93 stories, passing us on the way to the basement, where it became a massive fireball, exploding upward into the north tower lobby. The immense power of the impact’s explosion affected most of the upper floors – all the way up to the top at 110, down past 78, where it blew out the very elevator I rode up in just an hour before, igniting everything all the way, past us, setting fire to the 77th floor.

Luckier people waiting for an elevator were blown into the lobby of the Marriott Hotel intact and alive, while others tragically, were instantly incinerated standing at the bank of elevators where I had stood an hour before and where I would have been waiting at that very moment, had I not shown up early for a meeting that was cancelled. The fireball erased our marble lobby in a flash. It disintegrated like tinder in a raging forest fire.

Marriott Hotel guests fled onto the plaza in underwear and bathrobes. One man, struck by the plane’s debris, lost his arm while running away from the hotel. Passengers with their seatbelts still fastened fell from the sky along with body parts. Office papers floated like confetti from the cavernous hole created by the plane’s impact. Anyone on the ground walking too close to the building at that moment was badly injured or crushed by the falling debris and bodies. The carnage was instantaneous, everywhere and would endure for the next one hour and forty-five minutes without pause.

Up on the 80th floor, we mobilised to evacuate, without a leader. No one seemed to have the critical information we needed to escape. I ran to our reception area with a colleague to check the hallway as an exit. The gravity of the situation was ratcheted up when we opened the door to find that the hallway walls had been blown off, forming a cement seal across our front door. The effect was like being stuck in an elevator between floors – the doors open, but to nothing but brick wall. We were now cut off from the company with which we shared the floor. It was reported that the flames down the hall on 80 were “10 feet high” but we didn’t know that we were trapped by fire and destruction from above and below, close to being sealed in a fiery tomb. I still continue to ask why and how did I survive?

We ran to another exit in the back of the office that wasn’t blocked. That stairwell ended at 77 and the door onto that floor was locked. Unknown to us was that 77 was also on fire from the explosion. The raging fire behind it prevented the door from opening. There was no alarm although smoke and fumes were clearly present, the sprinklers didn’t work either. No one spoke to us through the building’s loudspeaker system as they had during drills.

Back up to the 80th floor to get a key that we hoped would open the door to the 77th floor, but that key didn’t work. We were on our own. All building communications had failed. We were without an exit and didn’t know that time was running out, but by now, trauma had closed in on me. 

Every inch of my body had been taken over by the chemical cocktail produced deep within my reptilian brain, the one that dominates, registers and quantifies the odds of survival in extreme danger. It calculates, interprets and delivers the possible outcome as soon as it knows, and it knows before your evolved brain can process what is happening. It focuses the mind, pounds the heart and infuses the body with adrenalin strength never experienced before. The will to live overtakes all systems because nothing else matters.

The only thing I can remember about finally leaving the 80th floor is the Port Authority officer who miraculously found us and led us to 64. We had to stoop down to avoid the fire coming through the ceiling, but I have no recollection of how long it took to get all 17 of us to 64 or down which stairwell. I was looking for signs of hope. I wanted to live. My daughter still needed me.

When we reached the 64th floor, a Port Authority office, there was a tinge of relief, but still no clarity as to the cause of this catastrophe or maybe I can’t remember. I had no idea about what was going on above the crash. In my mind, a bomb was the cause. As I walked from room to room, I could see many people trying to use the landlines, desperately calling home but they didn’t work.

Finally, someone told me that a plane had crashed into the building. My immediate assessment was that the pilot must have had a heart attack and lost control of the plane. There was no other information. The second plane slammed into the 80th floor of the South Tower at 9:03am, practically severing the building in two, but I have no recollection of it.

Precious minutes passed while the Port Authority police were trying to find the safest stairwell for us to exit. Next to me sat a man, bleeding from a head wound, who wanted to talk to his wife. I offered him my hand wipes for the wound and tried to find a working phone so he could speak with his wife, but the situation was deteriorating. The fire above would soon make its way down and time was running out before our floor would be enveloped in flames.

The Port Authority officer who brought us to 64 stood up on a desk and announced that he had been talking to someone on his Walkie-Talkie. “Everyone stay put,” he yelled. “We are waiting for instructions about when to descend into the stairwell. As soon as I get those instructions, we will leave.” He was emphatic about waiting for someone to tell us when we could leave and which stairwell was safe. Waiting for instructions was too risky and our CEO instinctively knew it was a bad idea. He acted immediately, corralling all 17 of us. “We’re not waiting – let’s go!” I assumed everyone was leaving because I never heard the Port Authority officer. I was in the other room with the injured fellow sitting next to me “Time to leave” I told him, helping him up. He seemed dazed, but able to walk. We left and some stayed. 

As we move toward the exit, I filled up two paper cups with water and wet several paper towels to protect us from the smoke. I was uplifted by the act of leaving and moving down the stairwell. As long as we kept moving, I began to believe we would get out alive. As we started down the stairwell in apprehension, fear replaced naiveté.

A dark, ominous rumble vibrated intermittently like a freight train from somewhere in the building. It was the shudder of the steel infrastructure in its final death throes as it melted away and weakened from the fire’s intensity. It would soon abandon its shell and us. The smell was of fuel, strange and intense.

We had descended into a sombre, surreal atmosphere where a silent but palpable unspoken bond of compassion across age, gender and race had become apparent. No panic, no screaming, just tacit fear and the will to help each other. Perhaps it emerged from the brain’s primitive directive to clear out and marshal every possible means for survival through cooperation.

Perhaps it was rooted in some deeper spiritual knowledge or need for connection in the face of death, as a final human gesture of love. The person next to me was no longer the man from the 64th floor. I never saw him again that day and cannot recall where he was in the stairwell.

I was now next to a woman wearing very high heels, carrying a large backpack on her back and weighed down by two heavy shopping bags full of books. A bizarre and somewhat humorous vision in such a tenuous situation. Like me, her purse was slung around her neck and shoulders, freeing our hands to carry other things. I asked her why she was carrying such heavy bags and she told me that her books were important to her.

It was hard for me to picture someone in our situation going through bookcases in search of favorite books, then carefully placing them in shopping bags after a plane has nearly blown up the building and was immediately enveloped in fire, but she too probably didn’t know that at the time. I fled with just my purse, heart pounding, with labored breath. It did not even occur to me to take a favorite photo sitting on my desk of my daughter. I didn’t know I would never again see that picture of her again.

As we advanced ahead of our CEO’s group by one flight, I approached a very large man in obvious distress sitting on the stairs with an open briefcase on his lap, red-faced and sweating profusely, trying to make a call on his cell phone. I stopped and asked if he was ok. He told me he was not, so I offered him my cup of water, which he accepted and it, threw it on his face, in an attempt to cool down. I then offered to get help, as I was not big or strong enough to assist a man of that size, who appeared disabled at this point. He didn’t want me to help or get help and told me that I should “keep going, don’t stop”. 

As I looked back at him while descending, others who stopped and asked if they could do anything for him were also refused. We continued down, walking around him, leaving him behind, but I later learned he was given CPR to no avail. I have often thought about him.

By now, up on the higher floors, a cremation of living souls proceeded as the fire overtook and engulfed the entire upper half of the North Tower. They were at their desks at work, in meetings, at the conference we decided not to attend, or at the Windows on the World restaurant when struck. Doomed on the floors above the fire and with no safe exits, they experienced their final hour and forty-five minutes of life valiantly trying to survive the unspeakable horror about to eclipse them forever, disappearing them into tiny bits of ash and bone that would sit in the Fresh Kills garbage dump on Staten Island for almost 10 years, at times intermingled with household waste, and from which their bereaved families would never get closure. 

They would be gone in every sense. Their desperate attempts to reach their loved ones are memorialised in the ether of 2001, in their email and phone messages and in the pictures and films of their silent hands poignantly waving out of broken windows as they valiantly waited for the firefighters whose radios didn’t work and other rescuers who died trying to get to them, to the shock of those helplessly watching from the street below, on TV and the loved ones who held on to them on the phone until the end. Those who hadn’t already been massacred by the suicide terrorists were in the final stages of their own holocaust and for some, their own suicides. Like Masada, but rather than death by immolation, some would choose death by jumping 105 stories into the arms of their god, including Allah.

And for the survivors, the sight of the gruesome carnage on the plate glass windows, in the plaza, the lobby and elsewhere endures in our memories and dreams all these years later, to remind us that we are still here to bear witness and to seek justice.

As we continued our descent, a colleague behind me tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that her cell phone was working and offered it to me. It was about 6.20am for her when I called my still sleeping daughter in Los Angeles. She immediately knew something was not right. As calmly as possible, I asked her not to turn on the television, which she immediately did. I don’t think she had yet processed the gravity of the situation until I told her that the building was on fire and tried to assure her that I was all right, but she knew me too well. She asked if I was afraid, would I get out, was I OK? I answered yes to all questions. She tried to comfort me, assuring me that I would survive.

I wanted her to know how much I loved her and that I would make it out. If I died, she would be left without any parents, grandparents and no siblings and she had been through so much since her first cancer diagnosis. We only had a minute together. Others needed to call, so we said goodbye and “I love you”, again and again before handing back the phone, not knowing if this would be our last conversation.

As we approached the 44th floor landing, a tall, slim African American man, possibly from the Port Authority, was positioned at the doorway. Just as we arrived on the landing close to him, he stopped us to allow the people from 44 to merge into the human flow of traffic in the stairwell so that they could descend as well.

Heart still pounding, I asked him if we were out of danger. Did he think we would be all right? With his kindly face, he smiled and told me that he knew I would be all right because he was going to pray for me, and God was watching over me.

He then asked me if I knew any hymns, but I couldn’t think of any. Just as we started to descend again, he began to sing a hymn in a beautiful alto voice and as we descended, he continued to sing the hymn for all of us. I looked back at him and saw him smiling at me. In spite of all the fear and horror of that day, it was a profoundly touching moment during a continuum of doom. We could still hear his voice two flights down.

At about the 30th floor, we saw the firefighters ascending for the first time. They were dressed in full gear, weighed down by the protective hats, oxygen tanks, axes, hoses and other heavy equipment they must have known could never extinguish the fires that raged above. Flushed and grim-faced in their knowledge of how dire the situation was and how it could unfold, they courageously fulfilled their faithful promise to transcend their fear and subordinate their will to live, steadfast until the very end. Like soldiers facing combat, they passed us, heading directly upward for the floors from which we fled and into the smell of death. Their presence filled us with hope. We thanked them. As long as they were there, we would be safe. They would protect us and make sure we got out alive – all of us. Three hundred and forty-three of them did not. And their deaths did not end on that day. 

Immediately after the attacks, they returned to finish the job, unmasked and exposed, lied to and unaware they were again risking their lives to find survivors, the dead or any piece or symbol of life left in the pile of smoldering malignant debris that would also claim their souls in one way or another.

We made several stops on the way down that morning. Brave men and women from the Port Authority and people at work had stationed themselves at the landings of floors to help people exit into the stairwell. They were managing the flow off the floors, stopping the downward movement from time to time, enabling every floor to enter into the long, quiet, final exodus out of Tower One, yielding to the countdown that would end with their own deaths.

As we descended, many prayed, some aloud, some silently, making their own solemn pact with their god. One has to wonder what was relinquished in exchange for life – what promises were made if their lives could be spared? As the differences that separated us dissolved, would the profound connection experienced that morning endure? If we were separate in life, then that morning we would be together and equal in death.

My hopes were lifted the closer we came to the lobby, which is when the stairwell started filling with water. Sprinklers were on full force and in some spots, water was already pooled and shin-deep. The stairs were wet and slippery.

We arrived to a shocking scene in the lobby. Unrecognisable, completely gone and awash in the water from above, the airplane fuel fireball had all but erased it. Debris and water were everywhere. The marble floors were gone. In the distance, I could make out what had been the marble reception desks where visitors had to present themselves for their passes during business hours. Bare light bulbs hung in the air. It was dark, brown and dismal. How many had been killed or injured here? We were quickly led toward what used to be revolving doors that separated our lobby from the concourse.

That floor was also covered in water and it was here that I fell and injured my foot. The man standing at that doorway reached out to me and told me to give him my hand. “Let me help you,” he said. He then did the same for all those behind me. He was a civilian there risking his life to make sure we got through the concourse. My foot throbbed with pain and immediately began to swell. Looking ahead, I saw my colleagues about to get on the escalator that would lead to the Plaza level in No. 5 World Trade Center and out to the street and safety, but I couldn’t walk very well or keep up with them anymore.

A colleague came back to help me across the concourse, onto the escalator, which to my amazement, worked. This was truly a lucky break because I couldn’t walk up the stairs on my injured foot. The escalator was carrying me within minutes of escape. I could see the sunlight pouring through the huge windows overlooking the Plaza. That magnificent fall day was still in our sights and we were moving toward it. My spirits were so lifted by this wonderful light and my fear replaced by genuine optimism. We would be outside shortly, walking up Church Street in that glorious sunlight, away from the danger and horror. Behind me on the escalator a long human chain extended downward across the concourse and back up the stairwell.

One by one, my colleagues stepped onto the floor in number 5 World Trade Center, inside, between the Borders Book Store and Citibank’s plate glass windows and the wall of window overlooking the Plaza itself. How many times I had stood outside or passed in front of that very window. As I was transported to the top of the escalator, I put my uninjured foot down first.

Just as I placed my other foot onto the floor, I heard a man yelling, “Run, and don’t look to your left”. Actually, I later found out that he was a firefighter and his left was my right, the side with the view, through enormous, multi-storied, plate glass windows, of those who were jumping from the highest floors. One survivor from the 81st floor reported seeing the head of a young woman and windows splattered with blood. This nightmarish scene of carnage is what the firefighter was trying to protect us from seeing when he told us not to look out on to that Plaza.

What followed immediately was an enormous rumble, nuclear and otherworldly that overtook us. The ground rippled around us, as if a volcanic eruption had exploded from beneath the earth.

In a split second, the light I was optimistically following out of the building was disappearing. In its place, as I stood frozen in that one moment permanently carved into my consciousness, a brown colossus just feet away, advanced toward us and upon us, a wall, stories high, moving with such momentum across the Plaza like a runaway bullet train full of the now infamous toxic stew that was number 2 World Trade Center. It was collapsing, carrying tons of concrete, asbestos, glass, its dead, those on the Plaza and we were next. The plate glass window that separated us from it was swallowed up in the path of the moving wall – gone in a second.

With staggering brute force, it slammed down on us like a tsunami at close range, blowing off the ring on a left hand finger, an earring from a pierced ear and the jacket held tightly in my hands. The last thing I remember is looking down at my feet, with my navy shoes still on them, as I rose up in the air like a piece of debris before I girded myself for a full-frontal collision with the Borders Bookstore or Citibank plate glass window. It was 9:59am. I remember the impact, but I don’t remember the fall.

What happened next has taken me years to recall, validate, process and there is probably more still unknown to me. I was airborne like a rag doll and fell close to the impact, lost consciousness and was covered by debris and dirt.

We had been separated from colleagues in the stairwell as we stopped to allow people from one of the floors to enter. Half of our group was still on 17 when the South Tower came down, but I didn’t know it at the time. The human chain behind me on the escalator was gone. They could no longer get up the escalator because it was blocked, filled with the remains of the South Tower and whatever was brought in with it. They were below in the concourse or still in the stairwell, blown back by the extraordinary force of the collapse. 

When I regained consciousness, I was aware, but in total blackness, the kind of complete black that one might imagine being buried alive, and I was. Time dissolved and a strange overwhelming numbness shrouded my body and mind from within in the immediate moments after the collapse. Sound and noise merged with the darkness into total silence. I no longer inhabited myself. I was there, but my senses were switched off. Blind and deaf. Perhaps dead. I couldn’t move and couldn’t breathe. I was face down and my mouth, nose and lungs were full of the pulverised building that had just collapsed. I could not breathe and was choking before I actually knew it. I lay there, trying to feel where I was because without any spatial orientation, it was impossible to know if I was standing up or lying down. I put my hand into my mouth and desperately tried to scrape the pulverized debris from my tongue and mouth with my nails.

As I lay there in the blackness, I placed my hands on what I thought was the ground in an effort to feel my location and orientate myself. I was not on the ground however. It took a few moments for me to realize that I was on top of someone, a body, someone who was motionless, who did not speak or cough or indicate in any way that he or she was alive. The body was completely still. I heard no breathing and felt no struggle from it. My hands felt their way around a corpse. I don’t know if it was a whole body or a torso or where it came from, but I believe it was a man. I know that he had been injured and was bleeding, because my clothes across the middle part of my body and my purse absorbed his blood. I would later find the dark red blood encrusted like wet cement on and inside my purse and my wallet.

As I tried to free myself, I was too numb to feel the terror or revulsion one might experience knowing that I was on top of a dead stranger and gently pushed up, but my legs had no strength and felt detached from the rest of me.

They were like rubber. I tried to get up, but a weakening and warm wave surged through them and my upper body every time I attempted to move.

My lungs were struggling to take in oxygen and the pain in my chest began to intensify as it spread from should to shoulder and down through the middle of my chest. I was alone in the blackness with a dead person, couldn’t breathe, my lungs burned intensely, my windpipe and nose were blocked, I couldn’t move, see or hear and now I had serious chest pain that felt like a heart attack. I had to get up, but each effort produced waves of weakness that kept me from standing.

Blackness gave way to dark gray. I was not blind after all and could turn my head to see a large white light. As it got closer, a tall man carrying a large searchlight and wearing an oxygen mask came toward me. He took off his mask and put it on my face, telling me to breathe so that the oxygen would flow, but I couldn’t take a deep breath. He held me up. My debris-filled lungs could not expand and it felt as though I was choking. I kept trying, and at last, got some precious oxygen, but with short, small breaths. 

I tried again to get up, but this time I had help. My rescuer with the light and the oxygen tank on his back later told me he was a New York City detective. I was finally able to rally the strength to slowly get up, using the rescuer’s hands and the dead stranger’s body for stability, but my legs barely held out. I often remember what it felt like to touch this dead stranger, how he didn’t move and how he unknowingly cushioned my fall.

A scene from Dante’s Inferno emerged in the wake of the collapse. Life converged with death. We were enclosed in a dark cave of carnage, suffocation and destruction, as though we had passed through the gates of hell on our way to promised salvation. I was upright, numb and catatonic, eyes caked with glass and dirt, legs like rubber and my chest pain intensifying along with the burning in my lungs. 

Breathing was a frightening struggle and consciousness played out in slow motion. I no longer knew that I had a child who still needed me or colleagues who were with me somewhere in this space. I no longer felt any pain from my foot or the other injuries to my arms and legs. I was present, but just barely, a tentative witness in a nightmare spinning out of control. Nothing seemed real and everything, surreal. I didn’t know it but time was running out until the next collapse of the North Tower.

In these initial moments on my feet, only present to the extent that I was standing, I experienced the first separation from my inner knowledge that I was alive or present, a shift or detachment, and then surrender to what I believed was my death. I no longer knew that I was alive, even though I was standing.

I knew I had crossed over with those present in this space. We were all dead. Looking around me, surrounded by a terrible scene, I felt no fear in this timeless muted state, alternating between being alive and being dead. This alternate state is referred to medically as “disassociation”, sometimes occurring during or after a very traumatic event. It marked the death of my former self.

Two firefighters trapped with us repeatedly tried to break through the glass, but with no success. In a final attempt, I am told they removed their oxygen tanks from their backs and threw them against a glass door until it broke. I have no recollection of what that looked like, how big the opening was, how long it took, or even exiting the dark cave of death. Memory allows me only a glimpse of the moments after; perhaps because once outside and surrounded by men in FBI jackets, I experienced another episode of disassociation and again for a brief time, believed I was dead. Minutes would pass before the collapse of the North Tower, but in the meantime, the suicides from the North Tower continued.

A woman in front of us screamed in horror that this was “Armageddon, f**king Armageddon!”. At this point, there were no more ambulances or vehicles to help anyone. I have no recollection of the site after the South Tower collapsed, or what I saw or didn’t see. My rescuer quickly brought me to a building opposite us, on Vesey Street, where he sat me on the lobby stairs, continuing to administer oxygen to me. I thanked him and asked his name which I could barely hear. It was Roy or Ray Tanner or Tanney, perhaps Tierney and to this day, I have not been able to find him.

Injured and frightened people had taken refuge in the lobby of this building, unaware of the approaching cataclysm just feet away about to engulf us within the next minutes. On the floor in the middle of the lobby, a distraught man on his knees cried out in Spanish. He wailed and sobbed, lifted his arms upward, as if to beseech god, and with his anguished voice filled with profound grief, uttered a soulful lamentation transcending language. He was completely understood. I couldn’t tell if he was injured or had witnessed too much from the outside. For those who stood on the street looking up, the trauma from helplessly watching an overwhelming scene of horrific carnage and suicide was compounded by the devastating collapse from which they had narrowly escaped themselves. 

With better vision and growing numbness, I walked out of the Vesey Street building looking battered and wretched. My hair was caked in dirt and glass, its brown color completely hidden by the grayness of the building’s debris. My clothing was covered in it. Near my waist were bloodstains belonging to the man who lay under me. I couldn’t see the large hematomas that covered my arms, from my collision with Borders plate glass window nor the blood on my knees and legs. My foot had swelled and was now painful, but I was oblivious to all the signs and symptoms of injury and shock and to the collapse itself. My body was still flooded with fear and cortisol and I was on automatic pilot. At 10.29am, I was almost at the corner of Vesey and Church when the North Tower collapsed.

I don’t remember the moment of the second collapse or the noise, only looking behind me to see a huge gray cloud, a massive wall of toxic dirt, upon us yet again.

Out of nowhere, a young man grabbed my arm, told me to take off my shoes and to run. He thought my shoes were preventing me from running, but it was my injury. Even though we were already down the street from the collapse, the dust cloud was gaining on us, a blinding gale force wind. The young man tried to help me, holding on to me and at the same time, covering his face.

He stayed with me while I hobbled as fast as I could and struggled to breathe, trying to keep pace with him. After a few minutes he apologised and told me that he had to run.

I stood there alone, watching him sprint for his young life up Church Street, a heavy brief case thrashing against his leg as I slowly limped away in the dust cloud, still alive but detached from my shattered body, already a deadened soul.

Sharon Premoli is a plaintiff-activist in the lawsuit In re Terrorist Attacks. As an injured survivor of the World Trade Center North Tower’s 80th floor, she has lobbied for 9/11 legislation and has blogged on the Huffington Post. 

Her memoir, Complicit, The United States v The People of the United States chronicles her life following the attacks and her experience in the 19-year legal fight for justice. It will be published after the conclusion of the litigation. 

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How the Vax Debate Follows a Dark and Predictable Script for Christians

Pope Francis and the Catholic bishops have been a big help to those who seek to destroy our religious freedoms.

A class action lawsuit has been filed in Maine against vaccine mandates, claiming that such mandates violate religious freedom and the First Amendment, which of course, they do:

Of course the First Amendment gives us the right to refuse a vaccine that has not been adequately tested. News reports show that people have died from taking the vaccine and scores more have suffered severe, life-threatening side effects. Large vax clinics in Raleigh and Denver, for instance, had to be shut down because so many people were suffering severe side effects. Japan just recently had to refuse a shipment of 1.6 million doses because they were found to be tainted with foreign substances. And no testing has been done to determine if the vaccine is safe for pregnant mothers. It is sheer madness to act as if we know that these medicines are safe and effective. This is human experimentation, and it is grossly immoral. And given the high survival rate from COVID infection, there really is no justification for the draconian lockdowns and vaccine mandates that we have been subjected to.

And then there are the moral implications of accepting vaccines that rely, for testing and production purposes, on the cell tissue of aborted fetuses.  Naturally, one would expect some protests. But the bad news for us Catholics is that the bishops are getting in the way. Many bishops have openly declared their opinion that there is no valid religious exemption for Catholics concerning vaccine mandates. Some bishops have even issued their own mandates for diocesan employees:

Screenshot from RNS

You Ain’t Amish, Buddy.

Thus, while some people may be able to opt out of mandatory vaccines for religious reasons, Catholics may be out of luck on that score. It’s a dynamic of our Constitutional freedom that is often overlooked: Not all First Amendment protections are equal, especially in the case of religious freedom. John Zmirak explains in a recent article:

For this to make sense, we need to remember some history. Through the Vietnam War, Catholics had trouble claiming conscientious objector status. Why? Because their own church did not clearly object to fighting in wars. And US courts look to the official statements of a church to determine whether First Amendment claims are in fact legit.


An Amish conscript on the other hand, would have a much easier time avoiding the front lines. That’s because the Amish are pacifists, as anyone will know who remembers the popular Harrison Ford movie on the subject. The upshot here is that religious freedom is not the same for all Americans. Differences in religious teaching and doctrine translate into different interpretations and applications of the First Amendment. 

So when the bishop of San Diego says that religious exemptions for vaccines have no basis in Church teaching, he’s making a political statement with massive legal and Constitutional implications. He’s also lying. And, in the process, he’s taking away your freedom to follow your conscience.

An Amish conscript on the other hand, would have a much easier time avoiding the front lines. That’s because the Amish are pacifists, as anyone will know who remembers the popular Harrison Ford movie on the subject. The upshot here is that religious freedom is not the same for all Americans. Differences in religious teaching and doctrine translate into different interpretations and applications of the First Amendment. 

So when the bishop of San Diego says that religious exemptions for vaccines have no basis in Church teaching, he’s making a political statement with massive legal and Constitutional implications. He’s also lying. And, in the process, he’s taking away your freedom to follow your conscience.

Ohio Case in Point

How all this plays out in the political arena is aptly illustrated by the following video clip. A young priest testified before the Ohio State Legislature against vaccine mandates. Take a look at the clip and note well the nature of the pushback that the priest received. I’ll give you a hint: “But Pope Francis says . . .”:

The Vax Drama Is an Omen of Coming Religious Persecution

Read on at New Walden

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The unusual new normal on Chinese bishops’ appointments

Bishop Francis Cui Qingqi at his Mass of consecration.

Ed. Condon at The Pillar:

The consecration of a new bishop for China, where dozens of dioceses remain vacant, should be big news. But the way the appointment was announced, both in China and in Rome, was unusual.And it could suggest ongoing dysfunction at the heart of the Church’s agreement with the Chinese Communist Party.

Customarily, episcopal appointments are announced in the Vatican’s daily news bulletin, usually months before bishops are actually consecrated and installed. Bishop Cui’s appointment was not announced in that way. 

Instead, the director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, released a brief statement Wednesday confirming the bishop’s appointment and consecration

Bruni made the statement “in response to questions from journalists,” and said the bishop’s appointment had been made by Pope Francis on June 23 of this year. 

The Vatican offered no explanations as to why the appointment was not announced by the Vatican in June, why it had not appeared in the day’s list of resignations and appointments, and whether Pope Francis had actually approved it.

The sequence of events was, in a word, strange, and inconsistent with the Vatican’s way of doing things. 

Except for China. In fact, Cui is the second bishop in a row whose consecration as a bishop has been announced by Chinese ecclesial authorities without prior announcement of the appointment by the Vatican. 

Last November, Bishop Thomas Chen Tianhao was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Qingdao. The consecration was announced by the CPCA without any prior announcement from Rome. His appointment was confirmed in a similar statement from Bruni, again issued “in response to questions from journalists.”

Several sources close to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of State, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and in China — and all familiar with the appointment process  —  told The Pillar the consecration of both bishops had been organized by the CPCA without consultation in Rome.

One Vatican official close to the Secretariat of State told The Pillar on Wednesday that “Rome doesn’t announce the appointments ahead of time because no one knows.”

The same source said the Vatican’s statement that Pope Francis had formally appointed Cui in June was “a generous interpretation of events.”

“If it was possible to appoint and announce new Chinese bishops in the same way as every other appointment, [the Vatican] absolutely would,” the source said. “It would show the agreement was working and the situation of the Church in China was normalizing. That doesn’t happen because it isn’t possible. Because there is nothing normal about how these things happen.”

A senior ecclesiastical official in China told The Pillar that, the Vatican’s formal agreement with the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops notwithstanding, the actual amount of Vatican influence over appointments is “anyone’s guess.”

According to Chinese law, Catholic bishops in the country are “are approved and consecrated by the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference,” working together with the CPCA, with whom the bishop must register. 

The law includes no formal acknowledgment of Vatican involvement in the appointments.

According to sources close to the process, the pope’s approval of a candidate may come before or after the CPCA’s final decision, or even not at all, effectively leaving Rome with the choice of accepting Chinese appointments as they happen, or else face a renewed schism between Rome and the CPCA — the Chinese ecclesial association which oversees the Church in China, and which has long appointed bishops in China without Vatican approval. That practice was supposed to end with the 2018 Vatican-China agreement.

Cui, it should be noted, is reportedly close to the Beijing government, and has been selected by the Chinese Communist Party for several ecclesiastical oversight roles. 

If Chinese bishops are still being appointed and consecrated without formal or prior papal agreement, it would suggest that, three years after the Vatican-China deal was signed, Beijing has secured Vatican recognition of the formerly schismatic CPCA and its bishops, while offering up no apparent concessions in return. 

While Francis has made it clear that he will not walk away from the negotiating table, or the Vatican-China deal, it seems increasingly clear that the pope accepts China has outmaneuvered the Church.

In an interview last week, Francis acknowledged that the progress made on appointing bishops under the Vatican China deal had produced “questionable results.” He also appeared to accept that Beijing was not a reliable party to do business with. Nevertheless, the pope recommitted himself, and the Church, to continue with the diplomatic process.

“China is not easy, but I am convinced that we should not give up dialogue,” Francis said. “You can be deceived in dialogue, you can make mistakes, all that… but it is the way.”

If Beijing is betting the pope will accept effective control by the CPCA of the Church in China rather than declare another schism, there are signs they are likely right. 

But the increasingly public way in which the CCPA is flexing control over episcopal appointments is costing the Vatican “face” over the already unpopular deal. 

Rome is not without diplomatic countermoves it could make, if it wanted to push back on China.

If Pope Francis wants a dialogue with the mainland that respects the Holy See as a real partner, he may have to consider thinking outside the box.

While the “sinicization of religion” in China is a policy aim for President Xi Jinping, far higher on his list of priorities is the diplomatic isolation of the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be a rebel province. 

Taiwanese annexation, or “reunification” in the mind of China, has long among Xi’s overriding ambitions as president. As Beijing makes the derecognition of Taiwan a condition for trade and investment deals, the Holy See has become the last major world diplomatic power to formally acknowledge Taiwan as a sovereign state.

Although the Holy See technically has full bilateral diplomatic relations with Taiwan, for years its embassy has not had a nuncio assigned to lead its mission. Instead, the nunciature has been led by a charge d’affairs since 1971. 

If Pope Francis wanted to signal his dissatisfaction with the way China is managing episcopal appointments on the mainland, the threat of appointing an ambassador to Taiwan might be enough to make Beijing take more seriously its obligations in the Vatican-China.

It would be a highly unusual move by the Vatican, but little about Vatican-China relations is normal.  

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Stop Pretending the COVID Jab is Morally Equivalent to Other Meds

By Suzan Sammons at Crisis Magazine:

In the unfortunate battle between Catholics who promote the COVID-19 injections and those who oppose them, several specious arguments have arisen. Proponents point to a long list of commonly used medications they say were also developed or tested using the cells of HEK-293. This is a fetal stem cell line propagated from an aborted baby whom those who care about the humanity of children named Johanna (she was a person not a licence plate number). Johanna’s cells were used to develop or test three of the four available COVID-19 injections, while the fourth used stem cells from another aborted baby.

Catholic jab promoters tell us opponents that if we forgo the injection because of its derivation from Johanna, then we better boycott aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, Tums, Maalox, and a host of other common medications because they were also tested on Johanna or other fetal stem cell lines.

However, aspirin was invented in 1897 when a scientist modified the naturally occurring plant compound salicylic acid. Needless to say, no tests on aborted babies’ cells were performed before Bayer brought the product to market.

In one article that pushed this “logic,” Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC included a list of medications with a few linked studies next to each, endeavoring to show that the medications’ connections with Johanna were equivalent to those of the COVID injections. This doesn’t pan out either. I spot-checked three different medications’ linked studies, reading the full articles (not just the abstract). None of these studies constituted evidence that the original development or testing of these medications used Johanna’s cells. 

In each case, the studies were conducted by academic researchers looking for further information on the mechanisms of action or the cellular targets of action for existing drugs, a common research goal that is often part of the development of new drugs or new uses for existing drugs. For instance the 2015 study referenced for Albuterol (which was invented in 1972) sought to determine how the positively charged ions of the medication react with negatively charged transporters in the smooth muscle of the lungs to determine whether the cations assist them in reaching their target receptors. 

Is it right for these researchers to employ Johanna’s cells? Of course not. But it is also not right for Catholic jab proponents to imply (or state) that a drug like aspirin is morally equivalent to Moderna’s COVID injection. The former was brought to market as a pain treatment without the use of stem cells from an aborted baby, and with no intention for such cells to be used in the future. The latter was brought to market using Johanna. 

The other effort to marginalize jab opponents consists in calling us “hypocritical” if we use other vaccines that were derived from aborted babies or “anti-vax” (i.e. irrational) if we do not. The Church has addressed the vaccine-abortion link previously, in the pre-Covidtide times of the early 2000’s. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, directed the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) to elucidate the morality of vaccines derived from the stem cells of aborted babies. The resulting 2005 document is a somewhat thorough consideration of the moral implications of this issue for scientists, corporations, healthcare workers, and individuals. Recently, a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) specifically addressed the COVID jabs.

As we know, the documents assert that development of vaccines using Johanna or another aborted child is always gravely immoral, but they say that grave proportional reasons may exist to justify an individual’s use of such a vaccine. (Coercion of individuals to receive an injection is always condemned.) Therefore, we must weigh on one side of a sort-of “moral balance scale” the evils associated with the vaccine—for instance, the level of cooperation we have with abortion by using a drug resulting from it—against, on the other side, the evil that may arise from forgoing the injection.

Sadly, the 2020 document first takes pains to note that the abortion of Johanna occured in “the last century,” a factor apparently lightening the load on her side of the scale. I wonder how the CDF authors would feel if the cells used were from Jewish victims of Nazi concentration camps way back “in the last century”?

It then characterizes the threat of COVID-19 as an example of a serious enough reason to justify the “passive material cooperation” with the evil of taking the jab. This is a failure (or refusal) to weigh all factors: the purported seriousness of the virus has been (overstated and) placed on one side of the scale, while “only” the passive material cooperation with the evil of Johanna’s murder is on the other. 

First, there’s more in Johanna’s bucket than the CDF document acknowledges. Unlike rubella, which the Vatican also pointed to in 2005 as an illness whose seriousness justifies the use of abortion-tainted vaccines, COVID-19 has spawned an entire culture of lies, coercion, and godlessness all its own. 

Let’s stop pretending that the COVID injections are at all comparable with other medications and vaccines. Participation in the jab program is participation in the COVID regime, a “sanitary dictatorship” that has us locking elderly patients away from their families; covering the faces of children and keeping them from seeing the image of God in their classmates and teachers;  replacing real relations between persons with “virtual connection”—the feeling of a hug, a whisper in the ear, a firm handshake having become mere vectors of infection in the COVID culture. 

Failure to acknowledge these evils, speaking of the COVID injection as if it can somehow be seen as just another shot, is the worst kind of spiritual and moral make-believe.

People with health-related and moral objections to the jab are losing their jobs. Would this be happening if 80% of us refused the injection? No, it’s happening because most people are accepting it. So much for the “moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically” that was highlighted in PAL’s 2005 document. How can the Vatican both encourage us to fight the evil of the use of Johanna and her peers while also telling us it’s some kind of moral duty to get the injection? 

So for you who say, “I got the vaccine, but I don’t think people should be forced to get it,” thanks for nothing. Your getting the vaccine is what contributes to your neighbor losing her job and your nephew getting kicked out of medical school. Do you think vaccine mandates would be possible if most people weren’t willing to comply with them? Would tanks be deployed in Australia to enforce COVID lockdowns if most citizens there weren’t willing to abide by COVID mandates? 

Secondly, on the other side of the balance scale, the biggest open secret: the threat of death from COVID-19 is not grave. So, your 79-year-old grandfather contracts the virus. He has a 3.2% chance of dying from it. That sounds a bit grim. But you should also realize that a 79-year-old man has a 5% chance of dying within a year from all causes. Older folks do tend to die sooner than younger folks. 

COVID-19 is classified as a low infection mortality rate disease (as opposed to MERSA, for instance), with higher income countries exhibiting at most a mortality rate of 1.15%of infected individuals (the rate is lower in lower income countries, which have younger populations). Even if that number hasn’t been inflated and the jab is actually 100% effective against the virus for every person with no side effects (I can play make-believe, too), the “evil” of forgoing the COVID injection is minimal. 

Meanwhile, the evils on the other side of the balance—passive material cooperation with the abortion of Johanna and compliance with the COVID regime—should constitute a serious burden of conscience for Catholics.

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German priest challenges COVID jabs and LGBT agenda, gets forced out of parish

A letter to the diocese emphatically expressed ‘our indignation and horror’ at the priest over criticizing ‘the current zeitgeist’ in his monthly bulletin to the faithful attached to the Traditional Latin Mass.

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RECKLINGHAUSEN, Germany (LifeSiteNews):

A German priest will be transferred to the Czech Republic after the parish where he was allowed to say the Traditional Latin Mass reported him to the diocese for questioning mainstream narratives about the COVID-19 vaccine, homosexuality, and gender ideology. 

Fr. Michael Ramm FSSP, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, was responsible for the faithful in the Ruhr area, the largest urban area in Germany. He had permission to celebrate two Masses each Sunday at St. Michael Catholic Church in Recklinghausen, as well as one Mass each Thursday at a different church. 

On August 24, three representatives of the parish council sent a letter — obtained by LifeSiteNews — to the vicar general of the Diocese of Münster, Fr. Klaus Winterkamp, as well as to Bishop Rolf Lohmann, the auxiliary bishop in charge of the western part of the diocese. 

The signatories said they wanted “to emphatically express our indignation and horror” at Ramm over criticizing “the current zeitgeist” in his monthly bulletin to the faithful attached to the Traditional Latin Mass. 

They quoted extensively from Ramm’s bulletin for August and September: 

What do we think today about the zeitgeist that prevailed in the Third Reich? And what will future generations say about our present zeitgeist? … How will they judge this entire COVID panic in the future? How will future generations judge this ‘voluntary compulsory vaccination’? What will they say about the fact that perfectly healthy people are being vaccinated with a genetic vaccine, for the production of which people were murdered? What will people say later about the fact that today the whole world is exposed to such an unnecessary risk through vaccination? What will people say later about this gender ideology to which everyone is bowing today? Will it be celebrated in the future as a heroic deed that soccer stadiums are illuminated in rainbow colors? 

The representatives of the parish council called Ramm’s questions “deliberate false statements and conspiracy myths.” In an apparent reference to people practicing homosexuality or being confused about their gender, they said that “groups of people are discriminated against that we as a community would like to encounter openly.” 

The letter to the Diocese of Münster lamented that people entering the church might see Ramm’s monthly bulletin and be offended:

We do not want people who visit our church to be confronted with such statements. This contradicts how we as a community understand and live our Christianity here in this place. We want to be a welcoming church, but hospitality stops where other people are hurt and discriminated against. 

Additionally, the letter referred to several deaths related to COVID-19 in a nursing home for people suffering from dementia next to the church: “What might a person think who visits his relative and perhaps comes to our church one day later, if we have such statements on display on our church premises and thus at least tolerate them?” The letter provided no answer to that question. 

Days later, Fr. Klaus Winterkamp, the Diocese of Münster’s vicar general, told the district superior of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter — incidentally addressing not the current superior, Fr. Stefan Dreher FSSP, but his predecessor, Fr. Bernhard Gerstle — that both Bishop Felix Genn of Münster “and I can understand the anger of the pastor and the committees.” 

“By no means is it acceptable that the proclamation within the liturgical celebration is used to express private opinions with regard to the coronavirus pandemic or the COVID vaccine or other socio-political problems/challenges,” Winterkamp wrote in an email obtained by LifeSiteNews. “It is also totally unacceptable in this context to accuse Pope Francis of expressing his own opinion when the proclamation, of all things, is used to disseminate private opinions.” 

“We certainly agree that the proclamation of the Good News within the liturgy serves precisely this purpose: to proclaim the Good News and not one’s own opinion, certainly not on socio-political or medical issues,” the vicar general continued. 

Within the Diocese of Münster, at least six churches offered “blessings” for homosexual couples in May. The diocese’s news website, published by Bishop Genn, ran an article advertising the events that took place across Germany. The diocese did not respond to a request for comment on what consequences the priests and parishes involved in those “blessings” had to face. 

A spokesman for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter told LifeSiteNews that questions of personnel would not be addressed in the media, but explained that the district’s leadership had decided “to reorganize the responsibilities in the Recklinghausen apostolate in order to pacify the situation and to be able to maintain the pastoral care offered by the Fraternity there without restriction in the future.” 

Jacek Spendel, who attends the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Michael Catholic Church in Recklinghausen, told LifeSiteNews that Ramm will be transferred to the Czech Republic “before the end of this month,” even though he doesn’t speak the language. 

“Fr. Michael addresses uncomfortable topics, and not everyone likes it,” Spendel said. 

“Fr. Michael has never condemned anyone, and he keeps telling us to be very careful about judging,” he continued. “He condemns the sin, never the sinner. That is the experience we have in the community.” 

Spendel pointed out that the Fraternity had bought a residence in Recklinghausen “only in March. The whole community has actively given money and helped with the renovations. Now the house will be empty.” 

“We are now left without a shepherd,” he said. “The community, which is very young and dynamic, doesn’t deserve that. What Fr. Michael has built up here in a very short time, how he has strengthened unity — it’s all incredible.” 

Ramm had, among other things, founded a girls’ choir, started new programs of catechesis, and strengthened families, according to Spendel. 

The spokesman for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter told LifeSiteNews that “there is no definite decision at this time regarding the future pastoral care at the apostolate in Recklinghausen.” 

For now, Spendel said, a priest of the Fraternity will travel 30 minutes every Sunday from a residence in Oberhausen to say Mass in Recklinghausen, “which is a pity, as pastoral care from a distance is very difficult and does not bring as much fruit.” 

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