Those who do not know Benedict XVI (or who know him too well)

The frenzy generated around the letter that Benedict XVI sent to the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne, and his longtime friend, reveals much of what the Church has become and, in particular, how divisive the internal debate in the Church has become.

In his moving and personal remembrance of Cardinal Meisner, Benedict underscored how hard it was for Cardinal Meisner, to “leave his office, in a moment when the Church needed shepherds capable of countering the dictatorship of the spirit of the times and fully resolved to act and think from the point of view of faith.” But – the Pope Emeritus added – “I was even more impressed by the fact that, during the last period of his life, he had learned to let things go, living always more with the deep certainty that the Lord does not abandon his Church, though sometimes the barque is almost about to wreck.”

These words were immediately interpreted as an attack on the current pontificate. Suspicion was also spread that the letter was not written by the Pope Emeritus, but by his collaborators. Harmful innuendos! Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, but above all Personal Secretary of the Pope Emeritus, dismissed everything: Benedict XVI was not referring to any particular circumstances, nor he was criticizing the current pontificate.

Looking at the facts, this version must be believed. Pope Benedict employed the metaphor of the barque many times to describe the life of the Church.

For example, he used it on February 27, 2013, during his last General Audience, when he insisted that “the Lord has given us so many days of sun and of light winds, days when the catch was abundant; there were also moments when the waters were rough and the winds against us, as throughout the Church’s history, and the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat, and I have always known that the barque of the Church is not mine but his. Nor does the Lord let it sink.”

Benedict talked about the barque buffeted by the waves in the homily for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 2006, when he recalled, “Again and again the little barque of the Church is ripped apart by the winds of ideologies, whose waters seep into her and seem to condemn her to sink. Yet, precisely in the suffering Church, Christ is victorious. […]He stays in his barque, in the little boat of the Church. Thus, on the one hand, the weakness proper to human beings is revealed in Peter’s ministry, but at the same time, also God’s power.”

In Milan, in closing the 2012 World Day of the Family, Pope Benedict described his journey as an “experience of an alive Church” because “though sometimes it is easy to think that the barque of Peter is really in the midst of perilous adversaries,” it is true as well that “the Lord is present, alive, that the Risen One is really alive and has the government of the world and the heart of men in his hands.”

How is it then possible to forget Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s cry of pain during the 2005 Way of the Cross meditations? The 9th Station meditation reads: “Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them!”

We could go on, documenting step by step how and when Pope Benedict compared the Church to that little boat in the sea of Galilea, that first cell of the Church made of the apostles that is now the beating heart of the Church.

To clear up any lingering suspicion, it should be enough to look at the obedience, reverence and even affection Benedict XVI has shown to his successor. The two had an almost intimate relation, and Benedict almost seems to be Pope Francis’s “hidden advisor,” always ready to meet Pope Francis’s requests.

In the end, all these discussions seemingly come from people who only know Benedict XVI a little, people who do not take into consideration his refusal to advance personal criticism, especially against his successor, people who do not understand that Benedict always goes to the core of things, beyond circumstances.

However, perhaps the problem is a different one. These polemics could originate from the fact that everyone knows Benedict XVI’s thought very well.

During the eight years of his pontificate, and even before that, Joseph Ratzinger, both as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and as a theologian, always worked for a synthesis. He always steered clear of easy counter positions that biased the debates following the Second Vatican Council.

In his way of thinking, there is no “political way,” but merely the search for the will of God. His speech on the hermeneutic of continuity, delivered to the Roman Curia at Christmas 2005, went in this direction. In the end he invited everyone to leave aside political categories, and to enter the heart of the mystery of the Church. To sum it up, Pope Benedict asked his audience always to use the renewed glasses of faith to look at reality.

This approach was rejected by those who made ideological counter positions the main theme of their work. For this reason, they were marginalized during Benedict’s pontificate. Under Pope Francis, they grabbed the occasion to retake the reins of the cultural debate.

Under Pope Francis, and probably despite him, the debate is really similar to that of the 70s: nuances are marginalized, issues at stake are framed in political language, the theme of faith is kept in the background.

For this reason, anytime the impression is given that Benedict still has something to say, his thinking is violently marginalized.

It happened many times. For example, when Archbishop Gaenswein spoke about an “enlarged Petrine ministry” with an “active member and a contemplative member,” his words were immediately labeled as harmful to papal primacy.

It also happened when Benedict XVI’s foreword to Cardinal Robert Sarah’s latest book, a foreword that praised the Cardinal, produced a request on the part of some for a regulation that would bring about “the institutional death” of the title and role of “Pope Emeritus”.

The reason is that Cardinal Sarah is considered the prototype of that world close to Benedict XVI which the “new world” wants to get rid of. Not by chance, Cardinal Sarah’s name is among the names on the list of those who oppose “Pope Francis’s vision of world.” The list was provided in an article that comments upon Fr. Antonio Spadaro’s and Marcelo Figueroa’s La Civiltà Cattolica essay on the “surprising ecumenism” in the US between evangelical fundamentalism and Catholic integralism” – an ecumenism which the two authors describe as “an ecumenism of hate.”

Obviously, Cardinal Sarah does not figure in that La Civiltà Cattolica essay which, instead, offers a series of affirmations in political language, tries to take a snapshot of reality through secularized lenses and does not understand how the defense of traditional values is shaped and why Christian denominations can find a common cause with respect to these values.

Reading the essay, one can argue that there are many converging issues between Catholics and Evangelicals, but also that there many topics on which they do not agree, as the Catholic Herald noted. One can insist that, in general, the examples provided regard the religiosity of a certain conservative world, while they do not touch the leftist world, as Christopher Altieri noted in First Things. Or one may stress that “defense of religious freedom never precludes assistance to the poor,” as did Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia – another one thought to be on the “black list.”

In the end, one can lament the lack of nuances and ask the authors to look at reality with a more complex vision, one that goes beyond ideological counter positions. Here’s the point: the article in La Civiltà Cattolica mirrors the current discussion. And it is the current debate that is “Manichean” by nature, as it depicts the Church as being divided between “pro-Francis” and “anti-Francis” parties.

Everything said in today’s Church is demonized if it is not in line with the mainstream view that made the decision to describe Francis as the Pope of the poor, of the peripheries, of a social Church that does not want to evangelize. It is not important that the same Pope Francis always stresses that the Church is not an NGO. In fact, the same Pope uses a lot of political and sociological categories in his speeches – as is normal in Latin America, where politics and theology are always fused, and where attempts to bring everything to faith are not aimed at explaining the reasons of faith, but rather at the exaltation of popular piety, as the Theology of the People that Pope Francis loves.

In this climate, it does not seem to have happened by chance that the report on the abuses perpetrated in the College of the Children’s Choir of Regensburg – the famous Domspatzen – was published only this past week, although the report was ready for release since February, and its publication was postponed many times. The report names no names, and does not directly involve Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, Benedict XVI’s brother, who was director of the choir for decades. The report is about the college, not the choir. However, the publication of the report was used to put the spotlight on the brother of the Pope Emeritus, and at the same time to attack Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and former Archbishop of Regensburg – as if the Pope’s decision not to renew his mandate as Prefect was linked to an alleged failure to address the abuse crisis during the time Mueller was a residential bishop.

In the meantime, the center of power that originally targeted Pope Benedict XVI has again sprung into action. The “hidden directorate” behind the first Vatileaks scandal is again leaking documents, in order especially to highlight scandals surrounding the immorality of the Curia. At least three stories published in the last month seem to be part of a plan of character assassination that has little or nothing to do with the current pontificate, except to defend the theory that everything has changed with Pope Francis, and that everything needed and still needs to be changed, because the Curia of the past was full of corruption.

But as Pope Francis contemplates dismantling or reshuffling the old structures, some people around him, who adhere to a precise agenda, want to bring back to life earlier schemes that were seemingly set aside. Whoever criticizes these re-proposed schemes is labeled a “hate speaker.” Is there, in the end, any possibility to dissent from this mandatory line of thinking?

The theme of the dictatorship of relativism has thus returned to the center of the debate. This dictatorship asks the Church not to surrender its principles, but to give up talking about them in the public sphere; it asks not that the Church should quit evangelizing, but that it should avoid speaking explicitly of Christ; it asks not that the Church remain silent, but that its speech should be drawn from a secular vocabulary.

In the end, it is useful to look back to another moment in which Benedict used the metaphor of the barque of Peter. It was April 18, 2005, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, was celebrating the Missa Pro Eligendo Romani Pontifice prior to the conclave which elected him pope.

Speaking about St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, Cardinal Ratzinger reminded his hearers that Paul asks us to be really adult in the faith, since being children in faith leads to being “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4: 14). This description is very timely! How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat bearing the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves — flung from one extreme to another: “from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth.”

Cardinal Ratzinger went on: “Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true. Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine”, seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires”.

But – the Cardinal concluded – “We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An “adult” faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love”.

His words were prophetic – they explain the current issues and also the reason behind many attacks: there are really only a few people capable of having a faith fed by the measure of the Son of God.

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The Church and the Darnel

CP&S: This post, from Dom Hugh at Douai Abbey I found both thrilling and chilling. I hope our readers will gain as much insight from todays Gospel as I have.


by Father Hugh Somerville-Knapman.O.S.B.


When one gets a little down in the dumps about the state of the Church today’s gospel (well one part of this long and crowded gospel reading) is both consoling and perturbing. To really apprehend the full significance of this parable we must pay attention from the very first phrase:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt 24:30)

Note the Lord is talking not about the world, that it is full of good people and bad, but the “kingdom of heaven”. Surely, one might reasonably ask, there can be no evil ones in heaven, no weeds among the wheat in the paradisal pastures?

But our Lord did say also that “the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21). For the Church is the embryo of the eschaton, of the Kingdom, viewed from within the context of time and space, that is, seen from within material creation. In heavenly terms, in the context of eternity, the Kingdom is already perfect, the battle won, the Lord reigning at the right hand of the Father. But in the context of creation the Kingdom, embodied in the Church, is still emerging, awaiting the Lord of eternity to sweep away our temporality and establish once for all his people in eternity.

So, for now, there must be weeds among the wheat. That is the consolation. The weeds are part of God’s plan. He allows them to endure, to prosper even, for our sake. Even when they seem liable to overrun the pasture, starving the wheat of light and food, the Lord allows them to continue as to uproot them now would endanger the wheat, expose it to collateral damage beyond its ability to cope. We might complain that the weeds of the Church are already causing grievous collateral damage to the faithful, causing the ruin of souls and disturbing the peace of the Church. Yet our Lord is telling us that, seen from God’s perspective, the damage is less than if he were to intervene before the time.

What is that time? The eschaton, the end of all things, the advent of eternity in place of time and space. Why does the Lord wait for it? St Paul articulates the answer:

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Rom 11:25)

The Lord waits, seen from our perspective of time and space (for in eternity it is already accomplished), because the Church has not yet finished growing. Its numbers are not yet complete, its sufferings not fully ripe. St Gregory Palamas, from whom we heard at our Matins this morning, implicitly warns us against an “us and them” approach to the Church. For the mission of Christ was to make them into us. In other words, the Lord is leaving time for repentance, for the weeds can yet become wheat. Consider what Palamas teaches (emphasis added):

The tares (weeds/darnel), as the Lord tells us, are the sons of the evil one. Due to the fact that their deeds resemble his, they bear his mark and are always his offspring and adopted children. Harvest time is when this world ends, because although the process of harvesting started long ago and is active today through death, it will be fully completed then…

So, “He shall send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” (Matt. 13:41), meaning heretics and those who do not give up sinful actions through repentance – for all sin is iniquity. When the angels have collected them, “they shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42). Do you see, brethren, what a truly terrifying and dreadful harvest and separation this is? We were right to say that the angels were the reapers of this harvest, and that they had to do more than the Apostles. When the Lord’s servants, God’s angels, saw the tares in the field, that is to say, godless and evil people living alongside the good, and sharing in the life of Christ’s Church, they said to the Lord, “Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?” (Matt. 13:28), in other words, Shall we remove them from the earth through death? The Lord, however, replied, “Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them” (Matt. 13:29)…

If they had collected the tares, given the fact that they would have separated out the evil from the just even if they had cut them down together through death, how could wheat, good people, have been uprooted too? Many impious and sinful people, living alongside those who are godly and righteous, eventually change by means of repentance, learn to be pious and virtuous, and become wheat instead of tares. So if they were carried off by the angels before they repented, wheat would be uprooted when the tares were gathered. Again, many evil people have children or grandchildren with good tendencies. That is why He Who knows all things before they come to pass did not allow the weeds to be pulled out before their time.
(Homily 27:7-9)

The full number of the Kingdom includes many who, from the perspective of time and space seem to be weeds in the pastureland but whom God knows, from eternity, will “turn aside from evil and do good”, who will repent, who will become wheat. What distinguishes wheat from weed in this spiritual sense is not some genetic essence but fruit. Darnel becomes wheat when it too brings forth grain that can be ground into the Body of Christ. That is why we pray for the Church—popes, bishops, clergy, all the faithful: that the weeds among us may become wheat. And let’s be honest: that we may be found at the time of harvest to be wheat not weed, that we might be truly conformed to the Body of Christ.

So at this time of confusion, rampant from top to bottom, we can find some solace that this is all planned for by the Lord, for the sake of the Kingdom, that the salvation won by Christ may more fully suffuse the Church, that the gospel of repentance might have time to sink in and “batter our hearts”.

But with the solace comes the discomfiting, as weeds with wheat. Pray as we might, as we must, we will never be free from weeds in the pasturelands of the Kingdom until the time for eternity comes. There will never truly be peace for the Church or an end to her sufferings until Christ ushers in eternity. But even that can be a solace. For, after all, perhaps this morning found us to be weed not wheat. For now. There is time to repent, to effect the only identity change possible in God’s eyes, from weed to wheat:

Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you. (John 12:35)

This is mercy— that we have time to repent.

And the days of this life are lengthened and a truce granted us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. As the Apostle says, “Do you not know that God’s patience is inviting you to repent” (Rom. 2:4)? For the merciful Lord tells us, “I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner should be converted and live” (Ez 33:11).
(Rule of St Benedict, Prologue)


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Reflection for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Image result for parable of the mustard seed images

From: The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert

FIRST READING            Wisdom 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.  For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.  For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.  But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.  And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

SECOND READING                  Romans 8:26-27

Brothers and sisters:  The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.  And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

GOSPEL                Matthew 13:24-43

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.  When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”  He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”  He spoke to them another parable.  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”  All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.  He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:  “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.”  Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.  His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Letter to the Romans tells us in the second reading today:  “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  That is pretty strong!  Because our world is so messed up, we are often confused about what is right and what is wrong—so we don’t know how to pray as we ought.

The first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that God is all powerful and because of that, God can love and judge and deal with us with leniency and mercy and forgiveness.  Those who are powerful can be generous!  This can remind us that our own personal power should always reflect in mercy, generosity and forgiveness.

The Letters to the Romans reminds us that our prayers are very often just our own prayers and not the will of God.  Instead, we can allow the Spirit to pray within us so that the prayer is God’s prayer.  It is easy to do this.  All we need say is “O God, may I do your will and pray for what you want.”

The Gospel from Saint Matthew today, in the longer version, gives us three parables.  The shorter version gives us only one parable and without its explanation by the Lord.  All three parables are about the kingdom of God.  We can understand from these parables that it is difficult in this life to separate the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds.  We can see that the Kingdom is a small seed that can grow enormously.  And we can understand that if we live the Kingdom, it becomes like leaven in bread in our lives and in the lives of others.

The teaching today is that we must be slow to judge others, slow to think that we understand the Kingdom and how it is present and slow to presume that we know the ways of God.  Rather, we must look at others as possible Kingdom bearers, we must be still before the mystery of God so that we can begin to be aware of the Kingdom and we must look for God in all that happens to us and to others.

When Jesus tells us parables, it is because He wants us to look at life in ways that are different from our normal ways.  We should never think that we are the wheat and that others are the weeds!  Rather we need to pay attention to the weeds of our lives and be aware of the wheat in the lives of others.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like a small seed that can grow into a large tree, we should be aware of the gifts of others and aware that we are still small.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like leaven, we should strive to be aware of how others are leaven already and that we can become leaven.

Let us be aware of God’s love for others and reflect God’s love for others in our own lives through mercy and forgiveness.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Bishop Schneider: The interpretation of Vatican II and its connection with the current crisis of the Church



By Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Special to Rorate Caeli

July 21, 2017


The interpretation of Vatican II and its connection with the current crisis of the Church

The current situation of the unprecedented crisis of the Church is comparable with the general crisis in the 4th century, when the Arianism had contaminated the overwhelming majority of the episcopacy, taking a dominant position in the life of the Church. We must seek to address this current situation on the one hand with realism and, on the other hand, with a supernatural spirit – with a profound love for the Church, our mother, who is suffering the Passion of Christ because of this tremendous and general doctrinal, liturgical and pastoral confusion.

We must renew our faith in believing that the Church is in the safe hands of Christ, and that He will always intervene to renew the Church in the moments in which the boat of the Church seems to capsize, as is the obvious case in our days.


As to the attitude towards the Second Vatican Council, we must avoid two extremes: a complete rejection (as do the sedevacantists and a part of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) or a “infallibilization” of everything the council spoke.

Vatican II was a legitimate assembly presided by the Popes and we must maintain towards this council a respectful attitude. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we are forbidden to express well-founded doubts or respectful improvement suggestions regarding some specific items, while doing so based on the entire tradition of the Church and on the constant Magisterium.

Traditional and constant doctrinal statements of the Magisterium during a centuries-old period have precedence and constitute a criterion of verification regarding the exactness of posterior magisterial statements. New statements of the Magisterium must, in principle, be more exact and clearer, but should never be ambiguous and apparently contrast with previous magisterial statements.

Those statements of Vatican II which are ambiguous must be read and interpreted according to the statements of the entire Tradition and of the constant Magisterium of the Church.

In case of doubt the statements of the constant Magisterium (the previous councils and the documents of the Popes, whose content demonstrates being a sure and repeated tradition during centuries in the same sense) prevail over those objectively ambiguous or new statements of the Vatican II, which difficultly concord with specific statements of the constant and previous Magisterium (e.g. the duty of the state to venerate publicly Christ, the King of all human societies, the true sense of the episcopal collegiality in relation to the Petrine primacy and the universal government of the Church, the noxiousness of all non-Catholic religions and their dangerousness for the eternal salvation of the souls).

Vatican II must be seen and received as it is and as it was really: a primarily pastoral council. This council had not the intention to propose new doctrines or to propose them in a definitive form. In its statements the council confirmed largely the traditional and constant doctrine of the Church.

Some of the new statements of Vatican II (e.g. collegiality, religious liberty, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, the attitude towards the world) have not a definitive character, and being apparently or truly non-concordant with the traditional and constant statements of the Magisterium, they must be complemented by more exact explications and by more precise supplements of a doctrinal character. A blind application of the principle of the “hermeneutics of continuity” does not help either, since thereby are created forced interpretations, which are not convincing and which are not helpful to arrive at a clearer understanding of the immutable truths of the Catholic faith and of its concrete application.

There have been cases in the history, where non-definitive statements of certain ecumenical councils were later – thanks to a serene theological debate – refined or tacitly corrected (e.g. the statements of the Council of Florence regarding the matter of the sacrament of Orders, i.e. that the matter were the handing-over of the instruments, whereas the more sure and constant tradition said that the imposition of the hands of the bishop were sufficient, a truth, which was ultimately confirmed by Pius XII in 1947). If after the Council of Florence the theologians would have blindly applied the principle of the “hermeneutics of the continuity” to this concrete statement of the Council of Florence (an objectively erroneous statement), defending the thesis that the handing-over of the instruments as the matter of the sacrament of Orders would concord with the constant Magisterium, probably there would not have been achieved the general consensus of the theologians regarding the truth which says that only the imposition of the hands of the bishop is the real matter of the sacrament of Orders.

There must be created in the Church a serene climate of a doctrinal discussion regarding those statements of Vatican II which are ambiguous or which have caused erroneous interpretations. In such a doctrinal discussion there is nothing scandalous, but on the contrary, it will be a contribution in order to maintain and explain in a more sure and integral manner the deposit of the immutable faith of the Church.

One must not highlight so much  a certain council, absolutizing it or equating it in fact with the oral (Sacred Tradition) or written (Sacred Scripture) Word of God. Vatican II itself said rightly (cf. Verbum Dei, 10), that the Magisterium (Pope, Councils, ordinary and universal Magisterium) is not above the Word of God, but beneath it, subject to it, and being only the servant of it (of the oral Word of God = Sacred Tradition and of the written Word of God = Sacred Scripture).

From an objective point of view, the statements of the Magisterium (Popes and councils) of definitive character, have more value and more weight compared with the statements of pastoral character, which have naturally a changeable and temporary quality depending on historical circumstances or responding to pastoral situations of a certain period of time, as it is the case with the major part of the statements of Vatican II.

The original and valuable contribution of the Vatican II consists in the universal call to holiness of all members of the Church (chap. 5 of Lumen gentium), in the doctrine about the central role of Our Lady in the life of the Church (chap. 8 of Lumen gentium), in the importance of the lay faithful in maintaining, defending and promoting the Catholic faith and in their duty to evangelize and sanctify the temporal realities according to the perennial sense of the Church (chap. 4 of Lumen gentium), in the primacy of the adoration of God in the life of the Church and in the celebration of the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 2; 5-10). The rest one can consider to a certain extent secondary, temporary and, in the future, probably forgettable, as it was the case with some non-definitive, pastoral and disciplinary statements of various ecumenical councils in the past.

The following issues – Our Lady, sanctification of the personal life of the faithful with the sanctification of the world according to the perennial sense of the Church and the primacy of the adoration of God – are the most urgent aspects which have to be lived in our days. Therein Vatican II has a prophetical role which, unfortunately, is not yet realized in a satisfactory manner.

Instead of living these four aspects, a considerable part of the theological and administrative “nomenclature” in the life of the Church promoted for the past 50 years and still promotes ambiguous doctrinal, pastoral and liturgical issues, distorting thereby the original intention of the Council or abusing its less clear or ambiguous doctrinal statements in order to create another church – a church of a relativistic or Protestant type.

In our days, we are experiencing the culmination of this development.

The problem of the current crisis of the Church consists partly in the fact that some statements of Vatican II – which are objectively ambiguous or those few statements, which are difficultly concordant with the constant magisterial tradition of the Church – have been infallibilisized. In this way, a healthy debate with a necessarily implicit or tacit correction was blocked.

At the same time there was given the incentive in creating theological affirmations in contrast with the perennial tradition (e.g. regarding the new theory of an ordinary double supreme subject of the government of the Church, i.e. the Pope alone and the entire episcopal college together with the Pope, the doctrine of the neutrality of the state towards the public worship, which it must pay to the true God, who is Jesus Christ, the King also of each human and political society, the relativizing of the truth that the Catholic Church is the unique way of salvation, wanted and commanded by God).

We must free ourselves from the chains of the absolutization and of the total infallibilization of Vatican II. We must ask for a climate of a serene and respectful debate out of a sincere love for the Church and for the immutable faith of the Church.

We can see a positive indication in the fact that on August 2, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a preface to the volume regarding Vatican II in the edition of his Opera omnia. In this preface, Benedict XVI expresses his reservations regarding specific content in the documents Gaudium et spes and Nostra aetate. From the tenor of these words of Benedict XVI one can see that concrete defects in certain sections of the documents are not improvable by the “hermeneutics of the continuity.”

An SSPX, canonically and fully integrated in the life of the Church, could also give a valuable contribution in this debate – as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre desired. The fully canonical presence of the SSPX in the life of the Church of our days could also help to create a general climate of  constructive debate, in order that that, which was believed always, everywhere and by all Catholics for 2,000 years, would be believed in a more clear and in a more sure manner in our days as well, realizing thereby the true pastoral intention of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.

The authentic pastoral intention aims towards the eternal salvation of the souls — a salvation which will be achieved only through the proclamation of the entire will of God (cf. Act 20: 7). The ambiguity in the doctrine of the faith and in its concrete application (in the liturgy and in the pastoral life) would menace the eternal salvation of the souls and would be consequently anti-pastoral, since the proclamation of the clarity and of the integrity of the Catholic faith and of its faithful concrete application is the explicit will of God.

Only the perfect obedience to the will of God — Who revealed us through Christ the Incarnate Word and through the Apostles the true faith, the faith interpreted and practiced constantly in the same sense by the Magisterium of the Church – will bring the salvation of souls.

+ Athanasius Schneider,

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan

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Spanish Cathedral Targetted for Reversing the Reconquista

Chapel and interior of the Cathedral of Córdoba, or Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, in the historic center of Córdoba, Spain. (b-hide the scene /

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Cathedral of Córdoba has become a battleground in the campaign to reduce the influence of the Church in Spain and beyond.

Matthew E. Bunson

The Cathedral of Córdoba, officially titled the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption and also commonly known as the Mosque-Cathedral, has been the ecclesiastical heart of the Diocese of Córdoba since 1236.

Ranked as one of the most impressive architectural wonders of the world, and honored since 1984 as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site and visited by more than 1.5 million tourists every year, the cathedral’s ownership is now also a target of protest from both the Spanish left and Muslim activists.

The dispute is part of a long-running campaign to seize the church on the basis that it should not belong to Catholics, but to the whole world. While the civil government’s claim to the church is legally tenuous and the Muslim claim hearkens to a legendary golden age of Moorish Spain, the campaign is testing the religious freedom for Christians in a still-majority Catholic country and should be of concern to Catholics everywhere.

As former Spanish ambassador to Washington Javier Ruperez observed to the Register, “We do have a problem in Cordoba. … What we are watching there is not only an anti-Catholic operation. It is an anti-Western operation.”

The Reconquista and Al-Andalus

In an era of revisionist history, the Reconquista is certainly a cause célèbre. That centuries-long campaign to free the Iberian Peninsula from the control of the Moors after the Muslim invasion of the eighth century ended officially in 1492, with the fall of the Moorish Kingdom of Granada to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella and the political unification of Spain.

The crusade is today depicted not as a war to free the peninsula from the domination of Muslim states, where Christians and Jews lived under sharia law, but the destruction of an advanced and peaceful Muslim civilization by barbaric and unenlightened Catholics.

This rewriting of the past is especially common when looking at the recapture of the city of Córdoba by Christian armies in 1236 under the saintly King Ferdinand III of Castile.

The region of southern Spain known as Andalusia, al-Andalus in the Arabic, was the political center of Moorish control of the peninsula.

Moorish culture reached its zenith under the Ummayad Dynasty of rulers who claimed the title of caliph with their capital at Córdoba. During the glory years of the caliphate in the ninth-11th centuries, Córdoba was renowned for its art, architecture, learning — the library of al-Hakam boasted 400,000 volumes — and engineering, including running water.

But the crown jewel of all al-Andalus was the Great Mosque, the symbol of Ummayad power and glory.

The mosque was commissioned in 784 by Abd ar-Rahman I and was subsequently expanded by his successors until it was able to welcome 40,000 people and was considered one of the largest and greatest architectural achievements in the entire Islamic world, with its striking arches and columns made of jasper, granite, onyx and marble.

The site of the mosque, however, had very ancient roots. According to archaeologists, after Visigoths captured Córdoba in 572, they established a church on the site that by the time of the Muslim invasion had the title of the Basilica of St. Vincent. It was initially allowed to continue as the last Christian church by agreement with the new Muslim overlords, but, soon, half of it was taken to provide additional prayer space for newly arriving Muslims from Damascus.

The rest of the basilica was eventually “purchased” from the Christians and destroyed in order to build the new Great Mosque.

Such was the beauty of the Great Mosque, the Mezquita in Spanish, that when Córdoba was captured by King Ferdinand, one of the first decisions he had to face was what to do with it.

The new ruler decided to transform the mosque into the city’s new cathedral. Respectful of the architecture, he maintained the columns and even preserved the ornate horseshoe-arched mihrab, or prayer niche, and its stunning dome above.

The minaret, meanwhile, was converted to a bell tower, with bells brought from Santiago de Compostela. In effect, Ferdinand preserved the mosque’s beauty for posterity.

With the exception of the chapels found throughout, the one major structural change was made in the 16th century, when Emperor Charles V permitted Bishop Alonso Manrique to construct a Renaissance cathedral in the middle of the building.

Unquestionably, the Caliphate of Córdoba was marked by great artistic and intellectual achievements, and the caliphate has been heralded as proof of the convivencia, or “coexistence,” of the claim that al-Andalus was a place in which Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace under a tolerant Islam. This is an image that persists stubbornly.

President Barack Obama hailed Córdoba’s “proud tradition of tolerance” in his infamous speech on Islam in Cairo in 2009, and similar claims were made by Imam Feisal Abdul Rau when he worked to erect the mosque at Ground Zero in New York under the name of the “Córdoba House.”

As Dario Fernandez-Morera has convincingly demonstrated in his important study, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain (2016), Andalusia was far from a paradise for Christians and Jews, as they suffered from political and social disabilities, had to pay the jizya (religious tax), and endured persecutions and oppression under sharia (Islamic law).

The Church honors the ninth-century Martyrs of Córdoba who died under Muslim persecution.

A New Crusade

The propaganda surrounding Muslim Córdoba is also a key element in the campaign by socialists in Spain who have found common ground with Muslim activists in trying to seize the cathedral.

In 2004 and 2006, Muslims in Spain and elsewhere, mostly recent converts to Islam, petitioned the Holy See to allow Muslim prayers in the cathedral. In 2007, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, used a summit in Córdoba on “Islamophobia” by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to demand publicly that Muslims be granted the right to pray there.

In April 2010, during Holy Week, two Muslims grew violent when asked to stop praying in the cathedral and seriously injured two security guards; and by that August, Islamic groups renewed their calls for the right to worship.

In 2013, an organization called the “Platform for the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba” secured more than 350,000 names for a petition demanding the seizure of the cathedral, a push heavily promoted by the Spanish socialist newspaper El Pais. The petition coincided with Andalusia’s Socialist-led coalition government’s condemnation of the Church’s supposed efforts to strip away the Muslim history of the site.

The regional government went on to declare that the diocese has no legal claim of ownership. Echoing the propaganda of the Muslim groups and the Platform, the regional civil officials claimed that the real owners “are each and every citizen of the world from whatever era and regardless of people, nation, culture or race.”

These moves have understandably caused immense concern for Church officials and Catholics around the world. During a meeting on the controversy organized in June by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., Bishop Demetrio Fernández González of Córdoba said, “For eight centuries we have lived peacefully with the cathedral in Catholic hands. But right now, the kind of idea that the Muslims have had, this dream that they’ve had to somehow take back the cathedral, is being helped by the political left. So it is a kind of alliance coming in from the left. The politicians realize that the cathedral is property of the Church, but what they would like is for it to become public property. So it would be a type of expropriation.”

Fortunately, the current governing laws in Spain prevent such outright seizure, and Bishop Fernández has also been assured that, should this actually happen, Pope Francis and the Holy See would enter the fray. That will, of course, not stop opposition officials from trying.

And while the current law blocks such expropriation, other goals might be more attainable. The bishop warned of “the more immediate objectives, such as asking for them [Muslims] to be able to share the cathedral … but that’s not possible, neither for the Catholics nor for the Muslims.”

Equally, there is no desperate need for prayer space on the part of Muslims, as there are barely 1,500 in the city, which is served by two mosques. The Islamic population in Spain, while growing through immigration, makes up barely 4% of the total population.

Local Muslims are also not behind the controversy. The push is coming from outside of Spain, and it is believed that much of the funding is being provided by Arab countries, with some Church officials and even Ambassador Ruperez warning that funding may even be coming from Qatar, which is facing many accusations of being a state sponsor of international terrorism.

Ambassador Ruperez stresses that religious freedom and the legacy of the West are at stake.

“The basic values which have been the basic foundation of the West,” he says, “which is individual freedom, which is respect for the rule of law, which is the separation of church and state, are being put into serious doubt.”

The irony of this, of course, is that political leaders in Spain are actually proposing that Christian churches be seized once more, just as they were 1,200 years ago, and handed to Muslims.

Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, told the Register, “What is unique in this case is it is not an Islamist government doing this, but a left-leaning one — left-leaning officials who are anti-Catholic, and maybe anti-Muslim too, but they see this as a convenient way of suppressing religion; suppressing Catholicism in Spain.”

Should this alliance succeed, it would be an immense victory — and not just a symbolic one — for the Islamist cause at a time when Europe is already purging its own Christian history.

As Bishop Fernández notes, “They want to reverse the Reconquista.”


Matthew Bunson is a senior editor for the Register and senior contributor to EWTN.


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The Sodomite Cabal in the Vatican Must Be Obliterated and Scattered to the Winds

Stlouiscatholic writes:

The sodomite cabal in the Vatican must be obliterated and scattered to the winds.

By whom, though?*

That’s a good question, as there isn’t a question of a lavender mafia inside the Vatican; the lavender mafia runs the Vatican.

Without resorting to rash judgment on any particular person or prelate that yet remains unknown– after all, thank God, we can’t see what the all of regime’s capos do in their private time– we know there are many high-ranking prelates in the Vatican dicasteries and Curia that are stained with credible accusations of the sin of Sodom and other criminal offenses. Yet these are not punished by Francis. Nor are they removed from office. Far from it; they are favored by him.

The infiltration is so pervasive as to produce a systematic abandonment of the defense of Natural Law and unchanging, unchangeable Catholic teaching on sodomy. The effeminate indeed rule over us, just as God decreed as punishment for a disobedient Israel (Isaias 3:4).

Francis, in his words, in his actions and inactions, sets the tone. His lieutenants, each swishier than the next, set out to undermine marriage, ruin the innocence of children, and discourage into silence or despair those few Catholics left who attempt to remain steadfast.

The Pope “Emeritus”, whose abdication (effective or otherwise) ushered in this sodomite cabal, remains largely silent, while allowing himself to be trotted out by Francis like some North Vietnamese prisoner to proclaim the glorious reign of Ho Chi Minh once in a while. And yet, when last week he eeks out (we are told) a message on the death of Cardinal Meisner that, indeed, the barque of Peter appears to be on the verge of capsizing, it creates such a buzz! Things are so bad that this little crumb sends every faithful Catholic into a tizzy of gratitude.

Are things so bad as that? Yes.

Are we so timid as to not ever stand up for Christ? That remains to be seen.

A few weeks back, I posted a piece entitled “Captain Obvious to Four Random Cardinals”, wherein I suggested it might be time to for the four dubia Cardinals to act. Well, now there are three dubia Cardinals. I don’t want to tempt fate by calling Captain Obvious to address Three Random Cardinals. Our friends and allies are few enough.

Catholics were warned by Our Lord to expect persecution. Here it is. It will get worse. Stand strong. But, O Lord, IS THERE ANY BISHOP, CARDINAL, OR POPE WHO WILL LEAD?

The shepherd is struck and the sheep are scattered.

How long, O Lord?

Isaias 3 is worth a read, both for the curse and for the promised punishment of evildoers it contains. As Benedict XVI reminded us, “The Lord wins in the end.”

[1] For behold the sovereign the Lord of hosts shall take away from Jerusalem, and from Juda the valiant and the strong, the whole strength of bread, and the whole strength of water. [2] The strong man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the cunning man, and the ancient. [3] The captain over fifty, and the honourable in countenance, and the counsellor, and the architect, and the skillful in eloquent speech. [4] And I will give children to be their princes, and the effeminate shall rule over them. [5] And the people shall rush one upon another, and every man against his neighbour: the child shall make it tumult against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.

[6] For a man shall take hold or his brother, one of the house of his father, saying: Thou hast a garment, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand. [7] In that day he shall answer, saying: I am no healer, and in my house there is no bread, nor clothing: make me not ruler of the people. [8] For Jerusalem is ruined, and Juda is fallen: because their tongue, and their devices are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his majesty. [9] The shew of their countenance hath answered them: and they have proclaimed abroad their sin as Sodom, and they have not hid it: woe to their souls, for evils are rendered to them. [10] Say to the just man that it is well, for he shall eat the fruit of his doings.

[11] Woe to the wicked unto evil: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. [12] As for my people, their oppressors have stripped them, and women have ruled over them. O my people, they that call thee blessed, the same deceive thee, and destroy the way of thy steps. [13] The Lord standeth up to judge, and he standeth to judge the people. [14] The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and its princes: for you have devoured the vineyard, and the spoil of the poor is in your house. [15] Why do you consume my people, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord the God of hosts.

[16] And the Lord said: Because the daughters of Sion are haughty, and have walked with stretched out necks, and wanton glances of their eyes, and made a noise as they walked with their feet and moved in a set pace: [17] The Lord will make bald the crown of the head of the daughters of Sion, and the Lord will discover their hair. [18] In that day the Lord will take away the ornaments of shoes, and little moons, [19] And chains and necklaces, and bracelets, and bonnets, [20] And bodkins, and ornaments of the legs, and tablets, and sweet balls, and earrings,

[21] And rings, and jewels hanging on the forehead, [22] And changes of apparel, and short cloaks, and fine linen, and crisping pins, [23] And looking-glasses, and lawns, and headbands, and fine veils. [24] And instead of a sweet smell there shall be stench, and instead of a girdle, a cord, and instead of curled hair, baldness, and instead of a stomacher, haircloth. [25] Thy fairest men also shall fall by the sword, and thy valiant ones in battle.

[26] And her gates shall lament and mourn, and she shall sit desolate on the ground.

Who will stop the sodomite cabal in the Vatican? The Immaculata: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate

From La Salette blog:

* Our Lady of Fatima provides us 38th the answer. She told us, “I will never leave you; my Immaculate Heart will be your refuge, and the way that will lead you to God.”

With attacks against the Catholic Church increasing from both within and without, now more than ever the remnant faithful need to pray and work for the Church to solemnly declare that our Blessed Mother is Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.

What are we waiting for? An infallible definition of these three roles of Mary will unleash graces on the world such as one cannot imagine.

It was Saint Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr, prophet pointing the way to a new civilization of love, who said (in the early 1940s, before the Nazis put him to death):

“In the Catholic Church they have not yet officially declared in public as certain belief that the Immaculata is the Mediatrix of all Graces. But it is a certain truth. It has been well known from the time of the advent of Christians….But when the faithful voice a desire requesting to admit it as a public belief, the Church must verify this truth and declare it….The source of all graces is God. Everything begins in God. But the graces given to human beings are not given directly from God but through Mary. If you have time to discuss or debate the issue, you should rather pray more. Holy Mary will be pleased if we pray for the early announcement that she is the Mediatrix of all Graces.”

There are graces which Our Lady wants to give us but will not be able to until the Church infallibly defines her as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. What better time to do so than the present hour when the Church finds herself under vicious attack and the demonic tyranny of a sodomites cabal?

Perhaps we should all listen to Saint Kolbe and “pray more” for such an announcement. And as we do so, we can meditate on these words spoken by Our Lady of the Rosary at Fatima:

“Continue to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world..for she alone can save it….Sacrifice yourselves for sinners; and say often, especially when you make some sacrifice: ‘My Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’ You have seen Hell – where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wants to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart…”


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The Garda Interviews

New from Remnant TV

As part of Remnant TV’s documentary on the 25th Anniversary of the Roman Forum in Gardone Riviera, Italy, Michael Matt interviews Vatican journalist and premier Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, as well as King’s College’s renowned professor of philosophy, Dr. Thomas Pink.

This is the first installment of a series of interviews that will appear over the course of the next few weeks.

The RTV Documentary on this unique symposium on the Shores of Lake Garda will appear on August 1, 2017.


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Feeling a Little Seasick?

Resisting falling into despair or negativity does not imply Catholics walk through life in blinkers, denying reality. These are rough times in the Church; a return of liberal thought and Modernism has churned the stormy seas to rock the Barque of Peter as never before since those crazy days of the 70s. To combat this ‘Devil’s last stand’ to ‘capsize’ the Barque, we must step up our resistance by a renewed loyalty to the traditions and teaching of the Church. We must fight the violent waves of dissent and betrayal with a renewed faithfulness to Christ and His Church. We must seek out those who are perishing and keep them aboard the only ‘barque’ that can lead us all home to safe harbour. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Rosary, the Scapular of Our Lady, prayer and fasting, will be our lifelines.

Here’s how it all started.

Some advice from Pope Benedict XVI before the waters got really rough… and how we should proceed now. For did the Bishops listen then? Did the laity?

But we must not let the waves scare us and make us retreat ‘below deck’. We must not lose heart. Our Blessed Lord calls us, like His disciples on the stormy seas of Lake Galilee, to have faith and to trust in Him to calm the storm. In time. If we do our part.

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Reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Image result for the parable of the sower


From the Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert (

FIRST READING            Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:  Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

SECOND READING                  Romans 8:18-23

Brothers and sisters:  I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.  For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

GOSPEL                Matthew 13:1-23

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.  Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.  And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:  “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.  To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.  Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:  You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.  Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears,   they have closed their eyes,   lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.  “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  “Hear then the parable of the sower.  The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.  But he has no root and lasts only for a time.  When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.  The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today we can ask ourselves:  how do I receive the Word of God?  Jesus gives us a parable and an explanation in today’s Gospel, which comes from Saint Matthew.  There are people who don’t understand the word of the kingdom and the evil comes and steals away what was sown in the heart.  We can hope we are not in that group, but we might be.  The second group are those who hear the word and receive it immediately with joy but when difficulties come, these people immediately fall away.  Hopefully we are not like that either.  There are people who hear the word but then anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.  We might be like that but we can hope not.  We want to be like the last person mentioned:  a person who hears the word and understands it and who bears fruit!

The reality is that probably we belong to each of those various groups at various times.  Jesus is not telling us a parable to condemn us but to invite us to change our ways of living so that we can be more consistently in that last group:  hearing and responding to the word and bearing fruit in our lives.

We heard in the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, that God’s word will accomplish the end for which it was sent.  This sounds as if it is automatic.  Rather than automatic, this word of God will continue to work on us for our whole life, seeking to draw us to the Lord.  What lacks is our cooperation.  We should not be surprised by that.  Instead, we must do our part to cooperate with the word:  begin the spiritual combat which means to fight all within us that is against the word.  Our Christian life is a life of combat against ourselves and against all the cultural values which are not in accord with the word of God.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans and tells us that actually all of creation is groaning with the desire to be transformed into the new creation.  We ourselves have the first fruits of the Spirit within us, yet often we do not respond.  So we also groan with all creation, hoping and praying for the complete adoption as children God and the redemption of our bodies.

This second reading is clear:  we are redeemed body and soul.  So often today we find those who think that only our soul might be saved.  No!  Our Creed and our longstanding believe is that we are saved body and soul.  Again we have the challenge of spiritual combat both with our “soul” as well as with our “body.”  Not all that we want or desire is in accord with the will of the Lord.  We have to struggle, as does all creation, in order to let God conform us to His will.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for His teachings to us this day.  Let us continue to prepare our lives so that we may receive God’s word and respond to it.  Amen.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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A word of greeting from Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, on the occasion of the funeral Mass of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, on 15th July 2017

In this hour, when the Church in Cologne and believers further afield take their leave of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, I am with them in my heart and thoughts and am pleased to acceed to Cardinal Woelki’s wish and address a word of reflection to them.

When I heard by telephone last Wednesday of the death of Cardinal Meisner, I could not believe it at first. We had spoken to each other the previous day. From the way he spoke he was grateful to be on holiday, after he had taken part in the Beatification of Bishop Teofilius Maturlionis in Vilnius the Sunday before (25th June). His love for neighbouring Churches in the East, which had suffered persecution under Communism, as well as gratitude for endurance in suffering during that time had left a lifelong mark on him. So it was no accident that the last visit of his life was to a confessor of the faith.

What struck me particularly in the last conversations with the Cardinal, now gone home, was the natural cheerfulness, the inner peace and the assurance he had found. We know that it was hard for him, the passionate shepherd and pastor of souls, to leave his Office, and this precisely at a time when the Church had a pressing need for shepherds who would oppose the dictatorship of the zeitgeist, fully resolved to act and think from a faith standpoint. Yet I have been all the more impressed that in this last period of his life he learnt to let go and live increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave His Church even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of shipwreck.

There were two things which in this final period allowed him to be increasingly happy and assured:

The first was that he often related to me, that what filled him with deep joy was to experience in the Sacrament of Penance, how young people, above all young men, came to experience the mercy of forgiveness, the gift in effect to have found life that only God could give them. The second, which again touched him and made him happy was the perceptible increase in Eucharistic Adoration. This was the central theme for him at World Youth Day in Cologne that there was adoration, a silence, in which the Lord alone speaks to hearts. Some pastoral and liturgical authorities were of the opinion that such a silence in contemplation of the Lord with such a huge number of people could achieve nothing. A few were also of the opinion that Eucharistic adoration has been overtaken, because the Lord wanted to be received in the Eucharistic bread and not be looked at.  Yet the fact a person cannot eat this bread as just some sort of nourishment, and that to ‘receive’ the Lord in the Eucharistic Sacrament includes all the dimensions of our existence – that receiving has to be worship, something which has in the meantime become increasingly clearer. So the period of Eucharistic adoration at the Cologne World Youth Day became an interior event that has remained unforgettable, and not only to the Cardinal. This moment for him was subsequently always present internally and a great light for him.

When on the last morning Cardinal Meisner did not appear for Mass, he was found dead in his room. The breviary had slipped from his hands: he died while praying, his face on the Lord, in conversation with the Lord. The art of dying, which was given to him, again demonstrated how he had lived: with his face towards the Lord and in conversation with him. So we may confidently entrust his soul to the goodness of God. Lord, we thank you for the witness of this your servant, Joachim. Let him now intercede for the Church of Cologne and for the whole world! May he rest in peace!


Translated by Rt. Rev. Michael G. Campbell OSA, Bishop of Lancaster, UK.




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Charlie Gard case – what it reveals about the ‘death with dignity’ movement

CP&S:    This report, from Fox News raising some very relevant points about the culture of death that appears to be gaining momentum both in the UK and the USA.

Please remember Charlie Gard, his parents and their legal team in your prayers as we await the expert opinion due early next week.

Image result for Charlie Gard

The case of 11-month old Charlie Gard is bringing out the worst in the “Death with Dignity Movement.” By appointing Victoria Butler-Cole, a death with dignity advocate, as the lawyer representing Charlie in court against his parents, the death with dignity movement has crossed the line from advocating for individuals’ wishes to projecting its views onto innocent children who are too young to have indicated that “death with dignity” is something they want.

Charlie Gard, an 11-month-old living in the UK, has an extremely rare mitochondrial disorder. An experimental treatment exists that has a chance—although a small chance—at recovering his muscle function and allowing him to have a happy life. His parents will be in court Thursday asking the court to allow him to receive this experimental treatment. His hospital and others argue that the treatment is too experimental—that it has only been tested in a lab—but the same hospital has used equally-experimental treatment before.

Charlie’s de-facto lawyer, Victoria Butler-Cole, once represented Lindsey Briggs in the High Court, who argued that her husband would have preferred to be taken off life support. Paul Briggs had not written a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. The court ruled to give Briggs palliative care only, and it was the first time that a court ruled to withdraw food and water from a clinically stable patient.

When did we decide as a global society that an infant would rather die comfortably than fight for his life? We didn’t. Charlie Gard is obviously fighting to stay alive, which indicates to me that he has the will to live.

Briggs’ case couldn’t be more different from the Charlie Gard case. In Briggs’ case, the individual’s closest relative testified that death with dignity was the individual’s will. In the case of Charlie Gard, in the case of a child, the individual’s closest relatives testify that the individual wants to live and that medical treatment is in his best interest.

It is hard to argue with a consenting adult who says they are in so much pain that they want to end their lives comfortably. Those advocating for “death with dignity” feel they act in individuals’ best interest by advocating for access to palliative care, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, or euthanasia.

But in the case of Charlie Gard, the legal system has put Charlie Gard’s fate into the hands of the Death with Dignity movement. Individuals who believe that a comfortable death is more desirable to a life on a ventilator and medical treatment have been appointed to represent Charlie Gard. Furthermore, the court has put the burden of proof on Gard’s parents to prove that the treatment they want for their son is not harmful, that Charlie is not in pain, and that Charlie is growing like a typical child.

When did we decide as a global society that it is always better to die comfortably than to undergo medical treatment? We didn’t. As support for Charlie’s case grows around the world, as parents of children with similar conditions (and at least parents of one child with the exact condition as Charlie) advocate for Charlie’s access to treatment, it is evident that most people support hospitals taking every measure to save a life: that death with dignity should be the last resort.

And when did we decide as a global society that an infant would rather die comfortably than fight for his life? We didn’t. Charlie Gard is obviously fighting to stay alive, which indicates to me that he has the will to live.

Unless someone has written a do-not-resuscitate order, or their closest relative testifies that they prefer death with dignity, shouldn’t we continue with our initial assumption as a society that an individual prefers to live? Hospitals should do their job and provide every treatment possible to a sick patient or transfer a patient to a hospital who will.

The judge in Charlie Gard’s court proceedings Monday acknowledged that the Children Act of 1989 says the child’s welfare should be the court’s “paramount consideration.” If the death with dignity movement can convince a court that it is in a child’s best interest to be deprived of life-saving treatment and allowed to die without air, food, or water, then the future of our children’s health care as we know it is in dire danger.

Gia Behnamian is an independent writer and policy analyst in Washington, DC.

Photo: The Sun.

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100th Anniversary of Our Lady’s Third Apparition to the Little Sherpherds of Fatima – the Vision of Hell

“You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” (John Martin, “Fallen Angels in Hell”, ca. 1841)

As the July [13] date approached Lucia continued to be troubled by the words of her pastor that the devil might be behind the apparitions.

As the July date approached Lucia continued to be troubled by the words of her pastor that the devil might be behind the apparitions. Finally, she confided to Jacinta that she intended not to go. When the day finally dawned, however, her fears and anxieties disappeared, so that the noon hour found her in the Cova with Jacinta and Francisco, awaiting the arrival of the beautiful Lady.

The apparition of July 13th would prove to be in many ways the most controversial aspect of the message of Fátima, providing a secret in three parts which the children guarded zealously. The first two parts, the vision of hell and the prophecy of the future role of Russia and how to prevent it, would not be revealed until Sr. Lucia wrote them down in her third memoir, at the request of the bishop, in 1941. The third part, usually called the Third Secret, was only later communicated to the bishop, who sent it unread to Pope Pius XII.

A few moments after arriving at the Cova da Iria, near the holmoak, where a large number of people were praying the Rosary, we saw the flash of light once more, and a moment later Our Lady appeared on the holmoak.

“Lucia,” Jacinta said, “speak. Our Lady is talking to you.”

“Yes?” said Lucia. She spoke humbly, asking pardon for her doubts with every gesture, and to the Lady: “What do you want of me?”

I want you to come back here on the thirteenth of next month. Continue to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it.

Yes, yes.”

“I would like to ask who you are, and if you will do a miracle so that everyone will know for certain that you have appeared to us.”

You must come here every month, and in October I will tell you who I am and what I want. I will then perform a miracle so that all may believe.

Thus assured, Lucia began to place before the Lady the petitions for help that so many had entrusted to her. The Lady said gently that she would cure some, but others she would not cure.

“And the crippled son of Maria da Capelinha?”

No, neither of his infirmity nor of his poverty would he be cured, and he must be certain to say the Rosary with his family every day.

Another case recommended by Lucia to the Lady’s assistance was a sick woman from Atougia who asked to be taken to heaven.

Tell her not to be in a hurry. Tell her I know very well when I shall come to fetch her.

Make sacrifices for sinners, and say often, especially while making a sacrifice: O Jesus, this is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

[First Part of the Secret – The Vision of Hell]

As Our Lady spoke these words she opened her hands once more, as had during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw as it were a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now following back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me do). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:

[Second Part of the Secret]

You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. It is to save them that God wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.

This war will end, but if men do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night that is lit by a strange and unknown light [this occurred on January 28, 1938], you will know it is the sign God gives you that He is about to punish the world with war and with hunger, and by the persecution of the Church and the Holy Father.

To prevent this, I shall come to the world to ask that Russia be consecrated to my Immaculate Heart, and I shall ask that on the First Saturday of every month Communions of reparation be made in atonement for the sins-of the world. If my wishes are fulfilled, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, then Russia will spread her errors throughout the world, bringing new wars and persecution of the Church; the good will be martyred and the Holy Father will have much to suffer; certain nations will be annihilated. But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she will be converted, and the world will enjoy a period of peace. In Portugal the faith will always be preserved…

[Third Part of the Secret – Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, “The Message of Fátima”]…..

Read the rest at

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Pope Francis promoting a ‘hidden schism’ with ‘obstinate persistence,’

from: LifeSite News.

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ROME, July 12, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – An atheist philosopher friend of Benedict XVI has strongly criticized Pope Francis, accusing the Holy Father of not preaching the Gospel but politics, fomenting schism, and issuing secularist statements aimed at destroying the West.

In a fiery interview published July 10 in Mattino di Napoli, Marcello Pera, who co-wrote the famous 2005 book Without Roots with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzingersaid he cannot understand the Pope who, he said, goes beyond the bounds of “rational comprehension.”

A philosophy professor, member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, and a former president of the Italian Senate, Pera said he believes the reason why the Pope calls for unlimited immigration is because he “hates the West” and is seeking to do all he can “to destroy it.”

He added that he does not like the Pope’s magisterium, saying it is “not the Gospel, only politics,” and that Francis is “little or not at all interested in Christianity as doctrine, in its theological aspect.”

“His statements appear to be based on Scripture,” he said, but “actually they are strongly secularist.”

Immigration has become a highly sensitive topic in Italy in recent months as thousands of refugees arrive every month, mostly from north Africa, placing considerable strain on local communities and services.

Pera’s comments also come after another conversation between the Pope and the atheist Eugenio Scalfari in which Francis allegedly told Scalfari to be “very concerned” about the summit last week of the G20 group of industrialized nations because they have “very dangerous alliances” and a “distorted view of the world.”

According to Scalfari, who is over 90 and doesn’t record his interviews, the Pope also said the G20 worried him because of the issue of immigration, saying the problem is “unfortunately rising in today’s world, that of the poor, the weak, the excluded, of which migrants are part.”  Some of the G20 nations have “few local poor but fear the invasion of immigrants,” he said.

In the July 10 interview Pera, went on to say that he believes the Pope isn’t concerned about the salvation of souls but only social well-being and welfare, and argued that if Europe were to follow the Pope’s position, it would be committing suicide. “The Pope reflects all the prejudices of South America against North America, against the free market, liberty, and capitalism,” Pera added.

On the issue of migration, the philosopher politician believes the Pope’s approach is not from the Gospel, and his words are designed to win easy applause from the United Nations.  His political vision on migrants and society, he continued, has “nothing to do with the Western tradition of political freedom and its Christian roots.”

Pera’s book with Cardinal Ratzinger, whose full title was Without Roots —The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, warned of the dangers facing civilization if the West abandoned its moral and cultural history. The joint authors called on Western leaders to embrace a spiritual rather than political renewal, accepting the moral values of its Judeo-Christian heritage which would enable society to make sense of today’s economic, political and social challenges.

In this week’s interview, Pera said he believes the open doors approach to migrants that the Pope is advancing will lead to a “bad reaction” with no desirable solution. He said the Pope’s positions underline that he is not in “perfect harmony” with “conservative Catholics and the rest of the Church.”

He added that Francis is not only causing problems in politics over migration, he is also fueling a kind of schism within the Church.

Pera, whose 2008 book Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians contained a preface by Pope Benedict XVI, maintained that an “apparent hidden schism exists in the Catholic world” that the Pope is “pursuing with obstinate persistence and determination.”

But he said this “new course” being pursued by Francis does not convince him at all, and argued that it is “exploding the Second Vatican Council in all its revolutionary radicality.”

Pera further believes these ideas, which he thinks are devastating for the Church, have their origins in the Council. “That aggiornamento (updating) of Christianity secularized the Church, triggering a very profound change, even if it risked bringing a schism that was kept at bay in the years that followed,” he said.

He credited Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II for saving the Church, “resisting and trying to mediate the new with tradition.” They did this in a “lofty way,” he said, but now Francis has brought all back into discussion: “human rights, all without exception, have become the ideal point of reference and compass for the Church” while the “rights of God and of tradition have almost gone.”

In an interview with the National Catholic Register in 2006, Pera warned against multiculturalism, saying it leads to the exact “opposite of integration, because it gives rise to separate communities, that are then reduced to a ghetto-like status and enter into conflict amongst themselves.”

He also said then that his diagnosis for Europe’s future was “not a happy one.”

“If Europe goes forward with its relativist culture, with the refusal of its own tradition, with its low nativity rates, with indiscriminate immigration, then Europe is going to end up Islamized,” he warned.

Referring to Benedict XVI’s comments in Without Roots, he said “the impression today is that Europe resembles the Roman Empire at its fall.”

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Feast of St. Benedict

It is our privilege and our joy to celebrate each year two major feasts in honor of Our Blessed Father Saint Benedict: this first one occurs during the Lenten season, and the second beneath the ardent rays of the July sun. Today’s feast originally celebrated the transfer of the relics of Saint Benedict from Italy to France, but has now become for the universal Church the principal celebration honoring Saint Benedict. Given the penitential character of Lent, we generally reserve more solemnity for the feast in July. It is nevertheless only fitting to say a few words about the holy death of a great Saint.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints,” (Psalm 115:15) says the psalmist. Why precious? Is the sad business of our mortality—our need to die someday—so precious? Are the tears and harshness of losing the ones we love something to be treasured? Of course not! But the death of a saint reveals to us something quite surprising, something most useful and precious for our own lives. When a saint dies, he or she is not preoccupied with the dismal perspective of tombs, decay, and the great unknown beyond. Quite to the contrary! When a saint dies, it is about finally entering into that spiritual state, once the soul is delivered from the infirmities of the body, where love is complete, where the human being can at last really live, and when the unfortunate lot that fell to mankind when Adam and Eve sinned is finally broken for good. This is true even before the soul receives its body back in a glorified state at the end of time. The tomb holds the body but not the soul. The Saint climbs past Purgatory all the way to the Kingdom of light.

Such a view of death might seem a bit unreal to us, as this happiness to come is not altogether apparent. But to the saint it is apparent or almost so. Not that such a person has, while still on earth, the beatific vision of God already, living without the daily struggles we all know along the way. No, saints are pilgrims like the rest of us. But when Faith, Hope, and Charity reach a certain pitch of perfection in this mortal life, well, a very great certitude about God is reached and an incomparable confidence acquired. In fact, a true foretaste of the life of heaven is thus attained. For the saint, death is not the end of life, the last page of the book, but the beginning. The perspective of moving, at last, beyond all the evil and misunderstandings and illnesses and sadness that mark a human being little by little here below (and sometimes even children), gives wings to the soul.

Saint Francis de Sales teaches that all good souls die in the love of God; that all martyrs die specifically because of the love of God (they are put to death you see, for being faithful to God); and that some rare souls actually die of the love of God, which is to say that the desire to reach this eternal life which they have tasted in prayer becomes so powerful as literally to cause the soul to leave the body out of the purest love (Treatise on the Love of God, Bk. 7, n. 9-11). Such would seem to be the case, especially, of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Everything we know about Saint Benedict would tend to indicate that such was his passing too: the death of exceeding love of Christ. May he intercede for us, so that we may share some of that love, both in our earthly existence, as long as it pleases God to keep us here, and at the moment of our death.

Image result for St. Benedict supported by monks as he died

“Six days before he died, he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately, he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. Then, supporting his weakened body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last.” (St. Gregory the Great, Book Two of Dialogues, chapter 37).

Icon  by Dom Alex Echeandia OSB. A monk of Belmont Abbey and the Monastery of the Incarnation, Peru.

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Cardinal Meisner’s Witness Concerning Fatima and the Dubia

By Maike Hickson at OnePeterFive:

As we reported earlier this week, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, one of the four dubia cardinals, passed away on 5 July. The German cardinal fell peacefully asleep while praying his breviary in preparation for offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the morning.

In the wake of the news of Cardinal Meisner’s death, Dr. Michael Hesemann – the German Church historian who had earlier provided us with an important 1918 document from the Vatican archives concerning the Freemasonic plan to attack throne and altar – wrote on his own Facebook page a tribute to the German cardinal whom he knew personally and well.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Badde

In this tribute, Dr. Hesemann quotes from a private letter which Cardinal Meisner had written to him on 29 December 2016, and these words now aptly seem to be a part of the cardinal’s own spiritual testament. (Meisner did also write a public spiritual testament to which we later shall return. But this more private testament is even more pertinent, inasmuch as Cardinal Meisner himself was the only one of the four dubia cardinals who never made public statements about his own participation and support of the dubia.) Here follow some of Cardinal Meisner’s private words in late 2016, as quoted by Dr. Hesemann:

“We live in a time of confusion, not only in society, but also in the Church,” he [Meisner] wrote to me still on 29 December 2016; how much he was right! And he added – writing it down as a message for all bishops, and at the same time, as an explanation for his signing the dubia: “The shepherd is appointed by Christ in order to preserve the herd from error and from confusion.” [emphasis added]

After quoting these memorable words about the current crisis in the Church and the intrinsic duty of the pope, Dr. Hesemann continues, by referring also to the importance which Cardinal Meisner had laid upon the message of Fatima:

He [Meisner] who is more closely connected with the message of Fatima than any other German bishop, and who had met Sister Lucia, the seer, several times, put at the time [December 2016] very much hope upon the Fatima Year 2017 and also hoped “that the Mother of God would not let us drown in confusion and sin.” [emphasis added]

How piercing these words of prayer are, can be seen when we consider Dr. Hesemann’s subsequent words:

That in the same year [2017] the Federal Government [of Germany] would easily pass and wave through the anti-Christian homo-“marriage,” he [Meisner] could not then foresee [see here for more information]. However, his last words which he then wrote to me have become now even more pertinent – yes, they sound like a testament, his last warning, for our time: “Ever since in our society, there barely exists any more the memory of creation, one has also forgotten who and what man is. And that is why everything goes topsy turvy now, and one even still thinks thereby, at most, to serve mankind.”

We are grateful to Dr. Hesemann for publishing these words of one of the courageous four dubia cardinals, and who himself had also received in the recent past much criticism for his own signing of the dubia. In December 2016, we reported on the sharp tones that came from German sources – that is to say, from the German branch of Vatican Radio and from, the website of the German Bishops’ Conference – which used words such as “treason” and “renegade” with regard to Cardinal Meisner. As we reported at the time, Meisner might also have been especially singled out for such criticism for the very fact that he himself had been the driving force at the 2005 Conclave to have Joseph Ratzinger elected pope.

Paul Badde and Cardinal Meisner (Photo courtesy of Paul Badde)

Paul Badde, a German journalist, scholar, and Vatican specialist who knew Cardinal Meisner personally, and intimately, and for many years – and even had him as his counselor when writing on Church news –  also reminded us in his own very moving tribute to the German cardinal of his important role at the 2005 Conclave. Badde says that it was Meisner who “had, during the Conclave, uncovered and thwarted a plot of the so-called Sankt Gallen Group against that same election [of Joseph Ratzinger].” Badde continues, saying:

At that time, he became the “pope-maker,” next to the Holy Ghost of course. “Today, I fought as never before in my life,” he told me at the time on the way home from the Sistine Chapel to his lodging at the bottom of the Gianicolo hill. More he was not allowed to say. [my emphasis]

Let us now return to the theme of Fatima. Cardinal Meisner once described at a conference how, during his more than 40 years of life under Communism in East Germany, the Communists always had a special aversion against Fatima, and he reported that they never allowed a Catholic to travel to Fatima. “That was always denied to us.” “We were not allowed to talk much about Fatima, because it would always be interpreted as anti-Soviet propaganda,” explained Cardinal Meisner. For him personally, it was a sign that “the devil smells when he gets seriously into trouble [wo es ihm an den Kragen geht].”

In 2016, shortly after the brief meeting in Cuba between Pope Francis and the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, Cardinal Meisner proposed at the same above-mentioned conference that this historic event could and should inspire both the Catholic and the Orthodox leaders to “consecrate us all to the Mother of God in the midst of the current difficulties, just as the seer children of Fatima proposed it.” [emphasis added] Thus he supported the idea of a Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Moreover, Cardinal Meisner showed his devotion to Fatima also on other occasions. In 2013, in a homily on the Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on 13 May, Cardinal Meisner gave a most beautiful presentation about the importance of Fatima, and of the Rosary in particular. Remembering the year 1917, the prelate said:

The light of the Faith went out in East Europe [with the Russian Revolution], but in the West, the light of the Faith once more arose: that is, Mary’s message about the overcoming of evil with the good, about the conquering of tanks and canons through prayer. And that was in Fatima.

Meisner added that it was in Fatima – in Portugal – that Our Lady “found a bridgehead from which she helped to overcome the unbelief.” Thus, he adds: “Blessed art thou, Portugal, because you have believed!”

It was after the attempted killing of Pope John Paul II in 1981 – who strongly believed that it was through Our Lady of Fatima’s intercession that his life was saved – that the pope asked Cardinal Meisner to celebrate a Holy Mass in Fatima itself, in 1990, and on “the first Fatima Day without the Bolshevist Empire,” and to do it “in thanksgiving for the liberation from Communism.” (We shall soon come back to this 1990 homily.) In Meisner’s eyes, it was through Fatima, that the political change took place in 1989 in East Europe. “As a weapon against the godlessness, the Mother of God gave us prayer, but especially the prayer of the Rosary,” explained the cardinal.

Cardinal Meisner, who had a very vivid and warm way of giving his homilies, remembered also an encounter he once had, in 1975, as a young bishop, still in Communist Germany. There came to his Mass in Erfurt (East Germany) a group of visiting tourists which turned out to be Catholics from the Soviet Union (Kazakhstan) and who had not been at Holy Mass for 30 years! “We are homesick for the Church!” they told him after Mass. And one man put a very pertinent question to Meisner: “Could you give to me some very important information? Which doctrines of the Faith do we have to pass on to our children and to our children’s children so that they may attain to eternal life?” [emphasis added]

Cardinal Meisner was still so touched by these words when he related them again in his 2013 homily: “Such an important question had not been put to me before, nor ever thereafter,” he said. However, when he had then proposed to this man that he give to him and to each of his companions a Bible and the Catechism, the man from the Soviet Union politely declined, saying that they are not even permitted to have religious books in their own homes. When asked about taking home a Rosary, the man responded: “Yes, we can do that. But, what does this have to do with my question?” And Cardinal Meisner answered – holding up his Rosary:

At the beginning of the Rosary is the cross, where we pray the creed which contains our whole Faith. Then come the three pearls: Faith, Hope, Charity – the whole teaching for life. That is what we have to live. Then follow the other pearls, the whole gospels in a kind of secret or blind script, which can only be understood by the praying hands and hearts.

The man took the Rosary into his hands and said: “What? Then I have the whole Catholic Faith in one hand!” [emphasis added] This description of that unexpected and abiding conversation, as related by Cardinal Meisner, should be savored in full in the original homily, in German, in order to see the fuller moral beauty of this true story. Would that we could know what happened to these Catholics from Russia ever since 1975!

Cardinal Meisner holds up his rosary as he tells the story of his encounter with Catholics from the Soviet Union. (Screenshot)

Throughout this homily, for example, Cardinal Meisner used some beautiful poetic images and combinations of words that spring from his deep Faith and ardent Love of God. He said, for example: “When I reach out to the hand of God, I want to have something in my hand. That is the Rosary!” [emphasis added] And: “Whoever prays the Rosary again and again, will feel what the brethren felt on the way to Emmaus, when they asked each other: ‘Did not our hearts burn?’” And here Cardinal Meisner said: “The heart that is burning for Christ is the hope of the world. Mary brought this fire to our world in Fatima.” [emphasis added] “Not theories, but burning hearts will change the world,” added the prelate. He also used the beautiful image of the sick woman who touched the seam of Our Lord’s garment. “If I only touch this seam, I will be healed.” Thus said Meisner: “It is with the Rosary, that that seam of Jesus is given into our hands.”

For the sake of the beauty of this one homily, let me cite some other poetic images, as expressed by this prelate:

When we, along with these pearls, receive the words of His Life, then these spiritual seeds will bear fruit – 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold, unto eternal life! Each pearl is a mysterious germ of life, because it brings us the Gospel into our life and [brings] our life into the Gospel. [emphasis added]

Cardinal Meisner’s ardent love for the Rosary becomes even clearer when he makes the following public testament:

When I will have died, then the canons will come and take away my ring, my crosier […] But: I have written my testament: you have to leave me my Rosary! I want to take it into my coffin! I wish to show it to the Mother of God so that she may show me, after this exile, Jesus, the Blessed Fruit of her life!

In his fuller spiritual testament, which has now been published in Cologne, Germany, Cardinal Meisner writes a letter to Jesus Christ as a testament of gratitude to God, first for having created him as a human being, then for having made him a priest and a bishop, “formed and consecrated by your wounds,” and for having “used me at your Cross, and for having made me worthy of your wounds.” Written in 2011 – during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI – he also implores his flock always to remain loyal to Peter and thus to remain in the Faith.

Let us now consider what Cardinal Meisner had to say about Our Lady of Fatima in 1990, when he visited Fatima for the first time in his life, and upon request of Pope John Paul II. Dr. Hesemann kindly made this homily available to me which Cardinal Meisner gave to him for publication for Hesemann’s own book on Fatima (Das Letzte Geheimnis von Fatima The Last Secret of Fatima).

On 13 May 1990, Cardinal Meisner had thus stated

In our old Europe which was once the homeland of Christendom, Jesus Christ barely appears in public any more. Mary – and with her the Church – has been pushed to the margins of the European societies. Portugal, however, welcomed Mary 73 years ago – just like John under the Cross – into its own. In Fatima, this famous nation has given a realm and homeland to Mary. From Fatima, Mary could start her path in order to carry Christ back to Europe. In Russia and the other East European states, the Christian faith was nearly forbidden. The peoples of East Europe that highly venerate Mary were only able to give her very little space, since atheism had conquered almost all living space. That is why Mary came from Fatima in order to help the distressed disciples of her Son in the East European states. Fatima is, so to speak, the bridgehead of Mary from whence Mary subverted the East European people in order to bring them Christ, who truly liberates man. Europe must never forget to thank Portugal for having opened the doors to Mary so that she may convert the godless states in the East of our continent. […] In those years [of Communism], Mary was the most unassuming, but omnipresent companion in suffering and the helper of the distressed. […] Not Marx has given man greatness and dignity, but Mary.

When we read these words, we must remember that they were written under the deep impression of a final end of Communism in the East, after decades of oppression. The deep gratitude of this prelate is palpable in these words. (Let us remember that in 2016, almost twenty years later, he came to the conclusion that we still were in need of the assistance of Our Lady of Fatima.) But, there are even deeper reasons for Cardinal Meisner’s devotion to Our Lady. In a 2016 interview about his own life – he was born in 1933 under the Nazi regime, lived for more than 40 years under Communism in East Germany and then faced the challenges of cultural relativism and liberal Catholicism in the West as Archbishop of Cologne – it becomes clear that it was his own mother who taught him the love of the Blessed Mother and of the Rosary.

In 1945, his mother had to flee from the approaching Soviets from Breslau (which is today Polish) to the West, taking along with her not only her four own sons, but six other relatives – two grandmothers and four more children! (Meisner’s father was among the Fallen in Russia – die Gefallenen in Russland – and never returned home.) On their way to the West, the extended Meisner family endured terrible situations such as being abandoned in a van in a heap of snow off the main country road, in the winter, in freezing temperatures below zero. In the middle of this dramatic situation and after having even dropped down a slope in this van, the mother lifted up her Rosary, saying: “God is with us!” When later searching in vain for hours for a room at night in a little village in soon-to-be Communist Germany, the mother suddenly stood still and calmly explained to her four young sons that she, their mother, was now not able to provide for them and that thus they together now must turn to Mary for help. After saying a special German Marian prayer (Hilf Maria, jetzt ist Zeit) three times, a man came out onto the street to them, inviting them into his house with the words: “I cannot any longer watch upon a mother and her children standing out on the street at night.”

The whole story of Cardinal Meisner’s life is a story of warmth and courage. I have seldom seen such a unique combination of a warm heart and a strong conviction, which gained respect even among his professed opponents. Even Germany’s most prominent feminist, Alice Schwarzer, recently gave her tribute to Cardinal Meisner upon his death, saying: “Yes, I liked him.” She felt a friendship with him and she cherished “his humanity and child-like Faith” in spite of their differences of opinion, for example, concerning abortion, as Schwarzer wrote. She continued, saying that at their last meeting a year ago, Meisner gave her a little prayer card with a poem of St. Teresa of Avila. The lines “nothing shall frighten you, nothing scare you. Everything shall pass, God alone remains the same” touched Schwarzer especially as being quite “consoling.”

Is this not a true Catholic witness who stands firm in the truth and reaches out in charity with Christ’s touch to his own opponents? Is this not also the combination of Our Lord and Our Lady? The Truth and Love combined?

Some of the added inspiration for Meisner’s own courage and Catholic witness comes from none other than Cardinal Jozef Mindszenty himself, the great Hungarian martyr of Communism. It was on 6 May 2017, not long before he died, that Cardinal Meisner gave witnessto this great man. In a homily in Budapest, Hungary, Meisner recounts how he as a 13-year-old boy happened to see a picture of Cardinal Mindszenty in a Communist Courtroom under accusation. Meisner was so touched by this image – which reminded him immediately of Our Lord’s own being so falsely accused – that he fastened this image at the wall of his bedroom and thus always looked upon this cardinal before he fell asleep, and when he woke up. “He was the model of a bishop for me,” explained Cardinal Meisner in his homily. He adds:

And in me grew the desire that I, one day, wished to be like the cardinal, a Witness of Christ who has the courage also to stand up against the Powerful of this world. [emphasis added]

Later, Cardinal Meisner happened to find the same picture of Cardinal Mindszenty again. He put this image then into his breviary – “so that I am connected with him in prayer every day” – and it was that same breviary which lay in Cardinal Meisner’s hands when he died. “When we bishops are not any more confessors, then the people of God are not in a good situation,” Meisner added, after first speaking about Mindszenty’s own courageous witness and engagement for mankind. Meisner showed himself especially grateful for Mindszenty’s compassion and solidarity with the 9 million Germans who had to flee their homeland after World War II – among them the Meisner family. “Except for Cardinal Mindszenty, no other bishop then defended us,” [emphasis added] added Meisner. “Bishops have not only to pay attention to a good response from the media, but especially to the proclamation of the truth which has been entrusted to them.”

Cardinal Meisner did not only challenge his own fellow bishops. He also challenged all of us Catholics when he once said, in 2016, that now is the “great chance to become a full Christian – half-Christians will perish!” “Now one responsibly has to hold up one’s head [den Kopf hinhalten], or one will lose it.” He saw a “great chance truly to witness that we are Christians!” And this witness – which we have also learned now from Cardinal Meisner and from his life and his final act of signing the dubia – we can only accomplish with the help of Mary, rooted in the love for Christ.

Cardinal Meisner and the Holy Face of Manoppello (Photo courtesy of Paul Badde)

On 4 April 2005, Cardinal Meisner – significantly just before the upcoming 18-19 April 2005 Conclave in which he played such an important role – visited together with Paul Badde the Holy Face (Volto Santo) of Manoppello. The Cardinal was so deeply touched by the loving Face of God that he made a little, once more poetic, inscription in the shrine’s own guest book, an inscription which should inspire us all to a deeper love of Our Lord:

The Face is the Monstrance of the Heart. On the Volto Santo, the Heart of God becomes Visible. + Joachim Card. Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, Pax Vobis! 4/4/2005 [emphasis added]

Love helps overcome fear, as Professor Josef Pieper once explained and exemplified to my husband, Dr. Robert Hickson. The Latin word cor – heart – can also be found in the word courage. Love makes one courageous, like Cardinal Meisner’s mother fighting for her own little ones. May we all learn to love Our Lord and Our Lady so much that we will fight like lions for them. May we pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Meisner, and may we also fittingly hope that he soon will also intercede for us. And may thus his 2016 words about Fatima and the dubia also reach the heart of Pope Francis.

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