China Is Already Breaking Its Vatican Deal

By Benedict Rogers at Foreign Policy:

At a time when much of the rest of the world is starting to wake up to the repression, mendacity, and dangers of the Chinese Communist Party regime, the Vatican is getting even deeper in bed with it. And at a time when that regime is intensifying repression of religion—including Catholics—in China, Pope Francis is renewing an accord with Beijing that has yielded no benefits yet save for President Xi Jinping and only disunity and suffering for the Catholic Church.

Two years ago, the Vatican signed a provisional agreement with Beijing, valid for two years. It had been a long time coming, and I and others tried to warn of the dangers before the deal was done. When it was announced, I expressed concerns—but also tried to give a pope whom I admire the benefit of the doubt.

China is already breaking the deal. Only last week in Jiangxi province, dissenting Catholic priests have been placed under house arrest, in breach of an agreement to protect clergy from coercion. Priests from Yujiang diocese, under surveillance, have been forbidden from “engaging in any religious activity in the capacity of clergy” after they refused to join the regime’s so-called “patriotic church,” and Bishop Lu Xinping was barred from celebrating Mass.

This was predictable from the start. Everything about the deal was wrong.

Firstly, the timing: in the midst of the worst crackdown on religion since the Cultural Revolution.

The text was, and remains, secret, so no one other than its negotiators and the pope know the details.

And the result was to give an atheist dictatorship a decision-making role in the appointment of bishops.

But two years ago, while I expressed my skepticism, I held out for the possibility that I was wrong and that the pope was right. I am, after all, only a 7-year-old Catholic, having been received into the church on Palm Sunday 2013 in Myanmar by Cardinal Charles Bo, and I didn’t come into the church to take on the Vatican hierarchy, let alone the pope. Indeed, I am not—other than on this issue—a critic of Francis. I love his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, and I came into the church just 11 days after he was elected to the papacy. I have grown up as a Catholic with him and I want to support him.

Yet in the past two years, nothing has made me think that my skepticism about the deal was misplaced. On the contrary, I remain more convinced today than ever that the deal is very profoundly naïve, wrong, immoral, and dangerous. I don’t doubt the good intentions behind it, but they are deeply misplaced.

For a start, why was the release of Catholic clergy and laity in jail before the deal was signed not made—and secured—as a precondition? As it is, to my knowledge there have been no releases and yet more arrests and detentions, as the Jiangxi case shows.

Even in Hong Kong, the regime appears to have already exerted an influence over the Catholic diocese, directly or indirectly. Cardinal John Tong issued instructions to all priests to “watch your language” in homilies and avoid making politically provocative comments. The diocese has issued new instructions to Catholic schools to discourage students from participating in protests, and published religious textbooks with guidance on how Hong Kong students can “contribute to their nation” with a clear pro-Beijing slant, and it effectively banned an initiative by Catholic activists to mobilize a prayer campaign for Hong Kong. It is unclear whether the pressure for these measures came from Beijing or Rome, or out of fear in the diocese of the wrath of both.

The brazenness of the regime—tightening the screws in Jiangxi just days before the renewal of the agreement—illustrates how one-sided this deal is. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said last week that the agreement was implemented “successfully” and that the two sides “will continue to maintain close communication and consultation and improve bilateral relations.”

From Beijing’s point of view, he is right. The deal has succeeded in furthering the regime’s control of the church in China, repressing dissent, and buying the pope’s silence.

Francis—who most Sundays highlights one or another area of injustice and human rights around the world, and rightly so when he prays the Angelus—has stayed conspicuously silent on the persecution of Christians in China, the atrocities committed against the Uighurs which may well amount to a genocide, or the repression in Hong Kong or Tibet. Until now, not a word of prayer or solidarity for the repressed peoples of China has passed his lips publicly. Such is the tragic price of this worthless deal.

Ideally, I would advocate for this deal to be abandoned. And I do in principle, absolutely. But there are two reasons I don’t in practice, just yet. First, I know it will fall on deaf ears. The diplomats in the Vatican are determined, and it will be renewed. Second, we still do not know in detail what is in the agreement. It is difficult to categorically reject a text we have not yet fully seen.

So instead I say this to Rome: If it’s such a great deal—despite all the evidence to the contrary—tell us what’s in it. Come on, pleasantly surprise us! As a Catholic, I believe in miracles and I am prepared to be persuaded. But secrecy and silence are not the way.

So reveal, review, and then—if it’s as bad as the current evidence suggests—repeal the deal.

Supporters of the deal will say that the Vatican is playing a long game. But if so, it’s too long for the millions of Uighurs in prison camps, slavery, or under Orwellian surveillance; too long for the churches which are bulldozed, closed, under surveillance, or whose crosses are torn down and priests jailed; too long for prisoners of conscience whose organs are harvested; too long for Hong Kong, whose freedoms are being rapidly dismantled. Compromise for short-term gain may be defensible; total sell-out for no gain at all and an undermining of the church’s moral authority is not.

The Chinese Communist Party knows how to make use of what Lenin described as “useful idiots.” Mao was adept at using “fellow travellers.” When you have Vatican officials extolling the virtues of Chinese communism, as the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, did when he described it as the best example of Catholic Social Teaching, it is evident that the Vatican has provided Beijing with both useful idiots and fellow travellers.

I will always genuflect at an altar in a Catholic Church. What I won’t do—and I don’t think any Catholic should do—is kowtow to a brutal, repressive, tyrannical regime. I don’t think the pope should be made to do so either.

Benedict Rogers is the co-founder and chair of Hong Kong Watch.

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Interview with Sister Lucia of Fatima

In this interview from 1957, Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries of Fatima, talks about the message of Fatima (1917). She speaks of Our Lady’s sadness that so little attention is given to a message of such great importance for the whole of humanity.

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The Calling of Saint Matthew

Little is known about St. Matthew, except that he was the son of Alpheus, and he was likely born in Galilee. He worked as a tax collector, which was a hated profession during the time of Christ.

According to the Gospel, Matthew was working at a collection booth in Capernaum when Christ came to him and asked, “Follow me.” With this simple call, Matthew became a disciple of Christ.

From Matthew we know of the many deeds of Christ and the message Christ spread of salvation for all people who come to God through Him. The Gospel account of Matthew tells the same story as that found in the other three Gospels, so scholars are certain of its authenticity. His book is the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament.

Many years following the death of Christ, around 41 and 50 AD, Matthew wrote his gospel account. He wrote the book in Aramaic in the hope that his account would convince his fellow people that Jesus was the Messiah and that His kingdom had been fulfilled in a spiritual way. It was an important message at a time when almost everyone was expecting the return of a militant messiah brandishing a sword.

It is thought he departed for other lands to escape persecution sometime after 42 AD. According to various legends he fled to Parthia and Persia, or Ethiopia. Nothing is recorded of Matthew’s passing. We do not know how he died, if his death was natural or if he was martyred.

Saint Matthew is often depicted with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7, which reads, “The first living creature was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third living creature had a human face, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.”

Matthew was a tax collector and is therefore the patron saint of bankers. The Church established St. Matthew’s feast day as September 21.

St. Matthew Prayer

O Glorious St. Matthew, in your Gospel you portray Jesus as the longed-for Messiah who fulfilled the Prophets of the Old Covenant and as the new Lawgiver who founded a Church of the New Covenant.
Obtain for us the grace to see Jesus living in his Church and to follow his teachings in our lives on earth so that we may live forever with him in heaven. Amen.

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Reflection for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Scripture readings: Book of the Prophet Isaiah 55:6-9; Letter to the Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 20:1-16

This Sunday’s Gospel passage is taken from a section in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew where Jesus spells out some of the requirements for a life lived in and for God. Included among the requirements is the call to love without measure, acquiring a childlike attitude, as well as a readiness to sacrifice all for the Kingdom of Heaven, what can be called “impossible” detachment, and finally, the real meaning of “status” in God’s eyes.

The “punch line” in the Gospel parable this Sunday is this: “Many that are first will be last and the last first.” What does this say about God’s decisions, “when the Son of Man comes,” at the final judgment and the dawn of the new world? Will those who lived ages ago have advantage over the more recent arrivals on planet earth? Clearly that is not the point Jesus is making in the parable this Sunday. Jesus’ point is this: don’t be too confident or complacent in your spiritual life so as to actually be missing the point, by growing proud or neglecting the essence of fraternal love. In God’s eyes, there is no small or great, first or last, since all of us are equal before God’s free and gracious love, given as a gift each moment of our existence.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, the 19th century French Carmelite nun and now Doctor of the Church, liked to point out in regards to “who will be happiest” in God’s Kingdom, that all who are in heaven will be completely satisfied. Think of a thimble, a drinking glass and a bucket, Therese said. Fill them all to the brim. Which of the three is the fullest? All three in fact are completely full. Such is the case as well for all the blessed in heaven. Where they have gone we hope to follow, trusting we will be truly fulfilled by God.

In Jesus’ parable this Sunday of the vineyard owner, there is a reversal of payment made to the workers at the end of the day. Those who came last and worked very little are paid first and the exact same amount as those who had labored all day. The “sting” in the story is not so much that the last workers are paid first, but something else. It is the landowner’s words of self-defense in the face of criticism that is supposed to grab our attention. What might have shocked the first hearers of the parable and maybe ourselves as well, is the apparent injustice and a lack of social propriety on the part of the landowner.

The vineyard owner’s decision to “do as I please with my money” forms the heart of the parable. In the parable the landowner is to be understood as representing God. With this in mind, we can presume that God does what He wills, whether we “like it or not,” so to speak. God’s generosity cannot be outdone and it may be very different from our own standards of conduct.

The parable of the vineyard owner and the distribution of equal wages relates to other places in the Gospels where Jesus associates with and is kind to sinners and tax collectors. In fact Jesus uses the parable of the vineyard owner in the face of attacks from certain religious leaders of the time. The parable emphasizes that the landowner is allowed to choose as he see fits, giving to the last as he gave to the first, even if his generosity is resented by some.

Jesus uses strong words for the vineyard owner being attacked: “Are you envious because I am generous?” A literal translation of these words in the Greek original is this: “Is your eye evil because I am good?” That says it all! How often people, maybe ourselves as well, are not satisfied with how God works in the lives of others or in our own lives.

Today’s parable is a good reminder of God’s gracious generosity. No one is excluded and all are welcome to receive it. In the face of divine goodness, narrow categories of “how God should act” are set aside. Human prejudice, narrowness and selfishness are in sharp contrast to the way God acts. Nonetheless we are challenged to mirror and express in our lives the bountifulness of God and to live in freedom from prejudice as Jesus consistently preached and lived. This message is no less important today than it was when first expounded.

We are always free to resist or reject God’s ways and close ourselves to His gifts. However, as the Prophet Isaiah reminded his hearers in the first reading for this Sunday: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God’s love and generosity are always a cause for adoring admiration.

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Our Lady of La Salette: A Fearful Warning and a Prophecy

Our Lady of La Salette


On September 19, 1846, 174 years ago today, the Mother of God appeared to two young shepherds, Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud, on the heights of the mountain of La Salette in France. There She dictated to them a public message which She asked to make known to all Her people. And to each little shepherd privately She confided a secret, concerning which She gave special directives.

Melanie Calvat was invested with the mission of founding a new religious Order, the Order of the Mother of God, which would associate under one single common rule more than one community, and would include the Apostles of the Latter Times announced by Saint Louis Mary de Montfort in his Prophetic Prayer.

Blessed Melanie was told by the Mother of God to make known her secret after the year 1858, and she published it herself in the face of great difficulties. It was important, and remains important, for the Church to be aware of its contents. We therefore will summarize briefly, the secret of La Salette for those who may not yet know it, or even of it.

The Blessed Virgin announced that it was primarily the defections of the Church which will bring down on the world the exemplary chastisement:

“God is going to strike in an unprecedented manner. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth! God is going to exhaust His wrath, and no one will be able to resist so many concerted woes… Many will abandon the faith, and the number of priests and religious who will dissociate themselves from the true religion will be great… Many religious institutes will lose the faith entirely and will cause the loss of many souls. The Church will pass through a frightful crisis… The Holy Father will suffer greatly. I will be with him to the end to receive his sacrifice… For a time God will not remember France or Italy because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no longer known… [But the] prayers, penance and tears of the just will ascend to heaven, and the entire people of God will beg for pardon and mercy and will ask My assistance and My intercession. Then Jesus Christ, by an act of His justice and His great mercy toward the just [will intervene and] then there will be peace, the reconciliation of God with men… Charity will flourish everywhere.. The Gospel will be preached everywhere, and men will make great progress in the faith, because there will be unity among the workers of Jesus Christ and men will live in the fear of God.”

She foretells: “Rome will lose the faith and will become the seat of Antichrist.” To call Her children to combat for God in the days of darkness and sin, the Mother of God concludes:

“I address an urgent appeal to the earth: I summon the true disciples of God who lives and reigns in heaven; I summon the true imitators of Christ made man, the one true Saviour of men; I summon My children, My true devotees, those who have given themselves to Me so that I might lead them to My divine Son, those whom I carry, so to speak, in My arms, those who have lived according to My spirit; finally, I summon the Apostles of the Latter Times, the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who have lived in scorn of the world and of themselves, in poverty and in humility, in contempt and in silence, in prayer and in mortification, in chastity and in union with God, in suffering and unknown to the world. It is time for them to arise and come forth to enlighten the earth.

Go, and show yourselves as My cherished children; I am with you and in you, provided that your faith be the light that enlightens you in these days of woe. May your zeal cause you to be as famished forthe glory and honor of Jesus Christ. Fight, children of light, you little number who see; for behold the time of times, the end of ends.

The Church will be eclipsed, the world will be in consternation. But behold Enoch and Elie filled with the Spirit of God; they will preach with the strength of God, and men of good will believe in God, and many souls will be consoled; they will make great progress by the virtue of the Holy Spirit and will condemn the devilish errors of the antichrist.

(Read full secret here).

Abbé Combe, the editor of the 1904 edition of Le Secret de Melanie, this secret given to Melanie, adds the following note in a commentary after this last paragraph:

‘I have from Melanie that the Church will be eclipsed in this sense, that 1) one will not know which is the true pope; 2) for a time: the holy Sacrifice will cease to be offered in churches, and also in houses: so there will be no more public worship. But she saw that yet the holy Sacrifice would not cease: it would be offered in caves, in tunnels, in barns and in alcoves.’

I would say that Melanie spoke of our own days soon to come….

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With men like these, they’re not going to cancel Christianity

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The Lady of all Nations

In answer to questions from clergy and faithful internationally, Bishop Josef Maria Punt, Bishop Emeritus from the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, provides a brief history and clarification of the position of the Church regarding the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations. In his letter, the Bishop also explains the 1974 statement by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith


Because of many requests, we asked Bishop emeritus Jozef Punt to give a short summary of the development of the position of the Church regarding the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as “The Lady of all Nations” or “The Mother of all Peoples,” (Amsterdam 1945 – 1959):

The Church and “the Lady of all Nations” have a long common history, on the diocesan level, as well as on the level of the universal Church. It started more than 70 years ago. Like most of my predecessors, I also had known the visionary very well. She was totally reliable and very down to earth. All her visions happened in the presence of others, and were recorded by others. As a bishop, we have a duty to “test the spirits,” to separate the “wheat from the chaff,” but also “hold fast to what is good.” I cannot describe 70 years of history in detail, but shall try to explain the central stages in this development.

In 1956, the first local Bishop, Johannes Huibers allowed the private veneration of the title, the image and the prayer of the Lady of All Nations, but prohibited public veneration. This was based on the advice of a diocesan commission, that could not yet establish a supernatural origin. Besides that, the apparitions were still going on. In 1957, Rome confirmed the Bishop’s disciplinary measure, adding that it did not rule out new information presenting itself in the future. After his retirement (1960), Bishop Huibers became more and more convinced of the authenticity of the apparitions, as is manifested in letters to his successor and to Rome, as well as in other documented testimonies.

In 1967, the then Bishop of Haarlem, Theodorus Zwartkruis, on the request of many faithful and in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, decided to re-open the case. A new diocesan commission could not draw a clear conclusion, but tended to attribute a natural origin to the events. Yet, it advised the granting of permission for public devotion. In 1974, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith did not state that the apparitions are false, but specified that the “non constat de supernaturalitate” position still existed, and in an official publication confirmed the prohibition of the public veneration from 1956 by Bishop Huibers.

In 1973, an unexpected development happened. The sisters of a convent of Eucharistic Adoration in Akita, Japan, had commissioned a wooden statue after the image of the Lady of all Nations, and daily prayed the prayer of Amsterdam. In July 1973, Sister Agnes Sasagawa heard a beautiful voice coming from the statue of the Lady of all Nations, giving messages. Also, healings, tears and other miraculous events at the statue happened, five times in the presence of the bishop himself. After extensive scientific investigation by the University of Akita, the local Bishop, John Shojiro Ito, on April 22, 1984 approved “the supernatural character of the events.” He made a pilgrimage to Amsterdam, and shortly before his death, he wrote a letter (February 28, 1989) to the Bishop of Haarlem, in which he confirms that he had approved the events regarding the statue of the Lady of all Nations in Akita, as consisting of a supernatural origin. There is also a deep relation of the Lady of all Nations with the Holy Eucharist, both in Akita and in Amsterdam.

In 1984, Rome modified its position regarding Amsterdam. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith advises the then local Bishop, Henricus Bomers, to consider making a distinction between the title and the apparitions, expressing that the Congregation was inclined to recognize the title. In the following years, there is ongoing correspondence between the local bishop and the Congregation about the possibility and the reality of such a distinction. On April 6, 1990, the Congregation states in writing that “the Bishop of Haarlem himself should judge the advisability” of this policy.

In 1995, Rome allows the public veneration. In that year, I was appointed auxiliary Bishop of Haarlem. At my introduction visit to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, October 1995, the Prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, brought up the issue of the devotion to The Lady of All Nations, and asked my opinion on this topic. I responded that I was in favour of allowing public devotion, without yet giving a judgement on the authenticity, but await further developments. The Prefect gave permission to this policy. On May 31, 1996, Bishop Bomers, together with me as his auxiliary bishop, therefore released a decree in which we allowed the public veneration of “The Lady of all Nations,” and left the question of the authenticity to the conscience of the faithful. The devotion sharply spread.

In 2002, in my continued responsibility as the new Bishop of Haarlem, I had to take a position on the Amsterdam apparitions. Already for several years, I was confronted with many requests from bishops and faithful to give clarity about the authenticity, and also in the light of the approval of Akita. I asked some theologians and psychologists to again study all the available material. On their positive advice, and in my responsibility as local bishop, I then approved the apparitions as “in essence consisting of a supernatural origin.” In a pastoral letter, I added that the approval does not imply a guarantee on each word or image, because the influence of the human factor always remains. I also recalled that private revelation, even if recognized as authentic, “does not bind the conscience of the faithful.”

In 2005, Rome required a small change in the prayer. The last sentence of the prayer read as follows: “May the Lady of all Nations, who once was Mary, be our Advocate. Amen.” Of course, the Blessed Virgin retains the name, “Mary.” The name is used throughout all the messages. In fact, Our Lady presents herself with the words: “I am the Lady, Mary, Mother of all Peoples”. What is meant is that this humble young woman, Mary of Nazareth, was chosen and elevated by the Lord to become, as St. John Paul II refers to her under the titles, “the Mother of all Humanity” and “the Mother of all Peoples.” But to avoid misunderstanding, and in obedience, the clause was changed. Now the most current form of the clause reads: “the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The devotion has spread all over the world and is presently supported by hundreds of bishops and cardinals. The prayer is translated in almost all languages of the world. The first sentence of the prayer reads: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Spirit over the earth,” with special emphasis on “now.” Our world needs the Holy Spirit now, more than ever. If we honor Mary in the full greatness the Lord has granted Her, She then can fully execute her maternal power over the heart of her Son, and obtain for us a new descent of the Holy Spirit over our wounded world. That is the essence of this devotion. For this reason, millions of people are praying the Rosary and this prayer. At the Lady of All Nations prayer day in Germany, 2019, we were happy to receive a message of greeting and blessing on behalf of Pope Francis.

Jozef Marianus Punt

Bishop Emeritus of Haarlem-Amsterdam

15 September 2020

The Lady of All Nations website

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Vatican’s management culture creates tension and insecurity

Exterior shot of the Vatican.
Exterior shot of the Vatican. (photo: Edward Pentin / NCRegister)

Edward Pentin, Vatican, September 16, 2020

VATICAN CITY — “I had no rights,” said Eugenio Hasler, a former lay official who worked at the highest levels of the Governorate of Vatican City State, the Vatican’s principal administrative office.

A respected official, dismissed in 2017 for no formal reason after a decade of service, Hasler was allegedly let go because he called attention to alleged corruption of his superior. He was summoned to the Pope’s Santa Marta residence where the Holy Father asked him several questions before dismissing him and awarding Hasler’s superior more responsibility the following day. 

“In an absolute monarchy, unfortunately, what can be done?” Hasler told the Register. 

Others have received similarly abrupt treatment, including the former papal physician, Patrizio Polisca, whom Pope Francis dismissed suddenly and without reason in 2015, as well as three officials at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, let go for similarly unspecified reasons in 2017. Soon after, the Pope decided not to renew former CDF prefect Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s five-year mandate, also without a specific motive. Cardinal Müller called both instances “unacceptable.”

Such a trend also extends to the superiors of other Vatican departments. 

In July, the Register reported on how a general culture of mismanagement in the Vatican helps foster corruption, especially in the context of finances, leading to such high-profile cases as a recently-publicized mishandled London property deal. 

For that article and this one, well over a dozen current and former Vatican officials were interviewed before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all spoke of an absence of a “rule of law” and accountability among some senior officials of the Roman Curia. Most of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The behavior is not Catholic or Christian — nor even just of a human standard,” one told the Register at a café near the Vatican. The official said he knew of people who had been “dismissed and given very little notice or reason, they’re just told to go home within weeks, the best-case scenario a couple of months, and they might have worked here for eight to 10 years.”

The management culture, he and other staffers said, resembles that of a court where those who have the ears of power have the influence. Others went further, deriding it as more akin to a mafia-like environment than the Church. Some middle and lower-ranking personnel said they felt vulnerable to the whims of unscrupulous and unaccountable superiors, and unable to speak up for fear of retaliation, including probable dismissal. 

Climate of Depression and Lawlessness

Many spoke of very low morale. One official who had worked in the Vatican more than 30 years said he had never experienced such poor motivation, from cardinals and bishops to the lowest officials. 

A retired curial cardinal who asked not to be named told the Register Sept. 4 that the Curia is currently “characterized by a climate of depression.” 

Other critics voiced their frustration over current work practices, with one source arguing that no mechanism exists to voice that frustration because “when you do, it’s ‘goodbye.’”

Many Vatican officials — both lay and clerical — continue to quietly serve the Vatican and the Church with a high degree of professionalism. 

“Among the monsignori are a great number of very conscientious, pious and well-trained persons working amid circumstances that are not very simple,” the retired curial cardinal said. 

But those challenging circumstances reportedly include superiors acting unjustly and as laws unto themselves. 

One former official who left the Vatican three years ago explained that, in his experience, once someone powerful in the Curia hires a person, then that person’s loyalties “go to the individual, or ‘gang,’ who employed him.” 

Often those employees then “take the risk in order to please those in power, even taking a bullet for them if necessary.” 

As an example, the source pointed to the famous case of Paolo Gabriele, the former butler to Pope Benedict XVI found guilty of leaking classified documents from papal offices that were central to the 2012 Vatileaks scandal. After Benedict pardoned him, he was given another job but was still paid by the Vatican, working at the Vatican-run Bambino Gesù hospital in Rome. 

But such corruption and malpractice is not everywhere in the Curia and it depends on the dicastery. 

“We must distinguish between those congregations that are working ordinarily and more or less producing results, and those congregations which are not governed well,” the retired curial cardinal said. As an example of a dicastery working well, he drew attention to a recent document issued by the Congregation for Clergy that promoted greater cooperation among parish communities. 

Still, evidence of unaccountability and lawlessness among senior officials appears to be a serious concern, and sometimes it spills out into the public domain. In June, Cruxreported that Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta of Argentina, suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct with seminarians, had returned to work at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the Vatican dicastery responsible for Vatican assets and real estate. As well as sexual misconduct allegations, Bishop Zanchetta is facing charges of defrauding the state. He is awaiting civil trial in Argentina.

Officials who spoke with the Register reiterated that such cases show how much senior officials remain untouchable. 

“A Sicilian porter in one of the dicasteries used to tell my boss to be careful with those whom the porter used to refer to as ‘old lions,’” recalled a former staffer. “It was perfectly clear to this simple man that such people belonged to the boss for whom there were no rules.”

The ex-official added, “If you combine the lack of accountability and, of course, the mafia mentality and the absence of the rule of law, it’s no surprise that after two years there’s no sign of the McCarrick report” — a reference to the Vatican investigation announced in 2018 into the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, D.C., but which has yet to be published. 

The former curial cardinal agreed that a mafia-like mentality “absolutely” exists, and the presence of homosexuality among clergy, some of whom also tend to operate like a mafia, seems to be is a contributing factor. Pope Francis acknowledged in 2013 the existence of a “homosexual lobby” and a “stream of corruption” in the Vatican. One source described the homosexual element as an especially “tragic aspect” and that it comprises mostly clergy but also many laypeople. 

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, whose battles against corruption in the Vatican as secretary general of the Governorate led him to be transferred out of the Vatican to become apostolic nuncio to the U.S. in 2011 during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, told the Register Sept. 2 that in “recent decades” the Curia has “gradually altered itself” and now shows “all the distinctive features of a criminal organization.” 

“Those in charge, in the typical manner of the mafia, make use of the collaboration of corrupt and therefore blackmailable subordinates,” he said, adding that these senior officials “have every interest” in choosing subordinates who have “a reprehensible way of life” so they can be “kept in check, obey questionable orders, and be discarded without too many scruples.” 

Archbishop Vigano cited the Bishop Zanchetta case as one example of many. 

Culture Wars

Compounding this perception of lawlessness is how, according to many officials contacted by the Register, expressing faithfulness to Church teaching automatically increased the level of job insecurity. 

“If you’ve been outspoken in the past about major cultural issues in ways that are faithful to the Church, you’re immediately labeled and in the crosshairs of senior staff,” said the official in the Vatican café. “Even if you are intelligent in your articulation you’re still going to have watch out.”

Others who have departed the Curia echoed similar concerns. 

“There was a constant atmosphere of barely concealed threat,” said one, adding that “morale was rock-bottom when I left a few months ago and you would not believe the relief I feel at having gotten out.” 

In addition to the alleged malpractice, spying and wiretapping allegedly remain commonplace, “from the lowest rank to the highest” according to another former staffer. It is an accusation that has been frequently made over the years and to which the Vatican has admitted. The surveillance was “terrible for productivity, as well as in terms of morale,” the source observed. “People chose not to speak on the phone, at least on landlines, as they were controlled.” These surveillance allegations came to prominence in both Vatileaks scandals in 2012 and 2015 and then later with regards to the dismissal of the Vatican’s former auditor general, Libero Milone, in 2017.

Other sources spoke of bullying and misogyny. 

“The culture is toxic,” said a former official in an influential dicastery. “People are bullied, then deteriorate and leave. I’ve seen people arrive and they’re nice to begin with, then their characters become distorted.” 

Various reasons are given for such problems, including moral degradation within the Church as a whole. 

Pope Francis alluded to such a culture in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia in 2014 when he spoke of 15 frequent “diseases” that affected the life of the Vatican and “weaken our service to the Lord.” 

Others have attributed the problems to the conflicts between “progressives” and “traditionalists” that emerged after the Second Vatican Council, each fighting for influence, although corruption, favoritism and nepotism have been an issue at the Vatican since its foundation. Still others blame the Holy Father for allowing a culture of fear and intimidation to dominate the Curia, carried out by those close to him, although even during Benedict XVI’s pontificate officials complained of an element of fear and the need for discretion in the face of some Italian officials suspicious and hostile to orthodoxy. “This is absolutely not right, it’s criminal,” said the retired curial cardinal, who added that the extent of such fears was “unprecedented” in the Vatican. 

Challenges of Reform Efforts

Some sources complained that not enough headway is being made in reforming the Curia. A new constitution expected later this year may provide some necessary changes, but observers expect the reforms will only be structural.

Another former official argued that the private lives of a good number who worked there “were not consistent with their purported beliefs.” What is needed, the ex-staffer said, are people not just committed to work but to holiness, especially in the highest ranks. “I was naive entering there, but what shocked me the most was that most of the people showed no life of faith,” he said. 

Broadening the backgrounds of Vatican staff and moving away from an Italian-majority Curia was cited by some of the sources, with one noting a “huge difference” in officials’ view of “what corruption means.” 

The issue was raised during the process of reform under Benedict, in particular examining Italians’ cultural attitude to employment ethics, but it was abandoned, the source told the Register. 

Various other suggestions on how to improve morale and improve personnel relations have been raised, including a fully independent personnel directorate. Hasler pointed out that there is the Labor Office of the Apostolic See (ULSA) responsible for employee relations with the Holy See and Vatican City State, but he said that office is not independently governed and “could do nothing” to help him. 

Hasler articulated what many in the Vatican are asking for: “Real reform made to the root and not to a façade” following the pontificates of both Benedict and Francis.

Speculation has long persisted that Benedict XVI was overwhelmed by the extent of reform needed, especially after he received the famous Vatileaks dossier, which may have played into his reasons to resign. He tried to structurally reform the Curia but was unable to tackle the endemic corruption and, instead of internationalizing its staff, was accused of re-Italianizing the Curia. But he was well aware of the challenges and the fact that such corrupt practices have long existed in the Church, recalling in 2009 how in the 11th century St. Peter Damian taught that the ideal image of “Holy Church” did not correspond to the reality of his time. The saint “did not fear to denounce the state of corruption,” Benedict noted, for example when “various bishops and abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls” and their “moral life frequently left much to be desired.”

Pope Francis was elected on a mandate of curial reform following the Vatileaks scandal and other elements of curial dysfunction during Benedict’s pontificate. He has openly acknowledged the extent of the challenges he faces, quoting a 19th-century Belgian churchman in 2017 to say that reforming the Curia is “like cleaning the Sphinx of Egypt with a toothbrush.” One vision he has for reform, perhaps partly to counter accusations of misogyny in the curia, has been to include more women in senior positions, but on the whole his reforms have been viewed as decidedly lackluster with little to show for the work carried out by the Group of Nine cardinals charged with drawing up curial reform.

And despite commentators declaring Francis the first “labor pope” on account of his frequent appeals for workers’ rights and the unemployed, Vatican officials say they yet to see much evidence of such rights being implemented closer to home. 

The retired curial cardinal noted that at these moments of “worldwide tension, dangers and insecurities, a rock is necessary and that has traditionally been represented by the Church, by the papacy, but now the papacy itself is involved in these changes, tensions and insecurities.” 

The Register asked Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, his deputy, sostituto Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, and the Holy See Press Office if they would like to comment on these criticisms of the Curia’s management culture. Cardinal Parolin declined to answer and the others did not respond by the time this article went to press.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Part 1 of this report can be found here.

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17th September, The Imprinting of the Holy Stigmata on St Francis, Confessor

Two years before his death, St. Francis retired to mount Alverno where he began a fast of 40 days in honour of St. Michael the archangel. And lo! in the midst of his meditation he saw a figure like a seraphim with six wings dazzling and burning, whose feet and hands were nailed to a cross. Aware that suffering is incompatible with the immortality of a seraphic spirit, he understood this to mean that he would become more like Jesus and bear his cross after Him (Gospel), not by physical martyrdom, but by a mystical kindling of divine love.

And in order that this crucified love might become an example to us all, five wounds resembling those of Jesus on the cross appeared on his feet, hands and side. From the latter blood flowed abundantly. The facts were so fully authenticated later, that Benedict XI ordered them to be commemorated every year, and Paul V to kindle in the faithful the love of Jesus crucified, extended the feast to the whole Church.

Mihi autem absit gloriari, nisi in cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi: per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est, et ego mundo. * Voce mea ad Dóminum clamávi: voce mea ad Dóminum deprecátus sum. 
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. I cried to the Lord with my voice: with my voice I made supplication to the Lord. ( Introit: Galatians 6:14, and Psalm 141:2)

Domine Jesu Christe, qui frigescente mundo, ad inflammandum corda nostra tui amoris igne, in carne beatissimi Francisci passionis tuae sacra stigmata renovasti: concede propitius: ut ejus meritis et precibus crucem jugiter feramus, et dignos fructus paenitentiae faciamus.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who when the world was growing cold, in order that our hearts might burn anew with the fire of Thy love, didst in the flesh of the most blessed Francis renew the sacred marks of Thy passion; mercifully grant, that by his merits and prayers, we may ever carry our cross, and bring forth fruits worthy of penance. (Collect)

Deus, qui mira crucis mysteria in beato Francisco Confessore tuo multiformiter demonstrasti: da nobis, quaesumus, devotionis suae semper exempla sectari, et assidua ejusdem crucis meditatione muniri.
O God, who in divers ways, didst show in blessed Francis, Thy confessor, the wonderful mysteries of Thy cross, grant, we beseech Thee, that we may ever follow the example of his devotion, and be strengthened by constant meditation on that same cross. (Postcommunion)

(From Saint Andrew Daily Missal)

The Stigmata of Saint Francis – (†1224)

Saint Bonaventure, biographer of Saint Francis of Assisi, wrote that two years before his holy death he had been praying on Mount Alverno in a solitary retreat, where he had gone to fast for forty days in honour of the Archangel Michael. No one ever meditated more than Francis on the Passion of his Lord. During his retreat he beheld in vision a six-winged Seraph attached to a cross, and received at the same time a painful wound of the heart, which seemed to transpierce it. When the vision ended his own hands and feet bore the marks of the angelic crucifixion which he had seen in the vision. He understood by his vision that the soul must come to resemble Christ by the ardours of its interior fire, rather than by any physical, exterior means. We reproduce here a meditation of the saintly 19th century Abbot, Dom Guéranger of Solemnes in France:

The Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis, whom we will soon honour again on his feast of October 4th, is not only to glorify a Saint; it commemorates and signifies something which goes beyond the life of any single man, even one of the greatest of the Church. The God-Man never ceases to live on in His Church, and the reproduction of His own mysteries in this Spouse whom He wants to be similar to Himself, is the explanation of history.

In the thirteenth century it seemed that charity, whose divine precept many no longer heeded, concentrated in a few souls the fires which had once sufficed to inflame multitudes. Sanctity shone as brilliantly as ever, but the hour for the cooling of the brazier had struck for the peoples. The Church itself says so today in its liturgy, at the Collect: Lord Jesus Christ, when the world was growing cold, You reproduced the sacred marks of Your passion in the body of the most blessed Francis, in order that Your love might also set our hearts afire.’ The Spouse of Christ had already begun to experience the long series of social defections among the nations, with their denials, treasons, derision, slaps, spittings in the very praetorium, all of which conclude in the legalised separation of society from its Author. The era of the Passion is advanced; the exaltation of the Holy Cross, which for centuries was triumphant in the eyes of the nations, acquires in the sight of heaven, as the Angels look down upon it, the aspect of an ever closer resemblance with the Spouse to the sufferings of her crucified Beloved.

Saint Francis, loved today by all who know of him — and few there are who do not — was like precious marble placed before an expert sculptor. The Holy Spirit chose the flesh of the seraph of Assisi to express His divine thought, thus manifesting to the world the very specific direction He intends to give to souls thereafter. This stigmatization offers a first example, a complete image, of the new labour the divine Spirit is meditating — total union, on the very Cross of Christ itself, of the mystical Body with the divine Head. Francis is the one honoured by this primacy of choice; but after him the sacred sign will be received by others, who also personify the Church. From this time on, the Stigmata of the Lord Jesus will be at all times visible, here and there on this earth.

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Cardinal Sarah calls for a “necessary and urgent” return to in-person Mass

Vatican calls for a

From La Croix:

Cardinal Robert Sarah has written to all the world’s conferences of Catholic bishops, encouraging them a return to the “normality of Christian life,” in particular to the resumption of regular participation at Mass.

“As soon as circumstances permit […] it is necessary and urgent to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the church building as its home and the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist as ‘the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed…’,” says the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in a letter dated August 15. 

The text is titled “Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!”.

Pope Francis approved its publication on September 3 and the cardinal sent it to the episcopal conferences nine days later, according to L’Osservatore Romano.

Without questioning the interruption of public celebrations due to the coronavirus pandemic and the services provided by the Internet and television broadcasts, Cardinal Sarah says “no broadcast is equivalent to personal participation or can replace it (at Mass)”.

“On the contrary, these broadcasts alone risk distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a virtual way, but really,” he writes.

What about health measures?

The 75-year-old Guinean cardinal, who has been in his current post since 2014, says it is necessary for people to return to Mass “once the concrete measures that can be taken to reduce the spread of the virus to a minimum have been identified and adopted”.

He also carefully alludes to the sensitive question of receiving communion on the tongue, which some Catholics say is their right, although most bishops have recommended that it be received in the hand.

Cardinal Sarah recognizes the right of the faithful “to receive the Body of Christ and to worship the Lord present in the Eucharist in the manner provided,” but only if this is authorized by “the norms of hygiene issued by public authorities or bishops”.

He insists that these emergency measures established by the bishops “must be obeyed”, but points out they “expire when the situation returns to normal”.

But he also sounds a cautionary note. 

“Due attention to hygiene and safety regulations cannot lead to the sterilization of gestures and rites, to the instilling, even unconsciously, of fear and insecurity in the faithful,” he says.

What’s the context of this letter’s publication?

Bishops in several countries around the world have noted a decline in in-person participation at Sunday Mass, especially in Europe where the number of new infections is rising and in Latin America where some places are recording several hundred deaths each day.

France’s Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options published a note of concern in early July after conferring with several Catholic leaders, including Bishop Matthieu Rougé of Nanterre.

“Some of the faithful may not feel the need to return to their pre-crisis habits, or may fear for their health,” observed the author of the note, Senator Pierre Ouzoulias of the French Communist Party (PCF).

“Three weeks after the lifting of the lockdown, the Catholic Church estimated that only two-thirds of the usual faithful had returned to Mass,” he said.

Below is the full text of Cardinal Sarah’s letter:

Let us return to the Eucharist with joy!

Letter on the celebration of the liturgy during and after the COVID 19 pandemic to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of the Catholic Church.

The pandemic caused by the Covid 19 virus has produced upheavals not only in social, family, economic, educational, and work dynamics, but also in the life of the Christian community, including the liturgical dimension. To prevent the spread of the virus, rigid social distancing was necessary, which had repercussions on a fundamental trait of Christian life: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Mt 18:20); “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42-44).

This community dimension has a theological meaning: God is a relationship of Persons the Most Holy Trinity. He creates humanity in the relational complementarity between male and female because “it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). He puts himself in relationship with man and woman and call them in turn to relationship with him. As Saint Augustine intuited, our heart is restless until it finds God and rests in him (cf. Confessions, I, 1). The Lord Jesus began his public ministry by calling to him himself a group of disciples to share with him the life and proclamation of the Kingdom; from this small flock the Church is born. Scripture use the image of a city to describe eternal life: the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Rev 21). A city is a community of people who share values, fundamental human and spiritual realities, places, times, and organized activities and who contribute to building the common good. While the pagans built temples dedicated only to the divinity, to which people had no access, Christians, as soon as they enjoyed freedom of worship, immediately built places that were domus Dei et domus ecclesiae, where the faithful could recognize themselves as the community of God, a people summoned for worship and constituted as a holy assembly. God can therefore proclaim: “I am your God, you will be my people” (cf. Ex 6:7; Dt 14:2). The Lord remains faithful to his Covenant (cf. Dt. 7:9) and Israel becomes for this very reason the Abode of God, the holy place of his presence in the world (cf. Ex 29:45; Lv 26: 11-12). For this reason, the house of the Lord presupposes to the presence of the family of the children of God. Today, too, in the prayer of the dedication of a new Church, the Bishop asks that it be what it should be by its very nature:

“[…] make this for ever a holy place […]

Here may the flood of divine grace
overwhelm the offenses of humanity,
so that your children, Father, being dead to sin,
may be reborn to heavenly life.

Here may your faithful people,
standing around the table of the altar,
celebrate the memorial of the Passover
and be refreshed by the banquet
of Christ’s word and body.

Here may the joyful offering of praise resound,
the voice of men and women be joined to the song of the Angels,
and continual pray rise up to you for the salvation of the world.

Here may the poor find mercy,
the oppressed discover true freedom,
and all people be clothed with the dignity of your children,
until they come rejoicing
to that Jerusalem which is above.”

The Christian community has never sought isolation and has never made the Church a city with closed doors. Formed in the value of community life and in the search of the common good, Christians have always sought insertion into society, while being aware of an otherness – to be in the world without belonging to it and without being reduced to it (cf. Letter to Diognetus, 5-6). And even in the pandemic emergency, a great sense of responsibility has emerged. In listening to and collaborating with civil authorities and experts,” he notes that the Bishops of the Church “were prompt to make difficult and painful decisions, even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period. This Congregation is deeply grateful to the Bishops for their commitment and effort in trying to respond in the best possible way to an unforeseen and complex situation.

As soon as circumstances permit, however, it is necessary and urgent to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the church building as its home and the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, as “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10).

Aware the God never abandons the humanity He has created, and that even the hardest trials can bear fruits of grace, we have accepted our distance from the Lord’s altar as a time of Eucharistic fasting, useful for us to rediscover its vital importance, beauty and immeasurable preciousness. As soon as is possible, however, we must return to the Eucharist with a purified heart, with a renewed amazement, with an increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with him, to receive him and to bring him to our brothers and sisters with the witness of a life full of faith, love, and hope.

This time of deprivation gives us the grace to understand the heart of our brothers and sisters, the martyrs of Abitinae (beginning of the 4th century), who answered their judges with serene determination, despite a sure death sentence: “Sine Dominico non possumus.” The absolute verb non possumus (we cannot) and the significance of the neuter non Dominicum (this which is the Lord’s) cannot be translated with a single word. A very brief expression sums up a great wealth of nuances and meanings that are offered to our mediation today:

 — We cannot live, be Christians, fully realizing our humanity and the desires for good and happiness that dwell in our hearts without the Word of the Lord, which in the celebration of the liturgy takes shape and becomes a living word, spoken by God for those who today open their hearts to listen;

— We cannot live as Christians without participating in the Sacrifice of the Cross in which the Lord Jesus gives himself unreservedly to save, by his death, humanity which had died because of sin; the Redeemer associates humanity with himself and leads it back to the Father; in the embrace of the Crucified One all human suffering finds light and comfort;

— We cannot be without the banquet of the Eucharist, the table of the Lord to which we are invited as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to receive the Risen Christ himself, present in body, blood, soul and divinity in that Bread of heaven which sustains us in the joys and labours of this earthly pilgrimage;

 We cannot be without the Christian community, the family of the Lord: we need to meet our brothers and sisters who share the sonship of God, the fraternity of Christ, the vocation and the search for holiness and the salvation of their souls in the rich diversity of ages, personal histories, charisms and vocations;

— We cannot be without the house of the Lord, which is our home, without the holy places where we were born to faith, where we discovered the provident presence of the Lord and discovered the merciful embrace that lifts up those who have fallen, where we consecrated our vocation to marriage or religious life, where we prayed and gave thanks, rejoiced and wept, where we entrusted to the Father our loved ones who had completed their earthly pilgrimage;

— We cannot be without the Lord’s Day, without Sunday which gives light and meaning to the successions of days of work and to family and social responsibilities.

As much as the means of communication perform a valued service to the sick and those who are unable to go to church, and have performed a great service in the broadcast of Holy Mass at a time when there was no possibility of community celebrations, no broadcast is comparable to personal participation or can replace it. On the contrary, these broadcasts alone risk distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a virtual way, but really, saying: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:56). This physical contact with the Lord is vital, indispensable, irreplaceable. Once the concrete measures that can be taken to reduce the spread of the virus to a minimum have been identified and adopted, it is necessary that all resume their place in the assembly of brothers and sisters, rediscover the irreplaceable preciousness and beauty of the celebration of the liturgy, and invite and encourage again those brothers and sisters who have been discouraged, frightened, absent or uninvolved for too long.

This Discastery intends to reaffirm some principles and suggest some courses of action to promote a rapid and safe return to the celebration of the Eucharist.

Due attention to hygiene and safety regulations cannot lead to the sterilisation of gestures and rites, to the instilling, even unconsciously, of fear and insecurity in the faithful.

It is up to the prudent but firm action of the Bishops to ensure that the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist is not reduced by public authorities to a “gathering”, and is not considered comparable or even subordinate to forms of recreational activities.

Liturgical norms are not matters on which civil authorities can legislate, but only the competent ecclesiastical authorities (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 22).

The participation of the faithful in the liturgical celebrations should be facilitated, but without improvised ritual experiments and in full respect of the norms contained in the liturgical books which govern their conduct. In the liturgy, an experience of sacredness, holiness and beauty that transfigures, gives a foretaste of the harmony of the eternal blessedness. Care should therefore be taken to ensure the dignity of the places, the sacred furnishings, the manner of celebration, according to the authoritative instruction of the Second Vatican Council: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 34).

The faithful should be recognised as having the right to receive the Body of Christ and to worship the Lord present in the Eucharist in the manner provided for, without limitations that go even beyond what is provided for by the norms of hygiene issued by public authorities or Bishops.

In the Eucharistic celebration the faithful adore the Risen Jesus present; and we see with what ease the sense of adoration, the prayer of adoration, is lost. In their catechesis we ask Pastors to insist on the necessity of adoration.

A sure principle in order not to err is obedience. Obedience to the norms of the Church, obedience to the Bishops. In times of difficulty (e.g. wars, pandemics), Bishops and Episcopal Conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed. Obedience safeguards the treasure entrusted to the Church. The measures given by the Bishops and Episcopal Conferences expire when the situation returns to normal.

The Church will continue to cherish the human person as whole. She bears witness to hope, invites us to trust in God, recalls that earthly existence is important, but much more important is eternal life: sharing the same life with God for eternity is our goal, our vocation. This is the faith of the Church, witnessed over the centuries by hosts of martyrs and saints, a positive proclamation that frees us from the one-dimensional reductionisms and from ideologies. The Church unites proclamation and accompaniment towards the eternal salvation of souls with the necessary concern for public health. Let us therefore continue to entrust ourselves confidently to God’s mercy, to invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, salus infirmorum at auxilium christianorum, for all those who are sorely tried by the pandemic and every other affliction, let us persevere in prayer for those who have left this life, and at the same time let us renew our intention to be witnesses of the Risen One and heralds of a sure hope, which transcends the limits of this world.

From the Vatican, 15 August 2020

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Supreme Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted on 3 September 2020 to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments, approved this Letter and ordered its publication.

Robert Card. Sarah

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Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis

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Pontifical Academy profanes Pietà


The Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) is sparking a fresh wave of outrage after it posted a doctored image of Michelangelo’s Pietà portraying Jesus as black, ostensibly in support of the Marxist Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Photograph of László Tóth vandalizing the Pietà in 1972 

Catholics, as well as secular art lovers, blasted the Vatican for blasphemy, philistinism and race-baiting, accusing the august pontifical body of “manipulating art for politics” after it tweeted the picture on Saturday.

Italians excoriated the papal organization for going beyond the damage caused to Michelangelo’s masterpiece by the mentally deranged iconoclast László Tóth.

“In comparison, László Tóth had done no damage,” an Italian lashed out, drawing a parallel with the notorious act of vandalism when, in 1972, the Hungarian-born geologist attacked the world-famous sculpture with a sledgehammer, shouting “I am Jesus Christ — risen from the dead!”

Dashing past the guards and vaulting a marble balustrade, Tóth smashed the Virgin’s arm at the elbow with several blows, lopped off a chunk of her nose and chipped one eyelid.Devotional art should never be used for political ends: it cheapens and desacralizes it and is an offense against God and His Saints.

While the media denounced Tóth as a cultural terrorist and art historians lamented the damage, leftwing radicals hailed his “gentle hammer” with cries of “No more masterpieces!”

A ‘Deliberately Divisive’ Political Statement

Joseph Shaw, a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of Arts, told Church Militant that “the manipulated image of one of the most famous pieces of religious art in the world is disturbing, and feels like an offense against the art, its creator, and those who love it as art and venerate it for its subject.”

“One of the beautiful realities of the Catholic Church is its incorporation of all cultures and peoples, with their artistic traditions. One can see devotional images of Christ and Our Lady from China, Egypt, Latin America and Northern Europe from every age of the Church,” Dr. Shaw observed.  

Shaw, an Oxford academic in medieval philosophy, elaborated:

This doctored Pietà, however, does not give that message of inclusivity and universality which is given by this authentic and spontaneous artistic pluralism. Instead it appears to be a political statement, and a deliberately divisive one: one that even divides Christ from His Blessed Mother, from whom He took His human nature.

“Devotional art should never be used for political ends: it cheapens and desacralizes it and is an offense against God and His Saints who alone should be its subject,” Shaw stressed.

PAL posted the offensive image with the words: “An image that is worth a speech.”

Social media commenters linked the picture with support for the anarchist, pro-abortion, pro-LGBTI, anti-family, anti-West cause célèbre.

In comments to Church Militant, distinguished academic and author Dr. Janice Fiamengo accused PAL’s of achieving the very opposite of what it had intended.In presenting Mary as a white woman holding her black son, PAL could well be seen as perpetuating white supremacist norms.

“In presenting Mary as a white woman holding her black son, PAL could well be seen as perpetuating white supremacist norms, showing that white came before black, that black is not possible without white, and that white remains the great Mother of us all,” remarked Fiamengo, former professor of English at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

“This may well be understood as an act of exterminationist othering for which the pontifical academy may need to do some deep soul-searching,” observed the conservative author of Sons of Feminism: Men Have Their Say.

“While we must remain deeply conscious of racial inequality and white supremacy, there is a question as to whether the photoshopped picture goes far enough, or even whether it moves in the right direction,” Fiamengo said.  

Pope Francis with Abp. Vincenzo Paglia

She added: “We should bear in mind the words of critical race theorist Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, who reminds us that white supremacy sees “whites as the norm or standard for [the] human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.”

PAL provoked outrage among Catholics in July after it published a 4,000-word document on the Wuhan virus pandemic without once mentioning God, Jesus Christ, the Church, the gospel, the Bible or the sacraments.   

Following a backlash, a PAL statement said that references to God were omitted in order to reach “the widest possible audience.”

PAL then launched a personal attack on Catholic scientist Dr. Doyen Nguyen after she shredded the pontifical publication for portraying “an earthly utopia without God.”

Nguyen, an academic physician and moral theologian with specializations in diagnostic hematology and bioethics, slammed the PAL document, titled “Humana Communitas in the Age of Pandemic: Untimely Meditations on Life’s Rebirth,” as godless, Christless, churchless, hopeless and faithless.

Pundits have criticized PAL’s downward spiral under Abp. Vincenzo Paglia, who was appointed president of the academy by Pope Francis in August 2016.

Paglia’s warning against “turning the pro-life cause into an ideological weapon” have led critics to interpret his most recent comments as offering support to the pro-death candidature of Joe Biden against the pro-life platform of President Donald Trump.  

“Since Abp. Vincenzo Paglia was named president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, it seems to have become impossible for the Academy to shed light on any particular threat to life in our world,” writes Dr. Jeff Mirius.

“One need look no further to establish the Academy’s vacuity than its amorphous, secularized observations on the coronavirus back in July,” notes Mirius.

“Now,” Mirius observes, “Paglia has further poisoned the teeming pool of life by arguing, in effect, that the politicization of life issues must always be avoided as seriously harmful.”

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The Exaltation of the Holy Cross



On September 14, in 335, took place the dedication of Constantine’s basilica, which enclosed both Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre. “At this date,” says Etheria, “the cross was discovered. And the anniversary in celebrated with as much solemnity as Easter or the Epiphany.” Such was the origin of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. “When I shall be raised on high, I shall draw everything unto Me” (Gospel), Jesus had said. It is because the Saviour humbled Himself, being obedient even to the death of the cross, that God exalted Him and gave Him a name above all other names (Epistle). Wherefore we must glory in the cross of Jesus, for He is our life and our salvation (Introit) and He protects His servants against the wiles of their enemies (Offertory, Communion, Postcommunion).

Towards the end of the reign of Phocas, Chosroes, King of Persia, says the reading of the breviary, took Jerusalem, where he put to death several thousand Christians and carried off to Persia the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which St. Helen had placed on mount Calvary.

Heraclius, the successor of Phocas, had recourse to many fasts and prayers, imploring with great fervour the help of God. He assembled an army and defeated Chosroes. He then insisted on the restitution of the cross of the Lord. Thus the precious relic was recovered after an interval of fourteen years. On his return to Jerusalem, Heraclius carried it on his shoulders in great pomp to the mountain where the Saviour Himself had borne it (A.D. 629).

An extraordinary miracle marked the occasion. Heraclius, who was loaded with ornaments of gold and precious stones, was held back by an invincible force at the entrance gate of mount Calvary and vain were his efforts to enter.

As the Emperor and all those who witnessed the scene were astonished, Zacharias, bishop of Jerusalem, said to him: “Consider, O Emperor, that with these triumphal ornaments you are far from imitating the poverty of Jesus Christ and His humility in bearing His cross.” Heraclius thereupon doffed his splendid garb and walked barefooted with a common cloak on his shoulders to Calvary, where he again deposited the cross. The feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross on the original spot, the anniversary of which was celebrated on this day, became of great importance.

Let us join, in spirit, the faithful who in the Church of Holy Cross at Rome venerate on this day the relics of the sacred wood exposed for the occasion, so that, having been privileged to adore it on this feast when we rejoice for its exaltation, we may likewise possess for all eternity the salvation and glory the Cross has won for us (Collect, Secret).

Nos autem gloriari oportet in Cruce Domini nostri Jesu Christi : in quo est salus, vita, et resurrectio nostra: per quem salvati, et liberati sumus, alleluia, alleluia. * Deus misereatur nostri, et benedicat nobis  illuminet vultum suum super nos, et misereatur nostri.
But it behoves us to glory in the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ: in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection; by whom we are saved and delivered. * May God have mercy on us, and bless us; may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and may He have mercy on us.
(Introit of Mass, Galatians 6 and Psalm 66:2)

Deus, qui nos hodierna die Exaltationis sanctae Crucis annua solemnitate laetificas: praesta, quaesumus; ut, cujus mysterium in terra cognovimus, ejus redemptionis praemia in caelo mereamur.
O God, who year by year, dost gladden us by the feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross: we beseech Thee, grant unto us, who on earth have known its mystery, to be found worthy to enjoy the rewards of its redemption in heaven. Through the same Lord.  (Collect)

(Epistle : Philippeans ii, 5-11)

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis. * Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum, et dedit illi nomen, quod est super omne nomen.
Alleluia, alleluia. * Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera: quae sola fuisti digna sustinere Regem caelorum, et Dominum. Alleluia.

Christ became obedient for us unto death: even the death of the cross. * Wherefore God also hath exalted Him, and had given Him a name which is above every name.

Alleluia, alleluia.  Sweet the wood, sweet the nails, sweet the load that hangs thereon: for thou alone, O holy Cross, wast worthy to bear the King and Lord of heaven. Alleluia.  (Phil. 2:8-9 Gradual)

(Gospel : John xii, 31-36)


The Cross Is

The cross is the hope of Christians
the cross is the resurrection of the dead
the cross is the way of the lost
the cross is the saviour of the lost
the cross is the staff of the lame
the cross is the guide of the blind
the cross is the strength of the weak
the cross is the doctor of the sick
the cross is the aim of the priests
the cross is the hope of the hopeless
the cross is the freedom of the slaves
the cross is the power of the kings
the cross is the water of the seeds
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen
the cross is the source of those who seek water
the cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross. Amen.

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Margaret Sanger is being whitewashed in high school history books

Margaret Sanger

From Students for Life:

You’d think the foundations of the birth control movement would be explored in history classes when studying its impact on the sexual revolution. At a surface level, teachers may chalk it up to sexual decadence–they might even celebrate it as “sexual liberation”–but the history of the organized eugenics movement driving the nation’s largest abortion machine remains buried.

A recent report found that nine of the most popular high school history books for the U.S. have no mention of eugenics, and even more specifically, the eugenicist history of Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger

While six of the books present Sanger as a champion of women’s rights, none of them show the darker side of the story in Sanger’s eugenic ideology and connections to racist activity.

Many are so willing to toss out historical figures who had any connection to slave-owning or other racial issues, yet will pass over Sanger’s own connections.  Sanger pioneered “the Negro Project” in the 1930s — which targeted African Americans through abortion and birth control — and spoke at Ku Klux Klan events.  Now her institutionalized legacy — Planned Parenthood — carries on her work, disguising blatant racism and killing as compassion through placing 88% of their mega facilities in walking distance of minority neighborhoods, contributing to Black women having the highest abortion rates.        

And this historical whitewashing goes beyond education as Planned Parenthood themselves are trying to draw as little attention as possible to Sanger’s alignments, removing her name from one facility in NYC but still listing her as a hero on their website.   

But Sanger’s real legacy is helping to end lives, not better them. Her impact on history certainly earns her a place in the books, but the narrative has to be as it really was and not what Planned Parenthood wants us to imagine so they keep up their business. 

History is crucial so we learn from the good as well as mistakes of the past to build a better future.  From its heartbreaking effects, the birth control movement and abortion industry have taught us that devaluing human life enough to make it easily disposable leads to the most horrendous acts.  This not only devalues the humanity of the pre-born lost but also their mothers by telling them their pregnancies and natural functions are unwanted tragedies.  

While parents, educators, and religious leaders bear a primary responsibility for helping to form each generation’s knowledge of the past to better shape the future, it’s up to all of us to tell the real stories of history’s saints and sinners alike.

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Reflection for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

First Reading
Sirach 27:30–28:9

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin! Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

Second Reading
Romans 14:7-9

Brothers and sisters: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Matthew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized one of his fellow servants and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Do I always forgive others? This is today’s challenge from our readings. Or do I forgive some who offend me and not others? Am I a person who bears grudges? How do I deal with the person who harms me or hurts my feelings?

Only God can give us the grace to forgive all others, those who have harmed us in any way at all. God’s calls us to immediate and complete forgiveness of others. God is so clear in today’s readings: if you do not forgive, how can you possibly ask forgiveness?

We know the story of the older brother within the story of the prodigal son. The older brother really resents his younger brother. The younger brother goes off and wastes all of his inheritance and then comes home and is received with incredible kindness and love by his father. This is truly injustice! And yet it is how God wants us to live: judge not and you will not be judged!

How do I treat the person who harms me? Jesus gives us the story of the servant who could not pay his debt. None of us can repay our debt to the Lord. Should God then put us in prison and torture us? Instead he forgives us our debts and asks us to forgive others.

All of us who have sinned can understand the debt that we owe to the Lord. The more we see that debt, the more we can understand that we must forgive others. So much of our spiritual literature is focused on this type of forgiveness: look at the beam in your own eye before you try to take out the small piece of straw in the eye of your brother!

The Book of Sirach spells out the teaching of today’s Gospel as well: If anyone who is flesh cherishes wrath, who can forgive his sins? In order to be forgiven, we must learn to forgive.

The Letter to the Romans also speaks of our debt to one another: None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. We can only truly live when we live for the Lord—and the Lord is always compassionate and merciful. Today, when we hear His voice, let us not harden our hearts. Instead, let us learn to forgive, even those things that seem unforgivable. It is God Himself inviting us to cleanse our souls and to forgive all who have harmed us in any way. Every time that we hold on to our anger, we damage only ourselves. Every time that we refuse forgiveness, we harm ourselves.

Let us live for God and live God’s forgiveness every day—from our hearts!

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