Reflection for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Image result for ten wise virgins

FIRST READING  Wisdom 6:12-16

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.  She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.  For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence, and whoever for her sake keeps vigil shall quickly be free from care; because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude.

SECOND READING        1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  Thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore, console one another with these words.

GOSPEL       Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:  “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.  Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’  Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.  Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’  While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.  Then the door was locked.  Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’  But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“Wisdom is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.”  As we come to the last Sundays of Ordinary Time, we are invited to seek wisdom and to love wisdom.

The first reading comes from the Book of Wisdom and invites us to reflect this Sunday on wisdom in our daily lives.   Wisdom is not a college degree nor does it require us to read books or memorize things.  Rather, wisdom is a capacity to live well and to make good decisions about things.  Such wisdom is only possible with good judgment coming from experience and everyday knowledge.  There are many people with advanced academic degrees who have very little wisdom and there are lots of people with no academic degrees who are true wisdom figures and reflect the wisdom of God.

Each of us can think in his own heart and mind right now about the people that we might ask for advice in our lives.  Those people are usually wisdom figures for us.  They are people whose practical judgments we would trust and also whose spiritual advice could be helpful.  This first reading reminds us that we need to seek wisdom and once we find some wisdom, we must treasure wisdom.

The second reading today is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians.  In this section of the letter we are reminded that our whole faith is based on the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  If Jesus died and did not rise, then our faith is worth nothing.  Jesus Himself tells us that He is the Resurrection.  Jesus is clear that our death is only a passing to a new life in a new way, with God the Father, with Jesus Himself and with the Holy Spirit.  If we begin to think of our faith as simply good decisions made in the light of the teachings of Jesus, who was an enlightened religious man—then we have no faith at all.  Rather we believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man and leads us to the Father.  We want to live completely the teachings of Jesus so that we have life eternal—Resurrection.

The Gospel from Matthew today brings us back to wisdom.  The parable that Jesus gives to us illustrates the practical nature of wisdom.  All ten of the virgins wanted to meet the bridegroom but five of them did not bring enough oil to keep their lamps burning.  This is the wisdom aspect!  A person who knows about oil lamps will know that extra oil must be taken along if the wait is going to be long.  That is simply a practical piece of knowledge.  But five of the virgins did not have that wisdom.  And so when the bridegroom was delayed, then they ran out of oil.

The whole point of this parable is that we must be ready for the Lord.  To be ready for the Lord, we must be willing to wait for the Lord.  To wait for the Lord, we must be willing to do all the things that will allow us to be ready as we wait.  Probably all of us who are here really want to be with the Lord.  Do we live our lives in such a way that we are always ready for Him?

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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“Inter-communion is not allowed between Catholics and non-Catholics”: Card. Sarah

“Inter-communion is not allowed between Catholics and non-Catholics. It is necessary to confess the Catholic faith. A non-Catholic cannot receive communion. This is very, very clear. It is not a matter of freedom of conscience. ” This is how Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Divine Worship Congregation, responds to those who have seen an intercommunion between Catholics and Lutherans in a response given by Pope Francis to a Lutheran during his recent visit to the Lutheran community of Rome. “We give communion to Catholics,” giving communion to everyone is “a nonsense,” says the African Cardinal.

“There is no intercommunion between Anglicans and Catholics, between Catholics and Protestants. If they go together, the Catholic can go to communion, but Lutherans or Anglicans do not. ” Without a union in faith and doctrine, opening the doors to intercommunion “would promote profanation.” “We cannot do it. It is not that we must speak to the Lord to know if we can make Communion. We need to know whether we are in agreement with the rules of the Church. Our consciousness must be illuminated by the rules of the Church that says that, in order to communicate, we need to be in a state of grace, without sin, and have faith in the Eucharist. It is not a desire or a personal dialogue with Jesus that determines whether we can receive communion in the Catholic Church. A person cannot decide whether he is able to receive Communion. Must be Catholic, in a state of grace, properly married [if conjugated] “. The inter-communion does not allow unity because “the Lord helps us to be one if we receive it properly, otherwise we will eat our condemnation, as St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 11: 27-29). We cannot become one thing only if we participate in communion with sin, with contempt for the Body of Christ. ”

[Source: Matteo Orlando, & with h/t to Nick Donnelly]

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The Truth About the Shroud of Turin

Michelle Laque Johnson:

Fr. Robert J. Spitzer SJ

‘A presentation by Fr Robert Spitzer at the 2017 NAPA Institute Conference in California will be aired on EWTN in a six part series from, “EWTN On Location”. It begins at 9 a.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 11 and ends with “A Remarkable Relic of the Resurrection: The Shroud of Turin and New Scientific Evidence,” which airs at 2:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 12 *. In this case, last is certainly not least!’

[* Times may vary for EWTN UK/Ireland and other parts of the world.]

“The Shroud of Turin is a 14 foot linen cloth on [which] is etched the figure of a man,” says Fr. Spitzer. “There are blood stains throughout. No other historical document has been examined by scientists in more ways than the Shroud of Turin. There is no other image like it in the history of images. What’s so special is that you have essentially a perfect three dimensional photographic negative image on a non-photographically sensitive linen cloth. This is a most remarkable thing because it not only gives us a very good sense of Jesus’ crucifixion, and historical validation of it, but a very good sense of His resurrection and even an historical validation of that! There is really a supernatural remnant of that resurrection embedded on this cloth.”

Small wonder that it has been examined so thoroughly. But before Father gets into the meat of his talk, he unravels the shocking story behind what was seen as a valid scientific finding that at one time devastated the Christian world. It was 1988, 10 years after a host of scientists had come to Turin, Italy and examined the shroud for nearly a week. They had performed every test imaginable and they let the world know that were convinced it was authentic from a variety of points of view. However, in 1988, two people came to Turin and took samples from the Shroud and sent them to labs to be carbon dated. Father says the two people who went over there “seemed to be good people.” The samples went to three labs whose reputations were academically unstained. Their findings: The Shroud was determined to be from the 15th Century, which meant it couldn’t be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

“Everyone was devastated,” Father said.

So that was that, right? Well, not quite.

“Starting in 2000, the problem of that 1988 carbon dating began to unravel,” Fr. Spitzer said. The team that validated the Shroud in 1978 had sent out scientific protocols for how carbon testing on the Shroud was to be done. Seven samples were to be taken from the Shroud. Before each sample was taken, it was to be analyzed by a materials analyst and a thermochemical analyst to insure it came from the original linen, and these seven samples were to be sent to seven different labs.

Unfortunately, says Father Spitzer, that’s not what happened.

“What happened is that two people took a single strand from a highly controversial patch in the corner of the Shroud [more on that in a moment], divided it into three [pieces] and sent it to three different labs. Every single protocol was violated. The materials and thermochemical experts were there, but they did not look at the Shroud. So strange things happened.”

Fortunately, in 2000, two people named Sue Binford and Joseph Marino examined some “sticky tapes.” These tapes are used by scientists, who press them (in this case) onto the Shroud in an area that was very close to the patch from which the Shroud sample was removed in 1988. They were shocked to discover that their sticky tapes contained cotton fibers since the Shroud of Turin is made of very fine linen — not to mention the fact that there was no cotton in Israel in the First Century. “They threw doubt on the sample taken from the Shroud,” says Father. Their findings were published on the Shroud website.

However, Dr. Ray Rogers, a prominent thermochemist from the 1978 Shroud research project, asked that the Binford/Marino article be taken down. He said it was “absolutely unthinkable that a sample would have been taken from a bad part of the Shroud.” He was asked to disprove the team’s findings and he agreed. After subjecting the sample to four tests, it became clear that not only was cotton embedded in the sample, but that it also contained dye that was only available in Europe in the 15th Century. “Alarm bells were going off,” Fr. Spitzer said. “Dr. Rogers, with his incredible reputation, discredited the sample. This was validated again and again and again by many different fibers from many different sticky tapes. There is no question about it, this was an invalid sample. Don’t ask me why this was utilized … don’t ask me why the material analysist did not examine it, don’t ask me why only one single fabric was taken from this highly controversial patch, don’t ask me why they selected this to send to the lab, but in my opinion, there is something very, very strange going on here!”

So how did cotton fibers get onto the Shroud in the first place? Father explains that after the Shroud was damaged in the “fire of Chambery,” some sisters in the 1400s sewed together the damaged parts of the Shroud. “You can see those patches on the side of the Shroud,” he says. And yes, unlike the original Shroud which is made of linen, the patches were made of dyed cotton fibers. Therefore, “the fiber from the patch taken for dating purposes was completely invalid.”

Of course, Father goes on to cement the authenticity of the Shroud with even more scientific evidence and then helps us see what the Shroud reveals about Jesus’ death and resurrection! You won’t want to miss this!


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Superstition, Dissent, and Scandal? A brief defence of Fr. Thomas Weinandy

Some pundits from both progressive and orthodox quarters have been quick to criticize and even condemn Fr. Weinandy and his missive to the Pope. Thus, a brief defense of Fr. Weinandy is in order.

Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap., is owed a debt of gratitude for his courage and forthrightness in making public his letter to Pope Francis respectfully criticizing and encouraging the Holy Father to fulfill his principal charge: to secure the unity of Christ’s Church in faith, charity, and holiness.

Weinandy’s letter comes at a time marked by widespread doctrinal confusion in the Church to a degree heretofore unknown in living memory. Ours is a time when the fierce and beautiful truth of Christ’s saving Gospel is being eclipsed and the Church is undergoing balkanizing fissures threatening her very stability. His letter is important because it comes from a man with a distinguished career as a faithful Catholic theologian and a doctrinal guardian for the Church in the United States. In it, Fr. Weinandy identifies five problematic areas, indicates how he thinks the Holy Father is involved in them, and encourages the Holy Father to fulfill his mandate from Christ. After receiving no response of any substance he made the letter public and in doing so has edified the faithful by reaffirming the solemn duty of the papal office, the truth and relevance of Christ’s doctrines to the spiritual life, and the need for the Holy Father to make wise episcopal appointments.

Some pundits from both progressive and orthodox quarters have been quick to criticize and even condemn Fr. Weinandy and his missive to the Pope. The condemnations I am aware of seem unjust and libelous (more on those in a moment). The criticisms seem to come either from an unreasonable eagerness to defend every word and deed of the Holy Father or from a fear of scandalizing the faithful by publicly expressing disagreement with the Pope (on account of his behavior or his non-definitive and problematic teachings). Thus, a brief defense of Fr. Weinandy is in order.

“Superstition” and “dissent”
In his opinion piece in America m agazine online titled “Dissent, Now & Then: Thomas Weinandy and the meaning of Jesuit discernment,” Fr. James Martin, SJ, claims that Weinandy “dissented from Pope Francis’ teachings” – something Martin finds ironic since Weinandy led the committee that scrutinized Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for a Living God and found it wanting, doctrinally. Martin also charges Weinandy with the sin of superstition and he expresses acute fear about the way Weinandy asked for a sign from God before composing his letter.

First, a couple of points on the matter of superstition. The sin of superstition has a very precise meaning in Catholic moral teaching: it is a vice contrary to the virtue of religion in which a person “offers divine worship either to whom he ought not, or in a manner he ought not” (Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 92, a. 1). The three classic species of this vice are idolatry, making a compact (explicitly or implicitly) with demons for divination, and performing ritualistic observances contrary to reason, for example, using religious ceremonies not approved by the Church. Weinandy’s account of his prayerful discernment doesn’t fall under any of these species or the genus of the vice of superstition. The prudence in asking God for a sign in particular cases is surely a matter of debate, but a simple act of asking God for a sign is not something immoral per se (see, for example, Isaiah 7, where Ahaz is instructed by Isaiah to ask God for a sign; or the instances of this in the New Testament, such as when the Apostles sought a sign from God in selecting a replacement for Judas in Acts 1:26 or when God himself provided signs for the faithful, such as in Luke 2:34, etc.).

When it comes to dissent, the CDF’s 1990 document, Donum Veritatis (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, hereafter “DV”), explains that dissent is “public opposition to the Magisterium of the Church” and it “must be distinguished from the situation of personal difficulties treated above” (a. 32). That is to say, “dissenting” is an act distinct in kind from one in which a person expresses difficulties with magisterial teachings. It is clear from a fair reading of his letter that Weinandy has not opposed Francis’ magisterium; rather, he asks the Pope to correct five matters of concern:

(1) the well-known ambiguities in “Amoris Laetita” (hereafter, “AL”) chap. 8;
(2) those statements of the Pope which seem to demean the importance of Church doctrine;
(3) the Pope’s appointment of bishops who have supported and defended those who “hold views counter to Christian belief”;
(4) the Pope’s emerging brand of “synodality” that has resulting in fracturing the unity of faith and praxis in the Church; and
(5) the atmosphere of fear of retribution brought about in no small part by the actions of the Pope and his surrogates.

Say what you will about Fr. Weinandy’s concerns, but not one of them amounts to anything approaching dissent. Asking for clarification of ambiguous statements in a magisterial document hardly constitutes dissent. And his second concern is actually about preserving respect for the teachings of the Magisterium. What magisterial doctrine is Fr. Weinandy even calling into question let alone opposing? In fact, it is precisely his concern for the Church’s doctrine and its importance for the salvation of souls that clearly motivated him to implore the Pope to make a course correction. As the former chief of doctrine for the Church in the United States, Weinandy is a man sensitive to the potential for pastoral disaster caused by the rejection of sound doctrine. So much for Fr. Martin’s preposterous condemnation of Fr. Weinandy’s “dissent” and “superstition.”

Monsignor Strynkowski’s response
Fr. Weinandy has also been impugned by Msgr. John Strynkowski, one of his predecessors at the position of the Secretariat of Christian Doctrine at the USCCB. In an America article (“An open letter to Father Weinandy, from his predecessor, on ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and Pope Francis”), Strynkowski attempts to redress each of Weinandy’s five concerns, prefacing his remarks by claiming that AL is “an act of ordinary Magisterium, and thus enjoys presumption as having been guided by the Spirit of the Lord.” To be sure, Weinandy knows that even non-definitive magisterial teachings “are not without divine assistance and call for the adherence of the faithful” (DV, a. 17). The Church’s indefectibility would be imperiled by a substantive amount of errors in such teaching.

And yet this does not preclude all possibility of error in non-infallible magisterial statements, as the CDF points out in DV, 24: “It could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies.” Some claims found in AL reaffirm infallibly defined doctrine; others are not magisterial in the strict sense. Still others appear to run contrary to infallible dogma. The Holy Spirit guarantees that any error in non-definitive magisterial teachings will not destroy the Church. Situations like these, thankfully, are painful and rare but such is our lot. And publicly identifying problems in non-definitive teachings (such as critical ambiguity) in no way entails a failure to recognize God’s assistance to those who exercise magisterial authority. It is beyond facile for Strynkowski to imply otherwise.

Most of Strynkowski’s criticisms are not worth dwelling on at length as they are brief and dubious and, thus, easily dismissed. The sheer number of articles, open letters, books, episcopal statements, and press releases displaying a conflicting variety of theological interpretations of AL on the pastoral care of divorced and remarried Catholics living in more uxorio suffices to belie Strynkowski’s bald assertion that most bishops and theologians do not agree with Weinandy’s perception of ambiguity in chapter 8 of AL. The Holy Father frequently signals that he is no fan of dogma which he regularly portrays as antithetical to mercy and pastoral accompaniment. The Pope’s record of episcopal appointments, promotions, and firings speaks for itself. Weinandy charitably exercised restraint by not including a laundry list of well-known problematic bishops and I will follow suit.

For evidence that Pope Francis has promoted a range of problematic “doctrinal and moral options within the Church” under the rubrics of a flawed “synodality” we need look no further than the current balkanization of the Church under his leadership where what is a mortal sin in Poland and Philadelphia is permissible in Germany and Malta regarding Communion for divorced Catholics living in more uxoriowith their civil partner. Finally, while there are plenty of instances of the Holy Father not welcoming but perhaps resenting criticism (some of which are plausibly deniable), the recent humiliation of Cardinal Sarah suffices to show why there is an atmosphere of fear among bishops and theologians who dare to disagree with Pope Francis.

Scandalizing the faithful?
This leaves us with the final and, in my estimation, the most important point of criticism, one shared by Catholics of varying dispositions – lay and expert, progressive and orthodox alike. Some faithful Catholic thinkers have publicly expressed concerns that the publication of Fr. Weinandy’s letter might scandalize the faithful—but without specifying exactly how. For his part, Msgr. Strynkowski closes his letter by warning Fr. Weinandy that “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged that dissent from ordinary Magisterium should be disclosed privately to church authority—see ‘Donum Veritatis’ (No. 30).”

Aside from the false suggestion that Fr. Weinandy is dissenting from Church teaching (refuted above), the striking fact in Strynkowski’s parting shot is that Ratzinger and “Donum Veritatis” said no such thing! In his prepared remarks delivered publicly in 1990 at a press conference upon the release of DV, Ratzinger is on the record as saying precisely the opposite. Here is what he actually said:

Taken out of context, in fact, they [namely, articles 29 through 31 of DV] can give rise to the impression that the Instruction allows the theologian the sole option of submitting divergent opinions to the magisterial authorities in secret…. It is quite obvious that the Instruction is not proposing ‘secret’ communications but dialogue which remains on an ecclesial and scientific plane and avoids distortions at the hand of the mass media…. In actuality, the point is precisely to use arguments instead of pressure as a means of persuasion”. (Emphasis added. Cited in the July 5, 1990 issue of the USCCB publication Origins and in the book The Nature and Mission of Theology [Ignatius Press, 1995], p 117.)

This citation comes from a section of Ratzinger’s public address entitled “The Magisterium, the university, and the mass media,” in which he specifies the precise and narrowly-circumscribed limits of the directive regarding the mass media. One should avoid using the media as a means to exert political pressure on the Church; yet one may use media outlets to pursue reasoned argumentation in the light of faith. The entire section of his press release comments are worth reading through carefully several times. It bears emphasizing: The Church and the CDF do not prohibit faithful Catholics from expressing grave concerns about the Church and the Magisterium in public fora. But when using public media, the Church requires the faithful to mount charitable and reasoned arguments rather than rhetoric of political machination, the latter being a hallmark of the kind of dissent that was ongoing from Humanae Vitae up to the publication of DV in 1990. DV explains exactly when and why, “the theologian should avoid turning to the ‘mass media’” by adding this qualification, “for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth” (30).

This explains the paradox that puzzles folks such as Fr. Martin: the theologians scrutinized under Fr. Weinandy’s tenure at the USCCB were actually dissenting from Church doctrine and some of them used the media as a tool to manipulate the faithful. Whereas those who publicly express problems with Pope Francis’ pontificate, like Fr. Weinandy himself, are not dissenting but are serving the truth of the Gospel by contributing to the clarification of doctrinal issues. The difference is stark and should be obvious to all.

In his letter to Pope Francis, Fr. Weinandy adheres faithfully to the Church’s directives by expressing cogent reasons for the five principal issues he raises with the Pope. He is clearly concerned for the success of Francis’ pontificate, the Gospel of Christ, and the good of souls. It has been pointed out correctly that letters like Weinandy’s also fall under the duties specified in canon 212 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. (Emphasis added)

Here we see the Church stating that sometimes the faithful have a duty to make known publicly (“to the rest of the Christian faithful”) their opinions on matters pertaining “to the good of the Church.” When the integrity of Church’s moral and sacramental teachings is threatened, this duty ought to be engaged. For his part, Fr. Weinandy has fulfilled this mandate and has respected the directives of DV and CIC can. 212 “to a T.”

With respect to scandal, in the current crisis what actually scandalizes souls — in the strict sense of providing the occasion for sin — is the sense of many faithful Catholics that the Holy Father is promoting a pastoral policy that no longer requires all divorced and remarried Catholics living in more uxorio to repent of adultery and commit to live in strict continence in order to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion. If this sense is mistaken, it is easily redressed: the Holy Father can simply answer the dubia! The real scandal here is the occasioning of thoughts and desires to commit the objectively grave sins of active divorce and adultery and material sacrilege.

What scandalizes souls is not the reasoned and charitable criticism of the Pope (see Gal 2:11) but the silence of bishops and theologians who do not respectfully, charitably, and publicly express grave concerns about this confusion and who do not reaffirm the Church’s perennial doctrine and practice regarding marriage and reception of the Eucharist. At the very least, the publication of Fr. Weinandy’s letter mitigates these and other scandals. I have treated at length the conditions for a morally licit public correction of a pope in another article, but the bottom line is that subordinates have a duty to fraternally correct their superiors (even the Pope) out of charity and in public when the faith is publicly endangered (see Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 33, a. 4 where he treats of St. Paul publicly correcting St. Peter as recounted in Gal 2:11). In his exhortation to the Holy Father, Fr. Weinandy has met all of the criteria established by the Church’s tradition and by her moral and canonical directives.

A final thought: May courageous bishops support Fr. Weinandy out of true Christian charity for the Holy Father and for the faithful; may they reaffirm Christ’s moral teachings and implore the Holy Father to boldly and unambiguously strengthen the brethren in the fullness of the faith of Christ.

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Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

“I have chosen and consecrated this house, says the Lord,
that my name may be there forever.”+ (2 Chronicles 7:16)

[+ Gospel Acclamation for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.] Continue reading

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A recent short look at the Church in China

America Magazine, the American Jesuit review where James Martin is an editor- at- large no less, very recently offered this little effort on Catholics in China.

Very clearly Jesuit in tone and substance, but worth a look anyway. Please do so. I think Cardinal Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, would note in this short review many of the cracks that are being papered over in current Vatican policy towards China.


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Western Civilization Exists for the Mass



Many are stunned today at the speed in which western civilization is collapsing. Coinciding with this is the post-conciliar crisis within the Church, the fourth great crisis of Christendom as it has been described by that great defender of orthodoxy, Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan. What may not be as clear too many is the connection between the destruction of the Mass and of the collapse of the Christian west.

One man who understood this connection was Dr. John Senior, professor of English, Literature, and Classics and co-founder of the very successful Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas. Dr. Senior taught for decades at the university level. He was also a convert to the Catholic faith, devoted to the traditional Mass and an attendee of Immaculata Chapel (SSPX) in St. Mary’s, Kansas.

Senior has been credited with inspiring a generation of young men and women who, having studied under him at Kansas, converted to Catholicism. As Michael Matt of the Remnant has noted, “under his tutelage, (his students) had learned to love the old Faith as he did and thus desired to serve the Church as loyally as had their revered teacher.”

Early in his book The Restoration of Christian Culture, John Senior speaks to the inseparable nature of civilization and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

Whatever we do in the political or social order, the indispensable foundation is prayer, the heart of which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the perfect prayer of Christ Himself, Priest and Victim, recreating in an unbloody manner the bloody, selfsame Sacrifice of Calvary. What is Christian culture? It is essentially the Mass. That is not my or anyone’s opinion or theory or wish but the central fact of 2,000 years of history. Christendom, what secularists call Western Civilization, is the Mass and the paraphernalia which protect and facilitate it. All architecture, art, political and social forms, economics, the way people live and feel and think, music, literature ―all these things when they are right are ways of fostering and protecting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Understanding this, is it any wonder why a growing number of Catholics today (sometimes derisively dismissed as ‘radical traditionalists’) speak of the need for liturgical restoration? Is it any surprise that we are seeing a cultural collapse in the west considering the anthropocentric and profane Masses offered for much of the last fifty years?

Reading the above quote by Senior recently I was immediately reminded of another occasion when esteemed laity highlighted the inseparable connection between the Mass and civilization.

On the eve of the implementation of Pope Paul’s new Mass in the U.K. back in 1971, a group of learned English signatories wrote the Holy Father a letter, an appeal. Many of the distinguished signers were not even Catholic. They included such artists and thinkers as Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, Robert Graves, Ralph Richardson, Kenneth Clark, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Yehudi Menuhin to name just a few. In total nearly sixty people signed.

Their letter today, and the subsequent response of Rome, are referred to as the Agatha Christie indult, named after its most prominent signer. Put simply, the letter argued for the preservation of the Roman Rite as the jewel of western civilization. They began:

If some senseless decree were to order the total or partial destruction of basilicas or cathedrals, then obviously it would be the educated -whatever their personal beliefs- who would rise up in horror to oppose such a possibility.

Now the fact is that basilicas and cathedrals were built so as to celebrate a rite which, until a few months ago, constituted a living tradition. We are referring to the Roman Catholic Mass. Yet, according to the latest information in Rome, there is a plan to obliterate that Mass by the end of the current year.

Next, the signatories argued (as John Senior did) that the traditional Mass is foundational to, and inseparable from, western civilization:

We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts -not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians.

The implication is clear. If the “rite in question” has inspired the culture and lifted the human spirit in such a manner “in all countries and epochs”, then what happens when it is distorted and diminished. If western civilization exists for the Mass, then what happens when the Mass is changed? Consistently profaned? Modernized?

The letter concludes with both an appeal, and a filial warning, to the Holy Father:

The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and nonpolitical, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere. They wish to call to the attention of the Holy See, the appalling responsibility it would incur in the history of the human spirit were it to refuse to allow the Traditional Mass to survive…

Cardinal Heenan delivered the letter to Pope Paul VI, resulting in the granting of the Latin Mass indult for England and Wales in November 1971.

What is sad today, nearly fifty years after the “reform” of the Roman Rite, is that many within the Church still do not see what John Senior and the signatories of the Agatha Christie letter so clearly recognized. History has proven them to be truly prophetic. We can view these last fifty years as our Babylonian exile. Our captivity, merited through pride and disobedience.

Surveying the ecclesial and cultural landscape near the end of his life, Senior held nothing back in his assessment:

The crisis is over; we have lost. This is no longer just a prediction, it is a simple observation: Rome has been desecrated. We are in the age of darkness. Triumphalist reactions are in vain. The modern world and the Church deserve the punishment that God is raining down on us.

Despite this current punishment we cannot despair. In the end, we know Who is victorious. We do not, however, participate in this victory if we fail to reassert the fundamental connection between the Mass and western civilization.

The Mass must first be the foundation of the family before it can be the foundation of the culture. All of life must flow from Our Eucharistic Lord, present in our churches, on the altars, in the hands of our priests. The Social Kingship of Christ must once again be proclaimed as well.

We must also reject the nonsensical notion of the Mass as an ecumenical experiment. As a laboratory for innovation. As an expression of the secular instead of an encounter with the eternal. This must all be rejected. It is offensive and it is not Catholic.

Western civilization, or more accurately Christendom, exists for the Mass. We have seen the fruits of secularism, of rejecting this fundamental truth. We have seen both the culture and the Church teeter (and in some places fall) due to the loss of understanding of this foundational truth. Even where the culture fails to grasp this notion, it is still true never the less.

In the end this is why so many fight for the liturgy, despite the scorn of some and the indifference of many. This truth compels us. Father John Zuhlsdorf (Fr. Z) likes to say, “Save the Liturgy, save the World.” Indeed.

Photo credit: Gonzague Bridault

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What we can learn from the Cardinals who survived Communism

CP&S comment – The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, whose 100th anniversary we mark this month, led to the greatest genocide in the whole history of Mankind, particularly under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Communist Russia spread its errors over the whole world, as Our Blessed Lady warned us it would earlier in 1917 at Fatima (before the Revolution had even broken out). Despite Communism’s official demise, it has nevertheless left deep lasting scars and a type of atheistic aggressive socialism among men and institutions that we are still suffering from today.

A statue of the confrontational Hungarian Cardinal József Mindszenty (CNS

by Jonathan Luxmore on the CATHOLIC HERALD 

The Church has survived brutality. But it might not survive the compromising of its values

When the centenary of the Russian Revolution is marked on November 7, Eastern Europe’s Catholic communities will recall the terrible hardships it unleashed on them. But with Christians still suffering worldwide, it will also be an opportunity to reflect on which survival strategies work best against persecution.

Communist rule was imposed gradually, making clear responses difficult. And while its ultimate goal was unchanged, its methods evolved – as did the kinds of Christian testimony needed to withstand the pressures.

Even in 1917, the anti-Church programme was far from new. There had been parallels in the bloody mistreatment of réfractaire Catholic clergy during the French Revolution, as well as with Garibaldi’s mangiapreti, or “priest-eaters”, and the 1871 Paris Commune.

Marx and Engels had lauded the Commune as the first dictatorship of the proletariat. It had put revolution back on the agenda after the suppressed uprisings of 1848. It had also broken the “parson-power” of the Church, exposing its part in a hostile front against “the people”. But the Communards had been defeated, Marx concluded, by shrinking back from the required ruthlessness.

Lenin, Russia’s revolutionary mastermind, agreed that the Commune had been hampered by naïve idealism. But he fully concurred with its contempt for the Church, with its “deep roots” in capitalist domination.

“Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness,” Lenin told the writer Maxim Gorky.

This was the kind of enemy Russia’s small, vulnerable Catholic community was up against. Yet even as Bolshevik death squads scoured the country, summarily executing priests and seizing Church valuables, there were hopes that the initial fervour might give way to something calmer.

The revolution had swept away the traditional privileges of Russia’s Orthodox church, creating opportunities for other confessions. Even in the Vatican, some saw signs of a “positive evolution”.

But hopes of a more just future were quickly dispelled.

Lacking political legitimacy, Lenin’s regime had to find ways of subduing the population. Within a year of the revolution, while a 40,000-strong paramilitary police, the Cheka, operated from Moscow’s Lubyanka, and people’s courts dispensed sentences according to “the dictates of revolutionary conscience”. A “Decree on Red Terror” sanctioned the killing of anyone suspected of opposition.

“You must make an example of these people,” Lenin telegrammed one local committee. “Hang (I mean hang publicly, so people will see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards and known bloodsuckers … Do all this so that for miles around people see it, understand it [and] tremble.”

The only valid moral values and spiritual loyalties, Lenin made clear, were those which served the revolution. Even if some clergy claimed to support it, they would merely corrupt the cause from within. “We must execute not only the guilty,” said Nikolai Krylenko, president of the Soviet Supreme Court. “Execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more.”

As the regime concentrated its onslaught initially on the Orthodox Church, Catholics were spared the worst. But by the early 1920s Catholic priests had received life terms for resisting Soviet rule, and all Catholic churches had been closed in Moscow and Petrograd (St Petersburg).

In March 1923, the Catholic Church’s leader in Russia, Archbishop Jan Cieplak, and his vicar-general, Mgr Konstantin Budkievicz, were declared guilty with 21 other clergy for setting up a “counter-revolutionary organisation”.

Cieplak and Budkievicz were condemned to be shot, while others received prison terms. And on Easter Saturday five days later, despite international appeals, Budkievicz was executed at the Lubyanka.

Cieplak’s sentence was commuted to 10 years in prison, on the grounds that “the punishment he really deserves might be interpreted as directed primarily against their creed by backward elements of the Roman Catholic population”. He remained in prison until April 1924, when he was suddenly put on a train to Riga and expelled.

By the end of the 1930s, it was clear that nothing could have saved the Soviet Union’s churches.

Stalin had followed up Lenin’s call for “revolutionary boldness”, taking it far beyond what even Lenin had anticipated. The campaign against the kulaks, or rich peasants, had cost 6.5 million lives, while “terror famines”, notoriously in Ukraine, had taken eight million more, and Stalin’s 1937-8 Great Purge a further seven million.

While 45,000 Orthodox churches lay in ruins, some 110,000 Orthodox clergy were shot, hanged, burned alive, drowned in ditches or crucified on church doors.

As for Russia’s Catholics, 422 priests had perished, along with 962 monks, nuns and lay people, while all but two of the Church’s 1,240 places of worship had been closed or turned into shops, warehouses, farm buildings and public toilets.

Why had the Church encountered such hostility? How well had it understood the communist challenge?

Such questions would be faced by Church leaders in Eastern Europe, as communist rule arrived in the 1940s on the bayonets of the victorious Red Army. And they would be answered differently.

While Greek Catholic communities combining the eastern liturgy with loyalty to Rome were savagely suppressed in Ukraine and Romania, Catholic cardinals elsewhere – Stefan Wyszyński in Poland, Josef Beran in Czechoslovakia, József Mindszenty in Hungary, Alojzije Stepinac in Yugoslavia – all tried to rally Catholics to the Church’s defence, drawing on their understanding of local conditions. In time, all were brought down, proving that co-operative or confrontational Church stances ultimately had little impact on communist hostility.

But leadership skills played their part. Whereas Mindszenty and Stepinac had rejected the communist programme outright, Wyszyński had been ready to go along with it, believing communists, like anyone else, were open to persuasion, and that intelligent flexibility, rather than unbending rigour, stood a better chance of saving the Church.

Wyszyński was ready to take the regime at its word, study its decisions and reach agreements with it, while avoiding being pushed into committed opposition or provoked into over-reacting with rhetorical condemnations.

Not even this saved Wyszyński from being jailed in 1953 when Bolesław Bierut’s regime launched a clampdown. But even at the height of Stalinist rule, the Polish Church was too well supported for the regime to risk a head-on collision.

Writing in the 1970s, Mindszenty defended his more confrontational stance, claiming to have recognised the dangers when other Church leaders had fallen for propaganda claims that communism was becoming more tolerant.

The pattern had been clear, Mindszenty argued. The regimes were determined to crush the faith, and they would do so even if Christians proved accommodating, as the Russian Orthodox Church’s fate had shown. In the “decisive contest” between Christianity and communism, there could be no illusions of neutrality and appeasement.

“I was convinced we had been called to bear witness”, Mindszenty concluded. “Historical studies had taught me that compromise with this enemy will almost always play into his hands”.

Ironically, this was the opposite of what Wyszyński had concluded, after also studying the Russian Orthodox example. He knew the Church would have its martyrs, and that silence and timidity would merely embolden its enemies. But he also sensed that, sooner or later, the regime would overreach itself and have to recognise that, even under communism, a strong Church would be a permanent feature.

Sure enough, within three years Wyszyński had been restored to office when Bierut’s successor, Władysław Gomulka, needed Church support for a reformist “Polish road to socialism”. Although decades of conflict still lay ahead, the Polish Church would ultimately prosper.


What lessons can be learned from this today?…

Read on to find out

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New Book Reveals Details of Pope John Paul I’s Death

CP&S comment – This book’s revelations should put to bed the many rumours of murder surrounding Pope John Paul I’s sudden death after only 33 days into his Pontificate!

Pope John Paul I (Sentinelle del mattino International via Wikipedia (CC 2.0) via CNA)

The book’s release, Nov. 7, is said to coincide with the announcement that his cause for sainthood is moving forward.

Hannah Brockhaus/CNA/EWTN News

ROME — A new book discloses details and evidence of the death of Pope John Paul I, who died in 1978 after just 33 days in office — showing his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously held.

In the book, Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death, Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca presents thoroughly researched evidence, including previously undisclosed medical reports, witness testimonies and Vatican documents, confirming original reports that the late pontiff died of a heart attack.

Albino Luciani, who was born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, was elected Bishop of Rome at the age of 65. He took the name Pope John Paul to honor both of his immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI.

His term as pope was short-lived, however, as he died suddenly Sept. 28, 1978, after just over a month in office. It has been presumed his death was caused by a heart attack, but a lack of published evidence has allowed conspiracy theories to surface, including insinuations of murder.

The book’s release, Nov. 7, is said to coincide with the announcement that John Paul I’s cause for sainthood is moving forward. According to Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, on Nov. 7 or 8, the Vatican may announce Pope Francis’ approval of the “heroic virtue” of Albino Luciani, declaring him “Venerable.”

This then opens the path for his beatification, which requires the approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession. Currently, the Vatican is examining two alleged miracles from the late Pope’s intercession.

In her book, Falasca, who also serves as vice postulator of John Paul I’s cause for sainthood, outlines evidence of his death, including how the evening before his death he suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem.

It occurred while sitting and praying vespers in the chapel with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner. The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor, and the pain went away without treatment. His doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the event after his death.

Contrary to what was first announced by the Vatican, however, it wasn’t the Pope’s secretaries who first found him the next morning, but nuns.

When the elderly Sister Vicenza, who helped care for the Pope, noticed that he had not come out of his room to take his morning coffee, she knocked on his door and opened it when he didn’t answer.

She immediately came back out in a state of shock, however, and called for the younger Sister Margherita Marin. In her sworn testimony, Sister Margherita relates that, entering the room, she “touched his hands, they were cold, and I saw — and was struck by the fact — that his nails were a little dark.”

Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is from the same region as the Pope, contributed a preface to the book. In it, he explains that, while serving as patriarch of Venice in 1975, Cardinal Luciani also suffered from a heart problem and was treated with anti-coagulants, which appeared to resolve it.

Sister Margherita, now 76 years old, said in her testimony that John Paul I did not seem tired or weighed down by his new responsibilities, but that she always saw him “calm, serene, full of trust, confident.”

Though his papacy was very short, requests to begin John Paul I’s canonization process followed shortly after his death and came from many parts of the world. These requests were formalized in 1990, with a document signed by 226 Brazilian bishops.

On Nov. 23, 2003, he was declared a “Servant of God” by his immediate successor, Pope St. John Paul II.

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Catholic Identity Crisis 2017

Simon Michael Walker Reilly: “The premier English-language Vatican journalist, Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register, offers a journalist’s objective evaluation of a climate of fear in Rome, the Synod on the Family, Amoris Laetitia, and the crisis in the Church during the reign of Pope Francis. [The real revelation of this talk was (for me) the fact that the majority of Catholics in parishes across the globe are totally oblivious to what is happening in the Vatican. – It’s a stark reminder that social media can be a bubble, the content of which, doesn’t necessarily reach the outside world.]”

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31st Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A—2017

Christ and the Pharisees by Ernst Simmerman


31st Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A—2017

FIRST READING Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10

A great King am I, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. And now, O priests, this commandment is for you: If you do not listen, if you do not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, I will send a curse upon you and of your blessing I will make a curse. You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction; you have made void the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts. I, therefore, have made you contemptible and base before all the people, since you do not keep my ways, but show partiality in your decisions. Have we not all the one father? Has not the one God created us? Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?

SECOND READING 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13

Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

GOSPEL Matthew 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”


My sisters and brothers in Christ,

How do we treat other people in our lives? What do we think about immigrants? What about the people whom we don’t like? Do we ever think about all of these people in terms of what Jesus has taught us? Do we think about these people in terms of what our Catholic Church teaches us?

The first reading today is from the Book of the Prophet Malachi. ­What wonderful images he uses in his writings! Today, however, he is very strong: “If you don’t listen to me, I will make your life awful!” This is often how God acts in our lives. Our lives become so awful that finally we think of the Lord and wonder what He wants of us and if we are being faithful. Malachi asks us “Why then do we break faith with one another, violating the covenant of our fathers?” This is a message for all of us, even today. Do we keep the covenant of the Lord? Are we faithful to the teachings of Scripture and of the Church? If we are not faithful, why??

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians. One important point in this reading is this: “In receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God.” This is so important for each of us to understand! We speak in human words and yet we can receive the word of God. This is particularly true when we read the human words of the Scripture and by faith believe that God is revealing Himself. Today many people no longer believe that Scripture is God’s revelation. We Catholics believe with our whole being that the Scriptures are the Revelation of God.

Yet it is important to understand how these Scriptures are God’s Revelation. We are not literalists in the sense that we believe that every word is a revelation. Rather, we embrace a theory of revelation which tells us that God is present and speaking to us in His Scriptures. To understand the Scriptures we must understand the people who wrote them, the times in which they were written, the history of these writings and so forth. But that never takes away from the reality that we believe that in hearing these words, in reading these words, we are encountering the Lord God revealing Himself to us.

The Gospel today is from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Here we encounter this teaching: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” We should always keep this teaching in our hearts and in our minds. We must seek to serve one another, not dominate one another. We should seek to proclaim this word of God in the way we live and relate to one another. The more humble we become, the possible it is for God’s word and God’s presence to be known by others. Jesus gives us the example of those who try to follow the Law but only put burdens on others. It is clear that our challenge is not to judge others nor to tell others what to do. Our challenge is to live the word of God in such a way that others are drawn to God.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Luther and Melanchthon at the foot of the Cross

Antonio Socci: “The Vatican in a complete mess with its celebration of Luther the Heretic in the place of Our Lady. Never-ending shame in the dark age of Bergoglio.

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own”. (John 19,25-27).

This is one of the most fundamental moments in the Life of Jesus, the very apex of His redeeming mission. Mary is there and right next to Her is John. From that moment on Mary is the Mother of all those who are to come into the Church: Mater Ecclesiæ, as Paul VI called Her at the closure of the Second Vatican Council.

However, Holy Mother Church, to commemorate the event of the 95 theses nailed by Martin Luther to the great door of the Wittenberg Church 500 years ago, thought well about issuing a fine stamp, through the Vatican Post Office. It is described like this in the official presentation:

“It depicts Jesus Crucified in the foreground on a gold, timeless background showing Wittenberg city. In an attitude of penance, on their knees respectively on the left and the right of the the Cross, Martin Luther holds a Bible, source and purpose of his doctrine, while Philip Melanchthon, theologian and a friend of Martin Luther’s, one of the most important protagonists of the Reformation, holds in his hand the Augsburg Confession, Confessio Augustuana, the first official exposition of the principles of Protestantism which were drawn up by him.”

It’s true that we are experiencing a climate of “détente” between Catholics and Lutherans; it’s true that a Catholic Bishop [Galantino] has gone as far as saying that “The Reformation started by Martin Luther 5 centuries ago was an event from the Holy Spirit” but the stamp issued by the Holy See is truly unusual.

That Holy Mother Church, of which the Virgin Mary is a symbol and model, would produce a stamp with a mosaic created by August von Kloeber in 1851 is a sign of the times. Those two gentlemen at the foot of the Cross, who initiated the Protestant movement, defined Mariology as “the sum of all heresies”.

Translation: Francesca Romana


H/T: Antonio Socci, Facebook and RORATE CAELI

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The Catholic world is about to be turned upside down


In just over 30 years time, one in four of the world’s Catholics are expected to live in Africa (CNS)

by Philip Jenkins

By 2050, the leading Catholic nations will be in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This will change everything

The Catholic Church worldwide is passing through an era of historical transformation, a decisive shift in numbers towards the Global South – to Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many are aware of this trend as an abstract fact, but we are scarcely coming to terms with the implications for Church life, for the composition of Church leadership, and for its future policies. A southward-looking Church may be a vibrant and flourishing body, but it might pose some challenges for Catholics of the older Euro-American world.

The fact of that geographical shift is clear enough. A century ago, the European continent accounted for almost two thirds of the world’s Catholics. By 2050, that proportion will fall to perhaps a sixth. In that not-too-far future year, the Church’s greatest bastions will be in Latin America (perhaps 40 per cent), in Africa (25 per cent) and Asia (12 per cent).

Actually, those numbers understate the southern predominance, because a sizeable number of Catholics living in Europe or North America will themselves be of migrant stock – Nigerians or Congolese in Europe, Mexicans in the United States. A Church born long ago on the soil of Asia and Africa is returning home.

Looking at a near-future list of the world’s largest Catholic nations reinforces that point about the relative decline of the Euro-American presence in the Church. In 1900, the three nations with the largest Catholic populations were France, Italy and Germany. By 2050, the leading countries will be Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines. France and Italy will comprise the only European entrants among the top 10 Catholic populations, which otherwise will include three African nations (Nigeria, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and the United States. With around a hundred million Catholics, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will enjoy rough parity with the United States and the Philippines. Those specific numbers are projections, and of course they may over- or under-estimate particular regions. But the general directions of change are not in doubt. The Catholic future lies in the South.

But what does that mean for the Church’s leadership,…

Continue reading this article, first published in November 3, 2017 issue of the CATHOLIC HERALD.

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Former U.S. Bishops’ head of doctrine lays out his deep concerns about this pontificate

By Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register:

NOV. 1, 2017

Full Text of Father Weinandy’s Letter to Pope Francis

Former U.S. Bishops’ head of doctrine lays out his deep concerns about this pontificate in a letter to the Holy Father.


A former chief of staff for the U.S. Bishops’ committee on doctrine has written to Pope Francis saying his pontificate is marked by “chronic confusion” and warning that teaching with a “seemingly intentional lack of clarity risks sinning against the Holy Spirit.”

Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy, who is now a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, criticized the Pope for “demeaning” the importance of doctrine, committing “calumny” against some of his critics, and appointing bishops who “scandalize” believers with dubious “teaching and pastoral practice.”

The missive (see full text below) was sent to the Holy Father on July 31, the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, but only made public today.

Father Weinandy, who did not hold back in sharing his concerns with Pope Francis about his pontificate, began the letter underlining his “love for the Church and sincere respect” for the Petrine Office, and stating that Pope Francis is the “Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock.”

He stressed the Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to the Pope, to “dispel error, not to foster it,” and that only the light of truth can free mankind from the blindness of sin.

But he pointed out to the Holy Father that he seems “to censor and even mock” critics of Chapter 8 of his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, who wish to interpret it in accord with Church tradition, committing a “kind of calumny” that is “alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.”

Elsewhere, he warned against the Pope’s concept of synodality, criticized him for resenting criticism (leading to silence from bishops), and censured Francis for being silent in the face of some bishops’ erroneous teachings and pastoral practice.

He closed by saying he believes the Lord has allowed all this to happen to show “just how weak is the faith of many within the Church,” and that ironically this pontificate has shed light on those who “hold harmful theological and pastoral views.”

Father Weinandy ended by saying he prays constantly for the Holy Father and will continue to do so, and asks that the Holy Spirit lead the Pope “to the light of truth and the life of love so that you can dispel the darkness that now hides the beauty of Jesus’ Church.”

 “Expresses Concerns of Many”

In an interview with Crux, Father Weinandy said his decision to write the letter was not easy, and resulted from a moment of inspiration.

After praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, including at the tomb of Peter, on a visit to Rome, and struggling internally whether to write it, he gave God an ultimatum to give him a clear sign — one which he duly received.

“There was no longer any doubt in my mind that Jesus wanted me to write something,” Father Weinandy said, adding he is aware that might sound a little pretentious, but that it was important to illustrate his motives.

He also said he is not afraid of reprisals but “more concerned about the good that my letter might do.”

He said the letter “expresses the concerns of many more people than just me, ordinary people who’ve come to me with their questions and apprehensions,” and “I wanted them to know that I listened.”

“I have done what I believe God wanted me to do,” he said.

Unlike others who have written critically to the Pope, such as the dubia cardinals, the authors of the filial correction, or the filial appeal, Father Weinandy received a brief reply in mid-October from Italian Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the number two official in the Secretariat of State.

Dated Sept. 7, the letter confirmed that Father Weinandy’s letter had been placed before the Pope.

A member of the International Theological Commission since 2014, Father Weinandy is a prolific author and highly accomplished theologian, having taught at numerous universities in the United States, as well as Oxford and Rome, at the Pontifical Gregorian University.


Update, Nov. 1: According to Catholic World Report, the USCCB has now asked Father Weinandy to resign from his current position as consultant to the bishops, and he has submitted his resignation.

In his July 31 letter, he told the Pope: “Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.”

Here below is the full text of Father Weinandy’s letter:

July 31, 2017

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Your Holiness,

I write this letter with love for the Church and sincere respect for your office.  You are the Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock, the successor to St. Peter and so the rock upon which Christ will build his Church.  All Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are to look to you with filial loyalty and obedience grounded in truth.  The Church turns to you in a spirit of faith, with the hope that you will guide her in love.

Yet, Your Holiness, a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate.  The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions.  This fosters within the faithful a growing unease.  It compromises their capacity for love, joy and peace.  Allow me to offer a few brief examples.

First there is the disputed Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.  I need not share my own concerns about its content.  Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that.  The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching.  In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching.  As you wisely note, pastors should accompany and encourage persons in irregular marriages; but ambiguity persists about what that “accompaniment” actually means.  To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.  Moreover, only where there is truth can there be authentic love, for truth is the light that sets women and men free from the blindness of sin, a darkness that kills the life of the soul.  Yet you seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism.   This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.  Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions.  Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by ad hominem arguments.

Second, too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine.  Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life.  Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology.  But it is precisely Christian doctrine – including the fine distinctions made with regard to central beliefs like the Trinitarian nature of God; the nature and purpose of the Church; the Incarnation; the Redemption; and the sacraments – that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.  Those who devalue the doctrines of the Church separate themselves from Jesus, the author of truth.  What they then possess, and can only possess, is an ideology – one that conforms to the world of sin and death.

Third, faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them.  What scandalizes believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice.  This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being.  As a result, many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd.

Fourth, the Church is one body, the Mystical Body of Christ, and you are commissioned by the Lord himself to promote and strengthen her unity.  But your actions and words too often seem intent on doing the opposite.  Encouraging a form of “synodality” that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion.  Such synodality is unwise and, in practice, works against collegial unity among bishops.

Holy Father, this brings me to my final concern.  You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church.  You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think.  But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent?  Why is this?  Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it.  Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you, and so they do not express – at least publicly; privately is another matter – the concerns that your pontificate raises.  Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.

I have often asked myself: “Why has Jesus let all of this happen?”   The only answer that comes to mind is that Jesus wants to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.  Ironically, your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness.  In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.

Holy Father, I pray for you constantly and will continue to do so.  May the Holy Spirit lead you to the light of truth and the life of love so that you can dispel the darkness that now hides the beauty of Jesus’ Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap.


Father Weinandy’s full account of how his historic letter came to be written:

Last May I was in Rome for an International Theological Commission meeting.  I was staying at Domus Sanctae Marthae, and since I arrived early, I spent most of the Sunday afternoon prior to the meeting on Monday in Saint Peter’s praying in the Eucharistic Chapel.

I was praying about the present state of the Church and the anxieties I had about the present Pontificate.  I was beseeching Jesus and Mary, St. Peter and all of the saintly popes who are buried there to do something to rectify the confusion and turmoil within the Church today, a chaos and an uncertainty that I felt Pope Francis had himself caused.  I was also pondering whether or not I should write and publish something expressing my concerns and anxiety.

On the following Wednesday afternoon, at the conclusion of my meeting, I went again to St. Peter’s and prayed in the same manner.  That night I could not get to sleep, which is very unusual for me.  It was due to all that was on my mind pertaining to the Church and Pope Francis.

At 1:15 AM I got up and went outside for short time.  When I went back to my room, I said to the Lord: “If you want me to write something, you have to give me a clear sign.  This is what the sign must be.  Tomorrow morning I am going to Saint Mary Major’s to pray and then I am going to Saint John Lateran.  After that I am coming back to Saint Peter’s to have lunch with a seminary friend of mine.  During that interval, I must meet someone that I know but have not seen in a very long time and would never expect to see in Rome at this time.  That person cannot be from the United States, Canada or Great Britain.  Moreover, that person has to say to me in the course of our conversation, ‘Keep up the good writing’.”

The next morning I did all of the above and by the time I met my seminarian friend for lunch what I had asked the Lord the following night was no longer in the forefront of my mind.

However, towards the end of the meal an archbishop appeared between two parked cars right in front of our table (we were sitting outside).  I had not seen him for over twenty years, long before he became an archbishop.  We recognized one another immediately.  What made his appearance even more unusual was that, because of his recent personal circumstances, I would never have expected to see him in Rome or anywhere else, other than in his own archdiocese.  (He was from none of the above mentioned countries.)  We spoke about his coming to Rome and caught up on what we were doing.  I then introduced him to my seminarian friend.  He said to my friend that we had met a long time ago and that he had, at that time, just finished reading my book on the immutability of God and the Incarnation.  He told my friend that it was an excellent book, that it helped him sort out the issue, and that my friend should read the book.  Then he turned to me and said: “Keep up the good writing.”

I could hardly believe that this just happened in a matter of a few minutes.  But there was no longer any doubt in my mind that Jesus wanted me to write something.  I also think it significant that it was an Archbishop that Jesus used.  I considered it an apostolic mandate.

So giving it considerable thought and after writing many drafts, I decided to write Pope Francis directly about my concerns.  However, I always intended to make it public since I felt many of my concerns were the same concerns that others had, especially among the laity, and so I publicly wanted to give voice to their concerns as well.”




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1st November: The Feast of All Saints

The temple of Agrippa was dedicated, under Augustus, to all the pagan gods, hence its name of Pantheon. Under the Emperor Phocas, between A.D. 607 and 610, Boniface IV translated hither numerous remains of martyrs taken from the Catacombs.

On May 13, A.D. 610, he dedicated this new Christian basilica to St. Mary and the Martyrs. The feast of this dedication took later a more universal character, and the temple was consecrated to St. Mary and all the Saints.

As there was already a feast in commemoration of all the Saints, celebrated at first at various dates in various churches, then fixed by Gregory IV in A.D. 835 on November 1, Pope Gregory VII transferred to this date the anniversary of the dedication of the Pantheon as a church. The feast of All Saints therefore recalls the triumph of Christ over the false pagan deities.

In this temple is held the Station on the Friday in the octave of Easter.

As the saints commemorated during the three first centuries were martyrs, and the Pantheon was at first dedicated to them, the Mass of All Saints is made up of extracts from the liturgy of martyrs. The Introit is that of the Mass of St. Agatha, used later for other feasts, the Gospel, Offertory and Communion are taken from the Common of martyrs of the Church

The Church gives us on this day a wonderful vision of heaven, showing us with St. John, the twelve thousand signed (twelve is considered a perfect number) of each tribe of Israel, and a great multitude which no one can count, of every nation and tribe, of every people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and with palms in their hands (Epistle). Christ, our Lady, the blessed battalions distributed in nine choirs, the apostles and prophets, the martyrs crimsoned in their blood, the confessors adorned in white garments and the chaste choir of virgins form, as the hymn of Vespers sings, the majestic court. It is composed of all those who here below were detached from worldly riches, gentle, suffering, just, merciful, pure, peaceful and persecuted for the name of Jesus. “Rejoice,” the Master had foretold them, “for a great reward is prepared for you in heaven” (Gospel, Communion). Among those millions of the just who were faithful disciples of Jesus on earth, are several of our own family, relations, friends, members of our parochial family, now enjoying the fruit of their piety, adoring the Lord, King of kings, and Crown of all Saints (Invitatory at Matins) and obtaining for us the wished for abundance of His mercies (Collect).


Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore Sanctorum omnium: de quorum solemnitate gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. * Exsultate justi in Domino: rectos decet collaudatio.
Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival day in honour of all the Saints: at whose solemnity the Angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God.* Rejoice in the Lord, ye just: praise becometh the upright.
(Psalm 32:1 from the Introit of Mass)


Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui nos omnium Sanctorum tuorum merita sub una tribuisti celebritate venerari: quaesumus: ut desideratam nobis tuae propitiationis abundantiam, multiplicatis inter cessoribus, largiaris.
O Almighty and everlasting God, who hast granted us to honour in one solemn feast the merits of all Thy Saints: we beseech Thee, that, since so many are praying for us, Thou wouldst pour forth upon us the abundance of Thy mercy, for which we long.


O Christ, thy guilty people spare!
Lo, kneeling at thy gracious throne,
Thy Virgin-Mother pours her prayer,
Imploring pardon for her own.

Ye Angels, happy evermore!
Who in your circles nine ascend,
As ye have guarded us before,
So still from harm our steps defend.

Ye Prophets and Apostles high!
Behold our penitential tears;
And plead for us when death is nigh,
And our all-searching Judge appears.

Ye Martyrs all! a purple band,
And Confessors, a white-robed train;
O, call us to our native land,
From this our exile, back again.

And ye, O choirs of Virgins chaste!
Receive us to your seats on high;
With Hermits whom the desert waste
Sent up of old into the sky.

Drive from the flock, O Spirit blest!
The false and faithless race away;
That all within one fold may rest,
Secure beneath one Shepherd’s sway.

To God the Father glory be,
And to his sole-begotten Son;
And glory, Holy Ghost, to thee,
While everlasting ages run. Amen.


Angeli, Archangeli, Throni et Dominationes, Principalis et Potestates, Virtutes caelorum, Cherubim atque Seraphim, Patriarchae et Prophetae, sancti legis Doctores, Apostoli, omnes Christi Martyres, sancti Confessores, Virgines Domini, Anachoritae Sanctique omnes, intercedite pro nobis.
O ye Angels and Archangels, Thrones and Dominions, Principalities and Powers, Virtues of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim, ye Patriarchs and Prophets, holy Doctors of the Law, Apostles, all Martyrs of Christ, holy Confessors, Virgins of the Lord, Hermits, and all Saints : intercede for us.
(Magnificat Antiphon from 1st Vespers)


Epistle:  Apoc. vii. 2-12


Gospel:  Matthew v. 1-12


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