The Celtic Church — Myth and Reality


For many people — practicing, nominal, and non-Catholic alike — in the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere, St. Patrick’s day is welcome relief from the rigours (if any) of Lent, or at the very least a mid-spring party. Shamrocks abound as do green clothes of all varieties; the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Emerald Society, and suchlike bodies parade — these days not always without controversy — in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and the many other centres of the Irish diaspora. Even taco stands and Chinese restaurants sometimes feature variations on the omnipresent corned beef and cabbage. And there is booze. Oceans of booze. Jamesons, Bushmills, Guinness, and a hundred other brands of whiskey and beer are dispensed not only from Irish but Scots and English pubs across America to legions of thirsty revellers. You’ll see them waving Irish tricolours and Green Harp flags, but not the Cross of St. Patrick.

In the Emerald Isle itself, the day was primarily a strictly religious and civic one until about 20 years ago when Dublin and some other locales began putting on American style fiestas. Even Belfast has a large parade, although this is one occasion upon which both the Orange Order and the Royal Black Institution are not seen. Nevertheless, if such Patrician pilgrimage sites such as Lough Derg and Croagh Patrick are closed awaiting warmer weather, Catholics and Anglicans alike offer rites in St. Patrick’s memory at his grave in Downpatrick, his headquarters at Armagh, the Hill of Slane, and other places associated with him. If the now-defunct knightly Order of St. Patrick no longer attends services at St. Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral and waits upon the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at his ball in Dublin Castle, the current republican authorities still mark the day in a dignified manner. The President attends Mass at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, and offers a suitably uplifting speech at his residence. In England, the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Guards mount parades and celebrative dinners: in the latter case, members of the Royal Family — in days gone by, the Queen Mother, now either or both the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend. This has been the case since long before the Queen and the President of Ireland made their mutual visits of reconciliation.

Now the Irish — Catholic or Protestant — think of themselves as a Celtic people. We’ll come back to what that may mean presently. But in addition to the Irish, there are five other peoples that also identify themselves as Celts. They are the Scots , the Manx, the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Bretons. In many ways, the month of March is THE Celtic Month. March 1 is the feast of the monk St. David, patron saint of Wales and is celebrated as the country’s national day. His shrine (destroyed at the Reformation) has recently been re-erected and his retrieved relics placed therein. Thus, as at St. Mungo’s tomb in Glasgow, you may venerate a Catholic saint in a Protestant Church — albeit one we once owned. Welshmen wear either or both leeks and daffodils on this day, and across the globe, their diaspora celebrates St. David as do Irishmen in foreign climes St. Patrick. Being far less widespread, of course, they don’t make the same splash as the Irish — but in particular locales from Philadelphia to Patagonia you will see the Red Dragon of Wales waving on the First of March. St. David Societies abound.

A few days later is the feast of St. Piran, patron of Cornwall. Now in the 20th Century Ireland went from being an integral part of the United Kingdom (having given up its nominal independence as a Kingdom in 1800) to being autonomous in the North, and first a Dominion and then an independent Republic in the South. Wales is a Principality (complete with its own regalia), and now has its own Assembly and Executive. Irish Gaelic and Welsh are holding their own to some degree against the onslaught of English. But poor Cornwall has only a County Council as an English shire (although the Prince of Wales is Duke of Cornwall) and the language became extinct in the 18th century. Nevertheless, the Cornish retain a great sense of cultural awareness; St. Piran’s day too has become a rallying point — not just in Cornwall but in places as far apart as Australia and California. His shrine is resorted to then. Cornish has been revived, and there is some call to bring back the old Stannary Parliament.

On St. Patrick’s Day itself there is another Saint celebrated — St. Joseph of Arimathea, he who donated his own tomb so that Jesus might have a fitting Sepulchre. Now that by itself would been enough to gain him undying fame, as it has given him the patronage of undertakers (I know of a French-Canadian in New England who wears black to work ever y St. Patrick’s day, smilingly informing his co-workers that he is celebrating St. Joseph of Arimathea, and blandly asking if there is some other celebration that day!). But legend — and I for one never discount legend unless it has been actually disproved — claims that his wealth was based on owning tin mines in Roman Britain; it has been further claimed by some that he was Jesus’ uncle, and took the boy to Britain once. This notion led to William Blake writing his hymn Jerusalem, which is incomprehensible without that background. This seems odd at first glance, but travel within the Empire was far commoner in those days than is usually realised. The belief that St. Paul visited Britain during his journeys led to the English delegation being given pride of place at the Council of Constance, London’s cathedral being named after the Apostle, and the Kings of England having very close relations with St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, among other things.

In any case, it is said St. Joseph gathered up some of the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side — and possibly the cup Our Lord had used at the Last Supper — and fled to an island in the marshes of what is now Somerset; the Isle of Avalon, now Glastonbury. When he arrived at a place there called Wearyall Hill, he stuck his staff in the ground and it burst into flowers. The Glastonbury Thorn, as it is called, bloomed at Christmas; cut down by Cromwell’s Puritans, cuttings were saved and replanted. These continue their Yuletide blossoming, and every year at Christmas a few flowers are sent to the Queen at Sandringham — you can sometimes see them in her Christmas broadcasts. St. Joseph built there a church, said to be the oldest in Britain, which became the nucleus of Glastonbury Abbey. Both he and the Abbey figured largely in tales of King Arthur and the Holy Grail, and all sorts of local landmarks — the Tor, Chalice Well, the White Spring, and others — claim some link to him. As we shall see, Celtic Britain was overwhelmed by the invading Anglo-Saxons; but St. Joseph is a contender for patron of those of its bits and pieces that survived the wreck. Glastonbury also treasures tales of a visit by St. Patrick.

The Apostle of Ireland also holds a place on the Isle of Man, tucked away in the Irish Sea. St. Maughold, the patron of the Island, was sent there by St. Patrick expressly to evangelise the Manx; his feast day is April 27. While their language has become extinct, like Cornish, it has also been revived. As with Cornwall also, the Manx have retained their unique folkore. Unlike Cornwall, however, the Isle of Man is in a sense independent — it is not part of the UK, although Parliament does make some of its laws. The Queen is Lord of Man in her own right (represented by a Lieutenant Governor), and the island has its own Parliament, the Tynwald, and rather odd-looking flag. Their diaspora are scattered around the US and the Commonwealth, encompassed by such organisations as the North American Manx Society. Probably the best known Manxman, however, was Fletcher Christian of H.M.S. Bounty fame — his descendants live on at Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands in the South Pacific.

On May 19 is the feast of Brittany’s patron, St. Yves of Chartres or Kermartin. Unlike the other heavenly guardians of the Celtic lands we have already looked at, St. Yves — and unlike many other Breton saints — did not live in the misty past, but died in 1303. The first compiler of Canon Law, he was the sole patron of lawyers until St. Thomas More joined him on the Church’s calendar. At his shrine at Treguier, an annual pardon — that uniquely Breton combination of liturgy, procession, and party — takes place on his feast. To this day the Bretons have a national church of their own in Rome named after him. The Bretons descend from those who fled the wreck of Celtic Britain at the hands of the Anglo-Saxons by crossing the sea. Their language still survives in the western part of the land. While Brittany was an independent Kingdom and then Duchy for centuries, after Anne of Brittany married King Charles VIII of France in 1491 the King of France was also Duke of Brittany. But the province retained separate Estates and institutions. Whereas the various Celtic nations in the British Isles managed to maintain some of their identity by retaining or reviving Medieval institutions, these were all swept away on the other side of the Channel by the French Revolution. The Province of Brittany was divided into five Departments, all directed by Paris-appointed prefects. When the region of Brittany was re-assembled in 1956, the area around Nantes was left out — an omission that still rankles. A sea-faring people, Breton descendants are to be found amongst the French-Canadians, and especially the Acadians of the Maritimes and their Cajun cousins in Louisiana.

June 22 is the feast of another Saint of phantom Celtic Britain — St. Alban, protomartyr of England. Back in 209, AD, when Britain was firmly in the hands of the Roman Empire, St. Alban hid a priest and took his place to be executed. His relics were preserved, and eventually the great Abbey of St. Albans grew up around his shrine. Throughout the Middle Ages this monastery disputed with Glastonbury the role of senior abbey in the Kingdom — until Henry VIII solved the issue by suppressing both houses. St. Alban’s shrine was destroyed and most of his relics — save a portion given a church in Cologne that bore his name — were burned. But in the late 20th century, the pieces of that shrine were discovered and re-erected in the Abbey church, now an Anglican cathedral: the rededication was attended by the Queen Mother. Meanwhile, St. Pantaleon, Cologne, home to the shrine of St. Alban after the church that bore his name there was bombed, returned a fragment of the relics to the revived shrine. It is interesting that, as with St. Joseph of Arimathea, a definitely Celtic saintly devotion has been rewoven into English tradition on a par with St. George.

Scotland’s patron is St. Andrew the Apostle. While the brother of St. Peter is also patron of Greece, Constantinople, the Basque Country, Romania, and Russia — with most of his relics in the cathedral at Amalfi and his head (formerly at the Vatican) now at the place he was martyred, Patras, Greece, a goodly number of them came to rest at what became the Cathedral of St. Andrews, north of Edinburgh and near both the University of the same name and the first Golf Course. Scots around the world are very devoted to St. Andrew; their flag is named after him, St. Andrew’s Societies in various places keep the tartan flame ablaze, and his feast is zestfully kept wherever the sons of Scotia can be found. The latter is usually observed with a dinner featuring thistles, bagpipes, haggis, Scotch whisky and a band of kilt-wearers; these scenes generally repeat themselves on January 25, Burns’ Night. There are Scottish games held across the globe, and folk of Scottish descent everywhere in the world are happy to lay claim to clan membership and wear whatever tartan they can consider themselves entitled to. The Scots have a parliament again, and despite the 1707 Act of Union with England maintained their own legal system, while the Queen has a parallel court in Scotland. Holyrood Palace, the Honours of Scotland, the Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland, the Court of the Lord Lyon (Scotland’s own heraldic authority, as opposed to England’s College of Arms) — all show the country’s unique identity, despite their recent refusal to secede from the United Kingdom. Scots regiments can be found in the armies of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa — and even, for a time, New York! Most of the St. Andrew’s night revellers may not have much religious devotion to St.Andrew — perhaps excusable since the destruction of his Scottish shrine at the Reformation. But to-day the Catholic cathedral in Edinburgh keeps some of his relics enshrined and easily venerated.

But the Scots themselves are not entirely Celtic. When the Romans came to Britain, southern Scotland (which they added for a time to their domains) was inhabited by Britons whom they swiftly conquered. The north was held by a mysterious people called the Picts. When the Saxons arrived, they pushed the natives ever westward; in the end, as we have seen some fled over the sea and became the Bretons; other were pushed south-west and became the Cornish; still others due west into “wild Wales.” But in the north, the Angles pushed up into what is now the area around Edinburgh, called “Lothian.” The local Britons were pushed west into what was called either or both Stratchlyde or Cumbria — roughly north-west England and south-west Scotland on to-day’s map. At the same time, Irish pirates followed by settlers spilled over into the Islands and Highlands of north-west Scotland; these folk were called Scoti by chroniclers writing in Latin. Eventually their King conquered or inherited the lands of the Picts, Angles and Cumbrians; the language of the north became a Gaelic originally — like Manx — derived from the language of Ireland. Thanks to various wars and the Highland clearances, there are now more native speakers of Scots Gaelic in Canada than in Scotland. In the south, the language of the Angles — one day to be called “English” — pushed the Briton speech (related to Breton, Cornish, and Welsh) westward to oblivion: from that sort of English came the dialect of the lowlands of to-day: Scots. The north and east of the country were evangelised by Irish monastic saints: Columba from Iona and Aidan from Lindisfarne.

A Christian high cross at Monasterboice in Ireland , by Sitomon (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Stratnclyde-Cumbria, however received the Faith from the patron of this now defunct realm, the earlier mentioned St. Mungo (or Kentigern, as some name him). His feast is January 13, and as mentioned, he may be venerated at his intact shrine in Glasgow cathedral. Except for the manner of counting sheep employed by local shepherds, however, the local Briton — Cumbric — dialect has been extinct for a thousand years. Yet buoyed up by the success of Cornish and Manx, recently enthusiasts have attempted to revive it.

Now these six (or seven, if you count Cumbria) countries are collectively called the “Celtic fringe.” Of course, this relatively small area only represents a small fragment of the lands occupied by the Celtic peoples at their zenith: all of modern France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and southern Germany; parts of Spain, northern Italy, and even into the Balkans and Asia Minor (Galatia). At one time these warriors threatened even Rome — and might have taken the Eternal City, were it not for, quite literally, a gaggle of geese. But the subsequent Roman expansion and barbarian invasions submerged most of the Celts on the continent under two waves of assimilation. One major remnant of Celtic influence remains to-day in France, where the numbering system in French (soixante-dix for 70, quatre vingts — literally “four twenties” for 80, and quatre vingts-dix for 90, are used, rather than the septante, octante, and nonante one might suppose judging by the other Romance languages) echoes the old Gaulish method of counting. To this day, various areas on the Continent boast of Celtic heritage — Italy’s Piedmont, France’s Auvergne, and especially Spain’s Galicia, as examples. Despite certain haunting similarities in music and folklore, however, the term “Celtic” is usually reserved to the places we have looked at, where their languages continue to be spoken or else died out recently and have been revived.

But in addition to their linguistic connections, the six Celtic nations have much else in common — an Arthurian and fairy-ridden folklore; a deep love of music, dance and drink; and a combativeness born of millennia of resistance to outsiders — especially the English and (for Bretons) the French. As they were inevitably drawn in to the mainstream of the conquerors’ societies, their less assimilated populations tended historically to side with the more Conservative forces in the conflicts that engulfed their lands in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the British Civil Wars, the Catholic Irish, the Scottish Highlanders, the Welsh, the English West Country, and the Isle of Man all strongly backed the King against Cromwell. Later, the same areas were havens of support for the Jacobites in their various attempts to unseat the House of Hanover from the British thrones. The French Revolution found Brittany a hotbed of Chouans and Émigrés.

These political struggles were mirrored religiously; Ireland is of course famous for its tenacity in holding on to the old Faith, until modern native corruption did what English oppression could not. The Scottish Highlands supported the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots against John Knox, and the Highlands remained primarily Catholic until the Clearances — there are more Catholics of Scots descent in Canada than in the Mother country, but even today such places as some of the Southern Hebrides and Moidart, Morar, and the Enzie on the Mainland remain attached to the Faith. Wales had a similar tale to tell, and would probably have remained primarily Catholic had not the supply of Welsh-speaking priests failed in the late 17th Century, although even now there are native Catholics in places like the districts around Holywell and Llandeilo. Cornwall showed its attachment to the Old Religion in the Prayer Book Rising of 1549, but suffered a fate similar to that of Wales — though Lanherne House has remained a centre of the Faith in the county. Nevertheless, there were scores of Scots, Welsh, and Cornish martyrs to take their places beside those of Ireland.

Obviously, political and religious defeat in that era meant cultural assimilation in the early 19th century. But the rise of Romanticism, spearheaded by such as the Breton Chateaubriand and Sir Walter Scott led in turn to what is called the Celtic Revival in the mid-19th century and to Celtic Nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These developments in turn led to the revival of the languages, and to the recreation of things like the Welsh Eisteddfodd, the Cornish Gorsedh, the Breton Goursez, the Irish Oireachtas na Gaeilge, and the Scots Royal National Mod. In Ireland, while Protestants such as William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, and George Russell were prominent in the revival, so too were Catholics such as Edward Martyn and Patrick Pearse, whose cultural activism led in time to their call for political independence. In Brittany, those in the forefront of Breton cultural recovery tended to be (with some exceptions) both devoutly Catholic and Royalist. But in the other countries, where Protestantism had triumphed in every sense, early nationalists like the Scot Ruairdh Erskine, the Cornish Henry Jenner, and the Welshmen Saunders Lewis and H.W.J. Edwards often came to see recovery of their countries’ Catholicism as inextricably linked with revival of both language, culture, and political independence — some of these assisted in launching Neo-Jacobitism. After World War II, however, the nationalist parties — Sinn Fein, Plaid Cyrmu, the SNP, Mebyon Kernow, etc., — swallowed varying amounts of Marxism, presently exchanged for the kind of secularist social capitalism that has destroyed both morality and birth-rates in every western country.

But out of this welter of rediscovery also emerged some myths. Perhaps the furthest from reality was that of the “Celtic Church” — a Christianity independent from and purer than that of the Catholic Church centred at Rome. This notion has allowed Anglicans, Presbyterians, and New Age Christians alike to justify their separation. As Wendy Davies puts it in, “The Myth of the Celtic Church”, Nancy Edwards and Alan Lane, eds. The Early Church in Wales and the West: Recent Work in Early Christian Archaeology, History and Place Names, (Oxford: Oxbrow Books, 1992), 12: “They imagine that there were common beliefs, common religious practices, and common religious institutions in Celtic countries, and that these were distinct from beliefs, practice and institutions in England and on the continent. They also imagine that the church in Celtic countries was distinctly saintly and monastic; moreover, it was individual, unorganised and the very opposite of Roman.”

Depending upon whom you read or speak to, the received modern narrative about “Celtic Spirituality” is roughly like this. Once upon a time, the Druids lived happily in green and misty Celtic lands, leading their smiling people in harmony with nature. Healers, vegetarians, and in touch with the rocks, plants, animals, stars, suns, planets, Moon, and of course Mother EarthGaia, as you might say — these non-judgemental sages wielded their knives only to cut mistletoe and holly for their unknown (to us) but doubtless uplifting rituals. When not composing obscure but enchanting and prophetic poetry, they could be seen guiding their folk in the construction of places like Stonehenge. Holding no dogmas, if they worshipped specific deities at all these were non-threatening and non-judgemental folk like the Holly King and the Oak Lord, who succeeded one another in consorting with the Earth Mother as they gamboled through calendar festivals like Samhain, Beltane, Lughnasa, Yule, Imbolc, and so on. Meanwhile the Druids also venerated trees and springs — in many ways they sound like the self-description of Shinto by various priests of that religion; but just as that oh-so-gentle-faith produced the Samurai and Bushido, so too did Celtic paganry beget such as the Fianna and the Red Branch Knights.

But into this paradise marched the Romans, who slaughtered the Druids and felled their Sacred Groves — according to some sources they even imposed their Patriarchy over the native Celtic Matriarchy, thus bringing darkness to the relationship between the sexes that would not abate until the 1970s. Worse yet, shortly after this conquest the Romans themselves threw over their own ancestral gods for the worship of Jesus Christ.

Yet the Celtic spirit worked its magic even on this oppressive new religion. For in Celtic lands the spirit — and perhaps the personnel — of the old Druid order somehow managed to illumine the monks of the new. These Culdees, as they were called, managed to be positively drenched in the harmony-with-nature of their pre-Christian predecessors. They were free from any taint of hierarchy, guilt-manufacturing-rules, patriarchy — in a word, of anything that would have annoyed or embarrassed right-thinking denizens of the 21st century. Depending upon whom you read, they might have believed in reincarnation, been in touch with the fairies, or treated animals as equals. Nor did they practise celibacy, preferring nurturing relationships of all kinds. They may well have been closer to Christ than any of the Continental Christians, because of their connection to Glastonbury and St. Joseph of Arimathea. The Kings under whom they lived might well have descended from King David himself.

Once again, however, disaster struck, as Roman missionaries came to Britain in 595 under the leadership of St. Augustine of Canterbury. First seducing the Anglo-Saxons away from their peaceful worship of Odin and Thor, these fanatics moved in on the peaceful Celtic Christians, at last forcing them to accept corrupt Roman ways at the Synod of Whitby in 664. Freedom from Roman oppression would only come to England, Cornwall, Wales, and Ireland (although, unhappily, the majority of the Irish deserted their ancestral Church to join the Italian Mission) in 1534, when Henry VIII re-established their ancient liberty; frustrated by the evil Queen Mary, this would at last be reasserted by good Queen Bess in 1558. Two years later, the Scots too would throw off the Roman yoke. So it is that at Armagh and Downpatrick, at Aberdeen and Edinburgh, at St. Davids and Llandaff, and at Glastonbury and St. Albans, pure Christian worship has survived in unbroken succession to the present. In recent years, more specifically “Celtic Christian” groups have developed. Surely only the very unkind would notice any differences between these folk.

Not content with these victories, however, some enlightened souls, as part of the 19th century Celtic Revival noticed in our last instalment, decided to resurrect not merely the languages of their ancestors, but their pre-Christian religions as well. One major impediment to this was that no one really knew anything substantive about them. But the gods were kind, and various folk imagined what Druidry had been like and acted accordingly. There was also, in 19th century Britain and elsewhere, a sort of Occult revival, giving rise to Theosophy and Spiritualism, among other groups. Then, in 1921, folklorist Margaret Murray revealed to an astonished world in her book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe the continuing existence of an age-old religion heretofore unknown to all.

According to Miss Murray, pre-Christian paganism had not been eradicated by Christianity, but had merely gone underground: its adherents were the so-called witches of the Middle Ages. Rather than being the devil-worshippers so feared in song and story, these folk were in truth peaceful lovers of nature and so forth. This was the “Old Religion” that had suffered so much from the evil adherents of Christianity.

This religion having been invented — that is to say, rediscovered — it was necessary to invest it with a ritual life as well. This was initially supplied by one Gerald Gardner, who claimed to have been initiated by hereditary witches in the New Forest. From him was generated the Neo-Pagan faith called “Wicca.” This in turn mixed and mingled with views of various would-be Druids. Not all Druids are Wiccans, not all Wiccans are Druids. But, in any case, rituals are held to-day on Primrose Hill and Arthur’s Seat, at Stonehenge and Newgrange that are supposed somehow to be in keeping with those of the ancient Celts.

Alas, interesting as all of this is, it has little basis in reality. What, then, was the Celtic Church, and what was it not? For starters, we can forget about the Druids being such nice folk. As Tacitus says in his account of the fight against Boudicca, “The religious groves, dedicated to superstition and barbarous rites, were levelled to the ground. In those recesses, the natives [stained] their altars with the blood of their prisoners, and in the entrails of men explored the will of the gods.” For the Romans to call rites “barbarous,” given what they were used to themselves, makes one happy not to know specifics. What is certain is that — as in the rest of the ancient world — when the Faith came to Britain, it was as liberation from a truly satanic yoke.

Roman Britain was indeed Christianised in fairly short order. But what was that Christian realm like? For one thing, it was an integral part of Christianity in the Roman Empire. The Mass was not in Gaelic or Briton, but in Latin — and this would be true for the Masses offered by all of the later saints of the British Isles, from Patrick to Augustine of Canterbury. The British heresiarch Pelagius travelled around the Empire. To combat his disciples, two Gaulish bishops, Ss. Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes came to Britain; accepted as colleagues by the local prelates, they debated and defeated the Pelagians — afterwards giving thanks at the tomb of St. Alban. Subsequently, St. Germanus led the Britons to victory against Pictish and Saxon invaders. Note that while this happened in 429, shortly after the last legions left the island, there was no question but that they all belonged to the same Church.

Indeed, two years later, Pope St. Celestine I sent St. Palladius to Ireland to begin the evangelisation of that Celtic Isle; but meeting great opposition and at last being expelled, he went on to try his hand with the Scots. There some decades later he died, and at Auchenblae his chapel may yet be seen. Shortly after St. Palladius’ failure with them, St. Patrick came among the Irish, with what success the entire world knows. But among his maxims was: “O Church of the Scots— nay of the Romans—as ye are Christians, be ye also Romans.” There is no shred of a separate Church to be found in all of St. Patrick’s work or sayings.

Meanwhile, however, the now-denuded-of-Legions-Britain was now increasingly subjected to raids and the settlement by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes — fierce pagan warriors who happily looted whatever they could find, and then began to carve out territories for themselves. In time, as the invaders pushed ever further west, the Province of Britannia shattered into pieces, most of which would be devoured at leisure by the invaders or their descendants.

But from that dark time emerges — as seemingly both a ray of light and a trumpet call — one name: Arthur! Layers of legend have wrapped around him; stories likely and improbable have been added to his fame; and to this day the tales of the Once and Future King and his Round Table stir the hearts of all who love adventure. In the popular mind he is the mysteriously-born man who, having pulled the sword from the stone and been crowned King of Britain, went on — Excalibur in hand — to form around that table in his fabled capital of Camelot a company of stalwart warriors who kept the darkness at bay. Of all that brave band — Gawain, Parsifal, Kay, Ector, Bedivere, and the rest — Lancelot stood out as the bravest and best; and yet his affair with beautiful Queen Guenivere would in time doom it all. By Arthur’s side, until falling victim to his own folly, was the wise and mysterious Merlin. Before that time though Sir Galahad would appear, and then the Holy Grail, the quest for which would end the fellowship on this side of the grave. Betrayal and corruption would end in the last battle against Arthur’s son Sir Mordred, and the great King’s death — or else his departure to Avalon, from whence, when his people need him most, he shall return (and the sooner the better, say I!).

All the length of Britain — and Brittany — various locales claim a connection with Arthurian legend: Broceliande, Tintagel, Slaughterbridge, Glastonbury (which claims his grave), Cadbury Castle (a noted candidate for Camelot), Winchester, Caerleon, Carlisle, Edinburgh, and on and on. So strong a hold does he have on the imagination that in time the English — descendants of those whom he fought — claimed Arthur as a national hero. In reference to the fleeting and doomed glitter of the Kennedy White House, that era has been dubbed “Camelot.”

But who was Arthur really? In all likelihood, he was the last Dux Bellorum (military commander) of post-Roman Britain, leading his mounted men up and down the coast to fight the invaders from across the sea. He was undoubtedly a Christian, and both religiously and politically (the latter in his own mind, at least) a Roman. A slightly later figure in post-Roman Gaul, Syagrius, comes across as an example of the type — though this later Dux would fall not to pagans but to Clovis, who himself would keep Gaul in the Faith. As for Arthur, in trying to maintain the standards of religion and civilisation that he had been given, in fighting for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful against gloom and horror, he deserves our admiration.

The darkness did indeed close in, however, and for a time the Faith was pushed westward with the Britons into Strathclyde, Wales, and Cornwall. In isolation, this “British Church” did develop some of its own customs — the kind of tonsure its monks wore, for example, and their accounting of the date of Easter. Above all, however, they fostered a deep and abiding hatred of those who had dispossessed them.

These latter, however, had settled down and carved up their conquests into seven small kingdoms — one of which was Kent, in the far southeast of the country. One Ethelbert became its King about 558; a pagan himself, he married the Catholic Frankish princess Bertha, great-granddaughter of that Clovis who had beaten Syagrius. As part of the marriage agreement, she was given a half-ruined Roman church, St. Martin’s in Canterbury, for her use at the Mass. Not surprisingly, it was to Kent that St. Augustine came in 597, when he began his work of converting the English. A few years later he made contact with the British bishops. These refused to accept his authority — partly because he failed to rise when they entered his tent, but more particularly because they wanted no part in converting the English, whom they deemed deserved Hell for all they and their fathers had done and continued to do. But within fifty years they and the Irish and Scottish Churches had conformed to Roman practices.

Long before that Synod of Whitby in 664 had done its work, however, Irish monks began coming to the Continent. Now the Church in Frankish realms was suffering from the laws of succession that saw Clovis’ descendants, the Merovingians, redividing the country whenever a King died among all his sons. The fighting and intrigue this engendered — reflected in the many unhappy episodes in the lives of saintly Frankish Queens like Clotilde, Radegonde, and Bathilde — also harmed the Church. The arrival of Celtic Saints like Columban, who would found a monastery, restore order in the local church, and move on, was generally welcomed — and there was no question at all of their belonging to another Church. Abbeys like Bobbio, Luxeuil, St. Gall, and the “Scottish Cloisters” in towns such as Wuerzburg, Regensburg, and Vienna stand in tribute even to this day to these much needed and largely successful efforts. But these monks were not the nature-loving demi-druids of modern legend. They were extremely penitential, punishing sin in themselves and others in ways that those of us used to comfort would be horrified by. Standing in water all night reciting the psalms was a common devotional practice among them — and real sin was often punished by being sent out to convert heathens. They also pioneered private confession — a custom which spread throughout the Latin Rite.

After the Viking raids began in the 800s, the Church everywhere in the West, but especially in Celtic lands, suffered as once again monasteries were burned and pillaged, monks slaughtered, and ordinary folk carried off into slavery. To escape them, Irish monks went very further west — to the Faeroes, Iceland, and perhaps — at least according to some who read such accounts as the story of St. Brendan the Navigator — even to America, where some see in the images of such “white gods” as Quetzalcoatl and Wirakocha Irish monks afield.

However that may be, the latest round of horrors lasted almost two centuries, until the Vikings themselves were converted. In the meantime, the Church in Ireland and elsewhere in the Celtic fringe had developed some unique disciplinary problems. One of these was a married clergy. Now, while some Anglicans and Presbyterians claim backing for their own practices in this fact, the truth is that it was an abuse that led to some frightful disorders. Even some dioceses became hereditary fiefs, with the bishop the younger brother of the local Irish King or Scottish chief — its boundaries being whatever the older brother could conquer or hold. The chaos this led to was a scandal crying to Heaven for vengeance. Several synods were held at Papal insistence, culminating in the 1152 Synod of Kells meeting under the presidency of St. Malachy (him of prophecy fame).

This gathering delineated the boundaries of the Irish dioceses and passed a number of disciplinary canons. But thanks to the kind of helpful elder brother of whom we just spoke, it remained a dead letter in much of the island. In 1155, the exasperated Pope Adrian IV invested English King Henry II with the Lordship of Ireland and a commission to sort out Church and State in the anarchic isle. This was the justification for the Norman invasion, and all subsequent attempts by the English to subjugate Ireland until the time of Henry VIII. What is remarkable is that never, at any time — however embattled they felt — did the Irish ever think of “throwing off the yoke of Rome.”

This would wait until Henry VIII and his successors did so instead — Henry cashing in the Papally-endowed “Lordship,” and naming himself “King of Ireland.” At this point, the ethnic cause was reinforced by religion. Indeed, if one wants to see “Celtic Christianity” after this date, it is not to be found in the foundations of the Presbyterian and Anglican churches who claim it to-day, but in their opponents: in the Prayerbook Rising, the Rising in the North, the struggles of Mary Queen of Scots, the Flight of the Earls, the Confederate War, the fight led by Montrose and his troops in Scotland, the Cavaliers in Wales and the West Country, Bonnie Dundee’s revolt in Scotland, the Williamite War in Ireland, and the Jacobite risings in 1715, 1719, and 1745 (to say nothing of the Breton Chouannerie during the French Revolution).

Indeed, the struggle of the Celtic nations to remain themselves and to hold on to their own religion poured entirely into the Jacobite cause — and the Stuarts reciprocated, quite consciously, emulating Arthur and the old Irish heroes:

Subsequently, it was to be “those who supported the Divine Right of Kings” who “upheld the historicity of Arthur;” whereas those who did not turned instead “to the laws and customs of the Anglo-Saxons.” Arthur remained a figure central to Stuart propaganda. Stuart iconography celebrated the habits and beliefs of the ancient Britons. In particular, the Royal Oak, still a central symbol of the dynasty, was closely related to ideas about Celtic fertility ritual, and the King’s power as an agent of renewal: “The oak, the largest and strongest tree in the North, was venerated by the Celts as a symbol of the supreme power.” It was thus fitting that an oak should protect Charles II from the Cromwellian troops who wished to strip the sacred new Arthur of his status. The story confirmed the King’s mystical authority, and also his close friendship with nature. Long after 1688, the Stuart dynasty was to be closely linked with images of fertility. In literature, Arthurian images of the Stuarts persisted into the nineteenth century. This “Welsh messiah, the warrior who will come to overthrow the Saxons and Normans,” was an icon of the Stuarts’ claim to be Kings of all Britain, both “Political Hero” and “National Messiah,” in Arthurian mould. Arthur’s status as a legendary huntsman (“the figure of the Wild Huntsman is sometimes identified with Arthur”) was also significant. The Stuarts made much of hunting: it helped to confirm their heroic status as stewards of nature and the land. In doing this, they identified themselves not only with Arthur, but with Fionn, the legendary Gaelic warlord who was in the eighteenth century to be the subject of James Macpherson’s pro-Stuart Ossian poems. Fionn, legends of whom abound in Scotland, was also, like Arthur, scheduled to wake and deliver the nation when danger threatened. In identifying with both figures, the Stuarts were able to simultaneously present themselves as Gaelic and British monarchs. This symbolism was used with peculiar adroitness in Ireland, where the Stuarts were almost never identified with Arthur, but rather with Fionn and heroes from Fionn’s own time. Charles Edward was compared to Fergus, Conall, Conroy, and Angus Oge, while his grandfather became for some a symbol of Ireland herself, a Fenian hero in the making, a foreshadower of the sacrificial politics of such as Pearse: “Righ Shemus, King James, represented the faith of Erin, and so became her comrade in martyrdom.” In famous eighteenth century songs like “the Blackbird,” Ireland was presented as an abandoned woman, waiting for the return of her hero-King. The same symbolism was used in Scotland. “The Gaelic messianic tradition” of Fionn suggested that the Stuart King would one day return to bring light and fecundity to the land. In the Highlands of Scotland, the events of Jacobitism themselves passed into folklore, like the older stories to which they were related. More educated Jacobite sympathisers compared the Stuarts to the heroes of the Roman Republic, to Aeneas, or to the saints. But the view of them as sacred monarchs of folkloric tradition and power was one which endured among all ranks (Murray G.H. Pittock, The Invention of Scotland, pp. 4-5).

As we remarked in our last instalment, all of that was defeated. Afterwards, it was subsumed into Romanticism and gave birth, as we saw, to the Celtic Nationalism of the last century. This in turn morphed into the quasi-Marxism-turned-to-secular-liberalism we have to-day. But what of the Celtic Church we have been chasing? Unlike her chiefs’ political power — for neither Elizabeth II, Francis II of Bavaria, nor the Scottish and Irish Chiefs have much — Celtdom’s religion remains, for all that so many Celts and others have left it. It is there that you shall find it, and nowhere else.

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Celebrating The Gift of the Catholic Faith in Ireland

St. Patrick

By Patrick Kenny (adapted):

I beg of God whom I love to grant me that I may shed my blood with those strangers and captives for His name’s sake, even though I be without burial itself, or my corpse be most miserably divided, limb by limb, amongst dogs and fierce beasts, or the birds of the air devour it. I think it most certain that if this happens to me, I shall have gained my soul with my body” – Saint Patrick


“Today is a great day for the Irish. But we must remember that it is NOT a day for celebrating Irishness per se. It is a day for celebrating the gift of the Catholic Faith in Ireland. It is a day of thanksgiving for the courage and fortitude of St Patrick in bringing us this priceless gift. It is also a day of thanksgiving for all of those countries who received the light of faith indirectly through St Patrick, by means of the many selfless Irish missionaries over the centuries. In particular we think of the many European countries that were evangelised by Irish monks, and in recent centuries those parts of America, Australia, Africa and Asia that were so well served by Irish missionaries, even up to this day.

Let us consider then this verse from one of the Epistles approved for use at Mass for the feast of St Patrick:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

We see these itching ears in the drift towards an aggressive secularism in some quarters and the refusal of a vocal minority to recognise any good in the Church, accompanied by a desire to see its destruction. We also see these itching ears in the growth of superstition and New Age “spirituality”. And most damningly we saw it in the moral relativism and/or cowardice that failed to recognise, or act against, the evils of abuse, preferring the advice of secular therapists rather than the advice of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. For all of this, reparation is needed.

But we should avoid pessimism, for there is still life and holiness in the Church in this country.

Let us turn to our great patron St Patrick, asking him for holiness in our land. We should also pray to him for more Irish beatifications and canonisations so that we can have modern heroes to emulate in our own lives and to aid our evangelisation. Ireland has a poor record in this regard.”


We conclude with our beloved Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer for Ireland:

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.


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The Loneliness of Christ at the Cross


From OnePeterFive:

Editor’s Note: This article written by Maike Hickson has been originally published in Lent of 2015 by Professor Roberto de Mattei on the Italian website Corrispondenza Romana. Subsequently, it was republished in German on Giuseppe Nardi’s website and in English on a smaller website in the U.S – by the now-deceased Father Peter Carota, may he rest in peace. Since it has not yet been widely distributed in the English language, we thought to post it here for its obvious relevance to the current Church crisis.

In the current shifting state of the Catholic Church’s ambiguous disorders, some Catholic families, and individual Catholics too, feel an unmistakable agony over the sad fact (and indeed a psychological fact) that they have few people with whom they can even talk about these matters with a wholehearted candor and in depth. And this form of trial is especially the case if one also wants to take action: to consider a cooperative, engaged and active resistance to some of the things that are unfaithfully now coming out of Rome. In this challenging situation and individual probation of character there often seems to occur a growing “isolation of the human soul” and thus an enervating and dispiriting loneliness. And this trial inclines us to consider afresh the loneliness of Christ Himself, not only in His final Passion, but also in those other portions of  His Life amongst us in His own Sensitively Passible Sacred Humanity. Those who fully believe that “the Incarnation happened,” also fittingly affirm that “God has a Human Heart.” And He intimately knows of the agony that we may also now have in our hearts—and also knows if we have it for the right reasons.

After publishing my own [2014] Open Letter to Pope Francis—where I expressed my own resistance against the novel ideas coming from Rome concerning marriage and the family—several of our family’s friends called us or came to talk to us in person, telling us about their sense of being lost in the face of a Pope (with a small group of Cardinals surrounding him) who seems to want to change the Unchangeable: to alter Irreformable Moral Doctrines, and maybe even to subvert some defined Dogmas of the Faith. They have come to this conclusion after Pope Francis’ explicit support of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to admit “remarried” couples to Holy Communion,” after the shocking “Mid-term Report” of the Synod of Bishops of last October [2014], which was approved beforehand by the Pope, and by Pope Francis’ own words in the interview with La Naćion (Dec. 2014), where he said that admitting these “remarried” divorcees to Holy Communion is not the solution alone, but that they have to be fully integrated in the life of the Church and be able to become God parents and Lectors at Holy Masses.

Nonetheless, some of our other Catholic friends said: “But a Pope cannot do that.” Or: “God will surely not allow it.” After such denials or evasions, another friend told us about her resultant sense of loneliness, since almost none of her Catholic friends wants to face this unsettling situation, and most of them would rather avoid this topic altogether. (Yet, should we not all act, as if the Holy Ghost would want to use US as His instrument to prevent such a possible disastrous destruction of the Faith?)

After having sent out to a few friends my own public act of resistance and cri de coeur to the Pope, I felt nearly the same. For, only a few the friends and acquaintances even responded to my letter. And most of the responses commented on my sincerity, not at all on the specific substance of the Letter.

What is troubling in this fact is that there seems to be a certain lack of robust willingness to fight for Christ, and an inclination not to want to resist any equivocal development that comes right out of Rome. It seems to be even more uncomfortable for them to make that further step of resisting a pope directly and forthrightly.

Yes, that is what still troubles me. Where is the sustained outcry from the loyal Catholic world at the gathering onslaught against Christ and His irreformable teaching? Do we not owe Him so much, so sacrificially much, to the extent that we feel obliged to act in concert and intelligently? And are we not even honored to be able to defend Him? As many of us know, the attack on the marriage and the family and the little children is finally an attack on the Divinity of Christ Himself. It is, after all, His Teaching that is regarded now to be out-of-date,  too strict, too unrealistic, too inflexible, too uncharitable, even if the advocates of these proposed reforms would not quite put it in that way. But such a disjunctive “evolution of doctrine” is implied.

Finally, indeed, the attack on the Church’s longstanding doctrine on marriage and the family—hence the protection and education of the  vulnerable children  unto Eternal Life—is an attack on Christ Himself and His Redemptive Mission for our now-possible Salvation under Grace.

To what extent, and how soon, are we going to stand up and defend Him and His Teaching and instructive Example?

While on my walks some ten years ago around the hills and paths of the Swiss Pilgrimage Shrine of the Nativity of Mary at St. Pelagiberg  (near Sankt Gallen)—during my gradual conversion to the Catholic Faith—I suddenly discovered the following inscription written in Gothic Script on a Field Cross along the path, and it was beneath the sheltered presentation of Our Lord on His Crucifix:

“This I did for you. And what do you do for me?” (“Das tat ich für dich. Und was tust du für mich?”)

These incisive and very piercing words confused and troubled me at the time – because I did not then yet have our supernatural faith – but, more and more over the years these words have touched my heart; and this inscription, dare I say it?, inspires me now. For, I regard it to be a special time in Church history to be able to be part of a doctrinal and moral struggle that is not only a matter of integrity, but also so fundamentally serious and which goes to the very roots of our Faith.

Many have gone before us and have fought this kind of fight, people with such a fervent love for Christ that it made them wince when they saw His words trampled upon and besmirched and mocked: especially His words about our More Abundant Life, our possible Eternal Salvation, and the Glorified Kingdom of His Father. These fervent and loyal disciples called aloud in manifold ways when Rome appeared to mingle promiscuously with other religions both in prayer and in festive song, as if Our Lord’s words did not matter any more and were not still to be our standard: “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) In their diligence, these loyal disciples of the Lord sat down and wrote studies – just as some courageous and  good Cardinals have recently done about the matter of the family and sacramental marriage – in defense of Christ’s Truth and with the intention of helping us  to remain in that Truth. And with our Loyal Love.

These Catholics who have gone before us should still be honored by us. They will one day perhaps even be counted among the Saints. For, they were attentively perceptive and woke up early to the subversive disorders in doctrine and the moral order; and they had to face just the same kinds of derision and loneliness that some of us are now more hesitant to face: the isolating loneliness. Loneliness in the battle. Loneliness in the heart. Our questions:  Where are those expected and  cooperative comrades who still receive daily Our Lord in Holy Communion, who have received His other fortifying Sacraments  and have regularly received the Sacrament of Penance and even pray the Rosary every day? When will they also give Him back what is still owed in action and in what Jean Ousset called “doctrinal action”? Lest our inaction become a culpable omission—the sluggishness and inner unrest of spiritual sloth or of passive quietism.

Now is the time to act in certain truly prudent ways—as the first cardinal virtue should teach us—and in a timely and intelligently decisive way, before it is too little too late. The Catholic authorities in Rome must see and feel the ardent earnestness of the Catholic resistance and effective indignation that is loyal to Christ.

“How dare you to want to change God’s Laws!?” some of us might want to vociferate! “Do you think that human nature has changed since God laid down His Laws—His “Manufacturer’s Instructions” to make things work well and better?”

How must Christ Himself have felt when He walked upon this earth, in comparison to what we poor sinners feel in our weakness. He gave so much, all of Himself, and even unto the end. But even before His final and mortal Passion, He healed bodies and souls, He loved the Little Ones, He cried for the death of His friend, he had wonder at the faith and trust of the pagan Centurion, He had pity again and again on the maimed and impurely vulnerable, He instructed and He rebuked, not only the hypocrites and the defiling money-changers and the scandalizers of the Little Ones.

And in the end, in the final test, many still did not understand Him and many even walked away and left him (except, of course, for Our Lady and Saint John and Saint  Mary Magdalene and a few other loyal women). He was largely alone. O, how alone must He have felt in His Sacred Humanity, hanging there on the Cross. So derided and so ignored. The preceding Gethsemane trials may even have tempted Him almost utterly, not only by suggesting the futility of  His approaching Sacrifice, but also by tempting Him even to  abandon His Redemptive Mission that would merit the salvation of man. These are deep and unsearchable mysteries. As G.K. Chesterton even once said: “Man must not tempt God; but God may (and can) tempt God.”

It nearly seems that the same might soon happen with the Passion and Loneliness of His Church – or perhaps, it is already perceptibly happening to His Mystical Body on earth – His Church Militant. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me [My Church]?” (Acts 22:7) Is He already stripped of His garments? Did He already fall for the third time?

Within my own grave limitations of knowledge and understanding, I do not think He is already hanging on the Cross. But perhaps that will come, too, and soon. For sure, Christ is hunted again, even as He was at His birth.

So, therefore, for all of us who sometimes have this agony of loneliness in our struggles to attain and sustain a greater fidelity to Christ, and thus to include the struggle for the conversion and grace-filled salvation of souls – let us more fully try to unite ourselves here with Him and His beloved Mother. Let us unite ourselves with the Loneliness of Christ at the Cross and the Com-Passion of Our Blessed Mother. And, as was the case on Good Friday and on Holy Saturday, when the lights seemed nearly to go out, may we attentively await and robustly trust and hope for His Resurrection in the more abundant Life of Grace of His Militant Mystical Body still supra terram. “What we have is Nature; what we need is Grace.” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J.)

(Maike Hickson would like to dedicate this re-published text to Dom Gregor Hesse (R.I.P), Brother Francis M.I.C.M. (R.I.P.), Arnaud de Lassus (R.I.P), Anthony S. Fraser (R.I.P), and John Vennari.)

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There is nothing new under the sun: James Martin SJ and Christology 101

What on earth do they teach Jesuits today? Fr Hugh meditates on a harsh penance.

Dominus mihi adjutor

As part of our Lenten penance, we are listening to James Martin SJ’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage in the refectory at lunch. It has been not too bad, the bits I have heard; until today. So many blasts from the past: Jesus “discovering” his “call”, “embracing his vocation” as at the wedding feast at Cana. It was the same old tired Christology-from-below (to put it at its best) that triumphed in the 70s and 80s. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
But then it turned a great deal worse, in one brief phrase: Martin referred to Jesus as “a fully human person”. It is a sad indictment of the last 50 years or more of deficient catechetics that any will not see the problem. Jesus is a man, wasn’t he?
Indeed Jesus is human. However, he is not a human person. He is a divine person with a human nature. The…

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Chinese pilgrims overwhelmed

Just yesterday in Rome.

Listening to what is audible, I didn’t hear any of these Chinese mainland pilgrims thanking the Bishop of Rome for AL. I heard things like the grandfather telling the little boy to kneel down and the woman crawling on her (rosary-entwined) hands and knees crying “Are you well, Pope! Pope!”, (jiàohuáng, 教皇, in Chinese – roughly “teaching sovereign” or “teaching emperor”); the Fatima lady saying that she has always loved the Pope .

It would have been nice if they’d had an interpreter on such an occasion. Such very deep reverence for the office of the Pope, in spite of everything.

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Faithful Await Vatican Verdict on Medjugorje

Cardinal Arinze, whose new book about Marian veneration will be released this month, tells the Register ‘it’s not so simple’ for Rome to rule on the matter.

By Edward Pentin (National Catholic Register’s Rome correspondent)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Francis Arinze has said the continued wait for a papal decision on the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions shows they are not so easy to verify or disprove, but the important aspect to remember is that the Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated there.

Speaking to the Register March 13, the retired Nigerian cardinal stressed he is no authority on Medjugorje, but drew attention to the lack of unanimity on the authenticity of the apparitions and the lack of a papal decision on a 2010-2014 investigation ordered by Benedict XVI to look into the matter.

“The fact that, since then, we have had nothing officially publicized shows it’s not so simple,” said Cardinal Arinze, whose new book — Marian Veneration: Firm Foundations — will be published later this month. “If it were so clear, why have we not heard anything?”

He said lightheartedly he is “tempted to ask” Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) commission, what they advised the Pope to decide, but has refrained from doing so because the Italian cardinal is “bound to keep his mouth shut and let the Pope decide.”

The commission of specialists undertook a detailed study of reports of the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, which allegedly began in 1981. These visions continue regularly to this day, according to the shrine’s six “seers,” attracting hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year.

The Holy Father implied he was about to make a decision on the commission’s work in the summer of 2015, but the Vatican later denied any pronouncement was imminent.

Cardinal Arinze’s comments follow those of Bishop Ratko Peric of Mostar-Duvno, Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose diocese includes Medjugorje. In a Feb. 26 statement, the bishop said he and his predecessor have always been “clear and resolute” in their belief that the Blessed Virgin has never appeared at the famous pilgrimage site.

“These are not true apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Bishop Peric wrote. “The female figure who supposedly appeared in Medjugorje behaves in a manner completely different from the real Virgin, Mother of God, in the apparitions currently recognized as authentic by the Church.”

In his detailed statement, he also cited other examples connected to the apparitions to demonstrate “this is not the Virgin of the Gospels.”

Vatican Caution

The Medjugorje apparitions are currently not officially approved by the Church as being of supernatural origin (constat de supernaturalitate), but neither are they condemned by the Church as being false or invalid (constat de non supernaturalitate). Bishop Peric’s position as the local bishop is taken to be his “personal opinion,” according to a 1998 CDF letter.

The visions are instead considered non constat de supernaturalitate, which allows for personal belief in the authenticity of the apparitions along with personal (not diocesan sponsored) pilgrimages to the apparition site, pending the Pope’s awaited decision.

The Vatican remains cautious; and in 2013, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, asked the U.S. papal nuncio to instruct U.S. clergy and laity not to participate in any meetings, conferences or public celebrations in which the authenticity of the Medjugorje apparitions are taken for granted.

In his instruction, Cardinal Müller stressed the 1991 finding of the bishops of the former Yugoslavia, who asserted, “On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

Notwithstanding the contentious debate over the visions, more important for Cardinal Arinze are the positive effects Medjugorje has had on the faithful who visit.

“One point that is not doubted is that people who go there actually repent. They actually go to confession, go to Mass — that is, they become better Christians,” he said.

He also pointed out that the Blessed Virgin Mary has not appeared at every shrine dedicated to her and gave as an example the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil. The Mother of God did not appear there, he explained, but fisherman found a statue of her in the ocean and brought it there, after which people visited the shrine and received graces by doing so.

“So it is a shrine, and whether she appeared there or not is a secondary question,” he said. “She doesn’t have to appear there to give grace.”

“The most important thing is that people venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary and that they venerate her in the correct way, that it changes their lives and that they become better Christians,” said Cardinal Arinze, a former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Archbishop Hoser’s Appointment

For this reason, he welcomed Pope Francis’ decision last month to appoint Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Prague, Poland, to be the Holy See’s special envoy to Medjugorje. The Vatican said the archbishop’s task will be of an “exclusively pastoral character,” to acquire a “deeper knowledge” of the pastoral situation there, especially the needs of pilgrims, and to ascertain “possible pastoral initiatives for the future.”

Archbishop Hoser is expected to finish his assignment by the summer.

The prelate’s work also is seen as needed, because of problems that have emerged from Medjugorje in the form of disobedience to Church authority and cases of religious communities being established without diocesan approval.

The Pope’s own views on Medjugorje are unclear, although some believe he appeared to allude to the apparitions when, in a talk to 140 superiors general of male religious orders and congregations last November, he said the real Madonna is not “at the head of a post office,” every day sending “a different letter” that says: ‘My children, do this and then the next day do that.’”

“The real Madonna is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts, a mother,” he said. “The superstar Virgin Mary, who seeks the limelight, is not Catholic,” he added. Francis made similar comments, also taken to be in the context of Medjugorje, in June 2015.

Seen in the context of the Pope’s remarks and Archbishop Hoser’s appointment, Bishop Peric’s statement was to be expected, according to Donal Anthony Foley, author of Medjugorje Revisited: 30 Years of Visions or Religious Fraud? More significant for him is that, in his statement, Bishop Peric focused on the first seven days of the alleged visions, and in particular transcripts of the taped conversations with the visionaries during that first week in June 1981.

These transcripts are “the key to understanding Medjugorje,” Foley believes, as they “reveal the serious problems with accepting the visions as genuinely supernatural,” an aspect he highlighted in his book.

Foley hopes that more people will pay attention to them, and he would like the Vatican to publish “an agreed and authentic” multilingual version of the transcripts to help the ordinary faithful “better understand the phenomena of Medjugorje.”

Echoes of Marpingen?

Given these ongoing questions, Foley believes Medjugorje will continue to be popular, but probably not as much as before. He noted the numbers of pilgrims to the shrine, which is particularly loved by Italians, have “dropped since the repeated remarks of Pope Francis on the subject have become better known.”

But like Cardinal Arinze, he values how some pilgrims have experienced “a change of heart, a conversion” there. He believes this is “more due to their use of the sacrament of confession than to the alleged visions,” which he believes are “highly suspect.”

Although he said it was on a smaller scale, he compared Medjugorje to the alleged Marian visions at Marpingen, Germany, which dated from the 1870s and led the area to be once labeled the “German Lourdes.” The place drew large crowds, especially in the 1930s and 1950s, before interest gradually waned. Then-Bishop Reinhard Marx of Trier issued a statement in 2005 denying the events there were of supernatural character.

“The fact that it took nearly a century for interest in Marpingen to finally die down probably indicates that we will have Medjugorje devotees with us for some time to come,” Foley said.

Whatever the truth behind the apparitions, for Cardinal Arinze, the pastoral effects of Medjugorje are “the most important thing.”

“If the effects are good,” he said, “we rejoice.”

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Devotion to the Five Wounds

Man of Sorrows, by Hans Memling, ca 1490

Isaias 53:3-5: “Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and His look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought Him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by His bruises we are healed.”

John 20:27-28: “Then He saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see My Hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to Him: My Lord, and my God.”

Because of His Wounds, because His Sacred, Precious Blood was spilt, you have the opportunity to see the Face of God. That’s Christianity in a nutshell, something that every Christian knows, but too few truly ponder enough. Of course, we Catholics have always meditated on Christ’s Passion — each Mass is a re-presentation of His Sacrifice, and, in addition, the Stations of the Cross is a standard Lenten devotion, and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary remind us of what He went through for us. But we also have another devotion available to us, one that helps us meditate more concretely on His sufferings: devotion to His Five Sacred Wounds.

Private revelation to St. Bridget of Sweden indicated that all the wounds Our Lord suffered added up to 5,480 1. She began to pray 15 prayers each day in honour of each of these wounds, their total after a year being 5,475; these “Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget of Sweden” are still prayed today. Likewise, in Southern Germany, it became the practice to pray 15 Our Fathers a day in honour of Christ’s wounds so that by the end of a year, 5,475 Paters were prayed.
Passion Flower
The five main wounds He suffered, though — the wound in each Foot, the wound in each Hand, and the wound in His side caused by St. Longinus’s lance — are symbolic of all the wounds, and special devotion to them arose very early on. St. John the Divine is said to have appeared to Pope Boniface II (d. A.D. 532) and revealed a special Mass — the “Golden Mass” — in honour of Christ’s Five Wounds, and it is the effect of these Five Wounds that are most often produced in the bodies of the men and women who imitate Him best — the stigmatics. St. Francis being the first of these, his spiritual daughter, St. Clare, developed a strong devotion to the Five Wounds, as did the Benedictine St. Gertrude the Great, and others.

Honour is shown to these Sacred Wounds in many small ways, too — from the 5 grains of incense inserted into the Paschal Candle, to the custom of dedicating each Pater said in the body of the Dominican Rosary to one of the Five Wounds. They are symbolized in art by the Jerusalem Cross, 5 circles on a Cross, 5 roses, and the 5-pointed star, and they are seen as symbolized by many things in nature — from the stamens of the Passion Flower, the 5 seeds found in the almost perfect 5-pointed star in a cross-sectioned apple, to the Sand Dollar. And there are special prayers to honour them, too.

Prayer in Honour of the Five Wounds

Act of Contrition 

As I kneel before Thee on the cross, most loving Saviour of my soul, my conscience reproaches me with having nailed Thee to that cross with these hands of mine, as often as I have fallen into mortal sin, wearying Thee with my base ingratitude. My God, my chief and perfect good, worthy of all my love, because Thou hast loaded me with blessings; I cannot now undo my misdeeds, as I would most willingly; but I loathe them, grieving sincerely for having offended Thee, Who art infinite goodness. And now, kneeling at Thy feet, I try, at least, to compassionate Thee, to give Thee thanks, to ask Thee pardon and contrition; wherefore with my heart and lips, I say:

To the Wound of the Left Foot 

Holy wound of the left foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for the love whereby Thou laboured to overtake me on the way to ruin, and didst bleed amid the thorns and brambles of my sins. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity, in atonement for my sins, all of which I detest with sincere and bitter contrition.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Right Foot 

Holy wound of the right foot of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for that love which pierced Thee with such torture and shedding of blood, in order to punish my wanderings and the guilty pleasures I have granted to my unbridled passions. I offer the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity, and I pray Thee for grace to weep over my sins with hot tears, and to enable me to persevere in the good which I have begun, without ever swerving again from my obedience to the divine commands.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Left Hand 

Holy wound of the left hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for having in Thy love spared me the scourges and eternal damnation which my sins have merited. I offer to the Eternal Father the pain and love of They most holy humanity: and I pray Thee to teach me how to turn to good account my span of life, and bring forth in it worthy fruits of penance, and to disarm the justice of God, which I have provoked.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Right Hand 

Holy wound of the right hand of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the most bitter pain which Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee for Thy graces lavished on me with such love, in spite of all my most perverse obstinacy. I offer to the Eternal Father all the pain and love of Thy most holy humanity; and I pray Thee to change my heart and its affections, and make me do all my actions in accordance with the will of God.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

To the Wound of the Sacred Side 

Holy wound in the side of my Jesus, I adore Thee; I compassionate Thee, O Jesus, for the cruel insult Thou didst suffer. I thank Thee, my Jesus, for the love which suffered Thy side and Heart to be pierced, so that the last drops of blood and water might issue forth, making my redemption to overflow. I offer to the Eternal Father this outrage, and the love of Thy most holy humanity, that my soul may enter once for all into that most loving Heart, eager and ready to receive the greatest sinners, and never more depart.

Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.

Chaplet of the Five Wounds

This chaplet, approved by the Holy See on 11 August 1823 (coincidentally, the anniversary of St. Clare’s death), consists of five groups of five beads — each group representing one of the Five Wounds. The first group of beads honours the Wound on His left foot; the second, the Wound on His right foot; the third, the Wound on His left Hand; the fourth, the wound on His right Hand; and the fifth, the Wound in His Side. Sometimes a medal will be attached depicting Our Lord’s Wounds on one side, and His Sorrowful Mother on the other.

While meditating on the appropriate Wound at each group, one Gloria is said on each bead, and between the groups, an Ave is said in honour of Mary’s sorrows. The Blessing of the Beads used to count these prayers is reserved to the Passionist Order.

1 Note that the number of wounds was so great because the flagellum (picture at right) used by the Romans had from three to twelve “tails,” each tail embedded repeatedly with bone, iron, or glass intended to rip flesh. With a 12-tail flagellum, 40 strokes would give one 480 wounds if each tail only caused one wound with each stroke. In reality, though, each “tail” would cause many, many times more wounds per stroke, depending on how much bone or iron, etc., was embedded in each strap. In addition to the wounds caused by the scourge, there were the wounds caused by each thorn in the the crown of thorns. You can read about the Wounds He suffered by studying the Shroud of Turin

(Source: Fisheaters)

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Four Years Later: Reflections on an Unprecedented Pontificate

From Steve Skojec at OnePeterFive:

On March 13, 2013, I sat in my office and watched my screen as a new pope — a man whom I had never seen before that moment — walked out onto the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. I had never heard of him. I did not even know his name. Like most Catholics, I had approached the papal conclave with a sense of hopeful anticipation. But the feeling that came over me when I saw the man the cardinals had elected was shockingly forceful. It was a feeling of icy cold dread. As I looked at him, standing there, staring out at the crowd, I heard seven words distinctly in my mind, unbidden: “This man is no friend of Tradition.”

It was a strange sentence. Oddly phrased. I knew, just as surely as one knows that the voice of someone speaking to them in a quiet room is not their own, that this was not my thought, but some sort of external prompting. It would have been impossible for me to even attempt such an assessment, since I knew literally nothing about the man, this Argentinian cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio.

I am admittedly oblivious to the minutiae of ecclesiastical dress or custom. I cannot, therefore, claim that my feeling was rooted in the observance of some obvious deviation from the protocols of a papal election. I did not notice, for example, that he chose not to wear the papal mozetta. I was not jarred by his unusual greeting of the crowd with a “good evening,” instead of something more spiritually profound. I can’t say I recall hearing, in those first moments, that he was a Jesuit. To be honest, I may very well not have noticed these things even under normal circumstances, but these were not normal circumstances. My impression of the man was something that took place on a visceral level. And the feeling was so strong, it distracted me from everything else.

There was something in his face. In the way he stared down at the gathered crowd. There was something…wrong about his eyes. What I saw — what I thought I saw — was something other, looking out through that unreadable mask. Something triumphant, haughty, contemptuous, leering out at long last from atop the pinnacle of a long and hard-fought battle. It was incredibly strange.

When I look back at the photo of that moment, I can see that there was no discernible expression on his face. What I saw was, I think, not so much something physical but more of a spiritual insight. It struck me, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, as a preternatural experience. I was so unnerved, I had to fight down a wave of nausea.

I alluded to these things months later, when I first began, after trying very hard to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, to write about why his papacy was already full of warning signs. I was derided by some at the time, as though this were just some fantasy I had conjured up (for what reason I would do such a thing, I couldn’t hope to explain.) But I have since heard from countless others who had the same, bizarre, unexpected initial reaction. From that first moment, even though I tried hard to shove impressions aside and let reason prevail, I knew, as did so many other Catholics in what I have come to think of as a signal grace. A warning from God: this would be a papacy of terrible consequence.

Four years later, I stand confirmed in that knowledge. Not through the persistence of a feeling, but a preponderance of evidence. If 2016 was the tipping point, 2017 is the year the dam broke. Amoris Laetitia raised the stakes of the battle for the soul of the Church to the level that even the most die-hard ultramontanists — the honest ones, anyway — are now forced to admit that we are faced with a a serious problem. If it took something as significant as an arguably heretical apostolic exhortation that lays siege to the sacraments to raise the alarm, there have also been countless less-well-publicized examples of heterodoxy since that fateful night four years ago that it should remove all doubt about the severity of the crisis. Our attempts to document these things here, though incomplete, have spanned hundreds of pages. It is beyond the scope of a single article to attempt a comprehensive summary of the worrisome moments of the past four years, though we will attempt to call some of the more memorable such events to the reader’s attention below. It should, frankly, have been beyond human means to produce so much confusion and distortion in such a short period of time. And perhaps it was. The devil, after all, is not a creature of brute force, but a master of subtlety and seduction, only too happy to make use of willing instruments.

Whatever the provenance of this insurgency within the very heart — and head — of the Church, we find ourselves in a precipitous moment. For those who remain unconvinced, there’s likely no amount of evidence that could change that. Sides have been taken. Battle lines drawn. The initial phase of the engagement has concluded.

The Escalation of an Agenda

One of the most important moments of revelation in the Francis pontificate took place during an interview with close papal friend and ghostwriter Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, in May of 2015:

The pope goes slow because he wants to be sure that the changes have a deep impact. The slow pace is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the changes. He knows there are those hoping that the next pope will turn everything back around. If you go slowly it’s more difficult to turn things back.” The interviewer then proceeded to ask him whether it does not help his adversaries when they know that Pope Francis says that his papacy might be short. Fernández answered: “The pope must have his reasons, because he knows very well what he’s doing. He must have an objective that we don’t understand yet. You have to realize that he is aiming at reform that is irreversible. If one day he should sense that he’s running out of time and doesn’t have enough time to do what the Spirit is asking him, you can be sure he will speed up. [emphasis added]

These comments, made nearly two years ago, provided an early glimpse of the strategy that has driven the agenda thus far. “Reform that is irreversible” is itself a theme that has been repeated by other close papal collaborators. Cardinal Oscar Andres Maradiaga Rodriguez used these exact same words in January of 2015. They have been telling us their intentions. Many have simply been unwilling to believe that they mean what they say. What this “irreversible reform” has turned out to be is nothing less than severe and intentional doctrinal distortion, a heretical approach to the Catholic understanding of sin and the sacraments, the breaking down of existing structures, rules, boundaries, and institutions, and a resulting confusion that is metastasizing in the Mystical Body of Christ with eternal consequences for souls.

One is forced to wonder: if Satan himself were to engineer an assault from within the Church, how would it differ from what we are experiencing today?

Just two years ago, at the time of his interview, Archbishop Fernández spoke of the favorable public response to the Francis agenda:

The pope first filled St. Peter’s square with crowds and then began changing the Church.” When asked whether the Pope is isolated in the Vatican, he responds: “By no means. The people are with him [Pope Francis], and not with his adversaries.”

Already at the time of his comments, however, things were beginning to change. By 2015, papal crowds were already beginning to diminish in size. And while here in America, at least, he’s been shown to have moved the needle on issues like climate change and feelings of liberal favorability toward Catholicism, there’s no evidence that he’s brought people into the Church. Millennials in particular continue to drift away, even when they express affection for the pope’s liberalizing approach to doctrine. And religious life — not healthy by any measure before the election of Francis — appears to be taking even more serious damage. The pope himself has lamented the “hemorrhage” of priests and nuns from the Church, but seems completely unaware of his own role in their departure — a track record that follows him from his native Argentina. As Fr. Linus Clovis of Family Life International said at a conference in 2015:

The Francis Effect is the disarming and silencing of Catholic bishops, priests, and laity.  Holding firm to Catholic doctrine and practise seems like an act of disloyalty to the pope, yet to acquiesce is to betray the Church.

In an op-ed at the New York Times last September, Matthew Schmitz took things further:

[Francis] describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.

“Francis has built his popularity,” Schmitz concludes, “at the expense of the Church he leads.” And it seems that now, the reservoir of good will having been expended, this is a reality that has caught up with him.

With years of mounting resistance that has spread from the scattered concerns of of a few concerned laity up to include the highest echelons of the Church, the situation on the ground is far different in 2017 than in was in 2015. Francis is no longer the “breath of fresh air” he was once perceived to be. Instead, his reckless speech in an incessant string of interviews and speeches grate on the faithful. His constant scolding of those simply trying to live their Catholicism devoutly combined with a seemingly boundless energy for innovation, self-contradiction, and change push people who have tried to give him a fair hearing away. Even some of the most patient Catholic commentators have at last reached the inescapable conclusion that this papacy is most aptly described as “disastrous“.

A Shift in Strategy

With the “populist” phase of this papacy now receding from view, there has been a subtle alteration in communications strategy from a Vatican that is nothing if not calculating. The critics of this papacy, once few, have grown significantly in number. Their efforts to resist these institutional errors, foisted as they have been upon the faithful, have become nearly as unrelenting as the papal agenda. The pushback against Amoris Laetitia has included forceful responses from across the spectrum of lay and clerical ranks in the Church. The theological dubia issued by four noteworthy cardinals questioning where the pope stands on traditional Catholic teaching was the most authoritative response, but the theological censures levied against the exhortation by 45 theologians, scholars, and priests was an even more theologically punishing rebuttal. Catholic luminaries like Josef SeifertJude Dougherty, and Robert Spaeman have added their own considerable voices to the rising chorus. Blows once easily swept aside by the Vatican apparatus are beginning to land – and sting. Papal boosters in the media such as Andrea Tornielli, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, and Austen Ivereigh have responded by coming out swinging, hoping to put those who refuse to ignore the real man behind the papal curtain in their place.

A more tangible example of how far things have come for the counter-insurgency is found in the appearance of posters that appeared overnight in Rome recently. At The Spectator, Damian Thompson recounts the scene:

On the first Saturday in February, the people of Rome awoke to find the city covered in peculiar posters depicting a scowling Pope Francis. Underneath were written the words:

Ah, Francis, you have intervened in Congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals… but where is your mercy?

The reference to mercy was a jibe that any Catholic could understand. Francis had just concluded his ‘Year of Mercy’, during which the church was instructed to reach out to sinners in a spirit of radical forgiveness. But it was also a year in which the Argentinian pontiff continued his policy of squashing his critics with theatrical contempt.

Thompson goes on to say:

Although the stunt made headlines around the world, it is unlikely to have unnerved the Pope. There is a touch of the Peronist street-fighter about Jorge Bergoglio. As his fellow Argentinian Jesuits know only too well, he is relaxed about making enemies so long as he is confident that he has the upper hand. The posters convey impotent rage: they are unlikely to carry the fingerprints of senior churchmen.

But does he have the upper hand? It would seem that as he loses control of the narrative, the advantage is slipping. Francis attempted, perhaps a little to eagerly, to downplay the incident. In a recent interview with Die Zeit, he rather unconvincingly laughed off the spectacle, even giving credit for cleverness to his accusers:

Pope Francis said he was at peace, adding: “I can understand how my way of dealing with things is not liked by some, that is totally in order. Everybody can have their opinion. That is legitimate and humanly enriching.”

When the interviewer followed up asking if the posters were enriching, Francis replied “the Roman dialect of the posters was great. That was not written by anyone on the street, but by a clever person.” The interviewer interjected, “Somebody from the Vatican?” to which Francis quipped, “No, I said a clever person (laughs).”

“Either way, that was great!” he concluded.

So great, in fact, that there is an ongoing Italian criminal investigation into “the conservative circles believed responsible” for the posters. And when a parody edition of L’Osservatore Romano was published the same month as the posters, also lampooning Francis, the Vatican launched its own police investigation into that matter as well. If persistent rumors are to be believed, Francis’ reaction to criticism when he is behind closed doors is far less sanguine than when the cameras are rolling. And as our extensive coverage of the dubia has shown, Francis has no qualms about making use of surrogates to attack anyone who stands in his way.

These reactions tell us something very important: resistance is not useless. It is having an effect.

The reality for Catholics is that we have reached a saturation point — let’s call it Peak Francis — and there is nowhere to go from here but down. This means that for the revolutionaries who have taken control of Holy Mother Church, there is far less benefit at this point in the use of subtlety; little to be gained through coyness or the continued pursuit of popularity; only an agenda already well underway that needs to be firmly cemented into place before this papacy becomes, as it inevitably will, a thing of (unhappy) memory. Fernández warned us that as time grew short, things would speed up. But the pace of change is so breathtaking, even reckless, that it has awoken the faithful from a decades-long complacency. It is perhaps for this reason that those more cautious career churchmen who have dedicated countless years to incremental, permanent ecclesiastical change are now wishing to make Francis go away. They unleashed a weapon they cannot control, and it is damaging their own cause as well as that of their adversaries.

It is, as I said above, impossible to adequately sum up the full litany of problems introduced by this papacy. But to take a top level view, reflecting briefly on some of the major issues in play during Francis’ brief tenure, we will find that they are astonishing in their boldness and scope.

The main thrust of the campaign to remake the Church took the shape of a consistory and two rapid-fire synods that began the process of dismantling the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the concept of objective grave sin — a process brought to fruition through an apostolic exhortation — Amoris Laetitia — that promotes adultery and the reception of communion (and other sacraments) for those living outside the state of grace.

Meanwhile, other fundamental aspects of Catholic teaching and identity have been simultaneously eroded. We have seen long-established Church teaching on the death penaltyand the doctrine of hell usurped by contradictions. We are treated with increasing frequency to questions about the possibility of a female diaconate. Whispers have also begun about relaxing the celibacy requirements of the Latin Rite priesthood. Under the leadership of Francis, the Vatican went so far as to celebrate the legacy of the same Martin Luther it had previously condemned on the eve of the 500th anniversary of that arch-heretic’s rending of Christendom. The pope himself has encouraged, through permissive and ambiguous answers, the reception of Holy Communion by individual Protestants, in violation of both long-standing sacramental discipline and canon law. Along this same trajectory, we now hear frequent rumors of a planned revision to the Mass that will make it suitable as an ecumenical prayer service that can be celebrated in common with Protestants — a possible answer to the more-than-just-rumored growing push within the Church for intercommunion. This is sadly unsurprising from a pope who has demonstrated his opposition to evangelization (proselytism, as he calls it), and who shows an apparent disregard for the Eucharist, before which he is known rarely to kneel. Some have questioned whether this is the fruit of some physical disability, but he has demonstrated that he is able to kneel on other occasions, such as the washing of the feet of Muslims on Holy Thursday. (The most recent example of his strange Eucharistic posture comes to our attention by way of images of his retreat this past week in Arricia.)

The theological musings of Pope Francis include the idea that there is no Catholic God; that atheists are also redeemed; that the miracle of the loaves and fishes was not an actual miracle of multiplication; that Jesus likes it when we tell Him we have sinned and will sin again, that the first and greatest commandment is love of neighbor, and that the Blessed Virgin Mary wanted to accuse God of being a liar — to name but a few.

And then there are the optics of this papacy: Francis’ embrace of communist leaders and symbols and regimes while rejecting those who want to secure their borders and ensure their economic security. His authoritarian approach to governance, from the brutal suppression of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to the burgeoning Dictatorship of Mercy to the gutting of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Pontifical Academy for Life to the attack on the John Paul II Institutes for Marriage and Family to the systematic removal of Cardinal Burke from all positions of curial influence to the dismantling of the sovereignty of the Knights of Malta and the decapitation of their head to the blaming of Burke for the whole affair. See also his embrace of a host of figures involved in sexual deviancy, including but not limited to the alleged homosexual administrator of his papal household, Msgr. Battista Ricca, about whom he famously said, “Who am I to Judge?” His appointment of a priest known for comparing gay sex to the Eucharist as a Consultor for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. His leniency on clerical sex abusers like Fr. Inzoli and clerical sex abuse enablers like Cardinal Daneels. In a similar vein, we are left to wonder at his appointment of Archbishop Paglia to head up the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Rome campus of the JPII Institute for Marriage and Family, a man who has been revealed to have commissioned a homo-erotic mural within his Cathedral church a decade ago and who just this month publicly praised “a radical, leftist atheist who wanted to legalize prostitution and who sympathized with pedophiles.” We are also treated to a conspicuous papal advocacy for unfettered migration amidst his outright denial that Islamic terrorism exists, or that Islam is an ideology that advocates violence; his allowance of the use of the Basilica of St. Peter’s for an ecological light show on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. His multiple points of association with George Soros, his work with UN population control advocate Jeffrey Sachs, his closeness to Italian abortionist Emma Bonino, his invitation to global population control and abortion advocate Paul Erlich to speak at the Vatican, and so much more.

It is a completely staggering list. But it is also an undeniable one. Our cultural context is not the same as it was during the Second Vatican Council, or even the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. During those halcyon years (for progressives), the Church was able to utterly control the narrative through the sheer weight of her global stature and gravitas. In 2017, however, sources close to the Vatican have repeatedly told us that the institutional ineptitude in understanding a world dominated by decentralized, social media cannot be underestimated. They do not understand the Internet. And the Internet has been holding them to account.

But the Vatican has fresh blood. Greg Burke, a former Fox News and Time Magazinecorrespondent took over Fr. Frederico Lombardi’s position as Director of the Vatican Press Office last year. Francis is close to the bishops of the incredibly well-funded and cunning German Church, who have the resources to hire consultants to shore up their weaknesses. Business as usual cannot be assumed in perpetuity.

I’ve mentioned in previous reports that rumor, always the medium of information transfer around the Vatican even in the best of times, has been increasing in scope and importance in these latter days of the Francis papacy. From candid but confidential emails received from well-connected readers to leak-gushing blogs like that of the alleged but anonymous Italian priest Fra Cristoforo, to the tantalizing but short-lived Twitter account of a supposed “Rogue Swiss Guard,” an information-starved Catholic press has an excess of potential material to work with when it comes to click-worthy content. It is also, therefore, a target-rich opportunity for enemies of papal critics to sow false rumors and diminish the credibility of those willing to present them without verification. The 2016 US Presidential election brought to our attention the reality of phony news websites created by the political Left in order to disseminate false information and discredit those who shared it. Recent Wikileaks dumps have indicated that similar strategies may have been deployed on social media sites and in comment boxes, with the purpose of generating confusion and disruption. As more evidence emerges connecting the Vatican to the progressive, global elite — including new claims that these political powers exerted pressure on Pope Benedict to resign — cross-pollination of methodology moves from the realm of speculation to that of probability.

The likelihood of similar tactics used by powerful figures in the Church — waters chummed with “fake Catholic news” to send critics on credibility-destroying snipe hunts  — turns an impossibly rapid news cycle into a veritable minefield. Pope-watchers are being forced to slow down to avoid a major misstep just when the pace of Vatican events is reaching fever pitch.

This is why we must remember that the subject matter of our work is not merely the domain of human affairs. No less a figure than God Himself is marshaling the forces in this battle for the Catholic Church, and if we can’t see through the fog of war beyond arm’s length, we can trust our omniscient commander to give us the necessary marching orders for the fighting that is to come.

Make no mistake: the days of this papacy are numbered — and as it wanes, the danger it represents to the faith will only increase. It will take decades to undo the damage that has already been done. With less to lose and much still to accomplish, Francis and his allies cannot be expected to hold back — particularly when there can be no guarantee of a like-minded successor in the next conclave. The time to cement irreversible change in the Church is now. 

Gone are the days when our primary mission was to convince the Catholic world that there is a problem. The problem has been recognized by those with eyes to see, and as the gloves come off, we must realize that we are David to the enemy’s Goliath. With cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops — and the fundamentals of Catholic belief the subject of contention — the Church as we know it is unlikely to survive in one piece.

Brace yourselves. The real war is about to begin.

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A Cautionary Tale for Lent

A wonderful tale with a great lesson to be learnt as we commence the second week of our Lenten journey.

By David Torkington

Some years ago, I shared a flat with a man called Caruthers. If ‘morals make the man, and manners make the gentleman’, then Caruthers was the finest gentleman I had ever met, or so I thought for the first few weeks. However, as the weeks went by, I began to see that his manners were no more than a thin coat of veneer that hid the chipboard man within. Casual visitors were as impressed with him as I had been to begin with. He was always ‘so terribly sorry’ for everything. He was ‘so terribly sorry’ for beating me to the bathroom, ‘so terribly sorry’ for keeping me waiting for half an hour, ‘so terribly sorry’ for failing to clean the bath. He was ‘so terribly sorry’ too for emptying the fridge when he had his friends round, for leaving the washing-up for me the following morning, and for leaving my car with an empty tank when he borrowed it without asking. The trouble was, he wasn’t sorry at all and he kept on behaving in the same old way day in, day out. It is one thing to say you are sorry; it is quite another to mean it. If you mean it, you do something about it. No act of sorrow, no promise to do better next time however heartfelt it might sound, will do us any good, if we do not resolve and seriously endeavour to do better next time round.

Finally, as we become a little more aware of the moral stumbling blocks that usually trip us up, it is time to try and forestall them. If there is a lazy streak in us, or if we have a hot temper, or are prone to making ‘smart alec’ remarks at the expense of others, it is the time to take the necessary steps to avoid falling into these same faults in the forthcoming day. St Paul was the first to realise with such clarity, that it is in fact our very weaknesses, and that even includes our sins, that can become stepping stones to sanctity, if they only convince us of our utter need for God. For God’s power can find full scope in our weakness (2 Corinth 12:9). This is good news, because the truth is, in this life we will never stop falling no matter what. Remember the words of the hermit, Peter Calvay – “When you stop falling you will be in heaven, but when you stop getting up, you will be in Hell!”

The Difference Between Saints and Sinners

The difference between us and the saints is not that they did not sin and we do – they sinned just as we do, make no mistake about it. But what distinguishes the saint from the sinner is the speed with which they get up after having fallen. The saint does not waste precious time pretending that they did not sin, or by making endless excuses, or blaming others for what they know only too well was their fault. They get up again the moment they fall to seek forgiveness and begin again, knowing that they have sinned, but trusting implicitly in the mercy of God. St Francis said that the very moment that a person sins must be the moment to turn back to God begging his forgiveness – immediately and without delay. Herein lies one of the main differences between the saints and sinners like us. Only too often people simply cannot face their guilt so they run away from God and hide as Adam did in the Garden of Eden.

When God called out “Adam, Adam, where are you?” – he knew exactly where Adam was, it was Adam who did not know where he was, for he had lost his way trying to hide his sin and the guilt that shamed him. Sometimes we can spend years on the run, because pride won’t allow us to admit what we have done and, our inability to eat humble pie, means that we can spend half a lifetime suffering from spiritual starvation. What is even worse than the pride that comes before a fall, is the pride that follows the fall, because it stops us from getting up, sometimes permanently!

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Letter of “thanks” to Pope Francis? No, Cardinal Nichols, “Not in my name!”

Cardinal Nichols

“Cardinal Nichols thanks Pope Francis for ‘steadfast’ defence of Church teaching” [!!!]

Yes, that was the title of the article in Friday’s edition of the Catholic Herald of Cardinal Nichols’ letter of congratulations to Pope Francis on the fourth anniversary of his election as Pope! In his letter he says… “Holy Father, we thank you for the steadfast way in which you uphold the teachings of Christ and the Church, presenting them in deed and in word with a freshness and directness, which draws the attention of the world.”

Is this a joke? Did we hear that right?

As we have had anything but a “steadfast defence” of the teachings of our Catholic Faith from Pope Francis, and as instead he has made inroads into attempting to alter those very same “teachings of Christ and the Church” rather than upholding them, we can only join in a loud rejoinder to the Cardinal that his letter of thanks to Pope Francis was written:


In trying to explain what the Pope’s function is in an interview on ‘Newsnight’ last Friday, Dr Joseph Shaw (LMS Chairman) had no alternative but to admit there had been a lack of “clarity” under Pope Francis although the job of the pope is “to confirm the brethren in the Faith”.


Sorry Cardinal Nichols“, says Mark Lambert!

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Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent—12 March


 Image result for transfiguration of our lord


“His face shone as the sun,
and His garments became as white as snow.”

The Gospel this morning is an interesting one.The Church considers it a very important one, for it is recited three times during the liturgical year.  And the reason that the Church emphasizes it so strongly is that It wants us to have something of an understanding of what is in store for us in the glory of heaven.

This “Transfiguration” of our Lord is most likely an indication of what we ourselves can expect to undergo at the last judgment when we are physically united with God in the Resurrection of the dead.  We expect that God’s appearance in heaven will be much more dazzling than simply shining like the sun, or having snow-white garments.  The event narrated today is the transfiguration and glorification of our Lord’s human nature—something that we have very much in common with Him.

Pope Saint Leo the Great assures us that the Apostles did not see the actual divine glory:  “not the Divinity itself.  That unutterable and inaccessible vision is reserved for the pure of heart in eternal life … not for these men to look upon and see while they were still encumbered by mortal flesh.”  “No man can see God and live”  It was Jesus’ humanity that was glorified.  And we can expect something similar for ourselves in return for perseverance in the Faith.

The Transfiguration should also suggest something more immediate to us—something without all the exterior showiness.  In an interior way, something like it occurs every time we receive the Sacraments.

Certainly, if we are in the state of sin, receiving the Sacrament of Baptism or Confession brings about a much more significant glorification than even the Transfiguration.  Think about that—the unbaptized soul or the soul in the state of mortal sin is without the life of God—in a symbolic sense, it might be considered spiritually “dead.”  But then, through the power of the Sacrament, this person who seems to be “dead” becomes alive—the Holy Ghost comes and dwells in him—previously an outcast, he becomes God’s close friend—even more than a friend, this person becomes an adopted son or daughter of God.

And, if that isn’t miraculous enough, the Sacraments continue to work in us, actually increasing God’s graces and our ability to cooperate with those graces.

Even if we are already in the state of grace, we can receive the Sacrament of Penance over and over—all that is required is sorrow for the sins of our past.  And every time we make a good Confession we are strengthened in grace, and fortified more and more to avoid sin in the future.

The other Sacraments work in a similar manner.  They prepare us for some particular facet of our existence her on earth, they provide the graces necessary to deal with that particular aspect of life, and they all work to strengthen God’s sanctifying grace within our soul.  Confirmation prepares us for maturity;  Marriage prepares us for family life;  Holy Orders prepares us to carry on the life of the Church;  Anointing prepares us for serious illness and maybe even for death itself.  They all prepare us for different things, yet they all work to make us holy and to draw us closer to God.

I didn’t mention Holy Communion—quite on purpose.  It is in a special relationship to the other Sacraments.  The others strengthen and give us grace, while Holy Communion gives us the Author of all grace, and the Source of all strength.  In one way or another, all of the other Sacraments symbolize the Union of God with us in Holy Communion.  They all prepare us to receive Holy Communion worthily and fruitfully.

To use the illustration of today’s Gospel, it is in Holy Communion that we are transfigured right here on earth.  All of the Sacraments make us spiritually temples of the Holy Ghost—but in Holy Communion, we physically become tabernacles of Jesus Christ Himself, true God and true man.  In receiving the Blessed Sacrament we receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, which literally become part of our own body.  Thus we are joined to God both physically and spiritually.

In Holy Communion, our Lord repairs the losses and the damage that have been done to us by sin.  He strengthens us in charity; the love of God, and the love of neighbor because we love God.  He delights us, making us look forward eagerly to our next encounter with Him in prayer or in the Sacraments.  He nourishes us in our resolve to avoid sin and fortifies our desire to be united with Him in heaven.

Of course, our Lord does all these things for only us when we are properly prepared for Holy Communion.  We are told by St. Paul that we should be fasting—but much more importantly, we are told that we must be in the state of grace; that we must make a good Confession before Holy Communion if we have committed serious sin; “lest” as St. Paul tells us, “we eat and drink judgment to ourselves.”

So, on this 2nd Sunday of Lent, the Church is urging us to be “transfigured.”  If we are in the state of sin, we are admonished to sorrow for our sins, to Confess, and do penance.  We are urged to further “transform” ourselves; to become more and more like God, drawing closer and closer to Him in frequent Holy Communion.  And, even when we are unable to receive our Lord in the Sacraments, we are urged to approach Him spiritually—telling Him sincerely that we are sorry for our sins, and that we love Him more than everything else on earth.

Remember that in the Sacraments, and particularly in Holy Communion, we receive God’s “beloved Son, in Whom [He] is well pleased.”  And isn’t that what we are trying to do during this Lenten season?—to be transformed, “transfigured” as it were—to be made over as good sons and daughters of God, “in Whom He is [also] well pleased.”

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The end of the ‘Hitler’s Pope’ myth

By Fr Leo Chamberlain OSB

Pius XII: Nazis called him ‘Jew loving’

For 50 years, the truth about Pius XII’s battle against Nazism has been suppressed. But new evidence makes his heroism undeniable

It has scarcely been noticed in Britain, but a remarkable development has recently taken place in Holocaust studies. Nearly two years ago, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a historical research institute, set out on “a modest project”. It wanted to mark “Houses of Life” – places where Jews were sheltered during the war – with memorial plaques. It found more than 500 such houses in Italy, France, Hungary, Belgium and Poland. Eduardo Eurnekian, chairman of the foundation, wrote that “to our surprise, we have learned that the overwhelming majority of Houses of Life were institutions related to the Catholic Church, including convents, monasteries, boarding schools, hospitals, etc”.

In Rome alone, some 4,500 people found refuge in churches, convents, monasteries and boarding schools. In Warsaw, All Saints Church sheltered Jews. This was remarkable, because the penalty for Poles for rescuing Jews was the death camp or, more likely, instant execution.

It is appropriate that a foundation named after Raoul Wallenberg should find such an extensive Catholic contribution to saving Jewish lives. Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the war. He and Angelo Rotta, the papal nuncio, saved 120,000 out of the city’s 150,000 Jews. Wallenberg was arrested by the Red Army and never seen again.

The news about the Houses of Life is only surprising because the truth about the Church and the Jewish people in the Second World War has been suppressed. Several aides of the wartime pope, Pius XII, acknowledged that they had worked to rescue Jews on his direct instructions. They included two future popes – Mgr Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII) and Mgr Giovanni Battista Montini (Paul VI). Pius XII himself sheltered Jews both in the Vatican itself and at Castel Gandolfo.

This is a good moment to mark the Church’s witness against Nazism. Eighty years ago, on March 14, 1937, Pope Pius XI issued Mit Brennender Sorge (“With Burning Anxiety”), an encyclical, pointedly written in German, condemning Nazism. “Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the state, and divinises them to an idolatrous level, perverts an order of the world created by God,” the pope wrote.

Pius XI’s secretary of state was Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII. He distributed the text, which he had helped to draft, secretly within Germany. Four years earlier, in 1933, he had negotiated a concordat between the Holy See and Germany, not to appease Nazism but to have some means of holding the Nazis to account through an international treaty. The regime referred to him as “Jew loving”: he had made more than 50 protests against Nazi policy, the earliest coming just days after the passing of the Enabling Act, which granted Hitler the power to enact laws without Reichstag approval. Pacelli was regarded as so anti-Nazi that the Third Reich attempted to prevent his election as pope in 1939.

Pacelli’s personal story is important. He was a Germanophile – and, equally, a philosemite – from his youth. As nuncio in Bavaria during the brief 1919 communist republic he showed high personal courage, remaining at his post. His sympathy and friendship with Jews, including the great conductor Bruno Walter, was well known, and he gave discreet help to many. At Walter’s request, he gained the freedom of a musician, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, arrested in a pogrom while Bavaria was under communist rule. Safe in America, Gabrilowitsch became the founding musical director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Walter himself later became a Catholic.

Before the war, Pacelli took extraordinary risks to help the German opposition. He knew which generals were preparing to act against Hitler, and made sure news of their intentions reached the British government.

In a situation of huge difficulty, Pius XII did what no one else did to save Jewish lives during the war. He knew quite early on what was really happening to the Jewish people. At the time, too many were in denial, including a British diplomat who wrote of “these whining Jews”. Neither Britain nor America made it easy for Jews to escape into exile – the Kindertransport was a blessed exception.

In the war years, Pius XII acted directly in Italy and through papal diplomats in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and elsewhere. Unsurprisingly given the circumstances, there is no firm number for those saved by the pope and the Church in one way or another. It was perhaps between 500,000 and 860,000.

Pius XII’s statements both before and during the war were unmistakably hostile to Nazism. The Allies may have wanted more, but the price would have been the ending of all the good the pope could do. The Nazis understood his meaning very well. A plan to kidnap Pius in 1944 was only averted by the unlikely intervention of SS General Karl Wolff.

The pope was also utterly clear about the evils of communism and vicious Stalinist religious persecution. But he said nothing about it during the war. Allied diplomats in the Vatican understood this, realising that it was only the pope’s preservation of the Holy See’s neutrality which enabled him to give refuge to thousands of Jews in religious houses in Italy and the Vatican itself. It also allowed him to provide contacts so that information about prisoners of war and the Holocaust could reach the Allied powers.

All this was acknowledged during and after the war, not least by Jews. Albert Einstein, who had escaped Nazi Germany, said in 1940: “Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth … I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”

Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, and Isaac Herzog, chief rabbi of Israel, paid similarly generous tributes. Israel Zolli, Rome’s chief rabbi, became a Catholic and took the pope’s Christian name, Eugenio, in tribute to him. After Pius’s death in 1958, Golda Meir, then Israeli foreign minister, wrote: “We mourn a great servant of peace.”

The Nazis hated the Church. Thousands of Catholic priests were imprisoned, especially in Dachau, the “priests’ camp”. It is true that some bishops followed a policy of appeasement: Cardinal Adolf Bertram of Breslau supposedly ordered a Requiem Mass for Hitler in 1945. Some Catholics betrayed Jews and even, as in Jedwabne in 1941, massacred them. But others, notably Bishop Clemens August von Galen of Münster and Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin, did all they could to resist Nazism. Preysing’s agent, Bernhard Lichtenberg, the provost of Berlin cathedral, was judicially murdered and is now recognised as a martyr.

Yet in the nearly 60 years since Pius XII’s death, his reputation has been traduced. One recent example was the BBC’s report that the silent prayer of Pope Francis at Auschwitz was in reparation for the silence of the Catholic Church. The corporation was simply repeating what had become the received view of Pius XII and of the Church’s record during the war.

Lord Alton of Liverpool immediately protested, and together he and I made a formal complaint to the BBC. A considerable correspondence ensued. In early December, the complaint was upheld. Fraser Steel, head of the editorial complaints unit, wrote: “This did not give due weight to public statements by successive popes or the efforts made on the instructions of Pius XII to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution, and perpetuated a view which is at odds with the balance of evidence.”

The negative view of Pius marked an astonishing reversal of reputation. In 1963, a previously unknown German, Rolf Hochhuth, published a play called The Deputy which blamed Pius XII for the Holocaust. Hochhuth claimed it was historically accurate. The play was premiered in West Berlin and performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in England and America.

The provenance of Hochhuth’s play, and the degree of communist support, aroused suspicion. The USSR had a strong interest in destroying the moral authority of the pope and the Catholic Church. As Khrushchev, a mass murderer in his own right, said at the time, dead men cannot defend themselves.

Confirmation of these suspicions came only in 1998, with the publication of the memoirs of Ion Mihai Pacepa, a Romanian three-star general in the Securitate who defected in 1978. According to Pacepa, the project, known as Seat 12, originated in Moscow with Khrushchev. From 1959, Pacepa had directed his spies, posing as priests, to pilfer Vatican archives. They found nothing they could use, but Ivan Agayants, the KGB’s disinformation chief, had been able to feed Hochhuth with false information, which he was only too ready to use. The Soviets’ aim was to discredit Pope Pius and wreck the growing understanding between the Church and Judaism.

The American writer Ronald Rychlak, who has done the most detailed work on the story, concludes that Hochhuth was heavily dependent on such Soviet disinformation. Not that Hochhuth was the only author: his play was rewritten and heavily abridged by Erwin Piscator, a famous producer and communist agent of influence.

In 1964, Blessed Paul VI commissioned detailed research, eventually published in 1981, which showed the degree of papal and Catholic support for the Jewish people during the war. This should have been the end of the matter. It was not. A number of Jewish scholars, such as Daniel Goldhagen, publishing in the 1990s, endorsed the accusations. This had its effect. The distinguished historian Sir Martin Gilbert wrote that he repeatedly received applications for support for PhD study which usually included a reference to the “silent” or even “anti-Semitic” Pius XII.

John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope, published in 1999, was seriously misleading. He implied that Pacelli held “stereotypical” anti-Semitic views. This was based on, among other things, mistranslating, misconstruing and selectively quoting a long letter written by Pacelli in 1919, reporting on a meeting with the chairman of the Bolshevik administration in Munich. Cornwell’s book was overdependent on the understandably embittered recollections of Heinrich Brüning, the exiled former German Chancellor. Hitler’s Pope was really part of a campaign against St John Paul II. But that is a different argument and has no business in an evaluation of Pius XII.

Cornwell’s book had wide circulation and favourable reviews from the liberal media. It and others in a similar vein have been savaged by knowledgeable critics, such as Rychlak, Gilbert and Rabbi David Dalin. Together they provide detailed evidence of misquotation, misrepresentation and even malice in these books. The media have found little space for these corrections. So the lie remains the received story. But the example of the BBC suggests that this may be changing.

Three steps would do much to right the wrongs against Pius.

First, the BBC should prepare a major documentary on the pope who was responsible for saving thousands of Jewish lives. I am advised that the corporation will consider this. The BBC has acknowledged that there should be closer scrutiny. Which of course there already has been: the question is whether minds are open.

Secondly, the critical statements about Pope Pius at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims, should be substantially revised. Many of the pope’s helpers have now been named Righteous among the Nations. It is time that Pius was recognised himself as among the Righteous. He needs not a tree, but a whole forest planted in his memory. The story of the Houses of Life adds further weight to the evidence for his bravery.

Thirdly, Pius’s beatification should proceed without delay. Rome has already recognised his heroic virtue, paving the way for him to be declared Blessed.

Let the last word be with Pius himself. In 1943, he wrote: “The time will come when unpublished documents about this terrible war will be made public. Then the foolishness of all accusations will become obvious in clear daylight. Their origin is not ignorance but contempt of the Church.” At that time he was referring to Nazi propaganda. His words apply equally to the malicious libels of the past 60 years.


The Very Rev Fr Leo Chamberlain osb is a former headmaster of Ampleforth College. He is parish priest of St John the Evangelist, Easingwold in North Yorkshire

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SSPX priest, Fr. Gleize, offers “jaw-dropping treatment” of AL

CP&S comment: “Jaw-dropping treatment” – that is the shocked description of Louie Verrechio (aka Catholic blogspot) to the analysis of Father Gleize’s defence of Pope Francis’ notorious Exhortation, ‘Amoris Laetitia’, in relation to the still unanswered ‘dubia’ of the four Cardinals. Louie (below) has done an outstanding job of showing up, point by point, Fr Gleize’s flawed reasoning.

SSPX offers stunning evaluation of Amoris, Francis

By Louie Verrechio

In Part 5 of an ongoing series of articles being published by the Society of St. Pius X, Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize attempts to answer the question, Is Pope Francis Heretical?

Here, I provide a necessarily detailed examination of Fr. Gleize’s jaw-dropping treatment; one that is sure to disappoint those who, in these deeply troubling times in which we live, have come to rely upon the Society for Catholic clarity and conviction. (I encourage especially those who fit this description to read this difficult post in its entirety.)

Before we begin, might I suggest that all concerned take heart by recalling the words of our first Pope:

And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)

“The words of everlasting life” remain available to us, even if not in the utterances of present day churchmen, in the timeless decrees infallibly set forth by the Holy Catholic Church that speaks in the name of Our Blessed Lord.

It is these upon which I rely in the following.

Fr. Gleize proposes, “in order to be brief,” to explore the question at hand by examining “the essential idea of each dubium.”

The first dubium asks if it is possible to give absolution and sacramental Communion to divorced-and-remarried persons who live in adultery without repenting, to which Fr. Gleize responds, “For someone who adheres to Catholic doctrine, the answer is no.”

He then goes on to cite AL 305, followed by the infamous footnote:

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” (AL 305)

He then cites the infamous footnote 351:

In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy. I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’”

Fr. Gleize concludes:

The doubt arises here with the note. There is no doubt about the fact that non-culpable ignorance of sin excuses from sin.”

A critical point that Fr. Gleize fails to mention is that while “it is possible” that one who commits an objectively grave sin “may not be subjectively culpable,” the Church does not have the right, or the ability, to render such judgments.

If and when it is the case that one is inculpable of a grave sin committed, it is God alone who renders such judgment. (Fair warning: It will be necessary for us to repeat this infallible doctrine often in the face of Fr. Gleize’s assessment.)

Fr. Gleize goes on to say:

But to those who are victims of this ignorance and thereby benefit from this excuse, the Church offers first the help of her preaching and warnings, the Church starts by putting an end to the ignorance by opening the eyes of the ignorant to the reality of their sin.

The help of the sacraments can only come afterward, if and only if the formerly ignorant persons, now instructed as to the seriousness of their state, have decided to make use of the means of conversion, and if they have what is called a firm purpose of amendment. Otherwise the help of the sacraments would be ineffective, and it too would be an objective situation of sin.”

Now we seem to be getting somewhere… The Church’s response to every sinner is to preach, to warn, and to invite to conversion. She does not, however, enter into an examination of culpability as such is the prerogative of God alone!

According to Fr. Gleize:

We are dealing here therefore with a doubt (dubium) in the strictest sense of the term, in other words, a passage that can be interpreted in two ways. And this doubt arises precisely thanks to the indefinite expression in the note: ‘in certain cases.’”

I disagree with the suggestion that this text from AL can be interpreted in two ways as it clearly proposes that the Church and her confessors have the ability, and the right, to weigh culpability, when in truth, they do not.

This, my friends, is the fundamental error upon which much of Amoris Laetitia, Chapter Eight, is constructed and must fall.

Frankly, I am surprised that Fr. Gleize has not seized upon this very point.

In his Encyclical on the Errors of the Modernists, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pope St. Pius X repeated the traditional (and dogmatic) doctrine:

“We leave out of consideration the internal disposition of soul, of which God alone is the judge.” (cf Pascendi 3),

Even the dreadful conciliar document Gaudium et Spes gets this right:

God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.” (GS 28)

Moving on to the second dubium, which asks if, in light of AL 304, there is such a thing as intrinsically evil acts from a moral perspective that the law prohibits without any possible exception.

Fr. Gleize answers. “For someone who adheres to Catholic doctrine, the answer is yes.”

He then goes on to paraphrase AL 304:

“…citing the Summa theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas (I-II, question 94, article 4), [AL 304] insists on the application of the law, rather than on the law itself, and emphasizes the part played by the judgment of prudence, which allegedly can be exercised only on a case-by-case basis, strictly depending on circumstances that are unique and singular.”

It must be said yet again, there is no “part played by the judgment of prudence” with respect to intrinsic evils (such as adultery) that admit of no exceptions. “No exceptions” means precisely this.

Fr. Gleize then quotes AL directly:

It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule.” (AL 304)

Fr. Gleize concludes:

This passage does not introduce any ambivalence, properly speaking. It merely insists too much on one part of the truth (the prudent application of the law), to the point of obscuring the other part of the same truth (the necessary value of the law), which is altogether as important as the first. The text therefore errs here by omission, thus causing a misreading.”

I find this stunning, to be quite honest. Remember what we are discussing – adultery.

“The law” in this case is absolute; it is not open to nuance or “prudent application,” properly speaking:

Thou shalt not commit… This formulation is very clear, and Our Lord even further clarified precisely what constitutes adultery.

Contrition, confession, firm purpose of amendment… The practical application (insofar as the remedy is concerned) is equally as clear.

That said, one should know that Francis is misappropriating St. Thomas’ teaching in order to give the impression that the Angelic Doctor considered the Commandment against adultery a mere “general rule,” when in fact he clearly treated it for what it is; a moral absolute upon which particular circumstances have no bearing.

AL 304 is an error plain and simple (and not simply by “omission” as Fr. Gleize states) since moral absolutes such as that expressed in the Commandment against adultery do indeed “provide absolutely for all particular situations.”

Francis states the exact opposite, and that, my friends, is heresy.

Moving on to the third dubium we find a question concerning paragraph 301; paraphrased by Fr. Gleize as follows:

Can we say that persons who habitually live in a way that contradicts a commandment of God’s law (for example the one that forbids adultery) are in an objective situation of habitual grave sin?”

Again, Fr. Gleize responds, “The Catholic answer is yes.”

He then quotes AL 301:

Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”

Fr. Gleize proposes:

Two points should be emphasized. The sentence just quoted posits in principle the impossibility of making a universal affirmation. It does not deny the possibility of saying that public sinners are deprived of grace; it only denies the possibility of saying that all public sinners are deprived of it. This denial has always been taught by the Church.”

Once again, it is to be shocked. Here is what the Council of Trent had to say [with my emphasis]:

In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification [sanctifying grace] is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins…” (Session VI, Chapter XV)

NB: It is to be maintained… Note as well the reason given: thus defending the doctrine of the divine law.

AL 301, in contravention of the divine law, presumes to overturn the infallible teaching set forth by the Council of Trent by insisting that it can no longer be maintained.

Folks, this is a no-brainer; it is plainly “heretical” according to Fr. Glieze’s own working definition of the word.

Fr. Glieze continued:

There are in fact, in concrete human acts, what is called exculpatory or ‘mitigating’ reasons (or factors). Because of them, the sinner may not be morally responsible for the objective situation of sin.”

At this point, I am certain that you can say it with me: God alone judges such matters as moral responsibility.

As for what is required of Catholics who wish to remain in communion with the Church, we must accept what is stated by the Council of Trent: It is to be maintained

Fr. Gleize’s treatment of AL 301, in an essay that proposes to examine whether or not Francis is a heretic, is at best perplexing.

For reasons that only he can explain, he has chosen to focus on the solitary sentence quoted above while ignoring entirely the one immediately following, which reads:

A subject may know full well the rule [divine law concerning the mortal sin of adultery], yet have great difficulty in understanding its inherent values, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.” (AL 301)

Once again, that which is set forth by Francis runs afoul of the infallible doctrine taught with piercing clarity by the Council of Trent:

With the help of divine grace, one can refrain from such deadly sins as adultery and fornication.” (cf Session VI, Chapter XV)

NB: There are no “concrete situations” wherein one is unable to refrain from the mortal sin of adultery.

If this isn’t enough for one to conclude that Francis is heretical, consider as well:

If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.” (Session VI, Canon XVIII)

NB: In stating that certain situations “do not allow” one to keep God’s commandment against adultery, Francis has most certainly anathematized himself.

This brings us to the fourth dubium which poses the question (as presented by Fr. Gleize) concerning paragraph 302:

Can we still stay, from a moral perspective, that an act that is already intrinsically evil by reason of its object can never become good because of circumstances or the intention of the person who performs it?”

Once again, Fr. Gleize provides a response, “The Catholic answer is yes,” and then quotes Amoris Laetitia:

A negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.” (AL 302)

Fr. Gleize states:

That is true, but the reverse is not, and by neglecting to say that, this passage again introduces doubt…

This is the case indeed, but yet again, the fundamental error undergirding much of this disastrous Exhortation is left unaddressed: The Church and her confessors simply do not have the right (or the ability) to weigh matters of imputability.

On this, Catholic doctrine leaves no room for confusion. Simply accepting and applying this doctrine is enough to remove all doubt.

Francis, in Amoris Laetitia, however, goes to great lengths to undermine it.

Finally, we arrive at the fifth dubium concerning AL 303:

Can we say that conscience must always remain subject, without any possible exception, to the absolute moral law that forbids acts that are intrinsically evil because of their object?”

Fr. Gleize responds, “The Catholic answer is yes.”

He continued by stating that AL 303 is deficient in that it fails to make clear that “a will conformed to an erroneous conscience can be bad,” thus “introducing here a fifth doubt.”

In his treatment of AL 303, Fr. Gleize has once again chosen to focus on but one solitary sentence while ignoring entirely what, in this case, are perhaps the most offensive portions of the entire Exhortation:

Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.” (AL 303) [emphasis added]

Here, we have two more undeniably clear examples of heresy as defined by Fr. Gleize.

If, as Francis states, persisting in mortal sin is the most generous response which can be given to God, this necessarily means that “the demands of the Gospel” (God’s laws) are, at times, impossible to keep.

As previously noted in our examination of AL 301, according to the Council of Trent, Francis has thus anathematized himself:

If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.” (Session VI, Canon XVIII)

At this we come to that truly odious proposition set forth by Francis which says that, at times, God himself is asking man to persist in his failure to meet the demands of the Gospel; in this case, to persist in the mortal sin of adultery.

This is a blatant instance of both heresy and blasphemy. As Sacred Scripture attests, and the Catholic conscience most certainly knows, the All Holy God never asks that we should persist in sin:

Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils: and he tempteth no man. (James 13:1)

Far from asking us to sin, the Lord’s will is perfectly clear in spite of knowing our every weakness:

Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

The Council of Trent teaches [emphasis added]:

“If any one saith, that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God worketh as well as those that are good, not permissively only, but properly, and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.” (Session VI, Chapter XVI, Canon VI)

By stating that God himself is asking one to persist, at times, in the intrinsically evil act of adultery, Francis is imputing this work of evil to God, properly, and of Himself. He has thus anathematized himself yet again.


Please go to Louie’s blog to read his CONCLUSION

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The Empty Imperial Throne

By Dr Joseph Shaw (LMS Chairman)

Later representation of the Emperor Otto I “the Great”.

Over on Rorate Caeli I’ve posted an article by James Bogle, former FIUV President, LMS Committee member and author of a book on Bl Charles of Austria, on the role formerly played by the Holy Roman Emperors (and indeed by the Christian emperors of Rome) in Church affairs, and the consequences of the disappearance of the Emperor from Europe’s life.

It is easy to point to periods of conflict between Pope and Emperor. Conflict is inevitable over time and itsn’t always unhealthy. What is worse than the conflict between the two pillars of Christian society, the spiritual and the temporal, is the disappearance for practical purposes of one side of the conflict: the disappearance of lay leadership in the Church. This is a point discussed in the FIUV Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form and the Laity.

It is not that the Pope since 1918 has made himself the Emperor; it is that the Catholic Emperor’s power has been taken by people outside the Church.

I was very struck recently reading Valentin Tomberg’s discussion of the symbolic meaning of the figure of the Emperor. He wrote, in part:

Europe is haunted by the shadow of the Emperor. One senses his absence just as vividly as in former times one sensed his presence. Because the emptiness of the wound speaks, that which we miss knows how to make us sense it.

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Friday of Ember Week in Lent

Basilica of The Twelve Apostles, Rome.

On the Friday in Ember Week the Station was always made in the Church of the Twelve Apostles, situated at the foot of the Quirinal, for the examination of candidates for ordination. Thus were the future priests and deacons put under the protection of the whole Apostolic College. This basilica, one of the oldest in Rome, was built shortly after the time of Constantine by Julius I., on the occasion of the translation of the bodies of the Apostles Philip and James the Less, which rested there. John III made of it a votive monument for the freeing of Rome from the Goths of Totila.

Addressing henelf to the public penitents in the first centuries of Christianity, the Church told them by the mouth of Ezechiel that God was ready to forgive them because they repented (Epistle). Like the sick who assembled in the porches of the pond situated on the north of the Temple in Jerusalem they waited at the doors of the church, and on the great day of the Sabbath, which is the Feast of Easter, Jesus cured them, as He healed the paralytic spoken of in the Gospel.

Our souls, washed in the waters of baptism, but since fallen back into sin, must atone for their faults, and Jesus, through the instrumentality of His priests, will pardon them in the holy tribunal of Penance.

Apse of Basilica of The Twelve Apostles

The excuse, “I have no man,” will not avail us, for if we remain stricken with the palsy of sin, it is because we do not have recourse to the ministry of priesthood, which is always at our disposal.

Let us pray to Almighty God to “receive us with his kind assistance” (Collect), that our vices being “cleansed away” by penance (Postcommunion), our souls may once more be shown “the light of His grace” (Prayer over the people).

Introit: Psalm xxiv 17, 18

De necessitatibus meis eripe me, Domine: vide humilitatem meam et laborem meum, et dimitte omnia peccata mea. * Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam: Deus meus, in te confido, non erubescam.
Deliver me, O Lord, from my necessities: see my abjection and my labour, and forgive me all my sins. * To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed.


Esto, Domine, propitius plebi tuae: et quam tibi facis esse devotam, benigno refove miseratus auxilio.
Be gracious, O Lord, unto Thy people, and even as Thou makest them devoted to Thee, so mercifully revive them with Thy kind assistance.

Epistle: Ezechiel XIII. 20-28

Gospel: John v. 1-15

Moses”, says St. Augustine, “fasted for forty days, and Elias and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for the same space of time. But the Law is only fulfilled by the observance of the twofold precept of charity, so it is not to be wondered at that this man, to  whom only two years were lacking out of forty, remained still in his infirmity.”


By virtue of this mystery, O Lord, may our vices be cleansed away, and our righteous desires accomplished. Through our Lord.

(These readings are taken from SAINT ANDREW DAILY MISSAL)


For an explanation of Ember Days in Lent, see the ‘New Advent’ post HERE. Father Z describes ‘How you would have observed Lent in 1873‘ ! Also, don’t miss Father Z’s LENTCAzT for today.

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