Category Archives: Synod on the Family

The monster’s got me by the ankles and is smashing me to the ground

dilbert

I am exhausted. Today, so far, I’ve had 113 email conversations, however many comments, texts, and hours[!] of phone conversations, most of those about canon law, ecclesiology, moral theology, church politics, with a number of priests, canon lawyers, theologians. I am deeply sorrowful at the state of the Church. Deeply. I don’t know how to express that. I agonize. I don’t think it’s negativity. I love the Church. I love those in the Church, even the baddies just like me, and by that I mean those who go on ad hominem attacks, just like me, except I’m worse. I know how bad that is for me. The last thing I want is to see that attitude in them.

ogreI feel like I’m being lifted up upside down by some ogre who’s got me by the ankles, and who has commenced whipping me about in the air and then smashing me down to the ground, only to do it continuously, and somehow I remain conscious through it all. I feel sick. Nauseous. It’s like traumatic stress. The monster is, of course, myself. I’m very bad and very evil with a very black and terribly cynical heart. If I wanted to rant, just laying it all out, proving my cynicism to myself (because cynicism is all about self), I think I would actually frighten the most intense of cynics right into silence, much like when the murder rate in Manhattan went down to zero for quite a while after September 11, 2001. The run of the mill murderers were unfathomably out-murdered, and they were stunned into pacifism. Jesus had to reach really very far into hell to find me, which makes me all the more grateful to Him. And that all means that I hold all those lesser cynics to be much better off than I ever was. You have no idea.

If that seems like unstoppable pride, let me tell you ever so humbly about someone who was more cynical than even I could ever be. A layman, he had the CDF wrapped around his little finger, deposing and setting up bishops at will, forcing documents and policies right and left. The CDF, his pet project, hated him, but Ratzinger did what he said and, I would hazard, respected him and even liked him for the clarity and devotion he had. I’ve never known anyone more intelligent, which includes the greatest Thomists in the world today. He knew how to get things done for the good of the Church. I often helped him. I’ve now and again done a bit of his kind of work myself, asked to do so many times by the Curia, off the record, but whatever gets the job done, right? Sometimes cynics are simply realists said to be cynics by those fearful of reality. And that was him, a saint, really, cynical of the diabolical, but not of Jesus. We both knew, however, that if he reversed that, even for a moment, he could do great damage to the Church. He stayed with Jesus, even though he saw all the diabolical there can be among some members of the Church.

As for myself, if I lost all sanctifying grace, I could rant about pretty much everything, including “and” and “the” and even the nice stuff. I would not only highlight that which boasts of ambiguity, but I would also draw conclusions from that which would make anyone curl up in a ball and die of despair. I excel at that kind of thing, I dare say more than anyone. No comparison. And this has ripened over the last number of years. I know the hell of it; I know of a certainty that that’s who I am if I am without grace. One actual believer in the Roman Curia once said that he feared that my analyses could  [… I had better stop!…] At any rate, I’m sure that I would pervert any time being greater than space dynamic into a Marxist dialectic with all such things. I’m truly bad and evil. But I know it. So I look to Jesus, who creates both time and space. He’s all that’s left for me. He is the Church with His Mystical Body. He’s the One.

And then the monster disappears. Just like that. If I pride myself to think that I’m really good at being evil, my pride is then shattered into humility by Him who was more cynical of evil than I could ever begin to be cynical of that which is good. Jesus bears the wounds of all of hell broken out on His risen body. He smashes all cynicism into that which is laughable. Jesus has conquered. He’s the greatest love of my life and I want everyone to know about Him.

We must keep unity in the Church. No schism! Let’s discuss the ideas, yes. But let’s all of us stick to that. But if anyone wants to be ad hominem with me, say that I’m not a real priest, whatever, go ahead. I take back being offended by any of that. I deserve everything I get. I’ll just beat you to the punch: I’ve absolutely crucified the Son of the Living God with my sins and without Jesus I would absolutely go to hell like the child of hell that I am if I am without grace.

P.S. The undercurrent of this post is terrible pride. I hope you can pick that up. I am the worst of the worst. Somehow that’s pride, right? But Jesus is good and kind. :-)

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Amoris laetitia and Cardinal Burke

cardinal burke lourdes

I took this picture in the Immaculate Conception “Upper” Basilica in Lourdes when I was a permanent chaplain there for a couple of years, when Cardinal Burke was on pilgrimage with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2009. I suffered terribly in the days of yore, trying to facilitate such Masses.

I’ve had quite a number of extended conversations with Cardinal Burke over the years, one of which was quite recent. I’ll tell you this: he is the utmost gentleman, the most humble parish priest who has no “airs” about him at all, except the brightness of a spirit of unstoppable humble reverence before the Lord Jesus. But there are those who are upset with him, I think, precisely for this reason. It makes them nervous.

Those who are upset with Cardinal Burke the most are the traditional-ism-ists. Don’t they know that they are only proving in this manner whatever it is that Pope Francis is trying to say about charity toward others? I know a number of the pseudonymous crowd, but they literally run away and hide (really) when I ask for them over the phone after they’ve published things without a name. Otherwise, in safer times, they’ll buy me lunch. Or, alternatively, attack me as best they can. I’ve known some for decades, and have suffered terribly for some of them, perhaps unbeknownst to them. But there’s no real talking with them. Very quickly everything turns to: “It’s a conspiracy of the Jews!” and then whatever else makes them breathless for the day, living on the adrenaline of mystery, the whole pen-name thing.

Cardinal Burke has been their hero until now. He’s said something they don’t like. He’s taken away their thunder. He has correctly said that the most recent intervention of Pope Francis is his own personal opinion, which is correct, both because that is what Pope Francis himself said, and because that’s the kind of document it is. That’s it.

I suggest that those who think they know better than Cardinal Burke start to read some history about the Church being, as Saint Robert Bellarmine said, “never closer to dropping into hell than at this time.” That statement is always true, and is always true because of, get this, your sins and mine. And Jesus did descend into hell, the Church in hell, if you will, to preach to the damned spirits. But the Immaculate Bride of Christ is saved from hell always and at every moment, because Christ Jesus is our Savior. Our savior is not our own cleverness, not our ad hominem attacks on mere men. We are at war with the fallen angels. We need to help each other out of respect for Christ crucified. Cardinal Burke had to make this preliminary statement. I’m sure he will have more to say. Give him a chance! But you can see how difficult the battle is. There is mutiny for the sake of mutiny. Attack for the sake of attack. People letting bitterness turn them into cynics.

Do I have questions about, say, I don’t know, casuistry for our Holy Father? Yes, I do. Would I present those questions to him with the utmost respect for his person and with the utmost reverence for his office as the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter? Yes, absolutely. I’ll give some background to those questions in articles to come about the prodigal son and the adulterous woman.

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CARDINAL BURKE’S RESPONSE

HERE /// More to come.

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Did you know that Mary’s Baby Boy is the great “I AM”?

finding christ in the temple bloch

Firstly, the painting: This is the Finding of Christ in the Temple by Carl Heinrich Bloch (†1890) of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. “Read,” if you will, about the moment Mary sees Jesus by reading the expression of the already bar-mitzvahed boy sitting on the steps of the temple. That boy sees her anguish, and that she’s the mother of Jesus who’s busy with his own bar-mitzvah. The boy on the steps is already running his own business of selling “a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24). He has rope in hand, ready to tie up the feet of his captives to hand over in a bundle to anyone buying them for the sacrifice. Mary did make such a purchase twelve years earlier when Jesus had been presented in the Temple. Luke recounts Simeon’s words to Mary at that time, words that we are supposed to remember now: Continue reading

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Filed under Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Synod on the Family, Year of Mercy

Pope Francis gets it right about Absolute Truth

Update: An email came in from a former member of the Roman Curia. Some in the Curia  would fear to hear his name mentioned here. Mind you, he respects the Pontifical Secret perfectly. He has benevolent words…

p.s. I loved your post on Pope Francis gets the truth right. You are correct – difficult as it is for people to see. You do him a great service. I hope that the Holy See is looking at the post…

It’s bad manners to publish such stats, but I sometimes do it. ;¬)

Original post below:

You have heard that it was said: Pope Francis denies Absolute Truth, that it’s the end of the world. That he is the anti-Christ. Let’s investigate.

POPE JOHN PAUL II

Firstly, let’s define our terms with the help of Saint John Paul II, reviewing a few passages from Veritatis splendor:

  • No darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it.

  • “Then someone came to him…“. In the young man, whom Matthew’s Gospel does not name, we can recognize every person who, consciously or not, approaches Christ the Redeemer of man and questions him about morality. For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life. This is in fact the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which sets freedom in motion. This question is ultimately an appeal to the absolute Good which attracts us and beckons us; it is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man’s life. Precisely in this perspective the Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of moral theology, so that its teaching would display the lofty vocation which the faithful have received in Christ, the only response fully capable of satisfying the desire of the human heart.

  • The statement that “There is only one who is good” thus brings us back to the “first tablet” of the commandments, which calls us to acknowledge God as the one Lord of all and to worship him alone for his infinite holiness (cf. Ex 20:2-11). The good is belonging to God, obeying him, walking humbly with him in doing justice and in loving kindness (cf.Mic 6:8). Acknowledging the Lord as God is the very core, the heart of the Law, from which the particular precepts flow and towards which they are ordered. In the morality of the commandments the fact that the people of Israel belongs to the Lord is made evident, because God alone is the One who is good. Such is the witness of Sacred Scripture, imbued in every one of its pages with a lively perception of God’s absolute holiness: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is 6:3).

  • The origin and the foundation of the duty of absolute respect for human life are to be found in the dignity proper to the person.

You get the idea. There are many such examples in Veritatis splendor.


Now let’s review some passages from Pope Francis. Let’s begin with a couple of paragraphs from his speech on 17 October 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops. Also take a look at the provenance of the notes. Most impressive. All technical vocabulary.

POPE FRANCIS BISHOPS SYNOD

On the eve of last year’s Synod I stated: “For the Synod Fathers we ask the Holy Spirit first of all for the gift of listening: to listen to God, so that with him we may hear the cry of his people; to listen to his people until we are in harmony with the will to which God calls us”.(14) The Synod process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called to speak [chiamato a pronunciarsi=called to pronounce (a word used for ex-cathedra statements)] as “pastor and teacher of all Christians”,(15) not on the basis of his personal convictions but as the supreme witness to the fides totius Ecclesiae, “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church”.(16)

The fact that the Synod always acts cum Petro et sub Petro — indeed, not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro — is not a limitation of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. For the Pope is, by will of the Lord, “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful”.(17) Closely related to this is the concept of “hierarchica communio” as employed by the Second Vatican Council: the Bishops are linked to the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) while, at the same time, hierarchically subject to him as head of the college (sub Petro).(18)

14) FRANCIS, Address at the Prayer Vigil for the Synod on the Family, 4 October 2014.

15) FIRST VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus (18 July 1870), ch. IV: Denz. 3074. Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 749, § 1.

16) FRANCIS, Address to the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 18 October 2014.

17) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23. cf. FIRST VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Prologue: Denz. 3051.

18) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 22; Decree Christus Dominus (28 October 1965), 4.

I don’t know if he’s going to say something definitive on 8 December 2015, or on Ash Wednesday 2016, or whenever, but he sure does seem to have alerted us to that possibility. This is the Supreme Pontiff pronouncing himself on a matter of controversy to the universal Church on a grave matter of faith and morality.

Also, remember, that to calm people down about any number of topics, about the Synod, about the Roman Universities, about whatever, he stated again and again that it would all be O.K., because of the shepherding of the Bishop of Rome. It’s not that the Holy Father doesn’t believe in absolute truth. Quite the opposite as we see above. But some of his statements do need to be examined more closely. This is from Pope Francis’ in-flight interview from Africa to Rome:

philippine de Saint-PierrePhilippine De Saint-Pierre, KTO (France): Holiness, good afternoon, you paid homage to the platform created by the archbishop, the imam and the pastor of Bangui. Today more than ever, we know that fundamentalism threatens the entire planet. We also saw this in Paris. Before this danger, do you think that religious leaders should intervene more in the political field? (Pope Francis asks for clarification) …the religious “dignitaries,” bishops and imams?

POPE FRANCIS PLANEPope Francis: “To intervene in the political field.” If that means to make politics, no. Whoever is a priest, pastor, imam, rabbi, this is his vocation, but they make a “live politics” by preaching values. True values. And one of the greatest values is the fraternity among us. We are all children of God. We have the same father. In this sense, we have to make politics of unity, reconciliation. A word that I don’t like, but I have to use it is “tolerance.” But, not only tolerance, co-existence, friendship. That’s how it is. Fundamentalism is a sickness that exists in all religions. We Catholics have some, not just some, so many, who believe they have the absolute truth [credono di avere la verità assoluta] and they move forward with calumnies, with defamation and they hurt, they hurt. And, I say this because it’s my Church, also us, all of us. It must be combated. Religious fundamentalism isn’t religious. Why? Because God is lacking. It’s idolatrous, as money is idolatrous. Making politics in the sense of convincing these people who have this tendency is a politics that we religious leaders must make, but fundamentalism that ends up always in tragedy or in crime, in a bad thing comes about in all religions a little bit.

Honestly, in light of what he’s said further above, do you really think that the Holy Father does not believe in absolute truth? Isn’t he here rightly going after those who are self-righteous, self-referential, Promethian  and utterly Pelagian self-congratulators who think that they themselves are the Truth inasmuch as they “have” it, that is, control it, manipulate to their own ends as a gift to mankind, that is, which smashes everyone else to the ground except themselves?

But one might object that he nevertheless does seem to be promoting a relativism of the truth, the equality of religions. One might object that he doesn’t seem to understand the our Heavenly Father, eternally expressing Himself in the Eternal Word, does not utter falsehood, but absolute Truth. But, there is more. Let’s go back to 2013.


 

Points from a letter of Pope Francis to Eugenio Scalfari, 7 August 2013

 

  • Christian faith believes in this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open the way to love for everyone.

  • I would say that the originality lies in the fact that faith allows us to participate, in Jesus, in the relationship that He has with God who is Abbà and, because of this, in the relationship that He has with all other men, including enemies, in the sign of love. In other words, the children of Jesus, as Christian faith presents us, are not revealed to mark an insuperable separation between Jesus and all the others: but to tell us that, in Him, we are all called to be the children of the only Father and brothers with each other. The uniqueness of Jesus is for communication not for exclusion. [That’s a great working definition, full of life and reality, for absolute truth.]

  • Second of all, you ask if the thought, according to which no absolute exists and therefore there is no absolute truth, but only a series of relative and subjective truths is a mistake or a sin. To start, I would not speak about, not even for those who believe, an “absolute” truth, in the sense that absolute is something detached, something lacking any relationship. Now, the truth is a relationship! This is so true that each of us sees the truth and expresses it, starting from oneself: from one’s history and culture, from the situation in which one lives, etc. This does not mean that the truth is variable and subjective. It means that it is given to us only as a way and a life. Was it not Jesus himself who said: “I am the way, the truth, the life”? In other words, the truth is one with love, it requires humbleness and the willingness to be sought, listened to and expressed. Therefore we must understand the terms well and perhaps, in order to avoid the oversimplification of absolute counter-position, reformulate the question. I think that today this is absolutely necessary in order to have a serene and constructive dialogue which I hoped for from the beginning.

So, he is absolutely not denying absolute truth, but rather, in trying rephrase this with words that are not so inadequate for that which is greater than the universe, he demonstrates he is more than upholding the truth about absolute truth. This really is very lovely, as the Brits say. Altogether lovely. I love it.

Might we find an inkling of this in the Scriptures? Well, yes. Let’s take a look at Matthew 16 and 18 and see what we find there.


Let’s review Matthew 16:19 in utterly pedantic translation

“Whatever you may bind at any given time (subjunctive aorist active) upon the earth will (indicative future middle) already have been made to be perfectly standing in that way (participle perfect passive) in the heavens.”

In other words, what is in heaven is already that way; what is in heaven is not an affirmation of what Peter might pronounce; what is in heaven simply is what it is, absolute truth, so to speak. The part of this equation that people always forget about when trying to figure out the tenses, is that there is a part of this equation which is utterly expendible: Peter. If he is going to get it wrong, he will either die or be incapacitated, but he will not be able to work against what is in heaven already. Being the Successor of Peter isn’t so much a privilege as it is a service that may involve laying down his life. After all, what do we know? The Orthodox or any others should never be envious of infallibility. The bit about loosing is exactly the same.


Let’s review Matthew 18:18 in utterly pedantic translation

“Whatever ye may bind at any given time (subjunctive aorist active) upon the earth will (indicative future middle) already have been made to be perfectly standing in that way (participle perfect passive) in the heavens.”

In other words, this is repeated verbatim, just in the plural for the people involved and the things they pronounce upon. There is no special insight for Peter. Others have the same faith as he has and can live as the children of God in a good relationship with Him in the same way he can.

With a difference. These others are not Peter, to whom alone among all others, to whom alone among the apostles, was given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, we read in the precise context of Matthew 18, if there is a dispute (because they are NOT infallible), they are to go to the Church, that is, Peter. Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.

 


A note on the humility of Pope Francis:

Francis is overwhelmed that the Eternal Word of Truth who became incarnate to show the love of His heavenly Father to us all, having the right in His own justice to do so by standing in our place, taking on what we deserve, I, you, all of us, for original sin and our own personal sin. He has obtained the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.

No where has Pope Francis said that all religions are the same, just that God loves all of us. We’re all redeemed if not all saved, right? No one ever said, including himself, that he was the best theologian on the face of the earth, and he might personally get some things wrong. I can forgive him for that. Can you? He will not be able to make a mistake if he ever in his pontificate invokes the language I cited above from his speech on 17 October 2015.

At any rate, I am proud of his humility, so to speak, proud to be precisely one of Pope Francis’ Missionaries of Mercy. I wish I were as overwhelmed about the mercy of God as is he.

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