Friday 30 November 2012

English identity is rooted in the Catholic Church

An interesting article in L'Osservatore Romano reflects on how deeply the Catholic roots run in the English nation. The rejection of Catholicism by the protestant revolt, resulted in a new type of Englishman who corrupted and/or rejected the 1000 odd years that had formed the nation. Great heros were still venerated, but their Catholicism was hushed up or denied (e.g. Alfred the Great, St. Thomas... secular figures such as Shakespeare and so on).  Even card carrying Anglicans of early years (e.g. Marvell etc.) were so imbued with Catholicism, that when we read them, we find it hard to believe that they were anything but. In light of the collapse of the Church of England, it is unimaginable that these good souls would have - if alive today - remained with this now bizarre sect. For all the suppression and persecution, Catholicism remained. 

In the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, not far from St Peter’s Basilica, is preserved an image of the ‘Madonna of Ine’, the gift of an eighth century king of England who founded a Saxon hostel, ancestor of the English hospice in Rome which this year celebrates its 650th anniversary. The image is early testimony to an English Catholic tradition that was to flower in the Middle Ages in art, literature and music, marking the intellectual and geographical landscape of England with Cathedrals, Universities and Abbeys, and connecting it firmly to the traditions of the Western Church.
Another image in Rome, in the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury in the Via di Monserrato, depicts student priests being tortured and executed for their Catholic faith. No details are spared, but in case of doubt the image is annotated with names, dates, and method of execution. This is the other side of the English Catholic tradition; exclusion, persecution – and ultimately martyrdom.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Reconciliation: The mark of a true Christian

Pope Paul and Patriarch Athenagoras - St. Peter's Basilica
On December 7, 1965, a remarkable event took place: Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Athenagoras, jointly issued a Declaration of Reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the eastern Orthodox churches under the authority of the Patriarch. What was extraordinary was that this was achieved with all the weight of historical grudges still existing... either man could have come with a list of demands of the other; but this would not have been reconciliation, but submission. Christians do not submit to each other, but to Christ. 

A beautiful story from 1964 tells us of Patriarch Athenagoras' reply to a journalist's question as to the reason for his visit to Jerusalem: Athenagoras' reply was: "To say 'Good Morning' to my beloved brother the Pope. You must remember that it is five hundred years since we have spoken to each other!" 

Since they are certain that they express the common desire for justice and the unanimous sentiment of charity which moves the faithful, and since they recall the command of the Lord: "If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brethren has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go first be reconciled to your brother" (Matt. 5:23-24), Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I with his synod, in common agreement, declare that:

They regret the offensive words, the reproaches without foundation, and the reprehensible gestures which... likewise regret and remove both from memory and from the midst of the Church the sentences of excommunication which followed these events, the memory of which has influenced actions up to our day and has hindered closer relations in charity; and they commit these excommunications to oblivion.

This document - about a 1000 years overdue - demonstrated to the world that hatred, the bearing of ill-will and suspicion can be cast aside. Our Blessed Saviour himself demonstrated this in the Garden of Gethsemane, before Pilate and on the Cross.  We too, in our own small ways, can follow Jesus and reconcile with our brothers. As Advent approaches and a new Year begins, what a way to begin by holding out our hand to our brother. He may not take it; so many refused the hand of Our Lord - yet, he held it out, and, when they refused - he asked his Father to forgive them. 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians, 13).

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Pope John Paul the First: His final Angelus was his testament

Pope John Paul I 
Pope John Paul I reigned very briefly, yet he left us a number of  spiritual pearls. I came across this and would like to share it with you. It is from the Holy Father's final Angelus Address prior to his death. In part the Holy Father wrote: 

People sometimes say: "we are in a society that is all rotten, all dishonest." That is not true. There are still so many good people, so many honest people. Rather, what can be done to improve society? I would say: let each of us try to be good and to infect others with a goodness imbued with the meekness and love taught by Christ. Christ's golden rule was: "do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Do to others what you want done to yourself." 'And he always gave. Put on the cross, not only did he forgive those who crucified him, but he excused them. He said: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." This is Christianity, these are sentiments which, if put into practice would help society so much.

The full Address may be read here

Saturday 24 November 2012

Catholic Church is in grave danger in Egypt

News from Egypt bodes badly for the Catholic Church. The recent actions by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President are a case in point. 

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "Egypt is in grave danger. The Muslim Brotherhood now controls all powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. No one can stop them," told Fr Rafic Greiche AsiaNews. The president's recent constitutional amendments are "a move to give the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists a stranglehold over power." For the clergyman, the Muslim Brotherhood is following a precise plan to place Egypt under Sharia.

For the full report, please read here

Totalitarianism in Europe: A dictatorship over Minds

The DICI news agency reports the following from the United Kingdom:

The adoption agency “Catholic Care”, based in Leeds, in northern England, was obliged by British justice on November 2, 2012, to open its services to homosexual couples. According to the November 2 edition of the weekly Catholic Herald, the association had been trying for five years to obtain the legal recognition of its right to refuse to place children with homosexual couples. Its last appeal was rejected on the grounds that the law of equality forbids any discrimination of homosexual couples who wish to adopt. The legal instance indicated that “Catholic Care” had not managed to propose “serious and convincing reasons” to explain its refusal and that, on the contrary, it wounds the dignity of homosexual couples “whose capacity to be parents is indisputable”, and thus violates article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As we have reported and commented a number of times, a insidious, though virulent form of fascism is spreading throughout western Europe and North America. The Popes have warned and condemned this evil many times. Pius XI denounced fascism, Naziism and communism formally and those condemnations stand to this day - not only as Church policy, but firmly on doctrinal grounds as being contrary to the dignity of the person.  Likewise Popes Paul, John Paul and Pope Benedict have warned against these evils, only to be mocked.

The grave societal error is believing that since we once fought fascism a few decades ago we would be immune. But no one is immune to sin...

Pope Paul wrote in Octogesima Adveniens:

Political activity - need one remark that we are dealing primarily with an activity, not an ideology? - should be the projection of a plan of society which is consistent in its concrete means and in its inspiration, and which springs from a complete conception of man's vocation and of its differing social expressions. It is not for the State or even for political parties, which would be closed unto themselves, to try to impose an ideology by means that would lead to a dictatorship over minds, the worst kind of all. It is for cultural and religious groupings, in the freedom of acceptance which they presume, to develop in the social body, disinterestedly and in their own ways, those ultimate convictions on the nature, origin and end of man and society.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Church of England in total Chaos

Blessed Dominic Barberi
The Catholic Herald carries a number of editorials and reports on the recent Synodal meeting of the Church of England.  The C of E  just rejected a vote for "women bishops", which, as is pointed out in the Herald is a preposterous position to take once one takes the position that women can be "priests". The votes were 44 for and three against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops; 148 for and 45 against in the House of Clergy, and 74 for and 132 against in the House of Laity. Rowan Williams and his successor both voted in favour of bishopesses.

The attempted ordination of women is the overthrow of the sacred priesthood.  The Catholic Church has really done all that She can do (e.g. ARCIC). A great achievement deriving from the Council was cordial - hence charitable - relations. The Church managed to, on an official level, dialogue  with our separated Anglican brothers. Sadly, due to the various intellectual factors that had penetrated deep into Anglicanism since the 19th century - rationalism, modernism - Anglicanism has fluctuated from one spiritual crisis, each building in intensity and confusion. We have now reached the point where - as Sir Humphrey pointed out - though the Queen is essential, God is an optional extra. How far all this seems from my great-Aunt's Anglican Book of Common Prayer, when there was a time when Anglicans at least held to the major Christian beliefs. 

The Beatification Mass of Cardinal Newman
Of course, the Church of England has been in perpetual chaos since the fateful decision by an evil and lustful monarch to indulge in schism and then inevitable heresy. What can we do? We can pray for Anglicans that they see in all of this great evil, and return home to Rome. "Gallican" pressure is mounting to change the decision to permit women "bishops". 

Recommended reading should be Bl. Dominic Barberi and Bl. John Henry Newman.  These two great men - one as a missionary, and the other as a convert unmasked (with great charity) the errors of Anglicanism. 

Pray for our Anglican brothers, that they may quickly return to Catholic Unity. Pray that they may reject the domination of the State and turn to the freedom of Christ and His Church. Pray that the various new Ordinariates in the UK (and the USA) may bear much fruit. 

Blessed Dominic Barberi and Blessed John Henry Newman, Pray for England. 

Monday 19 November 2012

Toronto Traditional Catholics: Do you love the Latin Mass? - then practice Charity and not Scandal

"For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again." LUKE vi. 38. 

St. Alphonsus de Liguori,
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Charity can be very hard at times. Someone has "offended" us, and we are unable to forget it, to dismiss it, to offer it up. Have we not offended God? Do we wish Him to be unable to forget our sins? If we cannot forgive and FORGET our brother's "sins" against us, how can we even think that God will forgive our real sins against Him?

We so easily forget the words of St. Paul, that if we do not have love, charity - all is in vain, we are but tinkling cymbals... We may go to the most beautiful Mass; indulge in copious amounts of incense, listen to Gregorian chant, or polyphony.... but if we cannot listen to the hurt and pain in our brother's heart... we are frauds. If we detract, create and spread gossip, indulge in and spread scandal we are spiritual charlatans, hypocrites.

We write this, as we have become aware of continued uncharitable (well, it would be childish if conducted by children) quarreling, backbiting and name calling via the internet etc., by those who would claim to love and advance the traditional Latin Mass in Toronto. This is evil and must stop. Detraction, slander, holding grudges is not the pathway to Heaven. Ah you are saying ! - "he did this", or "he did that"... FORGET IT! Is what a brother or sister said, cause to further evil, to further scandal, to further mockers of the Latin Mass (indeed the Catholic Church) to say: "for them it is all an elaborate show, a pageant, theatre ..." Do we really want those who do not attend the Latin Mass to say to themselves: "these people attend the Mass, but they do not live it"? 

Now, if you are reading this, and qualifying yourself and indulging in self-justification, you have not really read this, nor do you have humility. This is a scandal
"God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (St. Cyprian). 
St. Alphonus de Liguori's sermon on charity might be a fine way of closing this post. Please consider posting your reflections in the combox, but this blog will NOT become a site for perpetuating sin. If you cannot forgive your brother, then we suggest you go elsewhere. Remember, that if Our Blessed Saviour could die for your "enemy"-- can you not, for the love of your Saviour, turn the other cheek, and reach out in love to (you still don't have to like) your brother?

In Jesus and Mary, the "Witness Team"

With regard to the practice of fraternal charity in words, we ought, in the first place, and above all, to abstain from all detraction. ”The tale-bearer shall defile his own soul, and shall be hated by all." (Eccl. xxi. 31.) ... St. Bernard says that the tongue of a detractor is a three-edged sword... With one of these edges it destroys the reputation of a neighbour; with the second it wounds the souls of those who listen to the detraction; and with the third it kills the soul of the detractor by depriving him of the divine grace. You will say: ”I have spoken of my neighbour only in secret to my friends, and have made them promise not to mention to others what I told them." This excuse will not stand: no; you are, as the Lord says, the serpent that bites in silence. ”If a serpent bite in silence, he is nothing better that backbiteth secretly." (Eccl. x. 11.) Your secret defamation bites and destroys the character of a neighbour. 

They who listen to detraction, and afterwards go and tell what was said to the person whose character had been injured, have to render a great account too. These are called talebearers. Oh! how great is the evil produced by these talebearing tongues that are thus employed in sowing discord. They are objects of God’s hatred. "The Lord hateth him that soweth discord among brethren." (Prov. vi. 16, 19).

Strive not," says the Holy Ghost, ”in matters which do not concern thee." (Eccl. xi. 9.) But they will say: “I only defend reason; I cannot bear these assertions which are contrary to reason." In answer to these defenders of reason, Cardinal Bellarmine says, that an ounce of charity is better than a hundred loads of reason. In conversation, particularly when the subject of it is unimportant, state your opinion, if you wish to take part in the discourse, and then keep yourself in peace, and be on your guard against obstinacy in defending your own opinion. In such contests it is always better to yield. 

And, should you happen to hear a person speak ill of a neighbour, be careful not to encourage his uncharitableness, nor to show any curiosity to hear the faults of others. If you do, you will be guilty of the same sin which the detractor commits. ”Hedge in thy ears with thorns," says Ecclesiasticus, ”and hear not a wicked tongue." (Eccl. xxviii. 28.) 

Charity also requires that we be meek to all, and particularly to those who are opposed to us. When a person is angry with you, and uses injurious language, remember that a "mild answer breaketh wrath." (Prov. xv. 1.) Reply to him with meekness, and you shall find that his anger will be instantly appeased. But, if you resent the injury, and use harsh language, you will increase the same; the feeling of revenge will grow more violent, and you will expose yourself to the danger of losing your soul by yielding to an act of hatred, or by breaking out into expressions grievously injurious to your neighbour. Whenever you feel the soul agitated by passion, it is better to force yourself to remain silent, and to make no reply; for, as St. Bernard says, an eye clouded with anger cannot distinguish between right and wrong. ”Turbatus præ ira oculus rectum non videt." (Lib. 2 de Consid., cap. xi.) Should it happen that in a fit of passion you have insulted a neighbour, charity requires that you use every means to allay his wounded feelings, and to remove from his heart all sentiments of rancour towards you. The best means of making reparation for the violation of charity is to humble yourself to the person whom you have offended. 

Sunday 18 November 2012

Cardinal Newman: The Scourge of Liberal Catholicism

William Oddie, writing in the Catholic Herald has a few interesting points to make with reference to the old false-hood that John Henry Cardinal Newman was a liberal "Catholic". 

 Newman made absolutely unambiguous his belief that in modern conditions a specifically Catholic University ought to exclude heresy, so that its enemies were beyond its boundaries and not within them. It is, he wrote in The Idea of a University “one great advantage of an age in which unbelief speaks out, that Faith can speak out too; that, if falsehood assails Truth, Truth can assail falsehood. In such an age it is possible to found a University more emphatically Catholic than could be set up in the middle age, because Truth can entrench itself carefully, and define its own profession severely, and display its colours unequivocally, by occasion of that very unbelief which so shamelessly vaunts itself. And a kindred advantage to this is the confidence which, in such an age, we can place in all who are around us, so that we need look for no foes but those who are in the enemy’s camp.”

Further Suggested Reading: Newman against the Liberals (ed. Michael Davies)

Wednesday 14 November 2012

The Salt and Light TV Crisis: Why Loyalty to the Church is Loyalty to Christ - and dissent is Betrayal

Pope Benedict XVI
Reflecting on dissent in the Church, following my review of the very disconcerting interview of the arch-heretic Gregory Baum, by Salt and Light CEO, Fr. Thomas Rosica, I offer these words for reflection by our Holy Father Pope Benedict from his Homily for the 2012 Chrism Mass. I ask, How can Salt and Light advocate a path of renewal for the Church, when Fr. Rosica praises a dissident who has done so much to destroy the Church in Canada? We are not talking about some obscure individual, but a man who was a leading light in the dissenting Winnipeg Statement, a document that caused, and is still causing incalculable damage to the local Church. In his "Tragedy at Winnipeg", Msgr. Vincent Foy wrote: 

Typical was a book published in 1964 by Herder and Herder called Contraception and Holiness. It was presented as "a balanced and perceptive declaration of Christian dissent." Among the contributors were three professors of St. Michael's College in Toronto: Gregory Baum, O.S.A., Stanley Kutz, C.S.B., and Leslie Dewart. Gregory Baum was a catalyst of dissent in Canada and elsewhere. 

He [Baum] described his technique: "The Catholic theologian ... will engage in common research and conversation with others until a certain agreement arises as to whether a position of the magisterium that seems binding at present is losing, for such and such reasons, its normative function for the future" (Christian Century, April 6, 1966, p.429). Gregory Baum had been an "Expert" to Archbishop Pocock of Toronto at Vatican II and was in continuing favour. He focused his attention on the Church's teaching on papal authority and contraception. To destroy either was to destroy the Catholic Church. To destroy both at once was to hasten ecclesial annihilation.

From the Holy Father's 2012 Chrism Mass Homily: 

Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. ...Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal.... The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

...This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word....

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: “My teaching is not mine” (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are.

Update: Pope Paul VI on the Second Vatican Council

Monday 12 November 2012

Rosica and Baum: Salt and Light TV is in Crisis

“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another" St. Paul

A crisis has many nuances of definition, but the nexus is that a turning point has been struck upon which requires resolution. I write this entry after much thought. It is not an easy thing to criticize a priest. Further, it is a difficult thing to do after seeing so much good done by this same priest. However, the recent Salt and Light "Witness" television interview conducted by S + L CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica with the arch-dissenter Gregory Baum strikes a most serious note of crisis at S + L, and S + L's identity, reliability and need for absolute lack of ambiguity in the task of evangelization through communications media (c.f.  The Rapid Development, Pope John Paul II). I would call this interview the "Winnipeg Statement moment" for S + L. 

The confusion, the ambiguity this interview has created must be resolved. It is only heightened by the various excellent  programming on S + L.  Monsignor Vincent Foy closed his
critique of Baum by asking the key question: why should a priest highly praise in an interview this "arch heretic"? This is the question, the only question.  

Fr. Rosica's response to the criticism of his interview with Baum presently focuses irrelevantly on a  Michael Voris video rather than Msgr. Foy's question.  Fr. Rosica defended his approach to Baum by writing: "Let those who have eyes and ears to see and hear view the entire interview and not base judgments on others’ interpretation and distortion of my WITNESS interview with Professor Baum". Fine, I agree. Fr. Rosica addressing Baum in the interview said: "you helped to keep alive not only the spirit of the Second Vatican council, but also the authentic teaching of the Council". If this is so, then has the traditionalist critique of the Council been right all along? No interpretation or distortion here.  It is this defense that is even more worrying, more disconcerting than the interview. The defense of error reveals even greater confusion, greater recalcitrance than the error itself. 

This leads me to consider the future prospects for S + L following this scandal. The issue is the Catholic Faith, not celebrity priests who come and go. Catholic media is to propagate the Faith, to aid in evangelization. How must the young, fine employees and volunteers at S + L feel when the CEO lavishes praise without any distinction on Baum? What of the Board of Directors, the bishops, and the corporate and charitable donors? How can S + L evangelize with her CEO highly praising an arch-heretic? It is one thing to love a person, but it is another to create the impression that one loves his or her teachings without any clarity on the given person's teachings that have been identified as manifestly evil (e.g. dissent on contraception, abortion, women priests, Baum's dissent against Dominus Jesus etc.). Our Lord loved sinners, but he hated their sin. Perhaps, in the presence of his old friend, Fr. Rosica was caught in human weakness. Yet, his defense of the interview (sadly) would seem to reject this hypothesis. 

The contradictions, the ambiguity, the confusion must be resolved. It is only heightened by Fr. Rosica's professed love for Pius XII, Bl John XXIII, and Bl. John Paul II. Would those holy Popes consider Baum a man who has kept alive "the authentic teaching of the Council"? Why would a priest claim that Baum has, when it is manifestly obvious that he has not?
 Salt and Light is tainted: with ambiguity, with contradiction, with confusion. It is time for Fr. Rosica to do the right thing: to apologize and to resign from Salt and Light.  

Further suggested reading:

Tragedy at Winnipeg, Msgr. Vincent Foy

The Desolate City, Anne Roche Muggeridge

The Second Vatican Council was about renewal, not betrayal (Pope Paul, Angelus Address, 1968)

Friday 9 November 2012

Rome-SSPX: Bishop Fellay " Where do we stand with Rome"

Bishop Bernard Fellay
Bishop Bernard Fellay, SSPX Superior General recently spoke of the developments with Rome regarding the Doctrinal discussions and canonical recognition. One could say that this sermon, and the recent information coming from the CDF point to a cooling off period in which the status quo will be maintained. 

On November 1, 2012, on the feast of All Saints, Bishop Bernard Fellay celebrated Mass at the seminary in Ecône.  During his sermon, after recalling the spiritual meaning of this feast, he explained the status of the relations of the Society of Saint Pius X with Rome.  – The title and subtitles are by the editors of DICI. 
…  Why is there a Society of Saint Pius X?  Why do we become priests?  It is not just for the pleasure of celebrating the old Mass.  It is in order to go to Heaven;  it is in order to save souls!  Certainly, while preserving the treasures of the Church, but with the purpose of saving souls, of sanctifying them by snatching them away from sin, by leading them to Heaven, by leading them to Our Lord.
Where do we stand with Rome?  Allow me to explain two points.  First, a look at what has happened.  Then, a look at the present and perhaps at the future.
The full text is available here

Thursday 8 November 2012

Relativism, or Why Gregory Baum is Irrelevant

Barona was kind enough to send me an article by Gregory Baum. Upon reading it my immediate reaction was that this man is steeped in relativism. I will not link to the article because I have no wish to propagate Baum's writings. I will, however, examine the roots of my own reaction to it.

I have wondered for some time what all the fuss is about when speaking of relativism. I mean couldn't people see for themselves what the fundamental flaw is in this notion? Apparently not and I am just now realizing why.  There are some books that have had such a great effect upon me that I keep them close to me. One such book is A Rumor of Angels by Peter L. Berger. I stumbled across this book when I was quite young and new in my faith. It has had the effect of inoculating me against the worst effects of relativism. Berger points out the fundamental flaw in all relativism...

... a hidden double standard, which can be put quite simply: the past, out of which the tradition comes, is relativized in terms of this or that socio-historical analysis. The present, however, remains strangely immune from relativization. In other words, the New Testament writers are seen as afflicted with a false consciousness rooted in their time, but the contemporary analyst takes the consciousness of his time as an unmixed intellectual blessing. The electricity and radio users are placed intellectually above the Apostle Paul. p58

The relativizers imagine they are standing upon a rock when in reality they are standing upon thin air. Well, we can play that game too. Subjecting them to the same relativizing analysis they would inflict on more orthodox religious types yields some surprising results.

One (perhaps literally) redeeming feature of sociological perspective is that relativizing analysis, in being pushed to its final consequence, bends back upon itself. The relativizers are relativized, the debunkers are debunked - indeed relativization itself is somehow liquidated. What follows is not, as some of the early sociologists of knowledge feared, a total paralysis of thought. Rather, it is a new freedom and flexibility in asking questions of truth. p59

This sort of sociological analysis may be quite useful for some things but it is quite incompetent to pass judgement on fundamental questions of truth. Whether there are angels in our midst or no, nothing any sociologist or theologian can say will have any effect on that truth in any way whatsoever. This is simple fact... angels go on existing quite apart from any speculation we frail humans may make about them. Where does this leave those of us who believe in them?

It is relatively easy, sociologically speaking, to be a Catholic in a social situation where one can limit one's significant others to fellow Catholics, where indeed one has little choice in the matter, and where all the major institutional forces are geared to support and confirm a Catholic world. The story is quite different in a situation where one is compelled to rub shoulders day by day with every conceivable variety of 'those others', is bombarded with communications that deny or ignore one's Catholic ideas, and where one has a terrible time even finding some quiet Catholic corners to withdraw into. p61 

You see the problem. If you are to go out into the world to preach the gospel, as our Saviour asks, it would be wise to inoculate yourself against the common ailments you are likely to find out there. The alternatives are to either stay home and hide under the bed, or to somehow impose your worldview. It is not for nothing that the very first thing the angels said to the shepherds  above Bethlehem was "Be not afraid." There is a third possibility... that we might step into the unknown and find a God whose mercy provides angels to tend to us.

As for Gregory Baum, he is as much a product of his time and milieu as any other cultural phenomenon from that era. His impact will be for future generations to determine but fortunately the task of passing the faith on to those generations is in other hands.

Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Rosica, Baum and Foy: Patrick Coffin's take

Catholic writer Patrick Coffin has an excellent blog post on the recent Salt and Light television programme, Witness interview of Gregory Baum by Fr. Thomas Rosica. As many are doing, he identifies the problem following Msgr. Vincent Foy's review of Baum's dissident views.

One point in which I take a difference nuance with Coffin is the aspect of relevance. In a sense, Coffin is correct; liberal Catholicism is spent, is dying.... but the entity of Salt and Light is relevant. I believe that it should be saved. It should be freed. I concur with Coffin's prayer request - Church authorities standing up can put the corrective to  Salt and Light and make this project relevant for the Church in Canada. I close by - in a spirit of charity motivated by admiration for much that has been done by Salt and Light -  suggesting that Fr. Rosica seriously consider the damage done by this scandal. Salt and Light is about the Church: for the love of the Church,  Fr. Rosica, please resign.

The interview is a time-warpy snapshot of the leftist ecclesiastical fantasies of the 1960s. It’s all there: Vatican II was better than Pentecost; old is bad, new is good... I stopped counting after 10 the number of times Baum trundled out the magic word dialogue.

You can see Father Rosica trying to rehabilitate his old friend, gently steering the interview back in hopes of finding some continuity between Baum’s obvious dissent and some semblance of respect for the Pope....
Yes, the moral and theological confusion generated by such an interview is a source of scandal. But really, the whole thing strikes one as so irrelevant...Liberal Catholicism is a spent project.... [it] can’t compete with the fire and ice of a Blessed John Paul II or a Benedict XVI, whose standard is high and teaching is clear. Which is another reason why brave shepherds attract willing sheep, convert and cradle alike.
Side bar prayer request: Dear God, please inspire a Canadian bishop to stand up and say what’s wrong with giving dissent a national platform on a Catholic broadcast. Amen.

The Church, the US Election and Secularism

Following Barak Obama's re-election early this morning (Nov, 7th), it might be opportune to recall some of the words from a 2012 pastoral letter by American Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois. Bishop Jenky has been attacked in the mass media for his strong stance in the defence of the Church and Her moral teaching. The election (any election) should be viewed from the Church's perspective, which is Christ's perspective. Interesting as they are, the various arguments about economics and foreign policy are a mere side show. The key issues are, and always will be spiritual ones. Yes, economic policy is secondarily spiritual as the ability to live a decent life will impact upon moral choices a man makes; but, direct spiritual issues take  primary consideration: the first being the right of the Church to teach and preach the Gospel without hinderance. The US bishops have spoken authoritatively on this issue and the present US Administration comes up a grave failure. Specifically, Catholics this morning may be disillusioned that the re-elected President will continue to push for his HHS mandate, contrary to the wishes of the Catholic Church. The US regime's proposals bode for an aggressive secularism that Bishop Jenky confronts in his pastoral letter. The bishop concludes in the following manner:

Today, however, loyal believers are called upon not only to defend the Faith but even to defend the very concept of faith in the face of aggressive secularism and increasingly intolerant atheism. It now seems to be the unbelievers who apparently hope to initiate some new kind of inquisition designed to entirely exclude God from the public forum. In the face of growing hostility, practicing Catholics need to recognize that the choices we make and the witness we either offer or withhold will have both temporal and eternal consequences for each one of us. Christ the Lord has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church he founded on the rock of Peter’s faith (Matthew 16:1), but he also warned that at the end of time he will deny those who deny him (cf. Matthew 10:33). Catholicism is filled with enormous spiritual richness, a cohesive intellectual tradition, and a remarkable commitment to charity and service. It is the Faith for which we should be ready and willing to give our hearts and even to offer up our lives. It is also the Faith by which we all certainly will be judged before the throne of Almighty God.

The entire pastoral letter can be downloaded here
The bishop's blog may be read here, including his comments on religious freedom. 

Monday 5 November 2012

The US Presidential Election

Michael Voris has an interesting and straightforward analysis of the upcoming US elections.

Michael Voris. To view click here.

Msgr. Foy on restoring the Church in Canada

"It is the non-use of authority that is creating our problem" Cardinal Danielou

Following on the interview of arch-dissenter Gregory Baum by Salt and Light CEO, Fr. Thomas Rosica, I thought it appropriate to consider four key elements to re-establishing truth as suggested by Msgr. Vincent Foy. This is only fitting, given Msgr. Foy's critique of Baum, following a number of high profile appearances by Baum in various Catholic media. I personally believe that Fr. Rosica, for the good of the Church in Canada, and for the good of Salt and Light, should resign. The ambiguity, indeed bizarre interview given Baum demands resolution. Baum has caused - as Msgr. Foy has recently  documented - immeasurable harm to the Church in Canada; the Salt and Light interview not only passes over this in silence, but conveys the impression that Baum has something good to contribute to the Church; that he reflects the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council. This is unacceptable. This is nonsense, this is spiritual scandal, this is evil. 

In his booklet "From Humanae Vitae to Veritatis Spendor", Msgr. Foy suggest four key pillars that would give Catholics the key to holding to the truth against a "second magisterium" (c.f. Foy, p.19). 

1. Spiritual Means: truth, according to Foy will be re-discovered through the sacraments and prayer (especially Penance). 

2. Authority: the failure of authority (bishops) to act has led to the present crisis (c.f. Foy, p.20). Foy references Ratione Habita, 1967: "those who are rash or imprudent should be warned in all charity; those who are pertinacious should be removed from office". 

3. Education: here Foy recommends seminaries to ensure loyalty to the Church; universities and schools, likewise must ensure fidelity. 

4. Pastoral Care: Foy recommends that pastoral activity be in accord with truth. The pulpit plays a major role in conveying the truth. And one may add the "pulpit" of Catholic television. 

Friday 2 November 2012

High Church Catholics?

A friend once tried to describe the Anglican Church to me... admittedly a daunting task at the best of times. He said the Anglican Church was a party church. By this he meant that it was an amalgam of widely diverse parties operating under a single umbrella. You hear terms like high church, low church, broad church, anglo-catholic, evangelical, liberal anglo-catholic and so on. I am not even going to pretend that I understand much of this.The reason I bring up this bit of ecclesiastical history is because it has a direct bearing on our current situation.

Since Vatican II the Catholic Church has broken out into a multitude of competing factions, parties and liturgical observances. Where once identifying as Catholic was enough to set you apart, today it is not enough. You must qualify the word Catholic with some kind of modifier to indicate which party you belong to. We have become fragmented and, what is worse, each party is absolutely convinced it is the real deal, the only one legitimately entitled to call itself Catholic. This unfortunate attitude has even led to schism.

We have even brought the tactics of party politics into our church. The truth has taken a back seat to the drive to win the hearts and minds of the faithful. In such a fight a catchy slogan or a well aimed slur takes the place of reasoned argument and civil discourse. Why argue when a good smear campaign is so much more effective? Perhaps characterizing this as party politics is being too generous. This behavior in probably more reminiscent of schoolyard or playground group dynamics with their competing cliques and bullying tactics.

So long as factional loyalty eclipses a Catholic identity, it is likely that conflict will degenerate to this sort of level. Having an identifiable enemy is a great boon to group cohesion and vitality. If the group in question is in a minority position relative to some larger group then it is to that group's advantage to see the larger group as the enemy thus consolidating its own position. 'You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Indeed this is an ancient concept but Jesus goes on to say something that turns it on its head. 'But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven... The old dynamic that worked so well in the schoolyard and in party politics is no longer valid.

The anger and bitterness with which these factional conflicts are carried out are a source of scandal to many, myself included. I am sure many of you know websites that you avoid simply because you do not wish to be exposed to the angry and bitter commentary. Everyone has an axe to grind and a computer full of boiler plate text with which to grind it. Catholics are called to do things a little differently. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20.

"You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire."  Mat 5:21-22

Factional dissension is not a new thing in the church. St. Paul experienced many of these difficulties in his dealings with the Corinthians. Brothers, I urge you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to have factions among yourselves but all to be in agreement in what you profess; so that you are prefectly united in your beliefs and judgements. 1Cor 1:10   

How then are we to deal with people with whom we disagree if our favorite tactics are no longer acceptable? That may be beyond the scope of this blog as it involves our spiritual life and a radical change in the way we do things. However, it may be useful to point to one concrete example.