So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, December 8, 2014

Baying at the moon.

There is a serious concern among many lay folk that despite the Holy Father's attempts to expose the heart of the Church to the world so we may better embrace the lost and suffering among us, the Holy Father has merely exposed himself and the Holy See to manipulation by prelates harbouring an evil intent or, at the very least, a very confused agenda.

Cardinal Dolan once opined that
(t)he three most recent Popes – Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis – “are all giants,”... and each “has particular talents.” 
“John Paul II emphasized the soul,” he suggested.
“His eloquent calls to prayer; his accent on the revival of the spirit; his concentration on the sacraments and devotions of the church, which bring the grace and mercy of Jesus; his tender trust of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his record ‘saint-making,’ cogently reminded us that the soul comes first.”
“In Pope Benedict XVI we have a successor of St. Peter who emphasized the head,” Cardinal Dolan continued, noting that the recently retired Pope helped to “renew the church’s vast intellectual heritage, and remind us so effectively that faith and reason are hardly at odds, but actually allies.”
“And now, Pope Francis emphasizes the heart,” he said. 
“Warmth, mercy, joy, tenderness, outreach, acceptance, love,” the cardinal observed, “all flow from the heart, and those are the words most used by Pope Francis.”
“Don’t get me wrong: All three knew well that the soul, the head and the heart were all essentials,” Cardinal Dolan explained. “But each had a particular favorite.”—CNA, Oct. 4, 2013.
Questions that need to be answered.
Thorin Oakenshield: You think the Synod Elves will give our quest their blessing? They will try to stop us. 
Gandalf: Of course they will. But we have questions that need to be answered. If we are to be successful this will need to be handled with tact, and respect, and no small degree of charm, which is why you will leave the talking to me.
Francis Cardinal George, the now Archbishop-Emeritus of Chicago and a man of God with an excellent mind and sure will even in the midst of his ongoing battle with cancer, has some questions for the Holy Father. That is, questions that need to be answered.

Does Francis realise, for example, “what has happened just by that phrase, ‘Who am I to judge?’”

Francis’s signature sound-bite, George said, “has been very misused … because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution, whom he knows well,” George said.

“That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness,” George said.

“Does he not realise the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t,” George said. “I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise doubts in people’s minds.”

“The question is why he doesn’t he clarify” these ambiguous statements, George said. “Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear the burden of trying to put the best possible face on it?”
Pope Francis' comments have tended to create a mess, though likely not the kind of mess he may have preferred when he spoke the following words:
“What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! ... I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"—Pope Francis, World Youth Day, NCReg., 8/1/13.
After several decades of extreme messiness in the Church—bearing in mind that there has never been a time when the Church has been entirely free from confusion or persecution—the advent of John Paul-the-Great, and in his turn Benedict XVI, brought much hope to faithful Catholics who had long suffered the muddle created by misguided people which arose during the pontificate of the prophetic pope Blessed Paul VI. The trajectory the Holy Spirit set during the glorious pontificates of St. John Paul and Benedict is captured by Cardinal Dolan's reflection, over simplified as it may be.

Following in the footsteps of giants.

To say that JP2 left big shoes to fill is an epic understatement. B16 was well prepared, however, with a big hat to cover the head of "a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord". Is Papa Bergoglio truly the heart to Ratzinger's head and Wojtyla's soul? Does Francis has a heart big enough to accommodate JP2's immense "soul" and B16's massive intellect, a heart big enough to integrate a vision of the Church promoted by Benedict that has inspired many men to enter the priesthood?

Off the cuff or off the wall?

Papa Bergoglio does wear his heart on his sleeve. It should not surprise, then, that his words are very often off-the-cuff. His recent request for a blessing from the Patriarch of Constantinople is yet another example of his natural spontaneity. If Papa Francis' spontaneity is a sign of heart, then yes, Francis has heart. But, is an emphasis on 'heart' needed in the Church at this time? Will hugs and kisses work to tease people back into the loving embrace of Holy Mother Church? Will 'heart' be enough to entice people to live the Faith with greater integrity? The Cardinal electors seemed to think so when they chose Jorge Bergoglio to be the next Supreme Pontiff. In a conversation with a renowned bishop liturgist who visited our diocese some months ago, the comment was offered that "the Cardinals wanted a popular pope, and they got one."
Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.—St. Luke 6:26
Pope John Paul II, the globetrotting pope, could hardly be outdone in the popularity category. What makes John Paul II "great" to many people is the vast intellectual and spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit lavished upon him, gifts which he then lavished on others by appealing to people's sense of human dignity and drawing their attention to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, and to His mother Mary, the great Mother of God. Pope St. John Paul II was a man of the people because he was first and foremost a man of God.

Papa Benedict gave back to us a love for beauty, truth and goodness, especially with regards to the Liturgy, thus helping us to overcome the false dichotomy created by the religious social workers who have for decades pitted right liturgy against social justice. Benedict's example heralded a reform of the reform. Benedict presided as a true pastor of souls possessing minds best fed on cuisine, not the pablum that so many in the pews had been fed for almost fifty years.

Now, however, confusion has returned. Papa Francis' comments have stirred much debate and have been appropriated by those who would empty the Gospel (if that were possible) of its truth and authentic mercy.

Mercy—at what cost?

Pope Francis has been surrounded by self-proclaimed and media stamped progressives, a term which usually expands into a condemnation of anyone else who opposes heresy and stands up for the Faith, men such as Cardinals Burke and Müller of the CDF. The progressive clerics have engaged in manipulation of language—caught and rejected by the majority at Synod—and incorrigible behaviour toward other bishops. The African representatives at the Synod were demeaned by Cardinal Kasper who relegated their faithful witness to the Apostolic Faith to second class status. Kasper and his camp pushed for an unthinkable change to doctrine and practice so that divorced and remarried Catholics could receive Holy Communion. Aided by allies in the mainstream media, Kasper and his ilk painted opposition to his agenda as coming from merciless pharisees.

Many dangers, toils and snares.

The question must be asked: Who has the Pope's ear? The Holy Spirit or conniving men? Both, perhaps? The danger that concerns many in the Church is not to the Faith which cannot be changed in the Lord's Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit will not have that! No, the danger is to souls whose faith is weakened by confusing statements coming from Rome. Thanks be to God, the Holy Father has been issuing some hard-hitting statements in defence of marriage and the family since the end of the Synod.

Best buddies no longer?

Media enthusiasm for Francis is slow to wane because their agenda is to drive a wedge between the Pope and faithful bishops. They desperately want to establish themselves as supportive of the pope. So, they have constructed a caricature of the pope that is made in the image of themselves and an agenda which runs counter to the very teachings of Christ. In that regard, the media agenda is diabolic. The media cannot lose its grasp on the Holy Father so they turn their attack, instead, toward those faithful bishops they accuse of pressuring the Pope to change his plans. Of course, the media cannot compel this particular pope to conform to their agenda. He has proven himself capable of outpacing media stereotypes about the papal office. His definition of mercy does not fit the media mould, and they are desperate to try and regain control of the narrative about Pope Francis. With all that in mind, we can expect many additional media shots to be fired at faithful bishops in an attempt to marginalize the faithful and provide room for the heterodox bishops to work their influence on the Holy Father. Whether or not the mainstream media pundits realize it, their agenda is a fool's errand. They, the devil's minions, simply cannot match the genius of the Holy Spirit.

Time will provide opportunities for pundits to assess the degree to which Pope Francis' tenure conforms to the trajectory of the Holy Spirit, or how much any particular action hinders the restoration of truth, goodness and order that is still so badly needed. If Francis' call for a shake up is part of the Spirit's design, and we should be open to that thought whether it means the Church is in for a rough ride or a calmer trip down the Tiber, then we should pray that God will grant us the grace to live and practice the Faith in obedience to the Roman Pontiff. That obedience, however, does not preclude respectful criticism of the means by which Papa Bergoglio is carrying out the responsibilities of the Office of Saint Peter.

Papa Francis needs our prayers. May he be protected from manipulation by men with evil aspirations. May Francis, man of heart, be given the courage to stand for the teaching of Christ and give clear witness so as to end confusion in the hearts and minds of the faithful.

We should pray, too, that those prelates who surround the Holy Father may be purified of any and all falsehood. May they not act on any temptation to manipulate the Holy Father and the mission of the Church toward evil ends.

Anatomy 101

So then, what will the next pope be? According to Cardinal Dolan, we've had:
  1. soul
  2. head
  3. heart
Perhaps we could benefit from someone who is 'all of the above'. The Church needs clarity of vision during times of upheaval. Where there is instability in the world, the Church must navigate the tempest with a firm hand on the tiller.
  • The next pope must love the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Faith. Because the Holy Eucharist is "source and summit" for Christians, the next pope should, first and foremost, foster love and respect for the Liturgy. (It remains to be seen if the Pope's recent appointment of the tradition-minded Cardinal Sarah to the CDW signals any kind of turn in that direction. A turn toward right liturgy would help confirm continuity with Benedict's reform-of-the-reform.)
  • The next pope should have eyes with which he can see clearly the direction indicated by the Holy Spirit.
  • The next pope should integrate and supplement his predecessors' work in a way that strengthens and confirms the brethren in the mission to save souls.
  • The next pope must act in a decisive manner that makes clear the unchanging nature of the Catholic Faith.
Counter Intelligence

For those who believe the Counter Reformation has ended, take a look around: Catholics are leaving the Church in droves. Attracted by a pseudo-gospel slathered with a veneer of joy, Latin American Catholics by the millions are buying a materialistic prosperity gospel proposed by evangelical protestants. Europeans and North Americans have been lured away by another story, the false gospel of secularism in its many guises: sexual liberation and abortion; rejection of authority and relativism; and materialism.

There is a place we can look to for a solution: Africa. The flower of Catholicism is blooming on the great continent. The lands comprising what was formerly called the Dark Continent are now a beacon of light and breath of life to a moribund West. During the last conclave, some speculated an African might be chosen as the next Supreme Pontiff. That bet, hope or inspiration could very well come to pass in the next conclave.

The Africans are far more Roman, i.e., faithful to the Catholic Communion and the authentic vision of the Second Vatican Council, than most Europeans and North Americans could hope to be. Many of our African brethren are being sorely tested by persecution and threats of violence from Islamists. Africans have managed to remain faithful to the intellectual and aesthetic foundations of the Faith delivered to them by selfless missionaries while many churches in the West sit empty and many parishes have no priests.

Another place we can look to for an increase of faith is the tradition-minded communities that actually preach, teach and practice the Faith. Parishes where the Mass is celebrated reverently and by-the-book are producing strong families and vocations to the priesthood and religious life. A younger generation, as it has been well noted here and elsewhere, is not burdened with the misguided anti-authority hippy mindset of an older generation that barely knows the Catholic story.

Catechesis in Music

It's time we stop putting stock in goofy programs that offer limp catechesis. It's time we eliminate bad pop music from Mass and insist on chant and bona fide sacred polyphony that embodies the Catholic story and connects Catholics to their roots in Jesus Christ. The music most Catholics are routinely subject to is a major part of the problem regarding a loss of faith and identity. The drippy devotional ditties presented in most parishes reek of empty clichés that reduce the Faith to trite catchphrases. There is nothing praiseworthy about music (or something that purports to be music) which places constant emphasis on the worshipper and has us singing in the voice of God (I the Lord of sea and sky...). Music that avoids speaking to God and instead merely gushes about how nice it is to be a promoter of social(-ist) projects amounts to a bad PR stunt (e.g., the song All Are Welcome) while avoiding the obvious—i.e., offering praise and thanksgiving to God.

It's time we put a stop to the curious antics of priests and people who think they own the Liturgy and can thus impose their own inventions on the Mass. It's time we assert that we want the Mass celebrated according to the rubrics with the decorum proper to its nature as the Sacrifice of Christ. It's time to liberate the Liturgy from the shackles imposed by Fr. Entertainment or maestro Saccharine Showtune.

When all the hugging and kissing, warm fuzzies and saccharine platitudes begin to fade, will there be substance for the drifters to come home to?

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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