Monthly Archives: November 2014

St. Paul the Pastor Leader

St. Paul declares to the Elders of the Church in Ephesus, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of al of you.” Why? “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

That is, Paul preached the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Thus, he was a good pastor, dispensing truth and feeding the flock.

He leaves the charge to the Elders that they too be good pastors: “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the Church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood.”

He then issues a warning: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Let us pray for your pastors. Acts 20:26ff.

Catholic Idolatry

There are three ways to view and treat the world. First, one can run from it and hate it in itself. Why? Cowardice, shameful lack of magnanimity and graciousness, solipsistic self-loathing. This is the way religious nut jobs approach the world: They run to the hills out of hatred of the world as such.

Second, one can worship at its feet, desire it for its own sake, seek in it one’s true end. This is the way of paganism.

Third, one can embrace the world insofar as it is the way to heaven and the medium for the glorification of God. In this way, the world is loved insofar as it reflects the glory of God and is an instrument to our return to him. This is the way of true religion.

Sadly, 63 years ago, many Catholic theologians erroneously thought that good, solid, orthodox Catholics approached the world in the first way. That is, many Catholic theologians thought good Catholics hated the world out of fear. Perhaps there were a few. But in reality, there were not so many. Good solid Catholics always have the third way of treating the world.

But on that erroneous judgment, these theologians decided to stress embrace of the world. Sadly, they did not adequately distinguish the third way, embracing the world as reflection of and instrument of return to God, from the second way, the way of heathen worship.

In this fusion of the second and third ways, their agenda was both good and evil. They described “apostolate” as using all the means of the world to evangelize, to bring people to Christ and to his Church. That is great. That is right. That is the third way!

How did they interpret that? Say yes to the things of the world. If it is, it must be good, for God created it. And all things then must be good. Insofar as a thing is, it is good. This sounds good.

But In fact, it is simple minded.

Things must be rightly ordered. The lower good must be loved  for the sake of the higher goods. We cannot love lower goods simply for their own sake, without connection to the higher goods. Rather, we must embrace each thing insofar as it reflects the glory of God. This is the right and true way of worship. My whole life must be ordered to the Worship of God, the Holy Trinity, in the Face of Christ and by the light of the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father. That is right worship.

Here’s what happens to our apostolic vigor: We begin by saying, “I’ll grab a beer with Mike, and tell him about the Church. I’ll have a beer, though I could fast, because that way I’ll ‘relate’ to him better, accept him where he’s at. And ‘if he exists and the beer exist,’ they must be good.” But after three months of having beers with Mike, now I’m really enjoying my micro-brew with him. I kind of like chumin’ with him. I begin to desire the beer for its own sake. The conversation for its own sake. I begin to think that this is a good in itself. That it has no higher purpose, no order to a higher good, no reference to Mike’s returning to the Catholic Church, which he foolishly and to the danger of his soul abandoned as a young man.

In short, from my enthusiastic embrace of the world as instrument in the third way, I have slid into a partial love of the world for its own sake, the second way. I have divided my life in two. Yes, I want to give all to God. But now I find myself giving only most to God. I find myself wanting a little time and space of my own, not ordered to him. I choose it because it is desirable. That is what happened to the Catholic apostolate in many cases. That is what happened to the bishops in many cases. They began by having dinners with political figures as ways of encouraging the good. They ended up really liking the conversations and dinners… for their own sakes!

Next up? We get a group of so-called conservatives defending a “New” view of Natural Law that is, to quote a brilliant Jewish friend of theirs, “Neither natural nor law.” These new thinkers of the natural law tell us we can aim at more than God, at the whole set of “goods in themselves. Ain’t that nice. If I, living in America, want to “aim at” a nice day at the football game, then golf, then a beer, and a few minutes of prayer, well that’s all well and good. I can do and become dis-solute in this manner, say the new thinkers of the natural law, and that is part of a well-balanced life. It is not all ordered towards one end, God. It is a whole package of goods.

Ain’t it good to be an American idol(ater)? That’s what we have become. Idolaters. We are 50 percent worshippers of God and 50 percent idolaters. Which means we are divided in two. We are not integrated.

It is difficult to keep the Third Way. Very difficult. It is the way of the Cross. Now, if the theological assessment of 63 years ago was false, and the solution led to this current idolatry, we clearly need, today, a resounding condemnation of the second way. This is what is most needed pastorally. A resounding condemnation of the second way.

But that would mean to pay attention to Heaven and Hell. To the final destiny. To preach. To confront sinners with the deadliness of their sins. To sacrifice. To worship. To be ordered, wholly ordered to God. To be, in short, holy.

(But it’s so nice just seeing the Redskins game next to the Secretary of State, while we sip wine, talk about pleasant things, consider the sun setting, and look at how wonderful life is, when you’re in the world….)

The sinner-with-whom-we-drink but to-whom-we-ought-to-preach knows deep down what we ought to be about and what we ought not to be about. How do you think this sinner feels, deep down? How would you feel if your physician only ate chips and salsa, only drank a micro-brew with you, when he knows you’re dying of a cancer that is treatable, while he really doesn’t want to bring it up right now, since it will cause you great unease and a change of lifestyle?

That is why the world is dis-gusted with the Church. The world wants to vomit up this charade! And rightly so. May the world do its deed! May it be the arm of God in his execution of justice! May it spew out the lukewarm semi-idolaters, even if those “zealous for your house” must also perish at the same time.

Non-Negotiable Values 1

There are some non-negotiable values. There are, in short, some things worth dying for. Why do we use that expression? Is it oxymoronic? Are there “negotiable values”?

We must admit that the term “values” can itself be problematic. It puts the stress on the subjective view. Pushed to the limit, it seems to end in relativism. “I value this; you value that; can’t we just agree to disagree?”

If the origin of the term is a certain kind of moral thinking that bordered on relativistic, nonetheless some well-intentioned people began to use it. For the term “values” became dominant; so, those who believed that some things are just always wrong, no matter what the circumstance, had to use the expression “values”. In order to make their point precisely, in order to show that some things cannot be accepted, ever, they added the adjective “non-negotiable.”

In the Catholic world, the expression is intended to bear the burden of the phrase “intrinsically evil action”. In fact, that is the term we should use, so that we do not confuse everyone, including ourselves, with our “adaptation to today’s expressions”. Because sometimes, when you use another person’s terms, you soon find you’re arguing on his terms! Catholics must not, however, argue on the “world’s terms.”

What does “intrinsically (per se) evil action” mean? It means a generically describable action which under no circumstances and for no intentions could ever be good. It is always evil. “Intrinsically evil”. Its essence is to be evil. You can never get circumstances to make it right.

What’s more, everything that is ingredient to that act, everything that is intended or helpful for that act, as a means towards that act, already participates in its evil and hence is also evil.

We therefore defend the category “non-negotiable values” as our last term for “intrinsically evil actions” in a society that is so lost it cannot speak of “evil” anymore. To downplay this category is to risk eclipsing this last vestige of objective truth and to focus only on culpability.

But everyone knows that it is not our office (layman’s or shepherd’s) to judge culpability. It is, nonetheless, the shepherd’s office to hold people to account in terms of the objective truth so as rightly to guide, protect and feed the straying sheep (see Pius X, Pascendi, arts. 1-3), we cannot afford to lose that category.

Can a Pope Err? The Case of Liberius

The case of Liberius.

The matter is historically very difficult to determine definitely in all its details. However, Pope Liberius (p. 352-366) excommunicated Saint Athanasius. He wrote about this excommunication proudly to many persons.

Initially, Liberius stood behind Athanasius. He stood behind Nicaea. He bravely went up to Milan to meet the Emperor, who was espousing so-called “semi-Arianism.” Semi-Arianism was a muted form of Arianism. It was supposed to be a “compromise” kind of doctrine.

The semi-Arians saw themselves as those who promote “peace” and “tolerance” within the Church and the Empire. Since the Arian controversy was raging and rending the whole world, ecclesiastical and political, in two, unity was highly desirable. If the pure Arians outright said that the Son is totally other than the Father, of a substance unlike the Father, the semi-Arians said that he was “similar” to the Father.

Well, Liberius went up to Milan to face the Emperor. Bravely he stood his ground, and unjustly was he sent into exile. After some years in exile, however, he pined away and regretted his misery. Soon the semi-Arians heard of this. And they got him to agree to excommunicate Athanasius.

Then, the got him to sign a semi-Arian creed. The emperor and the ecclesiastical semi-Arians had arranged, before this time, numerous synods and gatherings of bishops that destroyed or undermined the faith. So, there were many heretical or heterodox documents floating around.

Everyone was very confused as to what the faith was.

Although on the books was the Great Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, already ratified. If the people at that time wanted to avoid confusion, they needed only plug their ears to the latest synodal document, plug their ears to the latest finding of this gathering of bishops or that, and study the truly infallible teaching of Nicaea, and they would have kept their course soundly. Some did. Some didn’t. But that would have been their compass in those troubled seas.

Well, just what semi-Arian document did Liberius sign? The absolutely certain answer to that question might not be known until the Eschaton.

However, the scholars of the Denzinger text indicate that it was the one in which we find the following propositions. 1) The Son should not be confused with the ‘unbegotten God’. A very nifty proposition for wafflers! Why? Because the property ‘unbegotten’ is obviously opposed to ‘being a Son’. The Son is begotten. But the creed conflates ‘being true God’ with ‘being the unbegotten God’. Thus, without expressly denying that the Son is “true God” the creed implicitly denies it. It certainly does not affirm it. (Although Nicaea did affirm it! Thus, once again, if the people of the day had stuck to the real fullness of the truth, and not let later watered down texts lead them astray, they would not have been fooled by a merely ‘half truth’.)

But the creed gets worse. It also states, “We do not place the Son in the same order as the Father, but we say that he is subject to the Father.” This text is very difficult to spin in a positive direction. On the surface, it seems to rank the Son as “not true God”. He is “subject” to the Father, etc.

Thus, this semi-Arian creed combines the following: a) watered down expressions of the true faith (half truths); b) implicit denials of elements of the true faith; and c) apparently, explicit denials of the true faith. In short, a very bad thing.

Yet, Pope Liberius signed off on it. Not a few very respectable Catholic scholars (Newman, Petavius, et alia), who profess the Faith of Vatican I, see Liberius here as having caved to the Arian error.

Some try to argue that he signed the Creed against his will and at the force of arms. That is a stretch. He was under duress. But he willingly signed. In fact, the Church’s Magisterium teaches that there is a difference between duress and absolute constraint, between “forced” and “forced”. If you, because of fear, you actually submit to being baptized, you are validly baptized! But if you in your heart refuse the baptism and they drag you, you are invalidly baptized. Thus, doing something because of fear does not mean you do it without freedom.

Apply that mutatis mutandis here. Pope Liberius was afraid and fearful, but he actually consented.

Some try to argue that the creed was ambiguous and so not overtly heretical. Perhaps.

But he certainly let down the Holy Apostolic Catholic and Roman Church at a time of great crisis, in which political factions desired some middle between orthodoxy and total depravity. The compromise path labeled the depravity what it is, depravity, but pitted it against the true orthodox faith as against something too rigorous, something “inflexible” (Newman, Arians of the Fourth Century, Longmans 1897), p. 322.

Obviously, the “middle path” the Emperor and the semi-Arians carved was a false path; they identified the extremes badly. The true faith is never to be considered “inflexible” (as a pejorative). It is the only truth there is known to man in matters supernatural! And without it, one cannot have charity towards the neighbor whom one should love for the greater love of God.

“Mysterium Fidei”

Why does the Traditional Canon “insert” into the pure Gospels words not uttered by Christ, namely “The Mystery of Faith”?

Such is a question that some ask. A pope has already answered.

1. The Gospels are not exhaustive reports of what Jesus said. Obviously.

2. “We believe that the apostles have received from Christ the words of the formula found in the canon, and their successors have received them from the apostles.” Denzinger-S #783 (Fastiggi translation).

The more pertinent question is why these words are not in the present canon and Eucharistic prayers of the Novus Ordo. Trent affirmed the importance of these terms in its decree on the Mass. It seems to me that if the current prayers were reformulated, reflection on this question would be very important.

Fate of Unbaptized Deceased Infants?

Many today are of the opinion that deceased infants who never received baptism can be saved. Hence, they have a hope that this is possible.

The issue is complex.

One important text that presents a difficulty for such a hope is the Council of Florence, an ecumenical council.

It declares, “Concerning children, because of the danger of death, which can often happen, when there cannot be for them another remedy except through the sacrament of baptism, by which they are saved from the dominion of the devil and adopted as sons of God, [the Church] admonishes parents…” not to delay until the 40th day.

(And how many people delay for several months these days.)

Note that the text delares: cum ipsis non possit alio remedio subeniri, nisi per sacramentum baptismi. There cannot be for them another remedy than baptism.

Can this text be squared with the hope for their salvation in Christ?

I do think this is a very sobering text.

We also have the declaration of the Church that “The souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds” (Florence, Old Denzinger # 693). This “different kinds of punishment” is understood to mean that such infants, not having personally sinned, are punished with the absence of vision. They are, many propose in a kind of Limbo. They enjoy natural rest, but have no awareness of their supernatural loss.

The category “Only original sin” means infants: Those who never acted freely but died without baptism. Now, this category is empty if every infant who died without baptism is saved. But it is rather unfitting for a Church teaching to be simply empty.

Hence, it is theologically safer to say that no such infants are in heaven. Perhaps there is warrant in some cases to hope and pray for their salvation. For instance, a devout Catholic couple who has lost a child. They intended to Baptize the child. Perhaps Almighty God in his mercy will save this child.

This much is certain. That there is no promise made to these infants. Thus, the weakest statement we can make is: Church has no knowledge that they can be saved. A stronger reading of Florence is that the Church has declared that she knows that there is no remedy.

How far we are today, with our presumptions, from such sobriety. Delay not their baptism. Thank God for his mercy, do not presume on it.