Monthly Archives: October 2015

Irenaeus Condemns Gnostics

I’d like to post words from a great Doctor of the Church, St. Irenaeus. I’ll let them sit for a while and may post a commentary in the days to come. Suffice it to say that these words of Irenaeus are not of merely museum interest. They bear on the decisions and proposals afoot today in God’s Church.

Against Heresies, III.5, from ANF, vol. 1.:

  1. Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, and is permanent among us, let us revert to the Scriptural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, John 14:6 and that no lie is in Him. As also David says, prophesying His birth from a virgin, and the resurrection from the dead, Truth has sprung out of the earth. The apostles, likewise, being disciples of the truth, are above all falsehood; for a lie has no fellowship with the truth, just as darkness has none with light, but the presence of the one shuts out that of the other. Our Lord, therefore, being the truth, did not speak lies; and whom He knew to have taken origin from a defect, He never would have acknowledged as God, even the God of all, the Supreme King, too, and His own Father, an imperfect being as a perfect one, an animal one as a spiritual, Him who was without the Pleroma as Him who was within it. Neither did His disciples make mention of any other God, or term any other Lord, except Him, who was truly the God and Lord of all, as these most vain sophists affirm that the apostles did with hypocrisy frame their doctrine according to the capacity of their hearers, and gave answers after the opinions of their questioners,— fabling blind things for the blind, according to their blindness; for the dull according to their dulness; for those in error according to their error. And to those who imagined that the Demiurge alone was God, they preached him; but to those who are capable of comprehending the unnameable Father, they did declare the unspeakable mystery through parables and enigmas: so that the Lord and the apostles exercised the office of teacher not to further the cause of truth, but even in hypocrisy, and as each individual was able to receive it!

  2. Such [a line of conduct] belongs not to those who heal, or who give life: it is rather that of those bringing on diseases, and increasing ignorance; and much more true than these men shall the law be found, which pronounces every one accursed who sends the blind man astray in the way. For the apostles, who were commissioned to find out the wanderers, and to be for sight to those who saw not, and medicine to the weak, certainly did not address them in accordance with their opinion at the time, but according to revealed truth. For no persons of any kind would act properly, if they should advise blind men, just about to fall over a precipice, to continue their most dangerous path, as if it were the right one, and as if they might go on in safety. Or what medical man, anxious to heal a sick person, would prescribe in accordance with the patient’s whims, and not according to the requisite medicine? But that the Lord came as the physician of the sick, He does Himself declare saying, They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:31-32 How then shall the sick be strengthened, or how shall sinners come to repentance? Is it by persevering in the very same courses? Or, on the contrary, is it by undergoing a great change and reversal of their former mode of living, by which they have brought upon themselves no slight amount of sickness, and many sins? But ignorance, the mother of all these, is driven out by knowledge. Wherefore the Lord used to impart knowledge to His disciples, by which also it was His practice to heal those who were suffering, and to keep back sinners from sin. He therefore did not address them in accordance with their pristine notions, nor did He reply to them in harmony with the opinion of His questioners, but according to the doctrine leading to salvation, without hypocrisy or respect of person.

Exposé: Salesians Promote the Solitary Sin

The Lepanto Institute has just released an explosive report on the Salesians, claiming that the religious order promotes the solitary sin in its missions.

The Solitary Sin: Gateway to all sordid sins. It is an obstacle to friendship, to communion, to relationship. It is the gateway to the abuse of women, esp. through porn, which dominates the “American lifestyle.” Itself a vice of effeminacy among men, it is the gateway to all unnatural vices.

Some renegade priests are claiming that the Solitary Sin is not sin, or at least not grave sin. False. It is the constant and universal teaching of the Church that the Solitary Sin is gravely evil. It is one of the “unmentionable” sins in the Scriptures.

It may be that the Solitary Sin underlies all sorts of cooperatively performed sexual sins. The Solitary Sin and pornography together.

In today’s confusion in morals, together with an idolatry of health, the Solitary Sin seems to be medicine’s prescribed remedy for restlessness. Not virtue but sin is the prescription. Sin that leads to more sin. For once the appetite is set on pleasure as its end – which is what happens in each and every act of the solitary sin – it craves more and more. Just as, once the appetite is set on justice, truth, and God’s Glory as its end – which is what happens when one repents of sin through the grace of God and an act of love towards God which implies love of neighbor – one is satisfied with nothing less than God.

Let us be clear: Everyone has a battle to fight, a war. Death and life are at stake. Our hearts are the field. What will we choose? The path of life, arduous to be sure, but sweet and full of an invigorating peace? Or the path of death, easy to be sure and ready to hand, but bitter and full of self-hatred, division within one’s house, being-lost-ness, self-outside-self-ness, anger, and enervating anxious remorse?

In the refrain of the great Advent Hymn: “Old man: Therefore, repent.”

Lessons of Bravery from Pius VI

From his Inscrutabile, an exhortation to cowardly bishops to preach the Truth, esp. to those in error:

The affair is of the greatest importance since it concerns the Catholic faith, the purity of the Church, the teaching of the saints, the peace of the empire, and the safety of nations. Since it concerns the entire body of the Church, it is a special concern of yours because you are called to share in Our pastoral concern, and the purity of the faith is particularly entrusted to your watchfulness. “Now therefore, Brothers, since you are overseers among God’s people and their soul depends on you, raise their hearts to your utterance,”[14] that they may stand fast in faith and achieve the rest which is prepared for believers only. Beseech, accuse, correct, rebuke and fear not: for ill-judged silence leaves in their error those who could be taught, and this is most harmful both to them and to you who should have dispelled the error. The holy Church is powerfully refreshed in the truth as it struggles zealously for the truth. In this divine work you should not fear either the force or favor of your enemies. The bishop should not fear since the anointing of the Holy Spirit has strengthened him: the shepherd should not be afraid since the prince of pastors has taught him by his own example to despise life itself for the safety of his flock: the cowardice and depression of the hireling should not dwell in a bishop’s heart. Our great predecessor Gregory, in instructing the heads of the churches, said with his usual excellence: “Often imprudent guides in their fear of losing human favor are afraid to speak the right freely. As the word of truth has it, they guard their flock not with a shepherd’s zeal but as hirelings do, since they flee when the wolf approaches by hiding themselves in silence…. A shepherd fearing to speak the right is simply a man retreating by keeping silent.”[15] But if the wicked enemy of the human race, the better to frustrate your efforts, ever brings it about that a plague of epidemic proportions is hidden from the religious powers of the world, please do not be terrified but walk in God’s house in harmony, with prayer, and in truth, the three arms of our service. Remember that when the people of Juda were defiled, the best means of purification was the public reading to all, from the least to the greatest, of the book of the law lately found by the priest Helcias in the Lord’s temple; at once the whole people agreed to destroy the abominations and seal a covenant in the Lord’s presence to follow after the Lord and observe His precepts, testimonies and ceremonies with their whole heart and soul.”[16] For the same reason Josaphat sent priests and Levites to bring the book of the law throughout the cities of Juda and to teach the people.[17] The proclamation of the divine word has been entrusted to your faith by divine, not human, authority. So assemble your people and preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. From that divine source and heavenly teaching draw draughts of true philosophy for your flock. Persuade them that subjects ought to keep faith and show obedience to those who by God’s ordering lead and rule them. To those who are devoted to the ministry of the Church, give proofs of faith, continence, sobriety, knowledge, and liberality, that they may please Him to whom they have proved themselves and boast only of what is serious, moderate, and religious. But above all kindle in the minds of everyone that love for one another which Christ the Lord so often and so specifically praised. For this is the one sign of Christians and the bond of perfection.

Woman in Revelation 12

Who is the woman in Revelation 12?

Sadly, most biblical critics the past 100 years or so fail to see that the woman, indeed a polyvalent symbol, refers also to Mary.

Very quickly, we can establish this.

The woman is “with child”; she is about the bear “a son who is to rule the world with an iron rod”. Well, this is without question a reference to the Messiah. See Ps 2 for the connected imagery. The Messiah is a royal ruler on the throne of David. Further, as the expectation in the Old Testament increases, to the extent that the Messiah is to not just Judea but all the world. Rev. 12 thus refers really to the Messiah.

If the reference in the text is to a real son, one ought immediately to expect the woman to be a reference to a real woman. And thus, we have reference to Mary.

However, some critics hide behind another true reference in the text, as though truth could cancel truth. Some say that the woman symbolizes Israel, from whom the Messiah is to come (or to be born). Fine, let us accept this reference as well. We would then have a singular for the collective, a not unheard of Hebraism. But the singular standing for the collective does not cancel out the singular. Both can be held. And why not? What, is a village going to give birth to a particular man? What a monstrosity? How can Israel give birth to the Messiah without one particular woman doing so? How else can the Messiah come through Israel than through a “woman”? Ergo.

But wait, there is more.

The text continues, describing hostility between the woman’s offspring and the dragon. The dragon tries to get the son but the son is taken away. The dragon then is full of wrath towards the woman, who likewise is protected. (The flood does not touch her. Interesting, no?)

This woman then is described as mother of others, of “all who keep the commandments and bear testimony to Jesus.” Interesting. Here, many scholars, including Protestants, find a reference to the Church, which is mother of the Christian faithful. That’s great and true. Yet, these same take that truth to cancel out reference to Mary again.

In short, the critics can’t take truth. Not too much of it anyway.

But they are slain by the text itself, with its two-edged sword. For the text states that the dragon “went off to wage war on the rest of her offspring.”

Of whom could this predicate be said? Only of Mary.

Not of Israel, for Israel does not give birth to Christians, but perhaps (by collective standing for singular) Israel can be said to give birth to the Messiah, through the one woman.

Nor can the predicate be said of the Church, for the Church does not give birth to Jesus; Jesus institutes the Church.

Only of Mary can it be said that she is Mother of Christ and of all Christians.

How Mother of all Christians? First, she is “mother of John” (Jn 19) and we are all his brothers. This text is loaded in symbolism. Next, she is the New Eve, and Eve is “mother of all living”. Whereas Eve is physical mother, Mary is spiritual mother.

Indeed, if we deny that Mary is mother of all Christians, we have absolutely no one of whom this predicate “rest of her offspring” can be said.

A Condemnable Pope Condemned? Yes

Issue: Whether Jesus Christ – the Word Incarnate – has two wills and two acts of will, one for each will?

Dogmatic Answer: Yes.

Pope Honorius (d. AD 638) failed to have that answer. In words, at least, he professed “not two wills” and “not two operations”. He was reluctant to answer the question. There were factions and battles. The empire was being ripped asunder. The Church, torn here and there. Infidels threatened from the East and South to wipe out large swaths of Christianity. It seemed best to compromise, not to lead, not to defend the truth. Thus the woeful weakness of that Pope.

But the Church survived his inaction that effectively constituted objective treachery (or, worse, as it seems some thought: his complicit treachery). The Holy Church survived and in her teaching members came to her senses: Under the reigns of Honorius’s successors, she condemned the heresy that denies two wills and two acts of will; she also condemned Pope Honorius.

Ecumenical Council Constantinople III: “After having investigated the teachings by Sergius … and the letter written in reply by … Honorius, and after having discovered that these are entirely alien to the apostolic teachings and to the decisions of the holy councils and to all the eminent holy Fathers but instead follow the false teachings of the heretics, these we entirely reject and loathe as soul-destroying” (DS 550). “… We have seen fit to banish from the holy Church of God and to anathematize also Honorius, the former pope of the elder Rome because we have discovered in the letters written by him to Sergius that he followed in everything the opinion of that one and confirmed his impious teaching” (DS 552).

Pope Agatho (NPNF II):

“Woe is me, if I cover over with silence the truth which I am bidden to give…. What shall I say in the future examination by Christ himself, if I blush (God forbid!) to preach here the truth of his words? What satisfaction shall I be able to give for myself, what for the souls committed to me, when he demands a strict account of the office I have received?”

Again, “Who, then, my most clement and most pious lords and sons, (I speak trembling and prostrate in spirit) would not be stirred by that admirable promise, which is made to the faithful:  “Whoever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father, who is in heaven”?  And which one even of the infidels shall not be terrified by that most severe threat, in which he protests that he will be full of wrath, and declares that “Whoever shall deny me before men, him also will I deny before my Father, who is in heaven”?  Whence also blessed Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, gives warning and says:  “But though we, or an angel from the heaven should preach to you any other Gospel from what we have evangelized to you, let him be anathema.”  Since, therefore, such an extremity of punishment overhangs the corruptors, or suppressors of truth by silence, would not any one flee from an attempt at curtailing the truth of the Lord’s faith?

Pope Leo II, in the year 682, a little under 50 years after the death of the notorious Honorius: “We in like manner anathematize … [list of heretics] and also Honorius, who did not purify this apostolic Church by the doctrine of the apostolic tradition, but rather attempted to subvert the immaculate faith by profane treason.” DS 563.

Profession of Faith in Rome: “The council Fathers have restrained under the bond of perpetual anathema the following authors of a truly novel doctrine: Sergius, … along with Honorius, who extended favor to their distorted assertions” (see Ignatius Press Denzinger, p. 681).

 

BUT YOU WILL OBJECT: THE POPE IS INFALLIBLE.

I RESPOND: STOP BEING AN ULTRA-MONTANEThe pope’s very action is itself formally infallible when and only when he is defining a matter of faith and morals. I say defining. Everyone who has any sense of fundamental theology knows that such events are rare. (Not as rare as some minimalists maintain, but rare nonetheless.)

Example to illustrate this point: John Paul II used very strong and final language in his declaration that the Church has no authority whatsoever to ordain women. Let’s listen to the wording. He writes with the thunder of truth:

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

This declaration comes millimeters away from being in itself formally infallible. Still, in itself it is not infallible. Rather, it gives well nigh infallible witness to the already infallible and hence irreversible teaching of the Church. The content taught is infallible, but this declaration is itself not infallible.

“Says who?” pokes the doubting Thomas. “Says Ratzinger himself as Prefect of the CDF!” That’s who.

“On what grounds?” On the grounds that the Canon Law on the books at this time stipulated that such definitions must explicitly state that they are irreformable. But JPII did not do that. Ergo.

Now for an aside: JPII was a pope that followed canon law. If he wanted not to follow it, or to make it stricter, he changed the law before acting out of turn.

On that note, we close with a few relevant though seemingly scattered (but once again relevant and linked) lines of thought.

Sure, the pope can “act out of turn” since no one can authoritatively judge him. There is no tribunal by which he can be prosecuted – except by a successor pope, of course. But Truth judges him. Truth and Genuine Love judge him. Genuine Love wills the good for the sinner. But sin is evil for the sinner. Ergo, genuine love wills the separation of sin from the sinner. Now, when mortal sin clings to a sinner (i.e. a sinner does not repent by a determinate free act of repentance, which includes firm purpose of amendment, which entails willing no longer to sin and willing to take the needed action) then such a sinner cannot receive the Eucharist happily. Only miserably. Truth shepherds the sinner towards repentance, towards a cleansing, before it invites him to dine in celebration. If a man commits adultery, God forbid, he must repent and seek God’s forgiveness, the Church’s, and his wife’s. Perhaps she forgives him. If so, perhaps in time he can come to her as in the days of his youth. But if he is still shacking up with his concubine, then his wife would retain her dignity only by refusing him. And the on-going adulterer (e.g. “divorced” and “remarried”) retains his sobriety only be abstaining from communion. Even if an Angel were to tell him to receive, or that it would be OK to receive, he should shun such advice as contrary to all faith and reason and good sense and decency. After all, if he still has faith (isn’t that still a requisite for receiving???) then he knows that to receive in a state of sin is sacrilege that merits greater punishment after death. But hey – no one thinks about punishment anymore. None about sacrilege.

God is become in the minds of many a Lawless Sugar Daddy.

Benedict XVI on Historical Criticism

Historical Criticism is one massive reality. It is manifold and variegated, and its parts are radically diverse one from the other. In fact, what the heck does the term mean?

That is a massive question itself.

I want to make one very simple note here and perhaps follow it up in days to come. Pope Benedict XVI was, as many who read him closely know, a very tricky guy. A very subtle writer and thinker. His own theology (from the Highlights of Vatican II to Introduction to sundry articles) is quite a mixed bag. More on the mixed character anon.

Let’s look at what he has to say about historical critical method on the Bible in his Jesus book. P. xv looks pretty positive: the method “is and remains an indispensable dimension of exegetical work.” The reason is this: The Bible narrates facts not just universal ideas. Christianity is a religion of God coming historically to the world in sundry ways. Ergo, we cannot read adequately if we are ignorant of history. But the HC method is ingredient to reading history well. Ergo….

Pretty positive, no doubt. (But remember, I asked that Beast of a question: What the heck is historical criticism? That is a massive question that needs exploring. Anon.) But anyone who has read his pre-papal writings knows also of his important call for a “criticism of historical criticism”. He sounded that call – read it here – in 1988. It is a worthy article.

Furthermore, in his post-synodal exhortation, he calls for us to re-member, in(to) our exegesis, the absolutely necessary elements of Tradition, Analogy of Faith, and Magisterium. We must, that is, read the patristics and medieval and post-renaissance commentaries. We must know our Denzinger and our history of dogma. We must know the Bible as One Canonical Whole. The commentators to which I have referred are very rich and profound. Their minds are much more “biblical” than are those of the vast majority of contemporary exegetes. Benedict contends that we must re-member such approaches. Re-member: Put back in place; put together towards constituting a whole. In short, the ancient methods must form an integral part of the biblical critic’s own methodology. We are not talking, that is, only the systematist or moralist. We are talking biblical exegesis proper. Benedict is, here, reiterating the Ever Wise Pius XII. More on him anon.

If for 50 years Catholic critics have done the “HC” thing, the vast majority have not integrated into their task these other, classical approaches. Yet 50 years ago, Dei Verbum stated that one must pay “No Less Attention” to these (art. 12). Hence, a major overhaul of the practice of exgesis is necessary.

Back to B16’s tricky ways. He sounds pretty darn positive on p. xv of his text. Now, let’s just turn the page and read p. xvii:

“We have to keep in mind the limit of all efforts to know the past: We can never go beyond the domain of hypothesis.”

BOOM. This is huge, just huge. The best any historical critic, qua such, can do is give us a hypothesis. A hypothesis about the facts that we believe.

And this is the point: Our faith is not about hypotheses. It regards facts: Ontological Facts, Moral Facts, and Historical Facts. Therefore, the historical critic can never be the source of faith for us, never the source of assurance. When Raymond Brown unfolds the dynamics of celebrations of a certain feast, he indeed brings to life many of the concrete colors and riches of a passage in John. This is – no doubt – helpful. Yet it does not supply the truth of faith. When he, on the other hand, plays fast and loose with the Dogmatic Facts of History and denies this or that Dogmatic Fact about Our Blessed Mother: Then he betrays the faith. His method is obviously flawed in such practices (perhaps others?) because he contradicts Truth Itself. See Pius X, Pascendi one of the most important encyclicals of the 20th century (fast becoming important in our day of great evil and confusion), as antidote to all such false historical thinking.

Our faith is truth, not hypothesis. And Truth is what Pope Benedict rightly tells us the biblical exegete ought ultimately to be after. For without faith, we cannot please God (Heb 11). Let’s keep reading.

Pope Benedict calls for a “Christological Hermeneutic” of the text. Such a hermeneutic

“presupposes a prior act of faith. It cannot be the conclusion of a purely historical method,” p. xix.

Now we come to the real arrow, the sword. The act of faith is not uncertain but absolutely certain. It is not fallible but infallible. Pope Benedict is hereby contextualizing the limits of the method he has just praised.

I have said “Pope Benedict”. A final word of caution is due. Nothing in his book “Jesus” is a papal word. It is all “words of a pope,” i.e. “words of a man who happens to be pope”. Look up the phrases “papal words” and “words of a pope” on my site, in the search box. You can read previous posts on the topic. In short, the words in the volumes on Jesus have no papal authority. Benedict’s post-synodal exhortation (above linked) does have authority. The Ratzinger piece has no authority.

While we’re on the topic, let us make haste to add: Neither do the words of the Pontifical Biblical Commission have any authority. Paul VI stripped them of authority in the mid 1960’s. 1964 and earlier, the PBC had authority. But not since.

I repeat my recommendation: Buy everything you can of Cornelius a Lapide, perhaps the most worthy commentator in the past 500 years. This edition is excellent.

Archbishop Cupich vs. Pope Pius XI

Archbishop Cupich was just reported as suggesting that actively gay people could receive the Most August Sacrament of the Eucharist, if they examine their consciences and judge that such a lifestyle is in accordance with the moral order.

Lifesite News broke the story, which you may read here. Cupich allegedly states,

“If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. “

What does this mean? That they can go ahead and receive the Eucharist while committing sins that the Church and the Bible says “Cry out to heaven for vengeance”? If this is correct, then it seems the Archbishop is going to “leave them in their sins”. Why not extend a healing hand, with a clear remedy, and a clear statement of their error?

Such advice is an abomination that will lead to abominations of sacrilege. Sacrilege is evil on two counts. Above all, it is an offense against God in his only true religion. Closer to home, it involves the greater death of the lost souls that receive the Eucharist in such a state. We should all grieve for the people, if there be any, who end up taking his advice. It is a joy to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace; Misery to receive it in sin. Why should any pastor who loves souls consign them to greater misery? Why should any pastor despair that Jesus Christ has not the power to save, nor perhaps the will? Take heart, Pastors, that the Lord has plenty of power and plenty of will. Perhaps you yourselves are the very scandals and roadblocks in the way of the true peace of heart of these lost souls.

Now, then, let us analyze.

These lost souls are in one of several states: (1) Either they do recognize the law of God clearly or (2) they do not. If they do and they live this lifestyle freely, they are living in sin not only objectively but also subjectively. If they do not know the law clearly, then the good pastor instructs them. The good shepherd does not leave them infants – orphaned from the Truth. The good shepherd instructs them, leads them out of ignorance and into the Truth which alone will set them free. They are not free presently; they are in objective misery. Even if their culpability is mitigated – which remains a questionable contention, for they have nature as teacher, and if they are Catholics they have Holy Mother Church to whose actual and actually authoritative teachings anyone can turn at any time – still, they cannot be truly happy in this lifestyle. Hence, the response is not to justify them in their error but to e-ducate them, to lead them out of ignorance into God’s light.

(3) It might be, also, that these lost souls are as infants. Adult infants the French theologians used to opine. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Let’s run with the perhaps. If they are adult infants, they do not have the exercise of free will.  They cannot use it adequately. They are immature. Well, then, how could they be permitted in the Western Rite to receive the Eucharist, which is reserved for those with the use of free will? Further, how could they in any rite go to the Sacrament of Confession, which demands use of free will? But away with this nonsense, this solemn nonsense. One trains infants. One does this by withholding goods, for example. Such withholding leads to the infant growing up to see the good and the evil, to judge the good from the evil. Thus, freedom can emerge in maturity.

At last, let us return to Saner Times. Let us Hear the Ever Faithful Words of an Ever Faithful Pontiff, His Holiness Pope Pius XI of Happy Memory:

57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: “They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.[46]

Pius is urging priests in the sacred sacrament of penance to admonish and instruct wayward sinners, so that they would know that the law of God and of nature is that the marital act is for the purpose of procreation. Every act that frustrates that purpose is gravely evil, period.

Now, then, Pius was instructing Pastors in their actions regarding the internal forum.

How does Archbishop Cupich’s reported advice square with this? It is opposite in the most diametrically opposite way possible. First, as reported, he is addressing people in the external forum, as though giving counsel. Sure it is counsel that he would give privately, but not necessarily in the Sacrament of Confession. Ergo, not simply in the inner forum. Second, as reported, he vindicates the erroneous judgment of conscience, defending it. He “notes” the objective teaching of the Church but vindicates the subjective teaching of conscience.

Now, the conscience we will always have with us. We had it from the beginning. But Christ we did not always have, though we have his Church – against with even HELL ITSELF cannot stand – always with her perennial teachings. And Christ came to instruct consciences, not to vindicate people in their errors.

Are We at the End?

St. Paul narrates the trajectory of depravity in his Letter to the Romans:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

It seems that Paul is narrating the unnatural vices as the upshot of infidelity to God in the first place.

Contemplative, speculative appreciation of what Paul is narrating here, paired with the same for the Book of Wisdom, shows that Paul is indeed following the same spirit as that Book, and even reading it. Wis 13 narrates the foolishness of idolatry and the in-excusable character of failure to (a) recognize and (b) worship the one true God. Although not all can be philosophers, and few that can are good ones, yet all are responsible to follow the most basic inference from the fragility of the world, from its multiplicity and instability, from its contingency, all this weakness mixed into its very beauty and comeliness, its mild days and blue seas, its marvelous culmination in the sweet age of a new marriage — to the existence of one cause sustaining it all, to the existence of God. Anyone is capable of this inference and of the moral certainty that it is a true inference. Thus, those who do not recognize God’s existence are “without excuse”. Further, those who do not, from that recognition, give him the honor that is his due, are without excuse and idolaters, for they give their hearts to something or someone that is not God.

Wisdom makes these claims about idolaters in chap. 13. Paul does the same in Rom 1. Wisdom goes on to narrate further deterioration of morals in chap. 14:

“Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace. For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs, they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure, but they either treacherously kill one another or grieve one another by adultery, and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury, confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors, pollution of souls, sex perversion, disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery.”

Paul’s list of various evils dovetails with this list. What is here called sex-perversion, that is, unnatural sex acts, is spelled out in detail by Paul as the ultimate shame.

Might Paul’s text and the trajectory also discernible in Wisdom give us a hermeneutical clue as to how to read today’s signs of the times?

Quite obviously, we are presently experiencing the societal performance and celebration of utter perversions of sexual desire. Of course, perhaps we should add, briefly by way of passing, that the mere experience a desire for such unnatural acts, insofar as neither solicited by free will nor the result of moral defect, is not a sin but a disorder. Those burdened with the desire can even with such desires – provided they manfully resist them (see Trent, VI) attain great holiness, just as others burdened by temptations not the result of free will and not the result of neglect or moral defect, can attain great holiness.

But the acts to which the desires point are execrable. That is why the desires are themselves dis-ordered or, in classical terminology, perverted. Because the desire is disordered, it must be rejected not embraced. This does not mean “repressed in denial”. It means one must not think the desire good and something natural, to be embraced. It is something one should move beyond, and there are various ways of moving beyond it. Let the psychologists deal with their angle on the problem. The spiritual and moral authors say that any sexual desire whose act is not acceptable (sex with the same sexed person, sex with one not one’s spouse, sex with one’s spouse but not at the right time, etc.) should be IGNORED. That is, you should go and play some football, or run, or watch a hilarious movie, or pray. If you try to stare down the desire and fight it, it will swallow you alive like Leviathan. You turn the desire off by turning your mind to some engaging pursuit. HEY – ST. FRANCIS Threw himself into thorn bushes. That got his mind off the ladies. That is what you do in the emergency situation. In the more global situation, one needs to grow in charity and humility, the two greatest weapons against all sorts of perversions, according to a psychiatrist friend of mine. Also, one needs to grow in manliness through solid friendships with good manly men. One must avoid delicacies such as too much good gourmet food. One should accept hardship. Stop dwelling on oneself. Give to the poor. Wear an itchy shirt. Stop slaking your thirst all the time for “health’s” sake, and go an extra hour without water. Above all PRAYER AND THE ROSARY. The Devotion to the 7 Sorrows of Mary is very simple and very powerful. The Rosary is a lion’s jaw against the beastliness of the demons. Ok, enough said. There are also faithful groups such as COURAGE that offer sound spiritual and emotional and relational help.

Back to my point: To embrace the desire is to embrace the acts and hence to commit the execrable already in one’s heart.

Hence, it is utterly execrable and disastrous, a total abandoning of duty, even worse: The fomentation of evil, that Some Pastors of the True Church are even digging around, hunting around in the hope of finding good things in these perverse actions and the desire for them. They thus show themselves not to be shepherds but to be destroyers. St. Francis predicted a destroyer to come, at least this is what many contend. He predicted a destroyer to come, by which God would let people who want to have their ears tickled, have their ears tickled; by which the already-perverse and lost would by their own evil ways, deceive themselves by a deception to come.

Are we, then, at the final end, or, – which is in some respects the same for us or for anyone in the Church at any time of great crisis – at yet one more end of twisty turns, one more approximation to the Reign of Antichrist?

We believe that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, for our Master promised this. But note: Those gates seem close to ours. Newman thought as much about the Church in his day (1838 and into his Catholic years). How much worse are we off, today?

Lessons from Augustine 2

Augustine against the pseudo-mercy crowd of thieves, who strip men of their souls:

“Those people who continue to the end of their lives in the fellowship of the Catholic Church have no reason to feel secure, if their moral behaviour is disreputable and deserving of condemnation…. By the wickedness of their lives, they desert Christ” (City of God, XXI, chap. 25)

The whole of Book XXI should be read by everyone, esp. in this dark hour overshadowing us all.

Lessons from Pius XI

Pius XI thunders the truth – faithful pope defending the true faith and thus earning the love of the People of God by his acts and not merely his office. That truth is that God always gives grace sufficient for anyone to obey the law.

Therefore, there can be no such thing as a situation in which it is impossible for true conversion. There can be no such thing as a situation in which a person cannot be faithful to his marital vows. Perish the thought of the total dilemma:

No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. “Let no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.” (Casti connubii, art. 61)

In particular, everyone can remain sexually chaste, having an integrated sexuality that involves no mortal sin. This is truly possible. To say it is impossible is heresy.

Pius XI thunders again:

Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin (art. 56).

Would that the Church would “stand erect” in the midst of the moral ruin of our day. If the ruin was terrible in Pius’s day, it is far worse in ours.

O Pastors of the Church: Be faithful stewards and defenders and preachers of Truth, in season and out. If you are not, will not God smite you with a great and severe – and everlasting – judgment, for your failure to love the flock?

He loves not the sinner who does not will his conversion. He does not will the conversion of the sinner who does not take all the necessary measures by which to promote it in accordance with his office. It is the office of every preacher to preach the full truth and to encourage trust not in man – who cannot negate the law of God, even if he be Bishop or Pope – but in God only. Sinners have freedom and strength only in Truth and God, not in vacuous declarations against the law of God (or what is in the end the same, practical guidelines that futilely attempt to nullify God’s law), each and every one of which is null and void.