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Eccles and Bosco is saved

“Go to a gay orgy!” says Pope Francis

Posted: 22 May 2018 12:02 PM PDT

In a surprise change to 2000 years of Church teaching, Pope Francis has declared that homosexuality is great, it’s what God really prefers, and all gay people should get down to some serious bridge-buildingTM as soon as possible.Admittedly, the comment was made in a private meeting with a homosexual man, the Chilean Juan Carlos Cruz, who may have made the whole thing up, rather than – as is usual for changes to Catholic doctrine – in an aeroplane speech. But Fr James Martin SJ, himself a notorious bridge-builder, has said that it’s all true, so who are we to judge?

Juan Carlos Cruz

The new prophet Juan Carlos.

Apparently, Pope Francis explained that God is really fed up with heterosexuals, as they contribute to climate change by having babies. As Jesus said, “I suffer from little children who come unto me.” Instead, the Holy Father encouraged Mr Cruz to take part in some serious gay orgies, suggesting that Cardinal Coccopalmerio might be able to give him more information.

Vatican creche

A gay orgy at the Vatican.

Rigid traditional parrot-faced Pharisee Catholics were today somewhat disconcerted by the Pope’s latest teaching, which contradicts several books of the Bible, the Catechism, and numerous statements by Doctors of the Church, Popes, and other theologians over the centuries. But of course Pope Francis knows best.

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May 23, 2018, 12:05 am

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Analysis: With new appointments, Pope Francis puts his mark on the College of Cardinals

This is the first time in the five years of this pontificate, writes Andrea Gagliarducci, that in a possible future conclave the number of cardinals created by Pope Francis will surpass the number of cardinals created by his predecessors.

Cardinals attend the Good Friday service led by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this March 30 file photo. The pope announced May 20 that he will create 14 new cardinals at a June 29 consistory. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Vatican City, May 21, 2018 / 12:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ fifth consistory marks an important shift within the College of Cardinals: it is the first time in the five years of this pontificate that in a possible future conclave the number of cardinals created by Pope Francis will surpass the number of cardinals created by his predecessors.

As of April, the College of Cardinals is composed this way: there are 48 voting cardinals created by Pope Francis, 48 by Benedict XVI and 19 created by John Paul II, for a total of 115 voting cardinals.

After the June 29 consistory, the number of cardinals created by Pope Francis will be 59, and the total number of voting cardinals will be 125.

Only cardinals younger than 80 have the right to vote in a conclave. On June 8, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of the Cause of Saints, will turn 80, and so at the moment of the consistory there will there will be 47 voting cardinals created by Benedict XVI.

That means that Pope Francis has made the decision to surpass the limit of 120 voting cardinals set by Paul VI and confirmed by John Paul II. He did so also at the last consistory, in June 28, 2017, when Pope Francis created 5 new cardinals, all of them below the age of 80, that raised the total number of voting cardinals to 121.

Some other figures are revealing.

Since the very first consistory, Pope Francis wanted to show a universal Church by tapping for a “red hat” bishops or archbishops from countries that had never before been represented by a cardinal.

This consistory is slightly different, as Pope Francis picked countries that have been already had cardinals. Japan, Pakistan, Madagascar, and Iraq are back in the sacred college, after a long absence. With their presence there are now 87 countries represented in the College of Cardinals.

Europe is now the most represented continent, and will still be: after the next consistory, there will be 53 European voting cardinals. Latin America has a new representative in the sacred college, so there will be 13 Latin American voting cardinals; Africa will climb to 16 cardinals and Asia to 17 cardinals. North America will have 17 cardinals and Central America 5, while Oceania will keep 4 red birettas.

The roster of the pope’s new cardinals do not include any bishops from North America. It is particularly surprising that Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles will not be created a cardinal, given that his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, has already turned 82.

Even if it is Pope Francis’ unwritten rule to avoid creating cardinals in diocese that already have an elector, Los Angeles does not fit the bill.

The rationale could be that of representativeness: with 10 voting cardinals, the United States is second only to Italy as the most represented country in the College of Cardinals. This consideration might have weighed in Pope Francis’ decision.

Another point is also noteworthy: Pope Francis rarely makes cardinals in dioceses generally considered cardinalatial posts. So, Japan will be represented, but the cardinal will not be the Archbishop of Tokyo, as usual, but instead Archbishop Thomas Aquinas Manyo of Osaka. Madagascar is not represented by the Archdiocese of Antananarivo, its capital city, but by Archbishop Desiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina.

The appointment of the second cardinal from Madagascar – the first was Jérôme Louis Rakotomalala, created by Paul VI in 1969 – shows a particular concern for the Church in Madagascar, and might also pave the way to a Pope Francis’ visit to the African country.

There are clues supporting that possibility.

Bishop Gilbert Aubry, Bishop of Reunion and president of the Indian Ocean Bishops’ Conference, which met Pope Francis for their ad limina visit Apr. 9, said May 10 in an interview with Antenne Reunion that a papal visit in Madagascar might be scheduled for 2019. It would be the second visit of a Pope to Madagascar, and would mark the 30th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1989 visit.

Giving a wider glance at the list, it is easy to see many of Pope Francis’ main concerns. His focus on the Middle East is borne out in the fact that Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of the Chaldeans is the first of the list, even before Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and one of the three cardinals from the Roman Curia among the new red hats.

The appointment of Patriarch Sako as a cardinal shows the Pope’s attention to Iraq, and to suffering Churches – the Pope also appointed as a cardinal Syria’s nuncio, Mario Zenari, in the 2016 consistory.

Patriarch Sako recently said that he invited the pope to visit Iraq, during a visit with Francis in February. A papal visit to Iraq has been studied for years, and is considered likely to happen, once security issues can be solved.

Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, will also get the red hat: Pope Francis learned of the difficult situation of Pakistan speaking with Pakistani bishops in their ad limina visit March 15, and the red birretta likely aims to give more attention to a small Catholic community who is also targeted by the blasphemy laws.

The Roman Curia got three red hats: beyond the appointment of Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope appointed as cardinals Archbishops Giovanni Angelo Becciu and Konrad Krajewski.

This latter is the Papal Almoner, and he will apparently keep his post. It seems the pope wants to give to the office of the Papal Almoner the highest rank, emphasizing the work with poor. During recent years, the Papal Almoner has been promoter of many initiatives for poor, including a laundromat (“The Pope Francis laundry”) and a dormitory for the homeless.

The red hat given to Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, deputy to the Secretariat of State, might anticipate Archbishop Becciu’s appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, to replace Cardinal Amato, who will soon retire.

This would means, as a side effect, that there could be a further reshuffle within the Secretariat of State, with a new deputy, after the pope appointed Msgr. Joseph Murphy as new head of protocol March 22.

Archbishop Becciu is also one of the three new Italian cardinals.

Archbishop Angelo De Donatis, the Pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome, will be a cardinal. This appointment negates rumors that Pope Francis did not want his vicar in Rome, who oversees the leadership of the Diocese of Rome, to be a cardinal. Actually, the pope’s vicar is supposed to be a cardinal, according to a consistorial decree issued by Pope Paul IV in the 16th century.

With this appointment, the Diocese of Rome could have even more impact in a future conclave, considering that Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Archbishop De Donatis predecessor as Pope’s vicar of Rome, is 78, and so he still has the right to vote in a conclave.

As the Pope already did with the bishops of Ancona, Perugia and Agrigento, a red birretta will go to another Italian archbishop from a traditionally non-cardinatial diocese: Giuseppe Petrocchi of L’Aquila, the city still rebuilding after a huge earthquake in 2009.

It is noteworthy that Archbishops of Turin and Patriarch of Venice still have not gotten the red birretta, though their archdioceses have been traditionally led by cardinals. The Patriarch of Venice, as a patriarch, can wear red vestments, however, although he is not a cardinal.

The pope did not include in the list the new Archbishop of Milan, Mario Delpini. However, Archbishop Delpini’s predecessor at the helm of the world biggest diocese, Cardinal Angelo Scola, is still below 80.

Pope Francis also awarded with a red hat to Bishop Antonio Marto, of Leiria-Fatima, Portugal. He is the first cardinal from the diocese of the apparitions, and he is created cardinal one year after Pope Francis was in Fatima for the 100th anniversary of the apparitions and for the canonization of the two visionaries.

Perhaps the pope wanted to show his deep personal devotion to the Fatima message.

The list of new cardinals includes only one representative from Latin America, Archbishop Pedro Barretto from Huancayo, Peru. The pope and Archbishop Barreto met in the 80s. Archbishop Barreto is vice president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference and represents the Latin American bishops’ conference (CELAM) within REPAM, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. His appointment is likely intended to give more weight to preparations for the 2019 Special Synod for Pan-Amazonian Region.

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Learning to Live with Same-Sex Marriage?
by Gerard V. Bradley
within Conscience Protection, Marriage
May 22, 2018 08:00 pm
The city of Philadelphia is targeting Catholic Social Services for its policy, based on religious beliefs about marriage, of not placing foster children with same-sex couples.

Emphasis in Red by Abyssum and {commentary} in red brackets by Abyssum

“Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here.” So said the Supreme Court, speaking through Justice Anthony Kennedy, nearly three years ago in Obergefell v. Hodges. In that case, a bare five-member majority mandated that civil marriage be available to same-sex couples “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.”

{Here you see the true nature of liberalism.  Liberalism seeks to set everyone free from everything that restricts or limits their freedom to seek to solve the mystery of life.  Law, all law, any law, necessarily restricts the freedom of people.  The reductio ad absurdum of liberalism is to do away with any law that progressives deem restrictive of one’s freedom, but since the very nature of law is to regulate human behavior by promoting good and punishing evil the only way that liberalism can achieve it ultimate objective of liberating everyone is to declare that intrinsic evil does not exist and that lesser evils should be tolerated lest anyone should find their freedom limited.}

The Court explained its holding by saying that “when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied.”

In the final examination I gave to my constitutional law students, I asked them whether these two passages, located within the same paragraph near the end of the Obergefell opinion, make “coherent sense. Why or why not?”

My students struggled with that one.

Next fall I might ease their pain by focusing on just one of the passages. Here is my current draft of that question: “Would a law or public policy that carves out a safe harbor for people holding those ‘decent and honorable religious’ convictions put the state’s ‘imprimatur’ on a ‘demeaning’ and ‘stigmatizing’ belief, and therefore be unconstitutional?”

Not Just Same-Sex Weddings—Same-Sex Marriage

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which will be decided by the Court any day now, will shed some light on the matter. In that case, a wedding-cake maker was sanctioned for refusing to bake for a same-sex wedding celebration. It is an important piece of litigation. But Masterpiece Cakeshop is going to leave my students still struggling. The facts and arguments in that case make it nearly a perfect vehicle for establishing that the First Amendment does justify some limits on making everyone bow to the same-sex marriage idol. Still, the reach of any favorable holding there will be quite limited.

For Masterpiece Cakeshop is centrally a free speech case, not one about freedom of religion. It pertains solely to wedding vendors, and only to those vendors whose contributions to the celebration count as “artistic speech.” The protection of more prosaic workers, such as bartenders and caterers (at least so long as they do not invent a specifically lesbian Margarita or a “gay” swordfish platter), are not in view. Besides, the Court’s decision in Masterpiece is likely to be five-to-four, no matter which way it goes. The grounds articulated for the result will probably be narrowly drawn, and no clearer than were those in Obergefell (if only because Justice Kennedy is expected to be the deciding vote).

Most important, Masterpiece Cakeshop does not touch the really compelling social challenge of Obergefell, which is not about working same-sex weddings but about living with same-sex marriage. None of us needs legal permission to decline an invitation to the wedding of two men or two women. Very few of us will even be asked to do the flowers at one. We can more or less effectively steer clear of same-sex nuptials, no matter what the law is.

But all of us have to face—and will face for the rest of our days—the challenge of what to do about the two married guys who apply to live in your co-op, or who want you to take their family portrait, or who will soon join your school’s PTA, or who will eventually come to you for marital counselling. Same-sex weddings are the stuff of save-the-date and a precise GPS location. Same-sex marriage is everywhere, all of the time. One cannot hide from it.

Of course, people have had to live with irregular sexual relationships since the dawn of time. But legalized same-sex marriage is different, and worse, than anything that has plagued societies before. For one thing, such relationships are about as far distant from real marriage as any relationship could be. Second, recognizing the sexual consortium of two men or two women as a marriage settles conclusively that marriage as such is sterile. (Indeed, that was the fundamental issue at stake in the whole fight over same-sex marriage.) Third, there are no fig leaves available to obscure or fudge the manifest immorality, and parody of marriage, presented by same-sex relationships. An opposite-sex couple in a bad marriage is not detectable as such at a glance. A merely cohabiting man and woman will not be wearing wedding rings and will not expect to be addressed as if they are spouses. And in decades and centuries past, those in irregular sexual relationships rarely demanded that their liaisons be treated as respectable and good, much less on a par with the procreative marriages of man and woman. 

The everyday challenge of Obergefell is whether those of us who hold the “decent and honorable religious” conviction that it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry will be accorded the legal and social space we need in order to live in accord with our convictions. The question at hand is whether we will instead be forced to contradict our convictions in word and deed, day in and day out. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Obergefell:

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.

Just so.

Catholic Social Services vs. the City of Philadelphia

Last week (on May 16), Catholic Social Services and several foster care parents sued the city of Philadelphia to settle one of those “hard questions.” CSS was recently ranked by the city as the second best of the twenty-eight agencies with which it contracts for foster care placement and support. Its record of finding homes for difficult-to-place children is unsurpassed. On March 15 of this year the city announced that it was nonetheless suspending referrals to CSS. Because the city monopolizes these referrals, its decision was tantamount to closing down CSS’s foster care operation.

The hanging offense? Even though CSS avers in its complaint (prepared by lawyers from the Becket Fund, the great religious liberty firm) that it has never received a complaint from a same-sex couple, it does adhere to Church teaching about marriage. The complaint makes clear enough that CSS would conscientiously refuse to do the work prescribed by law to certify a same-sex “married” couple as foster parents. CSS would, however, refer them to other agencies that would.

Philadelphia is trying to drive these “decent and honorable” people from the field. The mayor is quoted in the CSS complaint as declaring that “we cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against” people in same-sex marriages. “It’s just not right.” The city council professed to be shocked—shocked!—to discover that some contracting agencies have policies, rooted in religious beliefs, that prohibit placement of children with “LGBTQ people.” But the Catholic Church’s position on marriage is no secret. The CSS complaint even points out that the “City has been aware of Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs for years.” For example, the city waived repeatedly for CSS the obligation of city contractors to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

Stamping Out Dissent by Targeting Religious Believers

Justice Alito worried in Obergefell that the legal redefinition of marriage would be “used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” He forecast that the decision would “be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.” Alito concluded: “I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

Cases besides the new one involving CSS are testing Justice Alito’s prowess as a prophet. Masterpiece Cakeshop is one. Kim Davis (the Kentucky marriage license clerk) tested it too. But she was a public official, and the keener challenge of Obergefell is to non-governmental actors such as churches and social service providers. Several states have passed laws precisely protecting foster-care and adoption providers from the depredations of same-sex civil marriage. Some of these have been challenged in court, most notably in Michigan. But most states will not enact such protections.

The comprehensive CSS complaint includes some freedom of speech considerations; in this way, it tracks the Masterpiece Cakeshop litigation. But the heart of the case is surely this allegation: “The City has targeted Catholic Social Services because of its religious beliefs.” (Elsewhere, the complaint states starkly that the city “has decided to penalize [CSS] because the City disagrees with its religious beliefs.”) The legal causes of action listed by Becket are almost all based on the federal Constitution and especially on the religion clauses of the First Amendment. The outcome of the CSS litigation will therefore go a long way towards clarifying whether those who adhere to the moral truth about marriage will be made outcasts from the public square.

The Becket Complaint in CSS does not go into the reasons why no Catholic agency—in fact, no individual Catholic or other person of good sense—should place a child in foster care or for adoption with a “married” same-sex couple. Those grounds include the obvious prospect that doing so would mean ratifying that the couple is indeed married. To the objection that this lie might instead be verbally finessed by limiting any ratification to expressions about the existence of a “civil” marriage, the answer is this: “marriage” is not only the name of an esteemed relationship, whose meaning ought to be preserved even by the civil law of a pluralistic society. Marriage is also the principle of all sexual morality. One compact way to express the substance of sexual morality is to say that procreative-type acts of the (truly) married couple are morally upright; other sexual acts—being non-marital—are for that reason immoral. Any child placed with a gay or lesbian couple is therefore put under a spell of misinformation and bad example about the nature and meaning of marriage. He or she can scarcely be expected to receive sound example and advice from his or her parents on the subject of sexual morality.

So far considered, then, placement with a same-sex “married” couple is a grave moral hazard to the child. If and when the child finally is exposed to the truth about marriage and sexual morality, he is much more likely to reject it, for accepting it would involve repudiating the relationship of those who have cared for him and loved him for years, if not decades. The child is then placed in the awful position of having to choose between filial devotion and adherence to the truth. It is a cruel choice—one that no child should be forced to make.

Gerard V. Bradley is Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School and a Senior Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, where he is Chair of the Academic Committee of the Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution.

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20  MAY  18


The poet W.H. Auden once lectured me about the wrongness of modern translations rendering Holy Ghost as Holy Spirit. His frail case was that there are certain drinks, too, that can be called spirits. This made no sense. “Spirit” is a Latinism far older than “Ghost,” which goes back no further than the Old English “gast” and the German “Geist.” As a matter of taste, preference for “Ghost” is as anachronistic as thinking that the Baroque style of chasubles sometimes called the “fiddleback” is much more traditional than the Gothic style.

The Hebrew word for spirit, “ruach,” sounds like breathing, and pneumatic tires are called that after the Greek word for wind. There is indeed a “variety of spirits,” but to confuse the Holy Spirit with any vague parody is foggy superstition. The apostles mistook Jesus for a ghost when he walked on water, and they only knew that his risen body was not a ghost when he ate fish and honey. A modern form of superstition is the vague emotionalism of those who say that they are spiritual but not religious. The Master will have none of that, for he is Truth: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Christ told the disciples after the Resurrection that he must leave this world of time and space in order to send the Holy Spirit. There are on record fifteen appearances of the Risen Christ, including three after Pentecost: once seen by Stephen as he was dying, another speaking to Paul on the way to Damascus, and then to John on Patmos. But each appearance was followed by a disappearance enabling the Holy Spirit, as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, to invigorate the Church.

By what seems a paradox, because the actions intersect time and eternity, Christ goes away so that through his Holy Spirit he can be with us always. This becomes most graphic each day at Mass when the Holy Spirit is invoked upon the bread and wine so that they become Christ’s body and blood. That moment on the Eucharistic altar fulfills the prehistoric instant when God breathed his spirit into Adam and, countless ages before that, when the Spirit of God “moved upon the face of the waters” and began everything.

None of this is conjecture, because it is a response to actual events: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). The Fountain of Youth that explorers in futility tried to find, like pharmacists and cosmetic surgeons today, is a ghostly illusion and a superstitious cipher for life eternal: “You send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).

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“liberalism” is an expression now invested with so many contradictory meanings that it has become useless as a way of describing a consistent set of principles with particular implications for political order and when combined with the word “Catholic” it becomes an oxymoron

Patrick Deneen and the Problem with Liberalism
by Samuel Gregg
within Book Reviews, Philosophy, Religion and the Public Square
May 14, 2018 08:06 pm
Patrick Deneen poses good questions but begs others. The second installment in the Public Discourse symposium on Why Liberalism Failed.



For some time, I’ve regarded the word “liberalism” as an expression now invested with so many contradictory meanings that it has become useless as a way of describing a consistent set of principles with particular implications for political order. The twentieth-century philosophers John Rawls and Robert Nozick were typically described as “liberals.” Yet their positions on, for instance, questions of political economy were light years apart.

In his book Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen outlines a very specific understanding of liberalism and why he thinks it’s a problem. Liberalism, he writes, is an ideology that, like any ideology, is concerned with remaking society in ways at odds with the truth about man. According to Deneen, many of America’s present problems, ranging from higher education’s ongoing crack-up to the emergence of transhumanist fantasies, mirror the triumph and internal contradictions of liberalism-as-ideology.

Reading through Deneen’s book, I found myself agreeing with many points. He correctly underscores, for instance, the deep chasm between the way that certain Greeks and Romans, the Hebrew prophets, and (small “o”) orthodox Christianity understand freedom, and the conception of liberty-as-autonomy articulated by liberals ranging from John Stuart Mill to Richard Rorty. The distinction lies, Deneen specifies, in “fundamentally different anthropological assumptions”—most of which, I would argue, reflect different views of the nature of human reason and the will, and of the content of happiness and how it is realized.

Deneen also illustrates that, whatever is meant by the phrase “liberal order,” it is presently living, parasitically, off of pre-liberal moral and cultural capital that liberalism has proved incapable of replenishing. The further liberal order gets away from these sources—Christianity, the tradition of reasoning we call natural law, etc.—the less coherent it becomes. Witness the way in which the language of rights, a hallmark of liberal order, has been used to open the door to such anti-human developments as abortion on demand and euthanasia.

Alongside these positions, however, Deneen advances several arguments that I find less convincing. I agree, for instance, with some of Robert Reilly’s criticisms of Deneen’s interpretation of the American Founding. But I have three other broad critiques to offer in this essay.

Not So Modern

The first involves Deneen’s genealogy of ideas. Deneen maintains that basic elements of liberal order, such as the rule of law and constitutionalism, draw upon key ideas fostered by antiquity before being clarified and further developed by Christianity. One achievement of liberalism, he states, was that it highlighted the gaps between these ideas and various pre-modern realities such as serfdom.

At the same time, Deneen argues that liberalism facilitated a radical rupture in the West’s development. Thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, and Francis Bacon facilitated a “revolutionary reconception of politics, society, science, and nature [that] laid the foundations of modern liberalism.” Deneen defines these premises as “redefining liberty as the liberation of humans from established authority, emancipation from arbitrary culture and tradition, and the expansion of human power and domination over nature through advancing scientific discovery and economic prosperity.”

Pursuing such goals, Deneen claims, required dismantling “the classical and Christian understanding of liberty” and “widespread norms, traditions, and practices.” It also involved “the reconceptualization of the primacy of the individual” with “the state as the main protector of individual rights and liberty.” Driving all these changes was the emergence of voluntarism, understood as “the unfettered and autonomous choice of individuals,” as the dominant normative commitment. We cannot, according to Deneen, appreciate the ways in which contemporary liberal polities function unless we appreciate these intellectual shifts.

It’s not clear to me, however, that all these ideas are distinctly liberal (at least as defined by Deneen) or particularly modern.

Strong antecedents of voluntarism, for example, are found in the writings of premodern figures such as Duns Scotus. If, like Scotus, you primarily regard God as some form of will and consider man to be made in God’s image, your understanding of humans will likely prioritize the will and choice rather than reason. Moreover, the type of voluntarism identified by Deneen goes hand in hand with the nominalist idea that only individuals exist. But nominalism is essentially a medieval creation, and it was extensively developed by theologians such as William of Ockham.

These issues of intellectual genealogy matter because they raise questions about whether Deneen has correctly identified the main intellectual source of our present-day angst. Could it be that the present dysfunctionalities that Deneen associates with liberalism have more to do with longstanding philosophical errors—not to mention perennial problems such as pride, greed, etc.—rather than a particular political theory?

That isn’t to deny that theories have consequences—sometimes very bad ones. But my question is this: are our present discontent’s deeper causes to be found in errors (such as nihilism, skepticism, voluntarism, and hedonism) that have reared their head in every age, not just in conditions of liberal order?

Communities and Markets

My second broad concern with Deneen’s thesis is less about the past than about the future. In proposing “what is to be done,” Deneen stresses that there’s no going back in time. An “idyllic preliberal age,” he affirms, “never existed.” This makes a refreshing change from the ahistorical romanticism that often characterizes critics—especially some Catholic critics—of liberal order.

Deneen’s schema for going forward is centered on building what he calls a “counter-anticulture.” This, he maintains, would provide alternative ways of living to voluntarist understandings of the world by embodying “practices fostered in local settings, focused on the creation of new and viable cultures, economics grounded in virtuosity within households, and the creation of civic polis life.”

Deneen envisions this culture as one based on communities that liberal regimes will permit because of liberalism’s emphasis on openness. Deneen is clear, however, that these communities will need to minimize their participation in modern political and economic life if they are to develop the capacity to resist centralized state technocracies and what Deneen regards as the perennial short-termism encouraged by modern market economies. His hope is that “a viable postliberal theory” will arise out of these communities to fill the gap following the inevitable “demise of liberal order.”

The connection that Deneen draws between lived cultures and the development of ideas is certainly valid. It’s easier to promote Epicurean ideas in societies awash in hedonistic practices than it is to be a committed Aristotelian.

That said, I have a practical question about Deneen’s proposals for change. Many small communities, such as monasteries, presently strive to live relatively self-sufficient existences. With some exceptions, however, they rely on financial support from those who live and work in commercial society. Even the early Christian community in Jerusalem required financial support from the vast majority of Christians throughout the Roman Empire who didn’t embrace their proto-monastic way of living and weren’t required to do so. That raises questions about such communities’ ability to sustain themselves.

More generally, I am skeptical about these communities’ capacity to resolve some perennial economic problems such as scarcity, limited knowledge, and how you coordinate supply and demand in lasting and just ways. I also question their ability to develop the capital, competition, economies of scale, and division of labor needed to create the sustained economic growth required to keep their members out of poverty in the long term.

One reason why market economies first emerged in the Middle Ages—as detailed by scholars like Robert S. Lopez, Harold Berman, and Joseph Schumpeter—was because they proved exceptionally proficient at addressing these questions in a manner that simultaneously promoted freedom and order. They also channeled the workings of self-interest (something we try to eradicate from human life at our peril) in ways that benefited increasing numbers of people—and not just materially. The fact that flourishing, early-capitalist industrial cities such as Florence were also centers of great art, architecture, and learning isn’t coincidental.

It’s also telling that these market processes emerged in a medieval Christian world. This, I’d suggest, indicates that many institutions of liberal order aren’t as premised on liberal ideology as many of liberalism’s critics and supporters suppose.

Whither Natural Law?

This brings me to my third concern. Deneen correctly states that “the strictly legal and political arrangements of modern constitutionalism do not per se constitute a liberal regime.” Yet he does not seem to consider that constitutionalism, the idea of rights, the rule of law, and market economies in their modern form could be re-premised on non-voluntarist and non-utilitarian foundations.

I am especially puzzled why Deneen doesn’t address whether these practices and institutions could be grounded on the robust conception of human reason and human flourishing known as natural law.

Deneen grasps natural law’s saliency for this discussion. Over time, he observes, many liberal institutions became “disassociated from norms of natural law.” These were gradually replaced by what Deneen calls “liberal legalism”: that which, in the name of neutrality and tolerance, legally privileges voluntarist claims about human nature.

Deneen plainly accepts the truth of natural law. But perhaps he is skeptical of the ability of natural-law proponents to convince those living in contemporary liberal societies that philosophical skepticism is self-refuting, that utilitarianism is deeply incoherent, that our choices can and should be directed by more than strong feelings, or that the human mind is capable of discerning purpose that goes beyond satiating our senses.

Obviously natural law arguments don’t convince everyone. If they did, we’d be living in a very different world. Yet even today they do convince some people, despite immense cultural pressures to believe the contrary. Moreover, the fact that some aren’t persuaded by natural law arguments doesn’t mean that they aren’t true, or that they don’t have the potential to save institutions such as modern constitutionalism from being corrupted by liberal voluntarism.

Imagine, for example, an American constitutional order guided by the natural-law-influenced jurisprudence of, say, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, and compare it to one grounded in Judge Richard Posner’s raw utilitarianism. The difference, I’d submit, would be significant.

Deneen’s apparent reluctance to address this question of grounding liberal order on natural law may reflect his conviction that we should “resist the impulse to devise a new and better political theory in the wake of liberalism’s simultaneous triumph and demise.” In his view, it was comprehensive theories that gave rise to liberalism in the first place.

If by “comprehensive theory,” Deneen means just another ideology, I can only say “Amen.” But at some point, societies that seek grounding in a rational vision of human flourishing require two things. The first is a comprehensive theory of truth and how we know it. The second is people like Aristotle and Aquinas who can explain to us why the theories of individuals like Epicurus and David Hume are seriously wrong.

Rightly lived lives and communities are important. But so is rightly ordered thought. Can natural law invest liberal institutions with the coherent philosophical foundations that liberalism cannot? That’s a question I hope Deneen and other critics of liberal order will, at some point, systematically address. Because, whatever the answer, it’s a question that really matters.

Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute.

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An image.
The gifts of bread and wine await their transformation at St. John the Baptist Mission in Clatskanie. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
The gifts of bread and wine await their transformation at St. John the Baptist Mission in Clatskanie. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

Reverence for our Eucharistic Lord

Most Rev. Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 12:35 PM

My sister who lives here in Portland watched on EWTN the Mass I celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on April 28. One of her comments (after she finished making fun of her younger brother!) was about how Holy Communion was received. She remembered with some real fondness how, when we were children, we always received Holy Communion at the Communion rail and on the tongue. No one dared touch the Holy Eucharist, except the priest.

Whatever anyone reading this thinks about the current practices regarding the distribution of Holy Communion, the rationale behind the former discipline was a profound sense of reverence and awe for the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is not just a symbol or sign. Jesus Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

The Real Presence

That’s what Catholics believe. But our liturgical and sacramental practices far too often do not reflect that profound understanding and faith in the Real Presence. The story is told of a Protestant minister who was invited to attend Mass. Afterward he was questioned on what he thought. He replied that he did not think that the congregation really believed in the Real Presence. When asked why he thought this, he said that he personally did not believe in the Eucharist as Catholics do, but if he did, he would approach our Lord for Communion walking on his knees. He found the casusal and irreverent attitude at the time of Communion in that particular church very unconvincing.

As part of a new Liturgical Handbook for the Archdiocese of Portland to be released on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (June 3), and after consultation, there are two changes in practice I am implementing with regard to our understanding and reverence for the Holy Eucharist. Please consider this a “teaching moment” for all of us. As shepherd and teacher of the faith, and as the one ultimately responsible for the liturgical life of the Archdiocese of Portland, my intent is to foster greater devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist and in the Holy Mass.

Showing reverence

We will return to the practice of kneeling after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The current practice is to remain standing, which has been an exception to the universal norm of kneeling that has been perfectly legitimate and permitted by the liturgical norms. Nevertheless, returning to the practice of kneeling at this moment in the Mass will foster a greater reverence for our Lord.

The priest at that moment is about to hold up before the congregation our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist and proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It seems most fitting that we be on our knees before the Lord for such a proclamation of faith. In the Book of Revelation, when the Lamb of God (Christ) is presented before the throng of heaven, all fall down in worship before him. The Mass is a participation in this heavenly liturgy.

On Communion and Holy Sacrifice of Mass

The second change coming is that, in the absence of a priest to offer Mass, the distribution of Holy Communion on weekdays in the parish church during a “Communion service” will no longer be permitted. This does not affect such Communion services in nursing homes, prisons, etc., where the people do not have the opportunity to attend Mass on Sunday in the parish.

There is an intimate and intrinsic link between three realities that is essential in this context. They are the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest who ministers in the person of Christ, and the distribution of Holy Communion. These are not to be separated except for serious reasons and pastoral need. As long as the faithful have the opportunity to participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion on Sunday, there is no such pastoral need to receive Holy Communion outside of Mass.

When we go to Mass, we are there to do much more than just receive Holy Communion. We participate actively and consciously in the offering of Christ, the Paschal Victim, through the hands of the priest, who ministers in the very person of Christ at the altar. From this sacramental offering, we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, thus culminating our participation in the paschal mystery being celebrated. This is the way the Church has always viewed this. The Church never envisioned breaking them apart by distributing Communion outside of Mass. This is only done for the sick and those otherwise unable to participate in the Sunday Eucharist. To do otherwise is very poor sacramental and Eucharistic theology.

When Mass cannot be offered on a weekday in a particular church, parishioners are invited to experience the wider Church by attending daily Mass in a neighboring parish. The faithful can also gather for other forms of prayer, and our Office of Divine Worship has prepared a prayer service for such occasions that include parts of the Liturgy of the Hours with readings from the Mass of the day. This is a way to experience another form of the Church’s liturgical prayer.

These changes may take some time for adjustment, but I am confident that they will lead us to a more profound reverence for the most precious gift of the Holy Eucharist, and a more informed, conscious and active participation in the Holy Mass. And a greater love for our Lord in the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament will lead to a greater love of neighbor and service to the poor.

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You cannot say that I have not repeatedly warned you !!!


I have a far-out sense of humor and I thank God for it since it can be like a safety valve when the world and Church events are particularly depressing.  After all one of the distinguishing properties of the human race that make us different from all other animals is risibility.

Here is today’s little safety laugh.

Reader Richard Stokes down in Australia reminds me that:

 The Crown Prince of Denmark is married to an Australian.
There were reports from the palace that some of the palace staff had complained that the meals ordered by Princess Mary bore a resemblance to dog food.
Finally, the prince asked Mary if there was any truth in it.
“Maybe, Frederik,” replied Princess Mary.  “After all, you are a Great Dane.”
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On Christian Liberty and Lockean Liberty: A Grateful Response to Micah Watson, Samuel Gregg, and Anthony Esolen
by Patrick J. Deneen
within American Founding, Philosophy
May 16, 2018 08:00 pm
If we want a different politics, ultimately we must offer a different moral imagination for ourselves, our children, and theirs.

Emphasis added in red type by Abyssum.  Commentary added in {red type} by Abyssum.

I am deeply appreciative of Public Discourse for devoting nearly a week’s content to a discussion of my recent book, Why Liberalism Failed, and allowing me the opportunity to respond to three thoughtful and thought-provoking essays. A narrow window between the conclusion of a semester and impending travel abroad allows me to offer a too brief and unsatisfying response to three commentators and friends—Micah Watson, Sam Gregg, and Anthony Esolen—whose reflections each deserve and invite a lengthier response. I hope for another occasion allowing just that, preferably in person and with requisite refreshments.

Micah Watson generously praises my “lightning bolt of a book.” But, like so many of my more conservative critics, he seeks to tug me back into a sufficient appreciation of Locke, the Founders, and their handiwork, suggesting that the philosophical grounds of the Founding might be reconstituted. Yet we read in Sam Gregg’s response an implicit acknowledgement that Locke represents a longstanding tradition that stretches back at least to Scotus and Ockham (and, arguably, further back to Epicurus, if not the serpent). Gregg, it seems to me, has the stronger case. Locke does make occasional statements urging the discipline to master passing passions, but he does so mainly with a view to advancing an individual notion of happiness—what he understands to be “power” to act or not to act—which he equates with accumulation of pleasures, however defined. As any undergraduate at a top university knows, one has to exercise self-control in order to access a wealth of pleasures. This observation does not make Locke into Aquinas, nor our students into good Aristotelians.

If the Second Treatise is the text that especially informed the thinking behind the Declaration of Independence, it is Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding to which one must turn to understand the radicalness of his utilitarianism, relativism, and voluntarism. As Gregg rightly suggests by linking Locke to the nominalist tradition, we find in that work an unequivocal echo of Hobbes’s denunciation of the Aristotelian and Thomist tradition that sought to delineate the objective nature of happiness and the attendant virtues, and we encounter an endorsement of a view that happiness is relative to the individual and its “attainment” is always comparative. Because happiness is defined in relation to others—and not an unchanging standard—Locke recognizes that we are inescapably “uneasy” and thus always engaged in a “pursuit of happiness.” He writes:

Hence it was, I think, that the philosophers of old did in vain inquire, whether summum bonum consisted in riches, or bodily delights, or virtue, or contemplation: and they might have as reasonably disputed, whether the best relish were to be found in apples, plums, or nuts, and have divided themselves into sects upon it. For, as pleasant tastes depend not on the things themselves, but on their agreeableness to this or that particular palate, wherein there is great variety; so the greatest happiness consists in the having those things which produce the greatest pleasure, and in the absence of those which cause any disturbance, any pain.

Watson seeks to rest his case for restoring the Founding on several passages that instruct a young person how, ultimately, to be successful in a materialist, relativist, and voluntarist world. As with the writings of Wendell Berry, if we understand the grain of the argument, we can agree or disagree with specifics, but we can’t finally deny its most fundamental teachings.

That said, Watson is entirely right in recognizing that at the time of the founding there was a deep reservoir of belief in the compatibility of liberal philosophy and those who valued “virtue and freedom, rightly understood.” A world thick with Christian practices and belief would have generally left the average person undisturbed by any thoughts of long-term threats posed by that philosophy to those beliefs and practices. But those with a longer-term view saw this threat clearly, throwing into doubt the philosophic “compatibility” of two contrary understandings of liberty, a deeper incompatibility that was discerned by keen contemporaries.

I would point to the sermons “Two Discourses on Liberty” delivered by Nathaniel Niles on the eve of the Revolution, in which he articulated the contradiction between Christian liberty and the Lockean liberty advanced by the more secular elite such as Jefferson. I would point to the prescient and prophetic concerns of the so-called “Anti-Federalists,” who discerned in the Constitution a threat to local liberty and a tendency toward “consolidation” that would ultimately pit the government (including the judiciary) against the people and lead to the undermining of civic virtue. And, of course, we can point to the remarkable analysis of Alexis de Tocqueville, who perceived the threats of “individualism” and statism arising from modern notions of “equal liberty” that echo the form of liberty articulated by Locke. If there was once a time that one could assume a degree of “compatibility” between Christian and Lockean liberty, that time is well behind us: the compatibility that now exists lies between our philosophy and ourselves.

In light of this challenge, Gregg asks whether I might endorse the idea that the Constitution might be “re-premised on non-voluntarism and non-utilitarian foundations.” This is indeed an attractive possibility, but one that requires a fairly revolutionary re-conceptualization of the nature of the Constitution. It was Madison who stated that “neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on” to curtail the origins of faction, since—agreeing with Locke—there is no objective truth that can be called upon to adjudicate between contesting ideas of the good. Thus, to “re-found” the Constitution along lines compatible with the natural law would effectively attempt to achieve what was effected by Progressives in their philosophical (and ultimately judicial) reinterpretation of the Constitution.

Of courseit was far more likely for this “reinterpretation” to take place because (as I argue in my book), Progressivism is a logical outworking of Lockean liberalism in practice and over time. To read the Constitution against the grain is a possibility, but it would require a very different people that would itself require a different constitution. We run into the ancient Aristotelian conundrum: how does one solve the ethico-political puzzle in which a virtuous people needs to be fostered by a virtuous regime, while a virtuous regime can only come into being through a virtuous people? Because of the magnitude of the challenge of realistically bringing about such an outcome in a sprawling and internally incoherent corrupt imperial nation like America today, I more modestly suggest that, for most of us, our efforts are best expended fostering “counter-anti-cultural cultures” where we can, while also working toward conceiving a very different political order through new departures in political theory.  {I agree that our efforts are best expended fostering “counter-anti-cultural cultures” where we can, while also working toward conserving a different political order through new departures in political theory that are not tainted by inclusion of liberalism since liberalism by its very nature abhors stability which it regards as cultural rigorism.}

Anthony Esolen is the kind of reader any author wishes for: not only understanding the crux of my argument, but extending and deepening it through a sustained effort to show how my analysis is confirmed and demonstrated by elucidating the threat posed to liberalism by the apparently weak, yet immensely powerful, Little Sisters of the Poor. Their witness contradicts the most fundamental assumptions of liberalism, and it is such exemplars that must ultimately be brought to heel by a totalizing regime. But most revealing to me in reading his inimitable prose is the fact that Esolen is among the first readers to focus on parts of the book that have been almost entirely ignored in the dozens of reviews and essays about it: the “triumph” of liberalism through its fostering of an “anti-culture” and evidenced through its evisceration of liberal education.

The fact that almost every review has focused on liberalism as a narrowly political project, and sees the stakes lying in my interpretation of the Founding or Locke, suggests just how thoroughly our vision is narrowed and cramped by liberalism: if only we could light on the right political fix, we could solve all of the attendant and incidental problems of liberalism. I care deeply about politics—it is the discipline I have spent my adult life studying—but I also agree with Percy Bysshe Shelley (or Plato, for that matter), who wrote that it is the poets who are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.”

If we want a different politics, ultimately we must offer a different moral imagination for ourselves, our children, and theirs. I hope more professors of literature, music, theater, and teachers and parents of children will read my book, and help in turn to tutor the political theorists. But for any appreciative reader an author is rightly grateful, and for the generous and challenging comments of Micah Watson, Sam Gregg, and Anthony Esolen I am especially grateful.

Patrick Deneen is Professor of Political Science and holds the David A. Potenziani Memorial College Chair of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame. 

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The New Synthesis of All Heresies: On Nietzschean Catholicism


Highlight in Red by Abyssum  {Commentary in Red in these brackets by Abyssum}

Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of the “transvaluation of all values”: the inversion of our conceptions of good and evil in this post-Christian era. What had been regarded as good—humility, self-denial, obedience, love of the poor and of poverty, looking towards a world to come—was, in his system, to be seen as evil, and what had been regarded as evil—imposing one’s will by domination, satisfying one’s lusts, crushing the weak, dismissing thoughts of an afterlife, living for the moment—would now be virtues. The Übermensch or Superman would be the exact contrary of the Christian saint.

As the atrocity of abortion demonstrates, Nietzsche’s view has prevailed in the secular society of the West. But has not a subtler form of this “transvaluation of all values” invaded Christianity as well—including the Catholic Church, which had seemed for so many centuries to be adamantly opposed to any compromise with modernity and its atheistic spirit? In the past thirty years of my life (that is, the years in which I have been really conscious of being a Catholic and trying to live a life consistent with my faith), I have increasingly noticed a trend that certainly deserves to be called Nietzschean.

If, for example, one objects that a certain idea or practice is “Protestant,” he is likely to be dismissed as “anti-ecumenical.” In this way, a vague ecumenism has supplanted several de fide dogmas as the measure of being a Christian. “I don’t believe in dogma, I believe in love,” as a plainclothes nun once said to a priest tour-guide.

If one objects that a liturgical practice or opinion is contrary to the teaching of the Council of Trent or any other magisterial determination, he is likely to be shut down as “stuck in the past” or “not in line with the Council”—meaning, of course, the Second Vatican Super-Council in whose name all earlier councils can be ignored or negated. A new form of conciliarism has supplanted obedience to the deposit of faith in its integrity and ecclesiastical tradition in its received richness. “That’s pre-Vatican,” as a difficult elderly nun used to bark at a certain priest whenever he stated the teaching of the Church.

In a recent article, I objected to modern lector praxis as Protestant and Pelagian. The reaction of today’s progressives (that is, the mainstream Church) would undoubtedly be: “So what? We’re chummy with the Protestants, and we don’t care about obscure ancient heresies in these enlightened times. All that matters is active participation.” With one badly-understood phrase, five, ten, fifteen centuries of Catholicism can be swept aside. Remarkably, even ecclesiastics who bring up the term Pelagianism seem incapable of seeing its most dynamic symbols and reinforcing practices right under their noses.

Our Lord taught that divorcing and marrying another person was committing adultery, which is a mortal sin; but say this today and you are nearly put to death with verbal stones: “rigid, judgmental, unmerciful, unwelcoming, Pharisaical.” Never mind that the Pharisees were the ones who approved divorce and bending big rules while imposing little ones; no one today cares about either history or logic. That, too, is essential to the “new paradigm”: the banishment of history and the emasculation of logic.

Such examples could be multiplied ad nauseam. They all point to one thing: what used to be orthodoxy is now viewed as heresy, and what used to be heresy is now viewed as orthodoxy. The transvaluation of all values.

We are standing at a juncture in the history of the Catholic Church. We might call it the nadir of Pascendi Dominici Gregis—the moment when an attempt is being made, in practice if not in theory, to substitute for the teaching of St. Pius X its diametrical opposite. St. Pius X had defined Modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies.” For many of today’s church leaders and people in the pews, however, it is orthodoxy that is “the synthesis of all heresies,” and Modernism that is the Catholic Faith pure and simple. Indeed, it has become fashionable today, even in so-called conservative circles, to brand as “fundamentalists” Catholics who hold and teach what John Paul II’s Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches.

The transvaluation, or perhaps at times merely the devaluation, of all values can be seen if we survey popular theologians of our time. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s downright bizarre Trinitarian theology is in no way reconcileable with the Church’s orthodox Trinitarian theology.[1] Taking his cue from another of Balthasar’s novelties, Bishop Robert Barron thinks that he can seriously claim that all men might be saved—a view that Our Lord in the Gospels, Our Lady of Fatima, and the entire tradition of Christianity prior to Vatican II would have taken exception to. {Bishop Barron seems to be echoing Francis who has denied the existence of Hell maintaining that when sinners die their souls just go “poof” and disintegrate.}  The standard “Bud Lite” version of Christology bears little resemblance to the Christology articulated and defended at such great cost by so many Fathers of the Church, such as St. Athanasius and St. Cyril of Alexandria. Compared to that of St. Alphonsus or St. Louis de Montfort, our Mariology is either non-existent, sentimental, or reductive. Catholic Social Teaching has been co-opted by the socialist Left and the capitalist Right, each for its own purposes, while the fundamental themes as we find them in Leo XIII, e.g., the ontologically and institutionally necessary relationship of Church and State, are unknown or caricatured. {The efforts of some contemporary conservative to update Catholic Social Teaching of the popes of the 19th and 20th Centuries through a blending of liberalism and Catholic Social Teaching ignores the oxymoron character of such blending.}  As for our sacramental and liturgical theology, one may be pardoned for wondering if there is any orthodox theology left at the popular level, apart from a (simplistic) conception of validity and licitness.

How did we get here? The path is a long and winding one that leads back several centuries at least, with nominalism, voluntarism, Protestantism, rationalism, and liberalism each playing star roles. But in terms of how this Nietzscheanism came to find its home in almost every Catholic church and Catholic bosom, seeping into the nave, rising into the sanctuary, erasing or jackhammering the memories of our forefathers and the faces of saints and angels, I think the answer is more straightforward.

This transvaluation of all values follows necessarily from the transformation of all forms.

I refer to the way in which nothing of Catholic life was left untouched after Vatican II. Every bit of the Mass, every aspect of the Divine Office, every sacramental rite, every blessing, every piece of clerical and liturgical clothing, every page of Canon Law and the Catechism—all had to be revamped, reworked, revised, usually in the direction of diminution and softening: “the Word was made bland, and dwelt in the suburbs.” The beauty and power of our tradition was muted at best, silenced at worst. No form was safe, stable, or deemed worthy of preservation as it stood, as it had been received.

The open or subliminal message isn’t hard to infer: “The Catholic Church went off the rails many centuries ago, and now has to play catch up with the modern world.” Everything is up for grabs. What measure to apply, what ideal to aspire to, what goal to reach before the changing stops—even these are indeterminate, disputable, open-ended, like a badly written stream-of-consciousness story. Nothing is to be left intact in humble, grateful acknowledgement of its longevity and belovedness. We “must be done building on rock, for it is unchanging; shifting sand is what suits the evolution, flexibility, and pluralism of Modern Man.”

It was simply not possible for such an iconoclastic, vandalistic, self-doubting and self-creative process to occur without profoundly calling into question all Catholic beliefs, all Catholic practices. Ostensibly, the Church’s liturgy was being reformed; in reality, Catholicism was being questioned from top to bottom, or shall we say, campanella to crypt. One crack in the dam is enough to lead to its entire collapse.

Hence, from the transformation of all forms came, as inevitably as exhaustion and dictatorship follow after revolution, the transvaluation of all values. One could almost approach it like a theorem in Euclid: “Assuming aggiornamento, demonstrate that orthodoxy will become the synthesis of all heresies.” And so it happened as one might have predicted. Q.E.D.

This is the larger context that explains and, in fact, impels the dizzying events we are witnessing under this pontificate, such as the dismantling of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate, the suppression of the Trappist monastery of Mariawald, the push for optionalizing clerical celibacy, the push to expand female ministries, the bitter hatred of Summorum Pontificum and every traditional liturgical practice (e.g., ad orientem celebration) that has resurfaced in its wake, the antics of the Amorites who are working sleeplessly (in imitation of their master) to gain acceptance in the Church for every sexual “expression,” and on and on.

It all falls into place the moment one sees that the new masters of the universe hold exactly the opposite of what you and I hold. We believe what Catholics have always believed; we want to live and pray as Catholics have always done[2]; and we are shocked to find ourselves the object of mockery, hostility, and persecution. But we should not be shocked. We are living by the old paradigm, in which Modernism was the synthesis of all heresies. Our enemies follow a new paradigm—the paradigm, in fact, of systematic newness or novelty. The newer something is, the better, the more authentic, the more real, in the ever-evolving process of human maturation. For them, the so-called “orthodox Faith” defended by the likes of St. Augustine, St. John Damascene, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Pius X, this is absolutely no longer “relevant” to Modern Man; it is a frozen relic of a dead past, an obstacle to the Progress that the Spirit of Newness wishes to bestow.[3]

The noveltymongers will stop short, perhaps, at canonizing the more illustrious members of their house—Ockham, Descartes, Luther, Hegel, or Nietzsche—but they will do their best to canonize lesser factotums such as Giovanni Battista Montini, Annibale Bugnini, and Teilhard de Chardin. We should prepare ourselves spiritually to endure a season of sacrileges, blasphemies, and apostasies that Catholics have never dreamed of in the worst periods of pagan persecution or internal confusion.

We may take comfort in the certainty, as John Paul II reminded us in his last book Memory and Identity, that the Lord always puts a limit to evil, as He did with National Socialism and Soviet Communism. He will not tempt any man beyond what he can bear. And, sobering as the thought is, we may also draw some comfort from the certainty that Our Lord puts a limit to the evils each of us must endure by setting a boundary to our lives. For the faithful disciple who clings to Christ and His life-giving Gospel, death accepted in self-abandonment is, in addition to being a curse of the Fall, a blessing that liberates us from a world that is not and was never intended to be our lasting home (cf. Heb 13:14). This inevitable fact is not an invitation to quietism—work we must, and work we shall—but rather a call to preserve our peace of soul in the midst of earthly trials, which will never be lacking and which are meant to wean us, bit by bit, from our attachments, as we prepare for the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb.

Meanwhile, during our pilgrimage in this life, it is ours to fight the good fight, to keep the true Faith, and to resist any and every deformity of it that raises its ugly head, as we strive to pass on what we have received and seek to enthrone Christ as King of our hearts, homes, parishes, countries, and all of creation.



[1] Fr. Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., published a short but scathing “Note on Balthasar’s Trinitarian Theology” in The Thomist 64 (2000): 127–30, in which he quotes various heretical texts from Balthasar’s work and comments: “We have here a paradox: some modern authors, evidently concerned with spirituality, have unwittingly fallen into a conception of the divine Being that is overly materialistic. … A kind of human psychologism risks drawing the readers of the Swiss theologian in the direction of tritheism. … Given the strong affirmations in the Gospels of the unity between the Father and the Son-affirmations reiterated by several ecumenical councils in underscoring their consubstantiality, we cannot accept the dialectical, obscure, and, above all, dangerous language of Balthasar, who appears to affirm and to deny it at the same time.”


[2] The favorite comeback of progressives is that “the liturgy kept developing over time, so you can’t say that Catholics ‘always’ worshiped this or that way.” But that is a superficial response. The deeper truth is that Catholics have always worshiped according to the liturgy they have received, and any development occurred within this fundamental assumption of the continuity of the rituals, chants, and texts. The work of the Consilium of the 1960s rejected this assumption in altering almost every aspect of the liturgy, adding and deleting material according to their own theories. Therefore what they produced is not and can never be an expression of Catholic tradition; it will always remain a foreign body.


[3] It is in keeping with this Darwinian-Hegelian evolutionism that we find today’s “conservatives” so ready to embrace the view that whatever the current reigning pope says automatically trumps all that his predecessors have said on the same subject. In reality, a pope’s teaching possesses authority precisely insofar as it contains and confirms the teaching of his predecessors, even if it expands on it in ways harmonious with what has already been taught. Moreover, elementary rules of magisterial interpretation tell us that a teaching given with a greater level of authority, no matter how many decades or centuries old it may be, carries more weight than a recent teaching given with a lower level of authority. Level of authority is gauged by the type of document in which, or the occasion on which, it is issued, the verbal formula employed, and other such signs.

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