Cardinal Müller on Amoris Laetitia, Paul Ehrlich, Antonio Spadaro and the Three Dismissed Priests

{Emphasis in red type by Abyssum}


Yesterday, 25 May, the Catholic channel EWTN aired an interview of Raymond Arroyo’s The World Over which was conducted a week ago with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). In this interview – which was conducted in English – the German cardinal touches upon several important matters which are of interest to the larger Catholic world.

When Raymond Arroyo asks Cardinal Müller about the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia and the confusion stemming from it, the cardinal first states: “It is absolutely impossible that the pope, as the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ for the Universal Church, [would] present a doctrine which is plainly against the words of Jesus Christ.” The pope and the magisterium are “merely the interpreter” of the words of Christ, and the “doctrine on indissolubility of matrimony is absolutely clear,” explains the cardinal.

In Müller’s eyes, the pope intends with Amoris Laetitia “to help, to have in his sight,” all those people who live “in the secularized world” and “who do not have a full understanding what is a Christian life.” “He does not want to say: ‘Either you accept absolutely all from the beginning or you are absolutely out.’” The German cardinal explains that “we must lead them as good pastors until [up to] this point that they could accept completely the Christian doctrine and Christian life and our understanding.”

With regard to the famous footnote in Amoris Laetitia according to which it is possible to have, under certain conditions, access to the Sacraments while living together as a “remarried” couple, Cardinal Müller explains that this only applies to those “who live as brother and sister” after “a conversion of the heart, penitence” and the “intention not to sin again.” “It is impossible to live with two legal wives,” he adds. “We don’t accept polygamy!”

It is in this context – and after explaining that doctrine and pastoral care always go together – that Cardinal Müller makes a side remark about Father Antonio Spadaro’s recent tweet according to which, in theology, 2 and 2 does not need to make four, but can be five:

Some of those people who present themselves as a counselor of the pope, [saying] that the theology, the pastoral [care] for two and four [sic – two] can be five, that is not possible, because we have the theology.

When Raymond Arroyo, in his searching questions, raises the problem that Pope Francis himself has encouraged the Argentine bishops in their progressive understanding of Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Müller responds that he is not glad “that the bishops interpret the pope, the pope interprets the bishops,” adding: “We have some rules how to act in the Church.” The cardinal adds that, after two synods and a papal authoritative word in this matter, the discussion should be “finished.”

When asked about the dubia and whether they should be answered by the Holy Father, Cardinal Müller says that, with regard to the content of the dubia, these are “legitimate questions to the pope.” However, he regrets that “that it came out into the public,” causing “tensions between the pope and some cardinals.” “This is not good in our world of mass media,” concludes the cardinal, adding that “our enemies are glad to see our Church in a certain confusion.”

Moreover, Cardinal Müller distances himself from the misunderstandings on “both sides” or camps during the two family synods, saying that this had to do with “prejudices” and “an ideological view of things.” “Some argued too ideologically,” and thought that “we must fight for our ideas,” he explains, yet “we have the responsibility for the unity of the Church.” “It is not good to make a pressure group,” “to enter as a pressure group for one’s own ideas in the synod.” There are in the Church today “two wings, two ideological wing, extremes,” adds the German cardinals. “Everybody wants to win the battle against the other.” But, says Cardinal Müller, “the Revelation of God unites” and “it is not our task to unify in a totalitarian way.” It is wrong, according to Müller, to think “everybody must think like me.”

It seems that here, Cardinal Müller distanced himself, not only from the progressive camp, but also from those conservative prelates who tried to defend the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage during the two synods.

With regard to the question of the female deaconate, Cardinal Müller makes it clear that there cannot be a sacramental female deaconate and that Pope Francis established his study commission merely in order to find out more ways of participation in the Church for women.

Raymond Arroyo also asks the German cardinal whether the invitation of Paul Ehrlich and other progressive speakers at the Vatican is disturbing for him. In response, Cardinal Müller explains that, as a former academician, “I can discuss with everybody,” but “we must avoid the impression” of a relativization. “These people might be good scientists, but anthropologically, they [these secular academicians] have some lacks [deficiencies],” but we must “always have respect” for the natural law and the dignity of man, explains the cardinal. It is important to highlight the “right to life,” according to Cardinal Müller. “Overpopulation of the world could be a problem [sic], but we cannot resolve it with the killing of the half of mankind.”

When asked whether he is worried about giving moral credence to these speakers, Müller responds: “That could be the danger.” “Pope Francis was very clear against the gender ideology against transhumanism,” he adds. Pope Francis, in Müller’s eyes, “wants not to exclude these people” but wants them to learn from our “good anthropology” and have more “respect for human life.”

Moreover, Cardinal Müller confirms the idea that this approach is part of Pope Francis’ “evangelical hand held out to them,” as Arroyo puts it. The Church was once “a little bit separated from other groups,” seeming to be a little bit by itself, explains Cardinal Müller, and the pope wants now to reach out more to other groups in society.

With regard to the story about the three CDF priests who were dismissed around Christmas 2016 (as Marco Tosatti reported), upon the order of Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller makes it clear that he was opposed to the measure taken: “I am in favor of a better treatment of our officials in the Holy See because we cannot only speak about the social doctrine, we must also respect it.” The German distances himself “absolutely” from this dismissal which was not based on the fact that they committed a “mistake.” Müller does not want to participate in a form of a “court system”: “I am not a man of court [courtier].” For the employees of the Congregation for the Doctrine, orthodoxy and competence have to be the reasons for their employment, explains the cardinal.

When asked about the possible reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, Cardinal Müller responds with the words: “It needs time,” because it is not only about “signing a document” but also about the change of heart. Some of the members of the SSPX, he adds, think “we [ourselves] are the right Catholics.” They have to accept the “hierarchical communion” of the Church, as well as the creed, the pope’s authority and the councils. A “deeper reconciliation” is needed, according to Müller.

Cardinal Müller also explains to Raymond Arroyo that he generally agrees with Cardinal Robert Sarah’s claim that we have a “crisis of the liturgy,” but he insists that this crisis goes back to before the Second Vatican Council. The loss of the sense of the “mystery” at Holy Mass was a problem which already Romano Guardini discussed, says Cardinal Müller. It depends on the “inner attitude” as to whether one has a “life in God,” and not so much because of the “exterior forms.” The German cardinal states that, also with the traditional Latin Mass, one could celebrate Mass quickly – even in ten minutes – without entering into the mystery of the Mass.

His desire, Cardinal Müller says at the conclusion of the interview, is to “help to overcome secularization,” i.e., the “life without God.” In the face of his burdens as the Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Müller insists that “with the help of Grace, we can confront all these questions.” In light of this new interview, it might be worthwhile considering what Professor Anna Silvas recently said at the Lay Conference on Amoris Laetitia in Rome:

There is one group however, whose approach I find very strange: the intentionally orthodox among higher prelates and theologians who treat the turmoil arising from Amoris Laetitia as a matter of ‘misinterpretations’. They will focus on the text alone, abstracted from any of the known antecedents in the words and acts of Pope Francis himself or its wider historical context. It is as if they interpose a chasm that cannot be crossed between the person of the Pope on the one hand, over whose signature this document was published, and the ‘text’ of the document on the other hand. With the Holy Father safely quarantined out of all consideration, they are free to address the problem, which they identify as ‘misuse’ of the text. They then express the pious plea that the Holy Father will ‘correct’ these errors.

No doubt the perceived constraints of piety to the successor of [Saint] Peter account for these contorted manoeuvres. I know, I know! We have been facing down that conundrum for a year or longer. But to any sane and thoughtful reader, who, in the words of the 45 Theologian’s Censures, is ‘not trying to twist the words of the document in any direction, but … take the natural or the immediate impression of the meaning of the words to be correct’, this smacks of a highly wrought artificiality.

Update, 4 P.M.: Raymond Arroyo has now posted a full transcript of this interview on his Facebook.

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  May 25, 2017    20 Comments

Diocesan priest: ‘We are sitting back while children are being abused’

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. ( – Bishop John Gaydos of the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, is spearheading a new policy that pushes pastors to admit LGBT students from abusive homes into Catholic schools. Some teachers and pastors object to this plan, saying it forces them in practice to ignore the abusive environment LGBT students endure at home and also exposes other students to scandal.

The 17-page policy drafted by the Jefferson City diocese was presented to all priests of the diocese on May 9 and to all diocesan school principals on May 11. One priest, who wishes to remain anonymous for now, objected to being morally responsible for LGBT students when he knows they’re living in objectively abusive situations at home.

In reference to the archbishop of Boston, Cdl. Sean O’Malley, who had to close adoption agencies in the archdiocese rather than place children in LGBT homes, this priest at the policy meeting remarked, “Cdl. O’Malley had to close an adoption agency because the Church would not put children into those homes. It’s psychologically and emotionally abusive.”


The priest reminded those at the meeting that clerics and teachers were duty bound to anticipate and report suspected child abuse. “And then you have a transgendered child … We are sitting back while children are being abused.” Speaking of Bp. Robert Finn of Kansas City, Missouri, who was convicted for not suspecting potential child abuse, the priest added, “We had a bishop taken out because he didn’t suspect child abuse. We’re standing back, planning how to watch it all happen.”

Cdl. O’Malley had to close an adoption agency because the Church would not put children into those homes. It’s psychologically and emotionally abusive.Tweet

It should be noted that the new plan would no longer require LGBT parents and students to sign the School Handbook, agreeing to practice Catholic ethics. Instead, they are encouraged to sign a nebulous document called Covenant of Trust, “which doesn’t include this promise to abide by this code of ethics. In relation to this, the priest remarked, “Why are we having people sign a Covenant of Trust when we’re breaking it by ignoring the situation of these children?”

Proponents of the policy say it’s worded in such a way as to give pastors and principles the right to refuse to enroll such students, who would be immersed in an objective state of scandal at home and who would be a potential source of scandal to other students at school. There are others who believe that in practice, gay friendly or weak priests will cave to political pressure and bend the rules to admit problematic students into Catholic schools. They foresee such commonsense problems evolving, which include the transgendered bathroom fiasco and transgendered sports issue that’s currently plaguing public schools.

We had a bishop taken out because he didn’t suspect child abuse. We’re standing back, planning how to watch it all happen.Tweet

Church Militant reached out to Jesse Barton, a teacher and parent in the diocese, for his insight into issues related to the policy. Barton, who has watched this policy unfold, told Church Militant, “This document is … carefully-worded and ambiguous … The issue here, as defined by the anonymous priest in the audio recording … isn’t the policy, it’s the praxis.”

Barton then paraphrases the priest, who at the meeting addressed the presenters of the policy: “Anyone with a mustard seed’s worth of contemporary sense understands that arriving at the answer of ‘NO’ [meaning no admittance] is a practical impossibility for the priests of our diocese.”

The Church isn’t following her duty to safeguard the teachings of the Church regarding this policy, says Barton:

Families are asked to “support the moral and social doctrine of the Catholic Church to ensure consistency between home and school.” Nowhere in the document, however … are souls trapped in these irregular unions asked to separate, which is what the Church requires of all of us living in a state of objective sin. Instead, we are to accompany them. To where?

As a teacher and parent, Barton believes it’s insulting to the LGBT community not to ask them to convert, as if they weren’t able:

Do couples engaged in openly gay lifestyles, those who adopt children, genuinely respect our Catholic faith? It’s disingenuous. In fact, this whole exercise is insulting to the LGBT community … that our diocese regards them with such contempt that we are essentially regarding them as permanently lost. No call to conversion.

For Barton, this policy, absent of any meaningful call to conversion, is saying to the person, “You’re not worth saving. … the political and legal cost of choosing Christ instead of the world is just too great, so we’ll enable you. That’s what it says.”

Church Militant reached out to the diocese for comment but has yet to receive a response.


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Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th. is a staff writer for

Follow Bradley on Twitter: @BradleyLEli

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When “Accompaniment” Never Names Sin


Here’s a little thought experiment to start your day: Imagine you woke up one morning last week and read this headline in your local Catholic newspaper: “Bishop John Smith Leads Prayer at Contra Catholic Gathering.”

In this imagined universe, you’ve heard of these “Contra Catholics”—these are fellow Catholics who have publicly “come out” as using artificial contraception in their marriages. No longer willing to silently endure the stigma associated with their attraction to birth control, tired of the ridicule they face from those who accept what is taught in Humanae Vitae, they boldly, proudly claim that this is who they are. The Contra Catholic community that grew from this shared experience even has its own advocacy group—New Day Ministry—which this year held a symposium promoting their practice of contraception and their identity as Contra Catholics, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: Contra Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”

This is the event at which Bishop John Smith was invited to lead prayer. He gladly accepted, according to the Catholic newspaper’s account:

CHICAGO—Bishop John Smith seemed at home at New Day Ministry’s eighth annual symposium. This was the first time that the bishop had spoken in front of the advocacy group, which supports contracepting Catholics of all backgrounds.

“New Day Ministry made me want to come here,” the bishop said. He has been observing and admiring the group’s outreach to Contra Catholics over several years, he added. Smith said he was honored to be asked “to break open God’s Word” with the 300 weekend participants.

He said he is humbled by those Contra Catholics who have pursued “a life of faith in a church that has not always welcomed or valued” them or their worth. As a shepherd, he needs to hear their voices and take seriously their experience, he said, adding that both the presence and persistence of Contra Catholics inspired him.

Contra Catholics show “a valuable expression of mercy” in calling the church “to be more inclusive and more Christ-like despite being given so many reasons to walk away,” he said.

But his acceptance of the invitation to address the New Day Ministry gathering did not sit well with many other Catholics. “The flack has been enormous and continues on the blogosphere” and from “self-righteous strangers online and those who subscribe to these feeds,” Bishop Smith said, calling some of the posts and e-mails “vicious.”

Bishop Smith said that among objectors there are many sincere Catholics who are “really struggling” with all the issues around contraception. He said he hopes and prays “for a culture of encounter” in which the Church can become fully engaged with Contra Catholics “who want to live the Catholic life and who love the Catholic Church. … Why would we want to turn our backs on them?”

“Our usual way of thinking is that justice and mercy are incompatible,” Bishop Smith said, suggesting that Catholics need to find new ways to work together, to open up new possibilities and to try to be nonjudgmental of one another. “It’s about the need for a conversion of attitudes for both the institutional church and for all its members,” he said.

With regard to Contra Catholics, Bishop Smith suggests that the Church has alienated “a whole generation.” He said that on his many visits to confirmation classes, teens in his diocese ask: “Why can’t Contra Catholics be themselves? Bishop Smith, why can’t they love the way they want?”

“We have to listen to our young people and pay attention to things like this,” the bishop insisted.

He also told the Contra Catholic assembly that in his reading of Christian morality, he finds the infinite value of the human person to be “the touchstone and foundation for determining the morality of a given act or issue. Christian morality is more concerned with the well-being and dignity of the person than with rules, norms or commandments. Jesus seems to teach this on many occasions,” he said.

Perhaps in this thought experiment, you put down the Catholic newspaper on your kitchen table, nodding your head approvingly at the compassionate, truly pastoral expression of “accompaniment” that Bishop Smith has embraced in reaching out to the Contra Catholics. You might even be reflecting positively on just how pervasive this culture of “encounter” has become in dioceses and parishes across the nation. Dioceses everywhere now have Contra-Catholic-affirming ministries—even Contra-Catholic Masses celebrated for faith-filled Contra Catholics are held just down the street at your parish. New Day Ministry even publishes a list of “Contra-Catholic-friendly” parishes across the nation. Pastors and bishops everywhere are now welcoming Contra Catholics—and their spouses—with smiles and warm wishes. Some even apologize to Contra Catholic couples for the lack of welcome they had received in the past.

You, too, may even smile, knowing Contra Catholics and their allies are thriving under this model of “accompaniment.” New Day Ministry has even joined forces with other Contra Catholic advocacy groups to form a network called “Artificially Blessed.” Contra Catholics are now so media-savvy that they have produced books and videos expressing who they are and what they believe—even going so far as hand-delivering a Contra-Catholic-affirming video to the Holy Father himself!

Yet it might be the case that one or two of you have this warm and fuzzy reverie of praise for “accompaniment” interrupted by a tiny but persistent voice: “Hey, wait! Isn’t there something missing?”

This, dear thought-experimenter, is the too-often-overlooked voice of reason.

Through the noise and distraction of just how good we all feel after reading about Bishop Smith and New Day Ministry, if we try really hard to listen, we will hear that voice of reason say to us: “Well, um, isn’t artificial contraception an intrinsic evil? Isn’t willfully saying ‘yes’ to it an objectively grave sin?”

If we hear reason’s voice, it’s quite possible that, on further reflection, we would realize that the “accompaniment” that received our nodding approval mere moments before, found in dioceses and parishes across the nation, never once, in all its welcoming and affirming, mentions the truth about the evil of contraception.

Why? Simple. Contra Catholics have absolutely no interest in hearing that what they choose to believe and choose to practice is somehow not good for them, not healthy for them, and downright evil.

Because Contra Catholics feel “alienated” by such expressions, our “accompaniment” must expressly avoid any and all mention of them. Otherwise there will be no warm feeling of welcome and acceptance. If we Catholics openly reject the false “truths” claimed by the Contra Catholics—truths they say make them “who we are”—it is viewed as a personal rejection of “who we are.”

Put plainly, this form of “accompaniment” is a one-way street. Traffic is one-way only—the Catholic Church does not get to be “who we are.” The Church doesn’t get to speak from her true “identity” as Bride of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, called to love in truth. In this thought experiment, only the “Contra Catholics” are able to maintain their belief in “who we are.”

Such a compromising of the truth cannot occur without grave personal and communal consequences. If naming the reality of sin is incompatible with our pursuit of “accompanying” fellow Catholics, then our claim that we are accompanying is itself an unreality, a sham. Such false forms of “accompaniment” as described above cannot—must not—win the day.

But wait, you may say—it’s just a “thought experiment,” right? Whew! It’s not like there is really a so-called “Contra Catholic community” out there.

True, of course. But—full disclosure—the basis for my thought-experiment and imagined news report is indeed quite real, and can be found right here{SEE ARTICLE IMMEDIATELY BELOW THIS – ABYSSUM}

(Photo credit: Robert Shine)

Deacon Jim Russell


Deacon Jim Russell serves the Archdiocese of St. Louis and writes on topics of marriage, family, and sexuality from a Catholic perspective.



Bishop John Stowe leads prayer at LGBT Catholic gathering
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, at the New Ways Ministry symposium in Chicago April 28. Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the organization, is seated behind him. (Robert Shine)
Patricia Lefevere | May. 4, 2017
CHICAGO Clad in traditional brown Franciscan robes, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, seemed at home among the rainbow of colors at New Ways Ministry’s eighth annual symposium here April 28-30. This was the first time that the bishop had spoken in front of the advocacy group, which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics.
“New Ways Ministry made me want to come here,” the bishop told NCR during a 40-minute interview at the gathering. He has been observing and admiring the group’s outreach to LGBT Catholics over several years, he added.

New Ways Ministry director Frank DeBernardo invited Stowe, 51, after he’d heard the bishop give scriptural reflections at the 2016 annual meeting of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” DeBernardo said, comparing Stowe’s words to those of Pope Francis and to St. Francis of Assisi. All three men seemed to be saying that “it was the church’s job to take the Gospel to the margins,” DeBernardo said.

Stowe said he was honored to be asked “to break open God’s Word” with the 300 weekend participants. The Franciscan offered homiletic reflections on two Gospel texts read at the April 28 opening prayer service (Matthew 12:1-14) and at the April 29 morning service (Luke 6:37-45). Retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, also on the program, had to decline due to a viral infection.

Don’t miss our podcast, NCR In Conversation! Catch a new episode each Friday.
Stowe said he is humbled by those who have pursued “a life of faith in a church that has not always welcomed or valued” them or their worth. As a shepherd, he needs to hear their voices and take seriously their experience, he said, adding that both the presence and persistence of LGBT Catholics inspired him.

They’ve shown “a valuable expression of mercy” in calling the church “to be more inclusive and more Christ-like despite being given so many reasons to walk away,” he said.

But his acceptance of the invitation to address the New Ways Ministry gathering did not sit well with many Kentucky Catholics and others farther afield.

“The flack has been enormous and continues on the blogosphere” and from “self-righteous strangers online and those who subscribe to these feeds,” Stowe said, calling some of the posts and e-mails “vicious.”

The uproar quieted somewhat after the bishop addressed the issue on a local Catholic radio show in December 2016, “but it never completely died down. I expect it will resurface after the symposium,” he said.

Among objectors, Stowe believes there are many who are sincere Catholics and are “really struggling” with all the issues around homosexuality. He said he hopes and prays “for a culture of encounter” to ensue so “we can become fully engaged with those who want to live the Catholic life and who love the Catholic Church. … Why would we want to turn our backs on them?” he asked.

Stowe harkened back to St. Francis’ encounter with the beggar 800 years ago. At first, the leper with his open sores repelled him, but later St. Francis was able to kiss the leper. “He was transformed by his encounter,” the bishop said. The reaction was fitting for a symposium with the theme “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”

“Our usual way of thinking is that justice and mercy are incompatible,” Stowe said. But Pope Francis has asked Catholics to find new ways to work together, to open up new possibilities and to try to be nonjudgmental of one another, he added. “We all still require [mercy]; it’s about the need for a conversion of attitudes for both the institutional church and for all its members,” Stowe said.

When Stowe was asked how he felt the church should respond to cases of LGBT employees — many of whom had been fired from long-held church positions when their same-sex marriages were publicized or outed — he stressed that the church must be consistent and non-discriminatory in dealing with all its employees.

“We must preserve our tradition and our integrity as a church,” he said. “We risk contradicting ourselves if we want our employees to live by the church’s teaching and if we ourselves as an institution don’t live by our teaching, which has always opposed discrimination of any sort.”

Stowe thought the church could find a way to “defend our religious liberty without violating any one’s human rights.”

He pointed to its century-long championing of working people, of their rights to a living wage, to humane treatment in the workplace and to collective bargaining. “We must be consistent, even though that can be very difficult sometimes.”

The challenge is to “articulate Gospel principles consistently and implement them compassionately,” he said, noting that Catholic social teaching has always upheld the dignity of each human person. “We preach that human flourishing is a primary goal,” he said, “much more important than the protection of our institutions.”

Although he has been a bishop less than two years and thus attended few national bishops’ meetings, he said there is fear shared by the leadership that legislation and judicial rulings could increase pressure on the institutional church to resolve workplace issues with LGBT employees differently.

However, there is the graver reality that the church has alienated “a whole generation,” he said.

Stowe said that on his many visits to confirmation classes, teens in his diocese ask: “Why can’t gay and lesbian people be themselves? Bishop Stowe, why can’t they love who they want?”

He said he admires how well young people know that the church believes each person is of value. But they also know that LGBT persons are not always welcomed or treated fairly in the church, he said.

He tries to acquaint them with church teaching on the dignity of each human being, citing passages in the 1965 Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) and other examples. He indicates how discrimination leads to dehumanization, frequently expressed in bullying, abuse, sometimes violence and even death.

“We have to listen to our young people and pay attention to things like this,” the bishop insisted.

In reflecting on Matthew 12:1-14, the bishop told the LGBT assembly that in his reading of Christian morality, he finds the infinite value of the human person to be “the touchstone and foundation for determining the morality of a given act or issue. Christian morality is more concerned with the well-being and dignity of the person than with rules, norms or commandments. Jesus seems to teach this on many occasions,” Stowe said.

[Patricia Lefevere is a longtime NCR contributor.]

United States
Diocese of Lexington, KentuckyNew Ways Ministry
John StoweFrancis DeBernardoSt. Francis of AssisiPope Francis
LGBT CatholicsJustice and Mercy Shall KissSame-sex marriageGaudium et SpesYoung Catholics
A version of this story appeared in the May 19-June 1, 2017 print issue under the headline: Bishop Stowe leads prayer at LGBT Catholic event .

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Bloom’s central indictment of contemporary higher education is that it not only does little or nothing to cultivate the “soul,” it systematically operates to obscure its very existence.


Bloom’s War for the Imagination
by Jon Fennell
within Book Reviews, Education
May 26, 2017 07:00 am
The authors in this symposium have offered insightful analyses of Bloom’s book and the contemporary university it describes. Can what has been lost be recovered? If so, this will come through restoration of the imagination.
 {Emphasis in red type by Abyssum}

It must have been around 1960 when my father told me that during the 1930s, while a graduate student in Ann Arbor, he forwent eating for a week in order to purchase a sport coat—a piece of clothing that he believed one must wear in order to show appropriate respect for the university and one’s teachers. A romantic and passionate young Englishman, my father was deeply appreciative of this place that not only took seriously his longings but promised a suitable response to them. In 1967, he returned to campus for a visit, only to encounter the jeans, irreverence, and unruliness that had, in just a few short years, become the norm. He never again spoke of “U of M,” with which he had for decades nostalgically been in love. Something majestic had been defiled.

What on earth happened? Is it possible to recover what has been lost? The first of these questions is the explicit focus of Bloom’s book. The second question is not so clearly addressed by Bloom, but the stimulating essays that constitute this symposium help clarify our thinking on that troubling issue.

Nathan Schlueter wonders if The Closing of the American Mind is a great book. In my estimation, it is not. Yet it surely qualifies as near-great (a “masterwork,” according to Paul Rahe), spawned by appreciation of what is great. As our contributors have shown, Bloom dwells on an impressive number of significant human themes while interpreting the university’s decay in terms of the perennial problems that define political philosophy. Among these themes are the eclipse of Nature (at the center of Peter Lawler’s analysis), along with the decline of Reason and hence the West (an important focus for Schlueter). In addition, all four of the commentators note Bloom’s alarmed recognition of the ascendancy of “nice” boys and girls and the utter collapse of proper character formation, as well as its impact on higher education and the American regime as a whole.

Although it may be surprising to some, given Closing’s emphasis on reason, Bloom’s most important contribution is his continuing illumination of the vital role played by imagination. Bloom’s depth of insight on this matter makes perfect sense, given his grounding in both Plato and Rousseau (he is the translator of the Republic as well as Emile—a prodigious achievement).

Imagination and the Purpose of the University

Imagination is central to our understanding of the fundamental purpose of the university. Charles Taylor reminds us that “every person, and every society, lives with or by some conception(s) of what human flourishing is: what constitutes a fulfilled life? What makes life really worth living? What would we most admire people for?” Even more to the point, Bertrand Russell observes, “We must have some concept of the kind of person we wish to produce, before we can have any definite opinion as to the education which we consider best.” What Bloom forcefully shows is that the diminished higher education he describes is the product of an ever-shrinking conception of human flourishing on the part of faculty and administrators. Accordingly, as the subtitle of Bloom’s book indicates, his central indictment of contemporary higher education is that it not only does little or nothing to cultivate the “soul,” it systematically operates to obscure its very existence.

With this last statement, we encounter an ambiguity at the heart of Bloom’s book. For example, in his notorious critique of rock music, Bloom speaks of both “the dark, chaotic, premonitory forces in the soul” and of “preparing the soul for the unhampered use of reason.” One’s choice of music is a response to the existing state of his soul, but the music to which one attends is also capable of refining the soul. (The popularity of rock is an illustration of the first principle and is fully at odds, according to Bloom, with the second.) We can see, then, that “soul” for Bloom refers to an essential element of a human being as well as the completed condition of that element (a normative ideal).

Both the bitter criticism and the noble aspiration that characterize Closing are inspired by the life well-lived, as imagined by Bloom. This vision animates Bloom and at least some of his readers. Yet the soul exists whether it is elevated or not. Actual human beings reside somewhere on a continuum, and any location on that continuum can be understood as a condition of the soul. Bloom’s “impoverishment of the soul” makes sense only with respect to an imagined ideal.

It was inevitable that Plato’s cave, as well as the pit beneath the cave (signifying entrapment by historicism and relativism), should play a central role in Bloom’s account. What will our emerging young elites understand, at the level of presupposition, to be necessary or possible, beyond the pale or beautiful? If one is concerned about the future, then imagination in this second sense (what Bloom refers to as “horizons”) is the most important thing, for how persons act is necessarily subservient to their deep and typically tacit convictions with respect to such matters. Rahe is correct in noting that our nation today reaps what it has sown for the past fifty years.

Yet the third and fourth arenas for the imagination are those of (1) the media and (2) the popular culture that is largely formed by them. In their ubiquity, these forces decisively shape how many of our fellow citizens (within their caves) view the world. In recognizing their role, we are led to an important question raised by Closing and highlighted by Schlueter: In regard to the university vis-à-vis the world at large, in which direction does the influence flow?

While for Bloom the university has, for the most part, been contaminated from the outside, Schlueter wisely adds that what happens to future elites during their years on campus has everything to do with the cultural influences that pound away on the soul beginning at birth. Indeed, Bloom himself laments that many of his students are already incapable of genuine education by the time they arrive on campus. The university has been corrupted. But—and this is the immediate point—in its depraved state, higher education is itself now among the most significant agents of corruption. Whatever the direction of the influence, Closing makes it clear the contamination of higher education shapes the imagination of students. So too must any remedy for that corruption. Given the current condition of higher education, correction must come from without: prophylactic measures in the homes of future students and faculty (including home or private schooling, in conjunction with strong spiritual guidance) are a necessary condition for the resurrection of the genuine university.

Bloom is bitter and angry because contemporary higher education is woefully effective in destroying the conditions that permit the moral and intellectual possibilities that make life worth living. The very reality of these possibilities is in jeopardy. Like C.S. Lewis and Michael Polanyi, Bloom recognizes that preservation of the most important things is a matter of education, broadly understood. It is simple, really. Everything depends on keeping the possibilities we treasure urgently and imaginatively alive in the young who follow us. To the degree we succeed, what is vital is safe (but for no more than the next generation); to the degree we fail, the chain is interrupted and those treasures may be lost, possibly for good. Alas, the institutions created precisely for the preservation of the tradition have now become the agents of its undoing.

Is There Hope for the University?

What hope do we find in the contributors to this symposium? Platt closes his essay with the observation that if only literature professors had followed Bloom in his critique of mindless jargon and, through the study of great books, had led the university to employ the language used by Shakespeare, the Founders, and the King James Bible, the past thirty years might well have been a time of recovery. While rectification of the university’s vocabulary is certainly a prerequisite for its rehabilitation, Platt’s remedy seems unrealistic. His analysis appears more penetrating when he notes that “the way of philosophy” is “probably tragic.” A significant reason that the rhetoric of higher education is shallow is that the pedagogical ideal envisioned by Bloom, not least its tragic dimension, is so demanding and hence uncongenial to so many students and faculty that they flee via empty words to a comfortable mindlessness. Without mentioning the matter, Platt thus points to the anti-egalitarianism (what Bloom elsewhere calls his “elitism”) at the core of Bloom’s critique. As Joseph Epstein recently remarked, “the realm of art and intellect has little or nothing to do with equality.”  {Incredible !!! Abyssum}

We were alerted to Bloom’s complex relationship to the indiscriminate, open-to-everything contemporary university by Schlueter’s query regarding “Bloom’s ultimate sympathies,” and Lawler’s commentary leads us into the depths of the matter. Bloom’s educational program is an expression of his philosophical anthropology. To him, a vital feature of human health is a certain kind of longing that can define a life. This longing, so important to Bloom, is in itself wondrous. That it is incapable of more than fleeting satisfaction makes it tragic. Bloom’s disenchantment follows from the recognition that such wonder has been eclipsed as higher education has grown ever more intolerant of the prospect of perennial tragedy, in whose company alone the wondrous longing can emerge. This is a flattening, indeed.

Lawler, reminding us of Schlueter’s emphasis on Nature, asserts that the squashing of human possibilities can last only so long. The springs from which the longing emerges will not be denied. Still, even if this is true, might not the return to health require several decades, if not centuries? This dismal prospect calls for faith and hope, qualities on prominent display in some of our contributors. As Rahe highlights, those virtues are not so evident in Bloom, for whom there is little prospect of a renaissance of “authentic liberation” (“perfection of soul”) within the existing mass-oriented institutions.

The flattening of soul documented by Bloom and reaffirmed by Lawler is celebrated by Richard Rorty. In his philosophical anthropology, the elimination of a longing marked by never-ending conflict and disappointment yields “nice” boys and girls who are uninterested in troubling deep questions, the raising of which seems to them an act of cruelty. For Rorty, this is a great victory over a regime of sadomasochism masquerading as allegiance to principle. Bloom’s adversary is therefore the conviction that acquiescence to and stimulation of longing as the central objective of higher education is circular: were one not already in the grips of this perversity, he would certainly not call for its accentuation. The advent of nice young people and the desuetude of controversy regarding capital-letter concepts is the great accomplishment of the twentieth century.

Lawler believes that Bloom, in his disenchantment, goes beyond the evidence. Nature will assert itself. Here are faith and hope. Might wishes give rise to reality? On this question, each of us must decide. To his credit, Lawler admits that his comparative optimism follows from his Christian vision. Which of these perspectives—Lawler’s Christian aspiration or Bloom’s desperate appeal to the philosophic spirit—is more capable of prompting a recovery in higher education remains to be seen. It is entirely possible that neither can succeed. Yet concern entails responsibility. What more can our devotion mean?

Jon Fennell, professor emeritus at Hillsdale College and author of essays ranging from Rousseau to Rorty, has, in recent years, written extensively on Michael Polanyi. He may be contacted at

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Dome of Basilica of Saint Andrew in Patras

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The Pope’s Marxist Head of the Jesuits

{Emphasis in red type by Abyssum}

Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, a Venezuelan Communist and Modernist, is carrying out Francis’s agenda.

Understanding the adage that personnel is policy, Pope Francis has been planting Marxists throughout the Church, including at the top of the troubled religious order to which he belongs. In 2016, the Jesuits, with the blessing of Pope Francis, installed as its general superior a Venezuelan, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, whose communist convictions have long been known.

Sosa has written about the “Marxist mediation of the Christian Faith,” arguing that the Church should “understand the existence of Christians who simultaneously call themselves Marxists and commit themselves to the transformation of the capitalist society into a socialist society.” In 1989, he signed a letter praising Fidel Castro.

Turn down any corridor in Francis’s Vatican, and you are likely to run into a de facto communist: Francis has a communist running his order, a communist running his Council of Cardinals (the Honduran cardinal, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga), a communist running the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (Margaret Archer, a British sociologist who has said that she represents the “Marxian left”), and communists such as the renegade Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff and the Canadian socialist Naomi Klein drafting his encyclicals.

It is no coincidence that the only U.S. presidential candidate who made a visit to the Vatican during the campaign was a socialist who had honeymooned in the Soviet Union. Bernie Sanders turned up at the Vatican in April 2016, having received an invitation from Pope Francis’s close Argentine friend, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.

“We invited the candidate who cites the pope most in the campaign, and that is Senator Bernie Sanders,” explained Sorondo, who added that Sanders’s agenda is “very analogous to that of the pope.”

In this smug leftist atmosphere in Rome, Sosa’s elevation to the head of the Jesuits was inevitable. In the past, the Jesuits had been called the pope’s marines. Under Sosa, they are more like the pope’s Marxists, peddling his climate-change propaganda as a pretext for global socialism.

But Sosa’s ambitions, like Pope Francis’s, go well beyond meddling in economies. He is also pushing a moral revolution in the Church, evident in his astonishing claim that, since none of the Apostles tape-recorded Jesus Christ, his words on adultery can be elastically re-interpreted.

“You need to start by reflecting on what exactly Jesus said,” Sosa told an Italian interviewer in February. “At that time, no one had a tape recorder to capture the words. What we know is that the words of Jesus have to be contextualized, they’re expressed in a certain language, in a precise environment, and they’re addressed to someone specific.”

In other words, Sosa is confident that he understands Jesus’s meaning better than the Gospel writers. Like Francis, Sosa can’t resist the mumbo-jumbo of Modernist biblical scholarship, which always manages to dovetail conveniently with liberal views.

The Council of Trent explicitly condemned the claim that the Gospel writers were just making stuff up when recounting the words of Jesus Christ. But Sosa has no problem trafficking in that heresy.

“Over the last century in the Church there has been a great blossoming of studies that seek to understand exactly what Jesus meant to say,” he said.

The presumption here is extraordinary but typical of a Francis acolyte. The new orthodoxy is heterodoxy, and Sosa is wallowing in it. He is given to little sermonettes on relativism, such as this whopper:

The Church has developed over the centuries, it is not a piece of reinforced concrete. It was born, it has learned, it has changed. This is why the ecumenical councils are held, to try to bring developments of doctrine into focus. Doctrine is a word that I don’t like very much, it brings with it the image of the hardness of stone. Instead the human reality is much more nuanced, it is never black or white, it is in continual development.

Were St. Ignatius of Loyola alive today, the order he founded wouldn’t ordain him, and he would have wondered how a de facto Protestant ended up on the chair of St. Peter. Nor would St. Ignatius have believed the sheer sophistry that now passes for theological “sophistication” in his order.

Fr. Antonio Spadaro, another Jesuit close to Pope Francis, tweeted out earlier this year this profundity: “Theology is not #Mathematics. 2 + 2 in #Theology can make 5. Because it has to do with #God and real #life of #people.”

Gobsmacked by the relentless leftism of Francis and his aides, Al Gore asked in 2015, “Is the pope Catholic?” The question is no longer a joke.

George Neumayr is the author of The Political Pope

This essay originally appeared at The American SpectatorIt has been reprinted with the permission of the author. 

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Liberal Myths Have Consequences

“Contemporary liberalism is less a political philosophy than a façade for undermining extant social and legal mores.”   ∼ John Safranek, The Myth of Liberalism, 2015.

When I first looked into this insightful book of John Safranek titled The Myth of Liberalism, I was struck by the introductory sentence that he cited from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. It is indeed one of those short, pithy statements that tell us, in a few words, what the book is about. In reflecting back over these lines, we realize that what is laid down for our consideration is the basis for the truth of what is proposed. It does explain what our contemporaries are systematically determined to impose on our private and public lives. The book explains how, in their own minds at least, contemporary scholars and jurists justify what they relentlessly promote. Yet, what they present and argue—this is the book’s value—cannot really be valid. The book goes into great detail to explain why no settled proof of liberal propositions is ever found.

This book essentially maintains that the many sequential “justifications” of contemporary liberalism, on careful examination, are simply incoherent. Their basic “self-evident” propositions always require corrections. These recurrent flaws make the justifications less than evident, self or otherwise. They cannot sustain themselves before reason, whatever rationale that they offer for their on-going claim that they do make sense, at least to themselves. Indeed—and this is what the book is about—the ever new “reasons,” designed to replace or supplement the previous inadequate ones, are also continually rejected as inconsistent with reason. Each last “reason given” could not itself be substantiated.

The irreplaceable and abiding value of a published book, one held in our very hands, is that, unlike things preserved on the Internet, it stands outside the din and confusion of modern technology, culture, and academia. This value is particularly true if the work comes from a source, such as the Catholic University of America Press, that has managed to retain its own philosophical and literary integrity. A book is the one place where an argument about the serious deficiencies of modern liberalism can be presented in its wholeness. An unread book is not as yet a book intelligible to a mind. But, once published, it remains the one avenue to minds that cannot be controlled short of burning it. This latter practice is always a possibility in a society ruled more by desire than reason, the relationship of which is the subject matter of this book.

The initial passage from Hegel reads as follows: “The right of the subject’s particularity, his right to be satisfied, or, in other words, the right of subjective freedom, is the pivot and center of the difference between antiquity and modern times.” What does this sentence tell us? First, we are each subjects. We are each “particular,” not generic, beings. So far, Aquinas would have no problem with Hegel’s formulation. The word “right” means that our particularity belongs solely to us; no one, not even God, can interfere with it. We can only give it to ourselves. It is not a gift. It is a “right.” What constitutes the essence or foundation of this “right”?

A “right” is a claim against others, what they “owe” us because of what we say that we are. We thus have a general “right” to be “satisfied.” If we are not “satisfied,” someone is violating our dignity, our “right” to our unique particularity. The “right” to be satisfied is but another way of saying that we have a “right” to our “subjective freedom.” That is, no one else, nothing else, can interfere with what we freely desire. It is the sole “absolute” in a world of no absolutes. Every moral, political, and social issue comes back to this principle. Desire is what constitutes our “particular” being and grounds our freedom. If we freely “desire” it, we have a “right” to it.

Finally, we are told that this “subjective freedom” constitutes the difference between classic/medieval and modern times. Classic/medieval freedom was based on reason, logos, not desire, on what is, not on will. Freedom is based on reason, not desire. To understand what is being said here, two more points need to be recalled. The first is that, according to Plato, desire, by itself, is unlimited. This un-limitedness is a good thing in itself for that is what desire, as such, is. The second point is that, according to Aristotle, the purpose of virtue is to rule our desires and so achieve our end, not just our desires. Desires allow no “end,” only more desires. In themselves, desires are good things but they are to be ruled by reason. The difference between modern and classic/medieval thought, then, has to do with where we locate the center of our being: in desire which is unlimited or in reason which limits or rules desire because it knows the end which desires serve.


The first brief citation from the Safranek book, cited above, means the following: Modern liberalism seeks, at every essential element of what-it-means-to-be-a-human-being, to substitute desire for reason to explain what a person is. A more extensive version of the same point is as follows: “[Liberalism] is a myth successfully propagated by social and political authorities to conceal their imposition of a distinct set of goods that undermine the traditional Western ethos. Liberalism is not a coherent philosophy but a collection of causes advanced under the rubric of personal liberty (Hegel’s subjective freedom) by powerful social and political interests.” The oft-repeated witticism, “scratch a liberal and you will find a totalitarian,” is rooted in the intellectual failure of liberalism to be able to justify its own premises of a desire-based explanation of human action. In the end, it always must resort to an authority itself based on arbitrary desire, not reason.

To establish the validity of this argument, the book works its way carefully through the leading modern philosophers who provide its intellectual background—Hobbes, Bentham, and Mill, among others. It then takes up each “cause” that is used to establish the primacy of desire over reason—autonomy, dignity, freedom, rights, individualism, and equality. None of these explanations can stand by itself without revealing a flaw that requires it to employ the classic notion of justice—to render to each what is objectively due—to explain the exceptions that each principle runs into when making desire the basic principle in question. Finally, we are given a systematic comparison between the principles of classical/medieval thought in the light of modern desire based theory.

Following the classic example of Socrates in the First Book of the Republic, wherein a general thesis is shown to be untenable because it does not cover every case, Safranek examines each of the liberal premises under the light of a casuistry that reveals the weakness and impossibility of the principle being true as it is presented. Plato refuted the notion that justice is the “interest of the stronger” by asking whether we should return a sword that we had borrowed from its owner who had, in the meantime, gone mad.

In the case of equality, a similar method is followed. Clearly we are not equal in everything. But if we base our argument for equality in our desire to be equal in everything we will sooner or later end in being unjust because some inequality has to be acknowledged. We have to conclude that desire cannot alone justify equality. “The myth perpetrated by contemporary liberal scholars is that the concept of equality, which is entirely dependent on the virtue of justice, is able to justify moral and political claims in isolation from it.” The fact that I desire something does not mean that all my desires are equal. Nor are my desires superior to the opposite desires of others. Both equality and inequality must be examined by principles other than desire alone.


Safranek is both a medical doctor and a student of philosophy. In this he reminds one of the work of Leon Kass (Towards a More Human Biology; The Hungry Soul) in which the doctor’s familiarity with medicine illuminates many aspects of philosophy that many an academic might miss. In addition, both Safranek and Kass understand the centrality of the family to the aberrations of modern liberalism. In this sense, it is not surprising to see that the undermining of classical/medieval ethos has, as the book spells out, its most destructive effects in the family with all the notions of love and generosity that go with them.

It is not true that the sequence of issues beginning with divorce, on to contraception, abortion, homosexuality, single-sex “marriage,” polygamy, artificial fertilization and gestation, and euthanasia are independent of each other. They are all logically locked together in a single sequence of argument in which the first deviation from the good inevitably leads to the next aberration. Safranek sees each of these issues in the light of a persistent decline from the good of human life as found in nature. The second introductory citation from Safranek clearly sets down the relation of reason to the human happiness that is the end of our nature and, ultimately, of all our actions.

Safranek argues that the modern Supreme Court itself has been the most intellectually disordered source imposing a desire-based system on our public life. He argues, correctly, I think, that the Court is not a legislator constituted to impose its morals on the public. This concept is an abuse of the Constitution that attempts to justify lodging arbitrary power in the hands of a few unelected judges. Safranek pays a good deal of welcome attention to the aberrant thinking that justifies usurpation of power.

Once desires or pleasures are upheld as the fundamental good, morality (the self-rule of our desires) seems superfluous…. If morality is dispensable, then so are the political and legal precepts that it grounds. As the last six decades of legal political philosophy have amply revealed, the conundrum is insolvable in liberal terms. Liberals are reduced to appealing to authority, that of the Supreme Court, even though they cannot justify the Court’s power to uphold the desires of the minority vis-à-vis the majority or vice versa. Liberal jurisprudence devolves into positivism and authoritarianism (221).

The desire-based polity, that is, the polity whose philosophical and legal norms are said to reside in the primacy of individual desires, must in its own logic, we again see in its practice, be based on a voluntarist concept of law that has no other justification but what those in power choose. Aristotle had long ago explained that democracies based on “liberty” for its own sake and not for a purpose must end in tyranny.


For some time, Muslim theorists have pointed out that, in one or two decades, many cities and countries in Europe and America will have large Muslim populations with minority and probably majority political and demographic status. This growth is seen against the decline of births in the West. There is little reason to doubt these calculations. In this light, Safranek presents a very lucid and strong argument for the restoration of the primacy of the family in public life. He presents his case in terms of the well-being of families as seen in the classic/medieval tradition, but with a nuance concerning aristocracy that is not enough understood.

The new aristocracy is intact families. In contrast to historical aristocracies, this one is not based on property or material well-being. It is based on virtuous family relationships, first and foremost between the parents. It is not hereditary but congenial because these children will be advantaged from birth in nearly all the constituents of happiness by their parents’ example of charity and self-restraint…. The intact human family irreplaceably fulfills the most primordial human need for unconditional love while installing the virtues necessary for human well-being (250).

This approach requires a rejection of desire-based ethics and politics in which the issues of reason, virtue, and sacrifice are absent.

This book contains a very clearly written, thorough, yet concise argument about the adequacy of the essential principles of modern liberalism. It is also a re-presentation of how classical/medieval understanding of family and virtue really is a superior understanding of the human good. The book is also encouraging in what seems like an otherwise bleak future for the family. “One does not need to be wealthy, powerful, or famous to maintain a happy family, enjoy friendships, appreciate beauty, exercise self-control, or attain knowledge.” In fact, on finishing this remarkable book, we can conclude with Aristotle that being wealthy, famous, or powerful probably will not make us happy. We need to see these goods, to return to the initial citation, in the light of the natural end to which they themselves are ordered. “Human beings are governed by—rather than choose—happiness as their end.”

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a portrait of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel from 1819. 


Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.


Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., taught political science at Georgetown University for many years. His recent books include The Mind That Is Catholic from Catholic University of America Press; Remembering Belloc from St. Augustine Press; and Reasonable Pleasures from Ignatius Press. His newest books are A Line Through the Human Heart: On Sinning and Being Forgiven (2016) and the forthcoming On the Principles of Taxing Beer and Other Brief Philosophical Essays(2017). His most recent book is Catholicism and Intelligence (Emmaus Road, 2017).

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Amoris LaetitiaCroniesLife Site News

Apostate Maltese Bishops Criticize Natural Marriage Defense as “Propaganda”

Apostate Maltese Bishops Criticize Natural Marriage Defense as “Propaganda”

Malta’s prelates used to be Catholic, but now they are leaders in apostasy. First Amoris Laetitia, and now this.

MALTA, May 24, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholic faithful in Malta have published a full page add in a widely read paper defending real marriage against “unnatural” homosexual “marriage” in the lead-up to the country’s June 3 general election.

The country’s bishops, however, have criticized the ad as “propaganda.”

The ad, published in the May 21 edition of MaltaToday by “Maltese Catholics United for the Faith,” states that the sanctity of marriage must be respected.

“We respect everyone, be they teachers, nuns, gays, immigrants, or self-employed…Respect is at the heart of it all. But the sanctity of marriage, between husband and wife, doesn’t grant a right to everyone to marry anyone,” the ad states.

The group’s ad criticizes the country’s two political parties vying for leadership for “incrementally beef[ing] up their standing at the ballot box by promising or enacting gay marriage laws for the 1%.”

“Same-sex marriage is unnatural. It runs against natural law as designed by God and handed down to us through every generation in our Maltese history,” states the ad.

“This is why we take a stand for marriage as a union between husband and wife. If we don’t take a public stand about what marriage is, our political parties will corrupt its meaning and enforce what it shouldn’t be. The main electoral programs are glorifying sin, and no sin should be placed in the spotlight and glorified,” the group states in the ad.

The Archdiocese of Malta, run by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, took issue with the ad.

“The Archdiocese of Malta categorically states that, while respecting the right of freedom of expression of every person or any other entity, it is not in any way involved with the propaganda by the Maltese Catholics United for the Faith,” the archdiocese stated on its website May 23.

Archbishop Scicluna did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ request for comment by press time.

It remains illegal in the predominantly Catholic country of Malta for two people of the same-sex to “marry,” although same-sex civil unions have been recognized since 2014. The Catholic Church, following the Bible, teaches that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and that the homosexual inclination itself is “objectively disordered.”

The group behind the ad is urging Catholics to “defend the sanctity of marriage” by not voting for homosexual “marriage,” “even if it means not voting at all.”

“Instead, take a stand for traditional marriage. Don’t compromise your faith at the altar of a diabolical political system. Call the Devil for what he truly is and embrace God instead,” the ad states.

“Our corrupt politicians think they are free to live as they choose, but they are not free to redefine Marriage for the rest of us,” it adds.

Ad as it appeared in the May 21, 2017 edition of Malta Today. (PDF)

The country’s bishops, however, in a recent Pastoral Letter are asking Catholics to vote “according to our conscience, which means that in front of God we recognize what is right and true, and therefore choose what is truly beneficial for the common good and for a just society.”

“Our vote is an answer to this question: what kind of society do we want for ourselves and for future generations? It is a responsibility that demands that we choose people of wisdom and integrity, who treasure and embrace the ethical values that we believe in,” the bishops state in their letter.

Earlier this year the Malta bishops issued guidelines interpreting Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia to allow civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics living in adultery to receive Holy Communion if they are “at peace with God.”

Two weeks after the guidelines were issued, a different group of Maltese Catholics published a full-page newspaper ad that rebuked the guidelines and called upon the bishops to rescind them.

“You have permitted the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord and Master to be crucified and tortured once again in the mouths and hearts of filthy, impenitent adulterers and fornicators!” states the ad authored by a group identifying itself as “members of Veri Catholici.”

“For those who do such things shall not, as the Apostle teaches, enter into the Kingdom of God,” the ad stated.


Full text of the Malta Catholics’ ad


All relationships matter. But not all relationships are Marriage.

We respect everyone, be they teachers, nuns, gays, immigrants, or self-employed. We cherish our children dearly. We are grateful to mother nature and enjoy our pets’ companionship. Respect is at the heart of it all. But the sanctity of marriage, between husband and wife, doesn’t grant a right to everyone to marry anyone.

Nor does it grant a right to cynical political leaders to incrementally beef up their standing at the ballot box by promising or enacting gay marriage laws for the 1%. Same-sex marriage is unnatural. It runs against natural law as designed by God and handed down to us through every generation in our Maltese history.

This is why we take a stand for marriage as a union between husband and wife. If we don’t take a public stand about what marriage is, our political parties will corrupt its meaning and enforce what it shouldn’t be. The main electoral programs are glorifying sin, and no sin should be placed in the spotlight and glorified.

God has a plan for your life. The political class has a plan for your life too. Be ready for both. Just be wise enough to know which one to battle and which one to embrace.

Increasingly our political class treats the nation’s treasury as a cookie jar in which it plunges its hands with wanton selfishness. Million euro payments to party law firms, contracts for cooked-up energy futures, and fake loan repayments in secretive banks are the order of the day. The authorities see nothing, do nothing. It’s daylight rape against our families’ meager fortunes and precarious future.

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live,” said St John Paul II.

Let us join together for the courage and grace to defend the sanctity of marriage in the midst of a corrupt political class.
Don’t vote for gay marriage even if it means not voting at all. Instead, take a stand for traditional marriage. Don’t compromise your faith at the altar of a diabolical political system. Call the Devil for what he truly is and embrace God instead.

Our corrupt politicians think they are free to live as they choose, but they are NOT free to redefine Marriage for the rest of us.

Find. Another. Word. Authorised by Maltese Catholics United for the Faith Standing for Faith and Family.

Read the full article at Life Site News

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Catholic Herald UKJorge

“Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day”

“Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day”

God is “dim?”

‘God does not like to be loved the way a warlord would like, dragging his people to victory, debasing them in the blood of his enemies,’ Pope Francis said

If it seems hard to find God in this world, it is because he chooses to be with the defeated and dejected and in places where most people are loath to go, Pope Francis said.

“God does not like to be loved the way a warlord would like, dragging his people to victory, debasing them in the blood of his enemies,” the Pope said May 24 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

The audience began just after Pope Francis had met U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day, and, for as fragile as his presence seems in this world, he has chosen the place everyone disdains,” Pope Francis told the crowd in the square.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the Pope looked at the Gospel of Luke’s account of the two disciples travelling on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified and buried.

In the story, the Pope said, the disciples, are struggling to understand how such a fate could have befallen the man they had faith in: the son of God.

Their hope was merely human, he said, and it was easily shattered after such an unforeseen defeat of God, who appeared “defenseless at the hands of the violent, incapable of offering resistance to evil.”

“How much unhappiness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in the life of every person. In essence, we are all like those two disciples,” he said. Just when life seems to be going well, “we find ourselves struck down, disappointed.”

But just as Jesus was on the road with the disciples, the Pope said, He is also walking with everyone on their journey through life.

“Jesus walks with all those who are discouraged, who walk with their head down,” so He can offer them renewed hope, he said.

But He does so discreetly, the Pope said. “Our God is not an intrusive God.”

Even though He knows what is bothering the disciples, He asks them a question and listens patiently, letting them tap into the depths of their bitterness and sadness.

Whoever reads the Bible will not find stories of “easy heroism, blazing campaigns of conquest. True hope never comes cheap — it always comes through defeat.”

In fact, he added, the hope felt by those who have never suffered may not even be hope at all.

The disciples initially didn’t recognise God on the road because their hope had been in a victorious, conquering leader, the Pope said. They only recognise Him when He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them — exactly like He did with his own life.

The Church should be this way, too, Pope Francis said, by letting Jesus “take us, bless us, ‘break’ our lives — because there is no love without sacrifice — and offer it to others, offer it to everyone.”

The Church needs to be just like Jesus, not staying in a “fortified fortress,” but out where everything is alive and happening — on the road.

“It is there (the Church) meets people, with their hopes and disappointments,” listens patiently to what emerges from their “treasure chest of personal conscience” and offers the life-giving Word and witness to God’s love, he said.

This is how people’s hearts are rekindled with real hope, the Pope said.

Just when the way seems blocked by “a wall ahead, Jesus is always next to us to give us hope and strengthen our hearts to go ahead, ‘I am with you. Go on.’”

Christ’s “therapy of hope” is that despite all appearances to the contrary, “we continue to be loved and God will never stop loving us,” the Pope said. “He will walk with us always, always, even during the most painful times, even in the most terrible moments, moments of defeat. That is where the Lord is.”

At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims from Hong Kong on a day dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.

Pope Benedict XVI established a world day of prayer for the Church in China on the feast day.

Read the full article at Catholic Herald UK

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Amoris Laetitia: “Will this deviation from established doctrine continue to go unchallenged?”

Amoris Laetitia: “Will this deviation from established doctrine continue to go unchallenged?”

“Will this deviation from established doctrine continue to go unchallenged?” From the current crop of prelates, yes. God will send His own to combat this False Prophet.

The ambiguities of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, continue to provoke a lively debate even as we pass its one-year anniversary. Allies of the pope marked the event by rallying to his support as they beseeched the faithful to contemplate this maligned papal document. On the other side of the ledger, orthodox theologians continue to take Pope Francis to task for refusing to clarify the obscure teaching of Chapter Eight. Of particular significance was a meeting of six lay scholarsin Rome in late April. They gathered together near the Vatican with a plea that clarity will soon be brought to the immense confusion fostered by Amoris Laetitia. These scholars included Claudio Pierantoni from Chile, Douglas Farrow from Canada, and Anna Silvas from Australia. It is instructive to juxtapose their bleak assessment of Amoris Laetitia with the assessment of one of its most ardent supporters. By polarizing these two viewpoints we can evoke a sense of the present and future debates about this document.

In an eloquent essay on Crux, a web site now sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, Fr. James Keenan, S.J. of Boston College invites readers to take a closer look at Amoris Laetitia especially during the Easter season. He sees this papal letter as a crowning achievement of the Francis papacy so far because it marks a decisive turning point in papal teaching. What we find here is a “relational theology of marriage,” ministerial accompaniment, and finally “dictating consciences.” Father Keenan is especially delighted by Amoris Laetitia’s recognition of the “discerning competence” of conscience, a notion that has been dormant for too many years. In his view, this liberation of conscience is long overdue. Moreover, the Pope’s teaching on conscience resonates more clearly with Conciliar theologyAccording to Father Keenan, Pope Francis is shifting the entire task of moral theology: “not only does conscience acknowledge moral truth as it is taught, but it discerns and articulates its course for the future.” He points to paragraph 303 where Pope Francis says that “conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

But can conscience “dictate” or “articulate” something new that contradicts or reverses the moral truths accepted in the Catholic tradition based on natural law and Revelation? Can a discerning conscience direct us to remain in sin and error with a “certain moral security” as Amoris Laetitia apparently pronounces? And is any of this consistent with what the previous Magisterium has taught? To be sure, this is not exactly what Vatican II prescribes about conscience. Gaudium et Spes stresses that fidelity to conscience means “seek[ing] to conform to the objective norms of morality” (par. 16). The Catholic Church has always taught that conscience is a judgment in a particular context about how those objective norms (or divine commandments) apply. While Amoris Laetita refers to the importance of “feeling in conscience” (298), conscience is not constituted by feeling or emotion but is a judgment of reason. In addition, Amoris Laetitia seems to conflate conscience and discernment. As philosophers Grisez and Finnis have explained, unlike conscience, discernment is not concerned with what is morally right and wrong but with the choice of one among many morally acceptable alternatives. Thus, Amoris Laetitia represents a novel but untenable view of conscience that is strikingly discordant with traditional Catholic teaching and Conciliar theology.

Aside from Pope Francis’ vision of conscience, Father Keenan also praises the theology of accompaniment that is laid out in Chapter Eight. Religious and lay ministers are called to accompany the faithful as they form their consciences. Of course, this is one of the more positive elements of Amoris Laetitia so long we understand the proper limits of accompaniment. Fr. Keenan argues that this ministry of accompaniment, which “engages” conscience, bears a strong resemblance to the pastoral teaching of Pope John Paul II. He claims to find the Pope Francis motif of accompaniment, which can dispense with certain moral obligations, in Familiaris Consortio (par. 34). In that papal exhortation, accompaniment means that a married couple who recognize the authority of Humanae Vitae but are unable to follow its teaching, seek pastoral counsel, and through the “law of graduality” might be able to receive the Eucharist even if they practice birth control. For anyone who knows the thought of Pope John Paul II, this will strike them as a startling claim. The problem is that John Paul II makes no such assertion in this letter on the family.

On the contrary, the Pope insists that we cannot “look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future,” so married couples must follow the doctrine of Humanae Vitae as “the norm for the exercise of their sexuality” (Familiaris Consortio, 34). The Pope recognizes that some couples will progress more rapidly than others in the acceptance of that norm, but he never suggests that those who fall short can receive the Eucharist. Uniquely important, he writes, “is unity of moral and pastoral judgment by priests—a unity that must be carefully sought and ensured in order that the faithful may not have to suffer anxiety of conscience” (34). I would submit that this language is vastly different from what we find in Amoris Laetitia, which consistently gives priority to pastoral practice over moral dogma.

In his support of Amoris Laetitia, Father Keenan follows what is becoming a familiar strategy. Assure people that this benign teaching is consistent with Sacred Tradition and with what previous councils and popes have taught. We can rest assured that there is even consistency with what John Paul II, the “Pope of the Family,” has instructed about these matters. Whatever is new in Amoris Laetitia represents an organic development of doctrine that should be welcomed rather than resisted.

But where Father Keenan sees continuity and authentic doctrinal development, the lay scholars who gathered in Rome see only rupture and disharmony with both Catholic Tradition and Revelation. All of their presentations are well worth reading but the two that stand out are the ones delivered by Claudio Pierantoni and Anna Silvas. Space constraints make it impossible to explore their essays in any depth, but we can offer a general summary of their portentous remarks.

Claudio Pierantoni begins with an elaboration on the errors of two popes who have been accused of deviating from the traditional doctrines of the Church, Honorius I and Liberius. Honarius, the only pope to be formally condemned for heresy, upheld the doctrine of Monothelitism which states that Christ had one will despite his two natures. Liberius, on the other hand, did not always adhere to the doctrine of the Council of Nicaea, which declared the Son to be consubstantial with the Father. He also excommunicated Athanasius who was the most zealous defender of that dogma. What is similar about both cases is that this errancy occurred while dogma was still being settled. But there is an “aggravating circumstance” in the case of the current pontificate, since the doctrines at stake have not been unclear or in dispute, but are solidly grounded in the Apostolic Tradition. In the case of communion for the divorced and remarried, there is an “entire edifice of Catholic doctrine.”

While there have been abuses on the pastoral level, the situation changes dramatically when those abuses are given a doctrinal justification backed up by the actions of the pope himself. There is little doubt that Amoris Laetitia represents an unequivocal deviation from traditional and settled Catholic doctrine about marriage. If marriage is indissoluble, as Jesus himself has taught, but communion can be given to some divorced and remarried couples, indissolubility is no longer absolute, no longer intrinsic to the marital bond, but just a general rule, an ideal that allows for exceptions. This clearly seems to be the primary teaching of Chapter Eight, and it is incongruous with the Church’s traditional understanding of marriage rooted in Sacred Scripture.

According to Pierantoni, Amoris Laetitia is also full of confusion about the ultimate authority of the natural law which is an aspect of divine law. It assumes that there can be exceptions to the core moral laws, such as the law forbidding adultery. Those laws have a binding force and are not subject to historical or cultural contingencies. They are based securely on the human person’s nature and natural goodness and confirmed by Revelation. In support of Pierantoni’s analysis, we can look no further than the Second Vatican Council which has been quite clear about the “natural and Gospel law” (lex naturalis et evangelica), that is immutable and universal (Gaudium et Spes 74).

Anna Silvas, for her part, implores Catholics to read Amoris Laetitia in the context of the pope’s antecedent and subsequent statements rather than focus on the text in isolation. The chaos that surrounds Amoris Laetitia is not a matter of misinterpretation. What Pope Francis says here is actually rather clear, however shocking it may be to orthodox ears. Those divorced and remarried couples in irregular situations can be admitted to the Eucharist under certain conditions even if they do not live as brother and sister. As corroboration, we can turn to Archbishop Bergoglio’s discreet practice of giving communion to these couples along with couples who were simply cohabitating. There is also Pope Francis’ letter to the Argentinian bishops that confirms this interpretation. If we read this document in the context of what the pope has said and done, there will be far less doubt about its meaning and intention.

Silvas also declares that Amoris Laetitia is a model for how Pope Francis deals with the revision of doctrine. He does not attempt to confront that doctrine directly, since he knows that such an effort has little hope of success. Rather, the goal is to change incrementally the pastoral practice associated with that doctrine, until the doctrine is marginalized and loses its efficacy. This is precisely what the Pope means by one of his favorite postulates, “time is greater than space.” Over time the revised pastoral practice will slowly push the actual doctrine to the periphery where it will remain a nice ideal. According to Silvas, “We are in a world of dynamic fluidity here, of starting open-ended processes, of sowing seeds of desired change that will triumph over time.” The pope’s fondest hope is that the heterodox message of Amoris Laetitia will eventually triumph over time, perhaps barely imperceptible to an unsuspecting laity.

The pope’s effort to relativize and idealize traditional doctrine seems to be grounded in his vision of an ecclesial community where moral law and revelation are filtered through concrete realities and possibilities. We can be sure that the pope’s strategy will not be confined to the issue of communion for those in irregular unions. There are now credible reports about a Vatican papal commission to review the teachings of Humanae Vitae. If this is true, isn’t it probable that the same flawed moral logic will prevail? Non-contraceptive sex becomes the ideal, and those who can’t quite live up to that lofty ideal can receive the Eucharist, but only after a period of “discernment.”

These lay scholars and Father Keenan concur on one vital point: Amoris Laetitia is a radical turning point in papal teaching. Unlike Father Keenan, Pierantoni and Silvas see this as a negative moment in the Church’s history. But will this deviation from established doctrine continue to go unchallenged? With few exceptions, the hierarchy seems unwilling to speak out about the blow to doctrinal integrity inflicted by this exhortation. The task then falls on the laity who must face reality and speak with candor about the deficiencies of this alien papal teaching. The errors of Amoris Laetitiamust be acknowledged and confronted with truth and charity. If we have learned anything from John Paul II, it is the need to defend the truth, especially the truth of Jesus Christ, the eternal self-revealing Logos.

Read the full article at Crisis Magazine

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