Crazy clericalism at Houston’s University of St. Thomas

October 18, 2016

Some clerics in leadership at Catholic universities give lip service to “empowering the laity”—when their real agenda is enforcing their own ideology.

Dr. Randall B. Smith


Some institutional dramas are so ridiculous, the actors’ motivations so bizarre, that you couldn’t sell it as a movie script. Any decent producer would immediately send it back saying: “Your characters make no sense. They’re just not believable. The story is too absurd.”

Clericalism masquerading as concern for the laity

Imagine this scene: Three lay faculty members at my institution, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, noted their concern in a memo to their colleagues that a member of the Basilian religious order, which founded the university, was not among the finalists for the presidency of the university. For this sin, they were called into the president’s office to be upbraided by none other than the religious superior of the selfsame Basilian order, who said to them, in effect: How dare you ask that someone from my order be among the finalists for presidency of an institution my religious confreres founded and sacrificed for over many decades?

And now get this: This priest, this cleric, then proceeded to scold these three Catholic laypeople (two men and one woman) for not respecting lay leadership in the Church, claiming their attitude was inappropriate “in the Church of Pope Francis.” He clearly missed the irony. Here he was, a cleric, dismissing the opinions and concerns of the laity with the usual disdainful brush-off—keep your thoughts to yourselves—and then accusing them of “clericalism.” Seriously? You couldn’t make this stuff up. (And quite frankly, if I hear one more cleric using the phrase “the Church of Pope Francis” to silence the legitimate concerns of laypeople, I may have to strangle him.)

To get a sense of how absurd this is, try to imagine a group of lay faculty at a Jesuit institution—say, Georgetown—pleading with the governing board of the university that a Jesuit be considered for the presidency (already I’ve engaged in a bit of fantasy). And now imagine that the Jesuit superior general tells them: “How dare you ask for a Jesuit to run this Jesuit school!” The scenario is simply too absurd; no one would take it seriously.

Now granted, there is a Jesuit cleric who serves as president of a major Jesuit university who, when asked recently what he would like to see in 15 years at his institution, replied: “I would like to see a lay woman lesbian as president of this university.”

But this man’s comment had nothing to do with empowering either lay women or lesbians. We all know the Jesuits aren’t giving up their power and control over these institutions any time soon. This cleric was merely burnishing his “liberal” credentials. These are comments he can make without having to do anything or make any personal sacrifices. Nothing will disturb his clerical status quo.

The truth is I could call this man’s bluff, since I know several Catholic lay women lesbians—women dedicated to the liberal arts, to the education and character formation of students, and to the Catholic faith, who also have been open about their same-sex attractions—who would make a much better president of that university than this Jesuit cleric.

But this Jesuit wouldn’t find any of the women I have in mind acceptable, given their devotion to their Catholic faith, to the liberal arts, and to disrupting the current liberal status quo. His comments weren’t about empowerment; they were liberal ideology masquerading as empowerment. This man would never surrender power to anyone, let alone a woman or even another Jesuit (dozens of which are superb), unless he could be certain he or she would carry out his ideology faithfully. His inability to insure this result is one reason neither he nor any of his confreres will be giving up power any time soon. They “favor the laity,” but only when the laity do what they want.

These clerics give lip service to empowering the laity when their real agenda is about enforcing their own ideology. People talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing; this is pure, unadulterated clericalism in a support-for-the-laity guise. Many of us at Catholic institutions want to support and encourage the clerics who have served us so faithfully for so many years, and who we believe can help turn the tide against secularism. What is especially galling in these self-justifying claims about support for the laity is the hypocrisy and mendacity.

Ideology masquerading as concern for diversity

So too at my own institution, the smack-down in the president’s office of the three lay faculty members had nothing to do with empowering laity—you don’t need a Ph.D. to understand that. Rather it had everything to do with ideology and making sure that a Basilian with the “wrong” (that is to say, more conservatively Catholic) ideology didn’t get a chance to interview for the presidency.

It’s worth noting in this regard that it didn’t make a bit of difference to this room full of powerful, self-righteously liberal men that one of the faculty members they were verbally berating was a woman—and not just any woman, but a woman of high scholarly and administrative accomplishment, who was herself a finalist for the presidency of another prominent Basilian institution. Although, come to think of it, her success in that previous instance might have made a bit of difference. Powerful men don’t like being upstaged by upstart women. They say they prefer defiant women, but truth be told, they mostly only like the ones who agree with them ideologically.

And the other two faculty members? One is a man who has engaged in the oftentimes risky work of lecturing in the People’s Republic of China on politics and democracy. The other is a tax specialist who for the past 20 years has organized dozens of his former students to prepare tax returns for poor people in Houston for free. These are the faculty members who got called into the principal’s office—sorry, president’s office—to get balled out for speaking out: for making a simple, accurate observation in a note to the faculty. It must have been odd for a man who has spent so much time speaking freely in Communist China to find himself silenced on his own campus in the US.

In a world where people talk endlessly about “diversity” and “letting a thousand flowers bloom,” some people seem convinced that certain flowers of a more “Catholic” hue have to be stamped out and torn up by the roots rather than be allowed to grow, bloom, and possibly spread. To such people, a certain type of faithful Catholic witness is like a cancer that must be cut out, put in a jar of formaldehyde, and placed on a shelf to show future generations of surgeons what a dangerous tumor looks like.

Some Catholics wonder why Catholic faculty members are so solicitous and protective of tenure. They mistakenly accept a narrative that says bold Catholic administrations are out there trying to reform Catholic schools, but have to deal with “tenured radicals” who won’t go along. I’m sorry, but this is rarely the case.

What happens more often is that certain faculty members try to call their institution back to its founding principles, and those in academic administration who increasingly see faculty as “grunt employees” would prefer to rid themselves of these troublemakers. The only thing that keeps them from doing so is the protection afforded by tenure.

Bureaucratized administration masquerading as concern for students

More and more university presidents look upon their faculty as “line workers” in the shop. To “move up” and get better pay, you need to move into administration. That’s where the six-figure salaries are. Since none of “the workers” in the plant can be allowed to make more than their “bosses,” nearly everyone of any importance in the administration makes more than any of the faculty members. And if things get tight, the guys on the line are the first to go. If we don’t need to make as many cars, then we should just lay off a bunch of workers. We’ll still need all the guys in the front office, however. This is why so many administrators have been working against tenure. These presidents don’t see faculty as the intellectual heart and soul of the university; they see them as salary burdens. As the number of students goes up and down, they want to rid themselves of “useless, underproductive” faculty. But the need to fill out all the bureaucratic forms will always remain constant. This, however, is precisely the attitude and approach that caused dozens of America’s once-great businesses like Ford, GM, and Chrysler to go into bankruptcy. And who paid the price for that? The taxpayers and the workers. The executives who drove these companies into bankruptcy walked away flush.

And like those large, bureaucratically-laden corporations, when the current “education bubble” bursts (that debt load of over a trillion dollars that students are supposed to pay back, but which people are increasingly realizing they will not be able to do), then there will be a lot of university presidents and their staffs sitting in posh, wood-paneled offices trying to figure out how to save their skins by securing a tax-payer bailout. “Can education in America be allowed to fail?” they will cry. “What about the children?” Others who bear responsibility will already be in a cozy retirement.

Do the Catholic, liberal arts faculty members at my institution understand that our tuition costs are too burdensome for middle-class families? Yes. Are they anxious about giving our students maximal educational value and helping form them for a life of faith and flourishing? Yes. Do we enjoy the support and encouragement of an administration that shows it understands the needs of our faculty and students? Sadly, no. This is why we voted no-confidence in our administration last spring. It is why we elected these three faculty members to a “Budget Advisory Committee” to watch over the university’s budget, since we have seen not only dropping enrollments, but budget shortfalls of several million dollars each of the past several years, resulting in cuts in faculty and low-level staff, although we seem to have the same number of vice presidents and mid-level managerial positions.

We took these steps because we the faculty wanted to be sure we were prepared for whatever troubles lay ahead, since in the past several years, we would hear rumors of trouble, but nothing definite, only to be told in the spring, that we had a several-million-dollar budget deficit that we had to make up for—by across-the-board cuts in every area!

Administrative incompetence masquerading as concern for “the process”

In their first report to the faculty this year, the faculty-elected Budget Advisory Committee noted both positive signs as well as some worrisome storm clouds on the horizon, including their concern that the Basilian candidate for the presidency was not among the semi-finalists for the position, even though according to the by-laws of the university, a Basilian should be given preference if a suitable candidate can be found.

Naturally much depends in such circumstances on what one means by “suitable,” and this gives those intent on maintaining the status quo a great deal of room to hide their true intentions. If all one wants is money and to be like every other secular educational institution in the country, then a devoted Catholic is clearly less “suitable” than, say, a hedge-fund manager, such as Mount Saint Mary’s University hired, and then had to fire when it became known (clearly against the wishes of the president and the chairman of the board) that this man had described ridding the school of low-achieving students as having to “drown the bunnies.”

In our own case at the University of St. Thomas, when the first of the three finalists for the presidency met the campus community several days ago, he was asked, “If elected president, would you openly contradict Church teaching?” His answer: “I might.” When asked about the Basilian character of the school, he said: “I read about it on the website.” This would be akin to a candidate for the presidency of a Jesuit school answering the question “Do you understand the Jesuit charism?” with the reply:  “Well, I read about St. Ignatius on Wikipedia before I came. Is he the one from Antioch or Loyola?” Or better yet:  “I read a book published by Ignatius Press once.” That answer would certainly get him the job!

Yes, I think we can all see now why this man was considered a more “suitable,” more “qualified” candidate to lead a Catholic, Basilian university than, say, a Basilian priest who was executive vice president and academic dean at St. Patrick’s Seminary and who now works raising funds for the indomitable Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco. There was no contest, really.

This interview certainly went a long way toward reassuring everyone’s faith in the selection process, especially since one of the next two candidates to arrive on campus is the president of the exact same institution where the man we already interviewed is provost. That won’t be at all awkward. And yet, we continue to be reassured that everything is going smoothly and that the process has been unqualifiedly superb. Any expression of displeasure with it is being taken as disrespectful and disruptive, potentially damaging to the university.

Bullying masquerading as academic due process

Undoubtedly we should have seen this insistence on quieting any potential dissent coming, since the mere mention of the fact by the three members of our faculty-elected Budget Advisory Committee that a Basilian candidate was not among the finalists for the presidency caused them to be called to the president’s office to receive a severe scolding by the chairman of the board, in the presence of the current president of the university, the provost, the superior general of the Basilian Order (whose odd comments I mentioned above, and who, to my knowledge, has never been allowed direct involvement in personnel matters at the university before), and most ominously, the vice president for human resources. Whenever HR is called in, the idea that your job might be on the line hangs in the air like the heavy Houston humidity on a sweltering hot summer’s day. It’s designed to make you sweat.

“No, no,” they were told, “we don’t want to kick you off of anything.” This was not a disciplinary process, they were assured. But it was made clear to them that they had been very, very bad. They were making trouble, potentially disrupting the presidential search; and worst of all, they had offended the Basilian superior. How? By asking why a Basilian was not being considered for the presidency! If you thought that a Basilian superior general would express offense only if faculty members had demanded to know why a Basilian should be considered for the presidency at all—why do we need one of them?—this assumption would make obvious sense to most people. But we’re talking now about a world that doesn’t make any sense.

So after being sent away like children and told that they should “think very hard” about what they’d done—seriously, this is how faculty are treated these days—our three faithful faculty members went back to the business of teaching their students, reading books, and writing articles. Several days later, however, they each received an official letter of reprimand from the president, urging them “to refrain from any further action of this type relating to the Basilian Fathers and to the search process.” Their “failure to do so,” they were told, would “result in disciplinary action up to and including potential termination of tenure/and or employment.” So with no due process, with no adherence to the policies and procedures of the university, after a Star Chamber hearing, three honored, tenured members of the faculty are now threatened with dismissal.

Now I had always been under the impression that a university could strip faculty members of tenure and terminate them only if they had been guilty of breaking the law, abusing students, or not fulfilling their contractual obligations to teach. The sad fact is that a good number of such violations get swept under the rug at a lot of places. But how dare faculty members have the unadulterated gall to speak up about the person who will be leading their institution over the next 10 or 15 years and on whose job performance in that position their livelihoods depend? And then to be scolded by a room full of men, none of whom has anything to lose financially if the institution has serious difficulties in the coming years—not one with any real “skin in the game” as my wife likes to say (borrowing a phrase from Warren Buffett)—well, it’s enough to make your head explode. “Just trust me,” says the gambler, whose losses have been mounting up, as he rolls the dice with your money on the craps table. What reason could anyone have to complain?

When administrators threaten termination in this way just for speaking out, one begins to suspect that they don’t quite understand what “tenure” means. Indeed the whole affair makes one suspect that there was little or no appreciation for what “academic due process” entails. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that anyone at any secular institution (let alone anyone who understood the role of the laity in the “Church of Pope Francis”) would have tolerated the presence of the superior general of a religious order at a university disciplinary hearing.

What could any reasonable person conclude about such a process, other than that the whole affair was simply harassment and institutional bullying? I am reminded of that wonderful scene in A Man for All Seasons when Thomas More is brought without warning, without due process, before a small group of powerful men to be questioned:

MORE: You threaten like a dockside bully.

CROMWELL: How should I threaten?

MORE: Like a minister of state, with justice.

CROMWELL: Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.

MORE: Then I’m not threatened.

The faculty members in question have broken no law, no published regulation of the university, and done nothing in violation of their contracts. What they have been denied is any proper due process. So perhaps we should all agree that they have not been threatened; they have merely been bullied. They have been harassed (and I believe a court would agree) in the legal sense of that term. They are now suffering in an atmosphere of fear in the workplace for no other reason than they have aroused the ire of some powerful men who were offended at the gall of the “hired help” to speak up and disrupt their plans.

Whatever disagreements I’ve had with my colleagues over the years, they have always shown that they care deeply about our students, and to me, nothing is more important. At the University of St. Thomas, we have a gifted, engaged faculty, and a special blessing that many other Catholic institutions do not:  theology, philosophy, and English literature departments that are absolutely orthodox and completely on-board with the notion of a Catholic, classical, liberal arts education. And we have a science faculty that I think is second to none, along with an international studies program of a quality and character unique in the nation. We have faculty across the disciplines who understand the basic spreadsheet statistics of the institution better than anyone in our own administration, and business faculty who understand budgeting and marketing better than any of the highly-paid consultants we hire. All of these faculty members have earned the right to be listened to—not stifled, not silenced, not treated as though they were ignorant children who needed to be patted on the head and ignored, or scolded when they “get out of line.”

Presidents come and go every six to 10 years. The only people who will still be at the university in 30 or 40 years are the faculty and some of the members of the staff who dutifully clean and fix our buildings, along with some of the invaluable secretaries who keep the place running and without whom we’d all go insane. These people are the heart of the university. Indeed they are the university. Administrators who don’t understand that should find other jobs—preferably ones that don’t involve people.

What we need now: A miracle (and maybe a good lawyer)

What the University of St. Thomas needs most now is prayer—a great deal of prayer—that the university will not succumb to the constant temptations pressing upon it to become another one of those Catholic institutions, like so many others, that have tried to keep themselves alive by becoming just like every other secular school in the country; and in doing so, not only failed miserably to do what they were founded to do, but often failed in every other way as well. The thoughtful board members and faithful alumni of the institution—along with Catholics across the nation—need to rise up and insist:  “We reject this vision which has taken over so many other schools and destroyed them: gradually killing their spirits, weakening their academic lives, and causing them to become mere shadows of what they once were. We demand something better. We want the sort of Catholic education that great visionaries such as Father Vincent Guinan, Étienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Father Gerald Phelan, Father Armand Maurer, and our own Father (now Archbishop) J. Michael Miller intended.”

I ask that every Catholic college and university in this country be remembered repeatedly in prayer. Without those constant prayers, and without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will not survive. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, patroness of Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Speaking of survival, one burning question I have in my mind is whether a faculty member at a small Catholic university can be stripped of tenure and terminated because he writes something truthful, but critical, of his administration in a public venue such as Catholic World Report.

Well, I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

And gentlemen, if you’re tempted to pull that bogus administrator’s ploy of claiming that I have been guilty of using my sabbatical time to do something other than sabbatical work, I have witnesses at a local coffee shop who can testify that I wrote this column on a Sunday evening between 6 and 11 pm, while everyone else was watching football. I take it that what I do in my free time on a Sunday evening is still my own business—I mean, since I’m a layman.

About the Author

Dr. Randall B. Smith

Dr. Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston where he holds the Scanlan Foundation Endowed Chair in Theology. His book Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide will be published in late October by Emmaus Academic.

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I will not watch the 3rd Presidential Debate tonight.  Instead, I will spend the time of the debate praying in my private chapel in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.  I will ask him to reveal to the nation during the debate that Hillary Rodham Clinton, in addition to the 1001 reasons why she is not qualified to be President of the United States, is in fact suffering from a debilitating neurological illness and that should she be elected on November 8 she would pose a terrible threat to the security of our Nation should she have to cope with an international crisis.

You have but to watch this YouTube to understand what I am writing about:

I invite you to join me in prayer tonight during the debate.








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Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics

Americans talking about theology sound about as competent as country singers rapping.
G. Shane Morris


Evangelical writer { actually Eric Metaxas is a practicing Greek Orthodox } Eric Metaxas remarked on BreakPoint last week that if Americans took a theology exam, their only hope of passing would be if God graded on a curve. He’s right. In knowing both the content of the Bible and the doctrinal foundations of Christianity, we Americans aren’t just at the bottom of our class. We are, as Ross Douthat argues in his book, “Bad Religion,” a nation of heretics.

A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself. The really sad part? Even when we’re denying the divinity of Christ, we can’t keep our story straight. Americans talking about theology sound about as competent as country singers rapping.

We’re an Embarrassment to Heretics Everywhere

Seven out of ten respondents in LifeWay’s survey affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity—that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons but one God, and six in ten agreed that Jesus is both human and divine. Their orthodoxy—and consistency—ended there. More than half went on to indicate that Jesus is “the first and greatest being created by God,” a heresy known as Arianism, which the Council of Nicaea condemned in 325 A.D.

Of course, most of these accidental blasphemers aren’t preparing to revise the resulting Nicene Creed and preach a creaturely Christ. Rather, bizarre contradictions like this illustrate how many Americans don’t understand or even care what the Trinity means (although they say they believe in it, likely out of habits learned growing up in church).

The responses to other questions were no less heterodox or headache-inducing. Seventy percent of participants—who ranged across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds—agreed there’s only one true God. Yet sixty-four percent also thought this God accepts the worship of all religions, including those that believe in many gods.

Two-thirds admitted that everyone sins a little bit, but still insisted that most people are good by nature, which directly contradicts scripture (See “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”). Over half said it’s fair for God to exercise his wrath against sin, but seemed to waffle about which sins deserved wrath (not theirs!). Seventy-four percent said the “smallest sins” don’t warrant eternal damnation, in contrast to Saint James, who when writing at the Holy Spirit’s inspiration taught that even one infraction of God’s law is enough to sink someone. But really, what did he know?

A full 60 percent agreed that “everyone eventually goes to heaven,” but half of those surveyed also checked the box saying that “only those who believe in Jesus will be saved.” So either these folks are saying everyone will eventually believe in Jesus, or they hired a monkey to take the survey for them.

Evangelicals Didn’t Even Study for This Test

It’s one thing for Americans in general to lack basic theological knowledge. After all, many of the 75 percent of the country who call themselves Christians don’t take their faith that seriously, and the rest are either members of other religions, or have no religion. But what about those who wear their Christianity on their sleeve? Surely such a group—evangelicals, for instance—would perform much better.

That’s what the folks at LifeWay thought, too. In a similar project conducted two years ago, researchers asked participants to self-identify, resulting in an inflated number of professing “evangelicals. Not surprisingly, this group Christmas-treed the survey, espousing all kinds of unorthodox views.

So this year, LifeWay used more stringent criteria for evangelical faith, as defined by some group called the National Association of Evangelicals. Only participants who called the Bible their highest authority, said personal evangelism is important, and indicated that trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way of salvation, were labeled “evangelical.” They totaled 586 survey-takers.

Everyone expected them to perform better than most Americans. No one expected them to perform worse. Seven in ten evangelicals—more than the population at large—said that Jesus was the first being God created. Fifty-six percent agreed that “the Holy Spirit is a divine force but not a personal being.” They also saw a huge increase in evangelicals (28 percent, up from 9 percent) who indicated that the Third Person of the Trinity is not equal with God the Father or Jesus, a direct contradiction of orthodox Christianity. The Holy Spirit is, of course, used to being overlooked. But sources say he seemed bummed about these results.

As before, it’s really the contradictory answers, not the outright heresies, that should most concern us. By definition, the evangelicals in this survey believed that “only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.” Yet nearly half agreed that “God accepts the worship of all religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.”

Two-thirds of evangelicals—more than Americans in general—said heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. That such a high percentage of Billy Graham’s camp is now talking like Rob Bell isn’t even the real story. The most striking thing is how many of these folks evidently see no contradiction between their casual universalism and the evangelical creed that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.

“There is a lot in this survey which shows that the respondents are not even being internally consistent,” Timothy Larson, a professor of Christian thought at Wheaton College, told Christianity Today. He suspects the wording of the survey, itself, may have thrown off the participants.

But could it also have something to do with the fact that two out of five evangelicals say “worshipping alone or with family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church”? Come to think of it, should we marvel that so many Christians shrug off church when so few congregations teach the foundational doctrines of the faith, or even delve very deeply into the book from which those doctrines come?

The Bible Ain’t a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot

Former Newsday religion reporter Kenneth Briggs recently told Religion News Service that the faith he finds in “mega-type churches” is a “Bible-less,” “alternative version of Christianity.” Scripture, he says, has become “a museum exhibit, hallowed as a treasure but enigmatic and untouched.”

In his book, “The Invisible Bestseller: Searching for the Bible in America,” he describes a two-year pilgrimage across the country, visiting hundreds of churches to find Christians who were still literate in their own sacred text.

The Bible remains phenomenally popular, of course. Practically everyone has one in his or her home, and many families own four or five. But Briggs characterizes our love for the Bible as love for an “artifact,” a “keepsake,” or a lucky “rabbit’s foot.” This talisman of faith mainly stays on the shelf or mantle next to the urn filled with grandpa’s ashes.

Briggs says it was in a prison, not a church, where he encountered the most vibrant and intimate familiarity with God’s Word. Most everywhere else, his observations confirmed a recent Barna survey conducted for the American Bible Society, which found that less than half the country can name the first five books of the Old Testament, and that a similar number think John the Baptist was one of Jesus’s twelve disciples.

Why does it matter that we’ve become a nation of doctrinal dunces? What harm is there in flunking Christianity 101? Well, for Christians, the answer is obvious. If we really believe what we profess—that the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important fact of history and eternity—then we’d better improve our grade. Knowing who the God we claim to worship is can no longer be a third priority if we want the world to take us seriously as his followers.

Recall also that Jesus told us knowing the truth sets us free. Believing lies enslaves people. It should be a priority for us to continually seek truth, rather than comfort. Christ also told us the greatest commandment includes loving God with our minds. That means dusting off grandpa’s Bible, and revisiting a catechism or confession.

For those who don’t profess Christianity, gaining a basic understanding of the creeds and Scriptures of the religion that built our civilization isn’t a bad idea, either. As Indian Christian philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi writes, the Bible created the modern world by making the West a reading and thinking civilization, and by grounding this reading and thinking in the idea that truth is knowable.

In the subduction zone between a nominally Christian culture and a distinctly post-Christian one, sparks are flying—in florist’s shops, bakeries, universities, legislatures, and bathrooms nationwide. Those who want to live in peace with the still-sizeable Christian remnant need to move past lazy dismissals of religious “bigotry,” and learn why Christians have come to the conclusions we have for 2,000 years.

The results of this survey ought to embarrass all of us. But they should also serve as a kick in the pants to re-familiarize ourselves with our own religion—or at least our own history. There’s no excuse to be a nation of heretics. But even that is preferable to being a nation of ignoramuses.



G. Shane Morris is assistant editor at BreakPoint, a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He’s also written for Summit Ministries and The Christian Post. Shane lives with his wife and two children in Leesburg, Virginia.
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So Many Errors, Your Holiness. And Some Marked With Red

Francis likes his talk freewheeling, with all the risks that go with it. Here is a review of his latest blunders, a dozen in four months. The most sensational with China

by Sandro Magister

ROME, October 19, 2016 – Last June, http://www.chiesa registered and analyzed a certain number of misinterpretations, gaffes, memory slip, errors in the discourses of Pope Francis:

> The Pope Is Not Infallible. Here Are Eight Proofs

Since then, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has again fallen into two of the errors pointed out there.

The first was that of flattering Cardinal Christoph Schönborn with a role that he has never held: that of “secretary” of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith.

The first time the pope had promoted him to this role was April 16, during the press conference on the return flight from the island of Lesbos. And that time, in transcribing the pope’s words in the official bulletin, the Vatican press office had corrected the mistake, replacing the title of “secretary” with that of a simple “member.”

But on June 16, in a discourse to the priests of Rome at the cathedral of Saint John Lateran, the pope repeated himself. In telling the priests how to interpret “Amoris Laetitia” correctly, he advised them to pay attention to the “great theologian who was secretary of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Cardinal Schönborn.”

This second time, in the official transcription of Francis’s words, the error was not corrected.

A bit further on, however, in that same discourse of the pope, a corrective “ex post” intervention was made.

In describing the episode of Jesus and the adulterous woman, Francis is supposed to have said, according to the official transcription: “And Jesus sort of plays the fool, he lets time go by, he writes on the ground. . . .”

But in reality the pope had said: “And Jesus sort of plays the ‘scemo’…,” an expression that sounds rather harsh in Italian (comparable to “retard”).


The second relapse has to do with an imaginary translation – coined in the West and fashionable in the United States on the lips of politicians – of the Chinese word “weiji,” conflict, according to which this is made up of two ideograms, one of which stands for “risk” and the other for “opportunity.”

The first time the pope had presented this “hearsay” was on April 24, in a conversation with members of Focolare.

And he repeated it a second time on June 18 on a visit to the community of Villa Nazareth.


But then Francis stumbled into new mistakes, to be added to the list.

One of these has created a certain amount of discussion and has been corrected in the official transcription of the pope’s words.

In the already-cited discourse of June 16 at Saint John Lateran, Francis at a certain point said that he maintained that “most of our sacramental marriages are null,” because the spouses “do not have the awareness” of what they are doing.

In the subsequent official transcription, “most” has been scaled down to “some.”

Few noted, however, that immediately afterward in the same discourse, Bergoglio expressed a somewhat conflicting opinion.

After having said, in fact, that he holds most sacramental marriages to be null, he said that on the other hand he maintains as “true marriages,” endowed with “matrimonial grace,” the simple cohabitation practiced in rural parts of Argentina, where – he explained – they start families young but marry in church only later in life.


Another questionable opinion that Francis loves to repeat concerns a capital in the medieval basilica of Vézelay, in France.

“On that capital,” the pope has said on at least three different occasions, “on one side there is Judas hanged, with the eyes open, the tongue out, and on the other side is the Good Shepherd taking him with him. And if we look carefully, with attention, the face of the Good Shepherd, the lips on one side are sad, but on the other side they form a smile.”

In reality, no art historian identifies Christ as the second figure, who is simply taking Judas away for burial. But the pope likes to interpret it this way, in order to confirm the mercy of God for the last of sinners. And this is how he spoke out on June 16 with the priests of Rome, on August 2 with the bishops of Poland, and on October 2 with journalists on the return flight from Azerbaijan to Rome.


Moreover, Bergoglio sometimes falls into linguistic misunderstandings. For example, with the word “estracomunitario,” which in Italy simply indicates someone who does not belong to the European community.

Francis, however, is convinced that this word has an underpinning of cruelty: “That very cruelty which turns you, who are from another country, into an ‘extra-comunitario’: they take you out of the community, they do not welcome you. Which is something against which we must fight very much.”

The pope said this to young Italians on July 28 in Krakow, during world youth day.


Still other times the error is descriptive. For example when on October 12, in addressing the conference of “Christian World Communions,” Francis cited the martyrdom of the “Coptic Orthodox friars slaughtered on the shores of Libya.”

Who were indeed Coptic Egyptians, but laymen, not “friars.” No correction was made “ex post” to this part of the address, in the official transcription.


Then there was the case of the Spanish transexual whose story Bergoglio told during the return flight from Azerbaijian to Rome on October 2.

The story told by the pope differs on various points from the one told by the transexual in the days of his audience with the pope, which took place on January 24, 2015, together with his “wife.”

But above all the story told by the pope took it as a matter of course that absolution and communion should be given to “married” transexuals, remaining silent on the fact that the applicable discipline of the Church does not permit for transexuals the celebration of sacramental marriage.

More than an omission, here Francis has carried out a deliberate break with this discipline, but without making a declaration.

See, in this regard, the commentary of Christian Spaemann, a psychiatrist by profession and the son of the illustrious German Catholic philosopher Robert Spaemann:

> Papa Francesco e i transessuali. Le obiezioni di Spaemann Jr


On another occasion the pope made a mistaken prediction, with the result of then finding himself on a collision course with an entire episcopate, that of Colombia.

The error regarded the outcome of the October 2 referendum on the agreement between the Colombian state and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Francis, speaking on September 26 at Santa Marta with representatives of the World Jewish Council and foreseeing the victory of the “yes,” had gone out on a limb, praising the supporters of the agreement as persons who “risk everything for peace,” and instead dismissing the opponents as persons who “risk everything to continue the war, and this wounds the soul.”

Only that what ended up winning was the “no,” and among the opponents was a large part of the Colombian Church, this also desirous of peace but not under the conditions established in the accord. So much so that for the signing of the document on September 27 Cardinal Parolin came hurrying in from Rome, but no bishop was present, and the episcopal conference had invited Colombians to vote for or against according to their conscience.

Fortunately those words of the pope did not go into the official records, since they were spoken in a private meeting. But they were made known by participants at the meeting:

> Papa Francesco dialoga con membri del Consiglio ebraico mondiale

An attempt at stitching up the rift – in contradiction with the pope – was made by the president of the episcopal conference of Colombia, Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga, who told Vatican Radio:

“It’s not that some say yes to peace and others say no. Those who say no consider that the agreement must be corrected in some points, but they too want peace. This is not a case of war and peace.”


But perhaps the most sensational error into which Bergoglio has stumbled lately concerned China.

On October 2, on the return flight from Azerbaijian to Rome, Francis gave a couple of news items that at the time no one was able to verify.

The first: “The Vatican Museums have presented an exhibition in China, the Chinese will present another at the Vatican.”

The second: “The other day there was a conference at the [Pontifical] Academy of Sciences on ‘Laudato Si’,’ and there was a Chinese delegation from the president. And the Chinese president sent me a gift.”

On October 7, however, the agency “Églises d’Asie,” the authoritative voice of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, published a thoroughly documented note that demolished both news items:

> Le président Xi Jinping a-t-il vraiment envoyé un cadeau au pape François?

To begin with, the Vatican Museums did indeed organize an exhibition, from February 5 to May 2 of this year, on the papacy, the Catholic mission to the Orient, the liturgy and the sacraments. Not in the People’s Republic of China, however, but in the house of the . . . enemy, in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

As for the presumed gift from Chinese president Xi Jinping to the pope, the thoroughly detailed reconstruction made by “Églises d’Asie” ends up defining it as nothing less than “unthinkable.”

On October 11, the agency “Asia News” of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan conveniently made the reconstruction by “Églises d’Asie” available to readers of Italian, English, Spanish, and Chinese:

> Églises d’Asie, “Did President Xi Jinping really send a gift to Pope Francis?”


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


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New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (YouTube image)
Ross Douthat

The anti-Catholic Catholics (and the bishops who support them)

By Phil Lawler

 Oct 14, 2016

Yesterday Ross Douthat of the New York Times embarked on a lengthy Tweetstorm —21 tweets in all—questioning whether it’s accurate to refer to the leaked emails from the Clinton campaign as evidence of “anti-Catholic” bigotry. Douthat—who is no friend of the Clintonite perspective—makes a quick, convincing case that the reality is more complicated.

It’s not just that John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman at the center of the email exchanges, identifies himself as a Catholic. More important, Douthat notes, “the reality is that his vision is shared within Catholicism.” You will have no problem finding priests, religious, professors at Catholic universities—yes, and bishops—who defend the arguments that Podesta and his allies advance. So the public appearance of these emails offers (Douthat again) “a window into how the Catholic civil war is fought.”

We now know that Podesta helped to set up groups like Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, hoping to swing Catholic opinion toward liberal positions, in opposition to clear Church teaching. Frankly that shouldn’t be too surprising; it’s been going on for at least 50 years. What’s more remarkable, really, is how smoothly staff members have moved between the US bishops’ conference and Podesta’s pet groups. Anne Hendershott supplied some details for Catholic World Report. Consider the personnel of one liberal front-group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG):

  • Alexia Kelley worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development before she became founding director of CACG. (She later moved to the Obama White House staff.)
  • John Gehring was assistant media director for the US bishops’ conference, then became media director for CACG, then moved over to Faith in Public Life.
  • Tom Chabolla also worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, then joined the advisory board of CACG.
  • Francis X. Doyle, once the associate general secretary of the US bishops’ conference, became the treasurer-secretary of CACG.

Thus the CACG drew much of its leadership from within the staff of the US bishops’ conference. Presumably they held much the same views, and worked toward much the same goals, while they were employed by the American hierarchy. If they are “anti-Catholic,” then it seems “anti-Catholicism” has found sanctuary and support from our bishops. Make of that what you will.

(An early version of this essay mistakenly referred to the liberal group described above as “Catholic for the Common Good.” In fact, the organization of that name is a group of loyal Catholics dedicated to preserving marriage. I regret the error.)

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Electoral College Follies

by charliej373


By Charlie Johnston

(Eight and a half years ago I wrote this little piece on the Electoral College. It was originally published in the Chicago Daily Observer and then, a day later, in the Illinois Review – I was a columnist for both journals at the time. It was picked up later by several national outlets, most notably the American Conservative Union. It has some dated references, such as to then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, one of four Illinois governors in my lifetime to go to prison. But I left it whole.

It is heavier on the snark than I usually am here. I was significantly snarkier when I was writing on culture and politics. It does reflect the contempt I have for the modern practice of loudly shouting opinions without taking even a moment to learn a little about what you are talking about. I illustrated this point once when I was in radio by announcing that the next day, we would have a free discussion on the electoral college. You were free to express whatever opinion you wanted – but only if you could first give me an substantially accurate thumbnail of why the founders set it up in the first place. I expected only a couple of people to get through the screening. To my disappointment, none did.

One of the great evils of modern times, an evil that has helped bring us to the pass we have reached is that everybody want to spout off, but few want to actually study. Uninformed opinions are just useless rants. Here then, in honor of our dying electoral processes, my little piece from eight years ago on the Electoral College.)

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the chance to do something right. Last month Illinois became the third state to pass the National Popular Vote Bill, which would direct a state’s presidential electors to cast their votes for whoever wins the national popular vote. But in Illinois, unlike Maryland and New Jersey, the bill has not yet become law. In this state the governor has not yet signed the legislation – and has told reporters he is not sure if he will.

On most matters we show a certain reverence for the founders. Well we should. They created the first democratic republic in history that did not rapidly degenerate into chaos and end in dictatorship. Their achievement is profound: while the United States is one of the youngest nations on the planet we have the oldest continuous form of government. That achievement is doubly impressive if one is aware that, historically, democracy has been one of the most volatile, unstable forms of government known to man. The founders somehow managed to separate the nitro and the glycerin of freedom and create something that would last rather than blow up every time it is jarred.

When in high school I, too, thought the Electoral College a strange, antiquated institution. While in college I came to recognize some of the magnitude of the founders’ achievement. Rather than assuming they had tossed it into the Constitution as some sort of bizarre joke I thought it more useful to do some investigation on what, exactly, was on their minds. (Incidentally, when he was a senator, the late Pres. John Kennedy wrote a very lucid explanation of the Electoral College and why it has served the nation well). The group behind this push, National Popular Vote, Inc. (NPVI), helpfully explains that among the main reasons the Electoral College was originally needed was because of the lack of cell phones, computers, calculators, the internet and other modern inventions. Can they possibly be that stupid?

A presidential election, though held on a single day, is not a single election. It encompasses 50 discrete elections, one in each state. To give an example, suppose the Cubs and the White Sox were in the World Series (you Southern Illinois Cardinal fans can substitute the Cards and the Royals – or better yet, an NLCS between the Cards and the Mets). The White Sox win three games by a score of 10-0. The Cubs win four games by a score of 1-0. The White Sox, in essence, win the popular vote 30-4. But the Cubs win the series because it was not one seven-day long contest to see who could score the most runs. It was seven individual games. Perhaps you think a presidential election should not be the collective decision of the states, but a single expression of the national popular will. Consider some of the real reasons the founders adopted the Electoral College and how these reasons relate to modern circumstances.

First, the states are different sizes. In order to prevent small states from losing all influence and just being swept along by big-state interests in national affairs, the small states’ weight in the electoral college is slightly larger than the big states in comparison to their population, because of the uniform rule of two senators per state, regardless of size (the total number of electors each state gets is equal to the sum of its members of the U.S. House and Senate). Abolish the Electoral System and every presidential election hence would be contested – and decided – in five to eight major urban areas. Small, and even medium size states, might never again even see a presidential candidate. Rural influence on presidential elections would evaporate entirely. After a few elections voters in small states and rural areas would figure out their vote was utterly meaningless. Participation in elections would likely drop because of the futility of it. Tensions between rural and urban interests would become dreadful, perhaps intractable. Even the invention of cell phones hasn’t changed that.

Second, there was the fear of regionalism, that some areas of the country with common interests might band together to hijack national presidential elections by the intensity of their votes. Were it not for the Electoral College this would have actually happened in 1860. There were several southern states in which Abraham Lincoln did not get a single popular vote. Despite having a minority population, the south, by the intensity of its commitment to the slave culture, could have hijacked that election from the rest of the country. The Electoral College prevented that. The Civil War was a great battle both over slavery and national union. The crisis would not have been averted without an Electoral College, only postponed and intensified. The likely end result would have been the Balkanization of what is now America. One of those little filigrees the founders added, to give stability to this great democracy, worked to save the nation and put an end to the sort of regionalism that had, in earlier times, been catalyst for destruction of democracies. Abolishing the Electoral College would likely resurrect the spectre of regionalism. Take a look at the map. West of the Mississippi River every state except California and Texas would become powerless in national elections unless some of them banded together and, as the old south did in 1860, voted monolithically. In the southeast, which states other than Florida and, perhaps, Georgia, would have any influence? Look carefully at the map before glibly injecting this old element of instability back into the prospect of national union that the founders most painstakingly and brilliantly worked to eliminate. The invention of calculators doesn’t change this a whit.

Third, there is the matter of vote fraud. It truly puzzles me that proponents of this plan seem to honestly believe it would make fraud more, rather than less, difficult. The founders created the Electoral College, in part, to make it more difficult for unseemly combinations to conspire to hijack an election. Read that as vote fraud and special interests. It is rare that a conspiracy of fraud in only one state could hijack an election (Evidence of massive fraud in Illinois and Texas, either of which could have changed the election, exists from the 1960 election, but it is the exception, rather than the rule. Even had Nixon chosen to contest the result, he would almost certainly have confined himself to one or both of these states, rather than the even more nightmarish scenario of a national recount). Imagine that polls show an election to be a dead heat in the late going. Conspirators do not have to come up with multiple conspiracies in several states to cheat the electorate: they need only confine themselves to electoral corruption mainstays such as Chicago, Texas, Louisiana, Los Angeles and such. Massive vote fraud in any one would be sufficient to gain a tainted victory where only the national popular vote counts in a dead heat. One need only look at the experience of western democracies where a single, national vote does determine the outcome of the chief executive to see that fraud changing the outcome is easier, not harder than under our “archaic, antiquated system.” The invention of the computer makes such “unseemly combinations” much easier.

Fourth, the legislation is unenforceable. Under the Constitution once electors are chosen, they have the absolute right to vote for whomever they choose. Long-term practice has led to a gentleman’s agreement in which each elector votes for the candidate who won their state’s popular vote. Once a state has chosen its electors, it cannot bind them to vote for anyone in particular. It would require a Constitutional Amendment to change this. In 2000, the Gore campaign actively tried to persuade electors from states that voted for Bush to be ‘faithless’ and vote for Al Gore anyway. In each of the elctions of 2000, 1988, 1976 and 1972 a ‘faithless elector’ did vote against who they were pledged to. Any serious enforcement clause injected into NPV legislation might well make it unconstitutional.

Imagine, now, a scenario in which Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani were their respective party’s nominees (I choose them for this example because of the big states they come from). The election is close as can be. Without Illinois, Giuliani is the victor. Former Chicago City Clerk Jim Laski has been doing interviews of late explaining the “Chicago Way;” how they would accomplish vote fraud not just by forgery and voting the dead, but actually cutting and pasting the chad on absentee ballots if they were cast for the ‘wrong’ candidate. You’re from New York and you have read about all of this. Do you ask your delegation to vote for Obama? And what about the rest of the country? If the legitimacy of a presidential election came down to believing in the electoral integrity of the Chicago precinct captain, what kind of chaos would ensue? Once this boundary was breached it would be far more likely to destroy the gentleman’s agreement among electors than to enhance national unity. The internet could communicate the news, but not stop the chaos.

Over the last century we have abolished many of the elements of stability the founders injected into our unique system of government. A serious student of the history of democracies would be alarmed at the number of symptoms our culture has developed that have previously been precursors to a democracy’s descent into chaos. The elimination of yet another is not a good idea. Contrary to popular (and uninformed) opinion, the Electoral College was not invented by a mad founder as a practical joke.

The head of NPVI, John Koza, is a computer scientist who teaches at Stanford University. I will defer to his judgment on computer, cell phone, and internet technology, regardless of any commentary by founders I might run across. I would ask that, in return, he show a little more respect for the founders’ achievement and expertise.

As for Gov. Blagojevich, he can do both this state and the nation a signal service by following advice from Nancy Reagan: Just say no.

charliej373 | October 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Tags: Electoral College | Categories: Culture | URL:
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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Fighting the Papal Fetish to Win Back the Papacy

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pope francis worship false prophet revelation 17 end times catholic antichrist

“This brief which destroys the Company of Jesus is nothing other than an isolated and particular judgment, pernicious, reflecting little honor on the Papal tiara and deleterious to the glory of the Church and to the glory and propagation of the orthodox (i.e. Catholic) faith….Holy Father, it is not possible for me to commit the Clergy to the acceptance of the said brief.”  – Archbishop Christophe de Beaumont of Paris to Pope Clement XIV


Indulgence in a fetish is a dangerous habit, blocking, as it does, access to the full reality of the given aspect of life that it masquerades, but escape from its influence is immensely difficult. The fetish in question here is “the papal fetish”; the obsessive insistence upon the orthodoxy and goodness of all statements and actions coming from a reigning Pontiff, regardless of every indication that the opposite may actually be true. And, as with fetishes in general, this papal fetish blocks access to the full appreciation of the glorious purpose that the Papacy really has, preferring a mess of willful pottage to the banquet of truth it is meant to offer to the faithful.

I began to realize the hold of this powerful fetish as soon as I became involved with the Roman Forum, which was just when the Novus Ordo descended upon us. It was at that time that Dietrich von Hildebrand began to argue that the Traditional Mass could not be abrogated, and that although its temporary replacement had to be recognized as legitimately promulgated by papal authority, we had to fight for the correction of its horrible deficiencies, and seek, as our final goal, the full restoration of the Mass of the Ages. “Accept the reality of the legitimate authority, but fight to have its horrible actions revoked,” became his battle cry. And for this, papal fetishists treated him as promoting schism and even heresy, insisting, as I heard one distinguished conservative say, that “if the pope ordered me to hear Mass standing on my head I would gladly do so”.

Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the truth that we could never be obliged to stick our feet up in the air during the Sacred Liturgy, and that we had every right to listen to the prayers at the foot of the altar right side up instead.

Those who adopted the von Hildebrand battle cry, and who therefore recognized that legitimate authority could make terrible decisions that loyal Catholics had to fight to correct, took heart in the fact that almost the entirety of Church History shared their view. For Catholics, historically, have mostly been untouched by the papal fetish, and to a large degree because the Papacy itself for long stretches of time did not do much to encourage it. St. Peter, as the Romans say, has all too often preferred to “sleep” rather than to stir up popular enthusiasm for his prerogatives in a way that might actually force him to have to do something active on behalf of the universal Church. Weak and lazy popes have often been our curse.

Yes, the Supreme Pontiff can sometimes be shown to have taken action and demanded obedience on his own steam, as when Pope Leo the Great wrote his Tome for the Council of Chalcedon, and Pope Gregory the Great sought vigorously to deal with the collapse of effective imperial government in the West. But much of the time outside militants had to stir the Papacy to exercise its rightful authority, as—ironically, given the position of the Eastern Orthodox today—in the Early Middle Ages, by Greeks of the caliber of St. Maximus the Confessor at the time of the Monothelite Controversy and Pope St. Martin I.

Interestingly enough with respect to the current argument, the greatest assertion of papal supremacy in pre-modern times, that which was associated with the reform movement of the High Middle Ages, was ushered in, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, by nothing less than the booting of bad but actually legitimate popes from off of their thrones through the intervention of the German imperial authority coming into Italy from across the Alps. This was undertaken with the enthusiastic approval of militant reformers such as St. Peter Damien, and with judgments uttered by reformed popes regarding their wicked predecessors that would perhaps make even the hardiest opponents of the current pontificate blush.

Christendom was grateful for the intervention of such outside secular help once again in the fifteenth century when the Papacy was hopelessly caught in a three way fight for the title of Supreme Pontiff. It was then that the Emperor Sigismund, in violation of all existing canonical rules, pressed the claimants to the See of Peter, including the legitimate Roman one, to abdicate to make the way for a new and universally recognized successor.

As mention of St. Peter Damien should already demonstrate, it is the greatest friends of the full and legitimate role of the Papacy who have come to the fore to criticize the actions of specific popes or general papal condoning of dangers long lurking about them in Rome. Hence, St. Bernard’s famous de consideratione, written for his pupil, Pope Eugenius III, warned of the way in which the seeming strengthening of the Papacy in his day was actually providing a dreadful opening to secular legal, bureaucratic, and financial interests interested more in Constantine than in Christ. Hence, St. Louis IX’s public rejection of papal political shenanigans designed to create the “perfect” conditions for limiting imperial power in Sicily. And, hence also, the lamentations of St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Catherine of Siena regarding the abuses of the almost universally excoriated papal court at Avignon, the dereliction of duty on the part of pontiffs who should have been striving to return to Rome, and the half-tyrannical and half-mad actions of Pope Urban VI at the beginning of the Great Western Schism.

Most impressive of all is what one might label the two-part “liber accusationis” of Gian Pietro Carafa, the future Pope Paul IV. Part one of this thorough “hanging out of dirty linen” consisted of numerous letters to the people around Clement VII concerning abuses in the Church that the pope was sometimes ignoring and sometimes abetting, to the detriment of every loyal Catholic. Part two was the document, Consilium de Emendanda ecclesia, produced for Pope Paul III by Carafa and other members of a commission of cardinals assigned the task of explaining the causes of the Reformation and what could done to fight it. The Consilium blamed the disaster upon abuses condoned by the Holy See for centuries emerging from an exaggeration of papal prerogatives and power—an exaggeration, I might add, that made some canonists even claim that the Pope could abolish Scripture “if he willed”.

Admittedly, this two part “liber” was not meant for public divulgement, but it makes the point my article is underlining crystal clear: Carafa, himself a very vigorous pope in later years, did not suffer from the papal fetish. And for that matter, neither did the Jesuits, despite their vow of “total obedience”. Their orchestrated campaigns against the actions of popes who disapproved of them in the sixteenth century is as extremely well documented as it is almost entirely unknown to Catholics!

Our contemporary fetish—as is much better known than the anti-papal ranting of the Jesuits—is the product of the Ultramontanist Movement of the nineteenth century, which saw the need for a more organized response to the secular revolutionary world by means of reinvigorating the Church’s central authority. This movement was part of a broader contemporary Catholic revival seeking to understand the full meaning of the Incarnation as well as the Mystical Body and Social Kingship of Christ.

A schema on the Church as a whole, prepared for the First Vatican Council in 1870 by a member of the broader reform movement, attempted to do what Trent had been prevented from doing by secular and ecclesiastical politics: clarify the exact role of the Papacy, the Episcopacy, the Clergy, and the Laity. Due to opposition from Liberal Catholics, Ultramontanist pressure, and the cutting short of the Council by the Franco-Prussian War, the schema on the Church was never promulgated, and Papal Infallibility alone was proclaimed.

While actually very limited in its claims, and underlined as being so limited by Cardinal Deschamps, one of its chief defenders, the proclamation of Papal Infallibility nevertheless did discuss the Papacy “out of context”, which was not the plan of the schema proponents. This fact alone worked psychologically and symbolically to give the power of the Pope over the universal Church more emphasis than was perhaps intended, though admittedly to the delight of exaggerated Ultramontanists. Papal importance was then reinforced by a line of some of the most distinguished popes in Church History, whose labors on behalf of the Mystical Body made it seem to the believing public that they and they alone could handle every matter involving faith, morals, and Catholic Action, and handle them properly. They were, to a large degree, impressive and heroic popes. And through their impressive pontificates and heroism the Papacy became ever more untouchable.

But even at this time of seemingly impeccable papal teaching and action, there were problems with their pontificates that deeply concerned those who were dedicated to the cause of Christ the King. These involved a combination of solid anti-Modernist and anti-revolutionary guidance with an all too obvious tendency, reflected in the hunt for Concordats and unofficial agreements with government after government, to “sell out” the Catholic position on the Social Kingship of Christ for the sake of “religious liberty”, guaranteeing the security of the cult and the position of the clergy alone.

The “intransigent” pre-Vatican Two Papacy generally “talked the talk”, but did not always “walk the walk”—as its record with respect to cooperation with Liberals in Italy before the First World War and the Cristeros in Mexico in the 1920’s and 1930’s all too well demonstrates. And its negligence in controlling a rebellious clergy eager to destroy all work for a Social Kingship of Christ under Pope Pius XII is devastatingly clear from the literally heart-rending diaries and letters of Father Joseph Fenton in the 1950’s. One might wish that such criticism had been better known publically at the time, were it not for the fact that the “papal fetish”—to which Fenton himself clearly did not succumb—would have been met with the same reaction faced by von Hildebrand fifteen years later.

It is precisely that rebellious clergy that has taken possession of the Papacy and the Church in general in our time. They are now the legitimate authorities, and they are teaching and acting in ways that we, like our fellow Catholics in the past, though in a world that the current authorities constantly (but hypocritically) proclaim to require a greater openness than ever before, have an obligation, publically, to insist be revoked and corrected in line with the entire Tradition of the Church. For the Church and the “will” of the current Pontiff are simply not one and the same thing.

Now it is the higher clergy that has the greatest obligation to speak out in these matters. Some prelates do so. Some have understandable restraints on their action. Alas, all too many are hopelessly crippled by the papal fetish.

Nevertheless, the Catholic movement of the nineteenth century, as well as Second Vatican Council, pointed out that the laity has its responsibility as well. Emperors once exercised that responsibility for us, and we would do well still to ask the intercession of the Emperor St. Henry II and Blessed Karl of Austria to inspire us to understand what the laity should do in this current disaster in their absence. While waiting for their assistance, the rest of us, each through our different vocation, must seek to fight in whatever diverse ways that what we can.

Our fight is for the fullness of the message of the Incarnation, for the fullness of the Social Kingship of Christ, and, as such, a battle for the fullness of the Papacy, whose true character and mission, one that puts its role above both weakness and willfulness, cannot be understood until the papal fetish obscuring them loses its hold over us. But in order to fight that fight properly we, ourselves, really have to know much better than ever before what these doctrines and institutions truly are and what the real problems that they have faced in the past and face today honestly are.

I wish that I could say that I am as certain that we are “awakened” to what we positively need to know for the future of the Social Kingship of Christ as I am that we are correct in fighting that papal fetish that seeks to block desperately needed criticism of the current pontificate. Quite frankly, I think that there is still too much anti-intellectualism, too much John Locke, too much Adam Smith, too much American parochialism, too much obsession with enemies now dead and buried, and too much hope for salvation from some new Constantine focused on matters of secondary importance to recognize what the papal fetish is really blocking knowledge of in 2016. And that is the fact that the willful Nominalism of the later Middle Ages, destructive of all categories of knowledge, the willful Lutheranism of the sixteenth century, destructive of all legitimate social authority, and the willful, freedom-obsessed, Anglo-American and Continental Liberalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, destructive of all restraints on individual madness, with all of the contradictory, capitalist, statist, and libertine consequences that emerge therefrom, have now wormed their way into the teachings and actions of the legitimate successor of St. Peter.

St. Peter Damien and St. Maximus the Confessor, pray for us!

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Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard flight from Rome to Cuba

Pope Francis speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Havana Sept. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-CUBA-ARRIVE Sept. 19, 2015.

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U.S. Senator Cruz, flanked by Senator Lee and Senator Vitter, speaks against pending immigration legislation during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) (C), flanked by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) (L) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), speaks against pending immigration legislation during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 20, 2013. An army of new federal agents and high-tech surveillance devices would be dispatched to the U.S.-Mexican border under a deal reached on Thursday that is aimed at winning increased Republican support for an immigration bill in the U.S. Senate. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION) – RTX10V9D

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