A Dialogue Between Two Monks Concerning the Papacy



Image: Max Barascudts (1869-1927) — In the Scriptorium

Br. Barsanuphius: Good morning, Brother! To my surprise, the guest house is completely ready for today’s arrivals, and we have some time before the next office. Are you free for a conversation? We could pick up where we left off.

Br. Romuald: That would be an excellent thing to do. Let’s sit over here by the herb garden.

Br. Barsanuphius: My problem comes down to the relationship between the “conservative” instinct of submitting oneself to the Pope, and the “traditionalist” instinct of taking Tradition as a safe guide and making a yardstick of it. I see, on the one hand, that the instinct of revering the Pope and going along with his teaching is healthy, but on other hand, I know enough Church history to see that this is not absolutely foolproof. And besides, what is meant by “the Pope’s teaching” is far from simple, since it is not a uniform body of teaching but comes in various forms and degrees of authority.

Br. Romuald: It’s so like you to get right to the heart of the matter!

Br. Barsanuphius: For some people, the idea of taking Tradition as a guide sets up an intellectual construct that can never be determinate, thus encouraging an almost Protestant spirit of “private judgment.”

Br. Romuald: But as other people see it, the approach of submitting oneself to the Pope can go wrong if it places too much weight, in an ultramontanist spirit, on the dicta et facta, the words and actions, of the reigning pontiff.

Br. Barsanuphius: That’s the contrast in a nutshell.

Br. Romuald: I think, however, that both of these positions are extremes. There is a genuine via media that holds to the real primacy of the Pope as well as to the normative standing of the Tradition he is called to serve—and which he can betray in one way or another.

Br. Barsanuphius: Yes, exactly! I used to think that a Pope could never say or do anything wrong at all, as if it’s his job to be a sort of Delphic oracle who always gives an inspired answer, or a God-king whom we all venerate—“the Great Leader” in an almost Communist or fascist way.

Br. Romuald: You were suffering from a common illusion among Catholics. Most do not grasp well the meaning and the role of the papacy.

Br. Barsanuphius: Right. It was a watershed moment for me when I found no less than Joseph Ratzinger saying in The Spirit of the Liturgy—let me see, I have this book in my satchel… Ah yes, here it is.

After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not “manufactured” by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.

Br. Romuald: A fine passage indeed, and indicative of a deep trend in his thinking. For if I’m not mistaken, he reiterated this position as Pope in 2005.

Br. Barsanuphius: You’re right about that. I have it printed on a sheet of paper tucked into this book, because it seemed so important to me:

The power that Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors is, in an absolute sense, a mandate to serve. The power of teaching in the Church involves a commitment to the service of obedience to the faith. The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism. … The Pope knows that in his important decisions, he is bound to the great community of faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed throughout the Church’s pilgrimage. Thus, his power is not being above the Word of God, but at the service of it. It is incumbent upon him to ensure that this Word continues to be present in its greatness and to resound in its purity, so that it is not torn to pieces by continuous changes in usage.

Br. Romuald: Well, then, we seem to be in agreement about the actual role of the Pope and the limitations of his office. But I recall that yesterday you were struggling with the problem of John Henry Newman’s conversion and how he switched his allegiance, in a way, from an abstract construct called “Tradition” to a concrete measure called “Papacy.”

Br. Barsanuphius: Yes. In 1840, Newman believed that “Tradition = Catholicism,” while in 1845 he had come to believe that “Pope = Catholicism.” Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, and all that good stuff.

Br. Romuald: In light of the foregoing quotations from Ratzinger, however, wouldn’t we have to maintain that the difference between Newman the Anglican and Newman the Catholic is not this at all, but rather, that by 1845 he had come to see that the Pope is an integral and central part of the picture, as the one who can determine and define—and indeed has historically determined and defined—what is and is not according to Tradition, or what is or is not taught in Scripture?

Br. Barsanuphius: Of course. The absence of this magisterial power in Protestantism explains why it exists in over 30,000 denominations. Someone has to be able to say, when push comes to shove, what is or is not taught by Scripture and Tradition.

Br. Romuald: Surely, the next step is to say that the Pope cannot in any way add to or subtract from the dual font of Revelation, namely, Scripture and Tradition. The Magisterium interprets Revelation; it does not originate or modify it. The Magisterium is decisively secondary to it. This is pure Catholicism, without a whiff of 1840s Anglicanism. One may and must view the head of the Church on earth as a visible sign and source of communion within the Church, without viewing his authority as absolute over doctrine and discipline.

Br. Barsanuphius: How could I disagree? This seems like pure common sense to me. But how do we know when a Pope is acting according to his office and when he might be departing from it? If he is ultra vires, outside the bounds—can we ever know that?

Br. Romuald: Yes, I think we have to be able to do that. At least something of the content of Revelation can be known by faithful Catholics with such certitude that if—perhaps per impossibile, if you wish—a Pope were to contradict it, they could know he was in error and refuse to follow the error, in spite of its papal patronage.

Br. Barsanuphius: If one were to deny that the orthodox faith could be known at all apart from the teaching of the current incumbent of the papacy, how would that be any different from epistemological skepticism about the knowability, objectivity, constancy, and universality of the Catholic Faith?

Br. Romuald: Indeed—we would not even be able to recognize the continuity of the Faith over time, since whatever continuity showed up in the historical record would be merely the result of a lot of Popes who happened to will the same thing. It would not be a guarantee that what they adhered to was the truth and that they would never adhere to anything different.

Br. Barsanuphius: Such an approach would negate the age-old rule of St. Vincent of Lérins, who taught that we must adhere to doctrines believed “always, everywhere, and by everyone.”

Br. Romuald: Exactly! My dear brother, you surely see by now that we cannot sidestep or wave away the need for rational criteria to determine how and when to obey the Pope or embrace his statements, precisely in order to remain faithful ourselves to the immutable truth of the Faith. By this, I mean that no matter how much our insights into God may develop over time, they will never contradict that which has been solemnly or consistently taught before.

Br. Barsanuphius: As you were explaining to me last week, this is the reason why John of St. Thomas, Cajetan, Bellarmine, Melchior Cano, and other great theologians of the past wrote extensively on these matters, distingushing carefully between papal statements or judgments that must be accepted, and those that might be questioned or, in dire cases, must be rejected.

Br. Romuald: Perhaps we should not speak so hypothetically. Many things said and done by more recent Popes are extremely hard to reconcile with the manifest teaching of earlier councils and Popes and even Sacred Scripture; it’s downright scandalous at times. Simply compare the encyclical letter Casti Connubii to the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia!

Br. Barsanuphius: Ah, brother, you have raised a painful subject. For quite some time, to be honest, I’ve avoided following Vatican news, so as not to lose heart or become angry or depressed or distracted.

Br. Romuald: I totally sympathize with the desire not to know how bad things have become, but we must recognize that the issues at stake—such as the proposal that we should invite to Holy Communion those who are living objectively in a state of adultery!—concern the very essence of our Faith. We cannot ignore them, wishing they would go away.

Br. Barsanuphius: Besides, people will be asking us what our opinion is. As men of religion, we have a duty to be well-informed and well-educated—

Br. Romuald: —and prepared for those awkward moments after Mass or in the gift shop.

Br. Barsanuphius: You can say that again! A few weeks ago, when I was running the shop, a man came in and started going on about how the situation in the Church today was so bad that it was surely a sign that we did not have a legitimate Pope. I tried to reason with him about the difference between not having a Pope at all and having a bad Pope. If you’ve got a bad Pope, you can explain the desperate situation in the Church without much difficulty. In this case, we apply Ockham’s razor.

Br. Romuald: Did you convince him?

Br. Barsanuphius: I think so. I told him that our situation would never get any better unless he was praying every day for the Pope and the Church—and made sure to protect himself against evil spirits. After friendly banter and a cup of tea, he bought a bunch of St. Benedict medals, a few rosaries, and a small booklet with Prime and Compline, and left in good spirits.

Br. Romuald: Good to hear. What a blessing that gift shop is.

Br. Barsanuphius: But the conversation made me melancholy. In fact, it’s what prompted our conversation yesterday about the traditionalists’ insistence on the fixed and settled teaching of the Church in the past—for example, the decrees, canons, and anathemas of the Council of Trent—as a permanent measure of the present. It made me wonder if I am perhaps too attached to a certain vision of the past…

Br. Romuald: We can all feel that way at times. Yet the past is given to us as the foundation on which the present is built, and we do not change the foundation of a building unless we want it to fall down.

Br. Barsanuphius: A sign that we are not crazy is the vast number of priests, bishops, and even cardinals who are shocked and sickened by what they see happening in Rome. This is not at all about distrust of the Pope, rejection of the papacy, or the exaltation of private judgment. It is about distrust of those who are damaging the Church and the Faith their predecessors taught.

Br. Romuald: Positively, it is about holding fast to the teaching of Our Lord in the Gospels about marriage and divorce—teaching clearly stated and determined past all doubt by the Magisterium of the Church, including most recently (and repeatedly) by St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Br. Barsanuphius: Amen to that. What is the Pope for, if not to guard and proclaim the Deposit of Faith, integral and unadulerated?

Br. Romuald: And to think this used to be taken for granted! Newman calls the pope a remora, “a breakwater, a hindrance, a stopper against innovation,” as the genial Fr. Hunwicke puts it. By his very office he is to be stubbornly conservative, doctrinally unoriginal, utterly traditional.

Br. Barsanuphius: That is what the Roman Church was famous for in the first millennium of Christianity—her Roman Canon is the most ancient and unchanged of all anaphoras—and she largely retained that role in the second millennium as well.

Br. Romuald: Yes, the Roman Church was so resistant to change that it did not even recite the Creed during Mass for many centuries, since that was not a part of the existing liturgy, and finally gave in when everyone else was using it elsewhere.

Br. Barsanuphius: We sure could have used some of that spirit of resistance to change in the sixties and seventies, when secular culture had more or less made a religion out of evolution!

Br. Romuald: You can say that again.

Br. Barsanuphius: Clearly, what we need is a reforming Pope, a man like St. Gregory VII, St. Pius V, or St. Pius X, one who can come in and be that stopper against innovation—with, I might as well say it, a pair of strong arms to sweep out the Augean stables.

Br. Romuald: What’s strange beyond belief is that there are people out there who would think we are disloyal Catholics for saying such things. How little they know of loyalty or Catholicism!

Br. Barsanuphius: In any case, by God’s grace I will never abandon Our Lord or the See of Peter or the Catholic Faith that has been handed down to each generation in the official doctrine of the Church. As the first pope said: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Br. Romuald: Well said.… even if we may be legitimately perplexed and grieved by the latest successor of Peter, to whom Our Lord, were He still walking the paths of this earth, would have plenty of reason to utter the same words as he did to the first Pope: “Get behind me, Satan: you are thinking the thoughts of men, and not the thoughts of God.”

Br. Barsanuphius: “The thoughts of men, and not the thoughts of God…” That reminds me. Did you hear the news about the Acta Apostolicae Sedis?

Br. Romuald: Alas, yes. What do you make of it?

Br. Barsanuphius: As far as what the texts say, it’s nothing new. Astute observers all along have known that sacramental access for Catholics living in adultery is what both Synods as well as Amoris Laetitia have always been angling towards. Conservatives who kept doing hermeneutical somersaults to prove that “nothing has changed” now have enough egg on their face for a lifetime supply of omelettes. The defenders of continuity have just been unceremoniously dumped, while the agents of revolution have received the signal: “full steam ahead.”

Br. Romuald: But it raises the stakes, doesn’t it, invoking “magisterial authority” and sticking it in the Acta and so forth?

Br. Barsanuphius: It seems to be a favorite move nowadays to think that slapping the label “magisterial” onto packages will suddenly make the contents edible or even healthy. No, that depends on the ingredients, not on the label. Weren’t you paying attention when we discussed this just a minute ago?

Br. Romuald: But it seems that including something in the Acta is a big deal. I remember reading in a neoscholastic manual from the fifties a statement that “whatever appears in the acts of the Holy See may be assumed to be binding teaching, since there is no more official manner in which to publish documents intended to bind the faithful with a religious submission of will and intellect.”

Br. Barsanuphius: For one thing, you are forgetting your Lumen Gentium.

Br. Romuald: There are some things I have never tried very hard to remember.

Br. Barsanuphius: Come now, this document is your friend—on this point, at least. It says that one must gauge authoritative statements by many criteria: the type of document in question, the repetition of a doctrine, the clear intention to define or condemn. Although published in the Acta, this recent thing is just a letter to a small group of bishops, not even an episcopal conference; it enunciates a novelty rather than repeating what has always been taught; and it is not couched in language that could possibly vie with Canon 915, which expresses either dominical teaching or a conclusion logically derived from dominical teaching.

Br. Romuald: In short, it changes nothing in the Church’s doctrine or discipline.

Br. Barsanuphius: Nor could it, for that matter. It’s a bit like saying “There are special circumstances in which it might be appropriate to square a circle.” But a circle can never be squared. Therefore the special circumstances will never arise.

Br. Romuald: Well said.

Br. Barsanuphius: Getting back to your manual, let us be frank: the neoscholastic manuals have their strengths, but a sane, moderate account of papal authority is not one of them. Remember how Newman complained about the likely results of the proclamation of the dogma of infallibility at Vatican I?

Br. Romuald: He predicted that there would be a dangerous veneration and adulation of the person and opinions of the reigning pope, contrary to the limited doctrine of infallibility defined at that council.

Br. Barsanuphius: Perhaps what we are going through today is the messy manner in which the problems Newman diagnosed will finally be sifted through and brought to clarity. For there has been over a century of papal maximalism and positivism that sits uneasily with most of Catholic tradition, and we can see it pretty much self-destructing at this time.

Br. Romuald: In other words, we have had unreasonable expectations about the papacy, and now the Lord is putting us to the ultimate test, to see whether we are mature enough in our faith to deal with it.

Br. Barsanuphius: To put it more positively: this pontificate will force theologians to make more distinctions about the exercise of the papal office and the exact parameters of the obedience of the faithful than they have ever been required to make before. It used to be considered a rule of thumb—in your neoscholastic manuals, for instance—that the mere appearance of something in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis would justify making a religious submission of will and intellect to it. This latest publication rather abruptly puts an end to that exaggerated deference!

Br. Romuald: You mean, shows us that the assumptions of the 1950s are untenable?

Br. Barsanuphius: Right. The 1950s gave us two striking examples to think about: the Assumpion with a capital ‘a’, and the assumptions of the liturgical reformers that gave us the “reformed Holy Week.” The former is a dogma of the faith; the latter was a tragic rupture.

Br. Romuald: I know what you mean. For a long time I had this uncomfortable feeling that the Pacellian rites were a pastiche of old and modern bits, based on someone’s clever idea of how things ought to go. It never seemed right.

Br. Barsanuphius: And when the monastery returned to the ancient rites of Holy Week, I was—I have to say—just carried away by the awesomeness, the majesty, the overpowering reality of them. I felt almost crushed by their weight, and yet oddly free to be serious about the most serious thing of all.

Br. Romuald (after a silence): You are turning into a mystic on me, brother…

Br. Barsanuphius (smiling): You can blame that on the old liturgy!

Br. Romuald: The point is, we need a better rule than that neoscholastic automatism, which practically assumes that every incumbent of the papal throne will be a saint and a doctor of the Church to boot. We need something more in accord with the intentions and texts of Vatican I, not to mention the nuanced understanding, developed over nineteen centuries, of the inherent authority of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium.

Br. Barsanuphius: What you say reminds me that in this regard, as in so many others, we are inferior to our forefathers, who, in addition to their other good qualities, tended to be more flexible, more realistic, more zealous, and more common-sensical than we are… Ah, do you hear the Vespers bell ringing? Let’s go, so we’re not late for station.

Br. Romuald: Pray for me, brother. I never thought I’d live to see such times.

Br. Barsanuphius: Nor does any of us. But this is the age God willed for us—for you and me. And, as strange as it may seem, He chose us for these times, He wanted us to be here, living, praying, suffering. We’ve mentioned Newman a lot. You know that marvelous meditation of his, which has brought me much consolation over the years:

God has created me to do Him some definite service;

He has committed some work to me

which He has not committed to another. …

Therefore I will trust Him.

Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.

If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;

in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;

if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow

may be necessary causes of some great end,

which is quite beyond us.

He does nothing in vain;

He may prolong my life, He may shorten it;

He knows what He is about.

He may take away my friends,

He may throw me among strangers,

He may make me feel desolate,

make my spirits sink,

hide the future from me—

still He knows what He is about.

It is our job to offer up a pure sacrifice of praise, and to keep the truth jealously that He has imparted to us. This will be how we “save the Church.” It will not happen any other way.

Br. Romuald: You have some wisdom beyond your years, young man. Let’s be off.

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New Film Shines a Spotlight on the Crisis in the Vatican



Editor’s note: the following is from Paul Stark, Director of the forthcoming film, The Vatican Deception.

There’s a new feature documentary film coming to theaters on January 18, 2018 called The Vatican Deception. It’s a powerful investigation into the past century through the lens of the Fatima prophecies, and it offers insights into the current crisis in the Vatican, how the crisis is linked to key global events, and why there’s a battle in the Vatican to conceal the prophecies. Those who know the story will see many familiar themes compiled in a comprehensive documentary designed to captivate the experts as much as those who know little or nothing about it. The film also reveals to anyone trying to make sense of these turbulent times that if you look back on all the natural disasters, terrorism, mass shootings, fraud, violence, greed, and “wars and rumours of wars” (Matt. 24:6) in the context of these prophecies, you get a sobering perspective on why the world appears to be spinning out of control.

What’s astonishing these days is how many people have never heard of the prophecies about the three secrets of Fatima. It’s astonishing because back in the 1950s, everyone knew about them. They were popularized in the media when Warner Bros released a Hollywood feature about them, and the Fatima film was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953. The world knew about the first two secrets of Fatima that were published during World War II, and the world awaited the revelation of the mysterious Third Secret in 1960. But the moment Pope John XXIII came into power in 1958, there was silence. The prophecies and the missing text fell into obscurity, and today, most of the world knows nothing about them. The world’s most remarkable mystery disappeared…but not entirely.

There are those adherents to the Roman Mass who preserve the memory of these prophecies with special respect. On this conflict – between those who preserve the secrets of Fatima and those who suppress them – rests the fate of humanity, according to the prophecies of Fatima, because its outcome will determine whether the world will suffer unimaginable calamities or enjoy a remarkable period of peace. It is therefore reasonable to ask: if such prophecies have a flawless track record about earlier predictions, and if they predict future global devastation, and if they have given us a message about how to protect ourselves in these times, is it not paramount that we all should know about them, whether or not we choose to accept them? The Vatican Deception provides sufficient testimonies for its audience to answer this question for themselves, beginning with an illustration of the historical context for these prophecies, then leading us into a comprehensive investigation that reveals why these prophecies are so relevant today.

The documentary’s production spans over seven years and two very different popes, and it features more than four years of research. The heartbeat of the documentary is one individual and his battle with the Vatican. It tells the story of his mission to promote the prophecies of Fatima and the incredible efforts to sabotage his work. Through the struggle of one man, we come to understand that something monumental is taking place – something that might best have been summarized by Pope Benedict XVI, who read the Third Secret of Fatima. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he gave us a chilling glimpse into the hidden message of Fatima when he did an interview with Jesus Magazine, published on November 11, 1984. In this interview, he was asked the following question:

“Cardinal Ratzinger, have you read what is called the Third Secret of Fatima [i.e., the one that Sister Lucia had sent to Pope John XXIII and which the latter did not wish to make known and consigned to the Vatican archives]?”

In reply, Cardinal Ratzinger said: “Yes, I have read it.”

The response was so frank that it provoked a further question: “Why has it not been revealed?”

To this, Ratzinger replied: “Because, according to the judgement of the popes, it adds nothing to what a Christian must know concerning what derives from Revelation – i.e., a radical call for conversion; the absolute importance of history; the dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian, and therefore of the world. And then the importance of the ‘Novissimi’ (the last events at the end of time). If it is not made public – at least for the time being – it is in order to prevent religious prophecy from being mistaken for a quest for the sensational. But the things contained in this ‘Third Secret’ correspond to what has been announced in Scripture and has been said again and again in many other Marian apparitions, first of all that of Fatima.”

What Cardinal Ratzinger said here is no insignificant thing! How did such an explosive statement become so forgotten?

The Vatican Deception provides a comprehensive examination into the details, and what it unveils is arguably the most important story of our times. And despite its ominous themes, it provides a message of hope. Ultimately, in the story of Fatima, there is a remarkable answer that mitigates the horrific devastation it predicts.

The film’s movie trailer and details can be seen at www.TheVaticanDeception.com.

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Image: FarragutfulUSCCB offices, Added Graphics & Blur, CC BY-SA 3.0


Did CCHD Attempt to Pay Off Investigative Reporters Exposing Anti-Catholic Grant Recipients?

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Which makes the story he shared today about Catholic Campaign for Human Development Executive Director Ralph McCloud look like one of the most egregious examples of miscalculation I’ve ever come across. In a blog post, Hichborn says that in a recent email, McCloud sought to discredit his investigative findings into some of CCHD’s grant recipients — recipients Hichborn reported last month were engaged in pro-abortion and/or pro-homosexual activities. Hichborn’s report didn’t just include information on one or two such recipients, but a full dozen. Nevertheless, McCloud was dismissive of the report:

[A]ll credible allegations are thoroughly investigated by CCHD in partnership with the local diocese, and all of the Lepanto allegations cited have been previously investigated. However, in the case that any group engages in activities contrary to Catholic teaching, the situation will be rectified quickly, responsibly, and charitably in deference to the local ordinary.

McCloud also stated that

In years past, CCHD staff met with Mr. Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute with no positive results. Additionally, the CCHD Subcommittee asked that we not meet with him since there seems to be no amicable resolution.

In response, Hichborn sought to provide his own recollection of a meeting he had with McCloud and another high ranking USCCB official in 2011:

I have a witness to this account, who can testify that what I am about to say is completely true.

In the fall of 2011, a colleague of mine and I went to the USCCB offices in Washington, DC to meet with John Carr (then the USCCB’s director of Justice and Peace) and Ralph McCloud about our recent investigation into CCHD grants.  Before discussing our findings and the report we were preparing to publish, Carr and McCloud indicated that they wanted to address a few matters first.  I expected to be met with the same old list of excuses CCHD gives every time it is caught providing grants to organizations that act against the Church’s teaching.  What I did not expect was to be told that instead of meeting and discussing our research into CCHD grants, the CCHD would rather provide us with a grant to create a group that would organize low income people against the pro-abortion and anti-family movements.

Several times throughout the conversation, we were presented with an “appeal” to take a grant from the CCHD in lieu of the research we were conducting into CCHD grantees.

In addition to telling us that they (Carr and McCloud) were “violating their own rules” by offering to provide us with a grant if we were to create such an organization, we were told that the CCHD’s definition of “low income” was more expansive than it was in the past.  The suggestion was simply that we could pay ourselves fairly well and still qualify for the grant.  Amazingly, after offering us a grant and telling us that doing so was a violation of their rules, they went on to specify that they weren’t supposed to solicit grant applications and help people through the grant process.  But this is precisely what they were offering to do.  And it was done specifically in the context of moving us away from the ongoing investigations we were conducting into CCHD grantees.

However, as the saying goes, if the carrot doesn’t work, try the stick.

Once it became clear that we weren’t going to take the bait to accept a grant from the CCHD, and that we still intended to publish our report on 54 CCHD grantees, the conversation moved from the offer to a threat.  In stating our intention to publish this report, we made it clear that the reason for publishing was simply this: we believed that pew-sitting Catholics deserved to know what sort of organizations the CCHD was funding so they could determine on their own if this was the sort of thing they wanted to contribute to.  Despite our promise not to editorialize the information, it was made abundantly clear to us in that if we published the report on those 54 grantees, the CCHD would characterize it as an “attack” and that they would spend time trying to discredit it.  In fact, we were specifically told what a shame it is that the CCHD would be forced to waste time discrediting our report instead of providing us with a grant.

From where I sit, that sounds mysteriously like a payoff. Like putting lipstick on a bribe.

McCloud’s email this week also confirms the “threat” portion of Michael’s recollection of events. As Hichborn was told by McCloud in 2011, “it was made abundantly clear to us in that if we published the report on those 54 grantees, the CCHD would characterize it as an ‘attack’ and that they would spend time trying to discredit it. ”

And in McCloud’s email, we find the following sentence:

It is important to note that, throughout its history, CCHD and CCHD grantees have been subject to organized, exploitative attacks. Although sometimes these attacks originate due to a misperception of the mission of CCHD (To empower communities in their work, to overcome injustice and economic marginalization), at times they derive from opposition to the Church’s teaching and work in the field of charity and justice.

Did anyone else have a little chuckle at the accusation of “attacks” motivated by “opposition to the Church’s teaching”? I mean, from a guy who spent his first year at the USCCB moonlighting as the treasurer for the Wendy Davis campaign? Yeah. That Wendy Davis. The one who became famous for unseating a pro-life incumbent in the Texas state senate and running an 11-hour filibuster in that state’s legislature to stop a bill that would restrict abortion regulations.

Hichborn has more on his interactions with McCloud (and the cessation thereof) in his post today, and it’s not endearing stuff. I’ve also written about McCloud here before, as has practically everyone else in the Catholic world who gives a damn about Church teaching on defined, non-negotiable issues like abortion — not esoteric and often distorted questions of “charity and justice”. Nothing has ever been done.

Isn’t it interesting how our bishops spare no time forcing the resignation of Fr. Weinandy at the first sign of inconvenient orthodoxy, but McCloud is apparently untouchable, no matter how far off the Catholic reservation he goes?

As Antonio Socci said in the essay we published earlier today: “Are there still any Catholic bishops and cardinals left? They ought to know that God will demand an account from them for their complicit silence. And in case they might have forgotten, we must remind them of it.”



Michael Hichborn: CCHD Offered Me a Grant, Hoped I would Stop Investigating Other Grantees

CCHD bribeYesterday, someone forwarded to the Lepanto Institute an email from Ralph McCloud, the Executive Director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  McCloud’s email was written to address recent concerns raised by the Lepanto Institute regarding CCHD grants.  You can read McCloud’s email here.

mccloud2In typical fashion, McCloud never actually addressed any specific concerns, but stressed the CCHD’s procedure for allegedly ensuring a high standard of accountability.  At the beginning of the letter, McCloud said the following:

In years past, CCHD staff met with Mr. Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute with no positive results.  Additionally, the CCHD Subcommittee asked that we not meet with him since there seems to be no amicable resolution.

Since McCloud decided to claim in this email that his meetings with Hichborn had no “positive results,” it’s important to put this claim into context.  In a meeting Hichborn had with McCloud in 2011, CCHD offered to provide a grant to him and a colleague … an offer they flatly refused.

Hichborn recounts what happened in this meeting:

I have a witness to this account, who can testify that what I am about to say is completely true.

In the fall of 2011, a colleague of mine and I went to the USCCB offices in Washington, DC to meet with John Carr (then the USCCB’s director of Justice and Peace) and Ralph McCloud about our recent investigation into CCHD grants.  Before discussing our findings and the report we were preparing to publish, Carr and McCloud indicated that they wanted to address a few matters first.  I expected to be met with the same old list of excuses CCHD gives every time it is caught providing grants to organizations that act against the Church’s teaching.  What I did not expect was to be told that instead of meeting and discussing our research into CCHD grants, the CCHD would rather provide us with a grant to create a group that would organize low income people against the pro-abortion and anti-family movements.

Several times throughout the conversation, we were presented with an “appeal” to take a grant from the CCHD in lieu of the research we were conducting into CCHD grantees.

In addition to telling us that they (Carr and McCloud) were “violating their own rules” by offering to provide us with a grant if we were to create such an organization, we were told that the CCHD’s definition of “low income” was more expansive than it was in the past.  The suggestion was simply that we could pay ourselves fairly well and still qualify for the grant.  Amazingly, after offering us a grant and telling us that doing so was a violation of their rules, they went on to specify that they weren’t supposed to solicit grant applications and help people through the grant process.  But this is precisely what they were offering to do.  And it was done specifically in the context of moving us away from the ongoing investigations we were conducting into CCHD grantees.

However, as the saying goes, if the carrot doesn’t work, try the stick.

Once it became clear that we weren’t going to take the bait to accept a grant from the CCHD, and that we still intended to publish our report on 54 CCHD grantees, the conversation moved from the offer to a threat.  In stating our intention to publish this report, we made it clear that the reason for publishing was simply this: we believed that pew-sitting Catholics deserved to know what sort of organizations the CCHD was funding so they could determine on their own if this was the sort of thing they wanted to contribute to.   Despite our promise not to editorialize the information, it was made abundantly clear to us in that if we published the report on those 54 grantees, the CCHD would characterize it as an “attack” and that they would spend time trying to discredit it.  In fact, we were specifically told what a shame it is that the CCHD would be forced to waste time discrediting our report instead of providing us with a grant.

Despite the failed attempt to pull Hichborn and his colleague into a financial relationship in 2011, and even though the report on CCHD grantees was subsequently published, CCHD continued to meet with them.  However, in the fall of 2012, McCloud unexpectedly canceled the last scheduled meeting they were to have just two days before the appointed time.  Though McCloud claims in the email mentioned above that the meetings ceased because “there seems to be no amicable resolution,” it is far more likely that the meetings were ended because Hichborn sent in proof that the CCHD’s largest network of grantees lied to McCloud and sent falsified information to him.

Briefly, here’s what happened.  In the summer of 2012, Hichborn submitted evidence to the CCHD that the Gamaliel Foundation was a member of an organization which took official positions in favor of homosexuality.  So, the CCHD contacted Gamaliel to ask about this membership.  Gamaliel responded by claiming to have ended its relationship with the organization in question in May of 2010.  As evidence of this, Gamaliel sent the CCHD the copy of a letter it allegedly wrote to the organization in May of 2010, terminating their relationship.  If this was true, this would have been the end of the discussion.  But not only was this claim NOT true, Hichborn subsequently discovered document files on Gamaliel’s own website which indicated that it was a member of this organization through 2011, and into 2012.  In other words, Gamaliel lied directly to the CCHD and provided them with a falsified document.

Oddly enough, seven days after Hichborn sent proof of Gamaliel’s lie to the CCHD, McCloud canceled the appointed meeting with a single-line email: “We see no reason to meet at this time.”

This video report Hichborn produced gives the details about Gamaliel’s lie to the CCHD:

While this information is six years old, it remains relevant to the current situation in the CCHD.  The attempt to persuade Michael Hichborn from conducting research into CCHD grantees by offering him a CCHD grant was not made public in 2011 because he was not at liberty to do so.  The only reason this is being made public now is to put into proper context what is meant when McCloud says that previous meetings with Hichborn yielded “no positive results.”  And while McCloud claims that he was asked to stop meeting with Hichborn because “there seems to be no amicable resolution,” the fact that their last appointed meeting was canceled just after Hichborn provided the CCHD with proof that the Gamaliel Foundation lied to them is beyond suspicious.  More to the point, the alleged “amicable resolution” would have required the CCHD to disqualify its favorite grantee network from all funding.


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Eccles and Bosco is saved

What do you know about Christmas?

Posted: 09 Dec 2017 07:23 AM PST

Our attention has been drawn by Archdruid Eileen to an article showing that 9 out of 10 Independent journalists know nothing about Christmas.The problem, of course is that 99% of them haven’t been in a church for more than 20 years (“Is it that big building with the minarets?”) and 85% of them have never spoken to a Christian (“They’re the ones in the turbans, aren’t they?”)

The Gherkin

This is probably not a church.

Although we haven’t even got to the 2nd Sunday in Advent, it was clear to the Independent editor that we must already be on about the 35th Day of Christmas, which traditionally starts when Bonfire Night is over, and it was time for a “What we don’t know about Christmas” piece.

Shockingly, when asked to name the 12 Apostles – not that they have much to do with Christmas – the Independent“Staff and Agencies” (a term they use when they can’t find anyone prepared to take responsibility for an article) came up with the following list:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Adam, Eve, Esau, Jacob, David, Goliath, Pontius Pilate,

and as, mentioned on the Archdruid Eileen blog, they narrowly avoided naming Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen (or possibly Kasper and Cupich and Farrell and Tobin).

John Arnold being silly

Christians – except for “Jihadi John” Arnold – do not celebrate Mohammed’s birthday.

Clearly, it is difficult to find the traditional Christmas story – either you need to find a Bible, and then it’s a long wade through from Genesis until you get to the bit about Bethlehem, or else you need to do “research” (probably Google), and that sounds too much like hard work. Indeed, if you use traditional Christmas keywords such as “snowman”, “robin” and “mince pie”, you may never stumble across the story at all.

The Easter story is equally hard to pin down, and even a Biblical concordance won’t help you if you type in keywords such as “egg”, “bunny” and “chocolate”. We Christians know that these are key parts of the Easter narrative, but traditionally these bits aren’t even read out in church.

I don’t think we can blame Pope Francis, who, when he has finished rewriting the Lord’s Prayer, is definitely expected to introduce that beautiful old Christmas hymn “We all like figgy pudding” into the liturgy for Christmas Day.

snowman dressed as a priest

“And there came three snowmen unto Bethlehem…”

When asked what languages Jesus spoke, 80% of Independent staff said that, although of course He normally spoke in English (see the King James Bible for proof of this), he must also have understood Gaelic (the language of St Andrew), and probably also spoke whatever it is that Jews speak – probably Yiddish. Anyway, there’s clearly no point praying to God (an obscure ritual that some traditional Catholics perform) in languages such as French and German, as HE WON’T UNDERSTAND YOU.

The journalists had heard of the Turin shroud, but most associated it with Alan Turing, the computer chappie, rather than Jesus. “Anyway, wherever Jesus’s body is buried, He’s probably still wearing the shroud.”

Well, with this level of ignorance – and the Guardian is worse – we have a long way to go before we see surveys asking people to explain the Hermeneutic of Continuity, the difference between Modern Reformed Baptists and Reformed Modern Baptists, or the meaning of Eschatology. Let’s start with something simpler, such as explaining the Gospels to Fr James Martin SJ.


Harry Houdini – a master of eschatology. 

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Settimo Cielodi Sandro Magister

All Bergoglio’s Teachers, Even Though He Goes His Own Way



After the many narrative biographies of Pope Francis, here is the first one that rightly bears the title of “intellectual biography.” Its author, Massimo Borghesi, is professor of moral philosophy at the University of Perugia and has been very close to Jorge Mario Bergoglio since long before he was elected pope, on a par with that circle of friends whose best-known name is that of the vaticanista Andrea Tornielli, all of them belonging to the Roman branch of Communion and Liberation that was headed by the priest Giacomo Tantardini.

But in addition to coming from Borghesi’s pen, this book is also the offspring of the spoken word of Pope Francis himself, who on four occasions – the two most recent being on March 13, 2017, the fourth anniversary of his pontificate – sent to the author audio recordings that are repeatedly cited in the text and all aimed at identifying the sources of his formation.

It is a biography, therefore, that is in part an autobiography as well. And it is motivated precisely by a revelation made here for the first time by Bergoglio himself, according to whom at the origin of his thought is the French Jesuit theologian Gaston Fessard – a brilliant scholar of Hegel without being a Hegelian – with his 1956 book on the “dialectic” of the “Spiritual Exercises” of Saint Ignatius.

It is in fact above all from Fessard – as Borghesi confirms and substantiates – that Bergoglio got his markedly antinomian thinking, so fond of contradictions. But then came other prominent authors to reinforce this way of thinking, Erich Przywara and Henri de Lubac, both of them also Jesuits, Alberto Methol Ferré, an Uruguayan philosopher, and above all, but belatedly, Romano Guardini, with his youthful 1925 essay entitled “Der Gegensatz,” “Polar opposition,” on which Bergoglio wanted to base his doctoral thesis during the few months he spent studying in Germany in 1986, a thesis that was quickly dropped and never written.

Borghesi deftly illustrates the thinking of these great theologians and philosophers. To them he adds, among the inspirations to whom Bergoglio himself says he is a debtor, other first-rate stars like Michel de Certeau and Hans Urs von Balthasar. And he does all he can to demonstrate how in the writings of Bergoglio both far and near in time, before and after his election as pope, the genius of his teachers lives again.

But it is precisely in this transition from the teachers to their disciple that Borghesi’s reconstruction is most debatable.

It is truly arduous, for example, to identify the mature fruit of Fessard’s “dialectic” or Guardini’s “polar opposition” in the four “postulates” that Pope Francis placed at the center of the agenda-setting text of his pontificate, the exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” and reissued in the encyclical “Laudato Si’” and at the beginning of that other exhortation of his which is “Amoris Laetitia.”

It is true that Francis himself revealed three years ago, to the Argentine authors of another biography of his, that the chapter of “Evangelii Gaudium” with the four postulates is the transcription of a piece of his uncompleted doctoral thesis on Guardini.

But to see how this student exercise of his – an exercise now upgraded as pontifical magisterium – inevitably falls apart if its is subjected to the slightest elementary analysis, one gets the impression that the gap between Bergoglio and his celebrated teachers is truly very profound:

> The Four Hooks On Which Bergoglio Hangs His Thought
> Bergoglio Too Has His Nonnegotiable Principles

The first of the four postulates, in fact, the one according to which “time is greater than space,” simply means that Pope Francis wants the evolutionary “processes” dear to him to win over the static apparatus of power, ecclesiastical and not.

While the third postulate, according to which “realities are greater than ideas,” is nothing other than a repackaging of the pseudoconciliar commonplace stating the primacy of orthopraxy over orthodoxy, or in other words of the priority of the “pastoral” over doctrine.

As for the nature of the Church as “complexio oppositorum,” meaning a combination of institution and event, of mystery/sacrament and word, of individuality and community, of interiority and public worship, the pontificate of Francis shows how he does not at all love this reciprocal enrichment between opposites, but on the contrary wants to suppress or disregard that which in one or the other opposition he sees as static or obsolete. His coldness toward the liturgy is plain for all to see, as is his insensitivity to the category of the beautiful and his underappreciation of doctrine and institution.

It must be said – and Borghesi recognizes this – that Bergoglio has never studied and assimilated the entire work of his teachers, but has only read a few isolated things, taking pointers from them in his own way.

And this explains the nonhomogeneity of his writings, magisterial as well, in which he combines the most diverse materials.

But it explains even more the gaping discrepancy between his illustrious teachers and the concrete figures of whom Pope Francis avails himself as his confidants and ghostwriters: from the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, a rhetorical yarnspinner, to the Argentine Víctor Manuel Fernández, a theologian with a less than mediocre reputation, who revealed himself to the world with a first work entitled “Sáname con tu boca. El arte de besar,” and yet was encouraged by his friend who had become pope to go so far as to transcribe into “Amoris Laetitia” whole sections of his confused articles from a dozen years before, on family morality.

Another sign of confusion is the equal “preference” that Francis reserves for the two French theologians dearest to him, de Lubac and de Certeau, showing that he is unaware that de Lubac broke with de Certeau, his former pupil, and leveled harsh criticism against him: he accused him of being a “Joachimite” infatuated, like the visionary medieval friar, with a presumed golden age of pure spirit, free from any constraint of the ecclesiastical institution.

Moreover, in the “intellectual biography” of Bergoglio written by Borghesi, there are glaring omissions. There is total silence on Walter Kasper, in spite of the fact that Francis declared himself to be a reader and admirer of his from his first “Angelus” after being elected pope, and then rewarded him with boundless praise – for knowing how to do “theology on one’s knees” – and also promoted him as theologian-guide of the turning points on the matters of marriage and divorce and the primacy of the local Churches over the universal Church.

Nor is there so much as a word on Rodolfo Kusch, the Argentine anthropologist whose concept of people Francis recently said he had assimilated. And this in spite of the fact that in Borghesi’s book there are many pages on Bergoglio’s “populism.”

And naturally there stands out by his absence, among Bergoglio’s readings, of Joseph Ratzinger as theologian, not even as the author of the books on Jesus. But this is a vacuum that makes matters even clearer.

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

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Time for the Soul to Absorb the Mysteries — Part 1: From the Entrance to the Interlectional Chants

The season of Advent has always felt to me as if it is, and should be, a time of quiet meditation. Moving in a direction contrary to that of secular society in its frenzied rush towards Christmas exhaustion, a Catholic ought to be able to push away the distractions and focus on preparing inwardly for the mystery of the coming of Christ — the One who has come into the world as Savior, the One who will come at the end of time as Judge, the One who comes into my soul by His grace. And the sacred liturgy, it seems to me, ought to help us to be still, to be receptive, to be attuned to His voice. Ideally, it should immerse us in an expectant silence from which true and redemptive joy can proceed.

As the liturgy developed historically and its ritual and aesthetic elements became more fully developed, it seems that the Christian clergy and people followed an unerring instinct towards the creation of prayers, chants, and ceremonies that allow TIME for the soul to absorb the meaning of what is happening.

This psychological-spiritual opening up of space and time for the soul’s growth is accomplished in many ways in different rites or rituals. It is done through repetitious prayers, as in the Byzantine litanies, many of them redundant, though always eloquently worded; it is done through periods of silence in between periods of proclamation; it is done through motions, processions, non-verbal actions; it is done most of all through meditative chants that do not seem to be in any hurry to be finished, and which allow the mind a certain holy leisure or rest. There are repetitions, gaps, spaces, pauses, and visual signs that do not demand of the mind the constant tackling of new ideas or concepts, but permit it to dwell or linger somewhere before moving on.

The liturgy is like a winding path up a steep mountain, with open ledges on which one can rest before continuing. In this way, it emulates the spiral motion, the combination of the straight and the circular, that Pseudo-Dionysius envisages as the soul’s path into God. There is a forward progression, yes, but it takes its time winding around, in order to move up at a human pace. Attempting to go straight up or straight in would defeat us.

The classical Roman Rite of Mass, particularly in the form of the High Mass or Solemn Mass, admirably displays the spiritual pedagogy of the spiral motion, the frequent ledges, the moments of prayerful repose before continuing on with our climb up Mount Calvary, Mount Tabor, Mount Sion. In contrast, the Novus Ordo is designed in a manner contrary to this spiritual pedagogy, and thwarts the soul’s ascent up the holy mountain.

The Processions

Traditional liturgical rites of East and West are fertile in processions. We are pilgrims and we act out our condition. A town, the grounds of a church, the church building inside, offer a symbolic geography to be covered and converted as we move from point to point. The time it takes for a leisurely procession is one of the most important “burnt offerings” we can raise up, since our time is, in a way, our life and energy.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in particular, should open with a stately, unrushed procession of splendidly vested ministers towards the sanctuary, accompanied by grand music (instrumental or choral or both). Those ministers represent us, and we are walking with them towards the Holy of Holies. This is a solemn and wonderful moment, with its own distinctive meaning and satisfaction. Why do we completely spoil the effect by asking people to put their noses in a hymn book? The choir or schola should be lifting up our minds to God and allowing us to experience this procession as a procession, with all our senses in act. Where the procession is well done, it becomes one of these occasions of journeying without the baggage of the nagging necessities of the workaday world.

The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar

Then we come to those marvelous preparatory prayers, which I always miss so much in any Novus Ordo Mass, where we suddenly start BANG!, without taking time to prepare well for what is to come. The traditional liturgy pauses for a breath at the end of the procession and, rather than rushing into the sanctuary, recites Psalm 42, the Confiteor (twice), and versicles and prayers expressive of the forthcoming sacrifice. We are suspended between the entrance and the commencement, the intention and the execution, and our souls can expand, adjust, collaborate, get ready to move on. It reminds me of the process whereby one’s eyes adjust themselves to the indoors when one enters a dark room from a bright sunny day outside. Our spiritual sight is accustomed to the garish day, with its obvious objects and confident navigation. At divine worship we are being drawn into the interior, the innermost, the mystery that is luminously dark, caliginously blazing, and we do not know our way. We need some time to adjust. What blessed minutes, which carry us so gently and yet so irresistibly into the sphere of the divine!

From the Introit to the Lesson

Whether we are at a Low Mass or a High Mass, one of the greatest blessings of the TLM is that, on the one hand, we are gently drawn into prayer, as if by an invisible hand nudging us forward, and, on the other hand, we are not immediately talked to and expected to talk back. We are surely participating in the unfolding drama, but we are not targeted and harried; the activity does not get bogged down in a closed circle, like a boring classroom. The liturgy seems to be going on over our heads or around us or in front of us, and we can relate to it all the more deeply because it is outside our grasp, beyond what we can access, with no possible illusions that we are the ones driving it forward. Of course we have a role to play, and this will sometimes include verbal responses; but the overall effect is one of a giant motion that we can join, if we will, that will take us somewhere our own resources could never get us. The unfailing Introit, announcing the day’s mystery, throws down a sort of spiritual gauntlet: “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Mt 26:50).[1] The cascading Kyries, the exultant Gloria, the richly compact Collect, the apt Lesson, invite us to come deeper and deeper into worship, putting on the mind of Christ.

The Interlectional Chants

If the preparatory prayers seal the door to the world and habituate us to the new climate of worship, and if the subsequent prayers and lesson demand of us the exercise of our spiritual capacities, it is the interlectional chants, sung in full, that have the special power to plunge us into meditation and even contemplation.[2] At other points in the Mass, multiple things can be happening at once (the peculiar perfection called “parallel liturgy”), but here, during the Gradual and Alleluia  —  or the Gradual and Tract in Lent, or the double Alleluia in Paschaltide  —  the ministers take their seats, the people are seated. A restfulness descends with the sound of the chant; time stands still. The melismatic melodies draw out lovingly, syllable by syllable, the exquisitely beloved words of God, so that we cannot rush past them, or treat them in a utilitarian way, or think of them as mechanical responses made to a dreary rehearsal of psalms. They exist in and for themselves, living monuments of God’s faithfulness and love, and we are permitted to have them on our lips, in our ears, in our hearts. They are a ladder let down from above on which we are bidden to climb up. In this way, the Lesson and all that has come before has a chance to sink in, and the soil is plowed with deep furrows for the Gospel and all that will come after.

I shall continue next week with the Offertory and the Canon of the Mass.


[1] Interestingly, St. Benedict cites this verse in chapter 60 of his Rulewhen speaking about a priest who desires admission into the monastery. He says that the priest may be admitted only on condition of agreeing to abide by the entire rule, as if to say: Why are you coming here, unless to embrace and benefit from the monastic discipline? The liturgy, too, is something we should approach only if we are ready to embrace its discipline, which is the only way to obtain its benefits.

[2] I am indebted to Dr. William Mahrt for opening my eyes and ears to the theological and liturgical significance of the interlectional chants (Gradual, Tract, Alleluia). They are the contemplative and musical high-point of the Gregorian Mass prior to the consecration.

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“Just stay quiet and you’ll be okay.” That’s what Mohamed Atta told the passengers on American Airlines flight 11 shortly before it flew into the World Trade Center


On Moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem

When President Donald Trump announced that the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Muslim world reacted with outrage and threats. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned of “dangerous consequences.” The spokesman for Turkish president Erdogan warned that the move was a “grave mistake” because “Jerusalem is our red line.” Bekir Bozdag, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the move would plunge the world “into a fire with no end in sight.” And Saudi Arabia’s King Salman warned that the move “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world.”

The leaders of the Western world reacted in similar fashion. Pope Francis, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Emmanuel Macron all criticized Trump’s announcement. Meanwhile, the patriarchs and heads of the local churches in Jerusalem sent a letter to President Trump warning that the transfer of the embassy “will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence, and suffering in Jerusalem.”

But there is an obvious contradiction here. As Jihad Watch editor Robert Spencer points out in a recent column, these leaders have a record of defending Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, which is being perverted by only a handful of extremists. Pope Francis, for example, has said that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” On another occasion he drew a moral equivalence between Islam and Catholicism, saying, “If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence.” For over a decade now, various Church leaders and secular leaders have assured us that violence has nothing to do with Islam.

But if that’s what they really believe, why should they worry that moving an embassy would create – to quote from the letter of the church leaders in Jerusalem – “hatred, conflict, violence, and suffering.”

By assuming that Muslims would riot over the announcement, says Spencer, the pope and other leaders are inadvertently admitting the truth about Islam: “that the numerous incitements to violence and hatred in the Quran and Sunnah do tend to lead to Muslims behaving violently at the drop of a hat, or the move of an embassy.”

After all, we are not talking here about a tiny minority whose actions would be rejected by the great majority, but about widespread rioting and violence on a global scale – “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight,” as Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister put it.

And, apparently, the “fire” would be justified because, as King Salman said, the move “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world.” It’s a safe bet that King Salman understands Islam better than do Merkel, Macron, May, and the Holy Father. Yet he is even more concerned than they.

He seems to assume that Muslims are highly prone to violence. He understands that they are easily provoked because their religion and their religious leaders tell them to be. Moreover, as he must know, almost anything might be considered provocative. Last July, a “day of rage” resulting in the murder of an Israeli family was called because metal detectors had been installed on the Temple Mount as a security measure. Even Pope Benedict’s measured address to an academic gathering at the University of Regensburg led to global rioting and killing.

There is no end to the number of things that offend Muslims. This, along with numerous other differences, should lay to rest the quaint notion that there is a moral equivalence between Islam and Catholicism. They are very different faiths. No one worries about global rioting should Catholics be offended by a slight to their faith. Yet if any group has cause to riot, it is Catholics and other Christians. Christians in many parts of the Islamic world face daily persecution and even extermination. They are beaten, raped, and decapitated, and their churches are burned to the ground.

So on the one hand, Muslim believers are ready to commit mayhem over an academic talk or the moving of an embassy, and on the other hand, Christians remain peaceful even though their brethren are being slaughtered and burned alive. How much longer, one wonders, will Church leaders collaborate in the false assertion that Islam and Christianity are equally peaceful faiths?

Religious and secular leaders are caught in a flagrant contradiction. They tell us that Islam is a religion of peace and justice, yet they warn us not to provoke its followers in any way. Don’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Don’t draw cartoons that might offend Muslims. Don’t wear religious symbols that might provoke them. Cover your women and your statutes. Don’t ring church bells in the vicinity of Muslims. Don’t criticize them for persecuting Christians because, as Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University told Pope Francis, such criticism is a “red line” that must not be crossed.

Just stay quiet and you’ll be okay.” That’s what Mohamed Atta told the passengers on American Airlines flight 11 shortly before it flew into the World Trade Center. It wasn’t good advice then. And it’s not good advice now. As Islam expands its global reach, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the “don’t-do-anything-to-provoke-them” policy isn’t working, and never will.

William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick

William Kilpatrick is the author of Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West, and a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, The Turning Point Project

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Interview – Roberto de Mattei Discusses the Escalating Church Crisis

Editor’s note: Last month, Dr. Maike Hickson began a correspondence with Catholic historian, author, and speaker Professor Roberto de Mattei on the nature of the escalating crisis in the Church. Although her husband’s recent sudden illness has necessitated that she take a leave of absence from her work here at OnePeterFive, she and her husband both asked that we proceed with the publication of this important and timely interview.



Maike Hickson (MH): Many Catholics around the world had hoped that the Dubia Cardinals would publish their public correction of Pope Francis concerning his Post-Synodal Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. What would you tell those among the faithful who are now disappointed and even discouraged in the face of the silence of the princes of the Church? With which words would you try to encourage these faithful to persevere in their hope and in their Faith? 

Roberto de Mattei (RDM): The present crisis in the Church did not originate with Pope Francis, and it is not focused in one single person; rather, it dates back to the Second Vatican Council, and, going back even further, to the Modernist Crisis [of the early twentieth century]. Today a large part of the college of cardinals, of the college of bishops, and of the clergy in general, are infected with modernism.3 The few cardinals, bishops and priests who resist ought to take account of this situation, and it is our job to help them. But above all one must not imagine that a single act by one of these players, for example a correctio fraterna of the Pope announced by Cardinal Burke, can, by itself, resolve the crisis. What is needed is a convergence and focus of action by diverse groups of both clergy and laity, each one at their own level and according to their own capability. The sensus fidei can guide the cardinals, bishops, religious, and simple laity how to react [to the present crisis]. The importance of the correctio filialis, signed by 250 scholars, both religious and lay, was that it expressed this sensus fidei. The reaction may be different from one country to another, from one diocese to another, but its characteristics are always those of a profession of the truth and a denunciation of the errors which are opposed to this truth. 

MH: But how can this situation be resolved?

RDM: It will not be men who save the Church. The situation will be resolved by an extraordinary intervention of Grace, which however must be accompanied by the militant commitment of faithful Catholics. In the face of this present crisis there are some who think that the only thing to do is to wait for a miracle in silence and prayer. But it is not like this. It is true that we need a divine intervention, but grace builds on nature. Each of us ought to do the maximum that we can according to our ability. 

MH: The 2016 letter with which Pope Francis gave his approval to the guidelines laid out by the pastors of Buenos Aires was published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, with a note written by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, according to which the Pope himself wanted the two documents – the guidelines and the letter – published in AAS.

RDM: The fact that the guidelines of the Argentine bishops and the approval of the Pope have been published in AAShas made it official that “no other interpretations are possible” of Amoris Laetitia other than that of the Argentine bishops, which authorizes communion to be given to those divorced and remarried people who are in an objective state of mortal sin. The letter was private, but the publication in AAS transforms the position of Pope Francis into an act of the Magisterium. It seems to me that this confirms the thesis expressed by Fr. Giovanni Scalese in his blog, according to which we are entering into a new phase of the pontificate of Pope Francis: moving from a pastoral revolution to the open reformulation of doctrine.3 Pope Francis’ discourse of October 11 [2017], on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the new catechism, seems to call for the beginning of a reinterpretation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Evangelii Gaudium and Amoris Laetitia.

MH: In a recent essay, in light of how Luther is now being reinstated within the Catholic Church, you stated: “In short, every Catholic is called upon to choose whether to side with Pope Francis and the Jesuits of today, or be alongside the Jesuits of yesterday and the Popes of all time. It is time for choices and to meditate precisely on St. Ignatius’ two standards (Spiritual Exercises, n. 137)* which will help us make them in these difficult times.” Would you explain these words a little more to our readers, not only in light of the question of Luther, but also in light of Amoris Laetitia?

RDM: There are moments in our life and in the history of the Church in which one is obligated to choose between two sides, without ambiguity and compromise. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and theology of history of Saint Augustine in The City of God do nothing other than emphasize the Gospel maxim according to which “no one can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other or love the one and hate the other” (Matthew 6:24). Seen in this light, the recent publication in AAS of the letter of Pope Francis to the bishops of Buenos Aires reduces the matter to two diametrically opposed positions. The line of thinking of those cardinals, bishops, and theologians who maintain that it is possible to interpret Amoris Laetitia in continuity with Familiaris Consortio 84 and other documents of the Magisterium has been reduced to dust.3 Amoris Laetitia is a document which serves as a litmus test: it must be either accepted or rejected in toto. There is not a third position, and the insertion of Pope Francis’ letter to the Argentine bishops [into AAS] has the merit of making this clear.

MH: There are those who deny that the publication of the letter to the Argentine bishops is an act of the Magisterium, because it proposes an erroneous, if not heretical, position. 

RDM: Whoever thinks this, it seems to me, begins with a false premise: the idea that the pontifical Magisterium can never err. In reality the guarantee of inerrancy is reserved to the Magisterium only in specific conditions, which are clearly spelled out in the Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I. The existence of errors in the non-infallible documents of the Magisterium, including the pontifical Magisterium, is possible, above all during periods of great crisis. There can be an act of the Magisterium which is both authentic and solemn, but erroneous. This was the case, for example, in my opinion, with the declaration Dignitatis Humanae of Vatican II, which, apart from its pastoral character, is undeniably a Magisterial act and almost certainly contradicts the doctrine of the Church on religious liberty, in at least an indirect and implicit way.

MH: Do you see a formal schism coming, and what would it practically look like? Who would be the creator of that schism, and what would it mean for simple lay people? 

RDM: A schism is an internal division of the Church, such as happened in Europe for forty years between 1378 and 1417, when it seemed that one could not identify with absolute certainty where the [legitimate] authority of the Church was to be found. This tearing apart known as the “Great Western Schism” was not a matter of heresy. Generally however, heresy follows schism, as occurred in England at the time of Henry VIII. Today we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation in which heresy, which in itself is more grave than schism, precedes it rather than following it. There is not yet a formal schism, but there is heresy in the Church. It is the heretics who are promoting schism in the Church, certainly not faithful Catholics. And the faithful Catholics who want to separate themselves from heresy certainly cannot be defined as schismatics.1

MH: You seem to suggest that the Pope may be promoting schism and heresy in the Church. What would be the consequences of this most grave situation? Would not the Pope lose his authority as Pope? 

RDM: One cannot sum up such an important and complex problem in a few words. On this point it is necessary to have a theological debate, on which topic one may refer to the volume True or False Pope by Robert J. Sisco and John Salza, to the writings of Abbott Jean-Michel Gleize in [the French journal] Courrier de Rome and above all to the study of Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, Ipotesi teologica di un Papa eretico [Theological hypotheses about a heretic Pope], the Italian edition of which I edited in 2016 and also the next edition in English. The author, whose basic position I share, develops the thesis of the medieval decretists, of St. Robert Bellarmine, and of modern theologians like Pietro Ballerini, according to whom, while there is a basic incompatibility between [holding] heresy and [holding] papal authority, the Pope does not lose his office until his heresy becomes apparent to the entire Church. 

MH: And finally, what would your outlook and encouragement be for our readers, at the end of the 100thAnniversary year of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima? 

RDM: Discouragement is a sentiment which the militant Catholic cannot permit himself. The first weapon to employ against enemies who attack the Church is the use of reason, in order to demonstrate the contradictions in which these enemies live, and by which they necessarily die. Then we need to turn to the invincible help of Grace. One hundred years ago Our Lady of Fatima foresaw the crisis of our time. She announced a chastisement for humanity if it was not converted, but she also made an unconditional and irreversible promise: the triumph of her Immaculate Heart. For his part, Our Lord has promised us to be with us always, until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). What more can we ask for?

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11 December 2017

  1. 11 December 2017

    Will he never stop … (2) Pope Francis, the Our Father, and the next Conclave

    Lead us not into temptation. It is unlikely that the Greek and Latin words translated by temptation meant the sort of thing we mean by ‘temptation’ in the confessional … the ‘temptation’ to steal something, or to speak uncharitably, or to suspend the Custody of the Eyes. Peirasmos has been thought to refer much more probably to the time of testing, that is to say, of being tortured or intimidated to give up our Faith. Scripture teaches us that the End Times will indeed be marked by just such testings or persecutions. It is natural to ask God, whose providence disposes the times, to spare us this. [See for example Mt 26:41; Luke 8:13; Apocalypse 2:10 and 3:10.]

    (And, by the way, Evil could be either masculine or neuter (tou ponerou). Many, probably most,  people think it refers to the Evil One.)

    So, in my opinion, PF is proposing a revision which is not, as he appears to have been told, a revised translation but a radical change in the meaning of the Greek original. With sorrow, I have to say that this new example of his gigantic self-confidence does not surprise me.

    What repeatedly … it seems, almost daily !! … irritates me about PF is his endless propensity to treat the Depositum Fidei, the Universal Church and what she has inherited from the Apostles or from the generations since, as something which is at his disposal to change, to criticise, or to mangle in any way that appeals to his personal whimsy at any particular moment. He is like a toddler who has been given toys to play with … a big, boisterous and wilful child who likes to play with them rather roughly; whose commonest phrase is “I want …”. If anyone suggests that he should perhaps handle them rather more gently, he throws a tantrum. I am immensely sorry to have to write like this about Christ’s Vicar but, ever since his election, PF has appeared to me to want attention to be drawn particularly to those parts of his personal ‘style’ which mark him as most radically different from his predecessors. A pope who disliked close scrutiny and the consequent criticism would keep the journalists and cameramen at a distance, say a very great deal less, and speak only after taking competent advice. An ecclesiastic who deliberately sollicits attention is ill-placed to complain if he gets it, nor can his sycophants plausibly do so on his behalf. This pontificate did not invent the unfortunate modern phenomenon of the celebrity pope, but it has shown how very dangerous and divisive that cult is.

    PF’s election was, I suppose, the responsibility of the Cardinal Electors … to whom one has to add such Cardinal non-Electors as Murphy O’Connor, who, we are told, dinnered his way around Rome encouraging his friends, and the other Anglophone Cardinals, to vote for Bergoglio (as he had every right to do). But there are also perhaps systemic problems here too. I do not think that even those whose analysis of this pontificate is totally different from mine will wish to disagree with much in what follows. Firstly

    Time was when the Church was blessed with perhaps a dozen or two cardinals, pretty certainly not more than seventy; so that, in a conclave, each elector was more likely to know something about at least the more prominent and papabili of his brethren. If there are 120 or more electors, you are inevitably going to have the sort of situation in which an Eminent Father “from the peripheries” who knows next to nobody, will be open to be influenced by fellow electors who appear knowledgeable and who combine to assure him that Cardinal X is a Splendid Fellow. Additionally, PF has (significantly) suppressed the open discussions which the Cardinals used to be allowed to have with each other when they met formally in consistories. His once-claimed passion for parrhesia did not survive his experiences in his two ‘synods’.

    Secondly, it has come to be felt that it is edifying … that the World will be impressed … if a pope is elected within a couple of days. Almost as if it would be dangerous if the electors got to know each other, or if it became apparent to the waiting Press that there were deep divisions inside the Sistine Chapel. Even those simple souls (Ratzinger and I think they are misguided) who believe that the Holy Spirit chooses the pope, might have trouble giving a plausible theological explanation as to why the Holy Spirit should be so keen to operate through a quick-fire conclave rather than through a more lengthy and carefully considered one.

    And, thirdly, PF will bequeath to the next interregnum a Church … and a Sacred College … much more deeply and ideologically divided than has been true for a very long time, possibly for ever.

    I pray that the next conclave may be very, very, lengthy, even if that does encourage the Vatican press corps endlessly to lecture the watching World on such arcane mysteries as Blocking Thirds. Surely, their Eminences will have learned the lessons of the last five disastrous, destructive, divisive years?

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Pope stare

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pope Francis: The Our Father “Induces Temptation”

Written by  David Martin


 Pope Francis has said that the Lord’s Prayer should be changed, arguing that the translation used in many parts of the world, including the Italian and English versions, go against the teachings of the Church and Bible.

In the centuries-old recited prayer, followers of the Christian Faith call on God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Speaking to Italian broadcasters on December 7, Francis argued this was incorrect, saying, “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.”

To think that the Messiah’s instruction to mankind on how to pray—as penned by the evangelists as the infallible Word of God and as followed for 2000 years by all the saints and members of Christ—is now incorrect. By this latest stunt, it is the pope who is leading us into temptation.

Francis purports to criticize the English and Italian translations of the Our Father, when he knows very well that it is the original manuscript he is criticizing. The original text from the Lord’s Prayer, as taken from the Latin Vulgate, reads, “et ne inducas nos in temptationem sed libera nos a malo,” which translated is, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)

Hence this is not a translation issue, but a scriptural issue. The English translations of the Our Father as recited today are correct, because they are taken from the Vulgate, which is the official version of Holy Scripture—the source from which all authentic translations must directly or indirectly be taken.

Even so, Francis thinks that the Our Father should be changed, and during his interview with the TV2000 channel, he even said he has approved a modified version in France.

Christ’s instruction should be simple enough to understand. When we say, “lead us not into temptation,” we’re simply asking God to help us choose right from wrong, good from bad, God from Satan. It is God, our leader, who leads this enterprise, therefore we ask him to “lead us” thus. A seven-year-old CCD student can understand this perfectly, yet the leader of the world’s Catholics can’t seem to get it!

Thomas A. Kempis would tell him, “Consider thy motives.” Francis is apparently upset over the idea of being led away from temptation, since he is led by the temptation of globalism and change. The Bible threatens him to give up his change, so instead of humbly admitting that scripture is correct, he judges that it is incorrect, in the same way he has denied the miracle of the loaves and has judged that evangelization is “solemn nonsense.” http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/pope-gives-new-interview

Nay, the mission of the Church is to convert all peoples to the Catholic Faith. God in his mercy wants us all to know that this world is not our common home, but rather a quagmire of temptation, and that our true home is in Heaven with God and the saints who said the unrevised Our Father.

Therefore, as children of God who obey the Father’s commands, we take the Father’s hand and ask him to lead us not into temptation, but away from all evil, because if we chase after temptation—especially the temptation to change the Bible and the doctrines of the Faith—God will let go of our hand, and in His permissive will, He will allow us not only to fall into temptation, but into the very fires of Hell. And by the way, Papa, condemnation is forever.

Christ warns of the dire consequences of changing but one word of Holy Scripture. He says to St. John in the Apocalypse, “If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book.” (Apoc. 22:18)

Let us therefore reverence the words of Christ in the Gospel, remembering all scripture as it is “inspired of God.” (2 Timothy 3:16) “Neither let us tempt Christ: as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.” (1 Cor. 10:9)


{ After Jesus was baptized by John, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:1). The exact location of the temptation scene is unknown. What is significant is that the Lord was alone, fasting, tempted, and tested. Jesus’ total submission to the will of God was tried from the very beginning of his ministry. How necessary this must have been for the difficult years of ministry and the cross that lay before him (cf. Lk. 12:50). }

{The temptations of Christ are recorded by three sacred historians, Matthew, Mark (who gives a summary), and Luke. Christ and the Holy Spirit were the only two sources from which the narrative could originate, and these divine persons would agree in every respect. The minor variations in the gospels can easily be accounted for since different writers, by inspiration, often related different details. These never amounted to contradictions between them.}

Saint Thomas Aquinas: “But does God lead one to evil, that he should pray: “Lead us not into temptation”? I reply that God is said to lead a person into evil by permitting him to the extent that, because of his many sins, He withdraws His grace from man, and as a result of this withdrawal man does fall into sin. Therefore, we sing in the Psalm: “When my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake me.” God, however, directs man by the fervor of charity that he be not led into temptation.” Aquinas, Expositio in orationem dominicam, art. 7 (petition 7)

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