CIRCA 1960

Religion: Thick and Thin

I am an old man – old enough to have vivid memories of what American Catholicism was like prior to the end of Vatican II (1965). If I were asked to give a very short summary of the differences between the pre-V2 and post-V2 versions of American Catholicism, I would say the former was a “thick” religion while the latter is a “thin” religion. And I would add that thick religions are “hard” while thin religions are “easy.” So pre-V2 Catholicism was thick and hard, while present-day American Catholicism is thin and easy.

To be sure, the pre-Vatican II religion wasn’t the thickest of American religions. The religion of the Amish was much thicker; and so was the religion of the Hasidic Jews. Nor is the post-Vatican II religion the thinnest of American religions. The religions of mainline Protestant denominations are thinner, and they grow thinner and thinner all the time as they grow more and more liberal.

What made Catholicism thick in the old days?

Doctrine. In the old days Catholics used to believe all the articles of the Nicene Creed plus a few other doctrines (for instance, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist). Now, it’s not that modern Catholics disbelieve in the Creed, and certainly the Church has not officially repudiated a single article of the Creed. But post-V2 American Catholics don’t think articles of belief are especially important. What’s important in religion is being good. As long as you’re good, it doesn’t really matter very much what you believe. And you can receive Communion on a weekly basis without troubling your mind about the vexed theological question of transubstantiation.

Morality. In the old days, a conscientious Catholic, when doing an examination of conscience, had to ask himself or herself questions about many topics. Am I chaste when it comes to sex? Am I temperate when it comes to drink? Do I give my employer an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay? Am I honest in paying my taxes? Do I avoid profanity in speech? And more. Today’s Catholics make a much briefer examination of conscience, for there is only a single question: Do I love my neighbor as myself?

Polytheism (or something like it). Catholicism, of course, teaches that there is only one God, the Trinitarian God. But the traditional Catholic veneration of saints, above all the Virgin Mary, bears a resemblance to the polytheism of the ancient Greek and Roman world {this is too broad a generalization – Abyssum}  The official Catholic teaching has always been that all the saints can do for us is to pray to God on our behalf. But in practice pre-V2 Catholics often believed that saints, if prayed to in the right way and if in the right mood, could work miracles for us {perhaps there were some Catholics who slipped into the error of thinking that a saint could work a miracle, but the vast majority of Catholic understood that it was through the intercession of the saint with God that brought about a miracle worked by God, not the saint – Abyssum}; the saints were in effect minor gods. Post-V2 Catholics no longer have much interest in the saints – except of course for Mother Teresa and Francis of Assisi, who can serve as good examples to us even though they are not so godlike as to be able to make miracles.

c. 1960

Miracles. In the old days, Catholics readily believed in stories of miracles. And not just miracles that happened in famous places like Fatima and Lourdes, but miracles that happened in one’s neighborhood or in one’s family {it is wrong to imply that many Catholic do not still believe that this is possible – Abyssum}. And Catholics loved to be in close physical proximity to holy pictures, holy statues, holy candles, rosary beads, miraculous medals, holy water, etc.

Laws – lots of them that had to be obeyed, some of them God-made, some Church-made. You had to avoid meat on Fridays. You had to abstain from food and drink (even water) after midnight on a day in which you intended to receive Communion at Mass. You had to go to Confession before receiving Communion {only if one was conscious of having committed serious sin, otherwise the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass removed venial sin}.

Chastity. If unmarried, you had to abstain from fornication. If married, you had to abstain from contraception. Of course, the Catholic Church still officially considers fornication and contraception sins –mortal sins. But among younger American Catholics, fornication has been demoted from the rank of mortal sin to the rank of venial sin, if not non-sin. And among married Catholics contraception has been kicked out of the category of sin altogether. It is now a virtue {perhaps it is so considered by some Catholics, but the fact that many Catholics confess it would indicate that it is some kind of sin – Abyssum}.

Community. And then there was the importance of staying as much as possible inside the Catholic community – the “ghetto” as it was often called. You should go to a Catholic school and college. You should read Catholic magazines and books. You should join Catholic social clubs. Above all, you should marry inside the Church. Don’t marry Protestants or other non-Catholics. And if (God forbid) you do, the wedding won’t take place inside a church; and the non-Catholic will first have to promise to bring up the children as Catholic { there is some truth to this, but it is too broad a characterization – Abyssum}.

Well, those were the “good old days” – and now they are gone, gone with the wind. Will they ever return? It’s awfully hard to believe they will.

But unless it once again becomes something like the old thick religion, American Catholicism will continue to shrink and shrink and shrink. It will become less and less important in American life. A religion that was once on the verge of becoming the single most important religious factor in our national life will become little more than a hole-in-the-corner religion. It will never be able to flourish if it continues to be what it is now, a “thin” and “easy” religion. If it is ever to flourish in this country, it will once again have to become what all flourishing religions are, both “thick” and “hard.”

Am I hopeful? Yes. One must never give up hope.

Am I optimistic? No. One must be realistic.

{It would be more accurate to say that the Church may never again have such a high percentage of Catholics practicing the faith as described in the article as pre-Vatican II, but that there will always be a remnant strong in the practice of the faith is certain, until the Lord comes again. – Abyssum}

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.


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Why the Kennedy-De Niro Vaccine Challenge Matters

A presidential commission led by Robert Kennedy Jr. could raise uncomfortable questions about the incentives driving vaccination recommendations.

Robert Kennedy Jr. and Robert De Niro convened a news conference on Wednesday at the National Press Club to announce a $100,000 cash reward for anyone who identifies a peer-reviewed scientific study demonstrating that the mercury in vaccines is safe. Though the challenge was perhaps something of a stunt, the significance of the appearance was underscored by Kennedy’s confirming that President Trump may ask him to lead a commission on autism. The consequences of such a commission could extend beyond the narrow vaccine/autism debate. More significantly, the commission could expose the incentives driving vaccination policy, which, in the current political climate, could move mainstream opinion against vaccines and also bolster doubts about the integrity of the health-care system.

Since at least 2007, Trump has suggested that the recent “epidemic” of autism might be related to current immunization practices. He is not categorically against immunization—in fact, he is “totally in favor of vaccines,” as he says—but he suggests that the rate and quantity of injections given to infants, per the recommended immunization schedule, may contribute to incidents of autism. In Trump’s words, “massive combined inoculations” and “simultaneous vaccinations”may be producing a wave of “doctor-inflicted autism.”

Trump’s central point that diagnoses of autism have skyrocketed alongside an increase in childhood vaccination is not in dispute. The term “early infantile autism” was first introduced in 1943 based on clinical observations of eleven children. When Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger published a groundbreaking paper on autism a year later, it drew little attention, and, indeed, was only translated and annotated into a widely-available English version in 1991. Possible links between immunization and autism did not draw much comment in subsequent years because mass vaccination itself was not yet a common practice. It wasn’t until 1949 that the combined diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT) vaccine was licensed in the United States for pediatric use, and it was only around this time that large-scale vaccine production for public health became feasible.

The more salient question is whether vaccines are contributing to the wave of autism diagnoses since the 1980s, when major policy changes related to immunization were enacted. By 1981, under the Childhood Immunization Initiative, all 50 states instituted laws linking school eligibility to immunization—an effective mandate far more stringent than what is instituted in Canada and most European countries. A surge of lawsuits followed and, in a series of high-profile settlements, manufacturers of the whooping cough and polio vaccines were held liable for injuries in children. In response to warnings from pharmaceutical companies that they would cease producing vaccines amid such a precarious legal environment, President Reagan, in 1986, signed into law the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. The mandatory no-fault compensation system established under the new legal regime shields vaccine makers from civil product liability, as it forces victims to file initial claims under a federal vaccine compensation program in which awarded damages are paid by taxpayers.

The law was a boon to vaccine manufacturers. The vaccine business, as the Wall Street Journal reports, was “transformed from a risky, low-profit venture in the 1970s, to one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most attractive product lines.” From $500 million in 1990, vaccine-industry revenues have grown to $24 billion today, expanding the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to enter into public-private partnerships, lobby for lower licensing standards for vaccines, and advocate against vaccine exemption laws.

Both the rate of vaccination and the rate of autism have spiked over the past three decades. From 23 doses of seven vaccines in 1983, the recommended immunization schedule has tripled to 69 doses of 16 vaccines, and Americans are now “required by law to use more vaccines than any other nation in the world.” What fuels vaccine hesitancy is the fact that, for several decades through the 1970s, childhood autism remained at a steady rate of about four in ten thousand children. After three decades of steady increases since the 1980s, however, the childhood autism rate, according to the CDC, has climbed to 1 in 68 or 1.5 percent.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a rebuttal to Trump’s critique, Trump has said that he “couldn’t care less” about the “shills” of conventional medical wisdom, the pharmaceutical companies, and their “fudged up reports.” In typical fashion, he declares that “the doctors lied” and that he is “being proven right about massive vaccinations.”

More influential to Trump than the medical establishment, it seems, is a dissident group of health practitioners, experts, and advocates. Trump has praised the efforts of Bob Wright, the founder and former chairman of Autism Speaks. And as a candidate, he met with a group of vaccine skeptics including:

All of these experts either have children with autism or were drawn to the field after personal encounters with parents who are certain that their children suffered from vaccine damage. This, as Kennedy remarked today, has made an impact on Trump. Asked to explain his persistence on the issue, Trump has consistently cited the testimony of parents who attribute the onset of autism in their children to vaccines—parents, he suspects, who “know far better” than the experts who assert instead that autism is genetic or starts in utero. If Trump ultimately establishes a commission led by Kennedy, and the commission provides a platform for vaccine skeptics, millions of Americans would be exposed for the first time to counter-narratives in the vaccine/autism debate.

They would see that the very term “anti-vaxxer” is misleading. The voluminous writings of the “anti-vaxxers” in fact reveal little in the way of unified opposition to vaccines. Their views, to the contrary, are quite diverse in terms of which vaccines they endorse, the schedules they recommend, and their assessments of vaccine risk in relation to more natural alternatives. Kennedy himself is explicitly “pro vaccine,” had all six of his children vaccinated, and believes that “vaccines save millions of lives.’’ But he questions the safety of neurotoxins in vaccines, particularly the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, given its causative link to brain disorders.

The American people would also learn that the activists with whom Trump has associated are not all that different from vaccine skeptics generally. Numerous investigations suggest that “anti-vaxxers” hardly conform to the caricature of fringe, anti-science zealots. They are, for the most part, highly-educated, wealthy, and, in the assessment of pediatric infectious disease specialist Mark Sawyer, “mainstream upper class people who don’t reject modern medicine.” Steve Silberman observes in his award-winning NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, that they are “generally better acquainted with the state of autism research than the outsiders presuming to judge them.”

Why then are vaccine skeptics treated with such contempt in establishment institutions? There are, it is true, growing numbers of writers such as the science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker, who, after advancing the conventional narrative on vaccines, decided to study media reporting on the issue. She ultimately criticized her colleagues in Aeon for their failure to acknowledge that vaccine rejection can be a “rational choice.” Yet standard accounts, insofar as they even mention the genuine debate among experts on vaccine safety, often ignore the science informing these objections. Nor do they grapple with personalized approaches to vaccine decisions that, as Prof. Maya Goldenberg argues, are not ignorant per se but can produce cost-benefit analyses that depart, in individual cases, from public health orthodoxy.

In addressing this question, it’s important to consider what vaccine skeptics, including those in Trump’s orbit, do have in common. Rather than a doctrinaire view on vaccines, what unites vaccine skeptics is a suspicion that a corrupt regulatory system, driven by the “seamless marriage” between the health establishment and government agencies, is succumbing to the temptations of “bureaucratic preservation.” The consequence, they fear, is routine data manipulation and stifling of dissent. A legal paradigm—upheld by the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Breusewitz v. Wyeth—that does not permit class-action lawsuits or the checks and balances that prevail in almost every other industry, they argue, only exacerbates the risk.

Herein lies the problem. In a recent paper in the journal Science and Engineering Ethics, Prof. Brian Martin found evidence not of a conspiracy, but rather of a pattern of “suppression of vaccination dissent”—one that made Andrew Wakefield “subject to a degradation ceremony, a ritualistic denunciation casting him out of the company of honest researchers.” Martin argues that challenges to free inquiry, while prevalent throughout mainstream science, are particularly serious in the case of immunization. Because “vaccination is a signifier for the benefits of modern medicine,” questions about vaccination are treated as “a potential threat to the public perception that credentialed experts unanimously endorse vaccination.”

While Trump can be faulted for his simplistic rhetoric on the issue, his objections appear to stem from legitimate questions. At a moment when doubts about vaccines are growing and when the federal government, the big pharmaceutical combine, and health-care industries are the three least trusted institutions in America, a presidential commission would seem sensible.

Pratik Chougule is an executive editor at The American Conservative.

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The Sinkhole of Video Games

Video games are better than real life.  “I had bonded with Leon, a graphic designer, musician, and Twitter magnate, over our shared viewership of online broadcasts of the Street Fighter tournaments held every Wednesday night at Next Level. It was his first time attending the venue in person and his first time entering the tournament. I wasn’t playing, but I wanted to see how he’d do, in part because I had taken to wondering more about video games lately — the nature of their appeal, their central logic, perhaps what they might illuminate about what had happened the night before. Like so many others, I played video games, often to excess, and had done so eagerly since childhood, to the point where the games we played became, necessarily, reflections of our being.

“To the uninitiated, the figures are nothing if not staggering: 155 million Americans play video games, more than the number who voted in November’s presidential election. And they play them a lot: According to a variety of recent studies, more than 40 percent of Americans play at least three hours a week, 34 million play on average 22 hours each week, 5 million hit 40 hours, and the average young American will now spend as many hours (roughly 10,000) playing by the time he or she turns 21 as that person spent in middle- and high-school classrooms combined. Which means that a niche activity confined a few decades ago to preadolescents and adolescents has become, increasingly, a cultural juggernaut for all races, genders, and ages. How had video games, over that time, ascended within American and world culture to a scale rivaling sports, film, and television? Like those other entertainments, video games offered an escape, of course. But what kind?

“In 1993, the psychologist Peter D. Kramer published Listening to Prozac, asking what we could learn from the sudden mania for antidepressants in America. A few months before the election, an acquaintance had put the same question to me about video games: What do they give gamers that the real world doesn’t?

“The first of the expert witnesses at Next Level I had come to speak with was the co-owner of the establishment. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew his name and face from online research, and I waited for an opportune moment to approach him. Eventually, it came. I haltingly asked if he’d be willing, sometime later that night, to talk about video games: what they were, what they meant, what their future might be — what they said, perhaps, about the larger world.

“Yes,” he replied. “But nothing about politics.”

“In June, Erik Hurst, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, delivered a graduation address and later wrote an essay in which he publicized statistics showing that, compared with the beginning of the millennium, working-class men in their 20s were on average working four hours less per week and playing video games for three hours. As a demographic, they had replaced the lost work time with playtime spent gaming. How had this happened? Technology, through automation, had reduced the employment rate of these men by reducing demand for what Hurst referred to as “lower-skilled” labor. He proposed that by creating more vivid and engrossing gaming experiences, technology also increased the subjective value of leisure relative to labor. He was alarmed by what this meant for those who chose to play video games and were not working; he cited the dire long-term prospects of these less-employed men; pointed to relative levels of financial instability, drug use, and suicide among this cohort; and connected them, speculatively, to “voting patterns for certain candidates in recent periods,” by which one doubts he meant Hillary Clinton.

“But the most striking fact was not the grim futures of this presently unemployed group. It was their happy present — which he neglected to emphasize. The men whose experiences he described were not in any meaningful way despairing. In fact, the opposite. “If we go to surveys that track subjective well-being,” he wrote, “lower-skilled young men in 2014 reported being much happier on average than did lower-skilled men in the early 2000s. This increase in happiness is despite their employment rate falling by 10 percentage points and the increased propensity to be living in their parents’ basement.” The games were obviously a comforting distraction for those playing them. But they were also, it follows, giving players something, or some things, their lives could not.

“The professor is nevertheless concerned. If young men were working less and playing video games, they were losing access to valuable on-the-job skills that would help them stay employed into middle age and beyond. At the commencement, Hurst was not just speaking abstractly — and warning not just of the risk to the struggling working classes. In fact, his argument was most convincing when it returned to his home, and his son, who almost seemed to have inspired the whole inquiry. “He is allowed a couple of hours of video-game time on the weekend, when homework is done,” Hurst wrote. “However, if it were up to him, I have no doubt he would play video games 23 and a half hours per day. He told me so. If we didn’t ration video games, I am not sure he would ever eat. I am positive he wouldn’t shower.”

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A straight male and the Texas bathroom
Common sense was thrown out the window

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
February 23, 2017

I live in Texas, and I just returned from a trip a local store. While there nature called so I went in to use the Ladies’ Room. There was a woman who was having a medical emergency and her husband was patiently standing outside the door.

I heard him ask the attendant, who was assisting his stricken wife, if he could come in and help since he knew what to do for her. He was told “no” because it was the women’s restroom.

And the thought immediately flashed through my mind that if the husband was a transgendered something  (s)he would be welcomed with open arms into the Ladies’ Room, or the Men’s Room for that matter. Or if, were we down the street at the local Target, it would have been a nonissue.

Offering a short silent prayer, I left as the store was closing that particular restroom to all others to deal with the situation. I do not know if an ambulance came or not, nor the outcome of the unfolding medical emergency.

But in today’s crazy sexually-confused world, a husband was initially barred because he is a straight male — he’s not gay and he’s not transgendered. He is a married man who was simply concerned about his wife’s health. Common sense was thrown out the window.

It is not common sense for a man to put on a dress and spike heels to pretend that he is a woman. Regardless of what Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner, Roderick (Levarne) Cox or PFC Bradley (Chelsea) Manning might have to say about it. To say “God made a mistake” when s/he was created and s/he is “trapped in the wrong body” is insane. Nor is it common sense to bar a spouse — regardless of sex — from helping their helpmate in a critical time of need.

The Episcopal Church is helping fuel this insanity as it champions this lunacy. TEC is fully embracing the pop culture instead of pushing against disordered societal norms and the church has been infected by the sexualized culture, rather than standing up for natural law and the clear teaching of Biblical truth.

Four times the Bible — in both the Old and New Testaments — reiterates that God created them “male and female.”

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply …” Gen. 1:26-28 (RSV)

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.” Gen. 5:1-2 (RSV).

“And Pharisees came up to Jesus and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” Matt. 19:3-5 (RSV)

“And Pharisees came up and in order to test Jesus asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Mark 10:2-8 (RSV)

Nowhere in the Bible does it say God made them male and female and transgendered. It just ain’t there.

In addition, the Holy Writ clearly says that a man and woman shall be joined together and become one flesh and be fruitful and multiply. There is no way that a man and a man, or a woman and a woman can become one flesh through the birthing of their child. Same-sex couples are not sexually compatible for the transmission of the God-given spark of life.

About six months ago a story broke in TIME about a transgendered male (biological female) “Evan” who wanted to have a baby.

The question was asked in the TIME article: “But what if you are born into a female body, know you are a man and still want to participate in the traditionally exclusive rite of womanhood? What kind of man are you then?”

“My sex is female, and my gender is male,” Evan says.

I figure that a transgendered person who feels that alien in their own body would not want to have anything to do with the natural functioning of their biological sex, much less keep their reproductive organs intact for procreation. So why would a transgendered male want to get pregnant, have a baby and nurse? Perhaps deep down inside “he” is still all female because of the natural God-given urgings  to experience pregnancy, feel the pangs of labor, and suckle that infant at the breast are  still there and they cannot be ignored. You can’t fool Mother Nature … s/he was born with ovaries, Fallopian tubes, a womb and the birth canal.

The desire for a transgendered male to bear children creates all sorts of medical problems. As a “transgendered male” Evan takes hormones to suppress normal femaleness and “he” binds “his” breasts rather than have a double mastectomy. So Evan had to stop taking testosterone so “he” could ovulate and get pregnant thorough artificial insemination and “he” also lets “his” chest fill out with breast milk. Eventually when “he” quits “chest-feeding” the fruit of his loins, a son, “he” will again start taking testosterone whereby “he’ll” lose “his” feminine curves and will again thicken into a short stocky bearded “male.”

That baby is going to grow up so confused since “Daddy doesn’t physically look like me” or “Mommy doesn’t look like other Mommies I know” or even “Are you my Mommy or my Daddy?”

And the world sees this as normal? The mainstream media endorses it while vilifying anyone who would use common sense to speak against this foolishness and thus it becomes a major TIME article. Then, finally, the courts enshrine this sort of madness in law with the US Supreme Court making “same-sex marriage” the law of the land.

This is schizophrenia, which is described as “a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to understand what is real.”

The gay and transgendered lobby has been so aggressive that normal heterosexual people are afraid to do anything logical for fear of “discriminating” against a gay or transgendered person or a transgendered gay person. The LGBT alphabet soup gets muddled and confusing.

And TEC’s leadership comes out like a wounded mother bear if anyone should even suggest that something is amiss. How dare they?

So things like a transgendered male makes news because “he” has a baby and s/he can go into any bathroom s/he likes. Yet a straight man wanting to help his suddenly ill wife is barred from the women’s bathroom in Texas.

I am NOT advocating for transgendered rights. Bruce/Caitlyn, Roderick/Levarne, and Bradley/Chelsea, stay out my bathroom. You may not be embarrassed, but I am. Don’t my feelings count? I AM defending basic common sense, decency and dignity.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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Settimo Cielodi Sandro Magister 

23 feb 17

Revisitations. Twelve Years Ago Bergoglio Did Not Have the Doubts of Today


[Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum]


Of the five “dubia” submitted to Pope Francis and made public by four cardinals concerning the correct interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia,” three make reference to a previous papal document, the 1993 encyclical of John Paul II “Veritatis Splendor.” And they ask if three truths of faith forcefully reaffirmed by that encyclical still apply.

In doubt number two this is the truth for which the cardinals ask confirmation:

– the existence of absolute moral norms, valid without exception, that prohibit intrinsically evil acts (Veritatis Splendor, 79).

In doubt number four it is this other truth for which they ask clarification:

– the impossibility that “circumstances or intentions” may transform “an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act subjectively good or defensible as a choice” (Veritatis Splendor, 81).

And finally, in doubt number five it is this other truth for which they are awaiting illumination:

– the certainty that conscience is never authorized to legitimize exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit acts that are intrinsically evil by virtue of their object (Veritatis Splendor, 56).

None of these “dubia” has received a response from Jorge Mario Bergoglio so far. But if one goes back in time, to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he would give the answers. Sure and reassuring.

In October of 2004 in Buenos Aires, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Cátedra Juan Pablo II at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina, an international theological conference was held on none other than “Veritatis Splendor.”

Attention. “Veritatis Splendor” is not a minor encyclical. In March of 2014, in one of his rare and deeply pondered writings as pope emeritus, indicating the encyclicals out of the fourteen published by John Paul II that in his judgment are “most important for the Church,” Joseph Ratzinger cited four of these, with a few lines for each, but then he added a fifth, which was precisely “Veritatis Splendor,” to which he dedicated an entire page, calling it “of unchanged relevance” and concluding that “studying and assimilating this encyclical remains a great and important duty.

In “Veritatis Splendor” the pope emeritus saw the restoration to Catholic morality of its metaphysical and Christological foundation, the only one capable of overcoming the pragmatic drift of current morality, “in which there no longer exists that which is truly evil and that which is truly good, but only that which, from the point of view of efficacy, is better or worse.”

In other words, the target of “Veritatis Splendor” was “situational” ethics {and its progeny: Proportionalism}, the permissive movement in favor among the Jesuits in the 17th century that never went away, but instead is even more widespread in the Church today.

So then, among the speakers at that conference the first was Bergoglio. And his talk can be reread in the proceedings published in 2005 by Ediciones Paulinas of Buenos Aires, in a volume entitled: “La verdad los hará libres.”

A talk, that of Bergoglio, of powerful, unquestionable adherence to the truths reaffirmed by “Veritatis Splendor” and in particular to the three mentioned above, or precisely the ones that seem to be wobbling today, after the publication of “Amoris Laetitia.”

For example, on page 34 of the book, the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires writes that “only a moral theology that recognizes norms that are valid always and for everyone, without any exception, can guarantee the ethical foundation of social coexistence, both national and international,” in defense of the equal rights both of the powerful and of the least of the earth, while the relativism of a democracy without values leads to totalitarianism.

And this would be a response to the second doubt of the four cardinals.

On page 32 Bergoglio writes that the understanding of human weakness “can never mean a compromise and falsification of the criterion of good and evil, with the intention of adapting it to the existential circumstances of human persons and groups.”

And this would be a response to doubt number four.

On page 30, finally, he rejects it as a “grave temptation” to maintain that it is impossible for sinful man to observe the holy law of God, and therefore to want to “decide for himself what is good and what is evil” instead of invoking the grace that God always grants.

And this would be a response to the fifth doubt.

But then what happened, after that 2004 conference in Buenos Aires?

What happened, among other things, is that in reaction to the conference an Argentine theologian named Víctor Manuel Fernández in 2005 and 2006 wrote a pair of articles in defense of situational ethics.

Image result for photo of victor emmanuel fernandez

Victor Emmanuel Fernandez

{What happened was, the pupil, Victor Manuel Fernandez, a protege of Bergolio, became the master and Jorge Bergolio became his pupil.  Incredibly Fernandez converted Bergolio.}  

Fernández was the pupil of Bergoglio, who wanted him as rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina and in effect was able to secure his appointment in 2009, overcoming the understandable resistance from the Vatican congregation for Catholic education.

Not only that. When in 2013 Bergoglio became pope, he immediately promoted Fernández as archbishop and wanted him to be part of the composition of the agenda-setting document of his pontificate, the exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” as also of other prominent speeches and documents of his.

With the effect that has been seen in “Amoris Laetitia,” thoroughly imbued with permissive moral theology and even with some paragraphs copied from previous writings by Fernández.

Copied in particular from his two articles of 2005 and 2006 cited above:

> “Amoris Laetitia” Has a Ghostwriter. His Name Is Víctor Manuel Fernández

As also from other articles of his of 1995 and 2001:

> Ethicist says ghostwriter’s role in “Amoris” is troubling

And “Veritatis Splendor,” which Bergoglio extolled so vigorously in 2004?

Forgotten. In the two hundred pages of “Amoris Laetitia” it is not cited even once.

{Mystery solved!!!  As I read “Amoris Laetitia” it was so obvious that it was written in opposition to “Veritatis Splendor” that I was puzzled that nowhere was there any justification for the contradictions with the clear principles set forth in Saint John Paul II’s greatest work and the most clearly magisterial of all his writings.  If Victor Manual Fernandez had indeed written the early drafts of  Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation those drafts would surely have reflected Fernandez’s rejection of “Veritatis Splendor.”

Situational ethics, developed by Jesuits in the 17th Century largely disappeared during the 18th Century but reappeared in Europe in the mid-Twentieth Century as “consequentialism.”   The American Jesuit, Father Richard McCormick, S.J. a professor of moral theology at Fordham University and other institutions, promoted it under the name of “proportionalism.”  At first, McCormick openly denied the existence of intrinsic evil, but later reluctantly conjectured that possibly it might exist.  Saint John Paul II condemned Proportionalism along with Consequentialism.

The rejection of the magisterial teaching of “Veritatis Splendor” is the root cause of the heresies of the progressive cardinals, bishops, priests and others who wrongly interpret “Amoris Laetitia” to permit the giving of Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried along with other errors.}

Image result for painting of  François Leclerc du Tremblay by Jean-Léon Gérôme

L’Eminence Grise, Francois Tremblay, descending the stairs.

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Bishop Schneider: If a Bishop or Pope Commands Me to Sin, “I Have to Refuse”



Bishop Schneider: Aspects of Second Vatican Council Might Be Corrected in the Future; Priests Must Also Come to Resist at Times

On 16 February 2017, Rorate Caeli published an interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, conducted in Mexico by a very polite and grateful Mauricio Ponce for Rorate Caeli and its Spanish partner, Adelante la Fe. John-Henry Westen from LifeSiteNews has already presented the bishop’s important words concerning the question as to whether, and under which conditions, Catholics might publicly criticize a pope. There are other statements from Bishop Schneider which are of great moral weight within the context of our current doctrinal and moral crisis in the Church.

With respect to several topics, the prelate spoke about the nature and status of the Second Vatican Council and whether some of its elements still might come to be corrected in the future; about the duty and right of priests to resist their own bishops when the Faith is clearly in danger; and about the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and their duty to preserve their integrity and identity for the sake of the Church.

When asked about the Second Vatican Council, Schneider showed that “the Council was primarily – as repeatedly stated even by Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI – a pastoral council; not a doctrinal or dogmatic council;” and he added “so it was the intention of the Church not to give with its documents a definitive teaching.” Schneider continues: “And so when there is no definitive teaching, there can be some development of these issues still, or even some corrections. And this is normal.” [my emphasis]

Bishop Schneider then gives us an example from the Church’s history concerning the Ecumenical Council of Florence which decided that the matter of the sacramental ordination of a priest was the actual handing of the Chalice to the candidate, according to St. Thomas’ teaching. However, says Schneider, there were in the Middle Ages other theologians who held that the matter of the act of priestly ordination was the laying on of the hands upon the future priest. Schneider explains:

But it was an Ecumenical Council. But, actually, after the Council, the Church permitted discussion, even against this position. They were theologians, and the popes never prohibited it. […] And so it was 400 years or more, until [Pope] Pius XII, in 1947, definitively established that the materia [matter] of the ordination is only – only! – the laying down of the hands.

It is after giving this historical example that Bishop Schneider goes on to say:

So, and therefore, even at the Second Vatican Council, there are texts and formulations which can be even changed – in a similar manner as the Council of Florence – because they are not definitive. And so we should create an atmosphere of discussions even on the issues of Vatican II. It is not against the authority of the Magisterium [to do so]. [my emphasis]

In Schneider’s eyes, we have had, in the last 50 or 60 years, “a very unhealthy, extreme attitude to accept or to interpret and look at Vatican II and its documents almost as infallible, ex cathedra. And this is not true.”

It is in this context that Bishop Schneider gives consent to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s criticism of some elements of the Council:

And, therefore, I think that the just critics [i.e., criticism] of Monsignor Lefebvre and of the Society of St. Pius X to [concerning] some – not to the entire Council, no! – but to some expressions is really a help, will be a help for the Church. And when the Society of St. Pius X will be completely integrated as a canonical institute of the Church they can really officially give to the Church a good contribution to a necessary theological discussion and deepening some aspects of the Council which only had a temporal [temporally limited] character – it was only fifty years ago.

These comments of Bishop Schneider are important in two respects. First, he supports the idea that there might be aspects of the Second Vatican Council that will be proportionately corrected in the future; secondly, he praises the Society of St. Pius X for its differentiated criticism of that Council and he hopes that they will contribute more in the future to the Church’s discussion about this larger matter.

It might be helpful to also see what Bishop Schneider in general has to say about the SSPX and the possible danger of Pope Francis – or any pope in the future – pressuring it to makes changes after it has received the status of a personal prelature. If that were to happen – as a “hypothetical possibility” –

it would be on them [the SSPX] to resist and to preserve their identity […] they have to say “this is unjust, it is against our intentions to accept the prelature and it will destroy our charism,” and so then they have to resist and then, in my opinion, they have to say with all respect to the Holy See: “You can take away from us the prelature. We do not need this prelature, the most important [thing] is to preserve our identity for the benefit of the Church – for the benefit of the Church, not of us [ourselves], but of the Church.” And so, in this hypothetical case, they have to renounce again the prelature and continue [to be] as they are; and so they will lose nothing. It is upon them to preserve their identity. [my emphasis]

Thus Bishop Schneider opens up the possibility of a just resistance against the attempt of the Vatican to suppress the SSPX’s work, and he thereby indirectly seems to justify their past resistance, by which they were able to build up their work and organization as it stands now, to include the formation of traditional priests.

That Bishop Schneider defends the idea of a morally justified disobedience toward Church authorities can be seen in his discussion of two important cases: the case of Communion in the hand itself, and the case of handing such a Communion to the “remarried” divorcees. In both of these situations, Bishop Schneider explicitly proposes that priests may resist the orders of their superiors, for the sake of preserving the Catholic Faith.

With reference to the question as to whether a priest may refuse to give out Holy Communion into the hands of the faithful, Bishops Schneider quotes John Paul II’s Instruction Redemptoris Sacramentum (2004). According to this document, a priest has a right not to give Communion into the hands when he sees “a danger of profanation” (or worse!), explains Schneider. As an example, the prelate mentions that fragments of the Holy Eucharist can be lost on the ground or that there is a danger that the Host might be stolen. A priest, in such a case, “can refuse it [to give Communion in the hand].” [my emphasis] Schneider proposes that the priest should also then proceed to give a good Catechesis to his parish, explaining his decision. And he believes that the majority of the faithful would follow that priest’s instruction.

With regard to the question of the “remarried” divorcees and whether they may, after their own decision of conscience, go to Holy Communion, Schneider says:

No, this is against the constant teaching of the Church. It is the principle of subjectivism, ultimately of Luther, of Protestantism. […] No, the conscience is not the [ultimate] judge; one has to hear the voice of God: this is the real conscience. […] There is the Commandment of God, it is clear, and the teaching of the Church not to commit adultery and to be in the state of Grace – even objectively, not only subjectively – and in this manner to receive Holy Communion because the Sacraments are not a private action of everyone. The Sacraments are public, the most public action of the Church.

Schneider mentions that there are “objective criteria” with regard to the Sacraments, based on Holy Scripture (St. Paul) and the constant Sacred Tradition. When asked about the recent threats to be suspended a divinis addressed to priests on the Island of Malta if they were to refuse to give Communion to the “remarried,” Schneider has some clear words to say:

When a bishop does this [pressuring priests to give Communion to the “remarried”], he commits a grave abuse of power; he is ordering to sin. And when a bishop – or even a pope – commands me to sin, I have to refuse these [commands] because I have to obey God. And therefore, in this case, the priest has to say: “You Excellency, dear Bishop, you order me to commit a sin, and I cannot [do] this, I have to obey God. And I cannot obey you in this case.” [my emphasis]

With concern, Bishop Schneider adds that he hopes this [pressuring of priests] “will not spread in the Church […] such drastic and abusive norms.” The German prelate from Kazakhstan, who himself as a child had to live under Communism in the Soviet Union, then gives all of us some important advice and strength: “He [such a pressured priest] has to resist even to the extent that he will lose his office. Better to lose all, but not to commit sin against the Commandment of God in this case.” [My emphasis]

Here it might be helpful to remember Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s words as written in his new book The Pope – Mission and Mandate:

Even the highest ecclesial authority could not intervene into the “substance of a Sacrament.” [A quote from the Council of Trent] The Church has preferred, and still prefers, severe disadvantages rather than to dissolve only one single valid sacramental marriage – as in the case of the disputes with Christian rulers (e.g., the split of the Catholic Church of England from Rome through Henry VIII of England) or with the prevailing public opinion. The Church has to obey here God more than man and may not sacrifice the Truth of the Gospel – which surpasses mere natural reason – to a mere human calculation. [my emphasis]

Moreover, the German cardinal also said, as I recently recorded:

Müller then gives an illustration and says that a pope could not change the “inherent criteria of admission to the Sacraments” and “give sacramental absolution and allow Holy Communion for a Catholic who is in the state of mortal sin without repentance or firm resolve to henceforth avoid that sin without thereby himself sinning with regard to the Truth of the Gospel and the Salvation of those faithful who are thus being led astray into error.” [my emphasis]

The criteria of resistance against a bishop – or even a pope – are the Truth of the Gospel and the Salvation of Souls. Here, Cardinal Müller and Bishop Schneider are defending the same truths. Which is to say that, when it comes down to it, we, at such times, have to obey God more than man. St. Joan of Arc comes here to mind as a saintly example of this.

To return to the role of the SSPX in our current Church crisis. Bishop Schneider explicitly says in this new interview that “in the time of crisis, we have to join [together] all the good forces.” That means that “the word of Archbishop Lefebvre will be able to do their contribution to the edification of the Church, to the preservation of Faith, and to the education of priests, especially.” As we reported on 12 December 2016, Bishop Schneider regards the suppression of the work of the SSPX by the Holy See in the past as an act of injustice. He then also proceeded to say, with regard to the possibility of the SSPX becoming a canonical prelature: “This would only be an act of rendering justice – quite belatedly – to the unjust suppression of the Society in 1975 on the part of the Holy See.” [my emphasis]

Furthermore, we would like to remind our readers of another important initiative earlier taken by Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), in August of 2016. He then said in an interview, with regard to some of the Vatican II documents which are not dogmatic, but pastoral – Nostra Aetate about interreligious dialogue; the decree Unitatis Redintegratio on ecumenism; and the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae on religious liberty:

They are not about doctrines or definitive statements, but, rather, about instructions and orienting guides for pastoral practice. On can [thus legitimately] continue to discuss these pastoral aspects after the [proposed] canonical approval [of the SSPX], in order to lead us to further [and acceptable] clarifications.

It is to be hoped that statements such as these recorded again now in this article may give more spiritual and intellectual scope for the Catholic Church’s discussions on matters of Faith and Morals, which seem to be so much under siege at the moment, and which, at the same time, are demanding from us our own loyalty to Christ’s Own Words and Teaching, not only on marriage, but also on the nature of the Church and its relations to other religions which seem to have been conflated and confused in the recent past. Encouraged by Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s strong truth and charitable witness, let us be faithful, persevering witnesses of the Faith ourselves, and, if possible, everywhere.

Watch the full interview with Bishop Schneider here: 

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    Send it to your bishop. Worth a shot right?


    I sent Bp Schneider’s Appeal to Prayer to my Bishop and asked him if he supported Schneider or Kasper. I got nothing in reply.

    I’m reading St Peter Damian’s “Book of Gomorrah” right now and the Saint’s devastating condemnation of silence in the face of evil from Bishops jumps to mind.



    And I say Bishop Schneider for pope! Pius XIII. If not him then Cardinal Robert Sarah also as Pius XIII. Lastly, if not those two, then Cardinal Burke as Leo XIV

    The points about the cotroversal documentsof Vatican II being mere pastoral guides and not definitive statements of faith needs to be stressed more! Many people see Vatican II not just as the infallible 21st ecumenical council of the church… But rather as the ONLY ecumenical council of the church which trumps all others and is the new infallible truth.

    Despite previous popes and cardinals persistently saying it was mere a pastoral council that did not invoke the infallible teaching authority of the church.

    In actual fact, it is the least authoritative ecumenical council in the history of the church.

    A future pope (named Pius 🙂 ) will correct, infallibly, the errors in some of the pastoral guides in the documents of Vatcan II


    This should be sent to every Bishop in every Diocese in the World. It is the antidote to the disease that first infected Luther’s and now infects Pope Francis – a faithful Bishop speaking the Truth which exposes the heretical lie. A Holy Priest, filled with the Holy Spirit, defending the Holy Church.

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    It’s a wonderful interview. Thank you for posting this.

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    Bishop Schneider once again shows us the right example of what being a Catholic means e.g. Fidelity to Jesus Christ and the truth of the faith is above all things.



    Please don’t refer to the Bishop as ‘Schneider ‘ it is so disrespectful, even though it is not meant to be!

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    Poor Bishop Schneider, so pious, so sincere, so cautious. Where does one get the impression from him that the church is damn near collapse from the betrayals of Vat ll, the conciliar popes, most bishops and priests. Bergoglio has implicitly or otherwise commanded him to sin, over and over again. Yet he persists in his delusion that he has not succumbed. Bah, Humbug!


    What a Holy bishop!


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Image result for photo of migrants crossing guatemala heading for u.s.

Migrants from many countries in Chiapas on their way to the U.S. Border with Mexico

Catholic World News

Migrants flooding into Guatemala, heading for US

February 21, 2017

Hundreds of migrants are pouring into Guatemala, evidently hoping eventually to reach the US, the Fides news service reports.

Since the beginning of this calendar year, more than 1,200 people have arrived in Guatemala without documents, according to government statistics. The overwhelming majority have been women. The migrants have come from Caribbean nations but also from India and, increasingly, from African countries. Guatemala has imposed new security measures on its southern border, but the flow of migrants has not slowed.


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View today’s Transom in your browser

James Poulos at Vox.  “In 1831, Tocqueville is sent to America by the French government to study the American prison system. Tocqueville was a very young, very smart aristocrat. He was interested in the changing social and economic conditions of his time, and in the global movement toward greater democracy and equality.

“He saw America as a kind of laboratory of democracy. He sat down with John Quincy Adams a couple of years after his presidency and talked about slavery. He had access to the highest levels of American society. He was also able to go off the beaten path. He got to see America from the bottom up and the top down, and he got to see it through the eyes of an aristocrat that knew aristocracy was finished.

What was his most relevant observation or lesson?

“Tocqueville has many lessons for us, but the biggest one is that we are not fully in the democratic age, the age where the equality of conditions, mores, habits, and thought patterns have slowly set in. But we’re no longer in the aristocratic age, the age of great structural inequalities that persisted over centuries and are based in the fabric of life. Things like hereditary wealth, things like noble titles, monarchy, feudal culture, generation after generation of people tied to their land. All the stuff you see in the Old World, a tight, intimate connection between religious institutions and political institutions. All that kind of stuff has passed away into the irretrievable past, but it hasn’t been fully destroyed. Some of these things persisted into our transitional era.

“Tocqueville observed that Americans are fortunate to not have an aristocratic past annihilated by a democratic revolution like Europe experienced, which caused a great deal of pain and anxiety. But he thought we had a very different kind of pain and anxiety. We feel the tweens of history. It’s a long tweendom. This is not a brief moment.

“As worried as we are that we’re going to get spun out into some dystopia sooner rather than later, Tocqueville’s warning to us is that this is a long period of weirdness as we become what we are as a nation, and there’s no escaping from it, and it is going to make us weird and encourage our weirdness…

You mentioned this historical “tweendom” phase a minute ago, but it’s not clear to me how this manifests in American life today. Your conception of freedom as an activity rather than a condition is apparent enough. What remains somewhat vague is how the peculiar character and history of America shapes or constrains our efforts to live freely right now, in this moment.

“We grow up too quickly in some ways and too slowly in others. And so has our country. Look at the way Europeans tend to see us in a bad mood — as reckless, undereducated babies driving the future without a license. We left the aristocratic age first, and without any real trauma. But because of that, we’ve been able to stretch out our transition to the full-blown democratic age. We’re truants from the logic of history as the Old World knows it.

“In some ways, that opens up huge new vistas of chill and leisure only stylishly laced with brooding affectation. In other ways, though, it creates spaces where this crushing confusion and dislocation and emotional vertigo floods in. Sounds a lot like being a tween morphing into a teenager, or a teenager with unresolved tween issues morphing into a 20-something with unresolved teenage issues.

And how does this emotional and historical vertigo bleed into our culture? How does it influence our view of money, religion, success?

“With money, we develop this insanely weird notion that we deserve to make a decent living pursuing coming-of-age quests to discover our true identity in our true calling. We get trapped in that, yet we persist.

“And that dilemma suffuses our sex lives and our love lives, which are largely shaped by the historically weird idea that romantic unions only last as long as neither partner’s identity drama seems to diminish the other’s. Another trap. No wonder we see teenage infatuation — and youth! — the Katy Perry way, as a precious get-out-of-psychic-jail card you can only play once when you get one.

“It makes us all the more deeply weird and awkward about death, which calls us to attend maturely to mortality in a way that’s apt to cripple us in what we feel are already heroically against-the-odds quests for what we fear is more significance than we deserve. Trap number three.

“No wonder our sense of religion is so weird too, then, right? Ours is not a cathedral civilization. It’s folding chairs and bad coffee. It’s revival meetings in strip malls. The people with the biggest temples, the Mormons, have the “craziest” Christianity.

“Tocqueville suspected we’d run ourselves ragged — a fourth, paradoxical trap — without a deeper, slower, more universal religious experience. He guessed all future Americans would either be secular or Catholic. But then he said the genius of Christianity was it offered the simple vision of equal souls loving God and loving their neighbors. If we help one another stay free of the traps we set for ourselves, there’s a lot of room for wonderful weirdness in religion and well beyond.”

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Knights of Malta Coup Turns Sights on Cardinal Burke



Last month, we recounted the long and sordid story of the toppling of the Knights of Malta. Three particularly troubling events stood out at the conclusion of that story:

First, the resignation of Fra’ Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Order, forced by Pope Francis with an alleged demand that he state for the record that Cardinal Raymond Burke was responsible for what had transpired. Also, the subsequent nullification of his previous acts and decrees to such an extent that a number of important pieces of historical information on the Order’s website were erased.

Second, the Vatican-ordered reinstatement of Abrecht von Boeselager as Grand Chancellor, despite evidence that during his tenure as Grand Hospitaller for the order, he oversaw programs that distributed contraceptives as part of the relief services and aid that the Order provides.

Third, the imposition of a “papal delegate” — Archbishop Becciu —  who would act as liaison and “exclusive spokesman” between the Vatican and the Order — a task which should have fallen under the purview of the Order’s Cardinal Patron, Raymond Burke.

These are not the only troubling elements of the story, but are perhaps the most noteworthy for our purposes, all under the larger umbrella of papal interference in the governance of an entity that has sovereignty under international law.

In a January 7, 2017 report — before Festing was forced out but after Boeselager was dismissed — Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register asked Cardinal Burke what happened with regard to Boeselager’s removal from the Order:

Cardinal Burke told the Register: “I can’t make any comment on these decisions because I was never consulted. I was present at the dismissal.” But he added that what concerns him “very much” in the entire “unfortunate reaction to the grand master’s just action is the loss of the heart of what is at stake, namely, a grave violation of the Church’s moral teaching and, indeed, of the natural moral law by a high profile and historic Catholic institution.” [emphasis added]

This story did not, however, come to an end with Festing’s “resignation”.

On January 29, Vaticanista Sandro Magister wrote a column entitled, After the Grand Master, Another Head Is About To Fall: That of Cardinal Burke. If the headline were not descriptive enough, Magister made plain what was coming:

What reversed the fortunes within the Order, to the point of driving it to this act of total submission to the bidding of Pope Francis, were three acts carried out in rapid succession by the pontiff himself: the summoning of the Grand Master on January 24 with the order given to him to resign; the letter on the following day from secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin with the specification of the pope’s wishes; and finally two letters on January 27 from the pope himself, with a further specification of the role to be performed by the “special delegate” whose arrival has been announced: “for the spiritual and moral renewal of the Order.”

And it is this last element that is the most newsworthy in the statement released this evening by the Order. As Settimo Cielo had correctly reported, Pope Francis has in effect granted the Order the faculty of proceeding according to its constitutions concerning its interim regency – now assumed by the Grand Commander of the Order, Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein – and the appointment of the new Grand Master. So the pope’s “special delegate” will neither replace nor overlap the legitimate governance of the Order, as many had hoped or feared. Instead he will accompany it with the task of “spiritual” guide. A task, that is, very similar to the one that already belongs by statute to the cardinal patron.

The decapitation inflicted by Pope Francis on the Order of Malta is therefore twofold. Because what is falling is not only the head of Grand Master Festing, but also, de facto, that of cardinal patron Raymond Leo Burke.

Within days, Festing’s formerly quiet indignance exploded in a report from Christopher Lamb at The Tablet, known colloquially as “The Bitter Pill” for its hard-edged liberal bias. Why Festing, himself an Englishman, would give an interview to Lamb, who seemed eager to dig up dirt on the former Grand Master, remains a subject of mystery. But on February 3, Lamb had an exclusive featuring combative quotes from the man who had fallen to the Vatican’s coup:

The Knights of Malta’s former leader has come out fighting saying the saga involving him, the Vatican and his leadership of the order is “by no means finished”

Matthew Festing resigned as Grand Master last week after a meeting with Pope Francis, a move that signalled his capitulation in a very public battle between the knights and the Holy See.

But speaking to The Tablet, Festing has stressed the complex dispute is far from over, raising the possibility of him trying to make a comeback as Grand Master or even a legal challenge to the validity of his resignation.

“This is an extremely complex situation, it is extremely fluid, and by no means finished” he said in a brief telephone conversation. “Given all this it is not appropriate for me to say anymore.”


Festing’s resignation was formally accepted by the Sovereign Council of the Order last Saturday in a meeting that he chaired where, according to sources inside the Order, he described the Pope as his “enemy.”

On February 15, as Cardinal Burke was preparing to leave for Guam to conduct depositions in a sexual abuse investigation regarding the Island’s Archbishop, Anthony S. Apuron, Ludwig Hoffman von Rumerstein, the Knights of Malta’s former Grand Commander, now acting Grand Master, gave an interview to the Austrian daily Der Standard in which he blamed Cardinal Burke for Boeselager’s ouster. In an English-language piece on that interview, papal biographer and Crux contributing editor Austen Ivereigh related Rumerstein’s accusation:

Journalists’ accounts that sourced the cardinal have described Festing asking the German to resign, while Burke sat silently present. Burke has elsewhere denied Boeselager’s account that the cardinal invoked the pope’s authority for the dismissal.

But in an interview with an Austrian newspaper, Hoffman-Rumerstein presents a very different picture.

“The conversation took place in a normal conversation form,” he told the Austrian daily Der Standard. “Boeselager said no to Cardinal Burke’s call for him to stand down. And I followed the cardinal to the car.”

Asked for the cardinal’s reaction, Hoffman-Rumerstein said: “He shook his head. He was displeased, one could say. He would have expected Boeselager to resign.”

Later in the interview, Rumerstein confirms that the December 6 meeting “was actually a conversation between Cardinal Burke and Boeselager.”

Sources in the order have long insisted that the cardinal was behind the dismissal, but until now no one has claimed on the record that Burke actually made the request.

The revelation will also prompt fresh questions about statements made by the order in December in response to letters from the secretary of state calling for Boeselager to be reinstated.

The statements, which insisted that the Order of Malta was sovereign and had no need to give an account of itself to the pope, are said to have been at Burke’s instigation.

But if Hoffmann-Rumerstein’s account is accurate, it was Burke, not the pope, who may have violated the Knights’ sovereignty: a decision to sack a member of the Sovereign Council can only be made by the order’s General Chapter, not by the pope’s chaplain, or patronus, who represents the Holy See.

Burke’s own words from Pentin’s January 7th report stood in immediate contrast to Rumerstein’s account: “I can’t make any comment on these decisions because I was never consulted.”

Pentin, therefore, reached out to Burke in Guam to ask for a comment, and received an incredulous reply:

“The account given by Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein is not accurate. I had no authority to ask the Grand Chancellor to resign. I simply stated that the person who knowingly permitted the distribution of contraceptives in the Order’s works should take responsibility, and then the Grand Master once again asked the Grand Chancellor to resign which he refused to do. Then the Grand Master proceeded to his dismissal without my involvement at all. The account of the Grand Master and myself stands.

To be frank, I am stunned by what Hoffmann von Rumerstein states in the article. I consider it a calumny.” [emphasis added]

Pentin indicated, in his brief report on the matter, that there would be more on the story this week. Thus far, however, no additional details have emerged. One source told me that Burke was unusually difficult to reach over the past few days, though his work in the sex-abuse investigation in Guam may well explain that. Burke is reported to have left Guam earlier today, so it is possible that more information will be forthcoming as he returns to Rome.

Faced with directly contradictory statements about what transpired, important questions are raised. Cardinal Burke is known as a man of strict integrity, and not even his opponents can credibly accuse him of dishonesty. Rumerstein’s account on its own would, therefore, be odd; in conjunction with the pope’s alleged insistence that Festing put the blame for Boeselager’s dismissal at Burke’s feet in his apparently involuntary resignation letter adds weight to questions of a conspiracy against the American cardinal.

Now, in a new report, Boeselager himself has indicated that Burke has been superseded by the papal delegate in his duties at the Order of Malta:

In comments translated by The Tablet, Von Boeselager told the Archdiocese of Cologne’s website,, that delegate Archbishop Angelo Becciu is now fulfilling Cardinal Burke’s role.

Becciu “has the full confidence of the Pope and is his spokesman,” von Boeselager said. “That means that Cardinal Burke as Cardinal Patron of the Order is now de facto suspended.”

As the most visible leader of the resistance to Amoris Laetitia via the dubia, opposition to Cardinal Burke has become very ardent indeed. It would be a worthy thing to pray for his safety, before another trap is sprung.

This post has been updated to reflect Boeselager’s comments about Burke’s “de facto” suspension. 

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Twin priest joins his brother in eternity
Fathers Bruce and David Noble journeyed together from Anglicanism to Catholicism

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
February 22, 2017

A Roman Catholic priest died over the weekend. This priest was special. His priesthood slices through Anglicanism and Catholicism. He made his mark in Australia, Oxford and Texas. If he wasn’t wearing a clerical collar, you might think him to be an elfin Santa with a closely trimmed white beard. They were born in 1937. Fr. David was 73 when he died in 2011 and Fr. Bruce was 79 when he died last week, in 2017.

I first met Fr. Bruce Noble in July 2008, a year and a half before I started to write for VOL. I met him in Houston, where he was on his second stint at Our Lady of Walsingham. I hitched a ride with him to San Antonio to attend an Anglican Use Conference being held at Our Lady of the Atonement. At the time, I was covering the Anglican Use Conference for the Anglican Use Society.

Little did I know Fr. Bruce came as a matched set, with his identical twin brother, Fr. David Noble, who was staying behind in Houston. The pair were born in Australia and, naturally, they were Anglicans. One can’t really talk about Fr. Bruce without also talking about Fr. David. Up until Fr. David died in 2011, the twins were inseparable. They became an oddity in Anglicanism because there are few unmarried celibate priests. Most Anglican priests are married, with children.

I never was able to tell Fr. Bruce apart from Fr. David, although others could. I understand that one way to tell the twins apart was to look at their shoes. Fr. David routinely wore shoes with pointed toes, while Fr. Bruce didn’t. But I didn’t learn that trick while Fr. David was alive. But that is not the first time a set of twins kept me confused as to whom I was speaking with at the time.

While in high school, there were the Wood twins. I had one of the twins in my English class and the other worked at Bishopscourt, an Episcopal nursing home my dad ran for the then Diocese of South Florida. Bishop Henry I Louttit, Sr. (III South Florida) hired my father as Bishopcourt’s administrator in 1965.

I would encounter one twin at school and the other twin at Bishopscourt and not realize they were two separate people, which lead to some pretty disjointed conversations. I’m sure the twins must have thought I was daft.

It was through Bishopscourt I first encountered The Episcopal Church. We moved from the Northwoods of Wisconsin to Florida when Daddy hooked up with Bishopscourt. At the time I was Lutheran. I come from Wisconsin after all, and with the Germanic last name of Mueller, it was natural that I might be a Lutheran of some stripe.

Daddy eventually introduced me to the Bishopscourt chaplain, Fr. John Raciappa,… of very fond memory.

Fr. Raciappa’s first words out of his mouth to me were: “I’m going to make an Episcopalian out of you.”

“Sinner’s chance in hell, priest,” I retorted. I thought Daddy was going to box my ears.

Well … Fr. Raciappa won! In 1970, I became an Episcopalian when Bishop William Hargrave (I Southwest Florida) confirmed me at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg Beach. At that time, I was a cub reporter working for the Gulf Beach Journal in St. Pete Beach. It was a most powerful experience. But I digress.

Back to the Fathers Noble.

As Anglicans, the Noble brothers were born on September 17, 1937, in Brisbane and it was a well-guarded secret who was older than whom by how many minutes. They attended an Anglican parochial school and went on to Queensland University, and eventually to St. Francis Theological College, which led to their twin ordinations as Anglican priests. At that point, their paths diverged somewhat. Fr. Bruce went on to Oxford and Fr. David stayed in Australia to become a Bush Brother. The Bush Brothers are a quasi monastic order, dedicated to providing ministry to the Aborigines in the Outback of Queensland.

Eventually, Fr. David became chaplain at Christ College on the island of Tasmania, where he also taught New Testament, while his brother, Fr. Bruce, became the vicar of St. Georges, an Anglo-Catholic shrine in Portsmouth, England. From there, Fr. Bruce went on staff at Coventry Cathedral.

Ultimately, both Fathers Noble ended up in the United States, first in New York, then down in Texas. They brought their charming Australian lilt with them and never lost the “downunder” accent.

First, Fr. David crossed the ocean blue to study at General Theological Seminary where he connected with Fr. Robert Terwilliger, an adjunct professor of theology. Fr. Terwilliger eventually went on to become bishop suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, but not before he founded the Trinity Institute at Trinity-Wall Street and Fr. David became the associate director of the Institute.

Fr. Bruce also crossed the ocean and again the twin Noble priests were both living in the same country on the same continent, this time until death. Together the twins labored in Christ’s vineyard through Episcopal Marriage Encounter. For a dozen years the Fathers Noble worked the Marriage Encounter experience, each separately travelling to the four corners of the globe many times for more than 40 weekends a year. Eventually they both landed in Houston, which afforded them an international airport for their growing ministry.

Marriage Encounter eventually expanded to encompass: Engaged Encounter; Beginning Experience for Divorced and Widowed; and Youth Encounter.

It was in Houston during the mid-1980s that the twins experienced their conversion to the Roman Catholic Church and it is in that Texas city is where they both died, six years apart. However, it was their work with Marriage Encounter which got them rethinking the theology of marriage in The Episcopal Church and how it was changing before their very eyes into something very different than what they believed.

Once the twin Anglican priests became Catholic priests under the Pastoral Provision, which allowed them to keep aspects of their Anglican spiritual heritage and “accent,” they both worked with the Catholic Chaplain Corps, which is dedicated to “provide sacramental and pastoral care to patients, families and staff of health care institutions in the Texas Medical Center and select health care institutions within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.” Fr. David was assigned to MD Anderson and Fr. Bruce was assigned to Methodist when he was not in the pulpit at Our Lady of Walsingham. Both facilities are a part of the overarching Texas Medical Center as is Houston Hospice, where they died.

Fr. Bruce devotedly stayed with his brother during his final agony due to cancer. He slept on a rollaway near Fr. David’s bed and helped lead his dying brother to the edge of time so that he could step in to eternity and meet Christ. For six years, Fr. Bruce was alone in this world; his brother was in the next. Fr. Bruce retired from active priestly ministry in the fall of 2011, following 50 years of dedicated Anglican and Roman Catholic ministry. Now he, too, has stepped over into eternity where I am sure he has been met by both Christ and his long-awaited brother David. Fr. Bruce died of the same cancer that took his brother. It must have been in the shared genes and identical DNA.

The last two times I saw Fr. Bruce was when the Anglican ordinariate was gearing up. He was at the initial January 2, 2012 news conference which introduced former Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson (VIII Rio Grande) as the founding ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which is home-based in Houston with Our Lady of Walsingham being named the principal church. Now OLW has been raised to the status of a cathedral with the advent of Bishop Steven Lopes as the Ordinariate’s first bishop. As a married man, Steenson could recover his priesthood in the Catholic Church, but not his episcopacy, so he became a mitred monsignor to lead the Ordinariate during its early years.

The 2012 news conference was held at OLW and Fr. Bruce was looking over my shoulder, mesmerized at my reporter’s note taking. I do it the old-fashioned way with a reporter’s notebook and pen; I don’t use a lap top as reporters do nowadays. I was with him in San Antonio at the 2008 Anglican Use Conference and he was fascinated how I could turn pages of hieroglyphics and hen’s scratching into a story. He even made it into that Anglican Use story.

“When Anglican Use Society President Joseph Blake was asked where the next Anglican Use Conference might be held,” I wrote. “He indicated in Texas.”… ‘Where in Texas? … He was reluctant to reveal the locality because the Ordinary had not yet been contacted for his consent…. ‘Does he ordinarily wear red?’ … The Anglican Use Society president silently flushed. … ‘”Houston!’ was the educated guess. … When the final assembly was formally adjoined, Blake closed the gathering with: ‘Next year … Houston!’ … ‘The eagle has landed,’ retorted Fr. Bruce Noble from Our Lady of Walsingham.”

I again saw him six weeks later at the February, 2012 enthronement of Monsignor Steenson and the formal erection of the Ordinariate. That event was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral because OLW would be too small a venue for such a large event which drew worshippers from throughout the United States and Canada and other parts of the world. However, we have never again crossed paths in this life, even though he remained the dedicated chaplain for the Chorus Angelorum, an in-residence choral group at OLW.

I was at Fr. David’s funeral, which was held at OLW with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo celebrating. My heart went out to Fr. Bruce. They say it is hard to bury one’s child, but it must be excruciating to bury your identical twin. Some of Fr. Brucemust have been buried with Fr. David that day.

It is always interesting to hear Cardinal DiNardo celebrate an Anglican Use liturgy. The words are familiar, the voice is familiar, but that voice saying those words is unfamiliar. I give him credit. Celebrating an Anglican Use liturgy is almost like speaking a foreign language and, for the Latin Rite Roman Catholic cardinal, 16th century Elizabethan English is a foreign language.

Fr. Bruce’s funeral is Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, six years to the day that his brother Fr. David died on Feb. 24, 2011. Circumstances prevent me from attending Fr. Bruce’s funeral rites to be held at Houston’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. Again, Cardinal DiNardo will do the honors. Then Fr. Bruce will be returned to his homeland, to be buried next to his twin brother.

In 2011, when Fr. David died, he left behind his brother Fr. Bruce. Now, in 2017, Fr. Bruce leaves behind many friends that both he and his twin brother knew on both sides of the Tiber. I shall miss seeking out his face and hearing his cheerful voice when I am at an Ordinariate or Archdiocesan event. I rejoice that he is with the Lord and that he can again concelebrate High Mass, this time on the High Altar with the High Priest and his brother.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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