The FI Internet Problem Illustrated

More unsubstantiated gossip from an anonymous source, released by a pseudonymous blogger who skirts all accountability.

There is no way to verify the accuracy of the account of what is going on within the FSI. The source has to be someone within the community, who is not exactly an objective observer (nor one who is cooperating with the Church for that matter), which makes a real confirmation of the facts all the more crucial.  At the very least, that confirmation ought to be had before something is released to the public as though it were fact.  There are many lives affected by this Internet spectacle.

The blogger further claims that the prefect of the Congregation for Consecrated Life, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, and the secretary, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo (to whom he refers as the “Duo) have “thoroughly destroyed” the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.  Really?  This man simply does not know what he is talking about, because he is only interested in one side of the story—the one that serves the purpose of his blog.

So the question for him and those like him is whether Pope Francis wishes to obliterate the sisters, which according tot he omniscient blogger, was the will of the Holy Father for the friars.

The gravest irresponsibility in all this is that the blogger and all those who have concocted and published their theories from the bits and pieces on the Internet do not know what they do not know.  They have no way of assessing how much, or how little of the pertinent information they have or its relative value.

The behavior is irresponsible and all the more because so much is done without the slightest accountability.

But then again, they don’t care about any of this because this “reporting” is all about their own agenda.  They have made no real investment in our Institute or any real knowledge about the issues involved.  Ours is a symbolic cause for them and we friars and sisters are their cannon fodder.

This is why I say I am ambivalent about the Internet and the excuse it provides for intellectual, cultural, moral and religious voyeurism.

It is a disgrace.

In the Eye of the Vortex

More evidence of the wedge being driven between the Benedictine and Franciscan pontificates can be seen in the recent disclaimer/clarification of Michael Voris in which he refuses to publically criticize Pope Francis.  In itself this is only a small example of the difficulty, but it is also another instance of a mounting problem manifesting itself at various levels: doctrinal, liturgical, pastoral.  Voris knows he is on the cutting edge of the problem.

You might legitimately ask why I think his refusal to publically criticize Pope Francis is a problem.  I don’t.  But Voris does find himself to be part of the wedge between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, and in my estimation he has not really got himself out of it.  Let me explain. Continue reading

Fare Thee Well England

Much has changed over the last six weeks for me.  I travelled to Rome and then back to London and am now in New Bedford, Massachusetts for the remainder of the year.  I spent fifteen glorious months in England and was just settling in.  I had finally gotten it straight that in Cornwall the jam goes on the scone before the clotted cream. (It’s the opposite in Devon).

I am very grateful for all the support from the friars and sisters and lay supporters, especially to the friars of England:  Fr. Agnellus, Fr. George, Fra Leonard, Fr Solanus and Fra Paschal.  I will miss the people and village of St. Mawgan and Newquay, especially the Sunday Mass crowd that educated me in all things English, Irish, and most of all, Cornish, and the parishioners from Holy Trinity. Cornwall, the Land of Saints, and Lanherne, the perpetual flame of the Catholic faith in England are graven in my heart.  Thanks to all I have come in contact with who showed me so much English hospitality (and ethnic, especially from the Irish and Filipinos).

I am scheduled to be transferred to Rome to study ecclesiology in the new year.  Please pray for me and our Institute.  

May the Immaculate Virgin, bless her dowry and return the Angles, whom St. Gregory called angels back to the true faith.  May the Roman Church in England be blessed in this effort.  Many thanks from this Yank. 

Below I submit a chronicle of one of our pilgrimages, which the friars from Stoke-on-Trent took on the Feast of St. Modwen, July 5.  Fra Solanus was so good as to write it up for me, and I must apologize for the delay.

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Dawn Eden Planting Seeds in the New York Times Magazine

The New York Times Magazine published a story by Alexandra Molotkow about my friend Dawn Eden last week, while I was on retreat:  ‘She Told Herself She Couldn’t Die Because She Had To Write His Story.’

Dawn has done much to draw to the saints those who are suffering, very often without God or someone close to them who cares.  I know St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast we celebrate today, is a special friend to her because he led her to the Catholic faith.

We all need healing through the saints.  We need miracles to bring light into the darkest places and most difficult circumstances.  You can get her latest book precisely on this topic here.

Pope Francis on Ideology

The following remarks were made by Pope Francis yesterday to the leadership of the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean concerning he Church in Latin America.  Take it for what it is.  Personally, I do not believe the critiques apply only to that part of the world.  Stay away from the fringes.

4. Some temptations against missionary discipleship

The decision for missionary discipleship will encounter temptation. It is important to know where the evil spirit is afoot in order to aid our discernment. It is not a matter of chasing after demons, but simply one of clear-sightedness and evangelical astuteness. I will mention only a few attitudes which are evidence of a Church which is “tempted”. It has to do with recognizing certain contemporary proposals which can parody the process of missionary discipleship and hold back, even bring to a halt, the process of Pastoral Conversion.

1. Making the Gospel message an ideology. This is a temptation which has been present in the Church from the beginning: the attempt to interpret the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church. An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. The way we “see” is always affected by the way we direct our gaze. There is no such thing as an “antiseptic” hermeneutics. The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied: With the eyes of discipleship. This is the way Nos. 20-32 are to be understood. There are other ways of making the message an ideology, and at present proposals of this sort are appearing in Latin America and the Caribbean. I mention only a few:

a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. At certain times it has proved extremely influential. It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization.

b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit.

c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. It was the first deviation in the early community and it reappears throughout the Church’s history in ever new and revised versions. Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).

d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.

2. Functionalism. Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work.

3. Clericalism is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. Either they simply do not grow (the majority), or else they take refuge in forms of ideology like those we have just seen, or in partial and limited ways of belonging. Yet in our countries there does exist a form of freedom of the laity which finds expression in communal experiences: Catholic as community. Here one sees a greater autonomy, which on the whole is a healthy thing, basically expressed through popular piety. The chapter of the Aparecida document on popular piety describes this dimension in detail. The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of Pastoral Councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility.

We could continue by describing other temptations against missionary discipleship, but I consider these to be the most important and influential at present for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Dishonored Patrimony of the Boy Scouts

Nobility is a patrimony of excellence handed on from one generation to the next.  Fathers consider it their responsibility provide their sons with a better and more honorable life than they themselves have had.  In turn, sons consider it their responsibility to treasure what they have received, to respect it and preserve it, and again, to augment it for the next generation.  This is the ideal.  The tradition of chivalry is one of the means by which it is strived for.

One can rightly say that the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have had the same noble responsibility, and tragically have failed to preserve and hand on the excellent patrimony of scouting in America to the next generation.  Instead, through their capitulation to the homosexual agenda, they have created a profound contradiction between the broadbased ideals of scouting and the natural law.  Worse, they make it impossible for Catholics to clarify and lift-up the scouting ideal in the light of the full revelation of Christ. Continue reading

The Roman Book of Spells?

The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known. Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice. At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities. The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.

Benedict XVI, June 17, 2012

The above paragraph from a message of Benedict XVI to the Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last year is a great summary of the Holy Father’s teaching on liturgical reform.  The statement reaffirms the importance of the liturgical reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council which center on the fostering the full and active participation of the faithful. The external changes were intended to help bring about an internal change, namely, the transformation that takes place when the soul has a personal encounter with Christ.  According to the Pope, the relative failure to accomplish this task has consisted in the changes remaining on a merely external level. For this reason these changes have been distorted into something that was never intended, namely, liturgical abuse.  Thus, the “reform of the reform” consists in properly understanding the meaning of active participation and the external reforms in relationship to it. Continue reading

Caught in the Vortex of His Own Making

Michael Voris twirls his pencil at the beginning of each of his vortex videos as a visual aid to his tagline: “where lies and falsehoods are trapped and exposed.”  One might argue that he should point the pencil downward instead of upward as a visualization of perhaps a more accurate tagline:  “where I stir the pot everyday in the Cathlolic blogosphere.”  But actually, I am okay with the vortex metaphor.  Vortices tend to suck all that surrounds them into themselves and create a great deal of destruction.

We all know that the blogosphere can be a pretty toxic environment.  It is easy to depersonalize others or even to depersonalize oneself in the isolation of the virtual world. Professional communicators as a species are particularly susceptible to the love of hearing their own voices, of being clever and eloquent and of getting one up on an adversary.  I have done it many times.  The internet provides endless opportunities to indulge oneself.

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Christmas Distractions?

The center of every Christmas is the Christ Child in the manger, really present in the Holy Eucharist on our altars and visually represented in our mangers.  We are all aware of how many ways contemporary culture provides us with distractions from this supreme truth in our celebration of Christmas.  It is a bit of a paradox.  Chesterton said that the mystery of Christmas is too good to be true, except that it is true.  Mankind has never gotten over it, even if it has largely forgotten why the lights and tinsel are so important.

This Christmas entry is a rewriting of one I posted several years ago about the place of Santa Clause in our celebration of the Birth of Christ.  It is the fruit of further reflection on a subject relevant to those concerned about our culture.

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