This is the Christmas Story…


This is the Christmas story in a nutshell: The Infinite One has wed himself to our finite humanity. This is what we’re preparing ourselves for during Advent. And this is why Advent is a time of desire: The bride is longing to be filled with the eternal life of her bridegroom. And so she cries in union with the Spirit of God: “O come, O come, Emmanuel!”

Christopher West

Interesting that he never mentions anything relative to the infancy of Christ, or to the nature of filiation in the context of Christmas.  Not that there is any contradiction between the nuptial and filial mysteries in Christianity.  I just thought the primary idea is that the Son of God became the Son of Mary and that our baptism into Christ before anything else was a rebirth.

Restoring Faith in the Triumph of Christ

Pope Francis has recently criticized the modern versions of Pelagianism and triumphalism in a way that has left some devout Catholics scratching their heads.   The Holy Father seems to be taking aim at the more traditionally minded that are intent on bringing about a restoration of Catholic life, and they find it hard to understand why the Vicar of Christ would have a problem with, of all things, “traditional Catholicism.”  So what exactly is Pope Francis trying to accomplish?

Faith and Future

I believe the Holy Father is attempting to underscore the supernatural character of faith in a time when everyone is affected by the deviations of modernity, including the very people who are reacting against these deviations.  In his encyclical Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis says that faith is a supernatural gift that lights our way, “guiding us through time.”  It comes from the past as a “foundational memory.” Yet, because faith proceeds from the Risen Christ it is also a light that comes from the future, “opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion” (4).  Thus, Pope Francis calls faith memoria futuri, “remembrance of the future” (9).  Coming from the past, faith is an unshakable memory of what God and done for us in Christ Jesus, and what He has revealed to us through His Son.  Coming from the future, faith is bound up with hope in the promises God has made and guaranteed by the resurrection of His Son.  Thus, in practice to keep the faith means never allowing ourselves to be robbed of hope.  It means never being frozen in time because we are afraid of the future (57). Continue reading

The Church is Hierarchical and Charismatic

Today in the second reading from the Office of Readings was from sections 4 and 12 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium.  It is apropos to the Novena in preparation for Pentecost and provides me with the opportunity to develop ideas I introduced in my last post.  There I posited that in the light of the teaching of the postconciliar popes the traditional and charismatic approaches to spirituality should not be considered fundamentally opposed, though much of what goes under the title of both “traditionalism” and “pentecostalism” is problematic.

I believe this is the sense of sections 4 and 12 of Lumen Gentium in which the Council indicates two things: that the Church is equipped and directed by both “hierarchical and charismatic gifts”; that it is “not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, “allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills, He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank.”

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Legacy: Faith and Future

Catholic World Report just posted an article by me on the legacy of Pope Benedict:

The new springtime for the Church hoped for by Blessed John Paul II has found its great advocate and defender in Benedict XVI.  He has been an indefatigable defender of Tradition and renewal in the light of both the Second Vatican Council and the crisis that has been its aftermath.  Perhaps one may call him a transitional pope.  However, work that he has done will prove pivotal to future of the Church willed by Christ.  Joseph Ratzinger was the guardian of the doctrine of the faith under Blessed John Paul II, and his resignation has given us the extraordinary conclave that elected Pope Francis.  But what he did in this transition was to make clear once again to the naysayers that, even in crisis, the Church is the only viable future, just as it was at the beginning when it was small and persecuted.

Continue reading at Catholic World Report


Taming the Holy Spirit?

Pope Francis is in continuity with Pope Benedict on the matter of having the Church press forward in the light of Vatican II.  First, Pope Benedict draws a direct correlation between the “traditional innovations” of the Franciscan Order which were misinterpreted by heretical Franciscans and defended properly by St. Bonaventure, and the difficulties of postconcilar implementation:

At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”:  Christ’s works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: “Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt”, they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this “spiritualistic utopianism” is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally “other” Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

Today Pope Francis has reiterated the necessity to go forward, emphasizing that the Holy Spirit is not subject to anyone’s presuppositions.  This is the Holy Father speaking.  It is his business to discern these matters:

Put frankly, the Pope continued, “the Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward.” He said that we wish “to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong.” Pope Francis said “that’s because the Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward” but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar.
Nowadays, he went on, “everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it.” The Pope said one example of this resistance was the Second Vatican council which he called “a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit.” But 50 years later, “have we done everything the Holy Spirit was asking us to do during the Council,” he asked. The answer is “No,” said Pope Francis. “We celebrate this anniversary, we put up a monument but we don’t want it to upset us. We don’t want to change and what’s more there are those who wish to turn the clock back.” This, he went on, “is called stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope said the same thing happens in our personal life. “The Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” He concluded his homily by urging those present not to resist the pull of the Holy Spirit. “Submit to the Holy Spirit,” he said, “which comes from within us and makes go forward along the path of holiness.”

Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are in complete continuity here, Benedict emphasizing the balance, avoiding the extremes of an attitude of “the Church is in decline” and “spiritualistic utopianism,” and Francis emphasizing the fact that the Holy Spirit cannot be harnessed or stopped by anyone on the pretext of knowing better than the Church.

I think it is also important to point out that the Holy Father is not vitiating the the dispositions of Pope Benedict in respect to the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Liturgy, as long as it is perceived in relationship with the Ordinary Form as “mutual enrichment,” and in respect to the legitimacy and intended fruitfulness of the Council and its reforms.  In any case, the idea of “turning back the clock” did not come from Pope Benedict.

Awsome homily from Pope Francis!

Pope Francis the Liturgist

Plenty eyebrows have been raised and heads scratched because Pope Francis washed the feet of two girls one of whom was a Muslim at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper last night. This was announced before hand, so news of it has been circulating for several days.

One reader and commenter has directed my attention to an article in First Things by John Shimek in which the author expresses his conviction that the Holy Father acted within the jurisdiction of his office because “by virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely” (c. 331).  Ed Peters, on the other hand, a well respected canonist, believes that in the face of general disregard for canon and liturgical law, which has been prevalent throughout the Church for many years, the Holy Father is offering a poor example.  Peters believes this, even though in the past he has expressed his opinion that there is no particular reason why the law restricting the washing of the feet to men could not be changed. Continue reading

Second Guessing the Conclave Before It Happens

This brings us to a short meditation on our current pre-Conclave period. That there are in some sense factions among contemporary cardinals is clear. Tension among these factions ought to be quite intense, given the fact that the road that the Church will tread will be very different depending upon which of three possible “parties” comes out of the Conclave victorious: one that will follow Pope Benedict XVI’s lead, but perhaps more consistently brake the Revolution within the Church and ultimately realize that it must reverse it entirely; one that will more openly and enthusiastically join in the dismantling of the pitiful remains of Catholic Christendom; or one that will continue mindlessly to smile and praise the “fruits of the Council” as the Mystical Body of Christ is mocked, outraged, and reduced to utter impotence.

Dr. John Rao

Dr. Rao’s assessment is a good summary of the traditionalist/crypto-traditionalist habit of mind.  As a writer for The Remnant, he can hardly be characterized as a crypto-traditionalist, but I believe his tripartite division of the partisanship within the conclave betrays the evangelical bent of the crypto-traditionalists.  It is a bit of having it both ways in the interests of “conversion.”

So, according to Dr. Rao the three parties of the conclave are as follows:

  1. Party of Pope Benedict on Steroids
  2. Party of Modernist Dismantlers
  3. Party of Conciliar Disaster Denial

Rao and the crypto-traditionalists would have us believe that they are on the side of Pope Benedict, who they claim agrees with them in principle, but for one reason or another (lack of moral fortitude, blackmail from the homosexual cabal, fear of the Jews or whatever) has not found himself able to follow through with his own beliefs.

But this is where Rao wants to have it both ways.  The crypto-trads wave the Holy Father’s flag when it suits them.  Rao claims to be following “Pope Benedict’s lead,” but with perhaps with “more consistency” than the Pope himself.  Under the banner of the Holy Father and against those who wish to see the Second Vatican Council implemented properly, Rao hopes to stop the Revolution which is the Council and turn back the clock. This we are told is, in principle, the position of Pope Benedict, which he has not been able to apply consistently.

But more transparent traditionalists would say that this is just silly, because clearly the Holy Father has not abandoned his support of the Council at very fundamental levels of principle.  Take, for example, Pope Benedict’s most recent defense of interreligious dialogue, which traditionalists claim is undeniably contradictory to the position laid out by Pius XI in Moralium Animos.  Likewise, in his last substantive address on the matter of Vatican II, the Holy Father renewed his defense of the hermeneutic of continuity, which is hardly something that the traditionalists, such as Professor Roberto de Mattei, to whom Rao refers, except.  I wonder how far Dr. Rao will go to follow the following “lead” of Pope Benedict XVI:

It seems to me that, 50 years after the Council, we see that this virtual Council is broken, is lost, and there now appears the true Council with all its spiritual force. And it is our task, especially in this Year of Faith, on the basis of this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council, with its power of the Holy Spirit, be accomplished and the Church be truly renewed.

If Dr. Rao were not trying to engage of boilerplate traditionalist propaganda he would more logically realize that there are actually four parties in the conclave to be reckoned with:

  1. Party of Benedict XVI’s Hermeneutic of Continuity in Reform
  2. Party of Trad/Crypto-Trad Counter-Revolution
  3. Party of Modernist Dismantlers
  4. Party of Conciliar Disaster Denial

In actuality, I believe the fourth party is rather small.  Rao tries to invoke Pope Benedict as his leader and places the hermeneutic of continuity in the Party of Conciliar Disaster Denial because that is what the propaganda requires.  The moment the traditionalists admit that the current situation is more complex than they imagine, and thus, that the solution is more nuanced, is the moment that their show is over.  In all actuality, those who are neither modernists or traditionalists are quite willing to engage in the reform of the reform.  They just wish to do in on the basis of the sound principles laid down by the Council and taught by the postconcilar popes. Continue reading

Gnostic Catholic?

Your comment seems at least to tend towards making of the Catholic religion a sort of Gnostic cult where no Catholic can ever know his faith until and unless the pope tells him what to believe, even if the pope tells him something totally different than past popes told him.


I have to admit, this is a new one on me.  It had never occurred to me that adherence to the authority of the living pope, as a matter of presumption on the part of the ordinary faithful, could ever be construed as a form of gnosticism or as the logical error of appeal to authority (definition).  So, I guess we could say that the postconciliar Church of today is the Gnostic Church of Vatican II.

I have never claimed that the traditionalist arguments have no plausibility whatever.  What I have argued is that the only Church that Christ established is the one under the authority of His Vicar on earth.  Papal teaching authority cannot be reduced to documents, nor can the living pope be put in a box until he is needed to define something.  As I have already pointed out, the pope’s

power of jurisdiction in matters of faith, morals, discipline and government is supreme, universal, absolute, and immediate over the whole Church and each of its members. To deny this is heresy.

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A Modest Proposal

I would like to suggest the reason why I believe there may be a discrepancy between the way saints in previous times enforced the norms of modesty, and why the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not seem to promote those standards, at least not explicitly.  This is a follow-up on my previous post, and especially on the comments which were pretty heated.

The catechism states “the forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another.”  By extension, I would say also that these forms can also vary with time.  Even the solutions provided by the saints vary, though clearly they are all very strict, at least the ones presented in the comments from my last post on this subject.  But if St. Pio required eight inches below the knee for skirts, this is more than twice as strict, so to speak, as what was indicated by Pius XII.  This tells me that the solutions are pastoral.  In effect they are contingent applications of an unchanging principle.  Such contingent applications do, in fact, depend on many things, not excluding the person doing the enforcing.  What St. Pio might successfully accomplish by his strictness in an area of Southern Italy prior to or preserved from the sexual revolution, is different from what I might successfully accomplish now in secular England. Continue reading