The Synod II: Roman Soap Opera

After following the bishop’s synod for several days, this description from John Allen, described it in a column from a few days ago, seems appropriate.

An excerpt.

ROME – Every day, the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, a summit of 260 bishops and other participants convened by Pope Francis, seems more and more like a daytime soap opera. Today brought more surprising turns on multiple fronts.

For one thing, the bishops made the unprecedented decision to release internal reports of small group discussions about a working document released Monday that became a sensation due to its positive language about same-sex unions, couples who live together outside of marriage, and others in “irregular” situations.

The reports photograph a vigorous debate within a divided synod, with one camp seemingly embracing a more positive vision of situations that fall outside the boundaries of official Catholic doctrine, and another clearly alarmed about going soft.

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, one of the leaders of the moderate camp, today compared the situation in the synod in which a mother says “watch out, be careful,” and the father says “no, that’s fine, go ahead.”

In part, the decision to release the reports was probably a response to accusations that a policy of not providing individual speeches bishops had given earlier in the synod was intended to suppress conservatives who don’t support the line believed to be favored by Pope Francis.

Retrieved October 20, 2014 from    

The Synod

The event in Rome is generating a lot of press, but here’s a refreshing view, from The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

Some old Scottish jurisprude (and I’ve forgotten which) said, “We do not break the law. We break ourselves upon the law.”

He was perhaps echoing Our Lord, as recorded in Saint Matthew (21:44): “And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken.”

The verses surrounding this are of considerable current interest, too, but to save space I will assume that gentle reader owns a Bible.

We are working today, improbable as this may sound, on the notion that law is merely something legislated. This is the only sort of law that can be considered secure – and then only temporarily – under what a certain pope emeritus called the Dictatorship of Relativism: “The dictatorship of relativism is confronting the world. It does not recognize anything as absolute, and leaves as the ultimate measure only the measure of each one and his desires.”

Our current pope, incidentally, was not slow to repeat this observation, after he was elevated to the Throne of Peter, only last year.

Our venerable Church does not recognize this Dictatorship. She never has, and so long as she is herself, she never will. What was true yesterday remains true today; what is true today will remain true tomorrow.

Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, before the conclave that elected him pope:

How many doctrinal winds we have known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many styles of thought. . . .The thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves, tossed from one end to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism.

For many years before, though not yet a Roman Catholic myself, I was under the impression from reading him that this Ratzinger was the finest living Christian mind. Later, I realized that the qualifier was unnecessary. (Even as an Anglican, I subscribed to Communio.)

“Today,” said the man about to be elected Pope Benedict XVI, “having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism.”

It is a label that could be applied to every one of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as it often is today to everything else that came “before Vatican II.” As worthier pundits have observed, Jesus Christ is also among the things that came before Vatican II.

Retrieved October 17, 2014 from

The Church & the Absolute

So many of the greatest Catholic Saints, Popes and writers have noted the clarity and strength of the Church when she stands by her absolute positions; but many today feel that went by the wayside during Vatican II and since then, chaos.

A good point is how Communism was not addressed during Vatican II because of a deal made between Russia and the Vatican, which allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to attend Vatican II, about which I wrote in my book, Catholicism, Communism, & Criminal Reformation:

An excerpt.

And one wonders how much this approach opened the door for Pope John Paul II to play one of the leading roles in vanquishing the Soviet empire a few decades later, and to the emerging potential coming together of the Russian Orthodox with Rome.

On the other hand, this may well be the making a bad situation a little better by acknowledging the reality on the ground; the bad situation being the failure of Peter and the bishops to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of the Holy Mother of God, and the acknowledgement that the Church was not able to defeat Communism during its formative stage through the intersession of the Holy Mother; the best policy now might be to dialogue with them, seeking men and women of good will with whom conversion might be possible; and that might very well be a wise strategy.

The decision to engage rather than condemn Communism might prove to be a wise decision or it might prove to be, as the current pope and the two previously have done by calling for the abolition of capital punishment, indicate a lack of understanding of evil.

While this may seem fanciful for men—the Vicars of Christ on earth—whose life is focused on helping sinners, but an examination of the life of priests can reveal little opportunity to fully appreciate the hardness and clarity of evil intent, of an evil life lived consciously.

Though the three Holy Fathers—one who dealt with the Communists, one with Nazis and one with a military dictatorship—have seen evil, one would think their knowledge would be deep but here is where the within and the without of the human soul crucially determines soul knowledge and why many traditions advocate salvation coming through self-degradation; but not sought as Rimbaud and Rasputin, but having happened in life, like Pope Saint Callistus, the former criminal who became pope, perhaps one of the greatest popes. (pp. 163-164)

This issue was also addressed in an article from Catholic World Report at


Knocking the Dust from Our Feet

The great scriptural teaching regarding evangelization has come to a fork in the road, as this great article in The Catholic Thing explains.

An excerpt.

Catholicism is being isolated and increasingly persecuted because of the nagging suspicion that it can actually give reasons for anything it holds. Even though much of the philosophy of the age is relativism, it cannot afford to deal with reason lest it admit what it denies. Thus Catholicism’s calm efforts to state this reasonableness are greeted with shouting, ridicule, avoidance of facts, mis-representation, and hatred. Scripture, to be sure, told us, when invited into a home that refuses to listen, to dust our shoes and move on. But there are increasingly fewer places to where we can move. This fact too seems more and more to focus the attention of the world on the truth issue. This is probably exactly where it needs to be focused.

But it is a world, as I said, that does not much want to listen. In Wodehouse’s The Mating Season, I read the following passage: “Well, there were these two deaf chaps in the train, don’t you know, and it stopped at Wembley, and one of them looked out of the window and said ‘This is Wembley’, and the other said ‘I thought it was Thursday’, and the first chap said ‘Yes, so am I.’” From this rather bemused sketch, we recognize that we often listen but we do not hear what is actually said.

On reading such a passage, I sometimes am tempted to think that a stint in a good English pub would solve most of the world’s problems. But where most of the problems seem to occur, such thirst-quenching institutions are generally not allowed. They are considered to be against both reason and religion. That was probably the counter-point of Belloc’s “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine/There’s always laughter and good red wine./At least I’ve always found it so,/Benedicamus Domino.”

To proffer something good about Catholicism in recent decades has been considered, if not impolite, certainly “triumphalistic.” Yet I wonder if it is not time to face the fact that we are now pretty much left alone with reason and hence revelation addressed to it. We are to state our “reasons” with gentleness and respect, as Peter admonished us. But surely Paul was right. The sophists, usually paid with money, think that they can state any lie or untruth about what we hold as if that is their natural “right.”

No longer is there much dialogue or debate, only yelling and lies. “Proud pretensions” do raise themselves “against the knowledge of God.” In the end, we prefer not merely to “seem to be wise.”

Retrieved October 14, 2014 from




Feminist & Catholic

A very good article from The Guardian by a woman theologian who shows why it is possible to be both and love the Church for its doctrine, history and teaching; while reserving the right to not believe in some of it because of the dictates of personal conscience.

I largely agree with what she has written and encourage you to read it with an open heart, though the Church has apparently forbidden her to speak on Church property.

An excerpt.

A battle is raging for the soul of the Catholic church, with influential cardinals increasingly open in their opposition to Pope Francis over issues including divorce, remarriage, contraception and same-sex relations.

Disagreement over these issues is likely to come to a head over the next few days, with the bishops gathering in Rome for an extraordinary synod on the family, called by the pope. Unusually, the Vatican sent out a questionnaire ahead of the synod seeking the views of Catholics around the world on family, marriage and sexuality. The hierarchy has been reluctant to publish the responses, but it is clear from their commentaries that many Catholics do not follow the church’s teachings.

Sometimes the teachings are rejected or ignored – such as the prohibition of artificial birth control and pre-marital sex – but sometimes people want a more compassionate and constructive approach to those who respect the teachings but have failed to live up to them, for example in the case of divorced and remarried Catholics. The central message of the Christian faith is, after all, not that of moral perfection but of forgiveness, mercy and redemption.

For those who take for granted the values of progressive liberalism, the Catholic church seems like a creakingly anachronistic institution. As a feminist I am treated with incredulity by those who cannot understand why I remain within the church, particularly when I am repeatedly censored because I speak out on issues such as same-sex marriage and women’s ordination.

I came to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in August 2012, when – along with 26 other Catholic theologians, priests and public figures – I signed a letter to the Times, saying Catholics could in good conscience support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. Formerly known as the Inquisition, the CDF is a shadowy group of senior bishops and cardinals charged with the promotion and defence of Catholic doctrine. In my case, their intervention has resulted in the cancellation of several public appearances, including a short visiting fellowship to the University of San Diego in 2012, and most recently a talk for the Newman Association in Edinburgh. The association received a letter from Archbishop Leo Cushley, saying he was acting on the instructions of the CDF and that I was not allowed to speak in any church in his diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

This climate of theological censorship developed during the papacy of John Paul II, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) was the CDF’s hardline president. Benedict appointed the equally authoritarian Archbishop (now Cardinal) Gerhard Müller to that post. Many were surprised when Pope Francis renewed Müller’s appointment, because his heavy-handed approach seemed at odds with Francis’s more open ethos.

Retrieved October 9, 2014 from

Russia, The Russian Orthodox & Roman Catholic Church

This article from Reuters examines the backstory of the Russian Orthodox Church and her close ties to the Russian state, and whose possible reunification with Rome has been speculated on in other stories we noted in another blog post,

An excerpt from the Reuters article.


Under Putin, the ROC gets support from the state and powerful oligarchs allied to the Kremlin, while Moscow benefits from its public blessing. A recent poll showed 75 percent of Russians approve of the ROC and more than half value its close ties with the state.

One influential financier is Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian Orthodox businessman and philanthropist whose St. Basil the Great Foundation paid for the renovation of the Moscow headquarters of the ROC’s Department of External Church Relations.

The foundation’s board includes Igor Shchyogolev, one of Putin’s aides at the Kremlin. The fund says it offers humanitarian aid for the rebel-held east Ukraine under an agreement signed with Aleksander Borodai, formerly the top separatist leader.

In July, Kiev opened an investigation into Malofeev, alleging that he was financing armed rebels in east Ukraine. The European Union sanctioned Malofeev soon afterwards, saying he used to employ Borodai and was destabilising Ukraine. Malofeev did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on that.

He has previously dismissed Kiev’s investigation as “ridiculous,” saying he sent only humanitarian aid and had sent no funding to pro-Russian separatists.

Another powerful figure in the Orthodox world is Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways and a long-standing ally of Putin. Yakunin, sanctioned by Washington over Ukraine, heads the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which helped reunite Kirill’s Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which separated from the ROC in the 1920s.

At the 2007 Moscow ceremony marking the reunification, Putin called the merger “an event of truly nationwide, historic importance and great moral significance.” He added: “The revival of the church unity is a crucial condition for revival of lost unity of the whole ‘Russian world’, which has always had the Orthodox faith as one of its foundations.”


The ROC’s close ties to the state were on display early in the Ukraine crisis when Kirill and the Russian Foreign Ministry issued nearly identical statements, warning against a confrontation and speaking of the larger Russia’s “brotherly” Ukraine.

When Russia sent its troops to Crimea, one of the justifications it used was an alleged threat to parishes there linked to Kirill’s Moscow Patriarchate. Kirill’s full title is “Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus,” a reference to a medieval state in Kiev to which modern Russia traces its roots.

In Ukraine, Kirill oversees the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. It competes against a smaller church of the Kiev Patriarchate that split from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Winning applause from those Ukrainians who seek Western integration and scorn Moscow’s efforts to undermine it, the Kiev Patriarchate has strongly backed Ukraine’s national cause in the current conflict. Its head, Patriarch Filaret, blamed Putin squarely for the violence and said he was possessed by Satan.

The conflict in Ukraine has put strains on the ties between the ROC and the state in Russia; and Kirill, wary of alienating worshippers in Ukraine by being too closely associated with the Kremlin, has increasingly hedged his bets.

Retrieved October 8, 2014 from

Modernity & the Church

A brilliant excerpt from a great book by Hans Urs von Balthasar.

“Thus we now have something like a criterion for the discernment of spirits—the spirits that, beneath the surface, inform and animate the modern trend within the Church. And when Christians finally realize that all this conspicuous activism—precisely because it is so apparently unequivocal—is in urgent need of a Christian crisis, that it cuts both ways and can be seen in two ways and can therefore be dangerous—to the very extent that it claims to possess already the “one thing necessary” and so, soothing the voice of conscience, renders unnecessary the conversion referred to earlier—then perhaps the battle will have been more than half won. For the crisis neither precedes nor follows the initiatives of Christians but lies at their very heart. It constantly challenges and questions all these initiatives and with this simple question: Do they lead us toward God or away from him? Is God before us, in our seeking gaze, or is he behind us, at our backs?

“Having God behind them would mean, in the specific case of these reforming Christians, that they already know about God, about his revelation, its content and scope, about the Church, about being Christian. And so, armed with this ready knowledge, they can go out in the encounter with the world—the world of their fellow Christians, of non-Christians, of anti-Christians. The knowledge these people take with them is sure and adequate, albeit in summary form, of course, reduced to a handful of key concepts.

“This reduction may indeed be legitimate, in light of the intended encounter with the modern world or—as our theologians like to tell us, solemnly and with a meaningful smile (just in case we should imagine they are employing a tautology)—with the temporal world of today. So, they know all about God and revelation, and the question for them is simply this: How do I tell my child? They are coming from God and reaching out to the temporal world; they have God behind them and the temporal world before them. They would not deny that in order to be sent out by Christ into the world one has first to have spent sufficient time with him. They have that behind them, they think. They are now in the phase of action, and they assume, in good faith towards themselves and others, that their time of contemplation has already been served. And just in case their conscience should occasionally remind them that they did not actually gain their high school diploma in contemplation or that they flunked their college entrance exams, then this conscience is quickly comforted with the slogan contemplativus in actione, which means, more or less: the one who acts is contemplative enough—for there is no other way to show oneself mature, to have come of age, than through action.

“This slogan is the watchword of a great many modern Christians, both clerical and lay, of whom one must fear that they have donned the name of “mission” as a form of evangelical camouflage, in order to disguise their flight away from God. Here we see the severity of the crisis in which the current trend within the Church, collectively and individually, now stands. This crisis does not mean that such a trend, as a plan, a movement, an outcome, should actually be dismissed; it means, rather, that it should be constantly reassessed from a Christian standpoint, since at all events its apparent clarity conceals an underlying ambiguity. Going out from God to the world can indeed be authentic Christian mission, the fulfillment of our Christian duty to the world; but it can also be flight from God, fear of the scandal of the Cross, betrayal of Christ. All things have their darker side; only Christ has none. (pp. 31-33) Balthasar, H. U. V. (2014). Who is a Christian. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Available from Amazon at

Bishop’s Stand

In this sad commentary, from the October 2011 issue of New Oxford Review, of an ethics professor at a Catholic college—who is still teaching—but who apparently does not teach Church doctrine, the author reviewing a book of his castigates him, but the real fault lies, once again, with the bishops who allow professors like this to continue to teach at Catholic colleges.

An excerpt.

There are many shepherds today who act like sheep, along with many wolves who pose as shepherds. Daniel Maguire is a case in point. In Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism, the ethics professor from Marquette University poses as a shepherd guiding us to an alternative Catholic Church, one that can exist without a pope and bishops.

Let’s start with Maguire’s acknowledgments: He gives abject thanks to Planned Parenthood for lavishing “awards” on him and inviting him to present “keynote addresses at the annual events of at least a third of their 130 affiliates.” Oh, how he loves them: “Being with them has always infused the blood of hope into my veins.” Yes, the blood of hope. Well, that group indeed has a lot of blood to spare, since it is up to its neck in it. It’s definitely not “the blood of hope,” however, but the blood that crieth to Heaven from the earth (Gen. 4). Then Maguire gives an accolade to Mar­quette (run by the Jesuits) for defending his academic freedom “almost perfectly” for 35 years. What this implies is that they defended his “freedom” to teach the opposite of the Church’s moral theology, as he has done, on contraception, masturbation, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, and embryonic stem-cell research.

Maguire is a virtual atheist. He praises the priest-shaman Thomas Berry for saying that the natural world, not the Bible, is the “primary revelation of the divine.” Then Ma­guire denies divine providence with a scoff: Although Vatican I declared that God protects and governs all things with sweetness and strength, “the tumultuous rise and fall of stars” seen in the Hubble Telescope reveals that the process is not “under sweet management.” Richard Dawkins could not have written with more contempt against a compassionate God. In addition, while posing as a Catholic, Maguire denies the dogmas of our Lord’s virgin birth and our Blessed Mother’s perpetual virginity. He laments that 83 percent of Americans “believe in the literal virgin birth of Jesus, even though Bible scholars see this as metaphoric,” and claims that Mary saw “two of her sons, Jesus and James,” killed as “rebels.” He also presents Christ’s divinity as an invention: In orthodox Christianity “a human male was divinized” and “Goddess images vigorously suppressed.”

Besides this, Maguire uses vulgar expressions to heap scorn upon Catholic bishops. He says that they keep “bleating about their pelvic obsessions, abortion, and same-sex marriage.” In wanting to consign homosexuals to a life of chastity, he adds, they are not as Catholic as he is: “The view that homosexual people are condemned to involuntary celibacy for life is as cruel as it is absurd. And it is very Catholic to say so.”

He instructs the bishops that on abortion, too, they are not as Catholic as he is: “The Roman Catholic position on abortion is pluralistic and always has been.” Of course, this is a downright lie, but it is one that Maguire has repeated for several decades, with impunity. The difference here is that he is boldly shoving it down the bishops’ throats by saying that “if bishops don’t know that, there is a cure for their ignorance: they can be sent back to school.” What school? In his book he refers favorably to Daniel Dom­browski and Robert Deltete of the Jesuit University of Seattle, who promote the myth of a “pluralistic” Catholic tradition on abortion.

So here we have the wolf lecturing the shepherds on the proper way to tend their sheep. Maguire has the temerity to do this because he sees them as no braver than their sheep. For years he has dared them with his shenanigans to excommunicate him, but they have only rapped him gently on the knuckles and left him at his post, as professor of moral theology at Marquette. He mocks them now by taking a dogmatic tone and exhorting them to study their own tradition.

Retrieved October 6, 2014 from


The Back Story

An excellent article from Crisis Magazine; sometimes the simple reason is the best one.

An excerpt.

According to the principle known as Occam’s razor, the best explanation of an event is usually the one that is simplest. Yet Western analysts persist in using the most convoluted hypotheses to explain Islamic terrorism. Take a recent address to the UN Security Council by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State. In encouraging the Security Council to address the “root causes” of terrorism, he observed:

Young people traveling abroad to join the ranks of terrorist organizations often come from poor immigrant families, disillusioned by what they feel as a situation of exclusion and by the lack of integration and values in certain societies.

In other words, the culprits at the root of it all are the usual suspects—poverty and discrimination. Well, yes, that may have something to do with why young men go off to foreign lands and risk being blown to kingdom-come, but why look for a complicated cause when a simple explanation will do? In other words, is it necessary to go any further in the explanatory process than kingdom-come itself—and what kingdom-come entails?

For many a young man, the certainty that there are seventy-two high-bosomed maidens waiting for him on the other side is reason enough to risk the sacrifice of life and limb. And according to most Islamic interpretations, the only sure way of securing paradise is through martyrdom. Thus, the Islamic view of achieving paradise creates a very real temptation for young men to take the shortcut to get there. As Professor Louis René Beres points out in a recent article for Gatestone Institute, “The jihadi terrorist claims to ‘love death,’ but in his or her mind, that ‘suicide’ is anything but final”:

The would-be killer has been promised that death will represent just a trivial and momentary inconvenience, a minor detour on just one more glorious ‘martyr’s’ fiery trajectory toward a life everlasting, in Paradise.

It’s a hard combination to beat: life everlasting plus the kind of afterlife that a young man can readily appreciate. One advantage of the Islamic conception of paradise is that it’s considerably easier to understand than the Christian idea of heaven as union with God through the Beatific Vision. That may be why most Christians prefer to die in their beds rather than on the battlefield. As I said a couple of years ago:

Most Christians are not sure if they are quite ready for union with God, but most young men, of whatever religion, are pretty sure they are ready for the rewards offered in the Islamic paradise.

Retrieved October 4, 2014 from

The Church in the World

This article from Crisis Magazine notes the secularism of American Church leaders.

We are clearly going through a period—several such in the history of the institutional Church—when the Prince of this world dominates Church culture; but the supernatural Church remains pure and strong, refreshing the souls of the faithful.

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote:

[12] Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God. [13] Which things also we speak, not in the learned words of human wisdom; but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. [14] But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined. [15] But the spiritual man judgeth all things; and he himself is judged of no man. (I Corinthians, 2: 12-15) Retrieved October 1, 2014 from

An excerpt from the Crisis Magazine article.

Recent developments make me wonder if Church leaders and Catholic institutions in the U.S. are not, “on the unawares,” helping to further crucial parts of the secularist-leftist political and cultural narrative.

Several months ago, on a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border one high-ranking prelate criticized “the xenophobic ranting of a segment of the population” on the immigration question. This summer another prelate spoke about the need to “dismantle systemic racism” in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Reacting to the “coming out” of a prominent athlete, another high-ranking prelate spoke approvingly and insisted that the Bible instructs us not to judge people. Going back over a decade, we recall the U.S. bishops’ adoption of the Dallas Charter. It marked the beginning of the present child protection efforts of the Church in the U.S. in the wake of the priest sex abuse scandals.

What is the common thread running through these occurrences? They illustrate an implicit, if unwitting, acceptance of a secularist-leftist understanding of important public issues. The prelate who used the phrase “zenophobic ranting” effectively characterized the millions of Americans who are concerned with the massive violations of U.S. immigration laws on the southern border as mere bigots. A polemical leftist political commentator could not have put it better. His comment also signaled dismissiveness of the many legitimate problems growing out of our immigration situation, including national security concerns.

One wonders if the second prelate was speaking of racial conditions in 1934 instead of 2014. He sounded like the leftist “civil rights” spokesmen who see “racism” around every corner—with the ostensible aim of keeping themselves and their organizations relevant. While he evinces no such opportunistic agenda, one must ask what he means by “systemic racism,” how he came to this conclusion, and whether he has given the U.S. race situation a serious, careful analysis. Is he seriously suggesting that prejudice is simply the cause of a host of social problems within certain demographic groups that are massively afflicted by the likes of family breakdown, illegitimacy, absent fathers, and youth gang activity?

Retrieved October 1, 2014 from


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