The Jesuits in China

It is a legendary tale spanning hundreds of years and this story from Catholic World Report tells a small part part of it.

An excerpt.

Dr. Amanda C. R. Clark is Associate Dean of Special Programs and Library Director at Whitworth University. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication & Information Sciences from the University of Alabama. Her academic work focuses on the history of architecture and art; she teaches courses on Western architecture, Chinese art, and artists books in China and the West.

Dr. Clark recently corresponded with Catholic World Report to discuss her new book, China’s Last Jesuit: Charles J. McCarthy and the End of the Mission in Catholic Shanghai (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)which tells the moving story of an American Jesuit missionary who was imprisoned by the Communist government for being an “ideological saboteur” in the 1950s.

CWR: There have been several books written about earlier Jesuit missionaries in China, such as Vincent Cronin’s biography Fr. Matteo Ricci, The Wise Man from the West: Matteo Ricci and His Mission to China, published by Ignatius Press. How does your book serve to tell us about Jesuits in the more recent past?

Dr. Amanda Clark: Matteo Ricci captures our imagination—he was a great linguist, a cultural ambassador, and a staunch Jesuit committed to bringing the Catholic faith to the world. Ricci seems to eclipse all other missionaries to China, but part of his great legacy includes all those missionaries who came after him, both Chinese and foreign, like Fr. Charles McCarthy.

Part of Ricci’s unique interaction with Chinese persons was his attention to cultural dialogue, becoming versed in their language, their literature and philosophy—in short, he learned to impress the socks off of people.  Jesuits like McCarthy followed in Ricci’s footsteps, taking seriously the task of getting to know their mission landscape and falling in love with a foreign culture. Also, while writing this book I had access to the private collection of materials held by the McCarthy family, and so I was able to include rare insights into the interpersonal dimension of Jesuit missions in the more recent past.

CWR: Why did you choose to entitle your book China’s Last Jesuit and how does the story of Fr. Charles McCarthy tell us more about the Jesuit mission in the twentieth century during China’s transition into a Communist country?

Clark: While Charles McCarthy was not the last Jesuit ever to enter and work in China, he was the last of the two American Jesuits to depart from the robust Shanghai mission, Zikawei. He was at the tail end of a mission enterprise that we saw growing under Matteo Ricci, so McCarthy’s placement in Jesuit history is astounding.

McCarthy’s location in Chinese history is also fascinating—he found himself in war-torn, twentieth-century China, first caught up in the Sino-Japanese war, then entangled in the crossfire of civil war and then the emergence of the People’s Republic of China. During these fraught political years his missionary work continued, even when under house arrest and imprisonment. McCarthy’s story provides readers with a first-hand account of what life was like in China during one of its most turbulent eras, and his story is especially informative regarding the state of Christianity during that time.

CWR: One key theme in your book is Fr. McCarthy’s enduring love for China’s culture and people. What inspired China’s authorities to arrest and detain someone known as a “friend of China”? You also discuss Chinese Catholics who were arrested in the 1950s; why were they arrested? And what was prison life like for the Chinese Catholics who were not, as Fr. McCarthy was, identified as “foreign imperialists” and “ideological saboteurs”?

Clark: The decade of the 1950s in China was a tumultuous time, full of ambition for China’s economic growth, and rife with political fluctuation and instability. McCarthy was in China to witness the Communist victory in 1949, so he understood well what was happening once Chairman Mao took leadership over the country. An era of suspicion fed on itself, and many Christians—foreign and native—were caught in the changing political winds often fueled by fear. China as a country had in the previous decades suffered under unequal treaties and colonial insertions, but now the tables were turned and foreign persons and foreign influences were being expelled. Being a foreigner or practicing a foreign religion—and one, like Catholicism, so closely tied to a powerful foreign leader, namely, the Pope—could put you in the light of suspicion.

In the 1950s the stakes were high. Protestants were able to embrace the Chinese Three Self movement, which centralized religious power, money, and influence safely at home within China, but for Catholics, like McCarthy, his confreres, and parishioners, their ties and allegiance to foreign magisterial control was not taken lightly by those in positions of power in China at that time. Chinese Catholics, too, were arrested for their affiliation with the Pope, who was viewed as a foreign imperialist.    

CWR: In your chapter entitled, “China in an Era of Change,” you describe Fr. McCarthy’s studies at Marquette University in journalism. How did his studies there influence his life as a missionary in China during the Japanese occupation and civil war between the Nationalists and Communists?

Clark: You’ve brought up the two sides of the coin. One the one side, Jesuits are the masters of being both an expert in a field or profession (we often think of higher education, but in this case it was journalism and reporting), and also of being an active missionary, as St. Ignatius envisioned his flock of soldier-heroes.

McCarthy’s skills as a journalist were put to work immediately in China, where he wrote a multitude of articles for journals both back home in America and within China itself. He produced a radio show in Shanghai that broadcast widely and was modeled on the then-popular American program, “The Catholic Hour,” with Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen. Like radio listeners in America, Shanghai’s Christians and non-Christians both tuned in to hear the sermons, news, and music that McCarthy broadcast across China’s airwaves.

When times turned to their most unstable, McCarthy published a small-run newsletter of information, written in Latin (which would be understood by missionaries, but not political authorities), which provided some of the last lines of widely-disseminated communication between Catholic leaders in China.  You can see why something like that might look like espionage to outside eyes, but from within that circle it makes perfect sense to wish to share news during a chaotic era.

Mary & Peter, Disagreeing with the Church

A very nice article from The Catholic Thing reminding us of the roles of two of the human beings at the center of the founding of the Church.

An excerpt.

Is it ever acceptable for a Catholic to criticize the Church or disagree with Church teaching? Distinguishing between the Church and the hierarchy helps towards an answer. Mary is the model of the Church. Peter is the model of the hierarchy.

After Peter witnesses to the divinity of Christ, Jesus names him first among the Apostles: “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:17-18) Christ chose Peter to safeguard the faith on the “rock” of an ecclesial office.

But Peter is a deeply flawed recipient of the honor. Directly after Peter’s installation as chief of the Apostles, Jesus reveals that He must go up to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Instead of exercising his new office in obedience to the words of Jesus, Peter objects, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (Mt 16:22) Jesus’ rebuke is immediate and harsh: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Mt 16:23)

Mary is always on the side of God. The Angel Gabriel appears to her: “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Lk 1:35) Mary accepts the conferral with humility: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38) God chose Mary to be the Mother of God but only with her faithful assent.

In contrast to Peter, Mary’s exalted role is never a cause for sinful pride or presumption. Mary teaches us to question God with respect, with faith seeking understanding: “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (Lk 1:34) At the wedding feast of Cana Mary instructs the wine stewards and us: “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5) Mary always defers to the will of the Father as known through her Son.

Peter is a man of many words and bold promises. At the Last Supper, Peter proclaims that he will never deny Christ: “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (Mk 14:31) Mark adds that the rest of the freshly ordained bishops had the similar sentiments: “And they all said the same.” But in the Garden after the arrest of Jesus: “the disciples forsook him and fled.” (Mt 26:56)

Unlike Peter, Mary is the model of few words and faith wrapped in silence. At the foot of the Cross, Mary experiences the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy when a sword of sorrow pierced her Immaculate Heart. (cf. Jn 19:25) Mary’s pure and unique faith is the unbreakable thread that binds the New Covenant with the Old. Because she pondered the words of the Angel Gabriel in her heart, only Mary could be certain that the horror of the Crucifixion could not be the last word.

The Sacred liturgy recognizes the elevated status of Mary over that of Peter and the Apostles. Peter’s main liturgical feast day celebrates the “Chair of Saint Peter” (February 22). Hence, Peter is primarily honored for fidelity to his office, an office that he occasionally bungles due to a failure of nerve (Peter’s denial of Christ during the Passion) as well as logic (Paul’s accusation of Peter’s “insincerity” with respect to Jewish practices, Gal 2:11-13).

Mary has no ecclesial office to exercise. She is, simply and sublimely, the Mother of God. Yet Mary’s feast days are numerous, dignifying every liturgical season. Her Immaculate Conception reminds us of how the Church – from the Cross and at Pentecost – is conceived in grace and holiness. And her glorious Assumption, body and soul, into heaven directs our attention to the destiny of the Church, purified of all evil and glorified in the new and heavenly Jerusalem.

The Horror Continues

As this story from the National Catholic Register reports.

An excerpt.

A priest working in the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C. has been recalled to the Vatican after U.S. authorities cited possible violations of child pornography laws, the Vatican said Friday.

The Vatican declined to identify the diplomat nor disclose which nationality he belongs to, but confirmed he is a senior member of the Vatican embassy staff, and that he is now in Vatican City.

According to the Vatican’s Yearbook, three priest diplomats serve in the nunciature as counselors, in addition to the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre, who has been ruled out.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Vatican said that after being notified by the U.S. authorities of the possible violations, the Holy See, “following the practice of sovereign states, recalled the priest in question.”

It added that having received such information from the United States government, the Secretariat of State passed this information to the Promoter of Justice of the Vatican Tribunal — the Vatican’s chief prosecutor.

It went on to say that the Promoter of Justice then “opened an investigation and has already commenced international collaboration to obtain elements relative to the case.”

The Vatican also stressed that in accordance with laws “applicable to all preliminary inquiries, the investigations carried out by the Promoter of Justice are subject to investigative confidentiality.”

The Associated Press reported that the State Department had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity on Aug. 21, but that request was denied.

It added that for the State Department to make such a request, its lawyers would have needed to convinced there was a reasonable cause for criminal prosecution.

Recalling Vatican envoys is not new: in 2013, Msgr. Jozef Wesolowski was ordered to leave as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic after being accused of sexually abusing young boys on the Caribbean island. Two years later, while being held under house arrest in Vatican City, he was indicted for possession of child pornography.

The Vatican justified not sending Wesolowski back to the Dominican Republic for trial by submitting him first to a canonical court proceeding at the Vatican, and having him tried in the Vatican’s criminal court, which has jurisdiction over the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

Wesolowski was laicized but died of natural causes before the criminal trial got underway.

Should the Vatican prosecutor conclude enough evidence justifies a trial, these are likely to be the criminal proceedings taken in this case.

The possession of child pornography is considered a “canonical crime” in the Church, and in 2010 Benedict XVI added it to the list of “most grave delicts,” meaning crimes, which are dealt with directly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and can result in dismissal from the clerical state.

Communist Propaganda Never Dies

It never dies because it’s techniques have been so effective and in this story from the New York Times Magazine entitled: RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War: How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop, the present practice of Russia to control information through the use of disinformation/propaganda is examined and this excerpt notes its roots.

The excerpt.

One way of looking at the activities of Russia’s information machine is as a resumption of the propaganda fight between the United States and the U.S.S.R. that began immediately following the Second World War. In the late 1940s, the Marshall Plan, the herculean development project helmed by Secretary of State George Marshall, flooded postwar Europe with money and advisers to help rebuild cities, advance democracy and form an integrated economic zone. Joseph Stalin immediately saw it as a threat — and saw propaganda as one of his best weapons to contain it.

In 1947, Stalin formed the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform), a Belgrade-headquartered forum to coordinate messaging among European Communist parties. Cominform used Communist newspapers, pamphlets and posters to paint the Marshall Plan as an American plot to subjugate Europe. A representative Soviet poster distributed in Vienna showed an American — identified by American-flag shirt cuffs — offering aid packages with one hand while plundering Austria’s gold with the other. Radio Moscow — the state-run international broadcaster — and Soviet-supported newspapers throughout Europe accused the “imperialist” United States of pursuing a plan of “dollar domination” to make the Continent dependent on American goods and services, and of conscripting local youth to fight American proxy wars elsewhere.

Writing in The New York Times that year, the correspondent Anne O’Hare McCormick recounted false reports in the Red Army newspaper in Vienna that the locals were afraid to walk the streets at night lest American soldiers rob and mug them — propaganda, she wrote, that “may not convince, but it adds to the confusion between truth and falsehood and fosters that darkness of the mind in which dictatorships operate.” In a 1947 letter to George Marshall’s undersecretary, Robert A. Lovett, William C. Chanler, a wartime Defense Department official, urged a response, warning that “we are making the same mistake that was made with Hitler.”

For the counterinformation campaign, the U.S. government enlisted journalists, including the Washington Post Pulitzer winner Alfred Friendly and the Christian Science Monitor’s Roscoe Drummond; Hollywood filmmakers; and the top marketers of Madison Avenue, including McCann-Erickson and Young and Rubicam. The new effort — which eventually fell under a new United States Information Agency — produced upbeat posters with slogans like “Whatever the weather, we only reach welfare together,” which offered a bright contrast to the Communists’ anti-Marshall Plan messaging. Operating on the theory that local voices would have more credibility than American ones, it fed news to foreign reporters about how well the Marshall Plan was progressing in their countries and recruited top European directors to produce hundreds of news features and documentaries that promoted “Western values” like free trade and representative democracy.

America went into the propaganda war with distinct advantages. At the time, the Marshall Plan was pumping $13 billion into Europe, while the Soviets were taking $14 billion out in the form of reparations and resource seizures; America’s image abroad was as squeaky clean as it would ever be. “This was the time when finally the United States came of age as an international power — when it still had its virginity, as it were,” David Reynolds, a Cambridge University history professor, told me.

America’s midcentury propaganda success set the tone for the decades to come. It was not entirely a matter of America’s having a better story to tell, and savvier storytellers, than the Soviet Union did. Soviet propaganda did, in fact, work on the people it reached. A controlled study conducted by a professor at Florida State University in 1970 found that Americans who listened to Radio Moscow broadcasts developed more open attitudes toward the U.S.S.R. than those of average Americans. The problem was that very few Americans did hear Radio Moscow: It was available only on shortwave radio and on a handful of American stations — including WNYC in New York — reaching less than 2 percent of the adult population in the United States as of late 1966. Meanwhile, Voice of America, the United States’ equivalent service offering a mix of news, music and entertainment, was reaching 23 percent of the Soviet adult population by the early 1970s. Later studies found that up to 40 percent of the Soviet Union’s adult population listened to “Western broadcasting” of one sort or another, in spite of aggressive Soviet signal-jamming efforts.

Catholic Social Teaching

It apparently got a good airing recently on CNN, according to this wonderful article from First Things.

An excerpt.

CNN is not the customary locale-of-choice for a catechesis on Catholic social doctrine. But that’s what Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, offered viewers of a CNN national town hall meeting on the evening of August 21. Challenged with a semi-“Gotcha!” question by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Erica Jordan, who not-so-subtly suggested that Ryan’s approach to healthcare reform, tax reform, and welfare reform was in conflict with the Church’s social teaching, the very Catholic Speaker replied that he completely agreed with Sister Erica that God is “always on the side of the poor and dispossessed”; the real question was, how do public officials, who are not God, create public policies that empower the poor and dispossessed to be not-poor and not-dispossessed?

Congressman Ryan then laid out an approach to alleviating poverty and empowering the poor that seemed to me entirely congruent with the core Catholic social ethical principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Solidarity with the poor is a moral imperative, Ryan agreed, but solidarity should not be measured by inputs—How many federal dollars go into anti-poverty programs?—but by outcomes: Are poor people who can live independent and fruitful lives being helped by our welfare dollars to develop the skills and habits that will enable them to be self-reliant, constructive citizens? The moral obligation of solidarity is not met by programs that perpetuate welfare dependency.

Speaker Ryan is a longstanding advocate of decentralizing and (as he puts it) “customizing” social welfare programs. That means abandoning one-size-fits-all attempts to address poverty and looking to the states, where a lot of the creativity in American government resides these days, for approaches that actually empower the poor, because they treat poor people as men and women with potential to be unleashed, not simply as clients to be maintained. Proposals to decentralize social welfare programs and give the states the funds necessary to conduct all sorts of customized efforts to empower the poor—crafted so that each “fits” the vast array of distinct circumstances we find in impoverished America—strike me as a sensible application of the social doctrine’s principle of subsidiarity. That principle, first articulated by Pope Pius XI in 1931, teaches us to leave decision-making at the lowest possible level in society, closest to those most directly affected by the policy in question. Paul Ryan thinks Washington doesn’t have to decide everything; Pius XI would have agreed.

The fact that poverty remains a serious problem in the United States after the federal government has spent $22 trillion dollars on social welfare programs over the past fifty years should have taught us all something about the complex problems of empowering the poor. No one with any sense or experience imagines that he or she has the silver-bullet answer to poverty in all its social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions; I know my friend Speaker Ryan doesn’t think he does. But unlike those who insist on measuring an official’s or a party’s commitment to the poor by inputs rather than outcomes (an approach that tends to instrumentalize the poor and render social welfare policy a cash transaction rather than a human encounter), Paul Ryan and reform conservatives like him are willing to face the fact that there is no direct correlation between magnitude-of-dollar-inputs and success-of-human-outcomes when it comes to anti-poverty programs. Inner-city Catholic schools (the Church in America’s most effective social welfare program) demonstrate that time and again: They spend less than the government schools, and their students learn much more—and not just in quantifiable, standardized-testing terms.

The Pope and the Magisterium

Becoming much more separate, according to this excellent article from the Remnant Newspaper.

An excerpt.

If there was any doubt that Pope Bergoglio’s tumultuous reign is an unparalleled, indeed apocalyptic, threat to the integrity of the Faith, that doubt cannot possibly survive the publication of “Pope Francis: Meetings with Dominique Wolton: Politics and Society,” a 450-page compendium of rambling private conversations between Bergoglio and Wolton, a French sociologist, during an extraordinary series of private audiences at the Vatican.

As he has done habitually over the past four-and-a-half years, in this mega-collection of Bergoglian musings the man from Argentina tells us what he thinks as opposed to what the Church has constantly taught based on what God has revealed, Bergoglio having already declared in another of his infamous interviews that whatever he thinks is the Magisterium: “I’m constantly making statements, giving homilies. That’s magisterium. That’s what I think, not what the media say that I think. Check it out; it’s very clear.”





The Great Heresies

The Catholic Thing has an excellent article about this must read book, The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc.

It is a book I rad early in my Catholic conversion and it remains an essential guide.

An excerpt.

My shock in finding The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc back in print should first be described. I’d been looking for a “hard copy” of this book for some years, in all the usual places (second-hand book stores and flea markets). I’d noticed that while still in the catalogue, it had been physically removed from at least one library, and “de-acquisitioned” by several others.

This was no surprise. The more important a book to our civilization, the quicker it disappears from the shelves today. Recently, for instance, I discovered that the whole classics section (Greek and Roman) had been eliminated from Toronto’s Central Reference Library, on grounds of “no public interest.” And then that the classics sections in several college libraries had shrunk to the point where I now had more standard texts in my little apartment.

We do not worry about this because we know that “everything” has been preserved in the electronic aether, and can be downloaded by any diligent searcher, usually for free. Precious few care for classics, fewer for the Fathers of the Church, and digital holdings are in their nature precarious. More fundamentally, as “studies” continue to show, the retention of material read on computer screens is approximately zero.

Ah well, as they say. And no wonder, it seems to me, that we have ignorant mobs attacking relics of the past, such as public statuary. It becomes much easier to animate these mobs because, in the absence of materials unread and unrespected, they will believe anything about the past they are told.

Now, Belloc was not a Greek or Roman, but his works as a historian are remarkable. A popular, as opposed to an academic historian, he was nevertheless so broadly and thoroughly educated – by travel and experience as well as by reading – that he opens vistas wherever he turns. And the intelligent reader is not restricted to Belloc, as Belloc perfectly knows. One is free to challenge him but, of course, that requires patience and enterprise.

I can date my search for a hard copy of The Great Heresies precisely, because it began on the 12th of September, 2001. It might have begun the day before, had I not then been a practitioner of daily journalism, and thus distracted from bibliographical interests by “breaking news.”

Alone among my countrymen it seemed – at least those employed in media – I was taken to know something about Islam. I did not consider myself any sort of expert, but anything would do under the circumstances, and for a moment I found myself welcome to fill as many column inches as I pleased.

People wanted to know what this “Islam” thing was all about, and what had been going on while they slept. I did my best to inform them – to get my facts straight and so forth – and was actually thanked by editors who had previously written me off as “some sort of conservative.”

This happy state lasted for weeks, until it was discovered that some things I wrote were not, so to say, “politically correct.” The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was all very well, at first. But by Christmas of that year, those of the “progressive” persuasion had recovered their poise, and liberal apologists for Islam were in the journalistic ascendant.

I was particularly discouraged from writing about the fourteen centuries of history that lay behind this one particular strike out of the blue, redolent in so many ways of the seventh century. Even my initial explanation of the significance of the date “9/11” – 1683 – was now lost in the welter of alternative “experts,” who’d never heard of such things.

The victory of the Christian army under the Polish king, John III Sobieski – the defeat of the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna – had been among the most famous dates in history. Had that battle not been won, “the Infidel Turk” (as he was once called in Europe) would have been in a position to strike up the Danube into the heart of Western Europe. He was stopped as he had been at Lepanto, as his predecessors had been stopped by Charles Martel in the middle of France. History does actually turn on such great battles.

For Al Qaeda, openly committed to the restoration of a world-embracing Islamic Caliphate, the decisive reversal at Vienna was a source of terrible pain. It wasn’t, after all, their first siege across the Hungarian plains. The city had been their target for more than a century; as before it Constantinople (now Istanbul) had been their target, with attacks mounted annually towards it for centuries before it finally fell in 1453.

This long historical “clash of civilizations” was common knowledge, in both Muslim East and Christian West, until quite recently. Writing in 1938, Belloc surprised his readers by suggesting the clash was not over. He boldly predicted that Islam would recover, and the attacks would resume.

To a reader eighty years ago, Islam had been entirely defeated, by a victory of Western organization and technology. It was because, by analyzing it as a faith – indeed as an external Catholic heresy – that Belloc could appreciate its strengths. Moreover, it was by his analysis of the other great heresies that had riven and vitiated Christendom (the Arian, the Albigensian, the Protestant, the Modernist) that he could anticipate the “Islamist” revival.

Feast Day of The Holy Queen Mother’s Nativity

Today is the day and this article from Tradition in Action remembers it.

An excerpt.

We can measure the immense finesse of the Church in dealing with everything when we consider that the only saint with a special feast for her birthday is Our Lady. We are not considering Christmas, of course. This corresponds to the worship of hyperdulia that the Church reserves for her.

The Church reserves the worship of latria, or adoration, only for God – for Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, Who is the Word Incarnate. The worship of dulia, or veneration, the Church assigns to the saints. But to Our Lady she has a worship that is neither the simple worship of dulia nor the supreme worship of latria, but rather the worship of hyperdulia, which is a higher veneration unparallel to any other.

So, we have a feast celebrating the birthday of the Holy Virgin, one of the many feasts the Church reserves for her.

Analogously, because of her singular virtue, the Church permits that a church can have more than one statue of Our Lady at the same altar, a rule that does not apply to any other saint. In this way she makes it understood that Our Lady is beyond comparison with any other creature. It is a liturgical way to teach the theological truth that she is the Mother of God.

The feast day of the nativity of Our Lady induces us to ask: What advantage did her birth bring for mankind? And why should mankind celebrate her nativity in a special way?

In the order of nature, Our Lady was conceived without original sin, giving her a singular and peerless value. She was a lily of an incomparable purity and beauty that appeared in the night of this land of exile. She also had all the natural psychological gifts that a woman can have. God gave her the richest personality imaginable. To this, He added gifts of the supernatural order, the treasures of graces that were hers. She received the most precious graces God ever gave to any human creature.

Given that she was without original sin, she had the entire use of reason from the moment she was conceived. Therefore, already in the maternal womb, Our Lady had very elevated thoughts. The womb of St. Anne was for her a kind of temple. There she was already interceding for the human race and had begun to pray – with the highest wisdom that was a gift from God – for the coming of the Messiah. In reality she was influencing the destiny of mankind as a source of graces. Scripture tells us that the tunic that Our Lord wore was a source of grace that cured those who touched it; this being the case, you can imagine how Our Lady, the Mother of the Savior, was a source of graces for whosoever would approach her, even before she was born. For this reason we can say that at her nativity, immense graces began to shine for mankind and the Devil started to be smashed. He perceived that his scepter had been cracked and would never be the same again.

At the time of her birth, the world was laid groveling in the most radical Paganism. Vices prevailed, idolatry dominated everything, abomination had penetrated the Jewish religion itself, which was a presage of the Catholic Religion. The victory of evil and the Devil seemed almost complete. But at a certain moment God in His mercy decreed that Our Lady should be born. This was the equivalent of the beginning of the destruction of the reign of the Devil.

Our Lady was so important that her birthday marks a new era in the Old Covenant. The History of the Old Covenant was a long wait for the coming of the Messiah. After the original sin of our first parents, mankind had to wait 3,000 years, perhaps more, for the Messiah. But at a certain blessed moment, Divine Providence decreed that a woman should be born who would deserve the coming of the Messiah. Her nativity represents the entrance into the world of the perfect creature who found grace before God and had merit sufficient to end that extensive wait.

All the prayers, sufferings, and faithfulness of the just men living and dead reached their apex with her arrival. There had been Patriarchs, Prophets, just men among the Chosen People and certainly some just men among the Gentiles who had prayed, suffered, and waited; none of this was sufficient to attract the coming of the Redemption. But when God so willed it, He made the perfect creature be born to be the Mother of the Savior. Therefore, the entrance of this exquisite creature into the world marks the presage of the Redemption. The relationship between God and man began to change, and the gates of Heaven that had been tightly locked were semi-opened, permitting the light and breeze of hope to pass through.


Fatima, Clearing up the Chaff

It appears a book has finally been written—I just received it and it looks great, just what’s been needed—examining all of the conspiracies around the revelation of the Third Secret of Fatima, and this review from Crisis Magazine is a must read.

Fatima was the most important revelation in the life of the modern Church and understanding the meaning of the Holy Queen Mother’s appearance in 1917 remains a top priority.

An excerpt.

The harrowing visions of Lucia de Jesus dos Santos and her two cousins in Fatima in 1917, and the famous secrets entrusted to the three seers by the Blessed Virgin Mary, have long been the subject of speculation and controversy, which in recent years seem to have reached a fever pitch. Following the revelation of the “third secret” of Fatima in 2000 by the Holy See, high-ranking Catholic prelates have become the target of accusations of a cover up and the protagonists of various conspiracy theories, all of them claiming that the “true” text of the secret has not been revealed, or at least not completely.

The cause of all the hubbub is what might be called the “Great Disappointment” of many of the faithful upon learning that the purported text of the secret did not contain an explicit prediction of apostasy within the Catholic Church, as they had long assumed. Rather, they were presented with an allegorical depiction of devastated cities and suffering clerics, who trudge up a hill led by a “bishop dressed in white,” where each one is shot down by bullets and arrows fired by soldiers as they kneel before a cross. Of the mysterious bishop, Lucia wrote, “we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.”

All the more irksome for Fatima conspiracists is the uncanny way the vision matches the interpretation offered by the then Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano at the time of its public announcement in 2000, at the behest of Pope John Paul II. Sodano associated the vision with an assassination attempt made against the pope, in which he had been shot down on May 13, 1981—the very anniversary of the apparitions. His would-be assassin had been trained by the Bulgarian secret police, whose mission to kill the pope had been ordered by none other than the Kremlin itself, a fact verified by an Italian parliamentary commission in 2006. Given that the vision of the third secret follows the second secret’s warning of persecutions caused by Russia “spread[ing] her errors throughout the world” and causing persecution and suffering for the Church and specifically the pope, a more precise fulfillment of the third secret could hardly be imagined.

This conclusion to the controversy regarding the third secret, however, was unthinkable for many professional Fatimists who had staked their personal reputation on theories that would now seem to be refuted. They have since responded with a barrage of allegations of conspiracy and cover-up, claiming that another, unrevealed text or “fourth secret” authored by Lucia must exist, one that interprets the third secret in accordance with their views. Since the year 2000 they have created a vast echo chamber of self-referential literature based on wild inferences, rumor, and raw conjecture, accusing high prelates of involvement in a web of deception that has denied them the vindication they have long awaited.

In response to all of this sound and fury, Catholic researcher Kevin Symonds has responded with a new work, On the Third Part of the Secret of Fatima (En Route Books and Media), that carefully and judiciously examines the claims that lie at the foundation of the “fourth secret” theory. In the process he shows that both the reasoning and the factual foundation of the conspiracists’ claims are woefully deficient.

A single case outlined in the book is highly illustrative of the way the Fatimist rumor mill produces its very questionable “facts.” One of the most essential ingredients of “fourth secret” theories is the claim that the text of the third secret revealed in 2000 is too long to be the same text described by those high-ranking prelates who claimed to have seen it in decades past. We are told by conspiracists that this text was said by numerous witnesses to consist of “20-25 lines,” while the text revealed in the year 2000 contains over sixty lines. However, as Symonds shows, this discrepancy only exists in the minds of the conspiracists, who have based it on a single conjecture made by Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité, author of the sensationalist three-volume “Whole Truth about Fatima.”

Frère Michel claims he was told by the auxiliary bishop of Fatima, John Venancio, that he had tried to look through the envelope containing the secret, and had found that it was written on an “ordinary sheet of paper” with margins of three fourths of a centimeter. In a public talk regarding the conversation with Venancio, Michel adds that “We thus know that the Third Secret is not very long, probably 20 to 25 lines, that is to say, about the same length as the Second Secret.” This, then, is the conspiracists’ great proof of a “discrepancy”—a conjecture based on a reported conversation regarding events that had occurred over twenty five years earlier.

The now-established “fact” of a 20-25 line text then took on a life of its own, as Fr. Paul Kramer in his The Devil’s Final Battle (2002) attributed the claim not only to Bishop Venancio, but to Lucia herself, as well as Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the former pro-prefect of the Holy Office. Kramer provided no citations to support these new claims, and Symonds can only speculate that it was based on another article in the conspiracy-mongering Fatima Crusader in 2000, which merely claims that Lucia and Ottaviani agree that the secret was written on a single sheet of paper, and mentions nothing about the number of lines.

As Symonds shows, the page was much larger than it would have appeared to Fatima’s auxiliary bishop because it was folded inside the envelope, a fact apparently unknown to Bishop Venancio and Frère Michel, but revealed on live television in 2007, when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone brought the original to a television interview and showed it to the cameras. Unfortunately, during the same interview, Bertone uncritically accepted the false claim that Cardinal Ottaviani had attributed “25 lines” of text to the document, and attempted to explain it as a mistake by Ottaviani. Bertone had apparently not read or heard the allocutions of Ottaviani regarding Fatima, which were given in 1955 and 1967 and are reproduced by Symonds in their entirety at the end of the book. This innocent mistake by Bertone added more grist to the Fatimist conspiracy mill, enabling the conspiracists to assert that Bertone himself was now accepting the claim.

Symonds examines many other purported discrepancies in the same way, sifting through the jumble of amorphous factoids and conjecture with a judicious and careful analysis that brings more light and cools the heat of conspiracy mongering. Other “proofs” for the existence of a yet undisclosed document are shown to be based on a vague and anonymous article reporting a rumor from another journalist, or an unjustified spin on an unremarkable letter from the nuns in Lucia’s convent in Coimbra. Symonds even quotes Lucia’s own diaries, only recently published in Portuguese and translated into English, stating that she was ordered by the Virgin Mary not to write any interpretation of the third secret. The revelation of this fact alone is devastating to the conspiracists’ thesis.

Throughout the work, Symonds avoids engaging in polemics and maintains a dispassionate and respectful tone, while providing extensive translations of source material to enable the reader to make his own judgments. The essence of his approach is to thoroughly examine the same facts that are glossed over and uncritically used by conspiracists and then to assess them without recourse to a conspiracy theory. And indeed, the alternative is truly outlandish. Are we to believe that the highest prelates in the Church—among which would be both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI—involved themselves in elaborate schemes to deceive the public, including permitting Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to fabricate whole conversations with Lucia and to systematically deceive the public about crucial facts? Even Lucia herself and the other Carmelite sisters in her convent would seem to be implicated in their own roles as at least passive and silent cooperators, and the veracity of the whole of the Fatima message would be called into question.

However, there is indeed a sound basis for questioning the claim that the third secret is nothing more than a prophesy of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The vision seems to have a much broader scope, and depicts a very general persecution of the Church. Indeed it is the vision of a mass slaughter, not only of the Holy Father, but numerous other bishops, priests, religious, and laity. In the context of the communist persecution of Christians undertaken by Russia in the twentieth century, the vision is easy to interpret. However, one might reasonably ask if the persecution depicted in the vision has truly ended, or if its scope is limited to political forces external to the Church.

Although Russia has indeed been converted from its Marxist ideology, neo-Marxism continues to exercise its noxious influence around the world, but particularly in the increasingly decadent West. The influence of leftist political ideology and the substitution of traditional Catholic doctrine in its favor has plagued the Church for decades since the fall of Soviet communism in 1991, particularly in Latin America. Indeed, the current pope seems himself to have been wounded in many ways by the influence of leftist ideological tendencies.

The Hole in the Dike

If you are familiar with the old story about the Dutch boy who help his finger in the hole in the dike to prevent the larger flood that would devastate his country, you could be sympathetic to the creation of this hole in the dike related to the ancient Easter ritual which has resulted in such a flood of devastation, from the important Tradition in Action series.

An excerpt.

When it comes to appreciating the traditional Holy Saturday rite, we could think of it as a grand orchestra, transposed onto the spiritual plane, in which the prayers, hymns and ceremonies, formulated centuries ago by saints and consecrated souls, are performed in a manner worthy of their composers’ intentions. Clearly, any appreciation of so ancient a rite cannot be based on abstract academic theories or the private hunches and personal preferences of a group of liturgical “experts.”

One cannot, like the modernizing reformers, overlook the accumulated wisdom, piety and sanctifying properties of the old rite with its many centuries of hallowed use. Nor can one fail to take into account that, just as in an orchestra, all its constituent parts had a definite and logical relationship not only to every other part, but also to the main structure. So, disturbing even one element is bound to disturb the internal balance and harmony of the whole.

We must also consider the wider impact of such changes on the Church itself which, before the 1956 reforms, had always appeared as a cohesive organization with an exact correspondence between the lex orandi and lex credendi. No Pope before Pius XII had ever removed parts of the liturgy pertaining to Catholic Faith and Morals, as he allowed Fr. Bugnini to do (see Part 56), so that the disbeliever would not feel “uncomfortable” – as if truth and virtue were understood to be relative to time, place or culture.

As we shall see, the progressivist reformers under Bugnini’s directorship radically re-orchestrated the Easter Vigil in 1956. However, the only similarity between Bugnini and a conductor was that both could make things happen with the wave of a hand. Judging by the results he produced, which are set out below, we will be justified in concluding that he and his Commission, to put it charitably, must not have had an ear for music.

Soon, the orchestra would be playing discordant notes out of harmony with Tradition, under the baton of a leader who was, to all intents and purposes, tone deaf.

The blessing of the five grains of incense downgraded

The centennial custom in the Roman Rite was to bless five grains of incense – to be later inserted into the Paschal Candle – with the ancient prayer Veniat quaesumus and the antiphon Asperges me, Domine said by the priest. The Church had given this ceremony greater prominence in the Middle Ages when the art of allegorical exegesis was at its height.

As the five grains of incense represent symbolically the five wounds of Christ, they were considered worthy of a solemn blessing before being inserted into the Paschal Candle whose pure, white wax was also a symbol of Christ’s virginal Body.

However, the 1948 Commission whipped up a spurious controversy over this issue, charging that during all those centuries the Church was wrong to use the prayer Veniat for that purpose because in the early Church it was used to bless the Candle. (1)

Some detractors of medieval symbolism even suggested that the use of the Veniat in the pre-1956 rite originated from a linguistic muddle due to a misinterpretation of the Latin word incensum. This theory, implying that the Church Fathers were not proficient in Latin, strains credibility and can be easily debunked. (2)

What actually happened to the solemn blessing of the five grains incense at the Easter Vigil as a result of this pseudo-controversy constitutes another sad chapter in the 1956 reform. The accompanying prayer Veniat was not axed. But, as we shall see, the reformers used that other Procrustean operation of stretching and skewing to make it fit a different context. This left the incense grains without any ceremonial prayer for their blessing, also making the Asperges antiphon redundant.

Furthermore, according to the 1962 rubrics, even the blessing itself could be dispensed with in the rite, (3) thus providing a further opportunity to reduce the solemnity of what St. Augustine called the “Vigil of all vigils”.