Thursday, September 28, 2017

Christian Civilization Urgently Needs to Revive and Redevelop the Doctrines of Creation, Metaphysics and Eschatology

Difficulties confronting the faith in Europe today
Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect
Meeting with the Doctrinal Commissions of Europe, (Laxenburg, 2 May 1989)[1]

As bishops who bear responsibility for the faith of the Church in our countries, we ask ourselves where especially do the difficulties lie which people have with the faith today and how can we rightly reply to them.

We need no extensive search in order to answer the first of these questions. There exists something like a litany of objections to the practice and teaching of the Church, and nowadays its regular recitation has become like the performance of a duty for progressive-thinking Catholics. We can ascertain the principal elements of this litany: the rejection of the Church’s teaching about contraception, which means the placing upon the same moral level of every kind of means for the prevention of conception upon whose application only individual “conscience” may decide; the rejection of every form of “discrimination” as to homosexuality and the consequent assertion of a moral equivalence for all forms of sexual activity as long as they are motivated by “love” or at least do not hurt anyone; the admission of the divorced who remarry to the Church’s sacraments; and the ordination of women to the priesthood.

As we can see, there are quite different issues linked together in this litany. The first two claims pertain to the field of sexual morality; the second two to the Church’s sacramental order. A closer look makes it clear, however, that these four issues, their differences notwithstanding, are very much linked together. They spring from one and the same vision of humanity within which there operates a particular notion of human freedom. When this background is borne in mind, it becomes evident that the litany of objections goes even deeper than it appears at first glance.

What does this vision of humanity, upon which this litany depends, look like on closer scrutiny? Its fundamental characteristics are as diffuse as the claims which derive from it, and so it can be easily traced. We find our starting point in the plausible assertion that modern man would find it difficult to relate to the Church’s traditional sexual morality. Instead, it is said, he has come to terms with his sexuality in a differentiated and less confining way and thus urges a revision of standards which are no longer acceptable in the present circumstances, no matter how meaningful they may have been under past historical conditions. The next step, then, consists in showing how we today have finally discovered our rights and the freedom of our conscience and how we are no longer prepared to subordinate it to some external authority. Furthermore, it is now time that the fundamental relationship between man and woman be reordered, that outmoded role expectations be overturned and that complete equality of opportunity be accorded women on all levels and in all fields. The fact that the Church, as the particularly conservative institution that she is, might not go along with this line of thinking would certainly not be surprising. If the Church, however, would wish to promote human freedom, then ultimately she will be obliged to set aside the theological justification of old social taboos, and the most timely and vital sign of such a desire at the present moment would be her consent to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

The roots of this opposition continue to emerge in various forms and make it clear that what we are dealing with in our imaginary but quite pointed litany is nothing less than a very coherent reorientation.

Its key concepts present themselves in the words “conscience” and “freedom,” which are supposed to confer the aura of morality upon changed norms of behavior that at first glance would be plainly labelled as a surrender of moral integrity, the simplifications of a lax conscience.

No longer is conscience understood as that knowledge which derives from a higher form of knowing. It is instead the individual’s self-determination which may not be directed by someone else, a determination by which each person decides for himself what is moral in a given situation.

The concept “norm”—or what is even worse, the moral law itself—takes on negative shades of dark intensity: an external rule may supply models for direction but it can in no case serve as the ultimate arbiter of one’s obligation. Where such thinking holds sway, the relationship of man to his body necessarily changes too. This change is described as a liberation, when compared to the relationship obtaining until now, like an opening up to a freedom long unknown. The body then comes to be considered as a possession which a person can make use of in whatever way seems to him most helpful in attaining “quality of life.” The body is something that one has and that one uses. No longer does man expect to receive a message from his bodiliness as to who he is and what he should do, but definitely, on the basis of his reasonable deliberations and with complete independence, he expects to do with it as he wishes. In consequence, there is indeed no difference whether the body be of the masculine or the feminine sex, the body no longer expresses being at all, on the contrary, it has become a piece of property. It may be that man’s temptation has always lain in the direction of such control and the exploitation of goods. At its roots, however, this way of thinking first became an actual possibility through the fundamental separation—not a theoretical but a practical and constantly practiced separation—of sexuality and procreation. This separation was introduced with the pill and has been brought to its culmination by genetic engineers so that man can now “make” human beings in the laboratory. The material for doing this has to be procured by actions deliberately carried out for the sake of the planned results which no longer involve interpersonal human bonds and decisions in any way. Indeed, where this kind of thinking has been completely adopted, the difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality as well as that between sexual relations within or outside marriage have become unimportant.

Likewise divested of every metaphysical symbolism is the distinction between man and woman, which is to be regarded as the product of reinforced role expectations.

It would be interesting to follow in detail this revolutionary vision about man which has appeared behind our rather haphazardly concocted litany of objections to the Church’s teaching. Without a doubt this will be one of the principal challenges for anthropological reflection in coming years. This reflection will have to sort out meticulously where quite meaningful corrections to traditional notions appear and where there begins a truly fundamental opposition to faith’s vision of man, an opposition that admits no possibility of compromise but places squarely before us the alternative of believing or not. Such reflection cannot be conducted in a context which is more interested in discerning the questions which we have to pose for ourselves today than in looking for the answers. Let us leave off this dispute for now; our question instead must be, how does it happen that values which presuppose such a background have become current among Christians?

It has become quite evident at the present time that our litany of objections does not turn upon a few isolated conflicts over this or that sacramental practice in the Church, nor is it over the extended application of this or that rule. Each of these controversies rests upon a much more far-reaching change of “paradigms,” that is, of the basic ideas of being and of human obligation. This is the case even if only a small number of those who mouth the words of our litany would be aware of the change involved.

They all breathe in, so to speak, the atmosphere of this particular vision of man and the world which convinces them of the plausibility of this one opinion while removing other views from consideration. Who would not be for conscience and freedom and against legalism and constraint? Who wishes to be put into the position of defending taboos? If the questions are framed in this way, the faith proclaimed by the Magisterium is already manoeuvred into a hopeless position. It collapses all by itself because it loses its plausibility according to the thought patterns of the modern world, and is looked upon by progressive contemporaries as something that has been long superseded.

We can then give a meaningful answer to the questions raised, only if we do not permit ourselves to be drawn into the battle over details and are able instead to express the logic of the faith in its integrity, the good sense and reasonableness of its view of reality and life. We can give a proper answer to the conflicts in detail only if we keep all the relationships in view. It is their disappearance which has robbed the Faith of its reasonableness.

In this context, I would like to list three areas within the world-view of the Faith which have witnessed a certain kind of reduction in the last centuries, a reduction which has been gradually preparing the way for another “paradigm.”

1. In the first place, we have to point out the almost complete disappearance of the doctrine on creation from theology.

As typical instances, we may cite two compendia of modern theology in which the doctrine on creation is eliminated as part of the content of the faith and is replaced by vague considerations from existential philosophy, the 1973 edition of the ecumenical “Neues Glaubensbuch” published by J. Feiner and L. Vischer, and the basic catechetical work published in Paris in 1984, “La foi des catholiques.” In a time when we are experiencing the agonizing of creation against man’s work and when the question of the limits and standards of creation upon our activity has become the central problem of our ethical responsibility, this fact must appear quite strange. Notwithstanding all this, it remains always a disagreeable fact that “nature” should be viewed as a moral issue. An anxious and unreasonable reaction against technology is also closely associated with the inability to discern a spiritual message in the material world. Nature still appears as an irrational form even while evincing mathematical structures which we can study technically. That nature has a mathematical intelligibility is to state the obvious, the assertion that it also contains in itself a moral intelligibility, however, is rejected as metaphysical fantasy. The demise of metaphysics goes hand in hand with the displacement of the teaching on creation. Their place has been taken by a philosophy of evolution (which I would like to distinguish from the scientific hypothesis of evolution). This philosophy intends to discard the laws of nature so that the management of its development may make a better life possible. Nature, which ought really to be the teacher along this path, is instead a blind mistress, combining by unwitting chance what man is supposed to simulate now with full consciousness. His relationship to nature (which is, to be sure, no creation) remains that of one who acts upon it; it is in no way that of a learner. It persists as a relationship of domination, then, resting upon the presumption that rational calculation may be as clever as “evolution” and can therefore lift the world to new heights. The process of development up to this point had to struggle along without human intervention.

Conscience, to which appeal is made, is essentially mute, just as nature, the teacher, is blind, it just computes which action holds the best chances for betterment. This can (and should, according to the logic of the point of departure) occur in a collective way, for what is needed is a party which, as the vanguard of history, takes evolution in hand while exacting the absolute subordination of the individual to it. Otherwise, things occur individualistically and conscience then becomes the expression of the subject’s autonomy which, in terms of the grand world picture, can only seem absurd arrogance.

It is quite obvious that none of these solutions is helpful, and this is the basis for the deep desperation of mankind today, a desperation which hides behind an official façade of optimism. Nevertheless there is still a silent awareness of the need of an alternative to lead us out of the blind alleys of our plausibilities, and perhaps there is also, more than we think, a silent hope that a renewed Christianity may supply the alternative. This can be accomplished, however, only if the teaching on creation is developed anew. Such an undertaking, then, ought to be regarded as one of the most pressing tasks of theology today.

We have to make evident once more what is meant by the world’s having been created “in wisdom” and that God’s creative act is something quite other than the “bang” of a primeval explosion. Only then can conscience and norm enter again into proper relationship. For then it will become clear that conscience is not some individualistic (or collective) calculation; rather it is a “consciens,” a “knowing along with” creation and, through creation, with God the Creator. Then, too, it will be rediscovered that man’s greatness does not lie in the miserable autonomy of proclaiming himself his one and only master, but in the fact that his being allows the highest wisdom, truth itself, to shine through. Then it will become clear that man is so much the greater the more he is capable of hearing the profound message of creation, the message of the Creator. And then it will be apparent how harmony with creation, whose wisdom becomes our norm, does not mean a limitation upon our freedom but is rather an expression of our reason and our dignity. Then the body also is given its due honor: it is no longer something “used,” but is the temple of authentic human dignity because it is God’s handiwork in the world. Then is the equal dignity of man and woman made manifest precisely in the fact that they are different. One will then begin to understand once again that their bodiliness reaches the metaphysical depths and is the basis of a symbolic metaphysics whose denial or neglect does not ennoble man but destroys him.

2. The decline of the doctrine on creation includes the decline of metaphysics, man’s imprisonment in the empirical, as we have said. When this occurs, however, there is also of necessity a weakening of Christology. The Word who was in the beginning quite disappears. Creative wisdom is no longer a theme for reflection. Inevitably the figure of Jesus Christ, deprived of its metaphysical dimension, is reduced to a purely historical Jesus, to an “empirical” Jesus, who, like every empirical fact, contains only what is capable of happening. The central title of his dignity, “Son,” becomes void where the path to the metaphysical is cut off. Even this title becomes meaningless since there is no longer a theology of being sons of God, for it is replaced by the notion of autonomy.

The relationship of Jesus with God is now expressed in terms such as “representative” or the like, but as regards what this means, one must seek an answer by the reconstruction of the “historical Jesus.”

There are today two principal models for the alleged figure of the historical Jesus: the bourgeois-liberal and the Marxist-revolutionary. Jesus was either the herald of a liberal morality, struggling against every kind of “legalism” and its representatives; or he was a subversive who can be considered as the deification of the class struggle and its religious symbolic figure.

Evident in the background are the two aspects of the modern notion of freedom, which are seen embodied in Jesus; this is what makes him God’s representative. The unmistakable symptom of the present decline of Christology is the disappearance of the Cross and, consequently, the meaninglessness of the Resurrection, of the Paschal Mystery. In the liberal model, the Cross is an accident, a mistake, the result of short-sighted legalism. It cannot therefore be made the subject of theological speculation; indeed it really should not have occurred and a proper liberalism makes it in any event superfluous.

In the second model Jesus is the failed revolutionary. He can now symbolize the suffering of the oppressed class and thus foster the growth of class consciousness. From this viewpoint the Cross can even be given a certain sense, an important meaning, but one which is radically opposed to the witness of the New Testament.

Now in both these versions there runs a common thread, namely, that we must be saved not through the Cross, but from the Cross. Atonement and forgiveness are misunderstandings from which Christianity has to be freed. The two fundamental points of the Christian faith of the New Testament writers and of the Church in every age (the divine sonship understood in a metaphysical sense and the Paschal Mystery) are eliminated or at least bereft of any function. It is obvious that with such a basic reinterpretation all the rest of Christianity is likewise altered—the understanding of what the Church is, the liturgy, spirituality, etc.

Naturally these crude denials, which I have described herewith all the severity of their consequences, are seldom spoken of so openly. The movements, however, are clear and they do not confine themselves to the realm of theology alone. For quite some time they have entered into preaching and catechesis; on account of the ease of their transmission, they are even more pronounced in these fields than in strictly theological literature. Quite clearly, then, the real decisions today fall once again in the field of Christology; everything else follows from that.

3. Finally, I should like to refer briefly to a third field of theological reflection which is threatened by a thoroughgoing reduction of the contents of faith, namely, eschatology. Belief in eternal life has hardly any role to play in preaching today. A friend of mine, recently deceased, an exegete of note, once told me of some Lenten sermons he had heard at the beginning of the 1970s. In the first sermon, the preacher explained to the faithful that Hell does not exist; in the second, Purgatory went the same way; in the third, he eventually undertook the difficult task of trying to convince his hearers that even Heaven does not exist and that we should seek our paradise here on earth. To be sure, it is seldom as drastic as that, but diffidence in speaking about the hereafter has become commonplace.

The Marxist accusation that Christians justified the injustices of this world with the consolation of the world to come is deeply rooted, and the present social problems are now indeed so serious that they require all the powers of moral commitment. This moral requirement will not at all be called into question by the one who views the Christian life in the perspective of eternity, for eternal life cannot be prepared for otherwise than in our present existence. Nicholas Cabasilas, for example, expressed this truth in a wonderful reflection in the fourteenth century. Only those attain to it (that is, the future life) who already are its friends and have ears to hear. For it is not there that friendship is begun, that the ear is opened, that the wedding garment is readied and all else prepared, it is rather this present life which is the work place where all this is fashioned. For just as nature prepares the embryo, even while it leads a dark and confined existence, for living in the light and forms it, as it were, according to the pattern of the life that is to come, just so does it happen with the saints. Only the exigency of eternal life confers its absolute urgency on the moral duty of this life. If, however, heaven is only something “ahead” of us and no longer “above” us, then the interior tension of human existence and its communal responsibility are slackened. For we indeed are not “ahead,” and whether this prospect of what is ahead is a heaven for those others who appear to us to have gone “ahead,” we are not in a position to determine, since they are as free and as subject to temptation as we are ourselves.

Here we find the deception inherent in the idea of the “better world,” which, nonetheless, appears today even among Christians as the true goal of our hope and the genuine standard of morality. The “Kingdom of God” has been almost completely substituted in the general awareness, as far as I can see, by the Utopia of a better future world for which we labor and which becomes the true reference point of morality—a morality which thus blends again with a philosophy of evolution and history, and creates norms for itself by calculating what can offer better conditions of life.

I do not deny that it is in just this way that the idealistic energies of young people are unleashed and that the results are fruitful in terms of new aspirations to selfless activity. As an all-embracing norm for human endeavor, however, the future does not suffice. Where the Kingdom of God is reduced to the “better world” of tomorrow, the present will ultimately assert its rights against some imaginary future. The escape into the world of drugs is the logical consequence of the idolizing of Utopia. Since this has difficulty in arriving, man draws it to himself or throws himself headlong into it. It is dangerous, therefore, if the better world terminology predominates in prayers and sermons and inadvertently replaces the faith with a placebo.

All that has been said here may appear to many to be all too negative. It was not intended, of course, to describe the situation of the Church as a whole, with all her positive and negative elements. It was rather a case of setting out the obstacles to the faith in the European context.

Within this limited theme, I have not claimed to present an exhaustive analysis. My sole intention was to examine, beyond the individual problems which are constantly surfacing, the deepest motives which give rise to the individual difficulties in ever changing forms.

Only by learning to understand that fundamental trait of modern existence which refuses to accept the faith before discussing all its contents, will we be able to regain the initiative instead of simply responding to the questions raised. Only then can we reveal the faith as the alternative which the world awaits after the failure of the liberalistic and Marxist experiments. This is today’s challenge to Christianity, herein lies our great responsibility as Christians at the present time.

[1] Communio (US) 38 (2011), p. 728-737.

Democracy Needs Virtue, Goodness and Truth, to Flourish

In Bratislava, 1992, in the wake of the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of the dangers of anarchy and tyranny that might succeed a content-less democracy.

"[I]ndividual freedom the highest goal lacks contents, it dissolves into thin air, since individual freedom can exist only when freedoms are correctly ordered. Individual freedom needs measure, for otherwise it turns into violence directed against others. It is not by chance that those who aim at totalitarian rule begin by introducing an anarchic freedom for individuals and a situation in which each one's hand is raised against all the others: by introducing order into this situation, they are enabled to present themselves as the true saviors of mankind. Thus, freedom requires contents. We can define it as the safeguarding of human rights, but we can also describe it more broadly as the guarantee that things will go well both with society and with the individual: the one who is ruled, i.e., the one who has handed over power, 'can be free, when he recognizes himself, that is to say, his own good, in the common good which the rulers endeavor to bring about.' (H. Kuhn, Der Staat: Eine philsophische Darstellung [Munich, 1967], 60.)
"This reflection has introduced two further concepts alongside the idea of freedom: law and the good. There exists a certain tension between freedom as the existential form of democracy and the contents of freedom (i.e., law and the good), and contemporary struggles to discover the right form of democracy, and indeed of political life as a whole, are struggles to find the right balance in this tension... Truth is controversial, and the attempt to impose on all persons what one part of the citizenry  holds to be true looks like the enslavement of people's consciences. The concept of 'truth' has in fact moved into the zone of antidemocratic intolerance...It is relativism that appears to be the real guarantee of freedom and especially of the very heart of human freedom, namely, freedom of religion and of conscience.
"We would all agree on this today. Yet, if we look more closely, we are surely obliged to ask: Must there not be a nonrelativistic kernel in democracy too? For is not democracy ultimately constructed around human rights that are inviolable? Does not democracy appear necessary precisely in order to guarantee and protect these rights? Human rights are not subject to any demand for pluralism and tolerance: on the contrary, they are the very substance of tolerance and freedom. Law and freedom can never mean robbing another person of his rights. And this means that a basic element of truth, namely, ethical truth, is indispensable to democracy."
In Joseph Ratzinger Values in a Time of Upheaval, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2006, 54-55.

"If the majority, as in the case of Pilate, is always right, then what truly is right must be trampled upon. For then the only thing that counts is the power of the one who is stronger and knows how to win the majority over to his own views." Ibid., 62.

These texts reminded me of the following historic speech of Pope Saint John Paul II which we Mount Saint Mary's seminarians heard over the radio on the bus ride back from the Baltimore Seminary as His Holiness departed the Baltimore Airport, regarding the natural law which is the foundation of true democracy: acknowledging, promoting and defending the inherent and inviolable dignity of each human person, guaranteed by God and by good government.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport (Baltimore, Maryland)
Sunday, 8 October 1995

Dear Mr Vice–President, Dear Friends, Dear People of America,

1. As I take leave of the United States, I wish to express my deep and abiding gratitude to many people.

To you, Mr. Vice–President, for graciously coming here to say goodbye. To the Bishops of the Dioceses I have visited and the many people, who have worked so hard to make this visit a success. To the public authorities, to the police and security personnel, who have ensured efficiency, good order and safety.

To the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities, who have received me with great good will; to Americans of all races, colors and creeds, who have followed with interest and attention the events of these days; to the men and women of the communications media, who have labored diligently to bring the words and images of this visit to millions of people; and especially to all those who, personally present or from afar, have supported me with their prayers.

I express to the Catholic community of the United States my heartfelt thanks! In the words of Saint Paul: "I give thanks to my God every time I think of you – which is constantly in every prayer I utter" (Phil. 1:3).

2. I say this, too, to the United States of America: today, in our world as it is, many other nations and peoples look to you as the principal model and pattern for their own advancement in democracy. But democracy needs wisdom. Democracy needs virtue, if it is not to turn against everything that it is meant to defend and encourage. Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values which it embodies and promotes.

Democracy serves what is true and right when it safeguards the dignity of every human person, when it respects inviolable and inalienable human rights, when it makes the common good the end and criterion regulating all public and social life. But these values themselves must have an objective content. Otherwise they correspond only to the power of the majority, or the wishes of the most vocal. If an attitude of skepticism were to succeed in calling into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations (cf. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 70).

3. The United States possesses a safeguard, a great bulwark, against this happening. I speak of your founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. These documents are grounded in and embody unchanging principles of the natural law whose permanent truth and validity can be known by reason, for it is the law written by God in human hearts (cf. Rom. 2:25).

At the center of the moral vision of your founding documents is the recognition of the rights of the human person, and especially respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life in all conditions and at all stages of development. I say to you again, America, in the light of your own tradition: love life, cherish life, defend life, from conception to natural death.

4. At the end of your National Anthem, one finds these words: "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’ ".

America: may your trust always be in God and in none other.

And then, "The star–spangled banner in triumph shall wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave".

Thank you, and God bless you all!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Thirteen Reasons I Wear the Cassock Rather Than the Clerical Suit

1. Catholicitas. It is a garment which has more universal relevance, e.g. across the globe (in the Middle East and Far East, and myriad primitive communities throughout the world men still wear gowns and not just trousers) and across the ages. It is also the normative universal attire for priests.

2. Traditio et pluralitas. It is more akin to the folk attire of every land and people, before the modern and ubiquitous suit. I wear the cassock in the name of tradition, all good traditions, and legitimate cultural diversity.

3. Missio. It is a sign of heaven. For example, a 10 year old boy on main street in my urban neighborhood stood looking up at me in cassock and panama hat and said in awe: "You look like an angel." "Are you an angel?" "No, I'm a Catholic priest. God bless you."

4. Vocatio. My earliest hints toward a priestly vocation came at the age of five, seeing my parish priest, Msgr. Jones, in his cassock, and in the youthful use of the red cassock and white surplice of the altar boys. The cassock beckoned the young boy to be a priest!

5. Exemplo pontificum. The Roman Pontiff does it always and everywhere, and is expected to do so. Why should anything less be expected of the lowest cleric? Notice that the religious orders which currently have vocations rightly and habitually wear their habits. The normative habit of the diocesan priest is the cassock. (Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests, 1994, 66.) If you wear it people will love it (if they love you) and expect you to wear it.

6. Ius ecclesiæ. "The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric." No one else should have anything to say about it! That is the law of the Church. Priests are entirely free to use the cassock whenever and wherever they wish. Lex libertas! (NCCB, recognitio on complementary legislation for Canon 284, 1999.)

7. Utilitas. The cassock is quick to put on, e.g. for emergency night calls it takes 30 seconds to put it on over whatever you are wearing! Or, when I have to go to help the priest celebrant distribute communion at Mass (as is my specific priestly duty) the surplice fits nicely over it. It makes for lighter travel, viz., it is easier to wear it for travel, than to pack it.

8. Versabilitas. It can be both formal and casual, depending on how and with what you wear it.

9. Securitas. In urban America it is safer than the suit which smacks more of secular wealth and lifestyle. I have been in my cassock in urban ministry in America for decades and have never had any conflict.

10. Apostolicitas/Claritas. The cassock more clearly identifies the cleric with the Churches within the apostolic succession (Catholic/Orthodox), avoiding being confused for Protestant clerics. It is a sign of the true Church.

11. Consolatio fidelium. It is loved by the faithful and despised by the haters of religion.

12. Humilitas. In a post-Christendom world eccesiastical attire is hardly a sign of triumph (i.e. triumphalism is historically out of the question!), it is a sign of worldly defeat, a sign of the Cross: the only real triumph which is that of the Cross, right worship, and service.

13. Reverentia. The cassock is more spiritual than the suit because it better disguises the form of the body and is more associated with the sacred rituals. It doubles as a liturgical garment, a garment of prayer. Also, there are many distinctively priestly garments which go exclusively with the cassock: e.g. biretta, saturno, cape, ferriola.

The cassock martyr!
Blessed Rolando Rivi

In response to those who counselled him regarding the impending danger of continuing to wear the cassock he said...

"I cannot, I must not take off the cassock.
"I am not afraid.
"I am proud to wear it!
"I cannot hide!
"I belong to the Lord!"

He was killed for it, and his murderers kept the cassock as a trophy of their cowardly murder of the boy.

"The Church remains something 'outside' the state, for only thus can both Church and state be what they are meant to be. Like the state, the Church too must remain in its own proper place and within its boundaries. It must respect its own being and its own freedom, precisely in order to be able to perform for the state the service that the latter requires. The Church must exert itself with all its vigor so that in it there may shine forth the moral truth that it offers to the state and that ought to become evident to the citizens of the state. This truth must be vigorous within the Church, and it must form men, for only then it will have the power to convince others and to be a force working like a leaven for all of society.
"(Soloviev's reflections on Church and state, which deserve to be pondered anew, go in the same direction, although the idea of 'theocracy' is not tenable in the form in which he elaborated it. See La grande controverse et la politique chrétienne [Paris, 1953], 129-68.)"

The Catholic Children Speak: Correctio filialis de hæresibus propagatis (The Filial Correction of Pope Francis for the Propagation of Heresies)

A 25-page letter signed by 40 Catholic clergy and lay scholars was delivered to Pope Francis on August 11th. Since no answer was received from the Holy Father, it is being made public today, 24th September, Feast of Our Lady of Ransom and of Our Lady of Walsingham. The letter, which is open to new signatories, now has the names of 62 clergy and lay scholars from 20 countries, who also represent others lacking the necessary freedom of speech. It has a Latin title: ‘Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis’ (literally, ‘A filial correction concerning the propagation of heresies’). It states that the pope has, by his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, and by other, related, words, deeds and omissions, effectively upheld 7 heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the reception of the sacraments, and has caused these heretical opinions to spread in the Catholic Church. These 7 heresies are expressed by the signatories in Latin, the official language of the Church.

This letter of correction has 3 main parts. In the first part, the signatories explain why, as believing and practising Catholics, they have the right and duty to issue such a correction to the supreme pontiff. Church law itself requires that competent persons not remain silent when the pastors of the Church are misleading the flock. This involves no conflict with the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, since the Church teaches that a pope must meet strict criteria before his utterances can be considered infallible. Pope Francis has not met these criteria. He has not declared these heretical positions to be definitive teachings of the Church, or stated that Catholics must believe them with the assent of faith. The Church teaches no pope can claim that God has revealed some new truth to him, which it would be obligatory for Catholics to believe.

The second part of the letter is the essential one, since it contains the ‘Correction’ properly speaking. It lists the passages of Amoris laetitia in which heretical positions are insinuated or encouraged, and then it lists words, deeds, and omissions of Pope Francis which make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical. In particular, the pope has directly or indirectly countenanced the beliefs that obedience to God’s Law can be impossible or undesirable, and that the Church should sometimes accept adultery as compatible with being a practising Catholic.

The final part, called ‘Elucidation’, discusses two causes of this unique crisis. One cause is ‘Modernism’. Theologically speaking, Modernism is the belief that God has not delivered definite truths to the Church, which she must continue to teach in exactly the same sense until the end of time. Modernists hold that God communicates to mankind only experiences., which human beings can reflect on, so as to make various statements about God, life and religion; but such statements are only provisional, never fixed dogmas. Modernism was condemned by Pope St Pius X at the start of the 20th century, but it revived in the middle of the century. The great and continuing confusion caused in the Catholic Church by Modernism obliges the signatories to describe the true meaning of ‘faith’, ‘heresy’, ‘revelation’, and ‘magisterium’.

A second cause of the crisis is the apparent influence of the ideas of Martin Luther on Pope Francis. The letter shows how Luther, the founder of Protestantism, had ideas on marriage, divorce, forgiveness, and divine law which correspond to those which the pope has promoted by word, deed and omission. It also notes the explicit and unprecedented praise given by Pope Francis to the German heresiarch.

The signatories do not venture to judge the degree of awareness with which Pope Francis has propagated the 7 heresies which they list. But they respectfully insist that he condemn these heresies, which he has directly or indirectly upheld.

The signatories profess their loyalty to the holy Roman Church, assure the pope of their prayers, and ask for his apostolic blessing.


His verbis, actis, et omissionibus, et in iis sententiis libri Amoris laetitia quas supra diximus, Sanctitas Vestra sustentavit recte aut oblique, et in Ecclesia (quali quantaque intelligentia nescimus nec iudicare audemus) propositiones has sequentes, cum munere publico tum actu privato, propagavit, falsas profecto et haereticas:

(1) “Homo iustificatus iis caret viribus quibus, Dei gratia adiutus, mandata obiectiva legis divinae impleat; quasi quidvis ex Dei mandatis sit iustificatis impossibile; seu quasi Dei gratia, cum in homine iustificationem efficit, non semper et sua natura conversionem efficiat ab omni peccato gravi; seu quasi non sit sufficiens ut hominem ab omni peccato gravi convertat.”

(2) Christifidelis qui, divortium civile a sponsa legitima consecutus, matrimonium civile (sponsa vivente) cum alia contraxit; quique cum ea more uxorio vivit; quique cum plena intelligentia naturae actus sui et voluntatis propriae pleno ad actum consensu eligit in hoc rerum statu manere: non necessarie mortaliter peccare dicendus est, et gratiam sanctificantem accipere et in caritate crescere potest.”

(3) “Christifidelis qui alicuius mandati divini plenam scientiam possidet et deliberata voluntate in re gravi id violare eligit, non semper per talem actum graviter peccat.”

(4) “Homo potest, dum divinae prohibitioni obtemperat, contra Deum ea ipsa obtemperatione peccare.”

(5) “Conscientia recte ac vere iudicare potest actus venereos aliquando probos et honestos esse aut licite rogari posse aut etiam a Deo mandari, inter eos qui matrimonium civile contraxerunt quamquam sponsus cum alia in matrimonio sacramentali iam coniunctus est.”

(6) “Principia moralia et veritas moralis quae in divina revelatione et in lege naturali continentur non comprehendunt prohibitiones qualibus genera quaedam actionis absolute vetantur utpote quae propter obiectum suum semper graviter illicita sint.”

(7) “Haec est voluntas Domini nostri Iesu Christi, ut Ecclesia disciplinam suam perantiquam abiciat negandi Eucharistiam et Absolutionem iis qui, divortium civile consecuti et matrimonium civile ingressi, contritionem et propositum firmum sese emendandi ab ea in qua vivunt vitae conditione noluerunt patefacere.”

Translation and notes


By these words, deeds, and omissions, and by the above-mentioned passages of the document Amoris laetitia, Your Holiness has upheld, directly or indirectly, and, with what degree of awareness we do not seek to judge, both by public office and by private act propagated in the Church the following false and heretical propositions:

1). 'A justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.'

2). 'Christians who have obtained a civil divorce from the spouse to whom they are validly married and have contracted a civil marriage with some other person during the lifetime of their spouse, who live more uxorio with their civil partner, and who choose to remain in this state with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will to that act, are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin, and can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity.'

3). 'A Christian believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action.'

4). ‘A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.’

5). 'Conscience can truly and rightly judge that sexual acts between persons who have contracted a civil marriage with each other, although one or both of them is sacramentally married to another person, can sometimes be morally right or requested or even commanded by God.'

6). 'Moral principles and moral truths contained in divine revelation and in the natural law do not include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid particular kinds of action, inasmuch as these are always gravely unlawful on account of their object.'

7). 'Our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.'


Here are, for these seven propositions, the references that were included in the letter to the cardinals and patriarchs:

1. Council of Trent, session 6, canon 18: “If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace, let him be anathema” (DH 1568). See also: Gen. 4:7; Deut. 30:11-19; Ecclesiasticus 15: 11-22; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26; Heb. 10:26-29; 1 Jn. 5:17; Zosimus, 15th (or 16th) Synod of Carthage, canon 3 on grace, DH 225; Felix III, 2nd Synod of Orange, DH 397; Council of Trent, Session 5, canon 5; Session 6, canons 18-20, 22, 27 and 29; Pius V, Bull Ex omnibus afflictionibus, On the errors of Michael du Bay, 54, DH 1954; Innocent X, Constitution Cum occasione, On the errors of Cornelius Jansen, 1, DH 2001; Clement XI, Constitution Unigenitus, On the errors of Pasquier Quesnel, 71, DH 2471; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia 17: AAS 77 (1985): 222; Veritatis splendor 65-70: AAS 85 (1993): 1185-89, DH 4964-67.

2. Mk. 10:11-12: “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery”. See also: Ex. 20:14; Mt. 5:32, 19:9; Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7: 10-11; Heb. 10:26-29; Council of Trent, Session 6, canons 19-21, 27, DH 1569-71, 1577; Session 24, canons 5 and 7, DH 1805, 1807; Innocent XI, Condemned propositions of the ‘Laxists’, 62-63, DH 2162-63; Alexander VIII, Decree of the Holy Office on ‘Philosophical Sin’, DH 2291; John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, 65-70: AAS 85 (1993): 1185-89 (DH 4964- 67).

3. Council of Trent, session 6, canon 20: “If anyone says that a justified man, however perfect he may be, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church but is bound only to believe, as if the Gospel were merely an absolute promise of eternal life without the condition that the commandments be observed, let him be anathema” (DH 1570). See also: Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26; Heb. 10:26-29; 1 Jn. 5:17; Council of Trent, session 6, canons 19 and 27; Clement XI, Constitution Unigenitus, On the errors of Pasquier Quesnel, 71, DH 2471; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia 17: AAS 77 (1985): 222; Veritatis splendor, 65-70: AAS 85 (1993): 1185-89, DH 4964-67.

4. Ps. 18:8: “The law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls.” See also: Ecclesiasticus 15:21; Council of Trent, session 6, canon 20; Clement XI, Constitution Unigenitus, On the errors of Pasquier Quesnel, 71, DH 2471; Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum, ASS 20 (1887-88): 598 (DH 3248); John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, 40: AAS 85 (1993): 1165 (DH 4953).

5. Council of Trent, session 6, canon 21: “If anyone says that Jesus Christ was given by God to men as a redeemer in whom they are to trust but not also as a lawgiver whom they are bound to obey, let him be anathema”, DH 1571. Council of Trent, session 24, canon 2: “If anyone says that it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that this is not forbidden by any divine law, let him be anathema”, DH 1802. Council of Trent, session 24, canon 5: “If anyone says that the marriage bond can be dissolved because of heresy or difficulties in cohabitation or because of the wilful absence of one of the spouses, let him be anathema”, DH 1805. Council of Trent, session 24, canon 7: “If anyone says that the Church is in error for having taught and for still teaching that in accordance with the evangelical and apostolic doctrine, the marriage bond cannot be dissolved because of adultery on the part of one of the spouses and that neither of the two, not even the innocent one who has given no cause for infidelity, can contract another marriage during the lifetime of the other, and that the husband who dismisses an adulterous wife and marries again and the wife who dismisses an adulterous husband and marries again are both guilty of adultery, let him be anathema”, DH 1807. See also: Ps. 5:5; Ps. 18:8-9; Ecclesiasticus 15:21; Heb. 10:26-29; Jas. 1:13; 1 Jn. 3:7; Innocent XI, Condemned propositions of the ‘Laxists’, 62-63, DH 2162-63; Clement XI, Constitution Unigenitus, On the errors of Pasquier Quesnel, 71, DH 2471; Leo XIII, encyclical letter Libertas praestantissimum, ASS 20 (1887-88): 598, DH 3248; Pius XII, Decree of the Holy Office on situation ethics, DH 3918; 2nd Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 16; John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, 54: AAS 85 (1993): 1177; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1786-87.

6. John Paul II, Veritatis splendor 115: “Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts”, DH 4971. See also: Rom. 3:8; 1 Cor. 6: 9-10; Gal. 5: 19-21; Apoc. 22:15; 4th Lateran Council, chapter 22, DH 815; Council of Constance, Bull Inter cunctas, 14, DH 1254; Paul VI, Humanae vitae, 14: AAS 60 (1968) 490-91; John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, 83: AAS 85 (1993): 1199, DH 49707. 1 Cor. 11:27: “Whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” Familiaris consortio, 84: “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’.” 2nd Lateran Council, canon 20, DH 717: “Because there is one thing that conspicuously causes great disturbance to holy Church, namely false penance, we warn our brothers in the episcopate, and priests, not to allow the souls of the laity to be deceived or dragged off to hell by false penances. It is certain that a penance is false when many sins are disregarded and a penance is performed for one only, or when it is done for one sin in such a way that the penitent does not renounce another”. See also: Mt. 7:6; Mt. 22: 11-13; 1 Cor. 11:28-30; Heb. 13:8; Council of Trent, session 14, Decree on Penance, cap. 4; Council of Trent, session 13, Decree on the most holy Eucharist, DH 1646-47; Innocent XI, Condemned propositions of the ‘Laxists’, 60-63, DH 2160-63; John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1385, 1451, 1490.

The Shepherd Should Not "Smell Like the Sheep": Christi bonus odor

It is "the good fragrance of Christ" which the shepherd should have, ever acquire, and emit. Cf. 2 Cor. 15.

In fact, a shepherd who smells like the sheep needs to wash, for he is dirty!

Preach the Word which you have received in the Catholic faith and beware of ambiguous concepts with unclear provenance!

Cf. Lambs among wolves.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Virgo virginum præclara

Haydn Stabat Mater Haydn Stabat Mater 53:36

Virgo vírginum præclára,
mihi iam non sis amára,
fac me tecum plángere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passiónis fac consórtem,
et plagas recólere.

Fac me plagis vulnerári,
fac me Cruce inebriári,
et cruóre Fílii.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hymnal Heresies 2

"The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord." Wrong.

Jesus Christ is not the only foundation of the Church. Saint Peter is the one foundation of the Church, Jesus Christ built the Church upon him and named him the rock saying you are Rock and on this Rock I build my Church... 

Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam...
συ ει πετρος και επι ταυτη τη πετρα οικοδομησω μου την εκκλησιαν  Matthew 16:18

Jesus Christ is not the foundation of the Church at all. Christ is the Founder, not the foundation. He made Saint Peter, i.e., the Papacy, the foundation, which means the sure ground. Everything else is unsure ground. With the power of the keys to heaven and of "binding and loosing" (Matthew 16:19) which "binding and loosing" power Christ also gives to the apostolic college (the college of bishops). (Matthew 18:18) The Pope and the Bishops of the Catholic Church have the authority from Christ to teach the truth.

That Catholic principle is consonant with the epistle from today's OF Mass: 1 Timothy 3:14-16.
"The Church of the living God is the pillar and foundation of truth." Again, the Church is the foundation of truth, not Christ, not the Word, not the Bible, not faith alone or grace alone but the Church. And not the Church alone because the Church by her very nature is communion and she includes union with Christ being His Spouse, she includes the hierarchy: bishops, priests and deacons (cf. 1 Tim. 3: 1-13 is on the qualities of a bishop and a deacon), the communion of the saints and communion in the sacraments and the Bible is one of her most cherished Mass books, developed by Her.

Cf. Heretical Lauda Sion Translation (That would be "Hymnal Heresies 1")

Spain's Gender Ideology Law: "Totalitarianism, Integrism and Insecurity"

"Gender ideology is today a type of  'secular religion', with dogmas, sanctions, censures and tribunals. It wants to impose itself as the educational model without respecting the rights of parents to educate our own children upon the foundation of our own convictions and principles." --Carlos Salvador

Sí que vamos a coincidir con los proponentes en la necesidad de legislar contra todo lo que sea injusto, y desde luego nosotros también nos rebelamos contra aquellas actitudes que amparan discriminaciones indeseables y condenables contra cualquiera. Pero sinceramente, poco más. Esta propuesta contiene demasiadas formulaciones que entran en colisión con derechos constitucionales reconocidos y aceptados por todos, que nos generan muchas reservas. Y las apunto esquemáticamente:

1. Los nuevos derechos de unos pocos, entendidos como derechos absolutos en la ley, sin límites, darán lugar a abusos e injusticias.

2. El grado de subjetivismo va a generar una enorme inseguridad jurídica, señorías.

3. La nula referencia a las leyes de la Biología, que en esta ley parecen ocultarse intencionadamente, creará más conflictos de los que pretende resolver.

4. Se elimina el derecho a la presunción de inocencia a los acusados por actos de discriminación. Señorías, un derecho que hoy conservan hasta los terroristas de ISIS. Esto es un disparate.

5. Así, la sobreprotección de algunos colectivos consagra, señorías, ciudadanos de primera categoría y de segunda, y por tanto la ley genera desigualdad.

6. La ideología de género, señorías, es hoy una especie de “religión laica”, con dogmas, sanciones, censura y tribunales. Se quiere imponer como modelo de educación sin respetar el derecho de los padres a educar a nuestros hijos sobre la base de nuestras propias convicciones y principios.

7. Más aún, la sobreprotección de unos pocos también restringe algo fundamental en democracia, que es la libertad de expresión. Probablemente esto sea lo más grave.

Y termino: nos generan desde luego muchas dudas la literatura sobre artículos que hablan de competencias de comunidades autónomas y la modificación de 20 leyes, con una sistemática desde luego muy mejorable.

Y por último: la ley, señorías, lo ha dicho su proponente, beneficiará a un determinado lobby de presión privado. Es SU ley. Y por tanto acoge las aspiraciones legítimas de ese determinado colectivo, pero no la defensa del interés general. Por tanto, esos deseos de integralidad y transversalidad se vuelven, a nuestro juicio, integrismo y totalitarismo. Nosotros no vamos a hurtar el debate, no vamos a votar a favor, pero desde luego presentaremos todo tipo de iniciativas para eliminar los excesos que contiene la ley, buscar una legislación más centrada y más respetuosa, y desde luego para defender el derecho a la educación, la igualdad, la libertad de expresión, la presunción de inocencia y las competencias de las comunidades autónomas.

Nada más, muchas gracias.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Primacy of Freedom

Freedom to commit: capacity to say yes, yes to Christ;
and capacity to say no, no to the devil.

Joseph Ratzinger does not attempt to develop a system of thought, because he holds that there is no way to come up with a world formula, because the world includes the mystery of freedom. He gives an explanation of this in the context of answering Karl Rahner's attempt at a world synthesis by the following spiritual formulation: "He who...accepts his existence...says...Yes to Christ." (PCT,* 167)

The problem here is "mere facticity". (Ibid.) Christianity is not mere facticity but conversion. (PCT, 171) Man's greatness is outside of man and outside of this world; and, miraculously, in man, in the Person of Christ.

"'[T]he real problem with Rahner's synthesis' the fact that 'he has attempted too much. He has, so to speak, sought for a philosophical and theological world formula on the basis of which the whole of reality can be deduced cohesively from necessary causes.' Such a concept is evidently contrary to the mystery of freedom." Twomey Pope Benedict XVI: The Concience of our Age: A Theological Portrait, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2007, 42

"Science recognizes today that there can be no world formula, since even in the realm of nature, as Jacques Monod has pointed out, there is more than mere necessity. 'A fortiori, there can be no spiritual world formula--that was also Hegel's basic error.' (PCT, 169). At the root of this problem is Rahner's understanding of freedom, which, according to Ratzinger, 'is proper to idealistic philosphy, a concept that, in reality, is appropriate to the absolute Spirit--to God--but not to man.'" (PCT, 169-70). Ibid., 42 n7.

*PCT: Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1987.

Cf. "By...freedom...Christ has set us free." In other words. the freedom of Christ is the source of our freedom.  ...fratres non sumus ancillae filii sed liberae qua libertate nos Christus liberavit. Galatas 4:31
This passage of scripture is typically translated "for freedom" rather than "from freedom." Probably to avoid the ambiguity of meaning away from freedom. No, rather, the context is that of child-bearing. Your mother is a free woman, not a slave. Therefore you are born from freedom. Your source is freedom. Since freedom is your mother, your source, you were made out of freedom, then your nature is freedom. It is a reference to the birth in Christ Jesus, by His blood, in baptism.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"Heaven is Other People"

Restoring religion from the level of habit to the level of truth

"I did not make you for the dungeon. Arise, and Christ shall give you light!" The ancient Church used these words of Christ to Adam as a baptismal hymn, as the believing Church's summons to the candidate. Thus it expresses the fact that Easter, the victory in which Jesus Christ breaks down the walls of alienation and leads us out into the open air, is to be heard continually in the sacrament of baptism. In this sacrament he takes us by the hand; in it, Truth speaks to us and shows us to the way to freedom...entering into the light of ...truth and, as believers, overcoming the darkness of truth's absence...

We must acknowledge, however, that faith is seriously weakened and threatened within the Church. Even we in the Church have lost courage. We feel it to be arrogance or triumphalism to assume that the Christian faith tells us the truth. We have picked up the idea that all religions are the product of history, some developing this way and others that, and that every person is as he is because of the accident of birth. Such a view reduces religion from the level of truth to the level of habit. It becomes an empty flux of inherited traditions which no longer have any significance. But this view also eliminates a crucial affirmation from the Christian faith, namely, Christ's "I am the Truth" --and hence the Way, hence also the Life. There is a great temptation to say, "But there is so much suffering in the world!--let's suspend the question of truth for a while. First let's get on with the great social tasks of liberation; then, one day, we will indulge in the luxury of the question of truth." In fact, however, if we postpone the question of truth and declare it to be unimportant, we are emasculating man, depriving him of the very core of his human dignity. If there is no truth, everything is a matter of indifference. Then social order swiftly becomes compulsion, and participation becomes violation. The Church's real contribution to liberation, which she can never postpone and which is most urgent today, is to proclaim truth in the world, to affirm that God is, that God knows us, and that God is as Jesus Christ has revealed him, and that, in Jesus Christ, he has given us the path of life. Only then can there be such a thing as conscience, man's receptivity for truth, which gives each person direct access to God and makes him greater than every imaginable world system.

"I did not make you for the dungeon." In this Easter hour let us ask the Lord to visit the dungeons of this world; all the prisons which are hushed up by a propaganda which knows no truth, by a strategy of disinformation, keeping us in the dark and constituting our dungeon. Let us ask him to enter into the spiritual prisons of this age, into the darkness of our lack of truth, revealing himself as the Victor who tears down the gates and says to us, "I, your God , have become your Son. come out! I have not created you to be in prison for ever. I did not make you for the dungeon." In his play No Exit, Jean Paul Sartre potrays man as a being who is hopelessly trapped. He sums up his gloomy picture of man in the words, "Hell is other people". This being so, hell is everywhere, and there is no exit, the doors are everywhere closed.

Christ, however, says to us, "I, your God, have become your Son. Come out!" Now the exact opposite is true: heaven is other people. Christ summons us to find heaven in him, to discover him in others and thus to be heaven to each other. He calls us to let heaven shine into this world, to build heaven here. Jesus stretches out his hand to us in his Easter message, in the mystery of the sacraments, so that Easter may be now, so that the light of heaven may shine forth in this world and the doors may be opened. Let us take his hand! Amen.

Behold the Pierced One, Joseph Ratzinger, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986, 126-128.

10 Tips to Start the School Year Well

Some advice from Saint Josemaría on how to get the most out of the new school year.

1. Don't put off your work until tomorrow. (The Way, no. 15)

2. You should always avoid complaining, criticising, gossiping... (Furrow, no. 918)

3. Drop that craze for foundation-stones, and put the finishing touch to just one of your projects. (The Way, no. 42)

4. Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary work and you will have sanctified it. (The Way, no. 359)

5. When you parcel out your time, you need also to think how you can make use of the odd moments that become free at unforeseen times. (Furrow, no. 513)

6. Do what you ought and concentrate on what you are doing. (The Way, no. 815)

7. Sometimes one needs to have smiling faces around. (Furrow, no. 57)

8. Holiness does not consist in doing more difficult things every day, but in doing them every day with greater love (notes from his preaching, cited by Ernst Burkhart and Javier Lopez, Vida cotidiana y santidad en la enseñanza de san Josemaría, Madrid 2013, vol. II, p. 295.)

9. A sincere resolution: to make the way lovable for others and easy, since life brings enough bitterness with it already. (Furrow, no. 63)

10. Remember this and never forget it: even if it should seem at times that everything is collapsing, nothing is collapsing at all, because God doesn’t lose battles. (The Forge, no. 332)

Nunc cœpi!

And one more thing:  It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
Acts 26:14

Friday, September 15, 2017

New Age Spirituality is a Response to Total Relativism

[New Age] is...a consciously antirationalist response to the experience that "everything is relative"...The way out of the dilemma of relativism is now sought, not in a new encounter of the "I" with the "Thou" or the "We", but in overcoming subjective consciousness, in a re-entry into the dance of the cosmos through ecstasy. As in the case of Gnosis in the ancient world, this way believes itself to be fully in tune with all the teachings and the claims of science, making use of scientific knowledge of every kind (biology, psychology, sociology, physics). At the same time, however, it offers against this background a completely antirationalist pattern of religion, a modern "mysticism": the absolute is, not something to be believed in, but something to be experienced. God is not a person distinct from the world; rather, he is the spiritual energy that is at work throughout the universe. Religion means bringing my self into tune with the cosmic whole, the transcending of all divisions..."That self, which hitherto wished to subject everything to itself, now wants to dissolve itself in 'the whole." Objectifying reason, New Age thinking tells us, closes our way to the mystery of reality; existing as the self shuts us out from the fullness of cosmic reality; it destroys the harmony of the whole and is the real reason for our being unredeemed. Redemption lies in breaking down the limits of the self, in plunging into the fullness of life and all that is living, in going back home to the universe. Ecstasy is being sought for, the intoxication of infinity, which can happen to people en masse in ecstatic music, in rhythm, in dance, in a mad whirl of lights and darkness. Here it is not merely the modern way of domination by the self that is renounced and abolished; here, man--in order to be free--must let himself be abolished. The gods are returning. They have become more credible than God. Aboriginal rites must be renewed in which the self is initiated into the mysteries of the universe and freed from its own self.
There are many reasons for the renewal of pre-Christian religions and cults that is being widely undertaken today. If there is no truth shared by everyone, a truth that is valid simply because it is true, then Christianity is merely a foreign import, a form of spiritual imperialism, which needs to be shaken off just as much as political imperialism. If what takes place in the sacraments is not the encounter with the one living God of all men, then they are empty rituals that mean nothing and give us nothing and, at best, allow us to sense the numinous element that is actively present in all religions. It then seems to make better sense to seek after what was originally our own than to permit alien and antiquated things to be imposed on us. But above all, if the "rational intoxication" of the Christian mystery cannot make us intoxicated with God, then we just have to conjure up the real, concrete intoxication of effective ecstasies, the passionate power of which catches us up and turns us, at least for a moment, into gods, helps us for a moment to sense the pleasure of infinity and to forget the misery of finite existence. The more the pointlessness of political absolutisms becomes obvious, the more powerful will be the attraction of irrationalism, the renunciation of everyday reality.
Take from Truth and Tolerance, Joseph Ratzinger, San Francisco: Ignatius, 2003, 126-129, the original article being "Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today" Address to the Presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Bishops' Conferences of Latin America, Guadalajara, Mexico, May 1996, 115-137 in the present volume.

[T]here is an awakening of young people today, who are asking passionately about God, ready to let their life be determined totally and fundamentally by him. There is a greater generosity on the part of young people, who are not satisfied with vague feelings and half-hearted decisions but who seek unconditional obedience to the truth. Besides this, however, there is a widespread, rather vague tendency that one could call a yearning for spirituality and for religious experience. It would be wrong to dismiss this, but it would also be inappropriate to see in it the beginning of a new turning to the Christian faith. For this yearning often arises from a disappointment at the shortcomings of the technological world; it contains nostalgic elements and above all a deep skepticism with regard to man's vocation to truth. Truth seems to be discredited in history by the intolerance of those who fancied themselves in secure possession of it. Besides this, the experience of the limitations of science and the weakness of ideologies provokes skepticism rather than encourages the search for truth. Thus truth tends to be replaced by "values" about which one can seek at least a partial agreement. But such a selection remains questionable if the criterion of truth is inaccessible. But above all, religion, if it is born of skepticism and disappointment at the boundaries of knowledge, necessarily becomes the domain of the irrational. It remains in the sphere of the nonbinding and easily turns into a narcotic. New mythologies are formed, as we see with particular clarity in the many-faceted phenomenon that is offered up for sale under the collective name "New Age". The parallels to the gnosis of the ancient world are striking: in both, abstruse themes of mythology are linked to the ambitious claim to possess the key of knowledge and to have found an ell-embracing interpretation of reality, in which the mysteries of the universe are uncovered and knowledge becomes redemption. The living God sinks down into the spiritual depths of existence in which man bathes and ultimately is dissolved in order to become on with the All out of which he has come. Karl Barth's observation that religion can become a kind of self-satisfying process that does not lead to God, but rather confirms man in himself and closes him against God, takes on a new contemporary relevance.
Ratzinger, Turning Point for Europe? San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994, 100-102. The original article being a lecture given at La Sapienza University in Rome, 1990 (also in Rieti, 1989, and Toledo, 1990).

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